How to Survive the Underground: A Guide for Newbies

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and join the fun at the Burlesque Underground. It’s your first foray into the theatrical world of the Black Family…you’re well prepared, you’ve read the stories and heard all the gossip, you know your Katorga’s from your Bellamantis’ and you definitely know not to ask for baby back ribs on the menu…


But how ready are you? Just what is the etiquette when dealing with psychotic Seven? How does loyalty to the seven houses work? Oh My God what do I do if they TALK to me?

Fret not…we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know to get you started.


1. Dress is important.


While the Underground is open to those from all walks of life, most of the main characters within this world are rich and liable to be snobbish about appearance. They won’t judge you openly, mostly…MOSTLY…but the illusion of class is everything so some effort is required when dressing for an Underground social event. At the very least, all black smart casual is a basic requirement. No denim, casual clothing, hoodies, caps and thongs etc. Even those playing characters need to be mindful of the company that they are in. Think of it as an A-list celebrity party. Dress to express…and impress. Or at least not get judgy face.


2. They’re more like guidelines…


Choosing a ‘ribbon’ and a house to align yourself with is kind of like choosing your favourite character in a TV show after the first episode. Alliances shift and change as you learn more about people and interact with them…you aren’t stuck with your first choice forever. Selecting a house to begin with is simply a way for you to give your character somewhere to start. Alternatively, you don’t have to choose any alliance if it suits you better. Most of the Underdwellers will interact with you regardless of who you pick. Please note, selecting allegiance to any one family DOES NOT mean you are a part of that family in any way other than you may be partial to them and their values (or lack thereof). No Undergroupies can be related to any of the Seven families unless they are written into the main storyline by the DM.


3. Know the lay of the land


And no, I don’t just mean Jasper 😛


It’s important that you go into this having at least some idea of who the key players in the family are (whether or not your own character has this information). Just as you wouldn’t waltz into the Tudor court not knowing who the guy on the throne is, it’s probably best not to just assume that everyone is on an equal playing field. You are of course welcome to interact with everyone…just be aware that some will be more amenable to socialising than others.

For a comprehensive guide to the characters of the Underground, click here.



4. Develop a sense of timing…and manners.


“Oh hey, I’m sorry you just found out the daughter you thought was eaten is actually alive…do you want a hug?”


You are never going to get a good reaction if you wander over like a socially retarded sociopath bringing up the family’s dark secrets as a way of introducing yourself or starting a conversation. Just as it’s not appropriate to engage with Angelina Jolie about her recently lost breasts, so too it is with the Black Family (and the rest of the Seven). Not all the information that is aired by the media is accurate or true, OR appreciated by those within the Underground. Decide what you are trying to achieve by blatantly bringing up their dirty laundry and waving it under their noses…and consider how attached you are to your character. These people are Mafia. They deal with security leaks and threats in the manner you would expect.


5. Know what you know…or think you know.


Much of the storyline and secrets of the Black Family and it’s associates is not actually common knowledge. Even though you may have read about something on the Undergroupies page, typically most of the general population will not be aware of it. Newsflashes and public statements are true insofar as they can be proved or disproved. Anything seen onstage can be dismissed as ‘acting’ by any one of the family as it suits them (i.e. Vernon’s recent death and Lyra’s unfortunate incident with the chocolate). Even the fact that Jasper has multiple personalities is not scientifically documented in the public eye, no matter how much he jokes about it onstage. Be mindful that what your character brings up in conversation is actually knowledge that they could feasibly have.


6. Try not to try too hard



Seriously. When someone asks what your name is, just tell them. Unless there’s some in character reason for you to play coy or difficult, responding with ‘why should I tell you?’ or ‘what do you want it to be?’ is at best boring and at the worst really annoying. Not everything we do will be to test you…we honestly just like to play. If Jasper bounds over and asks ‘so…tell me about yourself,’ freezing like a deer in headlights isn’t going to help either of you do anything remotely interesting. That said, it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve…


7. My dick is bigger than your dick.


This isn’t a competition. No one has to be the bigger, badder, crazier or a more violent sociopath. Alternatively, it’s not a pity party where we all have to sit around comparing self mutilation scars. Regardless of how much more skilled, intelligent, financial or well endowed you think your characters may be when compared to others, no one likes a Mary Sue and playing with people who think they are actually Gods is boring. In relation to this, an awareness of the morals and values of key players in the Underground is vital for your own survival. The Black Family spend a rather large amount of time investigating and wiping out slave trade (children, adults etc). Swanning in and declaring that you want to ‘gift’ them with two of your finest child brides to show your badassery will probably get you shot.


