Sunday, 24 March 2019

Echoes and Reverberations 6: Zweihänder

This is the sixth in a series of posts on the various 'dark Eurofantasy' RPGs that appeared in the wake of the abrupt demise of WFRP 2nd edition. Like Shadow of the Demon Lord, Zweihänder started life as someone's attempt to write their own personal 'WFRP 2.5', pointedly taking a completely different direction to the one chosen by FFG for the official WFRP 3rd edition. (The game's author, Daniel Fox, described WFRP 3 as 'sugar-coated' and 'too much like D&D'.) It began back in 2013, as an attempt to create a WFRP retroclone called 'Project COREhammer' on the Strike to Stun forum - but swiftly grew into a game in its own right, boosted by a successful kickstarter campaign in 2016, and in 2018 it won the Best Game award at the Ennies. You used to be able to get a free no-art version of the game from Drivethrurpg, but that seems to have vanished now. I've only read the 688-page (!) free version, so it's possible that some changes have been made between this and the latest (674-page) version of the game.

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Zweihänder is basically what happens when someone's document of house rules for WFRP 2 gets so big that it turns into its own game. It addresses all the standard complaints that people have been making (and house-ruling) about WFRP since the 1980s, like 'why are some careers so much better than others?', 'how come a naked dwarf can ignore getting hit in the face with a battleaxe?', 'why does the game have all these stats that barely ever get used?', and the ever-popular 'why do I miss so fucking much in combat'?

In Zweihänder, every career offers the same number of skill and stat increases. The number of ability scores has been condensed down to seven. Numbers are higher across the board, making PCs more likely to succeed at whatever they're currently attempting. The combat and damage system has been rewritten: WFRP's system of wound points and critical hits has been replaced with a series of damage thresholds that forces players to roll on ever-more severe injury tables depending on how much damage they've taken, while combat now involves each character receiving three 'action points' per round, which they can choose to use to move, attack, perform special manoeuvres, and so on. Every monster comes with a sheaf of special rules, D&D 4 style, to make sure that fights will play out differently depending on the specific combatants involved. It all looks like a lot of work to me, but I'm very lazy about these things, and tend to lose patience with combat systems more complex than 'roll WS or under on 1d100 to stab the goblin in the face'. The same 'rules for everything' approach can be seen in the game's rules for social interactions, chases, wilderness travel, and just about everything else. A game that actually used all these rules would be far too heavy for my tastes, but I suspect that most groups will just mix and match, just like in every other RPG.

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All of these are the kind of WFRP house rules that I can imagine a group making in the late 1980s, probably shortly after being exposed to GURPS, and represent a continuation of the changes that WFRP 2 made to WFRP 1. However, Zweihänder also includes some more 'modern' elements of game design. The four most important of these are Peril, Corruption, Fortune, and Professional Traits.

Peril is the way that the game tracks stress, fatigue, and all those other negative effects that fall short of actual injury. As you gain more Peril, your skills become less effective; if the Peril just keeps coming, then eventually you reach the point where you're so wrecked that you automatically fail at everything you attempt. I like the idea of this: I've written before about how I wish D&D had better ways of modelling the impact of hunger, exhaustion, cold, fear, and all the other cumulative stresses of the adventuring life, and I like the elegance of rolling them all together into a single mechanic that can cover everything from choking a guy out to someone being so terrified that they become totally non-functional, rather than trying to model them all separately.

What I'm less convinced by is the specific effects of Peril, namely disabling your skill ranks and pushing everyone steadily towards the level of untrained amateurs. If anything, I'd expect the reverse: the guy who's performed a task a thousand times before is precisely the one who's going to be able to perform it under crisis conditions, because even if his mind is currently blank with panic his hands are still going to remember what to do, whereas the half-trained amateur who relies on conscious knowledge rather than muscle memory might manage just fine under normal conditions, but is likely to be useless under pressure. It'd be easy to flip this, though, so that skill ranks were the last thing rather than the first thing to go as the Peril piles on.

Corruption seems to have grown out of WFRP's insanity point system. Anything likely to cause trauma - suffering serious injuries, witnessing horrible events, channeling weird magic, collapsing under a huge mass of Peril, etc - inflicts Corruption points. Using drugs and alcohol to temporarily blunt the effects of injuries, Peril, madness, or diseases also inflicts Corruption, as your short-term remedies exert a long-term toll on your mind and body: a brilliant bit of game design that I wish I'd thought of myself. At the end of every session you roll 1d10 and compare it to your Corruption score: equal or less means you gain 1 'chaos rank', higher means you gain one 'order rank'. (If you gained more than 10 in a single session, you get one chaos rank automatically for each ten points and then roll again against whatever's left.) Ten chaos ranks earns you a disorder. Ten order ranks earns you a fate point.

Where it gets weird is that Corruption also serves as the game's morality system. Corruption points are given out for evil actions, meaning that a PC who keeps being bad will go crazy just as fast as one who keeps getting traumatised, and a PC who does both will go mad twice as fast as either. This really does strike me as an attempt to make the same mechanic do two not-very-compatible things at once: and if I were using the system I'd be very tempted to decouple Corruption from fate points, and to reserve it for actions and experiences that caused mental strain, regardless of their moral status.

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Fortune points are just reroll tokens. You can use them whenever you want, but then you have to hand them to the GM to use against you whenever they want. I'm really not sure about this: when I GM, it's very important to me that I try to run the world impartially. I think you'd need a very clear 'gentleman's agreement' between players and GM about whether the GM's tokens were to be used to make the game more interesting or more deadly, as otherwise I can imagine a lot of bad feeling being generated the first time the GM uses a bunch of fortune tokens to turn a trivial injury into a mortal wound.

Professional Traits are unique abilities that each career - sorry, 'profession' - grants to its members. Each profession grants exactly one special ability, and everyone who joins that profession gets it: so all Footpads can sneak attack, all Ratcatchers can speak to rats (yes, really), and so on. Some of these are really, really specific: Investigators, for example, get an ability called 'True Detective' that allows you to have visions, granting you extra clues 'when Intoxicated or under the effects of Deliriants', i.e. you are Rust Cohle. (Hope you didn't want to play any other sort of investigator instead!) I understand the desire to give the professions a bit more mechanical differentiation, but these traits strike me as needlessly narrow, and I probably wouldn't use them myself. I'm quite happy for each profession to just serve as a bundle of skill and stat increases.

Zweihänder's attitude towards its setting is a bit perplexing. It presents itself as a setting-agnostic toolkit suitable for use in any kind of low fantasy early modern setting, including seventeenth-century Earth, but its gods, monsters, and magic system have all been straightforwardly borrowed from WFRP. They're all here: orcs, skaven, Sigmar, Ulric, daemonettes, fimir, zoats, dragon ogres, slann, bog octopi, chaos dwarves, the chaos gods, the winds of magic... the entire Warhammer bestiary and cosmology, just with changed names and slightly modified descriptions. (Even mostly-forgotten oddities like WFRP's gnomes make the cut - as a PC race, no less!) Some of the changes are quite inventive, like the idea that goblins started out as chaos-tainted human children, but mostly they just look as though they've been subjected to tokenistic rewrites for copyright purposes. The bestiary gets most interesting when it goes furthest off-script: I liked its various giant intelligent animals, and I loved the idea of an order of jackal-headed vampire knights who use their long, forked tongues to drink the blood of their enemies. The vast majority of it, however, consists of straightforward Warhammer expies, clearly intended to allow published WFRP adventures to be run using Zweihänder with a minimum of fuss.


The Zweihänder core rulebook also includes an adventure, called 'A Bitter Harvest', which is essentially a rather grim historical adventure in flimsy fantasy drag. (The author even notes that it was inspired by an incident from the Baltic Crusades.) The PCs find themselves stuck in a village as raiders approach: the same raiders who attacked the village years before, abducting all the women and children who were hiding in a cave nearby, and carrying them off as slaves. But all is not as it seems: the leading men of the village actually sold the location of the cave to the raiders in exchange for being left alone, and one of the captured women - who was enslaved by the raider's leader, but has since come to effectively control the warband - now leads the raiders back towards the village in search of revenge on the men who sold them out. The roads have been cut, so the PCs need to find some way of resolving the situation, probably by uncovering the village's true past and leveraging what they've learned in order to buy it some kind of future.

