The Basic Moves
The basic moves are shared by all Player Characters and provide the basic structure for story interactions. They help you zoom in on dramatic moments, create tension, and tell the GM when to complicate the PCs’ lives.
Reading the Moves
Each move has a name, a trigger, and a description of what happens depending on what you roll. Remember that a down beat is 6-, a mixed beat is 7–9, and an up beat is 10+.
Each move description is followed by additional notes and clarification not found on the Basic Moves Reference.
The moves are written with the convention that “you” always refers to the person making the move, and “they” refers to someone else, a person affected by the move.
If a move tells you to choose a number of options from a list, you can’t choose the same option twice unless instructed otherwise.
When you seek to incapacitate someone with violence, roll +Daring or +Grace:
10+: Choose 3 and your opponent chooses 1 to apply to you in response
7–9: Choose 2 and your opponent chooses 1
- Flirt with or provoke your opponent and gain a String on them
- Through violence or cutting words, inflict a Condition
- Create an opportunity for an ally through prowess or distraction
- Take an object from your opponent or seize a superior position
You may not pick the same option more than once for a single Fight move. For instance, you can’t take three Strings on a roll of 10+.
Fighting always has a cost, even when you roll a 10+. It takes a toll on you, because your opponent always gets to choose an option from the list as well. You’re all capable and skilled, but you’ll likely need some Emotional Support after a violent encounter.
Still, sometimes Fighting is necessary. If your opponent is irredeemable, pile on Conditions until they no longer pose a threat. An adversary is Defeated after they take a certain number of Conditions: from one to five, depending on how formidable they are.
Remember, just because you’re crossing swords with someone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re rolling the Fight move. If your intent is to Figure Them Out, roll that move. You might Entice them or Defy Disaster on behalf of someone else. Roll this move when you’re trading blows and seeking to degrade the opponent’s ability to fight.
If you “take something” from the opponent, don’t get too philosophical or abstract. You have to be justified in the fiction. You might cut through their belt, or snatch the Rod of Power, or even seize the high ground or grab the controls of the starship from them. You shouldn’t be trying to take “their will to fight,” “their lungs,” or “their planet.” Look for things that are more in line with the scale of the other options. In addition, you may not take a PC’s sword without the player’s consent except through a GM move or if the PC is Defeated. Being deprived of your sword doesn’t have a mechanical effect, but people are emotionally attached to them.
Fight comes into play when a PC seeks to incapacitate someone, but many of the options provide narrative pathways to resolving the conflict in a different way. Strings suggest emotional vulnerability, allies get new opportunities, and you can take things from your opponent or change the circumstances of the conflict. This, along with the many other options available to PCs, means that it’s rare to simply slug it out with an opponent by repeatedly choosing to Fight them.
If two PCs seek to Fight, first make sure that incapacitating each other is the intent. It’s quite possible that someone is actually seeking to Figure Out or Entice someone instead (if not their opponent, then potentially an onlooker), and make sure it’s not a proxy for an out-of-character dispute that’s better resolved with a conversation between the players. If two PCs really wish to Fight, both characters roll the move and take turns resolving each option selected, roleplaying out what it looks like in the fiction. If one or both PCs are Defeated during resolution, they still get to resolve the other effects of their move before they’re incapacitated. So, if your opponent inflicts a Condition as their first choice and that Defeats you, you still get to make all your choices, take Strings, inflict Conditions, etc.
To be clear, this game doesn’t focus on PCs doing violence to one another, and it’s generally going to cause the PCs a heap of trouble, but sometimes feelings run hot and PCs do foolish things. If you do want to focus on duels between PCs, check out the Expanded Fight Moves optional rule on page 219.
Hannah the Scoundrel and Lucia the Chosen have just rescued the rebel leader from the evil Space Empire, when Death Baron steps between them and their starship.
Jo (Hannah): Time to find another way out...
Minh (Lucia): No, this is our best chance of taking down Death Baron before he sends another planet to the Nightmare Zone. I ignite my laser sword. “In the name of the free people of the Five Stars, surrender or face justice!”
Sadie (GM), as Death Baron: “I accept your foolhardy challenge, little girl.” He conjures a blade of crackling black lightning and advances on you at an unhurried pace.
Jo (Hannah): “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” I get out my trusty whip-sword and wish it were made of lasers and lightning, too.
