You can find the first part of the interreview here.
Last time we had the pleasure to know Dias Ex Machina (DEM in the following), we had an intro about the Amethyst: Quintessence RPG (Amethyst) and a brief hint of Ultramodern5 (U5) too. Today we explore in depth the world of Amethyst and its rules, two things our readers are craving for. Wait a few days more for U5.
A bit more about the world of Amethyst:
Technological cities, like the ones we know, still exist in the world of Amethyst and they have cars and electricity. Magic is interdicted there and they are the last bastions of mankind, surrounded by areas ridden with monsters and fantasy creatures, with many different creeds, societies and ways of living! Magic emerges from the contrast of two sources, one of good, the other of evil and other tendencies struggle to win, in addition to the order of syntropy and the chaos of destruction. “The conflict sets anarchy against order, uniformity against unpredictability, and determinism against free-will. Where life needs a level of uncertainty to blossom, homogeny leads only to death. The fantasy world is not some singular entity, but a complicated multi-layered world of warring nations, political strife, and monsters clever and powerful, as well as dumb and many.”
In Amethyst there are two gates, one bound to the principle of chaos and life (good if you wish) and the other one to order and death/evil. All magic comes from the gates and magical creatures need it for their life. The magic for spells comes from the gates too and it is quite difficult to use it: Amethyst is, in fact, a low-magic setting, powerful magical items and spells are very rare.
Powerful Technology is rare too because Magic is based upon different rules and if magic is present, technology may fail, from time to time, or cease to work altogether. Cities evolved differently and at different Tech levels: these strongholds of humankind are isolated by vast stretch of magical lands, with elves, dragons and other beings in between. Elsewhere, where magic is kept at bay, you can find technology up to the best of today’s world and higher, antigravity, full body regeneration, energy weapons, power armors.
In Amethyst, then, you can play many classical D&D 5e Classes but also several others, both fantasy and modern, with many new and unique features, archetypes and equipment. Your character can enter into many organizations, becoming a Techan mercenary, a Nomad or even a Slaver. Many of the races are different from usual ones, I especially like Spawns and Tenenbri, a nice blind race of underground fae, though, as I said last time, I really like Tilen.
The Equipment is HUGE: more than 50 pages and encompassing all ages of mankind, from primitive weapons to plasma rifles, from leather armor to amazingly powerful power armors. There are also many other mundane items, tool kits, accessories. And many amazing vehicles too!
There are a lot of interesting things to say about this HUGE game and I fear I have not the time for all: about the creatures and monsters part, I will only say that several are the counterpart of fantasy monsters of classical RPGs, but many more are very original, nasty, scaring and even revolting! 🙂 If you don’t trust me, take a look to the picture before reading the new topic.
Magic stems from the gates, in one way or another. People write and pronouncespells in the language of Dragons, not so strange a thing since Amethyst is, in fact, the name of an enormously powerful Dragon creature. He was the creator of the Gate of Attricana or created by it, you know like the old saying who came first, the dragon or the gate … Impossible to know now, he is dead, but I won’t speak about the Ixindar “bad” Gate, the powerful entity Mengus and why and how Amethyst died, buy the game and see for yourself. Anyway, going back to Magic, there are also many magical materials, useful to create arcane effects through alchemy or powerful items through magical crafting. There is the innate magic of magical beings too and even “simple” humans can show supernatural abilities! The “schools” are very different from classical D&D ones and coming from the unique philosophy and origin of Magic in Amethyst. I will not elaborate further but I love the idea of the corrupting power of Nihilimancy!
I prefer to speak a bit about Artifacts: there are several of them, and quite different from other games. Many are books or other objects, often entire sets of them, tied to dragons or even Amethyst itself (like the Eight Shards of Amethyst and the Amulet of God) and have very big powers, but also very interesting and important background histories to discover and use to spice up your campaigns. Many spells are different from D&D 5th: spells of level 7-9 are almost impossible to cast unless with Artifacts and there are no different planes, actually creature summoned from another plane are created by magic instead and magic comes, one way or another, from the Gates. So no planes, but two different realms, behind the Gates! No Gods neither, though there are many kinds of divine magic, coming, off course, from the Gates or some powerful beings (no Gods though).
Ok, ready for another volley of answers/questions with the DEM team? There they are!
5) About Equipment: how do you manage the balance of the most powerful objects in there? Some items you like a lot that you want to describe?
