“Once upon a time, the world was cruel, and there was a witch who knew it well. And so, she sold her heart away and built a house in the woods where the world could never find her.
At first she would let no one into her fortress. But in the long march of days, a strange thing happened: in her own cold and spiteful way, the witch made a friend… and then another… and then several more, until her house was teeming with colorful faces and complicated lives.
The house would come to be known as Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast, and it would last for a very long time.”
Of course, it’s not just a bed and breakfast – it’s a book, and a game, from Possum Creek Games, currently funding on indiegogo! Let’s see if there’s any free rooms (the sign says yes, but there’s a girl sleeping in the laundry room…) and talk to the creators!
Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast is the latest creation from PCG, who we last saw around here managing to distill pure character development with Wanderhome. It’s a different beast, though, a “slice-of-life legacy tabletop role-playing game about a found family and their magical home.” Actually, let me grab one more really good quote to help describe the game:
“A teen girl sits on the windowsill, reading a well-worn paperback and listening to the splashy-crashy rain come down. She’s alone in the world, but soon enough the strangers who reside here will become her closest friends, family, and mentors.
This book is the door into a world of heartless witches and devil children, of cursed frog knights and rabbits who wear little outfits, of aspiring rockstars and spaceships carjacked from the Moon Queen’s palace. We might cook up a breakfast banquet, go trick-or-treating under a sallow moon, put on a disastrous play, or catch fireflies under the stars. So stay the night, unpack your bags, and get ready to explore the world’s most magical Bed & Breakfast!”
The book is broken out into 48 chapters, each of which represents a single scenario that will take about an hour or two to play as you follow the lives of the B&B’s long-term residents and colorful guests. Characters will grow and the Bed & Breakfast will change with them, and what path their stories take may vary wildly.
I took a look at the free playkit when PCG sent us a press kit, and reached out to co-creators Jay Dragon and M Veselak with some questions about the game and its development.
CH: How did Yazeba’s Bed and Breakfast get started in the first place? What sparked the idea, what helped it make the jump from idea on the drawing board to actual game, etc.?
Jay and M: “The very technical start of Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast is that I (Jay) got that phrase stuck in my head as an echolalia, and it felt like the name of a game, and so I started writing down what it could be and asked other people for help. I think the first words written were:
Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast
A small sign on the front door of Yazeba’s B&B reads:
No soliciting, confessing, trespassing, meandering, romancing, or unnecessary smalltalk welcome.
A second, smaller sign – written in a hasty script – reads:
NO BIRTHNAMES ALLOWED!
Today is the 15th of September. It is always the 15th of September at Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast. The 15th of September is Yazeba’s favorite day, on account of the perfect weather and crunchy leaves falling from the thick maple trees that surround the Inn. The 15th of September is also Gertrude’s birthday, but this is just mere coincidence.
Myself and Eaves Mendes (@leakyeaves on twitter) worked a lot on sketches originally, but it actually became a game when M joined. M looked at a lot of my half-finished notes and concepts and extrapolated a bunch of really exciting mechanics from it, and then we started bouncing back and forth. This all happened back in December-January 2019, and by February 2020 we had the skeleton for the finished game (which weirdly hasn’t changed that much since, just gotten meatier and meatier).”
Central to the story of Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast are the characters, each of which already exists – character growth is going to feature heavily, as we’ll discuss, but character creation isn’t part of the gig. There are 7 long term residents, what you might think of as the main characters of the game. Gertrude is a teenage girl runaway who currently sleeps atop the dryer in the laundry room. Sal used to be Yazeba’s apprentice and is now the night porter, and he dreams of becoming a rockstar. Hey Kid is a little demon child who was abandoned on the front door as a baby, and they grew up among (and now help cause much of) the B&B’s chaos. Parish was once a knight, cursed into the shape of a frog; he’s currently the B&B’s cook, although he remains a hero at heart. Amelie is the robotic maid, still figuring out exactly who they are. There is, of course, Yazeba herself, the witch who sold her heart to create the B&B. A Moon Prince stares out their window and dreams of other worlds, although they have never been to Earth or the Bed & Breakfast. Yet.
