January 3, 2014

My 2013 Hugo Award Eligibility

My story "Newton's Method" in TALES OF EVE, from Fox Spirit Press. is eligible for short story, (It is unfortunately the only story I published in 2013)


I am also eligible for Best Fan Writer!

I write reviews (SF Signal, Functional Nerds, Skiffy and Fanty, my own blog), do interviews (on SF Signal and Skiffy and Fanty) write columns (Roll Perception Plus Awareness, Mining the Genre Asteroid) and conduct SF Signal Mind Melds.




The Skiffy and Fanty Podcast, of which I am a part, is eligible for Best Podcast:


The SF Signal Podcast, of which I am an occasional panel member, is also eligible for Best Podcast:


Posted by Jvstin at 3:34 PM

September 15, 2012

13th Age: Pink Slime


You can thank, or blame, Lou Anders for inspiring the dreaded Pink Slime.

Stats are for Pelgrane Press' 13th Age.

Slime, Pink

The amorphous mass of moving bright pink material is far deadlier than
its cheery color might suggest, as many adventurers have discovered to their


Large 4th level Spoiler [Aberration]
Initiative +3

+9 vs PD: 14 damage and 5 points of ongoing Acid damage.
Miss: 3 points of Acid damage
On a natural even hit with the Pseudopod,it can use Engulf on its next turn on that opponent.

Engulf: +11 vs PD, 18 Acid damage, 5 points of ongoing Acid Damage, and the
target is weakened until the end of its next turn (-4 attacks and defenses).

AC 19
PD 20
MD 13

HP 54

Resist weapons 10+: When a weapon attack hits this creature, the attacker must roll a 10+ on a d20 or the attack deals only half damage instead.

Nastier Specials
Slime Glob Attack [in addition to a Pseudopod attack]
+9 vs AC, Ranged. 10 damage and 5 points of ongoing Acid Damage. On a natural even miss, the ranged attack does 3 points of Acid Damage.


No Icon wants to admit that they created the horror of Pink Slime. The likely source is probably the Archmage, but no one is certain. None of the Icons are depraved enough to try and use the slime as a defender in their citadels.

13th Age and the Icons are trademarks of Fire Opal Media. This article published by agreement with Pelgrane Press Ltd.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:04 PM

May 10, 2011

Gumshoe and the Internet

GUMSHOE, and the Internet

Jerry Pournelle, a few decades ago, mentioned that by the year 2000, it would be possible to find out just about anything one wanted to know, with the rise of electronic media and information. He was pretty much on target with that, although I don't think you can say he predicted the form that would take--the Internet.
This point came to light to me in a Play by Email game turn in my newest game, Return of the Titans. The game is set in the modern day, April 2011. Thus, the player characters have all of the advantages
One of the player characters, having received a mysterious invitation, immediately went to Google to try and figure out more about it. It's trivial today to google something and get some information. The further you go back in time, the more difficult such research would have been.

And then I started thinking about Gumshoe. Gumshoe is a system created by Pelgrane Press and is used in a number of their games:


Using a "point spend" system, the GUMSHOE rules revolutionize investigative scenarios, by ensuring that players are never deprived of the clues they need to move the story forward.

What does one have to do with the other? Think about it. In a modern game, unless you really run a railroad, player characters are in a modern age with the Internet. General information gathering is now a *given*, just like it is in the GUMSHOE system. It might take time and effort (read: Point spend) to find esoteric and really obscure stuff, but the technology of the Internet is a powerful lever for clues.

If you remember the heyday of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", after a while, people would phone a friend only to have them quickly google a potential answer. I understand that the latest rules of the game actually incorporate an internet search engine into the game.

Thus, my point is, for an investigative game set in the modern day, there is something to be said for using a point buy system a la Gumshoe than having players stumble around because of a failed roll.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:25 AM

December 31, 2010

Return of the Titans

The Return of the Titans

A modern day mythic PBEM.


Greek and Norse Mythology
Ilium and Olympos, Dan Simmons
Prospero Lost and Prospero in Hell, L Jagi Lamplighter
Mortal Coils and All that Lives Must Die, Eric Nylund

Roleplaying Games:

FATE, in the Dresden Files Role Playing Game
GURPS Technomancer
Trail of Cthulhu
Amber Diceless RPG

Clash of the Titans
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds

With those words spoken at the Trinity bomb test on July 16, 1945, Julius Robert Oppenheimer spoke more truthfully than he knew. The power of the Trinity bomb, combined with the ritual words that Oppenheimer spoke, drastically accelerated a process that had been slowly occurring over the last thousand years:

The freedom of the Titans.

Untold Eons ago, before time itself existed, the chthonic, inhuman, ancient forces known as the Titans created the multiverse, or, perhaps, merely emerged from it. In either case, they and theirs were the original rulers of the Earth and worlds beyond, and ruled for an uncounted period of years, until they were overthrown and imprisoned by their children and creations, the Gods and Goddesses of the Mythologies of the World. The Titans and their spawn fought against the Gods and their children, heroes and demigods sired upon the mortals of Earth. Many of the stories of their struggles survive as myths we know today. In the end, the Gods and their children won, and the Titans were imprisoned.

Their victory complete, the Gods and Goddesses for the most part retired to explore and rule the Otherworlds that they won in addition to the Earth. The Titans were safely in their prison of Malfeas, or so the Gods believed. The Age of Gods and Heroes was over.

In Europe and the Middle East, the absence of the deities of the Celtic and Greek pantheons from widespread activity in the world lead to the decline of their faiths, and the rise of the Abrahamic creeds. In other parts of the world, the inattention of the Hindu, Japanese and Chinese pantheons led to the development of faiths such as Buddhism. In the Americas, the pantheons of the Native Americans still received worship until European colonization forcibly ended the practices on any significant scale.

The Gods relative inattention to Earth finally stopped in the twentieth century, as they learned that the Titans were trying to find ways to escape Malfeas. They had been twisted, crippled and neutered, yes, but they were still potent, and worked with force and craftiness against their fate.

They had not escaped in body, yet, but had, for some time, perhaps as long as several hundred years, managed to send out their creations and spawn to Earth, and beyond.

All of these monsters, demons and beings were set toward the task of freeing their masters from their long imprisonment, and so help the Titans revenge themselves on their children and their children's children.

While the Gods had paid only sometimes fleeting attention to Earth, on their visits to Earth, they had, as in the myths of old, found liaisons with mortals. Their children, the Scions, often found that by their half-divine nature, trouble would find them, whether they wished it or not. This trouble often came from the machinations of the Titans and their spawn, or from rival Gods and their children. With the Trinity test, the seals on Malfeas have weakened to a fatal point, and now the Titans threaten to escape their bondage entirely. Perhaps some of them already have.

In this modern age, with the Titans breaking free of Malfeas, Gods and Goddesses have sought liaisons in a more deliberate manner, to sire or birth children upon the world.

Further, they have sought ties to their children, to both arm them against the Titans spawn and agents, and against their rivals both within and beyond their pantheons

Finally, the Scions are intended to help swell the numbers on the Gods' side for the long prophesied battle between the Gods and their twisted Titanic parents:


In the PBEM Return of the Titans you will play a child of one of the Gods and Goddesses of mythology in the modern world. Thrust from an ordinary existence into a greater world, what will you do with the power given to you? How will it change you? How will it change those you care about? How will it change the world?

Can you stop the Titans from overthrowing your parents and remaking the world in their own twisted image? Can you become a Goddess yourself?

Posted by Jvstin at 12:31 PM

December 1, 2010

A letter from Ingrey

(Inspired by the Wikileaks revelation)

To: Merlin I, Emperor, Basilieus, and overlord of the Empire of the Courts of Chaos
From: Ingrey, Minister-Counselor and Apocrisiarius at Large, House Wererathe. Currently
stationed in Shadow Acromel.
Regarding: The Lord Jaylan Sorange theft and publication of documents

Feliciations, and Salutations to his Majesty! May your reign be long and fruitful!

Doubtless you have heard of the actions of one Lord Jaylan Sorange of the Black Zone shadow of Ulfarsfell, who along with Claudette Johnsdottir has released to nations and shadows of the Black Zone diplomatic communications sent from Ambassadors of the Courts back to Thelbane.

First of all, your esteemed Majesty, I can assure you that my researches into the matter have confirmed that neither the Lessimans nor the Kingdom of Amber are responsible for aiding Lord Sorange in this theft and dissemination. Although both the Lessima and the Amberites may benefit from these revelations, they are not themselves actors in their acquisition. And I will point his majesty to the revelations regarding an incident with Prince William Floraasson which does not paint the Kingdom of Amber in a positive light. No, this action was solely Lord Sorange's action and efforts.

While the technical details of the theft and dissemination I leave to those more capable in those fields, the psychology and sociology of the act, and its consequences, is what I have been asked by my superior, the honorable Ambassador from House Baccaran, to address to you in this missive.

In truth, having reviewed many of the documents themselves (as well as being the author of some of them in the first place) many of the revelations in these communications are merely of an embarrassing nature, rather than crucial to state security. I did find, for example that the revelation of my own depiction of Prince Salvo Bisconti as a 'debauched hedonist who rules the kingdom of Remus with all the skill and subtlety of a drunken yeddim' managed to bring back fond memories of my time stationed there.
The revelation of the desires for the Benghazi Consortium to have us stop the Shahzadi of Isfahan from making her ill-formed broken Logrus into something capable of actually accepting initiates should not cause the surprise in circles that it seems to have done so. I do wish to speak to your majesty, in person and soon, regarding some revelations on this subject best reserved for your ears alone. I have in mind a certain Knight of the Order of Oberon who might
be a useful participant in what I have in mind.

I believe that Lord Sorange is, one of those rare flowers that survives into adulthood: an idealist. I am convinced he is a person who believes that the revelation of these documents is a Good, from the perspective of all sentient beings. I do not know how such a person surviveslong into adulthood; given time, perhaps, he will learn the value of realpolitik. In the meantime, it is not my place or position to suggest that, for example, that there is value in capturing him and introducing him to the royal Wyverns with the aim of the visual pleasure of seeing just how they tear their meat apart.

On other matters, her excellency the Ambassador does approve of the idea that was broached in Court the last time I was present, and I am in concord with your plans in that matter. The position and role described has been vacant for too long, and I am honored and flattered that I would be considered for such duty.

I look forward to meeting your Majesty in person to further discuss this, upon my return to The Thelbane.

Ingrey, Minister-Counselor and Apocrisiarius at Large, House Wererathe

Posted by Jvstin at 12:41 PM

July 5, 2010


From a conversation between William, son of Flora, and Shannon, daughter of Fiona.

He pauses, watching his cousin, then says, "A Spikard."

Shannon's eyes widen in surprise and shock. Given how very quiet the
room is, William
can hear the catch in her breath, too. Fiona's daughter is trying to
modulate her response, but
she's not quite as good as her mother, yet.

She finishes her port, decisively.

"A Spikard" she says, once she has done so. "I didn't realize she had
anything to do with THEM. None
of what I've read and learned hinted at it. She's a sorceress, of
course, and a very good one. She built the Palatinate Safehold in
Begma. Bound Jacint,
the Demon of Roads, to stop an attempt by Adorjan of House Helgram to
forge what we might today call a Black Road. I came across
this reference, too, to an Archipelago of Shadows she supposedly
molded and linked together. But Spikards, William? No."

William nods agreement. "The impression I received was that she was
concerned that its protections might be weakening, not necessarily
that she had anything to do with it herself." He shrugs. "But I am
not about to make any judgment at all about a previously unknown Aunt.
There is simply too much I do not know."

"We don't know" Shannon clarifies.

"That goes for us as well" Devaine says. "Although I suspect we will
learn more than we expected, by the time this business is done."

"Did she tell you which Spikard?" Shannon asks.

"Chromatic, the Spikard of Light," William answers her. "Have you heard of it?"

"Some" Shannon says. "Its one of the portable Spikards. Master of
Light, Illusions, and Perceptions. A ferociously dangerous spell
engine, William."

William nods grimly. "And like to find someone powerful enough to
wield it, ambitious enough to want the power it promises, and fool
enough to not realize that it is certain doom to anyone insane enough
to use it."

"Mother has put some thought into trying to undo them." Shannon says.
"Unfortunately, she has come
to the conclusion that while it might be possible, it could be a cure
worse than the disease."

"What does that mean?" Valric says.

"It means" Shannon says "The Spikards were made and constructed, in
some part, to tame rogue and out-of-control Shadow Powers, Powers that
were Old when the Pattern was drawn. And to undo a Spikard would be
to unleash that Power upon the universe again, with *no* safeguards.
The Spikards are a very imperfect way
to bind those Powers...but unless someone comes up with a better
binding, the alternative to it is worse. We must see to its binding."

"Now you know" Shannon says to William "what nightmares my mother, my
brother, uncle and I sometime have. And why Sand and Delwin are so
dangerous. Even Uncle Brand wasn't crazy enough to try and meddle with
the Spikards, except for one."

"I think I need more port, please, cousin." Shannon adds.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:02 AM

January 16, 2010

Exalted Non Player Characters--The DBs

I had a good session with Exalted today.

While I am thinking of it, I decided to write a thumbnail sketch about some of the NPCs in the game. My Gming isn't always the best when it comes to characterization, but some of my characters in Exalted turn out okay...


Any discussion of NPCs in my Exalted game must first start with "The Dragonblooded". In the game's context, this refers to three Dragonbloods from the city of Lookshy who hooked up with the Solars early in the campaign and have become fixtures as their "companions".

Anathaea is a smith and sorceress who is paired up with Kunrad, the Smith (Scott's PC). She has been proven to love to race the sky chariots the Solars obtained in Yu Shan (Air Aspected DBs are the best choice for flying them). She also has a sense of humor, as she showed up at Kunrad's tower in a red hood and a picnic basket to make sure the research minded Kunrad actually stopped to eat dinner.

Felicia describes Torren as a Paladin, and he is. A war minded Dragonblood, he is so honorable and noble that he is reluctant to even kiss his bride to be (Charran, Felicia's PC). Also has a distaste for all things Underworld, after being briefly kidnapped early in the campaign. It was his hostage negotiation which marked Charran as a diplomat of a different type, since she whipped out her bow and shot the Abyssal holding Torren hostage...

Lorius is a figure of comedy, as he often is in any incarnation and game I put him in. He's good at what he does, but not as good as he thinks, and his antics are meant to be humorous.

Here, he is a very air aspected DB, to the point that he likes to levitate all the time. He's also a sorcerer with a specialty in elemental magic. Lorius is also the boy-toy of Viola (Katie's PC)

Posted by Jvstin at 8:24 PM

July 24, 2009

2009 Ennies Ballot Up

Ennies Banner
Ennies Banner

I voted in the Ennies in 2009. Why don't you?

Posted by Jvstin at 11:49 AM

June 20, 2009

Kenneth Hite's Ragnarok

I'm a big fan of Kenneth Hite's work (back to when a good friend introduced me to Suppressed Transmission). So the announcement that his latest effort, The Day after Ragnarok, is soon to be released ,fills me with glee.

The setting's premise: In 1945, the Germans turn to their SS occultists to turn the tide of war to their favor by starting the end of the world! They magically summon Jörmungandr, the world-spanning Midgard Serpent of the Norse sagas, to attack the Allies. In response, Truman sends a lone atom-bomb-armed B-29 on a suicide mission against the titanic, 300 mile wide, snake. The blast kills the creature, but its immense carcass falls across Europe and Africa crushing millions and sending a mega-tsunami to drown the Eastern United States while the Serpent's poisonous (and now radioactive) venom enters the environment, creating all manner of bizarre and malevolent life.

Other arcane things have been kicked up too, including the appearance of some Norse Giants awoken by Stalin in his attempt to seize power in this suddenly savage world.

Take a look at the map of the post Serpentfall world!

While I don't play Savage Worlds, I probably will buy this for the entertainment value alone, as well as the opportunity to mine ideas from more Ken Hite stuff...

Posted by Jvstin at 8:19 AM

May 29, 2009

Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies Review

This is a review of the new Chad Underkoffler RPG, Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies.

My companions, Dulce, Torren, Tubal and I stepped into the dive in Port Gulliver. Months of research and chasing down leads had led us to this island, this city, this tavern. Within the semidarkness of the place, the glint of the idol, six feet tall, standing behind the bar, was an irresistible and unmistakable beacon.
“Is that…” Dulce, on my left, breathed. I could sense that she was ready to draw her sword and just take it then and there. Few people ever made the mistake twice of getting in her way when she had her sword drawn. Although I couldn’t sense it, I was sure that Tubal had his strange abilities ready to be unleashed, too, and Torren had all of our backs, if it came down to a fight.
“No, its not the real one.” The voice of the bartender, turning from serving a greybearded patron and facing us. A balding, slightly overweight man, he looked at us with beady eyes. “No, its not the real golden idol of Osric, its only brass. Before I could let out a disappointed sigh, he continued. “ However, I found it on an island called Eregnor, where I am sure the real one lies.”
My heart leapt. I didn’t quite know why Dulce, Torren and Tubal had signed up with me to find it, but as for my part, if I could find the real Idol, nothing would be in my way of marrying the fair Grace.
“Tell us more…” I urged the bartender.

Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies is an RPG that aims to do for Swashbuckling adventure that Spirit of the Century does for pulp. The raison d' etre of Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies (referred to after this as S7s) is explained by Chad in the introduction, as follows:
"Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies (S7S) is my love-letter to every single book, film, or
game that has given me that swashbuckling vibe. It’s a cinematic, storytelling game
rather than a historical/reality-simulating game. It’s about the stories—the films and
books. It is fat-packed with magical and exotic stuff. It is weird and wondrous and
Physically, the hardcover of S7s is a gorgeous 320 page book. The interior illustrations, all fine and useful (ranging from ships to characters) are all black and white, but the cover gleams and stands out. Fred Hicks of Evil Hat, who did the cover, did an excellent, appealing job here. Even if a book is not judged by its cover, this book, sitting in an FLGS screams "pick me up and check *me* out", even if the cover doesn't tell you what the game is in the same way that, say, the cover of Spirit of the Century with its pulp action scene conveys.
So let's dig inside.
"Above the Blue, skyships ply the 7 Skies, soaring from
cloud-island to cloud-island for adventure: conquest, espionage,
trade, and piracy. Kingdoms clash, cultures collide,
and secrets abound. Heroes and villains roam, both on
and between islands, seeking wealth, power, revenge, and
Will you be one of them?"

That certainly sounds promising, doesn't it? 
Chapter one of the book discusses the world of S7s in brief.  The audaciously designed world is like something of a Black Zone shadow near the Courts of Chaos in Amber.The world is a snowglobe, with a mysterious bottom that no one returns from that goes into it, but things come out of. "Cloud islands", upon which the human and non human populations live on,  hang in various layers of the sky, six of the eponymous Seven skies passing across them. (The seventh, the sky of fire, remains constant in the center).  These skies bring various seasons as they sweep around the sky islands.  They also bring other things as well in their wake.  One of these skies brings wheeltrees, made of the magical material bluewood.  Unlike everything else, bluewood *floats*.
You can see where this is going.  One can build a vessel out of bluewood. Add sails, a crew, and supplies, and now you can sail on the Skies from cloud island to cloud island. Aside from a minimum buy in, Chad has played with the assumptions and consequences of his constructed universe to make it ideal for the purposes of the stories he wants players and GMs to be able to tell here. 
The book then continues with a brief overview of the major cloud islands and the nations that they bear. While he goes into much further detail in the next chapter, the broadly sketched paragraphs give the reader a taste of what is to come.
In that second chapter, Chad tackles those cloud islands and their nations in more detail.  From the intrigue and vendetta rich Empire of Barathi, to the squabbling city states of Viridia, to the Kingdom of Colorna and the Zultanate, unique in that they uneasily share an island, to Crail, crossroads of the world, to the mysterious pirates of Ilwuz, and finally the savage wildness of Sha Ka Ruq. Every island and nation gets an overview: the geography of the island, the history, how its ruled, and what the people are like.  From a GM point of view (and given my default position of running games rather than being a player) the best of this for each nation is a section called "What is happening now". While the system encourages plots derived from the PCs, I as a GM have been accused of overplotting, since I like to have a rich and full world of things going on.  These sections help give a sense of that so that I have plenty of threads the players can latch onto.
Chapter Three is some more setting material, as we get a brief introduction to magic and the church.  It introduces alchemical reagents, and the role of the church and its various heresies in Seven Skies life. More importantly, I think, for the point of view of players, the chapter introduces the arcane edges called "Gifts". Gifts, tied to mythological animals and possessed of 1% of the population, give a unique mystical ability to the bearer.  It also influences a character in other ways as well.
For example, the Unicorn:
Those with the Gift of the Unicorn can repair damage to
body and mind, eliminate pain, and accelerate the healing
process tremendously. This almost always requires the laying on
of hands. They can also cause grievous injuries, inflict agony, and
steal vitality away from a target. It is said that powerful unicorns
can raise the dead, or kill with a touch. A person with the
Unicorn’s Gift can use it upon himself.
Those with the Unicorn’s Gift are unnaturally sensitive to the
pain of others. Some shrink from this sensation, others revel in
it. Furthermore, plants around the unicorn seem to react to his
or her moods—if the unicorn is happy, they grow luxuriantly; if
the unicorn is sad, they wither and die. People with the Unicorn’s Gift are almost
always respected and loved by others. Only if they use their powers to cause harm
does public opinion turn against an individual unicorn.
The text hints (another boon for a GM) that there are rarer gifts than these, leaving it for the GM to fill in the details. This chapter also introduces the Koldun, the very rare souls who can develop multiple gifts and are given occult training in order to harness these special powers. 
Chapter Four gives us more setting meat in a comprehensive treatment of skyships! From the skyships that traverse between islands, to the slow
gasbag laden cloudships which are restricted to the vicinity of cloud islands, to gliders. The treatment is comprehensive, from the structure of ships, to crews, to travel times, and trading opportunities.  And of course, sky combat and piracy!  This chapter gives GMs and players a good sense of running a skyship for any number of activities and plots.  Skyship activity is integral to this game, and whether the PCs are free traders, pirates, or working for the crown against pirates, everything players and the GM need to know about running the skyship portion of an adventure is here.
Chapter Five gets us to crunchy bits!
S7s runs on a version of PDQ#.  PDQ# is Prose Descriptive Qualities Sharp, a variation of the system used in games such as Dead Inside, Truth & Justice,
and The Zorcerer of Zo. 
From the PDQ# PDF (which is available free and separately on the Atomic Sock Monkey press website): 
PDQ#’s core design concept pits a character’s Fortes
(called Qualities in other PDQ games) against Difficulty
Ranks. Fortes are a measure of story-effectiveness
rather than reality simulation and summarize a range of
attributes, advantages, merits, skills, special equipment or
The PDQ# Master Chart is the foundation of PDQ#. When attempting a task, players roll dice plus the
Modifier (MOD) from the Rank of the relevant Forte. To succeed, they must beat the Target Number (TN), provided
by either the Difficulty Rank of a task or the result of an opposing roll by another character.
So, to take on a task, a player rolls 2d6 against the target number or opposing roll.  This can be modified by an appropriate Forte's Rank, and also
a concept called Techniques,a bit of nature, training, or background that provides a bonus or
benefit in specific, relevant situations.  The results are compared. 
For example, Roger Thornhill is running across the roofs of villas in Colorna, after his indiscretion with Francie, daughter of Baron Stevens was discovered. The guards
sent by the Baron are hot on his heels and Roger wants to make his escape.  A large gap between the villas presents a barrier to his egress and he decides to jump it. He has a Forte in Athletics and so will get +2 to the roll.  The GM sets the TN at 9, since its a pretty wide gap.  Roger's player rolls a 4 and a 3, a 7.  Fortunately, with his Forte, this is brought up to 9.  Roger just makes it to the next roof.  That Forte made all the distance!
Now, take John Robie in the same position.  Fortunately for John, he has a Technique "on roofs and walls", since he is a former cat-burglar.  John would get to make the same roll, and employ his technique to either get a +1 to the roll, or he could roll an additional die and keep the best two.  John's player elects the latter option and rolls 6,5, and 3. With the Good bonus from his Forte, he gets a 13, and easily jumps to the next roof.
In addition to a couple of Fortes given to a character, every character has a swashbuckling Forte:
Every S7S character has a particular swashbuckling specialty: some characters
swashbuckle with swords, others with mystic powers, still others with repartee, skullduggery,
skysailing, or a host of other talents. A character’s Swashbuckling Forte is the
thing that they are most astounding at and that they have deep knowledge of, and
this grants them a wider range of abilities with regard to that talent.
I'm not very narrativist as a GM, although I play Narrativist games with a small group of "Indiegamers" and am familiar with the theory. But even I can see the obvious conclusion.  Swashbuckling Fortes are a way for a player to tell a GM--this what my character is awesome at, and what I want her to be doing! 
This chapter gives lots of advice and examples of Fortes and Techniques that a character can have, especially ones which are specific to various nations and cloud islands in the setting.
As important, narrative wise, as Fortes in the PDQ system are Foibles.  
A Foible is a failing or feature that makes a character interesting: it presents opportunities for interesting failure. It is an inherent negative or problematic aspect of the character, a weak point, stemming from ignorance, flawed understanding, physical or mental incapability, a recurring duty, a particular penchant or method of getting into trouble, or some other vulnerability.
Foibles act as constant story hooks for the GM to hook the player into plots. And, like tagging Aspects in FATE, when the GM uses them, the player gets a bennie--style dice (which can, at its most basic, be spent at any time and used like employing a Technique)
In the Three Musketeers (1973 or the 1993 film), for example, D'Artagnan has a Foible: Hot headed.  It gets him three duels in one day! In the sequel to the 1973 film, The Four Musketeers, I would say that he has a new Foible, since he has matured: True Love: Constance. The director certainly pulls him along the narrative at several points with it.
There are other ways to get Style dice as well. The game encourages players to act and play in a manner not only to get style dice--but to use them as well. There are far more uses than given above, especially but not limited to magic powers.  Also, players can help create the world in a permanent way by the use of style dice. I suspect less narrativist players will be less interested in these options, but given the right set of players and GM, the game can collaborate between the players and GM in a real and visceral way.  
The game goes from Style dice in this chapter to a discussion of putting it together to create a character, giving three players and three different approaches and resulting characters. I got a good idea on how to bring a character to life in this system, and I've noodled with doing so.
Chapter Six goes into more detail on how PDQ works, in the forms of challenges and duels. Challenges are minor, one-roll encounters.I described an example of challenges above and how Fortes might tie into them. Besides such physical challenges, other types of challenges include Mental (puzzles), Emotional, Professional (business dealings!), Social and Mystical. The GM sets a difficulty, the PCs bring any Fortes, Techniques and Style Dice into play.
S7s encourages the players to narrate the results of both successes and failures but recognizes that some players are uncomfortable doing that sort of thing.  I play with a couple of different groups, and I am sure that the group that likes to experiment with small press games would be far more comfortable with narrating successes and failures than my group whom I run Exalted for.
 Duels are what I like to think of in my own games as "set piece" battles. Instead of a single roll to resolve the outcome, the two antagonists use a pool of three dice to divide between attack and defense.  The higher style dice combatant attacks first and the dice are rolled and modifiers are applied. His attack pool result is compared to the other combatant's defense pool.  The attacker and defender then switch roles and rolled again.  Thus its possible to take out an opponent, but suffer a grievous wound in return!  
Wounds in S7s, come to mention it, have a decidedly narrativst hook.  Instead of hit points or such tracks to track damage, damage is done to the character's Fortes.  While this does mean that a character's strengths can be weakened by combat, an additional consequence in the system says that the first Forte that a character uses to absorb damage, and a Forte that is zeroed out by damage generate Story Hooks revolving around that Forte.  I heard it irreverently described as "getting punched in the girlfriend".  This suggests to me that the choice of where to take the damage in a challenge or a duel is a player-driven way to flag the GM "hey, please give this some plot/story hook love". 

Chapter Seven is my favorite chapter, because that's the Gamemastering chapter. I've been called a "GM for all occasions" and I buy games and supplements with an eye toward "How can I run this?" So, how does Chad approach GMing S7s?

Chad doesn't assume that you are a good GM or would be a good GM of S7s without guidance.  And guidance he provides. Much of his advice can be exported out of S7s and into GMing in general.  Much like the advice on how to run games in Spirit of the Century, Chad's advice is portable and applicable across a wide variety of systems. I admit that the advice does not work for all systems and all games, but any GM can find words to ponder and reflect upon in this chapter.

For example, his advice on rolling dice:

Only Roll When You Have To
Seriously: if something’s not important, don’t roll dice...

The answer is two part: 1) don’t roll much; and 2) when you roll, the result should be
interesting, whether the character succeeds or fails.

And his advice on the role of a GM:

You’re More the Cruise Director than the Captain
As a GM, you have two responsibilities: 1) making sure everyone—including
you—is having fun; and 2) making sure the story as you and your group are
creating through play has some sort of cohesiveness. But the order these two
things are listed in is exactly the order of importance. Remember it.
While it’s best if fun and the artistry of the tale the players are writing walk
hand in hand, if push comes to shove, fun is more important than art.

Chad goes on to talk about GMing S7s in more specific detail, and how to make the game yours and your players.  Here, its revealed
that some of the settings of the game can and should be tweaked for the preference of you and your gaming group.  The strength of magic.  The strength of firearms. What sort of aesthetic will your game have?  What sort of structure? Et cetera.  Think of it like a digital camera. While you can get good pictures on the automatic settings, it is when you venture out from those settings, and choose more specific settings that the pictures you take can really sing.

Chad does dig down to even more specific details, including a method on generating a scenario based on player characters motivations and foibles. Even from game start, with no prior story hooks, this method makes it possible for a GM to begin the game with scenarios based on the characters.  Chad firmly believes that "its the characters, stupid" and this advice in GMing formalizes that.

Then there is this bit about the Perception roll. I use them often in my Exalted game, and they have a place here.  With the default assumption that players narrate success and failure, though, in S7s, it might work like this:

“ Everyone make Ye Olde Perception Roll at TN 9 to see if you hear the
assassin sneaking in through the kitchen window. If you succeed, tell me
how and why you succeeded. If you fail, tell me how and why you failed .”

This chapter ends with a selection of NPCs, ranging from low level to some of the strongest NPCs in the setting.

Chapter Eight talks about Swashbuckling as a genre.  It's conventions and tropes, and what should shine through in your S7s to reflect that genre.

This chapter works as well as a distillation of the genre in book and film form as well as its use in a role playing game.  Action. Adventure. True Love. Revenge. Heroism. Courage. Honor. Humor. Passion. Intrigue. Romance. Style.

There are plenty of quotes from The Princess Bride in this chapter. It's clear that the movie is not only a favorite of Chad's, but its themes, style, panache and structure are a major influence and inspiration for S7s.  But in addition to those quotes, and quotes from other films and books to illustrate these themes, there is an extensive bibliography, filmography and a ludography (game list). My Netflix queue has been enriched by reading this list, as well as to-read and to-play pile.

So what do I think?

Its a big book, and my only concern and hesitation in trying to run this is that it is a large amount to digest.  Its hard to see how the book could or should be trimmed down for the purposes of running it, though. Chad does a comprehensive job.

I want to run this. I could have wished for, perhaps, a players version of the book like Trail of Cthulhu does, so that I can more easily infect the enthusiasm I have for the game on potential players.

Possibly, this game could do for the swashbuckling genre what Spirit of the Century did for the pulp genre.


Posted by Jvstin at 7:32 PM

May 25, 2009

Homage to the best RPG cover ever

I had seen this image before for an upcoming Exalted supplement...but until James Maliszewski pointed it out, I didn't quite realize that this cover is clearly an homage.

It's an homage to this classic AD&D cover.

For what its worth, I thought the cover to the AD&D DM's guide was pretty neat, too. In fact, I liked it so much I managed to tuckerize an rendition of it into Strange Bedfellows, my Amber PBEM.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:13 AM

April 27, 2009

Games I'd Like to Play/Run

Via J.A. Detteman

He comes up with a good list of games he'd like to play/run. Given that the Indiegamers and I ourselves are batting around ideas for our next game, I gave this question some thought.

I don't have a lot of free time to actually run/play games--I had to turn down an offer, reluctantly, to join a Fading Suns game that Brian and Carolyn are in.

With that said...

Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies.

This looks awesome. I need to write a review of it once I fully digest the book. S7s seems to want to do for Swashbuckling action what Spirit of the Century did for pulp.

Mutant City Blues

It looks like Dettman and I have similar tastes, because this one is on his list, too. This seems to be a blend of police procedural with a Wild Cards like world. Sign me up!

Dying Earth

I'm going to try and sell the Indiegamers on this, next time we meet. I cut my teeth on Vance early, and this game seems to try hard to capture the flavor of the characters and setting.

Trail of Cthulhu

Oh, I definitely would run this. I know one of the Indiegamers is dead set against a game in this genre, so I have no chance to run it with them, or else I would run it, no hesitations. I have an idea for an Amber/TOC crossover I've talked about with friends and acquaintances in the Amber community that I will run at the next con I get to go to...


Sure, its another White Wolf Game. But the subject matter (modern myth) appeals to me. I know there are other games which do this, too (e.g. Legends Walk) but this system, at least, I am more familiar with.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:43 AM

February 9, 2009

The latest email from Scott regarding the Exalted game

Any questions? This might be a good time for you all to learn more about the game, the system and the universe.

DI - Ride back to Crossroads, getting into who knows what trouble on the
way. Judging by Eight's scanner, there aren't any Celestial exalts along
his path to the edge of Eight's range, but that doesn.t necessarily mean
there aren't obstacles... (who knows whether Eight can detect Abyssals or
Infernals, Fair Folk, DBs, etc). Not to mention get those plans for grand
daiklaves and other goodies back into Kunrad's hands, depending on what
they require it could save a lot of design time, which might enable Kunrad
to get one done before the Meru expedition.

Charen - Meet with Cathak Cainan and with a LOT of luck, get him pointed
back to the Isle without any unpleasantness and without getting herself
into deeper water. This could get REALLY sticky, REALLY quickly, we can
hope that he's here to express the apologies of his house to Charen and
Hara and slap Nathaniel's head vigorously, but.. he might not be here for
that, and he might ask awkward questions. We can HOPE he won't, but ..

Viola - get Minerva caught up on the world as it exists now, and the
dangers therein. I'm guessing what we have here is a First Age Lunar
who's essentially slept through the last 1000 years or so, so she doesn't
necessarily know much about the Usurpation, she doesn.t know about the
Wyld Hunt, she doesn't have the moonsilver tattoos of most modern Lunars,
and she doesn't know about the Silver Pact (which we Solars don't really
know about either, but both Deryk Cloaked in Lies and the Ally do). She
might even be of a Caste that no longer exists, which could be really
dangerous for her. Keep your fingers crossed for a Seven Leaping Dragon
hearthstone (+4 to all martial arts rolls) inside the Hearthroom of the
Temple, though there are a number of other good Solar hearthstones (Seven
Leaping Dragon is a 4-dot manse hearthstone).

Kunrad - Do what he can to help see Cainan off (hopefully this is limited
to staying out of sight and not hitting that big rock any more, not "Hey,
Kunrad, get out there and be my champion in single combat"!). Get the
measurements for the plates for Viola's buff coat so he can make the
orichalcum replacements for them when he gets back to Crossroads. Once
Cainan's gone, get that rock cracked open so Viola can get to the
Hearthstone. Keep working on getting that book cracked open, so he can
find out what's in it.

Long Range Plans:

1 - Visit the Court of Seasons around the period when the Whisperer's in
charge. If the perfected water solves the Whisperer's poisoning problem,
SOMEONE'S going to pay, I'd expect. Of course, it turns out the Court of
Seasons is going to be near Whitewall at that time, where the Bull is
apparently heading next based on what he said to DI about going to deal
with the Syndics... I suppose this could be an opportunity for Kunrad to
be interrogated on what he means with his Manifesto, but... with his
Temperance (or rather lack of it), he's not likely to play nicely with
their Eclipse if she pulls the same tricks she did with DI. HOPEFULLY we
can avoid crossing paths with the Bull and his Circle, but we shall have
to see.

2 - Return to Meru and open up the Temple to Sol Invictus there, at the
same time accomplish our goal of boosting our Essence via Pilgrimage.
This could get very ugly, or could go very smoothly. A lot will depend on
whether we're spotted leaving the gate and on whether we can a) pass as
Dragon-blooded on pilgrimage to the Imperial Mountain, the holy site of
the Earth Dragon, or b) whether we can bushwhack across the flanks of the
mountain that aren't heavily trafficked by the Empire. If we go with plan
b), we'll probably reduce the number of encounters we have, but the
Imperials or Immaculates we encounter are more likely to think that we're
up to no good. If we go with plan a), we might be able to get most of the
way up the mountain without problem, or things might go off the track
immediately the first time we run into someone, no way to know for sure.
Who knows, how things go next session with Cathak Cainan might affect what
our plan is here.

3 - Return to Yu-Shan for the next Carnival of Meeting. We don't have an
invitation, but as Solars I'm not sure we NEED one to go to Yu-Shan (we'll
find out when we're working on #1, since the most likely way to do that is
going to be to go through Yu-Shan, though we might be able to take the sky
chariots IF we'll all fit now), and it would be a good time to try to get
a conversation going on what changes should be made. Kojack's been gone
for a year, the Siddies will have sorted themselves out (mostly), and
everyone's had a year to think about things. Not to mention that there's
more opportunities to make contacts for fun and profit... and a copy god.
Of course, if the Bull goes to Whitewall, the gods might be even more
agitated about him (the Syndics of Whitewall are Celestial gods, though
about no one other than they know this).

4 - Return to the factory-cathedral and check on how work there is going.
It won't be fully operational yet, but the activity there may have drawn
attention and it wouldn't hurt to check on it.

5 - After checking on the factory-cathedral, take the golems to the ruined
temple complex in the north. That complex may well have things worth
having in it, not to mention that the temple could be rebuilt.. and,
unlike the temple at Cornith and on Meru, it's far enough from the Realm
that we won't have too many worries about the Realm trying to close it

A note: Minerva potentially gives the group an in with the Lunars: she
might well be of a caste that no longer exists (the period of exile in the
Wyld after the Usurpation was extremely hard on the Waxing Moon, Waning
Moon, and Half Moon castes, they were replaced by the Changing Moon caste
that subsumed all three of them, if she's a priestess, like Viola, she's
probably a Waxing Moon), and she's going to be one of the oldest Lunars in
existence that's still sane (assuming that she is). The problem, of
course, is that we don't have many contacts with the Lunars: Deryk's
vanished, DI hasn't made contact with that wolf-woman he saw via Eight,
and the Ally hasn't been seen by anyone in the group for the better part
of a year. We at least know where she used to be, though, so she might
well be the person to contact on this. Assuming, of course, that we don't
have a Lunar or three sitting on our doorsteps in Crossroads the next time
we get back there...

Posted by Jvstin at 8:06 AM

February 4, 2009

No more TBR?!

The Black Road, which I have gone to for several years, is no more...

The Black Road has ended.

Our ninth annual convention, The Black Road 2008, was held on July 4-6, 2008, at the Embassy Suites Marlborough in Marlborough, MA.

Unfortunately, our ninth convention was also our last. Slowly declining membership levels and the current economic climate have led the organizers to decide that it's time to end things. We'd like to thank everyone who served on the con committee since TBR started back in 2000, all of the GMs who ran games over our nine years, and everyone who attended The Black Road. We couldn't have done it without you.

If you're looking for Amber Diceless roleplaying, we recommend you check out Ambercon and Ambercon Northwest.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:31 PM

January 16, 2009

Game Review: Hard Boiled Cultures

One Bad Egg is a division of Evil Hat, the good people behind Spirit of the Century and Don't Rest your Head. One Bad Egg is their PDF imprint for D&D 4e products.

Even though I am not currently running or playing a D&D game, and since I remix and borrow from other games, I decided to pick up the PDF of "Hard Boiled Cultures".

What you get:

Hard Boiled Cultures is a 14 page PDF, plus a PDF of a cultural worksheet. The PDF is in color, with a little bit of artwork and style. The emphasis is on content more than pretty pictures and given the esoteric subject, text is king.

What is it? From the PDF:
In this brief guide, we aim to present a variety of
alternative options for adding cultural complexity
and diversity to the races present in your D&D game.
Since it's impossible for us to know exactly what
cultural options your home campaign might need (Are
there dragonborn in your setting? We don't know!),
we've chosen to focus on a few tools that we've found
useful in building cultures for our own campaigns.
We've included a number of examples of course,
but these are primarily intended to inspire your own
creativity, rather than to be implemented in your
home campaigns. When you finish reading this guide,
we hope you are immediately inspired to tweak a few
racial build options, perhaps to give a bit of mechanical
punch to a flavorful NPC or faction.

Hicks and Walton go on to say that they feel that setting elements are best expressed within the system itself, showing their Indiegamer/Storygamer roots. So, one might say that HBC is an attempt to bring some of these ideas to the 4e community at large.

The core of their approach is a reverse-engineering of cultures/races in D&D, figuring out the cultural assumptions from the stats and abilities given to that culture, Hicks and Walton then show how GMs can then jigger those assumptions to come up with new variations.

By now, you may have already figured out where
we're going with this. For every race, take a few of its
racial traits and extrapolate the cultural norm that
those features express. Once you have determined a
norm, reexamine it through the four different perspectives
we discussed earlier. Perhaps one perspective
is the "default," expressing the norm itself. However,
you can also apply the other perspectives to the norm
and figure out different cultural variations that might
emerge as character interact with that norm. Finally,
on a system level, you can determine how those
cultural differences might be modeled as different
racial built options.

And then Hicks and Walton get into examples. If you think this sounds dry, in the execution, the authors come up with logical variations on Elves, and their own Apelord race (seen in another OBE supplement). and then show that you,too, can use the tools and ideas they provide, and the logical step by step format to come up with variations of your own.

Since this is D&D and not a full indiegame, the authors are extremely careful to tie this all back into the mechanics to preserve play balance for all races and characters. While "on the move Elves" might suggest that a change of their stats from +2 dex +2 wis to +4 dec sounds good in the abstract as a story game element, as a game element, its a breaker. Hicks and Walton have dug into the play balances of the system and their counsel on how to make sure your own changes, using their method preserve play balanced are well heeded.

Should you buy this PDF?

If you are a 4e GM who (and this is *not* a slam) simply wants to run established modules and keep 4e to a beer and pretzels level Gamist experience, then, no, HBC is a waste of your money. The value of the PDF is as a toolkit for GM inspiration and customization of their campaigns. I suppose you could buy it to get the "alternate" elves used in the example, but that's a waste of your money.

If you have already purchased and enjoyed other products by One Bad Egg (eg the Shroud stuff) then you will definitely want this to add to your collection (and if for no other reason, to see how they deconstruct the Apelord race using the HBC formula.

If you are an Indiegamer/Storygamer who likes to play 4e on the side and are looking to put some of your ideas into your D&D game, or if you are a D&D GM who likes to DIY (and really, 4e seems to encourage this in the DMG), then this is definitely a supplement for you if you want to begin to tinker with cultures and races in your campaign.

For me, since I've only played a single module of D&D, the value in this to *me*, besides the reading value, is that some of the ideas about questioning and varying cultural norms and assumptions are ones that can be imported into other games. Sure, I can't use the mechanics as written , but the ideas about varying mechanics work well and can be exported to other games.

To give an example, I could and intend to use these ideas to vary the starting skills that outcaste Dragonblood have in a particular splinter culture in my Exalted game, following the ideas and template shown in this supplement as a guide to customizing their culture in a logical fashion.

I will look forward eagerly for more Hard Boiled ideas from the One Bad Egg cadre.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:18 AM

Creation's Crisis: A Manifesto for Change

This is something one of my PCs, Scott, of My Friends the Olsons (who plays a craft oriented Twilight) came up with.

His appellation at the end came from an encounter he had with one of the Raksha, who dubbed him by the title.

It won't make sense unless you are familiar with the Exaltedverse...

Creation's Crisis:
A Manifesto for Change

Creation now stands upon the edge of a knife, threatened by the
Dead and the Unformed, with the Yozis lurking somewhere in the background.
The forces that once drove back the Unformed and expanded Creation are,
today, hunted and feared by those who should be their allies and trusted
companions, and these hunters have not managed to drive back the Dead in
the millennia since they chose to take on the role initially allocated to
others by the Gods, and have only managed to drive back the Unformed with
the use of weapons created to serve those who they now hunt, weapons that
in too many cases they can neither recreate or maintain.

That the fall of the Solar Deliberative was deemed necessary at the time
is not in dispute, indeed it can be argued that if it did not need to fall
it would not have fallen, that the overthrow of the Deliberative would
have failed without the preceding fall of the Chosen of the Unconquered
Sun of the First Age into decadence. For the purposes of this document,
this will be considered fact. There is, now, little point in arguing the

That the order that succeeded the Solar Deliberative has not managed to
hold Creation together in the face of its enemies should not be in dispute
either. How many of Creation's lands, peoples, creatures, and gods were
lost between the Contagion and the great invasion of the Unformed? How
many have been lost to the Dead? And how many of these losses have since
been regained, the borders pushed back, the dead or Wyld lands retaken for
the living? The losses have simply continued, the latest and largest
being the fall of the city of Thorns to the Dead, but we have no reason to
suppose this will be the last. The Dead continue to reach out their cold
fingers to the lands of the living, hungry for the end of life. And how
long will it be before the Unformed begin to stir anew, having learned
that the Empress no longer can command the Realm's war manses that threw
them back the last time they made a concerted assault? We do not know,
but we do not dare assume they will not move again when they feel ready
and Creation weak enough to be overrun and destroyed. And then there are
the Yozis. They are not gone, not dead, and we can be sure that their
malice at the very least still leaks into the world and twists things that
should not be twisted. These threats exist, and their existence cannot be
denied by those who would walk in the real world.

The dialectic of history is simple enough: the old regime was fatally
flawed and change was needed; but the chosen change has resulted in a
situation where Creation is threatened from without, rather than from
within. Yet, the destruction of the old order did not result in greater
safety, but over time in greater loss of life, a loss that shows no sign
of stopping. The new order, like the old, must change, though for the
sake of Creation the means should be different, for Creation and its
inhabitants are unlikely to given the luxury of being left alone to sort
out the rubble of yet another civil war amongst its intended protectors,
not when the enemy is already here.

If Creation is to survive and thrive, a new path, a third way, must be
chosen, a path that makes use of the talents of all and does not rely
solely on one group or another. The evidence is strong enough: the Chosen
of the Unconquered Sun and the Chosen of the Elemental Dragons have been
tried alone at Creation's helm and been found wanting, there is little
reason to believe that, over time, the Chosen of Luna or the Chosen of the
Maidens would not suffer the same fate. It will fall to those of us
living now to decide the fate of Creation, whether we will fight amongst
ourselves and so allow our enemies from without to crush us all piecemeal,
or whether we will create a new strength, a new structure that will forge
the steel of a new era, strong enough to deflect the thrust of Creation's
enemies and strong enough to crash home through their upraised defenses.

If Creation is to survive and thrive, those who love it must face the true
enemies: the Dead, the Unformed, and the Yozis, for, as every mortal
knows, fighting amongst ourselves in a burning house is folly. Let the
gods, the Chosen of the Elemental Dragons, the Chosen of the Maidens, the
Chosen of Luna, and the Chosen of the Unconquered Sun at least work in
parallel if they cannot work in concert to defeat the threats to the very
existence of Creation, for all have special roles to play, special skills
to use, special gifts to put in the service of Creation.

The Smith

Posted by Jvstin at 4:28 AM

January 13, 2009

Real Deprotagonization: The 7th Sea Metaplot

I've been accused and lost players over the issue of deprotagonization**. However, a real example of this is in the metaplot in the books of the AEG game 7th Sea

7th Sea for the uninitated is a RPG of swashbuckling in an alternate Europe and Asia with the serial numbers filed off. Lots of 17th century action, with some themes of exploration, and sorcery thrown in too. Yes, there is magic in the setting.

Oh, and an Elder Race. The Syrneth can be thought of Atlanteans, with ruins and stuff all over the place. And there are Fae, too.

And secret societies up the yinyang, many of them female empowered to give female PCs a way to be workable in an otherwise male-dominated world and milieu.

So far so good?

The Syrneth are Chtuhluoid entities trying break back in our reality to this day. Some of the secret societies are devoted to stopping this.

Not so bad, right? A little COC added into the diverse setting isn't a terrible thing.

Here's where you get the deprotagonization:

Remember I said there was sorcery in the setting? (Of course, I like sorcerers. This should surprise no reader of this.)

Sorcery costs a lot at chargen. Think of it as buying Pattern in a 100 point build Amber game. Its by necessity a central component of your PC if you decide to be one. If you are a sorcerer, you are a sorcerer. Its integral to a character concept.

It turns out, deep within the metaplot of the secret society supplements (not the main corebook! Not the player's guide) that sorcery is irredeemably evil. It helps bring the day of the Syrneth closer. Almost all sorcery cast weakens the barriers between our world and the Far Realm.

What's more, even if you wanted to "renounce" sorcery and not use it anymore (basically shanking your character's viability in the process), most of these secret societies will not only not accept you, but probably try to kill you for Knowing Too Much.

So, if a GM takes the setting and metaplot as written (and we have to assume the game designers want them to), then, sorcery-driven characters in the game are deprotagonized.

