I came up with these Shadows as a weekly player contribution for an Amber campaign a few years back. I'm inordinantly proud of them even though they never saw use in the campaign. They can be used as destinations for Amberites who are just wandering around, secret resources belonging to elder Amberites, or just as inspiration for coming up with your own memorable Shadows. Most of them were generated by using my Setting Generator (available elsewhere on this website), so this gives you some idea of what that little tool can do for you.
There are two characters from our campaign mentioned in a couple of the Shadows: Randall was an extremely creepy son of Fiona with a thing for young female Amberites (eewww...), while Leo (a PC) was a son of Flora who wound up inheriting the role of head of the Church of the Unicorn in Amber after his elder brother was assassinated. He was teased mercilessly, as you'll see below.
Shadow Name: Clank
Until recently, the Shadow now dubbed Clank resembled a technologically advanced version of Shadow Earth. For reasons which have yet to be uncovered, however, all traces of living organisms disappeared sometime in the last hunhred years (estimates based on cultural artifacts suggest around 2031 AD, local time). The entire ecosystem, up to and including the human population, has been replaced by a form of mechanical “life”. Lush grasslands composed of optical fiber and microcircuitry cover much of the world, with few large cities in evidence, but small towns dot the countryside.
These apparent outposts of civilization are disturbing affairs, not only because it seems clear that the population of Clank was completely unaware of what happened/ was happening, but also for the “wrongness” of what has been left behind. Cars sit outside of shops, engines still idling decades after their owners stepped inside for a quick purchase; unfinished meals can be found on kitchen tables, the eggs and bacon having been replaced by polymer nodules and magnetic media. The most unsettling element of the towns is the fact that they are still occupied. While wandering through town, visitors may occasionally encounter horribly misproportioned and jerky mechanical humanoids, delivering mail or shooting hoops, repeating the same activities and mouthing the same distorted words over and over like a recorded message.
Travel Notes: Clank is a relatively isolated Shadow, and very few of its neighbors appear to have suffered its fate. Shifting the environment more than slightly will almost immediately throw visitors into a normally-populated neighboring Shadow with advanced cyberpunk-level technology. Shifting objects is not difficult, however, shadow stuff having an unusual malleability here. Since there are few clues as to what happened to Clank, it might be risky to spend an extended amount of time here. Travelers with either low Endurance or Psyche might be in danger, depending on how the transformation occurred.
Play Notes: Most magic is likely to be difficult in Clank, though Conjuration may be slightly easier, due to the unusual ease of manipulating Shadow stuff. Most technology will work quite well here, including much which might not work on Shadow Earth. No Trumps of Clank are known, and it is possible that they might behave oddly.
Shadow Name: Sumar
This Shadow is home to a Bronze-age people who call themselves the Sumara. They are farmers, and live along a lush river valley which stretches for over one-hundred miles. Their name means “the people without priests”, and they adopted it roughly two generations ago, in the aftermath of a civil war. The previous century had seen the rise of a priestly class from the ranks of various shamans and miracle workers. While they originally came to power through popular support, they quickly developed into a hereditary theocracy, exploiting the people and abusing their power. After a disastrous flood which the priests did not predict, did nothing to prevent, and failed to render aid after, the heads of a dozen villages came together, and rose an army to overthrow the priests. In the succeeding generations, a form of republic has emerged, where all adults may give their vote to a representative of their choice, or attend the monthly council themselves. As the memories of the war die off, religious thought has returned from hiding with a decidedly democratic approach, where all believers are equal outside of worship, and where the wise and the inexperienced are both judged competent to commune with the spirits and the gods.
Travel Notes: This Shadow has become known to Amberites as a pleasant spot for rest and recreation in the last decade or two. The climate is extremely favorable to agriculture, river-valley living, and lounging, and the Sumara posses a wonderful mix of innocence and libertarianism. The surrounding cultures, however, are relatively primitive and brutal, and should be avoided, if only to prevent them becoming aware of the Sumara.
Play Notes: All powers appear to work normally here. However, the Sumara are in contact with a wide variety of entities which they term variously as “elementals”, “spirits”, “essences”, and “gods”. It is possible that one or more of these may represent some form of True Power, to use the term from the Amber rules.
It is possible that the Sumara may soon encounter a hostile culture, either the surrounding primitives, or another Bronze-age culture. They may or may not have an edge in such a conflict in their religious “contacts”.
Shadow Name: Aries
The Shadow of Aries, one of the multiple echoes of Shadow Earth, is unusual in that those who travel through it intersect the Shadow on the planet corresponding to the Mars of Shadow Earth, Aries. The planet is home to the children of colonists who arrived there in the 1950s. The technology of the colonists, and apparently the home world, is similar to that of Shadow Earth of the 1950s, but with the addition of high energy technologies created by Nicolai Tesla, who in this Shadow was a shrewder businessman. Through use of energy beams and weather control devices, the colonists terraformed Aries into an environment which is merely dangerous, rather than lethal, and their children spend their lives working the land as farmers and miners.
One unexpected element has arisen to threaten the predictability of the colonists’ progress. One of the first discoveries of the colonists was evidence of earlier life forms on Aries. The colonists had made the logical assumption that the previous ecosystem was destroyed by the climactic changes which made the world nearly uninhabitable. Surprisingly, this was not entirely correct. As the work of the colonists has brought rain and oxygen back to Aries, a number of life forms have emerged from the parched soil, having survived the millennia by forming cysts, akin to those used by viruses to survive harmful environments. A handful of these returning native fruits and plants have been incorporated into the diet and pharmacopoeia of the settlers. Unfortunately, a small number of more mobile creatures have begun emerging. These range from verminous beasts the size of small dogs which have begun turning up within the colony, to one enormous predator which was responsible for the death of several leaders of the first generation. The question of what new things may emerge from the soil is always at the back of the colonists’ minds.
Travel Notes: Travel on the planet of Aries is a treacherous affair, as risk of exposure, dust storms, and the occasional cloud of poisonous gas seeping from the ground are compounded by the unpredictable re-emergence of native biomes as water and oxygen work their way below the surface. More noteworthy from the perspective of Amberites is the peculiar nature of the Shadow: no one from outside the Shadow is known to have found their way to the home world of the colonists (known as Terra). The colonists themselves have no functioning space craft (one is scheduled for construction two generations in the future), and their knowledge of the world of their parents is limited to radio broadcasts (they have yet to build a television set, though they have received instructions in how to do so). Surrounding Shadows connect to the planet of Aries, and no routes through Shadow to Terra have been found.
Play Notes: Technology works predictably, as does Real power. Magic is comparatively weak, but for no obvious reason it behaves somewhat unpredictably in areas where the original ecology of Aries has re-emerged.
Shadow Name: Nuptus
The Shadow of Nuptus is home to a primitive culture which has just begun the slow climb to Civilization. The people of Nuptus began forming tribes from their extended families just three generations ago, as part of an agreement which settled a violent dispute over hunting rights. For the first half century, the families happily married off children left and right and rapidly expanded the tribes. In the most recent generation, however, the tribal leaders (known as Bigs) have begun to turn their attention to strengthening the positions of their tribes and consolidating their own power. In order to prevent all of the tribes from eventually becoming one, the Bigs have begun to prevent marriages between families in different tribes. As a result, the tribes have begun focusing their attention on exploration in order to find more extended families who are not yet part of the tribes.
As one might expect under the circumstances, the people of Nuptus are unusually friendly towards strangers, lavishing them with gifts and parties, all of which are intended to impress outsiders with the wealth and power of the tribe. The tribes are comfortable, augmenting hunting and gathering with a small amount of agriculture, and they consider themselves quite cultured, with most families claiming prominence in at least one art or sport.
Travel Notes: The populated areas of Nuptus are a mix of savannah lands and rainforests. While the people of Nuptus are quite friendly, this comes from ulterior motives; anyone who alludes to having a wealthy or influential family may quickly find themselves the focus of a heated dispute between rival Bigs with eligible progeny. On the other hand, children of Amber who want to raise a family would find themselves very well-received here.
