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[BARBAREN!] Revised Playtest Edition and Power 19

Started by Frank T, October 02, 2006, 01:32:44 PM

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Frank T

Hi everybody!

Having a deadline (Spiel Essen) and switching from writing in German to writing in English has helped me to finally overcome my writer's block on BARBAREN!. I have finished the third revised playtest edition. It is not really "first thoughts", more like "pretty close to final thoughts". It is rules only. The setting is available in German, and I write a little bit in English about it here.

Please download the new playtest version here, read it, tell me what you think, play it, post an actual play report, and be credited in the book! Any recommendations on better naming for stats and other stuff are welcome. The game will be released in German first and the English terms are still pretty provisional. Also, please let me know if you have any creative ideas for wooing Tricks. Five seem too few.

If you playtest it, please pay special attention to balancing: Are the Tricks equally powerful? Are the stats for foes ok? How about the weapons?

BARBAREN! is a project I am working on since October 2004. I first posted about it here on the Forge in February 2005, and had an infamous playtest at GenCon 2005. Since I've never done the Power 19 for the game, I just as well might:

1.   What is the game about?
Barbarian jock satire. Mighty Barbarian Machos happily fuck and butcher their way through life, proving what a Real Man (tm) acts like. The game is much about the process itself, but also about whom you fuck or fight, and why.

2.   What do the characters do?

Try to kill as many foes as possible and lay as many women as possible. Occasionally, they might go hunting or measure their strength in games. Also, they'll probably drink a lot of alcohol.

3.   What do the players (and the GM) do?

The players play their characters. They also create the clan and pick the frame for each adventure. The GM plays all other persons (unless he choses to assign them to someone) and "the world". He may also do some scene framing and cutting, but there are no hard rules for that.

4.   How does the setting reinforce what the game is about?

It is the Wilde Lands.

5.   How does the character creation reinforce what the game is about?

The main stats you pick are for fighting and wooing. You also pick some Bonds (oath, desire, rivalry): That's for the "whom you fuck or fight, and why". Thus, clan an relationship map are created by everyone together.

6.   What types of behavior does the game reward and/or punish?

Reward: Clever tactics and strategies, both with the rules and within the context of the Shared Imagined Space. Acting on your Bonds or severing them. Displaying appropriate macho manners. Punish: Being a wimp.

7.   How is behavior rewarded and/or punished in the game?

You get Aggro points for laying women, which you can spend in combat. You get Horny points for fighting foes, which you can spend in wooing. There is also a Skull that can be claimed by the most macho player.

8.   How are responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in the game?

Mostly traditional.

9.   What does your game do to command a player's attention, engagement, and participation?

It provides opportunities.

10.   What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?

Simple d6 pool mechanic.

11.   How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what the game is about?

I'd have to explain the whole mechanic for this, please read the playtest document instead.

12.   Do characters in the game advance? If so, how?

They gain XP for spending Aggro and Horny and for severing Bonds. XP are spend to improve fighting and wooing stats or to buy little throw-away tricks. The Bonds themselves advance through scenes in which they are deepened.

13.   How does the character advancement reinforce what the game is about?

It is part of the reward system.

14.   What sort of effect do you want the game to produce in (or for) the players?

A loud, rude, filthy, tasteless, hilarious bit of fun.

15.   What areas of the game receive extra attention and color? Why?

The part where Barbarian mythology makes rape impossible, which is important for two reasons: I don't want any frustrated gamer suckers to celebrate rape with my game. And the situation is more interesting if the woman knows you will never take her by force.

16.   What parts of the game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?

The fighting and wooing system, because if it is not (a) a fun rules set and (b) producing gore and porn content, then the game won't work.

17.   Where does the game take players that other games can't/don't/won't?

Far beyond the limits of good taste and political correctness. And into pornographic content, if they want to.

18.   What are your publishing goals for this game?

A 100+ pages softcover in German language to be released in the first half of 2007, sold via a website. Eventually, an English version. GenCon 2007 would be fantastic, but that is probably too ambitious.

19.   Who is your target audience?

Anyone who loves a good sexist joke, trashy 80s Barbarian jock movies, or Manowar.

- Frank

Ricky Donato

Hi, Frank!

First, your game sounds hilarious. I love sexist jokes. :-) I would like some clarification on a few things.

4. How does the setting reinforce what the game is about?

It is the Wilde Lands.

What is the Wilde Lands? And how does this reinforce Barbaren?

9. What does your game do to command a player's attention, engagement, and participation?

It provides opportunities.

