Not saving NPC dignity

18 September, 2011 at 9:48 pm (actual play, Amber, game mastering) (, , , , , )

So, we were playing Amber. There is this one NPC, lady A!Gyre of the house Meria, that holds a lot of very limited power and has been using it once or twice. She is also hidden in a place that is very hard to reach, even for Amberites.  And nobody knew she was there.

One of the player characters got in the contact with agyre. The form of contact was conversation through an old TV display, barely capable of showing colours. The picture was blurry. And on the other side there is this woman-like entity sitting on a far too tall black throne. She has a black featureless mask covering her face, and is made of stone, is the colour of stone, or is just covered with dust.

Some negotiation about who built this certain trap, and a’Gyre demands something in exchange for the information. Simeon, the character who had in his life played the part of Bond-like secret agent, offers a hot night (as reads in the session log – the exact phrase I can’t recall).

A_Gyr had not moved from her seat in ages, so the offer was surprising. She was a fairly unknown chaos entity, so it was surprising to me, the GM.

The two did end up in bed, but we not comfortable with playing through that. I and the player in question did play it out a bit – not the physical stuff, but more the emotional side and building trust and psychical meddling that happened.

Saying yes

My typical preparation for the Amber game is as follows: I have a list of stats for the NPCs, I know what many of them are up to, I have a relationship map which illustrates some of that. Further, I have the next scene for each character somewhat prepared, based on what their plans were at the end of the last session. I may also have a random scene or a few ready, for when the circumstances make it possible (if some NPC has prepared it) or when a good opportunity arises.

I also know, with varying levels of details, what has happened in the past. I also know something about how different powers and items of power function, but exploring this is a significant part of play, so much of it is unknown to me.

I knew a little about aGyre’s motivations, but nothing about personality. Would she accept Simeon’s offer? Could have gone either way, so I left it open for a bit, but than later said yes. In very certain terms – Simeon was at her court, such as it was, full of monsters and entities of unknown powers and intentions.

Status quo?

In Apocalypse world, one of the principles is to look at everything through crosshairs. Consider killing whoever your attention lands on, and do not try to maintain the dignity of NPCs. This does not translate to Amber as such as especially the elder Amberites demand some extra consideration, but in the situation – why not? I don’t have a precious plot to save, so why try to maintain status quo, and not let an adventurous Amberite get it on with a lady of a Chaosite house?

This is something for me to think about, and for something for other game masters to also consider, supposing they are playing a game where big and powerful NPCs roam the lands. Should there be a status quo that you strive to maintain? Why not let the player characters kill Elminster (or maybe fuck Elminster) – the consequences will create enough material to run the game for next sequence of sessions, and the players will be happy. Maybe I’ll look at the elder Amberites through crosshairs – blood curses expected.

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Two kinds of rpg design

14 September, 2011 at 9:53 pm (game design)

Suppose you have a specific experience or method of playing and then build a game so that it reliably creates that experience. Or maybe you play a game in certain way and want others to be able to do so, and to accomplish this you rewrite and possibly redesign the game you are playing to be accessible to outsiders in the way it is to you.

On the other hand, suppose you play in a certain way and build or tweak a system so that it supports you as well as is within your reach. Maybe you even write the results and publish them. (It might be called a fantasy heartbreaker or a set of house rules.)

The second method is not geared towards creating legible documents. The text is generally incapable of teaching the method of play that works so well for the designers. The first method requires very much writing and thinking that is mostly wasted effort if you are simply designing for your own play.

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Metaphysics of Amber

1 September, 2011 at 11:02 am (Amber) (, )

There is Amber, the only real place, of which other worlds are but shadows. There are also the courts of Chaos, ever changing, easily molded. Then there is Abyss, from which (almost) nothing has ever returned.

One way to think about it would be to take Pattern as the center of order and stability and lack of change, while have Logrus represent change and instability. But Abyss clearly is emptiness, which is totally unchanging, and still Abyss lies close to the Courts, which seems suspicious.

So I would have Abyss be emptiness while Logrus is everything. They are very close to each other, since neither can separate things from each other: None lie in Abyss, while all of them are in Logrus. Pattern, then, is structure – very far from nothing and everything. This is how an Amberite might see the situation.

But what of the Chaosite perspective? Certainly nothing is the ultimate in structure, for it (vacuously) has all the structure imaginable, and so Abyss must lie somewhere behind Pattern and Amber, if looked at from Chaos.

What of the Abyssian point of view? Well, it is empty, so there must be nobody looking, and so the issue is moot.

And what of Corwin’s pattern? Suppose it is another center of order. Is it compatible with the pattern of Amber, or do they simply not interact at all, or are their conceptions of order constantly struggling? And how does all of that look from whichever perspective one takes?

This all reflects on the use of powers when moving through Shadow. By Pattern-walking both Abyss and Logrus are distant from Amber, but maybe for the Chaosites, however they move, both Pattern and Abyss are distant places. Or do some Chaosites wield the powers of Abyss, or do some other entities? Then, for them, both Logrus and Pattern would be far, however they move.

Yet, as a further complication, it is tedious to shift Shadow near Amber. What of the other powers, and how well does Pattern work near the other centers of power? What of Corwin’s pattern, and initiates to it?

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