Whether you want to make a character like the famous Norse Berserkers or more like the Incredible Hulk, the Berserker Barbarian in D&D 5e is the natural pick.
Entering a state of pure rage and unrelenting fury, these warriors crave violence.
The second that things begin to turn into a combat situation, you can bet the Berserker Barbarian will already be charging with their weapon drawn.
So, let’s get right into it, shall we?
This is the full guide to the Berserker Barbarian in D&D 5e!
What is the Berserker Barbarian in D&D 5e?
Berserker Barbarians are powerful warriors who tap into their inner fury to overwhelm their enemies.
After all, a Berserker Barbarian craves violence. They live for the rush of adrenaline they get from releasing their innermost rage.
Okay, so maybe it’s not exactly a healthy form of anger management therapy, but I’m not going to say anything to them. You can if you want, but it’s your funeral!
Jokes aside though, this is the archetypal Barbarian.
When pretty much anyone thinks of a Barbarian in D&D, they picture a Berserker Barbarian losing their mind and throwing enemies around the battlefield like ragdolls.
Sure, they tend to be reckless but nobody in their right mind would prefer them to be on the other team!
The Berserker Barbarian is one of the base subclasses in the 5e Player’s Handbook alongside the Totem Warrior.
Role in the Party
The Berserker Barbarian is all about putting out damage and playing as offensively as possible. Much like a bull, there’s no stopping them once they pick a direction and begin charging!
Of course, they’ll also be soaking up a solid amount of damage as enemies are forced to focus on the howling mountain of muscle in front of them.
After all, a good offense is the best defense, right?
While Berserker Barbarians do get a bit of battlefield control with their level 10 feature, they are all about causing as much havoc as possible on the battlefield.
It’s simple and straightforward but still an important role in the party!
Berserker Barbarian Abilities
There aren’t any gimmicks to the Berserker Barbarian. They are all about keeping the pressure on enemies and their features keep that in mind.
In the early levels, Berserkers get an enhanced version of the Barbarian’s Rage feature that lets them put out more damage. From there, they also gain some defense against charms and fear effects.
In the mid-levels, Berserkers can strike fear into the hearts of their enemies with a nifty control feature.
Finally, with their capstone feature, the Berserker Barbarian is able to swiftly punish enemies who attack them.
Let’s look at the specific features you gain with this subclass!
Frenzy (Level 3)
A raging Barbarian is already a force to be reckoned with and feared. But the Berserker Barbarian dials it up to 11 and throws everything they have into it!
This is the main feature of the Berserker Barbarian in D&D 5e.
After all, their whole thing is being the angriest Barbarian subclass!
You can go into a frenzy when you rage.
If you do, for the duration of your rage you can make a single melee weapon attack as a bonus action on each of your turns after this one.
When your rage ends you suffer one level of exhaustion.
Using your Rage feature takes your bonus action, so you won’t get this extra attack until the following turn. However, being able to take an extra swing with your weapon per turn is very nice and greatly increases your damage output!
However, it is actually a very weak start to this subclass.
Let me explain…
Not only do you not get to make that extra attack on the first round when you activate Frenzy, but that exhaustion is a very intense drawback.
Very few combats go for a full minute (10 rounds), so you’re paying a high price to get an extra attack for like three rounds of combat or so.
Considering that you could gain bonus action attacks (and more) with feats like Great Weapon Master or Polearm Master, Frenzy feels weak in comparison. Those feats become much more valuable over the long run and won’t cause exhaustion.
But it truly can’t be stressed enough just how steep of a cost this feature comes with.
Related: Feats in D&D 5e Explained
The Real Cost of Using Frenzy
With each level of exhaustion that a character gains, their ability to function well takes severe hits. Using this feature multiple times can result in your character needing to take several days to recover before they’re ready to adventure again.
|1||Disadvantage on all ability checks|
|2||Speed is halved|
|3||Disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws|
|4||Hit point maximum is halved|
|5||Speed reduced to 0|
You just simply won’t always have that time.
Not to mention, the exhaustion penalties will make the rest of your adventuring day considerably tougher.
You’re getting some great offensive power at the cost of your performance in later combats. As the saying goes, you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Let’s say you Frenzy twice before you get to the dungeon’s boss encounter.
You’re now going into that fight with disadvantage on your ability checks (including initiative) and your speed is halved.
If you Frenzy again and there ends up being another encounter, you’ll also have disadvantage on your attacks and saving throws.
Like I said, it’s a steep cost.
I mean, it’s literally possible to Frenzy yourself to death!
While that actually sounds both funny and kind of cool, it’s crazy to think that your most important subclass feature can both directly and indirectly kill you.
If you’re playing a Berserker Barbarian, you need to also check out my article that covers exhaustion in D&D 5e. Otherwise, you can easily get yourself and your party into a very terrible situation!
Mindless Rage (Level 6)
Barbarians have a lot going for them. They’re incredibly strong, can take ludicrous amounts of damage, and are capable of truly remarkable feats of physical prowess.
Unfortunately, they tend to suffer a bit when it comes to more mental abilities. This means that they can often fall victim to some pretty nasty enchantments.
But the Berserker Barbarian’s rage goes beyond that of the normal Barbarian’s.
You can’t be charmed or frightened while raging. If you are charmed or frightened when you enter your rage, the effect is suspended for the duration of the rage.
