Character:Evangeline di Borgia
A character for Amber Diceless Roleplaying, created by Shisumo.
PSY Rank 2 (43 pts)
STR Chaos Rank (-10 pts)
END Rank 6 (4 pts)
WAR Rank 5 (4 pts)
Advanced Trump Mastery (60 pts)
Bad Stuff 1 pt
Evangeline di Borgia was born on the world of Ilmond, to a mother she never knew and a father who was master of all he surveyed. The only daughter of the head of one of the Four Families, Evangeline was the Grand Duchess of Venizia, one of the most powerful and wealthy women in the world. From a very young age, Carleon di Borgia taught his daughter about the importance and power of Family; it was the bond of blood and the loyalty of brothers and sisters that had brought the Four Families to global power and influence, and she must always safeguard that lesson. What he would not speak about was her mother, and Evangeline learned early on that Carleon’s love for his daughter had it limits – limits defined by the name Deana.
As an only child, Evangeline was spoiled mercilessly, and when she showed talent as an artist in her youth, the finest teachers the di Borgia fortune could supply were brought to her. Carleon did not skimp her education in other ways either, and by the age of 12 the heiress could field-strip an M-16 in 20 seconds and identify and perform the five most lethal strikes available to a knife-wielder. By the age of 16, she was giving public showings of her work in the cathedrals of Roma and had three kills to her name, one a bare-handed strangulation. That one bothered her occasionally; he had been a cousin. But he had turned against the di Borgias to work for the Kennedys, and that could not be tolerated. Family was all-important. Family was all that mattered.
Evangeline’s world changed shortly after her 23rd birthday. She began to dream of a palace on a hill, surrounded by a vast forest, and of a mind-shattering twisted castle beneath a riotous multicolored sky, perched on the edge of an unutterably deep chasm. Images of the two buildings began to dominate her art, and she produced a whole series of each. And then, at the end of an extremely long painting session, concentrating so fiercely on the image of the castle on the hill that her skull began to pound, Evangeline laid her head against the canvas as she dug through a purse for aspirin – and felt a chill radiating from it. Suddenly there was a breeze, and the hint of pine in the air… and when she raised her head again, she saw that she stood where she had imagined the painting, with the vast forest before her and the palace glittering in the sunlight beyond. She gasped, and fainted… but when she awoke, it was still there. Frantically, she drew out her pencil and sketchpad – both tucked away in the purse she still clutched – and drew her bedroom, with as much focus on it as she could muster. It, too, turned cool, and as she laid her hand on it, she saw a rainbow twinkle in the air around her as she found herself back in her room, just as she’d drawn it.
It did not take her long to discover that she could travel to the places she drew, nor was she surprised to learn that she could touch the minds of the people she sketched once she knew them well enough. Two more traitors met their ends as she pilfered their minds through her art, and she traveled again to the palace several times, as well as to the yawning chasm at the edge of sanity and several other places her imagination conjured up.
Most recently, however, Evangeline has begun to dream of a woman, dressed in white armor and clutching a battle axe, falling endlessly through a darkness so complete that no light could ever pierce it. The woman has Evangeline’s eyes, and once she showed a sketch of the woman to Carleon and saw his expression, Evangeline knew who she must be. But, concentrate though she might, Evangeline cannot make the sketch turn cold so that she can communicate or travel through it. She will find a way, though. The woman is Family. And Family is all-important. Family is all that matters.
Okay, raise your hands if you haven’t read Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber series. First of all, shame on you. Go read them, right away. (In fact, you might want to wait to finish this article until you have done so. I will do my best, but I can’t help spoiling them just a little here.) Second, be prepared for some confusion. The world of Amber is extremely complex, and the Amber Diceless Role-playing Game does a wonderful job of evoking that world, bewildering complexities and all.
Still, let me explain as best I can. Imagine, if you will, and endless, shapeless Chaos, around which flickers of awareness came and vanished from existence in an everchanging, unchanging dance. Imagine that one of those flickers grabbed hold of its awareness of self and held on, carving a Pattern – a sigil of Ultimate Order – out of the Chaos, transforming undefined potential into a multi-universal continuum that spanned the immeasurable gulf between Form and Formlessness. Imagine that our universe – that every universe – was nothing but a Shadow of the One True Reality, called Amber, where the Pattern lies and the descendents of that betrayer of Chaos now rule as the Princes and Princesses of Amber. Imagine that the residents of Chaos, now tainted (however slightly) with Order, can no longer gain and lose their existence at the whim of improbable tides, and instead work to overthrow the power of Pattern and undo the existence of existence; imagine, too, that the sons and daughters of Amber scheme endlessly with each other to carve out a path to rulership over all that is, all that ever can be. By walking the Pattern or mastering other arcane arts, the scions of Amber gain power of Shadows, able to literally shape universes to their will, to bring into existence any possible world; and yet they struggle endlessly for control over the only thing that is truly real: Amber.
Yes, it’s confusing. Trust me, the full version is far more so.
