Frequently Asked Questions
- What is this Amber thing anyway?
- What do I need to get started with Amber DRPG?
- What is 'Ambercon'?
- How many Ambercons are there, and where are they held?
- Can the Con reserve floors to keep gamers and mundanes as separate as possible? Less hassle that way.
- Could we find a nicer hotel? I'd be willing to pay more for a nicer location. This location just felt a little too artificial and uncomfortable.
- Can we find a better/cheaper hotel?
- I can't believe how much more expensive the Con rate was than the Internet rate in ...
- I would like a hotel that's near other places to go to easily for non-gamers.
- Slot Schedule and Timing
- How are player assignments decided?
- I like ACNW's 'gaming suites' ... That way they plan game locations in advance. Why don't you do this?
- Before games are scheduled for slots, why don't you publish game descriptions for GMs and ask for preferences so that GMs don't wind up having no chance to get into new games that happen opposite games they run.
- Give GMs more choice as to who plays in their games.
- Could [games with too-few players] be canceled earlier, so players could get reassigned before the Con?
- Slots run much too late on Sunday - out-of-town people can't attend either Sunday slot.
(copied from the ACNW webpage)
"Amber DRPG" is based on a series of books by the late Roger Zelazny. If you're not familiar with Zelazny he was a literary genius who led the "new wave" of science fiction in the '60s and '70s.
This game system is unique in a number of different ways. Firstly, and most bizarrely, it is a "diceless" system, so leave them at home. They won't help.
The diceless aspect works, largely because of the genre involved. Almost all characters will be both immortal and physically superior to normal people. Because of this level of skill and ability, most tasks undertaken will be obviously doomed to success or failure from the start. Either the character knows how to hotwire cars, or they don't. Either they can beat up three random muggers on the streets, or they can't. The GM can usually assess the likelihood of success quite easily. All that remains is to roleplay the encounter through.
Random events occur when the GM decides to have them, otherwise they don't. No dice required. A writer sitting at home producing books or film screenplays doesn't roll dice to decide on the outcome, so why do we do it in role-playing? Don't you trust your GM?
I won't bother explaining the genre in detail, other than to say that events take place in an effectively infinite number of different universes, with varying levels of technology or magic available. Players are strongly advised to read the books, starting with Nine Princes in Amber. It's not essential to read the books before playing the game, but it will help no end. There are 10 books in total, in two series of five. They are quite short, and easy to read.
Because of the wooly nature of the system, complicated character sheets and vast skill lists are totally unwarranted. There are four stats, and as many skills as the player wishes. The simplest approach is to write down a general character background, and infer the skills from that as play progresses. Characters are as powerful as the players want them to be, on the assumption that a player given enough free rope will eventually learn how to hang themselves with it without too much direct intervention.
There are other novel differences to this system, but the ones given above are the main ones.
Rest assured that the system does work, and works very well.
(copied mainly from the ACNW webpage)
There are two rule books available, costing about $20 each. The first is called Amber DRPG and is the main rulebook. The second is called Shadow Knight and contains additional, supplementary rules.
You should also possess the books which started it all, although I suppose this isn't absolutely essential. They come in two series of five books each.
The Corwin Chronicles:
- Nine Princes in Amber
- The Guns of Avalon
- Sign of the Unicorn
- The Hand of Oberon
- The Courts of Chaos
The Merlin Chronicles:
- Trumps of Doom
- Blood of Amber
- Sign of Chaos
- Knight of Shadows
- Prince of Chaos
There are also a few short stories, which hint at new material. Since Zelazny died in 1995, we're never going to know how these ideas would have turned out. The following is a (hopefully) complete list, together with where they have been published.
- "Prologue to Trumps of Doom" - (Amberzine #4)
- "The Salesman's Tale" - (Amberzine #6)
- "The Shroudling and the Guisel" - (Realms of Fantasy #1 (Oct. '94) and Amberzine #8)
- "Coming to a Cord" - (Pirate Writings (Summer '95) and Amberzine #10)
- "Blue Horse, Dancing Mountains" - (Wheel of Fortune anthology (1995), Avon mass market paperback edited by Roger Zelazny, ISBN 0-380-77423-2)
- "Hall of Mirrors" - (Castle Fantastic anthology (1996), Daw Fantasy mass market paperback edited by John DeChancie and Martin Greenberg, ISBN 0-88677-686-4)
There are no commercially available Amber modules, so your GM will have to write their own. This requires a GM with a very good knowledge of the books, or they're in danger of offending players who expect the tone and content of the game to follow the books fairly well.
