Amber Diceless RPG, Sample Characters II

   To continue with a special request for some Amber Diceless RPG material, since we had a couple of Lords of Chaos in the last entry, here are a couple of starting-level Lords of Amber.

   Sabre, Lord of Amber

   Sabre is probably the youngest pattern master ever, a result of a freakish coincidence. His mother walked the pattern while pregnant, although she was not aware of it at the time. Given the rarity of both pregnancy and walking the pattern among amberites, perhaps it is not surprising that this never happened before. Unlike most amberites, he has grown up in castle amber, since he tends to wander off into shadow otherwise. He still manages to get away sometimes… He is small, blonde, green-eyed, and usually wears soft, loose, clothing. He is fond of outings to (lively) shadows.

   Sabre is only about eight years old, still so young that he believes that he will find friends everywhere he goes, that someone will always be around to protect him from anything nasty, and that a fascinating secret hideout full of friends, pirates, outlaws, rebels, etc who will accept him instantly and supply his wants, is around the nearest corner. The trouble is that linking this innocent faith with the power of pattern tends to make it true.

   Of course, given the Amber characteristic scale, this small boy is already tougher, and has a stronger mind, than any human who has ever lived – and can match the strongest men, best fighters, and most expert tacticians, who have ever lived. Even without his allies and special devices.

  • Psyche; Amber (0), Warfare; Chaos (-10), Strength; Chaos (-10), and Endurance Amber (0).
  • Pattern Imprint (50)
  • Amber Court Devotee (6)
  • Family Friend (2)
  • Light Sabre: Just like that movie he went to see, this nifty gadget does “Deadly Damage” (4 points).
  • Junior Jedi Secret Decoder Ring: As long as he has this, he can wield the “force” at will. “Able to Mold Shadow Reality” and “Transfer Power”, 14 points total.
  • Shelters: Defensible buildings or other shelters, as is appropriate to the locale. “Resistant to Normal Weapons” (IE, much tougher then normal buildings), and “Ubiquitous in Shadow”, for a total cost of 6 points.
  • Protectors: These are the people found in each, and every, shelter. They are invariably well equipped for the local conditions, and for taking care of a child and his pets. They always include some nice, affectionate, adults, a playmate or two, and a few competent defenders to keep nasty things away. “Combat Reflexes” (for the locally appropriate weaponry) and “Well-Equipped” (IE, with weapons, armor, supplies, etc as necessary, a new and unusual modifier, 1 point). They are “Cross-Shadow Enviormental” (IE, Every shelter comes complete with a “Named and Numbered” set of inhabitants) – for a total cost of 15 points.
  • Pets: A “named and numbered” assortment of things which follow him around affectionately. The exact list varies constantly, but all of them have the following; “Double Vitality and Stamina”, “Combat Reflexes”, “Extra Hard” natural weapons, “Able to Speak and Sing”, “Psychic Resistance”, and “Resistance to Normal Weapons”. Total; 20 points.
  • Termal is one of his favorite places, a world of adventure perfectly designed to suit a small child. Oddly enough, no matter how long he spends there, he’s always back in time for dinner (Personal Shadow, 1, with Control of Time Flow, 2).

   Total: 100 Points – 10 (Character Sketches) = 90 Points with 10 points of “Good Stuff”.


   Wrath, Outcast of Amber

  • Strength 5, Psyche 25, Endurance 8, Warfare 10
  • Power Words (19): Nightmare Visions, Object Reading, Pain Attack, Resume True Form, Transformation, Soulsight, Soulfire Bolt, Fireshaping, Psychic Defense, Logrus Negation, Opening, Weaken Material, Pyrokinesis, and Repulsion.
  • The Tenth Circle – A Primal Plane (4) – a personalized hell-dimension for punishing evildoers – with Control of the Contents (2), Barriers and Guardians (4), and Control of Time Flow (2).
  • A Motorcycle with Engine Speed (4), Double Damage (2), Alternate Form (Intangible, 1), Regeneration (4), Mold Shadow Stuff (allows it to make impossible maneuvers, run over water, etc, 1), Remote Control (1), Shadow Seek (4), and Invulnerability (4).
  • A Chain with Double Damage (2), Psychic Kinetic Control (2), and Invulnerability (4).
  • Arm Bracers which have and Bestow (5) Resistance to Firearms (2).
  • Disadvantages: Flies into frenzied rages, compulsively drags people off to private hell, obviously insane (-10)

   Total: 115 – 10 (Disadvantages) = 105, leaving Wrath with five points of Bad Stuff.

   Wrath is quite mad. Obsessed with avenging the innocent, a bit maniac-depressive, arrogant, and lacking all sense of porportion he somehow manages to maintain a perilous equilibrium. While he’s never really sane, he never quite loses it totally… Overall he gives the impression of a borderline psychotic, functional – but not by much. He often drags off “evildoers” to his own private hell, treating them to a few thousand years of torment in the space of a few hours. He never seems to realize that this results in quivering, shrieking madmen, rather then in reforming them. Wrath’s definitely a lord of amber, but was apparently fathered by either Eric or Brand, hence he has no court devotee. He very well may not have had one to begin with, he’s just not very lovable somehow – even absurdly indulgent parents may not be able to stand a child with his own personal hell. Wraths main weapons are his (seemingly) endless chain and his motorcycle. The chain is sensitive to, and controlled by, his psyche rather then by his strength, while the motorcycle has flaming wheels. Overall Wrath looks exactly like Marvel Comic’s Ghost Rider – displaying an astounding lack of creativity on the part of the original player. Unfortunately, Ghost Rider is far more rational then Wrath, as many shadow- dwellers have had the misfortune to discover.

