Lords of Gossamer and Shadow is a reboot of the Amber Diceless system. The Chronicles of Amber is a great book series that has a special place in my heart (and in our house: our cats are called Corwin and Dara). Of course I would love game!
My huge hard-on for Amber
Chronicles of Amber featured a wonderful multiverse setting and the epitome of friendly rivalry in the form of the scheming families of Amber and Chaos. With characters so cool you’d be begging to play even a shadow (gha!) of them. I love the idea that the big bads in the game are also your loved ones, and you are all entangled in a potentially lethal dance of trust and betrayal.
Despite my huge hard-on for Amber, I only got to play Amber Diceless for one or two sessions. I did play in two Amber themed LARPs where I played Mirelle and Flora. The players there were all so strong that I was happy for once that Zelazny didn’t write any strong female parts.
Gossamer and Shadow
So when Toni offered to introduce us to Gossamer and Shadow, I leapt at the opportunity (well, I do that any time Toni is GM’ing, but bear with me). He made us pre-generated characters custom-tailored to our descriptions and we were good to go. One of the most challenging things of Amber is making a character when you can make any character you could possibly imagine. If you could play literally anyone ever, who would you play?
Fortunately I have a folder named “Potential character portraits” for just these occasions. After seeing the picture above, it was clear that “Demonic Caterina Sforza” was the only right choice. Her homeworld is an alternative version of 15th century Italy, a happy cesspool of sexy backstabbing and treachery that fondly reminds her of her family. She is accommodating and friendly in all things, until it becomes more advantageous not to be. Even when opposed, she remains friendly and courteous – rivalry is the spice of life, after all!
Together with Ilsa the bard, Min-Cho the blue-skinned alien sorcerer and Rick the streetwise magician, we were summoned by an unknown dying woman. The last word to pass her lips: “traitor”… Whoops, wasn’t us!
From there, we went on a investigative roller coaster ride of fighting monsters, meeting the movers and the shakers of the Eidolon (Amber/Pattern) and trying to discover the meaning behind recent events.
During the action, we quickly discovered that we worked quite well as a team. Happy coincidence or crafty GM pre-generating, I don’t really know! But we seemed to be teaming with ways to buff, support or team up against some impressive monsters.
We all played our characters colorfully and expressively, so it was easy to get a feel for each other even in a short time. I had a lot of fun playing the scoundrel with a smile and a wink: opportunistically flirting with lords, idly taking a few souvenirs here and there while trying to accrue as many favors as possible to call back in later.
Rick gave everyone tarot ‘calling cards’ and actually pulled cards for us. I got The Star, Ilsa “The Lovers”, Min-cho the Hierophant and he narrated pulling Death for himself. That could have been quite interesting in a longer campaign.
Teaming up went quite well until we found the tear in reality with a large shadow army on the other side. A tear that could only have been made by an Eidolon Master together with an Umbra master, and a sorcerer to boot. Since no one had Eidolon mastery, it was time to trust someone who might be a traitor. We argued about the possibilities.
Rick tried to circumvent the discussion by inviting one of this friends – but when he said it would go faster if he would go get his friend alone, Isabella objected. When he then replied saying she could come with him it was clear we’d only been trusting each other as far as the next corner. Very nice! After a long discussion, we decide to go for the youngest of all lords, on the argument that “If he tries anything fishy we can probably take him”.
The resulting end battle to close the tear was cool, and a fair bit quicker than our paranoid discussion., And that’s exactly how Amber should be, in my opinion! That was the end of the module: it was set up to serve as a start of a real campaign.
I favor one shots and short 3-5 session campaigns. There’s not a lot of games that make me long for a long campaign, but this is certainly one of them.