**Yes, I still grouse over that. I obsess over my failures and shortcomings. I lost friends over my shortcoming. I lost friendships over this. Heck, every time I think I am a good GM, I can just whisper the names of those players and former friends, or their characters, and I realize that really, I'm not.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:56 AM

July 21, 2008

Exalted: Out of the Labyrinth

Not quite "diaries", but Scott, playing Kunrad in my Exalted FTF game, has been giving summaries of plots, plans, adventures and agendas. Here is his latest email after Saturday's game:

> OK, we're now in the Labyrinth, and we'll probably be leaving
> by a different route than we entered. One MAJOR bonus of that is
> that if Lord Scythe has an ambush waiting for us on the way back,
> we're not going back that way. One major downside is that we'll be
> taking the scenic route back, which isn't Kunrad's favorite idea.
> Plans:
> Finish the Labyrinth expedition - Working on it, two more
> locations to go through that we know of. Hopefully it will be a bit
> before we get to the next one, Kunrad burned off 14 motes in that
> fight, which is about 30% of his available motes.

Done. We were too late to rescue our comrades, but not too late to
save them from the Black Exaltation, and we were able to reduce the
Mask's cohort of Deathknights by another 2. Not to mention the
destruction of 3 Monstrances, which will hurt him badly as well,
forcing him to replace them before he can raise more Abyssals. We are
just not going to be his favorite people in the future, I doubt he'll
invite us to any masqued balls in Thorns, and I doubt we should accept
if he does. :)

> 1) - Go to Yu-Shan for the Calibration Festival (and spread copies
> of the Manifesto about). This will depend on where we are relative
> to a gate to Yu-Shan when we come out of the Underworld. We know
> of one in Nexus, but from the sound of things Cold House is well
> south of Thorns so that may not be the best way to get to Yu-Shan
> (though it likely WOULD be the best way out).

Looks like we're going to Yu-Shan first, which will work out well
enough. Got to finish up the Manifesto, then, so we can hand Kojak a
copy and slap him on the back. :)

> 2) - Return to Great Kills to retrieve our mounts. Kunrad
> certainly doesn't want to leave Fred to the tender mercies of the
> Abyssals, and I doubt that any one else wants to leave their mount
> there either.

Still on the plan: after Yu-Shan, we exit via Nexus or some other
location even closer to Great Kills and make a QUICK trip back into
the Underworld to retrieve Fred, Czar, and the rest of the mounts.

> [Out here it gets fuzzy, so I'm changing to letters....]
> A) - Pilgrimage to raise Essence. Kunrad's been saving his EXP of
> late to be in a position post-Yu-Shan to raise his Essence, on the
> theory that more Essence is a good thing and we'll need more when we
> go back to reclaim the Temple of Sol Invictus in Meru.

This remains an option, and Kunrad now has 29 of the 32 points he
needs to raise his essence.

> B) - More forgework - Kunrad has some plans for various items for
> people (Dragon Iron needs a thunderbolt shield, Anathea and Lorius
> need more potent weapons, Viola needs the jade plates in her buff
> jacket replaced, hearthstone bracers need to be made up (see C),
> Viola needs a Dragon Tear Tiara, etc).

Still an option. Also, if DI wants, a grand daiklave can be made
up. It probably won't be as good as the one he had in the First Age
(Kunrad's currently limited to 3-dot artifacts), but if the siren-song
of the two-handed weapon's calling to him, it can be arranged.

> C) - Find more manses and make them ours - Ideally, all of the
> Solars in the group would have at least 2-3 Hearthstones each, and
> the DBs would have at least 1 each. Having the extra hearthstones
> would be VERY handy in a situation where we need to keep going and
> going and going, not to mention the potential abilities they give.

Definitely still an option, ties in with the research Kunrad and
Anathea were doing in Nexus on 1st Age sites in the Nexus region.
Also, it would not be a surprise at all if there were some old
manses/demenses near the factory cathedral: if that was Charen's base
of power in the late 1st Age, there likely were others in the area.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:28 AM

June 9, 2008

Goodbye Eric

Erick Wujcik Passes Quietly

Beloved role-playing game designer, Erick Wujcik, passed away Saturday evening, June 7, 2008. He died from complications related to pancreatic and liver cancer. Kathryn Kozora, his sweetheart of nearly 30 years, and other loved ones were at his side.

Erick was diagnosed with cancer in late November, 2007 and given 6-8 weeks to live. True to Erick's indomitable spirit and zest for life, he proved the doctors wrong by lasting more than six months. Most of that time was spent with friends and loved ones.

Erick Wujcik's accomplishments are many.

To the role-playing game community, Erick is best known for his many RPG games and contributions to Palladium Books®, including The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles® RPG, several TMNT® sourcebooks, After the Bomb® RPG and sourcebooks for it, Ninjas & Superspies™, Mystic China™, Rifts® China One and Two, Revised RECON®, Wolfen Empire™ and many others. He is also famous for Amber® Diceless, the first truly "diceless" role-playing game, published under Erick's own label, Phage Press. Erick also published Amberzine® and founded Ambercon™, a series of conventions celebrating gaming, friendship and the world of Amber, hosted at numerous locations around the world.

Erick Wujcik was also the founder, heart and soul of the Detroit Gaming Center, served as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Game Design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (2003-2008), and worked in the videogame industry for the last several years, including UbiSoft China and most recently, as Senior Game Design/Writer at Totally Games, Novato, California.

Erick Wujcik's greatest accomplishment, however, is his contagious joy for life and love of ideas and imagination that inspired people around the world. Whether they were one of his students at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, fellow game designers, or fans sitting in the audience at a convention or seminar listening to Erick speak, to those who had the pleasure of gaming with Erick (he loved to run games at conventions and everywhere he went), to those who knew him best, they couldn't help but to love him. Even the millions who only knew him through his published works or communicated with him online, considered him a friend.

Erick is survived by Kathyrn Kozora, Kate's granddaughter – his beloved Sara, mother Nora, sister Peggy, his Aunt Mary and Uncle Sam and Nancy, along with dozens of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.

Erick's last months of life were the same as he had always lived, full of friendship, joy, grace and beauty. He went quietly into the night, like a snowflake falling gently from the heavens.

– Kevin Siembieda, Palladium Books®

© Copyright 2008 Palladium Books Inc. All rights reserved.
Rifts®, The Rifter®, RECON®, Splicers®, Palladium Books®, Phase World®, The Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game®, Megaverse®, Nightbane®, The Mechanoids®, The Mechanoid Invasion®, Coalition Wars® and After the Bomb® are Registered Trademarks of Palladium Books Inc. Heroes Unlimited, Beyond the Supernatural, and other published book titles, names, slogans and likenesses are trademarks of Palladium Books Inc., and Kevin Siembieda.

This press release may be reprinted, reposted, linked and shared.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:27 AM

June 8, 2008


On Worldwide D&D day, and the day poor Big Brown failed to win the Triple Crown..my friends and I played the Exalted game I ran.

(I did have an antagonist NPC named Gygax, as a tip of the hat)

The Exalted players accomplished their big goals today of taking two Abyssals seeking redemption to the tomb of their Zenith PC member in the lost city of Meru, in the heart of the Blessed Isle.

In other world, the LAST place four Solars want to be.

So, they drove away guards with a display of power, and tangled with Dragonbloods in the ruins of a Hanging Gardens, and Viola (the Zenith) took on a DB with the help of the group's allies.

Throw in a message to Viola from her former self, including deeding her an old pet (a jhereg) and an artifact, and a meeting with Damion (Felicia's son)'s guest PC, the players had a lot of fun.

Everyone got to do stuff, ranging from diplomatic defusing of a tight situation, to melee combat smackdown. Everyone enjoyed themselves, it was a good, if slightly short, session.

Heck, thanks to a quirk in the schedule, there is no Amber next week. Rather than having a week off...my quartet want to play.

What more can a GM ask?

Posted by Jvstin at 7:52 PM

May 12, 2008

TBR: Journey to the Center of Amber

A teaser for my TBR game "Journey to the Center of Amber"
Posted by Jvstin at 2:13 PM

March 10, 2008

Politics as she is played with 3d6

Charlie's Diary: Politics as she is Played with 3d6

A funny entry from Charlie Stross, where he gives 1st Edition D&D stats to the three major US Presidential candidates remaining.

And for those surprised that Stross would or could create such a thing--recall that some of the monsters from earlier editions of the venerable game came from the very pen of Mr. Stross.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:47 PM

March 9, 2008

Gygax's influence on today

Geek Love - New York Times
Senior Editor Adam Rogers uses the "Geeks conquered the world" meme to discuss the influence of Gygax on our modern world.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:37 AM

March 6, 2008

What drew me into RPGing?

A meme going around. In memory of the late E. Gary Gygax, how did I get into this thing called roleplaying?

Like many things in this world, you can blame my elder brother.

In addition to introducing me to the F/SF genres, he also introduced me to the basic set D&D, and not long later, Advanced D&D (we sort of skipped Expert, as I recall). Luap was my first RPG character, not very original I suppose. My younger brother played for a while, too. My brother and I also met a few gamers in Queens via a BBS. He ran a dream-based scenario once which would prove to be thematically seminal in my own gaming.

We played other games than D&D too--some more RP than others.

I GMed pretty early on, too, running a one-on-one game for a classmate in Junior and High school. In a tip to later indiegaming, my friend and I even experimented with narrative control as regards Hazzard's story.

My gaming went into a bit of a decline by the early 90's. The Brooklyn College group was withering on the vine, and there were no real new games that struck me, until one day, I walked into the Compleat Strategist, and found a game based on a beloved series of novels, by a guy named Erick Wujick. What's more, you could play this on bulletin boards on AOL. While my brother never got into this, I did in a big way, meeting people like my friend Bridgette, and reigniting my roleplaying activities...

Posted by Jvstin at 3:01 PM

March 4, 2008

Gary Gygax RIP

Via a couple of places, one of the original "dungeon masters", Gary Gygax, has died.

Luap, Justin of Aragorn, Ragnar, and Phocas, amongst other D&D characters of mine, salute you.Rest in Peace.

Update (via my brother):

OOTS nails it just right:


Posted by Jvstin at 12:26 PM

March 3, 2008

Nobilis Rises from the Ashes...Again!

random average: Nobilis, renewed.

If you haven't heard already, R.Sean Borgstrom has released as a PDF the first part of the long awaited Nobilis supplement "A Society of Flowers." In addition, EOS Press have announced that they are going to rewrite and re-release the core book.


Posted by Jvstin at 5:48 PM

February 6, 2008

Story Games Name Project

THIS is a great book:

Story Games Name Project

Its done by the folks over at the Story Games board, a board of "Indie" Gamers. The book is a collection and compilation of names from various cultures and contexts for use in RPG games. Because all us gamers and writers know that coming up with unique and distinct names is difficult.

Heck, just ask the ghost of Zelazny, when he came up with the very similar "Merlin" and "Martin".

Anyway, my friend Arref has a very appropriate contribution to the book, too.

Go get it!

Posted by Jvstin at 5:03 PM

January 21, 2008

Saturday: Amber Gaming

I had a busy weekend.

On Saturday, we had our biweekly Amber game, War of Princes, in which I play Pierce Koultrin

I need to do some diaries for Pierce.

This session involved a trip to Zoetica and Valentine's personal shadow, New Angels. Pierce picked up on the point that this shadow, fully formed, was originally only an imaginary construct of theirs given life and form somehow, when they stumbled into it. They didn't think this was special, however, given their youthful nature, the fact that a shadow to the specifications and limitations of their knowledge came into being is a significant thing.

No wonder Fiona is so interested in the two of them.

Pierce mainly spent his time in New Angels exploring possible paths out in the company of Zoetica and Vanya. It became clear that Zoetica and Zoetica alone held the keys to making a path out of the mist-fog walls that blocked all sea routes, although Pierce is likely to help build a full fledged path from there, to Amber.

Pierce also deduced something about Zoetica's nature as well although he also talked about it with her and Valentine.

After some time there, the group made another trip to Tir (after the first one) to learn the results of the request made by Sand on our behalf. Unfortunately the Faerie of Tir were unable to trace back the manipulators of dreams to a source. Elsha, however, who has mysterious origins of her own learned that she was descended from "what came before the Fae."

This dead end was followed by a trip to the restricted (to family members) of the Castle Amber Library. We discovered an ancient treaty, the oldest legal document, which bound a mutual defense pact of four realms--Amber, Rebma, Tir and a fourth realm, Marianthe None of us had heard of this fourth realm and its the only record of its name anywhere.

And with dead ends leading to new mysteries, that's where we ended matters, until next time.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:36 PM

December 27, 2007

Thanks to "The Wuj"

Arref nails it.

It saddened me immensely to hear of Erick's pancreatic cancer. Indeed, if not for his little game, my life would definitely be far, far different. The likelihood of me here right now in a friends house, house sitting, in Minneapolis, would probably be nil.

All because of a game.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:32 AM

July 17, 2007

After Action Report: Using SOTC for an Amber game

As many of you know, I ran a SOTC-Amber cross at the Black Road this year. Spurred on by requests to do so, I decided to report on the results of my experiment.

(The website for the game is at http://www.all-roads-lead.net/jvstin/tcoa/)

A perusal of the rules on my site shows that I didn't actually change the rules that much. I changed around some skills, and honed some others. Notably, I made Pattern a skill, and made Art the basis of the skill of using Trumps. (the actual ability for the creation of Trumps I made an Aspect). Shapeshifting I made an Aspect, as well, and I used one of the Fate 2.0 sorceries as my own sorcery (I only had one sorceress anyway, so I never really got much of a workout on those rules).

I further simplified things by sacrificing stunts (which I will likely bring in a future version). It took a while for the players and the GM to get used to the system, but once I did, the players were enthusiastic. Some of the players caught on very quickly how to use their Aspects to their best advantage, and colorful action and adventure roleplay was the result.

I could have done some things better---I didn't emphasize Aspects on scenes much, which I should have done (especially during one episode where the dirigible some of the PCs were fighting in was on fire...i could have used that as an Aspect for the scene). Too, I didn't do much tagging of Aspects on characters, but I did try that a couple of times. Aspects really make or break this game, I think, and their enthusiastic use by players and GMs is a barometer of how the game is going to go.

Combat, too, highlighted for me that the current system makes it a little too hard to really get the characters in peril. I heard of a variation where the damage tracks are much shorter, but with the option of the characters taking a consequence to avoid taking damage. That is something I think I am going to employ in my next iteration of the TCOAverse.

The characters of TCOA: The Machinations of Duke Icarium were:

Helsa, ward of Gerard (Chris Bamberger): A strong woman type who found herself defending the fort when most of the combat heavy characters flew off in planes. Made extensive use of the aspect "Fights like a Valkyrie" and even managed to throw a mook clear off the roof (which I gave her an award for).

Jessamy, daughter of Bleys (Mel Mason): A mile-a-minute speaking naive daughter of Bleys whose use of Convent Education, amongst other things, was an inspiration in roleplaying. Mel cared much less about the system than making a distinctive and memorable character, and succeeded very well in that respect.

Mirion Blair, daughter of Gerard (Bridgette Ruggles). Mirion was an adventurous, emancipated daughter of Gerard whose piloting skills, as well as decent fighting skills, proved colorfully useful throughout the adventure. "I'll take the one on the right."

Concord, son of Bleys (JP Brannan). JP's "dull" son of Bleys wasn't so dull. His use of trumps, focusing on the creation of one while a battle raged around him, proved very useful. And an intensely high shift gained during one of his rolls led the GM to declare that his attempt to break through the barriers of a shadow had led to unexpected, catastrophic results.

Ginevra (Carolyn LaChance). Although she didn't get a chance to use her Aspects as much as she might have hoped, being the only other person really familiar with the system gave Carolyn a leg up in getting into "TCOA" mode. She was helpful in encouraging other players, and the vision of Ginevra in a wedding dress with guns blazing is pure iconic TCOA.

The players had fun, I had fun, and I'd definitely do it again. I liked the system so much that, in a subsequent game I ran which was pure Amber, I found myself missing the usefulness of the randomizer of the fate dice in deciding minor balanced issues in gameplay.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:02 PM

July 11, 2007

Long time ADPRG fame? ME?

Doyce has noticed that I ran my own take on SOTC and Amber together, and hopes I will write up fully how the experience went.

I do intend to do so, at length.

However, the way Doyce described me made me blink in surprise.

"Jvstin of long-time Amber DRPG fame..."

Posted by Jvstin at 12:11 PM

March 29, 2007

And the Stone God Did Not Make a Sound

A standalone Solo RP bit I wrote for Ingrey in Time Under Chaos. I thought I would share it with a wider audience.

Ingrey is a Chaosian Diplomat from House Wererathe who works at the Chaos Embassy to Amber, in Mel Mason's Time Under Chaos game, where Merlin sits on Amber's Throne, and Mandor is his Prime Minister...

And the Stone God Did Not Make a Sound

Returning back to the residential building of the Embassy complex
after Breakfast, Ingrey Wererathe stepped into and through the rooms
of the modest suite that comprised his living space. Even after some
decades in the service of the Emperor in Diplomatic Service, his
accommodations were comfortable, but not overwhelming in opulence
compared to people of similar rank. Pieces were made of Cherry, rather
than more expensive woods such as teak. The furniture was more
functional than stylish, designed for comfort and use rather than
impressing the few that Ingrey allowed in his sanctum sanctorum.

In point of fact, if Ingrey stopped to think about it, if the likes
of Vikund Anansi or Morgan Deirdreson were, for some bizarre reason,
invited to his rooms, they would be either sorely disappointed in the
lifestyle that the Minister-Counselor lived in, or, more likely, it
would reaffirm their opinion of him as a poor civil servant without
the sense and corruption to enrich himself with his position.

Ingrey slowly divested himself completely of clothes as he moved
through his quarters with purpose, pieces of his outfit pooling in
small piles, making a bread crumb trail of his movements. Ingrey's
destination was a small alcove like room, not much larger than a
closet. In point of fact, it used to be a closet before it was
retasked for its current purpose. Ingrey's needs for the storage of
clothing were not quite as high as some of his counterparts and
predecessors, male and female alike.

The alcove was lit by a small mage light which Ingrey made a point
of always keeping lit, night and day. Some might use candles, or other
sources of perpetual lighting, but Ingrey liked the arcane approach.
The small yellow light, held in a sphere which dangled on an iron
chain hooked to the ceiling, illuminated a simple low kneeling bench
and a trestle table like altar. Both were made of granite. The former
was sometimes cushioned, depending on Ingrey's feelings that
particular day.

After the encounter with Duke Uther Helgram, and her Excellency's
decree, Ingrey felt the need to remove the trappings of comfort in an
effort to better seek guidance. Ingrey felt more comfortable, more at
peace with his God, if he delved deep inside of himself and brought
forth his true feelings of humility.

Thus, he removed the red cushion that sat on the bench and placed it
temporarily outside of the alcove. With this done and returning to
the matter at hand, Ingrey lowered his knees on the bench and faced
the altar. And so, naked, on bare stone, he was before his God, as he
should be. Masks were laid to the side, and the Inner Ingrey, as it
were, could be shown.

Upon it, on top of the crimson colored cloth that draped the granite
altar, was a single statue. Some Devotees had crude, worn images on
purpose, insisting that the quality of the statue did not truly
matter, it was the personal devotion that counted. Some, far more
affluent, had more beautiful and expensive creations. Like the
diplomat that he was, Ingrey favored a middle, moderate course.

The statue was made of obsidian, with a red garnet for an eye, and the
extended tongue was of garnet as well. The statue was in the form and
shape of Serpentor Custodes, the standing tall representation of the
Serpent, on guard and ready to strike if needed, with some of the
sinuous body pooling in black coils as the rest rose to face the

Ingrey spoke the opening Sura as he always did when he began his
prayers. He clasped his hands before him in prayer, head bowed.

"In the Name of the Serpent, the Most Gracious, the Most Wonderful."

"I seek refuge with the Serpent, the lord of the Turning,"

"From the evil of what he has created,"

"And from the evil of the darkening sky as it comes with its darkness"

"And from the evil of those who practice poisoning upon the guiltless."

"And from the evil of the envier when he envies."

Ingrey paused a moment and then began his plea.

"My Lord." Ingrey said, "I know not if the course I have taken is
the correct one. I have done what I must do as a Diplomat in the
service of his Majesty, but I do not know if my service to You strikes
the correct chord within my heart as well. Do you wish that I aid the
Duke Helgram, rather than hinder him, in his goal to destroy the
Patterns? Or does his mission displease You? Guide my hand, as it is
in the service of You, as I have done all of these years. I ask you as
a loyal servant to show me the path that I must take. I will walk it
for You, and with You, and my efforts shall reflect Your glory."

"And of my mentor, my superior, Paloma Baccaran. She is a loyal
daughter of the Church even if, to my knowledge, she does not have the
secret, inner relationship with You that I am privileged to have.
Help me, if it is your Will, to place her upon the Throne of Amber, to
be a fine Chaosian Queen for a King who is lacking in so many ways.
Help me help her bring the wisdom that you impart, to all of Amber,
both in the outer and the inner world."

Ingrey then closed his eyes, and opened his mind. It was a technique
he had learned many years ago, ever since those series of waking
dreams as a youth brought him to the attention of those in his House
who showed their devotion to the Serpent in manners above and beyond
the pieties of attending Church services. In his mind's inner eye,
the room's details were as rich as those in real life. It was a useful
thing, to have a shrine which was memorized so perfectly, that it was
as visible to Ingrey with his eyes closed as it was with them open.

In his mind's eye, though, the Serpent's obsidian beauty and form was
animate, liquid, alive, and aware. Ingrey felt the press of the gaze
of the garnet eye upon him and he felt the attunement that he felt to
the Serpent. It was personal and ineffable. With this attention upon
him in his mind, Ingrey repeated the plea and prayer he had just
addressed the stone statue, this time willing his mind to send the
words to the real Serpent who was represented as animate stone in his
mental vision, and was stone in the real alcove in which he knelt.
Even if he only imagined and conjured the sensation within himself,
the intense gaze of the mental construct of the Serpent washed over
him like a high tide upon a shore. The form did not answer, of
course, it would be impious for even a devotee of the Serpent in this
gnostic and esoteric fashion to imagine that any direct response would
come here.

And then Ingrey faithfully began to speak, both in mind and word, the
closing Sura.

"In the name of the Serpent, the most Beneficient, the most Merciful."

"I seek refuge with the Serpent, the Lord of the Thari"

"The King of the Thari"

"The God of the Thari"

"From the Malice of the Abyss which whispers in the hearts of the Thari

which withdraws from its whisperings after one remembers the Serpent."

"Those who whisper evil in the breast of the Thari"

"Demons and all beings."

With his prayer done, Ingrey slowly closed his mind again, opening his
eyes even as he closed his mental one. The familiar confines of the
room returned, the form of the Serpent returned to stone. Ingrey
bowed his head one more time, rose, and exited the alcove to retrieve
his clothes. Dressed, he walked over to a side table where a letter
box held some pieces of correspondence. One caught his eye. He
opened it quickly and easily with a gleaming silver letter opener with
an ivory handle. The envelope contained a letter in a neat script and
he recognized it. His mercantile Factor in the Courts, with news.

Picking it up in two fingers, Ingrey dangled the parchment before his
eyes and read the note. A rare, slight smile came across his lips.
With the latest portion taken from his most recent pay packet, his
invested funds in Chaos were at last nearly enough that he would be
able to now meet a bride price from even the likes of House Corrino.
His austerity was finally bearing fruit. And if the Serpent were
merciful and showed favor upon his devotee, he would one day have a
marriage union, as was right and proper.

Still, if he truly followed Paloma's decree now as part of her plans
to use him to sway the daughter of Mandor to her cause, he was going
to miss his Favorite, and no one to succeed her in his thoughts. No
one at all that might disturb the propriety of Mandorsdottir. Ingrey
frowned and pushed away the thought.

Ingrey placed the letter in another box, currently empty, to remind
himself to write an answer.

And then Ingrey left his personal quarters, making a mental note to
attend the official Church service on the morrow, and returned to his

Posted by Jvstin at 4:32 PM

March 10, 2007

Amber gaming via a Wiki

Phases of Tirna Nogth - Phases - Main Page

Right here on SSSN no less, and set in Tir. Check it out for more infomation.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:48 AM

March 9, 2007

Character Names

The Silver Quill - Character Names

Theresa talks about Character Names in detail

I do like names, too, although I am incredibly dull in picking them out and I generally don't pick them with the intent of meaning.

Most of my names come from the Greco-Roman and because I am attracted by a particular name rather than searching out the meanings. Finding out meanings, afterward, is amusing. But I don't choose a character name because it means particular anything. However, Cadmus, from A Common Disaster, perhaps by GM intent, had some of his mythology leak into his history.

Character names from Greco-Roman culture I've used include:

Marcus, Cadmus, Lorius, Hadrian, Iolaus, Castor, Pollux and Scipio

In a very minor key, I've also borrowed names from elsewhere. Ingrey, from TimeUnderChaos has his name derived from a character in a Lois Bujold novel. Vance, which was a failed character concept for House of Cards, was a tip of the hat to Jack Vance. Merivel Belmore, in Winter Chills, had his first name derive from the character in the movie Restoration whose "look" I also borrowed in the form of a casting call. Zavier, for Exodus, was taken from a Baby name book as a variant on "Xavier".

Posted by Jvstin at 6:34 AM

Trump Issues

MB&LK's Amber Bits: Trump Issues (2 of a Multipart Series)

It's All in the Cards
Part Two: The Communication (Sound/Voice/Telepathy) Questions

Do you communicate using thought or voice? Can you switch? Are there certain requirements to one or another?

If it's verbal, can someone overhear either speakers outside of the contact?

Can you be misheard in either case? Can you lie? (Caine does in canon, but is that a separate ability?)

Does it use _your_ (mental) voice?

What if you have laryngitis, or are in a form that changes your vocal cords?

If it is a mental contact, can you change the way you sound or add other effects?

What kind of sounds can you NOT hear inside a contact, if any?

Is there any kind of exertion (physical, magical, spiritual, whatnot) that can interfere with the communication?

Can you hold open a contact under any exertion at all? Does it depend on your attributes?

Does distance affect the connection?

Do you communicate using thought or voice? Can you switch? Are there certain requirements to one or another?

Speaking aloud into the connection is the easiest and what most users learn first. It takes some practice, IMC, to learn how to speak mind to mind alone without any vocal emanations. One of the NPCs in my game not known for being a psyche giant, Percy, son of Deirdre, is shown learning how to do this in a recent SB thread with his lover Brandeigh, daughter of Fiona.

If it's verbal, can someone overhear either speakers outside of the contact?

If it is verbal, people can hear "their side" of the contact. If Percy is in a Trump contact with Brandeigh, William, in the same room as Percy, can hear what Percy is saying. Shannon, in the same room as Brandeigh, can hear what Brandeigh is saying. William cannot hear Brandeigh and Shannon cannot hear Percy.

Inside the contact, Brandeigh can hear what Percy can hear, and Percy can hear what Brandeigh hears...although I've also run it where nothing can be heard, only seen.

Can you be misheard in either case? Can you lie? (Caine does in canon, but is that a separate ability?)

Misheard? Just like regular speaking, of course, it can happen. As far as deliberate deception...if someone is skilled at it, one could speak words and simultaneously speak mentally something else.

Percy and Brandeigh again in the trump call with William listening to Percy and Shannon listening to Brandeigh. The two of them, being trained, can speak aloud AND mentally at the same time.William and Shannon only hear their halves of the verbal conversation

Percy. "I think that its a good idea that we are forming a Regency council"
Percy (mentally) *I think its a bad idea, my love. William will try and lead it*

Brandeigh. "I agree with you about the Regency council idea
Brandeigh (mentally) *My sister is sleeping with William. I will have to watch what I say around her*

Does it use _your_ (mental) voice?


What if you have laryngitis, or are in a form that changes your vocal cords?

For a mental contact, it doesn't matter. Your mental voice doesn't change. For a verbal contact, you are stuck speaking as you are.

What kind of sounds can you NOT hear inside a contact, if any?

You can't hear sounds that the other person cannot hear, since they are your conduit. For example, if Percy is deaf, then Brandeigh cannot hear anything on Percy's side.

Is there any kind of exertion (physical, magical, spiritual, whatnot) that can interfere with the communication?

Very short answer: Yes. A Power Word at a minimum, can alter a Trump Call. Anything which can influence a mental contact can affect a Trump call, potentially.

Can you hold open a contact under any exertion at all? Does it depend on your attributes?

Attribute based to hold open a contact...Psyche and Endurance. Forcing a contact open is a matter of will and persistence. You really can't FORCE someone to take a call that they don't want to, but you can harangue them into it by repeated attempts.

Does distance affect the connection?

Absolutely. Long range contacts are harder, and may only be possible for Trump Artists and/or High Psyche types.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:19 AM

March 7, 2007

Amberite Characters that I play

Theresa Thomas, creatrix of the Shadows of Amber message board, has a blog now of her own, called the Silver Labyrinth.

In a recent entry, she talks about the types of Amberite characters that she plays and admits that she used to play straightforward characters...

I still do.

I admit that its against type for Amber as a system, but the fact that my characters are almost uniformly white hats is something that is well known. My characters rarely if ever have any real hidden agendas, and certainly have a deficit of duplicity and double dealing. This is based on the player himself, who doesn't, for example, play Diplomacy all that well. I can't lie with a straight face.

And so my characters are pretty simple compared to the complex ones around them, something I always lament, but I don't think I can plausibly change. It's a feature as well as a bug.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:12 PM

January 8, 2007

The Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon

I've been Netflixing the old Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon that aired on Saturday Mornings back in 1983 and 1984.

Its surprisingly entertaining, 20 years later.

Nostalgic value doesn't always work for series (cf Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was mostly painful, not fun to watch). The D&D cartoon is a mixed bag, as any episodic series, but I have found myself enjoying it.

And, while Presto was my favorite character originally, back, then, it is the clever comments and character growth of Eric that makes him a favored character in my mind in my rewatching of the series.

And if you follow the Scooby Way of designing RPG parties, the D&D Cartoon falls into the paradigm. And, as you might expect, the most interesting episodes are those which don't follow the standard formula:

Hank (Ranger) is clearly the leader, the Fred of the group.

Diana(Acrobat) is the team's Daphne, getting along with everyone but rarely ever a starring role of her own.

Sheila (Thief) is another Daphne, although she is a Velma when it comes to protecting her little brother.

Bobby(Barbarian) is a Velma all the way...to the point of being willing to charge Tiamat the dragon with his club all by himself.

Presto(Magician) is often a Velma, too, but his spells cause as much harm as good sometimes. He has had a couple of episodes where he's been a Fred for the group.

Eric (Cavalier) is a shaggy. He gets the best lines, he complains a lot, but his point of view is often the otherwise unspoken one. There are a couple of episodes where Eric gets to be the Fred.

Uni(the baby unicorn) is of course, the team's Scooby. There is an episode, though, involving a lost herd of unicorns where Uni gets to be the Velma for that episode.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:08 PM

Designing your team the Scooby Way


If you haven't seen it before, this is an analysis of RPG parties by their roles as mapped onto the classic team of Scooby-Doo.

Reading this, if you haven't already, will make the next post about the D&D Cartoon much easier to understand.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:08 PM

December 22, 2006

Chaosians and the Logrus

Arref asks:

"To Logrus or Not to Logrus"

Much of what Arref says makes sense and dovetails with what I do, and think.

I have a couple of other thoughts.

Side effects of having the Logrus.

I've had good luck in playing up Logrus Madness and consequences of walking the Logrus, and it contrasts well when not every character has Logrus. Ordinary Pattern is pretty dull unless played well, I avoid Ordinary Logrus by having unusual Logrus objects, or idiosyncracies in Logrus Madness, or the like.

Also, I also play up the danger of walking the Logrus. It is a non-trivial act. Many people die or are permanently and irretrievable insane in a Logrus walk. While it helps with political and other ambitions, it is rational for some characters to put off attempting the Logrus. There are plenty of other things to specialize in and do very well in, and surprise one's opponents and foes with.

On the other hand, though, I also play up the consequences of a House rejecting the Logrus entirely, with the exiled heretical Lessimans.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:46 PM

November 16, 2006

Underestimate Flora

in the Shadow of Greatness: IMC :: Florimel, h.r.h.

Flora is underestimated at your peril.

Yes, Flora. Read Arref's view, and then come and read mine.

Fiona is probably the best sorceress on the Amber side of Ygg. Deirdre is the woman who can break Weir's back over her knee like matchsticks. Sand, in my game, is a Mistress of Dreams whose reach has already garnered respect from player characters. Mirelle is a mystery, a scion returned from bondage. Llewella casts her nets, but seemingly only in and from Rebma.

And then there is Flora.

The first five novels, from Corwin's POV, are not kind to the daughter of Dybele. Corwin is seen to manipulate, baffle and bluff her. Random discounts her. She is seemingly a low ranked ally of Eric's.


Eric was not a stupid man. Eric nearly killed Corwin, and left him in a region of shadow, and when Flora discovered him, Eric let him stay under Flora's watch.

Eric may have been many things, but he certainly knew Corwin was his weakness. Eric would have not have had Corwin remain under Flora's care unless she either talked him into it, or he realized that she was the perfect choice.

And so Corwin, memory less, remained in the world of Florimel until the Redheads precipitated matters, and then we get the events in the books. Its not hard to, as Arref does, see Florimel's "mistakes" as careful moves in dealing with a amnesiac and very dangerous brother, and another brother (Random), soon thereafter.

Flora's skills are in diplomacy and making friends. She *always* winds up at the side of the winning faction, the winning team, with little realization that she managed to switch sides. And she can play her brothers' emotions like a harp.

Flora has not shown up much in the SBverse as of late, but, then, most of the characters are away from Amber. Characters who are there, though, no matter what plans they hatch, would do well to remember Dybele's daughter.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:54 PM

November 5, 2006

A Knight of Spirits, Swords and Sorcery

A backstory that I wrote, with GM input, for the Amber PBEM "Chains of Assumptions"

A Knight of Spirits, Swords and Sorcery


"I think your boy is a Squib, Brand." Fiona's sweetly acidic tone of voice came through the oaken door to the room where the ten year old Diomedes was sitting down. A single, thin, wax candle, unlit, white in color, sat in a silver candle holder before him as the red haired boy stared at it with obvious concentration, beads of sweat on his forehead.

"He's not." Brand retorted sharply. "Boys develop more slowly, but are inevitably stronger in certain attributes. Besides, have you ever considered that the fault might lie with the teach-" Brand's response was cut off by Fiona's already forming response. Diomedes' concentration and focus not only allowed him to hear the response, but his concentration intensified as he sought to defy the words his Aunt was speaking. He had heard them before, several times, over the last year.

"You're being sexist just to annoy me."

His father now sounded positively blithe. "And the fact that you're trying to shrivel my son's self-esteem like your last lover's-"

"Don't!" Fiona's voice raised. Then she continued, her tone much more controlled. "Don't be horrible just for the sake of being horrible. I'm concerned about him, and I don't think you're paying enough attention."

"So you confuse me with Random now?"

"No," she said firmly. "The boy has Bleys' physical prowess, that much is clear, but he doesn't have arcane talent. You were lighting candles at six. Mother even thought you were going to set Castle Amber on fire. Bleys and I managed it at eight. Rosalind..." Diomedes didn't hear Fiona's next words, as his eyes flickered from the candle to the wine glasses sitting on the far side of the table, and back to the dark mahogany table upon which all three sat. "...Any road, Dio should have been able to do it by now, in that room, if not before. Face the facts, brother, we are going to have to alter our plans if he doesn't have..."

And then they both felt it, the unmistakable pulse of arcane forces being shaped and worked. Brand was first out his chair and moving, excitedly bursting through the door to the room, followed, at a more stately pace, by Fiona. When they entered, however, and looked to the candle. It was still unlit, but it only took a moment for both children of Clarissa to see that, instead, both of their wine glasses, still full of wine, had turned into miniature fountains, with Brand's son proud, bright-eyed and smiling.

Seven Years Later...

Diomedes woke up from a start and lifted his head from the desk his head had been laying upon. After shaking his head slightly and rubbing his eyes, he looked at the softly glowing mage light floating above the desk, and beyond it, to the clock hanging on the wall. It was nearly midnight.

Diomedes looked down again at the paper, the quill and ink, and the tome from which he had been copying and making notes on arcane formulas. He squinted at the formulas, and then at the tome, and back again. Father had insisted that he document all of his work, especially if he was unfamiliar with any terms or methodology or aspects used. And, here, there were lines that were unclear. The Decan and Tarot hybrid symbolic system the Sorceress was referring to was not the one he was familiar with.

Sorcery was, as Theia had often told him, as much about dry research and study as it was about the use of power. And, clearly, some more research was needed here. Fortunately, Diomedes thought as he rose from the table and strode toward the exit to his suite, he had remembered a book that could very well answer the questions he had about Sorceress Gilman's system in the Castle Amber Library.

And besides, Diomedes wanted to stretch his legs.

Diomedes only remembered to create a small light when he stepped out of his room and into the semi-darkness of the Castle, late at night. With the lemon yellow light cupped in his hands like a ball, Diomedes confidently walked through the corridors. While he had only been back in the Castle a few weeks, surely the Library would be, Diomedes thought, would be easy to find.

He made a turn, convinced that this was the final stretch before reaching his destination, when something caught his eye halfway down the hall. A junction that he didn't remember seeing before, off to his left. Diomedes stopped at the junction, and turned to look down it.

The mysterious hallway looked much the same as any of the other hallways Diomedes had seen during his stay in Castle Amber. A pair of candle holders, bronze and cobra shaped, hung at head-height on either side of the opening. Candles were lit and glowing, adding to the illumination cast upon the scene by his glow globe. Diomedes peered up it. Candles flared along its walls, on both sides. And the walls glittered from the mirrors, countless in number, that hung along the mysterious corridor's length.

He considered the sight for a few moments more, and then, as if a needle pulled by a lodestone, took a leaden step across the mysterious corridor's threshold and began walking down it.

Diomedes took one step, then two and then more as he walked past the first mirrors in the hallway. All were different, save in that they showed his reflection. Frames of gold, frames of brass, and frames of wood. And then Diomedes stiffened and turned, toward a mirror of greenish copper in the shape of an Ouroboros serpent. The image in the mirror was not of Diomedes at all.

It was, instead, his aunt Deirdre.

Dressed in an elegant dress of black accented with silver, especially her girdle, and her hair worn long, she looked quite unlike the image that some of the Golden Circle had her as a bloody-minded warrior princess. No, she looked much more like the belle of the ball that he had seen a couple of times, and how his cousin Obi had described her on other occasions. Her mouth quirked up into a mysterious, perhaps even alluring smile when Diomedes turned to face her.

"You're not who was expected here tonight." she said by way of greeting, as Diomedes stared at her, his training and parentage the only things keeping him from being slack jawed at the sight of someone other than himself in the mirror. "No, you were not the one expected at all." she repeated.

Many potential responses ran through Diomedes' head like waves breaking on a rocky shore. Finally, after a few moments, he smiled and regarded the image of Deirdre.

"Who did you expect here, Aunt Deirdre?" he asked.

Deirdre seemed slightly amused by Diomedes response and she spread her hands. "That would be telling, Diomedes." She smiled again. "And it no longer matters, nephew, since it is you who are here now."

A shudder ran down Diomedes' spine as he faced the image of his aunt. Finally he nodded his head. "So what happens, now that I am here?" he asked as his hand reached toward the glass. As he did so, the image of Deirdre appeared to withdraw slightly from the surface of the mirror, and she had a laughing smile.

"With you, here, Diomedes?" Deirdre's smile was mysterious, teasing, amused. "Who can say whom you will meet? Certainly not I. It will be interesting to observe..." Deirdre's voice began to fade out from Diomedes' ears as her image in the mirror appeared to recede, and shrunk.

"No, wait, Aunt Deirdre..." Diomedes cried, but she was quickly gone, and the mirror's image changed, to show Brand's son as an ordinary mirror would.

Diomedes whirled to look back toward the entrance to the hallway, but hesitated from taking a step in that direction. For, as he looked back the way he came, the hall seemed to run endlessly, as endlessly as it did in the direction he had been traveling.
There appeared to be no obvious way out. Diomedes turned back to the greenish copper mirror.

"Ad Astra per Aspera, eh?" Diomedes said, and turned to follow the corridor in the direction he had originally been traveling.

The next mirror was perfectly round and framed in silver. Metallic silver, or perhaps chrome, and its edges were smooth and rounded, like the glass had been wrighted and set inside a silver tube with no end. His uncle Gerard peered at him.

"Wake up boy! You're dreaming," the big man boomed at him from within the glass.

Diomedes blinked his eyes, paused, and hesitated before replying, "No Sir, I was on the way to the library."

"No you weren't," Gerard answered hastily. "You only thought about it, and then you fell asleep. Now you're dreaming while sleeping in an uncomfortable position. That's no way to get a good rest. You should really wake up."

Looking down at his hands, Diomedes splayed his fingers experimentally, and then reached up to touch his face. "I really don't think so Uncle. I feel wide awake."

Gerard rolled his eyes impatiently. "That's what dreams are like boy." The dark haired giant with his closely shaved moustache and beard sighed. "Better press on then, don't stop. The sooner you do, the sooner you'll be free of this." Then Gerard turned to walk off on his side of the mirror. Diomedes shrugged and started to make his own way down the hallway again; he glanced back only once. Gerard had almost disappeared in his mirror, but was caught glancing backward at his nephew. Exchanging a last look, both men continued on their way.

The next couple of mirrors only held reflections of himself, but the next after that had a fleeting image that made Diomedes turn. He only caught the briefest sight of a girl, maybe nine or ten, with large brown eyes. As Diomedes turned to get a better look at her in the mirror, she disappeared out of sight.

Diomedes stared at that oval mirror with a tarnished silver frame for a moment, shrugged, and then continued. The next mirror was of similar character, and held a light brown haired man clad in brown and black, who prominently wore a strange ring on his right hand. He regarded Diomedes carefully for a moment. Diomedes furrowed his eyebrows in turn, trying to place him, certain that he should know who he was, but he was unfamiliar all the same.

The man raised a finger to his lips. "Shhhh." Then he glanced to the left and then to the right. "Not this time, not yet," he said very softly. Then the man turned away, fading into nothingness as he did so, once again the mirror replacing the conversant image with a silent reflection of his own countenance.

"Perhaps." Diomedes said, to no one at all. "No one else wants to speak to me."

"And I'm no one?" a voice called. A few steps further down the hallway Diomedes came to large mirror, nearly full length, and framed in priceless jade with a sheer, nearly fully transparent sheet of fine silk serving as a drape over it. "Look at me," the woman's voice almost but not quite pleaded. Diomedes could see the shape of a woman with long hair silhouetted behind the gauzy fabric. Reaching up slowly he pulled the silk aside.

The young Rebman lady was beautiful as to hurt his eyes, and while not immodest by Rebman standards, her dress (or lack thereof) would have scandalized the nobles that haunted his Castle. She didn't care a bit.

"Why?" she asked cryptically, though there was something about the way she asked that seemed to imply that she expected him to understand. "Diomedes, just tell me why?"

"You promised me a dance," she added firmly, almost sternly. "You promised me a good many things. You could try." Then she wrapped her arms around herself and a look of almost infinite sadness showed in her eyes. Closed as her body language was, she never looked away from his eyes.

"Who are you?" Diomedes asked, bewildered, but she only stepped backwards in the mirror and vanished. The silk slipped back over the glass of its own accord.

"I asked the same question and you were every bit as evasive," came a cutting voice. Diomedes whirled around to find another mirror framed in crystal. He stared at his own reflection, but the face was oddly unrecognizable, himself but not. This Diomedes looks hard, cold, and shrewd. "You humiliated me. Cost me nearly everything, you and that bitch. But mark my words, Fiona's Kin, mark them well. I will have my revenge, and it will be fivefold anything you can imagine. You know the ironic thing, even as you expect it, you'll never see it coming in time to stop it." Then the mirror turned the color of milk and would speak to him no more.

He stared down the hallway for a few moments, and then continued walking. The next several mirrors were fruitless as augurs or communication devices, only showing a pair of other Diomedes, to either side, walking down the hallway, too.

Diomedes grew so used to the sight as he passed dozens of pairs of mirrors that he didn't even register that that one of the mirrors showed something different until his brisk stride carried him almost

It was a man with short dark hair, and a thin dark beard and mustache. He was dressed in red, with silver accents. Diomedes actually saw him a second time, in a second mirror, before he turned and stopped and faced the stern looking man who seemed to be standing in a study, a den, or a library room of some kind, all done in dark wood.

"I almost supposed you were going to continue to walk past me again." the man in red and silver said in an accent that Diomedes could not place. Yet, he seemed familiar. Briefly, Diomedes turned to look back down the hall the way he came, before looking back at the figure. This seemed to amuse him.

"I'm no longer in that mirror, of course." the man said patiently. "Not that it matters, son of a brother born long after my time."

"...born long after my time..." Diomedes said aloud, regarding the man warily. "You're one of my lost uncles, then?" Diomedes eyes widened slightly as he began to work it out, but before he could speak further, the man smiled thinly.

"Yes, I am Osric, and you are not at all whom that I expected. I was expecting someone else, Diomedes."

Diomedes raised his eyebrows at Osric's identification of him but the eyebrow raise was brief and was overwhelmed by other emotions and thoughts.

"At least." Diomedes responded, his hands slightly sweaty with nervousness. "I am not the only one who feels this way. I didn't intend to enter this..."

"Hall of Mirrors?" Osric said, cocking his head and regarding Diomedes. "No, you're being here is an accident, a quirk of fate. And so it should be taken advantage of, don't you agree, nephew?"

"Taken advantage of in what manner?" A chill ran down Diomedes spine, and he stepped back a half pace from the squarish mirror with the image of Osric.

Osric shook his head slightly. "You are right to be wary and distrustful, tis the coin and hallmark of our family. However, in this instance, I do not mean you harm. What I mean is that an unexpected person in a place of spirits and portents, sounds to me like the perfect opportunity to divine the future." From one of his pockets, Osric revealed a trump deck. He held the deck in his left hand, even as his right hand reached toward the surface of the mirror.

"Come, let us do a trump casting."

Diomedes hesitated, and dumbly stared at Osric's hand for a few moments. The man in silver and red seemed slightly amused by this.

"Are you unfamiliar with that art?" Osric asked. "Has it been lost to the scions of Amber in the time since my brothers and I walked its halls? I thought you a Knight of spirits and spells." He looked at Diomedes, as if looking at him for the first time. "Perhaps you're still a Page. Or perhaps you prefer blades to magic?"

Diomedes shook his head at Osric's speculations, and finally stepped forward to reclaim the distance he had gained by his previous retreat. Diomedes then stepped forward again and extended his left hand toward the glass. Diomedes tried not to be surprised when Osric's hand extended from the mirror and clasped his own. With the tingle of a sensation like stepping through a waterfall, Osric pulled Diomedes through the mirror and into the study.

"Good." Osric said, as he gave Diomedes a moment to get his bearings.

The first thing that Diomedes did as soon as he was through the glass was to turn around. He was gratified to find a mirror that was a copy of the one he had passed through, and the dizzying sight of a hallway full of mirrors imaged in the glass. For the briefest of moments, he thought he saw, in one of the mirrors in the Hallway, the image of his Aunt Deirdre, smiling and observing. The image flickered out of sight, no matter how hard Diomedes concentrated on the confusing sight.

"This is all still part of the Hall you know." the voice of the son of Cymnea came from behind him. Diomedes turned from the mirror reluctantly, to find Osric now seated at a desk, a glass carafe of some dark purple wine, and two glasses to his right on that desk.

The only other thing on the mahogany desk was a deck of over sized cards. Trumps.

Osric gestured first to the chair in front of the desk, and then to the carafe and took the cards up into his hands as Diomedes reached for the carafe, removing the stopper and taking in the aroma of the wine.

"Epiran?" Diomedes inquired as he poured the glasses full of the wine and taking one and his seat. Osric did not answer. He continued to calmly shuffle the cards, as if he had not heard Diomedes' words. He placed the deck back on the desk.

"Cut the cards three times." he instructed. "Hand them back to me, and tell me which side is the top."

Diomedes nodded and sipped at the wine briefly before setting it down.

Taking the cards into his hands, he cut the deck three times, keeping to about halfway through the deck each time. Finally he handed the deck back to Osric. "The top faces me."

Osric nodded silently and began dealing the cards. To Diomedes' limited exposure, it looked something like what was called in shadow a Celtic Cross, but subtly different. The cards themselves, however, were familiar, the same ones his branch of the family employed for such things, the tarot of the Amber deck itself.

"Covers" he said, and put down the upside down card. It depicted a couple, together, by some sort of shore, with three cups brimming over. Three of Cups

"Crosses", and Osric placed grandfather, Oberon, upright, his eyes looking at Diomedes.

"As the Emperor" Diomedes whispered aloud. Osric ignored him, and continued.

"Behind" and the reversed card placed a nude woman, and a bird, in the night. The Star.

"Ahead", and Osric placed, reversed, the intensely gazing face with the tools of the profession below. The Magician.

"Crowns" and Osric produced a reversed, somber figure trudging through a landscape. The Seven of Pentacles.

"Beneath". And the long haired man sitting in place had closed eyes for Diomedes. The Hermit.

"Yourself" Osric intoned, and placed a card on fire, a figure trapped within a cage of wands. But the card was upside down, the Ten of Wands.

"Family and Friends" Osric explained, and another upside down card, with two figures standing in a set of swords buried into the earth. The Eight of Swords

"Hopes and Fears" Osric said, and laid down the smiling woman pouring a libation. Temperance.