There may well be more supplements in the pipeline, including perhaps some alternative approaches to the Magic system. Don't hold your breath though.
The Amber Diceless Role-Playing game can be played in many different formats. At Ambercon you might find fully-costumed Live Action games, standard "table-top" games, or anything in-between.
Ambercon is a convention at which the Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game is played by the convention's members. We schedule members' events and players into the events before the convention. For that reason, you have to be registered for ahead of time. For registration deadlines please see timeline (click on the year of the con and then the tab for the timeline). Ambercons are open to anyone who would like to go.
Over the next year there are expected to be several conventions dedicated to Amber gaming: Ambercon, Ambercon UK and Ambercon NorthWest. The biggest of those thus far is Ambercon (sometimes known as Ambercon US). For more information on these conventions, check out http://www.ambercons.com.
You can also find Amber games at Gen Con, held every August in Indianapolis, Indiana; Blue Water Con, held each summer in Port Huron, Michigan; U•Con, held on a non-home football game weekend in late October or November in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Unfortunately, the hotel has stated that it's 'too difficult' for them to do this. As it has been explained to us, hotel bookings don't really go through the local hotel, but rather through a national booking service run by the hotel chain...which makes us a pretty small fish in terms of numbers.
And on the other end of the spectrum, we get a good number of complaints that the hotel is too expensive, and responses from previous attendees who can't attend because of limited financial means. In general, the convention organizers want to keep the hotel costs as small as possible, so that more people can attend.
For the past several years, the convention organizers have allotted time each year to finding a better hotel. We have never yet found one that even comes close to offering us what Embassy Suites in Livonia does. The following are our list of criteria:
- availability of gaming space (i.e. suites, not just single rooms)
- convention space (some public space for gathering and mingling)
- proximity to an airport/highway
- proximity to restaurants
The simple truth is that with the numbers of attendees we have had on average in past years' markets, we did not have the numbers to demand good deals from the larger hotels.
We have creatively investigated other hotels including some of the casino hotels near DTW airport, and do a deep dive on at least one a year. Our mix of requirement does not make it an easy problem to solve, but if our efforts bear fruit, we will keep you all informed!
If you know of a hotel that offers something comparable to what we have available here at the Embassy Suites, we'd still love to hear from you. If you'd like to volunteer to help look into other options, our hotel liaison will contact you; any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Since 2002 the convention rate and discount rate have been much closer together, with the convention rate often being the same or less than the Internet-only discount rate. Still, if anyone notices a large discrepency, please do let us know!
That's kinda tricky. SE Michigan just isn't terribly touristy. The only way of improving this would be to move the location.
Every year the committee looks into other hotel options that would be friendlier in this regard. We are also constantly working to improve our relationship with Embassy Suites, so that services get better for us, and serving us gets easier for them.
The 8-Slot schedule we used for Ambercon is intended to accomodate the following:
- differing slot lengths (some prefer long games, some prefer short games)
- differing slot times (some don't like playing into the wee hours, some like to sleep in on weekends)
- hotel check-in and check-out
- hotel breakfast schedule
- space between slots for lunch, supper, and freshening up
We also allow GMs to indicate if they want to start later in a morning slot or run later in an evening slot, so that players have even more variety of game lengths, early bird, and night owl slots.
The current schedule seems to have worked for most of our needs.
After long success with a manual system for ACUK and ACNW, the current organizers have moved to a manual system of game assignment.
For the system geeks among us, here's how it works:
- When selection closes, we do a "First Choice" schedule: everyone gets all their first choices.
- We analyze the schedule for games are over-subscribed. Returning players are given priority in those games that require it. GMs are given next priority, based on how many games they run. Each person who gets "bumped" has their name moved down to their second choice game; rinse-repeat for third choice games, we keep repeating this until all games are at or below their maximum number of players.