Minh (Lucia): You only say that because I’m acting against my Destiny, and I’ll pay for that later, but it’ll be worth it. I leap high in the air and bring my laser sword down on him! I rolled a 7. Good enough! I get two choices, so I definitely want to inflict a Condition and I think, for the second choice, I’m going to distract him so that the path to escape is clear for Hannah and the rebel leader.
Sadie (GM): Yeah, that works. For the Condition, I think you’ve made him Angry. In terms of distracting him, yeah, that could be either creating an opportunity or taking his positioning from him, so sure, you do it. He’s completely focused on you—but you feel like it’s not just because you’re pissing him off. He gets to choose one of the options from your Fight move, too, and he’s actually going to take a String on you. It’s not a sexy thing; instead, what happens is you’ve locked swords, and in the flickering light from the sparks you see yourself reflected in his visor, and it feels like he’s gazed right into your soul and seen some secret truth there.
Minh (Lucia): Eep!
Sadie (GM): And now he’s going to lash out because you made him Angry
Jo (Hannah): Can I just mention that the rebel leader and I are outta here? “Thanks for the distraction, sweetheart!”
When you push your limits to achieve something extraordinary that’s not covered by another move, or to avert an imminent danger to yourself or someone else, say what you’re willing to sacrifice and pick your approach:
- Might, endurance, or courage. +Daring
- Swiftness or elegance. +Grace
- Charm or social insight. +Heart
- Cleverness or knowledge. +Wit
- Willpower or metaphysical skill. +Spirit
10+: Do it with style. At the GM’s discretion, you may also learn new information, discover a new opportunity, or gain a String on someone.
7–9: The GM will offer you a hard choice or success with a sacrifice.
Defy Disaster is a catchall move to represent the broad range of situations that pose significant narrative tension but don’t fit neatly into the other moves. It’s also used when an obstacle is so formidable that you can’t even get into narrative position to make another move without first facing danger. For instance, some people are so fearsome or mesmerising that you have to Defy Disaster just to get into a position to Fight or Entice them.
In many cases, a PC can overcome dangerous situations without any kind of roll. You don’t need to reach for the dice every time there’s a possibility of a character failing. Protagonists inThirsty Sword Lesbiansdon’t need to roll to swing on a chandelier, spot clues at a crime scene, or make good time as they rush to reach the wedding in time to stop it. Let them swing on that chandelier as part of getting into position for a move—or to just look cool. Tell them what physical evidence they see at the crime scene and focus the investigation on the people involved. Have them arrive at the most dramatic moment, in the nick of time. If they fail to stop the wedding, it shouldn’t be because their horses were too slow, but because of how the drama unfolds once they’re on the scene.
When triggering this move, the danger can be physical (leap across the fire pit while archers shoot at you) or social (breach protocol to cut in line and bring your urgent warning to the Sovereign). You might be trying to smuggle contraband propaganda past the guards without them noticing, or struggling to keep from wisecracking during the Prophet’s speech.
Choose a stat that makes sense. Often several stats are fine choices, but no stat fits every situation. The GM has final say.
You may also Defy Disaster when harm is threatening to befall another person. You can generally only do this between moves; you can’t save a person from the direct mechanical consequences of a move they’re resolving. For instance, if the Spooky Witch rolls the Fight move and her opponent chooses to inflict a Condition on her, you can’t interrupt that consequence.
Often, however, the GM will announce that danger is looming. The giant sweeps her club towards someone, or therealCountess is about to enter the throne room and spoil the Trickster’s attempt to impersonate her. This is your best opportunity to Defy Disaster to avert the danger. If it’s not clear, check with the GM. The GM will make more of these “softer” setup moves in a game that has a more escapist or power fantasy tone, and inflict more direct consequences if the tone of the game is heavier. Also remember to check in with the other player, since they may want to take on the challenge without interference.
Defy Disaster requires GMs to think on their feet a bit more than moves with precisely defined effects, particularly on a mixed beat (7–9 result). When in doubt, take inspiration from what the PC was willing to sacrifice or give a dangerous NPC a String on the PC as the cost of success. The String could represent something like the NPC’s smug observation of the PC’s brush with danger or the NPC unexpectedly aiding the PC. And remember that the PC didn’t roll a down beat, so don’t give them “success” at a cost that is equivalent to failing. The sacrifice should be less than the danger they were trying to avert, or at least different, even in a game with a more serious tone.
