There are two ways you can approach character generation. One, you can start with a vague idea and flesh it out in play, or two, you can do a detailed concept from the start. We support both approaches in our philosophy and in our RPG system.
Regardless of which you do, we encourage you to keep the following in the back of your mind:
1. What will your character be involved with on a day to day basis?
2. What are your character's short-term and long-term goals?
3. Who or what is your character tied to?
4. What is significant about your character on personal, political, and mystical levels?
We encourage you to think as much as possible about what makes this character get involved in things — what makes him seek out other people, and what makes other people seek him out. The staff is happy to help you establish connections to other characters, and we strongly encourage you to tie your character into other people and/or the setting.
There are four main types of backgrounds for characters. We will guarantee that you are able to play a character of your chosen type; there are no applications or other restrictions on who can play what. We consider all four types to be of equal narrative importance, and there are no RPG system advantages or penalties to being one type over another type. We fully support powers beyond Pattern and Trump, in terms of both potency and code support; in fact, if you're making a noble house or near-Amber shadow, we strongly encourage you to come up with unique powers for it. Our game is as much about Amber's nobility and the royalty/nobility of its close neighbors as it is about the Amber royal family; there are no second-class citizens.
The royalty of Amber have the Pattern and the Trumps as their birthright, courtesy of Dworkin, Master of the Line. Ironically, they are most powerful some distance from Amber and the Golden Circle; the farther they are from Amber, the more their abilities at shadow-manipulation allow them to shape their desires (at least until they get so far from Amber that the shadows run wild). Historically, when the royals are not off in shadow enjoying themselves, they are handling business on behalf of the Crown (Oberon, and then later Eric) — military commands, diplomatic missions, investigations, and so forth.
The nobility of Amber are also long-lived and exceptionally hardy. They have considerable abilities of their own — magics that run in their bloodlines or are tied to power sources over which they have custody — and they are critical to Amber's function as a kingdom and the hub of a trading empire. These are the people who really run things on a day to day basis. They are involved in the complex intrigues of Amber's social and political whirl, as well as the complications of their own mystical ties, and their relationships with the Golden Circle kingdoms.
The royalty and nobility of the Golden Circle are nearly a match for the nobility of Amber on a physical level, and at least as powerful on a mystical level. The Golden Circle's reality and power has been strengthened by a long and close relationship with Amber, and it spawns potent warriors and sorcerors. There is power in the royal and noble bloodlines of the Golden Circle, as well as power sources to tap. Golden Circle characters should have Amber City as their primary home; in general, they will be people sent to Amber to represent a Golden Circle kingdom at Amber's court.
There are those who come from beyond Amber's immediate environs who have significant abilities of their own, and can stand as effective equals to those closer to the True World. If you choose to play a character of this type we strongly encourage you to tie yourself to other characters in some other way — equivalent to Ganelon's tie to Corwin, for instance — so that your character is not deprived of connections and setting hooks.
Yes, You Really Are That Awesome
This is so important that we want to say it again: Throw away your preconceptions of character power that have been drawn from the DRPG or other Amber MUSHes. Features are not vastly more powerful than PCs; those descended from Oberon do not utterly overpower those of Amber's nobility and Golden Circle. Here, every PC is powerful, every PC matters.
In Amber, the Lords of Feldane are the guardians of the boundary between Life and Death. Karm keeps things locked away that should never be free. Chantris keeps secrets that cannot be spoken. Each of these duties carry powers and responsibilities that make them peers of the princes of the realm.
In the Golden Circle, the Lords of Kitezh cannot be slain by any blade forged by man, and sail to any shadow they know the song for. The great river of Tanus extends as far into shadow as any Prince of Amber might ever walk. The armies of Jade are vaster than even those a Prince of Amber could raise. And the wizards of Pathi hold magics unsurpassed in all of shadow. These are peers of Amber, not supplicants.
This is not to say Amber is powerless. She is virtually invincible in war, and the power of her blood is incredibly vast. But this power does not put her so far beyond the next contender that she can rest easy.
And that's the point. This is not a game for watching other people do cool things. Does anyone read Nine Princes in Amber and think, "Man, I want to be 25% as cool as this guy and maybe someday do a tenth of the things he's done"? No! And so this is for people who read the books and said "Yeah! That's what I want. It's on!" Yes, we have Feature Characters, and they have some advantages, but the gap is nothing like you may have come to expect — they're basically equivalent to PCs with a few months of advancement.
Bear this all in mind when you're thinking about ideas, and go for the stuff you think is going to be cool, not something you think might get approved.
We are tossing aside a lot of preconceived notions in the creation of this game. And to that end, we are trying to say "yes" whenever we can. We won't always be able to do so , but we can promise that we can do it a lot more than you would expect.
So please. Aim high. If we need to help you dial it back a step or two, we will; don't worry that we'll consider you a twink or a problem or think less of you for trying. If you promise to listen, we promise to try to make things go.
- Thematically, this is a fantasy game, specifically leaning towards the swords-and-sorcery genre of fantasy, which prevailed contemporaneously and before Zelazny's early Amber books. Concepts should be in accordance with this. Avoid concepts that are heavily technological or more suited for super-heroes.
