Psyche Attribute Conflicts
---Made Difficult

By Arref Mak

syche is a very tricky Attribute to arbitrate. The real world provides GM's with some measure of anecdote, evidence, and Hollywood 'hype' about contests of Strength and Warfare. In the same manner Corwin, the protagonist in Zelazny's "Chronicles of Amber", is a yardstick for Endurance. But these sources are thinner for Psyche feats.

First Series Canon examples are subject to interpretation:

Some GM's move quickly away from the Amber DRPG and closer to the books by eliminating Psyche conflicts through physical touch or eye contact. These GM's often demand magic or Trump provide the Psyche 'conduit' to initiate conflict. This choice reduces some of the difficulty of a GM describing Attribute conflict for Psyche by greatly reducing the times that it can occur.

But if Psyche conflicts still take place in the game, by magic, Trump or Shadow power, then some reliable descriptive needs to be produced for the GM to use; something that conveys the dramatic choices that a player can take; something that makes logic and wit a part of these options. Something more difficult than who has the higher Attribute and something a little more formed, sometimes, than a free for all avatar style in the 'Country of the Mind' (see Jvstin's essay). You need a structured approach to those conflicts which aren't quite so mythic in scope.

So here we are. What constitutes battle between minds?

Opportunity, the GM must realize that there is a speed, agility and perception to Psyche. Please note my explanations in 'Faster Than a Speeding---', which describe how opportunity affects Psyche. Understand that almost all Psyche conflict is a two-step process. Connect and then try for results (or technique). This is similar to Strength; you must come to grips in order to apply 'holds'.

Magic, Trump or Shadow powers may accomplish the first step (the connection). This approach with Psyche allows the conflict to take place at different ranges and/or without physical proximity.

Physical opportunity for Psyche is simple. It demands contact to the nervous system of the target through the skin. Armor and other heavy coverings prevent this connection. Physical stimulation of the nerves enhances this connection. Medicines that deaden the nerves also may disable Psyche attacks of this kind. Physical opportunity can be established without sight of the target; for example in pitch blackness you can still speak mind to mind by touch. Logrus Tendrils (or other powers that manifest physically) may, at the GM's interpretation, be available to do this as well.

Eye opportunity for Psych is difficult but fast if gained. The nervous system of the eyes leads quickly to the brain. This method can combine with physical touch to increase overall effect. Note that making a connection through the eyes stops if the head is turned or the eyes closed immediately.

Training, this is where the GM first begins to open choices for the Players and Npc's. This is the most difficult area for storytelling/arbitration as there are no clear canon examples. With young Amberites, there may be little or no training. It is also reasonable to assume that advanced techniques exist which cannot be learned by un-seasoned minds.

With Players who wish to start the game as older Amberites, the Player should provide a list of learned techniques or general methods of Psyche training. Simple description of their fighting style (offense/defense) would suffice to give the GM some 'hook' to describe conflicts to the Player.

I have three Psyche levels of training for conflict resolution:

I think it is important for the Psyche conflicts to have similar options/levels of sophistication as other Attribute duels-- from simple 'knock-outs' to grand battles.

Note: Providing a 'back-story' list of techniques is a worth-while thing for Warfare and Strength Attributes as well. These sort of 'descriptors' add unique flavor to a Character.

Different Shadow cultures may have mental training, particularly defensive styles. Different Elders may have techniques suited to their own strategies. Chaos certainly produces sorcerers and psyche styles of its own.

I use these stylistic methods, based on the character's environment:

In game play, these various general categories lead to 'descriptive' techniques that Players can immediately visualize or attempt to learn.

Individual characters get this sort of attention in-game as they progress. They can also try to develop their own techniques based on experience.

And so, when the story calls for more choices for the Player, it will not be only the Warfare and Strength characters who can suggest options and make dramatic advantage of their characters. This process draws each Player deeply into the story and rewards attention to detail.

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