Tabletop roleplaying games come in all shapes and sizes, and yet amongst the myriad of systems out there I think that Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast is truly unique. If you know me by now, always looking for something you won’t find anywhere else, you know that makes this game very special. Imagine a magical B&B in the woods, filled with all sorts of odd residents and guests, giving off serious Ghibli vibes. “Nostalgic for a thing that doesn’t exist,” was the sentiment shared with us when we sat down for a chat with Jay, one of the writer/creators of Yazeba’s.
Maybe none of what I’m saying makes any sense to you yet, or maybe you know Possum Creek Games from their other title Wanderhome. Either way, hopefully by the end of this brief glimpse you’ll understand both what Yazeba’s really is and whether it’s something you need on your shelves.
Yazeba's Bed & Breakfast
Mercedes Acosta, Jay Dragon, Lillie Harris, and M Veselak
Jay Dragon and M Veselak
$60 Hardcover (7% savings), $15 Paperback (black and white)
The B&B is a strange place, filled with a strange and loveable cast.
Not Your Average B&B
Akin to a good novel, there are strong themes in Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast driving it forwards. Freedom, exploration, welcoming into uncomfortable spaces, and change are ever-present. Calling it a game might be something of a misnomer, though. You see, the designers believe that a good game should be more than just “a game;” it should be a playground for the players. Yazeba’s does exactly that, and perhaps in keeping with its theme of change, it does so in some very interesting ways.
As if immediately telling you it’s ok to let loose in this playground and play what you want, how you want, one of the first things you’ll notice is that the chapters aren't in numerical order. You could play them in the order of their numbers, but that would require quite a bit of work. You could also play them in the order they’re printed, going straight down the list from eight to thirteen to one, and that’s probably a little more in line with the game’s intention. But, if you start jumping around to any chapter that sounds interesting to you, then you’re really getting it.
Wait, you may be saying. What do you mean by chapters? Well, while Yazeba’s does encourage you to come up with your own adventures at the B&B, the way it’s laid out is more of a set of pre-written scenarios that you drop various characters into. Each chapter has its own objectives which determine how things play out and what they mean to the characters present.These could be simple things like preparing a feast at the B&B or maybe just catching fireflies out in the yard behind the back porch.
If anything, this particular playground strikes me as less solely of a TTRPG and more of a roleplaying game blended with a legacy-style board game (those ones that you put stickers on stuff, rip up cards, and watch the game change as it plays). You’ll be doing similar sticker things in Yazeba’s, collecting “mementos” as you play through the various chapters and saving them on the shelves. Unlock a certain number of them, or meet other prerequisites with the characters, and new chapters will unlock, along with new guests and adventures for the B&B. It’s good to note, though, that should you ever want to play a chapter again or start over with a new group, the game is completely replayable (unlike true legacy games that are multi-session one-shots).
Some chapters have action and tension, while others are more of a restful breather.
In perhaps one of the biggest departures from your standard TTRPGs, Yazeba’s makes a pretty bold move in pursuit of its playground: Characters are provided for you, and rather than being played by one player apiece as with other roleplaying games, they are passed around between players from session to session. You might play Sal in this session, but if we play a chapter where Sal is present next week, maybe I’ll grab him.
You might be wondering how that could ever work. The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is that it works fantastically! Each character has a series of Bingos (character goals) and Whoopsies (character flaws) which drive the motivations that go into their decisions, and playing to these ups and down will affect how you move the chapter’s objective tokens around. Combined with the different mindsets of different players, the characters take on a fresh life every time they are featured in a chapter. The Bingos/Whoopsies that are played to (or around) keep each character feeling consistently like themselves, but the way they progress through the story chapters has potential to lead them into very different places overall. After a dozen games, your group’s Sal might be very different from mine. It’s a style of play I’d never considered, and yet the more I try it the more I can’t get enough of it!
And those characters! Despite each being a simple one-page spread, each of them is an intriguing individual of their own. The cast is truly sprawling, especially as you begin unlocking new residents and guests at the B&B, but here are just a couple of my favorites. Hey Kid (they/them), a literal devil-child with horns and a tail who was dropped at the B&B doorstep as a baby and has grown up on the premises. They are mischievous, yet not unkind, and are conflicted about what it means to grow up. Yes, by the way, their name is Hey Kid, and I think that’s fantastic. There’s Parish (he/him), an ex-knight who is now a person-sized frog and the cook in the B&B’s kitchen. He struggles with emotions, virtue, and bad puns. There’s T.H.E.M., The Huge Enormous Monster (they/them) that the book says you should play “if there’s plenty of food to eat, you don’t want to talk a lot, and/or if everyone is outside.” What?! A couple of my favorite guests are Rag-and-Bones, a skeletal “bad guy” who comically appears in disguises that do little to hide who he is, and Monday, a fairy merchant who uses their powers of negotiation to spirit away the hearts of those that sign on the dotted line in exchange for fulfillment of their desires. Monday, if you ask me, is the real villain of the setting.
