An excellent review from Charles Dunwoody at E.N. World on his experience playing ZWEIHÄNDER Grim & Perilous RPG:
You chased a thief into a swamp, trekked through trackless forests and bogs, and fought your way out of an ambush set by orx. Just another day as wandering adventurers in Zweihänder the grim and perilous RPG.
Zweihänder is a 668 page hardcover filled with black and white art of grim dark shenanigans. If you want a long-term campaign of dark fantasy set in the world of your choosing that uses d100 roll under, this ruleset is for you. I received a complementary copy to review.
PCs are rat catchers, sellswords, and peasants dealing with Æther Winds magic (tinted with color and chaos of the Abyss) and violent dangerous monsters. Rules cover not just combat and traps but also chases, overland travel, insanity, corruption, world building, and campaign seeds.
In the adventure I ran, the PCs chased a pickpocket. The chase rules created a race of catching up and falling back and obstacles to overcome. They were hired and trekked into the wilds using skills for roles to keep watch and try to avoid getting lost. Along the road, kobolds clashed in battle with the PCs. All of these encounters ran smoothly with the supporting rules clear and easy to understand. In combat, for example, each combatant had three action points to spend each round on attacking, moving, parrying etc. The fight moved quickly and carried real risk.
PCs are well detailed with backgrounds of where they came from and advancement options to take them in new directions. Multiple tools equip a GM to build a world, set it in motion, and see it change as the PCs push and shove their way through it while pursuing their goals. Zweihänder is filled with random tables to flesh out PCs, build adventures, determine weather, generate treasure, and more. It is well suited to long-term play.
I can’t cover all the details included in this massive tome, but one of my favorites are the four included campaign seeds. Each seed includes enemies inside and outside of civilization along with magical dangers and fantastical twists along with several adventure ideas. The seeds are the Thirty Years’ War, Goth Moran Divided, Gangs of Hahabro, and the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Thirty Years and Lost Colony build on historical events and add fantastic additions.
Goth Moran explores a terrifying empire of warring houses and ethnic groups. Savage demonic enemies also press the empire putting more strain on resources and order. Gangs narrows the focus of Goth Moran to one sprawling city and the gangs vying for control. Ruins of older parts of the city lie below. Called the Understair, this lightless warren is home to outcasts, cutthroats, and perhaps more dangerous foes.
A GM could easily take one of those campaign seeds or create one of his own. Once the PCs make characters, the GM could focus in on one location. As the PCs start to make decisions, the various power groups, cults, monsters, and others would slowly start to take notice and react, eventually acting to work with or oppose the PCs when interests clash. Zweihänder arms the GM with an entire chapter to build a campaign and keep it going. A large bestiary and sample adventure rounds out the tools for the GM. Players, meanwhile, will be developing their characters, exploring their world, and making decisions that will direct future events and conflicts.
A dedicated group could explore a campaign for years with the contents of this book. And one campaign would barely scratch the surface of all the options PCs can explore during a campaign. If you favor world building and adventure crafting using a d100 system, then check out Zweihänder.
This article was contributed by Charles Dunwoody as part of EN World’s Columnist (ENWC) program. Please note that Charles is a participant in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to DriveThruRPG. If you enjoy the daily news and articles from EN World, please consider contributing to our Patreon!