What about Amethyst Renaissance? A review…

A personal note before diving into this review, hello dear reader, it’s good to be back. As the ebb and flow of the accelerated MA program 5 week schedule I am forced to be absent from the blog for extended periods of time. I apologize! I know Michael, the creator and force behind the blog, keeps things running smoothly and I am thankful he keeps a space for this roadie (inside joke) in the blog. It’s good to be back, for a couple of weeks at least… Thanks for reading, on to the review!

When I first saw the announcement for Amethyst some years ago I went, “Yay an RPG based on my favorite DC comic character aimed at Tween girls!” Then I realized how wrong I was… (In case you are wondering, it’s this Amethyst I’m talking about.)

I’m talking about Amethyst, the setting by Dias Ex Machina games. I missed the original D20 version published in 2008 (available for just $3.99 in PDF). As they ramped up for publication of the D&D 4th Edition version, Amethyst Foundation, all the promotion and sneak peeks of the game tempted me, but by the time they published the book I had quit that edition so I passed. Mind you it was NOT easy; reviews about the book really tempted me, specially this one by fellow blogger and contributor to Stargazer’s World Greg Schuster, aka Shinobicow.

Then along came Amethyst Renaissance, a Pathfinder RPG version of the game. I was thrilled. The fine folk of Dias Ex Machina provided a PDF copy for review and I was more than happy to read this huge book. And believe you me, it is a HUGE book. 399 pages of Awesome!

I will try not to retread what Greg said in general about the game. Suffice it to say this book is a gorgeously illustrated, beautifully laid out book. The writing is top notch. Like previous versions of the book this is a post-apocalyptic world but here the disaster comes from the clash of magic and technology. I love the concept, the cover is evocative, so is the art, but for me the setting was encapsulated by a map that came along with the digital product (with some gorgeous wallpaper and assorted other images), a map of a changed North America labeled Canam. The map and the names, this image just fires my imagination.

Amethyst adapted to Pathfinder was not a matter of cosmetic changes and slapping a Pathfinder logo. There are rules for races, changes to the magic system, monsters, magic, and the whole shebang. I did tell you it is 399 pages long! How are the rules? Amazing!

I think the creators of Amethyst show their talent adapting different versions of the D20 system and it is a testament to that rule engine, and to the Pathfinder system’s versatility that this great post-apocalyptic mash up of magic and technology works so well. The races are interesting, very well fleshed out and all make me want to play one. The mechanics are solid and spot on. The background chapter is terrific, simple mechanic benefits but ones that tie the characters to the background. Crunch and fluff deftly rolled into one.

Most Pathfinder classes are available, but the spell casters are changed, magic is tuned down, the mechanics given a LOT of flavor. Wizards are the most modified class. The “technological” classes are very interesting and feel different. I could see myself hacking this for another modern of sci-fi game. Of course the rules work for the setting but this just interests me in ways to use it with other settings, in ways other adaptations of the D20 system to a sci-fi (well sci-fantasy, but you get the drift) don’t, another plus for this book. There are the mandatory Feats, all very flavorful and with some interesting mechanics. There are “modern” skills, and both Feats and Skills reinforce the flavor of the game.

There are TONS of equipment, and let’s admit it the majority of us D20 fans LOVE our equipment. The illustrations on this chapter are great, my one complain is I would have LOVED to see more items illustrated.  Prestige Classes are loved by some, loathed by others, but the ones in this book they do what they are supposed to do, reinforce the setting, continue cementing the roles of the characters in the world. The dichotomy of magic and technology carries thru.

The Magic & Spells chapter is surprisingly short, but the changes presented through the book and the rules in this chapter make much to transform magic and make it very flavorful. There are changes to Magic Items as well; this will not be a campaign where characters look like garish Christmas trees overloaded with magic trinkets.

From page 268 on begins the setting discussion, and this is the BEST part of the book. While new rules are nice, the setting of Amethysts is where this book truly shines. The setting is imaginative, interesting and really invites you as a GM to run it. I am not a fan of running existing campaigns, but this one is very nice, enough information to wrap your head around it, but lots of places where individual GMs can tailor their own games.

The monsters are all nice and (at least to me) none seem a rehash of existing creatures. Even the dragons feel like a good fit to the setting. I wish there were more illustrations for creatures. The book is already beautifully illustrated; I’m just being a glutton for art. The book closes with a small adventure and a story…

Overall I loved the book, the rules are well put together, the setting interesting and it makes you want to play. The quality, as far as I can tell form the PDF, is awesome. Again with that word, it may seem trite, but that’s the best adjective I can use for this book. The PDF, with the map and other art I mentioned is available from RPG Now for $14.95, a bargain for all you get. If you are not convinced yet, check out the Free Preview, it may do more to convince you than this post does.

PS – Before I go, I love the setting, I love the ideas, but this book could be hacked to play a certain game about tears in reality, like say a rift, that mixes magic and technology and shall remain nameless. Just saying…