The Path of the Berserker Barbarian is the closest depiction of a classic Barbarian we’re used to seeing in films and video games.
If you want to lose your temper, think of your fists, and go completely mad, smashing everyone’s faces in, the Berserker Barbarian is perfect for you.
Path of the Berserker Barbarian 5e – Features
Berserker Barbarians use an ability that encompasses their name, Frenzy. It allows them to go completely crazy and destroy almost anything or anyone in their path but at a cost.
Unfortunately, the Berserker doesn’t have the best reputation among D&D players, as they understand this ability to be lackluster and too costly.
The whole problem is that the Berserker relies entirely on Frenzy, making it a bit awkward to play around. In most cases, you’ll be juggling Exhaustion and trying not to be tapped out of the fight by your own ability!
Choosing this path at level 3 allows you to go into a frenzy when you start to rage.
If you go into a frenzy, for the duration of your rage, you’ll be able to make one melee weapon attack using a bonus action on each of your turns after the current one.
However, when your rage ends, you’ll suffer one level of exhaustion.
Starting level 6, you cannot be frightened nor charmed while your rage is active. If you’re frightened or charmed when entering your rage, the effect will be suspended for the duration of your rage.
At level 10, you can use an action to frighten a target with your menacing presence.
When you frighten a target this way, choose one visible creature that’s within 30 feet of you. If the creature is able to hear or see you, it is forced to succeed on a Wisdom saving throw (DC equals 8 + your Charisma modifier + your proficiency bonus) or become frightened of you until your next turn ends.
On your upcoming turns, you may use an action to extend the effect’s duration on the frightened creature until your next turn ends. The effect is canceled if the creature ends its turn more than 60 feet away from you or out of your line of sight.
When you become level 14, taking damage from a creature within 5 feet of you allows you to use your reaction to make a melee weapon attack against the creature.
Building a Path of the Berserker Barbarian
The Berserker Barbarian isn’t only a straightforward Barbarian path, but it also doesn’t have many unique features that make it stand out in the crowd of subclasses (which isn’t negative, it’s just something to consider if you want to be different).
Berserker Barbarians mainly rely on their Frenzy feature, which wouldn’t be that bad if it didn’t give you one level of exhaustion.
However, the Berserker Barbarian does have some handy features, like being “immune” to the charmed and frightened condition while raging, as well as the melee weapon attack they can make with a reaction when damaged by a creature close to them.
Just acknowledge that without change, the Berserker Barbarian will be considered far below other paths, primarily because of the annoying exhaustion level, so you might want to change that (if possible).
Path of the Berserker Ability Scores
Like other Barbarian paths, the Berserker mainly focuses on Strength and Constitution. At the same time, Dexterity is used to obtain their desired armor plus AC, and Wisdom is left for some commonly rolled checks.
Berserkers don’t pay too much attention to Charisma and Intelligence, but that’s for a good reason.
- Strength – As usual, Strength acts as your go-to Ability Score because you need to lift heavy melee weapons, wear heavier armor, break objects, and shove/grapple creatures.
While you won’t be grappling often, it’s good to have enough Strength to deal with enemies quickly and not become weighed down when carrying a lot of items.
- Constitution – Constitution is in the same boat as Strength, being your other go-to Ability Score since you’ll be in the thick of things 90% of the time.
Raising your Constitution as high as possible would be preferable, as it’ll help raise your maximum HP and give you a bit more HP to work with in the early game.
Note: Having a lot of Constitution goes well with feats like Durable or Tough, so if you plan on taking one, try focusing a lot on your Constitution.
- Dexterity – It’s a good idea to get your Dexterity up to 14 to have that juicy +2 bonus to AC while wearing armor. Not only will it help you survive longer, but it’ll also provide some support when making Dexterity checks.
You can go armorless, sacrificing some of your durability for damage, but if you’re the only Defender/close-combat character, go for options that raise your AC instead.
- Wisdom – You shouldn’t forget about Wisdom, as Perception (Wis) is one of the most commonly rolled saves in the game.
I recommend at least getting it to 10 so as not to have a negative modifier, but getting it to 12 for that +1 is also worth it.
