Tales From the Gazebo – Head First: Barbarians, Part 1


Head First: Barbarians, Part 1
By Cape Rust

“Mogra smash bad guys! Mogra eat, Mogra drink, Mogra rut with males!” For some players and GMs this is all the barbarian is good for and it tends to be all that some barbarians will ever do. If Mogra is the only type of barbarian you’ve ever played or seen played, then you have been missing out. Remember, one person’s barbarian is another person’s uninhibited warrior of the wilderness. I know semantics, but with a turn of phrase or heroine, Mogra becomes a much different character that is good for more than just combat and the occasional bar fight gag. Even if you insist on using rules as written (RAW), when it comes to your uninhibited warrior of the wilderness, there is still a lot of room to play with. I will start with barbarian concepts, work my way over to some possible, interesting multi-classing options and finish up with barbarians without borders.

Like any other class, archetype, template, whatever terminology your system uses, your players need some type of character concept and it helps as a GM if you know what that concept is. This way you can integrate that character into your planning process as well as being able to steer that player away from a concept that might ruin the game or turn out to be unplayable.

I guess I should start with what I will call the stereotypical barbarian. Mogra, bless her heart, as I described her at the start of the article, fits that bill nicely. She hunts, eats, kills, drinks, and ruts. If your player wants to go this route, fine…. as a GM it will be up to you to ensure that even with this run-of-the-mill concept, the character ends up being fun for the player. So what to do with our bread and butter barbarian? The default setting seems to be the fish out of water. This is where we would take Mogra from her comfortable existence in the wilderness and stick her in the middle of the largest city in the realm. I bet some of you are smiling because you know exactly what I’m talking about. I bet some of you have done it before, I know I have. If this is the usual situation at your gaming table, then do what you can to make it interesting and fun. Play it up; if those are the types of situations your player wants, provide them.

Have the PCs get invited to a formal party at the palace, make them dress to the nines. Just getting the barbarian cleaned and dressed can take up a good evenings worth of play. As a GM, describe how all of these strange rituals appear to not be what is actually happening. Do everything you can to put that player in the barbarians head. Here is an example of one of those descriptions:

“Your friends lead you into a large hot cave. There is a pool of water that smells like the fields in spring, but there is a problem. The water is white and full of bubbles, the same color as the raging waters that almost killed your uncle. Those waters were loud and you could see them moving. These waters are the same color, but they are quiet and appear to be still. What evil magic is this? It’s a trap! It must be a trap and your friends are leading you into it. What do you do?”

That is how you make bath time lots of fun! They key is not to tell your player how to react, but to change their civilized way of thinking. Envision what mundane activities would look like to someone who had never seen this kind of stuff. Even things like crossbows are really high tech to a barbarian like Mogra.

I actually think this is a good stopping point for now. Stay tuned as I spew more thoughts about how to make Mogra more than just a raging killer.

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