Thursday, January 31, 2008

Scientific Laws in Amber

More old Amber files from my long-lost website. This one is a discussion of the laws of physics and magic in Amber.

These laws of physics, chemistry, biology, and magic are gleaned from careful readings and contemplations of Corwin’s saga. They do not draw upon Merlin’s story, as it contradicts much of Corwin’s exposition upon how Amber functions. Some of these laws are obvious from a single quick read of Nine Princes, but others are more subtle and required greater study of the books to draw these conclusions. As such, you might find a few surprises here:
  1. Pattern is greatly diminished in and near Amber.
  2. Logrus is either painful and difficult to use in Amber, or just doesn't exist.
  3. Shapeshifting in Amber is very difficult, possibly very painful.
  4. The very nature of Amber is toxic to chaosites.
  5. Silver gains special properties in Amber.
  6. Sorcery doesn’t work in Amber.
  7. Magic items are powerless (or at least less powerful) in Amber.
  8. Poisons and Drugs don’t work in Amber.
  9. Illness and disease don’t spread very quickly in Amber.
  10. Gunpowder doesn’t work, except for the stuff from avalon.
  11. Electricity doesn’t flow very well in Amber.
  12. The closer you get to the Pattern, the more restrictive the above rules become.
  13. It is possible for characters to manufacture exceptions to these rules.
  14. A whole separate set of laws governs Primal Pattern Land.
That's the short version. Here's the much longer versions, complete with arguments, counter-arguments, examples from the books, painful tangents, etc.
  1. Pattern is greatly diminished in and near Amber. Corwin says as much, and it’s supported by the books. It is not totally impossible to use, as both Fiona and Oberon take short-cuts that Corwin felt he couldn’t, and Corwin surprises himself in the fifth book by starting his hellride closer than he ever had before.
  2. Logrus is either: 1) dangerous to the user near Amber, 2) painful and difficult to use in Amber, 3) totally powerless in Amber or 4) non-existant anywhere in the universe and purely just an addition of the second series. The most common explanation it seems in campaigns is a combination of 1 and 2. The typical interpretation is that using the logrus near the pattern can have explosive side-effects. (in fact, the rulebook seems to provide this flashy destructiveness as the usual product of anytime two great powers touch).
    I see a logic flaw with that: if there’s some sort of explosion whenever pattern and logrus meet, why didn’t the chaos forces round up a few fanatics to summon the logrus in Amber and (suicidally) blow up the damn castle? Security was pretty lax in Eric’s reign, judging from how easily Dara got to the Pattern chamber (and how freely Random wandered the castle a few years after trying to kill the King), so there’s little that could be done to stop them.
    Logrus being largely powerless and painful and exhausting to use in Amber fits well enough with the apparent lack of Logrus in Corwin’s saga. (Afterall, the only time Logrus seems to be used in the first 5 books is when Brand summons a monster to attack Caine. And that could just as easily have been the work of Advanced Pattern or Trump.) So, that’s the ruling I tend to use.
    One day, when improvising, I did have a logrus tendril blow up when it hit the pattern. I wish I hadn’t. I’m stuck with it now. My only defense is that I can claim logrus tendrils have a very short range in Amber, and so won’t hit the pattern unless actually used in the dungeons. Coupled with my restrictions on shapeshifting in Amber, this almost covers it.
    Of course, in truth, all of this is flawed. The obvious correct answer should be that Logrus doesn’t exist. As defined in Merlin’s saga and the RPG, logrus is too powerful. If the lords of chaos find it that easy to move through shadow, then they would have always been a constant threat to Amber. Instead, Chaos is the last enemy anyone suspects when the black road shows up. ("Oh, them! But they’re out at the other end of the universe. They haven’t been a threat since Benedict was a baby. They can’t be responsible for this.." seems to be the line of thought) The lords of chaos should have little capacity for moving through shadow on their own, after all, that’s why they needed Brand’s help, and the black road, and hybrids like Dara and Merlin.
  3. Shapeshifting in Amber is very difficult, possibly very painful. The very nature of Amber and it’s primal order makes it so. If it was easy, the lords of chaos would have used shapeshifting to infiltrate the City and Castle and perform commando raids or sabotage. They never did, so it must be very difficult for them to take Human form (or shift at all) in Amber. Possibly you can only shapeshift in Amber if you are descended from Dworkin, since only he, Oberon, and Dara ever do in the series.
    It must be really hard for Amberites to shapeshift there too, because if it was anything that could be even remotely described as easy, you can bet that Corwin’s siblings, in their collective millenias of life and struggle would have learned how to do it.
  4. The very nature of Amber is toxic to chaosites. Otherwise, even if they couldn’t shapeshift to infiltrate the city, little guerilla bands would have broken off from the black road to harass the amberites after the defeat at Garnath. They needed the black road not only to travel to Amber, but to make Garnath habitable for them.
  5. Silver gains special properties in Amber. At first I just thought the Weir were vulnerable to silver. But it occured to me that Corwin refers vaguely to "Certain Beasts" in Amber that silver was potent against, not just specifically the weir. It's possible that Silver is potent against shapeshifters, or potent against shadowlings and chaosites when used in Amber. The specifics of that will be up to individual GM's.
    Just bear in mind that both Corwin and Eric bear silver blades, Corwin's guns used silver bullets, Benedicts mechanical arm was silver, Fiona drops a silver bracelet for Julian and Corwin to rush to. Greyswandir and Ben's Arm both peirced the veil between ghosts and reality in Tir Na Nogth, which could be a property of Dworkin or Oberon's magic, or could be a property of silver itself in that realm.
    It certainly would be in keeping with what we know of Oberon and Dworkin for them to have defined Amber as not only being toxic to chaosites, but to make silver a secret weapon there. Perhaps silver focuses the energy of Order inherent in the place. Hey, GM, it's your call.
  6. Sorcery doesn’t work in Amber. Or at least the shadow manipulation and shadow opening microspells don’t. If they do, then why didn’t Corwin or Bleys toss a couple spells at Eric when they attacked? And why didn’t Corwin use a spell to escape the dungeons later? Magic must be crippled in Amber, if not, then all the family would have learned it and used it in their battles.
    Corwin does use a powerword to give Strygalldwir a hot-foot and break his concentration, but doesn’t do the same when Brand is walking the Pattern and obviously needs to concentrate. Either Corwin is a fool, or he is operating under the assumption that magic will not function near the Pattern. Consider that Rebma is lit by magic lights atop the pillars, but in Castle Amber they use lanterns. In Corwin’s saga, the only time magic is used in Amber is when Brand lights a cigarette just by staring at it. But is that magic, or Pattern, or pyrokinetic psychic power?
    Side note: We all tend to assume that the Jewel of Judgement allows weather control as one of it’s powers. But, maybe it just strengthens the magic of the user. Maybe you need to be both attuned to the Jewel and have sorcery in order to summon a storm in Amber. (or cast any spells at all in Amber)
  7. Magic items are powerless (or at least less powerful) in Amber. Obviously, artifacts that shapeshift or use sorcery are crippled by the same restrictions discussed above. Greyswandir must have at least "deadly damage", if not greater, magical strength: it cleaves demons in half and sets them afire, and Corwin prefers it to all other weapons. But Eric takes several minor wounds from Greyswandir that don’t worry him at all until his brother starts taunting him.
    Also, if magic items work in Amber, who cares about Corwin’s guns? I’ll take a wand of fireballs or enchanted self-loading crossbow. Curiously, the only magic items that seem to function in Amber are the Jewel of Judgement and the Trumps. This implies that these either aren’t magic per se, or they are but are both on some primal order of power beyond normal magic. (trump as powerful as the Jewel? Blasphemy! But interesting)
  8. Poisons and Drugs don’t work in Amber. Otherwise, with all those years of sibling rivalry and family dinners, some brash kid would have killed half the family in a single sitting. Corwin drinks freely with his relatives, and there's no mention of royal food testers.
    If drugs worked, Gerard wouldn’t have hung Corwin over a cliff after beating him up, he would have administered sodium pentathol, or an herbal equivalent to truth serum, and slept easier afterwards. Corwin says most earth medicines won’t work in Amber, so why should miscellaneous drugs or poisons fare any better?
    The real question is: do they not work at all in Amber, or do they just not work on an Amberite in Amber? Perhaps the Pattern protects it’s initiates when that close to the source. Can you poison a shadowling in Amber?
  9. For some reason, illness and disease don’t spread very quickly in Amber. Otherwise, the Lords of Chaos would have tried viral warfare. Biological warfare was employed in ancient times by catapulting plague-ridden corpses over the city walls. Certainly a few wyverns could have dumped diseased bodies into Amber as they flew over.
    This is also reinforced by Corwin’s comments about most anti-biotics not working (and his being vague about what does work) in Amber: there’s no practiced and accepted way of dealing with disease in Amber because in Amber disease is very rare. Again, perhaps the pattern protects it’s initiates. Also remember that in Lorraine the black circle spread poison and plague, that it ruined the crops and made people ill. In Garnath, all it did was discolor some grass.
    This law has been argued against before. Some folks just think it's all those Amber-ranked endurances that prevented viral warfare on the "real earth". They point to the long lifespans of the "ordinary" castle servants as evidence that all living things in Amber have great resiliancy and superior stamina. This had me fooled and reconsidering for a while. :)
    Then I remembered that Corwin with his high-ranked endurance lived through the black plague, but wasn't totally unaffected. If it could zap his brain, then it would seem possible for bacterial warfare to work in Amber. Then again, one could argue the other way. Afterall, it seems odd that the Black Death, a resperatory illness, should cause Corwin's amnesia. Perhaps whatever Eric did to best Corwin originally also inflicted brain damage, and dumping him in a plague outbreak was just Eric's last bit of insurance incase the headshot wasn't fatal enough.
  10. Gunpowder doesn’t work, except for the stuff from avalon. (Is gunpowder totally inert in Amber, or does it burn but not explode?) There has to be some hitch in the physical laws there that prevents gases from expanding beyond a certain speed. Otherwise, not only would gunpowder and gasoline be utilized, but steam would be too. In WWII, the British navy created several prototype steam-powered anti-aircraft guns. If shadowlings can be this creative, so can Amberites. So whatever the law of physics that prevents gunpowder from exploding in Amber, it must also prevent watervapor and other chemicals from rapidly expanding or exploding. Remember, the ships have sails in Amber, not steam-driven paddlewheels.
    One of the pleasant side-effects of this is that it would probably be easier to contain or snuff fires in Amber. That would also explain why Eric doesn’t think twice before burning Garnath. One quick rain shower and it’s out, with no chance of the hot coals stirring up secondary blazes later. It also adds further explanation to why Chaos never tried commando raids to burn the city. It takes longer than usual to start a fire in Amber, and it has less chance to spread from building to building. They might have even tried, and failed.
    Side note: all this poses an interesting question. I pull the pin on my grenade in Amber. Is the fuse rendered inert permenantly, or is the reaction just suspended or slowed? Will the primer burn itself out in a non-explosive fashion, or will it be stuck in mid-reaction and detonate as soon as I set foot out in shadow? (Thanks to Userkaf and Whisper for pulling their triggers and forcing me to deal with this one)
  11. Electricity doesn’t flow very well in Amber. If it did, they wouldn’t need lanterns in the castle, they’d flip a light switch. Even ruling out steam or combustion as a power source, Oberon could have built a hydroelectric plant to power the castle. And even if there’s no waterfall nearby, why didn’t he import flashlights with really good batteries for use in the dungeons at least?
    Electricity might work on Amber, but just generate so much heat and resistance that it constantly melts the wires and just isn’t worth the continual maintainance and upkeep. Or maybe the very nature of Amber drains and discharges electrical energy very quickly, making it impractical or useless.
    Further evidence: on earth, a bolt of lightning can cause heart attacks via electric shock in humans a hundred yards from the strike point. But in Amber, Eric rains down lightning near his own troops with no adverse side effects. It only blasts those who are within the focal bolt, the energy seems to ground itself immediately with little or no spill-over into the surrounding area.
  12. The closer you get to the Pattern, the more restrictive the above rules become. For example, Corwin’s car continues to run at the far end of Arden, after he’s arrived at the "real Earth", but before they reach even the outskirts of Amber itself. The black road is strong in Garnath, but extends only to the foot of Kolvir, with no sign of it in the city, castle, or pattern chamber. Corwin states that he had to train his gunners on a world near to Amber, he couldn’t find one far from Amber but with the same laws of science. The stairs to Rebma are lit by a magic glow, but Castle Amber uses lanterns. It’s easier to shift shadow the further you are away from Amber.
  13. It is possible to make exceptions to these rules. Consider the trumps, which break the anti-magic law. Benedict's Arm, which functions where most technology is impaired. Corwin's guns. Oberon's many tricks and talents. All of these can be traced back to him or ultimately to Dworkin. Just be warned: those two (and maybe anyone who's attuned to the Jewel) or perhaps the Pattern itself, can make or break or find loopholes in these rules with a bit of effort.
  14. A final note: We never see anyone use the pattern to shadow-walk in the castle itself, but we do see Fiona use the pattern in Primal Pattern Land. Oberon creates the blood bird right next to the Primal Pattern. In fact, Greyswandir seems more powerful there then in "normal" Amber. So maybe a whole separate set of laws governs that place. Who knows, maybe guns and spells and flashlights work there too?

