Review of The Chronicles of Amber Slots

This is obviously not diceless, but it’s Amber related and I feel like this experience should be shared with others. And you know you’re morbidly curious about this.

What Is It?

Ukrainian game company Murka obtained the rights to make a slot machine game based on The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny, nested within their existing slot machine app Infinity Slots. Of all the things that I would like to see done with the Amber IP, a slot machine game was never on my list. But I couldn’t not check it out.

What’s It Like?

Every time you open the app, you get assailed with five to eight pop-up ads in a row, all related to the slot machine app. Most are about mini-games within the app with a couple for spending money in the app with “limited time” offers to buy coins. If you leave the app to do something else and come back later, you will often get hit with the five to eight pop-up ads again.

Once you get into the app, you don’t get access to The Chronicles of Amber slot machine game right away. It’s in a “VIP Lounge” that you can access with Status Points. You accrue Status Points by playing other (non-VIP) slot machine games or spending money. It took me a few days of playing to get access to the VIP Lounge.

When you finally get access to the game, there are a couple parts to it. You start off in “Shadow.” In other games, you play for coins for the chance to win more coins. In Shadow, you play with coins for the chance to earn blue gems. The game uses imagery cribbed from the Amber books, though some of their choices seem weird. Corwin, Dara, and the Unicorn feature prominently. There’s a big red jewel that I’m assuming is the Jewel of Judgment and Corwin’s silver gloves. But then some of the choices just seem weird, like a giant belt.

One mini-game in Shadow is that if you get a special “dude on horse” icon, you progress along “The Black Road” where you will ultimately win a giant cache of blue gems once you reach Amber.

Once you have enough blue gems, you can switch to playing in “Amber.” (Which should not be confused with the “Amber” you can reach by traveling the Black Road.) The imagery is mostly the same as in Shadow. The background image changes slightly, and you start spending blue gems to win coins instead of the opposite. In Amber, there’s a small mini-game involving getting unicorns to unlock a special unicorn effect every ten spins.

When you get three red Bonus jewels in either Shadow or Amber, you get bonus free spins and maybe some extra coins/gems.

But is it good?

“Beloved relatives,” I told them, “I’ve a confession to make,” and Random’s hand was already on the hilt of his blade. That’s how far we could trust one another. I could already hear his mind clicking: Corwin brought me here to betray me, he was saying to himself.

Roger Zelazny, Nine Princes in Amber

Prior to this game, I’d never played a slot machine game in either an app or a casino. So I have no basis for comparison. And I have no clue what the overlap is between fans of slot machine games and fans of fantasy fiction by an author that’s been dead for 25 years. At least one piece I read about the app did indicate that this was a labor of love, and I can certainly believe that.

What I can say is that the game is intrusive. I’ve counted as many as eight pop up ads in a row just to get into the app. When you’re playing it regularly urges you to share updates on Facebook or to check out one of four or five side-games. I’m no stranger to freemium mobile games, but this one takes its ads to a whole new level. And they are only ads for content within the app. Is this better or worse than other slot machine games? I don’t know. But it’s a lot compared to other mobile games.

Outside of The Chronicles of Amber, many of the slots feature portrayals of people of color that I find problematic. At first I thought I might have misunderstood what they were doing, but the more I’ve played on the app the more troubling I find the portrayals.

The Chronicles of Amber game itself is fun because games of chance are fun. I even sunk a little money early on into the game. (Don’t judge me.) I still play a little bit daily and have had generally good luck, though I suspect that they give infrequent players good luck in order to encourage them to play more (and spend more).

Is this game for you? I mean, you probably already know. If you like slot machines and Amber, then this is probably a great choice for you. If you’re just morbidly curious, then maybe keep walking.

Vitae – A Possible Interpretation of Undershadow

This essay by Cort Odekirk is reprinted with his permission.

I

The Pattern and the Logrus represent Order and Chaos, two opposing forces kept in a precarious balance.  However, we know from references Dara made to Corwin that at least the Courts of Chaos existed before the Pattern. No mention is made of the formation date of the Logrus, but if the Courts existed before the Pattern then it is reasonable to assume that the Logrus did as well.  Perhaps it is this lopsided existence that forced Dworkin to create the Pattern.  In any case, the implication is that both are, relatively speaking, recent additions to the universe.  Given that, we are forced to wonder, what was there before?

