Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/06/review-blue-rose-adventurers-guide.html
I have been on record as being a big fan of Green Ronin's Blue Rose setting, both in its True20 and AGE versions. There is just something about it that I find very, very compelling and think it makes for a fantastic game and game world.
I am also on record as being a huge fan of D&D 5th Edition. While it wont replace my beloved Basic D&D it will sit on my shelves and game table very happily right next to it.
So what happens when Green Ronin decides to take their Blue Rose world and used the D&D 5th edition rule system? Well, you get the best of both worlds! Let's look into this RPG chocolate and peanut butter creation and see what we have. My only fear is that some of the things that made Blue Rose so special might get lost here. Let's find out.
You do not need the Blue Rose core rules to play this, but you do need the D&D 5th Edition rules.
The Blue Rose Adventurer's Guide (5e)
For this review I am considering the PDF and POD versions I purchased from DriveThruRPG. Note: As of the date of this writing the POD is no longer available. I suspect this has to do with the change in printing costs for "Premium Color" prints. There was a successful Kickstarter (that I missed) to fund a traditional print run. It looks like there will offset printing ready for your FLGS by the end of 2021. I guess I better hold on to my now collector's item!
The book is 176 pages with full-color art throughout. Once again the cover art is by the incredible Stephanie Pui-Mun Law who has given us the look and feel I associate with Blue Rose. All of the art, as far as I can tell, has been used before in the AGE version of Blue Rose. I do not see this as a problem. The art is so tied to Blue Rose for me that I would have a difficult time seeing anything else. So this is a positive in my mind.
It is hard to believe that it was four years ago that I reviewed the "new" Blue Rose AGE edition. So a lot of what I said there will apply here.
This section from developer Steve Kenson introduces us to Green Ronin and Blue Rose. It is a nice reminder that Green Ronin's DNA is deeply sequenced with D&D. Many of the founders and developers at GR can trace their careers back AD&D 2nd Ed, D&D 3.x, and D&D 5. These are not "johnny come latelys" these are people with a strong and credible background in game design and D&D in particular. This also covers some naming conventions. "Sorcery" from the True20 and AGE versions has been renamed "The Occult" here, so as not to confuse with the sorcerer class. Similar distinctions are made later on with Priests and Clerics when dealing with the various theocracies.
Chapters 1 through 7
These chapters all deal with the history, people, and geography of the World of Aldea. They are,in order, The World of Aldea, The Kingdom of Aldis, The Theocracy of Jarzon, The Khanate of Rezea, The Thaumocracy of Kern, The Matriarch of Lar'tya, and On the Borders.
While these sections are nearly identical to similar sections in the Blue Rose core rules AGE edition, they are not a copy and paste. I covered those in my Blue Rose review. The differences here are now largely one of rules setting. Details have been edited to better fit the D&D 5e rules.
This also works well as an overview for anyone wanting to play in Aldea regardless of which rules (True20, AGE, D&D5) they want to use.
Chapter 8: Aldean Ancestries
We are moving away from the old concept of race in D&D and I could not be happier. This chapter gives us a good example of how this can be done moving forward. There is a natural familiarity here for anyone coming to this version of BR from the True20 one. The ancestries of the world of Aldea are here and how they can be played in D&D 5. If you are thinking ahead then YES, you can now use Rhydan and Sea-folk in your regular D&D game.
What was "race" is not split off into Ancestries (your "genetics" as it were) and Culture (where you were raised). This is particularly useful in the cosmopolitan world that is Aldea and in particular Aldis. Sure you might a Night Person, but you were raised in a villa on the Northside of Garnet. Your best friend is a Sea-folk and you spent more time on the waterways than whatever stereotypical things people think Night Folk do. Sure you might be naturally strong and fierce-looking, but the only battles you have ever been in are the Poetry competitions in Garnet. Which by the way are pretty damn fierce in their own right. In my Blue Rose games, Garnet has annual poetry competitions that have all vibe and energy of an epic Rap-battle. The top prize is a lot of money, but more importantly, bragging rights.
I would like to say this should be back-ported into D&D, but I am pretty sure we will see this in future versions anyway. This is an improvement. Character customization at a new level.
Chapter 9: Aldean Classes
Ah. Here is what I waiting on. Blue Rose AGE and True20 versions only has three classes. An while this works remarkably well, D&D has a bit more. So in the proud tradition of so many D&D 5 books, this book offers new takes on all the standard classes. I want to focus here on just a couple I really like.
The Monk gains the Blue Rose Spirit Dancers in the Way of the Spirit Dance and makes it better than the sum of it's parts. I have never been a big fan of monks, I have only played one in my 40+ years of gaming. The Blue Rose spirit dancers were a great concept, but again, not something I would play. This new Way of the Spirit Dancer Monk is better than either and yes I would play one. Imagine an acrobat with ballet training and grace and mix that in with aikido and karate. Yes, that is basically Gymkata (Gods of Light help me) but so much better really.
Paladins get the Oath of the Rose and really just become the Knights I was always playing in BR anyway, but nice to see them on paper.
Warlocks. You knew I was coming here. We get two Patrons here (from the Primordial Gods), the Autumn King and the Winter Queen. A Winter Queen warlock is indistinguishable from how I like to play witches as to be the exact same thing. But honestly, I expected nothing less from Steve Kenson and line developer Joseph Carriker.
Wizards get a little psychic in School of the Psyche. I would run wizards with a pretty tight hand in Blue Rose 5e. Not because of the lack of magic, just the opposite, there is a ton of magic in this world.
These all are designed well for the World of Aldea, but I'd be crazy not to play a Queen of Winter Warlock.
We also get some Feats to help round out some of the powers that characters can get in Blue Rose-AGE. Not a lot, but 5e is not as feat-heavy as 3 was.
Chapter 10: Aldean Backgrounds
Aldea is a new world so there are some modified and new backgrounds for it. The best is the Reawakened. Or the reincarnation background. You know I am going to use that!
Chapter 11: Aldean Arcana
This covers the magic in Aldea including the Occult (what was called Sorcery). Some spells from the Player's Handbook/SRD are marked as "Occult" spells.
I would have loved to see some new spells here, but I would need to go through both the Blue Rose book and the PHB to see if there is anything missing.
We get some new magic items including Ancestral and Rhydan ones as well as Occult Artifacts (great for any game).
Chapter 12: Aldean Creatures
This covers the monsters and creatures we find in Aldea not in the Monster Manual/SRD. There are some important alterations to some creatures such as Griffons, Centaurs, the Fey, and undead, to correspond to the world better. We also get Clockwork creatures, "upgraded" Fey Lords, and slightly different Fiends. Rhydan also get updated 5e style stats.
Shadow of Tanglewood
This is an included adventure for four to six 1st level Blue Rose heroes.
There is an Index and the OGL statement.
While I was worried that some of the charms of Blue Rose AGE would be lost here there is more than enough to make up for it. I mean there are no stunts or any of the other nice features of the AGE rules. There is no conversion matrix for bringing over characters from one game to the other. But this book plays to the strengths of D&D 5e and still manages to give us an Aldea that feels special.
What might have been lost from the AGE (or even True20) version is more than made up for with D&D5. It's not exactly the same, but it is every bit as fun.
Who Should Buy This Book?
If you are a Blue Rose fan and a D&D fan then get this book. If you are a Blue Rose player/GM/fan and your group is playing D&D 5 then you should get this book. If you are a D&D 5 player, and you are curious about Blue Rose, Aldea, and the City of Aldis then most certainly get this book.
One of the great strengths of this book is it ability to introduce the concepts of Blue Rose and its world to a bunch of new players. Honestly D&D 5 players should be grabbing this book.
If I were Green Ronin, I'd put a Quick Start adventure using Blue Rose 5e with some very simple concepts from the game. Don't include character creation, but instead have a set of pre-made characters including a Night Person, a Rhy-Cat (or Rhy-Bear), a Sea Folk, and a Vata. Show off their strengths and then get a group of YouTubers to play it. I know my youngest's group would eat this up in a heartbeat. Slap a giant ad in the back for both versions of the game.
Now I just need a set of Blue Rose 5e dice to go with my set of Blue Rose AGE d6s.