Magic

Magic in the Amber Universe

(Note: this covers all of Power Words, Sorcery, and Conjuration.)

Magical Powers, whether in the form of Power Words, or Magic Spells, or Conjuration, are not primal powers. Instead, Magic is a way of manipulating the stuff of Shadow. Since all Shadow is built on the subtle interplay between Pattern and Logrus, Magic works with and against both those powers.

In some Shadows, Magic is a real and potent force, easily manipulated by local Sorcerers. These masters of local magic are commonplace, extremely powerful, but are limited in that their spells only work in that single Shadow. Even in their home Shadow, changing the magical “mixture”, something an Amberite or Logrus Master can do easily, renders them helpless.

Such sorcerers become much more dangerous when they are exposed to other Shadows. Once they know that they must tinker with their spells, altering them to match the magical environment, then they have the potential to work their magic anywhere.

There are also places where Magic, by definition, will not work. In such places only Power Words and some magical items will function, and most spells will be disabled.

MINOR SORCERY 5 : The basic beginnings of magical learning. You can sense the presence of magic and identify magic in magic items. You know the basics of how to manipulate magical energies. Prerequisite for all other magical skills.

POWER WORD 1 [Requires Minor Sorcery] : Each point spent allows the character to learn an additional Word.

Power Words are a limited form of magic, used mostly in a defensive way. Power words are easy to cast, instantaneous in effect, but have no lasting effect. Because any Power Word involves channeling a burst of Psyche, they are always noticeable, never concealed.

Learning Power Words. Well, they don’t have to take the form of Power “words”, they can easily be gestures, signs, whistles, finger snaps, or whatever the character likes.

Unlike other forms of magic, which use the power of Shadow and Chaos, Power Words are based on the power of the character who speaks them. Power Words aren’t just words, they’re actually a linkage, a magical connection, built into the body of the character who owns them.

Range, duration, and the effects of Power Words are all restricted to the immediate time and place of the caster. The effects are somewhat uncertain since the raw power used does not take into account the variables of chaos and pattern influence in a particular place.

The Power Words listed below are the ones that are well known. Players can use the “word” listed, or invent their own.

Counteracting Power Words. A drawback to Power Words is that they are fairly simple and routine. If an opponent is prepared, it’s possible to overcome them.

However, counteracting Power Words requires special measures.

For example, the most common Power Word, Magic Negation, breaks up a spell in mid-casting, while the Sorcerer is invoking the Lynchpins of the spell. The Magic Negation Power Word wouldn’t work at all against an instantaneous spell- one that is completely prepared, requiring no time-consuming lynchpins.

It’s also possible for a Sorcerer to be prepared in advance for a Power Word, and to defend against it with a defensive spell. Such a spell would be much simpler against a Power Word that the Sorcerer knows, and less effective against one unfamiliar to him. For this reason characters with Power Words tend to be rather secretive of them. They only use them in genuine emergencies, to greatly reduce the chance of being observed and having their Power Words countered by others.

Power Word Energy Drain. Since Power Words use the energy of the character, rather than magical energies, they tend to be rather draining. For most Amberites, most of the time, this is no particular problem. However, any character with less than Amber endurance will be tired by each use of a Power Word. A character of greater endurance, while not usually troubled, should beware of using Power Words when engaged in some other difficult task, like using the Jewel of Judgement, walking the Pattern, or engaging in a duel.

TWENTY POWER WORDS

Magic Negation. This spell allows the disruption of gathering magical energies. As a Sorcerer casts a spell, or releases a stored spell, the Power Word disrupts the elegant structure of a spell and renders it useless. If used fast enough it can also fizzle trap spells or wards before they are unleashed. The more powerful the Psyche of the invoker of the Power Word, relative to that of the source of the Magic, the more effective it will be. It can also be used to neutralize active magic, including shields and wards, and other things charged with magical energies.

Chaos Negation. Used only against yourself. It works internally, inside your own body, as self protection. Defends against destructive changes to your person that might be rendered by the Logrus or by other damaging Chaos attacks.

Psychic Defense. Creates a burst of internal Psyche, enough to disrupt any contact that you are involved in. Also works great against the pressure of others trying to break into your mind. Lasts only for a second but very useful against unexpected attacks during times of psychic contact, or, for example, during a Trump call.

