Balance

At the ends of Reality lurk two great opposed powers, Chaos and Order. Power ripples out of each like the water ripples when rock strikes a pond. Between them the ripples interact, forming the substance of the various Shadows, a cosmological form of standing waves. Masters who tap their power, the Logrus users and Pattern intiates call upon their vast essences to perform wonderous feats. But there are those who walk a middle path choosing neither the static unchanging Order or the warping evershifting Chaos. Those who have learned to exploit the equilibrium that exists at all points. Those who understand and seek Balance.

Most of those who have come to terms with Balance are the enlightened. Seekers of wisdom, mystics, mages, and others who can peer beyond the veil of what is to see those interactions of Order and Chaos and learn to sense and manipulate them. Few enough see it, fewer still learn to use it, but it offers a good deal of power to those who can not pay the blood loyalty to the Pattern and will not risk the mind-price of the Logrus.

The entry requirements for being a Balancer are relatively low. Chaos Psyche is required to have the necessary perceptions and a Chaos Endurance is needed to withstand the forces that Balance manipulates. There are no other requirements on learning the skills of Balance.


Balance Partial Power Breakdown


Sense Balance

The first step towards understanding Balance it to be able to percieve Imbalance. Everywhere in Reality there is a natural equilibrium between powers. Near Chaos, the Logrus rules over Pattern. Near Amber, vice versa. At Ygg, the powers come to a near even balance. By extending his senses, a Balancer can detect things that are 'out of place' in Shadow. This power is wide in scope and high in sensitivity, but very poor in resolution. A Balancer can tell there is someone or something with a large quanitity of some Reality in a Shadow, and get a good sense of where the disturbance is and the amount and what sort of reality it entails, but little else. A Balancer could tell you there are 4 pockets of disturbance about the size of a person, filled with large amounts of Pattern energy, but not that it was Corwin, Dierdre, Bleys, and Random. Being close to either end of Reality makes it harder to sense that type of disturbance however, as it tends to blend into the 'background noise' inherent in the Shadow. In Arden, the above Balance user would be hard pressed to tell the size and number of objects, simply understading 'over there is a slightly higher concentration then elsewhere'. It's also possible to deliberately peer directly into the next Shadows over, but one in any direction is about the limit. At close ranges, the Balancer can easily determine what powers a person or object is capable of weilding, even if they're not currently active, just by the traces of it that linger near them.

Balance Discrimination

With enough practice, a Balancer begins to be able to recognize the signatures of disturbances in Shadow. It's still not enough to get a good look a strange person or object, but finer levels of detail become enough to recognize a person the Balancer has met before. Additionally, as a result of a greater degree of sensitivity, the Balance user can often determine the relative degree of control over powers a person or object might have. For example, a Balancer could tell which of two people had greater control over the Logrus or Pattern.

Shadow Surf

Since Shadow is created out of the fabric of Reality by the interaction of Primal Forces, a Balancer can explot these interactions to 'surf' along the lines between them. Being able to see both aspects and the ebb and tide between them, a Balancer moves comparitively quickly relative to a Pattern user shadow walking or Logrus user travelling with tendrils. Movement is quickest nearest Ygg, where the forces are equal, being significantly faster than even a hellride (though not as nearly as fast as Trump), but is still faster than straight shadow walking even all the way up to borders of both Chaos and Amber, where Shadow Surfing ceases to work. Unlike both Logrus and Pattern users, however, the Balancer does not have any inherent ability to move towards a non-specific target, such as with Seeking Shadows of Desire. Instead, they must stop randomly and use some other means to determine how close they are to their target and in what direction to head until they've narrowed in close enough. The only signs Balance can give directly give is a disturbance in the Balance of a Shadow. For example, if a Balancer travelling from Ygg to Amber happened to pass through a Shadow where a Pattern Initiate was, he would recognize this fact and thus could choose to stop. Anything else, including using Sense Balance, requires stopping.

Shadow Skip

Having greatly refined their control over Shadow Surfing, a Balancer can now initiate a Shadow Surf in a much shorter time and with much greater precision. The top travel speed does not increase, but with the increase in control, a Balancer now can slip across the Shadow veil with very little preparation. With a high enough Psyche, they can even step over and and back rapidly enough to appear to teleport within a single Shadow.

