Creatures, Items, and smArtifacts™

How scary is that funny ADRPG system for building atom-powered swiss army knives?

Has the GM told you your character's power item is bogus? Too powerful? Or does the GM not allow Constructs? Or Demons? Are you sad because only Roger would appreciate your sense of imagination? Read on.

It's all about the story, remember?

Your GM's concern probably stems from a failure to see your item as adding something important to the campaign. Look at the rulebook again, under character creation they talk about the Shadow Shifting skateboard. Sound lame? Yeah, it does to me, too. But that's also the beauty of the system. If an item helps to make a character concept work, then go for it!! How many 'Witchblades' do you suppose there are in Amber writeups these days? Which counts more, originality (weird skateboard) or homage (pointy blade that redefines intimacy)?

But how can you GM a system that has "Endless Stamina" and "Invulnerable Armor"??

Good question. This question tends to get right to the heart of the matter. Plenty of people throw out the system because of this. Throw out the terms instead, or, simply realize that these terms are only an indication of stepping degrees of power. Ranks. Erik Wujcik might have called them "Armor One, Two and Four" but that would have been pretty boring. Or dig out your thesaurus, there are terms with more dramatic meanings than "Invulnerable" IMHO. :-)

So think of Item Qualities and Powers as ranks?

Exactly. The game already sets up this approach. These items have ranks. You may have seen systems that even expand these rankings to higher levels. I have my own. Of course, that doesn't mean you will get your GM's agreement unless you really work the story angle out. Why does your character have that thingamajigger? Why would anyone put valuable points into items in the first place? Amberites can find, steal, make the things they desire. There is NO good reason unless you make it part of the character!!

So even low point items have history?

Even something like a simple Horde of "mortal bats" should have a history, or for starting characters, a "back story" where the legend of how that particular Item found itself in the hands of the Character is laid out and approved by the GM. Items are intrinsic to the story and legend of an Amberite. They are ranked in relation to expertise, effect, and Amber years of effort relative to the setting. Each point of cost must represent an aggragate "back story" and the cumulative effect of many legends intersecting a character. Campaign setting will determine what level of ranking is available to starting characters and others. The GM may wish to integrate secrets of the campaign setting into the legends of a particular Item.

What if my GM doesn't like the Merlin series? Or items like Ghostwheel?

Ghostwheel isn't nearly the most abusive or disruptive item you can dream up. If you want a killer item, expect the GM to hold you down a bit. If you want an interesting item, (and for my money, Ghostwheel loses interest as it becomes plugged in to more and more plot hooks, sorry Roger), then put together something to get your GM's blood pulsing, his eyes glittering. Be inventive. Think concept! Stormhounds are cool, Julian isn't Julian without them. Greyswandir is pretty cool, Corwin needs it for all that moody swashbuckling. Morgenstern hates Corwin, now there's an Excellent piece of character plotting. You don't have to stick to the first five novels, but if your GM says that's the framework, then you've still got a lot you can do.

So Creatures and Items are character assets if developed well. What about Constructs or Demons? And what are smArtifacts?

I'm glad I asked. As far as I can tell, there is not much reason to ditch the basic system offered for item creation. It can build Demons, Dragons, and terrible Beasties. I've playtested them all. Those creatures cost more points than most Players are going to spend. Add the Personal Shadow rules (as power sources) and you can make any Construct you can think of. Why a separate system for Demons? I just can't see it. What do Constructs need to do that you can't think of with the Item Rules as is? By all means, add Qualities and Powers if your idea needs them. The system can handle it if your GM can. Look at the chart below for some suggestions of how the stories of Items might compare to sentient Characters built for play, as when Erik compares Vitality and Stamina to Player ranks. OTOH, if you have another idea I'd like to hear it. eTrump me.

And smArtifacts? They're like Ghostwheel or Morgenstern, or members of the Critter Brigade, items with real personality. For info, try eTrump for Chris Salzer. (While I never made the Ambercon games, it wasn't for lack of trying.) He might have info to share. The games in question describe the adventures of the Critter Brigade, who assist their "owners" in defending Amber. Players are always the Critters in this game series, with max totals of 25 points. Just enough so you might be able to stare down Morgenstern.

So who would win a psyche contest between Ghostwheel and Flora?

Good question. I think the chart below suggests an answer, and it will cost you a whole lot of points. Any fractions of points are rounded up to the nearest whole number, just to keep things tidy. Do you really want to short your character, so as to put 16 points into the Psyche of your item, to insure it can kick Flora's shapely derriere, and oh, by the way, your PC's, too? Oh yes, sentience of Items automatically makes it an NPC, unless you are going to play someone else's smArtifact. Hmm?

mortal chaos amber item
mortal sickly     0.50 -45 0.50
mortal feeble     0.75 -35 0.75
mortal      1 -25 1
mortal notable chaos feeble   1.5 -15 1.5
chaos    2 -10 2
chaos notable amber feeble 3 -5 3
amber  4 0 4
amber notable 8 15 6
amber luminary 16 30 8
amber legend 32 60 12
amber paramount 64 120 16


How does this relate to Campaign Stats? What is 'Amber Paramount'?

I think it relates quite well. Amber paramounts are the big guns of ability. Why not take a look here?

Doesn't this make Demons, Constructs and Spikards too costly?

No. It should cost plenty. Just the cost of Psyche offfense/defense at basic Amber levels is 8 points. Throw in basic mortal intelligence (1) and Spell Processor (8) and you have the start of a Demon, Dragon, or Spikard. See what a bargain Pattern is at 50 points? Seriously, these elements of the game are really the province of the GM, or a Player who is dedicating his entire concept to something unorthodox. As Erik suggests in the rules, Players can pool points for Shadows, Constructs, etc. if the story behind it is clever.

I've turned out some basic examples of items and one fully developed smArtifact.

For other questions, why not take a look at my spikard page?

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