April 27, 2004

TToD Weir

Weir in the campaign have a culture very much like the Vikings in desperate times. For unknown reasons lycanthropy became fairly contaigious in Weirmonken and as a result they've destroyed all the regular civilizations and are eating their way through all the people and useful game animals. Amber forces led by Eric stopped them cold during their big breakout four centuries ago, then cut all the shadow paths leading out of Weirmonken.

Viking-types from a collapsed culture aren't nearly as useful as the Prussian-type Weir of Cry Havoc. On the other hand they really, really, really don't want to get deported... or killed. Weir without jobs are booted out of Amber City. (Actually, all foreigners need permission to reside in Amber. Proof of employment by Amber subjects, student visas, tourist visas, registered trade factors or diplomats, etc.) All the royal guardsmen and those of the Watch who haven't pawned them have silvered weapons, more for Black Road creatures than Weir, but they have them. Weir lycanthropy is not contaigious near Amber. Eric's Weir signed on with Gerard and Thera was their commander until Julian came back. Keeping them in line involved the odd killing and regular asskickings.

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April 25, 2004

TToD A note from Baroness Saithryn ap-Morgwyn to Lord Andre:

My Lord Andre,

Another possibility concerning your double occured to me some hours after we parted. If the fellow was a fairly good match to start, and was killed before being altered, a gnomos trained to sculpt flesh could have done the work in perhaps a third of an hour. Hopefully such is the case as it indicates that your foe is merely a very competent mage and not someone with Trumps.

S. ap-Morgwyn

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TTOD: the first journal!

The Journals of Andre

A Letter to His Highness, King Maximilian of Skyguard

Greetings Your Most Gracious Majesty,

I have the unpleasant task of informing His Majesty of a recent kidnapping attempt upon his august ambassador to the court of Amber. Late last night I was returning to the compound in Amber City after a long day attending to His Majesty’s affairs for the upcoming festival. Upon reaching the compound, I was set upon by at least four individuals with criminal intent. My loyal bodyguard and valet were able to assist me in slaying my attackers. At first, it was my belief that they had intended to assassinate me, but evidence uncovered the following morning has made plain that kidnapping was the intent.
Certain aspects of the attack led me to believe some use of sorcery was involved. Given my limited knowledge of such things, I have approached a Rebman House with a mission resident in Amber. I thought it prudent to hire experts to examine the evidence and possibly assist with future countermeasures. The cost was moderate given the circumstances and I have enclosed an itemized Bill of Lading for those commodities used to purchase said magical assistance.

On a more pleasant note, preparations for the festival are going well. I am confident that our showcase will result in increased trade for Your Majesty’s coffers in the near future. If possible, I shall also parley my forced arrangement with the Rebman house into more trade with the court of Rebma. Although textiles may not be in great demand there, perhaps Your Majesty’s jewelers may find an eager market for their wares. I shall investigate and report upon the possibilities.

May the Sky protect your glorious reign

Lord Andre


A Notation in Andre’s Journal


1. My days of living at ease in Amber appear to be drawing to an unexpected close. I have apparently made an enemy … one who I suspect wants me alive for some unseen purpose. My ill-fated body double in the freezer was obviously meant to make it appear I am dead so that my disappearance would not be pursued. What do they know? The relative ineffectiveness of the attack itself leads me to believe they underestimated me. Given the scrying that apparently was taking place, they will not make that mistake on the next attempt. I shall have to vary my routine and possibly my residence as well. A pity this is happening so close to the festival. Now I shall be unable to enjoy myself at all and I was so looking forward to a new paramour or two.

I shall need to make a list of tasks to undertake for my protection:

1. Hire a more skilled bodyguard. Gaston did well, but now the enemy has his gauge and will make adjustments. Perhaps I can find an ex-royal guardsman or a ranger for hire. A Weir might do.
2. Retain a sorceror or two. This will be more difficult as they are typically too full of themselves to hire out for menial tasks. As an alternative, perhaps I should undertake the study of magic myself.
3. Establish a contact in the local underworld. I need to find out who is hiring thugs and why.
4. Learn the Lizard-Man shape for future impersonations. I have saved a finger to help with the template, but I will need some time to master it. Perhaps a trip into shadow will be in order.
5. I will need friends in high places here. Although it has been against my prior policy, I may need to approach and befriend some of the royal family. Preferably the less perceptive, younger ones.
6. I need to establish an alternate residence in secret. That will require untraceable funds, which means a jaunt into shadow for ready cash.
7. Somehow, some way I need to get my hands on a place-trump for quick escapes. More help from the Rebmans perhaps?

