I’ve been collecting Amber Diceless roleplaying games and other merchandise for years, which was likely spurred on by all the good times I had while part of a long-running Amber gaming group. The actual RPG products are few and far between, but I’ve found that expanding my collection to include the original source novels and other works from author Roger Zelazny have made for a profitable and enjoyable endeavor.
Based on a series of ten fantasy novels that were written from 1970 to 1991, the Amber Diceless roleplaying game details the tension between the only two real worlds in existence: Amber and the rival Courts of Chaos. Residents of these two kingdoms possess sorcery and abilities beyond those of mortal men, and much of the game revolves around intrigue and out-and-out combat between various factions. Dimensional travel is also a part of the setting, with our world and countless others considered nothing more than mere shadows in the orbit of polar opposite realities.
Collectible Amber Roleplaying Games
Designed by the late Erick Wujcik, the Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game made its debut via Phage Press in 1991. The original rule book has been out of print for a long time, and it now sells in the $80 to $100 range on eBay. The only supplement released for the game, Amber: Shadow Knight, isn’t nearly as valuable; I found copies for $9.99 and $14.99 on eBay.
The game is notable for its diceless approach to combat resolution, with an importance being placed on storytelling. This resulted in a loyal fanbase for the products, and Amber conventions (known as AmberCons) are still held around the globe.
Supplements for the game were also released in the form of Amberzines, a series of 12 publications, each limited to a printing of 1000 copies and packed with poems, comics, articles, and fiction, all of it relating to Zelazny’s universe and the Amber role-playing game. Given the small print run of each Amberzine, it’s no surprise that they are so in-demand. The most expensive I saw was Amberzine #12 (actually a 500-page collection of issues 12 through 15) for $299, while Amberzine #5 was at the low end of the spectrum with a price tag of $97. Other issues fell somewhere in-between, and anyone interested in collecting Amber merchandise should recognize the potential of these items to continue to grow in value.
Collecting the Amber Chronicles
There were a total of 10 novels in Roger Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles, with the first half told from the perspective of the cynical Amberite noble known as Corwin, and the second set revolving around the adventures of his son, Merlin. If you’ve ever considered collecting the Amber Chronicles, here’s what you can expect.
Nine Princes in Amber (1970) – Many of the original print run were accidentally destroyed by publisher Doubleday, so a true first edition is a valued collectible. I saw one listed on eBay for $1,495. I also came across an out-of-print, leather-bound version from Easton Press signed by both Roger Zelazny and SFWA head James Gunn for $200.
The Guns of Avalon (1972) – The first edition from Doubleday is listed at $188 on eBay.
Sign of the Unicorn (1975) – The first edition with dust jacket is selling for $100 on eBay.
The Hand of Oberon (1976) – eBay carries a first edition printing that includes a bookplate signed by Zelazny for $99.
The Courts of Chaos (1978) – I almost purchased this first edition from Doubleday myself when I came across it, as it’s signed by both Zelazny and cover artist Connor Freff Cochran.
Trumps of Doom (1985) – eBay had one first edition listed for $100, while others were selling for anywhere from $19 to $25.
Blood of Amber (1986) – A hardcover first printing from Arbor House Publishing. A copy signed by Zelazny was selling on eBay for $70.
Sign of Chaos (1987) – An Arbor House first printing in Very Good condition (with dust jacket) was listed on eBay for just $30.
Knight of Shadows (1989) – The most valuable copy I came across was from Ultramarine Press, and it was one of only 40 numbered copies to be signed by Zelazny and bound using marbled paper and a stamped leather spine. Listed at $350 on eBay.
Prince of Chaos (1991) – Another limited edition from Ultramarine Press, this first printing is from a set of 50, and it‘s one of only 12 that were signed by Zelazny and bound by Denis Gouey in full leather. Selling for $1,500 on eBay.
More Amber Collectibles
Those hunting for Amber products to collect will have to dig deep, as the actual RPG only resulted in two official products. Several miscellaneous items were created for the setting, however, and these should continue to grow in value.
Roger Zelazny’s Visual Guide to Castle Amber was written by Roger Zelazny and Neil Randall in 1988, and it’s loaded with portraits of the Amber royal family, maps of important places, and all manner of other behind-the-scenes material. It sells on eBay for anywhere from $1.99 to $30, depending on the condition of the copy that’s for sale.
The Complete Amber Sourcebook by Theodore Krulik was released in 1996, and it provides an A-to-Z listing of all the people, places, and themes introduced in the Amber Chronicles. Copies on eBay were selling for anywhere from $19 to $28 as of this writing.
If you’re looking to collect more offbeat Amber products, try a pair of books that are similar in presentation to those old “choose your own adventure” releases. You’ll be presented with a choice at the end of a page. If you make one choice, you’ll be directed to turn to a particular page; another choice will lead to another page.
The Black Road, written in 1988, was being sold on Amazon for $32, while a well-worn copy (useless for Amber collectors) was listed at $13 on eBay. The other novel, Seven No-Trump, was more valuable, with a used copy selling on Amazon for $41 and a new edition valued at $167.
My favorite piece of Amber memorabilia, however, is the rare Tarot d’Ambre, a set of 78 French Tarot cards based on the Amber Chronicles. Since only a limited number ever produced, I was unsurprised to see one deck sell online for over $300.
Other Collectible Books from Roger Zelazny
Anyone collecting Amber role-playing games should be aware that Roger Zelazny, the author of the original source material, was a prolific writer with numerous novels and short stories under his belt. In fact, he received the Hugo Award six times (14 nominations) and the Nebula Award three times (14 nominations), two of the top honors in the field of fantasy and science fiction.
Since collecting Amber RPGs is such a limited proposition, you might want to expand your collection to include some of Zelazny’s more sought after works. After checking eBay and a number of other sites, it looks as though his most valuable non-Amber books include The Dream Master (selling for $848), Lord of Light ($450), and Creatures of Light and Darkness ($299). These prices are all for first printings with the dust jackets intact.