July 31, 2017


Primal Path
Comments from the Finger: Though barbearians are barbearic, you're bearly a barbearian if you don't have your bearings in every situation. A barbearian should be able to survive any unbearable situation, even if it means walking bearfoot and living on nuts and bearies.
     I'm beary sorry for that. I'm actually quite embearassed.

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Also, our new book, Men and Monsters, drops on Patreon TONIGHT. Wanna play a teddy bear barbearian? You absolutely can.

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Path of the Bear

To a barbarian, totems symbolize primal strengths and virtues to which the mighty should aspire. Some barbarians, however, embrace but one aspect of a totem, a single totem animal, to act as their singular inspiration and guide. This represents an abandonment of totemic virtue and a complete embrace of animal nature. In the depths of their primal rage, these barbarians even manifest traits of their chosen beast, becoming one with the totems animal.
     The spirit of the bear symbolizes strength and resolve, and a determination to protect one's loved ones. Barbarians who form a special connection to this spirit are called bear warriors, and develop a stocky build, grow a preponderance of hair, and normally tower above other men. In battle, by channeling their connection to the bear spirit, a bear warrior actually transforms into a bear while they fight.

Grizzly Transformation 
Starting at 3rd level, when you enter a rage, you can become a fearsome bear for the duration of your rage. You automatically revert to your normal form if your rage ends, if you fall unconscious, drop to 0 hit points, or die.
     At 3rd level, you can transform into a black bear, at 6th level, you can transform into a brown bear, and at 10th level, you can transform into a polar bear.
     While you are transformed, the following rules apply:
  • Your game statistics are replaced by the bear's statistics, but you retain your alignment, personality, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. You also retain your AC, Strength, and Constitution scores, if they would be higher than the bear's.
  • You also retain all of your skill and saving throw proficiencies, in addition to gaining the bear's Perception proficiency, if it has one. Use your own proficiency bonus.
  • When you transform, you assume the bear's hit points and hit dice. When you revert to your normal form, you return to the number of hit points you had before you transformed. However, if you revert as a result of dropping to 0 hit points, any excess damage carries over to your normal form. 
  • You retain the damage resistances from raging and rage bonus damage while in your bear form. You also retain the benefit of any other features from your class, race, or other source and can use them if your bear form is physically capable of doing so. However, you can't use any of your Special senses, such as Darkvision.
  • Your equipment merges into your new form and has no effect until you leave the form.

At 6th level, you sleep like a rock. When you take a long rest, you regain all expended hit dice, instead of half of them.

Bare Necessities 
By 10th level, like the bear, you are hearty and resilient, requiring neither protection nor shelter. You never suffer levels of exhaustion or any other penalty for enduring the elements. In addition, you need half the amount of food and water as other members of your race to survive.
     Lastly, you have advantage on Constitution saving throws you make against being exhausted.

Starting at 14th level, while you're raging, if you hit a creature with two weapon attacks on your turn, the target takes an additional 2d8 damage.

Changelog: 8/1/17: Grizzly Transformation: You no longer end rage when knocked out of your bear form, no longer 1/long rest, bear forms progress faster; brown at 7th 6th, polar at 10th, multiattack is 3 attacks at 10th
8/3/17: You retain your own armor class while transformed
9/17/17: Grizzly Transformation: 10th level multiattack removed, you can keep your Str and Con scores, if they're higher


  1. I did something similar with a Lion! Clever and funny. I like it.

  2. I remember this being an early optimised 5e build (multiclass druid, barbarian).
    I played one very briefly.

    1. It was also a 3.5 prestige class called Bear Warrior. Sadly, it did not have enough puns -- this is an attempt to remedy that.

  3. I followed the path of the wolf singularly

  4. So at level 9, once a long rest you can get essentially 38 hit points if you're getting attacked with normal weapons, but only 19 hit points against any spells. Seems unplayably weak, no? Especially since if you're in fight with a spell caster and you want to go bear form, you basically have to spend two rages (using two bonus actions) to do your job since your rage ends when you come out of bear form. So if you get hit with a fireball or some other piddly spell (piddly in terms of a 9th level spell caster) you lose your big, crazy, variant defining ability until another long rest, and now you have to rage again.

    Aside from that, since there's no buffs to the bear form, this level 9 character is going to use his variant defining ability... to turn into a level 3 beast master ranger’s pet.

    1. I'm open to removing the "rage ends" when your bear form is reduced to 0 HP, but let's talk about your points first:

      Like a druid, transforming into an animal essentially gives you that animal's HP as temp HP -- with a black bear, that's 19 free temp HP, which still has damage resistance applied on top of it, for a total of 34 temp HP against most attacks. That's hardly weak -- it's free additional hit points you can pull out of thin air, making it objectively more tanky than other barbarian paths in most situations. Plus, you're toting the bear's Extra Attack and rage bonus damage to even out DPR numbers while you're raging, so you won't be suffering too much in combat.

