wayfinding, zero dice infinite worlds

Three small paragraphs in the rule set describe the power of Wayfinding for a Warden of the Stair.

Wayfinding. Wardens have an instinctual understanding of where a mundane door leads, or where one of the Doors of the Grand Stair opens to. This ability is like an internal compass, leading the character in a needed or desired direction. It can be countered through some of the disciplines used by Masters of the Grand Stair.

Wayfinding can be used in the Gossamer worlds, Domains, and within the Grand Stair’s entire span (though there are parts of the Grand Stair where it is possible to get lost, even with this ability).

With the Wayfinding ability, a Warden can find a specific place within the Gossamer worlds if the Warden has some idea about the nature of the place or even one specific part of it. Additionally, the Warden can find an ideal Gossamer world that suits a particular criteria, no matter how idiosyncratic that criteria may be. If the Gossamer world has Doors, the Grand Stair can open into it, and a Warden can find the way there.

This is much more powerful than shadow walking from the Amber Diceless, IMHO. However, Doors are the limiting filter. While Corwin can find a deserted tropical island paradise with plenty of food and water and rest up, a Warden can only find such a place with a working door, indicating past construction and people, that may now be gone.

Some references to shadow walking in ADRPG are here and here (Rule of Three).

Note explicitly the rules allow the Warden to find specific places inside the Gossamer world if they have information about the place they are searching for. (Whereas, sometimes returning to a specific place with shadow walking is problematic.) Wayfinding gives you a compass sense inside the world.

This is a very powerful narrative changing device. Examples follow, “GM I’d like to walk to a Door….”

  • where the #1 bestseller is “Understanding and Working With Mnemon For Dummies”
  • where the ubiquitous nanites in the air will interface with my mind and explain how to fully control my Dragon Powers!
  • where there is a huge waterfall
  • where I can find the person trying to kill the Dragon Empress


IMC, the first three examples are legit and the fourth fails. The first three exist somewhere, if not in the gossamer you are within. The fourth example imagines an indeterminate future where you will find some copy of a person from a specific set of events in a specific gossamer that has not happened yet. That does not work.

Why? Because of the Rule of Three. Because you have to imagine a baseline of three qualities to your search. Test each example above.

  • You have met Mnemon so you can picture her, her world, and what sort of personality mystery she represents. You shall find something on the Stair.
  • You know about Dragon Powers so you can imagine the Dragons, the nature of the powers, and what sort brain changes may be needed (such as neural pathways, rote practice, and additional sensory learning). You shall find something on the Stair.
  • You’ve seen waterfalls, you’ve seen mountains, and you expect they have common patterns of gravity.

How long does the search take? Well, again, ask the PC what three filters are they applying to the search and rank them. Is the huge waterfall…

  • huge, waterfall, near to me
  • waterfall, huge, safe
  • near to me, waterfall, huge
  • waterfall, huge, fresh water

The Warden is juggling these factors, putting their own ‘spin’ on the culture/experience bias and seeking within Infinity. Something will come up, but how useful it is (IMHO) would be GM finesse. Certainly, the GM is allowed to ask a few clarifying questions of the three values chosen.

And, if the PC has high Psyche, and/or Good Stuff, this will affect the ease with which the destination is revealed.

Does this mean Wardens of low Psyche cannot find complicated things? No. It does mean there is a baseline of expertise given with the Warden attunement. So start with the Rule of Three. If the Warden is very experienced (certain region of the Stair is written into the PC background, or some years walking the Stair), the GM can help out a bit with easy answers. If the Warden has bad stuff, even the baseline three things may show adverse complications along the way. If the Warden has high Psyche, you can add some qualifiers to the Rule, ask for four things, or ask the PC if they wish to avoid seeking something that is already controlled or owned by someone powerful.

Let’s return for a moment to the ‘indeterminate example’. A murder. Can you solve mysteries with the Wayfinding power? I would say yes, only if you bring puzzle pieces together and seek the missing bits.

So the Empress has been assassinated, but no one can figure out who did it. The Warden seeks to find the person responsible for a determinate event that has happened.

The Warden knows, where it happened, how the victim died, perhaps knows the murder weapon. This would count as three things to narrow a search for the murderer, understanding that the assassin might know all about Warden powers, and have left bad clues to send you on a wild goose chase! Let’s say…

  • the Empress did not die in that room, she was moved there
  • the weapon found is not the murder weapon
  • the body found is not the Empress

You can see how some mysteries will work much like other detective fiction, ie, disproving assumptions and finding the real evidence to trust.

Search times: consider the more rare or specific your search, the longer it takes for you to find what you seek. “GM, I’m going to look for a custom armor that fits me, it is invulnerable to damage, it is currently sitting in a broken abandoned castle without guards.”  You’ll get a compass response, a direction, but it may take you a year to get to the gossamer world where this thing exists. And Wayfinding rules as written does not tell you how long to find the thing you seek.

The wilder your imagination, the longer you may be looking. Or not? Perhaps the PC’s wit will provide an interesting adventure?

So, rather than waste story time chasing stuff in the Infinite Stair, I shall tell the PC, yes, you sense the direction, it is very far away. Are you going after it?

Talk to your GM in session zero before the game starts about the baseline of such powers in play.


