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September 18, 2006 / jadettman

Taking Responsibility

I’ve thinking about player responsibility in Amber. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about giving players bonus points in character creation for taking Responsibilities.

Here’s roughly how I think it would work:

  1. After the Attribute Auction (if you’re using it) or basic character creation, players would have the option of taking Responsibilites for their character.
  2. Responsibilities would have a range in value depending on the game, how much of your time it will take up and how much power it gives you, but something like 1-25 points.
  3. Minor Responsibilities, such as feeling responsible for a Shadowling/Golden-Circle child that you saved from some unpleasant fate, would get you 1 point.
  4. Moderate Responsibilities, such as an Ambassador-ship to an important Shadow, might get you 5-15 points.
  5. Major Responsibilities, such as being the Duke of Kolvir or Arden, might get you 10-25 points.

So, the rub is that about two-thirds of the points that you get (except for personal Responsibilities like the 1 point deals) would be tied up in the accoutrements of your position.Β  You might get 25 points for being the Duke of Arden but around 15 of them would be the Rangers, Stormhounds, etc. The other 10 points would be yours to do with as you please.

I’m thinking that a general limit of 6 Minor, 4 Moderate, or 2 Major Responsibilities would be allowed for each character to keep things from getting out of hand. (Just to clarify, I’m suggesting that you could take 2 Major, or 1 Major and 2 Moderate, or 1 Major and 3 Minor, or 2 Moderate and 3 Minor, etc.)

Additionally, it could be very interesting to see the situations that rise up out of this phase of the game if more than one player wants a Responsibility. If two players want to be the Duke of Arden, I can see a few outcomes:

  1. They both get to split Arden (and the points) between them. This might lead to rivalry and tension or just confusion of chains-of-command.
  2. One of them takes the Responsibility instead of the other. This may lead to resentment and revenge.
  3. Neither character takes the Responsibility, because of their rivalry.Β  Perhaps a favored NPC of the king is given the Responsibility instead. How do the rival players feel when they travel through Arden now?Β  Maybe they only enter and leave Amber by sea?

Is there an issue of game balance? Possibly, but I don’t think that it’s significant. It will need more work, but I like the basic framework.



Leave a Comment
  1. JP / Sep 19 2006 12:37 am

    Interesting idea. Although, when I saw you were writing about player responsibility I thought you meant things like, “Keeps the game log,” “always brings soda,” and stuff like that. πŸ™‚

    On to the topic at hand though…
    If you were in an auction game, you could *auction* the positions if multiple people want them. They get the position and the points, but might wind up taking a net loss in points if it’s that important to there character. Someone who overspent to become Duke of Arden, for example, might be rather resentful of all he had to give up to get his position. He might even harbor ill feeling toward his peers who weren’t as “dedicated” as he/she was to duty.

    In a non-auction game, arbitration can become an issue. In some games, the number of points in the trappings of the responsibility (Julian’s storm hounds, Gerard’s seamen, Flora’s…um….shoes, etc. may not mean a whole lot, depending on how having points in items works vs actually going out and getting them.

    I also wonder a bit about how secure the asignment of the responsibilities are. In general, I guess we’re assuming that the King can’t or won’t just “fire” a Duke if the political situation shifts. I’m enamored of the idea of player respoinsibilities, just trying to think of a way for it work. What happens if a player character does have a responsibility? Is he/she left out of the plot? I tend to see responsibilities as plot hooks for characters, so a character without responsibilities might be short on hooks. Similarly, what happens to a player character whose responsibilities draw him away from the plot?

    “Oh yes, I understand that Brand could be hiding out in a crackerjack warehouse trying to find a spikard in one of the boxes, but someone has to keep Arden safe and it’s up to me. You all go along with me and let me know how it turns out.”

    oooh….what about a Massive responsibility, like “Archvillain” your bonus points are in your secret lair and army of faceless minions. Your responsibility is to bring down the current government of amber. bwahahahaha.

  2. J.A. Dettman / Sep 19 2006 10:03 am

    Yeah, I thought about auctioning off Responsibilities but I just didn’t like making people pay points for what are, essentially, plot hooks.

    Now, if I could figure out a good way to make a Social Auction work, I’d give that a whirl.

    My thinking for a Social Auction would involve bidding bits of character history for Responsibilities. Something like:

    Esmerelda: I’ll bid “working my way up through the ranks of the Rangers on my own merit” for the Responsibility Duke of Arden.

    Philbert: I’ll bid, “doing the King’s ‘dirty work’ for a year” for that Responsibility.

    Esmerelda: Well, I’ll up the ante with “sucking up to the Queen.”

    As you can see, I haven’t quite figured out a good structure but that’s kind of what it might look like.

    *__*__*As for the security of Responsibilities, I think it would be completely reasonable for a character to be ‘fired’ if she doesn’t do a good job maintaining her Responsibility.

    Repercussions of that, in my mind, would certainly involve losing any points from the position itself and, possibly, incurring an amount of ‘bad stuff’ equal to the discretionary points gained until you buy it off.

    Of course, the way I see it, the ‘bad stuff’ acquired from that would be very targeted. You would be in the King/Queen/Regent’s bad graces, disgraced at Court, and generally out of favor around Amber. People, nobles in particular, might go out of their way not to be seen with you and you might get some very unpleasant assignments from the Crown until you worked off your dishonor.

    And, speaking of Responsibilities as plot hooks: that’s totally the way that they are intended! If a player chose not to take any Responsibilities then I would expect them to be more self-directed in play.

    As for players using their Responsibilities to stay out the story: I think it’s entirely a matter of the game at hand. In some games, I could see bringing some authority to bear on the character if they chose to, say, not hunt down Brand and instead keep watch in Arden. Just like real world Responsibilities, sometimes you have to justify your actions to your superiors:

    King Random: “Philbert, did you have word that an attack was being planned on Arden? I only ask because apprehending Brand was of paramount concern to the Crown, yet you chose to remain in Arden. Is there something you’re not telling me?”

    I think it really all comes down to why the character chose to stay in Arden rather than go find Brand. Is the player just using the Responsibility as a shield against ‘Plot,’ or did he sincerely feel that his character was needed in Arden?

  3. Arref / Sep 19 2006 7:30 pm

    Interesting points. Must ponder.

  4. J.A. Dettman / Sep 19 2006 7:53 pm

    I look forward to hearing the outcome of your pondering, Arref. πŸ™‚

  5. Dan / Sep 20 2006 8:20 pm

    JP, should I be getting a bunch of extra points for having the responsibilities of being the Royal Physician, then? πŸ™‚

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