What’s a “love letter”?

If you frequent the DW communities online but haven’t played or read Apocalypse World yet, you may have heard the term “love letter” before but not be sure what it means.

In brief, it’s a few paragraphs written specifically for a player or players to bring them up to speed on their situation, usually after a break or big change of scene.

Here’s an example

(Taken from a recent conversation with a friend and fellow GM – names and monsters witheld to avoid spoilers!)

The last session, the players killed an ogre and reclaimed a cache of magic items in the name of the paladin’s god. However, the GM was keen to keep the story moving along – it would be more interesting to fast-forward to six months later and deal with the repercussions of the players’ new-found power.

We decided the best way to get the players up to speed was with a love letter. We didn’t decide the specifics, but in general the letter would tell the players:

  • It’s six months since they killed the ogre
  • They’ve been on the trail of someone who fled the scene last game (it’s all about people, remember)
  • We’re going to do a custom move now to determine whether you found him and where you’re living now.

We decided the letter would read something like this:

Congratulations on the loot, guys! The ogre is dead and you’re starting to get known as people who Solve Problems. Good for you! Since you picked up those magic items, six months have passed. You’ve (probably) found yourself a place to live and you’ve been hot on the trail of that cultist who fled the scene. Everybody roll+whatever you’ve been using to bring this guy to justice (STR if you’ve defeated him in combat, INT if you’ve outsmarted him, WIS if you’ve tracked him for weeks, etc.) We’ll take your results as a group average – 10+ results cancel out 6- ones.

On a 10+, he’s dead and everyone knows it. You’ve gotten a good place in the city, but someone’s dropped a familiar corpse on your doorstep.

On a 7-9, he’s dead, but it cost one of you something – the GM will say what. You’re living in a local town well enough, but don’t have the scratch to turn down a job if it comes your way – even if it is something boring, like defending the caravans from goblin attacks.

On a 6-, you either got the guy at great cost or he got away, your choice. You’re holed up in some backwater village on the road to the city. You’ve still got the magic items of course, and the shirts on your backs – but precious little else. You need food in your belly, whetstones for your swords and a place to rest your feet – but first you’ll need money to get all that!

No matter the roll, what do you do?