Tuesday, September 15, 2009

B/X Barbarians

I spent a lot of time this morning trying to come up with how I wanted to handle assassins in my B/X Companion. Not as a character class, nor as a monster (a la the headsman of BECMI). No, but as a specialist hireling. I have some ideas (kind of a combination between AD&D and BECMI actually), but I’m just trying to figure out the minutia.

Of course, then I thought up this little number.

I don’t intend to add any new character classes to my B/X Companion (so no, don’t expect to see the paladin, druid, or monk). Part of this has to do with space considerations (the book is already filling up quick); part of it has to do with personal insecurities (who am I to suggest a new class when I’m simply trying to fill-in a companion supplement to an already excellent game system?).

Mainly, though, it is a conceit of principle on my part: most every character archetype of B/X play can already be created with the classes available. Let others house rule new character classes (monks, half-ogres, etc.) that will better fit into their game world concept. I just want to add some supplemental rules (levels to 36, monsters, treasures, spells, mass combat and dominion rules, etc.). Yes, I’ve got plenty of ideas that I COULD throw in, but a 64 page Companion is my aim. Maybe someday I’ll throw out MY own character guide.

However, I HAVE been reading a lot of Howard recently, and while I’m positive the character can be effectively modeled using the B/X Thief class, I figured I’d throw out a little something-something for those who cannot stand the idea (there IS a barbarian “fighter variation” over at Pandius Vault, but I don’t think it accurately models the classic pulp barbarians of Fafhrd and Conan).

There is no intention for this class to be included in the B/X Companion.


All barbarians are human but they are of a hardier stock than normal men, growing up in the savage wilderness, outside of civilization. Born warriors, they do not have the same martial training as true fighting men; however they have other skills that compensate for this.

To be a barbarian, a character must have a minimum Constitution of 9. The barbarian has two prime requisites: strength and dexterity. Barbarians with both a strength and dexterity of 13+ gain a +5% on earned experience; barbarians with a dexterity of 16+ in addition to a strength of 13+ gain a +10% on earned experience.

Barbarians may use any weapon and may wear either leather or chain mail armor; they may not wear plate mail. A barbarian can use a shield. They may use any magic item not restricted to another class. Because barbarians are new to society, 1st level characters only receive half the gold of a normal starting character (divide gold rolled by two).

Barbarians have a maximum level of 36. They roll 1D6 hit points per level up to level 9 (Name level). Barbarians receive +3 hit points per level after 9th level. They use the same attack and saving throw matrixes as Thieves (however, see special abilities below).

Level..........Title..........XP Needed

Barbarians require 130,000 XP for every level after 9th (Name level).

Barbarians have several additional abilities learned from their upbringing in the wilderness. As a thief of the same level, barbarians can climb sheer surfaces, move silently, hide in shadows, and hear noise. Wearing chain mail does not affect the use of these skills. Barbarians also have the same percentage change to track and find tracks that a thief of same level has to “find traps.” If a barbarian wishes to hide his or her own tracks from an adversary, he can do so with a successful “move silently” roll, though the barbarian cannot do this when moving faster than normal (i.e. when running). Literate barbarians (Intelligence 9+) also gain the thief ability to read languages due to their long wanderings, but the ability isn’t gained until 5th level. Barbarians never learn to read magic.

Barbarians are ferocious hand-to-hand combatants, gaining a bonus of +1 on their melee attack rolls. Missile attacks and damage rolls are unaffected by a barbarian's berserk frenzy.

A barbarian traveling on-foot, either alone or with other barbarians, moves faster through the wilderness than other characters. The barbarian treats woods and hills as clear terrain, and jungles and mountains as woods and hills, respectively. A barbarian travels no faster than any other character through desert or broken terrain.

Barbarians never build strongholds, though they may live in a castle or palace if they can take one by force. At Name (9th level), barbarians have the ability to call together a barbarian horde made up of many tribal clans banded together. It takes 1D8 weeks to gather the horde, and the total number of warriors gathered will be 10-100 per level of experience (though the DM may limit the number available). Use the berserker statistics in the Basic rules for individual horde members. This horde can be used to attack or defend a territory, but will only stay together a maximum of 1D4 months unless regularly plied with loot and treasure (2 gps per horde member per month; greater rewards may improve morale of the horde).


  1. Nice...Very reminiscent of Lieber's and Howard's work. The d6 hit points might be a bit anemic, but I "think" I understand why you did it.

    I also really like the "horde" rules you've instituted for 9th level.

    Consider this "appropriated". ;-) Thanks.

  2. Anemic, huh?

    One thing I think we ALL tend to forget is that Conan (for example) is MASSIVE, even compared to other “barbarians.” I’m currently reading the later (last) works of Howard, in which the Cimmerian is often fighting against alongside the civilized Aquilonians AGAINST the barbarous picts. The picts are tougher than the average civilized man due to their rugged lifestyle, but they ain’t THAT fantastic. Conan just happens to be the most rugged of all.

