"Never trust a relative. It is far worse than trusting strangers. With a stranger there is a possibility that you might be safe."
The Chronicles of Amber is a Fantasy series by Roger Zelazny. Originally a series of five novels released from 1970-1977 about Corwin, Prince of Amber, it was followed up by a second series of five books released from 1986-1991 (The Second Chronicles of Amber) about Corwin's son, Merlin.Amber is the one true world of which all others, including our Earth, are mere shadows.A man wakes up in a hospital with no idea of who he is. Among the small number of things he remembers is a great range of skills and experiences, the fact that he heals fast, and to never trust a family member. When he visits the sister who had him committed, he finds in her possession a strange deck of Tarot cards featuring familiar faces in Renaissance Fair clothes, one of which is his own. Trying to find out more about himself without revealing he has no memories, he gets carried into a knot of family intrigues, counter-plots, magic, swashbuckling, and assassination. After all, just because he doesn't know the ins and outs of whose Throne is at stake doesn't means he's not a contender.The Chronicles of Amber happily combines different streaks of Fantasy and Science Fiction and all kinds of Other Dimensions. It features both epic elements and a dark-ish Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.Not to be confused with The City of Ember. The volumes are: The Original Series (Corwin as narrator):
Nine Princes in Amber
The Guns of Avalon
Sign of the Unicorn
The Hand of Oberon
The Courts of Chaos
The Second Chronicles of Amber (Merlin as narrator):
Trumps of Doom
Blood of Amber
Sign of Chaos
Knight of Shadows
Prince of Chaos
"The Salesman's Tale"
"The Shroudling and the Guisel"
"Blue Horses, Dancing Mountains"
"Coming to a Cord"
"Hall of Mirrors"
"A Secret of Amber"
In 1991, the Tabletop GameAmber Diceless Role Playing was released. There was supposedly a prequel series in 2002-2006 by another author... but they never happened, as confirmed by George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman, two friends and colleagues of the late Roger Zelazny. During his life, Zelazny had repeatedly and firmly turned down the possibility of an anthology of Amber stories by other authors.The complete first series was published in an omnibus edition called The Chronicles of Amber. After the second series was written, both series were published in omnibus editions called The First Chronicles of Amber and The Second Chronicles of Amber, respectively. A single volume edition of all the novels has been published as The Great Book of Amber: The Complete Amber Chronicles.
The novels and short stories provide examples of:
Abnormal Ammo: In Amber, the only known substance that can be used as a propellant for firearms is a form of jeweler's rouge from a distant dimension.
A God Am I: The first thing that any of Oberon's children do upon gaining the ability to wander through alternate dimensions is usually to find a dimension which they consider to be a paradise, complete with an entire society of worshipers. Considering that even the Amberites do not know whether they just find worlds or actually create them through their imagination, they might be right.
The second theory is particularly appalling for ourInsignificant Little Blue Planet, because it would mean Eric created the Earth simply as a place to hold the Black Death so he could ditch a wounded and unconscious Corwin in some random, disease-infested Crapsack World.
Played straight with the Amber Royalty, although the case of Oberon is somewhat ambiguous—he seems to be older, but that may just be his nature. Or, as the founder, the same rules may not apply to him.
Subverted with the nobility of Chaos; although they seem to be extremely long-lived, there are examples of aged and infirm Chaos lords. But then, the Pattern sustains its servants.
Alternate History / Another Dimension: In The Guns of Avalon Corwin travels to an alternate African coast that has never seen human habitation to harvest diamonds from the sand.
Always Someone Better: Benedict to everybody else. Eric is this to Corwin, although even Corwin speculates that it's mostly a mental block on his part and gets the better of Eric a few times in the first book, in both swordplay and a contest of wills via Trump. Luke may or may not be this to Merlin; they're extremely competitive with each other and have similar backgrounds. Or it may be that he's so damn well-adjusted, despite having two megalomaniac parents and spending half the second series on a pointless war of vengeance, as opposed to Merlin.
