Among dwarves, there are those whose hearts are gripped by rage. These people, known as Kuldjargh, are brutal worshippers of the gods of war. Introduced in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, Battleragers wear a new set of armor, the spiked armor, to dominate their foes. They are designed to be an overwhelming force, slamming their opponents with a massive weapon, and then body slamming them. By giving themself fully to their rage, the Battlerager is successful in bringing hateful retribution to a fight. But, that’s all conceptual. How does the Battlerager perform in an adventuring party? Check out our Battlerager 5E guide to find out!
The Armored Juggernaut: Battlerager 5E
I won’t lie; the Battlerager isn’t exactly the most stellar option a Barbarian can choose. The Battlerager’s lore and first ability focuses on using spiked armor offensively… But spiked armor is weak, only granting 14 + Max 2 Dex AC, rather than the 15 of Half Plate. And it gives disadvantage on Stealth. Then, after your first ability, your other 3 path features are bad. Consider this as a multiclassing option, if you only plan on getting 3-5 levels in Barb.
Race Restrictions: The Battlerager is traditionally a Dwarf, and standard Forgotten Realm settings will restrict you. Talk to your DM if the Battlerager path was passed on to your character, and see if they will allow it.
The level 3 ability of the battlerager is, in my opinion, the only good one. And it’s actually very solid!
While you are wearing spiked armor and are raging, you can use a bonus action to make one melee weapon attack with your armor spikes at a target within 5 feet of you. If the attack hits, the spikes deal 1d4 piercing damage. You use your Strength modifier for the attack and damage rolls.
Additionally, when you use the Attack action to grapple a creature, the target takes 3 piercing damage if your grapple check succeeds.
This ability actually does quite a bit for you. First of all, you are now able to spend your bonus action. Bonus actions are rare for barbarians, and almost universally belong to your Path ability. This one deals damage, which is admittedly a bit small; 1d4 piercing isn’t a lot. But, you get to apply your Strength modifier to attack and damage. That means your spiked armor gets the Rage bonus to damage. That’s really nice! However, without DM intervention, you will likely not get enchantment bonuses to attack and damage rolls.
The other benefit is for grappling, which… cool? Grappling is a pretty niche option in 5E. It doesn’t do much more than keep a character in place for a short time. It also requires empty hands, something a barbarian doesn’t necessarily want to have. But, when you grapple, you stab them for 3 damage, which is actually great. It gives you a reason to attempt to lock someone down, rather than basically doing nothing with an attack.
The most important part is the first, since it lets the Barbarian two-weapon fight without needing to multiclass. That’s huge for the Rage bonus to damage, something that a Barbarian can rarely double-up. However, since it’s linked to rage, it’s actually still not amazing. You can only use this while raging, limiting how long you can use this per day. At least, when raging, this is a fantastic benefit.
And… that’s it. Nowhere to go but down from here.
Admittedly, this next ability is fine. It’s not fantastic, it’s not garbage. It’s just here.
Beginning at 6th level, when you use Reckless Attack while raging, you also gain temporary hit points equal to your Constitution modifier (minimum of 1). They vanish if any of them are left when your rage ends.
Gaining another reason to use Reckless Attack is amazing. It’s a pretty great benefit for a Barbarian by default; you getting advantage on an attack is usually totally worth getting advantage against you. Barbarians have crazy health and damage resistances, after all! You’ll likely be able to tank hits without care. And since you have 16 AC from your spiked armor… you’re gonna get hit a lot.
Now, whenever you use this ability, you also get an overshield equal to your Constitution modifier. It’s good, really. If your Constitution is at 3 (or even 2), this will still buff your Health a lot. In a big combat, you’re almost guaranteed to get hit whenever you Reckless Attack, so this temp HP barrier will reduce how much pain you take.
Of course, since it is rather small, it will likely not do much against late-game blasting spells. A disintegrate doesn’t care about 5 extra health. But, at least in general mook combats, you won’t ever have to care about not Reckless Attacking in a turn. Still, be careful if you’re in a fight with rogues; that’ll always hurt!
Now, we’re going to start to see the problems with this subclass. This is your level 10 ability, around where other archetypes are getting important utility skills.
Beginning at 10th level, you can take the Dash action as a bonus action while you are raging.
And… you get a gimped Cunning Action… at level 10.
What a joke. The bright sides are minor; you’re going to get into combat faster, which will allow you to deal with enemies a little bit faster, without using your Standard to dash. That’s good! The problem is you can only do so while raging. To start a rage, you need to use your Bonus action. So, in the first round of a big fight, you rage… And then use your Standard action to dash.
So when can you use this ability? Your opponent would need to run away from you after you’ve already advanced on them in combat. It is very possible for an opponent to outrun you; dwarves have 25 movement speed, so there’s a chance they scoot out of your range. This will let you continue to catch up to them, even after they get out of there.