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Elementals in TTOD

Elementals are spirits with strong elemental affinities, wearing shells of their element. Im using the traditional terms (gnome, sylph, salamander and undine) plus equivalents: earthkin, airkin, firekin and waterkin. There are other sorts of elementals too, like umbrakin (darkness).

The vast majority of elementals are weak and deeply stupid. Conjuration enables you to enhance their intelligence, vitality and so on. Saithryn ap-Morgwyn's elementals are trained for specific purposes. The earthkin are mostly used to analyze the composition of goods, the firekin for offense and light, waterkin for analyzing liquids or for movement underwater. Were one to be destroyed it would take her considerable time to train a new one. In Rebma, trained earthkin are commonly used for metallurgy, glassmaking and the like.

Elemental shells and their bindings are mildly vulnerable to Pattern disruption. Their minds are seldom strong (no conjuror wants to make them too hard to control) so they can be destroyed with Psychic attacks; touching an elemental's shell constitutes psychic contact.

The emanations of the Pattern of Amber (and that of Rebma, but less so) tend to wear at the conjured bindings and enhancements on elementals, so conjurors keep them safe in items most of the time.
:: Trimmer : 11:58 AM [+] ::
...
TToD note:
This version of Rebma owes a lot to Arref Mak's version for A Grand Affair, and the ap-Morgwyn sisters to the ap Morelwyns, all due to my admiration for his character Passel ap Morelwyn.

The Welsh and French naming convention for Rebma is straight out of the novels: Llewella, Lir (OK, Irish), Moire, Moins. Rebman royals have French names, mostly French words, and nobles have Welsh ones, more or less.

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TToD PCs

TYLER
Nautical and swashbuckling son of Deirdre, raised in Shadow. Aided Amber and Gerard during the aftermath of the Pattern's repair. Looks like Edward Norton. Deirdre looks like Jennifer Connelly but more athletic. First Mate of his ship is Aristotle. His Hellmaid woman-at-arms is Liz/Lizvatchkraldatoom. Player: Derek Bassett.

THERA
Ranger colonel and daughter of Julian. Raised in Arden. Aided Amber and Gerard during the aftermath of the Pattern's repair. Her lover is the Ranger lieutenant Bloom. Player: Sable.

ANDRE
Doesn't know his parents. Raised in the Golden Circle and taken up by Oberon, trained by him in Pattern and Shapeshifting and placed in the service of King Valder III of Shadow Skyguard shortly before disappearing. Diplomatic envoy and commercial agent to Amber where he makes useful contacts and attempts to find out what his intended mission was, whether or not Oberon is actually dead, etc. Player: John Barnes.

JADE
Rebman daughter of Llewella. Player: Noel Chandler.

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TRUMPS IN TTOD

New copies of Dworkin decks used to show up every few decades, and numbers of Trumps of new family members would show up when they reached adulthood. Whether Dworkin did this on Oberon’s request or as a kindness is unknown. He doesn’t do it any more. Random requested that everyone pool his or her extra decks. Each acknowledged new family member got a Dworkin deck one way or another but none of you have extras and even Random’s supply is severely limited.

Fiona, Llewella, Florimel and Merlin are known to be Trump Artists, all but Merlin trained by Dworkin. Brand was one. Bleys might be one. Fiona is usually very busy with some important project, Llewella is Rebma’s only Trump maker and Merlin is nearly always in Corwin’s realm of Argent. Florimel reluctantly stepped forward at Benedict’s behest. Being the King’s Trump Artist has worked out well for Flora. She is less vulnerable to pressure from her brothers and sisters and has finagled the best suite/studio space on the third floor of the castle for herself. Flora no longer has to pretend to travel the slow way; she Trumps between the castle, her townhouse, her homes on the Shadow Earth, etc. as she pleases. Florimel will make Trumps for family members but, outside of the occasional gift, she wants something in return. Trumps take her several hours of intensive work and some drain of arcane energies to make.

