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!


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.
+1 to attack, +2 to damage; +1d6 damage vs. non-humanoids
+1 to AC, +2 to all saving throws
Two attacks each round
+2 to attack, +4 to damage; +2d6 damage vs. non-humanoids
Immune to fear and spells of 2nd level or lower; +1d6 damage to spell casters
Opponents must save or be frightened
Continue fighting after reaching 0 hit points; save vs. death at end of combat or die
Immune to spells of 5th level or lower; +2d6 damage to spell casters
Three attacks each round
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.


Learn to laugh at life!

B is for Barbarian II: The Improvening

Oh yeah, it’s already time for the second edition of B is for Barbarian! A few things occurred to me since yesterday:


I think the combat table would work better if it compared attacker skill to defender skill:

Armor: With this matrix, armor provides an armor save, as follows:

  • Leather Armor/Thick Skin: Avoid losing a life on a roll of 6 on 1d6
  • Chainmail/Thick Scales: Avoid losing a life on a roll of 5-6 on 1d6
  • Platemail: Avoid losing a life on a roll of 4-6 on 1d6
  • Magic Armor: Avoid losing a life on a roll of 3-6 on 1d6

Mounted Combat: It was also pointed out that an attacker on horseback should get a bonus. Let’s turn that around – fighting a mounted attacker while on foot will count as “fighting from an awkward position”, and thus degrade the attack ability of the person on foot.

Reach: One might also consider fighting somebody with better reach, either because they are larger (like a giant) or because they have a longer melee weapon fighting from an awkward position. In this case, when fighting somebody with a longer weapon, your first successful attack can be counted as disarming them rather than taking away one of their lives.

II. Companions

A few additional companions occurred to me:

Eagle/Falcon/Hawk: A bird of prey serves you loyally. It fights as a beast and has 2 lives. It also has Eagle Eyes and can fly, which is pretty sweet.

Panther/Lion/Tiger: This can either be a big cat or a mysterious, dark woman who can turn into a big cat. It fights as a beast and has 5 lives. It has Cat-Like Reflexes and can Intimidate.

Giant: Not a real giant, just a huge warrior played by Richard Kiel or Wilt Chamberlain. Skilled fighter with 7 lives and armed with leather armor and a maul. Can Intimidate.

Ninja: What the heck, it’s the 80’s! The ninja is a skilled fighter with 5 lives armed with a sword and shuriken (treat as chakram). Can fight like a Whirlwind and has Cat-Like Reflexes.

If anything else occurs to me, I’ll release the 3rd edition.

B is for Barbarian I

And not just any barbarian, I’m talking about b-movie barbarians. You know, those bare-chested outlaws that littered the cinemas back in the glorious ‘80s. I was watching Deathstalker the other day, and it inspired me to put together a quick mini-game of ‘80s barbarian action.


You are a barbarian warrior. Heck, not just a warrior, a freaking barbarian lord! That means you don’t need to worry about races or classes or all that nonsense.

As a cat-like barbarian lord, you have 9 lives (more on that later) and you’re a kick-ass combatant. In combat, which uses a D6, you score a hit as follows:

vs. unarmored foes roll 2-6 on 1d6
vs. leather armor or thick skin roll 3-6 on 1d6
vs. chainmail or thick scales roll 4-6 on 1d6
vs. platemail roll 5-6 on 1d6
vs. magic armor or ethereal foes roll 6 on 1d6

Each hit takes one life from a foe.

Of course, less skilled fighters use different hit scores. The full attack matrix is there to the right.

In the attack matrix, a 6 followed by another number means if the attacker rolls a “6”, they must roll another 1d6 and roll in the additional range to succeed.
Attacking from horseback or in an awkward position or without a weapon drops one’s effective skill level (for each such problem) by one column.

Okay – so that’s combat!

So, how do we distinguish one barbarian from another (other than hair color and style of loincloth) – with the extras.

Each barbarian hero can choose two pieces of equipment. Each weapon causes a special effect when the hero rolls a “6” in combat and follows it up with a second “6” on 1d6

  • Axe: Can be used to chop down doors (roll 3-6 on 1d6); in combat, decapitates foes for instant death
  • Bow: Range of 200 yards; in combat, can pin foes to walls
  • Broadsword: In combat, decapitates foes for instant death
  • Chainmail Bikini: Can negate hits on a roll of 4-6 on 1d6; and if you’re a guy, the bikini is also going to get you a few weird looks
  • Chakram: Range of 50 yards; in combat, can decapitate foes for instant death
  • Flying Guillotine: Range 5 yards; in combat can decapitate foes for instant death
  • Francisca: Range 10 yards
  • Helmet: Can negate one hit and is then destroyed; can have wings, horns or a plume
  • Maul: Can be used to smash down doors (roll 2-6 on 1d6); in combat, can knock foes flat on their back
  • Shield: Can negate one hit and is then destroyed
  • Spear: Range 10 yards; in combat impales foes for extra loss of life

Each barbarian hero can choose one extra skill to possess:

  • Beastspeaker: Can communicate with animals, and can control their actions on a roll of 4-6 on 1d6
  • Bull Strength: Can tote wenches, kegs and other heavy objects on his shoulders; up to 300 pounds
  • Cat-Like Reflexes: Can climb walls and move silently on a roll of 3-6 on 1d6
  • Cleave: Can make a free attack on an opponent within reach after successfully killing another foe
  • Eagle Eyes: Can spot ambushes, traps and secret or concealed doors on a roll of 3-6 on 1d6
  • Fortitude: Can ignore the effects of fatigue, poison or disease on a roll of 3-6 on 1d6
  • Horseman: Can attack from horseback with no penalty
  • Intimidate: Can get information out of foes or cause unskilled combatants to flee him on a roll of 3-6 on 1d6
  • Iron Will: Can ignore the effects of magical control and fear on a roll of 3-6 on 1d6
  • Savage Cunning: Can hide in the wilderness and surprise foes (free attack) on a roll of 3-6 on 1d6
  • Scholarly Mein: Can read ancient inscriptions, disarm traps on a roll of 3-6 on 1d6 and produce 1d6 bombs (range 10 yards) per day if he has the ingredients for gunpowder (watch the gorn episode of Star Trek for the formula)
  • Skullduggery: Can pick pockets and find and disarm traps on a roll of 3-6 on 1d6
  • Whirlwind: Can make multiple attacks against foes within range, reducing his combat skill by one column for each additional foe attacked during the round
  • Woo Women: Can make the ladies knees weak and cause their hearts to flutter on a roll of 3-6 on 1d6


A good barbarian does not travel alone. The barbarian hero can choose two companions for his adventure from the following list. Each companion can fight by his side and brings other abilities to the table as well.

  • Amazon Warrior: Expert warrior with sword and bow, can intimidate foes; has 6 lives
  • Charming Warrior: Expert warrior with sword and shield, can woo women; has 6 lives
  • Cunning Outlaw: Skilled warrior with sword and bow, capable of skullduggery; has 6 lives
  • Feisty Peasant: Unskilled warrior with club, can carry stuff and use common sense to get out of predicaments on a roll of 4-6 on 1d6; has 3 lives
  • Hedge Wizard: Unskilled warrior with staff, possesses a scholarly mein, can cast simple spells of detection and can counter the spells of other wizards on a roll of 4-6 on 1d6; has 3 lives
  • Holy Man: Skilled warrior with mace and chainmail, can hold spirits and undead at bay on a roll of 3-6 on 1d6; has 3 lives
  • Wily Thief: Skilled warrior with dagger, possesses cat-like reflexes, eagle eyes and skullduggery; has 3 lives
  • Young Barbarian: Skilled warrior with axe, possesses savage cunning and bull strength; has 6 lives

With each adventure, a barbarian hero has one of three motivations: Greed (i.e. gold, jewels, etc.), Lust (for a prince or princess, feisty peasant girl, dashing swordsman, etc.) or Revenge. Some adventures might allow more than one such motivation. Whenever the barbarian hero (or a comrade) would be destroyed during the adventure, he or she can play a motivation card and manage an amazing feat that ensures their survival.


So, you have your barbarian hero and his retinue. Adventures are simple – come up with a patron, a cause, a villain and his lieutenant and soldiers, a fortress for the villain, dangers along the way, and you’re done.

For evil high priests, wizards and sorcerers, give them whatever spells make sense – usually things like teleportation, gaseous form, fireballs, lightning bolts, mind control, invisibility, etc. To resist a spell, a barbarian hero or hedge wizard needs to roll a 3-6 on 1d6, while others need to roll a 4-6 on 1d6.

For monsters, dig into your game books. A monster has as many lives as it has hit dice, fights like a monster, beast or demon (use your best judgment) and has as many attacks as you think it should have. Give the monsters skills (as above) where necessary. The main thing – don’t overthink it. This is a barbarian b-movie, after all. It’s not the story, it’s the action!

