I spent June 10 to June 16 in Columbus, Ohio for this year’s Origins convention. It was a good convention for the gamers and merchants–nothing memorable for me. There really wasn’t much in the way of hall costumes. So, this year I’m devoting the blog record to the merchants and the signs that marked their booths.
I’m just gonna show some of the best booth banners and maybe a few other things that justified a photo.
Looking at the main concourse lobby on Wednesday morning before the crowds arrived.
A distinctive feature of the convention center is this gigantic staircase that is seven aisles wide–three escalators in the center and two wide stairways on either side. When I felt strong, I climbed the stairs, averaging about 5 flights of stairs per day.
The Exhibitor’s Hall before anyone gets set up.
HackMaster was just across the aisle from Flying Buffalo. Dave Kenzer is standing by the HackMaster Banner. I just wish Tunnels & Trolls had a banner like this.
Jolly Blackburn, creator/artist/writer of the Knights of the Dinner Table comic book poses heroically.
My friend, Jolly, personifies all that is best about gamers at Origins. This is the single nicest guy in gaming, even nicer than me, and I’m as easygoing and friendly as you could ever wish. Jolly is better.
Here begins the great banners of Origins.
I’m not going to comment on most of the banners.
I told these guys I expected some tribute because I’m the Trollgod, but it didn’t happen. They even stole my acronym, T&T.
Heh, I’m using this cartoon as my background on Facebook right now.
Fantasy cartography is getting pretty great, but not for Mac owners.
Ya think something might be epic around here?
James Ernest is still the mastermind behind Cheapass Games. I had a good talk with him at a later time.
I demoed this game. It was kind of fun, like a g-rated version of Las Vegas.
This is a beautiful educational game that looks like a lot of fun to play. The designer and his family will be thousands of dollars in the red, and unlikely to appear again at next year’s Origins. Sad, but true. That is still the fate of most self-published books and games.
This guy is a talented artist. A lot of artists come to Origins. I don’t know why. Gamers are mostly not interested in buying or commissioning art.
There was some great steampunk costumery stuff. You had to be rich to afford it. $80 vests. $500 coats.
Technically, this is more of a toy company than a game company, but you could certainly use these toys in games.
Henry Lopez (seated, white hair) is a man who produces quality games. His Witch Hunter 2nd edition rpg is one of the few things I brought back with me from Origins.
I’ve played King of Tokyo. It plays fast and is good fun. Brilliant game!
There were a lot of zombies at the show. Zombie games remain popular.
Steve Jackson games was there, of course, doing their highly irritating “Exact Change” song and dance whenever anyone paid with cash in the exact amount asked for.
Will Neibling Sr. is a Hall of Fame game designer with a deep interest in World War II and military simulation. He still runs his own game company.
It was a big panel and took 2 photos to show it.
3D open dungeon on display at the Kenzer booth. The pieces are modular, and can be built into any pattern you wish. Great for miniatures, and so pretty.
Where do they get those marvelous toys? I’m not in the Exhibitor’s Hall now. I’m off in open gaming where the mini-gamers have set up.
If I had a lady, I would buy her one of these gamer jewels.
I do so love fantasy art featuring warrior women. Not sure I wanna be married to one tho in the modern world.
A good thing about the dealer halls these days are the many demos going on. Tired? Sit down and learn a new game.
Speaking of warrior women, there weren’t very many hall costumes, but this woman had the best one of all. Awesome to look at, and a killer smile when I talked to her. I wanted her so much.
This is what the main concourse looked like after Origins had ended on Sunday afternoon.
Finally, a selfie picture of me just to prove I was there. Crom! I look more like a gnome or a goblin than a troll these days. Maybe it will look better if I grow my beard back. I started working on it for the whole week of Origins travel and show.
And that was my look at Origins 2014. If you were there, and have a comment, please leave one. What did you like best and least about this year’s Origins?
Ken St. Andre, steampunk tai chi master, passes through the Gates of Steel to enter the World of the Weird.
I love hall costumes. Not enough to really get into that scene myself, although I would be totally willing to wear great costumes that others made for me, but enough to appreciate and enjoy it when the costumed folk surround me. Last week there was an anime con in Mesa, Arizona. I thought about attending but decided to only go on Sunday, and to only go to see the cosplay. I am not much of a fanboy for any particular anime, but at least the costume I wore made me part of the cosplay crowd, and made it really easy to talk to them. I took my camera along and this is what I found.
Pikachu and Ash were there.
Far future assassin. Awesome weapons and armor. Glad I was not his target.
Avoiding the old joke about horny ladies, I will say these pretty devil girls seemed very happy not to be in Hell.
A cat may look at a queen, and I looked at this one. I believe Wonderland is getting more psychedelic than Carroll’s Wildest Imagination.
And speaking of queens, here’s Marceline, the Vampire Queen from Adventure Time.
I really like the vampiriness of her costume, so I got this closeup to show her teeth. She doesn’t have to drink blood–she just eats the color red. Getting her teeth whitened wouldn’t hurt, though.
Kill La Kill–a high school frull of killer girls. Our heroine is Ryuko Matoi who wields one half of a giant pair of scissors.
