Thirsty Sword Lesbians is a Tabletop RPG by April Kit Walsh of Gay Spaceship Games in partnership with Evil Hat Productions.
In Thirsty Sword Lesbians, you play "angsty disaster lesbians with swords," telling queer stories with friend across a variety of settings, as long as that setting involves protagonists fighting for a positive community through, love, swords, and adventure.
Thirsty Sword Lesbians is Powered by the Apocalypse and is especially influenced by Masks: A New Generation, such as having emotion-based Conditions stand in for Hit Points, and many of its Moves are based on Masks. The mechanics facilitate gameplay that encourage high emotions while maintaining the wellbeing of its participants through safety tools such as The Setting Palette and the Check-In Card.
While the game does not have a default setting, the core rulebook comes with pre-made settings and adventures written by April Kit Walsh and other contributors, with much more supplementary material planned as Kickstarter stretch goals.
In 2020, the game was funded through a Kickstarter campaign and raised almost $300,000 across more than 8,000 backers. The campaign included a full-text preview of the game as a starting-tier backer reward.
Tropes in this game include:
- All of the Other Reindeer: Several playbooks revolve around social isolation as a source of conflict due to being different, including The Beast, The Nature Witch, the Seeker, and the Spooky Witch.
- Big Damn Kiss: For moments "when people finally kiss after a period of tension," there is the Finally Kiss, in a Dangerous Situation move, which acknowledges and rewards players who build up the story toward this big kiss scene.
- Black-and-White Morality: Especially in the expansion, the amount of Toxic Powers with positive traits and not just Token Good Teammates can be counted on one hand. Makes you wonder why anyone works for them, really.
- Central Theme: One of the player agendas is "stand for justice and liberation," as the game's themes guide players through the message that for all the characters' flaws and tribulations, justice is worth fighting for.
- Cast Full of Gay:
- Not only the title, but also the premise center lesbians as the default characters. By default, all the player characters will be thirsty sword lesbians, and the mechanics and setting assumptions encourage many of the NPCs to be romanceable by the PCs.
- Separate from the system, all of the settings and adventures included in the core rulebook have queer NPCs.
- Cool Sword: Being in the title, swords in Thirsty Sword Lesbians are gonna be cool. When making characters, players choose their character's sword as one of their Aesthetics. These range from "a sword of teeth" (from The Beast playbook) to "an enemy's sword" (from The Reformed).
- Deal with the Devil: When a player character parleys with a Toxic Power, which can be metaphorically or literally demonic, the player triggers the move Call on a Toxic Power. A high-Spirit character has a good chance of walking away without consequences, but a bad roll can lead to the Toxic Power inflicting Conditions, gaining a String, taking something, or worse.
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: As the game encourages thirsty sword lesbians to seduce the enemy, the nature conclusion is that the Toxic Power will include enemies who are female and lesbian, even as they fight for a toxic cause.
- Experience Meter: Each playbook has a XP track, and when a player fills this track, they take an Advance and reset the track. Costume Evolution is encouraged.
- Experience Point: As with most PbtA games, players can improve their characters by earning XP.
- The End of Session move rewards XP to the entire group based on the number of triggers the group met during a session. These include the PC confessing their love, striking a blow against oppression, de-escalating a violent situation, or leaping into danger with daring and panache. The group can even earn XP if a player uses a safety tool during a session, such as checking in or adding to the palette.
- Fantastic Racism: One of the possible allegories for the Beast is that her beastiness is a stand-in for real-world racism, and the beast learns how to not reject her nature, but to embrace and rise above others who object.
- Females Are More Innocent: A weird example. There are more female characters in general than there are male ones, so there are naturally more female antagonists, but a few of these antagonists have at least somewhat sympathetic traits (emphasis on a few). Male antagonists, by contrast, are entirely Jerkasses.
- Game Master: Not wanting to pass up a joke, the GM in this game is called the Gaymaster.
- Heroic BSoD: If a player character Staggers at 4-5 Conditions, one of the options is to be "rendered helpless for the scene" and be taken out of the action. Since Conditions are emotional-based, this suggests that the player character shuts down from being overwhelmed by feelings.
- Improbable Weapon User: For The Seeker, one of the Aesthetics options for her sword is "that's not a sword!" This opens the opportunity to equip The Seeker with a possibly-not-a-sword weapon that reflects her repressed upbringing.
- Non-Combat EXP: Most of the XP triggers can be met outside of combat. In fact, the group can earn XP by avoiding combat through de-escalating combat. But this being a system with the word "sword" in the title, there's XP in leaping into danger and defeating oppression.
- Non-Heteronormative Society:
- Most of the pre-made settings and the Worldbuilding Worksheet have the players put their characters in "a community sharing positive, feminist values," even if this community is combating Toxic Powers within or outside it.
- The adventurer "Best Day of Their Lives" cast the player characters as the diplomatic delegation of Queertopia, who are traveling to the neighboring Heteronormia. As the campingly obvious names suggest, a source of conflict is between how a completely non-heteronormative society gets along with a society literally named after heteronormativity.
- Polyamory: In the adventure "Constellation Festival," delegations are expected to be fully connected polycules. The players can either have their characters be in a genuine polyamorous super-relationship or play out "fake dating hijinks" and have them pretend to be a polycule.
- The Power of Love:
- Thirsty Sword Lesbian discusses love often. It discusses how love can end a fight, or allow a witch to gain her power, or be the virtue that the protagonists are fighting for. It also helps that the player party will share a bond over the commonality of who they love.
- Several mechanics are also driven by how characters express their love. For example, the entire group can gain XP if any PC confesses their love, and Emotional Support is a common way for characters to clear Conditions, gain +1 Forward, or gain insight, especially if the recipient of the Emotional Support is Smitten with the supporter. And of course, two characters who Finally Kiss, in a Dangerous Situation, benefit from an ongoing stat bonus for the rest of the scene.
- Queer Colors: The core rulebook's color scheme is predominantly orange and purple, with shades of white and pink, often in a gradient. These colors happen to be the color scheme of the "sadlesbeandisaster" lesbian flag.
- Shout-Out: One of the sample settings in the core book, "Sword Lesbians of the Three Houses," is a huge shout-out to Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
- This Is a Work of Fiction: The copyright page includes a disclaimer that has some fun:Mary Sue self-insert character. If you feel called out by the playbooks, thats between you and your therapist.This is a game where people make up stories about wonderful, terrible, impossible, glorious things. All the characters and events portrayed in this work are fictional and worth celebrating. Any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental or is possibly a
- World of Action Girls: A world of gay action girls with swords, to be exact. Most of the NPCS in the pre-made adventures and settings follow this norm.