This is a good adventure, filled with a rich tangle of interpersonal relationships, and the moment when the PCs discover what the 'heroes' of the previous battle actually did in order to get rid of the raiders should come as a genuine shock. The parts leading up to the siege are very linear, but the way in which the PCs resolve the main situation is left completely open, accommodating everything from the PCs assassinating the woman leading the raiders to them joining her in her search for revenge. (How often do you see that in published adventures?) That said, I had two issues with it. The first is that this is heavy stuff, much heavier than the standard-issue cultist-whacking that makes up most WFRP adventures. Not all groups are going to be comfortable unravelling a community's history of trauma and sexual violence, especially when there's no cathartic moment where you stab the bad people and make all the problems go away. The second is that, as I've indicated, this is barely a fantasy scenario at all. Supposedly the raiders are orcs (although they don't really act like it), and supposedly the woman has established control over them by dosing their food with alchemical potions, but this is little more than fancy dress, largely irrelevant to the real story. If your group plays fantasy RPGs for stories of magic and monsters, rather than sad stories of human weakness, then this might not quite fit the bill.

Overall, while I quite liked Zweihänder, I felt that it was aiming at a terribly small target market: people who had enough issues with WFRP that they weren't happy to just carry on playing WFRP 2, but who still liked it enough that they weren't prepared to abandon it for Shadow of the Demon Lord or D&D 5 or OSR D&D instead. That seems an awfully specific demographic of players... but, then again, Zweihänder is now an 'adamantium bestseller' on DrivethruRPG, so maybe there are a lot more of them than I thought. If you like the core ideas behind WFRP but want a more balanced career system and more options in combat, then give it a look. But main takeaways from it was that any WFRP-style system would probably benefit from some kind of 'peril track' to record just how tired, hungry, cold, sick, scared, and miserable everyone currently is, and that the world needs more jackal-headed vampire knights with serpentine tongues.

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48 comments:

  1. I got the free pdf, but I don't see any future in which I might ever learn this game. At 581 pages it's just too big.

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    1. You got off lightly. The version I read was almost 700 pages!

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  2. As a player, I've never been a fan of mechanics that reduce PCs skill levels, except in certain very specific games. For a horror narrative about things happening to your PCs they're a good fit, but for games primarily about your PCs doing things, I usually find having my ability to influence the course of events steadily decline as the plot gets closer to the critical moment frustrating.

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    1. It's tricky, isn't it? You want a sense of the death spiral, of things getting more and more desperate as the situation deteriorates, but at the same time you have to avoid deprotagonising the players by reducing them to a state of such helplessness that they have no meaningful decisions left to make. I think that my favourite option is to bring in a third resource which players usually don't want to spend, and creating situations where stress is affecting skill so badly that the third resource ends up being drawn upon freely, even recklessly, in order to counterbalance it, thus creating a suitable air of desperation while still permitting PCs to actually do stuff.

      A classic example would be the relationship between powers, blood, and humanity in Vampire. On a normal night you have no trouble getting enough blood to fuel your powers without risking humanity. But as the situation gets more desperate, your blood pool wanes, and your powers get harder to use, at the very moment when you probably need them most. So eating random bystanders starts to look awfully tempting - but that means sacrificing your humanity for a short-term tactical advantage. It all becomes a very clear parable about the ways in which people make moral compromises under conditions of extreme pressure.

      Zweihänder gestures towards this, with the idea of letting PCs buy off Peril at the cost of Corruption. As mentioned, I'm not really a fan of the Corruption rules themselves, but the basic idea of people sacrificing their long-term mental wellbeing to get through short-term crises seems like a pretty good fit for the genre.

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    2. I found I like the traditional WFRP solution best: some critical hits that have terrible side effects but you still may have some Fate points or whatever to bust out. Then at the end, youre a hot mess with no rerolls....

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  3. I started off as a staunch supporter of this game but the not so fantastic Mr Fox's viral marketing soured me on it. Sockpuppeting, posting any and all news olabout 4e on his site, spreading incredible rumours about Cubicle 7 losing the license, inserting Zweihander into many WFRP discussions and even being banned from rpg.net for shilling non stop. In fact I challenge you to find a WFRP community without some mysterious figure shilling Zweihander.

    My understanding is that the reason it has such a high rating on drive thru is that its publsher has gamed the algorithms by altering its price a lot. But that's all hearsay and sadly WFRP 4 has made Zweihander somewhat redundant. As you also note a lot of it is WFRP with the serial numbers filed off and no real sense of identity. There aren't really any Zweihander adventures that r campaigns much less settings other than a Zweihander in the 40th millennium chapbook.

