Are Barbarian’s “Meh”

Todd Roybark

Explorer
So, I’ve had two players in two separate campaigns ask to retire their single class Barbarian characters. Both were around 8th level, and both “ got bored w/ the character”. Both also felt other classes got more variety of powers and did more damage. The characters in question were a modified Beserker and Zealot ( Sohei inspired w/ Polearm Master & Sentinel Feats).

This is the only class that I have personally seen retired in 5e.

Anyone else seen/ experienced it?

As a DM I would say the class as a whole reads as a boring class, but holds up well in play......up into 8th level. Monks are fun, and everyone likes playing them, Fighters start really doing Nova Action surges, and to these two players the Barbarian leveling up “ felt more of the same”.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
So, I’ve had two players in two separate campaigns ask to retire their single class Barbarian characters. Both were around 8th level, and both “ got bored w/ the character”. Both also felt other classes got more variety of powers and did more damage.
Barbarian isn't a bad class, but it is the most predictable, and the most defensively-oriented. Reckless Attack means that they'll pretty much always hit, and always be hit. Resistance to damage means they will take a small, but steady, amount of damage from every attack. Honestly, it's great setup for the type of cautious player who doesn't care about winning the damage race, as long as they maintain their steady contribution.

As compared to the paladin, which is all about dealing un-maintainable burst damage, but which can fall quickly to a couple lucky hits. (In this edition, having a high AC means that every hit you take is a crit, so it feels like you have half as many HP as anyone else - or a quarter as many as the barbarian does.)
 

Todd Roybark

Explorer
Not saying it is a bad class, (my campaign notes bears that out), but maybe a class that isn’t that much fun to play? (It looked fun from the DM side, across the screen).

Stat boosts to DMG, Crit Dice, and number of Rages, while Statistically meaningful are just not sexy to play.....that was the sense I got from my players, whom are both good role players.
 

Hawk Diesel

Adventurer
I played a Zealot Barbarian through level 10 and had a blast. The resistance and advantage on attacks is great, as are advantage on initiative checks and power critical. I've also played a paladin with anger issues until level 8, and finally felt right to take a level of barbarian for 9. It literally doubled that character's toughness with rage's resistance alone.

In my experience, the trick is:

1) Finding a fun personality and quirk to make interactions more fun outside of combat. For example, my full barbarian was superstitious and abhorred the use of magic, believing it was the path to the devil and a crutch. Considering I was in a party of mostly magic users, and it became a fun source of banter (I know the line and never let their use of magic become a point of contention or PvP, just bickering and jibber jabber).

2) Find ways to use your barbarian gifts out of combat. Their danger sense makes them great scouts when traps may be present. And their ability to rage can allow great feats of strength outside of combat (such as tossing allies across a canyon that they couldn't jump, or busting down doors). In combat its also helpful when you have that advantage on strength checks. Not only can you grapple a foe and knock them prone so that everyone can get advantage on their attacks, but it also becomes helpful when you need to drag a bad guy away from a fallen ally.

On the DM's side of it, it's important to find opportunities to let barbarians have moments to shine outside combat, remind players to play up their backgrounds, and create situations in combat that encourage tactics other than "I hit this thing until it falls" (as well as reward creativity when the players attempt more creative actions).

Personally, I think many martial classes suffer from this issue to varying degrees, because magic provides for so much utility. So for players choosing such classes, its important to make sure they are ok with simplified combat tactics, or are able to have fun with the character in a way that is not directly attached to their mechanics.
 

Kurotowa

Adventurer
Barbarian isn't a bad class, but it is the most predictable, and the most defensively-oriented.
I would phrase it that the Barbarian, or at least the Totem Warrior, offers very few tactical decision points. On the first round of combat you have to decide if you're going to attack or RAGE and attack. Then on every subsequent turn you'll just attack, no matter what choice you made before. That's only a hair more complex than the Champion Fighter. So I'm really not surprised that some players get bored with it by 8th Level and start looking into something with more tactical complexity.

Some players prefer that bare simplicity. Others are fine going on auto-pilot in combat and focusing on the RP elements. And, obviously, some find it unsatisfying not to have more choices in make in combat and decide they want to try playing something else. That's why the game offers such a range of options.
 