Order and Chaos are formative elements, they structure or break down but they do not create or destroy, in simpler terms, they must exist within a medium, but cannot exist as a medium.

So what is the medium they exist within?  One big pointer is the Abyss, a convenient garbage disposal in the backyard of Chaos that seems to effectively destroy whatever is tossed in.  So, we have a force for destruction, it seems only logical given the balance prone nature of Zelazny’s universe that we should also have a force for creation.  There is only one power we have seen that can actually “create”, the Pattern can find, the Logrus summon, Shapeshift mimic, but only Majick can create.

So if Majick is the fourth great force, why is it so weak relative to the others?  In order to understand this we must look at the source.  The Pattern and the Logrus exist as point sources, becoming progressively weaker as one moves away from their central point of generation.  The Abyss does not radiate, it absorbs although we can assume there is probably a backlog of majick on its event horizon, possibly explaining the seeming surplus of sorcerers in the Courts of Chaos.  Majick seems to have no point source, so let us theorize that it is spontaneously generated at all points in the universe, creating not a point source, but a general field.  This field, being spread out, would tend to be weaker than the Logrus and Pattern at their points of concentration, however, would probably be stronger than them at their nadir.

So we now have a universe of four forces.  the Pattern (representing Order), the Logrus (representing Chaos or change), the Abyss (representing Entropy) and Majick (representing Vitae or creation).

II

This leads us again to the same question, what was there before? As it stood before, Vitae (Majick) existed as a medium, being regulated and controlled by Entropy (Abyss).  Into this system we suddenly, and violently, introduce conflicting Order (Pattern) and Chaos (Logrus); structuring and restructuring the otherwise tranquil Vitae into Shadow.

One can only imagine the annoyance of the previous occupants.

Corwin’s experiences as chronicled suggest that Order and Chaos restructure Shadow (Vitae) in waves, concentric rings that spread out from their point source growing gradually weaker the farther away they spread from that point source.   As those waves move through the medium they spread their influence on the Vitae, as we have seen in the rather dramatic example in Corwin’s The Courts of Chaos.  Now most waves coming from the Logrus or Pattern are much smaller, and the local occupants would be quite unaware of their presence.  However, one can assume they would share characteristics in common with the Primal wave, including a spot in the Wavepeak where Vitae is caught in the act of creation, for a moment released from structuralizing influences and reverting to its natural state.

In the Courts of Chaos, Corwin spent only moments in the Vitae, using the Jewel to pass through the Wave and beyond it.  However, what if one were to stay with the Wave, matching one’s movement to the Wavefront?  The interior of the Wave would now become a world; a world moving, but from within this would not be apparent.  Within the Wave would be a world of primal Vitae, bendable to the stronger will and existing until the wave struck the opposing pole of Order or Chaos, something around a week subjective time if Corwin’s primal wave is any example.  In this case Undershadow would be more properly called Betweenshadow, and would provide a perfect malleable world where some, all or none of the standard rules of reality need apply.

But only for around a week.

III

We know that life existed in the Courts before the Pattern/Logrus, but what about elsewhere.  What happened to all the creatures that may have been living in the Vitae before it became Shadow?  One can generally assume most became trees, rocks, unattractive green lounge chairs and other undignified components of the new Shadowlands.  However, what if some were able to resist the organizing forces of the Pattern and the destructuring influences of the Logrus.  They would suddenly find themselves in a new world or worlds, ill fitted to the environment they were suddenly experiencing.  They would have two choices, adapt and learn to live in these new Shadow environments, or seek refuge in the native Vitae existing in the Waves, jumping from Wave to Wave across shadow, always staying one step ahead of the destruction of their temporary home by its impact with the Logrus or Pattern.  These would be an interesting people, resistant to the force of the Pattern or the Logrus by right of prior reality.  They would be able to move through shadow at great speed by riding the Waves but with questionable accuracy and unable to move at all if there were no Waves present.

They would also, in all likelihood, rather resent the Logrus and particularly Dworkin and his Pattern.  One can safely assume that the removal of these influences on their world would present a high priority in their lives, that they would use their unique abilities to spy on the rude reality that had replaced their homeland, plotting its eventual restoration.

