Monday, April 8, 2013

No Corwin Around: Mark of Amber Review Pt 1

Zak recently asked for module review suggestions, and I chimed in with Mark of Amber, which was my first D&D purchase ever and therefore intrinsically interesting to all right-thinking folk. He unaccountably went with Red Hand of Doom instead (some nonsense about 'having a copy handy').
See how chirpy they are about the AUDIO CD?

But Mark of Amber cries out for a review. And since there's probably nobody else around, you guys get me stepping up to the plate!

Mark of Amber was released in 1995, solidly in the late TSR period. It is a tribute/sequel module to the great Castle Amber, but goes the 2e route of providing a lot more (extraneous?) narrative and detail. It also features an audio CD. Remember how I said this was late TSR? They wanted to embrace new ways of putting together modules, which in this case meant a CD with a shitload of terrible French accents and cutesy dialog. I thought it was great in like 6th grade...but it hasn't aged well. At least they had the sense to restrict the dialogue to NPCs, and instructed the VAs to ham it up - much better than the Karamiekos boxed set. If you find that CD...don't. Seriously. Employ some Call of Cthulhu tactics and melt that CD right down.

Jim Holloway did the art for Mark of Amber, and while I dig some of his black and white pieces, the color pieces don't hold up too well. I'll be taking some photos as I go through this, since there don't seem to be too many pieces of Mark of Amber interior art around on the 'net. 

Anyway, back to Mark of Amber. The basic module synopsis: Since the PCs appear to be the Chosen Ones of Prophecy, the servant of the dead archwizard-prince Etienne d'Ambreville, selects them to help guide Etienne back to life and teach him the lessons of how to love and frolic and BE HUMAN. Unfortunately, the archwizard has decided to do this while one of his malevolent younger brothers, Henri, has usurped the throne in disguise and is attempting to covertly shank all of their relatives. So the PCs have to juggle their Power of Friendship work with trying to solve/prevent the murder spree.

 The module is divided into three sections - a room listing for Château Sylaire (aka Castle Ambreville aka Castle Amber), the adventure itself, and an NPCs listing. Some of these are bloated as hell, and including bullshit proficiency lists is not helpful. (Goddammit TSR I will never need to know that Jean-Louis D'Ambreville has the Fire-building proficiency. Why did you guys even make that a full proficiency? Seriously that is starting to get into Mike Mornard's "Use Rope, Eat Food, and Take Shit" level of proficiency granularity.)

Anyway. Placing the mansion room descriptions first feels very weird; you're trying to figure out what is going on in this module and here are all the NPCs being mentioned offhandedly but you don't know why Camilla's relationship with Petit-Singe is or why Henri has imprisoned Richard or anything like that. On the other hand you get a big mansion full of wizardly nonsense to read about so that's pretty legit.

More later, when I actually have the module handy to go through!