Although cosplayers live to be photographed and complimented, many of them have no idea how to pose. This is the Before I got them to actually do some cosplay.
and this is after. All I had to do was suggest they come back to my place with me, and they got much more animated. Don’t you agree that they look much better while threatening me with unspeakable evils? (Just kidding. What would I do with two beautiful and dangerous young females? The world will never know. grin.)
Sometimes you just want to chill with your friends. Hanging out at Taiyo Con.
Are these girls wearing the scariest pajamas ever? The humanoid figure you see on their clothing is a titan from Attack on Titan.
From the huge to the tiny. When I left the Titanic twins behind, I met this radiantly beautiful fairy.
I asked about the mask. She just likes to wear it. I tried the line from the Princess Bride on her where the Dread Pirate Roberts defends his mask by saying he thinks it is very fashionable, but it went right by her.
The girl in pink was standing with the girl in black when I took her picture, and wanted to be photographed too. I mentioned (lol) how dangerous they looked, and whispered to Pinky that she was the one who really terrified me. That really made her smile and she said she liked me.
Not all of the dangerous characters and great costumes were worn by women. This guy with his twin swords was posing almost nonstop, often with ladies who liked his killer looks.
Deadpool was there. He seemed to be mostly a beast of burden for the girl he was with, but he had the better outfit. Heh, it would have been great to get him into a faceoff with that furure assassin character or maybe the ninja up above.
Here’s another guy with a suit of armor I’d really love to own. Maybe he’s supposed to be Riddick, or maybe he just likes the bald look. I kind of like it myself.
A lot of the costumes were amazing with great props like the swords, guns, guitars, horns, and such, but I talked to this guy in the LAPD armor from the computer game Fallout with the Pip-Boy. The Pip-Boy 3000 appears in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. It’s an electronic Personal Information Processor (PIP) manufactured by RobCo Industries in the mid-21st century, and acts as the player’s HUD in the game. (info courtesy of the Fallout wiki)
The Lady in Red was a vendor selling elf hats from the Legend of Zelda. I came within an inch of buying one, even though I can’t think of any reason for ever wearing it. Simple but cool.
The newly-dead don’t all lie down and molder. This one was ready to defend herself and had the cutest freckles and engaging smile when caught off-guard.
Short, blonde, female Naruto, but dangerous all the same. I truly love the dangerous ones. I showed her this tai chi guard and push posture to get her into action instead of just portrait mode. Knowing some tai chi has its benefits.
Is that an owlbear I see lurking in the background?
Very handsome wolfman–I didn’t ask him to pose, just caught him going about his business.
Rushing into the Dealers Room, she stopped to let me take a photo, but she forget to smile. This is what happens to beautiful young anime characters once they get middle-aged and world-weary.
Volunteers make any convention run. These kids were in costume and doing their duty, even tho the need for volunteers was mostly gone by Sunday afternoon. I salute Con volunteers everywhere and thank you for your time and effort.
Colorful. Great hair. Has a boyfriend.
Storm of the X-Men was blowing in as I was blowing out.
Maybe she’s here. to apprehend Deadpool. She certainly looks ready for action.
And that’s all, folks. I am sure I missed some great costumes, and didn’t go to any panels or see any of the anime stars on hand, but I had a fun hour taking pix and talking to the people in the lobby. I don’t know if Con promoters and producers would want me to say this or not, but people, hotel lobbies are free. If you can’t afford to pay the high prices of attending today’s many sci-fi, fantasy, media, anime, comics cons, you can still go and hang out in the lobby where you may get a chance to talk to the participants, see great costumes, take some photos, and otherwise enjoy yourself. It is a lot better than staying home and playing computer games all afternoon–though there is nothing wrong with playing computer games, and I play a lot.
Next weekend I will be a gaming guest at DarkCon 2014, and I think I’ll wear my steampunk tai-chi master costume again–at least for one day. I will be doing a panel on Saturday morning with three other more notable game designers than myself (Tom Dowd, John Wick, Todd VanHooser), and I should be running some Tunnels and Trolls for anyone who would really like to play. Bring your characters and your dice and come game with me! You can learn all about DarkCon here: https://www.facebook.com/events/162229360629080/. I will be taking pix, and should have another Con report here in a week or ten days.
If you ever indulge in cosplay, or take pix of those who do, why not leave a comment? If you were at Taiyo Con, you should certainly leave a comment and tell what was best about the Con for you.
I design games. It’s what I do. And not just role-playing games and scenarios. I can make any kind of game, out of virtually any kind of material. Before the end, I would like to show the world some of my other game designs.
Another TrollCon is coming up at the end of July. 20 or 30 people will get together in Scottsdale to play Tunnels and Trolls and other games and just have a good time. I’ll be there. This year I wanted to do something a little special for the people who come from other parts of the country to game with me. So, I created this game. I’ll give it to you if you come to the con. Otherwise, I’ll sell it to you.
It’s a simple game. Steal the dragon’s gold!
This one isn’t a complicated roleplaying game. It’s snatch and grab. Cunning versus Power. Would you like to try it out? Are you clever enough, swift enough, to steal gold from a dragon?
