The playtest version of the 4e barbarian is up. You might want to get it before the subscription wall comes up (more on that in another post, perhaps).

I had a chance to flip through it, and it seems pretty neat. I’d play one.

First of all, the barbarian is a striker! Yay! It could hardly be anything else, in my opinion, but there’s always that risk, you know?

There’re a few interesting mechanics I can see here.

Killing people and breaking things

One is the “charging barbarian,” which is an interesting idea. There’s always a good reason to charge if you Howling Strike (and why not pick up a Horned Helm while you’re at it?). It seems like that’s a pretty solid power anyway, giving you an extra 1d6 on top of whatever else. Swift Charge is another incentive.

The other is the rage mechanic, and I’m not sure about this one. I do think it’s interesting. As far as I can tell, you are “raging” after you use a daily attack power. Your at-wills get better while you’re raging. Of the two level 1 daily attacks, Swift Panther Rage seems like it’s objectively better— +2 speed (untyped) and shifting 2 squares as a move vs. Con mod damage if you or an opponent is bloodied? Get Swift Charge and the aforementioned Horned helm to charge 10 squares.

The weird bit is Rage Strike. It seems like you can’t actually use this until level 5, when you get a second daily attack: it requires that you’re raging (which requires you expend a rage power) and you have to spend a daily rage power (which is what daily attacks are called).

Level 5 is the new level 3

Since playing the Moathouse adventure at PAX (I should blog about that, shouldn’t I? Maybe?) I’ve got a better sense of what you can expect from level 5, so that’s another benchmark I look at. The level 5 dailies are pretty interesting. Frost Wolf Rage seems pretty good. I imagine a Str 16 / Con 20 dwarf barbarian dealing 8 cold when somebody hits, packing Primal Vitality and Blade Sweep.

On the other hand, Thunder Hawk Rage caught my eye, for letting you daze a dude and knock dudes prone throughout. It’s not as much the +2 to hit a prone enemy as much as it is that anybody spending time next to you has to choose between crawling (half speed, provoke OAs) or spending a move.

Here’s the thing about the way raging is set up. Spending a daily is already pretty good. You get half damage, and typically other ongoing effects. The barbarian gets a nice boost to his dailies.

Returning to the level 5 dwarf barbarian above, take Recuperating Strike (+10 temporary hp while raging). Pretty sweet! I have a newfound respect for temporary hit points after playing an Infernal warlock in the Moathouse bit.

And while I feel lame for bringing up this, too, this same dwarf could take Swift Charge, a Horned Helm, and Howling Strike. While raging, do an extra 2d6 on a charge. Get dwarven weapon proficiency and a mordenkrad. What’s that work out to? 11-29 on a charge? The nice thing is that Howling Strike doesn’t provoke if you’re raging.

What’s old is new

Obviously I am going to have to remake Beth’s barbarian, Deedee Grumfist, with this character. I believe she was level 7 or 8, human barbarian, which I’ll probably just map to level 5 in terms of 4e power level. 3e didn’t offer much customization there, so I might have to wing it.

Poetic license! That’s the ticket.

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