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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: 544
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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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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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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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
CHAPTER 7: TRAPPINGS

In Zweihander's 7th Chapter, much is discussed. First off, we get a basic rundown of Zweihander's in-game economy. To wit, there are three denominations of coin:

-brass pennies, or bp (there are 12 to a silver shilling)

-silver shillings, or ss (there are 20 to a gold crown)

-gold crowns, or gc (1=20 ss, or 240 bp)

Not the simple base 10 system many are used to, but easy enough, and imparts a certain flavor appropriate to the theme of the game.

It is then explained that in a dangerous world such as that of the Zweihander, trading is common, as it is safer to carry goods than coin, and goods may be garder to steal/sell due to their bulk and the challenges of finding a buyer. While goods and services are usually traded evenly, certain social, political or other conditions may affect this. So, there are ways Characters can "bring out number weight & measure in a year of dearth". So, Haggling, Trading and other types of commerce have mechanics to govern them. This is a good thing, because the way it's handled it feels like a part of the game, yet it is distinct without being a "mini-game" that takes you outside of the regular rules.These may or may not see use, depending on what type of campaign is being run. But, they are here for any who might want them, another example of the completeness of this book.

There are lists of wages for various work, and the normal price of various services.

Then we get into Weapons, and how they are differentiated. I find the way Weapons are handled in Zweihander to be very clever. It adds a level of detail to remember, but the payoff is well worth the little bit of added complexity, and it's much more flavorful than simply saying "X weapon does d6 damage, Y weapon does d4".

Okay, first off, Weapons are divided into 2 initial categories: Melee and Ranged. Self-explanatory to anyone who's played and RPG, right? Then, each of these categories is divided again, into Simple Weapons and Martial Weapons. Simple weapons are things that most people in the game world will be able to use: either common weapons, or tools that can also be used as weapons if necessary. Simple Melee Weapons include the Threshing Flail, Bullwhip, Woodsman's Axe, Improvised Weapons, even Torches. Martial Melee Weapons are more military type weapons, for which one need be trained, including many types of Swords, Maces, Pole-arms and the like. Simple Ranged Weapons include the Hunting Bow, Light Crossbow, Shepherd's Sling, and even the Blunderbus. Martial Ranged Weapons are an array of deadly and/or precise types of Guns and Bows.

Simple Weapons Skills are Common Skills, meaning anyone can attempt them, even without Skill Ranks. Martial Weapons Skills are Special Skills, meaning that if you attempt to use them without Skill Ranks, you will Flip To Fail (see Chapter 2: How To Play), or reverse the tens and ones dice, taking the worst of the two results.

Next, we learn how Weapons' Damage is differentiated. Basically, each time you score a successful hit on an opponent in Combat, you will add a relevant Attribute Bonus to a Fury Die ("exploding"D6- see Chapter 2: How To Play). The Attribute Bonus you use depends on what Weapon you are using, though there can be other factors. So, essentially, all Weapons do the same damage. But... each weapon has one or more "Qualities", which affect the way the Weapon behaves. Sometimes, Qualities will affect the amount of damage that is, or can be, dealt. Sometimes, a Quality will determine which Attribute Bonus you will use to calculate Damage. Some Qualities are beneficial to the Wielder, and some are not. And Weapons will often have more than one quality, so, a faster Weapon might be weaker in terms of Damage. Or, a Gunpowder Weapon cannot be Dodged or Parried, but can explode, harming the Wielder. A few examples:

-Fiery: This quality of weapon may set one or more targets on fore with a successful attack.

--Reach: Allows you to attack foes that are too far away to be attacked by shorter weapons.

-Slow: Whenever you strike an opponent with a Slow Weapon, they have a +10% Base Chance to Dodge or Parry.

-Weak: Cannot inflict the most severe levels of Injury.

There are 24 distinct Weapon Qualities (Entangling, Repeating, Shrapnel, etc.), so as you might imagine, the possibilities are plentiful.

There are four Weapon tables, one for each category (Simple Melee, Martial Melee, Simple Ranged, Martial Ranged). Each lists the Load time (if any), Handling (one- or two-handed), effective Distance, Type (Bladed, Brawling, Crushing, Gunpowder, and Missile - these are usually referred to by a Character's Talents or Traits), Encumbrance Value (see Chapter 3: Character Creation) and Price. And, of course, there are descriptions of each Weapon and its possible effect.

Armor is discussed here. Armor adds to your Character's Damage Threshold Modifier (see Chapter 3: Character Creation). There are 8 types, from Clothing to Full Plate. As with Weapons, Armor has Qualities that have in-game effects. As do Shields, which do not add to your Damage Threshold Modifier. Instead, a Shield confers other benefits, like a better Base Chance to Parry, dealing additional Damage, or even being able to Parry a ranged Weapon. Shields also get a table, listing Handling, Qualities, Encumbrance Value and Price.

A sidebar explains Zweihander's Encumbrance system, which is abstract and simple, while maintaining a nice internal logic.

Weapons, Armor and Shields are each given an Encumbrance Value between 0 and 7. Larger items can have a range of 1-100, but most of those are probably not intended to be carried. Rather than list each and every item in excruciating detail, Zweihander instructs you to assign one point of Encumbrance Value for every 9 small items on your Character's person, rounded down. Again, this system is simple, sensible, and I like it.

There are Statistics for, and descriptions of, a few "War Machines", siege engines designed to break a fortification's defenses. It is noted that this type of play is uncommon, but statistics are given anyway, perhaps as one of many nods to Zweihander's roots. As with any weapons, War Machines have Qualities, Types and Load Times. Ammunition is priced here as well.

There follows 7 pages of pricing for everything from Animals & Vehicles, to Commodities, to Housing & Property, Medicine, even Black Market Goods. These pages are concise, yet comprehensive. There is a bit of a detailed explanation about the various types of light sources and their respective costs in this section, and though relatively small, it helps to set the tone of the game in a big way. This is important. Lighting in an age without electricity can be both expensive and uncommon. It's a small but nice touch.

Chapter 7 closes with a page on Crafting. Crafting can be done by anyone with an appropriate Focus in the Tradecraft Skill (and there are many such Focuses). Well, that and the necessary time, material and facilities. There is a nice, simple yet substantial feeling to a mechanic for reducing the cost of your raw material. It is similar to the Haggling rules. I haven't discussed those yet, but I'll end this post by describing them briefly.

For Haggling, Selling Scavenged Goods, or reducing the cost of materials used in Crafting, you must first succeed at a relevant Skill Test. Having done that, you multiply one of your Attribute Bonuses (Fellowship for Haggling/Selling Scavenged Goods, Willpower for Crafting) by three, and the resulting number will be used to determine your benefit in each situation.

Okay, that's it for Chapter 7. It was concise yet comprehensive, and explained much. This is one of the parts of the book where the author nailed it. I know I've harped on the writing a bit (and may again), so this chapter was a breath of fresh air.

Next time, I'll cover Chapter 8: Combat. It's only about 15 pages or so. But I have a feeling that, like Chapter 7, those pages will be packing a lot of info.

See you then!

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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
CHAPTER 8: COMBAT


Alright, bring on the blood, piss and shit we were promised in the introduction! It's time to talk combat!


This chapter explains Zweihander combat, its mechanics as well as its overall tone. That is to say, fast, brutal and unforgiving. We are warned that combat will test not only our characters' bodies and will, but their very spirit and sanity.


Combat is the beating heart of many a system, and can make or break a game. How does Zweihander measure up? Let's see.


First of all, we are given a list of relevant combat terms. This list has four terms:


-Turns: a measure of time in combat. Roughly ten seconds. Interestingly, there is no turn/round structure here. Once everyone has taken their combat turn, that same sequence is repeated until combat has ended. Time during Combat is called Structured Time, a term to be fully described in Chapter 11: Game Mastery.


-Actions In Combat: whatever you do during a Combat Turn, if it is potentially consequential, is an Action. PCs and NPCs haver access to the same range of Combat Actions.


-The Initiative Ladder: the order in which players take turns in combat. Players roll 1d10 and add their Initiative score from their Character sheet. Highest goes first.


-Fury Dice: the basic Damage roll for every weapon in the game. Remember: a Weapon's Damage is equal to the relevant Attribute Bonus +1d6 Fury Dice (remember, 6s roll over and add). Certain Weapon Qualities and/or other effects may increase the number of Fury Dice you roll when you make a successful Attack.


The book now reminds us that despite certain Actions in Combat having fixed Difficulty Ratings, the GM is the final arbiter in any situation, whether it is covered by the rules, or is a special case.


Of note here, is that throughout, players are encouraged to discuss matters with the GM, and to come to mutual decisions on many matters. Despite the statement above, Zweihander seems to value player agency more than many games of its type, especially OSR-type games.


