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November 29, 2007 / jadettman


Sometimes I have difficulty sleeping. Usually it is because I wake up early in the morning with A Thought. At least, that is how my brain interprets things. A Thought, you see, is just too important to forget which means that I’m required to get up and write the thought down.

In most cases, A Thought is just a thought.

This morning I woke up with ideas about how the point-scale works in Amber and how changing the granularity of the point scale creates a feeling of freedom or constraint in the player during the character creation process.

100 points, you see, is a very elegant(?) number of points for players to create their characters with. 100 is a big number. How may people look at 100 points and say, “Wow, that isn’t very much to work with.”? Not very many, I wouldn’t think. At the same time, 100 isn’t so large that it’s hard to work with. In fact, it’s a number that is ingrained in American players (How many pennies in a dollar? Throw in nickels, dimes, and quarters and you can spend your way to an Amber character, no problem) (I imagine that folks used to using the metric system would be similarly at ease). On top of that, it makes determining how you’ve spent what percentage of your initial resources very easy.

Setting aside 1oo, what happens when we change our scale? There’s the Pokemon route, where we give the players 1000 points to play with, we could just do half measures with 500 points, or, go the other way, giving players just 50 or 20 points.

    1000   500   100   50   20
Human rank   -250   -125   -25   -12   -5
Chaos rank   -100   -50   -10   -5   -2
Amber rank   0   0   0   0   0
Pattern Initiate   500   250   50   25   10
Logrus Mastery   450   225   45   23   9
Trump Artistry   400   200   40   20   8
Shape Shifting   350   175   35   17   7
Conjuration   200   100   20   10   4
Sorcery   150   75   15   8   3
Amber Devotee   60   30   6   3   2
Engine Speed   40   20   4   2   1

Now building characters becomes really interesting.

At the both ends of the scale players are allocating the same proportion of points to powers that they were before but now at the higher end they have more points left over to spend on Allies, Attributes, Artifacts, etc. and at the lower end they have fewer points to spend on same.

On the lower end of things, granularity starts to be a problem though. Allies, Artifacts, Shadows, and Power words don’t scale down as easily as they scale up.

In conclusion, I don’t have a conclusion. Reducing an Amber player’s points down to 20 is reminicent of Everway to me and increasing points to 1000 makes me think of Pokemon.

I’d be interested to try out the four adjusted scales to see how they would change the dynamics of character design (and, as a result, play). Taking it further, I would also like to play around with the costs of various elements with the same goal but that, I think, would be the work of several years.



Leave a Comment
  1. JP / Nov 29 2007 10:58 am

    Dude, you’re absolutely right about the ADRPG system not scaling down well with artifacts and allies. One thing I’m a bit unclear on is whether you’re talking about adjusting the scale of the entire game or just the power level of the player characters. I’m assuming the former. The bigger the scale, the wider the range of attributes is going to be, and the greater the possible differentiation between “powers characters” and “attributes characters”.

    In Infinite Amber, I use a 260-point baseline for PCs and most elder Amberites, but of course there are 8 attributes and 11 powers so a comparison of the scale is not direct. I was in general aiming for a smaller overall distribution of points (a la Amberway) while still incorporating some of the ADRPG feel. Unfortunately, once you start mucking with the cost of powers things get even more complicated.

  2. J.A. Dettman / Nov 29 2007 8:54 pm

    You assume correctly. I’m just talking about sliding the entire point-scale of the game up or down.

    I also agree with your assessment of how that would affect Attributes. The larger point values would likely result in a larger range of Attribute values. I can’t help but feel that that would be a positive benefit for the GM.

    And, yeah, mucking with the costs of things really makes things complicated.

  3. Arref / Dec 16 2007 6:33 pm

    But keep in mind that closer attributes (or sibs and cousins who can interfere/compete with you) are a desirable drama crux to conflict.

    So making the range of point-scale closer might focus choices better and make for quicker responses from GM on conflict.

    Still an interesting exercise you’ve done.

  4. J.A. Dettman / Dec 17 2007 9:57 am

    Excellent point, Arref!

    Yeah, if the points in Attributes get too far apart then it is much more difficult to justify competition.

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