Native Foreigners: An Expanded Career for Barbarians
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2021 issue.
The term “barbarian” conjures several mental images: Robert E. Howard’s Conan, muscles rippling, laying low a multitude of enemies with his mighty blade. The Germanic tribes from ancient history such as the Vandals, or the Huns. The Vikings, with their longships and penchant for plunder. The Berserkers, feared for their unique combination of ruthlessness and fearlessness. The stereotypical fantasy barbarian, clad only in fur loincloth and boots, bearing more war axe than cultural sophistication.
According to Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium, Barbarians are “rugged individuals from primitive planets accustomed to hardship and well-trained in wilderness and survival situations.” This contrasts with the historic use of the word, which was often used as an indication of (and pejorative against) anyone not of the speaker’s race, country, or culture. Modern usage of the word indicates anyone lacking breeding or sophistication.
Naturally, barbarians don’t view themselves that way. They consider their culture and outlook equally valid. While they are indeed primitive relative to the wider Imperial society, they are not stupid, nor even necessarily uneducated.
These rules are intended to expand on the Barbarian prior career from Supplement 4 and in the process explode the myth that Barbarians are unintelligent bumpkins not to be taken seriously.
Generate the Barbarian’s six initial characteristics as usual, using 2D. SOC, however, is a special case. The referee can choose to consider the Barbarian’s SOC as applicable only to his or her home culture, or replace the SOC characteristic entirely. However, SOC will continue being referred to here.
Several decisions must now be made. First, the player should choose the character’s homeworld, with a Tech Level far below the Imperial norm that determines the DMs applied during some later throws. The Tech Level cannot exceed 3; to determine it randomly, throw 1D-3, resulting in 0-3.
Next, the Barbarian’s native social structure should be determined. This influences the character’s early life and upbringing, and molds his or her worldview:
- Tribal cultures are based on familial or communal relationships, hunter-gatherer survival strategies, and strong ties to one place or region. Usually small in number, tribes sometimes consist of one extended family or clan, and is typically led by an individual whose rule is absolute. Tribal Barbarians put great emphasis on face-to-face relationships and choose their friends and allies very carefully.
- Nomadic cultures are marked by their mobility as their main survival strategy. While they use hunting-gathering as a lesser strategy and a group of nomads are often referred to as a tribe, nomads in fact share few characteristics with their tribal brethren. Typically shunned by civilized folk, they are often discriminated against and dismissed as lawless. Nomadic Barbarians travel light, and form very loose associations with places and other people.
- Settled cultures are those that have taken up permanent residence in a particular area, sometimes as a prelude to colonization, and often resulting in the founding of the area’s first towns. Such settlements intellectually still bear cultural tribal and nomadic traces and are characterized by their adoption of fixed agriculture and large-scale harvesting of natural resources. Settled Barbarians think collectively, and insert easily into an established group.
|TABLE 1: Initial Culture|
The player should choose an initial cultural structure or throw 2D on Table 1 to determine one randomly.
Next, the Barbarian must be considered a full member of the community before embarking on the career. Enculturation is the important procedure by which the community’s values and mores are passed along to succeeding generations. It is a process that is considered to have culminated in the individual being considered an adult:
|TABLE 2: Enculturation|
|Success||5+||(DM +1 if INT 8+)|
|Education||1D-4||(DM+1 if EDU 9+)|
|Skills:||Throw once on the Barbarian Life table. In addition, immediately gain one of the following skills, depending on the initial culture: Hunting-1 (Tribal); Survival-1 (Nomadic); Streetwise-1 (Settled)|
|TABLE 3: Tradecraft|
|Admission||8+ (DM +2 if EDU 9+)|
|Success||8+ (DM +2 if INT 8+)|
Barbarians hailing from worlds of Tech Level 3 have the option of learning a trade. This tradecraft is a one-year apprenticeship aimed at learning a skill under a master’s tutelage. If the Barbarian elects to learn a tradecraft, the first term following is reduced by one year. Success grants one throw from the Trade skill table below.
|TABLE 4: Wanderjahr|
On success, choice of one throw on Barbarian Life table, or +1 to personal characteristic (player’s choice).
Finally, the Barbarian may elect to undertake a wanderjahr (“travel year”). This is a one-year process in which the Barbarian sets about developing personal maturity and survival skills. The first term after a wanderjahr is reduced by one year. Should the Barbarian decide to attempt it, throw 4+ for survival. If successful, the Barbarian throws 1D for 4+ to receive either one skill level of the player’s choice from the Barbarian Life table (below) and a +1 DM to enlist in the career, or +1 to the player’s choice of characteristic.