COMBAT OVERVIEW


Combat in Zweihanderhas three Steps:


Step 1: Surprise Turn (where applicable)

Step 2: Initiative Ladder

Step 3:Take Turns


But before these steps are explained further, there is an admonition to always be roleplaying, even during combat. There is also a list of Conditional Effects In Combat, or conditions/states of being that combatants may find themselves in, They include:


-Blinded: cannot use Counterspell, Dodge or Parry

-Choked: Cannot use any Action in Combat, except to use a Resist Action to Escape

-Defenseless: Cannot use any Reactions whatsoever

-Disarmed: Lose Weapon from primary hand to 3 yards away, cannot use hand until next Turn

-Helpless: Cannot use any Reactions whatsoever, and may be Slain! with a Successful Attack

-Inspired: Temporary +1 to Damage and Pril Thresholds (until the end of current Combat)

-Intimidated: Reverse of the above

-Knocked Out: unconscious, i.e., Helpless until awakened

-Prone: Down but not out, however, you suffer an additional Fury Die every time you take Damage

-Stunned: Begin Turn with one less AP

-Surprised: See description of Surprise effects below


Step 1: In Zweihander, the GM alone decides whether the characters (or their foes) are Surprised. Anyone who successfully Surprises an opponent gains the following advantages:


Surprised PCs/NPS are Defenseless.


Any PCs/NPCs who successfully Surprise their opponents get a full Turn, called a Surprise Turn, in which to act before their foes. Any successful Attacks made by a Character who gains the advantage of Surprise will add an additional 1d6 Fury Dice to Damage dealt by that Attack.


Step 2: Initiative is as described above. In the event of a tie, highest Perception Bonus goes first. If this is also a tie, the concerned parties roll Initiative again.


Note: the Initiative Ladder is to be kept in plain view of all players, although the GM may opt to obfuscate the identities of some parties or even events. Random or Environmental Events that may affect Combat or those in it can generate Initiative by having the GM roll 2d10+2 for fires, explosions, dams bursting, bridges collapsing, or just about anything else that can be thought of!


Any party who enters the fray after Initiative has been rolled can simply roll Initiative and be added to the Initiative Ladder at such time as their characters become involved in the Combat.


Step 3: Each Turn, every Character has 3 Action Points, or APs, to spend. This will determine how many Actions they may take each Turn. There are five types of Actions, each having a cost of 1-3 APs. You can spend all of your APs on your turn, or you may hild.some back, to be used in reaction to other characters' actions. Any APs not spent at the start of your next turn are lost.


The Actions your Character will spend APs to take are:


-Movement Actions, divided into Charge, Get Up, Hustle, Maneuver, Run, and Take Cover. Some of these, like Charge (2AP), will add a Fury Die to your Damage from a subsequent Attack. Some, like Get Up, Run, or Take Cover, will allow you to move in certain ways, but can also open you up to an Opportunity Attack, which is a free (0 AP) Attack on someone who is moving out of an Engagement (I.e., moving away from someone they are actively fighting with). Run, for example, allows you to move at three times your Movement in yards, while gaining 3 Damage Threshold, but opens you up to an Opportunity Attack if you are moving out of an Engagement.


Zweihander's attention to balance of play is evident here, as the benefits of each type of Action are offset by its cost in APs. I like appreciate the almost tactical play style that is encouraged by such rules. We are also reminded here not to forget that Traits and Talents act as "riders" to Skills (which will come into play often as we take Actions), altering or increasing their effects.


-Attack Actions: Called Shot, Cast Magick, Melee Attack, or Ranged Attack. Melee and Ranged cost 1 AP, Called Shot costs 2, but cannot be Dodged or Parried, and Magick Varies. Ranged Attacks cannot be made while Engaged (e.g., toe-to-toe and fighting), unless the attacker is using a Weapon with the Gunpowder Quality.


There are a list of effects for various conditions in Combat, such as Attacking Larger Foes, Attacking Helpless Foes, Mounted Combat, and the like. And again, we see Zweihander utilizing small variances, or combinations of them, to provide quite a variance of effects while at the same time not wandering too far from simplicity and efficient abstraction. This game's strategy comes not from being painstakingly simulationist, but from a few simple rules whose application manages to be surprisingly deep yet manageable. That "Sweet spot" I mentioned? This is pretty much it for me. The Combat Actions all fit on one page. Easy to refer to, or just straight up remember.


Note: Characters may only make ONE Attack Action per Turn. This is true whether an attempted Attack is successful or not.


-Perilous Stunts: Each of these costs 1 AP. These include Chokehold, Dirty Tricks, Disarm, Knockout, Splinter Shield, Stunning Blow and Takedown. Each of these costs 1 AP, and requires a successful Skill Test in order to burden your opponent with some complication or hindrance. In each case, your foe must then make a successful Skill Test to avoid said complication. Dirty Tricks, for instance, will Blind an opponent for a turn ("Pocket sand!"). As with Attack Actions, only one Perilous Stunt may be attempted per turn.


-Special Actions: 0 to 2 AP. These include Channel Power (this can lower the Difficulty Rating imposed by the GM as you gather all of your Magickal energies to aid your spellcasting), Inspiring Words (a "pep talk" that gives allies a temporary boost to Damage and Peril Thresholds), Litany of Hatred (the reverse of Inspiring Words, an attempt to Intimidate or "face" your opponents that will leave them with lowered Damage and Peril Thresholds should you make a successful Intimidate Test), Load (as in your Weapon), Subdue, Take Aim (increase chance to hit at the cost of 1 or 2 AP) and Wait (hold APs for use lower down the Initiative Ladder). Special Actions generally confer some benefit to other Actions.


-Reactions: 0/1AP. These include Assist (another's Action), Counterspell, Dodge, Opportunity Attack, Parry and Resist. These are Actions which you can take during other players' turns.


Next, we get a detailed walkthrough of Using Attack Actions. There are seven steps to this process:


-Step 1: Which Weapon?

-Step 2: Total Chance For Success

-Step 3: Make The Attack

-Step 4: Enemy Defends

-Step 5: Roll Damage

-Step 6: Determine Damage Condition

-Step 7: Determine Injury.


Which Weapon? gives a recap of the various Weapon Types. It also delves into handedness. Any Character who uses a Weapon in his "off" hand must Flip to Fail. There is an Ambidextrous Trait which will negate this.


Ranges are also discussed, as well as the penalties for using Ranged Weapons at distance. Distances are Short, Medium and Long, in ascending order of Difficulty Rating. At ranges greater than Long, no Fury Die is added to the Weapon's Damage, and in any event, the Range may not exceed four times the SHort Range listed for that Weapon. Again, we see simple, sensible abstraction that provides challenge without undue complication. I like it.


Total Chance For Success restates the rules for determining one's Base Chance of Success, with or without complications (in the form of ignored Skill Ranks) from Peril. Once this is tallied, the GM assigns a Difficulty Rating (which, you'll remember, is the "point of no return" for players- no backing out now), and the Total Chance For Success, or target number the player must roll under is set.


Make The Attack tells us to roll a number equal to the Total Chance For Success or less. Remember: if your tens and ones dice have the same number, that's either a Critical Success or a Critical Failure. Some Attacks allow an attacker to trigger a special effect when a Critical Success is rolled. If the Action being attempted is an Attack Action or a Perilous Stunt, the target is left Defenseless, as described above.


A Critical Failure rolled while attempting an Attack Action or Perilous Stunt will result in the acting Character taking an automatic 2d10+2 Physical Peril (Peril will be described in greater detail in Chapter 9: Hazards And Healing).


Enemy Defends details how a defender may Dodge Ranged Weapons or Parry Melee Weapons, and explains how the GM may determine a Difficulty Rating for these tests by taking into account the relative size of the weapons involved in an Attack and Parry.


Roll Damage instructs the reader to apply (usually but not always) the attacker's Combat Bonus+1d6 Fury Dice (and any other Damage factors determined by Weapon Qualities, Traits, etc.) as Damage in the event of a Successful Attack. Unlike Perilous Stunts, Attacks cannot be Resisted, they must be Dodged or Parried. The amount of Damage inflicted is compared to the Character's Damage Threshold. In the case of Guhm, his Damage Threshold is 5 (equal to his his Brawn Bonus of 5- if he were wearing armor, it would increase thisnumber), extrapolated to determine the Damage Condition Track:


Less than 5: Unharmed

5: Lightly Wounded

11: Moderately Wounded

17: Seriously Wounded

23: Grievously Wounded

Slain!


Eschewing the familiar "hit point" model of Character Injury and Death, Zweihander instead uses a Damage Condition Track, which works as follows:


If a Character takes Damage in excess of his Damage Threshold , they move one step "Down" on the Damage Condition Track, that is to say, from Unharmed and towards Slain! If a Character takes Damage in excess of their Damage Threshold +6, they move two steps down, and so on. Therefore, if Guhm were already Seriously Wounded, and sustained 9 points of Damage from a new Attack, he would move 1 step Down to Grievously Wounded. And if he had taken 14 points of Damage from that same attack, he would have moved two steps down, being immediately Slain! Likewise, any time a Character suffers Damage greater than their Base Damage Threshold + 18, they are instantly Slain!


In addition, whenever a Character moves DOWN the Damage Condition Track to Moderately Wounded or below, they must roll to see if they sustain an Injury. Roll a 1d6 Chaos Die, if it comes up 6, you are possibly Injured, and must roll d100 against an Injury Table. There are three Injury tables (Moderate, Serious, Grievous), each with 12 possible results, including Fortune's Mercy! (no injury). Some Talents, Traits or Weapon Qualities will make injuries more or less severe. Each Injury has a specific penalty or restriction. Some may be permanent or have permanent effects. All will require time and medical attention to heal. No napping to relieve stab wounds in Zweihander!


Note: Fate Points, determined in Chapter 3, can be used to ignore any 1 injury, or save your Character from being Slain! Once a Fate Point is used, it is gone forever. Your Character can earn more, as outlined in Chapter 3, but it is a long slow slog and far from a given. Use fate points wisely!


