Barbarian Class Preview

Monday, June 11, 2018

Rage consumes you in battle. You delight in carving through your enemies using powerful weapons and wreaking havoc without needing complicated techniques or rigid training, and you rely on your astonishing durability to get you through a fight. You associate your rage with a traditional symbol of affinity known as a totem, which might take the form of an animal, a spirit, or even a part of yourself. To many barbarians, brute force is a hammer and every problem looks like a nail; to others, the dark emotions within them are something to hold back and release only when it matters most.

When it came to barbarians in the playtest, we wanted to take the most popular parts of the original barbarian and the unchained barbarian and brew them together with a few special ingredients to make the class even more flexible to fit even more roleplaying and mechanical concepts. Let's take a look!

Rage

Rage is a barbarian's key class feature. Barbarians aren't super-trained in fancy weapon techniques like most of the other martial classes. Instead, a barbarian can enter a rage that drastically increases her damage and grants her a significant booster shot of temporary Hit Points, in exchange for a –1 penalty to AC and the inability to use concentrate actions unless they specifically have the rage trait (note, this means that somatic-only spells are now possible in a rage!). Unlike in Pathfinder First Edition, rage in the playtest is not limited in rounds per day—let's be honest, in Pathfinder First Edition, our barbarians never ran out of rounds anyway once they had gained a few levels. A rage lasts 3 rounds, followed by a round of fatigue. While you're fatigued, you can't rage again, but once that round has passed, you can enter a new rage, with a shiny brand-new set of temporary Hit Points to go along with it. You can do this as often as you need during the day!

Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

Totems

Without a doubt, the most popular element of barbarians in Pathfinder First Edition is the totem, introduced in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Player Guide. These totems are a set of three thematically linked abilities the barbarian can choose, starting at 2nd level. In the playtest, you get a totem right away at 1st level. Your totem is a representation of how and why you rage and grants you an initial ability, access to more totem feats down the line, and, at 9th level, resistance equal to your Constitution modifier against a specific type of damage. Each totem also has its own anathema, most of which are relatively low impact and designed to create roleplaying hooks. For instance, the giant totem's anathema states that you cannot fail to accept a personal challenge of your strength, much like how Amiri accepted the challenging task her tribal fellows set her to slay a frost giant. Some though, are stricter—the superstition totem requires that you never willingly accept the benefits of spells, but grants you some truly astounding antimagic abilities in exchange.

Some of the totems, like animal totem, giant totem, and dragon totem, offer a few abilities that are flat-out magical. For instance, animal totem barbarians can adopt animal features and attacks and even transform into an animal (a great way to represent lycanthrope characters), whereas dragon totem barbarians gain a dragon breath attack can even grow wings. Even though totems are popular and roleplaying opportunities are fun, we recognize not everyone necessarily wants to commit to them, so we also offer the fury totem, which has no anathema or special requirements and focuses more on barbarian feats that aren't tied to any totem, which we'll look at in a bit. But first...

Additional Barbarian Features

Though I called out rage and totems specifically, the barbarian has some really neat abilities beyond those. For instance, at level 3, barbarians gain critical specialization effects when in a rage, even if they don't fulfill the usual proficiency rank requirement for the weapon—they use whatever weapon is most efficient to express their rage! One other thing they have that nobody else does: 12 Hit Points per level. Add that to the substantial temporary Hit Points that they can generate (possibly multiple times in a long fight) and the resistances from their totem that kick in at level 9, and barbarians have incredible staying power. Sure, they don't prevent as many hits as a paladin or a shield fighter might, but they can stand there taking hits long past the point where anyone else could stay standing. This is also a good point to mention one feature barbarians don't have in the playtest: alignment requirements. Barbarians can be whatever alignment they want; for instance, a lawful barbarian might act like one of the concepts I described earlier, controlling and holding back her emotions to channel and release her rage when it matters most.

As many of you have predicted, barbarians also have the best Fortitude proficiency, gaining the juggernaut class feature at level 7 (which grants master proficiency in Fortitude and the ability to count any successes you roll as critical successes instead) and improved juggernaut at 13th (which grants legendary proficiency and removes the chance of critically failing), but they also have a secondary Will focus, gaining indomitable will at 15th level to become masters in Will. Tireless rage comes in at level 17 to allow barbarians to ignore fatigue after ending a rage (though they still must wait the normal amount of time before entering a new rage). Barbarians are all about brutalizing opponents without worrying about carrying lots of different weapons and selecting the right one for the job with their monster knowledge, so it makes sense that they gain the ability to rip through a chunk of resistances automatically with level 19's devastating strikes ability. Possibly my favorite barbarian feature, though, is the level 11 ability mighty rage—whenever you enter a rage, it allows you to immediately use one of your rage-only actions for free. So many possibilities!

