For Halloween, I decided I to wanted to run a RPG one-shot with a distinctly horror movie vibe and Magpie Games’ Bluebeard’s Bride more than fit the bill!
The the intriguing premise of this game is that all of the Players take on different psychological archetypes of a single character – the newly wed Bride of the sinister and wealthy nobleman Bluebeard.
Taking inspiration from the French fairy tale, the Bride explores various rooms of Bluebeard’s estate and attempts to unpick the causes for the various horrors that haunt it. Bluebeard is a widower that has had many other wives and they didn’t come to peaceful ends . . .
The system itself is relatively simple using the classic Power by the Apocalypse mechanics – 2d6+trait roll; <6 is a fail; 7-9 is a partial success and 10+ is a full success. Each of the archetypes the players take on (‘Sisters’) have slightly different framing questions to establish the background to the relationship with Bluebeard, some simple trait choices and finally a special ability that aids their interaction with the other Sisters and exploring the horrors of the house.
Play follows a fairly rigid structure: a room is selected and described by the ‘Grounds Keeper’ (=GM) and then the players take turns to explore and investigate the mysteries of the room and the horrors which are concealed. After unearthing and dealing with each horror or mystery, when the Bride leaves the room they choose to either take a token reaffirming their faithfulness or disloyalty to Bluebeard. This continues until you hit an arbitrary threshold of rooms and the Players have selected a dominant number of tokens in order to make a judgement on Bluebeard or the Sisters have become psychologically shattered from the traumas that the horrors have inflicted. Either way the Players are then given the option as to whether they will enter the one room of the estate that Bluebeard has forbidden to them.
Along with guidelines for how to fill your own interpretation of the house with appropriately thematic horrors, it also consists of 40 sample rooms to give you a starting point. For my game, I picked 5 which I thought would be unsettling, but not triggering for my group. Bluebeard is deliberately designed for mature players as potentially deals with horror themes related to body, motherhood, religion and sexuality – if you aren’t playing with a group you have known for a long time and know people’s boundaries then you definitely want to be using X-Card safety tools.
My only criticism of the game, was that I found the sample Room line art to be very functional and not very evocative. I wanted something more overtly ambiguous and flavourful. This lead me to experimenting with the Open AI DALL-E tool to generate artwork. I was pleasantly pleased that only took me 15 minutes of playing around to generate some nicely on theme concept art to set the scene for my players.
Overall, we had a blast playing! Character generation plus running 5 rooms and the conclusion clocked in at 2.5hrs which is about perfect for a weeknight RPG one shot. Given the nature of the game, I don’t think I works for anything beyond a one or two-shot session as it isn’t designed for campaign play, but I could imagine running a slightly tweaked version as an annual Halloween event.
That sounds like a really interesting RPG which I had not heard of thanks for sharing!
It is a very different style of RPG. I found it to be an interesting revelation much in the same way when I first played Call of Cthulhu in the 90s when my only previous experience was dungeon crawling D&D. We are spoiled with the wealth of different play experiences which possible now 🙂