Another wordabout Injuries: whenever an unarmored Character sustains an Injury, they start to Bleed. While Bleeding, Characters cannot move UP their Damage OR Peril Condition Tracks. If Bleeding continues for a number of Turns greater than your Brawn Bonus, you are Slain!


Final thoughts on Zweihander's combat: it looks fun and quite manageable, without sacrificing variance or granularity, no mean feat. In addition, although there are several options for Actions (Combat and otherwise), terms such as Charge, Chokehold, Ranged Attack, Subdue, and Dodge are intuitive. Even new players should be able to navigate the Combat system by referencing the one page of Actions.


As I said previously, I hope to get this to the table soon, to see if it is as smooth and fun in play as it looks on paper.


As with the Chapter 7: Trappings, this section of the book gets it right, striking a nice balance between being colorful and concise. The confusion of the first few Chapters is starting to make way for a better. more streamlined presentation of the game's systems, and that's a good thing. Overall, Chapter 8 gets high marks from me.


Stay tuned, there are 5 more Chapters to go! We're not even halfway there!


NEXT UP:

CHAPTER 9: HAZARDS & HEALING

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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
CHAPTER 9: HAZARDS & HEALING

[Note: after the pleasant, sensible structure of Chapter 8, Chapter 9 gets right back up to its old tricks, with a jumbled presentation that is a bit aggravating and difficult to follow. Not impossible, but definitely not easy. I like this game, I really do. But, man, oh man. I'm not trying to rip on the author here. In his defense, I might not be that bright. Plus, I've heard him own his lack of writing experience in interviews. But, dude.]

Zweihander's 9th Chapter goes into further detail about various ways that your Zweihander character can get hurt, get ill, or die. Outside of Combat, I mean. Fires, natural disasters, diseases of all kinds, stress, even mental or physical fatigue are things that can weaken and destroy your adventurer. And all of that is discussed here, as well as what may (or in some cases, may not) be done to recover from such conditions.

Firstly, it is noted that your Character may suffer Damage from hazards such as those mentioned above. In many of those cases, such Damage may not be Dodged or Parried. There is a re-stating of the Damage Condition Track and how it works.

In Chapter 3: Character Creation, we calculated Guhm's Peril Threshold by adding 3 to his Willpower Bonus, then extrapolating that number in a manner identical to the Damage Condition Track (e.g., +6,/+12/+18) to map out his Peril Condition Track. So, a Character who suffers in excess of their Base Peril Threshold, but less than their Base Peril Threshold +6, would move one Step Down the Peril Condition Track. Suffering Peril in excess of your Peril Threshold +6, but less than your Peril Threshold +12 would move you two Steps Down, and so on.

In addition to physical Damage or Injury, certain occurrences may also impart Peril.

A Character's Peril Condition Track has the same number of steps as the Damage Condition Track. Its function is differently, however. Whereas the Damage Condition Track lets us know how wounded our Character may be, their Peril Condition Track lets us know how hungry, tired, frightened or frazzled they are.

While Peril will not directly kill a Character, Characters who move far enough down the Peril Condition Track will start to ignore Skill Ranks, that is to say, the Bonuses inferred by them:

-When you have moved 2 steps down the Track, you ignore 1 Skill Level. So, if you had 2 Skill Ranks in Intimidate, for example, you would effectively only have one (so you'd only add 10% to Intimidate Tests, instead of your usual 20%).

-When you have moved 3 steps Down the Track, you ignore 2 Skill Ranks.

-When you have moved 4 steps Down the Track, you ignore 3 Skill Ranks.

-When you have moved 5 steps Down the Track, you are Incapacitated! Unable to do anything but curl into a ball and suck your thumb, until such time as you have moved UP the Peril Condition Track, which is achieved either through rest in a safe place ,or, temporarily, the ingestion of certain drugs. Characters who become Incapacitated! cannot succeed at any Skill Tests, and immediately suffer 6 Corruption (see Chapter 3: Character Creation)! Note: Characters who must rest, but are forced to do so in an unsafe place, will not fully recover from all of their Peril until they are able to recover in safety for a while.

Peril can be suffered as the result of many things, from starvation to sleep deprivation to disease. Peril may be either Physical or Mental, but as far as I can tell, this only matters when you are "getting" the Peril. Certain Drugs or Traits may allow you to ignore Peril of one type or another. But once it goes on your Peril Condition Track, it's all the same. When suffering Peril, however, it's always in some combination of d10 rolls plus a number equal to the number of d10s rolled, e.g., 1d10+1, 2d10+2, etc.

This Chapter also explains how to overcome and heal Damage and Injuries, both in the short and long terms. The importance of this should be obvious, as Damage and/or injuries can kill your Character, or may leave them with permanent or disfiguring injuries.

Unlike Peril, Damage Injuries can't be "slept off". Both must be treated. Magickal healing is rare in Zweihander, which aims more toward the dark, painful and unsanitary conditions of the middle ages than the gleaming spires of Tolkien's Middle-Earth.

Characters can Bind their Wounds in order to move up the Damage Condition Track. This may be done by performing a Successful Heal Test, the Difficulty Rating of which will be determined by the Character's current position on the Damage Condition Track. This requires the possession and subsequent expenditure of a bandage each time. Characters may only move one step Up the Track every 24 hours, unless the Heal Test is a Critical Success, in which case, they will move 2 Steps Up. Should the Healing Test fail, the Character will not be able to be thus treated again until a Successful Heal Test is made. A Critical Failure indicates that the Character's Recovery has been complicated by an Infection. Also, if a Character has suffered a Grievous Injury, their wounds may not be bound until said Injury is treated. Which brings me to my next point:

The Treatment of Injuries that may be sustained during Combat or by other means is separate and distinct from the Treatment of Damage, as the two are separate but related concepts in Zweihander. While Wounds, i.e., steps on your Damage Condition Track, can be treated away bit by bit, day by day, Injuries require time and attention of a different sort.

Any Injury that is Moderate or Lower on the Track will earn you some Corruption. Moderate= 3 Corruption, Serious =6, and Grievous =9.

Injuries can be Recuperated from slowly, at a rate determined by rolling a number of d10s according to the severity of the Injuries in question. This will take anywhere from a couple of days to a month, and there may still be permanent Damage! In any event, Moderate and Serious Injuries must be Successfully Treated in order for Recuperation to begin. Failure means a delay in Recuperation until Successful Treatment is achieved. Critical Successes will reduce the recovery time, and, as above, Critical Failure means Infection. Infection will begin the slow loss of a Character's vitality (in the form of permanent Attribute loss), but there is also a (characteristically risky) treatment for Infection- Bloodletting.

The method to stop bleeding, a hazard mentioned in the previous Chapter, is given.

If you have multiple Injuries, each is given its own Recuperation time, to run concurrently.

Greivous Injuries will require surgery before any Recuperation can begin. This must be done within a number of days no greater than your Brawn Bonus, or the effects of the Injur(ies)y will be permanent!

Binding of Wounds, Treatment of Injuries, Surgeries... all require a Successful Heal test. If you have multiple Injuries, these procedures will have a higher Difficulty Rating.

Laudanum may be used to move yourself one Step Up the Damage Condition Track, but you gain Corruption by doing so. Also, Laudanum will be injurious to you if you take too much.

Now that I've covered the "meat and potatoes" of Damage and Peril, as well as how to treat these conditions, it's time to delve into the rest of the Chapter. This chapter is another example of the "more is more" ethos of Zweihander, an in this way, it really works for me. Chapter 9 details, in an efficient yet sufficiently detailed way, all of the various ways in which Zweihander Characters can suffer & die. Disease, Falling, Frostbite/Heatstroke, Suffocation, Starvation, being set on fire, Drugs and Poisons (sometimes a substance is both), the list is fairly exhaustive. No one can deny the completeness of this book in terms of rules. The bases are covered, as far as bad shit that can happen to your Character during the course of an adventure or campaign.

-Disease is covered, first with a description of conditions in the world Zweihander seeks to emulate. A filthy world teeming with unsanitary conditions, parasites, diseased creatures and even supernatural afflictions.The various ways these can be spread are listed (Ingestion, Miasma, Touch, Wounding). Then, eight diseases are listed, according to the following format:

-Resist: When exposed to disease, your Character must make a Successful Toughness Test to avoid being infected. The Difficulty Rating for each disease is listed in its description. Critical Failure gets you a few points of Corruption, as well as the disease.

-Duration: How long you will be afflicted. Some illnesses will stay with you until you get treatment. Some will run their course and trouble you no further.

-Effect: exactly what it sounds like. What the disease does, and when it does it, in game terms.

-Treatment: The worldly methods by which you may be cured (Magickal remedies are covered in the next Chapter).

There are eight distinct diseases listed, each having a different effect, duration, and cure. This is the Zweihander approach in a nutshell, and it works very well for me. Rather than an encyclopedic and highly granular list of ailments, many of which may differ but slightly in a mechanical sense, a different and better system is used. Diseases are defined by four categories, and each differs enough that every disease is distinct. It is relatively small quantities, which are then mixed and matched to yield a great variety of choices/outcomes/whatever. I don't know if that makes any sense, but it's the same approach that has been used with Weapons, Professions and everything else I have seen in these pages so far. And it works.

