I’ve had my eye on this every since it was announced and I have a new found appreciation for the Cepheus Engine overall.
So what is Barbaric!? In a nutshell, take the Sword of Cepheus with the Non-Humans supplement and put it through the lens of Cepheus Quantum. In case that doesn’t make too much sense to you, let me further explain. Barbaric! is a rules light Sword & Sorcery RPG based on the the old-school 2d6 Traveler style rules.
Character generation under the Cepheus Engine is one of those things that I’ve had a love/hate relationship with. It’s not so much the chance of character death during generation, it’s just that it can take a pretty big chunk of time which in this day and age is at premium. Character generation for Barbaric is quick and easy. Roll for your two stats, Endurance and Lifeblood. These are both a bit like your Hit Points. Think of Endurance as stun, bumps, bruises, and scratches. While Lifeblood is wounds. Then you spend 5 Skill Points with no more than 3 into any one Skill. And there only seven skills which cover pretty much every situation that most characters will come across. Then pick a Trait. Traits are sort of like Feats from the d20 rules. Instead of choosing a Trait, the player may decide to have a non-human character. The races are the usual with some interesting extras races added in. Roll your money. Buy equipment. And start adventuring. It is simple and to the point. Heck, most characters could easily fit on 3×5 index card.
Combat can be quick and brutal. Armor acts as Damage Reduction but the crit charts make up for any sense of security a heavily armored character may have. Like I said, Endurance and Lifeblood are like Hit Points. Take damage and reduce Endurance and when that’s gone then it comes off Lifeblood.
Magic is skilled based where more powerful spells require a higher roll in order to successfully cast them. Like Sword of Cepheus, it takes 10 minutes to cast a spell but a character can hastily cast with a penalty to their skill role. Of course, if you blow it then there’s Magical Mishaps. Most spells are pretty much the standard array that would find in most fantasy games. The same goes for magic items which have all the things that most gamers are used to.
If you’ve read this blog long enough then you know I hate complicated monster stat blocks. This is another area where Barbaric! rocks. Monster stat blocks are to the point and easy read. They follow much the same pattern of characters but the lighter rules make them easier for the GM to handle at the table.
Overall, I love Barbaric. The rules are clean and efficient without a lot extra unnecessary crunch. Character generation is quick and easy and still each character can be unique. This definitely goes on my list of games that I plan to propose to my group.
Since I’m working on my own Sword & Sorcery game right now, I can’t but help start mixing the two in my head. Fortunately, there is also a Compatibility License for Barbaric! As I was reading through Barbaric!, I was scribbling down various notes. So who knows what I’m going to do? Maybe a rules variant, setting, or a whole new game. I just have to see where those notes lead me.
For more information on Sword of Cepheus, you can check out my previous post on that.