The term "Barbarian" is one with broad meaning. In the largest sense it simply means anyone not a resident of a city based upon the teachings of Prometheus. Naturally enough this definition is the one used by residents of cities based upon the teachings of Prometheus. The term barbarian more correctly refers to large groups of humans, riven or beasts with a distinctive culture living in total autonomy from the Cities.
There are numerous small communities of people living outside of the cities, but most of them are dependent in one way or another on the existence of the cities. Their culture also shares many similarities with the city dwellers. Thus the Raccoons of Raccoon Lake are not properly barbarians, since they trade with the city of Tallon and pay some degree of respect to the Standing Stones and all that they represent. The Kabekki Tribes do count as barbarians, though. They live far from any Stones or Cities. Their culture contains only passing recognition of the Standing Stones and their belief system is extremely different from that of the followers of Prometheus.
The word "society" in this header refers to
Merikian society. Barbarians can be seen as exotic,
dangerous, incomprehensible, violent, or a mixture of all of
these. The average Merikian knows very little about any given
tribe other than it's name and a few characteristics. In any
case, barbarians are always seen as "outsiders". In
Merikia, barbarians are commonly found as guards or
enforcers, since they have no established loyalties or
political alliances. They are also quite often employed as
mercenaries or guides, the former because survival in the
wilds breeds a tough and hardy fighter, the latter because
they are usually intimately familiar with a given
It should be noted here, that individual barbarian tribes rarely get along well with other barbarian tribes. The competition for resources and safe homeland that is bred by the wilds is practically inbred. Thus barbarians of one tribe will usually be deeply suspicious of and possibly violent towards members of other tribes.
Barbarians may be of any race:
humans, beast, mutants or even riven.
There are several tribes available for player characters. Others may be possible with GM permission. Each tribal listing below discusses the advisability of allowing a player character to be a member.
Each description lists skills commonly associated with the tribe. Any other requirements or benefits are also listed.
Unless the campaign is to be specifically identified with a particular tribe, a barbarian character should have a reason that they are no longer with their tribe. Common reasons could include banishment, hunting an enemy or being hunted by one, a quest to fulfil, a general desire for adventure or money, or just the excitement of combat as a mercenary.
These are skills possessed by most barbarian characters. Any other skills common to a particular tribe are noted in their description.
Stealth: Survival in the wilds often depends on the ability to move without attracting the attention of predators or enemies. Also barbarians are often hunters and the need to be silent while stalking prey is helpful.
Paramedic: Living in the wilds is tough and injuries are common. Most barbarians are trained in the treatment of wounds from a very early age. Most tribes have members who specialize in healing.
Shadowing: Another useful hunting skill.
Survival: Pretty much the defining skill of a barbarian, survival is common to all tribes. Barbarians have to be able to scrounge an existence from a hostile world. Knowledge of how to build shelters, find edible food and potable water is essential.
Tracking: Another useful hunting skill.
Weaponsmith: The ability to make weapons is often a passage into adulthood for barbarian tribes. The acceptable categories are muscle powered HTH and muscle powered ranged, of course. Though an individual tribe may be primitive, this does not mean their weapons are necessarily so. High quality steel is still out there to be found in the ruins of the ancients. No knowledge or techniques of refining or smelting are required.
Most barbarian tribes regard adulthood to begin sooner than most Merikians. It's a savage earth, and people need to take responsibility for themselves at a younger age. People as young as 13 might be considered an adult in some tribes. Also, barbarians enjoy a shorter lifespan than city dwellers on the average. This is not due to any physical differences, merely a reflection of the dangers of living in the wilds. A middle-aged or older barbarian is frequently a person to be reckoned with. If they survive that long, they must be good at it.
Some tribes value a berserker fury; most do not. Blind rage during a fight can quite quickly get you killed in the wilds.
Barbarian characters should take at least 5 pt.s worth of Distinctive features, unless the campaign is going to be primarily set within a particular tribe. Barbarians tend to maintain their mode of dress and adornment, even if they have lived within Merrikian lands for years, besides preserving cultural identity, it is good advertisement for the barbarian who is looking for work based on their barbarian identity. People looking to hire a barbarian mercenary or tracker will want to see somebody who look slike a barbarian.
These are good adventure hooks for the barbarian character
who needs a reason to be far from their homeland. Perhaps
they have angered a tribal shaman and have been banished.
Even worse, there may be a price or a death pronouncement on
their heads. Maybe their tribe was destroyed by a rival tribe
and all the survivors are killed on sight by their hated
enemies. Perhaps they have a mortal enemy who is tracking
them across the Savage Earth. It could also be that they
betrayed someone, murdered someone or stole something and are
Any of these situations could be turned around to place the PC in the hunter position as well. They could be pursuing a criminal, seeking to collect a bounty or settle an old score.
