Dragon 368- Playtest: The Barbarian

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Playtest: The Barbarian
Take a Walk On the Wild Side
by Heinsoo, Mearls, Decker, and Schwalb

[INDENT]Exclusive to D&D Insider, the barbarian! This Player's Handbook 2 class won't see print until 2009, but you can get a first look at one of the builds for the class here, from levels 1 to 30. So roll up a barbarian and send us your feedback today!

See it now(2.7 mb PDF)

Barbarians are savage warriors who deal out powerful blows from their mighty weapons. They charge from foe to foe and seldom feel the pain of an enemy's strike. For barbarians' foes, the moments of greatest terror come when barbarians call upon primal forces to lend power to their raging spirits. These rages, although temporary, give a barbarian incredible powers, a combination of skill, willpower, and a legacy of ancient tribal rituals.[/INDENT]
I would have liked to see a limit on the type of armor to use when raging. Or before long we'll have barbs raging in full plate.

Gomez
I agree. As it stands, I can make an orc or warforged barbarian with a 20 str, 17 con and put all the other stats firmly in the toilet. Then I can put on some full plate and trade -2 to hit and -2 to reflex (and every reflex attack is gonna hit, anyway) and get 5 AC. That's a trade I'll make any day.

-Sutro
Linky to the optimization thread:

http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1097592

Basically, the consensus is that the barb needs to be reworked.
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
If you really think after Martial Power and PHB2, you are still going to have 3 feats you want to dedicate to armor, you are crazy.

As it is now, there is already a bevvy of offensive options, which I would assume most people who play strikers will focus on, with two more books of material and months of dragon, the opportunity cost of that Plate Mail will greatly increase.

As it is, I really liked this playtest, I think it feels more like an axe-wielding-maniac-barbarian than +4 to two stats any day of the week. The number of ways built in to get extra attacks, (and essentially be swinging your weapon in a mad rage) was very clever. Special kudos to Avalanche Strike, dealing massive damage but giving everyone else a huge bonus to hit you - that is what a barbarian is all about.

My only concern is with the rage strike daily. I am not sure anyone would ever use this except maybe at levels 26-30. The fact that I have to expend a daily to get into it and then have another daily to expend just for swinging the weapon (meaning I can't use this at all until level 5 unless I am missing something). Dailies are so precious normally, even more so for this class simply for the number of things that "turn on" when you use a daily and start raging. I can't see expending a future rage just for 3 or 5[W]. Perhaps I am mising something, what does everyone else think?
I have one request: could we see a multiclass-to-barbarian feat in the final version of this article? Thanks!


And some other random comments:

  • I like the various rage powers. Much more interesting than the one-size-fits-all rage, and the animal themes fit the class nicely — making it feel like a real class, not just a fighter with anger-management issues grafted on.
  • It's interesting that there's no ranged weapon proficiency or powers. That may cause "3e-rogues-vs-constructs-or-undead" issues in play.
  • The Rage Strike feature is somewhat confusing. It basically lets you burn extra daily powers in exchange for high-damage attacks. Only works if you're already raging. The normal rage powers have a rest-of-the-encounter benefit, and if you use a second one it replaces the benefit of the first, so Rage Strike is needed when you want to go all-out. Points of confusion that could use extra wording to add clarity:
    • Although you start with the feature, you don't actually have extra daily powers to burn until 5th level. This works fine, but should be mentioned in the text above the class feature.
    • When you "expend" a power, you don't gain its benefits. Clearly that's the intention, but I can see arguments happening.
    • Unlike raging itself, a rage strike is just a single strike and doesn't increase your damage for the rest of the encounter. Maybe that doesn't need to be said here but could preemptively be put in the FAQ.

  • I'm a bit concerned that the at-wills seem better than those of other classes. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out.
The requisite for [i]Rage Strike[/i] is confusing to me.

I understand that you have access to that At-Will power only while the Barb is raging, but the second criteria is that the barb needs to expand an unused Rage power to use it.

Unless people houserule using Action Points to regain a use of their daily powers, I cannot see how a Lvl 1 barb can pull [i]Rage Strike[/i] off, having only 1 Rage power, much less see it as an Encounter Power, or as the playtest puts it, an At-Will.

And for a Class feature power that can only be used from level 5 onwards at the sacrifice of one Daily power, that's too much to ask for. Unless the developers intend to word it as 'Evocation power', which would make better sense with [i]Rage Strike[/i]'s 'At-will' assignment.

Other random comments:

The requisite for Rage Strike is confusing to me.

I understand that you have access to that At-Will power only while the Barb is raging, but the second criteria is that the barb needs to expand an unused Rage power to use it.

Unless people houserule using Action Points to regain a use of their daily powers, I cannot see how a Lvl 1 barb can pull Rage Strike off, having only 1 Rage power, much less see it as an Encounter Power, or as the playtest puts it, an At-Will.

And for a Class feature power that can only be used from level 5 onwards at the sacrifice of one Daily power, that's too much to ask for. Unless the developers intend to word it as 'Evocation power', which would make better sense with Rage Strike's 'At-will' assignment.

Heh. Case in point.

