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I received a free PDF copy of the game. This is a reading review.
I bet you're a bit like me: you enjoy new games but are fed up with the same old, same old.
Tatzelwurm, a lightweight old-school RPG with a German touch, may offer a breeze of fresh air.
The game comes with a simple 2d6-mechanism. It offers free-form arcane magic and crisp rules for clerics; blending newer OSR entries like The Black Hack and Blood of Pangea into an eclectic mix.
You can buy the PDF for $3.49 here.
Character Creation, Basic Mechanisms
To create your character, you have to roll on tables. These give you a higher probability of playing a human adventurer. But it's also possible to play a Dwarven Geod (Druid), an Elven Warrior or another class like a Cleric, Wizard or Rogue.
You also have a culture you come from. There are five example regions, e.g., The Central Reich (medieval Germany).
Add some details to round out your character. You can choose skills, but there is no predetermined list.
The only game attribute is Might. It starts at 10; Elves have 8, Dwarves 12.
The game system presents itself as a simple affair. The task resolution mechanism requires you to roll 2d6; base difficulty of 7. You might get bonuses for your background (skills, race bonus, etc.) or if you have a tactical advantage.
I enjoy that the author mentions that not every test requires a roll:
To overcome a Simple difficulty, you just have to roleplay. No roll required.
To overcome a Challenging difficulty, you have to roll 7 or better. [...]
It turns out that the combat rules are also straightforward.
Roll 9 or better to hit (Daunting difficulty).
How much damage do you deal? A 7-9 allows you to strike for 1 point of damage, 10 gives us 2 points and so forth.
There is no separate damage roll.
The text provides rules for critical hits and an optional rule for a free attack when you kill an opponent.
What about armor? It acts as a buffer and shields you with more Might points.
When you're down to zero Might points, you die. You can make a save versus a Daunting difficulty (9+).
The rules for restoring your Might score seem to be missing. That strikes me as a grave oversight because Might is your only game attribute. It acts as hit points, mana, and Bennies at the same time. (Bennies because you can use your Might points to improve your die rolls.)
Blood of Pangea lets you recuperate 1d6 Might per day of rest, so that should be the right ballpark.
Mass combat rules are a nice addition. There are two options - large scale battles or skirmishes. Wargamers will appreciate that.
Magic and Miracles
The game offers two distinct rulesets for divine magic (clerical miracles) and arcane magic.
Tatzelwurm approaches clerical magic with a unique take. Clerics need to negotiate with their god to get their wishes fulfilled. What I like most is that the result of your prayer depends on the mood of your god. How do you know if your god is angry at you? You roll on a table, of course.
I also enjoy that the gods are not specialized. So your god can do anything, it’s only a question if he’s willing to do it for you.
Mechanics-wise, you have to spend Might to gain a miracle.
The arcane magic ruleset reminds me of Powered-by-the-Apocalypse-games:
When you work with the unseen forces and gods of the multiverse to make things happen, roll 2d6. On 10+, pick three options from the list. On 7-9, pick two options. On 6-, the judge decides what happens, and it won‘t be good.
Spellcasting also costs Might. Magic is up to the negotiation between player and Game Master (GM). I like free-form magic rules, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
Bits and Bobs
The author also offers guidance on poisons. And there are conversion notes from old-school D&D and DSA (Das Schwarze Auge/The Dark Eye).
Monsters appear to be easy to manage. There are dozens of examples, some typical (Goblin, Basilisk) and some of German tales (Riesenlindwurm, Waldschrat).
Here is the format:
Monster name; Might number, Damage/Bonus: Weapons that the monster uses/+bonus to Judge’s roll
It seems to be painless enough to create your own opponents or to convert them from other games.
The book concludes with a list of equipment.
World Info, Game Master
The setting material fits on seven pages. I don’t welcome the standard EDO races, but the succinct cultural backgrounds are fine enough.
I like the mental shortcut technique:
Donarheym: think of Vikings
For me, the game world is not a selling point, but it offers enough of a framework to place the game in most fantasy worlds. On the plus side, it comes with some unusual regions like fantasy Mongolia.
You won’t find a dedicated chapter for the Judge. Apart from the obvious information about monsters and experience points, the book provides advice on poisons. That’s it. Clearly, this game is aimed at experienced Game Masters.
Do the Rules Support the Advertised Play Style?
The ruleset is simple and leaves a lot open to the realm of the GM.
Especially the open-ended magic and miracle rules require a conversation and negotiation between players and Judge - with the Judge ultimately in charge of creating a fair game.
The style feels distinctly vintage. Like Original Dungeons & Dragons, the system is quite deadly. Might points can dwindle fast. You also need them to use magic and miracles. And are one of the few resources to improve your die rolls.
The dice probabilities offer a lot of room for a failed attack roll. While there is a 58% chance against a novice (2d6 needs to meet 7), you will only strike an ordinary opponent with a 28% chance for 1 point of damage (roll of 9). A mighty success (roll of 12) just has a chance of 3%.
Players can improve their luck by spending a point of Might to 72% / 42% / 8%.
The combat rules are so minimalist that they are boring. They offer no incentive for the players to engage in combat. I see that as a good thing because it encourages players to avoid conflict. That makes it different from the typical modern RPGs where players get a lot of tools and abilities in combat so that a fight is inherently exciting.
I like how magic and miracles offer some leeway to influence the game as the possibilities are endless - at least in theory. But the game is still balanced as you have to pay with Might points. And as the only game asset and its double-function as hit points, players have to manage resources cleverly.
The PDF has 60 pages total, including the cover, etc.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have digital bookmarks. The black and white illustrations, use of fonts and chapter illustrations are good-looking.
The book is very readable with a clear layout.
Tatzelwurm gives off a distinctive old-school feel by being geared towards a healthy Game Master (GM), use of random tables, and minimalist rules. It reminds me of Original Dungeons & Dragons, but it's evidently not a retro-clone.
The straightforward task resolution, free-form magic and the fresh take on divine magic are a selling point for me.
Tatzelwurm encourages rulings and a strong Game Master role. For the GM there is minimal overload when it comes to adjudicating this game - at least at the beginning. During play, the GM will have to make a lot of rulings when it comes to magic and miracles.
I’m not a fan of the standard elves, dwarves, humans. The setting information is sparse, but there are some interesting tidbits, e.g., a Tibetan region.
Yet this game has a lot to offer if you like a more open-ended approach to old-school gaming and are looking for something different than a retro-clone.
You can check it out HERE (PDF $3.49).
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