I love the vapor rifle. Outside of the game, in the fiction, it is a lot more powerful—basically a technological disintegration spell. The balance of firearms is important. We’ve been around this block a lot, with people claiming the system is unbalanced. I find it humorous that every few months, the subject comes up, where people try to apply realism to D&D. If D&D is itself not designed to be realistic, why would applied firearms be? You get impaled with a lance without armor, you die. You don’t shrug it by only taking 12 points of damage—you die. We’ve been discussing this since Amethyst came out in 2008. When someone claims that a pistol should inflict 2d6 or 3d6 damage, that’s also claiming it does the same damage as a greatsword, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. At the end of the day, we needed to follow the design philosophy of 5th Edition—balanced damage values, with higher outputs defined by the class and not the weapon.
6) I see you point quite well, I played a whole lot of games with critical hits (Rolemaster, WFRP and others) and it can be both frustrating and invigorating, if you like realism, to have the possibility of one hit/one kill. But there are many other things, Fate Points, ways to avoid sudden death and so on. I would have been more courageous in D&D 5th Edition, since you can bring a character back to life quite easily, but I’m not a reputed author, so let’s go back to our questions. I our short review we didn’t speak a lot about tech levels and EDF, maybe something that you want to clarify yourself about Technology?
Tech levels encompass several mechanics. Firstly, it differentiates the levels of technology seen in the techan nations across the world. Secondly, it denotes how rare an items is. Thirdly, it’s an expression of how sensitive a device is to disruption—that is, the capacity of magic to break down technology. It started as a constant electromagnetic pulse, but later expanded to cover basic firearms and internal combustion engines as well. It’s what keeps the worlds of magic and technology separate.
7) To summarize, Disruption is the capacity of magic do disturb the fabric of reality, its law and technology like an annoying worldwide field, the EDF (Enchanted Disruption Field), lower in techan bastions. Conversely, something more to say about Magic?
Magic in Amethyst is technically the altered rules of parallel realities imposing themselves on our natural world. Said rules are malleable, and thus can be controlled by those learned in its ways. There are two gates in Amethyst, one leading to a realm of pure chaos and creation, and one leading to homogeny and death. There are scientific terms we apply to them as well, each representing different levels of entropy. Negative magic doesn’t disrupt technology while positive magic does.
8) As a scientist myself, I always found fascinating both the concepts of entropy and syntropy and their philosophical counterparts. Going back to the setting, as we said, we didn’t discuss culture and languages, geopolitics, creatures and campaigning in Amethyst. I guess you have a lot to say about it, freely go for it!
Outside of the philosophical allegories presented in Amethyst, there are cultural references as well. I strove to give Amethyst a point, so it’s something more than just shooting a dragon in the face with a gun. There are subtle and not-so subtle references to our current geopolitical climate. It shines a light on elements of our culture we often ignore. This has resulted in a few people taking issue with some of the themes in the setting, the most notable being the lack of defined deities. Since Amethyst is based in the real worlds, there can’t be proof of God or gods within it. The moment you show undeniable proof of a creator, you’ve got to lock down on a specific religion as being right, which I absolutely did not want to do. So unlike other fantasy settings, Amethyst keeps proof of the divine out. Miracles can happen without prayer or faith, so there need not be prophecies or divine intervention.
9) I think it was a correct and sensible choice, since half of the world of Amethyst is, in fact, our own world (or a very similar one) and we already have too many conflicts about religion, in our real world. About the game, in general and rule wise, what are in your opinion, the stronger points of Amethyst respect to D&D 5th? What are the weakest ones, if any?
Obviously, from a mechanical perspective, the rules regarding firearms and technology. A lot of people purchase Amethyst just for those, and I have no problem with that. If I have a regret, it’s that my need to keep to the 5th Edition philosophy has kept me from pushing the system in ways I would like.
Ok, thank you Chris and DEM team!
I hope our readers have now a clear(er) idea of what Amethyst: Quintessence is or isn’t and, maybe, to buy it. In fact, we hope many of you does it, Amethyst deserves it with its novel perspective, while retaining the widespread D&D 5th edition rules and widening the scope of them, to a faraway or not so much future! In fact, it is up to you to decide what percentage of fantasy against technological you want in your cocktail: you can even change it from time to time, and place to place, playing around with Disruption, Fae, Dragons, flying aircrafts and plasma cannons, going from the elven lands in the middle of the forests, to the closely guarded hyper-technological techan bastions!
Should you decide to go even further in the future, you have a uniquely suited RPG, Ultramodern5, but our time and space for today are at the end and you will have to wait a few more days …
We take advantage of this post, to tell you something that we hope you appreciate: since hundreds of people downloaded and appreciated our free adventure module “The Tomb” [FIRST PART], we decided to prepare a print-friendly version for people who like to play pen & paper RPGs with pen & paper supports! It is not complete yet, we will tell you when it is and, in the meantime, take a look to the full review of The Tomb [SECOND PART] and our varied Download area, where we publish our most important things (adventure modules both adapted from BECMI and original, maps, …). [DOWNLOAD AREA]
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.