Main Gauche supplement for Zweihander- a read-through

domesude

Villager
FULL DISCLOSURE: I WAS GIVEN A COPY OF THIS BOOK BY ITS AUTHOR, TO READ THROUGH AND REVIEW. I WILL DO BOTH IN A FAIR AND EVEN-HANDED MANNER



Hello, all. In another thread, I'm doing a read-through of The Zweihander Grim & Perilous RPG Revised Core Rulebook. It was quite the undertaking. Clocking in at nearly 700 pages, that book had a Players' Guide, GM's Guide, and Bestiary all rolled into one comprehensive package. Seriously, you could game for ages with the material in that book alone.



But what if I told you that there was material that had been left out of the core rulebook? Well, there was. I have heard interviews with the game's author and lead designer, Daniel Fox, wherein he stated that he had to leave some material out, lest the book's weight (and its price) become unmanageable. Some of this material has been published as "Dark Astral", a sort of rough set of conversion notes for using Zweihander (which initially sprang from WFRP2e house rules) to play games set in a "Grimdark" future. But, as it turns out, there was more. Much more.



Which brings us to Main Gauche. Weighing in at just over half the page count of its predecessor, this new supplement is nevertheless a heavyweight in its own right. It's packed full of new professions and rules to enhance your Zweihander game. I have seen it described as a "Chaos Supplement". Intruiging! Let's take a look at it, shall we?





PHYSICAL PRESENTATION



As with the Revised Core Rulebook, Main Gauche is a beautiful book. It has many of the same qualities that made Zweihander such an impressive physical product. The same matte finish, which gives it a somewhat "understated" look. Well, as much as that's possible, given the cover (more on that in a bit). Thick, glossy pages. Lay flat binding that allows Main Gauche to be used effortlessly in play. Excellent illustrations by Dejan Mandic throughout, including on the border of every page. As with the corebook, Main Gauche has a cohesive feel. The art is plentiful, very well done, and, unlike some other games, not in garish color. No, these are in a distinctive black and white, that has a very nostalgic feel for old farts like me. It has that "almost underground comix" vibe that I loved so much about early RPG art. It sets quite the mood.



And while I had described the cover of the core book as not being very dynamic, the cover of Main Gauche is Dynamic with a capital D. By Ken Duquet and Dejan Mandic, it is a harrowing scene of adventurers (cleverly depicted as Characters of Professions listed in this very book) engaged in battle with what appear to be the very forces of Chaos. There is blood. There is Fire. There are Demons.



The endsheets are a darkish grey, and there is a greyish brown ribbon sewn into the binding to use as a bookmark.



Another minor complaint I had about the core book was that the printing in some of the tables was a tad small to be read comfortably by me (though, again, I am old). That is the case here, as well. Again, this is only something that comes up in the various tables, and in the Table of Contents.



Overall, I cannot find fault with the physical presentation of this book. Now, let's crack it open!



After the Table of Contents, there is an introductory bit of fiction featuring ex-convict, soldier and survivor Danziger Eckhardt, who also introduced us to the core book. And as grim as that into was, this one is even bleaker. I won't spoil it, but I will say it doesn't make ol' Danziger a very sympathetic character. Brrr!



Next there is a note from the designer, which tells us a bit about what has happened since Zweihander's official release in 2017. He then goes on to explain that Main Gauche is a mix of new material, and stuff that was left out of Zweihander's core book. Fox explains that what is in this new book has been thoroughly tested, and crafted to adhere to Zweihander's "bounded accuracy" model of game design, as well as its aesthetics and "feel". One thing I like about Zweihander is that many of the optional rules can be bolted on or stripped away with ease and without disrupting the flow of the game, so I welcomed the news that any systems contained within these pages would have the same modularity.



Then, we get a breakdown of what we will find in Main Gauche, to wit:



-Liber Mortalum (Book of Mortals) new Professions, and lots of 'em.



-Liber Armorum (Book of Weapons) 65 new pieces of armor, armament and shields, plus new materials with which to craft them, And, more WAR MACHINES!



-Liber Vehiculorum (Book of Vehicles) expands upon existing vehicles, but also adds fantastic machines, powered by Wytchstone, that drive or fly. Also includes rules for vehicular combat.



