Certain deities inspire their followers to throw themselves into a ferocious battle fury. The Barbarians who answer their calls are Zealots – warriors who display powerful divine power by channeling their rage.
Many deities across the worlds of D&D inspire their followers to follow this path. The most well-known are Tempus of the Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Hextor, and Erythnul.
The deities who inspire Zealots are mostly of combat, violence, and destruction, and not all are evil, but few are good.
- Path of the Zealot Barbarian 5e – Features
- Building a Path of the Zealot Barbarian
- Path of the Zealot Barbarian 5e FAQs
- Final Thoughts
Path of the Zealot Barbarian 5e – Features
Zealots may sound like Barbarians who take their religious commands too seriously, but they’re, in fact, much more brutal and reckless than you think.
Their only gospel is unending violence, often recklessly diving into altercations without a second thought. However, it will be your duty as the player to find a fine line between putting out enough damage and being a burden on your party members.
Even though you’re a tank, your main goal is to deal as much damage as possible before being killed. Just try not to suck up all the healing resources for no reason!
Choosing this path at level 3 allows you to channel divine fury into your weapon strikes.
Whilst you are raging, the first creature you hit with a weapon attack on each of your first turns will take extra damage equal to 1d6 + half your Barbarian level.
The extra damage is Radiant or Necrotic (you can choose the type of damage when you gain this feature).
Warrior of the Gods
Starting at level 3, your soul has been marked for unending battle. If a spell, like Raise Dead, has the sole effect of resurrecting you (not undeath), the caster doesn’t need Material components to cast a spell on your corpse.
Reaching level 6 allows the divine power that fuels your rage to protect you.
Failing a saving throw while raging means you can reroll it and then use the new roll. This ability can only be used once per rage.
Becoming level 10 means you’ve learned to channel your divine power to inspire zealotry in your allies.
Using a Bonus action, you let out a battle cry infused with divine energy. Up to ten audible creatures you choose within 60 feet of you gain advantage on saving throws and attack rolls until your next turn starts.
Upon using this feature, you won’t be able to use it again until you’ve completed a long rest.
Rage Beyond Death
Lastly, at level 14, the divine energy burning within your rage allows you to shrug off fatal blows.
Whilst raging, having 0 HP doesn’t knock you unconscious. You will still make death saving throws and suffer the effects of taking damage while at 0 HP.
However, if you were to die due to failing a death saving throw, you wouldn’t die until your rage ends, and you only die if you still have 0 HP.
Building a Path of the Zealot Barbarian
The battle fury of the Zealot can be compared to that of the Berserker, who is fueled by so much rage that they cannot contain themselves in battle, the only difference being that the Zealot has been commanded to do some by divinity.
In other words, your job is to sow as much chaos in battle as possible, no matter what happens to you.
One major problem other players have with Zealot Barbarians will be their recklessness (especially in small parties with limited resources), so try to unleash your rage at the appropriate time and then deal as much damage as possible.
Path of the Zealot Ability Scores
Your divine mission is to spread chaos and kill, so focus mainly on Strength to deal as much damage as possible.
Constitution and Dexterity come next, but compared to Strength, they fall far behind.
- Strength – Just like other Barbarians, you want Strength, and a lot of it, because how else will enemies be completely disintegrated?
The higher your Strength, the more damage you do, the better you can shove/grapple, and the more you can carry. So raise it as high as possible!
- Constitution – Even though you have Warrior of the Gods, relying solely on it is not optimal, so raise your Constitution to keep from dying before you can deal damage.
- Dexterity – You’ll want to get up 14 Dexterity to max out the +2 modifier you get while wearing medium armor.
It’s a bit difficult to raise your Dexterity and Constitution without sacrificing Strength, so if you can play a race with physical Ability Score bonuses or choose an appropriate feat, it would greatly help.
- Wisdom – I know we need Perception to be aware of things, but you need to deal more damage, so just ignore it and let your Ranger be aware of your party’s surroundings.
- Charisma – Even though you have the Intimidation (Cha) skill, raising Charisma means taking the focus off your physical Ability Scores. So, just ignore it and let someone like your Bard or Paladin talk to NPCs.
- Intelligence – Intelligence is by far the most useless Ability Score for a Zealot, so just leave it alone. There’s no reason to be that smart as a Barbarian, so just hit things hard!
Ideal Path of the Zealot Barbarian Races
The Zealot Barbarian has difficulty finding a use for its Bonus action, so it’s good to choose a race that gives a feature accessible by using a Bonus action.
Orc – The Aggressive feature of the Orc can be useful if you want to pin down a powerful enemy that positions itself too far back. This feature is especially powerful for an aggressive subclass like the Zealot Barbarian.
Shadar-Kai – Expending a Bonus action allows you to use the Blessing of the Raven Queen feature, teleporting you up to 30 feet and gaining resistance to all damage (at level 3).
You’ll want to live as long as possible while in the thick of things, so getting this trait allows you to escape or engage enemies (Don’t be afraid; teleport in; your gods will give you STRENGTH!).
Variant Human or Custom Lineage – Both races give you a free feat at level 1, which can be extremely powerful if used correctly.
Note: Some fantastic feats can be found in the Feats section!
Centaur – The Charge feature allows you to charge at an enemy, hitting it with a melee weapon attack, but that same turn, you can make one attack against the same target with your hooves by using a Bonus action.
Path of the Zealot Barbarian Background and Skills
When you create your Zealot 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 Zealot Barbarian are Soldier, City Watch, 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 and vehicle (land) proficiency are excellent, as they include 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 extra “lore” to your character, which helps both the roleplay and character development aspects.
City Watch gives players proficiency with Athletics (a great Barbarian skill) and Insight (giving you something to do while conversations are being made).