The game will be available in pdf at the beginning of August. In the meantime, if you’d like to have a hardcopy, send me an email. The price will be $8 in the U.S.A, or $12 in any other country, and I’ll cover the postage and have it autographed by the artist and me. Need a birthday present, or a Christmas gift for a gamer friend? This could be a good option for you.
I’ll demo the game at GenCon, and we (meaning Flying Buffalo) will sell it there. In the meantime, if you’d like a copy hot off the presses, send me an email: email@example.com. Or just paypal some money to me at that address.
If you’ve ever tried to steal gold from a dragon, or if you think stealing is wrong, why not leave a comment?
Two days later, and I’m back from the post office. I’ve just sent off some 42 copies of Dwarves and Dragons to the first people who were kind enough to order it. Those who are close to me should get their copies tomorrow, further away by Saturday, and the rest of the world before the end of next week.
If this game came in a box from Z-man or some other good-sized game producer, I might have included some extra components. The game needs 1D6 in order to play. I didn’t put it in. Who out there doesn’t already own dice? Now that production is done, and I have a chance to think about it, it could be fun to make a couple of custom D6s for it. I could have a Dwarf Die with a pair of eyes on it where the one should be indicating invisibility for the Dwarf when he rolls a 1. I could have a Dragon Die with a Dragon head on it instead of a six to indicate when the dragon is breathing fire. You don’t need special dice for this, but it would be nice.
There’s another component I expect the players to provide on their own: coins. Three or more pennies can serve as the dragon’s hoard. Everybody can produce a handful of copper or silver to use as treasure pieces. Or I could have designed some cardboard gold coins. It’s another non-essential that would have driven production costs up. If the game becomes very popular, which I am not counting on, it would be fun to design some fantasy coins for it.
Miniature lovers, Dwarves and Dragons is the perfect opportunity to use your minis in play. If you have dwarf minis, you should use them; if you have a dragon mini of about the right size, you should use it. You could also use the transparent stones/counters used in Magic and other card games for the boulders in the cave instead of the cardstock counters that I provided. By taking the game out of the realm of cardboard and cardstock, and pushing it into the realm of realia, players could get even more fun out of it.
It’s sort of like using a fancy chess set versus using a plain chess set. The game is the same, no matter which set you use to play it. The fancy set is kind of distractiong at first, and you might not play your best game when admiring your crystal queens and rooks and things. I’d like to see it fancy, but I’m happy to see the game as it is. It’s a start!
My 50 signed and autographed copies are almost gone. Don’t let that stop you from buying one from me. If I need more copies of the game, I will get more. And I’ll sign and number them for you. However, this first release is special, and I’m making the price as low as I can to encourage people to get one, and to reward those who support me at the beginning, When the first 50 are all gone, the price will go up to what it really ought to be. So, it’s a case of EARLY BIRD GETTING WORM, or early buyer getting a deal.
39 years ago I helped start LepreCon, the first sfnal Con in Arizona. At least if anything else preceeded it, my friends and I had never heard of it, though we knew about cons in California and back east. Since then the number of cons has increased tremendously, and it reached a point where cons weren’t just for science fiction any more–they spread out into all sorts of related fields, like Gaming.
It all blurs together after a while, but I don’t remember going to any gaming specific cons before the 1990s. However, once the idea caught on, it became quite popular. This year, I have attended three Gaming Cons here in Arizona–VulCon I, Conflagration 1, and RinCon 2012. In addition, I have spent most of my con time gaming at DarkCon, LepreCon, ComiCon, and CopperCon. And those were just the cons in Arizona, which I tend to attend because they are close and don’t cost me much money. Out of state I went to Origins, OSRcon, and GenCon. And I’m planning on LaughingMoonCon on Oct. 20. That makes 8 weekends minimum spent at conventions, mostly gaming–slightly more than 1/5th of the year’s weekends up to my neck in cards and dice mostly.
Last week, Sept 28-30. I was in South Tucson for RinCon 2012. This southern Arizona convention is about 5 years old now, and I have attended it once before. This year the Con committee made me an offer I couldn’t refuse (a hotel room for my stay at the con–I’m easy, folks, you can have me for as little as a place to stay while at the con (grin)). My son and I went to the Con. I played Tunnels & Trolls twice, and a few other games. I was on two interesting panels with John Wick and Mark Truman who were the other major frp people at the con. We talked about such things as GM technique, things to keep in mind if you want to create your own frp game, and how the sport of role-playing has developed and is likely to continue developing.
I took my little camera along and took a few pictures, which I will now share with you. They don’t really make a story this time, but it should give you an idea of what it was like.
There was plenty of function space at the Airport Holiday Inn in South Tucson. About half of the gaming took place in this large hall. The dealers have an area down at the far end.
I broke a rule, and actually played That Other Game. Jim McKenzie, the big guy on the left ran Pathfinder for most of the weekend, and I sat in on a game Friday afternoon as a wizard. Had to leave after about an hour of play, and I got back just in time for the grand finale. My wizard wasn’t missed, and got to throw one magic missile in the whole game.
Although you will find I prefer my own Tunnels and Trolls to all other frp systems, I am willing to play other games from time to time. Really, it isn’t the system that matters. It’s the role-playing that counts and having a good time with others.
