In our “Contact Us” page, we say that we are famished for good RPG stories to tell to our readers, and this is true! Sometimes, tough, many things get on the way and months pass quickly away without being able to do it. We were contacted about an interesting Kickstarter project and we promised that we would speak about it but for many reasons we were unable to do it. We are glad that the Kickstarter went well but we have to apologize to both the authors and you.
The best way to apologize for being so late is, in our opinion, to present to our readers a review of two products at the same time: two RPGs of the people of DEM, Dias Ex Machina, an amusing and clever name, since their main author is Chris Dias! Amethyst: Quintessence (Amethyst in the following) and Ultramodern5 (U5 in the following) are different RPGs, but with undeniable similarities. They both are D&D 5th Edition compatible products and, while Amethyst mixes elements of fantasy and modern settings, and U5 can even be projected further in the future (with some additional rules), both feature the same set of rules about firearms, power armors, explosives and vehicles.
A bit of history:
As we said, the DEM team contacted us to review their massive RPG of more than 400 pages and we are glad to do it, since it is the first product of Dias Ex Machina! Released for the first time in 2008, under D&D 4th Edition rules, Amethyst is a techno-fantasy RPG that introduces modern setting rules into classical fantasy. The rules were expanded into Ultramodern4 that lets you introduce technology of any kind into D&D 4th Edition games. In 2016, DEM produced the D&D 5th Edition compatible Amethyst Quintessence, through a Kickstarter and, later on, Ultramodern5 too.
Let’s use Dias Ex Machina own words: “Our goal (at DEM) is to push beyond the accepted assumptions of 5th Edition rules and to allow unlimited freedom to create whatever setting anyone can imagine.”
They are also expanding their portfolio of products, with a campaign setting based upon Ultramodern5, Neurospasta! “It is a cyberpunk/espionage campaign inspired by the recent generation of books and films on the genre (Appleseed, Chrysalis, Cypher, Ghost in the Shell, Natural City, Renaissance, etc).”
Should you wish to know more about it, you could check Dias Ex Machina homepage, anyway we will concentrate on Amethyst and U5 in the following.
About Amethyst: Quintessence:
This game stems from a very fascinating concept, in my opinion: what will really happen if there was a massive contact from a ‘normal’ world and a fantasy world? That is, what will become, for REAL, of our own world or akin to our own technological one, if a portal to a fantasy world suddenly opened up and people and creatures started to come out in big numbers? What will it happen after years of the same condition, what after a generation or two?
I am not speaking of the, quite common, dream to go to a fantasy world, Neverending Story-like or a Middle Earth and to meet Gandalf and so on, I am speaking of many fantasy denizens arriving in, say, the middle of Europe or USA! Speaking of numbers and the niceness of the creatures, if the portal was to Middle Earth, it would be much more likely to meet an army of orcs than a realm of Elves!
So say that creatures start to pour out, with primitive technology and knowledge, from our point of view, but with magical weapons and items, enchantments, prayers to their Gods. Strange powers, ideas, creeds, invading our world! What will we do ourselves?
Well, I am a nerd, I guess some of you too, will I miss the possibility to meet an interesting elven lady for the off chance possibility to meet a raging Barbarian Orc? Or a horrible predator? I am not sure what I will do, but I am not the hero of this story, I am an extra (as they define it in Exalted, if you know the game), it will not end well for me should I be brave and foolish.
In fact, many people died at first, in Amethyst, thinking to reconcile the visions of the two worlds and, in the end, a peaceful cohabitation was impossible! In that, Amethyst: Quintessence goes against and often ridicule several of the common fantasy tropes. Another very big issue, a part for social, religious and philosophical struggles, is the clash between Magic and Technology! The idea of Amethyst is that they do not coexist, differently from what happens in other games (e.g. Shadowrun), but they are at odds! Using DEM words: “On top of this social dilemma comes the issue of disruption. Magic is a chaotic system that overwrites itself on reality, disrupting many of the normal rules of the universe that technology requires to operate. Although this interference doesn’t directly destroy life, it does retard the progress of civilization, preventing technology from operating beyond simple mechanisms like windmills and bicycles. Where magic is prohibited, normality returns and technological advancement can continue. Those creatures born from magic have little choice on the matter, but those consequential to evolution can still choose which world to live in.”
