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Shadow and Substance

There is a great divide in the universe between Shadow, and Substance. While the varying power levels of shadow creatures and real creatures may seem to blurr that boundary, there is in fact an important difference between things that are real and things that are not.

To begin with, it is not easy to cross from Shadow to Substance, and things that are of Substance will never become Shadows. The quality of being Real, of having Substance superceeds any Powers, or even mighty artifacts like the Jewel of Judgement. Nothing that is Real can be made Unreal. Even in death, the person of Substance is still Real, and will continue to cast Shadows.


Shadows are the most common thing in the universe. Most of the places, people, creatures, and things encountered are Shadows. Shadow is infinite, it is impossible simply to walk to the ‘edge’ of it, even for a Pattern user. Though one can walk to the Abyss, for instance, the Abyss can be circled, and there is more Shadow on the other side.

There are a few things common to all Shadows, be they places, objects, or alive.
  • Shadow is Ephemeral. Shadows are more vulnerable to Powers.
  • Shadow is Derivative. Shadows do not themselves cast any Shadows, they are always a version of something Real.
  • Shadow is Mutable. Shadows gain definition, strength, and histories as they spend more time around anything real. Before encountering something real, Shadows are very flexible, they might be or become anything.
  • Shadow is Limited. Though shadows are infinite, that does not mean that anything at all can be found in Shadow. Trying to find something specific is hard, and may be impossible if it is specific enough. Especially if the conditions include reference to something real.
  • Shadow is Fragile. Shadows can be destroyed. When this happens, memory of them fades from other Shadows, and even sometimes from Real people’s memories.
  • Shadow is Mortal. All shadows are affected adversely by time. People age and die, items crack and crumble, places change or fade away.

Any Shadow, be it a person, a place, or a thing, can become Real and gain the quality of Substance. This is often a gradual process, and few living Shadows survive long enough for it to happen. The more persons or objects of Substance that interact with a Shadow, the more real it becomes. Moving a Shadow person to Amber will cause them to become real at an accelerated rate, though it still may not happen. Not every inhabitant of Amber is real.

Shadows change over time as other real things come in contact with them, or simply from lack of anything real as other Shadows influence them. It is not uncommon for Amberites to return to a Shadow place or person they interacted with briefly and notice some changes. This, coupled with Shadows gaining definition and breadth as they are interacted with, is the phenomenon that causes so many people of Substance to discount the lives and value of Shadows.

Though Shadows are said to be ‘cast’ by Substance, it is rare to find a Shadow that is almost exactly like a real person, place, or thing. The majority of Shadows are an amalgam of all the Real things in the universe. A person might have a resemblance to Eric of Amber, but a personality similar to Fiona, tempered by some of the jubilance of Bleys. A forest might superficially resemble Arden, but contain beasts usually found on the steppes of Ghenesh and be home to faerie creatures such as are sometimes seen in Tir’na’nogoth.

When a Shadow is nearly a copy of something or someone of Substance, that Shadow tends to be pretty strong, and probably has a high degree of reality. It is still a Shadow however, differences from the original will come into high relief for someone familiar with the originator, and it can be destroyed just as easily as any other Shadow.


Anything that is really Real, is said to have the quality of Substance. There is no finite number of Substantial things or people, but they do not come into existence rapidly or easily. Thus, Substance is rare.

All things or persons of Substance share a few common traits.
  • Substance is Eternal. The ravages of time may make a few changes to Substance, but never destroy it.
  • Substance is Unique. There will never be another Real person just like another, or a place, or an item. Even if a Real person is killed, or an item destroyed, no new thing of Substance will come into existence quite the same.
  • Substance is Resilient. Powers do not affect Substance as easily as Shadow. Some lesser Powers cannot affect Substance at all.
  • Substance is Creative. New people or things of Substance cast new Shadows, enriching the universe. When Real people do new things, they add to the universe.
  • Substance is Resonant. Real people and things leave their mark on Shadows and other Substantial things. Among Shadows, everything revolves around Substance, among the Real, there is still a sense of great persons or objects coming together.
  • Substance is Power. Powers are attracted to persons of Substance and vice-versa. Real people learn powers faster. Real places generate them faster. Substance and Powers are inextricably linked, feeding each other in a symbiotic relationship.

Substance is difficult but not impossible to come by. There are two places in the universe that generate a lot of substance. Amber, and her Patterns; and The Abyss, and the Courts around it. Amber maintains a slightly higher degree of reality than the Courts of Chaos. For instance, merely having the Blood of Amber is a guarantee of Substance, but being of the line of a Substantial Chaos Lord does not promise reality. This higher degree of reality gives Amberites a direct advantage over Chaosians whenever they come into conflict. It is certainly possible for a Chaosian to surpass an Amberite in some endeavor, but the Chaosian has to work harder to reach those heights.

Other than being of the line of an Amberite, spending time around Substantial persons, places, or things increases the reality of Shadows. Being affected by Powers is a good way, but learning a True Power is an even better way to become Substantial. There is no special transformation or explosion of power that occurs when a Shadow becomes Substance, if it’s a person, they may not even notice the change themselves. However subtle that change is, once it happens it confers all the advantages of Substance immediately, and removes all of the weaknesses of Shadow at the same time.

There are enough persons and things of Substance that adding another one does not cause a noticeable change in the vast reaches of Shadow, but subtle changes can be noticed, especially near places the new Substance is found in. Persons of Substance are especially transformative, when they embark on new endeavors they can make sweeping changes to vast amounts of Shadow, changing the landscape for better, worse, or simply opening up new opportunities.

As a general guide, something like eighty percent of the children of a Chaos Lord will be Substantial, with perhaps one tenth of one percent of the rest of the denizens becoming Substantial. One full percent of all the people in Amber are Substantial, though most of them live in the actual city and keep of Amber itself.

Out in Shadow, every Primal Plane is Substantial, and one might expect a ten thousandth of a percent, or one in a million inhabitants to be Substantial. Random pockets of Substance exist in Shadow, a person might become Substantial, or an item, place, or creature might achieve Substance. For every such miracle in Shadow, uncounted Billions and Trillions are Shadow. The chances of encountering such Real people and places are not so bad, however, as Substance is drawn to Substance, and it is easy to recognize places that have been touched by Substance, as opposed to a raw and flighty Shadow that has never been influenced before.


The Shroud of Silk Drascus