Design For Living - Powers - Conflict

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Attributes, Success and Failure The number one question asked in Amber campaigns is Does it work?

Whenever player characters try to do anything, from opening a door to creating a universe, the SG has to decide whether or not the character is successful.

And player characters are only the beginning, since the SG has to answer the same question, silently, about anything attempted by any of the dozens of non-player characters operating behind the scenes.

Does it work?

In Amber, the answer is almost always yes. Characters, player characters or otherwise, almost always succeed at everything they try.

Of course most things are just the little things we do every day. Characters are usually successful at walking, talking, reading, eating, playing and sleeping, just like people in real life. When it comes to using the Powers, like Pattern or Magic, most of the things that characters try will succeed.

There are exactly three exceptions, three cases where characters can fail. They are when a character has Bad Stuff, lacks the ability, or is opposed by some other character. Bad Stuff Any character with Bad Stuff will occasionally experience the difficulties associated with ill fortune. This is an on again, off again kind of thing. How much failure is inflicted on characters depends on how much Bad Stuff is involved. Inability Any action can fail if the character lacks the qualifications, overreaches their capacity, or if the character is trying something for the first time.

At the point of character creation, the players are allowed to fill in the details of their character's life and skill experiences.

The player always deserves the benefit of the doubt, so that if any part of their background could provide the needed skill, it is usually assumed that it does (we are dealing with Amberites here, after all).

However, if nothing in the character's history indicates the opportunity to learn the skill, then the player character never picked it up.

For example, a player may not have specified computer training.

However, if the character's background includes a couple of years of study at a modern-era university in a fairly sophisticated technological Shadow, then it's fine to assume that the character must have picked up some computer training.

Perhaps not enough to reprogram a supercomputer from scratch, but enough to know the basics of exploring a database and getting on line to a network.

As far as inability to use Powers, characters often fail as they experiment with new aspects.

For example, look at an expert auto mechanic. The mechanic can fix most problems, but will run into difficulty when faced with a car imported from a different Shadow.

It's not that the mechanic lacks the skill, it's just that dealing with a totally new car design requires a bit of experimentation, with a good chance of occasionally screwing up. Opposition The most common reason for a player character's failure is that they are being opposed.

When a character says I plunge my sword through the creature's neck, they automatically succeed if the creature is helpless. However, most of the time, the creature is not co-operating.

A character's attempt at murder is usually contested by some other character's attempt at escape.

They can't both succeed, so the result is a matter of Story Guide judgement. Contests in Amber are often waged without the characters being aware of it.

Player characters will sometimes be opposed by hidden elder Amberites, or by off-stage Nobles of Chaos.

In these cases, player characters could easily see their failure as due to luck (Bad Stuff), or inability. Conflict and Attributes Amber combat is treated as a part of the story.

If the combat is not important to the story, just you beating up some standard Shadow warrior, hardly any time is spent on it.

On the other hand, if it's a close fight between hated enemies, it's worth getting into it in more detail.

Each fight is a way of advancing the story. This means several things. It can mean finding out information about the characters, whether they are participants, observers, or manipulators.

Each time we see how well someone fights in the books, as when Bleys kills hundreds, or how poorly, as when Julian is over-powered by Corwin, it says something about those characters.

In role-playing this is even better since the characters can actually experience being kicked around by somebody, or have a chance to beat up on a lesser character.

Each time something like that happens, it speaks a lot more clearly than the Story Guide just describing the abilities of a character.

Since the story comes first, and we don't want to get bogged down, the mechanics of Amber combat are very simple.

Whoever has the better Attribute wins. That's it!

More important battles simply involve more detail, and more decisions for the characters.

If the fight involves weapons, troops or strategy, use Warfare to determine the outcome. If grappling, wrestling or in similar hand-to-hand fighting, use Strength. For direct mental conflicts through Trump or other means, use Psyche.

You already know that the higher rank in each of these Attributes will determine the winner. That's no mystery.

The mystery is figuring out where you stand. Are you better? Worse? Or pretty close?

No matter which arena, you've got certain choices, each with their own risks.

   * Attack furiously, and, if you're better, even just a bit better, you may succeed quickly. Better yet, you may convince an opponent, even one who is slightly better, that you will win. On the other hand, if it turns out you're out of your league, an all out attack could prove fatal, charging into a clinch you can't escape.
   * An opportunistic stand, lets you attack cautiously, taking advantage of openings, while cautiously defending yourself. This is safe, but also slow. If you've met your better, you haven't made a serious error. On the other hand, it may take a lot of precious time to figure it out, if you happen to be facing someone weak.
   * Going defensive is good if you're worried, for it reduces to the absolute minimum the chance of taking injury. On the other hand, it gives your enemy a clear shot at escaping, or the room to take other actions.

Those three choices, the furious attack, acting as the opportunist, and staying defensive, are available no matter whether you fight with swords, bodies, or minds.

No matter what kind of combat you get into, there are certain handy things that can be used to equalise the odds.