On an up beat, the GM should make sure that the result is satisfying in a narrative sense. If Defying Disaster results in an achievement that moves the story forward, that certainly qualifies. Otherwise, give the PC an additional opportunity as a result of the up beat: perhaps impressing an NPC who offers a new approach or learning secret information that could be actionable later in the story.
If you create a setting that has a frequent, repeated source of danger, you may want to create a custom move to represent it (Customizing Basic Moves, page 221).
Example: Defy Disaster
Masako the Devoted has just learned that the masked vigilante who has been executing supposed evildoers is none other than her childhood friend, Ryuuko.
Malaya (GM): You can see the resolve in Ryuuko’s eyes as she levels her glaive at your heart. She’s not here to talk; if you want to do anything other than Fight her, you’ll need to Defy Disaster first.
Lisa (Masako): What!? Ryuuko, why!? I don’t want to Fight... I guess I’d better just avoid her blows until I can find out why she’s doing this. That’d be Grace, right?
Malaya (GM): Yes, Grace would be right for using your agility just to dodge and parry.
Lisa (Masako): Oh, wait! Could I use Heart to try to Defy Disaster by appealing to our friendship? Try to make her hesitate because of our history together?
Malaya (GM): Absolutely! What do you say to her?
Lisa (Masako): I don’t even draw my sword. I just meet her eyes so she can see I still care about her and I don’t understand why she’s doing this. “Ryuuko, I don’t know what happened since I left home, but I know you. You don’t want to hurt me.”
Malaya (GM): Her eyes glint as she considers your words. Roll em.
Lisa (Masako) rolls a 6.
Malaya (GM), as Ryuuko: “Once, a long time ago, I thought I knew you, too. I guess we were both wrong.” She comes at you, and as familiar as her style is, it just makes it all the more unsettling to see her deadly intent as you narrowly avoid being run through. I think you’re going to mark the Frightened Condition. And don’t forget to mark XP for that 6- roll.
Lisa (Masako): Frightened sounds right. Does this mean I have to Fight her now?
Malaya (GM): No, you faced the danger and took the consequences. Just because you rolled a down beat doesn’t mean you’re stuck Fighting.
Lisa (Masako): Okay, good, because I want to Figure Out what on earth she’s thinking!
Stagger (Reactive Move)
When you suffer a staggering physical or emotional blow, choose an option from the following based on the number of Conditions you have marked.
- You’re rendered helpless for the scene
- You’re utterly humiliated and news will spread; this could be a consequence of a setback in the confrontation, or might be caused by something you confess in the heat of the moment
- Choose 2 from the “0-3 Conditions” options
- You lash out at someone whose regard matters to you: provoke them to do something foolish or harmful and take advantage of a String on them if you have one
- You hesitate or stumble and the opposition gains an opportunity
- You grin and bear the blow; mark two Conditions
This move triggers when something in the fiction seriously shakes your character’s emotional or physical well-being. This is often the result of a GM move, and the darker the tone, the more often the GM will invoke this move. If something occurs in the fiction that seems to qualify, though, you can invoke this move yourself to zoom in on the emotional consequences for your character.
Typically, the kind of blow that causes you to Stagger is more severe than one that merely inflicts a Condition. The blow might be physically staggering, like getting blasted with a laser beam or thrown off a balcony. It might be more emotional, like having someone’s words target your deep insecurities or facing betrayal by a loved one.
Sayyida (GM): The cannonball tears into your ship and explodes, sending splinters of wood in all directions. You can see that the mast is cracked and the crew is panicking. Go ahead and Stagger.
Bonny (Alondra): I have only one Condition marked—Frightened—but you know what, I’ll grin and bear it. Alondra the Pirate Princess doesn’t stagger, she swaggers. At least, that’s how it looks. I have to mark two more Conditions for that option, and on the inside I’m Insecure and Hopeless. I’m pretty sure I’ve just lost the ship, my family’s legacy, and that hurts even more than the shrapnel of wood splinters.
When you appeal to someone’s physical or emotional sensibilities, roll +Heart:
10+: Gain a String on them and they choose 1
7–9: Gain a String on them, unless they decide instead to choose 1
- Get flustered and awkward
- Promise something they think you want
- Give in to desire
Enticing someone is the most basic way to get Strings on them. You might also find someone else at the table suggesting that you roll to Entice them because your PC has just done something sexy or romantic, even without intending to. This move doesn’t require that your character intend to turn the other person on.
