zdiw tips

Doors and doors, LoGaS

From the kickstarter page for Lords of Gossamer and Shadow


Jason Durall pointed out.

Bridging Doors. While Wardens are limited to Doors that lead to-and-from the Grand Stair, Masters know how to connect two doors in a single Gossamer world together so that they are directly linked, opening from one to another. To do this, the Master must be physically present at one of the doors to be linked (which must be closed) and concentrates on the other door to be linked. This can take a few minutes, less so with a strong mental impression of the other door, and even less with a direct psychic or magic link to the other place. These doors only open from one door within a Gossamer world to another place on the same Gossamer world. They can never bridge worlds.

Bridged doors lack the invulnerability of Doors on the Grand Stair, and they can be accessed and affected by any Warden or Master. These bridged doors are rarely permanent, and the duration will last only so long as the Master desires, usually a matter of days. Making a permanent bridge between two mundane doors takes considerably longer, a process measured in days rather than minutes.

This ability needs some thought, it can be powerful enough to break a lot of scenarios a GM might normally organize.

More later

Threats; thoughts on the LoGaS universe

LoGaSOne of the very first questions you get from GMs and Players when presented with a diceless game that uses an infinite universe as a background is, “what the hell do the Player Characters do with all this?”

You can go anywhere. You can be a legend among mortal adventurers.

What are the threats to the status quo? What do the PCs care about and why do they work together? Why would they oppose each other or another universe faction?

Masters of the Grand Stair are not harmonious…and yet they gather if the Stair is under threat. And a thousand years ago, they were united to fight off the conquering ambitions of the Dwimmerlaik.

The Lords of Gossamer and Shadow have several canon threats already revealed in products for the line. Typhonians. Dwimmerlaik.

(like Amber Diceless, the implication is that getting such powerful characters to work together requires that there is a universe scaled threat that may destroy the ‘universe as we like it’.)

Having done a first read of the two threat assessment books, Typhonians and Dwimmerlaik, I judge these are not ‘starter elements’. They are interesting and they are scalable threats, but I don’t think I’d introduce them early to a campaign. I’d pick something a bit closer to home and hold the Big Bads for later.

So what’s a good Villainous Opposition for LoGaS game start?

  • enemies of your mentor/ally
  • groups that want to restrict access to the Stair
  • groups that worship Masters/Wardens of the Stair
  • groups that want to destroy the Stair
  • worlds that are using the Stair to create empires

Again, the above list because: change is never pretty. Your PCs have power. What will such changes bring?

At Ambercon 2014, I introduced several familiar names as possible villains to the above (not recommending you do this at home):

  • Amber, the Eternal City would destroy the Stair to break alliances between shadows that might rival the Gold Circle
  • the Courts of Chaos would destroy the Stair to trap the powerful Dwimmerlaik in their various shadows

And you can get lots more cosmic with threats than those revealed so far above. Like in the famous Strange Bedfellows Amber Campaign, you could invade the universe from another universe entirely.

Villains generate story conflict that does not have to come from your PCs.


  • threaten values
  • provide common story
  • challenge PC niches
  • challenge PC choices
  • engage PC emotions
  • challenge PC creativity
  • lead to rewards/consequences


100 Landings of the Grand Stair

The Dripping Landings

Upon the Dripping Landings you will experience cold airs and condensation falling throughout the corridors and region.

The Doors here are surly and become time locked if a clumsy attempt to open them is made. If the novice fails to remember the latch sequence, then only a Warden may attempt the Door again in a day cycle. If the Warden should fail to open the Door with grace, only a Master may coerce the mechanism at that point.

The embedded grain of the metal doors here resemble the Rhen markings in other regions of the Grand Stair. Is there some older pattern that the Rhen copied and used? Or is this just the manufacture of these Doors?

There are no lights in the Dripping Landings. Neither do torches do well due to the cold winds and water falling. Recommend solar gems or shrouded magical lights be carried. However, if you are in the region for days, you may find the constant tones of water dripping on the stone veneers is musical.

— Black Raven rutter of the Grand Stair, early version, handwritten, metal cover.

Lords of Gossamer and Shadow (LoGaS) and canon ‘sticky’ across games

Rite Publishing is producing background material for LoGaS that includes stories, NPC descriptions and possible stats, history, tricks, tips, and etc.

This is excellent and very needed when you don’t have award winning literature to base the tone and texture of your game upon (as in Nine Princes in Amber.)  Even with the Amber material available, gaming with various GMs will get you many interpretations of the canon material. A shift of emphasis here; a tweak of cosmology hinted over there; some organizations that seem significant in one campaign that never appear in another.

This all falls into what I’ve called ‘zero dice—infinite worlds’ and is a feature, not a bug.

In Amber play, the philosophical weird of being able to find a brother, or a cousin, and yet not be entirely sure that you are talking to the Real Person is a feature of the canon.  It may or may not apply to LoGaS play for NPCs, etc., but I’ve decided that the confusion it adds is not nearly as important as the stunning immersive quality it gives the Players for the infinite worlds aspect.

Things and people on the Grand Stair are more likely real if they do and act on the things you expect of VIP NPCs.  On various shadow worlds? Maybe not so much. Shadow produces doppelgangers of famous folks. This is a subjective element for a GM to interpret.

Likewise, the actual elements of the Grand Stair are going to get descriptions from various GMs.  And this aspect, well, maybe it should not be so flexible in concept. Logistically and in presentation, it would be nice if most descriptions of the Grand Stair were similar.  However, I’m not sure — short of a small video — or sketchbook — or terrific professional prose, that we are going have such visuals to hang things upon.

So once again, Rite Publishing is providing some of this for us. Go read the reviews. The things I’ve seen are good.  Even if we had more graphical stuffs, you’d get the ‘Visual Guide to Castle Amber’ syndrome, where 75% of the audience doesn’t like the reference.

So here are things I used when playing the LoGaS game at Ambercon 2014:

  • regions of the stair have variant architecture and Doors, the regions can be small as a corridor or large as a territory of levels
  • some Doors are marked with the Rhen wayfinding codes, but not most of them (see Lucien’s Guide to the Stair)
  • most Doors have puzzle latching mechanisms
  • some Doors respond to mismanaged operation with security that makes them harder to open or locked
  • some regions do not have lighting, some do
  • the Agora, is huge and confusing, being a hub of several different regions, depending on where you are arriving from, there are surprises in the merged styles. The Agora does not seem to be as ‘themed or organized’ as the Grand Stair leading to it
  • the Grand Stair performs constant slow repairs on itself, you cannot expect marks or damage to be there long
  • trade routes inside the Grand Stair are more often used by regular shadow folk with purchased rutters for navigation, ie, folks do not ‘wander’ or explore the Grand Stair. Get in, get going, get out!

I think the project on the Rite Publishing forum where 100 Landings of the Grand Stair is listed could be a sweet resource for the community.



