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Nine intrigues in Amber

Jeff Warrender
United States
Averill Park
New York
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"You Said This Would Be Fun", a book about game design, available at Amazon and DriveThruRPG
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Just a quick impromptu mid-week post. I've just finished the 4th book in the Amber series, just a great series of books that shift from amnesia fiction to battlefield heroics to palace intrigue seamlessly. Zelazny was a master storyteller.

But the third and fourth books in particular brought to my mind ideas sketched out in a couple of earlier posts. In this one, from 2018, we talked about how we could find creative new setups for games be designing around specific situations, one of which might be that one or more players are going to arrive to the game late. And in this year's first post we talked about whether a game could effectively have a "Fistful of Dollars"/"Yojimbo"-type character that plays two factions against one another.

It seems to me that the situation Corwin finds himself in in Sign of the Unicorn is a potential example of these ideas. There are intrigues he is unaware of and steps unwittingly into the middle of, but because of his role as the presumptive heir he is in a powerful position, and many of those intrigues factored him in as a potential consideration, allowing for the uncertainty of his actually becoming involved. It makes for an interesting story as he discovers these intrigues but one feels that a lot of the fun would have been in the participation in the schemes themselves.

And it seems like a game could do something like this. A court intrigue game like, well, Intrigue, where we're hatching schemes and forming alliances and machinating, and then if another player shows up late, they join the action but have to read the room to learn what schemes are already in motion and who to trust, who will provide reliable information. But you don't know for sure when that person will arrive, or if they will, so do you stall for them to show up and then try to sway them to your side, or try to rush things before they arrive lest they upset your carefully laid plans?

Of course you need a good intrigue game on which to situate a construct like this. I don't think it would be easy to pull off. It feels like a Cole Wehrle design in a way, although it needs to be much simpler than Cole's usual fare, much simpler, such that the person arriving late doesn't necessarily even have to know how to play; a bit like Mao, the late-arrivals have to learn the game they've stepped into while they're right in the thick of it. (Better still, like the amnesia chapters of Nine Princes, maybe the person doesn't even want to let on that they don't know how to play!).

I think I can do it but haven't yet thought about how. Giving it an Amber skin would be icing on the cake, but honestly it's probably more flexible to go into such a project without a preexisting commitment like that.


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