Amber Diceless

ranks, narrative power, LoGaS and Amber Diceless

LoGaSThe Rules As Written for Lords of Gossamer and Shadow are clear, the Attribute Auction establishes the ranks of skill for all the Players, and then the GM can create his NPC cast based on that ladder of ranks.

Oh, but what happens if someone joins the game in two months? You have to squeeze them into the ladder of ranks. That’s a bit awkward.

And what if you have been playing for 18 months and the NPC cast is now over a hundred people? How many npcs of 2.5 rank or 1.5 rank or secret new 1 rank is the GM going to track? And how many dead ties between Attributes have you now created?

And what happens if you go to gaming convention and the GM starts everyone with a pile of points, because auctions take too long? Well, you can build the ladder after everyone does their point builds in secret. Also a bit awkward and it doesn’t add much to in-world play.

Bid numbers versus ranks is a long-standing GM style discussion for running diceless games. (Long standing as in going back to the earliest internet mailing lists.)

It’s complicated by those folks who want to know how much a fight staged with 2nd and 3rd rank PCs ganging up on 1st rank Strength PC, for example.

1st rank is still going to win, but how close is it?

Some long time ago, I had a web reference page for something I called ‘story values’, which is basically narrative ranks, or scale of Attributes for the campaign. The Rules As Written include an overall real-world relationship for Mortal, Superior, and Paragon ranks. And that’s where I start for scaling what’s not said in the rules (ie, much higher rnaks.)

Why scale up practical in-game effects when the rules already tell you who is going to win? Does it matter exactly how strong someone’s Attribute is if it is clear they are the winner? I think it does matter for immersion and the practical side of letting a PC plan their actions out. The best diceless play is when system disappears for the Players (IMHO). Practical, easy to remember scale of Attributes helps this immensely.

So here’s a chart captured from the Wayback Machine, a scale of narrative ranks as they stand in my Amber Diceless games:


The 3 columns to the right include the scales of artifacts/items, Attribute numbers, and ‘story value’ or a real-world feat scale. Mortal (average healthy) equals practical 1 rank scale.

Application is, a Player who decided to not spend points on Strength, has Amber rank, which is 4 times better than Mortal. Meaning that Strength moves 4 times more stuff than what you’d expect a human to move. Easily then, this PC knows he can toss humans out of his way, but is not stronger than 5 mortals working together.

Then the rest follows, based on what trial and error I did those years ago: Prince Gerard (depending on how the points were handed out by the GM) could easily toss young Amber royals out of his way, being 16 times stronger than Mortal and 4 times stronger than PCs who bid no points in Strength.

The chart was a big success for me, because it made Attribute contests flow very quickly. It also allowed Players to ‘feel’ for their capabilities before the game ever started. It also could help during an auction bid process, but that was not its purpose in design.

The chart begins to address lots of conflict issues. Two PCs with heavy investment in Strength, let’s say 25 points, are nearly as strong as Gerard when teaming against him. Do they have his skill? No.

I brought this info out of the dusty nowheres of history as a bookmark to discussion and future commentary.

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


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.

exegesis, furthermore!

LoGaSOne of the tiny rule comments about exegesis is, you have to use the Door of a Gossamer world to tune into the languages there.

I think that logic fails for two reasons.

First, if you’ve never visited Vulcan, and you meet a Vulcan on the Stair, you don’t know what he’s saying even if you are both Wardens, as it is unlikely both Wardens have used the Door to Vulcan. I don’t think that is intended. Worse, if neither of you arrive back on Vulcan by Door (for whatever odd reason) you still can’t understand each other.

Secondly, imagine a thousand languages being spoken in the Stair. But wait, there are merchants and cargo handlers and all sorts who don’t have Warden skills. And if your Warden hasen’t been to their Door, you can’t give them instructions? Even worse, your labor help may not be able to talk to each other. And there are plenty of game stories where not everyone (or every PC) has exegesis. You may have a PC based only on sorcery or Eidolon, so the Warden has to do the translations.

I suggest a small fix that meets the intention of the rule set.

The rule is better if you just say:

Once attuned to the Grand Stair, ie, Warden, you understand any language that exists paired to a functioning Door— or in a polycultural gossamer, all native languages of that world.