-Liber Alchemiae (Book of Alchemy) how to make stuff into other, cooler stuff. New Diseases, Disorders and Treatments. Also, fun with Wytchstone ("Wytch-Science", a practice of the Skrzzak)!



-Liber Daemonum (Book of Demons) how to contact and control be killed by Demons.



-Liber Umbrarum (Book of Shadows) Covenant Magick, a new path for those wishing to get new and exciting spells from Demonic patrons. Just remember, there's no such thing as a free lunch.



-Liber Malus (Book of Evil) rules for creating your own creatures and NPCs.



-Liber Obscurus (Book of Mysteries) jinkies! Rules for running investigations and conspiracies.



-There's Something About Marie, a full-length adventure that can be used as a follow-up to "A Bitter Harvest", from the core book.



-Appendix expanded tables which fold new material into the material from the Main Rules.





That's what we're going to see in Main Gauche, and I will be going through it, Chapter by Chapter. I hope you'll stick around.



I have noticed a couple of minor typos in the first 15 or so pages. My only real complaint with the main book was the editing, and I really hope that's not a running theme with this one.



Overall, though, I'm pretty excited to check this out. But, I have yardwork to do tomorrow, so I gotta go for now. Watch this space, because next up is



CHAPTER 1: LIBER MORTALUM
 

domesude

Villager
CHAPTER 1: LIBER MORTALUM



The Zweihander core book had nearly 120 Professions. In Zweihander, your Character will have a randomly rolled Archetype (a sort of broad class, e.g., Academic, Warrior, Socialite, etc.), and then, from within that Archetype, a Profession will also be randomly rolled. There are also Expert Professions, which are not randomly selected, but can be chosen provided the Character meets certain criteria (for a more detailed explanation of all of this, see my Zweihander read-through, linked in the OP).



The core book had 72 regular Professions, and 46 Expert Professions. Main Gauche has 18 new regular professions, and 50(!) new Expert Professions. The new regular Professions have been folded into expanded Archetype tables, making character creation flow seamlessly even when using material from this new supplement.



The new professions are presented in the same format as those from the core book (NAME, PROFESSIONAL TRAIT, SPECIAL TRAIT if applicable, DRAWBACK if applicable, ADVANCES needed to advance to the next Tier). Traits, for those who don't know or remember, are special abilities unique to certain Professions or Ancestries (again see previous read-through for more details).



None of the new regular Professions seem to have access to Magick, but some of the Expert Professions have limited acess to Magick, or the use of Magick-like Traits. In addition, 12 of these Expert Professions have access to Covenant Magick. Covenant Magick is a new tradition, and sort of a melding of Arcane and Divine Magick from the core book. It will also cost you your soul. More on that in Chapter 6.



These new Professions showcase a broad range of character types. Some of them have analogs to WFRP's Careers, and some are unique to Zweihander. Cleverly, some of them are multi-faceted. Like the "Blitzballer" (a nod to Warhammer Fantasy spinoff board game Blood Bowl). When you roll a Blitzballer, you choose one of six roles (blitzer, blocker, catcher, lineman, runner or thrower), each with a unique Trait. Similarly, the Expert Profession, Fanatic, requires the Player to select a "sect".



The overall selection of new Professions varies fromsome that might at first glance seem pedestrian, like, say, the Pamphleteer or the Quartermaster, to those that are instantly engaging, such as the Reaver or the Armiger (basically a walking tank). As I stated in the OP, each Profession adheres to Zweihander's "bounded accuracy" model.



Zweihander's trademark humor is on display, in such Expert Professions as the Grognard, or Traits such as Wyrd Science.



Each Profession gets its own illustration, and the characters here are diverse in race, gender and even body type, as in the core rulebook.



After describing each of the Professions in detail, Chapter 1 closes with four pages of tables, listing all of the Expert Professions from both the Zweihander corebook and Main Gauche. They are all listed alphabetically, with entries for Qualifying Tier (minimum Tier of advancement needed to choose that Expert Profession), Skill Requirements (Expert Professions have Skill prerequisites), and, where applicable, Other Requirements. As I stated before, regular Professions are not chosen randomly, so these aren't "tables" as such. What they are is a very handy, at-a-glance listing of all Expert Professions, that will save you and your players much page-flipping, and make comparing (and, by extension, choosing) these Professions much easier. It's a neat tool to have, and one that doesn't appear in the core rulebook. This is a great way to painlessly meld these new professions with the existing rules.



