- ZWEIHÄNDER Grim & Perilous RPG is a bloodier, grimmer and grittier version of classic tabletop role-playing games you may already familiar with. The community calls this style of gaming the pathetic aesthetic, but we simply call it grim & perilous gaming.
As advertised, it is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game, one where adventurers will:
- Live in a gritty, ‘realistic’ fantasy world
- Make morally grey decisions & enact vicious reprisals
- Uncover insidious plots & political intrigue
- Desperately fight in clandestine & open field combat
- Defend themselves from injuries, madness & mutations
- Take part in heart-pumping chase scenes
- Venture into the wilderness & survive its perils
- Encounter sanity-blasting creatures & their minions
Using the classical D100 system, with ZWEIHÄNDER RPG you will create grim characters, write perilous adventures and build low fantasy & dark fantasy campaigns. These rules are perfectly suitable to run Renaissance and medieval-styled adventures, too. You can also use this book to craft homebrew stories set in the works of Andrzej Sapkowski, George R.R. Martin, Glen Cook, Scott Lynch and other ‘grimdark’-inspired worlds.
This all-in-one game includes most of what you need to play: a character creation guide, game mastery rules and a bestiary brimming with creatures both fair & foul. All that’s left to gather are a few friends, pencils and a handful of dice.
ZWEIHÄNDER awaits, and the fate of your grim & perilous tale hangs in the balance!
Tropes associated with Zweihänder include:
NOTE: all the tropes of WFRP's parent setting, Warhammer, apply here as well.
- Absurdly Low Level Cap: Tiers are the closest thing to levels in Zweihänder, and the maximum is three.
- Armour Is Useless: It most definitively is not, but fat chance you'll ever see any besides (if you're lucky) your starting padded skullcap and that rusty piece of moth-ridden chainmail you nabbed off that bandit.
- According to the rules, chainmail or plate armour give 1 armour point that stacks with Brawn Bonus (natural resilience) that is a 4 for an average adventurer. This means that average guy in munitions plate armor is as just resilient as ripped warrior naked (unless they suffer an Injury, wherein the ripped, naked warrior begins to Bleed to death). Leather armour was useless against anything but lightest attacks (think fisticuffs).
- Black Comedy: A lot of it all around.
- Body Horror: Chaos corrupts; what drives the point home better than waking up one day with a face growing out of your armpit? When fighting in Wytchstone tainted environment, don't breathe in.
- Captain Ersatz: The gods of Zweihänder are basically the gods of the Warhammer world, without the names. (See Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep" below.)
- Critical Hit: "Fury!"
- There's also a page of critical hit effects once you move down each step on the 'Damage Condition Track, including an epic 16+ page version written by a medical professional adapted to ZWEIHÄNDER with quite a few eye-watering effects that makes Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay/Dark Heresy's tables look like a walk in the park by comparison.
- Critical Failure: A critical failure during spell casting may summon Daemons of Chaos, render you impotent, render you and your party and your distant relatives impotent, or merely give you an insanity point. Guns tend to simply blow up. In general, rolling a natural 100 or a high multiple of 11 on any skill test will result in a critical failure as well. (A natural 01 or a low multiple of 11 will instead result in a critical success.)
- Crapsack World: The game doesn't advertise itself as "grim and perilous" for nothing.
- Door Stopper: As shown in the page image, the core rulebook is enormous.
- Darker and Edgier: By design, as shown in the page quote.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Skrazzak civilization is based around dedication to their mothers, with each female becoming the new Hive Queen of an entire tribe.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The gods are known only by such names as "The Custodian," "The God-Emperor," "The Winter King," etc.
- Deadpan Snarker: Nevermind characters and NPCs, the core rulebook can get in on the snark.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Averted. If your characters encounter things like Greater Demons or Pit Dragons, then your characters will die. Period.The Greater Demons of the Abyss are living symbols of the futility of fighting chaos. Their might is unmatched. Their threat is limitless. Each and every one of these foul beings have the power to bring low the greatest of mortal heroes.
- Evil Virtues: All the Chaotic races, minus Formor, have some pretty positive cultural traits (Orx are brave and community-minded, Beastfolk loathe rape and accept outcastes, and Skrazzak are utterly dedicated to their queens).
- Gang Bangers: The campaign seed Gangs of Kahabro adds the option of roleplaying medieval 'Work Gangs'.
- Gold–Silver–Copper Standard: Zweihänder has a similar monetary system, albeit based on Old British Money: 12 copper pennies to the silver shilling, 20 silver shillings to the gold crown. Confusing as hell for anyone who grew up with decimalized money (basically everyone who isn't a Brit or an Irishman born before the mid-60's)
- The Greatest Story Never Told: The city's rat catchers are the first line of defense against evil ratmen, the Skave...err Skrzzak, who are plotting to conquer the world. They brave the medieval sewers, full of diseases and instant death, armed with little more than clubs and a small (but vicious) dog, all for below minimum wage. They've learnt long ago to not mention it to the people on the surface, on fear of ridicule. Most thankless job ever.
