Girl Underground is a tabletop roleplaying game for 3–5 players about a curious girl in a wondrous world, inspired by Alice in Wonderland, Labyrinth, The Wizard of Oz, Spirited Away and similar tales.
Follow a young girl’s journey of self-discovery through a whimsical fantasy land with the friends she meets along the way. Explore twisted, willowy woods filled with whisper-soft lies, or tricky fairy rings with riddling promises on the way to overthrow an unjust ruler, like the possessive Crowing King or the deceptive Mask Mage.
The game uses a simple system built on the Apocalypse Engine—the same foundation for popular games Apocalypse World, Monsterhearts, and Night Witches.
Girl Underground is a low-prep game played either as a oneshot or a short campaign of 2–4 sessions. The game provides locations, side characters, and theme prompts to build a wondrous land tailored to each play experience. With little prep required, Girl Underground is perfect for convention games or game nights when you don’t have a full table.
The zine comes with five evocative playbooks: one for the Girl and each of her four companions.
In short, this zine will give you a game that:
- Works for 3–5 players, including a GM
- Offers flexible pacing for a oneshot or 2–4 sessions
- Uses the popular Apocalypse World system
- Provides the materials to make it pick up and play
- Sets out playbooks for the Girl and each of her companions
The zine will be a 32-page, 8 ½ x 5 ½ saddle-stitched booklet printed in black ink on luscious cream interior pages like beloved books of yore, with a sturdy heavyweight cover in an elegant sage green.
Successfully reached stretch goals will expand the page count.
Want to get a closer look at some of the playbooks and game materials?
Worldwide shipping is included in the cost of your pledge.
Who is this Girl and her fantastical friends?
We begin with players collaboratively filling out the Girl’s playbook to understand who the Girl is and what her life is like. What does her voice sound like? What does she want to be when she grows up? What is her biggest fear? What does she hide from her parents?
Each player then chooses a companion to play that will accompany the Girl on her journey. These companions draw inspiration from common archetypes, such as the Cheshire Cat (Alice in Wonderland), the Tin Man (Wizard of Oz), and Ludo (Labyrinth). Each companion has their own playbook with questions to answer, helping you develop their unique personality and relationship to the Girl.
What does her adventure look like?
Players take turns playing the Girl throughout the game. As the Girl, players question the fantastical world around them, converse with creatures who speak in riddles, and speak honestly about her values and beliefs.
The Girl’s playbook uses a simple structure focused on questioning society’s expectations of girls, and pushing against those expectations. When wonderland presents unjust rules, the Girl can stand up against them and develop beliefs about herself and the world around her. She can use these beliefs to overcome challenges by standing strong in her convictions.
Her companions support her by using their many unique talents and eccentricities to navigate the strange realities of wonderland. The Construct can learn secrets about the world by speaking to objects, while the Ogre can call upon the elements to get everyone out of peril. Meanwhile, the Mythic can command an audience with their majesty, and the Beastie knows all the gossip about the lords and ladies of wonderland and how to leverage that to an advantage.
Where does she travel along the way?
Girl Underground comes with a set of locations written to bring out the themes your group is interested in exploring. Travel through the trickery of Wolfwood, stalked by devious, shadowy monsters who smile bright with indiscernible intentions. Become enchanted by the Painted Circus, who welcomes all into its family to express their talents and quirks. Dabble in the Fairy Ring, and dance with its fairy queen, but be sure to not get caught in her silver-lined promises.
Girl Underground contains the materials to play the Girl and her fantastical companions:
The Girl: A 12-year-old girl who finds herself in a world that is equal parts fantastic and perplexing. Lost, but not alone, she learns about herself and the world around her on her wondrous journey back home.
The Beastie: A talking animal with a nose for getting themselves into trouble.
The Construct: An object imbued with life, learning what it means to be truly alive.
The Mythic: A rare flying beast of myth and legend, now the last of their kind.
