Welcome Shadow Walker. The www is a terrific source for Amber inspiration -- for this material, I am inspired by Jvstin, and the Strange Bedfellows campaign. Power links to Strange Bedfellows are with permission. Distinctive format credit must be given to PatternGhost, as my admiration for his own notes on his long expired Deja Vu campaign started these thoughts herein. If you like Amber, pbem play, and staying up too late reading Roger Zelazny, then you might enjoy the Empire of the Gleaming Banner.
This work was designed as a Background Source for Players at AmberCon X '99 & AC2000, where I ran multiple Game Slots (summary described here) based on this material. These notes were the criteria that I used to accept and orient players to my game slots. Questions? eTrump me. Most questions and thoughts are in the paltry EGB FAQ
As for the next AmberCon? Well, the players were encouraging! (thanks folks!) They seem to want another spin around the island of Darrheabarr. All Player Characters MUST be approved by the GM before the convention, no PC's are created on site at the Con..
At this time, the game has 9 players and is unlikely to support more.
These are the most significant persons of power beyond the Empire's borders
Darrheabarr is the largest of the entire group of 11 islands known as the Imperial Chain. The rest of the globe is empty sea, except for a few lone deserted islands. The equatorial island group has written fragments of history indicating two previous civilizations were founded there. The oldest dating for these rare prior artifacts is twelve to twenty thousand years.
The Island has over a dozen major seaports and extended docking facilities.
The southern Market Quarter has a single aeropark, with lighter than air docking, as well as commercial mystic flight operations.
Two Gates lead into Shadow, the Sunset Gate, west of the Island and the Sunrise Gate, to the east. This allows entry to the Imperial Highway, which runs the length, east to west, of the Empire. The Highway forms the backbone of the Empire and links many of the over 24 States.
valid ~ Cpt. Inhil Ahj Nhir ~ summer
Visual Guide to Darrheabarr
Welcome to Darrheabarr. (dar - REE - a - BAR')
Darrheabarr is the Legend of Illuminated Civilization made manifest. The architecture of the Island allows the natural to mix with the urban necessity of a great city. The people are a polycultural range of faces, from pale amber to deep mahogany to ebon silk.
The Library of All Things Wonderous is the mecca for students of the Arcane Arts throughout Shadow.
Tropical sunshine, modest rains every afternoon which last twenty minutes, pastel colored buildings and vivid fashions are the palette of this Nation. Artistry of music, form, and function is celebrated.
The white sun caresses the solid forms of beauty. The people smile and greet you with expectation of a new tale or wonder you might bring.
How Things Work in Darrheabarr
Very well, thank you. The Empire is in the prime of its power, with an apparently immortal Empress on the Seat. Technology, physics and energy sciences are feeble in Darrheabarr. Arcane Arts, mechanics, and elemental sciences are extremely potent. In fact, in a larger sense, all Shadow magicks are very strong. The Pattern of Amber and the Logrus of Chaos have equal sway. Trump is an Art to equal the power of any other. There are no known restrictions to any of the powers, major or minor.
The Gleaming is the Arcane Power of the Elite of the Empire. The Empress is the Guardian of the Gleaming, and she decides who has access to the power. The Gleaming, once granted to an initiate, has never been revoked in five thousand years, though it is within the power of the Empress to do so.
As to what the Gleaming is. . .well, that depends on the user apparently. The Gleaming seems to have the ability to make whatever you do, more potent. Warriors use it as a weapon, spellcrafters add it to their spells, leaders find it can inspire Legions. It manifests as a halo of light about the head or hands of the initiate when raised up (even visible to the sensitive uninitiated). The Empress is the only person who may raise the Gleaming for any reason, on any occasion. Compare raising the Gleaming to pulling out a blade, or starting a spell. . . if you don't ask first, everyone assumes you mean to wreck some havoc.
Dane, Liotus, Canthraal, Sand and Delwin have the Gleaming. Each of the Imperial Houses has a leader with The Gleaming, as well as an elite within the House. Each of the Vassal Houses has a leader initiated at present, some have a few others also.