Dworkin’s Trumps are unnaturally durable. They can be cut or torn (with a great deal of effort) but are highly resistant to normal wear, heat, cold, electricity, magic and so on. Flora’s and Fiona’s are several times more resistant than the media used to make them and are laminated in very tough, transparent material but they are much easier to destroy. Dworkin’s Trumps are extremely detailed and easier to use than Flora’s ordinary Trumps. Flora can produce similar results if she spends several days with a loupe and very small brushes. [“Easier to use”: Ordinary people can use Dworkin’s Trumps or Flora’s specials with effort and training. Flora’s normals require Chaos Psyche to use. Dworkin’s Trumps and Flora’s specials have greater range; they can be used to contact people in the Courts or in Argent, with effort. Doing so with Flora's ordinary Trumps takes very high Psyche and a lot of effort.]

All of Dworkin’s Trumps of a particular person are identical. Flora’s are each unique; she hates painting the same pose over and over. Fiona, Llewella and Merlin say they don’t know how to duplicate Trumps either.

Flora, following Random’s orders, won’t make Trumps of Amber Castle or the City without royal approval.

The Dworkin deck Trump of the Castle’s main hallway is of a spot watched at all time by elite royal guards with ballistae and crossbows from murder-holes. Non-royals appearing in the spot must shout out a password or be killed. Royals who are hard to recognize had better shout out the password too.

There are some Trump Artists in Chaos.

Forcing Trump contacts.
1 If the target is not actively resisting, the caller needs a strong Psyche advantage.
2 If the target resists, the caller needs a tremendous advantage.
3 If the target is using a power to help resist, the caller needs a tremendous advantage over the target’s Psyche + the power. If the power isn’t already in use then bringing the power online involves a period of not actively resisting.

Fighting Psychic battles via Trumps
1 Trump Artists have a big advantage both offensively and defensively.
2 If the person attacked is using a Power with defensive aspects when attacked, he can defend with Psyche + Power.

What Trumps do you have?
Acknowledged royals have:
One Dworkin deck with the entry hall of Amber Castle, King Random, Benedict, Eric, Corwin, Deirdre, Caine, Fiona, Bleys, Brand, Llewella, Florimel, Julian and Gerard.
Flora-made ‘standard’ (inferior to Dworkin’s) Trumps of the other acknowledged royals (most or all of the PCs, depending on backstory) including Martin but not Merlin or Melisandre and two Trumps of yourself.

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THIS THING OF DARKNESS CHARGEN

POINTS FOR AMBERITES = 125 + FREE (25 pt) BASIC PATTERN
(Everyone should be of the blood of Amber… but if you have a great idea for
something else, talk to me.)

ATTRIBUTES

Psyche: willpower for psychic battles or power use; NOT = intelligence
Strength: muscle power, impact resistance, unarmed combat skill
Endurance: stamina and healing
Warfare: use of weapons, armies, strategy, and military judgment

You aren’t actually expert at everything your Attributes may technically
cover. If you have no naval military experience, you aren’t a good captain or
admiral. If you haven’t led troops much, you aren’t that good at it. You can
train up awfully fast though.

Some conflicts use mixed Attributes:
Psychic combat = Psy + .5War
Power vs. Power is usually Power + Psy + .5War
Unarmed is Str + .5War
Melee is War + .5Str
Ranged is straight Warfare
Strategy is Warfare + .5Psy
Combat with knives or other short, handheld weapons can be considered either
Melee or Unarmed; the weapons are too short to keep punching and kicking out of
the equation.

Scaling of Attributes:
Warfare, Psyche & the skill part of Strength:
Human = untrained
Chaos = well-trained, veteran, an experienced sergeant
Amber = expert, a good US Army Major
10 = world class, a good US Army General, Jackie Chan (for real)
20 = action movie hero, George S. Patton
40 = virtuoso, Sun Tzu, Jackie Chan (in the movies)
80 = clearly superhuman
160 = superior superhuman
Lifting capacity for Strength is linear. One may casually lift 200 lbs at Chaos
Str, 300 at Amber, + 10 lbs per point above Amber.