As a Barbarian, you’re likely a prime target for enemies that will try to charm or frighten you. In either case, you can quickly find yourself being effectively taken out of combat.
Now, you don’t have to worry about sneaky enchantments when you’re raging!
A creature that tries to play mind games like this with you will be in for a very rude awakening!
Related: Barbarian Rage in D&D 5e Explained
Intimidating Presence (Level 10)
It’s easy to be brave until a raging Berserker turns their attention onto you. Moments like that can make all but the most fearless of warriors wish they wore their brown pants.
Can you blame them?
You can use your action to frighten someone with your menacing presence.
When you do so, choose one creature that you can see within 30 feet of you. If the creature can see or hear you, it must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw (DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier) or be frightened of you until the end of your next turn.
On subsequent turns, you can use your action to extend the duration of this effect on the frightened creature until the end of your next turn.
This effect ends if the creature ends its turn out of line of sight or more than 60 feet away from you.
If the creature succeeds on its saving throw, you can’t use this feature on that creature again for 24 hours.
So, frightening an enemy can be a good way to handle a big threat.
While frightened, they can’t move closer to you and make attack rolls and ability checks at disadvantage while in line of sight of you.
This can create a huge opening for your party to absolutely punish whatever enemy you’re intimidating.
Keep in mind that you’ll be using your action each turn to keep this going. That means you’re trading your turn to keep the enemy frightened.
If they try to move away, make sure that you’re moving with them so that they stay within 60 feet of you.
When you’re determining your ability scores, be sure to invest some extra points in Charisma. That will make this harder for enemies to resist!
Retaliation (Level 14)
By this point, most enemies are going to think twice before stepping too close to a raging Berserker Barbarian.
Get ready to give them yet another reason to do so.
When you take damage from a creature that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to make a melee weapon attack against that creature.
Since the Berserker Barbarian is meant to be on the party’s frontlines, you’ll be getting plenty of use out of this.
Make sure that you are using Reckless Attack to bait enemies into attacking you. If they hit, you’ll be able to hit them right back!
A couple of things to be mindful of, though…
First things first, you get one reaction per turn. If you use Retaliation, that means you won’t be able to make opportunity attacks and can only use Retaliation once per turn.
If you’re getting smacked by multiple enemies, choose which one you want to Retaliate against wisely!
Secondly, the creature you take damage from has to be within 5 feet of you. If you’re using a weapon with the Reach property (like a glaive), it does not extend the range of this feature.
Recommended: Full Guide to the Barbarian’s Reckless Attack
The idea of a fearsome warrior using their rage and “hulking out” to turn into an unstoppable force of nature is simply iconic to the Barbarian class.
Because of that, there are no limits to how you might connect a Berserker to the party and adventure!
If you are wanting to take some real-world inspiration for your character, look no further than the Norse Berserkers of long ago.
Working themselves into a state of rage that more resembled a type of trance, they were terrifying to behold. Foaming at the mouth, gnawing on their own equipment, and howling like wild animals were all par for the course!
Still, they fought for glory in combat and would settle for nothing less than a warrior’s death.
Ask yourself what your character truly desires and how their warring ways will help them get it.
Do they just lose control and “see red” in combat or do they believe that calling forth this rage is awakening some powerful spirit within themselves?
Is the Berserker Barbarian Good?
It hurts me to say, but the Berserker Barbarian is just not a good subclass.
There are some decent features here, but the thing that just really sets the Berserker back is the Frenzy feature.
It’s the very core of what the Berserker is all about yet the exhaustion that it gives is just such an incredibly high cost. Compare that cost to the benefits of the Frenzy feature and it’s just painfully underwhelming!
As a feature that you can use in the greatest of emergencies, it makes a bit more sense.
But if you’re playing a Berserker, you WANT to go crazy and overwhelm your enemies with pure offense. Keeping that as a “for emergencies only” feature just seems to take away from what the subclass is.
One level of exhaustion isn’t horrible, but once you get that second level you’ll be struggling.
When you get your third level of exhaustion, you’re relying on Rage and Reckless Attack to offset the penalties of your Frenzy.
From there, you start to turn into dead weight for lack of any better way to put it.
If we’re looking strictly at how it’s written, the Berserker Barbarian is underwhelming. It just doesn’t have the “oomph” or the staying power of any other Barbarian subclass.
Especially with this being what comes to mind when most people think of Barbarians, it’s just disappointing.
Related: Ranking Every Barbarian Subclass in D&D 5e!
Conclusion – Berserker Barbarian in D&D 5e
Man, I really hate to dunk on a subclass. Especially when it’s one with such an iconic theme!
But the Berserker Barbarian promises you steak then serves you liver. Sure, some people might like liver, but where’s the juicy steak I was promised?!?!
I hope you’ve found this guide to the Berserker Barbarian in D&D 5e helpful!
Do you agree with my verdict on this subclass? Disagree? Got questions? Let’s chat in the comments!
Want all the latest player guides, DM tips, news, reviews, and more for D&D 5e? Sign up for the Tabletop Joab newsletter below!
You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter!
If you found this article helpful and want to support the site, you can buy me a coffee here! (It’s not expected, but very appreciated!)
Subscribe To Tabletop Joab's Newsletter!
Subscribers get updates on all of the latest news, posts, and offerings from Tabletop Joab!