Amber: War of the Crossings
Psychic Combat – FrameworkThe most important thing to remember about Psychic Combat is that two minds are meeting. The personalities, emotions, and mental states of the combatants are of paramount importance. To use a physical analogy, the personality of the combatant can be seen as the Terrain that the match takes place on. The emotions of each combatant can be seen as modifiers to that terrain, weather and other such effects. And the mental state is analogous to the person’s general health.
Personality as Terrain:Any Psychic combat will take place in the minds of both combatants, but it will take place more in the mind of one or the other at any particular time. When the combat begins, whichever combatant is being more aggressive will force the combat more into the mind of their foe. As the combat progresses, whoever is losing will find the combat taking place in their own mind, barring some strategic choices that will be discussed below.
Having the combat take place in one’s own mind is a tradeoff. On the one hand, the combatant who is providing the personality ‘terrain’ is on familier ground and can usually fight more easily. On the other hand, any effects generated by the combat take place more quickly or strongly in the mind that is the current battleground. Thus, the mind that is hosting the fight takes more damage from direct attacks, is easier to mindleech information from, etc.
In general, Psychic warriors who prefer quick, savage attacks to end a battle quickly will prefer to fight in the mind of their enemy, so that they can do the maximum damage as quickly as possible. Psychic fighters who prefer a more subtle, studied combat will prefer to allow the enemy into their own mind where they have greater control. To use a gaming analogy, people who choose to fight in the opponent’s mind are more likely to prefer playing white in chess, while those who like to fight in their own mind are likely to prefer playing black.
The Terrain of Personality has an effect on the combat in that it changes how the fighters will have to interact with each other. There is no way to list all possible personality types, but some common traits can be explained as examples. For instance, a person’s honesty or lack thereof will affect how ‘visible’ the battlefield is. An honest mind will cause both combatants to have a few precious instants of advance warning before the other makes a move, and is akin to an open field where everything can easily be seen. Conversely, a sneaky mind obscures things, combatants will have little if any warning about what the other is going to do. More common traits and their effects will be listed below in a glossary section.
As a final note about psychic battlefield terrain, the personality of the person that is hosting the combat forms the primary terrain, but some aspects of the invader’s personality are present as well. Except where the hosting mind’s personality is very strange, usually the invader forms a sort of ‘beach-head’ of their own terrain in the opponent’s mind. When a combatant forces someone out of their own mind and moves the combat into the other person’s mind, the battle is fought back to this ‘beach-head’ and thence the terrain reverses, with the previous terrain becoming the beach head, and the previous beach head becoming the primary terrain.
Emotions as Psychic Weather:Emotions map themselves onto the personality of the combatants, modifying the terrain that the personality creates. A dispassionate, emotionless fighter fights with his or her base terrain, which may or may not be an advantage. Learning to suppress or inflame emotions for the purpose of a Psychic battle is one of the better tricks in the arsenal of a practiced Psychic Warrior.
As with personality types, a full list of how a particular emotion affects a combat will be listed below, but one example will be given here. Sorrow is a ‘cold’ emotion, paralyzing the mind. As a terrain modifier, most minds interpret sorrow as physical cold, slowing the pace of the combat and allowing Endurance to play a larger role.
Mental State as Health:The cohesion of a combatant’s mind is obviously of great importance during a psychic battle. The health of a mind is measured by how many resources the person has access to, and how well they can marshal them. Many things affect the mind, but three things in particular are the primary factors in measuring a character’s mental state.
Physical wounds are the least important measure of mental health. While it is true that wounds reduce the body’s energy reserves, and thus those of the mind as well, unless the combatant is unfamiliar with pain, or is suffering dizzyness from lack of blood, physical wounds will make little difference. Naturally, a completely healthy body is preferable to one that has been stabbed several times, but most Amberites are capable of thinking clearly through pain. More than one combatant has been surprised into psychic combat when foolishly making physical contact with a foe they thought had been subdued physically. Thus, breaking limbs and general beatings are ineffective against breaking down the Psychic defenses of a combatant, as are purely physical conditions such as tazer effects and poisons that paralyze the muscles. However, concussions and massive blood loss are very effective in breaking someone’s mind down, as they directly damage the seat of the Psyche, the brain.
Mental Exhaustion is an important factor. The use and especially over-use of powers like Pattern, Trump, and Logrus that require intensive mental effort will drain the same reserves that are used in psychic combat. A psychic warrior who has spent a lot of time using such powers and then enters combat will essentialy be ‘winded’, as if they had already been fighting for a while. Endurance effects will happen much more quickly to such a combatant.
