|Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy
|| |€22,95 €18,36
|Average Rating:4.7 / 5
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Blue Rose ist ein Rollenspiel mit romantischem Fantasy-Setting. Beziehungen spielen eine besonders große Rolle, aber das ist nicht alles. Magie, intelligente Tiere, eine vielfältige und diverse Bevölkerung sowie phantastische Landstriche und übelwollende Lebewesen machen die Welt Aldea zu einem faszinierenden Ort, der zum Erkunden einlädt.
Nachdem Blue Rose erstmals 2005 von Green Ronin Publishing veröffentlicht wurde, nutzte der Verlag zehn Jahre später Kickstarter, um 2017 das Grundregelwerk einer zweiten Edition herauszubringen. Diese verwendet nun das hauseigene AGE-System und soll hier unter die Lupe genommen werden.
Aldea, die Spielwelt von Blue Rose, ist bunt, vielfältig und magisch. Das Grundregelwerk beschäftigt sich in aller Ausführlichkeit mit fünf Regionen, auf denen das Hauptaugenmerk liegt. Es wird auf das Land selbst, seine Geografie, die Bevölkerung, Kultur, Religion sowie wichtige oder besondere Orte und Personen eingegangen. Auf diese Weise gewinnt man einen sehr guten Eindruck davon, wie unterschiedlich diese fünf Länder sind und warum der Fokus von Blue Rose, als ein Rollenspiel mit romantischem Fantasy-Setting, auf dem Land Aldis liegt.
Aldis wird auch das Königreich der Blauen Rose genannt. Nach einer düsteren Vergangenheit hat die Bevölkerung sich von der Unterdrückung durch die Sorcerer befreit. Inzwischen haben sie eine Gesellschaft mit hohen moralischen Standards aufgebaut, die sich für Gerechtigkeit, Frieden und die Verständigung aller Völker einsetzt. Beherrscht wird Aldis von einem:einer Monarch:in, welche:r jedoch nicht durch Erbe, sondern durch ein strenges Auswahlverfahren und schließlich göttliche Bestimmung den Thron besteigt.
Das Land von Aldis ist fruchtbar und mit einem milden Klima gesegnet. Lediglich in den Grenzbereichen zu zwei anderen Ländern werden die Bedingungen rauer.
Jarzon ist eine strenge Theokratie, deren Herrscher:innen fest entschlossen sind, nie wieder solch dunkle Zeiten wie in der Vergangenheit unter der Herrschaft der Sorcerer zuzulassen.
Rezea besteht zum großen Teil aus weiten Ebenen. Sie werden von nomadischen Clans bevölkert, die ihre Freiheit über alles lieben.
Die Inseln von Lar´tya gleichen einem tropischen Paradies. Die Bevölkerung lebt in einem Matriarchat mit einem strengen Kastensystem, aber durch den Einfluss anderer Länder scheint es Veränderungen zu geben.
Ganz anders sieht es in Kern aus, einem öden und trostlosen Land. Das Erbe der Sorcerer ist hier deutlich zu spüren, doch während die anderen Länder alles tun, um davon loszukommen, wird es in Kern gepflegt. Sklav:innen und Untote sind ein normaler Anblick und die Herrschenden interessieren sich nicht dafür, wie es der Bevölkerung geht oder was sie tut, solange man ihnen gehorcht.
Die Bevölkerung Aldeas besteht zum großen Teil aus Menschen, die sich jedoch von Region zu Region stark voneinander unterscheiden. Die Night People – im Aussehen den klassischen Orks nicht unähnlich – sind ein Volk, das von den Sorcerern erschaffen und versklavt wurde, doch nun frei ist. Die Mitglieder des Sea-Folk sind im Wasser und an Land zu Hause und ähneln den Menschen, weisen aber ungewöhnliche Haut-, Augen- und Haarfarben auf. Die Vata sind von Natur aus magiebegabt, was ihnen das Leben in manchen Regionen Aldeas schwer macht. Das letzte Volk besteht aus intelligenten Tieren, die der Magie mächtig sind: die Rhydan. Fast überall haben sie den gleichen Status wie alle anderen Völker, auch wenn die meisten von ihnen lieber unter sich bleiben.
Nicht nur Vata und Rhydan, sondern auch andere Lebewesen beherrschen diese intuitive Form der Magie, das sogenannte „Arcana“. Sie wird vor allem dazu genutzt, das Leben der Bevölkerung zu verbessern – sei es im medizinischen Bereich oder im Kampf gegen die Umweltverschmutzung.
Ihr gegenüber steht eine Art „Schulmagie“, die in der Vergangenheit von Sorcerern und heute insbesondere von Magier:innen aus Kern genutzt wird, um Böses zu tun.
Durch das romantische Setting haben Beziehungen und Romanzen eine große Bedeutung. Die Bevölkerung Aldeas kennt dabei nicht „das klassische Beziehungsmodell“ zwischen Mann und Frau. Alle möglichen Formen von Beziehungen sind denkbar und werden toleriert – sie sind einfach normal. Das Thema Geschlecht wird ebenso frei und tolerant gehandhabt. Das Buch macht hierbei deutlich, dass die englische Sprache Limitierungen hat, die es in der Welt von Blue Rose nicht gibt. Trotz ausführlicher Erklärungen im Grundregelwerk, wie Geschlecht und Beziehungen in Aldea gehandhabt werden, wirkt es in keiner Weise forciert, sondern so normal wie die Beschreibung eines Landstriches.
Blue Rose nutzt das AGE-System von Green Ronin Publishing mit einigen individuellen Anpassungen. Man benötigt lediglich sechsseitige Würfel – in der Regel drei Stück, von denen sich einer von den anderen beiden optisch unterscheiden sollte, da die von ihm gezeigte Zahl bei einem Pasch von Bedeutung ist. Jeder Charakter besitzt neun Eigenschaften, darunter Konstitution, Wahrnehmung und Stärke. Zu Beginn besitzen sie Werte zwischen -2 und 4.
Proben auf diese Eigenschaften werden mit 3W6 gegen einen Schwellenwert gewürfelt, der erreicht oder überschritten werden muss. Für den endgültigen erreichten Wert verrechnet man die 3W6 mit dem Wert der entsprechenden Eigenschaft und einem eventuell vorhandenen passenden Fokus, der durch Volk oder Hintergrund erworben werden kann. So ist zum Beispiel Schwimmen ein Fokus für Konstitution oder Einschüchtern ein Fokus für Stärke.
Ein Sonderfall tritt ein, wenn eine Probe gelingt und ein Pasch gewürfelt wird. Dann wird der andersfarbige Würfel, der sogenannte Drama Die, wichtig. Die Zahl, die er zeigt, bestimmt, wie viele Stunt-Punkte man zur Verfügung hat. Diese Punkte bringen neben der gelungenen Probe weitere Vorteile. So kann man im Kampf etwa zusätzlichen Schaden verursachen oder einen NSC nicht nur zu etwas überreden, sondern nachdrücklich beeindrucken.
Magie kann in Form von verschiedensten Zaubern jederzeit eingesetzt werden. Die Häufigkeit ist dabei theoretisch nicht begrenzt, doch nach manchen gewirkten Zaubern muss eine Probe bestanden werden, um kein Level Erschöpfung zu erhalten. Diese häuft sich auch durch andere anstrengende Tätigkeiten wie beispielsweise ein Gewaltmarsch und führt im schlimmsten Fall bei vier angesammelten Leveln zum Tod.
Die Reihenfolge im Kampf wird anhand des Initiativewerts bestimmt. Ein Angriff erfolgt auf dieselbe Weise wie die anderen Proben. Der Verteidigungswert des:der Gegner:in muss hierbei erreicht oder überschritten werden, wobei die volle Rüstung vom erlittenen Schaden abgezogen wird. Im Kampf stehen den Charakteren pro Runde jeweils eine „Major Action“, wie Angreifen oder Heilen, und eine „Minor Action“, wie Bewegen oder Zielen, zur Verfügung.
Dass Blue Rose ein Rollenspiel ist, das seinen Fokus nicht auf den Kampf legt, merkt man beispielsweise an den Waffen. Anstatt endloser Tabellen kommt es mit einer vergleichsweise kurzen Liste aus. Die Waffen wurden zu Gruppen mit jeweils zwei oder drei Varianten zusammengefasst. Für die Gruppe „Äxte“ gibt es beispielsweise die Varianten „Standard“, „Geworfen“ und „Zweihändig“. Für „Bogen“ gibt es die Varianten „Armbrust“, „Langbogen“ und „Schleuder“. Jede dieser Varianten verursacht eine bestimmte Menge an Schaden, wodurch das benötigte Arsenal an aufzulistenden Waffen deutlich verringert wird. Rüstungen und Schilde sind ähnlich unkompliziert in „Leicht“, „Mittel“ und „Schwer“ aufgeteilt.
