Tristram Evans of RPGPub.com has embarked upon his lengthy review of Zweihander Grim & Perilous RPG. Buckle up, because this is a long one (and will span several weeks). Check it out at RPGPub.com or as below:
Just finished up the first part of my quickly-becoming massive review of Zweihander, and figured I’d share what I’d written so far. In the end, I’ll probably be putting it in pdf form, as it could very likely reach upwards of 75 pages in length.
Being a Review by Tristram Evans
of the Zweihander Grim & Perilous Roleplaying Game
Written by Daniel Fox with additional contributions by Tanner Yea
Illustrated by Dejan Mandic
Deep breath, ladies and gents, this is going to be a long one…
Before we begin, a couple of caveats. I received a review copy of Zweihander for free from Daniel Fox. I don’t believe this will colour the review in any way, but best to lay all potential biases on the table, as it were.
As a counterpoint, I am also a longstanding fan of the original Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing Game (henceforth ‘WFRP’); in fact it was effectively my first RPG, as detailed here. I’ve played and run WFRP for the better part of almost thirty years, and it remains one of my favourite game systems.
Additionally, for clarity’s sake, lavender text will delineate those times that I indulge in criticisms based solely upon my own peculiar tastes, or individualistic niggles, and pretentious pedanticism (as is my wont), that likely will have little to no bearing on the enjoyment of the product for anyone besides myself.
According to to the Grim & Perilous Studios website:
“As featured on Forbes.com, ranked in the Platinum Seller’s list on DriveThruRPG and having sold over 21,000 physical copies worldwide, ZWEIHÄNDER Grim & Perilous RPG is a bloodier, grimmer and grittier version of classic tabletop role-playing games you may already familiar with…ZWEIHÄNDER Grim & Perilous RPG is an OSR, retro-clone spiritual successor to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay first and second editions, an unrepentant heartbreaker released under Creative Commons License Share-Alike.”
It amuses me to no end that directly following a paragraph describing the game’s financial success, we have the author referring to it as a “Heartbreaker”, showing a complete misunderstanding of what the term means to the point of dripping with unintentional irony. In writing my own game based on an earlier game system, I coined the phrase “Retrovamp RPG” in opposition to “Retroclone.”
Zweihander began life as the online project Corehammer, native to the Strike To Stun forums, which I understand was a more direct Warhammer clone in most regards. Most of us, however, became aware of Zweihander through its author’s aggressive and unrepentant marketing campaign across various RPG forums. This has won Daniel & Co. no little amount of notoriety, and in some cases blatantly turned off a number of potential customers. Despite this, it was overall likely the largest contributing factor to the Kickstarter’s unprecedented success and exceptional pdf sales.
As they’ve made abundantly clear, Zweihander is an attempt to capture the spirit and gameplay of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay . The first edition of WFRP was a comprehensive single volume tabletop RPG that remained in print altogether for over a decade, first from Games Workshop and then under license by Hogshead Publishing. Following Hogshead’s dissolution in 2002, a second edition of the game was designed by Green Ronin Publishing and released through Black Industries, a division of GW’s Black Library publishing arm.
The second edition made minor alterations in an attempt to “balance” the system, and bring it in line with the current fluff of the Warhammer Fantasy Battles miniature wargame. It also split the contents of the core rulebook into a series of hardback supplements, of varying quality (The Old World Bestiary and Children of the Horned Rat are particularly well regarded). Black Industries exited the roleplaying market in 2009, though their products are still available for sale as pdfs. Fantasy Flight Games then acquired the Warhammer license and published a “third edition” (in name only), using a completely different system, and we’ll disregard that as well as the announced, (but – as of this writing – unpublished), fourth edition by Cubicle 7.
So in the course of this review, in seeing how well Zweihander has met its stated goals, I’ll be comparing it based on three aspects that I believe form the core of what defined WFRP; Aesthetics, System, and Comprehensiveness. I’ll take a moment now to explore what I mean by those terms in this context.