The Pattern, a big squiggly spiral carved into rock under Castle Amber is at the very heart of the power of Amber. It is their ability to walk the Pattern and gain power to travel through Shadow which has enabled the Royal Family, and thus Amber, to become a mighty trading center and dominate its neighbors, rising in wealth and strength. That same tie makes them virtually immortal, able to live for centuries or millenia. It is, perhaps, the greatest power in the universe, though certainly Chaos, the Logrus, and the Serpent would dispute that.
This page examines the powers granted by Pattern, and by the Broken Patterns in some detail, hopefully answering some of the most common questions like 'How fast can I shift shadow to get to the Abyss and jump in?'. (Six days if you hellride, six weeks by normal means, about a year if you want to ride to your death in comfort)
The Pattern must be walked without stopping until you reach the center. It puts up an ever-increasing resistance as you do so, throwing up sparks. Especially difficult are the three so called 'veils'. In game terms, you need a minimum of Amber Endurance to make it to the end of the Walk unaided, although someone with less Endurance might make it with help from another Amberite. You should never try to walk the Pattern when not fairly well rested, as it seriously exhausts you, and collapsing on your way to the middle is fatal.
The first time you walk the Pattern is your Initiation into its power. The Pattern burns itself into your very being, creating a permanent link that enables you to call upon its power even when you're nowhere near it. Each and every time you walk the Pattern, several things happen:
In game terms a character is trading away ten points (or more) of "Stuff". If, after the curse, the character's life continues, this means they will have lost as many Stuff points, and gained as many Bad Stuff points, as is needed to make up the ten points of the curse. Of course, if the character actually dies, well... Then it's not a problem that concerns the character anymore. The character issuing the curse may use up to 10% of their points in the curse.
The subject of the curse, whether person, place, or thing, is then invested with the Bad Stuff, all of which will be directed toward fulfilling the curse. It is also, theoretically, possible to perform a "Blessing", such as that bestowed by Oberon at the end of the Chronicles of Amber.
Once performed, there is NO KNOWN WAY of removing a Blood Curse. Even the person who delivered it can't retract it. So don't use it casually.
Typically, the first thing an Amberite learns to do with the Pattern is how to shift Shadow in order to travel through it. This seems a simple enough proposition. You walk along, and as you move, you concentrate on altering small details of the environment around you.
Thus, as you ride out of Arden, you might decide that there will be a stump alongside the road, and then another one, and then another, and soon, you're moving through a region of clear cut forest. Then you edit in a small village over the next hill, home to loggers, where boats stop. You stop and get onto a barge there, paying the bargekeeper with gold, and as you ride down the river, you start adding slightly higher technology houses along the river. You add the occassional sound of gunfire. The river widens more and more, and finally, you're moving down the Mississipi river, circa 1850. You stop at a town, leaving the confused and now stranded bargeman to start a new life in a new shadow and go looking for Tom Sawyer because ever since you read the book, you wanted to beat him up for reminding you of your brother. And so it goes.
Normal movement through Shadow is slow. You can't shift shadow at all until you pass the borders of the lands where Amber's King holds sway, movement through the Golden Circle is slow, and even once you get past those, it's not safe to go too quickly.
If you are impatient, you can try Hellriding, but it's dangerous. Where normal shadow shifting changes a single detail, hellriding keeps one detail and changes everything else. It will get you places faster, but you also risk riding into some sort of situation that's highly dangerous. It's mostly useful to simply get away from somewhere you don't want to be, or if you're in a desperate hurry. Hellrides are usually done on horseback, because other methods of transportation will generally fail you at some point in the trip.
If you have plenty of time and want to relax and enjoy yourself, you can 'Ride the Royal Way'. This method is about eight times slower than normal Shadow Travel, but enables you to control every aspect of your trip down to the weather. Cheering crowds hail you everywhere, the weather is perfect, you can control the technology level so you can keep your snazzy car everywhere you go (Unless your endpoint prevents tech working), and you get just the meals you like. It's not like you're in a hurry, anyway, right? You're immortal, take some time, relax and enjoy yourself.
Shadows of Desire are more impressive; this enables you to travel to something intangible or to a specific kind of Shadow. You could, for example, seek to find a specific person in Shadow, even if you know them only as a vague idea, such as 'the man who killed my father' (Inigo Montoya would have benefited from that power). You can seek a shadow where 'I can get into a really good non-fatal bar brawl'. You can seek a Shadow of Amber where you're the rightful king. Many Amberites spend a period of time jaunting about Shadow fulfilling their desires in this way.
There is no easy way to compute how long seeking a Shadow of Desire will take, since it varies by starting point and by whether the target sits still or moves themself. (For example, you decide to Seek Touga in Shadow, so he can be told his exile is over. He is a one week ride away at the start of your trip, but on the sixth day, he Trumps to Rebma. DOH!)
Out in Shadow, if there is any reasonable chance at all of something happening, then a character with Pattern can make it happen. The main limitations are time, since using Pattern takes a few moments of concentration, and probability. A character can't make something unlikely happen, not without going into an adjacent Shadow.
The shadings of one Shadow to the next are vague. That means that small changes can be made without travelling. Short of money? Imagine a loose floorboard, under which is hidden a treasure, look and it will be there. Those with the imprint of Amber's Pattern are endlessly lucky. What is possible can, with time and effort, be made probable, and what is probable can be made certain. While this power is absolute, it always involves some movement, a shifting of the variety of Shadow for a particular shade. Any Shadow manipulation is also slightly hazardous because of your involuntary movement in Shadow. With enough time it's possible to shift just about anything in Shadow. However, there are two important limitations.
