Body horror has long been a staple of the broader spooky media genre, from classics such as The Fly to the Human Centipede trilogy (yeah, they made three of those) and more recently Titane. Horse Girl, a Zine Month tabletop RPG project, proudly carries that tradition as a journaling game about being willingly transformed - body and mind - into a horse.
Creator Samuel Mui, known online as BabblegumSam, said Horse Girl is inspired by films such as Tusk, Boxing Helena and Equus, which is a frightening array of touchstones that aptly sum up what players are asked to do in this solo journaling game. The doctor who rescued you from a loveless, aimless and complete wreck of a life has convinced you to show your devotion to him by agreeing to a radical, life-altering procedure:
A complete, mind and body, surgical transformation into a horse.
Horse Girl derives its rules of play from the Wretched & Alone SRD, a free-to-use version of Chris Bissette’s The Wretched. It uses a deck of cards to prompt the player (Horse Girl is funding its own deck with prompts printed directly on the cards) and a tumbling block tower to represent the story’s mounting tension. In this case, that means sinking deeper into the loss of bodily autonomy and emotional control to a man who claims to love you. When the tower falls, so do the dregs of your resolve to remain un-horse-ified.
Mui says on the Kickstarter campaign page that Horse Girl is “dedicated to all those who have had their lives irreparably ruined by the choices they made while under sound mind.” Players aren’t necessarily doomed to their equine fate, but the game is designed to explore the terror of someone being convinced - or convincing themselves - to act far, far outside their interest and safety. To essentially become someone else and forsake their past life, relationships and principles. Toxic love is pernicious because it deploys subtle guidance under the guard, not brute force.
As a work of horror, Horse Girl does come with a bevy of content warnings: body horror, torture, dehumanisations, bestiality, pregnancy, sexual situations and consent to terrible actions. Solo horror games work best when the player willingly engages with the work on its level and can be highly rewarding creative exercises, but that may not be an experience everyone wants.
Horse Girl’s Kickstarter campaign will run until February 14th and is raising funds for a physical edition with new artwork and layout by Aled Lawlor. Leyline Press, who previously handled Salvage Union, has agreed to publish the 20-page zine and expects to begin fulfilment in August of this year.