The situation… the King of Amber, ruler of the one true world of which all others (including this one) are but Shadows, is dying. He has five children, but the problem is this: the birth order is confused. Some are illegitimate. All want the throne. With his death, chaos is unleashed. Sibling will fight sibling until the throne falls to one of the five children. Will any survive?
This session was played last Friday night with five of my friends. I was the GM. The system was the Amber Diceless RPG, once published by Phage Press. (You can now get a pdf version from some online retailers).
Three of the players had played one session of Amber before; none of the players had read the books it is based on – by the great, late Roger Zelazny. If you haven’t read the Chronicles of Amber, I strongly recommend you go and read them.
To begin the session, we had an Attribute Auction, to show the rivalry between the players as they grew up…
PC names and final rankings here:
Bruce (Martin) Psyche: 2nd; Strength: Amber; Endurance: Amber; Warfare: Amber; Pattern Imprint, Sorcery – oldest of the children. Good Stuff
Melinda (Sarah) Psyche 4th; Strength 1st; Endurance 2nd; Warfare 2nd; Pattern Imprint. Bad Stuff (30!)
Merv (Adam) Psyche 1st; Strength 2nd; Endurance 1st; Warfare 1st; Power Words; Zero Stuff
Leela (Peggy) Psyche 3rd; Strength Amber; Endurance 3rd; Warfare 4th; Pattern Imprint; Zero Stuff
Athen (Nathaniel) Psyche 5th; Strength 3rd; Endurance Amber; Warfare 3rd; Pattern Imprint; Bad Stuff. Has a Bodyguard of 12 tough lion-men.
King Oberon was dying. All of his children – even the disinherited Athen – had gathered around him to hear who he would leave the Jewel of Judgement and the kingship to. As he was about to make the announcement, one of the Palace Guards threw a dagger and killed him outright! The guard was captured, and investigation proved that he was carrying a pouch of gold marked with Leela’s crest… but this was dismissed by the princes and princesses as an obvious forgery. More serious was the fact that the King didn’t have the Jewel of Judgement on his person! Where was it? Whoever found it first was likely to be crowned as ruler of Amber…
Athen quizzed one of the palace nobles as to where Oberon had been spending his time recently, and learnt that he’d spent a lot of time in a place called New York City on a distant Shadow. Athen hellrode out of the palace on the way to NYC.
Melinda also had the same idea, and went on the same path, thus meeting up with Athen in NYC. There they discovered a strange thing in a nearby theatre: [i]Amber, the Musical![/i] Both resolved to enter… Athen using his control of the Pattern to find tickets, Melinda just forcing her way in with brute strength.
Merv asked the palace nobles about any affairs the King had been having, and learnt of one in the nearby city of Rebma, and he resolved to go there. Upon arriving, he discovered that the King had seduced the daughter of the Queen of Rebma, who had herself disappeared. Notes in the daughter’s chamber led to NYC, so he too went in that direction… but slowly, as all he had was an item to lead him through shadow, not the control of the Pattern itself.
Bruce was misled by Athen as to where he should investigate, and went down to the Pattern in Amber. Using his Sorcery, he discovered a tremor around the Shadow Earth, and also travelled there to investigate.
Leela meanwhile left Amber, seeking a forgery of the Jewel of Judgement, with which to crown herself Queen!
Melinda and Athen found the musical quite illuminating, as it told the story of the affair between Oberon and Fiona, daughter of Moire, as well as hinted of a baby from that relationship. Unfortunately, Melinda’s strongarm tactics had alerted the city’s police, and a SWAT team entered the theatre to take them down. They managed to escape, thanks in no small part to the work of Athen’s bodyguards. 🙂
Merv used a Trump to catch up with Bruce, who was now travelling to Dublin, having located the Jewel in that location. The two went into a bar – Glasses of Amber, where they were greeted by name by the bartender. Both failed to pick up on this, and travelled to a nearby graveyard where they found Fiona was buried. Reports led them to realise she’d given birth to a son. Upon returning to the bar, they finally realised that they hadn’t told the bartender their names and resolved to question him… but he was gone. His name was Riordan, they discovered.
