D&D (and other such games) have taken the idea of the real life and mythology of the berserker and turned it into the barbarian class that we know and love in the game but for the most part they are simply a power that isn’t explored more in depth. However, with a bit of world-building forethought and player involvement, these often-ignored powers can come to the forefront to make those with these powers the terror in battle that they are truly meant to be.
Please note: These ideas behind these powers are based on Pathfinder, (and have been edited for conciseness) but with a bit of tweaking can be used for any version of D&D or any other game that uses barbarians as a class. Because of this, it’s beyond the scope of this article to discuss what level these powers would be appropriate at. Neither is this article isn’t going to talk about whether the powers are standard, extraordinary, or supernatural.
Consider how to incorporate the following rage-based feats into your game(s). Keep in mind, unless it states it directly, that these powers are active only “while raging.”
While historically the only two totems that berserkers took were of the wolf and bear, fictionally, there are a lot more available to barbarians.
This expanded idea of totems is taken from the Native Americans, which define totems as totem is a spirit being, often an animal, which is sacred symbol to a tribe, clan, family or individual. Native beliefs further explain that a totem animal is one that is with you for life, both in the physical and spiritual world. The totem animal that acts as the main guardian spirit. With this one animal, a connection is shared, either through interest in the animal, characteristics, dreams, or other interaction. This Animal Guide offers power and wisdom to the individual when they “communicate” with it, conveying their respect and trust. The picture, below, shows a list of Native American spirit animals and their attributes.
According to Pathfinder, Totem rage powers grant powers related to a theme. A barbarian cannot select from more than one group of totem rage powers; for example, a barbarian who selects a beast totem rage power cannot later choose to gain any of the dragon totem rage powers (any rage power with “dragon totem” in its title).
Please note that this list is a summary of the powers granted, not an actual recreation of them in their entirety. To use these feats, the barbarian must have the appropriate totem.
- Celestial Totems users get more benefit out of magical healing and effects, purge non-good invisible creatures, and grants spell resistance and increased saving throws against spells and effects from evil creatures. This would be an appropriate totem to have if one is planning on going to the abyss.
- Chaos Totem users get a deflection bonus to AC against lawful creatures, as well as an increased saving throw against confusion, insanity, polymorph, and effects with the lawful descriptor, a +4 bonus on Escape Artist checks and has a 25% chance to ignore extra damage from critical hits and sneak attacks. Furthermore, he is granted DR/lawful equal to 1/2 her barbarian level, and his weapons and natural weapons are considered chaotic to overcome damage reduction.
- Cult Totem users get morale and flanking bonuses are added to damage instead of attack rolls, can make attacks of opportunity against a creature who damages an ally once per 24 hours, and can instead be disabled if he would have been dropped to zero or fewer HP.
- Daemon Totem users get a bonus on saving throws against acid damage, death effects, disease, and poison, her melee attacks impose a temporary negative level on her opponent on a successful critical hit, and heals or gains temporary HP if she kills an intelligent creature with a CR of at least half her level. (This don’t stack if she kills multiple creatures.)
- Dragon Totem users gets a bonus on Perception checks and morale bonus on saving throws against fear, paralysis, and sleep effects, resists the energy type that is associated with her dragon totem—acid (black, copper, green), cold (silver, white), electricity (blue, bronze), or fire (brass, gold, red), and gains a flight speed equal to his land speed with average maneuverability via manifestation of a pair of spiritual dragon wings.
- Elemental Totems allows the barbarian to choose between the following: Air, earth, fire, or water. Once selected, this choice cannot be changed. The barbarian gains a bonus on saving throws against spells with the selected descriptor, which increases by every 4 levels. The following powers are granted:
- Air: (lesser) Once per rage, the barbarian can move for 1 round as if affected by air walk. (Greater) the barbarian is surrounded by an aura of howling winds. Casting spells become more difficult in his vicinity, ranged attacks don’t hit him as often and smaller creatures have a more difficult time attacking him with natural or touch attacks and have a chance of being flung back 5 feet and knocked prone. The barbarian can suspend this aura as a free action.