But now your Bonus Actions are conflicting; you have the Battlerager Armor ability. Obviously, swinging an enchanted greataxe is much better than spiked armor stabs. But, you can’t both Battlerager Charge and spiked armor in the same round. That’s rather unfortunate, admittedly. You have to ignore the (nearly) entire class feature for one or the other. At least Battlerager Armor couldn’t be easily replaced by magic items to increase move speed.
Your final ability is rather lame too, though it at least doesn’t take up your Bonus Action.
Starting at 14th level, when a creature within 5 feet of you hits you with a melee attack, the attacker takes 3 piercing damage if you are raging, aren’t incapacitated, and are wearing spiked armor.
Ugh, do the spikes grow longer when you rage? Why does this only happen while raging? Gosh darn it, you gain 0 benefits outside of raging, even though this could have been!
I’m getting ahead of myself; Spiked Retribution isn’t flashy or powerful, but it is useful. In the mid-late game, you will have many, many creatures with multiattack. And they will likely target your 16-19 AC self, with advantage. So now, whenever they deal damage to you, they also get reflected on for 3 damage.
3 damage doesn’t sound like a lot… because it isn’t. But, damage is damage, and extra attacks will add up fast. For example, if a 17th level fighter hits you 4 times, they take 12 damage, and you have resistance to their hits. That stings a lot! You won’t out-DPS someone with purely Spiked Retribution, but it’s free damage without a save. It’ll add up.
However, compared to some other reflect-damage attacks… This ability is pretty mediocre. A shame.
Best Races for Battlerager
Of course, you’re likely a dwarf if you’re playing a Battlerager. If your DM allows you to spread your wings, then you get a few options. Strength is critical, as is Constitution. You really need to spend time in medium armor constantly, so no races with abilities that don’t work in medium armor. If you have free points left over, Dexterity is important to get your AC to maximum, then Wisdom to prevent enemies from taking over your mind.
Best Dwarf Option for Battlerager
Out of all of the dwarf options, the Mountain Dwarf is clearly the best. Mountain Dwarves are rare amongst 5E races; +2 Strength, +2 Constitution. Wow! That’s a lot of stats right off the bat. Unfortunately, the mountain dwarf’s default proficiencies in armor are wasted, but… Mountain Dwarves rarely get to benefit from that. Dwarves get darkvision, resistances against poison effects, get proficiency with a set of artisan’s tools, and knowledge of stone. A bunch of unique utility options that really make a dwarf shine!
Honorable Mention: Hill Dwarf
A Hill Dwarf replaces the stats and armor resistance of the Mountain Dwarf for tanking stats. Hill Dwarves get +2 Constitution, +1 Wisdom; much worse! However, they gain 1 more max HP per level. If you’re really worried about your relatively low AC, then go for the Hill Dwarf instead!
Best Non-Dwarf Option for Battlerager
Ravenite Dragonborn, from the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, are the most vicious of the dragonborn. Kept as slaves for generations, they are just breaking out, and will fight their hearts out. They keep the breath weapon of their dragonborn ancestry, but replace the Charismatic stats of a Dragonborn for +2 Strength, +1 Con. Perfect. Now, instead of additional resistances, the Ravenite gains Vengeful Assault, allowing you to hit someone who just hit you once per rest. A brutal reaction! It’s an attack of opportunity… Against melee attacks! Really good for when you spam Reckless Attack! Though, you won’t have advantage on that reaction.
Conclusion – Our Take on the Battlerager
The Battlerager is disappointing. It has good abilities; decent damage with the bodyslam, good durability with temp HP. But, the Barbarian doesn’t need damage or durability (not really, at least!). And the fact that the features that give you those buffs don’t help you too much outside of the realms of damage or tanking is bad. It’s also one of the most reliant on rage, giving you 0 things to do while not raging. The Battlerager is cute, and can be good for flavor. But, it’s not a great archetype. Don’t let us stop you from taking it, but please consider other path options that might deal more damage or be a better tank.
I appreciate this review, I think this is the counterpart to the original Bladesinger Wizard subclass. This is sad because at least that got fixed in Tasha’s, while this one got forgotten due to lack of popularity. I think the subclass leans heavily into the constitution of dwarves, you’d be expected to have high con as a dwarf and be freaking hard to kill. The weird armour versus AC issue is dumb though as even DND Beyond just overrides the armour’s AC, (as a dex 14 Con 20 Barb would have 17 AC), so maybe RAI it is meant to use natural armour AC. Lastly, in my head I imagine that the original reason to have the armour spikes count is that whebn raging the barbarian fills out the leather armour better. If you couldn’t tell, I love the flavour of this subclass, but it needs to get fixed in a similar manner to the Bladesinger and Beast Master subclasses and i’m saddened it wasn’t.
Between Tasha’s and MotM, Wizards have dropped the ball on subclasses and races, following only the popular opinion.