Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Roger Zelazny Book Review: Dragon magazine ad for the Amber Diceless RPG

I'm trying to move towards a slightly more rigorous M/W/F publishing schedule here at Where There Had Been Darkness, so let's open with the first Zelazny post in a while. 

I suppose that I'm kind of stretching the definition by calling this a Roger Zelazny book review, but here's an interesting piece of ephemera,the ad in Dragon magazine advertising the Amber Diceless Role-playing game.

I  talked about my history with the game at the post where I covered the ADRPG itself, but to recap, I was reading a magazine in a friend's basement before a game, waiting for the other players to arrive. I saw the ad, mailed the check as soon as I got home, and had the book in hand a week later, as well as response to my fanboyish question from Erick Wujcik,"Dear Josh, thanks for your interest. You mentioned that you liked Mandor and Dalt, so I've enclosed copies of the pictures we'll be using for them in the upcoming book. Also, you asked how Bleys is pronounced. It's blaze, like a fire."

The game is stylistically, very characteristic of its era. I don't necessarily mean this in a pejorative sense, but Amber had very powerful non player characters, and it skewed very solidly to the ROLE-Playing (as opposed to ROLL-playing) side of the scale, though it's not surprising that a diceless game has a bias in that direction.

If you can't make out the text on the image, I'm reproducing it below.

AMBER is the most character intensive game ever! 
It takes hours, plus a whole gaming session, just to create a new group of Amber player characters.
Amber Characters start out with the strength to lift a car, the endurance to fight a whole day without tiring, a mind trained to psychic combat, and the battle skills of a master. Better yet, they start out as fully rounded people. 
Character building starts with players competing in an Attribute Auction, using their character's points to vie for dominance in psyche, strength, endurance and warfare.
Then players use their points to get Powers. 
Pattern is the ticket to immortality, the birthright of any Amberite, and the ultimate key to controlling worlds 
You see, our Earth is but one of an infinite number of Shadows, cast by the light of the only true world, Amber. Player characters with Pattern have the blood of Amber's ruling family. This means being able to walk among infinite alternate reality, shaping or destroying, to toy with destiny. 
The flip side of Pattern, it's opposite, is the power of the Logrus, symbol of Amber's great foe, the Courts of Chaos. Between these two powers are the lesser abilities of Magic, Shape Shifting and Trump. 
When we say no dice we mean it. No dice, coin flips, cards, yarrow sticks, computer chips or any randomness! Here's how we can do that: 
1. Characters are made with points, bidding in an Attribute Auction where the players compete for Rank. NO DICE! 
2. Combat is resolved by comparing each combatant's Rank and specific actions. The best character wins! NO DICE! 
3. Players choose their own "LUCK," spending points to be lucky, or borrowing point against bad luck. NO DICE! 
4. Ever been frustrated with a bad dice roll? In Amber, if your character can do it, consider it done! NO DICE! 
5. No Random encounters! Instead, each character is part of a story, and encounters are planned by the GM! NO DICE!"

The language in the ad worked for high school Josh ("The most character intensive game ever!") but, well, he was kind of a sucker. Today, I'd be extremely leery of something advertised with so many capital letters and exclamation points. However, I still like the art that goes along with it, because those goons attacking the swords seem like they could have sprung directly from Undershadow, or Brand's Prison Shadow.

Also, while researching this post, I discovered that a picture of me is the second result when performing an image search for Phage Press, the company that published the game. That's just weird.


  1. The Google search makes sense. You did attend Boycey and Tisetso Phage's wedding. It was a most triumphant time.

  2. I think you're confused. I'm friends with Boycey of the Long Island Phages.