Level Up (A5E) Barbarians without "reckless attack"

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
We've started our Dragonlance campaign (pure coincidence with Morrus's timing!), and my gamers have been used to 5E rules. Our "barbarian" gamer hit level 2 and realized the 5E feature of "reckless attack" no longer exists, instead replaced with a 5% chance to have a hit do something special (crit with a benefit), assuming it doesn't get nerfed by a monster using a reaction or breaking a shield to convert the crit to a normal hit.

He feels with the way that crits can be negated, and the odds of ever rolling a crit in the first place, that the feature is beyond terrible compared to reckless attack. He's bummed at the moment and not encouraged by the idea that maybe at 12th level this starts to become somewhat useful.

Anyone have feedback on this, including game design and/or actual gameplay?
 

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VenerableBede

Adventurer
We've started our Dragonlance campaign (pure coincidence with Morrus's timing!), and my gamers have been used to 5E rules. Our "barbarian" gamer hit level 2 and realized the 5E feature of "reckless attack" no longer exists, instead replaced with a 5% chance to have a hit do something special (crit with a benefit), assuming it doesn't get nerfed by a monster using a reaction or breaking a shield to convert the crit to a normal hit.

He feels with the way that crits can be negated, and the odds of ever rolling a crit in the first place, that the feature is beyond terrible compared to reckless attack. He's bummed at the moment and not encouraged by the idea that maybe at 12th level this starts to become somewhat useful.

Anyone have feedback on this, including game design and/or actual gameplay?
I feel you, man. Here's the advice I would give your player:
  • Get a weapon with the Vicious trait (AG 313). Increases your crit range by 1, so now you have a 10% chance to crit. Still really small, but it's literally double what he'd have otherwise. (If I were Narrator, I'd consider giving it as a reward for a quest.)
  • Take the Blinding Maneuver Furious Critical. Unfortunately it doesn't help you get a Furious Critical any sooner, but its guaranteed Blindness for a few turns, which gives you Advantage on every attack, which greatly increases your chance of critting. I would always recommend applying this Furious Critical first when you hit an enemy.
Unfortunately A5e doesn't have any resources I'm aware of to give him regular, consistent, he-chooses-when Advantage like O5e did, which is a bummer, but the above should help him out.
zealous stance?
That adds expertise to your attacks and theirs. It doesn't grant advantage.
 

xiphumor

Hero
@toucanbuzz It’s not gone! It just got tweaked slightly and became something everyone could do!

AG pg. 443: Press the Attack
Before you take the Attack action, you can use a bonus action to designate one creature within your reach which is not currently the target of a Press the Attack action. Until the beginning of your next turn, your melee attacks against that creature gain an expertise die, and all attacks against you are made with advantage. You cannot gain expertise dice in this way on attacks made with disadvantage. When you Press the Attack, your target can use its reaction to Fall Back.
Also note the Fall Back sidebar:
Whenever a creature takes the Press the Attack action against you, you can use your reaction to yield ground. You move backwards 5 feet, and your attacker does not gain an expertise die against you from using Press the Attack. As part of its action, your attacker can move 5 feet towards you. Neither you nor the attacker provoke opportunity attacks from this movement. A creature using the Rage class feature cannot choose to Fall Back.
 

VenerableBede

Adventurer
@toucanbuzz It’s not gone! It just got tweaked slightly and became something everyone could do!

AG pg. 443: Press the Attack
Color me picky, but I would disagree. Press the Attack is significantly toned down - yeah, an expertise die to hit is OK, but for a berserker trying to crit more often, it does nothing. A5e has very few (if any - none that I’m aware of, at least low to mid-high levels) features that let you get Advantage whenever you want at a cost, as Reckless Attack did.
For a berserker trying to crit more, it’s not the end of the world, but it does make lower levels a little bit of a bummer, as you might go several sessions without seeing your most iconic feature activate once, while most other classes can do theirs several times a session.
 

xiphumor

Hero
Color me picky, but I would disagree. Press the Attack is significantly toned down - yeah, an expertise die to hit is OK, but for a berserker trying to crit more often, it does nothing. A5e has very few (if any - none that I’m aware of, at least low to mid-high levels) features that let you get Advantage whenever you want at a cost, as Reckless Attack did.
For a berserker trying to crit more, it’s not the end of the world, but it does make lower levels a little bit of a bummer, as you might go several sessions without seeing your most iconic feature activate once, while most other classes can do theirs several times a session.
I do agree with that, and I’m also in the camp that thinks crit-fishing shouldn’t be built into the class.
 

