Zweihänder Read Through – Trappings & Combat

Trappings is Zweihänder parlance for equipment. The default non-setting of Zweihänder uses three base coins, each of which reflects a social strata, brass pennies are used by the poorest peasants in society, the low born, including my PC. Silver Schillings are the currency of commerce and the marchant classes and then gold crowns at the top of the economic tree.

This chapter covers four aspects. The first is actually buying stuff and prices. The second is how skills interact with these prices such as haggling for a better price. The third is the game mechanics and how items, particularly weapons interact with the game mechanics. This is a list of ‘qualities’ that equipment may possess and the effect of each quality. Fast is a quality and a weapon with the Fast quality confers a -10% to a foes chance to dodge, Slow is the opposite quality and confers a +10% bonus to dodge and parry. There are dozens of qualities from Adaptable (weapons that can be used one or two handed) to Weak (weapons whose damaged is capped).

Damage from weapons is described as Moderate, Serious or Grievous Injuries.

The final part of this chapter combines the previous parts into detailed textual and mechanical descriptions of all the weapons and equipment.

My character posesses a Mortuary Sword. This is what I now know about it.

MORTUARY SWORD: The most common weapon for explorers, it is useful and evokes little fuss. Not surprisingly, it tends to cleave violently – thus its namesake.

WEAPON: Mortuary sword
HANDLING: One-handed
TYPE: Bladed

The Vicious quality has this definition:

VICIOUS: Weapons of this Quality grant an additional 1D6 Chaos Die to determine whether you inflict an Injury upon a foe.

We will come back to the Chaos Die.

The overall impression of the trappings chapter is that it is really well designed. It covered a variety of skills such as those for trading but also for repairing damaged equipment. Everything related to gear from superior materials to things that explode to haggling is all covered in one chapter. I cannot help but feel that in RM we would be flipping from chapter to chapter or from Character Law for the prices and then C&T for superior materials and so on.

Chapter 9 Combat

The first thing that stands out in the combat rules is the initiative system. Every character has an Initiative parameter on their character sheet that is derived from their agility and their encumbrance. This is added to a d10 roll and that is their initiative for the entire combat. Nothing exciting there.

Ever character, NPC, foe and event is then added to an Initiative ladder. Events that are not known to the the PCs are marked on the ladder as coded marks. This ladder is open for all to see.

Examples of these unknown events may be when a bomb is due to explode or when a hidden assassin has rolled their initiative.

I am not convinced by this system. It seems to me that the players will have some sort of a priori knowledge if they can see that there will be events that happen before or after their move. So far I have not had an opportunity to run a combat with multiple players to see how they react to this open initiative ladder system.

My other worry about this system is that with my players we do not sit around a table, we are scattered around a living room on sofas. No one is going to see this initiative ladder or it will be a massive disturbance to the flow of play as it gets passed from person to person and inevitably the players worry about a special marks at initiative points 4,5,6 & 7.

So let me put initiative to one side.

When it is your turn you get three Action Points to spend. You may hold APs to later in the same turn (what we call a round Zwei calls a turn and they are 10 seconds long).

There is a pretty good table of available actions and their AP costs. Movement costs AP, walking costs 1, spending a turn running costs all three and a charge costs 2 but that does not include the attack at the end of the charge. Called shots cost 2AP.

Attacks cost 1 AP each except magical attacks that are just listed as VARIES.

There is a menu of special moves like throwing/kicking sand in your opponents eyes to blind them or attempting to stun them. Being stunned robs them of 1AP.

Zwei uses zones of control although it does not use that phrase. Anyone leaving an engagement gives their opponents a chance to perform an opportunity attack against them.

So after the description of Initiative and then the list of AP actions there is a description and example of every available combat action. I found this bit quite interesting:

In ZWEIHÄNDER, combat swings are abstracted to a great degree. Rolling to strike and dealing Damage has been carefully balanced, designed to be swift and merciless. Because of this, multiple attack rolls on the same Turn are not a consideration of the system. However, some Professions and Traits may allow you to take advantage of two weapon fighting in different ways.

So Zwei is a flurry of blows system.


There is no self respecting RM player that doesn’t want to know how to parry. Parry in Zwei takes place after you have been hit but before they roll damage. You make a skill roll and on success you take no damage. Parry is a 1AP action.

