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Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through 
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Ulthal
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Post Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
I thought I'd post my read-through of the recently released Zweihänder Grim & Perilous RPG Revised Core Rulebook, in case anyone would like to know more about the game. It's a big book, and not cheap. This might help people to determine whether or not they want to buy it, or whether their money might be better spent elsewhere.

THIS READ-THROUGH/REVIEW IS FOR THE ZWEIHANDER REVISED CORE RULEBOOK, BY ANDREWS MCMEEL UNIVERSAL PUBLISHING.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I WAS SENT A FREE COPY OF THIS BOOK BY ITS AUTHOR.




OK, now that we have that out in the open, let me just say that this Let's Read/Review/Commentary (and it will be all three, though mainly it's a read-through) will be impartial and honest.That is all that has been asked, and that is what shall be delivered. I will have no problem dogging this out if it sucks, calling out some goofy rules in an otherwise decent game (some of my favorite games may well fall into this category), or even praising Zweihander, if it tickles my fancy.



I've heard of this game, obviously, I mean who hasn't, but I have no real familiarity with it, its fluff, or its mechanics. I'm also not familiar with its predecessor/inspiration/forebearer, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Heard of both, never played either. It's possible that I have skimmed a WFRP book at some point, but if I have, I don't remember. Most reviews I have seen for Zweihander make comparisons between the two. I'm hoping to offer more of an "outsider" perspective. To come into it blind, as it were.



A little bit about me - not because I'm interesting, but because it helps to understand a reviewer or critic's frame of reference. I am not a professional writer, which will be painfully obvious by the time this is done. I'm old enough to remember listening to Thin Lizzy on 8-track. Played B/X D&D, and later AD&D 1e, starting in the 80s. Never even tried subsequent editions unless you count 3.5-descended stuff like Castles & Crusades. I like Tolkienesque high fantasy just fine. But, I do find world-hangs-in-the-balance plotlines a bit tedious, so I prefer the smaller, earthier tales of Lieber. I have played a lot of different games over the years, from Classic Traveller to Icons. Though I've never been a fan of heavy crunch, I'm also not usually a fan of "narrative" systems. There have been exceptions (1st edition Over the Edge, for example). I have a vague sweet spot of just enough rules to make the system "matter", and to give it its own identity, without bogging it down or making it an exercise in corporate accounting. I'm kind of lazy, and will usually run "off the rack" adventures, though sometimes heavily modified (I write my own once in a blue moon, but I need to really be inspired by an idea for that). These days I prefer older, self-contained systems (i.e., I only wanna buy one book if possible) or retroclones, ideally with rulebooks that are less than a hundred pages in length. I'm also a cheapass who tends to buy used or PDF, because of price. Currently running Marvel Super Heroes for a group of kids, and Labyrinth Lord for some of neophyte twentysomethings who expressed an interest in roleplaying. So, in many ways, it may seem that Zweihander is extremely not my jam. Will it win me over? I dunno, but we're gonna find out!





PHYSICAL PRESENTATION



Before I get into the meat of the book, I want to take a moment to discuss its, er... buns. Despite my preference for slim, cheap volumes, I have to say, this is a really neat book. It looks and feels great. It is, however, almost comically heavy. I passed it around among my family earlier this evening, and they were all a little shocked and/or bemused at how heavy it was. It's not like lifting a bag of cement or anything, but it's over 5 pounds. That's a big Twinkie.



The binding, paper quality and other elements of construction are all top notch. Admittedly, I don't know much about book binding, but Zweihander looks and feels very well put together. The pages are bound to a sort of "hinge" inside (a sewn section binding,I think), that flexes when the book is opened. It seems like it would last a lot longer than some of the other hardcovers I have for, say, Castles & Crusades or D&D, where the pages seem to be more firmly affixed directly to the inside of the spine, and thus more prone to stress. I don't really know how it would compare to other games' core books, like Pathfinder or Starfinder, maybe someone reading this will know.



The cover of the book doesn't have the glossy coating usually seen on hardbound RPGs. It seems to have some kind of matte finish. I'm not sure why this approach was taken, but I'm of two minds about it. On the one hand, it gives the book a nice, muted look, which suits the book. This finish also imparts a hand-comfortable, almost non-slip feel. It doesn't seem slick or slimy, even after you've been holding it in sweating hands for a while. On the other hand, it seems that without an extra layer of plastic sheeting or whatever it is that's typically used, the book may be more prone to scratches. Mine arrived with a couple of minor scuffs that appear to have occurred during shipping (UPS, by the way). Now, none of these marks are very bad, in fact, they wouldn't necessarily have kept me from buying the book, if I had done so. But it does seem to me that this book may show signs of wear sooner than it would if a more conventional finish had been chosen. Maybe I'm wrong. But, just picking it up and putting it down, or putting on/taking it back off my bookshelf seem to be adding small abrasions. Then again, Zweihander seems to be more Denali than Escalade. It's meant to be driven. In any case, I'm not gonna lose any sleep over it, as the book is extremely sturdy overall. I just don't want to leave any stones unturned in this read-through.



The cover depicts four very dour-looking human adventurers standing in front of a veritable wall of spears, as smoke rises in the background. Though these people differ in appearance and apparent age, each has a grim look in their eyes. They also bear scars. The message here seems to be that no one gets out unscathed, and glory has its price. These people remind me more of characters from the movie Queen Margot than of characters from The Fellowship of the Ring. The color scheme is a mixture of brown, black and red, and the overall effect is that of a portrait painted with blood that has long since dried. Not a very dynamic picture, but it sets a mood.



Inside the book there are red endpapers framing 669 dense-looking pages, nearly every one framed with a full-page border. I imagine that if Mad Magazine's Sergio Aragones sold his soul to the devil, the result would look something like this. I noticed that the borders connect, and are different on each side. The right side has stonework, armor, and weapons, with neatly framed page headings and numbers. On the left, these neat and tidy elements give way to skulls, mist, half-formed creatures and what appears to be blood, this latter surrounding the header and page number. Order and Chaos, I presume. Because these borders run all the way to the edge of each page, they give the paper a gray color when shut. It's another nice touch.



Inside, Zweihander is laid out two columns per page, in a manner instantly familiar to any gamer.. The text and fonts are clear, but the text seems smaller (a bit too small, IMO) in the tables. I'm old, your mileage may vary on the table-text size. I mean, it makes sense to keep the tables small, it's a huge book already. But for me, reading them is less than comfortable.



The book is largely black & white, with the tables being alternating lines of white and sepia, which really makes them stand out nicely, small print notwithstanding.



It is heavily illustrated throughout, in an old-school, "pencil sketchy" style that I like a lot. There is also a very cool two-page, full-color illo in the middle of the book, which I think was an alternate cover for the Kickstarter version or something (I like it better than the current cover, to be honest). The interior drawings do not seem hastily done, if that makes sense. There is a real sense of careful and deliberate design in this book, from the art to the layout. It's quite dense as well, there isn't a lot of wasted space inside. To me, it stops just short of being "cluttered". There is a consistency of style in the art, and it sets the tone of the game well.



The physical presentation of this book has been much-ballyhooed, often by the author himself. However, in this, he seems to be justified. Zweihander Revised is big, beautiful and well made. But, is its beauty only skin deep? Let's open it up and see...



First, there is a bit of fiction in the form of a monologue, given by one Danziger Eckhart, grizzled veteran and ex-con. He's seen some, er, "stuff". Literally, he tells of men defecating as they die, and of his own bloody, sordid history. He tells of his loss of faith. Faith in the gods, faith in his country, faith in his fellow man. But he also relates three important lessons from the world of Zweihander:



- You can't earn anything in this world



- A man will do anything he has to to survive



- Life is pain and death



Succinct and cynical, as it should be. I don't think this part is bad. It's in-game flavor text. Some people roll their eyes at stuff like this, but I survived the White Wolf 90s, so I ain't bothered. They could have just put these lessons in the introduction, but they did this instead. Doesn't really make much of a difference to me.



Next up are a Designer's Note, which briefly explain the genesis and history of Zweihander, and its journey to the Revised Core Rulebook, along with a stylized drawing of the author. Again, kind of indifferent here. It's informative, I read it, that's it.





CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION



And now we get to the Introduction proper. Here, we find the usual suspects, such as an explanation of what roleplaying games are, and how they are played in a general sense. The roles of player and GM are clarified. But we also get another(of many) reminders that Zweihander has no implied setting (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), and can be set in any gritty, low-fantasy world you choose. There is also another (of many) reminders that Zweihander isn't about beautiful, golden-maned heroes and heroines. No, it's about cynical, hardened people who have done terrible things. People in sweat- and blood-stained finery. Dangerous people, with greasy hair, dirty fingernails, stained teeth and stinky butts.



There follow admonitions to have fun above all, and to navigate the game not only by rolling dice, but by breathing life into your character through your performance of the role. Good stuff all around, even if we've read it all before.



Then comes one of the most hilariously misunderstood passages in the book: a section about "Gender Neutrality". I have seen people post in various places about shutting the book right here, vowing never to play the game. But, if you actually read this paragraph it says that in the examples throughout the book, male characters will be referenced as "he", female characters will be referenced as "she", and characters whose gender has not been stated will be referred to as "they". Uh, yeah. Don't get me wrong, it's obvious that throughout the text that Zweihander is attempting to be inclusive. But I just don't get the hysteria about this particular passage (well, okay, I don't get the hysteria about any of it, but whatevs).



We are again reminded of the lack of implied setting, but told that there are definitely implied "thematic elements". They don't list these elements, but I get the feeling they're referring to violence, cynicism, treachery, evil, corruption and similar "grimdark" stuff. The reader is then encouraged to consider what type of game they specifically wish to play. Several examples are given, outlining some of the different types of adventures one might have using these rules.





CHAPTER 2: HOW TO PLAY



This chapter, all of 9 pages long (not complaining, just relieved) outlines the core Mechanic of Zweihander. But first, we are treated to another picture of the author, and his (I'm assuming real-life) friends playing, I dunno, probably Runequest or something, while over their heads, there is a depiction of the in-game action that is unfolding



The basis of most action in Zweihander is the Skill Test. Characters have Skills, each one related to a Primary Attribute (Combat, Brawn, Agility, etc.). When using a skill, you determine your Base Chance by taking that Skill score (a percentile number) adding Attribute Bonuses and Bonuses conferred by Skill Ranks, these latter in increments of ten percent. Then, take any applicable penalties from your Peril Condition Track, which is a measure of how shaken your character is by their current struggles.There may then be other bonuses from Talents and/or Traits (any of these terms that are unfamiliar will be explained in the next chapter). The total of all bonuses or penalties may never be greater than +30%, or less that -30%. Any excess in either direction is ignored. A further modifier is applied by the GM, called the Difficulty Rating. here are seven possible modifiers, in increments of ten percent, from "Arduous" at -30% to "Trivial" at +30%. After all of these calculations are made, the player rolls percentile dice, hoping to roll [/i]under[/b] their Total Chance For Success. But the order of all this, as I understand it, is as follows:



-Player announces intention. They are now committed.



-GM announces Difficulty Rating. Player is still committed, regardless of the odds. There may be haggling, pleading and the like over the Difficulty Rating, but there is no backing out once the intended action of the player has been stated.



-Ya rolls the dice and ya takes yer chances.



So, a roll-under percentile-based system, got it. Not terribly innovative in and of itself, but tried and true. However, Zweihander has a few tricks up its sleeve.



There are Critical Successes and Failures, which occur when the percentile dice both show the same number. So, if your Total Chance For Success is 62%, and you roll a 55, that's a Critical Success, as is a 33 or 11. If you had rolled a 77 or 99, that would be a Critical Failure. Also, a 1 is always a Critical Success, and a 100 is always a Critical Failure. This seems fun to me, and has a neat internal logic. If you have greater Skill, you are more likely to achieve amazing things. Lesser skill levels are more likely to experience crushing failure. Again, I don't know if this specific part is descended from WFRP or not, but I like the idea.



It is noted that some mundane skills and actions will automatically be successful. There are guidelines for Skill Tests that may take longer. Similarly, there are situations in which taking extra time can increase your Chance of Success. There are suggestions for using one skill to assist another of your skills, for a single 10% bonus, called Skill Synergy.



The rule for Assisted Tests is next. One character can Assist another, while doing nothing else. This allows the player rolling a Skill Test to roll and "Assist Die", or extra "tens" die when making their roll. They must take the lower "tens" die, unless it would result in a Critical Failure (if I'm reading that right). In other words, "assume the best result".



Opposed Tests are handled thusly: Two characters make the appropriate Skill Test roll. This need not be the same Skill for both characters, depending on what is being done by each. For example, to characters may engage in a tug of war, both using Athletics. Or, one character may be attempting to sneak (using the Stealth Skill) past another (using the Awareness Skill). In these cases, a character can prevail by both succeeding at their Skill Test, and generating Degrees of Success equal to their tens die, read as a d10, to the Primary Attribute Bonus. The player with the highest Degree of Success wins. Players who fail the Skill Test generate no degrees of success. Such a contest may be instantaneous (i.e., a single test). Alternately, it may require a certain number of tests be performed, and the total Degrees of Success accrued by each player compared. The GM may also assign a Target Number of Degrees, granting success to the first character to achieve that many Degrees.



Tests may be kept secret, for situations in which the GM is aware of Things The Players Are Not Meant To Know.



Another twist on the die-rolling mechanic is the "Flip". Certain circumstances msy cause you to "Flip To Succeed" or "Flip to Fail". Which means that after rolling, you will "Flip" the tens and ones dice to generate a different result. You will then accept whichever result is better or worse, depending on what kind of "Flip" you are doing. Certain Abilities will allow you to "Flip to Succeed", and attempting a Test in some - but not all- Skills in which you have no Skill Ranks, will cause a "Flip to Fail".



I am not normally a huge fan of games that use "universal mechanics". But I do enjoy a game that uses a single type of roll, and varies the way in which the result is read, interpreted or applied in order to allow for a variety of outcomes (like Task Force Games' original Prime Directive - if you haven't checked it out, you REALLY should). Zweihander seems like such a game.



Moving away from the percentile rolls, the book now discusses the two types of 6-sided dice that are rolled in the game. These are Fury Dice and Chaos Dice. The Fury Die is rolled when dealing damage, and "explodes" upon rolling a 6. The Chaos Die is assigned by the GM during certain situations, and deals some ill circumstance to the player when a 6 is rolled, either immediately or at some later date.



Finally, Zweihander uses a "Fortune Pool", a kind of in-game currency. Not everybody digs this kind of thing. Me, I usually just forget to use it. But there is a twist here. At the beginning of each session, the GM places tokens on the table. 1 for each player, plus 1 extra. These represent Fortune Points, which can be used freely by any player to:



-Re-roll a failed Skill Test (unless it's a Critical Failure)



-Gain an additional Action Point (to be explained later) on their turn



-Cause a Fury or Chaos Die to be read as a 6



However, every time a player spends a Fortune Point, they hand the token to the GM, who now has a "Misfortune Point", that can be used to do the same things listed above, but for NPCs under GM control.



Catching a couple of minor typos and grammatical errors. My general take on that is, if it doesn't interfere with playability (and so far, it doesn't look like it does), I'm not really bothered. But, some people might be. Especially in such a fervently-hyped premium book, which goes for between $40 and $60, depending.





Alright, that's it for now. I'll continue this as soon as I can.





NEXT - CHAPTER 3: CHARACTER CREATION

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Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:35 pm
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Ulthal
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
CHAPTER 3: CHARACTER CREATION


Previously, we looked under Zweihander's hood, and saw a sturdy and reliable set of old-school D100 mechanics, augmented by several very modern and fun tweaks. I like a mix of old and new design elements, and that is definitely what we get here.


Now that we understand the core of the rules, it's time to find out what most of the terms we used in the last chapter mean. I'm used to rulebooks that address character creation first, then explain what all of the various bits mean in game terms. Zweihander does the opposite. It feels a little counter-intuitive, but that's probably just me chafing against years of habit.


