Bluebeard’s Bride, a new horror game being published by Magpie Games, sounds like one of the most interesting tabletop roleplaying experiences I’ve heard of in years. We had a chance to sit down with one of the games designers, Strix Beltran, about the development of the game and how it all works.
The fairytale of Bluebeard is a very old one. A wealthy man with a blue beard takes a young woman from the nearby village for his wife. Bluebeard is known for taking wives, but they always seem to mysteriously disappear. He brings her into his house, and gives her a key for every room in the mansion, with instructions to never open one specific door. Then he leaves for three weeks. You can guess what happens next – the new bride finally gets bored/curious enough to open the final door, and discovered the bodies of all of her predecessors. Bluebeard then returns – this was all a trap, and depending on the story, probably kills her.
The game follows the same story. Instead of playing your own independent character, each player at the table plays a different aspect of the Bride’s personality, such as the Witch, The Mother, or the Fatale. You know that the story will end with Bluebeard finding you and ending your life, but before that you must work together to explore the house, and ultimately, explore yourselves. It’s a heavily modified hack of Powered by the Apocalypse, the same system that powers a lot of really popular games like Monsterhearts.
This is not your typical horror game. There’s no jump scares or “spookiness” like you might find in Betrayal at the House on the Hill. The horror, instead, comes from the stories the players make as they journey deeper and deeper into Bluebeard’s mansion. Along the way, they will find keys that the players describe for the Groundskeeper (this game’s name for a GM). The Groundskeeper in turn will use those descriptions to develop rooms for the players to explore. A key with a burning flame insignia on it, for example, might be a furnace room.
To Beltran, this game was about filling a hole in the gaming world, for gothic, female-centric horror. It’s something that’s been explored in books and films (think Crimson Peak), but almost never in a gaming situation. As they explore the house, the players will explore their characters’ psyche as well, leading to deeply emotional gameplay. Beltran told us that she once ran a game that ended with a player in tears, which is why performing a debrief and pulling out of the game world slowly is very important afterwards.
Bluebeard’s Bride sounds like one of the most fascinating and interesting games I’ve heard about in a long time. Their kickstarter just went live this week, and has already destroyed their funding goals, but if you want your own copy or to support a really interesting game, go ahead and donate here.
You can listen to our entire interview with Strix Beltran below:
And at 3pm PST today, you can watch the game be played on Twitch! Check it out: