Playing Barbarian Prince Solitaire OSR as a Community-Driven RPG?

Playing Barbarian Prince Solitaire OSR as a Community-Driven RPG?

By aejackson | A.E. Jackson | 22 Mar 2019


"Evil events have overtaken the Northlands. You -- Cal Arath, Barbarian Prince -- are in hiding and the usurper who killed your father, the Old King, now sits on his throne. Now you must flee south and raise enough gold by adventuring to equip an army with which to regain your rightful heritage. The way will not be easy, for the men of the south are strange, and some are schooled in the black mysteries. The passes are guarded by monsters, it is said, and in the ruined cities lurk foul things never born of this earth. But you have your stubborn Northland will and your great sword -- and woe to anyone or anything which stands between you and your quest..." (Source: Dwarfstar Games Barbarian Prince website)

What is Barbarian Prince? 

Barbarian Prince is a solitaire game of heroic adventure in a forgotten age of barbarism and sorcery. No opponent is necessary as the Event Booklet takes players through a pre-programmed sequence of encounters which is different each time they play the game. For each event, the player, as the Barbarian Prince Cal Arath, must make the decisions which will make the quest successful -- or may cost them their life.

Barbarian Prince was a new concept in Adventure Gaming at the time it was released. No rules reading was required; the programmed event sequence let players begin play as soon as they opened the box!

Barbarian Prince shipped with a full-color 12" x 14" mapboard, a die, rules folder, Event Booklet, and summary sheet. Fans will remember the detailed cast metal figure of the Barbarian Prince, used to mark their position on the board.

Barbarian Prince was first published in 1981, and Reaper Miniatures holds the copyright. The solo game was Designed and Developed by Arnold Hendrick. Cover Painting was done by Frank Cirocco. Map, Rule Illustrations, and Graphics were done by Cynthia Sims Millan. Typography was done by Arnold Hendrick. Figure Design was done by Max Carr.

How does a Community-Driven Roleplaying Game (RPG) work?

The idea to play Barbarian Prince with the Steemit Community is thanks to inspiration from One Year RPG by @postplaygames, operated by Steemit User @supermegaship. Each day for a year, @supermegaship guides players through a world rich with fantasy roleplaying imagery. He allows the players to determine what actions the hero takes next. And the outcomes can be quite excited! I recommend you check out One Year RPG by @postplaygames on Steemit if you enjoy roleplaying in the slightest.

With regard to Barbarian Prince, the game was created to be run as a solitaire game. From the start, the player is asked to make life and death decisions on behalf of Cal Arath the Barbarian Prince! Rather than keep all the joy of playing this fine game to one person - this experiment in Community-Driven RPG gameplay seeks to let the community choose which hex to explore, which enemy to engage, which treasure to plunder, and which peoples to encounter. 

During gameplay, all decisions will be made by the Community. Using the Service, the Game Master will post a poll. What happens next to Cal Arath the Barbarian Prince, is up to you, as a Community. While most dPolls last seven days, the results of these polls will be gathered within 24 hours of the Turn Summary being posted on Steemit.

If a dice roll is required, the Game Master will handle that action. Results will be reported in the Turn Summary along with any outcomes that impact the adventure. If the party encounters Combat, the Game Master will handle that action, and post the results as well. The goal of the game is to survive and reclaim the kingdom. Every step that does not require a Community Decision will be made with the goal of reclaiming the kingdom in mind.

When did the Community-Driven version of the game begin?

In order to give the Community time to discover and explore all that the game Barbarian Prince has to offer - announcements were posted as a primer. The first attempt at playing the game this way kicked off with the First Turn posted on March 1, 2019. 

It was surprising to see the RPG and Gaming Community support for the initiative. Heading into the first attempt, the motto was 'the more the merrier' - because everything Cal Arath did was determined by the Community!

Turns were set to continue once per day until the Kingdom was Reclaimed, time ran out to stop the Usurper, or Cal Arath died. Continue reading to find out how that first game turned out...

The Traditional start of Barbarian Prince... 

What follows is the first entry printed in the Barbarian Prince Rulebook. This is how a traditional playthrough would begin.

The nature of Community-Driven RPG mechanics prohibits us from posting the full and extensive rulebook here. Instead, as we reach a new rule together during gameplay, that rule will be introduced and experienced as a Community.

How to Play

Barbarian Prince is a realistic adventure game. You play the game in days. Each day starts with you selecting an action (r203), such as travelling to a new hex on the map. Depending on the action selected, you will be referred to a chart, where you roll one or two dice. The dice roll and chart may then indicate a special event section, which you then resolve.

After all events (if any) are resolved for your daily action, you must then eat your main (evening) meal, as described in the food rules (r215), and if in a town, castle, or temple hex, you must also purchase lodging (r217).