That evening, Jamie, the cutie on the right taught my son James, the blurry fellow on the left, and me how to play the World of Warcraft CCG. James won–twice. I prefer Magic ™, but if one were a WoW player (and I’m not), I could see how one might grow fond of this game.
James Ernest was the Guest of Honor at RinCon. James is an amazingly smart game designer of mostly board games, but he could do anything. We know each other, but don’t mingle that much. Here he is having breakfast at the hotel buffet on Saturday morning. Bacon, eggs, and orange juice–yum!
The major Event of the convention was a GM conference on Saturday morning from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m. 5 game designers including me down front and 20 to 30 people in the audience at various times.
Audience, right side, Matthew Nielson down in front.
Audience, left side.
John Wick sat to the right of me. John pretty much dominates any panel he is on.
John said he had designed 10 rpgs this year already. I said, big deal, designing them isn’t so hard. Getting them published and out to the gamers in an attractive format is the hard thing. John amended his statement to say he had published 10 rpgs already this year.
Mark Truman sat to the left of me on the panel. Mark is a game designer on the rise.
You won’t see any pictures of me at this Con, at least none that I own. I was always pretty much at the center of the action and looking out admiring the great works of other people.
RinCon pays its GMs in RinCoins–tokens that dealers have agreed to take as part of the purchase price of games. Alas, I spent my RinCoins buying more Magic.
This BEN HVRT (clever play on Roman letters and a movie title) looked like a lot of fun. It represents all the great games I saw at RinCon but never got the actual chance to play.
After 2.5 days of gaming goodness, RinCon came to an end on Sunday afternoon. While I was there I participated in a Pathfinder game, 2 Tunnels and Trolls sessions, a Settlers of Catan game, several rounds of Magic with my son, a WoW demo, a game of Gloom with my son, and a long session of Legacy the other t & t game (time travel and technology). It was a good weekend for gaming.
If you were at RinCon, or some other gaming convention recently, why not leave a comment and mention your exploits there?
I spent the weekend of August 9-12 in Toronto at the second OSRcon, organized by Chris Cunnington and sponsored (sort of) by Trollhalla member Carter Soles. It’s a small gaming con with an attendance of less than 100 people, but they flew me in and gave me a hotel room to be Guest of Honor, and I was very happy to go. I’ve never been to Toronto before. It’s a lovely megalopolis–a strange mixture of old and new side by side. The old stuff is all bricks and granite; the new stuff is all steel and glass.
It was all role-playing gaming. In the two days of the Con, I never saw s single board game or card game being played. I brought a few decks of Magic along, just in case there was nothing to do, and I needed a pickup game, but I don’t think anyone else at the Con even had a deck with them.
I brought my camera too, and I took some pictures. The order in which I took the pix is pretty much a chronological record of what I did at the Con. So let me start putting them up. One thing I have to say. Although I don’t take the best pictures, I like the ones I take better than I like the ones taken of me. I kinda hate how old and silly I look. In my mind I’m Harrison Ford. In reality I’m Don Rickles. Sheesh!
This is a very poorly organized and constructed blog, but I wanted something online before I head to GenCon for a week. This is the rough first draft of the adventure. I’ll polish it up and make it prettier when I return from GenCon in a week or so.
Some people say, if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Talking about this blog, I say, like Nike, Just Do It. This one isn’t done well, but it’s here as a record of my travels and good times. Ken St. Andre is no perfectionist.
I’m in a food court at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on my way to Toronto. I had to spend several hours there between flights. The architecture was bizarre. Dallas is so big that you have to ride a train between terminals.
The escalators are huge at Dallas. I spent a lot of time on this trip looking up.
Here’s a shot of that train I was talking about.
My flight was late. Here I’m in Toronto. These three came and got me at the airport. From left to right: Brendan, Chris, Carter. To meet them I think I had to walk a mile through the airport from where the plane landed, and go through Customs, all at 2 o’clock in the morning. Such are the adventures of my life.
Friday morning, I walked past this bizarre building. It is the Robarts Library of the University of Toronto. My path to the Con from my hotel took me right through the heart of the campus.
The little black thing in the center of the photo is one of the evil black squirrels of Toronto. It was the most ferocious wildlife I saw (not counting Man) on this trip.
Toronto seems to be full of these ancient Gothic towers. I took this shot at sunset walking back to the hotel. Should have gotten more pix from Friday, but my batteries were dying.
I ate most of my meals at the Fox and Fiddle restaurant and bar. It’s a very lively place inside at night–the karaoke there is excruciating.
Looking down Bloor Street on a wet Saturday morning. I managed to get more batteries for my camers. Thanks, Brendan!
Looking the other way on Bloor Street. It rained a lot in Toronto while I was there. I didn’t care. I was having a ball.
The strangest building on Bloor Street–the Royal Ontario Museum (the Rom). I thought it looked like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.
The angular part of the museum was a post-modern addition to the original grey brick construction. Apparently the main attraction inside was Dinosaurs.
It appears that I didn’t actually photograph much of the gaming convention itself. I was far more interested in the library and the displays they had upstairs. Really, I did spend most of 2 days in the dungeon playing games, but when the camera came out, it was books and bizarre sights I chose to photograph. Other photographers were there, and perhaps I can insert some of their pix into my own.
