In D&D 5e, Barbarians are a core class for the game, and Conan the Barbarian has been cited by E. Gary Gygax as one of the major literary influcences on the game, and is also listed in Appendix N, "Inspirational and Educational Reading" of the 1st Edition DMG.

With this backround, the Barbarian class is peculiarily absent from the first edition of the OD&D and AD&D games that Gygax authored; when he set out to represent Conan as a character in Dragon magazine, it was a mix of the Fighter and Thief classes. The first time I can find it in a core rulebook is in D&D 3.0.

Does anyone know when the Barbarian class (that seems to include inspirations from the Conan stories, such as the danger sense ability) was first published in an official source for the game, and who the author was?

(This Q&A about when Rage was first introduced points to Unearthed Arcana as the first supplement for AD&D 1e to have the class, but many materials in that book, as I understand it, came from a compilation of articles in Dragon and similar sources, so it may not be the first appearance of the class).

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    \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by "official source" as regards to D&D or AD&D? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28, 2022 at 13:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Anything published by TSR or affilated publishers; I think White Dwarf or Judges Guild would also be OK, it does not have to be super stringent only TSR material, if it can be shown that it contributed to the Barbarian that ended up in TSR rulebooks. I upvoted your answer too, as it provides additonal insight in the provenance route. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28, 2022 at 13:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Groody, for clearing that up. AD&D1e style of play included porting in stuff from other games a lot (like Boot Hill, like Metamorphisis Alpha (it's in the DMG how to do that) and any old thing from Dragon or elsewhere just needed a DM thumbs up or tweak to try out. Not quite as tightly bound as WoTC games, which makes sense given MtG (a rules based card game) being their philosophical bed rock and cash cow. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28, 2022 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, it's E. Gary Gygax, not Gary E. Gygax (his first name was actually Ernest as was one of his sons, from whence came the magician Tenser (anagram) and thus Tenser's Floating Disc 😊 \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28, 2022 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Yeah, E.G.G., like in the floor plan of the spaceship in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, I should have known that... \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28, 2022 at 19:24

3 Answers 3


Dragon Magazine #63 established the AD&D 1e UA Barbarian

Your question touches on an assumption in terms of "what was an official source" for OD&D or AD&D material? The 1982 article by Gary Gygax (Dragon #63, pages 8-11) laid out the Barbarian (a sub class of Fighter) more or less as we ended up finding it in the Unearthed Arcana book for AD&D 1e. The linkage is explicit.

With that considered, White Dwarf was a publication from which numerous monsters were introduced that ended up in published books like the Fiend Folio, so you can argue that it was sufficiently "official" that it introduced the Barbarian to the game in a playable form, which means that ...

White Dwarf was probably "official" enough to be first for D&D

That would make @John Dallman's answer correct in terms of who got 'first' if that matters. But the Barbarian therein is different from than the one in Dragon #63 and UA. It is argued on the ad&d redit that the Original Barbarian in White Dwarf #4 was written for Original D&D, not AD&D, and I agree based on the evidence and presentation.

In 1977 people are still writing content & classes for OD&D. This would be one of them. The AD&D Player's Handbook wouldn't even be released for another year. Having a d6+1 HD progression would either A) give them a slight edge on the Fighting-Man (if using LBB 1d6 HD only) or B) Slightly better than Cleric, but still less than Fighting-Man (if using Greyhawk HD).

It's likely "B", and done to preserve the importance of Fighting-Men being a central class, seeing how Barbarian gains a number of extra abilities like the thief. Making their HD also superior would be pretty unbalancing along with double Dex AC and Con bonus.

FWIW, the RPG.net index also associates the Barbarian from White Dwarf #4 and #12 with Original D&D, not AD&D. (index.rpg.net entry on White Dwarf #12).

It began as a sub class, not a class, in TSR material

In AD&D 1e it was a sub class of Fighter in the TSR Unearthed Arcana version. In AD&D 2e it was a kit for the Warrior Class (Complete Fighter's Handbook, 1994) as were the Amazon, Samurai, Cavalier, etc. In Asbury's original White Dwarf article, Barbarian was explicitly introduced as a separate class, not a sub class of anything, which makes the White Dwarf case considerably stronger in terms of introducing the Barbarian as a Class.


The first published Barbarian class was in White Dwarf #4, in 1977. The author, Brian Ashbury, modified it a bit in another article in #12, in 1979.