"And, finally, Outcome." Osric said, and laid down the last card, and Diomedes stared at the edifice suffering destruction. The Tower.

"Given the nature of time in this place, this path may take years to unfold. As I said, being here in the Hall has great significance." Osric said, as he leaned over the deck. "Have you interpreted the cards before?"

Diomedes thought back to lessons with Aunt Fiona and Uncle Bleys, and nodded. "Yes, although I do not claim to be an expert in these matters. Trumps and Tarots are not my specialty"

"I like not the beginning and its conclusion." Diomedes continued "It starts with a lack of happiness, and ends in ruin and destructive breakdown and ruin. Uncle. It almost sounds like Oberon is the only thing that stands between me...and terrible things. Dreams leading to disgrace."

Osric looked at the cards again. "I think you misread this fortune somewhat, Diomedes. You clearly need a little more seasoning when it comes to the interpretation of a spread. The Tower, for instance." Osric's forefinger rubbed along its edge as it lay on the table. "is a powerful card to be sure. On the other hand, there is a liberation involved in the cataclysm. Just as Death is not a card that means solely what it means in the most shallow sense, neither does the Tower. And your hopes, as symbolized by Temperance, may yet mitigate any real disaster."

Diomedes looked at the cards, skeptically. He shook his head slightly, and when he looked up, Osric smiled.

"Time will tell, as it always does. I wager you will remember this spread, and as things unfold, it will come back to mind. I was hoping to offer a Tarot reading to the person who was supposed to come through tonight, but I don't think that you are a bad alternate choice."

"Deir..." Diomedes stopped and started again. "Another of your siblings said something about that. Who was supposed to come here, Uncle Osric?" Diomedes asked. "And how do you know anything about me, when not even my father was alive when you were in the Castle?"

"Now, Diomedes." Osric said, rising from his seated position. "An answer to either question would be telling. Its time for you to depart."

Diomedes rose from his seat, but he felt a reluctance to move further. He studied Osric, and took a step backward toward the mirror. "Nothing more to be gleaned tonight?" Diomedes said, as if hoping that Osric might reveal something more.

"Nothing." Osric came around the desk and put a firm grip on Diomedes' shoulder. With a strength that Diomedes associated with Eric, or Deirdre, Osric turned and urged him through the mirror. Diomedes stumbled as he reached the surface of the glass, and didn't remember anything more.

Diomedes eyes opened. His head was resting on the open pages of a book. He was slumped over his desk in his room, the yellow light of his room creating a deep, defined shadow against the book. Diomedes blinked as he moved to a upright, seated position.

Was it all a dream? Did he imagine the strange visit to the Hall of Mirrors? Diomedes yawned, and rose from the desk to stretch away the discomfort to his muscles caused by sleeping in such an awkward position.

Diomedes looked down at the book. It was unfamiliar, and definitely not a book that he had in his quarters before he fell asleep. On the left page that the book was open to was dominated by a depiction of the Tower of Babel, in the process of being destroyed in a cataclysm of some sort. On the right, the text swam to his still sleepy eyes, but the first words jumped out at him.

"The Tower is a symbol in the standard Tarot deck..."

~The End~

Posted by Jvstin at 8:01 AM

October 23, 2006

"Yes, Emperor"

"Yes, Emperor"

Comedy, Series Premiere.

Hapless minor Chaosian Lord Merlin Sawall (Ben Affleck) finds himself unexpectedly propelled to the top of the hierarchy of the Courts of Chaos and made the new Emperor of the Pole of Reality. Waiting for him there to tell him how to do his job is Lord Humphrey of House Appleby, Permanent Lord of Administrative Affairs in Thelbane, the Palace of the Emperor.

Also making Merlin's life crazy are Sir Bernard of House Woolley (Derek Fowlds), his new Private Secretary obsessed with the minutae of proper Thari, and Merlin's brother Jurt (also played by Ben Affleck), who is convinced he could do the job better.

Future episodes will have guest appearances by Merlin's mother Dara (Tilda Swinton) and Merlin's other. scheming brother Mandor (Jeremy Irons).

Posted by Jvstin at 6:33 AM

September 3, 2006

IMC: The Re-drawing of the Pattern

One of the themes that I've used in some of my one-shots, and only now becoming apparent in SB in the instance of the Moonriders is the consequences of Oberon re-drawing the Pattern at the end of the first five novels.

If Pattern provides as much direction and form to shadows that are already in existence as creating them, then what exactly happened from the time that the Primal Pattern was damaged, until Oberon's repair of the Pattern?

Certainly the Black Road was a consequence of weakening the Pattern, allowing such a strong instance of Chaos to penetrate where it had difficulty otherwise. But it is Oberon's re-drawing of the Pattern that is the real kicker, and what I've made good use of.

Why should the post-redrawn Amber side of the universe be precisely the same as it was pre-damaged Pattern?

--Dworkin drew the Original Pattern, Oberon redrew and repaired it. Its certain that the Pattern would be at least subtly different, in the Post-Patternfall world.

--Oberon died during the process. We're not told where on the Pattern he died
---Did Oberon really finish the process? Perhaps Dworkin finished his son's work, Oberon's repair of the Pattern was enough to provide enough sanity for Dworkin to finish the job. Or, Oberon did finish it, but since the effort killed him, his repair was not as careful as it might have been. Things can be missed.

Think of it this way, changing metaphors. When I got a new computer, after the failure of my hard drive, I lost a good many things that I could not find again on the Internet--fonts, programs, and so forth. In some cases I have gotten substitutes, in some cases I have lost them forever.

And its certain that I've forgotten things. Every so often I will remember a particular program, or document, and only then remember that it was on the old HD and not replaced, gone and forgotten.

So, too, for the Amber side of the Universe. Prisons, major changes to the universe post-Pattern creation, and the like can wind up being lost, or imperfectly placed back.

I've done it in a number of games, Ghosts of the Past, for example. A couple of the Regency games have touched on this theme as well.

And, although it may not be clear just yet, and I don't want to speak more about it for fear of spoilers, I've done it in SB as well. Things re-drawn and remade are not the same as the originals, the Pattern and its influence included, and the differences can lead to all sorts of complications.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:32 AM

Interaction Matrix in the ADRPG

The 20' By 20' Room: All Road's Lead to Amber . . .

Jim Henley talks about the ADRPG, and this portion struck me:

I find myself thinking that, actually, an Amber campaign could profit from adding a step between character creation and the first session of the campaign: a Dogs-style "What they want from the Youngers" list. But not "the Youngers" as a whole: a matrix listing what each elder wants from each PC. It could be anything from "Flora wants Brigit to be more ladylike" to "Bleys wants Alexander to help him conquer Amber" to "Corwin wants to keep Gustav from finding Yg."

Here's the mechanical effect I think the exercise assumes and promotes: The PCs have to have enough power relative to the Elders to be worth wanting something from.

That is a bugbear that many Amber games and campaigns have trouble with, in my experience. How do you balance the power of the Elders, as implied in the rulebook, versus the player characters.

I have had trouble with this as a player. A PBEM in which I am in has a much more balanced level between the youngers and the Elders than I am used to, to the point where I consistently undervalue my PCs strength and worth to the Elders. On the other hand, the GMs have made it clear that the Elders take the PC's abilities very seriously indeed.

As a GM, my main use of the Elders has been a relatively light touch, so that the PCs have *room* to do what they want without the PCs running to Mommy, Daddy, Uncle or Aunt every time and expect things to be solved. In my "Tales of the Regency" Convention serial game, since the game is set during Gerard's Regency,Gerard is the only elder, and thus the PCs *have* to rely on themselves, and Gerard *has* to treat the PCs with respect.

I don't like the Model of Elders completely outclassing the PCs in everything, and avoiding this model is key to trying to implement Henley's idea. You get some insanities in poorly run games like a martially focused Deirdre, not being known for Sorcery, still is a better sorceress than Fiona's daughter and protege, because she is an Elder. PCs should, in their sphere of competency (assuming they've spent the points), be strong enough that the Elders will respect them. Do that, and then the Interaction Matrix sounds like a fine idea. You wouldn't want to do it for a one-shot slot game, but a new campaign, absolutely.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:53 AM

June 23, 2006

Game IRE #27: Lets go to the Theater

My newest idea for an IRE is a piece of local news. The dominant force in Twin Cities Theater, the Guthrie Theater, has moved into a spectacular new space right on the river in downtown Minneapolis.

I see plenty of game possibilities in a new theater opening...

Since I am starting a co-run Nobilis game starting today, Nobilis is on my mind. The opening of a major new theater in a city is going to draw the attention of many Nobilis of different stripes and factions--the Nobilis of Plays or Theater, certainly. Ananda, as the Imperator who oversees Cities, might send emissaries. The spirits of the city itself, or the neighborhood, are liable to have opinions on the new Theater's presence.

And then there is of course those who would see the new theater fail..spectacularly.

The PCs themselves could wind up mixed up in this in a number of ways. Their chancel could have an exit close by the theater, and be drawn into matters purely on geographical grounds. One of them might have an estate positively or adversely affected by the new theater. (The Power of Blight and Slums, for example, will not like it one bit...). Or the PCs might be drawn into it to steal a march on their rivals or possible allies. One of the PCs, for instance might convince the others to come with him to the opening because she has been secretly romancing the Power of Theater.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:02 AM

June 16, 2006

Arref on Clarissa

in the Shadow of Greatness: Mysteries of Amber :: Clarissa

Arref once again shows I am only a pale shadow of him, and my ideas are poor beer compared to the rich wine of his own, as he begins a two part exploration of the history of Clarissa in his world.

Go, read, enjoy.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:47 PM

May 16, 2006

Game IRE #26: Gone Fishing

It's been too long since I've had time to think of an IRE that isn't depressingly tied to natural disasters, political disasters or other such unhappy topics. Fortunately, living in the Great White North has given me something to work with.

Last weekend in Minnesota was the Fishing season opener. It's a very big deal in the state with over 10,000 lakes, a large economic boost to the lake dominated northland part of the state. Gas stations, among many other places, sell fishing licenses. The site of where the Governor of the state goes fishing on fishing opener weekend is news here, even in the urban Twin Cities. (And no Governor would dare not go fishing this first weekend). Going "up to the lake" is a tradition among Minnesotans during this first weekend of the fishing season, which runs until the winter.

So, let's go fishing for this Game IRE

Of the various aspects of the Fishing Opener, the idea that the Governor of the state's fishing plans are news amuses me the most and seems the most game worthy.

Let's take Burning Wheel, since I play that with the IndieGamers group. Set a group of characters to accompany a high noble (doesn't have to be a king) to accompany him to relax on his summer estate by the lake.

Naturally, with the high noble there, his vassals are going to show up, seeking succor, alliances, intrigue and more. I can see plenty of opportunities for duels of wits, and depending on the tone of the game, actual duels, romances, and more. And perhaps there is something lurking in the lake, something that strikes when the noble actually deigns to go fishing himself (perhaps a tradition or ritual in this world). The characters may have the opportunity to save the noble's life, or not...

Posted by Jvstin at 6:58 AM

May 7, 2006

IMC: Gming

See Page XX - an RPG column by Robin D Laws

Robin Laws, RPG author and theorist, has a new column on Pelgrane Press (authors of the Dying Earth RPG), this time on the perils of Gming.

The hobby needs a continual stream of folks willing to take on the time-consuming and sometimes thankless task of running games. The fear is always that an overly candid discussion of the various pitfalls of the RPG experience could send would-be GMs running to the comparative shelter of their Xboxes...

A couple of things jump out at me, especially this one:

Most players stuck in a rut of circular discussion are desperate for a way out. A few words from you can carefully guide the discussion back out of the ditch. The key here is not to make decisions or suggestions for the group, but to underline and organize the good suggestions they've already made. Be content neutral, but help to shape the discussion productively.

This is why I usually use NPCs in multi-player groups against some foe. If the PCs are stuck, or can't agree, or can't move forward, the NPC can be the voice of reason to help guide the players toward *a* resolution rather than swimming in circles. In SB right now, for example, I have an NPC I slotted into a bunch of PCs for that very purpose, but he has not been needed, since in this case the PCs have been working very well together.

And of course, as a capstone, there is this:

When it comes right down to it, though, I guess I'd sooner regard myself as an accepting person than the GM of a brilliant game.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:24 AM

April 16, 2006

Amber Characters patterning

in the Shadow of Greatness: What kind of Amber PCs do you play?

So what kind of characters do I play? Maybe you can spot the theme...

Arref asks, as hooked from the Masters' Council:

Cadmus, my PC in Deb Allen's A Common Disaster. Doesn't know his parentage, aware that he's a pawn of forces beyond his control. Young, enthusiastic, explorative, highly respectful of others and their boundaries. Helpful. Very much a heart character.

Marcus, my PC in Bridgette's Age of Retribution. He's the oldest of my PCs in several senses, including age within the game. He represents competence, seeing his abilities as a toolkit.

Diomedes, in Jim and Karen's Chain of Assumptions is my Brand kid. For all that he's a redhead, he has a personal sense of honor, and definitely doesn't like those who exploit others. My sense of protectionist is definitely in him. And like the other two, he has sorcerous abilities as well, and confident in their use.

Harold Decuma Maun, in Galactic Renaissance, is one of two candidates to the Dukedom of a planet. A ladies man, but one with strong empathy, so much that his hurting of people through his actions rebounds on him ten fold. (Yet another trait in common with me...)

Merivel Belmore is a doctor in the Game of Thrones world of Winter Chills. A Maester (big surprise there, eh) with medicinal skills and a pained past regarding his father.

There are some minors/less frequently seen PCs, many of them NPCs in various games.

Tynan MacCarter, a technophilic trump artist willing to use his technology to assist...and to harvest information from his cousins as needed.

Delwin of Syene, the Lord of Night, the partner to his sister Sand, sexy, powerful, dangerous.

Laertes of Rebma, a descendant of Lir, and therefore able to walk the Pattern in Thy Kingdom Come. And once he did that, inadvertently, it was only the beginning of his troubles. Trump Artist.

Hadrian of DuMarque, a Trump Artist with a Wyvernet companion. Dreamy, artistic, friendly, explorative.

Archard of the Empire of the Gleaming Banner. A Dreamer, too, and a loyal son of the Empire.

Scipio, son of Flora. Flirtatious, political, and charming, a womanizer and social animal of the first rank.

Lucien, a gambling son of Random, and a Trump Artist. A freewheeler in the mold of his dad.

Tannim, a dragon-descended Chaosian who travelled from the Courts to Amber and back again in search of the consequences of his heritage.

Aram, an Astromancer son of Eric who considered himself old enough and confident enough to both argue a point with Random over leading an expedition, as well as letting a more aggressive PC take point when needed.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:57 AM

April 9, 2006

Fifty Two Pick Up

Fifty-Two Pick Up!

An idea I wish that *I* had thought of, Jim Groves has started a LJ devoted to a organized effort at reading his way through the marvelous world of House of Cards.

Since my reading of the HOC stuff has been sometimes scattershot, I intend to follow along in this manner, too. And the comments have mainly been from the horse's mouth, the HOC players, themselves. Check it out.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:16 AM

April 7, 2006

Book Reviews 2006 (13-15)

One big fat book amongst this trio has slowed me down, but I have an interesting and diverse trilogy of books this time.

Deadhouse Gates, by Steven Erikson (His second Malazan novel)

Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson


Lords and Ladies, Terry Pratchett

Deadhouse Gates : Book Two of The Malazan Book of the Fallen (Malazan Book of the Fallen)by Steven Erikson

The second in the Malazan novels that are slowly making their way from England to America, Deadhouse Gates continues in the tradition of the first novel in presenting a rich fantasy world where even the putative protagonists are clothed in shades of grey. Strange magics, alien elder races, and dark shaded fantasy very much in the vein of Glen Cook. The Malazan novels are very much as if someone took the Black Company novels and supersized them with lots of worldbuilding goodness. Like its predecessor Gardens of the Moon, Deadhouse Gates is not always an easy read. If anything, with the story of the Malazans and their refugees retreating from the forces of a religious fanatic (on a different continent than the first novel) is grimmer. Characters die. Disasters occur.

Still, since this IS my cup of tea, I enjoyed it. It may not be yours, and I recommend, for anyone interested, to try Gardens of the Moon : Book One of The Malazan Book of the Fallen (Malazan Book of the Fallen) first.

Recommended with Reservations.

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

Patrick Nielsen Hayden pimped this book hard, hard enough for me to pick it up. And its been nominated for a Hugo.

And now I know why. Wilson has been moving up in my estimation for some time, from Mysterium, through Darwinia, to the wonderful Chronoliths. I somehow missed Blind Lake, but I suspect that, connecting the curve, that Spin is still better than that novel (it, too was nominated for a Hugo, however).

The plot is simple. One day, some force puts up a shield that blacks out the moon and the stars. It quickly becomes clear it is not a shield, but a bubble, and that the subjective time of those on Earth is slower than the outside universe. In other words, in 40 years, Earth Time, the sun and solar system (and the rest of the universe) will have aged 4 billion years, and the swollen red giant Sun will engulf the Earth...

Like other RCW novels, the character interplay is first and foremost, more so than the science itself. Oh, we see some really cool things, and the idea of the Spin itself is a Neat Idea, but Wilson focuses heavily on Tyler, Jayson, and Diane and makes their struggles in this world come alive.

If you've read and enjoyed previous RCW novels, don't hesitate in picking up this one. If you haven't, this is, IMO, better than any of his previous ones, so starting here is a good choice, if you like your SF with a heavy dose of character development as well as cool geeky stuff.

Highly Recommended.

Lords and Ladies (Discworld, Book 14) by Terry Pratchett

Finally comes the 14th Discworld novel, which means I'm still way behind on my "Read Discworld Project." Lords and Ladies returns us to Lancre and the trio of witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg,and Magrat Garlick. In this one, an invasion from Faerie, the wedding of Magrat to the King, and a visit by the Archchancellor make for yet another Discworld stew.

I think the book picks up steam and momentum as it goes along, being a little too short on plot at the beginning (with a heavy hand on the humor). Once things get going and Pratchett hits his stride, he hits it well. So while its not my favorite of the Discworld novels, its a pretty good one. This one, unlike any of the others I've read, specifically warns the reader that this is not the best novel to start with in Discworld, since it not only follows characters best seen first in previous novels, it falls right on the heels of Wyrd Sisters.

For the Discworld fan who is, like me, working their way through the canon, this one is Recommended.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:48 PM

April 5, 2006

Acus 2006, Pictures and More

Mainly intended for those who are not readers of my livejournal, a look into my time at ACUS 2006.

A few pictures are available here on my space on Flickr.

As far as me and the games I have run...

Jim picked me up at the airport in the early afternoon. As he alluded to in his own blog, the original plane I was to take to Detroit had gotten struck by lightning, and so a new plane was necessary to fly to Detroit. This delay was partially responsible for the near-miss that Jim alluded to.

After some meetings of peoples, in and around the hotel and the con suite (including making a deal for GURPS Ice Age and picking up the last Amberzine), Jim and I had dinner with Deb,BriAnne and Josh. As always, Deb cooks well, and Jim and I were well fed by her risotto.

Abdullah and Le Cygne

My first slot was my weakest as a player. While I had a great time as a player in Weirmonken, I had disadvantages that I as a player was unable to overcome to let my character have the same result. I don't blame anyone, particularly, I merely didn't assert myself well. With loud and boisterous players on the left, and strong and active players on the right, and with a PC who was shorn of the brains of his brother, Abdullah was sort of lost in the shuffle. This became more acute when the scenario never got to the level of sanguinary action that is Abdullah's one and only bright spot.

Oh well. It was funny to see HOC's Chance/Martin and watch Chime jump ship for the better deal, and see other players shine.

Cadmus and A Common Disaster

Next up was my Cadmus, sorcerer, and potentially perpetual loser to Kenric's sparring.

The foci of the game revolved around, primarily, the effort to support Anna's quest to get Taggart, and the Martin/Gareth attempts to retrieve Brendon, with lesser notes of Kenric's revelation of her heritage (complete with Patternwalk) and Roarke's adventures in the land of the Pyre.

It was a long time in coming for Anna to get into the position to finish her tormentor and I am mostly proud of Cadmus' role in all this. I think I probably should have stepped back a little more at the end rather than participating, so as not to dilute Anna's triumph.

Still, I think a good time was had by all, and the group ACD shot is the only picture of me that I have at the entire con.

Basil and And so It begins Again

I had pretty low expectations going into the game. Mike Kucharski had, for reasons I could not possibly fathom at the time, asked me to come back. I didn't think that I had distinguished myself the last time, and had lost all the material I had done with Basil at ACUS 2005.

Still, I wanted a chance to play with Bridgette, since I knew that I was skipping Texorami. So, with regret, I skipped Equalizer (and a chance to play alongside Deb in order to play.

I had a great time. While a lot of the plot and focus was on Bridgette's Odette having a debutante ball in Chaos, my character got some good stuff, even in the midst of a lot of other things going on for everyone else. Basil wound up getting transported to Tir, walking its Pattern and getting to Chaos, convinced that Odette was in danger...

...and being right, but unable to do anything about it. Instead, the older, more established PCs took the forefront of protecting Odette. By turns, Michael had managed to get most of the PCs in Chaos by one way or another, not just mine. My trip was just the most mysterious. So, for next year, Basil has plans to study under Dworkin and get some useful skillz, and maybe probe at the mystery of who put Basil in Tir, since Dworkin, the likely culprit in Basil's eyes, denied knowledge of it.

Aram and The Shadow Solstice

My last PC was the Astromancer that, if I had played in Equalizer II, would have shown up the slot before. Instead, Aram led (loosely) Karen K, Bridgette(yes, I didn't realize we had both gotten in) and Glen Seymour in an adventure to stop the death of suns across the golden circle. Bridgette is a dynamic and aggressive enough player that Aram didn't try to put too much of a rein on her or her character and was content to just point Catherina and let her ride and lead as necessary. We were down a player, but creative use of powers and abilities made up for the lack of punch, especially given the dangerous nature of the ultimate powers behind the problem.

And now my own games...

TOTR: The Road to Fair Elphame

My first game of the con was the least stressful for me as a GM and possibly the most fun for me as a GM. Yet another in the Tales of the Regency Series, with a couple of returning characters, I set the characters into Arden to find the missing Warden pro tem, Carl. With elfshot, chessboard pieces, characters who followed the rules and characters who played by *their* rules, the Mayhem in my three games got off to a start here.

Poor Quince is now in Faerie for a hundred years subjective time (366 days Amber time), and Carl has to stay out of Arden for that period, too. If I run any more TOTR games, I will have to take these rather unexpected consequences into account.

Where Unicorns Dare

My failure at the cave, err, the con. While the players professed to having fun, basing a game so heavily on the movie meant that when you had several players intimately familiar with the movie and its conventions, the plot was gotten through in record time. In a near-first, I not only didn't have too much plot, I plain ran out of plot. In retrospect, I can think of a couple of things I could have done, but I didn't think on my feet fast enough to implement them.

My bad.

Strange Bedfellows: Ethereal Dreams

I was anxious, nervous, excited, and a lot of other bundled emotions about doing a con offshoot of Strange Bedfellows. I should have designed the game entry a little better and described things so that more of the actual SB players could have attended without difficulty. And then there was the player who bailed with her character...

Aside from that, there were some very SB moments in this game. Cyllene on a space ship. Carl scaring the living daylights out of poor Valerian. Basilisks, Mind FlayersYithonghu, Dream Repair, and even a Pattern Sword. Who could ask for more? Well, I could of course, but my penchant for perfectionism is well known.

Will I run Strange Bedfellows:The Ruins of Intrigue next year? We shall see.

HOC Gathering and other Social

Aside from taking too many pictures at the HOC Gathering, I had a lot of fun listening and chatting, when I did of course. I consciously avoided trying to take too much of the spotlight, remaining relatively quiet even when the conversation turned to SB and ACD. I can be too much of a blabbermouth as it is to overdo it with my friends. It provided a relaxing way to end the con and a chance to say goodbye to most of my friends.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:47 PM

House of Cards

in the Shadow of Greatness: House of Cards, sign of the times

Arref encapuslates why its very fun for him to play in House of Cards. Its only a shadow of it, but its fun to lurk as well and I am very glad that I do.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:45 PM

February 28, 2006

Game IRE #25 : Mardi Gras

I did Ash Wednesday in a previous Game IRE (Number 11) , but this time, we'll go to the other side of the divide, and tackle Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival.

The controversy in New Orleans over holding Mardi Gras festivities is the inspiration for my own take on it.I want to run this as a Nobilis game, although I bet you could do this with another system besides Nobilis if you wanted. Dogs in the Chancel, anyone?

Let's say that the Power of Revels decides to hold a gala to celebrate Mardi Gras in her chancel. The characters are invited, of course, being Powers worth the respect.

Its when they get to the party that the social conflict and interaction come into play. Have the Power of Sobriety and Temperance show up, or if I really wanted to get topical, the Power of Water, coming to protest holding such a celebration in the recent wake of the disaster in New Orleans, a disaster that the Power of Revels did nothing to alleviate or prevent. Characters will be forced to choose sides, and there might even be a duel or some other sort of contest to settle the matter between the Dionysian and Apollonian forces. I could see this conflict opening up a lot of cans of worms among the Powers there, and it will be impossible for any of the attendees to remain neutral, the PCs included.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:33 PM

February 26, 2006

A Theory of what makes a Superior Roleplayer

A superior roleplayer

--Brings energy to the game, for themselves, their GMs and others.

--In written format games, writes well and engagingly so

--Brings ideas, plots, facets and aspects of the GMs plot and their own plots to the fore, enriching the game world.

--Helps create the playground of the imagination.

--Creates well drawn and interesting and well portrayed characters that others want to interact with, either in cooperation or if the game responds to it, conflict.

--Plays well with other players, even in situations where characters are in conflict or opposition.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:07 PM

February 15, 2006

Now this sounds like a cool RPG

RPG Blog: Etherscope Review

Via the RPG Blog, a review of a new d20 RPG game, Etherscope. It sounds somewhat like the Ian Macleod novel "The Light Ages", sort of, or perhaps something like Baxter's Anti-Ice or the Difference Engine by Gibson and Sterling. That is to say, Victoriana with beyond-age science from an unlikely source.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:11 PM

January 29, 2006

Use of Shadow in ADRPG games

Behind the Scenes: I'm just wondering...

Karen, at our fellow blog here at SSS.net asks about the use of shadow by PCs in Amber games, specifically about route taking in shadow and asks for thoughts.

It depends.

How much skill does the PC have in shifting shadow? How much practice, how much ability? And is the destination important, or is the journey. If the journey is important from a narr point of view, the GM probably should take more of the control of the details of the journey. I think many players assume that this is always the case, and that's why description of shadow journeys are plopped into the GMs hands by many players.

If its only the destination which counts, and the PC could be reasonably be seen to have creative control over the journey, then the player should be encouraged to do the trip themselves, if they prefer. Or at least a collaborative approach.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:19 AM

Settings, and Pre existing characters

Paul Tevis in Episode 23 of his podcast Have Games Will Travel raises some excellent points about running something in existing settings. He talks about it in context of Pendragon and Deryni, but this is applicable to, say, Amber, or Serenity, The Black Company, or any other published setting you might use.

"Just because your players read the same book doesn't mean that they have the same impressions of it. With any preexisting setting...its vital to identify to identify what gets you and your players excited about playing it, and figure out how to make *that* happen..."

I look forward to Tevis' podcasts every week, both his RPG and his board game settings.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:57 AM

January 16, 2006

Push and Pull RPG Dynamics

in the Shadow of Greatness: actual play 'pull'

Arref links us to some examples of Push versus Pull dynamics in RPGing. I admit that Forge terminology in his previous links did turn me off, since I am not as conversant with those as many of my peers.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:18 PM

January 12, 2006

2006 ACUS Game Submissions

I have chosen to run three games at ACUS 2006.

Strange Bedfellows: Ethereal Dreams

Long have the scions of Strange Bedfellows visited the Dreamplane. From the Blond Haired Man�s visit to his Amber kin, to explorations of the wonders of the inner realms of Dream by the talented and would be talented in Dreamcrafting, Dreams and the realm from which they spring have been a major theme in the long running campaign.
Tonight, though, the Dreamplane is going to visit the Strange Bedfellows.
Across the Universe the characters will fall asleep one by one, and one by one find themselves in that strange realm where Logic often gives away to the rules of Story, where Imagination is as important as Knowledge.
Player both members and non-members of Strange Bedfellows will be welcome to participate. The former will bring their characters to the game, the latter will be given a choice of Non player characters to choose.
Let the Mystery, Dreams and Mayhem begin.

Tales of the Regency: The Road to Fair Elphame

The children of Amber have faced many difficulties during the Regency of Gerard, from a Dragon in Arden to hitherto unknown relatives being found in shadow.

This time, one of their own needs their assistance.

Carl, the dependable son of Prince Julian, and Warden of Arden in his absence, has mysteriously disappeared into the Shadows that surround the Greenwood. A key linchpin in the defense of Amber with Gerard's siblings gone, Uncle Gerard wants him back.

Where might the road to finding and retrieving the missing Carl take the children of Amber?


Where Unicorns Dare

There are many stories of bravery, heroism, sacrifice, intrigue and danger to the Patternfall War.

This is one of them.

In the midst of the Patternfall War, one of Benedict's top Generals, General Carnaby, has been captured by the forces from Chaos. Possessing much of the knowledge of Uncle Benedict's plans and strategies, the Chaosians will no doubt try to pump the General for information that could derail the effort of the entire War against Chaos.

Uncle Benedict does not intend for this to happen. He wants you to compose a team to penetrate the imposing mountain fortress where the Chaosians hold the General prisoner. The General must be rescued before he cracks and reveals all.

Newly brought together for the first time, for the purpose, events will quickly reveal that the dangers to the strike force may lie from within, as well as from without...


Posted by Jvstin at 8:04 PM

January 10, 2006

Game Ire #24: Pilgrimage

Back by popular demand is the game meme IRE--Inspired by Recent Events. I take an event which has happened recently, and we, that is to say, myself and anyone who wants to play, spins a RPG scenario based on it.

The previous IREs are available to be read here.

This time out, I am going to eschew all the bad news that has hit the world lately, and go for something positive--Eid Al Adha, the beginning of the Muslim Hajj.

The Muslim Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca that every faithful Muslim is asked to make at least one in his or her life. The pilgrimages traditionally begin at this time every year.

So, what shall I do with this in an RPG sense?

Since I have been using Burning Wheel recently at a group of indie gamers that meets every so often, let's go with that as our system. Since it suits medieval era games, let's use that, and let's set it in Spain, during the time of the Taifa kingdoms in the South and the Christian kingdoms in the North.

The PCs are pilgrims from beyond the Pyrenees who have crossed into the Iberian Peninsula to make the long pilgrimage west to Santiago de Compostela. With greedy feudal lords, bandits, and the threat of Muslim raiders from the South, there are plenty of adventures to be had as the characters cross a lot of unfamiliar territory. To say nothing of the dynamics of the player characters themselves as they make their way to their goal. Cooperation? Conflict? Rivalry? Depending on the group of players, and their styles, any number of directions can be had from a game like this.

Damn. If I know more about Medieval Spain, I'd run this in a heartbeat. Maybe I could, for TBR.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:28 AM

December 25, 2005

IMC: Yule

In the Shadow of Greatness: IMC: Yule

What sort of Winter Equinox/Winterfest/Yule holiday, if any, do they celebrate in your Amber?

I think I've answered this before, sort, of and checking BJS shows that I've mentioned this, but it was over three years ago. So let's revisit it.

My Calendar in my Amber games consists of 12 thirty day months.

To make up the five remaining days to total 365, there are five intercalary days interspersed throughout the year. They aren't "on" the calendar, since they fall between days. Taxes are not collected on these days,and they are the subject of celebrations.

Two of them occur around December.

The first is the Midwinter Festival, and occurs on the intercalary day that the Winter Solstice falls upon, between December 21st and December 22nd. This is the Winter Festival, the fourth and final of the seasonal holidays of Amber. The midwinter Ball is held, and outdoor winter/snow events as well. Its a time for merriment and good cheer. A Prince and Princess of the Ball is chosen, and for a royal of Amber not to show up at the Ball is rude in the extreme, much more so than neglecting one of the other seasonal celebrations.

Other unusual events have occurred on the Winter Solstice as well. Larissa, Dalt's daughter, first came to Amber at the celebration of the Winter Solstice, 15 months before game start in Strange Bedfellows.

The Second Intercalary day is the last, or the first day of the year, depending on how you look at it. Occurring between December 30th and January 1st, it is a somber and reflective holiday, quite unlike the Winter Solstice. It is a time to think on endings and beginnings, and sometimes takes an monastic sort of tone. Out of respect for those who do this, the majority of the population usually keep any celebrations low key.

Percy, in Strange Bedfellows, once spent an entire New Year's in vigil at the tomb of his (then to be thought dead) mother. He was grateful, afterwards, for the warm soup in the Castle Amber kitchens the next day.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:54 PM

December 18, 2005

Games are supposed to be fun

What She Really Thinks - I don't think that aerobic narr post on 20x20 is coming for a while

On her LJ, Ginger talks about aerobic narr, and reluctance to post on 20x20 room about it, considering the wonkishness and design-oriented focus of recent posts there.

Games are supposed to be fun, at their core, aren't they?

Dress up in GNS theory, negotiate contracts, kickers, and all of it as much as you like. Roll dice, go diceless, use Everway cards. Eliminate the GM and go with the players doing it all a la C.A.P.E.S. Rotate duties a la Polaris. Put in Instincts and Beliefs as core up front Develop at Start a la Burning Wheel.

In the end, its supposed to be fun. That's why I play the games. Life is too short not to have fun playing the games, and its definitely too d*mned short to take crap from people who get too wrapped up in the minutae of the hobby to see that.

That latter bit refers to some people on the aforementioned 20x20 room being an ass to others in comments on sometimes arcane points, and sometimes just plain rudeness.

I am not a game designer, and I admit that I don't understand GNS theory as much as I'd like to, more to understand the vocabulary rather than to design a game. I am not that interested in designing mechanics. Milieu and story, now, that is something that far more interests me than designing game systems. I admit to some interest in some of the things that, say, Polaris or Dogs in the Vineyard are doing, as far as mechanics, but that seems to be tied into telling a story in a new way rather than playing with mechanics for the sake of same.

It is probably one reason why I buy GURPS world books and take ideas from it, when I've very rarely ever played the system GURPS. Its why I buy RPGs that I might never play, to get inspired on things other than "roll and keep" or "dice pools" or anything of that nature. And its FUN.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:01 AM

November 29, 2005

Characters channeling other Characters

While I might not have voices in my head to equal those of, say, my good friend Deb Atwood, I do have some strong archetypes of characters.

In a recent post, one of my characters, Marcus, in Bridgette's Age of Retribution drew on an old character of mine that some readers of this Blog will remember very well--the charming, seductive diplomat Scipio.

A relevant excerpt follows.

"Not at all." Her tone is diplomatic rather than warm, but she knows
exactly what they are talking about. "But what brings you to Moire's
Court this morning?"

"If I were a polished courtier." Marcus smiles, thinking on his
adventures. "and employed mainly by Amber in that capacity, I would
say that I came to Moire's Court to see the finest of the fairer
gender of Rebma, in terms of power and regalness, as well as beauty.
Like you, Lady. Were that the tides did not move for anyone, the
tides, I think, would bow before you. As would any personage lucky
enough to find special favor in the brightness of your eyes." Marcus
gives a Rebman bow to Nemonie, a sincere gesture.

"Alas, my buisness here is not of honeyed words and whispered promises
this morning." Marcus continues.

"I thought to seek the ear of her Majesty in dark matters that I was
involved in, and uncovered last night, but barring her appearance,
given your considerable power, influence and strength here in the City
Under the Sea, if you, Lady, would hear what I have to say, I would
give it unto you and first." Marcus bows again.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:52 AM

October 16, 2005

Wolves, Cats and RP Characters in Strange Bedfellows

A bit of backstory to this entry.

On my livejournal, I made an observation:

"Cats" are player characters who are loners, who do not stick well with others, who prefer their own agenda and their own terms. Other characters which get near them wind up getting scratched.

"Wolves" are pack player characters, who prefer stickiness, who like to do things with other player characters/family members.

Ginger and Michael's House of Cards has a lot of wolves. My own Strange Bedfellows, on the other hand, has a lot of cats. Single Player threads in HOC are the exception. In Strange Bedfellows, threads with multiple players are the exception.

Jim, one of the charter members of Strange Bedfellows, said in a reply to me:

"I thought about
it and I agree with the sentiment that is being put forward. That is,
Cats versus Wolves as a metaphor for play styles without making any
reference to any specific game.

Now I'm wondering if you would elaborate on why you think that is the
case specifically in Strange Bedfellows."

And so, here, I shall.

Strange Bedfellows is a cat-full game because of design and circumstance.

From the beginning of the game, in the long ago time known as 1996, I've always had a myriad of non player characters (NPCs), that is to say, peers of the player's own characters, but controlled by the GM. House of Cards, by comparison, does not have that many, A Common Disaster, a game by Deb Atwood, has less than SB.

SB has always had a large family of NPCs for players to interact with. As a result, many player characters could and have happily developed so that their primary inter-game links are to NPCs, rather than to PCs. Its in many cases easier to forge link to Gerard's Twins, or Noys, rather than a player's character.

More so, some key PCs, that might be potentially sticky, have suffered loss of player and reverted to NPC status in the process. Thus, relationships developed with these PCs have reverted to NPC status as well.

The relatively diffuse locations of player characters, spread across the universe, also contributes to this. I have had some short and even medium length players in the game come into the game and leave with no contact with other players. (In some cases, I've simply edited them out of existence, if they never really had a useful impact on the game). The net effect of this, though, is that player characters do not generally associate together and often such attempted associations do not meet with success.

Some players in the game do try to change this, being more PC-PC oriented characters, but given how things play out, its difficult indeed. And thus, SB is full of cats.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:56 AM

September 6, 2005

Stross invented D&D Races?!

mearls: Stross's Law of RPG Design

Via Mike Mearls (Iron Heroes)' Livejournal, apparently Charles Stross (whose Hidden Family book I read and reviewed and loved) invented a few D&D races--the Githzerai, the Githyanki, and the Slaadi.

Three of my favorite D&D races! As Mearls points out, they are races created internally in the game, rather than taken from elsewhere.

Very cool.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:12 PM

Cinematic D20 style RPing

Deep in the Game: A really good idea

On Deep in the Game, Bankuei relates a great time he had running a game of Iron Heroes (the *new* variant Players Handbook from Malhavoc Press, not related to the Arcana Unleashed line).

It sounds like a lot of fun. I must needs get a copy of this, even if the esoteric stuff that Monte Cook puts out is usually more my speed. But, still, Lankhmar style D20 gaming could be lots of fun using this...

Posted by Jvstin at 7:06 PM

September 5, 2005

John G Betancourt

A couple of weeks ago, a couple of commenters (my brother, Greg, and my good friend Arref) asked me about what I thought about Betancourt.

Honestly, I've not read any of the Dawn of Amber novels. While I've heard bad things about them, derisive things about them, dismissive things about them, I've not been motivated enough to put it on my "never will read this" list.

OTOH, my friend Felicia has read a couple of the DOA novels, and enjoyed them. Maybe one day I will borrow them from her and see for myself, good, bad or indifferent.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:30 PM

Gratuitous Baby Photo

As a tonic to all the bad news, I present a picture of my friends' adopted daughter, Danielle.

This was taken last Saturday, just before our Blue Rose gaming session.


She really does love pickles, by the way.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:18 AM

August 21, 2005

Amber is Alive

in the Shadow of Greatness: the future is now

My good friend Arref points out Amber links that are not only current, but alive and growing.

Not to be modest, but our corner of the Amber universe is pretty damn alive and active, too.

Arref's own The Eternal City Campaign is a face to face game of depth, emotion and imagination. I have an associational link to it, since it ties into an old series of ACUS games in which I took part.

Ginger and Michael's House of Cards. Not strictly Amber, since they use an Amber-Everway hybrid, but still a shining beacon in Amberspace. I lurk in this game, and I (alas, only) have an associational link to it, through a TBR game in which I took part.

Bridgette's Age of Retribution. My oldest currently active character, Marcus, is a participant in my dear friend's game centered around the aftermath of an altered ending to Patternfall. Deirdre is alive, and so is Brand, and other powers are stirring.

Deb's A Common Disaster is a meta-term for a series of games of which Rites of Passage is the currently active one. I play Cadmus.

Ill Met in Amber is Kit Kindred's Non-Royal Game set in the corners of the City of Amber. I do not participate in this game, but many of those in my circle do.

Seasons of Mists is a new game from the mind Amber Ditullio, revolving around a series of murders in the red light district. I play Gaius, son of Eric, and a trump artist, with his own links to the district and concerns for its well being.

And last but not least is my own game,
Strange Bedfellows.
Mystery, Dreams and Mayhem, revolving around returned deities, the conflict between Amber and its distant sons and daughters, an implacable enemy behind Doors, and much much more.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:04 AM

August 5, 2005

Using GURPS Infinite Worlds

It's been a while since I've done a gaming entry that wasn't a Game IRE.

Let's change that, with an illustration of the use of GURPS Infinite Worlds to build an Alternate History World.

In Chapter three of GIW, there are a number of tables and techniques for the GM to employ some english, so to speak, on the timelines.

For simplicity, we're going with a Farther parallel, which provides us access to a bunch of further tables to use to detail it. Using Irony.com to roll some dice, let's see what we come up with. For Amber fans, we can imagine this to be a shadow that one of my characters, say, Cadmus, visits in his shadow shifting.

Tech Level.

Roll: 9

Result: Tech Level 6.

Okay, so a timeline a couple of technology levels behind modern day earth. TL 6 implies tech that by Earth's timeline, runs from 1900 to 1950. So this might be a Cliffhangers type world, Pulp action. So far so good.

Parallel Civilizations Table. Subtable TL5-6

Number of Civilizations (rolled) = 3.

So there will be three main Civilizations in this timeline. And what are they?


Roll #1: 9
Result: Chinese

Roll #2: 15
Result: Orthodox Christian

Roll #3: 7
Result: Indic.

Interesting results. No Western powers in this timeline. Chinese is obvious, Orthodox Christian is Russian/Slavic. Looks like they have gone on to dominate Europe in this Timeline. Indic is Indian.

Let's see how the Powers are arranged, Geopolitically on the Civilization Unity Table for each of them. The book provides modifiers for this based on Earth history, but explains they can be changed for wilder alternatives. In this case, we will use the modifiers. Chinese gets a -1 to the 2d6 roll, Orthodox gets a -2 and Indic gets +2.

Chinese Civilization
Roll: 5 -1=4
Result: Empire.

Orthodox Civilization
Roll 6-2 =4
Result: Empire

Indic Civilization
Roll 4+2=6
Result: Empire with Satellite States.

Wow. This alternate world is dominated by three large empires, with the Indic a little more fragmented, with satellite states. I bet the satellite states are mainly on the borders with the Chinese and Orthodox Empires.

So. China is one big empire, from Japan to Tibet, Siberia to Southeast Asia, and Australia. Some of Southeast Asia may be Indic client states of the Indic Empire.

Russia is an expansive Empire which turned west and converted Western Europe to Orthodox Christianity, everything under the Czar.

India is an Empire, oddly enough, a powerful state that has some Indic client states on its borders. Still, Greater India may stretch from the Nile to modern earth Bangladesh, with some Indic client states scattered into Africa.

Without any American Indian surviving civilizations, the Americas must have long since been colonized by the remaining Civs. South America is Indian influenced states under the umbrella of its empire. Tea, not coffee, is grown by Juan Valdez.

North America is split between the Chinese Empire in the West, and the Russian in the East. New Sevastopol, at the mouth of the Great River, is a fusion of Russian and Chinese culture where the Empires meet.

An exciting alternate world, generated with a little imagination and a few dice rolls.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:48 PM

July 29, 2005

Game IRE #23: A Farewell to Arms

With many choices for our 23rd Game IRE, I decided to go with something right and hot off the presses:

IRA orders disarmament.

I am going to resist the obvious Amber idea involving Dalt (and leave it for the likes of Ginger or Arref to do) and instead use a Chaos themed Amber game based on the premise:

What happens at the *end* of a Vendetta. Lots of the political maneuverings and the meat of a story takes place in the run up to a feud between two Houses, but how does such a feud end? If its not mutual exhaustion, and, say, House Jesby decides to end its feud with House Helgram, how is it to be done?

The PCs, dropped into a scenario, can be any number of roles: Agents of Thelbane, working for Merlin (or whoever has the Throne) to work both sides of the conflict as mediators. Are they Jesby members, seeking an end to the violence--and does everyone in Jesby agree with a farewell to arms? Are they Helgrams--and do they trust the Jesby offer of a ceasefire?

Posted by Jvstin at 6:32 AM

June 30, 2005

TBR 2005 Report

Perverse Access Memory: TBR Report

Amber's Amber: TBR - In Detail, Thursday and Friday Morning

Flaming Monkey � Other TBR 2005 reports

In addition to the links above, herein follows my own view of TBR, The Black Road, 2005

As much fun as I had at my first TBR experience (last year), this year nearly reached that same high standard.

I GMed only 2 games this year, leaving me three slots in which to get some roleplaying in.

Slot 1:
Trading Spaces, by Bridgette and Deb.

Young Elders, trapped in time and space! After some horsetrading for who was to be whom, I picked Benedict. The Gms needed someone to be Benedict for plot reasons and I think I did admirably. Although his knacks and item (every PC was allowed to pick 3 of the former and one of the latter) did not come in play, Benedict got to meet a sister that never-quite-was-but-is-now, a niece, and tried to keep the other elders on course.
Highlight of the game: Stunning the entire room by having 17 year old Benedict give his hitherto unknown sister Arwen a hug.

There will be a sequel, and I will be more than happy to reprise the role.

Slot 2:
More than You think you Are.

My first game GMing at the con was my experiment in a Nobilis/Amber cross. It was definitely a rough alpha/beta test, since there were some flaws in my execution and the plot. However, even given that, I managed to give good value for money, picking the Estates the PCs were ennobleled with judiciously. Highlight of the game: Raven taking pot shots at her imperator to be, while Maya kept attempting to use her preternatural skill with the blade to skewer her.

Slot 3: Tales of the Regency: A Piece of the Action.

With four players choosing children of Bleys (3 avowed as being full siblings) and one straight woman, the plot indeed was destined to take a left turn at Dumarqueurque, as Ginger mentions. Even given that, I step up to the plate when improvisation as a GM is needed, and I had a lot of fun, as did my players.

Once again, though, too much plot. I overplot my games with regularity and this game had plenty of stuff unseen and undone. I based much of this on the Krishna novels of DeCamp, complete with green skinned buxom women, and fierce men, interested in martial prowess.

Highlight of the game: Alexandra facing off against a shadow nasty in an arena, as her compatriots in the stands pull Rinaldo out of the clutches of his controlling mother Jasra.

Slot 4: Le Cygne: Ghost Ship.

I've always wanted to play in House of Cards, have been a lurker for quite a long time in fact. This was my second chance to play with the Hivemind as GMs, and my first time with them running Amberway (or a version thereof).

I had a lot of fun. Playing a recently picked up shipwrecker survivor (with his brother), I carried over the flowery erudition and verbosity of the Krishnans into my character here. A non thinking character whose big skills were strength and swordplay, his unthinking nature got him into trouble on at least one occassion, and he was far more fun to play than I had originally feared. I'd love to bring him back on a future Le Cygne adventure.

Highlight of the Game: A confrontation over breakfast where secrets were let out, and a surprise person stepped forward with the solution to the problem trapping us in the Necromancer's domain.

Slot 5: A Common Disaster.

Deb brought her PBEM/ACUS Game to TBR for a run, importing a couple of players to run NPCs while the rest of us played our standard characters.

Martin and Merlin grew to a new mutual understanding of themselves (and a new Power!), Gabriel and co. found Rhiannon, Corwin and his gang managed to stabilize Tir, and Cadmus "Got the Girl." All in all, a lot of fun and a great last slot for the con.

In between, and past the games, socialization at the con varied from yak sessions in Deb and Ginger's room, playing Catan with Kris, Kevin and Jeff (and all of us getting whipped by Kevin), dinner at the Steakhouse where I got to meet Rikibeth for the first time, and other miscellanous things like breakfast.

It was wonderful to see everyone, and I came back from the con energized for my RP, and with ideas for con slots in the future, as well as my own games and characters.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:44 PM

June 12, 2005

Game IRE #22: Changing Hands

Lord, has it been several weeks since my last IRE?

Time to change that, then!

Today marks the 340th anniversary of the reincorporation of New Amsterdam by the English into the colony of New York. Its an important and momentous occasion, a turning point not only in the development of New York, but America in general. ((L.E. Modesitt Jr. Ghost books, as a divergence, have a Dutch-dominated New York and New England surviving British attempts at incorporation).

So, the handover of a valuable colony or country between rivals...and the people in the colony caught in the crossfire...

Me, if I wanted to use Amber for this, what better place to use than Eregnor. Eregnor has been described as the Alsace-Lorraine between the shadows of Kashfa and Begma. A sore point for time immemorial, Dalt got his start there.

Random, sick of the wrangling between the two shadows, finally decides he has an offer for Kashfa that Rinaldo I can't refuse: Golden Circle treaty status. The catch? Kashfa has to cede much of Eregnor to Begma.