Running Amber NPCs

This was apparently an email letter to another Amber GM, which I then converted some time ago and put on my old Amber website. That site is gone, but I still had the file. It's got some interesting character insights, and worth the read if you're an Amber fan.

Running Amber NPCs

I frequently receive questions from new GMs on the web, seeking advice on their campaign. One regular question is the following:
“I am somewhat uncomfortable trying to play the existing Amberites as NPCs. I guess I don't want to be wasting time and energy making sure I'm playing them all "right" (i.e., in-character by Zelazny's standard) but don't really want to do it "wrong" either. How have you handled that? Was it an issue/problem for you?”

This is most likely to be a problem if the overwhelming majority of your players are veterans of the game or long time fans of the novels, and this is the first campaign you’ve GM’d for them. If that’s the case, I recommend visiting my page on alternate and atypical Amber settings. Your best solution in that situation might well be to run your campaign in an alternate Amber with few or none of the normal NPCs and trappings so as to prevent the players from thinking they know more about the campaign world(s) than you do.

However, if only a small percentage of your players have previous amber experience (such as reading the novels or having played in other campaigns), you really should stick to the Zelazny setting. It really does require less work on your part (since the setting has already been created), and if they haven't read the books, there's no chance of them thinking your portrayal of an NPC is "wrong". They won't have the frame of reference to notice any "mistakes" you might make.

The real truth of the matter is that there really isn’t a "wrong" way to play Zelazny's NPCs. After all, Corwin (and Merlin in the second series) is the only one we spend enough time with to really get to know. Anybody else could have been deceiving Corwin, ANYBODY. And even if they weren’t actively tricking him, he could have just gotten the wrong impression.

Myself, I intentionally twist peoples expectations, and to good effect.

For example, it seems that most Amber veterans think Benedict is the guy to save Amber in it’s darkest hours, and they tend to call him when there's real trouble: My Benedict is an abusive bastard, he was Dad's enforcer, and the family bully. Sure he'll save Amber but you'll all watch your backs when in he's in town.

Beyond a doubt, Corwin and Merlin are the hardest to portray. Because we see so much of their thoughts and actions in the books, people get a really good idea of what they're like and are generally correct, too. If you have Corwin do something out of character, everybody calls you on it, and you feel like you've made a mistake.

But if you have Julian do something odd, chances are the Players won't notice:
Even if they do criticize you on it, your response can be "Julian has 3 scenes in the first 5 books. How can anyone claim to know all the nuances of his persona in 3 scenes?"

or "This is my Julian, this is how I play him. There were a lot of gaps in his history and personality that I, as GM, filled in. I know his past, and how he'll react to situations and people. If you watch me closely over the next few months, perhaps you'll get to know my Julian well enough to understand him too. But if you want to get to know him, you’ll have to do it in-character, I’m not going to casually tell you what makes him tick."

Chances are, you'll never have to say those things. As long as you seem confident in your portrayals, your players won’t question you. They'll just accept it. In the year my current campaign has been going on for, I was called to task once for Benedict's actions by my friend Tim. Tim has GM'd many times before and always played his Ben as the nice uncle who watched out for all the family's best interests. So, to him it seemed odd for Ben to be threatening King Random so often. In response, I just said "that's how you chose to interpret Ben's persona in your campaign: as a nice guy who just wasn't sure if Corwin could be trusted in the novels. I respect that, and if I were playing in your campaign right now, I would accept that portrayal and have my PC treat him as a friend. But in my Campaign, Benedict is the abusive older brother that everyone fears. I hope that you'll respect and accept that." Tim did respect my decision, it was never a problem again.

The secret to playing Zelazny’s NPCs is, make your decision on how you want to play each of them, be confidant in your ability to play them, and be consistent in how you play them. Even if they balk at first, the players will quickly come to respect you. (Tim’s character now plays a balancing act, trying to keep Benedict’s wrath and fury aimed at other NPCs while meanwhile he plots good old uncle Ben's assassination. And all the players seem to enjoy it.)

If the prospect of running all of the usual NPCs still seems to daunting of a task, another trick you can use is to have some of the family absent deep in shadow.
Figure out how you want to play a few members of the family and have the rest be in exile or on vacation. You can then focus mainly on the NPCs you understand or find interesting yourself. I started out my current campaign mostly focused on Random and the Redheads. Llewella's only had 2 scenes, she mostly stays in Rebma. Flora's had only a half dozen scenes, all in her son's world. Julian mostly stays in Arden, and only gets played when someone intentionally seeks him out. Gerard and Caine mostly stay with the fleet. All of them are unknowns, the players can't anticipate their responses, which is fine, because the PCs barely know them.

But all my Players know Fiona and Bleys and Random and Benedict really well. They have defined personalities that can be counted on to respond in certain ways. My players are constantly saying things like:

  • "Oh, Ben's gonna kick the **** out of you for that one!"
  • "Random's gonna flip his lid"
  • "of course Bleys will help you with your fencing, but if you go in there dressed like that he's gonna hit on you too"
  • "Corwin's and his daughter are just butting heads again, give them a day or two and they'll sort it out."
  • "I'm just worried what Fi will do when she hears about it, she's been under so much stress lately"

One good way to get a grip on the characters is to first make a list of what you've gleaned from the books about their persona:

  1. "Julian is stoic"
  2. "Gerard is insecure, thinks everyone else is smarter than him"
  3. "Fiona is generally calm and cool, but with flashes of biting sarcasm"
  4. "Corwin is still very emotional about Deirdre"
  5. etc. etc.
Then, analyze this list, and come up with a few pivotal moments in their early lives that you feel could have made each character act this way. Having access to a handful of seminal events in the NPCs childhood gives you a great anchor to work from.