If you try to Entice someone in a way that their player doesn’t think would work, you have a few options for resolving that:
- The player could tell you an alternative approach that might fit their character better, and you can rewind
- You could decide to abandon the move and take the story in another direction
- You can explain the move’s effects in a way that makes sense with the narrative: you gain a String on them because their reaction helps you understand them better, they get flustered and awkward because they’re uncomfortable, or they promise you something to make the awkwardness stop
This move builds in elements of safety and collaboration by giving the choice to the target of the move, and with the wording of the “Give in to desire” option. The target has to desire a course of action to be Enticed into it.
Optionally, your GM may allow you to direct an Entice at a group of people. This might cause them to collectively become flustered and awkward, offer you something, or give in to desire—or one of them might give you a String or choose one of the options.
This is the main move for directly influencing people and getting Strings on them, but if it doesn’t fit, consider trying to Figure Out the person and asking what they care about and what would make them change their minds. And, of course, any means of getting a String on someone can be used to Influence them by spending the String.
Vash the Infamous has just leapt onto the moving chariot being driven by the Lady of Chains.
Teeja (Vash): I know she’s had a thing for me ever since I defected from her service. So I’m standing on her chariot, hair whipping in the wind, and I press close. “Fighting isn’t really what you want, is it?”
Ismat (GM): Nice! Give me an Entice roll.
Teeja (Vash): Uh-oh. That’s a 4
Ismat (GM): Amazing! Alright. First of all, mark XP for that down beat. So you press close to her, and you feel the cold metal of her chains against your skin, then the heat of her breath against your lips.
Teeja (Vash): Oh no, I’m the one getting seduced, aren’t I?
Ismat (GM): Mm-hmm... give her a String. Then you feel a metal collar clamp around your neck, and a chain tugs you down to slam you against the inside of the chariot. “You’ve missed this, haven’t you?” she says. It’s not exactly a question.
Figure Out a Person
When you try to understand a person, roll +Wit (+3 more if you spend a String on them):
10+: You may ask 2 questions, now or later in the scene
7–9: You may ask 2 questions, but they may ask 1 of you
- What are your feelings towards _____?
- What do you hope to get from ***?
- How could I get you to***?
- What do you love most?
- How would you feel if I _____?
The characters you encounter likely have hidden agendas, private desires, and intense angst. When you talk to or observe a person, you can invoke this move to learn more about their inner truth.
Yourcharacterdoesn’t have to literally ask the questions from the list, and the other character doesn’t necessarily speak the answers aloud. Rather, you can infer the answers from their body language, careful observation, or even metaphysical or technological sensing. If you’re having trouble coming up with a rationale for how you learn the information, call it intuition.
In addition to these questions, some truths only reveal themselves when you lock eyes across bared steel. If you’re in physical conflict, your playbook gives you two additional questions you may ask when you make this move. You get to ask one of them for free (even on a roll of 6-). You may choose to ask the other, too, but it counts as one of your choices for this move, rather than a bonus question you can ask for free.
Example: Figure Out a Person
Masako the Devoted has managed to survive the first moments of her reunion with childhood friend Ryuuko, but she doesn’t know why her old friend seems to be out for blood.
Lisa (Masako): Well I guess I’d better defend myself! I’ll draw my reverse-bladed sword and meet her cutting edge with blunt steel. Let’s see if I can stay alive long enough to find out what she wants. “I would never hurt you. Please, can’t we just talk to each other like we used to?”
Malaya (GM), as Ryuuko: “No, I shouldn’t have listened to you then and I’m not listening to you now!” Go ahead and roll that Figure Out move.
Lisa (Masako): Shouldn’t have listened then? What in the world okay, rolling, and it’s a 7! Phew, just good enough. So I get two questions from that list, plus the one from my playbook for being in physical conflict, and she gets to ask me one, too.
Malaya (GM): Go ahead and ask first.
Lisa (Masako): Okay How could I get her to stop trying to kill me!?
Malaya (GM): Short-term or long-term?
Lisa (Masako): How about short-term?
Malaya (GM): Your best bet would be either to defeat her or set her on someone else. Even though she’s giving it her all, you can tell that she doesn’t entirely want to kill you.
Lisa (Masako): Then what does she hope to gain by attacking me?