So, the deal is: the barbarian's daily rage powers all have a limitation that only one can be active at a time. This means that if you use more than one daily power in an encounter, you're not getting the full benefit. Other classes don't have this limitation. Rage strike gives the barbarian something to do with dailies in that case. (If you want to "go nova", you can.)

Of course, other classes can't do more than one daily in an encounter until fifth level, when they have more than one. So there's no need for it until that point.

There's nothing wrong with it (in fact, it's important to have), but it's confusing to read. Maybe the text should just say that you gain this ability at fifth level. (Or, if that's against the style rules, just explain that it's only useful at that point.)
General Thoughts

While people are complaining that there is no point to Rage abilities at low levels (And there is a thought that I half agree with them), I also say that once you hit level 15th level, they might be too powerful.

Let us forget for a moment that you are sacrificing a daily. You go from rolling 3 dice of damage for every daily, to 6 dice. that means that once you hit your "OMG, this is the End Encounter" of the day, your barbarian is outdicing damage of just about everyone, and it gets WORSE as it rises in levels. By the time you hit epic, no one rolls as much dice as the barbarian.

This power has the whole "Magic User" issue to it. It's useless at early levels, but you hit a magical point, and they use nothing else. This should be the warning sign that it's "busted", and you need to rethink how you do things.

What Surprises me is that you don't treat Rage more like the other Striker Bonuses from the PHB1. I would have not been surprised to have seen a class based encounter or daily power that just added more dice to damage when you chose to rage, and just kept on giving it for the round, along the lines of Sneak Attack scale of damage. I don't think you really needed to create a second version of the stiker bonus damage.

And it's distressing a little to see you have to add in that bonus damage directly into the class power then as a bonus die from the class ability. Did somehow in playtest you found Rangers and Warlocks forgetting to use the ability, and dropping it? Why the big change in the formula for the Striker?

I'm not done looking it over, and I'll run it through a mock combat or two in a bit, but I felt I definatly needed to pipe up here.
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I'd like an option to go for light shield proficiency (as an alternative to hide proficiency, if necessary for balance).

If you look at the barbarian's historic models, Celts, Germans, etc. these were all spear/sword and shield wielders who still charged wildly. Viking berserkers were even described frienzedly chewing their shield-rims.

Raging shouldn't equate to failing to protect yourself.

Obviously this isn't a munchkin power gamer attitude, just trying to open up a bit of flexibility for character choices and RP.
While people are complaining that there is no point to Rage abilities at low levels (And there is a thought that I half agree with them), I also say that once you hit level 15th level, they might be too powerful.

Do you mean rage abilities in general, or Rage Strike?

Let us forget for a moment that you are sacrificing a daily. You go from rolling 3 dice of damage for every daily, to 6 dice. that means that once you hit your "OMG, this is the End Encounter" of the day, your barbarian is outdicing damage of just about everyone, and it gets WORSE as it rises in levels. By the time you hit epic, no one rolls as much dice as the barbarian.

Hold on. You can't just forget that this takes up a daily power. At 25th level 8
Do you mean rage abilities in general, or Rage Strike?

I meant Specifically Rage Strike. Please forgive me.

Hold on. You can't just forget that this takes up a daily power. At 25th level 8
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My thoughts after reading the article and some of the reactions in this thread and elsewhere:

* The art is great, especially the first one with the Dragonborns, the jumping woman and the final one with the Tiefling under the dragon's paw.

* The fluff is also great. Some seem to think the powers are too much like regular martial powers, but I think there is enough of the spirit-stuff there (and there's no problem playing it up if you want to).

* I like the feel of a different type of striker, on the far end of the spectrum from the ranged rogue.

* Having the dailies as different types of rages is a good solution, I think, though it does limit them to raging once every few encounters rather than all the time. I suspect barbarians will play very differently depending on if they rage in an encounter, and if so, which type they use. Variety in flavor is good, but great variety in effectiveness is not. If the rage effects are too powerful the barbarian will swing heavily in effectiveness depending on whether they use a daily or not. This is true for other classes as well, though, so perhaps it isn't that much of a problem.

* Rage strike is being discussed a lot already with some thinking it is too powerful and others that it is next to useless. I think the damage output it creates has to be carefully balanced against the normal use of dailies for the barbarian as well as the other classes. However, since the number of dailies a character has access to is limited this may not be that big a problem.

* As to the powers, I only have experience with low-level play so I'll mostly limit my comments to the early ones:

Pressing Strike: I'm always wary of powers that are strictly better than others in the same category, and this seems to be better than the rogue's Deft Strike in every way. You can shift instead of moving, you can pass through enemies, and you get the bonus effect of pushing the target. Something has to go.

Avalanche Strike: 3W seems like a lot for a lvl 1 encounter power, but with the reduction in defenses I think it's balanced.

Swift Panther Rage: It seems odd that the barbarian has the potential to be more mobile than the rogue, but maybe there are more mobility options for the rogue in the Martial Powers book.

Great Leap: The language should be harmonized with that of the rogue's Great Leap. (The power itself is fine, but using the same words to express the same thing leads to less confusion.)

