Blue Rose: Shadows of Tanglewood

So James and I have finally gotten around to playing Blue Rose! He’s played it once before at a convention, but we’ve had the Kickstarter edition for ages now. And we’re finally playing a little bit of a campaign with it! It’s probably going to be a lot more episodic than our other campaigns, with no meta-plot, just so there isn’t as much pressure to “finish” it, or to make it have a through-line.

I’ve personally been really excited to play this for ages because the setting sounded really cool. If you haven’t heard of it before, basically it’s romantic fantasy, where you live in a fantasy kingdom where LGBT+ people are all accepted, there are magic psychic animals, and the monarchy is not inherited but the choice of a magical sacred deer. Outside of this kingdom, Aldis, you have other lands, some which are poorer and have more conservative values (e.g. one kingdom is against homosexuality because they need more population), while Kern to the north is basically Mordor.

Given that sort of setting, I was really surprised when I actually started making characters and playing the game. It is way more mechanical, dice rolly and takes way more time to get through encounters than I thought it would. That’s because it’s using the AGE system, which was made for Dragon Age. Mechanical and grindy makes more sense for that setting…

But anyway, we’ll see if my opinion changes or develops further over the course of playing more! For now, let’s get into it.

Our cast of characters includes:

  • Nym, a Rhy-Cat Expert (basically a large psychic house cat) (and yes it is basically my cat Nim)
  • Miranda, a third-generation Kernish refugee living in Aldis, Warrior
  • Orlando, an Adept, something of a country hick

All of these characters are members of the Sovereign’s Finest, agents of the Queen of Aldis. I’ll be telling the stories about our adventures through the medium of mission reports by Nym, the leader of the group.

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And as you can see, the art in the rulebook is beautiful!

Mission Report

Area explored: The Tanglewood, Pavin Weald

Agents: Nym, Miranda and Orlando

As all three of us had grown up/spent some time in the Pavin Weald, we were all familiar with the fact that monsters often come over the mountains from Kern to infest the Weald, so we were all keen for our first major assignment to be the Tanglewood. While I took the lead on the approach, Orlando waxed lyrical about how wonderful it was to be back in the Weald, while Miranda was more stoic about the patrol. This did lead to some minor squabbling. I distracted them by telling them what I knew of this area of the Weald: that it had once been the haunt of Sorcerer Ebban during the Empire of Thorns, though little was known of him.

Soon I received a mental impression of a vata’an in distress. The message was broken off prematurely. Seeing on our map there should be an old outpost nearby, we picked up the pace to reach it. When we did, it was small and deserted, except for a deer which ran away, and a collection of wind sprites. Approaching carefully, I questioned one named Florin. When I showed her a mental image of the vata’an, she said she hadn’t seen him in a few days, but he did live here with another whom he seemed very close to. Miranda and Orlando hadn’t noticed the sprites, but instead had found some tracks. They started to follow them. With Florin’s assistance, I soon overtook them, and they assumed I was following the tracks, rather than the much more accurate path Florin led me on.

The tangles of the Tanglewood soon closed in, and we found ourselves surrounded by four massive black wolves. Florin vanished. Miranda leapt in front of us, and the wolves dragged her down. She managed to get up every time they knocked her down, her armour too thick for their teeth to do too much damage, though over time they began to wear her down. Orlando got his first opportunity to use his water shaping in combat, splashing the contents of his waterskin into the eyes of the wolves where he could. Usually I would try and lead from the side of the fight and try to avoid melee, but the situation was too dire, so I leapt into combat as well. I was not as effective as Miranda’s swordplay, but the extra addition of my teeth was enough to distract the wolves and give her openings to attack. In the end, I managed to kill three out of the four wolves, and Miranda the other, but Orlando was beginning to get fatigued from the healing he had to throw around to keep Miranda and myself up. As we rested briefly after the fight to get our breath back and bind our wounds, we had to ask ourselves… why did these wolves fight to the death? It was completely out of the ordinary for wolf behaviour.

