Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My experience with Amethyst a.k.a. D&D 4th Ed. with Guns!

So, in addition to starting a Swords & Wizardry adventure Friday night, we're going to try our hands at playing an encounter or two of Amethyst by Goodman Games to give the rules a run for their money.

Amethyst is the only real original genre product for D&D 4th Edition. That is to say that it's the only explicitly non-fantasy setting any non-Wizards of the Coast company has put out. It takes place on Earth put in the future. To be sure, you can play your fantasy classes quite easily right along with the "Techan" classes (technology-based classes) quite easily. The setting does a pretty neat job of integrating existing material into the setting of the world. Of course races should probably be restrained to those found in Amethyst, but don't worry, you've got some great alternate versions of your favorite classic fantasy races as well as some cool new ones. For example, there's a pretty neat vampire race. From what I've read however, humans are really the only viable race for the techan classes. Keep Reading to learn more about my experience creating 4th Edition characters with rocket launchers!

I own one of the two copies of the book in our group, so I spent about an hour making my character and the character of one of the other players. We're both playing the "Grounder" class with the same paragon path, so it wasn't that big of an undertaking. There are a couple of interesting things I've noticed in making the characters.

The first thing is that all four techan classes are very much hybrid classes. It's an interesting design choice, and it gives me the feeling that outside of a dedicated healer, the other roles are much more open for interpretation. The grounder class is the only one I have really a lot of knowledge about (building two level 16 characters will do that for you), but even in this one class there are definitely elements of defender, striker, and controller. I tried making the two grounders have a very different feel, and I'd like to think I accomplished that. My grounder is much more mobile and has more controller-y effects while Keegan's grounder focuses more on planting himself in one spot and raining 3[W] damage down on the field three times a day. Either way we still both have very defendery powers with our abilities to mark.

That brings us to the next point - the guns. Powers in Amethyst look like they may be a bit weaker on the damage side, but weapons tend to be quite higher with damage and the number of targets they hit - especially with the grounder. There are a lot of unique qualities to the items in Amethyst like explosion, sonic, and auto. Guns are also susceptible to what equates to magic corruption that wears down their effectiveness if they get disrupted. Always pack a spare!

The powers themselves are really nicely named and have some cool effects as well. I especially like names like "Cauterize", "Hit it, that usually works" (this can un-disrupt a gun), and "Shoot and Scoot". They're packed full of flavor and can be extrapolated for really any modern game, even without fantasy elements. I'm really excited to give my powers a go on Friday since a lot of them have effects I haven't experienced before. Alternatively the classes look to be a bit on the simpler side as far as class features go. You're not going to find too much in the way of convoluted effects that require three other things to happen in order to go off. Complexity can be fun and very rewarding when your tricks work, but the frenetic pace of the game's gun fights appears like it's going to be served well by the more simplistic classes.

You have to keep in mind that I haven't played Amethyst yet. This is really more of a first glance kind of review. I haven't even touched on the setting which is satisfying complex and deep enough that you could easily run an entire campaign in it. I could (and maybe will) write just as long a post simply discussing all the neat ideas presented in the setting. It's just a really smart meshing of both tech and fantasy tropes. While all the techan classes have powers for levels 1 through 30, and there are several paragon paths to choose from, noticeably missing are Epic-tier destinies. The good news is that Epic destinies tend to be widely available for martial classes and widely generic enough to be applied to the techan classes. It shouldn't be too difficult at all to adapt your favorite martial epic destiny to your character. Alternatively you could always use one of the super-generic two epic destinies from the two Heroes of the... essentials books.

I'm really excited to give it a shot. It'll be interesting playing a combat encounter where everyone, defenders included, are so heavily based on range attacks. Of course it doesn't hurt that both of our grounders are large-sized walking around in impressively-massive power armor. That has never hurt anything ever.

(All images borrowed from Goodman Games' website. Check it out for more details on Amethyst!)


  1. that game sounds pretty awesome. I want to give it a look.

  2. You should definitely check it out. If nothing else it's really great to see a different interpretation of 4e that exists outside of the Wizards production crew.

  3. Wow. Cool review. Thanks for the kinds words. Amethyst Evolution, the next book in the series, is expected out in the next two months. it offers alternate powers and class features, epic destinies, and a rules errata. You can go to for more information. Again...thanks. If you ever have questions regarding the game, feel free to ask.

  4. Hey Chris, thanks for the kind words and the heads-up on Evolution! If you see this message, you should shoot me an email at We'd love to have a chat about the game and the upcoming release!


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