[Rosewood Abbey] monastic mystery Carved from Brindlewood

I’ve released a “playtest” early draft for “Rosewood Abbey”.

This is an attempt at adapting Brindlewood Bay to play mysteries inspired by “The Name of the Rose” and the 90s British TV show “Cadfael”.

It’s the first time I share something in such an early draft stage. My previous one, Paris Gondo - The Life-Saving Magic of Inventorying, had already been reviewed by a professional editor before I released the text-only version.

Feel free to comment not only about the game but also to make recommendations about playtesting/evolving a game “publicly”.

Fun fact: I started working on this after recording an upcoming episode of The RPG Academy Film Studies dedicated to “The Name of the Rose” (to be released next month). I’ll post it here once released.


I’m thankful for the early reactions to this project.

Four enthusiastic players volunteered to join my first playtests within a couple of hours.

It only took a few days for the playtest rules to make their way among my most popular Itch.io releases.

Finally, I ran out of community copies, so I’ve now added a few more.

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​It’s not technically an update about the game but I think it’s worth mentioning the release of my episode of The RPG Academy Film Studies dedicated to “The Name of the Rose” because…

…the recording of that episode is actually what inspired me to create Rosewood Abbey.


​Also, I was joined for this episode by two awesome guests when it comes to discussing history-inspired TTRPGs and exciting corners of history:

Let me know what you think of this episode.

Did The Name of the Rose inspire you with some TTRPG characters or adventures?

It turns out I’m very slow at writing devlogs / session reports.

The first playtest session of Rosewood Abbey took place Saturday, November 5th. I’ve since then conducted a second playtest (I’ll post about it later).

I find that my performance as GM/Cantor wasn’t great. The players were kind to say they enjoyed the sessions regardless and to provide me with interesting food for thought. I believe those last two things are the most important in a playtest.

As mentioned above, I’m not satisfied with how I ran the game. It’s not dramatic. It’s in part due to circumstances outside of the session. In any case, it’s an opportunity to improve the game and how I run it.

I mention the circumstances because I was quite tired. This was due to an intense week, another game session, and a family event on the same day. This all combined with the session itself starting at 10 PM GMT.

I don’t think I was as evocative as I/should be (more on that in Tone below). I also struggled to frame scenes beyond circumstances beyond a dialogue with an NPC followed by an opportunity to roll a Meddling Monk Move (pretty much Brindlewood Bay’s Meddling Move).

It was a bit of a humbling experience. I think I’ve become overconfident after running several dozen sessions of Paris Gondo - The Life-Saving Magic of Inventorying. I had forgotten how long it took to build up my ability to run a game even if I wrote it. Rosewood Abbey is not the most complicated system but it’s substantially more complex than the six steps of the GonParis Method.

I also fell back on old Trad’ habits and expectations. I believe my players expected things to be framed more clearly and things

Several players offered feedback regarding how I adapted Brindlewood Bay’s “Day Move” and “Night Move”. These become the “Pious Move” and “Profane Move”.

At the time of the playtest, the description of those moves included the following:

The Pious Move is a catch-all move for actions that take place as part, or under the guise, of the Fratres Herodoti’s monastic responsibilities. The Cantor has the final say on which ability is used for the roll.

The Profane Move is the catch-all move for actions that take place noticeably outside of the Fratres Herodoti’s monastic routine or responsibilities.

The difference between the two turned out not to be clear-cut enough. In hindsight, there’s also a contradiction in the “Pious Move”. The likelihood of the monks doing something within their “monastic responsibilities” AND also “risky” is very low.

Since then, I’ve opted for a much clearer distinction: inside the monastery vs outside the monastery. I think it works well thematically with the idea of the world outside the monastery being more dangerous for our monks. It also remains different from Brindlewood Bay’s day/night distinction. The new descriptions are as follows:

The Pious Move is a catch-all move for actions that take place within the walls of the Abbazia di Palisandro where, obviously, only pious things happen.

The Profane Move is a catch-all move for actions that take place outside the walls of the Abbazia di Palisandro.

The players were enthusiastic about the notion of Pious vs Profane as inner moral dilemmas. They suggested having instead this notion cut through across all moves. I’ll keep this idea in the back of my head to see how I could apply it. However, the morality aspect was supposed to be more relevant to the “clock” of the game.

Another aspect distinguishing Rosewood Abbey from Brindlewood Bay is the Rumor Mill.

The Rumor Mill replaces BB’s Dark Conspiracy. Unlike the content of the latter, most of the mill is not predetermined. It consists of a collection of phrases/prompts with blanks for the players to fill in like in this example:

It is said that the site for the Abbazia di Palisandro was chosen after a (saint/pagan spirit) named (pick a name) was witnessed (action) in front of a crowd.