Example: Oberon used to criticize Gerard very vocally whenever he'd make a bad decision. Now, if anyone calls Gerard a fool or even just tries to point out to him an better plan of action, Gerard takes it personally and gets really confrontational. If anyone seems to excel at
problem solving or intellectual pursuits, Gerard will either avoid them or try to impress and scare them by showing off his strength.

More Examples: Deirdre is so militaristic because of the way Oberon treated her. This abuse led to her rage and desire to one day grow good enough with a blade to seek her revenge.

Eric never took a stance against Oberon when he would be abusive to Deirdre.

As a result of his guilt, he did take a stand to protect Fiona in her childhood. She was young and impressionable, and thought she was in love with him because of it.

Eric rejected her after a brief and ill considered romance. As a result, Fiona tends to strike back by using men as playthings. It was this attitude that led to her cabal with Bleys and Brand falling apart.

On a related note, years before that cabal, Fiona seduced young Julian. She then, in full family style, used him, broke his heart, and cast him away for someone else. As a result Julian both hates and loves her. He's never resolved his emotion over this. He keeps thick emotional barricades around himself, pretending not to care for anyone and letting no one into his heart.

Eric saw through this, recognizing that Fi treated Julian just how Eric had treated Fi centuries earlier. He made an effort to befriend Julian as a result.

We now have a Fiona that uses sex as a weapon or means of control, a Deirdre that rebels against her father and is bitter and resentful that Eric defended Fiona and not her, an emotionally wounded Julian, a guilt-ridden Eric, and secret motivations to explain why the various family members interact the way they do.

None of this of course is ever stated in the books, yet it (and any of a hundred other possible interpretations) does fit the framework of what we see of the characters and their relationships.

The trick here is to find some sort of web of personality traits and events that defines the characters in your mind. Not just how they act, but the reason behind it. The players don't necessarily ever have to learn the "truth" about the NPCs pasts. But your being aware of a few details as GM will allow you to improvise the NPCs behavior and reactions in consistent and intriguing ways. Your players will feel part of a real world, not a two-dimensional scenario, and they'll appreciate it. They might even be in awe of it if they've mostly played hack & slash before.

Well, that’s all the advice I have on playing the “famous” NPCs. I’d also have to recommend re-reading the DRPG rulebook, Wujcick packed it full of good ideas and tips.

To get your creative juices flowing, I’ll leave you with a couple more ideas, these drafted from my campaign. . .

My Bleys is a closeted gay man, who tries to out-macho all his brothers to hide his own insecurity in this family of raging testosterone. I found a similar Bleys in the character quizzes of the Sleeping With The Enemy campaign. I’ve further complicated him by giving him guilt-baggage from the most horrible thing that ever happened to Fiona, which he still perceives as his fault.

My Random looked to be the most friendly, honest, and open-hearted of the Amberites. 8 months into the campaign everybody learned he'd taken the throne by means of plotting and cabal. So for a while the PCs hated and distrusted him.
Random, as youngest and smallest child in a family full of Herculean bruisers like Oberon, Ben and Gerard found it easy to identify with shadowlings. Especially those in the golden circle, who were more real than most of shadow, lived near to Amber’s greatness, but had no power or rights in the grand scheme of things.
Bleys and Fiona came to him with a plan to make Chaos equal to Amber. He agreed to conspire on the condition that the redistribution of wealth and power also strengthened the Golden Circle and the average citizens in Amber. Together, they stole the throne from Oberon.
When the PCs finally heard what Random’s motivations for usurping the throne were, many of them swung back to respecting and supporting him.

I put similar twists into virtually all my major NPCs. Concepts that just barely fit Corwin’s descriptions of the family, as if his perception of everything were biased and just slightly skewed. It keeps my players on their toes.

Those are just ideas, and long winded ones at that. I apologize. On a related note, I don't necessarily buy that the Lords of Chaos are immortal. In Corwin's saga we don't see any that are particularly old. For all we know, Duke Borel could be in his late 30s. They could have lifespans only as long as shadowlings, or hundreds of years like the
non-royals of Amber city. The Pattern is the source of permanence and stability after all, so one could argue that it's initiates have immortality while initiates of the Logrus, symbol of change and transformation, have short life times and possibly reincarnation. And yeah, I have a page about reincarnation in Amber too, but that's a whole other can of worms...

Anyway, thanks again for writing, hope some of this was useful. Good
luck with your campaign!

Rolfe Bergstrom

Amber Mentalism Power

A common character concept for Amberites PCs is "The Psychic". While Psyche can accomplish some of what said players are looking for, I've found they often want more. For game balance issues (Psyche's buff enough as-is) I've found it best to make a separate power available to cover such abilities.

Mentalism: 15 Points
Mentalism is a form of Magic that closely mirrors depictions of psychic/psionic powers in a variety of modern earth media, from the X-Files to Star Wars. It is NOT a “natural outgrowth of a high psyche”, but instead a codified version of magic that, like Power Words or Sorcery, must be learned and studied. Acquisition of this Power more closely resembles Power Words than other forms of magic, however, as a student learns more from introspection and meditation than from the study of arcane tomes.

The effects of Mentalism fall into a few primary categories. These are Awareness, Suggestion, Telepathy and Telekinesis. The strengths and weaknesses of these effects are detailed below.

Awareness: The Mentalist has honed thier mind to be more accutely aware of their surroundings, and in particular the ebb and flow of shadow and magic about them. By taking a moment to concentrate, the Mentalist can discern any of the following:
How well Magic (or any other familiar Power) functions in the current shadow environment.
The buildup or use of other Powers or magical energies.
The likely immediate Destiny of the Shadow they are currently in.
The location of nearby Shadow Paths or recent Trails/Wakes through Shadow.
The presence and emotional state of nearby Shadow Folk or Creatures.
In all these cases, solid reality is defense against the Mentalist’s Powers. For example, you can read a Shadowling’s mind, but not a Chaos Lord’s. You can determine the Destiny of a Shadow-World, but not the fate of Amber itself. Further, a shadow-being with Psychic Barrier, Psychic Neutral or a Psyche Rank higher than your own may well be undetectable by this aspect of Mentalism.

Suggestion: The weak-willed beings amongst Shadow are easy for you to manipulate. By merely meeting concentrating upon a nearby shadowling, you may bend their desires to match your own or give them temporary instructions.
This aspect of the Power works only upon the unreal, any Amberite or true Lord of Chaos will be quite resistant to it.
Also, any adversarial shadowling will require a psychic struggle to affect. The trick here is to use this power on them when they are calm or unsuspecting, not when they are pointing a gun at you.

Telepathy: You may broadcast thoughts to Shadowlings you know well. This is purely a one-way transmission, your Mentalism does not grant them the ability to respond in any way. However, it is an effective way to send silent communication, summons, or even suggestions.
This telepathy is limited in range based upon your own Psyche, and is unable to extend more than a few worlds away for even the First-Ranked character.
As with suggestion, this Telepathy is a form of shadow-manipulation, and any “real” person will be unaffected and unreachable by this method.

Telekinesis: You may reach out to have physical effects upon the shadows. With only partial focus, you may cause slow deliberate motion in smaller inanimate objects, defying gravity or other weak opposition. Stronger concentration will allow you to increase the speed of motion or the mass moved.
You may even target specific portions of a target, causing stress fractures or collapsing internal organs.
Telekinesis may be resisted with Strength. In general, to affect someone you will need a higher Psyche ranking than their Strength ranking.
Again, as with the other aspects of Mentalism, this Magic is very difficult to perform against anyone of reality. You probably won’t be able to gift yourself with Flight or crush Corwin’s trachea, but with some cleverness, you’ll find ways to use your surroundings as tools or weapons.

Mentalism & Attributes:
Psyche is the most important attribute for most Mentalism tricks, as it determines the extent of your Awareness, the power of your Suggestions, the range of your Telepathy and the mass you can lift with your Telekinesis. Many applications of Telekinesis will also employ Warfare for targeting, locating vital organs or maintaining balance. If you want to hurl people around in combat, you’ll need Psyche and Warfare.
Mentalism is not a high-energy-drain Power, so Endurance is somewhat less vital than with most other Powers. That said, if you intend to use your Mentalism while fatigued or wounded, you’ll need a bit of Endurance.

Mentalism vs other Powers:
Mentalism is very good at detecting other Powers, but not so great at resisting or battling them. This Power will allow you to detect and track your enemies through shadow, but not travel freely on your own.
Pattern is much stronger at shadow manipulation, but suffers from time constraints. Mentalism is faster than Pattern, but given time to wear you down the Pattern Initiate will eventually undo your work and twist your worlds against you.
Trump connections (particularly when matched with a strong Psyche bid) are much more effective and powerful than Mentalism’s Telepathy. Again, however, Mentalism’s advantage is speed. You can do suggestions upon anyone you meet, whereas the TrumpArtist would need to study and paint them first.
Sorcery is more open-ended and ultimately more flexible than Mentalism, but also requires much more prep time and maintainance. When time is precious or the current events couldn’t be prepared for, Mentalism will prove itself more useful. When facing a sorceror in combat, try to predict thier actions. Mentalism will strike home more often than sorcery, but when sorcery does connect it’s terribly powerful.
PowerWords are faster than Mentalism, but not as flexible in the moment. Should the two powers come into direct conflict, Attributes will determine the winner.

