Monday, November 14, 2016

Five or So Questions with Marissa Kelly on Bluebeard's Bride

Today I have a brief interview with Marissa Kelly on the Bluebeard's Bride RPG, currently on Kickstarter. I played an early version of Bluebeard's Bride, and a second session as well, and really enjoyed it, so I hope you all enjoy reading about it and check out the Kickstarter.

From the Kickstarter:
Bluebeard’s Bride is an investigatory horror tabletop roleplaying game for 3-5 players, written and designed by Whitney “Strix” Beltrán, Marissa Kelly, and Sarah Richardson, and based on the Bluebeard fairy tale. 
In this game you and your friends explore Bluebeard’s home as the Bride, creating your own beautifully tragic version of the dark fairy tale. Investigate rooms, discover the truth of what happened, experience the nightmarish phantasmagoria of this broken place, and decide whether or not you are a faithful or disloyal bride.

The story of Bluebeard is not commonly known in modern fairy tales, and is definitely not a media favorite. What inspired you to use this specific fairy tale to make a game?

The idea came from Sarah and Strix at the Hacking as Women event. As their coach, I was excited to hear that the fairy tale lent itself so well to the PBtA framework. It seemed like a great way to frame an elegant horror game without getting bogged down by too many preconceived ideas about what the player experience should be.

Tell me a little about the design process. I played the game at an earlier stage, and a second time a while later, but I haven't seen the final product. What iterations did you have to go through to make the game an experience true to your intentions?

The game has certainly gone through many iterations. A lot of trimming, gutting, and trial and error. One of the biggest changes we went through was shifting a large part of the game to a diceless mechanic. I felt we had been running up against a wall with the Maiden moves, but eventually (with the help of a wonderful group of playtesters) we found a solution. This shift feels to me like a nod to old ghost stories that influence so much horror we all know and love.

Bluebeard's Bride has a tendency (in my experience) to touch on some really intense, and sometimes difficult, topics (including domestic abuse). What safety measures do you have in place for the game, and how are you preparing the game materials to address those things respectfully?

Yep! This horror game can touch on all of those things, so the game has advice, tips, and rules for helping the players and Groundskeeper manage any real out-of-character conflicts that might arise. For example, we use a variant of the X-card developed by John Stavropoulos that promotes self-care and dispels the expectation that anyone at the table will have to be a mind reader.

How does Bluebeard's Bride encourage the players to work together to tell a story, while allowing conflict between the parts of the Bride's psyche?

It helps that we trapped all the players in the body of one woman! We have made space for disagreement within the Bride’s own mind. If a player has the Bride act in a way that one player didn’t agree with, the Ring mechanic allows them to take control and guide her actions when it is their turn.

When all is said and done, what game elements do you think help the most to guide the story through horror and twisted narrative to its inevitable - and hopefully satisfying - conclusion?

We have tools called Room Threats and Groundskeeper Moves that help guide the players through consistent bouts of horror. These Threats and Moves point at one of the cores of horror - that of personal, intimate fears. We also baked the conclusion of the fairy tale into the game so player’s choices will directly impact the telling of their tale.

Thanks to Marissa for the interview! I hope you all enjoyed reading and get the chance to check out Bluebeard's Bride on Kickstarter!

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