You also gain access to two languages of your choice. Even though it won’t assist someone as absorbed by violence as you, it’s still good to have nonetheless.
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 Zealot 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 don’t have any other character to build it. If not, don’t bother with it.
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 Zealot 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 Zealot Barbarian:
Gain the following benefits:
- Taking the Attack action and attacking with only a spear, glaive, halberd, or quarterstaff allows you to use a Bonus Action and perform a melee attack with the opposite end of your weapon.
Attacking this way uses the same modifier as the primary attack. Your weapon’s damage die for this attack is d4, dealing Bludgeoning damage.
- While wielding a spear, glaive, halberd, or quarterstaff, other creatures will provoke an opportunity attack from you when entering the reach you have with that respective weapon.
Your primary concern is how much damage you can deal, and since you don’t have too much to spend your Bonus action on, the bonus 1d4 Bludgeoning damage from Polearm Master and the added opportunity make this feat a great choice if you’re going for a polearm.
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 its attack roll. If the attack were to hit, you would add +10 to the damage of the attack.
You gain a massive bonus to damage, which will please your deity, but at the same time, Reckless Attack helps mitigate the negative side of Great Weapon Master.
The bonus attack whenever you kill something is also a massive buff to the Zealot Barbarian.
You’ve mastered techniques to take advantage of an enemy’s guard. Gain the following benefits:
- Hitting a creature with an opportunity attack lowers the creature’s speed to 0 for the rest of the turn.
- Creatures will provoke your opportunity attacks even if they use the Disengage action before leaving your reach.
- If a creature makes an attack against a target other than you within 5 feet of you (and the target doesn’t also have Sentinel), you may use your Reaction and make a melee weapon attack against the creature that’s attacking.
Sentinel is one of my favorite feats as a Barbarian, and it works perfectly on a Zealot because of their bloodthirsty personality.
Simply put, Sentinel lets you slam enemies who attack your party members and makes it nearly impossible for them to escape your grasp after they’ve attacked you.
Sheesh, just talking about this gives me shivers.
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.
If you want to use a Spear or if you’re just interested in living a bit longer and dealing more damage over time, Shield Master is perfect.
I think Shield Master can work well with Sentinel, but you’ll be sacrificing a bit of damage if you don’t take a weapon with high damage.
Path of the Zealot Barbarian Weapons and Armor
Yeah, I know it’s a bummer that you need to worry about weapons and armor as a Zealot, but without it, you can’t kill things quickly enough.
Having high AC is unnecessary (because of your Warrior of the Gods feature), so if you want to play a high-damage Zealot, just go for a two-handed weapon.
However, if you’re scared about being too squishy, just get a shield and play with a high-damage one-handed weapon.
Dealing damage is your main goal, so try getting a two-handed weapon, but high-damage one-handed weapons also work.
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.
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.
Warhammer – Versatile weapons that deal 1d8 (One-handed) or 1d10 (Two-handed) Bludgeoning damage and weigh 2 lbs./0,9 kg.
Warhammers deal quite a bit of damage, aren’t too heavy, and can be used two-handed if you lose/throw your shield away.
Get your Dexterity to 14 or 15 (depending on which armor you go for), and pick up a Shield if you’re worried about having low AC.
Breastplate – The Breastplate allows you to add your Dex modifier (maximum of 2) to the AC, so you need to have 14 Dex.
A Breastplate only weighs 20 lb./9 kg. and doesn’t give any Stealth disadvantage.
Halfplate – Halfplate allows you to add your Dex modifier (maximum of 2) to the AC, which is why you must have 15 Dex. It weighs 40lbs./18,1kg and gives a Stealth disadvantage.
Halfplate gives better AC than having Unarmored Defense and is better to opt into if your Dexterity and Constitution scores aren’t high enough for Unarmored Defense.
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 or when you want more defense.
Path of the Zealot Barbarian Multiclassing
So, if you need to deal damage and love martial weapons, you need to multiclass into one of these classes.
If you want a high-damage class with great roleplaying capabilities, the Fighter (Echo Knight) is one great option. The free fighting style and the Action Surge make it great, but the added roleplaying with the spectral warriors is awesome.
The damage gained from investing two levels into Divine Smite by becoming a Paladin (Conquest) is exceptional. Taking it to higher levels isn’t a bad idea, as you gain healing, spellcasting, defensive auras, and much more.
The Emboldening Bond given to you by multiclassing into a Cleric (Peace) shouldn’t be ignored. You’ll also get free skill proficiencies and access to the Cleric spell list for sacrificing one Barbarian level.
Path of the Zealot Barbarian 5e FAQs
Is the Zealot Barbarian Good in 5e?
The Zealot isn’t as bad as the Berserker, but it does have one problem many people forget to mention.
While the Zealot basically can’t die, the character should be a good frontline, but why would enemies target the Zealot if they know he’ll just resurrect?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome concept, but if the Zealot doesn’t deal enough damage quickly, the enemies will just target his party members.
Therefore, having more damage as a Zealot is better than having high AC, but that’s only if you want to play it optimally, and there are other options as well.
Do Zealot Barbarians Require a God in 5e?
When adopting the Path of the Zealot, you will gain a god of worship, but who you worship is up to you.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a table stating which god of worship you receive, so choose one that talks to your soul the most!
Note: You can even ask your DM to help if you have any questions.
While not the strongest among the Barbarian subclasses, the Zealot is one of the most straightforward subclasses.
In my opinion, the subclass also has a lot of room for a remarkable backstory, but the main reason would be that I like it when my characters hit things HARD.
To put things in perspective, the Zealot is perfect for someone who loves an offensive playstyle but always seems to die. So, if that describes you, why not pick up the Zealot Barbarian?
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