Big little books featuring Tarzan of the Apes.
My favorite pulp magazine of all time was Planet Stories. I used to own some of them. This is Planet #1–Golden Amazons of Mars. What were they thinking?
The Dragon Queen of Jupiter, a Leigh Brackett story I’d never heard of before. Oh, I so wanted to take the mag out of its cellophane wrapper and read those old stories.
Tarzan in Blue Book magazine. and Tanar of the Earth’s Core. I love pulp science fiction magazines, and I got to see some great old covers in the Merrill collection.
First editions on display in the Osborne collection of the Toronto Public Library. The theme was insects in Children’s Literature.
Painted walls of Toronto. I don’t have any idea why this magnificient scene of birds and a rhino was on the wall of a cheap diner not far from the library.
Griffin-guarded entrance to the Toronto Public Library where the Con was held on Saturday around 2 p.m.
From the edge of the lobby, you can just see the skeleton of a gigantic dinosaur. The head is at the left.
Looking into the museum. Top right corner is dinosaur neck and head. I was trying to photograph something smaller and bizarre in the center but people walked into the path of my photo. Grrrr! It’s what happens when you’re too far away from the target.
I got into the lobby of the ROM. This little dinosaur skeleton was there to greet me, or perhaps to eat me.
On Sunday morning I found a troll–a great black stone troll on the street across from my hotel. He was apparentlhy sad to see me go.
Here I am at the Toronto airport saying goodbye to my friends Carter & Brendan. My bags are on my shoulder and in my hand, and there are 9 hours of air travel ahead of me.
My adventures weren’t quite over. The airport was confusing, and I wound up at the wrong gate, and after hours of waiting I hear an intercom announcement that’s last call for my flight at a different gate. I have shoes off and coins on the ground as I was figuring out what to do with my Canadian change. I gathered my things and ran through the airport, shoes untied, bags half open and made it to my gate, last person to board. On the run, the battery of my phone jounced out and so did a paperback book and sci-fi magazine. They found the reading material, and I got it back on the plane, but the battery was lost. Oh well. One pays for one’s pleasures, and it was a small price–that along with a sore backside from 6 hours in a plane and another 3 waiting in airports–for the most fun weekend I’ve had in years.
If you’ve ever been to Toronto or attended a really small gaming convention that was all role-playing, go ahead and leave a message?
Amber, the true foundation of Reality, lost its way when King Oberon disappeared into Shadow.
Being a game designer is a lot like being a writer. It’s not so much that you want to invent new games, just like writers don’t necessarily want to write. You can’t help it. You can’t stop. Game designers design games because they can’t NOT DESIGN GAMES. Writers write because they can’t not write.
For every game that gets made and becomes a success, who know how many there were that never got made, never got played, and were only a flash of ideas? Below the line of stars begins the actual rules that I typed up in 1984.
The card game for Amber was conceived during the seventies when I was GMing a vast play-by-mail simulation of the Amber novels. At the time I thought this would make a good science fiction game, but couldn’t rouse much enthusiasm among muy circle of friends. They weren’t much into card games. The outline for the rules has languished in a desk drawer for several years. I’m going to write it out now so I can throw my notes away, and possibly get this game published somewhere. I believe it deserves to see print. (Comment from 2012: never happened. I typed up what follows, and it went in a box, only to be rediscovered after I moved and started going through all my old stuff. I wonder if I should throw these pages away, or offer them up for auction somewhere, or donate to a university. Why would any university care?)
To play the Game of Amber you will need a complete Tarot deck, paper, and writing implements. You should have at least 4 players, and the game is better if there are 9 or more.
Divide the tarot deck into 3 sets of cards: the Chaos deck consists of the 22 numbered Major Arcana; the Encounter deck consists of the 16 Court cards; and the Shadow deck consists of all the numbered Suit cards. Shuffle the Shadow deck and the Chaos deck and set them aside. Spread out the Court cards. Each player should choose one card to represent him or herself. You may use either names from the Amber books, or make up your own names. Supplement One matches the Court cards with the major characters of the Amber novels. After each player has taken a Court card, the rest are shuffled and placed face down. Before starting to play, deal each player 2 cards from the Shadow deck, face down to represent their unknown resources in Shadow, and one card face up to represent their known powers. Set the unused part of the deck to one side.
Oberon, immortal founder of Amber and its true ruler, has vanished, leaving no designated heir to the throne. All of his offspring believe themselves to be worthy, and each is maneuvering to gain the support of enough of the others to take the crown and hold it. In game terms, anyone who can take the throne and successfully hold it for 3 turns will be the winner, and perpetual ruler in Amber. While this internecine strife engulfs Amber and the Shadow worlds, Chaos is also making its move to destroy Amber and the Pattern so that chaos may rule supreme.
Before beginning to play the tabletop is designated as the City of Amber (assuming now that the players are seated around a table in order to play a card game), and the center of the table is the Throne. The Chaos deck is shuffled, and one card is placed face down on the Throne which is known as the Siege Perilous. (The Thorne has that name, not the card.) The first player to actually place his card on the Throne turns over the Chaos card and must take the consequences of the card. (See Chaos table in Supplement Two for meaning of the Chaos cards.)