  1. To drill in on one of the piints here:
    With Shadowwalking, it is easy to find a bookstore where there’s a giant display advertising the huge bestseller “Understanding and Working With Mnemon For Dummies”. BUT there are an infinite number of such shadows, each with a different text for the book. IMO there is no way for you to distinguish which shadow has the text which is actually useful to you, other than nigh infinite trial and error.

    With Wayfinding, though, it specifies “the Warden can find an ideal Gossamer world that suits a particular criteria, no matter how idiosyncratic that criteria may be.” Taken at face value this suggests finding a world with a “correct” version of the text should be doable.

    (Of course, the out for GMs is, “Yes, but it would take your entire lifetime to walk the Stair to get there…”)

  2. With the first one, there’s nothing to guarantee that the book is accurate. I’d say it’s nearly certain it isn’t.

    With the fourth, “who is trying” may not work but “who has been trying” should. OTOH a Dragon Empress may have a number of people trying to kill her at any given time. ‘Who made a particular attempt’ may work better. That’s RAW in my opinion. I’ve nerfed it a bit in my games.

    1. “The Warden can find an ideal Gossamer world that suits a particular criteria, no matter how idiosyncratic that criteria may be.” So my criteria is “The book is 100% accurate.” (See my earlier comment for a bit more.)

      1. Mnemon: Why does the PC want or need such a book? Mnemon is hard to assess and probably a person of power, like a Gossamer Lord, Amberite, Dwimmerlaik, Noldo or some such.

        Would Mnemon, or any shadow of M close enough (including powerful enough) to be useful, ever write such a book and tell the truth? ‘Yes’ indicates that the book says “Do what Mnemon wants, quickly and well,” with lots of examples of why failure to do so is a poor choice. And the book is a bestseller, so failure to buy the book will bring folk to the negative attention of the authorities.

        A book written by Duplo-Mnemon’s personal secretary or the like and allowed to be printed and distributed would be the same, unless it’s a tell-all book written after D-M’s death, in which case it has almost certainly been punched up to be more commercial. Because bestseller. Technically accurate, just mixed with lurid bs.

        A book published by one of D-M’s enemies, one powerful enough to look into D-M’s heart or scan his memories, and to get the book published and widely distributed despite D-M’s wishes, might do so. But then the PC has gone to a world where a near-Mnemon is small change and has at least one prankster enemy with a lot of time on his or her hands. Again, a forced bestseller. (Get Your Copy Now! Written by Her Awesomeness! Avoid a Public Whipping!)

        Much more likely: Welcome to Mnemon’s Mousetrap Domain! The book is accurate in the ‘do what Mnemon says’ sense, as are thirty other forms of cheesy bait generated via Mnemon’s Control of Contents in cities across the Domain. Mnemon has been informed of your arrival via Extraordinary Psychic Sense (Icons don’t work here), a large Magic Drain centered on your location has been cast and a dozen large, fuel air explosive cruise missiles are 22 seconds away. Be comforted that your last moments are being recorded and uploaded into the Cloud for Mnemon’s amusement. Hope you enjoyed the series of hell worlds you had to traverse to get here.
        Or, of course, ‘Mnemon’s Master’s Mousetrap Domain.’

  3. Hi Randal,
    Yes, those are all fine notions for how to stop the players from getting what the game rules imply they should be able to find.

    But I’m trying to figure out what it means that the rules imply you should be able to find things like that. I want to explore the gaping difference between “you can find what you can visualize clearly” versus “you can find what you can specify clearly”.

    1. “You can find what you can specify clearly” includes things like, “Find a guide to how I, personally, within the next thirty days, can murder Drake using help and resources I can actually acquire, and without compromising my life, my friends’ and allies’ lives or my existing commitments.”

      Because it’s gotta be out there somewhere in infinity, yes?

      Saying that the search may take years, decades or centuries is also stopping the players from getting what the game rules imply… no, *state clearly*, that they should be able to find.

      If the ability is there and known it would be commonly exploited. I haven’t heard of any games or campaigns built around every Warden being capable of finding detailed, accurate instructions on how to kill, maim, fool, humiliate, seduce, drive mad, etc. *anybody*, and where the current social and political conditions are the result of millennia of such activity.

      If by “explore the gaping difference” you do not mean ‘determine the optimal degree that Wayfinding should be nerfed for game viability’, what do you mean?

  4. RT asked: “Why does the PC want or need such a book? Mnemon is hard to assess and probably a person of power, like a Gossamer Lord, Amberite, Dwimmerlaik, Noldo or some such.”

    To me, the interest in the rule descript is the ‘yes, but’ territory of the GM’s handling.

    The range of GM responses could be a simple Rule Zero, “that does not work as well as you might want”, or it could be that since you have little knowledge of the individual, how do you sort through the various books you find?

    Or what does the book say that you did not expect, or know should not be true? It is a different kind of journey than the one with shadow walking.

    Or maybe the GM just runs it like the traditional from Amber DRPG.

    1. The problem with the RAW is “no matter how idiosyncratic that criteria may be”. Unlimited. House rules on how limited Wayfinding is look like the way to go to me. If not, embrace it.

  5. I’ve only just found this brilliant resource, and it’s great to see other folks thought on these games. My thoughts on Wayfaring in our games is that a Warden can find a Door to the World he seeks for sure, though the journey may be long (or maybe shorter but more dangerous). But that doesn’t guarantee finding the item. The Warden may find the world where the person trying to kill the Dragon Empress resides (for the time being), but finding them amongst the world’s countries/towns/inhabitants is a different matter

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