Concerning the Barbarian:  a player in my game was using the Fighter playbook for a very barbarian-ish character,…

Concerning the Barbarian:  a player in my game was using the Fighter playbook for a very barbarian-ish character,…

Concerning the Barbarian:  a player in my game was using the Fighter playbook for a very barbarian-ish character, and last session we switched over to make him a proper Barbarian.  The player had a few concerns that we decided to play as written for now, but I’d be curious to hear the design rationale:

1. The Barbarian has two less hit points than the Fighter.  My player was disappointed, thinking the Barbarian is supposed to be especially hale and hearty.

2.  The Barbarian’s Load is 4 less than the Fighter and Paladin and 3 less than the Ranger.  I’m not sure how these are figured, but it seems like an unexpectedly large difference, especially since the Barbarian has the option of wearing heavy armour.

3.  “I hadn’t realized that everyone hadn’t leveled up the same time as I had, which brought me to an interesting conundrum with the Barbarian Class as written.  I believe I earned 7XP in one session, far more than anyone else, and I’m right in line to hit 3rd level next session.  Some of them were from stuff that everyone gets, like the session bonus, the notable enemy, boons, etc.  But I had at least two extra avenues for earning XP above anyone else: the Outsider-history-of-my-homeland thing, and the first Advanced Move I chose (What Is Best In Life, if I recall).  I’ve GM’ed enough to recognize an unbalanced, and potentially game-breaking character when I see one.  I love powergaming as much as the next guy, but I’m playing Dungeon World for the story, not for min-maxing.  I’m getting a real kick out of playing Armok, and I like where his story is going, and especially as regards interparty conversations.  But I really don’t want him to completely derail the game, either by simply being overpowering in combat or eating through levels like tic-tacs.”

I suspect the advancement is not quite as game-breaking as he’s afraid, since characters don’t gain as much power on advancement in DW as in D&D, but almost a whole level in one 3-hour session feels like a lot. 

The fact that we play relatively short sessions (2-3 hr) might be part of it, as it changes the balance between how many xp you expect to get from the dice vs the end-of-session move.

17 thoughts on “Concerning the Barbarian:  a player in my game was using the Fighter playbook for a very barbarian-ish character,…”

  1. 1. Barbarian gets the upper hand with Death, isn’t that cooler than 2 hit points?

    2. Well, why do need to carry all this crap anyway? You can get it any time you want, you’re a Barbarian.

    3. How come gaining levels is not a story for you? And level difference s not breaking anything at all. In my last campaign new players and players who switched thier characters started from level 1. So we had a group of 6-lvl characters along with 1-lvl one and everything was fine.

  2. Two hit points less than the fighter is still pretty damn hale and hearty. Also, like Vasiliy said, they’ve got some extra cool ways to keep themselves on their feet.

    As for the XP thing, those extra ways of gaining XP put the Barbarian two moves behind everyone else, basically. Moves are what you want to spend your XP for, so I think it sort of evens out.

    Also, the Barbarian’s d8 makes them fail rolls less on average, and failing rolls is the REAL big source of XP in the game.

  3. Hm.  I think I’m not on the same page as most of the group here, in that I’m not a fan of the Last Breath move.  Or rather, it’s cool, but I don’t think it should be common.  Making a deal with Death seems to me the kind of thing that should happen maybe once in a campaign, or else it’s cheapened.  So no, I don’t think of that as interchangeable with hit points at all.  That might just be me, though.

    Also, Dylan Boates, I have the impression that failing rolls is supposed to be the big source of xp, but it has not to date been working out that way.  I don’t know if that’s because our sessions are shorter than expected, or because I’m not calling for as many rolls as expected, or my players are forgetting to take the fail xp, or if they’re just rolling well.  At any rate, the Barbarian’s dice bonus does not seem to be taking away as many xp as he’s gaining from Outsider and What is Best in Life. 

    That said, it’s a good point that he had to spend an advance getting that What is Best in Life move.  So it’ll take eight sessions before it gains him back the xp he just spent (though he did also get the +1 Con).

  4. Keep in mind that the MAXIMUM XP he can gain in a session from Outsider and What is Best in Life is two. Assuming the Barbarian doesn’t crush their enemies EVERY session, (not ever won fight is “crushing your enemies” either) it’s probably about 1.5 XP per session.

    Do you really think that the Barbarian’s d8 doesn’t help them succeed once or twice a game?

  5. +1 on Last Breath is also 1 point closer to a 10+, which means not even dying in the first place. Considering no one adds anything to Last Breath, even if you think making deals with Death is too cool to do often, you’re still more likely to just never die, period.

  6. The “Berserker” barbarian is an option, but it’s definitely not the ONLY option.

    The Barbarian is a passionate warrior from a foreign culture. Armour optional.

  7. I think in a lot of ways you’re also looking at the barbarian from a combat balance perspective, which isn’t how DW balances classes. Does the barbarian get about the same amount of spotlight time as everyone else? Does he have a niche wherein he excels? Those questions are more pertinent to the conversation of whether or not the barbarian is broken.

  8. Dungeon World isn’t really focused on class balance, but unlike a lot of people I come from a heavy dnd background instead of finding DW through apocalypse world. I wasn’t particularly happy with the barbarian myself, so I rewrote the playbook for my players. Mostly to bring it more in line with the fighter and paladin, HP, damage, and XP gainwise. Maybe it would be of use to you?

  9. That doesn’t actually look more balanced to me. The Barbarian trades some of the Fighter’s combat ability for versatility  It looks like you’ve kept the versatility and buffed the combat ability to match. That would make the Barbarian BETTER than the Fighter at fighting, which is clearly supposed to be the Fighter’s area of expertise.

  10. The Barbarian isn’t that much more versatile than the fighter beyond the d6+d8 which comes with it’s own ups and downs, but I will admit that playbook is probably a bit stronger than the default fighter, as I am also using gnome7’s fighter playbook.

  11. I believe the d6+d8 roughly ends up being a +1 to pretty much any roll the Barbarian wants, as long as they pursue their hungers. That’s HUGELY versatile.

    It comes with complications, but those aren’t much of a drawback. They make your actions chaotic and awesome, they don’t keep you from succeeding. I really don’t think Barbarian players are thinking “Oh, I shouldn’t do that because I could cause a big mess!” very often. Causing a big mess is WHY you play a Barbarian!

  12. Not every complication is going to be so benign, and when there’s a 30% chance of it happening every roll, it doesn’t seem to be such a massive addition in my mind. Obviously that’s what you sign up for when you play a barbarian, but it’s not a constant good thing. A barbarian might not be able to act in a delicate situation simply because of his hungers and that troubled me, so I figured I’d give him combat as an option too.

    Oh, and further food for thought. The barbarian himself only has a 14% higher chance of beating a fighter to a 10+ roll in exchange for that 30% chance of things going nuts.

  13. The HP is probably a mistake. We should bump it up by 4 or so I think, but Adam and I will have to talk on it.

    Load is deliberately low. Even armored, the Barbarian travels light. 

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