Hey guys, we’re gearing up for a happy holiday season and we’re going to kick off by taking a look at the new Unearthed Arcana releases for the last month. The Mad Wizards of the Coast are playtesting a bunch of new options for the core classes from the Player’s Handbook (my guess is as a prelude to releasing a new player’s handbook or options book). These offer a lot of new ideas and spins for players looking to spice up the world’s greatest roleplaying game. Today we’re going to take a look at the Barbarian archetypes. Remember, these are playtest material, so they aren’t compatible with adventurer’s league play, yet.
The Path of the Ancestral Guardian:
The Ancestral Guardian barbarian is trading the resiliency of the totem warrior or the damage output of the berserker for one key ability: situational usefulness. The first primal path ability at level 3, Ancestral Protectors allows the Barbarian (while raging) to designate one Creature within 5 feet to have disadvantage on attack rolls that don’t target you, and if that creature tries to disengage, they only move half their speed.
Note 1: This ability does take a bonus action, and has to be repeated each round, which means you can change targets if the battlefield shifts around you or you murder the crap out of what you were hitting.
This doesn’t give a saving throw to resist, and it’s effects can’t be countered by anything, so you can impede the ability of a creature to attack other members of your party, and reduce their combat effectiveness. This will likely make you the target of that creature’s wrath, but that’s what you have that D12 hit die and Rage for.
Level 6 opens up a new primal path ability, Ancestral Shield. I’m not sold on this ability yet, but it let’s you, as a reaction, transfer your resistance to slashing, piercing, or bludgeoning damage to an ally within 30 feet who’s just taken damage of that type. You lose resistance to those damage types until the beginning of your next turn. The wording on this seems inconsistent to me, as i don’t know if it treats the resistances as 3 separate abilities and you can transfer 1 of them to an ally, or if you transfer them as a package set.
Level 10 gives you another primal path ability that i am not sold on. Consult the Ancestors gives you advantage on one Intelligence or Wisdom check, and can be used three times before you have to recharge it with a long rest. The primary issue i see with it is that the barbarian class is not an intelligence or wisdom driven class compared to some of the others (say cleric and wizard, for example), and i am not sure how useful an ability that has limited uses is going to be for a barbarian. I see this ability getting used on Perception checks, and maybe survival rolls. (Depending on your build, i am sure you can find a specific combination of backgrounds, skills, and choices that make this ability great, but at level 10 it seems underwhelming).
Level 14 adds basically a capstone ability for the path, and it’s the most obviously aggressive one of the bunch. While you are raging, when you or an ally within 30 feet gets hurt by a melee attack, you can use your ancestral mojo to zap the offending attacker for 2D8 points of force damage. Upside, it gives you another way to throw damage into something that’s attacking your friends, the downside is that i am not sure how useful 2D8 points of force damage is going to be at level 14.
Path of the Storm Herald
The path of the Storm Herald is an environmental based primal path that channels a specific terrain type to power up the barbarian, and his allies or to harm his enemies. When you pick this path, you need to pick either Desert, Tundra, or Sea. This choice will affect how a bunch of your other primal path abilities work, so choose wisely.
At level 3, you get Storm’s Fury, which is a ten foot radius aura centered on you. Depending on the terrain you picked, enemies (Specifically enemies, so your friends are good) take damage when they end their turn adjacent to you. Desert deals fire damage and tundra does cold damage. The Sea one works differently, and it allows you to specifically target a creature that gets to make a save or take a pile of lightning damage (2D6 lightning on a failed save, half on a successful save, it scales as you level). I’m not sure why the sea one had to be different, i probably would have made it work the same way as other two, i think?
At level 6, you get Storm Soul, which gives you Resistance to a specific type of energy damage based off your terrain choice. Desert gains resistance to fire and ignore the effects of extreme heat, Sea gets resistance to lightning damage and can breathe underwater (Situationally critical), and Tundra gets resistance to cold damage and ignore the effects of extreme cold. This is probably one of the more interesting path abilities since it reinforces the barbarian’s ability to resist and endure the elements and brings him a neat little quirk that isn’t that common.
At Level 10, you get Shield of the Storm, which extends the benefits of Storm Soul to allies within your aura. Could be good, could be bad if you run into monsters that can throw different types of energy. Remember, you have to be raging in order to project the aura, so you have to think this ability through a little harder.
At Level 14, you get Raging Storm. This is the capstone ability for the Path, and it powers up your aura to start inflicting status effects and make the battlefield a trickier place for your enemies to navigate. Tundra makes the area your aura occupies difficult ground, Desert requires a saving throw or it drops the enemy’s speed to 0 if they try to move more than five feet away, and Sea can knock enemies prone.
Overall this is an interesting path if your other players are willing to hang out in the aura/kill box. For things that are weak to your elemental type, you’re probably in a good place, but things that aren’t are probably going to be able to work through the situational status effects and damage caused by your aura. It’s a neat Primal Path though, and i think it’s a lot of fun to play.
Path of the Zealot
Berserkers of the Gods! This path is there for players who want the feel of barbarians who believe that the gods of war and battle have chosen them for an eternity of glorious, endless war. They have a bit of an old norse viking feel (horned helmets not included), and a couple of really interesting abilities.
At Level 3, The Path of the Zealot offers two abilities. Divine fury is an aura that affects every creature within five feet of you (Party members too). While you’re raging, at the end of your turn, every creature within range takes 1D6 + half your barbarian level in either necrotic or radiant damage (You choose when you gain the feature, and you can’t change it).
You also get Warrior of the Gods, which lets the spellcaster ignore the material component cost of any spell that is specifically targeting you and bringing you back to life. This means the cleric isn’t going to worry about carrying diamonds to bring you back with revivify, Raise dead etc.
At Level 6, the barbarian gains Zealous Focus. Zealous focus allows the barbarian to Succeed at a failed saving throw as a reaction. You do have to be raging to use this ability, and it does end your rage. However, it can save you from a number of seriously negative spell effects, so it will get used.
At Level 10, the barbarian gains Zealous Presence. As an action, they can unleash a battle cry (Get Creative, folks), that gives every ally within 60 feet advantage on attack rolls and saving throws until the start of your next turn. You have to take a long rest in order to use this ability again.
At Level 14, the barbarian gains Rage beyond Death. The capstone ability for this path gives the barbarian the ability to remain awake and fighting if reduced to 0 hit points. They still have to make Death Saves as normal, but will not die until the rage has ended.
Overall i think that all of the new Primal Paths are interesting changes in flavor to the existing barbarian class. I think the various abilities, (other than Consult the Ancestors) are worthwhile and full of interesting potential interactions and usefulness. Personally i think Consult the Ancestors is a weak ability, and might rework it more of an Ancestor’s Guidance, which doesn’t require a recharge. The other concern i have is the difference in the way the Sea ability works at level 3 for the Storm Herald barbarian and why it needs to work differently from the other two permutations.
I really like these new options and i think that the folks at Wizards have found an interesting way to redefine how traditional classes can function while keeping their original intent. I like the flavor enhancement.
That’s it for us, And we’ll be back next week with a look at the new bard and cleric options for UA, and hopefully start our review of Season 2 of Adventurer’s League, happy gaming.