Combining Mentalism with other Powers:
In general, Mentalism combos nicely with Pattern, Mentalism handling the short-term immediate changes, and Pattern working for the long-term and large-scale transformations. A similar relationship exists between Mentalism and Sorcery, where each Power covers the other’s weaknesses. In addition, several specific instances and combos are noted below...
Awareness: Helps Sorcerors determine the local laws of magic, tuning their spells to the local environment.
Awareness: Enhances the “Pattern Lens” ability of Advanced Pattern, enabling truly powerful scrying.
Awareness: Speed’s shadow-movement via Entropy.
Suggestions: Can be made permenant by application of Pattern or Conjuration.
Suggestions: May be delivered at greater range via Trump.
Suggestions: Application of Entropy can lower a target’s resistance to Mentalism and vice versa.
Telekinesis: Can be Invoked as a Micro-Spell, allowing Telekinesis to aim or fuel Sorcery.

Advanced Mentalism?
So many Powers in Amber have an Advanced Version, and fiction is rife with examples of high-end psychic powers. Throw some extra points this way at character advancement, and you might well end up any manner of other psionic/jedi powers. This is uncharted territory, so there’s no telling what you’ll get. Feel free to make suggestions to the GMs, but ultimately it’s their call as to what exactly you get.

Entropy Mastery

A power I've used in three Amber campaigns, though mostly for NPCs. This was inspired by Tom deMayo's Logrusless Chaos and, of course, the first five books of Amber, aka Corwin's Saga.

Entropy Mastery
The Courts of Chaos are a place of continual change, a land of no stability and frequent mortality. Death is not merely the great destroyer, Death is a beginning as well as an end. To such transitory beings as belong in Chaos, Death is nothing to be feared, it is instead an opportunity and a force to be controlled. Those who master this power become the Lords of Chaos, capable of unmaking worlds with their will. To our earthly sensibilities, the Courts of Chaos are a dreadfully nasty place to live. Yet, to the Lords and Ladies of Chaos, this is home.

What can this power do? By exerting the power of Entropy, one may cause a gradual state of decline to descend upon a person, place or thing. Further time and energies spent upon the target result in greater distortion and corruption. Exposure to Pattern and order will reverse these affects.

Duration: Unless otherwise specified, the effects of Entropy are assumed to maintain as long as the Lord or Lady of Chaos who invoked them is present. In the event of his or her death, dismissal, or absence, the target will return to normal at roughly half the speed it was corrupted at. (So if it took 3 months to twist and damage, it would take 6 months afterwards to heal) The power does not grant the ability to undo it’s handiwork, so if you go too far, you’ll just have to wait patiently (far away) for your target to regain their health and integrity.

Basic Entropy Mastery: 20 Points
With Basic-level Entropy Mastery you may do the following…

Degrade Shadows: When Entropy is unleashed upon a world, it causes crops to fail, illness to spread, social systems to break down, and weather to turn foul. After a time, it may seem that the world is coming apart at the seams. Doing this takes a great deal of time and energy, as the damage to the shadow world spreads. The signs and symptoms of the degradation will vary from world to world, but for examples look at the dark caves in Benedict’s Avalon and the black circle in. In game terms, the Entropy master may permanently inflict the world with Bad Stuff. Each point they place in it will take only a few hours if the shadow is on the Chaos side of Ygg, but takes much longer the closer the world is to Amber.

Distort Shadows: After one has broken down the structure of a world, a true master of Entropy may rebuild it in their image, at least to some degree. It will always remain a cursed world, but the nature of the problems will become the province of the Entropy master. Once a world has 3 points of Bad Stuff, you may begin to dictate the nature of the hardships that plague it, and make other subtle alterations upon it. A world with 6 or more points of Bad Stuff becomes very malleable to your whims and desires.

Shroud of Night: When a world is tainted by the touch of Entropy, it begins to grey and fade, the light seeming to recoil from the darkness. As a result, a master of Entropy in a tainted portion of a world with 2 or more points of Bad Stuff may use the power of darkness to conceal themselves. The shadows flit and wrap around them, obscuring their presence. The greater the taint on the world(regardless of whose taint it was), the easier it is for the Chaos Lord to hide within it.

Befuddle Minds: The aura of Entropy tends to scramble the thoughts of mortals. Ordinary shadowlings can be driven mad with just a few minutes concentration. Those with Pattern, Trump, or high Psyche or Endurance can try to resist it, just getting slightly confused or sluggish.

Inspired Illness: Alternately, you may attack the body rather than mind of your victim. In such a case Trump is of no defense, but Endurance is far more effective at slowing or stopping these effects. Used successfully, this may inflict the target with a variety of epidemics and diseases, plus migraines, numbness, epilepsy, cancers, and assorted aches and pains.

Depreciation: The powers of Entropy may be exerted upon inanimate objects even more easily than on people or worlds. Given time, a sword may be made to rust, a roof leak, threads fray, wood warp and splinter, colors fade and food rot.

Summon Feral Beasts: An area tainted by Entropy is bound to be the home of a variety of sick animals. Plague dogs, rabid animals, panicked herds, insect swarms and rodent infestations are commonplace. When in a place with 2 or more points of Bad Stuff, the Entropy master may send out a call for such beasts to attend him. The GM will determine what’s available and how they serve based upon the nature of the place before it’s corruption. At 6 or more points of Bad Stuff in a location or world the Entropy master may pick and choose any monsters they see fit.

Shadow Travel/Black Roads: By degrading the metaphysical edges of a shadow world and breaking down the barriers between worlds it is possible to walk the shadows. In general, a world needs at least 4 points of Bad Stuff to be sufficiently weak for travel out of it. This means you’ll need to pause and weaken your current world every few shadows over that you travel. As a result, this is a painfully slow method of transit, even deep in shadow it can take weeks to cover the distance that a Hellride could do in an hour. On the Amber side of Ygg, this ability is virtually useless. But in the courts of Chaos, where the worlds and pockets of shadow are ridden thick with Entropy this allows for very rapid movement.

Advanced Entropy Mastery: 30 Points
In addition to the powers granted by Basic-level Entropy Mastery, you may now…

Destroy Shadows: If a world has accumulated 10 points of Bad Stuff, the taint upon it is so strong that a Lord of Chaos may literally unmake it. Such primal disruption takes the form of earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, epidemics and wars, and will progress into rips at the fabric of the shadow. Given a few hours on a world with this strong a taint, you may utterly destroy it forever.

Enchanting: Like the faceless woman did to Corwin, the taste of Entropy may be wielded to influence others actions. This is like Befuddlement, except the nature of the madness or confusion can be dictated by the Chaosite. Given enough time to focus, such brainwashing or mental damage could be made permanent.

Vampirism: At close ranges not only may illness be cast upon a target, but the very essence of life may be siphoned off from them. The psychic vampire finds themselves refreshed while their victim tires and loses the will to carry on. Continued long enough this may heal injuries upon the Chaosite while opening spontaneous wounds on their prey.

Necromancy: Those killed while in a world beset by Entropy may be animated by the Chaos Lord. Such zombies are slow and lack independent thought or coordination, but are useful as battlefield replacements and for the demoralizing effect it can have upon the enemy to see their dead comrades turn against them. The number of zombies available depends on the number of nearby casualties and also the amount of Bad Stuff in the locale.

Trump Disalignment: As a shadow is distorted by Entropy, there will be a tendency for Trumps of it to lose some of their connection. An Entropy master can purposefully accentuate this affect, hiding the world from all attempts to Trump it, unless the artist in question has been there since the world was corrupted.

lord of the living void, a king of chaos

From a campaign hand-out I made for Amber players who were considering making Chaosite PCs.

So you wish to be “a lord of the living void, a king of chaos?”
Being a Lord or Lady of Chaos has it’s advantages, but in this campaign you’ll find Chaos to be a little different from how the main Amber DRPG Rulebook describes it.

The Amber series of novels by Roger Zelazny can be clearly broken into two subseries: Corwin’s Tale (books 1-5) and Merlin’s Tale (books 6-10). These two tales intentionally contradict each other on several points, and this Campaign chooses to follow Corwin’s depiction of the universe over Merlin’s, whereas the rulebooks typically do the opposite.

If you’ve played Amber before, you’ll quickly notice that Shapeshifting & Logrus have been replaced with Dynamic Form and Entropy. This packet gives you the pertinent details on those new powers. Please read these 4 pages fully before the next session of our game.

The advantages of Chaos (& Entropy)

1) Versatility. While an Amberite is obliged to drop half their points on Pattern, the only requirement to be a Chaos Lord is 5 points of Dynamic Form. That leaves you with plenty of points left over for Entropy, Sorcery, Power Words, Trump Artistry, and/or a personal world full of cool magic items.

2) Unpredictability. Your powers and capabilities vary from form to form, and your enemies probably won’t recognize you in half the shapes you are capable of. The former makes you dangerous in combat, and the later makes you dangerous in social settings.

