How to Play Scorpia in Thirsty Sword Lesbians

Introduction

At about the same time as my “How to Play Catra and Adora in Thirsty Sword Lesbians” piece came out, Evil Hat Productions released Advanced Lovers and Lesbians, a companion piece to the core rule set that had additional playbooks, settings, and adventures that were part of the stretch goals for the original Kickstarter. After reading through them and musing on things a bit, I decided to go into a Part 2 celebration of the game by seeing which of these new playbooks could fit some of the other casts of She-Ra. After all, we can’t let Catra and Adora have all the fun being thirsty sword lesbians, right? 

Narrowing the characters and playbooks down, I ultimately decided to focus on the other two major players of the Horde squad: Scorpia and Entrapta. While perhaps not having as strong of a thirsty sword lesbian energy as Adora and Catra, these two characters offer their own unique additions to any tabletop game in this setting, and the Advanced Lovers and Lesbians expansion set offers I think two playbooks that are of particularly good fit to our hug-loving scorpion and engineer of questionable ethical standards.

Because things got a little out of hand as I wrote this, however, we’ll be splitting this up into two parts. So for now, let’s head on off to Force Captain Orientation and figure out just how to play Scorpia in Thirsty Sword Lesbians – Advanced Lovers and Lesbians.

I’m Going to be the Best Friend That I Can Be!

Honestly, a big part of my deciding to this second part was highly motivated by wanting to figure out Scorpia in particular. She was a particular favorite of mine in the series, her loving nature and desire of friends being a stark contrast to her loyalty to an military empire that is literally called the Fright Zone. Yet, none of the core books Thirsty Sword Lesbians really felt like a good fit for her. “The Seeker”, my first thought, is about someone who left a toxic community unlearning those lessons and learning to love themselves. While perhaps a touch of this is part of her journey by the end of season 4 and season 5, it didn’t seem like her central narrative in the way that The Devoted captured Adora or The Trickster captured Catra to me. If I wanted to figure out how to play her, I needed something that reflected her struggles to be the best friend she could be to Catra a lot better.

And yes, the reflected comment is an intentional pun, because I ultimately settled on “The Dream Mirror” as the best playbook for Scorpia.

The Crimson Wastes episode was just an amazing display of how Scorpia’s Dream Mirror aspects can interact with Catra’s Trickster aspects to create a heartbreaking moment.

The central struggle of “The Dream Mirror” is that character lacks an understanding of how to be themselves and, as such, attempts to fill in that void by fulfilling the desires of those around them. Despite the friendly demeanor she puts on, Scorpia is a very isolated character. She has no connection to her homeland’s heritage, with any real trace of the previous kingdom erased by the Horde and her connection to the Black Garnet runestone gone for most of the series. Furthermore, she is isolated from the other princesses, stating in “Princess Prom” she was never really liked even before her family joined The Horde.

The quote starting off this section comes from Scorpia’s morning routine, shown to us in the episode “Princess Scorpia.” I think it serves as a useful demonstration of Scorpia’s commitment to trying to fit in be whatever she thinks will get Catra to like her. In general, her desire to be close with Catra – and later Entrapta – can be seen as a reflection to become close to anyone who can give her the sense belonging she desires.

This is why I think “The Dream Mirror” – a playbook all about changing yourself to fit the expectations of others – is a suitable playbook for playing the Scorpia experience. But let’s take a look at the central mechanics and moves to see how that plays in action.

Strings Attached

The unique mechanic for “The Dream Mirror” is Strings Attached, which focuses on Strings and Influence. I didn’t really talk much about Influence and Strings in the previous article, so now is a good time to describe them.

Basically, strings represent the emotional ties between people, ties that can be used as a currency of sorts to influence people. The most common way is the “Influence a String” move, which is a basic move all characters have access to. You can spend strings to tempt people to do something in return for XP, find out what it’ll take to get them to do something (or for NPCs just get them to do it sometimes), adding +1 to a roll against them, or subtract 1 from a roll they make against you. When you gain four Strings on a character, you gain unique insight on the character and 2 XP in return for clearing your Strings as part of a “String Advance”.