- Charisma – Berserkers use their Charisma modifier in their Intimidating Presence feature. The only problem is that Intimidating Presence isn’t that good.
In other words, raising Charisma just for one feature, leaving other essential Ability Scores like Strength, Constitution, and Dexterity lower, will have some repercussions in the late game.
- Intelligence – There’s no need to look at Intelligence, as none of your skills, features, or equipment requires any Intelligence.
Intelligence saves are rare, so don’t bother putting in points just to have higher saves. Just dump it and focus on raising important Ability Scores.
Ideal Path of the Berserker Barbarian Races
Berserker Barbarians love to battle, so races that provide clear bonuses to close combat are the perfect choice.
Some standard Berserker Barbarian races are Half-Orcs, Orcs, Goliaths, Mountain Dwarfs, Shadar-Kai, Eladrin, Scourge Aasimar, and Centaurs.
While there are other races to choose from, the abovementioned races have some fantastic racial Ability Score bonuses (some also have relevant racial features).
Path of the Berserker Barbarian Background and Skills
When you create your Berserker Barbarian, understanding which background and skills are relevant to your character is very important.
Your background is an overarching choice, affecting many character aspects, such as the tool proficiencies you receive, the skills you obtain, and how your character acts.
Skills are more self-explanatory, as you choose a number of them available to you as a Barbarian (common skills are Stealth, Animal Handling, and Deception).
There are a ton of backgrounds out there, but a few examples that’ll work well for a Berserker Barbarian are Soldier, Folk Hero, and Outlander.
Note: Backgrounds are helpful if you have a specific build that will benefit from the added proficiencies and features. On the other hand, Backgrounds are also quite personal and can play a significant role in character development, so don’t just go with something because it’s good. Go with what fits your character.
Soldier is similar to Outlander and Folk Hero, providing the character with two Barbarian skill proficiencies and a vehicle (land) proficiency.
The other additions aren’t beneficial, but the skill proficiency and the vehicle (land) proficiency are excellent, as it includes vehicles like carriages, which a party will use a lot when they don’t have teleportation magic.
Soldier is also a great Background if you want to add some extra “lore” to your character, which helps both the roleplay and character development aspect.
Folk Hero gives proficiency in both Animal Handling (Wis) and Survival (Wis), two Barbarian skills that can come in handy at some point (even more so if you have higher Wisdom).
The proficiency with vehicles (land) is also perfect for roleplaying and easy traveling, as you won’t have access to long-distance teleportation magic early on.
Proficiency with artisan’s tools is a waste, so you’ll only be taking this background for the skills and vehicle proficiency.
Outlander is a go-to Barbarian background, as you can get two skill proficiencies (Athletics and Survival) for Barbarian skills.
While the other additions are generally wasted, the Wanderer feature and additional language could be helpful, especially if you decide to take some extra Charisma because of your Intimidating Presence feature.
As a Berserker Barbarian, you’ll have access to six skill proficiencies (where you may choose two); Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival.
Out of all the skills, Perception (Wis) and Athletics (Str) will be your most beneficial. Athletics (Str) is often used for grappling, and Perception (Wis) is the most common rolled checks in D&D, so keep that in mind.
Animal Handling (Wis) and Survival (Wis) aren’t all too useful, but given the right circumstances, they can be effective. Just don’t immediately go for them, as they aren’t rolled nearly enough and don’t provide too much benefit.
Intimidation (Cha) should be taken if you obsess over Charisma and the Intimidating Presence feature; if not, don’t bother.
Nature (Int) can be valuable, but because it uses Intelligence, just ignore it (it’s not worth investing points into Intelligence for only one skill).
Note: Remember that your race, background, and feats can also provide skill proficiencies.
Path of the Berserker Barbarian Feats
While Backgrounds can be considered character customization, Feats are essential elements of a character’s gameplay.
Even though there is an abundance of Feats to choose from, not all Feats are good, and sometimes it’s better to opt into increasing your Ability Score rather than choosing a new Feat.