3) Mysterious Creepiness. Entropy is a totally new power, based on Corwin’s Tale, but devised for this campaign. Not only do the other players not know what to expect from it, but the Amberite NPCs will be just as clueless and leery about it too. Keep them guessing, and you’ll reap amazing benefits. Like any Power, Entropy has its weaknesses. Once you’ve figured them out, keep it to yourself. There’s no need to make anyone else aware that you even have a weakness.

4) Allies Everywhere. Over the years, Amber has a made a lot of enemies. And if that isn’t enough potential assistance, Entropy Mastery enables you to summon feral beasts, raise zombies and turn entire worlds against your foes.

5) Resistance to Entropy. Chaos blood shields you from the standard environmental affects of Entropy, including some measure of defense against plagues, poisons, and necromancy.

The disadvantages of Chaos

1) Not Human. Every form a Chaosite has should be clearly inhuman, and preferably something you’d find in a dark fairytale. There’s plenty of examples in Corwin’s Tale, especially in the book “The Guns of Avalon”. As a Chaosian, you cannot have a normal human-looking form unless you also have an Amber Devotee or Pattern Imprint.

2) Possibly Lower Attributes. This isn’t a requirement for a player character, but on average a typical denizen of Chaos has lower Attributes than a typical Amber commoner. You can be the exception to that rule if you’d like, but you should consider keeping at least one attribute at Shadow or Amber Rank.

3) Vulnerable to Pattern. If you’re of the blood of Chaos, you need to be especially careful around the Pattern or items crafted in its image.

4) Lack of Transportation. Let’s face it, Pattern is the best Power for moving between worlds. Being from Chaos, you’ll really want to consider Trump, Sorcery or some sort of magic Artifact or Creature to get you a good method of Transit.

Shadow World Worksheet

The following is quoted from an expanded worksheet I once made for an Amber campaign. These changes are likely to result in somewhat more expensive shadow-worlds, but they also solve several potentially abusable loop-holes in the Amber rule structure.

(It also corrects a plot hole the existing rules forced into the setting: If every Amberite has the ability to create a personal inescapable hell dimension that becomes part of the destiny of any other Amberite they choose, why isn't it done repeatedly in the first 5 novels? To address this, I trimmed the Shadow Barriers abilities pretty far back.)

Shadow Type:
___ 1 point: Personal Shadow: This world is in some random part of the Universe. By default it has no resistance to any Power.
___ 2 points: Shadow Near Amber: This world is naturally resistant to change and Entropy. Control over it is slow and gradual.
___ 2 points: Shadow Near Chaos: This world is subject to mutation and change. Control is near-instant, but incomplete and unpredictable.
___ 4 points: Primal Plane (Near Amber): This world is unalterable and uncontrollable.
___ 4 points: Primal Plane (Elsewhere): This world is enduring, it repairs damage and change, always returning to it’s original form.

Shadow World’s Defenses & Interaction with Powers.
___ 0 points: Typical: The Shadow’s resistance or weakness to manipulation by Powers is based upon what type of Shadow you’ve chosen.
___ 1 point: Malleable to certain Powers: Pick one ore more Powers. Those Powers are more potent and versatile here than in most similar Shadows. This detracts from any natural resistance implied by the Type of Shadow World you’ve chosen.
___ 2 points: Resistant to certain Powers: Pick one or more Powers. Those Powers functions more slowly here than you would otherwise expect. This combines with any natural resistance implied by the Type of Shadow World you’ve chosen. For example, a Shadow near Amber that is Resistant to Entropy could well be completely protected and immune to Entropic effects.
___ 2 points: Guarded: Fierce guardians defend this world from all intrusions.

My Level of Control Over This World:
___ 0 point: Control of the Grand Scheme: I can’t alter elements of the room I’m in or the immediate scene, but I can control what happens to the society, structure, and evolution of the world over the long term.
___ 1 point: Control of Shadow Folk & Things: I can quickly find what I’m looking for in this world, and can improvise details as I go, I also have great control over the personality and actions of most shadow people here.
___ 2 points: Control of Reality & Contents: I can restructure what’s in this world to suit my whims. In addition to the powers listed for “Control of Shadow Folk & Things”, I can erase or create people and things, edit the perception of history and even alter the physical laws that govern science in this world.
___ 1 points: Set Time-Flow: At the time of creation, I can choose how fast time passes in this world relative to Amber. For every hour that passes in Amber, _____________ passes in my world.
___ 4 points: Control of Time-Flow: I can speed up or slow down the flow of time in this world as I see fit. Changes are gradual, and subject to the constraints of the game, as above - we're not going to pause all the other PCs for 5 sessions while you dink around in your private world.
___ 2 points: Control of Destiny: I may make this world become a part of someone’s else’s destiny, so that they will eventually arrive here despite their best intentions to stay far away.

Shadow World’s Connections to other Worlds
___ 0 points: Typical: This Shadow has no naturally occuring methods of reaching other worlds.
___ 1 point: Shadow Paths: One or more Paths exist to any other worlds you are familiar with. Paths can be followed by anyone with Pattern, Entropy, or the Artifact & Creature Quality “Follow Path”.
___ 2 points: Shadow Gates: One or more gates exist in this world, opening directly into other worlds that you also own. Gates can be open to anyone, or they can be operated by magic or machinery that requires some familiarity to use.

Dynamic Form

Here's another version of shapeshifting I used in one Amber campaign. It's a slightly more detailed version than in my Chaotic Vs Orderly Shapeshifting post, but it's slightly less elegant as a result.

Dynamic Form: 5 Points
You may have from 2 to 12 forms, your choice. More forms allows great versatility, but at the cost of individual forms being weaker.

Dynamic Form is the base Power of Chaos. It’s unpredictable and uncontrollable, but most of the shapes should be surreal or mythological. Think Salvador Dali, Hieronymous Bosch, HR Gieger, and Grimm’s Fairytales. A goat-headed man, a faceless witch, and a shadowy hound are far better Forms than a potted petunia, a salad fork and a killer virus.
Also note that there are no normal humans in Chaos - everyone is a bit distorted and sinister out at the end of the Universe.

Each form must have at least 1 Trigger (see below) and some of your forms will have special bonus Qualities, similar to those on the Artifact & Creature Worksheet. In addition, one of your forms must be designated as your True Form, the others become designated as Alternate Forms.. Full details can be found below.

Triggers: A Trigger is the circumstance that causes you to assume a given form. Most Triggers fall into one of the following categories:
Chemical Trigger: An allergic reaction to certain substances causes you to take this form.
Emotional Trigger: There is a particular emotion that causes you to take this form.
Celestial Trigger: Certain astological or meteorlogical circumstances will cause you to take this form.
Power Trigger: Exposure to (or the use of) a certain power causes you to take this form.
Karmic Trigger: Count on your Good Stuff or Bad Stuff to put you in this form at the dramatically appropriate moment.
* It is important to note that free choice is not a possible Trigger. That is to say the Dynamic Form Power does not allow you to merely shift from shape to shape as you see fit. It is beyond your power to totally control this gift.

3 examples of Chemical Triggers, drawn from films, novels, comics or RPGs....
1)The werewolf who reverts to human form when struck by silver.
2)The vampire who becomes a ferocious monster when they taste blood, but becomes a cowering wretch at the scent of garlic.
3) The scrawny little sailor who fights to the finish when he eats his spinach.

3 examples of Emotional Triggers, drawn from films, novels, comics or RPGs....
1) The irradiated scientist who turns green and bulky whenever someone hurts him.
2) The Viking Berserker who works himself into a rage and becomes a rabid bear.
3) The research subject whose alien-engineered DNA only makes itself pronounced when they are frightened or sexually aroused.

3 examples of Celestial Triggers, drawn from films, novels, comics or RPGs....
1) The werewolf whose form is dictated by the phase of the moon.
2) The alien hero who becomes able to leap tall buildings when transplanted to a world with a different-colored sun.
3) The demon who shows his horns, hooves and tail only when back in the damnable environs of hell, but looks like any other Lawyer when on earth.

True Form: The form you were born in has all your normal Attributes and Powers, but no bonus qualities at all. Your True Form has two default triggers, listed here:
Death/Incapacitation: In the case of Death or Paralysis, or should your soul leave your body, your body will return to your True Form.
Order Exposure: Advanced Pattern and certain Power Words can be used by others to make you take your True Form.
You must create at least 1 extra trigger that returns your character to their True Form.

Bonus Qualities: Individual forms may integrate Qualities from the Artifact & Creature Worksheet. You may select up to 8 points of Qualities from that worksheet, with these restrictions:
1) Your True Form may not have any Qualities, it uses just your normal stats.
2) Each Form may have 0 to 3 points of Qualities, up to 8 Qualities total between all your Forms.

Bergstrom Method for Amber Combat? Not!

EDIT: Not sure what this is. I thought it might have been my old system, but eventually an Archive search revealed it wasn't. Not sure if this is the Testerman/Trimmer system that mentioned, or an unpublished third edition I was working on, or the first edition that doesn't appear to be archived, or someone else's revisions to mine, or whatever. It was familiar, and I grokked it well from just the table, so that probably means I used it at some point. But I don't know who created it, at least don't know with anything approaching certainty.

Here's what I posted a few days back, take it with a grain of the unknown...

