One-Hit Wonders: Paranoia in Amber

The last couple installments of OHW have sort of been a little more atypical for the setup. I’ll cover them a bit more briefly than I do others.


This was a game that a friend was going to run at AmberCon Northwest and so we used the OHW group as guinea pigs. It was a Amber re-imagined through the lens of Paranoia. The Computer was replaced by the Unicorn, security clearances were Bronze, Silver and Gold, etc.

Character Creation

It used pre-generated characters based off of canon characters from the book. It was all done a little tongue in cheek. I, for example, played Corwin and my Chaos Power (which was treasonous) was the ability to eat anything. The core of the mechanics used the Amber Diceless “system,” but we also had backup “clones” of a sort that gave us chances to die more than once.

In Play

The game in general was a lot of fun. There was a lot of the usual fun of using screwball logic to deal with impossible situations. The challenge with the game came from the use of the Amber system. I was playing Corwin, someone else was playing Benedict. I’d spent a lot of the beginning of the game forming an alliance with another PC and one-upping Benedict. But when we were outside the city and had no higher authority to deal with, Benedict just hauled off and killed Corwin.

In theory there could have been a give and take regarding how the combat took place, where Corwin might have been able to fight defensively. But as often happens in Amber games, the GM looks at the stats, sees a monster point gap between relevant attributes, and just weighs in on the side of the superior stat. It’s the sort of thing that makes me hate PVP games using Amber.

Compared to the Leading Brand

While I think the Amber system is an improvement over my experience with the Paranoia rules, I don’t know that I’d call it a vast improvement. I’ve never been happy with my experiences involving Amber with PVP play. But I don’t really have a good alternative beyond, say, In a Wicked Age or Primetime Adventures. That would turn it into more of a collaborative story, instead of a game of “screw your neighbor.”

Final Verdict

It was crazy fun for the most part, but the Amber system led to a bit of a buzzkill with the “800 Pound Gorilla” of Benedict. My understanding is that the GM reconsidered stats and how they interacted when he ran it at the con. I’ve run enough PVP games with the Amber rules to know how difficult it is to do well. (I don’t know that I have ever done it well.) Were I to seek to run a similar game, I’d probably just use a bit more of a narrative-control system, probably something with more of a story game bent, so that everyone was an active participant in their characters getting screwed over.

Next up I’ll write a few words about our Call of Cthulhu one-shot.

1 thought on “One-Hit Wonders: Paranoia in Amber

  1. jrcraig42


    The feedback from this game really helped for what I ran at ACNW. The point spreads were a lot closer, at letting the players know that also helped. In the end, I also removed Benedict, Gerard and Fiona as playable characters. Also, setting the majority of the quest on the steps of Kolvir made it linear and much more controllable (and deadly).

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