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Getting Mad: Quark's thoughts on the barbarian

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Great Adventurer
Great Adventurer
To properly gauge what a class can do, sometimes you need to look through all its stuff and pick out the fun bits. This is as much a thought gathering place for me, and maybe a useful reference for other people.

Today, I'm going to look at the barbarian, both chained and unchained.

The main difference between the chained an unchained barbarian is how rage works. They both have their pros and cons. The Chained gives a morale bonus to strength and constitution, while the Unchained gives an untyped bonus to melee attack and damage rolls and also some temporary hp. They're almost functionally identical. The only differences are:
Chained Archers and two-handed weapon users are better
Unchained Two-weapon fighters or light weapon users are better
Chained gives a bonus to fortitude saves
Chained barbarians have a horrible habit of just dying when they hit 0 (or are hit by effects like sleep), while unchained sort of heals after a fight
There are some effects that make morale bonuses better. But, there are also effects that give morale bonuses.
Ultimately, Unchained is easier and less killable, while Chained can be stronger.

Next up, Archetypes. Picking an archetype is one of the more flavourful parts of designing your character, so you aren't necessarily looking for optimal, you're looking for fun or a fun concept. Archetypes that are quite good I'll mark in bold.

Trade offs to consider:
Trap/danger sense is well worth trading out. Fast movement/uncanny dodges depend on what you swap for. DR and indomitable will keep if possible. Tireless rage is amazing for Chained, but unchained can skip it.

Armoured Hulk: You get to wear heavy armour for better AC and can move at closer to normal speeds. In exchange, you lose the uncanny dodges. Cool, but you can be flanked and caught flat-footed, which combined negate the bonus from armour, and open you up to more damage potentially. Almost a trap.

Breaker: Bonus damage to breaking items and do more damage with broken/improvised weapons. You lose trap sense and fast movement. If you're going to sunder stuff, go for it.

Brutal Pugilist: Good at grappling and not being grappled (and other combat manoeuvres). Loses trap sense and uncanny dodges. There are some rage powers that would work very well for this, but otherwise it's average. Worth it if you're expecting lots of grapples, because grapples are very nasty.

Burn Rider: Odd series of powers. Good mounted and in areas with lots of fire. Could get awesome combos with a fire magician.  Lose rage powers to get a horse, avoid fire damage easily in place of trap sense and can see through smoke to replace uncanny dodge. It could be good with proper planing, but otherwise not so good.

Drunken Brute: Can drink stuff as a move action rather than a standard, in exchange for fast movement. Since you still need to spend a move action to get it out and are thus spending a whole round doing it anyway, this seems sort of pointless (although maybe rage powers make this better). For now, terrible.

Drunken Rager: This is actually pretty good, although comically doesn't stack with the Drunken Brute. Basically you drink booze to move faster (in bursts), get evasion and improved evasion and improve the crit range on a weapon. Sort of relies on luck, but you can get quite regular x4 crits. As far as archetypes go, this is pretty good.

Elemental Kin: Swaps trap sense for the ability to... get more rounds of rage when you take energy damage? Seems like a good trade for anyone.

Flesheater: Creepy. Eat things/people and gain their abilities, but you take an intelligence hit. It does let you fly consistently from level 2, which is awesome, in exchange for lower defence and fewer rage powers. Greater rage gets a weird side-grade that doesn't get properly better until level 14. Capstone is awesome though. All up, probably worth it.

Hurler: Throw things further in exchange for slower movement. Maybe okay if you're... throwing a lot of stuff? Much better options around.

Invulnerable Rager: Take much less damage all up in exchange for being hit slightly more. Oh no. Very worthwhile trade. Also a tiny bit of fire/cold resist, which is nifty.

Jungle Rager: Be good in one place in particular. Good for home bodies? Feels like it's better for NPCs. Could do hilarious things with these and swarms.

Liberator: Be sort of better at breaking things, hiding from constructs and stopping people casting. In exchange for the uncanny dodges and being worse at will saves. Nope. Take breaker instead.

Mad Dog: Get rage later, but have an animal companion who's good from the start, and gets sort of better as you level up. Not so many rage powers, but fun teamwork stuff to do here. Flanking becomes much less of an issue with two, so this is a decent trade.

