D&D 5e battlerager barbarian revision

Battlerager Barbarian Fixed: D&D 5e Subclass Revision

Featured art for the D&D 5e Battlerager Barbarian revision is a combination of two images by Wizards of the Coast in their book Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica.
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D&D 5e is loaded with interesting character options at this point. Each year has brought us expansion material to delight players with new possibilities. However, some of the options were better than others. I’m looking at you, Battlerager Barbarian.

One book was notorious for being too timid with its new subclasses: the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (SCAG). The Battlerager Barbarian is one of them, though it hasn’t received a reprint or revision. While some players enjoy the Battlerager, it has inherent design flaws that make it challenging to appreciate the subclass.

My game design philosophy is that it’s fine to have different power levels for different options, but I don’t want a game to have “trap” options that are blatantly underwhelming or problematic. I like having many options that can each be viable, and it’s easy to be viable in 5e, but the Battlerager is an example of a subclass that requires some work to use effectively.

For these reasons, I’ve decided to revise the Battlerager with my own version of it. I enjoy editing the printed version to make it better instead of throwing it out entirely and rebuilding it from the ground up.

Two Revision Versions

I’m joined by Shard for this revision. He and I thought it would be fun to create our own Battlerager revisions without coordinating our efforts to compare them. Though I was pleased with my own first draft, I’m a huge fan of what Shard came up with. I’ll include both revisions in this article, so you can pick and choose what you like!

Some of the best parts of Shard’s revision that I liked were these points:

  • Allow the character to convert other armor (particularly magical armor) into spiked armor.
  • A mix of abilities that work during or without Rage, and are amplified by Rage.
  • Intimidation!
  • Harming creatures who grapple or swallow the character.

You can find more articles by Shard or visit his YouTube channel.

My Battlerager Revision Goals

The Battlerager should be a subclass that utilizes spiked armor to harm enemies. It reminds me of the Bristleback hero from Dota 2 with his back full of quills that fire out at enemies when taking damage. I also picture the Juggernaut (Cain Marko) from the X-Men comic series with his iconic armor and unrelenting charge. These are the concepts I want to preserve and enhance for the Battlerager as I revise it.

I also want to keep in mind that the usual “optimized” Barbarian build involves two feats: Polearm Master and Great Weapon Master. My revision should do one of two things; the Battlerager needs to either play nicely with the usual PM+GWM combination so it can use those feats with the subclass features, or the Battlerager needs to completely differentiate itself from the PM+GWM Barbarian build with alternative, relevant path features. If I pump up the subclass too much, it might become too powerful in the context of using feats and other powerful options outside the subclass. If I make the subclass too weak and unable to synergize with common builds like PM+GWM, my revision isn’t good enough.

Can I strike a balance between the optimal Barbarian feats and the Battlerager subclass features? Let’s find out!

Don’t forget to leave feedback in the comments or in the survey at the end of the article. This isn’t my first revision, so I know I will rely on other brains to help me tune this revision into something I’m proud of. Thank you for reading and participating in this passion project.

How to Read this Battlerager Revision Article

Here is a quick explanation for my text formatting so you can quickly discern between my homebrew suggestions, what already existed for the subclass, and my commentary on why I did or did not change something.

  • Bolded text is a subclass feature’s text.
  • Italicized text indicates my homebrew alterations to Battlerager Barbarian Path subclass features.
  • The entire description of each feature is bold so you can differentiate between the feature and my commentary.
  • My commentary is below each feature in normal unformatted text.

For Shard’s version of the revision, I’ll include his text without my special formatting.

Restriction: Dwarves Only (sort of, sometimes)

Only dwarves can follow the Path of the Battlerager. The battlerager fills a particular niche in dwarven society and culture. Your DM can lift this restriction to better suit the campaign. The restriction exists for the Forgotten Realms. It might not apply to your DM’s setting or your DM’s version of the Realms.

This basically says the lore behind the Battlerager has it as a Dwarf-specific subclass, but you can really do what you want. I have no reason to change this as I assume anyone can choose this subclass like the reprint of the Bladesinger Wizard.

Level 3: Battlerager Armor [Reworked]

When you choose this path at 3rd level, you gain the ability to use spiked armor (see the “Spiked Armor” sidebar) as a simple melee weapon. When you use the Attack action while you are wearing spiked armor and you are raging, you can make one additional melee weapon attack with your armor spikes against a target within 5 feet of you as part of the Attack action. If the attack hits, the spikes deal 1d4 piercing damage. You use your Strength modifier for the attack and damage rolls.

When you use the Attack action to grapple a creature while you’re wearing spiked armor, the target takes piercing damage equal to your Proficiency Bonus if your grapple check succeeds. When a creature attempts to break free from your grapple and they fail, they take the piercing damage again.

Additionally, you gain proficiency with Smith’s Tools or Leatherworker’s Tools (your choice).

