ZWEIHÄNDER (pronounced tsfai henda or as I prefer it zvai hander) is a tabletop RPG, designed to support grim & perilous adventures. In short, it is a bloodier, grimmer and grittier version of classic tabletop RPGs you’re already familiar with. The community commonly calls this style of gaming the “pathetic aesthetic”, but we simply call it grim & perilous gaming.
We consider ZWEIHÄNDER a love letter to everything we enjoy about literature and tabletop gaming – uncompromisingly grey morality, wanton violence, political conspiracy, weird horror and dark humor, all presented beneath a veneer of low fantasy. The system is built to be entirely “world agnostic”, meaning it’s adaptable for any number of home brewed or published worlds. Although the system implies a handful of thematic elements, the system is ideal for tabletop RPGs inspired by or emulating a survival horror version of dark age, medieval or Renaissance-inspired campaign worlds.
These same elements are very portable, as any Game Master can easily integrate ZWEIHÄNDER’s rules into their own homebrewed world. Gamemasters can use the rules to craft adventures set in a low fantasy version of the Thirty Year War, the politically-inspired intrigues of George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice and Fire, the racial tensions of Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher, the criminal underworld of Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora, war torn adventures set in Glen Cook’s The Black Company and other “grimdark”-inspired campaign settings.
ZWEIHÄNDER is a pastiche of many familiar themes found throughout low fantasy literature: the gritty portrayal of a society replete with clandestine conflict, political intrigues, vicious reprisals and terrifying supernatural elements. The system and its game mechanics are written to describe a motif of stark realism, profane sorcery and unimaginable horrors from beyond. Disease runs rampant throughout cities. Towering asylums upon the edge of civilization ring with the howls of the demented. Tales of twisted monstrosities are whispered into firelight, of evil that consumes the crumbling remnants of a past age, slumbering until stirred by intrepid fools… or lurking in the deepening shadows of a nearby alley, biding its time. Villainy lies within the hearts of men, who engage in all manner of violence and deceit in the name of progress. The gods are petty and quick to anger, their fickle gifts bestowed upon a vexing few. Those who call themselves priests are often venal charlatans, consumed by the very sins they preach against. And far from the prying eyes of others, sorcerers risk their sanity and their souls to harness the mysterious power of cosmic disorder.