Emperor Merlin Campaign Notes
Here's most of my notes on the cosmology. I'll append my campaign info prep about Merlin after it. The gist is that the Spikards don't just gather energy, they use it constantly, keeping the Logrus in check. While you can draw on that power in emergencies, it's risky and it threatens the physical stability of the Courts of Chaos. If too many Spikards were destroyed, the Courts would go with them and the Logrus would expand back to its full power. With the Pattern in existence now, no one knows what would happen. Wearing a Spikard also tends to drain the user's energies and can kill their wearer if they don't know how to draw power back properly (they work much like the Jewel of Judgement in that respect).
Oh, and the big "villains of the piece" are the Unicorn and the Serpent, since I liked the idea of making them both ruthless manipulators. The cosmology explains why.
In the beginning, there was the Logrus, and the twisting, transitory shadows that it cast against itself. Life was spontaneously created and destroyed as the shadows came into existence and vanished again. Only a few creatures could survive for long in this environment, those capable of shifting shadows on their own and subsisting on the energies of the Logrus when there was nothing else to feed upon. The men of later times called them Demons.
Sometimes the Demons grouped themselves into colonies, protecting and supporting each other against the random vagaries of their environment. A colony of fairly intelligent Demons managed to follow the traces of Logrus energy back to the Logrus itself. A few of them attempted to enter it, and feed off of its energy directly, but they were all destroyed. The leaders of the colony, the most powerful of the Demons, noticed that the stronger Demons made it further than the weaker Demons, who were destroyed immediately. It occurred to them that there might be a cut-off point, where a Demon might be strong enough to absorb energy faster than he had to expend it to survive on the Logrus.
So they turned upon their lesser comrades and devoured them, artificially boosting their own power levels temporarily. After the carnage ended, there were still a dozen of them left, each powerful enough that none of the others wanted to risk attacking them. These Demons then attempted to "walk" the Logrus themselves. Once it looked like the first one would succeed, they all quickly entered the Logrus, fearful of what kind of power the first one might possess after he emerged. Of the twelve, only nine are believed to have survived the walk; the others were consumed by the Logrus.
The nine survivors had been transformed in ways that they never thought possible. They had become attuned to the Logrus, and could now draw upon its energies at will by bringing an image of it to mind. In order to protect their newfound preeminence from others capable of the same feat, they agreed to turn their power to creating a stable shadow around the Logrus itself, sealing it away from easy contact. This shadow, in later ages, became known as the Courts of Chaos. Though still chaotic by the standards of Amber, it was the most stable shadow in existence at the time.
In the Courts, the nine established a kingdom of sorts, and were known as the first Lords of Chaos. They populated it with creatures of their own creation. Each Lord bore a Spikard of some kind, a device of great power, modeled in function after the Logrus itself. It is rumored that the Spikards were created as part of the creation of the Courts of Chaos, and that they help anchor it against the destructive power of the Logrus. If this is the case, the destruction of the Spikards might well cause the Courts itself to be ripped asunder. Their creations were of all shapes and sizes, but slowly the humanoid form (a form wholely unlike that of most of the original Lords) came to dominate: it was versatile enough to make a perfect all-around servant.
The most powerful of the Lords ruled as Emperor, although he was careful not to press his authority over the others too far. As time passed, several of the nine, chafing at their inability to surpass him in power, chose to breed with their minions, producing offspring whose native power was similar to their own. These children, having the imprint of the Logrus in their blood itself, were able to walk it as well, and thus were the first Houses of Chaos created. They also possessed some measure of shape shifting ability, and were able to assume the humanoid form at will. As the bloodline grew thinner, and more of them bred with the humanoid servitor races, the "human" form began to dominate.
In time, seven of the nine chose to create Houses, as a way of increasing their own power. The Emperor guarded his power too jealously, and the last Lord believed that such powerful servants might eventually become a danger to their sires, and refrained. The new spawn were powerful, but willful, not the obedient slaves that had been hoped for. Indeed, several of the nine were eventually killed (either in conflict with one another, or by an ambitious descendant), and the rulership of their Houses was passed on to their descendants.
As the political situation in the courts grew more dangerous, the surviving Lords, including the Emperor and the one who had counseled against the creation of the Houses in the first place, withdrew more and more from visibility. Their fates are not all known; only those two have been seen again, since.
The two survivors of the nine passed into legend, as the Courts forgot their origin and lineage, but their names were still revered. The first Emperor was called the Serpent of Chaos, and the other was known only as the Unicorn. If they have other names, these have long since been forgotten by all save themselves.
While the Unicorn became an enigma, the Serpent was slowly becoming a God: the Houses grew to revere him as the Logrus Incarnate, and his steadily increasing control over the power of the Logrus threatened to make this a reality. The Keepers of the Logrus called themselves his children, and this was probably more than just idle boasting. By controlling access to the Logrus through a few, carefully watched children, the Serpent could retain his control over the Courts itself.