Amber Diceless RPG – Sample Characters

   Today, due to a special request, we have a few starting-level characters for the Amber Diceless RPG:

   Malinbert The Inept, Of Chaos

  • Strength;16, Psyche; 5, Endurance; Amber (0), Warfare; Chaos (-10).
  • Good Stuff IV (4)
  • Two Court Friends (4)
  • Chaos Court Devotee (4)
  • Conjuration (20), Spells of Conjuration (+5), Improvised Spells of Conjuration (+15), Simple (spells are quick and easy to make, +10), Alchemy (+5).
  • Power Words (15): Dismissal, Materialize Dream, Dreamgate, Merge with Conjuration (if it’s destroyed, he remains unharmed), Bind Conjuration I-VI (allows him to release a pre-prepared conjuration as a Power Word – essentially innately “racking a spell” in himself. Such spells do not deteriorate).
  • Solvingen, the Sentient PDA: This slim “wristwatch” is actually a full-fledged AI, able to speak, track his appointments, hack basic computer systems really really well, perform a variety of other functions, and store some additional construct-spells for him – as well as keeping an eye out when he’s asleep (which is often). Since he’s bonded it to himself, it works virtually everywhere in shadow and even in Amber. Able to Speak (1), possesses Named and Numbered Power Words (Override Electronics, Remote Datalink, Commit to Memory, Upload Data, Reject Virus / Malware, Break Encryption, Break Computer Security, Universal Password, Reprogram System, Electromagnetic Pulse, Momentary Force-Bubble, Thunderbolt, 2), able to “Rack” named and numbered spells (4).

   Total: 100 Points.

   Malinbert, labeled “The Inept” by his weapons-tutor (although, it’s worth nothing, that – thanks to the Amber attribute scale – his weapon and tactical skills are on a level with any merely human mighty knight, celebrated general, expert commando, or olympic contender) likes to sleep – or at least to lay around. According to rumor, his mother spent most of her pregnancy on powerful “uppers”, and he’s been trying to make up for his loss of sleep time ever since. Even when awake, he usually looks asleep, or at least halfway asleep. In a minor fight, his usual tactic is to twirl a morningstar around in circles, using his (quite respectable) natural strength, in the hope that this will keep everyone away from him. Getting within range of his “attack” can be hazardous, his wild blows are quite unpredictable and his morningstar is usually loaded with enchantments, courtesy of his conjuration talents. If he feels seriously threatened, he’ll usually unleash some major construct-creature, merge with it, and then either use it to fight with or use it’s abilities to escape, as required. He virtually always has five or six “spells” of conjuration ready to use, as they can be prepared and stored while lying around comfortably.

   In daily life, Malinbert tends to casually conjure up minor items as needed; if you run across a comfortable cottage, well stocked with beds, pillows, blankets, gourmet foods, a servant, and a hot stove, in the middle of a desolate glacier with a howling storm, it’s because Malinbert’s nose was cold, and he’s stopped for a casual snack, nap, and change of clothing. If you can convince him that an “adventure” is urgent – and can’t be better dealt with by casually creating some mighty artifact and giving it to someone more appropriate – he can almost certainly make anything you need that doesn’t involve the primal powers.

   If at all possible, Malinbert will have quietly moved into Amber – and preferably into Castle Amber itself – simply because the settings there don’t shift around while you’re trying to sleep.

   In play, Malinbert can be just what he seems; an ineffectual dreamer/narcoleptic who has exploited a natural talent to maximize the hours he can spend sleeping – but there are other possibilities. He could be a lethal schemer who sends deadly conjured monsters after anyone who annoys him, a manipulated pawn of some more wakeful “master”, or a sensible, if lazy, businessman willing to conjure up almost anything you could want – for a price. It’s a bit hard to tell any of these incarnations apart, as they certainly look similar.

 Professor_Challenger_PDProfessor Challenger, Of Chaos

  • Strength 15, Psyche 5, Endurance 5, Warfare 15.
  • Shapeshifting (35).
  • Power Words (20): Comprehend Device, Kit-bashing (build items really quickly), One-Shot Wonder (get an absurd device to function once), Instant Repair (a.k.a. “Hit it and it will start”), Fast Startup, Forge Component (can make tools and components out of basic resources in mere hours or days), Identify Fault, Reprogram System, Emergency Power (power up a device far beyond it’s normal capabilities), Adapt Technology (gets an item to work, at least briefly, in realms where it shouldn’t), Deduce Local Laws, Identify Creature, Identify Plants (both of these also tell him about what the creature or plant is good for and it’s general behavior pattern), Restore Clothing, and Deflect Attack (usually reduces, but does not prevent, injuries).
  • .45 Revolver that inflicts Double Damage (2)
  • Chaos Court Devotee (4)
  • Named and Numbered Personal Shadows (2): these include his elaborate workshop/museum, several realms in which he is a respected authority and has an easy time finding students and recruits, and several more realms full of dinosaurs, bizarre aliens, and other hazards, but also stuffed chock-full of special materials and other unique resources.
  • The Far Voyager (12 total): Engine Speed (4), Invulnerability (4), Shadow Seek (4), Mold Shadow Stuff (large scale, costs 2 points, provides; transport, life support, weaponry, etc), Named and Numbered Alternate Forms (sailing craft, dirigible, mole drill, ethership, timecraft, seaplane, submarine, exploratory “van”, junglebreaker tank, star core probe, spacecraft, and invisibility (selective, may be combined with other forms, 2), and Minor Divination (as appropriate instrumentation, 2). Unfortunately, the’ Far Voyager tends to break down in weird and otherwise inaccessible places whereupon the passengers must find or make something (a new driveshaft, dylithium crystal, supply of helium, or whatever) to get it going again. Whatever is needed can always be found or produced somewhere in the vicinity, but may be time-consuming to make or difficult to obtain. This curious fault reduces the cost of the ship by -6. Despite this problem the Far Voyager is sometimes used since it can penetrate or go around virtually any shadow barrier, a useful attribute. Sadly, anywhere that only it can get to only it can usually get you out of, and, of course, such spots are prime breakdown locations.
  • Well-Known Mental Quirk: Addicted to “Adventuring” and prefers to deal with shadows on their own terms, rather than by overriding them with primal powers (-4)
  • Mental Quirk: Chivalrous Victorian Gentleman (-1).
  • Character Diary (“Journal”) (-10).

   Total: 115 Points – 15 (Disadvantages) = 100 Points.

   Professor Challenger is an enormously enthusiastic inventor, explorer, tinkerer, and researcher, always equipped with some brilliant/crackpot new theory. He has a habit of accepting shadows on their own terms. Instead of using one of the primal powers or principles to override any inconvenience he faces, he surmounts such obstacles with local resources and techniques. While this approach is somewhat limiting, it has let him maintain his vast enthusiasm for exploring and tinkering for more then two centuries, rather then succumbing to the boredom that afflicts so many immortals. While the professor has a vast capacity for locating trouble, he is, unlike most lords of chaos or amber, fairly innocuous himself – and can often be helpful. On the other hand, if you’re silly enough to come along on a trip in the Far Voyager, you’re almost certain to wind up in some absurd situation – say, crash-landed on a Martian plateau, surrounded by hostile flying six-limbed spider-monkey-like natives armed with spears, in a shadow where none of your powers work at all well, and which cannot be escaped without the use of the Far Voyager. Of course, the Far Voyager will be out of action until you can locate a new “Rezulnite Focusing Crystal”, an item which is only to be found deep inside (hopefully) extinct Martian volcanoes.