VITAE INITIATION

In a sense this could be considered advanced Sorcery or Conjuration.  Under the four part system presented here, Majick has its source in Vitae and so, in a sense, Sorcery, Conjuration and possibly Trump are all Vitae Initiation.

However there is a point at which the initiate stops using aspects of the power and begins to use the power itself.  They must, of course, be familiar with the lesser powers first, so Sorcery is required before study of Vitae Initiation may begin.

VITAE [40, Chaos Psyche, Chaos Endurance]

# Requires: Status as Real, Sorcery

  • [15] Imprint: Sense primal Vitae, feel the waves, use sorcery in all locations
    • [5] Retune Vitae (effectively shadowwalking, no movement)
      • [5] Stormride (Hellride)
        • [5] Shadow of Desire (May contain object of desire)
      • [5] Manipulate Probability
      • [5] Sense & Enter WavePeaks

ADVANCED VITAE [65]

# Requires: VITAE

  • [5] Hasten/Slow Waves
  • [5] Create Form from Primal Vitae
    • [5] Create Shadow Storm
  • [5] Inhibit Sorcery
    • [5] Mold Shadow

Conjuration Simplified

The explanation of Conjuration in Amber Diceless Roleplaying can be a little confusing, so Leslie Lightfoot created a write-up that broke down the rules more simply. It is reprinted below with permission.


Conjuration can be used in one of two different ways –

  • one can either conjure a mundane item or creature from ‘nothingness’ – or –
  • one can empower an already existent natural item or creature with fantastic abilities.

One cannot do both.

1)  Conjuring an Item or Creature –

  • Single-Realm Item or Creature (GM Note – If removed from Realm of creation, a Single-Realm Item or Creature will remain contiguous / functioning for 6 hours after removal)
    1 hour
  • (GM Note – One cannot Conjure an Item or Creature that can travel between Realms permanently.  One must locate an existing Creature or locate / make / build / forge / construct a natural Item, and subsequently empower it to do so.)

2)  Empowering an Item or Creature –

  • Conjured Item or Creature –
    • Single-Realm Item or Creature (GM Note – If removed from Realm of creation, a Single-Realm Item or Creature will remain contiguous / functioning for 6 hours after removal)
      1 minute per point in Qualities
      1 minute per point in Powers
  • (GM Note – One cannot empower a Conjured Item or Creature that can travel between Realms permanently.  One must locate an existing Creature or locate / make / build / forge / construct a natural Item, and subsequently empower it to do so.)
  • Natural Item or Creature –
    Preparing / infusing Item or Creature – ½ hour (required)
    • Single-Realm Empowerment of Item or Creature (GM Note – If removed from Realm of creation, a Single-Realm Item or Creature’s empowerment will last for 6 hours after removal)
      10 minutes per point in Qualities
      1 hour per point in Powers
    • Cross-Realm Empowerment of Item or Creature (GM Note – these are permanent empowerments)
      100 minutes per point in Qualities
      10 hours per point in Powers

The Sacred Artifacts of Chaos

In Knight of Shadows, Zelazny identifies the Jewel of Judgment as the “Left Eye of the Serpent.” In some campaigns I’ve made that literal, where it is something stolen from the Serpent by the Unicorn. But in other campaigns I’ve made it metaphorical, where it’s just one of two powerful jewels known as the Eyes of the Serpent. More recently, I’ve expanded that number slightly: why should there be only two artifacts on par with the Jewel of Judgment? What if there were more?

In recent games I’ve run, I’ve numbered them at eight as a correlation to the eight-rayed star of chaos and expanded beyond just eyes.

  • The Eyes of the Serpent: the Jewel of Judgement and the Jewel of Destiny
  • The Fangs of the Serpent: the Blade of Honor and the Blade of Cunning
  • The Spines of the Serpent: the Staff of Wisdom and the Spear of Might
  • The Hearts of the Serpent: the Cauldron of Mystery and the Chalice of Purity

Obviously these crib heavily from tarot symbolism and mythology. The Blade of Honor is a nod to Excalibur, the Cauldron of Mystery is a nod to Celtic Cauldron of Rebirth.

