Wednesday, December 30, 2015

More Battlerager Ranting...

So... apparently my reply to Thomas' comment was more than three times the comment character limit. I guess if nothing else the Dwarven Battlerager inspires me to anger? So maybe if I were to play one that would provide a wellspring to roleplay rage off of? In any case, my continued rage and ranting is below...

First Thomas' comment again 
I'm not 100% sure you're being fair the the battlerager.
1) It comes from the Complete Book of Dwarves. Its not actually just Forgotten Realms at all. Though the Book of Dwarves battlerager doesn't use spiked armor specifically, the book does give an option for knee and elbow spikes, so you're maybe right about the ridiculousness of specializing in the armor. It must have been after 2nd edition that the class became associated with spiked armor, but a google image search surely turned up a good deal of spiked armor.
2) Battlerager armor says you get to use spiked armor as a weapon. This isn't clear to me if you can only use the bonus action attack or if you can use it as your main attack too. Its slightly better if you can use spiked armor as your main weapon as it prevents you from being disarmed, which just requires an interpretation rather than house ruling something totally new. Though if you could use it to attack with your regular attack action, they should have called that out clearly and you'd think they would have if that was the intention.
3) You get to make that Battlerager Armor bonus action attack while you're either wielding a two-handed weapon or a shield. So you could easily have an AC of 18 as the battleraging barbarian getting two attacks on most rounds. Still kinda sucks that its only while raging, but you get it when the damage bonus kicks in, and its more opportunities for hits. Also works with the Brutal Critical feature. So have those handaxes for while you're not raging, but make use of a versatile weapon or bite your shield when you start to rage. The bonus action attack is still better than normal two-weapon fighting too, as you're doing d4+str damage on a hit at 3rd level instead of normal two weapon fighting's plain d4 or d6.
4) Grapple's pittance of damage still isn't great, but you can also still make that bonus action attack if you're raging while grappling. And the point of grappling is probably to stop people from moving, not to deal massive damage.
5) Dash as a bonus action (Battlerager Charge) is a way of saying you don't need ranged weapons as much. Sure it competes with your silly spiked knees and elbows, so you'll only used it to catch up with your enemies if you really need to. But you can do that, no spending your actual action to dash and doing nothing during a combat round.
6) The Battlerager Charge also works well with the grapple, as you can pull someone half your speed while you've grappled them, and if you dash you're pulling someone around at full speed.
7) That said, you're totally right about it basically being rage-only features. It might be nice if the battlerager got advantage to intimidate people (or at least other dwarves), could use the spiked armor outside of combat, or whatnot. As it stands, I'm not sure why the normal berserker path isn't appropriate for what the 2nd edition Book of Dwarves lists as the battlerager. I don't think the battlerager is as hopeless as you're saying it is, though if it shines it probably does so after 5th level, so its a bit moot for our upcoming dwarf game. Its still probably better at 5th level than the berserker though, even if either of those are less satisfying than a fighter.

I'm not sure I'm being fair to the Battlerager either, but of all the "official" published material, it strikes me as the most amateurish. Also, after getting my hopes up to play a Dwarf Barbarian, the Battlerager was just a major disappointment.

1) Even if it comes from the Complete Book of Dwarves, the Spiked Armor definitely comes from some Thibbledorf Pwent and my five minute 5e Battlerager google have a few "Anyone managed to do a Pwent-like character in 5e?" results. Enough to make me suspicious... I’m really enjoying playing 2nd Edition, but I don’t know that trying to hold 5th to “but this is D&D tradition, it comes from 1st, 2nd or 3rd so we have to keep it” is a great excuse for subpar design work. I feel like that’s why D&D still hasn’t ditched the ridiculous “a goblin is worth 50xp and when you kill enough of them so that your share of the party xp is 300 then you hit second level” instead of a more rational you get 1xp per session and when you have 4 you hit the next level sort of system ;-)

