By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Abandoned Arts is 4 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving 2 pages for the 3 new barbarian archetypes herein, so let’s check this out!
The first archetype herein is entitled the Madman and boy, the take is rather interesting: This archetype essentially broadens the horizon of the barbarian by extending it to homicidal madmen, making this particular one rather fitting for urban campaigns etc. – They substitute a domain power of a domain granted by an evil, non-lawful deity for a rage power and can use said domain power once per rage. While they only get 1 additional round of rage per gained level starting at 2nd, their rages have cool additional effects – starting at 11th level, listening to such a madman’s ramblings while he’s raging has the result of dealing wisdom damage. The coolest ability, though, by far, would be the capstone “The End is nigh” – each round of rage, the ramblings are heard by beings from beyond, which results in summon monster I as a swift action on the first round, summon monster II on the second etc. up to a gate on the 10th round of raving preaching. AWESOME! I really, really like this archetype and players of Fire Mountain Games’ “Way of the Wicked” should check this out – though the archetype would need minor tweaking to get around the no-lawful clause. For NPCs, this is gold – the battle starts ok, but each round of rage further toughens the fight and the progressively harder foes should serve as a nice in-game counter for such a boss fight. Combine that with the barbarian’s high HP and we’re in for a cool climactic encounter, though I wished the ability would be available sooner and just be capped, progressing over the levels in order to represent the growing attachment of the dread forces to the class – here’s a lost chance that would make the archetype so much cooler and which could easily be remedied and I hope that author Daron Woodson will do so.
The second archetype in this book provides us with the reaver, who also gets reduced rage, must chose the intimidating glare rage power at 2nd level, but gets a bonus on the intimidate checks. Also rather interesting: While he does not get the barbarian’s usual DR at 7th level, he trades that in for an uncommon sneak attack progression that improves at 10th, 13th and 16th level and not only adds one dice of sneak attack damage, each improvement also changes the type of dice used to one size larger (d6->d8->d10->d12). Interesting design choice and I think I like it. AT 19th level, a reaver can also deal sneak attack damage to those affected by negative, morale-associated conditions like shaken, frightened etc. All in all an interesting archetype, though I wished it did something in addition with its intimidating prowess – as written, it is a slight variant of the standard barbarian, but apart from the uncommon sneak attack variation, not too exciting.
The final archetype is one that is rather close to my heart in concept, the Viking Marauder. Unfortunately, this also means that I’ll most likely have a very specific idea of what such an archetype should do. But what does it do? Essentially, the archetype improves the speed of vessels staffed by marauders and their cohorts. While I like the idea of improving the speed/using vehicle rules, it’s a fact that the reason for the speed of Viking ships did not lie in their seafaring expertise, massive as though they might have been, but rather in their technologically advanced and cleverly built ships. Plus, the ability is useless for PCs, since a group will (almost) never consist of only barbarians of this archetype and the ability hence won’t work for most groups. When a marauder is within 5 ft. of an ally with the same teamwork feat as the marauder, Allies within 10 ft. may also benefit from a Viking marauders teamwork feats, which is a nice idea, but in reality rather useless unless you’re the DM and have optimized a crew of marauders for exactly this purpose. They also learn to demoralize via their sails and dread reputation and resist fear. I am sorely disappointed by this archetype, since it is essentially useless for players and as a DM, I have better vikingesque archetypes that provide bigger benefits than this one. Vikings are steeped in a specific culture and concentrating on one aspect (seafaring, raiding, reputation, runes, superior berserkergang, mead-powered abilities, shield-chewing etc.) would have probably yielded far better results. Not one that will see use in my campaign, nor is it in my hopinion useful for players.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant mistakes. Layout adheres to a no-frills, 2-column standard and the pdf comes without bookmarks, but needs none at this length. This installment of class acts is an exercise of “so close, yet so far”. The Madman is, tops, in my opinion one of my favourite archetypes by Abandoned Arts in terms of creativity and while I maintain that stretching “The End is nigh” over multiple levels would greatly increase the unique aspects of this archetype, it’s still a good one.
The Reaver has a good idea, but lacks a truly distinct identity/signature ability and could have used some more abilities/space to make it feel distinct. And finally, the Viking Marauder is all but useless for DMs and completely useless for players. I really like the madman and since a DM could easily modify this archetype, this somewhat offsets my problems with the marauder. The Reaver is ok. Let’s sum it up: One good archetype, one bad one and a mediocre one. Due to low price, I think I can still justify to settle for a final verdict of 3 stars.
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So what do you think?