Malaya (GM): This she’ll just say out loud. You parry one of her thrusts and she grunts in frustration. “It’s not fair that you’re so strong when you refuse to spill blood. You get to feel so superior, when really you’re a coward who won’t do what it takes to really protect people! And I’m here to prove it to you.”
Lisa (Masako): Oh no, something bad happened after I convinced her to let those soldiers go, didn’t it
Malaya (GM): Her question is this: “What would it take to convince you to kill? Even if you don’t care about your own life, there must be something, someone you would kill to protect. Even if you weren’t willing to do it to protect our home.”
Lisa (Masako): Ahhhhh, oh nooo. But yes, Masako has already been thinking about betraying her Devotion to save Ame. She’d do it for them.
Malaya (GM): Okay, so how does Ryuuko figure that out do you have a memento of Ame that you keep with you? Something she could snatch and use to figure out your feelings?
Lisa (Masako): Oh, definitely. I have the poem they wrote, and it’s signed with their seal. So Ryuuko is taking it, and I’m going to ask my bonus question from my Devoted playbook, and I’ll just challenge her out loud. “I thought all our years together would mean more to you. What does it take to earn your loyalty?”
Malaya (GM): She sneers, “I’ve learned only to trust those who act decisively, who strike at evil the moment it shows itself, without mercy. You think I’m the only one with blood on my hands, when you should be drowning in the blood of everyone you’ve failed by following your misguided, seductive philosophy of redemption. I can tell that this Ame means something to you. I can’t wait to find out how much.” And with that, she smashes a vial of liquid on the ground and it ignites into flame to cover her withdrawal.
Influence with a String
At any time, spend a String on someone to do one of the following:
- Offer them an XP to do something (don’t spend the String if they refuse the temptation)
- Find out what it will take to get them to do what you want (for an NPC, spending the String means they may simply agree)
- Add 1 to your roll against them (after rolling)
- Add or subtract 1 from any roll they make (after rolling)
- Each character may only spend one String to add or subtract from a given roll.
Narratively, spending a String represents one character wielding their emotional influence over another. They might be pressuring or tempting the other character to take a certain course of action (represented by the mechanical temptation to take the XP bribe). They might be taking advantage of their insight or burning some goodwill to figure out what it will take to get someone to do what they want. Their influence also lets them figure out just how to help or hurt the other character.
Only PCs have XP and make rolls. When you Influence NPCs, you may “find out what it will take to get them to do what you want,” or use Strings to alter rolls made to interact with them.
There is no basic move that simply lets you convince an NPC of something. If you want to change an NPC’s mind, either get emotional leverage or insight by getting a String on them or Figure Out their priorities. When you use a String to ask what it would take for them to do something, you’re cashing in some of your leverage with that NPC, so they’re more receptive to doing what you want than they are when you simply Figure Them Out. They may simply do it just because you asked, if it’s not too risky or onerous or if they really like you.
Influencing NPCs with Strings can be very manipulative. It’s one thing to encourage an NPC to overcome their fear and live openly the way they wish to, and quite another thing to encourage an NPC to conform to your desires for them. There’s certainly room in this game for stories about disaster lesbians behaving badly, but this can be an area where it’s wise to check in on the comfort levels of everyone at the table and make sure that toxic behavior in the story is recognized for what it is, rather than celebrated.
Example: Influence with a String
Sadie (GM): Carif lowers her sword. “So it was Death Baron who destroyed my world after all.”
Minh (Lucia): I’m still breathing heavily from the swordplay, but I lower my sword as well. “Yes. I’m so sorry. He’s taken people from all of us.”
Jo (Hannah): “Why are you sorry? She should be sorry! She stabbed me!”
Minh (Lucia): “You’re fine!”
Jo (Hannah): “Well, she stabbed my favorite shirt, is what I mean.” You know, I have a String on Carif. I want her to offer me her shirt to make up for it. “It’s traditional, when you ruin someone’s shirt, you have to take yours off and hand it over.”
Sadie (GM): Can we check in on that?
Minh (Lucia): Well, I think I’d be okay with it at another time, but this is sort of a heavy moment. I’m fine if you want to still say that, but without making it an Influence move. I’d tell Carif that Hannah’s lying.
Jo (Hannah): That works! Hannah’s just being a Scoundrel. I’ll skip the Influence part.