Continuum II: Conjuration Cantrips

   Here we have the next portion of the Continuum II Cantrip list – in this case, Conjuration Cantrips. These cantrips deal with summoning or “creating” something, whether entities, objects, or forces. The distinctions are fairly simple; entities have independent existence in their own right, and are merely forced into local manifestation or “embodied”. Creating objects usually involves binding local matter to a conjured pattern or drawing it from somewhere in the immediate vicinity. Forces are the easiest of all, they simply require pouring some energy into the pattern. Most conjurations only last until the pattern decays, but some very simple, self-maintaining, or externally-supported patterns may remain stable indefinitely. Conjuration cantrips are among the weaker cantrips; major conjurations simply require too much power for personal mana to supply.

   For those who haven’t been reading this series, here’s a repeat of the basic information on Cantrip Magic. For those who have been, it’s been offset for easy skipping.

   Cantrip Magic, drawing upon the modest reserve of magical energy which accumulates in any living creature, is the simplest and easiest of all forms of magic. That power is immediately to hand, focused, and attuned. It is inherently readily handled by the user – and the mere desire to use it is enough to get it partially shaped. Minor talents, basic magical training, or comparatively trivial talismans – such as the infamous “Cantrip Rings” – will suffice to channel it. Even more usefully, the simple instinct for self-preservation allows anyone with defensive cantrips available to use on of them per round as a reflex action, albeit at the cost of a “+2” on the user’s next initiative check.

   Unfortunately, Cantrip Magic is also the weakest form of spellcasting. The complexity of any given effect is moderate at most, and the personal mana which powers it is a very limited resource. Gods, fey, and spellcasters may build up substantial reserves – the residue of the energies they channel in other ways – but everyone else will only have a little based on their Endurance and the level of natural magic in the world they live in.

   On the other hand, Cantrip Magic is by far the most common form of magic in Continuum II. Minor mages, dabblers, and laymen use it, minor talismans and amulets produce and sustain cantrip effects for a time, embedded cantrips affect whatever inanimate object they’re embedded in permanently, and focusing talismans – such as those aforementioned “Cantrip Rings” – can focus their wearer’s personal mana into a list of up to seven cantrips whose patterns are embedded in item.

   The stuff is everywhere – and so a list of cantrips can be quite important. Their classification is somewhat arbitrary, but here’s the section on Conjuration Cantrips – charms which seemingly produce something from nothing.

