To begin, seven phrases you must learn: «Harder!», «Help!», and «Interlude!», and «I Need to Clarify!» Then «Describe That in Detail!» and «Try a Different Way!» And in all finality, a key, «That Might Not Be Quite So Easy!»
A session of The Sword and the Loves is composed of several scenes, set by players in turn. On your turn, you’ll set up and direct a scene where you play your character and narrate a part of their story with the collaboration of other players.
The player on your right is the Guide. The goal of the Guide is to keep the focus on the main character and to make the story as engaging as possible.
The player on your left is the Misleader. The goal of the Misleader is to tempt the main character and to make the story as dramatic as possible.
Every player narrates the other parts of the story: other character’s actions, locations’ descriptions, events that are behind the control of your character, etc.
At the start of the session, you have to choose a point of destiny written for your character by another player. A point of destiny is an event that your character will experience during the session. With the help of the other players, you’ll drive the story towards that event.
If you want a random prompt for your story, once per session you can draw a Fate card. This card will be interpreted by another player.
Some players have ownership of certain elements of the fiction. That means that they have a limited veto power when these things are mentioned in the narration.
Key phrases are your opportunity to participate in narration at every moment, whether it’s your turn or not. Just use one of them and everyone will know what to do.
Every phrase can be used more than once during the same turn, except That Might Not Be Quite So Easy and I’d Like an Interlude which can only be done once per turn.
With this phrase, you are asking the player to provide more details about something they just narrated: a person, an object, a place, or something else. It can be a meaningful detail or not. You are asking that player to describe something better, probably because it’s important for you.
With this phrase, you are telling the player not to end a scene with a stalemate. Use this phrase whenever someone is closing a scene quickly to move to the next, but you want them to hit harder instead.
With this phrase, you are asking for help from the group. Maybe you’re left without ideas or you don’t know how to move on. Asking others is always the best choice.
With this phrase, you are telling the group that you need to remember or clarify a detail about the story. Do not worry about using it often, sometimes there are too many intrigues and too many relationships to remember.
With this phrase, you are asking the current player to give you time to tell a brief interlude, immediately after the end of the scene. Be sure not to steal the stage; be brief and concise.
With this phrase, you are telling the current player that the outcome of the action of their character will not be what they assume. This sentence can be said only once per turn. Make sure you know what the character is trying to do, and then ask the current player to rephrase their action if it were a question. The player should then choose someone else to draw a Resolution card and interpret it. If all players agree, this sentence could be given to a player who is playing a minor character; remember that such a choice will shift the spotlight from the main character.
With this phrase, you are revealing your dislike about something another player is telling. The scene might be spinning around, going out of control, or your friends want to joke around in a scene where that isn’t appropriate for the tone. Perhaps, someone is simply sharing something that is neither here nor there. Use this phrase to stop play, rewind the tape, and restart with a renewed spirit.
In The Sword and the Loves there are five elements that are actively controlled by the players. An element is a theme or a stylistic register, something that is really important for the setting. In this game, the elements are closely related to the characteristic themes of chivalric literature. Therefore, the players will have ownership of these elements: Chivalry, Grim, Love, Nature, and Wondrous.
Having ownership of an element means ensuring that it is represented in the right way. Whenever there is the opportunity, describe your element; in this way, the other players understand which aspects you want to emerge from the element, and which not.
If a player tells something about the element you control and what they say does not convince you, speak clearly on your intent. You are free to discuss the veto with the other players if you want; however, the final decision is yours only. Do not worry about intervening. The element is yours and it is your duty to make it represented in the right way.
Furthermore, having ownership of an element means interpreting the Fate cards (which will be delivered to you by the other players) related to the element you own.
All that has to do with the value system in which the knights believe. Virtue, defence, truth, honour, loyalty, and bravery are just some of the values of a knight. The task of the player who controls this element is not to see if characters are sticking to the chivalric code. Controlling the Chivalry is not meant as the role of a censor. It means to ensure that the representation of those values is consistent with the literature, even if someone decides to stop believing in those values.
All that has to do with the death, especially the most visible and impressive aspects of the death. Controlling the Grim means including scary descriptions and horrid sights, especially in contexts where such descriptions can stand out in contrast. The Grim is a stylistic register: be daring and you will not regret it.
All that has to do with the courtly love, one of the main themes of the chivalric literature. The player who controls the Love has the difficult task to keep the love tension high and to manage the balance between erotic desire and spiritual tension. In controlling Love, keep in mind the words in De Amore of Andrea Cappellano: «When it becomes public, rarely a love survives».
All that has to do with nature, one of the recurring themes of the chivalric literature, especially in the travel and wandering narratives. The world that you will explore with your characters is vast and to be discovered: castles and small villages are separated by leagues of woods and fields, often populated by wild beasts and peaceful animals. Controlling the Nature means entering descriptions of bucolic landscapes, but do not be shy: those who control the Nature will have a voice more often than you think.
All that has to do with the fantastic, the supernatural, and the extraordinary (such as magic, for example). Make sure to assign the Wondrous to a person with an imagination that reflects in some way the “fantastic” feeling of all the players, since finding the right balance is not so easy. The player who controls the Wondrous manages the most delicate element of the game. A good tip to avoid exaggerating is to check the faces of other players right after inserting a fantastic element. The cheerful smile is a sign of approval, the furrowed expression must serve as a spur to better calibrate the Wondrous in your play.
When it’s not your turn, you have important things to do in addition to interpreting minor characters assigned to you by the turn player. You have always a role: Guide or Misleader.
You can always play your role during the turn, but it will be easier for you to do when you are called to draw a Resolution card and interpret it. To do this, you can use the hopefulness and bleakness section shown on the spotlight character’s card.
The player to the right of the current player will serve as Guide. The goal of the Guide is to keep the focus on the main character and to make the story as engaging as possible. To do this, the Guide can use the hopefulness section shown on the spotlight character’s card.
The player to the right of the turn player will serve as Misleader. The goal of the Misleader is to tempt the main character and to make the story as dramatic as possible. To do this, the Guide can use the bleakness section shown on the spotlight character’s card.
Once each session, you can choose to draw a Fate card on your turn. These cards are for when you want or need some narrative random help—if you find your character’s story is floundering, for example, or if you think the plot you’re following needs an unexpected twist. The Fate cards are often tied to the map, or to elements that someone owns.
When you draw a card, you don’t look at it, but give it to someone else to interpret. Their job is to make sure fate astounds you, either just your character or all the characters.
When someone interprets a card that talks about an owned element, that means the element they own comes into play.
On the back of Palostram, faithful and bold steed, the Periwinkle Knight crosses the sword with the one of lord Anifir, dark sire of Maulagel. The virtuous blade of the knight can do nothing against that of the black lord, moulded with arts as forbidden as they are baneful to the soul. And so—alas!—the steel shatters, leaving the Periwinkle Knight, now fearful, to doubt the truthfulness of the ancient prophecies.