Tuesday, 23 June 2015

A BLUE ROSE By Any Other Name...

I don't usually do this, but today I'm writing to tell you about a new roleplaying game I'd really like to see more support for. It's currently Kickstarting, although if you've been in the hobby long enough you may remember the first edition. 

The game is BLUE ROSE, from Steve Kenson and the good folks at Green Ronin Publishing. And it's an important game, folks, in an industry that is often clannish and slow to change.

Cover image by Stephanie Law from the original Blue Rose paperback.
The first edition of Blue Rose came out in 2005, during the d20 game boom that followed the release of the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons (with its Open Game License shaking up RPG publishing in both good and bad ways). In a market saturated with D&D-compatible product, Blue Rose was something different, something special. It stood alone then, and has few imitators today.

Blue Rose was different. It drew from the well of Romantic Fantasy - especially the books of Mercedes Lackey, Diane Duane, Tamora Pierce and others - rather than from the usual spring of Tolkien-esque high fantasy or sword & sorcery in the vein of Robert E. Howard or Fritz Leiber. In a world full to the brim with violent adventures and dark realms to set them in, Blue Rose was set in a land that was largely peaceful and stable. Adventures in Aldis were rarely about killing the monster of the week, they were about people finding their place in the world. Blue Rose dared to show us a world where everyone belonged

The world of Blue Rose was self-consicously inclusive, depicting a society where neither your gender nor your race would exclude you. And, most importantly, Aldis was a society that welcomed people regardless of their sexual preference. In Blue Rose, it is not unusual for people to have romantic partners of the same gender, if that's their preference. Or both genders. Or more than one partner.

In short, Aldis looked an awful lot more like the modern world than the one a lot of other roleplaying games on the market reflected, then and now. 

Even the illustration at the beginning of the book showing players sitting down to play the game showed an equal number of men and women, of different races. Both in the fiction and in the way the product was presented, this was a game about inclusivity - about bringing people to the table that maybe hadn't been made as welcome in the hobby as they should have been, historically.

Of course, something as high-minded, decent, innovative and necessary as Blue Rose attracted a fair amount of negativity in the hobby. Some was merely parochial - "This isn't what I'm interested in, when I play a fantasy game." A lot of it was straight-up homophobic. There are times that I'm not proud of this hobby and the people in it. 

But the world of 2015 is not the same as the world of 2005. The world we live in today is more difficult, in some ways, but it's also a world where a growing list of places (including Canada, and a number of American states) have affirmed the right of citizens to marry partners of the same gender. And, contrary to what some people fear, the sky has not fallen. The single thing that has changed is that more people who love each other are free to express that love, and openly declare it and share it with their community. 

Even the biggest game in the industry, Dungeons & Dragons itself, contained a section in its most recent edition giving explicit permission for players to play characters of different genders or sexual preferences. Not everyone was happy with the exact wording, but this was A Big Thing. This was the same game that most of those guys who were smack-talking Blue Rose were playing, back in the day. The institution had changed, become more open, invited more people to play at the table. 

It isn't Aldis, not yet, but we're getting there. A little at a time.

And part of the credit for that goes to Blue Rose. A game that dared to imagine a world more inclusive, more kind, more forward-thinking than most roleplayers could imagine, ten years ago. 

For myself, although I've never had a chance to run it (my own table, back in the day, balked at the idea of a game that foregrounded relationships and romance), Blue Rose taught me a great deal. We borrowed many ideas from it, especially the section on Light and Shadow natures and the Tarot cards associated with them. And I think, looking back, it may have been the game that made me think that a roleplaying game about relationships, community, and romance was pointing towards something important that the hobby was largely missing. That roleplaying games, at their heart, should be about the lives of the characters and the things they cared about.

Blue Rose was the first High Trust, High Drama game.

It's currently doing very well on its Kickstarter, because a lot of people remember it as fondly as I do. It's already hit its basic goals, so this game is going to happen. But it needs your support too, if it's going to hit that $100K stretch goal and that sweet, sweet Fate adaptation from Clark Valentine and Brian Engard. 

Support this game. Roleplaying still needs Blue Rose. And you need it in your life. 


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