All of creation is a panoply of worlds which stretch between Amber, the Eternal City, and the Courts of Chaos. These universes are known as 'Shadows', worlds which dimly reflect the glory of the only two 'Real' worlds. Those who possess the blood of Amber or Chaos may master arts which allow them to move through Shadow from world to world, finding anything they can imagine and bending universes to their will.
Amber is ruled by King Oberon, your father, son of Dworkin Barimen, who drew the Pattern by some unknown means. He has taken many wives and spawned many children, some of whom may not even be known publically. He's an old rat bastard who used and abused you all, but he loved Amber as his real one true love and always protected her and made her strong. Love him or hate him, even on his sickbed, he can still kick each and every one of you's butt.
The Amber pole of creation is maintained by 'the Pattern', a great spiral sigil inscribed into the stone of the Pattern Chamber beneath Castle Amber. Those who possess the blood of Amber (are descended from Oberon and Dworkin) can walk the Pattern and bid it to send them anywhere in all of creation. They also gain the ability to 'shadow walk', travelling slowly and safely or quickly but more dangerously through shadow to anywhere they can imagine.
The Courts of Chaos are said to possess some similar sigil, walkable by those who possess the Blood of Chaos, but little is known of the Courts of Chaos.
Different 'Shadows' have different laws of nature sometimes. Magic works in some, high technology in others. Some are the size of a breadbox, while others encompass billions of light years of space or more. If you can think of it, it probably exists out there somewhere.
Chaos is known to exist, but little is known of it, and little dealings have been had with it. It is known to be centered around a great pit known as the Abyss and to be ruled by quarreling Great Houses with an elected King. The current king of Chaos is a man named 'Ishmael', of House Hendrake. The Logrus is not known to exist, but the Serpent of Chaos is.
Known houses of Chaos
The exact size and dimensions of Amber proper remain debatable. Close to Amber, shadows blend into each other and tend to resist being molded to a degree which makes it unclear at what point you've actually left the home shadow. Also, those from shadows sufficiently close to Amber can apparently freely travel between those shadows at certain points or areas.
Castle Amber lies on the southeastern slopes of Mount Kolvir, which sits at the far western point of a U-shaped gulf which opens out eastward (It's at the 'bottom of the u'. It is about two thirds of the way up the mountain. At the top of the mountain floats Tir'na'og, also called the Castle of Illusion, a mirror image of Kolvir, Castle Amber and the City of Amber, on nights when the moon shines in the sky. It is upside down and reached by a stair that appears on top of Kolvir when the moon shines. Below Kolvir, at the mouth of the Barimen river, lies the City of Amber and Amberport, two cities grown together into one. Amberport has no walls, although the harbor is guarded by two towers and a chain, while the city is walled. A long staircase, a tunnel into Kolvir, and a long and winding road which switches back and forth frequently allow access from city to castle. (Oberon also has a riding beast that resembles a small dragon which he used in happier, healthier days to get up and down)
The Kolvir range spreads northeast along the northern side of the Gulf of Amber, blocking any travel by land in that direction, except by the road which circles Kolvir itself, and which can be effectively sealed by the controller of the Castle. The range of mountains also spreads west into the interior of the continent, closely paralleled by the Barimen River, for about three weeks ride, then turns into hills.
North of the Kolvir Range are the Plains of Harad, the agricultural heartland of Amber, home to grain farmers and vinyards and orchards, cut through by many rivers and streams. Three weeks ride north of the Kolvir range is the Eregna River, beyond which lies the Golden Circle kingdom of Kashfa. The Shalomar Naval Base sits at the mouth of the Eregna river; the Northern Fleet is based here. Several castles manned by the army of Amber dot the western border of the plains and protect the major crossings of the Eregna.
East of the Plains of Harad, in the Great Eastern Ocean, to the northeast of the Gulf of Amber, are the Isles of Shalomar, thousands of islands ranging in size from large rocks to the size of Crete. The larger ones contain petty kingdoms, the smaller ones contain wild animals and hidden pirate bases.
West of the Plains of Harad lies the Golden circle kingdom of Begma, nestled among the Begma hills. Northwest of the plains is the region known as Eregnor, a constant bone of contention between Begma and Kashfa.