    I think it is a mistake to give barbarians a D12 hit dice, simply in order to recreate Conan clones. A barbarian could be a Viking or a Celt or a Mongol or even a Cherokee warrior. Bedouins, brigands, Gauls...all might be the basis for a barbarous type. And in B/X terms a 1D6 Hit Dice is a lot better than the Normal Man hit dice (1D4).

    Over time, of course, the +3 hit points per level WILL over-take all other character classes (a barbarian with average hit points and no Constitution bonus passes a fighter with average hit points at 19th level)…of course, this a simple reflection of how urban life over time just isn’t as healthy as that clean-living barbarous life-style.
    : )

    I also think it’s important that the B/X fighter still be able to shine in the only area he can: fighting. Yes a barbarian with a high strength (um…Conan) is going to wail on any two-bit man-of-arms at low levels. But even Conan gets out-paced in the fighting department when it comes to true swordmasters. He’ll have to rely on his other skills (his barbarian fortitude, cunning, and special abilities) to out-last his opponent.

    Fighters are the knights in armor. Barbarians are NOT hulking meat shields. That’s a poor stereotype, and not one true to its literary (or historic!) roots.
    ; )

  3. I like. Imagining a barbarian as a Celt or an aboriginal tribesman makes a big difference. He kind of bleeds into Ranger a bit much, and I'd call a Celt or Viking a Ranger, Thief, or Fighter instead.

    Actually, I'd like to see him lose the Read Languages, but gain an Emotive Speech skill instead. This reflects him dealing with people of many tribes with many languages, and also animals and such, and would let him communicate basic information (Good water here, or they say to leave because this place is holy).
    And he could stand to choose either the attack bonus and self-sufficient survival, or survival for one person per level & tracking. This way he can be the Barbarian warrior or the Barbarian provider.

    I like the no chosen terrain for his skills, and making his climb / stealth work in all environments. Less rules, easier to play with, makes him useful everywhere. Wish you left out the desert/broken terrain part of the fast movement.

    Anwyay, minor suggestions and thoughts. I like this take on the Barbarian a lot. I think that picture in the Unearthed Arcana 1E and his d12 HP really typecast him.

  4. @ D30: I’m glad you like it.

    Conan (on whom this write-up is based) DOES share similarities with the ranger class, and I wanted to communicate that. He CAN track, he CAN evade tracking. But Ron Howard’s character was published looong before Tolkien ever set pen to paper regarding Aragorn and the rangers of Westernesse. As far as I’m concerned, the Dunedain are a rip-off of Howard’s “woodsmen,” not vice versa.

    I couldn’t help but throw the read languages bit into the character write-up as it is very Conan; I considered some kind of druidic empathy but skipped it…this is more of a decent Reaction roll with animals than any type of “beastmaster” skill (that’s a whole different B/X write-up!). Your campaign could certainly include some sort of “field language” as a possible language skill (available to barbarians…or anyone else…with an Intelligence of 13+).

    Climb/stealth SHOULD work in any environment as far as I can tell…why would it not? I see rock climbers scale viaducts and buildings as well as trees and boulders, after all.

    I think you’re right about the UA write-up typecasting this character (especially the most recent versions present in D&D 3+). To be fair, I think certain cinematic depictions of barbarians (with body-builder actors) have also contributed to the stereotype.
    ; )

  5. Con as the prime stat for a barbarian would be perfect in my mind. I might give him exp bonus for high Con or Cha though, rather than Str/Dex, but its all good.

    I'm debating the use of Cha as the prime stat for a psionicist

  6. Mmm...I considered Con, but in B/X prime requisites can be adjusted (it is the only way to have some determination over your ability scores) and Con and Cha can never be adjusted...thus, they can never be prime requisites. Just sticking with the B/X way.

    For a psionicist, I'd consider Int or Wis for the same reason. My gut reaction says Intelligence ("look at the big brain on THAT guy") but since two classes use Int already, and only one uses Wis, I might go with Wis for the sake of "fairness."

    Unless you're already using the Monk that is...
    ; )

  7. The reason I would use Cha for a psionicist as I always thought of Cha as "strength of character" and "powerful personality" not attractiveness or leadership. Therefore, people were attracted to people with hight Cha, due to that persons singleminded confidence in their chosen purpose. I translated this to mean the person is also in touch with their "inner strength" and could therefore tap into the powers of the mind.

    Of course, I have gone back to ground on D&D, so there are no original rules I will not bend or break if it suits me.

    That's why Con works for me, thought for a BX game you're probably better to sticking to your original idea!

  8. I'll be looking for your psionicist write-up...I'm not going to make any judgments about it till I see it!
    : )

  9. Sounds like a challenge. I'm game. It may take me several posts to present my case, i'm not good with long posts.

  10. @ Pal: Hey, it's YOUR party man!