Thought experiment - Radical hACKS

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golan2072
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Thought experiment - Radical hACKS

I sometimes get the urge to take a big axe and hack ACKS - which is already a wonderful variant of D&D with sword'n'sorcery overtones - into a simple, no-holds-barred, heavy-metal sword'n'sorcery game.

I'm writing this as a though experiment; previous commitments to Autarch and Stellagama Publishing preclude rapid development of these ideas in the short run.

So, what do I want?

1. Shaded Eldritch non-ceremonial magic.

2. Fighter, Thief, Sorcerer (Eldritch), Antediluvian (Eldritch "Zaharan Ruinguard"), Lizardman (Thrassian Gladiator minus Infravision)

3. Standard ACKS combat rules and Eldritch magic rules (I'd give 6 spells of each shade of each level, i.e. 108 spells in total).

4. Sword and sorcery monsters. Goblins - no. Dinosaurs, mammoths, dragons, toadmen, things with tentacles - yes. Heroic treasures minus the ceremonial stuff.

5. Heroic Fantasy healing, with modified low-level healing (so that low-level healing won't be too nerfed - a common complaint at the HFH healing rules).

6. Flat or otherwise modified Thief skills:
http://www.autarch.co/forums/general-discussion/flat-thief-abilities

7. Probably keep high-level options/domains/hijinks/setting building for ACKS Core or an "Advanced" set.

Ideal format: a single 120-page (64 page if I can, but unlikely) 6''x9'' booklet.

What do you think?

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Needs to have half-naked female warrior with an oversized sword, a skull, and a flying beast on the cover

 

golan2072
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Needs to have half-naked female warrior with an oversized sword, a skull, and a flying beast on the cover

 


-Alex

Indeed ;-)

Chimera_Prime
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Point 7 and the size restriction got me thinking... your not thinking about high level here... you looking at adventures or conquerors, maybe not kings. What if you called it a level 8 as a concept. Would really slim it down, less spells to factor in. The old earthdawn called it at 8 from memory. The rest would still exist in theory, but the build for the main game would be a faster hack to put together. 

And to add to the current chain - riding a dinosaur.

golan2072
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Point 7 and the size restriction got me thinking... your not thinking about high level here... you looking at adventures or conquerors, maybe not kings. What if you called it a level 8 as a concept. Would really slim it down, less spells to factor in. The old earthdawn called it at 8 from memory. The rest would still exist in theory, but the build for the main game would be a faster hack to put together. 

And to add to the current chain - riding a dinosaur.


-Chimera_Prime

I like this restriction; add, if necessary, a later core-book with high-level play.

Level 8 is a good cut-off point as this is right below the "name level" and allows you to play a "superhero" in D&D terms; it is also a "sweet spot" for wilderness exploration (levels 7-8). This allows a lot of powers unlocked at level 7 to serve you here. 4 levels/"circles" of spells; most monsters at 12 HD or less.

And yes, I'd add clear rules for riding dinosaurs, as well as the beasts themselves.

golan2072
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The only problem is that this will put Restore Life and Limb outside of the spell list. Or does that have an intentional charm to it?

Chimera_Prime
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Good point, I forgot its a level 7 ritual in Eldritch magic.

So, from one perspective it's only available at level 11 anyway, so rare until late game. The problem is you can't go to a town to buy it... But would such a large town exist? Technically low powered level characters can lead baronies or marches. Reminds me of border princes in Warhammer (2ed) a little.

Bug or feature then :) 

If you use fate points you get the recovery anyway, so death is lessened. Again, a little warhammery...

If you picked Eldritch magic, your on the cusp of restricting it's access anyway as you have less flashy magic.

I would say it's a feature. To some degree the premis is that it's still possible, just extremely rare. Other sources could exist, magic items, a strange being that lives in a cave on a mountain.

Loswaith
Joined: 2017-05-12 02:19

Restore Life and Limb outside of the play scope really tells of the world in that while magic does exist, it simply doesn't have the power to restore life.  Or atleast not for mortals.

