Building a Better Barbarian
Barbarians in the campaign are often pretty dull. It's a class that obviously has potential--harkening back to its 1E AD&D roots, it was interesting then. Mechanically, it has promise, but seems "meh". The flavour, of course, is virtually non-existent in the core rulebooks. In AD&D, of course, with the advent of UA, the Barbarian has been much-debated. The basic notion is that there is no need for a “Barbarian” class—simply use the base “Fighter”, add furs, leather, or loin-cloth, primitive technology, and a savage, “barbaric” culture, and *whalaah*--you have a barbarian. Whether or not a DM uses the basic *Fighter* class to model barbarians, or the Barbarian class itself in some form, there remains a need to develop the background, motif, and flavour of any given barbarian or group of barbarians encountered in the milieu.
Thus, I designed some tables to relatively quickly determine some quick guidelines of a barbarian culture encountered by the players--or as a snapshot to the background of an NPC Barbarian, or some barbarian opponents. Questions would frequently arise--What are their marriage customs? How do they handle crime and punishment? What kind of religious system does this tribe have? How does this barbarian view certain family relationships, or ideas? Or how might he or she--respond to this kind of family relationship or custom over here? What kind of technology does that barbarian tribe have? What kind of skills are they famous or well-known for? And many others.
The Barbarian Technology Tables are divided into two different tables; Table I is for a "Random Campaign Correspondence"; while Table II is for a "Strict Campaign Correspondence". What do these tables mean?
The Random Campaign Correspondence table--Table I--is for when the DM wants there to be broad, open possibilities, vastly different cultural templates and dynamics, and potentially very difficult social, political and cultural problems when such barbarians encounter player characters or NPC's from wildly different cultures.
Table II--the "Strict Campaign Correspondence" table, is much tighter, in that there is less random chance for some culture to be very radically different from the more modern cultures present in the quasi-medieval milieu. The barbarian cultures developed will have a much closer technological and cultural correspondence--or if they do have an Iron Age technology/culture, they will be placed to advance much more rapidly in the larger political scheme of the campaign milieu. In such a case, it would be easier for the DM to advance a particular Iron Age tribe, for example, up to the Early Middle Ages level of technology and thus have less friction within the campaign. It just depends on what kind of open probabilities the DM wants a greater chance of dealing with for the campaign.
Barbarian Technology Table I
01-20% Stone Age
21-40% Bronze Age
41-60% Iron Age
61-80% Dark Ages
81-00% Early Middle Ages
Barbarian Technology Table II
01-10% Stone Age
11-20% Bronze Age
21-40% Iron Age
41-70% Dark Ages
71-00% Early Middle Ages
Barbarian Climate & Terrain Type
91-00% Coastal/Sea Raider
Barbarian Culture & Lifestyle
01-10% Simple Hunter/Gatherers
11-20% Advanced Hunter/Gatherers
51-90% Village-Based; with simple Agriculture
91-00% Village/Town Based; with advanced Agriculture
Barbarian Government & Leadership
01-25% Chieftain--Autocracy/Divine Right
26-50% Chieftain--Warlord/Elder Council
51-60% Chieftain--Longhouse Democracy
61-75% Kingship--Autocracy/Divine Right
76-90% Kingship--Warlord/Elder Council
91-92% Kingship--Confederation; Autocracy/Divine Right
93-94% Kingship--Confederation; Warlord/Elder Council
95-96% Chieftain--Confederation; Autocracy/Divine Right
97-98% Chieftain--Confederation; Warlord/Elder Council
99-00% Chieftain--Confederation; Longhouse Democracy
01-25% Simple Barter Economy, with Local Trade
26-50% Advanced, Complex Barter Economy, with Local Trade
51-65% Simple Barter Economy, Long Ranged Trade
66-80% Advanced Barter Economy, Long Ranged Trade
81-90% Mixed Complex Barter/Coin-based Economy, with Local Trade
91-00% Mixed Complex Barter/Coin-based Economy, Long Ranged Trade
Barbarian Social Justice & Punishment
01-02% Simple Justice
03-04% Simple Justice+Violence I
05-06% Simple Justice+Violence I; plus Indentured Servitude I
07-08% Simple Justice+Violence I; plus Indentured Servitude II;
09-10% Simple Justice+Violence II; Slavery I
11-30% Simple Justice+Violence II; Slavery II
31-50% Simple Justice+Violence III; Slavery I
51-90% Simple Justice+Violence III; Slavery II
91-95% Simple Justice+Violence IV; Slavery I
96-00% Simple Justice+Violence IV; Slavery II
Interpreting the table results:
Simple Justice: Simple Justice refers to the comprehensive social justice systems embraced virtually universally by all tribes of people throughout history; these customs form the basis of almost all justice systems, to one degree or another; they are generally composed of the following customs: Compensatory; Social Outcast, Labour, Exile
Violence I: Torture
The culture embraces and accepts the use of torture as punishment or for whatever means necessary in addition to standard simple justice.