Next, there is a section about Disorders and how to treat them. Disorders, if you'll remember, are gained by earning Chaos Ranks, through the accumulation of Corruption. Disorders are the consequence of bad behavior, even if it was behavior that was necessary for your survival. And they are nasty. There are several kinds of Disorders, and when you become so afflicted, your GM will decide which kind you suffer from. It can be anything, from an unyielding obsession for drink, to a darker compulsion, even some unnatural physical mutation! But, there are treatments, as detailed here. Dangerous Treatments, that may leave you dead or somehow diminished. Good Luck! Like the rest of this Chapter, the Treatment, and the circumstances for Failure of said Treatment, are clearly spelled out.

Then comes all of the environmental hazards mentioned above. While no game could ever hope to cover every situation, a really good job has been done here. Pretty much any situation you might find your character in should be covered here. Falling (eiter into a hard surface or into water), Fire (three different classifications!), weather, etc. Not stuff that's gonna happen every session, but a nice thing to have in your toolbox, just the same.

The next section covers Poisons, which have been divided into 3 types: Deliriants, Toxins and Venoms.

Deliriants are basically drugs that bestow temporary benefits, from the temporary increase of a Primary Attribute, to the temporary increase in one's ability to withstand Peril or Damage. But be warned, each dose will gain you Corruption. Likewise, one or more of your Attributes are likely to fail you while you are under the effect of Deliriants. That is to say, Failures will become Critical Failures while you are so impaired, and for every dose you take, more Attributes will be affected. Drugs are bad, mkay?

Toxins are mixtures that can cause Peril or limit the actions of any creature unfortunate enough to be dosed with one. These are likely to be used offensively. As with diseases, a Toughness Test is required to escape the effects. Critical Failure means that at the end of the Toxin's effect, the victim is Slain! Some Toxins work against animals, some against PC Ancestries, and some against the monsters and beasties that pose such grave danger to Characters.

Venom is divided into three very broad types: Scorpion (attacks sight), Snake (Incapacitated! and will die if not treated), and Spider (Paralyzes, and may instantly kill). These are the most deadly types of Poisons in the game. It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature!

Chapter 9 closes with a list of items, mixtures and materials which may be made by Characters possessing the proper Skills and Trappings. These include anything from the Bandages so necessary to much of this game's healing, to Bottle Bombs (a sort of Molotov cosktail), to Gunpowder, to Antivenoms, Tinctures, and even the Poisons we've just finished reading about earlier in this Chapter. Each can be prepared in quantitties of one to three uses. More uses = higher Difficulty Rating, and these vary from one item to the next. In addition, the time and materials needed to craft each item are listed, as well as the consequences of Failure (in Zweihander, there are always consequences). These entries may seem a little "same-ey" to some, but crafting 1-3 "uses" of something works just fine for me. The minutiae of crafting isn't really my thing, and the 3 use limit keeps Players from having an endless supply of stuff, which i suspect has as much to do with game balance as anything else.

Chapter 9 was jam-packed full of practical, usable stuff. The presentation was less than ideal, in my opinion, but at the end of the day, it's an incredible resource for your Zweihander game, and one that will keep you from having to adjudicate too much on the fly. Some stuff, like Deliriants are standard issue for many starting Archetypes, so it's good to have their effects at your fingertips. And despite the "lack of an implied setting", these rules help to flesh out the "Grim & Perilous" Zweihander milieu. In short, I give Chapter 9 a BIG thumbs up, venereal warts and all!

Well, we're 273 pages in (out of 669). There are 4 more Chapters left, and, as you may have guessed, they get longer from here on out. Prior to this, the longest Chapter was Chapter 4: Professions, at just over a hundred pages. Most have been much shorter. All but one of the last four Chapters will be at least as long. I think I just went down a couple of Steps on My Peril Condition Track!

Seriously, though, I'm looking forward to this. What I have read so far has been great, and I can't wait to see how the Chapter on Magick and the Bestiary flesh out this game's "not-setting" even further. I'll return as soon as I can, with an in-depth look at Magick, in the form of...

CHAPTER 10: GRIMOIRE

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Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:27 pm
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
CHAPTER 10: GRIMOIRE (part one)


In this chapter, we learn all about Zweihander's Magick system. Such systems can make or break a game for many people.


So far, Zweihander has shown itself to be a game with moderate crunch, and a fairly intuitive, streamlined system. Let's see if this applies to the Magick system as well.


Chapter 10 begins, well, at the beginning, with an explanation of where Magick comes from in the Grim & Perilous world of Zweihander. You see, there isthe Material Realm, where your Zweihander Characters live and die. There is also the writhing, churning unfettered horror of the Abyss. And in between, there is the Aetherial Veil, a membrane comprised of kaleidoscopic energy and particles of Chaos itself. Now, I'm not completely clear on this (I tried. believe me), but I think that Aetherial Winds blow from the Abyss in 9 different directions. These winds are the very winds of Chaos, which, though indescribably dangerous, are largely dissipated by the Aetherial Veil. But, traces do remain. Invisible to all but a few, Unknown by most, these winds each have a different hue, that is7 visible only to those with Magickal sight, and each has a different kind of power, which may be wielded - with caution - by the brave or the insane. Indeed, those who manipulate the Aetherial winds may possess great power, but they must also pay a great price.


Magick in the world of Zweihander is not to be taken lightly. Each casting, even of the simplest and least powerful spell, can have unintended, even dangerous consequences for the caster. And even those who grow adept at manipulating the Aetherial Winds to their benefit, if they avoid immediate harm, are all but guaranteed a slow, creeping decline brught about by the forces they so foolishly sought to control.



INNER WORKINGS OF MAGICK


Much like in other fantasy RPGs, Magick in Zweihander is not merely the result of saying a few words. There are elements to spellcasting that are Verbal, Somatic and Material. So, as in other games, a spellcaster must have the ability to speak, gesticulate, see and you must have the necessary Reagents (Material components).


Spellcasters can wear armor, but only if it does not have the Heavy Quality.


Magick in Zweihander comes from one of two mutually exclusive traditions: Arcane Magick, practiced by Arcanists, and Divine Magick, granted by gods to their worshipers.


I neglected to mention earlier (well, actually, I didn't know) that during Character creation, if your Character can use Magick, they will have one of two Special Traits: Arcane Magick or Divine Magick. As stated above, these are mutually exclusive. Once you have had one of these, you may never have the other.


I also hadn't figured out how many spells a starting Character gets. Looking back on Chapter 4: Professions, it seems to work like this: When you roll a Magick-using Profession, you immediately gain three Generalist Spells (the simplest and lowest level, or "Principle", of Zweihander's Magick system). Later, if you move into another Magick-using profession, you gain another Generalist Spell. After that, you have to beg, borrow or steal your spells. More on that in a bit.



ARCANE MAGICK


Here we get a brief explanation of how Arcane Magick works. The Arcanist uses words, gestures and materials to "weave" tendrils of the nine Winds into a tapestry of Magick. Arcanists do not rely on the Gods to supply them with their power, they reach boldly, some would say impiously, into the very air around them to manipulate it with their own hands!


Arcanists record their spells in books, which must be jealously guarded against loss or theft.


Each of the nine Winds, or Arcana, is named, along with its color and a description of its particular sphere of influence. Unsettlingly, there is also a description of the physical and mental toll that the Wind takes on those who would seek to harness it. As I said before, Magick in Zweihander is both dangerous and unforgiving. The Arcana are:


-Arcana of Animism (Gevurah, the Brown Winds): concerns living things, i.e., creatures and animals, and their Magick potential.

-Arcana of Astromancy (Binah, the Blue Winds): Arcana of the stars and heavens.

-Arcana of Elementalism (Chesed, the Green Winds): power of earth, water, plants and weather.

-Arcana of Luminescence (Keter, the White Winds): Illumination, often confused for Divine Magick.

-Arcana of Morticism (Tifferet, the Purple Winds): communication with the dead, bringing them to rest.

-Arcana of Necromancy (Yesod, the Onyx Winds): raisers of the dead, dabllers in the darkest of energies.

-Arcana of Pyromancy (Hod, the Red Winds): powers of flame.

-Arcana of Shadowmancy (Netzach, the Grey Winds): invisibility, obfuscation, confusion.

-Arcana of Sorcery (also Yesod, see above): a blending of winds, most dangerous and vile.

-Arcana of Transmutation (Chokhmah, the Yellow Winds): alchemical Magick that seeks to transform.


There is a brief explanation of the two diametrically opposed energies that may underlie all magic, indeed, even all of creation. They are:


Malkuth, the Void: perhaps the birthplace of Yesod, it is all stillness, darkness, anathema to life itself.


Da-at, the Silver Winds: created by refracting the energy of the Void, this is Magick free of Corruption, but incomprehensibly difficult, which has been woven into perfect Order.


The section on Arcane Magick closes with an overview of how such Magick fits into society. And it doesn't, really, not in the lore of Zweihander (to the extent that it can be said to have lore). Magick is unpredictable and not trusted by many of the ignorant and superstitious people your Characters will encounter. Reactions to Magick will run the gamut, from misunderstanding to fear to downright hostility.


Some practitioners may find official Sanction for their wizardry. And they would be wise to do so. For not only will such sanction likely grant them access to resources that may make their studies safer, it will also keep them from meeting their end on the blade of an Inquisitor, or at the hands of an angry, fearful mob.


Overall, however, Magick-using characters are much rarer in Zweihander than in other games. And, given the inherent danger of spellcasting, there are probably going to be times when they will prefer to stick to more mundane methods of combat.



