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Thursday 17 December 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: Amber: Girl Power

So, on Saturday I ran my second full session of Amber, and it continues to be a hoot. Eventually Sun Boy will no doubt post the particulars of it on the Amber Forum's Campaign Report Thread, so I won't bother you guys with a play-by-play of it all. Suffice it to say that the game has already reached the level of "great", and continues to reaffirm my position that Amber is easily the greatest RPG ever made.

An interesting addition to the gaming group means that we currently have gone up to 8 players (a number that I would never dare to have for any other RPG). And our newest player is also our second girl in the group; Daniella who is playing Lorelei, daughter of Llewella, who was raised in Rebma and the other cousins don't know very well.

Those of you who had been following the campaign report thread have already heard from the first session report that Diana (played by Jimena, our other female player) had quickly shown herself to be the most vicious of the new generation; now she's got competition in the form of Lorelei. Between the two, they've got pretty well every male PC shitting their pants with fear.
In this Amber campaign at least, the female is definitely deadlier than the male. Diana (daughter of Bleys, and first in Psyche) has shown no qualms about her status as one of the redheads of Amber, feeling it her right to push people around with her Psyche with impunity, manipulating minds and menacing anyone who doesn't do things her way. Subtlety is not her strong suit, but she makes up for that with boldness and her aunt Fiona has quickly come to see her as a protege and a chip off the old block.

Lorelei, on the other hand, has been a bit more subtle when the occasion merits subtlety, but has been unfraid to show off her notable powers of sorcery, and to manipulate the men around her for advantage. She's made good use of her outsider status, of her connection on her father's side to the Amberite noble house of Karm, and to some as of yet unexplained past apparent alliance between her mother and Benedict. She's already pushed around a couple of the guys with her sorcery, and has worked to subvert Jong's character's authority over his father's shadow, Avalon.

Its interesting, because of the two players, one had never played any RPG before this, and the other had a rather limited play experience (having been a player a few years back in my Port Blacksand campaign, and having played a couple of sessions of Paranoia XP), but both of them took to the social interactions and Machiavellian maneuverings of Amber like fish to water.
I have yet to meet a gamer girl who didn't love Amber upon trying it out, and what's more I've noticed that there's something about women that seems to, in a very general and broad sense, tend to be naturally good at Amber.
I suppose that it has something to do with male and female roles: Amber has a lot of political scheming and maneuvering, which guys tend to do ok at; but as far as family-interactions go, in Amber its not really all that productive to go around physically pushing people around; instead, in amber you push people around socially. You manipulate them, you exclude or include them, you insult them backhandedly, and you show them up. And I think that maybe there's something about the "training" girls tend to get in this during childhood and adolescence that lends them to doing well against guys in Amber: boys might grow up in the schoolyard with bullies and gangs, but girls' life in the schoolyard is a whole other sort of viciousness, a social viciousness that having some experience with ends up becoming an advantage in Amber competitive play.

Anyways, if you really want to empower girl gamers, I think that there's few games that do this in quite as natural and easy a way as Amber does. Of course, female characters are the equal of male characters statistically (as in most other RPGs designed any time after the very earliest periods of gaming), but what really makes the difference is the social aspects of the game. If you want to talk about a non-pushy sort of feminism in RPGs, you need look no further than Amber.


(Originally posted July 7, 2008)

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