[Review] Zweihämmer (WHF retroclone) Pt. VII; Other magical shit

Besides wizards, the other major spellcasting profession in Zweihänder, as it was in the Olden time, is the Priestly class. All major human deities from the Warhammer Fantasy universe are covered in Zweihander, with each being given an alternative name and occasionally gender, with Game of Thrones-esque titles like the Steward and the Winter King replacing the (probably copyrighted) Gods of the Old World. Each clergy has its own profession with their own special ability (say: The Grey Guilder may roll 1d6 whenever he spends a fortune point and regains it on the 6), spell list and Commandments. As previously stated, all human deities that were covered in the core book of 2e are represented here, with one delicious new addition.

Each deity is given a short write-up, less then the almost page-long write-ups of 2e (understandable since setting information is far less specific), with a short description on who they are and what they are about, a paragraph on their Priesthood (and the fate that befalls them should they become corrupted) and another paragraph on Commandments. At first I was pissed off that commandments were rather general since it leaves so much interpretation in the hands of the GM but the more I read them the more I like it. The commandments are enough to get a general idea of what the deity wants you to do, with the occasional weapon restriction thrown in (e.g the Wolf King thinks ranged weaponry is for cowards, little girls and furries).

A welcome new addition is the Crouching One, based off a certain Blood-handed God of Murder we all know and love. His priests, with the ridiculous yet very Warhammer Fantasy-esque title of Bloodmongers, seem to be based (loosely) on the Brides of Khaine;  They gain health by the sacred act of murder and the majority of their spells are based around physical attacks (various spells allow you to poison, drain, increase agony or outright slay your enemies with a strike or touch), with material components like the shrunken head of a priest worn around your neck or a spider’s head in your pocket or something. Khaine is an excellent choice for edgelords who find playing villains appealing while the use of Servants of the real Dark Gods remains the purview of the benevolent and omniscient GM.

Fallen priests and worshippers of the Dark Gods are covered by the Dark Disciple advanced class, which represents anything from Apostates who reject the divine entirely and draw power from the Warp itself to fallen clerics who now pay homage to the Dark Gods. Sadly, corrupted priests do not get their own spell lists.

Spellcasting is pretty much the same for Priests as for wizards. Priests also gain access to the universal Petty magick list, are restricted to a single unique spell list based on their choice of deity, can channel power and must also learn spells from tomes or books. A major difference between arcane Spellcasters and Priests is the Divine Displeasure effect. Whenever a Priest would suffer a Chaos Manifestation, he instead suffers from Divine Displeasure, a unique sort of persistent curse that only abates when the character has atoned. While the consequences of Divine Displeasure are generally not as immediately debilitating as a Chaos Manifestation, with the exception of the Divine Displeasure incurred when using Greater Magick, which generally means the crippling loss of all spellcasting ability and standing within the church alongside a debilitating if not lethal curse until the offence is atoned for. As a departure from the old Divine Displeasure rules, Divine Punishments increase in severity over time if the offence is not atoned for.

Priest spells vary tremendously according across Deities. Deities like the God-Emperor and the Winter King are front-loaded with offensive magicks to blast their foes and inspire their allies while priests of the Martyr or the Nightfather have spell lists that are almost entirely healing or utility in nature. I’d call the spells spiritually similar but mechanically distinct from the ones in Warhammer Fantasy 2e. Your cleric of Sigmar is not going to play that differently in Zweihänder as in 2e, though his spell selection will certainly be increased (from 6 to 9 spells). You will still be able to throw a two-tailed comet at someone’s face or smite mutants with a pillar of purifying light (though the Priest of Sigmar seems to lack healing abilities in Zweihänder, a balancing decision that I actually approve of).
Just for shits and giggles, one of the most powerful divine spells I could find was Rage of the Primal Lord, a spell given to worshippers of the Demiurge (Taal/Reya) that allowed you to don a terrifying Beast mask, cause Terror in your foes, to make 2 attacks per round and inflict an extra (exploding) d6 worth of damage with each attack. You can’t parry or dodge, but then again there is very little chance you’ll need to.

Miscellaneous magic is handled in an interesting fashion in Zweihänder. True magic items in Zweihänder and Warhammer are treated more like Artifacts in DnD, with their own unique history, powers and drawbacks. They are also rare as fuck. To give PCs something to chase and to create a sort of universality Zweihänder introduces the sorcerous substance of Wychstone, a magic-glasslike substance that fell from the skies in a prior age that serves as a potent magical catalyst and is coveted by all manner of arcane practitioners and creepy ratmen alike. Wychstone is of course a thinly veiled analogy for Warpstone, but it’s the rules that make this section very interesting (making me wonder if the Wychstone rules are entirely new or based off some entry or another that I missed).

Merely carrying Wychstone around is dangerous, as it emits sorcerous radiation that causes Corruption (though you are given the option of carrying it around in a lead-lined receptacle). Powdered Wychstone may be snorted/inhaled to increase one’s spellcasting ability. That’s right. Zweihander has magical radioactive wizard cocaine. Perhaps most importantly, Wychstone is a critical component in the creation of the Panacea, one of the few means of curing diseases in a Grim and Perilous World. It can also be used to create special gunpowder, is used in many rituals and is an important ingredient in the creation and enchantment of Elixers, rune-scribed wargear and Talismans.

