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Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for-

Barbarians. Barbarians are one of my earliest influences on playing D&D, Robert E. Howard's Conan in particular. While I feel that we, as modern people, tend to go the "noble savage" route when we talk or think about barbarians; I can not deny the power of Conan on my gaming over the years. Marvel's Conan the Barbarian, King Conan and Savage Sword titles were among the very few comics that I read regularly as a teen. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Conan the Barbarian movie is still one of my favorite fantasy films. Not so much the sequel. As I got older, but still in my teen years, I discovered that real barbarians were nothing like this really. Real Barbarians were the ancient Celts and the Germanic tribes that brought down Rome. The Greeks just thought that everyone that didn't speak Greek was a barbarian, and the Romans adopted this attitude and adapted it to include Latin speakers in the civilized category.

B is also for berserkers, who may just be the epitome of the barbarian to some people. D&D 3e certainly pushed this perception of the berserker barbarian. This kind of annoys me. Certainly a berserker is a different type of warrior, more focused on his frenzied strength than on precision attacks. Real berserkers though were, probably, a warrior cult dedicated to Odin; though the evidence is scant simply because there are really only a few references to actual berserkers. Berserker types though exist in a number of cultures. Ancient Ireland's Cuchulain had the warp-frenzy which certainly sounds like berserker rage as attributed to the Norse berserks. In my D&D games over the years I have included Berserkers as another path that a Fighter could follow, sometimes as an extra Fighter sub-class, sometimes as a Gift at character creation, occasionally as both.

B is for the Boga-Treveri who are a tribe of ancient Gauls I invented for a 2nd edition Celts campaign. The Boga-Treveri were retconned as the first tribe of Celts to migrate to my Garnia campaign setting from earth after discovering how to use the planar gates built by the Elves in ages past. They were a small but distinct offshoot of the Treveri tribe.

B is for Bandits and their evil cousins Brigands. I tend not to differentiate between the two too much, but I know that there is a perception that maybe bandits are like Robin Hood or Rob Roy McGregor rather than the dirty outlaws that they really are. I rarely use them as "good" bad guys, maybe it's because my dad was alsways watching westerns when I was a kid and I got the whole bandito equals bad thing over-ruling the whole Robin Hood is a good guy fighting royal corruption. I do use bandits pretty frequently though, probably mostly because having tribes of Orcs running around in civilized lands works against my sense of verisimilitude.

B is for Bushi, the Fighter class of Oriental Adventures for whom Bushido, the "Way of the Warrior" was named. Ruins and Ronin calls them Bujin, which means "Fighting Man", but in any case they deserve mention here since, as a guy who spent his teen years in the 1980s, all that Japanese cultural stuff made a pretty huge impact on me and Oriental Adventures was always my favorite post-core book for 1st edition AD&D.

B is for Bards. What can I say about Bards? Historically they were trained by the Druids and survived the extinction of their parent group by adapting to Christianity. Bards remained important in Gaelic culture until the English made a concerted effort to extinguish the entirety of Gaelic culture. Ironically, Shakespeare, the most important playwright in the English world, is referred to as the Bard. Game-wise, Bards remain an important part of the dominant human culture of my Garnia campaign simply because they are a Celt descended culture. Bards are also a D&D character class that has traditionally been wonky, from the bizarre and over-powered 1st edition Bard (world's 1st prestige class?) to the lame and weak 2nd edition bards to the equally useless 3rd edition Bard; no game company has done them justice. I have tinkered with the class over the years, but no one ever wants to play one so my bard has never been tested.

B is for Beowulf the hero-king of the Geats. Beowulf has all of the traits of a typical Germanic hero, I learned that in English class in 11th grade and several college courses reconfirmed it over the years. Beowulf will always be special to me because I was maybe the only kid in my 11th grade English class that recognized that it totally kicked ass. Mr Moriarty, my English teacher that year, used me as an example of a Beowulf-like heroic figure, a mighty warrior to whom honor was paramount. So Neil Gaiman can fuck off for making a mockery of Beowulf.

Lastly, B is for Blogging, the reason that anyone is reading this. My wife encouraged me to blog so that I would get back into writing and that's how I discovered the OSR. Before that I thought I was a lone Luddite when it came to my gaming, the only guy out there eschewing the "newer-better" editions. I knew there were fan sites out there for earlier editions but never realized there was a grassroots movement to take back our game, so thank you Mona for making me blog and thank you to all the people at Blogger that made it easy for me to do myself and to find all my OSR brethren and thanks to all of you OSR gaming bloggers out there that keep me inspired.