Friday, September 11, 2015

Review: Barbarian Class (For Labyrinth Lord)

I received this PDF for free as part of a Tenkar's Tavern giveaway contest. Knowing I had a barbarian book of my own in process, I set this aside to look at after I finally got the book done. Here is the look I'd been meaning to give it.

By James Mishler & Jodi Moran-Mishler
From James Mishler Games
MSRP $1.00

This 9-page book (including the OGL) presents a barbarian class for LL.

The class seems very cluttered. While the Labyrinth Lord basic classes are pretty sparse, and the Advanced Edition Companion classes are a little more details, this barbarian is extremely detailed. Pretty much, this class can do everything you think of barbarians doing.

You have survival skills. You get berserk rages. You get 1d12 HP. You get six weapon proficiencies plus your tribal weapons plus more as you level up. You have solid saving throws, too. You get a solid AC if you run around shirtless, too (I highly approve!)

You also get a higher base move. You get special abilities based on your specific tribe. Battle cries. Tracking. Detection powers from our "Uncanny senses." Special enemies you can designate for bonuses. A barbarian horde to summon.

Take the berserk rage for example - you improve your AC, improve your offensive power (either a bonus to hit or two attacks), and get better saves against some hostile powers. You're tired and weaker on the far end of it, but the upsides are pretty amazing for LL.

There are some downsides. It takes 3000 xp - more than any other LL class I can see - to level up to level 2. You'll lag everyone in levels, but you get a lot at each and every one of those levels. I'm not sure the 3000 xp jump to level 2 is really enough for what you get. As much as the xp you'll need with this guy is so high, you're significantly more powerful than the other classes.

Overall this class is very well written, but it's overkill. It's a kitchen sink of barbarism. The class feels like a combination of 3e barbarian powers plus everything the Unearthed Arcana barbarian could do, too. None of the pesky restrictions, either.

One thing I thought was interesting is that barbarians have two different sets of minimum attribute scores. One set if you're rolling 3d6 in order. Another, higher set for 3d6 rerolling 1s or 4d6 drop lowest or assign stats. I'm not sure what to make of this - if stats are generally lower, you need lower stats to qualify. If stats are generally higher, you need higher to qualify - but if stats are generally higher, does this kind of thing matter? A high-stats game is not one that is going to be full of guys worried about making the stat minimums. So it seems like it would just drive higher stats, not make it harder to be a barbarian even with them.

Overall: Like I said above, it feels very cluttered and I'm not sure how balanced it is. The "everything any barbarian could do, you can do" approach is overkill for a system that has generally such a light character power footprint.

I'm curious how it actually plays, but as written, it's quite overwhelming in its depth and breadth of abilities. I wouldn't use this in my own game if I ran Labyrinth Lord.

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