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    1. I remember the marketing blitz. Sadly, it seems to have worked, what with the Ennie win and all.

      I struggle to believe that Zweihänder was ever meant to be anything other than a heap of WFRP house rules. There's no attempt to develop a setting, because everyone knows you'll just be using the Old World. No attempt to write adventures, because everyone knows you'll just be running The Enemy Within. And so on. But heaps of house rules only look attractive when enough people are discontented with the base rules, and for WFRP I'm not sure that's currently the case.

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    2. A lot of publishers are complaining about how easy the ENNies are distorted, so given the sockpuppeting and gerrymandering I wouldn't place too much value in Zweihander's Ennie win. Have you ever bought something just because it's won an Ennie?

      Oh and I believe a Bitter Harvest started life as a WFRP scenario. I know the author and I vaguely remember him saying he didn't get paid for writing it. Other than a free copy.

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    3. No, I haven't. But it's a bit disturbing if someone can just sockpuppet their way to victory.

      I do get the sense that Zweihander is, in some respects, a little game pretending to be a big game. It's mostly just one writer and one artist, isn't it? Slurping up free adventures rather than paying for your own original content would certainly fit in with that.

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  4. I probably would have been in the demographic (in fact I bought the book) but then WFRP 4 came out and solved that issue but dealing with my main concerns (why am I missing all the time?). My other main concern is having a group to play with but that's a different issue...

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    1. All these games seem to be competing over slices of a very small pie, don't they? It's a good thing gamers buy so many games that they don't actually need...

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    2. Shhhhhh - don’t tell my wife.

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  5. Corruption from magic and evil acts is right out of Ravenloft and Masque of the Red Death. Only 6 levels, but having their PC transform into a NPC monster (as in undead thing, lycanthrope or something more horrific) isn't usually the goal of many players.

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    1. Corruption in Zweihander is mostly a source of derangements. Apparently doing bad things makes you go crazy. The game does have its own version of the magical taints from WFRP 1st edition, though, causing chaos magicians and necromancers to become increasingly inhuman over time.

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  6. My main issues with Zweihander mostly had to do with organization. The game has a lot of crunch, and some of the stuff you'd expect to be in one section were in a completely different one.

    It's a minor thing, but when you're working from a DriveThru PDF and trying to run it for the first time, you're gonna have a bad time.

    I also am a little peeved by it's treatment of the bestiary. Outright stating an entire enemy type (the "boogan") are children of orc rape is crass. Having that same fact be a central clue to the plot twist of your starter adventure is worse.

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    1. I don't think the kid in the adventure is a Boogan, is he? He doesn't fit the description: the bestiary describes boogans as Zweihander's version of snotlings, but the kid in the adventure is much more like an old-style half-orc, back when Warhammer had half-orcs. He's certainly not stunted or suicidally stupid.

      (If the adventure was originally written for WFRP 2, as Anon suggests below, then this makes a lot more sense...)

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    2. Looking at the rulebook, the game says his race is "Half-Orx" (because we can't spell anything normal anymore) but his statblock says "Boogan".

      His character portrait resembles a boogan, but older. I suppose "translate this from one edition to another" makes sense.

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    3. But Boogans aren't supposed to *get* older, are they? The whole point of them is that they remain at the 'idiot killer toddler' snotling phase forever. I think the whole thing has just been confused in the course of the adventure's journey from WFRP 2 to Zweihander.

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  7. Zweihander seems well illustrated, but bloated to me. And thus far it seems to be generating only a trickle of new material. A Bitter Harvest first appeared as a WFRP 2e adventure; there have been a few short adventures on DriveThruRPG such as A Bright Future Ahead of Her, Missing in Mullensburg, and Escape the Noose, which are at the "human misery" end of WFRP. They lack fun, although I think Escape the Noose has promise. There was talk of a Zweihander Tetsubo; mention of a possible Zweihander stated version of the excellent The Red Prophet Rises (which I highly recommend.)

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    1. It absolutely is bloated. There was no reason at all for it to be 700 pages long. WFRP 1st edition managed to fit its rules, career lists, bestiary, and sample adventure into a book that was only half that length.

      I'm not really surprised by the dearth of material. Why would you write a module or supplement for Zweihander, rather than for WFRP 2, or WFRP 4, or Shadow of the Demon Lord, or D&D? Unless the game can grow its own dedicated fanbase, the way that SOTDL apparently has, I fear it's likely to wither on the vine.