First, if you've got an appropriate Power Word, it can be used instantly, any time during combat.

It's also possible to use something like Logrus tendrils or Advanced Pattern. These things can be used instantly so long as they are prepared before the combat begins.

Either invoking the Logrus, or walking the Pattern in your mind, is time consuming job that needs your full attention. So, unless you've got something ready to go before the combat starts, forget it!

Magic spells are also fairly quick, but only those that are memorised or hung. Problem is, if there are any lynchpins involved, they're going to work pretty slow.

A skilled swordsperson, in range, can pierce your body several times in the time it takes to utter a single lynchpin.


Warfare Battles Why swords?

One reason is that it beats having to tear things open with your bare hands.

Still, given that high tech is available, why don't Amberites carry guns? Assault rifles, grenade launchers, laser-guided mini-missile pistols. They even could carry blaster rifles if they wanted.

Yet they still lug those blades around. The main reason is that swords are reliable.

It doesn't matter what Shadow you happen to stumble into, a big piece of steel with a sharp point and a sharp edge is going to work. Shadows of high tech, low tech, or magic, you name it, a pig-sticker is dependable.

Even if the Shadow is so screwy that the edge is dull and the point is blunt, you've still got a handy, heavy thingie useful for bashing people.

A sword can be used to stab, chop, or cut, block or parry. Better yet, it keeps the enemy a good couple of steps away.

Just in case something oozes acid, or arcs electric charges, or has other unpleasant personal habits, a sword leaves you a bit of breathing space.

Anyway, in Amber swords are traditional. And Amber tradition is based on a lot of hard-fought battles.

So Amberites use swords.

Also quarter staffs, axes, hammers, spears, and anything else that comes to hand, but the combat system works pretty much the same way for all hand to hand weapons. See Wujcik's Example of Closely Ranked Sword Combat. Sword moves & choices The following combat choices also apply to how one handles everything from troops on the field of battle, to strategy in a chess game.

So now you're hauling sword. What can you do with the thing?

In any combat you've got choices. Let's break 'em down into two major kinds of choices, defending or attacking.

Each move can then be modified with deception, or using Strength in combination with Warfare. First off, what everybody learns first, defensive moves. Main Combat Choices - Defensive Any move where your major concern is saving your own neck is considered defensive.

Usually the opposition has to be clearly superior to you in Warfare before they can hurt you in a defensive position. Pure Defensive The heck with trying to hurt the other guy! Saving your own skin is your number one priority. If you've got even a suspicion that the other guy is better than you, go pure defensive.

It's also a handy choice if you've got to deal with some kind of distraction, like a Trump contact. Pure Defensive minimises your chances of getting hurt.

Basically you stand your ground, moving back when pushed, and wait for the opponent to come to you. Since you leave it to the other guy to make the first move, it gives you an advantage.

Up against two or more opponents? Again, pure defensive means you keep moving, moving so that they get in each other's way.

Better yet, move so that only one can attack you at a time. And, if you end in a situation where you can't seem to keep the enemy from circling around behind you, you know you're being out-matched.

What if you do get hurt when you're in pure defensive?

Run!

Anyone who can score on you while you're staging this kind of fortress manoeuvre is too good. Way too good.

A wound when you're in a Pure Defensive position is the universe's way of telling you something is seriously wrong.

On the other hand, if you manage to hurt the other guy when you're in Pure Defensive, you can be pretty sure you've got the upper hand. Measured Retreat The idea is that you back off, hoping that your opponent will come after you, pushing a bit too far, and creating an opening. Works two ways, because you're protecting yourself, and, if the enemy doesn't follow you, then you've got a clean chance to escape. Hasty Armour Defence When in doubt, pick up something large to use as a shield, or squeeze yourself into a protected position, and make it into a makeshift fortress.

It might work, it might not, but it beats being skewered. Not only is it a low risk option, but the first blows will probably be absorbed by the furniture in use. Main Combat Choices - Offensive Attacking always carries a certain risk. If you really want to make a measure of the opposition, preferably with your sword as a dip stick in the other guy's chest, then you've got to come out of your shell. Fight! Most fighters take this stance. It just means you fight in reaction to your opponent, taking advantage of openings, defending against attacks, and holding your ground.

This is also an option that gives you a chance to respond to opportunities where you can test the opposition's Strength.

When both combatants choose Fight, it means the battle will be determined purely on Warfare. Pretty quickly too. The Feint The idea is that you pretend to strike in one direction, then, when the opponent goes to defend, you strike in another direction.

If you're a lot worse than the enemy, this is going to be super obvious. Expect to take damage.

If you're a lot better than the enemy, they'll either fall for your ruse, which lets you hurt them, or they'll chicken out and retreat.

Finally, if the two of you are pretty even in Warfare, this is going to depend on a judgement call on the part of your opponent. The enemy guesses wrong, and you'll score a wound. If the enemy guesses right, it might be you taking the wound. The Revealed Opening Deliberately open yourself up, make something that looks like a mistake, or otherwise try to sucker your opponent into coming in a little too hard and fast.