If you did want to include it however, it wouldn't be that strange to see it as a Ritual of some kind (presuming you want rituals at all).  However it would be something only available to level 8 spell casters, or if you have plans for any side progression after 8th (like the gaining of proficencies through extended training times), it could be bought from that.  Even including a handful of other spells as rituals as well (those of 5th level or higher).

Alternativly a lower level version could exist but need to be done within a turn to have any effect (theoritically meaning once the soul has left the being, nothing mortals can do would return it).

At the end of the day as I see it the spell not being available says a lot about the setting/style.

golan2072
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In the hypothetical "Basic" book, I'd do this as a rare magic item; Scroll of Restoration, as well as the Wish items (for full effect) and Ring/Potion of Regeneration (for wounds only). Rare - most injury will stay, and death is almost always permanent.

It will be part of the hypothetical "Expert" book, and noted as an "Optional Rule" with a note about setting implications. Or replaced with Semblance of Life! (and a Regeneration spell limited to wounds only).

golan2072
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Another question - would you put the level cap at 6 (an "E6" ruleset) or at 8 (an "E8" ruleset)? E8 allows "Superhero" characters (in D&D terms) and level 4 spells, as well as various level 7 powers (which, IIRC, are common); but E6 has a certain elegant charm of three spell levels.

 

Rodriguez
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I think the combat rules from HFH are are a better match for that type of game then just using core.

golan2072
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I think the combat rules from HFH are are a better match for that type of game then just using core.


-Rodriguez

Indeed! Great idea.

Chimera_Prime
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E6 and E8 were based somewhat on 3.0 breakpoints (did you get feats at even levels, I can't remember). I wonder here if the equivalents are 5 and 7 in ACKs, or 7 and 9 (Smaller hit dice and slower attack progression in ACKs). My suggestion on the 8 cap was to avoid the name level play (which while awesome doesn't seem to be the focus of this). I think people like to see a few levels in thier game for it to be fun. 3 to 5 could be seen as too little, 6 on the cusp but not yet there.

7 is actually an interesting breakpoint, everyone steps up in saves and to hit at seven. Also, as you mention, a lot of class powers can trigger at that point. 

The other thing is 4th level Eldritch magic is not as flashy as arcane. So its not such a comparative hurdle. (As in not so superheroic)

I would say 7 or 8 remains the best.

golan2072
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I'd propose 8, then, as the cut-off level. The hypothetical "Advanced" book would have levels 9-14 and related material (domains, permanent magic item creation, golem/undead/crossbreed creation, level 5-6 spells + rituals, etc). The "Basic" Radical hACKS book would have potion and scroll creation rules, though.

Jard
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Having 8 as the cutoff seems reasonable.

As to the missing RL&L, there's a couple things to keep in mind.  First, you can have it be a rare magic item/service and simply provide the cost, hand waiving it and saying that you must find high level sorcerer or a rare ancient scroll to do it.

Second, as others have pointed out, if you include at least a few fate points, that is going to do the majority of the heavy lifting of RL&L. since you can use it to essentially avoid most rolls on the mortal wounds table.

golan2072
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Yes, fate points will be very useful in such a ruleset, and thematic as well.

Chimera_Prime
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In which case... Might i suggest the following, this is the house rule i use in my games.

Starting Allocation of Fate Points: Characters begin with one or more Fate Points based on their net ability bonuses/penalties. The player should record his character’s allocation of Fate Points on his character sheet. To determine this add up all the ability bonuses/penalties numbers for the character and consult the table below.

Net ability
bonus/penalty
Fates
decision
Fate
points
-3 or fewer
 
10
-2
Chosen of the Gods
9
-1
 
8
0
 
7
+1
Fortune Favors the Bold
6
+2
 
5
+3
 
4
+4
Fate is Fickle
3
+5
 
2
+6 or more
Uncaring Fate
1

So, I do this along with roll 5 and 3d6 as they fall (and tradoff 2 for 1 prime). Its intented to throw another choice into the mix. I got a bit sick of seeing "for the game to be heroic you must have high attributtes". The problem with this is it removes some of the fun of playing characters with a range of attributtes.

Under this system i have seen players make choices that they would not have otherwise made. eg. Sorcerers who go for high INT only, trading down other attributtes for fate points so they can get the extra spells fate points alow. I give a bit more than normal, but have them only recover once a week, forcing choice. 

