Rhydan Roundtable: Hunter and Prey

This Ronin Rhydan Roundtable is inspired by a question from a Blue Rose fan regarding the events of the adventure “The Case of the Rhydan Swine” from the Aldis sourcebook. “If any animal in the world could potentially awaken as rhydan, how can people in Aldis eat animals?”

Awakened Rhydan predator animals.

Not to be flip about it, but the answer is “carefully.” The existence of rhydan on Aldea (the world of Blue Rose) does mean quite a number of people are vegetarians, preferring not to eat animal flesh at all, and some are even vegans who do not consume any animal products. However, a great many people, even in Aldis, are still omnivores and do consume both domestic and game animals.

It is notable that, while it is theoretically possible for almost any animal to awaken as rhydan, that rhydan are quite rare to begin with. What’s more, the most widely known types of rhydan (bears, cats, dolphins, and wolves) are carnivores or omnivores, apart from rhy-horses, which are the most widely known type of herbivore rhydan. Other rhydan are even rarer, although they do show up in Blue Rose adventures and stories, simply because stories often focus on rarities or unusual characters.

In particular, domesticated animals almost never awaken as rhydan. They are the rarest of all. It is arguable whether or not the horse herds of Rezean count as “domesticated” since one could argue they domesticated the two-legged members of their herds rather than the other way around! Still, farm animals and pets awakening is largely the stuff of tall tales on Aldea. It isn’t impossible, but it is very unusual. That’s why it comes as a bit of shock in the Aldis adventure.

Since rhydan all have an innate ability to communicate psychically, those who raise animals do stay aware in case any of them should start “talking” to them! In fact, chances are Aldean farmers probably talk to their livestock even more than farmers in our world, just to see if any of them should talk back. Otherwise, it’s much like the situation of Wolf and Mandu on Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: If you don’t want to get eaten, you had better speak up!

Likewise, many rhydan are carnivores—they have to eat other animals. Fortunately, as the upcoming Touching the Wild sourcebook details, rhydan have an innate ability to recognize on sight if another creature is rhydan, so predatory rhydan never accidentally prey on other rhydan, and rhydan prey animals have nothing to fear from their predatory “cousins,” just from ordinary predatory animals. Because of this, rhydan awakening from traditional prey species often seek out the company of two-legged folk, because it is safer than life in the wild.

Predatory rhydan have an easier time surviving on their own. People in rural and wilderness communities often rely on the aid of friendly rhydan as hunting companions. One advantage the Forest Folk of the Pavin Weald gain from their wolf-friends are fellow hunters who know exactly which prey are completely safe to cull from the forest. A rhydan predator corrupted by Shadow may eventually prey on fellow rhydan, or humanoids, which is a terrible combination of murder and “cannibalism” (of a sort) that horrifies all decent folk.

We look forward to detailing more about rhydan awakenings, life-experiences, and culture in the upcoming Touching the Wild sourcebook for Blue Rose.

Living in Dev-Time

Dev-Time is a lot like Time Travel

Dev-Time is a lot like Time Travel!

“When is that book going to be done? When?”

It can be strange living in what I call “dev-time” (or “development time”) because eagerly-awaited projects are often not just yesterday’s news for me as a writer but most likely last year’s news at times. The development cycle of a book, much less an entire game, is a fairly long one, and getting all of the words written is among the very first steps. Typically, I may get to see a project at the concept stage, getting in on discussion of whether or not to do it at all, along with what it might look like, contain, and so forth. More often, I get involved at or after the outline stage, when the overall concept of the book is pretty well established, and the developer is looking for someone to write stuff. That’s me.

Now, these days, I don’t write too many entire books for RPG publishers, including Green Ronin. While product development time for a book is long, actual writing time is relatively short. So unless I’m publishing a book myself (as I do with Icons Superpowered Roleplaying) and can take 4 to 6 months to write it all, or I’m working with an extended publisher timeline that allows me to write sixty to eighty thousand words or more, chances are I’m only writing a part of a book, a chapter or two (maybe three). Solo projects tend to be short: adventures, Patreon write-ups, articles, and the like, and many of those also get incorporated into larger books or collections.

I get my assignment, write it, and (ideally) hand it off at the appointed deadline. There’s feedback, development, revisions, new drafts, and then I hand over a final version of the text. Typically, that’s where my involvement ends. Sure, an editor might have the occasional “what were you thinking here?” question (tinged with varying degrees of frustration) or an art director might need notes or “does it look like this?” confirmation but, for the most part, my text sails off to those other shores to continue the rest of its journey towards becoming a finished book without me. That can sometimes be a long journey, even under the best of conditions. When conditions look like they have over the past year or so … even longer.

Thus the eagerly-awaited book someone is looking forward to is already in my rear-view mirror, often several exits back behind other recent projects I have handed off, some of which the public hasn’t even heard about yet. There’s a running joke in the freelance business that sometimes the only answer to a polite inquiry of “So what are you working on these days?” is “Upholding my non-disclosure agreement.” Dev-time is such that many projects aren’t even announced publicly at the time when people are writing them, although there may be rumors (the tabletop game industry being quite small and tight-knit).

While I have moved-on to other projects, the words I’ve already written are sailing through development, editing, layout, illustration, and proofreading. If they’re destined to see print, there will also be preflight checks, print buying and quotes, print proofs, and more before the book is finally handed-off to the printer. Even then, there’s printing, binding, shipping, warehousing, and distribution before it finds its way to a game store or gets shipped off to the buyer. In every one of those steps there is both margin for error and the potential for things to go wrong. I mentioned before about “ideally” handing off my text by the agreed-upon deadline. I pride myself on getting my work in on time, but life happens. This past summer, I took a fall off my bicycle and fractured my hip. While my recuperation didn’t overly impact my ability to work, allowances still needed to be made. Multiply that times all of the people who touch a project before it sees print and you magnify those allowances accordingly. People get injured, sick, divorced, married, pregnant, quit or take on new jobs, lose loved ones, run into financial problems, and all of life’s other challenges, to say nothing of encountering global pandemics, political upheavals, and more—all in the same year!

So if anyone involved in the publishing process of a book or product ever looks vaguely bewildered concerning its eagerly-anticipated release, it is quite possible that they exist in “dev-time.” From their perspective, that project has been “done” for some time, and it’s not that they’re not eager to see the finished products (believe me, there are several of my projects I’m looking forward to actually holding in my hands), it’s just that they’ve had to move on to other things in the meanwhile. Patience and understanding that there is more going on behind the scenes than you know will always get you a kinder response.

Time Is Fleeting: Active Campaign Settings

Madness takes its toll … but before we launch into a chorus of “The Time Warp,” let’s talk about time as it applies to RPG campaign settings, in particular some of those published by Green Ronin.

Freedom City Second Edition!It begins a long while ago, the 1990s, to be specific. That was when I first began to experience the notion of an “activated” game setting. Shortly before I began freelancing for FASA Corporation, the publishers of BattleTech and Shadowrun made a point of making their respective gaming universes “active” ones, places where time passed. In the case of Shadowrun, the setting was 61 years in the future, and stayed that way as time went on. Time also marched on in BattleTech’s universe, although more prone to jumping ahead a generation or two after a couple of epic wars. Then came the multiversal campaign of Torg, with it’s “live” monthly newsletter updates of the Possibility Wars.

Many other RPGs adopted what came to be known as a “metaplot,” an advancing timeline where things happened in the setting whether you were actively playing in it or not. Sometimes, a setting would start out fairly static, as it was fleshed out and detailed, and would later be “activated” to launch a metaplot and moving timeline (as was the case later on with FASA’s fantasy RPG Earthdawn).

I worked on or with all of these settings in one form or another, so the notion of an activated campaign setting became pretty common for me. Along comes the d20 System, the Open Game License, and my career at Green Ronin Publishing. I was involved with two settings right out of the gate: the world of Aldea for Blue Rose and Freedom City (what would later become Earth-Prime) for Mutants & Masterminds. Both started off as static settings, “snapshots” of a moment in time of their particular worlds. Arguably, we “activated” Freedom City when Time of Crisis, its first full adventure, was published, but at the time the adventure was an “optional” event.

It was when the second edition of Mutants & Masterminds (and Freedom City) came along a couple of years later that things got more active. Given my prior experiences, it seemed like a fun idea to not only update the stats and expand on the world information in Freedom City, Second Edition, but also to have the same amount of time pass on Earth-Prime as had passed in our world. Things changed a bit: younger characters grew up, some graduated or moved on (Bowman joining the Freedom League, for example). It gave the setting a bit of life and animation.

Then, of course, it was a given. The same thing applied to Green Ronin’s Freeport setting, where prior adventures like the original trilogy were assumed to have happened in future source material, moving the timeline of the setting forward steadily. When we published a second (AGE System) edition of Blue Rose, we advanced the timeline there, too. Some things changed in the setting, most notably the fall of the Lich King Jarek and his replacement by the council of “regents” made up of his lieutenants, the Shadowed Seven.Freedom City Third Edition!