Chapter 1 is the longest Chapter in the book. Bursting with new options for Players, it adds a lot, without adding any appreciable weight, or game-breaking balance issues.



That's all for tonight, I'll be back soon with...



CHAPTER 2: LIBER ARMORUM
 

domesude

Villager
CHAPTER 2: LIBER ARMORUM

Chapter 2 is an expansion on the ideas contained in the core book's 7th Chapter, "Trappings". It isn't very long, 18 pages actually. But, unsurprisingly, it's packed to the gills.

It begins with "Settlements & Availability", which describes the three basic types (and sizes) of settlements to be found in the game world. It also details the various economic and commercial nuances of each (in ascending order of size- Village, Town, City). The book goes into the inter-dependencies of each settlement type with the others, usual distances apart (given in days of foot travel), how their size and remoteness affects the availability and pricing of goods, which social classes are most prevalent, and how they are usually governed.

I like this section very much, for two reasons. One, it's very useful, and one can easily see its utility in play. I know Zweihander has "no established setting", but touches like this make it easier to function without one. At this point, all you need are a name and some NPCs. Maybe some details about what this village produces (Fish? Pumpkins?), or who the local Burgomaster is. Sure, you could come up with all of this on your own, but it's nice to have all of the heavy lifting done for you. Another tool in the kit.

The second thing I like about this section is that it's very straightforward. Linear, not too wordy, but still descriptive enough. Stuff like this represents a definite improvement over the sometimes jumbled and overwritten core book.

Next up, we have "New Materials In Craftsmanship", which lists eight materials from which armor and weapons can be crafted. This is a new concept. Most of these materials are considered non-traditional, so, "off the rack" weapons will not have these qualities or materials as a matter of course. The book tells us that the Standard Pricing in the core rules assumes construction of Iron. However, the new materials include, but are not limited to, Cold Iron (effective against certain Magickal creatures as if Anointed), Ironwood (an unnaturally strong wood that increases the range of arrows and such), Meteoric Iron (armor and weapons crafted from this are more effective), and Mithril (ancient Elven secret, fused to mail, making it light and strong). Some of these materials have drawbacks as well, either in terms of cost (as much as 9 times Standard Pricing in some cases) or fragility. So, unlike a lot of supplements, Main Gauche preserves balance and avoids power creep (looking at you, High Guard).

There is also a nifty formula for translating a Character's weight to Encumbrance points, just in case your Half-Ogre and Dwarf want to use the ol' "Fastball Special" on an opponent.

Next, we get "New Weapons" -bit of an understatement, this. 60 new weapons in all. That's more than in the core book! Did you enjoy the page in the AD&D Player's Handbook with the picture of all the weapons? Well, then, you're gonna be an orgasmic mess when you see this shit. Every weapon is illustrated. It looks like there are also a few old faves from the aforementioned Player's Handbook, and, if I'm not mistaken, Tunnels & Trolls as well (here's a little nostalgia for the old folks)

As in the core book, the weapons are grouped by type: Martial Melee, Simple Melee, Martial Ranged and Simple Ranged. Each is described according to the same format as the corebook (Name, Skill, Load, Handling, Distance, Qualities, Type, Alt. Damage, Encumbrance Value and Price). There are tables for each type of weapon. The "Alt. Damage" listing is a nice touch. You may remember that Basic Damage in Zweihander is 1 exploding d6 (referred to as the Fury Die) + Combat Bonus (or another Attribute Bonus, depending on Traits or Weapon Qualities), modified by Traits /Weapon Qualities, etc. Alternate Damage is similar, but instead of defaulting to Combat Bonus it references Combat Bonus, Agility Bonus, or Brawn Bonus depending on Weapon, then adds or subtracts a fixed amount. It's optional, but it can help to distinguish the weapons from each other a bit more. In the main book, the Alternative Damage was in a separate Chapter from the main weapon lists. Here, it's all together. I like that better. However, it would have been nice to have the weapons from the Zweihander core book rolled into these tables as well. I get that it would have made these big tables downright MASSIVE, but given the way the Professions from both books were melded in Main Gauche, and how cool that was, it seems to me to be a bit of a missed opportunity. To be totally fair, my group doesn't use Alternative Damage, but still.