Sadly, the Rumor Mill wasn’t triggered at all during the first playtest session. It’s likely due to what I described above under GMing. However, the economy of the Rumor Mill is something I expected to require the most tinkering. Long story short, I need to run more playtest sessions. Good news, I already run a second one. Bad news, I need to write a session report for it.


  • Important to better “frame” scenes, and to support opportunities for characters to confront risky situations.
  • Better to keep in mind the differences between PbtA systems and play culture with Trad’ ones.
  • The Pious Move and Profane Move are changed to distinguish between actions taking place inside or outside the monastery.
  • Need more playtest sessions to see if the “Rumor Mill” economy needs to be tinkered with. In any case, there should be more opportunities for players to trigger it.
  • I’ll upload soon an updated version of the rules and the reference sheet.
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I’ve posted the updated rules on the Rosewood Abbey ItchIo page.

Actually, some of the changes are also the result of the second playtest session. It doesn’t have a session report yet, BUT it was actually streamed (in French) on the La PelleCrew Twitch channel. I’ll share a link if/when it becomes available on YouTube. ​

The updated sections across the two documents are:

  • Pious Move
  • Profane Move
  • Meddling Monk Move
  • ​The Spinning Rumors Move
  • The Prick of a Thorn Move
  • Thorns of Virtue
  • Thorns of Sin
  • Talk of the Moment
  • Tribunal & Judgment Moves​​​​​

In addition, a Gdoc Character Keeper is now available here.​ Please make a copy before using it.

Let me know if you have a go at running the game yourself.



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Hello, you probably know La Cellule’s playtest of Le rosaire écarlate by Natacha Forel, but if you don’t, now you do :wink:

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I wasn’t aware of that game.

I’ve been told about a couple of similar projects, including another French one with nuns that allegedly also Carved in Brindlewood.

However, I’m currently more comfortable avoiding projects handling similar themes.

It might be a bit silly I guess. I’m comfortable pulling influences from unrelated games/settings but not with being influenced by designers also doing monastic mysteries.

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You’re absolutely right that you don’t need to see games with a similar theme. Just to say, it’s not “silly” at all.

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Thanks :slight_smile:

I didn’t mean that the information isn’t welcome either. :heart:

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I got four playtest sessions of Rosewood Abbey scheduled from February with The Gauntlet calendar.

I’m a lucky a handful of awesome players already filled the sessions.

However, I got the usual mix of excitement and anxiety. :sweat_smile:

I need to draft a second and a third mystery before we start.

I need to post here the session report from the second playtest.

There’s also another minor updates of the rules which I should post on Itchio.

…and my other projects on top of that. :grimacing:

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Force et robustesse à toi.

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Force et robustesse. :fist:

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I finally came up with an updated design for the game’s title card.

I’m quite happy with how it’s shaping up.


Rosewood Abbey’s first stream

Back in October, I was contacted by Canard Vert from the French-speaking LaPelle Crew Twitch channel. I previously met Canard Vert when I facilitated a session of Paris Gondo - The Life-Saving Magic of Inventorying for CyberConv’.

LaPelle Crew was considering Brindlewood Bay for a one-shot. when they heard about Rosewood Abbey (oops, sorry Jason for stealing your spot). As a fan of The Name of the Rose, Canard was enthusiastic about my monastic setting and asked me to run a live session at the end of November.

At the time, not a single Rosewood Abbey playtest had taken place yet.

The first playtest took place on November 5th (Remember, remember… See the previous session report). It was informative but not a shining success.

A couple of weeks later, as LaPelle Crew’s stream was about to start, I wasn’t confident about how this was going to turn out.

Lessons learned & a constrained session

The main lesson I applied was to frame scenes more proactively to keep the story moving forward steadily.

This was especially relevant in the context of a standalone 3 hours stream.

With that in mind, I kept character introductions short. Safety tools were discussed ahead of the stream.

I complimented the Gdoc Character Keeper with a Miro board (to be shared in a future Devlog). This made it easier for the players to keep an eye on the moves available. I also used it to clearly index the name of each location, clue, and suspect they identified. Often, I pulled on-the-fly a picture from Google.

This meaningfully helped the players get hold of the mystery and protagonists.

GMing & System Mastery

Another lesson learned I applied was to offer more opportunities for the players to take “risks”.

  • A potential clue was among the branches of a high tree in the monastery’s orchard.
  • Suspicious villagers surrounded two characters as they were “apprehending” a suspect.