Mounted Fury: Ride a horse and have worse defences. Since it's right after Mad Dog, it's hard to recommend it since it's strictly worse, but at least you get more rage powers?

Pack Rager: Gets better and better the more people you have. Swap rage powers for teamwork feats (but everyone gets them whenever you rage) and lose DR. I'd call it worth it, especially if you have friends.

Primal Hunter: You want to be angry with a bow? This is what you use. Fast movement isn't an issue when you're ranged.

Savage cannibal: Bite stuff so it bleeds. And also scare people. And sometimes get temporary hp. Admittedly the bleed is sort of decent, as is the temp hp, but you're losing DR and dodges. I'd skip it.

Savage Technologist: Fight with sword and laser gun? Cool, but reloading is always a huge problem, unless you're lucky enough to have a ray gun like they think you do. Hugely thematic and cool, but only with the right tech. Elsewise, skip.

Scarred Rager: Be better at scaring people and ignore negative effects sort of. It's an okay tradeoff. Not great. But okay.

Sea Reaver: In a watery campaign, this is definitely worth it. Otherwise, well. You're a fish out of water.

Superstitious: Extra initiative is a good trade for trap sense. The DR replacement is actually worth it, ultimately, but it's a long wait for the payoff.

Titan Mauler: A personal favourite for its flavour. Use oversized weapons, get bigger when you rage, and use two-handed weapons in one hand. Dual Wielding, anyone? Curiously, very good for combat manoeuvres untrained. Your defences suck though.

Totem Warrior: This isn't an archetype, it's just words saying "Why not try these rage powers all together?"

True Primitive: You're better in one terrain and... swap trap sense for extra damage/saving throw bonuses!? Worth it! You have terrible weapon options and can't read or write, but you can get around that.

Untamed Rager: Be scary and at using the best combat manoeuvre: Dirty Tricks. Easier to hit though, but being good at blinding people is worth it. Or, you could just be a fighter. I guess this is okay if you prefer this thematically though.

Urban Barbarian: Lose set bonuses to rage and swap it around a little. Rage isn't as good though. Also, you're not a moron when you rage.

Wild Rager: You get an extra attack per round really early that stacks with everything. And also a reroll on mind-affecting spells. But, you go nuts all the time. It's a gamble, but very definitely worth it.

Rage powers are the final thing to look at and pick out the cool ones. Un/Ch indicates an un/chained version/rage power. Italics means it's good, and bold means it's exceptionally good. The rating takes the best of chained and unchained, under the assumption you can pick.

Accurate Stance (UnCh): Hit stuff more easily after 1 move action. Nifty.

Animal Fury (Un/Ch): Get a bite attack. Extra attacks are always good.

Armour Ripper: Make sunders more likely to hit. Good if you're going for it?

Auspicious Mark (Un/Ch): Add 1d6 to a d20 roll after seeing the result. Bonus is better in UnCh but once a day, while Ch is once per rage.

Battle Roar: Scare stuff and deal tiny sonic damage. I guess it's an extra little bit of damage?

Beast totem Lesser Intermediate Greater: Get claws, then natural armour, then POUNCE!? Worth it for pounce at the end, definitely.

Bestial Climber: Climb quickly. Yay.

Bestial Leaper: Spring attack, but better.

Bestial Swimmer: Swim quickly. Yay.

Bleeding Blow (Un/Ch): Deal bleed damage on a hit using powerful blow/stance. Less damage with Un, but at least it's always on, unlike Ch and its stupid once per rage thing.

Bloody Bite: If you've got the bite, it's extra damage, and better than bleeding blow.

Bloody Fist: Thematic and cool, but once per rage? Eww.

Boar's Charge: Auto Crit Threat with gore attack. See Fiend Totem

Boasting Taunt: Scares someone until they attack you in melee. Either they're a caster and don't care or they were going to hit you anyway. Just scare 'em normally.

Body Bludgeon: Grapple someone to pinned and then use them as an improvised weapon. You realise that you could have just killed them in the first place and be on the next guy, right?

Brawler Normal Greater: Get improved unarmed strike, then two weapon fighting while raging. So take the feats. Unless you can't for some reason, I guess.

