Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

[BARBAREN!] Raiders in a foreign land

Started by Frank T, October 17, 2006, 02:46:38 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

Frank T

I ran the first playtest of the new revised playtest edition of BARBAREN! this Saturday at ConTor, a small local convention near Hamburg with a good mix of indie and mainstream. Overall, it was a success, with some issues arising.

Stefan Unger, who organizes the con and is also my partner with the Spiel Essen booth told me that one of the players from my game ran another game of BARBAREN! on Sunday, although he didn't even have a copy of the rules! I am impressed.

Tangential 1: It makes a difference to people if you show up with some shiny flyers and neatly layouted and illustrated playtest rules. Several people asked me whether this was an "official game". Yes, I guess so.

Tangential 2: There are basically three types of reactions that I get when I explain what BARBAREN! is about:

  • Polite but sceptical: People look like me with this sort of semi-frown and say something like: "Well, that could be fun with the right group... I guess."
  • Laugh hard: People get what I'm explaining and find it very funny. They usually laugh a little too hard and say something like: "I wanna play this!" They want to find out what I will do with them and the game.
  • Gleaming eyes: People pause for a second, and then they get that very naughty grin and that gleaming in their eyes as they think about what they would do with the game. They usually say nothing at all, because they can see in my eyes I already know what they are thinking, or maybe they give a deep growl. I like those best.

Stay tuned for more!

- Frank

Ron Edwards

Oh Frank! You're so official!

Congratulations on receiving one of the finest indications of success a new game can possibly get - the spontaneous play by someone who doesn't even have the rules. Fantastic.

Best, Ron

Frank T

So I finally find the time to pick this up.

I brought Jörg with me to the con and got two other players, Hanni (male) and Sandra (female), who had read about the game on the black board. One other guy, Thorsten, joined us for character generation, but then had to leave, somewhat grudgily, because the boardgame he was supposed to run had finally attracted some players.

I started with a little explanation and then we launched directly into creating the clan. It was the "Vielfraße" clan, on a raid into foreign territory. Making the characters, we ran into a mild confusion. Characters have Strengths and Weaknesses, which are meant to be traits like "good woodsman", "keen sight" or "bad ears". However, the players were picking stuff like phobias as Weaknesses. I found that kind of inapropriate, and it also doesn't really work mechanically. Uh, I guess it could work mechanically, but still.

I was also picking up some minor notions on the "tricks", but I won't go into detail on that. What went really well was the Bonds of the characters. The players worked together and had quickly identified two key figures in the clan: Combar, the chieftain, and Throgrin, a warband leader and rival to Combar.

Jörg played Grimmar, Thorgrin's loyal liege, who had a desire for the chieftains daughter.

Hanni played Barek, married to Thorgrin's daughter, with a desire for one of Thorgrin's wifes.

Sandra played Conar, an enemy to Thorgrin, from whose blood brother Thorgrin had robbed said wife.

Thorsten made up Falkor, a liege of Combar, but as I said, he had to leave.

So, we had some juicy conflict in stock, people could see that. However, the players picked a raid on a foreign city as the Frame for the evening, so most of the women from the tribe were out of the action for now, leaving us with Combar and Thorgrin. I framed straight into the city, just after the gate had fallen to the Barbarians' attack. I described a Roman-like scenery, with green hills, white pillars, statues, grapevines and all.

The players headed straight for the first inn by the road and started a wooing contest for a waitress. Hanni and Sandra exchanged a few blows while Jörg was undermining Hanni's attempts with the argument that Hanni's character Barek was married to Thorgrin's daughter and Grimmar, Jörg's character, was Throgrin's liege. Ah, well. I was biting my lip because this "don't cheat on her" stuff was SO un-Barbarian-like, but I would have hated it more to interrupt and tell Jörg what to do. I was mumbling something about harems to myself, though.

In the end, after a little fistfight with Hanni's character, Jörg bested them all by snatching the woman in front of them and seducing her with one single passionate Advance. Good show. Then I had the chieftain give a speach and call out a challenge: A race to the city's treasury. Whoever got there first would be the winner. Thorgrin accepted, and Jörg was in.

Hanni and Sandra had their characters wonder off for a little scrounging, obviously not that interested in the conflict, but that seemed okay to me. We then entered into happy butchery mode. Here as well, you could see that we were not exactly on the same page about tone and style of the fiction. Hanni and Sandra were getting very over the top, kind of Asterix-style, probably inspired by the "Romans". (Do you have Asterix over on your side of the big pond?) For example, Hanni used a heavy wine cask to play bowling with ten guards.

Jörg was a little more Schwarzenegger-Conan-like. He was also effortlessly pulling off his infamous, engaging, detailed combat descriptions that were really hard to top for the others. Hanni was obviously inspired and tried to keep up, not quite succeeding, but showing a lot of effort, at several points getting up from his seat to demonstrate the movements he could not frame in words. I gave him bonus dice anyway, deciding not to be close-fisted. Sandra, on the other hand, freely admitted that she wasn't having any ideas. She was also suffering from a headache and finally quit us before the big final. Her character and Hanni's had been raiding a big mansion and seducing some more women.