Psychic Disrupt. Directly affects a creature. Naming the target makes it much more effective. It works to disrupt the concentration of the victim. So, someone with the Logrus or Pattern brought to mind, or someone in a tenuous Trump contact, would lose their focus and have to start over again. Likewise someone casting magic would be interrupted. Against a “named” target it will work no matter what the difference in Psyche. Used without a name, it is possible that the object of the Psychic Disrupt, if superior in Psyche, will be unaffected.

Repeated use of the Psychic Disrupt Power Word, against the same opponent, will become less and less effective. Having once felt its effect, the victim can brace for subsequent attacks.

Neural Disrupt. Directly affects a creature, throwing off their coordination, and causing them to twitch or flinch involuntarily. This is best used in a critical moment of battle, changing the Warfare situation for a moment. (Granted, you won’t want to try to spend the energy on this as one of the combatants, as the process of invoking the Word would distract you.) Out of combat it works if you need to grab something away from somebody, knock them over, or do something where a momentary break in their coordination comes in handy. The higher the target’s Strength, the less of an effect they will experience.

Naming the opponent makes it effective against that opponent. If the target is unnamed, then the user of the Power Word must have a superior Psyche.

Lifeforce. This Power Word generates a burst of living energy in the target. Doesn’t actually have enough time to do any healing, but does break destructive anti-life energies. Also functions well as a “wake up call” for those who are sleeping or unconscious. It’s also useful in certain medical emergencies, where the heart, lungs, or brain may have “seized up” momentarily. The target will feel “good” briefly, as if they were in the peak of health, regardless of their true condition.

Resume True Form. This is a command that forces a person or thing to go back to their true form. It is only effective on things that are not currently in their proper shape. It’s really useful in dispelling magical alterations in just about anything. Shape Shifters, and things with the power of Shape Shift, can resist the effects, but only with effort.

If used against an unnamed target the caster will need a Psyche advantage. However, even if the Power Word fails, it is likely that any Shape Shifted subject will have reacted in some way. Repeated use against the same opponent will be gradually less and less effective.

Defensive Luck. Creates an instant of fortunate karma, sort of like a dose of “Good Stuff”. Results will be either fortunate events for the caster, or minor accidents befalling the opposition. Is can only be used when some event seems to be dependent on choice. For example, it’s timely to use it just as the enemy’s foot is about to touch down on a patch of ice.

Pattern Negation. As with Chaos Negation, it’s something you cast against yourself. Works internally as protection against the influence of Pattern.

Pain Attack. Gives a “jolt” of pain to the person or creature at which it is directed. The momentary pain is a distraction and does no real damage. Named victims are affected, regardless of Psyche. However, if the victim is not named, then resisting is possible for opponents with a superior Psyche. The main effect is one of surprise, so using it more than once against tough opponents is pretty useless. On the other hand, wimpy or cowardly victims can be driven into helpless terror by repeated uses.

Trump Disrupt. Can be cast against a Trump card, instantly blocking any active connection. Used either against a card in the caster’s hand or, by pointing, at a nearby card. If the caster is receiving a Trump contact, where the other party is holding the card, it can be cast through the contact. In this latter case, it will succeed only if the caster has Psychic superiority. Only works against a card that is currently in use, not a similar card in another deck.

Process Surge. In any process (fire, magic, pattern, etc) this adds an extra burst or push. For example, casting it on a working auto engine would give it a quickie burst of extra power. A campfire would briefly flare up. The most it can do is double the energy exchange rate of the normal reaction.

Process Snuff. Momentarily dampens whatever is affected. Throwing it at a car’s engine would cause it to slow slightly, or even stall out. A campfire would dim, but a flickering candle flame would likely go out altogether. The effect is to dampen the reaction rate down momentarily.

Shade. Adds to the darkness of all shadows in an area. The effects are spooky, frightening, scary and forbidding, but with no real effect. Basically used to disorient and confuse.

Light Strobe. Releases a bright “strobe” or burst of white light. Can emit from the character speaking the Power Word, or from an object that is being touched. Useful in temporarily blinding an opponent (at least the first time), but pretty useless for illumination.

Spark. Creates a single spark, like that generated when a match is first struck. Only lasts a moment, but it’s enough to start a fire, ignite something, or, against a living creature, cause a bit of pain. Sparks must be generated at a fingertip, or somewhere on the caster’s body.

Burst of Magic. Generates a “pulse” of magical energy, either inside the caster’s body, or at some useful point outside of it (the fingertip, for example). Sometimes useful for activating magical items. Definitely visible as a “flare” of magic for anyone observing with mystic Logrus sight or by other means of detection.