QUIRKS
Some things aren’t covered by Attributes or Powers. These are 1, 2 or 4-point
Quirks, depending on how useful they are. Flora has Beauty (2) and Style (1).
Caine has Panache (1). Corwin is a Balladeer (1). Random is a Musician (1). All
the elders have considerable medical experience, but a great doctor would have
it as a Quirk. An experienced pickpocket or stage magician might have Sleight of Hand (2-4).

PERSONAL SHADOWS
There is no Control, there are no Barriers. 1 point defines it and special
qualities may make it worth a point or two more.

ALLIES
1-pointers: Allies in Amber or Rebma, notables in Shadow (wizards, heroes,
kings), monsters.
2 points: Court Ally in Amber or Rebma. Who is it?
3 points: Known Ally in Amber or Rebma.
Devotees? You don’t need no stinking Devotees.

STUFF
Limited to no more than 5 points, positive or negative.

BANKED POINTS
“I’ve been studying Trump…”

POWERS
Minimum Max starting Power max possible
25 55 Pattern 100; more if you’re Dworkin
20 45 Trump Artistry 80
20 45 Shapeshifting 80
5 15 Sorcery 15
10 20 Conjuration 20
10 15 Power Words ?
After the minimum buy-in powers are bought up in 5-point increments.

Broken Patterns don’t exist. Logrus may exist but in a modified form.
Haven’t decided. There are a number of Shadow Power Sources in the 10 to 20
point range, and various kinds of limited shapeshifters: lycanthropes,
doppelgangers and the like.

Major Powers work nearly everywhere. Magic is less reliable.

Items and Creatures should fit the genre. Note that you can’t necessarily
recover a damaged or destroyed item easily. Replacements for non-unique items are usually possible, from easy (buying a Spell Rack item in Rebma) to time consuming (dealing with the master smiths of Dvergheim to make you a new set of plate armor).

PATTERN
Each 25-point grouping of Pattern breaks down into Shadowshifting (10) and
Probability, P. Defense and P. Senses at 5 points each.

25 points:
Simple shadowshifting. No hellriding, no walking to intangibles like time flow
or a hot music scene.

Simple Probability manipulation, nothing too unlikely. You can alter the weather
this way, slowly.

Pattern Defense, a sort of energy sink that grounds out hostile magical or other
Power attacks, it possible but takes your full concentration. Your combat
abilities drop to Chaos, or Human if you start from Chaos level.

Pattern Senses: passively sense strong Pattern use in the area; with
concentration, widen the area a lot or sense subtler uses.

50 points:
Corwin-level shadowshifting. Hellride, shadows of desire, faster or slower
shadows (not too fast or slow, a 5:1 difference is damned rare on the Amber side of the cosmos); send people or things through Shadow along known routes. You can create or destroy simple Shadow Paths (for transshadow commerce, etc.) with great effort.

More complicated Probability control.

Pattern Defense drops your combat abilities to Amber, or Chaos if you start at
Amber.

Pattern Senses extend to use of other powers, range and or sensitivity increase.

55-100
Sectional costs (Sensing, Probability, etc.) double.
Scary Fiona tricks. Individual tricks cost 5 points each. Gerard and Julian have definitely bought up expertise in making Shadow Paths, for instance.

TRUMP
Note that Trump Artists are artists. Un-artistic types cannot learn it. This
doesn’t limit your outlook otherwise. Many Samurai appreciated beauty.
Renaissance princes often painted and sculpted as well as making war and
politics.

20
Sense active Trumps in your immediate area, or identify Trumps by touch.
Trump Defense: much like Pattern Defense (drops your combat abilities to Chaos or Human) but you need a Trump in your hand to do it.
Identify people trying to contact you by Trump by touching a Trump of them. No
Trump, no ID. Make Trumps on site in about 2 days of continuous work.

40
Sense active Trumps over a considerable area.
Trump Defense still requires a card, drops combat abilities to Amber or Chaos.
Identify callers by memory. Make Trumps in about 6 hours from memory.

