Thundarr, the Robot-Smasher Barbarian


The circle of metal spiders closed around Klar, and the boy dropped the pile of firewood he had been fetching. The creatures chittered at him in their alien tongue, their pincers ripping at his cloak. Summoning all of his courage, and thinking of the shame he would bring on his tribe if he went down without a fight, Klar hit the closest robot with a piece of wood, but while his strike was a solid hit, the metal monstrosity appeared all but unhurt. Klar knew, then, that it was his time, and rage grew inside him. He did not want to die like this, pulled apart by these inhuman things. He wanted to die at the hands of men, to die like a man.

Klar’s vision narrowed until he could only see the robotic spider in front of him, and he let out a scream that reminded him of the great warriors of his tribe, if a little higher pitched. He lashed out with the firewood in his hand, again, and this time, the metal shell caved in under his blow, and the creature sunk to the ground. The boy was beyond fear, now, and, clothed in the rage of his ancestors, he lay into the arachnid pack with nothing but the firewood in his hands and hate in his heart for all their metallic kind…

Thundarr by Jack Kirby!Path of the Robot Smasher: While most of your tribespeople keep their distance from technology, you seek to actively destroy the construct war machines of the Technic League. Without robot armies to enforce their will, the League will surely fall to your peoples’ might, returning your nation to its rightful rulers. This is a Barbarian archetype that gains greater ability to damage constructs.

Thick Skin
At 3rd level, while you are raging, when a construct, robot, or clockwork creature causes you to make a save, you can add your proficiency bonus to the save, if you are not already proficient in it.

No Defense
At 6th level, while you are raging, when you attack constructs, robots or clockwork creatures, your attacks ignore any damage resistances those creatures possess.

Final Strike
At 10th level, you can choose to end your rage early. If you do, you cast shatter, using Wisdom as your casting ability and your proficiency bonus as the level of the spell slot, dealing both thunder and lightning damage.

Robot Reaver:
At 14th level, while you are raging, you double your rage damage bonus against constructs, robots, or clockwork creatures.

Hacking the Numerian Liberator

The path above is presented as written for my players. As with Magnus: Robot Fighter, my goal was to emulate a character that I love from the genre. In this case, Thundarr, the Barbarian! (That exclamation point is part of his name, I believe.) It’s not quite doing it for me, though.

In 3rd Edition, the conceit of the archetype is a good one: trade out some abilities for other, often more specific, abilities. These archetypes can be flavorful and fun, and sometimes (like the Robot Hunter Ranger) they might translate well to 5th Edition. I based the Robot-Smasher on the Totem Warrior path, using the “Numerian Liberator” archetype from Paizo’s People of the River, and while I think it makes a lot of sense for barbarians like this to exist in a place like Numeria, where robots are a significant threat, I also think it’s too specific too be truly interesting or effective in the long term.

Still, if the party meets a barbarian warrior on the road, surrounded by the broken remains of robots (like Klar, here), that’s interesting (especially if there is an android in the party, since all these abilities would apply to that character, too). If a PC sacrifices her ability to do damage to a variety of foes for the ability to do a lot of damage to one specific type, though, I’m not sure that’s a good trade. (That gets me to another difference between 3.P and 5E: enemies don’t have to be built using class levels or abilities, so using archetypes to build random barbarian NPCs doesn’t make sense, something I’ll write more about, later.)

To make it worthwhile (or comparable in power to getting an extra attack or gaining resistance to all damage), either the PCs fight nothing but robots, in which case our barbarian dominates the fights and everyone else is a little bored by the repetitive encounters, or the party fights a diverse selection of opponents and the barbarian feels like she is missing out on abilities that would have helped her participate more.

Another option, though, is to grant additional powers at 3, 6, 10, and 14 against spellcasters, but the design philosophy of 5th Edition seems to favor the paths or archetypes granting just one feature at each level. Still, if these are too specific to work on their own, I could see also granting mage-bane abilities alongside them, things that also wouldn’t be useful in every combat, like this:

Tough Hide
Your hatred for the oppressive technological wizards ruling your homeland grants you special defenses against their attacks. At 3rd level, you gain resistance to all spell attacks or effects while you are raging.

Smashing Arm
When you battle foes who wield magic, your fury knows no bounds. At 6th level, while you are raging you can use your reaction to make an opportunity attack against opponents who cast a spell within your threatened area.

Thick Head
When you rage, few spellcasters can defend themselves against your primal onslaught. At 10th level, you have advantage on all saves against spells cast on you while you are raging that would cause you to be charmed, frightened, paralyzed, or stunned. If you fail the saving throw, you make an additional saving throw against the condition at the beginning of your next turn, as a bonus action.

Unquenchable Fire
The magical might of your foes only makes you fight harder against them. At 14th level, if you fail a saving throw against a spell cast by a hostile creature while you are raging, you gain temporary hit points and a bonus to your weapon damage equal to the level of the spell. These bonuses last until either your rage ends or you fail another saving throw against a spell cast by a hostile creature.

The complete package can be found here.

What do you think? Too powerful? Too focused? What would you change?


4 responses to “Thundarr, the Robot-Smasher Barbarian

  1. This is a good archetype for this specific AP. if one of my players had gone barbarian I would have thought about something like this – basically a 1e barbarian that is anti-tech instead of anti-magic. But the one player I had who was interested in AP specific archetypes went ranger and thus the mech romances was born.

    My only suggestion is perhaps to make him more anti-tech than just anti-robot. That fits the kellids (and the original 1e barbarian) well.


    • I threw in the anti-magic, but anti-tech would be interesting. I’m not sure how that would play out, using 5e rules, though. Maybe a bonus to sunder technological items, or resistance to damage from technology… A capstone might be the ability to force a glitch in any (non-construct) technological item with a touch, draining its power. A second’s though tells me that’s overpowered, since it would wreck a high-level Iron Gods party pretty quickly, but it could be more manageable if held items get a save, or something. It’s worth thinking about, anyway. Thanks!


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