And the PC's job? Help sell this--to the Court of the Salesman King, to the Begmans who undoubtedly would hate to have their rivals in the Golden Circle too, and to the people caught in the firing line. Send the PCs into Eregnor itself, and have Dalt show up to meddle and cause trouble...and the PCs will *never* see politics in the same way again.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:35 PM

June 5, 2005

Weird book? I see a Nobilis scenario here!

theferrett: The Weirdest Book I Ever Got

I've seen this LJ entry linked from a bunch of places, it shows panels from a truly bizarre creationist's comic book. The panel with evil angels using dinosaurs to attack (unsuccessfully) Noah's ark just leads me to believe that this would make a wacky, lighthearted Nobilis scenario...

Posted by Jvstin at 9:59 AM

Searchable Great Book of Amber

Google Print Search: The Great Book of Amber: The Complete Amber Chronicles, 1-10

The link above goes to the Beta site for Google Print search, that thing where they scan in books, and make them searchable (technology allied to what amazon.com does). Since it just shows individual pages as snapshots, it would take a lot of work to try and copy out the entire text.

On the other hand, it makes searching for references in the GBOA much easier!

UPDATE: There are limits to the thing. A couple of attempts at reference searching came back with blocked pages, apparently in deference to copyright concerns. So its not a COMPLETE reference after all but still useful.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:30 AM

May 30, 2005


The 20' By 20' Room: Oh No You Didn't

Rob at the 20x20 room talks about Retconning, the practice of changing past events for continuity's sake.

I've had to retcon. Nearly every GM has had to do so at one point or another. Names are forgotten and misremembered, places, people, the works. Plot threads long since forgotten have to be reinterpreted in the light of new events.

One small example of retcon occurred recently in Strange Bedfellows. An NPC child of Deirdre, Percy, was originally only passingly familiar with Corwin's daughter from his universe, Alais. The original documents that I sent to the player, Ginger, stated that Percy had not met Alais that much.

In a game post, talking about her family, Alais made a passing reference that Percy had met her mother, the Queen of a shadow adjoining Paris.

I liked the idea of a stronger relationship between Percy and Alais, and wrote in a subsequent post that Percy had visited her realm a couple of times, and is somewhat familiar with it.

So, I retconned the past, and revised it for the present.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:21 PM

Thieves World RPG

Thieves' World Player's Manual :: Green Ronin Product Catalog

Checking out the Green Ronin site for Blue Rose stuff, I've discovered that the good people at GR are working on something else to whet my appetite: A Thieves World RPG.

Having used ideas from TW in my games, and having owned the old TW RPG box set once upon a time, this definitely peaks my interest. I think they did a good job on the Black Company RPG, and if they keep up that level of detail and care, the Thieves World RPG book should be well worth picking up.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:16 AM

Blue Rose RPG

Saturday marked my first exposure to Green Ronin's Blue Rose RPG

My friend Felicia Olson decided to run a game set in Aldea, the default world of Blue Rose. Four people make up our gaming group, myself, Felicia's husband Scott, and our friends Matt and Shelly.

Most of the first day together was spent looking at rules and puzzling out how the character creation rules work.

First off, the game is d20, but it has major differences from the usual d20 line. For one thing, the stats are much coarser than the usual 3-18 range seen in the D&D line. In BR, the stats run from -5 to +5, and basically it is the stat which is used for various modifiers (saving throws, skill checks, etc). I can see how this makes a sort of sense, instead of having to look up what the bonus for a 13 intelligence gives you, a 1 intelligence means that its always going to be +1. On the other hand, increasing these abilities is a lot harder than in 3rd Edition D&D.

The world is definitely highly influenced by Lackey. The major nation seems like a Valdemar clone, and its neighbors seem influenced by that milieu as well. The races, too, seem Lackeyish. One of the major races are Rhydan, basically sentient horses and other creatures. None of us went for that option, and in point of fact, I was the only one who played a non-human. I chose to play a vata'sha, which is basically a dark elf.

Our party is unbalanced, however, because we did not coordinate ourselves to create a "balanced party". Instead, Scott went with a warrior (basic fighter) type, and Matt, Shelly and I went for the arcane route. "Adepts". Adepts are a broad category with a lot of specialties. Mine own character, Nodonn, I took a little bit from the Psychic categories, and some from the Shaper (element manipulation) categories.

Feats and Skills are much like D20, with a few differences.

There are classes of Feats: General, Arcane, Martial, etc. Different classes have access to different feats. Adepts, for example can get General and Arcane feats.

The differences in feats themselves is markedly seen when it comes to the arcane. Understanding how to use those took a little debate and re-reading on our part. There is a feat called Talents, which allows you access to actual "arcanum". To actually get these arcanum, you have to take a feat called arcane training, which allows you to choose two arcanum from Talents you already have.

Thus, Nodonn took Psychic Talent and Shaping Talent as two of his five feats. (Characters usually start as four, as a vata'sha, he got a free arcane talent).

Then, out of the other three feats, he took two "Arcane training" feats, allowing him four arcanum (which have to be either Shaping or Psychic--so I went with Psychic Shield, Illusion, Earth Shaping and Water Shaping).

(His last feat I went with psychic weapon).

So, if he wanted to learn healing, Nodonn would first need to get another feat and use it on Healing Talent, and then a second feat which he could use on Arcane Training to get more arcanum.

Skills work a lot like D&D, although there is what are called "Favored skills". Favored skills are skills that, when and if you take them, you have a bonus to, permanently. As an Adept, for example, Nodonn has any craft and any knowledge skill as favored. So while I didn't actually pick a Craft skill for him, whenever I get around to doing so, it will operate with the bonus.


Rather than dealing with amounts of money, every character has a wealth score, and every item for sale has a wealth rating. Within reason, characters who buy things which cost below their wealth score can obtain them easily. Items which cost at or above their score depletes their wealth, and sometimes rolling to see if the item is available is necessary. Wealth scores do fluctuate and can increase and decrease. Characters can even use professional skills to make money and bump up their wealth score.

I admit that it does take away some of the micromanagement (we only have 13 gp left!) out of D&D


There aren't any HP in the game per se, although I don't have a copy yet to look up how the damage track actually works. However, there aren't ranges of damage for weapons, from what I saw, everything does a single amount of damage, with modifiers (daggers do 1, short swords do 2, etc). Similarly, the modifiers for armor are relatively small.

Alignment and Social Issues

The game is biased strongly toward "Good" (Light) characters. In fact, using the wrong kind of arcane art in the wrong way (sorcery) can lead to Corruption, which has all sorts of nasty effects, and can eventually change one's alignment to "Shadow".

Every PC, too, has a light nature and a shadow nature. I think of this in terms of Everway, virtues and faults. You can change them, but it is difficult.

The game also spends space promoting tolerance of alternate sexualities, to the point of giving terms for those who prefer same sex and those who prefer other-sex relationships. Again, this is very Valdemarish.

More observations about how the game actually works will have to wait, until there is opportunity to play some more.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:13 AM

May 22, 2005

IRE #21: Exposition

After an unexpected and unanticipated hiatus, IRE returns this week!

Trying to avoid the pitfalls of too many things political, this time we are going to take a look at something a little different:

E3, the Electronics Exposition is currently the hot thing in the West. I'd think that we could extend this idea to things like fairs, world fairs and expositions and the like, if you didn't want to stay in the technological milieu.

I'm going to do Amber for a change, because I play it so much. I *could* do Everway, but I don't know the system really well, but much of what I provide here could work for any game where there is inter-world travelling.

The PCs, in their travels, hear of an inter-shadow exposition and fair travelling the Golden Circle, having come into it from beyond the traditional circle of shadows around Amber.

Naturally, such a thing is relatively rare, and even if the PCs aren't intrigued themselves to go and see it, Random (or Gerard, if this is Regency) would definitely want to send the PCs to take a look at this fair. Likely the Ambassador from whatever shadow the fair has in will ask the Monarchy for help, and thus it will fall on the PCs.

Once the PCs reach the fair, they'll be confronted with all sorts of oddities. Out-shadow technology and magic rarely seen in the Golden Circle. Demonstrations that might be dazzling and amazing for the audience, but leave the PCs slightly uneasy somehow

So what's going on?

Any number of choices. Perhaps a minor House of Chaos has hit upon the perfect method of spying on the Golden Circle and Amber by sending the exposition. If they can sow a little dissent among the Golden Circle by showing wonders not available there (and darkly hinted that the Amberites might be holding for themselves), so much the better.

It could be a shadow power from somewhere beyond the Golden Circle, testing the waters and investigating the Golden Circle and its center.

I recall from Spherewalker that there are traders in Everway's world who do the same thing, sphere walking with wonders and strange goods. It could be a variant on that race, come to the lands of Amber.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:17 AM

May 20, 2005

The Grand Affair, Considered

in the Shadow of Greatness: 20x20: games that won't let go

Arref tags off of my recent entry on nostalgic games with his own nostalgia for A Grand Affair.

While I don't think nostalgia is the right word for a game dead so relatively recently, I concur on the influence it has had.

As a sometimes called wise man once said, "Its the social, stupid."

The most profound results of A Grand Affair are the social ones. A Grand Affair brought me into direct gaming contact with many people I had never had the chance to do so previously and wanted to, and brought me into contact with people that I had never met before and now consider good friends and RP partners.

Thanks to a Grand Affair...

...I have aborned and developed a good friendship with Liz Trumlich, wound up with the Hivemind in Strange Bedfellows, met the Ditullios (to the result of being in Seasons of Mist and both of them being in SB), joining Murder at Christmas (which led to Galactic Renaissance), and joining Uncle Brand's Mansion. All that for openers.

I consider people like Ginger good friends now, whereas previous to GA, she was someone I vaguely knew about (as co-creatrix of HOC) and didn't really have sustained, continual contact.

GA also, I think, improved my underdeveloped PC skills, and still is an influence on trying to improve that.

Too ambitious to live, perhaps never be to repeated or contemplated, Cheers, indeed, to GA.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:18 AM

May 19, 2005

Ghosts of Games Past

The 20' By 20' Room: Ghosts of Games Past

Ginger mentions Voyagers, a beloved game from her past, and tags the readers to share seminal former games in turn.

My choice is Karen Groves' Thy Kingdom Come. The only game I've played as a fellow PC with my friends the Olsons, the game comes up as a topic of conversation amongst us all when we get together. It ran as email and as a FTF game at a couple of sessions of ACUS.

I played Laertes, the son of the Coral Duke of Rebma, one of the few times I've played characters without Amber or Chaosian Blood. And, as it turned out, Laertes accidentally did wind up on the Rebman Pattern, and survived it. The reason why might either be that his father is not who he thinks it is, or the fact that he was carrying a major pattern-based artifact at the time.

Trips to Hell and Faerie, biblical references galore, adventure and power, there hasn't been anything quite like it.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:37 PM

May 4, 2005

TBR Picks

I am going to attend a second con this year, my second visit to The Black Road in Marlborough Massachussetts.

What I have picked for my con slots follows. I lament that many good things are running against each other, and my choices will mandate that I won't get to play with and under everyone that I'd like. But that is the nature of the beast.

TBR is much smaller than ACUS, there are only five slots:

Slot 1:
Deb and Bridgette's Trading Spaces, with Olof's Everway game as second choice and Kris Kunkel's From the Ashes as third.

Slot 2:
I am Gming this slot the first of my two games. This is the experimental one, a cross between Amber and Nobilis. I call it MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE.

Slot 3:
I am Gming this slot as well, another Tales of the Regency game. This time, the player characters are in a competition to visit a hitherto unknown shadow and make sure Amber gets A PIECE OF THE ACTION.

Slot 4:
A difficult slot. Although my chances of getting my primary choice are minimal at best, I couldn't resist but to put Ginger's Le Cygne as first choice, followed by Deb and Jenn's Dragonslayers. I actually am not certain what I picked as my third choice, I think its Meera Barry's Monsters!

Slot 5:
Deb's A Common Disaster. It's not technically a "Campaign slot" since TBR doesn't have such beasties, but its the mandatory game I have to have. My character is in the thick of a plot or two.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:03 AM

April 29, 2005

IRE #20 : Lost Creature Found

Some of the most exciting news today has nothing to do with Presidential News Conferences or the price of oil or anything like that.

No, the news that the extinct Ivory Billed Woodpecker may not be quite as extinct as one might think.

And so our twentieth Game IRE is set: The rediscovery of a thought-lost creature and its impact on the PCs and their world. Monte Cook provides an answer in his Arcana Evolved follow up to Arcana Unearthed, where he has Dragons return to the land.

So, with that one negated, I think I am going to go with an Amber world setting for this one, but not the obvious choice of the Unicorn.

No, in the Golden Circle shadow of Crie, they worship the Phoenix, and have for long since before Prince Brand or Rinaldo made it their symbol. It has not been seen since Patternfall...

...and then a rash of sightings have been seen. The neighboring rival shadow of DuMarque is nervous, since Crie and DuMarque share a border and are rivals every bit as intense as, say, Begma and Kashfa.

So, Prince Hadrian, the PCs cousin, asks for help. He is not willing to go into Crie directly, Prince of Amber or not, his status as a Prince of DuMarque is something that is begging for an "Accident". But he will give logistical support and advice, and a back way into Crie...

What the sightings of the Phoenix mean are completely up to the GM. Is it a trick designed to incite the populace by its rulers? Is it some other force trying to manipulate Crie. Or has the trans-shadow being really returned, and what does it mean for the entire Golden Circle?

Posted by Jvstin at 8:56 PM

April 28, 2005

IMC: Slavery

House of Cards GM Log: IMC: Slavery

Ginger mentions slavery in House of Cards in the link above. Arref kicks us off with a discussion of Slavery in his Amber.

The other half of the hivemind, Michael Croft, has a bit on a slave-Construct which turns on its owners, Spartacus.

There was also discussion of slavery in the Grand Affair game.

So with all of these resources and entries out there, I will add to the fray.

Slavery in Strange Bedfellows:


There is no institution of slavery in Amber. Transients can bring their slaves to Amber, but keeping them in residence is a bad idea. Slavery as an institution is not respected by the Royal Family or the peerage. The closest that Amber has to slavery is debt-peonage, and that has strict laws around the procedure (there is ~no~ inheritability for this, for instance)


Some might consider some of the conditions of Demons to be a slavery of a magical form. Some of the Great Houses engage in more traditional slave trading, too, of Black Circle inhabitants.

There have even been Houses which have used slave soldiers, janissaries. One such House, five millenia ago, during an attack on Amber revolted against their overlords, and as reward from Oberon were given the area that became the city of Rebma.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:40 PM

April 17, 2005

Game IRE #19: I'm the Taxman

After the difficulty of last week's IRE involving the passing of the pope, I felt it was only fair to go for a theme that is relatively simple and direct.

April 15th, in America, is "Tax Day", the last day once can file their income taxes for last year.

The Taxman cometh...and what are your characters going to do?

While it would be child's play to do a scenario where a character party is hit up for tax contributions to the local or kingdom's government, I'd like to look at this from a slightly different point of view.

Across the kingdom, public buildings are being outfitted with gold-leaf roofs. From temples of the state religion to slim towers on top of coliseums, it becomes clear that the taxes of the kingdom are going toward an enormous amount of ostentation of buildings. Those foolhardy enough to try and take some of this gold are met with increased patrols of the constabulary. Visibly, too, the taxes are not being spent on the things that the characters would expect...roads, general works projects and so forth.

Why? Why has the lord/lady of the land turned the taxes and revenues toward this seemingly non-sensical goal? Has the Queen simply gone mad? Is she under some sort of influence, mundane, magical or other? Is there some unfathomable logic to this that the characters will regret uncovering?

Posted by Jvstin at 10:54 AM

April 11, 2005

Trump Art

Crossposted to Deck of Realities.

One of the pasttimes of a number of the members of our small Amber community is Trump Art. Since depicitions of characters on tarot-like cards is a feature of the novels and the game, many have taken to using photoshop and photoshop like products to depict their characters and other characters in Amber games.

So I present to you the Strange Bedfellows version of Princess Fiona.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:58 AM

April 7, 2005

ACUS Review 2005

Whereupon, I tell tales three, of games GMed, games played, and of the people present.

I ran three games at ACUS, as I have mentioned elsewhere. All three were serial games set during Gerard's Regency, with no real interconnection between them except for a last name of three characters, the common setting, Gerard, and Carl.


This was the first and the smallest of the three games, with a whopping three participants (including [info]notshakespeare). The plot revolved around a personal fief of King Oberon that, in the post-Oberon death era of the Regency, wanted independence. The three PCs were sent to investigate why Oberon would be interested in such an obscure, out of the way shadow, besides its value as a tropical vacation spot.

A big volcano, two competing splinter religions, lost members of the family, and a primal power split and turned into Half-Patterns turned out to be the reason why Oberon was so interested in the place. There was even a tragic death, the daughter of the High Priestess sacrificed herself, willingly, to unite the two halves of the powers after the PCs activated both in a manner that would have led to a big boom.

The game was unusual for me in that I had to skew things somewhat to accomodate three PCs without any real "powers" between them. I think the trio of players had a good time though.


The second TOTR game featured a player from RL, along with Cal "Steed" Westray, and two very good friends and players in SB, [info]egwenna and Keith Cripe (who plays in SB and AOR and ACD).

The plot here involved a shadow the PCs were sent to visit on an auspicious anniversary. A scheming vizier, a mandala-representation of the world which had actual real power (much to the surprise of the inhabitants), demonic baddies, flying imps, and a colossal finish where the PCs held the shadow together for dear life after setting a chain of events that led to its near disintegration into Primal Chaos. The first game was intimate, this game I went for "Epic".

The PCs, at the end, wound up in the infirmary of Castle Amber having been unconscious for a week. Yet, Chaos was foiled and the Shadow was kept intact.


My Big game at the con, with six players: Bridgette (playing a different character than Cityscape), Keith (still playing the same character), Cal again (with Steed, again), the infamous Stormy, and the Hivemind, Ginger and Michael.

The PCs visited Arden on the behest of Gerard and Carl after a dead beastie was found in a village at the edge of town. Soon learning the depths of my wicked cleverness, the PCs were thorough and paranoically methodical as they dealt with the "Grendels", eventually learning that they were chaos nanotech infected dragons. The twin finales involved an invisible Mother Grendel, and the actual original Dragon itself, who was fighting the infection within herself with everything she had. Thanks to a combination of efforts from the physical to the arcane, the PCs were able to cure the dragon, and two grandchildren drakes and two eggs in the bargain.

I had a lot of fun with the TOTR concept, and on the way home on the plane, have come up with another TOTR idea that I will use as one of the two games I intend to run at TBR...

I was scheduled for four games, with an open slot. I took the chance to fill that empty slot on the early Sunday Game and have found myself now joined to a campaign that, in addition to Bridgette, I didn't remember that Felicia is in

I played Aram in two slots at ACUS, this was the first. Deb and Bridgette had another mind-bender, with the PCs sent to a "ideal" Amber where Caine ruled and was husband to a pregnant Vialle.

Despite the presence of some active and loud players (e.g., Stormy), I managed to assert myself in a way that I rarely do as a player in a game, especially a FTF game. I was a plot driver, since Aram had a clear and defined course of action and goal. It helps that he, unlike the other players, didn't wind up with a "wish fulfillment" like the other PCs did (as established from pre-game questions. Mine simply didn't fit in and so the GMs wisely never incorporated it). So in a sense that became an advantage for Aram, and ever more reason for him to focus on-task.

I had a lot of fun in the game. It was a wonderful way to start the Con. I didn't realize how well I played, until [info]tryslora mentioned talking about me later on.


The return of Cadmus, son of someone, Scion of Amber. With a lost NPC to be found, Cadmus thought he had a plot for the game session with Hawke and the NPC Regina. That is, until a damsel (okay, cousin) in distress came across their path, and Cadmus' protective instincts came forward in a big way.

The rest of his con session was involved in an attempt to get at her tormentor and fellow cousin, Taggert. Although they did not succeed, it was excellent roleplaying for Cadmus. I admit though, that in a room of five people, Cadmus' portrayal could not compare to the strength of Keith's portrayal of Hawke, Bridgette's portrayal of the now almost child-like Rhiannon, Brianne's strong portrayal of a tormented and fearful Anna, and who could forget Ginger's depiction of Martin (and we missed half of it in the backroom while Hawke, Cadmus and Anna planned Mayhem, Murder and Magic).

Cadmus gets 5th place in the "Dramatic portrayal" sweepstakes. And I had a great time.


My first experience as a player under the Hivemind, and THEIR first experience Gming straight-up Amber. As mentioned before, I brought a version of Aram and had a lot of fun. Gerard was shot (uh oh, working guns) and our group was up to the challenge of finding who did it. The trail eventually lead to a certain son of the Descatrix who got away, but not without some

Was I a plot driver? Not as much as IWWH, but I did contribute (I think.). I was mostly effective (I think). Aram, however, did make a miscalculation, and wound up getting shot for his pains by a certain Count...and then getting abandoned by his partner and left with the gunshot wound! Said wound kept Aram out of the final denouement with Dalt, though.

Still, it was funny that my sorcerer was #3 in Warfare in the group (and during a three person raid on a warehouse, he WAS the warfare leader (although far from being the strength one).

I had a great time.


While it was ostensibly for returning players only, Michael was pretty low on those (a grand total of three). I was out of a game on that slot. Michael also needed a room to run.

Such are the small seeds that a game opportunity was born. Bridgette (one of those players) facilitated all this, and I couldn't resist the chance to play in a game with Bridgette's Odette.

I took a tabula rasa PC that never got off the ground and have started to make Basil (Bass-il) mine own. I've started to throw some irons into the fire and we will see what happens at future con slots. I enjoyed the session and trying to get a sense of Michael's world. I only later discovered while talking to Felicia about it that I have inadvertently picked up a younger sibling of her own character in that universe. Maybe she and Scott will return to future cons and so I will have a con slot with both Bridgette and Fe in it. That would make for interesting.


Finally, and not least, came the infamous Sunday Night Texorami game as "managed" by Chris Kindred. More side stuff than actual plot, it still felt good to slip into Doctor Jonas Asherton, interacting with Mongo, the Undertaker, Michael's new gunslinger character, Bridgette's Guen Blackhawk, Anna'sBriAnne's silent bartender, and many many others.

I did not imbibe the freely flowing liquor, but kept in high spirits nevertheless, even if the Doc became my second character this con to manage to get shot (by a shapestealer revealed much later as Dara). I couldn't stay up more than 90 past the con slot ending, but that's part of the price of living in Texorami.

And Texorami ended my gaming con experience. I think I had an "on" con, others think I did. I'm reasonably pleased with the experience.

I am well pleased with my play at the Con.

While I did have a fair amount of down time (or if you prefer, Blessed Paul-free time for everyone else), I did get some social time...

I did share a ride with Bridgette and Keith during the trip there; I shared a couple of lunches with them (both in and out of suites). I spent time in and out of games with people ranging from the usual suspects to even breakfast Friday morning with the Ghoul Jack Gulick. I won't say that I was popular at the con, but I was tolerated.

And yet, I still had gaps of inactivity. Without a roommate, I did find opportunities to return to the solitude of my con rooms, to read, and to watch the News.

I had a great time, though, and it was good to see everyone. I just hope I wasn't too annoying.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:48 PM

Ire #18: Sic Transit Papem

Our latest IRE (I missed last week thanks to ACUS) will acknowledge the 800 pound elephant in the news; the death of Pope John Paul II.

So, the death of a major religious figure. How do you figure it into a game?

I'm going to go a quantum leap above the Pope, and borrow from Monte Cook's Requiem for a God, with pinches of GURPS Religion and The Primal Order

What if a deity passed away in a campaign? Let's use a generic fantasy setting.

I like the evil idea of having multiple deities pass on. First, a demigod, some minor deity that the player characters have never heard of. After a couple of months of game time, raise the stakes a little, to a minor God that the PCs have had need to deal with in some fashion. Take away a second minor Goddess, more powerful than the first, and the panic and confusion will make for "Interesting Times".

Even high Powered PCs would be hard pressed to find and stop the Godskiller.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:46 PM

March 25, 2005

IRE #17: BP Oil

With a whirlwind of events large and small happening around the world big and small (Schaivo, revolution in Kyrgyzstan, March madness, Good Friday, and the Solstice), I've thought long and hard about this week's IRE. Many of the possibilities this week overlap a little too much with some of the previous ones.

So I will go with the BP Oil Refinery Blast.

A center for an important resource goes boom. I'm thinking I could set this as an ACUS game in Chaos. The Helgrams, sorcerers supreme, have control, in the already dangerous Black Zone, of a mana fount, an independent source of power, a primal realm long within the aegis of Chaos.

The Helgrams like to use this area for magical tests and experiments that are frankly too dangerous to do in Chaos, for a variety of reasons. What if one of those experiments goes horribly wrong. The PCs can be any number of groups--sent by an opposing House to see if they can make hay of it, or perhaps agents of the Emperor to investigate it, or Helgrams sent to contain the damage.

Any number of things could be waiting for them...magical experiments gone awry and now released, or perhaps the fabric of spacetime has weakened enough to allow horrors from the deep to seep into the universe...

Posted by Jvstin at 7:06 AM

March 17, 2005

IRE #16: The Revolutionary Document

NPR : Albert Einstein's Year of Miracles: Light Theory

Today, March 17th marks the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's completion of the first of his major papers that would revolutionize physics forever. So even with the recent Ides of March, I am choosing Einstein's papers as the inspiration for the latest IRE

One might say that the creation of the Pattern in Amber is an example of fulfilling the IRE. Dworkin's theory and radical experiment changed his universe forever, certainly.

In my example, let's take a D20 style world. Rumors abound of a lost scroll in an ancient city, alive or dead. (in the Forgotten Realm, the city of the shades might work here). Said scroll is said to contain something not seen for ages, something revolutionary--a spell above the highest power known to the sages of the day. An 11th level spell...

The search and battle for such a scroll would be for high level characters and probably take a great deal of campaign time, especially if the rumors drag them on a long, epic quest.

And even if the characters find it--there will be others wanting it from them. And what do they DO with such a revolutionary thing?

Posted by Jvstin at 9:54 PM

March 12, 2005

IRE #15: Troop Go Home

Our fifteenth IRE revolves around the events in Lebanon, as Syria, which has long held the country under its military thumb, seems to be sincere about its plans to reduce and withdraw its military presence.

When the armies go home, what happens next?

I could be funny and set this in a Star Trek Universe, because the withdrawal of the Cardassians from Bajor is one of the starting points of Deep Space Nine. Too, the withdrawal of the Centauri from Narn a hundred years before the events of Babylon 5 show that there is lots of meat and mileage in this idea.

In point of fact, one of my ACUS games, Royal Legacy, is revolving a bit around this idea. After the death of King Oberon, one of his personal fiefs, a tropical island shadow, is clamoring for independence and freedom for its future.

Who rises to power in the face of such a withdrawal? How does the formerly occupying power deal with the fact that its troops have left this distant land they have held so long and now have been given "the bum's rush"? In the ACUS game, the players are from Amber, and must come to terms and deal with the desires of independence for this nation, but the game could easily be done from the point of view of the Islanders.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:10 AM

March 4, 2005

IRE #14: Homo floresiensis

Our IRE this time around keys off of some new revelations about those mysterious "hobbit sized" skeletons found on an Indonesian island last year. As mentioned in a previous blog entry, Carl Zimmer's blog has a nice recap of the biology and the speculation thereof.

So what can you do with this?

Let's see...lost race, extinct in our world, but perhaps not in the world of Adventure! Transplant them to an even more remote location (a New Guinea valley system) say, and send the characters in there to track down a lost artifact, temple or what have you.

The hobbits would make very interesting guardians for such a place. I'm reminded of the "pygmy zombies" from THE MUMMY RETURNS for ideas on sending these folk after the adventurers.

A whimsical, humorous encounter with one of them...could soon change in tone as a swarm of the hobbits come after the player characters.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:35 PM

February 24, 2005

The Unexpected in SB

in the Shadow of Greatness: Lunchtime Poll 15 :: Off-Label Use

In Arref's latest Lunchtime Poll answer to Li's meme, he mentions:

In Strange Bedfellows, I expected an intimate scale game, with few reasons to think my sorceress character would be ever dealing with intense spells of large scale. So her 'spellbook' is full of quirky esoteric spells suited to drawing rooms and labs.

What I threw at her was something different...

Mystery, Dreams and Mayhem have become the by words of my game, although I didn't plan it quite that way (besides the Mystery and Dreams part).

So where did the derring-do, the action, the intense conflicts all come from? I am not sure. I didn't envision so much cinematic stuff in SB when I created the thing, back in the mists of time of 1996, but its turned out that way. Mystery and Dreams have conjoined with Mayhem. Arref relates Bhangbadea's first encounter with the Omphalos, but his fight is but one of many in the game. From the battles between Jayson and Triton, to armies on the march in shadow, to chaos in Chaos, to Indiana Jones style action in Corwin's realm, I've thrown a lot of that into the game.

It seems I'm pretty good at it. And I have a taste for it. Oh, there is plenty of personality conflicts, even romance, sex, intrigue and everything else. And I always want to find the next curveball to throw.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:45 PM

February 23, 2005

IRE #13: Miracle on Ice

Our 13th "Unlucky" IRE harkens back a quarter century to one of the most stunning events in Hockey, or any other sports, history. The unheralded, plucky US Hockey team beat the defending Olympic champion Russian team (enroute to eventually beating Finland for the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics). This story of David versus Goliath is the fodder for this outing's IRE.

So many ways one can handle this, the "David and Goliath" theme is one that has numerous possibilities.

I like the idea of taking the theme to a war setting, let's use Amber just for the heck of it this time. A belligerent Golden Circle-area (although not member) shadow decides to eat some lebensraum from a smaller, unassuming shadow. No even match like, say, Begma and Kashfa, the ostensibly weaker shadow looks destined to become a satellite (or worse) of the first shadow's empire.

But then the impossible happens. In the field of battle, by strength of arms, courage and perhaps something else, the smaller shadow defeats its behemoth rival and sends the enemy army home packing.

How did they do it? The Player characters, if they are hooked into plots in the Golden Circle, might be intrigued enough to visit this unheralded world, looking for their secret. And just what might that secret turn out to be? A power source of some kind? Plucky determination? An unheralded scion of the family (perhaps unknown even to herself) who led the defense of the land of her birth?

Or, alternatively, the PCs might visit the belligerent nation, and see why they failed...or having been brought down a peg, the PCs might be inclined to add insult to injury (say, if this shadow has threatened areas the PCs are interested in).

A bardic character might want details of the battle itself for song and story. An artistic character might want to do a depiction of the epic battle. A martial one, might want to know what strategies were used.

And so on and so forth.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:57 PM

February 16, 2005

IRE #12: Kyoto Protocol

This week's Game IRE ties in ecology, politics and conflicts over resources.

In other words, the recent ratification (although not by the US) of the Kyoto Protocol. , limiting Greenhouse Gas emissions in an attempt to reduce climate change.

I've going to steal Ginger's favorite game and use Everway.

Imagine a sphere whose magic is fading, reducing in potency. High level spells either fall, or worse, have unintended side effects. The political units of the sphere, then, squabble and argue over what to do. Should they limit magic? What about visitors, such as the arriving player characters? How will they be drawn into the political battles? Or can they provide the solution? You could theoretically limit the scope to factions of a single city or country, if you wanted to tighten the focus.

Political intrigue, magic, danger and double dealing. What's not to like?

Posted by Jvstin at 7:23 AM

February 14, 2005

IMC: Slavery

in the Shadow of Greatness: IMC :: slavery

Arref has a wonderful post about Slavery in his Amber games, both from the Amber and Chaos side.

I've used Slavery in the background of SB's universe. While slavery is illegal in Amber and GC shadows (its part of the compact), Rebma was actually in a sense founded on slavery.

IMC, as I have noted in previous posts, Rebma was settled by a rebelling group of Chaosian slave soldiers, janissaries, who switched sides during one of Chaos' attacks on the naescent Amber.

Rebma was given for them to settle after the dust had settled.

In Chaos, there are some Houses which have engaged in slavery, but the vast majority of compacts are mutual and willingly entered into.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:32 PM

The twilight of D20?

Gamethink: d20 has left the Building

Over on Gamethink, there is a post about the decline and fall of D20, and how it seems to be not selling as well as it had at its inception.

I admit that only the more outlier stuff of D20 really interests me--Black Company, for example, and Monte Cook's AU stuff. Basic, core D20 isn't all that thrilling to me, and it seems I am not alone.

There are new games out there, but one point that the post does not make is that they seem, for the most part, "smaller". Dogs in the Vineyard, Cats and the like aren't going to set the world on fire. (Fireborn on the other hand seems to be an intended exception. Whether or not it will remains to be seen).

Posted by Jvstin at 7:51 PM

February 12, 2005

IMC: Vendetta

in the Shadow of Greatness: IMC :: Vendetta

Arref talks about the role of Vendetta in an Amber roleplaying universe and the risks and rewards of having such strong fare in your campaign's fabric.

Vendetta has come up in SB, but mainly as an aspect of NPC versus NPC conflict that the player characters have witnessed, and influenced.

The timeline, for one thing, in SB has influenced this. Rather than the 50 years since Caine's death, it has only been about 10, and thus Caine's NPC daughter Cyllene is definitely at crossed swords with Rinaldo over her father's death.

She has not *acted* upon it, for reasons ranging from "Revenge is a dish best served cold" to the "entangling alliances" problem that Arref presents.

Consider. If Cyllene were to murder Rinaldo, it would lead to a domino effect. As Arref points out, Amberites don't generally kill Amberites. It's too dangerous, and a can of worms that, once opened, leads to a lot of problems. Despite her anger at Rinaldo, Cyllene realizes this.

Few of the PCs have that sort of visceral reaction to other characters as in SB, although such conflict has occurred. And the consequences of that reaction are part and parcel of the game. But taken too var, Vendetta leads to Throne Wars and other consequences (as Ginger points out in the comments to Arref's post)

I'm not much for Throne Wars or such consequences. They can be game-wreckers.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:28 AM

February 11, 2005

IMC: Unicorn Motifs

in the Shadow of Greatness: IMC :: unicorn motifs

Arref talks about Unicorn Motifs in his vision of Amber. And provides a springing board about mine.

Tangentially, its funny that the Church of the Unicorn is one of those things which in eight years of SB, no one has had the chance to visit, and no one has really asked about. Like many things in a game, they are like Schrodinger's Cat, not really alive until someone looks in the box.

IMC, Unicorn motifs can be found in a number of places besides the Church of the Unicorn. Amber Trumps are green on color, with a white unicorn, rampant. The banner in the Great Hall has the exact same flag, and this banner is found in all of the other Golden Circle centers of government as well.

The seal ring of the Chamberlain of the Castle has a rampant Unicorn as well. Depictions of the Unicorn in many different styles can be found in various unicorn shrines.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:36 PM

February 10, 2005

Ire #11: Ash Wednesday

Hi everyone! After a week off thanks to my trip to NY, we are back with Game IRE. I had a plethora of choices for this one, but I have settled on the Christian tradition of Ash Wednesday as this week's topic.

Ash Wednesday, for the uninitiated, is the beginning of the forty days of Lent which precede Easter Sunday. (Mardi Gras/Carnival takes place on the last day before Ash Wednesday). Ash Wednesday is a somber day, where many sacrifice something prized until the Easter holiday arrives. And thus we have a Game IRE.

I think of Ash Wednesday and Lent as a purification ritual. By sacrificing and fasting and the like, you are purifiying yourself and making yourself more receptive and more able to appreciate the Passion, and the Resurrection. It is that aspect that I am going to focus on, in a pantheonic fantasy setting of your choice.

The player characters, as part of some goal of theirs, need access to the Library, or a personage, of a powerful and influential temple of a faith not their own. The priests will allow the player characters access--once they have been purified by fasting and self-denial for a certain period. If the periods of time allow it, you could go the traditional 40 day route.

It takes strong roleplaying to make this actually work, its very easy to "gloss over" the time, and provide no RP juice out of this at all. Perhaps the temple is of a sect that doesn't believe in killing, and as part of this purification, the PCs cannot kill (even in self defense?) during this period.

Throw in some rumors of treasure or the like in the wilderness outside of town, add in a bit of competition (if they don't go for it, other adventurers will get the boodle first), and the player characters will have a whole new set of challenges during their period of lent, trying to deal with traditional foes but without slaying them outright.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:18 AM

January 29, 2005

Locus 2004 Recommended Reading List

Locus Online: 2004 Recommended Reading

Locus Magazine's list of recommended reading for 2004 is now up. Go look at it, and come back here.

This is what interests ME out of the list:

The Life of the World to Come, Kage Baker (Tor) (although I need to catch up on the Zeus novels before I get to it)
Exultant, Stephen Baxter (Gollancz; Del Rey) (after reading its prequel, Coalescent)
Black Brillion, Matthew Hughes (Tor)
--I do like his Vance pastiche.
Newton's Wake, Ken MacLeod (Orbit; Tor)
I'm not sold on the politics of his novels, but I do like them anyway
Century Rain, Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz; Ace 2005)
This is not in the Revelation Space universe, this is new.
Forty Signs of Rain, Kim Stanley Robinson (HarperCollins UK; Bantam)
Robinson is always good.
Iron Sunrise, Charles Stross (Ace)
Although I need to catch up on this series, too.

Dead Lines, Greg Bear (HarperCollins UK; Ballantine)
Bear is another of my favorites.
The Last Light of the Sun, Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada; Roc)
I've heard its not as good as his earlier ones, but half-good Kay is still better than a lot of stuff out there.
The Charnel Prince, Greg Keyes (Del Rey)
After I read the first novel in this series.
The Dark Tower: Song of Susannah; The Dark Tower, Stephen King
Another series I need to read.
Iron Council, China Mi�ville (Del Rey)
After I read The Scar, first.
# Going Postal, Terry Pratchett (Doubleday UK; HarperCollins)
It might take me a few years to get to it...
The Family Trade, Charles Stross (Tor)
Finally a book I actually have and will read, soon!
Shadowmarch, Tad Williams (DAW)
I loved Otherland...
The Wizard Knight, Gene Wolfe (Tor � 2 Volumes: The Knight, The Wizard)
I need to get the first...

Weapons of Choice, John Birmingham (Del Rey)
I've heard good and bad about this novel from my acquaintances on the Videssos list.
City of Pearl, Karen Traviss (Eos)
I've heard good stuff about this one too.
Mother Aegypt and Other Stories, Kage Baker
More Baker...
The Collected Short Fiction of C.J. Cherryh, C.J. Cherryh (DAW)
Cherryh is really good stuff from Morgaine to the Kif...
Cartomancy, Mary Gentle
Based on my good feelings toward the three Ash novels I've read so far.
Stable Strategies and Others, Eileen Gunn
Another book I own. Yippee.
The Locus Awards: Thirty Years of the Best in Science Fiction and Fantasy, Charles N. Brown & Jonathan Strahan, eds.
Not only do I own it, I read it. And loved it.
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-First Annual Collection, Gardner Dozois, ed.
I've gotten behind on these.
# Conqueror Fantastic, Pamela Sargent, ed. (DAW)
These anthologies can be mixed bags, but some of the gems inside can really outweigh the dross.
The First Heroes: New Tales of the Bronze Age, Harry Turtledove & Noreen Doyle,
I've heard good things about this anthology, too. And its edited by Dr. T.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:26 AM

January 26, 2005

Ire #10: Oscar Nominations

Oscar Nominations.

Our 10th IRE has to do with the recent Academy Award Nominations. Glamour. Glitz. Stars. Awards. Campaigns for Awards. The usual madness

So many ways one can go with this. Let's use Nobilis as our base for a change, even if I have not actually (yet) run a scenario in same.

The Player characters are invited to visit by the Familias of a powerful allied chancel which is hosting festivities and celebrations. An invitation they dare not refuse...

Highlighted by the Powers of Media and Fashion, the allied chancel has turned their place upside down with parties, galas and events. The PCs will be swept into these, and will wind up surprised when their names wind up on lists for awards of no real value, but everyone in the chancel, Nobilis and ordinary alike, seem to cheer them for.

It's a lighthearted game for a change. No Lord Entropy or Excrucians, but a sense of bewildering excitement and confusion. If you wanted more meat, you could throw forbidden love and lust into the mix. (Say, if one of the "winners" gets some attention from the same/opposite sex of the guests, afterwards).

And what will other chancels and their members think of this frivolousness?Or the PCs own Imperator, if their Imperator is of the type to look her nose down on this?

Posted by Jvstin at 7:26 AM

January 20, 2005

IMC: Nobles in Amber

House of Cards GM Log: IMC: Nobles of Amber

Ginger follows up on a post from Arref on Noble families in Amber, their relative numbers and proportion to the population at large.

In SB, Oberon's thinking is much the same as it its in ATEC and HOC. Oberon was not big on sharing power, and so there are relatively few hereditary titles out there. Oh, Oberon might grant a non hereditary title now and again to reward service, but actual peerage he keeps strict limits upon.

Oberon is, of course, no fool. Too many noble families is a recipe for all sorts of problems that he could see reflected in shadow.

It is also clear, though, that there is a double edged sword to not having noble families in large numbers--it can complicate levying for armies.

In SB, Arawn and Xavier, rebel sons of Oberon, tried to use this to their advantage. It was the skill of Benedict, however, which was instrumental in the defeat of a force greater in numbers, and certainly supplied with more outre and out-shadow creatures than Amber's forces.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:23 PM

January 19, 2005

Ire #9: Inauguration

I debated heavily the topic for this week's IRE, since I have two equally good, although very different choices. Perhaps next year I will go with the good Dr. King's birthday as the subject of an IRE.

This year, this week, however, I am going to go with the Inauguration. Tomorrow, January 20th, is the quadrennial American Presidential Inauguration, and the subject of this week's IRE. I think we can broaden it to include things like coronations and the like, too...

A pretty broad canvas for this week's IRE, and my choice is going to be a space opera esque sort of setting (Traveller-esque, if you like).

The player characters and their ship arrive at a planet not long before the inauguration of the planet's new President. The possibilities for threads and storylines in the midst of this is enormous.

Assassination attempts? Intrigue? Romance at one of the Inaugural Balls?(those offworlders can be, um, alluring to the local folk of the opposite (or, to be fair, same) sex.). A whole raft of gaming material for several sessions can revolve around this. With the inauguration, the actual business of the PCs might be put on hold, since everyone is wrapped up with preparations for THE local event. Thus, like it or not, the PCs might get mixed up in Inauguration events, like it or not.

The style and types of scenarios run on this larger framework depend really on taste. I might have the PCs discover a plot to assassinate one of the new President's cabinet (or the new President herself!). Throw in some heroics at one of the celebrations, and the PCs reputation on this backwater world could go up indeed. Of course, this might lead to the PCs returning to this world time, and again, and I might have to detail it to a greater degree as it becomes a focal point in their travels.

But it would lead to some great stories, no?

Posted by Jvstin at 7:28 AM

January 11, 2005

Ire #8: The Dire Outpost

MSNBC - Arctic village loses power in subzero weather

Our IRE this week involves a small, but interesting story in the far North. As the linked article indicates, the village of Kaktovik is in dire need of heating supplies, isolated and cut off. Worse, the power generating plant is out of commission.

A continued story of isolated survival, and the seed for our latest IRE.

I see this as an adventure set on a space station. The PCs, in a Traveller-esque universe, themselves only managed to limp to this free port, which suffers catastrophe not long after their arrival.

Help will come, but its a matter of trying to survive until that help can come. The PCs' cleverness will be tested.

The PCs ship is too badly damaged to use to escape, although PCs and NPCs alike might try to crowd into it for life support. The planet that the station circles isn't much good either, a mining outpost on a world without much in the way of a biosphere.

Ratchet up the tension with a meteor shower or other hazards, and the PCs and NPCs alike will have a white-knuckle time of it until relief arrives.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:36 PM

January 8, 2005

$100 for a Dungeon?

The 20' By 20' Room: World's Largest Blog

I've actually seen a copy of this world largest Dungeon (at The Source, where else?). I've bought some expensive RPG books in my time, both in real terms and in terms of money today.

But $100? For what, no matter how gussied up, how large, is in the end nothing other than just a big dungeon? No, and no.

I like bigger canvases than just a dungeon. If I was ever going to consider something that big underground in D20, I'd either do something Underdark-ish, or something like that "Dungeon Realm" thing I saw in the Source too.

I, and the players, would get bored exploring the same dungeon for 20 levels. There are far more things in this universe than dungeons for players to explore and do.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:27 PM

January 5, 2005

Ire #7: Spirit

Finding recent events and news which isn't tied with the Tsunami, or Iraq, is more of a challenge than I've anticipated. The news cycles are really riding the two stories hard.

But I do have something for our 7th IRE. Yesterday marked the 1 year anniversary of one of the triumphs of human ingenuity and engineering, the landing of the Spirit Rover on Mars.

Your challenge with the IRE this week is to make use of this in your game.

Most of my gamer friends know that I love portals and planes and things like that. So I am going to go in that direction in tying in this week's IRE that I have devised.

A fantasy type world (D20, GURPS or what have you). A wizard in a tower, experimenting in sorceries involving gates, creates a Gate to another dimension, another plane.

Its hostile there, the magic level is relatively low, and so to explore it, the wizard has an idea, and that's where the PCs comes in. The wizard employs the PCs to connect mentally with golems that he has created. It is these golems who will go through the portal to this arid, mysterious world, and report back on what they find.

What will they find? Lost civilizations and relics that might tempt a human voyage, despite the dangers? Creatures capable of living in the hostile environment? Precious and rare minerals and spell components. The scenario provides a sort of "virtual reality" fantasy style, as the PCs maneuver, telepathically, their golem counterparts across an unfamiliar landscape.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:32 PM

January 1, 2005

Flavor Text

RP-Artisans.org : 1

When GMing a one-shot or a store bought module, how do you handle descriptive text (aka box-text)? When you write your own scenarios, how do you go about writing descriptive text?

Descriptive text is something I am streaky in. I am not that great at it, or so I feel, and so I use it sparingly. Sometimes, when setting a stage for something, I will use flavor text, but I try and use it in situations where its not likely to be disrupted.

Examples of recent use of that is the last dance in the Ball during SB. I used the same flavor text in a number of threads to describe the "celestial" style last dance. The players did like it and really responded to it.

In modules, its the same thing. Use it sparingly, and with care, so that the wheels do not fall off of what is actually happening.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:22 PM

December 29, 2004

IRE #6: Bowl Games

It is a coincidence, I am sure, that my fourth IRE, two weeks ago, dealt with the theme of a horrific disaster. So this week I do not feel compelled to address the tragedy of the Earthquake/Tsunami.

Instead, we are going to go for something cheerier. Or not, if you don't feel up to it this week.

This is the time of the year in football, both College and Professional, that we concern ourselves with playoffs, rankings and bowl games. The Rose Bowl and the Parade, too, are in a few days. So let's take this celebration and pinnacle of a year in sport as our theme this week, ok?

I'm going to go with a D20 fantasy kingdom, one with some Roman or Byzantine influences in its structure. There are stadia and coliseums both, and at the end of a year, the intensity of the races and the combats reach a fevered pitch. (Readers of the Sarantine Mosaic books by Kay will know what I mean as far as the horse races go).

PCs can plug into this theme in any number of ways. Maybe they are participating in the combats directly, trying to earn fame and fortune, and the right to go to the capital and fight there in front of the Empress. Or maybe they are drawn into a faction dispute between the Blues and the Greens (or their equivalents in this world), fighting to help the dominance of one group over the other as the end of the season draws nigh.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:59 PM

December 21, 2004

IRE #5: Winter Solstice

Our fifth IRE is another slam dunk, since today is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Today is the Winter Solstice.

So what would I do with the day that allows the least amount of sunlight of the year?

I'm going to do something different, to leave the "Fantasy" ecological niche open to masters such as Arref and Ginger.

No, I am going to go a little different and make this a Paranoia plotline. I do have that new Paranoia XP, and the Winter Solstice gives me an idea.

It's not explictly mentioned, as far as I can tell in the book, but I would hazard a guess that the day cycles in Alpha Complex are uniform. What need is there for the change of seasonal lighting in Alpha Complex, when it is enclosed and self-sustaining?

So...imagine the fun the PCs are going to have when the day cycles in Alpha Complex start to get shorter, day after day after day. The Computer claims that this is correct function (and aren't you being treasonous in questioning this, red citizen?), but the worry clearly is shown on people up the chain. You could use this as a background thread for a number of sessions, just to keep the players nervous and wondering if this isn't some subtle attack on the Computer that is affecting power and supply.

Finally, after the Winter Solstice, much to the players relief, the days will start to get longer again. Or even more of a mindscrew, have the days return immediately to their normal cycle the day after it.

So was it an experiment by the Computer? A malfunction? Something a Programmer has done? And what if it happens again...will the lights return to normal...the next time?

Posted by Jvstin at 10:36 PM

Lucius Cook on SF Games

Locus Online: Lucius Cook on Games

Lucius uses the launch of Halo 2 as a launchboard to discussing the history of SF games, and how they have gone mainstream since the days of Spacewar and Adventure.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:57 PM

December 18, 2004

IMC: Pattern, Failure or Success

in the Shadow of Greatness: IMC :: the Pattern: failure or success?

The history and origins of the Pattern and the Logrus are one of the richest areas of Arref's Amber history. Mine is much poorer by comparison, but I do have a vision of how they came to be...

Like in Arref's universe, the Unicorn and the Serpent predate the Logrus and the Pattern themselves. However, our games take different tacks on why the Logrus was constructed, as well as the Pattern.