If your opponent is equally matched, or has less skill, then it will look exactly like a real vulnerable opening. If they take the bait it's an opportunity to do damage.

On the other hand, if your opponent is a lot better than you, then your trap will be obvious. At which point it may be you who is in danger. Advance Steady, relentless pressure. You move forward, pushing for all the openings, shoving your opponent back.

Psychologically, a great move. Show your confidence! Intimidate the enemy!

All of which will work great, and you should damage the enemy, if you're really better.

If you're evenly matched, or out-matched, then this is a move that'll set you up for getting hurt. All-Out Attack You launch yourself on the enemy. Forget about defending yourself, you're willing to take a scratch if necessary. Kill! A cocky, foolhardy thing to do.

Hope you're really a lot better than your opponent. In which case this option will definitely turn things your way, and you'll score the most damage possible.

On the other hand, if you're relatively equal, or worse, this is the choice that lets you collect the most serious wound. Combat Modifiers: Faking It Aside from just bashing away, you can also try your luck at deception in swordplay. In Amber it's often not how good you are, but how good somebody thinks you are.

These moves are also handy for maintaining a disguise, when you'd rather not have anyone know your true identity, or true abilities. Feigned Inferiority Since you are deliberately moving more slowly, and reacting with less skill, you may take slightly more damage than you might otherwise.

On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for getting the enemy to incorrectly evaluate your skills.

If you are considerably better than the opposition then Feigned Inferiority should be easy.

You'll take no more damage than you choose to take (sometimes it's very convincing to take a couple of small wounds).

You can also look as klutzy as you like, from just below your natural rank, all the way down to Shadow rank.

If only marginally better, or equally matched to the opponent, then you're likely to get hurt. Certainly you'll take damage faster, and more seriously, than if you fought at your peak.

In the worst case, if you are significantly worse than the enemy, Feigned Inferiority can get you killed.

By trying such a complex tactic, you're making yourself a lot more vulnerable (on the other hand, if you want to appear dumb and helpless, and you're sure the other guy won't kill you, this might be a good option). Feigned Superiority The idea is to pretend to be much better than you actually are. It's helpful to have a model to imitate.

For example, if the character has had the opportunity to fence with, or better yet, take lessons from, Benedict of Amber, it might be possible to imitate his superior style and flair.

At least for a little while. Unfortunately, not having the true ability means you're opening yourself up for any really serious threats.

If you're a lot better than your opponent, you've got a good chance of pulling this off. And no increased chance of taking any damage.

For bouts where you are fairly equally matched, things are a little riskier. Imitating someone else won't work quite as well as fencing in your own style. You're somewhat more likely to get hurt.

When your opponent is significantly better than you, this is a good way to get killed. The risk is high, and, unless the ruse succeeds right away, the style you imitate won't make up for your vast disadvantage. Combat Modifiers: Combining Strength and Warfare Strength can be a natural complement to Warfare in a sword battle. At a critical moment, a character with superior Strength can vastly improve the Warfare equation.

On the other hand, Strength isn't something you can use all the time, since most swordplay requires no particular muscle. Beat or Bind Beat is the fencing term for bashing the other guy's blade with your own. You hammer on the other guy's blade, adding your Strength to your blow.

Bind is similar, except that you attempt to catch the opponent's blade in a tight little circle, forcing it away.

The Bind requires more skill, and more of an advantage in Warfare, than the Beat.

If you have the better rank in Strength then how a Beat or Bind turns out depends on how you compare in Warfare.

If you are roughly equal in Warfare, but have a superior Rank in Strength, this can create a significant advantage. By bashing or moving the other blade out of the way, you gain a shot at a quick thrust or cut.

If the other fencer is clearly better than you, and you have a superior Strength, then this might work the first time, but only the first time. After that, knowing your advantage, the enemy will avoid future contests of Strength.

If you're the better swordsman, and better in Strength, then you can use the Beat or Bind to clear away the opponent's sword.

Another choice with the Bind is to disarm the enemy, flicking the weapon out and away. A Beat, in this situation, could also be used to break an enemy's weapon.

On the other hand, if both parties have roughly equal Strength, then a Beat won't do much of anything other than waste a valuable opportunity.

Remember that this particular Strength battle depends on just a couple of tiny muscles in the thumb and forefinger, which have to broadcast their power down a long lever (the blade). There has to be a really large difference in rank for there to be any advantage on either side.

Worst case, where the other guy has a much better rank in Strength, can be really bad.

Failure will leave you open for a cut or slash, even from someone whose Warfare is a bit worse than yours. Then, after the Beat, your enemy will know your weakness, and attempt to exploit it. Rough Housing In the midst of a fight, sometimes there's the opportunity to get in a punch, a kick, or a good shoulder bash.

Which is fine if you've got a superior Strength, but not too smart if you're weaker. Your chance of success depends on your Warfare.