Elixers are the potions of the Warhammer World, but the brewing process is haphazard and fairly random, meaning one cannot simply cobble together 20 Elixers of Being even if one is in the possession of an abundant supply of Wychstone. Perhaps logically, elixers are perishable and cannot be stored indefinitely, a GREAT design decision that I endorse fully.

Like 2e, Zweihänder also makes use of Rituals, which have been expanded to encompass the raising of the dead, the summoning of demons, the binding of abyssal familiars, the inscription of magick runes and even the summoning of Elementals. I was most impressed with the Demon Summoning rules, which has all the traditional Faustian elements rule-baked into it from the get-go and causes a permanent increase in Chaos Ranks upon the striking of a bargain.
Rather then making the mistake of only using demons for something as mundane as combat, summoned demons may be used to bring about plagues, force marriages, cause a jury to render a certain verdict, create discord, grant material wealth and of course, gain knowledge. This list is by no means complete. This might be one of the most impressive and classical takes on Demon Summoning that I have ever seen, True Names and all. Awesome.

Inscribing Runes is another sort of quasi-magical skill that may be picked up by any with the right skill focus, not simply wizards and priests. In a perhaps heretical deviation from established Lore, even the Runesmith profession may be picked up by other people then curmudgeonly 300-year old dwarves. Items can be temporarily or permanently (provided you have the wychstone) enchanted with runes granting different abilities. Like spells, these Runes are classified from Petty to Greater and must be learned individually. Runes are quite potent, with minor ones allowing you to reroll damage or hit rolls or increasing your damage threshold and similar powers while the most powerful runes allow their bearers to ignore all injuries, flip the result of any combat based rolls or automatically splinter weapons and shields with each blow. Rune-scribed weapons and armour are likely to be the most “common” source of magical items in a game of Zweihänder, the equivalent of a sword+1 but less boring. Like almost any other magical item in the game, permanent runes can only be described if one has a sufficient supply of powdered wychstone, preventing overzealous dwarves from flooding the market with cheap magical swords for everyone.

A last “common” form of magical item is the Talisman. Like any other item in A Grim And Perilous World, these items can never just be bought in a magic item shoppe but can be obtained as heirlooms or as a reward from a mad wizard for performing a hideously dangerous mission that leaves permanent mental scarring on the poor, broken sobs that eventually stumble their way back into the bastard’s lair with flat stares and hanging hands. Talisman’s are pretty straightforward. You get a +5 bonus to the base chance of success for any one skill. You are of course limited to a single talisman per player.

Actual serious magical shit with a capital M can only be found in the GM section and is divvied up into Artifacts and Relics. Artifacts are the creations of long dead wizards using long-lost knowledge and Relics are the belongings of heroes and legends that have spontaneously gained magical power. All the sample artifacts and relics are awesome. The mantic calculator is an orrery of such intricate complexity that it models the entire world perfectly, granting perfect knowledge to anyone who sits upon its golden throne. The Beyond is an enchanted painting depicting a scene straight out of Hiernymous Bosch (props for the art btw), that allows one to travel anywhere and to make a wish by painting it on the vast canvas. It will only operate if you use the blood of a lover or member of the family. Fucking awesome.
Oddly enough of the two relics described thereafter, the stand-in for the Hammer of Sigmar is by far the weakest of the two, but that is only because the other relic, a blood-soaked trebuchet hung with the corpses of women and children formerly owned by a man known as Gustave the Great that can bring down any fortified wall with a single shot and spread pestilence in settlements but with a very great risk of propelling whoever uses it along with the shot. What strikes me as interesting is that the background of the Whoreson seems to be set in the real historical period of the Thirty Years War, in sharp constrast with the other artifacts. Also this:

After seizing Wurzburg, the Taker beheaded every captain of the city guard, while the children and wives of the captains were hung from the throwing arm of a mighty trebuchet, decorated with his banners. Left behind as a symbol of The Taker’s sanguine campaign, it would later be dubbed The Whoreson. Were one to locate the trebuchet today, likely you’d find the tiny bones of children half-buried in the soil, with daisies growing in the red-black clay.

TLDR: The magic item section is every bit as spiffy as it was in 2e, the use and prominence of Wychstone represents an easy way to put a limit on the amount of magic that is available in the game as well as giving us the ability to boost our magic with radiation emitting magic space-cocaine and most of these new relics actually manage to supercede the old game, if we look at both creativity and quality of writing. Fucking awesome. I am very pleased with the magic section and you should be too if you know what is good for you.

Join us soon for a look at Zweihänders super fucking long GM Section. Till next time!


2 thoughts on “[Review] Zweihämmer (WHF retroclone) Pt. VII; Other magical shit

  1. As previously stated, all human deities that were covered in the core book of 2e are represented here, with one delicious new addition.

    I’m guessing ‘Lord of the Flounce’…

    A welcome new addition is the Crouching One, based off a a certain Blood-handed God of murder we all know and love.

    Bloo for the Bloo God!

    Like

    1. [Lord of the Flounce]

      I thought Jamal would be the lord of the Flounce. Is he from WFRP originally?

      [Bloo for the bloo god]

      In the end, although we bought all the somethings in the world, it was not enough for him to keep his lights on.

      Like

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