Friday, March 4, 2016

The Unexpected Barbarian

Alvin Dragonborn is one of the most infamous of the realm's crown princes. A tall, broad-shouldered youth, his handsome face is nearly as famed as the powerful sword arm he loves to show off at tournaments. That dragon on his shield and armor isn't just for show, however. Those who've come to grips with the princeling in field melees have said that when the horn blows and battle is joined, his eyes glow bright within his helm. Scales and claws spring out over his arms, and his roars are more those of a beast than of a man.

Because, contrary to popular belief, you can find barbarians anywhere. If you look hard enough for them.

Sometimes you don't even have to look very hard.

How Can You Do That?

The example I opened with isn't some unusual archetype, or some multiclass concept. As long as you take a feat like Noble Scion at level one, or even a trait like Prince/Princess, you have the character's noble background taken care of. At that point all you need to do is take barbarian levels, the same as you would with any other warrior of passion.

I can hear the clearing of throats, and the, "actually, you can't," warm-ups already, so allow me to quote Pathfinder's core rule book. On page 31, the barbarian class description boasts this line, "These brutal warriors might rise from all walks of life, both civilized and savage..."

What that means, ladies and gentlemen of the dice cup, is that there is no restriction on where barbarians come from. While you can take the Urban Barbarian archetype if you want to change-up your Rage, you aren't required to do so just to play a city character with barbarian levels. If you want to play a back-alley bruiser, a war hero, a noble champion, or even a fist of the church (a role typically fulfilled by a paladin, warpriest, or cleric), you can do it with the barbarian class. In fact, with the right traits, and perhaps a level dip in another class, it's possible to make up for the barbarian's lack of skills, while still enjoying Rage Powers, a banging Fortitude save, decent armor proficiencies, and the ability to swing one hell of a big ax.

It's also important to remember that the barbarian class isn't reserved specifically for humans. Sure, we've seen our share of barbarian half-orcs, but what else could you do with it? Make a dwarven shield captain, whose Rage Powers are all about goading his enemies into attacking (which is a nasty combination when put together with the Stalwart Defender prestige class)? Perhaps you'd prefer an elven dervish that's part of Kyonin's elite guards, and who turns into a whirlwind of steel when battle is joined, sundering enemies' shields and armor with hammer blows from her curved blade? Perhaps a tiefling barbarian enlisted in the Worldwound crusade, turning his passions and deadly inherited powers, against the forces of the abyss who helped birth him?

Barbarian is Not a Job Description

As I mentioned in What's in a Name? How Your Character's Class is Limiting Your Creativity, no one goes around calling himself a barbarian. This is especially true if someone says, "so, what skills do you bring to this endeavor?"

There are so many different ways you can describe yourself.
The thing that barbarians all share, based on the class description, is a passion, and a fury, that is only truly unleashed in combat. However, the places barbarians come from are as wide and varied as the forms their Rage takes, once it's let loose to ravage the battlefield.

If you enjoyed this post, but you're still looking for inspiration, you might want to check out 5 Tips For Playing Better Barbarians, as well as 50 Shades of Rage: Flavoring The Barbarian's Signature Power.

Also, for those who are interested, Prince Alvin Dragonsborn is now a part of Dungeon Keeper Radio! Check out his debut in the first episode of Mythconceptions monthly, "Barbaric Assumptions."

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That's all for this installment of Unusual Character Concepts. Hopefully this one gave you something to chew over, whether you're a player, or a game master.

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  1. I'm currently playing a Tiefling Barbarian in a 5E game who is not barbaric at all - rather, his rage is the result of the fury of his demonic blood rising to the surface. Otherwise he is quite civilized and urbane.

  2. On the paizo boards I recall ravingdork making a fencer using urban Barb. Rage was basically a more focused assault.

  3. I built a gnome barbarian who'd claimed he'd unlocked his bodily potential through experimentation with his own cerebrospinal fluids. The fact that it had certain unfortunate dispositional side-effects was something he was working on.

  4. Fun enjoy the gnome barbarian I've played one before. Yes I allowed her to tantrum too.

  5. Fun enjoy the gnome barbarian I've played one before. Yes I allowed her to tantrum too.

  6. My first PF character was a Urban Barb Tiefling. Rather refined, but had boundless depths of rage due to the abusive childhood at the hands of an evil step father