Level Up (A5E) Berserker: My Nitty Gritty Feedback


This "Barbarian" will be an interesting one for me, as its one of my favorite classes in 5e. I have had several barbs at my table, and its a class that performs better than it looks on paper, and flavorwise it really gets players into that crazy, "throw themselves into the fire" type mindset. So lets see how level up does with theirs.

As usual, the Rating System:

A - Perfect, solid, I love it.
B - A bit more niche than I would like, but probably in the right campaign it will be fine.
C - Needs some work, its on the weak side.
O - Overpowered, just too strong, needs a tone down.

Further, I do want to dig in to Flavor at bit as well, as that is an important part of the analysis, so I will also include a Flavor rating for certain abilities. If I don’t mention anything, I assume a base “good” rating, aka I think it’s perfectly fine and serviceable flavor.

F+ I love this flavor, I immediately thought of playing a character with X.
F- Something is lacking here, this idea is not jiving with me.

Overall Balance (O): So I have mixed thoughts here. To me its clear that this berseker is a good bit stronger than the core barbarian. You get manuevers for more damage, your rage gives you even more survivability, you get lots of nice flavor abilities, evasion, you get lots of new critical abilities, etc. Really the only thing you are giving up is reckless attack and feral instinct, both of which can be quasi replicated with various abilities in this class. And I don't know if that's a good thing...unlike the ranger and the sorc I don't think the vanilla barb really needed a "power up", the most common argument is that the barb gets too little past 10th level, but from 1-10 they are a very solid class.

That said, there is something very appealing about the simplicity of the vanilla barb. Reckless Attack is one of the best flavor abilities in the game, it really gets players in the mindset of just throwing themselves into danger. The vanilla barb is just stupidly simple, you attack, you crush...you win! The level up Barb has added complexities, with a rage that requires tracking, manuevers to keep track of, conditions to consider on crits, etc.

So ultimately I guess its a question of who this new class is really for. Are people looking for a more complex barbarian? In which case, wouldn't they rather play the fighter? So at the end of the day this is definitely the "stronger" class... but whether its the "better" class for the people looking to play barbarians, that is a harder judgement to make. Part of me wishes they had literally just taken the vanilla class and added some of the fun flavor elements to it.

Battle Defense: I just want to note here that I am happy that both main archetypes are represented for the barbarian.

Juggernaut (A): If your not playing with a lot of dex or con, than this is the way to armor up. Simply gets the job done.

Unarmored Defense (A): Still as solid as the vanilla version, plus it throws in some extra speed as a reward for those committing to dex and con. I like it.

Rage (A, F-): So similar to vanilla rage, except that we replace a damage bonus with a temp hp bonus. So a little less offense for even more defense. My main issue is the fact that the Temp HP stack, which nothing else in the game works that way, and it forces barbarians to track things (and I feel like barbarian is the one class you want to keep tracking to an absolute minimum). I could go with a "Heal X" mechanic, that way I just do it on my turn and I don't have to track it round to round. I do like that they removed the clause about having to take damage or attack every round to stay in rage, I think that's a needless complexity that is not really needed.

Danger Sense (A): Good ability, works as vanilla.

Furious Critical

Dazzling Prowess (A): Technically you can't get the ability at 5th level, so the prereq is strange (should be 4th or 6th). Stun is a strong ability that few things are resistant to, this is probably the ability to beat once you get to this level.

Deafening Blow (B, F-): The ability is already niche because it only works against spellcasters (and if your getting in crits against casters you may be just killing them anyway). Again, there is too much tracking here for my taste. You have to track duration, and you have to remember how much damage you did to keep the DC right.

Furious Momentum (C): This one only gives you the potential of doing more, but doesn't actually give you tangible benefits. That might be okay if its at will, but throw in the once per long rest and its already garbage. Then throw on the fact that you will have a 19-20 crit range at 5th level and it just goes to the bottom of the pile.

Jockeying Blow (A, F+): This one wouldn't be all that great except it does stack with other criticals. The fact that it is enables Barbs to do the crazy jump shenenagians that they should be doing is what sells this one to me.

Knockback (A): The fact that it always works makes it a very appealing choice. And its niche enough that you'll use it in the right situations, but in others your happy to switch to other criticals, so I feel it plays nice with other abilities.

Knockdown (B): Since this barb does not have reckless attack to get automatic advantage, this ability is solid to set up both himself and the whole party for more pain. The reason I gave it a B is because I think Dazzling Prowess makes it obsolete.