Concept art of Monday. Subject to change of course, but I like their look a lot.
Even the B&B itself is something of a character. The building makes sure any room your characters are in is adjacent to rooms you need, shifting to meet the needs of the staff and guests. It has signs outside that say there’s always vacancy, except for Gertrude, whom it said there was no vacancy for (Gertrude still got a place to sleep in the laundry room, thankfully). There’s life in the B&B that goes beyond explanation. The writer in me loves this inclusion for the setting, driving up everything that makes Yazeba’s special.
To say nothing about the woman herself, Yazeba, a witch who sold her own heart for a place in the woods where the world could never find her. Was she hurt before she made that deal? Was she running from something? If she made a place in the woods she could never be found, then why are there permanent residents living and working at the B&B, and how do guests keep stumbling across it? For every lore point the book clarifies, it leaves you with at least two more burning questions. This game is all about the exploration of its characters, even down to the setting enabling it, and the deeper you dig the more lore you’ll discover. Discover, but also perhaps, invent.
Art direction is thanks to the talented Ruby Lavin. Concept and cover art are by Aster Santiago.
Different Yet Familiar
I know you may have reservations about the fluid nature of this game: Characters changing hands each session. Different characters being available as each chapter rotates. The B&B not having a set floor plan. Not knowing what the chapter unlocks will bring. Not using dice (though I am told there are a couple chapters that break this precedent for…reasons). Even the game’s GM, the Concierge, can choose to play if they wish. Sure, they’re in charge of making narrative decisions when actions need clarification in resolution, but there’s nothing saying they can’t also grab one or two of the characters present in the chapter. In fact, given the number of characters in each session, you may find players handling more than one at a time. Or maybe you pick a chapter for just two characters given a week’s low player turnout. This is all part of Yazeba’s charm.
In fact, maybe you see this as a draw rather than a minus. And just so you’re not left wondering, it’s not like key features in many TTRPGs are straight up missing in Yazeba’s. You can create new characters, especially if you’re planning on writing a few chapters of your own about their time at the B&B. There will be “boss fights” I’m told, though what form they’ll take in this setting is still a mystery. And the book itself will be chock full of content, roughly four times (or more) content than is available on their free-to-play demo online. I’m told the final book will be over 120 thousand words, 48 or so chapters, and 50 guests (that Jay was willing to acknowledge with us). That’s a LOT of content, even if a session is only about an hour in length, to say nothing of continuing the B&B with your own chapters long after the book has run its course. Heck, you could even push “reset” on the world and start again if you want given that a second playthrough of the chapters could yield wildly different results in the hands of different players (or the same players handling different characters each chapter).
Hey Kid and Parish, also featuring Gertrude, Amelie, and Sal.
I Know You
Perhaps the single most nagging question regarding Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast that kept coming back to me was this: How can this game be so simple, and so different from everything I know of TTRPGs, and work so darned well? And the answer is because it’s in all of us already. Look a little closer at the wacky cast of characters and you’ll see each of them is a little piece of us. Our insecurity, our search for identity, our coping with failure, the secrets we keep. It’s a bit like that movie adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, if you saw it years ago; sure there’s a story in it about a kid who runs away from home and meets monsters of all sorts and personalities, but the meaning gets even deeper when you realize he’s making them all up and they’re all just parts of him. The residents and guest at the B&B are a lot like that too. That’s why it’s so easy juggling them between players, and why we might have favorites we keep returning to. Playing a session of Yazeba’s is an exploration of self. Roleplaying in perhaps one of the truest forms of the word. And of course, if something seems interesting just for the plot’s sake, nothing stops you from roleplaying that way too!
I’ve shared this sentiment about a lot of very good games I’ve looked at here on the site: this game may look simple on the surface, but that simplicity is the result of bonkers amounts of thought, effort, and polish. Every tiny detail is the result of a great amount of creative intention and refinement. It’s easy perhaps to gloss over it at first glance, but stay a while at this B&B and you’ll see just how deep the cracks between the floorboards go.
So who is this game “for”? Frankly, everyone. But if you’d like me to hone in on a few specifics, I’ll put it this way. If you love the “R” of TTRPGs, the roleplaying, this game is a solid hit. If you want something that is ready-made to play quickly and with a group of about any size, you can’t go wrong here; especially if you have trouble getting a full group together regularly for game night, this game is amazingly suited for smaller groups in ways I don’t see out of nearly any other system (a Concierge and partner player willing to play a couple characters each could even run sessions for just two). If you love the idea of the most diverse cast of characters spun together in an intriguing setting, along with a metric ton of well-written story hooks to bounce them around in, you will fall head over heels for this game. If your favorite part of a long-term campaign is watching characters change, resolve their struggles, or find new conflicts, you cannot pass on this book. I know that for me, this makes Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast an indispensable addition to my own TTRPG shelf. Whether you’re making plans to check in too, well, you know what’s in your own heart right?
At the time of publishing, you can find a sample of the game here for free, and you can support the Indiegogo campaign directly at this link.