Play Notes: The tribes have begun to sorting themselves out into factions following Ogwus and Patun, the dominant Bigs of the two largest tribes. Any member of the Courts of Amber or Chaos who is viewed as marriageable material is likely to draw the attention of one or the other faction, who may attempt to kidnap the character, or, barring that, eliminate the character to prevent their marrying into one of the opposed tribes.
Shadow Name: Stellar Commonwealth
Home to an advanced space-faring civilization, the Stellar Commonwealth has arrived at the end of several centuries of relative stability and peace. The rise of the Star Magi, as they have come to be known, was a complete shock to society throughout the Commonwealth. From research facilities in all sections of the galaxy, astrophysicists and hyperspatial engineers have emerged with powers beyond imagining, and have begun remaking the Commonwealth to their liking.
This remarkable transformation was spawned by a little-known cult known as They-Who-Listen-to-the-Songs-of-the-Stars. Concentrating their attentions on those who were most knowledgeable about the subjects of their adoration, the cult converted most stellar scientists to their belief in the sentience of stars. Combining that belief with “hyperspatial shunts” which placed the scientists into direct psychic communion with the stars they orbited, the cult found its doctrines proven conclusively. The scientists variously dominated, merged with, or were dominated by the minds of the stars they contacted. The stars were themselves altered by the experience, discovering fears and desires previously unknown to them. The shock altered their stellar energies, infusing them with mental, emotional, and spiritual power, turning the stars into unparalleled sources of aspected magical energy. The scientists, remade into Star Magi, now draw upon that energy to work their will, or that of the star.
Entire regions of space are now permeated by the energies of these stars, redefining reality for light-years in all directions. Inhabited worlds within these regions have begun forming political alliances, as the minds of their populace slowly align with the aspects of the awakened star. When two stars have awakened in close proximity, the results have ranged from war between the respective Magi to what appears to be the slow merging of the two stars.
Travel Notes: Interstellar travel in the Commonwealth is common and extremely fast, as such things go. However, the changes wreaked by the Star Magi have begun to make travel much more unpredictable. Worlds orbiting activated stars have begun changing physically in accordance with the magical energies bathing them, and strange phenomena and unknown creatures have begun to become commonplace in space. Visitors should be prepared for surprises.
Play Notes: Most varieties of ultra-technology are fully effective in the Commonwealth, and magic not only functions well, but can become incredibly powerful when connected to an awakened star by a “hyperspatial shunt”. Logrus and Pattern may occasionally be weakened or strengthened by the power of a particular star, but this is unusual. The possibilities of Trump in a reality with hyperspace are also noteworthy.
Shadow Name: The Land of Dairy Queen
Imagine, if you will, a land where herds of Spam Beasts graze tranquilly on fields of plastic grass, a land where the cows give Yoo-Hoo and Ovaltine, a land where all lemons are pink, and all apples are sour and neon green. This is the Land of Dairy Queen, the domain of King Don and the Lady Beatrice. The people of the land are a rich mixture of Dough Boys, Keebler Elves, Trix Rabbits, and other stout, some might even say portly, folk. Under the benevolent protection of the forces of Twinkie the Kid and Admiral Cupcake, life on the whole is full of fun, merriment, artificial flavorings, and lecithin.
The Land of Dairy Queen is not without its problems. Court intrigue runs rife, with the manipulations of Chef Boyardee and HoHo (the king’s mistress) continually threatening to undermine the crown. In addition, Count Chocula, lord of the undead, risks all with his investigations of things not meant for mortal ken: brushing and flossing. On the whole, however, the Land is a cheerful, though sticky, place to visit.
Travel Notes: The Land of Dairy Queen is relatively closer to the Courts of Chaos than to Amber, and thus most visitors tend to be from the Courts. It is recommended that visitors avoid extended stays in this Shadow, as the food supply is generally composed of the least nutritious comestibles imaginable. Travelers with Shapeshifting, and those who have spent time recently as a full-time college student in any moderately high-tech Shadow may safely(?) disregard this warning. For shorter stays, it is suggested that sunglasses be worn at all times, even indoors, as the highly saturated colors of this Shadow can occasionally leave after-images and spots when viewed without protection. Also, stain-guarding clothing before visiting the Land is highly recommended.
Play Notes: Logrus works normally in the Land of Dairy Queen, but Pattern tends to have problems with control: while Hellriding functions normally, shifting shadowstuff tends to yield food-based or synthetic analogs of whatever was desired, and adjusting probability tends to yield “artificial” outcomes. Magic is even more susceptible to this effect, with all results adjusted to match the local aesthetics: Force bolts become bursts of chocolatey goodness, etc.
Shadow Name: Prismatos
The Shadow of Prismatos is the home of a rather disturbing civilization. Throughout the land, there are signs of an advanced bronze-age culture: substantial stone acropoli, well-built roads, and what appear to be aquaducts. The people of Prismatos no longer give them any thought, however. Living as unclothed hunter-gatherers, they now focus their lives on the “gods”. The “gods”, small glowing rocks the size of a fist or smaller, came to Prismatos on “the night of the sky fires”. The first man to encounter one of them was puzzled by the glowing, almost life-like patterns it emitted. When he returned to his city, the people fell at his feet as he passed among them, healing the sick with a touch of the glowing rock which had taken the place of his hand. As the crowds gathered, they heard his story of the glowing rocks in the hills, and described the joy of becoming “one with the gods”. When the priests and soldiers came, calling him a heretic and a traitor, he struck them down with flames and lighting. Within a year, the cities were emptied, the entire civilization running to find their own “god”. The people of Prismatos now follow those among them who have become “closest to the gods”, and it is possible to find men and women who have naught but their head unconverted. The few babies born now receive a “god” at birth. They grow strong and horrible, things of human form and alien intentions. The few who have avoided the “gods” live alone in the cities, awaiting the death of their race at the hands of the children.
Travel Notes: Aside from the few who still live in the cities, the people of Prismatos appear disinterested in visitors. The roads and the frequent abandoned structures make travel on Prismatos relatively simple and pleasant. Combined with the absence of major predators or bandits, Prismatos is apparently one of the safest Shadows around from a mundane perspective.
Play Notes: All powers function normally on Prismatos. In addition, Magic and Shapeshifting both seem to have some interaction with the “gods”. Particularly in the case of Shapeshifting, examining these interactions may prove quite dangerous.
Shadow Name: The Blighn Chaparral
The Shadow known as the Blighn Chaparral is named for the Blighn, a group of relative newcomers. The natives are human farmers and livestock herders, and overall they recall the “Old West” of Shadow Earth. When the Blighn starship crashed in the middle of the Chaparral, it took quite some time for peaceful relations to be established between the new arrivals and the natives; between the stampedes and wildfires which swept the area in the wake of the crash, and the bizarre appearance of the Blighn, there were many who wanted to “string the freaks up!” However, thanks to the intercession of a cool-headed sheriff and a big-hearted minister’s wife, the Blighn were eventually welcomed into the communities of the Chaparral. This act of kindness has been repaid ten-fold in the last three decades, as the Blighn have become an integral part of day-to-day life.
The Blighn are roughly 7 feet tall when standing at full height. They resemble nothing so much as giant octopi or squids with human legs. Thus, their height can vary quite a bit, depending on whether their tentacles are pointing straight up (much of the time, when they are not in use), or drooping. The Blighn have fallen into three major niches within the society: craftsman, teacher, and cowboy. It is the last role in which they have had the most profound impact upon the Chaparral. Through an apparent form of animal empathy, they are able to supervise herds of unimaginable size with an ease the native cowboys envy. Because the Blighn have decided it best that their presence remain unknown to those outside the Chaparral, they always return home before the herds reach the final marketplace, where they are sold to feed the large cities to the east.
Travel Notes: The residents of the Chaparral, human and Blighn alike, are friendly, if guarded, toward strangers. Few from the east visit the Chaparral, so visitors are usually assumed to live in another town in the area. It is unwise to suggest otherwise, as the Blighn are concerned about their safety should word reach the cities, and the human residents may take stern measures to protect their adopted neighbors from possible exposure. Making one’s friendly intentions clear may help smooth matters out in this situation.
