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Thread: Short Barbarians

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    Short Barbarians

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    I am working on rebooting my homebrew Audor setting. In this setting there are some races such as halflings, goblins, and gnomes that have barbarian-types but are rather short. As small creatures, they has less strength, and do less damage in melee.

    So, the question is, should I create a special type of barbarian-like class for them, or would the normal Barbarian be good for them, perhaps with feat selection, etc.

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    Whether you want to create a separate class or not I don't know. However, from a real-world military standpoint, physically smaller creatures would adopt different strategies than burly barbarians:

    • Hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare, to keep larger enemies off-balance
    • Ranged attacks, to keep larger enemies from using their advantage in height/reach/strength.
    • A greater reliance on traps and ambushes (much like kobolds), to maximize their home-turf advantage.
    • High mobility, perhaps mounted like the Mongols

    Iron Heroes had a class called the Harrier, which specialized in mobility and hit-and-run attacks. If you have that book, or can buy it cheap (maybe as a PDF), it might give you some ideas.
    "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
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    Don't confuse the barbarian class as a way to define a race/tribe of people. You can use any class to represent a tribal group. Barbarians utilize their inner primal energies to become enraged; that is not necessarily useful to a small race. They may be better suited as rangers or scouts (or rogues trained in nature) rather than barbarians.

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    Indeed. It might be better to call the "Barbarian class" the "Berserker". Barbarian has a totally different meaning. The Romans after all considered the rest of the world "barbarians". That included the Celts who on the face of it might have been more civilized by modern standards.

    I don't think you can typify a culture by a class. Any given culture will contain many classes.

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    I played a halfling barbarian character and had a blast, so there's nothing wrong with the concept. Most "barbarians" wouldn't actually have the barbarian class, most of them would be warriors. Even among the PC classed barbarians I'd imagine there'd be just as many rogues and rangers as barbarians. I have actually renamed the barbarian "berserker" in my campaigns. Hercules, for example, was from a civilized society but would certainly be of the barbarian class. On the other hand Hiawatha came from a more primitive society but I could see an argument for him being a paladin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tesral View Post
    Indeed. It might be better to call the "Barbarian class" the "Berserker". Barbarian has a totally different meaning. The Romans after all considered the rest of the world "barbarians". That included the Celts who on the face of it might have been more civilized by modern standards.
    Quoted for truth, but I can't help nitpicking: "barbarian" came originally from the Greeks. The Romans stole the word, like they stole so much else.

    BTW, Iron Heroes calls their version "Berserker". In general, I think class names should reflect what characters do rather than where they come from (the Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling classes of Basic notwithstanding).
    "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
    - Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)

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    Quote Originally Posted by fmitchell View Post
    Quoted for truth, but I can't help nitpicking: "barbarian" came originally from the Greeks. The Romans stole the word, like they stole so much else.
    Romans stole everything not nailed down. Romans with pry bars got the rest. Correction noted.


    Quote Originally Posted by fmitchell View Post
    BTW, Iron Heroes calls their version "Berserker". In general, I think class names should reflect what characters do rather than where they come from (the Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling classes of Basic notwithstanding).
    I've always considered the Basic D&D race-classes silly on the face of it. But I am of the opinion that Gygax made it as silly as possible to drive people to AD&D. He didn't count a it developing a fan base. Buuuut that whole period he was pretty much head up his ass control freaking about the whole game. His way was the only right way and everyone need to do it his way.


    Quote Originally Posted by Crom on his Mountain View Post
    I played a halfling barbarian character and had a blast, so there's nothing wrong with the concept. Most "barbarians" wouldn't actually have the barbarian class, most of them would be warriors. Even among the PC classed barbarians I'd imagine there'd be just as many rogues and rangers as barbarians. I have actually renamed the barbarian "berserker" in my campaigns. Hercules, for example, was from a civilized society but would certainly be of the barbarian class. On the other hand Hiawatha came from a more primitive society but I could see an argument for him being a paladin.
    Exactly. Yea, Hiawatha was more paladin than you might realize. Longfellow didn't know squat about northren Michigan Indian culture. Yes, I read the whole thing. By the shores of Gitche Gumee and everything. Hiawatha was an Iroquois leader historically. So even the name is wrong. It was the era of the "noble savage" after all.
    Last edited by tesral; 08-23-2010 at 12:43 PM.

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    I'm thinking more in terms of a "class distribution" than a "All X are Y". Among, say, the Orcs, most will be Warriors, but some will be Barbarians and some will be other classes. Hobgoblins would have more Fighters and Rangers, in my opinion.

    I guess my concern is that Goblin Barbarians would be at a disadvantage vs Orc Barbarians. But perhaps that's only if the Goblin Barbarian is built as if he was an Orc. If built to take advantage of stealth and dexterity, perhaps they could have an even chance.

    But perhaps Rangers and Ranger/Rogues would be more common among the short races, taking advantage of precision attacks and ambush to compete against their larger competitors. After all, nobody says that Rangers can't get angry if they want to -- they just don't get an in-game mechanic to represent it.

