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September 27, 2007 / jadettman

Amber Toolbox: Scene Framing

Over at Story Games there is an interesting thread going on about diceless gaming. While the conversation has remained remarkably friendly, it has still seen many of the usual hallmarks of such threads such as ‘GM Fiat’ vs. ‘Random Chance’ and the general interest in gamers not giving up their dice.

All of these various threads are interesting to me as someone that enjoys diceless roleplay but there was one comment in particular that I found interesting and it came from someone that just wrapped up playing a diceless game.

I recently wrapped up a game of Amber Diceless that shed some light on this issue for me, personally. Here’s the problem I had, which killed my enthusiasm, which eventually killed the game.

I (and I alone) knew the stats of the PCs and NPCs. I (and I alone) framed the scenes, including the likelihood of conflict. Since all conflict in the game is resolved with Karma based attribute comparisons, I essentially had to say what happened all the time. I frame a scene and create a conflict, with full knowledge of who was going to win before I even began. I realized that, without the dice to fall back on, I was the sole author of conflict resolution (save that between PCs), and it was very unsatisfying.

When I was running Amber, I almost always started a scene by asking the player(s) a variation of, “What are you doing?”

While this may not be explicit enough for some, what I was doing in these instances was inviting the players to set and frame the scene. It was entirely up to the players to tell me what action they were currently engaged with.

Maybe this only works because of the nature Amber. The player characters are, after all, ridiculously powerful beings that are capable of travel between worlds and have access to extremely powerful effects.

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