All players start in Amber with their Court card and one Shadow card face up on the table. They also have 2 cards face down. There is a 5 minute Diplomacy round in which players may seek alliances among themselves. During this time they may show their face down card t the other players or not, as they choose.
At the end of the Diplomacy turn, each player must take a slip of paper and secretly declare an option. All options are revealed simultaneously. There are 4 options possible: 1. wait in Amber (this is neutral and makes no move), 2. seize the Throne (If only one Player seizes the Throne, he/she gets it and we move to phase 2. If two or more Players try to seize the Throne, there is Civil War, and the game moves to phase 3. If no one seizes the Throne, the game remains in phase 1.), 3. attack another Player. (See attack and defense rules below), 4. move into Shadow (or if in Shadow, return to Amber) Before any player moves into Shadow, all remaining Chaos, Court, and Shadow cards are shuffled together into one deck and placed face down on the Table. Each time a Player moves from Amber into Shadow, he must take the top card off the combined new Shadow deck. If it is a Chaos card, he must play it face up and take the consequences (usually that will indicate some sort of Chaotic move against Amber which would jump the game into phase 4 (Attack on Amber). If it is a Court or Shadow card, he may conceal it. The Player then surrenders his own Court card which is placed on the bottom of the Shadow deck. Each other Player then cuts the Shadow deck once without looking at the result, effecting a new shuffle of the deck. From this time on, whenever a card is played, it will go into a discard pile which will be cut back into the Shadow deck after each round of play as was just described. Players may only take one Shadow card for each trip into Shadow, and must return to Amber before they can move back into Shadow and take another card.
Phase 3: Civil War
Whenever there is more than one claimant for the Throne, there will be Civil War. Civil wars are fought by playing Shadow cards against the other players. Each suit has a special meaning and may only be played to accomplish a particular thing. Swords are the cards of Attack, and may only be used to attack and capture the other Player. Wands are the cards of Defense, and may only be used to defend against a Sword attack. (If a higher numbered Wand is used against a lower numbered Sword, it is a counter attack, and the defensive Player may capture or defeat the offensive Player.) Cups are a suit of Compulsion and may be used to force an alliance. They are useless against Swords, however. Pentacles (Coins) are the suit of economic strength and may be used to block compulsion by Cups. In addition, there are several special cards with specific meanings and powers that will be described below. No matter who wins a Civil War, no Player will succeed in taking the Throne of Amber on that turn.
Combat occurs by playing one card against another until one Player is unable to continue. Cards are played face down and simultaneously–then revealed to see what the results are. Any one card of Wands can counter any Sword attack excpt the Ten of Swords (see special cards). Any Pentacle can counter any Cup. In the event of mutual attacks with no defense, the stronger attack will win. The loser in such a conflict, unless slain with the Ten of Swords, is banished into Shadow for the number of turns that represents the difference in the combat (i.e. 9 of Swords vs. 5 of Swords sends the Loser into Shadow for 4 turns) without being able to make any play or draw any Shadow cards until he has come back to Amber for at least one turn. If the battle is in compulsion and not force, the Loser becomes the vassal of the Winner, and forfeits one Shadow card up to his entire stock for each point by which he was beaten. Each card played in a Civil War is placed face down in the discard deck, shuffled with all other discards at the end of the turn, and cut back into the Shadow deck at the end of the turn. Players may play any number of cards in the course of a Civil War, up to everything they have.
Phase 2: Seizing the Throne
Eventually someone will seize the Throne without a Civil War. That Player must then turn over the Chaos card that has lain there face down and accept the consequences for either good or evil. The Player who occupies the Throne has great resources to draw upon and may draw two cards from the top of the Shadow deck each turn, but must leave them face up in front of him in Amber so that everyone can see them. If he holds the Throne for 3 complete turns after taking it, the game is over and he has won. After phase 2, move to phase 4. A player who is on the Throne may not initiate a Sword attack against any other player, though he may use Cup (compulsion) attacks if he wishes. He may use Swords if he is attacked by a Rebel.
Phase 4: Encounters in Shadow
If a Player is banished into Shadow as a result of losing a Swords combat, he gets no turn until the time limit expires. He may still condust Diplomacy with other Players during the next Diplomacy round. After his time limit expires, he may take one Shadow card and return to Amber if he wishes.
If a Player has gone into Shadow voluntarily, he surrenders his Court card and takes one Shadow card in its place. There are then 3 possibilities. If he draws a Chaos card he looks at Supplement Two, the Chaos table, and follows instructions for the cards there. This must be done openly so that all Players can see. If he draws a Court card, he may either conceal it for a while, or give it back to its Player. If he keeps it, nothing happens, but if he returns it, he may either use the return to initiate combat, which moves the game into phase 3, Civil War, or demand a ransom of one other card face down in its place from that Player. If the Court card does not represent an active Player, then the Player ma ally with it by playing it face up in Amber in front of him. He will then draw 2 cards from the Shadow deck face down to represent the strength of the alliance, and that Court card will be taken out of play for the remainder of the game. There is one other thing that can be done with a Court card. If it has not been revealed or played, and the Player who holds it is in Amber, it may be used to summon that other Player back to Amber and force him to reveal all his Shadow cards face up for all to see.