The funny thing about putting a fictional setting into motion is that you don’t always think that much about the long-view of things. Part of the reason why fictional properties like comic books tend to be a bit vague on the specifics of time is precisely because their stories and characters often last for decades. If you had told me back then that Freedom City and its characters would still be a going concern eighteen years later … well, that notion of having things happen in real time might have seemed less “fun.” We certainly wouldn’t have needed to retire or replace some characters from the original setting, or update others.

On the other hand, we would have also been denied some of the various events that changed their lives. The young members of the Atom Family grew to adulthood. Heroes like Johnny Rocket, originally the junior member of the Freedom League, became seasoned veterans. Johnny is now married and raising a daughter who’ll soon be ready for a super-powered career of her own!

So it’s probably no great surprise that when we began updating some of those forgotten characters from the earlier editions of Mutants & Masterminds products that readers would ask “But where are they now?” leading to the creation of companion pieces to our updates for the M&M Patreon that address just that question. Oftentimes, the answers are related to exactly why we didn’t include those characters in later setting updates: Because it was clear they would be retired, out of the costumed life, or just plain dead by now.

Nevertheless, those “Whatever Happened to…?” articles manage to be full of potential and interesting adventure hooks, drawing upon the idea that time has passed and things have changed for these characters. Long-time fans of the classic versions from a fifteen year-old sourcebook can speculate about what happened, while those new to Mutants & Masterminds and Earth-Prime get some story hooks rich in history and the kind of superhero legacy elements the setting was designed to support. That definitely adds some value to the updated game information we’re providing.

If you’re interested in seeing some of what we’re doing with these updated character write-ups, visit and support the Mutants & Masterminds Patreon. As we know, time is fleeting.

Mutants & Masterminds Patreon!

Rose Petals: A PDF Preview

Blue Rose Adventurer's Guide for 5th Edition While the technologies of portable document format (PDF) files and print on demand (POD) has allowed us to bring The Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide to you in spite of the current pandemic and limits on book printing and distribution, not having the book in stores does rather limit the ability to look through it when you’re weighing buying it. It’s certainly something I like to do when I’m considering a new book.

Fortunately, we can provide some options. Our partners at DriveThruRPG already offer a PDF preview function: You can look at the first fifteen pages of the book, and even read through the table of contents and The Introduction on the site to get a feel for the book. But we can do better than that. How about a “sampler” tour through the book with this PDF Preview?

The Power of Shadow

Chapter I delves into the power and dangers of Shadow on Aldea, as shown in this excerpt on the Shadow-Touched, the Corrupt, the Shadow-Taken, and the long road to redemption.

The Regions of Aldis

Chapter II is all about Aldis, the Sovereignty of the Blue Rose, and this excerpt looks at some of its key regions, including an overview of the great city of Aldis itself.

The Sovereign’s Finest

One of the central organizations of the Blue Rose setting is the Sovereign’s Finest, special envoys of the Crown, as detailed in this excerpt.

Serpent’s Haven

Deep within the Veran Marsh, the criminal stronghold of Serpent’s Haven features prominently in Joseph Carricker’s novel Shadowtide, and is detailed in this excerpt from Chapter II.

The Shadowed Seven

What is a fantasy world without monsters, much less a nation ruled by monsters? This excerpt from Chapter V looks at the Shadowed Seven, the so-called “regents” of Kern since the fall of the Lich-King at the hands of the Queen of Aldis.

Aldean Ancestries

We’ve already mentioned how The Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide handles ancestry a bit differently. This excerpt gives you a better look at that, along with the traits for human ancestry and including other ancestries on Aldea.

Spirit Dancers & Rose KnightsOne of the Sovereign's Finest

Spirit Dancers, who combine movement and physical mastery with spiritual insights, and the Knights of the Rose, the sworn defenders of the Sovereignty, are two important types of heroes in Blue Rose detailed by the sub-classes in this excerpt.

Backgrounds & The Reawakened

This part of Chapter X gives you a look at how various backgrounds are handled in The Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide as well as one of the new backgrounds: The Reawakened, for characters whose background is literally multiple lifetimes long!

The Occult & Telepathy

The Adventurer’s Guide focuses on using the 5e magic system for maximum compatibility, but we still give some things an important Blue Rose spin in this except with a look at the dangers of the Occult and the ability of telepathy possessed by various characters (including the rhydan and vata ancestries and those with the Telepathy feat).

The Fey

The untamed forces of nature on Aldea sometimes manifest as faerie beings, and this excerpt from Chapter XII introduces you to one of them, the Fey Noble.

A Wolfenmoot Gift

Wolfenmoot Web

Some time ago, Green Ronin staff were introduced to the wonderful notion of Wolfenoot, a holiday created by a boy in New Zealand as “a celebration of canines, kindness, and humans who embrace both.” We were so charmed by it, that we incorporated our own version into the world of Blue Rose, the holiday of Wolfenmoot, back in 2018. For what could be more Blue Rose than a holiday about kindness along with furry friends and family?

