Legendary Barbarians

Legendary Barbarians

This installment of the class-centric supplements by Legendary Games clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover,1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

We begin this supplement with a summary of design decisions made when crafting the Legendary Barbarian presented herein, which is handy to have indeed. Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at this class redesign. The legendary barbarian has d12 HD, 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, all armor and all shields – yes, this includes heavy armor and explicitly also tower shields. However, fast movement only applies when wearing armor less than heavy and not carrying a heavy load. The class, obviously, has full BAB-progression and good Fort-saves. A small thing. But one I enjoyed, was to see Endurance gained as a first level bonus feat. It makes sense in the context of pretty much every barbarian in fantasy/sword & sorcery-literature ever, and doesn’t break the game – good call. Second level yields uncanny dodge, 5th level improved uncanny dodge, and 7th level yields DR 1/- which improves by 1 every 3 levels thereafter. Third level nets danger sense, which scales in the classic manner, i.e. +1 for every 3 levels thereafter. 14th level yields indomitable will, which is slightly more precise than the default verbiage of the ability, explicitly pointing out that it stacks – it’s a small touch and technically not required due to the ability’s untyped bonus, but it’s still a very much appreciated component.

 

So, what’s new? How do you play a barbarian? Your first action in combat will be “I enter rage” – without fault, in 99.99% of instances. This class completely rewires rage and changes this, and indeed, the whole angle of how rage operates. A legendary barbarian has 4 + Constitution modifier rounds of rage per day, with each additional class level attained increasing this by +1.Rage is still renewed after 8 hours of rest, takes a free action to enter, and temporary ability score boosts do not influence the rage-allotment available. While in rage, the legendary barbarian gains an untyped +4 bonus to Will-saves against fear, -2 to AC and receives 2 temporary hit points per Hit Die, with 11th and 20th level increasing this to 3 and 4 per Hit Die, respectively. While in a rage, the legendary barbarian may not use Charisma-, Dexterity- or Intelligence-based skills (except Fly, Intimidate, Ride and Acrobatics) or any ability requiring patience or concentration. A rage is ended as a free action, and fatigues the legendary barbarian for 1 minute afterwards, and while fatigued or exhausted, the class may not enter a new rage. Spells, feats and effects that would grant rounds of rage only provide half as much, minimum 1. – I assume that to mean rounding down, as per the default. Odd: The paragraph stating this has been presented twice – once as part of the ability, and right after that, in a kind of boxed text.

 

Here’s the thing: Rage is now tied to so-called rage forms – once is chosen at 1st level, and another one is unlocked at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. When entering rage, the legendary barbarian enters one of these rage forms, and rage forms may not be changed while in rage. Rage forms improve in power at 11th and 20th level, and a total of 13 are provided. Here,w e can find the option to grow claws (properly codified both regarding type and damage caused – kudos!), and the claws account for if the barbarian already has them. Later, we get a bite attack and a gore attack. Battle meditation nets a bonus to atk and AC, bestial rage allows for shapechanging. Not a fan: This form unlocks unassisted flight at 30 ft. and average maneuverability sans the usual landing clause common for low-level flight/jump options. At first, only Small and Medium animals are available, with later levels unlocking more size categories.

 

Close quarters rage is interesting, in that it nets +3 to atk and damage, but only with ranged attacks executed against targets within the first range increment. It also increases critical multiplier of such attacks, which is something I generally am weary of, but the caveat that explicitly prevents stacking of such effects reigns that in. Closing Wounds nets fast healing, destructive rage boosts melee and thrown weapon damage and sunder attempts. Dueling rage lets the barbarian choose a target to challenge: Against this target, the penalty to AC does not apply, and the barbarian gets a bonus to atk and damage. Elemental rage laces elemental energy into attacks and net a short-range damaging aura. Enlarging rage does what it says on the tin, and another rage form nets omni energy resistance and boosts to Fort- and Ref-saves. Straight bonuses, bonuses to melee and Intimidate also exist.