South of the Kolvir Range, spreading west and south for a week's ride (on the roads, much longer off road), is Forest Arden, the great hunting preserve of the Kings of Amber. It is protected by the Warden of Arden. Along the southern coast of the Gulf of Amber, three days ride from Amber, is Rebma, the underwater reflection of Amber. It claims only a tiny portion of the coast, which is full of farming and fishing villages. Beyond Rebma, the forest gradually draws back from the coast, which turns to run more southeasterly, and rises into hills, which are dotted with mining towns and craftsmen. This region is known as the hills of Sethfore. Eventually, the coast turns completely southward, and the Mystara River empties into the sea. The Mystara naval base stands here. South of the Mystara river is the Golden Circle kingdom of Therin.
West of Arden and South of Kolvir is the Golden Circle kingdom of Talma. The main road into Amber forks in several directions as one leaves Arden. One fork goes straight west to Talma, another runs southwest to Uila, and the last runs along the edge of Arden south to Singh. The terrain here is gentle hills and downs running southwestward.
Castle Amber is a huge sprawling fortress along the southeastern slope of Mount Kolvir. It overlooks the pass which provides the easiest access to the Plains of Harad to the north. It can be entered in three ways: climbing a steep staircase straight up to it from the city. Riding up a longer, but less steep road which winds up from the pass. Riding into the fortified tunnel that runs into Kolvir and leads to a magically powered 'elevator' controlled from inside the castle. Rumors persist of other access tunnels, but nothing has been proven.
A curtain wall surrounds the castle to the south and east, while the steep slope of Kolvir shields it to the west and north. Inside the curtain wall is a large courtyard, various small auxillary buildings such as the stables and smithy, a large garden on the northern side of the courtyard, and dug into the mountain itself, the main keep and palace on the western side of the courtyard. The 'elevator' access opens into a small building in the courtyard.
The palace has five external stories, plus many subterranean levels dug into the mountains. The ground level contains most of the governmental business and public function areas. The second level contains the great ballroom, the armory, the library, and the great dining hall with related areas (kitchen, servants, etc). The third level contains the quarters of your generation of Amberites and the main guest areas. The fourth level contains the King's quarters and the royal vaults. The fifth level is for the king only, and none of you know what is up there.
Below the palace are many layers of tunnels. These include the dungeons, Dworkin's quarters, various laboratories and storage rooms, the wine cellar, and the Pattern chamber. The control room for the 'elevator' system is here as well, and a big door labelled 'Plumbing--Dworkin, Mario, and the king only'. Only they know what actually lies beyond that door.
The Pattern Chamber
This room is of especial note. The Pattern sits in the dungeons of Castle Amber, in a room which is usually locked. The key hangs in the hallway by the door. Yes, it seems to be locked in order to keep something in, not to keep people out of it...
The City of Amber
Amber is a huge city of nearly 1 million people, supported by trade and craft production and the seemingly endless fertility of the Plains of Harad. Massive amounts of grain are carted across the Kolvir Pass and up the Gulf of Amber every day to keep the city fed. The city possesses its own army, the 'Trained Bands', which are divided into two sections. The 'Burghal Guard' is a small, elite squad of highly trained mercenary cavalry, numbering 100 light cavalry, 300 medium cavalry, and 100 heavy cavalry. The remainder of the army is made up of the 100 'Centuries' of the 100 Wards of the City of Amber. Each ward contributes 100 armed men. The result is an extremely mixed bag which ranges from 100 hired mercenary Ungolian horse archers supplied by the Ward of Gold, to 100 street thugs with clubs and knives from the Ward of the Dead Monkey.
The City of Amber is ruled by a Mayor and the Century of Aldermen, each of whom is elected from one of the 100 wards. The Aldermen serve six years, and the mayor is elected for ten. The Steward can choose to veto the choice of mayor and call for a popular election to the mayorship, which generally leads to the Steward and Alderman working out in advance who will be mayor. City politics are notoriously corrupt.
The one hundred wards are roughly equal in size, but not in population or quality. The wealth level rises as one moves west, away from the frequently stinky and unclean port to the east. The richest ward is the Ward of Gold, home to wealthy merchants, and the most prestigous is the Ward of the Unicorn, home to nobles and the Temple of the Unicorn. The poorest is the Ward of the Dead Monkey, which lies just south of the gate to Amberport.
Forest Arden is a thick, ancient woods riddled with trails which can move about at the Warden of Arden's command. Deep in the forest's heart is the Warden's lodge, a small fortress which serves as his refuge and base. Many small rivers and streams flow into the forest, eventually running into the Barimen river, which runs through the northern edge of the forest. The warden also controls the river locks which make the river navigable, and can open or close it to traffic accordingly.