Blade Sweep: Should make it clear if adjacent bloodied enemies take the automatic damage twice or not if you have Rageblood Vigor.

Frenzied Blood from the paragon path should make clear what happens if the attack used already does half damage on a miss.

Rage of the Primal Beast: It seems to me like there should be a cap on the attack bonus, or an encounter with many enemies (as would be appropriately epic at high levels) will make the barbarian using it unable to miss on anything but a 1. Surely a bonus of say +5 should be enough?

* General comment: several of the rage types do automatic damage to attacking enemies, meaning they automatically kill minions. That may be intentional, but it seems like something that should be considered carefully.
I meant Specifically Rage Strike. Please forgive me.

Forgiven.


Did you actually look at those Daily Powers? I don't know about you, but I am really underwhelmed, and once I have the only power I really like active (Rageheart or Frost Wolf), I am not going to be using the other rages.

Yeah, you wouldn't want to switch 'em out once you've got a rage going. But I think in most cases it'll be a meaningful decision whether to use Rage Strike or save for the next encounter. Being able to knock an enemy prone as a free action every round, for example, is likely to cause a lot more damage per encounter than one 4[W] + Str hit. (Not even considering that entering the rage lets you make a decently-powerful attack on its own.)

It varies depending on level, but the Level 25 ones seem to be only 1[W] less than Raging Strike plus they have an immediate effect on hit plus the whole-encounter effect. Level 1 rages do the same damage as Rage Strike immediately plus an effect.

Switching rages in fact Loses me damage, and picks up minor effects that I may or may not use. While it is nice to have those options, when it comes down to "This is the last encounter of the day, I am facing the elite, and I wanna kill it", I don't think you're going to be seeing people holding back those extra rages.

Sure, that's what it's there for. No one in the party will be holding back their dailies at that point.

In fact, I doubt you'll see anyone playing a rage an encounter. The Rage Strike makes that disadvantagous to do once you hit that 9th level. It even has a minor boost at 5th level, when you can finally use the thing.

Not really a boost — you just get less from expending your 1st level power than you do your 5th level one.

Anyway, I think there will have to be actual play experience to find out who's right on this one. You'd really give up a 3[W] attack and DR 6 (or so) for a whole encounter in hopes of doing a single 5[W] attack in a later encounter?

At the end of the day, I don't really care about what options my rage gives me. I just care about solid damage output. The only thing that will do that is Rage Strike. Otherwise, my damage output is less then a Leader, and that to me is an issue if I'm suppose to be a striker.

I think you're overlooking the at-will powers — not to mention the hit points and healing surges. The class has amazing mobility and is much hardier then the other strikers. You can get to where you're needed in the thick of battle, even if it's behind enemy lines, and once you're there you're not at immediate risk of death.

[...]
However, I am not sure if you understand how the barbarian works with your point B. You aren't going to rage more then once a day. If you are, you're just simply playing it wrong.

I think we just disagree a whole lot here.

I think ideally you rage at the beginning of every challenging encounter. If that's only happening once per day your DM may be doing something wrong.
I think ideally you rage at the beginning of every challenging encounter. If that's only happening once per day your DM may be doing something wrong.

I think this is an important point, actually. It's possible the barbarian is more sensitive to DM style than the other classes, specifically number of encounters per day and encounter difficulty.
I suppose that depends on what we consider challenging.

There are two keys that to my mind signify Challenging. 1) We have an elite monster or Solo and Backup crew. 2) We have a threat that the party can't hit well. The first one is obvious to people, usually. The second one is much harder to gauge.

Let us assume for a moment that you are doing a dungeon crawl, and you're coming across alot of Undead. You're average Encounter looks like this. 3 Ghouls and 2 Wraiths. They've been equal level with your group. Then you run into the big encounter. 3 Battle Wights and 2 Trap Haunts, with another trap thrown in for measure. On the surface, it doesn't really look all that different form the other fights you've had. However, it is much tougher, you are hitting less often, but it LOOKS like every other fight.

Now, after about four rounds, the party might decide that it is indeed the tough encounter of the day, but if I had wasted my dailies before now, on those other encounters, I wouldn't have had them for this encounter. This is a play philosiphy instilled upon players from first level, and it is still well in effect till almost the end of Heroic Tier. At about 5th level, they start to feel more comfortable breaking out of this pattern.

The Barbarian player won't break that pattern, though, and that is what I'm saying. Without obvious cues, they won't drop their daily because things are getting a little rough, because they don't know if it will be safe to do so. They won't even know it till halfway through a challenging encounter, depending on the encounter design. Out of all the characters, it hurts the barbarian the most to use their daily, because if they do, they loose their bonus abilities from their at wills, they miss the boosts to their encounters, they lose damage potential from future encounters that might need it.

Currently, Rage (or Rage Stike, but really, they're two sides of the same coin) is just really badly designed. I think we both agree on that. I just think we have a disagreement on game philosophy and execution. Having sent the Barbarian through some mock battles, I'm pretty postive that you'll find the barbarian that uses a Rage an Encounter will be suffering when that battle that they needed those extra powers available for damage output. I really think that WOTC needs to go back to the drawing board and think of ways to make Rage Matter More without Rage Being Constrictive.
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I think ideally you rage at the beginning of every challenging encounter. If that's only happening once per day your DM may be doing something wrong.