  1. Air Helm: Surrounds the users head with a bubble of pure air for up to three minutes.
  2. Animate Teddy Bear: This charm requires someone who will really love and appreciate an animated teddy bear as the charm is powered by the recipients emotions. Thus the bear will remain animated as long as it remains loved. If the recipient has bad dreams the bear will chase them away by drawing off the negative emotions which trigger them. Trivial variants of this charm apply to other small dolls and toys.
  3. Blaze: Force-feeds oxygen into an existing flame, causing it to flare up wildly to roughly double its normal intensity for 1D4+2 rounds.
  4. Body Animation: Animates a single human or near-human body within thirty feet for up to one hour. Unfortunately, making it act requires moderate concentration and, at best, such “zombies” are weak and clumsy. One point of vitality damage from any source will dispel the effect.
  5. Breeze: Summons a pleasant, cooling breeze in a twenty foot radius of the caster. It normally persists for 3D20 minutes and is barely capable of making candles gutter, but the entire force of the cantrip can be expended in a single round to create a breeze capable of blowing leaves and bits of paper around, and possibly even capable of blowing out exposed candles.
  6. Brew: Makes up to a quart of tea from either water or appropriate herbs, although using this charm effectively requires a pot or cup to keep the resulting brew in.
  7. Caldwell’s Kitchen Conjuration: Summons up some small kitchen tool or pinch of some ingredient. Unfortunately, anything much larger then a pinch is strictly temporary. Variants usually summon up something in particular, such as salt, vinegar, oil, common spices, or honey. These are permanent, although the quantity is still limited to a few tablespoonfuls.
  8. Change: “Breaks” a coin into smaller change up to a maximum value of one gold piece, one platinum piece for games on the gold standard. This does not transmute elements; it simply turns one coin into an assortment of smaller ones.
  9. Conjure Key: This handy charm produces a force-pattern matched to the pattern of a nearby, and relatively simple, lock. This doesn’t always work, and works less often as the locks become more complicated, but is still suffices for a lot of the simpler locks.
  10. Conjure Micro-Elemental: Summons a tiny elemental spirit (DR 6, Vitality 1, 1-3 inches tall, can be fairly annoying if it attacks). When it arrives roll 1D20, on a 1-19 its controlled by the caster. It will not leave a sixty foot radius of its summoner or stay for more then ten minutes. Casting this cantrip requires a bit of the appropriate element or something related to it, such as tinder for fire micro-elemental.
  11. Dagger: Creates a dagger of magical energy for 1D4+1 minutes. The weapon is effective against creatures that require low-end (magical or “+1”) magical weaponry to damage normally and can only be used by the caster, but is otherwise treated as a normal dagger.
  12. Drawthread: “Fires”, and then draws back in, a thin and sticky thread up to about sixty feet long. The maximum possible force exerted is about 40 pounds, but it’s more then sufficient to fish dropped keys out of the sewers and such. Apprentice-children have been known to find far more bothersome uses for this charm.
  13. Edwin’s Winged Pie: Actually, this charm just summons up a hurtling mass of fluffy flavored stuff, but is has much the same effect as hitting someone with a real pie. Variants include Darnek’s Pointless Whatsit (Produces a small item which certainly seems like it ought to have a significant function of some sort), Bozo’s Banana Peel (Fairly obvious), and Lee’s Just Desserts (Exactly the sort of pastry they deserve). The edible variants provide very little in the way of nutrition or even empty calories, but are reasonably tasty if you like simple sugary flavors.
  14. Flare: Fires a glowing energy ball up to one hundred and eighty feet, where it will pop in a flash of light like a bottle rocket. A trivial variant produces a puff of smoke about five feet across, the color of the smoke – if any – is up to the caster.
  15. Flash: Blinds those in a fifteen foot radius for 1D6 counts (about six seconds each) unless they make a successful resistance check – or simply aren’t looking.
  16. Fuel: Doubles the burning time of a small (maximum of one foot in diameter) fire, up to a maximum limit of twenty-four hours.
  17. Fumigate: Conjures a strong smelling cloud of vapors which will, if given time in an enclosed area, kill or drive away any and all small creatures within it. The original cloud is about two feet across and will suffice to fumigate a volume of up to four thousand cubic feet.
  18. Glimmerwind: Summons a small cloud of sparkling points of light which will “drift” away in whatever direction the caster desires. The cloud is very pretty and lasts up to one turn but does nothing else except to dust surfaces with glittering motes. This is occasionally useful in revealing hidden obstacles or in the dark.
  19. Grand Entrance: Essentially, this small charm simply feeds a “pulse” of magical energy into the users aura, producing a swirling mist of light (or darkness.) and a very brief, short-ranged, telekinetic pulse (similar to the Microkinesis cantrip). This usually manifests as things like a chill breeze, a swirling in the mist, or doors opening without actually being touched.
  20. Handlight: Actually, this cantrip comes in an enormous variety of individual variants – auras, glowing balls of colored light, sparkling lightshows, necromantic corpse-lights (these last a lot longer, but you need something that’s decaying to make it work), and dancing flames. Whatever the variant, the “basic effect” is simply to produce a light sufficient to illuminate a five to ten foot radius tolerably well, much like a good flashlight or a small lamp. The basic version lasts up to ten minutes per level of the caster, the corpse-light variant lasts for up to one hour per level of the caster.
  21. Implement(Various): Each of these cantrips conjures up a particular implement for up to an hour. Such implements must be relatively common, simple, and of reasonable size. Some of the more common implement cantrips are: Net (butterfly type), Crowbar (light), Hammer, Cup, Pliers, Spade, Pot, and Rope (30 feet).
  22. Mapmaker: Summons a minor entity which takes its direction from what the user sees, and is capable of imprinting a passable “sketch” of scenes, areas, and items on whatever surface the user indicates when casting the charm. The entity will remain for up to two hours, or until a drawing is complete. While this is most often used to produce “automatic maps” , other uses are obviously possible. The “Secretary” variant summons an similar entity capable of taking dictation at normal conversational speed for up to an hour. It can only “hear” the caster, and some specific start / stop signal must be specified when the charm is cast, as the secretary isn’t really intelligent.
  23. Material(Various): Conjures a small quantity (up to a pint at most) of some reasonably common and fairly amorphous substance. Some of the more common cantrips of this type are Beer, Glue, Oil, Vinegar, Varnish (only a cupful or so, but the caster can have it spread thinly over a surface on arrival), Hash (arrives hot or cold as desired) and Bread. All such conjured materials are of average to poor quality. Foodstuffs contain a fair number of calories, but are woefully short of vitamins, minerals, and flavor.
  24. Mindraven: This cantrip allows the user to shape a small portion of his personal vitality (usually 2 points) – and give it the form of some small animal. Various variants create different kinds of creatures – although venomous ones are painful and irritating at most unless the user has an especially noxious personality. The user remains mentally linked to his creation, but it otherwise is pretty much equivalent to a normal creature of it’s type. If it’s somehow destroyed, the user must choose between losing his vitality points permanently – or taking 3D6 points of neural damage (requiring days or weeks to heal at one point per day). As a rule mages only create a single creature at a time. It tends to get confusing otherwise.
  25. Mousetrap: This is placed on any small opening or object, anyone other then the caster who voluntarily contacts the charm will release it with a sharp pop, taking one point of damage unless a resistance check is made. The cantrip is not cumulative with itself, leaves a telltale rune, and fades in about a week.
  26. Net: This charm summons a small net, suitable for catching butterflies, scooping up fish, and so on. The net will last for up to an hour. A variant called “Nydils Instant Hammock” produces a string hammock, already hung wherever practical. It lasts as long as the caster is within thirty feet and subconsciously continues to maintain it. Any attempt to take the hammock down will inevitably ruin its fragile webbing. Note also that hammocks are not known for extreme stability.
  27. Perfume: Applies “just the right amount” of fine perfume to the recipient, alternatively, it can be used to apply far too much crummy perfume to any single target within thirty feet. This is a minor social problem and makes the victim far easier to track by scent.
  28. Philbert’s Phantom Pfennig: Produces a “generic” coin – one very common to the region in which the spell is cast, and of very small or minimal value – sufficient, perhaps, for a package of gum. If coinage is scarce in the setting, the “Pfennig” will disappear within 1D6 hours. Otherwise it is real and permanent. Whoever is responsible for coinage in the area will usually look upon the user of this spell as counterfeiting – but such authorities are usually far more worried about higher-order variations of this effect. As a rule, most people have better things to do with their personal mana anyway.
  29. Pigeon: Conjures up a pigeon which will remain up to one hour per level of the caster. If somehow given directions it will follow them faithfully. Variant forms summon other small, insignificant creatures, some of which are more or less permanent. Most such charms have a range of sixty feet and offer some slight degree of control over the creatures initial action(s). Such variants include charms that summon ordinary mice, gnats, insects, bees, spiders, frogs, salamanders, grass snakes, roaches, hamsters, hummingbirds, and others. More impressive, if less enduring, charms summon up things like lions, tigers, and bears. Sadly, such large creations are more image then substance, but they still look and sound vary impressive for the few moments they last. On the bonus side, they are more fully under the control of the caster; if you want to open the door to reveal a rearing, roaring, lion, than this is the charm for you.
  30. Rune: Inscribes whatever glowing symbol the user traces in the air, where it will remain for up to one hour. The symbol may occupy an area of up to four square feet and illuminates a radius of about five feet. The user may have it crackle, sparkle, or seem to burn if he or she so desires.
  31. Sealant: Conjures a small quantity of tarry goo, capable of sealing small holes, cracks, and such, in a surface of up to 25 square feet. Alternatively, it can be used to evenly coat and seal an area of up to five square feet, rendering it quite waterproof.
  32. Seance: The effects of this cantrip are highly variable. In essence, it issues an invitation for a spirit in question to appear and lets it tap into a bit of the caster’s physical energies to use to produce some minor effects (half Str and Dex). Sadly, this can only reach spirits which are linked to the area the Seance is performed in – whether that’s because someone – a close relative, adopted child, student, major enemy, or even murderer – the spirit is linked to is present , because some sort of artifact linked to the spirit is being used, or even because it’s being performed over the spirits body or at it’s tomb or place of death. Even if a link exists, the spirit must still be available – reincarnated or imprisoned spirits are not available – and interested enough to bother manifesting. Note that some spirits are strong enough to either manifest their own powers if someone is foolish enough to offer them a link to the material plane or to possess the caster. This can be useful – say, if you call on the spirit of a mighty holy warrior through his sword to help you complete his mission – or quite disastrous – if, say, you happen to unintentionally call up the spirit of the witch-king of the demon empire. It’s best to already know something about an item or spot before using it as the focus for a seance.
  33. Spike: Produces and magically inserts up to three normal iron spikes, suitable for climbing, jamming doors, and holding beams together. This cantrip is not effective on anything that won’t hold still for the insertion.
  34. Spray: Propels a fine spray of any liquid the caster carries onto any target the user points to within thirty feet, the quantity is equal to one small vial per every four levels plus one vial, or less at the users option. The “Powderpuff” variant hurls a puff of powder from any vial the user happens to be carrying onto, or into the face of, any single target within twenty feet.
  35. Stir: Summons a “disembodied hand” which can be set to stirring pots, working a pestle, fanning, basting, turning roasts, or any other small, rhythmic, repetitive task for up to thirty minutes per level of the caster.
  36. Timekeeper: This charm is closely related to Mindraven and Mapmaker, in that it embodies a very small, boring, and methodical portion of the user’s mind as an external entity – A tiny figment capable of keeping track of the time, counting things, and other simple accounting tasks while the user does something else nearby. Only the user can perceive or interact with his figment, but it can be “set” to time things and tell the user when they’re ready, to keep an eye on a nearby area and “sound the alarm” if anything changes, and so on. Unfortunately, the “entity” cannot be sustained at ranges over about thirty feet.
  37. Rolls in the 37-40 range normally referred back to one of the cantrips with a lot of worthwhile variants – Caldwell’s Kitchen Conjuration, Implement, Material, or Pigeon. That gave those useful and highly individual charms a better chance of turning up when making random cantrip items – always the most common sort of magic item.

