This is the second post in a series about running Brindlewood Bay. The first, “Revealing a Clue in Brindlewood Bay,” can be found here: https://www.gauntlet-rpg.com/blog/revealing-a-clue-in-brindlewood-bay
At first glance, the Day Move and the Night Move in Brindlewood Bay seem like standard Act Under Pressure/Defy Danger/catch-all type moves you might find in other Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) games, but with the novelty that one is used during daytime scenes and one is used during nighttime scenes. However, these moves are extremely intentional in their design—they are meant to create a very specific type of experience at the table—and so they’re worth spending some time to understand.
The text of the moves are below; this blog post assumes you otherwise understand the basics of Brindlewood Bay.
An important thing to keep in mind before we get into the details: follow the text of these moves closely. It’s easy to get a little loose with how you interpret PbtA moves at the table, or how you resolve them, but you can’t do that with the Day Move and the Night Move. These moves are a very precise, structured negotiation between Keeper and player, designed to evoke a certain type of play at the table, and if you don’t follow them closely, you’re going to get weird outcomes or players are going to feel cheated.
There are two key ideas here: Keeper honesty and player agency. Keepers have to be honest with players about, say, how the player’s character is vulnerable on a Day Move 7-9, or how the outcomes are worse than the player feared on a Night Move. The Keeper can’t say one thing during the negotiation aspect of the roll and then do another thing when it comes time to narrate the fiction. This honesty is important because it has an effect on player agency. Players hold the right to back out at different times, depending on which move is being resolved, and they need all the relevant information from the Keeper in order to make that decision.
This all might seem unnecessarily complicated, but there’s an intention here: to create a play culture at the table wherein players have some authority over how things go in the story. It’s also important because Brindlewood Bay doesn’t have hit points or anything like that—when it comes to harm, characters are either injured or dead. You need a very structured negotiation on the die roll when you’re dealing with that kind of “swinginess” in the fiction.
One last note about player agency: sometimes Keepers tell me their players felt like they didn’t have a choice when it came to putting on a Crown—that, if the alternative to putting on a Crown was character death, of course they’re going to put on a Crown. My answer to that is twofold: 1) they did have a choice: Brindlewood Bay embraces an ethos that players have the ultimate control over when their character dies, and choosing to have them die rather than putting on a Crown is a valid choice if it’s dramatically interesting, and 2) their agency took place earlier in the Day/Night move, as discussed above—provided the group carefully followed the move text.
The Fictional Trigger
So let’s breakdown the actual text of these moves, starting with the all-important triggers. In both cases, the trigger is when you “do something risky or face something you fear.” The first part of the trigger is easy, because it’s the sort of active move trigger we’re well accustomed to in PbtA games. Essentially, any action that’s dangerous or risky that isn’t also actively investigating a mystery is the Day Move or the Night Move, depending on what time of day it is in the fiction. If the action is part of an active attempt at gathering information, that’s The Meddling Move, regardless of how risky it is (although some Keepers might say you have to make a Day/Night Move to avoid the risk before you can get the Meddling Move roll, which is perfectly legit—I tend to wrap it all up in one Meddling Move, but it depends on the circumstances, and Keepers can certainly do whatever feels right in the moment).
The second part of the trigger, “face something you fear,” is usually overlooked because it’s a passive trigger. Please, please, please do not overlook this part of the move—it’s so important to the game’s genre and tone. If a Maven has a gun pulled on her, if she sees something disturbing from a Void Clue, if the lights in the room suddenly go out, if she has to walk down a dark alleyway—the move is triggered. If you’re unsure whether the move should be triggered, ask the player, “How does your Maven feel right now?” If their answer even hints at fear, trigger the move. I know it feels unusual because we’re accustomed to active move triggers as opposed to passive ones, but the fiction that flows from when the move is triggered this way is very on-genre and leads to great storytelling—do not forget it.
"Name What You’re Afraid Will Happen…"
This is the negotiation aspect of the Day/Night Move. It’s not a back-and-forth negotiation—it’s more structured than that—but it is nevertheless a negotiation, and important to figuring out how the move resolves.
Let’s start with the Day Move. Initially, only the player gets to speak in the negotiation, by saying what they’re afraid will happen if they fail or lose their nerve. The Keeper doesn’t have to follow the player’s idea when narrating a miss, but the rules encourage them to do their best to honor what the player suggested, and in this way, the player has a lot of control over the outcome. In fact, the Keeper doesn’t get to make a fictional “counteroffer” unless a 7-9 is rolled, and even then, the player can reject it by backing down and trying a different way. In this way, the Day Move is “safe,” which is desirable, because scenes that take place in the day or in the light should be safer.
The Night Move is much more dangerous. The player gets to speak first in the negotiation, as in the Day Move, but then the Keeper gets to make an immediate “counteroffer” that must, per the text of the move, raise the stakes by being “worse than the player feared.” The player then decides whether to reject the offer by trying a different approach or accept the offer by rolling the dice. If they roll the dice, they are totally at the mercy of those dice—there’s no backing out, as in the 7-9 result on the Day Move.
A note about the Keeper “saying how it’s worse than [they] feared:” just go for it. If the player is trying to run away from a servant of the Midwives and they say they might fall down and injure themselves if they fail, feel free to say: “It’s worse than that—the servant catches up to you and tears your guts out, killing you.” After all, the players have total control over whether their character actually dies or not, so just go big when it comes to the stakes—it’s more fun that way. The tricky thing is if the player goes big themselves by putting death on the table when they say what they are afraid will happen if they fail or lose their nerve—what then? Well, the Keeper must still say how it’s worse than they feared, but in this case, “worse” might mean long-term effects after the character is dead, such as how it affects their surviving family members or how it impacts the Mavens’ investigation. If you’re unsure, ask the table for their input.
Move results and narrative authority
If you’ve followed the text of the move closely and done the little procedures required of you, resolving the move results is fairly easy. The thing you need to be mindful of is who has narrative authority. On a 10+, only the player gets to narrate (though the Keeper might rein them in a bit if their narration starts to go outside the bounds of what was at stake). On a 12+, the Keeper gets to say what the bonus result is, but narrative authority still belongs to the player. On a 9 or lower, the Keeper has narrative authority; the Day Move gives the player a chance to back out, but the Keeper narrates if the player chooses to press forward.
Here again, this is where the negotiation from earlier in the move is extremely helpful—and why you must follow the text closely—because what the player and Keeper have essentially done is create a prompt for the narration that happens after the dice hit the table, no matter who is actually narrating.
One last thought: What counts as day or night?
Generally-speaking, if the scene is taking place during the day, you use the Day Move; if it takes place at night, you use the Night Move—easy stuff. Something you might consider, though, is changing what counts as “day” and “night,” based not on temporal considerations, but whether the scene is fundamentally more safe or more dangerous. The mystery called "The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soulless" has a cave location that is considered “night” for purposes of triggering the move, no matter what time of day it actually is, because the cave is 1) naturally dark and 2) the site of an occult ritual. It’s not in the rules, but you’re free to make decisions like this for your game. A poorly-lit warehouse in a bad part of town might be “night,” no matter the time of day, just as a well-lit nighttime gala might be “day,” especially on the ballroom floor, where there are likely dozens of people around. Just make sure the players understand if it’s “day” or “night” before they take any actions.
You can purchase Brindlewood Bay and its supplement, Nephews in Peril, on DTRPG here.