80
Trump Gates, faster Trump making, spying…

SHAPESHIFTING
Shapeshifting is more of a mix’n’match power. Shapeshifting is organic. You
can’t become steel, or a gas, or flame. Not without dying, anyway. Once
you’ve assumed a form you tend to stay that way, with certain exceptions.

20
Pick 4 of:
-SS Wounds – allows you to seal wounds fast (like good first aid) and let’s
you add your points in Shapeshifting to your Endurance for the purpose of
regenerating.
-SS Parts
-Automatic SS – fast adaptation to environmental extremes
-SS to Animal Forms
-Combat Form (demonform) – fangs, claws, armor
-SS Surface Features – takes constant effort
But Primal Form is free. You lose control of your character and may not get him
back for months, if at all, but it’s free.

After you master all these 6 abilities (30 points worth) you can move on. Pick
from:
-SS Aura
-SS Disguise – no ongoing effort required
-SS Animal Abilities – the instincts that go with animal parts
-SS Internal Structures – includes the ability to trance out and regenerate
fast; also the prereq for:
-SS Creatures of Blood – little spies, brain worms, assassin bugs; the prereq
for:
-SS Others – shove a Blood Creature into them and change or heal them

And when you have all of those (60 points), there are the 10-pointers:
-SS to Creatures of Power
-Permanent Empowerment – turn people into lesser shapeshifters, like
werewolves

MAGIC
Doesn’t travel across Shadow very well. Spells and bindings come undone
without constant, tricky attention. Unless you’ve spent points on them or
stored your spells in a bought rack, that sort of thing.

Note that for really powerful magic, like for really powerful tech, you need the
right tools in the right shadow. Thermonuclear bombs or Fimbulwinter spells,
they don’t work two shadows away.

SORCERY
5
You can do spells, work magic with forces.

+5
You can hang spells in an item for quick use later.

+5
You can quickly adapt to changed magical conditions in different shadows.

CONJURATION
For this game, Conjuration is summoning and binding spirits, not making things
out of air or 'shadow-stuff'. Most empowered items have spirits – elementals,
daemons, ghosts – bound in them. Super-tough armor would have an earth
elemental. A flaming sword would have a fire elemental. Elementals are spirits
wearing bodies made of their element.

5
You can summon and bind spirits to make items or empower creatures with 1-point effects.

10
2-point effects.


15
Add 4-point effects within a theme: fire, air, darkness, ghosts, etc.

20
4-point effects.

POWER WORDS
Most of the ones in the ADRPG are OK. Some, like Resume True Form, aren’t. (An equivalent one that would work would be Change Shape, causing an uncontrolled ripple of shapeshifting in the target.) Benedict likes Power Words and taught a standard 5 to all his students – all the elders and Martin: Negate Magic, Trump Disrupt, Process Snuff, Psyche Defense and Defensive Luck.

10 Buys you 5. +1 each for more.

ITEMS & CREATURES
As a rule, things like Double Vitality are relative to the base creature or
item. A Double Vitality mouse is buff, for a mouse. A Double Vitality elephant
is a nightmare. It would be much easier to find an elemental to bind to a mouse
and double its strength than one capable of buffing up an elephant.

Double and Deadly Damage weapons are weapons with some sort of extra effect: flame, acid, cold etc. Ongoing energetic effects are draining on the bound
elementals; you might want to give them some extra Stamina.

Mass doesn’t change.

Shape changing items and creatures change slower than Shapeshifters.

Armor protects because it is hard. An Invulnerable silk shirt is several times
as hard to damage as the base silk shirt, but gives almost no protection to the
wearer. An Invulnerable (translate: 4x hardness) steel breastplate is kick-ass.

For working out something like a griffin or a dragon, take a base creature, say
a tiger, and add wings (Double Speed or better), armor, breath attack (Deadly
Damage), etc. And then think about how often Random will let you bring that
thing indoors, and how badly Julian wants to turn it into a trophy, and how much
you could improve your Psyche or Warfare or Powers instead.

The family provides superior weapons and armor, the equivalent of Extra Hard or other one-point effects. Superior horses, too: Psychic Resistant, Double
Stamina, one point Combat.