So now, I am going to learn how to make a Zweihander character, and I will make one as I go!


This chapter opens with a clever full-page illustration, depicting a lineup of five very different types of individuals one might expect to encounter in the game world. Each casts a shadow that reveals each one's hidden self. It's very effective, and seems to be making a point about Zweihander characters in general: each one is deeper than mere class or alignment. Characters in Zweihander are often complicated or somehow conflicted. At least that's what I get out of it.


Before we start rolling dice and making choices, however, Zweihander gives us several more "rules of the road", or axioms about the "grim & perilous" world that the characters will live and die in. Paraphrasing here, but it's basically a lot of stuff that boils down to:


-You are fated for something. What that is exactly will probably be determined over the course of a campaign, but you may know some of it already.


-There is no escaping violence.


-Bigotry (note: this does not necessarily mean racism) and ignorance are everywhere.


-Religion rules all. "Ever heard the saying, "There are no atheists in a foxhole"? Well, the world of Zweihander is one big foxhole, where you will spend the rest of your life closer to death than you'd like.


-True medicine, like all scientific knowledge, is the occult study of this world, understood by few, derided by many, and overrun with fakes and con artists.


-Magick exists, and is not to be trusted. Nor are its practitioners.


-Here there be monsters.


-There exists a great, dark force that works to corrupt all.


Zweihander seems to be a game about finding light in the darkness, though it may be fleeting and dim. And this preamble to the Character creation process serves as a reminder that, when played properly, this will be a game of hard choices and uncertain morality. I'm in!


A sidebar tells us we are going to need a pencil, three ten-sided dice, and a character sheet. Check, check and check.


The process has nine steps, starting with:


Step 1: Begin Basic Tier


Zweihander has 3 "Tiers", or levels of Character competence, kind of like levels. You start at Basic Tier, and there are certain criteria that must be fulfilled before moving to Intermediate Tier, and again before moving to Advanced Tier.


Step 2: Primary Attributes


There are seven Primary Attributes: Combat, Brawn, Agility, Perception, Intelligence, Willpower, and Fellowship. These are all pretty self-explanatory, except perhaps for Fellowship (spoiler: it's charisma). I have decided that my Character will be named Gühm Kiener, and roll these attributes by adding 25 to 3D10. So, Gühm's Primary Attributes are, in he order listed above:


Combat 45

Brawn 32

Agility 50

Perception 47

Intelligence 40

Willpower 42

Fellowship 37


Now, each Primary Attribute has a Primary Attribute Bonus, which is equal to the Primary Attribute divided by ten, fractions always rounded down. The bonuses were actually discussed before the Primary Attributes themselves, which I also found counter-intuitive, if easy enough to figure out. So, Gühm's Primary Attributes, with the attendant Primary Attribute Bonuses now listed, are:


Combat 45 [4]

Brawn 42 [4]

Agility 50 [5]

Perception 47 [4]

Intelligence 40 [4]

Willpower 42 [4]

Fellowship 37 [3]


Primary Attributes, as well as their bonuses, may change during Character Creation. And the Bonuses may change independent of their respective Attributes. You may also raise any one Attribute to 42, if it is less than that number. So, Gühm's Fellowship is now 42. I am not clear whether this change affects the Attribute Bonus. Perhaps this is made clear in the rules, but I don't see it.


Step 3: Sex & Ancestry


Next we will determine our character's Ancestry, or Race, and Sex. The default Ancestry is human, though there are Dwarves, Gnomes, Elves, Halflings and Ogres. If non-human races are allowed in the campaign, there is a percentile table that yields a 20% chance of being any one of those listed. Zweihander loves random tables. Personally, so do I. That wasn't always the case, but these days I appreciate some randomness, as it usually sparks my imagination in ways I may not have come up with myself. Just a matter of personal taste, I guess.


There used to be a table for determining gender, but I think some people objected, and it was removed. Which leads us to this:




Cool. Again, if you get upset about this, you're looking for a reason to be outraged. It has no mechanical bearing on the game. It does, however, say "Whoever you are, you can enjoy Zweihander." Awesome.


Having determined our Ancestry, we now go to the Ancestral Modifiers and Traits. You see, in Zweihander, as in life, there is great variety, even within a single race or culture. Not all Elves are able to see in the dark. Not all Dwarves are prodigious drinkers. First, each Ancestry has Ancestral Modifiers, which raise some Attribute Bonuses, and lower others.


Gühm, like all Humans, will add 1 each to his bonuses for Combat, Intelligence, and Perception. He will aslo subtract 1 each from his bonuses for Agility, Fellowship and Willpower. His Attributes and Bonuses now look like this:


Combat 45 [5]

Brawn 32 [3]

Agility 50 [4]

Perception 47 [5]

Intelligence 40 [5]

Willpower 42 [3]

Fellowship 42 [3]


Next, you roll for 1 Ancestral Trait. Remember when I said that not all elves can see in the dark? That's because it's an Ancestral Trait. Each race has 12 possible traits, and each character rolls randomly for 1. Some Human traits (and their effects) include:


-Dauntless (immune to Intimidate, cannot be Stunned or Knocked Out)


-Danger Sense (spend a Fortune point to avoid being Surprised)


There are many more, each quite varied in description and affect. As might be expected, the non-human Traits are often more outlandish than those for Humans.


Gühm ends up with Natural Selection, which allows him to permanently raise any one Attribute to 55. I decide to raise Gühm's Brawn score. Again, I am unsure whether or not this change to the Attribute score affects the Attribute Bonus, so I'm leaving it as is for now. So, on paper, Gühm looks like this:


Combat 45 [5]

Brawn 55 [3]

Agility 50 [4]

Perception 47 [5]

Intelligence 40 [5]

Willpower 42 [3]

Fellowship 42 [3]


Step 4: Archetype & Profession


To me, this reads kind of like "Class" and "Subclass", but I find it much more appealing. One of the reasons I never really had much interest in later iterations of D&D was the proliferation of subclasses, and the rules bloat that happened as a result. I might be a close-minded curmudgeon, but I never really saw the appeal of buying "the Complete Fighter", or similar books. I don't want to buy, let alone read, a whole new rulebook just to play one class of Character. Again, that's just my preference. I greatly prefer Zweihander's approach here: a group of Archetypes and related Professions, offering a lot of variety without all the fiddly BS, game-breaking power creep or new, off-the-wall abilities that mean that, as a GM, you have to read every goddamn book your players read in order to keep up. That's why I never really cared for a lot of the Classic Traveller books like High Guard, or the aforementioned D&D splatbooks. Keep it simple. It's possible to achieve variety while maintaining an elegant simplicity, and Zweihander gets this.


Here we are presented with 6 broad Archetypes (roll for one), each one having 12 possible Professions (again, one is selected at random). Some Archetypes (and their Professions) include:


-Academic (Apothecary, Astrologer, Monk, Scribe)


-Commoner (Barber Surgeon, Boatman, Peasant, Rat Catcher)


-Warrior (Berserker, Man-at-Arms, Pit Fighter, Pugilist)


Your Archetype determines, in a broad way, what your career path has been so far. It also determines what much of your starting equipment, including weapons, is ("Trappings" in the game's parlance). Your Profession determines what path you must take to advance to the Intermediate Tier. Each Profession has a list of Skills, Bonus Advances, and Talents that must be purchased before the character can advance to the next Tier. There are also Special Traits that are unique to each Profession. But for now, we get the tables to roll our Archetype and Profession. Archetypes are defined here, but Professions will be discussed later.


This seems an odd choice to me, as the two are unarguably connected. Perhaps I am being persnickety, maybe I'm just a creature of habit, or maybe I'm just not that bright. But I like my gaming rules to be laid out in a very linear fashion, and please, explain it like I'm five. If it seems as though I'm picking on the game, I'm not. I like what I see so far. I'm just not too keen on the manner in which the information is given. It's jumping around like Pulp Fiction ovah heah! Okay, it's not that bad. Don't get me wrong, I'm figuring it out, but I wish it was more of a "one step follows the other" type of thing.


But, enough about that, Gühm is going to be of the Socialite Archetype. These are individuals who move about society using the gift of gab, manipulation and outright lies to get close to those with power. Another roll, and Gühm's Profession is Courtier. I like this combination, and see great possibilities here.