2) Even if you have the option to make it your main attack, I don't buy that makes it better. And so what if you can't be disarmed? Sorcerers with Shocking Grasp can't be (easily) disarmed, and they're doing 2d8 damage plus target can't take reactions at 5th level. Monks can't be disarmed, and they're doing 1d6 damage at 5th level. A 4th level fighter could take Tavern Brawler and not be disarmed and get to grapple as a bonus action.
Plus, say you made a 3rd level Battlerager to play in the Wizard's big hardcover adventure that came out around the same time as SCAG. Ya know, the one where you start captured by Drow, who take away all your equipment... and then you end up, as I've seen, not getting your original equipment back, but maybe looting a Drow armory for studded leather, chain shirts, shields, hand xbows, short swords and daggers. And then you flee into the Underdark because your DM is a bit of a jerk, like I was, without food, water or your original equipment... Maybe you can make spiked armor in your downtime... maybe your DM is kind and gentle and just gives it back... Or what happens if you're hit by an ooze and the DM rules that the corrosive properties affects your spiked armor as either a weapon (- to damage) or armor (- to AC). Lots of Oozes in the Underdark…

And, just having talked players into making Shocking Grasp attacks on doors that were only opened by lightning/thunder magic even though the book says “targets 1 creature”, pointing out that the text of the BR in SCAG never explicitly says you can make your main attack with Spiked Armor opens things up to Players assuming you can’t because the book doesn’t say you can and a-hole DMs ruling you can’t because the book doesn’t say you can.

3) Yeah, it’s better than a barbarian with off-hand attacks, but not as good as a fighter could be. And the fact that it only works when you’re raging is the real rub for me. As I said, the bare minimum you need to do to fix the Battlerager is let them make Spiked Armor bonus attacks outside of Raging. That does go a long way to making the Battlerager something to maybe play instead of something to eviscerate in mean blog posts.

4) I get that grappling is meant to keep things from moving, but other than the pittance of damage, nothing about the Battlerager build really helps with grappling. You still probably need the Grappler feat to really shine and I still find it really, really odd that they don’t call out that creatures grappling you would also take that damage.

5+6) The more I think about it, the more Dash as a bonus action at 10th(!) level feels like a slap in the face. Especially since, again, it only works while Raging. Rogues get dash as just a tiny sliver of their Cunning Action that they get at 2nd(!) level. Expeditious Retreat is a 1st(!) level spell that gives you Dash as a bonus action for “Concentration, up to 10 minutes”! Yeah, okay, sure maybe using Dash to drag around a grappled creature at full speed is nice, but without the Grappler feat it’s (A) limited to medium or smaller creatures and (B) you still have to make Athletics checks each round when the target tries to escape where your luck of the dice is up against the luck of the dice of either a creature’s STR or DEX. It does use up the target’s action, but also, you’re not making that bonus spiked armor attack unless you’re Raging and you’re not making it any round you use your bonus action to Dash... If the Battlerager is really supposed to be a Grappling barbarian, they need more than a pittance of damage to make it shine. The other galling thing about Battlerager charge is that it is so similar to the Charger feat. What if you don’t want to wait until 10th(!) level to have your Dwarven Battlerager Dash more and charge into battle like an “axe idiot”? Because they both use bonus actions you can’t stack the Charger feat with Battlerager Dash. On the other hand if you wait until 10th level you might be watching tons of other classes Dash as a bonus action or do Dash like things as a bonus action for 8+ levels (Any variant human at 1st level with Charger bonus, College of Lore Bards could take Expeditious Retreat at 6th level, Monks get it as a 2nd level Ki power, Oath Vengeance Paladins get a 7th level opportunity move, Rogues get it at 2nd as part of Cunning action, Sorcerers, Warlocks and Wizards all have it as a 1st level spell)… To get it as a 10th level feature and to get it only while Raging? A 10th level Circle of the Moon druid can change into a damn Air Elemental for 5 hours at a time every time they take a short rest… How the fuck does Dash as a bonus action only during the up to 4 minutes of Rage you get as a 10th level barbarian feel at all comparable? Make this part of the 3rd level feature, you’re still limited by Bonus actions, you can leave it as only working during Rages. Getting the spiked armor bonus attack outside of rages and dash as a bonus inside of rages feels okay at 3rd level; going by the book and only having spiked armor bonus attack and dash as bonus actions *only during rages* and not getting dash as a bonus until 10th level feels like a bad joke when you look at any other class. Give Battleragers Grapple as a bonus feat and let them add their CON bonus against escape attacks or something at 10th because getting to Dash as a bonus action, only during rages, when you’ve already given them another kinda underpowered bonus action that only works during rages *blows long wet raspberry* And if I’ve learned nothing else in D&D, you always need a ranged attack, an actual honest to god ranged attack for when you’re a-hole friend makes a flying wizard who rains down fireballs from a necklace of fireballs while your mounted, lance wielding paladin looks up in the sky and weeps that he didn’t think to take a longbow or a crossbow or anything.

