8/05/2014

A Wooded and Noble Class Pt. 1: The E6 Gaelic Barbarian

About two months ago I started a new weekly Pathfinder gaming group to accommodate some players with a more casual nature than my regular group. I had been inspired by a recent trip to Ireland, so I set about making a campaign set in my interpretation of a mythical version of the island. Interpretation is pretty key here--I didn't want any of the players--particularly me--to have to feel like they needed a degree in Celtic folklore to play. I'm also a sucker for E6, low-magic games, so I threw that into the mix. One of the first things on my prep list was to edit the class list. Some classes (monk, wizard, alchemist, etc.) didn't quite fit into the lore, while others (like the beloved barbarian) presented the chance to reinforce the setting via redesigned mechanics.

My final class list ended up being: barbarian, druid, fighter, knight (a cavalier in all but name), ranger, rogue, saint (a redesigned cleric), and witch. Most of the classes were redesigned in some manner. After two months of play time, I feel confident enough in the classes to share my changes. So may I present: the Gaelic barbarian.

Gaelic Barbarian
I already knew what I wanted to do with this class before I even had the campaign in mind. In my mind, Conan isn't the iconic fantasy barbarian, the hero Cú Chulainn of the Ulster Cycle is. Part of this stems from my lack of knowledge of Conan (Robert E. who?) and my love of Cú from the Táin Bó Cúailnge. However, I'm also of the opinion that turning into a twisted, deformed monster on the battlefield is hands down way cooler than getting really ticked. 


Warp-Spasm
With the Hound of Ulster as our poster boy, the rage class ability could become nothing but his iconic warp-spasm. It functions in all ways as the rage ability, but in addition to the bonuses from raging, also applies a -4 penalty to Charisma while in the rage. The barbarian is becoming a nasty monstrosity, and in doing so becomes ugly (one of Cú's eyes hung by only the nerve and his joints flipped around, after all) and loses some of her sense of self.

This change is relatively minor. After all, the barbarian can't really use any Charisma-based skills while raging anyways. It does make her more vulnerable to Charisma damage and drain, but in E6 Pathfinder, those effects are few and far between. Where this saw major impact was in rage powers, which became warp powers (creative name, I know).

I focused on reskinning rage powers that could be represented by a physical deformity, and that weren't stupidly powerful (superstition and greater beast totem, I'm looking at you). I also tried to combine or enhance some of the weaker ones, in an attempt to make them all tempting choices.



Bandy-Legged (Su) The barbarian's legs become long and bowed. The barbarian can move up to double her normal speed as an immediate action but she can only use this ability when an adjacent foe uses a withdraw action to move away from her. She must end her movement adjacent to the enemy that used the withdraw action. The barbarian provokes attacks of opportunity as normal during this movement. This power can be used once per warp-spasm.


Beast Leg (Su) One of the barbarian's legs grows to Large size. The barbarian gains a 10-foot enhancement bonus to her speed. This increase is always active while the barbarian is raging. This power can be selected up to three times. Its effects stack. The second time it is taken, the barbarian's other leg increases in size. After taking it a third time, the barbarian grows another massive leg while in a spasm.

Bestial Senses (Su) The barbarian's eyes become animalistic and she gains a long snout, giving her the low-light visions and scent abilities.

Bull-Built (Su)  The barbarian's muscles bulge and seem to squirm of their own accord. The barbarian can add her barbarian level on one Strength check or combat maneuver check, or to her combat maneuver defense. This power is used as an immediate action and can be used once per spasm.

Talons (Su) The barbarian's hands grow long talons and she gains two claw attacks. These attacks are considered primary attacks and are made at the barbarian's full base attack bonus. The claws deal 1d6 points of slashing damage plus the barbarian's Strength modifier.

Horrific Appearance (Su) The barbarian's form is particularly monstrous. She ignores the penalty to Charisma from being in a spasm when making an Intimidate skill check and instead treats it as a bonus.

Maw (Su) The barbarian's jaw grows large and distended, giving her a bite attack. If used as part of a full-attack action, the bite attack is made at the barbarian's full base attack bonus -5. If the bite hits, it deals 1d4 points of damage plus half the barbarian's Strength modifier. A barbarian can make a bite attack as part of the action to maintain or break free from a grapple. This attack is resolved before the grapple check is made. If the bite attack hits, and grapple checks made by the barbarian against the target this round are at a +2 bonus.

Natural Armor (Su) The barbarian grows scales or a thick coat of fur. She gains a +1 natural armor bonus. This bonus increases by +1 for every four levels the barbarian has attained. 

Warp Climber (Su) The barbarian's arms lengthen so that her hands rest below her knees. The barbarian gains a climb speed of 20 ft. and a bonus on Climb checks equal to her level.

Warp Swimmer (Su) The barbarian grows fins. She gains a swim speed of 20 ft. and a bonus on Swim checks equal to her level.


Chariot Chump
I never understood why barbarians get trap sense. Rogues, I can see. Barbarians? Is that a Conan thing? (Robert E. huh?) I always think of the scene from Your Highness where they befriend the gigantic barbarian, only to have him impaled in a trap not minutes later.


That spike is going right through his abdomen; no trap sense here!

Anyways, I needed an ability to remove to make room for Cú and other mythic Irish heroes' love of chariots. So trap sense got the boot, and chariot champion came in. Chariot champion gives the barbarian her own beloved charioteer, and some bonuses to fighting on a chariot. Like (why?) trap sense, it scales 6th level.


Chariot Champion (Ex) At 3rd level, a barbarian can attract the service of a loyal charioteer. The character is generally an NPC with total NPC class levels one lower than the barbarian. This charioteer is equipped with equipment appropriate for his level and is of the same alignment as the barbarian. The charioteer gains Skilled Driver as a bonus feat.

Because of the bond with her charioteer, the barbarian gains a +1 morale bonus on attack rolls and a +1 dodge bonus to her AC when fighting from a chariot piloted by her charioteer. At sixth level, this bonus increases to +2.

Should the charioteer die, the barbarian must spend a week in mourning before finding a replacement. The barbarian then loses her bonus to attack rolls and AC from this ability until she gains a new level, or has spent a month fighting alongside the new charioteer.

Why No Gáe Bulg?
The Celts Campaign Sourcebook for AD&D  presented the Gáe Bulg not as a weapon, but a technique that could be learned by any character. I thought about including it as a capstone ability for my barbarians, I really did. Were I not designing for E6, I would have. Ultimately, I decided that it would be better served as a mythic weapon, that then requires special training (probably involving a quest) in order to be able to use. I mean, you do have to throw the thing from the fork of your fucking toes. 


.........


 I've put the E6 Cú-inspired barbarian up here, in case you want the whole thing in it's ready-to-play format.


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