The dramatic tabletop RPG about dangerous women, Thirsty Sword Lesbians, has snagged the award for best game writing from the 2022 Nebula Awards.
The awards are conducted every year by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, who choose winners in seven categories and two additional honours. All of the nominees are chosen from among the previous year’s science fiction and fantasy books, short stories, novels of varying sizes, games, interactive media and other works published in English in the United States.
The Best Game Writing category is one of the newest entries on the Nebula’s list. First awarded to Black Mirror’s adventure-style episode Bandersnatch in 2019, the prize has also been bestowed upon Obsidian’s sprawling science fiction video game The Outer Worlds in 2020 and Supergiant’s Hades, a roguelike video game framed by an intimate family narrative told via Greek gods.
Now, Thirsty Sword Lesbians can count itself among this rare company. Published by Evil Hat Games, the tabletop RPG uses Powered by the Apocalypse-style playbooks and moves to tell spicy and often scandalous queer RPG stories featuring dangerous heroines crossing blades and sharing looks with their enemies - and often the same people who might become lovers? It’s written by a host of already accomplished designers in the tabletop space, including April Kit Walsh, Dominique Dickey, Whitney Delgado, Rae Nedjadi, Jonaya Kemper and Alexis Sara.
Thirsty Sword Lesbians requires at least three players to make happen - a GM and two players - and the book includes both a handful of prewritten settings along with rules a group can use to create their own. The resulting stories focus on relationships and the sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic tension and heartbreak that accompany them. It performs best when players lean into melodrama and sultry roleplay bolstered by plenty of safety tools. In this game, subtlety is effective as a blunt sword.
The authors have recently created the first expansion for Thirsty Sword Lesbians, a nearly 300-page tome cunningly titled Advanced Lovers & Lesbians and bearing artwork reminiscint of TSR’s original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook. The expansion adds 20 setting ideas, a handful of adventures and 10 new playbooks for groups to explore. There’s also plenty of facilitator advice and material that can be used by fledgling GMs or those already hilt-deep in a campaign.
Other 2022 Nebula nominees in the best game writing category included two other popular and successful tabletop RPGs - Coyote & Crow, Wanderhome, and Gramma’s Hand - along with the tactical RPG video game Wildermyth. The full list of nominees and winners are available on SFWA’s website.