Barbarian Prince

In most modern games you're eased into the world, slowly level up and eventually defeat the bad guys. Older games (from before home video games) were perhaps more passionately focused just on the idea of creating worlds where things happen. In the solo game Barbarian Prince (from 1981), the odds are really not in the favour of the player. Reckless moves or simple misfortune can result in a quick defeat. The Barbarian Prince is not the lone chosen hero. To reclaim his homeland from the usurpers, the destitute prince must gather allies and enough riches to hire an army.

Don't turn it on; take it apart

I wanted to try this game out as it's sort of free to "print and play", but ended up wanting to make my own map and booklet design. Dwarfstar Games released their games in what seems to be a VHS format cardboard boxes. Because BP is paragraph driven there's a fair amount of text, meaning the box can't be too thin. I'm thinking a DVD or A5 format might work, but A4 is more convenient in terms of printing. There's a fair amount of page flipping so a portrait/tall format might be best.

Barbarian Prince official (lowrez) map

The map was made from two pieces folded into three tall segments. A scan which appears to be 300ppi can be found on the Dwarfstar Games site. There are also some files over at BGG. The map has some fold marks on it and the black plate is unfortunately misaligned from the colour. Hexes might be 17.9×15.6mm assuming 300ppi is correct. A half inch counter/chit is 12.7mm.


VHS cassettes were 102×187mm. DVD booklets are 120×180mm and it's possible to get blank boxes (no holders) but they might be too thin. A5 is 148×210mm. I'm not too interested in Letter/Legal. Printing out the rules and event booklets in DVD case size might result in a lot of paper spill. The booklets have been converted to text, incorporating the errata, but I managed to spot some typos. It's probably possible to try the game digitally using a pdf reader and image editor for the map.

Here's the Outpost Gamma booklet (also available at the Dwarfstar Games site). Like many fantasy games, BP used a serif font rather than a sans like Helvetica. I like how there's no need to do text columns in a small portrait mode (unlike A4).

Perhaps there was a problem with the original illustrations (or scanning) because the PDFs mostly feature Celtic knots/dragons (unsure of source). Celtic link appears to be deliberate since the map has some pseudo-Welsh names.

Aside from the Rules (24p) and Events (48p) booklets there was a tracking sheet and a table (2p) sheet. A 20mm miniature was also included. It's supposedly still in production by classicminiatures under the name "max4" for $2.75.

Honestly, the Celtic stuff feels a bit derivative. It pulls me out of the fantasy realm... maybe the style can be tweaked a bit somehow. Gaudy colours... how the lion-dragon(?) faces are drawn... something.

I had some idea about using it for borders and bars, but that stuff feels disconnected and abstract unless perhaps if the booklet manages to like an authentic old manuscript. I think putting the designs on actual items like shields and banners would be more effective and interesting.

New presentation

I don't want to touch the original game design, but I had the idea of making a third expansion booklet consisting of rare events which doesn't change the game world/population too much. When rolling for events in a terrain tile, an additional coloured die is rolled and ignored if the result is not a six. If a six, then the rare events booklet is used instead of the regular one. It could be a special die with 5 blank sides as that's easier to read.

The rare events book could also contain house rules, ideas for easy start variants (more resources, companions, magical protection or abilities, luck rerolls, etc). Playing around with time as a variable during encounters could be interesting as well.

Art by Arne


Art by Arne

Being able to play as a Princess might be cool. The original Event rules are sometimes needlessly gender specific.It seems odd how it's impossible to run into a female Dwarf or Elf. In some cases one would just need to change his to their, then the player can use their imagination to decide who they encountered. I suppose one could come up with a character creation booklet, with tables for rolling characteristics, names. I noticed that some people have trouble coming up with names on the fly.

Transforming class from Monk->Nun and Wizard->Sorceress might be reasonable in some cases.

Art by Arne

Party of 3.

Art by Arne

Because of the replay value I think the events booklet should mostly text, with some general spot illustrations to fill any leftover page space (e.g. items/beings without a background or context). I don't like the idea of directly showing the player what the scene in a paragraph looks like, especially since the encounters are quite dynamic in outcome and can't easily be summed up. Spoilers are also a concern.

I might instead put the illustrations showing more general scenes in the rules booklet, to sort of describe the feel of the world. Then the player can reference that from memory when doing events, and choose what's what, disregarding what doesn't fit.

Illustrations aside, it might also be interesting to include a small foreword booklet about the history of the game and it's influences and influence, and maybe some bits about other work by the authors. People interested in BP might also be interested in peripheral info like that, I'd wager.

Art by Arne

Halfman? BP's setting is a bit generic with various fantasy races, but they could perhaps be distorted a bit and become their own.


More general scenes.

Treasure, Golem, Dragon.

More general scenes. Also need to do some farms and town scenes so it's not all just people doing poses.


Swamps and horsies don't mix.


