What is Amber Roleplaying?
"Amber DRPG" is based on a series of books by the late Roger Zelazny. If you're not familiar with Zelazny he was a literary genius who led the "new wave" of science fiction in the '60s and '70s.
This game system is unique in a number of different ways. Firstly, and most bizarrely, it is a "diceless" system, so leave them at home. They won't help.
The diceless aspect works, largely because of the genre involved. Almost all characters will be both immortal and physically superior to normal people. Because of this level of skill and ability, most tasks undertaken will be obviously doomed to success or failure from the start. Either the character knows how to hotwire cars, or they don't. Either they can beat up three random muggers on the streets, or they can't. The GM can usually assess the likelihood of success quite easily. All that remains is to roleplay the encounter through.
Random events occur when the GM decides to have them, otherwise they don't. No dice required. A writer sitting at home producing books or film screenplays doesn't roll dice to decide on the outcome, so why do we do it in role-playing? Don't you trust your GM?
I won't bother explaining the genre in detail, other than to say that events take place in an effectively infinite number of different universes, with varying levels of technology or magic available. Players are strongly advised to read the books, starting with "Nine Princes in Amber". It's not essential to read the books before playing the game, but it will help no end. There are 10 books in total, in two series of 5. They are quite short, and easy to read.
Because of the wooly nature of the system, complicated character sheets and vast skill lists are totally unwarranted. There are 4 stats, and as many skills as the player wishes. The simplest approach is to write down a general character background, and infer the skills from that as play progresses. Characters are as powerful as the players want them to be, on the assumption that a player given enough free rope will eventually learn how to hang themselves with it without too much direct intervention.
There are other novel differences to this system, but the ones given above are the main ones. Rest assured that the system does work, and works very well.
There are two rule books available, costing about $20 each. The first is called "Amber" and is the main rulebook. The second is called "Shadow Knight", and contains additional, supplementary rules.
You should also possess the books which started it all, although I suppose this isn't absolutely essential. They come in two series of five books each. These ten books have also been collected into The Great Book of Amber.
The Corwin Chronicles
- Nine Princes in Amber
- The Guns of Avalon
- Sign of the Unicorn
- The Hand of Oberon
- The Courts of Chaos
The Merlin Chronicles
- Trumps of Doom
- Blood of Amber
- Sign of Chaos
- Knight of Shadows
- Prince of Chaos
There are also a few short stories, which hint at new material. Since Zelazny died in 1995, we're never going to know how these ideas would have turned out. The following is a complete list, together with where they have been published. They can also be found in the collection of Zelazny short stories entitled Manna from Heaven.
- "Prologue to Trumps of Doom" - (Amberzine #4)
- "The Salesman's Tale" - (Amberzine #6)
- "The Shroudling and the Guisel" - (Realms of Fantasy #1, and Amberzine#8)
- "Coming to a Cord" - (Amberzine #10)
- "Blue Horse, Dancing Mountains" - (Wheel of Fortune anthology, Avon mass market paperback edited by Roger Zelazny)
- "Hall of Mirrors" - (Castle Fantastic anthology, mass market paperback edited by John DeChancie and Martin Greenberg. ISBN 0-88677-686-4)
Finally, there have been some supplementary works authorized by either Zelazny or his estate.
Choose Your Own Adventure
- Seven No Trump by Neil Randall (From the "Crossroads Adventure" series. ISBN 0-81256-419-7)
- The Black Road War by Neil Randall (From the "Combat Command" series. ISBN 0-44111-537-3)
- Visual Guide to Castle Amber by Roger Zelazny and Neil Randall (ISBN 0-38075-566-1)
- The Complete Amber Sourcebook by Theodore Krulik (ISBN 0-38075-409-6)
The New Amber Series by John Gregory Betancourt
- Dawn of Amber
- Chaos and Amber
- To Rule in Amber
- Shadows of Amber
There are no commercially available Amber modules, so GMs have to write their own. This requires a GM with a very good knowledge of the books, or they're in danger of offending players who expect the tone and content of the game to follow the books fairly well.
There may well be more supplements in the pipeline, including perhaps some alternative approaches to the Magic system. Don't hold your breath though.
The Amber Diceless Role-Playing game can be played in many different formats. At AmberCon Northwest you might find fully-costumed Live Action games, standard "table-top" games, or anything in-between.
Anyone with an interest in role-playing or improvisational gaming and a love of the world of Amber will find something to enjoy at AmberCon Northwest.