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  8. Several thoughts.

    What is your opinion on the recently announced Colonial setting? Warh- I mean, Zweihaender in Eighteenth Century North America. And while we're at it, on the appropriateness of Zweihaender system for this setting.

    Zweihaender seems to me to be the Warhammer's own Pathfinder. If the latter survives the fifth edition of D&D, then there's a chance for survival of Zweihaender against the fourth edition of Warhammer. At least that's what I imagine. Perhaps people will use Warhammer for the Old World, and Zweihaender will become a vessel for playing all the weird Warhammer-themed-but-not-in-the-Old-World things people previously used Warhammer for.

    Also, if you have a Polish roleplayer among your contacts, get them to tell you about all the weird things people in Poland used Warhammer for. You may find it curious.

    Also, (heh heh) while I'm here, do you have plans on future updates to ATWC? [ ;) ]

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    1. Colonial Gothic is its own thing, isn't it? It's been around since 2007, although I don't think I've ever heard of anyone actually playing it.

      As for appropriateness, I guess it would be... alright? You'd need a different magic system and a modified list of professions, but the core system should be a decent fit for high-action eighteenth-century colonial fantasy-horror, which I *think* is what Colonial Gothic aims at. For more traditional historical horror I'd just use Call of Cthulhu instead, though.

      I think the Pathfinder analogy is a good one, but the main reason that PF has survived into the 5e era - even though it currently seems to be struggling - is because it developed a strong IP of its own, complete with a setting and lots of highly-regarded adventures. Even people who hate the PF system still use PF adventures. Zweihander doesn't have that.

      ATWC feels mostly finished. If time allows I may try to turn it into a proper book, but the thought of sourcing all the art is a massive disincentive. Are there specific bits of it that you feel still need to be written about?

      I'd love to hear more about the Polish WFRP scene!

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    2. Thanks for the reply!

      As for specific bits - I'd never tell you what to write, but I've been thinking about the encroaching empires. Like, grossly oversimplifying we historically had:
      * a feudal kingdom spreading into the steppes in search of territory and safety from invaders, by means of rowdy adventurer bands;
      * a religious theocracy on the rise preaching its religion, by means of starry-eyed believers;
      * a decaying bureaucratic empire sending punitive expeditions to remove perceived threats to its borders, by means of courtiers leading conscript armies;
      * a transoceanic mercantile civilisation reaching out to exploit new lands for glory and profit, by means of professional military men in search of personal prestige.
      So far some articles imply continuing encroachment on the steppes, while others suggest business is going as usual. Regardless of anything else to be said about the matter, that sounds like a potential blog entry and a random generation chart.

      Also, I've been wondering if there was any Eastern equivalent to the Sunset City. (Sounds like a meeting place between ATWC and Yoon-Suin, innit?)

      I'll answer the last matter later, if you don't mind.

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    3. Since I promised.

      Warhammer was perhaps the first legitimately published and translated Western RPG in Poland. At the time, the market consisted pretty much of local homebrew-level productions, bootlegs, and other stuff like that, so WFRP quickly grew in popularity and soon became "the" RPG. It, not D&D, was the generic role-playing game, which meant that it saw every weird setting modification and playstyle. Warhammer as dungeon crawl, Warhammer as WoD-style deppression fest, Warhammer as steampunk high adventure, Warhammer as Second World War... yeah, all of these I at least heard about, I ain't making them up.

      Then there was the Autumn Tale. Take Warhammer, remove the British black humour, then add newschool focus on personal drama, grimdark "realism", and the notion of GM as the Demiurge of the game world. It sprang from a series of articles in a gaming magazine, where one guy described his personal playstyle. Apparently it worked for him and his group, but since the articles were well-written and evocative, people took to it like moths to flame, and because most of them were worse GMs than he apparently was, nowadays there are jokes about how playing Warhammer means your character stumbles and breaks a leg and the GM spends the next two hours describing in vivid details how you're lying delirious by the fire and slowly succumb to infection and doesn't let you interrupt.

      Yeah, like I said it apparently worked for him, it's also acknowledged by now he made some good points, but it's thought of as a bit of a dork era.

      I guess it was the dual influence of WoD and other storyteller games, and the popularity of the Witcher Saga, but I also guess it'd take a role-playing sociologist to fully sort it out.