If you're a lot better in Warfare, then you've got a good chance of getting in your blow, and it's unlikely you'll take any damage.

If both you and your foe are equal in Warfare, then the results of Rough Housing will depend on your respective Strength.

Also, when you are both roughly equal in Warfare, and you initiate Rough Housing, it gives your enemy a free shot at grabbing you, and changing the battle to Strength.

If you are definitely inferior in Warfare, a Rough Housing move can be pretty risky. The enemy can choose to either avoid the physical blow, or take it and simultaneously wound you with the weapon at hand.

Worse, if you are badly outmatched in Warfare, the foe can avoid the Rough Housing attack and get in a good wound. Bait and Switch Getting the combat away from Warfare and into Strength. Walk right in to the opponent's range, and grab whatever is handy, hopefully switching the combat from a Warfare to a Strength contest.

If you're a lot better in Warfare, this is easy and carries no risk. In fact, it's pretty common for Amberites, facing a bunch of normal Humans, to just grab and toss anyone in their way.

If you're equal, or slightly better, in Warfare, this move is sure to involve some risk.

Chances are, you'll have to take a wound in order to get your hands in place.

Since wounds get worse as combat progresses, it's a good idea to do this kind of thing early.

Switching to Strength is particularly bad if you are outmatched in Warfare. Then the enemy can cut you up pretty good as you move in.

If you are a lot worse in Warfare, you may never even get your hands on the antagonist, and still take damage. Ranged Warfare The final type of combat is ranged combat involving crossbows, guns, phaser rifles or whatever.

This type of attack is really bad news for the defender. Characters cannot use their Warfare to defend against these type of attacks.

The only defence is luck (and careful planning, and good intelligence, and so forth). And getting out of there quick!

Massed or automatic fire counts as one rank better. So a group of goons with machine guns and Shadow rank Warfare count as a Real rank attack: and only 1 point of Bad Stuff means you are likely to get hit.

Maybe that's another reason why Amberites seem to stay out of higher-tech Shadows. There are too many ways to die before you even know your enemy has their finger on the trigger.




Psyche Struggles I turned to make my wishes known to my officers, and the power fell upon me, and I was stricken speechless.

I felt the contact and I finally managed to mutter Who? through clenched teeth. There was no reply, but a twisting thing bored slowly within my mind and I wrestled with it there.

After a time when he saw that I could not be broken without a long struggle, I heard Eric's voice upon the wind:

How goes the world with thee, brother? he inquired.

Poorly I said or thought, and he chuckled, though his voice seemed strained by the efforts of our striving.

Too bad he told me. Had you come back and supported me, I would have done well by you. Now, of course, it is too late. Now, I will only rejoice when I have broken both you and Bleys.

I did not reply at once, but fought him with all the power I possessed. He withdrew slightly before it, but he succeeded in holding me where I stood.

If either of us dared divert his attention for an instant, we could come into physical contact or one of us get the upper hand on the mental plane. I could see him now, clearly, in his chambers in the palace. Whichever of us made such a move, though, he would fall beneath the other's control.

So we glared at each other and struggled internally. Well, he had solved one of my problems, by attacking me first. He held my Trump in his left hand and his brows were furrowed. I sought for an edge, but couldn't find one. People were talking to me but I couldn't hear their words as I stood there backed against the rail...

Nine Princes in Amber

The third combat arena, after Warfare and Strength, is that of Psyche. Metaphysical Environment So what happens in Psychic combat? How do you describe what is going on?

In a Psychic duel the combatants wield ideas and symbols. It's like an ultra-fast shadow shifting contest, one where both opponents have Exalted Shape Change as well. The setting, the appearance of the people involved, absolutely everything in the battle is totally imaginary.

The procedure usually goes like this:

Once mental contact is established, the initial conditions for the psychic combat are chosen.

First, the defender, the one whose mind is being attacked, chooses the setting of the combat. This is not a static terrain, it is simply the place where the combat starts. Later actions by either side can wildly alter the initial environment.

Then the attacker chooses a form which is their initial appearance in the setting. They may choose a form that matches the setting, that is 'in-genre', or they may choose to show their power by choosing a form that is totally out of context.

The defender then chooses a form.

At this point the mental battle begins.

There are several things to try for in a mind battle. The simplest and most common are to gain information, or to cause physical or mental damage. These things are quick and easy to do if you have the advantage.

Other things are more difficult, and require you to completely subjugate the opponent's mind first. These include taking over their body, altering memories and implanting suggestions to be carried out later.

Psychic combat itself is very swift, usually taking only a second or so. Initiating mental warfare, and then implementing the more difficult results, usually takes a bit longer.

