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Barbarian Adventures

Reviewed by Jamie 'Trotsky' Revell ©2002

Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion

Barbarian Adventures is the first in the 'Sartar Rising' series of adventure books for Hero Wars. As such, it is mainly intended to set the scene for future scenarios, and is more accurately described as a further supplement for Thunder Rebels and Storm Tribe than it is as a scenario book in its own right. It is produced in a saddle-bound A4 format rather than as the small paperbacks of previous Hero Wars supplements. This is a welcome change as it actually allows the book to be held flat while playing!

            The book begins by providing further information on the Kingdom of Sartar, whose culture was described in such depth in Thunder Rebels. This time we have a brief history of the kingdom and descriptions of each of the twenty-four barbarian tribes that comprise it. The choice of home tribe will certainly be important to player characters, but it is a little disappointing not to see it accompanied by a gazetteer of interesting and important locations within the kingdom.

            The chapter on 'player resources' emphasizes one of the more distinctive aspects of the Hero Wars game; the emphasis on characters as members of a society rather than lone and rootless adventurers. The generally cooperative nature of Sartarite society (at least within the tribes, if not between them) helps make the advantages of this particularly clear. Where do you go if you want a horse, or magical support? How can your family help you out, what sort of resources does your clan leadership have, and how do you get access to them?

            By contrast, the 'narrator resources' chapter is essentially a list of NPCs. Both typical NPC opponents, such as warriors from hostile clans, and more individual characters are described. Most useful here is probably the description of the various types of troops stationed in Sartar by the Lunar Empire. Since the recent conquest of the freedom-loving barbarians by the vast and hostile Empire will likely be a major feature of any Sartarite campaign, the descriptions of the stats and unique magics available to the occupying forces is very welcome.

            The next chapter describes some of the more interesting things typical player characters could get involved in without the need for a full-scale adventure scenario. The emphasis is on rebellion against the Empire, and on launching cattle raids against neighboring clans. Its difficult to see how much of this can be used as a long-term campaign, but it should certainly be effective as a basis for designing starting adventures that introduce new players to the setting and its possibilities.

            Aside from a teaser for the next book in the series, the remainder of Barbarian Adventures contains the adventures promised in the title. They aren't really scenarios, however, but rather an extended series of plot hooks, which require some work on the part of the GM to use. 'Year of Chaos' describes an escalating series of attacks by monsters on the players home clan, while 'Blood Feud' is, well, a blood feud between neighboring clans. Probably the best and most detailed however, is, 'These Women Need Help', in which the characters must provide security and assistance for a traveling band of magical healers.

            Issaries had originally intended for the entire 'Sartar Rising' series to be published under one cover, and this does show in places. If you're looking for detailed scenarios (which the title would imply), then you'll probably be disappointed presumably these have been shunted to later books. The gazetteer has probably been moved there, too, and it does make this book rather less useful on its own. If you don't play in the Glorantha game world you won't find anything much that you can steal for other settings, while if you game in Glorantha using a system other than Hero Wars, probably only about half the book will be of much use to you. But, as a Hero Wars supplement, this is a helpful collection of tools and scenario ideas that should brighten up your campaign. 

 

Editor's Note: Barbarian Adventures is published by Issaries, Inc. who can be reached at http://www.glorantha.com/

 

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