Gühm's starting Trappings, as determined by his Archetype, are:




Okay, It's getting late. I'm gonna have to finish Character Creation another time. Stay tuned!

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Tue Aug 13, 2019 4:08 am
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Ulthal
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Posts: 519
Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
CLARIFICATION: AFTER SOME RESEARCH, IT SEEMS THAT AN INCREASE/DECREASE IN PRIMARY ATTRIBUTES DURING CHARGEN WILL AFFECT THE RELATED ATTRIBUTE BONUS. I HAVE UPDATED GÜHM'S ATTRIBUTES ACCORDINGLY. THEY ARE NOW:


Combat 45 [5]

Brawn 55 [5]

Agility 50 [4]

Perception 47 [5]

Intelligence 40 [5]

Willpower 42 [3]

Fellowship 42 [3]



Other than that, I won't get much done here tonight (a combination of yardwork and "fixing" my mother's WiFI, e.g., plugging her router in). But I did want to share a few thoughts.


I haven't gotten too deep into this, but so far, I like what I see.


After a search, I see that a couple of reviewers have keyed on the same organizational issues I did. Not trying to beat a dead horse, and I don't think it makes Zweihander a bad game. But it lets me know I'm not entirely nuts/stupid. As for one of the organiztional "quirks", I can kind of see why they put the descriptions of Professions in the chapter after Character Creation. There are a lot of them. As I mentioned previously, each Archetype has 12 Professions, and there are "Expert Professions" , which bring the total to well over 100. That's a lot of variety, and, as I said earlier, it's all been done without tacking on a bunch of unbalanced and potentially un-playtested stuff to existing classes. Which brings me to my next point of comparison...


The sheer volume of different Professions reminds me of the "Archetypes" in Talislanta (Talislanta uses the term Archetype in much the same way Zweihander uses the term Profession).The two games have little to no technical similarity. But there are a similarly high number of character types you can play. Like Zweihander, none is too specialized, but insteada few unique features and abilities (along with several more common ones), which, along with the implied background, get you off to a good running start.


Some people might find this approach limiting, as both Talislanta's pre-generated "Archetypes" and Zweihander's Professions could find you playing a character with features you may not have selected for yourself. In Talislanta, it's because youre basically picking from a list of pre-gens. In Zweihander, It's because you're randomly generating your character. But to me they are similar, in that both start you off with a good foundation in both the mechanical and dramatic (the rest of the chapter on Character Creation has a lot of stuff that is heavily geared towards roleplay.


And, not being strictly class-based, that is to say, having a list of skills that are (mostly) commonly available to all characters, means that characters aren't "gimped" like D&D characters can be. You know, mages gonna mage, fighters gonna fight, and ne'er the twain shall meet. Now, I know that's an oversimplification of D&D, probably moreso of its newer editions, but there is a real wealth of options here.


I'm also comparing Zweihander to Talislanta because in both games, most of the options for Archetype/Profession fall outside of the realm of bog-standard fantasy tropes.


So, very cool stuff so far.


And what a damn big book. When the author sent my copy, he sent some bookmarks, and I'm glad he did (though there is one ribbon-style bookmark attached to the book already.


That's all I have for now.

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Fri Aug 16, 2019 3:28 am
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
Gringnr, thanks for posting this !

Hate to say but I never really heard of it. At least not in a way it stuck and I remember it. So your review explanation was a big help.

From reading it, it looks interesting. It may sound odd coming from the perpetual 'good guy' player that I am, but the darker element could be good to play or run. So your ' looking for light though fleeting and dim' calls to me - especially with my looking at Poe & Lovecraft ...

Plus I like the historic feel of the setting. Especially whit me listening to lectures over the last few weeks on Tudor / Stewart England, the Religious Wars, and the German Reformation (and with that the 30 years War) . That fits right in with how the feel of it read from your review.

I could see this setting as fitting right in the German 30 Years war mixed with the world of London plague years and the Great Fire. (I knew the death toll was significant in plague out breaks, but anywhere from 18% to up to 25% of the city dying - some research shows greater than 25% but that may be over estimating it)

On the rules, I agree with you on the 2e Complete books .... I hated buying book after book to get variation on the classes, most of which I never used as a player of DM. So having variation on the classes etc built into the rules sounds like a plus.

Now ... personally, I fall into the camp that does not like lots of random in a character creation. I know other do (some in the Monday night Ne'er do wells) and enjoy playing a character that is different or 'stretches' their role playing. However, I have never liked highly randomized characters.

I can see parts of it being random - the racial / ancestral trait for example. That way there is verity an not every elf is a cookie cutter carbon copy.

However, the archetype & profession being random ... that is a bit much for me. I prefer to picture a character (or a few characters) I want to play and then try to build something usable that fits what I want to play and am interested in. I could see playing a pike man or a bill man , an arquebuser , or a mounted reiterier as a man at arms, a double pay great swords man berserker, or a street wise rat catcher. Maybe if I'm in the mood a monk or a surgeon or something like that, but I would want to pick it and build it purposely. However I cant see any way I'd want to paly a scribe or pit fighter, so it would annoy me to roll it up and be expected to play it simply due to random die rolls ... again that is personal taste and I would say it is wrong and no one should do it, but it isn't my cup of tea.

All that said, thanks again, and my wife may just hate you a bit in a few weeks when I break down and can't resist buying the rules all because of you and this review :)

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Fri Aug 16, 2019 10:34 pm
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Ulthal
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
Lurker wrote:
Gringnr, thanks for posting this !

Hate to say but I never really heard of it. At least not in a way it stuck and I remember it. So your review explanation was a big help.

From reading it, it looks interesting. It may sound odd coming from the perpetual 'good guy' player that I am, but the darker element could be good to play or run. So your ' looking for light though fleeting and dim' calls to me - especially with my looking at Poe & Lovecraft ...

Plus I like the historic feel of the setting. Especially whit me listening to lectures over the last few weeks on Tudor / Stewart England, the Religious Wars, and the German Reformation (and with that the 30 years War) . That fits right in with how the feel of it read from your review.

I could see this setting as fitting right in the German 30 Years war mixed with the world of London plague years and the Great Fire. (I knew the death toll was significant in plague out breaks, but anywhere from 18% to up to 25% of the city dying - some research shows greater than 25% but that may be over estimating it)

On the rules, I agree with you on the 2e Complete books .... I hated buying book after book to get variation on the classes, most of which I never used as a player of DM. So having variation on the classes etc built into the rules sounds like a plus.

Now ... personally, I fall into the camp that does not like lots of random in a character creation. I know other do (some in the Monday night Ne'er do wells) and enjoy playing a character that is different or 'stretches' their role playing. However, I have never liked highly randomized characters.

I can see parts of it being random - the racial / ancestral trait for example. That way there is verity an not every elf is a cookie cutter carbon copy.

However, the archetype & profession being random ... that is a bit much for me. I prefer to picture a character (or a few characters) I want to play and then try to build something usable that fits what I want to play and am interested in. I could see playing a pike man or a bill man , an arquebuser , or a mounted reiterier as a man at arms, a double pay great swords man berserker, or a street wise rat catcher. Maybe if I'm in the mood a monk or a surgeon or something like that, but I would want to pick it and build it purposely. However I cant see any way I'd want to paly a scribe or pit fighter, so it would annoy me to roll it up and be expected to play it simply due to random die rolls ... again that is personal taste and I would say it is wrong and no one should do it, but it isn't my cup of tea.

All that said, thanks again, and my wife may just hate you a bit in a few weeks when I break down and can't resist buying the rules all because of you and this review :)


Thanks for reading! There's more to come.

As far as thge random chargen, I know some GMs houserule it so their players can pick their Archetype and/or Profession.

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Sat Aug 17, 2019 3:14 am
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
CHAPTER 3: CHARACTER CREATION (CONTINUED)


Let's see, where was I? Oh, yes, I had just determined Gühm's Archetype (Socialite) and Profession (Courtier). So, I'm already beginning to get a sense of Gühm as a character, based on that alone. One thing I love about random chargen, it can act as a springboard for your own ideas.


