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Author Topic: Who's the Bigger Mary Sue/Munchkin?  (Read 2038 times)

RPGPundit

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Who's the Bigger Mary Sue/Munchkin?
« on: August 04, 2008, 10:52:06 pm »
Corwin, or Merlin?

My players in the current campaign (set around the time of the second series) have noticed that Merlin is pretty Munchkiny.
I had always thought of Corwin as the munchkin, the kickass guy who actually beat benedict in a fight once, outwitted Eric and the Redheads, was Oberon's favourite, and ended up attuning to the Jewel of Judgment and creating his own multiverse.  Oh, and he had Greyswandir, a 16pt damage sword!

Merlin, on the other hand, only seemed to me to get really powerful toward the end of the second series, and on my readings of the second series he always seemed much less capable than Corwin.
But when you think about it, in game terms, Merlin (even at the START of the second series) is a character with every power under the sun: Pattern, ShapeShift, Logrus, Sorcery, Trumps. Because of his dual heritage he knows way more about the larger multiverse than the average PC, and he's created Ghostwheel, a super-powerful artifact capable of unlimited Trump power.

My players are impressed. They're only not annoyed by him because he's basically been on their side (thus far, at least).

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Shoby187

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Who's the Bigger Mary Sue/Munchkin?
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2008, 12:44:26 am »
You know, I've posted on the Amber Mailing List about how Merlin becoming King in the Courts marks the victory of Chaos and eventual Defeat of Amber.

The idea goes like this:

With Merlin on the Throne his Heirs will eventually have the ability to possess both the power of Logrus and Pattern. Fast forward a few centuries or Millennia and the Royal family of Amber will be obsolete. Merlin can send his heirs to secretly walk the Pattern and replace the family of Amber with his own. A thousand years is a long time for Merlin's personality to change.

In a thousand years I think Merlin has a much better chance of living up to Oberon's legacy as a powerful ruler then Random does.

Something similar to this:

".  .  .I walked the streets of a ruined Amber beneath a lowering sky. A
crippled angel with a fiery sword stalked the heights  above  me,  slashing.
Wherever  its  blade  fell,  smoke, dust, and flame rose up. Its halo was my
Ghostwheel, pouring forth mighty winds ridden by abominations that  streamed
past  the  angel's  face like a dark, living veil, working disorder and ruin
wherever they fell. The palace was half collapsed, and  there  were  gibbets
nearby  where  my  relatives hung, twisting in the gusts."

-Merlin, Blood of Amber

I always picture the fallen angel with Ghostwheel for a Halo as some dark future version of Merlin if Chaos has its way . . .

Trevelyan

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« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2008, 08:58:47 am »
Corwin is Zelazny's standard Mary-Sue. From Sam in Lord of Light to the eponymous Donnerjack, Zelazny had one stock main character to which he frequently returned. Zelazny's hero is always irreverant, cocky, self confident, a little wise, unconventional, and like that. Corwin fits right in there with the rest.

Merlin is actually something of a departure from Corwin in that the guy is pretty much a chump. For all of his power, Merlin is led by the nose therough the events of his own series. He never knows who to trust, and he spents his entire time reacting to events rather than causing them.

Corwin might start out with amnesia and the victim of centuries old plots, but he makes plans and follows them through. He fights Eric, raises armies in shadow, brings guns out of Avalon to Amber, directs the family in the rescue of Brand, inscribes a Pattern of his and does all manner of apocalyptic hero stuff.

Merlin starts out in full control of his faculties (such as they are) yet for all his mystical skill he doesn't even realise that his best mate is another Amberite who used to date a demon and use Merlin for target practice, and his own ex is a budding sorceress. Merlin is the kind of moron you wouldn't normally expect to see outside of a pantomime - I'm rereading the Merlin series at the moment, and I keep having to suppress the urge to shout "he's behind you" every second page.

Corwin might be a Mary-Sue, but Merlin is nothing more than the character played by some idiotic, pre-pubecent power gamer. Maybe that's the secret of his naive charm.
 

jibbajibba

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« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2008, 05:11:00 pm »
Quote from: Trevelyan;231885
Corwin is Zelazny's standard Mary-Sue. From Sam in Lord of Light to the eponymous Donnerjack, Zelazny had one stock main character to which he frequently returned. Zelazny's hero is always irreverant, cocky, self confident, a little wise, unconventional, and like that. Corwin fits right in there with the rest.

Merlin is actually something of a departure from Corwin in that the guy is pretty much a chump. For all of his power, Merlin is led by the nose therough the events of his own series. He never knows who to trust, and he spents his entire time reacting to events rather than causing them.

