Saturday, April 12, 2014

A is for Amber

A series on games I wish I'd played more of.

The universe of Amber presented by Roger Zelazny in his books [1] is fascinating.  Imagine a platonic ideal of the universe - Castle Amber - built around an intricate, looping Pattern [2] that is the magical heart of reality.  Everything in Amber is the template for the rest of the universe - and the universe itself consists of a nested, infinite series of variations on Amber, getting ever more different as you move away. All these realities manifest themselves from the Pattern, but of course the further away they are the less true they are to the essence...sorry, the Amber universe is so mind-blowing that it's genuinely impossible to describe in one paragraph, I think.  Possibly half a page of (at least) four dimensional mathematics could do it...

In any case, now imagine that the Lords of Amber, the children of the demi-god Oberon who (reputedly) inscribed the original pattern, have the power to step from one reality to another by force of will.

Imagine as well, that "opposite" [3] Amber is a place called the Courts of Chaos, where there are no rules, and everything is fluid.

Now imagine a game in which the players take on the roles of a few of these Lords of Amber and Chaos and proceed to interact with one another and with other characters in the setting - usually to further a plot to seize the throne of Amber or similar. Amber Diceles Roleplaying is this game.

This is a slightly difficult game to wrap your mind around, if only because the possibilities of the setting are so vast and amorphous that it's quite difficult at first to figure out what you can do. [4]  It takes some experimentation with formats and styles, not to mention group membership, to find the right combination.

I've played this game a handful of times with friends, and each time it got better and better, but never seemed to quite click.  It's a game that demands a significant investment in time, however, so sadly I doubt I will ever get a chance to play it again.

But by every god, how I'd love to!


1. Starting with Nine Princes in Amber - the first series, featuring Prince Corwin, calls to me most.  Zelazny seems to play a bit too much with the concept of "hero" in the second series (which features Corwin's son Merlin) and the disjoint doesn't do it for me - though it may be those books as much as the first series that informs me on the nature of the universe depicted in the game.

2. I imagine it as an enormous, looping rosette - a Celtic or Saxon re-imagining of the labyrinths of Indo-European yore.

3. Whatever that means in a multidimensional universe.

4. Partly, that's because the answer to the question "what can we do?" is literally "Anything you can imagine"

No comments: