Book Mashup: Vaporwave Rose, Part 2

Last time around I started this mashup between Modern AGE and Blue Rose without knowing how much I’d get into it. 90s cartoon romantic fantasy! The setup was so alluring I threw about a thousand words at it, so I had to break it up. Here’s the second part, but let’s go over the essentials again.

(Oh, check out the first book mashup, Lost Ilium.)

Vaporwave Rose 90s cartoon adventures in Aldea

Vaporwave Rose Campaign Setting

Ingredients: Get out the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook and Blue Rose: The AGE Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy. The Modern AGE Companion, Aldis, City of the Blue Rose, and Envoys to the Mount (preorder hardcover, but the PDF is already available) are also helpful.

(Links to print or PDF as available in our online store. Titles also available in PDF at DrivethruRPG.)

Genre: 90s animated romantic urban fantasy!

The Setup, Part 2

Remember what I was telling you? The Blue Rose? Obscure 90s cartoon? Magnet for the young and, ah, alternative lifestyle’d? Magical genderfluidity? Telepathic ferret heroes? Was “alternative lifestyle’d” a period reference too far?

Okay, here comes the weird part.

The music videos started showing up on what looked like machine-generated streaming video accounts, their names just nonsense alphanumeric strings. It used to be the ability to catch The Blue Rose onscreen was mysterious, but I guess it’s all algorithms now. But these weren’t episodes. They were long music videos of extremely chill electronic music and iconic sounds from a smorgasbord of 90s pop culture, backing distorted scenes from TBR episodes—including clips no fan had seen before (and, allegedly, a game adaptation for the SEGA Dreamcast, because of course)—hammered into a color palette informed by VHS distortion and Windows 95 esthetics.

Yeah, I know what “vaporwave” is! I loved it. I blanked out. The missing time didn’t bug me at first—this was perfect stuff to zonk out to. I started falling asleep to it every night. I dreamed of Aldea.

But you don’t get bruises from dreams.

Accept the truth, even if you think you’re losing your mind. The Blue Rose, both person and series, were true. They remembered us. Aldea is real.

(Oh, look out for your pets. Sometimes they come with you. That means they’re rhydan, and sometimes they remember Aldea better than we do.)

I’ve been on dozens of journeys now, at night or just by concentrating on a video. Centuries have passed since The Blue Rose’s time. Ala is the stuff of legends, and we know more about that ancient hero from TBR fan lore than most Aldeans do from texts and oral traditions. As I grow more comfortable living another life there, I’ve come to believe Aldea returned to help us, but also needs our help. The final battle between the Blue Rose and Jarek seems to have ended in a stalemate, but the lich king discovered our world. He has agents—people possessed by “darkfiends,” straight from the show—who bring back ideas and artifacts. Kern turned its own capital into the first Shadow City raised half by magic, half by Earth industry. Others sprouted across Aldea: tenement blocks and imposing glass towers, smothered in a smog that burns orange by day, and reflects neon-purple flares of magic at night.

I didn’t know why I’d been summoned until I met other fans, some of whom I already knew from conventions and other scenes. Some of us looked different, maybe more like who we truly are than Earth gave us. Five of us had gathered on the other side for three episodes (hold on, getting to that) when we saw The Blue Rose and Golden Hart. They made us Shadowburners: Envoys who know Earth and can save Aldea from its darkness. Apparently, there’s a lot to love about our world, even from the Aldean perspective, but Jarek and his darkfiends have only brought the parts that give them power.

Be careful. I know it’s real not just because of the aches I get after some of the rougher episodes, or even because I’ve met fellow Shadowburners on Earth, but because I’ve seen the Fiendbound, Jarek’s possessed agents, here. Some probably would have been bastards anyway, but I’ve never met one who wasn’t a victim in some sense. On the other side, we can confront demons with swords but here, we need to kill their power over their hosts.

Epsiodes? Oh yeah. One convenient aspect of it all is that no matter how much time we spend in Aldea, with our bodies entranced in the real world as we wear new ones on the other side, once we come back, no more than 24 minutes passes—I’m guessing that’s half an hour, minus commercial breaks. Since I originally crossed to Aldea in my sleep, it took me ages to figure out. Sometimes we even see retro-style animated “fan films” based on what happened, on those same weird streaming accounts.

There’s physical evidence on my body. Testimonials from other Shadowburners. But best of all, I can show you. I know you indulged me when I geeked out about The Blue Rose, and that you’re a lurker on the Sovereign’s Finest group. You’ve seen the show. You’ve got potential.

Now just watch this video with me, and you’ll see even more.

The Campaign

You’re a Shadowburner: Someone who saw The Blue Rose cartoon and was chosen by the Blue Rose and Golden Hart to travel between Earth and Aldea. The Fiendbound steal innovations from our world, and Jarek’s industrial sorcerers fill in the infrastructure blanks with dark, life-draining magic. The nation of Aldis can’t keep up with this evil progress. It relies on Shadowburners to oppose Jarek’s forces and share the gentler things our world has to offer. You’re a good person who (even if you need to get past some psychological barriers) loves diversity. Most Shadowburners aren’t heterosexual, or they have a gender other that what they were assigned at birth. All despise racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. The Golden Hart and Blue Rose are adamant about this requirement, so it’s a firm rule.