Corwin might start out with amnesia and the victim of centuries old plots, but he makes plans and follows them through. He fights Eric, raises armies in shadow, brings guns out of Avalon to Amber, directs the family in the rescue of Brand, inscribes a Pattern of his and does all manner of apocalyptic hero stuff.

Merlin starts out in full control of his faculties (such as they are) yet for all his mystical skill he doesn't even realise that his best mate is another Amberite who used to date a demon and use Merlin for target practice, and his own ex is a budding sorceress. Merlin is the kind of moron you wouldn't normally expect to see outside of a pantomime - I'm rereading the Merlin series at the moment, and I keep having to suppress the urge to shout "he's behind you" every second page.

Corwin might be a Mary-Sue, but Merlin is nothing more than the character played by some idiotic, pre-pubecent power gamer. Maybe that's the secret of his naive charm.


A very accurate description I totally agree with.

I would add that physically Merlin is a lot weaker than the elders. He is if you will that PC that spent nothing in the auction and then went mad on powers. He never even displays a high Pysche.
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Croaker

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Who's the Bigger Mary Sue/Munchkin?
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2008, 02:21:53 am »
Yup. Merlin is power hungry, but is not optimised.
 

finarvyn

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« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2008, 08:33:15 am »
Quote from: Shoby187;231813
".  .  .I walked the streets of a ruined Amber beneath a lowering sky. A crippled angel with a fiery sword stalked the heights  above  me,  slashing. Wherever  its  blade  fell,  smoke, dust, and flame rose up. Its halo was my Ghostwheel, pouring forth mighty winds ridden by abominations that  streamed past  the  angel's  face like a dark, living veil, working disorder and ruin wherever they fell. The palace was half collapsed, and  there  were  gibbets nearby  where  my  relatives hung, twisting in the gusts."
-Merlin, Blood of Amber

Wow. I love the imagry this conjures up. Have you written more like it?
Quote from: jibbajibba;233202
I would add that physically Merlin is a lot weaker than the elders. He is if you will that PC that spent nothing in the auction and then went mad on powers. He never even displays a high Pysche.
I think that this is an important point. Remember that characters seem to get generally weaker with each successive generation because of the mix of shadow blood in with the substance blood.

While Merlin's kids might possess the genetics for mastering both the Pattern and the Logrus, it's possible that they would simultaneously lose the strength (metagame: read as "character points") to master both and might have to pick one or the other.

How about this: some of Merlin's heirs choose Pattern as their favorite and others choose Logrus. This in effect could set up two factions all over again. So, a campaign set several generations in the future might find itself resembling the campaign set in the time of the Patternfall War.

Just a thought...
« Last Edit: August 10, 2008, 08:36:11 am by finarvyn »
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Trevelyan

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« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2008, 06:19:46 am »
Quote from: finarvyn;234144
Wow. I love the imagry this conjures up. Have you written more like it?

Er, dude, Zelazny wrote that. It's Merlin's nightmare towards the end of Blood of Amber.

Quote
I think that this is an important point. Remember that characters seem to get generally weaker with each successive generation because of the mix of shadow blood in with the substance blood.

Except Merlins isn't half Amberite have shadow dweller, he's half Amberite, half Chaosite, and even Oberon once said that he trusted the blood of chaos for strength. While Amberites might generally benefit from a fresh infusion from the old homeland every so often, Merlin specifically isn't particularly weak. Neither, as it happens, is Rinaldo his fellow next generationer (we don't know enough about Martin to comment either way).

In fact, Merlin speculates in Sign of Chaos that a fight between Julian and Rinaldo would be a close run thing, matching Julian's experience against Rinaldo's greater strength.

The whole "generation x greater than generation y" thing was invented by Wujcik, not Zelazny, and there is little or no support for that view other than perhaps Oberon's comment re the blood of chaos, and the intermittent speculation on the part of Corwin and Merlin as to the vagaries of Amberite inheritance from one genertion to the next - speculation which has no current basis in fact as every extant descendant of Oberon has received the full measure of powers. Consider also that Merlin and Rinaldo are both olympic level athletes in multiple disciplines (running and fencing, and doubtless they could have made weight lifting had they been prepared to expose themselves - remember that Luke throws motorbikes at people who annoy him).
 

Croaker

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« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2008, 02:21:03 pm »
Personnally, I consider that breeding dilutes Amber blood, until the point when you can no longer walk the pattern.

BUT walking the pattern makes you entirely real, a "true" amberite, and reset the clock somehow.
 

finarvyn

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« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2008, 02:59:49 pm »
Quote from: Trevelyan;234781
Zelazny wrote that. It's Merlin's nightmare towards the end of Blood of Amber.
So I guess there's a lot more like it, then. :o (I probably need more sleep ... can't believe I dropped the ball on that one.)

