Pathfinder - Barbarian Rage Powers Breakdown
I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
Temporary Note: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.
Instead of the fighter's feats, Barbarians get Rage Powers. You get a new rage power at every other level, giving you a lot of room to customize your barbarian. The powers only work while raging, but they really add a lot of value to your rage.
* - Totem Rage Powers grant powers in a theme. A barbarian cannot select from more than one group of totem rage powers. For example, a barbarian that selects a beast totem rage power cannot later chose to gain any of the spirit totem rage powers.
** - Blood Rage Powers grant powers in a theme. A barbarian cannot select from more than one group of blood rage powers. A barbarian of any level can take a lesser blood rage power. The middle blood rage power (that without "lesser" or "greater" in the title) can only be taken by a 6th level or higher barbarian that already has the lesser blood rage power of its group. A greater blood rage power can only be taken by a 10th level or higher barbarian that already has the middle blood rage power.
You may combine Totem and Blood Rage Powers.
This guide is for the Vanilla Barbarian. For Unchained Barbarian Rage Powers, see my Unchained Barbarian Rage Powers Breakdown.
Abyssal Blood (Su): If this was more than once per day it would be fantastic. Enlarge Person is an essential buff for nearly all Barbarians, and limiting it to one rage per day really limits your usefulness. This will be totally useless if your Rage Cycle.
Abyssal Blood, Greater (Su): Not a ton of resistance, but it covers several types.
Abyssal Blood, Lesser (Su): Barbarians are typically better off using a two-handed weapon, but you do get to apply your full strength bonus to damage on both attacks, which makes this a great option until you hit BAB +6 and get iterative attacks..
Animal Fury (Ex): Extra attacks are nice, but this won't benefit from a magic weapon, it won't bypass DR, and it doesn't even apply your full strength bonus to damage. Unless you're building a grappler, skip this power.
Auspicious Mark (Su): This is great for failed saves, missed critical hit confirmations, and other high value rolls. Don't use this for damage. Of course, it's a swift action so you can only use it on your own turn.
Battle Roar (Su): Pitifully small damage.
Beast Totem* (Su): This scales at the same levels as power attack, which makes the math easy to remember. AC is a constant problem for barbarians, and this adds a fairly impressive bonus.
Beast Totem, Greater* (Su): This power is absolutely fantastic. Pounce makes melee characters miles better, and Barbarians especially benefit from charging.
Beast Totem, Lesser* (Su): Natural weapons aren't very useful for barbarians, since you will typically be using a two-handed weapon. However, rules as written, you can make a claw attack as a natural attack, use a free action to place your off-hand on your two-handed weapon, and continue your full attack with your weapon. This is a somewhat questionable interpretation of the rules, but if Thunderstriker fighters can exist, then it's technically correct. And that's best kind.
Bestial Climber (Ex): You must be in a very weird fight if you need a climb speed while raging.
Bestial Leaper (Ex): Barbarians don't need Spring Attack, and they don't need this. Grab your weapon, put it in someone's face, and end your charge adjacent to your enemy like a real Barbarian.
Bestial Swimmer (Ex): You must be in a very weird fight if you need a swim speed while raging.
Bleeding Blow (Ex): You can only use powerful blow once per rage, which means you can only use this once per rage. The damage, even with both powers, isn't great.
Boasting Taunt (Ex): Unless you have a way to get free attempts to demoralize a creature, it will be hard to justify this power. Making the target shaken for the duration of your rage is pretty nice, but it doesn't benefit you very much.
Body Bludgeon (Ex): Hillarious, but not very good.
Brawler: If you planned to fight unarmed, you probably took improved unarmed strike.
Brawler, Greater: This lets you two-weapon fight using an unarmed strike as your off-hand weapon. Monks will be jealous of your strength damage, but not much else..
Celestial Blood (Su): Not a lot of resistance, and acid and cold aren't particularly common types.
Celestial Blood, Greater (Su): Ignore the ability/skill check reroll. You can reroll a saving throw. If you can Rage Cycle, that means you can reroll a saving throw every round.
Celestial Blood, Lesser (Su): Situational.
