Archive for March, 2010


I could go with the permanent creation of items and creatures as its own power – let’s call it Artificing.

Point number 1:
I do not think of Julian as a mage.

I don’t think of Julian as a lot of things, granted, and – as I noted to myself with amusement at a recent discussion on someone’s Livejoural – I’ll cast Viggo as Julian in a heartbeat without it ever even entering my mind that he should be an Aragorn-style scruffy ranger type. But to my mind, Julian’s the type that gets his hands exactly as dirty as they need to be to get the job done right, and not a bit more.

Learning sorcery would be overkill.

Conjuration implies a temporariness to my mind. Temporary isn’t Julian’s style either, IMO – I mean, we are talking about someone who commands fortifications along mountain passes and is not particularly bothered by nephews magically digging graves in Arden. Morganstern wasn’t created to just last a few days, either.

Artificing seems to fit the bill for Julian perfectly.

Point number 2:
I don’t see Brand building items and creatures.

Brand is a mage and, possibly, a power-collector. But I don’t see that he would have any reason to know how to make items and creatures. Break them, sure, but make them? Brand seems like someone who depends a lot more on things he carries within himself – Pattern, sorcery, maybe Logrus, maybe Living Trump – than he does someone that depends on things.

Of course, I’ve also been known to say, “Hey, there had to be something special about Brand’s horse,” so using the idea of Artificing as the only way to end up with something you’ve spent points on isn’t reasonable either.

Looking back at my last set of thoughts on Conjuration, I have another.

Conjuration as illusion.

Not that I don’t think there needs to be a way to create permanent, Powered or powerful items and creatures – but conjuration as an illusion power is much more compelling to me. After all – Pattern use is canonically highly based on sight.

Here’s a question I do have for you. (Well, one question with several subordinate questions.) In your game, if a player says their character is looking for an item of power, how does that actually work? Do they say “My character is searching through Shadow for a Deadly Damage sword with Confer Invulnerable Armor and Confer Regeneration”? Or do they need to use more of a narrative description? And what do you do at that point? “Okay, that’s a 27 point Artifact, so after Hellriding for four weeks, you’ve got it.”

In the games I’ve been in where it’s even come up, just finding the artifact is the easy part. Stormbringer isn’t just lying around waiting for someone to pick it up; Elric is wielding it (or vice versa.) And he isn’t inclined to just hand it over. If the player decides to get smart and say “An artifact with these qualities that I can just pick up off the ground without dealing with owners or traps or anything annoying like that,” well, that’s a heck of a lot more specific than just “an artifact with these qualities”, so it’s going to take longer to find. And despite Amberites being effectively immortal, in most campaigns I’ve been in vanishing into Shadow for a year basically takes that character out of the game.

No house rules involved there, no GM trying to screw over the players. Just logical consequences of actions.

-Tommy Tanaka, Amber Diceless RPG Yahoo!Group

I think there’s several directions I want to go with a reply to this.

One is the huge assumption that’s being made here. All parties involved – and there were three of them in total for this discussion – are assuming that we’re talking about items gained in actual course of play, not simply by XP expenditure, and/or that we’re adhering tightly to the ADRPG advancement schema.

Well, hmm.

Every time I’ve seen something like this come up, it’s gone something like this:

GM: OK, we have some downtime. Here’s your points; how do you want to spend them?
Player: I want X and Y. Hmm. I have enough for X.
GM: Great! The downtime is long enough to cover that, so it’s yours.

Or:

GM: OK, we have some downtime. Here’s your points; how do you want to spend them?
Player: I want X and Y. Hmm. I have enough for X.
GM: Great! I’ll keep that in mind, but I think you’ll know it when you see it in the game.

The amount of time it takes to find something isn’t a tool that I’ve seen used very often. Then again, most of the games I’ve been in are online games, played over email – where it seems to me that some of the challenge in GMing is to keep the players’ attention over the course of months or years. There’s an intended story, and to keep that story moving, it seems sometimes that the more personal stories are the first thing to fall by the wayside.

Not always, mind you. And given the attention span of some of the folks I game with face-to-face, it’s not always online where that’s a problem!

My POV is always that XP spent must be spent in a visible way. Even as a player, I look for things to spend my points on that are reasonable, given the way the game has gone; if I really want some Warfare, then I need to either set up training time immediately upon spending the points, or I need to have used that ability at least a few times over the course of the XP period – or I’m just not happy. (This doesn’t tend to hold true for me in games like D&D, where the RP often falls second to the combat mechanism; there, it’s a case of “what helps me the most,” always.) As a GM, I want to see the same: either something has been done, or will be done, to earn that advancement. Items and creatures either need to have been created or acquired, or have a clear path to acquisition (even if it’s not an easy one).

