A new tabletop RPG will combine the sparkling friendship and heroism of magical girl series like Sailor Moon with the grittier world and themes of crime RPG Blades in the Dark.
Girl by Moonlight comes from Blades in the Dark publisher Evil Hat Productions, and sees designer Andrew Gillis build on John Harper’s Forged in the Dark system, used in both Blades and various other games - from sci-fi romp Scum and Villainy to dark fantasy adventure Band of Blades.
Rather than building a crew of ragtag criminals to pull off daring heists, Girl by Moonlight assembles players’ magical girls in their combined efforts to overcome the dark and oppressive society that surrounds them. The Forged in the Dark system sees tests resolved with a pool of six-sided dice, modified by the characters’ ratings in individual traits and surrounding context, before the single highest die determines the character’s level of success.
As in Blades, game sessions shift between the core action during each mission and moments of downtime, allowing the team of protagonists - the RPG’s term for player characters - to plan their next move and manage their characters’ lives away from their duties.
While Girl by Moonlight pulls from the bright, peppy atmosphere and coming-of-age storytelling of the seminal Sailor Moon and modern successors such as Steven Universe, the game also layers in the darker elements present in series such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which examine the popular genre through a more subversive, twisted and often tragic lens.
In place of Blades in the Dark’s Trauma mechanic, triggered by characters’ levels of Stress, Girl by Moonlight introduces a new Eclipse mechanic, representing moments where their fear and doubt challenges their hopeful ideals. On the flip side, characters can transform by ‘transcending’ their everyday persona and becoming their powerful alter-ego.
The game’s creators also make clear that their definition of ‘magical girl’ extends far beyond the gender-specific term: “The game reinterprets the classic examples of the genre to create an allegory for self-discovery and queer identity. The text uses ‘magical girl’ as a shorthand, but your magical girls need not be girls, necessarily, but people whose identities put them at the margins.”
Girl by Moonlight includes seven character archetypes, built on classic tropes of the genre. These include The Enigma, Guardian, Harmony, Outsider, Stranger, Time Traveller and Unlikely Hero.
The familiar character types are explored across four included series playsets and jumpstart adventures designed for one-shot sessions, each of which delves into a type of magical girl story inspired by classics of the genre.
At The Brink of The Abyss sees the heroes working to stave off the corruption of their world, a la Sailor Moon and Steven Universe. The Diebuster and The Vision of Escaflowne-inspired On A Sea of Stars places the protagonists in mechs fighting to fend off monstrous Leviathans. Beneath A Rotting Sky embraces the darker fate, betrayal and tragedy of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. In A Maze of Dreams is similarly dark, drawing from Satoshi Kon’s psychological masterpiece Paprika and the dark technothriller Serial Experiments Lain as it explores ideas of mass culture and desire.
The four settings, adventures and all of the playable archetypes will be included in Girl by Moonlight’s standalone 224-page rulebook. The game is currently crowdfunding via BackerKit, ahead of an expected physical release next January.