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That's the question I asked the members of the the Amber Mailing list. Simple. Why? Because I wanted to see what the answers would be. Here they are.
*** Dave Hill
"It is to be possessed of an arrogance unbounded, a nobility unsurpassed, a heritage unimagined, and a darkness unplumbed. It is to play with your children as though they were puppets, to tinker with your loved ones as though they were wind-up toys. It is to stake all on honor, and then drive the betraying knife home. It is to be a god, an angel, a devil. It is to call all the cosmos your home, but never feel at ease, or sated." -- Morrigan (several campaigns)
"Uh, yeah, what she said. Only not quite so dark. Certainly, those who have come before us have their petty ambitions, blown up large by both time and power. But you don't have to give in. Indeed, it's the fight, both against them and against becoming one of them yourself, that makes life worth living. That and the occasional jam session with friends. If you can find any." -- Graeme (Sarah Wishnevsky's To Reign in Hell)
"It's -- an opportunity. Writ large. The stakes seem unlimited. The price of failure -- well, that's the price we all face, whatever the size of the playing field." -- Edward (Doyce Testerman's Things in Heaven and Earth)
"Huh?" -- Selene (Doyce Testerman's Broke-Down Palace)
"What?" -- Aladris (Scott Nolan's Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth)
"Not much different from being anything else. You've got the same drives, the same emotions... Sometimes you're a bit stronger, or faster, or smarter; sometimes you're way out of your league. We're not the only immortals around, or even the only people who can move through Shadow. We're just more real, and so we don't change as much. Really, the main difference between us and them is that they aren't stuck for eternity with a family of whiny, myopic, arrogant pissants who are so full of angst they can't wipe their own asses anymore."
To be an Amberite is like holding a magnifying glass over the ant-like Shadow dwellers, not noticing the glass over your head. To be arrogant, stupid, or cunning enough not to fear karmic retribution for the misery and pain you inflict on others, whether you intended it or not.
Either that, or you're Gerard...in which case, you're really, really strong.
To be an Amberite is, until Oberon passes away, to be perpetually adolescent. This is why the characters are so driven by games of status, and why so many players design angsty characters. To be an Amberite is think you are master of everything, and to debate whether worlds exist simply to amuse you and so that you have something to stand on. This is behavior we know in real life as pathetic, childish and typifying those with incomplete individuation.
Bleys's army has always, somehow, reminded me of children killing ants for no really good reason, other than to demonstrate that they have power over their surroundings and over things even smaller than themselves. Much of what the Family does is simply fly-tormenting, but on a wider scale.
In essence they are a pack of children who think they are adults, being led by a few individuals who design elaborate status games for the others to play, while they get on with the real business of running the country. They are dangerous precisely because they have no idea of what they are doing, and they have goals which are non-sensical when seen from outside the status game in which they participate. They simply don't understand why they do what they do, at the deepest level.
Being an Amberite is a catch-22. Tragic. Miserable. Elative. Powerful. It means that you inherit a thing made for someone else, being used in a way it was never designed for. For all of our gifts given to us--virtual immortality, strength speed, stamina... our minds and hearts are under-developed little things, constantly injured by the wounds we inflict on each other. We are immature, we have little regard for anything we can control, and ignore everything we can't. Some of us dabble into this and that--all for the purpose of self-promotion and personal gain, but true intellectual curiosity?
Look, that's what Brand did, and you see how crazy HE was. But man, was he brilliant. he saw something else past the universe as we understand it, and for an Amberite, that is no small feat. Change is hard on us. Creativity was Dworkin's thing--Oberon pretty much stamped that out.
"What is it to never out-grow your toys because everything is a toy to one who is Real? Or to find that the people you love are Shadows, that the feeling inside you is tied to something that a 'Real' relative can tangle and blot at almost at whim?"''
"What is it to find that people are attracted to you, for reasons that have little to do with who you are, and much to do with What you are? And the covetous ones, who believe you have something they can emulate, steal or seduce from you..."
"What is it to be blood of this blood, to be above or beyond the lifespans of each laughing beau, each bright shining student of lore, each mentor or sister-friend."
"It is what you make of it in spite of the whispering madness."
~Bhang Badea of Ersia, Strange Bedfellows
"...to discover that because everything is a toy, nothing really holds your interest for long except your own siblings, because they alone are real, and they want something from you."
An Amberite is someone who is lucky enough to have been born to a family with some unique advantages, arrogant enough to think that makes him someone special, and either bright enough to make it work for him, or stupid enough to let it get him killed. (At least, that's how my current favorite PC would define it...)
To be a Prince of Amber is to have every mistake you ever make held up to scrutiny. I think that would explain just about every attitude in the family, from stony silence to fluttering eyelashes.
Also, you get good seats in restaurants. :o)
In my experience, it means having incredible power, yet not being able to enjoy simple things like a dinner with your relatives.
"Being an Amberite has been the great bane of my life. For that reason alone, I was locked up for ten years. If you don't think ten years under Flora's wardship is hellish, think again. I can wander the Shadows and always get a parking space, but my relatives are a bunch of mad, honorless mass murderers and kidnappers. Worse, they won't leave me alone. What was that Corwin said about being part and party to every rotteness in the world? He was right." -- Lily
I think what is special and specific about playing an Amber character is the emphasis on family and relationships. It's been said before that the Royal Family of Amber is the first and worst dysfunctional family (my character Lily might have said that, if no one else beat her to it). I've learned a great deal about myself by observing the way I and my characters react to various Amberites, and how they tend to deal with their relatives. It's certainly been cheaper than therapy.
I've also always loved the lack of boundaries on the setting. An Amber character can literally go anywhere he or she can imagine. That allows me to explore settings I otherwise would never get to play in. (As a GM, I also get to steal shamelessly from my favorite works of fiction, but you didn't ask that question.)