Zweihander: Grim & Perilous RPG

A number of factors conspired to get me to look into Zweihander by Grim & Perilous Studios when it was new, and more have colluded to keep me interested in it as its story has unfolded. Starting with the size of the book and the attitude of the rules and then crossing over into the aggressive and perspicacious marketing tactics, there always seemed to be something about the game or the company that could catch my attention.

Since I began following the game, I have been fortunate to have been given the chance to explore parts of it that I might not have looked at. This came as a result of the owner’s dedication to spreading and improving his company’s line of products, but also from his apparent desire to build and maintain connections and relationships with other gamers.

A steep reduction in the price of the original version of the lovingly-described PDF got me to take that initial look. What I saw was enough to get me curious about how the text would look in its massive PoD version. There wasn’t much in that size at that tine to compare it to, and I was and am very curious about developments in Print-on-Demand. The video in which I first looked at the book in print led to contact with Daniel Fox, founder of Grim & Perilous Studios. He was kind and generous enough to send me the offset press version produced by his first Kickstarter campaign. My comparison video of the two books led to more products heading my way. The screen and the decks of spell cards followed in turn. I would have had to have been blind to miss the enthusiasm evidenced by Fox and his small but growing team, but moreso to have missed that the company was evolving and growing rapidly – and continues to do so. The question this raised for me then which still interests me now is, what is it becoming?

Inclusive

Early on, the game’s text clearly wanted to show that all were welcome as players and as characters. As time has gone on, this desire seems to have sharpened and been given broader thought about what it takes to actually get that attitude into the text and imagery of the game. We can see it best in the little things like consistent art that matches the text, in sensitivity to common vision challenges which are often ignored, and in the willingness to revise and update the books to match the rising standards of the developer.

Refreshing to note is that conviction about how Fox wants his game and company to behave and be seen is matched with a conviction to ask questions and learn coupled with a visible desire to be accessible to all. The game doesn’t try to be the answer to everyone’s needs or interests, but it seems to be indicative of its author’s willingness to share his love of gaming with anyone willing to try.

Ambitious

It is no secret that Zweihander was intended to fill a void in active publication for those who missed earlier versions of Warhammer Fantasy. It seems to have done so, and that is not all that we are seeing. Colonial Gothic is now on board with the system and that promises to offer a lot of fun to old and new fans of that beloved game. Those who appreciate the life of the samurai may also find a way to dig into that passion with a Grim & Perilous game in the future. Little has been said, but a grim take on the western may be in the cards as well.

Ambition and improvement can lead to a rocky road, ruffled feathers, and mixed metaphors. As the company transitioned from a part-time concern to one in league with a traditional publisher, things took some surprising turns – not all of which were appreciated despite all the ones which were. Chief among these, I suspect is the retail distribution dates for Kickstarter funded books which manifested near or in some cases before all backers received their copies. As a rare backer in Korea, to receive mine within a week or so of this full-scale release was a pleasant surprise. I am, however, quite used to the seeming slowness of the mail having lived here for so long and having waited for so many things.

In comparison, PoD pledges from the Kickstarter were upgraded to offset press copies as a part of the transition to affiliation with Andrews McMeel and those who had already backed at an offset press level were compensated rather than charging the PoD backers more.

It isn’t just games, growth, and grousing that are a sign of the company’s ambitions. We can see that product quality is also a driving force with each iteration of the rules. Layout has changed and improved, art placement and treatment has been given greater care, the text has been revised, and the binding and covers have been dragged out of the norm for the industry into a level of quality which should be the norm. In a hobby which really needs its books survive a lot of use plus stay open and flat on any page, how often do we really see that outside of special editions? Not often enough. It is the norm for Zweihander, however, and in a sense a gauntlet has been thrown down. Games are important to gamers and can be done better – much better in some surprising cases. Grim & Perilous seems to be asking why that is so while showing us it doesn’t need to be.

Specific

Zweihander, particularly in its gritty fantasy guise, is an experience. Those coming to it from different types of play, or with no familiarity with the sort of inspirations which informed Warhammer are in for some surprises. The game is written with a nice balance between commitment to what the rules are, awareness of what the rules do and are for, and what can happen to rules in the hands of players. The game, in a sense has been made to speak up for itself, without being obnoxious about it. Reading the text leaves a person with a good understanding of what to do and why when invoking a rule in play or in preparation to play. The rest is left up to them.

Core Rules plus Expansion
Opens Flat on Any Page

The story of this young company and its flagship game has just begun. It has risen from a one-person, part-time project available only on DriveThru to a top-tier publication distributed by Andrews McMeel in all the major chains in a stunningly short time. The next chapter might be equally as unexpected and I, for one, am very curious about how it might turn out. The company is not producing flawless products nor has it matched in quality of text the fervor for quality of production which is so evident – but unlike many other major publishers this does not seem to come from cost-cutting or a disregard learned from the laissez faire attitude of customers content to buy and own rather than read and play. What shortcomings remain are not from disregard or a lack of effort, and I believe that there is significant evidence that of any company out there, Grim & Perilous has proven how far it is willing to go to meet and exceed expectations… sometimes raising its customers’ bar of expectation in the process.

Comments
3 Responses to “Zweihander: Grim & Perilous RPG”
  1. I have been impressed by Zwiehander and the work of Grim & Perilous Studios since I stumbled across their post-Kickstarter Backerkit page. I have also been impressed with how they’ve carved out such a nice slice of “the market” since then. I look forward to seeing what they do with Colonial Gothic: Grim & Perilous and Tetsubo: Grim & Perilous.

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