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Tabletop Game: Blue Rose

Blue Rose is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game published by Green Ronin in 2004. Its innovative mechanics, based on a revised version of the d20 System, formed the basis of Green Ronin's generic True20 system.

Blue Rose aims to emulate the genre of fiction the game's writers describe as "romantic fantasy" — that is, Feminist Fantasy of the sort published by authors like Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce and Diane Duane. The setting is the world of Aldea, which superficially resembles a Medieval European Fantasy setting but is actually post-apocalyptic, the world having been devastated by wars between rival sorcerer-kings a few centuries back. Player characters are usually agents of Queen Jaellin of The Kingdom of Aldis, defending queen and country against threats both internal and external.

This game provides examples of:

  • After the End: Aldea only looks like a medieval fantasy world; it's actually very much post-apocalyptic.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Generally averted in Aldis — because despite government officials being called nobles, it's actually a meritocracy, not a hereditary aristocracy.
  • Big Bad: Jarek, the Lich King of Kern.
  • Big Good: Queen Jaellin of Aldis.
  • Baleful Polymorph: A common form of Black Magic, known as Flesh Shaping. Voluntary Shapeshifting exists but is much more difficult.
  • Black and White Morality: The setting explicitly defines what is right and wrong, but...
  • Black Magic: Most forms of Ritual Magic, as well as ordinary Inherent Gift magic if it's used in certain unethical ways. The in-universe term for Black Magic is "sorcery."
  • Bond Creatures: Any rhydan — intelligent, telepathic animals — can form this kind of psychic bond with a compatible human. (It's not explained why this happens, or why it's only with humans.)
    • As the rhydan species are playable races, you can also play a rhydan PC who has a human Bond Creature.
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: Very common in Jarzon for terrible crimes (by their standards), such as, for instance, being gay.
    • Mostly averted in Aldis, but incorrigibly violent criminals can volunteer for brainwashing as an alternative to being locked up.
  • Burn the Witch!: The fate of any magic-user who's not a priest in the Theocracy of Jarzon.
  • A Boy and His X: Any rhy-bonded character.
  • Character Alignment: Light, Shadow, or Twilight.
  • Charm Person
  • Coming-Out Story: The sample adventure contained in the core rulebook involves helping a confused young gay teenager from a rural community sort out his feelings (and his uncontrolled magic).
  • Cool Horse: Rhy-horses.
  • The Corruption: An actual game mechanic — embracing Corruption gets you phenomenally increased magical abilities, at the low, low cost of turning you evil.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Church of Pure Light basically combines the worst features of the medieval Catholic Church, Protestant Puritanism, and just a hint of fundamentalist Wahhabi Islam and theocratic Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: The Old Kingdom was a highly advanced Magitek civilization of this sort, although it didn't stay so utopian.
  • The Dark Arts: Sorcery in Aldis; all forms of magic unless practiced by a licensed priest of the Church of Pure Light in Jarzon.
    • The restrictions on sorcery have been relaxed in Aldis under the current monarch. (Specifically, you still can't PRACTICE sorcery, but it's no longer illegal to study the theories behind sorcery.) The ramifications are yet to be felt.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Vata'sha and Night People are dark-skinned results of Sorcerer King experiments, but they're no more or less evil than humans. (Most shadowspawn, however, really are naturally evil.)
  • The Dark Side: Sorcery (that is, evil magic) works like this.
  • Defector from Decadence: Aldis gets a lot of defectors from Jarzon and Kern.
  • Detect Evil: The nobles who govern Aldis all have to pass the test of the Blue Rose Scepter, an artifact designed to screen out anyone except the pure of heart.
  • Elemental Powers: Earth Shaping, Fire Shaping, Water Shaping, Wind Shaping, Cold Shaping or Plant Shaping.
  • The Empath: Heart Reading is another standard power. (Heart Shaping, on the other hand, is...widely frowned upon.)
  • The Empire: The utopian Old Kingdom was taken over by the sorceress Delsha Artanis, forming the Empire of Thorns.
  • Evil Chancellor: Lord Sayvin of Aldis, whom everyone expected to be chosen as the next king; he's not actually evil yet, but he's increasingly put out about the whole thing.
  • Evil Overlord:
    • Jarek, the Lich King of Kern.
    • Historically, there's also all the other sorcerer-kings, especially Delsha Artanis, whose coup d'etat ended the utopian Old Kingdom.
  • Exotic Extended Marriage: The game has "star marriages", where all the participants are considered to be the spouses of all the other participants, even if they are not sexually involved with each other. They are quite common in the islands, uncommon in Aldis and almost unheard of elsewhere.
  • Familiar: Anyone with magic talent can have one.
  • Fantastic Racism: Lots of it to go around, mostly aimed at Night People.
  • Fantasy Contraception: Exists and is widely used in Aldis according to Word of God.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • The Roamers are obviously the Romani.
    • Rezeans are Mongols with a side of Plains Indians.
    • The Trebutane appear to be some form of Spiritual Antithesis to the Amish.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: No actual guns, but there are crystons, which are basically an exact Magitek equivalent of flintlock pistols. Only less likely to blow up in your hand.
  • Fantasy Pantheon
  • Feminist Fantasy
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: The system divides characters into Warriors, Adepts, and Experts (although cross-classing is easy and encouraged).
  • Fish People: Or maybe more Our Mermaids Are Different, since the Sea Folk are much less repulsive than your average Fish Person. They've got legs, but they have webbed hands and feet, blue-green skin, and can drink saltwater and hold their breath for an hour or more. They can also live on land (though they need more water than humans, so they're usually found on the coasts) and interbreed with humans. They're a playable race.
  • Fortune Teller: The Roamers specialize in this.
  • The Four Gods: There's four original creators, the Primordials. They don't exactly correspond to the Chinese Four Gods but they're similar in some respects, for instance each being associated with one of the seasons.
  • Functional Magic: Mostly of the Inherent Gift type; ritual-based Rule Magic exists but is usually (though not always) evil.
  • Gay Aesop: The sourcebooks make it quite clear that Aldis' acceptance of love between any two (or more) consenting adults is to be considered a Good Thing in the game's Black and White Morality.
  • Giant Flyer: Gryphons and wyverns.
  • Green Aesop: Respect for nature is similarly a Good Thing.
  • Happy Fun Ball: There are random gewgaws from the Old Kingdom scattered around Aldis, just waiting to be snatched up by a curious city child or innocent farm girl. Some of them are in fact items of arcane power. Occasionally they'll be perfectly safe, even extremely helpful. Other times...
  • Has Two Mommies: Entirely unremarkable in Aldis.
  • Healing Hands: A common power.
  • Hell Hound: Shadow Mastiffs.
  • The High Queen: Jaellin.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Unicorns, as well as the Golden Hart.
  • Intellectual Animal: Rhydan are intelligent, telepathic animals; in Aldis they can even be citizens.
  • The Kingdom: Aldis.
  • Knight Templar: The Church of Pure Light.
    • A few Aldins can be like this too; one of the suggested campaign seeds involves an Aldin noble firebrand whipping up support for a preemptive invasion of Jarzon.
  • Light Is Not Good: The Church of the Pure Light is not evil per se, but they're a hotbed of misguided, bigoted Knights Templar.
  • The Lost Woods: The Pavin Weald.
  • Magic A Is Magic A
  • Magic Knight: The system makes this a very easy character build.
  • Magitek: The Old Kingdom was a heavily Magitek based society, and Aldis has recovered a lot of their techniques.
  • Matriarchy: The Matriarchy of Lar'tya, an archipelago south of the main continent. It's got a Fantastic Caste System to boot.
  • Medieval Stasis: Strongly averted. It's got the trappings of a medieval world, but Aldis actually has mundane technology at around the level of The Cavalier Years, and if you count magic and magical artifacts, in some ways it's as advanced as the modern world. Politically, the government is closer to a constitutional monarchy than a medieval one.
  • Mind Over Manners: Psychic ethics are a big deal in Aldis, where about one in ten people have some kind of psychic power. Reading emotions is okay, reading thoughts is very much not.
  • Modest Royalty: Aldin monarchs often come from humble backgrounds.
  • Mordor: Kern, the one remaining nation still ruled by a Sorcerous Overlord.
  • Nature Hero: Animists get a bunch of feats relating to interaction with animals and wilderness survival.
  • The Necrocracy: Kern.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Flesh-Shaping, which the Sorcerer-Kings used for genetic engineering is sorcery. The book mentions that it can be used for good purposes, but it's still inherently a sin against nature and causes The Corruption in its users.
  • No Woman's Land: Jarzon subscribes to a fairly misogynistic religion. Women are encouraged to stay barefoot and pregnant and are barred from most high-status careers, especially the priesthood.
  • Offered the Crown: A mysterious creature called the Golden Hart chooses the next Sovereign of Aldis.
  • Only the Pure of Heart: Only the pure of heart get to be nobles in Aldis (and there's a magical artifact that makes sure...though nothing stops them from turning evil after they've passed the test).
  • Our Demons Are Different: They're called "darkfiends", but otherwise they fit the Judeo-Christian ideal of utterly evil creatures with a variety of callings (the book explicitly says that a darkfiend turning good is a world-shaking event).
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Both wyverns and miniature "pocket dragons" are mentioned, but curiously, not actual full-sized dragons.
  • Our Elves Are Better: The vatazin, a super-magical race that was destroyed by genocide long before the game takes place. A small community survived, hiding in a mountain in the heart of the Shadow Barrens.
    • The closest thing to elves as a playable race are the vata'an, which are really more like half-elves — humans with vatazin ancestry; it crops up unpredictably as a recessive trait. They have white hair, and there's no mention of pointy ears.