Die Regeln sind sowohl leicht verständlich als auch gut umzusetzen und fügen sich gut in das Setting ein, dessen Fokus nicht auf Regeln, sondern Erzählung und zwischenmenschliche Beziehungen liegt.
Die Charaktererschaffung beginnt mit dem Festlegen der Werte für die neun Eigenschaften. Hierzu werden 3W6 gewürfelt und eine Tabelle konsultiert. Je nach Ergebnis erhält man einen Wert der von -2 bis 4 reichen kann.
Als nächstes entscheidet man sich für eines der fünf Völker: Menschen, Night People, Sea-Folk, Vata oder Rhydan. Mit dem Volk erhält man zwei Fokusse, die zufällig ermittelt werden. Auf diese Weise kann es geschehen, dass der Charakter Fertigkeiten erhält, die man bisher noch nicht für ihn in Betracht gezogen hatte.
Der Hintergrund ist entweder von einer Nationalität oder Kultur geprägt und beschreibt, wo und wie der Charakter aufgewachsen ist. Zusätzlich erhält man einen weiteren Fokus und zwei Sprachen, die man beherrscht.
Über die Klassen „Adept“ (Magier:in), „Expert“ (Schurk:in) oder „Warrior“ (Kämpfer:in) spezialisiert man sich weiter und erhält mit jedem Levelaufstieg neue Fähigkeiten und Talente hinzu.
Im Anschluss folgen das Auswählen der Ausrüstung sowie das Ausrechnen von Werten wie etwa der Verteidigung.
Abschließend werden Name, Aussehen, Ziele, Persönlichkeit und Beziehungen des Charakters festgelegt. Nun ist er bereit, Aldea zu bereisen!
Insgesamt nimmt die Erschaffung eines Charakters etwa 30 bis 60 Minuten in Anspruch, je nachdem, ob er magisch begabt ist oder nicht.
Spielbarkeit aus Spielleitungssicht
Das verwendete AGE-System hat ein einfach zu erlernendes Grundgerüst, das es sowohl Spielleitung als auch Spieler:innen einfach macht, einzusteigen. Es ist somit auch gut für Rollenspielneulinge geeignet. Zudem ist das Regelsystem detaillierter als etwa das von Dragon Age, das ebenfalls das AGE-System verwendet. Dennoch besteht kein Zwang, jedes Detail auch umsetzen zu müssen.
Positiv ist auch, dass sämtliche wichtigen Informationen im Grundregelwerk zu finden sind.
Das gespielte Abenteuer war einfach umzusetzen und anpassbar: Durch einen modularen Aufbau konnten Szenen problemlos weggelassen oder hinzugefügt werden. Es sind zwar vorgefertigte Charaktere vorhanden, diesen wurden jedoch teilweise Liebesbeziehungen gegeben. Für Spieler:innen, die sich untereinander noch nicht so gut kennen und deshalb unwohl fühlen könnten, ist es deshalb ratsam, Charaktere selbst zu erstellen.
Spielbarkeit aus Spieler:innensicht
Die Regeln sind einfach und schnell zu erfassen und gut umzusetzen. Auch das Kampfsystem ist leicht verständlich. Dadurch stehen die Regeln nicht im Weg, was das Zurechtfinden in der Spielwelt erleichtert. Vieles ist vertraut und Neues lässt sich gut aneignen.
Positiv hervorzuheben sind vor allem die diverse Charaktergestaltung, die besondere Rolle der Tiere und der Fokus auf zwischenmenschliche Themen. Dadurch ist es spannend, die gemeinsame Entwicklung der Charaktere zu beobachten.
Auch leistet das System großartige Arbeit darin, die verschiedensten Arten von Individuen und Lebensentwürfen so in die Welt einzuweben, dass es völlig normal und kein „großes Ding“ ist.
Etwas skeptisch wurde der hohe Grad an romantischen Beziehungen betrachtet, den das System im Normalfall vorsieht. Dies fällt einer Gruppe sicherlich leichter, wenn sie sich bereits lange und gut kennt, sodass sich niemand unwohl fühlt.
Insgesamt hat das Abenteuer in jedem Fall Lust gemacht, erneut in die Welt von Blue Rose einzutauchen und die Facetten von Aldea und die Regeln kennenzulernen, die durch diesen ersten Ausflug noch nicht behandelt wurden.
Gespielt wurde das Szenario „The Rhy-Wolf´s Woe“ aus dem Schnellstarter für Blue Rose. Drei selbsterstellte Charaktere nahmen sich der Aufgabe an:
Merle Vel, menschliche Expertin. Sie gehört den stets reisenden Roamern an. Merle ist eine Schaustellerin und Akrobatin, die ihre Großfamilie, Musik und Gesang liebt. Besonders ihrer großen Schwester Tha´astra steht sie sehr nahe.
Tha´astra Vel, eine Kriegerin der Night People. Sie wurde als kleines Mädchen von den Roamern aufgenommen und schützt diese neue Familie, insbesondere ihre kleine Schwester Merle.
Malachai Khelvid, ein Adept der Vata. Er ist der Spross einer wohlhabenden Familie in Aldis und genoss eine umfassende magische Ausbildung. Seit Merle und Tha’astra ihn aus einer misslichen Lage befreiten, begleitet er die beiden Schwestern.
Spieler:innen sollten den folgenden Teil überspringen, um Spoiler zu vermeiden.
The Rhy-Wolf‘s Woe
Die Charaktere sind in einem Wald im nördlichen Teil von Aldis unterwegs, als ihnen unvermittelt ein Wolf begegnet. Doch anstatt anzugreifen, nimmt er telepathisch Kontakt zu ihnen auf und stellt sich als ein Rhydan namens Frostwind heraus. Er bittet sie um Hilfe und erzählt ihnen von seiner Freundin, einer Rhydan-Wölfin namens Graumähne. Sie berichtete ihm vor einiger Zeit vom Menschenjungen Markas, zu dem sie eine starke Verbindung spürte, doch sein Vater jagte sie zu ihrem Bedauern davon. Frostwind vermutet, dass sie erneut Kontakt zu dem Jungen suchte, doch nun hat er sie seit Tagen nicht mehr gesehen. Da er sich Sorgen macht, bittet er die Charaktere, nach ihr zu suchen.
Die Drei machen sich sofort auf den Weg zum Dorf, in dem der Junge wohnt. Dort lernen sie schnell dessen Vater Jatos kennen. Er ist besorgt und aufgebracht, da sein Sohn Markas verschwunden ist. Ein Gespräch mit der Bürgermeisterin zeigt den Charakteren ihr nächstes Ziel: eine alte Ruine, in denen die Sorcerer in den vergangenen dunklen Zeiten ihre Magie ausübten. Der Ort ist zwar gefährlich, aber die Drei vermuten, dass Markas und Graumähne dort Unterschlupf suchen wollen, um in Ruhe gelassen zu werden.
Im tiefen Wald ist es immer besser, nicht allein unterwegs zu sein.
Der Weg führt sie weiter in den Wald hinein, dessen Tiefen nicht ohne Grund bei der Bevölkerung sagenumwoben sind. Doch kein mythisches Wesen, sondern ein einfacher Bär stellt das erste große Hindernis des Abenteuers dar. Den gemeinsamen Angriffen von Merles Bogen, Malachais Magie und Tha´astras Schwert hat er nicht lange etwas entgegenzusetzen und haucht bald darauf sein Leben auf dem Waldboden aus.
Nach einigen Stunden Fußmarsch treffen die Drei schließlich auf eine einsame Hütte, die jedoch bewohnt zu sein scheint. In der Hoffnung, Neuigkeiten von Markas und Graumähne zu erhalten, klopfen sie an. Und so treffen sie auf Galthi von den Night People. Sie erzählt ihnen, dass sie die beiden tatsächlich vor ein paar Tagen in einiger Entfernung gesehen hat und es ihnen gut zu gehen schien.