Contempt for the easy life of city dwellers is common. Those who live in cities are often seen as weak or soft. Likewise a distaste for the close and cramped nature of city life is pretty widespread. Some could be bloodthisrty, violent or vengeful, but these are better NPC disadvantages.
The most common Psychological Limitation is Unfamiliar with Merrikian culture. At the 10 point level (frequent, slightly), this means the barbarian is aware of the Merrikian beliefs, just not particularly conversant with them. At 15 points (frequent, great), the barbarian knows very little of the people of the cities and frequently has incorrect information or is riddled with superstitions and mistaken beliefs. A 20 point level would be someone who is totally ignorant of the history of the world and the significance of the Standing Stones. Such a tribe would have to be incredibly isolated.
These are treated as psychological limitations instead of Psychological Limitations because the represent a fundamental inability to understand, an ignorance that cannot be overcome by a mere act of will. It can be bought off as the character learns more of the world.
Given the dangers of living in the Wilds, and the advantages of living in Cities, one might wonder how barbarian tribes manage to survive and flourish. After all, they lack the ability to spirit-guard their walls against reavers, and have limited weapon-making ability to protect against the larger and more dealy chimeras.
Barbarians have developed a number of survival techniques. Firstly, it is an accepted barbarian beliefe that Reavers come to some places less often than others. This may or may not be true, but this will often influence where they decide to make their camps. The sighted among the tribes are often given the duties of repelling those reavers that do appear. Also, barbarian tribes usually have a higher acceptance of Riven than the cities. This is not universal from tribe to tribe, but it is a general tendency. This acceptance is dictated by their reduced ability repel and avoid reavers. If they exiled or killed every riven they would soon be so small in population as to be unable to defend themselves.
Defense from more mundane threats (chimeras, other barbarians) is also practical. Barbarians learn to fight at an early age. Every member of the population is expected to be able to aid in the defense of the tribe. A common misconception is that barbarians live in rude huts or caves. This is not true. Some barbarians have extensive fortifications or protected settlements. The Montral of the Kabekki tribes live in the pile of ruins that was once Montreal. Much of it has been converted to defensible living space. Some of the Hill Tribes of Merikia have learned to adapt native trees into quite servicable forts.
Food gathering is of course a problem. Realistically, a hunter/gatherer population should not be able to support themselves in very large numbers. The accepted explanation is a superior knowledge of which plants and animals in the rain forest of Merikia are edible. Nunavut is bountiful to those who know its ways. In the case of the Kabekki, they have extensive agriculture. The Sea Tribes have large fishing fleets, and so on.
The above map shows the ranges of the various larger barbarian tribes. The size of the tribe's territory has nothing to do with the size of the tribe. The red areas indicate where tribes may be found, not lands that they control. Most tribes are nomadic to some degree. Beast tribes are shown with vertical lines, human tribes with horizontal lines. Click on a territory to jump to the corresponding tribe.
The description of each tribe contains a number of characteristics which are defined here.
Size of Tribe: Small, Medium, Large, or Huge. Small indicates little more than a kinship or clan, probably less than five hundred members, Medium indicates a group large enough to have a full and independent culture, about 500-10,000 members. Large is typically a barbarian nation, over 10,000 members. Huge indicates an innumerable horde. Larger tribes are usually split into smaller sub-tribes since the logistics of ruling a truly large horde are near insurmountable given the setting of the Savage Earth. Subdivisions are noted and also ranked by size.Thus a large tribe might be comprised of two large and five medium sub-tribes, as is the case with the Kabekki.
Skills: Lists skill likely to be possessed by characters from this tribe.
Description: Is an account of the beliefs, culture, history, geographical range and society of a given tribe. Significant sub-tribes are noted here as well. This section also lists major NPCs of a given tribe.
Size of Tribe: Huge , containing two Large, three Medium, numerous Small
Description: The Kabekki are the largest independent human barbarian tribe. They range from the lands of Ontar, which they contest with the Rat-tribes in the south, up to the Lantic Ocean in the north, parts of Ungava in the West to the Great Kraken Lakes in the East.
Nyra is a Huron Kabekki. Her chief is Dave of Abitibi, whose wife is Hana.
Size of Tribe: Medium, comprised of numerous small tribal groups and kinships.
Description: The Hill Clans are the closest and least exotic of the known barbarian tribes. They are found on the Boothian peninsula and associated areas west of Tallon. This area is heavily jungled and very hilly. Deep ancient glacial valleys, lakes and rivers bedecked with thick foliage are characteristic of their lands. Though the Hill Clans have a common culture and appearance, they are split into countless small tribes. These tribes are not particularly cooperative. Players are free to create the name and history of their sub-tribe. The average clan is made up of anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred members.
