For people who know jack about the setting, mechanics, or anything else other than the name.
- The Basic Setting -
*So who am I?
You're a Prince or Princess of Amber, one of the most powerful things in existence. Congratulations. There may be a few beings higher up the food chain, but not many.
*Cool! So what's Amber?
Amber is the one True Realm, the only Real place. It consists of a city by the ocean, with a mountain called Kolvir beside it. On the slope of Kolvir, about halfway up, is Castle Amber, your ancestral home.
*True Realm? Real? What makes it more than any other place?
The difference between Amber and everything else is that Amber is, as I said, Real. The entire Real World consists of that castle, that mountain, that city, and that ocean.
*Small world. Is there anything else?
Yes. Amber casts Shadows. Shadows are like alternate dimensions, each slightly different from the other. They are entire worlds to themselves.
*Okay, so this Amber place has alternate dimensions called Shadows. How many of them are there, and what are they like?
Amber casts an infinite number of Shadows. There are, thus, an infinite variety of alternate universes, each slightly different from each other, each a distorted reflection of Amber. Most are so distorted that they don't, in fact, look anything like Amber.
There's a Shadow exactly like our Earth. There's a Shadow exactly like the world of Exalted. In fact, if you can think of it, there's a Shadow like it, because with infinite variations, _every_ variation is covered.
*So again, what makes this Amber place special? How do we know it casts the Shadows instead of being just another Shadow itself?
Deep below Castle Amber, in a cave, is the Pattern. The Pattern is a big glowy squiggle the size of a small parking lot, roughly circular in shape. It is literally the blueprint for EVERYTHING. Amber, the Shadows, EVERYTHING. It makes Amber Real, and makes it cast Shadows.
*Cool. Who drew the thing?
Theories differ, but the most common theory is that it was the eldest of your family.
*Does it do anything besides sit there and glow and tell the universe what to be like?
Yes. If a member of the Royal Family walks along the design to the center, the Pattern imprints itself on them. They then gain a measure of its power.
First of all, you gain the power to walk from Shadow to Shadow. This is important, because most people just can't. In fact, most Shadow-folk have no idea Shadows exist at all, and think their own Shadow is the entire universe. Poor guys.
*So I can move between these alternate universes, these Shadows? How?
You just walk or ride. As you move, you mentally start putting changes in your way. Basically, what you are doing is slowly making the where you are be like where you wish to go. This causes you to move through the Shadows until you get to the one you seek.
*Why would I want to?
Well, among other reasons, you can find practically anything you want in Shadow. A kingdom full of adoring subjects? Ride to it. A massive army waiting to be led against a foe? Ride to it. So, in essense, those of Amber (Amberites) can go to a universe where anything they might want is waiting for them.
*Does having Pattern do anything else for you?
Many things. At the most basic levels, it lets you manipulate probability while in Shadow, letting you cause a roulette ball to land on a certain number or a truck to coincidentally hit an oil patch and skid out. You can call it to mind to provide a defence against mental attack. In the most desperate of circumstances, you can pronounce a Blood Curse, a doom so terrible that it drains the utterer's own soul to speak.
*And at higher levels?
Masters of Pattern are formidable people, able to mold Shadows like play-doh, spy on people half a universe away, travel at ludicrous speeds, and generally demonstrate that the thing which defines Reality is their bitch.
It is. It's one of the reasons why it's good to be an Amberite.
*Some other reasons, please.
As the Queen song goes, you are Immortal, you have inside you blood of Kings. As a member of the royal family of Amber, you don't age past about the late-twenties or so. You have physical abilities far beyond any normal man, and likely mental ones as well. You are a figure of legend, capable of feats mortals can only dream of.
*Okay, hold on, one second. Let me get this straight. I can walk to any Shadow I like and find anything I want. I can use my Pattern imprint to do all sorts of horrible stuff to the poor inhabitants of said Shadows. And just to top it all off, I'm better than them at just about everything. Is that right?
Got it in one.
*So what's the point of the game? It sounds like I'm more or less the invincible Sir Whack-A-Mole.
There's a two-part answer to that question. First of all, your family is not exactly small, and is not exactly noted for its unity and harmony. Your brothers and sisters are very strong-willed, opinionated people. Many of them plot and scheme in their sleep. Some of them know secrets...
*And second of all?
Sooner or later, every Amberite does something. They try riding as far as they can go away from Amber, to the places where the Shadows start to go mad, where the distortion overwhelms and drowns the Pattern. When they can ride no more, they look upon the Courts of Chaos.