As a Shadowburner you lead two lives. The first is your life on Earth, represented by a Gritty (or for gentler Earthside adventures, Pulpy) Modern AGE character. However, you’re capable of learning the arcana of Blue Rose via the Arcane Potential and Wild Arcane talents. You can also learn other talents from Blue Rose, even if they have class requirements, if you meet the following prerequisites:

  • Adept Talents: Intelligence or Willpower 2, knowledge of at least one arcana.
  • Expert Talents: Communication or Dexterity 2, and at least one degree in one of the Expert’s starting talents (Blue Rose AGE RPG, p. 46), either from Blue Rose or Modern AGE.
  • Warrior Talents: Fighting or Strength 2, and at least one degree in a fighting style talent.

Rhydan Shadowburners exist as well, but in the real world they’re normal animals that feel bound to their comrades and who generally seem clever due to uncanny instincts. This makes them better suited for players who come occasionally or who want to play a different role in or skip Earth adventures.

Watching a music video connected to The Blue Rose and Shadowburner phenomenon puts you in a trance, and you awaken in a body representing your true self, created from the elemental substance of Aldea. In this form, your character is in Modern AGE’s Cinematic Mode, but with one difference: You don’t use Toughness. In Aldea, characters rely on armor or skill to survive (and as Blue Rose doesn’t use Toughness, this means you can use most material from that game as-is). No matter how much time you spend in Aldea, it only takes a 24-minute trance in the real world. Your fellow Shadowburners can enter trances at different times, but you’ll synch up in Aldea, as is necessary.

In a trance, you’re usually safe from being interfered with—this campaign isn’t about a knife in the back while you’re somewhere else—and while you don’t choose when you leave Aldea, it often happens after an episode-like series of events happen, often with an implicit lesson about tolerance and being yourself. Such is the binding power of a 90s cartoon. Your Aldean body and its immediate possessions turn into a luminous mist, and reform when you’re needed again, in a location set by the Narrator/Game Master. Any damage short of death you suffer in Aldea becomes half that amount, and stun damage, on Earth, so a rough adventure can make you sick or even knock you out. And if you die in one world, you’re gone in both.

The Fiendbound have some way of transporting physical artifacts between realms and have their hooks in government agencies and corporations, but you can’t do it—and finding out why is a major plot hook. Beyond stealing technology and cultural ideas to solidify Jarek’s rule (and giving GM/Narrators unlimited ability to create an industrialized, fascist, and particularly weird Kern), they want to make Earth a more hate-driven place, to create more fuel for the conquest of Aldea and, perhaps, claim another world as their own.

That’s the setup. I suggest you start looking for those music videos now.

Book Mashup: Vaporwave Rose, Part 1

I really enjoyed writing Lost Ilium the other week. I didn’t know if the mashups were going to be a series, but I left room for it. Past Me was pretty smart it seems because I quickly came up with another idea. This time, we’re going to combine Blue Rose, Modern AGE, and cartoons from the 90s. Unfortunately, I liked this one so much that I went overboard with the setup. It’s going to be a two-parter!

Let’s get started.

Ala Rose enters AldeaVaporwave Rose Campaign Setting

Ingredients: You need Blue Rose: The AGE Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy and the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook. The Modern AGE Companion, Aldis, City of the Blue Rose, and Envoys to the Mount (preorder hardcover, but the PDF is already available) are also helpful.

(Links to print or PDF as available in our online store. Titles also available in PDF at DrivethruRPG.)

Genre: 90s animated romantic urban fantasy!

The Setup

The Blue Rose was a weird show, all right. Nobody agrees how many episodes there were, whether it was 2 or 3 seasons, or even who made it. The voice actors don’t appear on IMDB, and nobody’s heard of Magic Deer, its supposed animation studio. TBR ran on dozens of local stations in syndication. Each station has spotty, even contradictory records of what they broadcast, back when people clearly remember them showing episodes: reliably from 1991 to 1993, then in occasional bursts before finally vanishing by 2000. Everybody reports different times, though many swear it came on right after Cybersix, though not on the same station.

Some people got TBR shirts and tchotchkes in the mail after writing Magic Deer’s PO Box. Some swear they bought action figures in one of those big box stores. You can find some stuff cheap in antique stores—a bargain since it’s impossible to tell if the stuff is authentic, and most dealers don’t know the show anyway.

The 90s, with its triumphant conservatism, resurgent fascism, and an LGBTQ+ community reeling from the Right weaponizing a deadly disease against them, was demoralizing, even dangerous for some of us—and its problems sound familiar again. It was almost a lifeline. We needed it then, and it appeared for us. Funny thing about TBR Fandom: You didn’t have to be queer for the episodes to appear on your screen but given who shows up at Envoycons (“The only conventions featuring none of the cast and crew!” is our slogan), that seems to have worked better for reception than either cable or the ol’ rabbit ears.