Quote from: Trevelyan;234781
Except Merlins isn't half Amberite have shadow dweller, he's half Amberite, half Chaosite ... Merlin specifically isn't particularly weak.

Never said he was, but his kids might be. You have to figure that each generation that mixes with Shadow folk has the potential to become less powerful.
Quote from: Trevelyan;234781
The whole "generation x greater than generation y" thing was invented by Wujcik, not Zelazny, and there is little or no support for that view

Well, I think that it comes down to basic genetics. Any time two bloodlines mix together the result is likely to obtain a blend of the two, unless we're talking about some sort of dominant/recessive thing.

While your examples certainly confirm the fact that later-generation Amberites are still better than shadow earthlings, you still haven't addressed the fact that we really don't know the limitations of Oberon's or Dworkin's powers. We consider Corwin to be "Amber-typical" because that's the reference frame in which the stories are constructed, but if we knew more about full-blooded Chaosiuns or Amberites we might decide that Corwin and his peers are actually "Amber-weak" in comparrison.

Just my opinion.
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jibbajibba

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Who's the Bigger Mary Sue/Munchkin?
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2008, 06:50:25 am »
Quote from: finarvyn;235178
So I guess there's a lot more like it, then. :o (I probably need more sleep ... can't believe I dropped the ball on that one.)


Never said he was, but his kids might be. You have to figure that each generation that mixes with Shadow folk has the potential to become less powerful.

Well, I think that it comes down to basic genetics. Any time two bloodlines mix together the result is likely to obtain a blend of the two, unless we're talking about some sort of dominant/recessive thing.

While your examples certainly confirm the fact that later-generation Amberites are still better than shadow earthlings, you still haven't addressed the fact that we really don't know the limitations of Oberon's or Dworkin's powers. We consider Corwin to be "Amber-typical" because that's the reference frame in which the stories are constructed, but if we knew more about full-blooded Chaosiuns or Amberites we might decide that Corwin and his peers are actually "Amber-weak" in comparrison.

Just my opinion.


I get the impression from the books that Rinaldo is a lot tougher than Merlin physically. In many ways Rinaldo is a match for the elders in terms of tactics, toughness etc. I think Merlin is a power mad munchkin however and he doesn't really stack up in terms of raw attributes.
As for Chaos versus Amber. We know that Borrel is seen as the Champion of Chaos a real tough character and Corwin bests him in a couple of seconds. Likewise when Borrel's logrus ghost and Benedict's Pattern ghost fight there is no contest (I would add that by this point Benedict has become a lot more than he was in the first series and has become something of a pastiche of himself). Therefore, I think we can say that the ADRPG principle that Amberites are superiour to Chaosites is well founded. I would say that this is perhaps due to Dworkin being a powerful Chaosite and Oberon being born to him and the Unicorn who in 'power' terms is at the top of the heap with the Serpent.

Of course I could abstract all this back to my concept that the Amberites only exist as they are because they have been drawn in Trump (the true power above Logrus and Pattern) and are thus defined as real and created from the same shadow stuff as the rest of the universe. Gerrard is in effect only strong because he is drawn that way (to paraphrase Jessica Rabbit) but I just don't have the time :-)
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Trevelyan

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« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2008, 07:55:49 am »
Quote from: jibbajibba;237846
I get the impression from the books that Rinaldo is a lot tougher than Merlin physically.

Except for the fact that Merlin is a match for Rinaldo at running, fencing and arm wrestling. The real distinction is that Rinaldo is more of an outdoors man than Merlin - while Rinaldo was running off with Dalt and playing mercenary, Merlin was taking lessons in ettiquette and the finer points of poisoning - and the difference in attitude shows. Merlin thinks of himself as a sorcerer and approaches problems accordingly. In contrast Rinaldo is a lot more laddish. But when it comes to a contest Merlin is never less than a match for his cousin, who, in turn, Merlin considers a match for Julian.

Quote
In many ways Rinaldo is a match for the elders in terms of tactics, toughness etc. I think Merlin is a power mad munchkin however and he doesn't really stack up in terms of raw attributes.

Tactically Rinaldo has the background to surpass Merlin, but otherwise I don't see how the power mad issue comes into it. PEople seem to have been conditioned to think of characters in terms of their ADRPG point cost, which is really a little strange. Just because ADRPG stats Merlin out as a physical weakling who spends all of his limited points on powers it does nto follow that the character created by Zelazny follows the same rules. When Merlin walked the Pattern on top of taking the Logrus Rinadlo didn't get an extra 50 points to put into strength and keep all the characters from that generation balanced.