Chaos Totem* (Su): The escape artist bonus will probably never come up, and the resistance to sneak attacks and critical hits isn't very big.
Chaos Totem, Greater* (Su): The DR is fantastic, but remember that DR from multiple sources don't stack.
Chaos Totem, Lesser* (Su): If your campaign features a lot of lawful enemies, the bonuses are pretty nice.
Clear Mind (Ex): Barbarians' biggest weakness is their lousy will saves, but Eater of Magic is considerably better because it applies to a much wider range of abilities.
Come and Get Me (Ex): I hope you have decent dexterity and took Comabt Reflexes. This gives you a potentially huge number of additional attacks.
Crippling Blow (Ex): Ability damage is scary, and the DC to resist this is going to be absurdly high, but it's only usable once per rage, and the ability damage scales very slowly.
Deadly Accuracy (Ex): Barbarians, due to their absurd strength, have slightly higher attack roles than Fighters. With the added bonus to attacks from Surprise Accuracy, you should be so likely to hit that this won't be needed to confirm critical hits.
Disruptive: The disruptive feat is a really fantasic way to lock down enemy spellcasters, and this is one of very few ways to get it without being a fighter.
Draconic Blood (Su): A tiny bit of energy resistance and some natural armor.
Draconic Blood, Greater (Su): The save is decent, but the damage is poor, and you can only use it once per day.
Draconic Blood, Lesser (Su): Barbarians are typically better off using a two-handed weapon, but you do get to apply your full strength bonus to damage on both attacks, which makes this a great option until you hit BAB +6 and get iterative attacks.
Dragon Totem* (Su): Considering you need two previous rage powers and you need to be level 6 to select this totem, it really doesn't give you much.
Dragon Totem Resilience* (Su): The resistances won't be very large because the Barbarian DR doesn't scale very quickly, but you get to add 4 more resistance because you already have Dragon Totem and Dragon Totem Resilience. Even so, the Energy Resistance power is likely better.
Dragon Totem Wings* (Su): By level 10, your party should have enough spellcasting available that someone else can provide you with a means of flight.
Eater of Magic (Su): The temporary hit points are cute, but this would probably be blue just for the free save reroll.
Elemental Blood (Su): 10 resistance is nice, but you need to be raging to use it, so don't get surprised by a fireball.
Elemental Blood, Greater (Su): Did you pick Electricity? Because you probably should have picked Electricity. 60 foot fly while raging is excellent.
Elemental Blood, Lesser (Su): 3 rounds per day won't get you much.
Elemental Rage (Su): Add a free energy effect to your weapon. The d6 damage won't be much compared to your crazy barbarian strength.
Elemental Rage, Greater (Su): Pretend all of your attacks have an elemental burst property.
Elemental Rage, Lesser (Su): Once per rage, you get 1d6 energy damage on an attack.
Energy Absorption (Su): This is garbage. It applies to a single attack, meaning that RAW spells and special abilities like breath weapons (the two biggest sources of energy damage) are excluded, and you can only use this once per rage.
Energy Eruption (Su): Very situational, and the damage won't be very good.
Energy Resistance (Ex): Permanent, scaling energy resistance.
Energy Resistance, Greater (Ex): Once per rage, but it gets considerably better the more times you take Energy Resistance.
Fearless Rage (Ex): Rage gives you a +2 bonus to your will saves, and fear effects are among the least lethal in the game.
Ferocious Mount (Ex): If you are a mounted charger Barbarian, this is a must. Adding rage to your mount gives your mount additional strength to increase its combat maneuver checks to overrun enemies.
Ferocious Mount, Greater (Ex): Add Energy Resistance, claws and natural armor from Beast Totem, etc. to your mount.
Ferocious Trample (Ex): Great for mounted charger Barbarians. Combined with Ferocious Mount, your mount will have fantastic strength, which will make the Trample damage very impressive. Of course, your mount has to make an overrun attempt as a full round action ot use this.
Ferocious Trample, Greater (Ex): This allows you to overrun and use trample as a normal part of a charge or movement, which allows the mount to trample while the barbarian is charging.
