David Golden and Simone Cooper ran a one shot featuring a mix of regular Amberites and ghosts from Tir-na Nog’th. Below are their game notes, reprinted with permission.
Description from AmberCon North
Number of Players: 8-12
Game Type: Amber Elders, largely free form
Character Restrictions: Come with a list of 3 Amber elders you’d like to play
Do ghosts know more than they tell? What secrets do they keep and why?
An exploration of fate and prophecy amongst the silver spires of Tir-na
Please note: this game is heavy on conversation; players should be ready
“Something” went wrong in the universe, and the ghosts are an “echo” of a possible future being encountered in the past in an attempt to put things right. What went wrong involves some combination of Oberon fixing/not-fixing the Pattern and Corwin drawing/not-drawing his own. — but the actual reason is probably immaterial for the game. The collective “goal” of the evening is probably for PC’s to figure out what must have gone wrong, and fix it; the tension will come from the deception and stratagems used by those with their own individual plans for how to adjust the future.
The players have to be divided into two groups: the “past” Amberites and the “future” Amberites who appear as “ghosts” of Tir. We’ve weighted towards the past — 7 past and 5 future with 12 players. At ACNW, we had the following:
Past: Random, Bleys, Dierdre, Caine, Eric, Gerard, Llewella
Future: Corwin, Fiona, Brand, Caine, Random
(a) For the ghosts, they recall everything up to near the end of the chronicles, around the time that Corwin was considering making his own Pattern. (Unless the person is dead, like Eric, in which case he remembers up to his death.)
(b) For the living, it’s just after Oberon has gone missing and the Pattern is damaged. Dworkin (from the future) comes to them in a dream and sends them all to Tir.
It’s fairly critical to only allow Corwin, Fiona, and Brand from the future (and to have at least Corwin), and NOT to have any of them in the past. Having some overlap is cool, and Caine works well for that, as Caine seems to be willing to work with other self to screw everyone over, which is good, tangential intrigue.
Further, future Corwin most likely needs to be a fairly directed PC — there are certain extra pieces of information that he knows about what’s going on, and he has to be ready to be oppositional to the rest for selfish reasons. This will become clear with the backstory.
Backstory, key pieces, part one:
- Fiona, Brand, Bleys form cabal
- Brand goes to courts to study
- Fiona, Bleys get nervous and bring Corwin into the cabal as extra insurance. Corwin plans to backstab Bleys eventually and take over.
- Eric and Corwin fight, Corwin loses and is dumped into Shadow
At this point is the “break” where the past characters begin the story. A past Bleys or Eric must know their roles in the above.
Backstory, key pieces, part two:
- Events of Chronicles largely happen as described
- After drawing his Pattern, Corwin realizes it will be secondary if the wave of Chaos is actually diverted
- Instead of attuning Random to the Jewel of Judgement, Corwin draws power from Random and uses it to divert the wave of Chaos only for Corwin’s Pattern, leaving Amber to be destroyed.
This is the break point for the characters from the future. Corwin and Random have this extra information. This is why Corwin needs to be directed, because it’s in his interest to keep this secret and to make sure that events in the past don’t get too far off track so he can still make a Pattern to rule the universe. Corwin’s role in the scenario is to cast doubt on what the future Amberites are telling the past ones. (You don’t have to tell Corwin that, just give Corwin his IC motivation, and let it go from there.)
One alternative is to only let future Random remember that Corwin was actually killing him (drawing on his energy to power his use of the Jewel) gradually through the game, so that he may have come to the full realization of what was going on by the last or next-to-last “round.” Or, you could make sure Random realizes he should pretend not to know, or something so that Corwin doesn’t just off him. If worse comes to worst too early in the game, “Jewel-like” effects — totally uncontrolled by Random, of course — could save him.
A special note on Grayswandir
Grayswandir is ENORMOUSLY powerful in Tir. We’ve played that no weapon or power, points or no, can be used to harm a future character, by either the future or the past characters, except for Grayswandir. This is another reason why Corwin needs to be directed — to keep him from just butchering everyone! We’ve played that Grayswandir’s pattern has changed from the Amber Pattern to the Corwin pattern — to give a reason for Corwin to keep Grayswandir in its sheath. Eventually, towards the end of the scenario, players playing Corwin finally seem to want to use it, or give it to someone, or something. This seems to be OK late in the scenario, but encourage Corwin to be responsible about it.
We’ve generally played that the only Trumps that work are those of the past Amberites — and they can only reach to other past Amberites in Tir, not outside. Past characters can give Trumpts to future characters, allowing a future character to contact past ones who are in Tir.
About other items and special powers
We’ve generally handled these on a case by case basis. Sometimes it has been cool to have an item from the past be handed to a future players, sometimes not. Tir works in weird ways and we leave it like that.
At ACNW, people got into the notion of giving blood to the future (ghost) players to drink. We had this be major, major bad. Gongs, floor shaking, Tir fading slightly, etc. But with the neato trick that it was gradually making the ghost more substantial. What this means is up to you — perhaps the ghost gets to slip into the past and leave with the rest of the past characters? Enough will make the ghost “reachable” by past characters’ weapons. But make it really creepy to keep some control.
