Tonight is the start of something very special, the first of our monthly class archetype articles. Around the turn of the new year I decided to challenge myself with two new articles each month. The first of these articles would be a re-skinning article and the second would be to build a new subclass for fifth edition. In order to do this I asked Twitter to vote in a few polls. The results gave me some topics from which to work and last month saw our very first re-skinning article. Just a couple weeks ago we had our second which featured dinosaur druids. But today is our first subclass article if you don’t count the winter warlock Christmas special. As voted on by the folks on Twitter, we begin with a barbarian path of the wendigo!!
Where To Begin
Before we get into the actual mechanics of this new subclass we should probably talk about how I developed the idea. Initially it was just the name that sounded like it could create something pretty cool and it seems like those who voted agree. So in order to figure out what to do I began by looking at the different versions of wendigo in both D&D and Pathfinder. Despite quite a few differences in the various editions, especially when it comes to lore, there’s plenty that remains similar in key to what the wendigo is as a monster. Whether we’re talking spirit, elemental, or demon, the wendigo is a fearsome beast that cannibalizes its victims. Of all the abilities and aspects of the creature this brutality, especially when it comes to barbarians, is certainly what should be our focus.
So from there I took a look at the various barbarian subclasses that already exist. Even in the Player’s Handbook where there are only two paths are burying gets a pretty wider range of abilities. Their base abilities focus on rage and strength, of course. One of the builds boosts this while the other one has a range of more utilitarian features. The other paths that had been developed since the release of fifth edition maintained and deadly brutality of the barbarian but in a wide variety of ways. In order to make the path of the wendigo, I’m going to continue on this tradition and hopefully create some abilities that synergize with the barbarian and make him perhaps a little bit frightening.
Below are the rough drafts of the path of the wendigo abilities. Keep in mind that none of these have been played tested and are only roughly balanced. Your response and input will be greatly appreciated in making sure a future version does the idea of this path justice.
Aspect of the Wendigo
Starting when you choose this path at third level, you take on the countenance of the dark creature whose path you follow. Whenever you are raging your fingernails extended into a razor sharp claws and you gain an unarmed attack that you are proficient in. The damage for this attack begins at 1d6 and it increases by one die type at sixth, 11th, and 16th levels (1d8, 1d10, 1d12). In addition all the hair on your body turns white and thickens, granting the resistance to cold damage.
Scent of Blood
Beginning its sixth level, you gain the ability to sniff out and track the blood of a target you have wounded. Choose a creature that you have dealt damage to in the past 5 minutes. For 1 hour you had advantage on all survival ability checks to track that target. In addition, you may teleport up to 100 feet to an empty space adjacent the target that you can see. You may then use a reaction to perform a melee attack on the subjects of your scent of blood ability.
Feast of Flesh
By 10th level, the aspect of the wendigo has grown within you. You gain razor sharp fangs and a bite attack, whenever you are raging. The damage for your bite attack is equal to 1d8. This increases to 1d10 at 15th level. Whenever you hit with this attack, you would heal for an amount equal to damage dealt plus your barbarian level.
Howl of the Damned
Starting at 14th level, whenever you were hit with an attack, you may you is your reaction to unleash an unearthly howl. Each creature within 5 feet of you must make a wisdom saving throw or great you advantage on attacks against them until the end of your next turn. In addition, your next feast of flesh attack deals double damage against a target affected by your howl.This ability may be used a number of times per day equal to your Constitution modifier.
Instead of leaving you off with only the abilities of this path, I want to take a moment to talk about some of the thoughts I had while creating it. First my focus here is to give the barbarian a bestial almost fiendish appearance. In addition I wanted to focus on the wendigo’s obsession with the consumption of flesh. To make this useful in a class I thought that providing a bite attack that healed the barbarian would be a great way to exemplify this. I also fought that a utility ability to track a running target could be both frightening and useful. Finally, I often think of winter, tundra like wilderness been eerily silent except for the wind. At least until the moment you hear a distant howl and I wanted to play on that with the final feature.
That being said, I am unsure if 10th level is too late for the bite attack or if the bite attack healing is too weak to be useful. I also don’t want it to be unbalanced. Of course path of the totem warrior that focuses on the bare totem has an early rage that effectively allows you to take half damage from everything. If you have any ideas about the balance of feast of flesh, and whether or not the damage is too high or too low, or perhaps should be a more limited use ability, please let me know. If you think I’ve missed out on anything a wendigo following barbarian would have, I would love to hear about it in the comments below. Any input is helpful.
Next month the subclass being built is that of a hag coven wizard. I think there’s a lot of potential and a crazy amount of options to that I could go with. If you have any ideas for the subclass with things you’d like to see it feature please let me know and the comments below!