A particular GM could wrinkle this by saying the further you are from the transmitting Door source, the less likely the translation works. The key to that particular complication would be narrative emphasis (mostly mine) that the Infinite Stair is very very big and you can run across people that are so far out of your region of Stair you cannot talk to them— or not talk to them well.

Kill all doors to a gossamer language source and the understanding vanishes, as it is no longer transmitted to all Wardens. Destroy a world and the language is gone as well.

If a language vanishes, someone needs to go find out what is going on!

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


the greatest power of them all, exegesis!

LoGaSOne of the smallest power costs (10 pts) is Warden of the Stair. And tucked into the many abilities of the Warden of the Stair is exegesis, the ability to understand anyone within a gossamer world if you have entered the world through the Door.

You can also buy exegesis as a seperate power, see the Long Walk rule book for various power breakdowns.

Exegesis is amazingly powerful, worth the 10pts all by itself, and presents a range of narrative texture decisions for the GM to explain to players. I have to recommend GMs encourage all Players to get the power exegesis whether in the Warden package or through spending separate points. I’ll note some things here (and thanks to the LoGaS group on FaceBook for the content copy):

Does Exegesis convey meanings of words that are technical? For instance, if a character says “aortic aneurysm”, “capitalism”, “specular reflection”, or “Umbra”, would the meaning of the word or term be conveyed?

A practical way to look at exegesis (GM side if you will) is that cultural meaning is conveyed. As long as the your own culture has an equivalent for what the other person is saying, you get a meaning.

But if their world doesn’t have magic, there may be no word for it for them to get.

Two Wardens speaking together may easily overcome this effect, but Warden speaking to Fred Flintstone may have to keep the conversation basic.

Exegesis includes the meaning, but in extreme cases, you may not be passing the meaning you THINK you are. If the Warden says, “We’ve a solution to your problem but it will involve calling up Umbra.”  The native speaker may hear, “We’ve brought an answer. We will pray to the Gods and get help from Pan.”

If that’s the gist of the conversation (maybe there is an immediate lack of time to make detailed response) I don’t think the GM needs to explain anything more. And if results later are complicated by the fact the natives think you are a priest of Pan, well there you are.

So at a finer level of conversation, is “Umbra” just “force of entropy”? Is the pervasiveness and universality of concept conveyed? Can you convey to natives that your team represents “Eidolon” so you can trust us?

No, I don’t think so. I think the GM can make a short list of trans-Infinite culture terms if she/he likes, but I doubt Umbra/Eidolon/Sorcery/Invocation are on that list. I’d rule the powers in the rules are not often ‘commonly known’.

If you say, ‘I have magic!’ or ‘I will solve it with science!’, you’ll mostly be on safe ground for the common language. And this quite depends on the gossamer world where you are standing. In Shatterlight, the Grand Stair is a more commonly known abstraction and discussions about esoteric matters are more commonly understood.

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


Ambercon US 2015 – the brain begins to spin

Ideas for new games are coming early (6 months early) for the Ambercon US convention.

I hope that continues.

bringing back,  Agents of the Argent Rose

Pendrad, Shining Liquid Universe


Amber, the Blockbuster


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



The Pendrad: Shining Liquid Universe!

Here is the full blurb and instructions from Ambercon 2014 for the LoGaS game I created and played. ‘The Pendrad’ is the Fae name for the Grand Stair of LoGaS fame.

The Pendrad: Shining Liquid Universe!

Sat 10am-5pm

In Pretty Amber, there sits a King of All Order.
In Dark Chaos, there hovers a Queen on the Edge of the Tree of Matter.

Amber and Chaos have vexed us since before the Nameless spit out the Logrus. Terrible immortals, they parcel the universe and squabble over mysteries.

Pendrad is found. Lords of Shadow and Gossamer have uncovered that which was so Long Lost we nearly forgot it ourselves.

Once the Glorious Pendrad was the weapon the UnderGods feared. Too long the universe has forgotten who built the Pendrad. We call you of all Bloods, for a Memory has returned. We call you to Dance.

Young Immortals are pretty, but not the prettiest or most wicked. For they are not Fae. Come dance the Escalara….

…and perhaps we shall have Children to join us!

Play the Immortals who existed before the Universe had Shadows. Play the Fae. They are incredibly ancient. They have mad skillz. They breathe Magic. They are nearly extinct… but maybe that can change!