    • There's also the vata'sha, which are more like half-Drow or Night Elves, having been the result of genetic experiments to create nocturnal vata'an. They're less accepted than their diurnal cousins.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: The Night People are actually a Servant Race genetically engineered by mad sorcerer-kings centuries ago. They're not actually Always Chaotic Evil, but being used as Mooks by a long series of Dark Lords tends to give people that impression.
  • Our Gryphons Are Different
  • Our Liches Are Different / Our Vampires Are Different: They're actually two different varieties of the same kind of undead; specifically, people who decided to embrace The Corruption and eventually died from it's overuse, with non-casters rising as vampires and mages rising as liches.
  • Panthera Awesome: Rhy-cats. (They don't correspond to any specific real-world big cat, but they're something like cougars, with coloration resembling domestic Siamese cats.)
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Averted (surprisingly, given the game's liberal stance). The Theocracy of Jarzon is a bigoted, sexist, homophobic society...but they're explicitly not evil so much as a bunch of misguided Well Intentioned Extremists who are still capable of doing a lot of good in the world despite their problems. Jarek the Lich King, on the other hand, mostly does not care about race or gender — he wants to oppress everybody pretty much equally. The only exception is that vata'an born in Kern are dead meat.
  • Polyamory: It's standard practice in certain coastal regions of Aldis, and considered very weird but not actually persecuted in the rest of the country. In Jarzon, of course, it's illegal.
  • Power Crystal: Shas crystals make for handy magical MacGuffins.
  • Power Incontinence: A problem for any PC with the Wild Talent feat.
  • Precursors: The vatazin, and the whole civilization of the Old Kingdom to some extent.
  • Psychic Powers: One of the main kinds of magic.
  • The Resenter: Lord Sayvin thought he was destined for the crown of Aldis, but the Hart had other ideas. Sayvin is not happy about that.
  • Ritual Magic: Often, but not always, Black Magic.
  • Royally Screwed Up: The entire governmental system of Aldis is designed around averting this.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: Ordinary, non-sentient wolves and horses exist, but all dolphins are rhydan.
  • Sapient Steed: Rhy-horses, and less commonly, unicorns and gryphons.
  • Serious Business: Just about everything, for the Trebutane. A sample adventure has the player character encountering two Trebutane men who are on the verge of a knife fight over whether wearing the colour red is respectful to their martyrs, and therefore mandatory, or disrespectful to their martyrs, and therefore forbidden.
  • Seven Deadly Sins / Seven Heavenly Virtues: The seven Exarchs of Shadow and their good-guy counterparts, the seven Gods of Light, are designed around these motifs.
  • Shining City: The city of Aldis.
  • Shipper on Deck: In Aldea, it's expected that everyone will eventually marry someone (or someones, as the case may be), so when two people meet up and seem like they like each other, everyone around them starts matchmaking.
  • Shoulder-Sized Dragon: Drakes or "pocket dragons," about a foot in length, one of the less common species of rhydan.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The Old Kingdom.
  • Something about a Rose
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Beast Speech is a standard Psychic Power.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Embracing Corruption, as mentioned above.
  • Swamps Are Evil: The Veran Marsh, the border between Aldis and Jarzon. There's only FOUR known safe roads through it; any other path generally leads to a horrifying death. And whatever you do, do NOT try to use shaping magic there to create your own path.
  • The Silence
  • Tarot Motifs: Roamer culture is rather obsessed with Tarot cards (they call them "The Royal Road").
  • Unicorn: They're rare and fairly reclusive, but they exist. They don't care about physical virginity, but they will generally associate Only With The Pure Of Heart.
  • Unicorns Are Sacred: They're the holiest of rhydan, and murdering one is one of the most heinous sins possible.
  • Unusual Euphemism
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Jarzon as a whole. It's a far harsher land than Aldis, and the Church of the Pure Light was originally an underground religion of resistance that formed around the sacred hearth-fires. Now, however, the Church's suspicion of sorcery has extended to all arcana not practiced by their clergy (though healers get a pass), and the importance of the hearth-fire (which symbolizes family and heterosexual love) has led to a rather ugly prejudice against homosexuality.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: The game encourages you to avert this trope with a lot of the various antagonists. Darkfiends and most Shadowspawn are fair game for swording first and asking questions later but other kinds of enemies are often merely tragically misguided, victims of circumstance, or Punch Clock Villains and really don't deserve to die for their mistakes.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Queen Jaellin is actually rather shy and bookish, but she's determined to be a good queen, and if that means spending her time at boring political and social functions, so be it.

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