With Florin gone, we had to wander about trying to trace the faded tracks, but we soon found the unconscious vata’an lying in the briars. It took more out of Orlando to heal him back to consciousness, but the silver-haired man woke. He told us his name, Talaith, and said his lover Dartis had been taken. He told us in more detail, he and Dartis had stumbled upon the ruins of a grand manor, and within, Dartis had found a strange black mask. For a lark, he put it on, and something possessed him, leading to him attacking Talaith.

Refreshed and mostly healed, Talaith asked to join us as we investigated the ruins and looked for Dartis. He mentally showed us the path to the manor, and in his visualisation I recognised the crest of the Sorcerer Ebban on the gates of the manor. Taking great care, we went up to the ruins. On the way, we encountered a strange woman in a circle of stones. Very incautiously, Orlando approached, assuming her to be an innocent, but she turned, laughing a crazy laugh as she cried, ‘Dance with me!’ We ended up having to put her down, realising she was some form of tainted fae. After she died, her mortal form vanished into mist.

Further down thorny paths, we noticed there was no birdsong, despite the uncanny silent birds sitting on tree branches staring at us. I climbed some trees lazily as we went, but the birds eluded me the whole time. We reached the ruins proper, finding the wooden gates rotted away. In the courtyard, we could see more buildings: the manor itself, a stables, a chapel, a forge, and a well. From the forge came the sound of hammering, so I tried to sneak in and scope out what was happening in there. I was immediately noticed by the inhabitant, a satyr who was working on some kind of mechanical creature. He was also attended by a flock of clockwork sprites. I could see the glint of mania in his eyes, and he ignored my attempts at conversation, so I left quickly before I could accidentally spur him to anger.

We checked the stable next, only to find nothing in there except the wall caved in, giving access to the forest. So instead we tried to check out the chapel next. The doors were not rotted here, and were in fact locked! So we went around the side and found a tower that Miranda guessed she could try to climb. She managed to do so, up to the level of the windows, and she managed to crowbar one open. Within was a strangely clean bedroom, indicating recent occupancy. Miranda pried out the whole window and threw it flat to the grass below, so it only cracked dully rather than smashing. Then she rigged up a rope and the rest of us were able to climb in after her. The only exit from here was down into the main body of the chapel itself.

To our amazement, down there we found a dark shrine to the Exarchs! There was another satyr here, bent over a vata’an wearing a mask – Dartis, I assumed. Talaith cried out, ruining our surprise chance. The satyr announced himself as Deradiz, the Lord of Tanglewood, and he brought out his panpipes. When he played them, the room flooded with evil, rotted looking sprites. A fight began in the chapel interior. I tried to knock the mask of Dartis with my psychic powers, while he, or rather the mask entity, fought back with powerful psychic blasts which were difficult to shield from. Miranda meanwhile attacked Deradiz. Talaith laid into the sprites, trying to reach Dartis, calling out to him. Orlando tried to move the mask with his shaping, but it was not having much effect on the psychic entity. As the sprites swarmed Talaith and Miranda, and Deradiz’s panpipes started to make my head spin and my feet dance without my control, Orlando managed to telekinetically snatch the pipes from Deradiz, and smash them underfoot. On a roll, he managed to splash both Dartis and Derzdiz and distract them, while Miranda and Talaith laid into the sprites.

I finally managed to psychically rip the mask off Dartis, and he fired an arrow at Deradiz before fainting. Deradiz tried to wound Orlando and flee, but Miranda managed to behead him before he reached the door. I nursed Dartis back to life, and then we took down the remainder of the sprites, though Orlando was quite thoroughly exhausted by now.

After a rest, we searched the rest of the manor complex (ignoring the still-crazed tinker in the forge – I would recommend some experts on fae possession are sent to try and rehabilitate him). We found no other combatants, but many disgusting artefacts of the Sorcerer Ebban, most rotting. But we found two intact pages of a journal, which I have attached to this report. In short, they detail his observation of the Tanglewood, befriending the fae, and then watching something infest and twist the fae into the forms we met today. It suggests that perhaps Sorcerer Ebban was not initially a villain, but perhaps he too was infected by whatever changed the fae of this area. We have packed these notes, and the wicked mask, and are travelling south again to take them to our superiors.


