The Rise and Fall of Norrin the Barbarian
by , 05-09-2012 at 11:40 PM (4081 Views)
And now for something completely uncontroversial.
On June 30, the Gamers' Syndicate will be hosting a Brief Tour of the History of D&D. This is an idea that sprung from the mind of Syndicate member, Brett Abbott -- be afraid; be very afraid. It's a four-part adventure, with each 2-hour session being played in a different edition of D&D. The game will use pre-generated characters, because it's a lot to expect of players to come to the game with four PCs each in a different edition of the game. As soon as the writing assignments were doled out, I let Brett know, as author of the AD&D part, that he absolutely had to include Norrin the Barbarian as a pre-generated character.
On Christmas of 1977, I received the D&D "blue box," or at least that's what I think I received. It's this one. I donít care what everyone else calls it because, frankly, I canít keep track of all the "sub-editions." As many of you know, that set included the adventure, B1: In Search of the Unknown. Norrin was one of the pre-generated characters for that adventure. His statistics were as follows:
The reason I bring this up is that Norrin was my first PC . . . sort of. When I played the game (either as a player or DM), the players almost always ran multiple characters, so I played three in my first game. Norrin was one of my first three, and the only one that found a place in my long-term memory. I never forgot him even though I picked up B1 for the first time in 25 years to write this blog post. Now that Iíve gone back through the adventure, Presto the Elf, Eggo of the Holy Brotherhood, and others ring a bell, but clearly Norrin mattered most.Originally Posted by Mike Carr
When I chose Norrin from the list, I did so because I thought that both his name and status (i.e., barbarian) sounded cool. At age 43, I still think it sounds cool. For some reason, I always latched onto this image as that of Norrin bending some bars, which is hardly unreasonable considering the image comes from page 13 of the adventure. (I'm pretty sure the halfling could easily just squeeze through but was too frightened to do so. I hate halflings) As an aside, I never heard of Conan the Barbarian until the 1982 movie came out, so it had nothing to do with that.
I don't remember the actual adventure encounter in which Norrin died, but I remember quite clearly how it happened. We were fighting a wizard, and the wizard had a web spell. My brother interpreted the web spell to be a save-or-die spell (i.e., he didnít read the spell description; he just saw this image and thought thatís what it did). I explained to him that I thought that was a bit rough. (To put some perspective on this, this isnít rough, as in, "AD&D is a high-fatality game." This is rough, as in, "In the Dark Sun Encounters season, it's mathematically impossible to avoid a TPK in week 3," or whatever week that was.) My brother was so happy to see me visibly upset that he said, "It's just a game."
My brother remains an asshole to this day.
So, I'm happy to know that Norrin the Barbarian lives on, and many of you will have the pleasure of playing him. I hope you fare better than I did.
On second thought, I want you all to have the authentic AD&D experience, so I hope he dies for you, too.