Hello barbarians! Welcome to my spellbook and thank you so much for checking out the fourth episode of our barbarian subclass series. Today we’re going to be going over one of the most universally hated subclasses in the entirety of dungeons and dragons 5e. That’s right we’re going over a path of the berserker. Which is such a cool concept man like wizard just did them really dirty.
Traditionally the berserker barbarians have always been really cool, really strong and just that stereotypical reckless abandonment battle obsessed barbarian. However that’s not really what we got here, instead we have the equivalent of kind of like a barbarian that will literally just attack themselves into death or close to it or at the very least will attack themselves into obsolescence which is even worse than death as many taxi drivers will tell you 🙂
Just kidding, just kidding i joke i joke. But seriously this subclass needs some reworking, there have been a lot of interesting ways of homebrewing this so that it works. We’re not really gonna cover them in this article just for sake of transparency but they are out there some of them are really good just running past your DM of course and get their impression on it. Now with that out of the way let’s take a look at their level breakdown.
At level 3 you’ll gain access to frenzy, at level 6 mindless rage, at level 10 intimidating presence and at level 14 you’ll gain retaliation. The one that hurts me deeply is the first one you get which is frenzy, you’ll see why in a little bit. I have a hard time trying to figure out what this barbarian is really excelling at, i know people like bobby baker are likely to have a pretty well thought out argument for it but the path of the berserker is just rough man.
It’s just rough i’ve read through it so many times now and i legitimately don’t understand how wizards let this slide. I had a couple DMs who have been in the game since like second edition or a d&d and they kind of let me know that this was kind of based on the concept of losing levels or taking on penalties but the penalty they decided to go with was brutal so i don’t know, it is interesting. But enough rambling let’s move on to the first ability you get which is fenzy.
Starting at level 3 you push past your limits. While raging you can go into a frenzy: For the duration of your rage you can make a single melee weapon attack as a bonus action on each of your turns after this one. When your rage ends you suffer one level of exhaustion.
So if you’re not super familiar and i know a lot of you are going to be cause this was a heavily dragged through the mud when it was first released and it still is to this day. The problem is the exhaustion and i’ll get into why here so if you’ve never had to deal with exhaustion before it’s broken down into six levels and every time you take on exhaustion it goes up by one level naturally. At level one it’s disadvantage on all ability checks. So really nerfs you hard and that’s just with one level.
At level two your speed is halved and a barbarian with no mobility is a barbarian with no stickiness which is really really bad. At level 3 you have disadvantage on all attack rolls and saving throws which means your survivability is gonna start to tank really bad and your ability to actually deal any damage is also gonna be hurt.
At four levels of exhaustion your hit point maximum is halved and that means the only way to really get above your new maximum hit points is through temporary hit points which the frenzy barbarian it doesn’t really provide you with. I really hope you have someone who took that inspiring leader feat and then at five levels of exhaustion your speed is reduced to zero. Congrats! you’re basically in a coma man, it sucks..it’s really bad.
Then at six levels of exhaustion just stright up death homie, stright up death. So you can literally attack yourself into the grave and what you get for all of this you can make a melee weapon attack as a bonus action. Neat! I mean if you really wanted to cheese it, you could just go with any other good barbarian subclass and take the fighting initiate feat which was found in tasha’s cauldron of everything.
And then just take two weapon fighting. You know i understand it’ll take up your other hand and that might limit what kind of a weapon you can get and you won’t be able to use a shield, i get all that 100% get all that. But the flip side is so terrible you’ll literally just burn yourself out into complete obsolescence. Now of course this brings up the question. exhaustion’s really bad chance but how do you recover from exhaustion! you know it’s a great question.
The short answer is there’s a handful of higher level spells that will do it, so if you have ready access to a temple and maybe a priest owes you a bunch of favors and you want to call them in for this. That can work but the layman’s way of getting rid of exhaustion is by taking long rests. Now i know what you’re thinking! Well that’s not too bad chance i mean sure you might take a couple of exhaustion levels during the day but there’s really only like one or two combat sessions within a day and we usually get a long rest after that so it’s not a huge deal right! To that i say….yeah and no!
The problem with that line of thinking is that you only get to remove one level of exhaustion when you finish a long rest. So if you have two combats and you go into frenzy for both of them and you only take one long rest. You wake up with still one level of exhaustion which puts you at just a terrible way to start the day.
In addition to that let’s your long rest gets interrupted. You have to deal with a midnight ambush while you have your full levels of exhaustion and if it happens at a point where you don’t fully get that long rest in, you have to start the next day with all of your remaining levels of exhaustion still and it just really builds up and i don’t think most party members are gonna be okay with you sleeping like 24 hours in a day to get all of your levels of exhaustion removed.
Just so you can stack them back up again and do the same thing next week you know. Like it just seems a little bit redundant. In any case enough harping on frenzy it’s really the only bad part of this subclass but it’s just so goddamn bad. Let’s move on now to mindless rage.
Starting at sixth level…your mind is fixated on battle. While Raging: You can’t be charmed or frightened. If you are charmed or frightened when you enter your rage, the effect is suspended for the duration of the rage.
Now this actually isn’t bad…this actually address is one of the core problems with a barbarian and that is their lack of magical resistance. So it’s really common for really any enchantment based wizard to get the barbarian to turn on their party and more times than not that’s a really big problem. Unless of course you have a bunch of levels of exhaustion in which case you’re basically a wizard that can’t cast spells which is kind of sad.
But in general this is quite good! Is it worth your six level subclass improvement though i would probably say not compared to a lot of the other subclasses we’ve gone into. Sixth level is usually a big deal and provides more direct solutions to whatever problem that particular barbarian faces. However this isn’t bad.