This past holiday season, I wrote “The Wolfenmoot Web,” a Blue Rose adventure focused on that holiday celebration, and a deadly threat that arises during it. It is an adventure for 5th level AGE System characters using the Blue Rose Romantic Fantasy Roleplaying game. Since we were also releasing the new Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide, in PDF and print-on-demand, “The Wolfenmoot Web” includes a conversion appendix with all of the 5e game information needed to play the adventure as well.

Best of all, “The Wolfenmoot Web” is available as a Pay What You Want release for the Adventures in Aldea line on DriveThruRPG. This type of dual-supported adventure, usable for two different game systems, is a bit of an experiment for us, so we’re eager to hear what you may think about it. Would you like to see more 5e conversions of Adventures in Aldea for use with the Adventurer’s Guide? Drop us a line at letsplay@greenronin.com and let us know!

Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide: Call It a Humble-BRAG

Blue Rose Adventurer’s GuideIt’s here! This week marks the release of the 5e-compatible Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide, or “BRAG” as we call it around the Green Ronin company Slack and e-mails. If you didn’t know that BRAG was coming, well, we need to network better, because we have talked about and anticipated it a lot:

An Added Release

Originally, we planned Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide as an electronic-only PDF release. This was in the midst of pandemic shutdowns when it was unclear what, if any, printing options would be available. As we got closer to release, it was clear that print-on-demand through our partners at DriveThruRPG remained quite stable and available, and the book is honestly too nice to deny an in-print option, so we took the additional time necessary to set BRAG up for print-on-demand sales (including ordering print proofs). I think you’ll agree that it was worth the effort and the wait!

 

So now you have the option of getting just the PDF edition of the Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide, a print copy, shipped directly to you, or both, so you can read and flip through the PDF while you’re waiting for your print copy to arrive (like I do).

The Night People in AldeaA Rose of a Different Color

So whether you are a longtime fan of Aldea, the world of Blue Rose, or entirely new to the setting, you might be wondering “Is the Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide a book meant for me?” Good question! Let’s look at the main audiences for the BRAG:

5e Players Interested in a New World

The Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide presents a complete overview of the Western Lands of the world of Aldea as a 5e fantasy setting. We focused on keeping BRAG highly compatible with the 5e core rules, so while you will find all-new ancestries in the book, and no native dwarves or elves, for example, you will find a setting that is easily used with the 5e core rulebooks. You’ve hopefully already heard about Aldea as an inclusive romantic fantasy setting with some different takes on the notion of fantasy roleplaying and settings, making it a great opportunity for 5e gamers looking for a change-of-pace or more inclusive setting for their games. Best of all, because planar travel was once a common element of ancient Aldea (and still exists, to a degree) you can make the world a place for plane-hopping adventurers to visit, or import your favorite elements and characters from other 5e settings.

Blue Rose Players Interested in 5eAn Adept and a Rhy-cat

Let’s be honest: When it comes to finding a game group, or getting a game group to try out a new campaign or setting, familiarity is important and, when it comes to familiarity, the 5e system is sovereign. Maybe the thing that was keeping you (or your game group) from trying Blue Rose was learning a different game system? Maybe you would have an easier time getting friends (or folks at conventions) to play adventures in Aldea if they could use the familiar 5e rules? Then the Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide provides just that: The fantastic world of Blue Rose and the familiar rules of 5e, with just enough unique twists to make things fresh, new, and interesting.

Similarly, if you are a long-time Blue Rose player who was interested in 5e, but not inspired by its existing fantasy settings, now you can try out the game system and bring your favorite setting along with you!

Of course, since relationships on Aldea can often exist in more complex constellations, we don’t expect players to remain exclusive to either the AGE System or 5e versions of the setting. Enjoy both if you like!

5e Players Interested in New Options

Maybe you’re not particularly interested in the world of Aldea per se (although you might change your mind once you’ve had a chance to visit!). Even then, 5e players will find a wealth of new game material in the Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide, including:

  • Four new ancestries (night person, rhydan, sea-folk, and vata) and a new approach to human ancestry as well.
  • A new sub-class for each of the core 5e character classes.
  • Eight new feats.
  • Three new backgrounds.
  • Options for Narrative Wealth and Equipment.
  • An optional system for occult and “forbidden” magic and the corruption that results from wielding it.
  • Dozens of new magic items, including accursed occult items.
  • Four new creature templates, including rhydan (intelligent psychic animals).

You can easily borrow any or all of the new game material from the BRAG and import it into your own 5e campaign, either translated to your own setting or perhaps even literally “imported” from Aldea to your own campaign world.

