I confess that I’ve never been a person who cared for RPG supplements that didn’t have any rules. Such flavor-based books always seemed like a waste to me; why pay for something when, as often as not, the information you really wanted could be found at your local library, or on the internet, or even in the fertile depths of your own imagination? What I wanted was someone to do the math for me, inventing new systems and sub-systems that I couldn’t find elsewhere. And yet, despite all of that, I found myself head-over-heels for Elemental Gemstones before I’d even finished the first read-through.
The zipped file containing Elemental Gemstones is just over three megabytes in size, holding a single PDF version of the book. The supplement is a full twenty-seven pages long, though this includes the cover, a credits page, a Consumer End-User License, etc. The PDF does have bookmarks, but they’re for each section of the book, not for each gem. Luckily, the table of contents does list each gem, and is hyperlinked.
The book is also quite beautiful to look at, much like a gemstone itself. Almost every page is lightly tinted with various colors (the introduction seems to have a light violet, while the section with the gemstones is a light green, for example). Moreover, each of the seventy gemstones listed in the book has a photograph of an example stone right by the entry. There are no other illustrations here, but you won’t miss that at all, given how visually spectacular the book is. The only problem with this approach is that printing it out might be a bit of a hassle. Having a plain-text version wouldn’t have hurt.
As mentioned above, Elemental Gemstones is a system-neutral book. While it drops some hints to being compatible to Bards and Sages new Karma RPG, you’d never know this if they hadn’t mentioned it; and even so, I’m still not sure where this book intersects with that, as it still seems system-neutral. The premise of the book is that it describes seventy gemstones, and talks about their elemental natures, which make them suitable for certain kinds of magic.
The book opens by talking about the various elements. The four classical elements are discussed first (air, earth, fire, and water) followed by three secondary elements (lightning, metal, and wood), and three “astral elements” (aether and void). After this, it briefly mentions the availability of various gemstones, dividing them up into common, difficult, and rare, and discussing what those terms generally mean.
Each gemstone is then discussed (in alphabetical order) along with what elements it corresponds to, and what its availability is. The majority of each entry, which is roughly two paragraphs long, is to discuss specifically how the gem’s elemental affinities translate into magic. Both amethyst and aquamarine are water/aether gemstones, for example, but the former augments protection against fear and encourages peace, while the latter calms the restless dead and soothes the seas. At the end of the book are several lists indexing various gems by availability and by elemental affinity.
I confess that reading Elemental Gemstones reminded me of something that I’d forgotten: some supplements are supposed to stoke the imagination, rather than make new rules. And this book does that excellently. It provides a clear and lengthy list of new ideas for use of gems in your game, and leaves you to do the rest. Elemental Gemstones is a gem of a book unto itself.