      And I'm not sure why you use 9th level as an example -- at 10th level, your ability upgrades. In fact, this is about as close as we can get to the druid's wildshape CR for CR 1 creatures limit while still keeping the upgrade on a barbarian archetype level.

  5. Let me start out by saying that the Bear Warrior is my favorite prestige class from 3.5, so the theme of this variant really speaks to me. Which is probably why I’m the most upset by the end result you have here. There are many things that need to change for this class variant to make it viable. I would definitely start with removing the "rage ends" part as you've basically made a Barbarian that burns through rages at twice the speed of other variants.

    Let's start with the Black Bear form (levels 3-9):
    Your attack roll is a +3. I'm sure that I don't need to say more than that, but I will anyways. In your above comment you talked about the damage-dealing benefits of the bear's multiattack alongside the Barbarian's Extra Attack feature that the class receives at level 5. I see your point that it's slightly better than what you see on the stat sheet for a Black Bear, but that's about all I can give you. When the Path of the Berserker from the PHB (one that you guys have made even better in a previous post) gets the same number of attacks (or more, with your update) it's not a valid argument. And on top of that, the Berserker's attacks all use his/her weapon and any accompanying bonuses such as +1 magic or Great Weapon Mastery. Here's an example of the two variants AVERAGE damage output at level 9. I chose level 9 (as I'm sure Twisted did as well) because it represents the lowest point on a "character viability scale" when compared to other variants. Basically it’s the saddest time in a Bearbarian’s existence:

    Bear Barb:
    to hit: +3
    damage: 2d4+4 + 1d6+4 + 2d4+4 = 25.5
    bear multi attack (claw, bite) + extra attack (claw)

    Berserker Barb (your redux):
    to hit: +10
    damage: 8d6+32 = 60
    +1 magic greatsword + two bonus action attacks

    Berserker Barb (your redux):
    to hit: +5
    damage: 8d6+72 = 100
    great weapon mastery + +1 magic greatsword + two bonus action attacks

    Now I understand what you're saying about what amounts to a decent temp HP boost, albeit an unchanging one from levels 3-9. But having anywhere from 19-38 additional HP doesn’t seem like much at all when compared to the 2-4x damage output listed above or the resistance to all damage types except for Psychic that a Bear Totem Warrior gives you.

    My suggestion for making this class better (and making that awesome bit of artwork you have on your pdf make sense) is allow the Bearbarian to transform into a Hybrid form that keeps all of their weapons, armor, and magic items instead of just full bear form. Determine a way where you could still utilize the bite attack as part of your multiattack (that uses your strength and your proficiency bonuses) and still keep the HP boost of the form. I feel like this would improve the Bearbarian’s combat efficiency while still maintaining the survivability and cool flavor that you’re hoping to provide. They also shouldn’t come out of this form until their rage ends and should be able to enter the form during each rage instead of just once per day.

    So the benefits are: +19 current and maximum HP, Access to all weapons, armor, and items held or worn at the time of raging, a 1d6+Strength bite attack, and a cool looking rage form.

    This would also give you a good point to play test from and alter the HP boost, bite attack, etc. for balancing purposes.

  6. ...wouldn't let me post my full comment.

    Now let’s look at the Brown Bear form (levels 10-13):
    There’s a slight leveling off to the downward trend of this variant when you get to a form that at least has 20 strength and almost twice as much HP, but the attack and damage output are still really low by comparison to other variants. The same ideas that I stated above would still apply here where it’s a hybrid Brown Bear that keeps the added 34 HP from the form, but I’d move the level that the Bearbarian acquires the feature to level 7 instead of 10. This would allow for better scaling.

    Polar Bear form (levels 14-20):
    I would move this up to level 10 instead of 14 after shifting Brown Bear to level 7. Hybrid Polar Bear form with the 1d8+Strength bite attack and 42 bonus HP.

    Then it would be cool to have a Dire Bear form that the Bearbarian acquires at level 14. Something with perhaps 50 bonus HP and a 1d10+Strength bite attack.

    Again, at the very least what you could have here is a good starting point for play testing with many options to tweak instead of just “Here’s what you get because it’s in the Monster Manual.” The flavor of the variant is really cool, but I feel like what you wrote needs a lot of TLC.

    1. Thanks for the super in-depth comment!

      Let's dig into details: I'll be pulling the rage-ending early, and 1/long rest limitation, for starters. I also agree with your suggestion to push brown bear back to 7th level, and polar bear back to 10th. Let's discuss things like damage and so forth before we go in further.

      If we compare this against a beserker, the damage should be lower -- no barbarian should attempt to eclipse a berserker when it comes to flat DPR numbers. I'm happy with offering black bear until 7th, since it'll only be outpaced by Extra Attack at levels 5 and 6. I'd prefer this class offer more temp HP tanking in bear form than sheer high damage numbers -- after all, it's not an accident that it pulls its mechanics from the druid.

