in the Shadow of Greatness


April 28, 2005

GM Vision :: blurbs vs checklist

In a flurry of like activity, I present the Arref GM Visiontm for Amber games.

Questions already answered for how things work.
These are general guidelines to use when designing a character for my Amber scenarios.

Instructions for specific games override the guidelines presented here, but in the absence of discussion of specific issues, assume the information here applies to character design and setting.

Amber and Chaos

  • Socially and technologically, Amber is similar to Renaissance earth society.
  • Amber is low-tech and low-magic.
  • Age of maturity in Amber is fifteen. Marriage age is often thirty. Common death by old age often three hundred plus.
  • Nobles of both Amber and Chaos must have permission to have children from head of family. Reproduction is not often or normal in either Reality.
  • Chaos is odd and vicious. Those judging by Amber will see things that seem familiar and will be wrong. Do not rely on Merlin or Corwin knowledge.
  • Chaos does not entertain casual visits or embassy, the society there is not supportive of strangers
  • Chaos is low tech and high-magic.
  • Age of maturity in Chaos is thirty. Engagements are negotiated over ten years. Marriage age is often fifty. Death by old age often nine hundred plus.

  • There are partial powers.
  • PC powers in addition to Pattern should be explained. Who did you learn sorcery/trump from?
  • Advanced powers are very rare and should be explained. Your explanation will determine approval. Example of disapproved explanations: "Dworkin just really likes my PC." "My PC is Oberon's unknown sister."
  • Trump is rare outside Chaos and Amber. Family trump decks featuring cousins are guarded closely and not easily replaced. Place Trumps are the most difficult kind and should have an intimate association as anchor.
  • Trumps can be used by anyone with appropriate knowledge and opportunity. Distance and familiarity with the portrayed is a significant factor in success.
  • Trump contact is usually spoken aloud. Mental contact is a deeper investment.
  • No power is required as a basis for Trump.
  • Chaosi consider Trump portraits dangerous and so fashion them poorly. Thus much more effort is required to use a Chaos Trump.
  • Shaping is a dangerous and exhausting power. Most shapers augment their talent with sorcery.
  • Sorcery is a meticulous and demanding skill that takes ten years to learn: Intangible manifestations ruled by Psyche, Tangible manifestations ruled by Warfare.
  • Constructs are extremely rare and dangerous, if they are permitted at all. The GM will play any construct.
  • Artifacts are approved on a case-by-case basis, but are more common than constructs.
  • Walking the Pattern is difficult and dangerous and doing so is an ordeal that no one sane would trivially repeat. The GM may kill your weakened PC on the Pattern.
  • Opportunity to use powers is ruled by Attributes associated with those powers. Ask.

  • Attributes are significant powers and expertise in one. Attributes are also perceptions as important as the �five? senses. If you have an Attribute question: ask.
  • Points rule over ranks. Youngers are usually built to 100 points. Elder builds start at 150 points.
  • Every Attribute has speed, secrets, grace, and wisdom associated with it.
  • Endurance: very quickest opportunity in conflict. Stress resistance, exertion, healing, regeneration, and how deep your toughness. In catastrophe, the universe often smiles on the person with high endurance.
  • Psyche: fastest opportunity in conflict. Magic and the intuition of intangible worlds. Nerves channel this power, so distance and access to flesh is important. For the trained, defense is easier than offense. Eye to eye contact is inefficient. Magic or Trump assist is very efficient.
  • Strength: fast opportunity in conflict. Unarmed combat, physical power, resisting damage and tactile understanding of the physical world. Also may include a host of skills bodies naturally resist learning.
  • Warfare: final opportunity in conflict. Conflict prediction, weapon skills, tool design, understanding limits of coordinated sentient effort and strategic concepts.
  • Stuff: when all else fails the universe laughs. Of course.

  • Amber is a modest city of fifty thousand people. The standing army is five thousand people.
  • Amber is a seafaring mercantile power with a small hereditary nobility and a slightly smaller pool of 'life peers'.
  • The city is centered on the two poles of the Castle and the Port.
  • Literacy is common but not universal.
  • Foreigners and Foreign tongues are common dockside, but less so in other parts of the city.
  • Arden is the domain of the rangers and people do not enter it casually. Physical visits to Arden take hours of travel.
  • Visits to Tir and Rebma are possible but are rare. Physical visits take hours of travel. The cities are considered mysterious and dangerous.
  • There are no other cities on the same landmass as Amber. There are small towns and villages. The nearest is a full day away by horse.
  • Amber's trading partners are collectively known as The Golden Circle, and Amber is the jewel of that circle.
  • Seafood: fish, fish stew, and shellfish, are the most common foods. Most other foods are imported.
  • Most horses are imported to Amber. Domesticated animals were not native to Amber.


  • Pattern works best through perception
  • Shadow folk aren't nearly as stupid as you think they are.
  • time flow between Amber and Chaos is inconstant and has tidal changes
  • time flow is an intangible notion not subject to casual Pattern manipulation

Additions due to AML, etc. about shadow

  • shadows will lie for Amberites, but moreso for older ones
  • Shadow time never trumps Amber time: there is a balance of conservation of Real Effort; even if you can't see it
  • shadow worlds are best altered when standing somewhere Real; Real Worlds are never altered when standing somewhere in shadow
  • Rule of Three: degree of control almost always falls out to top three desires
  • if you can't perceive a quality, you can't alter it
  • if you are sane, you can't believe a lie—not even if it might save your life; probability follows this limit
  • Oberon went into shadow to find his queens; most Amber scions have shadow blood
  • Zelazny is my mentor for intimate scenes; expect 'fade to black' after interesting dialogue

[edits :: 5-2-2005]
[edits :: 3-8-2006]

Filed under : Amber at 28.04.2005