D&D Next – Barbarian

By Ken Wai Lau

The closest I ever came to playing a barbarian in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 was when I played a Swordsage who specialised in the Tiger Claw discipline. Other than that, I never really fancied playing the Barbarian, but the D&D Next Barbarian looks interesting:

Barbarians Are All the Rage

For those familiar with D&D 3.5, all the usual abilities are there. Proficiency with all weapons, shields and all armours except heavy. The D&D Next barbarian boasts 1d12 hit points per level and the ability to better withstand attacks that test your toughness and strength. And then there’s the rage ability.

Rather than give a strength and constitution bonus as previous editions did, the barbarian rage feature provides a flat bonus to damage rolls, which is kept rather low due to the ‘bounded accuracy‘ concept. It also grants temporary health without danger of dying at the end of a rage. You also have advantage on strength related saving throws and strength checks.

The rage lasts one minute and you are unable to take reactive actions other than attack someone who has moved out of your threat range. If you end a turn without attacking or being attacked, your rage ends. Like in previous editions, you can only rage a certain number of times per day.

Loincoths and Fur Bikinis

d&d next barbarian

+3 Distraction Bonus to AC – saving you money since the 1970s. Image © by Ken Kawashima

If you ever wanted to emulate characters like Conan the Barbarian or Red Sonja at their scantily-clad best, you can with Dungeons and Dragons 5e. Barbarian characters who focus on their Dexterity and Constitution are rewarded with a greater ability to avoid harm as long as they are not wearing armour.

Not only can this be an advantage when you start out, but it is also possible to continue wearing no armour throughout your whole career as a D&D Next Barbarian, especially if bracers of armour are made available at some point. This would allow you to stay true to the stereotypical image of a barbarian all the way up to level 20.

The trade off is reduced offence, but since there are no feat requirements for weapon finesse and dual wielding, it is possible to create a reasonably balanced warrior by choosing this path. This would suit the image of a female or wild elf barbarian wielding dual scimitars.

On the other hand, wearing armour makes room for more offensive combat styles.

Faster, Stronger, Tougher…

Other than this, barbarians can run faster and are quicker to react in battle, as well as being difficult to surprise if the barbarian chooses to work herself up to a frenzy.

The barbarian lacks the control and mastery of a dedicated fighter, but her reckless and brutal fighting style can result in a higher accuracy and greater damage upon scoring a critical hit. She can also break doors down more readily compared to other classes and over time, none but the strongest cages can hope to keep her confined.

It’s also difficult to keep a good barbarian down when she’s in the middle of a rage, with the increased ability to resist debilitating effects and defy death for a bit longer – if only to bring her opponent down with her.

On the Warpath

d&d next barbarian

Doubles as a giant slingshot with the ram’s skull as ammunition…
Image © by Flora Silve

Another feature of each class is the ability to take a ‘path’. In the barbarian’s case, there are two paths, one with several ‘sub paths’ under it.

Firstly, you can choose to focus on being an absolute monster on the battlefield, making the most of your ability as a berserker. This results in a greater ferocity and tenacity in battle, possibly at the cost of your own health, as well as complete fearlessness and invulnerability to mental influences.

Secondly, you can bond with a totem animal spirit which grants you supernatural abilities.

Depending on which animal you bond with, you can perform greater leaps, run faster than other barbarians, acquire greater perception or heal more quickly than your companions. These abilities are heightened in some fashion during your rage.

Once you reach the mid-point of your character progression, your spirit guide might heal you when the chips are down and high level barbarians acquire something akin to the uncanny dodge and trap sense ability of D&D 3.5 barbarians. They are also harder to influence with magical attacks that target the mind.

Most of these abilities will be acquired gradually over time, but this is what you can expect your barbarian to be capable of near the end of your campaign (assuming you advance through all 20 levels of progression).

There you have it. If you’ve played the D&D Next Barbarian, please feel free to share your thoughts about the class below.


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