      That being said, I only realized tonight that I made a mistake when laying this class out: I thought that the brown bear and polar bear got three attacks per round. The solution I'm going to roll with (for now) is to offer Multiattack (x3) at 10th level when transformed into a bear to massage the damage numbers a bit.

      Unfortunately, I have to pass on a hybrid form for this barbarian -- we've played that card with the Path of the Fin already, and I hate to start repeating ourselves too much.

    2. Why brown at level 7 and not 6? Barbarians get an archetype feature at 6th level, and those are the levels when those features also improve (usually).

    3. Oh, simple answer -- I got my levels mixed up. That'll be fixed promptly.

    4. I feel like even with the sustained rage and times per day improvements, the player is still being punished by turning into one of these bears. Your AC is 11, 11, 12 in Black, Brown, and Polar bear forms (respectively). Also your attack rolls are +3, +5, and +7 in those forms as well. Imagine being a level 20 Barbarian with up to 24 Strength and Constitution, most likely a +3 two-handed weapon, anywhere from 17-20 AC (if your Dex is high enough), and some decent saving throws. I then Rage and get dropped to 20 Strength, 10 Dex, 16 Con, 12 AC, and +7 attack rolls to do either 1d8+5 or 2d6+5 damage with my attacks (if they hit). I just gotta roll up into a fight, rage, and try to get people to hit me enough so that I can come out of Bear form and actually be effective in combat.

  7. shame on mfov for making me think there were a bunch of monstrous subclasses in men and monsters! although i did love all the races

  8. I love the concept and would love to use it, but there are a couple of things that are confusing. Is the Barbarian changing into bear form only or at some point do they gain the ability to change into a hybrid/werebear form like that shown in the picture so that they can use weapons? Also, what is the point of the 6th level ability "hibernation"? It seems kind of pointless to me.

    1. Hibernation basically means you can use more hit dice at a given time, since you recover them more quickly. Normally, you only recover half of your hit dice when you take a long rest, so that's strictly beneficial.

      Also, I should genuinely switch the picture, since you're turning into an actual bear.

  9. Is it the intent that the bear form retains its multiattack action? If so, how does that work with the barbarian's level 5 extra attack feature? Do I get two multiattacks (for a total of four possible hits?)

    Also, if the untransformed barbarian wields a shield, should that be factored into armor class for the bear form?

  10. It took me a while to notice this subclass, but thanks a million MFoV, I'd been wanting something like this for quite some time.

    That being said, I tried this subclass out on a 4th level campaign, and found it rather lack luster.

    I was curious to see how it compared to other subclasses, so I did what I always do, and overdid it.

    I make a document thoroughly comparing the Bar"bear"ian to the PHB berserker, the results were... interesting.

    Link (Google Docs):

    I learned that the Bar"bear"ian was statistically worse than other subclasses from level 1-9. It dealt less damage than even a barbarian with no subclass while only getting a modest amount of temp HP and some minor non-combat abilities.

    Then when level 10 hit the bar"bear"ian went from sub-par to GODLIKE, outdamaging even the berserker in raw damage, while now gaining a hefty 42 HP every rage. The Berserker later caught up in damage at level 14, but held the lead by only a few points.

    At level 20, I expected the Bar"bear"ian to get thoroughly stomped due to not benefiting from "Primal champion", However the Bar"bear"ian still did a significant amount of damage, and due to having unlimited rages, he gained unlimited transformations, in other words, unlimited life.

    Conclusion: The Bar"bear"ian has some incredibly wonky scaling. At levels 1-9 it's a mediocre at best subclass. But, at levels 10+ the Bar"bear"ian is an absolute BEAST.

    I may have sounded harsh in my analysis, but I do love this subclass, it's my favorite one to be put out by MFoV.

    I do have a suggested solution to the problem:

    Change the transformation rules to state that the Bar"bear"ian would retain his normal Str, Dex, and Con. scores should they be higher than the creature's.

    This would mean that the bar"bear"ian wouldn't fall too far behind the others damage from level 1-9. and would allow the bar"bear"ian to maintain his higher saves.

    And also, I'd recommend removing the ability to attack 3 times at level 10.

    This would keep the bar"bear"ian from utterly dominating at levels 10+, while still maintaining decent damage.

    I hope I was able to help if only a little, thank you again for making this.

    I apologize for the long post. <3

    1. No problem for a long post -- I ran the numbers, and I like your solution a lot. It retains the idea of becoming a bear (which one of Moz's solutions above, removed, IIRC) and it definitely makes the damage curve mroe even. Changes incoming!

    2. I'm glad I was able help, thanks again for all your great content! :)

  11. I ran the numbers for the recommended solution, it actually works out quite well.

    Here's the new damage numbers per level:


    This makes the progression much smoother, it's more powerful at the beginning and not overwhelming at level 10+

    At levels 3-5 the bar"bear"ian sits just below the subclassless barbarian. At levels 6-20 the Bar"bear"ian stands above the classless barbarian's damage, but sits well below the berserker, as it should

    Thanks again for this subclass <3