Until level 5, you can't rage more than once daily. Or did my sarcasm meter not ping appropriately?
At quick glance, I like the flavor of the class - the mechanics might need to be tweaked a little, but it looks like it should capture the feel of a barbarian character.

Since I tend to be overly focused on multiclass potential, I'm somewhat concerned with how multiclassing will work. It's hard to judge precisely without knowing what the class-specific multiclass should look like, but the at-will attack powers are extremely strong compared to what's given to other classes. Both Howling Strike and Recuperating Strike have additional striker-level damage added into the powers themselves and Pressing Strike incorporates two fairly good secondary effects. The bonuses keyed to Rage are fine - but the base powers are simply to strong.

I'd suggest either keying more of the bonuses to Rage or separating the extra damage to a class feature - example:

Mighty Blow: At higher levels, when you are using an at-will attack power with the weapon keyword, you do additional damage if the attack hits.
Level * Mighty Blow Damage
1st-10th * +0
11th-20th * +1d6
21st-30th * +2d6

Howling Strike
Barbarian Attack 1
With a blood-freezing scream, you throw yourself into the fray.
At-Will * Primal, Weapon
Standard Action
Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + 1d6 + Strength modifier damage.
Increase damage to 2[W] + 1d6 + Strength modifier at 21st level.
Special: When charging, you can use this power in place of a melee basic attack. If you are raging, you do not provoke opportunity attacks for moving during the charge.

Pressing Strike
Barbarian Attack 1
You push lesser foes from your path, moving through the lines of battle at will.
At-Will * Primal, Weapon
Standard Action
Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Effect: Before the attack, you shift 2 squares. You can move through an enemy’s space during the shift, but you can’t end there.
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + Strength modifier damage. If your are raging, you push the target 1 square.
Increase damage to 2[W] + Strength modifier at 21st level.

Recuperating Strike
Barbarian Attack 1
Nothing restores your will to fight more than slamming your weapon into a foe. Each crushing swing gives you more will to press on.
At-Will * Primal, Weapon
Standard Action
Melee weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + Strength modifier damage, and you gain temporary hit points equal to your Constitution modifier. If you are raging, you instead gain temporary hit points equal to 5 + your Constitution modifier.
Increase damage to 2[W] + Strength modifier at 21st level.
I suppose that depends on what we consider challenging.

There are two keys that to my mind signify Challenging. 1) We have an elite monster or Solo and Backup crew. 2) We have a threat that the party can't hit well.

There's at least one more, which is 3) Tons of monsters. Using your example, adding a couple more ghouls will also make the encounter more challenging.

Now, after about four rounds, the party might decide that it is indeed the tough encounter of the day, but if I had wasted my dailies before now, on those other encounters, I wouldn't have had them for this encounter. This is a play philosiphy instilled upon players from first level, and it is still well in effect till almost the end of Heroic Tier. At about 5th level, they start to feel more comfortable breaking out of this pattern.

The Barbarian player won't break that pattern, though, and that is what I'm saying. Without obvious cues, they won't drop their daily because things are getting a little rough, because they don't know if it will be safe to do so. They won't even know it till halfway through a challenging encounter, depending on the encounter design. Out of all the characters, it hurts the barbarian the most to use their daily, because if they do, they loose their bonus abilities from their at wills, they miss the boosts to their encounters, they lose damage potential from future encounters that might need it.

It may be true that the barbarian loses more when using his daily "early", but on the other hand that may save the party as a whole resources to spend on the tough encounter. If the barbarian uses up his rage before the final, extra difficult encounter he will have had those significant benefits earlier which should mean that the rest of the party has more left of their dailies, healing surges, healing potions etc.

Currently, Rage (or Rage Stike, but really, they're two sides of the same coin) is just really badly designed. I think we both agree on that.

I don't; I think it's too early to judge.
I don't; I think it's too early to judge.

I'll be interested to hear how you feel it handles after running what they presenting after a few encounters then.
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I suppose that depends on what we consider challenging.

There are two keys that to my mind signify Challenging. 1) We have an elite monster or Solo and Backup crew. 2) We have a threat that the party can't hit well. The first one is obvious to people, usually. The second one is much harder to gauge.

Let us assume for a moment that you are doing a dungeon crawl, and you're coming across alot of Undead. You're average Encounter looks like this. 3 Ghouls and 2 Wraiths. They've been equal level with your group. Then you run into the big encounter. 3 Battle Wights and 2 Trap Haunts, with another trap thrown in for measure. On the surface, it doesn't really look all that different form the other fights you've had. However, it is much tougher, you are hitting less often, but it LOOKS like every other fight.

Now, after about four rounds, the party might decide that it is indeed the tough encounter of the day, but if I had wasted my dailies before now, on those other encounters, I wouldn't have had them for this encounter. This is a play philosiphy instilled upon players from first level, and it is still well in effect till almost the end of Heroic Tier. At about 5th level, they start to feel more comfortable breaking out of this pattern.

