Friday, August 30, 2019

Moves in Amber - Flying Buffalo's City Book Series, The Mark of Amber, & Beyond - Campaign Commentary

With the passing of Rick Loomis this past month my mind wavered on my current campaign. Rick's passing sort of threw me for a loop. But I did manage to look through my Flying Buffalo books & one of my all time favorites The City Book series.  Citybook I: Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker is expansive; "25 City-based establishments with over 75 fully-described non-player characters, and scenario suggestions for use with any role-playing system. This book established that you COULD have a GM book that is genuinely for ANY Fantasy Role Playing System, and not just thinly disguised for one particular system. All the descriptions and mechanics are in generic terms so it will fit in with whatever campaign system you are using." They really do mean this & this book has earned its five star review on Drivethrurpg. 

The City Books are set within a late fantasy D&D style  Roman Empire to Renaissance Europe setting for their urban environments. And adding them to a world setting such as the classic Greyhawk box set isn't a problem at all. They slide into the back ground along with their races, artifacts, adventure hooks, & background  elements quite nicely.

But the place where the  The City Book series fits is into Mystara. The races, the expansiveness, the implied  shared setting of the books fits quite nicely into the world B/X  Dungeons & Dragons Cyclopedia campaign very seamlessly. In fact they also fit really nicely into the Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg  without a hassle at all. They work quite well right into the loveliness of Castles & Crusades as well.

But then I run smack into my old nemesis of how the Hell does a dungeon master move from high fantasy to the straight up Sword & Sorcery of let's say an Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  Fortunately I've got a way out down the thirty nine steps of deeper slumber. HP Lovecraft's Dreamlands is the middle ground between high fantasy & Sword & Sorcery. This is one of the places that Tom Moldvay D&D module X2 Castle Amber crosses into in many respects.

So could the The City Book series cross over into this realm of dreams as well?! I think that the answer to this is yes it could. The death of Tienne d'Ambreville foreshadows this and yes I quoting from the "Mark of Amber" (1995), by Aaron Allston, Jeff Grubb, and John D. Rateliff, which I think is one of the best products to come out of the TSR second edition era. Again the focus shifts to Mystara. There has always been this hazy Dreamlands/dimension of nightmares connection with these materials in my mind.

There are several different power & faction connections that can be exploited within the 
The City Book series  & Mark of Amber once the events & death of Tienne d'Ambreville comes to pass. The death of a powerful wizard is going to send shock waves across space, the planes, & time itself. 
With the death of 
Tienne d'Ambreville  various families of wizards & witches are going to be thrown into chaos. The power vacuum left in the wake of his death really throws a number of witch covens & families into complete chaos.  On a lone tree a barbarian thief hangs as a witch queen takes the throne of her sister in the D20 Conan adventure A Witch Shall Be Born: Written and edited by Wesley Connally.

Meanwhile someplace in Albion in  the Averoigne  region of France a member of the Le Fey family moves a chess piece on a very archaic board. A piece across three Prime planes away on the board of an immortal moves with the same pieces. He does not look happy at all & contemplates his next move unaware of a similar board being observed by a Magistar three planes away as well. 

In another place & time a man contemplates a chess board as it moves on its own within a discrete mages & wizard's club. A woman in an evening dress suddenly looks very concerned & the world of Amazing Adventures! rpg just got a bit more complicated.  

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