Violence II: Torture and Execution
The culture also embraces various forms and methods of execution, as a form of punishment along with torture and standard simple justice.
Violence III: Torture, Execution, Sacrifice
The culture embraces customs of religiously sacrificing victims to their gods as a form of punishment in addition to execution, torture, and standard simple justice.
Violence IV: Torture, Execution, Sacrifice, Cannabalism: The culture embraces Cannibalism--the feasting on other human beings as well as other humanoid creatures, as a form of punishment, in addition to torture, execution, sacrifice, and simple justice.
Indentured Servitude I: Limited
Limited; the culture embraces Indentured Servitude; using the custom as a punishment for a specific period of time, and or for specific people; various kinds of criminals, war prisoners, foreign captives, adoptive members of the tribe from foreigners, etc. Indentured Servants also possess specific rights--unlike slaves, who may have no rights whatsoever. Limited Indentured Servitude usually has limits of from months to years, though 7 years is generally the maximum.
Indentured Servitude II: General
General; the culture embraces Indentured Servitude on a much larger basis; the times sentenced may be specific and temporary, or much longer; General can encompass typically sentences of any number of years, up to 20. General Indentured Servitude may be limited to only foreign males; foreigners in general; war prisoners; criminals; foreign women; any halfling; and so on.
Slavery I: Limited
The culture embraces limited slavery. This may be only Half Orcs; Only Halflings; Only War Prisoners; Only Foreign Captives; Only Criminals; or some other kind of institutional limitation based on sex/gender, race, religion, status, ethnicity/culture, and so on. There may be more than one qualifier, as well. In limited slavery, slaves may enjoy some legal, cultural, or social rights, to one degree or another, depending on the culture. This form of slavery differs from the more general slavery, where virtually anyone and everyone can be condemned to slavery.
Slavery II: General
The culture embraces general slavery; criminals, foreigners, war prisoners, war captives, of whatever sex/gender, race or culture can be condemned to slavery, for life unless released by their master while alive, or in the master's will. Slaves have virtually no rights whatsoever, and may worked brutally and inhumanely, be sacrificed, tortured, or killed for any reason, or for mere whim.
Barbarian Marriage Customs
01-05% Monogamous; Strict, Formal
06-10% Monogamous; Loose, Informal
11-20% Monogamous; Loose, Informal, Concubinage
21-25% Polygamous; Strict, Formal
26-40% Polygamous; Loose, Informal
41-90% Polygamous; Loose, Informal, Concubinage
91-00% Polyandrous/Tribal/Group (Subtable)
01-30% Polyandrous; Strict, Formal
31-90% Polyandrous; Loose, Informal
91-94% Polyandrous; Loose, Informal, Concubinage
95-96% Tribal/Group; Strict, Formal
97-98% Tribal/Group; Loose, Informal
99-00% Tribal/Group; Loose, Informal, Concubinage
Strict: A strict adherence to fidelity and exclusive sexual relations is expected. Violation of these expectations and customs may provoke serious social and or legal consequences. Adultery is often punished with savage torture, and often death sentences are the standard.
Loose: People involved have varying expectations of absolute sexual fidelity and exclusivity; mistresses, lovers, and so on are fairly common, and generally accepted.
Formal: The society has very high standards and strict rules and expectations for any kind of divorce. There may be specific requirements that the couple or people involved must exhibit in order to be allowed to divorce. There may be various significant social and religious stigmas attached to anyone that has been divorced. Children born out of wedlock are likewise social outcasts if such is becomes known.
Informal: The culture has no strict requirements concerning divorce, and divorce is relatively easy and simple to do, with no social, religious or cultural stigmas for anyone involved. In addition, children born out of wedlock are not subject to being outcasts, and may be common and entirely accepted.
Concubinage: The culture embraces the custom of maintaining concubines for a married person, whether male or female. In the cases where concubines provide children, the children have some rights of inheritance. In addition, concubines have an official, legal and social status, and enjoy specific social, legal and inheritance rights.
01-30% Comprehensive Pantheon
31-70% Nature/Elements Pantheon
86-95% Great Spirit/Animism/Spiritualism
Barbarian Religious Leadership
01-05% Shaman--Exclusively Male or Female Genders
06-10% Shaman--Both genders may serve as shamans
11-30% Priests--Exclusively Male or Female Genders
31-50% Priests--Both genders may serve as priests
51-60% Druids--Exclusively Male or Female Genders
61-70% Druids--Both genders may serve as druids
71-80% Informal Clergy: Witches, Witch-Doctors, Holy Hermits. Both or either genders may serve; many are open; some have restrictions. Culture may have one or more types, as appropriate.
81-00% Special: Roll again; any Shaman, Priest, or Druid type, plus Informal Clergy.