Weaken Structure. Temporarily weakens the molecular structure of an object. Works best on rigit items made of metal, stone, glass, or plastic. It’s ineffective against organic material, including flesh, bone, wood, cotton, or wool cloth, and most rope. Won’t work against magic or mystic items. Timing is important when using this Power Word, as it is best used at the exact moment of impact.

Thunder. The Power Word, as spoken, is transformed into the sound of a thunder bolt, just as if a stroke of lightning banged right from the caster’s mouth. Lout, with a sound that carries, and startling. About the worst damage possible is temporary deafness if shouted directly into the ear of the victim.

Burst of Psyche. The caster’s Psyche is boosted, just for an instant. This may be enough to assist at a critical moment of an attempted Trump call, or during a Psychic battle. It also serves to brighten the character’s Psyche, so that an observer will notice the character.

Sorcery

Spell-Hanging and House-Cleaning

A lot of Elder Amberites have full knowledge and power of Sorcery. Most of them rarely use it. Spells have to be studied, pre-prepared, maintained, refreshed. All in all, a lot of trouble. Frankly, it’s just too much bother.

A careful, well prepared sorcerer should have a dozen or so spells on hand at any given time. Which means spending about twenty hours a week on nit-picky maintenance. How would you feel about spending twenty hours on the same chores, week after week? How would you feel a year later? A century later?

Most important, what kind of person would spend centuries on this kind of busy work?

Immortals, like those with the Blood of Amber, aren’t thrilled with that kind of busy-work. Especially when every pleasure imaginable is out there in Shadow for the taking.

How Spells Work

Sorcery operates differently from Power Words (characters who plan on engaging in magical combat would be well advised to get both). The big difference between Power Words and Sorcery is time. (Another difference is the source of the energy- Power Words come from the caster only, while Sorcery channels energy of shadow and chaos.) It takes anywhere from ten minutes to several days to cast a spell. The way around this is to prepare spells in advance. Which leaves two main problems.

First, you can only “memorize” one spell at a time. Even then you’ve got to concentrate on the spell constantly. If you take a nap, get hit in the head, or work on other magic, the memorized spell is going to be lost.

Which means the only practical way of storing prepared spells is by putting them in some kind of container. Storing, or “hanging” (or “racking”), spells isn’t something you can do just anywhere. Spells are basically a weaving of power and information, and they only last in an appropriate receptacle. The magical container must be either a living thing, capable of remembering the spell, or a magical artifact containing power that can be forced into the form and structure of the spell.

Second, the other problem with prepared spells is that they are very specific. A completed Invisibility spell designed to cloak someone on Shadow Earth will do nothing at all if cast in another Shadow. A Lightning Bolt spell readied for casting in the Courts of Chaos will be a sparkly dud in Castle Amber. A spell designed to bind a human of Shadow Earth is harmless against a Lord of Chaos. A magical barrier cast to keep out Pattern energy is transparent to the tendrils of the Logrus.

No problem, if you happen to know exactly what, where, why, when, and how your spell is going to be used. Not likely, eh?

The way around this is to prepare spells that aren’t quite complete. Instead of preparing the entire spell, you leave out a few key instructions, which can be filled in when the spell is finally released. We call these instructions lynchpins.

Lynchpins and Spellcasting

Lynchpins are the words you use when triggering a hung or memorized spell, defining last minute conditions.

The most common lynchpin is Magic of Shadow. This defines the type of magic present in a given shadow. Without a specific description of the magic of the environment where a spell is cast, no spell can work.

Other common lynchpins define the target of the spell, the duration, and the conditions for turning the spell off.

Although lynchpins make stored spells flexible, they have disadvantages.

Lynchpins take time. Each lynchpin adds to the base casting time, and also add time to the unleashing of spell. The more lynchpins there are, the more opportunity there is for others to interfere with the spell. Each lynchpin is usually one to three words.

Spell Building

The basic building blocks of spells come in six Shapes. Each one must be studied separately, but spells can make use of any and any combination of shapes that a character knows. The shapes are as follows:

Vitae – Governs spells that affect the body and your physical self. Examples include healing magic, strength drain, teleport.
Mind – For spells that effect the mind or the psyche. From mind links to illusions to glamours.
Alteration – Pretty self explanatory. For spells that induce changes.
Divination – Spells based on knowledge and scrying.
Evocation – Spells that bring something incorporeal in from Shadow. This largely includes a lot of combat spells, like force wards or lightning bolts.
Conjuration – Spells that bring something physical here from Shadow. This allows the creation of Items, Creatures, and Artifacts.

