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Thus Amber was born of chaos, transformed in shadow, and kissed to wakefulness by the typewriter’s keys after all the work was done.

-Roger Zelazny, “The Road to Amber” (The Collected Works of Roger Zelazny, Volume 6)

So I picked up The Collected Works of Roger Zelazny as the books came out – all 6 volumes.  There’s some interesting bits in the back of Volume 6 that one of the gentlemen on the amber_diceless_rpg Yahoo!Group drew my attention to…

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I’m slowly feeling my way towards what I want to do with item and creature creation, and as such, I spent a little time today reviewing the ADRPG and Shadow Knight.

(As an aside – I always forget, when I haven’t looked at it in a while, just how completely insane certain sections of that book are.  Can we say “power creep”?)

There are some fascinating examples of non-standard powers and abilities in the NPC descriptions.  Items and creatures aren’t the only offenders when it comes to that, of course, but I’m sticking with items and creatures for this post.  I may look later at the powers.

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Can you breed the opposite way as a shapeshifter?

I’ve considered this before – even talked with other people about this before, and the expressions I get when I mention it are fascinating.  The consensus, it seems, is that one should not be able to do – nay, should not be able to even conceive of doing – such a thing.

I have some theories as to why this is.  The uncharitable chunk of it comes down to latent homophobia.  The more charitable one is that it’s just too much work.

I mean, who has which bits?  Does it matter?  Could you get the deed done with an eyeball and a pseudopod?  Who carries the child to term?  Do both parties do so?

And then there’s the matter of the child.  What shape does it come out – the natural form of one or both parents, or the forms they were in when they did the deed?  An amorphous puddle of goo?  Does the child have shapeshifting too?  How fast does it mature?

More to the point, since we’re talking about swapping sexes before… well… swapping sex – what happens to the sexual characteristics and gender identity of the child?

This is another re-post from the Lords of Gossamer and Shadow form.  The writer of the book made the mistake of asking what we thought was wrong with Sorcery…

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Shared Shadows

Reposting an answer here from the Lords of Gossamer and Shadow forums – the post I was replying to was regarding whether Earth and Avalon could be shared Shadows.

I have a hard time counting either one of those as shared Shadows.

I mean, to think mechanically – who put points into Shadow Earth? Eric, when he ditched Corwin there? He never really visited again. Flora, when she became Corwin’s warden? She seems to have spent a lot of time making sure her life was comfortable… Corwin himself? He didn’t even know for most of the time he spent there that he could claim a Shadow as his own. Random? He only visited from time to time. And much later – Merlin, who went to school there? Luke, who did likewise?

If you assume they all did – that’s 6 points worth of Shadow that nobody’s really doing much of anything with. If you assume it was only the ones that spent the most time there – that’s Flora and Corwin, so 2 points. Where’s the other point being spent? And is it reasonable for Corwin to pay points for something he doesn’t even know is his and didn’t exactly choose in the first place? It just seems to me that if it’s anyone’s, it’s Flora’s, and I’m hesitant to accept even that.

As for Avalon – you’re forgetting Benedict, too. But I think you already put the nail in this coffin: they’re visiting different versions, so I’m fairly comfortable in saying that that doesn’t count as a shared Shadow.

I could argue that the Keep of the Four Worlds was a shared Shadow, between first Jasra and Brand and later Jasra and Luke. I could also argue that the Shadow where Brand was kept might have been a shared one between Bleys and Fiona. But I can’t think of any other possible examples.

I kind of suspect what happened with the whole “shared Shadows” idea – and this is totally just a theory – is that some of the original playtesters asked “can we do this?” and Wujik said “sure.” :) I know that most of the folks I game with just don’t share Shadows…

I’ve decided to update my blog to new software.  I’m seriously still working out the kinks here, so bear with me, please… but in the meantime, don’t forget to update your links!

One of the things I used to develop plots for the Spirit of the Century game I ran was to steal liberally from news stories.

The second plot I ran was based on a news article describing a group of Russian climbers in the Himalayas that had mysteriously gone missing. It went on to involve the polar bear god, Moscow, Siberia, and huge glowing crystals.

The first plot, on the other hand, was based on an article about feet washing up on the Vancouver coastline. At the time there had been seven feet found. I called that story “The Nine-Foot Man” – so tragic as it is to be finding severed feet, imagine my amusement when I ran across this article today…

One of the things that frustrates me to no end is the rate of attrition when it comes to gaming over email or forum.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve definitely been guilty of it myself! I’m terrible when it comes to keeping up with forum games that aren’t on my “home” forum. I don’t mean to do it, but I’ll start forgetting to check, or Real Life happens, and the next thing I know, it will have been a month and a half of me not posting, and I’m thoroughly embarrassed by the whole thing.