Play Notes: Powers work normally here, though neither the natives or the Blighn know how to use any of the magical abilities. The Blighn have not introduced any of their native technology into the Chaparral to any notable extent, but they may have some extremely advanced devices held in reserve, should they be called for.
Shadow Name: The Catwalk
Shadow holds three types of worlds: those that don’t make sense, those that do, and those which make sense, but only if one does not think about them too much. The Catwalk is in the third category. Imagine a fashion show in Paris: glamorous models, ridiculous clothes, far too many flash cameras going off. Then imagine similar fashion shows in New York, London, LA, and so on. Then imagine all of these shows taking place within spitting distance of each other. If you take that mess and expand it to the horizon and beyond, you have a pretty fair depiction of The Catwalk.
The language used by the natives of The Catwalk is incomprehensible, but it is unlikely that there would be anything worth talking about. In any case, visits to The Catwalk are motivated by one of three things: clothes, food, or privacy. None of the natives pay any attention to anyone who takes on a role in the pageantry which makes up the Shadow; thus, it is trivial to make off with any number of outfits once the models have removed them, simply by rolling up a dress rack and loading up. Actually, visitors may take on any of the numerous roles which make up the spectacle: masseur, make-up artist, photographer, groupie, or even model (both men’s and women’s fashions are on display). The most popular role, however, is spectator, a role which provides the fringe benefit of unlimited access to the craft services tables, laden with luncheon meats, hors d’oeuvres and champagne.
The third motivation for visits here is driven by the unusual fact that mind-to-mind contacts, including Trump contacts, are not possible here or from here, providing a useful defense against psychic attacks and unwanted prying. One flippant explanation for this phenomenon is that the natives haven’t got anything in their heads to contact. In any case, travel to The Catwalk and from there to other places by Trumps of locations is still possible; contacting another’s mind is what is restricted.
Travel Notes: The Catwalk is safe, and a pleasant place to visit for those inclined towards clothes, glamour or free food. It is rumored that many of the more fashionable elder Amberites have visited here a number of times, as picking an ensemble is simply a matter of wandering around, no matter how extreme the style desired. It is also rumored that those who attempt to interfere with the shows may be attacked by security guards sprinkled throughout the crowds.
Play Notes: As noted above, Trump and other mind-to-mind contacts by or against anyone in The Catwalk are blocked uniformly. In addition, Conjuration requires less exertion, and Sorcery works better or worse depending on whether it clashes with the nearest show. Pattern and Logrus function normally.
Shadow Name: The Seas Which are Blessed by the Exalted Dragon
The Shadow which goes by the nickname “the Dragon Seas” is home to an ocean-going empire which is reminiscent of numerous Asian cultures on Shadow Earth. The empire is ruled by the Exalted Dragon, descendant of the legendary founder of the empire. The first Exalted Dragon was in fact a true dragon, who fled the heavens after a falling out with his father, King of the Dragons. Taking on the form of a human, she roamed the world, bringing the human race fire, writing, and sailing. In awe of her powers and wisdom, she was given the title of Empress by the humans she had helped. Taking this to heart, she began to expand her dominion, not only in the physical world, but in the world of spirit. The success of her navies in conquest was only exceeded by her personal triumphs in bringing order and serenity to the realms of the afterlife and the spirits. In time, even the court of her father swore allegiance to the empress, who assumed the title “Exalted Dragon”, a title which has since been passed down to her sons and daughters for millenia.
The empire ruled by the Exalted Dragon is truly beyond belief. Its earthly domain covers half of the world, with traders travelling over its entirety, bringing immeasurable wealth and knowledge to the courts. Its spiritual domain is even broader, with the Exalted Dragon ruling all spirits, demons and ghosts. Even so, the empire is always facing challenges, whether it be barbarians raiding far-flung island outposts, warlords and sorcerors establishing dominance over whole regions, or demons stealing babies under cover of darkness. But in the end, none who dare challenge the Exalted Dragon live to do so a second time.
Travel Notes: The Dragon Seas are a sailors paradise. The waters separating the thousands of mid-sized islands which dot the Shadow hold nearly every condition ever encountered in Shadow, from horrific storms to perfect racing winds. In addition, the Shadow is a place of great beauty; nearly every item used within the empire itself, from furniture to kitchen utensils, is an item of artwork of nearly unparallelled craftsmanship. However, visitors should be forewarned that a wide variety of supernatural creatures flourish here, and sorcerors of great power and malign intent are found throughout the Shadow.
Play Notes: All powers work normally. Conjuration, however, is nearly endemic; there is no clear dividing line in the Shadow between great craftsmanship and magic, and visitors of great skill who posess no magical talent may still be able to craft enchanted items here, though it will be a time consuming process.
Shadow Name: Vatica
Throughout Shadow, it is generally true that the residents are “just plain folks”. In some cases, though, the “just plain folks” aren’t just “plain folks”. Take the Shadow Vatica where the “just plain folks” also happen to be “just plain Popes”. In Vatica, a.k.a. PopeLand, every man, woman and child is Pope. In the capital city of It’s-ah-Rome-ah, it is nearly impossible to see the skyscrapers through the throng of Papal Miters, while threading through the Popemobile-clogged streets is nearly as challenging as walking the Pattern.
Still, appearances aside, life in PopeLand runs much as it does in other industrialized Shadows. People wake up, have a quick breakfast of wine and wafers, jump in the Popemobile, and drive to work to spend a hard day writing encyclicals and dividing the world between the Spanish and the Portuguese. Home life is much the same. Weekends are often highlighted by a nice backyard barbecue and audience with the neighbors, though the weekly argument between the kids over who gets to say Sunday Mass often makes parents wish it was Monday.
Unfortunately, as everywhere the domestic bliss of the Popes is sometimes disrupted by strife. Drive-by conversions are on the rise, as are Miter-jackings, and the threat of a schism between unfriendly neighbors keep many neighborhoods on edge. People start running when the shouting starts: “I’m-ah dah Pope-ah!” “No, I’m-ah dah Pope-ah!”. This is frequently followed by one of the neighbors sending their friends on Crusades against the offending Pope to steal his household appliances and reset his VCR clock.
Travel Notes: The Popes are friendly people, and visitors may make friends quickly by requesting audiences of nearly anyone. It is suggested, however, that visitors avoid getting friendly with any Pope who is likely to get caught up in a schism. Also, it is considered heresy, a crime punishable by death, to tease or laugh at any Pope, even if he is wearing a lime green leisuresuit and driving a Gremlin Pope-mobile. A similar warning should be kept in mind when listening to the ridiculously accented Thari spoken by the natives.
Play Notes: All powers work normally. All Popes have the ability to banish Sorcerous spells they believe to be Satanic, which pretty much covers any they dislike.
Shadow Name: The Wheat Kingdoms
Those who travel through Shadow have noticed that certain patterns recur again and again within “average” Shadows, including Shadow Earth(s). One of the most common of these is the a standard evolution of societies from extended families to bands to tribes, etc. Occasionally, though, this pattern fails in relatively normal Shadows. The Wheat Kingdoms is a case in point. The cultures of the Shadow made the jump from hunter-gatherer bands to a relatively sophisticated feudal system in under 100 years. For the entire extent of known history, the people were nomadic, building no permanent structures and raising neither crops nor livestock, for one simple reason: the Horrors, monsters which stalk the Shadow. The Horrors take an infinite variety of forms, but they are all big, fast and quite clearly cruel. The Horrors live on the large herds of herbivores which live on the plains, but in every known instance where a band remained in one area for more than a season, a Horror descended upon and massacred them.
All of this changed in “The Time of the Kings”. A dozen men and women, all born by the light of a comet which lit the sky for a week, became legends by each defending their bands from the Horrors. Some mastered the forces of magic, others learned the secrets of smithing, some simply wrestled the beasts into submission, and one even calmed and tamed the beasts through song. With the rise of defenders, the people of the Shadow settled down, founding the Wheat Kingdoms, each under the rule of one of the Kings, who are apparently immortal. Now each King teaches her people the secrets of civilization: agriculture, writing, and war. Throughout the land, there is none who would question the rule of the Kings.
