Amber Disadvantages

    Disadvantages add variety to the simple good stuff/bad stuff division in the Amber rules, allowing characters with good stuff to start off with some conflicts built into the campaign, those with zero stuff to have a few extra points to play with, and those with bad stuff to get partway out of the hole. Characters may have “good stuff” and disadvantages at the same time, disadvantages are just weaknesses – luck has little to do with them. Characters may have up to fifteen points worth of disadvantages and may not “buy them off” later unless the GM specifically allows it. Once you have them, they’re usually there to stay.

   Personal Weaknesses include a wide variety of Physical Handicaps (although given Ambers access to medicine it may require a good explanation), Attribute Flaws (that make attributes less effective in particular fields or applications), a Vulneribility to some particular mode of attack or normally-harmless effect, Seizures (could be an epileptic or just tends to freeze under stress), an Inability (the character just can’t deal with some- thing, such as psionics, magic, or high technology. He will never be able to evaluate it, and certainly won’t be able to comprehend or use it), an Addiction or some form of Dependence on something, or even a Restriction on the use of one of the characters powers. An Obvious weakness will be readily apparent to anyone with Amber or higher warfare, and can be figured out by others in short order. The Compensated modifier applies when the character has some power or device that can “cover” or compensate for his weakness.

Disadvantage Values: 

Personal Weakness:    Value    Mental “Quirks”:    Value   
-Minor   1 -Minor   0
-Major   2 -Major   1
-Disastrous   3 -Disastrous   2
-Obvious +2 -Well Known +2
-Compensated  -2 -Irresistible +1

Distorted Perceptions:


Odd Behavioral Traits:   

-Minor   2 -Three   1
-Major   4 -Seven   2
-Lock-Me-Up   8 -Twelve   3
-Variable +2 -Dozens   4
-Insight  -4 -Compulsive +1

Social Handicaps:    


Personal Commitments:    

-Minor   2 -Minor   2
-Major   4 -Major   3
-Disastrous   6 -Exploitative +1
-Broad Spectrum +2 -Compulsory +1
-Reputation +2 -Emotional Charge +1



New Advantages:    



