14 July 2021
If you want something joyously fun and disastrously romantic to play, this might be just the game you want.
Sometimes, the simplest way to understand what you’re going to get from a game is to just read the damn title. This is true of Dungeons & Dragons, it’s true of Cyberpunk and you’d better believe it’s true of Thirsty Sword Lesbians.
The name makes it clear that this is going to be a game about romance (it’s not water that the characters are thirsty for), about sword fights, and about being super, mega gay. The apparent aim of Thirsty Sword Lesbians is to capture moments where two characters are duelling on an exploding airship and exchanging barbs so deeply personal that the audience can’t help but yell “oh for god’s sake just KISS ALREADY!”
All this is handled by a version of the ever-popular Powered by the Apocalypse engine found in countless other story-driven RPGs, such as Monster of the Week. The biggest departure from the PbtA norm is in the use of ‘strings’ – tokens that represent emotional influence over another person. These are the fuel that keeps the romantic bonfire burning, and while the practicalities of the system can be a little fiddly – if you have a large cast of NPCs you can end up with masses of different tokens – it does a stellar job of keeping the table focussed on kisses as well as the adventures.
This is important, as the scope of Thirsty Sword Lesbian adventures is something near limitless. There are just over a dozen sketched-out settings outlined in the rulebook, spanning almost every genre you could imagine. Squint a little and you’ll see a way to adventure through worlds inspired by everything from Fire Emblem to She-Ra. There’s even a setting that seems to draw from the popular “what if everyone worked in a quirky coffee-shop?” fanfiction trope.
To make it clear, this is not a game for every table. Honestly, if the name – never mind the premise – genuinely bothers you, there are probably half a hundred other reasons why you won’t enjoy Thirsty Sword Lesbians. If, however, you want something joyously fun and disastrously romantic to play, this might be just the game you want.
PLAY IT? YES
Designer: April Kit Walsh
Publisher: Evil Hat
This feature originally appeared in Issue 57 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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