CONAN: ACROSS THE THUNDER RIVER
THE BARBARIC WARRIOR
Friedrich Nietzsche proudly declared himself a Hyperborean in 1888.
He then proceeded to address entities as yet unborn through his
writings: kindred spirits with inclinations born of strength, spirits
with the courage to delve into forbidden mysteries, spirits undaunted
by the labyrinth.
Nietzsche also extolled the nobility
of barbarians, saw the greatness of soul in savages whose tutelary
spirits were ferocious beasts of prey. The barbarian was simultaneously
a mere human, an incarnate deity and a wild animal. The barbarian
was forever drawn to the challenges of the labyrinth. The barbarian
could be trusted to master the maze, defeat the guardian and claim
We are the Hyperboreans. We are the Barbarians.
We are the Changelings. We are the Wanderers. We are the Skin Walkers.
We are the Demigods of old. Our story has been recounted in innumerable
ways throughout the ages and at times it seems, even to us, that
we serve, in all our actions and deeds, as mere vehicles for propagating
a handful of timeless tales.
We are the wandering Danites, and the
Heraklidae returning triumphantly from exile. We are the longhaired
Merovingians, barbarian usurpers, sorcerers and divine monarchs
all at once, our sovereignty assured by virtue of the unique and
intangible qualities of our mysterious royal heritage.
And yes, we protect a powerful secret,
one that can transform the world.
Would you know more?
Rant by Thor the Barbarian
Boadiccea of the Iceni ranks closely
with King Arthur as one of Britain’s greatest heroes. What
is known of her story, unfortunately, comes mostly from Roman sources
– the enemy. It is said that the victors write the history
books and this is certainly true in Boadiccea’s case. Still,
her tale of bloodthirsty slaughter was grounded in Roman provocation.
Her husband, Prasutagus, paid the Romans tribute and kept some control
of Iceni lands while he lived. Celtic women who were outspoken and
fought alongside their husbands in battle freaked out the Romans.
In his will, Prasutagus left half of his estate and monies to the
Emperor Nero and the other half to Boudiccea and their two daughters.
The king thought this would be reasonable enough and still provide
well for his family. Boudiccea fully expected to be treated with
the same respect Prasutagus enjoyed and remain Queen of the Iceni.
The Romans, however, seized all of Prasutagus’ lands and monies.
In a viciously spiteful move, the Romans declared Boudiccea responsible
for all the debts in her regency. Because she could not pay the
debts, they seized the Queen, stripped her, and publicly flogged
her. Roman soldiers raped her two daughters. This humiliation inflamed
the Iceni. As Queen, Boudiccea and her daughters were probably the
High Priestesses of their people, so these actions were also sacrilegious.
Roman greed and utter contempt they displayed for the Celtic tribes
began the great rebellion of 61 CE.
The Celtic tribes usually considered
themselves separate entities, but Boudiccea’s situation raised
a great army of angry Britons. The Queen – described as an
imposing woman with an authoritative voice and long red hair –
amassed an army estimated to be over 100,000. The Iceni and their
allies marched first to Camulodunum (Colchester). They burnt it
to the ground and slaughtered the Roman inhabitants. The next target
would be Londinium (London).
Londinium was a growing city of business
and trade. About 30,000 settlers – not all of them Roman –
lived there in Boudiccea’s time. Suetonius, the Roman sent
to fight Boudiccea, beat her to the city and took a long hard look
at the city’s defenses. It had nothing to repel an army, so
the Roman general abandoned Londinium to its fate!
Boudiccea and her army burned Londinium in a conflagration so intense;
it left a layer of red soil forever beneath London. Again, anyone
who hadn’t fled was slaughtered. The Romans tell of great
atrocities enacted on the losing side by the Celts. Her army was
now ready to attack Verulamium (St. Albans). Again, Suetonius waited.
Again, the city was scorched and its inhabitants slaughtered.
The Britons were undisciplined, running on rage. Suetonius picked
his fight well and chose a position where his small army could defeat
the huge force Boudiccea led. The Celts showed up to the battle
with their families in wagons! The Romans took advantage of the
poorly protected women and children and cut deeply into the British
ranks. Some 80,000 Britons died in that battle but there were much
fewer Roman casualties. Suetonius’ tactics destroyed the Iceni
Boudiccea did not die in the battle. Some reports say she took poison
(maybe even a year afterward!) to escape capture by the Romans.
