View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next [Subclass] Path of the Mountain – An Unarmed Barbarian

2018-06-11, 03:22 PM
I've been working on a Strength-based, unarmed subclass. My last project was of a martial archetype for the Fighter, but unarmed combat doesn't seem to fit cleanly into that chassis. While I'm working on that, I'm trying a different approach with a primal path. A number of people pointed out to me that the base Barbarian class is much more amenable to a bare-knuckled brawler, so this is what I've come up with. I'd appreciate your feedback! Homebrewery link for those that are interested. (https://homebrewery.naturalcrit.com/edit/rkIxQrlb2e7)

Path of the Mountain
Those who walk the Path of the Mountain are defined by their discipline and focus, emulating the element of earth. Barbarians who follow this path learn to fight without weapons, channeling their rage to give them tremendous physical power. They take a methodical approach to combat, slowly breaking down their enemy's defenses with overwhelming strength. These warriors are implaccable forces of nature, capable of crushing rock and withstanding devastating blows.

Natural Weapons
Beginning when you choose this path at 3rd level, you can roll a d4 in place of the normal damage for your unarmed strikes. This die changes based on your level in this class. When you make an unarmed strike as part of the Attack action on your turn, you can make one unarmed strike as a bonus action if you are not wielding a shield. At 6th level, the damage die increases to a d6. At 12th level, a d8. At 18th level, a d10.

In addition, your unarmed strikes count as melee weapon attacks.

Fury of the Mountain
At 3rd level, when you make an unarmed strike as part of the Attack action on your turn while raging, you can use a bonus action to execute one of these fighting techniques. You cannot use these techniques if you are wielding a shield or wearing heavy armor.

Punishing Blow. Make an unarmed strike. If it hits, attempt to shove the target. Do not add your ability modifier to the damage roll of this attack.
Death Grip. Attempt to grapple your target.
Brace. Gain temporary hit points equal to your Constitution modifier + half your Barbarian level (rounded down). You lose these hit points at the start of your next turn.

Hands of Stone
Starting at 6th level, your rage further enhances your physical might. While raging, you gain the following benefits:

Your unarmed strikes count as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage.
When you make an unarmed strike against an inanimate object, treat your damage rolls as having rolled their maximum.

Avalanche Fist
When you reach 10th level, you learn how to throw all your strength into a single crushing blow. As an action, make an unarmed strike. If it hits, add an additional die to the damage roll. The target must make a Strength saving throw and a Constitution saving throw. If it fails the Strength saving throw, it is pushed 20 feet away from you. Creatures your size and smaller make this saving throw with disadvantage. If it fails the Constitution saving throw, it is stunned until the end of your next turn. The save DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength modifier.

If you miss this attack, you cannot use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

Immovable Object
At 14th level, your iron will makes you unshakable. While raging, you automatically succeed any saving throw or skill check against being pushed, pulled, knocked prone, or stunned.

2018-06-14, 06:05 AM
I like the concept here, and I think most of these features are a great foundation for a subclass. But I do have a few critiques.

Punishing Blow: I don't see any reason to not add Strength damage to this attack. Considering you can only do it while raging and an Open Hand monk can shove on any turn while also gaining an additional attack (which the rage damage probably makes up for), it won't break balance to let the barb do full damage.

Hands of Stone: I'd change the inanimate damage to giving the barb the full benefit of Siege Monster, doing double damage against objects and structures.

Avalanche Fist: I have a few complaints about this one, though I think the basic mechanics are pretty great. First, as the level 10 feature, it doesn't make sense that this is an attack; the level 10 Primal Path feature is actually the example the creators gave (though I can't remember where) of making sure you don't put a combat feature somewhere that the PHB classes are getting non-combat features. Considering how powerful this is, I'd remove the full-action restriction, reduce the basic damage to normal, allow it to be added to any successful hit after the fact, and put it at level 14.
Second, I'd have the ability to use it again lost on a success, not a failure. If you lose the ability to do it when you fail to do it, this actually disincentivizes using your most powerful ability against your most powerful opponents (i.e., those who usually have the highest AC). If you can use it as often as you want until you miss with it, you're going to see a lot of Mountain barbs running around boss fights killing minions with it rather than focusing on the big bad, where their high HP and damage reduction will make them the most useful.