Remember, Gühm had his choice of three weapons: throwing knives, walking cane, or rapier. I'm taking rapier, because it seems like the best fit (and the best weapon).


After a brief section on "Molding Your Profession", which basically cites the game's variety, and encourages players to "think outside the white box", so to speak. In other words, to embrace the random elements of the Character creation process, and use these elements to give your character a more interesting story. Then, it's on to


Step 5: Secondary Attributes


This section helps us flesh out our character, both mechanically and dramatically.


Mechanically, we are going to use Primary Attribute Bonuses to calculate Gühm's capacity to:


-Withstand mental strain and fatigue (Peril Threshold)


-Withstand physical injury (Damage Threshold)


-Carry weight (Encumbrance Limit)


-Act quickly during combat (Initiative)


-Move during combat (Movement)


The book says that these are largely going to be "in-combat statistics". These are determined either by adding an Attribute Bonus to another number. In the case of Peril Threshold, Encumbrance Limit, Initiative and Movement, you add 3 to the relevant Bonus as follows:


-Peril Threshold = 3 + [Willpower Bonus]


-Damage Threshold = [Brawn Bonus] + Modifiers from Armor, or certain Skills or Traits


-Encumbrance Limit = 3 + [Brawn Bonus]


-Initiative = 3 + [Perception Bonus]


-Movement = 3 + [Agility Bonus]


In the case of your Peril and Damage Thresholds, the initial scores are then extrapolated by adding 6, 12 and 18 to the base Threshold, to form a "Track" for each attribute. If Gühm moves further down either track, by accumulating Damage or Peril, well, things either get more difficult (Peril) for him, or more deadly (Damage). So it looks like we are not dealing with a "hit point" type of damage system here. Interesting.


The Encumbrance system seems to be one of abstraction, or "points", rather than a careful tally of weights. Which means I'd be inclined to use it, unlike most such rules. For every point you go over your encumbrance limit, you suffer a -1 to your Initiative and Movement. And you're not allowed to carry enough to reduce your Initiative or your Movement to 0. Simple. Sensible. I like it.


These are just guesses, but all of the systems that these Secondary Attributes use are going to be explained later. "You can learn more about [GAME CONCEPT OR SYSTEM] in Chapter [NUMBER]" is a common phrase in this book so far.


Step 6: Background


This is where your Character really begins to become a denizen of the Grim & Perilous world of Zweihander. What follows is a randomly determined bunch of personal data, everything from Social Status to Height, Weight and Eye Color, that is designed to fully detail your character, both inside and out. In case I've forgotten to mention it, every random table in this game requires a percentile roll. I'm not gonna bother giving numbers, just results. This stuff coming up, from what I can tell, is largely focused on roleplaying rather than mechanics (though there may be some overlap). Can't wait to see where this goes!


First, I roll Gühm's Season of Birth, and I get Summer. The book says that means Gühm may be "fiery and passionate". Helloooooo, ladies!


Next, you roll your "Dooming". Strictly a roleplaying tool, designed to reflect the superstition of the world of Zweihander. Apparently, kids get a kind of fortune telling at ten years old, that is singularly focused on how they will die. Each Season of Borth has its own table of Doomings. Gühm gets:


"Your embers shall smolder". I decide that he fears fire as a result, and believes that his end will be in flames.


Now, we roll my general Age Group. There are four categories: Young, Adult, Middle Aged, and Elderly. These have no mechanical bearing on the game. If you are Elderly, and strong, it is assumed that you used to be stronger. However, the older you get, the more distinguishing marks you have. These can be anything from Almond Shaped Eyes, to Ashy Elbows, to Bad Breath or a False Finger. Gühm gets: Sunken Eyes. Trust me, it could be worse.


Next, we roll Complexion, Build Type, Hair Color and Eye Color. I come up with Pale, Husky, Red and Pale Green. Thank the Gods for "Husky" Build (a randomly generated 6', 240 lbs.), it's the only thing keeping our Sunken-Eyed, Pale friend from looking like a ginger speed freak.


for Upbringing, Gühm gets "Reverent", meaning he was raised in a religious home, or perhaps some other environment where he was exposed to dogma. Each Upbringing has a Favored Primary Attribute, and Gühm's is Willpower. This means he spends fewer Reward points (Zweihander's XP) on Willpower-related Skills.


Next, I roll Gühm's Social Status, and get Lowborn. This is primarily a means of determining his starting cash. In this case, it's 21 brass pennies. There is a LOT of flavor text here. I'm not gonna reproduce it. But if you need a healthy dose of atmosphere and brief examples with any of this stuff, Zweihander has you covered. Some have complained about it's verbosity. I don't mind so far, but "so far" is till not too far, we'll see how it goes. Better too much detail than not enough, I usually say. Usually.


A character's starting Languages are, well, one, their native one. After that, others can be learned, or bought with Reward Points. Interestingly, Language learning in this game is based on your Fellowship score. The rationale bening that you have to learn the language from those who speak it. A unique conceit.


Next, there are optional Drawbacks. Well, usually optional. Some Professions have built-in Drawbacks. If you choose to take one voluntarily (and only if you choose), you get an Additional Fate Point. Fate Points will, of course, be explained later. I took one because I didn't get at first that they were voluntary. Looks like Gühm has a Choleric Temperament! Which means:




Corruption will be - you guessed it - covered later in the book.


Now, about those Fate Points. Everyone starts with 1, though Gühm now has 2, thanks to taking a Drawback. Looks like these work to help a character avoid injury or worse. Again, we are promised that this will all be explained later. Jeez, this book talks to me like I talk to my kid. "You'll understand when you're older, now beat it."


Step 7: Alignment


This one is a trip. Each character has an Order Alignment, and a Chaos Alignment. These come in pairs, with each Order Alignment having a counterpart among the Chaos Alignments. Alternately, you can roll separately for Order and Chaos Alignments, which is what I chose. I got:


Order: Impiety. From the book:



Chaos: Hatred



Now, given Gühm's upbringing, I find this interesting. I decide that he has become disillusioned by the Gods. Of course they exist, but he knows that they are no less capricious or petty than men, and perhaps more so, as there is none to curb their impulses! He hates that powers greater than man exist, and that man is powerless to resist their machinations. He is disainful of Religion, which he sees as akin to being happy in slavery. Anyway, you see how these rolls can begin to suggest a story, and I suppose that's the point.


Next comes the concept of Order and Chaos Ranks. Actions in Zweihander have consequences. And, even if you do a bad thing for a good reason, it's going to leave a mark on your soul. Every character has Order and Chaos Ranks, which can increase with each session. Acting in a manner consistent with your Alignments is likely to earn you Ranks in one or the other. this is Primarily achieved by tracking a temporary value called Corruption. You gain corruption by doing bad things, even if you had no choice, or you do them in the service of the greater good. Corruption becomes Order and Chaos Ranks thusly:




A neat idea, kind of a dual advancement path. One mechanic tracks your experience, and one your spiritual condition.


This chapter closes with a deeper explanation of Order and Chaos, and the struggle between them.


Players are then encouraged to pick a fitting (i.e., not silly) name for their character. Apropos of nothing, I once annoyed a DM by insisting, over his objections, on playing a Paladin named Nigel Clitorius. He got his revenge by having every NPC make fun of the name, which resulted in several pointless fights over affronts to Nigel's honor. I regret nothing.


Lastly, we are awarded 1000 Reward Points with which to purchase initial Skills (this is Step 9: Build Your Profession). This is done with the aid of the next chapter,Chapter 4.


Final thoughts: Character generation is fun and inspiring. Several interesting systems (and/or subsystems) are hinted at, and I look forward to seeing more of the game's mechanics. Some have comlained that there are too many subsystems in Zwehander, but I am reserving judgement. Subsystems are definitely "old school" in my book, but their application in Zweihander seems more modern (the "Flip" mechanic, for example), and I like that mix. But, again, the organization leaves a bit to be desired. So far, though, this is pretty cool stuff overall.


TO BE CONTINUED...