Okay, tha's it for now. I said I was gonna start breaking this up into pieces, and I meant it. I will also be starting new posts, or "continuing" previous posts in a new and different post, rather than editiing them, for clarity's sake.


Next, time, I hope to cover Divine Magick, and possibly even how spells are cast in game terms. See you then!


TO BE CONTINUED...

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Thu Aug 29, 2019 2:29 am
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
This has been interesting reading. I don't have any experience with Warhammer. I'm very curious how Zweihander compares to Warhammer FPRG (any edition) and whether someone would be better off using Zeihander rather than the original.

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Thu Aug 29, 2019 5:38 pm
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
Buttmonkey wrote:
This has been interesting reading. I don't have any experience with Warhammer. I'm very curious how Zweihander compares to Warhammer FPRG (any edition) and whether someone would be better off using Zeihander rather than the original.


There are threads on various forums comparing the two. I don't know much about WFRP either, as I only began to look into it after I started reading (and then playing) Zweihänder. But, as I understand it, Zweihänder started as a series of house rules for WFRP2E, after the poorly received 3rd edition of that game came out. Eventually it was developed into a heartbreaker of 2E.

As I understand it, it is better balanced mathematically and addresses several issues with WFRP2E. Having skimmed Zweihander's progenitor, it's obvious that both games share a similar DNA. Conversion is said to be a snap. There are fan made rules for playing WFRP with the Zweihänder ruleset on this site: https://www.kalevalahammer.com/?m=1

Zweihänder seems to be more "low" fantasy than WFRP, but that seems more thematic than mechanical. If you wanted to play a good old fashioned elfgame with it, you could. A bloody, deadly elfgame, but an elfgame nonetheless.

But it would take someone more familiar with WFRP than me to make any worthwhile comparison.

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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
CHAPTER 10: GRIMOIRE (CONTINUED)


Whew, been a while. Thanks for waiting. When we left off, I had just scratched the surface of Chapter 10. We had gotten an overview of Magick, and an explanation of how Arcane Spellcasters use it to affect the world around them.


Next, we get a view of Divine Magick, the kind practiced by Priests, Shamans, and even Druids. Divine Magick springs from the same well as Arcane Magick, that is, the Aetherial Winds that blow from the Abyss across the Aetherial Veil. But unlike Arcane Magick, Divine Magick is granted to its practitioners by the Gods themselves.


Just as there are ten directions of the Aetherial Winds (not counting Malkiuth), there are ten dieties in the pantheon of Zweihander. Or at least in the core Rulebook. Briefly, they are:


The Crouching One: god of assassinations, blood and cruelty


The Custodian: lord of death, dreams and the afterlife


The Demiurge: hermaphroditic god of nature, animals, earth and fertility


The God-Emperor: the big one, lord of civilization, courage and humanity, ruler of even the other gods


The Learner: god of knowledge, justice and history


The Leviathan: goddess of the sea and storms


The Martyr: lady of healing, mercy and childbirth


The Nightfather: lord of good fortune and commerce, also patron of thieves


The Steward; god of soldiers, strategists and warfare


The Winter King: god of winter, wolves and battle


As with Arcane Magick, long-term practice may have physical and psychological effects. These do not seem to be as common in in Divine Magick as they are in Arcane Magick, however.


There follow a few paragraphs about Faith & Worship. We are told that each god has different ceremonies and customs. Where the God-Emperor's faithful adherents might gather weekly in large and ornate churches, followers of The Demiurge are more likely to be found gathering in forests during certain seasonal events.


There is a fine and often blurry line between superstition and religion in Zweihander, and the one hand often washed the other. In a world where literacy is not the norm, the common man will rely on signs, superstitions and customs to reinforce his religious beliefs, whereas the rich may read holy books or study religious languages. The lowly superstitions bind the poor to the more wealthy and learned gentry in a way that would not be likely without the common thread of religious belief.


The organization of religions in general are briefly covered. For example, some religions may have militant and scholarly branches in addition to clerical ones.


Here, too, we are made aware that any religion may be taken to dangerous and fanatical extremes, sometimes requiring an Inquisitor to quell zealotry that has become barbarous or perverted. Inquisitors will more often be needed to dispatch those who have cast their lot with demons or other abyssal creatures (for there are powers other than Aetherial Winds or even gods).


This section is a pretty good encapsulation of Zweihander's approach in a nutshell. There is an implied setting of sorts here, despite the author's claims to the contrary. And while the need to maintain a safe distance from the established IP of other games may be seen by some as a hindrance, I find it to be one of Zweihander's strengths.


There is an actual framework here. It is solid and substantial enough to build on, yet it has enough empty space that it allows, even invites, players and GMs alike to use it as a canvas upon which to leave their personal statement, without feeling as though anything is being controverted.


I find this to be a nice middle ground. It my not be to everyone's taste, however. I'm lazy, and I don't really like to do a ton of "world building". But I also like to be able to run adventures without having to read and absorb a ton of lore. Zweihander satisifies me on both counts. And unlike a lot of "setting neutral" games that give only the barest descriptions of the in-game world, Zweihander creates a fairly palpable and inhabitable setting. I would be just as comfortable running my own homebrews as I would using Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventures. In fact, I am currently adapting an adventure from the cult classic game Maelstrom (a game which has some similarity to the subsequently published WFRP).


Next, I will go over the rules for actually casting spells, and take a look at the actual spells themselves.


TO BE CONTINUED...

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Mon Sep 02, 2019 2:19 am
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
Gringnr wrote:
CHAPTER 10: GRIMOIRE (CONTINUED)

...
I find this to be a nice middle ground. It my not be to everyone's taste, however. I'm lazy, and I don't really like to do a ton of "world building". But I also like to be able to run adventures without having to read and absorb a ton of lore. Zweihander satisifies me on both counts. And unlike a lot of "setting neutral" games that give only the barest descriptions of the in-game world, Zweihander creates a fairly palpable and inhabitable setting. I would be just as comfortable running my own homebrews as I would using Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventures. In fact, I am currently adapting an adventure from the cult classic game Maelstrom (a game which has some similarity to the subsequently published WFRP).




Next, I will go over the rules for actually casting spells, and take a look at the actual spells themselves.


TO BE CONTINUED...


Now this is why I come here and listen to my betters !

I have Malestorm and some adventures for it, I have notes somewhere on using them in the ole 2e Historical setting for that timeframe, but even though I've been reading through the Zweihander pdf lately and been thinking about running it and tinkering with it, it never crossed my mind to pull out the Malestorm stuff. It is a natural fit though!

Rgr on the rules being a good middle ground on the religion frame work.

I've been doing a lot of self study and listening to a lot of lectures on the Renaissance, Early Modern, Religious Wars, and that era. As I read the section on religion, and glanced back to some of the professions, I could see plenty of room for house ruling different sects, schisms etc. That would fit in with the grimmer darker feel of the rules. Then on top of that the fact that with religion come the draw to corrupt power .... Yeah historically fitting and good and grim for the setting.

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Mon Sep 02, 2019 3:30 pm
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
Lurker wrote:
Gringnr wrote:
CHAPTER 10: GRIMOIRE (CONTINUED)

...
I find this to be a nice middle ground. It my not be to everyone's taste, however. I'm lazy, and I don't really like to do a ton of "world building". But I also like to be able to run adventures without having to read and absorb a ton of lore. Zweihander satisifies me on both counts. And unlike a lot of "setting neutral" games that give only the barest descriptions of the in-game world, Zweihander creates a fairly palpable and inhabitable setting. I would be just as comfortable running my own homebrews as I would using Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventures. In fact, I am currently adapting an adventure from the cult classic game Maelstrom (a game which has some similarity to the subsequently published WFRP).




Next, I will go over the rules for actually casting spells, and take a look at the actual spells themselves.


TO BE CONTINUED...


Now this is why I come here and listen to my betters !

I have Malestorm and some adventures for it, I have notes somewhere on using them in the ole 2e Historical setting for that timeframe, but even though I've been reading through the Zweihander pdf lately and been thinking about running it and tinkering with it, it never crossed my mind to pull out the Malestorm stuff. It is a natural fit though!

Rgr on the rules being a good middle ground on the religion frame work.

I've been doing a lot of self study and listening to a lot of lectures on the Renaissance, Early Modern, Religious Wars, and that era. As I read the section on religion, and glanced back to some of the professions, I could see plenty of room for house ruling different sects, schisms etc. That would fit in with the grimmer darker feel of the rules. Then on top of that the fact that with religion come the draw to corrupt power .... Yeah historically fitting and good and grim for the setting.



I should point out that in a recent thread over on the rpgpub, Zweihander author Daniel D. Fox stated that Maelstrom was a "massive, massive influence on Zweihander. So, yeah, marrying the two was a no-brainer. Many say that Maelstrom influenced WFRP, but WFRP author Graeme Davis, though admitting to being aware of Maelstrom, denies any connection. Who knows? Could be a coincidence. Could be a George Harrison/Supremes thing.

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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through


CHAPTER 10: GRIMOIRE (CONTINUED...AGAIN)



On to the Spells themselves. As stated previously, There are four Principles of Magick. in ascending levels of power, they are Generalist, Petty, Lesser and Greater. Generalist Spells are common to both Arcane and Divine Spellcasters, but above that, Spells diverge into Arcane and Divine Magicks (hereafter referred to as "Spells" and "Prayers", respectively).


