“Beauty…is pain.” The woman mouths the words, but no sound passes her lips.
As you back away, the curtains covering the walls slither down with a hiss. The walls are covered in mirrors. And the woman is in every single one of them. There’s no room for you. The woman steps out from the mirror.
She’s wearing the same wedding dress you are, but it fits her better. She smiles as she pads over the carpet towards you. The woman reaches out. All of the parts of yourself that you don’t like, she touches those places. And when she touches you, it hurts.
“You can make yourself better. Woman aren’t strangers to pain, after all.”
All of the mirrors on the walls shatter, and she turns from you to pick up a shard of glass. As she hands it to you, you find yourself whispering back… “I can take the pain.”
Bluebeard’s Bride is an investigatory horror tabletop roleplaying game, 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.
Bluebeard’s Bride is based on the Powered by the Apocalypse system used in Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, Monsterhearts, Masks, and more. It’s a simple system; when your character takes an action that fits a move, the move tells you what happens, or you roll two six-sided dice to find out. Since this is a horror game, we have modified it so that the majority of moves use no dice; this harkens back to telling ghost stories around the fire.
Bluebeard’s Bride produces adult feminine horror fiction like Crimson Peak, American Horror Story, or The Company of Wolves, making it fun for horror fans and dark fairy tale fans alike. And the Powered by the Apocalypse system gives Bluebeard’s Bride the strong, yet flexible system necessary to tell your own flavor of horror.
The Bluebeard fairy tale is simple enough: A young bride is wed to an ugly, but powerful man with a blue beard. On their wedding night he must attend to other urgent matters. He gives her the keys to every room, inviting her to explore… but one room in his house is forbidden. The bride eventually falls prey to her curiosity and opens it, discovering the gruesome sight of former brides who had been murdered… evidence that revealed her husband to be a killer of women.
When you play Bluebeard’s Bride, you aren’t repeating the dark events of that morbid tale. You’re following the skeleton of that story to tell a new one covered in your own bloody fingerprints. The Bride’s story is unpredictable and engaging, leading her down a dark path to an unknown future. Your fate, the terrible contents of the final room, may not yet be fixed, but every step you take moves your closer to your doom.
Your experiences in Bluebeard’s house are guided by the original fairy tale, a framework that ties your story to the many tellings of the Bluebeard myth—past, present, and future. You move from room to room, gathering tokens and encountering horrors, before eventually making your way to the final room—and sealing the Bride’s fate forever. And along the way, questions arise…
What will you find in your new husband’s house?
What horrors will haunt you?
What darkness will you find within yourself?
But in the end, there is only one question for a new Bride: will you open the final door?
At this point, you may be wondering how all of you are supposed to play as the Bride at one time. The psyche of any person is complex, and the Bride no less so. In your story, each player takes the role of a distinct part of the Bride’s mind—a Sister—who guides the Bride through Bluebeard’s house, armed with little more than a set of keys.
And those Sisters don’t always agree. Each of you speaks as these aspects of her psyche would speak, deciding what actions the Bride takes, pushing the Bride deeper into the mysteries of each room, and provoking new horrors along the way.
The Sisters take turns in moving to the forefront of the Bride’s personality, guided by a core mechanic of the game: The Ring. Whichever Sister holds the Ring is the main guide of the Bride’s actions.
Over the course of play, the Sisters may suffer trauma (physical or mental); should a Sister receive too much trauma, she shatters. When a Sister shatters, the Bride loses that part of herself to madness…and that lost Sister becomes part of the house’s horror and darkness, adding to the twisted nightmares the Bride must endure.
When you start play, each player picks one of the five Sisters to play. Each Sister is different, with specific Traits that make her stronger or weaker than her fellow Sisters in certain areas, and custom abilities that are unique to her alone.
Bluebeard’s Bride is designed as a one shot game where you play out your fairy tale version of Bluebeard in 3-4 hours. Each game is its own story, its own investigation, its own beautiful, macabre dance. The Bride from your game may even leave behind a legacy of her own, inspiring her very own room to be explored by future brides of Bluebeard. Replayability is high as you investigate other rooms, interact with new Sisters, and even explore the horrors of new Groundskeepers and their own dark twists on rooms you may have already been to. Even the final room is shaped by the players and their decisions.
You might never encounter the same room between any two games of Bluebeard’s Bride, or you might investigate the same room in different games, and each time that room will have its own, new dread skew. The game is molded through and through by the people at the table and the fears they bring. And you’re unlikely to dredge the full depths of Bluebeard’s house and their nightmares in a single game…
Bluebeard’s Bride was inspired by such awesome works as Bluebeard, Crimson Peak, and American Horror Story. It draws heavily from the aforementioned Powered by the Apocalypse games, like Apocalypse World, Urban Shadows, Monsterhearts, and more.
There is a connection between the feminine experience and horror that we wanted to tap, and hope that you find a rich environment in which to base your game. There is a wide range of experience embedded in both the fairy tale and the game, and some of that will speak to both traditional horror literature as well as some real life situations.
Podcasts: Actual Play and Talks
Sarah talks Bluebeard’s Bride with Marcelo on Gamerati
Whitney talks Bluebeard’s Bride with Dr. Tom
Whitney talks with Caylie on Remeshed (November 2016)
Whitney talks with Panda, Phil, and Senda on Misdirected Mark (November 2016)
Whitney talks with Chad, Murf, and Dan on Miskatonic University Podcast (October 2016)
Whitney with Sean Nittner on Narrative Control (October 2016)
Sarah talks Bluebeard’s Bride on Misdirected Mark – Bluebeard at 13:38 (August 2016)
Marissa talks Bluebeard’s Bride on the Shrieker Podcast (January 2016)
Video: Actual Play
Whitney run the game on Weekly Affirmations Part 1
Sarah runs the game for the 2016 Big Bad Con Kickstarter
Whitney talks Bluebeard’s Bride with J on Pink Fae
Whitney talks Bluebeard’s Bride with Darcy Ross on Gnome Stew
Whitney talks Bluebeard’s Bride on Ace of Geeks
Whitney, Marissa, & Sarah talk Bluebeard’s Bride on RPGGeek
Whitney talks about Bluebeard’s Bride with Anna Kreider on Go Make Me a Sandwich
Whitney, Marissa, & Sarah chat about Bluebeard’s Bride and Noir on Last Chance Noir
Whitney and Bluebeard’s Bride on RPGGeek
How do I stay safe while playing this horror game?
Bluebeard’s Bride pushes a lot of boundaries and explores many taboos, but the book goes over some methods for helping you manage the experience. Safety first, of course.
Can a man run or play this game?
Of course! There are plenty of tips and support in the book to help anyone feel comfortable playing the game. We want players of all genders to experience Bluebeard’s estate.
Is Bluebeard a sympathetic villain?
Nope. In this game Bluebeard is a true monster… but your bride may not yet know the vast evil harbored within his soul.
Why do I feel so powerless when I try to fight monsters in this game?!
A proper woman does not simply fight the monsters of the manor, dirtying her hands with violence at every opportunity. She suffers the horrors as best she can with grace and dignity befitting her station.