D&D 5e Path of the Zealot Barbarian featured image credit to Wizards of the Coast’s D&D 5e Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
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Xanathar’s Guide to Everything introduced the Path of the Zealot Barbarian. Deities inspire their zealots to a ferocious battle fury. It’s an interesting take on a Barbarian with some strong abilities.
In this review, I’ll take a look at the Zealot features and at how these synergize with the Barbarian class features, then assess feats, races, and multiclass options and finally combine these into some build concepts.
As always, these are just my thoughts. If you have any other ideas about the Zealot, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
Divine Fury – 3rd Level
You can channel divine fury into weapon strikes while Raging. You decide whether to pick necrotic or radiant damage for your feature. The first creature you hit takes 1d6 + half your Barbarian level extra damage of the type picked.
Divine Fury is a nice, simple damage boost that scales with you. Radiant damage is resisted less often and can block some regeneration features of your foes, particularly some of the nastier undead. In an undead-heavy campaign, radiant damage will proove invaluable.
Warrior of the Gods – 3rd Level
Your soul is marked for endless battle. If someone brings you back from the dead with a spell, they can do so without spending the material components.
Revivify consumes 300gp of diamonds each time, Raise Dead a single 500gp diamond.
Warrior of the Gods can save your party a lot of money. You can afford to be quite reckless once your party has access to resurrection magic.
I think being raised repeatedly could have lingering after-effects on your morale and general state of mental wellbeing, which could lead to exciting roleplay. You may start getting increasingly erratic. You may need to consult with senior clergy to help reinforce your flagging faith. This is a wonderfully flavorful ability.
Fanatical Focus – 6th Level
If you fail a save while Raging, you can reroll it. You can use this once per Rage.
Mental saves, particularly Wis saves, are a weak spot for a Barbarian. Fanatical Focus can help cover this weakness. Again, super simple ability, quite effective. There’s no reaction required, just a reroll.
Zealous Presence – 10th Level
As a bonus action, you unleash a battle cry infused with divine energy. Up to 10 creatures other than you and that can hear you within 60ft get advantage on attacks and saves until the start of your next turn. You can use this once per long rest.
It would be better if it were once per short rest or once per Rage. It can give your whole party (and any summons) a great start in an important battle. It’s nice that it’s a bonus action, so you can still keep attacking with your main action. You may need to delay your Rage bonus action to get this off first.
Rage Beyond Death – 14th Level
Rage Beyond Death is another remarkable, flavorful ability.
You get too angry to die. While Raging, being reduced to zero HP doesn’t knock you unconscious. You still make death saves with the typical effects of damage at zero HP. If you fail all your death saves, you refuse to die until your Rage ends. Even then, you will only die if you still have zero HP.
This one meshes well with some of your class abilities. Persistent Rage can prolong your Rage, and at 20th level, you can Rage unlimited times, so you will never reach the end of your Rage unless you become incapacitated. Only massive amounts of damage or instant kill effects can kill you, and even then, you can be revived for the cost of a spell slot.
Your combat features are effective and practical. The subclass as a whole is full of flavor and roleplay opportunities.
You don’t get much in the way of bonus actions, just the once-a-day Zealous Presence, so adding feats to provide a reliable bonus action (and another option or two for your reaction) would round out your character nicely.
You need something to do with your bonus action. There are four main options – Polearm Master, Dual Wielder, Shield Master, and Great Weapon Master.
Polearm Master provides a bonus action attack with the butt end of your polearm for 1d4 damage plus the usual modifiers. You also get another reaction – you can now perform an opportunity attack as a reaction when another creature enters your reach.
Great Weapon Master is great if you want to do even more damage. The bonus action attack it provides is more situational. It’s deadlier than Polearm Master, but not as reliable.
Shield Master – if you want to go for a defensive approach for your Zealot, you can also consider wielding a shield. This gives you a bonus action shove (providing you take the Attack action) which can also knock an enemy prone – giving you and everyone else in melee range advantage, and the enemy disadvantage on their attacks. The feat also allows you to add your shield’s AC to any Dex saves you make, plus provides a reaction to avoid all damage from AOE effects if you make a dex save. Barbarians make most of their Dex saves with advantage.
Dual Wielder is an option, but it’s best considered for a small race (that can’t wield heavy weapons effectively). The Dual Wielder feat can help with two-weapon fighting for small races who are bad at using heavy weapons.
Resilient (Wis) combines nicely with Fanatical Focus to bolster your Wis save even further. Failing a save is just about the only thing that can stop a Zealot.
Sentinel can add some battlefield control. Polearm Master and Sentinel combine amazingly for any martial class using heavy weapons.
If you’re going for a polearm, you’ll be a medium race.
Custom Lineage or Variant Human races are great options with the free feat.
Shifters, Tabaxi, Leonin, Minotaurs, Dwarves, Half-Orcs, Goliaths, Bugbears all make great Barbarians. The Aasimar seems custom-built for a Zealot, particularly the Scourge Aasimar.
Adding a couple of levels of Fighter for a Fighting Style, Second Wind, and (most importantly) Action Surge is always an excellent option for Barbarians.
A full spellcaster is not usually a good fit for a Barbarian, but a level of Cleric would be both flavorful and give you more ways to help your party, particularly when you’ve run out of Rages. Pick your domain to suit your background and story.
It’s a stretch, but a bit of Paladin would be a thematic fit. A couple of levels provide lots of thematic abilities and a little Divine Smite.
Given the synergy between Rage Beyond Death and unlimited Rages, if you are planning to go all the way to level 20, you should probably stick with Barbarian.
The essential part of a build for a Zealot Barbarian is taking Polearm Master for a feat. PM perfectly fills the gaps in the subclass.
After that, you could add one of Great Weapon Master or Sentinel. I think ASI’s for Str and Con and taking Resilient (Wis) a bit later is a valuable way to go. I would probably pick one of the Aasimar or Custom Lineage for my race.
That wraps up my review of the Path of the Zealot! In summary, the Zealot features are impactful and straightforward, and this subclass reeks of roleplay.
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