"COR's" System of Amber Mechanics
This work is an effort to create a set of game mechanics which are both easier to use and more in tune with the 'feel' of the Chronicles of Amber, by Roger Zelazny, than those rules presented in the Amber Dice-less Role-playing rule book from Phage Press. It uses ideas and structures presented in the efficient gaming system entitled FUDGE.
In this system, players are allowed to create any kind of character their GM allows. There are no set limits, although individual GM's can set up their own constraints on levels of ability. All that needs to be done is for the player to choose their Powers, Skills, Extras and any Faults; and then assign a rating to their Attributes and Skills. Ratings are divided into seven levels, and use descriptors rather than numbers. They are, from worst to best: Terrible, Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good, Great, and Superb. For those who wish to relate this to the original system from Phage Press; Fair is roughly equivalent to Amber Rank, Mediocre to Chaos Rank, and Terrible to Human Rank; while rankings above Amber include Good through Superb. The trait level of "Legendary," one step above Superb, is usually restricted to specific individuals and in certain areas; such as Benedict in the area of warfare and Gerard in the area of Strength.
This system uses six attributes which cover the physical and mental abilities which all creatures have to some extent. Because of the nature of this genre, attributes relating to intelligence, appearance, and social concerns are ignored. Players must role-play these things.
Psychic Strength - This is the amount of force one can put behind applications of power and mental feats.
Psychic Resistance - This is the psychic equivalent of Toughness; how much resistance one has against Psychic Strength.
Perception - Perception is an indicator of the character's ability to notice things and their discernment of details.
Strength - Strength covers lifting capacity, unarmed damage potential, and the amount of pressure that can be applied to an object.
Toughness - Toughness measures an individual's innate resistance to physical damage.
Endurance - Endurance involves stamina, speed of healing, and personal reserves of energy.
Quickness - This involves how quickly one can physically react to a given situation.
Agility - Agility covers one's gross dexterity.
Coordination - Coordination covers one's manual dexterity.
ALLIES: An ally is any individual or creature with personal ties to the character. In the case of individuals, this could be family kinship, friendship, or a political alliance. In the case of creatures, this being would be a pet or companion of some kind.
ARTIFACTS: An Artifact is any object that contains Power of some kind. By taking this Perk, the character is linking the object to their personal mystique, and they can regain the object if it is lost or stolen by simply moving through or manipulating Shadow. The only real examples of this from Zelazny's books would be Grayswandir, Julian's Armor, Frakir, and Mandor's Steel Spheres.
SHADOWS: This indicates a Shadow, or region of Shadow, which the character has claimed as their own. They have a vested interest in what goes on within the Shadow, and should have personal feelings about any problems which arise within. Players can design the basics of the Shadow's makeup and peoples, as well as the nature of the Shadow. This includes methods of gaining access, Powers which do and do not work within the Shadow, and the amount of control the Character has over the Shadow. However, in order to truly control the Shadow, the they must possess some form of Power which will allow such. This could be Shadow Manipulation, some kind of personal Construct, or an Artifact. Regardless of the source, the character must have the skill to use the power. Because the Shadow is well known to the character, the skill to control it would likely be greater than their skill at manipulating Shadow in general.
CONSTRUCTS: Constructs have up to three components; one or more Shadows of operation, a possible Artifact manifestation, and a level of intelligence and Psychic potential. Virtually every construct has at least one Shadow of operation, a Shadow where its main structure or power source is located. If an Artifact Manifestation is created for the Construct, then its power can be extended into Shadows outside of its normal operational area.
OTHER: Other Perks can include Rank, Luck, and Status.
Faults are characteristics which are detrimental to some aspect of a character, be they psychological limitations, external forces, or general circumstances. They include such things as Enemies, Making Bad First Impressions, Being Unlucky, No potential for a certain Power, etc.
There are many types of powers. While it is difficult to categorize them, they tend to fall within the following groups: Personal, Impersonal, and Construct.
PERSONAL POWERS: Normal Personal Powers are generally biological abilities of the character, based on racial background. Such powers include Flight, Water-Breathing, Natural Armament, Natural Defenses, and Expanded Senses (such as IR. Vision, Night Vision, Ultrasonic Hearing, etc.). These powers do not normally require a specific skill in order for a character to use them. But there are also other, more mystical, Personal Powers which do require skills. They include Invisibility, Becoming Non-corporeal, ShadowWalking, Shadow Molding, Psionics, Shape Shifting and other Mystic Abilities.
IMPERSONAL POWERS: These powers typically involve the manipulation of energy through some sort of artistic or pseudo-scientific means. Such powers include Magic and Trump.
