path of the berserker barbarian dnd 5e

Path of the Berserker Barbarian: D&D 5e Subclass Review

Featured Path of the Berserker Barbarian image credit to Wizards of the Coast.
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The Path of the Berserker Barbarian was introduced in the Player’s Handbook. It has one of the poorest designs of any subclass, with features that are actively detrimental to your character.

In this review, I’ll highlight the Berserker features and they these synergize with Barbarian class features. I’ll review suitable feats, races, and multiclass options and finally flesh these out into some build concepts.

As always, these are just my thoughts. If you have any other ideas about the Berserker, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Frenzy 3rd Level – Berserker Barbarian Feature

Your Rage is even more intense, and you make an extra weapon attack as a bonus action on your turn, after which you gain a level of exhaustion. 

While the bonus action attack is one of the most substantial options available, you don’t get to use your bonus action attack on the first round of combat because you have to use that bonus action to enter your Rage. You may get a couple of bonus action attacks per fight. The cost of these bonus action attacks is exceptionally high. More than one level of exhaustion is utterly debilitating for a class that relies so heavily on melee combat, and six levels of exhaustion will kill you.

That’s right; your core subclass ability will kill you if you use it too much.

You relieve one level of exhaustion per long rest. The slow rate of exhaustion recovery will likely restrict you to one Frenzy per day. Frenzy might not be used if you’ve picked up exhaustion from another source. It’s probably best to save it for the last fight of the day (not always easy to judge).

The Great Weapon Master feat (popular with Barbarians) grants a bonus action following a crit or killing blow. It costs you nothing but your bonus action when it triggers.

The Polearm Master Feat also grants a bonus action attack that is not as lethal but always usable. Polearm Master works when you’re not raging, and it lacks exhaustion tax.

Taking either (or both) of these feats is far superior to using your subclass feature.

Given how strong some of the features of other Barbarian subclasses are at 3rd level, this is a horrible start.

Mindless Rage6th Level – Berserker Barbarian Feature

Immunity to the frightened and charmed conditions while raging is a nice feature. Barbarians don’t typically have good mental saves, so they can be vulnerable to these kinds of effects.

Mindless Rage is somewhat situational, though, and you could go several sessions without this coming up.

Intimidating Presence10th Level – Berserker Barbarian Feature

You use your action to pick a creature within 30ft that must make a Wisdom save vs. your Charisma modifier DC. If they fail, they are frightened of you until the end of your next turn; if they succeed, there is no effect, and you can’t use it again on that creature for 24 hours. You can extend the effect by using the action again each subsequent turn.

This ability is also a shocker. It keys off your Charisma modifier. Why not Strength? As a Barbarian, you want to concentrate on Strength, Constitution, and Dexterity. You won’t have ability points left over for Charisma. Most creatures at level ten and above will pass the saving throw, and you’ll have wasted your action. To top it off, you can’t try it on them again!

You also can’t use this while raging (if you don’t attack, you lose your Rage). About the only thing going for this feature is that at least it won’t kill you.

You must compare this to the Long Death Monk’s sixth-level feature, Hour of Reaping (four levels earlier). Hour of Reaping affects all creatures within 30ft, uses the Wisdom modifier (vital for Monks), and can be used on those creatures again if they make the save.

Retaliation14th Level – Berserker Barbarian Feature

An attacker within 5ft who hits you will allow you to use your reaction to retaliate with a weapon attack.

Retaliation is a valuable reaction option that will come up often for a Barbarian. It’s an excellent boost to your damage output.

Berserker Barbarian Subclass Summary

This subclass is awful. It’s also quite popular – probably because of Grog, the hugely entertaining Goliath Berserker on Critical Role. He is a prime example of how good roleplay can overcome a subclass design as bad as this. It is also a tribute to the strength of the core Barbarian class.

The Berserker is surpassed only by the Wild Magic Sorcerer as the worst subclass in the game – at least you only kill yourself and not your entire party!

Flutes had a stab at fixing the Berserker, and his version is much better, so I would recommend giving that one a go instead.

Feat Options

Just go for Polearm Master and Great Weapon Master; you may as well choose the most potent feat options to offset your class weaknesses.

Sentinel instead of (or in addition to) the above would also be a great pickup. You can add some battlefield control and protect your spellcasters.

Race Options

Go for a medium-sized race so you can wield a heavy weapon. Avoid Elves with their charm resistance to prevent redundancy with your sixth-level feature.


One level of Rogue or Ranger could provide expertise in Athletics for grapples.

Adding 1-2 levels of Fighter for a Fighting Style, Second Wind, and Action Surge is excellent for Barbarians.

There are several multiclass options to help a Berserker mitigate the exhaustion from its Frenzy. Ten levels of Ranger earns Tireless Nature. Nine levels of a class that can cast Greater Restoration (costs 100 gp) can cleanse exhaustion. Ten levels of Moon Druid get elemental Wild Shape for exhaustion immunity while Frenzied. However, you won’t feel like a Barbarian anymore if you are multiclassing so much.

Build Ideas

Stick with Barbarian all the way. Max your Strength and Constitution. Take the Great Weapon Master feat, and wield a Greataxe. Smash and slash stuff.


That wraps up my review of the Path of the Berserker! In summary, it’s one of the worst subclasses in the game! If you want to play a Barbarian, pick another subclass.

Author Flutes published a revised version of the Berserker subclass that is worth a look.

Please cast Message in the comments either here or on YouTube if you have any questions or suggestions!

You might enjoy my class guide for Barbarians on YouTube:

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