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[Let's Read] Zweihander Grim & Perilous RPG Revised Core Rulebook


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Yeah again, if memory serves, your Attribute Bonus can increase through XP expenditure from your Careers, etc, but your actual Attributes remain as is after Character generation (they may be affected by injuries, curses, etc but it's rare that they increase after initial Character generation).
Yep, you've got it. It's the Attribute Bonus that gets advanced as character progress, and not that actually Attribute that increases (generally).


Back Off the Buddha!
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All skills are based on the Attributes. And you can increase skills by 10 to 20% each.


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Yep - rolls on Skills are based on the actual Attribute (as a %) plus a bonus for the Skill level. There's actually three levels of Skill advancement, each getting you a +10% bonus to the Skill roll.

The Attribute Bonus gets used for other things than the Skill rolls, and can get advanced as well.

So, Combat - the Attribute - forms the core for the four combat skills (Simple and Martial for Melee and Ranged). The Combat Bonus gets used for, among other things, the bonus to the damage roll in combat (generally it's CB + 1d6 Fury die) ... but getting ahead of the WIR.

I like the way Zweihander handles Attribute vs. Attribute Bonus, but it did take me a little bit for it click with me.


Back Off the Buddha!
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I like it too. There is no weighing up increasing the attribute instead of skills to see which is better. If you want to succeed more, advance skills. If you want to increase the effect of the attribute, advance the bonus.


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Combat 45 [5]
Brawn 55 [5]
Agility 50 [4]
Perception 47 [5]
Intelligence 40 [5]
Willpower 42 [3]
Fellowship 37 [2]

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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Question, since some of you seem familiar with the system. Again, not trynna beat a dead horse, but I just want to make sure I'm presenting this information correctly:

During chargen, I calculated Gühm's Primary Attributes, as well as his Attribute Bonuses. Once I rolled his Ancestral Trait of Natural Selection, I increased his Brawn to 55%. Brawn was not one of the Attributes affected by his Ancestral Modifiers. So, let's say I had instead decided to increase his Comat Attribute to 55%. The Ancestral Trait is determined after Primary Attributes and Ancestral Modifiers are determined. So, would the order be:

1. Determine Primary Attributes
2. Assign Ancestral Modifiers
3. Increase 1 Attribute to 55%, and raise that Attribute's Attribute Modifier accordingly

...which is what I have done, and assume to be correct.

...or, would I:

1. 1. Determine Primary Attributes
2. Assign Ancestral Modifiers
3. Increase 1 Attribute to 55%, and raise that Attribute's Attribute Modifier accordingly, in this case, Combat (hypothetically)
4. Increase [CB] to 6, because of the Ancestral Modifier of +1

...I'm assuming it's the first, and that any Attributes raised after the calculation of Ancestral Modifiers, do not affect Attribute Bonuses? Am I reading that right? Because it doesn't say anything about raising the Attribute Bonus to reflect the increased Attribute after increasing the attribute. Not trying to min/max or anything, I just want to make sure I've got this right.


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I generally allow the player to apply the result of an Ancestral Trait (like the mentioned raise Attribute to 55%), determine the resulting base Attribute bonus, and then apply the Ancestral Modifier. My thinking - which is just mine, wearing my fine GM hat, is (1) I feel it lets the character model the higher Attribute appropriately, (2) is pre-career advancement, where the differences (advancing a bonus vs. skill) play out, and (3) while min-max-ish, is likely the last kind break the character will see.


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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:

Effect: Whenever you roll Chaos Dice to determine if you Injure a foe and fail to do so, move one step down the Peril Condition Track negatively while suffering 1 Corruption
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:
No god has fed your belly or filled your mug, nor will they make you stand on your feet or open your eyes in the morning. You are aggressively self-reliant and resistant to the manipulation of those who would have you bend your knee to an invisible man in the sky.
Chaos: Hatred
The anger you barely contain explodes at inopportune times, burning all those close to you, both friend and foe alike. As such, you are likely to inspire hatred in those who have felt your abuse and seemingly calm situations may spiral out of control due to your impulses.
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:

At the end of every game session, the GM will roll a 1D10 Corruption Die to see if the effects psychologically scar your Character. If the result on the Corruption Die is equal to
or less than the total Corruption you accumulated during this game session, you will increase your Chaos Rank by one step. If the result is more than the total Corruption
you accumulated during the session, it increases your Order Rank by one step instead. If you instead have no Corruption, simply improve your Order Rank by one step. However, if for some reason you earned in excess of 10 Corruption that game session, increase your Chaos Rank instead by one step automatically and roll against the remainder to see if you gain an additional Chaos Rank. You can never gain both an Order and a Chaos Rank in the same game session. After rolling, erase the amount of Corruption you gained that game session, resetting it at zero for the next gamesession. Additional rules governing Corruption can be found in Chapter 11: Game Mastery.
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.


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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Silvercat Moonpaw

Quadruped Transhuman
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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.
Hm. Think I'm going to have to steal that for d20 games.
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