Players with good attributtes get less, but hey, they have good attributtes. You can play a relatively normal character - with 9 across the board, and recieve 7 fate points, giving your character a unique flavour compared to other characters with attributes of 16 that have 4 or less. I then only alow one fate point per proficiency.
 
 
 
golan2072
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I love this! Goes well with the "3d6 x6 in order" OSR generation method.

Thevampman24
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The TSR vibe is real. More specifically Mr. Gygax laughing at the world of hurt you don't even know you entered.

golan2072
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The TSR vibe is real. More specifically Mr. Gygax laughing at the world of hurt you don't even know you entered.


-Thevampman24

You mean, the B/X split approach? Why is it a "World of hurt"?

Thevampman24
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The TSR vibe is real. More specifically Mr. Gygax laughing at the world of hurt you don't even know you entered.

 


-Thevampman24

 

You mean, the B/X split approach? Why is it a "World of hurt"?


-golan2072

Because from my understanding Gygax was not afraid of a player grinder "Tomb of Horrors and kinda Parodied with Castle Greyhawk" and add on that Orginal D&D and AD&D didn't pull any punches and I know this due to the number of Characters I have lost to random weasel encounters. That was my only reference and reasoning to the world of hurt comment. I didn't state my thoughts better probably because I just got done with work.

I meant no insult to your hypothetical book since it sounds like a blast and makes me kinda want to start a Deadlands ACKs conversion.

Chimera_Prime
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It's interesting how it gives off a certain flavour, but under the hood can be forgiving. It alows it to have a bit of risk in it, if you read some of the early DMG stuff from Gygax he definitely liked a bit of risk for reward, not to easy not too hard.

Ok, classes, I see 5. I almost never see people playing the thief, I think it's my players. So thief or freebooter :) or something like that that is a bit different. 

On that note, Gladiator? Of lizardman hunter or lizardman warrior? If you have 5 gladiator is a bit niche.

Finally, those choose classes, like freebooter. I'm not sure if they are Alex or a backer in terms of who likes them, they are interesting.  Do you think classes with choices would make this seem deeper in choice? I must admit I often don't use them, but I use 9 or more classes to set the setting.

golan2072
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The TSR vibe is real. More specifically Mr. Gygax laughing at the world of hurt you don't even know you entered.

 

 

 
-Thevampman24

 

You mean, the B/X split approach? Why is it a "World of hurt"?

 

 

 
-golan2072

 

 

Because from my understanding Gygax was not afraid of a player grinder "Tomb of Horrors and kinda Parodied with Castle Greyhawk" and add on that Orginal D&D and AD&D didn't pull any punches and I know this due to the number of Characters I have lost to random weasel encounters. That was my only reference and reasoning to the world of hurt comment. I didn't state my thoughts better probably because I just got done with work.
 
I meant no insult to your hypothetical book since it sounds like a blast and makes me kinda want to start a Deadlands ACKs conversion.


-Thevampman24

No insult taken :-) And thank you for your kind words.

And in this case, there would be an optional rule to avoid fate points for hardcore "Iron Man" play... In this case - no RL&L (except for rare magic items and Judge fiat) and mortal wounds are nasty.

golan2072
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It's interesting how it gives off a certain flavour, but under the hood can be forgiving. It alows it to have a bit of risk in it, if you read some of the early DMG stuff from Gygax he definitely liked a bit of risk for reward, not to easy not too hard.

-Chimera_Prime

Exactly.

Ok, classes, I see 5. I almost never see people playing the thief, I think it's my players. So thief or freebooter :) or something like that that is a bit different.

-Chimera_Prime

Maybe create a hybrid of freebooter and thief and call it a "rogue"? A more martial thief, somewhat slower advancement.

However, with rebalanced thief skills, low level thieves may be more viable as player options.

On that note, Gladiator? Of lizardman hunter or lizardman warrior? If you have 5 gladiator is a bit niche.

-Chimera_Prime

I'd just call it a "lizardman (no second descriptive)", drop the infravision, and call it a day. Monster lizardmen would be nerfed to HD 1+1, but their bosses would be higher level classed lizardmen. The same goes with the "antediluvian" - no second descriptive, just "antediluvian" (and use an Eldritch variant of the Zaharan ruinguard).