Usually this ties into my mythology in which the Courts of Chaos were founded by a woman named Lilith, who created the Logrus with the eight artifacts and the assistance of the serpent.

Properties of the Artifacts

The artifacts are each very powerful but they come with some serious risks as well.

Size: Each of the artifacts are capable of being carried in one hand. Only the Jewels are concealable on your person. The others are less easily hidden.

Drain Energy: The artifacts drain the life force of the person wielding it.

Low Profile: The artifacts are immune to magical detection. If you are attuned to the artifact, you can sense its presence nearby and you can even bring it to you with the Logrus. But for others it might as well be mundane. The only exception to this is when the artifact is being actively used, in which case you can tell it is being used.

Warp Shadow: The only safe place to store the artifacts is some place Real. It’s also the most obvious. But when left in Shadow the stuff of Shadow slowly warps around it. The results are always unpredictable and almost never good.

Psyche: It goes without saying that many of the more aggressive abilities of the artifacts require a superior psyche to utilize.

Basic Artifact Attunement [10]

Adjust Stuff of Shadow: You can create simple effects with the artifact: Change the weather, adjust time relative to yourself or others, etc. The more overt the change, the longer it takes to accomplish.

Arcane Sight: You can analyze magical energies with the artifact, just like with the Logrus.

Rack Spells: You can rack spells on the artifact, just like with the Logrus.

Reflexive Shadow Travel: When in danger, the artifact will reflexively transport you to a point of safety.

Advanced Artifact Attunement [25]

Volitional Shadow Travel: You can travel instantaneously from Shadow to Shadow, but it is exhausting.

Draw Upon the Artifact: You can draw energy from the artifact. This can be used to power magical effects, provide a defense against magical attacks and counter the life draining effects of the artifact. The last can only prolong the inevitable, however.

Unique Ability: Each of the artifacts possesses a unique power that can be used by advanced initiates.

  • Jewel of Judgement: You are capable of astral projection. You can leave your body behind, travel through Shadows and possess the bodies of others. You are effectively intangible and unable to physically interact with the world. Powers are more draining and somewhat limited while outside of your body.
  • Jewel of Destiny: With concentration, you can perceive the lines of fate. You can see the bonds that exist between people and their potential. It gives you something of an edge in social maneuvering.
  • Blade of Honor: With concentration, this weapon can render you immune to all physical harm and many magical effects.
  • Blade of Cunning: With concentration, this sword can cut through damn near anything. It further allows doors to be cut between Shadows.
  • Staff of Wisdom: This grants psychic communication, the ability to probe weaker minds and you can consult with the memories of some of the previous users of the staff.
  • Spear of Might: The wielder of this spear can draw upon the spear for physical might and military acumen.
  • Cauldron of Mystery: The cauldron allows one to perceive and control a person’s dreams. Also, an advanced initiate pouring water from the cauldron while focusing on it allows one to temporarily animate the dead.
  • Chalice of Purity: By having someone drink from the chalice while you focus on it, you can heal him or her. This ability also works on you.

Thinking About Combat: Generating/Exploiting Opportunities

Michael Sullivan sent this essay to the Amber Mailing List in 2018. It is reprinted here with his permission.


I’ve been tinkering around with combat systems for the last couple of years, trying to find games that play a little less “roll to hit, roll to damage” than is the norm. Recently, I came across kind of a frame of thinking that I feel may be useful to Amber GMs that are trying to make combat a little less scalar or arbitrary than the default system provides.

(By that I mean: in Amber, you generally have little mechanical ability to differentiate combat characters. Probably most combat comes down to “compare Warfares, plus non-mechanical discussion/negotiation/ruling.” With maybe a little side role for Strength and Endurance and maybe artifacts or something. So this technique that I’m going to describe would be useful for people who want to see a little more of a scenario in which Albert is better than Beatrice in some situations, but worse in other situations, mechanically.)

The technique that we’re talking about here is separating the offensive part of combat into a two-stage process: GENERATING opportunities versus EXPLOITING opportunities. Think here of a feint. There’s one skill where you’re good at selling the feint. Where you convince your opponent to parry where your sword is not. There’s a different skill at then taking advantage of that opening. When your opponent parries where your sword is not, do you run him through, killing him? Or maybe you just wound him. Perhaps just a light scratch. Maybe you don’t manage to make contact with him at all, but you put him on the back foot, forcing him into a more defensive posture.