Minh (Lucia): Sure. “If you’re done, I’ll go back to consoling her over her planet being dead!”
Jo (Hannah): “Well when you say it that way you make me sound like a jerk.” I’m going to flounce out of the clearing.
Minh (Lucia): Actually there’s an XP in it for you if you stay and show that compassionate side I know you have beneath that facade. You can see Lucia’s hope in her eyes before you turn to walk away.
Sadie (GM): Aw. And you have a String on Hannah to spend to Influence her?
Minh (Lucia): Sure do!
Jo (Hannah): I’ll take that XP. I’m at the treeline, about to leave, but I turn and you can see the tear in my eye. “I’m sorry this just reminded me of the people I’ve lost, too. And when I hurt, I well, you know.”
Minh (Lucia): “I do know, Han Say, Carif, why don’t you stay with us tonight?”
When you become Smitten with someone (always your choice), say why, give them a String on you, and answer the question in the Truths of Heart and Blade section of your playbook:
- Beast: What have you done that you are sure they view as inappropriate?
- Chosen: How do our respective stations make it impossible to be together?
- Devoted: How does pursuing them conflict with your Devotion?
- Infamous: Why do you think they would be wrong to forgive you?
- Nature Witch: What is a clear challenge to being with them that you’re overlooking because of your naivete?
- Scoundrel: Why would your romance never last?
- Seeker: Which of your values do they openly violate or decry?
- Spooky Witch: What obvious thing about you are you sure would make them reject you?
- Trickster: What secret do you have that you think would make them reject you if they knew?
The purpose of the Smitten move is twofold. First, you signal to the rest of the table that this is something important that your character is feeling. Second, you describe one reason why that romance is fraught andinteresting. The GM may introduce other obstacles, as well.
There is no hard-and-fast trigger for the Smitten move beyond the player’s choice. People fall in love for many different reasons. Give it some thought whenever someone makes you blush or swoon, or if they gather multiple Strings relating to the way you feel about them. You are also free to declare that you are no longer Smitten, at any time.
In a particularly action-packed scene, wait until the end of the scene to resolve the Smitten move to keep the action flowing. You can still declare that you’re Smitten in the middle of the action, but resolve it at the end of the scene.
You may become Smitten as early as character creation, if you feel so moved.
The reason you always answer thesamequestion each time you’re Smitten is because each playbook revolves around a central emotional conflict, which keeps occuring and causing trouble in your life until you resolve it. If, however, this question doesn’t speak to your character’s conflict, feel free to rewrite it into something that has bite and creates the kind of drama and challenge you want for your character.
Finally Kiss, in a Dangerous Situation
When people finally kiss after a period of tension, each takes +1 ongoing to get to safety and protect the other for the rest of the scene.
If more than two people finally kiss in these circumstances, they all get the bonus. Each participant must be enthusiastic about kissing to trigger this move.
When you offer someone support in a way that could be meaningful to them, roll +Heart or +Spirit (+3 more if you spend a String on them):
10+: If they open up to you, they choose 1 and you either choose 1 or take a String on them
7–9: If they open up to you, they choose 1
- Clear a Condition
- Mark XP
- +1 forward
- Gain insight from the GM about an obstacle facing one of you
If they’re Smitten with you, they may choose an additional option.
If you’re Smitten with them and they refuse to open up to you, it stings. You mark a Condition.
Emotional moments are a crucial part of Thirsty Sword Lesbians, and the Emotional Support move exists to motivate and complicate those moments. First of all, this is the central way that characters can help one another recover from Conditions. Second, it can be a ton of fun when Emotional Support goes awry. Maybe you put your foot in your mouth by saying just the wrong thing, or maybe you’re starting to forge a deep connection and your lips are just an inch away from theirs when the window shatters and your nemesis rolls in, sword drawn.
Support means different things to different people. It might be a heartfelt conversation, sitting quietly and watching the flow of a river, or blowing off steam with a rough-and-tumble match of space derby or a roll in the hay. A person might open up by spilling their life story, or by shedding a silent tear and leaning against their friend’s shoulder. Whatever feels meaningful to the characters is fair play.
It’s entirely possible that your caring gesture prompts the recipient to become Smitten with you. In this case, they get the benefit of being Smitten with you and may choose an additional option from the list. For ease of play, resolve Emotional Support first and then the Smitten move.