And then there’s the “logical consequences” line. That ties back to something I see all the time in posts on Bad RPers Suck: ICA = ICC. In Character Actions mean In Character Consequences.

This is something that, at least in my experience, the Amber community as a whole is very good at. (There are individuals – but that’s best not discussed…) It’s something that my particular face-to-face group is also pretty good at. I’m not sure sometimes if I’m blessed in that regard, or just set up for a nasty surprise when I forge out into the wider scheme of online gaming… :)

“It obviously makes shadow that much more dangerous place, since there will be shadow people of extreme power probably collecting these items and being their own little warlords waiting for a challenge.”

-Michael Zack

This. And one other thing. Even if you go with the assumption that Shadows spontaneously come into existence when an Amberite goes looking for them, *within that Shadow* it has an entire history going back thousands or billions of years. The Shadow may have just popped into existence, but the item of power within it was still created by a weaponsmith or enchanter or god or dragon or whatever.

These aren’t new ideas. They probably aren’t even new ideas to you. My point is that they’re ideas that are totally supported by Zelazny’s writing and Wujcik’s rules. Look at page 108, Shadows of Desire, and pages 138-9, Artifacts of Power.

-Tommy Tanaka, Amber Diceless RPG Yahoo!Group

I can’t add much to this – other than to note that many of the games I’ve been in do not treat Shadow as a dangerous place. Then again – a lot of the games I’ve been in are post-Patternfall and lean towards Merlin’s more relaxed view of the world, where the only challenges are relatives…

Now there’s something to think about. Working from that assumption, why is it the only artifact we see [Fiona] using in the entire series is her mirror which – it can be inferred from her words – she made herself. Even at the climactic scene of the Patternfall War, where you’d think she’d pull out all of the stops. there’s no indication that she’d pulled out her magical toybox.

Tommy Tanaka, Amber Diceless RPG Yahoo!Group

This jives nicely with how I tend to view first-series Amber.

Corwin’s Amber is about the subtle magics, the kind that doesn’t walk up and slap you in the face, and it’s about relying on yourself and your powers, not on your tools.

Fiona only uses the mirror once.

Corwin only uses the notable powers of his sword, what, twice? Three times? Once to kill weir, and once to speak to beings in Tir. And of course the silver arm incident.

And your tools can kill you. Eric may have relied over-much on the Jewel, and he died. Corwin, when he pulls too much from the Jewel, experiences ill effects. (What price did Corwin pay for Grayswandir? What price was Morgenstern? What dangers do they have to avoid? I’ve seen the swords addressed, but rarely the horse…)

These are lessons Merlin never really learns.

As a consequence, Merlin’s series is flash-bang, high-tech, wield what you can when and how you can for as long as you can. He doesn’t even learn the right lesson from Ghostwheel’s going rogue. The spikards come with such mild consequences – oh noes, a controlling spell that’s easily avoided – what price is he going to pay for them later?

We know the price Jasra paid for the Font at the Keep of the Four Worlds: her husband. What about Mandor’s spheres? What about Werewindle? What will they cost their wielders?

I can see no reason for any Amberite to have a limit on the number of spells in their spellbook.

I’ll use one of my own characters, Beatrice, as an example here.

Suppose she learned sorcery, as advanced as she was able to get at the time, by the age of 20. She had a small set of spells – say, 12.

Suppose she’s 50 now.

What was she doing in the intervening 30 years? Anything but sorcery? Even if you suppose it takes years to research any given spell, she ought to have more than she started with.

Suppose she reaches 100, takes the Pattern, studies until she has Advanced, and learns how to hang spells on the Pattern and incorporate it into her magic. She’s going to have more than 12 by then, surely!

Suppose she reaches 1,000. Does it make any sense for her to still only have 12 spells? Not even a little.

Now, why did I start with 12? Mostly because it was a nice round number, to be honest. A given character could start with 1 spell, or 1,000. A lot will depend on who taught them – a character learning sorcery mid-game should, to my mind, have most (if not all) of their starting spellbook in common with their teacher. I’d ask the player who their tutor is, and sit down with that player (if applicable) to go over their spellbook and find out what they might be willing to teach. Then I’d sit down with that list and the potential sorcerer and let them choose as many as they wanted off that list. This supposes, of course, that the teacher’s and student’s players are reasonable and don’t have any reason to screw each other over out of character.