Fey Blood (Su): Too situational. Take the Nimble Moves feat instead.
Fey Blood, Greater (Su): Blur is excellent, especially because you can get it so easily, but most Barbarians will be standing and making full attacks on most of their turns.
Fey Blood, Lesser (Su): You have to crit, then they get a save, then they might still act normally because Confused is a garbage status effect.
Fiend Totem* (Su): The effect is cool, but the damage is too small for enemies to really care about it.
Fiend Totem, Greater* (Su): If most of your enemies are good, and you tend to fight mobs of enemies, this can be fairly effective. The damage still isn't fantastic, but it makes people shaken with no save.
Fiend Totem, Lesser* (Su): Extra attacks are nice, but this won't benefit from a magic weapon, it won't bypass DR, and it doesn't even apply your full strength bonus to damage while you're making other (likely better) attacks.
Fierce Fortitude (Ex): Disease and Poison become very common at high levels, and a +4 bonus against both is a good supplement to the Barbarian's already formidable Fortitude saves.
Flesh Wound (Ex): By level 10 damage rolls will far exceed your fortitude saves, which will make this incredibly difficult to use. The armor check penalty to the save just adds insult to injury.
Ghost Rager (Su): The bonuses are nice, but highly situational.
Good for What Ails You (Ex): Most of those effects aren't problematic enough to justify taking a power.
Ground Breaker (Ex): This is flashy and exciting, and can be very helpful for preventing enemies from moving out of your reach without drawing attacks of opportunity. However, it won't be a go-to option.
Ground Breaker, Greater (Ex): Increasing the effect of groundbreaker is great, but the use of Ground Breaker is situational enough that it's hard to justify devoting this many resources to it.
Guarded Life (Ex): One of the scariest situations for a Barbarian is falling unconcious while raging. The sudden loss of constitution is often enough to kill the barbarian. This will offset half of the suddenly missing hit points, which may be enough to save your life.
Guarded Life, Greater (Ex): Now when you fall unconcious while raging, as long as the attack didn't already kill you, your won't die from it.
Guarded Stance (Ex): There are better ways to get a bonus to AC which won't cut into your murder time.
Hive Totem* (Su): Highly situational.
Hive Totem Resilience* (Su): The damage resistance is highly situational, and the bonus to grapple is mediocre.
Hive Totem Toxicity* (Su): The poison scales really well, and the poison damage is impressive, but the three powers leading up to this are all terrible.
Hurling (Ex): As lesser hurling, but the barbarian can increase the range increment to 20 feet or increase the size of a hurled object by one size category. A barbarian must have the lesser hurling rage power to select this rage power. A barbarian must be at least 8th level to select this rage power.
Hurling, Greater (Ex): Even when throwing a Huge object for 6d6, or Gargantuan (you will need Enlarge person) for 10d6, your damage for charging is likely better. Plus, good luck finding something this large to throw around.
Hurling, Lesser (Ex): With such a small range increment, you would do much better by charging. Plus, the enemy gets a reflex save to avoid some of the damage.
Hurling Charge (Ex): Basically you get to throw a weapon part way through your charge. This supplements you damage a little bit, but making this useful requires devoting feats and resources to ranged combat.
Increased Damage Reduction (Ex): More DR never hurts, but 1 more point won't do a lot.
Infernal Blood (Su): Situational.
Infernal Blood, Greater (Su): Situational.
Infernal Blood, Lesser (Su): 3 rounds per day won't get you much.
Inspire Ferocity (Ex): This might be a good use for your surprise round since you can't charge, but most players probably don't want to sacrifice AC for attack bonus for a full combat. Without barbarian hit points to fall back on, I can't really blame them. The duration is determined by your Charisma, which you probably dumped.
Internal Fortitude (Ex): Sickened and Nauseated are very rare.
Intimidating Glare (Ex): This is considerably better than intimidating as a Standard action. If you really want to demoralize a foe, this will allow you to intimidate and attack in the same round, or intimidate twice. Unfortunately, the duration is tied to your Charisma, which you probably dumped
Knockback (Ex): This is useful for getting enemies away from weak allies, or for preventing enemies from full attack. It may also be helpful to set up the target to be charged on the following round. It's only usable once per range, which considerably limits the utility.
