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Using the Rainy City with Zweihänder Grim and Perilous RPG

Daniel Fox‘s Zweihänder is another good fit for the Rainy City. It has an evocative, grotty style and a great range of character options that would, I think, draw attention in play to the religious and class conflicts of the town, and remind us of the randomness of life and death in the city.

Let’s get grim and perilous.

Professions

The setting implied by the Zweihänder profession list is a good overall match for the Rainy City. Boatmen ply the Murk and deliver supplies from neighborhood to neighborhood along the coastal docks. Mariners sail the seas and fill the Admiralty’s ranks, fighting seaborne exchanges with the Buccaneers of Rickety. The streets are filled with Beggars, Bonepickers, street Costermongers (use Cheapjack), Footpads, Rakes, and more. Many, many professions simply work. 

Others work with just a bit of thought as to how they might fit in.

First, there are a few professions that are intrinsically equestrian. For these, swap out horses (which are rare and not much used), replacing them with the riding and coach-pulling beast of the city, the noble ewt. Ewts are large (pony to horse-sized) salamanders favored for their ability to move smoothly through the city’s rain slick streets and transition seamlessly from street to waterway. Ewts pull carriages, and profession build around riding can be adapted to ewt-back. For example, while there is little in the way of mass battle in the city (but, see below), there are plenty of people who put on airs, and an order of ewt-riding Dragoons who patrol and parade in the waterways of the Sump, with high helms on their heads and wet muskets at their side, would be right at home — and the Dignified Sodality of the Mire-Yoot will do just fine.   

Court-related and noble careers exist in the context of Embassy Row and the Tower Cliffs. Even though the real feature that makes one an Ambassador (resident of Embassy Row) is vast amounts of filthy lucre, this does not mean the city is without the pomp, ceremony, and posturing associated with a hereditary aristocracy. Quite the opposite! No one has any demonstrable claim to aristocratic lineage within the city itself, making it all the more important to make said claims boldly and with as little self-reflection as humanly possible (which is to say, perhaps, none at all!).

Some of the more rural professions from Zweihänder may be a bit rarer, at least in the ranks of NPCs, but most could still be found in parts of the Sump and the Headlands.

There are no standing armies or wars, beyond the street level fights between rival guilds, gangs, and clubs, but the city still has its companies of armed mercenaries. Some arrived as refugees from places with larger scale warfare, setting up business in their common trade and finding work for the guilds and gangs. Others have been founded within the city itself. War will find a way. There’s money in it! So it is possible that, when the honor of the Humdrummers’ Club is slanderously questioned by members of the Spouters’ Club, the dispute may be settled honorably. By proxy. A pitched battle between the Stalwart Servants (in service to the Spouters) and the Order of the Armored Rose (on behalf of the Hummdrummers) in Public Square at a pre-arranged time should do the trick. Gamblers, make your bets. (Just between you and me, I’d put my money on the Order of the Armored Rose.)

Zweihänder‘s profession list also features watchmen and other agents of law. The absence of a centralized, city-wide police force in the Rainy City need not mean there is no work for Watchmen and Executioners. They just have more immediate employers, as Pump or Wheelhouse Constables, private security forces of the Harmonious Chantry, and Boxmen of Embassy Row.

Some specific professions need a little thought, but there’s even a fit for those. Here’s another example. It always rains, and the clouds never part, which you’d think would make life difficult for an Astrologer. Luckily, no one can see the stars, so who’s to say that the sky charts, calendars, and mathematics of the Grand Conclave of the the Celestine Lights are wrong? (The Contrary Order of the Heavenly Bodies, sure, but nobody listens to them.)

Finally, anyone, from anywhere, can find a home somewhere in the city. Refugee ships bring people of all backgrounds, and with a little creativity and an appetite for peril, anyone from any profession can find a place here. Remember when that Viking raiding party arrived in Vagabond Bay a few years back? Now, the Sons of Arne have a steady protection racket in Brining Lane, providing good, honest work to Berserkers in need of a welcoming home. 

You get the picture.

Divine Magick

The model where big, distant, powerful divinities provide magical powers to worshipers is a bit at odds with the default assumptions of the Rainy City. But Zweihänder, and many RPGs, do have divine magic. What are your options?

First, maybe you like the fact that the gods may not be around, and certainly don’t grant spells to their priests. If you do, you can still keep all the divine professions. The city is filled with cults, especially down in Littleshrines in Levee Town. One way to keep the divine professions in place in this context is to simply replace any divine magick traits with an analogous arcane magick trait, or with a social trait like “Confidence Trick,” from the Charlatan profession.

On the other hand, Zweihänder‘s divine magick is dangerous, and dangerous magic can be a lot of fun at the game table. What if you want to keep it? You can do that by replacing a small pantheon of gods writ large with the ten thousand gods and demons of the ten thousand cults of Levee Town. Small, petty, demanding, and very, very present, these beings could grant divine magick to their supplicants. However, you may have to go to a Levee Town basement and prostrate yourself directly before the THE BONE GOD to learn new prayers. It isn’t easy, being lowered into the basement a that rope, but it’s worth it. Only the HOLY ROPE ensures that THE BONE GOD stays in the basement to answer supplicants (for a modest tithe, which can be left with the cult master). For in spite of his great power, THE BONE GOD cannot quite get the hang of climbing a rope.

You don’t want to have to go down into that basement to atone, though, friend. They… raise the rope.

If you want divine magick in the Rainy City, I’d say drown them in petty gods and demons, all of whom want something from you in exchange. And it’s probably not nice. 

Alchemy

Alchemy can be run by the book, with the Apothecary profession serving well for a member of the guild. The Harmonious Chantry produces fewer potions in Zweihänder than in some other games, and fewer healing potions in particular, but this doesn’t really hurt their overall social and economic dominance of Old Town and the city. They still have the monopoly on boiling salts, and they still provide some of the limited magical healing that is available. Besides, the riches in their vaults allow them to hire mercenary companies to maintain their power base. Nothing like a little violence to ensure that ones organization is treated with appropriate respect. And let’s not forget that the Harmonious Chantry will always be the only home of the Rainy City Opera. (Or the Stalwart Servants may stop by to remind you.) 

There’s a lot more that could be said, but this should get you started. 

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