Dreihander

“You see, most blokes, you know, will be fighting with two hands. You’re on two here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, two hands on your axe. Where can you go from there? Where?”

Following a brief look at Lamentations of the Flame Princess I’ve now noticed Zweihänder: a Grim and Perilous RPG. The author has pimped his work over a few game forums and has hinted that he may release an art-free version gratis in the same manner as LotFP. Jolly good!

Comparisons are inevitable. LotFP is a refined BECMI D&D; Zweihänder is a “love-letter” to WFRP 1e. Both purport to be “game X, done right”.

But there’s a substantial difference. Raggi (author of LotFP) created his game because he had a very clear vision for an existing property. Mechanically it’s not much different from my D&D sets; there are four human and three demihuman classes, and the spells largely remain the same (with some omissions and description changes). He’s added value in the smallest of tweaks, like rolling d6 for non-combat “specialist” actions and having a nice list for equipment. That’s all you need for your dungeon crawl. It’s not meant to be exhaustive for play outside the dungeon, but inside the dungeon it does the job very nicely.

Zweihänder on the other hand looks like a total rewrite. The careers are different (with career-only skills), magic is different, there are action points. All of these sound like excellent house rules that address shortcomings in WFRP. But recall that WFRP was a third generation fantasy RPG after D&D and Runequest. Yes, it inherited its own peculiar stats from the WFB but it was consciously different from its forebears in both rules and flavour (i.e. it had some). It doesn’t need the sort of seasoning that LotFP provides for BECMI D&D. 

The stated intention is to go beyond WRFP‘s Old World make a “world-agnostic” fantasy RPG – but given the promotional art, you could have fooled me:

Zweihander

Eh, right. Play to your strengths, chaps.

So far I’ve glanced at a few spells and career lists (provided in this thread on theRPGSite), and while I think this will turn into a tight rpg a lot of it seems to be change for change’s sake. Raggi’s amendments to BD&D were subtle, these are not. For that reason I question the “world-agnostic” claim. Seeing the skill descriptions, and the designers’ influences (WFRP, The Witcher, Song of Ice and Fire) I wonder how it could be anything other than WFRP‘s Old World turned up to 11.

(All I can hope is the designers steer clear of the misogynistic tropes in their primary influences).

I’ve seen a few comparisons with The Riddle of Steel which ring a few alarm bells; and some of the career-specific skills are strongly combat oriented – raising concerns that it will be simulationist and abstractive, which is the way of “accurate” fantasy combat games. Still, as long as your players want a combat-heavy game and it plays quickly, so much the better.

On a final note, you’ve got to wonder how this fits the OSR model. Is OSR about adhering to “golden age rpg” values like simulationism and strong central narrative, or is it about taking golden age designs and playing ironically or anachronistically? I can’t see this game doing either of those. Still, WFRP 1e is a fine game to pick as a base and if the designers can tidy it up while restraining their urge to tweak it into something unrecognisable, Zweihänder could be something very special indeed.

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