Knockdown (Ex): This is considerably better for Barbarians than improved trip. You only get it once per rage, but it's useful for enemies with a lot of AC..
Lethal Accuracy (Ex): This is hard to justify considering how infrequently it will come up. You need to use surprise accuracy, roll a critical threat, (30% chance with a keen falchion), and then manage to confirm the crit. You have a 30% chance per rage to maybe get the benefits of this power.
Linnorm Death Curse, Cairn (Su): Amusing and flavorful, but useless when you're actually trying to kill someone. Plus, you need to be knocked unconscious to trigger the effect.
Linnorm Death Curse, Crag (Su): Amusing, but you need to be knocked unconscious to trigger the effect.
Linnorm Death Curse, Fjord (Su): Amusing, but you need to be knocked unconscious to trigger the effect. Even then, this is really only useful underwater.
Linnorm Death Curse, Ice (Su): Amusing, but you need to be knocked unconscious to trigger the effect.
Linnorm Death Curse, Taiga (Su): Amusing, but you need to be knocked unconscious to trigger the effect.
Linnorm Death Curse, Tarn (Su): Amusing, but you need to be knocked unconscious to trigger the effect.
Linnorm Death Curse, Tor (Su): Amusing, but you need to be knocked unconscious to trigger the effect. Permanently staggering the target is easily the best of the Linnorm curses, but even a staggered target can kill you while you're unconcious.
Liquid Courage (Ex): To charge bonus, you have to spend precious rage rounds spending a standard action to drink. If you took the Drunken Brute archetype, this shoots up to green.
Low-Light Vision (Ex): Nice, but situational.
Mighty Swing (Ex): Your critical hits will be devastating. Your attack bonus should be high enough that you can confirm reliably, but it's nice to be absolutely certain once per rage.
Moment of Clarity (Ex): Once you can rage cycle at level 17 (no more fatigue from rage, so you can start and stop rages every round), this means that you can permanently remove the penalties for raging. Until then, this is garbage.
Night Vision (Ex): Nice, but situational. Few fights will take place in the dark.
No Escape (Ex): Hillarious and good, but situational.
Overbearing Advance (Ex): Good for shoving past your enemies' front line to reach their squishy allies at the rear.
Overbearing Onslaught (Ex): If there are enough enemies in the way that you need to overrun several of them, you should probably stop to kill a few of them.
Perfect Clarity (Ex): Highly situational.
Powerful Blow (Ex): The damage doesn't scale quickly, and you can only apply the bonus once per rage.
Primal Scent (Ex): Tracking while raging doesn't happen. It takes too long. Locating invisible creatures is helpful, but highly situational, and there are plenty of other ways to find invisible creatures.
Quick Reflexes (Ex): Take Combat Reflexes instead.
Raging Climber (Ex): Highly situational.
Raging Flier (Su): Interesting, and great if you can Rage Cycle, but you probably need a more reliable source of flight.
Raging Leaper (Ex): Highly situational, but jumping is required for some charge mechanics. In such a case, this might be green or even blue.
Raging Swimmer (Ex): Highly situational.
Reckless Abandon (Ex): This offsets your penalty to attack rolls from power attack. Your AC is going to be truly awful, but you're going to hit everything, and you're going to hit everything very hard.
Reflexive Dodge (Ex): I assume that the power only applies to the dodge bonus from Rolling Dodge. Otherwise, things like the Dodge feat would apply, and that would be silly. If you need reflex save bonuses this bad, take Lightning Reflexes.
Regenerative Vigor (Ex): Fast healing is very nice, and this functionally makes you immune to ongoing bleed effects. However, this only activates after you waste a standard action on Renewed Vigor. It also stops working if you rage cycle, which makes this useless at high levels.
Renewed Life (Ex): Highly situational. If you are getting enough negative levels to justify this power, your DM is using too many negative levels.