VenerableBede

Adventurer
Berserker would need to be completely redesigned to remove the crit-fishing aspect, so we’re already past that point. This did make me wonder if the berserker might benefit from having a unique “soft crit” with a much more generous range, not guaranteed chance to hit, and lower-but-not-insubstantial bonus to damage. Or maybe a number of times per long rest that a Furious Critical could be applied even if you didn’t crit.
There’s an archetype here that we’re basically formulating.
 

W'rkncacnter

Adventurer
That adds expertise to your attacks and theirs. It doesn't grant advantage.
i'm aware, but it's basically identical besides that. mathematically it's pretty similar too (1d4 is ~+2.5, o5e/a5e consider advantage to be +5 but it's really +3.33...). it is basically just a5e's version of reckless attack. you are right it doesn't help much for critfishing, though.
Berserker would need to be completely redesigned to remove the crit-fishing aspect, so we’re already past that point. This did make me wonder if the berserker might benefit from having a unique “soft crit” with a much more generous range, not guaranteed chance to hit, and lower-but-not-insubstantial bonus to damage. Or maybe a number of times per long rest that a Furious Critical could be applied even if you didn’t crit.
if nothing else, i think brutal critical should be changed so that even if your critical hit is reduced to a regular hit by an effect other then a reroll, you still get the effect of the brutal critical. that way even if the enemy you crit decides to take a level of fatigue or sacrifice their shield to reduce it to a regular hit, your class feature that's already hard to make use of doesn't become completely irrelevant.
 

xiphumor

Hero
It does, at least, get notably better at level 5. It changes from a 5% crit chance per turn (13-14 turns before an expected crit), to a 19% crit chance per turn (3-4 turns before an expected crit). But before level 5 it’s awful.
 
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VanguardHero

Adventurer
I feel like the Release version of Press The Attack is really underwhelming. Expertise on either side would be fine, but only gaining Expertise yourself but Advantage on attacks against you is awful. Especially when Fall Back negates the benefits of using it but doesn't mitigate the negatives. I think it was much more potent in the Playtest, Advantage on both sides plus Fall Back causing Disadvantage on attacks of whoever used it iirc, which may have been a bit too much but it just feels impotent now.
 

xiphumor

Hero
if nothing else, i think brutal critical should be changed so that even if your critical hit is reduced to a regular hit by an effect other then a reroll, you still get the effect of the brutal critical. that way even if the enemy you crit decides to take a level of fatigue or sacrifice their shield to reduce it to a regular hit, your class feature that's already hard to make use of doesn't become completely irrelevant.
I think that would be a reasonable rule.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
Berserker would need to be completely redesigned to remove the crit-fishing aspect, so we’re already past that point. This did make me wonder if the berserker might benefit from having a unique “soft crit” with a much more generous range, not guaranteed chance to hit, and lower-but-not-insubstantial bonus to damage. Or maybe a number of times per long rest that a Furious Critical could be applied even if you didn’t crit.
There’s an archetype here that we’re basically formulating.
Something along those lines would seem a bit more palatable to my player.
if nothing else, i think brutal critical should be changed so that even if your critical hit is reduced to a regular hit by an effect other then a reroll, you still get the effect of the brutal critical. that way even if the enemy you crit decides to take a level of fatigue or sacrifice their shield to reduce it to a regular hit, your class feature that's already hard to make use of doesn't become completely irrelevant.
And that.

