Bluebeard’s Bride is a game about the wife, left at home, exploring the strange house of her monstrous husband, gradually uncovering the secrets of the place. The players portray different aspects of her psyche, pushing her towards different actions and interpretations. When a particular part of her mind becomes too traumatized, it shatters, and that player becomes part of narrating the game’s horrors rather than navigating them.
I really like the idea of the psyche mechanic, as a way to play out a story entirely about interior struggle.
Meanwhile, the premise speaks to one of the most horrific things I’ve ever experienced in real life: the discovery that someone you had liked, trusted, or cared about is not what they seem. That they’ve been lying and hiding things from you. That they are predatory, abusive, perhaps violent. That they routinely use people, for sex or for money or to prop their ego. That the past lovers they described as “unhinged” or “unreasonable” were in fact the previous victims of their cruelty.
That whatever empathetic gestures they’ve made in the past were quite possibly an act, because some of their other actions suggest a total lack of human compassion; or that they are so deep in an addiction or their own headspace that they are no longer capable of considering the wellbeing of anyone else.
That all the evidence is there, but that you haven’t let yourself see it before, or you didn’t have the experience or the wit to understand what it meant. That the connection you felt with them was just a sign of your own appallingly poor judgment. That the times you “understood” and “forgave” them were just you being played. Possibly that they see you as a dupe, or are using you intentionally.
And: that you are still (metaphorically or literally) living in their house. That their life is entangled with yours, and just because you’ve now seen, that doesn’t mean you’re free of them.
So yeah, this one seems like it might prove emotionally challenging to play. But I’m interested.
(Side note: see also Honeysuckle, Cat Manning’s Ectocomp retelling of this same tale.)
Dialect is a game about the invention and then the death of a language.
Gameplay involves introducing new words and then wrangling over what those words mean to the community and the individual characters in your story — a concept that feels a bit like Microscope or Downfall in its focus on defining community attributes. Where Bluebeard’s Bride appeals (darkly) to my emotional RPG interests, this one is all about intellectual favorites: constructed language, cultural invention, collaborative world-building. (And the book comes with some guidance on conlangs, which is very cool.)
Monsterhearts 2nd ed. is a new release of one of my favorite storygames ever, improving on the original Monsterhearts with some tweaks to the least effective character skins. The new RPG book will also come with advice about how to play safely when the subject matter of the game often touches on violence, sexuality, trauma, and other dangerous topics. Stretch goals supply some new setting materials, as well.