Zweihander + Main Gauche: RPG in the pocket
I wrote about Zweihander, the Grim & Perilous RPG developed, unsurprisingly, by Grim & Perilous Studios and Daniel D. Fox, back in 2017, when I got a copy of the basic handbook in PDF and was quite positively impressed.
Basically, Zweihander is a retro-clone of the classic Warhammer Fantasy RPG (WHFRPG) that made it big – it cleans up the rules and it straightens up a few of the glitches of the olf First and Second editions of WHFRP, and while preserving all the good parts of the old game, it also adds a few bits and pieces – the core rulebook is a hefty 672 pages. The hardback edition is impressive and rather costly – but you can get the PDF version for less than 15 bucks.
For the uninitiated, this is a fantasy roleplaying game set in More-or-Less Renaissance Europe of sort, say around the Thirty Years War, with a liberal addition of dark magic and often seriously Lovecraftian horrors. The woods and the ruins are haunted, monsters roam the countryside, political intrigue is rife and life is nasty, brutish and short.
Now that “grimdark” fantasy is all the rage, the game’s ad copy references The Witcher, Game of Thrones, Glen Cook’s Black Company novels and other harsh and brutal fantasy series – but really, if you feel like playing a game inspired by Michael Moorcock’s The War Hound and the World’s Pain, or by Paul Verhoeven’s Flesh + Blood, or if you want to give a more biting edge and a higher body count to your old Ravenloft scenarios, this is just what the doctor ordered.
The rules allow for a wide variety of characters and a number of possible development paths for those that will be smart, lucky and tough enough to survive a universe that is very lethal, but in an entertaining way.
The whole game, given its roots in the old Warhammer Fantasy universe, has a more European feel than the D&D franchise, that is probably too slick and polished, and a little too tame, for the old gamer looking for some action.
Last night, thanks to the long memory of the DriveThruRPG servers, I downloaded the new revised edition of the files – a 400+ MB file that included a new wonder: a version of the revised handbook optimized for use on a smartphone.
And this is funny, because I had been discussing over dinner with my brother how my smartphone is currently underused – I’d be as well off with an old voice + text dumbfone.
I’m not saying that the Zweihander Phone PDF brought new life to my portable tech, but what the heck, now I have a good reason to carry the thing around.
The Phone PDF is optimized for reading on a small screen, indexed and hyperlinked, and it’s a lot easier to carry around than a 700-pages hardbound tome.
True, you will need the Adobe PDF Reader App – other apps did not work with the file – but that’s a small sacrifice.
As I was downloading and testing the new files, I also burned a little credit I still had on my DriveThruRPG account, took advantage of a 25% discount that the platform is offering to celebrate the new year, and gave myself a belated Christmas Gift – Main Gauche, a 360-pages companion book to the Zweihander core book, that expands on the rules and the options of the basic set-up.
The combination Zweihander + Main Gauche (and yes, I know, you’d need three hands to wield such a combo) makes the game huge – and adds stuff like advanced alchemy, war machines and vehicles, and other wonders that allow the players to bring their games in new directions.
Mecha and molotov cocktails? Well, yeah, sort of.
And this one, too, rides on my smartphone.
At that point I just added a set of characters sheets and free pregenerated characters, and a simple dice roller app (RPG Simple Dice, in case you are interested), and I have in my pocket all I need to set up a game when I meet my friends and we have nothing better to do. Or to design an adventure while I sit in some waiting room or queue.
I don’t know when I’ll be playing – or indeed if I’ll be playing any soon, but carrying a whole system in my pocket like this promises at least that should it happen, it will be easy and painless.
The system is more than solid, the handbooks are great to look at (even on a smartphone) and fun to read, and there’s enough meat here to keep a team of old players busy forever.