Jewelers' rouge works like gunpowder? Well. that preconceived notion cost me a few of years of reading Amber. Fortunately, Christmas and a girlfriend who accepted role playing games as presents changed my life forever. I remember going through "dice withdrawal" and trying to roll things that were not in my hand.
Amber Diceless changed gaming for me forever. The first campaign was two years and my character diary became impossible to carry. My girlfriends Trump Deck had become similarly problematic. I had often thought that it would be fantastic to try and use a "non-Amber" setting. I gave Lords of Gossamer and Shadow a rating of 4, mostly because Amber was a 5. They did a fantastic job with the rules and setting; but it lacked some of the motivations that being of the Royal Family of Amber had. The right GM and players could possibly tie a good story together; but The Grand Staircase, itself does not bind players the way being related does. It also seemed that all the characters presented had a "Cold War Style" escalation of toys. Not only do these create a "point sink"; but it focuses to much attention on "out gearing" each other. It can not be done. Amber nicely kept the focus away from this trend. Pattern Sword, Trump Deck and a "gifted" riding crop were all that was required, the rest was out in Shadow somewhere waiting for you. Access to the Stairs also seemed fairly limited in Lords of Gossamer and Shadow and did not have that feel of "Shifting Shadow". The war for the stair also did not have the "feel" of Amber, Order verses Chaos; but with no clear right or wrong, except both were required. Lords of Gossamer and Shadow had an "ancient enemy" that seems to be clearly bad guys but very two dimensional with conquest for conquest's sake alone. So, criticism done. Should you buy this product? If you are a fan of Amber, it has some very useable ideas. This could make a very interesting "new power". If you are have not played Amber, this is a chance to discover some of the real depths of role-playing. It is not in anyway like any other gaming book, except Amber itself. Even if you never play it, because it does require the right group, it still forms part of a cornerstone that every RPer should have. It is not about how many "inches" a fireball will travel. It is about beating Benedict's record for holding the Alamo.
[4 of 5 Stars!]