Zweihänder Read Through – Character Creation & Profession

We nearly all suffer from something called Unconscious Bias. This is where we are much more likely to believe things that we agree with and disbelieve things that we don’t agree with. In games and especially when you are reviewing a game we tend to think that rules we like are great and rules we don’t like are terrible irrespective of how well they may work at the gaming table.

Reviewers have another dilemma, often reviews are based just upon reading the rulebook and they never get played. That is not something I agree with and try not to do. I have my own solution to that but even that is not perfect.

So, I have learned since last time that Zweihänder is shortened to Zwei, which is possibly more respectful than just Z.

Character Creation

I created my first character last night and I have never made a character like this. Frankly, I never want to make another one either. The entire process was a bit of a rollercoaster ride.

The entire process took 1hr 25 minutes last night but there was a lot of reading seeing as this is a read through. To create a character it could be done a lot faster. In addition it took 27 minutes this afternoon.

It was suggested that I use the random method of creating the character and that is what I did. I would never do that again as it is the source of everything I disliked about the process.

There are four choices to be made in character creation. The GM chooses whether you can be a non human race or not. You have a choice to replace one below average attribute with and average score. I was given the choice between having a pike, a sword or a crossbow. You get to choose your characters name. That is it.

Everything else about your character is randomised, and I mean everything. You roll your attributes of which there are seven. Although this is a d100 system attributes are between 28 and 55. They are generated using 25+3d10. The average is 41 or 42. One low attribute can be replaced with a 42.

You then your gender, background, height, weight, disfiguring scars, socal standing even the season you were born, I apparently was a spring baby. The most ‘shocking’ was that you roll your profession. There may have been a roll to see which hand you wipe your arse with but I think I missed that one.

That was where I got to last night. There was zero player agency in the creation process and it was all rather depressing. The character I had in front of me was not one I would ever choose to play. There were two moments of unconscious bias and I will come to those later.

Professions

At the end of the random process you are given 1000 points to spend on improving your character and customising your profession.

Today I thought I could finish my character and see if I can rescue this character.

When it comes to your character you need to buy a professional trait of which there is a choice of one, ten skills of which there are 10 to choose from and three talents from the selection of three. These are compulsory purchases and they cost exactly 1000 points.

There is no customising to do, you just write the fixed changes to the character on your character record.

The net effect is that every PC is a pregen. If you didn’t stop and read everything you could create a character in about 5 minutes. The character would be just as detailed as a Rolemaster character, you get loads of detail but I was a passenger all through the process.

Automata

Two of my skills are being able to code interactive web pages and being able to write Android apps. If something really grabs me about Zwei in later chapters then I could easily create either an online or an app to create characters in a single click of the mouse or tap of a finger. There would be just a toggle for Humanocentric vs Demihumanity, one button to create the character and a text box for the name. Character creation in 1 to 5 seconds depending on your typing speed. That is how much involvement there is in this process.

How Biased am I?

I dislike fantasy elves as they are portrayed in the vast majority of games. They are just too good or superior. This whole idea of elves who tire of life ‘go west’ is just a cover for a 100% suicide rate amongst elves. It is probably the moment when they realise that they are, at least mostly, to blame for nearly all the evil in fantasy worlds and that they sat on their arses for periods of sometimes up to 10,000 years doing sod all about it and achieved nothing, no technological advancement, no sciences, nothing except a blindness to some future growing existential threat.

Zwei elves are not superior.

All of the non human races are refreshing versions of the standard fantasy fare.

If I were to build the rules for creating elves, these are the sort of elves I would wish I would come up with.

A Clash of Opposites

When I use the word alignment I want you to put your DnD ideas to one side. Zwei alignments are nothing like DnD alignment. I wish in a way that they hadn’t used the word, too much baggage.

Way back in August I wrote about how I create my characters. What I wrote was this:

“I like to define my characters fledgling personality by using two seemingly contradictory thoughts and then see how the character rationalises them. “

That is a Zwei alignment right there. What you do is roll d100 and you get an order/chaos pair. Your alignment is a roleplaying aid, allegedly but it is also quite definitely a lense through which you experience points (Reward Points) are assessed.

Alignment is a big thing in Zwei. The two aspects are not intended to be a good and evil aspect but although a lot of words are spent in trying to get over what they are meant to be has left me no clearer. Thankfully, this paragraph is in there…

“Remember – your Character’s Alignments are merely a guide. They do not strictly bind you to a specific outcome or behavior, but should help to define and reflect your Character’s persona over the course of a campaign.

…and that is what I have been doing since about 1989 so I can just carry on as I have before. It is nice to see that someone else has come up with the same method as me though, I have no not come across anyone else that does this in my gaming circles. I obviously need bigger circles.

About Professions

There is plenty of choice of Profession in Zwei. There are 75 basic professions and a further 46 advanced professions which are accessible later in the game. Zwei doesn’t have strict levels as such but three Tiers. You start at the Basic Tier and as you progress from Basic to Intermediate to Advanced you can change profession. It would be a bit like running an RM an extended campaign but forgoing leveling up and just doing the first section as 4th level characters and then a second chapter as 9th level and a third chapter at 14th. That seems to be about the power level.