Additional Indexes

   In the ongoing effort to make things easier to find – with better than 850 posts and 200 sub-pages it can get awkward, and a lot of visitors seem to miss the index tabs at the top of the page – I’ve added the tag cloud and a full post list in the right sidebar. Here’s a dropdown version of the full post list as well:

RPG Design – Whither Backstory?

   A lot of adventures don’t pay much attention to the backstory and adventure background. That’s more-or-less understandable – that kind of thing is usually designed to be dropped into almost any setting and used as-is – but it can lead to major problems if the characters are even slightly thoughtful or actually attempt to play in character. To illustrate this…

   Once upon a time, there was a game master.

   A game master who had invested a good deal of time in creating a complex dungeon-tomb and a couple of other interesting places hidden in a perilous forest on the borders of a lawful-good kingdom. He created a noble lord and a couple of eccentric advisors (including a Mind Flayer who’d somehow become lawful good, just to add some tension to social situations) to rule said kingdom, and made it strong enough to withstand most direct attacks – leaving the forces of darkness to rely on subversion, treachery, and assorted plots in their attempts to overthrow it. The characters would – more or less – be recruited into the royal counter-espionage forces. The game would start off with a mission to rescue the kings daughter and gradually expand as the characters uncovered the array of evil forces and dark plots arrayed against the king.

   A bit cliche, but certainly good enough to start off a campaign with, right?

   Since he wanted characters who might be recruited for their unique talents, he told the players that he wanted unusual first or second level characters who would be operating out of the capital city – and things started going downhill.

   He got an exiled drow bartender blade expert, a Krynn-style minotaur martial artist and bar-room brawler, a chain-smoking temple-robber from modern Egypt who’d picked up the wrong artifact, been given clerical abilities he couldn’t control by a deity he didn’t believe in, and been sent to another world as some sort of agent (my character), a thieving young half-elven mage obsessed with magical rings (and already having several with cantrips in them), an elderly retired gardener who had – at a rather advanced age – heard the call of both adventure and druidism (or “a really good fling before he died”), and an oriental bird-person staff-fighter and archery specialist.

   Since none of these characters except the drow and the minotaur had any prior connection to each other, our valiant game master took a swing; he had the Royal Guard – instructed, apparently to find people with “unusual talents” – haul everyone before the king. Naturally enough, some of them wanted to evade this apparently unmotivated sweep – which brought up the subject of how big the army was.

   The numbers that got tossed out called for roughly 10% of the population of the kingdom to be on active duty, with at least that many more in the support side. There was sudden doubt as to the lawful-goodness, peacefulness, or contentment of an unthreatened state that kept pretty much all the able-bodied men of the kingdom under arms. There was also considerable speculation as to the tax rates, the conditions of the peasants, and similar issues.

   The game master didn’t see what the problem was; he’d told everyone that it was a lawful good kingdom, that the king was a wise and benign ruler, and that everyone was content. Wasn’t that enough?

   So, a random collection of the most conspicuous people in the city got hauled up before the king and court, without explanation – although it did duly impress them with the kingdoms strength, wealth, and plentiful supply of much more powerful people. The king then dismissed the court and all but his most trusted guards to speak with these misfits in private.

   He then told them that – given their special talents – he had a secret mission for them.

   His daughter – deeply beloved by both the people and himself – had been kidnaped. Fortunately, the crime had been traced to a gang of bandits who were believed to be hanging out in an old tomb – it belonged to some ancient archmage or something – in the middle of the nearby forest. Since he didn’t want anyone to know about this mission for fear that the bandits would kill her, he couldn’t use any of the important or powerful people known to work for him; their disappearance would be noted. There weren’t many clues about how she’d been taken, it was believed to be an inside job though – which was why he was being so cautious.