Finally, those choose classes, like freebooter. I'm not sure if they are Alex or a backer in terms of who likes them, they are interesting.  Do you think classes with choices would make this seem deeper in choice? I must admit I often don't use them, but I use 9 or more classes to set the setting.

-Chimera_Prime

These would be beyond thr scope of such a book (Radical hACKS). Regarding more classes - I was trying to choose the most iconic ones, which are fighter, thief, and sorcerer for teh human classes. Do you think an assassin, a barbarian, an explorer, and a martial (non-spellcasting) bladedancer would be distinct enough for such a scope? I find it somewhat difficult to justify this.

jojodogboy
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Balancing Options for thieves

  • In my campaign all theiving abilities (other than climb walls) are = to 15-lvl for a range of 14+ at 1st level to 1+ at 14th level.  I do not allow Dex bonuses because I want PCs with low/average scores to be more playable.  If a thief buys special equipment (e.g. masterwork thieves tools), I then allow Dex bonues
  • Have all thieving abilities start at 12-lvl/2 rounded up.  A first level thief has a 50/50 chance (11+) up to a 13th level thief with an 80% chance of success.  If you use dex bonuses, a 1st level thief w/ 18 dex would have a 65% chance of success and a 13th level thief would have a 95% chance.  If you add specific proficiences for extra skill (say +2 or +4 to the roll), and equipment or strategies that increase the chances, even low level thieves would be effective.

increased theiving skills would make a big change in the campaign world.  PCs would have to guard against low level pickpickets where ever they go, with even low level thieves  having a decent chance of success against low to mid level PCs.  

I have also struggled in how to make my thieves more combat bsaed (in line with the Grey Mouser).  The freebooter (from the HFH) looks cool, but I haven't playtested it yet.  An option to make thieves more effective in combat is is to allow them (but not assassins) to muliply damage bonuses as well as die rolls on backstabs, or allow them to 'backstab' engaged opponents.  I'm not sure how that will 'feel' though. In 5E it leads to mechanical hex based strategic combat rather than a narrative strategic feel within the game fiction.

golan2072
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Jojodogboy, I love these ideas! Especially the second one Slow advancement, but you can buy specific advancement with proficienxcies, and (rare) high DEX will make you an even better thief.

Saving this as my "official" house rule in any ACKS game!

I'll have to check the freebooter. In any case, potentially reducing the number of thief skills in favor of a bigger hit die is a possibility.

Chimera_Prime
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Yeah,  nice thief rules Jojodogboy :) It's interesting how we all have house rules for thief's. 

The freebooter does tend to be suffering the that same problem in that it sticks with the d4 hit dice. But then d6 costs a lot and only really gives you an extra point. Hit Points are a precious commodity I suppose. Lower hit points coupled with low armor tends to make people cautious about being 'in the front line', which is almost a requirement for the backstabs.

I actually don't like the assassin or barbarian for some reason... I think barbarian is because it's a cultural thing and has really just become a berserker in modern D&D. Having read some Conan I'm in the 'Conan was a thief' club just with 18 CON to get those hit points.

Which is an interesting point, if your a thief with good CON you can afford to melee more. Acrobatics can trigger your Backstab without much effort too. If you went to d6 hit points you gain 300 XP and loose four powers, is it worth it, maybe not. If you after a simple, get strait into it, maybe just leave it as is.

But then another counter argument (I'm crossing me streams today) is that with a level cap of 8 the thief gets there too fast... So some extra XP Vs a hard cap might not hurt. I am absolutely certain d6 thief's have been done, will check the forum and blog histories :) (mines a nobiran, not human, so won't post that).

golan2072
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The problem is that unlike D&D 3E/5E, ranged backstabs cost another proficiency. I might want to reduce the thief's weapon selection to auto-include Sniping in its design, which may be appropriate.

You can simulate a D&D-type "barbarian" by having your fighter take berserkergang (for the rage) and swashbuckling (for the unarmored AC). The Companion totem and culture rules are beyond the scope of what I'm envisioning here.

