Favorite Fantasy RPG
I took a moment to think about this one… was my favorite fantasy RPG really a fantasy RPG? But yeah, there is really no contest on this one.
This game is not just my favorite fantasy RPG, it is far and away my favorite RPG. I have written extensively about Amber before so I’ll try to keep this concise.
It’s a diceless game from the era of 2nd Edition D&D (1991) based on a series of novels. It’s a license product, an oddity, and it’s brilliant. All those “techniques” of design we talk about to encourage certain modes of play? Well how about a competitive auction for character creation? How about ditching “randomness” in favor of a mechanic so simple it’s just called “Stuff?”
The Amber Diceless RPG is surprisingly no-frills in its approach. But the book is better written than almost any RPG I’ve ever encountered. It is full of examples and samples of play. It is evocative – not only of the licensed Amber universe – but of how to create your own spaces within it. Many games based on other works revel in their faithfulness to the original product… Amber revels in letting you explore the Amber universe all on your own. The game is character-driven by design in a way that few games can even aspire to be. You don’t engage in world-building as a metagame/minigame – you actually engage in world-building as a practical matter of play.
And everything about the diceless system is elegant in a way that truly vexes me. I almost hate Wujcik for the jealousy he inspires by how well the diceless system works. I’ve read, played, and attempted to design many diceless systems and none are capable of delivering the play experience of Amber. It just works. Rankings, Stuff, and making narrative clues an integral part of action resolution in a way that it’s difficult to see until you actually play it.
Beyond all of this, the Amber RPG is also still my go-to primer for advice as a player or GM. Much like Gygax in the DMG, the designers of this game really spoke to you and told you about a vision of gaming as they imagined/experienced it – but it wasn’t just a set of remonstrances or advice… it was suggestions from a heartfelt place of deep passion for the game (and gaming in general, it felt like to me).
The universe is rich and belongs to the players in a unique way. The system is brilliant. The scope is epic and personal by turns. Amber is without a doubt my favorite (fantasy) RPG.
Thanks for reading.