First, in order to shift Shadow you must move. Subtle changes don't require much movement, but the more drastic the change, the more you must move around. The problem here is that you can easily move right out of one Shadow and into its neighbor. Be wary that, while shifting, you don't start moving away from your objective.
Second, shifting Shadow is fairly slow. Far slower than combat time. If you wish to make use of some Shadow shifting, it's best if it be prepared before a battle. A minor change, such as the color of a coin, might take as much as a half a minute. Something useful, such as weakening a wall, or making a weapon brittle, could take a minute or more.
Once you're ready to do more with the Pattern than just cruise around Shadow, you have to learn how to summon the image of the Pattern into your mind, then use it to do neat things which will impress your friends, if you haven't alienated them all with Bad Stuff, anyway.
Learning to summon the sign of the Pattern basically requires spending a few weeks staring at the Pattern every day, or alternatively, drawing yourself a picture of the Pattern and using that. Then you have to practice imagining what it looks like. Depending on your Psyche, this may work out quickly or it may take a long time. Once you've learned to do that, you're ready to start doing things WITH the Pattern.
Picture the Pattern. Concentrate on this image, and move it into your body. This takes a few moments at best, depending on your Psyche and how well you can concentrate, but it strengthens your mind, and lends strength to your existence. The main use is defensive, so a character with Pattern Defense on is pretty much immune to the Logrus, and other Chaos generated forces. Likewise, it's difficult or impossible to use invasive Magic on a character who has Pattern brought up like this. On the other hand, keeping the Pattern internalized requires real concentration, so the character can't run or fight effectively. (People with seventy five or more points of Warfare can still fight with some degree of skill, but not anywhere even close to peak capacity). If the character's attention is broken, then the Pattern instantly flickers out.
Now you have the concentration to be able to keep the Sign of the Pattern manifesting as you retrace your path upon it mentally. This will take several minutes, but it empowers the Sign, thus allowing you to scry with your Pattern Sight and eventually learn the secrets of changing Shadow by direct manipulation of the Sign. Mindwalking the Sign is only slightly less difficult than walking the actual Pattern, but it can be accomplished much more quickly. You also now have the concentration to Manipulate Probability without moving, and the power to evoke the Pattern while still within Amber.
Finding a particular item, or person, is, however, not as easy as it might sound. Frankly, there's a lot of ground to cover. Just scanning all of Castle Amber could take hours, especially if you include the myriad of dungeon tunnels. On the other hand, if your Psyche is sharp, and if the object of your search is not disguised, then things can go much more quickly. Likewise, if Pattern is being disturbed, by a Hellride, or by any manipulation of Shadow, or even the drawing of a Trump, then the source of the disturbance should be easy to locate.
Searching out in Shadow is usually a lot easier. If the character knew about Corwin's long-time residence on Shadow Earth, and knew how to locate the place, then a search of that entire Shadow would take just a couple of minutes. Why so fast? Because the character wouldn't have to do any kind of place by place searching. Instead the entire Shadow would be observed, and any "real" things, stuff originating from Amber or Chaos, would show up in contrast to the rest of the Shadow.
Shadow Pockets can be fixed to a particular location or can be moved around by their creator. The environment inside the Shadow Pocket is also entirely up to it's creator. One drawback to Shadow Pockets is their fragility. As artificial constructs they are easily destroyed by others with the strong touch of either the Pattern or Logrus. There are three main uses of Shadow Pockets; the Hidey Hole, the Portable Hole, and the Personal Retreat.
When used as a Hidey Hole, the character creates an immobile Shadow Pocket in some area, and then stores something there to prevent it's discovery. While immobile, the Shadow Pocket is difficult to locate with the Pattern Lens or with Logrus, and impossible to detect by other means. It is also more stable, and can withstand all but direct confrontation with such Powers. The second usage of the Shadow Pocket as a Portable Hole is similar to the Hidey Hole except it is mobile and travels with the character. He/she need not concentrate on this movement, and the Pocket will travel with him/her even through Shadow. It can be used to store things too large to conveniently carry, or to store things temporarily.
Since it is mobile, it is more noticeable to those with sensitivity to Pattern or Logrus, but can be more easily reinforced and protected since it's travelling with it's creator.
The third common usage of the Shadow Pocket is the personal retreat. Since the character can design and alter the Shadow Pocket at will, using the Pattern, it is a perfect area to quickly get away to as a personal sanctuary. While being within such a construct isn't inherently dangerous, if the construct were attacked from outside and was destroyed, that which is contained within would suffer varying consequences. Those things which are real, such as the Pocket's creator, would merely be thrust into an adjacent Shadow, or perhaps thrown several Shadows distant (depending on the Power which destroyed the Pocket), those things which are of Shadow would likely be destroyed, though highly magical items and creatures have a small chance of survival.
The image of the Pattern in your mind can also serve as a tool to manipulate whole Shadows and pathways between them. With this method you can alter structure of a Shadow or even erase it altogether. Erasing Shadows is not something you would do lightly as it seems to have a detrimental effect on the overall arrangement of Pattern and Shadow.
Doing away with a Shadow, either on purpose, or by accident, will upset things in the larger system of Shadow. Shadow Storms, shifting of Shadow barriers, and the displacement of established pathways through Shadow can all result from a Shadow being wiped out. An even bigger problem is that elder Amberites and the Lords Of Chaos will likely notice this kind of large-scale interference in the order of things.
Time flow in a Shadow can be altered and with time more profound changes (such as the civilization) can be enacted. The basic idea is that all Shadow exists as a reflection of Amber, diminished by the distortion of the distant Logrus.
The last usage of the Sign is a Gateway. By using the Pattern Lens to look through Shadow to another place, and then editing the Sign to bridge the gap between where the character is and the place viewed, temporary Gates through Shadow can be made.