This ends the day, and you continue play with the start of the next day, where you select another action, etc. The game continues until either you are killed, or 70 days (10 weeks) elapse. If you haven't won after 70 days, the game is automatically lost!

Many events may lead to fighting, described in the combat rules (r220). You may also have additional characters (r201) join your "party." These additional characters are especially useful in fights, although some may have special knowledge or abilities useful in certain events. Magicians, wizards, witches, priests and monks are especially useful people to have in your party.

All events are self explanatory, and refer to the main rules section that describes how they are resolved. Once you've read the rules a couple of times you won't need to refer to them again unless you have a specific question. Remember, Barbarian Prince is a realistic game, so when in doubt about a situation, imagine yourself acting out the event in real life, and select the resolution that seems most realistic to you.

To start the game, go to event e001.

And that is how we set forth on the journey into the world of the Barbarian Prince...

Many players discovered Barbarian Prince for the first time.


Fantasy roleplaying in pen-and-paper form, as computerized games, or through play-by-post services was always my preferred way to escape into a land of make believe. Don't get me wrong! I enjoy gathering with friends and playing an epic session of Dungeons & Dragons, or fantasy exploration board game. However, limited time and sporadic schedules often dictate when my gaming group can get together to quest. Several years ago I started searching for ways to journey into the realms of the fantastic on my own. That was when I discovered solo-roleplaying through gamebooks, solitaire adventures, and play-by-post platforms.

At that time, one of my favorite podcasts to binge was 1 Player Podcast by fractaloon. The Host Albert faced the same constraints as many players. Limited time, a young family, work and community obligations, and friends who can't always get together no matter how much they wanted.

On June 16, 2013 Albert released Episode 40 of the 1 Player Podcast. He described a type of game publishing I had never heard of before - Print & Play Gaming. It turns out there are game designers and publishers who want nothing more than for people to play and enjoy their games. No monetary reward or compensation - just the satisfaction of creating something the world would enjoy. 

Albert went into detail about tools, supplies and certain techniques he uses to produce some of the great print and play games he finds.  Eventually he gets around to reviewing a game which was released commercially, but has since been made available as PnP.

That's when he drop kicked me into the incredible world of the Barbarian Prince! 

You can listen to the entire episode online at 1 Player Podcast. 

I soon found my way over to a page dedicated to Barbarian Prince on Board Game Geek. If you've never been to that site - or the sister sites RPG Geek, Video Game Geek and Geek Events - do yourself a favor and Upvote this post when you get back! You'll love the community and the information stacked up on those websites. 

As it turned out, Barbarian Prince was a gem among the Print and Play Community. It was also the tip of the iceberg for a lost form of gaming called 'microgames.' In the 1980's the surge of marketable products created as a reaction to the soaring popularity of Dungeons & Dragons was incredible. Large, small, and independent publishers were cashing in on the fantasy sensation with their own unique spins. 

Back then kids like me were gobbling this stuff up alongside our ATARI and Commodore-64 cartridges! Today, all the riches of that bygone era are (mostly) available as open source or public domain titles that the community retools for a new generation. 

There were several gamers who took time to write up their playthroughs in the form of adventure stories. Others shot video of their adventures and shared them on YouTube. Every 

Every review I read made me want to play Barbarian Prince more and more. I knew what I had to do next.

With once click I was in the Files section of the Barbarian Prince page. Several clicks later I held in my hands all the assets required to produce a fine print and play copy of an incredible, brutal, realistic fantasy adventure. It was time to start playing... 

The Return of Barbarian Prince is thanks to print and play popularity.


It can be exciting to play a unique indie published board game with friends. Likewise, sitting alone with a well crafted solitaire game can bring hours of enjoyment. Either way you choose to game, chances are you've come across several print and play games. In the past several years, the popularity of PnP distribution has skyrocketed. 

Thanks to websites, forums, podcasts, and filesharing platforms the global distribution of new and fun games - for free - has become commonplace. Several game designers opt for the PnP route before approaching traditional published so they can work out game mechanic bugs with their rabid fanbase. And fans love the interaction with game developers who often slip winks and nods of gratitude into the final published piece. 

Board Game Geek is a wonderful platform for discovering, obtaining, and reviewing both well known and obscure print and play titles. The community is very helpful to new PnP'ers. If you have a question about the best printing options, or tools to use, someone is always willing to give their opinion. And often times it is valuable and correct.  

A quick search will result in several BGG lists of Top 20, Best Ever, and Your Favorite Print and Play Games. Another good resource is the American Library Association Gaming Roundtable who published a full list of places to find fun print and play games for various age groups, gaming styles, and number of players.

Barbarian Prince was first published in 1981 by Dwarfstar Games. Since that time Reaper Miniatures has obtained the copyright. Designed and developed by Arnold Hendrick, with a team of creative people, the solitaire adventure was very popular in its day. 

