The Sorcerer/Amber Connection

So here’s an interesting thing:
One of the main bits of preparation that you’re supposed to do (as the GM) for a Sorcerer game is the Relationship Map. Now, if you don’t look at it too hard, it doesn’t really seem like much of a big deal — there’s a bunch of NPCs, and you’ve basically got an idea of what they’ve done, what they’re planning on doing, and what (potentially) they want out of the PCs. Some games would call this Background, but between a good Relationship Map and strong Kickers from the players — you’ve potentially got a really interesting story.
Ideally, the core of the Relationship Map is done up before play or even character generation begins, and the players are made aware of the basics — who’s who, what most people know about them… that sort of thing. The responsibility of the players is to tie themselves into the r-map in at least one, preferably two or more places.
To make matters even simpler, the sorcerer book (sorcerer & soul) that talks about this technique even goes so far as to show you how you can use the plot and characters of a good book to create your map — first, removing the book’s protagonist (PCs will fill that role) filing off the serial numbers, changing the genre, the era, the setting, but maintaining the basic relationships.
The author’s book recommendation in this regard are good noir detective novels from Hammet, et cetera, not because of the mystery (the mystery’s never really the point), but for the nice convoluted network of people and… ahh go get the book and read the rest.
Anyway… thinking about the source material recommended, who that influenced, and the games I’m familiar with, I realized that Amber is an R-Mapped game: network of characters with clear and strong relationships between each other and things they want — and the players are expected to make characters that tie into this map.
Then, all the GM has to do (in Sorcerer, this is the player’s job, but otherwise…) is come up with events that set each character into motion — something that changes the status quo and sets everything on it’s head — something they can’t ignore.
Sounds like pretty much every successful Amber game I’ve ever heard of.


  1. Exactly. It’s the main thing that has always interested me about Sorcerer, even though the game has always sounded nastier than I’d want to play.

  2. Hey there! 🙂
    Go look at the “Grimm Therapy” posts I’ve make in my “Actual Play” blog category — kinda darkish, maybe, but certainly no worse than a children’s bedtime story 🙂 There’s really a tremendous amount you can do with that game, setting-wise, provided:
    1. The characters are people who have/want some power of their own (Frex: in Grimm Therapy, the characters are all kids who are trying to get some power over their somewhat-upset lives (divorces, adoptions, mom died, dad died, et cetera). This need for some power/control puts them in an unhealthy relationship in some way.
    2. The question of ‘what makes them human’ is a valid one for the setting, and can be put at risk by their actions. (Frex: again, in Grimm Therapy, the kids can put their Humanity as risk along two axis — getting “too much” into their Make Believe World and rejecting their lives and family, or in rejecting the imaginative power of their Make Believe in order to be a “normal kid” (cf. Wrinkle in Time 🙂
    There’s so many things I’d like to do with this system it kinda makes my head spin.

  3. Good point on Amber. It *is* a game of relationships, more than a game about being a kick-ass fighter or powerful mage or winning the treasure. Indeed, the “treasure” or goals are usually relationship-based — revenge, rule, respect — since material gain is relatively meaningless to those who can walk in Shadow. That’s part of what makes it such a successful setting across a zillion permutations, even as everyone agrees that a lot of the mechanics suck.
    Damn. Considering it is enough to make me want to play another Amber game again.

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