Random Berserking

 

Going berserk in combat is such a chaotic thing (small “c” chaotic, of course) that it seems like a perfect place to stick in a random table.

I thought about making a random berserking table for the barbarians in Blood & Treasure Second Edition, but space constraints and a desire to avoid excess dice rolling (I know, for some there cannot be enough) I didn’t. Still, I wrote it, so I might as well get it out there!


Berserkergang

Roll 1d10 and add your barbarian level (or half your fighter level, if your GM swings that way). You may roll once for the combat, or roll each round, with the effect lasting for that round and then ending.
d10
Effect
1-6
+1 to attack, +2 to damage; +1d6 damage vs. non-humanoids
5-11
+1 to AC, +2 to all saving throws
12-15
Two attacks each round
16-18
+2 to attack, +4 to damage; +2d6 damage vs. non-humanoids
19-20
Immune to fear and spells of 2nd level or lower; +1d6 damage to spell casters
21
Opponents must save or be frightened
22
Continue fighting after reaching 0 hit points; save vs. death at end of combat or die
23
Immune to spells of 5th level or lower; +2d6 damage to spell casters
24
Three attacks each round
25
Roll twice, combine results
While berserk, you cannot cast spells, make ranged attacks (other than throwing things), retreat from combat, make or follow complex plans, stop attacking a foe until you or it are dead, and when you kill one foe you must move on to the next closest foe.

Don’t Lose Your Barbaric Edge

This is a half-formed notion that came to me last night while working on Blood & Treasure Second Edition. It’s not in that book, but I thought somebody might find it useful.

The idea of a “barbaric edge” comes from good old Robert E. Howard, who posited the notion that barbarians were in many ways superior to members of civilization, whether they be decadent nobles or downtrodden peasants. Barbarians in Howard’s fiction are usually a cut above non-barbarians.

The Edge

In games, the barbaric edge allows you to treat one of the following ability scores – Strength, Dexterity, Constitution or Wisdom – as though it were an 18. Each morning, a person with the barbaric edge can decide which ability they will treat this way. Ability damage affects the temporary score, and the real score if the damage persists and the barbarian chooses to boost a different ability score from the one that was damaged.

Note that druids who boost Wisdom do gain extra spells for high Wisdom, but clerics do not unless they worship something wild and primordial. One might permit it for a cleric of Thor, for example, but not a cleric of Minerva.

Example: Crom the Barbarian (pictured above) wakes up one morning and stretches his iron sinews. He normally has a strength score of 13 (a +1 bonus). Today, he’ll increase his bonus (but not his actual strength score) to +2. Tomorrow he might be feeling especially cat-like, and improve his +0 dexterity modifier to +1.

Gaining the Edge

How does one obtain a barbaric edge? By living rough in the wilderness and eschewing the soft pleasures of civilization. This means that the barbaric edge is open to any class, provided they do the following:

1) Always sleep outside in the wilderness; in a pinch, sleeping in an alley or field will do. This means no beds, no pillows – no more than an animal pelt to protect you from the elements.

2) Low retention of wealth; you can keep 10% of your found treasure to spend on equipment and gear (maybe more if you use a system that requires paying for training to level up), giving the rest away. Treasure is there to be won, not enjoyed – think of it as catch-and-release. Treasure not kept must either be discarded as though it were trash, given to others (who may not spend it on you) with a hearty sniff of contempt, or spent in a tavern on booze and sex (i.e. drinks on the house, and you must drink until you collapse or get in a rip-roaring fight).

3) No fancy clothes or armor; you retain the barbarian edge by wearing no more than leather armor or maybe a chainmail shirt if they are used in the campaign. You cannot wear silks and satin – really just a loincloth and sandals or fur boots will do when you’re not fighting.

4) A lack of trust for civilization and civilized people. A barbarian can adventure with civilized men and women, but they must be kept at an emotional distance, and the barbarian must sneer at and criticize their soft living and decadent morality. This is primarily done through role playing.

5) A barbarian’s food must come from his own hunting, gathering or fishing rather than from “iron rations” and magic. If this means going hungry, so be it. The barbarian may indulge in a tavern after an adventure, but only once and only in terms of a tavern crawl as in (2) above.

Losing the Edge

Breaking any of these rules means the barbaric edge is lost. No ability boosts. It can only be regained by living by the above rules for a full month of game time (or perhaps for two or three game sessions if that’s easier to calculate). Only after that time spent living wild does the barbarian shake off the excesses of civilization and regain his barbaric edge.