The Gleaming does convey extended life span, though not as extreme as shown by the Empress. Lord Dane is over six hundred years old. The average life span in the Empire is two hundred years for the fittest men and women. Most people expect to live to see one hundred. The poor usually live to fifty or sixty.
The nobles live in a paradise. The wealthy can afford the best of everything, including Shadow Retreats. The middle class are well off. The lower classes have hope of a better life through their own efforts. The poor are warranted a minimum subsistence, if they prove their hardship to the Empire's officers.
In matters of ancient Imperial history, First Cycle (or First Empire) refers to the rare evidence of the first incarnation of the Empire, thought to be about 100,000 years ago, current calender. These times often are referred to as 1 to 65,000 FC. Second Cycle is dated about 30,000 years ago. These would be the period 1 to 20,000 SC. Third Cycle is the current calender of the Empire. Current year is 11,347 TC (Third Cycle).
Language in the Empire is mixed among Bica, Frahk, Cast, Ang, and the official Imperial Chin. Thari is also known to the well educated.
The Creatures of the Empire
Where the Courts of Chaos worship to the Serpent. . . and the Kingdom of Amber lays claim to the Unicorn, the Empire has no fealty to any but the Empress and the Imperial Family.
There are Legendary Creatures, not seen in modern times, that are particularly associated with the oldest fables of the Empire, to wit:
The Void is the End of the Universe, the crumbling edge of the living multiverse. The Courts are not a globe, or other planetary mass, but a bastion of arcane boundaries and wards. Surrounded by the Black Zone, the Courts of Chaos have stood at the Void for so long, no one can say when they were first coded. Access to the fortress-like Courts is through the Fire Gate, from a single piece of crimson stone. The surrounding terrain at the edge of the Abyss hardly qualifies as much more than bare stone and tortured waste. It is sometimes refered to as the Battle Zone. Things improve as one moves into the Black Zone. Beyond the Black Zone, things worsen again and some Shadows are actually deadly environments.
In the Courts, Shadow is everywhere. Shadow Masters do the rigorous work of keeping Shadow in some sort of structure. Wherethere is no Shadow to 'enhance' the local reality, a rare condition, there is only the bleakest sort of spare environment.
How Things Work in the Courts of Chaos
If a single word or concept can stand as a touchstone for the Courts of Chaos, it would be Tradition. The very age and success of the Courts has led to little examination of the way things are done. In some cases, no one even remembers the reasons for the traditions, yet they are honored unto death.
The powerful Lords and elite of the Houses must all respect these tenets or suffer the loss of power.
The mature body of Chaosians, also understand the structure, but still have some time and ways of personal expression. If they can show the asset of a personal expression to their House, and it is not too opposed to tradition, they may become recognized as an innovator.
Young people tend to fall into two categories. First, those who honor tradition and restlessly wait to be recognized for their efforts on behalf of their House. Second, those who try to do the first method and lose their way.
The second group can fall to listlessness, caprice, or simply never develop. In the more extreme cases, they may leave the Courts, be banished, or actually be convicted of House crimes, or worse still, Royal crimes. Most House crimes are punished by Banishment. Most Royal crimes are punished by Execution.
The Empire considers the Courts of Chaos to be civilized but inflexible.
In matters of ancient Chaosian history, it is said that the Courts have forgotten more history than other people have recorded. Sometimes, this seems a point of pride. Current year is 453,221/85 C (Centre).
Language in the Courts is strictly Thari. It is considered to be lowering to speak the lower tongues of other Shadowfolk.
The Creatures of the Abyss
The name is one that can be translated into a thousand languages, from the Abyss, to the Horizon of the Eventide Veil. Even in Shadows and cultures where Demons are long forgotten, the word has not lost its meaning. Legend has it, that the distant ancestors of the Lords of Chaos, gained their first understanding of how to survive and prosper at the Abyss from the study of Demons.
