Review: Blue Rose (Long)

Crothian

First Post
Blue Rose

Blue Rose is the best book Green Ronin has put out. It is a great mix of great rules, detailed setting, and offering role player something a bit new and different that we really have not seen before in one single book. Those of you familiar with Green Ronin and the quality of products they have already unleashed upon the consumers can understand how high I am placing this book. I found it better then Mutants and Masterminds, better the Freedom City, better then the Book of the Righteous, and better then Freeport. All of those books are great but this one is even better.

This review covers Blue Rose the PDF but the content will be the same as the print book that comes out hopefully later this month. Blue Rose is a setting and twist on the d20 system to make it a bit more rules light and to adapt it to the setting and structure of Romantic Fantasy. That begs the question of what is Romantic Fantasy? It is a genre that has really only been around for twenty of so years. It deals more with personal connections, character emotion and growth, and can tend to be rather black and white. The good guys accept all kinds of people and all kinds of life styles. Ones sex, race, religion, or personally beliefs does not matter as long as you are not making life worse for your neighbor. It deals with an almost utopian based society but it has its enemies. The bad guys are controlling and just evil. They live to destroy the good society and usually come really close but never succeed. In that regard it reminds me a lot of the pulp stories from the 1930’s. The book recommends the following authors for a better feel of romantic fantasy: Kristen Britian, Diane Duane, Mercedes Lackey, Elizabeth A Lynn, Robin McKinley, and Tomara Pierce.

Blue Rose is a two hundred and twenty five page PDF by Green Ronin. It is a big file over ten megs zipped. The book is designed by Jeremy Crawford, Dawn Elliot, Steve Kenson, and John Snead. The book is really easy to find things in having a nice two page table of contents, is fully book marked, and has a very big index an item that is not seen in many books these days. The layout and art in the book is great. There are some really impressive full page art pieces. .There could be more art in the monster section but really that is a minor complaint in the scope of this book.

The book starts with a section that is rarely seen in RPG books these days; it explains what role playing is, what romantic fantasy is, and walk people through the basics and the jargon. This is a small section of about ten pages but it really sets the tone and shows how the writers are really thinking about their audience and are prepared for people new to gaming using their book. Next, the book goes into the world. Without diving to deeply into it; this section gives s a good overview of the gods, the countries, and the histories. There are gods of light (good), gods of twilight (neutral), and the gods of shadow (evil). The section talks about the creation of the world and how things fit together and have developed over time. It really lays the ground work to make the places seem real and realistic. There is a simple logical progression on how things have happened. Aldis is the country the game focuses on. We get some great details like day to life, education, government, travel, some customs, crimes and justice, how arcane abilities are viewed, religion, and holy days. The details are just great making the day to role playing and the feeling of actually living in this country really come to life.

There are plenty of threats to this nation of freedom. From the unscrupulous merchants and the fallen nobles, to the very real and deadly shadow cults and all sorts of the threats in between. There are pirates and bandits and sorcerers and cabals. It seems like a dangerous place to live at times. All in all there is a nice over view of the different countries and some of the opponents to good in the area. There is a nice map of the area and hopefully more maps will be coming in up and coming products. A bigger view at the world map would also make a great web enhancement.

Creating a character is a bit different then a standard d20 game. First of all attributes are represented by a modifier and not just a number. The average score is a zero with the lowest be a -5 and the highest being as high as they can get. However, no score can start out greater then +5 before racial modifiers. This is very similar to the Ars Magca attribute system for people familiar with that. Assigning attributes is done through a point based system that is very simple. Each player gets 6 points to distribute. They can lower some stats to higher others on a one by one basis. So, I can lower intelligence to a -2 to boost dexterity by +2. The attributes are very well defined and there is even a great side bar that discusses what a character with some high and low mental attributes behave. It is a great side bar that should help let people figure out how stats help with role playing a character. Next the player can choose her race and back ground. Backgrounds help define where the character comes from like one of the countries, an island folk, the forest, etc. Not all races get backgrounds as some races are only from one area. The races include the standard human, and some odder choices like intelligent animals and more mystical races like the long lived Vata. The races are all pretty fascinating and offer some very interesting role playing challenges. For instance playing an intelligent dolphin will hold some unique opportunities for both e Narrator (the person running the game) and the player.

The role of the character is the class. Blue Rose uses three generic classes much like the generic classes found in Unearthed Arcana. Blue Rose though adds a few differences to them given each a class defense and reputation score. The roles are Adept, Expert, and Warrior. Most abilities are gained through the acquisition of feats. Unlike other games feats are gained every level since none of the classes offer any special abilities that are set in stone. There is a lot of general feats and a section of feats that are only available to each class. Multi classing is fully allowed and allows characters to become broad of skill. Skills are also done a bit differently. Characters do not get skill points, instead they have known and unknown skills (class and cross class) as well as favored and not favored. A favored skill is assumed to have max ranks for ones levels. It is possible to acquire new favored skills by multi classing or through gaining the right feats. This will be an odd change that I think will take a bit of getting used to. But it will make character creation and leveling up a lot easier with out worrying about skill points. There is another little extra idea they have here called Conviction. Each character gets so many based on their level and they can spend them to heal, re roll a die, get a bonus to dodge etc. A character regains conviction slowly through time but faster depending on their actions.