Amplifier Artifact: Spikard Rings - incredibly powerful rings of ancient and mysterious origins, connected to multiple sources of magic powers located around The Multiverse, that allow their users to create any magical spells they need in an instant - more practical and powerful than most magic in the universe. Merlin theorizes that at full power a person armed with one can even damage manifestations of Pattern and Logrus. However, they seem to be addictive and can be corrupted by other magic - one cabal 'plants' a spikard for Merlin to find which proves to be enchanted with mind-controlling spells, and only the fact that Bleys swapped the corrupt spikard for another keeps Merlin from suffering Mind Control for who knows how long.
Author Avatar: An understated Mauve Shirt cameo as Roger, one of the prison guards. He is writing "a philosophical romance shot through with elements of horror and morbidity." He writes the dark parts while in the dungeon. He never does tell Corwin if it will have a happy ending...
Author Existence Failure: The end of the Merlin books are a good stop, but there was a lot more that could be written before his death, to the point others have hamfistedly tried to extend it.
Awesome Moment of Crowning: Random and the Unicorn, Merlin confronting Dara. In neither case do we see the actual coronation but those are the moments that lock down who will be crowned- and who will be pulling the strings.
Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Flora, Deirdre, and Fiona, respectively. Normally, you'd expect the fourth sister to have brown hair to complete the series, but Llewella has green hair, like most Rebmans.note Flora's canonical hair colour is a matter of much debate amongst fans. In one book Zelazny implies it is red and in another he says it is blonde. It may be strawberry blonde or golden/red. At one point, Corwin describes it as "the color of a candle flame in a dark room." See also Early-Installment Weirdness.
Bloody Murder: As you get closer to the Chaos end of Shadow, the spilled blood of Chaosites tends to burst into flame when exposed to air. Can be good or bad, depending on what you do with it. Also, the blood of Dworkin's descendants can damage the Primal Pattern.
Body to Jewel: The Jewel of Judgment is the eye of Serpent of Chaos.
Brother-Sister Incest: Averted. Oberon makes a specific rule about it. Surprisingly, it's one of the few rules the family keeps, even though some siblings (e.g. Corwin in regard to Deirdre, Julian in regard to Fiona) do think about breaking it.
Played straight after Oberon's death (and Deirdre's death) by Corwin and Deirdre's Pattern-Ghosts, who are both sustained by the second Pattern drawn by Corwin (they seem be dwelling within the resultant alternate universe). The Corwin Pattern-ghost thanks Merlin for returning his dead sister to him, and informs him that the brother/sister pairing intends to cherish each other for so long as their somewhat ephemeral existences endure.
Cain and Abel: To the power of ten, given the family relationships shown, and one of the brothers is actually named Caine. (Over the entire first 5 books, only one brother succeeds in deliberately killing a brother. Guess who it is?) This relationship is especially in play between Corwin and Eric, who actually are full brothers.
Call Back: When Corwin kills Borel with a bunch of dirty moves, Borel chastises him for it, and Corwin retorts that this is a fight to the death, not the Olympic games. Much later on, Merlin finds himself fighting a clone of Borel on a sheet of ice, and when Borel again complains about the unfair fight, Merlin tells him this isn't the Winter Games either.
Changing of the Guard: The Merlin novels. The torch is passed back to Corwin for the short stories "Blue Horse, Dancing Mountains" and "Hall of Mirrors." It's unclear who would have been the main character if Zelazny had survived to write an eleventh book.
The Chase - Julian lives for this one. Benedict engages in it at one point due to a misunderstanding.
Chekhov's Gun: Several: the Pattern, the Jewel of Judgement, and the Abyss all qualify.
Cloning Blues: Minor shades of this in the Corwin cycle, where the Shadow reflections of Amberites lead to (notably Corwin and Caine) form a few minor plot points. Then the full, classic version of this shows up in the Merlin cycle, when the Patterns and Logrus start creating copies of the core cast, personalities included.
Combat Pragmatist: Many, if not most, of the characters; see the Characters page for particularly outstanding examples.
Cosmic Keystone: The Pattern, and the Logrus, and the Jewel of Judgment, and the Keep of Four Worlds, and pretty much everything by the end of the Merlin Cycle.