I don't want to overpower a class, and I can see that at levels 12+ (critting on 15% of d20 rolls) that advantage would be a nasty, likely broken innate combo, but gives me something to think on. Pure brainstorming, but would it break the class if:

  • 2nd level, critical damage on rolls of 19-20 (but only a natural 20 is an auto-hit)
  • Your furious critical effects apply when rolling a critical hit, even if your enemy negates the bonus damage (by using its bonus reaction to take a level of fatigue or sacrificing a proficient shield).
  • You may apply your furious critical effects to a hit. This ability is renewed after a long rest.
 

xiphumor

Hero
Something along those lines would seem a bit more palatable to my player.

And that.

I don't want to overpower a class, and I can see that at levels 12+ (critting on 15% of d20 rolls) that advantage would be a nasty, likely broken innate combo, but gives me something to think on. Pure brainstorming, but would it break the class if:

  • 2nd level, critical damage on rolls of 19-20 (but only a natural 20 is an auto-hit)
  • Your furious critical effects apply when rolling a critical hit, even if your enemy negates the bonus damage (by using its bonus reaction to take a level of fatigue or sacrificing a proficient shield).
  • You may apply your furious critical effects to a hit. This ability is renewed after a long rest.
Those seem like pretty reasonable changes. The 19-20 alone would change it to an expected 6-7 turns before expecting a crit. There could be some multiclassing funny-business, but for a straight berserker it should be fine.
 


lichmaster

Adventurer
We've started our Dragonlance campaign (pure coincidence with Morrus's timing!), and my gamers have been used to 5E rules. Our "barbarian" gamer hit level 2 and realized the 5E feature of "reckless attack" no longer exists, instead replaced with a 5% chance to have a hit do something special (crit with a benefit), assuming it doesn't get nerfed by a monster using a reaction or breaking a shield to convert the crit to a normal hit.
I understand that can feel underwhelming for the player, I think the negative aspects are being a bit exaggerated:
First of all the possibility of sacrificing the shield is something that all PCs can do, but not necessarily NPCs can do. It makes sense that they can do so, but it's not guaranteed (npcs typically do not have death saves, etc, the game is designed to be asymmetric in many ways).
For monsters that do have a shield and sacrifice it, they lose part of the AC for the rest of the fight, which will result in higher DPR in all following attacks. In addition some of them may lose some actions, bonus actions or other traits related to shield use, which worsen their action economy.
Most monsters do not have shields though, so it also depends on how frequently they find enemies with shields
 
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W'rkncacnter

Adventurer
First of all the possibility of sacrificing the shield is something that all PCs can do, but not necessarily NPCs can do. It makes sense that they can do so, but it's not guaranteed (npcs typically do not have death saves, etc, the game is designed to be asymmetric in many ways).
For monsters that do have a shield and sacrifice it, they lose part of the AC for the rest of the fight, which will result in higher DPR in all following attacks. In addition some of them may lose some actions, bonus actions or other traits related to shield use, which worsen their action economy.
Most monsters do not have shields though, so it also depends on how frequently they find enemies with shields
the problem (at least for me) is less that NPCs can negate crits for a cost in general and more that *furious critical itself gets completely negated for no extra benefit when they do so. also don't forget you (and thus theoretically NPCs too) can choose to take a level of fatigue to negate a critical hit (although personally if i were gonna let NPCs do that too i'd make them suffer the effects of that fatigue immediately instead of after the encounter, because otherwise why would they not just take that one free critical hit negation). so, sure, maybe it won't come up super often, but when it does, that berserker player's probably gonna feel really cheated.

*also, i just realized i called it brutal critical earlier. o5e brain moment.
 

lichmaster

Adventurer
I feel like the Release version of Press The Attack is really underwhelming. Expertise on either side would be fine, but only gaining Expertise yourself but Advantage on attacks against you is awful. Especially when Fall Back negates the benefits of using it but doesn't mitigate the negatives. I think it was much more potent in the Playtest, Advantage on both sides plus Fall Back causing Disadvantage on attacks of whoever used it iirc, which may have been a bit too much but it just feels impotent now.
I'm also not fond of this expertise/disadvantage asymmetry and I agree that it makes the use of this action very situational.
That said, I think PTA was not designed to replace reckless assault, but to introduce some forms of forced movement resulting in more tactical repositioning (pressing enemies down a cliff or inside a hazard). Grappling and shoving might be the better solution in some cases, but PTA is not size restricted and does not require a save.
 