Game Information

Genre:  Adventure/Heroic
Type:  Non-Amber
Format:  Tabletop/Traditional
Teen Friendly:  Yes

please read ‘Lords of Gossamer and Shadow’ by Jason Durall.
your PCs will be tasked by the Great Khans of the Fae… you may pick your own Khan, based on character design OR contact with the GM by email.

the web page to get flavor background of the Pendrad series is found:

(page now dead, please see the WaybackMachine)


Event:  Role Playing Game
Structure:  Series (New)
Players:  3-7 Any (Returning Players not given preference)

Character Information

Character Instructions: PCs must be Fae built for 80 pts. Characters submitted to GM prior to convention can be built for 100 pts.  Note special task of ENDURANCE is all of your magic, as PCs are literally held together by magic. Players encouraged to make early contact with GM.

All players get Mastery of the Grand Stair at no cost, please ask questions.

Pre-generated Characters Will Be Provided:  No
Players to contact GM(s) before the con?:  Yes

I only gave the Players the ‘source page’ describing the Khans of Fae in very brief terms. I also gave them by email a ‘first come, first served’ choice of which Khan to serve.

design vs actual play: I received great PC designs from the new rule set. There was a nice diversity of creative response within the template of the Khans and the ruleset of the Lords of Gossamer and Shadow. A mostly cooperative set of characters, with some political investigation to be done. The Fae are withering, dying under the tyranny of the modern universe and its Order. But perhaps the discovery of the Grand Stair offers some hope for a future.

Per design, I found the premise interesting enough that I was very casual with some rule overlap between Amber Diceless and LoGaS. Also per the premise, I gave away the Very Important powerset of Master of the Grand Stair.  In play, the Characters came to realize that their Mastery was broken with the Stair. Pendrad, the Grand Stair that they knew, was strangely different in ways they did not understand. At least not yet.

In the game design sense, they had a powerful affinity with the Stair, but not understanding of how to fully use it per rules. The players/characters seemed to find this an interesting challenge, as intended.

In actual play, the Characters saw that the Khans were unified in their concern to quickly assert some dominion over the Pendrad, but to NOT tip off Amber or Chaos that the Fae were all that interested in the Grand Stair. Once the Characters learned that there were more secrets, and more changes to the Grand Stair than they understood, I think they also saw that the Lords of the Stair were also competitors, or adversaries, for this important information.

This leaves the Fae race in a very weak position, which frankly they are used to. Lords and Masters of the Stair have real connection with it. Amber and Chaos might seek to destroy the Stair outright, as it permits shadowfolk access and powers that run parallel to stuff that only a very few people have been doing for centuries.

I also shared with the Players that Pattern and Logrus had the ability to quickly unmake any Fae in combat.

In effect, if Amber and Chaos look into the future, they may become concerned that the Universe is moving on and the next extinct race will be them. The Fae can appreciate the irony of this. The Fae love irony, especially at Others’ expense.

Another small design change I made, was to promote Endurance as all the magic the Fae can command. This did two things for me that did not really become obvious in play, but I hope will stand in good stead as the game goes forward. Instead of the rather clunky sorcery and power rules of Amber Diceless/LoGaS, the idea that your character channels magic inherent to your structure was a strong theme. A Fae can create effects of magic thru improvisation, or through some practiced routines/shapes that speak of their personality, etc.

Likewise, per the rules, power spent on things does subtract from power available for other aspects/attributes. This is implicit in the ruleset, but even more so for the Fae. In game injuries lessen your magic. Artifacts attached to your legend divide your magic.

Spellwork only takes hold of opponents based on a Psyche check as per rules, however, being able to do many things at once, or in a manner stronger than a sorcerer, is part of your Endurance rank. In this respect, the GM would eye the things possible with sorcery and use that yardstick for Fae Endurance that falls in the same point range. Most of the Players chose high Endurance.

In play, I was happy with how this seemed to work, but we did not have the kind of intense combat scenes that would test the actual play.

The result in summary was a game of travel, spying, politics, and general shadow sneaking about, contrasting how Fae move through the universe with the in-game discovery of the Grand Stair and how much more easily the Stair provides access to the same Universe.

I look forward to chasing these aspects in future rounds of the convention.