While cleaning up one of my hard-drives today, I found an old file. I think it may in fact be the chart from "The Bergstrom Method" of Amber combat. If so, it's like finding my own holy grail. Basically, years back I wrote up this method for handling combat in Amber, and put it up on geocities. Years later, I googled myself (admit it - you do it too) and found that my long-defunct site was largely mirrored in three different places, which gave me a huge ego boost. A year or two later, I went to show off, and all the mirrors were defunct or just plain gone.

Today I found this old excel file on my computer, and I'm pretty sure it's the heart of that system. There's also a tiny chance it's some unknown web-entities revisions or improvements to my system, but it looks really familiar. I'm not 100% certain, but I'm hopeful it's all mine. If anyone reading this knows otherwise, please butt-in and correct me via a comment here and a comment to my latest post, whatever that is. I'll gladly give credit where it's due if prompted.

Philosophy: The point of the following system is to bring consistency to Amber combats. By providing a frame work and yardstick for the GM, you make fight scenes less arbitrary. This reduces the chances of favoritism creeping into the game, as well as improves the verisimilitude of the GM.

Defender StatAttacker Human (-25)Attacker Chaos (-10)Attacker Amber (0)Attacker Low RankAttacker Mid RankAttacker High RankAttacker 1st Rank
Defender Human (0)2min.
1st hit KO
1st hit KO
1st hit KO
1st hit KO
Instant KOInstant KOInstant KO
Defender Chaos(-10)30min. 2nd hit KO10min. 2nd hit KO5min.
2nd hit KO
2nd hit KO
2nd hit KO
2nd hit KO
2nd hit KO
Defender Amber(0)3hr.
3rd hit KO
3rd hit KO
3rd hit KO
3rd hit KO
3rd hit KO
3rd hit KO
3rd hit KO
Defender Low Rank12hr.
4th hit KO
4th hit KO
4th hit KO
4th hit KO
4th hit KO
30min. 4th hit KO25min.
4th hit KO
Defender Mid Rank20hr.
5th hit KO
5th hit KO
5th hit KO
5th hit KO
5th hit KO
5th hit KO
5th hit KO
Defender High Rank36hr.
6th hit KO
6th hit KO
6th hit KO
6th hit KO
6th hit KO
6th hit KO
6th hit KO
Defender First Rank
7th hit KO
7th hit KO
7th hit KO
7th hit KO
7th hit KO
7th hit KO
7th hit KO

Using the chart is simple. You cross reference the attacker's rank vs the defenders rank in the same attribute. The tells you how long they duel before the defender is beaten. It also says roughly how many negligible "warning" hits it takes before the final incapacitating blow is dealt. So an entry like "3hr. 4th hit KO" means that he'll go down after 3 hours of dueling and jockeying for position, and the GM should narrate 3 hits, each getting successively worse and providing hints they should flee. Consult the chart twice, once with character A as Attacker and character B as defender, then once the other way. Whichever gives the smallest time frame is the version you use, with the attacker in that scenario being the winner. Should there be a tie, winner is determined by who has the most actual points in the attribute. If that too is tied, then Good Stuff / Bad Stuff determines the outcome.

Of course, Amber combat isn't that simple. You have at least three options in combat - full attack, opportunistic fighting, and full defensive. This system and chart allow for that as well.
  • Full Attack - when on full attack, you read 1 column to the right of normal while attacking. However, the aggressive stance makes you also read one row above normal when the Defender.
  • Opportunistic - Read the chart normally for this character.
  • Full Defense - when fighting defensively, the Defender reads 1 row down, improving their life expectancy greatly. However, they are unlikely to win a fight while focusing purely on defense, so they read one column to the left when being the attacker.
Factoring Endurance: Even Amberites have limits to how long they can duel, wrestle, or engage in psychic combat. When a person is in the Defender column, they use the lower of the time figure generated above, or the number below based on Endurance.

Defenders EnduranceMax Life Expectancy
Chaos30 min
Amber1 hour
Low Rank3 hours
Mid Rank8 hours
High Rank24 hours
First Rank48 hours

Example: Corwin fights Benedict. Corwin is Mid Rank in Warfare, but 1st Rank in Endurance. Benedict is 1st Rank in Warfare and Low Rank in Endurance. Looking at the chart with Benedict as the Attacker, we see it takes 90 minutes of dueling for Benedict to win. However, if Corwin is smart, he can go on Full Defense and wear Benedict out - doing so stretches the fight to 6 hours, which is well beyond the 3 hour limits of Benedict's Endurance. Eventually older brother Ben gets tired, and thus sloppy, and Corwin wins. As a GM I would narrate an hour of fencing for position, then in the second hour Ben starts inflicting warning hits on Corwin. But as the fight stretches to the 3rd hour, Benedict's motions slow down from fatigue, and I switch who's taking the warning hits. Ben's player had better look for ways to bail, and quickly. (I note that if Ben had Mid Ranked endurance, he'd stay in top form till a couple hours after the point where he'd taken Corwin's head.)

Dirty Tricks: No amber combat would be complete without surprises and villainy. Most tricks shift the fight one column or row in favor of the tricker. Particularly nasty tricks might be more effective - like that bit with the black road grasses Corwin pulls on Benedict in the books.

Playtesting: The campaign I wrote this up for involved very little combat, so it didn't get tested a whole lot, and then it got filed away for years. It looks pretty solid today, but I'm not sure what logic went into the picking of the specific numerical values, especially hours. Let me know if you run into any problems with it, or have constructive feedback.

Let them have their spotlight

Killed off the arch-villain in the second scene? Oh, I meant for you guys to do that: he was just a tool. Or he was a hologram. Or he was a conjuration. Or he was just the head of a complex beast that's actually what you thought were the good guys. Or he was a puppet being controlled by the underling you happened to let run away.
This kind of stuff actually pisses me off like few other things in gaming. And I'm high-strung man who gets pissed-off easily.

In such situations, the GM is robbing the players of a spotlight they earned. From my point of view, it's FAR better to give their players their moment of glory. Pat them on the back, acknowledge their triumph, and figure out something totally different to throw at them next session.

I know I'm not alone in this (being annoyed at villain switcheroos) either, because players at the game store constantly bitched about it to me.* Most players interpret this kind of plot-wrenching to be a case of GM ego. In the case of the original post quoted above, I'm confident that's NOT what's going on, but there are others out there who do this sort of thing for exactly that reason. Players who've been burned by it won't ever see it as anything else.

Changing things this way also turns all your foreshadowing into red herrings. That's fine every once in a while, but if you do it too often, you lose the player's trust.

I actually take an inverse tactic - if the players repeatedly express their belief in something, I almost always rewrite my backstory to render them correct. I only do it when the players have actual emotion about something. For example, if they hate (in-character, not the same thing as "not liking" them out of character ) a particular NPC, then that NPC more than likely becomes the badguy. If they're all proud of themselves because they think they've figured something out, I'll probably rewrite my notes to make their conclusion work.

The point is to play into the player's expectations, and give them the plot they desire. Surprises are good, and every campaign should have a few, but you'll inspire more satisfaction from "I knew it!" that you will from "I didn't see that coming."

*:Game store staff are like barkeepers that way - we hear the bitter complaints that never make it to the GM.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Alternative Weather Chart

I love the Weather System in the 7th Sea RPG. Here's a somewhat simpler (and kinda house-ruled) version of the chart for it, one that takes up less space behind your GM screen. To use it, you need two glass beads or drama dice. The chart ain't pretty, but it's clear and functional.

Prior to the GM spending Drama Dice, assume the bead/die in the bottom row starts at "Typical". The top row bead/die starts at "Chill" in winter, "Comfortable" in spring/fall, and "warm" in summer. In all other ways, it functions by the normal weather chart rules. When the GM spends a Drama Die he can move either bead to an adjacent space - the two rows are not considered adjacent to each other.

Terrain Tiles

Here's a jpeg with 8 terrain tiles in it. I created them via Dundjinni software. Click on it for a close up.
These were terrain tiles from the tunnels and catacomb site in my old 7th Sea campaign, but could be used by you to stage a battle in the RPG or miniatures game of your choice.

For the record, the 8 tiles don't make an entire locale, just the four individual areas within the complex that made for the most likely ambushes.

Expanded Sorte

The following are expanded Sorte charts for 7th Sea. Sorte is the Vodacce "fate witch" magic, practitioners of which see the connections and emotions between people as a web whose threads can be measured, tangled, and even trimmed.

I created these expanded charts because I was running a long-term, single-player 7th Sea game. The main character (the sole PC) was a fate witch, and I needed for her magic to play a prominent role in the game. In short, these rules worked great for a 1-player fate-witch campaign. They are probably too fiddly and detailed for a game with multiple PCs. I also can't promise they're balanced against other sorcerous heritages.

She began as an Apprentice, but was certain to spend XP on her sorcery. Since I wanted slow simmering character development (not Scion-style spontaneous visitations of power) I needed to find ways to make the lower levels of Sorte important. Also, since Sorte was going to be in the spotlight so much, I needed in-depth lists of modifiers to rolls, so I could tweak difficulties from scene to scene, yet still have consistency in how it works. To those ends I heavily modified the Sorte rules and even added a few powers.