Electronics and annoying magical devices don’t work in Amber; no matter how
many points you spend on them. The jeweler’s rouge gunpowder doesn’t work
there any more either.

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TToD CAMPAIGN BACKGROUND

ONE YEAR AFTER THE RETURN OF THE ARMY SENT TO CHAOS, ONE YEAR INTO THE REIGN OF RANDOM.

Random is King, Vialle is Queen. Llewella is working on becoming Regent of Rebma, but there are problems. Corwin and his son Merlin are off in his new Patternverse.

Due to time dilation, Gerard spent 4 years as Regent in Amber. His reputation is mixed. The repair of the Primal Pattern wiped out or altered much of Shadow. Amber’s network of trade collapsed. Gerard had to use draconian measures to prevent starvation in the City while he forged new Shadow Paths to old and new trade partners with the help of youngers Tyler and Thalia. He saved the City but showed it a ruthless side few outside the fleet had seen.

Queen Moire died protecting Rebma with the shadow-Jewel, leaving a 15 year old daughter who was in no way prepared to rule Rebma. Martin stepped in to aid his young aunt and those Rebmans who had not pissed him off as a Prince, but not Regent – really as pain-in-the-ass mofo who’s the only guy who can make shadow paths for us. He’s tight with the young queen (in an older brother kind of way) and has put off swearing fealty to Random to keep his shit strong in Rebma for her sake. Llewella is having problems because she did swear.

Whatever their reasons for swearing fealty (like, for instance, that he had the Jewel and was the only one who could keep the huge shadowstorm from killing all of them), the family continues to back Random.

Chaos remains a huge bag of mysteries. Most of the family has seen little but the site of Dworkin’s Chaos Trump, the battlefield and a bit of the Courts proper. Chaos looked complicated. Dangerous. Weird. There is a Chaosian Royal Envoy and his suite in Amber, effectively an ambassador though the Chaosites don’t seem to have experience with ambassadors, per se.

Dworkin is almost never seen. He does not supply the family with Trumps any more.

Oberon is still dead.

Random is busy being King, of course.

Osric and Finndo are still dead.

Benedict comes and goes but his support is steady.

Eric is still dead.

Corwin is in another universe.

Deirdre wandered in a year after the others. The Unicorn had saved her but she was a long time healing from the wounds suffered in the Abyss. She has recently taken on Caine’s old job as Admiral of the East.

Caine never got along with Random. They tolerate each other, but not to the extent of Caine retaining his admiralty. He’s gone most of the time. [Rilga was Oberon’s long time mistress from before Faiella’s time. Caine is a legitimized bastard, like Llewella. Oberon married Rilga much later and Julian and Gerard were born legitimate.]

Fiona comes and goes as mysteriously as ever. She helps the king out when asked and is known to be a Trump Artist. Fiona is treated as in the books, as a sharp tongued, often irritating, extremely knowledgeable about occult matters and a Pattern wonk. Nobody wants to get into a mental duel with her via Trump but it’s not like she’s gone around kicking their asses psychically. Maybe she can, but if so she prefers to keep them guessing.

Bleys is extremely unpopular in Amber, what with attacking the City with a huge army and all. He visits occasionally and generally avoids situations where people might throw garbage at him – something that’s highly illegal but has happened once or twice.

Brand is still dead.

Llewella is in Rebma, trying to work things out with the Regency Council..

Florimel splits her time between Amber and her Shadow Earth. She and Random seem to enjoy needling each other. Florimel is the King’s Trump Artist, having stepped forward on Benedict’s advice. She has made Trumps of the newer members of the family for all.

Delwin and Sand may or may not exist.

Julian continues to work on Amber’s landward defenses and trade routes. Arden has changed considerably; he spends much of his time exploring.

Gerard runs the fleet, explores with an eye for trade and is in Amber little more than one month in ten.

Martin is Llewella’s right hand man, a role he’s not entirely comfortable with. He’s also effectively Crown Princess Melisandra’s big brother (though he’s her nephew) and pal.

Merlin is off with Corwin, and nobody but Martin has got to know him anyway.

