I first heard about Love Letters in the Gauntlet’s podcast and I instantly knew it would be something fun to play with. The main games I heard of using Love Letters were Apocalypse World and Monsterhearts, but I’ve used them in a number of other games. One of my players even used them in a D&D game last year.
So what is a Love Letter?
It’s a small letter written to a character rather than a player. It can cover some downtime actions, a time jump between seasons of a campaign or what a character was up to when a player was missing. Start out by addressing the character, mention the situation they’re going through and include a couple of the following:
• Some open questions for them to ask, “Who called you away on urgent business?”
• A binary option or two: “Did you report your indiscretion to high command or hide it?”
• A mechanical flourish, like a custom move in a PbtA game or a saving throw: “If you report your indiscretion roll +Charm. On a 7+ this infraction will be overseen, on a 10+ you won’t have internal affairs watching you in the next mission. If you hide your indiscretions, roll +Guts; on a 10+ you hide all evidence, on a 7-9, what did you forget to hide?”
That sort of thing. I have some specific examples below from Masks:
First of all I have a dream sequence. The group got caught and put into a hallucinogenic dream state. For this kind of thing you could run a long sequence where the GM has to run the scenes for each character back and forth, which would in my case cut out 75% of the group at a time. As this was most of the way through the season I figured I knew enough to create the nightmare sequences for the group and gave them Love Letters to read at the start of their next session. Here’s one for Apollo, a liquid metal boy who was using The Newborn playbook:
This meant that even though the hit of information was pretty quick, it got to play with Apollo’s specific origins and neuroses. It allowed a chance of fighting back against it all and most importantly for Masks, filled him with angst.
Next up we have a combination of Love Letters which I used between season one and two. At the end of season one, The Periodic Table of Evil made their presence known to the world, pretending to be a new superhero group. Given the sheer amount of them, they took over the city. This meant there were different options for some of the group. I folded the following three to the group only saw the opening statements about what they did during the summer. Our fourth player’s character was trapped in the timestream and the player wasn’t about that week, so he would return to the present after the Love Letters had been dispersed.
The players saw, “What I did during my holiday” followed but “I sold out”, “I retired” and “I went underground” as the three options which couldn’t be duplicated. They decided between them who took which action.
I also gave personalised Love Letters to each of the players for their characters as well, so help add some more lore to the world and events to establish the setting for season two. Here’s Steel’s. She’s the Reformed playbook and a former supervillain’s sidekick. Her alter ego was best friends with a socialite who was the former sidekick to the most popular hero in the city.
I definitely recommend this as a technique, especially if a campaign’s had a bit of a break or a season gap.