Tabletop role playing games often take cues from common mythology. These games give a chance for players and Game Masters to remix common stories with modern twists and explore lesser known myths more completely. The myth of Bluebeard is one such tale that’s been explored in film, TV, opera and ballet. The Bluebeard’s Bride RPG, currently on Kickstarter, offers a brand new way to explore this old spooky story.
The bones of the story are fairly common: A young woman is promised to an older, uglier, powerful man called Bluebeard because of the strange color of his facial hair. Bluebeard is called away on business on their wedding night. He gives his bride the keys to his massive manor to allow her to explore her new home, but he forbids her to enter one single room in the house. The bride’s curiosity eventually overtakes her and when she opens up the locked room, she find the bodies of all the other brides Bluebeard took—and murdered—before her. The story resonates with other common myths like Pandora’s Box and Eve taking the apple in the Garden of Eden.
“There are many endings to the tale,” said Marissa Kelly of Magpie Games, “but the one that resonates strongest with me is the one where she ventures into the final room, Bluebeard catches her, and no one is there to save her. She is alone in facing her punishment and no one is the wiser. The town, her family, everyone is better off maintaining the status quo of her death and turning a blind eye as the system chews her up and spits her out.”
Kelly is the project lead, having created the game with Whitney “Strix” Beltrán and Sarah Richardson at a Hacking for Women event at Gen Con 2014. The RPG uses the Powered By The Apocalypse system to let players tell their version of the story. To stay close to the original inspiration and keep the themes of isolation, everybody plays the Bride, though each player takes on the role of a different part of her psyche, pushing and pulling the Bride through the other strange rooms in her husband’s house. The simple resolution system makes this an excellent choice for people that have never played a game before, and many of the moves require no roll at all, hearkening back to time when ghost stories were told around the firelight.
“I think having all the players acting as one character is a really fun gateway to stories like Bluebeard’s Bride about the journey of a single protagonist that other [Powered By The Apocalypse] games don’t really explore in the same way,” said Kelly.
The Kickstarter offers digital and physical copies of the book, with stretch goals expanding into accessories taking advantage of the game’s evocative art. “As a team we had focused on how the game should reflect some of the Turkish roots we loved about the evolution of the story, while giving into some more modernly gothic tones. After that, it was my job as art director to find an art style that could bring our vision (as grand as it was) to life,” said Kelly.
“I needed shadows, blues, golds, and a splash of red, but it is a little hard to describe my process for finding artists in words. I looked for artists who could invoke rich emotion as well as could capture raw feminine beauty and horror.”
Backers have opened up play aids such as books featuring different rooms, playsets allowing for the same tale to be told in different settings and decks featuring cards with objects, servants, and other prompts to help keep play moving forward.
The Kickstarter ends on November 20th and features playable materials for backers who want to try the game right away. Halloween may have come and gone this year but there’s always time for a ghost story well-told by friends.
What’s your favorite version of the Bluebeard myth? Creep us out in the comments!
Image credit Magpie Games