Vestiges of Chaos
PC Creation Rules
Creating your PC
Creating a PC can be the most interesting part of any RPG; Amber is no exception. I will caution everyone against the traditional PC creation mindset where min-maxing seems necessary and where a player may plan their character’s development over several levels. Amber is different. In Amber, you can do nearly anything. On the other hand, so can the antagonists and other PCs. Let’s talk specifics.
- Every PC has 125 points to spend during character creation. You will spend points on Attributes, Powers, Skills, Stuff, Extras & Contributions.
- There are four Attributes: Psyche, Strength, Endurance, & Warfare. The campaign begins with the Attribute Auction. During the auction, you will bid against each other to see who is the best at what. Bear in mind: your bid is what you spend. You cannot undo a bid – ever; but you can increase your bid. So, lets say you bid 15 points in Psyche and the winning bid was 40 points. Lets say a third person bid 20, and there was a person who did not bid at all. The winner at 40 is ranked 1st in psyche; you would be ranked 3rd. You are worse than 2 people, but better than another person. Easy system. All 4 Attributes are bid on this way in successive auctions. These are OPEN AUCTIONS.
- NB: Your bid is equal to the number of points you spend. If you bid 20 in all 4 auctions, you have spent 80 points and only have 20 left for other things.
- Once the Auction is over, you can RAISE your scores to someone else’s bid secretly. This can be good or bad. First, no one knows how good you are with that attribute (yet); on the other hand, since they bid publicly, they are still just a bit better than you. Using the above example, lets say you increase your bid from 20 to 40 after the auction. The 40 is still rank 1. You are rank 1.5
- Everything after the auction is done secretly, with only the player and the GM knowing what the final result is. You may share your info if you wish.
- You may also “buy down” on any attribute you did not bid on. You reduce your ability even less than the typical Amberite in order to have extra points available to spend on other things.
- They say “Rank hath its privileges.” This is true in Amber as well. Being first in an attribute is a good thing. (More on that under advancement.)
- The powers are printed in the rulebook should be used as guidelines and ideas for what you can do. There are many partial powers (i.e. increments of mastery for basic powers).
- With the exception of Basic powers, you do NOT know what you can advance in until your character is able to advance. What this means is, you as a player will not get any information on Advanced powers until you have mastered the full range of basic abilities for a power. Additionally, when you do master a basic power, you’ll get the next bit of info about an advanced power instead of all of the info about the advanced power. There is good news, however: you can tell me what you want to learn how to do in the course of the game, and gain powers accordingly. “I want to create a dimensional space where I can live, rest, store my things, etc.” Says I: “OK. It’ll take time, but over the course of the campaign, I’ll keep you updated as to what you think you need to do to gain that ability.” [FYI: I just made that up off the top of my head, but it is possible. And tough to do. If you guys get creative, I will always figure out a way to let you do something. Do you have the points to do it is the question…]
- Powers available at the start of the game: Pattern Imprint, Logrus Mastery, Trump Artistry, Shape Shifting, Initiate of Broken Pattern, Adept of Broken Pattern, Power Words, Basic Sorcery, Conjuration. Most powers have partial powers associated with them. The costs of these powers can be reduced (very slightly in some cases) for a decreased use of the power.
- In the rulebook, IGNORE the costs associated with most of the powers. We have already departed from that point. I have written a document describing the partial powers. We will use that instead of the Rulebook for what powers can do and what they cost.
- For each point you spend on Skills, you have 200 skill ranks to assign to skills. These skill ranks may only be used for skills; you may not hold any skill ranks in reserve. So, what skills are there? Well, good news and bad news: there is no list. You decide what is a skill; however, no skill may take the place of an attribute. Thus, there is no “martial arts” skill as martial arts fall under Strength. Skills can be as broad or specific as you like. For example, Dance as a skill is pretty broad, Medicine less broad, and cryptography is pretty specific. Poker, as a skill, is defined. So, lets say you take 30 ranks in Poker and someone else takes 50 ranks in Card games. Well, you might be evenly matched or the Poker player might win. See, they spread their knowledge out on all sorts of games. You only play Poker. So, making a skill as broad as you can is not necessarily a good thing. On the other hand, the person who puts 30 points in Survivalist (or whatever you want to call it) has a good chance of fending for himself in the wilderness. Be as creative as you like here, but be careful about making assumptions.
You can spend anywhere from 1-50 skill ranks on a single skill.
5: amateur. You’ve tried doing this, and you’re still learning.
10: competent. You passed your driving test.
20: adept. You can play the bass guitar for your band at the local club.
30: skilled. Sure, Doc; lets have that appendix out.
40: master. I’ve never seen anyone do marquetry on a coffee table the way you did there.