*The Courts of Chaos?
Remember how I said Amber was the one Real place? I lied. The Courts seem to be plenty Real too. They have their own version of the Pattern; a huge, twisty maze called the Logrus that constantly writhes and twists. Traversing the Logrus drives people mad. It also gives them powers similar to those granted by the Pattern, yet different.
*Who does traverse it?
The Lords of Chaos, who rule the place. There are a lot more of them than there are members of the family of Amber. However, they tend to be somewhat weaker one on one.
*Let me guess, they don't love Amber, right?
Who knows? Most of your family never goes there. That you know of, anyway. But the Pattern is the Sigil of Order; the Logrus the Sign of Chaos. Doesn't exactly sound like a recipe for love and peace, does it?
*So my family's untrustworthy, there's a boatful of Lords of Chaos on the other side of the universe. Anything else to worry about?
Shadow is a big place. And frankly, few of your family really understand it, and the ones that do aren't talking. Did the Pattern create them, or just give form to them? Was there anything around before the Pattern? How does the Logrus fit into all this? There may well be things lying out in Shadow, biding their time or waiting to be found. Powers lying dormant...
*Yeah, powers. You mentioned the Logrus, and talked about the Pattern. Any other stuff like that?
As far as most Amberites know, the Pattern and the Logrus are the Big Two, the Primal Powers upon which the universe is based. However, there are lesser powers which are still pretty potent in their own right.
Trump, to start with. It's often viewed as a sort of 'Third Primal Power,' as it's stronger than all the other second-class powers and possesses some measure of ability to go toe to toe with the Big Two. However, pound for pound it is weaker than Pattern and Logrus when it comes down to direct confrontation.
*So what is it?
Trump is a sort of tarot power, one that relies on special cards which picture a person or place. You use them by holding them in your hand and concentrating on them. If the person pictured does not resist the contact, you find yourself in psychic communication with them, wherever they may be. You can even extend a hand through the link, and physically pull them through to your location, or vice versa. Thus, at the most basic level it acts as a combination cell phone/transporter device. One of the handy things about Trump is that while only a Trump Artist can create the cards, anyone can use them once they are made.
*Can I do anything else with Trump?
Because it creates a psychic link, a Trump connection can be used to initiate psychic combat. Masters of Trump use it in all sorts of sneaky ways, from creating 'trap' Trumps that activate on sight and take the victim someplace nasty, to Trump Gates that stay open for hours and allow the movement of entire armies.
*Okay. What else is there?
Shapeshifting is exactly what it sounds like. It's not very common in Amber, but is practically universal in Chaos; learning at least the basics is required to traverse the Logrus. Broken Pattern is a sort of halfassed version of Pattern; it's a lot cheaper, but much punier and prone to fail dramatically without warning. Magic includes Sorcery, Craefting, and Power Words. It tends to be very flexible, but is the puniest of all the powers, and doesn't work everywhere.
*What about technology? And you said that somewhere there was a world just like Exalted, so doesn't that mean we could learn Charms and Solar Circle spells?
Okay, this is a long one, so bear with me. There are literally an infinite number of powers, technological gizmos, and magical systems out in Shadow. Many of them are pretty potent and kickass. And many of them can, in fact, be learned by Amberites. But few Amberites ever take the time to learn them, because all this stuff is Shadow-specific. Why would you spend 30 years learning all the Charms in Water Dragon Style when none of them will work outside of the Exalted Shadow? Your time is far better spent learning the REAL powers, the stuff that will work everywhere you go. Even if you plan to retire out in one Shadow and never leave, it's still not that great an idea to devote too much time to studying the local Powers, because all it takes is a Master of Pattern rewriting the Shadow's reality a bit to make the local system of spells or tech or whatever start failing or misfiring.
*Would the Unconquered Sun sit still for that?
The Unconquered Sun is a powerful guy - in his Shadow. He has no power to leave it. He may not even be aware there is anything outside of it. And even if he did leave, most of his powers would fail, because they are dependant upon the world-laws of his universe. Now IN the Exalted Shadow, he could probably beat down most Amberites. If he noticed them in time, that is, because for all his power he's still just a Shadowdweller, which means anyone with enough Pattern or Logrus can rewrite him given time.
*So the Pattern is stronger than him?