Athen and Melinda saw a news report that the King of England had died, and a new queen was being crowned… Leila! Both traveled there and acquired invitations, but learned nothing of note in the coronation. (In fact, I’d added this in to alert the PCs that Leela was crowning herself back in Amber, but no-one picked up on that fact until afterwards! – MB)
All four decided to return to Amber. Athen and Melinda did so first, by way of Shadow. They found the path blocked by Leela’s armies, and then realised what had happened. Both fled into Shadow to raise armies to overthrow her.
Merv and Bruce trumped back to Amber, where they were apprehended by the royal guard! Merv sacrificed his freedom to ensure Bruce’s escape. Bruce returned to his personal Shadow, and then began using his Sorcery to track down Riordan.
Queen Leela wished to execute Merv, but was forestalled by news of Athen’s army and Melinda’s pirate fleet approaching Amber. Queen Leela was no general, and Merv was the best general in Amber – she freed him in exchange for an oath of loyalty.
The initial skirmishes of the war began; Leela’s forces began to crumple beneath the attacks. However, in a freak bit of bad luck for Melinda, her fleet suffered massive casualties from a “perfect storm” coming her way.
Bruce tracked down Riordan, who proved to be the son of Oberon and Fiona. Riordan decided he liked Bruce, didn’t trust the others, and gave Bruce the Jewel of Judgement – he was responsible for a lot of the initial confusion.
Bruce started to use the Jewel of Judgement to affect the weather around Amber, causing great damage to Leela’s forces, but not before Athen had been forced to retreat as Merv took control of the royal army and repulsed him.
Melinda contacted Merv by Trump and attempted to persuade him to change allegiance; however, before they could decide anything, Merv was surprised by the guards and the contact was broken. (I’d decided they’d had long enough to talk to each other and went to them telling them the contact was broken. Melinda’s player was then really worried because Merv hadn’t actually said yes or no to the plan! – MB)
Melinda sailed into Amber, and Merv betrayed Leela and let her pass. Leela, seeing her cause was lost, fled into Shadow.
Bruce then contacted Merv by trump, and started negotiating for the disposement of the Jewel of Judgement. Whilst this was occuring, Melinda seized upon the opportunity to grab Merv and attempt to kill him! It almost worked, but Merv used a power word to stun Melinda and badly hurt her. Melinda fled into Shadow.
Bruce, realising that there was no way of overcoming the position that Merv was in, and Athen, also coming to the same realisation, both swore allegiance to Merv in return for regencies; Bruce would be the master of the shipping lanes, and Athen the guardian of Forest Arden.
Bruce surrendered the Jewel to Merv, and soon there was the coronation of King Merv I of Amber! The first King of Amber who didn’t actually possess the Pattern Imprint. 🙂
The session took about 4 hours, including explanations and the attribute auction. Martin and Adam bid heavily on Psyche, with Adam just winning out, and Adam, Sarah, Peggy and Nathaniel all bid heavily on Warfare; Sarah then bought up to rank 1.5 in Warfare, thus passing Nate’s score.
For me, the turning point of the game was when Merv (Adam) chose to let himself be captured to let Bruce (Martin) escape. This left Merv in the position where Leela would later turn to him for aid, and thus set up the final treachery of the game.
Adding Riordan and the missing Jewel of Judgement gave an interesting start to the game – especially when Leela just chose to “fake” the jewel. Heh. She might have pulled it off as well, if she’d just gotten a strong ally (probably Merv) from the beginning.
The next mini-campaign we’ll be playing will be Iron Heroes, but we’ll return to another Amber one-shot in the near future. It remains my favourite game after D&D 3.5e, and is really enjoyable in the Throne War format.
(Sarah’s birthday was today – I gave her a copy of The Chronicles of Amber. :))