A warrior with her Rhy-wolf companionBlue Rose Players Interested in a Concise Guide

Since it is made up primarily of setting and supplemental 5e material, the Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide is a comparatively slim 176 pages compared to the hefty 384-pages of the Blue Rose Romantic Fantasy Roleplaying core book (What can we say? At Green Ronin, we like big books and we cannot lie…) That alone makes the BRAG a handy, concise guide to the world of Aldea, reorganized for ease of use, with the first 33-page chapter a good overview of the key elements of the setting. Even if your focus is on the setting material rather than the 5e game systems, the BRAG is a useful and easily portable reference guide in either its electronic or print formats.

Now, if you don’t fall into any of the previous categories, such as if you are an AGE System Blue Rose player perfectly content with the beautiful Blue Rose Romantic Fantasy hardcover, then the Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide may not have enough new, useful content for you to want to pick it up. It does offer more detail on the Rezeans and their lands to the west of Aldis, a preview of what AGE System fans will see in the forthcoming Touching the Wild sourcebook, and a few other tidbits, but otherwise may not be of much use. Even then, it’s an opportunity to introduce your 5e-dedicated friends and fellow gamers to the wonderful world of Aldea and the Sovereignty of the Blue Rose!

For a limited time, the Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide Print-on-Demand option will be available at a discount on DrivethruRPG. This Romantic Fantasy offer will be available through Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 2021.

The Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide is now available in the Green Ronin Online store, and on DrivethruRPG!

Joe Carriker’s Top 5 Green Ronin Picks

Like other Ronins, I work at Green Ronin because I love what we do. So narrowing this list down to just five products? Not easy. That said, here we go! “Joe Carriker’s Top 5

Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition5. Ork! The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition

This updated version of the original Ork! is a glorious revisit of the sheer bonkers chaos of the original Ork! In this beer-and-pretzels game, you play…an ork. And it is your job to unleash all sorts of ork-like mayhem in the world. Being a systems wonk, though, it’s not (only) the premise that sells this for me, but the system that makes me love it.

Every check in Ork! is an opposed roll. Sometimes against enemies, but quite often the roll is opposed by…well, by the ork god, who is a surly, ill-tempered sort of deity who delights in the suffering of his people. The sheer gonzo premise of a game system based on “God hates you and wants you to fail, except that you’re doing your best to spit in his eye” is absolute catnip for me.

4. Book of the RighteousThe Book of the Righteous for Fifth Edition

I’m a big Fifth Edition player, for starters. I am also a huge nerd when it comes to worldbuilding, and I find one of the best disciplines of worldbuilding to be the construction of pantheons, creation myths, and the forms of religion that populate a setting. The gods of a world say so much about that place, and how its people revere them adds to it.

For my money, the Book of the Righteous does the best job of addressing some of that style of worldbuilding in Fifth Edition material to date. Fully realized pantheons, religious orders, creation myths, and all the rest of it, with tons of player-facing mechanics (including a wealth of new cleric Domains and paladin Orders)? I’m so in.

Threefold A Campaign Setting for Modern AGE3. Threefold

It is no secret that I love me some big universes. I’m a world-builder at heart, and I love sprawling, deeply interconnected, and flavorful settings with room to tell all kinds of interesting stories in. It’s probably no wonder then that I love me some Threefold. A setting that includes organizations for player characters to belong to, each with specific goals and modes of operation. A theoretically infinite variety of worlds to explore, including a whole bevy of them right up front, and potentially more to come? Alien tech and psychic abilities and weird history timelines? Seriously, this is exactly the kind of high-stakes rollicking adventure that I love, and developer Malcolm Sheppard has wrapped it all up in the extremely accessible Modern AGE system for me.

And uh you, too, of course. :)

2. Mutants & Masterminds Third Edition Deluxe Hero’s HandbookDeluxe Hero's Handbook for Mutants & Masterminds

Superhero RPGs and I go way back. During the Satanic Panic, my mom and pastor confiscated all my D&D goods to burn them. They left my Marvel Superheroes RPG stuff, assuming they were comics, and I kept right on gaming. If I have anything close to an Ultimate Universal System for my tastes, it’s probably M&M. It is very capable of doing superheroes, and a whole lot more. I’ve used it for cyberpunk, urban fantasy, and weird dimension-hopping type games, and I know folks who’ve used it for lots more. It is extremely flexible, but also easy to use.

