Review of Amethyst: Evolution by Dias Ex Machina

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    Review of Amethyst: Evolution by Dias Ex Machina

    One of the great things we have seen with the last two editions of Dungeons & Dragons is adaptability. The gaming community has witnessed 3rd Edition and 3.5 spawn dozens of adaptations of the d20 rules into new genres, including science fiction, horror, and even superhero RPGs. Of course, 4E has not been around as long as d20 has, but give it some time and gamers are likely to see the rules adapted into new types of gaming experiences and new genres other than heroic fantasy.

    There has already been at least one example of the D&D 4E engine being used to power a different style of game, and that is D.E.M.’s Amethyst: Foundations. Set in a post-apocalyptic earth where deep magic and high tech battle for supremacy, Amethyst: Foundations allowed 4E players to take on roles of gun-toting techans, defenders of technological humanity in the face of an encroaching magical, sometimes demonic force, from a dimension utterly alien to our own.

    Recently, Dias Ex Machina has released a new supplement for the Amethyst game setting. Unlike Amethyst: Foundations, however, which was a book containing both player and game master content, this new Amethyst: Evolution claims to be geared with the player in mind, and offers many new player options and content for the Amethyst game setting.

    Amethyst: Evolution

    • Authors: Chris Dias
    • Illustrator: Nick Greenwood (cover and interior), Joshua Raynack (cover design)
    • Publisher: D.E.M. (Dias Ex Machina)
    • Year: 2011
    • Media: PDF (172 pages)
    • Price: $9.99 (available at

    Amethyst: Evolution is a player supplement for the Amethyst game setting, using the D&D 4E rules, but with some elements of the new D&D Essentials changes as well. The supplement contains three new races, as well as revisions to already existing player-character races. There are also nearly two dozen new Lifepaths, which like character backgrounds, offer a deeper role-playing experience and as well as certain benefits. Amethyst: Evolution also offers new alternative class features for the four original techan classes, and also provides an option for an alternative class structure which is more “Essentials-like”. The supplement also introduces a new class melee class, the Vanguard, which can be either techan or fae. More feats have been added in Amethyst: Evolution, more than 100 of them, and dozens of new Paragon Paths, some traditional and some based upon Essentials structure, and new Epic Destinies. Finally, the supplement provides a wide range of new techan weapons, armor, and vehicles, as well as new rituals and rules for dark magic called nihilmancy.

    Production Quality

    The overall production quality of
    Amethyst: Evolution is very good, but it had a few issues which prevented it from achieving an exceptional rating. The writing is sharp, often witty, and enjoyable to read, and the player content in the book is presented in a logical and easy-to-follow progression. And the character classes, powers, feats, and other options are detailed in formats which any D&D 4E gamer will immediately recognize and be able to use in their character creation process.

    The artwork is visually stunning, and the book is very much enhanced by the artist’s ability to create beautiful cover and interior illustrations, as well as awesome border art for the pages. I was really captivated by the artwork for the various races in the world of
    Amethyst, and there is an amazing full-color piece with all the races sitting at a banquet table which gives a great perspective of their differing natures.

    I was a little disappointed by the lack of a detailed set of bookmarks in the PDF of
    Amethyst: Evolution, given the number of pages and the variety of content. There is an index and table of contents, but those are simply not as handy as having a well stocked set of bookmarks in a PDF. There were also a few typos in the supplement, most notably that “Chapter Two” was labeled “Chapter Three”. A minor mistake, and one which does not affect the contents, but still hard not to notice.

    The New Character Content

    Pretty much the thrust of
    Amethyst: Evolution is to provide the techan characters of the world setting with a lot more “player stuff”. Fae and echan characters have access to the tons of material already available from WotC for PHB and PHB2 classes, and this supplement looks to be a big push to allow techan characters to keep up with their magic-wielding neighbors. That’s not to suggest that the echan side was ignored, but content appears to be about 75:25 favoring the techans... maybe more.