Mighty Blow (A): For the barb who just wants to bring the pain, solid, simple, deadly.

Pinning Strike (B): I think in general grapple is weaker than some of the other conditions you can get, but there may be barb wrestling builds that really enjoy this one.

Relentless Attack (A): I'm sure someone will do the math to determine whether Relentless or Mighty Blow is the "superior damage option". They both do similar things but in different ways, so without going deeper they both seem like good picks.

Terrifying Force (A): This one is nice at higher levels when you get 2 rounds out of it, and the fact that it stacks with other furious criticals makes it a solid pick.

Combat Maneuvers: I do think Mirror's glint is an odd choice for the barb, just because a lot of its maneuvers feel more "tactical" than what I think of for barbarians. Adamant Mountain has some great stuff to give the Barb more damage, or just the ability to further shrug off conditions or heal themselves. Tooth and Claw further exemplifies the crazy jump on you and kill you barbarian, so I think there is some fun synergy there. And of course there is always the simple Swift Combat Stance for barbs that just want to be even faster. Again, I didn't see anything that really jumped out out me as OP in a barbs hands, I do think they get a very solid damage bonus with some Adamant Mountain maneuvers, but no more than a heavy weapon fighter would.

Ultimately though I go back to the notion that the barbarian to me is at its best when its stupidly simple...so I question whether maneuvers are right for the class. I guess on the one hand, its simple to give someone a stance and just a damage maneuver and say "here go kill", but I still question whether this is the right place for manuevers.

Versatile Exploration (A): So unlike the ranger one, the fact that I get this at 3rd means that I have a lot of choices with my knacks. Further, I get other 3rd level abilities too so this is a nice little add on ability that just does a good job.

Warrior Borne

Agitate (A, F+): I think this is a fun and cool ability, opens up some interesting roleplaying by forcing the NPCs to act...but what sells it is the fact that you "didn't do anything" to make it happen, at least from onlookers watching.

Fearsome Reputation (A, F+): Again, this one is just fun and cool. I think a lot of players will love this one, even though its not the strongest it just feels badass to arrive in a place and people immediately throw themselves at your feet.

Imposing Prowess (A, F-): My main issue with this is it doesn't allow an Intimidate reroll...this ability screams that to me. Ultimately I think this one is mechanically fine, its just the other abilities are so much cooler I don't think this will get taken as often.

Crushing Blows (A, F+): Probably the most common "complaint" of players I have had play a barb, as they are confused why the barb doesn't get an improved crit range. Now while reckless attack nearly replicates a 19-20, I think players appreciate having that increased range.

Primal Prescence

Forceful (A, F+): I literally have a character right now that likes to "talk through their muscles", and he would go gaga for this power. Beyond the solid bump to a key skill for many barbs, the mini leadership power is going to be very fun for many barbs.

Mighty (B, F-): I feel like this is missing out by not using Strength instead of Con. How often over how many editions have special feats or such been made because barbs want to use Strength with their intimidates? Beyond that, I feel that the "looking for X" ability is something anyone can try, and this is literally just forcing a mechanic that most DMs would just use skill checks for. It would be one thing if it was automatic, but the fact that it still requires a check just makes it feel superfulous.

Scary (A): This effectively gives you almost double the chance to make deception rolls, it actually seems mechanically pretty powerful. I do think that most barbs use deception less than persuasion so there is that counterbalance.

Evasion (A): Its evasion, of course I want it!

Battle Moxie

Provoking Attitude: I'm a bit unsure on this one. I think GM discretion will heavily influence this one, especially in combat. Can you effectively pull a major monster out of combat for a round....multiple rounds?

Roaring Pause (O): With 5e combats lasting such a short time, the idea that you can effectively just "stop" the enemy from participating in the first round is absolutely crippling (especially since it doesn't require your own action, you can do it "for free"). This is high level spell levels of power.

Takes One to Know One (C): Compared to the others its pretty weak, its not usually terribly hard to spot the warriors.


Lead the Pack (A): Its a solid bonus in general but the fact you can help the weak link in the party with a check is a solid bonus.

Mark of the Wilderness (A, F+): Here it is, the ability so many barbs have been asking for, the ability to put strength on intimidate.

Path of Lean Winters (C): You would have to be in the most survivally of survival games to make good use of this ability, especially since a simple suit of cold weather gear gives you most of the same bonus.

Path of Scorching Summers (C): Same as Lean Winters.

Sharpened Senses (B): For Barbs that need to be the "ranger" of the group this is an alright knack, but again its pretty niche.
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