Check out this example. Making Mind to Mind Contact The first rule of Psychic combat is making contact. The nastiest, most powerful Psyche in the universe, facing off against a pathetic wimp of a human, can't do spit until there's a contact between the minds. Here are some, but not all, of the ways of plugging one brain into another. Physical or Close Visual Contact Physical contact must be flesh to flesh. A handshake, a touch on the back of the head. Clothing, armour, or any artificial covering blocks the contact. Separation, or the insertion of a barrier, will instantly sever a mind link that relies on physical touch. When physical contact is broken, the Psychic contact is as well. Physical contact requires a few seconds to initiate.

Eye-to-eye contact must be very close, with the characters no more than an arm's length apart. The contact will be broken as soon as anything comes between them, or when either one looks away. Trump Contact The classic approach. Any Trump contact forms a junction for Psychic manipulation.

The main trick is to get the contact in the first place. If someone resists a Trump contact it generally takes a really over-powering Psychic force to break through.

A Shadow ranked character could resist one of Partial Psyche. One of Partial rank could resist all but the greatest Psyche.

And anyone of Real level or better could resist even the greatest Psyche of any one individual (though their resistance may be able to be broken by a co-ordinated attack by two or more characters). Power Contact Touching someone with an extension of the Logrus or the Pattern is the equivalent of making physical contact.

However, it should be noted that this kind of contact is far from subtle. In terms of what is needed to break through a character's resistance to contact, it's the same as a Physical Contact. Magic Contact A magical mind link, an essential ingredient in many magic spells, is sufficient to create a Psychic connection. Once established, the link can be used from either end. Those artefacts and creatures with the ability to make ranged mental contact do so with the same kind of magic link. Psychic Shadows Quirky Shadows exist where Psychic contact is as natural as speech. Each of these Shadows operates in a unique manner.

Some are such that Psyche is only possible at close range, equal to that of the spoken voice, others exist where Psychic contact is possible with anyone, anywhere. Some Shadows form a metaphysical environment that is the same as the physical environment - and vice versa.

The type of contact, whether it is like a Trump, touch, or Magic, also depends on the nature of the Shadow. Breaking Contact Physical or close Visual contact can be broken at any time by whoever still has control of their body's movement.

Psychic contact initiated by Trump, Power or Magic can only be broken off under certain conditions.

The victor of any individual mental attack can decide to break contact. In order to break contact with a stronger mind, you must either beat them with trickery, or willingly lose to their next attack and suffer the consequences. Psychic Attacks There are many, many possible things that a more powerful mind can do to you once they've squashed your resistance.

The more difficult tasks take longer to implement than the combat itself did. Leech Information, or Mindrape Frequently a Psychic attack is begun in order to gain some kind of information from the opponent. A very skilled opponent can make you forget you had the fight, or even change your memories so that you think you won!

Each deeper effect includes the shallower ones - learning your opponent's psychic focus also tells you their name and origins.