IMC, the Logrus was a bargain between the Serpent and the Thari-ians who had come to live at the edge of the Abyss. IMC, the Abyss is dangerous, but it is not malevolent. The Logrus was a bargain of power, giving the Serpent an environment in which it could comfortably live in our universe, and giving the newly minted Chaosians power over shadow, organizing the formless mass of shadows into a polar array around the Courts.

The Pattern was the Unicorn's attempt to get in the game. The Unicorn entered into the universe, and for lack of a better word seduced a briillant member of House Barimen. Furtively, Dworkin and his two children stole the Eye of the Serpent, for they were told it could be used to create something mightier than the Logrus, and the Unicorn wished hurt upon her old foe.

The creation of the Pattern was the result of this manipulation. And Chaos was angered, and has tried to destroy Amber, and regain the Lost Eye for its Sire, many times. Patternfall was the largest of these attempts and conflicts.

Even if Merlin and Random pledge peace with each other...the Serpent will never rest until it regains its Eye, and what was wrongly wrought with it sent back to the void.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:15 AM

December 17, 2004

Game Completeness

RP-Artisans.org : 1

Seen via Perverse Active Memory, Scott asks for an opinion on his theory about game designers and the completeness of games.

I agree with Ginger that it would take something like a CRPG along the lines of Morrowind or Might and Magic and such to get the complete, top to bottom experience.

But I don't generally look for that sort of thing. And while, say, Might and Magic is fun, it has less appeal, in the end, than writing turns for players in SB, writing turns for my PCs, and even reading along in House of Cards.

So while I don't deny his theory that the games that they have produced are really "kits" in one fashion or another, it is the creativity of the players and the GM that bring those kits to life.

In point of fact, I would be willing to argue that its better, from my point of view and opinion, because the GM's creativity, ideas and passions can come through far better than a RPG experience where everything is already set in stone.

The additional work and effort by a GM is what makes it special. Even with published modules, back in the first edition D&D days, I never strictly followed a module, I always had more, or different areas and activities.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:35 PM

December 15, 2004

IRE #4: Zuider Zee

Our fourth IRE, is a slightly obscure, but important anniversary in history.

On December 14th, 1287, the Zuider Zee sea wall in what is now the Netherlands collapsed. killing 50,000 people. It is the most massive such flood in the history of Holland; the Zuider Zee is one of the most massive projects in the history of engineering.

Thus, this disaster is the theme of this week's IRE.

The game system I am going to use for this is Aberrant. In this system, a powerful cadre of aberrants have decided to transform the mostly useless Sahara by changing its interior into a large freshwater lake.

The mutants, however, miscalculate, and badly. Not long after the "Lake of Life" is set up, the imperfections in its walls become clear, and towns and villages which have sprung up on its shores are in danger.

The Pcs are low to medium power Aberrants themselves, and are on the scene as this occurs. What can or should they do? Is the lake salvagable? Or must everyone be evacuated first? A four-color sort of scenario, as the players race against time and the elements to stop an entirely natural--yet man made, disaster awaiting them.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:03 AM

December 9, 2004

Know when to Hold 'em...

Both Arref and Ginger talk about Poker, and Amber and how to run a poker game within the milieu.

I'm not a good poker player or even a moderate one. For Texorami, I had to fake my knowledge as best as I could. Its simply a game that is not to my skills. I can't bluff, for one thing.

So, is it surprising that, despite a card-playing King, that a poker game hasn't come up in Strange Bedfellows or any of my other games? I'm not sure whether to use a system like Arref's, or Kindred's Texorami formulation, or just to wing it.

On the other hand, chess, now, I have a good idea on how the elders (and my player characters) each play chess--style and mode, as well as skill level.

Corwin might be a better player than, Julian, say, and Benedict better than Corwin, but their styles are all different. I even, when I had a version of Chessmaster that allowed for computer opponents, modeled various elders as computer oppositions based on my theories.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:39 PM

December 7, 2004

IRE #3: Pearl Harbor


Its a no-brainer, really, what this latest edition of Inspired by Recent Events is going to be about.

(And yes, I've decided to stick with that name. It suits me better than any alternatives that I've thought of). And thanks to Arref for the button!

Anyway, the third IRE is going to be about the day that lives in infamy, the Japanese attack on the naval base of Pearl Harbor, Dec 7. 1941.

So many possibilities and choices for this one. But I am going to go with the out of print (but I found a copy cheap recently at the Source during their holiday sale) and go with Blue Planet. An oceanic world is somehow appropriate for a Pearl Harbor analogue, don't you think?

There are lots of tensions and simmering possible conflicts on Poseidon, and I would have the characters be at ground zero for one of them. One of the Incorporate states, tired of the encroachment of one of its rivals, does the unthinkable and launches a lightning military attack. Their goal is a fait accompli, to completely take the situation in hand so that the Colonial government will not be able to intervene or affect the situation once executed.

The PCs can work for either Incorporate, or just be at the site of the attack. How will they react, before and afterwards? If they are part of the attackers, how will they condone it afterwards? If they are part of the defenders or bystanders...what do they do in the aftermath?

Posted by Jvstin at 12:43 PM

November 30, 2004

Inspired by Recent Events #2: Orange Revolution

Even with other choices out there, such as the 49th anniversary of Rosa Parks' brave action, I can't ignore the 900 lb elephant of a recent event in the room for our second IRE.

No, I am referring to the putative Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, events unfolding and developing even as we speak. Revolutions can be rich fodder for game ideas, and in the chinese sense, "Interesting Times" for any PC.

Taking the Ukrainian revolution as a model, I think I would run a revolution in a d20 fantasy kingdom.

A fairly large kingdom is torn apart by two claimants to the throne, two cousins with a fairly equal claim to the purple seat. One of the cousins is from the east, and has strong relations with the kingdom's powerful neighbor Empire to the East. The other cousin is much more aligned to the republics and city states to the west, and seems to be ostensibly more popular.

In the game world, though, its likely to turn into a civil war, unless the player characters can help navigate a peaceful solution. Is there in fact, one? Can they find unimpeachable proof of the higher legitimacy of one or another claimant? Can they keep other nations from intervening? It's definitely a story arc for characters of either low level (man on the street perspective) or higher level (influencing the events on a meta level) alike.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:19 PM

November 24, 2004

IMC: LIbrary of Rebma

House of Cards GM Log: IMC: The Library of Rebma

Ginger talks about library resources in Rebma, with an emphasis on oral traditions, rather than a written one.

SB does it a bit differently.

It's an influence from having done a Rebman Trump Artist, but I've bluffed and waved hands to allow Rebmans to have written materials in the City Under the Sea.

I don't know if I mentioned it here in my Blog or elsewhere, but the Rebmans often turn toward more durable materials than paper for things official. Passes of authority and writs, for example, are often magically engraved on rust proof metals (especially precious metals) and used in that fashion. There are a few texts in Rebma which are engraved on metal in this way, and some really old texts which are actually chiseled in stone, Hammurabi-tablet style.

As far as those paper scrolls, sorcerers in Rebma impregnate paper with waterproofing agents, and use inks that will work. In this way, one can manage to make a Trump in Rebma, if one has access to the right materials...

With all that said, though, people do tend to memorize things as much as possible. Memory palaces and the like are common in the City Under the Sea.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:38 AM

November 23, 2004

Gaming Meme

matt_snyder: RPG meme bandwagon

Via many people, but the link above is to the original.

1. What is the first RPG you ever played?

My brother might remember better, but I do think it is good old Dungeons and Dragons.

2. What RPG do you currently play most often?

Amber Diceless.

3. What is the best system you've played?

Best? That's a little too subjective. I'm not certain what is "best".

4. What is the best system you've run?

As above.

5. Would you consider yourself an: Elitist/ Min-Maxer/ Rules Lawyer?

None of the above?

6. If you could recommend a new RPG which would you recommend? Why?

Fireborn. I have the Player's Guide, have looked through the Gamemaster's guide, and its an intriguing setting, new and different mechanics, I want to give this baby a test drive, or see someone actually do it.

7. How often do you play?

Strange Bedfellows posts twice a week. I am in other email and Message Board games that usually post anywhere from around once a day to once a week.

I am not currently in any live games.

8. What sort of characters do you play? Leader? Follower? Comic Relief? Roll-Player/ Role-Player?

First or Second Officer. Usually a modest leadership role, but mainly a specialist in a particular field.

9. What is your favorite Genre for RPGs?


10. What Genres have you played in?

Fantasy, SF, Horror, Humor, Adventure

11. Do you prefer to play or GM? Do you do both?

I like to play, but I've maintained that I'm not that great a player--I think I GM better than I play.

12. Do you like religion in your games?

I've had religion crop up, everywhere from a Deirdre-worshipping female guard in the castle, to doings with temples good and evil in D&D.

13. Do you have taboo subjects in your games or is everything "fair game"?

Depends on the group of players and their tastes, really.

14. Have you developed your own RPG before?

Um, no.

15. Have you ever been published in the Gaming Industry? If so...what?

Not published per se, but I have a wealth of material and ideas out there on the web. Some of which other people have used in their own games.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:59 PM

Lunchtime Poll #2: Bizarro World

Ravings of a Textual Deviant � Lunchtime Poll #2: Bizarro World

Li's LP this time involves the bizarre.

What�s the strangest character you�ve ever played?

I haven't played very odd characters--as PCs anyway. As NPCs, I've played a rogues' gallery of unusual things, and I think I am going to focus on them.

After all, some of the GMS here agree that many of your NPCs become as real and vivid as players' characters, tangible parts of the gaming world.

Anyway, in a long ago AD&D game, I had the players raid a Yuan-Ti temple deep in the jungles north of the only civilized nation in the area (not so cleverly called Southron). The Yuan-Ti Temple was carved into the base of a mountain. What the players, and the Yuan-Ti didn't quite know except from legend, is that the mountain was a volcano.

And, inspired by Carathras in LOTR, this volcano was sentient. A careless roll on the party's psionicist, and I decided, in a flash of inspiration, that she contacted not her target--but the volcano itself.

The volcano was old and "cold" and I played him with a cross between a slow-thinking mountain and a fiery, impulsive streak.

A long, drawn out mental conversation between the character and the volcano resulted in a minor eruption to "get rid of the snake infestation." That the characters nearly got themselves burned, and they lost the treasure were minor matters compared to wiping out the temple, and getting notoriety for same.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:14 AM

November 22, 2004

IRE #1: JFK's Assassination

Please see the previous entry for details on my concept and what this might all be about.

Today is the anniversary of JFK's Assassination. The first IRE, then asks you to take that idea and turn it into a game scenario for a campaign.

Read on for my own answer

I am going to go system specific and take the event literally, rather than allegorically. I am going to use a time travel game, specifically Continuum. You probably could use this, too, with things like GURPS' Infinite Worlds, too.

The PCs, who are low level (Span 1s) time travellers, are suddenly asked to head back to that fateful morning in 1963 because tampering of the event by Narcissists has been detected.

The PCs go back to JFK's assassination, but its an event that is covered head to toe by spanners preventing any tampering with things. So what are the Narcissists up to?

Some research, some time combat, some frag later, it soon becomes clear. The Narcissists have clevered tampered with Jack Ruby's life, and a point a few months before the assassination. The frag only really has become clear now, on November 22, 1963, when he is not there to play his historical role. The PCs must now laboriously span backward some more and try and get things on the right course.

I like the poignancy of this...that the players have to make sure, no matter that it is a horrible event, that the events of the assassination must take place as history records them.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:04 PM

Inspired by Recent Events

Perverse Access Memory: Farewell Doc%u2019s Blog

Ginger mentions that there is an ebb in gameblogging as of late, especially when it comes to memeing.

Ironically, without seeing this, I was thinking about a game meme at work. Can I turn it into a series? Maybe, if there is interest in such a thing.

NB: Expanded the idea to include one-shots at cons and the like, on a tip from Ginger's answer to the first IRE.

The basic idea is thus.

In campaigns, especially, inspiration for individual scenarios and scenes away from the main plot can come from any number of sources. Too, one-shots at gaming cons can often have surprising inspirations.

One of them, for me, is current events, or anniversaries. Something recent, or about to happen, or a milestone of some kind.

In the Inspired by Recent Events (I really need a better name for this), I will produce such a recent or soon to be forthcoming event or anniversary. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to produce a game scenario for a campaign or a one-shot from it. You can remain generic, you can specify a system, as long as you tie in the hook somehow. The subsequent entry will show you just what I mean.

And we'll see if there is any interest.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:56 PM

November 18, 2004

Li's Lunchtime Poll #1

Ravings of a Textual Deviant � Lunchtime Poll #1

LI, who recently asked a question about Supers systems (and even emailed me directly so I would see it) has instituted the idea as a new feature. I guess I am going to need a new category, natch?

Anyway, her first Poll question is:
What is your favorite historical period for RPGs, and why?

Tough question because there are so many good choices, so I will pick one.

16th century. Ginger calls it "Early Modern".

The tech level of the 16th century has been a default assumption in many of my games. In my first D&D campaign, the major event of the last 50 years had been the dissemination of the printing press, and the concordant historical ripples that was causing.

You can have interesting sorcery, nation states and city states, and all sorts of intrigue, romance and more within the time frame. It makes for a rich gaming milieu (and writing milieu...Paul Kearney's books, the first of which I've read, fits into this time frame well).

And, of course, games like 7th Sea are already set in this time frame, more or less.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:08 PM

November 9, 2004

Ambercon '05

Amber's Amber: Gaming at Ambercon

Amber, and Arref, as well point out that the submission page for ACUS '05 is now up.

Fun fun fun.

I do want to get to four games, and for the first time in a couple of years, I don't have Ad Amber per Astra to fill one of the slots.

Four new games. Oh, boy. I do have a few ideas (I ALWAYS have ideas) but I have to flesh them out and make them work.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:07 AM

October 22, 2004

Monte Cook's review of The Source

Archived Topics LINE OF SIGHT

Monte Cook does a fairly decent job explaining why I am so very lucky up here in the Great White North in being close to The Source. I do think, though, that the Strategist in NY marginally has more stuff (more densely packed) but my fortune in living near a superb game store is definitely a big plus.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:30 PM

October 18, 2004

How many points does a "mook" have in SB?

OOC: Added a little more information, clarifying matters.

Michael, who plays Oliver in SB, sparked an obvious mechanics question.

We know that player characters have significant numbers of points, as do NPC cousins, to say nothing of Elders. And the same is true of Chaosians.

But what about lower level characters?

Please note that I do employ a rank approach to how effective points are, as detailed here.

This is to say that an Amber Ranked character, with a story value of 4, is half as effective as a character with a score of 30, which has a story value of 8.

This is very similar to the Eternal City's approach.

As a rule of thumb.

Elders have 300 points and above. Elders almost never have attributes below Amber rank.

NPC Cousins and Player characters usually have 125-300 points. Some, especially those with a significant achilles heel or on the lower range of the scale, have an chaos level attribute. They almost never have a human level attribute.

Superior, trained Sapients close to the Primal Powers, such as mid and higher ranked army members, Rangers, and so forth have up to 75 points. They often have a sold down attribute.

Ordinary Sapients close to Primal Powers, such as natives of Amber city, ordinary Chaosians in the Courts, Demons, and so forth, or Superior, trained Sapients out in shadow usually have 0-25 points. They will often have at least one sold down attribute, probably two or three.

Sapients in shadows outside of the Primal Powers, such as a random, ordinary shadow typically have points in the negative column. These Sapients rarely have stats above Chaosian.


King Random might have 300 points, no sold down Attributes

Hadrian, son of Caine, might be a 200 point character. He has some low stats, but nothing below Amber

Rylac Geriason, Captain of the Castle Guard has 75 points, highlighted by a decent warfare, even if his Psyche is at Chaosian rank.

Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart of Shadow Terra, Commander of an anti-Alien task force, is a 25 point character. Although his endurance and strength are human, he has a chaos level psyche and a decent warfare.

John Smith, computer programmer in the same shadow, is a -75 point character, with human level stats and a few points in allies and such.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:18 PM

October 17, 2004

Worldwide D&D Game Day

Yesterday was "Worldwide D&D Game Day."

I, myself, went to the excellent local gaming store, The Source.

I had gone with the hope of meeting Monte Cook but I mistimed my visit to the store.

Instead, I hung around for a couple of hours--such hanging out was encouraged by free cake, rootbeer, and the opportunity to watch (and if I had gotten there faster, play) D&D and Monte's Arcana Unearthed.

It was a lot of fun to watch pre-teens (and a father to same)moving through a forest tangling with goblins on the one hand, and watching players learn the ins and outs of the unusual characters and races of AU. Seeing a little 3 foot faen have significant ranks in intimidation...and sorcerously blast foes was a lot of fun. An actual large size character (a giant!) who was ferocious in hand to hand combat.

Everyone, and I mean everyone seemed to have a good time. And with discounts on D&D products, I came home with a book of planes done by the old Planescape crowd called "Beyond Countless Doorways"

If only I was there when Monte was around, I might've been able to get it autographed. Oh well.

Exalted goodness

I do have to get out a review of my latest purchase, Exalted: Sidereals, out, as well as other RPG reviews I owe (Paranoia XP, for example).

But, I came across the following on the WW Site, and its their description of a book coming out this fall...

Exalted: Fair Folk.

Exalted: The Fair Folk

Lords of Chaos

Once, the great lords of madness fielded an army vast beyond all reckoning. They scoured the corners of chaos for warriors to throw against the hateful edifice of shaped reality. When the wards around Creation wavered during the Great Contagion, the Fair Folk rushed forward to ensure cataclysm� and were defeated.

Princes of the Wyld

Now, in the twilight of the Age of Heroes, the ruined courts of the Unformed Fair Folk prepare for a final, glorious crusade against Creation. Exalted: The Fair Folk provides detailed rules for roleplaying nobles and commoners in the faerie courts on the edges of Creation. Trapped between the hostile reality of Creation and the impending rush of the Faerie host, the Fair Folk of the Middlemarches must make their own fate as the Time of Tumult unfolds around them. Hardcover.

ISBN: 1-58846-678-7 Stock #: WW8815 Retail Price: $29.99 U.S. Page Count: 328 Authors: Rebecca Borgstrom, Genevieve Cogman, Michael Goodwin, John Snead and W. Van Meter Developer: Geoffrey C. Grabowski Artists: UDON

Posted by Jvstin at 9:15 AM

October 1, 2004

Requiscat in Pace, GA

Amber pretty much encapsulates my feelings about the discontinuation of A Grand Affair...

Despite trials and tribulations, It has been a positive experience for me.

I've met people through GA, got to know some people better, and a few of those people are now in Strange Bedfellows. I look forward to gaming with many of the GA alumni once more.

Oh, the aftereffects and ideas spawned by GA will still be around. Egyptian-themed Delwin will still be around. Iolaus will not likely go quietly into the bin, he's too colorful and too present a character to let me fade him away. It wouldn't be the first time I've taken characters from games and used them elsewhere.

I've gotten to see new interpretations of Elders from characters, ideas and concepts that I would love to see again. The "two Daras" concept, to name just one example.

And, despite the heartaches, pains, personality conflicts and everything else, it was a lot of fun to write Amber smut.

Requiscat in Pace GA.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:21 AM

August 26, 2004

Guardians of Order Amber Merchandise

Guardians of Order, the soon to be new owners of the rights to the ADRPG, now have some Amber merchandise for sale.

It's appropriate that the NEW quote t-shirt is from Gerard:

"...if I can get my hands on you but once."

The significance of the quote is not lost on me. I do hope for the best for the frankly moribund game and look forward to what they do with the game.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:24 AM

August 9, 2004

Amber in Blog and LJ

First seen thanks to Arref, this is a link to Meera's list of Amber Blogs and Livejournals.

We're a small community, but a lively one. Not bad for a niche game, eh?

Posted by Jvstin at 4:56 PM

July 18, 2004

ACUS/TBR Game Idea

Inspired by Mel and a post in a game we are currently in together.

The situation:
The teenaged PCs have just gotten back to the castle after running into something very nasty, and very dangerous...that shouldn't be anywhere near Arden.

Harri was frowning.

"They could be left over from the Black Road," she said thoughtfully. "If a gravid female had hidden out in Arden, she might have spent the time in some remote part of Arden rearing her clutch. It's awfully hard to know everything in a forest, even if you are very, very good."

She gave a little sigh. "Me 'n' Wolf know that ... "'

A game idea in the making!

There are several possibilities and sub possibilities.

A. The PCs are Rangers in Julian's service (lower powered, of course.)

B. The PCs are youngers who live in and about Amber

And within each of those...

1. Set it during the Gerard Regency. Gerard rules Amber, there aren't many elders around to DO things, Gerard sends the PCs to investigate tales of things happening at the borders of Arden. (Or, alternatively, whoever rules Arden while Julian is gone sends the PC Rangers to go and check it out)

2. Set it after The Return. The PCs went off to war with their parents, and have come back to a new and improved Amber. One of Random's first headaches are tales of new problems in and about Arden.

If the PCs are Rangers--Julian sends them out to deal with the situation.
If the Pcs are Amberites--Julian doesn't want help (its HIS forest) but Random isn't going to let this fester and he has to, like it or not, look Monarchial. The Pcs are drafted to go into Arden, perhaps without much help from its Lord...

Posted by Jvstin at 9:43 AM

June 30, 2004

The Black Road

Slightly delayed TBR Report

Fun and adventures at The Black Road

It was quite a trip.

Travel to and from the Con turned out to be not what quite I intended or anyone intended, since my trip there resulted in waiting in Barnes and Noble for enfeebled Deb and BrIAnne to pick me up in Deb's van. My trip back consisted of my flight to Chicago being delayed for an hour, and subsequently missing my connection. I had to wait standby for the next Minneapolis flight. Thus, I spent 12 hours all told from the time I left the hotel to the time I walked into my apartment.

But enough of THAT. You wanna hear about games and stuff, just like Amber Ditullio recently reported

As far as that was concerned, I had lots of fun.

Slot 1: In her Shoes (GM's Amber and Rich DiTullio)

I played one of my standards, the DuMarquean Trump Artist Hadrian, son of Caine. Body switching, a Delirium-like opponent and lots of fight scenes. A good way to introduce the con

Slot 2: The Wizard in the Attic (GM by me)

WITA quickly dispelled any illusions or thoughts that TBR would just be a mini-ACUS. This was the third iteration of the game. The First one featured furniture moving madness, the second featured trips in the Mirror Realm. This one had PC versus PC conflict and fighting, characters who, despite the suggestions of the game, actually had strong ties to Chaos, and lots of spell and swordwork.

Slot 3: I took this slot off since the offerings didn't really appeal. I shopped, ate, watched a couple of movies with [info]adpaz, and "maxed and chilled".

Slot 4: Dreams Made Flesh (Gmed by me)

This might be my best success at the con, although this one went way off intended tracks too. I had JP Brennan's PC turn traitor on everyone else, trying to take personal advantage of the scene. I had a PC try to really kill another, the victim saved only by good stuff. An endgame I could never have anticipated, with the main antagonist not there at all (because I realized that the antagonist could have won, easily, had they been there with all else that was going on).

The first DMF's PCs treated their "surprises" with sometimes romantic affections. This group took advantage in a GA manner of the opportunities.

Slot 5: Guess Who (Gmed by me, Amber DiTullio and Deb Atwood)

My disappointment of the con. Thanks to being up late the previous night, we lost the Hivemind from the player roster, and the smaller PC cast hurt the plot badly. The Gms and I had to force matters to get to the climatic resolution and decision. Having Random as a PC worked, but, again, missing two players just didn't work right.

I don't feel the need to run any of these again any time soon. WITA has now had 3 iterations and can go in the vault (like Disney movies) for a while, as does DMF. Guess Who probably will go into abeyance for a while, too. Next TBR (yes, I do want to go!) I might throw a previous game like SquAB or Ghosts of the Past into the mix...or rerun something that I run at ACUS that year.

Besides games, we had gatherings, board games, card games and I got to meet people I've only seen online--like Ginger, Michael, Olof from HOC, and more. And it was great to see people I've met already, and old friends too.

Definitely a good vacation all around. Definitely. A beautiful hotel near to food and a grocery store. What more could anyone ask for?

Posted by Jvstin at 5:30 AM

From the ACUS mailing list

It looks like the switch to Guardians of Order is really, really going to happen for the Amber Diceless game...

Date: Wed, 30 Jun 2004 03:40:05 -0400
From: erickwujcik@netscape.net (Erick Wujcik)
To: AMBER@logrus.org
Subject: AMBER An end to Phage/Amber Sales!
MIME-Version: 1.0
Message-ID: <53D05D86.2C84132F.4B180DD7@netscape.net>
X-Mailer: Atlas Mailer 2.0
X-AOL-Language: english
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
Sender: owner-amber@logrus.org
Reply-To: erickwujcik@netscape.net (Erick Wujcik)

Please pass the word!

12 July 2004 and 31 July 2004 will be the last dates for Phage Press to sell any Amber Diceless products, including www.phagepress.com, mail order, or www.amazon.com.

The transfer of all Amber Diceless assets to Guardians of Order continues on schedule. One item on that schedule is "Remove Amber-related purchase options from the Phage Press Website," which will kick in on 31 July 2004. That will be the absolute last date for ordering Amber Diceless, Shadow Knight, or Amberzine.

As far as t-shirts and other 'soft goods' are concerned, because many items require special orders, there will be no more orders accepted after 12 July 2004.

Current plans call for one final issue of Amberzine, which will likely be the biggest Amberzine ever released.

One last note: If you have EVER paid for a Phage Press product which you did not receive, please contact Erick Wujcik (erick_wujcik@phagepress.com) sometime BEFORE 31 July 2004. This includes advance orders for "Rebma" and the "French Amber Tarot Deck Translation," as well as any subscriptions for Amberzine that extent past Amberzine #12.

Thank You!

Erick Wujcik
Phage Press

Posted by Jvstin at 5:28 AM

May 26, 2004

IMC: Fates of Fallen Cast Members

As asked to by certain friends and acquaintances, herein lies the detail of every no-longer-active PC in Strange Bedfellows, from start to present.

21 of them in all. 21 characters. Some lasted only a short time, others lasted for most of the span of the game.

21 learning experiences for me. Or failures of GM-ship.

1. Jeff Tyler as Astin, son of Leona

Jeff has decided to leave the game (5/04). Astin will be retired into Shadow.

2. Tristan as Clarissa, (eventually revealed as daughter of Mirelle)

After an sticky incident with a Omphalos Door in Arden, Clarissa decided to leave Amber.

3. Bonnie Roe as Larissa, daughter of Dalt

Larissa's player left the game in early 2003. The PC will eventually be phased out of storylines.

4. Cathy Ozog as Malachi, son of Brand

Malachi's turns became fewer and fewer, Cathy having other priorities. The character currently is an NPC and has been since 11/2002, the character is somewhere in the environs of Amber.

5. Chris as Rylan, son of Finndo
Like Cathy, Chris had problems with time and other priorities. Rylan became an NPC in August 2002. Rylan is currently in Amber.

6. Sarah as Shannon, daughter of Fiona

Sarah's time and school priorities took higher precedence. Shannon became an NPC in September 2001

7. Romilly as Toireasa, daughter of Gerard

Romilly wound up with time pressures of her own, finally giving up the character in July 1997. In October of that year, Mike Levay took over the character and kept the character until Spring of 2004. I am currently in negotiations in finding a new player for her.

8. Fynn McCool as Triton, son of Corwin and Moire

Another of the original players, Fynn provided key storylines and interesting inter-PC conflicts, especially with Jayson, until he left the game in March 2000. The character lay defunct and unused until July 2003, when Jim quietly approached me about making him his secondary character.

9. Zesmerelda as Helias, daughter of Bleys

Not quite starting with the rest of the group on time, Helias was a strong and powerful amazon time, a half-fire elemental daughter of Bleys new to Amber at game start. Zesmerelda finally tired of the game and left in 2001. Helias has been quietly an NPC ever since although she has not been seen much. If not for her striking presence early in the game I would let continuity wash her away.

10. Brian Blalock as Kyle, son of Brand

Kyle joined the game in November 1996, as a colorful and pyrotechnic son of his father. Kyle got himself into lots of interesting plots, especially revolving around his father, until 2000. In 1999, his turns became slow, and in 2000, he finally stopped posting all together.
Kyle is currently an NPC.

11.Scott Olson as Charlandria Helgram

One of my biggest shortcomings and regrets, Scott's pit-diving character was in the game from September 2000 to Summer 2001. He disagreed me with how I run combat, and Elders and other things.

This was a very painful departure for me which some people are quite aware of, and its very easy to push my button by invoking his departure in any grousing or unhappiness.

For continuity purposes, I have decided Charlandria's fate will eventually be learned by members of House Helgram in due course.

12.Doctorjest as Hannibal Wererathe

Zesmerelda's husband was in SB in 1997 for a brief while but found it not to his liking and stopped shortly in matters. His character was excised for continuity purposes.

13.Nicole Amendolara as Dagny, daughter of Luke, Granddaughter of Brand

My friend Nicole joined SB in August 1997, starting her character on shadow Earth, her existence recently deduced by her father. After a number of adventures, after visiting Amber, too, her character eventually faded away into shadow as her posts asymptotically approached zero in 2001.

14.Sherri as Liath, daughter of Bleys

A brief experimental character for Keith's girlfriend in 1998, who was set in the home shadow of Keith's character as a hitherto unknown child of Bleys. Sherri did not prove conducive to Amber, roleplaying or email, and I erased the character from continuity.

15.Josh as Antar, son of Dalt

From 1998 until 2001, Antar was the character that kept raising the stakes on stupidity. From blasphemy to the Serpent, to trying to attack Random while in Amber, to finally trying to impersonate Suhuy, he kept raising the stakes again and again, until there was nothing left to do.

So I "killed off the character". I ended the character, his character eventually being transformed into a demon without much memory of his crimes and idiocies.

It was the first time I ever actively killed off a character in any game of any kind that I've run.

16 and 17.Angel and Andrios

More regrets, these were characters of Jim's better half, Karen Groves. Of strange parentage and strange crossbreed origins, the characters were in the game from 1999 to 2000. Karen and I eventually decided I was not giving her a pleasurable experience in SB, and so she departed from the game.
I am slowly having continuity wash away their existence from the game.

18.Nicole as T'Gana Hendrake

One of my first real Secondary characters was this retired General of Hendrake played by Nicole. From January 2000 to July 2001, she was Hendrake's equivalent of a PI, working on things on behalf of Belissa Minobee, the House Head.
She is still on the case as an NPC

19.Bonnie Roe as Daenerys

A secondary character for Bonnie, Daenerys was designed to add another twisted background character to Bonnie's repertoire--more twisted than even the character herself knew. She played Daenerys from 2002 until she left the game in 2003.

The character is currently an NPC but is going to be retired and continuity will eventually fade her out of matters.

Sandie Phelps as Aesa Helgram

A friend of Bonnie's, I had Sandie join SB in March 2002 and immediately regretted it. Possessed of ungrammatical writing that was painful to read, I quickly came to the private conclusion that she was not a good fit for the game. I finally had enough by the Fall of 2003, and ejected her from my game, and like Liath above, had continuity make it so that Aesa never existed.

21.Mike Levay as Rhionde, daughter of Brand
A secondary character for Mike, I started Rhionde in February 2003. A daughter of Brand with unusual genetic makeup, the storyline went along until Spring 2004 when I asked Mike to leave the game in general. For continuity purposes, again, Rhionde never existed.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:00 PM

IMC: The Original Cast of SB

Taking a page from Ginger, this is the original, charter members of Strange Bedfellows.

For the curious, the original cast members of Strange Bedfellows...the ones in bold are
the ones still remaining.

Jeff Tyler as Astin, son of Leona
Keith Cripe as Brandeigh, daughter of Fiona
Bridgette Ruggles as Brieanne, daughter of Julian

Tristan as Clarissa, (eventually revealed as daughter of Mirelle)
Jim Groves as Jayson, son of Sand
Dawn Marinaro as Krysta of the Amber Blood

Bonnie Roe as Larissa, daughter of Dalt
Cathy Ozog as Malachi, son of Brand
Chris as Rylan, son of Finndo
Sarah as Shannon, daughter of Fiona
Romilly as Toireasa, daughter of Gerard
Fynn McCool as Triton, son of Corwin and Moire

Posted by Jvstin at 7:37 PM

May 25, 2004

My own GNS post

A pithy observation of my own about GNS, since it seems to be a rage of people talking about it, from the 20x20 room entry, through Ginger, and Arref, Doyce, and and of course a long thread over at Rpg.net

GNS reminds me a bit of String Theory.

String Theory is a controversial, dense theoretical branch of particle physics that supposes that at the bottom of everything are multidimensional strings of short length. It's proponents are sometimes fanatical in their belief that their theory explains all of the mysteries and problems surrounding modern particle physics. And there are a large proportion of people who think its a very pretty edifice that doesn't describe the real world at all.

Sort of like GNS, don't you think?

And if you want to read more about String Theory, I highly recommend Brian Greene's ELEGANT UNIVERSE

Posted by Jvstin at 8:12 PM

May 22, 2004

Myrna Loy and Fi

I admit that I am not as up on classic movies as I should be. Citizen Kane? I'm there. Metropolis. Absolutely. Alfred Hitchcock. Of course.

But I can only see and know so much. In his Amber the Eternal City, Arref has long since "casted" Fiona as Myrna Loy. I knew who she was, but could never figure out why.

Until he, in a recent blog entry showed this picture from a movie he is certain is "Mask of Fu Manchu"

Now I want to see this movie.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:28 AM

May 21, 2004

Game Wish 96: Click!

Ginger's WISH makes with the clicky...

Describe one or more occasions when a game went click for you and things fell together. Why do you think this happened? What factors made it possible? What were the consequences?

I am sometimes not confident in my own abilities, so I pushed off this WISH for a little while on the grounds that things don't click well in my games. Either the games that I run or the games I am in.

This is, of course, arrant nonsense.

I might cite the whole "Shockwave" subplot of Strange Bedfellows, which has connected and given a bond between very different areas of the game. Or the wonderful "Wizard's Duel" between Bhangbadea and Lorius.

Or the absolutely humorous denouement to the first iteration of Wizard in the Attic, culminating in the infamous "Furniture" gambit of Sserella and Capella as played by Arref and Anne at ACUS.

I think its opportunity, the electric charge building up, and players and GMs "Ready" for something magical to happen.

"Whatcha gonna do when the Lightning strikes and hits you?"

Posted by Jvstin at 6:29 AM

Kobayashi Maru Play

Over on the 20x20 Room, Ginger (of P.A.M.) talks about the "option c" approach--given a dilemma with bad choices, her characters invariably look for the unpresented choice.

Just like Kirk did in the Kobayashi Maru scenario in the Star Trek universe.

I've had this hammered into me by players again and again in SB. Thinking outside of the box has been something many of the players and characters have done, right from the beginning of the game.

An example: Early in events, Jayson, son of Sand, received a static filled and brief and inconclusive trump call from Deirdre. I intended it, when I wrote it, as a gambit to mystery, a piece of information that Jayson might use as entree with his cousins.

I did not expect Jayson to expend resources and time and doggedly try and find and rescue her. That entire plotline was something I did not see coming, but since he did it in a rational fashion and made it work, I allowed the choice to proceed.

As Paul Tevis maintains in the comments to Ginger's post, the players in my game ARE more clever than I, especially given their numerical superiority. You have to, as a GM, give room to "option C".

Now, however, if their option C IS stupid and unreasonable, just because its outside the box, it doesn't necessarily mean it should be allowed. There is creative, and then there is just...stupid. I've had my share of those, too, in my games.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:28 AM

May 17, 2004


Seen elsewhere and announced elsewhere, Bruce Baugh has a new group gaming blog called Gamethink.

It's the 20x20 room on steroids.

Very cool.

Via, among other places, Perverse Active Memory

Posted by Jvstin at 6:55 PM

May 16, 2004

IMC: The Boulevard

In my Campaign, the Thirteen Major Houses of Chaos, and many of the minors have entrances and edifices along the major "street" of Chaos, that runs from the Plaza at the End of the World to the Fire Gate.

This street is known simply as the Boulevard.

In keeping with malleable Chaosian geography and geometry, the entrances and edifices of the Houses do not have completely stable locations on the Boulevard.

Have you read Lankhmar? In those novels, there is a "Street of the Gods" where the Temples of the various cults and religions have their position. Down to the east, a religion might have a small temple, if even a building at all, while the buildings grow more beautiful, elaborate, expensive and impressive as you move up the street.

My Chaos is like that. The House Royal, in the case of SB, Sawall, has the "pole position", closest to the Plaza. Houses, by their decreasing power and influence are arranged as one goes down the street toward the Fire Gate. Thus, Hendrake's martial edifice comes next, followed by Helgram.

Now, as the fortunes of Houses rise and fall, these openings, edifices move relative to each other. If, say, Hendrake were to take a huge hit in prestige and get knocked around, their Ways might manifest further down, with the other Houses moving to fill up the slots. While the Thirteen don't change that often or much, once you get to the minor Houses, their positions can change daily. Since there is a limited amount of room, some of the smaller Houses, if they take a big enough hit, won't even have the opportunity to manifest a Way entrance on the Boulevard any longer, having to have their "front door" somewhere else, like Lowtown.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:07 PM

May 6, 2004


The polymathic Ginger Stampley talks about randomizers and when to fudge their use over on the 20' by 20' room.

One of the hardest things about doing a game like Amber is the very fact that it is diceless.

Amber is a game about competent characters. And game systems like Heroquest have "Masteries", where a character basically, without strong opposition, always succeed on a roll. I feel there is a time and a place for having competency handled.

On the other hand, though, true randomness says something about the Universe and can be useful in a universe where the unexpected happens. As a GM, in non Amber games I would employ dice to take things in unexpected directions--even to me. I took care in random encounters and events, so that they had value beyond time and space filler.

As an example, a party of D&D characters in a game I ran came across a wandering monster. The unlikely dice rolls dictated what was then called a "Type I demon."

I asked myself why they would come across such a thing, and turned a random encounter and retconned it into a plot device. It was an assassin, sent to harass and hurt the characters, an old enemy of theirs resurfacing after a long fallow period.

I wouldn't have thought to do it right then if I mandated every encounter. The dice proved useful in that context.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:26 PM

Studs and Sluts

Amber, over on the Epynomous Amber's Amber, talks about female versus male sexuality in relation to her GA characters.

The Madonna/Whore complex strikes again.

Her character Jayla seems to be, is regarded as being loose, and thus she feels is being ostracized and painted negatively. She's not a royal, and worse is married. This does make a difference IMO.

Because there is a double standard in our society and doubly so in a quasi-Renaissance society such as Amber. Princesses can get away with more, of course. Jayla has to be careful as to not be seen cuckolding her husband too bluntly, or else there would be horrible and harsh repercussions.

SB's universe works much the same way as implied in GA. Asteria, say, is known for being sexually omnivarous, but does not take much flack from the fact, but even so, characters such as, say, Astin, have a much easier time of being sexually indiscreet.

Anyway, the discussion at Amber's Amber is hot and heavy and well worth your time.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:06 PM

April 26, 2004

A game-changing SB turn

I decided to share it here for the benefit of all of you, because I am proud that this storyline has finally seen fruit.

A little context. IMC, Rebma is technically a vassal of Amber in the same sense that Australia, New Zealand and Canada pay homage to the Queen of England even though they are independent countries. This relationship between Amber and Rebma has varied over time, depending on who was on each throne at the time.

The Rebman dance finally draws to a close, the female led dance slowing to a stop. Concheta and Triton find themselves in the middle, Brieanne and Gaz, Jayson and Cyllene, Angelique and Carl, and the other dancers.

It's clear that the Rebman Charge D'Affaires is the center of action, though. Patting Triton's hand for a moment, and giving it a squeeze, she walks away from Triton and toward the King. This is a part of the Rebman Dance not often invoked, but one that Brieanne is well aware of. As technically a vassal of Amber, Rebma sometimes uses this opportunity, at the end of the Rebman Dance at each quarter Ball, to deliver public messages from the Coral Throne to the Amber one.

Concheta is clearly taking advantage of that custom, as she produces a document from the folds of her dress that Triton will wonder how it it was so cleverly hidden without his knowledge.

Random remains placid as Concheta walks up to the King. She offers a very shallow curtesy, almost too shallow for propriety. She then proffers the parchment scroll to Random. Random takes it, opens it, and begins to read it. The shock and surprise on his face speaks volumes. The King of Amber begins to close it, but, impertinently, Concheta's voice in the pin-drop ball rings out.

"Read it, sire, as per custom. Tell them."

Random glares at Concheta. Not quite murderous fury, but clearly not enjoying the upstaging, and the constraints of custom are a straitjacket to Amber's King. Vialle gives Random's a squeeze of support.

Random looks at the scroll again and then looks at the Ballroom. "Her Majesty Queen Moire of Rebma begs to inform me, and thus all of you that she declares Rebma completely free and independent of all suzerainity of Amber, formal and otherwise. She also has declared that the so called Rebman Pattern has been declared the property of the free and independent Kingdom of Rebma and that none of the Royal Family of Amber are permitted access or use therein, and that steps have been taken to ensure this. Her Majesty, Queen Moire of Rebma."

The discordant scroll falls from Random's fingers to the floor as Concheta, triumphant, turns and walks away from the King and Queen, and toward the exit of the Ballroom.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:18 AM

March 17, 2004

Unusual "Shadow of"

Not quite an IMC, but a Amber meme I am interested in people's answers to...

What unusual "Shadow of" associations do you make? You know, either fictional or real people who just seem to be shadows of the Royal Family of Amber (or even your own PCs and NPCs).

Some of mine own:

Count Belisarius--Benedict.

Byzantine General

Arguably one of the greatest generals of any age or time. Saved his Emperor during an extremely violent Riot that came within a whisker of overthrowing him. Singlehandedly helped give Italy back to the Byzantines, and fought an arguably superior Sassanid Empire to a standstill. Never much for politics, although there were many who wouldn't have minded him replacing his Emperor.

His ambitious wife doesn't fit with the Benedict mythos, but otherwise, he definitely reminds me of same.

Jorge Luis Borges--Dworkin

An unusual writer with a taste for games with reality and perception, the small gems of his stories show universes that are often more complex than the ordinary, as if he was trying to look behind the curtain of what is to find the truth. Or trying to create same.

Cyrano De Bergerac--Bleys

Boastful, charming, ladies man, clever by half. Either the fictional character, the character in his own fiction, or the real man, who else could play the part? Even with the nose. It IS a shadow, after all...

Posted by Jvstin at 12:58 PM

February 20, 2004

Paranoia XP

Remember Paranoia? And if you don't, I guess you are a treasonous Commie, an enemy of the Computer and must report to a termination chamber immediately. The Computer is your friend!

A new edition is in the works.

Apparently they are going old school in bringing back the original co-designer in on the project. And they are pretending the hated Fifth Edition never existed...


Posted by Jvstin at 10:36 AM

January 29, 2004

20' by 20 Room on the Nature of Fans

Bryant Durell on the 20' by 20' room blog talks about role playing fans and metaplots.

Many people do want to engage in the metaplot for a roleplaying game. Ginger had a good observation in a comment to this post that there is far more Amber material on the web than Everway.

Of course, compared to D20 and World of Darkness, Amber is small potatoes, but it does have a reasonable base of fiction, campaign materials and the like. After all, if you are reading this,you are likely (even if only tangentially) connected to the Amber Community.

Amber does have an advantage over Everway, and, say, Nobilis, that I was talking with Jim Groves a few weeks ago. Amber has "built-in source material" to work from: The ten novels and the several short stories.

Everway just has the Box Set, and Spherewalker. Nobilis just has the GWB and one supplement. Its a much smaller base to work with, and so there is a lot less of a foundation for building large edifices of fan material.

Amber has more out there, too, because its older than either game as well. But stuff like Ginger's House of Cards (among others) show how similar Everway and Amber are. Its probably not too out of line to say that people who like the one have a tendency to enjoy the other, and Nobilis as well (if only in theory). They are an interesting trio. (And I have heard of at least one Nobilis/Amber cross...)

But my point is that active and interested players, given a chance and opportunity, love to build on metaplots and worlds. Games like Everway, Amber and Nobilis are much more inclined, IMO, to do this than a straight D20 game. When is the last time you heard of a D20 GM asking players to design a duchy that they are going to travel through?

Perhaps, one day, a new edition of Everway will help grow that community, and that Nobilis will begin to truly flower as people learn and understand the game...

...I won't even wish for the Rebma Sourcebook for Amber :grin:

Posted by Jvstin at 11:44 AM

January 28, 2004

Try calling *him* a Gaming Nerd

Sure its way back from last year, but I just read it on the Gaming Nook today.

Apparently, Vin ("XXX", "Pitch Black", etc) Diesel played Dungeons and Dragons. A lot of it, too.

Interesting. He sort of blows away that nasty lingering stereotype of gamers looking like, well, me.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:16 PM

January 12, 2004

Creativity, RPGs and Computers

Ginger has been documenting and participating in a cross-blog discussion of a couple of posts from a gentleman who is convinced that Apple's focus on creative types is a marketing disaster.

I disagree.

First part: Thesis. If you are reading this, you probably are a creative type.

Generalization: Most humans, until it is beaten out of them, are inherently creative. Be it paintings in Altamira, the Pyramids of Egypt, Hagia Sophia, Angkor Wat, or a myriad more, Man creates. Man enjoys making things, not only for utility, but for aesthetics. Just look at some of the ancient pottery in a good museum. It not only is functional--its decorative.

Man, when given an environment and opportunity to do so, creates. Encouraging that is a Good Thing, and I support it wholeheartedly. Posts like the one cited above seem to come from a passive consumer mentality. The kind of person who watches TVs or Movies.

Silly idiot? I think if anything Ginger is being a little kind. But reading his own comments and the comments of others, perhaps I am being a little too uncharitable.

I would take a guess that a larger than general population sample of creative Roleplayers probably use Non-Windows (Apple, Unix, etal) products and computers. People who do phototrumps for Amber, or try and understand Nobilis, or the poetry of Hero system, or the beauty of Everway, are creative types already.

Sure I am an exception, since I glommed onto Windows early on and stayed there. But its not as if I haven't been tempted by the other side. And with time and money I, too, will branch away from Windoze.

Because the tools and flexibility of the kind that Apple makes available are just too much up my alley to ignore forever.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:30 PM

January 5, 2004

Ideas on ACUS thus far

I am still finalizing what and when I am going to run games at ACUS. But in case you were interested in playing in one of my games...

Slot 4: Ad Amber per Astra III
-I think it will be in Slot 4, and it will just be open to veterans of either of the first tw games (although I'd be surprised if I get anyone who was in I but not II).

Slot 7: Guess Who is coming to Dinner?
Pre-generated characters, social interaction, a prospective bride for the Heir to the Throne...and a big surprise. This is the game I'm shanghaing Deb to run an Important NPC, since I blabbed the big surprise to her in its genesis.

Not sure of the slot Yet:

Status Quo Ante Bellum

It's an alternate Amber, where the War turned out somewhat differently. During the attack on Chaos, when Amber's forces were at the Courts, a expeditionary force from one of the aquaphilic Chaosian Houses made a bold strike on Amber...specifically on Rebma. Moire was killed, LLewella has fled, and these Chaosians now rule Rebma.
The War has ended, and Amber has demanded, as part of the peace treaty, a status quo ante bellum...a return to the way things were, before the War. However, the Chaosians in Rebma refuse to leave. What's more, not everyone in Rebma is unhappy at the change in administration either, especially the males, since the new Chaosian overlords do not like the matriarchial system of Rebma and have begun making moves toward more egalitarianism. Plus, Rebma was very much the dependency of Amber before the War, and the new rulers want Rebma to be a free and independent power of its own.
So...Amber is unhappy at this state of affairs, LLewella herself is hosting a "Rebman government in exile", Chaos is unhappy at these renegades, and Rebma itself is fractured between those who like the new Rebma and its promises of becoming an independent state, and those who want things to return to the way they were. A game heavy on intrigue, spying, and diplomacy, the player characters could be from one of any number of factions, or pretending to be with their own hidden agendas.

And one more game to be determined.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:56 PM

December 14, 2003

Merlin's first patternwalk

Nicole, in an IM made me realize something about Merlin's first Patternwalk...

It might not be when you think it is.

It depends on Dara's timeline.

She meets Corwin, has sex with Corwin, and gets pregnant by him.

The question is, was she still pregnant when she shows up in Amber, to walk the Pattern, at the end of Guns of Avalon?

If she was...then fetus-Merlin walked the Pattern, in a sense, when she did.

Of course she might have gotten pregnant by Corwin and immediately went to have the baby, going to a fast time part of Chaos and finishing the pregnancy and delivery. And only then went to Amber.

Perhaps if she was pregnant, Merlin's "exposure" on his mother's Patternwalk explains some things about him...especially if you keep second series as canonical.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:07 PM

December 12, 2003

Monday Mashup: Into Thin Air

One of the bad things about losing a swath of my archives is that I don't have categories for things like the Monday Mashup. I'll probably convert this in time once that is straightened out.

And I know I am late, but Bryant's Monday, Dec 1st Mashup is :

Jon Krakauer�s Into Thin Air. It�s all about man versus nature, with themes of ecological awareness and man competing with man as side dishes. Great book, even if there�s controversy about what exactly happened up there.

Oh, this is too easy. Man versus nature, with themes of Ecology and competition?

System: GURPS.

Setting: Mars.

Instead of Mt. Everest, why not the biggest mountain in the Solar System, Olympus Mons. Add in a Mars in the process of terraforming a la the KSR Mars novels, and you can throw in Martian ecology issues into the mix as well.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:31 AM

Vernor Vinge and Amber?

