As the once great Barbarian Empire began to collapse, many of the empire’s seafaring southern chieftains took to the sea; a few of these voyaging heroes returned to confirm the shamanic prophesies of a wild land that could only be settled by the strong, and the barbarian peoples set out for this new world. Tales of the barbarian fleet’s great voyage, led by the “worldship” Yur-Saal, are still recited many generations later, recounting the terrific hazards of the Great Sea, and how those now famous men showed yeoman strength, resolve, and heroism in reaching the wild shores. The peace did not last long, for the goblin-kin managed to follow them – at first they seemed uninterested in war, but that quickly changed when their orcish brethren arrived, with ogres, giants, and other monstrosities. Elves too have arrived, though with uncertain number and unclear purposes – their history with the Barbarian Empire is not such that free men are keen to trust an elf; nevertheless they actively oppose the creatures of evil now plaguing the wild continent of Yur.
The barbarians hold diverse values from tribe to tribe, but the most common are Strength, Freedom, and Honor. is not just physical prowess (though certainly important), but the ability to strive and survive generally, especially in Yur’s impossible wilderness; only counts personal, individual freedom, not common freedom; onlookers often confuse this for anarchy. Thus the barbarian’s freedom does not prohibit slavery, and to be a slave is perhaps the lowest disgrace one can suffer; most barbarian men die rather than turn slave.
is as important as the others, though perhaps the least well defined (not that the barbarians are keen on strictly defining anything), and should not be confused with any Code that a knight might take up. Rather, the barbarian concept of honor is more akin to glory or valor: honor is achieved by proving strength, more for a great foe or challenge, and is diminished by using “dirty tricks.” That is, even backstabbers are regarded with honor for their kills, but not nearly as much as a hero who defeats enemy champions in single combat, wearing no armor, without taking cheap shots.
In short, the barbarian philosophy falls somewhere between “live and let live,” and “survival of the fittest.” While barbarians readily unite against common foes (e.g. orc-kind), they still have a long tradition of in-fighting – more than one barbarian cheiftain has betrayed his ally at the end of a battle to increase his slaves and spoils. In fact, this bizarre fraternity is almost directly responsible for the words of the later-famed bard Baladrius, “never trust a Barbarian, further than you can throw him.”
The Elven presence in Yur has given rise to (greatly exaggerated) retellings of the old stories of the formation of the Barbarian Empire; how the barbarian people escaped from elven bondage, and how their glory surpassed that of the elves and elf-lovers. Orcs and their kith just make the barbarians’ blood boil, and many songs are sung of the barbarians who in terrific frenzy slew many times their number of the enemy.