Confusion, Madness, and other afflictions are a problem for someone who plans to wield their mind as a weapon. Whenever a character is not in full posession of their faculties, their Psyche score is essentially reduced by some amount relative to the severity of the condition. It is not a bad idea to shock, confuse, or otherwise play mind-games with someone before directly assaulting their mind. For instance, a combatant who is worried about a loved one in immenant danger will be distracted when engaging in a psychic battle that does not directly work to clear that danger. This will split the warrior’s resources, making them a less effective combat.
Keeping one’s mental house in order by avoiding compulsions, dealing with disturbing events in a healthy way, and clearing one’s mind of psychic residue that often comes from excessive Shapeshifting or Logrus use is essential for staying in mental fighting trim.
Glossary of Psychic Framework
|Personality Trait||Terrain Style||Effect|
|Honesty||Light and Visibility||Moves are Telegraphed, easier use of Mindleech|
|Dishonesty||Darkness and Concealment||Moves are concealed, Mindleech harder to use|
|Calculating||Predictable Layout||Difficult to switch strategies, Defensive moves improved|
|Intuative||Shifting Layout||Strategies are hard to maintain, Control moves more difficult|
|Extroverted||Large, prominent objects and bold colors||Personality partially modifies terrain when in another’s mind|
|Introverted||Hidden mental objects, dark||Control strategies difficult|
|Perceptive||Combat seems to happen at range||Freeze moves difficult, damaging moves stronger|
|Empathetic||Some aspects of invading mind can be adopted at host’s discretion||Control moves easier|
|Judgemental||Area seems balanced, all moves seem simultanious||Freeze moves easier, difficulty increased for both when using different moves|
|Anger||Heat, Flame, Battlefield made smaller||Effect of moves is increased, effect of Endurance lessened, raw Psyche more important|
|Sorrow||Cold, Ice, Difficult to switch minds||Effect of moves is lessened, Endurance importance goes up, raw Psyche less important|
|Fear||Visibility lowered, Battlefield less defined||Confusion effects increased, Moves less accurate, easier to dodge|
|Joy||Objects brighter, proliferation of extra objects||Accuracy of moves increased but pure damage moves lose power|
Conducting a Psychic Battle:As with all types of combat, psychic battles have moves, and a combat stance such as agressive, defensive, or balanced. However, without some frame of referance, these terms mean little. This section will break down psychic combat into what actually happens when one person goes mind to mind with another.
Visualization:The Personality as Terrain section provides some framework for visualizing the battleground, but not everything. What’s missing is the actual objects represented, and the appearance of the combatants. The objects and form of the battlefield will be taken from the subject’s mind, representing important concepts. Secrets will typically be represented by precious objects in locked chests or buildings, living structures such as trees or bushes often represent important parts of the person’s personality or thinking machinery. Unlocked buildings or other structures usually house memories in the form of objects of art or books. All these things can vary, of course, but such visualizations are the norm, especially among minds that were formed on the Pattern end of the universe.
Combatants appear as indistinct shapes of light and power, influenced by their origin. Amberites usually incorporate aspects of the Pattern into their appearance, while Lords of Chaos will have some Logrus-like qualities to how they appear. These things, along with the default appearance of the subject’s mind can be altered to fool the opponent, but doing so handicaps the party doing the masking. Still, it can be a useful tool when one knows or suspects that their opponent is much weaker.
As psychic combat moves are performed, the avatars of each person will move about the battlefield, directing energies or pieces of themselves against each other and the psychic landscape. Someone attempting to mindleach a memory might swiftly dart toward a tower of books, while the opponent attempting to merely cause damage would try to blast the moving foe with energy.
Stances and Moves:With each action/response turn, a player can define a Stance for his character. The avaliable stances are Full Attack, Agressive, Balanced, Defensive, and Fortress.
Full Attack stance devotes all avaliable Psyche to an attack move, with nothing for defense. This means that the opponent’s move will affect the character at full strength, but the character is hoping to hit first, and in a devestating enough way that no response will be possible or useful.
Fortress stance means the character will not be making an attack move at all, rather devoting all avaliable Psyche to defense.
The other three stances are a combination of attack and defense, with the names being explanatory as far as how the amounts of Psyche are allocated.
When defending against an attack, a character has further choices. They can attempt to Avoid, or Block. A successful Avoid means that the attack had no effect at all, but is more difficult to perform than a Block. With a Block, the attack is sure to have some effect unless the defender’s Psyche is overwhelming, but it will always reduce the attack by some amount.