   * Name
     	This is the simplest of all information to acquire. It only gets difficult when the opposition is confused about who they really are. It's pretty hard to stop someone learning this, even if your Psyche is better than theirs.
     It takes a very short time to learn this (unless they've got a very long name).
   * Origins or Bloodline
     	These things are also pretty easy to learn, not much harder than a name. The attempt can be blocked, however, by a strong-minded or careful opponent.
     This doesn't take long either.
   * Psychic Focus
     	Now we start to get interesting. You have to be pretty good to learn where an opponent's willpower is focused. What do they worry about at night? What challenges do they find easiest? What do they spend a lot of time thinking about?
     This knowledge is very subjective. You only learn what your victim thinks is true - what they believe about their abilities and relationships.
     You don't get names or statistics, either. You might get a face, if the person concerned is very important to the mind you are leeching from. The face won't just be an image either, it will include a pile of emotions associated with their relationship with that person.
     Still a relatively quick process.
   * Specific information
     	The really useful things are here. If you want names, dates, places, plans, you better be ready to delve deep. Specific information is nearly as hard to drag out of someone as it is to make them forget it.
     This takes a little bit longer, long enough to be relevant to the result of the Psychic battle. It's like holding off your opponent in a sword fight while you read the small words on his T-shirt.
   * Memory loss
     	This is where things begin to get tricky. If your opponent can force themselves this deeply into your mind, you are likely to forget important things.
     Note that only specific information can be lost this way. You won't forget who you are, or who your friends are (although you might forget their names!). You also can't forget things that are intrinsic to your idea of self: your own name, for example.
     Detecting such a forced loss is moderately difficult. Recovering the lost data is more so.
     This takes a long time to do, and can't be undertaken in the midst of a struggle.
   * Altered Memories
     	At this point, you are pretty much at the mercy of your opponent. They can change not only specific information, even information that they couldn't make you forget.
     Detecting such an intrusion can be very difficult, especially if the psychic invader has had a lot of practice.
     Restoring the changes can be almost impossible.
     You need longer for this than you do for erasing memory, of course.
   * Latent Suggestion
     	They're all over your mind.
     Not only can they change your memories, they can make you do what they want afterwards (and you might not even remember doing it!).
     Suggestions implanted for later actions must be acceptable to the victim. Inappropriate suggestions are likely to be distorted. Way out commands simply appear as dreams or visions, and will not be acted upon.
     Implanting multiple suggestions requires even greater mastery of the opponent's mind.
     This takes the longest of all, up to a minute or so as you chase down all right thoughts and set things up nicely.
   * Physical Assault
     	Forget subtle. The attacker drives their Psyche like a lawnmower, seeking to rip into the victim's brain and do as much damage as possible. This attack has immediate results. The drawback is that if they come out worse, they get hurt instead.
     After every successful mental manoeuvre, physical damage takes place. Eventually, if continued long enough, this can lead to the death of the victim. Watching someone lose to this kind of attack can seem like they are being attacked by someone invisible. Blood pours out of fresh wounds, and their bones start to break.
     Even a marginal advantage in Psyche will succeed in a Psychic Assault, if carried on long enough.
     However, if the mental combatants are relatively equal this kind of battle could easily go on long enough for Endurance to become a factor.
     This happens very quickly.
   * Psychic Assault
     	This kind of result damages your mind, not your body. It is also relatively immediate.
     Now the lawnmower doesn't have much in the way of visible effect. But next time you try a Trump contact, its much more difficult.
     Often this is a prelude to a second mental attack that aims to gain information that you could have held back when you were stronger. The drawback is that as they make the attack against your willpower, you can hurt their willpower too.
     The successful attacker can decide what form the damage takes. A weak attack might result in a headache, while a stronger one might cause fear of heights (especially if the image of the mental attack involved falling). Instead of death being the final result, a coma is the worst that can happen to you when your mind is mulched.
     Another very quick event.
   * Mindlock
     	At it's most basic, a Psychic move designed to simply lock up the brain of the opponent. This does the victim no particular damage, but it forces them to devote all their attention to defending themselves.
     While in a Mindlock, the victim is unable to move except with slow and careful deliberation.
     In other words, they are helpless against physical attacks. A victim of a Mindlock is still capable of thought, and of using those powers that require the use of the mind alone.
     Slapping on a Mindlock is about as hard as leeching specific information or forcing a serious wound. It's no slower, either.
   * Possession
     	An attempt is made to completely take over the victim's brain.
     If successful it means the attacker can move the victim as a puppet, even moving into the victim's brain (although leaving their own body helpless).
     Once moved in, the attacker can manipulate the victim's body as if it were their own, relying on the victim's natural reflexes and powers.
     However, because the actual Psyche of the victim must remain locked away, the attacker has no access to the victim's thoughts or memories.
     If the Psychic contact is somehow severed, the dominator will instantly go back to their own body, and the victim will be freed.
     Only someone with a significant superiority in Psyche can succeed in a Psychic Possession.
     Succeeding in a Possession attempt is about as hard as implanting latent suggestions or inflicting a death blow, and as slow.

Control Metaphysical Environment This is usually something the attacker tries, although a defender can also try to win back control of the environment that has previously been lost. The defender can choose to fight for control, in which case the better Psyche wins, or they can ignore it and attack at another point while their opponent is occupied.

At first sight this seems like a waste of time. Why bother with this, when you can go straight to the mindlock?

Firstly, it's because this is the arena where you can test out your opponent. If you go straight to the mindlock without knowing how strong your opponent is, they might well be able to strip your mind from you before you know what you've run into.

Secondly, it's a psychological thing. If you can take over the environment from the defence, you're in front. It's like being able to force your opponent to withdraw in a sword-fight. By itself, it doesn't mean much, but it is an indication that you are better than they are. Control Metaphysical Form This is a personalised version of controlling the environment. Your form is your direct expression of self, more representative of you than the environment is.

Since the environment is decided by the defending mind, this attack is also the clearest way for the defender to show how much stronger than the attacker they are.

Effects are similar to those of controlling the environment. Break Psychic Contact A direct attempt to withdraw from the fight. The stronger Psyche wins, unless the attempt is unopposed (for example, using the opportunity to leech some last detail from you while you are closing it up).

Mental Moves As with the other types of combat, it's not as simple as having the better Psyche. That helps, of course. But there are various tricks that can be played in order to get what you want out of the battle. Stance The most basic manoeuvre is to use the best stance for the occasion. Just like every other kind of combat, you can choose between attacking, being opportunistic, or defending. Attack! An character on the attack will initiate changes in the psychic environment, reaching out and trying to effect the opposition.

If you are better than them, then your attack will succeed even if they take a defensive stance. On the other hand, you have nothing spared for defence so if even a wimpy opponent who attacks at this point will be able to make a strike against you.

If you are about even, your attack will succeed unless they play defensively. Against an opportunistic or offensive stance, you'll make your attack, but so will they, and both will succeed.

If you are worse than your opponent, you can only succeed if they move offensively as well: in which case you might be in a lot of trouble. Be Opportunistic An opportunistic mind will try a few attacks to see how strong their opponent is, without putting their full strength into it, reserving some for defence.

If you're better than them, you'll be able to defend against any attack and still be able to make your attack count.