There are also 50 guests, who may come and go. There’s a curmudgeonly goblinoid crow, a fairy dream merchant looking to buy a heart, a sentient glob of grime, a particularly unpleasant skeleton, a very old shrub spirit, and The Rabbits In The Garden Who Wear Little Outfits, just to name a few.
You have a fascinating cast of characters between the staff and the many, many guests. Why was it important for the game for all of the characters to be pre-existing?
“Having a pre-developed cast of characters allows us to do a ton with mechanical and thematic specificity: we can design game mechanics anticipating specific characters or have character address the emotional underpinnings of the game. For example Gertrude is a fat trans mentally ill girl of color, and the game can acknowledge that and lean into what it’s like to go through all that as a teenager (both mechanically and thematically) in a way that other games only sorta get to hint at.”
Each character, resident or guest, includes a brief description, their pronouns, some facts about them (Gertrude plans to find somewhere else to stay eventually, Parish comes with recipes for both a Good Chef and a Good Knight, and Hey Kid doesn’t really, maybe when they get older), and a Journey. Each character’s Journey is mechanically some sort of track, or checklist, or other measurement of progress. Narratively, it’s how the character is growing. Gertrude is finding her place, Sal is chasing his inspiration, Hey Kid is increasing stats like Creative and Mature, Parish is trying to restore his true form, and Amelie is altering their programming. If they complete their Journey, the character fundamentally changes as their Journey does: Sal goes from What Do You Think Of This to Legend In The Making, Parish flips My True Form into My New Form, and Amelie replaces Prime Directives with Glitch In The System.
There’s a lot going on here, narratively speaking. Characters each have their own Journey they’re on. Finding yourself, finding a home, finding a family seem to be overarching themes, but could you
talk write a bit about some of the other themes that Y’sB&B is hoping to explore through these Journeys?
“Other big themes include healing from trauma (especially the journey which our eponymous witch herself is on), body image, coming to terms with changing disability, the way community changes over time, work-life balance, poverty, growing older, and establishing a relationship with your art. Every character has their own set of themes that often overlap, expressed in chapters and in journeys, and in what the players themselves bring to the table.”
Aside from each character having a Journey, mechanically-speaking one of the only things that is universal across the game is that each character, long-term or guest, has both Bingos and Whoopsies. A Whoopsie is “a bad habit, an old fault, or something that set a character back on their path.” They usually cause problems, and at best they solve problems the wrong way. Examples include Gertrude’s “Assume the worst of what’s going on”, Amelie’s “Sweep up something that needed to stay put,” and Hey Kid’s “Mistrust a grownup who is trying to help.”
A character’s Bingos are “moments when they get to fully assert who they are.” They play to their strengths, do something no one else can, and cause the right kind of problem. Examples include Gertrude’s “Get excited about something new,” Amelie’s “Make someone’s life easier without them realizing,” and Hey Kid’s “Make a new friend.” There’s nothing number-crunchy about Bingos or Whoopsies; they’re simply narrative things the characters can do while you’re roleplaying. Rather, they interact with each chapter’s mechanics.
Each chapter does something slightly different, as each is indeed a slice of life from the Bed & Breakfast that is spotlighting a few characters with a common goal or task and tailoring mechanics appropriately, but there are four broad categories of mechanic. Some use Belonging Outside Belonging-style tokens, much like Wanderhome did; Chapter 5: Another Rainy Day is all about Getrude, Hey Kid, and anyone too playful to be cooped up trying to gain tokens that represent how much fun Hey Kid is having (and how likely they are to not explode). Chapter 10: Wash Cycle sees Getrude, Sal, and anyone but Amelie trying to get a handle on the laundry while Amelie is getting repaired, gaining and flipping Chaos Coins that gradually make things more difficult before they can make a breakthrough.
Sal, Hey Kid, and anyone optimistic spend Chapter 8: Firefly Catching removing tokens from index cards, each of which holds a question like “Can I find my passion again?” or “What is it going to be like to grow up?”, culminating in the final question of “What does it mean to change?” Parish is joined by anyone courageous enough in Chapter 6: Lights Out, where a deck of cards will tell us both what may lurk under the floorboards (King of Clubs: something runs across everyone’s feet) and what reminders of the inhabitants’ lives (Queen of Hearts: Yazeba’s old witch school robes) can be found in storage. Bingos and Whoopsies are generally the fuel that make these mechanics work: doing Whoopsies to gain tokens to power Bingos, gaining Whoopsies from Chaos Coin failures and using Bingos to ditch the Coins, doing either to access questions, and doing either to pull cards, for example.