Quote
As for Chaos versus Amber. We know that Borrel is seen as the Champion of Chaos a real tough character and Corwin bests him in a couple of seconds.

Well, Corwin cheats both times and Merlin does so also. Corwin probably would have beaten Borel anyway (he is the second greatest fencer alive) but it wasn't through skill that he bested Borel.

Quote
Likewise when Borrel's logrus ghost and Benedict's Pattern ghost fight there is no contest (I would add that by this point Benedict has become a lot more than he was in the first series and has become something of a pastiche of himself).

That's pretty true.

Quote
Therefore, I think we can say that the ADRPG principle that Amberites are superiour to Chaosites is well founded.

I think the only principle that this proves is that protagonists in a fictional story are generally superior to minor supporting characters. And even if the average chaosite is at a slight disadvantage against the average amberite, the difference is far less significant than the amber/chaos/human rankings put forward in the ADRPG.

We can turn to any number of examples of chaosites doing well against amberites when the story required it. The logrus was able to put forward a ghost which was almost as strong as Gerard, to the point where a fight between them lasted a fair length of time, certainly far longer than Corwin vs. Gerard. Dara, by all accounts at least 3 generations removed from Benedict, was a fencer (trained by Borel) of sufficient skill to make Corwin sweat when the story demanded it.

I'm wary of drawing any conclusions based on a combination of narrative necessity and the implications of point buy chargen in an RPG.
 

weilide

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« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2008, 10:29:42 am »
Quote
I think the only principle that this proves is that protagonists in a fictional story are generally superior to minor supporting characters. And even if the average chaosite is at a slight disadvantage against the average amberite, the difference is far less significant than the amber/chaos/human rankings put forward in the ADRPG.

I entirely agree. Seemingly mismatched contests often go on longer in the stories than they might in an ADRP context because Zelazny was so masterful at milking tension from conflicts in which one party is just slightly better than the other. To be honest, I think there are times where the ADRP sourcebook overstates the degree to which Amberites entirely outclass everyone else. Granted, in the books they do outclass most everyone else but they still take lesser foes seriously because even incompetent wimps get lucky sometimes and getting stabbed is never fun, regardless of who is wielding the blade. To be fair, Mr. Wujcik did cop to this plenty of times in his books but I think that sometimes gets lost in the enthusiastic attribute descriptions at the beginning of the text.

I think Julia is an interesting case study here. Assuming for the moment that she is an "average" shadow dweller and not one of Oberon's hidden offspring or anything along those lines, she makes for a somewhat unlikely foe. I'm as guilty of this kind of thinking as anyone: I tend to assume that an effective long-term foe of the PCs must at least by able to hold his own in terms of attributes and the like. Julia, by contrast, keeps Merlin (and Jasra, for that matter) busy for several books in large part by being well-placed and talented.

Trevelyan

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« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2008, 12:05:40 pm »
Quote from: weilide;237895
To be honest, I think there are times where the ADRP sourcebook overstates the degree to which Amberites entirely outclass everyone else.

I agree 100%.

Amberites (and I would argue Chaosites too) are clearly superior to shadow dwellers, but the degree of difference isn't nearly so great as ADRPG suggests. At the very least, Amber rank in an attribute should be no more than the current Chaos rank (about olympic standard). Merlin, as an amberite of no notable physical excellence, is actually an olympic level athlete - he even talks about trying out for the olympic sprint and fencing teams with Luke. While it could be argued that he has Chaos ranked physical attributes, Zelazny doesn't create characters using point buy, and there is no reason why Merlin should be deemd to have less than the standard amberite physical capabilities.

That's where the benchmark should lie.
 

Khazav

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« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2020, 07:49:58 pm »
I'd say Merlin is the Mary-Sue in that he barely gets injured in the books, everyone seems to like him a lot or they quickly learn the error of their ways and start to like him, gets handed power without much cost, his actions have no negative repercussions, no grudges held against him, and on and on.

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Re: Who's the Bigger Mary Sue/Munchkin?
« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2020, 02:16:54 am »
Some context, some of which I may be cribbing from Wujcik. The first chronicles were ostensibly Corwin summing up his story for Merlin, who as far as he knew, could be a genuine scion of Chaos. From that perspective, I'm sure (my opinion) he shaded the truth. Throughout the books, he always underplays his own abilities, talking up the capabilities of Eric and Bleys, for example.

As for Julia, I decided for my campaign she is a descendant of Corwin, explaining her ability to gain real sorcery powers in Shadow Earth which isn't a hotbed of magicians and the like.