Jörg got some more fighting as they were storming the citadel, first using one of his Strengths (break stuff or something like that) to single-(um)-footedly kick in the barred gate, then letting the portcullis down to stop the approaching chieftain. It was only him and Thorgrinn who took on the elite of the foreign guard. These foes were not Swordfodder like the rest, they were "Small but Tough", and it soon proved that one player character cannot just take on four of those and kill them off risklessly (which is just as intended). Jörg was struggling and rolling crap, and would have lost if I hadn't at some point announced that Thorgrin had finished his foes. I was feeling kind of bad about using GM fiat that way, although it was a realistic call. I did however leave a bit of a kick in it in announcing that he would finish his foes "in two rounds".

We wrapped up as Thorgrin was mockingly presenting the treasury to Combar. The fights ad wooings had been getting a little long toward the end. I need to find a way to make them be over sooner. Here's a little bit of a dilemma (broken down for fighting, wooing is the same):

There's Dangerous. An average player character starts with 6-7. You lose 1-2 if there is bloodshed, and 1 every three rounds through fatigue. Now, what can I do?

1) I can reduce the starting Dangerous. But that really limits the window where I can fit in minor foes. If characters start with 4, then I can basically only have minor foes with 1 or 2. Not much of a range.

2) I can cut the fatigue pace down to 2 rounds instead of 3, but that's kind of bad pacing when it comes to pausing, and it tips the balance between fatigue and injury in favor of fatigue.

3) I could make injury harder, but that would tip the balance in favor of injury and also lead to "Small but Tough" and "Sturdy" foes being possibly knocked out by the first hit... Plus, it's still possible to have a long-lasting fight if no one hits.

4) I could combine 2+3, but that'd probably be too hard.


So, a pretty critical account of a game that was a blast to at least one player. But Germans tend to emphasize the bad, because that's what to work on.

Any ideas?

- Frank

Larry L.


You can only play man-barbarians in this game, right? How are the ladies taking to the manly-man fun?

Asterix is generally known only to Francophiles over here.

Frank T

Hi Larry!

Ladies: Really no general rule. I've had three female players in the game so far, and each of them was different. They do tend to make the male players a little more moderate, though.

Asterix: I suspected as much. In Germany, just about everybody knows it. Anyway, the Gauls in Asterix are ridiculously strong and almost invulnerable due to their magic potion, and the fights are happy toss 'em around, but the Romans only get bruises and maybe lose some teeth, you never see any blood. So that's not exactly the kind of butchering I imagine for a game of BARBAREN!.

- Frank

Ron Edwards


Larry, you might be interested to know that the women's presence in our Barbaren game last year (GenCon 2005; you can find it through a search, I'm sure) led to the most appalling excesses, both on their parts and by inspiring (releasing?) the male players.

Frank, regarding Asterix in the U.S., it depends on whom you ask. Most folks in my age group who like pop culture to any degree (i.e. not just comics fans) are also big fans of Tintin and Asterix. Until about ten years ago, you could find all the books for each, in English, at any bookstore.

Best, Ron


If you're going for crazy Conan-like slaughter, why bother including fatigue? It seems to be the most complicated mechanic tracking-wise and while it makes the game more "realistic" it seems from your description that you aren't going for a fully simulationist approach.
Check out Fae Noir, a game of 1920's fantasy.

Ron Edwards

Umm, to be pedantic for a moment, I think Frank is going for a Simulationist approach. But that doesn't mean you can't ask the question about fatigue, because Simulationism (like the other CAs) have room for many techniques. The question is best phrased, Frank, do the fatigue rules currently aid in the specific, within-Sim approach that you want, or are they present due to your habits?

Best, Ron

Frank T

The fatigue rules are needed so that a fight doesn't last forever. Without them, you could drag on for a very, very long time. Initially, I had a pool called "Combat" from which you'd spend one point per action. But I have found that the tactical decision of pausing and thus giving up Initiative, but saving a point of dangerous, is more interesting in the current context.

So, fatigue is just the name I decided to give to the baby, but the purpose is really pacing, and not emulation of some fictional causality.

- Frank

Frank T

P.S.: Any of you seen Red Sonja? There you go, fatigue.


Yeah. After watching Red Sonja I was quite fatigued.

Callan S.

Hi Frank,

How many rounds do you want combat to go for, on average?

I can see your trying to get that number through juggling the stats. I know it's not simish to not derive a result from previous numbers, but straight out you could just have a fight time (ala streetfighter video game). Or if you want to go derived, a set fight time but that is then influenced somewhat by stats (not too much, just shrinking the battle length a bit or extending it a bit). That way by and large it'll be the length you want, with some influence from other statistics.
Philosopher Gamer