Ever sat down at the village Inn after a hard day of cleaving Goblin heads from Goblin necks only to be told by the Innkeeper that you need to bathe before they serve you? Then the half-elf waitress makes some comment about meat heads pointedly at your expense and the next thing you know you are staring at an Inn full of dead folk all dismembered and you are holding a bloody axe? I hate it when that happens, as I am sure you do too. And I am sure that you realise you have just exited the rage that marks you as one of the fiercest fighters on the battlefield. You suffered from a Barbarian rage quit and made all the fools suffer for their arrogance.
If you have not quite guessed it yet, this is my post focussed on Pathfinder’s Barbarian class. The brute warriors with more focus on force than finesse the Barbarian throws defence to the wind in an attempt to deliver as much damage as possible in a short time. We will take a look at the abilities that make a Barbarian the formidable warrior that they are and also look at what options are available for them through the core rulebooks to make them all they can be. Conan wishes he were so good…
The core of a Barbarian is their rage. It is a wellspring that exists in them that they tap into when they loose themselves into a battle. The strength and constitution scores raise by 4 with a morale bonus increasing to hit bonuses and hit points (as well as fort saves) in the process. The Barbarian also gains a +2 to their will saves but the negative to all this is they suffer a −2 to their armour class. In game terms the Barbarian becomes wilder, stronger, a little more impervious but less focused on defending themselves as they hit their rage.
While in the rage the Barbarian can’t use skills that require them to think, consider, charm, or coordinate their body. It is seen as a period where the character goes into a wild frenzy led by their primal being. Because of this there is no in depth consideration they are capable of. The best they can do is some intimidation or acrobatic manoeuvres toward dealing the pain to their foes.
The Barbarian can rage for 4 + Con modifier rounds a day at first level and gets to add a further two rounds per day for each level they go up past first. These rounds do not need to be spent consecutively, though coming out of a rage (a free action) causes the Barbarian to become fatigued for twice the amount of time they were in the rage for. They cannot enter their rage again until the fatigue has gone.
As the Barbarian progresses levels they learn to channel their rage into certain powers. The Barbarian picks up a rage power at level 2 and every second level thereafter. The powers range widely from such things as gaining a bite attack, re-rolling failed saves, extra speed, and even unexpected strikes where the Barbarian can make an attack of opportunity if an opponent enters a threatened square, even if the movement would not normally draw an attack of opportunity. Picking these rage powers allows you to differentiate your Barbarian from others and also allows you to theme the character to a style you like. The available rage powers increase with the Advanced Players Guide (APG) and the Ultimate Combat (UC) sourcebooks.
Greater Rage and Mighty Rage
The Barbarian makes some increases in his rage ability at 11th level and as his capstone power at 20th level. These powers both increase the bonus they apply to their statistics and their Will saves. These bonuses enable the Barbarian to become a much more potent foe at the right time in game to continue to making them relevant. The Barbarian is always a warrior in a battle that the foe needs to pay attention to. They can be unpredictable and become instantly more formidable the moment they give in to their inner anger.
The Barbarian is not a great armoured warrior and their choice of armour only goes to medium armours. They are of course proficient with all except exotic weapons giving them a wide range of choices for how to deal this damage. Although a shield is not often a popular choice with many Barbarians (who tend to go damage over defence) they are proficient with them (excepting tower shields).
At the heart of the Barbarian is their core rage power but there are surrounding abilities that make them an attractive option for a player or an NPC foe. Over the levels the Barbarian becomes increasingly harder to pin down, firstly unable to be caught flat footed and then later not even being able to be flanked. This relates to the Barbarian’s energy level as they are always moving and always in a state of awareness. They also are masters of battling as many opponents that they can so can handle being surrounded with little problem. This energy also allows them to react to traps quicker and they gain a dodge bonus against traps as they seem almost presentient to them when they trigger.
On top of their mobility the Barbarian is also resistant to physical damage and mental domination. They receive Damage Reduction (DR) at a moderate level of power and the amount of damage resisted is dependent on the level of the character. After some time the Barbarian also becomes mentally tougher receiving a bonus to their Will saves against any enchantment magic that is used against them.