The skills and feats make up the bulk of what the character can do. The skill list has been trimmed down to twenty five skills about ten or so less then a standard d20 game. I like the scaled down skill selection it still covers everything a character will want to do and allows for plenty of customization. The feats represent the true character power. There are feats for combat, for skills and for magic and psionic abilities. It really has a great and simple system for magic and psionics. There are no spells or spell levels that one has to worry about. No preparations of spell lists or anything like that. The arcane systems has a nice fatigue system that will slowly effect the caster to prevent lots of magic in a short period of time. There are some familiar feats like far shot and the ability to gain a familiar. There are plenty of options and it would be easy to take feats from other products and have them work for the setting. The game has no advanced classes and no prestige classes. The simplest way to include them I think is to make their abilities into feats with interesting names and requirements. This will work perfectly within the system as it is set up with the littlest amount of work having to be done by the Narrator.

Magic is very interesting. It is skill and feat based. The effects have a difficulty and that difficulty can get harder depending on the relationship between the caster and the recipient of the magic. Seeing the person has a no modifier to the check, but spells cast with out the person around can really get challenging. Some spells require attacks and other have saving throws. There are lots of options within the system. It seems easy to use and pretty straight forward. That actually can be said about the whole game, I like the simplicity of it all.

The game uses the wealth system from d20 modern. One minor change they made is they do not have the profusion skill to gain wealth. Instead they recommend determining which of the skills the character would use (diplomat uses diplomacy, musician uses perform, thief uses slight of hand etc) instead of having a single skill who’s only purpose is the wealth mechanic. The game does use a damage system like the one found in Mutants and Masterminds and not the hit point system of D&D. Each weapon has a single damage bonus and not a range of damage. Critical hits multiple the damage so critical can actually be really bad. The weapon and armor tables are familiar and a little smaller then in most games. The equipment lists on the other hand a little larger. It also includes some basic magical elixirs and stones. Most magical creations can not be made anymore as the knowledge has been lost but these two types of simple magical things are still being made today.

Next, the book goes into playing the game. It covers the basic rules like standard actions, using social skills in game, and movement. It starts out very rules oriented but then moves and covers a few areas that are very important for narrators to know about. These include when to fudge a die roll, how to improvise, saying yes to the players, and making mistakes. There is some really good advice in these few pages that hopefully most narrators have had a chance to read or something like it.

One big change from most ordinary games to Blue Rose is the different types of role playing that are emphasized. These are specifically discussed in a very thorough way. The book goes into emotional role playing, effect of reputation, role playing romance, and intrigue. The book has great advice and urges Narrators to not create situations that the players will be uncomfortable with. Not every one wants to role apply a love interest or experience the emotionally lose of a pet through their character. It is very important for the Narrator and the players to be on the same page in this area. While Romantic Fantasy does include these elements, the game is not hinged on them. Any or all of these can be removed from the game. It will change how the game is run and how it feels, but it will not make the game unplayable.

The book finishes up with a small bestiary, a short adventure, and conversion rules to make this book work with and d20 product. The creatures presented include many animals and basic write ups for the player races. There are plant creatures, elements creatures, and shadow spawn the mostly evil creatures that make life difficult for our heroes.

This product is one of the few I have been waiting for. Ever since I learned of it last year it has been on my must get as soon as it comes out list. And frankly not many books make that list. This book has lived up to my expectations and really surpassed them. I have read some of the books that inspired the setting and it really shows through with the level of though t and detail that this product has. It works for me as a very well done rules light version of d20 and also as a very fascinating setting and role playing challenge. I eager await the follow books Green Ronin has planned.
 

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Turanil

First Post
First thing, thanks for the long review.

If i had not all those d20 something and D&D 3.5 books, and already four (!) campaign setting to run, I would probably buy this book. Since I have read someone suggest that Blue Rose would be great to make an Earthsea campaign, I have thought I would love to play that (Earthsea + Blue Rose). But I think I will remain D&D and d20 nonetheless.

In any case, what's "lite" about the Blue Rose game mechanics?
 

Crothian

First Post
The lite is 3 classes, easier skills, easier magic and psionics, no prestige classes, easier leveling mechancs, les combat oriented so no tactical combat.....
 



Benben

First Post
Thanks for posting this Crothian.

I'm very, very tempted to pick this up in pdf, even though I already have it pre-ordered on Amazon. I love how it has cherry picked the best fruit from half a dozen D20 systems.
 

Akrasia

Procrastinator
This sounds like a very interesting game. I like most aspects of the rules, from the description. I just wish that the game wasn't based on the 'romantic fantasy' milieu, which reminds me too much of 'Middle-earth as reimagined by Berkeley multicultural studies majors' (or something equally flakey). I guess I could just ignore those aspects...

I'll take a look when it appears at the FLGS.
 

Crothian

First Post
Romantic Fantasy is there, but it isn't hitting you over the head with it. There are elements of it in the setting, the sample adventure, and some of the Role Playing talk throughs but they are not holding the game together. It is a great balance of ideas and of rules but nothing is so tied together that if one thing gets removed it all fars aprt. On the contrary, take what you need and it should work well.
 

