in the Shadow of Greatness


May 31, 2006

Secret Attributes

When you play Amber DRPG, you need to ask the GM what the secret attributes are. Or perhaps a fair question would be:

How are the toughest 'shades of gray' conflicts going to be settled?

Is Stuff the tie-breaker?
Is Endurance the tie-breaker?
What if the tie-breaker is matched? What's the final tie-breaker?

Can you combine attributes or do you have to switch attributes to change a conflict you are losing?
Does my Warfare inform my Psyche plans?
Does my Warfare target my Strength-thrown furniture?
Will the GM assist me in planning out my Warfare moves?
I'm not much of a fencer or a general.
(Psst. Neither is your GM usually.)

Because you are not playing GURPS here. This game is not a nutznbolts simulation of the Eternal Realm.

I've played for ten years and recently realized that I could completely invert the interpretation of powers versus attributes and it would work quite well. Imagine how that changes the flow with established characters.

So help your next GM out. Ask about his 'house rules and secret attributes'.

There are two secret attributes that are in almost every Amber game: Perception and Clever.

Perception is the communication from the GM to you. Perception constrains how specifically you might apply your other attributes and powers to the game world. It is worth always checking and testing Perception.

Clever is the communication from you to the GM. Clever might increase your attribute ranking temporarily and allow you to beat a foe who has made mistakes or left you an opening. If your GM doesn't have a Clever scale for you to examine, perhaps you could suggest one to him.

At a minimum, your game group should agree: can I step up one rank for Surprise and another by acting Clever? What is the most amount of Clever I can use to increase my attribute ranks?

Zelazny clearly appreciates Clever in the canon. Attribute conflicts are skewed by Clever additions and Surprises.

We all like the dramatic effect of Clever and should include it in our games to be faithful to canon.
All amberites are Clever.

Filed under : Amber at 31.05.2006
Sol says...

It seems to me that Clever comes in two varieties, short-term and long-term. All the examples we get in these discussions are short-term things, the quick thing you do to get an advantage now. But long term clever is generally more effective. Should it fall under the Clever rules or not?

And should there be an equivalent long-term Perception factor?

Posted May 31, 2006 3:16 PM
Arref says...

That's an excellent point.

Here's my quick answer: long term Perception and Clever are subsumed in the expertise of your conflict attributes.

The baseline 'clever perceptive things' need to be part of your long-term immortal competancy without regard to highs and lows.

To grab terms from other games, Clever here allows you to 'drive' your normal Warfare/Psyche/Strength higher.

Ignoring Perception and analysis usually results in 'lowering' your attributes and explaining mistakes.

Thus, Corwin wins a swordfight with Benedict because Corwin is Clever at the same time that Benedict appears to have missed his Perception check.

Posted May 31, 2006 4:53 PM
JP says...

I wonder how it works when the GM decides that an npc can be clever too. It could make things less dramatic because the cleverness edge isn't only reserved for PCs/protagonists. Or it could encourage PCs to always try to be clever and discourage complacency.

Posted June 1, 2006 1:04 AM
Arref says...

And that gets back to a published scale for what constitutes 'clever' by way of competancy.

Posted June 1, 2006 8:51 AM
Michael says...

"Clever" seems like "Wisdom": It's both an instantaneous stat, with no continutity between one moment and the next, and it's a hard thing to model in-game.

It's also a loaded word. I know what clever looks like. No amount of handwaving can make a character "clever" or ''wise" if the player can't fake it. If the GM (through the system) declares that somone is clever or wise and they are patently not, it undermines the GM, because I trust my own opinion on it.

I'd tend to stay away from codifying or ranking it. Maybe the term is what I don't like. "Opportunistic" might be more along the lines...

Posted June 2, 2006 8:41 PM
Arref says...

Oh, how about 'Inspiration'. Opportunity suggested that word. Inspirations don't necessarily repeat, or have continuity.

This is a scale or rank like 'Stuff'. How much is good for you? How likely is a sudden 'Inspiration' to make a difference?

'Inspiration' must be demonstrative rather than written on the character sheet. The Player must "tell me" what the PC feels is Inspired in the moment.

Posted June 5, 2006 8:33 AM