These Creatures are the most adaptive, resistant sentients to the forces of the Abyss. Some can even prosper and survive in the Realms of Order and Science. No few words can describe the fascinating power and variety of the Demons. The Houses of Chaos have found means to control these beings. The practice is considered desperate and unwise in the Empire.
Without exception, there are no other creatures native to the Abyssal Realms. Over time, the Houses of Chaos have imported hardy breeds of various Shadow creatures as pets, working creatures, and war tools.
Amber, much like the Empire itself, is an inhabited single continent on a planetary body. The climate is temperate, but the seasons can sometimes be extreme. The region is very mountainous, and Mount Kolvir is not the highest peak in the range, though it is the most massive.
Amber Port is a protected harbor city. To the west, lies the fertile valley of Garnath and much of the best farming country. To the north west, the expanding miles of Arden, running up into the mountains. To the north, the mountain ranges of which Kolvir is the southernmost expression. To the east, the rough rolling country that has been tamed for herding and vineyards.
Rebma lies to the southwest, some 10 miles from Amber Port.
Cabra is found southwest, some 30 miles from the harbor.
Due to the manipulations of its Pattern Masters, Amber is not alone, but has a small group of powerful countries as trading partners and allies. This is the Golden Circle. While its membership has changed with the tides of politics and need, King Random seems determined to increase its size and power. Some of these countries exist with their own planetary cosmology, some exist as 'islands' of reality.
How Things Work in Amber
Amber is a young kingdom, its history is recorded in its entire of 17 centuries. Founded by the Exile Dworkin of House Barimen, it began as a mad experiment in warping Reality.
The Pattern of Amber is the result of this work. When the experiment failed, Dworkin lost interest in the Land, and his son, Oberon, began to take the leadership of the Land and its people.
To understand a little of how things work in Amber, you must understand that Dworkin created a unnatural island of Order, in a natural media of Flux. As a consequence, magic is difficult in Amber. The rules of magic function, but the power of magic is drained by the Pattern. Common magics may fail due to distorted energy thresholds. Successful magics will suffer shorter duration. Spells considered permanent or immutable, may not be immutable at all within Amber. Elemental powers are responsive but muted.
Due to Dworkin's personal bias, the Pattern is constructed so as to oppose the Logrus, and any Logrus workings are difficult there. Likewise, shapeshifters have experienced difficulty in using their natural abilities in Amber.
The Gleaming shows no ill effects or decreased strength when raised in Amber.
In matters of Amber history, the written record begins with the founding of the Pattern. Current year is 1,591 PY (Pattern Year).
Language in Amber is Thari. Thari as it was spoken in the Courts of Chaos thousands and thousands of years ago. As a center of trade, there are many people well versed in languages of the Golden Circle, such as Bica, Frahk, and Ang.
The Creatures of Amber
Amber considers the Unicorn a member of the Family. While some regard this as a religious practice, most Imperial observers treat this as a deconstructed myth.
Amber contains a dearth of variety in creatures. Those creatures of Power that had territories in that realm have been mostly rendered extinct by the Amberites. Over time the spectrum of wildlife has become limited, to the point that some Amberites are importing select creatures back into the environment.
Guidelines for playing within my vision of Amber.
I like the Four Stat system. I think it works well. The one thing it can't do is make the Player the kind of expert heroic model that he/she is portraying. So work with me, explain what and why you think your plans will succeed. The reason this is important is that I put spin on all of the Powers, major and minor. If your concept skews away from mine, and you don't partner with me, you will be fighting against the Universe. This is OK if you have tons of Bad Stuff, that's the way my Stuff works. My intention is always to make your experience flow directly from your input.
With the above said, I treat all Powers (including the ones that are Hidden) as being equal in strength. This is important because I also treat the Stats as Powers. What does that mean for the Player? It means that 50 points of Endurance is worth as much as Pattern somehow in the balance of things. That may be hard to conceptualize. Pattern gives you the keys to the Universe. How can Endurance compare to that? Good question. The idea is it's your PC. . . You tell me. If I give you an answer. . . you will be cheated of your own discoveries of the Powers. Maybe the answer is . . . some Powers are more equal than others.