   So to set up a secret mission to rescue his beloved daughter from deadly peril, he’d had the guard publicly haul in a random selection of the most memorable, eccentric, and inexperienced characters in the city. People who had never worked together and who had no major special talents (there’s only so much you can do with a second level character). Then he’d displayed them before the court that he ADMITTED was probably compromised, made it obvious that he wanted them to do something secret, and then given them a really cruddy briefing.

   He couldn’t spare them a guide who knew the forest, give them a map or much information about it or this supposed tomb, and he CERTAINLY couldn’t give them any extra money or equipment (Game Master: “What are you talking about? You’ve already got your starting gear!”).

   The “party” looked at the king, looked at the Mind Flayer advisor, and looked at each other – and “took the mission” in lieu of jail.

   Make that a swing and a miss.

   Once past the gate, the general discussion tended towards “making a run for the horizon and getting over the border”. The setup was so incredibly blatant that the absolute BEST thing that they could be was a diversion. More likely, he didn’t really want the girl back at all – or had arranged her kidnaping himself if she was really that “beloved of the populace”. He wouldn’t be in charge if he was genuinely stupid enough to think that the best way to set up a critical secret mission to rescue his daughter was to publicly pick out a random group of totally inexperienced but extremely conspicuous individuals who had never worked together, refuse to provide them with any assistance, and announce to the world that they were being sent on a secret mission. Maybe that Mind Flayer wasn’t really “reformed” and was secretly in control? It WAS just possible that the princess was a threat to it somehow, and they could hardly think of a better way to try and get her killed. Perhaps she’d run away?

   The game master nearly blew up right about then, and somehow everyone wound up at the ancient tomb anyway. He might as well not have bothered at that point; the game suffered final meltdown a few minutes later, when the first ancient cryptic inscription came up and the decision was to ignore it, since it was probably a trap. After all, it was a tomb full of traps. The point of tombs was that you put stuff in, set the traps, sealed it up, and no one ever went in there again. Leaving helpful inscriptions would sort of undermine the entire design philosophy.

   All that work on the campaign pretty much wound up in the garbage can.

   Now, the game master in that game had prepared his encounters well, and his “dungeons” would no doubt have been quite interesting for a novice (if perhaps a trifle cliche) – but he’d gotten so involved with the obstacles and enemies he intended to throw at the characters that he’d neglected to put much thought into his setting and the mission setup.

   If he’d told us that:

   “For the last couple of months you’ve been doing a bit of undercover work for the King as novice agents in a town on the fringes of the forest – where weirdos are more or less expected. Mere hours ago, your drow friend – thanks to his superb night vision – spotted a group of bandits hauling the crown princess into the forest! You’ve sent an urgent message to your boss of course, but it will take days to reach him – by which time the trail will be long cold and the princess might be dead. You can either take the blame if that happens OR you can go after her right away, with whatever supplies you can grab! It can’t be any more fatal than waiting for the king to find out that you let her be carried off, and – if you succeed – you can expect promotions and rewards! It’s the chance of a lifetime!”

   That would probably have worked out just fine – and cooking up a reason to look at the ancient inscriptions would have been a minor problem, rather than the final straw.

   Like it or not, for a game master, setting comes first. Your world needs to make sense, and the players have to have some idea of how it works. If ten percent of the population, chosen at random, is sucked into the realm of the bingo gods every morning and only returned at nightfall, then having a boss who demands a perfect attendance record from his employees doesn’t make a lot of sense. The characters motives need to make some sort of sense, and there needs to be some sort of logic in how they pursue them – having a few lunatics about is OK, but nobody wants to play in a world full of them. If the world isn’t reasonably logical and consistent, you’ll soon wind up with a game of Toon – which may be fun every so often, but doesn’t make for long campaigns.

   Once you have a good setting, a really, really good game master will be able to spin backstory, and create encounters, on the fly. Those with less practice will need a backstory ready to go, but will usually be able to improvise from there – and that’s vital as soon as the characters get off-track. And they will.

   It doesn’t matter if the characters or players (and they ARE separate) never find out about that back story – although if the players want to know it out-of-character after the game there’s usually no reason why they shouldn’t. The game master needs to know it. It’s one of his or her most vital tools.

Eclipse – Battling Business World

. One of the benefits – and burdens – of the Manifold setting (more information is available over on the d20 tab) we’ve used for the Federation-Umal and Federation-Apocalypse games is that it allows near-complete freedom. Since characters may come from any setting that has ever been imagined – whether or not anyone save the one who originally imagined it has ever heard of it – the players are free to use the Eclipse classless d20 rules (available in print HERE and in a shareware .pdf version HERE) to design their own races, templates, and characters virtually without restraint. Of course, that also makes them responsible for describing the worlds they come from – their histories, their cultures, and the laws of their universe. In fact, since universes try to fit things in consistently, they can also design supplementary backgrounds and abilities – “Identities” – to represent the roles they fall into in different universes.

. The players who don’t feel up to that sort of project can simply use an existing fictional universe – or even a published game background or d20 setting – for their character background and skip the detailed local identities.

. One of the most durable and entertaining settings that a player has come up with so far has been Battling Business World – a world founded on a supposed one-shot animated movie from around 2100 and on the passing fantasies of thousands of frustrated office employees. A world where – since everyone is well aware of the fact that “death” only lasts for a few hours before you come back safe at home, that injuries vanish in minutes or hours at most, and that any collateral damage will also go away in a few hours – everyone feels entirely free to haul out the knives, hammers, and implements of destruction to settle any kind of dispute. Where maltreated equipment fights back. Where one can really get it out of their system.

. That’s the world the Mr Leland has adopted for his own and that Marty the Corporate Raider (rather literally), his assistant Limey the Battle Laptop Computer, and Mr Gelman come from. Their character sheets, updates, the rules and regulations of battling business, and a good deal of other material can be found over on Marty’s player blog. To make it easy to find things there, here are some links:

    Continuum II: Illusion Cantrips

       Here we have the next portion of the Continuum II Cantrip list – in this case, Illusion Cantrips. Illusion cantrips can be quite impressive and flashy compared to other cantrips, given that all they’re usually doing is manipulating light and sound a bit – a trick that requires virtually no power at all. All you need to do is get the image you want clearly in your mind and channel a bit of personal mana into it to imprint the image on reality. Cantrip-level illusions are still pretty limited, but the details – like those of any illusion – are always up to the caster. They’re pretty easy to learn and use too.

