Review: Thirsty Sword Lesbians

Thirsty Sword Lesbians by April Kit Walsh is a game that lets you know exactly what you’re getting from the title. Going into our sessions, no one was surprised to be a lesbian with a sword who was looking for something more; whether that be action, the other type of action, or just a sweet date. The game gives you an exciting premise and lets you run with it in any setting you can imagine. 

Thirsty Sword Lesbians (TSL) is a Powered By The Apocalypse (PBTA) game. I have played a few PBTA games in the past, including Apocalypse World, Fellowship, Masks, and TRF favorite Descent into Midnight, but TSL was my first time running one. For those who don’t have much experience with PBTA, each player chooses a playbook which is some sort of trope or ideal – for this game the playbooks included options like The Chosen, The Scoundrel, and The Nature Witch. Within your playbook you assign your ranking to your skills, usually between -2 to 2, and choose your moves, which are special actions only players with your playbook can take. 

When something happens that requires a die roll to resolve, or a player wants to use one of their moves, they roll 2d6 and add the results to any modifiers. One thing that is elegant about PBTA is that partial success is written into the mechanics. So if your total is <6 (which TSL calls Down Beat), your character doesn’t succeed as planned, or succeeds in an unexpected way that introduces a large complication, or even fails – but the failure has to be interesting and move the story forward. A result of 7-9, or mixed beat, is a success and something else happens, like an NPC gets an opportunity, or gains a connection they can use against you. A 10+, or up beat, is more like a traditional success roll, and the PC can accomplish what they set out to do. I appreciated how TSL emphasized that down beat and mixed beat results should never feel like a bad thing, just a way to bring drama and new story directions. 

Each of the playbooks is unique with some amazingly titled moves like, “I Ship It” and “Talk Nerdy to Me.” The character types that were chosen for the playbooks really allow for a wide range of choice for players, and makes it hard to decide which one you actually want to play. Besides choosing your character’s look, you also get to choose which sword they have to wield. The sword is a narrative choice, and the players have the flexibility to choose how it works. 

Romance can be a difficult element to introduce into your game, especially since there can be emotions that run high. To this end, Thirsty Sword Lesbians encourages players to check in with each other during the game. In fact, if players follow through on this they get XP. I really love this addition to the rules, because it really keeps the idea of checking in and making sure no one is being hurt at the forefront of your mind while playing. This is the first time I’ve experienced having safety tools have an in game benefit, and for a game that is dealing with what can be sensitive subjects, I feel like it’s addition is ingenious. 

I went into the game planning expecting to be in a setting that we could build on, and was pleasantly surprised that there were in fact a dozen scenario and setting seeds, as well as four fleshed out settings that you could make your own. There’s also variant rules for not having swords, or not being thirsty, or even not being lesbians. However, I think the game really shines embracing all three parts of its name. I also appreciated the really well thought out guide for your session zero, including world-building questions, a great section to read to your players about safety tools, and a quick introduction to the rules of the game. 

I was nervous running this game, and especially since PBTA is a system that has intimidated me as a GM since it’s approach to play is different to what I’m used to. However, Thirsty Sword Lesbians has been a joy to run, and I can’t wait to see how my players handle the final challenges at the upcoming Unity Ball.

If you’re interested in hearing about our Thirsty Sword Lesbians, look for episodes later this month! Keep your eyes on Evil Hat and Gay Spaceship Games for more information on it’s release later this year!

Note: The Redacted Files was given access to playtest materials to run this game from Evil Hat games. 

Megan loves RPGs, cephalopods, robots, dice, and Kickstarter campaigns related to the above. She is a co-founder of The Redacted Files and runs our Numenera, Pathfinder, and Horror on the Orient Express campaigns, as well as the Trail of Cthulhu one-shots.

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