Breathtaker: Oh no, what will they do if they can't hold their breath?

Calm Stance (Unch): Lose all the benefits and penalties of rage but temp hp. Nifty if you need to use an item or are multiclassed, but otherwise a poor choice.

Celestial Totem Lesser Intermediate Greater: Get healed a little more per spell, then get a nice lightsource and invisibility purge near you, then SR vs evil spells. Middle one's nice, but there aren't many evil spells for the greater one to be useful.

Chaos Totem Lesser Intermediate Greater: Get useless bonuses against lawful things, then a chance to ignore crits, then very nice DR/Lawful. They do get a lot better as they go on, and it's maybe worth it for the last one.

Clear Mind (Un/Ch): Reroll a failed will save. Only once per rage for chained, but always on for Unchained.

Come and Get Me Enemies get +4 attack and damage against you, but you get to hit them with AoOs on each attack.

Crippling Blow (Un/Ch): Deal strength or dex damage on a hit. Once per day for Un, and uses the already crowded Powerful Blow rage power for chained and has a save to halve damage.

Deadly Accuracy (Un/Ch): Get bonus to confirm crits while using accurate stance/blow. Of course, it's utterly useless for chained since it's only once per rage and the chances of it happening to be a critical threat are low.

Deathless Frenzy: Be immune to death via hp loss for one round while raging. Get healed up and you're fine to go and let this trigger again. And again. And again.

Disembowling Tusks: Deal con damage on a crit with your gore attack. See Fiend Totem

Disruptive: As the fighter feat. If you hate casters, it'll annoy them a teensy bit. Nice if you ready to smack people as they cast Devil

Dragon Totem Initial Resilience Wings: This has lots of prereqs, so of dubious use. Get okay bonuses to some effects, then energy resistance to one type (but not very good), then wings while you rage. Nice ending one, but not worth all of your rage powers up to level 10.

Eater of Magic (Un/Ch): Get HP if you make a save vs a magical thing. Once per rage so it's sort of terrible for Ch (also you need to fail and then reroll and hope that you pass this time), but it's better for chained.

Elemental Stance (UnCh): Bonus elemental damage. Nifty.

Elemental rage lesser intermediate greater: Literally Elemental stance, but over 3 rage powers instead.

Energy Resistance (Un/Ch) Absorption (Un/Ch) Eruption (Ch): Get energy resistance to one type, then heal from energy damage, then spit it out as a breath weapon. UnCh combines Absorption and Eruption and heals more, but it's once per day, unlike once per rage. UnCh also combines two further Ch powers, but it's not clear exactly how it works.

Fearless Rage (Un/Ch): Same for both. Immune to fear except panicked. Since it's not complete it's not great.

Feasting Bite: Deal damage with a bite and heal half of the damage. Very, very good.

Feast of Blood: Use Bloody Fist and eat the vital organ to gain some tiny amount of HP and get some special defences. Disturbing, yet still not very good.

Ferocious Mount/Beast Normal Greater: Allows your mount/animal companion to rage as well, then use constant effect rage powers. Amazing if you have one.

Ferocious Trample Normal Greater: Gives mounts a trample attack, then makes it better.

Fiend Token Lesser Intermediate Greater: Gain a gore attack (Which is AMAZING for some rage powers above), then hurt people who hit you, then hurt and scare good people who stand next to you.

Fierce Fortitude: Get better at resisting disease and poison. On a Constitution based character. That gets more Constitution as a class feature. Huh.

Flesh Wound (Un/Ch): Chained is a fort save once per rage to make all damage from 1 attack nonlethal. Unchained is a fort save once per day to ignore damage completely, and it's halved and nonlethal even on a failure. They're both good, but the once per day really hurts Unch.

Fueled by vengeance: Hit stuff that hit you and keep raging. Sure, it's infinite rage, potentially, but why bother?

Gearbreaker: Ignore a construct's hardness once per round. Unfortunately, mostly they have DR and not hardness, so this is terrible.

