A long piece of fiction preceeds the introduction of the core premise of this game: what if storybook concepts co-existed with the real world around us? Most of us, certainly in the community of role-players, have active fantasy imaginations, but what would it be like if those imaginings became real, not as a replacement for the real world outside the window but alongside it? In answering such questions, we have the game, the setting, that is Amethyst.
Amethyst is not new. It's been around for quite some time now, growing and being revised, being changed to fit different rulesets - D20, D&D 4e, Pathfinder and now Fate. For the first three, the ruleset itself provided the framework for the fantasy aspects, bringing their monsters and magics out into a 'real world' setting which is easy to provide: we live there.
The introduction continues with the background - in character - as to how the co-existence of fantasy and real worlds came about and the tensions, conflicts, that this causes. Magic is real, but quite rare. Monsters too are mercifully rare but devastating when they do show up. And deities? Nobody knows if they are real or not, but there are plenty that believe... just like in the real world.
Chapter 2: Fate of Amethyst touches on the setting's history before launching into an explanation of how it works with Fate and, for those new to it, how Fate Core itself works. For this is a stand-alone book, all the rules you need to play are here, although if you do have access to Fate Core it can be helpful. You will also need a Fate Deck or Fate Dice, and alternative methods of generating the required random results are discussed. The character sheet is explained, leading into an explanation of how to generate characters coupled with information on how to use the character mechanics within the game. There are some variations from standard Fate Core mechanics, mostly brought over or modified from previous incarnations of the game using various class/level mechanics: instead of Fate skills you have rather broader Vocations, for example.
The character creation process itself is detailed clearly and well, being described as 'part of the game' rather than a precursor to it. In devising a character, you'll need to understand his background, and so you are already beginning to tell his story. As such, it is best done as a group activity with the entire party and the GM working together. The next few chapters go into depth on the choices you have to make: species, vocations and so on. Delve deeply and pick wisely. Throughout, snippets of fiction - some from the original story, others singular bits relating to the topic at hand - serve to illustrate what is being covered. Illustrations too are rich and varied and give a feel for what is being discussed. Many fascinating snippets of information are buried here, it's worth reading throroughly. For every choice, however, there is also a summary box which tells you what a character making that choice will be capable of - if the summary appeals, consider that choice in detail.
That dealt with, what of the world in which your character will operate? This is covered in Chapter 5: The World. Although the concept is fantasy meets real world, the game is not actually set on 21st century Earth, but in an imaginary world with fantasy elements intertwined with technological development of what is a modern society. Remember that it did not develop that way, rather a significant event released the fantastical parts on a more normal society - many of whom resist the idea and reckon fantasy still belongs in a book! Player Characters, even the non-fantasic ones, generally are a bit more aware of what is going on from the outset. It is a rich and varied background, and again this chapter is worthy of serious study to get the feel of the world in which the game takes place. Depending on where a character comes from, he may have access to abilities and knowledge that others do not, so again choose carefully based on what kind of character you want to play. And if you don't care for any location in this rich backdrop, rules are provided for creating your own!
Chapter 6: Equipment looks at the kit and caboodle your character can accumulate. Most is abstracted, you are assumed to have all the ordinary things you need for day-to-day life, it's only the gear that will become important when adventuring that matters. You'll need to know the tech level of the things you want and how well it can resist magic. Different species (and vocations) have their own preferred weapons and equipment, although your character may choose to buck the trend a bit it will make things harder and the character stand out. Weapons vary from basic mediaeval ones to wildly-futuristic, and there's a similar range of armour too - right up to combat exoskeletons and power armour. Tools, drugs, vehicles and more are also covered.
Chapter 7: Magic delves into the underlying philosophy and mechanics of spell-casting as well as exploring the actual spells that can be cast and what they do. Although the rules are quite precise spells are not - it is more a case of dreaming up the effect that you want to have happen and then applying the rules appropriately. There are plenty of sample spells to get you going. Magic items and alchemy are also covered, and there are notes on converting spells from other game systems if there's one you particularly like.
Next, Chapter 8: Monsters details some of the quite outlandish - and dangerous - beasts with which the characters will have to contend. This also includes NPCs. There are sample monsters, notes on devising your own, hazardous environments and much, much more here.
Finally, Chapter 9: Campaign deals with what you'll actually be doing once the game begins. The contrast between the familiar and fantasy should be at the heart of everything that goes on, but just about any plotline can be followed or story told within that context: exploration, intrigue, conflict, investigation... whatever takes your fancy. Running the Fate system is also discussed here, as it has quite an influence on the way in which your stories will be told. This chapter is really for those who want to GM rather than only play, but makes interesting reading whichever role you are planning to fill. There's advice on constructing and locating adventures, and a short sample one to get you going.
Beautifully written, a rich backdrop cunningly crafted and visually spectacular as well (with one flaw, a very dark figure in the lower left of the standard background that often renders a few words of text illegible), if you are already a fan of the Amethyst concept you'll want to add it, if you want to see just what can be done with Fate Core given a strong idea this is of interest... and if you are in search of a unique and different game, you may well find it here.
[5 of 5 Stars!]