Last Updated on October 28, 2023
In the fantastical world of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, where magic, monsters, and mayhem abound, few characters inspire as much fervor as the Path of the Zealot Barbarian. These fierce warriors possess a conviction that borders on religious, believing that the divine powers of the gods are not only on their side but that even death itself cannot deter them from their righteous path.
This comprehensive guide delves deep into the mechanics, strategies, and character-building options for the Path of the Zealot Barbarian. Whether you’re new to the world of D&D or a seasoned adventurer, this article will provide you with the knowledge you need to create and play a formidable Zealot Barbarian in your next campaign.
Role in the Party
In the grand tapestry of a D&D party, the Zealot Barbarian is the embodiment of unwavering determination and fearlessness. Their conviction drives them to throw themselves into even the most one-sided battles and stand as a bulwark against threats, often placing their own bodies between danger and their comrades. This fervor, rooted in their unshakable faith, makes them a formidable force to reckon with.
What truly sets Zealot Barbarians apart is their ability to endure. These warriors are incredibly difficult to put down permanently, and the conviction that keeps them standing in the face of overwhelming odds is, at times, entirely justified. Let’s explore their unique features and abilities.
Path of the Zealot Features
At 3rd level, Zealot Barbarians tap into the divine power that fuels their rage. Whenever they enter a Rage, they deal an extra 1d6 damage, which scales with their level. This bonus damage is a significant boon, especially when combined with the Barbarian’s innate Rage damage. Moreover, they can choose between two damage types, making them adaptable to various campaign settings.
This feature might seem simple, but the damage output it offers is substantial. It’s an excellent addition to the Zealot’s arsenal, enhancing their combat prowess.
Warrior of the Gods
The divine favor bestowed upon Zealot Barbarians extends even to the afterlife. Any spell that revives a fallen Zealot and has no additional effects incurs no material costs. This is a remarkable ability that can save your party a considerable amount of gold in the long run. However, it’s essential to use it judiciously. Dying in combat and relying on resurrection spells is not an ideal strategy, as it can leave your party in a precarious situation.
At 6th level, Zealot Barbarians can reroll a failed saving throw once per Rage. This seemingly straightforward ability is immensely powerful. It prevents debilitating conditions, like being stunned or dominated, from sidelining the Zealot. The limitation of once per Rage keeps it balanced while providing valuable insurance against potentially fight-ending effects.
Zealot Barbarians can inspire their allies with a battle cry, granting up to 10 creatures Advantage on attack rolls and saving throws with just a bonus action. This ability can turn the tide of battle when used strategically. It’s a versatile tool that can be employed to bolster your allies or protect your party from devastating area-of-effect spells.
Rage Beyond Death
At 14th level, the Zealot Barbarian attains a level of resilience that’s nothing short of supernatural. While Raging, they can continue to act normally even when their hit points reach 0, taking damage but refusing to fall. They still have to make death saving throws, but even if they fail all three, they won’t die unless their Rage ends with them at 0 HP.
This ability is a game-changer. It defies conventional rules, and as long as a Zealot keeps Raging, they are virtually indestructible. Negative hit points do not exist in 5e, so even if they reach a state of 0 HP, healing can quickly bring them back to the fray. Additionally, if an ability would incapacitate the Zealot, they can reroll the saving throw. The cost of resurrection spells is reduced to just the spell slot, making this feature a nightmare for enemies and a lifeline for the party.
The Path of the Zealot Barbarian thrives on simplicity. They excel at charging into battle, dealing heavy blows, and absorbing punishment. These strengths make them quintessential front-line brawlers. Here’s what makes them formidable:
- Bonus Damage: Zealot Barbarians deal extra damage with every hit during a Rage, enhancing their damage output.
- Survivability: With the most substantial hit point pool in the game, decent armor options, damage resistance, and the ability to return from the dead, Zealots are built to endure. Their resilience makes them ideal for absorbing enemy attacks.
- Party Synergy: Zealots shine when supported by a robust party. Companions who can provide healing and resurrection when needed, while also dealing damage and offering support, are essential. Classes like Clerics and Druids complement the Zealot’s abilities, and spellcasters like Wizards and Sorcerers can cast without fear of harming allies.
- Versatile Combat Styles: Zealots can adapt to various melee fighting styles, whether focused on damage, defense with shields, or control with polearms.
- Buffing Allies: As Zealots progress, they gain the capacity to support their allies by granting Advantage on attack rolls and saving throws. This can turn the tide of battles and leave a lasting impression on your adventures.
- Out-of-Combat Skills: Zealots can excel in scouting, trap finding, and even tracking, depending on their skills and proficiencies. They can also contribute to religious and knowledge-related aspects of the campaign.
While the Path of the Zealot is a potent subclass, it does come with some drawbacks:
- Simplicity: The Zealot’s simplicity can be both a strength and a weakness. Some players may find the lack of mechanical complexity less engaging. To address this, consider using Feats and Multiclassing to increase tactical flexibility.