In a narrative sense, using Strings is meant to represent you using your emotional connections to influence the other character in some way. For the “The Dream Mirror”, however, because you don’t really know yourself well, you never truly establish the deep, emotional ties Strings represent. Everything you do is an people-pleasing act. To represent this you are not allowed to Influence With a String or gain XP from Influence with a String or String Advances. In return, however, no one can gain more than 3 Strings on you (and therefore no String Advances) nor use a String for a bonus to the move Figure You Out (where you can trade Strings for a +3 bonus to the roll).

Further reinforcing this inability to truly establish a deep, emotional connection with others because you’re too busy seeking their approval and hiding your true self are the unique moves for the playbook: Tangled Up and Self-Reflection.

Who knew Scorpia ultimately going against Catra’s request here would be what pushes Catra into her final downward spiral?

Tangled Up is triggered when someone asks you to do something. If they ask you to do something for them, doing it requires them to show you approval, gratitude, or admiration (even a simple “Good Job” can do it). If you don’t do it, however, they mark a Condition, and if you blow off their request to do something you want you also gain Insight (we’ll talk about it in a moment). An example of this from the show can be Scorpia deciding to not bring Catra the information she wanted in order to go find Entrapta, an event that ultimately led Scorpia to abandon the Horde and triggered a massive downward spiral in Catra’s mental health.

And while it rarely happened for Scorpia, someone can also encourage you to do something for yourself. If you confess how little you know about yourself, you can gain Insight if they encourage you to discover yourself or take a condition if they don’t.

Combined, these two aspects of Tangled Up offer a good mix of narrative and mechanical reasons to think about seeking people’s approval versus doing what you want. Despite what she may have thought, Catra increasingly relied on Scorpia’s willingness to do anything for her, and was devastated when Scorpia finally stood up for herself and left, which is a good example I think of the “for them” aspect, while the “for yourself” mechanics encourage you to seek out people who will encourage you to discover yourself versus putting you down (like, say, a bunch of rebel princesses who think your claws are awesome or wants to provide you things like ‘vegetables’).

What is this “Insight”, though? That comes with the other unique move, Self Reflection. In a normal campaign, about every third Insight will trigger Self-Reflection that asks you to determine “What have you recently discovered about yourself that makes you proud to be you?”. After answering, you can change your characters aesthetic (or something that reflects their newfound self-discovery), and then unlock one of the restrictions placed on your use of Strings. After all Insight is gained, you can then ask another PC “What do you like best about the person behind the mirror?”

Essentially, Insight is a way to track your character’s journey of self-discovery into their own self-realized person and, in doing so, can form real emotional connections. Going back to the show, this is essentially Scorpia post-leaving the Horde, forming new connections with the Princesses, reforming her connection with the Black Garnet, showing herself off as “The muscle” of the group during a heist, and ultimately being freed of Horde Prime’s control. The result of this process is that once she is reunited with Catra at the end of the series, she is now free to reestablish their friendship on equal ground, not one of constantly trying to please and impress Catra.

Playbook Moves

In addition to the unique mechanics, The Dream Mirror also starts with the move “Be Their Dream”, which lets you exchange Strings with another character if you have changed yourself to gain their acceptance, affection, or interest. This, of course, is the central mechanic of the Dream Mirror and allows you an option to gain Strings quite easily, but doing so too much at once (3 times in one scene) can leave you Staggered (a reactionary move with increasing negative consequences depending on how many conditions you have).

The more interesting decisions come, however, with the choice of two starting moves and an additional two more moves as the game progresses. Here are my picks for the moves that best represent Scorpia’s journey throughout She-Ra.

Like in full honesty, I can’t think of a single instance in show where “Group Hug” triggers but it’s the thought that counts.
  • Group Hug: When you offer Emotional Support, on a 10+ you can forgo a benefit for yourself to let others clear a condition if they join in and open up to you. Mechanically, this encourages your character to hide their own emotional feelings behind proving support towards others. Scorpia is, of course, a hugger, so this is a clear pick personality wise. The fact that, in show the move never technically triggers because of Catra’s own emotional walls is just something we’ll need to look past.
  • Mimesis: When you observe someone for a short time, you may ask one of a series of questions designed to give you information about what that person might like or find desirable. For the Dream Mirror mechanic, this is an obviously useful tool for finding out how your character can try and please the person they’re wanting the attention of.
  • Sorry-!: When your looks or behavior are unacceptable for your social role, choose 1 from a list of various benefits that excuse your behavior, such as getting +1 Forward to Entice while asking for forgiveness or offering someone a string to find the faux pas charming or endearing. Scorpia’s size and over-energetic nature means she tends to violate boundaries quite a bit, but her good heart and loving personality usually gets her the clear unless Catra is in a truly bad mood. This is a good move to represent that dynamic.
  • Toy Soldier: When you Fight for someone else, roll +Heart instead of Daring, and on a hit they choose 1 of your options from the Fight list for you. Generally speaking, Scorpia really does mostly fight at Catra’s command or for Catra specifically, despite them being of equal status. With The Dream Mirror also having higher Heart than Daring, this also is just convenient for making yourself more useful in fights (as long as its for someone else).