Lone Wolf Adventure Game: Night of the Living Vordaks

A friend of mine was feeling disappointed with role-playing games. She’d been playing with a group that enjoyed min-maxing, and taking an hour to plan out each fight. She didn’t. So she asked if I’d run a game for her, so she could see what it’s like with a different GM. I gave her and her partner a few options about what sort of game they wanted to play, and everyone liked the sound of Lone Wolf! I love Lone Wolf, but haven’t had a chance to use the new game yet, so I was very excited to give it a whirl. The group was my friend, her partner, and my wife. My wife has played the first few gamebooks; the other two don’t know anything about Lone Wolf. (If you don’t know about Lone Wolf, it’s based on a series of gamebooks from the 80s, which you can read for free online at

These are our three Kai Lords:

Wandering Wolf – Skilled in the wilderness, Wandering Wolf is accompanied by her avian friend, Kestrel. She knows the disciplines of Weaponskill with the bow, Camoflage, Tracking, Animal Kinship, and Healing.
Wise Strider – Poor Wise Strider is one of the least capable members of the Kai Monastery, with poor rolls for Combat Skill, Endurance and Willpower. He knows Sixth Sense, Weaponskill with the quarterstaff, Mindshield, Hunting, and Healing.
Silent Hawk – The strongest and heartiest of the group, Silent Hawk has Weaponskill with swords, Mindblast, Healing, Mind Over Matter, and Mindshield.

I quickly introduced the basics of Magnamund to the group while we made characters, and then set the scene. It was autumn, and Wandering Wolf, Wise Strider and Silent Hawk were on a routine patrol near the Kai Monastery. Suddenly, they heard a scream from somewhere ahead of them! Wandering Wolf was able to tell the direction, and the Kai Lords rushed to investigate. They found a skinny, dirty young girl, being chased by a small raiding party of six salivating Giaks, led by an ominous form in a red cloak. The girl had barely enough strength to run to the Kai Lords, who interposed themselves. Combat was joined! Silent Hawk and Wise Strider rushed forward to attack the Giaks, while Wandering Wolf hung back with her bow and arrow. Silent Hawk swiftly disposed of the Giaks, while Wise Strider confronted the undead Vordak leading them and vanquished it. As it died, its body melted, torn apart by the magic that had animated it, leaving only an inert Vordak Gem, which Wandering Wolf pocketed.

The Kai Lords used their healing powers to resuscitate the girl. Her name was Aine, and she had come to the Kai Lords for help: there was something wrong with her father. Young Aine was still dehydrated and exhausted, and so the group decided to take her back to the Kai Monastery to recover. They were expecting to wait a while, but the very next day, Kai Master Sun Dancer took them aside to tell them Aine had recovered sufficiently, and invited them to come to see her.

Aine was sitting up in bed, eating enthusiastically. She was now able to answer some questions. She lived in the small mining town of Thornfalcon to the north – which meant that she had been on the road for a week to reach the monastery! Her father, Darban, had been acting unusually. No one else in Thornfalcon would listen to her, and so she came to find Kai Lords, who help everyone. When asked what exactly was wrong with her father, she was unable to say anything in particular. Sun Dancer told the three to take Aine back to Thornfalcon, and while there, to check on Darban, just to be on the safe side.

After visiting the armory for supplies, the Kai Lords departed the next day. With a pony for Aine to ride on, they were able to reach Thornfalcon in only five days. They stopped on the way in Yrsonor, where they stayed with a farming family who had been saved by Kai Lords. The group helped out on the farm to repay them for their hospitality. The farmer’s wife gave them a lot of food for the road, but this only lasted them so long. With supplies running out, the Kai Lords foraged while travelling. They accidentally ran into a grumpy bear, but Wandering Wolf was able to placate it. A few days later, the group reached Hitchford, where they were offered free hospitality at the local inn. Finally, they turned west and began heading into the foothills of the Durncrag Mountains, towards Thornfalcon. While they traveled, Aine also asked them lots of questions about being a Kai Lord. Silent Hawk began to have suspicions that Aine herself might have latent Kai potential.