The shadows/kingdoms closest to Amber are known as the Golden Circle. These shadows have special trade relationships with Amber and are usually closely allied to it. They are likely to stay neutral in this conflict.
Long ago, Begma, Eregnor, and Kashfa were provinces of a powerful empire known as Catala, founded by the Catala nomads, who swept down and united all the petty kingdoms of the area. Oberon's first wife was from Catala. In time, their ruling dynasty turned its eyes south towards the plains of Harad and Amber. So Oberon had their king assassinated, and the kingdom disintegrated into its component parts. One of those is now the Kingdom of Begma, which has been conquered many times but always rises again. It is currently a feudal state ruled by the descendants of the last nomadic invaders.
Begma has a long running dispute with Kashfa over control of Eregnor, a province which has changed hands dozens of times over the last millenia or so. The Duke of Eregnor, Jade, betrayed the Begmans and handed the province over to them a few months ago, and now a war seems eminent.
Cathay is one of Amber's most distant trading partners, and one of the largest; relations alternate between extreme tranquility and volatility. Cathay strongly resembles China on Shadow Earth, as it was around the time of the Ming dynasty. It alternates between fairly tolerant dynasties which trade with Amber and isolationist ones which either shut off all trade or try to conquer Amber and add it to the Empire. Currently, it is ruled by the Beitung Dynasty, who are interested in trade.
Far across the ocean is Daiga, a great sprawling feudal state like the
Holy Roman Empire, in the process of disintegration. It is a great
place to buy weapons and hire mercenaries or to die in some intrigue.
Religious, social, ethnic, and political conflicts are all tearing the
Daigan empire apart. Western Daiga, which trades with Amber, is very
Germanic in culture, but the dominant culture is more Slavic.
An unfortunate province caught between millstones. Currently under Kashfan rule, controlled by Duke Jade, who recently switched allegiance to Kashfa. Its southern border with the Plains of Harad is a great forest, the Forest of Eregnor.
Long ago, Euboea was a powerful commercial empire centered around a Broken Pattern. Adepts of that Pattern led Euboea's fleets through Shadow, enabling them to grow greatly in wealth and power. They began to conquer other Shadows. When they encountered Amber, they assumed it would be more easy meat. The three Euboean wars were one of the fiercest struggles of Amber's history. Finally, a horde of barbarians descended on it from Shadow and sent it back to the Bronze Age. Modern Euboea is divided into many squabbling city states, unable to unite effectively, in part because Amberite diplomacy ensures it stays that way.
Euboea is southeast of Amber, several weeks sailing time, on a huge mountainous island the size of England divided into many small valleys, each of which is currently a city state.
Kashfa lies north of Amber along the coast, beyond the Plains of Harad. It is a feudal state evolving towards a still aristocratic 'Old Regime' style state (think Three Musketeers France). Kashfa's rulers dream big, and they've had a lot of success ever since Queen Jasra murdered her husband and took direct control of the country. There are rumors of dissension between Jasra and her son, Rinaldo. Her recent success in securing Eregnor seems to have put Jasra firmly in place for the foreseeable future, unless she loses the war which is likely imminent.
Singh is a city state in the Greek style which has survived only by begging Amber for protection and by being very good at fighting. It has a citizen army of great skill, though small numbers. Singh is ruled by a council of ten elected archons and an assembly of the citizenry. It has a traditional trade rivalry with Talma.
Talma is a mercantile nation, ruled by a council of rich merchants. It has bad relations with feudal Begma, but good relations with Amber and Uila. Singh is a traditional trade rival, producing many of the same goods.
Therin is an absolute monarchy ruled by King John. It is a huge, decadent kingdom stumbling towards collapse, but remains quite wealthy. Its government is notoriously corrupt. Therans are noted for producing some of the best dyes and cloths in this entire area, and for their massive cotton production.
Uila is the latest of many attempts to unify fifteen or so squabbling city states. It is currently at apogee, but when Queen Mira dies, most people expect it will collapse. It has made many unsuccessful efforts to conquer Singh, with which it shares a similar culture, although the ruling class is from Hacedon, a province considered barbarian by the Uila, but who have assimilated some aspects of their culture and united the squabbling cities.