- Your character should be based in Amber. It's okay if their homeland is Rebma, a Golden Circle shadow, another near shadow where Amber has a Regency, etc., but they need to spend the majority of their time in Amber, because Amber is the core of where play will be taking place.
- Your character should have ties to Amber, or to other near-Amber places, and should have reasons to care about what happens to them, and to want to directly take a hand in their fate.
- All characters are mortal and corporeal. Your character must be humanoid. The denizens of Amber and surrounding areas all look human. Avoid unthematic concepts such as Tolkein-esque races (elves, dwarves, orcs, etc.), Star Trek-style aliens, World of Darkness-style supernaturals, and Furries.
- No children of Dworkin, Oberon, the Unicorn, etc. No Chaos heritages, either. No living power sources, characters older than the recorded history of Amber (see the Timeline), Dworkin's sister, Oberon's brother, the Unicorn's protege, or any other concepts based on vast cosmic knowledge and/or power.
- Your character should have reasons to get involved and to interact. Preferably, your character should have reasons to pull other people into the things that he's involved in. We strongly encourage characters to be part of organizations, whether by blood heritage or by choice.
- Your character should have strengths as well as flaws. Think of the MUSH as an ensemble TV show, where characters are interdependent, each bringing their own strengths and weaknesses to the drama. They need each other; they are better off cooperating with others than working alone. Their flaws and foibles create dramatic interest and complexity.
- The most interesting thing about your character shouldn't be the story of his past. Interesting backgrounds are obviously good, but a character whose core interesting dilemmas have already been resolved has had his story told already. A past that is creating present or future unresolved issues is strongly preferable to one that's already been handily vanquished. Similarly, if you're basing a character around some aspect of resolving his past (discovering his heritage, for example), you need to ask yourself what you'll do with him once that resolution is achieved.
You are strongly encouraged to talk to other people about your background. The staff and the GMs are happy to help, but you should also feel free to ask other people for suggestions, on the Public channel.
If you are planning to be a "kidbit" (a child or grandchild of one of the children of Oberon), you will need to determine who you are a descendant of prior to submitting a background. The Blood of Oberon page explains how to do this.
If you are from a player-controlled noble house, you should talk to the prop controller (see +props/all) and discuss where you fit into their family tree and history. Prop controllers must agree to new members of their Houses, although normally this is not particularly restrictive.
If you are from a player-controlled shadow, you should talk to the prop controller about your background. They will be able to help offer you hooks and the like, as well as give you more details on what's been established and how to fit into it. Prop controllers do not need to approve the backgrounds of people who come from their shadow, but they do have a say in what new elements are introduced into their settings (and contradictions of established facts will be prevented).
If you have trouble getting responses from the people you're trying to talk to, please ask the staff or GMs for assistance.
The Importance of Hooks
The key thing that the staff will be looking at, when they read your background, is, "How will you fit into the game?" In other words, "How are you going to find roleplay opportunities?" We want to try to make every effort to ensure that when you start play, you have a direction and people to interact with; we don't want to simply set you adrift. As such, if your background doesn't seem to contain any roleplay "hooks" — things that clearly point to how your character gets into play and stays involved — the staff will ask you to modify it.
How do you get hooks? By asking people. Get involved in what other people are doing — you don't want to be a lone wolf. Don't worry about "bothering" people — players are normally enthused about giving out hooks. (Although be forewarned that, especially during the day, many people are slow to respond to pages because they're at work.)
Good sources for hooks include:
- Tie yourself to a noble house. You could be a member of the House, affiliated with it, or simply have significant history with one or more of its members that would give them a reason to call upon you and include you in their play.
- Tie yourself to an existing organization, like one of the military orders.
- Choose a position of importance, that would give people a reason to seek you out, and for you to seek out others. This is particular important for characters who don't come from Amber, and therefore need a reason to stay there and care about what happens in Amber.
Writing Your Background
When you begin background generation, you will be asked five questions about your character. You should answer each of these questions BRIEFLY — a sentence will do, and a paragraph is the most you should write.
1. What is your concept, in a nutshell?
2. Where is your home? Who is your family? What's your relationship to your home and family now?
3. What significant event just happened to you, and what do you need to do now? (This is your initial hook into play.)
4. What are your long-term goals for your character?
5. What are you looking for from your MUSHing experience?
Some other questions to think about while you're writing your background:
- What do you want to accomplish? Why haven't you done so yet?
- What is your greatest weakness or vulnerability?
- What do you do when no one is watching?
- Who can you call on for help and know you'll get it?
- Who hates you?
- Who would avenge your death?
- What would go wrong if you died?
Also, when thinking about question 5, ask yourself:
- What type of roleplay do you most enjoy doing? (Social, political, intrigue, investigation, adventure, fighting…?)
- Do you like escapism, comedy, tragedy, drama, elegant writing, storytelling, discovery, mystery, cunning plans…?
- How important is a feeling of having achieved something specific when you play a scene?
- Do you prefer competitive play, or cooperative play? If the former, is it less fun if you don't win?
There are no right or wrong answers. The staff uses the answers you provide to understand what you're interested in, how we can best help you find the kind of play you want on the game, and to figure out how your character fits into the game. We'll work with you to try to make sure that you play a character that fits in thematically, that can get involved in what's going on, and that suits your desired playstyle.