The assassin, on the other hand, is a "sneaky fighter" with better HD than a thief and less than that of a fighter. Interesting, but, again, I'm not sure if it fits the scope here.

moorcrys
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I combined Hide in Shadows and Move Silently into Stealth, which gives Thief classes and extra open proficiency slot which they can use to help customize however they’d like.

You could add a proficiency for Thief-type classes only called “Thug” or “Resilient “ or something that gives them +1 hit point per level. That would address the d4 hp issue somewhat for more ruffian-type thieves without having to redesign the classes and also let you control which thief classes get the potential hit point bump.

 

golan2072
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I combined Hide in Shadows and Move Silently into Stealth, which gives Thief classes and extra open proficiency slot which they can use to help customize however they’d like.

You could add a proficiency for Thief-type classes only called “Thug” or “Resilient “ or something that gives them +1 hit point per level. That would address the d4 hp issue somewhat for more ruffian-type thieves without having to redesign the classes and also let you control which thief classes get the potential hit point bump.


-moorcrys

An interesting idea!

Chimera_Prime
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I agree with all the class things you said, and that’s my view of the berserker in normal play too, proficiencies are so good for flavour.

So, does it come with an intro adventure? I think it may need it to be self contained. Also to set the scene.

golan2072
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I agree with all the class things you said, and that’s my view of the berserker in normal play too, proficiencies are so good for flavour.

So, does it come with an intro adventure? I think it may need it to be self contained. Also to set the scene.


-Chimera_Prime

An intro adventure would be cool; a ghoul cult in a village? Toadmen raids?

Chimera_Prime
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Ghouls set an undead theme early, and people will be looking for the cleric which won’t be there. Needs to be toadmen based off that survey. But maybe a third party or other aspect. I’m trying to think about good intro adventures I have seen. That are short, the page budget would be tight.

golan2072
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A micro-sandbox might work; a small swamp? jungle? desert? (say, 8x8 6-mile hexes), a few NPCs with agendas, and a few (2-3?) one-page dungeons.

Chimera_Prime
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Actually that’s a little different and cool, a little like that micro setting you blogged about a year or so ago. Just a little bigger. You could throw a mix of key elements or themes into play that way and the players get a little choice out of the gate. I started my own game with a mini map based on your blog and found it worked really well, before I revealed the full 6mile hex map.

You could do a few mini dungeons without maps (1 page), just describing the lair ala L&E. Have a few one pagers, then maybe.a two pager. (6pages)

A few pages for map and history, and another few for politics and agendas.

golan2072
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Actually that’s a little different and cool, a little like that micro setting you blogged about a year or so ago. Just a little bigger. You could throw a mix of key elements or themes into play that way and the players get a little choice out of the gate. I started my own game with a mini map based on your blog and found it worked really well, before I revealed the full 6mile hex map.

-Chimera_Prime

Which of my settings - the Isenvale March?

 

You could do a few mini dungeons without maps (1 page), just describing the lair ala L&E. Have a few one pagers, then maybe.a two pager. (6pages)

A few pages for map and history, and another few for politics and agendas.


-Chimera_Prime

Yes, start with a sandbox. Something small, yet allowing player's choice. Something at least slightly gonzo. A jungle/swamp is preferrable to a desert, IMHO, as this will allow the lizardman to use his aquatic abilities.

A town (preferrably with a sorcerous tyrant) and its surrounding swampy-jungle environs. 4x small one-page dungeons, 1x two-page dungeon. Gazetteer. A few prominent NPCs with agendas. Random encounter table. Rumor table.

golan2072
Patreon SupporterBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu AuthorPlayer's Companion BackerDwimmermount BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters BackerBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2012-01-14 14:14

My thoughts of the micro-sandbox (Jungle of Zurn):

Factions:

1. Tyrant of Rarkh (the local town-state); wants to keep himself in power and thus get rid of the Bandit Queen. Chaotic.

2. Bandit Queen; popular heroine, the Tyrant's own sister (not a well-known fact). Wants to depose the Tyrant and rule Rarkh in his place. Lawful.

3. Brotherhood of Hands; Rarkh's criminal syndicate. Have a love-hate relationship with both the Tyrant and the Bandit Queen. Would like a ruler who will turn a blind eye to their hijinks. Neutral.