lichmaster

Adventurer
the problem (at least for me) is less that NPCs can negate crits for a cost in general and more that *furious critical itself gets completely negated for no extra benefit when they do so. also don't forget you (and thus theoretically NPCs too) can choose to take a level of fatigue to negate a critical hit (although personally if i were gonna let NPCs do that too i'd make them suffer the effects of that fatigue immediately instead of after the encounter, because otherwise why would they not just take that one free critical hit negation). so, sure, maybe it won't come up super often, but when it does, that berserker player's probably gonna feel really cheated.

*also, i just realized i called it brutal critical earlier. o5e brain moment.
I totally see your point, which is why I'd reiterate that those options are specifically discussed in the Adventurer's guide and are not in the Monstrous Managerie. Specific monsters may have legendary actions that do negate some effects, but in the *5e asymmetric design philosophy there's no way for monsters to either sacrifice the shield or take a level of fatigue or strife. Of course this is up to the DM, but it seems very reasonable to me.

Edit: also, I do agree that having one of your cool features negated for no benefits is not cool. But in there you should also place all the spells which negate on save. Spells that may require a high level slot. So that's a concept that should be treated from a much wider perspective IMO
 

W'rkncacnter

Adventurer
I totally see your point, which is why I'd reiterate that those options are specifically discussed in the Adventurer's guide and are not in the Monstrous Managerie. Specific monsters may have legendary actions that do negate some effects, but in the *5e asymmetric design philosophy there's no way for monsters to either sacrifice the shield or take a level of fatigue or strife. Of course this is up to the DM, but it seems very reasonable to me.
i'd disagree - the options to sacrifice a shield or take a level of fatigue to negate a critical hit are listed in generalist sections (sacrifice shield in the shields section of equipment, take fatigue under...well...fatigue). monsters can wield shields and, presumably, take fatigue, and considering sacrifice shield is written as if it is an inherent ability of shields, and taking fatigue to negate a critical hit is written as if it is an inherent property of fatigue, i think it's reasonable to say a monster could do either. after all, monsters can dash and dodge and disengage and whatnot, and those things are listed in the adventurer's guide and not the monstrous managerie. now, my point isn't that your proposed ruling isn't also reasonable - i could absolutely see a DM making a ruling that monsters can't negate critical hits by taking fatigue or sacrificing a shield - just that, when evaluating the balance of furious critical, i don't believe we can reliably assume it to hold in any given game.
 

lichmaster

Adventurer
i'd disagree - the options to sacrifice a shield or take a level of fatigue to negate a critical hit are listed in generalist sections (sacrifice shield in the shields section of equipment, take fatigue under...well...fatigue). monsters can wield shields and, presumably, take fatigue, and considering sacrifice shield is written as if it is an inherent ability of shields, and taking fatigue to negate a critical hit is written as if it is an inherent property of fatigue, i think it's reasonable to say a monster could do either. after all, monsters can dash and dodge and disengage and whatnot, and those things are listed in the adventurer's guide and not the monstrous managerie. now, my point isn't that your proposed ruling isn't also reasonable - i could absolutely see a DM making a ruling that monsters can't negate critical hits by taking fatigue or sacrificing a shield - just that, when evaluating the balance of furious critical, i don't believe we can reliably assume it to hold in any given game.
Point taken about dash and disengage.
But if we allow monsters to negate crits by sacrificing shields and taking fatigue, we might as well just remove crits altogether.
Rules for negating crits were likely put in place to reduce the unpleasant swinginess of 5e combat to the players detriment (something that 5.5e is also doing by basically removing monster crits, at least if things didn't change since last time I checked).
If we cannot assume that this asymmetry for negating crits is for the benefits of PCs only, we also have to conclude that the a5e berserker is essentially flawed, since it's defining feature (which cannot be triggered by the player and it occurs spontaneously quite rarely, btw) can be negated by every monster.
I'd rather err on the other side and assume that crit negation is something only PCs and very specific monsters can do.
 

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