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    Pardon me while I have a strange interlude ...

    At the moment I'm reading through Lamentations of the Flame Princess, a retro-clone of Basic/Expert D&D with a "weird fiction", grim-dark, somewhat Lovecraftian slant. The author himself doesn't like the Tol-clone race/classes, but keeps them for backward compatibility.

    However, I've been thinking of using them as phenotypes rather than actual "races". In one world I'm toying with, humans share their world, reluctantly, with Vanir (remnants of a more powerful human offshoot), Un-men (essentially orcs, without the Always Chaotic Evil tag), Little Folk (reclusive halflings shading into Tucker's Kobolds), and Cambions (humans with demonic ancestry).
    • The "Dwarf class" represents Un-men bred by a local empire as workers, or Vanir who hid underground during the Time of Fire.
    • The "Elf class" represents Vanir or Cambions with a strong magical heritage.
    • The "Halfling class" represents most Little Folk, who arise from this world's version of dwarfism, and might be born to ostensibly human parents.
    As "mostly human", though, all these breeds can adopt a subset of "human" classes: as a pre-literate culture Un-men don't normally have Magic Users, Cambions have been forsaken by the gods and can't become Clerics, and Little Folk simply lack the size to become true Fighters. Note that special abilities -- detecting new stonework, reduced chances of surprise, and exceptional stealth -- stick with the class, although I might have to make some exceptions for Un-men Dwarfs (why would they know stonework?) and Little Folk non-Halflings (who still have hands too small for normal weapons).
    "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
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    Well, in 3X D&D small creatures do less damage. A four foot tall goblin with a sword just does not do the same amount of damage as a seven foot tall orc with a sword.

    You can even it out, though, if you feel you must:

    1.Tinker with the races. Give the goblins weapon familiarity with an exotic large damage weapon. Give the goblins a bonus feat, something like 'two weapon fighting'. Or whatever you feel is needed.

    2.Add a template. This is easy enough. Just make all the goblins a templated race. Say that the tribe of Orsh was taken over by demons 300 years ago...so now all goblins are half feind. Or any other template. Again look for ones that add more power and damage....half dragon for example.

    3.Add some character options. Make the goblins gesaulted or let them take two flaws to get two feats.

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    Simply taking into accout the drawbacks, and having them compensate mundanely would be my preference. No need to go to the trouble of templets. Go with fness ranged weapons. Add a bit of poison and you have a fiercely dangerous foe. Think Amazon rain forest tribes. The dart comes from nowhere, you never see the attacker.

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    You could also easily homebrew some changes into the races. What if Audor gnomes grew stronger as they shrunk when they separated from the dwarves? The heartiness and inner strength of the dwarves translated into true strength and they instead lost a bit of wisdom (hence the not-knowing-when-to-quitness that gnomes are known for in some settings). Or, nevermind the ability benefits and penalties altogether. Let the races be differed by their racial abilities.

    Even if you do not do any homebrewing on the races, you can still get a rather powerful halfling "berserker". Barbarians tend to benefit from a high dexterity anyways. So, I ended up with this dude(tte) with totally random rolls (fo rizzle...wish I could have done this back in my PC days).

    This dude can use his tumble, jump and climb skill, coupled with his two handed grip on a medium weapon and his normal (compared to taller people) movement to dart around the battlefield and take a ton of damage when (if) he ever gets hit. Like a Sherman tank.
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    Thinking about this, I think short barbarians will be able to compete without special rules or classes or templates or feats. They may have to use different tactics, of course.

    Consider a tribe of goblins fighting a tribe of orcs. Most of each side will consist of Warriors, with perhaps 20% consisting of other classes.

    As small creatures, goblin Barbarians don't do as much damage as Orc barbarians, but all goblin melee characters suffer that disadvantage. To compensate, I can see see a lot of goblins taking up the Rogue class and trying to arrange for sneak attack damage.

    But goblin Barbarians still get d12 hit dice, which is very useful. They can form the first rank, slow the orcs down, and then set up for flanking attacks so their Rogue compatriots can get sneak attacks.

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    The scout class from Complete Adventurer might work better for goblin barbarians, they get the 'sneak attack' and move around a lot.

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    Like others have said, you really shouldn't let a group's class become predetermined. That being said, there's no reason small barbarians can't still put up a fight. As you said, d12 hit points is d12 hit points, regardless of size. Furthermore, a small barbarian will be harder to hit than a big one, giving the feel of a nimble and quick warrior, which combined with rage can be even more terrifying than a bigger warrior.

    Part of me is thinking about the raptors in Jurassic Park. Smaller warriors, if placed in groups, can overwhelm bigger opponents with flanking, etc. poison weapons and thrown weapons could come in handy to take advantage of rage and maximize damage, while damage reduction and increased movement could make combat difficult. Adding a couple rogue or scout levels could boost the class even further.
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