A Day in the Limelight: Random gets a chapter in "Sign of the Unicorn" to tell his version of his meeting with Corwin and Flora in the first book. "The Salesman's Tale" is from Luke's point of view. "Coming to a Cord" is from Frakir's.
Doing In the Wizard: Some of the explanations in the second series for things introduced in the first; especially the Keep of Four Worlds as the source of Brand's power rather than just his personal awesomeness.Which is a little bizarre, since most of the things he is described doing are abilities the second series ascribes to walking the Logrus.
Merlin with Coral. Subverted in that she's half-awake, "thought [he'd] never ask," and both of them are forced into it to escape.
Another one in "The Shroudling and the Guisel," where Rhanda reveals she's visited Merlin at night with the aid of a sleeping spells over the years. Subverted in that Merlin's reaction is to say the he just wished she'd have woken him up for it.
Flora's hair color, and whether Random or Eric is Corwin's full brother all change after the first book. Some of this can be waived away by Corwin's amnesia at the time, though.
The family members are also much more openly murderous and borderline sociopathic in the first book as opposed to the later ones. Julian attempts to murder Corwin and Random about a week after exchanging pleasant hellos with Random and catching him up on the family news, and Eric has few qualms about executing Deirdre for running away. Although Julian's attitude is explained in the later books, especially as far as Random goes.
Enemy Mine: Bleys and Corwin agree to cooperate in the first book only because they hate Eric more than they hate each other. Similar deals and alliances are made - and broken - all through the series.
Energy Being: The Reveal of the ty'iga in Blood of Amber and Kergma in Prince of Chaos: Ghostwheel presents a variant of the trope, since its physical body remains in one remote dimension, but it can project an immaterial presence to almost anywhere.
Expendable Alternate Universe: With an uncomfortable twist. In The Chronicles of Amber it is Amber that is real: who cares what happens in all those tag-along parallel worlds (including our Earth)? The passage where Corwin and Bleys harvest a parallel world for soldiers really brings this attitude home, as does Random's attitude to a Shadow truck driver who runs them off the road.
Expy: Oberon for Zeus. Try to match up the rest of the cast with Olympians. It's fun!
Eye Scream: There are several such incidents in the series: Corwin in the first book, Brand in the fifth, Jurt in the seventh, and Coral in the ninth.
Face-Heel Turn: Several. Merlin's stepbrother Mandor, Brand, Dara, and several others.
Some readers dislike the Merlin books so much that they simply choose to pretend that they don't exist. Fans of the Merlin books rarely go so far, but they don't need to since any issues with the Corwin books can be attributed to Unreliable Narrator.
Fantastic Nuke: It's revealed in the Merlin series that sufficiently-skilled Lords of Chaos can use their power to annihilate an area and all creatures within it. Merlin deems it Awesome but Impractical, sticking to attacks that allow him to take prisoners or gather evidence from the battlefield.
Fantasy Gun Control: Subverted: Everyone knows gunpowder doesn't work in Amber. Everyone wields swords. Corwin discovers a replacement powder (while polishing a present for his baby sister) and arms some troops with assault rifles. It's devastating.
Caine, Bleys and Oberon, as well as the protagonist Corwin, who starts the books presumed dead by most of his family.
Furthermore, siblings presumed by Corwin to have died before the start of the novels may actually be alive. At least two of the 'presumed dead' siblings are confirmed to be alive by Rinaldo in the seventh book... but they're content living secretly far off in Shadow. Or so we're told.
Fisher King: Dworkin relating to the Pattern, the Pattern relating to Amber
Gambit Pileup: Let's put it this way: At the beginning, there are two opposing triumvirates, both of which have rogue members, multiple wild cards, neutral but interested factions, and a Chessmaster. And that's just in the first book - the Courts of Chaos haven't even been introduced yet.
Genre Shift: Carl Corey thinks he's in a hard-boiled mystery novel, until hints start dropping that he's actually an amnesiac fantasy hero. Not that this changes his personality much once he clues in. Or anyone else's behavior. He stops using outdated Fifties slang about three books in, at least. (Well, for the most part).
God Guise: Justified. Corwin and Bleys look for the kind of Shadows where saviors/gods who just happen to look just like them are foretold.