-Enemy (Or Rival)   1 -Advanced Items   3
-Major Enemy   2 -Status/Offices  1-5
-Horrendous Enemy   3 -Resistance To X  1-3
-Dedicated +1 -Good Reputation  1-3
-Known  -1 -Innate Powers  1-5
  • Mental “Quirks” include the usual mental disorders, as well as things like Absent-Mindedness, Berserker Rage, being Chivalrous, Gullible, or Honorable, Hypochondria (also exaggerates the effect of injuries), the various Compulsions, Manias, Philias, Phobias, and Obsessions (I don’t suggest taking many of these), Overconfidence, Pacifism, Phobias, and Soft-Heartedness, Vengefulness, and simply having a Weakness for something. Unlike most of the disadvantages, the character can ignore any mental quirks without the “Irresistable” modifier – but doing it very often may cause the GM to begin converting the disadvantage to “Bad Stuff” and/or holding back points to buy it off. Irresistable quirks cannot be ignored, the character is stuck with them.
  • Distorted Perceptions are run by the GM who, acting as the characters senses, will feed the player a “warped” version of the characters surroundings and events. This can simply a result of being an optimist or pessimist, but often includes actual delusions, hallucinations, and paranoid fancies. The severity of the disadvantage is a measure of how much reality “gets through”, and to how distorted it is. While the effects are usually fairly consistent, they can vary if the character so chooses. While usually limited to variation in the intensity of the distortion, it can extend to its type as well. The effect can be subtle. If the GM decides a character is paranoid, he may simply relay descriptions and data in a way calculated to arouse suspicion. Some few people find supernormal Insight in madness, perceiving hidden truths and making incredible deductive leaps. This odd facility is usually coupled with variable effects, but can be taken alone.
  • Odd Behavorial Traits are weird little habits, such as constantly tossing a coin, wearing flamboyant clothes, making continious wisecracks during combat, talking to yourself, drinking nothing but brandy, or even patting computers and saying hello when you pass them. Leaving a trademark, speaking only in rhyme, collecting purple ceramic owls, quoting some favorite author, or undying hatred of green vegtables would all qualify. These may limit your behavior in minor ways and serve as a “tag” on the character, making him easily identifiable. They are rarely serious unless they have become Compulsive, in which case it takes a major effort of will to over- come them even briefly. Like the Mental Quirks listed above, the GM may begin turning these into “bad stuff” or buying them off if they are ignored too often.
  • Social Handicaps are the most troublesome. As Amber is built around intrigue, character interaction, and role playing limitations in these areas are worth more then limitations in other fields. Like most disadvantegous, the precise nature of any given social disadvantage is negotiable, but whether it’s due to noxious habits, an odd aura, personality, truly weird looks, a total lack of emotion, having an alien brain, tactlessness, being a useless barbarian, a feral upbringing, being classed as a “creature”, or whatever, the effects are similar. A character with any social handicap will have trouble being accepted, getting information, recruiting allies or making friends, and so on. In extreme cases they may have trouble getting anyone to accept them. While they usually only apply to social interactions with humans, a Broad Spectrum handicap indicates that the character is somehow capable of offending animals, aliens, self- aware computers, and anything else with volition. If a character has a Reputation it also applies to attempts to secure interviews, send letters, and otherwise make contact and may well cause everyone else to prejudge the character.
  • Personal Commitments are obligations/responsibilities, debts, emotional bonds, “vows”, dependents, vendettas, personal codes – and anything else the character feels responsible for. The driving force is usually a sense of duty, but can also be conscience, a sense of shame, a horde of large men named Guido, or a strong “charge” of emotional energy. Compulsory comitments carry some penalty if the character fails to fulfill them, in the form of anything from guilt-driven “Seppuku” to broken bones, courtesy of the aforementioned men named Guido. If the character survives, so does his obligation. An Exploitative commitment has no attachment on the other side, who / which will ahve no qualms about exploiting the character for its own purposes -“But if you really loved me you’d…”. Emotionally Charged bonds are the most powerful, since they bypass rational response. A character with major emotional commitments many have a group of friends or relatives he wishes to protect, be a victim of unrequited love, be lovingly married, have a deeply respected mentor, or whatever. In every case the character can be easily manipulated by a threat or situation involving his emotional fixation. Note that not all such bonds are positive – you can be united in hatred at least as easily as in love. A Commitment can rarely be both Compulsory and Emotionally Charged, but can easily be either – and Exploitative.
  • Enemies are fairly obvious – someone out there doesn’t like you. Who varies with the level of disadvantage and how “serious” they are. A one-point enemy is normally either relatively weak or of relatively mild intent. A two-pointer can be powerful – if with better things to do – or relatively weak but more enthuiastic, or maybe powerful and enthuiastic, but who just wants to make you miserable. “Horrendous” enemies are often powerful, a group, or deadly serious in intent, but are rarely all three. Dedicated enemies have settled on their enmity with you as a major project and can be expected to spend a great deal of their time working against you. Known enemies are easier to deal with, and hence provide fewer points. Enemies can be disposed of, but unless the GM allows you to buy this off, another will appear.

   New Advantages cost points rather then providing them, but give the character some sort of special ability to use. The five advantages are :

  • “Advanced Items” allows the character to begin play owning items with qualities and/or powers of up to the eight (Sixteen/GMO) point level. Each such quality or power must be bought normally. The 3-point “fee” must be paid for each such power the item or creature has.
  • Status and/or Offices allows the character to begin in a position of power and influence in Amber, such as being captian of the guards. The exact cost depends on the worth of the post sought.
  • “Resistance” is an innate power that gives its user a partial immunity, or a high resistance to, some form of attack. The form of attack must be chosen when this advantage is taken, and can be any single principle or any one spaect of one of the primal powers. Note that “resistance” will not stand up against a major attack, it merely mitigates the effect, giving the character a few moments to get out of the way.
  • A “Good Reputation” is fairly obvious, but remember that it should reflect the way the character is really played. Attempting to maintain a reputation radically different from the characters true nature is generally a failure.
  • “Innate Powers” are an indication that at least one of the characters parents was certainly not a “normal” amberite and has passed on some of the differences. The exact cost varies with the nature of the powers. This is usually restricted to relatively humanoid races and straightforward physical modifiers such as retractible claws, improved climbing abilities, poison glands, and armored skin. Minor magical powers are also possible, but are rarer and are invariably limited to relatively weak effects in some particular field.

Weird Services were used in writing this article.

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