Then the Unicorn appeared again, having conceived of the possibility of a second symbol to counteract the power of the Logrus. It is believed that she seduced Dworkin, then the Keeper of the Logrus, and possibly a son of the Serpent himself, into aiding her. The origin of the Jewel of Judgement is uncertain, but it was almost certainly stolen from the Serpent, and may, like the Spikards, have been created as part of the ritual which created the Courts of Chaos in the first place. Its power against the Logrus certainly supports this theory. Its name may indicate that it was once used as the Serpent's symbol of rulership over the others.
It is believed that the Unicorn was still tied too strongly to the Logrus to be able to create the Pattern; the attempt would have destroyed her. Dworkin did so in her place, and thus was the Pattern made. Having brought a second Power into existence, one that could protect them from the Courts and the vengeful Serpent, they set about producing a House of their own- the House of Amber.
As the power of the Pattern grew, the "distance" between the Courts and Amber grew, and both sides began to pretend that the other did not exist, at least publicly. While the Serpent seethed and raged, the Unicorn slowly attuned herself to the Pattern. It is probable that Dworkin helped attune her to it. Certainly, the Unicorn now has a formidible link with the power of the Pattern.
Incidentally, when Brand fell into the Abyss clutching the Jewel of Judgement, it was his grandmother who left her hiding place and plunged after him, charging along a mystical road of logrus energy. She caught him in the depths and assumed her true form. Though he tried to fight, the murderer of her son was no match for her fury and raw physical power (the unicorn's true form bears as little resemblance to the innocent, goat-like symbol of Amber as the traditional unicorn does to the rhino). She ran him through and cast his corpse aside, but not before retrieving the Jewel from his body.
The Unicorn chose Random, not as the most competent, but because she intended to take a more active role now that her son was dead. She needed a weak king that she could easily control or overrule, but Random proved more capable than she imagined.
"Exalted Pattern Imprint" is what the Unicorn (and occasionally Dworkin) have used to send manifestations of the Pattern around and to direct the actions of Pattern Ghosts. It requires you to meditate at or very near the Primal Pattern. It can also be used to influence the destination of someone who is using any Pattern to teleport while you are connected to the Primal one. You can only influence their destination subtly, unless they're foolish enough to not pick one, in which case you can send them anywhere you like.
Pattern Ghosts are recordings of people who have walked it. They are much like their living selves, though not quite as durable. The smart ones will realize their own nature and may want to extend it artificially (ie- drinking the blood of a living Amberite will do it). The Ghosts are not under the direct control of their summoner, but they can be sent to any location that the Pattern can reach. Picking the right ghost can be vitally important, since you want someone who will do the "right thing" when they find themselves in the spot you've sent them to, without any other instructions. They can be easily laid to rest by anyone with Exalted Pattern.
Exalted Logrus Mastery is similar to the Pattern version, and it's what the Serpent has developed to oppose the Unicorn's power over the Pattern. The only big difference is that Exalted Logrus Mastery can also reach tendrils through time, creating odd temporal paradoxes like Benedict's arm. Using it this way is very poorly understood and can be dangerous in subtle ways... in particular, once you've forced a future event to occur, you're stuck with it, even if you change your mind. Items taken from a time paradox are almost immune to other forces, due to their nature outside of the flow of time.
These were little notes about the preparation for the game. Rules changes and some info. I'll try to mark characters that were entirely the product of my campaign with an *. The basic premise was that the PCs would all be young Amberites and Chaosites who had become companions / servants of Emperor Merlin and would be trying to help him solve a long list of puzzles and problems.
- "Psychic" alterations now require Compelling.
- "Low Compelling" (5 points) lets you screw with emotions and make simple changes like paralyzing a man by meeting his gaze. Nothing complicated.
- "High Compelling" (10 points) lets you read thoughts, mess with memories, implant commands, etc.
- "Power Words" are now "Personal Magic." For +5 points, you may now redefine your Power Word slots to cast different Power Words, given enough time.
- Implant-items may now be purchased to represent innate abilties and other things difficult to remove (deadly damage claws cost 4+10=14 points).
- Fortresses and Special Shadows (like a Tower of Sorcery) are now defined and purchased using the Construct rules.
- You may now purchase "Knowledge of Sorcery" for 2 points. This does not enable you to prepare spells, but you can judge a shadow's magic, identify basic spells used by others, and cast spells prepared for you by someone else (albeit slowly). If you go on to full Sorcery, it only costs 13 points more.
- Demons now use the Shadow Knight rules, which includes the quality "Resistance to Order" (how close they can get to Amber without dying...).