Travel Notes: Travel through the Wheat Kingdoms is easy, with flat dry terrain, but the predatory monsters are exceptionally dangerous, both in their size and in their ferocity. As such, it is recommended that cross-country travel be avoided, and visits be constrained to the settled areas. Travelers interested in and armed for big game hunting may choose to disregard this warning, but caution is advised.
While visiting the settled areas, avoid any suggestion of disrespect toward the Kings, as every one is viewed as something akin to a god. Those who choose to emulate the Kings through good works or displays of great talent, however, will be well received.
Play Notes: All powers work normally here. The monsters which wander the Shadow should be treated as creatures of Chaos, and respond as such when wounded by Pattern weapons.
Shadow Name: The Walled City of Chiba
Cyberpunk Shadows have seen increased interest since Prince Martin’s well-publicized change of fashion. As with all things in Shadow, however, there is infinite variety even within the realm of the familiar. The Shadow of the Walled City of Chiba (named for the capital) is an apt example. Resembling on the surface a prototypical high fantasy world, Chiba is notable due to the presence of Terram Vitae - Living Rock, though Living Metal would be a more accurate description. Discovered by Dwarven miners several centuries ago, it has become a commonplace but extremely valuable commodity; not only is Terram Vitae a remarkably versatile metal, but when pieces of it are attached to a living body, they respond to mental command, contracting and relaxing, twisting and bending as required.
Over the intervening two centuries, craftsmen of all races have exploited this wondrous substance (now known popularly as Krome) to create a vast array of devices to augment or replace the functions of the human body. Even so, with all that may be gained, only two types of people get “Kromed”: the rich and the desperate. The responsiveness of Terram Vitae to mental command is a result of a natural enchantment. While the magical energies involved are relatively minor, their presence over an extended period can cause “aura tilt”, a destabilization of the subject’s natural energies which can result in mental instability, physical mutation or worse. The only way to avoid this is an extensive ritual attunement process which can astronomically increase the cost of even minor devices. Thus, those who are desperate must take their chances with aura tilt, but even the wealthy do not remain untouched. Though it is not generally realized, attuned devices tend to induce what might be termed “aura spike”, an unnatural strengthening of the subjects own aura. This tends to enhance the subject’s force of personality at the same time that it isolates them from outside concerns, making them increasingly self-centered and solipsistic.
The Walled City of Chiba, dominant city of the Shadow, is now home to several incredibly wealthy individuals who are waging an increasingly visible urban war for dominance, using sorcerers and Kromed soldiers as proxies. The victims of aura tilt are becoming more dangerous and more common on the streets, while the powers available to those who are willing to risk a similar fate grow greater every year. All in all, about as grim and gritty as any high-tech dystopia you might want to visit, and that’s without considering the undead or the dark elves.
Travel Notes: In general, Chiba is a medieval environment, presenting all of the normal hazards and obstacles for travelers. In the cities, however, the standard threat from urban predators is augmented by the presence of Kromed individuals, and victims of aura tilt may become a threat with no warning.
Play Notes: All powers work normally here. Implant objects are abnormally common due to the availability of Terra Vitae, and they are surprisingly resilient across Shadow, due to the relatively low levels of magic and technology required. Aura tilt and aura spike are Psyche effects; aura tilt is resisted much like a disease, but aura spike is much more subtle and seductive.
Shadow Name: Monster Island
It has been said that any world in fiction may be found in Shadow. Even more common, however, are worlds which resemble a work of fiction, but with unexplored consequences fully realized. The Shadow of Monster Island, reputedly named by Prince Martin for one of its fictional echoes, is a world apparently modeled upon those of Godzilla and Gamera movies. The Shadow is a moderately high-tech world whose inhabitants live in fear of enormous monsters which occasionally emerge from the oceans, the skies, or deep underground, and proceed to wreak havoc upon whatever lays within their path.
While only a handful of monster attacks occur each decade, they have had a substantial impact upon human civilization in the Shadow. One of the most dramatic results has been the emergence of a unified global military force under the control of the United Nations, specifically chartered to deal with monster attacks. In addition, entire areas of engineering and science have developed to study the behavior, biology and weaknesses of the monsters, in order to develop more effective defenses. The most startling result to come from these researches is that the monsters appear to have no common origin: some appear to be living fossils, others are biological mutations, and some fringe researchers ascribe magical or extraterrestrial origins to some of the strangest.
The different origins are all traceable to a single cause: the monsters are a response to the progress of science in the Shadow. As reality is mapped and defined more completely, Chaos squirts out between the cracks, creating the beasts which menace the Shadow. The odd coincidence that such a multitude of enormous creatures could all come to be through such apparently disparate circumstances has lead a handful of researchers to some unusual areas of inquiry. The scientists of Monster Island are very close to discovering the existence of Logrus and Pattern energies. It is unclear what they may do with this knowledge, or what they can do with it. Given that it is possible for shadow dwellers to travel through Shadow, the residents of Monster Island may eventually attempt to find a solution to their problem in “other dimensions” opened through experimentation with these new-found forces. Alternately, the scientists may attempt to alter the balance of Pattern and Chaos within their world, a risky proposition at best.
Travel Notes: This is a relatively pleasant “modern” Shadow, and even the presence of the behemoths which plague the world doesn’t present any pressing danger to travelers. Visitors from the Courts or Amber should be careful about establishing long-term residence, however, as their presence is likely to have undesirable effects on both the balance of Chaos and Pattern in the Shadow and on the behavior of the monsters.
Play Notes: All powers function normally here except for Shapeshifting. Characters who change form here will find it very difficult to retain their original mass, and must exert their Psyche to avoid growing to monolithic proportions. Also, it is possible that the scientists of Monster Island may eventually create problems for those who use Pattern or Logrus in the Shadow or perhaps even in those nearby.
Shadow Name: The Breads Basket
When Shadows are named by visitors, the inspiration can come from a variety of sources: native names for the world, major geological features, or sometimes a single location or city. Sometimes, though, a really bad pun will stick. The Breads Basket is a case in point. The operative term in this case is sweetbreads: through a fluke of evolution, plant life was beaten to the surface of the world by simple multi-celled animals, and as a result the landscape is more than a little disgusting. In place of vast grasslands and looming forests, the world is covered with fields of intestinal cilia and vast stretches of towering bones. (Yuck.)
Oddly enough, human life still emerged here, along with a range of fauna not entirely dissimilar from that of other worlds. This is not to say things aren’t a little different. The most notable variation from the norm is that primitive humans discovered agriculture, selective breeding, and species crossbreeding (local genetics are delightfully...informal) all around the same time. As a result, the civilization is based upon biological engineering rather than the use of inorganics. New buildings are grown of bone and skin from clippings of existing ones, tools such as cranes and earthmovers are developed through grafting and interbreeding of existing devices/species (the terms are roughly synonymous), and farms are home to vast fields of intestinal segments (don’t even ask about orchards). Roughly speaking, the available technology is similar to Shadow Earth between WWI and WWII.
Human culture hasn’t gone unchanged either. Even the natives get mildly nauseated by their own technology from time to time, so it isn’t as omnipresent in day-to-day life. Also, in a world where a “flower” is as likely to sneeze on you as you on it, and landscapes look like belly wounds, poetry and art just aren’t as popular. Cuisine is rather primitive as well, but this is hardly surprising given that, when cooked, pretty much everything looks like meat (though spices have been available for millennia). On the other hand, attitudes towards the human body are much healthier and more honest, so sports and sex are very popular recreations. Still, visitors should never accept an offer of goods or entertainment without bracing themselves for a possible shock.
Travel Notes: Travel through the Breads Basket is reasonably rapid, but visitors with weak stomachs should restrict themselves to polar and ocean voyages. This Shadow is reputed to be a favorite of Randall, who occasionally makes reference to the joys of “rolling nude through the countryside” (Bleah...)