The ability to generate opportunities is, more or less, the ability to win a combat. If you’re generating opportunities consistently, and your opponent is not, then even if it takes you a while to capitalize on your opportunities, you’ll win. Meanwhile, if you have lots of ability to exploit opportunities, but no ability to generate them, well… you can’t exploit what’s not there.

However, the ability to exploit opportunities is the ability to win a combat QUICKLY. Which also means that it’s the ability to handle lots of lesser opponents successfully. Corwin was able to generate opportunities in his duel with Eric in the beginning of Nine Princes, but before he could turn that potential into an actual win, he was interrupted. And if you’re fighting ten guys, you just don’t get a chance to put one of those guys into a more and more compromised position before you’re finally able to take him out — you’ll get interrupted by a sword to the back.

If you’re mechanically inclined, think of it this way: Suppose that you have three stats for combat: generate, exploit, and defense. Each “round” or time that the GM gives you an opportunity to discuss your actions or whatever, you get a certain amount of “opportunity,” which is an intermediate stage of damage. Depending on the difference between your generate and your opponent’s defense. But you have to build up a certain amount of opportunity, depending on your exploit score, before that “damage” actually turns into real DAMAGE. And if you don’t get to continue to press your opponent, if you have to turn your attention to something else, that opportunity “damage” vanishes into nothing.

This has some knock-on effects. If Albert has generate 5, exploit 8, defense 5, and Beatrice has generate 7, exploit 3, defense 7, then Beatrice probably generally wrecks Albert (assuming like a 1-10 scale and a 2 point difference being significant). But if Beatrice is compromised in some way, maybe already wounded or set up in a bad situation, then Albert is a “give him an inch, he’ll take a mile” guy. If Beatrice is on her game, she wins. But as soon as she’s a little compromised, Albert’s ability to rapidly take an edge and turn it into a win looms large.

In Amber, you might think of Strength’s role as being largely one of Exploit. Strength is no good if your opponent can keep you from every making much contact. But if you CAN get an opportunity, Strength makes it easy to turn that opportunity into a brutal game-winning advantage. Exploit is, don’t get me wrong, generally worse than Generate in one-on-one fights. But if you think of it this way, you can more clearly see opportunities to turn that around.

This also gives you a mode to think about how Endurance plays into combat. Endurance again mitigates the advantage of Generate. If you need to fight for a long time to get the win, that obviously plays into whether we should look at your Endurance versus your opponents’.

You can use this frame formally in the game, giving people actual scores (whether primary attributes or as derived values) in generate/exploit, or just as one of several modes to think about a given fight in. Hopefully it lets you imagine and communicate more interesting fights than you otherwise would.

One Take on The Courts of Chaos

I’ve run a one-shots and campaigns that focused around the Courts of Chaos, and have spent a lot of time puzzling out details from the books and expanding on them in order to provide a more robust setting to play around with. Some of the setting details I’ve also cribbed from Kit Kindred.

It is hard to write about the Courts of Chaos in a way that both evokes the canon and is inclusive. Despite depicting a society of shapeshifters in a place where notions of physics break down, Zelazny’s Courts of Chaos is still patriarchal, heteronormative, and Eurocentric. The titles commonly seen in his Courts of Chaos (lord, lady, prince, princess, duke) do not have well established gender neutral options. Where I can, I will offer options for alternate titles beyond just the standard.

A Brief History of Chaos

According to the Book of the Serpent Hung Upon the Tree of Matter, the progenitor of the Chaos royal blood was a woman named Lilith. Consort to the Serpent, she gave form to Shadow by drawing upon the energies of a node of raw Chaos known as the Pit. The construct she created to accomplish this became known as the Logrus, and she was the first Keeper of the Logrus.

From her unions with the Serpent, many a child was produced. Each was a Noble of Chaos capable of initiating into the Logrus. Each in turn begat their own lineages. These came to be known as the Houses of Chaos. These Houses formed an oligarchy over Chaos, each sharing rule of the land. Thus was born the “Courts” of Chaos.

After countless eons, Houses died or split into new Houses. Their only common tie was their descent from Lilith and the Serpent. It was from a relatively new and insignificant House that treachery was born. A power-mad genius named Dworkin stole potent artifacts from Chaos and fled into deepest untamed Shadow to create his own node of power. This new icon of power was abhorrent to behold, and nearly tore all of existence asunder. Many died in the Shadowstorms wrought by this malignant artifact.

In the ensuing confusion and civil revolt one noble, named Swayvill, rose up and established peace in the Courts of Chaos. The price for this unification was steep. Swayvill made himself King, and exalted the Houses each of his children founded, while marginalizing the others.

Swayvill ruled for thousands of years before the scions of the Betrayer made contact with the Courts. Three of Dworkin’s descendants, claiming to hail from a place called Amber, sought to gain power over the realm that Dworkin had founded. The Houses of Chaos were divided regarding what stance to take with regards to Amber, but Swayvill pushed for an agenda of war. The war turned ugly, and Chaos ultimately lost to the baleful forces of Amber.

Chaos Nobility

“… I heard so much from my father of the succession in Amber, with all its cabals, intrigues, and double crosses, that I almost feel an authority on the subject. I imagine it could be that way here, too, among the Houses of Swayvill’s descendants, there being many more generations involved.”

Roger Zelazny, Prince of Chaos

The Houses of Chaos fall into three general groups, though intermarriage can make the definitions fuzzy around the edges.

Major Houses are those descended from King Swayvill. Most of the Houses mentioned in the Merlin series are Major Houses: Hendrake, Sawall, Jesby, Chanicut and Helgram. In my campaigns the Major Houses are the ones most likely to have a human-like form. Their titles are the top level noble titles: Duke, Duchess, Duchexx, Herzog, Voivode, Emir, Kōshaku, Regal, etc.

Old Houses are those that existed prior to Swayvill’s rise to power. Some that did not curry favor with Swayvill early on received demotions to lesser titles. This is where I add in the more alien Houses, such as House Triton, where they are more divorced from human-seeming forms. Their titles are more reflective of mid-level nobility: Marquess, Earl, Countexx, Landgrave, Hakushaku, Shishaku.

Minor Houses are those founded by decree. They were either founded by younger members of existing Houses who earned special attention or else were established by prominent gentry or demons. Many do not have any connection to Lilith, and hence are unable to walk the Logrus. Some Minor Houses try to arrange marriages with scions of Major and Old Houses to gain that power. Their titles tend towards the low end of noble titles with the occasional knights in the mix: Baron, Baronexx, Graf, Danshaku.

Geography

At the far end of existence is a roiling node of Chaos called the Pit. It is a constant cycle of creation and destruction. Near to the Pit is the Core, a rock of Reality within which the Logrus is housed. Atop the Core are also many of the central buildings of the Courts of Chaos: the Thelbane, the Cathedral of the Serpent, the Plaza at the End of the World.

Attached to the Core are the Ways, the patchwork web of Shadow fragments that form the homes of the Nobles of Chaos. Only the Major Houses have their Ways connected to the Core. The rest of the Ways of Chaos are connected by “common Ways” which belong to no particular House and also house the unaffiliated common folk of the Courts of Chaos.

A Most Foul and Unnatural Murder

David Golden has been kind enough to share his game notes for some of his past campaigns. Today I’m highlighting his murder mystery. Download now.


Original Description from ACNW:

Event Title: “A Most Foul and Unnatural Murder”
Players: 4-8 (6 preferred or I’ll need another GM)

Type of event: FF,CR

Description:
The first anniversary of the reign of King Random the First is upon us. What are the odds that it passes peacefully? Has Random’s luck has run out? Can you save the day or are you, in fact, the villain? Trust no one and watch your back… it’s party time in Amber.

Character restrictions:
There will be a blitz-auction to start. Characters based on 150 points. Must be related to Amber (Chaos also OK). Must have a reason to want Random dead — the more sordid and twisted the better. 10 point bonus for discussing character background with GM prior to the con. See web-page for rules on powers and items and more.

Download files.

Time, Space, and Judgment: An Origin Myth

In my last campaign, I had an idea for the origin of the universe, partially inspired by Jenna K. Moran’s work on Exalted: Fair Folk. I never found a direct use for it in the game, but I thought I’d share it here. 

In the Beginning

The idea starts with the universe as nothing. Maybe it was a roiling ball of chaos. Maybe it was just non-existence. No one was there to report on it. But something shifted. Time and Space gained independent existence, embodied by two entities. Suddenly events happened in a sequence and could occur in different locations. The absence of time and space was congealed down into a single object which ultimately would become the Jewel of Judgment. 

As Time and Space grew in power and awareness, they generated new entities by dividing the universe further into what it is and what it isn’t. As they culled away “what it isn’t,” some of that was layered onto the Jewel of Judgment and some was embodied in similar objects. These entities included things like Change, Form, Reflection, and others. And they became known by names like Serpent, Unicorn, Chameleon, Owl, and so forth. 

These entities in turn experimented with shaping existence further, creating realms and races in new ways. Shadow was born of this, but so were realms like Undershadow and the Shroud. The realms were not necessarily called such then. These are just the names that remain. 

Using in Your Game

The problem with big picture cosmology is that it’s not always useful to actual play. So here are some things that you an do with this.

  • The Early Kingdoms: A whole campaign could be built around the early days of existence, a patchwork of small universe-kingdoms, each ruled over by an individual god. Players could be the ruling family over one of these universe-kingdoms, or they could be the gods themselves.
  • Visiting Other Realms: The Merlin series and the short stories introduce places like the Shroud and Undershadow. Rather than weird anomalies, these could be potent realms in and of themselves still ruled over the first gods. They touch upon Shadow but are their own thing. This could even be a way to have crossovers with other multiverse settings like Lords of Gossamer & Shadow or Wizard101.
  • When the Stars are Right: Possibly overlapping with the ideas of other realms, it could be that the other gods are sealed away. The spikards, for example, are noted to draw upon sources of power like the “blood of the beast on the pole” and the “shell that is cracked at the center of the world.” It could be that these gods were sealed away by the creators of the spikards in order to power their artifacts. A “visionary” could even take it upon themselves to release these gods. The plot of the game could be to stop the return or to deal with the aftermath of such a return.
  • Shattered Judgment: What happens if the Jewel of Judgment is broken or destroyed? If it is crystallized anti-concepts, does time become disjointed? Does space become meaningless? What other anti-concepts might wreak havoc with existence?
  • Easter Eggs: Not everything has to be a plot device. Sometimes it just makes interesting color to find a fragment realm outside of Shadow or a bound primordial god. Some players will just ignore it, some will fixate on it as though they’ve found The Secret Plot, but it adds depth to a setting.

The Bright Pattern: A Take on Elemental Patterns

A popular concept early on was the notion of mapping the Patterns to the four classical elements, with the question of “what became of the Fire Pattern?” Below is Cort Odekirk’s take on the topic, reprinted with his permission.

Continue reading “The Bright Pattern: A Take on Elemental Patterns”

Review of the Rebma Sourcebook

“The archway loomed ahead, perhaps two hundred feet distant. Big, shining like alabaster, and carved with Tritons, sea nymphs, mermaids, and dolphins, it was.”

Roger Zelazny, Nine Princes in Amber

When Phage Press still spoke of publishing sourcebooks for Amber Diceless Roleplaying, Jason Durall produced As Above, So Below: The Rebma Sourcebook. Art had been commissioned, the manuscript was finished, the author was paid, but for an assortment of reasons the book never saw the light of day. Jason Durall wrote up an explanation of Rebma‘s fate in the back of Lords of Gossamer & Shadow and a bigger explanation on TheRPGSite. A PDF of the manuscript has circled around, passed hand to hand, granting a glimpse into what could have been. (Google shows that there’s currently a copy of the PDF posted on TheTrove.net.)

For those who have never had the honor of seeing this apocryphal sourcebook, here’s a review and summary.

I’ll state right up front that I’ve always loved this book. I’ve stolen from it liberally for my own campaigns, tweaking and modifying it for my own purposes. There are some valid criticisms of it, which I’ll go into later, but I want to state my bias right up front.

Continue reading “Review of the Rebma Sourcebook”