Roleplaying – Worlds of Gossamer
Posted by Harry Heckel
I love pen and paper roleplaying games. I’ve run games for over thirty years and written multiple game products. When I’m asked what games are my favorites, I have trouble reducing the list below my top ten. I also know that there are several great games I haven’t played. Yet.
When I’m asked what games someone should learn to be a great gamemaster, there are three that come to mind… Dungeons & Dragons (in any of its myriad forms) because it’s the most well-known, Champions because it’s a beautiful complicated wonder of mathematics that actually produces cool characters, and Amber Diceless Roleplaying because when you play a game without dice, you learn a tremendous amount about stories.
Amber was based on the fantasy series by Roger Zelazny (a series that I highly recommend) involving princes and princesses with the ability to travel through dimensions and alter reality. It made a great multi-genre game with a strong dosage of fantasy. Players could create their own worlds and had an important part in creating the game worlds. It spawned a loyal fanbase, although it only had one official supplement, Shadow Knight. There was a magazine that lived on, Amberzine, which told stories about Amber characters. I was fortunate enough to pick up two of the issues and enjoyed them.
Unfortunately, Erick Wujcik, the creator of the Amber game, passed away a few years ago. I was fortunate enough to meet him at GenCon in the 90s and attend a seminar on creating roleplaying games that he conducted. At the time, I had written a number of game supplements for Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse. I have very strong memories of his talk and his theories on game design. He made me think about how the system impacted the genre and how much character creation was a part of the nature of ongoing campaigns as well as many other things.
I’ve run a number of Amber campaigns over the years, but I always regretted that I never got to see more supplements. I love telling stories and creating adventures in worlds where a magical colossus made of living wood houses a city dedicated to the last of the valkyries and only a few steps away, college students wait for pizza to show up at their very mundane dorm room with the fate of reality in the balance. It made for bizarre scenarios, but they usually worked for my groups.
In the last year, I stumbled across an heir to Amber, Lords of Gossamer and Shadow by Jason Durall from Rite Publishing powered by Erick Wujcik’s Amber diceless rules. Jason had worked on supplements for Amber that had never been published. Truthfully, I was skeptical when I bought it, but out of love for Amber, I decided to take a look.
I’m glad I did. Jason took an amazing rules system and a very cool universe and made it even better in some respects. I’ve really enjoyed the game, from its concept of the Grand Stair (which makes me recall Escher and Marvel Comics doing mystical pathways in old Doctor Strange issues) to having characters who aren’t all members of the same extended family and have their own unique backgrounds. The way the powers of Eidolon and Umbra (ironically, my first major gamebook was Umbra: The Velvet Shadow) work as law and chaos in the universe is also well-done. The game breathed new life into my Amber concepts and gave me new campaigns to create.
As I get ready to publish this blog, there’s a little less than 24 hours left in a Kickstarter where Steve Russell has raised enough money to launch a Gossamer Worlds Compendium. The Kickstarter also has pledge levels that allow you to buy the game. Even if you aren’t interested in the game necessarily, I suspect the Gossamer Worlds will provide a bevy of ideas and some great artwork to inspire stories.If you are reading this after the Kickstarter has ended, you can find more products at www.ritepublishing.com. For the record, I don’t work for them (but I’d love to do some freelance) but I’d like to see them succeed. The world could use some more interactive storytelling.