Healing Factor: Much is made of the superior healing of Amberites and their kin; Corwin grows back his lost eyes, though it takes him four years.
Hellhound: Julian's hunting dogs. After they chase down Corwin and Random's car, they start to tear the metal body apart.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Happens in the backstory: Corwin, back when he was the lord of Avalon, at one point overcomes a traitor, carries him to a remote Shadow where survival is unlikely, and strands him there. Years later, Eric defeats Corwin, carries his unconscious body to a remote Shadow where survival is unlikely, and strands him there.
I Know You Know I Know: Oberon's entire family seems to have such a good grasp on what everybody else is thinking that it borders on telepathy. Corwin (while amnesiac) uses this to bluff info out of his sister. Then again they've had centuries, or possibly millennia, to learn each other's quirks and weaknesses.
Immortal Immaturity: Most of the immortal characters in the series are spiteful, petty, power-hungry, ruthless, opinionated, smug, and manipulative. Others are immature in other ways, such as Llewella and Benedict (who are emotionally isolated from most of their family) or Dworkin (who is kindly enough during his lucid moments but still a bit of a prankster and manipulator.)
Merlin sleeps with Coral, who is his half-aunt, and possibly has a child with her.
Coral has an arranged childhood marriage with Rinaldo, another half-nephew, but neither are interested in consummating it. It's almost certain that none of the people who set it up knew they were related.
Then again, they seem to have a thing for Shadow Earth. Corwin (and Flora) spent three centuries there, and it's theorized it became more 'real' as a result.
Intro Dump: Chapter 3 of Nine Princes in Amber, in which Corwin, suffering from Laser-Guided Amnesia, finds Flora's Trump deck, allowing Zelazny to name each of Corwin's living siblings, physically describe them, and tell the reader what Corwin thinks of them. Chapter 1 of Blood of Amber has Merlin summing up the events of Trumps of Doom.
Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality: The Amberites can pronounce a powerful world(s)-breaking curse— but only when they're dying. Corwin is the first one to use this power and then recover from his near-death state.
Long Lost Relative: Corwin himself at the start of the first book; then, in approximate order, Benedict, Brand, Luke/Rinaldo, Dalt, Delwin, Sand, and Coral.
Loveable Rogue: Several: see the Characters page for specific examples.
Marriage Before Romance: Random is forced to marry a woman, to lend her some status even after he deserts her. However, when Corwin sees him later, he has brought his wife with him to the courts. He explains that they had actually fallen in love.
Mind Screw: A recurring theme, or possibly Running Gag, is that any character (or reader) who thinks he or she finally understands how the universe works is going to be proven drastically wrong. The first book starts out feeling like a detective story. Then alternate worlds are introduced, with Amber as the locus or primary of all Shadows. Then it's revealed that there are two poles of reality... and so on, and so on...
Mind Your Step: Gerard insists there is a loose step on the stairs to the Pattern Room. note This one, damn it!
Mirror World: Rebma and Tir-na Nog'th, and to a certain extent all of the multiverse apart from Amber and the Courts of Chaos. And even Amber is a mirror, although it's the very first shadow of its respective side's true world.
Muggle Best Friend: Bill Roth, Rein, Droppa. The second series subverts this: 'Luke' is not what he seems.
The Multiverse: Pretty much the fundamental trope of the series, but used to surprisingly good effect for most of it.
The Neutral Zone: The Courts of Chaos and Amber are the true realities note for a given definition of 'true' and 'reality'. All other sub-realities (ours included) are buffer zones of varying degrees between the two primary ones.
No Place for Me There: Benedict points out that Brand's view of a perfect world isn't so perfect if it includes gigantic dueling armies.
Noodle Incident: Sometime between the first part of Book I and Corwin's arrival in Lorraine early in Book II, Oberon escapes from an unspecified, decades-long imprisonment. He later implied that Dara was of help to him in this escape... and that's the only detail we're given.
Further complicated in the fifth book, when Corwin, tricked into thinking that the original Pattern was destroyed, creates another, different Pattern - introducing a new form of Order into the playing field. Both of the existing Powers are not happy about that.
