Berserker

Berserkers are fearsome warriors who, in the heat of battle, tap powerful but dangerously unpredictable battle lusts. These wild passions liken them to savage beasts: indeed, the most powerful berserkers can actually shapechange into animal form.

Base Class Statistics:

  • Ability Requirements: Str 14, Con 14, Cha 13
  • Alignments: Chaotic (CG, CN, CE)
  • Experience Chart: Warrior
  • Hit Dice: d10
    • Maximum Hit Dice: 9d10
    • Additional Hit Points: +3 per level beyond 9th
  • Attack: Warrior
  • Saves:
    • Paralyzation/Poison/Death: as Warrior
    • Rods/Staves/Wands: as Warrior
    • Petrification/Polymorph: as Warrior
    • Breath Weapon: as Warrior
    • Spell: as Warrior
  • Proficiencies:
    • Weapons, Initial: 2
    • Weapons, Advancement: +1 per 3 levels
    • Non-Weapon, Initial: 3
    • Weapons, Advancement: +1 per 3 levels
  • Allowed Weapons: Any Melee
  • Allowed Armor: Any

Class Features:

All warriors gain the ability to make more than one melee attack per round as they rise in level. At 7th level, they can make 3 attacks every 2 rounds. At 13th level and up, they can make 2 attacks per round.

When engaged with large numbers of weak enemies (less than 1 HD each), the warrior gains double his normal number of attacks per round (including doubling attacks with off-hand weapons). Starting at 11th level, this applies to any foe with 10 fewer HD than the warrior’s levels (so a 12th level warrior can do this against 2HD creatures).

All berserkers have the ability to “go berserk,” to enter into a wild frenzy that increases their effectiveness in battle. The frenzy is not automatic; the character cannot turn it on at will. A berserker must spend one round working himself into a frenzy, during which he can take no other action. (The sagas describe berserkers biting their shields and howling like wild animals.) At the end of the round, the berserker makes a saving throw vs. death magic. If the save is successful, the character reaches the berserk state. If failed, the character has not managed to reach the wild mental state needed to go berserk. He can continue making attempts for up to ten consecutive rounds. At the end of the tenth round, the character automatically succeeds. The berserk state has several benefits:

  • Strength: The berserker’s Muscle score increases by 2 points. Over 18, percentile Strengths increase by one category for every extra point, thus only character’s with an 18 (91) or greater Strength can attain 19 or above. The character gains all bonuses (attack, damage, weight allowance, etc.) for his increased Strength.
  • Hit Points: The berserker instantly gains two additional hit points for every level. The hit points gained do not heal existing wounds; they are simply added to the character’s current
    total. These additional hit points can cause the character’s total to exceed the normal maximum the character is allowed.
  • Armor Class: The berserker’s base armor class improves by 1 for every level of the character, to a maximum of AC 20. This adjustment is to the character’s normal unarmored rating. A 5th level berserker fighting without armor would have an armor class of 5. This armor class adjustment can be combined with modifications for Dexterity, magical items, spells, and shields. This bonus does not apply if the character is wearing armor. In this case, the armor’s AC is used, not that created by the berserk fury. A 10th level berserker in chain mail would still have an AC of 15 when he entered into his berserk rage. Note that a berserker is not prevented from wearing armor, either in normal combat or when berserk, but wearing armor negates this benefit.
  • Charms: While berserk, the character gains a +2 to all saving throws vs. charms or mental-
    based attacks.

In addition to the benefits, the berserk fury has several special limitations and consequences. Many of these reflect the savage and unpredictable nature of berserkers.

  • Single-Mindedness: Once a character goes berserk, he must enter melee combat with the enemy. Though the berserker can pick and choose his targets, he cannot hang back from battle. If he does, the berserk fury leaves him within two rounds.
    Once in combat, a berserk character cannot change opponents until the current foe is either slain or flees and cannot be pursued. For example, Agnar the Berserk is at the forefront of the battle, fighting the standard-bearer of the Saxons. Suddenly, one of Agnar’s companions calls out for aid. Although Agnar is close at hand, he cannot break off to help his friend since all his effort is focused on defeating the standard-bearer. Agnar’s only options are to quickly defeat his opponent or retreat from battle (which has its own consequences). The restriction on changing opponents applies only after the berserker has actually entered into combat. If not actually engaged in melee, the character can move and attack whomever he chooses.
  • Retreat: Once a berserker has entered his battle fury, he cannot retreat from combat without breaking the delicate psychological state that generates his power. If the berserk character withdraws from combat, routs, or is forced to retreat, the berserk fury immediately ends.
  • Loss of Powers: As soon as the berserk rage ends, all powers gained (increased Strength, hit points, armor class and charm resistance) vanish. All damage suffered is taken from the temporary hit points first. Only after all these hit points are lost does the character suffer actual wounds.
  • Exhaustion: Going berserk is a voluntary action; the player can choose to end it at any time. (It can also fail involuntarily should the character fail to enter combat or retreat from battle.) However, berserking can be physically draining. The character can only remain berserk for a number of rounds equal to his Fitness score. If he has not ended the rage before before this time, it instantly ceases. As soon as the character stops being berserk, he must make another saving throw vs. death. If the saving throw is successful, the character is unaffected by his fury. Should he fail the saving throw, the berserker is immediately drained and exhausted. The character’s Strength (both Muscle and Stamina) is reduced by 5 (from its normal non-berserk state) and remains reduced until the character has time to rest. Strength recovers at the rate of 1 point per turn of rest. The character cannot again attempt to go berserk until his Strength has returned to its normal level.

The berserker character also gains other abilities as he increases in level. It is these abilities that truly inspire supernatural dread in simple folk, for they are beyond normal explanation. They are as follows:

A berserker can shapechange into a wolf at fourth level. He can use this power once per week. The berserker’s hit points, THACO, number of attacks, and saving throws remain unchanged. However, the berserker gains the movement, armor class, and damage of a wolf (MV 18, AC 13, Damage 2d4). The character receives no bonuses for Strength and cannot go berserk while in wolf form. The character can understand human speech, but cannot communicate back without magical means. He can understand and speak the language of wolves while shapechanged. This knowledge is lost upon transforming back.

The berserker’s shape change is not lycanthropy; it is a power bestowed upon him by a totem animal. His bite has no special power, he does not heal damage when changing form, the moon has no effect and he is vulnerable to normal weapons. The transformation takes one round to effect and the berserker’s clothes are gear are not transformed with him.

The berserker can shapechange into a cave bear at 7th level. The berserker can assume bear form (and change back again) once per week. Like the wolf form, this is a totem ability reflecting the berserker’s increased power: no disease is transmitted, the moon does not force changes, and no special immunities or healing are gained. While in bear form, the berserker retains his hit points, THACO and saving throws. In bear form, the berserker moves 12, has an armor class of 14, and can make 3 attacks per round. These attacks do ld6/ld6/ld8 points of damage. If either paw hits with a roll of 18 or better, the berserker can hug for an additional 2d12 points of damage.

Berserkers attract followers upon attaining 9th level. Those willing to serve the berserker are few, but noteworthy. The berserker will attract ld4+1 heroes. Roll on the table below. These followers are fanatically loyal to the berserker, willing to stand by him even to the death.

Die Roll Follower
01-05 5th level shaman or crusader, chain mail, dagger +1 (any race)
06-15 5th level runecaster, chain mail, sword +1 (any race)
16-35 5th level fighter, chain mail, battle are +2 (same race)
36-45 6th level berserker, shield, sword, battle axe (same race)
46-60 6th level fighter, chain mail, shield +1, spear +1 (same race)
61-75 6th level fighter, shield +1, battle are +2 (any race)
76-85 6th level runecaster, chain mail +1, spear +1 (same race)
86-95 7th level fighter, chain mail +1, shield +1, battle axe +2 (same race)
96-99 7th level fighter, ring mail +1, cloak of protection (any race)
00 DM’s choice

The berserker can shape-journey (hamfarir) at 12th level. A shape-journey is when the character sends his spirit out into the world in the form of an animal, typically a raven, wolf, bear, or bull (but never as a horse). To shapejourney, the berserker must place himself in a deep trance. During the shape-journey he cannot be disturbed and is not aware of events
around him. One turn after entering the trance, the berserker’s spirit form appears within 100 yards of the character. After this, the spirit form can move any distance from the character. This spirit form is always that of an animal. Typical spirit forms are listed below.

Form MV #AT Damage
Bear 12 3 1d6 / 1d6 / 1d8
Bull 15 2 1d8 / 1d8
Falcon 36 3 1 / 1 / 1
Raven 18 1 1d4+2
Wolf 18 1 2d4

The spirit form is an actual physical presence. The shape created can only be detected as magical by those with true seeing or second sight. The spirit form has the hit points, saving throws, and THACO of the berserker. Its armor class is equal to that of the character if he were berserk and unarmored. The spirit form also shares the berserker’s +2 saving throw ’bonus vs. mental attacks. The berserker sees, hears, feels, and senses normally through the spirit form. Damage suffered by the spirit form is done to the berserker, as are all magical attacks (charms, etc.). The spirit form cannot naturally communicate with other humanoids
but does understand the speech of similar animals and can speak to them.

The spirit form can only be created once per day. The spirit form remains for a number of turns equal to the berserker’s Willpower. The spirit form and the berserker are inexorably linked. Any damage taken by the spirit form is transfered to the berserker as soon as the trance ends. If the spirit form is slain, the berserker dies. The character can voluntarily end the trance at any time and it automatically ends if the character is shaken, attacked, roughly disturbed.

Creating the spirit form is even more draining than berserking. At the end of the trance, the character must make a saving throw vs. death with a -4 penalty to his roll. If successful, he has avoided any weakening effects. If failed, the berserker’s Strength and Wisdom are reduced by half. Lost points are regained at the rate of 1 per hour of rest. Strength is regained first, then Wisdom. Characters are not required to rest immediately, but do not regain any points until they do so.

Berserkers gain experience according to the guidelines for the warrior group. In addition to the experience awards already listed, berserkers can earn an individual experience point award for initiating combat. This award is worth 200 experience points. The berserker character must be the one who leads his side into battle before the foes attack. Furthermore, the award is not given if it was clear from the start of the encounter that both sides intended to fight.

Berserker

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