Immovable Object: Considering the most common ways of pushing, pulling, or knocking prone are grappling and shoving, which allow you to make a Strength check with advantage while raging, this isn't a super impressive ability for a barb; it just makes certain something that was already almost certain in most cases. And stunning is a fairly rare status effect that it's not going to come up often enough (especially while you're already raging) to make this feature practical.

Without meaning to step on your toes, have you thought about giving this subclass a feature that grants tremorsense? It fits in really well with the concept, it's not an ability that any player character has a way of getting (as far as I can tell), and it's just as useful or moreso outside combat as in it.

2018-06-14, 04:59 PM
Thanks for taking a look! I've been making some changes over the past few days after getting other feedback, but your comments also help a lot.

Punishing Blow: In my current draft, I've actually removed the damage altogether, essentially making this shove as a bonus action. My main reason is that a raging Barbarian already has a huge edge when it comes to shoving (and grappling), so giving that as a bonus action is a lot more impactful than giving it to a Monk (which is using a DEX saving throw). Plus, the Open Hand Monk has to spend ki in order to do that, while my subclass gets it for free. You can only do it while raging, sure, but rages become plentiful fairly quick in my opinion.

Hands of Stone: I thought about using double damage. It seemed a bit much to me at the time, but if you don't think it would be overpowered it would definitely make for a fun quasi-ribbon.

Avalanche Fist: 10th level was non-combat features in the PHB, but they seem to have departed from that with Xanathar's. Both the Storm Herald and the Zealot have 10th level features that are for combat. Regarding your more substantive stuff, I chose to make it a full action instead of a rider on an attack to cut back on damage a little, since the other effects are fairly strong. I can see making this the 14th level feature, though, even after my changes to Immovable Object.

I agree with you on the disincentive issue. In my current draft, I've removed limits on using it entirely. My reasoning is that you're sacrificing damage and the chance to do something you're almost sure to succeed at—shoving or grappling—for a chance to displace and stun a target. My point of reference was Stunning Strike, which costs ki but doesn't sacrifice any damage (or even a bonus action). By 10th level, Monks can use it frequently across encounters. Strong as this is, I don't think a stunning ability like this is so strong it needs to be limited to a short rest. And I wanted to avoid implementing abilities that had charges or resources for this subclass. It will be a reliable means of displacement, but I don't think there's much risk of it stun-locking stronger enemies. So I wanted to make it a regular tool, rather than something players feel they need to conserve for a special occasion.

Immovable Object: You're right. In my current draft, I've supplemented this effect by making you count as one size larger for grappling and shoving while raging. With that addition, do you still think it'd be appropriate to swap this with the 10th level feature?

I hadn't actually considered tremorsense, but I do like the sound of it. It could be a nice fit thematically. My only concern is I don't feel like I'd have room for it. But I'll play around with it, because it could be really cool.

2018-06-14, 08:54 PM
This is one of the more balanced pieces of homebrew I've seen on here, so that's cool. I've just got a few questions and comments.

Brace: Why are the temporary hit points lost at the start of the barbarian's next turn as opposed to the end? If a Path of the Mountain barbarian was tanking hits, an enemy with the ability to take reactions on the barbarian's turn could hit them even if they were using Brace every turn. This is a relatively minor quibble on my part.

I agree with jinjitsu that you could switch the levels that Avalanche Fist and Immovable Object are gained. In addition, making Hands of Stone do double damage isn't terribly different from maximum damage, and Siege Monster is already established in the game.

Revised Avalanche Fist: Is it your intention in making this at-will to have it become the primary way a Path of the Mountain Barbarian attacks? Because a chance to stun every round versus a chance to do a little more damage from punching twice will likely result in Avalanche Fist being the go-to option.

I do like how well this subclass gives the idea of a sturdy unarmed combatant. Between Brace's ability to tank nearly anything (especially combined with Rage) and Immovable Object, we get that this subclass can take a hit and keep going. Hands of Stone and Avalanche Fist give the opposite side and cement this subclass as one that can hit back hard as well.

2018-06-15, 12:34 AM
For Brace, I initially designed it without reactions in mind, actually. But in my current draft, I've changed it so you can use the bonus action on your turn before you attack. That way if you're anticipating reactions, you can use it before you start throwing punches. Good catch!

