Feature Excerpt

Two Hands Off the Wheel: Learning to Embrace the Chaos of Zweihander

This is an excerpt of a feature from Unwinnable Monthly #120. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

I’ve got a party trick. I can take (almost) any tabletop RPG out there and sum up everything about it in just seven words. Importantly, they are (almost) always the same ones.

Roll some dice, play out the results.

Sometimes the dice are different. Maybe you’ll be tossing a soccer-ball-shaped d20, maybe you’ll find yourself throwing a handful of regular six-sided dice – the kind that most people out there just know as ‘dice’ without feeling the need to get all technical about it.

Sometimes the results cause stars to explode, while other rolls might result in a goblin getting its leg chopped off by a howling barbarian. Occasionally they might mean that nothing happens at all.

But at the heart of the matter – the very core you find after stripping away everything else – you have the same idea bouncing around in a hundred forms.

Roll some dice, play out the results.

Introduce chaos, build something from it.

Don’t plan everything, just let the story flow.

Jesus Christ just roll the fucking dice and we’ll figure out what happens later.

This might be a banal observation to you, but it’s one that took me horrifyingly long to embrace and enjoy. Honestly, I don’t think I’d quite have clocked it yet if an enormous tome of a book thudded its way onto my desk and demanded attention in a way that only 667 pages of RPG can.

The book in question was the revised rules for a game called Zweihander. It was huge enough to deserve its name, decked out in black-and-white illustrations and promised adventures both grim and perilous to all who ventured within.


R. M. Jansen-Parkes is a D&D adventure writer, Tabletop Gaming columnist, contributor to The Board Game Book and all-round word-fellow. Follow him on Twitter @WinghornPress

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