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Playtest (A5E) Level Up Playtest Document #8: Berserker

Welcome to the 8th Level Up playtest document. This playtest contains a candidate for the game’s berserker class. The berserker is our proposed name for the barbarian, as we wanted the class to encompass a wider variety of rage-powered characters alongside the wilderness warriors the class has traditionally represented.


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What this is​

This is a playtest document. We’d love you to try out the rules presented here, and then answer the follow-up survey in a few days.

What this is not​

This is NOT the final game. It’s OK if you don’t like elements of these rules; that’s the purpose of a playtest document. Be sure to participate in the follow-up survey in a few days. All data, positive or negative is useful.

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


Unserious gamer
1) Heavy armor, yay!

2) I would probably change the wording slightly on the rage temp HP to indicate they only stack with themselves; right now, I think there's a valid reading of the rule such that they can stack with different sources of temp HP.

3) Not a huge fan of the 2h, versatile, heavy requirement on Furious Criticals, I'd prefer to see more support for dual-wielding barbarians.


Juggernaut: far stronger than unarmored defence at low levels. Speed reduction and weight only really matters to low-strength barbarians, which makes it a funny dexbarian optimal feature.

Well, I guess as written, it doesn't allow heavy armor while raging. So this is way worse, but I suspect that is a typo.

Unarmored Defense: significantly lower defence, higher movement speed.

"right application of force," sounds way too delicate.

"If the target attempts to cast a spell it must make a Constitution saving throw" I'd call it a concentration check "as if hit by the critical hit".

This is really impressive & feels like it would be an interesting member of the party even when not beating on things & the fact that it doesn't try to force every setting into finding a place where a bunch of conan the barbarian wannabes hang out as generic "barbarians". I don't think I've ever wanted to play a barbarian but I could see this having a real shot at being my choice if I were rolling up a pc for myself in someone else's game.