The game originally shipped with a full-color 12" x 14" mapboard, a single six-sided die, a rules folder, an Event Booklet, and a summary sheet. There was even a highly detailed cast metal figurine of the Barbarian Prince, which players used to mark their position on the detailed map. That game piece seems to be missing from many of the copied bought and sold online these days. I cannot imagine what a good condition Barbarian Prince box set, complete with Cal Arath metal figure, would sell for these days!

Barbarian Prince was a new concept in Adventure Gaming when it was released to an audience of gamers salivating for anything that resembled Dungeons & Dragons quests. This new form of roleplay required no rules reading; the events arrived in a programmed sequence which allowed players to get into the action as soon as they opened the box.

Blogger Howard Andrew Jones interviewed Todd Sanders about his unofficial redesign of Barbarian Prince several years ago. After gaining permission to redesign the classic game, Todd went to work. The result of his efforts is an exceptional, beautiful, and professional print and play product. 

At some point in time, Todd Sanders became interested in game theory and started reading about ancient board games. From there he escalated to collecting books by RC Bell –- Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations and The Boardgame Book. He even read Sid Sackon’s A Gamut of Games. This intense period of obsessive research would pay off for the entire gaming community for years to come. 

He started by recreating some of the games in those books. Then moved on to creating playing aids for games popular at his local game stores. When a design contest held on Board Game Geek caught his attention, Todd tried his hand at designing more complex games. Todd is a graphic designer, with a degree in architecture, so he had the skills which helped him think logically through the steps of organizing and presenting information in a game.

Todd believes Barbarian Prince appealed to so many people because of its narrative structure. With the large number of potential event outcomes, a story develops for the player, and the game becomes a more immersive experience.

Several game designers on Board Game Geek finally convinced Todd to try a Barbarian Prince redesign. Thanks to Reaper Miniatures licensing agreement with Dwarfstar Games, the title is available online to anyone for free if they want to print and play the game.

Barbarian Prince was his very first redesign and it took him about a month to complete. Todd says he probably spent 40-50 hours working on the game, redesigning the Rule and Event books, updating all the tables and charts, and redrawing the beautiful map.

Todd Sanders is quick to point to the original creators, saying "my work may bring gamers to the table but the experience the original design team created is what ultimately people enjoy."

Overwhelmed by the positive response, Todd Sanders continued to redesign more games, and began to design games of his own creation.

One of the more elaborate and gorgeous maps for a Todd Sanders' game can be found in Shadows Upon Lassador: Sorrow of Salith. 

Todd's games follow two separate paths of creation. The games he designs for the Print and Play community come out of his life long love for science fiction, fantasy and fairy tales. He has also created two very long game narratives recently. 

Gamers can get their hands on Todd Sanders' print and play games multiple ways. He has copies available for sale through his local game store — Games Unlimited — which can be ordered through the shop. But, please be aware there is a six week lead time because Todd is in fact a human, and not a robot. Another great option for anyone looking to order print and play games is Andrew Tullsen of Print and Play Productions. Andrew will print and assemble many different PnP games from several great designers - including a line of Aether Captains games designed by Todd Sanders! 

Is an Old-School Revival(OSR) of Solitaire Microgames possible?


An Old-School Revival(OSR) is well underway in the roleplay gaming community. And, I for one, can't get enough. Websites devoted to the resurgence of classic games in print and play, or publisher reprints released through Kickstarter are just the start. 

Thanks to Wizards of the Coast releasing an Open Gaming License in 2000 the Old-School Revival was born. The license effectively allowed the free and unapproved use of vast amounts of materials - like creative and rule mechanics - from the famous Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. 

It is time to bring the OSR to the Blockchain! On March 1, 2019 the Steemit Gamers will have the opportunity to play a Community-Driven RPG version of the popular solitaire game Barbarian Prince.

The Editor's Blog post titled 'The Priceless Treasures of the Barbarian Prince' published in late-2018 sees John O'Neill reminisce about playing microgames. He recalls the days when Dwarfstar, Metagaming, Steve Jackson, and Task Force Games all produced full catalogs of games aimed at budget conscious and younger players. The going rate for a bagged or boxed microgame hovered between $3 and $4 USD. But he quickly hones in on Dwarfstar games in particular. 

Blackgate Editor John O'Neill criticizes Dwarfstar games for their one major weakness: not building games that last. The games entered mythical reputation among collectors because so few copies still exist today. The product was produced in paper-thin boxes and shipped with flimsy components which kept costs down. However, it also cut down their lifespan.

As a zealous collector who keeps his games in mint condition, O'Neill admits even his copies of Barbarian Prince are beaten up. Which leads to one inevitable result - the few scant copies which collectors can find in good condition are now quite expensive!

He reports that a recent eBay Auction ended with the sale of a battered and incomplete Barbarian Prince for $51 USD in August 2018. The gamer purchased an unplayable copy without a map! However, the set did include the metallic barbarian miniature, which, John admits, is the only reason he was bidding in the first place.