7) The Berserker suffers exhaustion after using Frenzy and I’ll never get why they didn’t give the Berserker the corresponding ability to lose a level of exhaustion after a Short Rest instead of a long. But still, it’s a bit of a toss up, because the Berserker is still using the core Barbarian Unarmored defense feature whereas the Battlerager is giving that up, and the Berserker gets the benefit of using their main weapon, which could be a magic Maul that does 2d6+magic nonsense instead of a battlerager using spiked armor doing 1d4 and probably not lucky enough to have it be magic. And does that Berserker care as much about Disadvantage on ability checks? Maybe not? Probably not? I could see a Berserker being willing to use Frenzy a second time in a final combat of the day or dire straits and willing to suffer the halved speed.

The Berserker probably needs a tune up too, as Totem Warrior is by far the most satisfying Barbarian build, partly, probably, because it just has lots of options for lots of its features, but I think if you forced me to choose between just Berserker and Battlerager, I’d honestly go Berserker, because I do still think of the classic Barbarian not wearing a lot of armor, even if there’s some Dwarven Gutbuster Brigade nonsense of spiky armor and whatnot. Plus, even the Berserker gets a feature that works outside of Rage… When I get around to making my custom D&D campaign setting next year, with custom sub-classes and all that, I’ll probably make a better berserker “rage” barbarian and a resourceful “Conan” style barbarian.


  1. For all the nonsense, I probably would never play a Berserker or Battlerager in 5e for the simple fact that the character is entirely focused on combat powers. I might be willing to try a totem warrior because they get a pittance of out-of-combat things like a few rituals. Maybe as a variant human where you can take ritual caster and grab druid rituals or another race that gave some reasonable out-of-combat nonsense, but I'd much rather do just about any other class. Which is sad, because the idea is reasonable, but just too boring for me for anything beyond a one-shot.

  2. Um...I am sorry do I put this lightly...raise the level of frustration with which you are already suffering...but the Grapple feat is the worst feat in the entire game. If you look in the PHB right after the rules on Grappling(p 195) you will see the rules on Shoving a Creature. This lets you use your Athletics skill and an attack to add the prone condition to an opponent. If you are already grappling them they can't remove the condition, they have disadvantage on any attacks against anybody standing up, and they have advantage on attacks against them. While this does take up an attack it is way better than either of the first two features of the Grapple feat (being; 1. only you get advantage and they don't get disadvantage; and, 2. you can restrain yourself to restrain them). Lastly, the third feature of that feat was removed by resent errata as being left over from play testing. a Battlerager that feat would be another insult.

    That said, the houserule we use is that any armor bonus increases the 1d4 and 3 damage (On top of the removal of the in rage limitation for everything else), and the class works out pretty well. We even considered letting rage damage be included with the 3 but as of yet haven't implemented it.


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