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Monday, 17 July 2017

Classic Rant: Blue Rose and Just Who the Heroes Are

So the Blue Rose kickstarter has launched, and there's no question that it's going to fund, being paid for by dozens or perhaps hundreds of people who will never actually play the game, but will pay good money to feel superior to others for supporting something that is 'making a difference' in no actually discernible way, but in the sense that it has all the right APPEARANCES of giving pseudo-activist street cred to anyone who says they 'support' it.

I thought it was interesting that one of the first questions asked, in a G+ thread where Green Ronin announced the kickstarter was "just what would you actually do in a setting like this? Who would the heroes even be?" (The question may have come from someone with no prior experience with Blue Rose)

Steve Kenson responded "the adventurers are most likely members of the Sovereign's Finest, chosen defenders of Aldis and agents of its crown".

Hmm. Telling. 

See, Blue Rose is really all about pseudo-activist utopian visions. How they imagine that an 'ideal' world would be like (if all those evil patriarchies and imperialisms and whatever didn't get in the way), and just who they would like to see themselves as. After all, most RPG play is wish-fulfillment of some variety; but while most D&D players might like to imagine themselves a hero or a wizard, the Blue Rose writers (and fans) want to imagine themselves in a world where THEY are the enforcers who get to decide what is best for everyone else. 

So it's obvious when you think about it: in the default game of Blue Rose you are meant to play the Thought Police. Steve Kenson boldly admits it. That's the pseudo-activist dream: that they could have the authority to actually get to go around and impose their ideas on everyone else whether they like it or not. Naturally they see the world that would result from that kind of fascism to be a utopia, but so did every other fascist ever.

Ironically, this make Blue Rose pretty much the exact OPPOSITE of the kind of lesson-giving game on real social justice that you might want to see. 

In Aldis as written, you cannot play a plucky young heroine who is trying to make her way in the world and accomplish her dream while facing terrible cultural-based Institutional Discrimination, because there is no such discrimination in the setting-as-written, and the setting-as-written is not just 'absent of evidence' but is explicit in stating that the setting-as-written has no Institutional discrimination (except by the Blue Rose Scepter and Hart, against Individualists).
The lessons of civil rights or social justice are actually entirely ABSENT from the world of Blue Rose, and instead we get the lesson that the ideal world would be one where a special chosen elite rule by fiat and their lackeys get to use armed power to stop anyone who would resist the structure of that order. 

Let me put the problem in language a typical progressive might just understand: in Blue Rose's basic campaign, you're not meant to play the Ferguson protesters, fighting the power, you're meant to play the Ferguson Cops, brutally enforcing the world as they want to see it.

The hippies are turning in their graves.

And if you read that previous paragraph again, you would see that this 'lesson' ultimately is amoral: the "Order of things" is naturally what 'the right people' think 'is for the best for everyone', but that idea could just as easily be Nazism as it could be social-welfare. As soon as you put the Collective over the Individual, you lose all moral foundation for anything other than saying "obey because we tell you to". Claims that "we're different because we're the NICE guys" is meaningless because Stalinists and Neo-Nazis think they're the nice guys too. Anyone who decides that the right society is one where the State gets to impose its rules on individuals who have no rights to oppose it, and that the definition of 'heroism' is the armed fanatics that enforce Conformity to that status quo and brutally repress opposition are not the 'nice guys'.

If that's your definition of 'hero', then you've become the very thing you think you fight against.

I'm sure Blue Rose will be a very profitable kickstarter for Green Ronin, and everyone who backed it will get to feel smug about how they've shown what rebellious freedom-fighters for social-justice they are by backing a game where the heroes are the setting's equivalent of the Stasi or the Gestapo, so I guess more power to GR for being such clever capitalists and shamelessly milking bucks like parasites off of legitimate causes (albeit from preening idiots who would likely never have made any meaningful contributions to those causes anyways). 

Likewise, I'm sure that this article will be resoundingly condemned like all criticism of the pseudo-activist collective as homophobic or sexist or something like that, even though I've supported diversity in RPGs for my entire career, and even though my vision of the world is one in which every individual has an inherent and inalienable right to their own bodies, identities, and sexuality, while their vision is one where any such rights depend on whether the Collective grants it to you or not.

But hey, every villain thinks they're the hero of their own story, right?


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + H&H's Beverwyck

(Originally posted June 22, 2015)


  1. I've never seen or read Blue Rose, but your post got me to thinking. Would you define Star Trek's Federation in the same manner? Not disagreeing with your statements necessarily, just curious.

