Are we more than what we seem? We all walk around in similar skins, physical forms that are at once miracles of evolution and unremarkable slabs of gradually decaying meat. For ages man has posited that their existences reach beyond the ticking clock under which we all live. Man has sought gods, crafted timeless works, birthed and fathered the sciences, all in the name of creating something that lasts. Every individual knows on a basic level that our time in the world is fleeting, and at one point or another we wonder if there’s more than what we have before us.
Imagine, for a moment, that the answer is “yes”.
Amaranthine is an exploration of this answer.
Amaranthine is a tabletop role-playing game to be played with friends in a comfortable, conversational setting. It boasts no overt gimmickry, no miniatures or fancy dice. You just need a handful of six-siders. It’s the premise, mood and execution of Amaranthine that set it apart.
The premise is that the Amaranthine of the title are, in essence, immortal. Each is reincarnated over and over again throughout the ages, dying only to be born again with their knowledge intact, if tucked away in a mental steamer trunk for a few years. Contact with familiar places, lessons of the past and other Amaranthine draw out their true natures. By the time they reach young adulthood, an Amaranthine can already be operating with hundreds if not thousands of years of experience upon which to draw, yet they look no different from you or me.
Amaranthine’s mood is one of limitless potential, of destiny and the shadows. It’s an atmosphere any afficionado of the World of Darkness (old or new) will find quite familiar. Yet the Amaranthine are not monsters, and the point of the game is not to rail against one’s nature, but to embrace it. Being one of the Amaranthine means being excellent, living a life of epic proportions that mere mortals can only dream of.
The true crux of the game comes in its execution as a group-based experience. The lives of the Amaranthine, present and past, are mercurial and somewhat unpredictible. Those you consider friends now may have been rivals in a previous life, and those now your enemies may have been allies or even lovers in years gone by. These relationships and the decisions players make regarding them build a sense of scale into the game as well as helping it feel deeply personal.
A word on the quality of the printed version of Amaranthine before I get into the meat of the text. This book is, without question, gorgeous. It ranks with the best offerings of White Wolf or Wizards of the Coast. It boasts bold colors, fascinating choices in type and a comprehensive indexing system that makes information easy to find. But all that is sound and fury; the significance of the book is in what the text says, not how it looks.
The tales within the Amaranthine rulebook underscore the concepts and themes listed above. The early chapters draw players into this appealing world and give them the tools necessary to become a part of it. It concerns itself more with questions than with statistics, however: Who were you before? Who do you want to be now? Who mattered to you, and who still does? The stats systems, using the four humors as essential resources for the character, are at once familiar and unique.
Deeper in the book those brave enough to become Directors find the depiction of our world through the immortal eyes of the Amaranthine. From the ways they organize themselves to the threats they face, the book ensures a Director is well-equipped to tell a tale as sprawling or intimate as they wish. Threats to the Amarthine are describedin detail, and are not limited to creatures such as vampires, dragons and the fair folk. The Void is an ever-present aspect of the Amaranthine, to which they all must return and from which all draw strength… for a price.
I knew when I first heard David of Machine Age pitch Amaranthine that he was on to something. He and his wife Filamena have never been ones to sit idle working on gaming materials for others. They’re unafraid of the risks inherent in pursuing their own ideas and have the intestinal fortitude to see their dreams through in the face of adversity, mediocrity and doubt. They’re a couple of those troublemakers I go on about sometimes.
Their first game, Maschine Zeit, perfectly captured the dread and mystery of a quiet and horrible apocalypse of our own making. Guestbook makes playing a quick game with friends at a convention, train station or meeting so easy it seems almost shameful. Amaranthine encourages excellence, exalts in an epic scale and allows players to explore and answer questions about their own natures just as much as it pits them against creatures of the night and wonders from childhood myth.
Amaranthine is a high-quality, deep-concept gaming experience that I Would recommend to anybody even remotely interested in a modern setting for a tabletop role-playing group, and if it doesn’t put Machine Age firmly and permanently on the map of leading pen-and-paper game producers, it bloody well should.