If your favorite fantasy authors include the likes of Diane Duane, Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce, Elizabeth Moon, Anne Bishop, or Jacqueline Carey, the return of Green Ronin’s Blue Rose RPG is something to get excited about. Unlike most fantasy RPGs that take their cues from Tolkien, Eddings, Jordan, and Martin, Blue Rose looks to works Green Ronin calls romantic fantasy for inspiration. Romantic fantasy is often as much about relationships and building communities and families as it is about swashbuckling adventure and exotic locales. For all that, it’s still fantasy, so spells will fly and swords will clash, evil will be faced and friendship tested.
The new Blue Rose is based on the AGE system, so if you’ve played the Dragon Age table-top RPG, Wil Wheaton’s Titan’s Grave, or the Fantasy AGE RPG, a lot of the mechanics will look familiar to you. Even if you haven’t played any of those games, there’s a lot in Blue Rose that will be familiar to anyone who’s played pretty much any RPG before. There’s a standard mechanic (roll three six-sided dice, add bonuses and compare to a target number) that handles nearly any situation your characters might find themselves in, from combat to exploration to social interaction. Those rolls are adjusted based on numerical statistics that define your character’s talents and training. There are lists of skills and spells to pick from, a range of races your character can be, and three broad classes (spell-casting Adepts, clever and skillful Experts, and deadly Warriors).
Blue Rose also has a few neat mechanics that set it apart. First, like all games using the AGE system, one of the three dice you roll is a stunt die. If you roll doubles and succeed on your roll, you generate stunt points that you can spend on special maneuvers, neat effects, or additional bonuses. Unlike other AGE games, however, Blue Rose includes a relationship mechanic. Relationships are defined in two ways. First is the Bond, a simple phrase that describes the relationship and who it’s with. Examples include, “We are brothers in battle; I am closer to them than my own kin,” or “I will bathe in their heart’s blood for the pain they have caused me.” As you can see, a relationship can be based on any strong emotional tie: love, desire, jealousy, or even hate. If an action involves your relationship in any way, you can use its Intensity for additional stunt points. Relationships change and grow organically through play, and can both transform in Bond (as they say, there’s a thin line between love and hate) and gain or lose Intensity.
Characters are also defined by their Calling, “life-long drives and motivations.” Each character also has a Destiny (the acme of their potential) and a Fate (the nadir of their worst self). These can be generated using tarot cards and are used to earn Conviction which can be spent to overcome a bad roll of the dice, give you extra actions, or even save a character from impending death.
Conviction can also be spent to counteract Corruption. Not all magic (called Arcana) is good in Blue Rose. Certain sorceries are inherently evil, and invoking them carries the risk of becoming tainted with Corruption. Corruption can befall any characters who commit vile acts like murder or betrayal. Corruption eats at a character’s health and willpower and can, over time, completely consume a character, driving them mad or killing them and turning them into an undead monster.
The Blue Rose book clocks in at nearly 400 pages, and slightly more than a quarter of that is rules. The rest describes the world of Aldea, its nations and deities and inhabitants (like the psychic animals known as Rhydan who can be PCs), some advice for running the game, and an example adventure. The book is beautifully illustrated, sporting the gorgeous work of Stephanie Law on the cover as well as the opening of each section.
Blue Rose is a must-have for those who enjoyed the previous True20 edition, fans of Valdemar or Terre d’Ange, or anyone who wants more social interaction at the heart of their RPGs. You can find a copy at your local Dragons Lair Comics & Fantasy® today.