P.S. I hope this is all coming out coherent and not too boring. This book is a beast. This section will be a bit of a deeper dive than some, due to my actually making a character. Certain sections, like the upcoming sections on Professions and Skills, will be more of an overview.

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Sat Aug 17, 2019 3:17 am
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
Note: there are 25 Order Alignments, and 25 Chaos Alignmments. These offer a lot of roleplaying possibilities, and have gone a good way towards giving me an idea of how I would play Gühm. A man who despises the Gods, though he has sense enough to fear them (Impiety), and who also feels contempt for a humanity that seems largely ignorant of the gods' true and execrable nature (Hatred). This fits with his Profession, in that he is a gossipy manipulator who often depends on the support of his betters, and who resents them (and, more deeply, himself) as a result. His true face is seen by few, save in his moments of unrestrained anger, when the mask slips.


Some Alignment pairs include Independence & Rebellion, Heroism & Martyrdom and Skepticism & Cynicism. I can definitely see the appeal of playing Alignments as a pair, two sides of the same coin.


Now, I do have some more work to do on Gühm, namely dialing in his Profession and Skills. But, as I said these are to be outlined in subsequent chapters. So, it's comin'.


As for the verbosity of the text, it reminds me of an interview with a documentarian (Jacob Young, if anyone cares), where he said that he hadn't edited one of his films enough (Dancin' Outlaw, if anyone cares, RIP Jesco White), because he was too close to it. In fact, the subject of the doco had come close to violently assaulting him on more than one occasion, and he felt that he had literally risked his life for some of that footage. It seems like maybe there is some of that going on here as well. It's obvious that this game was developed over a period of years, played and playtested by many, yes, but I'm guessing there was a constant core of individuals familiar to each other who shared in the evolution of this game. Who shared the same jokes and experiences. When the time came to make this into a commercial product, they were probably reluctant to let go of a lot of it. But, that's just my guess, I don't presume to know what any of the people involved in Zweihänder's creation were or are thinking.


As I have stated previously, overall the sheer wordiness of it all doesn't really bug me. Plus, much of it is evocative. It's there if you need or want it, skip it if you don't.


I'm probably coming off a little long-winded here as well. But, there's a lot of ground to cover here. And if something comes to me between Chapter read-throughs, I want to get it down before I forget it. So, bear with me, y'all.

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Mon Aug 19, 2019 2:18 am
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
I'm really enjoying your rundown of this system. It makes me wonder if I did something similar would I actually read a rule book cover to cover?


Mon Aug 19, 2019 11:30 am
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
CHAPTER 4: PROFESSIONS


The next 115-ish pages are devoted to Professions. At the end of the last chapter, we were instructed to "build our Professions." This is achieved by Spending RP, or Reward Points. As I noted earlier, RP are the "XP" of Zweihander, and thus are given out not only at Character creation, but after each gaming sesh. RP are not given out for killing monsters or amassing wealth, but for roleplaying, especially where one's Alignments are concerned (that's why they're called RP). as well as simple survival. The book says that 50 to 100 RP will be given out each session. To start with, each player gets 1000 with which to build their Profession.


RPs are spent on what are known in game terms as Advances. Advances will be purchased at Character creation, and again as your Character grows and changes.There are four types of Advances, and each one makes your character better at something. They are:


-Professional Traits: Each Profession has only one. It is a required purchase, and takes 100 RP right off the top.


-Skill Ranks: Each Skill has three ranks: Apprentice, Journeyman and Master. Your first level in a Skill puts you at Apprentice, and so on.


-Bonus Advances: these add to the various Attribute Bonuses.


-Talents: these will expand how a skill may be used, or provide other benefits or options.


Then we get a description of Tiers, or Zweihander's Character Advancement system. There are three Tiers in the game, and should your Character survive, they will rise through all three.


Characters start in the Basic Tier, then move into the Intermediate Tier, and finally, into the Advanced Tier. Each Tier has a list of Advances that must be purchased with RP before you can move to the next.


Advances cost 100 RP each in Basic Tier , 200 in Intermediate, and 300 in Advanced. Certain factors may change this. For example, your Upbringing will allow you to purchase Focuses in related to a specific Attribute at a reduced RP cost. In Gühm's case, his Reverent Upbringing means that he can purchase Focuses in Willpower-related Skills for 50 RP, instead of the normal cost.


In Basic Tier Character Creation, you buy your Professional Trait, pick an "Iconic" piece of equipment, called a "Trapping", and then spend your remaining 900 RP. When deciding how to spend your RP, you turn to the page which has the description of your profession. It has a description of that Profession, along with its Professional Trait, as well as Special Traits, Drawbacks and required Advances. These required Advances take the form of: 10 skill ranks (so, ranks in 10 different predetermined Skills), 7 Bonus Advances, and 3 Talents. Once you have purchased the required Advances, you can move to the Intermediate Tier.


Each Profession has a list of Required Advances. To wit: 10 Skill Ranks, 7 Bonus Advances, and 3 Talents, each predetermined by that particular Profession. Once you have completed the Required Advances, you are ready to move into a different Tier, and therefore, into a different Profession. Your new Profession must be within the same Archetype. You will retain your old Professional Traits, Special Traits, etc., and then move into a new Profession. You will buy any new Professional Traits and fulfill your new Profession's Required Advances (at increased cost in RP) before moving to the Advanced Tier.


There is a concept of "Unique Advances", which allow you to purchase Focuses and Talents not normally available to you. Focuses are perks that can be purchased for certain skills. Focuses allow you to use ignore the negative effects of Peril, provided you are using a Skill in a way that Ties it to that Focus. You may purchase a Focus (or more than one) if you have any Skill Ranks in its related Skill. You may Purchase a number of Fouses equal to your Intelligence Bonus. Other Unique Advances are Languages, and Magick Spells for those Characters whose Profession allows for their use. Purchasing of Unique Advances is always done at the GM's discretion, and are subject to certain limitations.


There are also Expert Professions, which you may move into for either your Basic or Intermediate Tier. But these have prerequisites in terms of Skills and /or Traits. It is notd that it may be necessary, if the GM allows it, to make use of Unique Advances in order to go into one of these professions.


I'm going to briefly grumble again about the less-than-clear presentation of the rules. It's not incomprehensible, but thank God for the active Discord community for the game, because I'm a lot clearer on some of these concepts than I would have been if I was just relying on the book. I don't want to dwell on this, and I want to make it clear that I like the rules, vibe, art, physical presentation, Hell, just about everything else about Zweihander so far. I just think it could have used an editiorial scalpel chainsaw flamethrower (joke stolen from [USER=21151]@BigJackBrass[/USER] with apologies). Especially since this is , what, the third revision now? And it really sucks to say this, I feel like a dick, but I usually don't have this much trouble parsing RPG rules. I'm no Genius, but I can tie my shoes. Worst of all, this is also rather inconsistent, with some chapters so far being much better than others. It's possible that my lack of familiarity with WFRP is part of the issue. Did the author and other contributors have such familiarity with WFRP that they were unable to write from the perspective of a WFRP noob? Or am I just thick? /rant.


Next, we get into the descriptions of the Professions, followed by the descriptions of the Expert Professions. And here, Chapter 4 takes a sharp right turn back into being well laid out and easy to follow. The entry for each Profession features an illustration (Dejan Mandic's art is fantastic here and throughout, really a standout feature that works well with the flavor text to set a palpable mood), a paragraph or two about the Profession and lists the Professional Traits, Special Traits, Drawbacks and required Advances. The stumbling blocks of the first few pages of Chapter 4 are gone, and this book shines again.


Each Profession, its advantages and its requirements are clearly described and beautifully presented. Not only is each Profession described in such a way that I could see the fun in playing nearly any of them, but everything is made crystal clear.


I have seen much made by both proponents and detractors of Zweihander's touted "bounded accuracy" model, but it suits me fine. A lot of work and playtesting has gone into the game, and it shows. I'll know how it plays soon enough, which may expose strengths and weaknesses of the system, as it usually does. So, I'm hoping that Zweihander is as cool at the table as it looks on the page. I haven't gotten to the combat yet, we'll see if my current impressions of "medium crunch, looks like a fun system" hold. I'll let ya know.