Well, here's my take: as the DM, it's my job to give the players opportunity to figure this out, both through overt signs and through more subtle clues — and through knowledge skill checks. Of course, sometimes it's fun to have the unknown be part of the encounter, and one has got to do that enough to keep players on their toes, but most of the time, heroes should know.

This is a problem for any class, although I agree with you that the mechanic here brings it to the fore. (Barbarians! Invest in some knowledge skills! Know your enemy!) It sounds like your group tends to error on the side of being conservative in the face of the unknown.

So anyway, the problem I see is more that the barbarian seems at risk of really center stage when raging, and bit part when not. It's a hard balance and I'm not good enough to guess if the class as written gets it right without seeing it in play for a while.
I am excited about the Barbarian, especially as a striker! But I have some serious misgivings about the half of the class we are seeing right now. So, I'm breaking this post up into two parts, Criticism on the Playtest and What I would like to see happen. I will also make this concise as most of the discussion is currently on the Dragon General Forum and Striker Forum. Note: This is only criticism on what we now have available in the playtest so to better inform the developers on what we (the players) think may be lacking. If you don't share the same opinions as me then obviously I'm not speaking for you (so don't get on my case that the class isn't done yet or that you don't hold the same opinion as me and you think the class is fine).

Part 1: Criticism on the Playtest

Class Features:

1. Rageborn Features are kinda iffy. Swift Charge is neat and very barbarian feel but once an encounter free charge when you drop an enemy almost requires you to Howling Strike (at-will) or take OAs OR fight atleast 2 squares away from where everyone else is so you have a charge target. The Temp HP on kills seem like a band-aid for a Barbarian's low defenses (unlike a Infernal Lock who has powers for melee range as a caster and an at-will that gives extra damage when you get hit).

2. Rampage is cool in theory but so unreliable that you make plans for it. Sure, at high levels when you get increase your crit range with a feat and the one Rage Daily which lets you crit on an 18-20 you will see it more often but even then it fluctuates from unused to overpowering.

3. Rage mechanic is cool with the dailies but Rage Strike is so limited that either you never use it OR you encourage the party not to do multiple encounters in a day since you used up all your dailies for vanilla damage and don't have anything of value to get you up to striker level damage anymore.

Powers

1. I don't like how the "extra striker damage" is pre-set into the At-Will powers. The at-wills are great theme wise but the static extra damage with no requirements seems alittle odd to me.

2. The Encounter powers and the Utility powers look good and I like them. Though more powers like Avalanche strike and Crater Fall need to be present (either showing the Go Big or Go Home feel or the Awesome Strength feel of the barbarians). But many powers feel pale against these powers with low damage and little effects (like Shoulder Slam, Tide of Blood and Blade Whirlwind). Certain Daily Utility powers feel underwhelming (Mountain Roots) or that they should be an Encounter Daily instead (like Instinctive Charge).

3. The Daily Powers and the Rage Effects which they give are GREAT. Some of the damage is alittle low up till Epic Tier but the effects are good. Some are too good (Thunderhawk Rage with its free action knockdown) with the effects. Its definitely a different feel than the other strikers and gives the Barbarian an encounter to encounter versatility if they wanted. Though I think there are maybe too many different "kinds" and could probably be overlapped with varying degrees of effect instead of wildly different.

General Criticism

1. No encouragement to use a 2-handed weapon other than acouple pips of damage, no discouragement from using a shield and a high-damage 1-hander other than the feat requirements for the shield.
2. No encouragement to keep with the light armor (since it is not a dex or int based class) other than the cost of the feats to get into heavy armor (definitely worth it unless you start with an 18dex and raise it every chance which doesn't synergize with the other Barbarian powers/features). Also, no discouragement from getting into heavy armor.
3. Currently the Primal keyword is fluff. This may be addressed later on with feats, paragon paths, other powers, or epic destinies.
4. Flavor on Barbarian + Primal Power Source feels too pigeoned holed to me. Yes, I know you can play whatever kinda feel you want but it smacks of more savage neanderthal than natural-talent warrior/conan/viking than I would like.

What I would like to see happen.

Class Features

1. Some sort of "Striker Extra Damage" class feature instead of flat extra damage with At-Will powers. I'd suggest +Con Modifier to damage with 2-handers and +Dex Modifier to damage with 1-handed weapons. Get rid of Rampage as it is. Perhaps this bonus only when "Raging".

2. Some sort of damage mitigating bonus for wearing light armor. Either +1 to all defenses per "tier" of gameplay (+1 at lvl 1, +2 at lvl 11, +3 at lvl 21), bonus to AC for being adjacent to multiple enemies or damage resistance (using one of the prior two +defense requirements). Something to encourage the use of light armor vs. spending 2 feats for vastly superior AC.

3. More Rage keyword powers (if Rage Strike stays as it is) to certain utility and encounter powers (the more utility ones so its not an obvious choice between 1[W]+prone or 3[W]...hard decision there!). Or rebalance Rage Strike to include Encounter and Utility powers spent (and remove the Rage keyword requirement to use a power to fuel Rage Strike and replace with needing to use a Primal power to fuel it).