 

A bit of an issue – aforementioned challenging rage? It’s worse in every conceivable way than reckless rage – reckless rage nets you +3 to melee atk, damage, thrown weapon damage and Will-saves. Dueling rage just nets you +3 to atk and damage (including ranged weapons) and mitigates the -2 penalty versus one target, and you are dumped out of rage if the target is killed. (“Oh no, cleric – keep my challenge foe currently bleeding out alive, otherwise I’ll drop out of rage!!” – yeah, makes no sense.) Unless you’re playing a VERY atypical barbarian, reckless rage will be the more boring, but also superior option. Internal balancing could have been tighter here. Vicious rage is also somewhat problematic, in that it is a concept I generally like – a +3 to atk, +2d6 damage, but at the cost of taking 1d6 yourself – think of Guts from Berserk in the black armor. I can generally get behind that, but the damage output at level 1 is brutal; the damage type inflicted should also probably not be untyped here, and instead mirror the damage type inflicted by the weapon wielded. As written, this is problematic.

 

I generally like rage forms, even though their internal balancing isn’t perfect – but they do present a bit of an issue. With the reduced rage-gain and the front-loaded budget of rounds of rage, dipping into the legendary barbarian is a VERY enticing option. By spreading the rounds of rage a bit thinner over the lower levels, and by taking care regarding several of the rage forms, this could have been much smoother. As written, I’d strongly suggest limiting the options to dip into this class.

 

At 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the barbarian gains a new rage power. Totem rage powers may now be freely selected, which, while potentially making sense, also can be a bit problematic – it depends on your game’s aesthetics and the skill employed by your players. Lists of existing and unchained rage powers for use with the class are provided here, and the pdf does include its own list of rage powers exclusive for the legendary barbarian. Unless I have miscounted, a total of 21 such regular rage powers have been included. These include moving over water as per water walk (italics missing), dealing scaling ability score damage to a mental ability score (proper minimum level cap). There also is a rage power that extends your rage’s duration after spending rounds of rage on it when you score a critical hit, with the durations stacking with themselves and being contingent on critical multipliers. Cool: This may not be cheesed! Huge kudos for making this work properly! Counter bull rush, being immune to lycanthropy in animal/bestial rage form, rerolling miss chances, etc.

 

One of the most interesting and visceral chains here builds on a rebuild of unchained rage’s crippling blow, allowing for the severing of limbs, codifying them by type – and yes, the rules are actually fair. And yes, at the end of the chain, you can rip off heads. Ending grapples/swallow wholes, ghost hunting – several cool options here, and as noted before, rebuilds for both chained and unchained rage powers have been provided.

 

6 new totem trees are provided – arcane, bestial, blood, shadow, sky and void, and 7 single mighty totems are included as well; these latter ones become available at 14th level and include 50% chances to negate critical hits and precision damage, negative energy damage for those nearby, etc. The new totems, for example, allow for light level control, quicker run/charge, blood-related effects, buffs accompanying entering a rage – you get the idea.

 

Okay, this component of the rage mechanics out of the way, it should be noted that greater rage also nets immunity to fear, tireless rage prevents temporary hit points cycling and mighty rage, as noted, yields the benefits of the rage form’s capstone benefit. Level 20 also lets the barbarian spend 1 round of rage when scoring a critical hit to make the target save or die.

 

Now, here is something I very much liked seeing – the class comes with a lot of alternate class features: 3 alternate proficiency arrays (including one that nets unarmed tricks like Catch Off Guard and Throw Anything), Endurance replacements, fast movement replacements, options to get rid of uncanny dodge and danger sense and indomitable will and DR-replacements. These generally do make sense regarding their internal powerlevels. I like these customization options very much.

 

The pdf also features 9 different archetypes for the class. Gunpowder savages are basically the gunslinger-crossover, locked into close-quarters rage form, with Gunsmith replacing Endurance, better gun-butt bashing, etc. Incredible bulk is about enlarging and using Wield Halfling, a part of a mini-feat-chain herein that lets you clobber targets with their friends. Love it. Mutagenic rager instead is sickened/nauseated by rage and gets AC and physical ability score boosts. Pint-sized ragers get a custom rage form versus larger targets, while righteous ragers get a rage variant that works versus evil targets, ignoring all DR of such targets as soon as 1st level. WTF. Savages are the ranger-tweak with 6 + Int skills and an animal companion instead of rage forms. Slavering nightmares are about using fear/demoralize (including the chance to cause damaging nightmares via crits); steppe warriors get a mount and builds on ferocious rage. Vengeful bruisers are a kind of monk-crossover. The latter two only have d10 HD, just fyi.

 

The pdf also introduces barbarian brands – basically, a barbarian’s version of monk vows or paladin oaths. The barbarian may have multiple ones, and 6 are provided – these generally are cool. Several, have a pretty easy clause to break – which is why they sport a Redemption-line that allows you to regain it by fulfilling the stipulated conditions – and no, atonement is not required. I like these very much, and wish there’d have been more. As written, they provide more rage rounds, and that’s it; not even close to what you could do with them mechanically. Beyond the already mentioned feats to beat targets to death with their flailing friends, we have a couple of feats for an Extra Rage Form, an Extra Rage variant, and one that lets you transfer effects of feats that require a specific weapon to improvised weapons.

 

4 magic items and two weapon properties are included: lesser returning, at +1000 GP makes a weapon return if you reduce the target to 0 HP or below. At +2, greater smashing weapons have bonus damage versus objects and emits sonic bursts when destroying them. The totemic club nets an aligned totem’s lesser rage power while raging. Sadistic pauldrons are armor spikes that cause bleed damage, and that enhance damage output in rage. The helm of echoing screams boosts Intimidate at the cost of Diplomacy. Gloves of reckless throwing enhance thrown attacks, but render the items broken after being thrown. This can be abused potentially if you can get your hands on hard to destroy enemy items. The pdf closes with 5 sample builds and a CR 5 sample NPC, Gorund Windwalker.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level – I noticed a couple of formatting hiccups, and internal balance wasn’t always as tight as I’ve come to expect from legendary Games, but as a whole, this is a well-crafted supplement. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf features several full-color artworks that will be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. The pdf comes with only the most basic of bookmarks – the table, one class feature replacement and a few archetypes and main chapter headers are covered, but comfortable navigation, this is not. Odd – almost like something went wrong here.

 

Jeff Gomez and Jason Nelson have addressed several issues with the default barbarian class, but I’m not 100% sure that the new iteration is that much better, to be frank. I generally like the notion of rage forms, and from Endurance to getting rid of that god-forsaken anachronistic alignment restriction, there are plenty of things I like. I am not that keen on the free totem mixing and matching and probably would have made that an alternate class feature. The main catch of this version of the barbarian is, that it doesn’t drown in rage rounds – which is a good idea in general. Resource management is a good thing. Here, the implementation is very front-loaded, though – the legendary barbarian is very dippable, more so than the regular barbarian.

 

At the same time, the class offers no incentive whatsoever for NOT going into rage, which is pretty much the thing that could have fixed the class without reducing rage rounds available. A solarian-like engine, two modes – something like that. It makes sense when you think about it – Kull’s stoicism, Conan’s cunning, Solomon Kane’s ridiculous stubbornness…barbarians don’t just excel necessarily while in rage. Making a single pool of resources pay for rage and abilities available only while NOT in rage would have also added a whole new level to build strategies. Why am I harping on the decision to reduce rage rounds available? I agree with the sentiment behind the design fully – but not with the implementation, as there are plenty of genuinely exciting and rewarding options out there that consume rounds of rage, and thus render the implementation of said options in conjunction with the legendary barbarian kinda awkward or even impossible. Unlike the vanilla magus’ arcane pool, the barbarian’s rage actually has a lot going for it, and losing out there is…well, a pity, one that severely limits the rebuild’s appeal in a global context without offering enough to make up for it.

 

In a way, this class design feels like it changes things; not necessarily for the better (unless you discount aspects that are often houseruled away), and not for the worse – it’s different, and for everything the class does better than the regular barbarian, it also has a small tidbit like unassisted flight too early, like some options not aligning in power level, that blemish it slightly.

 

This is a solid class rebuild, but it’s no revelation; it’s neither a Legendary Magus, nor a Legendary Cavalier or Gunslinger, nor one of the awesome and modular Rogue or Fighter rebuilds. The alternate class features presented herein were my favorite aspect within, as the archetypes tend to gravitate to the obvious engine-tweaks that we all expect by now. All in all, I felt that this was the weakest class-rebuild by Legendary Games that I’ve read so far. It’s not bad by any stretch of the word, but I fail to see sufficient improvement or enough cool stuff to incentivize me to implement it. Particularly when the barbarian classes that exist aren’t that sucky or one-dimensional AND have a vast array of options that this fellow misses out on. As such, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down.

 

You can get this class-rebuild here on OBS.

 

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Endzeitgeist out.

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About Endzeitgeist

Reviewer without a cause