Brindlewood as a play-by-post ARG?

I’ve been kicking around the idea of using the Brindlewood framework to run a casual-friendly ARG leading up to a big get-together.

It would start off with asynchronous play-by-post messages over the course of several months, with players corresponding with “on location” NPCs via Discord. The culmination would be an in-person LARP where players meet up in person over the course of an evening to confront the supernatural enemy behind it all.

My target group would have a mix of gamers and nongamers, so I would want to shift as much of the mechanical elements as possible behind the “GM screen”. (I know this runs counter to the collaborative nature of Brindlewood, but I want everyone to be able to just jump into the story as themselves, without worrying about rules or character sheets.) I’d be selecting the individual clues and distributing them in a more Gumshoe inspired fashion (If you look in an appropriate place, you find a clue - no rolling necessary), but it would be up to players to piece together an explanation.

I’m thinking that Public Access would probably work best for the tone and setting I have in mind, but dialed back a bit from straight-up horror more towards surreal “Meow Wolf” interdimensional weirdness.

Has anyone attempted something like this? Does anyone have thoughts or advice?


It sounds really cool! Also a ton of work. But I think you have a good handle on the necessary elements. I think you should dive in, and change all your “woulds” to “will”!

If you don’t want players to deal with mechanics, you’ll have to assign them Stats that they’re not aware of, and then resolve their real-world actions as if they were Moves. You might also give them a list of Crowns that they can put on, specific to the playbook you think they are, or (if you’re allowing them to play a character) the playbook they say they’re representing.

Speaking as someone who attempted an ARG but didn’t pull it off, ARGs are ambitious, and they get more so as you turn more of the dials up from LARP toward pure ARG. In pursuing total immersion, a pure ARG tends not to have any mechanics, player-facing or otherwise, because the affordances are designed to be identical to the ones the player uses to explore the real world.

So, if I were doing it, I would aim more for LARP territory, where players know what their Stats are and can roll for their Moves. With a system as fiction-forward as Carved from Brindlewood, I don’t think it harms the experience, and it would allow you to leverage the engine’s cool systems. (You might still need multiple GMs.)

Because Carved from Brindlewood lets players narrate a truth into being, you might have to be on your toes if you want to provide some physical manifestation of their solution.

Having said all that, the best way for you to get a sense of what you need is to start building it. So please keep going, and let us know how it turns out!

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I’ve heard stories of people burning themselves on LARP organization: take care of yourself, pu t as many people in the loop as you can to help you, and if you can don’t play with secret secrets. These are so unpractical for very little added effect. Players want to believe and this emotional task is their’s.
You can also ask about it on Discord.

Thanks for the feedback. I’ve done similar events before using pared down versions of Call of Cthulhu, Tales From the Loop, and various homebrew systems, and they’ve been a blast. But I agree – it definitely is a huge amount of work! Fortunately I’m coming off the conclusion of a year-long campaign where I was just a player, so my itch to GM (and craft overly-elaborate props) is rising. I’ve also got a year to plan between now and when I want to run this.
The main appeal of Brindlewood is that I wouldn’t have to map out the solution ahead of time, ensure there are enough redundant clues to reach it via multiple paths, make contingency plans in case players go completely off the rails, etc. etc. I’d need to just generate some interesting clues, loosely script a couple key NPC interaction scenes, and let the players’ speculation run wild. (Which is usually what happens in practice anyway, because I’ll get caught up in the heat of things and forget what I had originally planned for a finale.)

I love the suggestion of using Crowns. One of the successful LARP techniques I’ve used in the past is to give each player a card that says “Rip this note in half to do X game-altering thing”. Easy for players to understand, and easy to adjudicate, even with multiple GMs.

The Meddle move seems straightforward enough to translate to in-person play. I’ve done similar things here before too, with sealed envelopes that say “You sense there’s a clue to be found here, but first you must succeed at Y mechanical interaction.” Playing cards are my go-to randomizer for this sort of “skill check”. Are there any examples of pbta or fitd systems that substitute playing cards for dice? I suppose the simplest way would just be to pare the deck down to two suits of A-6. Oh, and that could be an elegant way to incorporate Harm. “On a failure, give your highest value card to the GM.”

About the “white card” use in LARP: french game designer Thomas Munier has a whole LARP (-generator?) based on something like this. For instance, you can eat a character’s memory (or some other dramatic power very open to interpretation) if they agree to, and if yet another character sings for them. The bigger the rituals, the more people you need to enroll. It’s less about success, or my character, and more about the dramatic links between characters.