Shadow Cut

At this level a Balancer's understanding of how Shadow is 'woven' is such that he can selectively 'reweave' the paths between them, creating Shadow Paths and Shortcuts. Shadow Paths work exactly like Conjurations with similar powers, allowing people to move between a series of shadows without invoking any powers, but by simply following the cut path. Shortcuts work similarly to Black Channels/Roads?, allowing a Shadow walker (of any variety) to move at a greatly increased speed, bypassing large amounts of intervening Shadow. Creating either kind of Shadow Cut of any length requires very large amounts of skill, focus (Psyche), and energy (Endurance) and usually leaves extremely noticable traces in the fabric of Shadow for some distance. But if you have a couple Balance Grand Masters, there's no faster way to be able to move an army. As with all Balance Shadow manipulations, an Advanced Logrus or Pattern master can unmake these constructs with a small amount of dedicated effort.

Balance Defense

By selective enhancing and diminishing the strength of various powers in his surroundings a Balance Initiate can improve his natural resistence to those powers. On the upside, this works anywhere. On the downside, it's strongest where the power it's defending against is weakest and thus the least defense is needed. Still, Balance defense will keep out invasive Magic or Broken Pattern, greatly assist in resisting Trump contact, and be distinctly uncomfortable to touch with Logrus or Pattern as well as providing some measure of defense against them.

Reality Aikido

The closest to an offensive technique that Balance offers, Reality Akido allows a Balancer to turn powers back on themselves in various ways. By controlling the amount of a power availble in a specific portion of Shadow, the Balancer can cause users drawing on other powers to draw too much or too little power to control, or invoke just enough of an opposing power to cause an adverse reaction (such as feeding pattern to a logrus tendril or vice versa). In general the results are merely exceedingly unpleasant, like grabing a Trump with Logrus, rather than actively dangerious. For those powers that don't invoke themselves (such as using Pattern to affect probability and other non-invasive abilities), using Reality Aikido tends to produce little or no affect.

Power Dam

Having gained an understanding how how the interaction between powers creates the very existence of Shadow, a Balancer can 'tug the strings' of the fabric of the Shadow, selectively altering how the powers work within it. This is a very limited form of the sort of Shadow Manipulation a Logrus or Pattern user can perform. Given enough time, a Balancer can eventually reduce the influence of any power in a Shadow the merest trickle. However, an Advanced Pattern or Logrus user can undo these changes nearly immediately, and even at more basic levels an initiate of those powers can eventually restore normal usage to the Shadow, making this useful only for surprise value or if the Balancer's Psyche significantly outweighs that of the user of the primal power.

Power Block

A more effective form of Power Dam, the selected power is shut off veyr quickly and much more completely. Much like the sort of barriers described in the creation of Shadows in the ADRPG book, a Balancer using Power Block can turn off specific powers in the shadow. Users of those powers will generally immediately notice the change and will have a few moments to do something about it before the power fades completely. In general, it takes an Advanced Pattern, Logrus or Balance user to undo such a change, though given sufficiently time (days to never depending on the differences in Psyches), those with Basic levels can still undo the changes.


Interactions

Sensing the use of Balance

Noticing the use of Balance is generally very difficult. Since a Balancing relies on the power of the interaction of powers, it tends to leach from them, rather the expressly manifest. Additionally, most Balance powers are are not flashy and tend not to disturb the environment overly much. Using Balance Power Dams to alter the permiability of a Shadow to various powers is quite noticable though, particularly to Advanced Pattern or Logrus users or those with abnormally high Psyche. Unlike both Pattern and Logrus though, a Balancer moving through Shadow tends to leave very little wake or trail to follow or notice.

Pattern

The only place where Pattern and Balance tend to directly overlap is in the manipulation of Shadow, where Pattern beats out Balance hands down, unless the Balancer is either greatly more skilled or stronger of mind (or both) than the Pattern Initiate. Advanced Pattern users can detect these manipulations of Shadow at a distance using a Pattern Lens, but most other Balance abilities tend to be more or less invisible to it.

