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Atruaghin Clans as Picts

by Mike Harvey

I took a first pass at statting these guys up. I want them tough enough to put the fear of the Immortals into Darokinian colonists, and to hold their own against armored soldiers.

In Howard's stories the Picts were a more primitive race of sub-human savages. They don't seem to have had an exceptional AC and went down easily enough when hit... it was their barbaric savagery and tactics that made them effective and feared. So I took the approach of making them a subrace of humans with special racial abilities:

- Picts are a human sub-race with special racial abilities. (But like elves, there are no half-picts)
- Hide and move silently in their native forest like a halfling (90%). They communicate with animal calls and gestures; to civilized folk this invisible communicatin is eerie and mysterious.
- They are masters of ambush, surrounding foes and striking en masse from the forest depths with surprise.
- Picts are berserkers, giving no thought to their safety and gaining +2 to hit and damage due to sheer ferocity.
- They prefer to use short bows, spears, cudgels (treat as maces), and hand axes.
- They are extremely brave will not retreat or surrender unless ordered to do so, in which case they fade silently into the woods as quickly as they appeared
- They attack in large numbers

Pictish tactics
- The shamans normally bless them before battle, granting +1 to all rolls
- Given time (minimum 2 hours) to prepare, Picts cover themselves in magical woad that grants AC4. The woad is specially blessed in a weird ceremonies involving invocation of totem spirits and blood, and lasts for no more than 24 hours. The blessing is only effective if the pict remains brave in battle, if he retreats or uses a fighting withdrawal the spell is broken. Likewise any use of protective armor or magic implies cowardice and the spell is broken.
- Picts customarily attack at night, when foes are sleepy and unarmored
- Before battle Picts often chew a herbal root prepared by their shamans that enhances their frenzy, making them immune to Fear, granting +2 to saves vs Hold Person, and +1d8 temporary hit points
- Picts voice horrific war cries when attacking, causing enemies to panic and flee. The lightly armored picts are more mobile and give chase, cutting them down from behind with +2 to attack. This usually succeeds in causing most troops to route, leaving commanders and small groups standing alone and easily outnumbered.
- Some pictish shamans use vegetable poisons on their arrows, but common picts rarely do.
- Some picts are blood-brothers with forest demons or monsters, and can either call the monster to fight for them, or change their shape.

That ought to be terrifying to low-level Darokinian troops!

Here are some ideas on writing them up in Classic D&D as monsters, and as a PC class...


Hit Dice: 2+1*
Armor Class: 4
Attacks: 1
Damage: by weapon type
Movement: 120 (40)
No. Appearing: 1-20 (15-300)
Alignment: Chaotic
Morale: 11
Intelligence: 10
Environment: deep forest wilderness

Special abilities: surprise on 1-5; berserkers gain +2 to hit and damage; immune to fear; +2 on save vs hold person; war cry; +1 to individual initiative
War-cry: when attacking from surprise, Picts issue a war cry that causes enemies to panic and flee. Characters below 4th level must save vs. Spells or flee in panic. This panic lasts for 1-6 rounds.


Picts are primitive barbarians who live in deep forests. They value courage and will not wear armor or protective devices of any kind. They favor simple primitive weapons like bows, spears, and hand axes. Picts often collect scalps as trophies. They live in villages of wigwams, tipis, or longhouses.

Hit dice: 1d8, +2 hp per level after 9th. Use fighter experience charts, attack tables, and saving throws.

Requirements: DEX 13, CON 13, experience bonus based on STR as Fighter

Restrictions: Cannot use armor or shelds or rings of protection because these detract from courage. May not use mechanical weapons like crossbows (but bows are acceptable). Picts may not use swords, battle axes, or two handed weapons, but may otherwise use any weapon.

Special Abilities:

Alertness: A pict is only surprised on a 1, even when asleep, and awaken instantly alert and ready for battle. Unfortunately picts are glory-hounds and must make a saving throw vs. Spells in order to seek help from comrades.

Language: All picts are able to communicate with other Picts using animal mimicry.

Savage Frenzy: Picts can work themselves into a savage frenzy. If they take one turn before a battle to apply war paint, invoke their ancestors, and perform a war chant, they gain one bonus hit die (1d8 + Con modifier) as well as +2 to hit and damage. These effects last up to 24 hours, or until the end of the next battle. A Pict retains his frenzy for one additional battle for every three levels: two battles at fourth level, three battles at seventh level, four battles at tenth level, etc. The bonus hit points cannot be healed by a cleric, but are re-rolled at the beginning of each new battle. Frenzied picts are immune to fear and gain +2 against hold person spells.

Armor class increases with level. Picts are AC 9 at first level, but gain +1 AC per level up to level 7 (by which point they are AC 3). After that, they gain +1 AC for every three levels:

Level 1: AC 9
Level 2: AC 8
Level 3: AC 7
Level 4: AC 6
Level 5: AC 5
Level 6: AC 4
Level 7-9: AC 3
Level 10-12: AC 2
Level 13-15: AC 1
Level 16-18: AC 0
Level 19-21: AC -1
Level 22-24: AC -2
Level 25-27: AC -3
Level 28-30: AC -4
Level 31-33: AC -5
Level 34-36: AC -6

At high levels Picts may not become Paladins or Knights, but they may become Avengers and acquire monster followers.

PICT SHAMANS: Shamans are clerics. They can use the same weapons as other picts and are not limited to blunt weapons. Pictish shamans cannot turn undead, nor raise the dead. Like Picts they cannot wear armor. They may cast druid spells, as well as the following special shaman spells:

Battle Blessing (3rd level): With this spell a pictish shaman can confer a battle blessing on all the warriors of a single tribe. This grants the same benefit as a bless spell, but lasts as long as the battle frenzy lasts. Additionally, when painted with woad, the pictish warriors gain AC 4 against attacks. (Higher level warriors retain their superior AC.)

Now I need to go read Beyond the Black River again...