What is the mechanical point of the animal instinct barbarian?


Advice


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Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

What is the mechanical point of the animal instinct barbarian? The two stronger instincts, dragon and giant, give some significant boosts to a barbarian's damage output. But all the animal instinct does is entitle a barbarian to use... weapons that are a smidge worse than most martial two-handed weapons, while also locking a barbarian out of auxiliary weapons? At best, that is a sidegrade, when other instincts are actual upgrades.

The only thing this accomplishes is cater to people who really, really want to play an unarmed barbarian, without giving an actual mechanical edge. It would be relevant in those once-in-a-blue-moon "no weapons" scenarios, and that is about it, really.

I could potentially see some merit to grapple barbarian builds, though those have a non-negligible opportunity cost, and not all of the animal attacks are attached to grapples. Some are simply flat-out worse than regular weapons (e.g. bull vs. maul, wolf vs. scythe). And what is this about only frogs and deers gaining extra upgrades from the specialization ability?

I cannot see how this is supposed to be on par with the plain, simple, and effective upgrades from dragon and giant. I am also comparing the baseline package; the baseline needs to be good, because feats come from a selectable pool of (ideally) balanced options. Animal Skin at 6th is decent, but is it that much better than other 6th-level barbarian feats?

Compare a 1st-level bull barbarian to a 1st-level dragon barbarian with a maul, for example. The latter has a very similar weapon profile, but deals 3 more damage with each hit, and that is non-negligible.


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A player wants to play a totemic rager/barbarian warrior that can shapeshift into an animal. This gives them the mechanics to do so.

That seems to be the point.


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Surely there should be a strong mechanical incentive to do so, as opposed to lagging behind in the damage department compared to dragon and giant?


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They have the best resistance, to slashing and piercing, that are the type of damage that you basically always see.

Most of the attacks are d10 with good property with it, weapons on this dice category are the ones that use your two hands, this Instinct keeps your hands free and later they become d12.

They have the option to not take the -1AC from raging.

Predator Pounce is a one action move+strike, very useful.

Not having to use armor means that you can just use a towel as explorer cloth and show your specs.


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The resistance to slashing and piercing comes at 9th. Other instincts receive their own resistances, though animal's is a bit better.

The damage die improves, but that is part of the specialization ability, whereas dragon and giant are getting their own improvements to raw damage.

The baseline, the raw package from 1st to 5th, needs to be good, with its own strong and unique edge over the other instincts, or else the animal instinct is simply playing catch-up.


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Dragon if you increase the damage while raging the damage is the same than the dragon, meaning that is pretty easy for that damage be reduced to zero.

Giant gives clumsy, meaning even lower AC and reflex saves.

Not having a weapon means that Animal Instinct don't have to draw a weapon at the start of battle either, potentially gaining 1 action advantage over the other Instincts.


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Quite a few of the Animal Barbarian natural weapons have the Grapple Trait, which allows Ape, Shark, and Snake Instinct Barbarians to add the item bonus from their handwraps of mighty strikes to their grapple attempts, which makes them pretty good at wrasslin'.

Also, Frog Instinct Barbarians can get a melee weapon (their tongue) with 15 foot reach, which is kind of funny.


They cannot disarm you. I admit, the damage difference seems unnecessary, but still. Not to mention that animal instinct feats give some pretty nice bonuses.

On the other hand, yeah, some of the weapons seem Silly. Why does Deers Antlers do less damage but with same number of traits as Bull Horns?


MC into monk and at lvl 10 you can flurry with your unarmed attacks gained from animal totem


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Acid damage is generally a safe pick for the dragon instinct.

You are generally going to have your weapon out anyway, short of an ambush. So that is where the animal instinct has one edge.

Grappling is just about the only potentially worthwhile niche I can see here, but not all of the animals are grapplers.

Some of the animal instinct feats give nice bonuses, but they are competing with equivalent feats, while still at a worse baseline.

The baseline has benefits, but they come across as narrow and certainly not on par with reliable, consistent, additional offense. It is better to have something dependable and generally useful in a wide variety of circumstances (e.g. an appreciable chunk of damage output at the start) than a "silver bullet" for niche scenarios. The animal totem, if anything, restricts auxiliary weapons.

Monk Dedication at 2nd and Monk's Flurry at 10th is a good idea, though.


One thing also to note about the animal instinct is when you are raging your animal granted attacks are morph attacks so they are treated as magical weapons. That is pretty useful early on before you are likely to get access to actual magical weapons. So useful for going against things that may be highly resistant/immune to normal weaponry.


Isn't the Animal Barbarian the only thing that can get the Grapple tag on an attack?


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Is a magic weapon not a 2nd-level item?