      Then D&D3ed. made Warhammer no longer "the" RPG, but it's still among the most popular.

      The scene, if it can be thought of as an interconnected group, seems to have returned to the idea of Warhammer as gritty darkly humorous game and 4ed. was received relatively warmly.

      Also, less seriously. I saw a guy mention planning "an old-school game night": Warhammer, basement, flanel shirts and metal band T-shirts, power metal or Irish folk as mood music. While it's technically far from OSR, the more I think of it, the more it sounds like a day in the life of, say, LotFP creative team, innit?

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    4. My assumption about the relationship between steppe and empire in ATWC was 'uneasy equilibrium'. The empires are now strong enough to beat back any nomad warlord who fancies himself as the next Genghis Khan, but currently lack the organisational base needed to simply annex the steppe and taiga khanates. The balance is tipping, though, and the hairy fur trappers with guns cutting paths into the taiga are a sign of things to come.

      I don't want to write too much about the empires, because everyone *always* writes about the empires, sentencing Central Asia to be the area off the edge of everyone's maps. ATWC was an attempt to put it in the spotlight for once. But a set of tables - 'What are the empires up to around here?' - should definitely be doable, especially as policies that make sense in distant imperial capitals will often just look like random and disconnected actions out on the frontier.

      If the Sunset City is mostly Venice and the Wicked City is Giant Evil Samarkand, then a putative Sunrise City would be... Chang'an, I guess? An ancient Imperial capital, now a shadow of its former glory? That has a bit too much conceptual overlap with the Wicked City itself, though. I'll have to think about it!

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    5. Thanks for the reply!

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    6. No problem. And thanks for the write-up on Polish WFRP - fascinating stuff! I had no idea it had been so influential there.

      The Autumn Tale period sounds analogous to the mid-late 1990s in Britain and the US, when a lot of influential voices in gaming insisted that RPGs should be Dark and Serious and that no Real Serious Gamer would play anything as silly and childish as D&D. So hundreds of earnest young GMs set out to run Dark and Serious campaigns of Vampire, Shadowrun, and Cyberpunk 2020, all of which crashed and burned when the GMs discovered that high drama is actually really hard and their players just wanted to shoot people in the face.

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    7. Yeah, it's kind of exactly that.

      Actually I've stumbled upon a paper on the evolution of playing style up to the early 2000s - "Magia i Miecz Magazine: The Evolution of Tabletop RPG in Poland and its Anglo-Saxon Context". I'm figuring you may find it an interesting comparison.

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    8. Thanks for that. The data is interesting, although they discuss it in rather loaded terms. The most interesting bit is at the end, where they point out that even though Polish RPGs could have started with the narrative-heavy games that were popular in the US at the time, in practise they went through the same gamism (fantasy) -> realism (history) -> narrative (horror) progression as the Anglosphere, albeit at an accelerated pace. I'll have to think about that...

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    9. Oh, and one last thing. I was just reminded that after the success of the Autumn Tale, the guy published his own dark fantasy game, Monastyr. (Interestingly enough, he also saw it as a "Romantic" game, but he probably understood the term very much unlike you do.) It seems inspired mostly by a Swedish game Gemini: The Dark Fantasy RPG, but since the guy started out from Warhammer, I don't think it far-fetched to count it among "echoes and reverberations" (at least no less than LotFP). But as it's only in Polish and no longer in print, that'd be all to say of it.

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  9. Thanks for this. I am this story write small. I DLed Zweihander but never read it because of the length (and because I'd rather just reread WHFRP1e) (and then soon unsubscribed from all the updates and new product announcements) and then grabbed WHFRP4e in hard copy so that I can not play that instead. Batting a thousand.

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  10. And now it looks like a few adventures have come out for Zweihander just this week.

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    1. The two 'Mullensburg' adventures, right? Anyone know if they're any good?

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    2. I have the first, "Missing in Mullensberg". An interesting situation is brewing: down-trodden locals; feuding noble families; the background of a war, and questions of what actions are justifiable to win. Then it turns full railroad, with a villain who should be twirling his moustache, and a bloodied witch hunter appearing out of nowhere to tell you what to do. It has got two 5 star reviews, for reasons I cannot fathom.

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    3. Thanks. I think I'll save my three dollars, then.

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  11. Having worked through Zweihänder and WFRP4 now, IMHO Zweihänder is the superior product. Despite the word bloat, despite the rule scattering, despite whatever Mr. Fox allegedly did as PR stunts.

