in the Shadow of Greatness


August 15, 2005

Splitting Heirs :: legends and reverse-logic

In order to postpone my inevitable post about not posting... (every summer needs one), I here present spoiler thoughts about Age of Retribution.

I'm not searching for it at the moment, but I've made the case before that part of the attractive cleverness of Zelazny's fantasy genre theme in 'Nine Princes in Amber' is that all civilizations' legends are reflected from the royals of Amber.

In that reflected sense, I often 'reverse-engineer' and then engineer legends for the PCs I'm trying to understand or create.

For example, in Strange Bedfellows, if you start with a label such as 'the Witch of Endor' and try to imagine who that person is, you might get further than if you start with game mechanics framing your imagination.

If you add to above a dark-skinned gypsy orphan in ragged clothes, which is a different legend entirely, you can examine the intersection of the two and still not fuss with mechanics yet.

See? This is what I think of as 'reverse-engineering' the character legend. The Amber PC is 'taken' into lots of cultures and reinterpreted in sometimes broken or wavery images further and further from Amber.

One of the other things about it is that you can surprise yourself later on.

In Age of Retribution, this method is a bit lean, since I'm playing there a PC who hasn't quite got a legend yet. She's not the fully formed source of legend she will be someday. She's just past 20.

This is part of the 'problem' with playing Very Youngers in the Amber genre.

Still, the 'reverse-legend method' can help guide. I've leaned on it in AoR —and perhaps it is starting to bear some in-game fruit.

Agacerie is the odd fatherless daughter of Deirdre in AoR.

This is the take-off point for her legend: she has no father. No, she doesn't spring fully-formed from Deirdre's forehead a la Athena, Deirdre creates her with hard work and secrecy. Yes, in this legend, Deirdre is Pygmalion/Dr. Frankenstein and the twenty-something daughter fresh from the Black Road War is Galatea/the Monster.

It's not hard to imagine Deirdre tapping seckrit wimmin powers off in some weird shadow in the dark months leading to PatternFall. So the next layer of legend is Deirdre trains young child from early age to take role of 'monster buster' because there are scary things happening outside Amber (right out of 'Doc Savage' origins.)

Who ya gonna call? Agacerie.

The girl is ignorant of exactly where she came from. Aren't we all? We seem to remember early memories. Maybe we just remember stories about those early moments. We might see a photo or read a scrap of poetry and understand it means something. It happened. Details are fuzzy.

Agacerie has had a full life: training six days a week since she was a kid. Weapons. Grace. Dance. Deportment. Focus. Shadow tricks. Martial arts. If she doesn't remember her third birthday, well, who is going to call that odd.

And there haven't been many quiet moments since Eric took the throne of Amber. Now Eric is dead, the Chaosi are fallen back to the Courts, and the armies are come home to Amber. Random is King. Sacrifices have been made. Perhaps shortcuts taken for reason of survival. And some quiet moments have arrived. Sort of.

The veterans have come home to Amber. Another line of drama for Agacerie: she joined the Black Road war young and war is most of what she has ever known. It may be the reason she really exists.

What do you do with the Monster-Killer once the monsters have been defeated? Do you turn if off? Does some debt come due? Deirdre: what did you mix in the cauldron to get the Other Half of the Needful Myth? Do you tell Agacerie she's not at all like the rest of the family? Maybe you tell her before she finds out on her own.

Or maybe she is; more like them than not.

Fun, before you ever figure an attribute or draw a Trump.
Try reversing your own creation legend sometime.

Filed under : Amber at 15.08.2005