This is the second of my posts on Zweihänder’s mammoth Game Mastery ‘chapter’.
The first bit that sticks out is the world building rules. So far I have been somewhat critical about how Zwei can be both setting neutral and yet detail races, magical sources, gods, religions and to some extent monsters. The last will come up in a later post but the rest are, to my mind, all setting dependent.
The solution is an onion skin approach to campaigns. The inner most layer of the onion is the core rules. You can always remove stuff from the core rules like red lining gnomes or pyromancers. What you are left with are the game mechanics for your game.
The next layer is the campaign layer. These are brief descriptions of actual settings. There translate the rules as written into setting specific versions. This is where you can rename gods and their spheres of influence or decide on different magical sources.
This being Zwei, campaigns are based around conflicts. I believe this is a WFRPG concept but the campaign layers describe The Enemy Within, The Enemy Without, The Enemy Beyond and then a set of adventure hooks or ideas. So ‘within’ details the internal struggles within the nations detailed in the setting. ‘Without’ details potential hooks for adventures centred on other nations or powers from trading partners to demonic forces. The Enemy Beyond is all about the supernatural forces acting on the setting.
This section gives guidelines on creating your own campaign layers, such as Carrion Crows a user created world of corruption and contagion. There are also prepared settings such as the 30 years war (Germany 1630), a fantasy setting, Goth Moran Divided and an Egyptian campaign. That is only a selection.
The cool thing is that this does demonstrate the flexibility of the system and I can understand why they maintain that the core rules are setting neutral.
There will always be things that I don’t like. I am sure that if ten GMs read this core book then there would be ten different opinions about what is great and what is not so great.
Stables of Characters
Zwei is so dangerous that it is suggested that players create a small stable, three or more, PCs. Each completely different from each other. When playing a character all the other characters in the stable earn 50% of the experience (Reward Points) that the main character earns.
The point of the stable of spares is so that a replacement character can be cycled in should PC#1 meet their maker. It is also suggested that the most appropriate character is used for each adventure.
I struggle with this. I struggled with the completely random PC generation and once I had my PC I could not identify with him. I could cope with just about everything except random alignment. As a result alignment has atrophied to the point where it is playing no part in my game. If alignment is a barrier to having fun then alignment is asked to leave.
Stables of PCs are also something I seem to be struggling with. I like to invest in my PCs. I don’t know what personalities they will have until I start playing and their personalities develop over time. With a stable of characters their personalities are turning out to be shallow, more me than anything that has grown out of the game.
This is possibly more me than the rules as written.
I want to talk a bit about Carrion Crows . This is not an official part of Zwei. It is a 3rd party campaign layer written in the format recommended by the Game Mastery chapter.
Carrion Crows is a $1.99 supplement for Zwei. It centers around the nation of Albion and follows the Within, Without and Beyond format. It then goes on to introduce custom rules for a phenomena called Contamination that is highly contagious, as you would expect, and can infect player characters and cause all kinds of horrible effects.
The ‘stars’ of Carrion Crows are the crows themselves. These are the myriad of groups and bands that pick over the remains following battles. Each organisation is nicknamed a ‘nest’ and the members are the crows.
Nests and Crows are a useful vehicle for bringing characters together and allocating missions.
Magick, with a ‘K’, is incredibly rare in Zwei but Carrion Crows introduces a lesser form of magical item, more akin to luck charms. Items that give a little bonus here and there. They still fall into the core model of petty, lesser and greater and they still use the incantation skill to activate which makes the liable to critical successes and failures
You then get a sampling of these less powerful magics. Albion is intended to be higher magic than Zwei is off the shelf.
I have always said that I could not create a setting as they are too much work. I look at Terry’s efforts and marvel. A Zwei style campaign layer on other hand I could create. This whole thing is 21 pages, 20 without the cover and only 15 if you take the art out, and is perfectly playable.
I could create a 15 page setting. That is in the same ballpark as GRAmel‘s mini settings and they are my favourite. I am not saying that Zwei settings are like GRAmel settings, they are not but both can easily fit into 15 to 20 pages.