Looking Beyond the Core Rulebook
The Barbarian is broadened in scope with a mass of new rage powers in the APG. These powers make it a lot easier to theme the character as you have a synergy that exists within some of the powers themselves. This synergy makes a Barbarian able to take powers that fit both thematically as well as sometimes with other power mechanics to mesh the character into a whole. There are nearly four full pages in this section all devoted to adding a variety of new Barbarian rage powers to the class making the APG the single most important expansion amongst the core sourcebooks for the class. The book also offers up 10 archetypes that allow you to modify your character from the standard Barbarian located in the Core rulebook. These archetypes are;
- Breaker: Driven not only to destroy their foes but their environment as well
- Brutal Pugilist: Focus on hand to hand combat and combat manoeuvres to bring their opponents down
- Drunken Brute: Their intake of alcohol fuels their rage so don’t think because they are drunk they are an easy beat
- Elemental Kin: Tied to elemental forces by tribal shamans the Barbarian uses the power of elemental forces to aid them
- Hurler: Focusses his rage into throwing items at their foes
- Invulnerable Rager: The Barbarian becomes much more resistant to damage of all sorts
- Mounted Fury: A master of mounted war they ride down their foes
- Savage Barbarian: Far from modern weapons this warrior has taught themselves battle in a unique and primal way
- Superstitious: They develop their rage to warn of magic and mystical abilities and more easily defend against them
- Totem Warrior: The Barbarian has a totem that they focus on, revering the powers that make them more like their totem 3
The UC sourcebook offers up another slew of rage powers for the Barbarian. There are quite a deal fewer than the APG but they fit nicely with some of the archetypes also included (another 7 options). The rage powers here work well together and do expand out the options for all Barbarians making this book a good read also if you are thinking of playing in the class. The added archetypes are;
- Armoured Hulk: This Barbarian masters the use of heavy armours alongside their rage
- Scarred Rager: These warriors are covered in scars, and each scar has a story!
- Sea Reaver: Pirates and curs of the sea these warriors adapt their rage to open water
- Titan Mauler: A warrior skilled in fighting oversized foes and bringing them down as quickly as possible
- True Primitive: Tribes that live hidden away from the world tend to bring out the most primal Barbarian ragers
- Urban Barbarian: Skilled at operating with the city or village as their territory these Barbarians are more civilised but just as dangerous
- Wild Rager: These Barbarians become more like a beast as they give in to their primal nature
The Barbarian is not a class that I am overly familiar with. I have a rudimentary knowledge of the class as I have had to NPC Barbarian’s only through the Serpent Skull adventure path. I have never played a Barbarian as a player and I have never had a player take on the role of a Barbarian although that may change in Reign of Winter as I have a player who intends to take a Barbarian should his current character die. Based on this I have little feeling for the class as a whole. From my experience NPCing the Barbarian’s in Serpent Skull I do know the class is not one that anyone should underestimate.
The class is brilliant at dealing damage. Their core mechanic is one that allows them to increase the amount of damage they do as well as increasing the likelihood that they will actually manage to hit on most occasions. It is the rage powers that add the subtle abilities to the class that I struggle to comprehend with the class and is a blind spot that I know I need to address. I have tagged the Barbarian as a class I would like to play to help me understand how they work in detail.
A Barbarian is a dangerous opponent and should not be written off as inconsequential. They have a multitude of handy powers that are too numerous to describe individually here but they can and will surprise you with these abilities so expect the unexpected.
I would love to hear from you all if your favoured class is the Barbarian. Hit us up in the comments and let us know what your favoured builds are. What is the best rage powers to equip your barbarian with and why? I have listed here only the core sourcebooks and the materials for Barbarians in those books, are there other books or sources that are a must if you are going to play a Barbarian? Until next week, keep rolling!
Mark Knights is 39 year old guy living in a small rural town called Elliott in Tasmania, Australia. I have been role playing since I was 11 years old playing the original versions of Dungeons and Dragons, MERP, Elric, Dragon Warriors and the like amongst other genre games. I played D&D 2nd Edition through the 90′s but I ran Earthdawn for my fantasy setting and loved it as a GM. When 3rd Edition came out for D&D I tried it but found it too heavy on rules. I ignored the 3.5 edition of DnD in favour of Earthdawn (big mistake) as I thought it was just a money spinner. When 4th Edition DnD came on my players and I gave it a red hot go but hated what it had dumbed the game down to be. On a trip to Melbourne to buy some 4E stuff from a hobby store an old mate of mine pointed me at Pathfinder and in a Fantasy setting I have never looked back.