Ermutigt von diesen Neuigkeiten geht die Reise am nächsten Tag weiter. Ein vor kurzem verlassenes Nachtlager gibt ihnen weitere Hoffnung, bald auf die Vermissten zu treffen. Endlich an der Ruine angekommen müssen sie feststellen, dass sie gerade noch rechtzeitig sind, denn Markas und Graumähne haben offensichtlich eine Gruppe Untoter auf sich aufmerksam gemacht und werden von ihnen angegriffen. Insbesondere Markas sieht bereits schwer mitgenommen aus. Die drei Charaktere greifen ohne zu zögern ein und können die Gegner nach einem schnellen Kampf besiegen. Sie bringen den Jungen und die Wölfin zurück ins Dorf und vermitteln dort zwischen allen Beteiligten, sodass Markas und Graumähne zusammenbleiben können.
Das Buch weist 384 Seiten auf und ist durchgängig vollfarbig. Besonders beeindruckend sind die vielen hochwertigen Illustrationen. Lediglich der Stil mancher NSC-Portraits will nicht ganz zum Rest passen. Manche Illustrationen wirken sehr idealisiert, was jedoch dem „romantic fantasy“-Setting geschuldet sein könnte.
Das Regelwerk enthält sehr viel Fließtext, was stellenweise erschlagend wirkt. Dafür sind insbesondere Beschreibungen so interessant zu lesen, dass man sich schnell darin verliert. Die Navigation wird durch regelmäßige und viele Überschriften, sowie einen Index erleichtert. Zudem wird der Text immer wieder durch Beispiele, Kästen mit Extra-Informationen, Tabellen und Illustrationen aufgelockert.
Blue Rose ist ein Rollenspiel im Bereich der romantischen Fantasy, weswegen Beziehungen jeglicher Art, Romanzen und Gefühle eine große Rolle spielen. All dies wird den Spielenden jedoch nicht aufgezwungen. Vielmehr kann man es auf einen Grad anpassen, der für die eigene Gruppe angenehm ist – und wenn man sich daran gewöhnt hat, lässt sich der romantische Anteil nach und nach erhöhen. Das System bietet viele Möglichkeiten, das Setting nach den eigenen Wünschen anzupassen: sei es High Fantasy, etwas Horror oder in der nächsten Kampagne doch lieber ein bisschen mehr Romantik und Intrigen.
Zudem bietet Blue Rose vom fast schon utopischen „Aldis“ bis hin zum dystopischen „Kern“ – und allem, was dazwischen liegt – eine vielfältige und diverse Welt. Selbst mit wenigen Völkern und Klassen ist es möglich, die unterschiedlichsten Charaktere zu erschaffen, da ihnen auch anderweitig Möglichkeiten gegeben werden, besonders zu sein.
Das Regelwerk selbst beinhaltet mit beachtlichen 384 Seiten alles, was zum Spielen benötigt wird und darüber hinaus Unmengen an Hintergrundinformationen. Allein der Teil für die Spielleitung ist über einhundert Seiten lang und gibt viele Vorschläge, Tipps und Ratschläge, das kaum eine Frage offenbleiben dürfte. Ähnliches gilt für den Teil, der die Spieler:innen betrifft
Selbst für Leute, die intensives Charakterspiel noch nicht für sich entdeckt haben, kann sich also ein Blick auf Blue Rose lohnen. Aldea wartet darauf entdeckt zu werden!
Note: This review originally spanned three parts:
[http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/06/review-blue-rose-2nd-edition-part-1.html ](http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/06/review-blue-rose-2nd-edition-part-1.html )
Blue is the newest AGE (more on that) game title from Green Ronin. It is an update to their older True20 version of Blue Rose. This game expands the World of Aldea and the timeline a bit as well as give us some more option for play.
I am reviewing both the hardcover edition and pdf of this game. Both of which were purchased by me and not sent to me for the purposes of review. I will post my thoughts both on the reading and playing of this game.
The Blue Rose book is a 384 page, full color, hardback book. The hardcover is sturdy as hell and might just be one of the most gorgeous books I have seen in a very, very long time. The color jumps out at you. Blue Rose is not a grim-dark world and this book is not either. The PDF is huge and fully bookmarked and hyperlinked. I love PDFs, and for ease, I am using mine for review now, but there is no comparing it to the physical book.
The hardcover retails for $59.95 and the pdf for $24.95.
Blue Rose 2nd edition uses the same AGE or Adventure Game Engine, game engine found in DragonAge and Fantasy Age. All three games share "System wide" compatibility, but maybe not "thematic" compatibility. Though if you desire more monsters in your Blue Rose or Dragon Age games then the Fantasy Age Bestiary is the absolute perfect choice.
I will detail more about the AGE system in a bit.
The book is divided into three large sections:
The Player's Section covers the first four chapters of basic rules, character creation, and magic.
The World of Aldea covers the history of the world, the Kingdom of Aldis, and the surrounding lands. This takes up the next four chapters.
The Narrator's Section covers the last five chapters. This covers how to run a game, what makes "Romantic Fantasy" different, as well as rewards and adversaries. There is also a sample adventure in back to tide you over till you pick up a copy of The Six of Swords.
Now off the bat, an easy criticism would be, why not separate these out into three less expensive books. Charge $24.95 each and make more money in the long run? Sure that would work and that is what Green Ronin did with their True20 versions. Personally, I like having everything in one tome. Though I do see a need for a slimmer, maybe soft cover, version of just the player's section for players to buy. But Green Ronin has been doing this a long time if their economics support this then I am not going to be an armchair accountant.
The first five pages start with an introduction to RPGs. Most times I skip this, but this time I stuck with it since one of the expressed purposes of this game is to bring in new players. The "What is Roleplaying" section covers what is expected. This is followed by a section on "What is Romantic Fantasy?" For this bit, and for this review, I went back and read (or re-read) every book I could in the Romantic Fantasy cannon. This includes all the Valdemar books by Mercedes Lackey (minus the last series) and nearly every book on John Snead's own "Must Read" list. I'll talk about those relationships in detail as they come up, but suffice to say (for now) that Blue Rose does do a good job of Romantic Fantasy.
The next paragraphs deal with how you go about creating a character in a game world. Not mechanics (yet) but an extension of your senses into this world. This section I noticed also features in other Green Ronin AGE books. It asks the questions "What do you do?" and "Who are you?" The focus of this game then is character dynamics. It is not "The party of adventurers set out to destroy the dragon." it is "Brynn, Heylg, Bethan and their friends sought out the threat to their beloved kingdom and stopped it before more lives were lost." There is nothing wrong with either situation, it is just one is better suited to Blue Rose. Becuase of this there is more focus on group dynamic. Maybe Bethan, normally a strong independent warrior who fights for just causes, is also deathly afraid of fire from an incident in her childhood. Now fighting this dragon is not just a straightforward matter of defeating a beast; it is now a metaphor for overcoming fear even when you are normally strong and brave. It could be that Brynn's best contribution to this battle is not her magic to attack the dragon or her healing, but her ability to empathize with Bethan and bring out the warrior she is from the scared girl she was. If this dynamic is not that interesting to you, that's fine, the Blue Rose/AGE game will still let you kill the dragon, but something essential is missed.
The next section deals with the AGE system itself.
The system is actually quite a simple one. 3d6 + Ability +/- mods vs. Test Difficulty.
What makes this system special though are the Stunts. Whenever you score "doubles" on a roll (on two of the dice, more later) you generate stunt points. Stunt points can be used for any number of special features. These are not limited to combat. You can score Stunt Points in any situation where you roll dice. So yes you can even generate Stunt Points (SP) while engaging in social interactions. I have long let Bards in my D&D/d20 games score "critical hits" with puns, but in Blue Rose you can now do the same (mechanically speaking) with all sorts of social interactions like flirting!
Finally, we end with a bit on the campaign world, but I will detail that, as does the book, later on.
Part I: The Player's Section
This section introduces us to both the Blue Rose game and the AGE system.
Chapter 1 discusses the AGE system and goes right into Combat and Stunts. I thought this was an odd choice in a game focused on characters. At first that is. After reading through it a few times now I see it makes good sense. I am not sure if the AGE system will ever "fall into the background" the same way d20 or Unisystem do for me, but it could get really, really close. The system itself is very easy to grasp. In AGE you really only need three six-sided dice. Two of which should be the same color. The off one is called the Drama Die. We will get to all those in a bit. The rolls of 3d6 + Ability +/- mods vs. Test Difficulty are simple enough. Test Difficulties start at 7 (Routine) and increase by 2 for each level. So 9 is Easy. The feel is the same as d20's Target Numbers or even Unisystem's Success Levels. The spread is closer to that of the d20 world so converting between the True20 Blue Rose and the AGE Blue Rose should theoretically be an easy one (in reality there is more to it, but not much more). Like most systems an "opposed" test will be one set of rolls vs another set of rolls.