Outlived Its Creator: An attempt was made to keep the Chronicles going after Zelazny's death. It was poorly received.
Our Demons Are Different: There are many traditionally horned, fanged, and bat-winged demons in the Courts of Chaos, but there are also talking cats, furry snakes, mantis-dragon things with three hearts, and trickster mathematical abstractions. Most of the Lords of Chaos wear demon forms and the line between mere demons and full Lords of Chaos is never clearly defined.
Our Vampires Are Different: Merlin thinks Rhanda was one, and her family in turn discouraged her teenage romance with him, thinking that he was one (and hoping she'd marry up). However, it turns out that she's a "shroudling," a people who live behind mirrors and who eat people the world would be better off without in their opinion. They can apparently do this across Shadow.
Physical God: Both a deconstruction and reconstruction of this trope. The Amberites (and the Courts of Chaos) resemble nothing so much a warring pantheon, complete with the initial Ur-god shaping existence from chaos, the Father-philanderer, and the sibling rivalries.
Public Domain Character: Sir Lancelot (in The Guns of Avalon) and the Cheshire Cat and several other Wonderland characters (in Sign of Chaos). The reality of all other fictional characters is implied.
Reality Is Out to Lunch: And doesn't come back for tea. In the screwier parts of Shadow the basic relationships between the elements of reality are changed.
Reality Warping Is Not a Toy: Zig Zagged. Most of the Amberites seem to think it is a toy, but Corwin has some qualms about treating Shadows as toys... sometimes. What Brand wanted to do to the multiverse was pretty bad: destroy and rebuild it in his twisted image. However when Corwin draws a new Pattern it has a positive influence (or maybe it just tilted the balance of power toward order, which may not have been a good thing after all). In any case, most everyone sees Dworkin's drawing of the original Pattern to have been an improvement over the reality that existed when Chaos was the only pole of reality.
Each and every Amberite has the ability to transfer themselves to another dimension (or create it by the act of attempting to go to it). Guess what happens when an Amberite takes LSD.
Recycled Premise: The first series starts with Corwin missing, presumed dead, and he is later imprisoned and blinded. Also, Caine is killed. In the second series, Corwin is missing and presumed dead, Caine is killed off again, and Corwin is later discovered to have been imprisoned and deprived of sight.
Rite of Passage: All Amberites walk the Pattern when they reach maturity and thus gain power over Shadows. Corwin ends up going through the ultimate Rite of Passage when he creates his own Pattern.
Chaos Lords negotiate the Logrus in similar fashion and likewise gain similar powers. However, they seem to be better at using theirs or at least gain better understanding. Perhaps because Suhuy (the Keeper of the Logrus) is a better teacher than Dworkin. Or has better students.
Sequel Escalation: Corwin has a magic sword and his Trumps; Merlin starts with a magical AI and a Morph Weapon that also functions as Spider-Sense (the enchanted rope Frakir), and he acquires a Ring of Power and a different set of Trumps that lets him reach places and people the other Amberites can't. Oh, and he's attuned to both the Pattern and Logrus, is a sorcerer and a shapeshifter, and can draw his own Trumps. The effect is enhanced by the different narrative styles used. Merlin is a technician who explains what he perceives, what he's doing, and why. "His" books casually explore the technical details of the setting, leaving human relationships as the mysteries to be uncovered. When Corwin's telling the story those aspects are mostly reversed; a more Romantic narrator, he tends to describe his less physical actions more as happenings taking place in his presence. We only really know the extent of Corwin's strength, stamina, and martial skills (which are far superior to Merlin's). His magical abilities are only hinted at in the short stories.
Shapeshifting: Those from the Courts of Chaos have this power naturally, including Merlin. Also, the Unicorn.
Silver Has Mystic Powers: Allegedly, the only thing that can kill Julian's horse Morgenstern. Also implied to be the only way to permanently destroy the Weir that appear in Nine Princes In Amber.Brand is eventually killed with a silver-tipped arrow, because Caine came to suspect that nothing else will finish him.
