#39 On Barbarian Culture

By Shamus Posted Friday Jul 12, 2019

Filed under: DM of the Rings 32 comments

In fact, birthday parties originated in barbarian culture. The lighting of candles and the spankings all harken back to the original barbarian traditions of setting stuff on fire and hitting things. A “birthday present” was originally whatever you took from the village you were invading.

Yeah, I made all that up. You can’t expect a barbarian to be bothered to learn history.

Shamus Says:

As I mentioned at the start of the series, nobody had a copy of the entire comic. I used the Wayback Machine to recover the original text and comic titles. We’ve been re-creating the comic based on Shawn’s saved copies of the images and the archives cached version of the text. But the Wayback doesn’t have anything stored beyond #39. From here on we won’t have the “Original Text” section, and I’ll be making up new titles.

The most tragic loss (for me) is the ending. I wrote up my planned ending for the Deuse Baaj campaign and posted it to the site so that readers could have a sense of closure. It was fresh in my mind in 2007, but it’s pretty sketchy now. I’ve asked around, and as far as I can tell it’s gone forever: That data no longer exists in this world.

At the end I’ll re-create as much of it as I can remember, but I doubt it will be as full or as detailed as the original story I’d written.

Ah well. Lesson learned.

Shawn Says:

Edit to add: We’ve found it, thanks to some intrepid readers!


From The Archives:

32 thoughts on “#39 On Barbarian Culture

  1. Scampi says:

    Edit to add: We’ve found it, thanks to some intrepid readers!

    At this point, I think it’s time to appreciate your readers’ dedication to saving or finding your content years after the fact when you had lost it for years. I think this happened several times over the years, and I would like to thank everyone who managed to prevent Shamus’ content from disappearing for one reason or another.
    I’m sure it wasn’t lost again (was it?), but it would have been lost a long time ago if not for some readers.

  2. Karma The Alligator says:

    “No, no, you took an oath to fight them, we can run.” is how that should go.

    Also hurrah for nothing being lost on the internet!

    1. Scampi says:

      This must be the first time I see this kind of thinking when adressing a barbarian instead of a paladin.

      1. Karma The Alligator says:

        I’d say the biggest difference is what they’ll take oaths about, really.

        1. Scampi says:

          How about a buddy warrior comedy about a paladin and a barbarian on a common quest because they made different oaths to the same person?
          One swears an idealistic oath of trying to fulfil a dying man’s last task in his name with the intent of preventing further harm coming to other people while the other swears bloody revenge on the same man’s murderers. Hilarity ensues?

          1. Karma The Alligator says:

            Wouldn’t work in this case, where the murderer is the obvious bad guy, the paladin would have no problems with the revenge. Wouldn’t work if it was the work of monsters, or regular criminals, either.

            Only way I could see it working (and then, only for a bit) is if the suspect was falsely accused, so we’d get the barbarian who wants to get revenge, while the paladin objects to it, all the while they’re looking for the real culprit.

            1. Sartharina says:

              Nah. It would work, because the suspect has some sort of social protections.

              1. Felblood says:

                “We cant just go in there and stab him! We’ve got to have a trial and evidence and everything!”

                “You city folk and your crazy traditions. Back home I’d have just challenged him to a duel, and been bedding his, slash my new wife, in my new estate by now.”

            2. BlueHorus says:

              Well, there’s also how they try to go about their plans – the Paladin asks a question, the person he’s asking makes an evasive comment, and the Barbarian kills them for being bad. Cue a ‘But he was being evasive!’ argument.
              Paladin: ‘You cant just murder everyone who lies to you!’
              Barbarian: ‘But he lied to me! Doesn’t that make him evil?’
              Paladin: ‘No! Everyone who lies isn’t evil!’
              Barbarian: ‘Wait, whaaaat?’
              *Both characters look at the camera as a ‘wah-wahh’ trumpet noise plays in the background*

              ..It could work…

  3. Mr. Wolf says:

    Huh? Spankings? For your birthday? I am so confused.

    Is this some bizarro universe where children hate their birthdays but the old really, really enjoy them?

    1. Nixorbo says:

      I was about to google “birthday spankings” to give you some cultural context, but they I remembered I’m on a work computer.

      Suffice it to say, yes, they are a thing in American culture.

      1. Kathryn says:

        YMMV with region… I have heard of birthday spankings, but I have never actually heard of anyone actually doing that, such that I had long concluded it was an urban legend.

        1. Abnaxis says:

          I remember it happening with my grandparents. I got one smack per year.

          It’s been a REALLY long time so my memory is pretty fuzzy on the details.

          1. eaglewingz says:

            And one to grow on!

            1. Abnaxis says:

              Oh my gosh yes! Holy shit just reading that took me back!

            2. Philadelphus says:

              My dad would always joke about that with us kids (though for clarity, he never actually followed through with it).

    2. Scampi says:

      The other question: Why does he swear revenge for damages smaller than those suffered by people partying hard? Does a barbarian birthday party result in wild revenge seeking raiding parties? Or are raiding parties actually the “surprise birthday parties” he is speaking of?

      1. Decius says:

        Yes, barbarians swear revenge for birthday parties. It’s part of how the entire birthday party tradition escalated to that level.

      2. Agammamon says:

        Pretty much. And then the damage caused by the revenge is cause for swearing onto another campaign of rampage . . .

        Barbarians know what they like.