Aebir-Toril

Is lukewarm on the Forgotten Realms
So, I’ve had two players in two separate campaigns ask to retire their single class Barbarian characters. Both were around 8th level, and both “ got bored w/ the character”. Both also felt other classes got more variety of powers and did more damage. The characters in question were a modified Beserker and Zealot ( Sohei inspired w/ Polearm Master & Sentinel Feats).

This is the only class that I have personally seen retired in 5e.

Anyone else seen/ experienced it?

As a DM I would say the class as a whole reads as a boring class, but holds up well in play......up into 8th level. Monks are fun, and everyone likes playing them, Fighters start really doing Nova Action surges, and to these two players the Barbarian leveling up “ felt more of the same”.
Barbarians are certainly a very direct class, but if you get bored of playing one, you may be playing the Barbarian incorrectly. Barbarians aren't strategy-anemic, and they can use weapons like polearms, pikes (no, not the fish), and other cool weapons.

In other words, Barbarians don't have to be living greataxes with anger management issues. Try other weapons, new tactics, and different flavor options.
 

Coroc

Adventurer
Barbarians are certainly a very direct class, but if you get bored of playing one, you may be playing the Barbarian incorrectly. Barbarians aren't strategy-anemic, and they can use weapons like polearms, pikes (no, not the fish), and other cool weapons.

In other words, Barbarians don't have to be living greataxes with anger management issues. Try other weapons, new tactics, and different flavor options.
Ugh a barbarian with a polearm is already unfitting but a formation weapon like a pike?
Sorry, but that is minmaxing for mechanics, a legit playstyle nevertheless but not my kind of thing.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
A better question would be, "Do you enjoy playing the Barbarian class?" There's nothing wrong with the class as written; it's just not my style.

If anyone's got a homebrew for Barbarian as a Fighter subclass, I'd love to see it. I think that would be a little closer to what I think of when I think "D&D barbarian."
 

Al2O3

Explorer
I'm not sure if I've retired a barbarian, but I've certainly decided not to play one.

For me the problem is that the mechanics don't support the story I expect.

I see barbarian and rages, I think of an aggressive damage dealer who can also handle taking a beating.

My problem is that in my experience the barbarians are damage sponges that don't really ever do noteworthy amounts of damage without the great weapon master feat.

A paladin with smites have large spikes with lots of damage that feel good, and with high AC they can also take care of lots of incoming damage.

Both fighters and barbarians also come with a lack of intrinsic support for out-of-combat situations. Other classes have spells, charisma or class features that really help out of combat. Barbarians and fighters get situational ribbons.

I'm not saying that barbarians or fighters can't be fun to play, but they require more work in terms of making a backstory to compensate.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I generally regard barbarians as meh totem being an exception.

Compared to fighters, paladin's and rangers they're a bit meh IMHO.
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
This'll happen when you play a monopoly piece with combat stats vs playing a character.
This is so true.

My group has a Barbarian (I don't allow multi-class). With Great Weapon Master he is an engine of destruction, but he can only Rage three times before a long rest, so he has to invest those opportunities carefully, because long rests only come once a day, and all too often the party can't afford to take to take a long rest because facing organized opposition, it would mean giving the enemy time to dig in and prepare.

Outside of combat, he's the best role-player.
 

delphonso

Explorer
Literally just texted my GM about retiring the Barbarian I'm playing. Here's why:

I built an optimized Half-orc Barbarian with a Greataxe. He's got a strong personality and I enjoy him as a character. But, the party is two new players with a newish GM (I've been GMing for ages, this is the first time I'm actually playing 5e as a player). The newbie party are always itching for a fight, and don't have a lot of RP experience. Scenes are very short and conversations end on punchlines.

Now, I'm loving this, but boy - hopping from fight to fight has really worn me out. I've done everything I've wanted (crit for preposterous damage on an owlbear, slayed 2 hobgoblins a turn for three turns with GWM, etc.) all at 4th level. Sure, I'll get two attacks next turn, but so what?

Basically, the issue I see is that almost all of the Barbarian abilities are passive, especially Totem. Reckless attack might as well also be passive, as you basically always use it if there are less than 4 enemies around you. So in combat, which is most of the time, I'm making no decisions.