It's not even an issue of strength. The Pattern is Real. He isn't. Think of the Holodeck from that 'Star Trek' show. It could call up people far stronger, faster, and more powerful than the crew. It could even call up an Unconquered Sun if they wanted. But none of these things are real; all the crew has to do is say 'end program' or 'make him friendly' or 'have it start raining', and that's that.
*So Shadowdwellers are harmless?
No. Having the ability to play with reality however you like does you no good if that stronger, faster, more powerful person beats you down before you can do anything. Pattern is not a fast power; it takes a bit of time and concentration. Also, some Shadows are harder to manipulate than others, either because they have had someone Real living there for a long time or stranger reasons.
*Okay, how does tech fit into this?
Tech exists at varying degrees in different Shadows. If you took a lightsaber from a Star Wars Shadow into the Exalted Shadow, you'd just have a hilt-shaped hunk of metal. Go vice versa and take a Daiklave to Coruscant, and you just have a big sword with no special powers.
*So guns don't work everywhere?
Only in modern-tech Shadows. Most Amberites tend to carry swords or something similar for this reason. Swords work just about EVERYWHERE. Even if you get to a Shadow that is so freaky that the blade has no edge and most kinds of forging don't work, you still will generally be left with a long heavy thingie that you can whack people with.
*All right. So the powers you listed above, they'll work everywhere?
For the most part. Pattern and Logrus seem to work everywhere, although they grow weaker the closer they get to their opposite number. Trump works just about everywhere, although some places have been barred to it due to the influence of the Pattern or Logrus, and the range of it is limited to about 2/3rds of the 'distance' between Amber and Chaos. Shapeshifting works everywhere except for really strange Shadows. Broken Pattern works, but only in Shadows with pronounced flaws. The various forms of Magic only work in Shadows where some form of magic exists.
*Are there any gods? I mean, Real gods, with powers that cross Shadow?
Good question. Amber has a patron being called the Unicorn, and there's a small established church dedicated to it. Some members of the family claim to have spotted it once or twice, usually from afar. But if it exists, it has shown no inclination to appear and kick ass for Amber, or to reward its worship. So nobody really knows, at least nobody who's telling. Chaos has a being that fills a similar role called the Serpent, or so you understand. The Pattern could be said to be a god of sorts, although it doesn't appear to actually have any actual mind or sentience.
*Okay, how about the swag?
As an Amberite, you can more or less get whatever you like by walking to it in Shadow. Of course, whether it will work where you want it to is another story. If you are planning on a sea battle in a Shadow with technology equal to the Age of Pirates, there's no point in getting the USS Harry Truman, as it will promptly fall apart and sink, its reactor won't work, and the aircraft will just be fancy hunks of inert metal. On the other hand, getting a fleet of English Men-O-War from a few Shadows over will do perfectly.
*Yeah, but I mean SWAG. There's got to be special stuff that works everywhere and has power, yeah?
Many Amberites have objects or weapons with great power. In general, the object is a part of their personal reality, and as such will work nearly anywhere, up to an extent. These things, be they sword, steed, armor, or pocketwatch, are to an extent empowered with what makes the character Real, and thus can never truly be lost. Even if stolen, broken, or buried under a thousand tons of rock, the item can be retrieved by taking a walk in Shadow and deciding it will be right around the corner. The exception to this is if someone else Real gets ahold of them, and decides to fight you for the attunement.
*Anything more specific?
There are three very potent items known to exist that bear special mention. They're the sort of thing that Amberites and Chaosians lust after, and can't just walk to.
*What's the first?
The Jewel of Judgment. This is a smoky, obelisk-shaped red gem about the size of a fist. No-one is sure where it came from, at least no-one's who's telling. Supposedly it was used to draw the Pattern. Which would imply that it may be MORE POWERFUL than the Pattern. Which is just scary. But the only thing anyone's ever seen it do for sure is control the weather.
*Gah. Okay, what's the second?
There exist a very few swords known as Patternblades, swords with a portion of the Pattern inscribed on them. Patternblades cannot be broken by any known force. They cut through most armors like tinfoil. They cause magic that touches them to fizzle and die. And they set the blood of Chaosians on fire with just a scratch, causing them to burn real pretty and die. Rumor has it that a Chaos version called Logrusfoils also exist, but rumors say a lot of things.
*And number three?
There are supposedly rings called Spikards, which allow the wearer to access great powers. Or turn him into a vegetable. Who knows? You've never seen one, or met anyone who has.
*Okay... what else?
That's the basic world. You now have everything you need to know to run in the setting. For details on how to build a character and game mechanics, now continue on to my Happy Fun Character-Building Page.