Nevertheless, it is this milieu that the Amber DRPG attempts to emulate, and it does it with astonishing effectiveness. One of the most important aspects of the Chronicles of Amber is the scheming, constant, ceaseless, that surrounds the Children of Amber. Betrayals are common and everyday things; plotting and surprise reversals happen with almost artless casualness. As the main character puts it once, when explaining things to a distant cousin: “Never trust a relative. It is far worse than trusting strangers. With a stranger there is a possibility that you might be safe.” Set against this understanding of unreliable alliances is the rock-solid awareness that one among the family is absolutely unbeatable in a given area of endeavor: Benedict, the eldest surviving brother, is absolutely unbeatable in any form of hand-to-hand or large scale military conflict; Gerard, one of the younger brothers, is the Strongest One There Is. Since no one family member is unbeatable at more than one thing, however, every conflict between them is shaped by an attempt to shift the area of dispute from an opponent’s strength to their weakness, or to your strength, or preferably both.
It may seem strange for an RPG, but Amber deliberately sets out to encourage this air of backstabbing and jockeying for position, in order to recreate the feel of the novels, and succeeds with incredible flair. The key lies in two elements: the diceless nature of the game, and the character creation system. The former is easier to explain in terms of the latter, so let’s start with chargen.
Amber describes everything in terms of 4 Attributes: Psyche, Strength, Endurance, Warfare. There are no skills – you are assumed to be skilled at basically anything appropriate to your character concept, and the question of “how skilled” is settled via reference to one of those four Attributes. In order to make a character, every player begins with 100 points; these points are assigned to the various Attributes, but not directly. Instead, Amber characters are created via an Attribute Auction, where players bid for relative rank in each of the four Attributes. Being first rank in a given Attribute means that, where conflicts of that Attribute are involved, you are simply unbeatable. (At least among members of your generation. The game assumes that you will be playing the children of the Princes and Princesses of Amber, but this need not be the case.) Benedict, as mentioned earlier, is first-ranked in Warfare – no one beats him, with a sword or an army. Ditto Gerard and Strength. So the players bid for the right to be the Benedict or Gerard of their generation; and already, you can see the interplayer rivalries being developed.
In order to make this character, then, I needed bids, so I solicited random numbers on my LJ. The reponses I got became my fellow bidders, giving me a framework to make my character in. With five replies, there were 5 bids in each category, so my “bidding” was against those numbers. Also, note that the Auction strongly encourages large groups, which is further enhanced by the player vs. player mentality of the game. I won’t consider running without 6 players, and 8+ is ideal.
Once the characters are made, however, a few other tweaks can occur. Say, for example, that the final bids for Warfare looked like this: Agatha Rank 1 (74 pts), Bernard Rank 2 (73 pts), Celeste Rank 3 (60 pts), Diarmid Rank 4 (29 pts), Evangeline Rank 5 (4 pts), Fernando Rank 6 (1 pt), Gillette Amber Rank (0 pts), Homer Amber Rank (0 pts). (Note: Characters begin at Amber Rank in all Attributes, which is “average” for residents of Amber and superior to the maximum potential for ordinary humans. There are two lower ranks: Chaos Rank (-10 pts), equal to an average resident of the Courts of Chaos or the maximum human potential, and Human Rank (-25 pts), which is human average and really, really pathetic by Amber standards.) When the Auction was done, then, all the players would know where each character stood in relation to the others. After the Auction, however, any player but Agatha could spend additional points to buy their way up to the next Rank (though not any more or less) – so, for example, Celeste might decide to spend 13 points to get Rank 2.5 (the Rank-holders at the end of the auction are assumed to have the slightest of edges over every one else with the same point total, in order to make sure that you can’t just “stealth” your way into good Ranks with no penalties after the Auction), or 14 points to get Rank 1.5 – actually surpassing Bernard! Thus, just because you know where you stood at the end of the auction does not mean you know where you stand as the game begins.
Moreover, the GM will award XP as the game goes on – but s/he does not tell you how much! Instead, you give him/her a prioritized list of stuff you want to spend XPs on, and he/she works down the list until you run out of XP – so even you shortly have little or no idea what your stats are. Thus, the uncertainty means that only the Auction winners can guarantee their safety – anyone else can be caught and manhandled at any time. Note that the actual resolution of conflicts in Amber is extremely straightforward – barring set-ups, whoever has the higher number wins. Period. However, it is possible for someone with the higher number to either a) fail to capitalize on their superiority because they don’t realize they’re better, b) to overreach and lose anyway, not realizing that their advantage was a relatively small one and being overconfident, or c) to get suckered through a trick that changes the battlefield in a way that even their superior skill cannot handle right off.
All in all, Amber is one of the most creative, unusual, and fascinating RPGs in existence, and I really doubt I will ever actually have enough interested players to either play or run a game. (sigh) Still, just talking about it and making a PC is enough to give me a little twinge, so that will have to do for now.
(creation time: n/a)
11 years is a long time. The Internet never seems to lose anything. In working on my current Amber game, Jeweled Amber i ran across this character concept. At first i was attempted to add a trump i thought fit her. Instead i think a shadow of her may turn up in my game. With regards to her listing here, well done.