Only noticed it today, but Claire has a great piece on using non fantasy cosmologies for fantasy worlds (ie Amber)

Its not unknown to me. Those who have read my SB cosmology have seen the influence of my science background.

Also, I was, back in Purgatory, playing around with some concepts of String Theory with FTF stuff I was doing with my then-girlfriend. Some of those ideas might wind up in a game of mine.

Sometimes, its the surplus of ideas, rather than the paucity, that causes me to wonder what I am going to run at things like ACUS.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:01 AM

December 10, 2003

Age and Relationships

Arref picks up on an old post of Ginger's about age and immortal characters.

Relative age is an important thing.

And the older people get, the smaller that overall difference, a dynamic which should play into immortal characters.

To give a RL example.

Suppose a 30 year old marries a 20 year old. At the time its a fairly large difference, percentage wise. The 30 year old has lived 150% of the lifetime of the younger of the pair.

If they stay married 50 years, at age 80, the younger is age 70, and the difference drops to 114%.

So, too, for immortals, except even more extreme.

IMC, Random is fairly young, and he had Martin at a young age. There are PCs older than Random in SB. (Although I definitely need to revise and change my timeline somewhat, there are lacunae).

But the point is, in 500 years, Random and Martin will practically be brothers, rather than father and son, as far as their relationship is concerned, since both of them will be relatively the same age.

So too, Benedict is incredibly old and respected, having lived at least a millenium more than the nearest royal to him in the family tree.

So the way people look at each other definitely changes over time-although some things will never change. On the one hand, Benedict is always going to be the Eldest (even if he technically isn't anymore...) On the other hand, the older of the cousins are treated a lot like young elders, and that trend will continue.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:38 AM

November 23, 2003

Scenario idea

Inspiration comes where you find it, and talking with Deb about (no surprise) GA has given me an idea for an Amber scenario...more of a "social" game than anything I've generally run

No title as yet.


It is fifty years after Patternfall. The realm is at peace, and life is good. Vialle and Random have a son, and, Martin wanting nothing to do with the throne, the son is now the heir to Amber. Not that Random and Vialle have any plans on retirement.

No, the sticky wicket comes on the anniversary of Random and Vialle's coronation, when their son brings home the woman he has been telling about for months, the woman he would, with their blessing, like to marry. Along with her mother, who has insisted on coming to Amber to meet her opposite numbers...

And since I made a mistake and told too much already to Deb (who cannot play now as a result if I do run it), that is ALL you get.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:02 PM

November 20, 2003

Rebma and Fire

Arref writes: on Rebma and Fire. And no, that's not a contradiction in terms.

IMC, there is definitely sorcerous fire, although I conflate the first and the second together. They are really manifestations of the same thing, different wavelengths on the spectrum of sorcerous energies. I don't have an equivalent to the Emerald Flame, however. Rebma's sea life and bounty come from its unusual nature when it was created ex nihilio, rather than anything that needs to be maintained.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:06 PM

November 6, 2003

Test Amber

Test Amber

Posted by Jvstin at 10:12 AM

October 30, 2003

The Crimson House

Both Arref and Ginger talk about where Men of Amber might find company for rent. (be it female or male).

A little bit of a digression, but its funny what winds up being emphasized, and what remains fallow in a game's background. When I created SB, I had a load of background on some things that players have never even thought of touching, especially in Amber city and its environs. On the other hand, I leaped at the chance to introduce a few PCs to a restaurant that I had designed called Gormens...since the PCs had asked a NPC (Noys) for a recommendation.

So things like the Ambassadorial residences, and the Merchant's Guild and the like have remained untouched, virginal in my game--so far, anyway. The trips to Amber City usually have been purposeful. The last character to just wander around was Antar, the Imbecile Chaosian.

And there are a couple of set-places that I wish someone would have thought or asked about, such as The Crimson House, my poor attempt at a play on words from the usual "Red light, etal".

The Crimson House is basically a House of Pleasure inside of Amber City. It's the only officially sanctioned one, actually, a holdover from the days of Oberon. He had sometimes contradictory notions of what was and was not proper, and having more than a single official place was anathema to him (although of course there are always the free-lancers). And during the Interregnum and Regency, other places did open, neither Eric nor Gerard really enforcing the law on this matter. And Random hasn't, either, but neither has he rescinded it officially.

So, the Crimson House, having the stamp of approval of the Royale Family, employs the best of the best.

It's ground floor has two major rooms, a large one for gentleman, and a smaller one for gentlewomen. There is an unspoken discretion here, the women's meeting room is considered a "meeting club". Men are not seen here at all. Assignations are done discreetly upstairs, be it with one of the men employed for that purpose, or if a woman should take a fancy to one of the hostesses.

The gentleman's side is a little more libertine, although there, too, there is a veneer and patina of respectability, as card games and other events are the "ostensible" reason for men to visit the establishment. And, indeed, there are many men who never go upstairs and have no overarching urge to do so.

Rebma, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish entirely. (pun intended)

The literary inspirations for the Crimson House are, by the by, the Aphrodesia House from Thieves World, and Lady Sally's from the Callahan books.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:40 PM

October 29, 2003

Arref's IMC Force

Arref has an interesting "IMC" post where talks about reconciling the very different Chaos' Zelazny shows us in the first and the second Amber series.

The comment thread is as enlightening as the post itself, and I want to branch off a comment Ginger made:

The other question is why, other than "Oops, I forgot to eliminate the annoying part of the canon!", anyone who didn't care for the second series would *want* to use it in a game at this late date.

Folks like Arref and Paul, who did "canon" games before SFSP was in their orbit of accepted Amber stances, are one thing. But most people who don't like second-series Chaos (or all-singing, all-dancing powers, or whatever) have moved on, and that's one of the worst sources of the problem--the remaining Chaos-oriented players and GMs have a worldview that's miles apart from most SFSPs

I want to talk about my use of the Second Series, in Strange Bedfellows.

It's gotten me into difficulties that I did not anticipate. And I think, although I could be wrong, that Second-series was mainly considered canonical and widely used back when I started SB. These days? Pure second-series canonical games seem an exception, not the rule.

And I admit that, even given the framework of Second Series Chaos, I've tried to make it work with additions, changes, and other modifications to the edifice.

Lessima. A system of Greater and Lesser Houses, complete with rules of succession. Reasons why the Logrus was not seen in the first series. The sociological makeup of various Houses.

And still, I think my Chaos comes off much more second-series than first. One of my regrets is the loss of the player of a PC who is half-SS and half-amberite, but is very much in the mold of a first series Chaosian in her "alien" viewpoint. And I'd love to have a real Lessiman in my game, too.

But, still, the next major game I run that involves Chaos...I am going to avoid the second series as much as possible. Take bits and pieces, but I am going to try and keep the Chaos in Chaos.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:23 AM

I don't want Condi in my RPGs

Apropos the recent threads on "sticky" PCs...

Well, the President's news conference has convinced me that I wouldn't want Condi Rice as a roleplayer in one of my games? Why?

As quoted by Calpundit, Kevin Drum:

THE PRESIDENT: ....her job is also to deal interagency and to help unstick things that may get stuck, is the best way to put it. She's an unsticker. And -- is she listening? Okay, well, she's doing a fine job.

Yes, its silly, I know. It's also silly we have a President that invents more words than Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes.

Update: I found a transcript of the News Conference online. And Liz is right, he dodges the question just before the "unsticker" comment:

Thank you, Mr. President. You recently put Condoleezza Rice, your National Security Advisor, in charge of the management of the administration's Iraq policy. What has effectively changed since she's been in charge? And the second question, can you promise a year from now that you will have reduced the number of troops in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: The second question is a trick question, so I won't answer it. The first question was Condoleezza Rice. Her job is to coordinate interagency. She's doing a fine job of coordinating interagency. She's doing -- the role of the National Security Advisor is to not only provide good advice to the President, which she does on a regular basis -- I value her judgment and her intelligence -- but her job is also to deal interagency and to help unstick things that may get stuck, is the best way to put it. She's an unsticker. And -- is she listening? Okay, well, she's doing a fine job.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:35 AM

October 22, 2003

It's an Amberite's World, We're just gaming in it

Arref talks about the Grand Affair, and his own fun at playing a non-royal Amberite.

I've a little experience with this, too...

Archard, from the Empire of the Gleaming Banner, was my charter Non-Amberite, Non-Chaosian PC.Scion of the Empire in shadow, Trump Artist, Dreamer, he is my pioneer in these waters.

He even visited Amber, sort of, for a few minutes. But that's a long story. He certainly interacted with Amberites, and his aunt and great aunt and uncle ARE Amberites, even if in a different cultural matrix altogether.

Laertes, from the Thy Kingdom Come world is my other (until GA) major non-royal PC. Although he is an odd bird, in that he somehow managed to walk the Pattern in Rebma. The implied reason he could, that he is a descendant of Lir and was carrying his Spear at the time, is not believed by at least one player in the game. I don't think Laertes' mother had an affair with an Amberite, personally.

At ACUS last year, I debuted a resident of Chris' Texorami, one Jonas Asherton. Alchemist with a passing resemblance to Doc Holliday, my participation in the game was cut short because of necessities of sleep and awakenings the next morning. I would gladly and eagerly play him again in subsequent incarnations of the game.

Of course that brings us to GA, and Iolaus Diotrephes. A definite outsider to Amber, from a shadow hitherto unvisited by its scions or other members of the Golden Circle, and vice versa. As Djinn put it, Iolaus has the tiger by the tail as he has journeyed alone from the shadow Achaea to Amber. And he has not developed entirely as I have anticipated. But that is part of the fun of an active, energetic character.

As Arref puts it, the folks in Ill Met in Amber deal with this on a regular basis and can vouch for the sense of story of playing someone of Amber, but not of the family.
The Babylon 5 episode "A view from the Gallery" (5th season) illustrates this, cinematically, by telling a story of an attack on the Station from two ordinary guys point of view. There is also a Star Trek Next Generation Episode which does the same thing, following a few of the lesser officers rather than the main characters.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:20 AM

October 21, 2003

Mysteries of Amber: Founding Amber

Arref has a Mystery of Amber/IMC about where the populace of Amber comes from. Or more specifically, the cagey and crafty Arref tells us where they did not come from. And so it is my turn...

I've talked about this a bit in my cosmology page. At least, I've addressed the origins of Amber and its Patterns.

But I've never really talked about the people, the hoi polloi, the populace of Amber and its environs. To do that, let me focus in on what the universe was like before the Pattern was created.

In those times (I call the Age of Chaos), The Courts were the single pole of the universe, the center of its array of shadows. To be precise, the Abyss itself was the actual geographical center, the ultimate milestone and reference point, even in its own bottomless. Shadow extended outward in all directions from the Courts. The Logrus and the Courts acted as the still center of it all, and also as the template all other shadow was based upon. As you can imagine, this made for a rather unstable set of shadows. And as one drew further from the Courts, the stability and integrity of the framework of shadow is less stable.

A little digression is in order. The framework of shadow can be thought of, in my mind anyway, as one of two metaphors. The biological metaphor is the actin filament-microtubule model. Undershadow acts as the frame on which shadows lie, arrange themselves, and relate to each other just as the components in a cell do. In this metaphor, the nucleus is the Courts of Chaos, and various cell organelles are primal and lesser shadows. However, with just Chaos as a center, the integrity of this framework becomes less effective as one goes further from the nucleus. Shadows become more random, there are gaps in reality, sudden islands in the sea of night.

The cosmological metaphor deals with dark matter. It seems, according to current theory, that there is a lot of matter in the universe that we just don't see. This dark matter does exert gravity, however, and it is this "weight" that allows things like spiral galaxies to form. Thus the Chaos universe has the Courts as the hot, bright center, with other shadows arrayed as one progresses outward from that center. And galaxies tend to lose some of their definition at their farthest edges.

Anyway, Dworkin and Oberon fled the Courts, be it nucleus of the cell or center of the galaxy, and found themselves a primal plane in the middle of nowhere, on the periphery of the universe.

It is there that they two created the Pattern.

Certainly there were shadows in the vicinity of the Pattern, shadows which predate even the Logrus. Primal shadows, primarily. When the Pattern was created, it not only created shadows and aligned them to itself as a pole, but it "edited" these pre-existing shadows.

The shadow around the Amber Pattern, what we call Amber today, was devoid of human inhabitants. Oh there were an Arden, its not the first forest for nothing. But there were no people. No retainers or followers.

Oberon and Dworkin used several methods to populate Amber. Immigration from the nearby shadows. Importing people from more distant shadows. Who would miss a small village, farming community or hamlet? Oberon and his father also experimented with other ideas, uplifting native animals and polymorphing them into a human form.

(The early scenes in Willey's A Sorcerer and a Gentleman capture this well, I think, the populating of new, virgin land by Prospero).

It wasn't until one of the attacks of Chaos upon Amber that Oberon was able to flip some of the Janissary troops of Chaos, and turn them to his side that he found a population to inhabit Rebma.

But, while I am not likely to do a game a la Bloody Grievance, the early history of Amber HAS played a part in its latter history, and has influenced SB. So I've definitely given it considered thought.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:15 AM

October 17, 2003

Corwin and Moire

Well, its not quite a Mystery, and not quite an IMC, but its a more general set of observations, inspired by Arref's Blog entry about Celina. (See Celina's page if you miss the inference)

Moire is on the "screen" only for a short time in the Amber series, in NPIA. And yet the liaison between Moire and Corwin seems to capture the imagination of players in a strong and defined manner.

People just can't resist a child of the two. GMs as well as players seem to enjoy having this singular encounter be fruitful indeed.

Even though Amberites "have not proven to be excessively fertile", it almost seems that every game I've been in or GMed has had a child of Moire and Corwin...

In SB, its Triton, recently picked up by a player again after a long fallow period as a NPC.

In Bridgette's AOR, the callow and young Corbin fills the role.

Even in my one-shots at cons, I've had characters submitted such as Thetis, for Dreams Made Flesh.

It's a popular "meme", to have a child of these two, male or female. I've not seen twins or the like, however. The closest to that would be Arref and Anne's Rebman Twins, daughters of LLewella.

But, now, in House of Cards, its Arref's young Celina who has recently learned that she is indeed of that union. As a lurker (and hopefully one day a player) in Ginger and Michael's Epic, I should have seen it coming before Arref's announcements but my difficulties in getting and reading email meant that I didn't see a lot of HOC turns until recently, a backlog of reading material to enjoy. Still, in any event, I will be eager to see what Arref (and the Gms) do with this.

So even if its not "realistic", I still think its even odds that my next crop of games at ACUS will include a "Corwin and Moire parent" PC. There is an appeal there, the merging of two realms, the dichotomy between two very strong willed individuals as parents. The best C+M Pcs make use of this, explore it, integrate it into their personalities. Gender issues, notions of cross-breeding, and other ideas can come into play. The fact that Celina's origins were masked is a rich theme that I know Arref will play as strongly and surely as a jazz musician.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:13 PM

October 14, 2003

Co-Gming in RPGs

It's seems to have taken the status of a topic of its own, even though it grew out of the serial campaign seed. Ginger, and Jim continue the meme.

It occurs to me that it might be fairer to rate a co-Gmed game by looking at the participants and the GM's perceptions of what happened. Jim makes a good point that games that some might think were great, really did not hold water in other ways. My co-Gmed games at ACUS are, alas, no exception to this rule. Still, although I am not actively looking to do a co-Gm game at a future con, I wouldn't mind doing it with the right person.

I really don't have much to add to Ginger and Jim's suggestions except the obvious one: Have fun. If the game is not fun for the two GMs working together, then it shouldn't happen. I think it goes to the whole trust and worldview and mindset (to a degree) issue.

I think that GMs who have large degrees of overlap probably do better co-Gming than GMs who cover a larger "area", but do not have much in common. For example, a GM who is strictly a character purist, and another who builds powers and doesn't do character well probably would be a poor choice for a co-Gming team. Although they cover more bases, and no matter how well they get along, they don't have enough intersection to handle some of the other person's bailiwick--and that can be a problem if a GM has to leave, or both GMs are needed on one particular aspect of the game.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:37 PM

October 13, 2003

An Amber Dream

I don't often dream about Amber, my dreams are far too broad in scope and theme to ever narrow down to my RPG characters. But I did so last night...

I'm not sure which of my RPG characters I was supposed to be. I would guess Lorius from the context of the dream as you will see, but I was not in a Lorius sort of mindset. Maybe this is a new PC, waiting to be born.

Anyway, I was definitely Fiona's son. I discovered someone was messing with some of my sorcerous wards and creations, and I tracked down and met, on a shadow like Earth, a redheaded woman. (Think Cate Blanchett-type). This woman claimed that she was my grandmother, Clarissa. I apparently had as this PC never known her, although I knew of her. Clarissa urged me to be discreet about the encounter "Especially in regard to your mother".

I had the feeling my PC was going to get wrapped up in a scheme of hers, but the dream ended before it could go any further.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:44 PM

October 10, 2003

Leigh's Trump at Deb's site.

Deb plays Leigh, of House Helgram, in Strange Bedfellows. She recently found an excellent picture of Laura Prepon, the actress who would play her in a casting call. What's more, sher was even wearing the colors of House Helgram.

Naturally, Deb made a trump of the picture. Go take a look.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:57 PM

Stickiness, Serials and Such

ITSOG has been a hotbed and a springboard for discussions on stickiness, serial games, multiple GMs and the like. Ginger picked up the thread too, and has made a variant of it the Game WISH for the week. And apparently some of the posters are taking it to email, too.

Good stuff always at Arref's. Go over there and read it. I'm not a big factor in this discussion, because, well frankly I have far less experience with this sort of thing than Arref, or Sol, and company. After all as I mentioned on my own minor post on the topic, I only stumbled sort of into running a serial game by accident.

I know when to shut up and listen. :grin:

Posted by Jvstin at 12:58 PM

October 7, 2003

Serial Campaigns

Arref has a great post on Serial Amber games...trying to meld the richness of campaigns, and yet be flexible enough for both players and GMs that the same players are not strictly necessary.

Go and read the comments, before my own modest additions here.

I never intended to do it, but in a sense my Ad Amber games (ACUS 2002: Ad Amber per Astra, ACUS 2003: Ad Amber per Astra II) have turned into a serial campaign of the sort that Sol has done oh so well.

AAPA was intended as a one shot, the classic "PCs in a bottle" sort of a game. Oh, I am not sure I intended it at the time, but my own design made it clear that the world had much more to offer.

Thus, AAPA II was born in my head. Since I had a fair number of people who did NOT return, by definition this game became serial with the addition of other Amberites who had not gotten themselves caught in Finndo's trap. And because of time concerns (and having way too much plot planned for the slot), there must needs be a third game in the series, to wrap up matters with Osric.

(And I need to update the AAPA II website with a summary of events, too, I now realize). But I am more than willing to have people from AAPA I, II, and even a couple of new PCs in the third incarnation.

And creating purposefully a serial game sounds like a intriguing idea. Maybe not this year (unless I do one less one-shot) but perhaps subsequent years. We shall see.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:29 PM

Monday Mashup: I am Legend

Bryant's Mashup this week is the Richard Matheson classic I AM LEGEND.

Zombies/Vampires, the Last Man on Earth..its a powerful story, filmed a couple of times (perhaps most memorably as THE OMEGA MAN, with Charlton Heston). In a sense, the recent movie 28 Days takes this theme as well...a few humans in a midst of monsters...with a lot of ambiguity in dealing with the infected.

Amber would be perfect for this...but its' already been snatched up twice, by Nuadha and Ginger.

Ah well. I promised when I started doing these Mashups that I would try not to make Amber out of all of them, and so here goes.

Game system: d20 D&D with heavy use of Manual of the Planes and perhaps also inspired by Ghostwalk.

The plot: The PC's party winds up trapped on the Plane of Shadow. As advertised in the MOP book, it is a shadowy, dark place that things like Undead can feel very comfortable upon. But with a twist, I am using a less malevolent form of Undead, dropping the idea of alignments a la Monte Cook.

The PCs were transported into in a large city, let's call it Brandenburg. Brandenburg is an old city, ruled by a council of Vampires and other higher undead. Its starkly beautiful, strong evocations to the cities of the dead of New Orleans would be the visuals I would push for this place. Or the City of the Dead in McAuley's CHILD OF THE RIVER (of the Confluence Trilogy)

The kicker is...this city and all of its inhabitants are under siege.

The PCs are at ground zero, because an army of fanatical anti-undead humans are at the gates of this city, visitors from an alternate (to the PCs) Prime Material Plane...but still recognizably human. Said humans are determined to wipe out any and all undead, and have brought the battle to Brandenburg.

Naturally, the PCs are caught in the middle. The true monsters here are their own kind, not the undead which populates this necropolis-like city that they are trapped within. Can they learn to trust the Undead (and vice versa!) to keep them all alive against this powerful army of "good" paladins and clerics and other ostensibly heroic characters?
I think its an intriguing story, anyway.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:58 AM

October 3, 2003

A Grand Button

Arref has created an animated gif button for A Grand Affair.

I will cheerfully admit to having provided some tips to Arref when he was getting started on HTML and CSS...but graphics, now, he has always been far far better than I, and it shows.

I need to grab this when I get home.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:53 AM

September 30, 2003

IMC: Dragons

In my Campaign: Dragon

Arref talks about Dragons and Amber, a topic that I, too have touched upon in Strange Bedfellows...

I've mentioned Dragons in my game before, last year in fact. Thanks to the import of my old Blog entries, you can look it up here on this blog.

Anyway, I mentioned then that there are, in the SB version of the universe, shadow Dragons, and True Dragons. Shadow Dragons are the more mundane version of the same, limited to one shadow, although ferocious enough in their own sphere.

True Dragons are creatures of Power. In most cases they predate the formation of the Pattern, if not the Logrus as well. In fact, along with some colonies of Faerie, they are the oldest continually existing cultures in the Amber multiverse.

Dragons in a sense are expressions of primal power. In a few cases, the Dragons themselves could be considered full manifestations of these energies, archetypes, and concepts. The highest of the True Dragons, certainly, can be considered as such.

Although not gregarious, the True Dragons IMC are strongly aware of social boundaries and hierarchies. Most of the True Dragons are organized into affiliations called "Courts", headed by the most powerful Dragon of its type. Singletons, rogues and outcasts can be especially dangerous to the unwary, if they have no code of conduct of their peers from which to compare themselves. Such a Dragon in backstory, for instance, strongly affected the development of the shadow from which Sand and Delwin hail. However, at least as far as True Dragons are concerned, most are not so arbitrary, although dangerous enough.

As far as their role in the game, the aforementioned Dragon in Coriliaine played a significant backstory role in the development of Jayson. As far as in game time, well, there IS a Dragon, a True Dragon about. To reveal more would give away too many secrets.

The GM has to have some surprises. :grin:

As an additional note, it sounds like that in a couple of cases, some True Dragons might be represented by Nobilis than Amber statistics. And I've toyed with the idea, too, although I've not heard of anyone mixing Nobilis and Amber stated personages in the same game.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:59 AM

September 26, 2003

Corwin's Pattern

Chris has finished part four of his series on Corwin's Pattern

I promised in a comment there that I would discuss, here, the whole "blood versus no blood" thing...the fact that Corwin did not use Blood in his inscribing of his Pattern, and what that means...

UPDATED to reflect Chris' comment that there will be more on Corwin's Pattern. Cool beans!

Well, to get something out of the way first, I do, in SB and most of the games that I run, consider the Merlin books canonical. Yes that means "singing and dancing Powers" but its not a deal-breaker. There is at least one player in SB who has not read past Trumps of Doom, and does just fine. On the other hand, a couple of players have dealt with the Powers, in various guises and mechanisms.

Let's look at the evidence.

Dworkin used Blood in his creation.
Lightning, Blood and Lyre as Chris helpfully remembers for us.

As a result, people of his bloodline, and only his bloodline, walk the Pattern and live. Consider LLewella's( or is it Flora?) reaction when she finds out from Merlin that Coral has walked the Pattern. Or even more poignant, the fact that Dara's walk clinches her bloodline in the eyes of Corwin and the Amberites, and of course Moire's attempts to have a Rebman walk the Pattern in Rebma.

Corwin didn't use blood.
I never thought of what trio Corwin used...but myth and metaphysics is something Arref is far better than I in. I like his trio of Blossoms, Wings and Wood for his CP (Corwin Pattern)

But no blood.

The result? Fiona claims CP won't let her walk it...but it is receptive to Merlin. And a couple of Patternghosts. So clearly the Pattern has choice in this case, choice that it exercises for its will.

Now here comes my own speculation.

Dworkin used Blood specifically for a binding agent. Dworkin had an idea that, using three spikards (in my cosmology) and the JOJ might lead to a icon of power which could be...difficult. So he bound it to himself, and his line, by using Blood. Of course Dworkin didn't foresee that the same Blood would be used against the Pattern one day.

Corwin did not use Blood...and as a result, the CP has a freedom of choice. It can choose to admit anyone that it likes on the design, according to its own will. In theory, anyone with the Endurance who is admitted by the CP can walk it. Thus we see the Patternghosts hanging about it, and Merlin is allowed the chance to walk...but the CP denies Fiona. Can you blame it?

A couple of things flow from this and each other.

A wild speculation not true in SB, but worth thinking about: What happened when Oberon fixed/rewrote the Pattern at the end of Courts of Chaos. He didn't use blood...perhaps the Pattern has lost that restriction on itself. Although, however, if you go on to the Merlin books, blood is used as a threat against it, successfully. Perhaps the Pattern is not willing to risk such a test itself, yet. Now that would be an idea for a game...starting it off with someone who clearly should die on the Pattern walking it, and surviving.

On the other hand in SB, Moire has been working toward a goal of taking the Rebman Pattern under her own aegis, thinking along these lines and the Sapphire of Justice. Can you walk a Pattern with one of the Jewels, even if you don't have the blood. (or do you? What IS Moire's ancestry anyway?). And if you do rewrite the Rebman Pattern...what happens next?

Perhaps, then, CP is actually in a sense better than the Amber Pattern, at least from its own point of view. It can choose its scions in a way Amber's cannot. It certainly needs *some* advantage if its going to survive, deep within Chaosian territory, and with a rival Pattern to boot.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:01 AM

September 25, 2003

Sticky characters

The topic du jour, thanks to Arref and Ginger, is "sticky characterss". These are not PCs who eat sticky rice, nor are they candy fiends...

These are characters, mainly but not necessarily PCs, who reach out and touch other characters by their design. As Arref defines it:
"Sticky: how much does the PC really touch and affect other PCs? Just by being themselves?

So let's think about this in the context of Strange Bedfellows. Sure, its a sprawling game with a large cast and a wide location net for those characters, from Amber, through shadow, all the way to the Courts.

And yet, its not a dozen and a half single plots, either. So who is sticky in SB? Some examples...

Lorius (NPC). By design, he is sticky and he loves it. Arrogant sorcerer son of Fiona, he doesn't have all of the cards, but he's certainly useful in a lot of situations, and he does bring elements together. He colorfully accented the "First Library Scene" early in the game, helped examine the first stable Door, helped lead the team at the Fount which stymied Brand, delved into the Logrus with Jayson, and now is arriving at "The Second Library Scene". Characters are usually exasperated with him, but he's an absolute blast. I also think he is the character with the record of meeting most of the other characters. Captain Hook all the way.

Krysta (PC): Not so much by Dawn's intent and design, her character has been in the middle of a bunch of plots, herself. The buisness with Roland, she was present at the Door scene, and otherwise has been quietly meeting and interacting with a panoply of characters and settings within Amber itself. Not intentionally, she's a Daphne sort of character, to use the Scooby system mentioned on Ginger's entry.

I think Arref might dispute this in modesty, but Bhangbadea (PC) is sticky too. People seem to bond to her, and vice versa, be it NPC (eg. Hadrian), PC (eg. Dagny) and then there is always Bishop. A calming influence on the sometimes contentious "Second Library Scene", Bhangbadea has had a wide range of contact across the game, too.

Finally, there is Triton. A PC, turned NPC, but recently picked up as a PC again, Triton's story is a convoluted and long one. The player who decided to take up the mantle of the character spent weeks looking through a large sheaf of stuff...and a tangle of plots, consequences and plans. Now that he is a PC again, I expect him to renew his place as a vortex...even if he doesn't try to steal Moire's jewel again or try and kill more guards.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:04 AM

September 23, 2003


The Labyrinth Company

Jim and I were talking this evening about Labyrinths and Zelazny's inspiration to use such a device in his work. A bit of googling turned up some interesting designs and displays of same, such as the link above. Karen was the one who got the ball rolling on Jim, and he and began batting back and forth on the subject. So they definitely get credit for topic inspiration.

Chartres, though, seems to be the classic, archetypal labyrinth in Western societies (a lot of Native Americans also used similar designs). I don't know what it IS about walking a Labyrinth, but there is something to it, even if its as mundane as autohypnosis.

I've walked a Labyrinth in my time--they had one near Trinity Church in Manhattan for a while. Nicole, Matt and I took great pleasure from this fact, even if it was only a mat with the design rather than something permanent.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:36 PM

September 18, 2003

IMC: Benedict's Fight with Corwin

Arref has a IMC on Benedict's fight with Corwin. You know the one, where Benedict gets tangled with the Black Road grass and thus loses.

Benedict. The soi disant best warrior in Amber, if not Shadow.

While I am not liable to go quite as far as my friend and partner on Benedict's motivations, my own take is that Benedict was not fighting with his full capacities.


Well, Arref points out that Corwin has threatened, killed something under his protection. Even the rat-bastard Corwin from before the books is not stupid enough to try it. So why would Corwin do such a thing?

I think Benedict, in turn, became wary of his brother. And thus he did not fight with his full strength. It's not that he was trying to lose per se, more of a sense that he should not show his own hand. Judging the mettle of Corwin, possibly even concerned about Identity issues. Recall that Benedict has already dealt with minions of Chaos at this point.

So Benedict is cagey. Plus, to give due credit to Corwin, Corwin has learned a trick or two on Earth, and then there is that grass. Thus, Benedict loses the battle, but in the end, gains Intel on Corwin's return. And thus wins the war, even if the battle was lost in getting there.

I trust the very competent Benedict knows what is more important.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:21 AM

September 17, 2003

Gm Referral Database Review

I just came across this today, a review of my GMing on the Shadows of Amber Bulletin Board. Honestly, I never thought to even look before now. The whole award thing got me thinking along those lines, though.

I am flattered by the mostly positive nature of the review, although by a process of elimination I can think of only two people who would have written it. But the point about my achilles heel...is true, damn true.

But as I've said earlier today in multiple locations, I have no illusions about the level of my GMing, or anything else I do, Amber or otherwise.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:51 PM

Shadowstorm Award

No, not for me (that would be absolutely silly, and unlikely at best. Heck, I don't even get nominated for such things, much less win. There are far more deserving souls).

But an Amber site in Germany has given, rightly so, kudos to Arref (for In the Shadow of Greatness AND Nine Ladies Dancing), The team of Ginger and Michael (for House of Cards) and the Shadow of Amber bulletin board.

Congradulations to all.

(Update: AS rightly pointed out to me, Ginger is not a one-woman band, and HOC (and daresay, GA) would not be what it is without her partner and husband, Michael. Sorry for leaving you off the first time, Michael.)

Posted by Jvstin at 1:37 PM

September 15, 2003

IMC: Dara's Descent

All the Marks of Humanity
Dara was the first of her line to bear all the marks of humanity. Given that her grandmother (or mother, depending on what theory you subscribe to) was the child of Benedict and Lintra, that starts the line at half Chaosian and half Amberite. In order to filter out the Chaosian blood and bring forth a shapeshifter capable of bearing a human form as a natural form, that implies not introducing more Chaosian blood to the mix. Given that it was a breeding project, I wouldn't expect them to dilute the power of her blood with shadow genes. Which makes one wonder... who the hell was Dara's father?

Arref, Deb and Ginger each have their views on this, so I suppose its time for mine own, too...

Dara's phrase is "first of her line to bear all the marks of humanity." It is parsing this sentence that helps to delve into the origins of Dara.

A digression first, however, is in order, since i need to mention the origin of the Chaosians. Quoting from my cosmology page:

One branch of the Sidhe in the Amber Multiverse, in the meantime, had broken from their kin. Embracing the art of changing form to a degree rarely seen, they decided to settle in the most dangerous place imaginable. Like a hole punched into the shadows lay a crack in the very nature of space...a gap to the Void between Multiverses.

This group of Sidhe that broke away from their kin decided to make the area around this gap to the void their home. Were they fleeing from their kin for some reason? Perhaps their experimentation with Shapeshifting cast them out, and so they decided to go to the one place where it was necessary, rather than an abomination. Or, perhaps, they were lured there, somehow, to settle and create what would later become the Courts. In any event, the name of these Sidhe who left their kind to settle in this most inhospitable land has a name familiar to some.
They were known as the Thari.

So, a human-like form is in the ancestry of every Chaosian, since the Chaosians themselves once had forms which are somewhat close to the human. They never lost this form, even if it is not always emphasized in the Courts.

Thus, Dara's comment about the first of her line to fully bear the marks of humanity is not so much a breeding project so much as it is genetic engineering and shapeshifting training, over two generations. Dara was the culmination of unlocking and enhancing a potential every Chaosian has and exercised anyway--but making it dominant, whereas only some Chaosians did so beforehand. (The no longer existing House Barimen did this, for example).

Before Dara, by and large, most Chaosians did not prefer their human form, or use it overmuch. In Dara, the fully human form is dominant, her primary form, and that achievement was what led to her being placed in Corwin's path, to produce a Chaosian who might sit on the Throne of Amber--Merlin.

Human forms in Chaos are more common nowadays but in a real sense Dara was a pioneer.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:03 AM

September 14, 2003

The origin of Darrheabarr

in the Shadow of Greatness: Dariabar !

I've always wondered where the name Darrheabarr came from, whether Arref invented it out of whole cloth or borrowed it.

He's revealed it in reference to Dariabar, and the old Douglas Fairbanks Sinbad movie, since there is apparently a jewelry site named for it as well.

I wonder if Dariabar was in the recent Sinbad movie--the animated one recently in theaters.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:29 PM

September 12, 2003

GURPS Planet of Adventure

GURPS Planet of Adventure

It seems that this is at the printer and will soon be available.

And the guy who did this has done some of the better (in my opinion) GURPS books--Krishna, Falkenstein, one of the Alternate Earths, as well as other stuff.

The Planet of Adventure novels were some of the first SF novels that I read, borrowing copies from my brother. Tschai is a complex, varied, and typically Vancian place.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:06 PM

Chaos: Alternate Inspirations

Great stuff from both Arref and from Chris Kindred on Alternate Chaos set-ups. (a sequel to the Nine Princes... idea a little while back)

Chaos is decidedly on a larger scale than Amber itself. Lots of Houses, royal, major and minor. In the novels we see evidence and infer references to lots of species and creatures, from shroudlings to vampires to demons to Lords of the Rim.

Chaos meets Dragaera.

Seventeen major houses, fey like Chaosians, different specialties for every House, a great-cycle of succession between Houses. Probably a lot of Chaos interpretations out there borrow from Brust, explicitly or subconsciously anyhow. But play up how they aren't quite human, with alien senses of honor and authority.

Having an Issola visit Amber and have to deal with a new set of customs and manners...mmmm, I like that idea as a PC.

King of Kings

Go Sumerian/Babylonian with Chaos. "King of Kings". Multiple wives and concubines and enunchs scheming in the royal court. Satrapy governors itching for power. Hippogriff and Griffin motifs as steeds. Wide-flung Empire, with lots of nations (types of creatures?) being held together by the central government. To say nothing of using the mythos...Tiamat, Ishtar...is Gilgamesh perhaps a Hendrake?

You could go a little later in history and make it more Persian in flavor and tone...which would cast the Chaos Emperor as Xerxes and Amber with its Golden Circle as the Greek City States. Or if you wanted a more peaceful game, throw a over-their-heads Amber delegation into this beautiful and complex culture.

The Taj Mahal of Chaos
Chaos, Mughal Empire style. You could go either with the high culture and toleration under Akbar, with courtly culture and hauntingly beautiful artwork. A model of civilization that would likely put the drabby Amber to shame.

If you went with the later history under Aurangzeb, on the other hand, it would be a far less tolerant state, where the faith of the Serpent was to be enforced and spread by any means necessary. (replacing Islam in real history with worship of the Serpent).

Posted by Jvstin at 9:30 AM

September 10, 2003

A facet of Iolaus

Well, the Grand Affair has started, and an interesting facet of him has popped out. I know where I got inspired to do it, too, but when Iolaus opened his mouth to speak for the first time in game, he did so in blank verse dactylic hexameter.

When I read "The Big Time", by Fritz Leiber, I remember a character from ancient Crete who had a tendency to do this as well, especially in formal situations. Iolaus has adopted that tendency.

Here, let me share:

"Iolaus Diotrephes is how I am called, pleased to meet you all." His
voice has a cadence and a rhythm much alike an epic poem.

He grimaces.
"I have much regret to say, Proper Speech is harder in Thari." He then
loses the strained expression as a thought comes to him.

"Syracuse is my home. Polis, Island, world unknown. From whence my seed sown."

Posted by Jvstin at 1:29 PM

September 9, 2003

Nine Princes in ...

Chris Kindred has a great post on Historical Settings for Alternate Amber games, and I thought I would expand from my comment on same, to here.

This is a topic near and dear to me, although I've not had the guts yet to run an Alternate History Amber. I'm not a history major, although I think I have a fairly good grounding in it for someone who isn't such, and knowing what details to emphasize or diminish can be important.

I refer you to Chris' post for his own ideas, here I am going to mention a few of mind which are percolating in various stages.

Nine Princes in Byzantium

Byzantium meets Amber, heavily influenced by Turtledove and Norwich. Chris rightly points out the drawbacks of having cannon in an Amber setting...you could set this Byzantium at any number of stages in its history. Personally, I like a three-sided conflict, between Byzantium, a Persian Power perhaps based on sorcery and Trump, and the "Courts of Chaos" of the setting, the "Caliphate of Chaos".

Nine Princes in Byzantium
The Guns of Anatolia
Sigil of the Unicorn
The Heresiarch of Oberon
The Caliphate of Chaos

Nine Princes in Memphis
Amber in Ancient Egypt. The Pharaoh and the Royal Family of Egypt were seen as emissaries of the Gods (and the Pharaoh a God himself). Princes and Princesses of Amber in such a setting would flourish in such an environment. Lots of dynastic quarrels are tailor made for throne-war like affairs, and despite the deserts, there are plenty of enemies to fight, intrigue and foreign adventures, and if you wanted to set it in a later era, the Amberites might even dare to delve into the secrets of their older and now dead brothers and sisters. (Tomb Robbing, Amber style!).
And most important is the River. The River Nile is the lifeblood Egypt and is an obvious highway into Shadow, and control of it therefore paramount.

Nine Princes in Memphis
The Guns of Alexandria
The Sign of the Serpent
The Hand of Osiris
The Courts of Babylon

Nine Princes in Carthage

This idea would be a good counterpoint to Chris' proposal of "Rise and Fall of the Amberian Empire". Rome's old enemy Carthage would be the Amber in this case, perhaps the depiction thereof influenced and seasoned by Mary Gentle's "Ash" novels. And it would give the GM some liberty, since we don't know as much about ancient Carthage as we might, thanks to the Romans both destroying their civilization, and heavy use of propaganda. After all, for example, the Romans did perform human sacrifice at that point in their history, just as the Carthaginians did. Rome just wrote most of the history on the matter.

One could make a really different Amber using Carthage as its basis--and have it in fact be weaker than its Roman counterpart. Throw in other Mediterrannean powers as trans-shadow forces (eg. Macedon, Egypt, Parthia) and this could be a lot of fun. Hardly the hegemony that Amber usually enjoys in set-ups.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:38 AM

Djinn in the Green

I've known for some time, but now I give especial mention to Djinn, and the fact that she, too, has moved her Blog work to a hopefully more stable environment. Of especial interest to readers here will be The Glimmering Green, her gaming page. She also has a home blog page, and even, as mentioned and linked on the recent WISH, a blog for her Strange Bedfellows character, Beastie.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:20 AM

September 7, 2003

In the Shadow of Greatness

Has moved to a new location with a spiffy Movable Type Installation. It's the same gaming goodness, though. Update your bookmarks and blogroll, and add him to your newsfeeds.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:17 AM

September 4, 2003

IMC: Shadow Paths

I've been thinking about these as late, as I did make peculiarities of their nature a plot point when it comes to Iolaus' Syracuse. in A Grand Affair.

What is a shadowpath?

A shadowpath is an inter-shadow conduit that connects two worlds.

How do shadowpaths originate?

There are several ways they originate. The most common, ironically, is that they are made. Paths require the use of a High Power, or High Sorcery to form something permanent. The best known examples are the shadowpaths laid down by Oberon and his line around the Golden Circle.

Paths can also form naturally, following the topology of the metaverse. Shadows can be in the right alignment so that a pathway can form and be maintained between them. These are relatively rare and are usually short.

Paths can also form as a result of cataclysmic events. Conduits and paths can be created as a side effect of strong magical or technological events. The wave that spread through shadow after the rewriting of the Pattern, or in SB's timeline, the Shockwave are events which no doubt changed, altered, destroyed and created new paths in its wake.

How do they work? What do they look like and what is the experience of traversing one like?

Shadow Paths are subtle things. In the oceans of the Golden Circle, for example, a captain often has little more than a current and their own foreknowledge to judge where the path lies in the trackless sea. In some convenient cases, the path's route lies between two islands, through a strait, or some other coastal feature that makes it easier to locate.

On land, paths are usually right on a road or path itself. There is usually a marker that designates the border or the alignment of the path through which the travelers must travel.

The key thing to a shadow path, however, is intent. The traveller must usually *want* to use the path to go from one world to another. This is absolutely essential where there are no clear borders to the shadow. Shadows which only consist of a finite area and the shadow pathways are at those borders have routes which don't need such intent.

This is why ecologies are not usually devastated by the creation of a shadow path. Not a lot of the local fauna from either side is going to migrate through the path and onto the new world. Now, a more destructive power, like the Labyrinth in Strange Bedfellows is ecologically devastating since the "rips" in shadow it creates are readily useable without the concept of "intent".

In any case, the experience of travelling a path is rather anticlimating. In a short series of footsteps (or whatever vehicle she uses), the traveller goes from one world, to another. The law of similarity makes it likely that two shadows connected by shadow paths are going to be similar--or similar at the point of contact.

How can my character create a path between two worlds? How are they maintained?

Pattern, Logrus and High Sorcery are the most well-known ways, as mentioned above, of creating a path. This is a time consuming and arduous process, however. It is not as simple as shadowwalking or casting a single spell to create the initial path. It takes effort, concentration and diligence to push the fabric of two shadows together so that a path runs between them.

Even a full Basic Pattern initiate can do this, although those with Advanced Pattern can do it far more readily and with much faster results. Since it is not as attuned to this sort of manipulation, a Logrus scion needs the advanced power Manipulate Shadow in order to achieve shadow path creation. The Black Road is another matter entirely, too. High Sorcery usually requires a long spell-casting, or even better, a metaconcert of several sorceresses casting in unison. This is the schemata I envision occured in Syrcause, in A Grand Affair, to allow Iolaus access to the outside world.

Now, once a path is made, the best way to maintain the path is to use it. The more use, or well-trod, a Shadow Path becomes, the more stable it will become. Thus, if the canny Syracusians continue to exploit their new path, it will become more and more stable and part of the Golden Circle network.

How can Shadow Paths be blocked or destroyed?

It's much easier to block a Path than to destroy it. Destroying a Path utterly takes time and effort equivalent to the creation of one. Much more practical is to block one end of a shadow Path. In that way, the Path does not go anywhere and is thus rendered unusable. Sand and Delwin in A Grand Affair did this...as did Sand and Delwin in Strange Bedfellows. As Sand and Delwin found out in A Grand Affair, this sort of blockage can be undone as well, by events natural and unnatural alike.

High Sorcery is defined as Sorcery beyond the standard 15 point power. Examples in my own canon include Eso-Elemental Sorcery, Runic Sorcery, Pattern(or Logrus) based Sorcery, or Unity Sorcery. See my ADRPG Sorcery page for more details.

Posted by Jvstin at 4:29 PM

Female PCs and SB

Both Ginger and Jenn in one of the comments to the entry about IMC Romances, noticed that SB has a high proportion of female characters...

It's true, and always *has been* true for the life of Strange Bedfellows.

The main reason why is a preponderance of female versus male players. I started off with more female players than average in an Amber (or any other) role playing game. Also, I have a fair number of male players crossdressing as female PCs. Ably, too, I might add. (Brandeigh, Toireasa(although she was originally the PC of a female player that a male player took over), Bhangbadea, Destiny, Rhionde).

Grrl power is alive and well in my universe. In fact, thinking about it, most of my lasting additions to the game have been female players and their female characters.

It is peculiar, but it IS part of what makes SB what it is. Oh, and Jenn...remember that Astin is part feline. Beastie might just be up his alley, if they ever should meet. :grin:

Posted by Jvstin at 10:28 AM

September 3, 2003

IMC: PC Romances

Ginger offers up her own IMC this time around, talking about PC Romances in House of Cards

With the usual caveat of possible spoilers, and even though the temporal time frame of Strange Bedfellows is short, game wise, there are and have been such relationships in my own game...

Perhaps as consequence of not fleshing out NPCs as well as I might, most of the liaisons and potential matchings have been inter-family. Of course, a Chaos-Amber summit might help alleviate that sort of pressure...


Quite happy at present with Carl. A relationship centuries in the making, too...

She has apparently won the "Valerian" sweepstakes in the rather messy to-do with the other ladies interested in him. She's also now carrying his child.

Well, as part feline he certainly is a flirt, and he did win the first "fade to black scene" award for the game, but he has no main target at the moment. But the night is still young.


Umm, are you kidding? :grin: Right now, anyway.

Nothing in "game time", too new to Amber to really find a bond with anyone.

Had an established pre-game interest in Percy, and by gum, got him. The feelings turned out to be mutual. Possibly an early candidate for "Will Random allow cousins to marry?" plot.

Julian's daughter is not so much well-chaperoned as the fact that her father's reputation puts off a lot of possibilities.

Part of the aforementioned "Valerian Sweepstakes", pressing her claim on knowing him since childhood and angry she didn't capture his heart. She just recently got angry at an NPC denigrating him, too. Love and Hate are awfully close.

Nope, he's stayed clear of the ladies, although he'll eventually get to Amber.


After spending much of the early game with a lot of female interests, ranging from one his Mother Sand set up years in advance with Dulcinea, to Cyllene with whom Jayson had a fling, to flirting with Asteria, Jayson is not currently seeing or pursuing anyone. Currently.

No fish are willing to bite on this one. And she's not really apparently interested in anyone, except maybe Rylan.

She's been flirted with by a fellow Helgram, but that's it so far.

Way too new to the game to garner any real male attention. Yet.

Part of the "Valerian Sweepstakes" although she apparently has drawn interest from another quarter entirely, even if she hasn't really met him yet. Long distance relationship, SB style...

In perhaps the best coup of the game, romantically, she has the ardent interest of the Emperor of Chaos.

Flora's son is back in town. Lock up your daughters now.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:40 PM

August 31, 2003

A Grand Affair pages

A Grand Affair

Among other fun things this labor day weekend, I've worked on my A Grand Affair pages, and now have pages up for Delwin, Syene (the home of Sand and Delwin), Iolaus, and his home city and shadow of Syracuse/Achaea.

Take a look :)

Posted by Jvstin at 7:58 PM

August 29, 2003

Time Travel Fun

Over at Crooked Timber, one of the contributors, Brian, is apparently going to be teaching a course at Brown this coming semester on...Time Travel. He warms up any prospective students by taking on the Back to the Future Trilogy...

Modifications to my obvious misremembering of the article's argument and conversations in BTTF itself are italicized in the text. Thanks to Blacksheep for pointing some of them out. Of course his theory about merging Martys stands on its own irregardless of my goofs. Thanks!

Being a fan of time travel books and movies, I like the first two of the three BTTF movies. Number three, in my opinion, was really just "let's put Marty, Doc and Biff in the Wild West". But the first two movies are eminently watchable, and as Brian points out, as you watch them, the paradoxes don't really enter into your mind. It's only later that you begin to wonder about the logical gaps.

I recall, years ago, there were a couple of articles in a magazine , of which I can't even remember the title, that dissected the two movies in terms of the time travel anomalies.

My recollection of the article is hazy, but the author did, by necessity, take a few liberties to explain away the inconsistencies that Brian outlines in his own thesis. I'll just stick to the first movie, the second one is even more convoluted.

The basic thrust is a many-timeline universe with some modifications. Concentrating on the first movie, Marty starts in 1985, and goes back to 1955. He changes history (by getting hit by the car himself) so that, if things go on, he will not exist.

And thus, Marty begins to "fade" as we see in the course of the movie. Once his existence is assured, he returns to normality. And since he, in 1955, moved past the branching point, when he goes back to the future...he goes to his new future, in 1985.

So where IS the Marty that should be here? That long ago article suggests he went back to the past and by turns wound up on the other timeline.


The author did some handwaving to suggest that he went back to the future *before* Marty interferes with the timeline that creates the better future. He cites that Marty II probably drives better than Marty I given the fact that he owns a car of his own, and thus does not crash the car, and likely manages to turn around and get back to the present. However, when Marty II moves forward in time, he slides up into Marty I's future...because his future does not exist "yet", in 1955.