Now this doesn't mean that a 20 Psyche can ignore 15 points of Sorcery. I'm not talking about number crunching exercises. What I'm trying to do in my game is show that all Powers are valid depending on their use and expertise applied. Inventive application of Sorcery can defeat twice the Psyche in my game, if you have a better plan, more luck, etc, etc, and so forth.
I do accept partial Powers, generally as added to the basic versions. I am very flexible on Items, Creatures and smArtifacts.
I do accept Broken Pattern, Fixed Logrus, Lesser Trump, Shaman Shaping, Cursed Gleaming and any other of the Bad Stuff Powers you might want. Costs are not exactly per the ADRPG. You will pay half the stated costs of the normal Power when you take the Bad Stuff version. You also automatically get 5 points of Bad Stuff. No PC can have two Powers with Bad Stuff attached per this ruling, the result is just too nasty for me to arbitrate.
Besides, 10 points of Stuff (Bad or Good) is my maximum. Which brings us to Stuff itself and how I plan to use it. I've heard all kinds of interpretations on Stuff. The one I use is the perceptual interpretation. How do people see your PC, and how does the PC see the world? This means that people's first impression of a Stuff character is bent towards what kind of Stuff they have. You can play villians with Good Stuff, people will trust you initially. You can play heroes with Bad Stuff, people will be nervous with you intially. And of course, you can play your outward actions matching your Stuff. Think in terms of the Story that you wish your PC to be telling me (the GM) and others, and match your Stuff totals to that story. This means you have to tell the GM something meaningful about your PC's nature in order that you and I agree on the Stuff factor.
I'll use Zelazny's Elders for examples.
Benedict (IMC) is a Bad Stuff character. It seems that clouds and trouble follow him. This doesn't tell you anything about his deepest nature, but it tells you that he treats the world as an unknown place. People need to be watched, measured, and their motives are suspect until proven incontrovertibly. Benedict could be a sadist or a saint and still outwardly act this way. But in my campaign, this also means that Benedict himself is always suspect.
Gerard (IMC) is a Good Stuff character. Sunshine and fortune smile on him. This doesn't tell you anything about his deepest nature, but it tells you that he treats the world as a known place. People are people and their actions always are pretty much like they need to be to get by. Some you trust, some you don't, mostly you reap what you sow. Gerard could be a sadist or a saint and still outwardly act this way. But in my campaign, this also means that Gerard himself is always someone's friend or confidant.
Don't play Stuff as a Bank of leftover points. Don't play Stuff as insurance that your PC will be the last one standing in a disaster. If these examples don't clarify the issue you can write me or play a Zero Stuff character.
Some specifics, descending order of cost, therefore significance:
No Imperial characters will have Pattern at the start of the game without extensive submitted background.
I can't recommend jumping in with Advanced Powers. Especially with Pattern. Pattern is a matter of experience and hard knocks. Fatal to those without proper ancestry. . . and sometimes those with. Buy 'blood of Amber' at startup if you think you will walk the Pattern. Realize that if you walk the Pattern during play, without having made provision for the cost or consequence of your character's actions, that your character will most surely die. Frankly, the same could be said of any Power with an Initiation Ritual. Greater than Chaosian Endurance is a pre-requisite.
Requires ShapeShifting, which certainly makes this the most costly power. Not as powerful as Pattern and needs a different approach to make it work well. Make sure you account for your recovery from insanity in your Character's back history. If you're not from the Courts, I am a hard sell that you actually got through Suhuy's security. For what it is worth, Logrus is useful in more ways than any other Power. The Gleaming is more flexible, but not as strong a Power. Shape Shifting is a pre-requisite.
Understand the difference between Trump Gates, that can open to two environments, and Trump movement by individuals, which does not. Different teaching methods on Trump exist, and the Courts has a Lesser Trump study for half cost (exception noted: no Bad Stuff comes with this if you are from the Courts. You just embarrass yourself in front of other Trump Artists. ::evil grin::)
IMC Trump contact is most often spoken aloud. Trump Artists may use mental speech, as may others who are willing to allow a first stage mental contact. Look in the FAQ for special Trump notes.