Crown Princess Melisandra (daughter of Moire and Corwin) is 19 and restless under the Regency Council’s wardship.

Rebma
Rebma is in the same shadow as Amber and the weird pressure negation and breathable water thing is something they maintain. Rebma has its own, smaller, undersea trade network . Magic is common in Rebma and some of it, like the weird breathable water and all, works just fine in Amber.

Tir-na Nog’th
Is even less popular now that Oberon’s ghost prowls its spectral hallways.


The Nobles of Amber
An aristocracy of trade. Something like the British and Dutch East India Companies but with a stronger interest in the long run and less military support from the Crown. The Royals don’t like losing men and ships because some trading House got too greedy.

The City: Amber
Elements of Roman and Andalusian and Renaissance Italian architecture, near-modern plumbing and sewers, an extremely busy and cosmopolitan port, crowded – in many districts the average building height is 3-5 stories, 4 – 5 times the normal human lifespan, art, music and gadgetry from literally everywhere, patriarchy blunted and suborned by the royal ladies and rich noblewomen, a population full of people who’ve traveled widely, the arrogance of a people never conquered and seldom seriously hurt, a cacophony of cults with little power to oppress or to help…

Winterfair and the Festival of Masks
The most elaborate and popular festival in Amber, a week long series of Venetian Carnival-like parades, dances, balls, sporting contests, entertainments and such. Most people go masked and costumed at least part of the time, and while masked the social and class barriers are not in effect. (To a point.) Sexual adventures that take place during Winterfair, at least those between those costumed and incognito, are supposed to be ignored. (To a point.) There are always some murders, a rash of theft and robberies and a lot of disorder but Oberon always considered it a necessary pressure valve. Plus, Oberon enjoyed it and so do most of the royals. ‘Companies’, something like Mardi Gras ‘krewes’, sponsor and run specific events within Winterfair. There are neighborhood Companies, club Companies, temple Companies, etc. Several royals sponsor events or are members of Companies.

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THIS THING OF DARKNESS, SESSION ONE

ANDRE, diplomatic and trade rep for the king of Skyguard, returns to his town house well after dark with a linkboy and a bodyguard to find a double of himself dead a few paces from his doorstep. Two thugs move in from behind and two orchuli lizardmen attack from the walls. Net result: dead lizardmen and thugs, one lightly wounded bodyguard. The double is stashed in the meat locker (a deluxe example of Rebman magical craftsmanship) and the linkboy fetches the Watch. Andre being a respectable businessman and all, and the bodyguard being a known professional, and the guard and the linkboy having been bribed to not mention the double, all goes as well as possible.

A search on the morrow reveals that the lizardmen seem to have dragged the man up one wall and lowered him down the other via grappling hook and rope then killed him. Andre could also detect some faint traces of magic on the roof via Pattern, though no indication of what it had been used for. Modest bribes at the local Watch HQ and morgue get Andre a sample of the odd, octagonal gold pieces all the dead were carrying and a blow-tube of the whitish powder they had been equipped with, two tubes each. Their weapons were otherwise commonplace. The thugs were wanted ex-sailors. The orchuli though, were unusual. No others were in town and no loose lizardmen had been reported – not that scaly assassins were a normal thing in any case. Andre then found traces of the powder on the doubles face and nostrils.

THERA, daughter of Julian and also one of his ranger colonels, is in town getting ready for the Winterfest / Festival of Masks by helping organize an archery competition and by keeping an eye on the Sunset Company’s Bronze Street Dance for her father, a founder of the Sunset Company. (Julian is busy in Deep Arden doing something secret, or personal.) The latter job mostly consists of making appearances and making approving noises. Three days before the Festivals kick off she’s awakened at her town flat by a Ranger HQ messenger. She opens it despite the sleepy protests of her beau Bloom, an accomplished but too-pretty Ranger lieutenant. A terse message received via bird says that a fortified Ranger-allied village has been wiped out. Bloom’s home village of Kir Dahan. Thera makes quick arrangements* (see below) and they ride out. After most of a day’s travel Thera can start Shadowshifting and they arrive at the site after another two hours of hellriding.

