Mike Mearls' Happy Fun Hour: Barbarian Marauder


Twitch stream archive link: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/246267086

Today's stream was a little cleanup on the Acrobat Rogue, followed by the initial design of the Marauder subclass for Barbarian. Mike got into a lot of little details regarding why certain limitations are in place, or restrictions to be aware of. In the case of the Barbarian, it had to do with why Dex builds are so difficult, which is because of the multiclassing problems of Rage + Sneak Attack.

I'll include additional notes as I re-watch the stream.


Lover of things you hate
I predict this thread will not have as many posts as the thread about his previous Twitch stream. Just a guess. :)



Had left off the 17th level ability when last we saw it, so wanted to finish it off. The problem had seemed to have been that he was putting too much focus on replicating the capstone +damage ability from Thief and Assassin. Dropping that, he instead went to doubling up on the Aerial Artistry ability, essentially doubling movement. The idea is to let this be more focused on freeing the character's creativity, rather than copy/paste the combat approach. Don't feel like you have to chase the abilities from another subclass.

To WC, the idea of "broken" means overshadowing the other players in a way to make them feel less needed, or they aren't really contributing. However if there isn't competition for the same functionality (which is much easier for abilities constrained to a specific subclass), it's OK to double down on that. If it hasn't broken in the previous ~16 levels, then you're probably safe to boost the "specialness" of it.

Related note: People are willing to accept a lot more forgiving of magic, or resource-based abilities, than they are of "always on" abilities. Always-on abilities are more tiresome to deal with and plan around, and are more easily able to overshadow other players (which leads back to the 'broken' definition). They also tend to warp the game more than abilities that you use and then they go away.

People are more OK with more outlandish things when the user has to pay for the ability. So WC tend to be a lot more conservative with the design for those options. And, as seen in the Barbarian subclass design, continual-use abilities also tend to be more problematic on the multiclassing side.

All of this is relevant to the ongoing discussions regarding the Warlord class design.

In any case, all of this gets into whether the Aerial Mastery would start to become too problematic to deal with. It's not something that can be numerically evaluated, but can very much be something that players or DMs just are uncomfortable with, and also has an impact on adventure design. For this particular case, he didn't expect it to be, but it gets the usual, "Needs to be playtested" caveat.

The example he gave was the Aarakocra race, with its inherent flight, being something that enough DMs had problems with that they exclude it from AL availability. I've seen threads about it here and on other sites, and it's easy to see the contention, and thus easy to understand why it's restricted. WC has to view all DM's reactions in aggregate, rather than individually.

Barbarian Marauder:

Based on requests, he looked at the idea of Dex-based Barbarian. The key to this HFH is looking at how to do something that may not actually be doable.

Action Economy: If this phrase comes up as part of the design process, we (WotC) have probably done something wrong. That starts getting way too fiddly, and too mechanics-focused.

Main problem: Rage only works on Str-based attacks. It also has a restriction against heavy armor while raging, for a similar reason. Multiclassing. In addition, these restrictions came about because of multiple years of playtesting, with hundreds of thousands of players. You don't just kick those design limits to the side, because they're based on hard play data.

We don't want you to change your character in a seemingly nonsensical way when you gain your subclass. That is, don't create radical alterations to how the class in played between levels 2 and 3. So we can't just change Rage from requiring Str-based attacks to Dex-based attacks when you select your subclass.

Getting to the multiclassing, having the ability to dump 'important' stats because you can just grab an ability from a multiclass choice that negates that dump, doesn't feel like a good place for the game to be in. At least, per Mike.

* Comment: One would then question why a Paladin with 8 Dex (because he can just take heavy armor and ignore Dex entirely) is OK, but an 8 Dex Barbarian is not. Flavor-wise it makes sense, but mechanics-wise it doesn't seem quite as well justified.

In any case, the damage profile combination of the multi-attack classes (Fighter, Barbarian, Paladin) has trouble when stacking with a high-damage single-attack class like Rogue.

Aside: Mike did try to make a comment about how making Rage attacks or Sneak attacks actions unto themselves, this stacking issue wouldn't be a problem. However since they're layered on top of the standard attack action, this becomes more complicated.

