Thursday, June 25, 2015

TBT: Blue Rose Freeport

This week, Green Ronin Publishing launched a Kickstarter campaign for Blue Rose: The AGE Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy. This new edition will translate the World of Aldea setting from the True20 System (first designed for Blue Rose in 2005) to the Adventure Game Engine (first designed for the Dragon Age RPG). The game reached its funding goal within hours and has been blowing through stretch goals all week. If you're a fan of the sort of character-driven fantasy written by authors such as Tamora Pierce and Mercedes Lackey; a gamer who wants to see a setting that addresses issues involving gender, sexuality, and human rights in a positive, inclusive way; or even just a fan of intelligent psychic animals or the art of Stephanie Pui-Min Law, then Blue Rose will have a great deal to offer you!

Once of the newly unlocked goals is a subsetting by Jeb Boyt, "Game of Thorns," detailing the Pirate Isles and protagonists of a less savory sort than the Sovereign's Finest. Reading this news reminded me of some thoughts I posted online some time back (10 years this week, to be exact) about mixing Aldea and Freeport. I fully anticipate that Jeb's work will make much of this column woefully obsolete, and I'll welcome that. Nevertheless, I've decided to share these old ideas here as my own personal way of celebrating the resurgence of Blue Rose.


Placing Freeport in Aldea

There appear to be two possibilities for locating Freeport within Aldea:

1. The Scatterstar Archipeligo: Freeport is located within an island chain, but the Scatterstars seem to more extensively settled than is really appropriate for Freeport.

2. The Leviathan's Teeth: This evokes the Serpent's Teeth name, plus Jarzon's coast is known to be difficult to navigate, making this a probable pirate haven. But the core book doesn't describe this specific area. 

[The World of Aldea sourcebook, released later, provided much more information about both these regions, including a number of pirate groups operating in the Scatterstar Archipeligo.]

Blue Rose Backgrounds in Freeport

Freeport has the staggering variety of races common to most d20 games; Blue Rose does not. Certain races common in Freeport translate easily to the backgrounds given in the Blue Rose core book: orcs and half-orcs (and probably hobgoblins) become night people; elves and half-elves become vata; merfolk and nereids become sea-folk.

Dwarves, gnomes, and halflings have no equivalents in Blue Rose. Either remove those races and characters from Freeport, change NPCs of those races into humans (or possibly vata or rhydan?), or convert these races' abilities into True20.

Freeport has limited precedent for the presence of rhydan as hero characters. Druids and rangers' animal companions and paladins' special mounts might be replaced with rhy-bonded companions. Dolphins are an obvious option for an aquatic campaign (especially as allies of sea-folk). Beyond this, intelligent animals without humanoid companions do not really fit into the Freeport setting as written. GMs are free to modify these assumptions, of course!

If using the backgrounds in Blue Rose, humans in Freeport would most likely be Aldins, Islanders, or Jarzoni. Others would be rare, but possible. (And Freeport almost certainly has one or more backgrounds unique to itself.)

Using Blue Rose Gods in Freeport

From the start, Freeport was designed to be inserted into any campaign world with minimal effort, by leaving the background fairly generic: few specific details of geography outside the immediate islands, most gods identified by sphere rather than name, etc.

I've recently reread the history chapter of Blue Rose, and decided to figure out how the gods mentioned in Freeport would match up to those of Aldea. Freeport itself has four favored gods, those of Knowledge (NG), Pirates (CN), the Sea (N), and Warriors (N), plus a host of other gods with much smaller followings.

Gaelinir (Light) is god of both learning and the sea, while Braniel (Twilight) is associated with the element of water in general. There are two possibilities here: 1. Gaelinir has separate temples to two of his aspects, or 2. He is the Knowledge God, while Braniel is Freeport's Sea God. (The former fits Gaelinir's portfolio better, while the latter fits their respective alignments better.)

The Warrior God is likely Anwaren (Twilight). The Warrior King also has an aspect related to madness, which could more closely tie this god's followers into the secret cult wars afflicting the city.

The Pirate God, Harrimast, does not have an obvious match. As suggested in Freeport: The City of Adventure, he may be Freeport's unique aspect of a better-known mainland god. If this is the case, he may be related to either Braniel or Anwaren, or possibly an Exarch of Shadow in disguise.

Two gods are given greater detail in the Freeport Trilogy and Freeport: The City of Adventure: Yig and the Unspeakable One. In Aldea, Yig is likely an aspect of one of the Gods of Twilight, perhaps Maurenna (civilization) or Selene (arcane arts). The Unspeakable One is either an Exarch of Shadow, or something even more alien.