Ghost Rager: Deal full damage to ghosts &c. That +1 bonus for ghost touch is pricey, so this can be very worthwhile

Good for what ails you: Get another save against a range of negative effects when you drink booze, and success suppresses it. While it's useful sounding, a lot of them you can't actually take the actions to drink it, so... grab one of the other, more useful rage powers

Greater Animal Fury: Deal more damage with your bite attack. But not much. Get a new attack form instead. Skip.

Ground Breaker Normal (Un/Ch) Greater (Un/Ch): Attack the ground to make difficult terrain and maybe trip things (Low, static DC). Greater increases the radius. Standard once per rage for Ch, but Full-round at will for UnCh. Depends a little on your useage, but regardless of the version it's very definitely skipable.

Guarded Life Normal Greater: Convert some lethal damage to non-lethal when reduced to 0 or lower. Greater enhances the effect. Particularly good for Chained, since this really stops the horrible immediate death on knockout. Looses some utility when greater rage comes in, but since death is less of an issue then anyway... Regardless, it's very valuable for the lower levels.

Guarded Stance (Un/Ch): Get dodge bonus to AC based on level. UnCh gives bigger bonuses and lasts effectively forever, while Ch is a short duration and only vs melee. This is one of the easiest ways to actually keep a relevant AC, so if you like that sort of thing...

Hive totem Base Resilience Toxicity: Reduce damage from swarms, get CMB and CMD for grapples and finally improve your bite and get a nice little poison. It's almost worth it for the final one. The grapple bonuses are nice too, if you like that.

Hurling Lesser Normal Greater: Throw big things, up to 1 size category larger than yourself. Deals okay damage as a ranged touch attack. It's always nice to have a reliable way of hitting things at range, but you could always just pick up a bow. The range isn't very good until you get to Greater, but that's a bit of an investment...

Hurling Charge: Get a +2 bonus to attack rolls when charging to throw things. Oddly, it doesn't function well with Hurling, so the whole thing is sort of pointless.

Impelling Disarm: Sort of improved Disarm once per rage, and you get to attack things with the disarmed weapon. For most, skipable, but sometimes worthwhile if they have poor CMD

Increased DR (Un/Ch): Improve your DR by 2 for UnCh and 1 for Ch. Nothing much better than taking less damage.

Inspire Ferocity (Un/Ch): Give reckless abandon to nearby friends. UnCh does it all the time in the stance, put needs constant activation in Ch.

Internal Fortitude (Un/Ch): Immune to Nausea and Sickened. Same for both. Both of these are nasty conditions, so it's worth looking at.

Intimidating Glare (Un/Ch): Demoralise someone as a move action. UnCh lets you use Str in place of Cha on the check and has a longer range than Ch. Regardless of the option, they're basically also shaken for the rest of their life. Nifty at lower levels when the debuff is significant and it doesn't interfere with your full attacks.

Knockback (Un/Ch) Can make a bull-rush in place on an attack 1/round that deals minor damage. UnCh lets you use full CMB regardless of where it comes, making it very nifty, especially at high levels when the last attack will almost definitely miss.

Knockdown (Un/Ch): 1/round improved trip that deals minor damage. So get the feat.

Lethal Accuracy (Un/Ch): Increase critical modifier by 1 (x2 -> x3 &c.). Only on your 1/rage surprise accuracy, so it's sort of bad, but constant for UnCh, making this a fabulous choice at any time.

Linorm Death Curses: Deal tiny extra damage and drop a curse on people when you die. Shame it's a Cha based DC. Curses range from element vulnerability to permanent stagger. Can work amazingly with the right party, but it's better for NPCs.

Liquid Courage: +1 morale bonus to saves vs mind-affective with each bit of booze consumed during your rage. While that's nice, you need preparation to do it, and it burns a decent chunk of rage, so I'd shy from it simply because it's impractical.

Low-light vision (un/ch): Oh good. See slightly further in dim light. Yay.

Mighty Swing (un/ch) Auto confirm a crit 1/rage for Ch and 1/day for UnCh. Ideally this shouldn't be a problem anyway, but it never hurts to have something definite.

Moment of Clarity: 1/rage, negate all rage stuff. Useful if you need to heal yourself or if you have a stricter GM.

Night vision: See in the dark. As far as combat is concerned, Scent is strictly better, but it can work well out of combat.