Finally, five days after leaving the monastery, the Kai Lords reached Thornfalcon – and were horrified. The mining town was almost a ghost town. Most of the buildings were abandoned and derelict. There were only a few people around, who avoided the Kai Lords, or cursed at them as they went past. It was such a difference from the warm welcome that they had received on the road! They continued to the ramshackle house where Darban lived, to return Aine to him. Darban was an older man with a limp – the result of a mining accident. He was emaciated, with patchy hair and wheezing breath. He was furious with his daughter for being away and struck her. Aine burst into tears and ran away, while Darban berated the Kai Lords and told them to leave town. With their knowledge of healing, the group were able to tell that Darban had been poisoned, but he refused their offer of healing and ordered them to leave.

The Kai Lords left the house, and met up again with a distraught Aine. Her father had never struck her before! The group decided to investigate further. They first went to the town’s well to see if it was responsible for Darban’s poisoning, but the water there was pure (if not particularly clean. Next, Wandering Wolf and Aine went to the town’s ruined waterwheel to start repairing it. Meanwhile, Silent Hawk went to the ruins of the Thornfalcon Mining Company’s compound, which had been vandalized by furious miners. She went into the offices and went through their remaining ledgers. She was able to find evidence that due to poor investments, embezzlement, and decreasing profits, the Company had gone bankrupt. She took the ledgers with her – perhaps this would help to find justice for the people here. At the same time, Wise Strider went to the tiny church of Ishir. The elderly priestess there, Leine, told him how the Company had pulled out of the town, taking all the jobs with it. She also told him that recently, people had stopped attending church. Curious!

The Kai Lords reunited at night-time at the local tavern, Thornfalcon’s Head. The signboard depicted a smiling man’s head, but it had been defaced so that the head was in a noose. The men here drinking weren’t happy to see the Kai Lords, but the barkeep, Eiven, gave them a warmer welcome, and filled them in on what had happened here. This village had been established by the Thornfalcon Company, a mining venture from Toran when a coal vein was discovered. They had offered loans to miners who wanted to move out here. However, when the coal in the mine dried up, the company demanded their money back and pulled out of the town a few years earlier. Those who could afford to leave had done so; those who stayed, many of whom were injured from working in the mine, were left to try and scratch a living as best they could. However, everything was looking up, because a new coal vein had been discovered, and representatives from the Thornfalcon Company were coming.

The Kai Lords found this somewhat disquieting, although they were not sure exactly why. Suddenly, an altercation broke out at a table behind them. One of the men, who had a sickly look just like Darban, smashed a bottle and drove it into the other man’s face. The Kai Lords rushed to intervene. Silent Hawk directed a strong blast of psychic energy at the man, knocking him senseless, while Wandering Wolf and Wise Strider tended to the injured man’s wounds. He recovered, thanks to their ministrations. The group returned to the church for the night, taking the unconscious man with them. That evening, Silent Hawk attempted to heal him. She could feel the sickness within him, spreading throughout his entire body, but it seemed to be dormant. She was able to make it recede, although not to cure it altogether. When the man, Blaen, finally awoke, he was confused and could not remember what had happened, and soon fell into a deep sleep.

Later that night, the Kai Lords awoke to Kestrel’s squawking, and the smell of smoke! The church had been set on fire! They hurriedly gathered their belongings and fled, and Silent Hawk helped Leine and Blaen escape. As they emerged, coughing from the smoke, a group of five men rushed out of the darkness to attack them! Wise Strider’s Sixth Sense alerted him; he flung himself in the way, and Wandering Wolf and Silent Hawk soon reinforced him. Soon, four of the five men were unconscious, and one had been slain accidentally by one of Wandering Wolf’s arrows. To their horror, the man’s body began to bubble and melt away, revealing a Vordak Gem. Somehow, some of the living people of this town had been implanted with Vordak Gems and turned into agents of the enemy! Suddenly, Wandering Wolf realised that Aine had vanished. She used her Tracking to try and discover where she had gone, but soon lost the trail in the darkness.

The group (and their prisoners) went to Darban’s house and found it empty. Silent Hawk guessed that this was because Darban had kidnapped his daughter. Wise Strider was more worried about the ‘coal vein’ that had been discovered – was it really coal, or was this the source of the Vordak Gems? They went to one of the derelict houses and secured their unconscious prisoners. They had noticed that the possessed people were vulnerable to psychic attacks, since they already had two psyches fighting for control inside them. They also did a physical examination of the men, and found a large scar on the torso. The gems had been implanted by someone with considerable medical skill.

