October 7, 2008
Rage Against the Barbarian
So forgive me for not writing down a full review of what I think about the barbarian playtest yesterday. It took me quite a while to glance through it and then run it through again just to see what I like and didn't like about the barbarian.
Also, I've been following what they had to say about the playtest barbarian over at ENWorld so if you want to hear about other opinions about the playtest barbarian, you can read about them over at here.
The Pen & Paper Portal has an overview of the playtest so I'll get straight onto my personal likes/dislikes and comments about the playtest (you can check out my comment there too!).
The Barbarian is a Striker. Not that there's anything wrong with that although some of us might have been suspecting that it would be a Defender. So this is another one for the Strikers in the list of classes available to us at the moment together with the Ranger and Rogue.
So as a Striker, this means that it has to do BIG DAMAGE and after looking through what it can do, it most certainly fits the bill. There are debates going on whether it actually out-damages the Ranger or the Rogue and I haven't done the math but it doesn't fail to meet expectations.
Regardless, the secondary role of the Barbarian, depending on the build, is either the Defender or the Leader. While the build that is only shown in this playtest is most likely the Defender build, it makes me really curious on how the Barbarian can play a more leadership role in the party.
The 2 builds for the barbarian are the Rageblood and the Thaneborn.
Strenght and Constitutiotn are definately the most important ones here. Not only does Cons increase the resillience of the Barbarian in combat, it also boost some of the damage dealt by certain powers.
All the powers attack with Strength, so it's a no-brainer there.
The big question is that Charisma is listed as one of the key abilities. While the playtest doesn't show how Charisma affects the Rageblood Barbarian, so it remains to be seen how Barbarian can takes up the Leader role.
It's probably a little strange to see that Dexterity isn't in the list but I still think that it can benefit from it in terms of AC and now with the lost of Uncanny Dodge from 3.x, it's importance is probably needed more than we know.
I say that if you're not planning to play a Thaneborn Barbarian, Charisma should be substituted with Dex.
The Barbarian has armor proficiency up to Hide (not even shields) which means they are likely to have quite a lower AC than other Strikers and the Fighter (thus my suggestion for not forgetting Dex earlier). This is probably offset by the fact that the Barbarian has powers that allow him to take more damage but you might to consider to take an Armor proficiency in Chainmail, at least.
The Barbarian doesn't lose any of it's class features or powers by wearing heavy armor unlike in 3rd edition so it is really something to think about.
On the weapons side, the Barbarian is only proficient with melee weapons. This is quite a big surprise as the playtest seems to be pushing for an upfront two-handed weapon-wielding killing machine. From my personal experience, a PC that doesn't carry at least one form of ranged weapon or another isn't as scary as it should be despite how monstrous he is min/maxed.
Although it probably doesn't matter in 4E because there's no such thing as getting a penalty for not being proficient in a ranged weapon but they would most more versatile if they are.
It is quite a pity that the Barbarian has to spend feats just to cover its base in basic areas before it actually feels more complete.
No complaints about Hitpoints and the number of healing surges (which is almost the same as the Fighter), so let's talk about the class features.
Rampage is a really menacing class feature and it's definately going to be exploited through min/maxing aiming to score that critical.
Rageblood Vigor and Swift Charge are pretty cool in trying to inject the charge first, tactics later into the Barbarian but it makes me even more curious on what the Feral Might for the Thaneborn will be.
Let's move on to know what everybody wants to know about the Barbarian; Rage.
Rage are now daily powers (also called Evocations, I think this will be what Primal powers are called). I find it a very interesting mechanic and it really plays on the powers system of 4E.
Every Daily Evocation or Rage starts off with a powerful attack (just like every Daily power for other classes do) but still deals Half on a Miss. After that, it grants a benefit to the Barbarian until the end of the encounter, the Barbarian drops to 0 hp or the Barbarian uses a new Rage power.
The best part about Rage as Daily Powers is that at the end of the encounter, there are no negative aftereffects, no fatigue!
The benefits of the Barbarian Rage are overall pretty neat. Thunder Hawk Rage (Lvl 5) in particular, seems a bit on the overpowered side.
Then there is also Rage Strike. The wording probably needs some work but don't be fooled. When Barbarians are able to use this at-will starting from Level 5, this is probably one of the most damaging power you'll ever get in 4E. Best of all, you still deal Half on a Miss.
However, I still agree that gaining access to this power might need a little more work. It's cluncky and was confusing the first time I read it. There are definately other ways to present it and work in a different mechanic but I'll let the actual playtesting and the designers to do their job. So, we'll see.
The At-Wills are pretty nice overall and I think they would define the type of Barbarian that you can play as.
Howling Strike is for straightforward and agressive frontline charger.
Pressing Strike presents a more tactical approach to combat with its shifting abilities.
Recuperating Strike will really help to boost the survivabilty of the barbarian in combat.
The fact that these powers also receive additional boost when the barbarian is raging is a nice touch.
The Encounter Powers are pretty diversed. You can pick powers that make you, what my group calls them, boss killers or horde breakers.
I like it because it gives the Barbarian options even though they are going for a particular build.
Great Cleave is now a power, which is cool!
The Utility powers is the wellspring of the Barbarian's ability to take damage. Most of them are generally pumps of temporary hitpoints sprinkled at various levels but after taking a closer look at them the second time, I'm surprised to say that there are some powers which seem to give the Barbarian some control on the battlefield as well.
There is only one shown in this playtest; Frenzied Berserker which works best when the Barbarian is raging which might limit the potential of the paragon path to only one encounter.
I will my eye on the Warpath class feature because it can lead to what I call, nose-pulling combat, which can be exploited by clever enemies.
Final Confrotation is a really awesome power but only in theory. For me, it still relies on whether the monster will play along with it. While I would probably see this being used in fights against a Solo monster but the DM should consider careful whether they should let the Barbarian take the limelight by risking the rest of the players witnessing the one-man show.
Overall, I'm really liking what I've seen so far and it's probably an easy to play class. I'm still curious to know what the Thaneborn build is like and their powers though.
Rage Strike needs attention and I'm not sure if giving the Barbarian Controller-like powers is making it diversive or dipping too much in other classes's territory. It's probably a very balanced class in terms of what it can do which I think shouldn't be the case, especially in 4E.
Bah! But enough of the talking, I'm going to roll up a Barbarian pretty soon and maybe it will reveal more cool or uncool stuff about the Barbarian.