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The title's vague to avoid spoiling the adventure module Castle Amber (1981).

I am baffled by the following conceit:

The party has an unknown powerful ally looking after them. Prince Stephen Amber [PSA]… will send a cloud of amber light to encircle the party at the end of a gaming session. This light will protect the party from all wandering monsters and provides nourishment. The amber light will also restore all lost hit points to wounded characters and allows magic-users, elves, and clerics a chance to regain their spells. Time outside the amber light stops while it continues for those within the light. Thus, if characters gain enough experience to reach higher experience levels they may train and study between gaming sessions and rise in experience levels. (2)

(And, yes, that's a pretty big deal, and, yes, that info's buried in the middle of a paragraph!)

First, is this conceit necessary? Can the DM simply ditch this whole pile without significantly changing the adventure, or is this conceit somehow necessary for Castle Amber as an adventure to function?

Second, I get that PSA's powerful enough to create this effect during parts 1 through 6, but should this effect continue in part 7 and beyond?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there anything else in the module that suggests this is to be treated as an actual in-game mechanic and not simply treated as a "pause button" of sorts? It reads to me as though the writer of the module just wanted to grant the DM a good excuse for allowing players to rest/level up in-between sessions. \$\endgroup\$ – GreedyRadish Oct 18 '17 at 6:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ What counts as a significant change? For example, would losing the amber light as a potential lead for info regarding what's going on be significant? What about having to be really careful where you end sessions in Avergione (cause inquisition. I get that you're thinking it maybe should stop then, and that makes some sense, too)? I guess I want a clearer metric for what your bar for significance is. I mean, it obviously changes a bunch of stuff, right? I assume the obvious changes aren't significant, but I would need to know why if I were gonna write an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Oct 18 '17 at 6:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer I'm kind of wondering why the PCs couldn't just clear a room in the Castle, bar the door, and camp there until morning instead of needing the amber light to come and save (rescue? rejuvenate?) them at seemingly random times (i.e. the end of each actual session). Avergione especially seems to have no need of the conceit, it being a fairly darn big province, after all. There's gotta be, like, reasonable spots to camp there, right? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 18 '17 at 7:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ ♦ Reminder: We do not support answers in comments (speculative, partial, or otherwise) because comments do not support features like proper voting and the wiki-style editing that allow us to vet, correct, and improve the content. This question appears to be attracting many answers in comments, which are being regularly removed. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 18 '17 at 19:16
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I would chalk it up to the general weirdness of Basic/Expert, and the way the modules are used as learning-the-game tools, such as "In Search of the Unknown [B1] was an introductory scenario intended to teach Dungeon Masters (DMs) how to create dungeons." Of course, they also ignored game tenets as well to teach the game, as in B2 The Keep on the Borderlands which has Basic Rules wilderness adventures, though wilderness is not introduced until Expert Rules.

I would say in this case that the PSA is there to teach/re-affirm the concept of training for levels without forcing the characters to abandon the adventure.

One issue I have with this, however, is that the best way to earn XP in B/X is through acquiring treasure, since the 1gp=1xp rule applied. The Red Book (p B22) says this rule is for non-magical treasure "recovered". Every group I have played with says recovered = returned to town. Another issue is that B22 also states that a "character should never be given enough XP in a single adventure to advance more than one level of experience." The Blue Book (p X22) does not modify this. The PSA could be the equivalent to returning to town, but if that is the case I would also imagine this could be treated as abandoning the adventure, and repopulation of monsters could occur.

Ultimately, B/X has the loosest of rules systems, and anything can be discarded.

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I would say no, it is not necessary, in that I ran the module and did not use this rule... but I'm not claiming we played it as it was intended.

A third level cleric going into this module has a maximum of two cure light wounds spells, for 2-7 points each. The party may have a potion of healing or two, but probably not much else. That is not enough to keep a whole party healed up unless several days are spent holed up on a secure location. Normally if you get too beat up, you can leave the dungeon and return to a safe camp or to town, but in this module you cannot.

Further, you are invading a family's house. The family knows every room in the house, and will know if you barricade yourself in somewhere. We are told they are eager to test and harass the party (out of boredom), and given that they are high level characters, its going to be difficult or impossible to keep them out, if they are determined to get in.

In this module the party is outmatched and must be clever, if they are to survive. A good DM will play on the family politics and quirks.

Now, I didn't use this rule, but my party was 6th level, and I was running it in D&D 3.0, so they had vastly more resources. They were goal-driven and went straight through, avoiding fights and unnecessary exploration. Also, I let them move room to room, and did not do much with the Amber family; they didn't move around, look for them, or act particularly intelligent. So a great deal will depend on your DMing approach as well as your player's approach, and on what D&D edition you are playing.