Renewed Vigor (Ex): The amount of healing can very easily be replaced with a potion or two. At high levels where a potion of Cure Light Wounds won't keep up, you should have several much better healing options.
Renewed Vitality (Ex): Ability damage is a good way to weaken a barbarian, and many enemies use it. However, this requires to powers to get, and is situational. Have someone in the party carry a few scrolls of lesser restoration if you are this worried about ability damage.
Roaring Drunk (Ex): To charge bonus, you have to spend precious rage rounds spending a standard action to drink. If you took the Drunken Brute archetype, this still only goes up to orange.
Rolling Dodge (Ex): The bonus is situational, using this costs a move action, it scales very poorly, and it only lasts for a few rounds.
Roused Anger (Ex): This lets you rage cycle once for free, which resets all of your once-per-rage powers. Keep in mind that being exhausted will really cut into your murdering, so make sure you have enough rage rounds left to get you through the rest of the fight.
Scent (Ex): Finding invisible foes is a pain, and this is a great way to do it without dumping a ton of ranks into Perception.
Sharpened Accuracy (Ex): Surprise Accuracy is bad, and this would be situational even if you could use it more than once per rage.
Smasher (Ex): If you care about sundering, you should be using an adamantine weapon.
Spell Sunder (Su): This is situational, hard to do reliably, and the DC is awful. Even against squishy casters, it's going to be hard to reliably beat their CMD by 10 to dispel a single effect. Oh, and it only affects a single effect.
Spellbreaker: When raging, the barbarian gains Spellbreaker as a bonus feat. A barbarian must have the disruptive rage power and be at least 12th level to select this rage power.
Spirit Steed (Su): For mounted charger barbarians, this is essential starting in mid levels when enemies start having DR. Your mount's trample attacks won't be very helpful if they can't bypass DR.
Spirit Totem* (Su): You will need to use a reach weapon to keep this useful, but a percentage miss chance is pretty great when your AC is as low as it typically is for a Barbarian.
Spirit Totem, Greater* (Su): By this level, that amount of damage is laughable.
Spirit Totem, Lesser* (Su): What Barbarian has enough Charisma to make this useful? Even if you had 20 charisma, this would stop being good after about level 5.
Sprint (Ex): Highly situational, and your speed is already impressive.
Staggering Drunk (Ex): To charge bonus, you have to spend precious rage rounds spending a standard action to drink. If you took the Drunken Brute archetype, this shoots up to green.
Strength Surge (Ex): This opens up a lot of combat maneuver options with a fairly minimal investment of resources. If you are already good at combat maneuvers (and every barbarian is), this can make your maneuvers do crazy things like bull rush people 30 feet off of a building.
Sunder Enchantment (Su): Highly situational. It can be very powerful if you focus heavily on sundering.
Superstition (Ex): Spells make up a huge portion of the things you will save against over the course of your career, which makes this a very good option. However, not being able to be the willing recipient of magical healing is very dangerous. The bonus is a Morale bonus, so it won't stack with the saving throw bonus from Rage.
Surprise Accuracy (Ex): It's unfortunate that this can only be used once per rage, but it's great to use with your opening charge.
Swift Foot (Ex): Fleet is better. This enhancement bonus won't stack with items or spells.
Terrifying Howl (Ex): The DC will be very, very high, and panicking all of the enemies in a fight makes a fight very easy.
Ultimate Clarity (Su): Useless unless you can Rage Cycle, and you need two really bad Rage powers as prerequisites.
Undead Blood (Su): Situational.
Undead Blood, Greater (Su): Situational
Undead Blood, Lesser (Su): Making the target Shaken with no save is pretty great, and the duration is decent, but because you can't stack it with other fear effects like you usually can, this isn't very useful.
Unexpected Strike (Ex): It's only usable once per rage, but that's one free attack once per rage.
Witch Hunter (Ex): Situational, and it scales slowly.
World Serpent Totem* (Su): Very situational bonus, and it scales very poorly.
World Serpent Spirit* (Su): This helps to bypass the DR of many outsiders, but it is still veri situational.
World Serpent Totem Unity* (Su): Highly situational.