Talk about Dystopia! Doc is dead, and unless he handles the plutonium himself to reload the car, he's stuck there with his less-successful parents and life.

All of this talk about Time Travel and the conservation of stuff reminds me of the role playing game Continuum, which I would like to run someday. It does neatly handle a lot of time travel paradoxes without invoking Multiple Worlds. (In point of fact, the antagonists of the game seem to be trying to create such an environment by their attempts to change history). The unpublished companion game, Narcissist, seems to have been designed to show the side of the bad guys.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:25 AM

August 28, 2003

Dave's xml D&D template idea

Over on a relatively new gaming blog called The Core Worlds, Dave has come up with an idea to make xml translations of some of the stuff in the SRD for D&D. While I am not qualified (in several senses) to take part in such a scheme, I did direct to him a couple of questions--mainly revolving around the scope of the project that were not clear to me, and hence perhaps to other potential aides in the idea. So if it sounds interesting, go on over there and check it out.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:36 PM

A Dozen Games That Don't Exist But Should

Chris Kindred, on his new Livejournal, expounds on a dozen properties that deserve an RPG treatment of their own.

I've decided to respond here with a couple of my own suggestions.

Chris' choices:
The Age of Unreason
The Angevin Empire (Lord Darcy)
Battlestar Galactica
Dragaera(Vlad Taltos)
Ile-Rein(Martha Wells novels)
Thieves World
Tim Powers' "Fisher King" Series
Time Wars

A couple of ideas of my own in response:

Videssos (and/or Elabon), by Harry Turtledove
No surprise here to long time readers of BJS, I am a Turtledove partisan. Both of these fantasy worlds of his are rich, large, diverse and have great opportunities for roleplaying. But they are not the same in the least. Elabon is a low-tech world (bronze weapons!), Videssos is primarily a human-only world and has less direct meddling by deities and other powers.

I do know, alas, Turtledove has no intention of issuing a license to make an RPG out of his books anytime soon.

Night's Dawn Trilogy, by Peter. F. Hamilton
I've mentioned in previous posts that I would love to game in Hamilton's space opera universe, even if you set it before the business with the resurrected dead. Nanotech, lots of aliens, a wide variety of planets and other settings, cool spacecraft, intrigue between interstellar entities. Lots of fun!

Elizabeth Willey's trilogy
Treading over old ground, true, but they deserve a mention again as a wonderful Amber-like (but not Amber) realm to set an RPG.

I'll leave Prolfic Chris with his twelve, my three for now are enough :)

Posted by Jvstin at 9:23 AM

Exeunt Bonnie

Well, last night, the issue of the car damage was resolved, as Bonnie accepted my compromise solution. What I didn't expect was for her to quickly decide to leave Strange Bedfellows, in medias res.

I was going to likely remove her...the acrimony of the situation has gotten ridiculous, but I didn't realize she was going to steal a march and do it with post haste. She sent an email about the car, quickly followed by an email to me resigning from the game, an email to the SB list telling of her resignation, and then immediately unsubscribed from the SB list.


I am in a mixed mood about this. After all, Bonnie was one of the charter members of SB, and her characters are hip-deep in things. I can't easily write them out of the script. I will respect Bonnie's wishes not to hand them over to anyone else, too.

The gaping hole where her characters, where she used to be will take some time and effort to fill. Bonnie was one of the more creative PCs in my game, and in happier times we bounced ideas for her character's past, present and future off of each other.

C'est la vie.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:41 AM

August 26, 2003

Monday Mashup #6: Huck Finn

Today�s Monday Mashup inspiration is the classic, Huckleberry Finn...

Huckleberry Finn is the great American Novel, and the great Mark Twain novel. Thusly, the novel is rich in ideas and themes, and a game created from it has to, I feel, pick and choose from the themes. After all, to get them all together himself, Twain wrote a book. A game or a scenario is more limited.

Anyway, when I think of Huck Finn, I think of the quest for Freedom, a journey down the River, and meeting strange characters all along the way. I didn't realize it at the time, but my ACUS scenario Ghosts of the Past inadvertently takes a couple of these themes, since its source material, Sean Russell's the One Kingdom, apparently does as well. So in a sense, I could cheat and declare GHOP as a pre-existing mashup.

But skipping that for a moment, let's choose the game system Adventure! Set the characters as not knowing much about each other, stuck on a boat going up the Amazon, or the Orinoco, or the Nile or any of the other mysterious rivers in the Adventure! world. With those strange energies, the characters are bound to eventually run into weird and interesting things. In the meantime, as their boat slowly makes progress, the story-telling and tale-swapping of Huck Finn could come into play, as the characters introduce themselves to each other through tales of their previous exploits.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:23 PM

August 25, 2003

Delwin and the Grand Affair

In the midst of the Olsons going to a wedding (Scott's brother) and Scott's parents coming to visit, I've been playing with webpages.

Delwin and his native land of Syene for A Grand Affair have pages of their own on my site.

I've been working on, but not completed, a similar set for my secondary character for GA, Iolaus Diotrephes, and his shadow of Achaea and his home polis of Syracuse (can you tell a Greek theme here?)

As a Bokononist might say...busy busy busy.

Update: The Iranian pop singer Ginger mentions as a possible older female face for the Syene delegation is named "Googoosh" Faegheh Atashin.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:37 AM

August 21, 2003

IMC/Mysteries of Amber: Shroudlings and Mirrorverse

Arref gives us some goodness with some new revelations about the place of Shroudlings and the Mirrorverse in his (ever evolving) game. Time for me to reciprocate...

The scary thing is...I've done nothing in SB with either of them.

Weird, huh? With the Dream World, Omphalos, alternate universes, Lessimans, bestial chaosians, and even a helping of the Pit/Abyss, I've done nothing with the Mirrorverse or with the Shroudlings. The closest I've come to it was a suggestion from a player that a Shroudling might make an interesting devotee/ally. Said player's character, however, soon found other diversions.

But the Mirrorverse and Shroudlings? Um, nope.

I guess that I've had too many of my own ideas, or other ideas on my burners to really introduce any such elements into SB. Undershadow is similar in that respect--no PC has really had any reason to go poking at it, and so it hasn't developed like, say, in Arref's games. There are some hints of mirror-magic in my game, but it is rather limited at present.

This is not to say that I've avoided doing anything with the realm of Mirrors. In the second iteration of Wizard in the Attic, one of the PCs, Alice, was strongly allied to Mirrors. A lot of the action revolved around the mirror-realm, as presented in that game, and it was a lot of fun. No Shroudlings were encountered, however.

Now, if the two charter members of the Strange Bedfellows Waiting List (you two know who you are, I hope and think) perhaps wanted to think along these sorts of lines for PC strings, plots and ideas...I would certainly be open and receptive. No rush, of course. I don't intend to add new players until some unfinished business is taken care of and the ripples subside thereof.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:19 AM

August 19, 2003

Monday Mashup: Fantastic Four

This week's Monday Mashup is: The Fantastic Four

I'd do the Fantastic Four as a Nobilis game. The idea of familia is one already in Nobilis, its possible that an Imperator would have chosen four members of an already existing family to be his or her Powers. Naturally, it would be a rather odd Imperator with estates of Fire, Transparency, Stone(?) and Flexibility(?) but I've seen odder combinations on the Nobilis List. Considering the Richards family's devotion to Mankind, they would be Nobles of the Light, of course.

I don't thinK I'd give them the full points; making this a little underpowered (to, say Amber character level than full Nobles) would make for a more satisfactory game experience. But with Excrucians and agents of the Dark as opponents, it would certainly be a more action packed Nobilis game than the usual...but I think it could be a lot of fun, as well.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:48 PM

IMC: Patternwalk

Arref offers the latest IMC:

In your campaigns, does walking the Pattern get easier? Do the Endurance mavens have an easy time of it? Or the Advanced Pattern types?"

In my campaign, the difficulty level is not a smooth curve.

The first walk is usually harder than several of (if any) subsequent walks.

Why? Two factors are at work.

First, there is the matter of learning what to expect. Even if there is extensive preparation, nothing really makes you ready for the various dangers and peculiarities of the Pattern. The veils, the Grand Curve...the final steps of agony. Someone walking the Pattern for the first time is experiencing this first hand for the first time...and that's a challenge. A second or third walk allows the Amberite the wisdom of their previous experiences as a guide.

The second factor is a matter of power attunement. I do, in many of my games, take much of Merlin's series as canonical. Thus, there is a sentience to the Pattern in SB (although other games I have done I've eschewed the idea). The Pattern, itself, is meeting the Amberite for the first time and thus makes the first walk a more comprehensive and harder experience than many of the subsequent ones, since it's taking the measure of the scion of Amber.

This is why many Pattern Ghosts date from the first walk of the Pattern, rather than subsequent ones. It is because the first walk usually produces a richer or deeper copy of the person to make a Pattern Ghost.

As far as what helps to survive the Pattern Walk? Advanced Pattern doesn't usually give too much of an advantage--Endurance is the main discriminant. But a Pattern Walk is not to be done lightly, doing a Pattern Walk for the sake of a teleport to a nearby place is, well, reckless, to many of my characters and NPCs. And there is a bit of an "patternstatic" charge built up after multiple walks...so the difficulty does increase after multiple walks--especially when those walks are close together in time. (weeks or months, rather than years)

Posted by Jvstin at 10:01 AM

August 15, 2003

Fair and Balanced game ideas for ACUS

So, since I am not going to ACN this year (once again out of my reach), I am thinking already of what I might run at ACUS next year.

Ad Amber per Astra III is definite. Time to finish up the Trilogy with a bang, as the PCs try and deal with Osric. They've dealt with Finndo, found Asharia...and now only Osric remains.

I am thinking about running my "Enemy of my Enemy" idea.

A new idea has surfaced lately, although it would depend in part on some ideas from Arref's Empire of the Gleaming Banner. He's given me leave to use the Gleaming, though and I thank him for leave to do so.
Typically, I can do the idea I have in mind on any number of scales. I'm not ambitious enough, but this could even work as a 2-GM, 2-room game. It would also work as a PBEM, but I've learned through experience that I do better running a single game at a time these days. When I ran Gwyddbwyll, SB was a smaller game.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:41 AM

August 14, 2003

Dark Dungeons

Arref links us to a Mystery Science Theater parody involving one of those Jack Chick tracts.

Really, now, although I refuse to link to Mr. Chick's real site, I will tell you that I DO have it bookmarked in my favorites...

...under "entertainment".

One interesting note on the tract which is satirized. "gather up all of your occult paraphernalia like your rock music, occult books**"
The footnote reads: Including C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, both of which can be found in occult bookstores.

Hmm...first, I didn't know Borders, B&N or Amazon.com were occult bookstores. And second, C.S. Lewis is as Christian as they come. If Mr. Chick thinks Lewis is destined for the eternal fire...I guess in his view I am already in the hot seat.
Then again, a heaven with the likes of Jack Chick within it is no heaven at all.

I'm now in the mood to re-read Heinlein's Job, A Comedy of Justice.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:29 PM

August 13, 2003

Happy Birthday Arref

Today, August 13th, is the birthday of one of the brightest lights in the ADRPG (or any other) online community, Arref Mak.

Happy birthday my friend!

Posted by Jvstin at 1:26 PM

August 12, 2003

Monday Mashup: Neuromancer

Ginger has turned me onto the Monday Mashup, a gaming meme invented by Bryant over at Population One.

The basic idea behind the mashup is that Bryant picks a media item (ie book, movie, etc.) and the individual Blogger picks a RPG world and combines the two. It's not something unknown to me, by this sort of reasoning, my ACUS game Ghosts of the Past is a mashup of Amber and Sean Russell's The One Kingdom.

Anyway, the latest Mashup media product is Neuromancer.

Sticking with a D20 fantasy world, I could run a game involving PC visits to an odd and hitherto unknown city (perhaps it dropped in from another plane, like Shade in the Forgotten Realms). It's a city unlike any the PCs have met before--technomagic is the rule here, high sorcery driven in some very unusual directions. Golems and automatons are everywhere, even within the reach of average individuals. Some of them are even intelligent, independent beings. The PCs must handle and learn to become used to this city as they investigate it.

And just HOW did those Golems become intelligent? Is there some Godling at work behind this city? Or some malevolent force? Throw in the threat of engines of war, and the PCs will be running to try and save their homelands by digging deeply into this mysterious city where magic and technology have hybridized in this manner.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:31 PM

August 8, 2003

The Grand Affair

**Revamped this post a little bit, writing at 7:30am made it rather ungrammatical and unclear, as well as fleshing out a couple of points

Well, the pre-game stuff is wrapping up, and it seems that the game is not only still on, but raring to go.

For my part, Liz and I have been doing a backstory where Sand and Delwin are visited (accidentally) by Gerard. It's been a lot of fun thus far, and it bodes well for the game itself.

This is hardly the first time I've played a sibling. I've usually had good success with siblings as PCs (Scipio=Kaitlyn=Raven) (Archard=Rakhi) (Marcus=Agacerie). One notable exception was another game where we did extensive backstory, but the game died before it could begin. That game was the debut of Laertes, and his sister, played by Jennifer Jerlstrom, was named Meralie. I later reused and developed Laertes for Karen's TKC, but he was an only child, even if Ayradyss, his cousin, was the closest thing he had to a sibling his own age.

Too many PBEMs die in pre-game or develop the game equivalent of SIDS just like that. GA looks, to my eyes to be more robust than that. It's a relief, to be sure, even if I would reuse some of the ideas from this game in future incarnations of PCs and games. I want to write and participate in GA, and Ginger has worked hard to keep the road up to the game relatively smooth.

I am playing a secondary character whom I need to flesh out a little more, as well. His name is Iolaus Diotrephes (yes, there I go with the Greco-Roman stuff again). I really should, if I find a block of time, work on a personal page for him, as well as Del.

Busy Busy Busy...

Anyway, the pages Ginger has done for the game (as Liz's comment points out) are beautiful and well worth a look...

The Grand Affair

Posted by Jvstin at 11:20 AM

July 31, 2003


MB&LK's Amber Bits: Houses of Lessima

Meera talks a little bit about Lessima Houses and their specialties. Many of you know that I have enthusiastically taken the Lessima idea and put it in my own games...

IMC, Lessima went renegade on their own volition and fully aware of what they were doing. They are shapeshifters supreme, and feel that the Logrus is dangerous and pernicious, not worth the cost.
And so, they broke away from Chaos, and began a Civil War. And managed to win their independence in the process. Decamping to a inhospitable region of the Black Zone, there they have been ever since, hatching their plots and schemes.

I admit, though, that Lessima has been on the back burner in SB for quite some time. The major PC who got wrapped up in Lessima turned out to be the "crazy Chaosian" Antar, who made the fatal mistake of mouthing off to the Serpent.

So Lessima has not been very active in the SB universe. Although...reading Meera's entry, I *could* do a one shot that would bring them front and center, perhaps at the next ACUS. A germ of an idea is already in my mind, but I will have to think on this.

I even have a title:
"The Enemy of my Enemy..."

Posted by Jvstin at 9:19 PM

July 30, 2003

A true sign the end times are nigh

Well, the end times in the White Wolf universe, anyway.

It seems that WW is going to end its modern World of Darkness lines. All of them. Yes, the Apocalypse/Gehenna/Ascension is going to happen.

I never believed they would actually dare to cut off their cash cows, but they do have Exalted, D20 stuff, and the medieval WOD books to keep them going, to say nothing of any new ideas.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:43 AM

July 29, 2003

Stats on Morgenstern

I've decided, as have many others, to accept the wonderfully reasoned and thought-out calculation for the statistics on Julian's steed, Morgenstern, over at Lost and Found Annex.

I have long since ball-parked, unofficially, what Morgenstern must be like (since I do have an active and enthusiastic Julian child PC) but these stats have some "heft" to them.

Update: The House of Cards blog (Thanks Ginger) has a discussion on this

Update 2: My original ballparks, for what its worth, are around 2000 pounds and 8' tall. Even so, he'll need fairly large hooves...and mud would be a problem for him

Posted by Jvstin at 12:55 PM

July 24, 2003

IMC: Villains

Arref puts up a missive on villains in the Eternal City campaign.

I can't argue or belabor any of the points he makes about what makes a good villain, so I will detail the VO (Villainous opposition) elements of Strange Bedfellows, to show what's lurking in my biggest universe. I will admit that I usually have, in my convention and other one-shot games, that I usually use a VO of my own creation. And in Wizard in the Attic (2003), I used Chaos as a VO as an adjunct to the main story.

Canonical VO's in SB:

Courts of Chaos (or Amber): Depending on your point of view and filiation, of course. Neither side truly trusts the other, and both are complex enough that even if, say, Random and Merlin did so, it doesn't mean other elements would, either.

Amber Elders: Let's face it, not everyone gets along, even if outward appearances seem to indicate such. Also, I've made use of Elders like Sand in my game as VO. Not to mention (yes, cliche), Brand.

Chaos Elders: Not as apparent due to a lack of Chaosian players, but the Courts are rife with potential internal conflicts, Houses and major scions of such Houses willing to push for personal power. This sort of melds into Vendettas, when there are inter-House conflicts and feuds

SB VO Elements:

The Omphalos: My defining VO for the game, so to speak. They, to use Arref's formal symbolism, threaten values across the entire Amber Multiverse. Multi-talented, complex, dangerous.

Lessima: Taken from Meera's ideas originally, Lessima has been behind the scenes for most of SB and for nearly everyone's plotlines. But they are there. Scheming shapeshifters who managed to defy Chaos and survive should never be discounted. Especially when their true goals and motivations are not known.

Sterling/The Labyrinth/The Caliph: A few people have run into him, and although he properly belongs in another category, he is a sui generis creation. And the characters who have dealt with him have not combined forces to share knowledge of the threat

And there are villains of other levels,. but these are the major ones.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:56 AM

July 22, 2003

Names, Roman Style Appendix

Rikibeth asked:
Did Roman women keep their own names after marriage?
And did women ever take their names from their mothers instead of their fathers, even if legitimate?

Good questions! In actuality, what was commonly done was that the woman took the possessive cognomen of her husband.

For example:

Quintus Caecilius Metellus has a daughter. Her name would by the rules of Roman nomenclature be Caecilia Metella.

If she married Publicus Licinius Crassus, her name would change to
Caecilia Metella Crassi.

As far as taking Mother's names--it could happen. Certainly, by the time of the Empire, the rules that I described became much more flexible. Different customs, Romans bringing in ideas from other parts of the Empire...things were a lot more flexible than the rules that I describe.

I should also add that adopted sons took the full name of their father, and an additional name from their original clan.

Thus, Octavian, after being adopted by G. Julius Ceasar, officially became
Gaius Julius Ceasar Octavianus

Posted by Jvstin at 10:24 AM

July 21, 2003

Names, Roman Style, in Amber

I've been thinking about names today, since I've been watched some of TIVO-ed Caesar (the TNT two part series on recently). Naturally, I've been thinking about this in terms of my characters.

In the days of the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire, male Roman citizens had at least three components to their names:

The praenomen, or personal name. The Romans were not as free with this as we are in modern society. Only family members used this.

The nomen gentilicum, or family name. This indicated what clan/family (or part thereof) that you were from.

The cognomen, the last part, is a nickname, useful when you have two people in your family with the same praenomen. Sometimes you got an additional one of these for doing something noteworthy.

Thus, the full name of Julius Ceasar is Gaius Julius Ceasar. No one outside of his family would have ever called him Gaius--which is why it often gets dropped and not used. Ceasar was not his "last name", Julius was, since he was from the House of Julia.

Similarly: Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Women's names reflected the mores of the time. Daughters were given the female form of the father's House name, and a possessive form of his cognomen.

Thus, Gaius Julius Ceasar's daughter was named Julia Ceasaris. Multiple daughters in a family usually were distinguished by "The elder, the Younger", or numbered: prima, secunda, tertia.

How would this work in Amber? I've seen Barimen bandied about as a last name for Amberites, but I don't think it would work under this scheme. After all, it doesn't tell you what branch of the Barimens you are from.

No, I think that Roman names in Amber would descend from the Queen/mate of Oberon from which you were descended. If you look at most family trees of Amber, they are usually divided by those bloodlines.

Thus, Marcus, my son of Deirdre in Age of Retribution, might have a Roman name of Marcus (pronounced Mar-cuse) Faiellus, and a suitable cognomen.

Scipio, my son of Flora, might be styled Scipio Dybelus.

Of course, women might require some more tweaking to make a scheme like this work, or else all female descendants of Corwin and Eric will wind up with Faiella as a praenomen.

You could do something with the Courts of Chaos, too...if you simply make it that people are more often addressed by their House name and a cognomen than by their first name. People inside of the House, of course, would use the praenomen, but, say, a Helgram meeting a Hendrake would use cognomens, or if they were being formal, simply the House name.

Of course, your PCs (and major NPCs) would all need cognomens...

Posted by Jvstin at 2:58 PM

July 17, 2003

Titles of Game Posts

Apropos nothing, I just wanted to throw a very small fish out there.

I like to play with the titles of game posts in the games I am in, as well as the games I run. It's one of my things, and has been since the beginning of my email RPG career.

To give examples current and not so current...

In my latest Bete Noire post, I decided to go latin and call it "In Furor, Veritas" Translated, that means "In Madness, Truth". Appropriate, given the text of the post.

A recent turn I gave Bridgette's Character Brieanne, in her trying to contact Hadrian's familiar Dora I decided to call "Also Spake Dora" as a take off of Also Sprach Zarathrustra.

This can backfire on me a bit, though. Early in the game, in talking about the defenses a character (Brandeigh) had set up in her shadow, I called the post "Protected by Slomin's". The player had no idea what I was talking about--but Slomin's is a security company. Apparently, they do not have a branch in Indiana.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:19 PM

July 16, 2003

The Grand Affair

Since the game is getting warmed up and people are mentioning its existence, I've decided to expose myself as well as one of the participants.

In GA, I will be playing Delwin. This is going to be a somewhat different Delwin, in that Delwin and Sand in this game are based off of Egyptian themes and mythos than anything else. (My casting for Delwin is none other than the Mummy, Arnold Vosloo). My partner in crime, who is playing Sand, has not yet revealed she is playing it on her own blog, so I will not reveal her identity.

Surprisingly (as I first said at the beginning), I was actually recruited in the game. Yes, while the game is recruitment-only, I never expected to ever be recruited--and no, that's not the lack of self-confidence coming out. It's merely that, let's face facts, I'm more well known (if known at all) as a GM than as a player. My active characters at the moment are now four, and that's the highest its been in quite some time:

Marcus, son of Deirdre, from Bridgette's Age of Retribution. Arref ably plays Marcus' sister Agacerie.
Cadmus, of unclear parentage, from Deb's Rites of Passage.
Tynan duDelwin, in Bete Noire.
and now Delwin himself in the Grand Affair.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:49 AM

July 12, 2003

IMC 4: Patternwalking

MaBarry asks:
"How young will you allow someone IYC to Walk the Pattern? Are there any exceptions? Why or why not?"

This depends on a lot of things, the rules have been severely bent in backstory, and thus the "game time" rules for walking are stricter than what characters have done in the past.

IMC, Random doesn't want anyone, realistically, under 20 to walk the Pattern. Random expects veto power over anyone going, and especially in times of danger, is not usually inclined to immediate granting of that. Thus, in SB, a couple of PCs and an NPC sidestepped the issue by going up to Tir to do it (on a night that Tir was not that stable, too. But with Bhangbadea there to help, it ended well for all participants).

In backstories, though, PCs have managed to walk the Pattern as young as their early to mid teens...but I probably wouldn't allow such a feat to happen again. After all, I did veto a PC who as a child walked the Pattern at ACUS.

It is indeed not a light thing to walk the Pattern. There is always the chance, no matter how well prepared, of peril and danger.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:18 AM

Arref joins HOC

Celina, ward of Queen Moire, daughter of the Shell of Narhval

Arref has joined the famous House of Cards campaign as Celina, Queen Moire's Ward.

Between this and Bridgette joining Ill Met in Amber, my eyes have turned from Hazel to positively pure green.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:57 AM

July 8, 2003


Tales of the City: Julian's Suite

Rikibeth gives us a view of Julian's Suite which was negatively inspired by the infamous Visual Guide to Castle Amber.

IMC, Julian doesn't spend that much time in the Castle anyway, I've not thought about his suite of rooms. He's far more comfortable and happy out in Arden with his children (who, again, are Ardenites rather than Castle Brats)

Posted by Jvstin at 8:11 AM

Borrowed Idea

in the Shadow of Greatness

Arref points us to a Shadows of Amber entry on the Courts and their views of powers. Although many ideas are different, "Suhuy" writes:
Trump was a fledgling creation of three blind sisters of House VanGrast several millennium before my tenure in this universe.

House Vangrast, of course, is the premier House for Trump in my own vision of Chaos.

Sometimes, borrowings are the best sort of praise for one's work.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:05 AM

July 5, 2003

The current cast of Strange Bedfellows

With some people moving in and out, players in abeyance, and new players, it can be confusing to figure out just who is in the game. So I've decided to post a list of the current players in the game. Mind you, thanks to the relatively slow posting in SB, I do think I manage this size game quite well. And those players who do have multiple characters have usually done so because they've approached me with additional ideas, rather than unhappiness with their own current character.

I guess I do have a waiting list of sorts now, with Meera Barry and Ginger at the top of that list.

My sincere apologies to Djinn for yet another stupidity on my part.

Anyway, the Cast of SB:

Active Characters:

Angelique Le Blanc, played by Felicia
Anya, of House Aricline, played by Felicia
Astin, son of Leona of Felis, played by Jeff
Bhangbadea of Ersia, played by Arref Mak
Brandeigh, daughter of Fiona, played by Keith
Brieanne, daughter of Julian, played by Bridgette
Daenerys, played by Bonnie
Destiny Greystone, played by Eric
Hideo Kato, son of Arawn, played by Brian
Jayson, son of Sand, played by Jim
Krysta, played by Dawn
Larissa, daughter of Dalt, played by Bonnie
Leigh, of House Helgram, played by Deb
Priya of Rebma, played by Bridgette
Rhionde, played by Mike
Toireasa, daughter of Gerard, played by Mike
Trista Fiara, played by Felicia
William, son of Flora, played by Xagnut

Characters who have not posted in awhile include:

Dagny, daughter of Luke, played by Nicole
T'Gana Hendrake, played by Nicole
Drax, played by Matt

Defunct Characters (Characters whose players have gone away or disappeared--ie, characters who possibly might be available to a new player.)

Triton, son of Moire and Corwin
Malachi, son of Brand and of House Marbane
Shannon, daughter of Fiona
Rylan, son of Finndo

New Character:
Beastie, played by Djinn

Posted by Jvstin at 10:58 AM

Prospero's Children (Book Review VII)

Prospero's Children, by Jan Siegel.

"Something was lost, long, long ago, before the beginnings of history."
"Few remain who would recognize it, fewer still who would know the secret of it's use."

Fern Capel is a sixteen year old girl who has had to grow up fast. With the loss of her mother, she has taken much of the responsibility that her father abrogates, and there is her younger brother Will to watch over. Such a position and duties leaves little time for being a child, she is an adult in a teenager's body. Thus, it is surprising to her that a House inherited by her father would hold secrets to a secret heritage of hers, as well as a world that she cannot imagine. Ostensibly a YA novel, it is more than adult enough for readers beyond the target audience of teenaged girls. It's clearly the first of a series, given the strange terms and the hints thrown throughout the book of long standing conflicts and feuds between various powers. The book was only briefly and patchily scintillating (as in the line quoted above), and probably would have been far more appealing had I been part of the target demographic. There are some interesting ideas at play here, but other things just do not make sense in the context of the story. I don't want to give away spoilers, but the whole "breaking the lodestone" just bothered me--why was there no resistance to the performing of this traumatic act? It almost seemed that Siegel let it happen so easily because it was destined to happen.

Slightly recommended, mainly for devotees of the fantasy genre.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:34 AM

July 4, 2003

Having had enough of *that* PC

Well, friends, I've had enough.

I love to GM, I love to create worlds and interact with the characters that my players bring to the game. SB's longevity and development are a testament to it.

You've seen in this space, and in the earlier eidolon of this blog my gripes about the player whose writing has driven me crazy. I've decided that I am going to kick her out of the game. Many of you know me, and others know of me. I'm not a cruel person, I'm a good soul. I don't want to do harm for anyone. But its just not fun anymore. It really isn't. Players griping about how I rule on things at least shows the player cares. Players who don't even try...working with stuff like this is just not fun. It's a chore to work with stuff like this:

From: "XXXXYYZ" {XXX@yyy.com}
To: "Paul Weimer"
Sent: Sunday, June 29, 2003 4:59 PM
Subject: Re: SB: Aesa: Alternate Transportation

> OOC: Sorry took so long been very buzy.
> BIC: I do what is expected of me not shy about work. I
> also do a bit more. My thoughts on my Father, Thor and
> home.
> WHen I arrive I bid thanks to the Captian and crew.
> __________________________________

Posted by Jvstin at 10:43 AM

July 2, 2003

The Sands of Amber

(Unofficial) Amber Family Tree - Oberon

Arref points us to this page, which has Arref's interpretation of the "full" name of Sand in his world, which is Sandmorel. The family tree design, too is of the lineage of my version (which derives again from Arref's).

In SB, Sand;s full name is Cassandra, although everyone living calls her Sand.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:50 PM

July 1, 2003


Mindscapes, a Psionics Supplement by Bruce R. Cordell.

In D&D, probably the second most fudged die roll for character creation besides the old "percentile bonus" for strength 18 (which they have gotten rid of for 3E) was the roll for Psionics. Even though the rules were clumsy and shoehorned into the game, Psionics were and are very popular.

I was delighted when they came out with a Psionics rulebook for the Third Edition D&D, and more delighted when the writer of that book, Bruce Cordell, decided to do more supplements for Psionics for Monte Cook's Malhavoc Press.

Mindscapes is his second supplement (the first being If Thoughts could Kill).

I was rather surprised, though, when I began reading it and found that Bruce proposed an alternate Psionic combat system for Third Edition D&D. Let me, via the fair use law, quote:

"When two or more psionic individuals knowingly encounter each other within 60 feet, a plane of the mind (a mindscape) instant springs into existence if at least one of the psionicists desires mindscape contact. Mindscapes depend on the psychic resonance created by two or more psionic creatures that are aware of each other..." It then goes on to describe avatars, landscapes and so forth.

Sound familiar? Long time readers of my stuff should recognize a kindred spirit to this on my pages. Psychic Combat Although its for a different game, and there are some differences between his vision and mine, it was a scary convergence. Do I think he borrowed any of my ideas? No, after all my own ideas came from earlier sources and such, and while my page on psychic combat has been up for years, its not likely to be a primary source. I am sure Mr. Cordell would have contacted me in that case.

Other than that, the book is interesting, giving some new creatures, feats and so forth for psionicists in Third edition D&D. And you never know when such ideas will make it into other games I run.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:47 AM

June 25, 2003

Melancholia of Disappointing Players II

Well, since a couple of people have asked in comments how the "situation" is going, I will share.

Well, I feel a bit better, I've calmed myself down. I do work myself up in a lather sometimes, as anyone who has spent real time with me can attest. I am not going to be bloodthirsty and kill off Hadrian, although that whole line of conversation did give me an idea, though, and I am going to run with that.

As far as the issues brought up in the Epistle of the unhappy player to the GM, they are still there, and I will try and keep them in mind. Even if the criticism is not useful per se, the next time a scene like the Fount comes around, I will try and catch myself. Some of the personal concerns addressed--I will try and work on.

Oh, and I ordered that Robin Laws book. I have to thank Ginger for mentioning it. I sort of knew it existed, but since it seems to be so well received, I will bite the bullet. Besides, I'm overdue from ordering a "care package" from Amazon :)

Posted by Jvstin at 9:21 PM

A tiny bit of character trait exposure

Checking my email at work let me see that Arref, who plays my character Marcus' sister Agacerie in Bridgette's Age of Retribution, came off with a line that helps encapsulate who Marcus is. They've all been through a nasty experience, and Marcus has found his way to where Agacerie and a few others are...

Cerie laughs and gives her brother a quick kiss on the cheek. She laughs again and squeezes his shoulder. "I can tell you are all right. You're asking questions."

Posted by Jvstin at 12:41 PM

June 22, 2003

IMC 3: The Spy Report on Amber

MB&LK's Amber Bits: The Spy Reports

A Character Exercise devised by Meera:

As a GM: Create a spy report about the PCs for amusement's value or as a hand-out / party favour. (Heck, doing one about your players might be just as much fun, assuming they share your sense of humour.) What would a reporter find out? (Or a bard who wants to hear about their adventures?) Does your group belong in the Times or the Tabloids?

I've decided to to do this for Strange Bedfellows, and to make it easier in an ever-changing sea of cast, set it sometime before the events of the campaign. The conceit is that it is found following the "Shockwave Storm" whose plotline is nearly at an end.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:55 PM

IMC 3: The Spy Report on Amber

MB&LK's Amber Bits: The Spy Reports

A Character Exercise devised by Meera:

As a GM: Create a spy report about the PCs for amusement's value or as a hand-out / party favour. (Heck, doing one about your players might be just as much fun, assuming they share your sense of humour.) What would a reporter find out? (Or a bard who wants to hear about their adventures?) Does your group belong in the Times or the Tabloids?

I've decided to to do this for Strange Bedfellows, and to make it easier in an ever-changing sea of cast, set it sometime before the events of the campaign. The conceit is that it is found following the "Shockwave Storm" whose plotline is nearly at an end.

My Lord Jesby,
The following incomplete document was found in some of the ruins of one of the Ways following a clean-up of the damage wrought by the Shockwave. Why this was never brought to the attention of the House Head, no one is certain. Its authenticity is somewhat dubious; its provenance unknown, its usefulness potentially infinite.
--Ulrich, Permanent Secretary to the House Head.

Toward a understanding of the Royale Family of Amber, with an especial regard toward their vulnerabilities and weaknesses, by Sartek Jesby, year of the Serpent (blurred out, the style suggests that it predates the ascension of Merlin I and postdates the Patternfall War)


Despite the contacts grown in the wake of the War, we know little enough about them. I believe this was a fatal mistake, we relied too heavily on arrogance and a lack of intelligence before committing our forces into a campaign which led to such a disastrous end.

I have focused on the personalities of Amber, the family proper, rather than more immediate concerns of the layout of the Castle and such. My counterpart, as you will recall, is attempting to infiltrate the Royal Family in a more direct manner, his report will likely be far more detailed on these matters. I believe he was passing himself off as a lost family relative.
(Editorial note, my Lord, we know of no such Agent, nor who he is in that capacity if such an agent exists. Given the number of the recent generation, it is possible Sartek might not be lying--Ulrich)

Oberon's descendants can be divided by the parentage of their Dam. It is clear that in many respects, the children, and yea, the grandchildren are far more cleaving to the Maternal genes, rather than the Paternal. I am not sure if this is an intentional breeding program such as we have in the Courts, or if Oberon's flings were more random in nature. Textual evidence suggests the latter, but it is possible he kept such ideas to himself.

Of the lady Cymnea, Oberon had three sons, two of which are still living. Osric's fate is unknown, the histories are not clear on it. Of the High Judge's fate, no more need be said, his presence here is well known. The Lord Benedict was and still is the General of Amber, and any thoughts of a military attack on Amber must revolve around him. He has no known offspring.

Of the Lady Faiella, Oberon once again had three children. King Eric, the second King of Amber's death is well known and documented--and yet there are still thoughts about the circumstances surrounding it. I have come across a strange thing, a play of some sort lamenting his passing. I find this unusual and odd, although there is no talk of the "good old days" under his reign. He has a daughter, her stance on these matters unknown. There are rumors of a second daughter, here in the Courts. (One of the Hendrake vassals, it is thought--Ulrich) The legitimacy of his rule is also still in question to this day. The Prince Corwin, the Opener, much is known from our encounters with him during the War. He has several children, including Merlin Sawall, and Triton of Rebma. There is also some evidence that he had a daughter and that there were circumstances surrounding one of the outlier Lords and some sort of rite of passage on her part. Where she is, none seem to know. As for the Princess Deirdre, she fell into the Abyss, with Brand. She has one child, a son. He seems to take much after his mother, and the General, as well.

Clarissa's lot breaks the pattern of the first, as there are four children of the union. The eldest, Van, has absented himself from Amber for reasons that seem to stem around the divorce of his mother by Oberon. As of Fiona, Bleys and Brand, much has been written, and much known from their contact with us. Fiona is known to have now at least two daughters and a son, the latter has been seen as a guest of Helgram. Bleys' progeny is far less clear, for all of his prolific nature in bedding women. As for Brand, that, too, is unclear. We know of his son by the Lady Marsbane, as well as that of Jasra, and there is the young man, Kyle, who appeared in Amber after the war. There are possibly others. (We are not sure why he says this. Some hidden facet of knowledge?--Ulrich)

LLewella was the daughter of a Rebman Lady, we suspect it was the Princess Moins. The political shape of Amber is not entirely clear, it seems Rebma is part of a Commonwealth, the Kingdom owing some fealty to Amber. What Oberon set to accomplish by having a scion of his blood in the city is not known. Perhaps he expected Moins and not her younger sister Moire to succeed to the throne, and thus was trying to control the succession and bring it into the family line. LLewella has a daughter who seems of little consequence.

Dybele gave him a daughter, Florimel. We suspect she is more competent than she lets on, few of Oberon's children are entirely what they appear. She herself has two children, one of which is a swordsman and sorcerer, but he is rarely present in Amber.

Rilga's children seem the most interested in the day-to-day workings of the Amber Kingdom. Gerard is the current Admiral of the fleet of Amber, and his twin sons also play roles in Amber's strength. His daughter is apparently a bone of contention, taking far more after the redheads. Possibly there is more than meets the eye, here. Julian's defense of their great forest is well known. Of his own children, his son takes much after him; his younger sister is rarely seen outside of the woods. There are rumors she is of unusual descent. Caine appears to act as an intelligence service for Amber, his daughter roams shadow and reported to be dangerous to cross.

Of the lady Harla, and her children Sand and Delwin, there are few records. Their parting from Amber is widely thought of as acrimonious, and their shadow is barred to entry. I could not learn more of them, or if they have any children of their own.

Oberon begat a child upon a lady of the shadow Felis, Abast, and she rules along with her mother in that place. I believe she has a son, and said son has some back channels with members of the Family. He might be approachable given his tendencies and habits toward the opposite gender.

Paulette gave Oberon two children, the current monarch Random, and his sister, Mirelle. The sister disappeared and is presumed to be dead, although there are rumors she is near to or within the Black Zone. The Monarch has a son, Martin, not widely considered to be the heir at this time. We are surprised that there aren't more of his get, Random takes much after his father.

Of the man called Dalt, we cannot say if he is truly of Amber Blood as he claims. The matter of Deela is a twisted and turgid one, and I am aware there are links back to the Empire in her origins, but the story of his birth appears fabulous, to say the least. He will not likely be dangerous unless he pairs or allies with one of the members of the family.
(Editorial note: We see a possibility of an alliance for Dalt with one of Brand's sons, it would make a natural partnership and useful to us--Ulrich.)

I recommend further study of the family and its scions. Its latest generation, especially, seem to have the potential to change or alter Amber irrecovcably. It cannot be stressed enough that molding them to our ends could prove decisive if conflict occurs with Amber again.

As for myself, I will continue to observe as plan, and contact our inflitrating agent as necessity dictates. If you should need to, he should be reachable...

(Editorial note: The rest of the letter is unreadable and unsalvagable. As for the fate of Sartek, we do not know. It is possible that he himself tried to be this mythical second agent or that his Logrus Madness consisted of this delusion of a partner--Ulrich)

Posted by Jvstin at 12:55 PM

June 20, 2003

Melancholia of Disappointing Players

Even in a game as old as SB, it is not a perfect game, and I am not a perfect GM.

It has been pointed out to me that there are cracks in the castle of Camelot, weaknesses in my GMing style, problems and such on the part of how I handle certain players and scenes.

I do have a penchant for putting characters together, but sometimes (many times) such groups do not function well, and characters wind up getting less screen time and activity. In one egregious case, I let an NPC have too much of the glory, so to speak. I am going to rectify part of that on the part of the NPC, and despite the fact that I love the character, am tempted to completely remove the character from the game. Considering what is happening, it wouldn't be a stretch to do so, and the tragedy might make an interesting footnote.

I have to think about this. The law of unintended consequences always holds true. But the problems of large groups in the same spot is something I have to work on in general. I know that the player's comments were not intended to do so, but sometimes criticism makes me melancholy. And I need feedback in order to GM better.

(Note: I've responded to comments in the extended entry)

Meera says:

That's the important thrust: is this a trust issue, a style issue...? A lot of GMs take criticism of their GMing personally. It's easy to do, but your GMing isn't _you_. It's something you can do, and even someone as into gaming as I am knows not to focus my self-esteem there when it's so idiosyncratic.

And Arref says:
It sounds like you have the opposite thing happening: someone has objected to a NPC being too powerful, or too much on scene, or just too agressively interested in fighting the foes of Amber.

Well, the player is not specifically upset at the NPC (okay, its Hadrian) in question, the concern raised is a more generic one...but Hadrian was given as an example of how I bungle major multiple-person scenes. Although the PC was not there, the player is sufficiently conversant with the events of the Fount Scene to deem it unfair and poorly-managed.

And I admit, that I've regretted how I handled that whole combat ever since. After all, I lost a player from the game because of it. Thus invoking the spectre of the Fount scene does push my buttons--but it is more general concerns that the player has that were at issue. Hadrian was just given as an EXAMPLE of my missteps. I should have given his role, so to speak, to a PC, or to PCs.

So I guess it is a bit of style issue as well as a trust issue.
Maybe I do need to buy that Robin Laws book that Ginger mentioned in her latest WISH.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:01 AM

June 18, 2003

IMC: Regency

Arref points us to the Shadows of Amber board, where the question of what precisely a regency entails, is being discussed. Not a member of that board, I decided to post my thoughts here...

Of course, the first step is to go to the videotape, or in this case, a dictionary. A regent is defined in there as:

1 : one who governs a kingdom in the minority, absence, or disability of the sovereign
2 : one who rules or reigns : GOVERNOR
3 : a member of a governing board (as of a state university)

But, then, how does this square with what we have seen in the Amber Novels? We see some promises of a Regency in the novels, but we don't really see them in action.

Clearly, there is The Regent, he or she who rules in the absence of the King. Such an office would be powerful, and much as Claire described in her excellent missive on the SOA board.

Yet, though, I don't think that is the whole story. If there is only one Regency, then Corwin is awfully loose and free in offering a single powerful position all around to multiple individuals. It doesn't square right, besides, Roger is a good writer, he is offering "a regency", not "The Regency". Thus, there must be more than one of them available to be handed out like political presents.

I generally don't see Amber as a political empire in most of the games that I have run (including SB). Amber is a mercantile, trading power, the head of the Golden Circle of trading partners, with a little bit of common defense thrown in for good measure. My model for this is more along the lines of Classical Greek era Athens and the Delian League.

Thus, there are no states in the Golden Circle for a regency to govern. No, a regency is more generally a significant and potent part of the King's government, in some capacity or another. Julian's Protectorship of Arden and Gerard's Admiralty are thus both regencies under this equation. I think it was this sort of offer that Corwin dangled as bait during the original chronicles.

Now, though, now that people have got me to think about it--just who is Regent in Random's absence? A jazz, fun loving King, I can't see Random remaining in the Castle 24/7/365.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:35 PM

IMC 2: The allure of Amber

Arref offers us a second in the IMC series (I am still looking for a good name for this meme, he's already suggested a couple, but any ideas would be appreciated. I've created this new category and retrofit the Tir entry into it.

Arref talks about the allure of Amber

Coveting Amber
If the royals, with their increased will, ego and experience have a love/covet relationship with Amber; how much might other folk be affected by visiting the Eternal Realm? Is that increased by drinking the water and eating the food? By experiencing the sunsets or the clarity of a winter morning?

Does Amber invade the senses? Or do royal senses run richer, see more clearly, feel more deeply? Or are both and all true?

Amber is the new kid on the block. Although Amber is reliably reckonable as several millenia old, the Courts are much older, and in my games, the Courts themselves are far from the oldest power in existence.

Thus, as these things reckon time, Amber, the Pattern are new, and there is an allure to new things, powers and places that are growing, active, expanding. Such activity draws attention. Persons of power and ability from neighboring shadow. Creatures realer than simple shadow--phoenixes, griffins, dragons. Powers already established take notice of the upstart, and seek to control it, deny it, or destroy it. It rankled Chaos much more than most because Dworking was one of them, the Eye of the Serpent one of their prizes.

And yet we hear of invasions by the Moonriders, and intimations that while Amber was a sudden island, it was far from the only one.

Do mundane visitors (outside of the Family) find it overly special? No. The average merchant from Antioch, or Asherah, or DuMarque is not glamoured when they spot the Eternal City. It is for those who have a greater attraction to reality, a sense of the fantastic, for them Amber is a source of magic, of power, of potential. This effect is multiplied a hundred-fold for those of the Unicorn's blood, be it Oberon or someone else.

And yet, even for the average, unawakened person, the thriving trade, the meeting of cultures, the potential make Amber alluring on its own, mundane merits. To walk down its streets and see a Arcanian mage and his pseudodragon doing tricks, to be able to buy jewelry and trinkets from a double dozen worlds, to take in the salt air of the city and watch the sun rise from the sea--these things are more than enough to draw people to Amber.

It was said that All Roads Lead to Rome, because Rome built those roads that way. All Roads Lead to Amber...not only because of the shadowpaths and roads built by its scions, but by those who came seeking the Eternal City.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:38 AM

June 16, 2003

Festival of the Unicorn

Meera on Amber's Constellations

And, also Character Exercises: Astrology, from Meera's other blog

Meera talks about Amber's constellations, and astrology, and how it impacts her game. I'm not big on astrology, but astronomy is something that is dear to me.

So, naturally, the skies of Amber have some interesting bits to them in Strange Bedfellows. I've not detailed it as much as I'd like, but the major feature that is important revolves around the constellation of the Unicorn. With the bright star Eryx (relative magnitude -4, which means its brighter than any night star in our sky, about as bright as our venus), the constellation of the Unicorn first rises above the horizon on the Vernal Equinox.

Thus, that first day of Spring's party is colloqually known as "The Festival of the Unicorn". In fact, one of the events of the day, before the Ball, is to ascend the summit of Kolvir and watch for the constellations' rise.

Of course, this time around, in my game, a certain storm has ruined that part of the celebration...:grin:

I will have to think about her Character Exercise, though.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:04 AM

June 14, 2003

Card Daydream

Not quite a dream, since it was on the borders of my waking mind this morning as I was rousing, but I had a rather odd dream (which is saying something, given my track record)

I don't think many of the readers are unfamiliar with those Iraqi Wanted Cards. Heck, you can buy them at places like Amazon these days.

In this sort of reverie, i was imagining the Amber Community was on a set of its own and that I was flipping through it.

Uncharacteristically immodest of me, I was actually the King of Clubs (it seemed that the face cards were more for GMs and the number cards for players). I do remember Arref was the King of Diamonds. Chris Kindred was King of Spades. Faces were on the cards, but they were nebulous in most cases (people I have not met in the flesh, mainly.)

I don't remember the half of the rest of them, but Ginger was the Queen of Hearts, Meera the Queen of Spades, Bridgette was the Queen of Clubs and Liz was the Queen of Diamonds.

I think I saw Jenn somewhere in the black number cards, Deb was one of the Aces (Hearts? Diamonds?). Weirdly, Felicia and Scott Olson were together on one of the Jacks.

They are all jumbled, I should have written them down when I had the chance.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:02 AM

June 12, 2003

Second Series Amber

And from the irrepressible Ginger, comes a missive on Second Series Amber and its concordant problems for a campaign...

I submit that she has some excellent points. Munchkin gamers are drawn and drawn from the second series for inspiration. I am not saying that there aren't enough Amberite min-max gadget freaks or the like, but it seems the powers of Chaos that draw the most unbalanced players.

Granted, there are players who prefer playing Chaosians but aren't in it for the munchkin aspects. I submit Scott Olson as an example of someone who prefers playing Chaosians and in character will trash Amber as "upstarts", but I don't think he goes as far as the nightmare players Ginger talks about.

I admit that most of my games are set post second-series, but I as a GM hardly buy into the superiority of one side or another. SB has many more Amberite than Chaosian PCs, for example, but then again, the main focus of the game is Amber.

But, then, I've run games like Wizard in the Attic, which not only disregards the second series, but even changes events in the first to allow for a benevolent Brand. So I am not "wed" to the second series by any stretch of the imagination and I don't mind playing in such an enviroment as a player. After all, Bridgette's Age of Retribution began its life at Patternfall, and events already are different than the books (Deirdre has survived, for one thing).

Posted by Jvstin at 12:53 PM

Campaign Continuity

Shadow of Greatness on Campaign Continuity

Arref talks about Campaign Continuity, and how to expand the playground for new characters both PC and NPC. He kindly mentions SB as an example, and I am reserving this entry for when I return home to expound at length on things that I have done along these lines.

(Update: 6/13)

Expanding the game, as taken from Arref's missive on the subject:

Expand the game laterally
Arref kindly mentions SB in this context, and it is true. Valerian is from something which is not an Alternate Amber, but rather a place created much like it, after the fact. I have a PC, Destiny, also from "Crimson". And then, sticking to NPCs, there are of course the Omphalos and their universe, the major antagonists in the game.