       For those who haven’t been reading this series, here’s a repeat of the basic information on Cantrip Magic. For those who have been, it’s been offset for easy skipping.

       Cantrip Magic, drawing upon the modest reserve of magical energy which accumulates in any living creature, is the simplest and easiest of all forms of magic. That power is immediately to hand, focused, and attuned. It is inherently readily handled by the user – and the mere desire to use it is enough to get it partially shaped. Minor talents, basic magical training, or comparatively trivial talismans – such as the infamous “Cantrip Rings” – will suffice to channel it. Even more usefully, the simple instinct for self-preservation allows anyone with defensive cantrips available to use on of them per round as a reflex action, albeit at the cost of a “+2” on the user’s next initiative check.

       Unfortunately, Cantrip Magic is also the weakest form of spellcasting. The complexity of any given effect is moderate at most, and the personal mana which powers it is a very limited resource. Gods, fey, and spellcasters may build up substantial reserves – the residue of the energies they channel in other ways – but everyone else will only have a little based on their Endurance and the level of natural magic in the world they live in.

       On the other hand, Cantrip Magic is by far the most common form of magic in Continuum II. Minor mages, dabblers, and laymen use it, minor talismans and amulets produce and sustain cantrip effects for a time, embedded cantrips affect whatever inanimate object they’re embedded in permanently, and focusing talismans – such as those aforementioned “Cantrip Rings” – can focus their wearer’s personal mana into a list of up to seven cantrips whose patterns are embedded in item.

       The stuff is everywhere – and so a list of cantrips can be quite important. Their classification is somewhat arbitrary, but here’s the section on Illusion Cantrips – spells which change the perception, if not the substance.

