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Mark of Amber (2e)
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Mark of Amber (2e)

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Tienne d'Ambreville, the most powerful wizard in all Glantri, is missing and presumed dead. There are some who would like to keep it that way. Only by entering the dreams of a dying Immortal can player characters discover the truth. Meanwhile, a sinister killer stalks the d'Ambreville family, murdering them one by one. Can the heroes identify the killer and solve the mystery before it's too late? A sequel to the popular adventure Castle Amber (Chateau d'Amberville), this story is set thirty years after the original adventure.

Contents include:

  • Poster-size player's map of the chateau
  • 64-page Adventure Book
  • 8 parchment sheets for players and DM

Note: Audio CD components not included.

Product History

"Mark of Amber" (1995), by Aaron Allston, Jeff Grubb, and John D. Rateliff, is the third and final adventure for the AD&D Mystara line. It was published in June 1995.

Origins (I): Return to Glantri. Following the publication of Glantri: Kingdom of Magic (1995), TSR was ready to supplement it with modules, continuing the two-tiered model for their AD&D Mystara line. "Mark of Amber" (1995) was the first adventure to support Glantri, but it would also be the only one. Like the previous Mystara adventures, "Mark of Amber" was packaged with an Audio CD.

Origins (II): Return to X2. The origins of "Mark of Amber" go way back to X2: "Castle Amber" (1981), a classic adventure that told the story of the Amber family, who came from a gothic Earth, settled for a time in Glantri, then returned to a limbo of mists. The players explore their castle, rescue Stephen Amber … and in doing so destroy the Castle and everyone within.

But you can't keep a good cursed family down. Having reverted to their original name, the d'Ambreville family appears prominently in GAZ3: "The Principalities of Glantri" (1987). It's explained that "their estate disappeared without a trace, only to reappear years later, as if nothing had happened." This was the result of Stephen wishing his entire family back to life following the disastrous decay that ended "Castle Amber". Now, they have their own principality, New Averoigne, ruled over by Stephen (also known as Etienne and also secretly the Empyreal of Energy named Rad!). Some of the Ambrevilles also appeared in PC4: "Night Howlers" (1992) because of the proximity of la Vallée des Loups.

And that brings us to "Mark of Amber", which was designed to be a sequel to "Castle Amber". It touches upon many elements of the original. A few dream sequences take place in (Old) Averoigne, in the Ambreville's original world, while some of the encounters in the new castle closely match encounters in "Castle Amber". Etienne is even hanging out in a coffin, just like in "Castle Amber".

With that said, there's plenty new in this adventure too, including a wedding and murder plots. It's intended to be a fresh adventure, just one that repeats some of the tropes and imagery from the classic Known World adventure.

Origins (III): Return to Ambreville. Aaron Allston wrote the first draft of "Mark of Amber", which was then called "Return to Castle Ambreville". Allston was quite happy with the result, saying that "it had a plot whose outcome was determined by player-character interaction but still functioned as a plot, [and] it had a lot of material on handling crises resulting from PCs leading the events off into unexpected directions". Unfortunately, Allston wrote "Return to Castle Ambreville" for the Basic D&D system in its waning days, perhaps around 1992 or 1993. As a result, it was shelved while Mystara was relaunched as an AD&D line.

Origins (IV): Onward to Mystara. Jeff Grubb was brought in to revamp Allston's original manuscript. He needed to convert it to AD&D, link it to the Glantri boxed set, and also support the Audio CD system. Grubb's work went smooth, but Allston wasn't thrilled by the mandated reliance on the Audio CD, which he felt was "harmful to [the adventure's] usefulness".

Some minor discrepancies do exist between Glantri and the module, probably because of the adventure's earlier origin. The most notable is the claim that the Nucleus of Spheres drains from the Sphere of Entropy rather than the Sphere of Energy.

Origins (V): Onward to the End. Several Mystaran-related products would follow "Mark of Amber", but this was the last book in the two-tiered line of sourcebooks and related adventures for the AD&D Mystara line.

That's too bad, because Karmeikos: Kingdom of Adventure (1994) had an extensive gazetteer detailing what might well have been another dozen Mystara books.
"Darokin: The Kingdom of Gold" and "Thyatis: The Empire in Ruins" got special notice and would probably have been next. But a whole line could have included "Aengmor", "Atruaghin: The Clans of the Plateau", "The Broken Lands: The Humanoid Kingdoms", "Ethengar: Kingdom of Horsemen", "The Five Shires: The Hin Nation", "The Heldannic Territories: Land of the Knights", "Ierendi: The Kingdom of Islands", "Minrothad: The Kingdom of Sea Princes", "Ostland, Vestland and the Soderfjords: The Northern Reaches", "Rockhome: The Kingdom of the Dwarves", "Sind: Kingdom of the Wastes", "Wendar: The Elven Kingdom of the North", and "Ylaruam: The Desert Kingdom".

Adventure Tropes. "Mark of Amber" is presented as an enormous sandbox, allowing for intrigue and investigation, but laid over that is a series of events that keep the plot moving.

Adventure Tropes: Dream a Little Dream. Many of the events are actually dreams, an occasional trope in D&D adventure. Like many of the best D&D dream sequences, the ones in "Mark of Amber" are fully fleshed-out game encounters. The dreams are also used to very nice story effect, highlighting the history of the Ambrevilles. Finally, their resolution is very interesting: they present moral dilemmas, and the players' reactions to them ultimately decide their success in the adventure. Thus, even if the dreams are set encounters, they still support a high level of player agency.

Adventure Tropes: You and Him Fight. "Mark of Amber" ends with the players in a desperate fight against several high-level characters (and golems). Fortunately, the players get aid from very powerful NPCs too. The result treads closely on the trope of "you and him fight". The players don't totally lose their ability to affect the outcome of the adventure, but they'll probably be overshadowed by fight's end.

Audio Tropes. As was typical in the Audio CD series, the CD contains tracks that are run at certain times: for certain events or for specific rooms. Unlike some of the other CDs, this one focuses on the NPCs, providing dialogue without stepping on the players' toes. There are, however, quite a few fake French accents that were not well received.

Eras of Mystara: 1012 AC. "Mark of Amber" says it's set in 1012 AC even though Glantri used 1013 AC as the current year. This was probably another minor discrepancy from the conversion of the original adventure.

Exploring Mystara: Glantri. "Mark of Amber" extensively details the Château Sylaire of the Ambrevilles, in the province of Nouvelle Averoigne.

NPCs of Note. Way back in "Castle Amber", the d'Ambrevilles were some of the most interesting NPCs in gaming at the time. Fifteen years later, that's once more the case, with an extensive appendix depicting their entire family tree and detailing four generations of d'Ambrevilles.

The star of the d'Ambrevilles is once again Etienne d'Ambreville, returning after appearances in X2: "Castle Amber" and Wrath of the Immortals (1992). And the PCs ultimately get to decide his fate. Does he return as a Wizard or an Immortal? Can he access the Radiance?

About the Creators. "Mark of Amber" shows how layered design was becoming at TSR by the '90s. Tom Moldvay wrote X2: "Castle Amber" (1981), then Aaron Allston wrote a sequel called "Return to Castle Ambreville". Jeff Grubb revised that as "Mark of Amber" (1995) under editor John D. Rateliff, who is also credited with design.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons — a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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March 8th, 2008
Nice retake on an old classic module. Excellent soundtrack/story cordination. good module! [...]
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Rule System(s)
Pages
72
Edition
1.0
Publisher Stock #
TSR2513
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File Last Updated:
May 14, 2017
This title was added to our catalog on May 30, 2017.