    Amethyst: Evolution
    is divided up into six chapters, plus an appendix, each detailing a different portion of character creation and game play materials for the player to use. The appendix contains a big hunk of errata for the Amethyst: Foundations book, which looks to both some clean-up and clarifications of powers and feats, as well as some changes to more closely balance the techan classes with errata changes WotC has made to the original PHB classes.

    Chapter One is an introduction to the world of Amethyst, and is accompanied by a story of two brothers who had their lives tragically changed forever when the world of the echan and the world of techan collided head on. It’s a powerful piece of fiction, and there are, in fact, pieces of the story continuing to unfold in sidebars and between chapters throughout the entire book. The author did a fine job of weaving story elements into the chapters to bring the world to life for players, and to even illustrate a particular race, rule, or other game element with a bit of storytelling. There is also a bit of history about the world here, as it evolved and changed from the encroaching alien world, and there is an overview of the new materials that will be found in later chapters.

    The second chapter of Amethyst: Evolution, which is labeled as
    Chapter Three: Origins, details revisions to existing fae race, and introduces three new races: the pagus, tenenbri, and the kodiaks. There are also many new Lifepaths (or backgrounds) to choose from, as well as new organizations for a character group to be sponsored by.

    As far as new races go, the author was clearly looking to create something a little darker to allow players to create evil characters, or at least ones walking the gray edge between good and evil. The pagus and tenenbri offer two “dark” race options for players to use, while the kodiak allows for a very bestial character option. The pagus remind me a little of tieflings or cambion, being a race corrupted directly by the forces of evil over time, while the tenenbri are a bit like drow in some ways, being a fae outcast and subterranean. The kodiaks, as their names suggest, are literally intelligent bi-pedal bear-folk of gigantic stature and great strength. All three of the races are written up in great detail, including class suggestions, physical description, and role-playing tips. Personally, I thought both the pagus and kodiak would be a lot of fun to create a character around, and would offer a lot of fun opportunities for role-playing given the “scary” nature of the races.

    The new Lifepaths presented in
    Amethyst: Evolution offer a wide variety of player background options, although some have specific racial and/or statistic requirements to qualify for. But unlike backgrounds in D&D 4E, Lifepaths have fairly potent benefits while providing story elements to enhance the character creation process. The new organizations in Amethyst: Evolution can be selected by both techan and echan characters, which helps to bring an adventuring party together under a shared patronage. Overall, the Lifepaths and organizations are nicely designed to create and role-play more cohesive characters, and to help create a shared party experience.

    Chapter Three of
    Amethyst: Evolution is sub-titled Decisions, and contains a huge number of new class options for the setting. The four techan classes of grounder, marshall, operator, and stalker have new class builds, by now having options for replacing their class features, as well as new powers which can be substituted in to the original character classes. In Amethyst: Foundations, the techan classes were typically hybrids with two roles, but the new build materials allow a player to favor one role over the other as they develop their character. For example, the grounder was originally a defender/controller hybrid, but now a player has the option to favor one role over the other with choice of class feature and power selection.

    There is also a new character class introduced in
    Amethyst: Evolution called a vanguard, which is a defender/striker hybrid that uses unarmed melee. This new class can be created as either a techan or echan, and resembles a special forces commando with some very nasty hand-to-hand attacks. The class looks like a lot of fun to play though, and would be a worthy addition to almost any combat team.

    Finally, Amethyst: Evolution has created all four of the original techan classes, as well as the new vanguard class in an “essentials-like” format to allow for quick and easy character generation and play. While I am not a huge fan of Essentials, I have to admit the author did a very good job in recreating the Essentials experience with his new alternative classes, and 4E gamers who favor this style will find the classes just as easy to create and play as any other official Essentials class.

    Chapter 4 of
    Amethyst: Evolution, subtitled Proficiency, details all the new feats for the game, which number well over one-hundred, as well as specific feat attack powers which accompany certain types of feats. The feats are divided up by categories, including racial, lifepath, techan, explosive, martial training, and vehicle. Several of these feats come with special powers, such as the techan feat Duct Tape, which allows for a variety of power effects.