Additional Moves

Alongside the moves from your playbook, you can pick two additional moves from any other playbook as your character gains advancements. For the sake of simplicity, I decided to focus mostly on moves from the core playbooks:

  • Toxic Devotion: While the move implies a connection with “The Devoted”’s Devotion mechani, some GM tweaking to take into account can allow this move to help you really do the Catra/Scorpia dynamic from the show. When you forgive your “Devotion” or overlook their obvious problems, you take +1 forward or mark XP, and you take a Condition and give a String to any PC you hear talk about your Devotions issues and don’t defend them. With this, you can play Scorpia’s tendency to forgive or excuse Catra’s not always great behavior. Since this does require some creative rule-bending to really implement, however, it might not be the best one to pick mechanically. It’s also probably the kind of thing to brush up against personal comfortableness and lines, so it also requires some good communication between players and GMs to use.
  • Big Dyke Energy: From “The Beast” playbook, while Scorpia doesn’t really have the same level of threatening charisma as Catra does (which is why I suggested it for her as well), Scorpia does present herself as the “muscle” of whatever group in. This move lets you present yourself as the biggest threat, and when rolling a 10+ can choose someone to be impressed or intrigued with you. Also, once per scene, you can gain a String on an enemy when you gain a String on someone. In short, you draw everyone’s attention to you by being the biggest threat on the battlefield.
  • Used to Disappointment: From “The Infamous” playbook, this move works well I think for later on down the line for a Catra/Scorpia like dynamic. When you rely upon or trust someone, you can state how you expect them to let you down. If you do, different outcomes occur depending on if they surprise you (they gain a String on you), do as you expect (lose a String or gain a String on them), or even worse than expected (berate them and inflict a Condition, or stay quiet and take a Condition yourself). Using this can reflect Scorpia starting to doubt or struggle to defend Catra (or whoever they’re trying to impress), with that last option being perfect for triggering the “You’re a bad friend” scene.
  • What Makes a Home: Also from “The Infamous”, if every other PC in a scene has a String on you, you only suffer a -1 penalty instead of the normal -2 for conditions. Since The Dream Mirror is trading off a lot of Strings to people, this is mechanically useful but, I think, also can represent the extent to which even a person uncertain of themselves is able to find some kind of comfort in the connections they made even if they’re somewhat superficial. After all, her, Catra, and Entrapta are the “Super Pal Trio”.

Conclusion

Scorpia, Catra, and Entrapta’s dynamic as the “Super Pal Trio” provide a good contrast to the dynamics of The Best Friend Squad of Adora, Glimmer, and Bow. Scorpia’s role as the loving, caring friend turns her into sort of the Bow equivalent, but whereas Bow is confident in himself, Scorpia seeks approval and admiration from her “best friends” to make up for the lost of grounding in either her home country (consumed by the Horde) or other friendships. “The Dream Mirror”’s focus on shifting and changing yourself to fit the expectations of others is a good way to play this dynamic out, especially if you work with the GM to have the character in tandem with my suggestions for Catra. That this desire is so singularly focused on Catra does present some challenges (the book reads as expecting perhaps adjusting yourself for a lot more people), but I think this is overcomeable in a way that fits a lot easier than, say, trying to shove their dynamic into “The Devoted” and offers an interesting spin on the playbook’s themes.

Thank you all for reading this entry in my “How to Play” series. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is currently available on Netflix. Thirsty Sword Lesbians is produced by Evil Hat Productions and is now available on their website. If you have any suggestions for characters and systems you’d like me to take a look at, feel free to offer them in the comments below.

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