Someone with both Pattern Imprint and understanding of Balance gains some fairly significant advantages. First, Balance Defense and Reality Aikido are greatly enhanced by being able to draw on significant amounts of Pattern Energy, making the user much more resistant to all sorts of attacks. Secondly, the combination of Seeking in Shadow and Shadow Surfing means that it becomes possible to seek in shadow at higher rates of speed than most Pattern users, using Balance's speed and Pattern to home on the target.

Logrus

As with Pattern, when it comes to manipulation of Shadow, Logrus beats Balance if all else is equal, though by a slightly lesser margin. A Balancer need only be moderately greater skill or mind to equal a Logrus user in such a conflict. However, by some quirk of fate, Logrus lenses seem to be more able to notice and follow the minute strains on Shadow that traveling with Balance leaves behind though it takes much care and patience and a skilled Logrus usser to track a Balance user.

As with Pattern, a Logrus user with Balance abilities gains several interesting combinations. First, Sense Balance can be used with Logrus Tendrils which can greatly enhance the speed at which one can Logrus-search for an object. Next, as with Pattern, having Logrus enhances Balance Defense and Reality Aikido, particularly against Pattern. Lastly, having Balance allows a Logrus master to 'insulate' his tendrils to a degree, making touching a trump or pattern imbued object merely painful and irritating as opposed to hazardous and migrane inducing.

Trump

With very little overlap, and neither being offensive in and of themselves, there's not much direct interaction between the powers of Balance and Trump. Balancers' ability to turn off Trump (or make contact much more difficult) in a particular Shadow works unless the Trump user also has Pattern or Logrus with which to counteract Balance.

Similarly, there's not much that Balance and Trump can do to enhance each other, other than making Balance's already strong Trump defenses nearly impregnable to Trump contact and effects.

Shapeshift

Balance users with Balance Discrimination can detect Basic Shapeshifting (though not Advanced Shapeshifters employing aura shifts) via the stresses on their own fabric, though it does not give them any indication what the shifters normal form is. An advanced shapeshifter could duplicate a form which has Balance senses and Shadow Surfing.

No one has yet come up with any particularly clever uses of combined Balance and Shapeshift, though some Balancers with Shapeshift prefer to use non-human forms when Shadow Surfing for a variety of reasons.

Magic

In general, Balance beats out any Magical effects. With Balance Defense, a Balancer is more or less immune to any direct magical damage, and Reality Aikido can give a Sorceror or Power Word user a nasty surprise, throwing their effect right back at them. Unless the Magic User has other means, a Balance master can easily shut down access to Magic in a Shadow, as well.

On the combination side, Balance's ability to detect the nature of Shadow can greatly ease the life of a Sorceror, and extend the life of Empowered or Conjured items (including across nearby shadows by 'tweaking' the local environments). Unfortunately, while most of Balance's abilities can be easily duplicated with magic, no one has yet managed to use Balance-powered sorcery, the way a Logrus or Pattern sorceror can generate Logrus and Pattern effects with spells. It's possible to Conjure items that use Balance Sense, though there's generally little enough point to doing so. However, giving a Seek in Shadow empowerment to a Balance user gives much better navigational abilities, though not quite as good as Pattern.

Overall Thoughts

Balance is a very 'solid' power. It offers very little flash, but a good number of very usable abilities. It's good for going places fast, and searching for things. More than anything, though, it's a way for a character to make a statement of wanting neither Pattern or Logrus without being overly penalized by being unable to get around Shadow easily. Faster than anything but Trump, yet not as flexible. It has strong defense but almost nothing of an offensive nature. It combines well with Sorcery, or to a lesser degree Conjuration, too produce a decent character, for about the same amount of points as Pattern would cost (and is superior in some ways and inferior in others).

Balance tends to be good for non-Amberites who aren't necessarily from the Courts of Chaos (and would thus not have Logrus, Shapeshifting, and/or Trump), or Amberites who can't or won't take the the Pattern (due to low Endurance or being of non-Royal blood). It's also good for those 'wise old mystics', including types like Druids, who believe in a Cosmic Balance (even if it's not necessarily one of Chaos and Order).