Barbarian Feats

In addition to the feats based on totems, there are a variety of other feats available, from the bread-and-butter, low-level Sudden Charge to the devastating Whirlwind Strike (attack everything in your reach), Brutal Critical (your critical hits deal an extra die of damage as well as persistent bleed damage), Vicious Evisceration (you maim the enemy, dealing extra damage, reducing its maximum HP by an amount equal to its level, and giving it a –1 penalty to Fortitude), Contagious Rage (one of your allies gets the benefits and –1 penalty to AC imposed by your rage, but can still concentrate), and Quaking Stomp (you stomp so hard that it creates an honest-to-goodness earthquake). But none caused a playtest GM to raise their eyebrows quite like the superstition totem's Spell Sunder, which really saved us when we faced walls of force, magical trap effects, and more.

To close off, some of you might have expected me to talk about the dragon totem barbarian Linda is playing in my playtest game, who has sometimes been the party's primary healer. She does that through abilities beyond the barbarian class, though certainly Moment of Clarity (which allows a barbarian to use an extra action to use a concentrate ability mid-rage). But if you're wondering why there was a time in my playtest when she was the only one with an area attack, that was because of her barbarian's dragon breath!

Mark Seifter
Designer

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Pandora's wrote:


To those who say "it's just the way such characters are in the default setting," if Golarion can only imagine characters with a strength complex using oversized weapons, then Golarion has a lack of imagination. If this is what Golarion-infused looks like, I'm not a fan.

They show us a single item on a bakery's menu and people assume that there is no ice cream.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Quandary wrote:
Polymorph wings is good reason to consider some Barb class abilities working outside of Rage.
I think it's likely that Totem abilities in general work outside Rage. None of the ones we've heard of thus far seem super synchronized with the rage mechanic, and in particular losing your ability to wield oversized weapons from your Giant Totem

How do you figure balancing oversized weapons?


The Raven Black wrote:
I like the new rage cycle. But I worry that combined with no later improvement to the rage bonuses, it will become the Goto 1-level dip

Who says there is no later improvement in rage bonuses? The blog says "drastically increases her damage" - if it is still drastic at 20th level, that either means the bonus increases of the bonus at level 1 is utterly ridiculous.

_
glass.


Their damage reduction wasn't tied to rage in PF1 either, and I'd be surprised if it was now. It is neither as easy to calculate or as powerful as the 5e equivalent which only works while you rage.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:
I think it's likely that Totem abilities in general work outside Rage. None of the ones we've heard of thus far seem super synchronized with the rage mechanic, and in particular losing your ability to wield oversized weapons from your Giant Totem or your antimagic from Superstition Totem would be really annoying and mechanically inelegant.

Sure. And Totem abilities in particular already have reason why they work outside of Rage, because they have source not inherently dependent on Rage. (I would also welcome non-Totem abilities outside of Rage. Archetypes did this in P1E) Although I would still guess any direct combat type bonuses would still tend to be Rage triggered, even if other aspects of same ability aren't.


Weather Report wrote:
in particular losing your ability to wield oversized weapons from your Giant Totem
How do you figure balancing oversized weapons?

True, they could leave you the ability to wield them, but you have a penalty with them outside of Rage...?

The Giant weapon stuff could also be specified to not stack with Barb damage bonuses.


Stone Dog wrote:
Pandora's wrote:


To those who say "it's just the way such characters are in the default setting," if Golarion can only imagine characters with a strength complex using oversized weapons, then Golarion has a lack of imagination. If this is what Golarion-infused looks like, I'm not a fan.
They show us a single item on a bakery's menu and people assume that there is no ice cream.

It's anti-ice cream prejudice, I tell you.

Liberty's Edge

Weather Report wrote:
How do you figure balancing oversized weapons?

It sounds like size doesn't effect a weapon's damage die size in PF2, so I'm not even positive what oversized weapons even do. My current theory involves them adding a damage die (and probably some sort of penalty to make that not broken), but heck if I know.

Quandary wrote:
Sure. And Totem abilities in particular already have reason why they work outside of Rage, because they have source not inherently dependent on Rage. (I would also welcome non-Totem abilities outside of Rage. Archetypes did this in P1E) Although I would still guess any direct combat type bonuses would still tend to be Rage triggered, even if other aspects of same ability aren't.

I'd expect that there are both Rage focused and non-Rage focused Class Feats (most of the latter probably duplicates of Fighter Class Feats), and that the Rage Only ones are more powerful but require you to be raging. Personal preference would dictate which you grab.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:
Weather Report wrote:
How do you figure balancing oversized weapons?

It sounds like size doesn't effect a weapon's damage die size in PF2, so I'm not even positive what oversized weapons even do. My current theory involves them adding a damage die (and probably some sort of penalty to make that not broken), but heck if I know.

Afaik we only know that Small and Medium weapons, the two most common ones, used by all the Core Races, and that both always had their damage entries written in the lists, now do share the same damage, to simplifiy lists, make it easier to read/understand, and so Small Races (ancestries) don't feel nerfed damage-wise (specially because PF2 now adds Weapon Dices on Magical Weapons).

It's probable than smaller than Small and bigger than Medium still have different damage values.