50: genius. Mike, before you paint that ceiling, let me give you some pointers…
- These skills represent things your character has learned during his lifetime moving through shadow. Thus, the goal here is to tie these skills to the background you write-up.
- You can spend points on personal shadows, allies, artifacts, creatures, & constructs. If you wish to, you can take enemies as well. This will give you additional points to spend. (Example: taking House Vendetta gives you 2 additional points. You now have 127 points to spend, but there is a House in Chaos – my decision as to which – that would surely like to embarrass you or see you dead.) Do not think, by the way, to have your PC hail from Amber and take several enemies in Chaos unless you come up with a damn good backstory to explain it, and even then, I may shoot it down: No freebies.
- Extras are detailed in the same document that details powers.
- NB: PCs who do not take the Pattern Imprint Power who wish to be of the Blood of Amber MUST take the Amber Court Devotee ally (6 pts) and MUST also bid on the Succession. To be a descendant of Oberon, you must either have Pattern Imprint or Amber Court Devotee & a Succession Rank at the start of the campaign. PCs will not be able to walk the Pattern if they do not start with at least one of these. PCs can purchase an Amber Court Devotee later on, but doing so does not enable them to walk the Pattern.
- At the start of the campaign, you can earn up to 5 points for writing a good background. This is due before the first session begins.
- At the start of the campaign, you can earn points for completing the Character Questionnaire. The more detailed your response to the questionnaire will determine you point award. This is due before the first session begins.
- You can earn XP for your PC by taking on a chore. Examples include writing an IC diary, drawing Trumps of other player’s PCs or of NPCs, etc. If someone comes up with a way to digitally record the sessions, then that would also be worth points. These contributions are expected for each session. If you have ideas not listed here, give them to me. Contributions will always be due at least 24 hours before the game session.
- Political Offices exist in this campaign. They are: Lord of the Privy Council, Lord Warden of the Marches, Lord Steward of the Household, Lord Chancellor, Lord High Treasurer, Lord Marshal, and Lord Admiral. These are the high offices.
- This list is not necessarily exclusive; there may be offices and positions not mentioned (which are not up for auction).
- These Offices will be available to PCs in a silent auction. The Winner of this auction chooses his office first, followed by the second place player, etc.
- It is possible that there will be an NPC or two who has “bid” points for an office.
- Birth order and legitimacy will be determined by a combination of two factors: your rank in the Succession and the needs of the story.
- The Succession will be ranked based on the results of a silent auction. Like other auctions, all bids are final. Unlike the other auctions, these bids cannot be altered once the auction is done.
- Birth order and legitimacy are beyond your control. Your bid may make you the eldest and not a bastard (genealogically speaking, of course), but the GM determines NPC attitudes towards your claim to the Throne.
- It is possible that there will be an NPC or two who has “bid” points for the succession.
- When your PC is all done, tally up the points spent on attributes, powers, skills & Extras and the points gained with contributions, Enemies and attribute buy-downs and see what number you hit. A positive number is “Good Stuff”, i.e. good luck. A negative number is “bad stuff”, i.e. bad luck. Each PC is limited to a maximum of 10 points of Stuff (Good or Bad.) “Stuff” represents the random elements of the universe. A PC with bad stuff may be winning a battle, when suddenly their foot hits some pebbles causing them to twist their ankle just a bit. Maybe it will matter, maybe it won’t. The PC with good stuff, maybe he just smiled just right at the diplomat’s daughter. Will her favor help the situation? Who knows? (Even if it doesn’t, it may still mean a lucky night.)
- So you know, you don’t run out of Good Stuff or Bad Stuff. But you can get rid of it (more on this under Advancement.)
- That’s all the mechanics involved in making a PC. It is simultaneously easier and more difficult than other RPGs. All the rest is background, personality, etc. With regards to background, I will willing to help with that; personality is all yours.
Advancing your PC
So, we’re in the game now and you are earning experience. So what? There are no levels after all, so how does experience help? You spend experience to increase attributes, gain and improve powers, gain and improve extras, gain and improve skills, and decrease bad stuff or increase good stuff. You can also, with approval, give up contributions and enemies (although with the latter, you should expect a story resolution. They don’t just go away.)
After each session, your PC will earn experience points which may be saved or spent to advance your character. Improving basic powers is pretty easy since everyone will have a document detailing the various partial powers. Improving attributes is slightly more complicated as you approve these from rank to rank. Until the auction, those ranks are not known so it’s difficult to provide an example or numbers here. More on this below. Gaining advanced partial powers is the trickiest situation because you may not always know the cost of the power you are trying to gain.
How does that work since you don’t know the cost of the advanced power? Well, you tell me, “I am taking this partial power. I am willing to get x amount of Bad Stuff/spend my x points of Good Stuff to get it.”