In addition to new Weapons, there are new Weapon Qualities. Remember, Qualities are properties that change how a Weapon operates, deals Damage, etc. Some Qualities bestow a benefit, and some are a drawback, and since a Weapon can have more than one Quality, the combinations make each weapon distinct. There are 9 new Qualities here, and they nicely expand the options and effects available in Combat.

Like Weapons, Armor and Shields have Qualities. In fact, there are new Types and Qualities for both. There are optional rules in Zweihander for Piecemeal Armor, and, as with Weapons, those have been folded into the new item tables rather than kept separate.

War Machines, which include large field Weapons such as Cannons and Bolt Throwers, are greatly expanded upon here, with 6 new Types and 6 new Qualities.

Overall, Chapter 2 is a roaring success. It's a concise, yet comprehensive set of tools that can be used to add variety and distinction to the Weapons in your Zweihander game. Two thumbs way up for this Chapter!

That's it for now, be seeing you.
 

domesude

Villager
CHAPTER 3: LIBER VEHICULORUM


The third chapter of Main Gauche is all about Vehicles, both mechanical and animal. Now, both of these things were touched upon very briefly in the main book. But only in Price Lists and in the Chase Rules. And, while both of these are useful pieces of information to have, they definitely didn't paint a complete picture of what these various forms of conveyance really mean in the game. Well, that's been rectified here. As with the previous chapter, this one is short (22 pages), but seemingly bigger on the inside.


Chapter 3 begins with "Fantastic Machines", which explains that, as with weapons, strange and dangerous Wytchstone concoctions can be used to create amazing and even fearsome methods of travel, and/or mayhem. Each Fantastic Machine is powered by an "Arkwright Cauldron", or engine, which is in turn powered by "Bottled Lightning". Again, the awesome power of this potent fuel is kept manageable by its high cost and difficult fabrication. But rules are given for doing just that, for those brave or insane enough to play about with Wytchstone.


There is a sidebar on Crafting Fantastic Machines, which refers the reader to the Crafting rules in Chapter 7 of the core book. There are, however, several listed (and statted), for instant in-game use, should your GM allow it. Some of these machines have mighty abilities, and some might push your game into an almost Steampunk (Wytchpunk?) territory. At first, some of these seem almost at odds with the grim n' gritty, humanocentric default of the game. That's not to say they aren't cool, because they are. But I can't see them fitting every campaign. But, like so many things in Zweihander, they are an option you may use to enhance your game or not, depending on your taste.


The actual Fantastic Machines themselves are quite diverse, ranging from the Difference Engine (large, primitive computer), to the Haldavinson (think monstrous American motorcycle), to the Kugelpanzer (nightmarish monowheel of death). Other uses include Torchlamps (a sort of gaslight), and Zeppelins. As might be expected, some of these machines may be quite dangerous to operate. Not only due to the volatile Wytchstone-derived Bottled Lightning, but due to the uncertain results of a mechanical science in its very infancy. Your Character may achieve glory, be immolated, even suffer permanent and grotesque effects due to exposure to Wytchstone's inherent corrupting influence. But it isn't all corrupting influence and unstable rolling deathtraps. No, Main Gauche also has greatly expanded rules for Steeds and more conventional vehicles, such as chariots, carriages and coaches. There are 6 Vehicles and 8 types of mount (War Elephants and Donkeys are included next to several varieties of horse). As with Fantastic Machines, Vehicles are illustrated and described.


As with Weapons, Fantastic Machines and Vehicles have Qualities. These Qualities come into play during Vehicle Combat. As with Weapons, vehicles will have combinations of Qualities that give each a unique character. Some Qualities confer a benefit, and others a limitation or drawback.