Introduce a scion of Amber thought dead
Not ones quite dead, but from the very beginning I've had a PC who is older than some of the Elders, having left Amber long ago, Krysta. And a quasi-PC Elder who is not really remembered in Amber.

Introduce an unknown scion by the "Merlin method"
Yep, I've done this with NPCs and PCs alike--Hadrian is Gerard's, and Dagny is Luke/Rinaldo's...

If you have a healthy cast of royal NPCs, you can introduce a scion of one of your youngest royals, such as Coral.
See Dagny, above.

Tap into those ancient Chaos blood lines ::
Not always successfully (Scott Olson's character comes to mind, as well as Antar, the Chaosian Too Stupid to Live), but I've done this as well. One of my more recent additions to SB has been a Chaosian played by Deb Atwood.

Tap one of the wives that disappeared suddenly
I haven't quite done this...but Clarissa has been known to still be alive, and does have a daughter who is not of Oberon's get.

Have an Elder get near-blasted, survive, and start healing their brain

Nope, haven't really done this, either. Nice idea, though, I might be willing to try it as a PC. :Grin:

Posted by Jvstin at 12:43 PM

June 10, 2003

Rpgs as girlfriends

Arref points us to an RPGnet thread on the subject and gives his own take on the subject. And he has given a new look to his Blog, well worth taking a peek at on those grounds too!

Me? Well, talking about significant others is something of a sore subject for me, so I will be brief, rather than my usual descent into pedantry. D&D was my first, moving onto AD&D when she came around. I never tried her "second edition" look, by that time I was looking at other girls, ranging from Miss Traveller to Miss White Wolf. Miss Amber came on the scene, and I got hooked quickly. I've flirted with other girls, and I would really like to go up and talk to Miss Nobilis, but Miss Amber is flexible enough that I can bring ideas back for her to try.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:16 PM

June 6, 2003

Tir, The City in the Sky

I've been doing some thinking about Tir Na Nogth, the City in the Sky in the Amberverse. This is mainly due to the fact that for the first time in Strange Bedfellows, I have Player Characters actually there...

Meera makes a point on her blog about the variability and inconsistency of assumptions in Amber games. The nature and underlying assumptions of the City in the Sky are no exception to this. So why not explore some of these questions, and reveal some of my rulings as well. Here's hoping for a nice cross-blog conversation on the topic.

For instance, when can you visit Tir? Is it only at the Full Moon? Is it every night, but its simply too ephemeral unless the moon is full? What about a gibbous moon? Is the length of a possible stay in Tir dependent on the phase?

In Strange Bedfellows, journeys to Tir are generally only possible in and around the full moon. Its a function of the luminosity of the moon, and thus only nearly-full or full moons provide enough light to allow Tir to manifest. I so happened, for dramatic purposes, allowed the first night Tir was really available to be the "Festival of the Unicorn", the Amber name for the holiday that falls on the Vernal Equinox. (Although probably someone could have gotten away with going there the night before)

Who can go to Tir? Is it limited in anyway?

Tir is a special place, after all. Although it is a reflection of the Primal Pattern just as Amber and Rebma are, it is a reflection vastly different than the two others. Clearly you don't need to have already walked the Pattern in order to enter Tir (it is established in the Second Series that Luke and Dalt both did this). But do you need Blood of Amber, then? Can an ordinary person dare to tread the staircase?

In Strange Bedfellows, anyone with the temerity can attempt to visit Tir. It is not recommended with a human psyche, for the fact that the ephemeral, changeable nature of the place is difficult to comprehend even for the Royal Family, to say nothing of a mortal. Of course the restrictions on the Tir Pattern still hold as far as walking it. Dreamwalkers, in my game, too, have some advantages for their special abilities while in Tir (which dovetails to a subsequent question later on).

How big is Tir? What are its dimensions and how much of an area does it cover? Where can you go in Tir?

We see that in the novels, the focus of visits to Tir is the Castle. But is that all there is to Tir? Rebma is larger than the Pattern Room, the bubble that covers it clearly extends out to the city. But how far does Tir's bubble go? If you didn't want to go to the Castle, where else could you go?

In Strange Bedfellows, my Tir is fairly large. It covers the entirety of the mountain of Kolvir, from the city to its summit. I was inspired by a file on the old FTP amber site that had suggestions about Dream walking, and so I came up with the idea of a Tir of Tir. If Tir covers the entire mountain, what happens if you wanted to take the long climb to its summit? I decided there would be a staircase there, just like in the real-world mountain, and that would be an explicit link to the Dreamlands. In point of fact, the PCs now in Tir have reached Tir from *that* direction.

Thus, in my Tir, you could visit the ghosts of Amber City, or the more traditional trip to the Castle. Or, if you knew it and you wanted to dare it, you could walk bodily into the Dreamlands themselves. It's a long climb, and I daresay that trying to go to the "second staircase" is akin to trying to walk the Tir Pattern in terms of time and the danger level.

What is the true nature of Tir? Why is it so different than its counterparts? Why does it even exist?

A place of dreams, of potential, of what-might-have-beens and what-might-be's. Rebma has inhabitants, as does Amber, but Tir seems to be only populated by Ghosts (or is it?) Tir only appears as a phantom of the real city, with no life of its own (or does it?). It stands apart from the City of the Sea and the Eternal City. Symmetry is important--so why does Tir break the symmetry in being so basically different?

In Strange Bedfellows, as per my cosmology, the fact that Dworkin used three spikards meant that the power of the Eye was refracted and split, and thus the original Pattern (the primal) gained three reflections.

The usual division of the three Patterns is Earth (Amber), Water (Rebma) and Air (Tir). The problem is, this is not entirely correct in my view. If Tir truly were of Air, it should be always ephemeral, inaccessible. And if you argue that Rebma has a bubble of habitability around it, then why does Tir's only appear every so often, rather than permanently? And why the ghosts and portents?

The reason is that the three Patterns are not divided by elements at all. Instead they are divided by their relationship to the tripartite division of reality. Amber's Pattern is fully in the central reality, the world of matter from Amber to Chaos (and any of the universes).

Tir, however is "halfway" to the Dreamlands, part of the upper levels of reality, realms of thought. Thusly, it only manifests itself in the skies of Amber a few days a month, subtle and slippery like the dreamstuff from which it is made. That is why it is only inhabited by ghosts and illusions brought to Tir by the minds of its visitors. It does suggest, however, that something might be able to "infect" Tir from higher realities. Hmmm..

Of course, you might ask, what then of Rebma? Well, if Tir is halfway to the upper levels of reality, Rebma must be halfway to the lower levels, the Undershadow. Perhaps there are truly secrets of Rebma that Amberites have not guessed. After all, there are an awful large number of mirrors in Rebma, and fans of Through the Looking Glass or The Mirror of Her Dreams know that Mirrors might do much more than just reflect...

Posted by Jvstin at 11:25 AM

June 5, 2003

Hard Drive/Amber joke


I direct you to this entry in Ginger's Blog. My co-workers at the place I am temping all grew silent when I laughed aloud at this.

Posted by Jvstin at 1:37 PM

May 31, 2003

New entrant into the Blogoverse

The Non-Euclidian Staircase

And Mr. Gulick, especially but not solely of "Nine Princes in Hong Kong" fame, opens up his own Blog.
So go pay him a visit now, too.

It does seem to me that, even given problems of Blog types and compatibility, that a lot of the Amber lights have migrated or at least opened up Blogs in addition to their other projects.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:56 AM

May 19, 2003

Roleplaying Purity Quiz

The Ultimate Roleplaying Purity Quiz!

Via Ginger and Arref. I have posted my own scores in the extended entry.

Ultimate Roleplaying Purity Score
CategoryYour ScoreAverage
Will kill for XP
Sensitive Roleplaying54.43%
"But what's my motivation for this scene?"
GM Experience52.17%
Puts the players through the wringer
Systems Knowledge90.4%
Played in a couple of campaigns
Livin' La Vida Dorka60.92%
Goes nuts on the weekends
You are 63.1% pure
Average Score: 65.6%

Posted by Jvstin at 4:59 PM

May 16, 2003

A thought on casting in Strange Bedfellows

Tangential to the whole Matrix hype, one of the actresses in the Matrix Reloaded has been suggested for a particular NPC in my game. The actress is Monica Bellucci, who played the duplicitious and treacherous Persephone. The NPC in SB is Noys, Eric's daughter. Most people dismiss her as being sweet and relatively light, and thus suggestions for her "casting" (a la Arref and Ginger's sites) has been actresses along those lines.

I wonder, if I did "select" her as the face for Noys, if people might not subconsciously reconsider their assessment of her. Actors and Actresses in these castings do bring something to the role of the character in the game--that's half of the fun of selecting them in the first place.

And does Noys have hidden agendas? The Gm is sphinx-like silent on that :)

Oh, by the way, I also used this post as an excuse to experiment with the Acronym tag. Netscape and Opera users won't see it, but IE users should see a couple of uses in this post.

Posted by Jvstin at 2:06 PM

May 1, 2003

Endurance as Drama Points

in the Shadow of Greatness

Arref has been kicking ideas around to make Endurance a more useful stat. Face it, in the ADRPG, Endurance gets a bad rap. (even more so than Strength).

Arref tries a "math-based" way to handle Endurance as far as exertion...but I like his Drama Point idea a lot better. Not every GM and player wants something like Rolemaster (I've seen Scott's Rolemaster books. Brrr...)

Let's think aloud to see how this would work. One could tie the number of DP to ranks, if you use a rank system in a game. I usually don't, so let's think about this.

Using the stats and ranks from SB (which was originally inspired by Arref, mind you)...

Human(Mortal Rank) has a story value of 1. Even normal people can do extraordinary things. So let's give that 1 DP. In fact, if you follow the story value chart...

Human Rank 1 DP
Chaos Rank 2 DP
Amber Rank 4 DP
Amber Notable (15 score) 6 DP
Amber Luminary (30 score) 8 DP
Amber Legend (60 score) 12 DP
Amber Paramount (120 score) 16 DP

1 DP can bump you up one rank ( I skipped a few of the sub-Amber ranks for clarity in my list above).

Thus, if Princess Khyrstine challenges Prince Gwydion to a duel, and he has a 25 warfare, and she a 15, she could spend one of her DP's to move her up to 30 for that scene. She would then have the advantage.

Prince Jonas decides to try and wrestle with Prince Castor. Prince Castor, as Gerard's son, has a strength of 55, Jonas has a strength of 5.

However, Jonas, as Corwin's son, has a lot of endurance. This can be represented by him spending 3 of his precious DP's, and going up to a strength of 60. He is not actually stronger...but this represents Jonas outlasting him, wearing the big man down.

Now, comes Princess Marissa, trying to mentally take on Princess Ophelia. Ophelia has a 30 psyche, Marissa has a 28. Marissa spends a DP to bump her up to 30. I'd tentatively rule that "natural" stat has an advantage over "bumped". (This is similar to the idea about ranks in the ADPRG)
Now, if Marissa spends another DP, she will be up to 60. However, if Ophelia spends one, too, she will be up to 60, and with a higher natural stat, she will win out.

Of course, now if you can figure out how often to refresh DP's, this might be ready for a playtest. In a con game, it might be just for that con game. FTF campaigns might be once every several sessions, depending on how much the GM wants to restrict their use.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:02 PM

April 29, 2003

Doyce does Nobilis

Random Encounters :: April 2003 Archive

Another of the Amberites, apparently, has picked up Nobilis and fallen for it. Thusly, Doyce is already starting up a test game. I shall watch this with definite interest.

Thanks to Arref for the link.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:01 PM

April 22, 2003

Elizabeth Willey

Some years ago, in the 90's, an author came out with three very Zelaznyesque books. Her name was Elizabeth Willey, and I first heard about her from my good friend Arref, who had the books and mentioned them to me one day.

The three books involve a frankly Amberesque sort of universe, complete with exiled scions of an empire's family, shadows, primal sources of power, and intense interpersonal conflicts. Add to this excellent writing and a flair for describing her worlds, and you have Elizabeth Willey's novels:

The Well Favored Man
A Sorcerer and a Gentleman
The Price of Blood and Honor

The series was never finished (The first book takes place many years after the second and third, but the third doesn't finish the "backstory"). She used to have a rather simple webpage that, recently, became completely defunct.

Sad, really. There are a lot of ideas I want to explore from her books in some games (and I don't even have my copies, they are in NY). Her books are of course out of print.

Much like Martha Wells' Element of Fire (she is still writing, although that book is out of print) Willey's books are good fodder for ideas for Amber games. I should at some point try and get used copies somewhere...

Posted by Jvstin at 7:48 AM

Arref's take on the rule of three

in the Shadow of Greatness

(I can't get the item link to work, Blogger seems to be really really inconsistent today. Just look for the April 22nd entry)

Arref has a great epistle to the Corinthians...err, I mean epistle on choice, and how three seems to be a magic number for choice for player characters. Reduce choice, and characters feel like they are being railroaded, while three is a manageable number, where the character DOES Have trade-offs.

I like to give choice too. I try hard not to railroad anyone in my games. There is usually at *least* two options open, if not more in any situation. Characters weave their destinies into the fabric of the story, and if I didn't want the characters to have options, I'd "write the book myself"

Posted by Jvstin at 7:41 AM

April 17, 2003

Arref's Discover your Spikard Quiz

Ginger talks about Arref's Discover your spikard quiz. Ginger's entry is at
Perverse Access Memory: Spikard Buddies

Arref's actual quiz is available at Quiz

What did I get?

Where that came from, I have no clue.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:21 PM

April 14, 2003

SB Global Turn: The Shockwave

While Chaos reels, and Amber's preparations for the Ball are marred by conflict at the Docks, and intimations of things worse, other things happen across shadow, or have already happened. A sampling, a hardly incomplete list of these events follow in the wake of...the shockwave.

In the shadow Texorami, shadow that Random spent much time, a dust storm whips into the Western flavored town the likes that the populace have never seen before. Scouring and sandblasting its way through the buildings, the windows rattle and the air howls as the storm threatens to bury the entire town. When it is over, a layer of sand a few inches thick fills the square. What is more, and stranger, a statue to the first sheriff of the town, a man named Hank, now sports different features on his face. A more aquiline nose and facial structure, and a crown of laurel leaves on his head...

In another shadow, pilots for the Keltic space navy are surprised when two phantasmal images appear on this screen. Before their eyes, they watch as one of the images literally picks up a lifeless small asteroid and hurls it at the other. The asteroid does not strike, and sails off toward interstellar space. The images themselves do not last much longer than the single throw.

Wards creak and defenses bend at the recently renovated Keep of the Four Worlds. A storm like none from the elemental realm of air pounds at the edifice. Thanks to the new power there, nothing is permanently affected, save for the impromptu moat that surrounds the place for a time thanks to the heavy rains.

Without warning, and out of season, a snowstorm strikes Edo, in yet another shadow. For days afterwards, the populace swear they saw a strange gaijin, a foreigner, in the clouds, directing and encouraging the freak storm. Considering that the battle against their oppressive tyrant is but recently concluded, it is a blow from which the city reels.

Unicorns snort and the Sidhe look surprised from their dwellings as a storm rolls through a Faerie shadow of a different sort. Legends of the Titans are in their own myths, but who would expect to see them marching across the sky, an army of images marshalled against an unseen foe? And that the images would soon disappear, with no trace of magic, no trace of what perpetuated the event?

In the shadow Maeonis, the Queen of that land is surprised to find that, during the evening, a ghost army of Achaean hoplites has arrayed itself outside the city walls of her capital. Their speech is archaic and hard to decipher, but they withdraw, leaving a great wooden horse at the city gates. Sorcerers claim that it was conjured, somehow, by parties unknown. More mysterious is the fact that it is clearly hollow, and was meant to hold men, perhaps soldiers...but it is empty.

In another shadow, a shadow with three suns, a land that never has known darkness, the population of scaly humanoids which inhabits it panic and many go mad when all three suns are eclipsed simultaneously, plunging the world into a darkness that it has never seen before. There is a word that emerges from this unexpected event on this alien world: Night

And the shockwave moves on...toward its inexorable destination.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:34 PM

Casting Calls and other fun stuff

My game has been hopping like a frog as of late. Yesterday I unleashed a vertiable tidal wave of turns on the players, and I plan on unleashing a global turn tonight on everyone which I will also post here for your benefit, since it doesn't involve any PCs...directly.

I also have been getting some interesting discussions out of the PCs involving the Casting Call bit. Although the NPCs, as a whole haven't been touched, people have been debating their own character "portrayers" quite animatedly.

The GM is definitely pleased. It's good to have players active, answering turns and very interested in the game and its universe.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:17 PM

April 9, 2003


No, I don't have a copy of it...

But Scott and Felicia do have one, and so I finally have had a chance to sit down and look at the book at length.

Wow. It really does seem as expansive and far reaching as advertised, and as people have said. I think I could very well play in such a system...and it might be even useful in a meta game context for personages like Apollo in Strange Bedfellows.

All I need now is a copy of my own....

Posted by Jvstin at 7:40 AM

April 5, 2003

Deb has ACUS quotes!

The Hall of Mirrors: Ambercon Quotes

Go and read some of the quotes of games Deb was in or ran, including my very own AAPA II...as well as 'Scape the Serpent's tongue (in which I played Lysander)

Posted by Jvstin at 8:24 PM

April 4, 2003

ACUS Pictures

AMBERCON pictures

A few pictures from Acus 2003 and 2002 are now available at All-roads, courtesy of Bridgette, who wishes she had taken more.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:35 AM

Character Quiz

Perverse Access Memory: Character Quiz

Thanks to Ginger, and Arref among others, here is one of those quizzes again, this time about roleplaying. It's good to go down memory lane a bit with this, so I decided to participate, too.

Alias: Jvstin

Years roleplaying: 15-16 years

Favourite three characters?
Scipio, son of Flora, Amberite Diplomat
Justin, a 1E D&D Ranger, my "signature" PC
Marcus, son of Deirdre, Amberite Jack of All Trades, in Age of Retribution

Least favourite character?

Male or female characters?
Mainly male, but as a GM, I have to be able to do females as well...I just don't normally choose to do them as a player.

Oldest character? Luap, a 1E magic user I created before I created Justin

Newest character? Jonas Asherton, Doctor and Alchemist in Texorami, Arkantos son of Benedict. My Lunar Ellipse Pc isn't complete yet to count...

Most popular character?
Scipio is the most popular to "pick on" so to speak, so I will go for him

Character you�ve (made and) never played?
Just about everything I make, I reuse somehow, somewhere.

Which character of yours would be most likely to�

Jump off a bridge?
Marcus, since he would have something ready for the fall
Get drunk and pass out?
Kill somebody in a very unorthodox way?
Get married?
Umm, I think Hadrian is the most likely.

Be far too hyper for their own good?

Rape somebody? Be raped?
Ick, no

Get lost and refuse to ask for directions?
Lorius is way too proud to ask for help

Get lung cancer? None

Star in a horror movie?
Scipio, he's already done a dark John Davies game...
Star in a whore movie? Umm, even Scipio has more taste...

Star in a video game?
Arkantos, because he does, in Age of Mythology

Have a torrid gay love affair?
Umm, none that I can think of. As far as a straight one, Scipio all the way, although Marcus and Cadmus might, too (straight)

Relate each word to a character of yours:

Love: Scipio
Hate: Lorius
Money: Scipio
Seduction: SCIPIO
Lies: Now, now, my characters don't lie...they just manipulate truth
Tragedy: A bunch of them
Manipulation: Scipio
Violence: Marcus
Politics: Scipio
Fire: Lorius
Ice: Hadrian

Would you ever�

Play a prostitute? Maybe a male courtesan...but that's it

Play a musician? Yes, although I am not musical
Play a pilot? Yes. Hadrian is one
Play a homosexual? Yes, probably as an NPC more than a PC.
Play a pedophile? No
Play a politician? Yes (Scipio)
Create a character for the sole purpose of smut? Yes, I have done so.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:58 AM

April 3, 2003

ACUS Con Report Part Two

And now without further delay is the second half of the report, split due to length

Slot 5: Ghosts of the Past. GM: Me

My :big idea: of the con and the game I was consequently most nervous about, and anticipated the most. The plot was heavily influenced, I can now reveal, by a phat fantasy novel I recommend to you all and you might have remembered from elliptical discussions of same, The One Kingdom by Sean Russell.

In short, before Cymnea, Oberon had a Queen Laura, who bore him his first children, Caibre, Sianth and Sianon. He also once had a junior Pattern like design, the River Wyrr ("were"). The children were rebellious, and the father culled them. Since their power was strongly attuned to this shadow spanning river, Oberon destroyed the River and then dealt with his children.

Or so he thought. The rewrite of the Pattern caused the River to eventually reform...and the Trio to have a chance to return to Amber...but only by fusing with already dead Amberites...Eric, Deirdre and Brand. As I arranged it, the most "friendly" of the three, Sianth, wound up fused with Brand.

The game was a lot of fun and I wish that I had gotten the quotes. The PCs journeyed down the river, sent by Random to determine its nature and once they learned of the Trio from the river itself, of them as well. Bridgette played Priya, a Rebman who was sent by Moire to add in this endeavor. (She had read ALL of the Treaties and found the right to do so. Random was not happy...)

Magical attunements to Rivers! Conversations with "dual fused personality" amberites! And even a good old Patricide. GHOP was all that I had hoped, even if I think it could have been better. But that's just me.

Slot 6: Wizard in the Attic, 2003 Edition. GM: Me

The game I did to help out Liz, a rerun of my first ACUS game that I ever ran (with the exception of co-Gming Storm Chasers).

The Amberites had a completely different skill set this time around than my original group (which included players including Ray and Anne playing Rebman Twins, Matt and Nicole, and, yes, Bonnie). This time I wound up with TWO children of the evil Fiona raised by Brand. Even funnier, one played a Water based Unity Sorcerer, and the other played a Fire based Sorceress. I also wound up with an unknown parentage Amberite who could walk into Mirrors, Theodore Michael Trout's war veteran Thomas, and a roustabout son of Corwin.

So...things ran a little differently, actually a lot. This group had much more capacity to run around the universe than the first, winding up in mirror worlds, a stable region of the Abyss, and even an area of House Helgram. I also changed the scenario somewhat, changing the "villian" to the Chaosian Brand, rather than the "wounded" one. The PCs solved the problem as handily as the first group though, even if no furniture was involved this time.

But it was as lighthearted in spots as the first, including such goodies as "Rapmaster Brand" and "hide and seek" chases through the Mirror Realm, and oh yes, trying to fly over a portion of the deep Abyss.

Slot 7: A night Admist Wolves. GM: Chris Kindred

A lot of fun, I debuted the newest member of my character family, Arkantos, son of Benedict. In this game, based on Jeremy Zimmerman's Humble Wayside Flowers, there were two distinct groups of PCS...the Amberites, and everyone else.

The Amberites were asked to do the "diplomatic thing" with a dark, steampunk nazi totalitarian shadow Weirmonken, to try and soothe over a recent diplomatic incident. Arkantos accompanied Random's daughter Adela, Bleys' children Melusine (half sorceress, half florimel groupie) and Mattheieu (a darned good fighter) and Zachary, a son of Flora who dabbles in swordplay and magic.

The other group was a mixed lot, including Bridgette's Amberite Tabitha (although she was tight lipped about her origins). Her group was far more intent on mayhem. Chris had everything set up for us to start an incident, especially when we learned Dalt was about, but we instead used our diplomatic skills to annoy him and Weirmonken...and leave no room for retribution.

And Arkantos invented "tactical dancing" in an attempt to keep Dalt away from his unhealthy interest in Adela. Although our half was "dry", I stayed once our half was done to listen to the other group cause mayhem...and find some surprising answers to who was behind recent developments in Weirmonken.

Slot 8: To Live and Die in Texorami. GM: Chris Kindred

The famous Texorami got a few new faces this time around, although I had to leave far before the game ended because of a need for sleep (early flight back to Minn.) I played Jonas Asherton, a man who despite looking like Doc Holliday was a real doctor...and a real alchemist as well. From what I understand the real plot involved a variation on Tim Powers "Last Call". The poker game in Texorami was indeed for souls and such...but I learned afterward that the beautiful woman who invited Jonas to be the official doctor of the tournament in exchange for bed, food and an entry into it for free was none other than Sand...and yes her brother was around as well. I had a good time for the limited amount of play I had. The backstory between Bridgette's Guen Blackhawk and my PC never played out. Maybe next year.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:30 PM

ACUS 2003 Con Report Part One

Sorry for the silence everyone...I've been integrating myself into life here in cold Minnesota...trying to do a few SB turns, and other things. The days are packed...today for example, we took Scott out for a birthday dinner.

Anyway, without further prelude:

A treatise on my experiences within and about the 2003 Edition of the Ambercon US held in Livonia, Michigan, United States.

General Comments:

The hotel is still in the process of their renovation plan, but the main thrust of those reservations were on the closed fifth floor. The place as a whole was fresher and newer than before. The rates were significantly lower, much to my delight. The downer was that Felicia cracked a tooth on a hard airplane pretzel en route, and so she wound up missing the first slot. That was not fun. Otherwise the experience was pleasant in the hotel, except the tendencies for the card keys to demagnetize...at least once a day.

Slot 1: "It's a Mad Mad Mad Chaos": GM: Me

This is the game that wasn't. Originally conceived by Fe and me as a thematic sequel to the first game that Karen, Felicia and I ran, we wound up with two people signing up, a third signing up later, and only two people actually showing up, one "my shadow" for the con, Mike Levay. With Felicia's tooth problems, I was left, in essence to run a game for two players on short notice, because she had most of the idea (and alternate idea) in her head.

So...I came up with a quick and dirty scenario involving a "Story" based shadow that Merlin had created for his own bemusement, and had wound up trapped in. Mike's PC had a fiancee, so I had his fiancee as part of the first, larger team to get Merlin back...and fail. I threw a lot of references and the like into the story, including part of the endgame from the old Infocom game Enchanter.

It was fun, but only lasted 3 hours. A very light diversion to be sure.

Slot 2: Ad Amber Per Astra II. GM: Me

AAPA has turned into a serial game, thanks to the first two games, and will return next year. This one was far more wide spread than the first, which took place, as you recall, entirely in Finndo's little trapped shadow. In this one, Random wanted to ascertain where Finndo's siblings were and what were they doing, and so pressed the PCs into service.

Most of them anyway. Bridgette returned with her relatively unknown PC "Calico", and she soon mixed herself up into the party, and Jenn (Djinn) came in with a new and unknown PC of her own, Agian. Again, Agian got mixed into the party and soon everyone was looking for how to find Osric, and Asharia.

The play was interesting and fun, I only regret that with a four hour slot, there was simply not enough time for the PCs to handle both elders. In the end, all of the PCs went to find Asharia, only to discover here in the middle of a Pattern like design, in a shadow influenced by too much RA Salvatore. And Osric? As far as the PCs can tell, he is not only alive, but very much functional in a Golden Circle Shadow called Antioch...the obvious hook for next year.

It was very funny to watch Jenn, Bridgette, and Deb (who had not really blossomed in the first game) to get together and heterodyne like mad together. I enjoyed the group, even the player who wanted to use the questionable 15 year old Amberite...he brought a far more reasonable PC and integrated into the group well.

Slot 3: Rites of Passage. GM: Deb Atwood

My one and only ACUS campaign, the adventures of Cadmus continue! Cadmus learned some disturbing things about his parentage, mainly that thanks to advanced bioengineering, he seems to have five bloodlines in his parentage, 2 male, 2 female, and one uncertain. He doesn't know who those bloodlines are, but the person who "requisitioned" his creation is not a redhead at all like he thought (despite evidence in the shadow to the contrary).

It turned out to be Florimel. And this wasn't even the most disturbing thing to happen to him, with the shadow-wide disasters, and his unsettling and inadvertent visit to Tir.

Cadmus is definitely as curious as a cat, its come through free and clear this time around.

Slot 4: To Scape the Serpent's Tongue. GMS: Deb Atwood and Bridgette Ruggles

An idea birthed by the two GMS I have actual characters for these days...how could I not try and sign up for the game? It was a blast, a lot of fun and I don't want to spoil the plot or the "nature" of what was really happening. It reminds me of the old Faces of a Stranger that way. Needless to say, a game based on a Midsummer's Night's Dream is guaranteed to have some laughs and a lot of good quotes. I played Lysander, not the normal person you'd think I would choose, but given the choices (based on quotes from the play that Deb and Bridgette sent via email), it was the most logical, even if it wasn't the most cerebral of characters.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:15 PM

March 23, 2003


As the preparations for the con come to a head, I decided I would share my other new character, Arkantos, son of Benedict.

Arkantos, son of Benedict

Description: 6'1" Tall, Black haired and dark-eyed, Arkantos might be mistaken, at first for a stereotypical son of Corwin, Eric or Deirdre. His looks derive far more from his mother than his father.

Colors: Royal Blue and Gold

Symbol: A trireme, gold on a blue background

Arkantos was born and raised in Atlantis, in a shadow where the small continent sized kingdom lay offshore from Europe, just beyond the mouth of the Mediterranean. Benedict had, in the course of his travels, come to this shadow in search of challenges. He had not expected to fall for Lady Lydia Stephos, a scion of a powerful house of the island kingdom. His travels took him out of the shadow before Lydia's courses stopped, and thus, nine months later, gave birth to Arkantos, named for his maternal great-grandfather.

Thus, Benedict was doubly surprised when, returning to Atlantis five years later, to be greeted by Lydia, and a dark haired son. He accepted the fact of his paternity, and changed the time of the shadow so that he could raise his son to adulthood. This he and his lady wife did so, the son following in the footsteps of his father, although he proved as adept in marine situations as land combat. He also prepared him for the wider world beyond his shadow.

On his twenty first birthday, Benedict bade his son to grow in strength and ability, and that he would come back on his 30th, to introduce him to Amber. In this way Benedict hoped that his son would be seasoned and matured enough to deal with the Court of Amber.

Good to his word, 9 years later, Atlantis time, Benedict returned, and together sailed across shadow. In the meantime, Arkantos had risen in the officer ranks in the Atlantean navy to command small squadrons in the service of his homeland, against pirates and rival powers alike. With this experience beneath his belt, Arkantos himself felt worthy of being presented to the Court. He walked the Pattern, and gained his full heritage, meeting his new relatives, his new "House". After a period of about five years traversing shadow and coming into his full abilities (as well as a visit back home), Arkantos returned to Amber.

Tales of Weirmonken and the atrocities perpetuated upon its population have stirred Benedict's son. He realizes that the Court of Amber might not be officially able to intervene, but surely there are cousins in his family, and others who would be willing to foray into this hell of a shadow and do some good. What if Eric used this Weir during his reign? What is being done is wrong...and even if it could be put down as a "local shadow problem", Arkantos is all too cognizant that such cultures have a need to spread outward, like a cancer. His father made sure that his education was complete enough to realize this. Having these fascists spread to Begma, Kashfa, or more of the Golden Circle is manifestly not to be desired. Better to strike against it now.

Arkantos will lend his spear to the cause.

Posted by Jvstin at 3:59 PM

In the Shadow of Greatness

Arref, over on in the Shadow of Greatness has been thinking about one of his ideas, the dark mirror "In the Shadow of Greatness" Amber setting. (Yes, the name of this game and his blog have a common origin)

I was one of the individuals that he discussed this idea with, when he first conceived it. Now, it seems, Arref is flexing the milieu once again.

So here comes a quick "writing experiment" and see if I can't provide the seed for one of this unusual dark mirror's denizens. IF this offends, Arref, I will remove it. But we did talk a lot about this, back when you had the idea, and some of those memories are stirred now.

Stryad, Prince of Umbra

Tall and quiet, he is one of the new military leaders in the family, after the loss of the far greater elders during the bloody war. He has reaved many shadows, attempting to build up his martial skills as fast as possible. He considers a second conflict with the Host an inevitability, not a possibility. favors dark purple and dark blue in his clothing, but does not favor black.

Stryad's appetite for young men and women are well known through the family, with a predilection for redheads. He is always willing to find new playmates. Even while on campaign, it is rare not to find a willing and eager pretty young thing tied to his bed at night for night's pleasures. His collection of 'toys' is as lovingly kept as his weapons. When he does have the chance to play host in convival settings, he takes care to have such refreshment available to his guests, taking care to make sure both his playmates and guests will be compatible.

Shadows of Strayd tend toward even darker aspects of this sexual desire, sometimes using intelligence and tactical gifts to fulfill that need on, unlike the original, very unwilling partners.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:45 AM

March 21, 2003

A question of character

In my preparation for Ambercon, and the submission of characters for my games, something unprecedented for me happened.

I was submitted a character to whom that I had a viscerally negative reaction. I am reluctant to release telling details of this character, or the player because they might be known quantities, and I don't wish to offend anyone...but I discuss some aspects of the character below.

Still, though, the character as the player gave me simply, in my minds, has serious logical flaws that do not mesh with my games, or the other characters therein.

--The character apparently, somehow, walked the Pattern successfully at the chronological age of five and survived.

--Said character is now a physical age of 12 and an actual age somewhere around 15. Amber age is somewhat unclear, but basically the character is, as submitted an arrested development 15 year old Amberite.

Even more of a problem, said character has been submitted for both AAPA and Wizard in the Attic.

Maybe its a weakness in me, but I look at this character, look at the other characters in those games, and I feel queasy. Uneasy. I sense an artificial and not at all positive tension between this character concept and everyone else. I don't mind underage characters, in an environment suited to their development and presence. But this character almost seems designed to nettle other characters in an unhealthy way. I just feel ill at ease with the PC.

After a couple of days of wrangling, I emailed the player and explained as best as I could, which is to say not well, why I could not accept the character for the games. I have not heard back since.

Is it just me? Am I just a jerk?

Posted by Jvstin at 7:12 AM

March 19, 2003

Introducing Jonas Asherton

Since Arref has asked to know a little more about my Texorami character...Jonas.

Character Name: Jonas Asherton
Player: Paul Weimer

Description: Jonas is 5'11" tall, thin, almost in a tuberculosis sort of manner. John will claim that it came from a bout of malaria when he visited "the jungle". He is pale-skinned, black hair cut short. He typically dresses in a long black coat, white shirt, and dark trousers and usually wears a dark hat.

Colors: Besides his typical black, he often will wear and use effects in silver, and turquoise as accents: cufflinks, rings, etc.

Symbol: A caduceus

Read on to the extended part of the entry for more

Doctor, Wanderer, Gambler. Jonas is all of these things, an itinerant who wandered into Texorami a year ago, and never has quite left. After studying to become a Doctor, general practice MD, Jonas' debts and his wanderlust drove him around the land. While in an experience in the jungles to the South, he learned a secret about himself. It seemed that while he could prescribe aspirin and the like, it also seemed that the elixirs and antidotes that he created could have other effects as well. Jonas doesn't quite think of it so much as magic, but as "science that don't follow the right rules". One of his abiding goals and passions is to understand his abilities better, and to learn more "concoctions." Word or rumor of new information to expand his repertoire has sent on many a journey.

Jonas also likes to gamble. He can't refuse a game of poker, unless he truly doesn't have the stake. And even then, he has been known to plunge into a game by selling a ring or knives and the like to get in, and to try and win them back. (He would never bet his buckle or his gun, though) He's indifferent when it comes to luck overall, prone to long hot streaks followed by long cold ones which take away all of his gains, and often sink him into debt. But he likes the play, nevertheless. "Medicine for a heavy purse" is sometimes how he characterizes his card play.

His practice isn't quite licensed; Jonas doesn't like to bother with the paperwork and such when setting up in town after town. Texorami is different though, larger, more impressive. Carving a permanent niche here...well, if his wanderlust could be curbed, that might just be a worthwhile goal. Make friends, get ingratiated, offer his talents in the process, both medical and otherwise. His wanderlust might not be over, but he might have found a base of operations�and possibly a place to find colleagues as well.

In the meantime, he trusts his skills and abilities, and keeps his eyes open in Texorami for new opportunities. He is garrulous and friendly, more than willing to talk about the places he has gone and the people he has met. He often punctuates conversations around the poker table with anecdotes of his previous adventures.

His current goals and objectives in Texorami are to continue to enjoy the games, to hook up and find worthies to help make a place for himself here, and to continue to seek out new knowledge to add to his "science"

Posted by Jvstin at 8:09 PM

March 18, 2003

Still standing

Work has been busy as of late, training my replacement, Nguyen. But here I am with a few minutes before work taking the opportunity to check in so, to speak.

Highlights of other things

--finished and sent my character for Chris Kindred's games. My character for Texorami, one Jonas Asherton, will likely have a link to Bridgette's PC. My character for Wolves is going to be a son of Benedict. I lamented elsewhere, once that I didn't have grandchildren of Cymnea (ie children of Benedict and his siblings) in my repertoire. Arkantos is designed to fill in that lacunae.

Thanks to Arref for his publication of his latest SB turn. This truly is SB at its best, and a good illustration of the best in the game. SB has a number of interesting developments as of late, the "Assassins at the Docks" is but one of them. People like Deb, and Mike Levay, and Jim, and Bridgette all know what I mean.

This entry was also to test multiple category items. I see that its worked. I had some problems over the weekend trying to get categories to work right--I could assign things, fine, but I couldn't seem to get the category archives to work. Happily, they are working now.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:03 AM

February 25, 2003

A quote from Arref on

A quote from Arref on Amber relationships:
Audrey: all too often, games define Fiona through her brothers and/or the Chaosian men who are attracted to her; in my Amber, no one is frigid

As if. To further promote Arref's logic, in Strange Bedfellows, she has three children, Lorius, Shannon and Brandeigh, all of which are her children by different men, and none of those men are Chaosians.

Frigid? Not even close.

Posted by Jvstin at 6:14 PM

February 12, 2003

ACUS games are up. I

ACUS games are up.

I didn't have the enthusiasm to actually go and pick games, and still don't as of yet.

But you can see that I am running 3 slots solo, and a fourth as a collaborative effort.

Slot 1: Its a Mad Mad Mad Chaos, with Felicia Olson (no webpage up, yet anyway)
Slot 2: Ad Amber per Astra II
Slot 5: Ghosts of the Past
Slot 6: The Wizard in the Attic

So, let's say theoretically (and I DO mean theoretically) that you, gentle reader actually want to play in one of my games. (I would be intimidated if someone actually wanted to play in all of them.)

Which game should you choose if you've never been a player in my games before?

If you want comedy, and probably less of my hand on the tiller, go ahead and choose It's a Mad Mad...
If you want to join an existing game, and try and unravel the mystery of Finndo and his siblings, then go ahead
and sign up for AAPA II
If the sudden appearance of a river in Amber that everyone except people like the Royal family takes for granted as always having been there peaks your interest, then you might like Ghosts of the Past
And if you want to play in a slightly alternate Amber, where Brand is slightly off-center, but still, a nice guy, and it was Fiona who was the true villain, and Deirdre is alive and well, then go ahead and meet the Wizard in the Attic.

Any takers?

Posted by Jvstin at 1:14 PM

February 10, 2003

Bete Noire is back Thanks

Bete Noire is back

Thanks to Arref for the catch. Urp, I don't have my BN login information here at work...no way to post there until tonight.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:26 AM

February 4, 2003

Amber Casting Call thought I've

Amber Casting Call thought

I've been watching DVD episodes of the Prisoner lately (I sort of splurged on myself a couple of weeks ago--the entire Prisoner set was in my Amazon.com "gold box" and instead of $130, it was $75...and I pounced, a little uncharacteristically of me I know).

Anyway, if you've seen the series, you will surely recognize Leo McKern, one of only two actors to have their incarnations of
"Number Two" in two episodes rather than one. (The other is the milk-drinking Number Two portrayed by Colin Gordon). I just had a thought that Leo McKern, in his 60's prime, would be PERFECT as Finndo, as portrayed in Strange Bedfellows, and in the first Ad Amber per Astra (Will he return in the sequel? I can't say. :grin: )

UPDATE: Arref points out in comments that Leo is a bit short for Finndo, who "should" be tall. It's a good point. Still, the voice, the facial features and such work very well for me. He just might be stuck in my head that way now.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:47 AM

January 21, 2003

Nine Princes in Carthage The

Nine Princes in Carthage
The Guns of Achaea
The Sign of the Griffin
The Hand of Dido
The Courts of Rome

Posted by Jvstin at 11:59 AM

January 8, 2003

To Third Game or Not

To Third Game or Not Third Game

I've been reading Liz's pleas over on her site, and channeled through Arref. She's REALLY short on games. Much more than we first realized.

Slot 1 is spoken for--That's Bridgette and Deb's game. Slot 2 I am running AAPA II. Slot 3 is Rites of Passage (Deb's campaign and my only current continuing game I am in). Slot 5 is going to be my Ghosts of the Past.

There are plenty of things I could do. The question is, does ACUS want a third game from me? Would it help?

Decisions, decisions.

UPDATE: Clarified that Rites is a game I am in, not running. So there is one campaign slot, one slot I want to play in for certain, and two slots I will definitely run a game.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:02 AM

January 5, 2003

"A river now runs through

"A river now runs through it"

A prologue for Ghosts of the Past, an ACUS 2003 Scenario by Paul "Jvstin" Weimer

"Its lovely here, isn't it?"

The blond-haired son of Flora regarded the dark sable haired Chaosian Ambassador from across the blanket. It had taken time and patience on several ends for him to have this picnic today with Krystiana Aricline. Working his charm on her, of course was the most obvious part of the plan, but, too, convincing Uncle Random that he would assure her good conduct was also necessary. The Chaosians tended to remain in their compound, the King, the Royal family discouraged them roaming through the city, and there were restrictions on things like their shape shifting.

It was Scipio's firm opinion that Krystiana could not shift to a lovelier form than the one she was wearing now, with vivid blue eyes that he wondered if she had changed to match his own.

"Yes it is. There are forests back home, but they tend to be darker and less pleasant, although some of the Ways in Aricline have standing groves of trees." she replied, taking a sip of the wine. Bayle's Best, of course. Nothing but the highest quality would do. The cooked chicken sandwiches on sourdough bread spread with Dijon mustard were some of the tastiest products of Michael's kitchen.

Scipio was pleased.

"That is Arden yonder, the home and, you might say in the Chaosian way, the fiefdom of my Uncle Julian. We're still on the lower flanks of Kolvir here, way up that way, in the mountain range is Jones falls." He pointed backward toward the mountains. "Not quite my cup of tea, but its the site of a famous battle here in Amber. There's even a monument."

"I'm sure that you will have to show me the falls sometime." Krystiana said, trying some of the food. It was rather ordinary by Chaosian standards, the presentation, that is, the quality was high. The Royal family of Amber rightly ate well.

"So, my dear Prince Scipio." she asked after a moment, putting down the glass. "Why did you invite me here, all alone and away from the rest of the Embassy "Surely not for something as dry as better ambassadorial relations." Scipio's reputation had, apparently, even penetrated into the Chaosian Embassy.

Scipio shook his head and smiled, leaning in even as she licked her lips. Their lips moved closer and closer to touching, his hand reached to grasp her shoulder and draw him to her fully. He just about had Krystiana in his arms and his mouth pressed to hers when the ground began to rumble. Their embrace broke in the sudden sound and sensation.

"An earthquake?!" Scipio said incredulously. He had spent significant time in places like Tokyo, San Francisco and analogues. But an earthquake here, in Amber? Inconceivable!

"Come on!" he said, pulling her to her feet. Instinct told him that the threat from the earthquake was before them, they backed up the slope of the hill a good thirty feet. Nothing was around to fall on them, unless the shaking ground opened wide, they would be safe.

Krystiana was quite confused, she had been given to understand that Amber was extraordinarily stable, and here it seemed as tumultuous as a Black Zone shadow. Neither of them, however, could say anything as the earthquake finished, and before them, where they had picnicked, was a river.

And what a river was before them. Flowing fast, running down the slope of the mountain, this river seemed born sui generis, stretching up toward the mountain range to the right, and to the left, it flowed down into Arden. It literally seemed to have come out of nowhere. As Scipio and Krystiana looked in wonder, a man walked toward the far bank, one of the inhabitants of the villages to be found in Arden.

"A fine day to fish the river, my lord." he said as he produced a fishing pole and proceeded to throw a line in the water.

"I never knew Amber could be as malleable as Chaosian Ways." Krystiana said, still looking at the beautiful river. Scipio shook its head. "It's not, this sort of thing just doesn't happen." He thought about what had happened to Garnath during the War...but even so, a brand new River. "This River just doesn't belong here. I think we better get back to the Castle and you to your Embassy."

As they headed off back toward the Castle, the fisherman looked at them with curiosity. They had to be strangers here in Amber, he thought. The River Wyrr had always been here...

Posted by Jvstin at 1:14 PM

January 4, 2003

Why is Vialle 'still' blind?

Why is Vialle 'still' blind?

TGFKAB actually got me to thinking about this.

With all of the sorcery and technology available to Amberites, why hasn't someone simply brought Vialle to a high-tech shadow and had new eyes grown for her, or taken her to a high-magic shadow to have them magically fixed?

I thought about this and an obvious answer to me came up--it wouldn't last.

Consider: Corwin's eyes were burnt out of his head, and they grew back in five years. Benedict has hopes of his arm growing back. Servants, non-royals, seem to age slower and have greater lifespans. Taking a page and a somewhat allied view to Arref's, I think that since Vialle was born blind, her "natural state" is blindness.

In other words, if you were to give her new eyes that work, by any means, they would work--for a while...and then she would revert to her sightless state. It might even be considered cruel to give her sight only for a while, or make her dependent on "Refreshing" such a procedure. Thus, Vialle remains blind.

An alternative view, offered by Wujick in the game books (I am not sure which one, I don't have my copies) is that Vialle is sightless on purpose. But if you don't want to use that sort of duplicitious line in your game, I humbly offer my suggestion above. And I would love to hear your own ideas on the subject

Posted by Jvstin at 11:43 PM

December 31, 2002

Ginger's Turn of a Friendly

Ginger's Turn of a Friendly Die has been rechristened Perverse Access Memory, and will now reincorporate views and posts beyond the realm of gaming (although those, too, of course).

"New great name, new great content." Now why can't I come up with titles like this? Ginger goes from a good one (especially for an Alan Parsons fan) to another great one.

Posted by Jvstin at 10:16 PM

December 18, 2002

Arref's Amberite Quiz Our Man

Arref's Amberite Quiz

Our Man Arref (no relation to Our Man Flint) decided to go ahead and make his own quiz...this time, Which Royal of Amber is your Parent?

What did I get? Benedict. This is unusual because, come to think of it, I haven't played many children of Benedict...in fact I can't think of any off of the top of my head. I wonder just why that is, and what does that say about me and my RP of Amber. I didn't give Benedict an NPC child, either...

Hadrian--Caine or Gerard (he varies)
Marcus--Deirdre (an alive version, in all instances)
Cadmus--unknown, but Benedict seems unlikely as the answer right now.
Pollux--Gerard (He is an NPC in SB but I've played him in a con game or two)
Archard, Laertes, Tannim, Barzun--N/a

Posted by Jvstin at 9:31 PM

December 16, 2002

Cadmus Over the weekend, I


Over the weekend, I put up a basic webpage about Cadmus, my PC in Deb Allen nee Atwood's RITES OF PASSAGE.

Cadmus actually is the first PC I have ever created that I began with a pre-given image in mind...the actor Rufus Sewell (DARK CITY, DANGEROUS BEAUTY, A KNIGHT'S TALE) in point of fact. I got tired of being mostly unable to match a face to my visions of PCs, so I designed Cadmus' appearance in a different manner this time--starting with the picture/actor.

Posted by Jvstin at 12:22 PM

February 13, 2002

Time to return to Amber,

Time to return to Amber, as Arref said.

And speaking of my good friend, he begins a dialogue on Dragons and other Primal Creatures of Power. And asks what else there might be out there in Amber games?

Well, I do have Dragons. It features promimently in the backstory of one PC, another PC has a formal relationship with another. There are shadow dragons, which are the garden variety ones, and then there are the True Dragons...the ones which can shift shadow, the ones which are extremely powerful. They have limits, even Gazalarnith, the dread Dragon Lord, but messing with them is definitely not to be recommended.

I think that setting a points value on a relationship with an entity like this would be much more than a 1 point ally. I would hazard and rule it might be as much as a Chaos Devotee.

But anyway, what else is out there?

Well, excluding beings on the order of the Unicorn, the Serpent, and the young Phoenix in SB, there are plenty, although underutilized thus far in my game. But let me whip up an example of my own, my favorite just behind the dragon.


Body of a lion, head of an eagle, Griffins take a second place to Dragons in my fondness for creatures of this type. In SB, I posited that the creation myth for a shadow for an NPC, Hadrian, involves an association between the Unicorn and DuMarque's Griffin.

Griffins are often portrayed as violent and avaricious as Dragons. Everway's Spherewalker Handbook (out of print, but if you see it, grab it!) has a more nuanced view--that Griffins are also an embodiment of Courage. And I do like this concept. They might not have the Primal Power of a Dragon, but they have their own little piece of mythological real estate. In fact, Spherewalker suggests that in rare, extreme situations, when Courage is displayed, they may appear, to intervene on the side of righteousness. Not just courage in valor, but any sort of courage against the most dire of odds. In other words, Griffins can come, in effect, as patrons of lost causes. And their position as masters of the air and ground make them fearsome opponents in such situations. They are not as blindingly intelligent as Dragons, and the lesser griffins (like the lesser dragons) are of less than human intelligence...but the True Griffins can fly the winds of Shadow, and are quite intelligent, indeed.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:31 AM