Play Notes: All powers function normally in the Basket, and Shapeshifting may be applied much more flexibly here; growing additional limbs or completely new organs is almost trivial even without Advanced Shapeshifting. Devices/species will thrive and function in almost any Shadow which is capable of supporting human beings, and thus may serve as non-magical Artifacts or Implants.
Shadow Name: The Files
On more than one occasion, members of the royal family have attempted to gain information about the affairs of Amber by examining Shadows which are similar for clues as to the motivations or actions of their siblings. Unfortunately, this is rarely useful because each Shadow only represents one possibility, and is inextricably tainted by the minor deviations from the actual situation in Amber. The Shadow known as The Files, on the other hand, has almost no resemblance to Amber itself, but can be a wealth of information to someone willing to think.
The Files resembles a massive automated research library dating from the 1970s of Shadow Earth. In order to use the Files, the researcher must begin by searching through several dozen Noun Binders, selecting the individuals and elements to be included in the scenario, and coding them onto a Scantron. The Scantron is then placed into a pneumatic tube, and within a matter of hours, a slip is returned with a 70 digit code which represents the starting point for the next stage of research.
The next stage involves working with a thousand volume “Action Index”, written in modern Thari. All clues already known by the researcher must then be encoded on punchcards using the code numbers drawn from the Action Index. So, an example statement to be encoded would be “Corwin” “claims” “Brand” “plans” ”to destroy” “the Primal Pattern”. Each punchcard may be marked to indicate the relative chronological position of a listed event, and they may also be marked with special codes to indicate conditionality: whether the event is documented, theorized by the questioner, asserted by a questionable source, etc. Once all of the punchcards are complete, they are rubberbanded in groups of 27 and placed within another, much larger pneumatic tube. Within a day or so a massive bundle of folders, or occasionally a request for patience or more information, will be sent up on a dumbwaiter, along with a box of shredded punchcards in a box labeled “Please Recycle”.
The folders contain an enormous, but well-indexed, list of potential outcomes for the “situation”, a several paragraphs-long summary of the information provided by the researcher. The “situation” will also include explicit statements of assumptions made in generating the scenario, any one of which might invalidate the scenario and force recreating and resubmitting all punchcards. The scenario assigns probabilities to all listed outcomes, and identifies any variables which tend to dramatically alter the listed probabilities. All in all, this usually provides the researcher with extensive information on which to make decisions, but no clear answers.
It is clear that the scenarios held within The Files result from some form of analysis of happenings throughout Shadow, as references are occasionally made to “nearer the Logrus” and “within planar influence of a Broken Pattern”. How these analyses are compiled is completely unclear from observation. For that matter, there is no sign of how or when the information within the Noun Binders is updated or how elements such as the Scantron translation function, either.
Travel Notes: The Files are most easily reached by shadow shifting through libraries in search of a massive room with slightly flickery fluorescent lighting and light blue-gray synthetic carpeting. Time within this Shadow travels at roughly the same speed as in Amber, which may render it useless under circumstances where speed is crucial. There are restrooms and lounges with vending machines adjacent to the main room.
Play Notes: Powers work normally here, although the contents of the Shadow appear to be resistant to manipulation by Pattern and Logrus. Given the extremely focused utility of this Shadow, it is entirely likely that it is in fact some form of Construct established and (perhaps) abandoned by one of the elder Amberites, or perhaps opponents from the Courts. Given the “manual” nature of the whole affair, it is unlikely that whoever controls the Shadow could identify what scenarios a visitor had reviewed, but on the other hand, any individual file may have been altered by the owner.
Shadow Name: Shopping Maul
Two of the most popular reasons for travel through Shadow are shopping and adventure. No world in Shadow combines these two as inextricably as the Shadow known as the Shopping Maul. Long ago, the Maul was a bustling marketplace, located in a massive space station (“that’s no moon!”), which catered to countless races. The Maul was connected to its customers via hyperspatial gates, and billions of people visited the marketplace every year, bringing currency and goods from throughout the universe. Then, tragedy struck: a star several light years away went nova, and when the wave of radiation hit the massive space complex it shorted out the gates, isolating the market and all those within it.
It is now many generations since “the Closing”, and the mammoth complex is now home to hundreds of small tribes, descendants of the original survivors, that scratch out a living from the wreckage of slurpee stands and discount toupee outlets. During that time, many other things have changed as well. Sections of the marketplace have fallen into ruin, automated shops have failed, and animals and plants in various stores have escaped, bred, and sometimes mutated. The tribes live in a world where they understand very little about how the technology which surrounds them works, and have no real control over their fate.
That is changing, however. The most recent generation of the tribes has produced a set of extremely competent and visionary leaders. Some dream of conquering their neighbors, some of creating wide ranging political alliances, some of rediscovering lost knowledge, and some of making their tribe rich. In all cases, they are changing things, and this has begun to create conflict. For the first time in memory, the tribes have begun to band together, either to take over other tribes, or for defense and mutual support. This newly spawned warfare has lead to it being named the Shopping Maul. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Travel Notes: Travel through this Shadow can vary from trivially easy to rather difficult: while some areas look almost as if they will reopen for business the next day, others are strewn with debris, and some areas cannot even be reached due to the failure of elevators or escalators. The attitudes of the tribes can vary widely as well, from friendly to curious to murderous. In almost all cases, however, money, goods or information on the lost technologies which surround them can improve tribal attitudes.
Play Notes: All powers work normally here except for Sorcery: only spells which function as psionic or biophysical (bioluminescence, electrical shock, etc.) effects work in this Shadow.
Shadow Name: The Manwoods
Even within the infinite variety of Shadow, there are stereotypes: cyberpunk arcologies, star-spanning evil empires, and the most tired of cliches, the high fantasy world with elves and dwarves and magic and so on. But of course, stereotypes are meant to be broken. A case in point is the Shadow known as the Manwoods. The name comes from the heavily forested region most commonly encountered by visitors. These woods are home to Man, the youngest of the four races in the Shadow. Man was created by the spirits, as were the other three races, and as with them Man was created with a purpose in mind: to allow the spirits to enjoy and explore the world with curiosity and playfulness. Man is unique in the Shadow in still knowing instinctively of their kinship to the spirits, and many among their number can see and speak with their creators.
Luckily for Man, very soon after they were created they met the Dvov, the first race to have graced the Shadow. The Dvov were borne of spirits that wanted to enjoy the act of creation, and so they were made master crafters and fecund parents. Man was thrilled to meet these short smart people who knew so much about the world, and the Dvov realized that much like their own children, the new race would need looking after. To this very day, the calling of Man Friend is an honored one within the Dvov people, and they are beloved by the Mannish tribes.
Man developed many talents which surprised even the Dvov. In addition to the basic carpentry and architectural skills which they learned from the Man Friends, Man invented felt, created the hunting bow, and explored to the heart and edges of the Manwoods. To the south, Man first encountered the Orgu, a brutal race of porcine features who slaughtered and enslaved the exploration parties. The Man Friends brought word back to the mountain homes of their people, and the Spirit Keepers came. They, as the Dvov’s link to their Spirit heritage, told Man of the Orgu, borne of spirits who craved conflict and battle, discipline and obedience. Led by their Warlords, sorcerors who grew in power each time they survived mortal wounds, they would destroy Man if they proved weak. The Spirit Keepers sent the Home Guardians to teach the ways of war, but the Man Friends knew this would not be enough, and taught Man the one knowledge which had been forbidden: magic. When the next conflict with the Orgu came, Mannish hunters and learners had become soldiers and wizards, commanding bow and spirit to defend their home. Man was now a respected enemy of the Orgu, while the Man Friends paid for their assistance by near exile, allowed to return home only once a decade.
Man has learned much in the century since the War. They have explored the lands beyond the Manwoods, discovered aspects of magic unknown even to the Dvov, and met the final race of the Shadow. On the savannah south of the Manwoods, there stand several cities of white stone which reach high into the air. These are home to the Ilfa, a lithe, intelligent race who live for study, contemplation and art. Mannish visitors have spoken to the spirits in the cities, and learned that the Ilfa are the third race, the last before Man, a race created by spirits driven by beautiful abstractions: truth, beauty, wisdom. The Ilfa are a strange, solitary and otherworldly people, caring little for wealth, neither eating nor drinking, and driven by their passions to extremes of behavior and accomplishment. Statues which tower over the horizon, mathematical proofs which warp space and time, and athletic prowess beyond natural limits grow in the cities of the Ilfa. Man is both entranced and terrified by these strangers, and wonder what they may find next.