- Earth: (lesser) The barbarian is granted a burrow speed for sand, loose soil, or gravel at a speed. (Greater) the barbarian’s skin becomes as hard as stone which damages weapons that hit her.
- Fire: opponents that confirm a critical hit against the barbarian with piercing or slashing weapons are sprayed with liquid fire. (Creatures with reach weapons are immune, though adjacent creatures may get sprayed per DM’s discretion.) Attackers take 1d6+ Con modifier points of fire damage per barbarian level. (Greater) the barbarian envelopes herself in a 10’ spherical cloud of smoke, which follows her as she moves. She is immune to its effects. Other creatures are affected by the smoke as per usual. The smoke may be dispersed by wind in the same manner as a fog cloud spell.
- Water: the barbarian can breathe water as well as air. (Greater) the barbarian gains tremorsense to a range of 30 feet while underwater. She can attack and move underwater as if affected by freedom of movement.
- Fiend Totem users grow large horns that can do a primary gore attack for 1d8 (M) or 1d6 (S) + strength modifier damage. Furthermore, the barbarian sprouts sharp barbs from her body that do 1d6 points of piercing damage to those that hit her Finally, the barbarian is surrounded by an aura of menace. Good creatures adjacent to the barbarian are shaken, taking 2d6 points of slashing damage at the beginning of the barbarian’s turn. Neutral creatures that are adjacent to the barbarian are shaken, but do not take any damage. Evil creatures are unaffected.
- Hive Totem users at first take only half damage, then take no damage from swarm attacks. Furthermore, she gains a bonus on strength ability checks and as a defense against bull rush, drag, and trip attacks, as well as combat maneuver checks and a defense when grappling. Finally, she can deliver a bite attack which is able to be infused with a toxin once per rage.
- Spirit Totem users gain the benefit of spirits that harass and damage her living foes with negative, blurring the barbarian’s position, and helping her be more accurate.
- World Serpent Totem users gain an increasing insight bonus to AC against outsiders and aberrations, a supre- aligned weapon for the purposes of overcoming damage reduction, +1-resistance bonus on saving throws against spells and effects that have an alignment descriptor or come from an outsider or aberration, and doubles her movement speed.
According to pathfinder: Bloodragers have a source of magic somewhere in his heritage that empowers his bloodrages, bonus feats, and bonus spells. One bloodline must be chosen upon taking his first level of bloodrager. Once made, this choice cannot be changed.
For those who missed my ideas on how bloodlines can be played, it can be found here .
- Draconic Blood users are granted two claw attacks (See part 1 for details), resistance for one of the following types of energy: acid, cold, fire, or electricity. Furthermore, the barbarian gains a breath weapon of the same type chosen usable once daily which deals 1d6 points of damage/ 2 levels, either in a 30-foot cone (if cold or fire) or a 60-foot line (if acid or electricity). Those caught in the breath can attempt a saving throw for half damage.
- Fey Blood users can confuse enemies with a confirmed critical hit, ignore difficult terrain, and be blurred while moving.
- Infernal Blood users can their attacks with hellfire for 1 round. During this time, her melee attacks gain the flaming magic weapon special ability, gain a resistance to fire and poisons, and gains a +4 bonus against enchantment and fear effects.
- Undead blood causes she creatures hits to be shaken rounds equal to 1/2 her barbarian level, but does not stack with other fear effects to cause a stronger condition. Furthermore, her attacks can harm ghosts. Finally, she gains cold resistance 10, as well as DR 10/— against nonlethal damage.
There are a variety of rage based powers that can be used in your games, if the DM is open to exploring their use. Consider using these in your game, either by allowing the characters to use them or giving them to enemies you’re sending after your players for them to learn about. As always, feel free to like, comment, and re-share!