SMC at AmberCon NorthWest 2005

         The following is my con report and play notes from my first game of Star, Moon, and Cross -- which was playing a variant set in Zelazny's Amber at AmberCon NorthWest 2005.

"Amber Shadows" Con Report

NOTE: The following is the excerpt of my overall report of the run of the game from my AmberCon NorthWest 2005 Report. The game was organized by Lee Short, and ran in Slot #5 which ran from 9:00AM to 4:30PM on Saturday, November 19, 2005.

         This was a game still in development being run by the author, Lee Short. I had been chatting with Lee for some time before this, so I some idea what to expect, but was still surprised (and pleased) at the results. The game is based around a tarot deck -- actually several different tarot decks shuffled together in our case. There is no game-master. Instead, play proceeds going around in turns. During the out-of-character "newsreel" phase, each player takes a turn as an initiator and all the other players elaborate on their additon. Then during regular play, players take turns framing scenes for their character -- where the player to the left acts as game-master.

         The newsreel mechanic worked excellently in this case -- all of the players generated very smoothly a fun and interesting scenario. The central mechanic is that there is an open "kitty" of nine cards laid face-up in front of the deck. So each turn, you can choose one of those nine cards or draw from the top of the deck. Each round, one player starts by playing a card and making a fitting statement about what is happening. Then each other player plays a card and elaborates on that.

         The conflict mechanic for action scenes was more confusing and didn't work quite as well, but still went fairly. The active players are using a hand of cards, which they are allowed redraws depending on their character's stats. The GM draws from the kitty to oppose. I had some problems setting difficulty levels, and there were a few unclear points in action with multiple PCs. Still, it worked reasonably well.

         Lee has a LiveJournal entry on how this particular game went, but I will add my own overview. The game was set in the backdrop of the Patternfall War which was towards the end of the first Amber series. The PCs were all pregenerated children of the elder Amberites, with a predrawn a hand of cards. I played Mio -- a daughter of the sneaky knife-wielder Caine. What I particularly enjoyed was saying "Ooh, shiny!" when a bad card (like The Tower or The Devil or Death) was sitting in the kitty; and then picking it up to introduce trouble. This was how we established what was to become the core of the adventure: that the seneschal of Amber, Marcus, was a traitor to Chaos.

         I think a particularly strong thing that the system enforces is that the adventure is not about finding out what is going on, but how we are going to stop it. This is similar to, say, My Life With Master, but in contrast to Dogs in the Vineyard -- which is an excellent game, but still has the GM prepare the town in secret from the players.


Game Notes

The PCs were:

Mio, daughter of Caine (played by John)
Fae, daughter of Flora (played by Emma)
Tancred, son of Deirdre (played by Pol)
Jacques, son of Eric (played by Lee)
Aurelian, son of Julian (played by Kath)

Opening Newreel


After this my notes are sporadic. Jacques headed to sea to investigate the storms. Mio attempted to track the item which Prabha gave to Guin. Unfortunately, it had been stolen out of her room. At the same time, Aurelian spoke to Marcus.

Out at sea, Jacques confronted a ghost ship near Cabra, fighting it and eventually destroying it. However, its master escaped.

Later, Fae finds a ring with the finger still in it in some corner of the castle. Eventually, Tancred, Jacques, and Aurelian confront the Manticore, saving Guin. However, Jacques is poisoned in the struggle. Meanwhile, Mio catches Marcus as he tries to flee.


John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Tue Nov 28 14:32:40 2006