If you are about even, then this is stance to take to try some trickier manoeuvres.

If you are weaker than your opponent, they'll figure it out pretty quickly because you'll be taking hits and not giving them. Defend A defensive character will wait, simply trying to cancel out the attacker's moves. This can sometimes become a lengthy battle. The main drawback is often that since you must attack to break contact, a defensive player is trapped in the battle.

Against a weaker opponent, this move cannot fail. They can't do anything to you.

Against a roughly equal opponent, they can't do much to you. This is a good way to prolong the fight. The only way for them to finish it quickly is to attack all-out, leaving nothing to their own defence.

Against a better opponent, this may be the only way to stop them from getting to you. Once they attack all-out, of course, you can't stop them. But it will take them a while to figure out how weak you are. Feint In a sword fight, a feint is to make an attack in one direction and then strike from another for real. A feint is most useful when you appear about even in mental skill with your opponent.

You pretend to go for control of the environment, and then once they start to prevent that, you strike after their bloodline.

If the feint succeeds, you get what you wanted. But their defence succeeds as well, and that might result in damage to you.

Success really depends on whether or not they suspect you. This is a matter of judgement if they're about equal to you.

To a better opponent, your feint will be obvious and you will take damage. Against a weaker opponent, you will succeed but will have wasted some energy. A direct attack is probably better in this case. Revealed Opening This is an attempt to lure the opponent into an attack. It's like a reversed feint. So it's most applicable to a fight with an evenly matched opponent.

Because you expect their attack, you can easily defend against it, and can make an attack against them that is likely to surprise them and succeed. Feign Inferiority You can willingly give up certain information, or perhaps even take some damage, in order to pretend you aren't as good as you really are. Or perhaps you are just pretending not to be able to hurt them as much as you would like. Feign Superiority This is much tougher in mental combat than in physical. If you're pretty sure that Fiona uses a certain kind of form in certain situations, then maybe you could emulate her. But if Fiona never used that form against this opponent you won't be ahead.

Or you could go straight for the big victories, and pretend to back off in order to be kind to your opponent. Once they come at you hard, however, you could be in a lot of trouble: they'll be expecting a better defence than you will be able to provide.

If they believe you're so good, they'll probably try to break off the combat. Probably a good result. Psychic Cheating As with physical battles, cheating is often the only way to win. It's just tougher in a Psyche battle.

There are two ways of cheating, external and internal.

Cheating externally is about using some external factor to win the battle - like knowing that someone will use their sword on your opponent while they are distracted. This can be hard to arrange, and you can't be certain that it will work. Or, you could attack when you know your opponent is weak: straight after a sword-fight, for example, when they are bleeding and probably a little tired.

Cheating internally relies on your knowledge of the other person. You have to reveal unexpected information at a critical time, or use forms that have some important symbolic meaning for them.

For example, you might conceal your identity from an opponent who thinks you are their ally, trusts you implicitly. At the right time you let them learn your name and bloodline: then attack all-out.

While they are standing around being shocked at your revelations, you get what you want from their mind (and perhaps are able to erase the memory of the experience). Using Endurance and Psyche One use of Endurance in a Psyche battle is when you are losing, but time is on your side. You just play defensive, and drag the contest on as long as possible. For a Psyche contest, that has to be a very long contest indeed.

Another is to go for the Psychic Assault option. If you are pretty sure that you can take more of it than they can, inflicting wounds on your opponent is an excellent way of bringing them to their knees.



Strength Combat ... I can kill you, Corwin. Do not even be certain that your blade will protect you, if I can get my hands on you but once ...

Gérard, Sign of the Unicorn Strength moves and Choices Unlike Warfare, where various stratagems and deceptions may fool an opponent, Strength is clear and straightforward. For example, attempting to fake superiority is silly. If you've got the better Strength, you can break your adversary. And vice verse. In other words, superiority in Strength is a sure thing.

One other point. Just as characters with Warfare get fast reflexes along with their military training, so characters with high ranking in Strength get martial arts style expertise along with their muscles. Grab or Grapple The Strength version of an all-out assault. You count on being a lot stronger, and being able to establish a controlling hold.

If you don't have Strength superiority, and you attempt a Grapple, you're going to be pretty helpless. Whatever the other wrestler chooses to do will likely succeed, and you won't be able to do much to stop it.

If you and your challenger are a fairly even match, the Grapple is probably not going to succeed. It's even risky, if the enemy uses the time to go for your throat.

If you've got clear superiority in Strength this is bound to succeed (except for weird cases where you're battling something with too many arms, or too slippery to hold). Once the control is obtained, the controller has several options: Pick 'em up and carry 'em This is what Gérard did, carrying Corwin over to the cliff and dangling him up-side-down. Swing your partner Occasionally controlled victims are useful in other parts of combat. As shields, battering rams, and even as thrown projectiles. Go for the Knock-out The idea is to either whack 'em, or strangle 'em, until they go unconscious. Once a victim is in the power of superior Strength, they are pretty much helpless against blows and holds. Make 'em hurt The idea is to inflict pain, pure and simple. Break 'em Damage is pretty much optional. Choices include things like sprains and broken bones, all the way up to actions more grotesque... Go for the Throat Something to do only if you think you're in a close battle, and you're willing to take it to the death.

