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

Broda

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Hm. Think I'm going to have to steal that for d20 games.
It's pretty unique. The in-game idea is that immersion is key to learning languages. However, there are no real rules for or mention of languages beyond this. No list. And while that certainly isn't a must, I'm left wondering why, given Zweihänder's near-omnipresent "more is more" ethos. I assume it's for the same reason that the Demihuman races aren't given more than a few paragraphs during Character Creation: lack of implied setting, e.g., need to stay out of arm's reach of Games Workshop's IP. This stuff would be easy enough to bolt on from homebrew or GW resources, I guess. And Zweihänder's "not all demihumans are the same" deal works fine for me, anyway. But for those wanting more detailed non-human, yet playable, races, you may be left wanting.
 

Broda

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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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Broda

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Edit: accidental double post, plus I made some changes, and wrote a whole lot more here. Sorry.
 
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Broda

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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 BigJackBrass BigJackBrass 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!
 

Makrakken

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"Did the author and other contributors have such familiarity with WFRP that they were unable to write from the perspective of a WFRP noob?"

You may have hit the nail on the head there. Zweihänder started life several years ago as a rules revision/revamp of 2nd Edition WFRP with some 1st Edition spice thrown in.

It was developed (or developments were shared) on the now sadly departed Strike-to-Stun forums, dedicated to Warhammer Role-Playing in all of its forms. It was originally called Corehammer & even ended up with its own sub-forum there as Daniel developed his ruleset.

As such, most of the readers over there were old-school grognards (myself included), some of whom may even have been playtesters for the 1st Edition - so knowledge of the various WFRP systems, common houserules, etc, was a given.

Hence, as you suggested, may well explain some of the more esoteric, unfathomable, rarefied & obscure text found in Zweihänder.
 

Broda

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"Did the author and other contributors have such familiarity with WFRP that they were unable to write from the perspective of a WFRP noob?"

You may have hit the nail on the head there. Zweihänder started life several years ago as a rules revision/revamp of 2nd Edition WFRP with some 1st Edition spice thrown in.

It was developed (or developments were shared) on the now sadly departed Strike-to-Stun forums, dedicated to Warhammer Role-Playing in all of its forms. It was originally called Corehammer & even ended up with its own sub-forum there as Daniel developed his ruleset.

As such, most of the readers over there were old-school grognards (myself included), some of whom may even have been playtesters for the 1st Edition - so knowledge of the various WFRP systems, common houserules, etc, was a given.

Hence, as you suggested, may well explain some of the more esoteric, unfathomable, rarefied & obscure text found in Zweihänder.
Thanks. Well, I did say I was hoping to bring a fresh set of eyes to this. I'm not sure I've seen anyone dissect this who doesn't have experience with some iteration of WFRP. It may have happened, I just haven't seen it.

I do like the system so far. I may be playing in an online game soon, so I can see how it plays.

I'm toying with the idea of introducing it to one of my regular groups, made up of roleplaying newbies. We've been playing Labyrinth Lord, but the feedback I'm getting is that they'd like to concentrate more on non-combat settings. A skill-based system such as this might be just the thing.
 
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Broda

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I wouldn't have minded seeing the Professions grouped by Archetype, however, if only to make it easier to consider career switch options. Would cut down on having to flip through the flip through the book.
 

Skywalker

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It may reduce book flipping a little when making a PC but it would increase book flipping a lot more thereafter. Given the default character generation is by random roll, alphabetical order is a much better choice IMO
 

Broda

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It may reduce book flipping a little when making a PC but it would increase book flipping a lot more thereafter. Given the default character generation is by random roll, alphabetical order is a much better choice IMO
I was thinking more about switching Professions, when you'll likely be staying in the same Archetype, unless you go into an Expert Profession.
 

Skywalker

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There is no requirement (or incentive) to stay within an Archetype when switching Professions. You move to whatever makes the most sense at the time.
 
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