Format: The name of the power is first. If the power requires a certain Mastery Level, it says so on the line with the power's name.
Below that is the dice pool you roll, and the default difficulty.
(Then, in parenthesis, is a short explanation of what you get for that roll)
Below that is several lines of possible modifiers to the difficulty, and things you can raise for.
@ h W k C If two or more modifiers start with the same funky symbol at the start of the line, it means only one (generally the most extreme) of those modifiers can apply per die roll. Don't spend too much time trying to make sense of the symbols - they were a different font in my original document, but blogger doesn't like that font.

Sometimes there'll be a section afterwords, detailing other information that isn't directly a roll modifier, such as how the power applies to the Like/Dislike/Useful ratings of the Political Intrigue system of the Montaigne sourcebook.

View Arcana:
Wits + Arcana Knack: Difficulty 15
(This is difficulty to see a single Arcana, of GM’s choice)
Viewing done at Target’s request: -5 (Free Raise)
Target has activated (or has had activated) Arcana this scene: -5 (Free Raise)
Target is aware and unwilling: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ At least one failed viewing attempt on this Target in previous Scene this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt on this Target during this Scene: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
h Poor line of sight to Target: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
h Target or self moving rapidly/unpredictably (Horseback, carriage, combat, etc): +10 (Difficulty Mod)
Checking for both possible Arcana: +5 (Raise)
Learning mechanical details on Virtue/Wiles: +5 (Raise)
Learning mechanical details on Hubris/Flaw: +5 (Raise)

Viewing Suit Strands:
Wits + (Suit) Knack: Difficulty 15
(This is the difficulty for an overview of their strands of this suit)
Viewing done at Target’s request: -5 (Free Raise)
Looking only for the target’s single strongest strand (if target is human): -15 (3 Free Raises)
Target is aware and unwilling: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
Target is not human: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ At least one failed viewing attempt on this Target in previous Scene this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt on this Target during this Scene: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
W Target’s Strands have been altered by an Apprentice Fate Witch in last 24 hours: +5 (Diff Mod)
W Target’s Strands have been altered by an Adept Fate Witch in last 24 hours: +10 (Diff Mod)
W Target’s Strands have been altered by a Master Fate Witch in last 24 hours: +15 (Diff Mod)
h Poor line of sight to Target: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
h Target or self moving rapidly/unpredictably (Horseback, carriage, combat, etc): +10 (Difficulty Mod)
h Target completely obscured, but threads aren’t: +30 (Difficulty Mod)
k Looking for Target’s Strand to a specific person, place or thing (in this room): +5 (Raise)
k Looking for Target’s Strand to a specific person, place or thing not in this room: +15 (3 Raises)
k Looking for Target’s Strand to a specific person you’ve never met: +25 (5 Raises)
Seeking an image/impression/etc from a Strand: +10 (2 Raises)
Determining if Target is aware of relationship the Strand represents: +5 (Raise)
Looking for the handiwork of a particular FateWitch: +5 to +15 (1 Raise / Mastery Level)
Viewing your own Strands: +15 (3 Raises)

Blessings / Curses:
Resolve + (Suit) Knack: Difficulty 15
(This is the difficulty to give a single die of blessing/curse. It requires 1 action, line of sight, and it gives you a single Backlash-Curse die for yourself.)
Taking on an additional Backlash-Curse die: -10 (2 Free Raises)
Blessing done at Target’s request: -5 (Free Raise)
Target is aware and unwilling: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ At least one failed Sorte attempt on this Target in previous Scene this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt on this Target during this Scene: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
h Poor line of sight to Target: +15 (Difficulty Modifier)
h Target or self moving rapidly/unpredictably (Horseback, carriage, combat, etc): +15 (Difficulty Mod)
Each additional die of blessing/curse: +15 (3 Raises) and +1 die of Backlash
Eliminating one Backlash-Curse die: +10 (2 Raises)

Tracking by use of Strands:
Resolve + (Suit) Knack: Difficulty 20
(At this difficulty, the you are able to follow the Strand to the Nation, Province, Island or Archipeligo the Pursued currently inhabits. It assumes you have a Subject nearby for the trip who has a Strand to the Pursued, and that you have already successful viewed that Strand. If it takes more than 1 day to get to the Pursued's location, you must roll again each day.)
Viewing done at Subject’s request: -5 (Free Raise)
Pursued is at the end of Subject’s single strongest strand: -5 (Free Raise)
Subject is aware and unwilling: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
Pursued is aware and unwilling: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ At least one failed Sorte attempt on Subject in this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
C At least one failed Sorte attempt on Pursued in this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt on Subject during this Scene: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
C Each failed Sorte attempt on Pursued during this Scene: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
C Each failed Tracking attempt on Pursued earlier today: +15 (Difficulty Modifier)
Subject and Pursued have a fairly weak connection: +5 to +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
h Pursued is moving rapidly (Horseback, etc): +15 (Difficulty Mod)
k Accurate to the City (or specific small island): +5 (1 Raise)
k Accurate to the correct part of town: +10 (2 Raises)
k Accurate to the correct building, grove, park, etc: +15 (3 Raises)
k Accurate to the exact spot (room, hidey-hole, concealment, etc): +20 (4 Raises)
You are the Subject/using your own Strands to the Pursued: +15 (3 Raises)

Coins Spread:
Panache + Coins Knack: Difficulty 15
(This is the difficulty to increase the Targets overall income by +10% for one month. In addition, either you must Spend 1 Drama Die or the Target must spend 2 Drama Dice.)
Spread done at Target’s request: -5 (Free Raise)
Each extra Drama Die the target Spends: -5 (Free Raise)
@ At least one failed Sorte attempt on Target in previous Scene this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt on this Target this Scene: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
Target not present at Reading: +15 (Difficulty Modifier)
Target aware and unwilling: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
Eliminating one Drama Die from the Cost: +15 (3 Raises)
Each additional +10% of income you seek to bestow: +5 (Raise)
Each additional Month added to the duration of the bonus: +5 (Raise)
Adding an Exploding Die of Guilders after the % bonus: +5 (Raise) / Die

Cups Spread:
Panache + Cups Knack: Difficulty 15
(This is the difficulty to give a single Charm die to the Target for a month, directed only at the Romantic Interest they specify during the reading. In addition, either you must Spend 2 Drama Dice or the Target must spend 4 Drama Dice.)
Spread done at Target’s request: -5 (Free Raise)
Each extra Drama Die the target Spends: -5 (Free Raise)
Romantic Interest is aware of this “Love Spell” and is unwilling: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
Target aware and unwilling: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
Target not present at Reading: +15 (Difficulty Modifier)
FateWitch has never met the Romantic Interest: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ At least one failed Sorte attempt on Target in this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt on this Target this Scene: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
C At least one failed Sorte attempt on Romantic Interest in this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
C Each failed Sorte attempt on Romantic Interest this Scene: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
Eliminating one Drama Die from the Cost: +15 (3 Raises)
Each additional Charm Die you seek to bestow: +15 (3 Raises)
Each additional Month added to the Charm’s duration: +5 (Raise)

Staves Spread: Adept Level
Panache + Staves Knack: Difficulty 15
(This is the difficulty to increase the Targets reputation by +5 for one month. In addition, either you must Spend 3 Drama Dice or the Target must spend 6 Drama Dice.)
Spread done at Target’s request: -5 (Free Raise)
Each extra Drama Die the target Spends: -5 (Free Raise)
@ At least one failed Sorte attempt on Target in previous Scene this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt on this Target this Scene: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
Target not present at Reading: +15 (Difficulty Modifier)
Target aware and unwilling: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
Eliminating one Drama Die from the Cost: +15 (3 Raises)
Each additional +5 of Reputation you seek to bestow: +5 (Raise)
Each additional Month added to the duration of the bonus: +5 (Raise)

Swords Spread: Adept Level
Panache + Swords Knack: Difficulty 15
(This is the difficulty to gift a Sword with a single Destiny Die. In addition, either you must Spend 4 Drama Dice or the person the Sword is intended for must spend 8 Drama Dice.)
Spread done on a weapon you’ve owned for over a month: -5 (Free Raise)
Each extra Drama Die you or the Sword owner Spends: -5 (Free Raise)
@ At least one failed Swords Spread this Act: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt this Scene: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
Swords’ owner not present at Reading: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
Weapon has been used in at least one Killing/Murder/Death: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
Eliminating one Drama Die from the Cost: +15 (3 Raises)
Each Destiny Die you have already given to any Sword that is still active: +5 (Raise)
Giving a Sword more than one Destiny Die: +5 (Raise) per additional die up to your Swords Rank.