The next morning, the Kai Lords set out to the tavern for breakfast. There, they confronted the barkeep Eiven to make sure that he was not infected. Mistakes were made, however – their manner of asking was overly confrontational, and Eiven fled the scene. Silent Hawk vaulted the bar and chased him, while Wandering Wolf left the tavern, circled around the back, and clotheslined Eiven as he emerged from the back door. There was nothing wrong with him. Meanwhile, Wise Strider searched the bar, and found a basement where the tavern’s moonshine was manufactured. Feeling embarrassed, they all apologized to Eiven.

After leaving Thornfalcon’s Head, the Kai Lords were approached by – Aine! But there was something wrong with her, and a psychic probe revealed that she had been infected during the night. Once she realized that the Kai Lords could see through her ruse, Aine fled towards the mine. Wandering Wolf shot her with an arrow, and they chased her down into the abandoned mine. It was dark and very tight, but the drops of Aine’s blood led them further on. Aine’s small size made it easier for her to move about in the mine. Wandering Wolf realized that Aine was leading them in circles, just as an explosion rang out. Rushing to the source of the sound, they found that Aine had circled behind them and then other living Vordaks had collapsed the mine shaft, burying them alive!

Who knows how many days passed? The three Kai Lords soon ran out of food, and Wise Strider’s lantern also ran out of fuel, leaving them in the pitch black. They searched for a place where they might be able to tunnel out. Wise Strider followed a slight wind to discover a small crack in the rocks above them, where Kestrel began to screech at them, alerting them that the surface was close by. Using Wandering Wolf’s dagger and Silent Hawk’s Mind Over Matter, they laboriously tunneled their way out. During the night, it was pitch black, while at day, only the smallest sliver of light entered their tomb. Several times, their tunneling caused a cave-in, which they had to clear. Had they not been Kai Lords, they would surely have perished. But finally they broke through to blinding light. Exhausted, starving, filthy, the three crawled to the surface and collapsed. Despite the odds, they were free!

While Silent Hawk and Wise Strider looked for food, Wandering Wolf and Kestrel headed down towards Thornfalcon. She was easily able to avoid being seen, using her Kai Discipline of Camoflage. She found that the remaining townspeople had been rounded up by the human Vordaks. They were now openly converting everyone in town. She also found signs of wagon prints on the road into town, entering and leaving. She joined the others and told them what she had seen. Clearly, the Thornfalcon Company’s representative had come and left already with a shipment of the new coal vein. Having been in the mine, the Kai Lords now knew that there was no ‘new coal vein’. The wagon had to be taking Vordak Crystals to Toran, to begin converting people there as well! Wandering Wolf found the group’s pony, which they had entered town on, and took off in pursuit. It had to be stopped before it reached Toran! Meanwhile, Silent Hawk and Wise Strider would rescue the people of Thornfalcon who had not already been converted, and destroy the hidden laboratory.

Wandering Wolf rode her pony east as swiftly as she could. After most of a day, she reached Hitchford, where she stopped briefly for food. She learned that the Thornfalcon wagon had passed through town earlier that day. If she pushed herself, she would be able to catch up with it. She rode on through the night, and finally caught up to it on the road. There was a driver, the Company’s representative, and four guards on the wagon. Wandering Wolf wasn’t sure if any of them were infected already or not. She dismounted and sent her pony to block the road, while she slipped into the undergrowth and aimed an arrow carefully at the Company man. Before anyone had even spotted her, Wandering Wolf sent two arrows at the man, killing him. His body began to dissolve immediately, and the guards panicked when they saw this. Relieved that none of them were possessed, Wandering Wolf emerged, explained everything, and ordered them to turn the wagon around to the Kai Monastery. They should warn the Kai Lords. She herself swapped horses at the first opportunity, and then headed back to Thornfalcon. Had her friends succeeded, or was it too late?

