Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for: BARBARIAN!

I like barbarians - in the literary, cinematic, and RPG sense. After reading Lord of the Rings in elementary school, I found the Ace edition Conan books in the local library while I was in Junior High and started reading them. It's an understatement to say they had an impact and I think to this day they are required reading for anyone who wants to talk about fantasy writing and lit or who is interested in the origins of D&D.

When it comes to RPG's I really haven't played many barbarian type characters, so it's a little funny that my last 3rd Edition D&D character was a barbarian and was in fact the first one I played in that version of the game. Part of it was that I was joining an existing group and a head-bashing tough guy was a good fit, and part of it was that my mood at the time I made him really fit that type as well. It was a weeknight game and I really wasn't interested in the finer points of spellcasting or buffing other players - I wanted to bash the $!%$##@! out of something and I picked the class best able to do that.

Note: In contrast to yesterday's post I have no nifty computer-generated pictures of a barbarian to throw in here.  I do have a picture of the miniature I used:

Doh! Now I can't find my actual painted miniature so there's a picture of the unpainted version as a placeholder. I picked one up in the 90's somewhere as I really liked this mini. The sculptor is Kev Adams who did the "Happy Orcs" for Games Workshop in the late 80's and early to mid 90's which are some of my favorites. I liked this mini so much I picked up a second one years later which is still in the package waiting for that magical combination of inspiration + time. My original is black-haired so he may be a blonde. Or he may get some streaks of gray and a fancier sword as an older version of Finboch.

Yes, the character's name was Finboch Canlar. I poked around on some Celtic name website and strung it together with a strong dose of "what sounds good". The game was set in the Forgotten Realms so he was from Rashemen which is a big barbarian area to the east of the most-played areas. They are traditional enemies of Thay, the land of evil wizards, so it's a vary traditional-Conan-esque barbarian place to be from. My short background was that he came west looking for gold and loot and maybe a wife with the long-term plan of either heading back home and showing up his rivals or becoming a minor lord somewhere in a border region where he could rule and fight in equal amounts. As it turns out, we only played about 5 sessions together, so long-term plans didn't matter so much. Here's his character sheet:

That's right, no pre-made computer-generated character sheets here! Old-school hand-drawn notebook paper for this guy! Here's the back:

Mechanically my idea was that way too many barbarians run around in almost no armor and wield some giant two-hander weapon. Fin was smarter than that. He was going to use a shield and beyond that, he was going to use it offensively as well as defensively. There are some feats in the 3E PHB2 that really make this viable so I went nuts with it - all 4 of his feats are tied into shields & shield-bashing. In short his shield gave him better protection than a normal person but he could throw two attacks per round with his weapon and then throw in one more from his shield without losing anything from his defenses - he was a lot of fun. This also freed him from being overly specialized in his "regular" weapon. Much like Conan he could pick up anything and be very good at bashing people with it. He started off with a masterwork longsword and in the last session he was using a +2 Morningstar taken from some bugbear chieftain. Versatility is good, and he was quite versatile when it came to offense.

But maybe you're too old-school for 3E D&D. Maybe you remember when Barbarians were first discussed in Dragon #63. If so then fresh from the 1980's, here is Arakhan, the First Edition Barbarian!

I had to adjust the coloring a bit as the sheet is pencil on notebook paper and there's not as much contrast as there used to be. It's a lot more impressive if you imagine that big stain to be blood (Crom's Devils! THUNK!) but in fact I believe it to be Dr. Pepper, with some of those smaller dots consisting of Domino's Pizza* splatters. There's about 25 years between these two hand-drawn sheets and I am clearly a lot less concerned about neatness nowadays than I was back then, barring the odd spill.

Arakhan was a frost/ice/snow barbarian from Greyhawk, but since this was before a lot of Greyhawk deity information was published he just worshipped Thor. You can see a lot of the early to mid-80's Dragon influences here with his Harpoon and his social level of Lower Middle Class. His standard approach to combat was to chuck some throwing axes (later a harpoon) on the way in and then go with either two-handed sword or broadsword and shield depending on the opposition. These 1E barbarians had all kinds of ridiculous  side skills and special abilities and a d12 for hit points and special rolling methods for stats and all of that was theoretically balanced out by massive XP requirements for leveling and a hatred of magic items. You can see from the sheet - 5th level and no magic items, unheard of with normal D&D characters. yet he still manages to achieve AC 0 wearing only leather and is still going to do massive damage to large targets especially, with that two-hander hitting for 3-18 +5. I won't comment on the amazing ability scores and hit points- some of that comes from the special class rules and some of that comes from making a character when you're 13.