Not all Barbarians are part of an established community or culture. Some are rogues, wandering from place to place, never really fitting in. These Outcasts bear a mark of shame conferred by their persona non grata status and are typically shunned by all but the most outlandish societies; even other Barbarians often give them a wide berth.
Outcasting may occur due to several failed throws: initial culture, Enculturation, or Enlistment. Outcasts immediately lose 1D SOC, and suffer negative DMs throughout the generation process as noted. In addition, any automatic skills and benefits that the character may have enjoyed after the point of becoming Outcast becomes null and void. Outcasts must undertake a wanderjahr (above).
While the stain of being an Outcast may be permanent, the Barbarian may make a one-time attempt to rejoin the community. To do this, the Barbarian – after completing his or her wanderjahr – must retry the failed throw that resulted in the outcasting, with a negative DM consisting of the number of SOC points originally lost. Success restores the character’s standing in the community but does not result in the stated initial skill bonuses.
Outcasts may only throw for skills on the following columns of table 6D: Personal Development, Barbarian Life, Field, War, and Outcast.
|TABLE 5: Enlistment|
|Tribal||5+ (DM +1 if END 9+, -4 if Outcast)|
|Nomadic||6+ (DM +1 if INT 9+, -3 if Outcast)|
|Settled||7+ (DM +1 if EDU 9+, -2 if Outcast)|
|Skill||Blade Combat-1 (Tribal Barbarians may substitute Bow Combat-1)|
The Barbarian enlists in the career using Table 5. Note the penalties for Outcasts.
The Barbarian begins a four-year term of service, with each term divided into one-year assignments. Each year, the player determines that year’s assignment and resolves it using the following tables. After four one-year assignments, the character has completed a full term and can attempt re-enlistment. The re-enlistment throw is the same as the one found in Supplement 4. Aging and its effects is handled per Book 1. A wanderjahr or taking up a tradecraft (if Tech Level 3) reduces the initial term by one year for each option.
Throughout the generation process, we will utilize the concept of honor. Honor represents social rewards given by superiors or conferred by the Barbarian’s social order due to meritorious service, the keeping of cultural traditions, or other things which reflect well on the individual and the society. Honor accumulates at the rate of one point per point the indicated throw is exceeded. Every ten points of honor can be traded in for a +1 DM on any generation table except where indicated. Once traded in, honor points are lost but can re-accumulate. Any honor remaining during the mustering out process is permanently lost.
Note that it is also possible to lose Honor. In any instance where an Honor throw is attempted, a result of a natural “2” means that the Barbarian instead is dishonored and loses 1D Honor. Negative Honor values accumulate and affect throws in the same way as positive ones; i.e., every -10 points of Dishonor equals a -1 DM. Dishonor DMs must be applied as they amass; they cannot be deferred.
|TABLE 6A: Assignment (2D)|
Home: The year is a relatively quiet one during which the Barbarian has few, if any, duties. He or she may be assigned to serve as sentry, assist with community chores, serve in a minor leadership capacity, or anything else which exposes him or her to little danger.
Routine: The individual is engaged in the routine duties of his or her culture. For Tribals, this might mean obtaining food, making and repairing tools, and defending the camp from invaders. Nomads will do this and also be tasked with setting up and packing the camp essentials and accounting for group members. Settled Barbarians conduct the lives typical of urban dwellers.
Field: The character is assigned outside of his or her culture's normal territory. For example, he or she may be sent as an envoy to a distant tribe, or sent to explore an unknown wilderness.
War: The individual’s home is involved in armed conflict with another tribe or culture, or the home tribe’s fundamental disagreements have escalated into civil war.
Special: The PC is on a special assignment for the year. See below.
Special Assignment Explanations
|TABLE 6B: Special (1D)|
|DMs: -1 if Outcast; +1 if EDU 8+|
Wanderjahr: The individual undertakes a sojourn as described above. In addition to the stated benefits, the Barbarian makes one throw on the Field Skills table.
Cross-Culture: The character has been sent to live among another tribe or culture as a gesture to further diplomatic ties. This includes marriage meant as political alliance. Gain one level of Liaison skill, the automatic initial skill for the new culture (see above), and throw 4+ on 1D for the following: Admin, Bard, Carousing.
Trade: The Barbarian joins a trade mission to another land, perhaps as part of a caravan or a negotiating party. Throw 4+ on 1D for the following: Admin, Broker, Liaison, Trader.
Courier: The individual is employed as a courier, ensuring that messages are delivered without interference. Gain one level each of Communications and Blade Combat skill.
Mentor: The PC gains a person who offers ongoing advice and guidance. +1 EDU, +1D Honor, and choose the next year’s assignment. The mentor may become a recurring contact in the subsequent campaign.
Spy: The Barbarian is sent to surreptitiously observe another tribe or culture. This may be covert or overt. Throw 3+ on 1D for the following: Liaison, Recon, Jack of all Trades, and Streetwise.
Boon: The individual’s meritorious service has attracted favorable attention from his or her leaders. Choose one of the following: one throw on the Material or Cash Benefits Mustering Out Table (ignore results of 1); a single favor that can be used later and that the leader must fulfill (within reason); or 3D Honor. This is the only other way that an Outcast may regain his or her status in the community.
Leadership: The year is spent as an apprentice to the Barbarian’s leader(s) with an eye toward grooming him or her for a future leadership role. Gain one level of Leader skill and throw 4+ for the following: Admin, Leader, Liaison, Tactics.
During yearly assignment resolution, the character may choose to take a negative DM for the Survival throw to gain an equal positive modifier as a bonus to Honor gained. The decision to take the negative DM must be made before the Survival throw.
|TABLE 6C: Assignment Resolution|
New skills appear in bold italics. Modified skills appear in italics (no bold).
|TABLE 6D: Skills|
|Personal Development||Barbarian Life||Tribal Skills||Nomadic Skills||Settled Skills||Home Skills||Routine Skills||Field Skills||War Skills||Trade Skills||Outcast Skills|
|2||+1 DEX||Jack-O-T||Hunting||Equestrian||Carousing||Steward||Teamster||Animal||Bow Cbt||Mechanical||Streetwise|
|3||+1 END||Brawling||Blade Cbt||Animal||Brawling||Liaison||Jack-O-T||Hunting||Blade Cbt||Jack-O-T||Blade Cbt|
|4||+1 INT||Blade Cbt||Brawling||Jack-O-T||Trader||Jack-O-T||Mechanical||Hunting||Brawling||Trader||Blade Cbt|
|5||+1 EDU||Equestrian||Bow Cbt||Blade Cbt||Admin||Mechanical||Equestrian||Equestrian||Recon||Fabricate||Brawling|
|6||Carousing||Animal||Survey||Water Craft||Gambling||Carousing||Animal||Survival||Commo||Admin||Bow Cbt|
|8||+1 SOC||Leader||Leader||Leader||Leader||Leader||Blade Cbt||Survey||Gun Cbt||Tech||Tech|
|Only open to TL3 Barbarians||Only open to Outcast Barbarians|
Skills not shown as new or modified are as per definitions in the following Classic Traveller books:
Book 1: Characters and Combat: Admin, Blade Cbt, Brawling, Bribery, Carousing, Forgery, Gambling, Gun Cbt, Jack of All Trades, Leader, Mechanical, Medical, Steward, Streetwise, Tactics
Book 4: Mercenary: Liaison, Recon, Survival
Book 6: Scouts: Equestrian
Book 7: Merchant Prince: Broker, Legal, Trader
Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium: Hunting, Water Craft
New and Modified Skills
Animal (new skill): The individual is skilled in training and working with non-sentient beasts. When encountering an animal, the trainer can use his or her skill to modify the creature’s reactions; the skill level divided by 5 (round down) is applied to the animal’s throw to attack or flee (per Book 3: Worlds and Adventures). The skill level is also applied as a DM to any throws made to train an animal. Note the difference between this skill and Equestrian skill (Book 6: Scouts).
Bard (new skill): The individual can present a pleasing and amusing entertainment to an audience, using such talents as singing, storytelling, or acting. The skill level is used as a positive DM on the audience’s reaction.
Communications (differs from Book 5: High Guard): This skill covers only those communications techniques found at low tech levels; such as smoke signals, the use of mirrors and other reflective devices, alert fires, horns or other audible devices, and semaphore. Manual courier techniques are also included, such as finding the most rapid route to deliver the message and ways to conceal it from enemies.
Computer (differs from Book 1: Characters and Combat): The Barbarian is skilled in the use of pre-industrial calculating devices such as abacuses and advanced mathematical concepts like algebra. The skill level is added to any throw for determination of mathematical calculations.
Fabricate (new skill): This skill covers the manufacture and assembly of finished goods of all kinds, from small, portable items all the way up to and including structures. It also includes the use and manufacture of tools employed in creating such goods.
Survey (differs from Book 6: Scouts): The skill as described here includes scouting, mapping and land navigation on the surface of a world. It also covers dealing with new situations and cultures as they are encountered.
Teamster (new skill): The Barbarian has been trained in transporting passengers and goods via animal-drawn vehicles such as wagons and carts. Each level of skill is added as a positive DM to any throw used to control such animals and to avoid mishaps.
Tech (new skill): The individual has been exposed to concepts or equipment from a higher Tech Level. Note that exposure to such items doesn’t confer a total understanding of the advanced technology. Each level of skill adds 1 to the Barbarian’s base tech level when determining what he or she has been exposed to. For example, A Tech Level 1 Barbarian with Tech-2 has at some point seen or used equipment from Tech Level 3, although he could never fully grasp the principles governing the devices.
|TABLE 6E: Mustering-Out Benefits|
|Material Benefits||Cash Benefits|
|DMs||-1 if Outcast||-1 if Outcast;+1 if Gambling skill.|
|Honor DMs are not allowed on the Cash Benefits table.|
Mount: The individual gains a riding animal typical of the particular world, albeit a fine specimen worth more than the average of its type. Includes all equipment necessary to ride the animal (saddles, reins, etc.)
The Making of a Barbarian
Let’s consider for a moment the question “what makes one a barbarian?” As we’ve noted above, historical usage ranged widely, usually discounting individuals as barbarians due to their status as foreigners; their lack of breeding or sophistication relative to the host culture; their tendency to ignore the host culture’s laws and mores, or their relative lack of technical or scientific prowess. The very word “barbarian” is from the Greek barbaros (βάρβαρος), and originally meant simply a foreigner or stranger.
One’s status as a barbarian is thus highly subjective. Worse, the very definition of a barbarian in the Imperium is highly subjective; one person’s barbarian is another’s survivalist. Creating a definition of a barbarian as it relates to Traveller is necessary.
The GDW definition from Supplement 4 (“rugged individuals from primitive planets accustomed to hardship and well-trained in wilderness and survival situations”) is a good starting point, if a bit broad. After all, this could also encompass farmers, forest rangers, hunters, and a host of other occupations and careers. And it could also be covered by setting a low Tech Level for the individual’s homeworld.
Setting aside GDW’s definition for a moment, let’s turn to the original meaning of the word, foreigner or stranger. The easy way to map this to Traveller is to simply say that a given Barbarian comes from extra-Imperial space. While this may certainly be the case, the rules in Supplement 4 make no mention of this, and indeed seem to imply that Barbarians generated using those tables come from within the Imperium.
Therefore, we must consider the other definition for foreign: different or outlandish. With this definition, we can therefore decide that Barbarians are considered such because they are strange. That they have such bizarre customs or cultures that even in a society as diverse as the Imperium they stand out. Primitivism doesn’t necessarily have to enter into this definition, although for simplicity’s sake, we can assume it does during character generation. To create such standout societies, consult any good anthropology book or website.
Character Generation Checklist
- Generate six personal characteristics
- Determine character’s homeworld
- Determine Tech Level, if not already known (1D-3)
- Resolve character’s background
- Determine initial Social Structure (2D + Tech Level)
- Resolve Enculturation
- If successful, grant initial skills
- If unsuccessful, age one year and immediately undertake wanderjahr, then enlist in career as Outcast.
- Resolve Tradecraft (if Tech Level is 3)
- Resolve Wanderjahr. If wanderjahr resulted from being Outcast, do not apply skills
- Enlistment. Throw on Enlistment table using indicated DMs.
- If successful, apply automatic initial skills. Requires one year of service.
- If unsuccessful, choose an option:
- Enlist in Barbarian career as Outcast and immediately undertake wanderjahr
- Submit to Draft per Book 1.
- Assignment and Resolution. One per year after Enculturation,
Tradecraft (if Tech Level 3), Initial Training, and/or
- Throw for yearly assignment: Home, Field, Routine, War, or Special.
- Resolve assignment
- Survival. Failure causes death or (optionally) injury requiring disability retirement.
- Skill Eligibility. Skill allowed if skill throw successful.
- Accumulate Honor if throw successful or accumulate Dishonor if unsuccessful on a natural “2”
- Apply benefits from Special assignment.
- Attempt indicated re-enlistment upon completion of term (four years).
- If successful, repeat step 6, otherwise begin Mustering Out
- If throw is 12 exactly, re-enlistment is required.
- Final Details.
- Muster out using procedures in Book 1.
- Resolve aging per Book 1 as necessary.
Bravery adapted from Daring and Bravado, originally presented in Traveller Alien Module 6: Solomani (GDW, 1986).