If phase 4 ends without reverting to Civil War, then one complete turn is over, and the Players begin the next turn with phase 1 where each Player selects anoption and reveals it simultaneously after no more than 5 minutes of Diplomacy.
There are 5 special Shadow cards with only one meaning. They must be used for their special meanings and not for the general purposes of Attack, Defense, Compulsion, or Protection.
Nine of Cups–the Wish card. Whoever it is played on (and you may play it on yourself or another Player if you wish) automatically gains the Throne of Amber. The former occupant, if there was one, forfeits all the strength of the Throne, and goes back into the general population of Amber.
Seven of Cups–Betrayal. Whoever it is played on loses all alliances, and must forfeit 1/2 of his Shadow cards to person who played the card on him.
Ten of Swords–Death. Whoever it is played on, unless protected by the Ace of Wands, dies. His Player card is removed from the game for the remainder and all of his Shadow cards go back into the discard pile. The “dead” Player is out of the game.
Two of Pentacles–Defeat. Whoever this card is played upon, even if it is the King of Amber, loses all Shadow cards to the discard pile immediately.
Ace of Wands–Protection. This card when played, protects the Player on whom it is played from Death by the Ten of Swords. It will not protect against death at the hands of the Forces of Chaos.
Combat is always conducted by using the Shadow cards. Each card represents a source of power that is effective against two of the other sources and ineffective against one of the other sources.
Swords: physical force on the attack.
Cups: magical compulsion.
Pentacles (Coins): financial strength (suitable for hiring either mercenaries or magicians)
Wands: Defensive strength (fortifications and the support of the common people)
Swords may attack Cups and Pentacles but will be beaten if a higher numbered card is played. Any Wand played against a Sword negates the attack.
Cups may be played against Pentacles and Wands and will be beaten if a higher numbered card is played. Any Sword played against it will negate the attack.
Pentacles may be played against Wands and Swords. Any Cup played against a Pentacle negates the attack.
Wands are strictly a defensive card. They can do damage in a counter attack when attacked by Cups or Pentacles, but you cannot initiate an attack with a Wands card.
Combat is always conducted with one Attacker and one Defender. In the option phase or during the Shadows phase one player will initiate combat by declaring his intention to attack another. Multiple players may attack the same person if they wish, but only one at a time. In the event of more than one Player initiating an attack, they can flip a coin or roll a die to decide who gets to attack first.
Other Players may not help an Attacker with his attack. However, when all Players concerned are in Amber, they may choose to help a Defender with some of their own Shadow cards if they wish.
In combat the Attacker plays a card first. The defender must then respond with a card, or give up. Attacks are decided by the numerical value of the cards, high value winning except where the defensive card just nullified the attack (such as a Wand against a Sword or a Sword against a Cup).
An attack with Swords always causes physical defeat and retreat so that the losing player cannot move for the number of turns by which he was beaten. In the event of ties, Players may either break off the attack in a stalemate or continue by playing a second attacing card. If a player cannot respond to an attack he must surrender and acknowledge defeat.
An attack with Cups always reduces the loser to the state of vassal to the winner. The loser must give the winner Shadow cards equal to the number he was beaten by, or all of his cards, whichever is the greater number.
An attack by Pentacles may be either one or the other as specified by the Winner.
A counter attack with Wands against Cups and Pentacles has the same effect on the loser as an attack would have had. If the counterattack succeeds, the attacker must either retreat out of play into Shadow or give up cards.
Defensive plays when successful inoutpointing attacking plays cause the combat to end for that turn, but leave both players where they are. Most attacks will only last one turn., but may go on for any number of rounds (1 round equals 1 card from both attacker and defender) as long as both players have cards. (Example: Eric attacks Corwin with the 8 of Swords. Corwin replies with the 2 of Wands, negating the attack. Eric comes back with the 6 of Pentacles. Corwin plays the 7 of Wands, defeating Eric on the counterattack by 1 point. Corwin wins. Seeing that Eric has one card left, and not having any himself, Corwin (the Winner) declares Eric must be his vassal and give him one card. Eric reluctantly hands over his last Shadow card and the combat is over.)
After combat is over, it then moves to the next Player who has an attack chosen as his option. If, in the example above, Corwin had chosen to attack Fiona, he would then initiate his attack. Since he has only the 3 of Cups that he just took from eric, he would use that to attack her.
These are the Rider-Waite Court cards, but any deck except possibly the Amber itself or Lovecraft tarot decks would work.
Supplement 1: The Court Cards
You may either play Zelazny’s characters or make up your own names. If using Zelazny’s characters, these names are associated with the following cards:
King of Swords: Benedict
Queen of Swords: Fiona
Knight of Swords: Corwin
Page of Swords: Brand
King of Cups: Julian
Queen of Cups: Deirdre
Knight of Cups: Blaise
Page of Cups: Merlin
King of Wands: Gerard
Queen of Wands: Flora
Knight of Wands: Caine
Page of Wands: Martin
King of Pentacles: Eric
Queen of Pentacles: Llewella
Knight of Pentacles: Random
Page of Pentacles: Moire
Supplement 2: The Chaos Cards
0. The Fool: Chaotic Forces intervene. You lose all Shadow cards (to the discard pile).
1. The Magician: Mastery of Chaos. You may hold this card and play it at any time to gain any object except the slaying of another player. (Example: You may use this card to negate another Player’s attack, or change the outcome of an Attack. You may play the card to force another Player to give you a Shadow card. You may play the card to save the life of a player attacked and killed with the Ten of Wands. When playing this card, you are the Master of Chaos for one brief moment.)