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Ventnor wrote:

Quite a few of the Animal Barbarian natural weapons have the Grapple Trait, which allows Ape, Shark, and Snake Instinct Barbarians to add the item bonus from their handwraps of mighty strikes to their grapple attempts, which makes them pretty good at wrasslin'.

Also, Frog Instinct Barbarians can get a melee weapon (their tongue) with 15 foot reach, which is kind of funny.

Frog barbarians can lick anybody in a fight.


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Getting expert defense proficiency at 6th rather than 13th, while negating the rage AC penalty isn't bad either. You might even do better than armor wearers for a few levels.
PF1 never really managed to do the "naked barbarian" thing well enough, this does.

A single action alternative to Sudden Charge has its uses too. It's not sufficient to justify the instinct on its own, but a single stride is often good enough.

Beyond that, it has shape shifting and totemic flavors, which does matter, and seems like a decent choice for someone looking for grapples or trips.
Damage is indeed lower that the others, but those others have their own downsides : clumsiness, elemental damage, etc.
All in all it doesn't seem to be in that bad a spot. I quite like it.


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it's the most mobile, and by far, of the Barbarians.

first of all they have a "one hander" that deals equal damage to two-handers. So that means you basically use a twohander+a shield.

They have the ONLY "grappling" weapons that i can think of, so maybe the highest grapple modifier in the game.

they have access to both 1 action 2 attacks (at level 10 from monk mc) and to a 1 action move+attack (that's basiclaly free action on the first round of combat)

and they don't need to spend an action at start of combat to draw/put hand on weapon.

That allows for some amazing battlefield mobility+damage.


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Saying this again since only one other person has said this, you can use a shield. That's a big deal. Combined with the other AC upgrades this is EASILY the most defensive Barbarian Totem, and if I understand correctly can get AC matching a heavy armor Fighter while raging and beats any other class besides Champion and maybe Monk in AC. And this is while still having Rage temp HP and 12+Con HP per level.

Considering the fact that these animal weapons let you use one or both hands for other things, it's honestly pretty unfair to compare them to two handed weapons. And many of the animal weapons absolutely outdo martial one handed weapons. Not every Barbarian swings a d10 Greataxe, regardless of how cool they are.

So major tankiness while still being hecking strong and having some of the best one handed weapons in the game? Sounds pretty good to me.


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Animal Skin is competing with other 6th-level class feats, which can be fairly good.

Sudden Charge is dominant among 1st-level barbarian class feats. A barbarian likely wants to pick it up anyway. Predator's Pounce is a 12th-level feat; it has some stiff competition, like an actual fly speed, which is no joke for mobility.

The one-handed weapon dealing equal damage to two-handers is a bit of an illusion; the damage is coming out of the allotment for improved damage from specialization abilities.

Grappling and the monk multiclass are about the biggest actual mechanical incentives. But not every animal has the grapple trait, and not all barbarians multiclass into monk.

Shields come at a cost of an action each round. Champions and fighters have benefits to sweeten the deal, but barbarians do not. That action can go towards many purposes, like establishing flanks, breaking enemy flanks, attacking a flat-footed enemy, and so on.


Colette Brunel wrote:

Animal Skin is competing with other 6th-level class feats, which can be fairly good.

Sudden Charge is dominant among 1st-level barbarian class feats. A barbarian likely wants to pick it up anyway. Predator's Pounce is a 12th-level feat; it has some stiff competition, like an actual fly speed, which is no joke for mobility.

The one-handed weapon dealing equal damage to two-handers is a bit of an illusion; the damage is coming out of the allotment for improved damage from specialization abilities.

Grappling and the monk multiclass are about the biggest actual mechanical incentives. But not every animal has the grapple trait, and not all barbarians multiclass into monk.

no reason to go for sudden charge with animal barbarian.

free "quick draw", 1 action move+strike or 1 action 2 strikes, +shield, +the best barbarian AC, +grab or Reach if you want.

those are the benefits.

You can't say they aren't mechanical benefits, because, well, they are. It fills the niche of the savage totem warrior and offers mechanics that compliment that.


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Sudden Charge is a 1st-level class feat, as opposed to a 12th-level class feat that is competing with flight.

If a dragon or giant barbarian wants reach, there are reach polearms that deal d10s for damage.


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Colette Brunel wrote:

Sudden Charge is a 1st-level class feat, as opposed to a 12th-level class feat that is competing with flight.

If a dragon or giant barbarian wants reach, there are reach polearms that deal d10s for damage.

Flight is distinctively different than the mobility of 1 action pounce. One offers MORE mobility, the other offers different FORMS of movement.

in short, one allows you to bypass obstacles and hit fliers, the other allows you to gain 1 free stride each and every round. They are definitely not comparable in usage.