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I wonder if the rage bonus will also be MOAR damage die. My gut likes Barbarians throwing the biggest fistfuls of dice in a game full of big fistfuls of dice, but I'm not sure how if that works well in practice.


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Captain Morgan wrote:
I wonder if the rage bonus will also be MOAR damage die. My gut likes Barbarians throwing the biggest fistfuls of dice in a game full of big fistfuls of dice, but I'm not sure how if that works well in practice.

Plenty of people like throwing ye olde dice bukkit. It's at least 33% of the appeal of playing Shadowrun after all.


Stone Dog wrote:
They show us a single item on a bakery's menu and people assume that there is no ice cream.

I can like every part of the Giant Totem Barbarian except for that its anathema doesn't work for my character's personality, and we know with absolute certainty from this blog that I cannot play said Giant Totem Barbarian without that anathema. I don't need to see the rest of the menu to know that this item has unnecessary ingredients that sour the taste.

But do note that I did say "if" several times in that original statement, allowing for the potential of other similar options. I was replying to a certain argument that's been made. I personally don't think the developers lack the imagination in question.

Liberty's Edge

Kaemy wrote:
It's probable than smaller than Small and bigger than Medium still have different damage values.

Is it? They don't in Starfinder (just for example). And there are other ways to balance that sort of thing.

Basically, we don't know this and we'll need to wait for the actual playtest document to see.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:
Weather Report wrote:
How do you figure balancing oversized weapons?
It sounds like size doesn't effect a weapon's damage die size in PF2, so I'm not even positive what oversized weapons even do. My current theory involves them adding a damage die (and probably some sort of penalty to make that not broken), but heck if I know.

Yeah, they have merged Small and Medium weapon damage, but I'm sure Large and up will be a different story; I too am thinking extra damage dice.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Kaemy wrote:
It's probable than smaller than Small and bigger than Medium still have different damage values.

Is it? They don't in Starfinder (just for example). And there are other ways to balance that sort of thing.

Basically, we don't know this and we'll need to wait for the actual playtest document to see.

So how does Starfinder handle itty-bitty creatures wielding itty-bitty greatswords?

Sovereign Court

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Pandora's wrote:
Stone Dog wrote:
They show us a single item on a bakery's menu and people assume that there is no ice cream.
I can like every part of the Giant Totem Barbarian except for that its anathema doesn't work for my character's personality, and we know with absolute certainty from this blog that I cannot play said Giant Totem Barbarian without that anathema. I don't need to see the rest of the menu to know that this item has unnecessary ingredients that sour the taste.

You or your GM could replace the default anathema with one more fitting to your character? Paizo police won't come knocking on your door (I think).


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Pandora's wrote:
Stone Dog wrote:
They show us a single item on a bakery's menu and people assume that there is no ice cream.

I can like every part of the Giant Totem Barbarian except for that its anathema doesn't work for my character's personality, and we know with absolute certainty from this blog that I cannot play said Giant Totem Barbarian without that anathema. I don't need to see the rest of the menu to know that this item has unnecessary ingredients that sour the taste.

But do note that I did say "if" several times in that original statement, allowing for the potential of other similar options. I was replying to a certain argument that's been made. I personally don't think the developers lack the imagination in question.

According to the Cleric Blog, anathema is supposed to be tailored to the PC. They leave them vague so the Player can decide how it applies to their PC (working with the DM).

Because of this, I'm sure that you can either make the Giant Totem fit your character in some other way than the obvious way it works, or that you can trade it out for another anathema. And especially so if it is a non-PFS game.

Either that, or the barbarian anathemas are much more strict that a deity's anathema.


Kaemy wrote:
Deadmanwalking wrote:
Weather Report wrote:
How do you figure balancing oversized weapons?

It sounds like size doesn't effect a weapon's damage die size in PF2, so I'm not even positive what oversized weapons even do. My current theory involves them adding a damage die (and probably some sort of penalty to make that not broken), but heck if I know.

Afaik we only know that Small and Medium weapons, the two most common ones, used by all the Core Races, and that both always had their damage entries written in the lists, now do share the same damage, to simplifiy lists, make it easier to read/understand, and so Small Races (ancestries) don't feel nerfed damage-wise (specially because PF2 now adds Weapon Dices on Magical Weapons).

It's probable than smaller than Small and bigger than Medium still have different damage values.

On one hand, I agree with this assessment, but I feel like I saw somewhere that they said that they don't want to have more than one die of damage to make +X weapons and crits easier. Maybe that's just for standard small/medium sized characters of non-giant-totem classes, but I'm not entirely convinced.


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KingOfAnything wrote:
You or your GM could replace the default anathema with one more fitting to your character? Paizo police won't come knocking on your door (I think).

In my original post, I said that this would not be a problem when I myself am GMing. Do you think it reasonable that I should have to beg every GM I play with to allow my character's personality to be different from the default? Is it reasonable that in Society play, you're stuck with the default character trope with no recourse? Why is this role-playing mandate necessary, instead of providing a suggestion for people who want inspiration?