There are also a ton of Easter egg-type puns, nods, references and jokes in Chapter 4, and throughout the book. Too many to list here. Besides, finding them for yourself is half or more of the fun. I really enjoyed these. I also think it's funny when rappers name-check Patrick Swayze (it's happened more than once), so YMMV.


Getting back to Gühm, I have decided to spend his remaining 900 RP thusly:


- 1 Skill Rank each in Eavesdrop Scrutinize, Education, Gamble, Char, and Rumor.


- All 3 of the Courtier Talents (Holdout, Silver Tongue, Forked Tongue).



CHAPTER 5: SKILLS


This chapter alphabetically lists all of the Skills (duh). But first, there is a discussion of the three possible Skill Ranks in each (Apprentice, Journeyman, Master). There is a re-statement of the differences between Common and Special Skills (given first in Chapter 2). We are likewise reminded of the link between Skills and Primary Attributes, and of how Focuses work.


The best part of the chapter on Skills, is that each is fully described, and also features an example of what Difficulty Rating might be set for each Skill Test under different circumstances (again, from -30% to +30%, in increments of ten, so 7 possible Difficulty Ratings overall), which gives a nice general baseline for these largely GM-arbitrated numbers. I really appreciate having examples like these.


The illustrations throughout the book are specific to certain situations or concepts being discussed. A nice touch.


CHAPTER 6: TALENTS


Next, we get a chapter which lists all of the Talents. As previously mentioned, these are innate abilities. There are over 70 of them, and their effects vary wildly. Unless specified otherwise, Talents can be used freely in combat without spending any Action Points ( a mechanic to be explained later, I presume?).


If it seems like I've given these last two chapters short shrift, I haven't. But they are what they are: lists and descriptions of Skills and Talents. They are also, I want to point out, clear, concise, and useful. Plus, they have the same great presentation and emerging sense of humor as the rest of the book. Pop culture references ahoy!


Well, that's all for now. I'll be doing "Chapter 7: Trappings" next. That includes everything from weapons large and small, to food and lodging, to livestock and real estate. Plus, a deeper dive into Zweihander's Encumbrance system. This next one will be both rules-based (as in the first few chapters) and descriptive (as in Chapters 5&6). See you soon!

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Tue Aug 20, 2019 6:38 pm
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
Lurker wrote:
Gringnr, thanks for posting this !

Hate to say but I never really heard of it. At least not in a way it stuck and I remember it. So your review explanation was a big help.



Mea Culpa, mea Culpa ... I was looking at it on drivethru rpg and noticed ... 'you have previously purchased this product' . I have no idea where I got it or when ... In my defense I can see where I some time back in the day downloaded the free non complete version, but I have never downloaded the actual rules.

With that, I have just downloaded the complete updated version of the rules.

I have to say, nice.

I haven't read much of it yet, but I am noticing a lot of see chapter x .

As for the wordiness and verbosity, if you have read any of my posts or recaps here, you know verbosity and wordiness doesn't bother me much .. I like what I've read and like the flavor text so far.

I do think if I ever run a campaign, I may dial back the darkness a touch - again my Poe v Lovecraft outlook - but I do like the late medieval/renaissance feel of it and do like the temptation to corruption on even priestly characters (how do you explain the corrupt bishops cardinals and popes of that time frame without the corruption of 'power corrupts'

Again thanks for posting this and doing the step by step of the character build.

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Wed Aug 21, 2019 12:00 am
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
anvil242 wrote:
I'm really enjoying your rundown of this system. It makes me wonder if I did something similar would I actually read a rule book cover to cover?


It's usually the only time I give a rulebook the old "front to back" treatment.



Lurker wrote:
Lurker wrote:
Gringnr, thanks for posting this !

Hate to say but I never really heard of it. At least not in a way it stuck and I remember it. So your review explanation was a big help.



Mea Culpa, mea Culpa ... I was looking at it on drivethru rpg and noticed ... 'you have previously purchased this product' . I have no idea where I got it or when ... In my defense I can see where I some time back in the day downloaded the free non complete version, but I have never downloaded the actual rules.

With that, I have just downloaded the complete updated version of the rules.

I have to say, nice.

I haven't read much of it yet, but I am noticing a lot of see chapter x .

As for the wordiness and verbosity, if you have read any of my posts or recaps here, you know verbosity and wordiness doesn't bother me much .. I like what I've read and like the flavor text so far.

I do think if I ever run a campaign, I may dial back the darkness a touch - again my Poe v Lovecraft outlook - but I do like the late medieval/renaissance feel of it and do like the temptation to corruption on even priestly characters (how do you explain the corrupt bishops cardinals and popes of that time frame without the corruption of 'power corrupts'

Again thanks for posting this and doing the step by step of the character build.


I know what you mean. There are times I'd be more inclined to run it "GrimdarK', and times I'd want a more colorful, traditional fantasy vibe. I've adapted WFRP adventures to run with it, and it's really easy to do.

Glad y'all are enjoying it!

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Wed Aug 21, 2019 12:36 am
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Ulthal
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
CHAPTERS 5 & 6 REVISITED


I stated earlier that Chapters 5 & 6 were basically lists, and that's true, but it also omits a lot that begs better explaining on my part.


Chapter 5: Skills is more than a "list" of skills. It begins with an explanation of the Skills, and how each one corresponds to one of the Character's Primary Traits. Then it goes on to discuss the Skill Ranks. Each Rank (Apprentice, Journeyman, Master) confers a cumulative +10% Base Chance of Success, up to a maximum of 30%.


The difference between Common Skills and Special Skills is reiterated, basically, that Special Skills must be "Flipped to Fail" if used by a Character with no Skill Ranks. Common Skills carry no such penalty, defaulting instead to a Base Chance equal to that Skill's related Primary Attribute.


Special Skills are marked on the Character Sheet with an asterisk. The Zweihander Character Sheet is one of those sheets that has all of the possible Skills listed. They are next to the associated Attribute.


Sidebar: Zweihander has a 4-page character sheet. It will track pretty much everything about your Character, including every step of their advancement and step-by-step progression through the Tiers.


Then we talk again about Focuses. To recap, Focuses are specialized uses of a Skill, or, as the book deescribes it, a "particular knack". Focuses allow you to ignore any penalities you currently suffer from Peril, as long as you use the Skill on a very particular, narrow, one might even say... focused manner.


A character may have a total number of Focuses equal to his Intelligence Bonus.


Unlike the complete and cohesive Skill descriptions, the Focuses are given one or two word descriptions, but the are all really self-explanatory, and nothing further is really needed. For example, the Skill "Eavesdrop" has as its Focuses Lip Reading, Listen In, Sign Language, Ventriloquism, "Leadership" has Incite Rebellion, Military Command, Spiritual Leadership, and Stewardship.


And then, we get the actual listed entries for each Skill. Each is listed, with its related Primary Attribute in parentheses. There are detailed explanations of each, and sample Difficulty Ratings, each with an illustration of that Skill's use. For example, the entry for the Skill, "Guile" lists the following Difficulty Ratings:


-(Trivial +30%) Bluster and blather your way out of responsibility


-(Easy +20%) Use innuendo to imply one thing while saying another


-(Routine +10%) Engage in wordplay with another to appear smarter


-(Standard +/-0%) Blend into the crowd to look innocuous and harmless


-(Challenging -10%) Bluff your way into a garden party hosted by the elite


-(Hard -20%) Understand Thieves' Cant without a Skill Rank


-(Arduous -30%) Appear innocent in front of a Withch Hunter or Inquisitor


Here again, the illustrations correspond directly to an adjacent bit of text. A nice bit of detail, in a book filled to the brim with it.


The Chapter on Skills is fifteen pages long overall.


Chapter 6: Talents starts, as all Chapters of Zweihander, with a full-page illustration that is relevant to the ensuing Chapter. In terms of painting a picture, setting a mood, this is one of the best RPG books I have ever seen. In the early D&D books, the art, by Jeff Dee, Erol Otus, Bill Willingham and others (Easley is technically brilliant, better even than the artists I just listed, but not nearly as evocative in my opinion) informed my internal vision of D&D in a way that persists to this day,. Similarly, there is a palpable tone, and a semse of place in Zweihander. No mean feat for a game that has had to dance around the setting (and the IP) of the game that was its admitted inspiration.