Way back in 1977, Steve Jackson set to work designing his first roleplaying game called The Fantasy Trip. The game was published by Metagaming, and for a small window of time The Fantasy Trip rivaled Dungeons & Dragons for popularity. First published as microgames in a series, the game was later expanded into full-size books.

Let's time travel together to 2017, when Steve Jackson regained rights to his impressive body of work! A Legacy Edition is now in the works, which is what The Fantasy Trip should have been when it originally published over forty years ago.

The Fantasy Trip exhibits all the traits of an Old-school RPG. There is easy character design, realistic tactical combat, and a huge emphasis on the story experienced by players. The game is a dungeon crawl, filled with arena battles. For introducing your friends to roleplaying - there's nothing better. 

Recently, Steve Jackson Games took The Fantasy Trip to the Kickstarter Community where 3,379 backers pledged $314,572 of the $20,000 goal to help bring the project to life. The completed game ships in March 2019! 

So... How was the first attempt at playing Barbarian Prince as a Community-Driven RPG?

A full crowd of RPG enthusiasts and interactive fiction readers showed up to support the attempt. The Barbarian Prince Cal Arath started as usual, with the hero fleeing his homeland in an attempt to raise enough gold or support to overthrow the usurping forces. 

The first round of any game can experience a slow pace as players get up to speed on what to expect and how to interact. But this audience knew what they gathered to do, and from the start they offered opinions on which direction the action should proceed. 

Using to tally votes, the Community was asked if they would like to move to another position on the map, or rest and camp. Being the adventurous crew they were, it was an easy decision to move ahead with the quest. 

We did not get lost leaving the Countryside where the turn began, but we had to cross a river to move into another hex. Uh oh! Rivers are notorious for causing trouble for the strongest barbarians.

Through sheer willpower, I believe, the group pulled through and we did not get lost crossing the river. But as we emerged from the swift waters a cold, driving rain fell. It could hinder man and beast. We had to stop moving for the day. We were fortunate that we did not catch cold, which could have caused us to suffer a wound. For some reason, Cal Arath is not overburdened with hit points!

Since we had no food, we suffered from the effects of starvation and got a bit weaker. That ended the first day and we settled down by a warm fire for the night. The players chose the action they wished to take, and the quest continued. 

The Community spoke and decided to rest in current hex, to heal wounds and improve hunting skills. The day was uneventful, other than a successful hunting trip which allowed us to regain some strength. No worry. Right? 

Not so fast! Barbarian Prince is a realistic role-playing game, with surprises around every turn. At night a hunting pack of wolves attacked the party. The Game Master was instructed to roll three dice for the number of wolves, each of which is combat skill 3, endurance 3. And would you believe seven fresh-for-a-fight wolves emerged from the dark woods surrounding our camp? Believe it.

After several rounds of fever pitched battle with the voracious wolves The Barbarian Prince fell unconsciousness from his wounds. We had no Followers in our party who would aid us against the Wolves. 

In the end, the Wolves surrounded Cal Arath and began to attack his unconscious body. The number of his wounds finally exceeded the endurance value of Cal Arath, and he died. 

If the Barbarian Prince dies, we lose the game!

All in all the experience was a lot of fun. The only poll question left to ask - Should we play again? 


What have other Players said about Barbarian Prince?

"The amount of detail is amazing, the replay value impressive, the rules systems staggeringly smart."- Rick Swan in Wargamer Vol. 2, #19.

"Arnold's rules are so well written that one can begin play literally within two minutes of opening the box." - David J. Ritchie in Strategy & Tactics #88.

"This writer gives Barbarian Prince four gold stars." - Glenn Rahman (designer of Divine Right) in Dragon #54.

"Each time I play ... things are always different. What's more, I haven't won a game yet." - Matthew Costello in Gameplay #4.

"Twenty-three games at this bloody thing and I've only managed to win SIX!" - Bill Watkins in Nexus #1.

"In thirty odd attempts I have not met the victory conditions ... a colorful and absorbing game." - Bill Skirrow in White Dwarf #29.

"Barbarian Prince is not advertised as a super difficult game, but it is very difficult to win." - Arnold Hendrick in The Space Gamer #47. 

Players could explore the full map to plan our journey together!



© 2019, A.E. Jackson. All rights reserved.

Barbarian Prince - Dwarfstar Games Distribution Agreement


A.E. Jackson is a “GECO”. Gregarious, Encouraging, Creative, and Outgoing individual. It is these personal strengths which serve him so well as a transmedia storyteller and direct marketing expert.

A.E. Jackson
A.E. Jackson

A.E. Jackson transmedia storyteller, relationship and direct marketing expert. Gregarious, Encouraging, Creative, and Outgoing

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