Aside: Since the rolls here are 3d6 as opposed to 1d20 (d20/D&D) or even 1d10 (Unisystem) you are going to get far more average rolls and fewer extremes. This result is as subtle as it is ubiquitous. This means that most rolls (67.6%) are going to fall in that 8-13 range. 18's will only happen 1 time in 216, as opposed to a 20 happening 1 time in 20. This means that most actions will feel "normal". It's later when we add the Stunt Points and Conviction that the real acts of Derring-do happen. This puts the "criticals" more in the hands of the players and less to chance. They happen less often, but more where the player wants or needs them.
This is something I have done in my own Unisystem games for years. Instead of a 1d10 I use a 2d6-1 system known as "The Chicago Way" among Unisystem players. The effects are quite nice. The 3d6 gives AGE Blue Rose a solid edge over True20 Blue Rose.
In addition to these tests there are modifiers, which typically include a Specialization in a skill or other training. There are are also Conviction points. These are gained throughout your adventuring career and can be used to influence certain actions. Conviction is used a bit like a Drama Point or a Hero Point.
On every turn the character can take a Major and a Minor action. Each round is only 15 seconds long (4 per minute) so each action is short. There is a list of what major actions are (Attack, Defend, Heal) and minor (move, aim, activate). In truth, the lists are pretty simple and easy to grasp. There are also variable actions that will change depending on the situation.
Next up are Stunts, the life, and soul of the AGE system really.
If you get doubles on any roll of the dice you may perform a Stunt on that roll. So if the roll was a combat situation then you can perform a Combat Stunt. The roll you get on your Drama Die (the off color one) is a number of Stunt Points you get. You have to use them right away. So if you get a 4 you have 4 SP and can buy any of the stunts listed for 4 or under. These are things like "Knock Prone" or "Lethal Blow". As characters go up in level they gain access to more stunts and can buy others for less SP. There are also non-combat Exploration and Role-playing Stunts as well. There are even Arcane Stunts that can be used in either.
Chapter 2 covers Character Creation. This covers all the steps from concept to filling out your sheet. Blue Rose is a very character-focused game, so character creation should be something done all together for the first session. I even suggest talking about what sort of group you want to have. There is no reason why it can't be "You all meet in an Inn", but it should go deeper than that really. How do these characters interact with each other, what are their goals, their drives? In some ways the best Blue Rose group of heroes is something like what we get in the Dragonlance tales. A group full of characters internal desires and drives but a community, if not a family, of others helping them.
Blue Rose has 9 Abilities. They have familiar sounding names and are even rolled up the same way. In fact in Blue Rose, your abilities are rolled on a 3d6 IN ORDER. Yes, it is more Old School than many Old School games out today. The spread of ability modifiers is also similar. Every ability has more than one focus. These Focuses allow the character to be better at one particular area. Systematically Abilities and Foci serve like abilities and skills.
Next, choose your race. We get humans from various lands (with different bonuses), Nigth People (half-orcs/orcs), Rhydan (intelligent animals), Sea-folk, and Vata (elves). You also get a background, which is largely what country you come from,
Up next is Class. Like other AGE games and True20 there are only 3. Adept, Expert, and Warrior.
As you level up you can gain different abilities from your class. These are typically increases in abilities (which ones depend on class). Classes are presented from 1st to 20th level.
You then need to figure out (or randomly roll) your Calling, Destiny, and Fate.
Finally it would not be Blue Rose if there was not a bit on Relationships. Everyone in the cast is tied to another by one degree or another. These relations have role-playing and in-game mechanical features.
If you are looking for XP per level you will not find it in Blue Rose. This game uses the same philosophy as it's older True20 sibling; you increase in level after a few adventures. It leaves it in the hands of the Narrator as to when to level up. If you really want an XP chart for Experience to next level then there is one in Fantasy Age.
Chapter 3 details Focuses, Talents and Specializations. Every Ability has multiple focuses. The Fighting Ability has a focus on Axes and another Polearms for example. You can gain a new focus for everytime you go up a level. Talents are something else. These are only granted under special circumstances. They might be restricted by class and many have prereqs. These include abilities like Animal Training, Dual Weapon Fighting, or Psychic.
Specializations can almost be though of as "Sub Classes", these include Assassin, Bard and the like.
Chapter 4 covers Arcana, the magical arts. While anyone in the world of Blue Rose can have arcane ability, only Adepts can master them. Arcana are divided into six Disciplines; Animism, Healing, Meditative, Psychic, Shaping (for making Avatar like Benders!) and Visionary.
There is also Sorcery, the dark side of magic which leads to corruption.
Each ability is given with the Talent (Discipline) it falls under, sometimes it is more than one, time is takes (Major or Minor), Target Number and Test needed. What sort resistance covers this ability and fatigue TN? Some abilities have sub-abilities too. Many of Shaping abilities are like this.
The last part of the chapter covers Sorcery. This is great for all sorts of adventure ideas. Hell, 90% of my ideas deal with some form of sorcery and it's threat to Aldea.
Part II: The World of Aldea
Now when it comes to game-changing events I can make due with changes in power or in the way certain rules have been handled. It is the events in the next few chapters that will have me scrambling for the pencils to re-do my campaign! Well, Green Ronin never asked me what I was doing in my game and I never reached out to them to make sure they were not invalidating several sessions worth of my games ( +Chris Pramas, we will just have to talk in future! ;) ).
Chapter 5, What Has Gone Before, is still roughly the same as what we saw in the True20 version. If anything things are clearer now. The art, of course, is better and some things, like the rise of the Darkfiends, are clearer.
As before we get a history of the World of Aldea, from the Mythic Age (when the Gods were created) to the Old Kingdom (the “Golden Age” of the world), the Empire of Thrones (or the rise of the evil Sorcerer Kings) to the present age in The Rebirth of Aldis. The history of the world is given from the creation of the world by the four greater gods and then into the creation of the lesser gods, demons, and mortal races.
I think it is the goal of every RPG writer, either professional or just sitting at home, to create a mythology for their world. These myths feel more like The Silmarillion than it does say the Bible or Greek Myth. Though there is a fair appreciation for Greek Myths and Pagan beliefs in this. In makes for an interesting world to say the least. It has been asked more than once in my groups what gods do they believe in in the other parts of Aldea. Are they same with different names (likely) or they different ones altogether (a tantalizing idea)? We see bits of how this could work in Chapter 7 where the different lands worship different aspects of these same gods.
The biggest changes do not come till much later in the chapter. At some point between the True20 timeline and the AGE timeline. Queen Jaellin decided that she was "officially done with Jarek's shit" and invaded Kern via the hidden ShadowGate under the palace. The present day of the True20 version was 310 (Aldin calendar) to the new current day of the AGE version of 320. A lot has happened in ten years.
I read this and was like "whoa" what happened here? Personally, I'd love to have some scenarios where the PCs/Cast are part of that battle and raid.I think that would be a blast.
Also this was the last time anyone has seen the Golden Hart. The mystery here, of course, is whether or not it used up all it's magic in this last battle. We come to the "present day" in the game with political factions in an uproar, relations within and without in question and a Queen that has made some choices that many of her own court and people do not agree with.
Basically, it is like Valdemar at the end of the Winds of Fury.
Expanded from the True20 book this new chapter also talks more about the Great Rebellion that started Aldis in the first place. I mean wouldn't that also be a great time to play? The years leading up to Queen Seltha's reign. Heck, the art of the Undead armies is enough to make me want to give it a try.
Chapter 6, Kingdom of the Blue Rose then picks up with Aldis proper and discusses what is going on. We get background on the various races living in Aldis; human, sea-folk, vata, night people, and Rhydan. Why do all these people get along? Well... they try to. The Rhydan wanted a land that all were equal and free and queen Seltha ran with that.
We get a section on the Royal Court of Aldis. I REALLY wish I was good at running Court Intrigue. This would be the game for that. A carefully balanced dual of wit, manners and subtle backstabbing. This game makes me want to be better at it. There is just too much potential here and frankly it is not my strong suit.