The amended Pious Move and Profane Move worked better (see previous Devlog).

In the above examples, the monk climbing a tree was clearly on the monastery’s grounds. Meanwhile, the situation with villagers was outside, at the village.

Overall, there was a better rotation between the moves triggered by the players.

Prick of a Thorn

During the session, a player pointed out an issue between most Basic Moves and the Prick of a Thorn Move . The results of Basic Moves often included marking a thorn. This was redundant with the Prick of a Thorn Move .

This was motivated by my worry that thorns, and as a result, the Rumor Mill , would not be activated often enough. In hindsight, it came from my misunderstanding of Brindlewood Bay’s " Putting on a Crown ".

It’s a nice perk from developing a game, to understand better the systems it’s inspired from.

Anyway, as a result, I removed the Thorns of Virtue and Thorns of Sin from most Basic Move results.


The Rumor Mill was triggered many times. I didn’t expect this to happen within a 3 hours session. This sparks joy.

The players populated it with lore about the area :

  • The Abbey was founded because of miracles performed by Saint Rose.

  • A treasure was hidden at the Abbey.

  • ​The ghost of an Abbott can be heard screaming with rage in the forest when the moon is full.

Also, in “present-day” 13th Century:

  • A monk dreamt of a suspect (Rose) conversing with St Rosa about the future of the Church.
  • Someone had an accident on their way to see a miraculous rose at the monastery but was saved by a monk.

What I like about the Rumor Mill , is how it adds lore to the context of the game BUT does so in an unreliable witness fashion. None of the above was true or false in the context of the session. Within a campaign, it would be up to the players to decide and their characters to find out if any of them had real events behind them. This aspect really motivates me with this project.

Seeing the Rumors Mill triggered resulted in another rule change.

The Prick of a Thorn Move (player tells a Sin/Virtue-related trivia about their monk) triggers the Rumor Mill (a rumor is added to the mill).

Coming up with both at the same time is a lot for a single player. It tended to keep the spotlight on a single person for too long.

Therefore, I applied a change to share the spotlight. Instead of filling the rumor themselves, the player who triggered the move instead designates another player to fill the rumor. This way, the spotlight is shared and the second player can come up with the rumor, while the other tells the group of their Thorn of Sin/Virtue .

Culture of Play

I wonder to what extent the experience was supported by the cultural references I shared with this group of French-speaking players.
The game was more laid-back than the first playtest without falling into farce. Maybe, there was more familiarity, instead of knowledge, with the concept of monasteries. There was a"je ne sais quoi" that helped us be more comfortable around the theme maybe? I can’t quite put my finger on it.


I came out of the first session thinking I should make the game’s context darker and even lean into the grotesque. However, this second session landed on a somewhat light-hearted tone akin to most Brindlewood Bay sessions. Tt worked quite well with this tone.

I look forward to more playtests to discover what tone works best. To some extent, it’s great for the tone to change depending on the players. However, it’s worth identifying a specific tone that would be worth showcasing. In my opinion, it’s more about being inspiring rather than restrictive.


What made me happy:
  • The Rumor Mill was populated.
  • Most moves were used.
  • Successfully ran a streamed session within a couple of hours, including an introduction of myself and the game to the channel’s audience.
  • A recorded session is now available on YouTube.

Lessons learned

  • Worth experimenting more with tone.
  • A Miro board featuring the play-aids will be available soon.
  • Basic Moves were amended to remove Thorn of Virtue and Thorn of Sin from most results.
  • Who fills a rumor, following a Prick of a Thorn Move , was amended

The stream is available on LaPelle Crew’s YouTube channel. It’s in French but the automated captions and English translations are OK.


I’m behind with writing session reports and posting session videos but here’s the one from the first session.

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I already posted this in the Gauntlet Slack and in a couple of other places.

Apologies if you already saw this there.

I’m putting together a “placeholder” cover for Rosewood Abbey (I’ll hire an actual graphic designer once I move from draft playtest rules to something more formal). Thanks, Jim Crocker for motivating me.

So, long story short, what option(s) do you prefer and why? :slight_smile:

I see it for the first time.
I like the contrast with the brown one: this way I can see the characters. The charactets in red? Please don’t. The rose ones? a bit redundant, plus rosewood is not rose, so meh. The green at the bottom is really sick (in a good way!)
If you could that sort of green with the contrast of the brown (which is a bit plain as far as shades…) that would check all the receptors in my brain. But this is just taste, I am not experienced in design.

In this case, I’ll note that your vote goes to E and F.

C, D, and E appear to be popular so far but the votes across platforms are quite well distributed.