Travel Notes: The primary threat to travelers in this Shadow is the Orgu. Travelers are cautioned to avoid passage through their lands. Visits to the Ilfa cities are also risky, though more because of the unpredictability than direct danger.
Play Notes: All powers work normally here. Sorcery is particularly powerful and flexible here, with local outgrowths including spirit shamanism (Man), communion with the earth (Dvov), mana shaping (Orgu), and transcendant artistry (Ilfa).
Shadow Name: Gatespace
The Shadow named Gatespace is unusual in that it appears to be naturally connected to a plethora of other Shadows. This is hardly the only noteworthy aspect of the Shadow, however. Hundreds of different races call the Shadow home, and each of them has a different story of how they arrived, most of which appear to be true. Several different cultures of humans appear to have separately migrated here, and together they represent one of the largest races. Another pair of races, the huge, reptilian Targ and the short, shrew-like Arn, migrated together to escape the Targ’s overlords, who had brought them to the Arn homeworld to subjugate the peaceful ascetics. Merging the introspective philosophies of the Arn with the celebration of growth through conflict, the Targ have now become a . Stories of this sort are what have made the Shadow what it is.
Physically, the Shadow is like something out of a surrealist painting. Hundreds of thousands of “lands”, massive hunks of earth, drift lazily through the Shadow, separated by nothing but a void, but it is a void containing air and capable of supporting life. Gravity is a characteristic of what surface you are mentally oriented to; it is possible to walk all the way around a land if you are careful. This can also allow people to travel between lands which are passing close to one another; a jump coupled with a quick shift in perspective can allow you to fall off of one land and “upwards” onto another.
Lands are not the only things present within the void of this Shadow. “Suns”, large glowing spheres which provide light, heat, and in some cases magic, to the lands within their influence. The interplay of the suns is used to predict the probable movements of nearby lands, as well as the periodic confluence of magical fields, timing of heat waves, etc.
Passing between the lands are the Gateships. These vary in design from shuttlecraft which were apparently designed for space flight, to vast sailing vessels, with sails designed to catch the light of the suns, the breezes which waft through the Shadow, or waves of magical energy. While the Gateships are indispensable for travel between lands, their real purpose is trade and exploration. Many of the smallest lands hold nothing but large caverns through which it is possible to travel to other Shadows, of as many varieties as most Shadow travelers will ever see. Gatespace is home to countless civilizations and peoples, but Gateships are the home of explorers, treasure hunters, and merchant princes, and they ply their trade across dozens of Shadows and hundreds of lands. Great adventures await those who travel to this Shadow.
Travel Notes: Travel from land to land via Gateship is relatively fast, but within lands travel conditions vary wildly, as do the cultures which reside there.
Play Notes: A wide range of technology, including extremely high tech and technomagical devices, function well in Gatespace. On the other hand, Powers work strangely. Pattern teleportation and Trump transport do not work, though other manifestations of both powers do. Logrus tentacles cannot pass through gates, but are extremely dexterous within the Shadow. Sorcery works quite effectively, but is strongly affected by the mana flows which power some Gateships. Finally, Broken Pattern may be used to teleport to any of the Shadows connected by gate with Gatespace with perfect control over destination, which suggests that the entire collection of Shadows may be some form of Broken Pattern construct, using “the break” in a more controlled way. Or not.
Shadow Name: Leary Wins!
[Chalk this one up as my Shadow of Desire]
The Shadow dubbed “Leary Wins!” is clearly a secondary echo of Shadow Earth. The Shadow is identical in every way but for one thematic difference: for some reason, scientific and philosophical geniuses persecuted or ignored in other Shadows have been much more successful here. The most obvious example of this was the election of Timothy Leary, at the time Governor of California, as President of the United States of America in 1980. Other changes are just as amusing: Apple wiped IBM off the face of the earth after Jobs and Wozniac surprised everyone in the mid-80s by firing most of management for “corporate thinking”; Nikolai Tesla died a millionaire, having bought the Westinghouse corporation with the proceeds from his lawsuit against Thomas Edison; Galileo was appointed to head a Papal observatory and was eventually beatified; the Nobel Committee recognized Charles Fort’s work by establishing a new prize category for Phenomenology; and Wilhelm Reich successfully fought off federal prosecution, and went on to found a mail-order company specializing in scientific instruments and high quality sex toys.
Several centuries of this sort of thing have had a notable effect on society. Aside from the expected, like a substantial reduction in poverty worldwide (thanks to Buckminster Fuller creating the World Bank), and a marginal improvement in technology (W.W.II didn’t have as great an effect since it ended before Pearl Harbor, due to a variety of factors which undermined Hitler’s success), the most noteworthy and at times surprising results are seen in attitudes and pop culture. Scientists are perceived as exciting and interesting people, and many kids grow up wanting to become scientists themselves. As a side-effect of this, lots of people are hobby-scientists, doing chemistry experiments in the basement or setting up their home computers to look for patterns in the digits of pi. In fact, several franchise chains have recently popped up which either cater to the “home scientist” or cash in on a rec-room Tesla’s new breakthrough. Of the former, Mister Bulky’s Bulk Precipitates is an amazingly successful chain which specializes in selling chemical compounds to hobbyists, as well as licensing new compounds from their discoverers for production (they also provide patent application consultations). Of the latter, the most popular is Benji’s Extruded Meat, a restaurant chain features sandwiches made with cold cuts from produced in bio-orgonomic “meat vats”; among the most popular meals at the moment is the “Foot-long Coney Shrimp”
Travel Notes: Travel in this Shadow is more-or-less typical for a non-interplanetary technological society, though public transport is both more common and considerably more pleasant than that which appears elsewhere. Visitors seeking a) novel uses of technology, b) excellent shopping or c) intelligent conversation will find this Shadow extremely hospitable.
Play Notes: Pattern, Logrus and Trump work normally here, but Conjuration does not. Most Sorcery will not work here, but spells akin to psychic abilities or Fortean events (spontaneous combustion, a rain of frogs, etc.) function unhindered. All “modern” technology will work here; so will a surprising amount of “alternative basis” technology, as well as anything which is a one-of-a-kind prototype.
Shadow Name: The Hundred Thousand Suns of Vishnu
Another one of the common patterns seen across Shadow is the decline of religion with the emergence of science and high technology. As with all patterns, many Shadows diverge from this common progression, but one of the most extreme variations is the Shadow known as the Hundred Thousand Suns of Vishnu. The Shadow is home to a human civilization which spans countless inhabited worlds. Fleets of vimanas, starships which resemble nothing so much as the Taj Mahal, cross between worlds in a day, bringing luxuries and pilgrims across galaxies.
Surrounded by unimaginable technologies and awash in plenty, for the people of the Shadow religion is still the central force in their lives. They perceive themselves as spiritual beings, and view daily activity as inherently sacred. Eating, drinking, sleeping, sex, death: all are seen as acts to be entered into with full awareness of the spiritual consequences. In addition, devotions in word, deed or thought may be made to thousands of gods on a daily basis. Each world has its own local pantheon, in addition to a multitudes worshipped across each sector and galaxy. Individuals may in fact go on pilgrimages, appealing to gods on many worlds for aid in personal quests for enlightenment, healing or personal happiness.
The heroes of the Shadow are known as the Brahmin. They are individuals who through piety, introspection, personal daring, or quirk of fate come to exemplify a particular virtue, force of nature, or other aspect of life. Such figures are recognized throughout the civilization, both for their reputations, which are spread in news, film, stories and song, but also on the basis of their personal presence: one who is Brahmin IS Brahmin, and it can be seen by all who have eyes. Most take on the task of inspiring others to greatness as teachers, artists, or philosophers, but some few become adventurers, drawing upon their spiritual strength to aid the helpless, whether it be saving a lost child or preserving an entire world from destruction.