There are several races there, divided into:
- Evolved: that is Humans, creatures that achieved intelligence without magic
- Fae: many races, not evolved but born from magic, some similar to classical races/species such as elves and vampires
- Spawn: they were normal creatures before magic but they were altered by it, while retaining or gaining intelligence
- Several crossbreeds. Unchain your fantasy …
We rambled at length and it is better to ask the authors a bit more about the setting, especially things that we are quite fond of ourselves, culture and languages, geopolitics, creatures and campaigning in Amethyst. As you may know, we like the interreview format, a mixture of review and interview to the authors.
1) Hi Chris and Dias Ex Machina team, do you want to tell us something more about you and your endeavors? We already spoke about the genesis of Amethyst and your other products; did we miss something?
I’ve been developing games since the mid-90s, but it was only in 2008 that I decided to enter publishing hardcore. It started with Amethyst, and only expanded years later to NeuroSpasta and Apex, the latter two being smaller productions. Given the success of Ultramodern5, we’ve advanced our Apex and NeuroSpasta conversions to be released next. After those, we have the next Amethyst book, Amethyst-Factions.
2) Nice, new products to come, I am sure that our readers will look forward to seeing them completed. Back to Amethyst, where did its very original idea come from? What will YOU guys do if Amethyst became real in our world?
It started as a post-apocalyptic story in which dragons return to our world I developed in the early 90s. The planet had been devastated and what remained collected into cities. No elves or wizards. Then the film Reign of Fire came out, and I tossed that idea aside. In 2001, my friends convinced me to start a campaign, and I dusted the setting off—only this time, I crammed the rest of traditional fantasy into it so players could create standard fantasy tropes. It would be six more years before the final elements of the setting would fall into place. Disruption was not an immediate inclusion; that arrived nearly eight months into the first game to solve certain logic and balance issues. And my game group all agree–we would all hide in a bastion…we like the internet and cars too much.
3) You a probably wiser than I am then J And is there something we cut too short about the story of Amethyst, the two Gates, the clash between Magic and Technology that you want to convey to our readers?
There is a pronounced philosophical allegory running under it all, in some cases not so subtle. Magic and technology can be akin to science versus religion, as well as progressive ideas versus tradition ones. The gates speak of the balance of chaos and order, and the fact we switched up the connection of good and evil, placing the former with chaos, also leads to conversations about determinism versus free will.
4) We speak a bit more of these topics then, in the next part of our interreview. About Races, what is your preferred one? Do you care to describe something more in detail, to give the flavor of the playable Races?
I have a soft spot for the tilen, which were created many years before the whole vampire thing took off in literature. I was not interested in the idea of vampires trying to be good people, but rather those forced back into the light and having to deal with a past they couldn’t absolve themselves of.
I totally agree with you Chris, the Tilen is my preferred race too!
Good, we are running out of time, we hope you enjoyed the 1st part of the interreview and we will speak a bit more in depth of Amethyst in a few days, with the help of Chris and the Dias Ex Machina team!
In the meantime, you can look to the DEM homepage or to something of our own. Did you notice that we are going into the Kickstarter world ourselves? More info about it in this page.
See you soon!
Disclaimer: the pictures, or parts of them, used in this post by permission of Chris Dias, are taken from the Amethyst: Quintessence pdf and are from several artists: Nick Greenwood (Cover Illustration, Interior Illustrations and Logo Designs), Jamie Jones (Interior Illustrations), Jeremy Simmons (Cartography). Well, while we are at the Credits, Amethyst: Quintessence had Chris Dias as project leader, with several collaborators: Jesse Casey, Geoffrey Lamb, Joshua Raynack, Christopher Peregrin Stilson, Conan Veitch.