You absolutely have to have knowledge of how to play FATE from another source. This book discusses how the FATE hack works for this setting but the amount of rules discussion in this product (less than 20 pages FATE specific) would leave most players completely uninformed or totally confused or both using just this book. There is no discussion of Campaign Aspects or how to create them. There is no discussion of Situation Aspects how to create them use them...anything.
From a purely game mechanic standpoint Amethyst is a good game. It explains the FATE hack and how it works with the FATE rules well enough. It cannot possibly stand alone. It is not a stand out in the FATE powered games presently available. It finds itself firmly in the middle in my opinion. It has some interesting concepts that can be used by players and GMs alike. Instead of using FATE dice you use a hand of five FATE cards from the Deck of FATE. The author encourages players to have 2 decks for use in the game. (This is not a small cost) There are discussions of how to use Fudge dice and die 6s. However the preferred method is the Deck of FATE, because several of the stunts available are predicated on the use of the Deck of FATE. I personally like the use of Vocations instead of Skills in this product. I wouldn’t do this for every FATE product out there, but it works for this setting. Vocations are just like they sound, a broad range of skills used for a particular profession. If you are an Investigator +2 it is assumed that you have the necessary skills and resources to perform the functions of an Investigator of better than average level, etc. There are a wide range of Vocations listed in the setting. The Vocations also have associated stunts and summaries of how those Vocations would be used in play. The Vocations are further broken into Species Vocations, Regional Vocations and Organization Vocations. Species Vocations define how you would act and what traits you have as a particular type of Fae. Organization Vocations define what kind of resources you have and how you would act as a member or a particular type of organization. Regional Vocations are used mostly by humans to define how they may differ based on where they come from. There is one adventure in the book. The setting is huge; all of North America. It is more of a sandbox style and the authors invite you to dig deeper and create your own adventures and campaigns. There is a small amount of advice on how to do this and a small amount of advice on what some typical campaigns may look like. I have gone to the Dias Ex Machina website and FB page and have found only one other adventure available, so there doesn’t seem to be much support beyond the primary sourcebook. (Remember this isn’t the first version of Amethyst and I am including the other versions in this as well)
My biggest concern is the setting itself. Not the idea. I love the idea of Fantasy impinging on the modern world and how humans would react and interact with magic and magical creatures. What I don’t like is the underlying preaching that goes on in the setting. The setting as written is very a-theistic. Unapologetically it seems. The fiction used to illustrate the concepts of the setting features a character that is angered at a supposedly non-existent God. In the first few pages of story he mentions the non-existence of God as many or more times than he thinks about the differences of living in a technological world assaulted by the appearance of fantasy creatures and magic. Limshau the setting’s primary city for fantasy aligned characters is discussed as being enlightened and growing because of this enlightenment. But, the authors go on to say that this enlightenment consists of the outlawing of organized religion and corporations; the only organization allowed to exist is the government. Vice is not only legal, but the setting description goes on to mention prostitution several times in a way as to make it seem to be an ordinary occupation as valid as any other. Citizens are not allowed to be armed; only the police (Custodians and militia) are allowed weapons heavier than short swords (it doesn’t address that fact that spellcasters are walking weapons, or that some species are equipped by nature to be veritable tanks). Given that Limshau is ruled by a very long-lived hereditary oligarchy only exacerbates the Government’s power. When I grew up this wasn’t called enlightened it was called despotic, or totalitarian, or Stalinist Communism. I would hope that the amount of energy the authors put into the art, the fiction, the description of the various fae species, would find itself into the background of the setting, but it doesn’t. Teaching that Vice is ok and should be legalized, teaching that organized religion and organized business are detriments to a growing culture are not just counter-intuitive, but are lacking in logic and evidence. We, the human race, have tried communism. It failed. Nations around the world are trying to legalize vice to varying degrees and are finding that it is creating more cost (financially, physically and emotionally) than good.
The Authors have responded well to questions on this site which I appreciate greatly. I will use this setting because I like the idea. I am going to have to rework the various communities so that they make sense in a cultural, economic and political way. I am going to have to create my own campaign and adventures. This isn't crippling. This isn't necessarily bad. However, it would be nice if this had been part of the description of the game and its setting before I had spent 15 USD on it. (PS I have a BA in Social Studies Composite with an emphasis on History and a MA in US History. I lived in Europe for three years and in Asia for six.)
[3 of 5 Stars!]