8. Repeat after me…it’s NOT real.


The level of interactive, improvised and autonomous roleplay that the Underground players engage in can very quickly become all-consuming. Immersing yourself fully into a character always poses the danger of emotional cross-over. The first thing to know is that when this happens, it is OK. Every single one of the Underground players and performers has experienced real life emotional reactions to what has happened or is happening with their creations. You’re not going crazy. HOWEVER, continued play within the Underground requires a certain level of emotional maturity. No matter how immersed or involved you become, there will come a point where you will need to take a step back, realign and remind yourself that it’s not real. It’s perfectly okay to call safety word and take a break (the safety word is GRAPES, by the way). It is also perfectly fine to contact involved parties the following day to debrief and make sure everything is all good. What is NOT okay is to have a major out-of-character meltdown and demand the attention of half the room while you masturbate yourself in your own pity party. No one will appreciate it. Trust us.


9. Take responsibility for your own play and enjoyment.


Repeat after me. “No one owes me attention or validation simply because I exist.” The Underground experience is a rich tapestry of goings on and melodrama. No matter how much we like you or want to play with you, sometimes there will just be too much going on to allow it. Do not rely on others to keep you in the game, get out there and do things, make friends, make enemies…have fun! Just remember to be mindful of what’s going on around you and how your actions will affect the whole. And never, ever, under any circumstance, interrupt the show.


10. Leave the violence to the professionals.


Stage violence is not an exact science…people can still get very much injured even after having rehearsed a conflict 20 times. All physical altercations within the Underground are pre-planned or pre-approved, with carefully negotiated boundaries between consenting adults. It is important that any acts of violence between characters is planned and negotiated with the DM before the evening of the Underground event, and rehearsed where appropriate. We don’t go around hitting each other with foam weapons, this is not that type of game. As a general rule, groupies are not allowed to engage in violent activities. Please also remember that physically interfering with rehearsed violence is dangerous and can put you or the performers at risk. Try not to tackle anyone 🙂

11. Trigger Warning!


The Underground RPG will quite often deal with sensitive and offensive subject matter. It is designed as a platform to explore the darker parts of man’s psyche and the effects of abuse and neglect on development, as well as providing a safe and consensual environment for individuals to explore their alter egos and flex their acting muscles. While all performers within the Underground believe in gender equality and are against rape culture and the like, their characters will at times display or engage in abhorrent or dangerous behaviours as a means of exploring cause and effect and the deeper psychological ramifications of such topics and actions. There WILL be rape jokes, coarse language, simulated sexual and physical violence, gore and horror, partial nudity, scenes and images that may distress or offend. This comes part and parcel with what we are doing. It is best that you assess your own levels of involvement and how much you as a ‘real person’ can stand. We do not seek to shock or outrage…but the explorations we engage in are not always subtle. Please protect yourselves as appropriate, and if it becomes too much, leave. Individuals using their own history and/or maladies as an excuse to cause a scene or gain attention will be removed from the premises and will not be allowed back. While we understand that some reactions cannot be helped, we can also tell the difference between true trauma…and narcissism.


12. We love to hear from you!


Don’t be shy…join the Official Undergroupies Page and let us know about your experiences! Tell us about your characters and what they have going on…debrief about shows and examine your reactions. You are now part of the Underground culture and are allowed to interact with and engage in the world and play.


Welcome to the adult playground…let the games begin 😉





**Please note – The Underground is a drug free environment. Persons found under the influence of or carrying illegal substances will be removed from the premises permanently.


COPYRIGHT © 2015. NATALIE RISTOVSKI.


All characters and story lines remain the property of N.Ristovski and the Underground. All character writings within the Underground are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Please Note: the Underground is strictly for adults 18 years and over and may contain elements of gore, horror, violence, sexual violence, coarse language and scenes, images, concepts and themes that may offend. Heavy trigger warnings apply to all materials contained herein.

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TALES FROM THE BURLESQUE UNDERGROUND