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March 3, 2010 / jadettman

Just Add Players

My favorite type of Amber series setup is what I call “Just Add Players.” It works really well for Amber, and it might work okay for other media-based RPGs, but I’ve only done it for Amber.

The premise is that you take the pre-existing media and, wait for it, just add players. This works really well for Amber because the setting is so open and because Amber is all about family.

I’ve done this twice now. The first time was in Ithaca for a game called Hard Lessons. In that one, all of the player characters were children of the characters from the first five books in the Amber series. That game kicked off with Corwin waking up in a hospital bed on Shadow Earth. It was a pretty amusing game if for no other reason than because Corwin ended up dead in the first act due to action taken by one of the players. It was an especially amusing moment during the game because the player didn’t realize the consequences of his actions until it was too late.

The second time was the series that we just started on Saturday. The game doesn’t have a name yet (and I usually give a series a name because it’s a thing I like to do) but it has some similarities. This one started earlier in the timeline, which opened up a lot of possibilities for the players, and the player characters for this one are, generally, contemporaries of the characters from the Amber books. The events of the novels for this game will never come to pass because of the PCs but a lot of the setup, especially the background actions of the novel characters, is still usable.

The main reason I find these kinds of games fun is that players don’t make the same kind of decisions that characters in a novel do. Characters in a novel behave a certain way because the writer has a particular story they want to tell. Players, though, just have self-interest and the need to survive. Sure, there are also the petty arguments that come from being family but that’s just a fun bit of bonus drama.

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