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Castle Amber is a Dungeons & Dragons module, coded X2, designed by Tom Moldvay for use with the Expert D&D set. Castle Amber (Château d'Amberville) is actually one of several subtle literary adaptations among D&D modules, which draws from the Averoigne stories of Clark Ashton Smith[1]. The main NPCs of the module, the Amber family, are not actually in any of Smith's stories, and were created by the designer to provide a link to Averoigne. A selected bibliography is included at the rear of the module.

Castle Amber was ranked the 15th greatest Dungeons & Dragons adventure of all time by Dungeon magazine in 2004, on the 30th anniversary of the Dungeons & Dragons game[2] and was fondly remembered in Dragon Magazine the same year[3]. This contrasts with an early review in Issue 35 of White Dwarf magazine; reviewer Jim Bambra rated it 6 out of 10 and felt the adventure chaotic, and that success depended more on luck than on skill.[4]

Other Literary Allusions[edit | edit source]

In addition to the Averoigne references, there are individual encounters within the module that have allusions to stories written by others.

One of the encounters in the module is an homage to (or copy of) the climax of Edgar Allan Poe's short story Fall of the House of Usher[1]. The resemblance is more than passing. Compare Moldvay's description of Charles Amber in the Chapel LIbrary:

[Charles] extremely sensitive to all sensations and cannot stand noises above a whisper, lighting brighter than shadows, or any but the most bland tastes, normal smells, or to be touched by anything other than the sheerest silk clothing. He believes that he has gone mad, as have so many other Ambers, because he swears he can hear his dead sister crying out to him from her grave.

with Poe's description of Roderick Usher:

He entered, at some length, into what he conceived to be the nature of his malady. It was, he said, a constitutional and a family evil, and one for which he despaired to find a remedy --a mere nervous affection, he immediately added, which would undoubtedly soon pass off. It displayed itself in a host of unnatural sensations. Some of these, as he detailed them, interested and bewildered me; although, perhaps, the terms, and the general manner of the narration had their weight. He suffered much from a morbid acuteness of the senses; the most insipid food was alone endurable; he could wear only garments of certain texture; the odours of all flowers were oppressive; his eyes were tortured by even a faint light; and there were but peculiar sounds, and these from stringed instruments, which did not inspire him with horror.

Roderick's sister, who is later buried alive, is named Madeline, as is Charles' sister in Castle Amber.

Many of the creatures also had a Lovecraftian feel to them as well[5]. Clark Ashton Smith's own work also featured many elements from H.P. Lovecraft's works and visa versa.

Module Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Clark Ashton Smith stories:

"The Enchantress of Sylaire" in The Abominations of Yondo
"The Colossus of Ylourgne," "The Disinterment of Venus," and "The Satyr," in Genius Loci
"The Beast of Averoigne," and "The Holiness of Azedarc" in Lost Worlds
"The Mandrakes" in Other Dimensions
"The End of the Story" and "A Rendezvous in Averoigne" in Out of Space & Time
"The Maker of Gargoyles" and "Mother of Toads" in Tales of Science and Sorcery

Mark of Amber[edit | edit source]

Mark of Amber was a sequel/remake of the original Castle Amber. It was reprinted in 1995 in the form of a box set complete with an audio CD poster maps and player handouts. It was part of the short lived Masters series. The Castle has been renamed Château Sylaire.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time, Dungeon, p.. . (Temporary fix for {{cite journal}}, please update to use {{cite dragon}} and similar templates.)
  2. Winning Races: Lupins, Dragon, p.. . (Temporary fix for {{cite journal}}, please update to use {{cite dragon}} and similar templates.)
  3. Open Box: Dungeon Modules, White Dwarf, p.14-15. . (Temporary fix for {{cite journal}}, please update to use {{cite dragon}} and similar templates.)
  4. Blast from the Past: X2: Castle Amber, Dragon, p.. . (Temporary fix for {{cite journal}}, please update to use {{cite dragon}} and similar templates.)
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