Could you go into some detail about why you chose the mechanics you did, and what they bring to the B&B?
“When we realized the mechanics in Yazeba’s could well and truly expand to include anything, we identified the four big MOODS we wanted the game to focus on sustaining, mostly based on the genre of Saturday morning cartoons we were drawing inspiration from: relaxed fun, pensive melancholy, eerie/mature, and frantic mad-cap adventures. To keep these tones consistent, we wrote a framework that matched each of them; so relaxed moods have chill token-powered BoB gameplay, frantic moods have you flipping increasing piles of Chaos Coins, pensive chapters revolve around picking away at questions, and investigation in eerie chapters involves suspenseful card draws.”
Obviously you’re still going to want to read each chapter’s mechanics to see what if any quirks are unique to that scenario, what tracks might be there to fill, and what chapter-specific Bingos and Whoopsies there are available for everyone to do. Despite all of the chapter-specific stuff, though, the simple baseline of the different moods’ systems means that from a mechanics standpoint the learning curve for any given session of Yazeba’s is about as close to a straight line as you can get.
Another big part of what makes Yazeba’s is the legacy mechanics. The Journeys are a character-focused example, but there’s actually quite a bit more. Guests and the results of chapters will grant Mementos, which will be little stickers that can be placed in the book or in a ledger via empty spaces referred to as Nooks and Shelves. Fill enough Nooks to complete one of the Shelves and you’ll unlock more of the book’s content. Some of the changes would seem to be purely narrative like adding a jacuzzi or greenhouse or a fresh coat of paint to the Bed & Breakfast, but there’s actually quite a lot of game that isn’t immediately available for play. You’ll need to fill some Nooks in the Tool Shed shelf to unlock Chapter 12: Who Knows How a Garden Grows, and only after doing so can you start building towards unlocking a new guest in Crookneck The Pumpkin Boy. Even the Moon Prince, the 7th long term resident, has to be unlocked before they join the Bed & Breakfast.
As chapters don’t need to be played in a 1-48 manner (which quite likely wouldn’t be possible anyway) and which Nooks get filled with which Mementos is up to the players, no two instances of Yazeba’s will ever be alike. That doesn’t even take the branching Journeys and character choices into account. As presented in the ashcan the legacy mechanics are a little straightforward and limited, unlocking some things with relatively few Nooks and not going into detail on new Journeys, so…
Would you mind picking one or two and going into a bit-more-than-the-ashcan detail about how they might take different paths? What does The Witching Path or Hey Teen mean for Gertrude and Hey Kid, for instance.
“The Witching Path is a journey Gertrude can do where she gets to choose between focusing on her studies as a witch’s apprentice and trying to become like Yazeba (unlocking the journey “The Next Yazeba”) and having fun being a happy rowdy teen girl and slowly growing into a woman (unlocking the journey “The Lightheart Girl”). Hey Kid’s journey is a series of stat-based choices which, as they come up, slowly change their Bingos/Whoopsies, add Facts About Them, and then finally create new journeys for them to go on. If they grow up too fast, they can get trapped in a miserable depression pit — so be careful!”
What changed along the way? Were there characters who didn’t make the cut, mechanics that shifted, etc.? What were some of the bigger challenges in designing Y’sB&B, and how did you overcome them?
“There were a lot of guests we came up with starting out, including a sentient furnace, a genderfluid cowgirl named Boy Howdy, and a troll assassin trying to kill Yazeba, that we didn’t keep for one reason or another. At one point there was a guest who was supposed to be a wizard from Yazeba’s life pre-transition, who we thought might explore some of the uncomfortableness of reconnecting with old friends who know a version of you that’s gone, but we couldn’t write about him without getting mad, so we ended up cutting him.
There’s also an entire lost chapter of Yazeba’s, The Starving Wind-Girl, about this horrific creepypasta child who murders the entire bed & breakfast. We wrote it as a Candle Cove sorta thing but it felt absolutely too unsafe and we ended up removing it entirely. There are echoes and mirrors of it in the book, but the Starving Wind-Girl herself is gone.