    DUCT TAPE Feat Power
    A million and one uses.
    At-Will • Martial
    Standard Action Melee touch
    Effect: Apply one the following effects.

    • Grant a +1 power bonus to disruption saves to one piece of gear in range.
    • Grant a +1 power bonus to your next Engineer or Heal check.
    • Affix a small item (such as a flashlight or a tracker) to a weapon.
    • Create one foot of rope (up to thirty feet).
    • Mark up to three feet on the ground or on an object.
    • Replace for handcuffs (target is restrained, DC20 to escape).
    • Prevent a restrained creature from speaking.

    Special: There may be hundreds of other uses for duct tape (GM's discretion). You never run out of duct tape.
    There are also some extensive rules for the new techan skills introduced in Amethyst: Foundationengineering and vehicle operation. Being non-standard skills to D&D 4E, the author did a great job of detailing what they can do, particularly the latter, having created an elaborate table of vehicle operation maneuvers and DCs for various stunts.

    The fifth chapter of
    Amethyst: Evolution is subtitled Providence, and details all the new Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies available to player-characters. There are both echan and techan paths and destinies here, including paths which are created to be used with the essential-format alternative character classes. The author also goes back through Amethyst: Foundation to recreate the Paragon Paths found there in an Essentials-style so that they can be used with fantasy character classes found in the Heroes books. There are also some really good Epic Destinies in this chapter as well, and hands down my favorite was called simply Team. This destiny is perfect to create that superheroic team we have seen so often in movies such as The Expendables, The A-Team, or The Losers, where the team is so perfectly trained to work together it borders on supernatural. A group of heroes with the Team destiny would be a hard bunch for the game master to challenge!

    The final chapter of
    Amethyst: Foundation is subtitled Advancement, and is chock full of awesome new techan weapons, armor, and vehicles. The new weapons are both ranged and melee, including heavy and super-heavy ranged weapons. There are also new gizmos like injection ammunition for drugging foes, and alternative ammo like AP rounds and hollow-points. The armor includes both man-portable gear, and what amounts to powered armor for taking on those giant monsters that might prove a nuisance for standard equipment. The vehicle section of this chapter details not only a wide range of surface and aerial vehicles for the techans, but offers enhancements to add to them such as system upgrades to enhance speed, AC, hit points, and even turrets for adding weapons. The echans have a smaller section here, detailing new rituals for use with the Mystic lifepath, as well as rules for using dark magic called nihilmancy. Drawing on the power of darkness and evil does have a cost, and not recommended for characters that want to maintain their good-alignments.

    Overall Score
    : 4.4 out of 5.0


    It’s hard not to be seriously impressed with
    D.E.M.’s Amethyst: Evolution. Despite a few production flaws, the book is just a powerhouse of “crunch” for the Amethyst setting, with some amazing new content and a ton of great new options for player-characters to explore. For folks looking for something new from the standard D&D heroic fantasy experience, Amethyst: Evolution offers both sword-and-sorcery gaming juxtaposed with high-tech paramilitary adventure. And to pack in more content than any of the official Player’s Handbooks at one-third the price should make this supplement a real steal at its PDF price.

    So until next review… I wish you Happy Gaming!

    This author also did a two part review of Amethyst: Foundations last year, and you can click here to view the review in full details.

    Author’s Note
    : This Reviewer received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.

    Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

    • Presentation: 3.75
    • - Design: 3.5
    • - Illustrations: 4
    • Content: 4.5
    • - Crunch: 5
    • - Fluff: 4
    • Value: 5
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Life is the game that must be played. ~Edwin Arlington Robinson
    ...but who the heck is DM'ing?

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  • #2
    The PDF has just been updated. The layout issues have been fixed and bookmarks have been added!
    Last edited by DiasExMachina; Saturday, 30th July, 2011 at 02:55 AM.
    "Amethyst is an extremely vibrant new setting, presenting a campaign world that feels holistic in scope, even as the possibilities presented in this book barely seem to scratch the surface."
    Shane O'Connor (Staff Reviewer, RPG Now)

    Amethyst D20

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