  • equipment package2 gives a greatsword & a shield... at least the weapons table on phb149 lists greatsword as a 2 handed weapon. I guess you could use it with the javelines, but with only 4 it feels kinda questionable unless it's showing future weapons changes
  • Battle defense. There isn't much to say about unarmored defense because it's pretty similar if not the same as what we all know, but that juggernaut is both awesome for the possibility of a heavy armor barbarian and @NotAYakk seems to foreshadow the return of heavier armors impacting movement speed (a great thing) by noting that the berserker is not impacted by them.
  • Rage: This still has when not wearing heavy armor.... I know that some of the later abilities say you can expend a rage to use them... once... but it seems like there aren't enough rages to make up the gap of everything lost. Maybe add a second type of rage that works with heavy armor but increases the crit range/throw stones like giants or something instead of half damage & temp hp ? This need is especially great since you gt rage at first & it looks like battlemoxie comes at nine....
  • furious critical: I like how it's 1 at 4 then 1 every even level. Making the savedc con based will certainly make these crit fishers a unique monster :D some of the maneuvers triggered a critical(at leas one), do these work in conjunction or are they more like the vorpal sword's crit effect?
    • Dazzling Prowess: wis save or stun till end of your next turn is a pretty impressive crit effect, especially when you start adding some of the later crit range extending abilities since stun gives advantage on attacks. Parties are definitely going to notice when this is used.
    • Deafening blow: The deaf condition doesn't really do much in 5e but by forcingthe higher of damage dealt (on a crit!) or dc10 con save to cast a spell to completely nullify a caster... however. this has no duration.a player could theoretically take it at 2nd, luck into using it with a lucky crit then still have it active 18 levels later when they meet the bbeg nextor even the next time a lich is encountered after failing to destroy the phylactery. It should probably be more than till end of next turn, but that's pretty crippling, maybe have it eat a number of spell slots or something?
    • Pinning strike: Regardless f how useful/useless the grapple ultimately is I imagine that this will get taken often just because it's so cool thematically :D
    • Relentless attack: score a crit & try again for a second with evenbbetter odds, every crit fisher's wet dream :D
    • Terrifying force: This might not look like much on it's own as a level 2 choice, but a 60ft AOE fear is a powerful tool to reshape the odds of a fight in an instant to make this in an incredible "bob thank god you crit" get out of jail card offset by its unpredictable activation.
  • Warrior born: These are just cool & lots give the berserker a chance to participate when barbarian would ptherwise be looking at their phone, twiddling thumbs, or setting something on fire out of boredom
    • Agitate: this is pretty cool but also souns like a great way for a rogue to use walk it back when the barbarian discovers the were talking to a dragon god or whatever :D
    • Fearsome reputation: "Sure I might not be great at asking around for things to do, but things to do usually find me with a gift" it's a pretty cool ability to add to a group & mentions a nice mix of quest type stuff/mundane chores that just need someone strong to avoid forcing the gm into a corner till loopholes are found if it's ever a bad fit.
    • Imposing prowess: I've seen so many barbarians try to bavkup someone by being intimidating only to be struck by an 8 plus who cares, being able to do this kind of big block o muscle intimidation will e welcome for a lot of groups, I can see the berserker trying to coordinate choices like this with the rogue & such for a neat bit of reciprocity across the party that sucks in the group when social situations come around.
  • Way of wrath: I like how changing the primal path name changes the feel
  • Crushing Blows: being able to extend the crit rangeto 19-20 & 18-20 AT 8 & 12 is pretty cool, makes a big difference, & opens up about the same time as fighters are getting their third attack to really set the berserker apart in feel
  • Primal presence: these are all pretty cool ways of using a stat berserlers should have for social stuff plus a minor boon :D
    • Forceful: "wait, I get to use con for persuade and people come to me instead of the sentinel marshals & town guards sometimes?!... cool.
    • Mighty: Con for intimidate is neat & goes well with things like imposing prowess or agitate, plus they get to top it off be asking the whole bar they are looking for a guy with a distinctive tattoo while telling the guy's goons in the process to expedite things, neat...
    • Scary: use deceptio with con vrs a wis save ust by being too scary to question. everyone knows the guy walking out of the burning building covered in blood didn't cut himself shaving like he says, buuuuut nobody wants to be the one to say it with him in earshot giving berserkers a neat option
  • Evasion: think this is the same
  • Battle Moxie: These are pretty neat
    • Provoking attitude: Neat litte twist on compelled duel extnded to armsrestling archery & whatever too if you've got a rage jut sitting around.
    • Roaring pause: at first glance this looks pretty bad to birn a rage in exchange for rerolling initiative while rolling initiative, but it also makes for things like one last chance after using agitate on the wrong creature if the rogue fails with walk it back so could be pretty useful.
    • Takes one to know one: learn if someone is proficient with more than simple weapons or manevers.. I'm not sure how useful this would be or even if it could.. but maybe someone will find a use?
  • Knacks:
    • Lead the pack: get an expertise die on a bunch of physical athletics stuff you are good at but more importantly so does one of your allies. Pretty cool.
    • Mark of the wilderness: I like that the fluff is tied to your travels not living in a cave but using strength for intimidate & persuasion on top of an expertise die in intimidate is pretty cool.
    • Path of lean winters: This is super situational almost to the point it should include a note to talk to the gm first but would be useful for some campaigns
    • Path of scorching summers: this is probably a pretty bad choice unless those summers are expected to continue under a red sun.. on athas where the lack of skip some meals is probably appreciated by the gm.. perhaps add allowing the use of intimidate to conceal vaguely undefined valuables & contraband from casual notice or something that would be extremely useful in such a setting
    • Sharpened senses: You might not be the best tracker but this lets you add an expertise die to perception survival & investigate to follow a creature's trail. The combo might sound odd & admittedly it felt odd at first, but perception & investigate are useful for finding clues left behind by the cultists & noticing the glyph of warding before reading the words "FRONT TOWARD ENEMY" on the magical claymore making it more useful than first glance might suggest.
all in all I'm really impressed


Looking good, just gotta wonder a few things:
If you take Juggernaut, does it mean you're basically choosing to give up your rage feature?
Furious critical looks fun, but it's an awful lot for something the player has no control over.
Will fearsome reputation come with a table of random bribes/quests for the DM? If every time you enter a settlement someone comes up with a gift/mission it seems like you'll need a whole lot of trivial things to throw at the berzerker whenever they leave town and come back.

seems like you'll need a whole lot of trivial things to throw at the berzerker whenever they leave town and come back.
It's not so bad if you look at it from a fate style perspective where some of the things they know you for were done in the past off screen. GM:"bob there are some villagers trying to invite you to have dinner with them for saving them from that mine collapse" bob:"the... wha...mine collapse? how long ago was that, I don't remember it at all" gm: "couple months ago you joined up with some folks to help dg out a collapsed mine shaft & everyone was really impressed that you were just throwingrubble back up the shaft without needing to use the cart" bob:"cool... so I like gave contacts here? gm: "kinda yea you are pretty well respected by a bunch of miners sally: "he bob weren't we hired to do a thing involving a haunted mine or something? you you should see what you can find out, maybe they know stuff, lets go eat the stew"


New Publisher
A nice start for sure! I hope you are getting a lot of feedback still, as the comments on the threads seem to be decreasing.....anyway, this looks interesting, and make it not just a barbarian is a great idea.