CONSTRUCT POWERS: These powers involve some kind of initiation into a powerful construct, such as Pattern or Logrus. These Constructs are rarely, if ever, 'owned' by PC's.
Power alone is often not enough. One must develop certain skills in order to use their powers efficiently. Each type of power generally has its own set of skills. Established and well-known powers have a variety of core skills which most people know about, but individuals can develop interesting twists on the uses of their power(s). The core skills for well established powers will be described later in this work.
[OPTIONAL: Characters can have specialties within the bounds of a particular skill. They can have a number of specialties up to the level of their skill (Terrible =1; Superb = 7), and they can take a specific specialty multiple times. For example, a certain character has a Melee Weapons skill of 'Great.' This character can have up to six areas of specialty, such as Triple Swords, Double Axes, and Staff. Also, the character can list deficiencies, areas under a main skill with which they are unfamiliar. Each deficiency can only be taken once, and increases the number of specialties the character can take by one.]
Fading: This 'skill' is actually a measure of one's ability to become invisible. It governs the quality and range of senses one can deceive.
Phasing: This 'skill' is actually a measure of one's ability to become non-corporeal. It determines the quality and nature of those materials with which the character is out of phase.
Shadow Walking: Without true power backing it, moving through Shadow is somewhat limited. Skill in this area basically deals with the issue of how safe such Shadow-walks will be.
Shadow Molding: This skill does not allow for true manipulation of Shadow, but it can be used for a number of interesting affects. This power allows one to alter the nature of inanimate objects and non-sentient life. The level of this power determines the scope of the changes able to be induced in an object or creature.
PERSONAL POWERS - PSIONICS
Clairsentience: Clairsentience is basically the ability to perceive things beyond the scope of normal human senses. Sub-skills include Clairvoy/audience, Psychometry, Astral Sight, and Enhancing Normal Senses.
Psychokinesis: Simply put, this skill gives one the power of Mind over Matter. Greater skill increases the scope of the power; both in the Macroscopic world and the Microscopic world. Sub-skills include Telekinesis, Electrokinesis, Audiokinesis, and Photokinesis.
Psychoportation: This power allows one to physically transport themselves and their belongings from one place to another; without passing through the space in between. At higher levels of skill, this power can be used on external objects, willing participants, and eventually unwilling individuals. Sub-skills include Teleport Self, Teleport Object, Teleport Others, and Combat Teleport.
Telepathy: This power governs one's abilities in mind-to-mind communication. Increased skill broadens the scope of one's understanding and increases the distances one can communicate via the mind. Sub-skills include Mental Communication, Mind Control, Mental Illusion, and Battle of Wills.
PERSONAL POWERS - SHAPE SHIFTING
Alter Form: This is the basic skill of all Shape-shifting. It allows one to either make simple cosmetic changes or to grant lycanthropic shape shifting, such as a were-wolf. As one develops this skill, the scope of the changes able to formed increases. At its highest levels, one can even change into creatures that possess innate Mystical Powers. Sub-skills include Appearance, Shape, and Creatures of Power.
Alter Mass: While generally not a part of biological Shape Shifting, the idea of changing one's mass is rather common among the Mystical Shape Shifters such as the Fey. Sub-skills include Increase Mass, Decrease Mass, and Alter Density.
Self-Healing: Also known as regeneration, Self-Healing allows one to close wounds, re-knit muscle and bone, and even re-grow lost body parts through an application of Shape Shifting. Sub-skills include Minor Wounds and Regeneration.
Shape External Objects: On the more mystical side of Shape Shifting, this skill allows one to impose shape shifting on something external to themselves. At its basic level, this allows on to re-form a small quantity of their own blood into living creatures. Greater skill increases both the scope of what can be shaped and the degree of control over such alterations. Sub-skills include Creatures of Blood and Shape Others
IMPERSONAL POWERS - MAGIC
Sorcery: This is the art of casting spells; of producing an effect via a set formula or procedure. The exact manner of such spell-casting various based on the style and nature of one's magical abilities. Sub-skills can include various schools of magic, such as Mental, Transformation, Summoning, Illusion, etc.
Conjuration: This is the art of creating something out of nothing or of enchanting an object or being in some manner. Sub-skills include Creating, Enchanting, and Compelling.
Warding: This skill involves a special type of Magic; one involved in enchanting areas and setting up independent fields of energy which have some logic to their effects and activation. Sub-skills include Protection, Contingency, and Triggered.
Magic Manipulation: This skill represents a more fundamental understanding of Magic, and allows one to manipulate existing enchantments and the flow of magical energies. Sub-skills include Drain, Dissipate, Absorb, and Alter.
