Today I have the great pleasure of interviewing Chris Dias, head of Dias Ex Machina Games and author of the Amethyst setting for D&D. I’ve written about Chris’s work before but hearing the inspiration for the setting is great. Plus, he’s got a Kickstarter going to create an updated and expanded Amethyst for 5e. There’s still two weeks to get in on it!
Mephit James: I’m sure you have this down pat by this point, but what’s your basic pitch for the world of Amethyst? It’s where “magic and technology collide,” so how is that different from other sci-fi/fantasy settings?
Chris Dias: Amethyst is a post-apocalyptic fantasy/science fiction setting set in the distant future of our Earth. After millions of years, magic has returned due to the opening of two portals, a white gate, and a black gate. The white gate spews chaos magic that everyone uses and creates life in many forms. The black gate spread corruption, encouraging uniformity and order at the cost of emotion. Magic disrupts technology, and surviving humans are forced to either accept a fantasy life or flee into the few bastions of technology, walled from the outside world of enchantment. Five hundred years later, strange artifacts are appearing connecting to an ancient legend. When gathered, they could control the fate of the world.
MJ: What’s your philosophy on mixing tech and magic? Amethyst has a more adversarial approach to the mix, but why do you think people like to combine sci-fi and fantasy?
CD: People want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to be able to cast spells and be powerful, but they don’t want to give up their cell phones or refrigerators. Most of these settings don’t adequately explain how these worlds interact. In truth, if magic existed in the real world, there would be anarchy. Amethyst pushes an allegory that magic represents the unreal that we choose to believe in without evidence, thus, creating a setting where science and pseudoscience are in active conflict, not too dissimilar to our natural world. As I have not seen that often done in fiction, it proved more interesting than another mixed techno-fantasy.
MJ: The world of Amethyst has so many different peoples and areas. What do you see as the prototypical campaign frameworks for the setting? How does a group of Amethyst characters differ from a standard adventuring party in D&D?
CD: There is the setting assumed by readers, and then there is the one I employ. I often have a mixed party of fantasy- and tech-based characters working together on the larger quest to acquire these Amethyst artifacts. So many readers assume it’s one or the other, but my campaigns have always been mixing parties in some way. My first game was entirely fantasy characters, with my last entirely tech characters. The two between had mixed parties. I hope people will run their games as I do, with players exploring this massive open world.
MJ: There are so many fey in Amethyst. What are your setting goals for having each of them stand out?
CD: I believe I have already through the two previous books. With the third book, I’ll be exploring the variations of the fey that have evolved separately within Europe. Like, there will still be damaskans, but they will be slightly different.
MJ: This is the third edition of D&D that you’ve written a version of Amethyst for, not to mention 13th Age, Fate, and Pathfinder versions. What lessons are you taking with you this time around?
CD: As I have written Amethyst for 3.5, 4E, and 5E, the primary lesson I am taking is that nothing is written in stone. Everything can be played with. I showed with the Affinity trilogy of settings that you could think outside the box regarding game mechanics, and I hope to explore these ideas further with Amethyst Revelations. This latest book will also shift the Amethyst game to completely conform to what I consider to be the canonical setting without compromising in favor of the rules.
MJ: How has the book of Amethyst grown for this edition? What parts of the setting are expanding and what’s being added?
CD: We are finally moving outside the Americas into Europe and hopefully Africa. These areas are wholly unique, with new nations and unique environments. We are offering new classes and a bunch more monsters. In Europe, everything is tightly packed and pushed to extremes. The most technologically advanced nation on Earth and the most magically adept are both in Europe. Africa will be presented as almost an entirely self-enclosed fantasy world with environments unique only to itself. If we get to another book, that will expand to the rest of Asia.
MJ: What about the additional books in the Kickstarter campaign? How does the Factions book fit in? What are you excited about in the Revelations book?
CD: This new Kickstarter is meant to fund book three. Factions is already done and expands in South America while greatly expanding North America. We also added high-tech humans from space and demons from Ixindar. With Revelations, I am excited about the new classes I get to create and the fantastic artwork Nick Greenwood will produce. I am not looking forward to the eventual writer’s block I will suffer.
MJ: What sort of themes are you exploring with these new areas? Besides the geography, how are South America, Europe, and Africa different from North America?
CD: To be honest, I have not entirely decided yet. I have a 97,000-word file of notes that covers the entire planet, but that’s actually not enough, and I am looking forward to exploring these new regions. As for direct themes, these entries were written back in 2003, so I know there are new ideas to explore, and allegories to implement. Some of these notes are obsolete or apocryphal. I do have the notes for Asia, from the top of Russia to the base of Australia, and there is considerably lore to explore. The fourth book will explore the darklands of Ixindar and lay the foundation for the final acts of the campaign.
MJ: Are there mechanical innovations that are coming with Amethyst 5E? If someone already has Ultramodern5, what new rules will they see cropping up here?
CD: Quintessence came out first, before Ultramodern5; technically, the latter is built off the former. One of my stretch goals is a rebuild of Quintessence to include everything we learned when developing Ultramodern REDUX in 2019. So, in essence, it’s a loop. Quintessence influenced UM5, and now UM5 is influencing Quintessence. However, with Book 3, I want to try crazier ideas that UM5 didn’t want to touch, some of the ideas which I explored in this year’s Affinity. Revelations will be swinging for the fences.
MJ: Do you have other plans for Amethyst? If the Kickstarter does well are there stretch goals you’d like to tease or follow-up Kickstarters you’re dreaming of?
CD: Currently, I plan to attack my other two previous books, Apex and NeuroSpasta, upgrading them as I upgraded Ultramodern5 in 2019. I am doubling the content, adding color illustrations, and updating the mechanics based on recent experiences. Apex will likely get the most love of the two. After that, depending on the future, I may return to Amethyst for book 4 or take on a side project called Heavenfall. Additionally, my board game, Naramata, will likely see an expansion. If we do the latter, it will likely be summer next year. Another 5E game will wait until I am finished with Amethyst.
MJ: Well, I look forward to seeing them. In the meantime, folks, check out the Amethyst Kickstarter for its final 15 days and consider backing!