Deafening Blow - Is this meant to cause the concentration saving throw while the target is deafened? I don't think it currently does that as written. Probably should say something like "while deafened this way." Or is it meant just to keep them from casting a spell as a reaction?

Overall, looks like a lot of fun. I really enjoy the exploration and social options being added here.


Well, I'm glad I checked back tonight!

And so, my initial thoughts, as per usual. Although I don't know how helpful I'll be because the barbarian is one of two classes I've never really had any enthusiasm for or desire to play as (the other being the monk--they're just not my thing, is all), so I have no experience with them.

Juggernaut: Huh. That's odd, since the idea has always been that the barb wanders around in hide at most. But I guess since the Juggernaut wears a giant suit of armor, it fits. I do have to wonder if it's deliberate that they can wear heavy armor but can't rage in it. I'm imagining some plate-clad warrior getting angry while in battle, calling for a 5-minute break, taking off their armor, and then going into a rage.

Furious Critical: Interesting concept! I wish fighters and other martial characters had the option to get one of these--maybe with a feat? Suggestion: I can't read, apparently, and missed the word even when I first read this. Perhaps for dummies like me, in addition to saying "At 4th level and every even berserker level after" you put a mention of Furious Critical in the class chart at the appropriate level.

However, Dazzling Prowess is kinda odd. The target isn't stunned because you conked them so hard they can't think straight; they're stunned because you're so gosh-darned cool! It calls forth an amusing visual.

Warrior Borne: Borne means to bear or carry (think "blood-borne pathogen," like that video I had to watch a dozen times at work over the years). I think you mean Warrior Born, or possibly A Born Warrior. Or maybe you are destined to give birth to, or sire, little warriors.

Forceful: You write "You can always choose to use Constitution when making Persuasion checks." You've done this a few times already in other situations, so I'm a bit confused here because you've also said that you're doing a more thorough job of divorcing skills from stats. So, could you tell me which of the following examples is more accurate to how LU is going to handle skills:

Example 1
GM: So, if you want to convince the Minister to not call for the guards after finding you ransacking his dressing room, make a Persuasion check.

PC: OK, so, using Constitution as my stat, I roll... a 7. All right, I ready my axe.


Example 2
GM: [...] make a Charisma (Persuasion) check.

PC: Nope! I'mma Berserker; I get to use Con instead! And... I roll a 7. Dammit. Well, still better than if I'd rolled Charisma.

And if it's the first example, then does it mean that I always have to use Charisma unless I have an ability or there's a rule that says otherwise, but there are lots of these exceptions?

Takes One To Know One: Well, childhood-style taunts aside (you may want to change the name), this says "When you see a creature, you know if it [...] has access to combat maneuvers." Does this mean that--DM fiat* aside--there's going to be support for monsters to know combat maneuvers? "Watch out, Arim, that otyugh knows Rapid Current Eye Slash!"

Joking aside, does this give the berserker the ability to know what sort of maneuvers an individual has ("by the way that otyugh is checking out your eyes while its flexing its claws in a way that makes it look like it's plucking something, I think it knows some way to rip your eyes out."), or just that is has maneuvers?

*I saw DM fiat because, of course, there's nothing stopping me from making a monster and giving it an ability that mimics the effects of any of these maneuvers, but that's different than saying "this monster literally knows a special martial arts technique."

(Kung Fu Owlbear?)

Exploration Knacks: Good set of knacks. I notice there's only five of them--are there more in the works, or are you actually sticking all the knacks together and therefore barbarians can get some that have been listed in other playtests?

All-in-all, I still don't have any ideas for a barbarian character, but there are some definitely interesting options here.


I wish I had time to play this. I really like what you guys are doing with this. I read them and salivate some. I’m just too much in to my rq/coc game with my players at the moment. Looking forward to the final product.


2) I would probably change the wording slightly on the rage temp HP to indicate they only stack with themselves; right now, I think there's a valid reading of the rule such that they can stack with different sources of temp HP.

Temp hp never stacks.

I missed this in my initial read. There should not be a rules exception in this case. LU writers, I strongly suggest that you model the beserkers after the Abjurer wizard shield ability, because it grants extra not-temp-hp which, because it's not temp hp, does stack.

Temp hp never stacks.

I missed this in my initial read. There should not be a rules exception in this case. LU writers, I strongly suggest that you model the beserkers after the Abjurer wizard shield ability, because it grants extra not-temp-hp which, because it's not temp hp, does stack.
While your right about temp hp never stacking, I can't think of any instances not written as 'N temporary hit points", this being listed as "+n" creates confusion begging the gm to decide intent.

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