You can also provide Emotional Support to NPCs. An NPC will generally open up to you if they have a Condition. If there are unusual circumstances, for instance, if you or your known allies inflicted that Condition, they may or may not open up to you—the GM will decide. In the stories told with this game, people who are hurting are often open and a little bit vulnerable with the PCs, perhaps more than you might expect.
Example: Emotional Support
The flagship of the lesbian pirate fleet is in rough shape, and Xing the Nature Witch sees that their fearless leader Alondra is just putting on a brave face to cover her despair.
Shih (Xing): I take Alondra’s wrist to stop her from boarding the enemy flagship. “You’ve gotten us out of worse situations before. Now it’s my turn. Trust me. We’re not going to abandon you.” I try to draw her in for a hug.
Bonny (Alondra): I hesitate, but only for a moment, and then lean into you and let my sword point slump to the deck. “I’m sorry I’ve let you all down. I won’t be taken alive, and I intend to take the Bone Prince with me when I go. But you all if you surrender, maybe ”
Shih (Xing): “The only way you’ll let us down is if you go and die for nothing! We stick together! We’re a crew! You don’t have to be the one to save us all the time. Believe in me.”
Bonny (Alondra): “I do.”
Sayyida (GM): Wow. That looked like meaningful Emotional Support and opening up to me. Roll it, Xing.
Shih (Xing): I really don’t want a down beat here, so I’m going to spend a String on Alondra for that +3.
Shih (Xing) rolls a total of 11.
Bonny (Alondra): Nice! And this seems like a good moment to declare that Alondra is definitely Smitten with Xing.
Shih (Xing): Awww!
Sayyida (GM): So sweet! We’ll resolve that in a sec. Go ahead and pick your options.
Bonny (Alondra): I’m going to clear the Hopeless Condition and mark XP—I feel like this really is a growth moment for Alondra and she’s going to put her trust in Xing.
Shih (Xing): And I get to pick a thing, too I’m going to take the String. In part because it makes sense, given that closeness, but in part because I know I’m going to have to nudge Alondra for her own good again down the line.
Sayyida (GM): And you’re about to get another String from the Smitten move, so let’s do that next and then see if you can pull off this dramatic escape you’ve promised!
Call on a Toxic Power
When you parley with a Toxic Power, ask it your question and roll +Spirit:
10+: It answers the question and grants you +1 forward to act on the information
7–9: It answers the question and the GM chooses 1
- It takes something from you, either knowledge, reputation, or something physical
- You mark a Condition
- It gains a String on you
The world you inhabit likely contains Toxic Powers such as evil gods, exploitative corporations, oppressive Space Popes, or patriarchal governments. You can approach them and you may even find them helpful at times, but only those with strong Spirit can engage with them and emerge unscathed.
Example: Call on a Toxic Power
Talise (Eliza): I go back to the church and find the priest. “Someone poisoned the well, and I think you know who!”
Ilhan (GM), as the priest: “Is that any way to speak to your priest?”
Talise (Eliza): “You stopped being my priest a long time ago. What do you know?”
Ilhan (GM): “I know you wouldn’t be here asking me if your friend the mystic had the powers she claims. My dear lost lamb, I do know something, but the Church is not responsible. We would never do such a thing.”
Talise (Eliza): “Spare me.” I roll to Call on a Toxic Power and that’s an 8. Hm.
Ilhan (GM): Got it. Alright, so he says he needs to show you the answer, and leads you outside, where several of the women from the village are drawing from the Church’s well and preparing for a long walk home. He makes sure they see you, so any plan you come up with now, the Church is probably going to get some of the credit. It sounds like the Church isn’t responsible this time, but they’re certainly taking advantage of the situation. He goes on to tell you about the true culprit
End of Session
At the end of every session, each player marks XP if, during the session:
- Any PC confessed their love
- Any PC struck a blow against oppression or de-escalated a violent situation
- Any PC leapt into danger with daring and panache
- Any player used a safety practice such as adding to the palette or checking in
Each PC marks XP for each condition that is met by anyone in the group. In other words, each PC marks the same number of XP as a result of this move.
These XP rewards exist primarily for the group to take a moment to reflect on the heroic and intense moments in the story, and to thank players who helped foster a culture of mutual care by looking out for one another or for their own well-being. Interpret this move broadly and look for reasons to celebrate aspects of play, not reasons to deny the XP.