Wroland is reached by sailing southeast of Amber to the Isles of Wro,
then making west to the coast of Wroland. This is the only known
way of entering it through Shadow; efforts to take a more direct route
simply put you in Therin instead. Wroland is an elective monarchy
ruled by squabbling nobles jealous of their privileges and mostly paralyzed
by the necessity of unanimous decisions in their Diet (parliament).
Wroland is well on its way to disintegration, but it produces a lot of
raw materials, food, metals, and excellent musicians. Printing presses
are known here, making it a major source of books for the Golden Circle.
You all know the basic concept, but no one has ever found a variation that works in Amber that you know of. Efforts to seek such a formula in Shadow mysteriously fail for reasons which remain unknown. Amber does have fireworks, but they are sorcerous in nature.
The Jewel of Judgement
This is the most powerful known artifact in Amber whose existence is proven. Close to Amber it is hard to shift shadow and mold it, but with the Jewel, you could turn Kolvir into a giant potato or turn the Gulf of Amber to blood. It can also control weather with ease, and be used in some way to store spells and do other tricks your father has never really explained to anyone. He wears it on court occassions, and the rest of the time, it remains locked in the royal vault. Rumors persist that the royal family of Rebma controls a shadow of the Jewel of Judgement, and that the royal crown of Therin contains another such shadow.
Magic in Amber
As per the usual rules, every shadow has its own laws of magic. Magic is fairly powerful, but not vastly powerful in Amber itself and its nearest shadows. It functions by tapping the ambient magical energy of the surrounding area, which tends to be strongest at certain magical hotspots known as foci. If too many sorcerors all try to tap the magic in a given location, their spells may fizzle due to using up all the local juice. Smart sorcerors find a foci and build something to let them tap it from a distance so they don't run into this problem.
Magic requires a special hereditary knack to be learned, making it somewhat rare. Still, about one out of every hundred Amberites has some degree of skill at sorcery.
The sorcery rules I'm going to use can be found on this page. I will be using the standard conjuration rules.
Pattern Blades are weapons which have a segment of the Pattern inscribed in them. Two are known to exist, Greyswandir--the Night Sword, and Werewindle --the Day Sword. Rumors speak of Dawn and Evening blades as well, but who might wield them is unknown.
They will cut through almost any armor with ease, they're virtually unbreakable, and they cause those who possess the Blood of Chaos to burn to death with just a nick.
Persistant rumors speak however, of Chaos Blades which do the same thing to Amberites...
Rebma is, according to Amberites, an underwater reflection of Amber, complete with its own Pattern. Of course, the Rebmans say the same thing about Amber. It's underwater, but if you enter by the stairs in, you can breathe the water. It is similar to, though not completely the same in geography as Amber City and Castle Amber. It has its own pattern, etched in light green into a dark coral floor. Rebmans tend to have green and blue hair and skin, but can interbreed with normal humans. Oberon's fourth wife was from Rebma, Rei of Rebma.
Rebma has been ruled for centuries by Queen Moire; her origins are unknown to the average Amberite, but some rumors claim she is Oberon's sister. She has been married twelve times and has nearly twenty surviving legitimate children; it's generally expected that there will be a thinning of the ranks whenever she dies, but she's showing no signs of it.
Rebma is said to possess a 'Coral Circle' of underwater civilizations it trades with, but little is known of that in Amber.
Relations with Rebma have been mixed; currently relations are somewhat cordial, although Rebma has been having problems with Therin, whose ships have been abusing their oceans through overfishing and whaling.
The Serpent of Chaos
Rumor speaks of a Serpent of Chaos who watches over Chaos as the Unicorn watches over Amber. His powers or appearance (besides being a snake) is unknown.
Technology in Amber
Technology in Amber is at roughly a Renaissance level, without gunpowder. Steam engines do work, but a practical fuel which could fill the role of coal in the industrial revolution is lacking, keeping them expensive toys. (Amber has no coal deposits, and imported coal will not burn for reasons unknown). Water power is the most common substitute for muscle power, used in mills and some forms of craft production. Amberites have, however, advanced to a much higher level of skill in chemistry and medicine than in Earth's Renaissance.
The origins of the Unicorn remain debatable. It definitely predates Amber, and probably assisted Dworkin in creating the Pattern. Many Amberites worship it as a god, and all Amberites know that it watches out for Amber. Most have never seen it and never will, but it tends to manifest itself at times of crisis. Amber City has a great Chapel of the Unicorn where High Priest Geo presides over the Unicorn Cult. There is also known to be a Grove of the Unicorn in Arden where the Unicorn sometimes appears to those who seek it.