New: D&D Wild Hunter Barbarian
Welcome back to the Zurn blog! Today we're bringing you another barbarian subclass (I've been on a kick watching old shows and movies, can you tell?), this time looking at the Path of the Wild Hunter: the huntsman of the village who uses his great strength and bravery to hunt big game to feed the tribe or party.
As always we'll start by looking at the theme of the subclass, and then examine the abilities you gain and what makes this a very unique subclass for the game.
Wild Hunter Barbarian: Theme and Inspiration
The high concept for the character is taken from Subotai from Conan the Barbarian and Ertugul from the show of the same name, but the concept itself is not limited to shows of this nature: any hunter-gatherer tribe, any nomadic people, and any tribal society too small to have vast agriculture will need hunters. In a tribal society where size means status, this means that your hunters must be strong: none of this, "I'm a Strength 8 character because I typically use a bow" nonsense: if you want to be of note in this village, you need your gains, bro.
And this also brings up a historical note: archers in most society were among the strongest, most well-built people in their society. They are constantly active, have to build and maintain multiple muscle sets, and must consistently practice to retain their skill. So you actually end up building an archer character that looks the way medieval archers did: very large figures.
And this is also true for javelin-throwing people as well (who already benefit from the Strength score), so we already have a mechanic for that. We're just applying this to other ranged weapons.
What this character concept does, however, is further flesh out what a "barbarian" actually is: it's a tribal village warrior, not just an axe-wielding or sword-bearing bruiser. And that's both culturally true and mechanically unique, both of which are good for your game and your world.
Wild Hunter Barbarian: Mechanics
Now, admittedly, we should take a moment before we look at the subclass to note that you are giving up a lot to play this subclass: the party will be at certain disadvantages if you play this subclass. The first is that you lose a potent melee fighter by playing a Wild Hunter: barbarians are very good at slashing things to bits up close, and you are heavily incentivized to stay at range as much as you can with this build. So realize that the overall damage of the party off of opportunity attacks and to hew through front ranks will suffer.
Second, one of your meatbags is in the back: one of the big advantages of barbarians is that they have that d12 hit die, and it is generally best to have those up front to soak up damage for the party. You are going to lose that with this build: unless your DM constantly flanks the squishy people in the back (which, by the way, they should do that with some level of frequency to keep you on your toes), you won't be taking full advantage of your hit die with this build.
And finally it is more likely that you will see overrun in combat. By "overrun" I mean that hostile characters will move past your frontline fighters to reach your backfield fighters, and since you are taking a heavy-hitting resilient frontline fighter out of that slot and putting them in the back, you are more likely to be overrun if you don't have a party that also has two more melee characters. This may be an issue, though at the same time, at least you have a barbarian in the backfield when they rush your wizard or sorcerer. So it could be worse.
You can find the details of the subclass here, easily printable for your game master to consider if desired thanks to the team at Homebrewery. Starting at 3rd level, you get the foundational rule of the subclass: you can use your Strength score for Attack and Damage rolls for ranged weapons, and you can use your Rage and other barbarian abilities with ranged or melee attacks. Pretty straightforward, definitely doesn't give you as much as, say, the Totem Warrior Barbarian gives you, but you get greater options for what you do in combat.
At 6th level, the senses of the barbarian increase to aid them in hunting your quarry. You gain advantage on Survival skill checks (situationally useful, but it rounds out the character), and you gain Darkvision out to 120ft (also situationally useful). And if you already have darkvision, you can now see in non-magical darkness without penalty. So now you have a host of options for racial options, and when multiclassing the Darkvision spell becomes far more useful as you can effectively give yourself a blindsight equal to your darkvision range as long as it isn't magical darkness.
Starting at 10th level, you get more reliable ranged damage, but we wanted to be careful with how we did this because we're already getting advantage on attacks + 5 (or whatever your Strength modifier is) + Rage damage if it's active, so it's already a lot of damage with advantage on the attack. So how do we improve this without breaking the game?
You gain a reroll to an Attack roll if desired (effectively allowing you to roll 3 dice, as you can reroll the lower die roll), or you can reroll a damage roll (which is far less common for ranged attacks). And if you end up hitting with both of your shots, and you roll maximum damage on a shot (because then you wouldn't have a reason to reroll the die), you get an extra 1d6 to your damage roll.
Now this adds a new level of strategy to what you have in play: if you are missing with a ranged attack, you can use your reroll then to improve it, but that also means you don't get to reroll a "1" on your second damage roll (which might be better). If you hit and deal maximum damage on your first attack, is it worth it to forego a reroll to add 1d6 more damage, or do you save that for your second attack? This gives you a lot more choices for what you do, keeping your mind engaged.
Now it's worth noting that this comes at the expense of ammunition to use the ability, so you will run out of arrows/bolts/bullets faster. But hey: we can buy arrows, we can't buy glory, right?
And then finally at 14th level, your senses have peaked, rounding out your skills and abilities. You gain three abilities at this level, all reflecting your senses being honed. All Perception rolls you make below an 8 count as rolling an 8 (so greater chance you spot things, but it's still potentially lower than your passive perception).
The second thing you get is immunity to the Surprised condition, thanks to hearing or smelling or seeing the threat before it comes. This is situationally useful, but if you find yourself in that situation, it's a useful ability.
And then finally, thanks to your quick reflexes, you also get a +2 bonus to your AC. Now by this point, you probably have your AC at about where it's going to be: you will probably increase it by 1 (as you'll want a high Constitution, probably), maybe 2, but that assumes you take no feats. So with that in mind, your AC between 1st level and now is basically static up until this point, maybe changing by 1. So the bump of a +2 on top of what you have is really nice: it will bring a typical barbarian build upwards of 16, and possibly as high as 22 (24 if you're using a shield, which is unlikely). This seems like a good capstone for the subclass.
Barbarians, like a lot of martial classes, can feel very boring in combat: "I swing, I hit, I deal damage." And while yes, you get advantage on all attacks starting at 2nd level (so at least you're doing stuff), it can be dull to play. The Wild Hunter helps to fix this issue by adding in range, angles, choices for how to attack targets, scouting, and exploration abilities, all on top of what you normally have. So if that sounds fun to you (albeit without the cool abilities of the Totem Warrior, Ancestral Guardian, or Zealot), consider using the Wild Hunter Barbarian.
Until next time,