Vehicles and Fantastic Machines are then presented on a table, according to the following format:


Name


Drivers
the number of persons required to operate said Vehicle


Passengers how many it can carry apart from its crew


Operate Check which Skill is referenced when trying to operate it


Qualities


Movement
this is the Vehicle's base Movement , which will be modified by operator Skill


Size Modifier this stat serves two purposes: calculating the Vehicle Threshold (like a Character's Damage Track, but for Vehicles), and determining how much Damage the Vehicle inflicts when it hits/runs over something (or someone)


Horsepower the number of Horses needed to pull a non-Arkwright Cauldron-powered Vehicle


Price


Then, each of the 6 horse-drawn Vehicles are described (with an illustration), as the Fantastic Machines were previously. Aside from one Fantastic Machine, The Juggernaut Frigate, no watercraft are detailed, and it is stated that rules for such will be appearing in a later book.


Next, there is a very helpful, but oddly placed pair of charts which gives the amount of weight that can be lifted overhead by a Character, depending on their Brawn Boonus and Ancestry. This weight is given in both pounds and Encumbrance points, which is very cool. I mean, it's gonna come up at some point. Accompanying these charts is a sidebar explaining how to use these numbers to also calculate your Character's maximum push/pull weight. Like I said, this is very cool, but why not put it next to the "how much does my character weigh" sidebar, in Trappings? It's not a really big deal, at all, and so far Main Gauche doesn't seem to suffer from nearly as many editing problems as the corebook. A minor point of contention, at best.


Descriptions of the various Steeds and their Encumbrance limits are next, followed by a chart in which each mount is listed (from the fast, sturdy Destrier, to the slower but serviceable Rouncey Horse), along with their Movement, Size Modifier, Encumbrance Limit, and Price. These animals, it should be noted, do not have Qualities.


Now, it's on to Vehicle Combat!


Firstly, we're told that Vehicle Combat is intended to be utilized during encounters that use Structured Time, e.g., Combat. An "Operate Check", used when driving/piloting a Vehicle, is used during times of stress, following the same rules as most other Skill Checks. Opposed Tests may also be used, when there may be some type of competing action.


Passengers in or on Vehicles usually have their full amount of Action Points during Combat. Most Vehicles in Main Gauche do not require considerations of Movement around the Vehicle, though there may be exceptions to this, at the GM's discretion.


Those crewing a Vehicle will usually not be able to use normal Combat Actions while doing so, unless the GM allows it.They cann, however, take advantage of a whole host of Vehicle Combat Actions.


Vehicle Combat follows much the same formula as regular Combat, and Actions are divided into Movement Actions, Attack Actions, Perilous Stunts, Special Actions and Reactions. As with regular Combat, both Attack Actions and Perilous Stunts may each only be performed by a character once per turn. In addition, Vehicle Combat uses the same Initiative Ladder as man-to-man combat.


Vehicle Combat uses the following procedure:


Step 1: Positioning - Determine whether the Vehicles are Engaged (Zweihander's term for face-to-face, or close enough to count). Furthermore, you must determine whether each Vehicle is Behind, Beside or In Front Of the other. These determinations are important, as they will decide whether attacks or certain maneuvers can be used or performed.


Step 2: Make the Attack. Collide is the only real Attack Action that a Vehicle can Perform, though there are Perilous Stunts that can be used. Cpmbat in Zweihander gives each Character 3 Action Points, and any that remain unused at the start of your next turn are lost. I like "Action Pool" combat mechanics such as this one, as they tend to do two things: act as a sort of "equalizer", in which everyone basically has the same resources (though there are exceptions, natch): and cause players to think somewhat strategically with regard to the management of that resource. Looking at Vehicle Combat, it seems that a large part of it is using the various actions to best position yourself to attack. It's not too different at all from regular Zweihander Combat, but it has a neat internal logic when it comes to vehicles.



...I had hoped to finish this Chapter tonight, but it's just not in the cards.


TO BE CONTINUED...
 

domesude

Villager
CHAPTER 3: LIBER VEHICULORUM(CONTINUED... AGAIN


Okay, so, looking up, we see that I was partway through explaining the procedure for Vehicle Combat. I was in the midst of discussing Step 2: Make The Attack. I just explained the rules for one kind of Attack, a Vehicle-To-Vehicle Strike. That is, an Attack on one Vehicle, using the Attacker's Vehicle as the Weapon. There is really only one Attack Action, Collide, which is performed by making and Operate Check. The GM will determine the Difficulty Rating, as usual.


