AmberCon US 2011 Recap

Once again, the soon-to-be-wife and I flew out to beautiful, scenic Livonia, MI, to spend four days drinking deep from the well of playing make believe in an Embassy Suites while a couple wedding receptions raged in the background. That’s right: Ambercon.

Here’s the recap.


In general the con and the hotel were about the same as last year. There were a few logistical snags, but they seem to have made sure that these things won’t happen again.

The big difference from last year is that I played in and ran more on-going games than I normally do. I will typically avoid doing anything long term because I want the freedom to be able to try new things every year. Prior to this year, I had one ongoing game I was running and two that I played in, with five slots free to do whatever I wanted. Now I find myself with three games I’m running and three I’m playing in. Oops.

Slot 1: All the Myths Are True: The Weird West III (GM: Dawn Vogel)

I wasn’t jazzed about most of the options in this first slot, so Dawn talked me into signing up for her on-going game. It’s Deadlands meshed with Norse mythology. Overall I had a lot of fun and would really like to play in it next year.

Slot 2: Once Upon a Time in the West: The Last Ride (GM: Tymen Vandyk)

I’d been wanting to try out the indy western RPG, Dust Devils, for a while. Last time I tried signing up for it, the GM was unable to attend the convention due to illness. Overall it was a fine system, typical of a lot of narrative control mechanics I’ve poked around at. The two frustrating parts of the slot were that (a) one of the players really had a lot of trouble getting his head around the game mechanics and (b) poor communication between the GM and I resulted in me inadvertantly taking my character out of the game. Oops.

Slot 3: Worlds’ End (GM: Me)

I’ve always liked the parallel between the reality storm at the end of Sandman and the the shadow storm at the end of the Corwin series. I have been trying for years to figure out how to adapt it as a game, in which those trapped at the inn told stories to pass the time while they were trapped. This year I went with the idea of using In a Wicked Age Oracles to represent the stories being told. So each story was a small game that everyone played through. Each character telling a story got to choose any oracle they want from the online Oracle generators. In addition to characters provided by the oracles, the character telling the story was an option for a character. Also, each story had an Amber elder as a character.

This went far better than I had really hoped. I think one player, unfamiliar with the narrative control mechanic, disliked how things went. But everyone had a really good time. We did one classic IaWA game using the Blood and Sex Oracle. Then we had a tale of a mob family using the Sicilian Blood Oracle. Both games were fabulous. The sword and sorcery story featured Brand going up against an amorphous homonculous made of rendered baby fat. The mobster game, in addition to being the first time I’ve ever had a game like that in an Ambercon slot, revolved around the old Mafia don suffering from rapid degeneration from dementia and trying to hide it. Just absolutely awesome.

The only negative was that the slot was way too short. I let the con choose the slot, not realizing just how long sessions of IaWA could take. But I think I will definitely do this game again in the future in the off chance that I’m having trouble thinking of something to run.

Slot 4: Ill Met in Amber (GM: Kit Kindred)

This marked the 11th or 12th year of this game running, as well as the penultimate session regarding the current incarnation of the game.

This year the timeline finally reached the death of Eric and the arrival of Corwin at the end of Guns of Avalon. I’m really not sure how I feel about it. We didn’t seem to have any influence over events, so we were just sort of spectators. Individual story arcs seemed to take place in spite of the events of the game, rather than in relation to it. Always a bit frustrating.

Slot 5: Land of Ten-Thousdand Dragons (GM: Me)

My second, and perhaps more successful, attempt at running Exalted diceless. This year, rather than try and build attributges off of Castes and more strictly recreate Essence pools and Virtues. Part of this was because I wanted to simplify things. Part of it was because I wanted something a bit flexible in terms of handling other types of Exalted. I had 8 attributes, caps on attributes with work arounds, an assortment of powers.

Overall it felt like it went well. Some of the feel was lost, as people went straight into equating things with benders from the Avatar cartoon. But it was a small price to pay. So I had ridiculous fun running it and may likely run it again.

I’ve started a wiki in the event that we play again for multiple years.

Slot 6: The Ashworth Academy (GM: Me)

This was my high school game, inspired in part by the comic Morning Glories. There are touches of Amber scattered throughout the setting, and players have been speculating on what it all means.

While running the game, I was pretty unsure how it was going. A couple players were really quiet and withdrawn. But afterwards rumors circulated back to me that those quiet players were gushing about the game. Now they’re all going nuts over email with demands for a Year 2.

So, of course I made a wiki for it.

Slot 7: Fast and Furious in the Dreaming City (GM: James Arnoldi)

I think this was my third or fourth year playing in this as Diego del Fuego, holistic detective. I did not entirely usurp the game this year, as one of the players found the angelic host trying to kill him. So that occupied a big chunk of the game. I did, however, derail things slightly when I dropped a bunch of drama points to call the angelic host on my cell phone. Events in the game had lined up so that it made sense, so I went for it.

Because, ultimately, Diego’s a pacifist and thinks that problems can always be solved by communication.

The angelic host was being a bit belligerent, so I decided to ask to their supervisor. That’s right: With enough drama points, I was escalated to Metatron, speaking on behalf of the Almighty. I got Yahweh to agree to stay out of Murias, though that may have unintended consequences. So even though I was in the back seat for most of the game, I sort of made up for it.

And we decided the game had enough backstory that it needed a wiki.

Slot 8: Rebma Confidential: Undercurrent (GM: Me)

One of the players who joined us for the first time this year described Rebma Confidential as being a weird mix of film noir and Cthulhu jokes. I can’t say that I disagree with him. When you get players trying to get into the mind of non-human creatures that live in a magical underwater city, they tend to get squirrelly. Especially when the native religion involves nameless squamous deities from the pelagic abysses. In my defense, he did admit that the game still came out pretty noir-y, so I was flattered.

Once again had a marvelous time, and… did I mention that this was the year I made a whole bunch of wikis?

So, yeah. Totally looking forward to next year, even if most of my schedule is already blocked out.

9 thoughts on “AmberCon US 2011 Recap

  1. tymen

    Sorry about the miscommunication in Once Upon a Time in the West, Jeremy. Although I did love that your character the cruelest of them, walked away after torturing someone and having it be the straw that broke the camels back. I hope you enjoyed yourself otherwise.

  2. cyranocyrano

    It was awesome having you in All the Myths. Also awesome to do Ashworth. (We’re nearly done with the first soundtrack album. Because we’re crazy.) Sad to have missed Rebma Confidential. And now I’m curious about Dust Devils.

  3. nuadha_prime

    ….and for the record, calling up God on your cell phone and convincing him to leave Murias alone was no small derailment. It will have major lasting effects on Murias that I am still figuring out the extent of. Let’s just say the God Squad is pretty annoyed with you.

    Appropriately, the last time we had the city shaken up this much by a player’s use of drama points was when Tristan summoned a part of the host in to Murias. You’ve undone that damage. :D

  4. admin Post author

    No worries. It was a “Wait, what?” moment, but not a deal breaker. I had a really good time and I appreciate you running.

  5. tymen

    I’m glad you had a good time. I like Dust Devils as a shared narrative system. It allows for all the players to bring the awesome to the story.

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