No Escape (Un/Ch): Follow a withdrawing foe. Always hilarious when they think they're safe to change that.

Overbearing Advance Assault: Deal damage with overrun, then overrun infinite targets. Charging is so classically barbarian that this will almost always see use.

Penetrating Bite: overcome DR with your bite. While an amulet of mighty fists (eventually) covers this, if you're biting this will be used a lot in the early times.

Perfect Clarity (Un/Ch): Roll 2x to disbelieve an illusion. Only once per rage for Ch, but potentially up forever for Un.

Powerful Stance/Blow (Un/Ch): Deals extra damage. Only once per rage for Blow, so it's quite useless, but always on for extra damage is always nice.

Primal Scent: reduce total concealment to concealment. Combine with blind-fight to make it a 4% miss chance at any time. Kill those mirror images!

Protect Vitals: Make it harder to confirm crits on you. Hard to argue with that.

Quick Reflexes: 1 extra Attack of Opportunity a round. Combat reflexes instead, anyone?

Raging Climber/Swimmer (Un/Ch): Get bonus on climb checks. Unchained combines this with Bestial Climber/swimmer, giving you a proper climb/swim speed, which makes this a useful one at most times.

Raging Flier: Fly 1/rage so long as you land on ground. Since it's not constant it's... not so useful.

Raging Leaper (Un/Ch): Gain bonus on acrobatics checks. Unch also lets you take half damage from falling. Useful largely for the very good Bestial Leaper rage power.

Reckless Abandon/Stance (Un/Ch): Gain bonus on attack but penalty to AC. It's a rare constant in Ch, so it's basically compulsory if you're using that. For UnCh, there are many better choices with no drawbacks.

Reflexive Dodge (Un/Ch): Gain bonus on reflex saves when using Rolling Dodge/guarded stance. Bonus is better in Unch and can stay on perpetually, it's much better.

Regenerative Vigour/Stance (Un/Ch): Gain fast healing after using Renewed Vigour or replenish temp HP for Ch. Since it's not real HP, it's less good for Unch, but nice for a way of self healing for Ch.

Renewed Vigour (Un/Ch): Same thing for both. 1/day heal 1d8/4 levels + Con modifier. Actual healing is nice, although as a standard action it's not especially useful mid-combat.

Renewed Vitality (Un/Ch) Life (Ch): Ignores ability damage/drain then negative levels. UnCh combines the two. Since you'll probably die a lot, this will get a lot of use, and even if not, it's a very helpful little thing.

Roaring Drunk: Gain bonus on intimidate checks and fear effect DCs based on how many drinks you've had. Fabulously terrible, except perhaps for Rage Prophets.

Rolling Dodge: Gain small dodge bonus to AC vs ranged attacks. Useful only in that it gets you to reflexive dodge.

Roused Anger (Un/Ch): Allows you to rage while fatigued, but makes you exhausted afterwards. Better for Ch, since it's a one time rage cycle, which can sometimes be useful, but pointless for Unch.

Savage Intuition: Start Raging as soon as combat starts. It's a free action anyway, so I don't see a whole lot of point in this. Perhaps if you have combat reflexes? Are worried about being killed before you can act? Does work well with Pack Rager and lookout/trade initiative.

Savage Jaw: 1/rage gain grab on your bite attack for a round. Even if you aren't a good grappler, if it goes off you stop something hitting you for a round.

Scent (Un/Ch): Gain Scent. This is a fantastic ability at any time.

Sharpened Accuracy (Un/Ch): While in accurate stance/using surprise accuracy, ignore concealment miss chance and cover and reduce total concealment to concealment. This becomes especially valuable combined with Primal Scent, since you can now totally ignore miss chances from things like blur, displacement, mirror image...

Shove Aside Normal Greater (Unch): move through 1 ally then all allies when charging. Unless you have an unusually large number of allies, normal should do.

Smasher: Ignore hardness of unattended objects. And how often do you need to break stuff?

Spell sunder: 1/rage, attempt a sunder attempt to dispel something. Can be useful to get rid of some of those beneficial effects.

