A Shadow Across Amber
Use of Obsidian Portal
The Obsidian Portal gaming site has a ton of tools to help manage the campaign, so I’m going to be making heavy use of this site. Among the features:
- Adventure log/blog
- Character pages
- Easy-to-use Wiki for tracking other aspects of the Amber setting
- Secrets – some info can be flagged as secret to the GM or only to certain players
- Calendar – for tracking session meetings
- Forums – for free-form discussion “out of character” such as mechanics or meta-setting conversations
Fraying at the Edges
Random’s steps echo eerily down a shadowy corridor that looks both familiar, yet alien to him. “Have I ever passed this way before?” He pauses, scanning the columns and tarp-covered furniture in the pale moonlight. Dust from the faint breeze of his movement swirls in the shafts leaking in from the windows. He shrugs, moves on.
As he nears the end of the corridor, a low scrabbling in the corner suggests a mouse or other vermin rushing to escape. His eyes track down and see something inky black disappearing into an even blacker hole. Except that it is no hole and no simple rodent…
He tries to move – to get a better look or retreat, he is not certain – but his legs won’t respond. An icy chill settles in as the hole becomes a gap, then a fissure, a chasm. The castle wall begins to disintegrate into nothingness.
“Guards!” he shouts, or tries to, but the words are without substance. He is freezing, but sees no clouds form from his lips. His heart races – Amber, his precious kingdom, is fading around him and he feels the harsh expanse of the Void threatening to end him as well. No longer enclosed in walls, no longer on a mountaintop, even the moon shimmers and ends. With no air to fill his lungs, he struggles to hold onto the faint, fluttering heartbeat – the last trace of himself. Blackness is everything, Silence is all.
His eyes snap open as he hungrily sucks in air. Vialle is holding Random’s head on her lap and though her milky eyes cannot possibly look into his, he is comforted by the certainty she still sees into his soul. “Bad dreams, my love,” she says as she brushes away a shock of sweat-slicked hair. “Nothing but a nightmare run loose in your poor brain. You work too hard.”
Random nods, musters a chuckle, gives her a squeeze. “You’re right. As always…”
But what a nightmare… He struggles to stand and pad over to the sideboard; his hand shaking as he pours water from the pitcher into a glass. “You know – maybe that cruise Llewella promised us isn’t such a bad id…” As he turns to face his wife again, the glass slips from his hand and shatters against the floor. Oblivious to Vialle’s panic or the shards cutting into his feet, he walks over to the mirror above the dressing table. His hair, a robust field of wheat just the day before, was now bone white.
It has been nearly 200 years since Random was coronated. Aside from some minor conflicts, it has been a reign of peace and prosperity. The family has put aside all differences and rallied behind the new King, while strengthening alliances with Rebma and the Golden Circle.
Yet the King grows troubled. He has not been sleeping and his hair has turned shockingly white. A storm is on the horizon and it may take all of the Blood of Amber working together to prevail. Will they be up to it, or will old rivalries and greed for power return?
This is the ‘old’ Amber before the second series. There is still very little knowledge of Chaos or the Logrus, no Ghostwheel or Broken Patterns or any of the concepts introduced in Shadow Knight.
Pattern is still supreme, with Trump, Sorcery and possibly some creatures or artifacts playing a lesser, but important role. People win – or lose – based on their own personal abilities and on the alliances they craft (and betrayals as well – Amberites have long memories and feed hungrily on revenge.)
Combats are personal and often use swords or occasionally guns (where they work). Battles are large and glorious and bloody, but can also be very personal as Amberites can – and often do – take a stand with their fellow soldiers and are more than a match for most troops.
All PCs will be immediate children of Oberon’s children. You will begin in Shadow having no knowledge of your heritage or of Amber. What you do in your home Shadow is up to you – you may be a ruler or powerful mage or just a better-than-average stock broker or film star or nobleman. Your potential will be somewhat apparent to you – you have always been ‘better’ than your peers. However, whether you exploited that for power or kept it hidden (to protect yourself, manipulate things behind the scenes, whatever) is up to you.
Certain powers that are ‘Amber-specific’ such as Pattern Imprint and Trump Artistry cannot be purchased initially, but you can bank points towards them during creation – you don’t have this power when you start out in Shadow, but you have a strong affinity or innate talent and will quickly develop this upon your introduction to Amber. (As always, story is key, so if you have a background reason for starting with something first, let me know.)
We will be using a slight modification of the Amber Diceless RPG; I’m still working out the details. Mechanics
What I can say now:
There may be an auction; there will definitely be Tiered/Ranked attributes; I want the feel of rivalry pervasive through the Corwin series. Points spent on Attributes will relate to an absolute scale instead of being arbitrary and only relative in scope to other ranked family.
Powers such as Trump, Sorcery, Pattern, Shapeshifting and the like, as well as allies, items, pets, etc. will be purchased by points in more or less the manner of the ADRPG.
Aspects will modify Attributes and Powers, showing situational prowess and contributing slightly to advancement
World Building and Bonuses
I have a story arc and some things in the campaign are relatively fixed. However, the concept of Amber lends to a rich, collaborative and varied setting.
To help build this, I encourage everyone to write up Shadows and develop other NPCs – both those that have a direct relationship to their PCs, but also anything that helps flesh out aspects of the Amber setting as a whole. Check with me on the basic concepts before putting much work into it, but as Shadow is infinite, I figure most things will probably work unless the directly conflict with something I’ve got cooked up or some other player’s work.
In exchange, I’ll give small bonuses for artwork, stories, session minutes, etc. that contribute to the richness of the game. These will generally not be reserved for advancement milestones and could be in the form of boons to the PC through either the wish list or GM fiat.
I’m working on a Character Quiz to help flesh out the PCs. In addition, during the Attribute Auction, there will be two phases of Q&A.
“Public Info” Q&A
The first will be a general session where anyone can ask anyone about the campaign or characters; if the answer is general knowledge, we’ll document it in public and put it up on the campaign Wiki.
“Private Info” Quiz
The second will be a quiz and will essentially be homework similar to the Character Quiz. Each player will come up with a list of 10-20 questions for myself or the other players about non-public knowledge; I will pass on the questions of other PCs to the respective player. The answers to these must be completed and turned into me, but are to be revealed only through roleplaying. The goal of this is to ensure we have this background material thought out if and when it comes up; it is collaborative so that you can help drive what is important based on your character’s (or player’s) interests.
If this works out for everyone, we may repeat this once or twice through the campaign as the characters and world evolve.