Monday, 16 November 2015
10th Anniversary Classic Rant: Amber Made Easy
It came to my attention today, via a thread, that some people may feel intimidated in playing or running the Amber game due to the idea that the setting and wealth of characters are "difficult" to have to learn about or recognize, that somehow its a game with too much of a setting buy-in.
I've never thought that to be the case, but I can see how for people looking at Amber from the outside (say, those who have not read the novels and don't think they want to), it might look that way.
In fact, Amber can be pretty easily made recognizable. Few gamers or even regular folk I can think of wouldn't get the "lords of order"/"Lords of Chaos" thing.
And thematically, Amber is actually a collection of archetypes; they aren't the Norse pantheon, or the Greco-Roman pantheon, or Celtic myth or folklore, but they're the archetypal concepts behind all of those. Plus, and this is the most important part, they're put into a very modern concept of a dysfunctional 20th century family structure (just like those other pantheons tended to be dysfunctional family units of their own cultures).
So really, Amber is the 20th century North-american Family Pantheon. You have the utterly controlling asshole dad, the senile sort of scary grandpa, the oldest brother who looks at everyone else like they're still infants, the middle brothers who are always fighting with each other for dominance, the brainy bratty sister, the flirty slutty sister, the sister that dropped out of the family and wants nothing to do with them, the tough tomboy sister, the brooding artsy emo brother who might be insane, the socially inept autistic brother who no one likes, the really kind strong but sort of dumb brother everyone likes, the charming manipulative brother that always hits on everyone else's female friends, the charming but utterly unreliable brother who you KNOW is going to screw you over but somehow manages to convince you to "trust him" over and over again, and the baby of the family who's a little attention-desperate delinquent.
Who the hell can't relate to those archetypes? I think pretty well every family has them. If they aren't your brothers or sisters, they're your cousins, or uncles or aunts, or the people you went to school with.
If you remember to focus on the characters, and to showcase their personalities, you'll find that they're utterly recognizable.
(Originally Posted February 18, 2008)