Other gods mentioned in the Freeport line include (but are not limited to):

  • Death: Most death gods would be aspects of Selene.
  • Justice/Retribution: Aulora. Alternately, this could be a sect of Jarzon's Church of Pure Light, which would fit well with the fact that this temple of crusaders has had a difficult time operating in a pirate city.
  • Luck: Athne (good fortune) seems to be the closest match.
  • Magic: Selene.
  • Murder: This could be one of many Exarchs of Shadow, but most likely Tyrexxus (wrath).
  • Orcs: Krom is almost certainly an orcish [night people] interpretation of another god, perhaps Anwaren (war).
  • Rogues/Trickery: This may be a Shadow-perverted cult derived from Selene's (secrets).
  • Smiths: Goia.
  • Sun: Hiathas.


At that time that I originally composed the notes above, I didn't continue my thoughts to the point of answering a few critical questions that would be necessary for actually running a Blue Rose Freeport game. The foremost of these was how to adapt the serpent people to Aldea. Green Ronin partially solved that problem themselves a few years later, when they released a version of Death in Freeport that used the True20 System rules set that succeeded Blue Rose

Well, if the new edition and "Game of Thorns" stop short of introducing Freeport's unique brand of Lovecraftian pirate horror into Aldea, then I may just have to tackle converting the serpent people into AGE myself. Ye be warned, 'lubbers...

Thursday, June 4, 2015

More thoughts on D&D 5E Freeport

In previous columns, I converted the Freeport "iconic" characters to D&D 5th Edition. This time, I'll be offering some thoughts on creating your own 5E characters suitable for Freeport.

Races: The various Freeport Companions and the new Freeport: The City of Adventure (FCOA) book for Pathfinder point out that Freeport is the crossroads of the world, so theoretically any race can be encountered there, no matter how rare. In fact, all races and subraces in the Player's Handbook (PH) have appeared in past Freeport products, except for dragonborn. In Freeport, dragonborn are likely to be confused with the hated and feared serpent people, which could pose an enduring threat to such a character and their associates.

Freeport also has a few new races unique to the setting. For crag gnomes, the forest gnome subrace seems the best match, except for those inventors, like Kolter, who are clearly rock gnome tinkers. For azhar, use the fire genasi, described in the Elemental Evil Player's Companion (available as a free PDF). Island trolls have no equivalent in the handful of 5E products that I've seen so far, so you may wish to simply ignore them or replace them with another race (possibly goliaths?) if you don't want to convert the race from scratch.

Classes: Likewise, all PH classes and archetypes are available in Freeport. Some of the new classes presented in Freeport sourcebooks can be approximated using various combinations of classes, archetypes, and backgrounds. For example, assassin is a rogue archetype in 5E; noble is a background usable with any class; and a corsair or freebooter can be easily built by giving a fighter or rogue the sailor background.

The warlock class is very well-suited for unhinged cultists (including cult "priests" with the acolyte background). Use the Fiend patron for demon and devil cults, and the Great Old One for Lovecraftian gods like Yig, the Unspeakable One, and the Crawling Chaos. For investigator-heroes in the vein of Call of Cthulhu, a warlock could also represent an academic who has unlocked secrets of magic from studying Things Man Was Not Meant to Know, and uses that knowledge to combat such menaces while she desperately tries to hold onto her remaining shreds of sanity. (This was the concept behind my first 5E character, a tiefling sage, who I will surely babble about at some other time.)

Backgrounds: All PH backgrounds are available in Freeport. The charlatan, criminal, sailor, and urchin are especially common throughout the city.

Gods: FCOA gives the most comprehensive list of gods worshiped in Freeport. Assigning domains from the greatly reduced list in 5E is fairly easy:

  • Death (DMG): Gods of Death and Murder
  • Knowledge: Gods of Commerce, Knowledge, and Magic
  • Life: Gods of Healing and Life
  • Light: Gods of Justice and Sun
  • Nature: God of Nature (and possibly Life?)
  • Tempest: Gods of Sea and Storms, plus Dagon
  • Trickery: Gods of Luck, Lust, and Thieves, plus Oona and the Unspeakable One
  • War: Gods of Strength, Valor, and War, plus Abaddon
A few gods are a little more complicated:
  • The Crawling Chaos: Death, possibly Knowledge and/or Trickery
  • God of Penitence: (no obvious choice, possibly defaulting to Healing?)
  • God of Pirates: Trickery, War
  • God of Retribution: Death, War
  • God of Roads: (no obvious choice, but Knowledge seems a good default)
  • Yig: Knowledge, Trickery (Hitthkai sect); War (Sskethvai sect)
Skills and Languages: All skills are available. For checks regarding "forbidden knowledge," use the Arcana skill (for obscure magic and other planes) or Religion skill (for deities and secret cults). History may be more appropriate for more general details about lost civilizations such as Valossa.

Add Valossan to the PH's language list to preserve the uniqueness of that culture within the setting. DMs may wish to add some of the foreign human languages from FCOA, depending on how much those cultures are featured in his or her game.

Now, go out there and grab all the swag you can!