Maybe that’s why it’s back.

Before I continue, let me talk about the show.

TBR is named after the secret identity of its main character, Ala Rose. Ala was one of us: a teen trying to live in this world. The origin is in the opening credits. Bullies chase Ala down an alley. They jump through an ornate blue door with Ferrus, their Ferret (I know, but it’s a cartoon, remember?). On the other side, Ferrus wakes Ala up by speaking into their mind! And they look around to see luminous woods on another world! Ferrus is an intelligent creature called a rhydan, from the new world, Aldea. He was an Envoy, agent of the good realm of Aldis. When he crossed over to Earth, he could barely remember his own name, and had to rely on instinct—and that’s how he found Ala, the prophesied Blue Rose.

In the first episode, they set it up fast. In the capital of Aldis, the Queen explains that the Blue Rose brings the Great Symmetry when it’s truly needed. The Queen gives Ala the sapphire-studded mask and sword of the Blue Rose persona, which allow Ala to take on a masculine or feminine secret identity. (The show never tells you what Ala’s gender or chromosomes are, and fans argue about it a lot, but I think the show did that on purpose and don’t care either way, myself.)

The secret of symmetry is that while the Exarchs, evil beings, say that love and hate are a balance, hate is the real imbalance. True symmetry balances the varied ways of love by allowing them to flower. Every just, passionate, and kind emotion is part of the Great Symmetry. The Blue Rose’s job is to uphold them all. Maybe that’s why the show wasn’t much of a hit. It had the adventure people think only boys go for, and the emotional focus only girls’ shows used to have.

Anyway, Ferrus uses his mind magic to fight beside the Blue Rose, and Ala meets a bunch of recurring Envoys, who become allies, rivals, romantic partners—or all three. The Blue Rose swings between a “town of the week,” dealing with classic community squabbles (that invariably have some evil sorcery exaggerating them, but I think this explanation was for the kids) and an ongoing battle against the evil nation of Kern, whose lich-king wants to…well, do the classic dark lord thing, serving the Exarchs. Sometimes, Kern agents are responsible for town-of-the-week troubles. It’s not the most nuanced setup but hey: kids’ cartoon. They do showcase other countries and peoples from time to time, either as a lesson in tolerance (see “The Roamers,” where the Blue Rose deals with people mistreating a group of nomads) or as a not-too subtle commentary on current affairs (all the episodes taking place in just-like-Fundamentalist Jarzon).

Between fragments, possible unreleased leaks, and definite episodes gathered by the fandom, we got at least 32 and possibly as many as 48 TBR episodes, including the annoying season finale—a two-parter ending in a cliffhanger! Ala leads a revolution against Kern and is about to do battle with Jarek, the Lich King, Herald of the Exarchs….

…and that was it, until now.

Now comes the hard part. Have you had the dreams too? Have you seen the fanvids? You have to.

You have to.

More about  later.

A Session Zero for Blue Rose

A number of weeks ago, I was invited by Juce of Master the Game to take part in a three-act Blue Rose campaign he is hosting on his YouTube channel. Before we launched into the full campaign, however, our Narrator Aaron wanted for us to do a Session Zero, to talk about the concept for the campaign, establish content limits, and to create characters.
Blue Rose on Master the Game

I don’t want to give too much away, as it’s a fun watch (if we do say so ourselves). In particular, I appreciated the open creativity the other players approached the entire session with. There were folks with some familiarity with Blue Rose and others who’d only ever been introduced to it after their invite to this very game.

I ended up playing Tesera, a rhy-cat Expert who was raised in the city of Aldis. Urbane and sophisticated, she aspires to serve on the Rhydan Council someday (her mother is part of the council). She’s sort of an odd rhydan, though, because of her background – she has never lived in wild places before and is not particularly well-suited to wilderness areas. (She does love a well-cultivated garden, though!)

Because rhydan and the rhy-bond are something I consider to be sort of central to the Blue Rose experience, I asked if any of the other players wanted to play my bondmate. I ended up with a rhy-bond to a young vata’an adept who fled theocratic Jarzon. He seems a touch repressed and even a little ascetic, so obviously the Light paired us up so that Tesera can teach this poor deprived soul how to live a little!

We also have a young adept who joined the Roamers when he was younger, but who has now joined the Sovereign’s Finest because, well, he sort of harbors one of those courtly, from-afar type of infatuations with the beauty of the Queen, and he’s sure that being a national hero will get her to notice him. Surely. The other is a woodsman warrior who was raised in the Pavin Weald and is very comfortable in wild spaces, but a little less so in settled lands. (Honestly, Tesera kind of resents being around him because he’s SO much more comfortable in the wild than she is, and she’s pretty sure that makes her a bad rhydan.)

Because one of the campaign themes is love (not just romantic), Aaron opens the session with each of us – as players – answering the question: “When was the last time you felt loved?” The answers were warm and delightful, and really helped to set the tone for the collaborative process that followed.

Please take a gander for yourself, and we hope you’ll join us on game days!

 

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.