    I am a big fan of Cubicle7 because of the superb TheOneRing but WFRP4 seems to have been rushed. Combat in particular in WFRP4 does not impress me, and some rules seem to be rather fiddly or bloated for no benefit and a lot of things needed to be re-explained later by the designers. Rules scatter is just as bad as in Zweihänder (Combat skills...).

    Also, while you can clearly see the higher budget in the design, the art and writing of WFRP4 does steer away from oldschool grimdark to a point where "dirty-heroic" would be a better description. Not enough taint, deformities and whimsical design for my taste, too many Pimphammer scrolls and TOR-like landscapes.

    I could say that I am disappointed that none of the two is the perfect evolution of WFRP2, but that would be a spoiled kid whining. They are both good sets that would have greatly profited from a good lector (Zweihänder) and actual veteran player input (WFRP4).

    Probably, WFRP4 will have more support, and I am looking forward to the revamped EnemyWithin campaign, but then again Zweihänder+Main Gauche are pretty much everything you could ever need from a grimdark ruleset, which cannot be said of WFRP4.

    (I say "Probably", because AoS might take up most of cubicle7 ressources alloted to the GW licences, and there will be little overlap with WFRP, both sytem- and settingwise).

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    1. I've not read WFRP 4 yet, but that all sounds perfectly plausible. I suspect that people who are still perfectly happy with WFRP 2 will be just as serious a competitor for Zweihander as people who have moved onto WFRP 4. After all, most of the WFRP playerbase never made the jump to WFRP 3.

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    2. I suspect that any GM actually still playing WFRP and worth his/her salt has already bought Zweihänder (and most likely WFRP4, as well, by now). Even if they continue to play WFRP1 or 2, they will want to incorporate some of the new rules.
      And anyone not interested in new stuff will most likely not read your review or these comments. ;-)

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    3. My experience is quite the opposite. I bought and ran both Zweihander and WFRP4, and the combat and rules in general play much better than Zweihander. There are simply too many subsystems in the former, while the latter ends up fairly eloquent - EXCEPT the combat rules are written like dogshit. Also, both are poorly indexed. Zweihander suffers from the additional problem of extremely excessive wordiness on top, so I still give the better title to WFRP4. Having run both, WFRP4 flows much better than it reads and character creation is also more fun. I do agree with the art criticism, the WFRP4 career illustrations are top notch, but otherwise the pencil and black and white drawings of Zweihander are much better throughout.

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  12. Can you comment on the magic system? How does it compare to the (not-so) different magic systems of WFRP's various editions?

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    1. You can read a good in-depth review here: https://princeofnothingblogs.wordpress.com/2017/11/18/review-zweihander-wfr-osr-pt-vi-to-fight-the-abyss-one-must-know-it/

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    2. The link above gives a very thorough summary. But basically it's a modified version of the WFRP 2 magic system. Different list of spells for each wind of magic, no spell points, increasing chance of Corruption and magical mishaps the more power you channel. I liked a lot of the individual spells (and the individualised magical malfunctions that they could all cause), but they're mostly very specialised.

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  13. I've rarely seen art for a published RPG which hews so close to my idealized 'quasi-renpunk-dungeonpunk' aesthetic before.

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  15. Unrelated to this post, but I found no way to send you a message.
    I incredibly enjoyed your artciles where you take a long Adventure path and boil it down to the actual cool ideas. As you yourself mentioned filling the gaps is easy for a GM, and reading 500 pages book is not.

    So thank you, and I would love more articles in that vein.

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    1. Thanks! I'd love to do them, both for more Pathfinder APs and for the better WFRP adventures, but the reading and writing take quite a while, and life has not been providing me with many opportunities for blogging lately. (Thus the month-long gap since my last post...) I do hope to write more of them if/when I get the time, though!

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    2. Yeah the real life is a big setback. If you are undecided can I request for something pirate related? Not necessary Skull & Shackles, anything long that can be picked for iedas. There is not enough of pirate themed content in OSR.

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    3. Skull and Shackles would be an excellent candidate for a rewrite; there are also the Islands of Plunder materials. The drawback is that you need all the booty from Treasure Island to get a copy of the Wormwood Mutiny these days. That module has promise, but I would tone down some of the PC misery. You don't want them to die from drinking the rum.

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