Below are four examples of Feats that work well for a Berserker Barbarian:
Great Weapon Master
You use the weight of a weapon to your advantage, having its moment empower your strikes for you and gaining the following benefits:
- When it’s your turn, and you score a critical hit while using a melee weapon or reduce a creature’s HP to 0 with a melee weapon, you may make a single melee weapon attack as a bonus action.
- Before making a melee attack using a melee weapon you have proficiency in, you can decide to take a -5 penalty to the attack roll. If the attack were to hit, you would add +10 to the damage of the attack.
As a Berserker Barbarian, you’ll take a great weapon or a shield with a high-damaging one-handed weapon.
However, if you’re focused entirely on damage, you’ll be taking a great weapon, and when combined with Great Weapon Master, your potential damage goes through the roof.
You become resilient and hardy, gaining the following effects:
- Your Constitution score will increase by 1 to a maximum of 20.
- When rolling a Hit Die to regain HP, the minimum number of HP you can regain is equal to twice your Constitution modifier to a minimum of 2.
You’ll constantly be fighting in close quarters, taking hits, being targeted, and trying to deal damage to as many enemies as possible.
To deal damage while tanking a lot of hits, you need high HP, and with Durable, you increase Constitution and regain more HP when rolling Hit Die.
Note: If you are stacking HP, try combining Durable with the Tough feat, as they go together quite well.
While holding a shield, you gain the following benefits:
- Taking the Attack action on your turn allows you to use a bonus action to try and shove a creature within 5 feet of you with your equipped shield.
- If you’re not incapacitated, your shield’s AC bonus can be added to any Dexterity save you make against a spell or other harmful effect that only targets you.
- Being subjected to an effect allowing you to make a Dexterity save only to take half damage means you can use a reaction to take no damage if you succeed on the save, interposing your shield between the source of the effect and yourself.
As explained earlier, Berserker Barbarians will either take a great weapon or a combination of a shield with a one-handed weapon.
If you choose to use a shield, take Shield Master, as it’ll help you survive for longer and allow you to catch up with damage dealt when using a low-damaging one-handed weapon.
You may increase your Strength and Constitution by 1, but not above 20. You also become proficient with improved weapons, and your unarmed strikes now use a d4 for their damage.
Whenever you hit a creature with an improvised weapon or an unarmed strike on your turn, you can expend a bonus action and attempt to grapple your target.
Tavern Brawler will help if you want to or need to use your fists, as well as grappling/shoving something into another plane (not seriously)!
You never know when you need to grapple something to stop it from getting to your backline or need to sucker-punch some drunkard in a tavern!
Path of the Berserker Barbarian Weapons and Armor
Berseker Barbarians will receive the same equipment all Barbarians do you do not take the gold.
With the Berserker Barbarian, you should take the GP instead and buy specific equipment you know you’ll need instead of relying on the bits and pieces supplied by the default Barbarian equipment you don’t want.
You should try buying a Greataxe or Greatsword and throwing weapons like Javelins or Handaxes. For armor, you should try buying Scale Mail (if you can afford it).
Note: If you’re worried about your AC, buy yourself a Shield and Battleaxe or Longsword instead of the Greataxe or Greatsword.
Below are six options that can work well with most playstyles of a Berserker Barbarian:
Greataxe – Greataxes are heavy weapons that deal 1d12 Slashing damage, weigh 7 lb./3,1 kg., and require two hands to wield.
The Greataxe is considered the gold standard as it uses Brutal Critical, the best of any other weapon, so if you want to be a classic Barbarian, consider it.
Greatsword – Greatswords are heavy weapons that deal 2d6 Slashing damage, weigh 6lb./2,7 kg., and require two hands to wield.
Greatswords have more reliable damage than Greataxes but at the cost of not using Brutal Critical to its full potential.
Javelin – Javelins deal 1d6 Piercing damage, can be thrown (30/120), and weigh 2lbs./0,9kg each.
Javelins are helpful, as they can stab or be thrown at enemies. They are relatively light, meaning you can get a few of them, and they deal a decent amount of damage.
Handaxe – Handaxes are light weapons that deal 1d6 Piercing damage, weigh 2 lb./0,9 kg., and can be thrown (20/60).