He also answered a question regarding Fighter having the same issue. His answer that it does, somewhat, but it's really the damage bonus from Rage that's causing the conflict, and Fighter doesn't really have the same thing. (Except the Dueling fighting style, which he never addressed.)

Aside: Even with these multiclass issues, they try to design something satisfying first, and balanced second, rather than try to balance it first, leaving you with a dry or boring class/subclass. Still, the Rogue is a common "problem" class in terms of multiclassing that they have to be careful about.


Outline details:

Speed, agility, hitting power
Threat vs a group
More attacks?
More speed
Raider, pillager, gets in, destroys, leaves
Really feel like a predator - bird of prey or hunting cat
Not good at claiming territory

Aside: Has to be careful not to overlap with Eagle Totem

3rd level - defining ability
When you rage, you turn into a tornado of attacks when using two weapon fighting and using finesse weapons.
10 attacks!
Hit everything in the room!
When you rage, if you use two weapon fighting, you can attack everyone in your reach. (explicitly not a bonus action) Can't attack a target more than once, but allow for extra attacks to pile on.

* Aside: Various commentary on optimal tactics vs what might be suggested by abilities.

6th level - ribbon ability
Roleplaying specific

10th level - useful utility
Movement ability - super dash?

14th level - combat upgrade
Lay Waste - bunch of attacks against one target
Burst of damage, once per rage

* Aside: Comment on the Wolf Totem lvl 14 ability to knock a Large or smaller creature prone with an attack — It's more of a 2014 approach, and WotC wouldn't really care about the specific size, now.

Next week, look at how the strength based usage of dex-type weapons works, and what sort of repercussions there would be to making it fully dex-based. See if there are other classes where this sort of issue comes up, and how it's dealt with.

Mike noted that it needs better flavor, as "Marauder" is fairly generic, and may not evoke the proper image of what the class was designed to be. Chat stream suggested "Dervish", given the focus on two weapon fighting and Tasmanian Devil-like approach to fighting, though Mike didn't seem to notice, as the stream was coming to an end. Personally, Dervish does seem to evoke an image that better matches the mechanics outline.


The difficulty of making a Dex Barbarian, calls attention to how deep the Dexterity design error is.

The game works better without finesse − and without socalled ‘acrobatic’ Dexterity.

Any effort that involves moving arms and legs should be an athletic Strength check, whether wielding a two-handed sword or a rapier, or punching someone. Strength includes gymnastic accuracy, including wrestling.

Any effort that involves remaining stationary while moving slightly with discrete precision, such as moving ones fingers, or aiming a bow, this is when Dexterity becomes relevant.

Relatedly, reflex if springing or jumping the body, arms, and legs is an athletic effort, relating to Strength. Strength should grant the AC bonus. The high Strength character can choose between light armor and athletic mobility, or else heavy armor with even higher AC but less maneuverability.
Last edited:


Jewel of the North
I dont understand the need to build mobile archetype has dex-based finess using archetype. A mobile, whirlwind of blades archetype can work quite well as a str build.

lvl3 Dervish: When raging and using two-weapon, you can use an Action to hit every creature within 10' once.
lvl6 Blade dancer: You can use your Str instead of Cha for Performance check.
lvl10 Quick step: +2 AC against AoO, Ignore difficult terrain while raging.
lvl14 Rapid escalation: When you crit on an attack, you gain an extra free attack against a target of your choice.


vincegetorix said:
I dont understand the need to build mobile archetype has dex-based finess using archetype. A mobile, whirlwind of blades archetype can work quite well as a str build.
The entire point is to see what sorts of problems there are when trying to introduce a feature that is explicitly contrary to the basic class mechanics. Mike eventually made it just Str-based for the basic idea's purpose, but next week is going to go back to looking at what happens when you do try to force it to be Dex-based.

Remember, it's not just about making new subclasses for viewers; it's about showing people how to go about building subclasses, for their own purposes — how to figure out balance issues, what sorts of gotchas to watch out for, what sort of mindset to use when designing the class, etc.


some people want to play a raging savage warrior that isnt a super strong arnold type .... like Mugen from Samurai Champloo. someone quick and fast that is hard to hit that rages ...