About skills

There are 37 skills in the game. That is just about right in my estimation. You get a single rank, giving a +10 bonus, at the apprentice level. You can spend reward points to buy additional ranks. You start the game with 10 skills and one rank in each. To make a skill test you add any skill rank bonus to the governing stat and roll under that number.

This means that you have about a 50-ish% chance at your 10 core skills for your profession and a 40-ish% at most other skills. After a session or two that would become 60% in your favourite couple of skills 50% in other core professional skills and 40% across the board. You can see why I suggest the basic tier is roughly equivalent to 4th level in RM.

Talents

Every profession imbues the character with three talents. Each talent has a single effect such as a bonus to a particular skill or skills checks in a specific situation or a penalty to others acting against you. A talent making your intimidation checks more effective may work by making your victims switch their tens and units dice around (so a 37 becomes a 73) if they are trying to resist you.

There are more than 80 talents and they all seem to be focused on refining the broader professional archetype down to the specific professional roles. My character has Mariner as a Talent and that gives +20 to his navigation rolls when in sight of land.

So What do I think?

The only flaw in the character creation process is that it is entirely random and there is no input from the player. I can see the logic. There seems to be a desire to push players out of their comfort zone and challenge them.

What this deadhead process does do is get you up and running in minutes and there is no min/maxing and there is no worrying about having chosen the wrong skills. The profession side of it is brilliant. If the designer dumped the paragraph where they say you have to spend 1000 reward points and then give you a list of compulsory things that add up to 1000 reward points then I would not have a complaint. Tell me I can customise my profession and then give me a choice of one option is to just piss me off. Don’t give me a choice but tell me that you have prepared a well balanced and rounded character that I can customise later and I would be fine with that. Infact Hurin has been begging for exactly that from the RMU devs for months!

If you gave me choices then this is a great looking system that is detailed any yet simple. It looks like there are lots of things that will have an important bearing on the game later on. You can leave them as random, it makes no odds to me when my character was born but it does matter to me what my characters personality is like. In many respects it does matter to me what my character looks like.

I am prepared to play my random character and I will do so this weekend I hope. If I create a second character I would pick and choose what to roll for and what to decide to get a character I want to play. The character I have, I don’t really care for and I am struggling to get any enthusiasm up for.

And Finally…

I have a player that has a really tough life. His wife as multiple complex medical conditions and they have a couple of children one of whom has an autistic spectrum disorder disorder and can be violent. The child without the AS disorder also deserves time and attention. In addition he has to work two jobs. When he wants to play he has to arrange additional support for his family to get him the time to step away and play. The escapism aspect and the chance to simply play is really important. That need for escapism means that he invariably plays some sort of elven magician / sorcerer / conjuror. Anything that is distinctly magical and highly destructive.

To tell this player “Sorry, but your one dice roll means that you are human hunchbacked beggar, but you do get to choose to have a flintlock pistol or a garot, which would you like?” is not a thing I am prepared to do. Fun is good, escapism is good, deontological ethics is a bit further down my list of gaming priorities.

Next Time

I will look at skills and talents in a bit more detail.

6 Replies to “Zweihänder Read Through – Character Creation & Profession”

  1. Get ready, because Zweihänder is about to kick you right in the RPG feels. Randomness is used to force people out of their comfort zone to create compelling characters that aren’t knights in shining armor and high-powered wizards. And, your reaction isn’t uncommon when it comes to randomly dicing for everything. It’s sometimes compared (amusingly) as Misery Simulator 101.

    Misery Simulator 201 is choosing everything instead of randomly dicing, and makes for a more bespoke (and enjoyable) experience.

    But you should explore both options, especially once you have a handle on mechanics.

    Good read, can’t wait to see the next post!

    1. As I said, I have a complete lack of player agency in character creation. I am not complaining and I am still onside. Right now I don’t feel like I created this character and I have no emotional connection to him. If I had more interaction with the process then maybe I would feel engaged. We will see.

  2. I’d say this is a sign of the Warhammer roots coming through. There was precious little choice in their creation system (I’m talking about early WHFRP here). You rolled for race, starting broad class and then occupation. I think you could even roll for gender and handedness. Skills were assigned based on your occupation. But it wasn’t especially nasty. All the occupations were playable, and the ones that were less than optimal had quick exit values so you could move on to an advanced occupation.

    I don’t mind systems like this so long as they’re playable and flexible within reason. This one sounds a touch extreme for me, but I haven’t read the rules yet so I can’t say for certain. My other dislike is systems that offer you a “choice” and then skew one option so badly you pretty much have to take the other option if you want a playable character.

    1. I have read up to page 192 so only 500 more pages to go.

      I have not found a single unplayable combination yet. It is probably down to clever design or extensive testing that whatever combination you roll comes out viable. The skills, talents and trait combinations do provide a decent rounded character.

      1. None of the Warhammer occupations were bad per se, but there were some that were either totally mundane or outright hard to play well in a group setting (grave robber I believe was one…don’t have the book handy so I can’t check for sure). Most of those had fairly quick exit paths, though, so you could move on with little fuss.

        1. Zwei certainly has more professions available than any version of Warhammer that I have seen. Having base professions like grave robber is not intrinsically bad if characters can move on.

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