Anyone who ever thought that a Kingdom that was accepting of all peoples lacks intrigue has never really read or played this game. Aldis is not just the idyllic land that some have depicted it. It is “enlightened” but there are still internal strife, crime, the odd sorcerer or even a leftover gates from the time before the Sovereigns, and the ever-present threats from inside and outside. A number of threats to Aldis and Aldea are detailed. Various unscrupulous merchants, a very effective criminal organization known as “The Silence”, fallen nobles, bandits, defective shadow gates, and the remains of various shadow cults. In a handful of pages we get plenty of ideas for characters to do. Plus we now have a Queen that may or may not be trusted by all her people. And the Golden Hart? Gone. Hasn't been seen since the raid on Kern. Something new is happening here.
There is a section on gender, sexuality, and marriage. Much less that you have been lead to believe mind you. Frankly, it could do with a bit more in my mind. This is Romantic Fantasy after all.
Religion gets expanded a bit as well. I like the new art for the Gods of Light, but I had to number them on my print out to keep track of them. I still rather like the Exarchs of Shadow. It helps solves the age old philosophical question of "From whence comes evil?" It gives a good explanation of how good gods such as these would have created evil beings. Plus in this version, they are more detailed with each exarch equated to a deadly sin. I might not be able to do court intrigue, but I can do horror like nobody's business.
The real expansion though comes in the form of the City of Aldis. Note if you are used to the map in the True20 World of Aldea book (page 18), this one (page 161) is rotated 90 degrees clockwise. It also looks like the city has grown some more in the last 10 years.
Other areas of Aldis are detailed as well. These include the Pavin Weald (Magical Forest) and refugees from Kern that have not quite integrated into Adlean society known as The Trebutane. If you want your spot to create Aldea-as-Valdemar and need a place for Holderkin Talia to be from, this is it.
Chapter 7, Lands Beyond deals with the lands and countries surrounding Aldis. This includes the Theocracy of Jarzon, the Khanate of Rezea (the Kaled'a'in/Tayledras from the Valedmar books, or the Kingdom of Damar from The Blue Sword), the Roamers (also Kaled'a'in Shin'a'in), the Shadow Barrens (just a bad place), The Forest Kingdom of Wyss (a new place, not in the True20 version), the Pirate Isles (more information here, can Freeport Blue Rose be far behind?), Kern (the really, really bad place. Mordor to Aldis' Gondor) and the Matriarchy of Lar'tya (basically Themyscira.)
Each section of the nation/land deals with the history of the lands, their rulers, religion, and people. Larger cities are discussed but never in the detail we got with Aldis. Some important NPCs have sidebars and their history, but no stats, are given. The lands also all have rough equivalents to the organizations found in Aldis. For example, the counterpart to the Rose Knights in Jarzon are the Knights of Purity and in Kern are the Knights of the Skull.
Of the lands, Jarzon and Kern are the most interesting. Jarzon is an interesting place where it could have been just like Aldis save for the intolerance of the Theocracy. I suppose then it is no surprise then that it lies south of Aldis. I could see a Jarzonni based game dealing with various heretics. Heck a fun game would be to play part of the Jarzonni Inquisition to discover a new threat to the whole world!
Kern is Ravenloft. Or maybe it is Thay. or Iuz. Or "The North" for the "Blue Sword" fans. I KNOW I can't be the only one to have thought in reading this new version of the game that when Jaelin killed the Lich King that the "Shadowed Seven" would be an even bigger threat.
Think of Thay without SzassTam or Apokolips without Darkseid. There is a lot of adventure ideas here. Play these evil regents off on each other. Or imagine their machinations if they ever decided to team up. I'd love a game where characters need to face off against these foes. That might be too "D&D" or even too "Buffy" but it would still be a lot of fun.
So advancing the timeline and story by 10 years is cool but it completely WRECKED my older Blue Rose game I was calling Black Rose. Eh. No worries. I can come up with some new ideas and maybe even resurrect some of the Black Rose ideas. Plus it will give me a good chance to pull out one of my old NPCs, Zenaida a Rezean Witch.
If you had the old True20 World of Aldea book then a lot in this section will feel familiar. There is a lot more material in the current AGE book and of course moved up 10 years.
Part III: Narrator's Section
Chapter 8, The Narrator's Art is the GM’s section. Again, I much prefer the term “Chronicler” to “Narrator”. “Chronicler” also implies that the characters are doing something worthy of Chronicling.
The chapter covers some very pragmatic issues of Adjudicating the Rules and Running the Game to the creative Creating Adventures and Planning the Series. The space in between this is the "Art".
What is particularly useful is the very old-school like table of 100 Adventure ideas. Need an idea? Roll a d100. Each one of these can be expanded into an adventure. This flies in the face of any notion that Blue Rose is a limited game. There are guides for roleplaying situations like Romance and Intrigue. Again, while situated in the Blue Rose and AGE systems, they could be used for any game. There is a section on how to run Intrigue (great for me!) and how to do it when the Characters have the potential to read minds or have access to other Psychic Arcana.
There is also a bit on the physical location where you play. Given as a means to manage all the information coming at you the Narrator, and also as a means of setting the mood. Blue Rose is a "well lit" game as opposed to horror games which need a dark tone. The book also has some forms here and in the back for Narrators to print out and use to track all the goings on. So bonus point to the PDF for this one.
There is advice on knowing who your group is too. I think this is more important for a game like Blue Rose that is very Character focused. Using these group dynamics in the real world can also inform the group dynamics in the World of Aldea. The chapter as a whole has some pretty good GM advice. Some we have seen before and others we have seen, but applied new to this game.
Chapter 9 details the Blue Rose Series. If chapter 8 is general GM advice, then this chapter is very Blue Rose specific. This chapter starts out with a note about consulting the players. I think this is good advice in general, but certainly more so for the Character focused Blue Rose. That is not to say you can't have an Adversarial GM (it is one of the options discussed in fact in the last chapter) but if that is what you are doing make sure that is what people want. If so, great!
We get into various Series Styles next. While the game is Romantic Fantasy, there is a lot of room in that broad term. Discussed are Dark Fantasy, High Fantasy, Horror, Low Fantasy, Swashbuckling Adventure, and High Romance. All of which work well within the Blue Rose frame.
Taking this advice we get some Series Frameworks of potential campaigns/series.
The default, and the one that most people associate with Blue Rose, is called "For Aldis and the Queen!". This is what you would have if a young Mercedes Lackey was your Narrator. It does pretty much what it says on the tin. "On the Road" is more of the style of the later Romantic Fantasy authors. It is also closer to the type of adventures you find in a D&D game. Put them on a boat and suddenly it is "7th Sea". "Coming of Age" are your Harry Potter or Narina stories. OR as the book points out, even the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. "Game of Thorns" (bad, bad Green Ronin!) are your darker court intrigue tales. The nobles that don't trust the queen or her new husband. I could make something of that easy.
There are more. The Quiet Knights, the Wedding Planners. But reading through these all should give you your ideas. A special shout out though to "Blue Rose on the Red Planet". That's not what it is called, but the art and the description support that. I'd play that in a heartbeat.
Chapter 10 is the actual Running the Game. The first bit we get to is Mastering Ability Tests. If you have any familiarity at all with d20, True20 or a host of other "Target Number" style games then you know what to expect here. Basic tests and Opposed tests are covered again.
Considerations are given for Minor and Major NPCs, handling different sorts of combat situations, Roleplaying vs. The Rules, and Hazards.
One thing that is quite interesting is advice on how to deal with divinations and how to work them into games. This time the authors DO mention the Shaowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law as the perfect resource for your Blue Rose games. I have a set and it is great.
I am going to spend some more time on the Tarot, Callings, Fates, and Destinies.
Chapter 11 covers Rewards. The beauty of Blue Rose is that there are many ways to grant rewards to characters beyond just level advancement. Though that is not understated here.
We start with Honorifics. Which I am TOTTALY going to steal for D&D 5. These are accolades and acknowledgments. Titles like "Lady Aerin, Dragonkiller" (if you have read that book you can smile with me), or "Champion of Justice" and others. These confer a small in-game bonus as well. The criminal types all have to make Willpower tests at -5 around our Champion of Justice for example. Given these examples, I can come up with a lot more. The next section mentions who can give out these honorifics in each country and under what circumstances.
Next follows Memberships and then Companions. After this are Special Items and Equipment. Often these are heirlooms, not necessarily magical. In fact, Arcane items are next and even then Arcane Weapons are listed last. Listed very last, and even very least, is wealth. So the things that motivate the average D&D character are the least motivating for the average Blue Rose character. In fact, Wealth only gets 3-4 paragraphs total.
Chapter 12 gives us Adversaries. We lead off with NPCs. Blue Rose characters are more likely to run into other people (Rhydan are "people"; just ask them).