The basic combat procedure is Roll your attack, defender defends and then you roll any damage. The defender has a choice of actions such as dodge and parry as you saw above and a few others.


I had to read the wounds section twice to make sure I was not imagining things! Right at the top of the combat chapter the rules say that Zwei does not use hit points but in the weapon descriptions there was talk of rolling additional dice of damage, called the fury die. I was curious as to how this was going to be reconciled.

What I just read was basically like someone had lifted the entire character damage section out of 7th Sea. Believe me when I say 7th Sea is about as far away from Zwei as you can get.

So here is the basic mechanic. Your combat bonus (one of every characters basic stats) is the basic damage you do plus you roll 1d6 for the Fury die. That is the additional damage. The fury die ‘explodes’ or is open ended. So if you roll a 6 then you roll again and add the new roll to that six. The fury die can keep on exploding if you keep on rolling 6s. So the total damage is you CB value plus the total rolled from the Fury die/dice.

This total value is then converted into levels of damage by taking into a characters damage threshold which is made up of one of their stats plus armour.

So if the total damage is less than the damage threshold then no damage is taken. If you get over the damage threshold then that is one level, if you get 6 over the threshold then that is two levels, 12 is three levels. Any attack that does 3 levels is an instant kill.

So now we have turned points of damage into levels.

The levels push a character along a damage track. The track goes:

  1. Unharmed
  2. Lightly Wounded
  3. Moderately Wounded
  4. Seriously Wounded
  5. Grievously Wounded
  6. Slain!

So if you take two levels in the first round you are lightly wounded. If you take a further two levels the following round then you would seriously wounded. Another two levels and you would be slain.

At certain points you have to roll from 1d6 to 3d6 and try and avoid getting any 6s. Sixes are bad and equate to actual injuries. One of the effects of injuries is bleeding and it is as bad or worse than the bleeding we have in RM.

So the net effect seems to be that if you are being hit then you will die. I haven’t run a combat yet so I haven’t tried it out but it really looks like parrying is really important to avoid being hurt in the first place and then if you are losing then get out of there!

So that is a brief summary of combat.

We are now on page 256 of 692. That is chapter 8 done. Next time it is hazards & healing and more excitingly we get our first look at magic in the Grimoire.

8 Replies to “Zweihänder Read Through – Trappings & Combat”

  1. Hang on I thought it was a D100 system…..where are all these D6s and Chaos/Fury dice coming from. It’s beginning to sound like D&D 🙂

    1. I believe they come from the same dice bag that Rolemaster gets its d8s from. It always irritated me that humans used d8s for body development in RM2.

      So far everything has been d100 for char gen, combat and skills. It is only damage and wounds that have utilised a d6. I think it is a little bit of Zwei’s Warhammer roots coming through.

      Lurking at the back of my mind was a hope that I could fit Rolemaster Critical tables into Zwei. If we took the moderate, serious and grievous wounds and made them A, C and E criticals. The weapons already have categories like Slashing so we have a severity and critical table. Bleeding and Stunned are already native mechanics in Zwei. I think I could get rid of the fury die and the chaos die and replace them with critical rolls. That would be a cool supplement “Grim & Perilous Combat” to add that RM feel to Zwei.

      1. I had briefly glanced at the combat section prior to this and also wondered if RM-style crits could be added to it too!

        1. The basic process is attacker rolls to hit, defender rolls to defend, if there is a hit then roll the damage. Thinking a bit more about this a HARP style table would make more sense so the weapon type (slash/puncture etc) is important and the roll.

          Yet another thing to add to my list of things to make.

            1. I have nearly finished my first Zwei supplement. Depending on sales will decide if I invest more time and effort into it.

  2. Interesting.

    One could use a parry system similar to this in RM (esp. RMU). Instead of parrying adding a bonus to your DB, you could instead spend AP for a parry, which would allow you to make a skill check — say an opposed skill check between your weapon or shield and the opponent’s weapon. Success equals no damage.

    That would certainly simplify parrying in Rolemaster! Making it cost AP is easy now — that’s the way active shield blocking and active dodging work.

    I might actually try this in my game!

    1. I like the idea of parrying costing 1AP. I think it would make parry much more powerful if you were not having to split OB into attack and defence.

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