A few weeks ago my brother started up a Barbarians of Lemuria campaign focusing on the exploits of dwarven heroes and, from what little I’ve seen of the game and rules, I’m really digging it.
Barbarians of Lemuria is elegantly simple. Character creation involves dividing 4 points and assigning them to 4 attributes: strength, agility, mind, and appeal. Each has a starting values of 0-3, though one ability can start at -1 which grants an extra attribute point to be assigned elsewhere. Your starting health, called Lifeblood, is equal to 10 + your character’s strength attribute. You also start with your racial or cultural tongue, a common tongue (Lemurian is the default trade tongue in the game), and a number of additional languages equal to your mind attribute. My dwarven explorer, Bragi Anvilsong, for example, started with the following attributes:
- Strength: 2 (great)
- Agility: 1 (superior)
- Mind: 1 (superior)
- Appeal: 0 (average)
The same method is used to assign 4 points to combat abilities: initiative, melee, ranged, and defence (the author, Simon Washbourne, is British… so you get used to see British-English spellings). Once again one of these abilities can be sub-par, with a rating of -1, granting an extra point that can be assigned to another combat ability. Bragi started with the following combat abilities:
- Initiative: 1 (superior)
- Melee: 2 (great)
- Ranged: 0 (average)
- Defence: 1 (superior)
You then choose 4 career paths for your character. Following the same method, your character divides and assigns 4 ranks to any 4 of the following career paths: alchemist, assassin, barbarian, beastmaster, beggar, blacksmith, dancer, executioner, farmer, gladiator, hunter, magician, merchant, mercenary, minstrel, noble, physician, priest, sailor, scribe, sky-pilot (a setting specific career path), slave, soldier, temptress, thief, and worker.
These careers can easily be altered to suit other backgrounds (town guard in place of soldier, explorer in place of hunter, and so on). The ranks of starting careers would range from 0-3. The beauty of this game is that each career represents your background and the skills that come with it. You need not pick individual skills for your character… you pick the careers of your career path with a mind towards the types of skills that you’d like your character to have. Bragi’s starting career paths are:
- Blacksmith: 1
- Guard (Soldier): 2
- Healer (Physician): 0
- Explorer (Hunter): 1
Next you choose Boons and Flaws for your character. All characters start with 1 Boon. They may choose additional Boons if they either take a Flaw to offset each Boon chosen OR reduce their starting Hero Points (5) by 1 point per Boon chosen. Bragi’s starting Boons are:
- Giant Strength: +1 to his starting STR attribute and attribute cap (normally the cap is 5 but he can have up to a 6 STR)
- Detect Deception: He’s really good at knowing when he’s being lied to
Rather than reduce his starting Hero Points by 1, I chose to give Bragi the GM-created Flaw of Destitute.
Finally you choose you arms, armor, and equipment. Wealth is abstract in this game, so you’re pretty much free to choose equipment that matches your character concept. Armor absorbs damage rather than making you harder to hit, while shields make you slightly harder to hit. Heavier armor types and large shields reduce your agility score, while helms reduce your initiative ability by 1. Armor also makes spellcasting more difficult… and imposes penalties on social interaction checks in some circumstances.
Hero Points can be used to make minor changes to reality, avoid a wound or change a deadly wound into one that incapacitates your her, change a success into a critical success, shake off damage, re-roll dice, and so on. These replenish after every adventure. Most heroes have 5 Hero Points that can be used over the course of each adventure but, as noted above, buying additional Boons my reduce the character’s Hero Point pool.