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A day at the bay...

Christian Heckmann
Germany
Mainz
Rheinland Pfalz
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So since we're scheduled to start our second mystery in the world of Brindlewood Bay this evening, I thought that today would be a good opportunity to talk about our first completed mystery and a couple of general thoughts about the system...

RPG: Brindlewood Bay


For the uninitiated, Brindlewood Bay is a game that is based on the Apocalypse World ruleset and thematically is not exactly but comes very close to "'Murder She Wrote' meets 'Call Of Cthulhu'". A., T., J. and me are currently playing a campaign of it that is hosted by D. and our likeable little circle of murder-steeled old-timers is... well, pretty much that. We've got Martha, the active one, Rosemary, the affluent and worldly one, Dorothee, the old and mousy one and finally my character, Flora, the kooky one who sometimes says and does completely fucked up things. As you do.

Our first case was the mystery of the dad who went overboard and wound up dead on a beach. Sheriff Dalrymple didn't necessarily "task" us with solving it, but we decided to do so nonetheless, investigating in and around the homely oceanside-town of Brindlewood Bay, mostly in regards to the possible whereabouts and motives of the relatives of Albert Krause, the murder-victim. It wasn't a very complicated investigation. I mean, we did do some morally questionable things (like breaking into vintner Etienne Beauregard's cold storage to examine the corpse and then, when we noticed that we wouldn't be able to leave without leaving traces, slightly devastated the place and made it look like some cats were responsible for it) and potentially drove Albert's son David crazy by lying in wait for him at each and every corner (prompting him to go "Why's the town filled with old ladies all of a sudden?" at one point) but he turned out to be (or rather "we decided that he was" - more on that in a second) the killer in the end, so we didn't feel too bad about it. Turned out, David was deeply in debt and had decided to rob his father's safe for some valuables in order to pay them off. But unluckily for him, his father caught him in the act and by accident, David killed him and then tried to cover up his crime by inventing an unseen menace that had had it out with his father. We weren't fooled, though, and finally managed to assemble the puzzle-pieces so meticulously that not only did all of the responsible parties go to jail, we also found void-clues (clues toward the sinister secret of Brindlewood Bay) en masse AND had one of the cultists reveal herself to us. Fancy, eh?

Our first mystery in the world of Brindlewood Bay was certainly enjoyable. Our characters seem to complement each other quite well and their quirks and idiosyncracies led to a lot of enjoyable characterplay. The ruleset seems to work quite well. I wasn't a huge fan of Apocalypse World and it is pretty much the same here, but this "one roll with huge consequences"-framework seems to work better in a more relaxed setting like the one for Brindlewood Bay is than in something as grimey and brutal as Apocalypse World itself. Also the Maven moves are interesting. My character has the "Angus MacGyver"-move, where she can get herself an advantage by improvising with stuff that can be found in the vicinity. And the way that character advancement works seems to be better as well. It isn't that different, you still designate "goals" at the beginning of a session and then play towards them to get advancement-ticks, but the fact that those goals are real tangible questions instead of just the things that you could roll with makes it more involving to fold them into the narrative, if you get what I'm talking about.

The narrative was a bit hit and miss, though. And that wasn't D.'s fault. No, T. put it very well when after the end of our first case, he said something to the effect of "this resolution doesn't really feel earned". I feel like that's by design, though.
Here's how solving a mystery in Brindlewood Bay works: You investigate for a while, uncovering vague clues that could or could not pertain to the mystery at hand. Once you've gathered enough of those, you congregate and theorize, crafting a narrative how the crime might have happened, incorporating or discounting the clues you found as you go along. Afterwards, you roll two dice, add the number of used (or explained away) clues to the roll, subtract the complexity of the case and then look at the mystery-resolution-table, whether what you just postulated is in fact the solution to the mystery or not. If that sounds weird, it is. But it also kind of works. But... just kind of.
Maybe this'll change with more experience in the system for both the players and the GM, but yeah, in the end, we investigated for a while (mostly just looking at stuff and finding very indeterminate clues that weren't really hard to find), then theorized for a moment, explained some clues away, incorporated others into our solution, then rolled some dice and bam, case closed, evildoers punished, etc. Of course there was some narrative payoff, where we gathered everyone together and explained the solution to the family and the cops, etc. But it just felt anticlimactic and sort of like things didn't really add up but were just worked out to fit the narrative after the fact.

As said, maybe this will improve with experience. Maybe the case we're starting tonight will be amazing. I had fun up until now with Brindlewood Bay because I like the quaint atmosphere, the unusual characters and the more relaxed pace of the whole thing in comparison to other systems with loads of combat and drama and gigantic stakes. But I don't know yet how long that'll keep me coming back. I mean, there's something about loads of combat and drama and gigantic stakes after all, right?

Also I managed to kind of complete my Christmas-themed song yesterday. It might take a while until I upload it to Bandcamp, so you'll have to be patient for it, I guess. But to tide you over until then, here's what currently can be found on my Bandcamp-page. Enjoy!

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