Unfortunately, not all is perfect under the Suns of Vishnu, as is the case with most Shadows of interest. The very omnipresence of spiritual awareness gives power to those who choose to ignore the consequences of their actions. While small acts of insensitivity and anger are recognized as failings common in all but the greatest Brahmin, those who choose to follow a path of selfishness, violence and hatred may draw power from those around them. These people are said to be “of Shiva”, the goddess of destruction, and are shunned. Unfortunately, those who are of Shiva do not show their nature as visibly as the Brahmin, so their actions may go undetected for many years until they endanger an entire world, whether through economic collapse, famine, war, or less mundane disasters like rivers running with blood. Those of Shiva frequently gain unnatural powers as well, and can pose quite a threat to those brave individuals who try to interfere with them, Brahmin or not.
Travel Notes: The vast sweep of this Shadow ensures that travelers can find almost anything they might desire. Lovers of arts and culture are almost certain to fall in love with this world, as epic poetry, breathtaking music and intricate sculptures and murals are a part of day to day life. One word of caution: visitors should recognize they are likely to be perceived as either Brahmin or in some rare cases “of Shiva”, and thus may either be called upon for assistance in emergencies, or else shunned by all but the most spiritually blind.
Play Notes: Most powers “of Shiva” have a resonance with Logrus energies, but only the most powerful Brahmin abilities will resonate with Pattern. Powers work normally here.
Shadow Name: Dyson Omega-Nu
When traveling through Shadow, one is often amazed at the technological wonders which the native civilization has created. The Shadow of Dyson Omega-Nu is exceptional for the dramatic way in which such a wonder has gone awry. The Shadow is named for its standard point of entry, a partially-formed Dyson sphere under construction on the outer arm of a large spherical galaxy. It is being constructed in the usual way: fields of plasma are depositing matter along the rim, akin to creating a basket from successive layers of clay coils. The matter deposition process is guided by the programming of local space through quantum non-locality mechanisms. In essence, the Sphere is being brought into existence from almost nothing through intricate control of reality.
Needless to say, such a complex process requires oversight, which is provided by tens of thousands of staff who oversee the establishment of ecosystems on the otherwise barren inner surface of the Sphere. However, Dyson Omega-Nu is only a fractional percentage of the way through the decade-long deposition process, and as such only a skeletal crew of roughly 100 staff are present, maintaining communications, overseeing the system readouts and studying solar behavior for possible fine-tuning to ensure optimal frequencies for agriculture, solar power and so forth. In addition, the crew performs security fly-bys to ensure that raiders do not siphon sphere plasma from the force field which stretches across the rim like a large sheet of saran wrap, holding in the deposited atmosphere.
Unfortunately, a small number of the crew are not what they appear. Members of an ancient cult which has survived on the fringes of civilization, they have chosen Dyson Omega-Nu as the new home for their dark god, and have undertaken to make it to his liking. Through an occult ritual involving the sacrifice of one of the crew (whose death was covered by a explosive decompression accident) and introduction of alien fractal patterns into the quantum programming matrix, the cultists have brought the seeds of a foreign reality into existence within the Sphere.
Already the crew has begun to notice changes. The disappearance of the cultists (who fled into the Sphere to meet their god, and not coincidentally, their doom) was the first sign that something was amiss. The next were readings of soil and other biological materials being formed in the newer parts of the Sphere (the processes necessary to deposit living structures have not been perfected as of yet). Then a string of disturbing dreams and psychotic episodes hit the crew. Since that time, half of the remaining crew has either been killed or committed suicide, and the commander has authorized missions into the Sphere in order to determine what is happening. While the true explanation has not been found, the reconnaissance parties have returned with horrifying stories of rains of flesh-eating worms, flying shards of bone which emerged en masse from lakes of blood like plagues of locusts, vistas of pulsating flesh which moaned dirges of entrancement, and many apparently normal fields of chest high grasses which were eerie in both their quiet and their mundanity. The crew is considering abandoning the Sphere, but the dreams have converted a latent psi among them, and they may not survive to escape.
Travel Notes: Clearly, this is not a Shadow to visit casually. The best travel advice is to not travel there at all, and if it is unavoidable, carry heavy weapons and psi dampers.
Play Notes: The Sphere is thoroughly permeated with Logrus-resonant energies. While Pattern use is unaffected, bearers of the Blood of Amber may find themselves beset mercilessly by the newly spawned terrors which reside within the Sphere. In addition, Shapeshifters who remain on Shadow of Dyson Omega-Nu for any length of time may find their body coming under the sway of the forces which possess the Sphere.
Shadow Name: The Overmind
One surprising aspect of Shadow is the prevalence of humanoid lifeforms. Whether it is the influence of Amber over Shadow or the biases of travelers, humanoids are found quite frequently. This is not to suggest, however, that their position on the Great Chain of Being is always the same. The home of the Overmind is a case in point. The heart of the Shadow is a vast and baroque space habitat orbiting an ancient white dwarf. The entire human race lives within the habitat, catering to every whim of the Overmind, a race of gargantuan insects who spend every waking moment in full telepathic communion. Humans in this Shadow were created by the Overmind as a slave race, and they have fulfilled this purpose admirably for many millennia. Through their religious rituals, put in place as part of the uplifting process, they merge their psyches into the group mind formed by the Overmind’s communion, and achieve total fulfillment through union with their masters.
The mind-numbing bliss which has characterized the humans’ servitude to date may be coming to an end, however. A heresy has arisen, and is beginning to spread. Occasionally individual humans may suffer a form of psychic blindness induced by a telepathic accident. Through a sheer fluke, two of these crippled souls turned to each other for comfort, rather than committing suicide, as almost universally occurs. Through their intimacy, they discovered the vast constellation of ideas and passions which have been missing from the lives of their people. Now a small rebellion has started, composed of humans who have withdrawn from the rituals and have gone into hiding within the bowels of the habitat. They are now building a new society, and have begun to proselytize to their brethren of love, creativity, excitement, and other wonders of the new lives which have opened to them as free beings. The Overmind has no comprehension of what is occurring, but they have begun noticing the disappearance of the servants. It is only a matter of time before the newly free humans will be forced to defend their new lives from those who would enslave them. The only hope of these revolutionaries is that as they have grown apart from their masters, they have found their own psychic abilities, previously used only to serve, growing through use and experimentation. It may be that the Overmind will discover that the insignificant beings which they remade into fit servants have outgrown them.
Travel Notes: The space habitat of the Overmind is quite comfortable, and will easily accommodate the use of vehicles, whether air or ground. However, the beings which make up the Overmind consider humans nothing more that expendable tools, and occasionally they even consider them snacks or toys to be broken for enjoyment. As such, surface travel must be undertaken with extreme caution. On the other hand, should travelers penetrate into the inner workings of the station, they may find that the rebels can provide them with rapid and safe transit through the walls and ventilation systems. This of course creates the potential for diplomatic advances which may be unwanted, and which may lead to unpleasantness. Travelers should use caution in either case.
Play Notes: Psychic abilities are universally available here; Psyche provides Telekinesis and Clairvoyance within the Shadow, in addition to its usual uses. Otherwise, Powers function as usual here.
Vignettes: Bite-sized bits of Shadow
The Table: This Shadow is a single large room in the style of a cozy Victorian-era study, a la Sherlock Holmes’ room at 221B Baker’s street. The windowless space is luxuriously decorated in hardwoods and blood red velvet, and is stocked with a selection of tobacco and liquors. The center of the room is taken up by a large round table with a hexagonal game board on it. The board is tiled in variously colored triangles and hexagons, and a large black hole is cut from the middle. One side of the board has an inlay of the Pattern, while the other has a representation of the Logrus (which changes shape with each notice). Beneath each inlay is a drawer which holds a large number of playing pieces, each of which bears the likeness of a different personage from Amber or the Courts. While no written rules are on hand, two things are obvious: first, there are clearly far more pieces than either side could use in setting up a single game; and second, once some selection of pieces have been set up on either side, different pieces will resist moving in certain directions. While it is unclear what rules dictate what moves are legal and which are illegal, all players can tell with certainty that they exist. Pieces left on the board will frequently move between visits.