The first change I made was clarification that the attack made with the armor counts as a simple melee weapon. This is useful for navigating interactions with other features, feats, etc.

Instead of a bonus action, you get an additional attack with your armor when you take the attack action. This allows you to immediately benefit from raging since you gain an additional attack without having to wait until round two of raging (because beginning a Rage requires a bonus action).

It’s notable that my change will not stack with Polearm Master’s bonus action to attack. The requirement for PM’s bonus action attack is to use the Attack action and only attack with the polearm weapon during the Attack action.

I changed the grappling damage to scale based on Proficiency Bonus instead of sitting at a flat rate of three. I thought about making the damage based on half of the character’s Barbarian level, but I think PB is fine. It makes the Battlerager better for multiclassing. The bit I added about more damage when they try to escape the grapple is in response to the grapple damage being circumstantial and mild.

I added a bit about tool proficiencies to enable the Battlerager to create their own armor. I’ll detail that more below when I alter the description of Spiked Armor.

Spiked Armor [Reworked]

Spiked Armor is a rare type of medium armor made by dwarves. It consists of a leather coat and leggings covered with spikes that are usually made of metal. You can create your own Spiked Armor with Smith’s tools or Leatherworker’s tools if you possess 10 gp of leather and 25 gp of iron or another metal. Otherwise, you can purchase Spiked Armor from a skilled blacksmith or leatherworker for 75 gp.
AC: 14 + Dexterity modifier (max 2)
Stealth: Disadvantage
Weight: 45 lb.

My changes clarify the crafting and obtaining of spiked armor in terms of game mechanics. I’m not sure if I want to change the stats for the Spiked Armor itself.

Shard’s Version: Battlerager Armor – 3rd Level

You gain proficiency in Smith’s Tools and Leatherworker’s Tools. If you already have proficiency in either of these you instead gain proficiency in another Artisan’s Tool of your choice. 

You gain the ability to both make and wear Battlerager Armor. During a long rest, you can convert any suit of non-magical or magical light or medium armor to Battlerager Armor. The armor will retain all its original properties (including enchantments and magical effects, if any). You can only have one suit of Battlerager Armor at any time, any previous suit of Battlerager Armor will lose its special properties if you create a new one.

Battleragers of Dwarven descent have a special affinity for this Barbarian Path. A dwarven Battlerager can convert a suit of magical or non-magical heavy armor to Battlerager Armor. This suit of armor will retain all its original properties, except that it will count as medium armor for all of your Barbarian abilities.

It is not possible for your Battlerager Armor to be removed without your consent.

While wearing Battlerager Armor, Battleragers gain a number of benefits:

  • You can make special attacks with your armor spikes – armor strikes. These armor strikes count as simple melee weapons that do 1d8 piercing damage and use your Strength modifier for the hit and damage rolls. If your armor is magical, these strikes will also count as magical, and any bonuses to the enchantment level of the armor will be applied to these strikes, for example +1 armor will strike as a +1 weapon for the purposes of attack and damage rolls. 
  • You can choose to make unarmed strikes with armor strikes instead. 
  • While raging you can make a bonus action armor strike. 
  • When you successfully grapple a creature or a creature successfully grapples, engulfs or swallows you the creature takes damage equal to an armor strike. Any creature you have grappled at the start of your turn takes 1d8 damage.
  • You gain proficiency in Intimidation if you don’t already have it. While raging, you have advantage on Intimidation skill checks.

Level 6: Battlerager Charge [Reworked, Leveled Lower]

Beginning at 6th level, you can take the Dash action as a bonus action while you are raging.

When you use the Dash action, you do not provoke opportunity attacks and you can move through spaces occupied by other creatures that are the same size as you or smaller as if they were difficult terrain. If you end your turn in a space occupied by another creature after using the Dash action, you instead end your turn in the most recent unoccupied space that you moved through during your turn (your choice if several spaces qualify), or to the nearest unoccupied space if no other spaces qualify.

You deal piercing damage equal to your Proficiency Bonus to any creature whose space you move through when you Dash in this way. You can deal damage to a creature in this way with Battlerager Charge once per round.

The first change to note is that I changed this from the 10th-level ability to the 6th-level feature. I did this because I believe this is a more thematic feature for the Battlerager concept, thus I want it to gain the feature sooner.

I will keep what is already written for this feature and add more to it. Getting to level ten to get a weaker version of what all Rogues get at level two is insulting.

as is but no opportunity attacks, and you can move through enemy spaces if they are of a size equal to or smaller than your own, dealing damage equal to your Strength modifier once per turn.

Shard’s Version: Reckless Abandon – 6th Level

  • You gain temporary HP equal to your 3 + your Constitution modifier when you start your Reckless Attack. If you are wearing Battlerager Armor with an enchantment of +1 or greater you also add the enchantment level to the temporary HP gained.
  • While raging you can also grant this temporary HP to up to 5 creatures of your choice within 30ft of you. You can do this a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus and you regain all uses on a long rest.