IMPERSONAL POWERS - TRUMP
Artifacts: This skill involves the crafting of items with inherent Trump abilities. At its basic level, it allows one to craft simple devices such as Trump Cards. At higher levels it allows for the construction of Trump Gates, Traps, Jamming devices, and so on. Sub-skills include Cards, Traps, and Gates.
Contact: This skill allows one to communicate with other individuals via Trump, just as if they possessed a card (or other artifact) of the person being contacted. Higher levels of skill increase the subtlety and control of such contacts. Sub-skills include Memory and Spying.
Transportation: This skill allows one to transport from one location to another, just as if they were stepping through a Trump connection established through an artifact. Greater skill increases the scope of locations one can transport between and the speed at which one can establish a gateway. Sub-skills include Memory and Scrying.
CONSTRUCT POWERS - PATTERN
Shadow Movement: This skill allows one to travel through Shadow. At various levels it provides standard Shadow Walking, Hellriding, the Royal Way, and other basic methods of travel. Greater skill decreases the dangers and shortens the amount of Shadow one must pass through during such travel. Sub-skills include Hellriding, Shadow Walking, the Royal Way, and Opening the Way.
Shadow Manipulation: This ability determines the scope and subtlety involved in altering the nature of Shadow. Levels of ability in this area range from simple changes in probability to full scale alterations of Shadow worlds. Sub-skills include Probability and Shadow Features.
Shadow Sight: Shadow Sight covers a number of areas. It allows on to 'read' fluctuations in Shadow to glean useful information about general happenings and trends. It enables one to perceive the use of Shadow Manipulation and can even be used to sense motion through Shadow in nearby areas. It can also give one the ability to gauge the levels of reality in an area, as well as the focus of such energies. Sub-skills include Detect Order, Detect Chaos, Detect Trump, Detect Magic, Detect Substance, etc.
CONSTRUCT POWERS - LOGRUS
Tendrils: This extremely useful skill allows one to manifest extensions of the Logrus. These extensions can be used in a great variety of ways. Sub-skills include Combat, Manipulation, and Shield/Force Field.
Summoning: This skill allows one to reach out into Shadow and to bring back virtually any desired object. Greater skill decreases the time it takes and increases the scope of such summoning. Sub-skills include Items, Creatures, Logrus Servants, and Primal Chaos.
Shadow Sight: Basically provides the same abilities as Pattern-based Shadow Sight. Sub-skills include Detect Order, Detect Chaos, Detect Trump, Detect Magic, Detect Substance, etc.
If desired, the player can list other skills in which their character has experience. The most common such would be Combat and combat-related skills such as Strategy/Tactics, Melee Weapons, Unarmed Fighting, and Ranged Weaponry. Players generally do not have to give levels for their non-combat skills, since Shadow is infinite and most characters are immortal.
CHARACTER EXAMPLE - Merlin
Psychic Strength - Good
Psychic Resistance - Good
Perception - Good
Strength - Fair
Toughness - Good
Endurance - Great
Quickness - Fair
Agility - Good
Coordination - Good
Powers: Pattern, Logrus, Magic, Trump
Skills: Pattern Shadow Walking - Good(5)
------Pattern Shadow Manipulation - Fair(4)
------Logrus Tendrils - Good(5): Triple Manipulation, Double Combat
------Logrus Shadow Sight - Fair(4): Detect Order, Detect Chaos, Detect Trump, Detect Magic
------Logrus Summoning - Fair(4): Double Items, Creatures, Primal Chaos
------Magic Sorcery - Good(5)
------Magic Warding - Fair(4)
------Magic Conjuration - Fair(4)
------Trump Artifacts - Fair(4)
Perks: Frakir, Personal Trump Deck
The following settings can all fit into just about any Cosmology. Each involves rather simple changes in point of view or basis in the timeline of Amber's history.
1) There had been a few others also, of whom [Corwin] had heard, long before [the Elders], who had not survived. [Guns of Avalon, 93]
In this setting, Oberon is King and Dworkin is his chief advisor (completely sane). The PC's would effectively BE the Elders, with perhaps Benedict as a young child NPC. In this time long past, there may have been casual contact with the Courts of Chaos still; and some event from this time is what created the desire to destroy Amber within some of the Chaosians.
2) [The time IS Patternfall.]
This setting is actually based WITHIN the time frame covered by Corwin's Chronicles. In it, PC's are from either side of the conflict, and have the capacity of changing the outcome.
