Hello! All this week Eurogamer is marking Pride Month – on this, its 50th anniversary year – with a series of features celebrating the intersection of queer culture and gaming. This afternoon, as part of a special Pride-themed edition of Dicebreaker Recommends – a series of monthly board game, RPG, and other tabletop recommendations from our friends at our sibling site, Dicebreaker – Alex Meehan dives into the messy, glorious world of Thirsty Sword Lesbians.
And while we have you here, if you’ve been eagerly awaiting a restock of Eurogamer’s Pride t-shirts, we’re happy to report that more – in two ravishing variants – are now available for purchase. All profits will be split between LGBTQIA+ charities Mermaids and Mind Out.
Queer pride is sometimes a personal, intimate thing to love, cherish, and hold in your hand like a little bird. Other times, it is a grand, bombastic affair that you want to sing about with bright lights, dazzling tassels, and loud airhorns. Neither approach is wrong. But tabletop roleplaying game Thirsty Sword Lesbians most definitely embraces the latter, rather than the former.
Based on the Powered by the Apocalypse gameplay system, which also serves as the basis for other LGBTQ+ TRPGs such as Monsterhearts 2, Thirsty Sword Lesbians is a tabletop RPG about being queer in the most shining, stylish, and hopeless way possible. Created by April Kit Walsh and published by Evil Hat Productions – the studio behind Blades in the Dark – Thirsty Sword Lesbians is, as its website description states, a game about “disaster lesbians”. Players are encouraged to be cool and do cool things, but they’re also just as capable of being a complete horny mess as well.
The key elements of Thirsty Sword Lesbians perfectly encapsulate this ethos. If players are not fighting, then they’re probably flirting. Sometimes, player characters are doing both at the same time. Thirsty Sword Lesbians takes the classic swashbuckling adventures of the 1980s and ’90s – it even includes direct references to properties like He-Man and She-Ra – and showers them in glorious sapphic imagery. Stoic warriors clash swords with fabulously adorned rogues in ancient castles, neon-lit cities, or spaceships flying through starry galaxies. It’s not meant to be subtle, but it’s all the more fun to play because of that.
Players in Thirsty Sword Lesbians are encouraged to create characters who are meant to thrive in this world of intense melodrama and extravagance. It offers a selection of different character types, each geared towards a certain playstyle and, most importantly, emotional conflict. Thirsty Sword Lesbians isn’t only a game about joy and silliness, but even its more emotionally sincere moments feel like they’re meant to have at least a hint of soap opera about them.
Every one of the character types has their own pre-seeded character arc – from the Trickster’s struggle to be emotionally available to the Chosen’s burden of destiny – but it’s up to the game master and players to decide exactly how they go about growing them. Rest assured, though, Thirsty Sword Lesbians provides all the tools you need to make them as overly dramatic and fantastically gay as possible. Characters won’t just have arguments; they’ll have arguments whilst sword-fighting in suggestively torn clothing on top of a precarious platform that’s gradually crumbling beneath them.
That is the vibe to expect when going in to play Thirsty Sword Lesbians and, for me, it’s one that I enjoy immensely. Sometimes, you want to be a version of yourself that fits into the kind of world that Thirsty Sword Lesbians’ stories are meant to take place in. The TRPG encourages its players to throw caution to the wind and truly engage in the theatrics of roleplaying. Its goal is not to produce realistic portrayals of lesbian characters – most gay women don’t brandish swords and stash hidden tools about their person, unfortunately – but to provide an outlet for players to embrace a messier, but undoubtedly more fun, side of themselves.
It can feel like a lot of pressure is placed on the queer community to act a certain way. As a queer woman, I can sometimes feel very self-conscious about the way others might view me or the reflection my behaviour might have on the LGBTQ+ community at large. However, Thirsty Sword Lesbians actively encourages the kind of outlandish and theatrical actions I’d possibly shy away from in real life. Obviously, everyone expresses their queer identity in their own unique way, but Thirsty Sword Lesbians gives players the thumbs-up to make a scene, profess a crush, and slap a dueling glove across a face, all granting a glorious escape from inhibition.
Like many good tabletop RPGs, Thirsty Sword Lesbians has safety tools designed to ensure that players and the GM don’t stumble into any subjects or scenarios that make anyone feel unwelcome or unwanted. With lines and veils – or no-go areas and sensitive ones – GMs and players can be informed in advance of topics anyone might want to steer clear of. This means that a playthrough of Thirsty Sword Lesbians can be as wild and ridiculous as people want it to be, while still staying within the bounds of whatever you feel safe exploring.
There are plenty of great tabletop roleplaying games out there that support LGBTQ+ identities and storylines. But Thirsty Sword Lesbians is special because it’s explicitly a TRPG about celebrating queerness. While I enjoy softer and more serious narratives about the queer experience – I highly recommend the film Ammonite for this reason – Thirsty Sword Lesbians offers something that can and should be celebrated just as much: the antics of disaster lesbians.