- Shapeshifting is easier and more powerful near the Courts, and Advanced Shapeshifting moreso- with Advanced, you can become a cloud of fire if you like, provided that you are close enough to the Courts.
- Shapeshifters may suggest Avatar forms, but may not specify them. They are a GM choice, and you might not know what your own Avatar is.
- Broken Pattern uses the rules from Shadow Knight.
SynopsisMerlin, once more than 200th in line for the throne, suddenly became the prime candidate after a year fraught with assassinations, accidents and lethal duels. Both the Pattern and the Logrus supposedly physically manifested themselves in attempts to control or win him over as well as sending "Ghosts" of various elders to work for them. Rumor has it that Merlin's creation "Ghostwheel" (some sort of sentient Trump-computer) as well as Corwin's Pattern also took part in the struggle.
Finally being named the top candidate, Merlin himself was attacked. Details are sketchy, but Merlin apparently won, and was able to take the throne. Rumor has it that he used a device of great power to win the battle.
Houses of Chaos and Known Members
Italics indicated presumed deceased, Underlined means not born into house
- Hendrake- master swordsmen with an unbreakable code of honor. Now led by the Duchess (her husband was killed by Julian in the Patternfall War). Her son Borel was killed by Corwin. [Borel, Dilvant?, Gilva, Duchess Belissa Minobee, Duke Larsus, Chinaway]
- Helgram- breeders, manipulators. Underhanded. Cunning. "Absorbed" by House Sawall when Dara married Lord Gramble of Sawall after Helgram's home shadow was destroyed by Primal Chaos*. Jasra was Dara's maid-companion. [Lintra, Lingra*, Phaedra*, Dara, Hellena*, (Bamboo)*, Jasra]
- Chanicut- [Tubble]- ancient schemers known for their biological and demonic creations. Chanicut often sells its creations as guardians to others.
- Jesby- [Prince Rolovians, Tmer]
- Sawall- Now ruled by the most powerful surviving member of House Helgram, Dara. A very ancient house, associated strongly with the Church of the Serpent. House called Dalgarry. Also has Dara's Fortress Gantu and a second stead at the very Rim called the Ways of Anch. [Gramble, (Dara), Merlin, Despil, Jurt, Mandor, Suhuy, Anch?]
- Barimen*- estate uninhabited for generations- now "House Amber". [Dworkin, Oberon, most Amberites]
- Swayvill- house in decay following the Emperor's death. Lord Bances acted as Regent until a successor could be found. Bances is a priest of the Serpent, and thus barred from reigning anywhere. [Emperor Swayvill, Lord Bances of Amblerash]
- Jhereg*- [Lord Fabrel?, Jherel, Lady Camilla?]
- ???*- [Corelius, Bartisson]
- Yorick*- destroyed by demons. [Yorick, Stevan, (Ygguth & fellow demons)]
*The Ty'sears- all red-haired mercenaries. Clones. Wear a variety of black armor, always enchanted. Use a variety of weapons and shadow-travelling devices. Code of honor insists that the job comes first, personal honor second. Bear no grudges, but never forget a betrayal.
- *The Erinnyes (the Furies, the Eumenides "The Kindly Ones")- hunt in groups of 3, ruled by a triumverate.
- Ty'iga- bodiless demons that possess others. Very ancient. Very primal.
- *Valusi- Former ally of Khorvach the sorcerer. Hates Melcurius, Kelle, etc.
These were names I was brainstorming for the other founders of Chaos besides the Serpent and the Unicorn.
The Serpent, The Griffon, The Unicorn, The Cockatrice, The Dragon, The Giant?, The Hound (Cerberus- 3 heads), The Hydra, The Chimera, The Manticore, The Naga, The Centaur, The Pegasus, The Salamander, The Sphinx, The Spider (The Weaver), The Satyr (Pan), The Phoenix.
And a few random notes about obscure Chaosians who were actually described by Zelazny in the Merlin series.
- Tmer was sturdily built, rugged, brave and possibly even sensitive. Knifed.
- Tubble was placid, heavy, subtle. Centuries old and very shrewd. Master of many games. Swept off into Abyss during a blackout. Possibly faked.
- Chinaway- Hendrake wrestler- kept 200+ skulls of those he had defeated.
Delwin and Sand out in shadow. Delwin wields a spikard and holds The Hound* prisoner.
*Sand knows of the magic ring and that Delwin guards something frightening that he calls the Hound of Chaos (monster form is 3 headed, 3 personalities, takes votes- vulnerable to confusion but VERY powerful). Trapped by an iron collar that cripples its powers. The Hound was actually imprisoned by Oberon. The guardianship was Oberon's last demand when they left Amber- the final straw, in fact. Delwin is ruled by his sense of honor, Sand by loyalty to him. Oberon manipulated Delwin using that honor, for which Sand cannot forgive him. Delwin knows of Oberon's supposed death. Sand has not been told. Delwin knows that a Spikard drains your strength, like the Jewel of Judgement, unless you know how to draw strength from it. Delwin has learned much from his prisoner, but some of it has turned out to be lies, and he is uncertain what to believe.
