New DnD playtest injects Barbarian with a vital dose of fun

The newly released DnD playtest makes the Barbarian class far more interesting, thanks to a versatile new ability called Brutal Strike.

DnD barbarian - MTG art of Garruk Wildspeaker

In the new DnD playtest the Barbarian is looking buff. Sorry, has been buffed, that should say. Dungeons and Dragons’ angry attacker has been given some new attention in a playtest released on November 27, and the class looks all the better for it.

A common criticism levelled against Wizards of the Coast’s previous version of the 5e Barbarian was that the Brutal Critical feature was a lackluster reward for a DnD level up. A flat damage upgrade to critical hits didn’t feel spectacular enough, and further improving this feature seemed like a waste of three level up slots for the barb. Extra damage on 1/20th of your hits just doesn’t feel that great, no matter how high the numbers go.

It seems Wizards of the Coast took that point on board, as Brutal Critical has been entirely replaced in the latest document. It’s now been swapped for Brutal Strike, which works a lot like the 5e Rogue’s Cunning Strike feature. It lets the Barbarian forego the roll advantage granted by its Reckless Strike to deal extra damage and pull off a range of tactical options.

At level 9, you can use Brutal Strike to push an enemy 15 feet or reduce their speed by 15 feet. At level 13 you can give a boost to the next attack against the enemy you just hit, or give your target disadvantage on its next saving throw and stop it taking opportunity attacks. By level 17, you can use two of these effects at once.

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One of the key things Wizards of the Coast looks to be trying to do with its playtest is make martial DnD classes more interesting. Now Fighters have their Weapon Masteries and Barbarians have their Brutal Strikes. DnD Monks have always had a versatile moveset, but the latest playtest gives them a major buff to their resource management.

To put it in simplest terms, the aim seems to be to avoid a situation where the Wizard 5e has all kinds of exciting options crackling at their fingertips, while the martial class’ turn boils down to “I hit it with my sword again”.

We believe this is the last big DnD playtest for the Players’ Handbook, and are hoping to see content for the other DnD books – Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide stuff – in the New Year. As for what else is in the brand new playtest, we’ve spotted several intriguing changes to DnD spells – from improvements to healing to a brutal new summon spell.