Art by Arne

Redoing the map unfortunately proved to be fairly labour intensive. This is just 1/4th of the total map but it still crashed (black-screened) my Mac for the first time since I got it in... 2014... but maybe it's just getting old. I know the feeling.

I was unsure about how to show scale. Making buildings/trees small might not make things more realistic... it just makes the distances seem small too and not several kilometers*. Still, I couldn't make larger objects work, and sideview portrait of cities in their hexes looked strange. It might not be important to describe the architecture of the buildings anyways. Part of the charm of Barbarian Prince is the event system where you're left to spin your own yarn.

*A day's journey/hex... Roman legionaries supposedly were required to walk 25-35km per day with a 20kg load, likely sometimes in terrain. Day here means some 6 hours. They also had to set up camp, scout/organize and rest. Our Barbarian has to travel more cautiously, explore, take detours. I think the "lost" mechanic simulates delays due to difficult terrain. Anyways, this scale would make the map about as tall as England. Real mountain ridges vary in size... the ones in Nepal are much larger than what you'll find on the British Isles. The fjords of Scotland seem to have the most happening in that department. Wales... not so much. There's the Black Mountains which aside from some escarpments are more like hills. Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) has those beat by 200m, reaching just over 1 km and looks like a proper mountain.

I'll try to vary the terrain mood a bit even though there's not that many hex types. There's a sort of evil guy in Drogat castle so I made that area more withered in tone. Also snuck in some burial mounds to the NE. This whole map quarter is a bit brown in tone, and flat. Made some of the forests sparse to accentuate plains. Will diminish Halowich forest.

I wrote a program which generates the hexes with coordinate numbers as a SVG which can be rasterized from inkscape. However, I might not put numbers in the hexes to avoid clutter. Instead I'd put them on the X and Y axis. Vertically the hexes stack nicely, but horizontally they're staggered, so the numbers need to go on the lower part of the hexes to clarify where the row goes.

   _1_  2  _3_
  /   \___/
1-\___/---\___ ---1
  /   \___/
2-\___/---\___ ---2
Full map, WIP/V2.

33% percent of work size. PSD is half a gig. I place decorative lakes and rocks on hex edges to avoid confusion. I feel like there need to be some more points of interest to explore, but maybe those are hidden in the Paragraphs? Hero comes in from the north I think, crossing Tragoth River. I don't know in which direction these rivers flow...

Map Map

Early map detail tests.

Character generation appendix/thoughts:

Name inspiration, finger point map:
Thal, Arz,  Ra,   Dar,  Tam,  Jag
Boru, Zora, Ol,   Kor,  Noal, Okab
Pi,   Tir,  Iral, Ki,   Nil,  Thib
Hera, Ehg,  Ael,  Zek,  End,  Eth
Uran, Gu,   Lum,  Ku,   Zu,   Thon
Cal,  Vael, Meth, Dira, Bhu,  Zak
Er,   Eb,   Ob,   Ur,   Jon,  Rei 
Suma, Kel,  Sten, Bo,   Bil,  Yan
Tron, For,  Hel,  Anu,  Enil, Obar

Common last names
Barbarians: Arath,  Nanoc,   Geld,    Gontar,  Arminos, Yenzerek 
Soldiers:   Streed, Griegar, Zoldar,  Fajette, Culinge, Spir  
Wizards:    Bolt,   Wheez,   Suzsap,  Zhant   



At home:  Male  Female
Human     1 2|3 4 5 6 (men were recruited for some war?)
Elf       1 2 3|4 5 6
Dwarf     1 2 3 4|5 6

In wild:
Human     1 2 3 4 5|6 
Elf       1 2 3|4 5 6
Dwarf     1 2 3 4|5 6

Age:      Young Adult Old 
          1[2 3 4]5 6 
!> Reroll results outside bracket, once.

Specific age:
Human     *10 + D5*2 (+-1)
Elf       *30 + D5*6 (+-3)
Dwarf     *20 + D5*4 (+-2)

!> D5 = D6 with 6 rerolled.

Outward personality (2D6):

1-6 Seemingly normal

1 Jovial
2 Pleasant
3 Airhead
4 Sad
5 Measured
6 Closed

1: Distrustful
2: Sycophant
3: Fickle
4: Naive
5: Pedantic
6: Pervert

1 Dullard
2 Worrywart
3 Rash
4 Trickster
5 Sanctimonious
6 Confused

1 Shifty
2 Grumpy
3 Temperamental
4 Besserwisser
5 Blabby
6 Mean

Overrides (D6=6):
Halfling:  Jovial
Dwarf:     Grumpy
Elf:       Besserwisser
Wizard:    Trickster
Farmer:    Sad 
Slave:     Closed
Goblin:    Sycophant
Witch:     Shifty
Harpy:     Mean
Giant:     Measured
Mercenary: Distrustful
Amazon &
Barbarian: Temperamental
Priest &
Monk:      Sanctimonious

Art by Arne Niklas Jansson