The Ogre: A shy, towering giant trying to find their voice and place in this world.
Girl Underground comes with six locations to give your adventure through wonderland colour and meaning. Each location gives themed questions to consider during play, side characters to cause trouble, and props to weave into the scene. Here are two of the locations that come with the game:
Some of the new locations are:
- The Adventurer’s Tomb: a catalog of artefacts and treasures ‘liberated’ from the wilds of wonderland by Francis Lightfeather, adventurer extraordinaire
- The Dragon’s Den: a hot, simmering place of pride and extravagance, occupied by wonderland’s dragon in all of her majesty
- The Tea House: serving exquisite alchemical brews and delicacies that can do all sorts of wonderful things to help with whatever your heart desires
“Your body lives between two worlds: human and… something else. Maybe your other half is a beast, making you something like a centaur, mermaid, or werewolf. You have an appetite for exploring and dabbling in magic.”
“You ran away from home and found a door to another world. But you decided to stay and now this your home. It’s scary and lonely at times, but at least you're free to explore and be yourself.”
We will expand all twelve locations to give you new sources of trouble, connections to other locations, and targeted advice to reinforce the location’s themes in your game.
We will add ten new pieces art. Most of it will be added to the location pages, like the following piece for The Restless Wreckage, about a broken ship that never stops sailing and its crew that doesn’t remember where they’re going.
We’ll add two pages of transcribed play that walk through a sample game and point out rules. We’ll also produce a short video explaining the game, interspersed with moments of actual play.
Listen to Lauren’s interview on The Hard Move podcast about one of the core elements of Girl Underground: the Girl’s Stand Strong In Your Convictions move.
Lauren McManamon (Twitter: @thestraykiwi) is a queer TTRPG editor and designer from New Zealand, currently living in Alberta. She is an avid story-gamer with a love of dreamy surrealism and weird fantasy. As a girl, she wanted to be a game designer when she grew up, and to this day has a fear of darkness, silence, and isolation. Her voice is bubbly, like a flowing brook.
Her previous published design work includes Hot Guys Making Out: Sherlock Holmes (in Codex: Lies) and Final Girl: A Game of Love (in Codex: Love 2). Her previous editing work includes The Veil: Cascade and Uncanny Echo by Fraser Simons, and Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG by the Storybrewers. She is also the Gauntlet’s editor for Codex and frequently runs in and plays games on the Gauntlet calendar. Check out the Gauntlet community here.
Jesse Ross (Twitter: @jesseross) is a game designer, graphic designer and illustrator from Minneapolis. He stumbled into the strange land of roleplaying games as a young boy, and has been obsessed with the idea of magical doors to other worlds ever since. He’s an active member of the Gauntlet gaming community and a frequent contributor to the Codex zine. His published games and supplements include Matches to Paper Dolls, a play-by-post letter-writing game of lost love co-written with Sidney Icarus, Emerald City Drama Club, a playset for Monsterhearts about a high-school production of The Wizard of Oz, and Trophy, a horror fantasy game of doomed treasure-hunters entering a haunted forest that doesn’t want them there.
Risks and challenges
This is our first Kickstarter project between the two of us, which inevitably comes with some teething issues. However, we have reached out to those with experience developing and publishing games to identify costs and risks.
We’ve taken the following three steps to make sure we deliver the very best zine to you on time:
• We are working with a quality local printer whose estimate is the basis for our funding and timeline goals
• The game text is fully written and in layout, minus any stretch goals
• The game itself has been through playtesting and has been adapted based on feedback
Your pledge is just to cover the cost of the zine and shipping. All of the components needed to make Girl Underground are more or less finished, and we’re ready to get it in your hands!
Of course, life can get in the way, and we understand that events outside of our control can create delays. However, we’ve done everything we can ahead of the Kickstarter to mitigate the impact of any unforeseen life events by getting everything ready to go now.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (28 days)