    DM Mike

    1. Funny thing about Star Trek's Federation is they have all sorts of rogue Admirals causing problems. Apparently something is wrong in the Star Fleet promotions department.

    2. It's hard to say for sure, but nothing I've seen from Star Trek indicates that the Federation brutally enforces conformity, excludes entire classes of people from leadership positions, or runs on a dictatorship chosen by an invulnerable Magic Deer with hardcore Ctrl-Left leanings.

  2. Funny, it made me think about Star Trek too (well, maybe because I finally pre-ordered the new ST rpg).

    I never read or played Blue Rose but from what you explained, Pundit, this is clearly an autocracy (benevolent or not, it depends on wether you trust the magic deer or not). The magic deer also seems to possess attributes typical of autocrats, at least according to their propaganda: wise, infaillible, all-knowing, etc.

    I think it would have been more genre-appropriate to cast the PCs as the underdogs trying to establish an utopia with the guidance of their magical animal than as defenders of one that's already in place but well...

    1. Exactly. That would have been closer to the romantic fantasy BR claims to emulate.

  3. Out of curiosity, what's your opinion on Dark Heresy? You know, the 40k RPG where you're playing the brutal thought police of an openly totalitarian regime? ;)

    1. As a specific game, DH RPG is badly done. It reduces the WH40K world into a micro-game.

      As a setting, the whole WH40K setting was very good in the early period, when it was being played mostly for laughs.
      The more recent versions of that setting are pretty stupid. That said, I don't really think Games Workshop is pushing an ideology they actually believe in through their setting. The authors of BR are.

  4. Ah, the Venisonocracy. Good article to resurface.

  5. So if Blue Rose represents the twisted wish fulfillment of the left, what does murderhobo play represent? Nihilism? Cutthroat capitalism? Certainly nothing better than a benevolent leftist autocracy. Just because you want to play in a given world doesn't mean you want to live in it, or think it's realistic for that matter. I love ASE, but I'm not trying to live in Denethix. You're ascribing a double standard to Blue Rose and taking this shit way too seriously. But that's what you do with leftist politics. C'mon, put this in perspective and chill out for once.

    1. Most D&D players do not wish for a real-life world of murder-hoboing. It's just fun as a game.
      The Blue Rose designers (and most of the people who cheer for the game, including most of the tiny number that ever actually bother playing it) really do dream of a world where they and people like them get to run everyone's life, where an all-knowing elite select who gets to govern and excludes Individualists and Libertarians, where 'tolerance' is practiced toward everything except awful Christianity, and where any dissenters or reformers could be permanently silenced by a 'queen's guard' who would hunt them down to kill, exile or send them for psychic reprogramming.

    2. "Most D&D players do not wish for a real-life world of murder-hoboing. It's just fun as a game."

      Agreed, but that was kind of my point.

      "The Blue Rose designers (and most of the people who cheer for the game, including most of the tiny number that ever actually bother playing it) really do dream of a world where they and people like them get to run everyone's life..."

      Are you saying that because they have stated something along those lines, or just because they are openly progressive and the game reflects those values? Because I would consider the first to be legitimate proof and the second to be a big stretch.

      I'm not saying that such people don't exist. But you tend to paint the left with a big brush that doesn't resemble the actual human beings who I-for-one interact with. I certainly DO run into some psycho-progressives these days who are laser locked onto identity politics 24/7. But I also run into Trump voters, who selected a two-bit con-man as their spirit animal.

      So it kind of balances out...except there are a lot more Trump voters and they have actual power. Unlike the psycho-progressives who, if they obtain any power, are completely incapable of holding onto it because they can't reconcile it with their concept of "privilege."

    3. To be "progressive" on the Left means you want to get to run everyone else's life. It's inherent in the definition. Progressives assume they know better than anyone else what's best for everyone.

  6. "To be "progressive" on the Left means you want to get to run everyone else's life."

    That's a sweeping generalization without a hint of qualification. As a rule, I never subscribe to such reductive statements. In this case, I know first-hand that this is absurdly broad and overstated.

    Frankly, I think this is one of those cases where the review says more about the reviewer than the topic of review. I can't tell how much of your analysis is accurate and how much is colored by your ideology.

    1. But it's an absolute value of Progressive ideology that the Collective matters more than the individual, and that the State must be used to impose Collective interests and will.
      There's no debate on that. In Progressive ideology, the right of the individual to do what he wants is overruled by what the Collective (though in truth, the Elites who rule the collective) think is best.

      Otherwise, it wouldn't be progressivism.