In addition, passengers may Attack using Ranged or Melee Weapons. There are some restrictions, of course. The Attacker, if not using a Ranged Weapon, will need a Weapon with the Reach Quality. And if the horse (a Dray Horse is needed to do this) pulling a conveyance starts to Bleed or is Injured, the Vehicle may suffer a Crash. Horses bleed just like Characters, that is to say, to death if not treated. And let's just say that one dead horse on your team can make for a really bad day, especially during a Chase or Vehicle Combat.


Ranged Weapons can be used, provided the Attacker can see outside the Vehicle.


Step 3: Other Vehicle Evades - is Successful, e.g., not Ecaded, it's time to roll Damage. Drivers/Pilots can "Jink", a maneuver designed to evade damage, equivalent to a "Dodge" in personal Combat. A Vehicle's Size, along with other factors, will be used to determine the Difficulty Level of such an Action.


One neat detail: Passengers who successfully deal a Melee blow will inflict additional Damage relative to the speed of the Vehicle in which they are riding. This has a cool internal logic, and isn't complex (extra Fury Die).


Step 4: Roll Damage - If the Attack is successful, it's time to figure out how much Damage the other Vehicle takes. Vehicles that Collide with other VEhicles inflict Damage according to the following formula: Vehicle Size Modifier+1d10 Momentum Die. The number generated is compared to the other Vehicle's Vehicle Threshold. This is like Damage Threshold, in that it is a track. Its value is determined by adding to the Vehicle Size Modifier an amount determined by the Driver/Pilot's Perception Bonus. [PB] 1 to 6 adds 1, [PB] 7 to 12 adds 2, and [PB] 13 or greater adds 3.


Sep 5: Determine Vehicle Condition - As with the Character Damage Threshold, the Vehicle Threshold is extrapolated to +6/+12/+18, to form a 6-step track, just like the Peril and Damage Condition Tracks used elsewhere. And, as with Damage, when Vehicles reach the Moderately Smashed step, they can begin to suffer Mishaps, the likelihood and number of which can increase as the Vehicle takes more Damage and moves further down the Track. Mishaps are like injuries for Vehicles, and are determined in the same way, by rolling Chaos Dice. On a face 6, a Vehicle that has suffered a Mishap will roll on the appropriate table (Moderate, Serious, Grievous), to determine what unfortunate thing has befallen it. Each table has 12 Mishaps, ranging from near-harmless, to worrisome, to downright crippling or even fatal. As with Injuries suffered by Characters, a Fate Point can be expended to ignore a single Mishap.,


(QUICK SIDEBAR: i failed to note earlier, when discussing Vehicle Position and its importance to Vehicle Combat, that Position can be changed by means of a successful Operate Check)


Next, there is an explanation of how to Repair Vehicles, the skills, time and material involved, as well as Difficulty Levels based on Vehicle Condition.


There is a paragraph on the Healing of Injured Dray Horses. I hope you have plenty of bandages!


Chapter 3 closes with some quick rules for using Steeds in place of Vehicles, and how it is different.


Chapter 3 is really nice. It's beautifully illustrated, has a lot of useful info, and introduces some neat subsystems that run off of the same basic framework, rather than being fiddly mini-games. It's concise and well-written. Overall, I'd say my only compaints would be 1 or 2 very minor typos, and the introduction of new terms such as Momentum Dice and Vehicle Threshold, when Fury Dice and Damage Threshold already have an established meaning for pretty much the same thing. I get that it adds a bit of flavor and distinction, but I question whether it was necessary. I can see many just using the already established terms, as my group probably would. But, really, I must admit, that's nit-picking. It's a great chapter of new options that are easily bolted to your existing game. Well done.
 

domesude

Villager
CHAPTER 4: LIBER ALCHEMIAE

At long last, I have made time to write up Main Gauche's fourth Chapter. This one is all about how you can achieve corruption, disfigurement and death better living through chemistry! Or Wytch-science, take your pick.

This chapter expands upon ideas from the Zweihander core book, namely Materia Medica from Chapter 9, Hazards & Healing, and Wytchstone in Chapter 10, The Grimoire.

Firstly, there is a brief passage that details how one goes about making Aetheric Fluid. This is used to animate and heal Golems. Further details on the creation of Golems will be given later in the book, we are told. As with the core book's 9th Chapter, there are instructions for what materials, amount of time, and Skill Test are required to create the Aetheric Fluid. Also listed are the results of success and failure when it is attempted.