Especially when you get to that point where you have more rages than you know what to do with you really don’t have to worry about being charmed or frightened which guarantees you’ll always be able to focus on the battle at hand. It doesn’t help itself out in terms of exploration really! there’s an argument to be made that might help you out in social circumstances but that would require you to be raging almost 24×7 or at the very least always have rages to use.
This is primarily a combat focused ability though so take it with a grain of salt and under certain campaigns it might be more useful than others for sure but it’s not bad. Now let’s move on to your 10th level ability intimidating presence.
Starting at 10th level your madness scares others, you can use your action to frighten someone. When you do so choose one creature you can see within 30 feet of you. If the creature can see or hear you it must succeed on a wisdom save and the dc is 8 plus your proficiency plus your charisma modifier which is interesting or be frightened until the end of your next turn.
On subsequent turns you can use your action to extend the duration of this effect on the frightened creature until the end of your next turn. This effect ends if the creature ends its turn out of line of sight or more than 60 feet away from you. If the creature succeeds on its save you can’t use this feature again on that creature again for 24 hours.
I’m not a huge fan of this like at all. My biggest issue with it is it takes up your action which is really important if you’re a DPs class also i mentioned kind of the core problems with barbarians right! The first is their stickiness the second is their utility and the third is their magical resistances. This is the opposite of stickiness.
You know if almost any other class got this..i would totally understand it, but if you’re a barbarian and your job is to soak up damage. The last thing you want is people running away from you potentially into your allies. You want them fixated on you, you want to draw that agro this kind of flies in the face of that. To be fair it could be a lot of worse and if you’re in circumstances where you’re trying to get away and you’re covering the rear of your party. This is a great way to make sure you can get away safely.
However is it worth the action investment? probably not! It’s also interesting that it takes your charisma modifier, if it took your constitution modifier i’d be far more inclined to say that the DC isn’t something you really need to worry about. But if you’re a barbarian you’re going to be dumping the vast majority of your ability score improvements into constitution and strength.
So because of that, you know charisma likely isn’t going to get a lot of love and as a direct result your DC likely isn’t going to be all that high which means the odds of them just straight up succeeding on that wisdom save are quite good. It’s also kind of weird because when i think of the frenzy barbarian i don’t really think of charisma. I guess in terms of intimidation it makes sense and that’s probably why this feature is named intimidating presence.
Although in terms of actual viability it’s a hard cell to make. Now let’s move on to its capstone ability at least in relation to the subclass retaliation.
Now i know what you’re thinking retaliation that’s a badass name? This is probably a badass feature? To which my response is man i wish, so starting at 14th level here…creatures attack you at their own risk. When you take damage from a creature that is within 5ft of you: You can use your reaction to make a melee weapon attack against that creature.
It essentially lets you trigger in attack of opportunity without them moving and in turn netting you an extra attack. I wish this was worded differently and at a lower level so if it was worded you can use your reaction to make an attack action against a creature.
Then i’d like it because it would stack with your extra attack right! But this it doesn’t, there’s not really a huge benefit in taking this or using this, especially if you’re playing with feats because there are feats that require your reaction that would be far more useful than this and if you have any semblance of spell casting then i don’t know, it is one of those interesting options that i want to say looks good on paper, but in actual practice it’s just not all that great.
I suppose you can make an argument that your average damage per turn would increase by a bit and that’s true but at the cost of utility. So i’m less inclined to agree with that, also it specifies that the creature has to be within five feet of you. So if you’re using anything with the reach property. You’re gonna be not really at an advantage at all which is disappointing.
So overall i’m not satisfied with it, it doesn’t hurt you directly, it does sacrifice a little bit of utility but that’s really about it so i don’t know, it’s probably the one of the more redeemable features you’re gonna get using the path of the berserker but let’s put this sublcass out of its misery and head to my personal thoughts here.
If for whatever reason you can’t tell i’m not a huge fan of the subclass! if anything i kind of blame this subclass for giving the barbarian a really bad rep. However this was released at the same time as path of the totem warrior which was just wise and still is one of the best barbarian paths. So they did balance each other out but playing adventures league for a couple years.
I don’t think i’ve seen anyone seriously take on a path of the berserker barbarian. I am in a game right now with juice from master the game and a couple others where i am playing with the path of the berserker barbarian and i find that he’s doing quite well but his role play is on point and he’s in a party where we can kind of afford to take a little bit more risks so it is not a big deal, but i feel like if you were to take that character and scale it up to the upper echelons of levels really think really like anything past.
Like level eight or nine maybe tha barbarian subclass just will not hold up compared to the vast vast majority of other classes out there. So it is interesting and the fact that frenzy is what drags this down and you get it so early on and just nothing really improves in a way that will change up your play style entirely or make you infinitely more you like the power scaling just isn’t here.
It’s all kind of bland and meh it doesn’t give you a lot to work with inside or even outside of combat. So i don’t know why anyone would take this by raw. As i mentioned earlier there are tons of and tons of great revisions on the path of the berserker and a ton of great homebrew subclasses that do very similar things and we may cover them in the future of this website but for now this is what we got to work with.
Pick it at your own risk, who knows maybe you’ve played one all the way up to the upper levels and maybe you’ve loved the heck out of it if so let me know down beneath, i don’t see a ton of redeeming characteristics for this, but who knows i might be overlooking something important and yeah let me know down beneath mention any thoughts, questions, questions, comments or concerns you have regarding path of the berserker. That being said guys, i hope you all have a wonderful day and as always happy adventuring.