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Beakwood Bay

 Beakwood Bay is a game where anthropomorphic ducks go on adventures to find and acquire treasure and like feathered dwarves end up getting gold sick and either having to renounce their greedy ways or die as disliked misers. It is a game rendition of the Duck Tales comics and television show, neither of which I'm familiar with and which perhaps you shouldn't have to be to decide whether this is an interesting game to play.

The tone is definitely comedy with edgings of tragedy. The themes are friendship, camaraderie and a critique of consumerist society. The element of satire is slightly obscure in the rules. It all feels very earnest.

Mechanically it is PbtA with Advantage and Disadvantage with "critical" success on a 12+. The game is mechanically quite simple and straight-forward due to the use of Advantage and Disadvantage, most of the rules result in Advantage and Disadvantage. The game has a relatively small number of shared Moves. Specialised moves in the form of "Scout Honours" are implied as being gained through actions in play but are actually purchased via Experience system which also drives increases in stats and allows reuse of what would otherwise be single-use Treasures.

The system also includes a story beats tracker in the form of Feathers of the Magpie, as you gain more Feathers you normalise your treasure seeking behaviour and start to become Coin Sick and miserly. Eventually you cease to travel and interact with friends and instead hoard and defend the treasure you've found leading to the character retiring from the game.

This mechanism is also used to allow the Keeper to go in pretty hard on failed results, the game encourages you to go for big outlandish, even fatal, results and if the player doesn't like them they take a Feather of the Magpie to step the result up one level and you "rewind time" and play out the new result.

I'm a big fan of "step up" mechanics in PbtA and it's logical to link it to the character's story arc.

The advice for Keepers is not so great, as someone who is unfamiliar with the source material I need a bit more handholding and while there is a lot of advice on tone and style I would have preferred for this to have been distilled into Principles as is conventional for PbtA. In particular the emphasis on cartoon action and how it is meant to play alongside the avarice mechanics would have been helpful.

Adventures in Beakwood Bay are quite structured and require preparation. Reading the instructions on how to create them left me feeling a bit lost and I had to read a sample adventure to understand how they are meant to work. Part of the problem for me was the use of certain terms, namely Seekers and Clues. Seekers are generally people who are trying to get the same treasure as the players but for different reasons. However it also includes people who currently possess the treasure or seek to prevent it being looted or stolen. Generally it is just a bunch of protagonists who all have an interest in the goal of the scenario and will help, hinder and contrast with the player characters.

Clues aren't just items and information that point towards the location of the treasure and its defences. It also includes how it can be taken and transported back to the Beakwood Bay, the home city of the player characters.

Clues are gathered during play but the players then perform a move to determine whether they can incorporate the Clues into a plan to seize the treasure and return home with it. Clues incorporated are positive modifiers, the adventure's complexity rating is one large negative rating. Interestingly there is no countdown or clock ticking the group seems to play the game until they are ready to make the game end move and the result of that roll determines whether they will be successful or not. In some ways it reminded me a bit of World Wide Wrestling's match structure and finishers.

In theory I like Beakwood Bay's subversive cartoon blend of humour and politics but in practice I feel unsure as to the nature of the group who would find it enjoyable and less than confident that I can bring it in the right spirit to the table. One that is likely to get parked until the right opportunity arises.


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