Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Armor Up Like a Barbarian

Once upon a time, there was pretty realistic armor floating around in the fantasy realm – the stuff you would expect out of folks who did a little research at the local library. And then the 1980's arrived on the scene …

In the spirit of ridiculous, barbarian-style armor, I present the following scheme:

Armor is for cowards, and nobody likes or respects a coward – not buxom serving wenches, not grizzled men-at-arms, not squirrely thieves, not fat merchants and certainly not the local lord with a quest that needs fulfilling.

In old school parlance, being unlikable = low charisma.

In a barbarian milieu, armor = cowardice.

The barbarian uses piecemeal armor. Each fledgling barbarian hero can decide, at character creation, to buy as many pieces of armor as they like – well, up to 8 anyways. Each piece costs 25 gp, improves one’s Armor Class by 1 and reduces their charisma score by 1. A barbarian cannot allow their charisma to fall below 3, so starting out with low charisma puts a solid ceiling on how much armor you get to wear as a barbarian. This doesn’t sound fair? By Crom, barbarians don’t whine about life not being fair – go be paladin you lousy #$%#%.

For each piece of armor you order, you roll on the following table – after all, only a real poser would actually go out and buy mismatched, piecemeal armor – barbarians pick it up off the bodies of the slain.

Note: Bits and straps of leather don’t count here – just metal. Leather up all you want.

1. Helm (5% chance of wicked horns – if you have horns, you keep your point of charisma)

2. Sabatons (if this is your only piece of armor you lose an extra point of charisma – what kind of dork walks around with nothing but metal shoes)

3. Breastplate or shirt or mail or scales (+2 AC and -2 charisma)

4. Arm (right or left, your choice sport)

5. Leg (right or left, you choice sport)

Always protect yer fightin' leg!

6. Shield (why does a shield dock your barbarian street cred? Because you should be wielding a honking big two-handed sword or axe, jerkwad)

7. Shoulder guards (if your charisma is still 15 or higher, you can add a cape; otherwise it would just make you look like a stupid poser)

8. Gauntlet (5% chance of being spiked, which grants +1 bonus to damage each time you score a hit in combat)

9. Mail Loincloth (add mail brassiere if female, unless you want to kick it amazon style)

[You can Google "chainmail loincloth" on your own, chief]

10. Disc Armor (not as dorky as a breastplate, but still shows a lack of self-confidence, which is like a taped up pair of eyeglasses to a barbarian)

You can scrounge other pieces as you adventure, but note – adding a piece still means losing charisma, which means fewer retainers, lower reaction checks and probably some kind of penalty to carousing.

Don't worry Conan, we can forgive the horned helmet ... just not the acting


  1. So. Naked Paladins. Gonna make those vows as difficult as possible to keep, huh?

  2. Naw - paladins are just the kind of sissies to cover themselves in armor.

  3. fits 80s genre, but Conan was presented, canonically, as wearing armor when available. As I recall one of his retainers in Hour of the Dragon got obliterated when he went to battle in King Conan's place wearing his armor (and got away with it, after a fashion, because nobody could see who was in the armor).

    However, Hour of the Dragon was way before the 80s, so carry on.

  4. As I've gotten more interested in historicals the past few years I've become aware of all the cool/exotic/evocative styles of armor that could be available... vs. the WWF look of most 'barbarian' artworks.
    I like the idea that whatever armor they wear is stolen off their dead enemies... so they'd have a really chaotic, mismatched appearance... a band of pillaging warriors who have traveled the world and wear their souvenirs.

  5. Grog Nard the Docterian like. Stoopid armor sissy man always waving wire at me ! Ha. Grog SMUSH. Lucky have spike hand things. Them effen metal.


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