A Shadow Across Amber
A Magic and Powers Primer
This is mostly from the Amber diceless rulebook with some basic house rules/modifications. In my version, Sorcery and Conjuration are going to have a little more weight, so I’m increasing the base point cost. I’m also allowing for ‘Partial Powers’ – either something is more taxing/difficult/limited or you haven’t learned all the tricks or …
There are certain powers that could be considered magical. Effective use of nearly all powers are dependent on a user’s driving attributes (typically Psyche and Endurance); many are also fairly taxing to the user. (Even with a strong external source of power, most power use channels those forces through their own body.)
Almost all use of powers require some expenditure of amount of time and effort. (Power Words are the main exception.) Essentially, they all involve overcoming inertia – the greater the change desired, the more time and/or more energy that is required.
Because of this, most Sorcerers prepare spells in advance and ‘rack’ them into a suitable device (scroll, wand, rod, etc.) designed to store spells. Similarly, Conjurers usually take time to create the exact item/creature they want. If they need more immediate effects, they might prepare a potion/salve/dust/etc. that creates a specific effect when consumed/used.
There are exceptions, of course. For example, while in Shadow, a Pattern Initiate might merely need light concentration to cause dice to roll a certain way or to always come up on a light just as it turns green to guarantee fast transit through traffic. (Such manipulations would be impossible within Amber or in certain resistant Shadows that have a higher ‘inertia’.)
Well-known powers include:
Pattern, Trump, Power Words (& Logrus) are strong powers that are deeply connected to ‘reality’ and are in some way fundamentally involved in all of Shadow. These powers actually exist as power sources themselves and do not rely on any other source of energy (although they can be augmented by or integrate with other powers).
Pattern can be used to sense/probe Shadow. It can be used to alter probability and, with motion, to move between Shadows or to seek/alter/manipulate Shadow and objects/creatures/forces within Shadow. Called to mind, Pattern can be used as a defense against other powers. There are other advanced uses of Pattern not readily apparent – some subtle, some more blatant/aggressive.
Only those with the Blood of Amber can access the Pattern; even uninitiated, a child of the Blood has a rudimentary sense of Shadow and can more easily follow Shadow trails or those moving through Shadow than anyone without the Blood.
Trump is a mysterious power often taken for granted. Primarily associated with the ‘Tarot’-like cards, Trumps are most commonly used for communication and transit. Once communication is established, a direct psychic conduit is formed that can be used for attack. Trumps also seem to tap into some sort of precognitive force, allowing for prophetic readings. Although anyone with sufficient concentration and psyche can utilize Trumps, only those with training in some of the underlying concepts can create or manipulate the Trumps to greater effect. (Those initiated into the ‘Art’ appear to closely guard these concepts as “magician’s secrets”, adding to the mystery.)
Power Words use true names of objects, creatures and powers to create short-lived, but powerful, disruptions or bursts of energies. Their effectiveness comes from the conflict against the status quo; used once or twice in a given situation, they can have a substantial effect, but that quickly diminishes as Reality/Shadow/creatures accommodate. Other Power Words are more utilitarian; they are relatively minor ‘shortcuts’ to channel personal or local magical energies in a way that works throughout most of Shadow (such as creating basic light or fire – essentially, cantrips.)
Logrus is almost completely unheard of. There are rumors that an elite few creatures from the other side of reality called ‘Chaos’ manipulate forces on the same level as the Pattern, but little is known of the details. Many survivors of the Patternfall War recall factions of Chaos marching against Amber and the response that led Amber armies to the brink of Chaos. Some of the leaders of the opposing Chaos armies were said to have used Logrus in a few battles, but conflicting reports suggest that what was seen was just very strong, very dark Shadow magics augmented by the Black Road.
Conjuration, Sorcery – These are manipulations of magical energies from various sources to attain some sort of effect – usually the manipulation of Shadow, though with sufficient power and control, these magics can even affect ‘Reality’. All lesser powers require some source of power – sometimes, this is part of the Shadow itself (ley lines, a power nexus or font, etc.), objects (crystals, etc.) that can store/release energy, even creatures. Lacking external sources, casters can cannibalize their own life energies.
Sorcery focuses on the flow, redirection, manipulation and conversion of Magical energies into other forms of energy. This can be local or across Shadow. Common uses include offensive energy projection (fireballs, magic missiles, etc.), defensive energy (shields, absorption of harmful energies including heat/cold resistance, etc.), augmentation/suppression of senses (including probes/tracing across distance and precognitive senses), healing energies, summoning/banishing (retrieval or dismissal of creatures/objects to/from other places), bindings (psychic and physical), wardings, sentries, etc. Ritual uses can create very long-lasting effects, essentially changing the nature of a place.
Conjuration involves the transformation of matter (or of energy into matter) and of imbuing objects and creatures with other powers. Unlike seeking items or beings within Shadow using Pattern, this is a direct crafting – moulding Shadow stuff (or magical energies or blood or whatever) directly into the desired form. This also covers alchemy, potion making, etc.
Unlike the other powers which are largely external manipulations of external energy, ShapeShifting is a wholly personal power. It is the absolute control over ones’ own body, mind and energies. This can be subtle, altering basic appearance for camouflage or disguise. It can be regenerative/healing, helping resist and recover from damage. With advanced training, it can be extreme, dynamically adapting one’s entire being to flow with or reject a given power or environment.
Advanced users with access to multiple Powers can combine/augment them for synergistic effects. For example, a Pattern user with Sorcery could learn to reinforce their spells with Pattern energy, making their spells much more potent and lessening the need for other power sources. Or they could learn to use Sorcery to directly manipulate their mastery of Pattern, allowing them to manipulate or traverse Shadow with much greater skill and speed than a typical Pattern initiate.
Note that this typically involves a greater investment of points in one or more Powers than the base level. Having both Pattern and Sorcery isn’t sufficient to combine them in anything more than basic ways; a person would need Pattern + Pattern Sorcery or Advanced Pattern + Sorcery to leverage those synergies.
Players may choose to add limitations to their mastery of a particular Power to reduce costs. For example, someone with Partial Pattern (20 pts) might have a rudimentary understanding of the Pattern and be able to use some of the standard Pattern abilities such as ShadowWalk or Manipulate Probability but lack others such as Pattern Defense.
Alternately, they may have full mastery of the Power, but at a much increased cost or risk – Partial Pattern (30) might allow all standard Pattern abilities, but completely drain a person when just shifting a few Shadows.
There may be other, less common powers, including ‘custom’ powers. As Shadow is infinite, if there’s something from fiction/film/etc. that you can think of, we can look into building whatever you want.