I'm serious, I just don't see what positive addition these anathema make. If someone understands, I'd love an explanation.


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It would certainly help both players in Society, and players with narrow-minded GMs, if they specify clearly in the published book that anathema can and should be tweaked to fit each character. And maybe give two example anathema as a starting point to choose from in every place where anathema appear. So each totem would have two examples, and you could pick either of them or use them as a springboard for coming up with something comparable.


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bookrat wrote:
According to the Cleric Blog, anathema is supposed to be tailored to the PC. They leave them vague so the Player can decide how it applies to their PC (working with the DM).

If this is truly the case, then they would need to include a sidebar or something saying "These are just example anathema and should not ever be forced onto unwilling players." If that happens, and, in practice, I am not forced to petition my GM for my character to have the personality I want them to have, then I have no issue. With how anathema applies to the Superstition totem, I don't have confidence that they're going to make them as clearly optional as you think, unless they make a stated exception for that edge case.

I think the devs' hearts are in the right place and they want this to be part of a creative dialogue between the GM and players, but what matters to me is what actually happens at real tables. Because GMs too terrified to houserule or stray from the RAW exist, I'd rather the core rulebook not leave it to interpretation on whether anathema is a suggestion or a rule.

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Taboos, from the Medium class were interesting restrictions that gave a bonus. However, they were fairly easy to game by taking one with the least impact to your character, and thus practically ignorable. That made the idea much less interesting. So, I'm skeptical of too many options.

Anathema were first introduced to us through deities. The source of divine power confers certain restrictions. Similarly, barbarians who derive their rage ability from something other than pure fury are affected by that source and must respect those restrictions. Those restrictions don't necessary dictate personality, only behavior. There are many ways to justify those behaviors and doing so will enrich more characters than it inhibits.


I love the Totem Anathema. But it's cool Fury exists for people who just can't handle the awesomeness of them.
Not seeing how Fury alone is not going to be solid P2E replacement for P1E Core Rule Book Barbarian.


This thread is an excellent example of what worries me, in fact. Bookrat, you're the first person to point out how customized anathema are supposed to be. Others in this thread have said things along the lines of "it's just how Golarion is," "you just don't like restrictions," "if you don't like the flavor, don't play the class," etc. These real interpretations of anathema are in my opinion deleterious to the game, especially to individual expression within it. These are people who are probably nice, reasonable people it'd be a pleasure to game with, but they also think that this blog says my character should fit the anathema or I should have to pick something else.


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Pandora's wrote:
bookrat wrote:
According to the Cleric Blog, anathema is supposed to be tailored to the PC. They leave them vague so the Player can decide how it applies to their PC (working with the DM).

If this is truly the case, then they would need to include a sidebar or something saying "These are just example anathema and should not ever be forced onto unwilling players." If that happens, and, in practice, I am not forced to petition my GM for my character to have the personality I want them to have, then I have no issue. With how anathema applies to the Superstition totem, I don't have confidence that they're going to make them as clearly optional as you think, unless they make a stated exception for that edge case.

I think the devs' hearts are in the right place and they want this to be part of a creative dialogue between the GM and players, but what matters to me is what actually happens at real tables. Because GMs too terrified to houserule or stray from the RAW exist, I'd rather the core rulebook not leave it to interpretation on whether anathema is a suggestion or a rule.

I mean, really, you should be consulting your GM no matter what. Barbarians may not even exist in the world the GM is creating.

Likewise, a GM needs to consult with the players.

This is a social game, and we all need to be communicating with each other.

This whole idea that we need protection from having to communicate with each other is just plain toxic.


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KingOfAnything wrote:
Taboos, from the Medium class were interesting restrictions that gave a bonus. However, they were fairly easy to game by taking one with the least impact to your character, and thus practically ignorable. That made the idea much less interesting. So, I'm skeptical of too many options.

It's almost like forcing role-playing restrictions that the player doesn't want doesn't work out well. If Bookrat's interpretation is correct, the developers' intent is to instead encourage a dialogue where the GM and player together decide on restrictions the player finds fun. If that's correct, it's an ingenious way to sidestep this problem.

KingOfAnything wrote:
Anathema were first introduced to us through deities. The source of divine power confers certain restrictions.

And when your magical powers literally come directly from a sentient, opinionated creature, keeping them happy is reasonable, in a flavor sense. It could still be unfun and limiting in actual game-play, depending on implementation. In a story game, the story both has to make sense and the game has to be fun to play. Making sense alone isn't enough.

KingOfAnything wrote:
Similarly, barbarians who derive their rage ability from something other than pure fury are affected by that source and must respect those restrictions.

This is needless cosmology. What source? There is no defined, single individual responsible for the anathema like there is for clerics. Why does an intuitive warrior who loses track of everything but the battle and uses massive weapons to intimidate his enemies have to also have a competition complex? More generally, why does a feature as generic as "barbarian who uses big weapons" need to be tied to a specific role-playing restriction?

