in the Shadow of Greatness


January 22, 2010

IMC :: GM bias and attribute play

I'm capturing this text from another forum.... Attribute domains and GM bias - 01-11-2008, 11:58 AM

So many GMs like to 'tweak' what the Attributes are defined as in the rules. We see that on this forum. These GMs also like to support their changes with a whole bunch of 'flavor' or 'personal expertise' banter.

But they don't speak much to actual play or how the game got better because of these changes to what Erick designed.

One thing you will see much of if you are cruising the web: players and GMs love to talk about how Attributes suck.

Endurance is too weak.
Strength is unusable.
Psyche makes puppets of your fellow Players.
Warfare does everything too well.
Stuff is dumb and shouldn't affect PC interpretation by others.

IMC, we've never had such problems--for in fact--the Attributes do not suck. Attributes are glorious and yet sublime. Any simple system can be abused if you don't give a damn about the consequences to narrative.

When the game of Amber is run as a 'zero-sum' exercise, and the GM cannot create plot conflict about anything but Warfare, then Attributes except Warfare suck.

I almost think it is that simple. Can you weave in an Endurance theme to your campaign? Can your narrative show the awesome power of Strength? Is the only kind of Psyche story about puppeting characters?

Because as I said once on the AmberMailingList:

Quote: "Attributes empower the PC's ideas and allow realization of plans. Each Attribute has cunning, dexterity, speed, and a plethora of uses both subtle and brash. While the Psyche monster can set out to threaten other characters, so can the Warfare monster or the Strength monster. Even Ms. Endurance monster can get away with this if that is the nature of the narrative--though imagination is stretched to make this use of the most internal Attribute of all."
I always imagine the five Attributes (including Stuff in this) to be the axis of conflict for the narrative. Dramatic conflict.

In many game systems, warfare is the only conflict and all other things revolve around it. So these are the stories easily told.

The hard part is balancing the stories between the five so that they seem to have meaning that relates to the gaming group. So that the Strength narrative isn't constantly ignored in favor of the Warfare narrative.

What are your actual play experiences?

Filed under : Amber, IMC at 22.01.2010
Jason says...

IME, the Attribute(s) that are important to a game are frequently driven by the actions of the players.

If someone invests heavily in an Attribute, they want it to be worthwhile and they push the game to make their investment payoff.

In general, many of the players I've had see a much better payoff from Psyche and Warfare than Strength and Endurance. IMO, this is because Psy & War are seen as having much broader application to the game, whereas Str and End have narrower focus.

As an example, in how many Amber games have you had to worry about lifting/throwing a heavy object or sleeping from exhaustion?



Posted January 22, 2010 12:56 PM
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