What sort of opportunities? And how are those opportunities engaging?
Ricky Donato

My first game in development, now writing first draft: Machiavelli

Frank T

It is the Wilde Lands, man! Doesn't the name speak for itself? Ah well. Here's a quote from the previous thread:

Quote2.1 The Barbarians
They are big, strong and masculine. Their women are long-legged and beautiful. Their language is primitive and guttural, they have names like Kuthroc, Gorack or Berren. The name of their people is Barbarians. Whenever anyone uses that term anywhere on anyone else, it is only in reference to the real Barbarians. Oh, and most importantly: every Barbarian has a nine inch cock. No shit.

2.2 The Wilde Lands
The Barbarians live in a fierce environment. Towering mointains, jagged rocks, active vulcanos, deep valleys, thick woods, thundering rivers and every kind of predatory animal. There are dragons, too, but those are not intelligent AD&D-style semi-gods, but just animals, though of terrific strength and beauty. Summers are hot and dry, winters ice cold and snowy, spring and fall stormy. A world of extremes, always.

In the German Write-Up I enlarge some on the Barbarian's way of life as semi-nomads, but most of that you can guess. They have swords, bows and axes, are clad in horn, leather and fur, eat mostly meat, drink mostly mead, etc.

2.3 Myths and Customs
I have based the mythology of the Barbarians on animal spirits. The women pray to the Great Tigress. There are five tribes, derived from the Great Raven, the Great Bear, the Great Eagle, the Great Wolf, and the Great Tiger. However, the Great Tiger's son fell from grace as he took his mate by force, angering the Great Tigress who caused his genitals to shrink and eventually fall off. To date, no Barbarian will ever take a woman by force. (I included this because I really do not want to see rape in this game.)

Laws of the macho society are pretty much clichéd, men can have as many wives as they like, the strongest warrior is chieftain, a duel is a legitimate means to settle arguments, etc. I have also included some customs, like a fertility festival à la Belthane held each month, and the Great Dragon Hunt that takes place every four years, when the best warriors of all tribes meet at the legendary Dragon Valley to measure their skill.

2.4 Barbarian Society
Barbarian society is based on families and clans. The clans belong to the four tribes: The Ravven, decendents of the Great Raven, who dwell mostly in the high mountains. The Berrva, decendents of the Great Bear, who inhabit the valleys and woods. The Ardir, decendents of the Great Eagle, who live by rivers and lakes. The Whulfir, decendents of the Great Wolf, who roam the Great Plateau on horseback and venture far into foreign lands. Each bear some physical and mental resemblance to their ancestor, yet the tribes have mixed a lot because women have been robbed and seduced at all times.

The fifth tribe, the Thigra, decendents of the Great Tiger, have become a tribe of fearful amazons that hide in the most repellent areas and slay every man except when they need to mate.

2.5 Foreigners
In German I have also briefly desribed the nations and lands surrounding the Wilde Lands. Those are there to provide male victims and female challenges. They are pretty bluntly inspired by real earthly cultures. The Corians resemble the Celts. The Shuarans resemble the Romans. The Nyclamics resemble Palestine as occupied by Rome. The Tarsians are a mixture of the Touareg and ancient Persians. Lastly, the Iveri resemble the Finnish.

Do I really have to explain how this enforces what the game is about?

Regarding opportunities: That was really just another way to say: Screw that question. Players should engage, participate and pay attention because they want to. The question No. 9  is the "pervy Forge procedural games question", and I am not writing a pervy Forge procedural game. The only thing I am doing is to provide means for input, and disencourage deprotagonization, so that engagement and participation pays off. That's what I mean by "opportunities".

- Frank

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

This is a tricky thread because Barbaren is definitely long past the "first thoughts" phase. So the Power 19 in this case serves more as advertising than as a basis for analysis.

Frank, maybe it would help if you presented a specific question for discussion, something that really is, at this stage, a first thought that you're considering.

If there isn't any, then Barbaren discussions should probably move to Publishing and Playtesting.

Best, Ron

Frank T

Hi Ron,

I was kind of wondering where to post this, as indicated in my initial post. But I thought I remembered you stating somewhere that "got playtest edition, want playtesters" threads should go to first thoughts. Anyway. I would like to keep this thread open for specific questions regarding the rules, and for discussion of the terms (like: shouldn't wooing be called something different?) If that's okay.

- Frank

Ron Edwards

That's perfectly all right, Frank, for this thread's purposes.

However, you're mis-remembering my previous comments. Posts seeking playtesters should go into the Connections forum.

As for "wooing," I like the term because it strongly implies attracting the women rather than fooling or forcing them.

Best, Ron

Eero Tuovinen

Tell me we're playing this at Spiel, Frank!

As for thread positioning: my strategy in the same situation was to post in playtesting. Gives an opportunity to discuss actual play experiences, too.

Downloads: I want to see the rules, but am too stupid to find them on this German site. Any hints?

Agreed with Ron about wooing, by the way.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Frank T

Hi Eero,

An after hours BARBAREN! game at Spiel is mandatory.