About future characters in general
Treat them like ghosts, play up the immaterial aspects. They have extra power in Tir — power to affect the environment around them, they just can’t leave! At times, they’ll also be drawn and held to certain spots. Don’t bother to explain most of this, just tell them it happens.
About character briefings
Powers/stats aren’t very important in this game. Don’t let players take more than about 2 minutes to do stats and try to finish every briefing in about 30 seconds. (Corwin will take longer, of course.) Mock them for worrying about stats. This game is about conversation!
After the events of the backstory, just as Amber is about to get wiped out, Dworkin manages to send a number of Amberites into the past to appear as ghosts in Tir. Likewise, he goes into the past and rounds up a bunch of sleeping past Amberites and makes them appear at the bottom of the stairs to Tir, where he appears to them. Dworkin is both insane and incredibly mentally distracted and stressed trying to pull this off. Play him as either uncommunicative or raving made. If people ask him where everyone else is, the answer is along the lines of “you’re all I could get on short notice”. Generally, Dworkin works best in this scenario if he’s really, really creepy.
Dworkin wants the past characters to walk the stairs, and he won’t tell them why. (If someone doesn’t want to walk the stairs, just let them know that they’ll be having a very short and boring session if they don’t — it’s just the intro.) [Actually, Dworkin wants them to learn enough to fix/change the future.]
Meanwhile, in Tir, the future selves all materialize in the library, as ghosts. They all pretty much remember the storm, then disorientation, then waking up here. Brand should remember being shot and falling, and falling, and falling, in the Abyss, etc. A future Random would remember dying at Corwin’s hands, etc.
Give them all about 15 minutes to interact, freak out, etc. Ghosts will discover that they can’t really hurt each other, that they can float around Tir, but can’t leave. They won’t be able to perceive anything outside a bubble around Tir, either, so no Pattern lensing of the stairs, or Amber, or whatever. [Dworkin knows what he’s doing, you see.] The past people will be trying to figure out what the hell is going on, making up their minds, trying to contact people back home (and failing, thanks, again, to Dworkin messing with their Trumps) and otherwise climbing the stairs.
After that, there will be periodic interludes where the ghosts are drawn to one of several locations, where they encounter past Amberites. The first time this happens, the ghosts are in the library. A gong will sound, they’ll feel drawn off to separate parts of the castle. At that point, you should tell them that they suddenly realize there are rules here and power they have.
They will always know who is coming towards them, and can choose the person coming find them or not. They can create any scene they want, appear in it, make everyone in the scene talk or do whatever, change their appearance, or even change the appearance of their location, or not show up. They can bar late arrivals from entering. [Hand out lots of extra name tags only at this point.]
We’ve used the following locations: Pattern Room, Throne Room, Library, Garden Maze, Corwin’s Tomb, Chapel of the Unicorn. In the past, I’ve let the future characters (ghosts) pick from among those options in more or less random order, except that I always leave the person with the most bad stuff to pick last. ;-> Ghosts will always be pinned to this location for the duration of the interlude. Past Amberites are free to leave — but can only enter a location if the ghost there permits it.
Meanwhile, the past characters will be drawn to locations as well. We have usually done this via some “free association” drills. Thinking of smells or colors or words, and then making up how they assign to rooms. We’ve tried to mix it up over the course of the scenario so that everyone gets a chance to meet with everyone, but it usually takes care of itself. We try not to let people influence where they go, but some people get really stubborn. (“what are you smelling?” “the musty scent of tapestries in the throne room” “what emotion are you feeling?” “I’m remembering the awe I felt seeing Oberon on the throne”, etc.)
Each of these interludes of interaction should last about 30 minutes and both sides should be warned when they feel “time is growing short” (i.e., only a minute or so left). Once this starts, the job of GM is just to wander around and enjoy. (A great aspect of this game.) At the end, sound a gong, have the past Amberites reappear at the bottom of the stair to an even more agitated and incomprehensible Dworkin urging them up, and let them discuss as they ascend. The ghosts reappear in the library and usually snipe and scheme. Let this isolation interlude last about 10 minutes, then redo the assignment of rooms. Feel free to adjust the time to keep things moving along.
We usually do 3 or 4 interludes of interaction between past and future. During the last interlude (the 4th at ACNW), we did “jump cuts” every 10 minutes or so — call a freeze with no warning, and rotate every past Amberites from the room they are in to the next, appearing suddenly in the exact stance and positions as the person they replace. We did this 2 or 3 times. It’s great to really shock people — they appear at swordpoint, or arms outstretched, or kissing Corwin, or whatever. After the jump cuts, again sound a gong, have everyone reset to the bottom of the stairs or the library, but then let everything progress without people feeling drawn anywhere for the final 45 minutes or so of the game as everyone tries to wrap it up. A final gong sounds, and the game ends. It’s probably good to foreshadow the end with tremors and the sun rising, and Tir fading, so people can rush to final action with a few minutes to go.
Debrief works by having everyone from the past write down what are the first things they’d plan to do, having them read it, then going around the room and asking everyone how they think the future will be different.
Voila. It sounds complex, but it’s pretty much a wind-up toy once it gets going. Arbitrating weird actions is the biggest challenge.