Honestly, I just love using its system to build power sets. Mutants & Masterminds Third doesn’t present finished powers for you to use for your heroes. Instead, it presents an extremely exhaustive set of power effects. “What does this power do, mechanically?” the system asks, and encourages you to determine how it interacts with the rules. Does it do damage? Inflict penalties? Reduce an enemy’s power? Debuff with negative conditions? Once you figure that out, you can select the appropriate effects, slap a Descriptor (like Psychic, Magic, or Fire) onto it that describes what is responsible for those effects, and your power is ready to go.

The fact that you can play games that range in power from street-level shenanigans where a knee-breaker with a bat is dangerous, all the way to hyper-dimensional cosmic epics is nothing short of incredible. Best still, both types of games are extremely playable, too – I sometimes brag that unlike some other games, Mutants & Mastermind’s “high level” games are perfectly playable and just as fun. I love the system so much, in fact, that when I was first putting together the main protagonists for my novel Sacred Band (available now from Nisaba Press), I built them using Mutants & Masterminds Third Edition rules! (You can get them here, for free, by the way.)

Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy 1. Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy

I am the developer for the Blue Rose line at Green Ronin  precisely because this book is in my number one spot. I didn’t contribute to this book myself, so I feel entirely justified in just how much of a ridiculous fanboy I am for this game. I did some writing for its first edition, and fell in love then. Why?

Romantic fantasy is my jam, for starters. Fantasy that postulates magic that makes the world better and more accessible rather than more dangerous and more awful, narratives in which the people one meets and connects with are as important to the resolution as one’s skill with sword or spell, and a sense of egalitarian aspiration are all mixed together to form a sort of inspiring, uplifting fantasy that I just love. This edition of Blue Rose specifically is fantastic, as well, for its use of the AGE system. Stunts give exactly the sort of swashbuckling feel that should pervade these stories, and its magic system which allows the use of magic as long as one can resist the psychic exhaustion that comes of doing so is really enjoyable.

But anyone who knows me probably knows that I love this game because of how abundantly queer it is. Queerness is not an afterthought here – I commend a lot of games for their “well, nobody cares if you’re queer” approach to inclusion, but in Blue Rose queerness has impacted the culture and social identity of its people…in a good way. It also explicitly makes room for different types of queer characters, from those characters who have no idea what bigotry against them is (which can be very comforting to play for some queer gamers who don’t need marginalization in their gaming) to those whose heroism includes having come from very restrictive backgrounds and having fought their way to freedom (which can be a cathartic gaming experience for some queer folk as well).

Plus, honestly, the ability to play a sapient, psychic animal? Yes, please.

Crystal’s Top 5 Green Ronin Picks!

It’s hard to pick just 5 items from the Green Ronin catalog as favorites, because the company’s library covers an enormous variety of genres and system, but here’s the best I could do. Presenting “Crystal’s Top 5 Green Ronin Picks

Mutants & Masterminds Condition Cards!

5. Mutants & Masterminds Condition Cards

Mutants & Masterminds is mostly a fast, intuitive system that’s easy to adjudicate on the fly with little or no prep. Everything is a d20 + modifier resolution, with the modifier usually being related to your campaign power level. The only place I tend to stumble is in remembering the rules for the two-dozen or so conditions that powers and failed checks might apply to a character. That’s when game stops and I have to flip back to page 18 of the Hero’s Handbook and remember what rules to apply. That’s why I made a homemade condition card deck back when 3rd edition first released. Now that we have an official condition card set made from shiny cardstock and featuring iconic art so I can deal out conditions in style and I love them!

4. Mutants & Masterminds Superteam Handbook

Superteam Handbook for Mutants & Masterminds!

Alright, spoiler alert: I’m making my list assuming you already have a Hero’s Handbook for M&M, so that’s not even going on my list. But once you have the Hero’s Handbook (Deluxe or Basic), then what? There are the obvious choices—the Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide if you’re the Gamemaster or Power Profiles if you’re a player—but for my money the handiest book for the whole group is the SuperTeam Handbook. It’s got expanded rules and character options for players and talks about building your superhero team as a collective, deciding roles and strengths and weaknesses that you rely on your teammates to shore up. But beyond that, the SuperTeam Handbook is a stealth campaign guide, showing you 8 distinct models for how you can run your Mutants & Masterminds game. You’ve got your standard “big heroes on the block” campaign, but also “fugitive heroes,” “urban vigilantes,” “super sentai,” and “quirky agents,” all with examples of the kinds of adventures and opponents those heroes might face. For Gamemasters, it also has a giant catalogue of characters that you can pass out to new players, or file the serial numbers off and use as villains if you don’t have time to make your own.

