Shadow in Storm
Although there isn’t much change to the attributes from what is set out in the Amber DRPG rulebook, I still thought I’d go over just what each attribute does or does not entail so as to be clear.
The average (and starting) rank for any of the four stats is Amber rank. This represents zero. At the start of the game, you’re given a certain number of points (for this game, 100) to divide between stats and powers, which are covered later. The more points invested in a stat, the stronger the character is in that particular area. You can have negative points, but only to certain ranks; ‘Chaos’ rank (-10) and ‘Human’ rank (-25).
One thing worth noting is that I will be working out the attributes based on a numerical scale, rather than the way the official rules suggest. As such, a conflict between someone with 30 points in an attribute and someone else with 31 points in the same attribute will be close, rather than the person with 31 points outright winning due to their being ranked as simply ‘better’. By the same virtue, the Elder Amberites and stronger figures in the Courts of Chaos, although initially more powerful, will not be impregnable. You will be able to get your attributes to be stronger than theirs; however, until then it is wise to tread carefully.
Psyche governs two things in this game: your magical/psychic ability, and the strength of your will. Anyone with Chaos rank or higher is capable of magic and psychic feats. Without training to focus your ability, the range and scope of such things are very small. Basically, Chaos rank requires physical (skin to skin) contact to sense any enchantments, or to initiate mind-to-mind contact. Amber rank lets you do it with close eye contact and some fierce concentration. As your rank increases, you can increase the distance between you and your subject, but it costs in power. The closer you are, the more of your Psyche you can bring to bear in mental combat.
Mind-to-mind combat needs to be initiated either by one of the methods above, or by something else that gives you a link to the mind of the target. This can be a Trump, a spell, or anything else that establishes mental contact. Just making contact is non-intrusive, so using a Mind Touch micro-spell as a targeting component in a spell is fine. When you start mental combat, however, the target is usually immobilized, quite often has seizures, and may be damaged, depending on how strong their mind is compared to yours, their Endurance, how gentle you are, and what you’re doing to them. Unless you are very, very good, attacks on the mind (correct terminology: mind-rape) are not so subtle.
Strength governs three things: actual physical strength, your unarmed fighting ability, and resistance to physical damage. Physical strength is pretty self-explanatory. Unarmed fighting ability includes both ability and knowledge of different styles and tricks. Resistance to physical damage is produced by the layer of hard muscle that high Strength gives you, which offers some natural protection against physical blows.
Warfare governs your skill with weapons, your tactical and strategic ability, your military leadership skills, and, to a lesser degree, your reaction time. Any combat that uses a weapon uses Warfare, as does any game that deals with a simulation of combat. Leading and training troops is also managed through Warfare. Your reaction time, as regards imminent threat of danger, is based on comparing your Warfare with the Warfare rating of the threat.
Warfare does not include: political manipulation ability, stealth or spy networks. Neither does it have any bearing at all upon battles of the mind, although it can be a factor in strength-battles or endurance contests.
Endurance governs how long you can keep exerting yourself, and how quickly you heal. Anyone with Chaos rank or better in Endurance can regenerate, and the higher the rank, the faster the bits grow back. At Amber rank and above, you’re pretty much immune to normal bacteria, viruses, and poisons, although especially virulent, magical, or engineered ones still pose a danger.
Karma (Good Stuff/Bad Stuff)
Although it isn’t technically considered a stat as the four main stats are, I still thought it would be appropriate to include Good Stuff and Bad Stuff here. You determine your ‘Karma’ stat, as I’ll call it for convenience, by simply checking how many points you have at the end of character creation. If it’s a positive value, you have positive karma; the same goes for negative values and negative karma.
So what does this do, though? Well, first of it will change the way non-player characters within the game will initially react to your character. First impressions are lasting things, and your own first impression is altered by your karma, be it good or bad. Likewise, a character’s karma can alter their standing in the universe as a whole. For example, a Good Stuff character might be occasionally unlucky, constantly getting snubbed and experiencing minor mishaps, but on the whole their life will generally turn out for the better and true misfortune will avoid them. Conversely, a Bad Stuff character can be lucky and charming, but their life will be a constant struggle. Zero Stuff characters must face their own destiny and make of it what they can with only will and skill.
Note that this can take some strange twists. Benedict is a prime Bad Stuff character. Yes, he wins every battle, none of his siblings will dispute with him if they can help it and when he speaks, people obey. On the other hand, his skill and experience put him distant from every other being in the universe. The only time people come to him is when they want his support for some campaign or undertaking. The one time he opened himself to another, it cost him his arm and netted him several generations of progeny he’ll never meet, culminating in a great-granddaughter who hates what he loves most: Amber. In short, Benedict is cursed, though it only becomes apparent in the overall course of his life. Day to day, you’d never know it.
Conversely, there’s Random. You wouldn’t want his day-to-day problems, that’s for sure. Power struggles, trade agreements, military decisions, and more. A footloose wanderer saddled with more responsibility than any ten regular people. And yet, look at him. From a prison sentence he gained a wonderful, loving wife. He is slowly, if awkwardly, building a relationship with his estranged son. He rules Amber under a unity far stronger than any seen in centuries. He has gained poise, maturity, and character. In short, he has an abundance of Good Stuff. It doesn’t protect him from life’s vicissitudes, but things tend to work out for the best.
Corwin sort of vacillates back and forth across the Zero Stuff line. He starts out in Nine Princes with a little Good Stuff, helping to escape his confinement, fake out his siblings, regain his memory and start his offensive. However, he is overmatched and is captured. Then he blows himself into Bad Stuff territory with his curse against Eric and Amber. He is blinded and imprisoned. He suffers for years. Then he shifts back into Good Stuff and Dworkin finds him and helps him to escape. And so forth. Corwin sort of averages out to a Zero Stuff character, blown by the winds of fate but able to chart his own course.
In a similar way, you will find that the overall course of your character’s life can be altered by their karma stat. As such, plan how many points you will have left over depending on the character you plan to play, rather than simply taking Good Stuff for the benefits that can be provided. After all, even a character who has bad stuff can charm somebody; but it’s the charm of the rascal and the rake, not the noble knight. Think mad, bad, and dangerous to know. A character’s karma is a perfect opportunity for you to define who they really are.