4. Cult of the Deep God; a powerful (6 HD? 8 HD?) creature (aboleth? sentient spellcasting octopus?) living in the local lake and its cult of sorcerers. Can teach sorcerers spells and help with making potions/scrolls (i.e. magical research). Demands sacrifices. Chaotic. Tolerated by the Tyrant; will be in trouble if the Bandit Queen takes power.

5. The Frog King; a massive frogling who rules the swamps. Allied with the Cult; in a cold war with both the Tyrant (over access to slaves and resources) and the Bandit Queen (who sees him as a Chaotic threat). Chaotic.

Monsters:

Spiders, giant geckos, snakes in the jungle; potentially a famous man-eating tiger (tough encounter for low-level characters). Toads, frogs, snakes, crocodiles, and froglings in the swamp, potentially a lair of ghouls (?) or a necromancer with zombies. Dangerous fish, octopi, and the Deep God in the lake; potentially lake-pirates? ARRRRRRRR.

Settlements:

Rarkh, a "city" (large town - makes the area "borderlands"). Ruled by the Tyrant.

Zabreba, a small fishing village across the lake from Rarkh. Weak village chief; pays tribute to the Deep God out of fear.

Zagadur, a rice farming village on the swamps. Village chief appointed by the Tyrant as this is Rurkh's ricebowl.

Frogling village (Chaotic monster camp).

Bandit Queen's hidden camp (deep in the jungles).

golan2072
Patreon SupporterBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu AuthorPlayer's Companion BackerDwimmermount BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters BackerBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2012-01-14 14:14

How would the introduction to such game look like? Search no further!

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Barbarians! Civilized men huddle behind tall stone walls, trembling at the thought. The soldiers of civilization tighten their shield walls against the oncoming onslaught. And then they come. Savage men and women, screaming at the top of their lungs, oblivious to fear, frothing at the mouth from rage and lust for war. Wave after wave, they storm shields and fortifications. Many die; the pagan gods bless their souls. But eventually, mail and castle will fail. Then, the flames of barbarism will sweep the land, leaving no stone unturned.

Or so think the civilized men. But beyond this nightmare – the shared nightmare of cultured folk – the reality is not as simple. Proud barbarian tribes plow the harsh land and hunt for deadly game beyond the domains of kings and emperors. Their warriors are plenty; of them, many are raiders and plunderers. But other barbarians are merchants trading with civilization; guides and hunters in far-flung provinces, and, ultimately – mercenaries to bolster the ranks of legions crumbling under the heel of decadent rulers.

Sooner or later, such soldiers of fortune – or, indeed, some of their merchant and wanderer kinfolk – will see the rotten heart of civilization for what it is. Opulence and corruption, avarice and greed. Noblemen who send others to kill and be killed to fulfill their whims. Merchants who could sell their own mother for profit. Crime seeping through every crack in moribund empires. Many will become jaded and disillusioned, seeing that the light of civilization is as dark and cold as the steppes and forests they call home. Others will see an opportunity.

For sometimes, what a rotten kingdom needs are a barbarian boot to kick it, smash its scheming nobles, lay low its selfish emperors, bring freedom – or, indeed, new slave-masters – to the townspeople and peasants.

Sword and sorcery tales speak of cunning thieves, power-hungry sorcerers, and, indeed, barbaric warriors. This game – Barbaric! – lets you play such heroes. Or, more often, anti-heroes. Pit your sword-arm and knowledge of eldritch secrets against ravaging bandits, scheming nobles, diabolic demons, mighty dragons – and, ultimately, the rotten and ugly face of moribund civilization itself.

These rules are, by themselves, an act of barbarism. This is not a finely crafted ruleset, elegantly spun from existing and new material. It is sharp and blunt at the same time, savage and bleeding, sometimes proudly crude. Its writing was not a work of careful sculpture – it was, and still is, an act of butchery. The author took a big axe, then savagely hacked at several existing rulsets, sending blood and guts flying, to create such a savage game.

So, pour your beer, devour your pizza, turn up the volume of your favorite heavy metal album – and prepare to become… Barbaric!