Don’t trust them Conan, they use rugs!

 

How to Herc – An Illustrated Guide to Demigodery

Every day, hundreds of people (or none) email me asking how they can be more like Hercules. They also ask for my social security number, so it may be an elaborate internet scam, but in case it isn’t, I present this guide.

If your fighter or barbarian character checks off everything on this list, when they die they will ascend to Mount Olympus and become a god. Any player at the table who plays a cleric will have to convert to your new religion, which obviously means they have to adopt your dead character’s alignment and they lose access to spells if they don’t fetch drinks and chips for you.

Kirk Morris as Hercules and Illoosh Khoshabe as Samson

Throw a Mega-Punch

At least once in his life, a real Hercules must throw a mega-punch. Here’s how:

1. When making an attack, declare it’s a mega-punch

2. Roll a d20, d12 and d10, adding your Str bonus and attack bonus to each dice

If all three rolls best your opponent’s AC, you reduce the target to 1d6 hit points and knock them out for an hour – yep, even if its Gandalf or Cthulhu

If two hit, you score normal punching damage, and are banned from mega-punching again until you gain a new level. We’re all a little disappointed in you.

If one hits, you swing wildly and miss. Any ally within fist range, though, must pass a saving throw or get clocked by you, suffering normal damage. If this occurs in a bar, your friend now has to get up and punch a stranger, and so on.

If none hit, you lose one level due to embarrassment and divine punishment. This lost level returns after you defeat something awesome in battle – without help Poindexter!

Reg Park as Hercules

Swear an Oath to the Gods

When bad shit happens to good people, look to the heavens and cry, “By the power of Zeus I will avenge you!”

Then do it.

Earn double XP, and operate under a bless spell during your next adventure.

Dear God, It’s Me, Hercules

A variation on the above. Whenever you screw up something you shouldn’t have, look to the sky and ask “Why have you forsaken me?”

There is a 1% chance, +1% per person at the table who laughed or snickered at your failure, that the head of the pantheon appears and tells you, and then gives you a quest to fulfill.

What’s the upside? There is none. But being Hercules ain’t all cheese and crackers, you know.

Gordon Scott as Hercules

Wrestle With Something Way Out of Your Class

If you’re medium, it should be huge. You can warm up on something large, but eventually you need to step it up to huge. And I mean wrestle – not attack with sword. Grab it. Pin it. Choke it out.

Dan Vadis as Hercules

Ruin Architecture

If the world provides you with two pillars within arms reach of one another, you damn well better knock them down.

“But wait,” you cry, “I can’t do that with even an 18/00 strength!”

Then I guess you can’t be a god.

Steve Reeves as Hercules

Kill Someone with Chains

And not just any chains. The chains with which they bound you. Break out of the chains, then pick them up, and then start cutting down bastards like you’re harvesting grain.

Heavy chains do 1d6 damage and add 5′ to your reach. When attacking anyone who was involved in binding you, you score double damage.

Mark Forest as Hercules

Lead and Army in Skirts

No armor, just grim determination and skirts so short they would make a nun blush. Bonus if the army is Inca. You know, because of mythology and such.

Smack Around Some Moon Men

They may look like earth elementals, but trust me, they’re Moon Men and they have it coming.

Note – unless you’re lucky and they’re on Earth plotting to resurrect their queen by draining the life from a human woman, you’ll have to go to the Moon to fight them.

Mark Forest as Hercules

Choke a Thick Snake

Proudly, and announce that you’re choking a thick snake. Repeatedly. And talk about how your hands are tired afterward.

Don’t worry – each person at the table that snickers only adds to your glory. It’s called confidence, and there’s nothing manlier than that.

Sylvia Lopez as Omphale

Dally with an Evil Queen

She needs to be scary-hot. And evil.

Doing it while under a spell counts.

Changing her alignment counts for more.

Nigel Green as Hercules (one of my favorites)

Endanger The Party with Your Antics

Like, maybe by awakening Talos by stealing treasure you were specifically told not to steal.

Of course, you also have to save the day, or die trying.

Reg Park as Ursus

Two For One

Kill two men-at-arms by throwing one at the other. Extra points for a trick shot.

Fight Moloch

Or a guy dressed up as Moloch.

Okay – I just included this one because I thought the guy looked cool.

Steve Reeves as Hercules

Row a Galley

Bonus points if the captain can water ski behind it.

AND FINALLY …

 

Learn to laugh at life!