A complete list of Spells and Prayers is neext, each following the same format, which is:


Distance: the effective range of your Magick. Ranges from "self" to "any one person you can see", for Generalist Magick, to "any person you can imagine, whom you have met and whose name you know" for Greater Magicks, and so on.


Reagents: the necessary physical components. Also tells if the Reagents are expended (used up) as thejresult of the casting).


Duration: How long it lasts, duh.


Effect: What it does under normal conditions if Success.


Critical Success: What it does when you Critically Succeed.


Critical Failure: a worst-case scenario. These effects vary, but none are good, and all are more than a minor inconvenience.


Generalist Spells are he first your Character will acquire. There are 24 of these in total. Their effects and usefulness vary, but make no mistake: Spellcasters start out stronger in Zweihander than they do in many other Fantasy RPGs.


A few of the Generalist Spells include:


-Aegis: a mystical wind protects you from attacks


-Bewitched: place a minor curse on an object


-Dispel Magick; u need dis


-Hat-Trick: literally pull creatures from a hat


-Magick Missile: ah, yes, the old Saturday Night Special of Magick


-Will O' The Wisp: Magickal lights that float according to the Caster's will


From here, we get into the Spells for each Arcana, or School of Arcane Magick. These are separated by the Arcana, rather than by Principle. So, each Arcana lists the Petty, Lesser and Greater Spells before moving to the next Arcana. There are only 9 spells listed for each: 3 Petty, 3 Lesser and 3 Greater. So, Spellcasters in Zweihander definitely don't have the range of Spells to choose from that wizards in other games do. I don't know if upcoming supplements will expand this or not. Overall, I don't mind it, I think there are plenty here, especially since they can be cast repeatedly. YMMV, however.


As the Spells increase in power, they increase in danger. A Greater Spell has a much higher penalty for Critical Failure than a Generalist Spell does. This is very much in keeping with Zweihander's stated goal of balanced playability.


Each Arcana informs the nature of the Spells available to its practitioners, of course. So the Arcana of Animism will have Spells related to nature, savagery and animals, while the Arcana of Pyromancy's Spells are related to flame and heat.


Divine Magick follows the same format, and has the same number of each Principle Spells available to those who follow a particular deity. As with Arcane Magick, each set of Prayers is related to the sphere of influence of one of the gods of the Zweihander world.


So, overall, there are a couple hundred Spells here, though it is highly unlikely that any Magick-using Character will ever have access to more than a dozen or so. Again, there are dark and dangerous things you can do to gain access to more, but that isn't a decision to be made lightly.


Other than fluff, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of difference between Arcane and Divine Magick. Not mechanically, as far as I can see.


Here, too, there are in-jokes and references galore.



...Running out of gas again, more to come! I had hoped to finish Chapter 10 with this post, but it looks like there'll be one more. 'Til next time...

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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
CHAPTER 10: THE GRIMOIRE (CONTINUED YET AGAIN...)


A few more words about Spells Arcane and Divine: each list of spells, that is to say, each Arcana and each group of Prayers, can generally be expected to contain spells that are offensive, defensive, and "other". WHile each list of Spels/Prayers is centered around a certain Arcana or Diety, there is still variety, even with the relatively small number of spells available to each caster.


Next we come to the subject of Wytchstone. Wytchstone is a Magickal substance that has fallen to earth in a long ago cataclysm (meteor shower?). It is embedded in the earth in places. It has many strange qualities and powers. Which, in Zweihander, also means that it's pretty freaking dangerous. From what little I've read, this is analogous to something called "Warpstone" in WFRP. It is used in everything from Magickal charms, to medicines, to potent weapons.


Wytchstone is rare, unstable and unsafe. But if one is "lucky" enough to find it, and "brave" enough to handle it, it can be used in several ways, including:


"Essence" which, when inhaled, grants one a Critical Success to any one Incantation Test for 24 hours. Aaaaaaaaand you get 9 Corruption. Say no to drugs, kids!


"Pabacea", a disease-curing agent.


"Wytchfyre", incendiary ammo for Gunpowder Weapons.


"Elixirs", 25 different types, each posessing a different effect/benefit (or drawback, if you allow one to exceed its shelf life, it becomes "cursed").


Rules are given for crafting each of these, and follow the same general pattern as the Crafting rules from Chapter 7: Trappings.



Rituals are covered next, which make use of Wytchstone to marshall raw Magickal power. These are powerful, and can produce great Magick. Some may have more than one possible effect. But they also have negative consequences every time you perform them. The use of some rituals is even possible by those without inherent Magickal Skill. However, no one should attempt any Ritual unless they are swhatever they hope to gain is worth the certain negative Consequences they will suffer. Whether using "Blessed Sacrament" to Create Holy Water, or using "Call Demonic Servant", there is no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to Rituals.


Rituals follow the same game mechanics that are used throughout Zweihander. Each is listed in the book using the following format:


-Casting Time


-Reagents


-Conditions (which must be met prior to conducting the Ritual)


-Channel Power: This tells you what type of Magick the Ritual is treated as for purposes of determining Chaos Manifestations (i.e., Petty, Lesser, Greater)


-Difficulty Rating


-Consequences (the bad stuff)



Characters can Inscribe Magickal Runes, which can be done with (permanent) or without (temporary) the use of Wytchstone.Characters must have the Tradecraft Skill Focus of "Runesmith" to be able to do this at all. Learning new Runes follows a very similar path as that of Learning New Spells, and the descriptions of the various Runes likewise follows a similar format as the Spell Descriptions.


There are three Types of Rune: Apprentice, Journeyman and Master. As you may have guessed, these correspond to the Skill Level of the Runesmith. And, there is an ascending level of power and effect.


While learning and Inscribing new Runes seems to be a long and expensive process, it doesn't seem yo have the same dangers as other Magickal pursuits.




Chapter 10 ends with descriptions of Magick Circles, which will help Shield the Spellcaster from the effects of Chaos brought about by the working of Magick. This is described as a Ritual, and is described in the same format, but it has been kept separate from the other Rituals for some reason.


There are instructions for Summoning Aetheric Spirits, in case you need to kill your character commune with the creatures from beyond the Material Realm.


And, finally, there are rules for Imbuing and identifying Magickal Talismans (which can grant benefits to the wearer).


And that's it for Chapter 10: The Grimoire. 74 pages of Magick and how to use it in the Grim & Perilous world of Zweihander. Very good stuff, and covers all of the bases. Like the rest of the book so far, the information isn't always presented in an intuitive or easy to parse manner. I'm guessing this is because these rules grew out of a set of houserules for WFRP 2e, and perhaps the developer(s) didn't realize that what seemed obvious to a group that had been gaming together for years might not be so plain to others.


I'll say it again, I really like this game so far (just GMed my third session, finishing our first adventure). But I don't always like trying to find stuff in the book.


Well, we've reached about the halfway point of the book. Three chapters left. Thanks for sticking around.


NEXT - CHAPTER 11: GAME MASTERY

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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
CHAPTER 11: GAME MASTERY


The next 104 pages are a guide for Zweihander GMs. These pages cover, from a different perspective, much of the material that has already been discussed. And a bunch that hasn't.


First, it is explained that Zweihander "doesn't have an implied setting". I have heard others debate this, and I understand it. While this book gives us a pantheon of deities, a bestiary, and a pretty clear idea of the technology level our characters will be dealing with, there are no maps nor any named lands. However, there is certainly enough here to form a solid foundation upon which to build. It is perhaps a bit of an identity crisis born of the necessity to present a complete game, while at the same time keeping its distance from Games Workshop's IP. I've seen gamers adapt to this in one of three ways: run their own settings, run WFRP adventures, and just play the game as is without delving too much into the greater world. My own approach has been a combination of the latter two.


The game uses "Grim & Perilous Themes" to set a mood for whatever adventures the GM and their players wish to have. The beginning of this Chapter encourages those playing Zweihander to strike a balance between the Grim & Perilous world and playability. Keep it Grim & Perilous, but allow for hope , and maybe even the occasional positive outcome.


Zweihander is meant to be, well, almost like a dark fairytale. A game of low Magick and low fantasy. As stated in the previous Chapter, mages are neither plentiful nor particularly trusted. There is a bit about what is meant by "low fantasy" and any reader who doesn't yet understand why this game is different than, say, D&D, will understand once they have read it. There is also a bit about the creeping influence of Chaos, and the Corruption that infects so much of the game world.


Chapter 11 then proceeds to give instruction, clarification and additional information that can be used by GMs to manage and enhance their games. It goes over all of the pertinent rules from the previous Chapter, offering a deeper examination of how these rules work, and why they work the way they do. This is also the place where you will fond the "GMs only" information found in most RPGs.


There are helpful tips and tricks , such as "Determine Initiative Ladder" at the start of the game session, which I have adopted into my own games. Another helpful hint is to have the players use index cards to keep track of in-game info picked up by their characters.


Skill Tests and Combat Rules are explained in greater detail, and there are three tables (Moderate, Serious, and Grievous) for determining which Injuries Character suffer if they roll a "6" on the Chaos die after suffering Damage. There are also tables for determining what exactly happens if a foe is Slain!, separated by weapon type. These will give you something to say besides, "Welp, ya killed 'em!" at the conclusion of a fight.


