Reviews: Blue Rose

Blue Rose - 2nd Edition

So, it's been officially released in digital format after 2 long years in development. I'll begin this review by saying I backed 2nd Ed on Kickstarter without knowing a thing about the True 20 game. As a fan of the Heralds of Valdemar series of books and a member of the LGBT community, this game's setting seemed to appeal to both my love of positive fantasy worlds and a game that made space for people like me in its lore. So, how did 2nd Ed turn out?

— The Setting — One of the biggest complaint people had about Blue Rose was that it was a Mary Sue Topia. Things are less rosy in Aldea than they were in 1st ed, but you have to look for the cracks in this one. While 1st ed's Aldis was almost a paradise, there was always the looming threat of Jarek the Lich King as a big bad and Lord Sayvin as the enemy within, both tools for the Dungeon Master to use. Now Jarek is dead and Sayvin in hiding after making a bid for the crown. This would make the whole game moot, right? Both big bads are gone.

Well, now Jarek's underlings run Kern, working to undermine Aldis out of self-defense. Refugees are streaming south into Aldis from their lands. The Golden Hart may be dead. Queen Jaellin married a Kernish resistance fighter and continues to allow the study of sorcery and the Nobles are unsettled by this. A GM that relies on monster-of-the-week romps may be challenged with this setting. A GM who can effectively run an entire session of interaction with NP Cs will probably get more out of the setting. The Devs did their part and introduced a few new nations and ideas for groups (travelling wedding planners, people lost from our world a la Narnia, etc).

— Mechanics — Here's where it really changed. Game now uses Fantasy AGE system instead of True 20. AGE requires all rolls be made with 3 D6, plus/minus a modifier. If you need to see it in action, I'd encourage you to look at the Titansgrave series on YouTube.

Players can draw on relationships with other players or NP Cs, friend or foe, to further modify their rolls.

Players crit by rolling doubles, generating that many stunt points and spending them from a list of generic or (in some cases) class-specific special abilities. You can do anything from deal extra damage in combat or force an opponent to move position, to enraging an NPC into silence or swaying any passersby to your point of view in a conversation.

Items are a part of the system, but money is mentioned in passing and there's only a small armory section. This is not a system built for a group looking to amass gold and trinkets. The game assumes players will serve the Queen as Envoys, and the Envoys are given free pick of whatever they need from the armory for their mission.

More than most games, this is a system that requires a flexible GM that knows their group. If your team is a bunch of murder-hobos, pass on this one. If your team is more inclined to stage grand dramas of intrigue and love, grab this game immediately.
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