Corwin did this on a couple of occasions, relying on his brute Strength to win out. This usually turns into a mutual thing, with each trying for the fatal snap before the other.

Although it's usually a matter of sheer Strength, where the one with the greater Strength kills the weaker, there is one factor.

If the fighters are closely matched, then Endurance can come into play, and the one with the weaker Endurance will run out of steam.

If it turns out that you're a lot better in Strength, then your opponent will be helpless to resist this attack. At that point you'll have a choice of actions, strangling the foe into unconsciousness, or committing murder, or giving quarter. Wiggle Out of It Escape, and defending yourself, are your primary concerns.

If you're better or equal in Strength, and facing a Grab or Grapple, then you should succeed in getting free.

If the opponent is Going for the Throat, you'll only get free if you are much stronger. You'll be stuck in any kind of even match of this kind.

If you're measurably weaker than your enemy, someone Going for your Throat, all this does is buy you a little time.

If the foe is going for a Grab or a Grapple, and you have a much lower Strength rank, then Wiggling Out of It will fail utterly. Feigned Strength Inferiority This is easy, since all you've got to do is pretend not to be quite so strong.

If you are considerably better than the enemy then you've got many choices. You can pretend to be just a little bit better, and win just about anything you attempt. Or you can pretend to be inferior.

You can even, if you like, pretend to get killed. Of course, lying around helplessly can be a little risky, especially if somebody decides to just make sure.

If you're only slightly stronger, or actually weaker, then you better hope that your foe is merciful. Otherwise, pretending to be weak can lead to broken bones, or a broken neck. Using Warfare in a Strength Battle Getting back to fighting dirty. In a contest of Strength, there's always the option of cheating. Get a weapon, and, so long as your opponent has left you a hand free, it might be possible to get in a strike or a shot.

This can work before things are completely resolved, or in the middle of Going for the Throat. However, once someone has put you in a Grapple, you're pretty much helpless. And if you're in a Grab, then the opponent is going to be aware of your pulling the weapon, and will have a chance to react to it. Switching Between Warfare and Strength These are the two major choices of Combat. Benedict's way, that of skill, speed and accuracy, or Gérard's way, that of brute strength.

Just to illustrate the principle, here's an abstract of a few elder Amberites and how they'd fare against each other, just using their best combination of Strength and Warfare.

The characters are as follows:

Benedict, definitely first in Warfare, and fifth in Strength.

Bleys, we'll rate him second in Warfare, and third in Strength.

Corwin, put him right under Bleys, third in Warfare, and fourth in Strength.

Julian, rank fifth in Warfare, and second in Strength.

Gérard, we'll call him first in Strength and fourth in Warfare.

So, in Warfare we've got Benedict, Bleys, Corwin, Gérard and Julian. The ranking in Strength is roughly the opposite, with Gérard, Julian, Bleys, Corwin, and Benedict.

Once characters get their hands on each other in a Strength battle, whoever has the best Strength rank wins.

Let's look at how things come out differently when the characters start with a sword duel. The difference is that Warfare controls the swordplay, but it's still possible to switch the battle to Strength by grabbing an opponent.

Corwin versus Gérard: Corwin's Warfare can hurt Gérard, that's clear so long as the battle stays with swords. But Gérard isn't all that much worse than Corwin. If Gérard chooses to take a hit, buying a handhold on Corwin in exchange for the wound, then he can switch things to pure Strength. In this case Gérard probably beats Corwin.

Corwin versus Benedict: Corwin is significantly inferior to Benedict in Warfare, and he doesn't have enough of a Strength advantage to make a difference. Corwin is doomed.

Corwin versus Bleys: Corwin is outmatched in both Warfare and Strength. Unless he can bring in some other factor, Corwin gets cut up badly by Bleys.

Corwin versus Julian: Corwin, clearly superior in Warfare, has the drop on Julian. Julian can't switch the fight to Strength unless Corwin makes a major error.

Bleys versus Gérard: Bleys has Gérard in Warfare. Unless he makes a big mistake, the fight shouldn't move to Strength.

Bleys versus Benedict: Benedict should win this. His first rank in Warfare gives him an advantage greater than the single difference in rank. But if he's too cocky, and if Bleys can force the Strength issue, it could swing the other way.

Bleys versus Julian: Bleys, being superior in Warfare and not much worse in Strength, should beat the snot out of Julian.

Gérard versus Benedict: Benedict with vastly superior Warfare, will keep out of Gérard's grasp. Benedict wins.

Gérard versus Julian: Julian, behind in Warfare, and only close in Strength, loses to Gérard.

Benedict versus Julian: Benedict's Warfare cuts up Julian.