The link above should be a direct download link. If it doesn't work, go here:;dl=item14

- Frank



Both links get me to a message that (I think) states that I do not have sufficient authority.  Here's the message:  Keine ausreichende Berechtigung zum Anzeigen dieser Kategorie. 


Frank T

Ah, I forgot that the download section at GroFaFo is only available to registered members. Never mind. So I'm learning how to use FTP. No big deal. You can now download the file here:

BARBAREN! Playtest Version Gamma

- Frank

Eero Tuovinen

Now we're cooking. Some random comments in anticipation of getting to play:

- The weapon-specific tricks leave me cold, seems annoying that I'd have to stoop to the rpg level of weapon-fetishism and get twinky with a barbarian using two weapons, a morningstar and so on. What's a barbarian doing with a morningstar anyway, it's not a very useful weapon in non-armored conditions. Gripe gripe.
- "Hard as a rock" would seem like a more interesting trick if it was declared before the roll. Now it's almost just an extra hit point you cross off after getting hit.
- I'm surprised there's no anti-armor trick to really kick those decadent dogs back the way they came. Actually, an anti-foreigner trick seems much more colorful and fun than some of those weapon-specific ones. They suffer from dwelving into the technicalities of weapon type, forgetting what barbarian combat is really about.
- Those weapons don't seem particularly balanced towards each other. Intentional?

- Do you have a suitable skull, or should I bring one?

Ideas for wooing tricks:
- Cultural expertise: good for wooing a girl from a certain tribe or culture, leveraging the quirky habits and soft spots of the locals.
- Booze-hound: good for plying the girl with intoxicants, situation permitting of course.
- Giver of gifts: good for choosing the right gift for the right babe.
- Good with his tongue: a good finishing argument in certain situations, but leaves the barbarian open to a nasty humiliation if it becomes the talk of the village.
- Poetry: good for the beginning, and suitable pillow-talk makes it easier to get to her again.

As you can see, I skipped mechanics this time around. That is intentional: I think the trick system would benefit if you added some color to them. What you have has almost no implications for the fiction, except for the weapon-fetishes in the combat section. Especially the wooing tricks could use some specificity, along the lines of the stuff I suggest. I'd like to see more tricks that can only be used in certain situations and that have implications for the roleplaying, instead of just mechanics. I'd even go as far as to suggest that mechanical differences are not as important as the connection to fiction. Consider TSOY Secrets, which have a similar role. As the system stands I'd have great difficulty in choosing wooing tricks for my character, because the choice is about mechanics alone.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Frank T

Hi Eero,

You know, in the original version of the game, you could have an axe or a sword, and that was that. And people would go: "I wanna fight with two axes." – "I want..." There you go. Whatever you do is always wrong. I guess my take is to make sword and axe just the best weapons around, and leave the rest to the players. As long as nobody wants a Katana, I'm fine.

The "hard as a rock" trick is actually meant as a "back door" for players who really hate losing a character to chance. I will think about more colourful and fictionally relevant tricks.

Regarding the Skull: I have an idea where I can get a good one. Don't worry about it.

Best, Frank

Eero Tuovinen

Quote from: Frank T on October 05, 2006, 08:52:56 AM
You know, in the original version of the game, you could have an axe or a sword, and that was that. And people would go: "I wanna fight with two axes." – "I want..." There you go. Whatever you do is always wrong. I guess my take is to make sword and axe just the best weapons around, and leave the rest to the players. As long as nobody wants a Katana, I'm fine.

OK, this is probably a stupid question, but why should the weapon choice affect things so much anyway? Why not let people fight with two axes if they want to? Why not let them fight with two barbarian two-handed swords (which is, when you come down to it, exactly as sensible as fighting with two axes)? Why have weapon bonuses that make it pertinent to track this stuff? You probably have good reasons for having that weapon bonus table and mechanically separate weapons at this point, but it seems strange to my eye. If you want to make people able to pick their favourite weapons, having different statistics for different weapons doesn't really facilitate that; if I want my character go about with a club, then I'm mechanically penalized. This is almost worse than just saying that I can't have a club, the latter is at least a direct and honest way of saying it, instead of giving me the club and then crippling me with penalties. If it's important that players get to choose their own color, then just ignoring the difference between my club and a sword makes the most sense.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Ice Cream Emperor

I'd have to agree with Eero about the weapons, albeit just based on reading the rest of this thread. This sounds to me like the kind of game where I can go around using some outrageously impractical (but highly barbaric!) weapon without having to worry about how it would be better if I had a longsword. In fact, my initial hope would be that a truly outrageous weapon would somehow be rewarded, if I could come up with a sufficiently macho description. Using giant heads as flails (just grab the beard), swords that weigh more than two lesser men, etc.
~ Daniel

Frank T

Hi there,

I am reading and considering, but have nothing sensible to respond at this point. Thanks anyway! Keep posting!

- Frank