- Limited Ranged Options: Zealots lack ranged combat capabilities, a traditional weakness of the Barbarian class. It’s advisable to carry a ranged weapon to address this limitation.
- Limited Out-of-Combat Choices: Zealots have few skill proficiencies, limited mental stats, and no subclass features for non-combat scenarios. This can limit their effectiveness in situations that require social or investigative skills.
- Mindset: Playing a Zealot can lead to overconfidence. Believing that you can always be resurrected may lead to risky behavior that puts the party in jeopardy. It’s crucial to balance the character’s zeal with a realistic approach to challenging situations.
Best Race Options
Choosing the right race can significantly impact your Zealot Barbarian’s effectiveness. Here are some optimal race choices:
- Half-Orc: Half-Orcs are an excellent choice, offering Darkvision, proficiency in Intimidation, well-rounded ability scores, extra damage on critical hits, and the “Relentless Endurance” feature, which allows you to refuse to die once per day. This race complements the Zealot Barbarian’s abilities exceptionally well.
- Metallic Dragonborn: Metallic Dragonborn provides damage resistance and breath weapons that can be used multiple times per day. These breath weapons can help you clear groups of enemies efficiently, and they require only a single attack roll.
- Scourge Aasimar: Scourge Aasimar offers good stats, Darkvision, two resistances, a cantrip, once-per-day healing, and the ability to deal radiant damage in an area around you, as well as extra radiant damage on one attack. This pairs nicely with the Zealot’s Divine Fury, creating a potent combination of radiant damage.
Choosing the Right Skills
Skills play a crucial role in your character’s versatility and utility. For a Zealot Barbarian, consider the following skills:
- Athletics: A must-have skill for climbing, leaping, and grappling. When Raging, you have Advantage on Athletics checks, making you a formidable physical force.
- Perception: One of the most valuable skills in the game, Perception helps you spot ambushes, traps, and hidden details in the environment. It’s essential for staying alert and informed.
- Survival: An excellent choice for outdoor and wilderness scenarios. It allows you to navigate, track, and forage effectively, fitting the theme of a rugged adventurer.
- Knowledge Skills: Consider skills like Nature or Religion, as they align with the Zealot’s thematic elements. These skills can be helpful for identifying creatures, understanding the natural world, and unraveling religious mysteries.
- Social Skills: Depending on your character’s background and role within the party, social skills like Persuasion, Intimidation, or Insight can be useful for interactions and negotiations.
Feats are an excellent way to further customize your Zealot Barbarian and enhance their capabilities. Here are some feats that work particularly well with this subclass:
- Great Weapon Master: This feat provides a significant damage boost with your chosen weapon. It also allows you to make bonus attacks when you down an opponent. The Zealot’s consistent damage output benefits greatly from this feat, and the Reckless Attack feature helps mitigate its downsides.
- Sentinel: Zealot Barbarians want enemies to focus on them, and the Sentinel feat punishes foes who dare to attack your allies. It also offers extra benefits for opportunity attacks, including the ability to stop foes in their tracks. This feat bolsters your party’s defense and control capabilities.
- Shield Master: Shield Master allows you to use your bonus action to shove your enemies prone with Advantage on Athletics checks. Additionally, it improves your ability to defend yourself with a shield, providing valuable protection in combat.
Your character’s background can add depth to their role-playing and provide useful skills and proficiencies. Consider the following backgrounds for your Zealot Barbarian:
- Sailor: The Sailor background offers proficiency in Athletics and Perception, two skills that align perfectly with the Barbarian’s strengths. Additionally, the ability to pilot a ship and navigate the seas can add interesting flavor to your character’s backstory.
- Folk Hero: Folk Hero provides proficiency in Animal Handling and Survival, two skills that can be valuable for outdoor and wilderness adventures. It also grants proficiency in Artisan’s Tools (Smithing), which complements your martial skills. The background event can be used to explain your character’s faith and heroic deeds.
- City Watch: City Watch grants proficiency in Insight and two additional languages, making your character more adept at understanding others and communicating. It also provides proficiency in Athletics, reinforcing your physical prowess and resilience.
Multiclassing can introduce new abilities and enhance your character’s versatility. Here are some multiclassing options that complement the Path of the Zealot Barbarian:
- Echo Knight Fighter: Multiclassing with the Echo Knight Fighter class allows you to manifest a spectral warrior to aid you in battle. This spectral companion can provide additional attacks, improve your mobility, and enhance your combat effectiveness. The Echo Knight’s features, such as Action Surge and extra attacks, synergize well with the Zealot’s abilities.
- Conquest Paladin: Combining Barbarian ferocity with Paladin conviction, a multiclass into the Conquest Paladin class can be potent. Two levels in Paladin add Divine Smite, which can be used while Raging. Saving your smites for critical hits, especially when combined with Reckless Attack, can lead to substantial damage output. The Conquest subclass also brings valuable abilities like Channel Divinities and bonus to-hit bonuses.