The Unearthed Arcana barbarian has significant differences from the White Dwarf version, although it's clearly inspired by it. Quite a lot of the material in UA was regarded as overpowered by the groups I played in in the 1980s, and that definitely included the Barbarian.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In organizing my answer, I find that I helped to support your answer. 🤣😂😂 \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28, 2022 at 16:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast ;-) But I think it's a mistake to try and draw a firm line between OD&D and AD&D. The transition, at least in my circles, was very fuzzy. The setting I've been running since 1979 handles both; I have an O&D character I still play in whatever games are going. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28, 2022 at 18:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I found that once the PHB was released, and all of the changes they had made to all of those table, in particular the boosts to wisdom for saving throws and bonus spells, that the play was very similar but the game overall seemed to 'feel' different. I started in OD&D and transitioned into AD&D gradually. First, DM's started showing up with the MM, then folks got the PHB and you began to see more illusionists and rangers etc (most people I knew had little to no exposure to the Strategic Review) and we fiddled with psionics ... and when the DMG came out it had so much in it... \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28, 2022 at 19:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you think I ought to change "probably first for OD&D" to "probably first for D&D" so that it encompasses both? The HP/HD differentials between OD&D and D&D were one of the big differences we saw right away. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28, 2022 at 19:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that's a good idea. We can be pretty sure that the WD Barbarian was the first one professionally published; there might have been fanzine or APA versions, but they seem to have been lost, if they existed. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28, 2022 at 19:09

As a frame challenge, the 1st Ed. Fighting Man was more like Conan than you might think, and early Barbarian classes mostly had non-Conan stuff in them. Part of the confusion may be that Conan from the books is a lot different than people's idea of Conan "the Barbarian". Some ways fighters were based on Conan:

  • Early AD&D gave fighters a 1-in-5,000 chance to have Conan-level strength. If you got super-lucky and rolled an 18 strength on 3d6, you rolled 1-100 for bonus strength. There was an extra table where 100, nothing lower, was an astounding bonus of +3 to-hit and +6 damage. That's, pre-barbarian, a special rule to make Conan.

  • Conan famously leapt into crowds and hacked left-and-right faster than humanly possible, Well, early AD&D gave fighters 1 attack per level vs. less than 1HD opponents -- normal humans, goblins and so on. It was basically a "do that thing in Conan books" rule.

  • As he grew older in the stories, Conan was often a leader -- a pirate captain, leading a large bandit group, captain of the guard, a general, finally a king. Early on, AD&D had rules for high-level players to just get followers, with fighters by far getting the most. Very Conany.

Onto Barbarians being less like Conan: Conan liked heavy armour. He wore chainmail (the heaviest armour in his world) whenever he could. The no-wearing-armour stuff in Barbarians isn't Conan. He also didn't Rage. Sure, he fought like a tiger and jumped in with no hesitation when he had to, but that's how he always fought. You won't read about him going into an extra-ragey mood, or coming down from a frenzy. Conan also wasn't very good at summoning a barbarian horde -- he was much better at inspiring regular fighters to join him. Conan didn't hate magic (early AD&D barbarians couldn't use it and got EXP for breaking items). Most magic in his world was either traps, undead, or super-powerful evil wizards, but the few times there was friendly magic, Conan was cool with it. To make up for not using +1 swords, AD&D barbarians could hit magic creatures, something which Conan couldn't do -- several stories involved stuff his sword couldn't hurt; the fun part was him figuring out a way around. Conan also wasn't good at curing poison (another early D&D ability).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting and enriching, thank you! \$\endgroup\$ Oct 29, 2022 at 5:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ There were a few stories where Conan did go into a battle-rage. It wasn't in every story, but it did happen occasionally. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Oct 29, 2022 at 6:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 But he no more "battle-rages" than any other action book. For a silly example, look at a LotR clip of Sam fighting Shelob -- Sam clearly rages at the start, but then loses it when Shelob knocks him down. If you try to map various rage features to Conan ("gets tougher but only for a little while", "out-of-control", "can't pause", "must purposely enter the berserk state") it's not there. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 29, 2022 at 16:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is an interesting take on the Barbarian, particularly the UA one, but the AD&D 1e game was still a campaign game, and the World of Greyhawk had three distinct barbarian civilizations in the north east of the Flannaes, as well as the ones in the southern more tropical region, who would as levels progressed (like fighting men, clerics, and others) be expected to lead followers and armies. Nice answer. +1 \$\endgroup\$ Oct 30, 2022 at 13:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast From memory and rechecking, the old 1977-8 AD&D(1e) was home-made dungeons and then modules (GiantsX3 + Drow, Temple of Elemental Evil). Back then Greyhawk was bits and pieces in Dragon magazine, and not really published until 1983 (and I'm not sure my local game store even had it). Wikipedia says Gygax just assumed DM's would make up their own worlds, which jives with what I remember. Was Greyhawk popular? I maybe knew of max 6 D&D groups, and none of them used it. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 31, 2022 at 3:36

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