    1. Ageshift: Alters the users apparent age to anything between youth and extreme old age for up to ten minutes per level, but will not alter his size.
    2. Aurora: Surrounds the caster with an aura of light, the color and such is up to the caster. While not particularly bright, the aura is sufficient to cause light-sensitive attackers to strike at -1. It lasts 1D6+6 minutes unless voluntarily terminated earlier. A minor variant projects the light outwards, creating a lovely rainbow or true auroral effect. Unfortunately, projecting the aura shortens the duration of the aurora to 1D6+6 initiative counts (about six seconds each)
    3. Blackout: “Blacks out” a 15 Ft radius of its casting point for 1D4 counts (about six seconds each). Unlike most other darkness spells, this does not affect enhanced forms of vision unless the caster wills it to do so. A variant form lasts for 1D4 minutes, but merely dims the area by fifty to seventy-five percent, rather then blacking it out completely.
    4. Cloaking: Renders the recipient invisible for up to three minutes, subject to the usual limitations of illusory invisibility. More specific variants only affect particular types of beings, such as humanoids, undead, or demons – who will be the only ones affected. A rare variant turns the caster invisible for up to half an hour, unfortunately that’s “the caster” literally. For real invisibility, you have to be clean and naked. It can still be impressive in some situations (“I tell you, no one was in the armor !”). Another variant produces a “screen” of invisibility making the user and any others he chooses to conceal within a six foot radius invisible, however it is only effective from one direction.
    5. Costume: Provides an illusory “change of clothing” for ten minutes plus one minute per level. The companion or “Mask” cantrip can similarly alter the users features and hands, offering a more complete disguise.
    6. Dialect: This handy charm adapts users speech to a desired accent or dialect of a known tongue for up to ten minutes. Unlike the “comprehend dialect” divination cantrip, this does not improve comprehension – but it does camouflage the users voice, allowing him to pass as a native speaker.
    7. Displacement: Shifts the user’s image five or six feet to the side of his real location, an effect which makes the user considerably harder to target effectively – at least at first. The effect lasts for three minutes.
    8. Distortion: Allows the user to appear 10% nearer or further away for ten minutes. Due to this effect, any attacks directed at the user take a -1 on their AR (Attack Rating). This can lead to some rather odd – and headache-inducing – effects if the user is standing against something and opts to be seen as further away than it is.
    9. Distract: Momentarily distracts any single target within sixty feet, causing them to pay attention to someone or something else for a few seconds unless a save is made. If this works in a fight (not too likely) it’s worth a -3 penalty on the victims defenses if an attack is launched at him or her while the distraction is in force. A less specific variant works on anyone who happens to be attentively watching the caster. In any case, the stupid or inexperienced are far easier to distract, such targets resist at -3.
    10. Enhance Appearance: A terribly superficial spell, this can increase the users appearance by 3, to a maximum of 21. If the users appearance is already 21 or more, the use of this cantrip will enhance it by one point. It lasts up to two hours per level of the caster.
    11. Eyeshift: Allows the user to freely alter the appearance of his eyes for up to three hours. They can even be made to glow dimly if desired. A more unusual use is to shift the apparent angle and focus of the users eyes, allowing him or her to focus on something while appearing to look at something else – although he or she cannot turn his or her head without spoiling the effect.
    12. Haunt: Gives a its victim – any single being within an initial range of thirty feet – the distinct impression of being followed or watched by someone or something he can never catch more then a glimpse of for the next 2-12 hours.
    13. Holdout: Allows the caster to conceal any single, relatively small object on his person through searches or simple checks. The cantrip remains effective for a full ten minutes, but if such concealment is suspected a resistance check will negate the effect. The “Discard” variant remains effective for only one minute, but produces an illusory duplicate of the object which may be convincingly left behind, dropped, or tossed away. It is sometimes used to cover a theft, despite the short duration.
    14. Image Animation / “Herkin’s Model Mayhem“: While this charm produces an excellent illusion, it has to have an image of some sort to take it’s pattern from – and is locked in at that scale. Just as annoyingly, it has a maximum range of about thirty feet, and a maximum of a six foot radius area of effect. Still, one can use it to “animate” an army of toy soldiers or the painting of a dragon. Of course, they’re still to scale and silent. The charm lasts for about three minutes – or as long as the user keeps concentrating on it.
    15. Imagery: Projects ghostly, transparent images in a 10 foot radius up to 15 feet away. While the images are obviously illusions, they can be quite detailed – and are occasionally used to impersonate “spirits” or other insubstantial effects. The “Windcolor” variant creates “solid”, believable, images. Sadly, it is confined to a two dimensional “screen” – and is thus only convincing from the front sixty to ninety degree angles. The “Mirage” variant creates a realistic, believable, illusion covering a ten foot radius, up to thirty feet away. The image is static and can only “cover up” what is already there by overlaying it – the cantrip cannot conceal that something is present. Worse, it is difficult to maintain a static image, there is a 5% cumulative chance per round of some wavering of the users concentration giving the game away.
    16. Intimidate: Subtly distorts the users appearance, subliminally enhancing his ability to frighten people, animals, and things. Any such attempts made during the charms ten-minute duration are with a +4 bonus.
    17. Invulnerability: A most impressive illusion, this charm gives the user the appearance of invulnerability for ten minutes. During this period no attack will seem to harm the user – although they hurt the user just as much as usual.
    18. Lightweaving: Allows the caster to treat sunlight or moonlight like softly glowing string, braiding, tying, or weaving things with it. Such “objects” will remain stable for up to eight hours, this may be extended by recasting the cantrip. They aren’t actually solid – except to the caster.
    19. Painkiller: Nullifies the pain of headaches, wounds, and such for eight hours. The recipient may ignore the effects of 1d6 points of damage until it wears off.
    20. Palliative: Counters up to three symptoms of some minor affliction for 1D4+2 hours. This relief is only symptomatic, the charm simply masks the underlying problem. It is still useful against colds, hay fever, poison ivy, and other such minor annoyances.
    21. Password: The casters unintelligible mutter will be heard as the correct password or countersign by any single guard within thirty feet.
    22. Phantom Hornet(s): A specialized and annoying illusion, which hurls a modest swarm of illusory bees or wasps at an opponent. While annoying, distracting, and painful, these cause no real harm – and the pain fades in a few minutes, as the charm’s duration runs out. Still, those who fail to resist are will often suffer minor distraction penalties.
    23. Phantom Scent: Alters the users scent as desired for up to an hour.
    24. Phantom Snake: Conjures a small illusory serpent, which can be sent up to sixty feet from the caster. While the charm is incapable of doing any harm it looks quite realistic and will even produce a slight sensation of “pressure” on anything living which it coils around.
    25. Shadowmeld: “Fades” the user, giving him a 14- stealth skill for the next ten minutes – or a +5 bonus if the user actually has the skill. On the other hand, the user can actually be slightly sunburned by exposure to bright light while using this spell, since it prevents the energy from being re-radiated normally.
    26. Shadowshaping: Allows the user to mentally craft vague forms from shadow within a ten foot radius. This cantrip will only be effective in shadowy conditions, and will be dispelled by any bright light. It will remain in effect for 1D6+4 minutes otherwise.
    27. Silent Steps: Allows the user to move without making a sound for ten minutes, an effect which provides a +3 bonus on the user’s stealth skills.
    28. Spectral Self: Makes any one creature within ten feet appear ghostly, fuzzy, or illusory for up to one turn.
    29. Spell Loop: Not technically an illusion – unless it’s directed at fooling the user’s unconscious mind – but designed to be used with another illusion spell and so listed here, this charm essentially “takes over” the concentration many such spells require for up to two minutes – after which the user may either begin maintaining the effect again or let it lapse normally. Unfortunately, the “loop” isn’t really an active effect; it only keeps things going the way they were. It’s unable to respond to changes in circumstances and tends to be remarkably uncreative when it comes to illusions.
    30. Tao C’hi Wheel: This whirling, blurring, guard adds +3 to the users Defense Rating for its three round duration.
    31. Ten Thousand Blows: An illusion of multiple blows, negating an opponents dexterity-based Defense Rating bonus for the three rounds it lasts.
    32. Tots Fascinating: This handy charm “creates” a lovely, glittering, bauble. While this is normally used to keep infants and small children busy, happy, and out of trouble, you can use it on adults as well. In this case, the effect is roughly similar to handing them a physical “Rubix Cube” (or other interesting puzzle). This in no way compels them to fool with it, but it is a way to avoid boredom. The basic duration is about an hour – but the time in which someone is actively paying attention to the thing extends that time.
    33. Unflaw: “Covers up” a small flaw in a crystal, gem, artwork, or such. While this lasts until the spell is broken, it will rarely fool a competent evaluator.
    34. Unseen: Makes any one smallish object within ten feet invisible, and virtually unnoticeable, for up to ten minutes.
    35. Vacation: A popular, if somewhat pointless, charm, this cantrip gives it’s target a mild feeling of being relaxed and refreshed along with a scattering of vague memories of having spent a week at the beach – or in some other pleasant and suitable spot. It’s a great stress reliever. More powerful mages often manage to “throw in” a slight suntan, a funny t-shirt, more detailed memories, or some such elaboration.
    36. Veiling: Covers up any single being or object which will fit within a five foot radius. The effect is similar to that of a veil – it only obscures details. It is transparent from the inside and lasts up to half an hour. The entire object need not be covered if the caster doesn’t desire it. A variant form produces smoky or dusty haze, slightly (-1 to visual perception, missile fire, and GMO rolls) obscuring everything within any 5′ radius within twenty feet.
    37. Voicechange: Alters the users voice (gender, tone, register, etc) as desired for up to thirty minutes.
    38. Voicethrowing: Allows the user to “cast” his voice for 6 “foot-hours”, from 30 feet for 12 minutes to 360 feet for one minute. The distance used for this calculation is the maximum range employed, attempting to exceed this limit will end the effect immediately.
    39. Weapon: Creates an illusory melee weapon, which the caster may wield for one turn. If the caster is of level 5+ it may be made to glow, flame, be inscribed with runes, etc, looking very impressive. Variant forms of this cantrip produce phantom shields and the like, although a full set of armor seems to be beyond the imitations of the charm. One variant requires an actual weapon, but produces the glow/flame/runes/etc without awaiting level 5. Necessarily, the user need not concentrate on maintaining the effects for any of the variants. Such weapons can cause stun damage, but the victim is entitled to a resistance check if actually struck.
    40. Warped Visage: This small illusion creates some “minor” abnormality in the target’s appearance. Being covered in bloody, gaping, wounds (appearing dead is optional). The drawn features and feverish glint of a plague victim. Crude stitches holding your body together. Dripping blue and green blood. Scars, swellings, baldness, and so on. The user remains recognizable – if anyone looks closely enough. The effect lasts for about 20 minutes.