- We analyze the schedule for games that are under-subscribed. We move players around to balance between as many people getting as many of their highest choices, and having enough games run to let everyone play in each slot they want to. This can result in players getting a second or even third choice, though the game that was their first choice has openings. Without that, several other people might not get their first choice, or there might not be enough games.
- We analyze the schedules, looking for people (typically late registering, non-GMs, but also folks who just happen to have the bad luck to choose many popular / small games) whose schedules are borked, and rejig them, starting with people with 3 or more bumps, or 2 or more bumps to 3rd choice or below, and working our way up.
- We analyze the schedules, looking for fragile games, games that are running at their minimum required players, communicating with GMs, and looking at game structure. We move players around to strengthen the schedule, to try and avoid a game canceling at the con because one player can't attend the con or play in that slot, and having to place GM(s) and players in other games at the last moment.
- We do one final pass, checking people in order of getting the fewest first choices, discounting taking slots off, or GMing (it's a percentage rating), looking to fix egregious errors. At this point we have less freedom, as we have to keep in mind whether a bump helps a 2nd or even 3rd choice game to run that would otherwise be cancelled, causing the Slot to "fail" for numbers of spaces for players.
We look specifically for things like:
- comment fields like "this is my FAVORITEST GAME IN ALL THE WORLD"
- whether the person got into other games with the same GM
- whether the person wants to play with the same group of people all the time (which usually leads to the whole group getting a bump)
- whether or not the player can play in that GMs' games otherwise
Finally we do last passes, phone folks to see what games they might prefer when they don't have better choices, and then sprinkle in the members who did not submit choices.
This sounds tedious and time-consuming. It takes about 12 hours to schedule the entire convention beginning to end.. Then there's the time waiting on responses to questions, and the last pass. On the other hand, we do get very good schedules as a result. The goal is to minimize the bumps to any one person, and to appreciate the extra time and effort our GMs put in to make the convention happen.
AmberCon US, like all AmberCons in my experience, strives to value all attendees equally and to welcome new players to our community. The committee values your feedback on any stage in the process of putting on the convention.
The committee is actually looking into this option. Because of the system used by Embassy Suites in assigning rooms, we don't get the room numbers in advance, which makes many things difficult, scheduling-wise.
At ACNW, the rooms are very different sizes, with only some of the room appropriate to hosting games; thus it is important for them to single out certain rooms to shoulder the burden of hosting all the games.
We have come up with a possible solution we are discussing, and if it seems feasible we will do something similar for 2013.
Although this would make it easier for GMs to get into the games they want, this would also make balancing out the slots a complete nightmare.
Example: If a particularly popular GM/game is running in slot four, then most GMs will want to avoid running in slot four, so they can play in the game or so that they can get good players. This, in turn, leads to fewer games in slot four...so everyone pretty much signs up for one game. This helps no one.
Unfortunately, this opens the door to unfair treatment to players. We all pay the same amount to attend the Con, and we all deserve equal access to games. If a Con attendee has serious issues with another attendee, you can bring this to the attention of the Con organizers, and we will do what we can. However, personal issues aren't really our problem to solve; that's something for you and the other person to work out between yourselves.
With our new system of scheduling, we can and do cancel games that we know are running with fewer than the minimum number of players. We work actively to have games not run with even the minimum number of players so that the absence of a single player (life happens while you do player assignments) does not cause a game not to run very late. We also work with GMs to check if they can run a game with fewer than the minimum number of players they listed.
No members will have a "blank" schedule or blank slots in their schedules, and so there will not be "pick-up" players wandering around hoping for a game.
We have also changed the form to encourage GMs to let us know their game choices in case their game does get cancelled, so that everyone involved can simply be moved to another event they would enjoy.
Hotel checkout is noon. Participation in Sunday slots pretty much requires staying Sunday night and leaving the next day. We've gone over all manner of possible schedules, and scheduling to eliminate this problem, but haven't found a solution that does not create other problems that are worse.
With the current slot schedule putting two games on Sunday; membership "levels" that account for attending different numbers of days; and the availability of late checkout and luggage storage, the committee has worked hard over the past several years to minimize the impact of this problem that does not cause worse problems than the one we're trying to solve.
The day slot on Sunday ends at 4pm, which is about as early as we can cut it for a two long-slot day.
But please let us know anything that you think might help us with this!