KingOfAnything wrote:
Those restrictions don't necessary dictate personality, only behavior. There are many ways to justify those behaviors and doing so will enrich more characters than it inhibits.

Behavior does absolutely limit personality. I cannot play a Giant Totem warrior who has an ideological problem with unnecessary violence or who avoids dueling during wartime. His personality, his values, are not compatible with using a large weapon, apparently. Even if the rest of the character's concept and story fit great with every single mechanical ability of the Giant Totem, I cannot play that character with the above ideologies. How does that character concept being disallowed make the game better? Answer that convincingly, and you'll have me convinced.


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Here's the relevant quote from the Cleric Blog:

"Though we give some examples of anathemic acts for the various gods and goddesses—like how it's anathema for a cleric of Sarenrae, goddess of honesty, to cast a spell that would help her lie better—we wanted to leave this broad enough that the GM and player can make the final say in how these work in their games. Many other classes that follow similar restrictions have their own anathema."


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bookrat wrote:

I mean, really, you should be consulting your GM no matter what. Barbarians may not even exist in the world the GM is creating.

Likewise, a GM needs to consult with the players.

This is a social game, and we all need to be communicating with each other.

This whole idea that we need protection from having to communicate with each other is just plain toxic.

I wrote a huge post the other day agreeing that protection from having to communicate is a toxic idea. That's not what I'm asking for.

I'm asking that the rulebook not give the opportunity for unnecessary straightjackets. Some GMs are terrified if they change anything, the whole game will crumble. Some GMs can't be bothered to allow anything "custom," even if the rules suggest it. Some GMs think that every rule in the book is a direct representation of the world of Golarion, and it would be sacrilege to ignore it. If anathema didn't exist, I could happily play my character under any of those GMs. Because anathema does exist, I can't with any of them. I don't think anathema creates the best results for the most tables, because as presented, it WILL be used a straightjacket. If you don't believe me, there are people telling me right now why I shouldn't be able to play a hypothetical character like I described, and some of them have read the exact text from the Cleric blog that you are quoting. I don't think anathema will be used as the starting point for discussion that the devs imagine, with this thread as my evidence. Given that, I think it causes more harm than good and should be replaced with something less prone to misinterpretation.


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Pandora's wrote:
KingOfAnything wrote:
Anathema were first introduced to us through deities. The source of divine power confers certain restrictions.

And when your magical powers literally come directly from a sentient, opinionated creature, keeping them happy is reasonable, in a flavor sense. It could still be unfun and limiting in actual game-play, depending on implementation. In a story game, the story both has to make sense and the game has to be fun to play. Making sense alone isn't enough.

KingOfAnything wrote:
Similarly, barbarians who derive their rage ability from something other than pure fury are affected by that source and must respect those restrictions.

This is needless cosmology. What source? There is no defined, single individual responsible for the anathema like there is for clerics. Why does an intuitive warrior who loses track of everything but the battle and uses massive weapons to intimidate his enemies have to also have a competition complex? More generally, why does a feature as generic as "barbarian who uses big weapons" need to be tied to a specific role-playing restriction?

My impression is that any totem other than Fury is actually an external force, though not a sentient one and certainly not a deity. But it's capable of having gut feelings (the kind that guide you during rage) and the gut feeling of the Strength (Giant) totem is that you shouldn't turn down challenge of Strength. Makes sense to me.

Pandora's wrote:
KingOfAnything wrote:
Those restrictions don't necessary dictate personality, only behavior. There are many ways to justify those behaviors and doing so will enrich more characters than it inhibits.
Behavior does absolutely limit personality. I cannot play a Giant Totem warrior who has an ideological problem with unnecessary violence or who avoids dueling during wartime. His personality, his values, are not compatible with using a large weapon, apparently. Even if the rest of the character's concept and story fit great with every single mechanical ability of the Giant Totem, I cannot play that character with the above ideologies. How does that character concept being disallowed make the game better? Answer that convincingly, and you'll have me convinced.

Your totem says you have to accept challenges of strength. Nothing says you have to like it. Maybe you grumble "damn stupid totem! why didn't I go Eagle like Mom wanted?" every time you get challenged. Your personality is whatever you want.

It's like a cleric of Sarenrae who's into redemption and healing but not so much the honesty. They don't have to be an intrinsically honest person, they just have to obey the rule, even if they hate it.

The Strength-totem barbarian who actually has a competition complex will probably seek out challenges. The one you want to play may avoid them like the plague (but still take them up when presented with one, lest they be forsaken by the totem).


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Actually this is what Mark Seifter wrote about the nature of Totems...

Mark Seifter wrote:
Stone Dog wrote:
It sounds like a Barbarian's Anethema could be described as a core value that if broken causes a lots of confidence, diminishing their power and takes a bit of doing to restore.

That is a solid description of the totem; it's tied to the source of your rage, whether within you or without.