Next up, we have a section called "DECOCTIONS & PRIMA MATERIA". This part explains that the five "classical elements" are for plebs, and that those of keener intelligence see in all things (animal, mineral, vegetable, or worse) materials which contain potent and valuable ingredients. In the right hands, these ingredients can be used to brew "Decoctions", powerful potions that will temporarily boost one of a Character's Attributes by 9%.

In order to begin, the Character must hunt, harvest or buy (this latter option being prohibitively expensive in most cases) the Prima Materia. There is a chart that lists the various Decoctions (one for each Attribute, remember), the Prima Materia required (Plant, Mineral or Creature - each decoction will require one or more of each. Furthermore, Prima Materia can have different degrees of rarity, kind of like Magic cards. Harvesting (or hunting) these ingredients will require a Survival Test...

-Abundant: (Challenging -10% Survival Test)

-Uncommon: (Hard -20% Survival Test)

-Exotic: (Arduous -30% Survival Test)

...and, as with other endeavours, each degree of rarity will require a longer amount of time to find (measured in hours). There are also benefits for success (Critical Success reduces time needed to find) and penalties for failure (no Prima Materia, and Critical causes Peril).

Then, the Alchemist can brew the Decoction. Again, materials, time and a Successful Test are all needed. The stronger the Decoction (and stronger... lasts longer), the higher the Difficulty Rating.

Assuming that all has gone well up to this point, the brew is ready for "Quaffing". In addition to having one's Attribute temporarily increased, he player doing the Quaffing must make a Successful Toughness Test, or suffer Peril. The stronger the Decoction, the more Peril you will face.

After this, there is a full-page sidebar about how to play Dice Poker. Now, this seems at first like another oddly placed sidebar. But, I'm starting to think this is intentional, rather than haphazard. And, because of this, I'm starting to like it quite a bit. I know that Main Gauche is largely made up of bits that were excised from the core rulebook for reasons of liability (y'know, due to people dropping 12.5-poun books on their toe), er, space I mean. So, it makes sense that some of this stuff wouldn't need its own chapter, but is still worthy of inclusion. I can get behind that, and it's actually a neat way to include them. So, I'm gonna walk back my comments about previous sidebars here.

As for the actual Dice Poker rules themselves, the book says that it's from The Witcher 2 video game. Each character playing will need 5d6. There are 9 "hands", listed from best to worst. A "play area" is selected, representing a table(a piece of paper or lid to a box, etc.) and any dice that land or fall out of this area after being rolled are not counted. This can be countered, that is to say, such "fallen" dice can be recovered by means of a successful Gamble Test. Characters first bid(and/or raise), then roll. They look at their hands, raise stakes if desired, and then may each re-roll from one to four dice. After the re-rolls, if any, highest hand wins. That's the gist, anyway. At first blush, this system is... OK. I can definitely see it being a nice change of pace. But one thing I don't like about it is that it doesn't really seem to take the Characters' Skill into account. You can use Skullduggery or Gambling, but only to "cheat" in various ways (failure brings n Peril and the potential of being found out). So, outside of using a Gamble test (and all repeated Tests made while playing get progressively harder) to recover a die that has landed outside of the play area, it seems that a Character who doesn't cheat is at a distinct disadvantage, and two characters who don't cheat are evenly matched, even if one has two Skill Ranks in Gamble, and the other has none, plus a low Attribute score to boot!

So, I'm of two minds about the section on Dice Poker. Obviously, some thought went into it, which is cool. And it is a functional game that helps to take in-game Gambling from the purely abstract and into the practical. But I'm not a fan of its total randomness, when Gamble is a Skill in the game. I'll still try it, because if my players end up getting a kick out of it, that'd be great. But I'd love to see Skill play a bigger part outside of cheating.

Well, I'm sorry I made y'all wait so long, and I'm even sorrier that I'm not gonna get to far tonight. There's a fair bit more of Chapter 4 to go (most of it, really), and in true Zweihander style, it's jam-packed. I'll keep plugging away at it, and hopefully with fewer(and shorter) gaps between posts.

TO BE CONTINUED...
 

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