Prime_Evil

Explorer
I bought the PDF of Blue Rose as soon as it was released on RPGNow and I'm very impressed with the product so far. I would strongly recommend it even to D&D players who aren't particularly interested in the Romantic Fantasy subgenre because I think that it provides an excellent 'rules lite' version of the d20 system that is easily applicable to other campaign settings. In fact, I'm thinking of using some of the OGC material from Blue Rose with OGC material from Castles & Crusades to create a customised 'rules-lite' d20 variant for my own gaming group. In particular, I'm looking at adapting the Blue Rose skill system for use with the classes, combat, and magic system from Castles & Crusades... :p
 


takyris

First Post
Quick question: When you say that some combat features are gone, what do you mean? Is it pruned down to "nothing except attack, possibly declaring whether you're fighting defensively or using Power Attack", or is it "Grappling now handled with a single roll, attacking a held item now has a static DC with optional Narrator modification"?

I wouldn't mind the former if playing with new gamers, people I was trying to introduce to roleplaying. My normal gaming buddies might be irked by the perceived loss of options, though -- but I don't mean that as a slam on Blue Rose. I think it's a decent and fair idea.
 

Crothian

First Post
first off, you only get a single attack no matter ho high your BAB is, and there are no AoO. I guess it isn't that scaled down but with the focus on the book not being cvombat it just seems that way. You can disarm, grapple, over run, sunder, trip.....
 

Akrasia

Procrastinator
Prime_Evil said:
... In fact, I'm thinking of using some of the OGC material from Blue Rose with OGC material from Castles & Crusades to create a customised 'rules-lite' d20 variant for my own gaming group. In particular, I'm looking at adapting the Blue Rose skill system for use with the classes, combat, and magic system from Castles & Crusades... :p

I would certainly be interested to learn how this works out!
 

Akrasia

Procrastinator
Crothian said:
first off, you only get a single attack no matter ho high your BAB is, and there are no AoO. I guess it isn't that scaled down .....

Actually, getting rid of AoOs cuts out 50 percent of the headache right away! (IMO of course.)
 

Skywalker

Adventurer
Akrasia said:
This sounds like a very interesting game. I like most aspects of the rules, from the description. I just wish that the game wasn't based on the 'romantic fantasy' milieu, which reminds me too much of 'Middle-earth as reimagined by Berkeley multicultural studies majors' (or something equally flakey). I guess I could just ignore those aspects...

I'll take a look when it appears at the FLGS.

Besides the trade dress and the races, other setting material amounts to around 40 pages out of 224 pages.
 

Crothian

First Post
Akrasia said:
Actually, getting rid of AoOs cuts out 50 percent of the headache right away! (IMO of course.)

that's true, but it still leaves a lot of combat options for those that want them.....
 

Skywalker

Adventurer
Akrasia said:
Actually, getting rid of AoOs cuts out 50 percent of the headache right away! (IMO of course.)

Most of the d20 combat system remains. However, a few things have improved the speed:

1. No AoO.
2. No miniature use.
3. No damage roll, though your opponent rolls a Toughness Save.
4. Many feats and skills have been simplified. Weapon Finesse grants its bonus to all light weapons. Dodge grants a +1 to AC (no designated dodge partner).
5. Power scale is less. Magic items tend to be rarer and spells get more powerful but not as powerful in D&D.
 

Akrasia

Procrastinator
Skywalker said:
Most of the d20 combat system remains. However, a few things have improved the speed:

1. No AoO.
2. No miniature use.
3. No damage roll, though your opponent rolls a Toughness Save.
4. Many feats and skills have been simplified. Weapon Finesse grants its bonus to all light weapons. Dodge grants a +1 to AC (no designated dodge partner).
5. Power scale is less. Magic items tend to be rarer and spells get more powerful but not as powerful in D&D.

Wow -- that covers most of the things I hate the most about d20 combat.

I thought I would never GM a d20 game again (assuming C&C doesn't count) ... but I will have to look closely at this when the book comes out.
 


Emiricol

Registered User
Skywalker said:
Most of the d20 combat system remains. However, a few things have improved the speed:

1. No AoO.
2. No miniature use.
3. No damage roll, though your opponent rolls a Toughness Save.
4. Many feats and skills have been simplified. Weapon Finesse grants its bonus to all light weapons. Dodge grants a +1 to AC (no designated dodge partner).
5. Power scale is less. Magic items tend to be rarer and spells get more powerful but not as powerful in D&D.

I'm not interested in "romantic fantasy" but I did just buy the PDF today based on Crothian's review. You know... the 'this is the best book they ever published' kinda grabbed my interest :)

Anywho, to the above list of things, add a revised magic system that is intuitive and skill/feat based. And fast. From what I'm reading, this is really becoming the penultimate D20-lite rule system I've been waiting for.

And I can just toss out the setting info I don't like, if any. Haven't really read that part yet, just the crunchy bits. (Thankfully, the Romantic Fantasy isn't heavily built in to the crunch.)
 

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