I think its more semantics ... or I think it's really people wanting to rage/sneak attack
In the case of the Barbarian, it had to do with why Dex builds are so difficult, which is because of the multiclassing problems of Rage + Sneak Attack.
You already can't cast spells whilst raging. The could just extend that to "can't cast spells or use special class abilities like sneak attack". Problem solved.


You already can't cast spells whilst raging. The could just extend that to "can't cast spells or use special class abilities like sneak attack". Problem solved.
Eh, not really. It's too vague, and you start having to enumerate stuff. Does it not work with Extra Attack (eg: Fighter 5/Barbarian 1)? Action Surge? Cunning Action?

If you just say, you can't add multiple damage bonuses to an attack (eg: Rage bonus, Sneak Attack bonus, etc), it works for Rage, but brings up the question of something like Sneak Attack + Hunter's Mark. Your rule starts having effects outside the specific class.

If you try to qualify it as only applying to "always on" abilities, does it apply to Rage? Because that's limited use.

If you specify exactly these two abilities (Rage and Sneak Attack), then do you have to worry about how that rule might interact with other classes and subclasses? The more specific the rule, the less desirable. More specific rules should only be used to open up specific exceptions, if the rules are well written. They shouldn't add extra restrictions.

Maybe it should be approached from the Sneak Attack side instead? Because Sneak Attack seems to be the ability that's really causing problems for lots of other areas, rather than Rage.

The more you try to pin down, the more troublesome it is as a rule. And that's not even get into related effects, such as Dex becoming a bit of a "god" stat, and wanting to try to push away from that.

I'm sure there's a better way to handle this, but it's not something that comes easily to mind.


Rage attack as an action seems interesting, kind of reminds me of the 4e warden's "form of" attack...and sneak attack as an action--all this makes me think that, if there is a 6e (and Mike Mearls is still in charge), it will be different then what a lot of people are thinking of....


Jewel of the North
Maybe a good alternative would be, like we saw with the spore druid, to make an archetype that can expend Rage uses for a Dex-based buff that specifically block the use of sneak attacks. The problem is that Sneak Attack should have been A) A specific Action that let you make an attack with +xd6 damage, not a bonus on a hit or B) apply to a hit of an Attack Action, so other features giving alternate Action that deals damage that are not Attack Actions would not work with SA.

I think one way would be giving the dex-build build features that require a Saving Throw from the enemies to avoid the flurry of blades coming toward them instead of calling for an attack roll form the barb. Since SA requires a hit to apply, this would be mutually exclusive.

Ex: Avalanche of Blows: On your turn, you can expand a use of Rage as a bonus action to enter a dance-like battle stance for 1 minute. While in this stance, on your turn, your Speed increases by 10 an any enemy that comes in within 5' of you while moving must make a Dex save against 8+prof+Dex or take 1d8+Dex+Rage damage bonus. Each enemy can only be affected once per turn by this action. The damage increase by 1d8 at level X,Y,Z.
Last edited:


I have a feeling this will end up like the spell-less ranger: Mike Mearls will play with this (and resolve to do things differently for barbarians and rogues in 6e) and in Drizzt's Directory of Dangerous Destinations, there will be the dervish rogue.


YouTube video for April 4 stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYUegY5MArs&t=4s
Today's twitch stream: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/248889565

So, today Mike made a bit of progress in expanding the Marauder idea. Talked about weapon choices, two weapon fighting, various balance issues such as the exhaustion on the Berserker (he wasn't sure it was actually a necessary restriction, but didn't get far into it), a little bit on the difference between choosing subclasses at 1st vs 3rd level, and then...

About 40 minutes into the video, a string of ideas came together that completely changed the entire concept — or rather, the premise behind the concept — and Marauder became the Volcano Barbarian.

There was a bit of a moment of asking, Is this a cool idea, or is this stupid? But both Mike and the stream were having a lot of fun with it, so it moved on from there. It actually didn't change much of the mechanics, from how it was being built as a "Marauder", but it built the idea of an environment that would help shape why these particular choices were being made.

Mechanics-wise, there wasn't a huge amount of change, just stuff getting revised and tweaked a bit. But it was fun seeing one of those moments where an idea just "clicked", and Mike just ran with it to see how it would play out.

There were lots of good points being made in the stream, but it's hard to transcribe, so I'm going to leave that aside from now.