...
"As a barbarian, you channel the power of your rage through a totem. Traditionally, this is a spiritual or tribal symbol, but you choose what your totem means to you; it might describe a purely internal source or filter of your rage, such as a belief, curse, exotic heritage, or state of mind."

So I would not say there is any basis for assumption it is external force with own feelings etc. EDIT: I would compare it more to Monk Vows.


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Fuzzy-Wuzzy wrote:
My impression is that any totem other than Fury is actually an external force, though not a sentient one and certainly not a deity. But it's capable of having gut feelings (the kind that guide you during rage) and the gut feeling of the Strength (Giant) totem is that you shouldn't turn down challenge of Strength. Makes sense to me.
Fuzzy-Wuzzy wrote:
Your totem says you have to accept challenges of strength. Nothing says you have to like it. Maybe you grumble "damn stupid totem! why didn't I go Eagle like Mom wanted?" every time you get challenged. Your personality is whatever you want.
Mark Seifter wrote:


"As a barbarian, you channel the power of your rage through a totem. Traditionally, this is a spiritual or tribal symbol, but you choose what your totem means to you; it might describe a purely internal source or filter of your rage, such as a belief, curse, exotic heritage, or state of mind."

Emphasis mine.

According to the devs, you're incorrect. But even if you weren't, the role-playing restriction having a cosmological source doesn't make it any more fun for me. We're essentially back to the same debate as with paladins. You can have your character with the default flavor, and I should be able to have mine that's another flavor that makes just as much sense. A rulebook with unnecessarily narrow flavor restrictions tells some people "your idea is correct" and others "yours is wrong." In what way does that improve the game?

Bookrat, this is an example of a well-meaning person literally creating cosmological forces to make the rule immutable and globally applicable. This is the problem with anathema; some people like to be given role-playing restrictions, and others like choosing them. Anathema is interpreted by one in a way that is a detriment to the other. Fuzzy-Wuzzy, I'm seriously not trying to pick on you. Everyone has their different styles, and I know you meant no ill will to me. I'm just pointing out how one person's fun can be unfun for others if the rules aren't careful.

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Pandora's wrote:
Behavior does absolutely limit personality. I cannot play a Giant Totem warrior who has an ideological problem with unnecessary violence or who avoids dueling during wartime.

Why not? Like, give an actual reason why not. Such a character would certainly avoid being challenged, and attempt to convince a challenger to reconsider, and would seriously consider "falling" for a day to uphold their values. Seems like an excellent character hook.

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His personality, his values, are not compatible with using a large weapon, apparently.

Not in evidence.

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Even if the rest of the character's concept and story fit great with every single mechanical ability of the Giant Totem, I cannot play that character with the above ideologies.

Again, why not?

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How does that character concept being disallowed make the game better? Answer that convincingly, and you'll have me convinced.

It's not disallowed. Merely, made more interesting. A character in conflict with the source of their strength.


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I do like the concept of Anathema and the idea of certain totems imposing some sort of reflection of the creature you seem to gain power from.

BUT I am also perfectly okay with customization, re-flavoring and seeing classes and feats as tools to create the type of character somebody wants. So I sympathize with Pandora.

I think away to balance it is either to provide 2 or 3 anathema options for each totem. Or even give two or three anathema options and say "these are the common ways in which this totem may reveal itself in your character. But you can come up with another anathema for your character to fit.

The one thing where this breaks down is the Superstition Totem which requires it's anathema as a balancing aspect from my understanding. But that could be the exception.


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KingOfAnything wrote:
Pandora's wrote:
Behavior does absolutely limit personality. I cannot play a Giant Totem warrior who has an ideological problem with unnecessary violence or who avoids dueling during wartime.
Why not? Like, give an actual reason why not. Such a character would certainly avoid being challenged, and attempt to convince a challenger to reconsider, and would seriously consider "falling" for a day to uphold their values. Seems like an excellent character hook.

Sorry, you are technically correct. I can play a hypocrite who ignores his own values whenever they're inconvenient, I can give up class features for not following a code that my character doesn't even believe in and is not enforced by some external magic, or I can play another class that doesn't match my concept for the character as well.

Some people like playing characters that actually follow their ideals. Some people like being true to their characters AND keeping their class features at the same time. Some people think that Barbarians having a cosmological source for their strength is silly. And some people disagree with each of those statements, for one reason or another. I want all of those people to be able to play the characters they want to play.

This is what you just aren't getting. That anathema's limitation is more interesting to you. If I decided it was interesting to me, I would play the character that way anyway, anathema as a class feature or not. If I instead decided that it made more sense for that character to believes strength should be used to protect the weaker and wanted my anathema to never allow me to leave someone weaker to die, then I will be more interested in that. You might hate that new anathema, and that doesn't matter because it's my freaking character. My character being forced to have this weird inconsistency because people who aren't me (or part of my gaming group) find it interesting is the stupidest reason for my character to have a limitation that I can imagine.

Exo-Guardians

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I like what I have seen so far. particularly anathema being applied to other sources. I think it sends a solid hint that the game is to be roleplayed, not roll played, which was always the biggest problem I ever had with many of the groups I ran into with my old school club.