Hando the Slayer was a Clan Barbarian, as was Rath, before his reaving.
Size of Tribe: Huge, comprised of numerous large hordes
Description: The Rat Hordes fill much of the area between Merikia and the lands of the Kabeki, the region known as Ontar. Ontar is a high and hilly land with alternating forest and grassland. It is far dryer than Merikia.
Black Fang, Old Norway, and Redeye are Rats.
Size of Tribe: Huge, comprised of innumerable and variable small and tiny tribes
Description: The Gators of Nunavut are the scourge of the jungle. They are savage, brutal, ravenous stomachs with teeth. They rarely plan beyond their next meal. They prey upon merchant caravans and lie on the outskirts of farmlands hoping for slow or stupid villagers to wander too far away from help. Gators are so vicious, they will actually eat their own kind when in a rage, or just more hungry than usual. They are even known to eat their own kin. Gators believe that they gain the strengths of what they eat. They have a great appetite for humans, whom they recognize as the most powerful species. Adepts are caviar.
Garlok, Aglar and Ganstar are local gators of note.
Size of Tribe: Unknown
Description: The Mundabans are very mysterious. They are short, no more than three feet tall, and generally deformed, though in a caricaturish manner more than any riven fashion. They are lightly built and wear large masks in battle. They like to fight from ambush. If they speak Anglish, they do not do so with outsiders. The favored weapon appears to be the poisoned blowgun. They are wild looking and wear leaves and plants for clothing.
Size of Tribe: Huge, though unaffiliated
Description: The Sea Tribes collectively refers to all of he barbarian tribes of the Middle Sea which have a primarily maritime culture. Beyond they have no political or cultural ties to one another. There are innumerable tribes hailing from as far south as Last Gate, throughout the Shattered Isles and up to Yzlon. Some Sea Tribes are fierce raiders, others are simple fisher folk. The most well known are:
Yzlon: These make the island of Yzlon their home. They maintain a deep identification with a Viking tradition that extends back beyond the time of the Demon Kings. They speak a tongue that is only distantly related to Anglish. They are the largest seafaring power that is not based on the teachings of Prometheus.
Raiders of the Red Tide: Striking from a fastness on Devil's Island, these are pirates, plain and simple. Where the Yzlonders raid for wealth and food, the Red Tide Raiders attack anything that affronts them for the sheer glory and pleasure of killing. They have a terrible reputation, though they are far less widespread or numerous than the Yzlonders. They are identifiable by terrible facial markings, inflicted at puberty and after their first battle.
Kalador: The Kaladorians are renowned storytellers and fighters. They have an odd manner of speaking of themselves in the third person.
Kislan: A relatively peaceful tribe that subsist from fishing and trading. They can be hard fighters when pressed.
Haiku is an Yzlonder, Celeste is an ex-Red Tide Raider, and Kamlak is of Kalador
Size of Tribe: Small, a few hundred individuals, though they reputedly have many slaves
Description: The Black Reavers are a band of riven that prey upon the caravns traversing the Uzon Road between Tallon and Karkul. They have been growing steadily over the last few years. They strike quickly and effectively. Despite their horrific diversity, they are loyal and well-disciplined fighters.
They are rumored to take captives as often as they slay. What is done with these hapless individuals is unknown.Perhaps they are devoured, perhaps they are made into more riven, perhaps they are sold into wretched servitutde or toil their lives away for their captives. None who are taken by the Black Reavers ever return, but there are rumors of some horrible fate called the Temple of the Skull.
Known or named members include Harraka the Spoiler, Aster (pictured above—deceased), Qarl the Waxen, Rango Longlegs, and Viper.
Size of Tribe: Large. Smaller sub-tribes pay at least some respect to a central great chief.
Description: The Wolf Packs of Ungava are very similar in culture to American Indians before the coming of Europeans. Their level of technology is fairly low, and they seem to like it that way. They are a stone age culture. They place great emphasis on bravery and personal achievement. When encountering a new people, it is traditional to strike a non-lethal blow aqnd retreat. If the target shows no fear and does not flinch, they have proven brave. By not using lethal force, the attacker shows his ultimately peaceful intention. This custom is well understood in Ungava and by the neighboring Kabekki, but it has gotten them into much trouble with other people.
Char Windrunner is an Ungavan.
Size of Tribe: Medium. No sub-tribes.
Description: It is unknown if the Caskill are mutants, or short humans with dyed skin. They have domesticated a huge variety of hunting spider, about the weight of a large horse. These "Arachs" are fearsome battle beasts, quick and tireless. The skin of the Caskill warrior is patterned by nature or design to match the colorful markings on their spider mounts. The Caskill occasionally raid upon the indigenous people of the Hudson Valley and lands north of Erie. The usual objective of these raids is to take captives. What they do with their prisoners is unknown, since none ever return.