I do allow for what I call “instant advancement”. At anytime during a session, you can say, “give me this power NOW”. If you have the points available, the advancement/ability is there. You get the ability without deciding about good stuff/bad stuff (i.e, you can’t say, give me the ability so long as my stuff stays positive. That’d be too nice.) This could be life saving. Example: “Its an emergency. I call the image to mind of that place where we were, and I try to create a Trump contact with it.” Me, “Unfortunately, you’ve never built a Trump in your mind before. While it seems possible, you aren’t sure how to do it.” You: “If it’s possible, I want to do it.” I consult my notes and see that you are a few points shy, so I give you the power and your 1 point of good stuff turns into 1 point of bad stuff, and I say, “Well, you begin visualizing yourself drawing the Trump, investing forces into the image in your mind. As you do, the image becomes real. You believe you could move yourself there through an act of will. By the way, your pursuers are drawing near. What do you do?” It is important to note that you still have to meet any pre-requisites for gaining a power in this manner.
What about attributes and rank? Well, if you are ranked FIRST, I will let you know when people are trying to pass you (but not which person is trying to pass you). You will have the opportunity to spend points to match that person in order to keep your top spot. Only the person in the top spot has this privilege. Additionally, once play begins, you cannot move more than one rank in an attribute per game session (if a game session represents a prolonged period of time, exceptions can be made). Thus, if you are fourth, you cannot spend enough to vault yourself into second.
Finally, there are some ways to advance and gain powers without paying the immediate cost. It’s risky. One can try to Walk the Pattern, Negotiate the Logrus, Attune to the Jewel of Judgment, etc. Doing these things requires a “down-payment” of sorts.
First, you must have x number of stuff/advancement points to spend. I won’t tell you how much or the split I am looking for. I will say now that if you don’t have enough, you will die. I will not tell you that you will die before you walk the Pattern, etc. as it may cloud your decision (after all, it is up to you to realize that my hint, “you are kind of exhausted; walking the Pattern right now could easily be fatal” is worth listening to). This is my solemn promise to you: to give each and every one of you the opportunity to kill your PC.
Assuming you survive, the “balance” will be gained as negative advancement points. You cannot gain any advancement or Stuff until you have fully paid for the power. Additionally, the various abilities associated with the power will be gained incrementally. Partial powers will not be gained until paid for.
I cannot strongly emphasize enough how bad PC death is in Amber. First of all, it is final. No Raise Dead, no Resurrection, no Reincarnation. A dead PC is now a prop, same as a chair, a shelf, or a bush (although with less liveliness than the bush.) That said, do your best not to die.
Ways to avoid dying: Try to avoid fatal blows (gunshot to the head, severing certain portions of the spinal cord, Cardiac Arrest spells, duels with Benedict, etc.) In fact, try to avoid Mortal wounds as well (these are the kinds that cause death if there is not immediate medical attention. Even then, well, bad things happen.) So, how does one avoid these things? Well, if you are fighting an unknown opponent, don’t launch an all-out attack. If they’re much better than you, you’ve just committed suicide (unless he’s a really nice guy). In fistfights, don’t get into a grab/grapple/wrestling match if the other guy is stronger, cuz if he is and he gets his hands on your neck… well, I’m told the crunching sound is not pleasant. In psychic battles, don’t get mindlocked. Then the other guy owns you. Finally, if possible, avoid explosions.
The best way to avoid getting killed is to always be ready to run away. It may seem ignoble, but discretion truly is the better part of valor.
Those of you who know me know that I will occasionally & intentionally give you a situation beyond your capabilities. It is up to you to judge when you are in that situation and react accordingly. I suggest you err on the side of caution. Remember, talking yourself out of a situation is usually a less fatal solution than a direct frontal assault. Frontal assaults get people blinded and thrown in a dungeon (if they’re lucky).
What happens when a PC dies, well hopefully, the other PCs mourn that character. Of course, if you had it coming, they might not. Let’s assume it was something stupid the PC did (like standing at ground zero when a missile is approaching). So you’re dead, and you want to play some more.
We will, of course, make up a new PC. That PC will have 125 points to spend, same as every starting PC. Please note: 125 points, the same as every starting PC. You will not have any advancement points; don’t even ask. Other PCs may be in the 200 point range; yours will be starting from scratch.
Once created, I will try to figure out how to work that PC into the story. It may take some time. Its hard to say what it will be until it happens. I’d much rather it doesn’t happen, but I figure it could at some point.
All of the above are the basics for our Amber Diceless Role-playing game Campaign. I do suggest you all try to find time to read the rulebook and the expansion Shadow Knight book, but if you don’t you’ll be fine. (The books have a few neat ideas in them.)