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TTRPG Review: Thirsty Sword Lesbians

Last month, I wrote an article about the special place Dungeons and Dragons has in the heart of the pride community. In it, I mentioned Thirsty Sword Lesbians, a TTRPG made within the community and with a title that might get you in trouble if you’re reading this on a school/work computer.

"TTRPG? Great, what perversion does THIS acronym stand for?"
Except library computers. You know the poor staff there have seen things when clearing search histories for the day.

TSL has been out since 2021 (also having a successful Kickstarter in 2022), and has actually won a few awards. But while that might make reviewing it on here a little redundant, I think it’s still just obscure enough to deserve a spotlight. (Not to mention that they have a follow-up coming up, so why not lead up to it?) And besides, just because pride month’s over, that doesn’t mean my queer side can’t still rear its fabulous, generally-misunderstood head.

The Basic Idea

So, first and foremost, this TTRPG is- for lack of better words- extremely gay. We’re talking literally all colors of the rainbow; lesbians, trans, asexual, the works. Also, romance is a huge cornerstone of this thing. There’s flirting, feelings, and romantic tension, the emphasis on character relations/development almost as equal to that of- say- fighting. (That is, if not more.) So if you/your players are put off by that, I’m just going to say that no, you shouldn’t play this game.

To the people who are still here, let’s have a real gay old time, shall we?!

In a homage to classic anime (looking at you Revolutionary Girl Utena), you play as a warrior fighting evil in a mystical world. Pretty normal Dungeons and Dragons stuff…until we get to things like the flirting/romance/redemption/so on. Granted, the likes of D&D has stuff like roleplaying and character development. However, TSL kicks this up to eleven by having inter-character interactions be central to the gameplay.

"Your sword isn't the only thing looking sharp today? You've got some moves; and also you're good a moving around in combat? Uh...nice weather we're having today?"
As if flirting outside of deadly combat was hard enough…

Combat in TSL isn’t typically combat, so much as it is a duel. Fighting is an option, but it’s also possible to perform actions such as:

  • Defying Disaster. Deescalating a situation. For example, your enemy is a farmer whose mother that you helped, and can be pacified by bringing that up.
  • Stagger. A reaction move that can change the tone of the confrontation/add more conditions. For example, a fire spell knocks you back, but your character puts on a brave face while suffering from the Insecure status effect.
  • Influence. You can possibly influence another person’s actions by expending an in-game currency known as “Strings,” which represents a connection to a character. For example, you lost an earring in a well, and can get an NPC to help you get it back.
  • Figure Out A Person. You can possibly get info about a person provided you roll high. Though, this might also mean having to answer the other person’s question. For example, you can ask two questions about a mercenary, but they’ll ask you about the relationship you have with a secret love interest.

TSL streamlines skill checks to five categories (basically if you removed specific checks like Acrobatics or Religion in Dungeons and Dragons). Players have nine classes to pick from, including–

  • The Beast. Think your anthropromorphics or those simply raised by beasts. Perks include intimidating foes and transforming into an animalistic form.
  • The Chosen. Maybe she’s a princess, or perhaps a pop idol. Either way, your very destiny is a game mechanic, utilized in the form of your reputation or an entourage.
  • The Devoted. A champion of virtues such as justice or friendship. Your object of devotion allows you assets such as a steed or sharing a connection to an NPC sharing your virtue of choice.
  • The Infamous. A redeemed villain or escaped henchperson, to name a few example. Your maligned past allows you allies amongst NPCs that share your history, or understanding the ways of wicked NPCS better.

But blabbing aside: what’s good about Parched Blade Wielders of the Sapphic Variety?

The Good

As per my past interest in TTRPGs, TSL has personality. In fact, it actually reminds me of Undertale or the Mother series in some weird way (but that might just be due to status effects such as Guilty or Hopeless). And that’s, of course, before we get to the outright beautiful art in this bad boy girl.

Coming up with a bardlock character based on this as we speak...
Questionable TTRPG names aside, the bards here slay.

The game’s personality is interesting, but what about mechanics?

Like I said, TSL puts an immense focus on character interactions and development. (Which, as someone who went to school for screenwriting instead of a useful field of study, I can appreciate.) A campaign largely focuses on how players interact with other characters. Flirting with characters can be a cornerstone, but there’s also aspects such as villains redeeming themselves. (Or, more importantly, potentially not.) Your campaign isn’t a mere adventure, so much as it is a serial drama.

Another interesting thing about this TTRPG is the fact that players can actually switch classes. This is framed in a way of your character developing. Maybe your Infamous character finally severed the cord with their dark past, allowing them to take up a mantle as a Devoted. Fluidity like that is certainly appreciated!

Oh, and there’s the fact that TSL comes with a whopping thirteen campaign settings, in addition to offering guidance to altering the setting in some way. For example– swopping out swords for something else (like, say, a chess game), or playing as a thirsty sword strait guy.

The Bad

Honestly, there aren’t too many maligned things to be said about TSL. It’s surprisingly versatile, has a unique identity, and offers a fresh TTRPG experience…

However, that isn’t to say that it’s perfect. You do have a bunch of new rules/mechanics to learn, which can be a bit of a dampener on game night. (But that’s a given with learning a new system.) Also, if you’re not interested in interpersonal relationships in your game, you’re going to get bored really fast.

And while the enhancement of combat is cool, the extra steps could potentially draw out combat turns even longer. This might not seem so bad on paper…until you’ve found yourself stuck behind a paladin with multiple smites to their name on Dungeons and Dragons night.

We get it, Gabriel. You're a walking divine-appointed nuke in battle. I already took TWO bathroom breaks during your turn!
Literal artistic representation of having to wait behind a paladin who can also action surge.

And while I find the classes interesting, I’m a little let down by the fact that the options are limited. But then again, I might just be spoiled by species options, subclasses, multi-classing, and numerous spell lists to pick from. Either, if you like having numerous customization options to your name, you’re probably in for a rough ride here.

Final Verdict

Again, if the words “trans lives matter” makes your head explode, this is far from a game for you.

For those that want a different TTRPG experience and/or want a LGBT+ perspective– yes, check this out.

Thirsty Sword Lesbians is available on the main website or itch.io.

About the Author
Went to film school instead of real college. Writes stuff, animates things, and programs whatchacallits. Currently playing a rogue/cleric (trickery) warforged that's basically a life-sized Victorian porcelain horror doll. You can find more of her stuff at kerahildebrandt.com, including D&D modules/such!

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