The art of the Barber goes back as far as the Bronze Age, and used to include all sorts of crazy secondary skills.
By the time of The Western, however, the job had simplified mostly down to mostly just haircutting and shaving, as medical science had advanced beyond most Barber's limited training. The Barber was still quite experienced with a knife, though, so in a pinch he might also do some "minor" surgeries. Or any major ones where you either didn't have enough time to get to a real doctor, or would probably die from the rigors of the trip. Sometimes was also the mortician since he had to shave the corpses, too.
The Barber is also a source of gossip, and his shop is a local gathering place outside of the Saloon. Expect the villain to show up and demand a shave before he confronts The Hero, thus allowing the Barber to send a warning to The Sheriff.
By ancient tradition, The Barber tends to be extremely talkative, often taking advantage of having a captive audience who can't reply because they've either got a hot towel on their face or a razor at their throat.
Game and Story Use
- If The Doctor is on the payroll of the Big Bad Evil Guy, then the Barber might be a better person to go to get that bullet pulled out.
- To make the scene extra tense, you could have The Barber and The Butcher doing the job, and arguing about the right way to do things.
- Sitting in a chair, draped in a towel, lathered up, with someone standing over you and a razor at your throat. Sounds like it's time for an ambush!
- That'll only work once or twice. After that, all your enemies will decide to grow beards.
- This trope is easily translatable to other settings. In particular, fantasy games could have The Healer set up a shop like the old barber-surgeons.
Building This Character
- This assumes The Barber in The Western. For other eras, see the below list of Variants
- Dexterity or Agility is probably the top priority. You need a steady hand.
- Social Attributes could be above average - or, The Barber should have a reputation for being annoying while you're captive in the chair. The nondescript middle ground doesn't make for a very interesting character. Decide whether you're a friendly and enjoyable fellow, or if your customers just have no alternative. Then push your Social Traits in the appropriate direction.
- Some games let you create a Professional skills directly related to your job - so in such a system, you'd have Barbering, and that'd cover the whole concept.
- Knowledge Skills pertaining to fashion, styles, haircutting, etc. In Cyberpunk 2020 it'd be Personal Grooming and Wardbrobe & Style. In 7th Sea RPG you'd use Fashion. Etc.
- Some sort of medical skill - it's a little more than First Aid, but not quite good enough to be what most games would call actual Medicine. Either skill could model it, however - the former would be a lot more highly rated than the later. Healing or just a Knowledge Skill pertaining to Anatomy could fit the bill as well.
- Information Gathering, Socializing, Gossip, etc. These are a natural outgrowth of talking to your customers, and may also be how you drum up new business.
- Income to represent your steady job.
- In theory, the Barber knows anatomy, so you might consider some Feat or Edge that increases your chance of a Critical Hit.
- A very common depiction is the for The Barber to be a bit of a Coward.
- I'm pretty sure Modern Barbers lack the medical and anatomical knowledge - but have more hair styles, techniques, and products to keep in their heads. Take First Aid and Medicine off the list, but increase the Fashion knowledge and make the Professional skill more general. Some salons have expanded into Waxing, Tanning, Manicuring, etc.
- For Barbers in the Ancient World, see Barber-Chirurgeon.