Shoutout: The beginning of Nine Princes in Amber is a shout-out to Raymond Chandler's work. Corwin's personality is certainly influenced by Philip Marlowe's. There are regular, unmarked quotations and plays on quotations throughout the narration - Shakespeare is a common source. In the sixth book, Amber's court jester is revealed to have stolen a lot of material from George Carlin.
Stable Time Loop: Corwin gets a mechanical arm from Ghost!Benedict in Tir-na Nog'th. The arm gets to the real Benedict, who uses it. Later on, Benedict and Dara are talking in the throne room and Corwin and the rest are trapped outside, only able to watch. An invisible Ghost!Corwin is there (they can see his sword) and Corwin realizes that it's his past self. Then Past!Corwin gets the mechanical arm from the real Benedict... feel free to bang your head against the nearest wall.
But they stand in different places and say different phrases. So it's not necessarily that Ghost!Corwin gave the arm to the same Ghost!Benedict from whom the real Corwin got the arm in the first place.
Succession Crisis: The driving plot of the first five novels is the fact that there's no clear line of succession for the throne of Amber in Oberon's absence and the war between brothers vying for it. The crisis following the death of King Swayvill of Chaos in the tenth book prompts a rash of deadly duels and assassinations that drastically shortens the line of succession.
The intended purpose of the blood curse of a Prince of Amber. Corwin makes his against Eric, thus dooming Eric's reign and indirectly aiding Chaos. Eric makes his against the Courts of Chaos, and it sticks.
Tarot Motifs: The Trumps are supposed to be the primal source of the concept of Tarot cards.
There Are No Therapists: Averted. Corwin has been a patient of Freud himself. Dworkin, however, was placed in solitary confinement after he turned one of his psychologists into a frog. And refused to turn him back.
There are none of you, good doctors, could cope with my family anyway.
Trope Maker: Played with in-universe; in Nine Princes in Amber the idea is introduced that all things in Shadow are imperfect reflections of things that exist in Amber. By the third book it's clear that this is not entirely accurate, but it still justifies why so many aspects of (the fictional) Earth's history and legends parallel things that exist in Amber.
Unexpected Successor: Random in the first series after being appointed by the Unicorn. Merlin's ascension to the throne of Chaos in the second series.
Unreliable Narrator: Arguably Corwin, especially when his viewpoint on a few characters is contrasted with Merlin's — his sisters in particular. Almost the entire first Chronicle is told by Corwin to Merlin, giving Corwin reason to not be entirely truthful. (Corwin does mention, several times, that Amberites can never trust their relatives, thus implying...) Additionally, at the beginning of the story, Corwin is amnesiac and has imperfect recollections (e.g. thinking Random is his full-brother) until his memory is restored.
Merlin and Corwin's differing view of the Princesses of Amber is explainable in that Corwin is their respected and powerful older brother, while Merlin is a somewhat-dim nephew.
Unwitting Pawn: Corwin manages both to be a pawn to one scheme, a Spanner in the Works to another, and work on his own plan simultaneously. Merlin remains a pawn until the second-to-last page of the tenth book.
Up the Real Rabbit Hole: Subverted. The Amberites think of Amber as the only "real" world, but then Corwin finds a place that's even "realer."
The Uriah Gambit: It's mentioned that this is what happened to Osric, a long-dead son of Oberon. Also possibly to his brother Finndo.
We Are as Mayflies: The Amber royalty are either immortal or measure their lives in tens of millenia. Most of the princes and princesses tend to treat this as a justification for their casual murder of Shadow inhabitants. They'd be dead in a few decades anyway, after all...
As I stood on a hilltop and the evening began around me, it seemed as if I looked out over every camp I had ever stood within, stretching on and on over the miles and the centuries without end. I suddenly felt tears come into my eyes, for the men who are not like the lords of Amber, living but a brief span and passing into dust, that so many of them must meet their ends upon the battlefields of the world.
Wham Episode: All the freakin' time. Zelazny is a master of this.
Justified in the case of Logrus initiates: their bodies and minds alike are transformed by direct contact with the Sign of Chaos. Usually, the resulting madness is temporary - and a Shape Shifter can revert back from whatever changes he or she went through. Some people don't make it.
