Xanathar’s Guide to Everything was an extremely experimental time in 5E’s history. As expected, there are just a ton of weird and awesome options for any class. The Zealot is one of them. As a Zealot, the Barbarian combines the rage of their blood with the fury of the gods. You might be blessed by a specific god, or simply guided on your path by a holy presence. Either way, your presence on the battlefield causes the entire world to tremor whenever you step, speak, or strike. Does that make you a good Barbarian? Or are you nothing more than an angry Paladin outside of your heavy armor? Check out this Zealot Barbarian 5E guide to find out!
The Holy Marauder: Zealot Barbarian 5E
The Zealot is an incredibly interesting option for a Primal Path. It offers one extra way to deal damage, and then spins off into a pseudo-support role. You’re supposed to die for your party, quite literally. And then, you’re incredibly hard to put down permanently, with abilities that keep you going. That allows you to give buffs and ignore magic for a long period of time.
To start, you gain a tiny little burst of damage once per round.
Starting when you choose this path at 3rd level, you can channel divine fury into your weapon strikes. While you’re raging, the first creature you hit on each of your turns with a weapon attack takes extra damage equal to 1d6 + half your barbarian level. The extra damage is necrotic or radiant; you choose the type of damage when you gain this feature.
Good news, this damage is completely free. No bonus action, no calling out which attack will use it. You just get 1d6+10 extra damage (at level 20) to throw onto your greatsword or whatever weapon you prefer. That’s not an insignificant amount of damage, and scales… fine with your level.
The damage isn’t great, honestly. A few other archetypes offer ways to swing your weapon again during rage, which amounts to higher damage in general. You actually don’t get any way to spend your bonus action (other than rage, of course). If you want to try a Two-Weapon Fighting Barbarian, this might be one of the best choices for you.
Just land your attacks, and get some extra damage. Necrotic and radiant damage are fairly similar, but radiant tends to be just a bit better in general. If you’re in an evil campaign, necrotic makes much more sense. But otherwise, more things resist necrotic than radiant. If your god is evil or good, then you might just want to choose the corresponding damage type instead.
Warrior of the Gods
This is one of the few Barbarian archetypes that get two things at level 3, which is why Divine Fury does relatively low damage.
At 3rd level, your soul is marked for endless battle. If a spell, such as raise dead, has the sole effect of restoring you to life (but not undeath), the caster doesn’t need material components to cast the spell on you.
You aren’t going down easy!
Considering the fact that you’re a raging barbarian, you usually don’t spend much time at 0 health. You have a massive pool of health, damage resistances, movement speed… you don’t die easy.
However, you’re also a huge tank. You want to take as much damage as possible, and if that ends up killing you, your soul is worth 0 gold. Which happens to be a good thing here!
This may mean you’ll want to create characters that lock enemies down near you. You’ll also want to deal a lot of damage so enemies want to mess you up. Pretty hard to do! Use Rage during important fights to make enemies target you, and hopefully your death will not be in vain.
However, do remember that revival spells don’t start for a few levels! This ability is wonderful, but your casters won’t be able to make use of it until level 7 or 9. Just try and stay alive until then… Or you’ll be revived as a level 3 Barbarian! That’s not fun!
That’s not the only defensive ability you get… Not by a long shot! You also get some great anti-spell defenses!
Starting at 6th level, the divine power that fuels your rage can protect you. If you fail a saving throw while you’re raging, you can reroll it, and you must use the new roll. You can use this ability only once per rage
This is actually pretty fantastic! Once per rage (so up to 6 times per day, while rage is limited), you get to reroll a failed save. This is better than advantage, since it only procs after you’ve already failed. So you get to save this until you’re hit by a spell or an effect that you know is gonna suck.
Because you’re a Barbarian, one of the most devastating saving throws you can be targeted by is Wisdom. Hold Person prevents you from being able to advance on enemies, and guarantees that you get critically hit. If you get targeted by Calm Emotions, then you drop your rage! Try to use this ability on the first save that you can, but remember how important it is to stop these dangerous spell effects from landing.
At level 10, you’re starting to actively become closer and closer to a divine class. Unlike most divine classes… this effect is stupidly hard to time!
At 10th level, you learn to channel divine power to inspire zealotry in others. As a bonus action, you unleash a battle cry infused with divine energy. Up to ten other creatures of your choice within 60 feet of you that can hear you gain advantage on attack rolls and saving throws until the start of your next turn.
Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.
Really potent effect, right? A full turn on advantage on everything? Well… you only get to do this once per day!