2. The High Priestess: Mystic forces attack Amber. Draw 10 cards from Shadow deck without looking at them. Play them to attack Amber. All Players in Amber must defend against this attack. If Amber falls, the High Priestess takes the Throne. If she holds it for 3 turns then all players lose. While she is on the throne treat Her as rules of Amber with all rights and priveleges and powers of the ruler, including the right to replenish her forces from the Chaos deck.
3. The Empress: The Player marries (a princess of Chaos) and gains strength. Draw one Shadow card face up on each return to Amber from Shadow.
4. The Emperor: You have encountered Oberon in Shadow. Draw 3 extra Shadow cards to represent his support. If the card starts on the Throne, everyone wins except the Player who turned it over.
5. The Hierophant: Mystic forces attack Amber. Same as for the High Priestess but Chaos only gets 6 cards.
6. The Lovers: Player is distracted by Love. Lose 2 turns (no actions except Diplomacy permitted) and return to Amber.
7. The Chariot: Armies of Chaos attack Amber. All Players in Shadow return to help defend the City. Chaotic armies back off, but each Player must discard 1 Shadow card.
8. Strength: You have found an unexpected ally in Shadow. Take one extra Shadow card.
9. The Hermit: You have encountered Dworkin. He’s crazy and no help to you. You may declare him as a Scion of Amber when returning to Amber and play him face up to gain two allied Shadow cards.
10. The Wheel of Fortune: Discard all your Shadow cards. Draw the same number from the Shadow deck to replace them, all face down.
11. Justice: When this card is played, it forces the abdication of any Player who has the Throne if that Player has ever attacked another Player. Otherwise, no effect.
12. The Hanged Man: Misfortune. Lose 1 turn and 1 Shadow card.
13. Death: Forces of Chaos have intervened and slain your Player. There is no defense and the card may not be played on another Player.
14. Temperance: You gain two Shadow cards in exchange for this, but you may make no other play this turn.
15. The Devil: Chaos makea a total attack on Amber. All Players gain 2 Shadow cards and return to the City to help defend it. Chaos gets whatever is left in the Shadow deck, shuffles it, and then attacks randomly by laying down the top card of the Shadow deck. If all attacks are not turned back then Chaos takes the City and wins.
16. The Tower: You have been captured and imprisoned by forces of Chaos. If your Court card is not already in the Shadow deck, put it there. You remain helpless there until some other Player draws your card and uses it to summon you back to Amber.
17. The Star: This card may be held. A Player may use it to bring some other Player (not himself) back from the dead, or to stop and cancel any Chaotic attack on Amber. (Example: The Devil has been played. Chaos is making an all out attempt on Amber. A player holds the Star card. That player may stop the Chaotic attack and end the turn and the battle at any time by playing The Star. When the Star is played, every card that has been played goes into the discard pile and gets reshuffled back into the Shadow deck.
18. The Moon: Demonic forces attack Amber. They are weak and get only 3 Shadow cards, but only Players currently in the City may defend against them.
19. The Sun: Your character gains in popularity. You may name any other Player in the game as your vassal to help out during a combat phase (except the Player attacking you)
20. Judgment: Forces of Chaos attack Amber with the first two Swords cards turned over out of the Shadow deck. Only the King on the Throne may defend. If there is no King, all players are banished to Shadow for one turn, and the Throne remains empty.
21. The World: You have walked the Pattern and gained control. You may replace the current ruler in Amber and add his forces to yours while he is exiled to Shadow for 2 turns.
Attack on Amber
There are several times in the game when the Forces of Chaos may attack Amber. Forces of Chaos may be played by a dead player or a non-player. They draw the specified number of Shadow cards to use as weapons. Any further Chaos cards drawn or turned over during an attack are discarded without being used. When Chaos is attacking, all 4 suits count as Swords only. The Ten of Swords, if played by Chaos, will slay whoever holds the Throne at the time. If played against Chaos, it ends the attack instantly and Chaos is defeated. If Chaos wins the attack, any Players still in Amber will be slain and removed from the game, unless the attack was solely against the King. If only the King was attacked, and he is beaten, then he dies, and the Forces of Chaos leave other Amberites unharmed and the Throne empty.
After an attack on Amber the game always reverts to phase 1, Diplomacy and option selection.
During the retyping of these rules this morning, I did not copy the exact words I used in 1984. It is 99% the same, but I couldn’t resist adding a few clarifications and improvements.
I believe the game as explained above is both deep and playable, and that it would be better with more players instead of fewer. I’d like to actually try it some time, so I guess playtesters are wanted.
If you are now or ever were a fan of Roger Zelazny’s epic fantasy Amber series, feel free to leave a comment.