For monsters, "Beasts", there are some familiar names here but don’t automatically assume you know what these creatures are about. Griffons, for example, are given more emphasis and intelligence here than in their D&D counterparts. This is completely due to how they are treated in the Romantic Fiction novels, in particular, the novels of Mercedes Lackey.
Also, unlike the novels, there are a lot more creatures here than what I recall reading. So there are plenty of creatures that can either guide, beguile or challenge the characters. There are about 70 or so creatures here. They are grouped by type, so all Rhydan, all Darkfiends, all Unliving, and so on.
Adding more would be easy, really TOO easy to be honest. Most creatures need have a good reason to be in the game/world. For example, there are no Manticores here. You could make a very good reason for them to be there as something like anti-griffon or even a magical race the bred true to fight griffons. Maybe they were created during the Shadow Wars or even before in the Empire of Thorns. They are rare now since most were killed.
Now I do have a copy of the Fantasy Age Bestiary and there are a lot of great new monsters that can be added to Blue Rose. I just want to be careful on how I do it and where I do it. Same would be true for any monsters I'd add from DragonAge.
There are slight differences in the stats between creatures of the same name in the various books, but not enough to make you think they are different creatures.
The last chapter is an adventure, Shadows of Tanglewood.
There are pages with Stunt References, Actions and Quick Reference Cards. We also get a nice full-color character sheet. Points again to the PDF. You can get these as part of the Blue Rose Narrator's Kit.
The index is fully hyperlinked.
What can I honestly say at this point? This is a great game. Well designed with beautiful art and an absolute joy to play. The AGE system is the first system I have picked up in a long time that I really like.
This is the best game of 2017.
Blue Rose: Age system Review
This will be a long review that will cover each chapter so buckle in, it will assume you are not familiar with AGE or Blue Rose but that you have some experience with D&D
Alright here's where we start the review of Blue Rose: a game of romantic fantasy – Age Edition. Before we start with the review proper I’ll cover a short intro of my history with the game and system.
This is not my first exposure to the setting of Blue Rose, I have copies of both the true20 corebook and it's supplement. While I was a big fan of the work I couldn't really think of a way to make it appeal to my group as it had a number of rules that carried over from 3.5 D&D to true20 that made it less appealing, but I absolutely loved the work itself and the unique rules and setting it added.
So I was both hesitant and excited when I heard it was being released for the AGE system, on the one hand the AGE system has some uniquely good things about it's rules (particularly it's stunts) but on the other hand it had some issues that made me worry which I'll get to in a moment.
The original work got alot of flak for it's optimistic setting and representation of LGBTQ characters and their acceptance in the setting. That has not changed. If anything greater representation is now present as it also works to include trans and nonbinary characters comfortably into the setting and culture. If this makes you uncomfortable then chances are you won't like this book. Personally I like it and find it apart of the appeal, and frankly if you're able to watch most kids cartoons these days then this shouldn't bother you.
Next let’s talk about my experience with the AGE system. I didn't like it. I really, *really* wanted to. But I didn't. The Fantasy AGE book was honestly very lackluster and ashes of valkana setting wasn't any better. Both felt very... incomplete. The game was heavily geared towards combat, to the exclusion of all else and said combat was often long and very tedious, the magic had no out of combat use or purpose and being a master of fire just meant you had 3 variations on fireblast for use of setting enemies of fire. While there were magic items and monsters there was little if any help in creating either, for the GM or the players. and beyond that there wasn't much to it. While the stunts system was interesting it was pretty much all the game had going for it aside from decent class customization. Clocking in at under 200 pages it was just... not very thrilling and for the most part didn't cover much new ground beyond stunts. Titansgrave was the same way, it added little and didn't expand on much beyond what it's (rather good) webseries had shown us, it felt like it was the series manual rather than it's own setting.
Needless to say I was rather worried about Blue rose, I worried that the flexibility of the skills and choices would be diminished, I worried that the magic would be made into a streamlined combat tool, I worried it would be a short book that didn’t cover much if any new ground for the setting.
I had nothing to be afraid of.
And with that in mind let’s get to the review!
Okay let’s start with the book itself. It’s very well done. The book is organized wonderfully with an introduction to both it’s genre and it’s basic systems both dice and combat, this was actually quite helpful as too many games dive right into character creation without context for the value of a given bonus.
The Artwork is beyond amazing. Seriously this book is gorgeous, with wonderful depictions of it’s characters and scenery, with more fluid, fanciful artwork to lead in chapters and visually stunning but detailed character and scenery depictions throughout the chapters. If nothing else get this book for it’s artwork, you won’t be disappointed.
The book is neatly divided into player and Gm sections with the former covering both character creation, systems and setting, and the latter covering gm advice both in and out of game, alternate settings, rewards both tangible and otherwise and a list of adversaries. It’s nicely rounded out with a list of useful appendices.
Finally the book is well indexed, with organized bookmarks both for chapters and subsections. You think I wouldn’t need to bring attention to this but you’d be surprised how often things like indexes, bookmarks and a good table of contents are neglected even by modern games.
Player’s Section: Gameplay
The Game First opens with an explanation of combat and it’s dice systems. You do not need Fantasy Age to run this game, as it clearly addresses all of it’s rules here, from it’s dice system to it’s turn order and action economy. The dice system works like this: 3d6 + ability +2 from an applicable focus (specialized skill). The Difficulties for rolls are spelled out here and multiple times elsewhere.
It gives rules for conviction (basically this games plot points, inspiration bennies or fate points) and how they can be gained and used.
The turn order is standard roll for dexterity initiative, with ties in this case going to drama die (see below) and on your turn you have a major action and a minor action (or two minor actions). Major actions include attacks, defending, healing, running as well as all out attacks that subtract from your defense for damage and charges. Minor actions include aiming, maintaining spells, moving chasing, guarding yourself (+defense -on rolls) readying an action, preparing to chase a running foe and holding your ground to prevent knockback.
Overall some good combat rules that make things more interesting than just ‘I hit him with my sword’.
And now we address AGE’s most interesting mechanic: stunts. When you pick your 3d6 one of them needs to be a different colour from the other 2, this one is called the drama die. When you roll doubles of any number with any of the 3 dice you automatically gain stunt points equal to the number on your drama die. These stunt points can be used to buy advantages of varying degrees of usefulness like knocking your enemy prone, dashing after an attack, piercing armour, and even attacking twice in one turn or moving to the top of the initiative order in future rounds.
These stunts have uses in other ways as well: magic can use them to fast cast a spell, affect multiple targets, increase duration or ignore fatigue. Socially they can allow you to make new friends or enemies from the people you interact with, cause laughter to your wit, sway crowds or add flirtatious dialogue to seduce another character. It even works on exploration; letting you decide on an advantageous approach (likely foiling ambushes) enabling searches to be faster, easier and consume less resources or gain a bonus on initiative rolls.
Stunts are an interesting mechanic at the table as they ensure that things become less predictable in an interesting way, and compared to crits from other games they occur a great deal more frequently (often multiple times a round) so everyone gets moment to cheer when their dice roll well (or moan when the villains dice work out)
After that we get into Character creation. It has 9 abilities: accuracy, communication, constitution, dexterity, fighting, intelligence, perception, strength and willpower. What’s interesting here is that several forms of combat that normally fall under strength in most games would fall under accuracy (such as light blades and brawling) or fighting (most heavy weapons like axes or polearms) with strength covering more athletic feats. Abilities are rolled but there are options to both assign them at will or point buy so everyone gets what they want.
Races come next and here’s where things get interesting. Every race (including human) get’s to roll twice on a table to get some free skill focuses, weapon training or ability bonuses giving you some bonuses separate from both your class and others of your kind. The races themselves are alot more diverse than most settings.
You have humans as your primary race (of course) with a number of cultural backgrounds to add diversity, and then you have the non human races.
The night folk (basically orcs) whose race was created by evil sorcerers and have a bad rap for this but are still given full treatment as a race and aren’t forced to be mentally deficient brutes like most games tend to do.
Then we have the vata, while you could say they’re elves in reality they’re more like your half elves with the elves being destroyed in the past by the aforementioned evil sorcerers and these guys being their mostly human descendants who crop up in human cultures. You’ve got the light and dark vata (with the only differences being appearence and how good their darkvision is, dark vata have it better but suffer a turn of blindness when they first enter daylit areas)
The Sea folk come next: androgynous sea faring people who can breathe underwater and swim like they’re aquaman, they’re are basically human dolphins when it comes to water. They actually need to immerse themselves in water once per day which I could see getting annoying in the wrong game.