Other reports say she died of an illness. Boudiccea and her daughters
disappear into history and legend at this point. The Iceni were
not so lucky.
In revenge, the Romans executed Iceni or made them slaves. Iceni
lands were taken over by the military, families losing their hereditary
homelands. The Romans even built a drainage system to pull all the
water out of the soil and destroy farms! The great Iceni rebellion
Boudiccea has become a symbol for British
independence and their fighting spirit. Although her rebellion was
short lived, it left an indelible mark in the way the Romans viewed
their British subjects and visa versa. In the back of every Briton’s
mind was the memory of how they once fought back and nearly drove
the Romans out. Also, the failure of the Romans to capture Boudiccea
either dead or alive was taken as a disgrace. Even if she didn’t
poison herself (the reporters were Roman) she never again led another
battle against Rome. One source says that she took ill after the
battle and died from her wounds. Her final resting place is unknown.
I honestly can’t say that Boudiccea was a great tactician.
Her army, at best, was an angry mob with no discipline. The Celts
were warriors, not soldiers, and charged headlong into battle. That
she managed to unite the various tribes together to form such a
large army was amazing. Although commanding them must have been
like herding cats!
Modern women identify with Boudiccea on many levels, but mostly
her rage. Boudiccea is just as capable as her late husband, but
is disrespected and embarrassed publicly. She has to endure not
only her own pain, but the pain of seeing her daughters raped in
front of her. Her retaliation against the Romans is bloody, but
carries with it anger shared by all her countrymen. Roman rule was
harsh and unjust. The Romans not only raped her daughters, they
were raping Britain. The extreme prejudice Boudiccea visits on the
Roman cities is no less than any Mother protecting her children
is capable of. The Celtic tribes following Boudiccea have no problem
with her being a woman. This is unheard of in the Greco-Roman/Judeo-Christian
culture we modern folk have inherited.
Boudiccea’s name means “Victory.” Although her
efforts fell short of total victory, she remains a symbol of indomitable
Heroic History by Muninn
THE THUNDER RIVER
Mongoose Publishing: Conan
A barbarian thrives on the frontier,
and is a native of the untamed places that civilizations seek to
subjegate. Conan of Cimmeria, after a lifetime of wandering, found
his destiny near to home fighting the Picts, ancestral enemies of
his people since the days of Atlantis.
Mongoose Publishing has done an excellent
job of bringing the Pictish Wilderness to life in this recent expansion
to the legendary Conan RPG. The Picts are presented as a great peril,
which indeed they are. It is the Picts who will one trample the
proud kingdoms of the Hyborian Age beneath their bare feet after
all is said and done.
The provinces of the Westermarch, a tenuous
buffer between the howling Pictish Wilderness and Aquilonia's Bossonian
Marches, are vividly detailed with georgraphical, military and political
lore supported by colrful maps and NPCs that bring each region to
life. Adventure hooks abound, and you are provided with a wealth
of information on adventuring on Aquilonia's frontier. Aside from
the Picts, there are fearsome beasts (some of them supernatural)
and dread diseases to contend with.
Not the Borderer type? Prefer the savage
lifestyles of the fierce and barbaric? Fear not: nearly half of
this tome is a detailed gazeteer of the Pictish Wilderness and contains
everything you need to create a fierce Pictish Barbarian in all
The Picts are totemic and shamanistic.
They are aboriginal people with the souls of beasts who live in
a mythical dream-time, a perfect setting for perpetual barbaric
adventure. Though everything needed to play a Pict is in this tome,
Mongoose's Quintessential Barbarian I & II
contain lots of additional information and game mechanics that can
further enhance the experience.
There is a chapter on the mysterious
Ligurans, a white race led by Druids, and sections detailing the
Secrets of the Painted Men, Savage Magic and even a Bestiary of
native creatures. Prestige Classes, such as the Hunt Master and
Drummer in the Dark are outlined for those who wish to make the
Pictish Wilderness their home.
This tome closes with an exciting campaign,
Defending the West: The Fall of the Westermarch. Though crafted
for beginning characters, it can be easily scaled to fit the needs
and capabilities of your players. Tips for GMing and a Hyborian
timeline are also provided.
Conan had some of his most savage and
memorable adventures in this setting, and now so can you. The imminent
release of the Aquilonia boxed set for the Conan
RPG, as well as the upcoming Barbarians and Borderers will
allow for unlimited adventuring in the northwestern portion of the
Thurian continent during the Age of Conan.