Armor Up Like a Barbarian

Once upon a time, there was pretty realistic armor floating around in the fantasy realm – the stuff you would expect out of folks who did a little research at the local library. And then the 1980’s arrived on the scene …

In the spirit of ridiculous, barbarian-style armor, I present the following scheme:

Armor is for cowards, and nobody likes or respects a coward – not buxom serving wenches, not grizzled men-at-arms, not squirrely thieves, not fat merchants and certainly not the local lord with a quest that needs fulfilling.

In old school parlance, being unlikable = low charisma.

In a barbarian milieu, armor = cowardice.

The barbarian uses piecemeal armor. Each fledgling barbarian hero can decide, at character creation, to buy as many pieces of armor as they like – well, up to 8 anyways. Each piece costs 25 gp, improves one’s Armor Class by 1 and reduces their charisma score by 1. A barbarian cannot allow their charisma to fall below 3, so starting out with low charisma puts a solid ceiling on how much armor you get to wear as a barbarian. This doesn’t sound fair? By Crom, barbarians don’t whine about life not being fair – go be paladin you lousy #$%#%.

For each piece of armor you order, you roll on the following table – after all, only a real poser would actually go out and buy mismatched, piecemeal armor – barbarians pick it up off the bodies of the slain.

Note: Bits and straps of leather don’t count here – just metal. Leather up all you want.

1. Helm (5% chance of wicked horns – if you have horns, you keep your point of charisma)


2. Sabatons (if this is your only piece of armor you lose an extra point of charisma – what kind of dork walks around with nothing but metal shoes)

3. Breastplate or shirt or mail or scales (+2 AC and -2 charisma)

4. Arm (right or left, your choice sport)

5. Leg (right or left, you choice sport)

Always protect yer fightin’ leg!

6. Shield (why does a shield dock your barbarian street cred? Because you should be wielding a honking big two-handed sword or axe, jerkwad)

7. Shoulder guards (if your charisma is still 15 or higher, you can add a cape; otherwise it would just make you look like a stupid poser)

8. Gauntlet (5% chance of being spiked, which grants +1 bonus to damage each time you score a hit in combat)

9. Mail Loincloth (add mail brassiere if female, unless you want to kick it amazon style)

[You can Google “chainmail loincloth” on your own, chief]

10. Disc Armor (not as dorky as a breastplate, but still shows a lack of self-confidence, which is like a taped up pair of eyeglasses to a barbarian)

You can scrounge other pieces as you adventure, but note – adding a piece still means losing charisma, which means fewer retainers, lower reaction checks and probably some kind of penalty to carousing.

Don’t worry Conan, we can forgive the horned helmet … just not the acting

My New Character …

Found at Kitschy Kitschy Coo

… is definitely going to be a gnome barbarian!

Hmmm – why not roll up a quick gnome barbarian for Blood & Treasure?

And just for fun, I’ll time how long it takes.

I’m starting at 12:29 PM (yeah, I’m on my lunch break)

First – roll my ability scores. Since I definitely want a gnome barbarian, I’m going to roll 3d6 and arrange as I like. I get 8, 5, 13, 14, 10, 9. Wow – great scores. Okay – he’ll be uncharismatic (I think the photo is proof of that), the good stuff goes into strength and constitution to meet the class requirements, everything else is mediocre.

I make a note of the special abilities from being a gnome, adjust ability scores. Pick a couple languages. Roll 1d10 for barbarian hit points – got a 10. Hot damn.

Now I note the skills and special abilities of a barbarian. Increase land speed, rage, etc.

Final step – buy gear. I have 50 gp to spend (Cha 5 x 10 gp), and if I’m using the photo above for my model, not much gear to buy.

Done at 12:42 PM – took 13 minutes, most of that looking at equipment.


Strength: 13 / +1
Intelligence: 8 / -1
Wisdom: 9 / +0
Dexterity: 9 / +0
Constitution: 14 / +1
Charisma: 5 / -2

Class: Barbarian
Race: Gnome
Level: 1
Hit Points: 11
Armor Class: 10
Saving Throws: Fort 12, Ref 15, Will 15
Speed: 30 ft.

Languages: Gnome, Common

Special: +2 save vs. illusions, knack for listening at doors, see twice as far as humans in dim light, rage (1/day, double damage for duration of combat but -2 AC), no bonus for attacking him from behind or while invisible

Skills: Bend bars (12), break down doors (12), climb (12), jump (12), survival (15), swim (12)

Money: 25 gp, 1 sp

Gear: Club (0 gp), backpack (2 gp), bedroll (1 sp), 50-ft silk rope (10 gp), hooded lantern (7 gp), oil (3 pints) (3 sp), flint & steel (1 gp), ration (7 days) (35 sp), waterskin (1 gp)