Talents, it is explained, are different from Skils in the following ways:


-Skills are innate, Talents are "knacks" within a Skill that allow you to take particular advantage of that Skill. Talents act as "riders" to the actions a Character takes during play. But what does this all mean during play?


Well, each Talent adds some advantage or benefit. For example,


APPALLING MIEN

People are disturbed by your presence, as you invoke apprehension and fear in those around you.

Effect: When you succeed at an Intimidate Test against one foe, they cannot attack you until they succeed at a Resolve Test. However, if you or one of your allies harm them in any way, they immediately shake off this effect.


GANGSTER GRIP

"Step off, knave. If you tryin' to plough with me, my blunderbuss go bang!"

Effect: When you make an Attack Action with a weapon possessing the Gunpowder Quality, you inflict an additional 1d6 Fury Die to Damage.


And so on. As in Chapter 4: Professions, this Chapter is filled with jokes and pop-culture references. This may or may not be to everyone's taste, but I find it amusing. I have read that this was a feature off WFRP as well, although that game's humor was rooted in the Britain of the late 80s, and its socio-political climate. Zweihander's humor seems to be more a product of the internet age, all sly pop-culture references and Easter Eggs. Which is funny, given some of the complaining I've seen about the game's (and its author's) political stances. But the humor on display here is not really topical. I'm not saying that's good or bad, it's just an observation.


The Chapter on Talents is around 5 pages or so.


Okay, well, 200 or so pages in so far. I'm gonna cut it off here, but I am still reading and writing, and hope to recap Chapter 7 tonight.


I'd also like to mention that there is a Quick-Start rules PDF available from drivethrurpg, for anyone wanting to read along at home. I've actually been finding it useful, since flipping through this damn near 700 pager is a beyatch. When I was given my copy, I was also sent 4 bookmarks, which have turned out to be goddamn lifesavers.


Alright, I hope that now I've done justice to the last couple of Chapters. Talk to y'all in a few, in the next post, which'll be...



CHAPTER 7: TRAPPINGS

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Thu Aug 22, 2019 3:52 am
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
Again good write up and thanks

Now sorry if I derail the thread or clutter it a little, but I had an idea while reading the alignments, and want your alls' input on it.

As I read the balanced alignment with order v chaos, and tied to other things I've been reading and working on (wont bore you on the specifics here) , I thought not only should it direct the character's actions, but it can show how others view the actions. And we all know perception is reality when dealing with others

For example - the Character is walking down the street and a poor beggar waif runs up and begs 'A penny for the Guy, remember remember the 5th of November, a penny for the Guy' the character pulls a shiny silver shilling, flashes it, does some quick slight of hand and then tosses the coin to the poor wide eyed beggar boy. Now there could be various alignment, role playing, or even a random reason the character was so generous.

However, the informer gossip hired to following the character to report back to the duke's secret police would see it, depending on where they are in the order v chaos spectrum, as:

Charity - if on the order side - and report the character is generous to a fault and overly kind to the beggar boy, a fact that could be used against them in the future

Pity - if on the chaos side - and report the character mockingly gave a silver and made sure it was seen by all so they would see him as generous and he is trying to buy the foot pad's loyalty or hire the boy for some nefarious purpose.

Later the character is in the duke's court and is next to 2 gentlemen, Master X the Guild Master of the cities armorers, and Master Y the factor to a wealth family that is starting to build an affinity for themselves - and for the duke - , The 2 are on the edge of calling each other out for a duel. However, the character is able to smooth over the argument and prevents the duel and ....

The duke's Sargent of Arms - depending on where he is on the chaos spectrum - reports :

Diplomacy - if in order - that the character was skilled in defusing the argument, found a middle ground and is a cool head in a heated time. A person that the duke could use to deal with troublesome families that are complaining about increased taxes and the influx of men-at-arms gathering as rumors that the duke will beat the war drums as soon as the local farmers finish planting the crops.

Hypocrite - if in chaos - that the character defused the argument yes, but he did it to make sure Master X, who would have lost duel as everyone knows, would owe him a favor or make a favorable trade on armor for the character and his companions (and therefore not be as willing to make the trade to the arms-men of Master Y's benefactor. Or even worse, that the argument looked a little suspicious and was more than likely contrived to make the character look good in the court and be impressive to the Duke

Of course, these items, depending on how they are reported, will sway the duke and impact how the duke looks at the characters etc.

So what do you all think?

Am I going to deep or wandering in the weeds, or is it a useful look on alignment in this gritty world?

Oh yeah, it would also work on how the characters perceive things. if they are solidly on the order side of the equation then you as the DM could lean toward more of the positive versions of NPC's actions, or if the characters are in the chaos camp you can emphasize the ever present dark grimness of all those around the characters.

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Thu Aug 22, 2019 11:55 pm
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Ulthal
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
Lurker wrote:
Again good write up and thanks

Now sorry if I derail the thread or clutter it a little, but I had an idea while reading the alignments, and want your alls' input on it.

As I read the balanced alignment with order v chaos, and tied to other things I've been reading and working on (wont bore you on the specifics here) , I thought not only should it direct the character's actions, but it can show how others view the actions. And we all know perception is reality when dealing with others

For example - the Character is walking down the street and a poor beggar waif runs up and begs 'A penny for the Guy, remember remember the 5th of November, a penny for the Guy' the character pulls a shiny silver shilling, flashes it, does some quick slight of hand and then tosses the coin to the poor wide eyed beggar boy. Now there could be various alignment, role playing, or even a random reason the character was so generous.

However, the informer gossip hired to following the character to report back to the duke's secret police would see it, depending on where they are in the order v chaos spectrum, as:

Charity - if on the order side - and report the character is generous to a fault and overly kind to the beggar boy, a fact that could be used against them in the future

Pity - if on the chaos side - and report the character mockingly gave a silver and made sure it was seen by all so they would see him as generous and he is trying to buy the foot pad's loyalty or hire the boy for some nefarious purpose.

Later the character is in the duke's court and is next to 2 gentlemen, Master X the Guild Master of the cities armorers, and Master Y the factor to a wealth family that is starting to build an affinity for themselves - and for the duke - , The 2 are on the edge of calling each other out for a duel. However, the character is able to smooth over the argument and prevents the duel and ....

The duke's Sargent of Arms - depending on where he is on the chaos spectrum - reports :

Diplomacy - if in order - that the character was skilled in defusing the argument, found a middle ground and is a cool head in a heated time. A person that the duke could use to deal with troublesome families that are complaining about increased taxes and the influx of men-at-arms gathering as rumors that the duke will beat the war drums as soon as the local farmers finish planting the crops.

Hypocrite - if in chaos - that the character defused the argument yes, but he did it to make sure Master X, who would have lost duel as everyone knows, would owe him a favor or make a favorable trade on armor for the character and his companions (and therefore not be as willing to make the trade to the arms-men of Master Y's benefactor. Or even worse, that the argument looked a little suspicious and was more than likely contrived to make the character look good in the court and be impressive to the Duke

Of course, these items, depending on how they are reported, will sway the duke and impact how the duke looks at the characters etc.

So what do you all think?

Am I going to deep or wandering in the weeds, or is it a useful look on alignment in this gritty world?

Oh yeah, it would also work on how the characters perceive things. if they are solidly on the order side of the equation then you as the DM could lean toward more of the positive versions of NPC's actions, or if the characters are in the chaos camp you can emphasize the ever present dark grimness of all those around the characters.


That sounds spot on to me. As I understand it, that's pretty much the way it's supposed to work. Yes, it's purely for roleplaying flavor. But in Zweihänder, you don't earn Reward Points (Zweihänder's XP) for killing monsters and gaining treasure. You do it by roleplaying, and your Alignment is a huge part of that.

Zweihänder is supposed to be a game of tough choices and moral conflict as much as sorcery and steel.

Also, not for nothing, but the core book is 33 dollars on Amazon right now, just FYI, y'all.

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Fri Aug 23, 2019 12:52 am
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