4. Rageblood Swift Charge power needs to go as it is written. Perhaps an immeadiate reaction stance: you drop an enemy to 0hp or lower, gain +1 to hit and +1 damage and lose -2AC while you keep the stance up. Or if you want the same feel, let it give a Standard Action which has to be used for a Charge, an At-will Attack or to use a Rage Keyword Daily Power (so they can go into Rage). The require charge feels too klunky.

Powers

1. Get rid of the extra damage on the At-Wills or place requirements on them like "+1d6dmg when charging" or "+1d6 damage when bloodied and +1d6dmg with the target is bloodied"

2. More "Go Big or Go Home" attacks like Avalanche Strike. Maybe some attacks that favor 2-handed weapons over 1-handed weapons.

3. Utility Rage Powers. Maybe not as "BIG" as the Daily Attack Rage Powers but worthwhile to use none the less. With so little "rages" available and how "rages" are encouraged to be used ASAP to get the benefit for the whole encounter, the Barbarian is then without his "oompf" for the rest of the day. This is especially bad when a barbarian gets an unlucky streak and is downed temporarily, losing his Rage and now being uncool for the rest of the encounter. Utility Based Rages would allow for smaller effects when the encounter isn't tough enough to blow a big daily for but you don't want to feel lacking compared to other strikers or a damage based leader or Defender.

4. Some non-Rage Daily Powers. Rage may be the BIG THING for the Barbarian but some equally strong barbarian attacks should be available, something more powerful than an encounter but you don't want to lose your current rage (multi-attack powers, move+attack powers like Cut and Run the Ranger Daily and the like).
So anyway, the problem I see is more that the barbarian seems at risk of really center stage when raging, and bit part when not. It's a hard balance and I'm not good enough to guess if the class as written gets it right without seeing it in play for a while.

I agree that looks like a possible problem, but I also think it captures what the barbarian is. An okay fighter until one time he just goes crazy and kills everything.
I think the best way to handle the Barbarian would be this ...

Barbarian Rage (Class Feature)
Once per encounter, when you become bloodied, you can opt to enter a Barbarian Rage. The Rage can end when you are healed above your bloodied value but it *will* end at the end of the current encounter.

Notice: once per encounter and you can opt to enter a Barbarian Rage. Also, "The Rage can end". This means that you cannot enter an encounter bloodied and immediately enter a rage and you cannot enter a rage more than once per encounter. Also, the Rage can be ended once you are healed above your bloodied value, but you don't *have* to end it immediately. Once the encounter is over, though, the Rage does end.

The rest of the powers and abilities can, for the most part, remain as is with only minor changes.

Comments?
1. Some sort of "Striker Extra Damage" class feature instead of flat extra damage with At-Will powers. I'd suggest +Con Modifier to damage with 2-handers and +Dex Modifier to damage with 1-handed weapons. Get rid of Rampage as it is. Perhaps this bonus only when "Raging".

If it's only while raging it may be fine, otherwise it is certainly overpowered.
2. Some sort of damage mitigating bonus for wearing light armor. Either +1 to all defenses per "tier" of gameplay (+1 at lvl 1, +2 at lvl 11, +3 at lvl 21), bonus to AC for being adjacent to multiple enemies or damage resistance (using one of the prior two +defense requirements). Something to encourage the use of light armor vs. spending 2 feats for vastly superior AC.

It is a problem that the barbarian can't use Dex or Int for anything but AC. Dex should have some value for the Barbarian, as it is written it could become a dump stat.
4. Some non-Rage Daily Powers. Rage may be the BIG THING for the Barbarian but some equally strong barbarian attacks should be available, something more powerful than an encounter but you don't want to lose your current rage (multi-attack powers, move+attack powers like Cut and Run the Ranger Daily and the like).

Uh, that's what rage strike is for, isn't it?

Ceterum censeo capsum rubeum esse delendam

I read through the article and the first few levels of the Barbarian's powers. I like the idea behind it but this first public draft needs some work.



1. Rage Strike: I like the idea behind this power but a first level Barbarian can't even use it. A 1st level Barbarian gets 1 Daily that it must use to go into a Rage. The 1st level Barbarian doesn't have another Daily to use Rage Strike.

Why not do some thing like the Ranger, Rogue or Warlock?

Devastating Attack: Once per round, while raging, the Barbarian can add the Devastating Attack extra damage to a target it just hit. The Barbarian can expend an unused rage power to maximize the Devastating Attack bonus damage.

1-10 = +1d6
11-20 = +2d6
21-30 = +3d6

2. Please, please don't make the Barbarian be bloodied to use it's rage powers.
I think the best way to handle the Barbarian would be this ...

Barbarian Rage (Class Feature)
Once per encounter, when you become bloodied, you can opt to enter a Barbarian Rage. The Rage can end when you are healed above your bloodied value but it *will* end at the end of the current encounter.

Comments?