The Vendomat: This Shadow is a large cafeteria-like space holding several dozen large folding tables and sufficient plastic chairs stacked in the corners to circle all of them. At the back of the space stand a veritable forest of vending machines, containing all manner of goods, and accepting a mind-numbing array of currency. Not only is it possible to find machines holding everything from fresh dairy products to hand guns, but some machines will accept goods and return currency in exchange. All items will be labeled clearly and accurately, but even so some items, such as Uncle Tim’s Sweating TNT Sticks or items from the Versace Rabid Ferret collection, can be rather dangerous purchases.
The Jam: This stretch of high-quality twenty-lane road is covered with a mass of vehicles which have been caught in a traffic jam of historic proportions. The drivers of the ensnarled vehicles, who come from an amazing variety of races (both humanoid and otherwise) have apparently become the center of the local economy. In addition to motorcycle shuttles which regularly ferry passengers to hotels to rest for the next day’s 15 feet of progress, there are a vast sea of vendors wandering between the lanes of traffic, hawking everything from food and drink to sexual favors and stock options. The area can sometimes get dangerous, such as when a hereditary blood feud flares up between descendants of drivers who cut one another off three generations before.
Bob’s Built-to-Order-While-You-Wait Livestock Mart: Located on a backwater semi-terraformed world in a high-tech Shadow, Bob’s represents the state of the art in cut-rate genegineered livestock at wholesale prices. From across the planet dirt farmers come to Bob’s for animals tailored to the specific environmental and market quirks in their part of the world. Need chickens with bones which can be sold for use in industrial abrasives? No problem! Sheep which produce extruded rubber instead of wool? No problem! Bob is in fact a bit bored with these sorts of mundane requests, and would be thrilled with something truly challenging, particularly if it appeared to have military applications. While waiting, he’s constructed some truly bizarre beasts. “Pull the udder...no, really...BOOOOOM!!! splat splat splat...Care for steak sauce with that? $599 a head and you can take all 300 home with you.”
The Sculpture Gardens: Visitors arrive at this Shadow in a large clearing of well-trimmed grass with paths which lead in all directions into heavy woods and walls on either side. The paths lead to countless other clearings, each of which blooms into additional paths. Each clearing holds marble sculptures, bronze figures, topiary hedges and other more exotic depictions of members of the Amber royal family in different poses. Some of the tableaus are clearly representations of specific events in the family history. These include a statue of Brand, formed of glistening obsidian, featuring arrows piercing his throat and chest, each one a small rose bush pruned into the appropriate shape and fletched by a single bloom; a bronze sculpture of Dworkin holding the Jewel of Judgment, which spills water into a canal shaped like the first curve of the Pattern; and a topiary hedge in the shape of Dworkin and the Unicorn, lying in repose before an undying fire. Aside from the sculptures, the only other noteworthy point is that beyond the walls there is nothing but clouds in all directions.
The Desert: At first glance this Shadow appears to be a vast desert of fine, almost dust-like sands. As travelers cross this wasteland through the waves of solar heat, a large peak juts above the horizon. It slowly resolves into a pure white and oddly granular mountain stretching into the sky. Just as the base of the mountain rises above the horizon, the travelers can begin to make out several faint red symbols in the sky behind the mountain. As the travelers advance towards the mountain, it becomes evident that the symbols are volume markings, and that the desert on which they travel is in fact the dry component of some baked good, contained inside a Pyrex measuring cup.
The Comic Shop: This small storefront is located on a commercial strip in a marginally affluent suburb. The proprietor of the shop, Bob, is an overweight man in his 50s who is alternately crabby and gruff or drunk, friendly and gruff. In either mood he is happy to talk to anyone for hours about anything in his shop. Overall it is remarkably well-stocked, but this is clearly a result of his own collecting mania rather than his acumen as a businessman. The best advertised product in the shop is a new card game with the mellifluous title of Amber: The Patterning. The cards are graced with photos featuring members of Amber’s royal family, and the Byzantine rules (all 15 volumes of FAQ v.2^17.3 can be seen on a shelf behind the counter) explain how to win by a) achieving political power in Amber or the Courts, b) solving various mysteries of the universe, or c) snubbing people at grand balls. Overall, the game is less than flattering in its depiction of the royal family: specific cards include “This Is Just Wrong” (featuring Corwin and Deirdre); “That’s GOTTA Hurt”, “He’s No Fun, He Fell Right Over”, and “Abyss Seein’ Ya” (the Brand Trilogy); “Onto the Black Road, Lefty”; “Your Eyes Can Deceive You...”pop”... Much Better...”; and “I’d Just As Soon Kiss Gerard”. Should anyone show interest, Bob says they just received a shipment of the newest expansion set, A New Pope. This set (which has box art featuring Leo decked out in full Papal cammo gear and an Uzi) contains cards such as “Will No One Rid Me of This Meddlesome Priest”, “Pattern Sword Deficiency”, “Dude, Your Mom is Hot” (Flora again...), a “Fist Full of Mangos” and “Ninjas of Improv Assault Squadron” (Substitutes for 3 Ninjas of Improv; “Use 1 Stuff to give opponent a turbo wedgie”). Unfortunately, the rumored chase cards “Randall’s Chainmail Bikini”, and “Amber: Pig Farm” are nowhere to be found.
The Greens: Visitors enter this Shadow via a narrow walkway which leading to a small building designed to look like a giant toadstool. A sign hanging from the front door reads “Back Soon”, and beneath a 17-hour clock face shows 67 minutes past an indeterminate hour (one hand is missing). The building contains a wide selection of golf clubs and a hopper of golf balls in a rainbow of colors, most of which can’t be told from each other in dim light. From the toadstool the visitors can look out through a picture window onto a panorama of miniature golf courses, connected by a network of small paths which snake outward from the toadstool, which apparently stands on a great hill. The Shadow in fact contains an infinite number of miniature golf courses (18 holes each), and players may find any theme they wish simply by following the path; a character receives the equivalent of one point of Good Stuff during all games played upon his Miniature Golf Course of Desire. The range of courses ranges from the sublime (The 18-Fold Path to Enlightenment) to the ridiculous (The Girls of Amber Celebrity Swimsuit course) to the truly odd (a tesseract with 18 holes that are all in superposition with each other). One unfortunate fact of the Shadow is that any ball which is hit off of the putting green is undetectable, no matter what its color or how close to the green it landed.
McAngsty’s: This entire Shadow resembles an enormous fast-food restaurant, decorated in brown, red, and yellow, like a classic McDonalds. The clientele little resembles the usual burger scarfing patrons, however. Pale, intense-looking people dressed in black stand in line to receive what appear to be bright red, watery milk shakes. In between refills, they sit in poorly lit corners of the restaurant and whine about the impending end of the world, the pointlessness of existence, and how the manager is such a dink. Should a visitor in any way slight one of the patrons, however, the whining poser will immediately attack, sprouting fangs and claws. For no obvious reason, the other patrons will at this point all burst into tears over the plight of the poor lost soul who is attempting to pulverize the visitor. At this point a whole horde of people who are badly in need of electrolysis usually emerge from every door in the establishment and begin gutting the patrons. At this point, it is usually wise for visitors to take wing.
The Training Room: This apparently abandoned Shadow is quite clearly a former haunt of someone from Amber’s royal family, but it is not clear who. The Shadow is a large gymnasium with a mind-boggling selection of weapons and other combat training equipment. Hanging from the ceiling in various areas are braided silk cords in a variety of colors. In each case, a simulacrum of one of the Princes of Amber drops from the ceiling, and immediately begins attacking the person who pulled the cord. These apparent training dummies are physically and tactically indistinguishable from the real Amberite, but have no language skills, and must be killed to halt their attacks. In any case, the simulacrums make a satisfying crunching sound when hit, and a pitiful whimpering noise when they are dispatched. Conspicuously absent from the combat line-up, should anyone try all of the cords, is Dworkin, but the original owner probably felt that likely that he would not make a particularly good opponent.