Excerpts Archive | 2/5/2013
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Unearthed Arcana: Barbarian
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"Thus, Good Reader," Gary Gygax wrote in the preface to Unearthed Arcana, "here is the 'last word'—by far not the last word ever, but the latest so far. It is, after all, high time that those who enjoy the challenge and excitement of the AD&D game be presented with a tome such as this, a package which gathers all of the new discoveries, plus a wealth of just uncovered secrets, between one pair of covers. Preliminaries aside, here is Unearthed Arcana. It is now the moment you have waited for. Read on, and may you have as much fun with your creation as we are having with ours."

Originally published in 1985, Unearthed Arcana brought a wealth of material to the game, for both players and Dungeon Masters alike. For players, the book contained new classes and races to play (including the drow!), further spells and equipment, and even an alternate ability score: Comeliness (reflecting physical attractiveness, social grace, and personal beauty, and was considered a different attribute from Charisma).

For Dungeon Masters, the book offered further explanations of everything from the new weapon and armor types (full and field plate!), weaponless combat, non-human deities, and a wide array of new magic items incorporated into usefully revised treasure tables.

Of all these elements, it's perhaps the book's three classes that are best remembered. The Dungeons & Dragons cartoon had just run (1983-1985) and introduced many young gamers to the cavalier, barbarian and acrobat (adventuring alongside the ranger, thief and "magician"). Now here was the chance to play these classes!


In today's preview, we look at the first page for one of these classes: the barbarian. A fitting preview, as attendees at Winter Fantasy have just been able to playtest the D&D Next version of this class!

An earlier version of the 1e barbarian appeared back in Dragon Magazine #63. As Gary Gygax prefaced in his From the Sorcerer's Scroll article, "The Big, Bad Barbarian":

"As usual, I am working on too many projects at once, and each gets a bit of attention but seems to never get done. At some point quite a few should suddenly be completed, and my productivity will seem great indeed. Meanwhile, I have dusted off the barbarian character class which the testers have enjoyed the most of the new classes I have proposed for the expansion of the AD&D rules. While the other classes seem to need more work, barbarians were instantly used and enjoyed by those eager for a change. Now you, Gentle Readers, have a chance to test the class for yourselves and see if you agree."

The barbarian that finally appeared in Unearthed Arcana had a fairly robust array of abilities, including such outdoor survival skills as hiding in natural surroundings, snare building, and outdoor tracking—but it may have been their aversion to magic and magic-users that stood out most amongst their identifying traits.

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