- Peace Cleric: While the thematic dissonance of a “peace” cleric in a Zealot Barbarian might be amusing, a single level in the Peace Cleric class can provide substantial power. The Emboldening Bond ability, which grants a bonus to attack rolls, skill checks, or saving throws, scales with your proficiency bonus and can benefit multiple party members for 10 minutes per use. This bonus persists through your Rage, making it a potent addition to your party’s combat capabilities. Additionally, the Peace Cleric’s spell list offers utility and defensive options.
Embracing the Path of the Zealot
As you embark on your journey as a Zealot Barbarian, it’s essential to fully embrace the role you’ve chosen. To help you make the most of this path, consider the following tips and strategies:
- Rage Management: Your Rage is your most potent tool. Use it judiciously, saving it for moments when you truly need the extra power. Remember that you can Rage multiple times a day, so pacing yourself is key.
- Reckless Attack: Don’t forget to use your Reckless Attack feature when it makes sense. This grants you Advantage on your attack rolls but also allows enemies to attack you with Advantage. It’s a calculated risk, but it enhances your damage output.
- Divine Fury: Make the most of your Divine Fury ability by consistently landing attacks during your Rages. This extra damage can be a game-changer in combat.
- Fanatical Focus: Your Fanatical Focus is a crucial defense against debilitating conditions. Use it strategically to reroll a failed saving throw when it could save you from a dire situation.
- Zealous Presence: Your Zealous Presence ability can turn the tide of battle. Use it to provide your allies with Advantage on attack rolls and saving throws when the situation demands it. This can be particularly effective during challenging encounters or when your party faces powerful foes.
- Rage Beyond Death: When you reach level 14 and gain Rage Beyond Death, remember that you become nearly unkillable while Raging. Don’t be afraid to push the limits, but always ensure that your party can heal or resurrect you if necessary. Your newfound durability can enable bold strategies.
Role-Playing Your Zealot
- Faith and Conviction: Embrace the religious aspect of your character. Develop a backstory that explains your character’s deep connection to the divine and their unwavering faith. Role-play your belief in the gods and the righteous path.
- Conflict and Redemption: Consider incorporating personal conflict into your character’s story. Perhaps your Zealot has a dark past or struggles with inner demons. Use this to add depth to your character and explore themes of redemption and personal growth.
- Party Interaction: Your character’s willingness to stand at the forefront of danger can create interesting dynamics within the party. You might become the protector or mentor to younger, less experienced adventurers. Build relationships with your comrades and be the unwavering shield they can rely on.
- Flavor in Combat: In battle, describe your character’s fervor and dedication. Use vivid language to narrate their attacks, emphasizing the divine nature of their abilities. This adds flavor to combat and makes your character memorable.
- Balancing Zeal: While your Zealot is a fearless warrior, be careful not to let your character’s zeal border on recklessness. Remember that death is a real threat, and overconfidence can lead to perilous situations.
Advancing Your Zealot
As your character advances, consider the following:
- Feats: Continue to enhance your character with Feats that complement your playstyle. Feats like “Tough” can boost your durability, while “Resilient” can improve your saving throws.
- Multiclassing: Explore further multiclassing options to diversify your character’s abilities. Consider classes that can provide unique spells or features that align with your Zealot’s theme. Just be mindful of how multiclassing affects your character’s progression.
- Magic Items: Keep an eye out for magic items that can amplify your strengths. Weapons with additional damage, protective armor, or items that enhance your saving throws can be invaluable.
- Character Growth: Develop your character’s growth and arc. As your Zealot gains experience and overcomes challenges, consider how their faith and beliefs might evolve. Do they become even more zealous or perhaps more tempered and wise?
Remember, the Path of the Zealot is more than just a set of abilities and statistics. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in a role that’s characterized by unwavering faith and resolute determination. Embrace the zeal, protect your party, and stand as a beacon of divine fury on the battlefield.
Would I Recommend Playing a Path of the Zealot Barbarian?
The Path of the Zealot Barbarian is a quintessential embodiment of raw power and unwavering determination in the world of Dungeons & Dragons. These warriors strike fear into their enemies, wielding divine conviction as their weapon and shield. They are simple to build and pilot, making them an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced players.
While the Zealot Barbarian’s simplicity can be a strength, it may leave some players wanting more mechanical complexity. If that’s the case, there are options for increasing tactical flexibility through Feats and Multiclassing.
In summary, the Zealot Barbarian is a compelling character choice, offering a balance of straightforward gameplay and formidable abilities. When you step into the boots of a Zealot, you become an unyielding force of divine wrath, ready to charge into the fray and face any challenge with unwavering faith in your cause. Embrace the call of the gods, and become a true Zealot Barbarian on your next D&D adventure.
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