Modern AGE Basic Rulebook3. Modern AGE Core Rulebook

I have a soft spot for modern games, as illustrated by the large catalogue of d20 Modern manuals that observant readers may have seen in the background of M&M Monday streams. To mean, there’s a lot more excitement in bringing fantastic elements to a familiar world than in showing off fantastic elements in an already fantastic world. Modern AGE is a fun, fast, and flexible system that works great for any game set between the golden age of piracy and the near-future cyberpunk dystopia. The basic rules make it easy to put together a player character or NPC in no time, while the stunt system adds depth to combat and investigations. I’ve been running a monster-hunting campaign set in 1890’s San Francisco using just the core book and a copy of Modern AGE Enemies and Allies (a little side plug there) and having a great time.

2. Mutants & Masterminds Hero HighHero High Revised Edition for Mutants & Masterminds

I’m a sucker for X-men and Legion of Superheroes. It’s hard not to be when you spend puberty feeling like an outcast, so roleplaying in a world setting where you’re empowered for being the weird kid is just the chef’s kiss of roleplay options. This setting book for M&M is from before my tenure on the line but remains my evergreen favorite as a setting to run, play in, or fantasize about expanding. The 3rd edition version takes one of the strongest supplements for 2nd edition and revises and expands it to fill out the flavor and options of playing teen superheroes (or villains) while still worrying about getting your homework in on time.

Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy Core Rulebook 1. Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy

I know, I know. I’m the Mutants & Masterminds developer. Shouldn’t my number one product be an M&M book? Well, it isn’t. As much as I love comic books and superheroes, I love things that are unapologetically queer more. And I love romance and fairy tales and drama and people trying their hardest to be better than they were before, and Blue Rose offers all of that. While I usually sell it to my friends as “you can play a sassy psychic cat,” the selling point for me is that encounters are meant to be talked down or puzzled out at least as often as they’re meant to be fought, and all against a backdrop of gorgeous art.

 

Blue Rose Cover (work in progress)

Blue Rose Cover (work in progress) by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

 

 

Steve Kenson’s Top Five Green Ronin Picks!

When Troy Hewitt (the disembodied host of Mutants & Masterminds Mondays, amongst other schemes) asked me to compiled a list of “Steve Kenson’s Top 5 Green Ronin products“, that constituted a challenge, because I’m terrible at self-promotion and felt like it would be disingenuous to pick products I’d written the majority of, or had a substantial hand in designing or developing. So I’ve tried to steer clear of those things on this list, since I contribute to a lot of Green Ronin’s products.

I’m also focusing on products currently available in the Green Ronin Online Store, rather than the company’s entire twenty year history—maybe another “Top 5 of All-Time” or “Top 20 of the last 20 years” list is something to revisit at a later date. Lastly, I’ll note that my list is in alphabetical order by title, rather than being ranked from 1–5 in order of preference, because I’m lazy and had a hard enough time narrowing things down to just five products.

So, without further digression, here’s my list.

Aldis: City of the Blue RoseAldis: City of the Blue Rose

I love city books—as anyone who is familiar with Freedom City knows—so the Aldis: City of the Blue Rose sourcebook could have been written just for me. It describes the center of Aldis, the default setting of Blue Rose, in loving detail, jam-packed with characters, local flavor, and adventure hooks, such that you could run a whole Blue Rose game where the characters hardly ever left the city. I’m also quite happy with my own contribution to the book, the introductory adventure “The Case of the Rhydan Swine.”

Envoys to the MountEnvoys to the Mount

Envoys is the first full-fledged campaign book for Blue Rose Romantic Fantasy Roleplaying and offers a series of adventures leading up to an epic conclusion, with some breathing room to add in other “side” adventures, either of your own creation or various stand-alone published adventures. One of my favorite elements of Envoys is the establishment of various character “roles” for the series—like the Envoy, the Historian, and the Rhy-Bound—which you can “cast” with your own characters. The adventures then provide prompts for subplots and other story elements involving those character roles.

Modern AGE Basic RulebookModern AGE Basic Rulebook

I sometimes feel like the Modern AGE rulebook is an under-appreciated implementation of the AGE System rules, because it packs a lot into a fairly slim rulebook: enough character design and game-play material to run countless campaigns ranging from the early-modern (Industrial Revolution) era up through the near-future or even far-future science fiction (although the latter may benefit from some stuff in The Expanse RPG, which was developed concurrently with Modern AGE). With the inclusion of arcane and psychic powers in the book as well, Modern AGE is also a system for urban fantasy or “secret powers” settings in any of its various eras. It’s hard to beat in terms of bang-for-your-buck game-play value.

Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s HandbookMutants & Masterminds Basic Hero's Handbook cover

Mutants & Masterminds developer Crystal Fraiser has done some great stuff with the game: launching the Astonishing Adventures series (which has already produced more adventure content for M&M than we managed in all the years prior combined) and developing the terrific Time Traveler’s Codex, but my favorite is a project that could have only been developed with Crystal’s vision and guidance: The Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s Handbook. Because sometimes, as a designer, you really need someone else to come along and lay out how the whole thing works. This book does that. If you have ever been intimidated by the rules or character design of Mutants & Masterminds, well, this is the book for you. It’s easy, accessible, and gets you right into creating a new hero in minutes and ready-to-play. Plus it is 100% compatible with the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook rules, so everything you learn is of value. I especially love the comic book examples of game-play that really bring the rules to life while providing clear and concrete examples.

Threefold: A Campaign Setting for Modern AGEThreefold

Because I’m a fairly jaded tabletop gamer, it’s not often that I get excited about a new game world or setting, but the Threefold setting for Modern AGE drew me in from the get-go with its concept and depth. It’s a meta-setting of sorts, in that it encompasses a “metacosm” of parallel worlds, a manifestation of the breadth and depth of the Modern AGE rules themselves. But Threefold goes further in setting up a unique and detailed cosmology that puts particular spins on the manifestations of magic and psychic (occult) powers, along with creating unique character backgrounds. Developer Malcolm Sheppard pitched it to me as “John Wick and Harry Potter team up to fight Satan’s robots” and I was in from that moment on. Personally, I’d change “team up” to “join Starfleet and Stargate Command” because, yeah … it’s like that. Check it out.

Austium (Envoys to the Mount)

A Map of Austium

Map by Cartographer Liz Courts.

Envoys to the Mount is a full-length Blue Rose chronicle that takes players from origins as newly-graduated envoys of the Sovereign’s Finest to heroes of the kingdom of Aldis. The threats they face as part of that rise are dire and deadly, but perhaps none are more so than the wickedness of the lost city of Austium.

Once the capital of Faenaria, Austium was ground-zero for the Doom that destroyed the homeland of the folk who came to be called the Roamers.

Today, Austium is a Shadow-corrupted place, with four cabals of monstrous evil crouching in the ruins of the city. Above them sits arguably the most powerful darkfiend to ever slither out of Shadow into the world of mortals, the entity known only as the Lord of Austium.

Author Steven Jones did a spectacular job of detailing Austium, giving us a place that is not just a seemingly unending source of threats for Blue Rose heroes, but creating a place that seems to live, breathe, and positively bristle with potential threats. Because I do love me some hags and witches, I’m sharing the Coven of the Iron Cauldron here!

The Coven of the Iron Cauldron

The Queen’s Ward

The Coven of the Iron Cauldron is composed of sorcerers, hags, and other beings gifted in the arcane arts. It is immensely powerful and concentrates on uncovering the city’s lost lore with the intent of twisting it to the Shadow’s ends. While both the Guild of the Tarnished Coins and the Order of the Bloody Blades are larger, no other faction holds as much sway in the city with the Lord of Austium as the Coven of the Iron Cauldron.

Envoys to the Mount and Tales from the Mount bundle offer!

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the Tales from the Mount fiction anthology as well!

Since this faction’s focus is on lost lore and the secrets of sorcery, they give little thought to the activities of the other factions and do what they can to remain neutral in their political games. When the Coven does get pulled into these powerplays, it’s usually due to some Guild of the Tarnished Coins’ scheme; these political maneuvers have created some animosity from the Coven towards the Guild.

 

The Coven was formed and is led by the Inside-Out Lady (one of the Talons), and since its early days, the Coven’s power has grown greatly. It was instrumental in raising Austium from the wastes of the Shadow Barrens. Since the Inside-Out Lady is kept occupied in service to the Lord of Austium, most of the daily duties of running the Coven fall on the Inner Circle, which consists of the Coven’s other founding members who are still alive and in Austium. Three members of the Inner Circle—Cendis, Doromin, and Lady Viddia—can be found in Appendix 3; Narrators should feel free to add additional members as they see fit.

The remaining faction members are structured into lesser circles consisting of three or seven members, and it is common for these lesser circles to have a low ranking darkfiend in their service. Most of the lesser circles choose one of the exarchs as their patron. Among the lesser circles, there are rumors of former Inner Circle members who clashed with the Inside-Out Lady and were forced to flee Austium or be destroyed.

The Coven holds dominion over the eastern section of Austium (the Queen’s Ward), with the coven’s main rites taking place in a ring of standing stones on Cauldron Hill, located close to the Tempest Gate. The lesser circles all have their own ritual spaces throughout the twisted mockery of the city.

Be sure to check out our previous articles previewing what you’ll find in Envoys to the Mount! And while you’re at it, don’t forget about our Year End Sale! going on right now. There are quite a few books and adventures in the Blue Rose line available, just in case you have any gaps in your collection!