As for Getting d10 weapon with reach, sure you can, but again, they are two-handers and that means you lose the shield.

btw it's an oxymoron to simultaneously say "they get less damage from specialization AND it's not d12 one-hander because the extra damage is from specialization"

It's either one or the other.

plus, even without specialization, you can go for a d10 from the get go. Tough to find a one-hander doing d10s.

Animal offers, in the end, +12 damage + greater die, which is +4 average on 4dices, so +16.
dragon offers in the end... +16

and that still doesn't adress all the other benefits like best grapple mod in the game, free quick draw, and best barbarian AC.


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I would say that flight is a significantly more substantial benefit at the higher levels.

The shield is not so important for a barbarian.

You are miscalculating this.

Animal vs. dragon.
At 1st level, it is a d10 weapon with 2 extra rage damage, versus a d12 weapon (or a d10 weapon with reach) with 4 extra rage damage.
At 7th level, it is a d12 weapon with 5 extra rage damage, versus a d12 weapon with 8 extra rage damage.

There is still some lag here, as you can see.


Colette Brunel wrote:

I would say that flight is a significantly more substantial benefit at the higher levels.

The shield is not so important for a barbarian.

You are miscalculating this.

Animal vs. dragon.
At 1st level, it is a d10 weapon with 2 extra rage damage, versus a d12 weapon (or a d10 weapon with reach) with 4 extra rage damage.
At 7th level, it is a d12 weapon with 5 extra rage damage, versus a d12 weapon with 8 extra rage damage.

There is still some lag here, as you can see.

how is +2 ac and free hp not important for a Barb that basically relies on HP to tank? It's both extra HP for his main role AND makes up for the lost AC from rage.

and again, yes, your math checks out, you are comparing a one hander to a two hander though.

Animal is the defensive option of the barbarian (shield+more Ac from animal skin is +3/+4 AC which is quite the substantial difference)

My "math" was really simple: i checked the max bonus of dragon rage: +16 vs the max bonus of animal rage +12 +die upgrade.

Both add +16 damage, one can use whatever weapon he wants, the other uses a d10 one-hander basically. Those seems pretty comparable to me.


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The one-hander's die upgrade is not as big as an advantage as it seems, because it starts off as a worse weapon compared to d12 weapons, or d10 reach weapons.

It is not exactly free AC. A shield takes an action to raise, and Animal Companion has its own competition from other good barbarian feats at 6th-level.

The issue, as I see it, is a poor baseline for the animal instinct. Its other offerings are fine, but its 1st to 5th level package is poor, so any upgrades it gains are atop a below-average baseline.


Colette Brunel wrote:

The one-hander's die upgrade is not as big as an advantage as it seems, because it starts off as a worse weapon compared to d12 weapons, or d10 reach weapons.

It is not exactly free AC. A shield takes an action to raise, and Animal Companion has its own competition from other good barbarian feats at 6th-level.

The issue, as I see it, is a poor baseline for the animal instinct. Its other offerings are fine, but its 1st to 5th level package is poor, so any upgrades it gains are atop a below-average baseline.

what are you talking about?

it starts as the very best one hander in the game.

again, you're comparing apples to oranges if you're comparing a one hander to a two hander.

You want to do a fair "comparisson" arm your dragon barbarian with a one hander and see how it goes.

Dragon deals 1d8+4 vs 1d10+2 and at specialization it becomes 1d8+8 vs 1d12+5. It's actually just 1 point difference. I'd hardly call that a big difference.

You can't simply ignore the fact that one uses a shield alongside his weapon and the other isn't because it doesn't fit your narrative.

As for "other good feats" that will always be the case in any level, that doesn't say anything. The other instincts can't pick up this option, that is exclusive to the Animal barbarian.


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Colette Brunel wrote:
If a dragon or giant barbarian wants reach, there are reach polearms that deal d10s for damage.

Aren't giant barbarians fundamentally about having absurd amounts of reach? Like every giant barbarian should be rocking 20' reach at higher levels (thought I still like using a polearm so I can spend my level 14 feat on whirlwind strike.)


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The shield really is not so key to the barbarian here. It gives diminishing returns to this class due to the way Raise a Shield works. It works well for other class builds, but for a barbarian, it is just not that stellar.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
Colette Brunel wrote:
If a dragon or giant barbarian wants reach, there are reach polearms that deal d10s for damage.
Aren't giant barbarians fundamentally about having absurd amounts of reach? Like every giant barbarian should be rocking 20' reach at higher levels (thought I still like using a polearm so I can spend my level 14 feat on whirlwind strike.)

Whirlwind Strike with 15-20' reach is getting pretty close to "attack everything everywhere at no MAP", isn't it? Especially if you have a source of haste or the like so you can stride first for optimal positioning.


It sort of feels like the instinct one most in need of justification is the spirit one anyway. It has the worst feat support and the worst raging resistance at least.

I admit to skimming the dragon one since "dragon barbarian" holds no interest for me personally. It's the one I read and think "this one is for other people who would enjoy it more."