      3. Felblood says:

        Older Than Print:

        Cain specifically uses this as the reason that he shouldn’t be executed for Abel’s murder.

    3. BlueHorus says:

      I can imagine birthay spankings being a thing for adults*….but yeah, I’m a bit mystified at the idea of them being part of a kid’s birthday party.

      *specifically kinky, consenting adults

      1. Felblood says:

        And a pinch to grow an inch, and a sock to grow a block.

        It’s almost like ritual hazing was the point of birthday parties.

        Though I did notice that kids who don’t make a big deal out of their birthday often get their birthday spankings “forgotten,” only to have them suddenly remembered, the moment they start milking their birthday privilege, to get extra favors.

    4. Matthew Downie says:

      See, that sounds like a clever idea to me. Instead of being nice to children a couple of days a year and making the rest of the year seem dull by comparison, we should punish them arbitrarily on their birthday. That way, the other 364 days of the year will feel relatively better. “I’m not having a good day, but at least it’s not my birthday.”

    5. unit3000-21 says:

      In Poland, spanking the birhtday celebrant (preferably with a belt) is one of the traditions associated with celebrating someone’s 18th birthday (the most important tradition being of course drinking copious amounts of vodka).

    6. Joe says:

      In my small corner of the world, birthday punches were sometimes a thing. I remember telling a friend it was my birthday and receiving several hard punches to the upper arm. It hurt for the rest of the day. This was late teens, early twenties. Late 90s, I think. I never felt the urge to punch anyone else for their birthday.

  4. Hector says:

    I am really wondering about the weird red flying mouth thing in panel 4 (the bottom one).

    Anyway, there was actually a mistake on the DM’s part early on. When describing his world, he made it out like Deuse Baaj was located several entire biome’s (of indeterminate size) away. Of course, there’s still no reason for him to be here now nor to bother with killing random peasants, but the point is that he made Notorious DB sound like an incredibly huge problem for somewhere else. The players, not having the slightest clue about this world, naturally ignored it because it didn’t really have anything to do with them.

    1. Scampi says:

      First: The Flying mouth thingy is Fitzpatrick. It was introduced in strip 18 as Lucretia’s familiar.

      Second: I generally like the idea of having some prominent villain somewhere far off but well enough known even outside their immediate reach. I’d only prefer having their evil deeds as windowdressing or indirect result of events nearby for a while, keeping them away from the players for farther down the road. Having introduced them earlier, their existence doesn’t come out of left field later, while the GM can improve the world’s verisimilitude due to reported events in place A influencing people in place B.
      A far away villain who suddenly and without any preparation appears on the hero’s doorstep just won’t yield the same results.

      1. Hector says:

        Thank you for the note. I’ll have to look that up as I have no memory of the familiar thingy.

        Of course, you’re right that there’s no issue with a villain being elsewhere. Its just awkward to tell players that there’s totally an evil villain, he’s just past the Cliffs of Insanity, the Mountains of Madness, and the Sea of Serendipity (which actually drives all men crazy). The players will look at each in confusion and vote to leave the villain alone, since he’s obviously got to plan a major expedition to bother anyone.

        1. Scampi says:

          That’s kind of the reaction people might have to that evil mastermind someplace else. What I meant was for example:
          -People from the mastermind’s influence seek refuge in Starting City, giving some idea of what is happening at Someplace Else.
          -Minor creatures who are not in league with the mastermind end up invading Starting City, making the heroes notice there is a problem at Someplace Else
          -There has been a border conflict between Starting City and the Kingdom formerly known as Someplace Else, which suddenly ended due to the total internal collapse of Someplace Else due to internal uproar which the heroes have no detailed knowledge about.
          -Trade between the neighboring kingdoms is unusually slow for unknown reasons. When a merchant reaches Starting City the heroes get information about the horrible events at Someplace Else.
          PCs may easily get some background information on a villain meant to appear later without immediately expecting them to try and topple him.
          I just think it’s way more elegant to kind of plan to include a villain way later and have some idea how to give the PCs knowledge about his evil schemes or their general corruption instead of telling them: “An evil necromancer sits far away in his tower of necromancy robbing people of their last rest. Now go and give him what he’s longing for.”

          On another note: Fitzpatrick I think appears for the 1st time in strip #18, but I think he’s only named in Shawn’s commentary.

      2. Sartharina says:

        Well, part of the reason they’re PCs in this sort of plot is because the village they happen to be in is targeted by the villain’s forces. This campaign is… badly set up, but the attack was planned as soon as the PCs decided not to trek against Baaj immediately. But, “Have a simple local quest to get the players familiar with each other, followed by the real villain attacking” is a solid start to a focused campaign.

        … Of course, I really want to sort of psyche the players out with this, by having The Big Villain attack and destroy their hometown, have revenge sworn on him, and have a fair number of encounters/adventures opposing his forces… Only to have another villain hijack things and sidetrack them for several in-game years (With some false hints implying they’re still after the same guy)… only to later stumble across an abbey on their adventures, run by the original villain as he’s working on trying to redeem evil people after having an off-screen epiphany years ago, putting the players in the awkward place of having to either let a much-hated villain go and accept his redemption, or uphold their vengeance and kill a now-Good man (And traumatizing a few of his pupils in the process)

  5. Paul Spooner says:

    I don’t know if you’re correcting typos in the commentary text, but “as I gone tell” should be “as I can tell”.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Or maybe “as I done can tell” (:P)

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