In 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 (though some have been combined for conciseness), but with a bit of tweaking can be used for any version of D&D or any other rpg that uses barbarians. 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 and powers into your game(s). Keep in mind, unless it states it directly, that these powers are active only “while raging.”
Animal Companions & Mounts
Though in folklore real life animals weren’t a part of the berserker’s schtick, it’s appropriate for the game because the characters may be multi-classed.
- Ferocious Beast: Animal companion shares the barbarian raging (including greater rage, mighty rage, and tireless rage), though she must spend an additional round of rage per round if her companion begins or ends its turn adjacent to her, and 2 additional rounds of rage per round if not. Another feat can be spent to share the benefit of rage powers, except for ones that require move actions.
- Ferocious Mount: While raging and mounted, the barbarian’s mount also gains the benefits of rage (including greater rage and mighty rage) if the barbarian is mounted or adjacent to it, though she must spend one additional round of rage per round. She can elect not to pay this cost, in which case her mount does not rage. Another feat can be spent to share the benefit of rage powers, except for ones that require actions, including free actions.
- Ferocious Trample: While raging and mounted, the barbarian’s mount gains the trample special attack against creatures smaller than itself, which inflicts 1d8 points of damage for a Medium mount, 2d6 for a Large mount, or 2d8 for a Huge mount, plus 1.5 X its Strength modifier, save for half. Creatures in the mount’s path or that threaten it may make attacks of opportunity against either the barbarian or the mount as it [asses. Another feat may be spent to affect creatures up to its own size. Additionally, it can overrun creatures that fails its save or chooses not to.
- Spirit Steed: While raging and mounted, the barbarian’s mount gains DR/magic equal to 1/2 the barbarian’s level. The mount’s natural weapons count as magical to overcome damage reduction.
Berserkers are said to have supernatural resilience, able to shrug off blows and wounds that would fell an ordinary man. Though the original myths didn’t include other magic users, it’s appropriate here. In some tales, they also have sorcerous powers. This is a way that those myths could show up in game-play.
- Energetic Rage the barbarian’s melee attacks deal an additional 1d6 points of energy damage (acid, cold, electricity, fire or sonic). The type is chosen when the barbarian begins her rage. Another feat can be spent to increase the barbarian’s critical hits made with melee weapons by an additional 1d10 points of energy damage (2d10 if the weapon deals ×3 damage on a critical hit, 3d10 if the weapon deals ×4 on a critical hit).
- Energy Absorption: the barbarian can absorb energy from a single attack of her chosen energy type once per rage, gaining 1 temporary hit point per 3 points of damage she would have taken. These temporary HP last until the end of the barbarian’s rage.
- Energy Resistance: the barbarian gains resistance to one energy type (acid, cold, electricity, fire, or sonic) equal to 1/2 her barbarian level (minimum 1). Once selected, it cannot be changed. This rage power can be selected more than once; each time it applies to a different energy type. Another feat can be spent to reduce damage by half from a single energy based attack.
- Energy Eruption: the barbarian can absorb energy from a single attack and unleash it upon her enemies once per rage. Before her rage ends, she can unleash the stored energy as a breath weapon in either a 60-foot line or 30-foot cone. The breath weapon inflicts damage equal to the damage from the attack absorbed by the barbarian, but creatures within the area may make a save for half damage even if the original effect did not allow a save.
Liquid Courage Feats
It’s said that berserkers drank heavily to gain their abilities. These feats help to show why.
- Liquid Courage: the barbarian increases her morale bonus on saving throws against mind-affecting effects by +1 for each alcoholic drink she consumes during her rage, to a maximum of +1 increase per four barbarian levels.
- Boasting Taunt: the barbarian can taunt a creature to attack her by making an Intimidate check to demoralize. If the check succeeds, the target is also shaken provided the barbarian is visible and raging or until it makes a melee attack against the barbarian. The barbarian receives a +2-circumstance bonus on this check for every alcoholic drink she has consumed during this rage. This is a language-dependent mind-affecting effect, and it relies on audible components.
- Good for What Ails You: the barbarian may attempt a new saving throw against one of the following conditions that may be affecting her: blinded, confused, dazzled, deafened, exhausted, fatigued, frightened, nauseated, panicked, shaken, poisoned, or sickened if she imbibed alcohol. If she succeeds at the save, the effect is suppressed for the rage’s duration.
- Roaring Drunk: While raging, the barbarian gains a +1-morale bonus on Intimidate checks and to the save DC of any fear effects she creates for each alcoholic drink she has consumed during her rage, to a maximum of +1 per four barbarian levels.
- Hurling, Lesser: As a full-round action, the barbarian can lift and hurl an object up to one size category smaller than herself with both hands or two size categories smaller with one hand as an improvised weapon with a range increment of 10 feet. This inflicts damage as a falling object plus the barbarian’s Strength bonus. This damage is halved if the object is not made of stone, metal, or similar material. This is a ranged touch attack, and the target may attempt a save for half damage. Two more feats can be spent to increase range increments and/or the hurled object size.
- Hurling Charge: While making a charge attack, the barbarian may draw and throw a hurled weapon during her charge, gaining the normal +2 attack roll bonus on the thrown weapon attack as well as on the melee attack at the end of the charge.
- Moment of Clarity: The barbarian momentarily stops their rage (gain no benefits nor taking any of the penalties from rage). Activating this power is a swift action, but still counts against her total number of rounds of rage per day. This power can only be used once per rage.
- Perfect Clarity: While using her moment of clarity rage power, the barbarian has the advantage on saving throws to disbelieve illusions and other mind-altering effects.
- Ultimate Clarity: Once per rage, the character can refine her senses, seeing through normal and magical darkness (including from magical effects such as blur and displacement), invisibility, and illusions; she knows the exact locations of creatures with concealment. This lasts for 1 round. The character does not need to be using moment of clarity to use this rage power.
- Powerful Blow: Once per rage as a swift action, the barbarian gains a +1 bonus on a single damage roll. This bonus increases by +1 for every 4 levels the barbarian has attained.
- Crippling Blow: When using her powerful blow rage power, the barbarian can forgo all nonstandard bonuses to damage and instead deals 1 point of ability damage to the target’s Strength or Dexterity score for every four class levels the barbarian has attained. The target can attempt a saving throw to halve this ability damage.
Object Attacking feats
One of the things that berserkers were well known for is smashing and burning everything in sight. These powers exemplify this behavior.
- Ground Breaker: Once per rage, the barbarian can attack the floor around her as a standard action. This attack automatically hits and deals damage normally. If the barbarian beats the floor’s hardness, the space she occupies and the squares adjacent to her become difficult terrain. Creatures in these squares, except the barbarian, must make a DC 15 Reflex save or be knocked prone. Another feat can be spent to affect the ground within a 10’ radius.
- Smasher: Once per rage, whenever the barbarian makes an attack against an unattended object or a sunder combat maneuver, she can ignore the object’s hardness. This ability must be used before the attack roll or sunder check is made. Another feat can be spent to ignore a construct’s hardness
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!