Heroes Fall: The Barbarian

This is the first post in a series discussing the splats in Heroes Fall. Initially, the game started off as a thought experiment about the ways classic D&D classes could be expressed using the playbooks from Apocalypse World. It has since grown into its own thing. These posts will serve a dual-purpose. First, it will communicate more about Heroes Fall to the people interested in the game. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it will get me thinking about how to articulate the game and the cool things I have done.

The Barbarian

Many men are soldiers. They fight and kill and die. The Barbarian is nothing so simple as that. You are a living weapon. Death incarnate. Your weapon is a part of you. When you die, it will be with an enemy’s heart clutched in your fist as you grind your broken foes beneath you. Many men have tried to kill you. All have failed.

The Barbarian is the most immediately recognizable splat from the source fiction. He is very clearly modeled directly off Conan the barbarian and Kull the conqueror. Of all the splats, the Barbarian is the most personally dangerous in a violent sense. The stuff he gets makes him an extremely potent killer. Violence is the easiest course of action for the Barbarian and will often be the most effective means for achieving his aims.

As a vehicle for violence, The Barbarian’s primary stat is grim [1] and his moves support that violent outlook. The bulk of his gear is taken up by a list of weapons. The player gets to choose a number of weapons at the Barbarian’s disposal before play even begins. Every Barbarian gets the demon on the field move, which lets him act as a small gang when facing multiple opponents. The Barbarian’s unique second-tier advance improves demon on the field so that he acts as a large gang instead of small. Potentially this means the Barbarian could stand against an entire grand alone and survive, though even a best-case scenario has him taking significant harm. That’s pretty epic.

The optional moves improve the Barbarian’s ability to inflict and negate harm or they give the player greater ability to author color about the world and the character. Implacable, juggernaut, slayer, and veteran are all moves related to physical violence in some fashion. The more interesting options are battle lore, which lets the Barbarian’s player author tales of ancient battles and heroes of old, and mercenary, a move that creates an employer/employee relationship with another character (could be a PC or NPC).

The Barbarian’s relationships are wrapped up with who he respects as a warrior. The softest character at the table gets -1-ties [2] with the Barbarian while a character he’s met on the battlefield gets +2-ties. The way to earn the Barbarian’s respect is through strength and courage.

If the Barbarian risks a call forth power roll before battle, he can potentially become even more terrible and potent on the field. This is a risky move unless he has the tactician move as mojo is definitely not the Barbarian’s forte. When the Barbarian has sex, it isn’t particularly important and he just takes a +1 to his next roll because he’s feeling good.

Advancement for the Barbarian gives him the option to become the head of a mercenary company. The company functions as a band of fighters to aid in battle but has limited utility otherwise. The mercenary company rules haven’t been written up yet as I’m still noodling them out. The Barbarian is more attached to his stuff and is the only splat that gets to tell a tale of a physical artifact that survives the fall.

Anyone who wants to play a savage slayer of men should play the Barbarian. At my GenCon playtest, one of the players took this splat and absolutely dove into a Conan-esque character. It was a real joy to see someone play a character with such emotional highs and lows.

[1] – The five stats are grim, mojo, sly, smooth, and staid. Grim is the physical, mental, and emotional capability for violence. Mojo represents of a character’s mystical talent, divine link, or je ne sais quoi. Sly is skill, perception, and quick wits. Smooth is the ability to influence the common people around you. Staid is a measure of resolve, endurance, and cool-headedness.

[2] – Ties is special stat because each PC has ties with all the other PCs. As smooth is used to influence NPCs, ties is used to influence PCs. It is a form of social capital. The more ties you have with another PC, the more you are able to fuck with their plans or help them in a bind. At present, the primary way to gain XP in Heroes Fall is by messing with other PCs.

About PK

PK Sullivan is a game designer and writer living in Chicago.
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