Level 10: Reckless Abandon [Reworked, Leveled Higher]

Beginning at 6th level, your reckless flurry of attacks and spikes makes it difficult for enemies to get a clean hit on you. When you use Reckless Attack while raging and wearing spiked armor, you also gain temporary hitpoints equal to your Constitution modifier (minimum 1). You also benefit from half cover until the start of your next turn after you use Reckless Attack while you continue raging and are not incapacitated. The temporary hitpoints vanish if any of them are left when your rage ends.

You can see my comments on Battlerager Charge earlier for my explanation on why I switched the features around. I also made it clear that you must wear spiked armor to use this feature.

I added flavor text here to give the ability more of a thematic feel and to set up my alteration. You now gain the benefit of half cover when you use Reckless Attack. This feels right to me. It reflects modern subclass design choices with defensive boosts that can’t stack together (you can’t gain half cover twice from two features for a +4 AC, you just get +2). I enjoy picturing a spike-covered warrior recklessly surging into battle, opening themself up to attacks, but also using their armor to make those attacks difficult to land.

The last sentence is altered to make it clear that it was addressing the temporary hitpoints. Since I added other benefits to the feature, the text would’ve been confusing otherwise.

Shard’s Version: Battlerager Charge – 10th Level

You can Dash as bonus action. If you move at least 10ft in a straight line as part of this Dash you can also do one of the following:

  • Include your bonus action armor strike as part of this bonus action. You add a +5 bonus to the damage roll for this attack if you are raging and wearing Battlerager Armor.
  • Make a grapple attempt as part of this bonus action. You add a +5 bonus to the damage roll on a successful grapple if you are raging and wearing Battlerager Armor.
  • Make a shove attempt as part of this bonus action, shoving an enemy creature up to 10ft away if successful, up to 20ft if you are raging.

Level 14: Spiked Juggernaut [Reworked, Renamed]

Starting at 14th level, when a creature within 5 feet of you hits you with a melee attack, the attacker takes 3 piercing damage if you are raging, aren’t incapacitated, and are wearing spiked armor.

Additionally, all melee attacks you make against targets within five feet of you deal 3 additional piercing damage while you are wearing spiked armor and raging. You may also add this extra damage to creatures you damage while moving through their space with the Dash action (as described in the Battlerager Charge feature).

I changed the name slightly to fit the theme I’m going for and to reflect my alterations that are less reactive in nature.

I chose not to alter the damage of the defensive piercing damage. Three damage isn’t much, but I’m applying it in more instances instead of increasing the flat damage amount. The damage bonus to all attacks is meant to pay off how well the character uses spiked armor in concert with melee attacks.

Shard’s Version: Spiked Retribution – 14th Level

An attacker within 5ft who hits you will now get piercing damage equal to your Strength modifier in retaliation from your Battlerager Armor. This will be magical damage if you are wearing magical armor. While raging you can choose to make this retaliatory damage equal to one of your armor strikes instead.

Revision Summary

Here’s what we gained with these revisions!

  • Clearer rules for how to create or obtain spiked armor.
  • A spiked armor attack that no longer requires a bonus action, freeing the player up to Dash or begin raging.
  • Charging movement through enemies to damage them with spikes when the Dash action is used.
  • Improved grappling damage.
  • Half-cover when activating Reckless Abandon.
  • More flavor text.
  • Clarifying verbiage for interactions with other game mechanics. I’m sure they can be further improved, so suggestions are welcome.
  • A subclass capstone that synergizes with earlier subclass features to offensive damage.

What do you think of these revisions? Let me know in the comments and in the rating feature below. Also, let me know if you think I overclocked or under-tuned either revision and how you think I can improve it. You can also encourage with positive feedback if you think we nailed it.

We take these revisions very seriously as we like to flex our amateur game designer muscles and create game options that we ourselves would use. Thanks for reading and participating!

You may enjoy these other articles about Barbarians, especially my revision of the Path of the Berserker Barbarian subclass.

3 thoughts on “<b>Battlerager Barbarian Fixed</b>: D&D 5e Subclass Revision”

  1. I have but one suggestion: since only barbarians get proficiency with spiked armor, and most barbarians don’t wear armor, why not make the AC for spiked armor equal to Unarmored Defense?

    1. Kevin Waterman

      I see this is almost a year old, but I just discovered the article so commenting anyway. For what it’s worth a battlerager barbarian likely gets better AC with spiked armor than they would from unarmored defense. Assuming a point buy build mountain dwarf, at level 3 you’d have to hard dump all the mental stats to have an AC of 15 whereas the standard spiked armor you can take less in Dex and start off with a 16 and spend more of your other ASIs on Strength, Con, and Feats without having to worry about Dex any further.

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