I said I’d give a play report so here it is!
Fatale, Virgin, and Witch.
Insecure about her short hair, smile, and eyes. Afraid that she wouldn’t get any time alone anymore, that she would be stuck at home and no longer be able to have adventure, and that she would lose her simple lifestyle in the face of Bluebeard’s riches.
Bluebeard’s favorite present was a balm, to rub on his aching muscles (the player keyed into the fact that the cover art makes Bluebeard look like a romance novel and is probably pretty sore from working out) presented to him by The Witch.
We had some great moments while we were playing. The players felt sympathetic towards the other brides in most cases. Every time they Shivered in Fear was a personal triumph for me since it felt like I was hitting the right notes of “Oh man… that is fucked up.”
We visited a Dressing Room (Body: Beauty Standards), a Solarium (Sexuality: Nymphomania), and a Chapel (Religion: Underworld). The accumulated 3 Disloyalty Tokens at that point and decided to run away so we did not enter the Final Room (Motherhood: Grief). I opted for a mansion that didn’t make sense, hallways that go on forever, time that doesn’t make sense or is impossible to track, doors that you entered in one hallway but upon exiting are in a different part of the house… I like dream imagery and I wanted to do that in this mansion. One of my players (The Fatale) kept giving me these weird looks as I described that there was no internal consistency to the mansion, as if the longer they stayed there, it would somehow make sense. It amuses me when they’re like that. lol
The keys they described were pretty cool too. The Fatale described a “Gold plated, rhinestone encrusted, pristine key with a curling vine motif” and the Virgin described a “black and grey key that appears to somehow be made of marble with a ring made of gold. It feels glossy and carries the slight smell of sandalwood.” The player had a moment where they were like “can a key have a smell?” and I had to remind them that they’re in a mansion that has an unknowable floor plan and is full of the ghosts of his husbands murdered ex-wives. It was kindof funny. Overall, I was super impressed and humbled by their willingness to jump in and give me all their creativity and buy-in on this one since horror games are always a little bit of a long shot.
Some notes on my own Groundskeeping that I would like to improve:
– I would like to get better about building a rooms tension by just describing it and a couple objects inside. I found myself showing the horror/servant a little to early instead of letting the tension build through investigation. I will definitely write up some notes to help me stay organized with room generation next time since that seems to take a little longer than I want it to at the table (given my inexperience) and I spent a lot of time shuffling through papers.
– I would also like to play the game in person next time. We played online and the environment was not as curated as I wanted it to be.
– Next time, before we start and as I’m giving our safety talks, I’m going to do Lines and Veils that way I have a clearer idea of where I can push and not.
Notes that I got back from the players:
– They want to play again.
– They liked that Shiver from Fear triggers when the player at the table has a physical reaction.
– They liked the Shattered Bride mechanic and were disappointed that The Fatale shattered just as we filled our last token.
– They also really liked the epilogue questionnaire. I liked the epilogue questionnaire so much that I’ll probably start using it for the games I’m planning one shots for.
– I really liked the directive to describe with all 5 senses. Doing so really allows you to draw out the tension and wrongness of a room either by accentuating it by one sense that can detect something off or by peppering in little things to multiple senses. It’s a great practice and I’m going to start using it more in the other games I run.
– I found myself repeating motifs not normally included in the book (doors, keys, and the color gold). Specifically I ended up using a lot of flower imagery based on the fact that the players decided that they gave Bluebeard a crown of wildflowers as a wedding gift and that he had given her a bouquet of exotic flowers for the same reason. I found that the repetition of the different elements in the game heightens the state of dreaminess the narrative has and that’s an amazing quality I want to start taking into my other games.
What a great game! I can probably push the envelope more next time. People got to an uncomfortable place but not one they couldn’t handle, which felt good, and I got to stretch the limits of what I as a GM (and a man) have explored before. Thank you to Whitney Beltrán Sarah Doombringer and Marissa Kelly for making this amazing game!