By the Way, expect to pay Endurance costs for unusual Trump activity.
Cool Power. Dangerous as Hell. That's one reason why Oberon made so sure that it wouldn't be popular in Amber. There are other reasons, too. Not a trans-Shadow power.
Check out my full description of this Power. It can be used to augment prime Stats, similar to the way that Pattern and Logrus can augment Sorcery. It also is more pragmatic than most Powers, though not as strong as the any of the above.
Check out my full description of this Power. It is most useful in turning hostile Power back on the unwary attacker. Nearly useless without an opposing Power. Not a trans-Shadow power.
Depends on what you do with it. Requires a methodical approach to life. Not a trans-Shadow power.
See above for Sorcery. Multiply by tenfold. Enough said. ::evil grin::
Cool magic of symbolism from the Powers of Strange Bedfellows. Imagine doing magic in your sleep, or in other people's sleep. No pre-requisite required.
Cool magic of Psyche enhancement from the Sorcery of Strange Bedfellows. Imagine doing magic with your thoughts!! Sorcery is a pre-requisite.
Check out my full description of this Craft. The greatest workings in esoteric science today are done with these principles. Sorcery is a pre-requisite.
What can you use?
The largest events of the period are common knowledge. Coronations, deaths, battles are all events that have been reported in the Empire. You can not use anything specific or intimate to Corwin's tale without a back history that ties your character to one of the principals of the story. Which is also why your character should expect to be from the Empire, rather than Amber or Courts. The GM will consider any background, including ones that come from none of the places mentioned, but the burden of creativity is on the Player to fit his character to a plot that will concern most events in the Empire.
What about Amber?
Amber is not off limits, just distant. The Imperial Family has ties to Amber. Sand and Delwin grew up there until they were in their early 20's, and Lora fell out with Oberon. Amber's power has grown, while the Empire's has remained constant in the interval. The PatternFall War has thrown many notions of the strengths of Amber and the Courts of Chaos into disarray.
As to the divorce of Oberon and the Empress Lora centuries ago. . . . as they say in the Empire, every story has five sides to it. It is well known at court, that icy silence between The Empire and Amber is largely based on Empress Lora's personal dislike for her treatment, while in Amber. The Empress is currently carrying out a hard policy of arms length with Amber and the Golden Circle. With Oberon's death, and Dworkin's continued disinterest in Amber, there are possible avenues once again for talking with Amber. This might be carried out at the level of PC's being 'asked' to represent the Empire in Amber, or carrying personal greetings back and forth.
Currently, the Empress is more interested in how the Courts will recover their strength after the loss of the War and the installation of a weak King (Merlin).
What about liaisons with Enemy States?
Imperial politics is such, that any Shadow spanning Nation (such as the Courts, or Amber) with which the Empire has signed no document or treaty of military cooperation, is considered an Enemy State. This is merely to say that they must be considered hostile and capable of interfering with Imperial agenda. It is a crime to give Imperial aid or information to an Enemy State. While this should not affect play, or the PC's relationships and mobility, it does mean at least two things:
First, you grew up in this culture so respect the point of view. The current Empire has ten times the written history of Amber (and it is actually the third incarnation), so remember that Amber's infamous "all roads lead to Amber" is a humorous punch line in Darrheabarr. Not unlike Ensign Chekov explaining with sincerity that a Russian wrote the Declaration of Independence. Your characters might be more sympathetic, politically and culturally, with the Courts of Chaos (though the Chaosians are obviously fallen on hard times). As Imperial PC's, you don't have to take any bull from Amberites.
Second, contrary to the above, while the Empire has kept to its own sphere, it is obvious to all Significant Persons, that things are changing in Shadow. Impossibly, the Courts have lost a major war with Amber. How this happened is a major question for the Empire to answer. Contact with distant 'cousins' may lead to some valuable information on current events. Don't get put in a compromising position. The Empress is watching.