There were other lost chapters, but none of the other ones are such good stories.
I think the biggest challenge on a creative level was simply the endurance component. This is a game that demanded basically every original idea either of us had for three years, through an incredibly turbulent time in both of our lives, while also growing in scope and welcoming new people onto the team. Adapting Yazeba’s from a weird pile of google docs into a team endeavor has had its growing pains, but also the new writers and artists are what’s made it possible. Mercedes Acosta and Lillie J Harris brought a lot to the table with literary ideas and visions for the characters, and restructuring into a larger team is what made it possible to overcome.”
Possum Creek Games is also partnering with One More Multiverse to create a virtual tabletop version of Yazeba’s Bed and Breakfast; while not 100% necessary for online play, it is true that much of the game’s play and legacy tracking thrives in the physical world. It’s thus interesting (and good, I think) to see the effort being put in to making the online experience a more immersive one.
The One More Multiverse stuff! How is that going, and what does it mean to port this very unique (and in some cases tactile) game to this all-digital platform?
“It’s been going really great! The OMM team are amazing, they’re so creative and fun, and they’re totally ready to play with all the weird ideas and unique stuff Yazeba’s brings to the table. It’s been fun figuring out how to adapt this VTT, which very originally was made in a D&D/trad context, for a game that is decisively not that — I fully plan on stealing their combat emulator for ballroom dancing. Yazeba’s B&B draws enough inspiration from digital games even in print, with its achievement-like content unlocks and modular rules, that it’s going to end up being a really unique blend of traditional and digital storytelling!”
It’s early days yet, but do you think you’ll return to Yazeba’s again in the future, or will it stand alone? More broadly, what’s in the future for you/Veselak/Possum Creek Games?
“One of the joys of writing a gonzo, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink game like Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast is that we could keep generating content for it forever. We want to leave a lot of space for fanmade characters and chapters, but we have sketches for two expansion books if there seems to be demand for them: a big, chaotic roadtrip adventure that we’d want to feel like the made-for-TV movie to Yazeba’s saturday morning cartoon, and a bunch of adventures in the Big City with a more modern cartoon energy. They’d both expand the scope outwards into parts of Yazeba’s world beyond the Bed & Breakfast and its sleepy rural New England town.
Outside of Yazeba’s, we’ve both amassed a lot of ideas and creative urges while working on this massive project that didn’t quite fit the Bed & Breakfast that we’ll want to explore when the dust settles. Jay’s Itch.io is possumcreekgames.itch.io and M’s is nightling-bug.itch.io, and between there and the Possum Creek Patreon you can find all sorts of stuff, including works in progress.”
Final words for our readers?
“Thanks for tuning in! Please check out Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast and also go check out the rest of the team involved in the project — it’s been a huge endeavor and there’s a ton of folks who contributed to make this possible.”
Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast is easy to learn without skimping on the meaningful storytelling, deep without burying you under minutiae, and something truly unique without being alien. If I had to pick one word, I’d say it’s ‘welcoming’. You could be a long term resident of a ‘campaign’ of Yazeba’s yourself and play every chapter, or be a guest who joins the game only ever so often, and I think either way you’d have a fun time seeing what these characters get up to and how the B&B changes. If anything, the legacy mechanics mean that showing up every few sessions is almost a differently ideal way to experience the game, as you revisit old friends and see how they’ve grown.
You can support the game and get the digital version (which will include both a PDF and OMM download key) for $20, and a deluxe version thereof with some online-only content and a creator’s toolkit for $40. On the physical side of things the featured hardcover goes for $60 plus shipping, but for those with a tighter budget there’s also a black and white paperback for $15 plus shipping through DriveThruRPG. There are a number of other tiers with assorted goodies, not counting a retail tier, but the most popular ‘extra stuff’ tier would by the box set with cards, coins, and so on for $120. Visiting the page will also help you find a bunch of actual play examples so you can see the game in action.
There really is a room for everyone at Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast (except for Gertrude, it seems, though maybe someday…), so check in and see where your Journeys will take you!
Thanks again to Possum Creek Games for sending us a press kit and to Jay and M for answering our questions!
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