Class Acts: Barbarians
This pdf is 4 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, two pages of content, so let’s check out these 32 new rage powers for the barbarian!
6 of the rage powers herein are totem rage powers, panther and wave rage powers, 3 each: Panther totem grants you +4 to stealth while raging, the sequel grants +4 to perception at 6th level and the lvl 10 power grants you an assassin’s death strike while raging. The idea is rather cool, though the fact that one has to be level 10 is a bit late and the cost of having to study 3 rounds while raging and then perform the killing strike is a bit of a steep requirement. The wave totem on the other hand is simply AWESOME in every way – seeing through murky water as if clear, is nice. Unleashing a hydraulic torrent from your mouth and adding the strength of waves to your punches? Now that’s iconic and damn effin’ cool! Two thumbs up and kudos!
The regular rage powers include quite a breadth of abilities: The very first one eliminates the -2 penalty to CMD when raging, but retains the one to AC. Which is boring and weak. And then there are powers like “Bash aside”, which lets you make an opposing attack roll against an incoming attack, even a ray and the like, and on a successful roll, take only minimum damage, bashing even rays and the like away, but only once per rage. While only accessible at 6th level and usable only once per rage, the power feels a tad bit strong to me, seeing that few foes will have the barbarian’s powerful attack. Also, I feel that a CMB-check would probably be more appropriate regarding PFRPG-design standards. The idea is great, the execution still a bit wonky, but with a revision, this one will kick @ss and take names!
Bloodbath has a cool name. It grants you the benefits of cleave for 1 round, or greater cleave. If you have powerful blows as a rage power, that power applies to all of your attacks for one round. That’s it. A rage power that duplicates a moderately useful feat for one round. Why would anyone take this? It’s not cool, it’s not iconic, it’s bland. And it doesn’t deserve to be called after one of my favourite Death Metal-bands.
Fearmonger is another odd one – when raging, it lets you add your Cha-mod to the DC of spell-effects of items with the [fear] and [death]-descriptors. Not only are the two not in any kind of brackets in the text, the power essentially is wholly dependent on magic items AND a high charisma-score – while the latter can be waved in favour of uncommon builds, the former feels just wrong to me and more appropriate for characters like bards, SGG’S War Master or DSP’s Tactician.
“Is that all you’ve got?” on the other hand is so cool it practically demands to be taken – if you’re hit by a critical hit or fail a save against a spell, you can demoralize foes as an immediate action! YEAH! Now that’s the barbarian way – add the provided synergy with the bash aside power and we have a winner here – both in mechanics and in style.
And then there are powers like pulverize: When you knock an enemy to -1 HP, you deal an additional 2d4 points of damage. If the foe has DR, this power is going to fail. If he doesn’t have DR, the additional, non-scaling damage is still not much. And then, there’s the fact that you waste a rage power slot on this utterly crappy power. Try as I might, I can find NO USEFUL application of this power, no situation in which this would be even marginally useful. Slaughter lets you coup-de-grace an opponent you’ve dropped to -1 hp once per rage as an immediate action. Why is on the other side of powerful – if you give this power to NPCs, you players will probably be annoyed as hell and since coup-de-grace is already quite powerful, death is all but ensured for the unfortunates on this power’s business end. The rampage power also works similar and lets you move your remaining movement, if any, after dropping an enemy to -1 hp – a good idea per se. Problem is that I’m not sure how this power interacts with cleave, greater cleave etc. – can a barbarian move 5 ft., kill an opponent and then move 20 ft. to cleave another foe? execute the remaining iterative attacks? Clarification is needed here.
Relentless Assault on the other hand is rather cool – the big brother of “no escape”, it lets you charge attack enemies who tried to withdraw from you.
Senseless Violence, unfortunately, belongs to the category “filler” in that it grants a +2 morale bonus to atk and damage for one round when you coup-de-grace while raging. You need a helpless opponent. Then make a full round action. And rage. For one meagre round of paltry +2 bonuses? Please. This is ridiculously weak and wouldn’t even make it as a feat, much less as a rage power.
Toss aside is another winner, or at least has potential: You may once per round attempt the reposition manoeuvre and deal damage equal to your str-mod to the tossed foe. Apart from the meagre damage this deal (a scaling formula with rolling some dice would be better), a cool idea.
There’s also a rage-power mini-tree of “wrathful” powers – they all have in common that they work against foes that have damaged you up to 3 rounds before using it: Number 1 grants you a paltry +2 to intimidate, sense motive and perception (why? Your rage makes all clearer? I don’t get it.) as well as will-saves against mind-influencing effects. The second one makes AoOs against applicable opponents not count against your allotment per round – cool, albeit limited in use. The third one ads your class level to confirmed critical against said foes. While the latter two powers are nice, the first feels somewhat disjointed from play and bland in the benefits.
Editing and formatting are good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches, although some powers could use additional clarifications. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The Class Acts-series has provided me with some excellent mechanics so far and while one can see that the author Daron Woodson is a relative newcomer to the field, his designs often carry this spark of ingenious innovativeness that makes them somewhat stand out.
While the Class Acts I’ve reviewed so far have all some heights, they also have lows. This is just about as true with this installment…only that this one misses – a lot. More so than any other of the installments released so far. Some of the powers are not as clear as they ought to be regarding their benefits. Some feel just ridiculously weak. And some others have questionable, very specific benefits. Make no mistake, there are some powers herein that definitely are worth taking a look at – “Bash Aside”, the Wave Totem powers and “Is that all you’ve got?” come to mind – but the majority of the content herein has no use for me or is very specific. There also seems to be a disjointed relation between the fluff of a rage and the benefits of rage powers in some of them, which might be no deal for some of you, but for me it is. I’ll be honest with you – if this file was more expensive, I’d slap a 1-star verdict on it and call it quits, but since this pdf is rather cheap and since aforementioned gems actually made me smile and will see usage in my game, I still find some rather worthwhile goodness in what otherwise would be a subpar offering.
If you’re willing to ignore the worse parts, I wager you’ll still feel somewhat satisfied by this purchase. Thus, my final verdict will be a 1.5 stars, rounded up to 2 due to the gems amidst the rubble.
Class Acts: Barbarians is available here!