Arakhan spent most of his time running around in a two-man party with a friend who was running "Thag" the Half-Ogre. There were two Thags at different times, one was a fighter and one was a barbarian. Half-Ogres were another Dragon enhancement that we thought were a lot of fun to play. In some ways they were crippled by a low level-cap but being able to wield a two-handed sword in one hand and being almost guaranteed of an 18 strength made up for a lot. We had a lot of fun with low-level adventuring, bashing our way through dungeons (literally - no knock spells or lockpicking skills here) and getting into bar fights in town.  Arakhan had animal handling ability with dogs so he usually travelled with at least a pair of war dogs. Normal tactics was Arakhan and Thag throw weapons as the dogs charge in, then the two big guys charge and the monsters die quickly. It didn't always work, but it almost always worked and that was good enough for us.

Tomorrow: The letter C

*our summer and weekend lunch of choice as we could not yet drive

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for: The Amazing Aluminum Man!

Starting the month off right! Aluminum Man is my alter-ego in all things super. Originally created for the MMORPG City of Heroes has has crossed over into a few other aspects including tabletop RPG's, and spawned a whole family of related characters, including Aluminum Man II, Aluminum Boy, Aluminum Man Nova, Aluminum Man 2099, and Blue Aluminum Man. He is sometimes accompanied by Aluminum Girl or Aluminum Falcon, some of whom may show up here this month too.

AAM was my first City of Heroes character and was intended as a light riff on Iron Man who has long been my favorite Marvel character. Starting with "Guy in Suit" I eventually decided it was more complicated than the typical rich guy building a suit scenario. Here is the more complicated (and less funny) origin story I wrote up a few years ago:

"I first realized I was different when as a child I stuck my finger into an electrical outlet. Now many children do this and it is typically a painful experience but it wasn't for me. Instead I felt the electricity flowing into me and through my body and I found that I could direct it to a given point on my body. As I secretly practiced my newfound talent I learned to perform tricks like lighting up a light bulb held in my hand or zapping the cat with a minor shock. Being a child I merely thought of of my ability as a kind of trick or odd talent and nothing more."

"As I grew up my talent seemed like more of a parlor trick than any kind of truly useful ability. If your car battery died, I could get it started. If your cellphone ran out, I could power it up to make a call. It was occasionally handy but hardly life changing."

"One day in school we learned a little about electricity and circuits and conductors and this started some wheels turning in my young head. Later that day while climbing on some monkey bars I tried to shock a buddy using the metal of the bars as a conduit. It was a major change for me as I realized that not only could I direct energy through the bars, I could also feel energy in the air around the bars and I could draw it into myself through them, like an antenna. Realizing that metal amplified my talent in a pretty incredible way, I began to wonder if I could do more with it."

"Then one day I saw footage of Destroyer, one of the early battlesuit heroes, in action against Viper and everything clicked into place. I could build a suit of metal which would provide protection and enhance my powers - I could become a super hero."

"I began experimenting with various metals to determine what would give me the most power. Aluminum was lightweight and a fine conductor, so I decided to use it for the internal lining of the suit as well as some external emission points. It would also form some fixed and some retractable antennas and waveguides. For protection, most of the suit though would need to be made of one of those super-expensive exotic metals like adamantium or vibranium. Wow that stuff is expensive! I wasn't independently wealthy so I wasn't sure how I was going to afford that, so I decided to build a prototype suit completely from aluminum and use it to demonstrate my abilities in hopes of finding funding to build a real suit. As you may have guessed from my name this did not go entirely according to plan."

"I collected several thousand aluminum beverage cans, cleaned them, and began melting them down in my workshop. I made molds of my body. I sculpted foam rubber for the joints of my new suit. After months of work, everything was finally ready and one night I donned my suit for the first time."

"I could feel energy moving through space all around me - in the air, in the power lines and buildings I could see, and and even in the underground conduits beneath my feet. The suit put a much larger amount of metal in direct contact with my skin than I had ever tried before, and I was exponentially more aware of the energy around me. That should have been a warning to me."

"I found my newly amplified abilities allowed me to move against the earth's magnetic field -  I could hover in mid air with some concentration. As I did this I saw a thug attempting to steal a car and decided to see if I could project a shock, enough to dissuade him from his thievery. I opened my self up completely, thinking it would take a massive effort to project a spark that distance, and the world exploded."

"It was easier to project with the new suit than I had anticipated. I unleashed a torrent of energy and I couldn't shut it off - I was like a switch stuck in an open position. The energy poured into me, through me, and shot out from my outstretched hand. My target had been blown into the air but he did survive and he quickly ran off. The car he had been attempting to steal was melting into a puddle as the pavement beneath it began to boil. I could see my suit glowing a bright blue-white. I felt the rubber joints hiss away into vapor. I felt the metal of the suit begin to liquefy and run and I couldn't stop it. Somehow though, I was not feeling any pain. I felt strange, light, alive, and out of control but I was exuberant with the power I felt running through my body, laughing maniacally until I passed out."