I don't care (my opinion, of course) for the bloodied condition to use a class feature. I like my idea of the Striker bonus damage in my post above. I think someone above me suggested something similar but in my post I kept the ability to expend a daily to cause a bit more damage. It is an idea that I had but it could use some work to make it better.
re: Barbarians in heavy armor
Since the plethora of temp HP effects appears to be intended to offset the lack of AC, why not simply have said effects be less effective when wearing heavy armor?

Example:

Rageblood Vigor: You gain the swift charge power. In addition, whenever you reduce an enemy to 0 hit points, you gain temporary hit points equal to your Constitution modifier if you are wearing light armor or no armor. The number of temporary hit points equals 5 + your Constitution modifier or 5 if wearing heavy armor at 11th level and 10 + your Constitution modifier or 10 if wearing heavy armor at 21st level.
Wishlist: -Alternate ability bonuses for pre-PHB3 races -Lots more superior implements or an official customization rule -Monk multiclass feat that grants Unarmed Combatant
Since tons of barabarians are going to have heavy armor (There is no way to avoid it), and since they get plenty of hit points, I personally don't see why they get the defender hit points. The only reason I see for the barbarian to have defender hit points is 3rd edition nostalgia. Which, like 3rd edition symmetry, should be tossed aside.
Since tons of barabarians are going to have heavy armor (There is no way to avoid it),

No way to avoid it? Did someone strike the words "may not rage in heavy armor" from the English language while I wasn't looking?

That (or some variant discouragement for heavy armor as Haplo81 suggests) seems better to me than decreasing hitpoints, which should be high because it fits the archetype (never mind the 3E version).
If it's only while raging it may be fine, otherwise it is certainly overpowered.

I agree that there should be some sort of conditional to it. Or maybe 1/2 modifier all the time but full modifier when raging?

It is a problem that the barbarian can't use Dex or Int for anything but AC. Dex should have some value for the Barbarian, as it is written it could become a dump stat.

Yes, and when Dex is a dump stat all you encourage is that the barbarian to use a feat to get heavy armor. As it is now, barbarians have a feat-sink that they will NEED to get heavy armor due to low armor, low dex and being melee. This is bad design but if there was some incentive to wearing light armor (while in rage or otherwise) then there are options. Currently, there isn't an option. Chain at minimum is needed.

Uh, that's what rage strike is for, isn't it?

Rage Strike is inflexible to the extreme. Yes, its GREAT damage. Amazingly great damage! But barbarians should be given the option of attacks like Thicket of Blades (High Damage Close Burst), Cut and Run (Good Damage Move and Hit and Move and Hit) or even Victory Strike (Damage + Healing Surge). Adding in some daily level powers that have other effects would give some great options.
Might I suggest a different version of Rage Strike.

Rage Strike Barbarian Feature
You channel your primal rage into a devastating attack.
At-Will ✦ Primal, Weapon
Standard Action Melee weapon
Requirement: You must be raging and have one unused action point.
Target: One creature
Effect: Before the attack, you expend an action point (any action points expended in this way do not give an extra action).
Attack: Strength vs. AC
Hit: You deal damage based on the level of the rage power you are currently affected by:
1st level 3[W] + Strength modifier
5th level 4[W] + Strength modifier
9th level 5[W] + Strength modifier
15th level 6[W] + Strength modifier
19th level 7[W] + Strength modifier
25th level 8[W] + Strength modifier
29th level 9[W] + Strength modifier
Miss: Half damage.

What do you think? Only a simple change on the mechanic but, it allows for Rage Strike to be used at lower levels. It also allows you to rage in more then one encounter and use Rage Strike. Also if you are getting extra melee attacks from Rampage then you might feel the need to save your action points for Rage Strike.
I was sort of turned off by the fact that barbarians don't have a way to go into their BARBARIAN RAGE once per encounter like another poster pointed out, yet instead MUST use a daily power that might miss. Its also irritating as to me a Barbarian-Fan that I basically must wait until the final battle to activate my rage, and not get my bonuses with the rest of a session..
Initial Impressions

1. Overall, I really like the concept of this class, and the way the flavor was implemented in the mechanics. The details probably need tweaking, but that is to be expected.

2. I do not think it is a problem that Rage Strike is not available to 1st level characters, as it seems to be designed to allow Barbarians use additional Dailies without loosing the effect of the Daily already used in the same encounter. First level characters don't have that problem for the same reason that they can't use Rage Strike. I also don't think it is a violation of the design philosophy that character get all their major abilities at first level, as I see it more as an extension of the character's dailies than as a unique ability in and of itself. The dailies by themself already deal lots of damage. Rage Strike just lets you use multiple dailies in an encounter without sacrificing some of their benefit. I do think it is a bit counter-intuitive the way it is described, since there is no direct mention of the fact that it effectively can't be used until level 5.

3. I really like that they built the extra damage into the powers instead of doing yet another variation on Hunter's Quarry/Warlock's Curse/Sneak Attack. For those of you who are comparing Barbarian powers to similar ones of other Striker classes, please bear in mind that the extra damage is built-in rather than added in via a class feature.