- Green Rocks: Wytchstone. Used in the creation of more powerful magickal items and ritual circles, including the disease-curing panacea.
- Guns Are Worthless: Zigzagged. Guns are extremely deadly if they hit — which reflects in their extremely high purchase price; your average PC will be lucky if he ever sees one. However, the operative words are if they hit. Firearms technology being reminiscent of 16th-century Europe, guns are not noted for their accuracy.
- Going Cosmic: The expansion book "Dark Astral" provides rules for science-fiction campaigns in the vein of Dark Heresy and other Warhammer 40K role-playing games.
- Karma Houdini: As soon as either your Order or your Chaos Ranks reach 10, both are usually reset to 0. In effect, any Chaos ranks you may have accrued before getting Order rank 10 (or vice versa) are erased.
- Karma Meter: Corruption is basically a reverse Karma Meter, indicating how chaotic your character's behavior has been over the course of one play session. At the end of the session, each player gets either one Order Rank, which are a more direct form of Karma, if their Corruption was low enough; or one or more Chaos Ranks if their Corruption was high enough. As players accrue more and more Order and Chaos Ranks, they gain either additional Fate Points or horrific addictions, insanities, or mutations.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Launched as soon as a player gains either 10 Order Ranks or 10 Chaos Ranks.
- Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Generally averted. Magic powers don't grow in potency and the spells you get are about in line with the average damage output of most other classes at the same experience amount. And while warriors may be limited to 'hit stuff with sword' as opposed to 'call down lightning from the heavens', 'hit stuff with sword' won't end up with the warrior causing accidental self-sterilization, permanent insanity, strange weather phenomena, witch-signs, repeat offender of curdling the party ale, summoning demons, and being treated to a rousing game of Burn the Witch! by the party priest of Sig... um, the God-Emperor... and/or anyone else within earshot.
- Luck Manipulation Mechanic: Fate points grant you a 'get out of jail free' card. A session-based allotment of 'fortune points' can be used to re-roll your dice, although every fortune point spent gives the GM a "misfortune point" to spend as they please...
- Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Or rather, With A Little Luck My Shield Will Allow Me To Parry This And Survive Another Round
- Made of Plasticine: Not as bad as Dark Heresy due to the lower power levels, but there is some nasty stuff on the critical hit tables with the highest level cleaving the offending body part right off/right in two.
- Mana: For Archmages or Elementalists, high Corruption respectively restricts spellcasting or prohibits it altogether, causing their Karma Meter to double as a Mana Meter.
- Mutants: The presence of Moorcock-inspired Chaos mutants is a feature that set ZWEIHÄNDER and its contemporary WFRP apart from many other fantasy wargame/role-playing systems — and here, they're given all the gory detail they deserve. Being a mutant means everything from being a complete cripple, to merely being an ugly human, to becoming a freak powerful enough to put most X-Men to shame, and everything in between.
- 1-Up: The Fate Points. Burn one and you get to survive an event that otherwise would kill you by some extraordinary quirk of fate.
- Running Gag: Any references to ratcatchers or the ratcatcher career will always mention their most important trapping: The small (but vicious) dog.
- Sanity Meter: Just saw a particularly grisly murder scene? Turned out that filthy hobo that stole the countess' silverware was a chaos mutant and just revealed it in front of you? Happen to be, or stand close to, a wizard (or an elf) for an extended period of time? It's Corruption time! Hope you like crippling alcoholism, mandrake addiction, kleptomania, delusions of grandeur or any other number of not-so-funny-anymore medieval mental illnesses, because you'll be stuck with it for the rest of your career.
- Shout-Out: Too many to count, especially in the Professions section. The official name for the Smuggler's professional trait, for example, is "Häns shot first."
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: As noted, cynical. Although not as cynical as say, 40k. The random roles system will provide players with less of a party of adventurers than a band of ugly thugs. Combat is brutal and a high-risk affair, a misroll during spell casting may consign your soul to hell. Firearms (of the general arquebus variety) are similarly risky; a misfire can easily kill a low to medium level character. More likely, however, is a misfire that destroys the weapon and all its ammunition... and that is pretty likely, but you can still earn your happy ending. The world may be doomed, but the village behind yon hill can still be saved.
- Torches and Pitchforks: A very real threat to most adventurers. When your insanities grow too grotesque, when your mutations grow too hideous, or when the peasants find out that you have a wizard (or worse, an elf) in your party; the mob awaits!
- Total Party Kill: Very easy to achieve for a GM, without even trying. A few monsters — like Dragons and Greater Demons — are basically statted only so a GM can use them to cause this.
- Vancian Magic: Obeys the first law, but not the second and third laws. Also comes with the caveat that every spell has at a chance of driving the caster insane, causing chaos manifestations or bringing down divine punishment, successful or not (the more dice you roll to cast a spell, the greater the chance).