Discussed in the case of the Fount of Power, which may (or may not) cause madness to those seeking to absorb its power.
Year Inside, Hour Outside: Tied in closely with the Amberites' ability to move through Shadows via the Pattern and the Chaosites' similar ability, the two groups are able to find dimensions in which time flows at a different rate than at 'home'. Several characters use this specific trick in order to fully recover from near mortal wounds by resting in a 'fast Shadow' for a month while only a day has passed in Amber. Contrariwise, Corwin goes to check out Chaos for an hour or two (albeit, on the other end of the multiverse) and gets a call from people wondering where the hell he's been all week.
Amber Diceless Roleplaying provides examples of:
A God Is You: Buying an entire universe of your own description, for example, costs a single point during character creation, and even spending that much is a luxury, since the characters can just make their own any time they like. The developers openly encourage players to act as epically as possible: at one point, the FAQ poses the question of what to do if the characters start using the Psychic Powers offered by a high Psyche stat to effortlessly brush off hundreds of Shadow Mooks without a fight. The answer is, essentially, "So what if they do?"
Body Horror: Players are warned going in that the more extreme forms of Shape Shifting can lead to a "personal horror story." And the rules go on to list several very useful applications of the power... and what happens when the user goes too far.
Changing of the Guard: The notion behind the RPG is that players take the roles of new, younger Amberites, leaving most of the characters in the books as older, more experienced NPCs (and some of the few beings that can present a serious challenge to the player characters.)
Epileptic Trees: Invoked in the roleplaying game, which encourages use of this trope to come up with alternative explanations for everything and everyone. The person running the game must design his or her own answers to all the mysteries which the books left open.
Fighter, Mage, Thief: Appears in a mild form. Since they buy all their abilities from a point pool, characters tend to focus on combat, on advanced mastery of a single form of magic, or on developing as many different forms of magical ability as possible.
Gambit Pileup: Because there are so many manipulators in the Amber setting, the typical campaign will consist less of solving mysteries than of figuring out which bits of evidence the players have discovered belong to the mystery they are currently trying to solve. Oh, and trying to prevent any of the nastier NPCs from learning that they've gathered all that evidence.
The GM Is A Cheating Bastard: True to the trope itself, but subverting the trope name. The system relies entirely on the game master's judgement rather than that of a Random Number God. Play relies on the game master being a fair bastard who leaves the cheating to his or her NPCs.
Laser-Guided Karma: The game master is encouraged to employ this trope subtly: player characters who behave selfishly or foolishly should be made to rue their actions.
Magitek: Played with. Each universe has its own rules of physics and of metaphysics: some Shadows are both high-tech and high-magic. Unfortunately, the more elaborate a magical or technological object is, the more strongly it relies on the 'rules' of the reality where it was designed. Magitek objects, since they're reliant on both, tend to be devastating on their home turf, and useless anywhere else.
Monty Haul: Played with. Any character who opts to become the beloved billionaire warlord of an entire solar system can do so, but what is so easily gained can just as readily be lost to enemy action.
Multiple Choice Past: The major characters from the Chronicles are presented with three or four stat blocks: this effectively prevents even a player who's read the rulebooks from knowing that NPC's true abilities or motivations.
Never Split the Party: It is unlikely that any other game averts this trope more thoroughly. It's actually very uncommon for all the player characters to happen to be in the same reality, except perhaps at the beginning and end of a major adventure arc. Trumps of the other player characters, which allow them to communicate with and teleport to each other, reduce the usual negative consequences of splitting the party.
Schrödinger's Gun: Invoked by the rules, which state that in order to accurately portray NPCs with superhuman strategic abilities and thousands of years of experience, the game master will often have to resort to rewriting things that happened off-stage.
The Topic of Cancer: If characters with Shape Shifting push themselves beyond their limits while suffering from exhaustion or starvation, they can suffer from Primal Chaos Cancer. Some of their cells run wild, consuming normal cells and multiplying quickly. The rogue cells will eventually attack vital organs, appear on the skin and eat the character alive, turning him into an amorphous blob. This is not necessarily fatal.