Review: Zweihander Grim & Perilous RPG by Tristram Evans (part 6)

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:

Chapter IV is Professions. Careers were one of the defining elements of Warhammer Fantasy, and it’s probably here that Zweihander shows its greatest influence. But whereas WFRP’s careers were wildly varied in what Advances and Skills they offered a character, Zweihander has once again evened these out in an attempt at “balance.” Well, it’s not like 2nd Edition Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay didn’t do the same thing.

The collection of Professions available here is going to be largely familiar to those familiar with Warhammer, and I quite like all the additions. Along with classics like the Rat-Catcher, Charlatan, and Graverobber, there are also theme-appropriate additions such as the Guttersnipe, Bonepicker and Plague Doctor.

Mandic’s art especially shines in this chapter.

Here we also start seeing an influx of pop culture references. I’m not going to go through all these (especially as they contribute largely to the enjoyment of reading), but its interesting to compare these as the references of an early 21st-century American geek vs Warhammer’s political and historical references of an 80’s-era Brit. Pointing out this difference isn’t a criticism, but it does give Zweihander a very different underlying feel. Partly, this is also because I am older, though. First reading WFRP as a kid, 90% of the references passed right over my head. It wasn’t until much later I not only understood them, but the socio-political situation in Britain at the time that informed them. Reading Zweihander, I doubt there’s many I’m missing (in fact I could even be seeming some that were unintentional), but I’m not certain how much they contribute to the “mood” that Zweihander is going for, other than making it clear the game thankfully doesn’t take itself too seriously. I appreciate, however, that the writer didn’t attempt to “fake” British humour, which probably would have come across obvious and unnatural.

Each Profession has Advances that are purchased with “Reward Points,” of which each character starts with 1000. Advances come in 4 varieties: Professional Traits, Skill Ranks, Bonus Advances, and Talents. In addition, you may be able to purchase “Unique Advances,” which the book promises to explain to me later.

So I am in my Basic Tier and following Zweihander’s instructions, the first thing I do is spend 100 points to enter my career (Gambler), and immediately gain the associated Professional Trait. In my case that is Luck of the Draw: “When you spend Fortune points, you do not need to roll percentile dice to make a Skill Test. Instead, you automatically Critically Succeed…” Alas, this indicates that Fortune Points are integrated into the system and I can’t simply ditch that mechanic. I also acquire the Drawback: When The Dealin’s Done, which states “When you use a Fortune point for Luck of the Draw, you move one step down on the Peril Condition Track negatively.” Succeeding causes me anxiety. I suppose that’s appropriate for an addictive behaviour.

I also gain one “‘iconic’ trapping” for my character, but I’ll have to wait until Chapter 7 to figure that one out. In the meantime, I can spend my remaining 900 Fortune points on other Advances listed for my Profession. Each costs 100 pts, and there are 20 to choose from – 10 Skill ‘ranks, 7 Bonus Advances, or 3 Talents.

I purchase the “Gamble” skill rank, because, of course. “Bargain,” “Scrutinize,” and “Skullduggery” also sound good. A Bonus to Agility and Perception puts me at six out of nine spent. I don’t know what the Talents mean, but “Holdout” sounds appropriate. Two left…hmmm…a Skill rank in “Simple Melee” might extend my life expectancy a bit, and I guess I’ll go for a Bonus to my Fellowship, which could use a bit of a boost. The book states that once I’ve spent these points I’m ready for play, except I haven’t gotten to the chapter on Trappings yet, and I still don’t know what the effects of my purchased Skills or Trait are So hold your horses gamebook!..

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