In a real life gaming group, you know these people. You can call them, or see them every day or every week, and if they need to leave the game, they usually manage to convey that to someone. There’s some sense of accountability to the group.

Over email or forum play, you could be getting anyone*, and often the only way you have to contact them is via email or PM. You might not even be able to get a “read receipt” on your message. And there’s absolutely NO guarantee that they will ever respond to you again, ever – or if they do, it may not be in relation to the current game, but to some other game somewhere else and months later.

It’s on my mind right now because of the game I picked up and ran with. We started with 14 players. As of Monday night, I had 7 posts out of the 8-9 players that I expected to post. What happened to the rest?! (Well, okay, I know what happened to them: two gracefully resigned due to RL, one disappeared but I was able to contact to learn he was resigning, and the others just kind of… wandered off without saying a word.) There’s nothing I can do about it at this point except recruit new players or let the game continue until it reaches a natural end.

But it’s so annoying.

* And good grief, have I ever gotten “anyone” a few times…

Power Words always seemed to me to be the redheaded stepchild – if you will – of the other powers.

It’s as powerful as any other power (wtf, Wujick?) for a second or two.

It comes from the user and the user only.

It can’t be countered off the cuff, but it can be countered by any other power.

It has to be instant.

It’s… kind of crappy and ill-fitting, to tell the truth.

Look, I can see where the rationale for the power came from – I could probably quote you Corwin’s line, in fact – and I respect the fact that there is a rationale that comes from canon (which is more than can be said for some things in the ADRPG), but still. It’s basically cantrips from early D&D, or Harry Potter magic if you want to go with something more recent, and making it a separate power from sorcery and conjuration seems a bit silly. A separate level of power, I can see – but its own power? Really?

And advancement is “you learn another Word.” Right.

And I really, truly hate the sample words. Not what they do, but the samples of what the character might say. “NOGTZ!” “POLRZ!” Really? Really?! I’m all for encouraging RP, but – really?

I kind of like that phrase – “shapeshifting yourself dead”. Would anyone reasonable want to do that? Probably not. Would any player? Probably not.

Then again, maybe one player out there would.

But stepping back from the brink of things that really should only happen for damned good story reasons, there are a few shapeshifting things that the ADRPG just doesn’t deal with well.

Take the weir, or any other common werewolf of your choice. There’s a 1-point ability for items and creatures that lets them have a single alternate form, so NPC werewolves are no big deal. Or you could have a selkie – same thing, different animal. You could have an NPC with a suite of alternate shapes – Named and Numbered, even – for 2 points.

For a PC, there is… 35 points of shapeshifting.


Wujick walks this fine line sometimes between making you pay for something that’s innate and letting you treat it as innate and free when it comes to item and creature creation. I suspect that’s what the issue is here; he probably felt that the weir are inherently able to shift to a single alternate form, and thus shouldn’t need to pay for something innate.

Even though it offers a half-weir PC a bit of an advantage, wouldn’t you say? Or a huge disadvantage, depending on the GM.

That, or he saw no reason that a character concept might include only one or a handful of shapes, but not the other powers of shapeshifting.

I suspect this issue right here is one of the big ones that leads to partial power house rules. Pattern has some divisions that can be made, and so does Trump and Logrus, but none of them are so necessary as to be required. To work properly, shapeshifting as presented in the ADRPG needs to be a partial power system.

(It also argues – again – that the item and creature creation section is broken, but that is best saved for discussion elsewhere.)

And then there’s the “alternate shapes might cause changes in strength, endurance, etc” the author casually slaps down with no particular explanation of how or why he’d allow it. I realize it’s backed up in canon – see Merlin’s fight with the Dweller on the Threshold – but it has potential to be an easy game-breaker if you just casually toss it out like that, sans any sort of balancing mechanism.

And there’s my favorite phrase – it’s ill-defined and ill-advised when it comes to the abilities and the divisions between them. Most of basic Shapeshifting is devoted to “when things go wrong” instead of to the power itself. The powers offered are kind of all over the map – at basic, you can shift your features, with the mechanic described as mimicking a feature of someone else, but only at advanced can you imitate someone? Huh?

I have some ideas on how I want to handle Shapeshifting, I think, but it warrants further thought. A la carte ordering is definitely on the menu, though…