Additionally, some spells have are Invasive: magic that is brought forth directly inside the target or victim. Typically, psyche superiority is required to use such a spell, though of course the target can choose to open up to it.

Aside from the spells listed below, you can create and name your own spells. Any spells that you overhear you may also attempt to memorize and imitate, though this can be dangerous.

Drawing from Shadow. Evocation and Conjuration spells bring matter in from Shadow. In order to do so, you must find a source of what you need in shadow. If you want to cast a lightning bolt, you must find a Shadow where lightning storms are plentiful and easily harnessed. If you would conjure a flow of lava, you must know the location in shadow or a suitable volcano. This adds a vulnerability to your spells- should a foe with powerful Pattern or Logrus discover the source of your favorite spells, you may find that the Shadow has been altered or destroyed.

Additionally, when casting things at someone (for instance, a lightning bolt), the spell first creates a channel to flow down, and then sends the strike. A sufficiently high psyche can sometimes feel that a sorcerous path intersects their location.

“Metamagic” and Advanced Sorcery. (I’ll establish a better name for “metamagic” if someone suggests one.) Advanced Sorcery simply involves being able to cast bigger and better spells- Basic Sorcery has limits as to what it can accomplish. Metamagic is ways to improve spells and magic in more indirect ways, including increasing range, duration, etc.

Mind Links and Magic Spells. If the Sorcerer has established a mind to mind Psychic link, either through the willing or unwilling-but-helpless cooperation of another, it’s possible to release any of the spells through the linked mind. The spell can be cast on the subject of the link or, using that person’s mind as a conduit, as if the Sorcerer were present on the scene. While a simple matter, most Amberites are highly suspicious of having spells cast through their psyche, first because the spell could turn out to be a direct attack, against which they’d have no defense. Secondly, because magic can be rather unpredictable in the hands of inexperienced users.

Sorcery and the Logrus. Logrus Masters have a huge advantage over other Sorcerers. That’s because the Logrus itself can be used for “hanging” spells. In addition, spells can be cast out of a Logrus tendril. In other words, the Logrus Master can send out the Tendrils, seeking a distant object or Shadow, and, when contact is made, spells can be cast out of the end of the tendril.

Personal Style and Sorcery. Each character brings their own unique signature to spell-casting. On one hand this means that Sorcerers can come to recognize the distinctive spells and discover spells created by Sorcerers they know well.

The other aspect of personal style is that characters can create their own special effects. This can be built into spells, or used as another lynchpin, defining the character’s trademark. Sparks, smoke, glitter, radiance, or glow can be complemented by a unique color, scent, sound, or whatever. Each Sorcerer should pick a unique mark, such as a green flame, and stick with it. Personal special effects are harmless, but can serve as a good warning to others.

Buying Sorcery

ABLE TO CAST SPELLS WITH SHAPE [Requires Minor Sorcery]

  • VITAE 2
  • MIND 2
  • ALTERATION 2
  • DIVINATION 1
  • EVOCATION 3
  • CONJURATION 3

ABLE TO RACK SPELLS 2 [Requires at least one Shape]. Note that you still need someplace to hang them on.

PERMANENCE 5 [Requires Conjuration]. The things you conjure will not decay naturally and will survive being taken through shadow.

FASTER CASTING 5 [Requires at least one Shape]. Speeds up the initial casting time of your spells.

ENERGY MANIPULATION AND SPONTANEOUS CASTING 5 [Requires at all the shapes]. Lets you play with the raw stuff of magic directly. Tiring, not very effective, but sometimes you need a really quick energy shield or club.

ADVANCED SORCERY [Requires Energy Manipulation]. The Advanced version of each Shape lets you cast more powerful spells with that shape. The advanced version of each shape costs the same as the basic.

EMPOWERMENT 3 [Requires Advanced Conjuration]. Allows the conjurer to temporarily implant some magical power into some mundane object or creature. The basic preparation of the subject takes about thirty minutes, which defines the target and opens it up for the change. Referring to the Creature and Artifact Creation page, empowering each point of a quality extends the time needed by another ten minutes, and each point of a power takes another hour. The multipliers, for quantity and form, apply to the total spell casting time. Extending Empowerment to a more permanent effect (requires Permanence) takes far longer, up to ten times as long.


Trump Rules Character Items

Magic

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