And then we have the Rhydan. Either the coolest or most annoying thing when it comes to character options depending on how well the gm and players communicate. Rhydan are telepathic sentient animals, with the most common being wolves, horses, dolphins and panther sized Siamese cats, but with rules for a number of other animals including apes, bears, badgers, hawks, owls, lizards and snakes. Rhydan are capable of forming a permanent psychic bond with a humanoid. This could either go very well with interesting and memorable characters that create closeness in a party or it could be a disaster with people playing characters incapable of functioning in any given session, and this would depend heavily on the GM clearly establishing what kind of game the group will be playing and the players not feeling cheated if their cool concept gets vetoed for practical reasons, psychic dolphins warriors would be good for a pirate style game with several seafolk but would be basically unplayable in any other game, likewise a rohirrim style ranger with a rhydan horse could be a cool way for players to become partners but if that’s the case the gm should probably not make the game overly city based.
After races come background which establish what culture you are and give you a free skill focus from the list of focuses appropriate to the culture as well as a free language or two.
And we at last come to classes. There are three: the adept, expert and warrior (say it with me people: fighter, mage, thief), but don’t let that fool you there is a ton of customization one can do with these classes, from taking some magic as a warrior to become a spellblade style demonslayer, to various social and ranger style abilities, to building up your adept as a monk who uses meditative magics for martial arts. The classes go from 1-20 with pretty much every other level giving new talents (essentially feats that can be taken multiple times for better rewards), along with bonuses to specific stunts and inherent armour bonuses as you level up. Pretty much any class you’re familiar with or want to play can be built using these three classes with the right focuses and talents.
Equipment is relatively straight forward. Weapons are generalized by weapon group (such as axes, light blades, lances and bows) with generic examples made for the sake of convenience (axes for example have starts for standard, throwing and two handed axes, rather than making a list of a dozen different axes). Armor goes from 1-3 and has an armor penalty equal to damage reduction -1. Shields give a bonus on the defend. A heroes’ starting equipment is any defensive gear they’re trained in and 1 weapon for adepts, 2 for experts and 3 for warriors. Since dungeon crawling murder hobos aren’t the focus of this game an exact economy isn’t all that necessary and one generally assumes characters would have practical toolkits for skills they have focuses in.
From here we go to roleplaying traits: Calling, Destiny and Fate. Calling is your characters general sense of purpose with examples ranging from things such as Justice, True Love, Atonement, Mastery of the Martial Arts to Inner Peace. You gain conviction anytime you pursue your calling. Next up is Destiny and Fate which are basically your virtue and vice respectively and you gain conviction from pursuing either one. The list for these is quite long so you have plenty of options for what you want your character at their best and worst to be.
Then there is corruption, basically the dark side mechanic of blue rose. However what’s nice about it is that it only applies in situations where magic is involved. When you use magic in a notably malevolent way (less fireblasts at bandits more flesh warping without informed consent or stealing memories through mind reading) you make a roll to avoid gaining corruption points, likewise commiting wicked cruel or evil acts also requires a corruption roll **only** when they are in an area blighted by dark magic or are carrying a corrupted magical item. This adds an almost ravenloft like atmospheric bent to the forces of the enemy. They go to fight some demons but they suddenly need to watch their behaviour and be suspicious of any in the area not meeting high moral standards, which may lead to paranoid attacks against the innocent, which leads to further corruption. Meanwhile the dark gods are laughing. Artifacts likewise have a One Ring effect where the longer you carry them the more corrupt you find yourself becoming.
And Corruption is nothing to sneeze at: each point is a penalty to both constitution and willpower as it leaves you fatigued, paranoid, sickly and mistrustful. They need to make rolls not to regain conviction by following their fate (read: being an asshole) and if the penalties drop to -5 it will kill you and bring you back as a malevolent spirit. Getting rid of corruption requires you to gain conviction by following your destiny (read: being good) and committing 10 points of that conviction to removing each point. Of course if the right path seems to hard and those penalties are making you wince you could always embrace your corruption. When you do you no longer have penalties, sure you can’t regain conviction from your destiny or receive healing from the uncorrupted but you can substitute your corruption score for your magical ability, meaning that corrupt sorcerers are generally badasses, who also get access to all the cool powers like raising the undead, mind control and crushing hearts and while you can’t gain corruption from being a dick anymore you can raise it like any other ability score. And when you die you raise as a more powerful spectre, a lich or a motherfreaking Vampire.
And through you it will wield a power to great and terrible to comprehend.
Finally on Character Creation we have relationships. This is your relationship to a person or organization of varying degree of intensity (rated 1-5). These can be positive (friend, lover, blood brother, dead parent who you promised to avenge, the knightly order you’re apart of) or negative (mortal enemies who burned your home, killed your family and cheated you out of the prize chicken competition). When the relationship is involved you gain additional stunt points on any stunt equal to the relationship intensity, you also gin access to two of the best stunts ever: ‘As you wish’ and ‘Prepare to die’. You start off with two relationships one with 1 intensity and one with 2 intensity.
From here the game goes on to detail various focuses and talents you can take.
Focuses are basically just your skills: weapon groups, self discipline, various magical specializations, deception, romance, natural lore, drinking, smithing, the works. There are actually quite alot of skill focuses but it’s pretty easy to figure out what a given character would specialize in.
Talents are what really define your character. They are basically various class abilities and unique skills that will define your character, from magical powers to having connections, magic item crafting to weapon specializations, performance to holy light, oratory to thievery. Each one comes in three levels you you may generalize taking the novice level in several talents or specialize in order to master fewer talents for greater reward. Alot of them are quite fun with cool bonuses and effects, giving a large degree of definition to basic classes.
And if that weren't enough you also get a class specialization with a unique talent that you gain more ranks in as you level up, these cover things like assassin, duellist, hunter, sacred warrior, shapeshifter, spirit dancer, pirate, noble and martial artist. These are actually really cool and provide further definition and ability to the characters, I particularly like how it says that while you gain your specialization at level 4, the gm may state you need to find a teacher, manual or applicable quest to learn your specialization. It adds a level of depth that makes the character progression feel less artificial.
Magic. That’s what this chapter covers. And boy was I scared of this one. Magic in true20’s blue rose was this interesting art form. It didn’t have mana or spells per day, instead you had a number of schools of magic (animism, meditative, elemental shaping, healing, psychic and visionary) and a number of powers tied to each school. Each power was flexible, for example fire shaping let you ignite and increase fire as well as create light, manipulate objects had a huge amount of creativity and you could even wield weapons other abilities let you read an objects past, create psychic shields and empower weapons with magic. None of this was limited, if you could do it, it was as easy as a skill, the abilities were apart of your character, you couldn’t run out of magic and suddenly be a dude with a stick. The limiter was fatigue, when you used some of the more direct and combat based powers you would roll against a fatigue test and if you failed you suffered fatigue levels which gave a dice penalty and slowed movement until you eventually passed out.
Fantasy AGE on the other hand had a mana based spell system where all of the talents had highly specific combat based effects such as firebolt, wind blast and water wall, abilities that were purely based around combat 9/10 times and didn’t really feel integral to the setting. You were a magic cannon. That’s it.
Well fortunately Blue Rose has converted over it’s previous magic system to age and it is wonderful, the abilities are flexible and can be creatively used, are integrated into the setting and don’t presume that npc’s have access to abilities that the player’s don’t such as identifying magic items or summoning. There are rules for all of these.
While I was disappointed to find the ritual magic rules didn’t make it over it wasn’t a big deal as the magic was plenty flexible and powerful on it’s own and ritual magic’s greatest use (summoning elementals and darkfiends) was still present as a normal ability.
Overall the alternate magic system alone is a good reason to get this book for use in other AGE products. it’s probably on of my favourite magic systems in any rpg: flexible, well defined, evocative, able to be used at will and not gamebreakingly overpowered.
Players Section 2: Setting
These chapters cover the setting of blue rose and boy is it well done.
Chapter 5 covers the mythology and history of the setting. From the time where the gods of nature created the world, to when one of them went a little loopy and accidentlied 7 gods of shadow to the response of the others who created 7 gods of virtue and made the spirits of the world take mortal form to protect them, to the time of the sorcerer kings who basically created a magitech utopia before going nuts, turning evil and becoming liches. Then they went to war with each other, unleashed hordes of demons, made the nightfolk and corrupted tons of cretures into monsters, levelled a few countries into barren monster infested wastelands and exterminated the elves of this setting. What a bunch of dicks.