Dalt still seeks allies- if he were to learn of Delwin and Sand, he would seek them out at once and try to keep anyone from learning of it.
Jurt- bound and determined to prove himself more useful to Merlin than any of these bums. Julia has gotten too used to using people, and is thinking about getting back together with Merlin, especially now that she knows that he feels for her and since he is emperor.
*Caine's stronghold has been half taken over by a yellow crystal... an anti-demon. It first "fixes" anything that touches it, healing it and repairing it. Then it turns it into unbreakable crystal so that it will never deviate from perfect order again. It is slowly growing by "fixing" and absorbing the particles of air around it. Only Primal Chaos could turn a crystallized object back to normal. A demon flies far overhead, flying down to deliver warnings to anyone entering the shadow. Only Kai gets the full message. But he isn't coming, either. Outside of shadow, the crystal would be another one of the black fish that swim outside of reality. Being demons of Order, they never enter the physical universe unless forced to.
-Merlin will get weaker the longer he rules, as the Spikard drains his strength.
-Bances will meet with Mandor and reveal his suspicions about the strength-draining properties of the Spikard. Mandor agrees with him that Swayvill probably died from giving up the ring, and assassinates Bances just before he reaches Merlin in order to hide this truth from Merlin. Merlin cannot understand why anyone would kill Bances. He puts "Bances' Murder" on his list of objectives.
-Julia uses Merlin's weakening state to prey upon his affections. Jurt becomes more and more violently determined to prove himself to Merlin. Julia hopes that Jurt will go too far and get killed or force Merlin's hand. She is not entirely conscious of this, but Jurt is becoming more of an annoyance than a lover.
-Coral becomes tormented by voices claiming to have made the Jewel and demanding it back again. Goes into isolation.
-Dalt arranges for an assassination attempt on Bleys, using Luke's method. It fails. Bleys leaves Amber when Random refuses to demand that Begma turn Dalt over. Bleys secretly travels to join Delwin.
-Ghostwheel is fascinated by Kergma, and plans to go off with her on a cosmos-spanning trip. Merlin, weakened and irritable, demands that Ghost stay nearby in case he needs him. Ghostwheel gets ticked, and says that he is not Merlin's toy any more. Ghostwheel disappears. Merlin adds "Return Ghostwheel" to his list.
IF word about Merlin's having Jewel Attunement gets out, there will be an assassination attempt by Finndo (a Pattern Ghost). The Pattern was unaware of this and panics. Merlin will add "Find out what the Pattern's problem is now" to his list if he learns that Finndo is a Pattern ghost.
IF Dalt learns of the existence of Sand or Delwin, he will attempt to seek them out, using murder/theft to get trumps of them, etc.
IF Merlin tries, he will find that he can use his Spikard to send anyone to Delwin's vicinity.
-Every use of the Spikard weakens Merlin further, damaging his mental stability.
IF Merlin gets really weak, Mandor and Dara try to convince Despil to take the throne. Despil hates the idea, and flees Chaos. Merlin learns of his disappearance and somehow he becomes convinced that Despil was kidnapped. He adds "Rescue Despil" to his list. Despil, however, will not want to be rescued.
IF the Hound of Chaos is released, things get nasty. Once free of its bonds, the critter will be powerful enough to short out a Spikard if necessary. If this happens, a ninth of the Courts of Chaos will be plagued by quakes and disasters as their shadow weakens. The Hound will begin summoning Dog-Demons to destroy his enemies (Unicorn, especially). Hound will use a power to transform people into their Avatar forms. Hound will try to take over whichever house is closest to his own line- Chanicut is the most, followed by Jesby (as evidenced by dog-like Avatar forms).
*IF Kai's body is found, only his Trumps... including one of Caine's citadel... are still intact. Also his magic sword(s), one of which is sentient and eager to be rescued. It might seek out anyone searching the area, leading them to Kai's body as per his last request. For very creative players, Kai can be "revived" by contact with the Demon of Order in his father's base, although he won't be quite the same. And he will swear to slay Luke as soon as he learns of Caine's fate.
Final Notes80 stats, 50 pattern, 15 sorcery, 5 odds and ends = 150 points.
100 stats, 75 adv pattern, 15 sorcery, 10 odds and ends = 200 points.
100 stats, 105 logrus + ShSh, 15 sorcery, 10 odds = 230 points.
I had decided on 250 point characters. It was intended to be a high powered game.
Anyway, let me know if you found any of this useful or had any further questions. Unfortunately my Amber group broke up before this ever got run, due to the old "everyone graduated from college and moved away" problem.
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