Having Handaxes means you have a bonus melee weapon, allowing you to engage enemies from range.
Battleaxe – Battleaxes are Versatile (1d10) weapons that deal 1d8 Slashing damage and weigh 4 lbs./1,8 kg.
A Battleaxe is a good one-handed melee weapon if you want higher AC but need enough damage to make a difference in battles.
Longsword – Longswords are Versatile (1d10) weapons that deal 1d8 Slashing damage and weigh 3lbs./1,3 kg.
Much like the Battleaxe, Longswords are a bit lighter, dealing the same damage and acting as an alternative when wanting more AC.
You should try getting your Dexterity to 14, then look at having more AC or damage.
If you want more AC, go for a Shield; if you want more damage, go for Scale Mail.
Scale Mail – Has an AC of 14 + Dexterity modifier (maxed at 2), weighing 45 lb./20,4 kg. and giving a disadvantage on Stealth.
Scale Mail gives good AC at only 50 GP, much cheaper than Spiked Armor and a Breastplate.
Shield – A shield gives a +2 bonus to AC and weighs 6 lbs./2,7kg.
A shield provides extra AC early on, so try using it with one-handed weapons like the Battleaxe or Longsword.
Path of the Berserker Barbarian Multiclassing
As you reach level 5, you might want to multiclass into a different class for a few levels.
In this case, the best would be to multiclass into a Fighter, letting you access the Great Weapon Fighting Style, an Action Surge, and the Improved Critical feature unlocked through the Champion (Fighter) subclass.
These three levels will provide great offensive value, especially the Action Surge (letting you attack more frequently) and the Improved Critical feature with high-damage weapons like Greataxes or Greatswords.
Tweaking Your Berserker Barbarian
There are a lot of ways you can tweak the Berseker Bararian, but here are a few to choose from (pick one):
- Frenzy can only be used per Short Rest, making it feel like an occasional buff.
- The Berserker lowers one exhaustion level by taking a Short Rest, reducing Frenzy spams but letting them recover without needing food or water.
- Remove exhaustion, making it more like a Zealot’s Divine Fury, Battlerager’s spiked armor attack, or a Storm Herlad’s Storm Aura.
- Frenzy costs an additional daily Rage, meaning you have to spend 2 instead of one, and puts tension on the player’s limited resources.
Path of the Berserker Barbarian 5e FAQs
How Good Is the Berserker Barbarian Subclass in 5e?
The Berserker Barbarian is often regarded as THE WORST Barbarian subclass by many players, and it’s not subjective.
The main reason for such a rating is its Frenzy feature, but it’s also supported by not having many great features in general.
A Berserker’s core feature is Frenzy, yet it’s incredibly demanding and taxing in the long run, making the cost too high to justify in most cases.
Is Gaining Exhaustion That Bad in 5e?
Let’s be clear, getting two levels of exhaustion is still manageable, but after that, fighting becomes nearly impossible.
To understand just why exhaustion is so bad, take a look at this table:
|Disadvantage on ability checks
|Disadvantage on saving throws and attack rolls
|HP maximum halved
|Speed reduced to 0
While exhaustion can be reduced by one level each time you take a long rest (if you’ve ingested food and drink), if you’re already at level 3 or 4, be prepared to suffer through the next few days.
The Berserker Barbarian has one of the most iconic themes of any D&D class. Many people know about Berserkers because of films, pop culture, and countless books, so it’s disappointing having to tell you the truth about his subclass.
While the Berserker Barbarian is simple to understand, Frenzy kills the subclass. So, if you don’t want to change anything, I recommend not playing the Berserker.
However, if you want to revive this subclass from the dead by changing Frenzy, go right ahead. You’ll not only have yourself an awesome thematic subclass with tons of potential backstories, but you’ll get a pretty powerful subclass in the process.
Something to take out of the Berserker Barbarian experience would be, “Don’t be afraid to change things that ruin a great idea that was poorly executed.” If you love D&D as much as I do, I knew you wouldn’t be content without at least playing the Berserker once!
You might also be interested in the following: