Every great story told throughout our world speaks of not only the strength, but also the weaknesses of heroes and villains alike. RPGs are oftentimes remiss not to address them in a cohesive manner.

Today, we take a look at Temperaments in ZWEIHÄNDER. In a grim & perilous RPG, personality traits called Temperaments follow a similar framework but in a much less strict sense:

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A strong arm or a slow wit are not the measures which fully define a ZWEIHÄNDER character, far from it. Weaknesses and strengths are not expressed by the same categorizations used for beasts of burden or slaves. Nor indeed, are they simply a general predilection of outward behavior, but rather a deep and personal pair of flaws and strengths which define your very existence as a man. In this world, the true monster is not a scaled drake or a pack of wild, faceless bandits for you to conquer and parade through the main thoroughfares, where you are showered with adoration and coin. Rather, it is your fellow man, whose words conceal their intentions until yours run afoul.

In this stage of character creation, you will select two critical values which will largely determine your course. In gameplay terms, these are your weapons and weaknesses when engaging in tense Social Intrigue events. Put more simply and in broader terms over the length of your campaign, the first you select will likely be what keeps you alive, more than any well-drawn arrow or meticulous scheme. The latter is what will likely be your cause of demise. These two Temperaments are defined in the game as your Blessing and your Curse.

In even the rockiest of outcroppings, a wild flower blooms, a strength of stubborn life refusing to bend or submit. Despite the circumstances, or perhaps because of it, you possess an inner strength which refuses to be extinguished. Select one Blessing during the character creation process. Here are 5 examples, from of a total of 25 Blessings to choose from:

Cunning: Your mind is slippery and tactical, manipulating those whom you interact with towards ends you find more favorable. You have a sharp instinct for escaping a parlay gone sour, and never appear unnerved.

Gravitas: You have an aura of charisma, depth of knowledge, and great competence, and your words carry weight as others fully put stock in your abilities. You can inspire men or terrify them, but either way, they will listen.

Impiety: No god has fed your belly, or filled your mug, nor will they make you stand on your feet or open your eyes in the morning. You are aggressively self-reliant and resistant to the manipulation of those who would have you bend your knee to an invisible man in the sky, pretty jewelry or nay.

Independence: Is it two scrapes and a bow or two ring kisses, a twirl, and a brown eye? You have no time for kings or princes or silly outfits and worshipping strips of cloth and walls of stone, knowing that one grey man is as good as another. As such, you’re unlikely to get caught up in petty politics.

Wisdom: You do not possess more knowledge than others …. this simple realization is the very pillar upon your advanced acknowledgement is perched. You simply know a way of patiently ruminating upon a greater position … and thinking first, speaking later.

Take a moment after selecting to decide just how this quality came to be. Blessings are more frequently the consequence of long term actions, perhaps the love and attention of a dedicated father, or the mentoring of a wise journeyman or master, the positive teachings of a spiritual guide, or simply the result of a personal journey of self-awareness. These values, in short, define what has kept you sane in the harsh landscape.

Regardless of whether it bleeds and festers, no one will come to pass to adulthood without a wound. The most serious of these is here, a personal failing that may be your undoing and undermine you whenever least opportune. Select one Curse during the character creation process. Here are 5 examples, from of a total of 25 Curses to choose from:

Fatalism: Your dedication to a single ideal has twisted your idea of free will into one you view as a fantasy and the purview of lesser men than yourself. As such, you almost believe that no course of action will change the course of events, and will resist any input that suggests otherwise.

Heresy: Unclean and wicked thing! Your actions are irreverent to the point of blasphemy, and those who witness or know your nature will either be afraid of banishment to hell with you, or do their best to hasten that arrival. Either way, not a popular place to be.

Rebellion: Your intentions are valueless, traitor! You are an enemy to the crown and your actions are viewed as undermining to law and order and the established order of peace. Your chances of being put down in a particularly horrible manner, as an example to others, are quite great, I’m afraid.

Vanity: Your dedication to your own self perfection is haughty and unseemly, and a reflection of your ugly judgement of those you see as lesser than you, which seems to be most everyone. The beautiful and accomplished will envy and hate you, the ugly and lazy will just skip straight to the hate.

Vehemence: Your drive for personal gain will crush many beneath it’s bloated weight, friend, foe, and kin alike. You possess the strictest selfishness, where no means cannot be justified towards the conclusion you desire. In your mind, sacrifice is the price others pay to fulfill your vision.

Unlike your Blessing, your Curse is likely the result of a traumatic, quick, brutal event of some kind. What takes generations to build can be destroyed in a flash, and so is this particular part of your psyche. Consider what personal horror could have befallen you to give you these scars, and share them with your Gamemaster.

The section on Social Intrigue will help you flesh these out more, but for now, consider this simple axiom: the Blessings are not intended for you to steer towards, nor the Curses to steer away from to achieve some kind of nebulous success. To tell the very best possible ZWEIHÄNDER story, you should think of longer term development arcs where your strengths either overcome your failings, or tragically do not. Consider the best books, movies, or video games you have experienced and you will realize that this is how you will craft a memorable tale.

The observant will also note that the Blessings and Curses are arranged in matching, ordered pairs, each bearing the good and bad of a larger general quality. These can be chosen each individually, without penalty – frequently one’s biggest strength is also the most glaring weakness.

The Temperaments make no judgments, that is left for the players and the Gamemaster at their own discretion. To what ends these Blessings and Curses are deployed makes no moral supposition – for example, Heroism can easily be called upon in pursuit of a darker, nefarious purpose. Most importantly, don’t consider the Blessing and Curse reversible in any strict “good” or “evil” paradigm – a Blessing is a Blessing and a Curse is a Curse, no matter how you choose to act upon them.

While your Temperaments are intended as a guideline towards the values that your character holds most dear, you are not a puppet held up by only two strings. The sort of one switch knee jerk reaction to every possible scenario doesn’t realistically reflect how a fully fleshed individual would, or should react. If you treat it as a simple gimmick, expect it to lose significance, and become something of a joke.

This applies both positively and negatively: if you consistently try to implausibly navigate your social interactions to where you can take advantage of your Blessing, despite how ludicrous the situation, expect the Gamemaster to disallow (or even suspend for a length of time) any benefit. By the same token, if you use your Curse simply as a tool to harass or bicker with the other players or NPCs, there are swifter and easier punishments that can come to bear: your growing reputation as a madman, a child, or a fool. In this world, that makes you low hanging fruit.

Your Temperaments may evolve over the course of a campaign. These sort of changes are always the result of major events that transpire as you play your character. Events that lead to such a shift in personality should be long in the making, rare or climactic enough to justify the change. Your Temperaments may change due to a traumatic experience where your character is faced with the death of a loved one or friend, a particularly glorifying or unvirtuous choice you made, a frightening conclusion to a long story arc, the effect of madness or any other host of instances you and the Gamemaster feel appropriate.

While we provide no specific guidelines for how and when you should change your Temperaments, it is best to work with the Gamemaster to make those elections together as a result of completing larger story arcs.