4. Armor might be a problem. I think its fine if a Barbarian wants to use up a bunch of feats to get Plate Armor Proficiency, as you have to give up a lot to get it and therefore more Barbarians characters will just shrug off the damage like the class is designed to do. However, as some have pointed out, the penalties for wearing armor that you're not proficient in may not be sufficient to deter players playing Barbarians. Even though a -2 penalty to attack is nothing to sneeze at, it may be necessary to bolster these penalties for the Barbarian somehow. Maybe the Barbarian's powers deal less damage while wearing armor they're not proficient in. I don't think player's who want to spend their feats to get proficiency should be penalized, however.

5. I, too, would like to see a multi-class feat for the Barbarian. Afterall, playtesting how well multiclass mechanics works with a class should be important too. Since the Barbarian's extra damage is built into the powers rather than the class features for the most part, the Barbarian class might turn out to be a very attractive option for players wanting to multiclass to boost their character's damage-dealing abilities.
Might I suggest a different version of Rage Strike.

I think you're fixing the wrong problem. The only reason Rage Strike exists is to deal with the issue that all the barbarian dailies are designed to be this-is-the-rage-for-the-encounter effects. Making a version of Rage Strike that works on a different mechanic than expending daily powers misses the point.
I don't think player's who want to spend their feats to get proficiency should be penalized, however.

I think the problem now is that barbarians who don't spend their few feat slots on armor proficiency are effectively penalized because they probably should have done so. Something needs to balance that.
Am I reading the article correctly? You can't use Rage strike until 5th level?
The requirement is an unused rage power. A rage power is a daily. Rage Strike can only start if you are already raging, hence using a daily. Characters don't get two dailies until 5th level.
So the absolute cornerstone of the character can't be used until 5th level!
To mattdm: I understand what your saying and I understand what rage strike is supposed to be used for. I dont think its an immediate fix, but I think its something different.

I however think that this way it rewards using your daily rages in an encouter by encouter basis versus using them all up in one encouter. If I were to use this version of Rage Strike than instead of using more then one daily in an encounter I might use more then one action point instead and still get daily power damage. Therefor allowing me to get off great damage and not use another rage that is gonna overide the rage effect Im currently under.

I dont really see the difference between allowing more Rage Keyword powers that encompass Encounter and Utility Powers and having Rage Stike work off of action points. Except the fact that at higher levels you can Rage Strike ten or more times per encounter if they worked off of Encounter or Utility Rage keyword powers. Put that up versus being able to Rage Strike maybe 3 times a day depending on how many encounters you do.
I was sort of turned off by the fact that barbarians don't have a way to go into their BARBARIAN RAGE once per encounter like another poster pointed out, yet instead MUST use a daily power that might miss. Its also irritating as to me a Barbarian-Fan that I basically must wait until the final battle to activate my rage, and not get my bonuses with the rest of a session..

The daily power might miss, but you still enter the rage and most if not all of the daily powers still have an effect on a miss.

Am I reading the article correctly? You can't use Rage strike until 5th level?
The requirement is an unused rage power. A rage power is a daily. Rage Strike can only start if you are already raging, hence using a daily. Characters don't get two dailies until 5th level.
So the absolute cornerstone of the character can't be used until 5th level!

No, you're not reading it correctly. You're right that you can't use rage strike until then, but Rage Strike isn't the cornerstone of the character at all.

The class writeup needs to be fixed so that it doesn't misleadingly look like it is.
You're right that you can't use rage strike until then, but Rage Strike isn't the cornerstone of the character at all.

The class writeup needs to be fixed so that it doesn't misleadingly look like it is.

This is an important point.

In fact, it seems to be quite the opposite: a simple fix for a problem arising from the design of what actually is the cornerstone of the class, namely the ability to rage.

Enabling several different types of rage by attaching it to the daily powers is a reasonable design choice, but it causes problems for the situations when you want or need to spend the rest of your daily powers (tough encounter, several other characters will need an extended rest, obviously the last encounter for the day etc) but don't want to change the type of rage you're using. One way to solve that is to give the dailies some other use, and turning them into attacks with big damage is simple, thematic and reasonably easy to balance - in a game with more encounters between extended rests the other classes will also need to ration their dailies, and in one with fewer the other classes can burn theirs in one fight as well.

An analogue formulation of the solution would be to attache a line to each daily power with words to the effect of "while raging you can spend this power to make an attack with X damage". It wouldn't be easier and the risk of missing it somewhere would be big, but it would probably cause less confusion. That way you could also tailor the effects of spending a daily this way a bit - some of them could have other effects than allowing an attack with a big heap of untyped damage.
No way to avoid it? Did someone strike the words "may not rage in heavy armor" from the English language while I wasn't looking?

That (or some variant discouragement for heavy armor as Haplo81 suggests) seems better to me than decreasing hitpoints, which should be high because it fits the archetype (never mind the 3E version).

How about they get there Con bonus to AC rather than Dexterity while in light armour. Then there is less of an incentive to get heavy armour. Say it represents their faith in their own abilities so they can shrug of blows that would injure less assured warriors, they lose this confidence if they hide behind heavy armours.

Some encouragement to stay in light armour needs to be there, but I don't think you should have a penalty that entirely cripples a barbarian that say wants to use chain or scale armour. That isn't the 4E way.