The Barbarian is super fun, but that's a short-lived fun, I think. If it's a combat heavy game, I want more options like a Paladin or Swords Bard.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
I got an Eagle Totem Barbarian up to level 11, then the campaign stalled out. I was having fun all the way, but I would preface that by saying after level 7 I stopped doing sensible tactics in combat. The allure of flying at level 14 kept me going, but after a certain point it was more of a test to see what kind of crazy things I could live through.
 

Jd Smith1

Explorer
I got an Eagle Totem Barbarian up to level 11, then the campaign stalled out. I was having fun all the way, but I would preface that by saying after level 7 I stopped doing sensible tactics in combat. The allure of flying at level 14 kept me going, but after a certain point it was more of a test to see what kind of crazy things I could live through.
That is the best way to play a barbarian: never count the odds; attack, attack, attack. It also fits well with the berserker-style rules.

The player running a barbarian in my current group gave his PC a low IQ and Wisdom, and boosted CHAR. (we use the point buy system). Makes for an excellent PC with rich role-play opportunities.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
I suppose it depends on the players; we've had a barbarian in just about every campaign in 5E, and no ones complained. The barbarian has often been the last man standing to prevent a TPK, simply due to the amount of damage they can absorb. Using Great Weapon Master and Reckless Attack, they deal a crapload of damage every round. Overall they're a great class, but they can be overly simple to play.
 

Delazar

Explorer
I'm having a blast with my barbarian!

We're playing through Princes of the Apocalypse, and we decided each character would have an elemental theme. So I picked Water.

I'm Zadas Sunumath, Triton Zealot of POSEEEEEEEEEIDOOOON! (that's what I scream every time I crit)

For some time I was using a Megalodon Jaw as an axe, recently I switched to an anchor (refluffed greataxe) that has been enchanted by some dwarven ghost.

Zadas is a bit of a womanizer, and he likes to perform "the dance of the seven sharks" for his paramours. The dance involves the use of his triton abilities (fog cloud, wall of water). Wall of Water also came in handy when facing a couple of nasty fire elementals.

Once I befriended a shark in a dungeon, and he became my pet "Crimson Tide". Now we're about to begin our final battle against the prophet of Earth, and I'm charging into battle riding a hulking crab! (a commoner we saved recently, and that our druid polymorphed to make him useful in battle)

I love to use my Athletics to do crazy stunts, like once we were hunting a manticore for some sky-knights, and I just jumped off a cliff and ONTO the manticore, then proceeded to subdue it.

We're level 12, and I know I'll miss him when this is over. Hopefully I can play him again in some other campaign, and go all the way to level 20.

"You haven't lived, if you haven't lived Recklessly"
- Zadas, just before using Reckless Attack
 

Wiseblood

Adventurer
I'm having a blast with my barbarian!

We're playing through Princes of the Apocalypse, and we decided each character would have an elemental theme. So I picked Water.

I'm Zadas Sunumath, Triton Zealot of POSEEEEEEEEEIDOOOON! (that's what I scream every time I crit)

For some time I was using a Megalodon Jaw as an axe, recently I switched to an anchor (refluffed greataxe) that has been enchanted by some dwarven ghost.

Zadas is a bit of a womanizer, and he likes to perform "the dance of the seven sharks" for his paramours. The dance involves the use of his triton abilities (fog cloud, wall of water). Wall of Water also came in handy when facing a couple of nasty fire elementals.

Once I befriended a shark in a dungeon, and he became my pet "Crimson Tide". Now we're about to begin our final battle against the prophet of Earth, and I'm charging into battle riding a hulking crab! (a commoner we saved recently, and that our druid polymorphed to make him useful in battle)

I love to use my Athletics to do crazy stunts, like once we were hunting a manticore for some sky-knights, and I just jumped off a cliff and ONTO the manticore, then proceeded to subdue it.

We're level 12, and I know I'll miss him when this is over. Hopefully I can play him again in some other campaign, and go all the way to level 20.

"You haven't lived, if you haven't lived Recklessly"
- Zadas, just before using Reckless Attack
You missed a chance to name your shark Chum.
 

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