Speaking of fighting, there is a page on how to fight Flying Creatures, and a list of creature Size classifications.


There are instructions for creating encounters, encompassing such elements as Risk Factor, a way of determining how big a threat is posed by a given creature so you can match them to your players' skill level.


There are some neat ideas for using weather, terrain and environmental effects to enhance the drama and Peril of your game.


Several pages of Alternative Combat Rules add optional systems for Weapon Damage, number of Attacks, Encumbrance, hit location and Armor. What I like about these is that they don't add a lot of bulk to the system. They act off of the same mechanics we have already learned at this point. I'm not using these in my current game, as we are still beginners. But, they seem like they could be grafted on seamlessly.


There is a system for Chase Scenes, which is a really nice touch. I really dug systems like this in the old James Bond 007 and Justice, Inc. games. What we have here is a system based off of the game's core mechanic, that gives you an option for chase scenes beyond "this is just a different kind of dungeon". or "Press X for fast travel". Similarly, there are over 10 pages of rules for Overland Travel, and the encounters on might have, in both mundane places, and locales that may have a strong presence of Magick.


Reward points, thier distribution and use get a bit of magnification here. As well as Reputation Points, a Fate point-like finite resource that enables a Character to trade on the glory of past deeds.


Other subjects covered include:


-determining the material strength (Hardness) of objects and/or breaking them


-Different types of Traps, their use and construction


-Chaos Manifestations (often the result of Arcane Magick use and very unpleasant)


-Divine Punishments that can be meted out to priests, shamans or cultists who fly too close to the sun or wield Divine power with carelesness. These are listed by diety, each being appropriate to the Divine being followed by the unfortunate player. Atonement is also discussed.


-Madick Items: though rare and dangerous, they exist


-NPCs: how to run them, how to interact with your players as them, and how to give them personality, including the use of their Alignments., as well as a table for determining NPC Motivations on the fly.


One of Zweihander's cooler features is next: a section on Social Intrigue. Bits like this, and the aforementioned Chase, Travel and Exploration rules, really offer a great variety of roleplaying opportunities. Want to fight Gladiator in the pit? Zweihander does that. Want to take your party on a Fellowship of the Ring style trek across a vast stretch of unfogiving terrain? Zweihander does that. Want to charm the gullible and blackmail the guilty? Zweihander does that.


The various types of Madness are covered (Stress, Fear and Terror). Each of these has different triggers (listed). These require a Resolve Test which, if failed will bring Peril and Corruption. Speaking of which, there is also a handy reference guide for how much Corruption a Character may earn for different offenses, ranging from morally dubious to downright evil.


If a Character does succumb to his or her baser nature, they are likely to be assigned a Disorder by the GM, of which there is an uncomfortably complete listing here. Anything from becoming a hopeless drunkard to an arsonist is possible. But there are also Mutations to fear. Zweihander's GM section has made an exhaustive study of the ways in which your Characters can suffer.


Character Advancement is discussed, as well as some Optional directions it can take, at the GMs discretion.


There are optional rules for playing some of the "bad guys", or monster races which would not normally be allowed. Aztlan (Lizard Men), Grendel (Beastmen), Orx, and Skrzzak (Zweihander's analog to WFRP's iconic Skaven). This reminds me of a less humorous version of the Monsters! Monsters! supplement for Tunnels & Trolls. These races are given Attribute Bonuses and Traits. Each has the option of starting the game with a Mutation (a large table of which is located in the Appendices at the rear of this book).


Since Zweihander doesn't have an implied setting, there is a bit on world building. This addresses such subjects as Humanocentrism (remember, humans are the default race, barring GM fiat).


Different types of Rulership are detailed, for those wishing to flesh out their Fantasy sandbox with governments and kingdoms.


The faiths of Demihumans are briefly discussed, for those wishing to use and expand upon fantasy races in their game, as well as 11 alternative faiths which you can use.


The last part of Chapter 11 presents four "Campaign Seeds', which you can use as a springboard for your own world building. Each has a brief description, followed by three possible catalysts for drama..


The Enemy Within: possibilities for a campaign driven by internal strife


The Enemy Without: possibilities for a campaign beset by outside enemies


The Enemy Beyond: possibilities for a campaign faced with a supernatural enemy or enemies


Each Campaign seed also lists three possible Adventure Ideas.


The four Campaign seeds are:


-The Thirty Years' War: Europe, 1630. Embroiled in conflict and treachery


-Goth Moran Divided: This seems to be a quasi-medieval setting with lost of iintrigue, a la Game of Thrones.


-Gangs of Kahabro: Also set on the continent of Goth Moran, this appears to be a Grim & Perilous mash-up of The Warriors and Gangs of New York.


-The Lost Colony of Roanoke: Jamestown, 1691.


That finishes Chapter 11. My final thoughts are that Chapter 11 is a lengthy, well-written wellspring of solid practical information for the GM. This has covered almost all of the bases you are likely to ever need covered. The only omission I can see is maybe no rules for waterborne travel/encounters, or vehicular combat. Not that I'm complaining, and to be honest, I wouldn't be likely to use either one. But in a game that seems to include absolutely everything, some things are conspicuous by their absence.


Despite that, no one could ever accuse the author of attempting anything less than crafting one of the most inclusive core rulebooks I have ever seen.


I hope this has given y'all a decent overview of Chapter 11. Only two more to go. Next up is CHAPTER 12: BESTIARY. After that, the sample adventure CHAPTER 13: A BITTER HARVEST. Then a few words about the various Appendices, and we should be done with the Core Rulebook. Thanks for hanging in there!

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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
CHAPTER 12: BESTIARY


Okay, second to last chapter. And one of the most important. In many ways, your Characters' glory is no greater than their foes' infamy. No bard sings ballads recounting the deeds of Cedrik the Gopher Slayer. No, a true hero needs a mighty foe, or, better yet, around 150 foes. That's what you get here, at a rough count.


There is a reminder here that the Bestiary is for the GM's eyes only. I really appreciate that. I get that players want to immerse themselves in the game world, but that's also a great way to remove the mystery from the game, and reduce everything to a dull mathematical calculation.


Creatures in Zweihander fall into one of six classifications: Abyssal, Animal, Beast, Humanoid, Mutant and Supernatural. These come into play as certain types of Traits, Spells or Weapons may affect certain types but not others: or some types differently. Again, here, we can see the beating mathematical heart of Zweihander peeking through its ribcage. Almost everything in this game exists to bring some kind of balance into play. This is evident even in the Social Intrigue rules I mentined in my post about Chapter 11.


Every Creature is presented according to the following format:


-Name & Description


-Creature Profile, itself broken down into the following parts:


-Creature Size: dictates how many Fury Dice the Creature uses ti determine Combat Damage

-Primary Attributes: same as PCs

-Secondary Attributes: Initiative, Movement, Damage and Peril Thresholds, Parry and Dodge

-Risk factor: discussed in the previous chapter, this is expressed as a Tier, and further categorized into Low, Moderate and High. So, "Intermediate (High) would pose great risk to an Intermediate Character, but should still be within the Character's capabilities, if only just.

-Skill Ranks: a list of skills posessed by the Creature

-Attack Profile: the extended values for the Creature in question. Broken down into Melee & Ranged Waeapons, Distance & Load, and Damage & Qualities


-Traits: many of these Creatures have several, and that can make for some insidious and deadly enemies...


-Trappings


Here, a sidebar again reminds us of the dramatic value of keeping the players ignorant, and the Creatures mysterious and fearsome.


The Bestiary proper begins here, those lists of creatures wild and dangerous we have all seen before in many games. This one is particularly nice. It is, of course, comprehensive. And every creature has an accompanying illustration. This is one of the most profusely illustrated games I've ever seen, and I can't help but wonder if pictures were used to imply a setting in order to sidestep the risk of wandering into someone else's IP. If that is the case, it works. The numerous and consistent drawings throughout really create a visual reference that quickly becomes a part of the theater of Zweihander. But, I digress.


First up, we have the Abyssal reatures, those formed by Chaos and dark Magick. In this section, there are descriptions of various Fomori (Ogres distorted by Chaos into even more brutal and miserable beasts), various kinds of Demons and diablolical Creatures. These entries are thorough. Different types of creatures are detailed according to their origins, history and tendencies. Where appropriate, their societal structures are described. Then, the different types and sometimes subtypes of Creatures are listed and statted. There is a wealth of information here. These are not merely rows of numbers. These are well detailed descriptions, each with distinct characteristics and abilities that really make these more than merely "monster of the week" entries. The illustrations in the Abyssal section are detailed, grotesque and disturbingly asymmetrical.


The Animals section is next. This includes creatures great and small, but also "Primevals", which include Attercap Spiders (giant arachnids, natch), Dire Rat, "Howlbears" (hmmm, that sounds familiar but I can't quite place it...), Wargs and the like.


Next are those Creatures classified as Beasts. These include a lot of your classic fantasy monsters, suvh as Basilisk, Gryphon and Cnimaera. In this section, you'll see new Creatures, old favorites, and new takes on old favorites.


Following the Beasts are the Humanoids. These include one of the "evil" Ancestries listed as possible Player choices in the previous chapter, the Aztlan, who get the same treatment as Demons here, having every pertinent facet of their lives and societies detailed. In fact, they are given more detail than the Demihuman PC Ancestries! I hope there are future supplements detailing the "fantasy races" of Zweihander. I know the game is meant to be a more grim & gritty, humanocentric one, but sometimes I want to play a morally ambiguous Dwarf, too. Also in this section are Bandits, Ogre Mercenaries and a general motley crew of bipedal threats.