"I awoke when I hit the ground. At some point the power had gone beyond my ability to manage and when I passed out it shut down, thank goodness. I stood up from a smoking crater, still quite disoriented and staggered home. When I looked in the mirror I realized the suit had not vaporized as I had assumed - I was still wearing it, only it had changed dramatically."

"No longer was I wearing a crude armor prototype. No, the metal had liquefied and run along the contours of my body, held to me by some strange side effect of my runaway power. In the hellish energies of my awakening, the metal had bonded to me, becoming part of my living tissue. I could move normally and I felt no heavier than I had before. In truth I thought I was unclothed I felt so free yet in the mirror I looked like a shining metal statue."

"Still adjusting to this new development I gingerly tested my powers and found them still working. Realizing my life had changed forever I quickly decided that I had to use these abilities as a force for good in the world. I fashioned a new helmet and found a way to bond it to myself and release it at will. I don't know that I need a secret identity but I decided to wait before revealing my true self. Plus it would maintain the illusion that I was a battle suited technological hero, hopefully giving me an advantage over potential enemies."

"As I began  my new career I was often identified as a robot or as something called a "Power Ranger." Fortunately a reporter soon had the courage to actually speak with me and I jokingly described myself as an aluminum man. The name stuck and with a few successful heroics I was soon known as The Amazing Aluminum Man", a name I try to live up to every single day. It's not always easy but it's the path I have chosen."

Aluminum Man - The Animated Series

Amazing Aluminum Man for ICONS:

Prowess: 5 (Excellent)
Coordination: 8 (Amazing)
Strength: 4 (Good)
Intellect: 6 (Remarkable)
Awareness: 5 (Excellent)
Willpower: 7 (Incredible)

Stamina: 11
Determination: 2

Origin: Transformed (+2 to Coordination)

Specialties: Mechanics, Science (Metallurgy), Science (Physics)

Electrical Control - 8 (Amazing)  - Attacking, Detecting, Shaping
Invulnerability - 4 (Good) - Aluminum Suit
Flight - 7  (Incredible) - Interaction with the Earth's magnetic field, up to Mach 1 

"Responsibilities of Power" - AAM chose to become a hero and takes his responsibility as one seriously. He cannot ignore a threat to innocent bystanders and does not like to risk the lives of others.

"Connections" - Aluminum Girl, Aluminum Man II, and Aluminum Boy.  They help out on some missions, assist under certain circumstances, and sometimes get into trouble requiring his aid in return.

 "Can't take it off" - the suit is a permanent part of him. He can control the form it takes and can expose part of his bare skin at will, but he is never fully out of costume. This is largely a social problem, but could impact him in odd ways from day to day.

Under the point build system he is about 57 points. If I wanted to go for an even 60 I would probably add some Life Support or some Electrical Resistance, but that would cost another point of Determination too and might not be worth it. I also gave some though to folding his invulnerability power into his Electrical Control, making it a Force Field which would make it stronger most of the time but would also mean it weakens or fails when he is stunned. He's not a Brick so I don't really need him running around ignoring anything short of Thor's hammer, so for now I like the Invulnerability 4 as a separate power, making him largely bulletproof but not a Tank.

In play he's good at helping with science problems and meets the minimum threshold for on-the-fly inventing of temporary devices. He's largely a ranged attacker, hovering at a distance and blasting foes with electrical powers or binding them with electrical cages and the like. 

As for his connections, Aluminum Girl is his girlfriend/wife, Aluminum II is his son (a reluctant hero), and Aluminum Boy is his grandson (a very enthusiastic hero). Going further, Aluminum 2099 is his great-grandson doing some unauthorized time-traveling and Aluminum Falcon is his nephew who wanted to be a hero too. Going even farther afield, Nova and Blue are alternate-universe versions with powers over fire and cold, respectively. 

Obviously there is some extended continuity there which really only exists in my head (as I am likely the only one who cares), but if you want to see more of it let me know and I'll work them in to this month's theme. Also let me know if there's a particular system you'd like to see them in as well. ICONS to Marvel is pretty simple, M&M shouldn't be too bad, HERO takes more time but gives some serious detail. I'm open to anything, just drop a comment if you're interested. 


Despite my desire to do my own thing and my inclination to go from Z to A, I'll go ahead and do it because it might give a little more structure than I typically have around here. The theme for the month here at the Tower is "Characters" - in particular my characters. Not monsters, not NPC's (though you could certainly use them as such) but characters I have made and played in some kind of RPG somewhere at some time.

This should be fun.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

End of the Month

Real Life Intruding
New Job Interviews Abound
Blog Pause For Today