I think the ebb and flow of rage is fantastic, giving Barbarians a clear point where they should know when it might perhaps be best to fall back and let the battle flow, only for them to surge forward and crush their puny foes in the next round.

I like that so far Fighters are going to be distinct in how they fight, Fighters now being portrayed as the highly trained warrior who's focus and trade is war and the art of combat. While the Barbarian seems driven by their internal fury, or the might of their external drives, many of which may even be tied to their tribal nature, or even have been the result of unusual circumstances. I like that distinction between the practiced swordsman and raging berserker.

I do wonder a bit about how does a Barbarian contribute when the combat is done, but no more than I worry about the fighter.

Also HP tanking, finally, I think that has been a bit lackluster in PF1, and having a big bag of HP to work with means creatures have less reason to try and one shot the caster because the big guy looks both threatening, and easier to take down than the full plate Paladin about to call down the retribution of Iomade upon some poor soul.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

Count me against stripping the flavor out. I like the game to be more than "here are some numbers that don't mean anything". Which is what I've seen happen in 98% of cases with flavor-neutral stuff in previous editions.

(In many cases, this also includes "arrange those numbers in the most mechanically efficient way, sometimes in direct contradiction to logic or intent". However, I don't wish to conflate those two observed trends.)

As for "being forced to beg every GM I meet"... I dunno. I like playing the game with friendly people, who aren't looking at any potential situation where they might not have total control as an inherent source of conflict, and who aren't doing the Tyrant GM thing (unironically, anyway). But I also enjoy games where the GM's setting might have flavor constraints that preclude some character concepts. So I may be an outlier there.

I dunno. Maybe I'll understand better with a good night's sleep. ^_^


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For the record, I wasn't talking about the Anethema part. I was talking about the part that seemed to be saying that you couldn't be a character who used big weapons without it.

One path to big weapons has been revealed and some people have assumed that is the only way. Even if it was the only way in the playtest document or the core rule book, that doesn't mean much.

Not every character concept can fit in one book with a high crunch content like Pathfinder. You might have to wait for a supplement just like everybody else who don't get what they are hunting for on day one.


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I think I'm starting to lean more towards Pandora's argument. Anathemas make a lot of sense for stuff like Superstition Totem where the connection between what you're giving up and what you're getting is clear (you give up the benefits of beneficial magic to gain resistance to hostile magic). The connection between the benefits of the Giant Totem and the restriction that you must always accept a reasonable challenge is much less obvious. The first popular fiction character I'd look towards for a Giant Totem Barbarian is Guts, and I don't remember him having a particular obsession with honorable duels.

It's possible the issue could be resolved by just changing this specific anathema to be something less personality-binding, or we might have to look at the idea of Barbarian anathemas more closely and consider if they should be the exception rather than the rule.


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Kalindlara wrote:
Count me against stripping the flavor out. I like the game to be more than "here are some numbers that don't mean anything". Which is what I've seen happen in 98% of cases with flavor-neutral stuff in previous editions.

There's a big difference between stripping the flavor out and providing an optional flavor. I'm advocating for the latter, not the former. Flavor can be a focus of the game without the flavor being exactly identical every time a particular class/specialization/archetype is played.

Kalindlara wrote:
As for "being forced to beg every GM I meet"... I dunno. I like playing the game with friendly people, who aren't looking at any potential situation where they might not have total control as an inherent source of conflict, and who aren't doing the Tyrant GM thing

In my earlier posts, I gave examples of GM mentalities that could prevent anathema customization without being necessarily tyrannical. I don't want to have to be even more particular in choosing GMs. Getting groups together is hard enough as is.


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Stone Dog wrote:
For the record, I wasn't talking about the Anethema part. I was talking about the part that seemed to be saying that you couldn't be a character who used big weapons without it.

I'll try to be clearer. Imagine this scenario. I want a character that uses big weapons, and rages, and does A-Z other things. The Giant Totem barbarian is a near perfect fit! Awesome. Except the role-playing restriction is contrary to my character's personality or ideals and I'm stuck if my GM doesn't deign to be permissive.

There won't be an alternative to every feature, and there shouldn't be an alternative to every combination of features. That'd just be unnecessary duplication. If we allow flavor to be more flexible than a strict adherence to these anathema would allow, duplication is unnecessary. I can just use the set of mechanical features that best matches my character.

This is my fundamental problem with mandated, as opposed to suggested or optional, flavor. It's inefficient. It allows for fewer character concepts to be workable than if the mandate wasn't present. The only difference between mandated flavor and optional flavor is the ability to shove the flavor in the book down some unwilling person's throat. Optional flavor should be there. If you like the optional flavor, it's still there to use. Sometimes I'll use it, other times I'll come up with something else. Everyone except the flavor police win, and I am personally okay with dictatorial players losing out on their desires.