On Avalanche Fist, this is definitely the feature I'm most interested in reworking. What I'm trying to make is a sort of haymaker or "knockout" punch. I followed two basic ideas. (1) I wanted to avoid something with charges or resources, both to emphasize the superhuman stamina and to differentiate it from the monk, and (2) the damage would probably have to be less than 2 basic attacks, otherwise it would be too attractive every turn. The knockback just made sense for a super-strong punch, and the stun was to make it really attractive. But the more I play around with it, the less balanced it seems. After thinking about it more, I think that Fury gives some solid tools for keeping enemies nearby, where you can control them and protect your allies. I want Avalanche Fist to be the flip side: an at-will tool for the less common situation where you really need to get an enemy away from you. So I'm thinking of upping the damage a little and replacing the stun with a prone effect. But this is the part that I think needs the most work, so I'd love suggestions.

I do still like the idea of a stun, and I'd like to try and make it balanced since not many classes have access to stuns and I think it fits nicely with this theme. I'm willing to let it go, though.

2018-06-15, 08:45 AM
With respect Zealot and Storm Herald giving combat abilities at level 10, what mitigates this for me is that Storm Herald's is strictly defensive and Zealot's is half defensive and incredibly limited. But I do dislike that they've broken their own design tenets; if they continue this patter, they're going to careen into the power creep that made me so quick to jump ship from 3.5. As for your 'brew:

Revised Immovable Object: I don't think you have to limit the functional size increase to only working when raging - even the Xanathar's Guide subclasses can use their level 10 features even when they're not raging. Even then, I'd say that feels a tad weak; to further extend the idea of "sturdiness," you might consider giving them advantage on saves/checks against secondary effects that shove or knock prone, like wolves' tripping or the Charge trait.

Revised Avalanche Fist: If you want this ability to be at-will, I think you're right in removing the stun effect. The shoving and possibly knocking prone are good thoughts, though I would make this a once-per-turn ability. If, as it seems, the idea is to be able to "thin the ranks" of the enemy, have you considered making a failed Con save reduce the target's speed to 0? To maintain balance, this would probably require that the target isn't knocked prone, otherwise they can't stand up and there's be a full round of advantaged attacks against them. Alternatively, they are knocked prone, but their speed is only halved; this would allow them to stand up but not re-close ranks without expending an action.

Brace: I like being able to get the THP before moving - it's very similar to the tactical advice the books used to give on trolls, where they'd let their regeneration soak up opportunity attacks. Considering mobility tactics are a pretty important aspect of this class - with the grappling, shoving, and such - I think this ties in well, so losing them at the start of your next turn feels appropriate.

2018-06-15, 11:16 AM
In revising Avalanche Fist, what do you think of something like this:
- -
Make an attack roll against a creature no more than two sizes larger than you. If it hits, the damage is doubled and the target must succeed on a Strength (Athletics) check contested by your Strength (Athletics) check. If it fails, it is pushed 25 feet away from you and is knocked prone. You can't use this feature more than once on your turn.
- -
There's a few things I like about this approach. First, you're losing out on chances to crit, but not really losing out on damage, so it doesn't feel bad to rely on this instead of shoving/grappling. Second, 25 feet + prone means that a target needs to be pretty fast to make it back to you on its next turn. For most enemies, this will reliably push them out of rotation for a round. I tinkered around with "0 movement" effects, but I think I like prone better because (a) it disadvantages ranged attacks, which emphasizes that this is for displacement, not damage, and (b) it gives enemies a chance to counter if they're fast enough. Third, making it a skill contest instead of a saving throw gives it the same chance of success as shoving/grappling, emphasizing that this is meant to be available as a regular tool in your kit.

Plus, if this is made the level 14 feature, I can remove it from the skills affected by Immovable Object.

Edit: copy-pasted the wrong thing

2018-06-19, 10:00 AM
Love the idea for this especially if you play a half-orc a very very green half-orc:)

2018-06-20, 09:53 AM
Worth noting - as long as you're making an attack roll, you can crit. That said, I don't see why this attack needs to deal double damage, or why you need to remove the capacity to crit.

2018-06-21, 10:33 AM
Regarding the power creep, one of their UA blog posts (don't remember which) specifically said that they plan to balance all new classes/subclasses against PHB instead of against all released material specifically to avoid power creep. As a rule I try to follow that philosophy when homebrewing also.