An Introduction to Partial Powers

The idea of “partial powers” in Amber Diceless Roleplaying is hardly new. It was an early concept when the game was released in the 90s, probably started by someone named Gideon Weinstein. Many Amber players are probably already familiar with this concept. But since it will come up in other pieces I write, I figured I’d lay out the basics. For those of you who have not heard of this, then I hope you enjoy this.

In Amber Diceless as written, powers are expensive. The most common power is Pattern Imprint, which costs 50 of the 100 points you start out with. With it comes a package of abilities that may or may not get used, or you may not need.

And with rules as written, it gets weird if you take some powers during play. One conundrum that came up in past discussions was: if you don’t take Pattern during character creation, but then you walk the Pattern in play, what happens mechanically in relation to advancement? Do you have to pay the full 50 points on the spot? Do you get 50 points of Bad Stuff? Do you have to get 50 points of very slow advancement before you can actually use the Pattern abilities?

And so some people have chunked out pieces of the power into individual abilities. Rather than pay for the whole power, you just pay for the parts you want to actually use. Over the last few decades, because it’s so easy to fiddle with the rules, lots of people have come up with their own costs for the individual portions of the powers. Even Lords of Gossamer and Shadow has partial power breakdowns, called “Talents,” for all of their powers in The Long Walk: Life on the Grand Stair.

Some people will still try to maintain the overall cost of the power, where the abilities under Pattern Imprint, for example, still add up to 50. And, if you want powers from Advanced Pattern Imprint, you need that 50 points worth of Pattern Imprint before you can dabble with the more advanced abilities. This is the approach used in The Long Walk.

Others like to have paths of powers that build up along tracks of specialized abilities, and ignore the split from the book about basic and advanced powers. I find I like a more organic approach to developing abilities to rather than requiring a whole chunk of power before going on to other cool toys.

Not everyone loves partial powers. One criticism I’ve seen is that it overly codifies what you can do with the power. The writer I saw liked the creative freedom you had with the 50-point version, where you could try out gonzo things within the scope of the basic power. I haven’t seen that problem come up in play, as players always try to push the limits of whatever they have. But I figured I’d mention the criticism.

Below are samples of Pattern and Logrus, one version matching the original rules more closely and one using more of a branching method. I’ll do other powers in separate posts, as my versions may require a bit more explanation.

The format for powers has the cost in brackets. Abilities with prerequisites are nested under the prerequisite power. So if you want Hellride, you need Shadow Walk. If you want Item of Desire, you need Shadow of Desire.

Pattern Imprint

Here’s a version that adds up to 50 and has advanced versions of the power taken from Cort Odekirk’s Partial Powers.

PATTERN [50, Amber Psyche, Amber Endurance]

# Requirement: Walk a Pattern

  • [15] Imprint: Walk one of the Elemental Patterns. Activates Blood Curse ability
    • [5] Shadowwalk
      • [5] Hellride/Royal Way/Ride to objects
        • [5] Shadow of Desire
    • [5] Manipulate Probability
    • [5] Summon the Pattern in your mind
      • [5] Pattern Defense (internalized Sign)
      • [5] Pattern Sight (immediate only)

And here is a version of Pattern that I used in Parental Advisory, which does not assume the existence of Advanced Pattern:

Pattern

Requirement: Blood of Amber

  • [0] Imprint (+5 at character creation if you possess an imprint from the Logrus. +1 at character creation if you already possess an imprint from another Pattern.) Requires Blood of Amber.
    • [10] Shadow Walk: Free if you have this from another power.
      • [5] Hellride: Travel through Shadow very quickly.
      • [5] Lead Large Groups: You can drag along armies in your wake.
      • [5] Shadow of Desire: Find a specific resource in Shadow.
        • [5] Item of Desire: Find an item of power in Shadow.
          • [5] Creatures of Desire: Find a creature of power in Shadow.
    • [5] Pattern Defense: Call upon the Pattern to protect you from some supernatural powers.
      • [5] Pattern Sight: Observe magical energies nearby. Sorcerers can rack spells on the Pattern if they have this level of ability.
    • [5] Manipulate Probability: Pull in small resources from nearby Shadows without leaving current Shadow. (“There is a gun in this drawer.”)
      • [5] Mold Local Shadow: Directly modify a specific object or place.

Logrus Mastery

Similarly, here’s a take on Logrus from Cort Odekirk that adds up to 45 and has subsequent Advanced Logrus. He has it broken into two chunks for basic Logrus.

Logrus Novice [25 points for all powers, requires Chaos Endurance, Basic Shapeshift]

  • [15]Imprint – Gained by negotiating the Logrus and recovering from the madness
    • [5] Summon and control Logrus tendrils
      • [5] Hellride/Royal Way/Ride to objects
        • [5] Shadow Travel

Logrus [20 points for all powers, requires all of Logrus Novice]

  • [5]Logrus Vision (immediate only)
  • [5]Logrus Defense (internalized Sign)
  • [10]Tendril Conjuration

And here’s my version from Parental Advisory, which does not have an assumption of Advanced Logrus.

Logrus

Requirement: Blood of Chaos

  • [0] Imprint (+5 at character creation if you possess an imprint from a Pattern). Requires Blood of Chaos.
    • [10] Shadow Walk: Free if you have this from another power.
    • [5] Logrus Sight: Use the Logrus to observe nearby magical energies. Can rack spells on the image of the Logrus.
      • [5] Logrus Defense: Use the power of the Logrus to protect yourself from some magical effects.
      • [5] Logrus Tendrils: Manipulate objects and occult energies using extensions of the Logrus.
        • [5] Logrus Summoning: Use tendrils to bring a mundane object or creature to you.
          • [5] Summon Item of Power: Use tendrils to bring a non-mundane object to you.
            • [5] Summon Creature of Power: Use tendrils to bring a non-mundane creature to you.
          • [5] Summon Primal Chaos: Summon the raw force of Chaos to destroy a local area.
        • [5] Create a Black Road: Create a route through Shadow that others can follow.

Published by bolthy

Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales." He is the author of the young adult superhero book, Kensei and its sequel, The Love of Danger. In his copious spare time he is the co-editor of Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with a herd of cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel. Contact Jeremy at bolthy@gmail.com.

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