As an aside, there's a difference between mandated rulebook flavor and flavor restrictions imposed by consensus of your game group. The latter is specifically targeted to create a particular feel in a specific game and is accepted by the group. If you don't like it, play in a different group. Rulebook flavor is imprecise and sweeping; it targets broad swaths of games without knowing anything about them and applies to every game the GM doesn't houserule it out of. The devs realize this and so have already mentioned language encouraging the customization of anathema, but that idea doesn't seem to be catching on.


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I hope I can make a fist fighting Barbarian. I hope unarmed combat isn't restricted to the Monk.


I see what Pandora seems to get at: The Anathama's for the barb go beyond just flavor and dictate personality.

Or seems that way.

I will hold judgement until full text but I am uncertain, from past experience, that a chewy / crunchy balancing at is not very workable.


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I want to point out that the Giant Totem is only a convenient example since we know more about it. My aversion to it and the reasons for that aversion apply equally to any pairing of mechanical ability and role-playing restriction that don't necessarily imply each other. The Superstition totem is a great example of a good anathema. The ability is "you're antimagic" and the restriction is "you're antimagic." Much harder to go wrong there.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Companion, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Pandora's wrote:
Sorry, you are technically correct. I can play a hypocrite who ignores his own values whenever they're inconvenient, I can give up class features for not following a code that my character doesn't even believe in and is not enforced by some external magic, or I can play another class that doesn't match my concept for the character as well.

An anathema is not a code. It is a taboo. You can choose to use it to enhance your experience, or you can throw a fit.

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Some people like playing characters that actually follow their ideals. Some people like being true to their characters AND keeping their class features at the same time. Some people think that Barbarians having a cosmological source for their strength is silly. And some people disagree with each of those statements, for one reason or another. I want all of those people to be able to play the characters they want to play.

What is the point of a roleplaying hook if it doesn't cause conflict? Every barbarian with an anathema is going to face those choices. That's the point of the feature. It's not like you'll be challenged to prove your strength every day.

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This is what you just aren't getting. That anathema's limitation is more interesting to you. If I decided it was interesting to me, I would play the character that way anyway, anathema as a class feature or not. If I instead decided that it made more sense for that character to believes strength should be used to protect the weaker and wanted my anathema to never allow me to leave someone weaker to die, then I will be more interested in that. You might hate that new anathema, and that doesn't matter because it's my freaking character. My character being forced to have this weird inconsistency because people who aren't me (or part of my gaming group) find it interesting is the stupidest reason for my character to have a limitation that I can imagine.

It doesn't matter what the particular taboo is, playing around a roleplaying restriction is part of roleplaying. I think that if you tried, you could take what is there and make it work for your character. A "personal challenge of strength" doesn't have to be a duel if your character doesn't consider duels true tests of strength. Their preferred demonstration could be arm wrestling, dead lifts, climbing or log carries. You know, actual feats of strength. Why it works the way it does is a puzzle for you to figure out, but it doesn't prevent you from playing that character.


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KingOfAnything wrote:
What is the point of a roleplaying hook if it doesn't cause conflict?

I gave an example replacement hook that also causes conflict, which you of course ignore. I'm not against conflict in my characters, I'm against it being chosen for me.

KingOfAnything wrote:
I think that if you tried, you could take what is there and make it work for your character.

Why would I want to do that instead of just playing the character I want to play the way I want to play it? Why settle for "making it work?"

KingOfAnything wrote:
You can choose to use it to enhance your experience, or you can throw a fit.

This is a false dilemma. I can instead advocate for no mandatory flavor so players like you don't try to tell me how I am allowed to play the game.

As an aside, telling people they're throwing a fit doesn't benefit your position or the discussion in any way. Be better than that.


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Pandora's wrote:
Stone Dog wrote:
For the record, I wasn't talking about the Anethema part. I was talking about the part that seemed to be saying that you couldn't be a character who used big weapons without it.

I'll try to be clearer.

I understand you well enough. I just don't think that there is enough to make the assumptions you are talking about. We know two things about one option and very little about what it does.

The Giant Totem might have many more giantish assumptions about it than just "swings big swords." It might be mainly about throwing large rocks. It might be seeped in archtypical giant things and be completely inappropriate for a Guts-ish style character aside from one line on the abilities list. Maybe the Anathema is or isn't appropriate for somebody who wants to or has been forced to become a giant emulator. It might be a source of creative inspiration along those lines or maybe it really will wind up reading like an albatross around the concepts neck.

I see no real reason so far to assume that if you want to rage and swing bigger weapons that you are stuck with wanting or needing to test your might on command, if that is even how the Anathema is going to work.

Shadow Lodge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8

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We know that druids can take feats from different orders, but are better at the order they start in.

Maybe the same is true of barbarians. You could pick a totem that best fits your character wrt anathema, and then later use a barbarian feat to grab the “use oversized weapons” power from the giant totem.

So your character who eschews tests of strength can still use her big sword, they just aren’t as good at it as the strength obsessed weirdos who follow the giant totem (which makes perfect sense to me).

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