As with all other Conan RPG products,
this tome is of value even to non-gamers as a Hyborian resource
and reference work. I am honored to add this treasured tome to the
sacred scrolls of my Conan library.
Review by Thor the Barbarian
Misfit Studios: OGL Barbarian
Having whet our appetite for OGL Barbarian
products with his tantalizing Prestige Classes, Steven Trustrum
now serves us a tasty appetizer and strong drink in his most recent
release, The Barbaric Warrior.
Whether you're adventuring in Mongoose
Publishing's Conan RPG, Wizard of the Coast's Dungeons and Dragons:
Frostburn or any other campaign world where fierce barbarian swordsmen
and their fiendish adversaries clash in combat, The Barbaric
Warrior contains exactly what you need to turbocharge your
barbarically based campaign.
A Skill addendum and senenteen new Feats
expand your Fighting Arts. There are new Weapons and Armor to acquire,
and eleven brutally innovative Combat Manuevers to master. You can
also protect yourself with Piecemeal Armor, allowing for the stylistic
customization found in your favorite sword & sorcery comic books
Several new Prestige Classes grace this
work (as befits a Misfit Studios release): Divine Falconer, Honor
Duelist, Horse Lord, Kindred Archer, Mauler, Warrior of Dreams and
Pit Fighter. A detailed NPC exemplifies each of these Prestige Classes.
As an added bonus, there is additional
information on handling Black Lotus Addiction and running tournament
Pit Fights in your campaign.
I've quaffed my heady brew and savored
this offering, so now I find myself hungering for the meal ahead.
The Barbaric Warrior marks a significant step forward
for Misfit Studios and proudly joins such treasures as Quintessential
Barbarian I & II (Mongoose Publishing) and Masters of the Wild
(Wizards of the Coast) as MUST HAVES for any serious D&D/OGL/d20
gamer with a barbaric bent.
The version now available on http://www.lulu.com/misfitstudios
includes the earlier OGL Barbarian Prestige Classes (released individually
and reviewed last issue) and boasts several other exciting extras.
I salute you Steven Trustrum!
Review by Thor the Barbarian
Note: Join us next month when we
interview Shawn Richter, whose barbaric art graces the pages of
many OGL Barbarian products.
Inner Traditions: Destiny
Books Trade Paperback
The runes of the Elder Futhark are more
than the letters of a lost alphabet. They are living symbols that
can be used for divination, self-transformation and magick.
Although timeless in their meanings,
the runes have their roots in the rich mythical landscape of the
Norse. The tales told of the nine worlds and their denizens bind
the runes together into a cohesive framework that promulgates an
ancient germanic worldview. They also serve as keys to understanding
the deep insights and unleashing the transformative powers offered
by the staves.
Nordic Runes by Paul
Rhys Mountfort serves as an excellent guide for those wishing to
understand and utilize the runes. Mountford is a writer, researches
and teacher of Celto-Norse esoterica residing in New Zealand. His
tome is comprehensive and rests firmly on a solid foundation of
scholarship. It is also user friendly and fun to read.
The book begins with the basic Rune Lore
you will need to benefit from this magickal journey into the Northern
The core of the book deals with the Runestaves
themselves. Each rune is accompanied by historical Rune Poems, relevant
myths and legends, a detailed explanation of meaning and a visualization
that facilitates absorbing the information presented in the text.
Though I claim prior familiarity with the Elder Futhark, I found
the visualizations a valuable mnemonic device and the mythic lore
a powerful tool in using the runes.
Although many authors pay lip service
to the runic 'Aetts' but don't bother to explain them, Mountfort
places the runes firmly in their proper family of 'eights'. Frey,
Hagal and Tyr retain their sovreignty over their etched glyphs as
The third portion of Nordic Runes
provides you with everything you need to succeed at Runecasting,
including an explanation of the Nine-Worlds spread. As with all
else, you must practice your new craft to gain proficiency. Nordic
Runes is easy to reference while you are learning and,
as noted, facilitates the process of internalizing the lore.
There is also some basic information
on the Runic Revival, including the runic worldview in Tolkein's
Middle Earth and the Nazis' preoccupation with runes, to whet your
appetite for further exploration. Should Paul Rhys Mountfort decide
to guide us on the next leg of this journey in a future tome, I
for one will gladly take the tour.
Review by Thor the Barbarian
(c) 2005 The Barbarians