One of the founders of our hobby and one of the most unsung contributors to Dungeons & Dragons, Len Lakofka has passed away at the age of 76.
Along with the many adventures, classes, spells, and rules he created, Len was also father of the Suel in Greyhawk, designer of their gods, and namesake of the Lendore Isles.
The value of his work goes without saying, but his presence will be sorely missed. The adventures of Leomund go on.
WoTC has released the Barbarian class slated for the PHB2 for playtesting. Now's your chance to check it out and give them some feedback. It's in Dragon # 368, which you have to be a D&D Insider member (It's free for now) to access. http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/drfe/20081006
Personally I think they need to drop the hitpoints a bit (15+5/lvl, not 6), but raised the amount of temporary hit points gained from con to 2x con. Given that you only get the higher of any temp hit points (either how many you have or how many you gained) it wouldn't necessarily break anything.
I like the flavor of the powers, and how they come across, at least at lower levels. Though I can see Fast Runner being a pretty normal feat for a speed rage barbarian, since 10 squares on a charge is kinda sick, in a good way. :)
I was excited when I saw Barbarian was a striker, which is what I was hoping for, but once I got into it I quickly went from Aaah to Huh?. I think I still to like a lot of it but the parts that are bad are really bad. I still want to play the thing at least once to see how valid my impressions are from reading it. Actually, I think it might be very fun to play as it is very flavorable, most of what I don't like is mechanical.
I think the idea for the barbarian, being a primal striker was that most of the time he would be on 'simmer' and then be able to ramp up to boiling occasionally. Unfortunately I don't think WotC has designed it right to do that.
Problem 1: A striker that doesn't follow striker rules.
Strikers are suppose to have a class feature that gives them extra damage on many of their attacks (sneak attack, quarry). Barbarians don't, instead they get their extra damage directly in their powers and limits it by the use of their daily powers… Uhgh!
The problem here is 1) at low level you only have 1 daily… do you have to now take an extended rest after every battle so your barbarian stays effective? 2) other classes will multiclass into barbarian, cherry pick some of the more broken of these powers and be able to use the extra damage (a rogue doing a barbarian power's damage PLUS sneak attack).
Barbarians are squishy (bad defenses, especially AC and Ref) and so they have been given defender hit points and healing surges rather than a strikers and several powers that give themselves healing, temporary hit points, or extra defenses (even more defender abilities)?
Problem 2: Over use of daily powers:
Like I mentioned, most of the extra damage a barbarian can generate requires them to use their daily powers.
First there is Rage Strike, most…. stupid…. power…. ever. You have to burn your daily powers to get extra damage dice in one hit rather than for the entire battle? If I'm reading it correctly you can't even use this class feature until your 5th level, as it requires to you sacrifice at least one daily power when already under the effect of another one.
Then there is the problem of low-level barbarians. The party has to take an extended rest after every battle now so the barbarian can stay effective since so much of their effectiveness is keyed off of using their Daily powers.
This also means that, in order to get your game on you have to fire off your Daily fairly early in the combat… which wastes it if you find out after several rounds of combat that it’s a minor challenge rather than a major fight.
The paragon path is especially hurt the Rage/Daily power mechanic… you loose half of your abilities for the paragon path when you run out of daily powers.
I think the barbarian's rage ability would have been much better (both mechanically and flavor wise) if it had been keyed off of burning up healing surges rather than daily powers. For example: Barbarians have more healing surges than other classes (heartier folk after all) and as a class feature the barbarian can enter a rage as a move action, when entering a rage the barbarian decides on how many healing surges to consume (subject to some limit capped by level or perhaps by teir). While raging the barbarian does an extra amount of damage per surge used entering the rage for their attacks (+1 damage per surge per tier or something like that?). Some other barbarian powers would also have some special effects that could be triggered by expending yet more healing surges.
Problem 3: Power Creep
The at-wills seem unbalanced to me, especially Recuperating Strike… why does a striker have a defender favor at-will? Pressing Strike and Howling Strike seem like other striker powers but with more umph. I guess this is to help compensate for the lack of extra damage through a class feature like other strikers but its going to cause problems.
The encounter powers seem ok for the most part, except that the At-wills are overpowered enough to make them almost as powerful as most of the encounter powers… there are some very over powered ones (like the completely broken Hurricane of Blades)
Final confrontation… this power, as I think they intended it, is rather silly. As its written its broken, especially if you combine it with warforged.
Other things that I didn't like:
No ranged proficiency? So barbarians only know how to stand toe to toe and give and take huh? I guess I must have miss read my history of the Mongel hordes, Vikings, American Indians, Zulu warriors…. etc. Most of barbaric cultures in history have strong traditions of ranged combat as well as melee.
The class is designed to burn itself out… sacrificing enduring ability to do damage to get amazing short term or 1-strike damage. This requires a lot of resting. I understand that it's a cool and accurate mechanic for a barbarian's rage but I think it hurts overall play.
The cumbersome feeling mechanics of "when under the effect of power W and then activating power X you can sacrifice power Y to get benefit Z."
Things I did like though:
Barbarians as strikers.
Having their extra damage keyed off of expending a resource to gain the extra damage... although using daily powers was the wrong way to go about it. I know, I know... this was also in my list of things I didn't like... I love the flavor of it, I just don't like how its going to be forcing more extended rests.
"Kill them all" flavor rather than the Ranger's and Rogue's "hunt that one down" flavor.
Swift Charge: very good flavor for a barbarian
The many of the encounter powers and all of the daily powers seem to have some very cool flavor to them.
Soaking up damage, even though it is more of a defender thing.
You should send your feedback into Wizards. Worst Case scenario they ignore it. Best case, they might actually listen. Or go post on the Dragon forum about it. Anyway:
I agree with your assessment of Rage Strike. I actually placed it useage somewhere around Paragon myself. And even then I'm unsure how useful it will be. I'm okay with rages as stances, that actually makes sense to me. I just can't see a low level barbarian without Veteran's Armor, at least as written. As for their seeming lack of ranged weapons, you are leaving out the thrown weapons, which while not optimal, are ranged and are within proficiency.
Personally I would have suggested lowering the damage down and having a "raging strike" class feature of 1d6 + (Str or Con Mod) damage while raging, with the normal feat to take it to d8, or even starting at d8 and upping it to d10.
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