Rogues and Monks alike love getting advantage on their full round, since it heavily boosts the chance that they get hits. Since you have a full round, even Fighters can benefit! Casters are slightly less impacted by this. However, if your Wizard picked up Disintegrate, this almost guarantees it to land (although, this doesn’t give enemies disadvantage on saving throws, and legendary creatures can render it useless!).
If you’re extremely scary, then magic is the best way to remove you from the fight. By giving everyone advantage, you can prevent spells like Dominate Person, or Banishment, from outing a specific influential damage dealer.
But… it’s only for one round. So, what rounds are the best for this effect? Well, if you’re wanting to absolutely dunk on a boss, Turn 1 is pretty solid. You and your party get to move in, deal a bunch of damage, and resist the enemy’s spells to get you off of them. This doesn’t work all of the time, however; Auril, a goddess that you battle in the new Frostmaiden adventure path, has three phases. You’d want to use Zealous Presence During her second form, which has the best possible crowd-control to prevent people from moving. You’d probably want to use this the first round that she transforms, however, to keep her from dealing too much damage.
Rage beyond Death
The final ability that you get is absolutely insane. Your rage goes beyond death.
Beginning at 14th level, the divine power that fuels your rage allows you to shrug off fatal blows.
While you’re raging, having 0 hit points doesn’t knock you unconscious. You still must make death saving throws, and you suffer the normal effects of taking damage while at 0 hit points. However, if you would die due to failing death saving throws, you don’t die until your rage ends, and you die then only if you still have 0 hit points.
This transforms your character. Instead of having a health bar, you have a time limit. Imagine that! You simply have up to a minute before you actually need to worry about dying. Rage becomes the amount of time before your character shuffles off the mortal coil. And that means your Cleric can spend a full minute on doing other things before using a Healing Word.
This ability is crazy good, and it gets better the less of a jerk your DM is. Theoretically, this ability doesn’t matter if your DM locks you away, or simply has the character run away from you and deal with your other, less invincible allies. However, if the enemies don’t know about your ability to ignore death… Why wouldn’t they try to stop you? You’re a gosh darn juggernaut!
This ability takes away no actions. You lose nothing while you’re at 0 hit points. You can still take bonus actions, standard actions, reactions, moves. What’s more, you can be just as effective when you’re supposed to be completely dead, as you are when you’re at full health. That’s insane!
Unfortunately, this isn’t permanent invincibility. You die the moment your rage ends, so you can’t just start a new rage once your previous one naturally ends. In addition, Barbarians (that don’t Multiclass to fighter or Paladin) don’t have a way to heal themselves. At least one healer will have to be alive if you want to survive the end of your Rage. Hopefully, you’ll only need to use this ability when you are dying, rather than your entire party.
Best Races for Zealots
Zealots want Strength and Constitution, the same as every other Barbarian. Dexterity can boost your AC, and Wisdom can prevent awful penalties like Dominate in the lategame.
This is a flavor-heavy choice from Volo’s Guide to Monsters. An angry fallen angel makes a lot of sense to be a Zealot, even though the stats don’t make sense. +2 Charisma is useless, but +1 Strength is great. You get Darkvision, damage resistances, are able to cast the light cantrip, and can frighten enemies. The only significant upside is the Healing Hands ability, allowing you to heal yourself after a Rage Beyond Death. Or get a cleric out of unconsciousness so they can heal you (or revive you, if you die right after). This is a really good choice if you’re interested in the flavor of a zealous angel.
The Mystic Odysseys of Theros (or Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica) introduced playable Centaurs. These centaurs have 40 ft movement speed, +2 Strength, and +1 Wisdom; perfection! If that wasn’t enough, they get a free skill proficiency, a Hoof natural attack… and, if they move 30 feet towards someone, they can lash out with those hooves as a bonus action! That’s a lot of potential damage, and uses your bonus actions during rage especially well.
We had to talk about these somewhere! Humans are perfect in every single role of the game. If you can, select the Variant Human feature. That way, you can boost Strength and Constitution by 1 – more than enough for a Barbarian to start. Then, you get your choice of a feat. There are a ton of feats that will help you out. Great Weapon Master turns you into a volatile force of nature with a -5 to hit and +10 to damage. Sentinel will keep enemies near you so you can beat them up, and so they feel inclined to beat you up. Resilient can give you proficiency in Wisdom saves to help resist the worst of magics. There’s a ton of options to choose from, and… Zealots need that extra hand to be the best tank they can be!
Conclusion – Our Take on the Zealot Barbarian
Zealot is a fine, durable archetype. The only problem is that it doesn’t do much to keep your allies alive; only yourself. Sure, you can buff a bit, but you need a bit of outside help if you’re going to be the party’s tank. Still, if you want to deal good damage while being impossible to put down permanently, the Zealot has got to be your pick.