Back in Thornfalcon, Silent Hawk disguised herself and infiltrated the line of prisoners. They were being taken to the Thornfalcon Company’s ruined headquarters: the hidden laboratory was in its basement. When the opportunity arose, Silent Hawk attacked her captors. Using her martial skills and psychic power, she was able to subdue a number of living Vordaks. The prisoners fled, and a large number of remaining Vordaks chased Silent Hawk away. She found a defensive position, and prepared to fight off the overwhelming numbers… when suddenly someone else attacked them from behind.

Meanwhile, Wise Strider used the distraction that Silent Hawk had created. He climbed on the roof of a building next to the Company’s compound, and then jumped over, entering the building without being seen. Most of the guards had gone to pursue Silent Hawk, and he quickly defeated two remaining sentries before entering the basement. There, he found an elaborate laboratory set up, full of strange implements. There were two infected Vordaks there, as well as a cloaked and masked man who seemed to be the surgeon. Wise Strider attacked! The surgeon, a Liganim from the Darklands, produced a Power Rod and sent blasts of psychic energy at Wise Strider with it, but Wise Strider’s Mindshield protected him from the worst of it. He struck down the two Vordaks with his quarterstaff, and then engaged the Liganim in a duel. He was gravely wounded, but knocked the Darkspawn’s mask off. The Liganim was unable to breathe without it, and this distraction gave Wise Strider the opportunity he needed to kill the foul surgeon.

At this point, Silent Hawk ran into the laboratory, accompanied by Aine! Aine’s latent psychic powers had allowed her to fight back against the Vordak Gem inside her. She told the Kai Lords that the Liganim gave orders, and communicated to his masters in the Darklands, using a Psychic Gem. A horde of living Vordaks appeared at the top of the stairs. Wise Strider fought them off, while Silent Hawk attempted to use the Power Rod to amplify her Mindblast through the Power Gem, to knock out all the infected Vordaks at once. Silent Hawk was unable to focus sufficiently, and Wise Strider was being overwhelmed, on the verge of death. She flung the items at Aine, and told her to do it, while she rushed up to save Wise Strider. Aine finally managed to use her Mindforce through the Psychic Gem. The result stunned all the possessed Vordaks, including Aine. The Kai Lords had succeeded!

Wandering Wolf, Silent Hawk and Wise Strider remained in Thornfalcon for a week, re-using the Psychic Gem as necessary to keep the possessed Vordaks subdued. After a week, they were reinforced by Kai Masters, led by Sun Dancer. He congratulated them on their actions, and talked to them about what had happened. The group realized that they had managed to cure Blaen of his possession: by using psychic force to render the Vordak Gem inert, it was possible to use Kai powers to cure the sickness within them. Sun Dancer promised that Kai Masters with advanced Magnakai disciplines would remain in Thornfalcon for as long as necessary, until all the possessed people had been healed. He also accepted their judgement that Aine should be accepted for training as a Kai Lord. She was reluctant to leave Darban, but once he was cured he insisted that his daughter take this opportunity to reach a better life. Silent Hawk also presented her evidence of how the people of Thornfalcon had been failed by Sommerlund. Sun Dancer promised that they would be resettled in the lands around the Kai Monastery, where they would be able to find employment.

Returning to the monastery, the three Kai Lords felt traumatized by their experiences, particularly in the mine, but time heals all wounds. Wandering Wolf learned the discipline of Hunting, and improved her knowledge of Animal Handling. Silent Hawk found her improved psychic powers meant she had developed Sixth Sense and improved her Mind Over Matter. Wise Strider improved his Healing abilities, and learned how to use Mindblast.

Everyone had a great time! They’re excited to have another adventure. We found the system very simple and intuitive. Combat was a little dull, but it was resolved so quickly that it didn’t matter. We layered on the advanced rules gradually, and it was nice how we could use whatever people liked, such as weapon qualities, and ignore rules that we didn’t like as much – some people didn’t like combat techniques. As the GM, I was impressed by how very resilient Lone Wolf characters were. After running a lot of low-level Dungeons and Dragons, the Kai Lords all felt like superheroes by comparison, which was really nice. It was also very easy for people who knew nothing about the world to get into character. I like Cubicle 7’s work, such as their fantastic Doctor Who RPG, and the Lone Wolf Adventure Game is similarly excellent. Now I just have to decide where to send the players next time.

For Sommmerlund and the Kai!

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Source: Cubicle 7