On a side note, the Amber Light is a foreshadow. Going into the castle they don't know about Stephen. They know they are trapped but not how to escape. Everyone seems crazy and against them, but the glowing light is a clue that they have an unknown ally. Stephen knows his family's oddities; he is powerful enough to protect the party; and he is motivated to be rescued. It would be odd if he did NOT help them in whatever way he could.

It is also interesting that in module X4, also written by Moldvay, there is an "unknown benefactor" that occasionally provides aid if the party gets into trouble.

NOTE: My original answer incorrectly stated that by the rules, you could not heal or regain spells without leaving the dungeon. SevenSidedDie corrected this in the comments. But my point was that if played as intended, the light may be necessary; even with the rules correction I think that is true. So I have edited this answer instead of deleting it.

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PCs probably need the conceit if Castle Amber is run as written and if the PCs are driven by curiosity and greed

In this DM's experience with parts 2 through 6 of Castle Amber, PCs need the conceit. Unlike the players in this answer, the players in my campaign were goal-driven but not to escape. On the contrary, the players quickly realized that the volume of treasure available in Castle Amber was extreme and, like Tenser, the players attempted to squeeze every single copper piece from the dungeon.1

This meant that the PCs in this DM's experience with Castle Amber (proper not the entire module) engaged every creature they could in battle, conversation, or both—sometimes simultaneously—, and the PCs cleared nearly every room and, when they could, searched it meticulously.2 While they did, I did as instructed by the module:

The chance the party will encounter a wandering monster [in Castle Amber proper] is 1 on 1d6. The DM should check for an encounter every two turns. [For those unfamiliar with time that's every 20 min.!] For the sake of variety, it is suggested that no wandering monster be encountered more than once until they have all been encountered. If one is rolled up a second time, the DM should choose another that has not been encountered yet. (Castle Amber 4)

However, usually sessions ended with the PCs experiencing the conceit, and they took full advantage of it. (Some would say they exploited it, at one point training together for weeks to gain the teamwork benefit shared magic (Forge of War 131) because gaining a teamwork benefit requires only meeting the prerequisites and raw—yet usually unavailable—time.) It was only after one particularly harrowing experience that we recognized the conceit's real value:

The PCs entered PSA's amber light at the end of a session then exited next session to encounter very shortly thereafter a powerful foe. The PCs exhausted a great deal of resources defeating the foe… except several hours of the session remained! The players opted to have their PCs hole up and rest in one of the rooms that they'd cleared and that they considered safe. Nonetheless, they were constantly interrupted by a series of random encounters—me rolling 1s sometimes more than once per hour! Sometimes, these were mysterious noises outside, but sometimes insistent knocking and subsequent yelled conversation through the barred door. One interruption by William Amber ("Call me Bill"), a level 10 wizard (for comparison, the PCs are mainly at the low end of levels 6 to 8), couldn't be prevented, and Bill nearly snatched a then-currently-dead party member's spellbook and did baleful polymorph the bard into a toad before escaping the PCs' wrath.

This series of events caused everyone—player, PC, and DM—to realize what a life-saver PSA's conceit is, and how reliant the PCs were on it to survive parts 1 through 6 of Castle Amber, especially given the strict rules the game has on interrupted rest (also see Player's Handbook 146 and 178).

Part 7 of Castle Amber on Wandering Monsters (19) leads this DM to believe that the conceit is supposed to cease during that part of the adventure, so this DM won't use it during that part.


1 The spell Tenser's floating disc "creates [a] circular plane of null-gravity [named] after the famed wizard… whose ability to locate treasure and his greed to recover every copper found are well known…" (Dungeon Master's Guide (1978) 68). The PCs in my campaign, on the other hand, instead relied heavily on the 1st-level Sor/Wiz spell hoard gullet [trans] (Dragon Magic 68) and the special ability share spells so they and their familiars and animal companions could eat Castle Amber's tremendous number of coins. How long does it take to swallow thousands of coins? At least 20 minutes, of course.
2 The PCs even cleared Room 38 down to the last card. At-the-time-dead wizard Jalas's familiars drew the last two cards against the wizard's wishes while he was alive. (While alive, Jalas stopped his familiars from drawing because he neither wanted to pay for them to be brought back from the dead nor felt like waiting a year and day were they slain by drawing a card, but upon their master's death (unlike in Pathfinder) I ruled the familiars had 1 day free of Jalas while keeping their abilities… and Jalas's NE alignment.) Vanity the hawk was feebleminded and Stinky the weasel gained the cutest ever −2 cursed Tiny longsword (DMG 276) (1,500 gp; 1 lb.).

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