ZDIW: curtain in five minutes, principal actors on stage, please

Over in the Livejournal, Ginger puts down a few thoughts about how personality and face time work in House of Cards.
If you have spent any time here, you know I owe most of my casting effort, the visuals I share with my Players, to the House of Cards dramatis personae.
So collected here, for the first time are the GM reasons behind some of the faces–in order of age— because that’s what matters in this family.
Benedict: is the ultimate survivor who keeps a mannered but snappish regard for his family. He chooses his words carefully because his father was the ‘show me’ King of which all others are but shadows. Basil Rathbone is chosen for his precise speech, his ability to play a villain and his uncanny way of projecting competence when doing nothing at all but watching. It helps that he is narrow of face but broad of mind.
Eric: is the charming handsome prince who knows he’s better than most of his family and can often prove it. He can explode into action. He prefers to sneer and discuss the weaknesses of his opponents in detail. He can make you smile even when you don’t like him. Jonathan Frakes is chosen because he has attitude, charm, a terrific smile and I don’t trust him any further than I can throw him. He does a good sneer. It helps that he has done commanding roles and is a pretty good director.
Corwin: is a straight ahead bastard who just may have been even colder and meaner in a younger life. He was held down and abused by his much older more competent brother Eric. He resents authority, but can get a job done. He prefers wine, women and song. He is used to breaking rules to get things he wants. No one likes Corwin except people who don’t know him. Timothy Dalton is chosen because he is quite likable unless he is a stone cold killer. He has that air of switching between gentleman poet and psycho action hero. It helps that he played James Bond and got all the girls. He plays a good jerk.
Deirdre: we don’t get but a taste of Deirdre. She’s lovely, she’s quite feminine, she’s awfully good at talking people into things and she can break a werewolf across her knee and kill it. Oh, and she prefers an axe when most princesses use bows or daggers or spells. She isn’t exactly subtle but she seems to be a bit of a fussy femme. Possible manic mood swings, probable incredible manipulator given her father and older sibs. Catherine Zeta Jones is chosen because she does action roles, swords, cat burglar, femme fatales even though she is tiny and almost delicate. It helps that she has played killers without moral yardsticks and does a fair job displaying incredible vanity.
Caine: is an eccentric in a family of sibs that toe the line to King Oberon. He’s dark and laughing, alternately mean and crass and quite ingenious. He’s bloodthirsty but conniving and practical. He misbehaves, a lot. He doesn’t mind being underestimated in a family where that gets you out of favor and trampled. He will talk to anyone in persuasive manner, regardless of his station or ranking in the official lists. He’ll stick up for brothers he doesn’t even like. He’s a bit contrary that way. Oded Fehr is chosen because he is exotic to the entirely too Euro-centric feel of the myth in Amber. His look and feel bumps the appreciation of the princes into a whole different shape. It helps that he appears formidable even as he appears mysterious.
Fiona: we get a lot of Fiona canon. She’s glamorous, feminine, extremely petite and rather lone-wolf compared to other princesses. She likes puzzles, mysteries and she’s really really good with jibes. She’s off-handed in her brainy qualities and she knows that makes you crazy. Myrna Loy is chosen because she’s redheaded, smart, witty, playful and can also be mysterious, athletic and exotic. It helps that Myrna was once the woman all women wanted to be. Please do watch her in ‘The Thin Man’ or ‘Mask of Fu Manchu’ to get a sense of the range of intellect to her acting.
Bleys: is good at everything he lets you see. He’s good at things he hides. He’s just good. A worthy prince and a daring one. Impractical? Perhaps. Kenneth Branagh is chosen because he’s cool and charming and dashing and sharp like a knife. It helps that he has a terrific sense of humor and drama.
Llewella: is withdrawn and more than a bit guarded. She’s otherwise off doing other things. She quits the center of power, or so everyone believes. Maybe she’s not playing the Family game? Llewella is almost the only member of the Family obviously of another species. Grace Kelly is chosen because leaving the center of power when you are beautiful and important is part of her legend. It helps that she happens to look otherworldly also.
Brand: is whip-crack smart and quite the persuasive fellow. He’s a compulsive talker, but knows that and has as many layers of chat as he needs to hide his real agenda. Jeremy Irons is chosen based on faith that Ginger and Michael know what they are talking about. I liked him in ‘Lion King’. Never seen his work otherwise. Note that younger pictures of him are spot on for artistic redhead.
Julian: is refined and competitive and quite the wit. He takes the quiet intellectual route as all other brothers are busy dashing about proving something for Dad. He seems to like appearing cruel but definitely has his hidden side. His ability to think ahead of his brothers may be more than just wishful thinking on his part. This quality stands him well with his breeding of creatures for his gain of power. Jude Law is chosen because he looks like he could skewer you with a jibe and keep his armor immaculate. He’s also able to bring the smackdown action. It helps that his delivery of dialog is very precise and cutting.
Gerard: is likeable and somewhat dangerous to annoy. He protests he is not really up to snuff with the intellects in his family. So he asks a lot of questions. He jumps to conclusions. He roughs up folks. He preempts actions of his sibs when he thinks things are getting too complex. Liam Neeson is chosen because he plays a great affable fella. Then too, when he gets mean, he’s quite scary intense. He can deliver very soft dialog and equally ferocious growls. It helps that he is really large, looks good in a kilt and might be able to tip over a car.
Florimel: is so apolitical that no one is quite sure if she has personal agenda. She’s considered weak and sometimes stupid. However, she never seems to pick the losing side. Lots of chance seems to fall her way. Susan Sarandon is chosen for her accessible manner and ability to analyze men at a glance. She does glamour. She does wiles. She does quiet strength and bawdy laughter. She is versatile and sexy. It helps that she is a bit of a chameleon and can keep you guessing.
Random: is the youngest and conspicuous for his lack of any redeeming qualities by most accounts. Described variously as a layabout or drinker or homicidal fink. One gets the distinct impression that Oberon did not care much for his offspring at that point and Random took that lack of attention as license to be a royal pain in the ass. Ewan McGregor is chosen because he can range from rocker layabout and drunk musician to redeemed authority figure. It helps that you almost forgive him anything if he laughs and includes you in his joke.
Well…there. Certainly not modern or complex or definitive….casting calls like this prompt kudos and strong dislikes in equal chance. Folks bring to the exercise a hidden emotional agenda…which often will get you words like ‘hate this one’ or ‘omg, she is so not!’
But perhaps the narrative above gives you some insight into my Amber-verse.
and of course…. Oberon was a prick.

GMing apprentice craft

Quite by accident (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) a spambot directed me to check in with the 20×20 Room where I found the old entry on Game Craft regarding lack of support for how to make a game work once you know the rules.
What’s that? You imagine that once you know the rules, or have read the game book from cover to cover you just need players and a bunch of game prep?
Uh, no. If only it were that simple.
You see, GMs make mistakes, forget their own maxims, and even misjudge the ‘fun’ in every session at least once. Every session. “At play” stuff most rulebooks ignore.
When was the last time you read rules for ‘fixing’ a bad GM call?
I ran a D&D game that lasted off and on for twenty years and I blew up the campaign with an error in judgment I didn’t see coming. Isn’t hindsight a marvelous thing?
Trust me, I didn’t handle it so well in actual practice.