Many Rangers are already on site. Only two witness survived, and they were outside Kir Dahan when it was attacked. The net results of the tracking and thorough examination of the village: a small group came in by air and Trumped in about 200- 300 attackers. Some of the attackers were inhumanly large, some left tracks resembling those of tigers. The tigers surrounded the village and killed everyone who fled. All 500 – 600 inhabitants were killed or taken off, mostly killed, and all the attackers’ corpses removed as well.

TYLER, son of Deirdre, is sailing to Amber with his mother. She has finally recovered from her wounds suffered in the Abyss and intends to make a grand entrance in Amber where everyone thinks she’s dead. Tyler feels a Trump call and cautiously accepts; it’s Thera. Thera convinces Tyler to take over her minimal Festival prep duties while she investigates a massacre in Arden. Tyler leaves his mother in his first mate Aristotle’s care, or vice versa, and steps through to Amber. The duties are light and Thera now owes him a favor. He takes the opportunity to arrange for horses and such for mom’s entrance. At the appropriate time Deirdre Trumps him back to the boat and they arrive. Word spreads quickly and by the time they ride up to the Castle’s gates half the family is waiting and more are Trumping in. Gerard takes some of the polish off Deirdre’s choreography by picking her up and hugging her; she puts up with it. Dee sashays up to King Random and drops to one knee, presenting her sword. Homecoming festivities ensue and run far into the night. Deirdre is cagey about what happened to her. Tyler tries to follow her lead while basking in the attention. Eventually the whole family Trumps in, except for Julian. Tyler makes an attempt to convince Merlin that it would be in the latter’s interest to provide Tyler with a Trump of him. Meanwhile, Deirdre mostly keeps Corwin at arm’s length. Martin says he’s tired of dealing with Rebman politics, but Queen Vialle, Llewella and Rebman Queen to be Melisandra call him over to plot.

TYLER and THERA. Tyler Trumps Thera and asks how her mission is going. He then maneuvers Merlin into stepping through with him to help out the investigation. Merlin confirms that the attackers did use a Trump, not a Gate, and not a teleportation circle or device. The Trump ‘em in tactic was little used in the Courts, Merlin said, because House Barimen, with all the Trump Artists in Chaos, kept tight controls on Trumps and tended to avoid military conflict. Corwin, on the other hand, loved the technique and used it all the time in his realm of Argent. Merlin says there’s no difference between Chaos and Amber Trumps. No one can think of a good reason to attack Kir Dahan. The royals Trump back to Amber. Fiona politely corners Tyler and talks the story of Deirdre’s unexpected appearance out of him. She then shows him something in return, saying she’s curious about Deirdre’s opinion: When Tyler tries hard to use Brand’s Trump he eventually gets a vision of an annoyed Unicorn and a stinging end to the contact.

ANDRE visits the townhouse of the ap-Morgwyn sisters, the most prominent Rebman traders – and mages – in Amber. Saithryn ap-Morgwyn, blue of skin and green of hair and quite attractive, strikes a complicated deal involving Skyguard silks, trade discounts and such. Still expensive, but Andre knows the ap-Morgwyns only hire out their magic when something piques their interest -- like a magic-assisted crime against a foreign trader in the City. Saithryn identifies the powder (using a trained gnome from one of her rings) as a soporific drug, dangerous only if the victim was hit with several doses. The same earthkin examined the double’s body from within and declared it to have been magically altered from a general resemblance to Andre to a close match. And someone involved had seen Andre naked too, to judge by the details. The magic on the roof – probed with a variety of magical tools, was probably a scrying spell set on one of the Turret’s stones. Saithryn rated the scrying spell as challenging (in Amber) and probably done with enhanced magic – Pattern or some shadow power source. It was nearly impossible to determine just what in the strong currents of energy constantly pulsing out of the Pattern under the Castle. Saithryn thought that even one of the Amber royals would have been hard pressed to do the double-sculpting in Amber. On the other hand, changing the man out in Shadow and bringing him into Amber was a lot of work too. Andre had such interesting enemies; perhaps he was more important than he was letting on. She uses their parting hand kiss to casually test Andre’s psychic strength, getting nowhere against his mental defense. That gets him a big, interested smile and they part on good terms.

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