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Also, the original question is "What is the mechanical point of the Animal Instinct?"

The mechanical point is defense and mobility perks and getting a better offense with 1 or 0 hands than any other Barbarian.

What part of that is unclear?


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Except this is not a poorly designed feature. Nor are so many things in PF2 that people have been saying are.


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GameDesignerDM wrote:
Except this is not a poorly designed feature. Nor are so many things in PF2 that people have been saying are.

This. I feel like a lot more of the toxic side of PF1 has leaked into the PF2 forums than is desirable.

Honestly, barring the weird stuff with Unarmed and off-class proficiencies scaling in ways that I don't think work right (to the point I honestly feel like there must have been some mis-estimation or something I'm missing, because as it seems to be it absolutely does not fit the rest of what Paizo has done with PF2) I have yet to see any actual serious design issues with PF2. Little things here and there maybe, but small potatoes really.


Colette Brunel wrote:
Surely there should be a strong mechanical incentive to do so, as opposed to lagging behind in the damage department compared to dragon and giant?

Both dragon and giant are a very specific niche. If it doesn't fit your character, they're useless.


Edge93 wrote:

Also, the original question is "What is the mechanical point of the Animal Instinct?"

The mechanical point is defense and mobility perks and getting a better offense with 1 or 0 hands than any other Barbarian.

What part of that is unclear?

And its a defensive mode that still gives you damage that is not far behind the more offensive oriented barbarians. I can see animal barbarians being a really amazing squishy protector. With their grapple bonuses and durability They can get into tanking position and then hold their opponents there. Given the lessened amounts of attacks of opportunity a tank who can force an opponent to stay in melee range may be very nice.

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Colette Brunel wrote:

What is the mechanical point of the animal instinct barbarian? The two stronger instincts, dragon and giant, give some significant boosts to a barbarian's damage output. But all the animal instinct does is entitle a barbarian to use... weapons that are a smidge worse than most martial two-handed weapons, while also locking a barbarian out of auxiliary weapons? At best, that is a sidegrade, when other instincts are actual upgrades.

The only thing this accomplishes is cater to people who really, really want to play an unarmed barbarian, without giving an actual mechanical edge. It would be relevant in those once-in-a-blue-moon "no weapons" scenarios, and that is about it, really.

I could potentially see some merit to grapple barbarian builds, though those have a non-negligible opportunity cost, and not all of the animal attacks are attached to grapples. Some are simply flat-out worse than regular weapons (e.g. bull vs. maul, wolf vs. scythe). And what is this about only frogs and deers gaining extra upgrades from the specialization ability?

I cannot see how this is supposed to be on par with the plain, simple, and effective upgrades from dragon and giant. I am also comparing the baseline package; the baseline needs to be good, because feats come from a selectable pool of (ideally) balanced options. Animal Skin at 6th is decent, but is it that much better than other 6th-level barbarian feats?

Compare a 1st-level bull barbarian to a 1st-level dragon barbarian with a maul, for example. The latter has a very similar weapon profile, but deals 3 more damage with each hit, and that is non-negligible.

for me it seems to be a way to play a shifter/were type character ..also ape barbarians would be a whoot in a bar fight :)


"Colette Brunel wrote:


You are generally going to have your weapon out anyway, short of an ambush. So that is where the animal instinct has one edge.

Circling back to this, you will if you fight 1-handed, not if you fight 2 handed. Unless the front line barbarian isn't the one who opens doors I suppose. It take 1 action to grip the 2-handed weapon at the start of a fight, or 1 action to draw a weapon if you have 2 weapons or weapon+shield. And 1 action to rage regardless. Animal Barbarians get a baseline ability that combines rage and 'drawing' their weapons, which gives them an advantage in any setting where they must open doors.

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I have removed some posts. Different people play the games in different ways. None of those ways are more right than others. There's no need to attack others for having different play styles. The OP asked for a discussion on mechanics, so lets talk about mechanics instead of whether or not they are playing the game correctly.


PossibleCabbage wrote:

It sort of feels like the instinct one most in need of justification is the spirit one anyway. It has the worst feat support and the worst raging resistance at least.

I admit to skimming the dragon one since "dragon barbarian" holds no interest for me personally. It's the one I read and think "this one is for other people who would enjoy it more."

Dragon is pretty exceptional except when it isn't. I'd have a very difficult time justifying picking a red dragon because the moment you come up against any sort of immunity your level 20 Barbarian is getting as much bonus rage damage as a level 1 Barbarian. IMO there should be a feat that allows you to ignore the immunity of dragons of your type, it's weird how the instinct supports getting your powers from really hating red dragons only for you to suck at fighting them.

I'm more interested in blue dragons anyways, and anything that gives Flight to a martial is very sexy.

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