Next, we have Mutants. This section includes the Skrzzak, rat-men of the sewers, and doers of evil deeds. This section also details deadly and/or sentient plant life, Kobolds and Grendel (Zweihander's non-IP infringing version of WFRP's Beastmen).I'm kind of confused as to why the Skrzzak are "Mutants" and the Aztlan are "Humanoids". It's possible that either I missed something while reading, or that there is some WFRP-descended lore I'm missing out on here. More likely is that it's a matter of balance, so that there are a certain number of creatures under each Classification. I've noticed a few things like that in the game, and while they might bother your more literal-minded players (as it has one of mine, albeit slightly), but it's an agreeable trade off in my mind. All that aside, it's easy to see why the ratmen have become such an iconic foe in that other game, they are cool as hell. I'm already looking for excuses to use them in my own games.


Lastly, we have the Supernatural Creatures. These range from Fey, to Spirits (several types), to Vampires (also several types). There is a really great mix of the new, the iconic and the familar not only here, but throughout this chapter. There are some very neat and unexpected entries, like the Rakshasa. If this were published on its own, as a slim supplement, it would still rock hard.


The Chapter continues with CUSTOM CREATURES, which tells you how to scale the creatures in the book. In this way, you can weaken them into Underlings, beef them up into Bosses, or give them Magickal abilities.There are helpful examples, along with some neat spell list suitable for use by adherents of the alternative faiths in the previous Chapter.


Closing Chapter 12 is LOOT & LUCRE, a look at what one might hope to gain from robbery and theft of various sorts. This section contains over a dozen tables for treasures of various types so that you can quantify your Characters' ill-gotten gains.


Chapter 12 was easily one of the best in an already impressive book. It really takes this from being a "Core Rulebook" to being a gaming toolkit, and basically just nudged Zweihander over the line from "Awesome" to "Indispensable".


Next entry should be my last bit of reading, but I will stick around to answer questions or discuss the thread. We will be taking a look at the starting adventure and Appendices.


coming up: CHAPTER 13: A BITTER HARVEST

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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
CHAPTER 13: A BITTER HARVEST


Zweihander's final Chapter is A Bitter Harvest, an introductory scenario. I have seen reviewers sidestep this Chapter altogether, so as to avoid spoilers. And while I understand that, ABH deserves a little more attention.


At 30 pages, ABH is a full-length adventure. While many games are content to give you a six- or eight-page mini-adventure, ABH is fully realized and detailed, so much so that, like Chapter 12, it could easily be sold on its own as a worthwhile stand-alone purchase.


It is also worth mentioning that ABH is specifically written to teach new players to use the various rules within the book as a whole. Chase Scenes, Combat, Social Intrigue and Wilderness Encounters all get time in the spotlight here.


This is yet another example of the careful design that is evident in nearly every facet of this game. Nothing here feels slapdash. There is no sense that the introductory adventure was included as a mere obligation, in order to satisfy the expectations of gamers. ABH is a well-written, versatile module (I will never stop loving that term) that can be combat heavy, or light, according to Player actions. It can accommodate a variety of play styles, and features plenty of investigation as well as Combat. It's a story in ten parts, with as many relevant NPCs. Multiple outcomes are available, some leading to glory, and others to death.


Based on the Baltic Crusades, ABH is very much a "Grim & Perilous" adventure. But be warned, its thematic adaptation of the atrocities of war may be uncomfortable for some players.


Throughout ABH, there are sidebars with playtest notes, giving insight into multiple playtests, and therefore the myriad possibilities that may arise, depending on Players' actions and decisions. And these actions and decisions matter.


There are also guidelines for awarding reward points and/or reputation Points.


Overall. ABH is an excellent taste of what the designer intended to convey with Zweihander.


After this, there are a series of Appendices (8 in all). These are GM aids, for tracking the PCs' Damage, as well as things like Chase Scenes, Taints of Chaos and Combat Actions.


there is also a Character Sheet, in plain black & white lines, rather than the sepia tones I have seen on the official Character Sheet. Plain, but printer-friendly. Other than the lack of sepia/shading, the sheets are exactly the same.


An index, followed by an advertisement for Main Gauche, Zweihander's Chaos Supplement, are the last things in the book.



FINAL THOUGHTS



I now feel about Zweihander pretty much the same way I did a couple of Chapters in. It's a great (and I can now say fun) game, and an outstanding product, the experience of which is somewhat marred by its numerous editorial issues. Let me be clear here: the good FAR outweighs the bad (in fact, I have converted one of my groups to this game and am working on the other). And again, I don't want to harp or be nit-picky. But, if I didn't point out what I so obvious and unnecessary, and what others have also noted, this would not be an objective read-through/review.


I'm a big fan of the old Golden Heroes RPG. It had an interesting approach to Player/GM info. Both books featured the same subjects, in the same chapter sequence. Players read their book, while GMs were instructed to read both, first reading a chapter in the Players' Book, then reading the corresponding and more detailed section in the Script Supervisor's (GM's) Book, then moving in to the next chapter in the Players' Book and repeating until finished. That' the best approach I've ever seen. and I'm surprised that more games don't do it. A game of such imposing size as Zweihander would have benefitted greatly from such an approach. As it is, information can sometimes be hard to find in the book. It doesn't make it unplayable by any means, but it's a bit more work than it should be at times. Especially when the system itself is as elegant, intuitive and ultimately simple as this one is. Add to this the typos, and I have to give Zweihander some low marks in an otherwise glowing appraisal. If it sounds like I'm being hard on Zweihander, I am. The book is big, not cheap, and is now in its 3rd printing. I understand that it costs money to revise a book's layout. But what works here (which is everything else) is so damn good that what doesn't work is painfully glaring. You wouldn't build Ferrari, only to let some dude paint it with a spray can and slap the medallions on haphazardly, then send it through inspection, where it gets dismissively waved through by a guy reading a paperback. That example is too extreme, but you get my point.


To be fair, the author is aware of and has owned these issues (and others) in interviews I have heard. And, as I said, it doesn't interfere with play. At all. What it does do is have me reading, re-reading, flipping back and forth and consulting the game's Discord community for clarification. But, this is a first effort by an author who was new to writing and game publishing when Zweihander first burst into the public consciousness. I am hopeful that future releases will remedy these issues. And besides, if poor editing were a bar to entry, there'd be no RPG hobby, let's face it.



When I started this read-through, I knew next to nothing about the game, or about WFRP. Now that I have finished, I know a lot more about Zweihander, and a little more about WFRP. I can now say that Zweihander is an excellent game, written by someone with an obvious love of roleplaying and fantasy, who went the extra mile in researching and crafting a solid and exquisitely balanced set of mechanics onto what began life as a retro-clone/fan update of WFRP 2e. And while many retro-clones/heartbreakers/whatever (I'm still not sure I understand what these terms mean) update or streamline their predecessor's mechanics, few have done it in such a complete and meaningful way. Everything about Zweihander feels deliberate and precise, like hefting a finely crafted two-handed sword (and it ain't much lighter, neither).


In play, it's a fast-moving game with meaningful consequences. Easy to learn, but with a surprising tactical depth, which manages to allow for an astounding number of player options without going over its Encumbrance Capacity (I have yet to try any of the Optional Combat rules, however). Remember that "sweet spot" I mentioned in my first post? This is pretty much it.


As for Zweihander's "lack of setting", it seems to me that the author has used descriptive text, TONS of illustrations (one of the most profusely illustrated games I've ever seen) and more than enough background to give me a very clear sense of the game "world", while allowing room for any GM to make it their own, or simply port the mechanics over to whatever "grimdark" setting they choose.


IN SUMMATION


What Zweihander is:

-fast and smooth in play

-flexible

-fun

-challenging, with a meaningful tactical foundation

-well-balanced

-extremely well-made (physical product)

-beautiful (presentation)

-grim, gritty and mature (for an elfgame lol)


What Zweihander isn't

-well-edited


Overall, I'mma have to put it solidly in the "win" column. Without question.


if you are interested in Zweihander, you can check out the official website for the game here:

https://grimandperilous.com/

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Wed Sep 18, 2019 6:56 pm
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
My understanding is a "fantasy heart-breaker" refers to an RPG created by a fan, typically modifying a published rules set with a host of house rules to make it the perfect RPG for the author. It's a heart-breaker because the odds of the general public embracing the game are small. All that work and it will just break your heart in the end, but you do it anyway because you can't help yourself.

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Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:41 pm
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Ulthal
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Post Re: Zweihänder Revised Core Rulebook read-through
Buttmonkey wrote:
My understanding is a "fantasy heart-breaker" refers to an RPG created by a fan, typically modifying a published rules set with a host of house rules to make it the perfect RPG for the author. It's a heart-breaker because the odds of the general public embracing the game are small. All that work and it will just break your heart in the end, but you do it anyway because you can't help yourself.


That would have been my understanding as well, but some people have VERY strict definitions of the term, and I will probably avoid using it in the future because, man, some people really have some feels over it.

On a different note, I'll be doing a read-through of Main Gauche, the Chaos Supplement for Zweihander, in a different thread soon. And maybe a deeper dive into the alternate combat rules in this thread. Maybe.

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Sun Sep 29, 2019 3:50 am
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