Spellbreaker: Failing to cast defensively provokes attacks of opportunity. While a competent spell caster shouldn't have much difficulty in passing, you never know...

Spirit Steed: Gives mount DR/magic and attacks count as magic. The DR is the nicest thing, since by level 6 you really ought to have gotten your mount an amulet of mighty fists if it's attacking.

Spirit Totem Lesser Intermediate Greater: Deal small amounts of negative energy damage on an attack to nearby creatures, then get miss chance vs non-adjacent enemies, then increase reach and damage of the attacks. This is not very good at all.

Sprint: Increase speed by 50% when running or charging. Potentially quite useful, but only for the first round.

Staggering Drunk: Gain dodge bonus vs AoOs for each drink you've had during a rage. Yay, another terrible drinking rage power.

Strength Surge/Stance (Un/Ch): Gain bonus to CMB/D and strength checks. The bonus is much bigger for Ch, but only once per rage. It's got very good utility regardless.

Sunder Enchantment: Suppress a magic item's effect when sundered. Making stuff unusable without destroying it is always nice.

Superstition: Gain large bonuses on saves vs spells and spell-likes. Unfortunately, you also need to save against harmless spells while it's active, but this is still one of the best rage powers, hands down.

Surprise Accuracy: Gain a bonus to hit on one attack, 1/rage. While nice, it highlights why Unch is better for this sort of thing.

Swift Foot (Un/Ch): Gain bonus to speed while raging. Horrible for Ch, but becomes useful for Unch. Unfortunately, it doesn't stack with many other forms of speed increasing.

Taunting Stance: Attacks gain +4 on attacks and damage rolls against you, but they all provoke AoOs. The chained version, come and get me is better since it's not a stance, but it's nice regardless.

Terrifying Howl (Un/Ch): Make all shaken foes panicked if they fail a will save. Much worse for Unch because they need to have been scared by the barbarian in the first place.

Ultimate Clarity: 1/rage trueseeing and see in darkness for 1 round. Prerequisites are harsh, but maybe worth it.

Unexpected Strike (Un/Ch): Make AoOs caused by movement regardless of whether it would normally provoke or not. 1/rage for Ch, but constant for UnCh. AMAZING if you're a tripping spear type...

Water Sense: Makes it much easier to hit things in the water when you're on land. Or you could, you know, just get in the water with them. Sometimes not possible, true, but largely useless.

Witchhunter: Gain bonus damage vs creatures with spells or spell-likes. That is, basically everything. Also, you get to suppress magical effects on a crit.

World Spirit Totem Basic Spirit Unity: Bonus to AC vs Outsiders and aberations, then attacks count as all alignments and resistance bonus vs alignment spells or from aberations or outsiders, finally gets a speed boost and cannot be knocked prone. This is a good choice for any campaign where you're expecting a lot of outsiders, and the final one is just useful in its own right.

While not necessarily part of the class, here are some feats you might like to consider:

Power Attack: Do even more damage. Enough said.
Furious Focus: Hit more reliably with your first power attack each round
Improved Critical: Pick a weapon and get more criticals with it. Substantially increases your damage output.
Extra Rage Power: Some of those rage powers are amazing. There aren't many feats that can give you something like DR 2/- that stacks.
Extra Rage: Sometimes you just need more. Better if you tend to have long days.
Blind-fight: Concealment and miss chance are big problems for any martial, and this helps you deal with that.
Step up series: things 5-foot stepping away from your full attack is always a pain.
Cleave: This scales poorly with level, but at low levels it's a reliable extra hit. But, combined with bestial leaper, this can be amazing.
Raging Vitality: Get more HP while raging and can (importantly) keep raging while unconscious. Vital for chained. Check with your GM about how it works with unchained, if at all.
Cornugon Smash: Free intimidates when you hit something, basically

Other more specialised feats for certain builds:
Natural Weapons: Multiattack, Eldritch claws
Scary: Weapon focus -> Dazzling Display, intimidating prowess

And now we're done, after a long delay! I hope this helps you understand what's hot and what's not!

Last edited by Quark on Tue Apr 05, 2016 2:57 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Post on Sat Apr 02, 2016 1:05 pm by Quark

I finally got around to finishing this. There are lots of rage powers.

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