To make a long story short they either killed each other or were killed in a revolution made by the combined efforts of the various races with the help of a new player on the field called the golden hart, basically a demigod of good... who was also a deer (this character got alot of flak in the previous version as a deus ex machina for the setting, I honestly don’t know why, he’s barely ever around, vanishes otherwise and is better behaved than alot of old powerful creatures, I mean elminster and gandalf were way worse than this, and the average good dragon in D&D is more capable of being a deus ex machina). One Lich got missed for awhile but life went on.
After the war the kingdom of aldis was formed which is the assumed location the game is centered around, basically a liberal meritocracy. If you ever wanted to know what a lawful good setting would look like, this is basically it. Nobles are based on qualification, magic allows for decent health care and it’s explicitly stated the printing press is a thing, so the setting is at about 17th century level technology... with a bit of a throwback to the medieval in some respects as reliance on magic tends to stifle the need for some forms of development. The Country’s electoral method basically has the golden hart show up and pick someone (sometimes though not always the previous monarch’s heir) the day after the last monarch resigns or dies. The nobles by contrast are chosen with the aid of a mystical item given by the rhydan, which detects the presence of corruption, competence and the desire to be useful to the land, however it’s explicitly stated that it only works once and nothing stops nobles from becoming corrupt after they’re given their position, even the monarch isn’t immune as two of the previous ones have lost their marbles after ruling competently for a time, and the current queen was betrayed by the previous prince to the lich king.
Speaking of whom the last lich king who was around in the previous edition is dead now, after teaming up with the traitor prince. I was nervous at this as he made for a great sauron like villain in the last version. However it’s stated that all of his 7 chief lieutenants survived and are all fighting eachother but are more than happy to try and conquer aldis by force if they get a chance. This may actually work out better, as they may lack the menace of the lich king but there are more of them, each quite powerful and well established with dark armies, but unlike the lich king they are enemies the players can reasonably fight as opposed to the nigh unkillable lich king who was mostly just a background threat.
Chapter 6 goes on to detail Aldis in various ways, from the societal to the geographical but it avoids going into overly deep trivia that would just become fluff and details a number of interesting npc’s and organizations the pc’s might belong to. It’s actually quite engaging as it manages to set the atmosphere well and would make it easy to run a multitude of campaign styles. It makes it clear that Aldis is a good place, somewhere worth fighting for, also a place with a lot of problems, from invasions from surrounding countries to demons spilling out of long closed gates, corrupted artifacts surfacing around some poor bastard who doesn’t know how dangerous it is, psychic crime syndicates, pirates, demon haunted islands, bandits, corrupt nobleman abusing power, ancient monster of the shadow wars, vampires. It addresses all of these threats and more and it really makes you feel that any given area could be rife with adventure, and more importantly it would be adventure that would feel rewarding.
The game makes a big deal about immersing your players, getting them to connect personally to npc’s and the groups they’re apart of. It discourages being a combat monkey murder hobo, instead trying to make you really feel like a hero in this land. The game leans far more heavily towards playing Aragorn or the Dread Pirate Roberts over Conan and tries to make that feel like the proper playstyle. Far less gritty ‘game of thrones-esque’ realism and far more the narrative heroism of lord of the rings or the princess bride, which are probably the best comparisons you can make to players who want to understand the setting and are unfamiliar with the authors this work is based on.
Chapter 7 is basically just Chapter 6 but smaller for the surrounding countries, their history and politics and how they view and treat the kingdom of Aldis.
Jarzon is a theocracy that comes down hard on corruption and sorcery and is willing to go further in order to root it out, becoming rather oppressive in their methods and society, you know the drill: patriarchy, intolerance for other races, negative views on magic but not exactly evil. They’re the well intentioned but misguided extremist. Which is somewhat justifiable as they haven’t had nearly the easy time that aldis has, their sorcerer kings didn’t go down easy and they are bordered by a haunted swamp on one side and a blasted monster infested wasteland on another. It makes sense they’d be more xenophobic and have firmer stances against magic particularly considering their theocracy was what saved them. Jarzon get’s the most attention of any other country as it tends to have the most mixed and prevalent interaction with Aldis.
Other countries include Kern where the aforementioned 7 evil kings fight for power, Rezea which is made of nomadic plainsmen, the rainforest kingdom of wyss, the tropical matriarchy of Lar’tya, the pirate isles (guess what’s there), and the shadow barrens (see monster infested wastelands above)
The Narrator’s section needs less explanation so I'll cover it more broadly
Chapter 8 covers the narrator’s job, fairly self explanatory for an experienced gm but it has some good advice setting up adventures and managing things like intrigue and romance and on dealing with problem players.
Chapter 9 Covers playing the setting and gives advice for themes of high and dark fantasy (yes you can play this game in a gritty way it just isn’t normally aimed for this), horror games (i’ve already mentioned the ravenloft like effect of corruption, and i’ve heard doing a crossover with ravenloft is doable for this game, and with the rather impressive monster list a horror game is definitely possible if one chooses to go there) swashbuckling adventure (which seems to very much fit the themes of this game) and high romance (for your more roleplaying and feelings over combat style game)
It also addresses alternate settings for blue rose, which I have to admit was the last thing I would have expected from a setting book but this one goes all out, it has science fantasy, post apocalyptic mars frontier, narnia style coming of age fantasy, time travel and even a rather hilarious premise of the pc’s being wedding planners (an idea so outrageous that I have to try it sometime just to see what happens).
Chapter 10 is mostly about rules arbitration and handling ability tests, whether to favour the rules, the players or the story, considerations in combat (like cover or obscured vision), hazards and traps and how to do npc personalities on the fly
Chapter 11 is about rewards. Since hard cash isn’t really a thing in this game. It covers things like gaining levels and exp, honorifics (such as demon slayer, protected by destiny or famed artist) that players can pick up and give small infrequent bonuses, mostly social, various titles and noble recognition, memberships and ranks within various organizations, companions (like bodyguards, squires or lovers) and of course special equipment.
Equipment rewards in this game comes in both masterwork and magical form. It has rules for different qualities that an item can possess and the bonuses it gives (such as durable, well crafted and deadly) as well as how hard such things are to make. Magical items come in 3 forms generally: elixers (magical potions that give temporary buffs), arcane stones (simple wonderous items mostly with various useful qualities) and magic weapons (which can harm spirits and other such creatures, it also lists the cryston which is basically a magical crystal phaser wand that’s set to stun instead of kill)
Chapter 12 is the final chapter and it lists (what else) adversaries. The game lists a number of different kinds of enemy and includes rules for buffing them up accordingly from members of the classes (which given their flexibilty covers alot of ground with minor tweaking), various animals; magical, intelligent and otherwise (including various familiar options including classics like winged cat and tiny drake), nature spirits, elementals and the faeries (with the lovely statement that in corrupt areas the spirits themselves become corrupt... fun!), shadowspawned monsters (basically your gnolls, harpys, betentacled horrors, ogres, naga and so on), a variety of undead from various ghosts, zombies, ghouls, liches and vampires, Darkfiends (basically demons, they come in 4 basic varieties and get modified depending on which sin they embody) and finally a list of additional qualities you can mod monsters with such as aquatic, magical gaze, regenerative, vulnerability and winged. All in all it’s got a great list of creatures many of which would seem familiar enough to those who’ve played D&D but maintain enough distance to be interesting.
The game closes out with a sample adventure that’s pretty good to start your game off with. I won’t spoil it but I may run it depending on what kinds of characters my players create.
In the back is an appendix of useful notes worth printing: a stunts reference sheet, a list of combat actions quick reference cards for npc’s and a pretty (if somewhat ink demanding) character sheet.
This is a wonderful game with vast potential that gives players a great deal of freedom to develop and use their characters in a setting where your connection to it matters.
It’s optimistic, lighter shade of grey approach to the setting is a breath of fresh air.
The system is solid and simple, able to be learned and used quickly and mastered within a session or two.
The stunts system keeps players on their toes and makes them look forward to rolling.
This is a great book and an easy 5/5 for me. I look forward to playing it, I look forward to running it and I hope to see more of this setting in future Green Ronin works.
My only regret is I do not yet own a hardcover copy of this book
Get this game if you want:
-A good fantasy game that creates a more immersive setting than the standard fare
-To see the AGE rules at their best and perhaps use them for another work
-a game that favours investment from the players and heroic adventure
-representation of LGBTQ characters as a common thing in an rpg
- to basically be playing the princess bride meets lord of the rings