In the end, I don’t care if a character starts with 1 spell or 100 as long as it’s reasonable that they’ve researched or learned that many in the time they’ve been alive. Where I’m concerned is the number of spells a character has racked, and that the spells that character does know are of reasonable power level.

(For the record – at 50, Beatrice had 31 spells. :) )

As Sparrow, Depp puts a queer spin on nearly every line of dialogue. Any word can be a double entrendre, every sentence a private joke. Sparrow may or may not be the kind of pirate who shags his shipmates, but he’s definitely fronting a coded pose and stashing his deeper motives belowdecks.

-Slate’s article “Johnny Depp’s Adventures in Gender-Bending”, by Eric Hynes

It always interests me when I find a quote that resonates with a particular character. This one resonates quite strongly with two of them, although neither would ever shag their shipmates, thankyouverymuch.

Some of it is definitely the pirate thing, although both are going to deny it to your face. But one is definitely the first two sentences. The other is definitely the last, with moments of the first two.

On Grayswandir

“They could look for just such a shadow as Corwin’s sword. However, it would not be the real Greyswandir. There is only one of those and Corwin already has it. And the copy that was found would lack the Pattern abilities that have been incorporated into the true sword of that name. And here is the thing, that is actually in the rules. And more importantly, it’s explicit in the books.”

– This is inconsistent with the reflections of Pattern, however. Greyswandir is considered to be the most powerful sword in existence. In game terms, we cannot imagine any sword more powerful than that one. The books talk about only Greyswandir. You will have to tell me the book and page number that deals with the reflections of the book because I double checked it all and couldn’t find it. What I’m saying is this: if the Pattern can create other Patterns that possess attributes of the Pattern in it as well as Broken Patterns that are incredibly powerful in their own right, then it stands to reason that the ultimate sword in existence should be able to have its own reflections that would mirror something of its power as well.

-Michael Zack, Amber Diceless RPG Yahoo!Group

This is an observation I hadn’t considered before, and it applies to a wider situation.

How does one treat items and creatures paid for through points when a character stays in one place long enough to create Shadows of themselves? I only remember specific mention of people casting Shadows, not items…

This bears thinking on.

Now, all this said, as a GM, you have free reign on your game to run it as you wish. You may think, based upon what I have said regarding my own GMing style, that as a GM, I am a bully. But … if you give your players whatever they want, without the consequinces or challenges that accompany such power, then inevitably there will come a ‘cold war’. After all, if the guys on either side of you are getting everything they want, merely by saying they are going out and getting it. Then why wouldn’t you do the same? Thus, your initial question was what we do to stop such situations. I make my players sweat and bleed for it, and if they truly want it, they will likely eventually get it. Then, they will learn what else it does…:)

-ChiefsFan, Amber Diceless RPG Yahoo!Group

This was part of a larger discussion of how to handle powerful (i.e., point-worthy) items in Amber, and how to keep it from getting out of hand.

The author of this particular post seems willing to call himself a bully for making the players work for stuff, but… I don’t really see it. As far as I’m concerned, you should only not have to work for Items and Creatures you purchase at game start. This isn’t because I’m worried at all about some kind of cold war – heaven knows Amberites are perfectly capable of manufacturing cold wars amongst themselves without ever bringing any more items in than what they already have – but because as I’ve already said, tools like that have costs. One of those is the process of acquisition; without working for it, do you really value it appropriately?

I’m not saying such things should be impossible to do, particularly if it’s something needed for plot. But I don’t care to run a game where everyone is The Golden Child Merlin, To Whom The Universe Hands Everything He Really Needs. (/snark)

Besides, having everything handed to you gets kind of boring after a while.

My current Amber character is a steampunk inventor. He REALLY wants to bring the benefits of technology to Amber. But at the same time, he agonizes about the impact an industrial revolution will have on Amber’s society and its relationship with the Golden Circle. Even the people who can’t see that far ahead are wondering what it’ll mean for everyone if he starts making guns that work in Amber. (Yes, Corwin did his rifle trick, but he isn’t sharing the secret with anyone.) This isn’t actually the unrelated digression it appears. It ties in to your question about the implications of items of power in Shadow for the cosmology of the Amber setting. Nothing exists in a vacuum (metaphorically speaking.)

-Tommy Tanaka, Amber Diceless RPG Yahoo!Group

Thought the first: THIS is how you do Steampunk in Amber.

Thought the second: I wish more players understood this.