It’s no secret that I’m a fan of campaign settings. While it’s true that I spend most of my time in the Forgotten Realms, I do have grandiose plans to one day create my own gameworld. For this reason, I’m always certain to pick up and explore any new campaign settings that hit the market. For this reason, when I saw that Green Ronin Games was going to port their classic setting “Blue Rose” to fifth edition D&D, I knew I had to back the kickstarter campaign.
In case you’re not familiar, Blue Rose (aka: the world of Aldea) was the home setting for both Green Ronin’s classic d20 and Fantasy AGE RPG systems. Unlike the familiar classic TTRPG campaign worlds, Aldea is world of “Romantic High Fantasy”. The focus in this campaign setting isn’t really about crawling through dank dungeons or battling monsters. Instead, players are encouraged to use the game as a means to roleplay and explore cultural diversity. Aldea is a world of utopian ideals, free love, and high magic where close-mindedness and intolerance are shunned.
If you picked up on some of the key buzz-words in the above paragraph, you’re not wrong. Blue Rose is a campaign setting created specifically to appeal to the LGBTQ community. Much of the culture in gameworld celebrates things like polyamory, pan-sexualism, and tolerance. In a time when “forced diversity” is often shoehorned into mainstream D&D, it’s easy to assume that this campaign setting is just another example of that. But, I would argue otherwise. On a personal level, I often find myself rolling my eyes at “diversity of diversity’s sake”. Recent trends like eliminating racial stat bonuses, banning the phrase “half-elf” and other recent “woke” additions to D&D annoy me. But, I’ve often said, that people who want to embrace such ideas should create their own game world instead of altering existing ones. Well, Blue Rose is an example of that very thing. And with that in mind, I applaud the developers for creating something that appeals to everything they hold dear.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the product itself. For starters, the very first thing I noticed about this book was that the artwork was breathtakingly beautiful. The pages are filled with whimsical and colorful drawings that really help set the tone for the high fantasy world of Aldea. Truly, this is one of the most beautiful D&D books I have ever seen. It’s simply gorgeous. On top of that, the book itself is sturdy and very well put together.
The contents of the book are pretty much what you’d expect from a standard campaign setting. The first seven chapters provide details on the world, its history and lore, it’s culture, and the unique beliefs of the various people that populate it. The Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide does an excellent job of setting up everything that makes Aldea unique from other D&D campaign settings here. The first chapter highlights the world itself, while the next six take a deep dive in the various kingdoms and countries. All of the lore and background information for the world is very well developed and it seems well implemented. A good portion of the setting’s religious lore is plucked from the pages of the Book of the Righteous and the Book of Fiends (two supplements also published by Green Ronin).
Chapter eight provides details on the various playable races in Aldea. As expected, humans are the most populous, but there’s also a number of other unique races for players to choose from. What you won’t find here are the standard D&D races that most players are familiar with. That’s right, by default there are no elves, dwarves, halflings, etc. in Blue Rose. Instead we have the orc-like Night People, the bestial Rhydan, the water-based Sea Folk, and the magic-touched Vata. Each of these races are very different from what most conventional players might be used to. But, in the confines of this game world, they work very well.
Chapters nine and ten focus on the various campaign-specific changes to the classic D&D classes as well as some Aldea-exclusive character backgrounds. Considering that Blue Rose was once it’s own TTRPG, I think the publishers did a fantastic job of converting their unique character options to the 5E framework.
Chapter eleven focuses on a number of changes to the way magic works in Blue Rose. Due to the unique nature of the gameworld’s lore when it comes to planar workings, a small number of classic D&D spells are unavailable in Aldea. This chapter also includes rules for the campaign-specific “occult magic” and some basic guidelines for psionics in Aldea. Absent is the inclusion of any new spells. But there’s plenty of unique magic items included here.
The final chapter is a small bestiary that includes a number of unique monsters. Most of these are obviously very specific to this campaign setting, but it would be easy enough to adapt them if one felt so inclined.
A small bonus adventure is also included in the very back of the book. But it really serves as little more than a basic introduction.
All in all, this book accomplishes what it set out to do. That is, convert the world of Blue Rose to be compatible with 5E D&D. Outside of this book, there’s very few campaign specific resources available for 5E. Most of the Blue Rose adventures for sale are still tied to the older RPG systems where Blue Rose originated. So, with that in mind, if you really want to run a Blue Rose campaign, you’re either going to have to put in a little work to convert the existing modules or start writing your own.
Still, there’s plenty of reasons to like this book. The various lore that makes up the world of Aldea is unlike anything else. Concepts like the various knightly orders and unique political structures can easily be adapted to meet the needs of a DM’s custom setting. If you’re a gamerr that wants to embrace cultural diversity and make it the focus of your gaming sessions, there’s never been a better product.