In today’s post we look at Precis Intermedia‘s second edition release of the tongue-in-cheek role-playing game, Barbarians Versus…. This is a game that, before the release announcement, I knew nothing about. However, my curiosity was perked. There was something about it that seemed interesting. After all, what’s not to love about Barbarians defending their land against Vile Reptilian Invaders from Outer Space?
The newest edition was published just this year. However, the game has been around since 2004 when it was originally released by Mystic Ages Publishing. This latest release, available in both print and PDF, has 68 pages of black and white content which, from my understanding, is double the size of the first edition.
A barbarian without his axe may be more dangerous than a barbarian with his axe. – Ancient Barbarian Wisdom (Barbarians Versus – 1st edition)
Grab your mug of Mush (Barbarian Alcohol) and let’s break down the table of contents to see what this game entails.
In a little over two-page short story the world of Barbarians Versus is established as we read about the day of first contact with the vile reptilian invaders.
In the introduction we find some fairly typical information such as the role of the players, and the role of the game master (GM). Additionally, it’s here that we discover that the system utilizes d10’s for the resolution of actions. Which brings us to the hilarious results of rolling a 10. A player who successful rolls a 10 (or 0 depending on how your dice is printed) must either “grunt or bellow a drunken slogan.” Why? Because rolling a 10 is a celebratory moment in Barbarians Verses… so live it up!
Also, you will find information concerning the land which is described as a “generic fantasy kingdom…” However, two location are briefly touched upon – the North, and the South. The North is where the barbarian people dwell and that’s where the players will find Dak-Gul, the unofficial capital of the North. Concerning the South three areas are mentioned – Folstia, Graensk, and Dalnan. Those are all places that when the players are not fighting the reptilian invaders they will be busy raiding and looting.
You are a savage barbarian from the Northlands.
Raiding season is upon you.
Prove to your clans that you are worthy.
This is where we create the most legendary barbarians the world has ever seen! Among some of the vital aspects of character creation is choosing a truly barbaric name… like Rugthak, or Truggor. Additionally, you’re charged with thinking up a worthy clan to be born into or picking one of the ones in the book such as Black Rock Clan. This is important because you not only get the prestige from being part of said clan, you also acquire a special trait which will grant you one bonus die to any action when called upon in game.
From there you move into your attributes. In Barbarians Versus there are five attributes: smash, throw, feet, craftiness, and contemplation. To start they all have a base rate of 1. However, you get 20 points to dump into the attributes as you see fit. Moving on from there we find the abilities and starting items. Again, you have an additional 20 points to distribute here. However, abilities cost 5 points each, and the items can be “bought” for anything from 1 point all the way to 5 points. Each point invested into this mythical family heirloom gives a bonus die when you attack with it.
Moving on we see that a Barbarian’s toughness is comprised of two values: Guts, and Grit. Guts are your hit points. Grit is sort of like luck which you can spend to do crazy actions in the game. Next we find three phases to character creation that I think really adds to the game… your barbarian’s passions, fears, and his war cry. As you move through your adventure and encounter things you can get bonus dice if something connects with your passion, penalty dice if your fear is invoked, and even double the number of rolled dice for one action when you triumphantly shout forth your character’s war cry.
From here we move on to the…
Here we discover the nuts and bolts of game play. All the vitals like how the game handles actions, opposed actions, target numbers, bonus dice, penalty dice, combat, wounds / healing, fame, epic actions, and even drinking! As mentioned above the only dice you need for this game is the mighty d10… and lots of them.
To do an action you roll the appropriate attribute for whatever it is you are doing. Determine what bonus or penalty dice you have this action and gather the d10 needed. Roll your dice, then add them up for your result. If it beats the target number you succeed… if not, you failed. Depending on how well you beat the target number determines how good you pulled off your action, and when necessary how much skull crushing damage you dealt to your opponent. In combat initiative is determined by who has the highest feet attribute.
Perhaps one aspect of the game that I can imagine bringing countless hours of ridiculousness to the table is drinking. In this game your Barbarian receives bonus dice for attempting courageous actions while drunk. There’s a little chart that helps you figure out how much of the three types of alcoholic beverages (Staples, Gourds, and the nastiest of all – Mush) your character has to drink to become intoxicated. However, each action you take while hammered reduces your drunkenness. Additionally, there is a chart of modifiers that can make it easier, or harder, to become inebriated.
This section covers the GM’s responsibilities. For instance, it’s suggested that the GM toss about bonus dice as he/she sees fit as it can encourage the player(s) to do crazy over the top stuff. Flip side the GM possesses the power to penalize and strike fear into the hearts of the sniveling barbarians. Additionally, fame and fortune are discussed and the best way to handle them. There’s also a few pages devoted to the Brug, the vile reptiles of the game. GM’s are provided some information on these invaders, instructions on creating Brug Warriors, and their technology.
Of course no role-playing book would be complete without some information devoted to adventure creation. This subsection contains some sample plots, a few fleshed out locations to drop into your legendary tales, and even some location specific items that the players could get their grubby fingers on. Finally this section contains a few tables pertaining to loot and the fortune it can bring to our marauding heroes.
If barbarians fighting space invaders isn’t your thing you’re in luck. Included in the book you will find two alternate settings which will allow you to incorporate dwarves and even zombies into your game.
A brief introductory adventure in which the players not only encounter a fellow barbarian named Unter from the Snow Rat Clan, they also face off against the Brug. At three pages there’s not really much to it. However, it helps set the tone for the game and allows for a quick plug and play game.
A few different sample characters – a handful of barbarians, a couple Southerners, and some vile invaders. You can use these as inspiration, or just drop them into your game.
Very clean, straight forward, and printer friendly. Everything essential for the game appears to be present, except perhaps a player’s name line (which isn’t really necessary).
Precis Intermedia has done a great job in the second edition of this game. The cover art is beautiful and the book is laid out in a easy to follow format. The physical book, priced at $12.95, is a convenient 5.5″ x 8.5″ size. The PDF edition will cost you $4.95 and is fully bookmarked for quick reference. There’s plenty of examples breaking down and explaining how the various game mechanics work… which is quite nice actually. That said, the tongue-in-cheek nature of the game leads me to say that I don’t see it becoming a part of the regular rotation at my game table. However, I realize that some folks dig loud, obnoxious, drunken barbarian brawls. If that’s you than I would suggest you take a look at this game, but if you’re looking for something with a serious note and a little more meat you’ll probably be better suited with something else.
On behalf of WPGL I’d like to thank Precis Intermedia for providing a review copy of this game.
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