3) Random's last act after defeating the storm was to join with [Corwin], drawing power from the Jewel, to reach Gerard through his Trump. They are cold once more, the cards, and the Shadows are themselves again. Amber stands. Years have passed since [the Elders] departed it, and many more may elapse before [Corwin] return[s]. [The Courts of Chaos, 141-142]
In this setting, Gerard is effectively a Regent within Amber. The PC's would be playing any children of the Elders or newly discovered children of Oberon or Dworkin. They could also be left over agents from the Courts of Chaos who survived the Chaos Storm. The Storm itself, also called a Wave of Chaos, is still progressing through the Shadowlands, heading for the Courts. It has been slowed by Corwin and latter Random using the Jewel to push aside its effects. Before departing with Oberon's body, Dworkin would have contacted Gerard and given him enough information to rule effectively in the years before the others returned.
4) Who can say what another generation might have been like? [Source unknown.]
This is the standard setting; the Patternfall War has been won, or lost depending on your point of view. There are two potential starting points for this setting; either the time frame begins shortly after Corwin's Chronicles, or it begins shortly after Merlin's Chronicles. PC's can be virtually anything, from Lords of Chaos to forgotten children of Oberon or Dworkin.
5) [What if Brand had won?]
This common setting is based on the assumption that Brand actually won. He either destroyed Corwin's Pattern or conned him more effectively, then destroyed Amber's Pattern and replaced it with his own.
6) ...Another was that [Corwin] had entered the universe of his own creation and never returned…
In this setting, the PC's would be children of Corwin, living within the universe created by his Pattern. Since there is only one source of Chaos, it is possible for some few agents from the Courts to have found their way into this universe. Or perhaps Merlin (or some other agency) was able to create a new Logrus through use of the Jewel, Ghostwheel, the Spikards, or some combination of these.
7) [Other Alternate 'Ambers']
In this version of Amber, the setting is completely dissimilar. The prime consideration here is that the Pattern was originally created by an agency other than Dworkin. While possible versions of this are universes created by Corwin or Brand (or any other descendant of Dworkin), an even more interesting version would be one in which Dworkin didn't even exist, and some other agency created the first Pattern. As a corollary to this, even the Logrus and the Courts of Chaos might be different. One such reality involves the polar domains of Stygia and Chroma, a multiverse designed to go along with this manual.
OPTIONAL RULES - Advanced Power Skill groupings
Shape Shifting: Chameleon Effects(Requires Great Alter Form), Gaseous State(Requires Superb Alter Form), Creature of Power Abilities(Requires Superb Alter Form and skill with new Mystic abilities). Creature of Power abilities include Shadow Movement, Shadow Manipulation, Shadow Sight
Psionics: Fading(Requires Superb Psychokinesis), Astral State(Requires Superb Psychoportation), Dimension Shifting(Requires Superb Psychoportation and Great Psychokinesis), Shadow Manipulation(Requires Superb Psychokinesis), Shadow Sight(Requires Great Clairsentience), Psycho-metabolism(Requires Superb Psychokinesis), Molecular Control(Requires Superb Psychokinesis), Healing(Requires Great Psychokinesis), Imprinting Artifacts(Requires Superb Psychokinesis and Great Telepathy)
Magic: Great Magic Skill can allow advanced spells such as Invisibility, Ghostly State, Full Shadow Sight, Polymorphing, and Healing. Superb Magic Skill can allow advanced spells such as Shadow Walking, Shadow Manipulation and Altering Mass.
Pattern: Shadow 'Portation
Logrus: Black Channels, Shadow Warping
THE SHADOWLANDS - Traditional genre dice-less role-playing
If one wishes to use this system within a more traditional genre, such as the high fantasy setting of AD&D or high tech settings such as Star Wars, certain modifications must be made, and certain restrictions and limits created. Of course, such limits are dependent on the nature of the individual campaign.
ATTRIBUTES: The attributes are the same as for a standard Amber campaign; Psychic Strength/ Psychic Resistance/Perception, Strength/Toughness/Endurance, and Quickness/Agility/Coordination.
POWERS: Powers are limited to Personal and Impersonal Powers; and the Impersonal Powers are usually limited to Magic alone; although "Access to Advanced Technology" could conceivably be another.
SKILLS: Those skills which govern these powers are still valid, but other skills must also be included. Non-Combat skills are out of place in an Amber campaign; where a character could be centuries old. However, in more traditional genre's, skill plays an important part. Exact lists of skills are dependent on the nature of the campaign, but typically include the following categories: Sciences, Professions, Physical, and General Knowledge. Examples of each type of skill type follow...
SCIENCES: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, etc.
PROFESSIONS: Doctor, Engineer, Teacher, etc.
PHYSICAL: Climbing, Lock Picking, Jumping, etc.
GENERAL KNOWLEDGE: Area Knowledge, Lore, History, etc.
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