Attack Moves Expanded:Mindlock: A Mindlock attack is usually visualized as an energy discharge into the entire battlefield area, or alternately as one avatar physically grappling with the other. Mindlock attacks are better Avoided than Blocked, unless the defender is on a defensive stance. Even a partial Mindlock will hamper future efforts by the defender, and repeated uses of this move with partial success will eventually freeze the defending mind up entirely. This is a move that requires a good superiority in Psyche, so it is best used on a very aggressive stance, possibly even Full Attack.
Psychic Assault: Visually, assaults are almost always represented as either some physical clash between avatars, or a bolt of energy at an avatar or psychic structure. Assaults are the ‘default’ move, they soften a defender up, and can have some long term effect even if individual attacks have a low impact. These attacks drain energy from, and do damage to the defender. Enough hits, or strong enough hits will kill the defender. Even before they kill the defender, or knock her unconscious, they will weaken her total psyche making further moves more effective.
Psychic Suggestion: Suggestions are usually seen visually as an alteration to the psychic environment, or a change to the other avatar. This ‘attack’ is one of the moves that can be delivered fast enough that no real battle takes place, but only if the advantage of the attacker is overwhelming. Otherwise, they will push the target’s behavior in the direction of the suggestion. It’s rare to be able to have any fine-tune control with a suggestion, in general it’s useful for changing behavior once the battle is over. Suggestions CAN influence the defender’s battle strategy, but in general this requires a lot of advantage, and with that much superiority, other options are generally easier to execute.
Mindleech: One must generally interact with the psychic environment to use this attack, entering structures that house memories or secrets and taking or reading them. This is an extremely easy attack to pull off, even on a reletively defensive stance. Blocks will have little or no effect against a Mindleech, and Avoids, while effective, are difficult to pull off. If someone can block your Mindleech it is either because they devoted themselves entirely to doing it, or because they are someone you should not be in combat with.
Domination: This attack is visually represented by breaking down structures in the psychic environment, while engaging the avatar in some kind of energy or physical hold. Eventually, the invader replaces the psychic environment with his own terrain, crushing the defender’s entire psychic terrain into the avatar, and locking it away in some psychic structure of the attacker’s own. At this point, the attacker may use the defender’s body as a puppet, but does not have access to the defender’s mind at all without re-opening the psychic combat. This attack requires either a massive superiority in psyche, or a long, hard fought battle in which the defender is eventually exhausted. This is one of the only attacks that simply cannot be attempted on the defensive.
Disengage: With Trump, Magic, or other ‘hard’ contact, there is often no way for the defender to break off the psychic contact unless they have some way of disrupting the power instantly, such as with a Power Word. With softer contacts, such as visual, touch, or Power to Power, disengaging is one option. Attempting to do this exposes the defender to some risk, as they must allocate some of their Psyche to activity, sapping their defenses.
For the Disengage to be successful, the agressor’s attack must be completely avoided, any successful attack on the defender, even a blocked one, will ruin the Disengage attempt. However, the attacker’s defense doesn’t help him at all, so if the attacker doesn’t anticipate a disengage attempt, and allocates too much Psyche for defense, they may not be able to prevent the defender from getting an escape chance.
If the defender can manage to not be hit, they briefly exit the Psychic combat. This allows the use of one instant action.
Visual contact can be automatically broken by looking away or closing the eyes. Touch contact is resolved with a brief contest of Strength, if the defender can break away at all, the Psychic link is broken.
Magic or Trump contacts might be broken by a Power Word or active Power, but while magical contacts are easily broken this way, Trumps are not, it is rare to be able to escape a Trump contact with a mere Power Word. If the contact was made between two opposing powers, then the defender can either just drop the power, or can make another quick Psychic contest to pull back.
Whatever happens, the character who Disengaged gets only one chance to break the contact off. If that chance fails, the psychic battle resumes.
ExamplesThe following examples should help explain this style of Psychic Combat. Our first example concerns Seth of Amber, a strong but not overwhelming Psyche, against Leondo of Amber, a similar mind.
While visiting his mother in Amber, Seth encounters a rumor that Leondo has slandered the lovely Princess Florimel. No doubt the things Leondo said were true, but they were said publicly, and Seth wouldn’t be much of a son if he let that kind of slander go.
Seth tracks Leondo down, and before the slanderer can react, Seth touches him on the neck with an ungloved hand. The psychic battle has begun.