Black Spread: Master Level
Panache + Black Strand Knack: Difficulty 15
(This is the difficulty to increase your own Middle-Aged and Old Categories by 1 year. In addition you must Spend 5 Drama Dice. Once you have entered your Old age category, you can no longer add any years to your Middle-Aged Category.)
Each extra Drama Die you Spend: -5 (Free Raise)
@ At least one failed Sorte attempt this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt this Scene: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
Eliminating one Drama Die from the Cost: +15 (3 Raises)
Each additional year in the Middle-Aged and Old Categories you seek to bestow: +5 (Raise)
Making this stack with previous successes, not merely replace them: +25 (5 Raises)

Arcana Spread: Master Level
Panache + Coins Knack: Difficulty 20
(This is the difficulty to change someones Arcana for 10 Months - 1 Month/Rank of Resolve they have. You must Spend 4 months working on the Tapestry, 50 G on supplies, and 10 Drama Dice. You also must make a Finesse + Weaver roll vs TN 15 to use this Spread. )
Each extra Drama Die you Spend: -5 (Free Raise)
Using Exquisite Materials (100G, not 50G) on the Tapestry: -5 (Free Raise)
Each Quality Raise made on the Finesse + Weaver roll: -5 (Free Raise)
Each failed Sorte attempt on this Target this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
Target aware and unwilling: +20 (Difficulty Modifier)
Used Cheaper (25 G) Materials on the Weaving: +15 (Difficulty Modifier)
Target naturally has 2 Arcana: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
Eliminating one Drama Die from the Cost: +15 (3 Raises)
Each additional Month added to the duration of the effect: +5 (Raise)

The following modifiers & raises may apply to the Finesse + Weaver roll:
Reducing the work time by 1/2: +5 (Raise)
Improved Quality to the Weaving (Grants Free Raise on the Panache + Arcana Roll): +5 (Raise)

Stretching Fate: Adept Level
Finesse + (Suit)/Black Strand Knack: Difficulty 15
(This is the difficulty to increase or decrease someone elses chances of success at an endeavor happening this same turn. It either gives or takes away 1 Unkept Die. You personally can only affect any given action once with this ability, and doing this typically takes 1 action from you.)
Stretch done at Target’s request: -5 (Free Raise)
Taking over a Turn of overt concentration (and actions) to make this single Stretch: -5 (Free Raise)
Action taken in same Phase the witch is doing the stretching: -5 (Free Raise)
Target is aware and unwilling: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ At least one failed Sorte attempt on this Target this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt on this Target during this Scene: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
h Poor line of sight to Target: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
h Target or self moving rapidly/unpredictably (Horseback, carriage, combat, etc): +10 (Difficulty Mod)
Adding (or subtracting) an additional Unkept Die: +10 (2 Raises) per Unkept Die
Adding not to Target’s very next roll, but one later in this turn or next turn: +5 (Raise)
Each additional Turn of delay before the power must either take effect or fizzle: +5 (Raise)
Stretching your own Fate: +15 (3 Raises)

Concerning when and how Fate may be Stretched:
Stretching Coins may affect Gambling, Shopping, Bribery and Scrounging
Stretching Cups may affect attempts at Charm, Seduction or Socializing
Stretching Staves may affect Fashion, Forgery, and any use of Reputation Dice
Stretching Swords may affect Combat rolls and uses of Intimidation or Ridicule
Stretching Black Strands may affect Soak & Damage Rolls, Poison, Falling, Explosions, etc.

Tugging Suit Strands: Adept Level
Finesse + (Suit) Knack: Difficulty 10
(This is the difficulty to cause a minimal increase or decrease in the strength of a Strand. It will add or subtract a single point of Like/Dislike/Usefulness or cause a small change in a personal, romantic, political or business relationship. Such a change lasts for 1 day / Rank you have in the Suit Knack. To use this power, you must first View the Strand in the same turn you are tugging.)
Tug done at request of a Target: -5 each(Free Raise)
Either Target is aware and unwilling: +5 each (Difficulty Modifier)
@ At least one failed Sorte attempt on Primary Target this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt on Primary Target during this Scene: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
C At least one failed Sorte attempt on Secondary Target this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
C Each failed Sorte attempt on Secondary Target during this Scene: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
W Cancelling/Counteracting an Apprentice Witches Tugs: +5 (Diff Mod)
W Cancelling/Counteracting an Adept Witches Tugs: +10 (Diff Mod)
W Cancelling/Counteracting a Master Witches Tugs: +15 (Diff Mod)
Strand being tugged is Strongest strand of either target: +15 (Difficulty Modifier)
Adding (or subtracting) an additional Point: +10 (2 Raises)
Tugging on your own Strands: +15 (3 Raises)
Increasing the duration of the effect: +5 (Raise) to add 1 day / Rank in the Knack
Making the change seem gradual and natural: +5 or more (1 Raise / Point added or subtracted)

Concerning Like, Dislike and Usefulness Ratings:
Tugging a Coins Strand may increase or decrease the Usefulness between two individuals
Tugging a Cups Strand may increase or decrease the Like between two individuals
Tugging a Staves Strand may increase or decrease the Usefulness between two individuals
Tugging a Swords Strand may increase or decrease the Dislike between two individuals

Destroying Strands: Master Level
Resolve + (Suit) Knack: Difficulty 40
(This is the difficulty to Destroy a Strand utterly and completely. You must view the strand in the same turn you destroy it, and one of the two people linked to the Strand must be present.)
Destruction enacted at request of a Target: -5 each(Free Raise)
Either Target is aware and unwilling: +10 each (Difficulty Modifier)
@ At least one failed Sorte attempt on Primary Target this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt on Primary Target during this Scene: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
C At least one failed Sorte attempt on Secondary Target this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
C Each failed Sorte attempt on Secondary Target during this Scene: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
W Destroying a Stand created by an Apprentice Witch: +5 (Diff Mod)
W Destroying a Stand created by an Adept Witch: +10 (Diff Mod)
W Destroying a Stand created by a Master Witch: +15 (Diff Mod)
Strand being Destroyed is Strongest strand of either target: +15 (Difficulty Modifier)
Destroying a Strand to yourself: +15 (3 Raises)
Specifying the result wanted on the effects chart below: +20 (4 Raises)
Isolating the Strand so as to minimize impact upon other relationships: +20 (4 Raises)

Concerning the effects of destroying a Strand:
Destroying Coins Strands could result in financial ruin, the taking of business to a different source, a new method of income supplanting the old, problems with tariffs & customs, etc.
Destroying Cups Strands could result in the spark dying & the excitement going out of a relationship, a political marriage blocking out the possibility for love, passion turning into jealousy, etc
Destroying Staves Strands could result in betrayal, respect turning to envy, awakening to the faults of someone you’d thought infallible, friendship or love replacing a professional relationship, etc.
Destroying Swords Strands could result in anger being forgotten and simply turning to apathy, forgiveness being offered, reluctant acceptance that your rival is superior and destined to win, etc.

Creating Strands: Master Level
Wits + (Suit) Knack: Difficulty 50
(This is the difficulty to Create a completely new Suit Strand tying two people(etc) together. At least one of the two Targets must be present to even attempt this.)
Creation done at request of a Target: -5 each(Free Raise)
Either Target is aware and unwilling: +10 each (Difficulty Modifier)
@ At least one failed Sorte attempt on Primary Target this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt on Primary Target during this Scene: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
C At least one failed Sorte attempt on Secondary Target this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
C Each failed Sorte attempt on Secondary Target during this Scene: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
h Poor line of sight to Target: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
h Target or self moving rapidly/unpredictably (Horseback, carriage, combat, etc): +10 (Difficulty Mod)
Creating a Strand to a specific person, place or thing not currently in this room: +10 (2 Raises)
Creating a Strand to yourself: +15 (3 Raises)
Specifying the result wanted on the effects chart below: +20 (4 Raises)
Isolating the Strand so as to minimize impact upon other relationships: +20 (4 Raises)

Concerning the effects of creating a Strand:
Creating Coins Strands could result in bumbling into a business proposition, two people finding thier demand and supply match perfectly, or one falling into unexpected debt to the other.
Creating Cups Strands could result in love at first sight, fiery lust, or a quick-growing friendship.
Creating Staves Strands could result in instant respect, a change in status and position elevating one above the other, or one merely viewing themselves as inferior to the other.
Creating Swords Strands could result in an unintended offense, a petty arguement grown out of proportion, someone being seen as an obstacle, or even a good-natured rivalry forming.

Playing Arcana:
Adept Level
Finesse + Arcana Knack: Difficulty 20
(This is the difficulty to reclaim a drama die you just spent to activate or cancel someones Virtue/Wiles or Hubris/Flaw. It takes an action to do so, and must be done in the same turn as when you activated thier Arcana. If done, you regain one Drama Die spent on this activation.)
Taking over a Turn of overt concentration (and actions) to Activate the Arcana: -5 (Free Raise)
Target is aware and unwilling: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ At least one failed Sorte attempt on this Target this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt on this Target during this Scene: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
h Poor line of sight to Target: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
h Target or self moving rapidly/unpredictably (Horseback, carriage, combat, etc): +10 (Difficulty Mod)
Each additional die spent due to GM upping the Ante: +10 (2 Raises) but reclaim all dice if succeed.
Playing your own Arcana: +15 (3 Raises)

Shuffling Arcana: Master Level
Resolve + Arcana Knack: Difficulty 20
(This is the difficulty to suppress and prevent activation of an Arcana for the remainder of the scene. To do so, you must Spend 1 Drama Die and make the roll indicated above.)
Taking over a Turn of overt concentration (and actions) to Supress the Arcana: -5 (Free Raise)
Each additional Drama Die you spend on this Supression: +10 (2 Free Raises)
Target is aware and unwilling: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ At least one failed Sorte attempt on this Target this Act: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Sorte attempt on this Target during this Scene: +10 (Difficulty Modifier)
@ Each failed Shuffling attempt on this Target during this Scene: +20 (Difficulty Modifier)
h Poor line of sight to Target: +5 (Difficulty Modifier)
h Target or self moving rapidly/unpredictably (Horseback, carriage, combat, etc): +10 (Difficulty Mod)
Shuffling your own Arcana: +15 (3 Raises)
Shuffling both Arcana (if target has 2) simultaneously: +10 (2 Raises)