Introduction

The Path of the Zealot Barbarian is about being a reckless bruiser, diving into the fray without a care in the world. Playing one is a careful balance of pushing out more damage without being too much of a burden on your party. Don’t go bleeding your healing resources dry without reason because, make no mistake, you are no tank, just a heavy damage dealer that will not stop. So unleash your (un-)holy rage upon your foes and follow the Path of the Zealot in the name of [insert deity of choice here]!

While Zealots only have one feature for damage, Divine Fury, this feature scales well with Barbarian levels. Attacking twice with Reckless Attack, if we’re following fundamental math, we will apply that damage 98.5% of the time, 87% with Great Weapon Master. Features like Fanatical Focus and Rage Beyond Death, instead of directly increasing damage, make it nigh impossible to halt a Zealot’s rage.

By far the oddest feature of the Zealot is the Warrior of the Gods. The reward for devotion is to stay away from the gods as long as possible, freely called back to the life that one may never have to know the peaceful rest of death. Quite humorous, but also quite useful. If victory can be obtained through recklessness, then the price of victory may be as little as a 3rd-level spell slot, given an ally knows Revivify of course.

Our example build, the Starbarian, doesn’t do anything too fancy. The most radical departure from a typical barbarian is that we’ve chosen Astral Elf as the race because the flavor is too good. Astral Elves are elves that went to space to get closer to their gods, so of course a Zealot Barbarian is a great fit. Aside from the fun racial choice, we’ve got an approachable build that doesn’t have to make broad strategic decisions in most combat encounters. Divine Fury just automatically works while Raging and Astral Elves’ Starlight Step gives some fun tactical options in combat allowing for some really approachable hack and slash meat grinder fun.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Path of the Zealot Features

  1. Divine Fury: A whole bunch of bonus damage, and the damage type options are really good. You only get to use this once one each of your turns (you can’t use it outside of your own turn), so if you’re using Reckless Attack you likely don’t need to scramble for additional attack attempts to guarantee that you’ll deal this damage reliably.
  2. Warrior of the Gods: Generally dying is something that you work very hard to avoid, but if anyone’s going to die in combat it’s a barbarian. Spells which raise the dead have expensive material components, and this allows you to bypass them. So long as you’re friends with a sufficiently high-level cleric, you don’t need to worry about an untimely death. The lowest-level option is Revivify, but even at high levels Revivify is going to be a better option than spending a higher-level spell slot on something like Raise Dead. Encourage your party members to get Revivify as soon as possible, and do whatever you need to do in order to make them feel good about that choice. Consider buying them pizza or something.
  3. Fanatical Focus: Excellent for save-or-suck effects, and since it works once per rage you get to use it numerous times in a single day.
  4. Zealous Presence: Once per day, it doesn’t affect you, and it only lasts for one round, but granting allies Advantage on all attacks for a round is still strong. It gets more useful the larger your party is, so encourage your allies to summon creatures, use pets, etc. If they happen to also need to make saves, we can consider that a bonus as the main purpose of this ability is the Advantage on attack rolls.
  5. Rage beyond Death: Drink a Potion of Healing right before your rage ends and you’re functionally unable to die due to hit points loss while raging. You can’t go below 0 hit points, so as long as you get above 0 (again, Potion of Healing) before your rage ends you’re fine, so once you hit 0 hit points you no longer need to care about taking damage. There are effects like Disintegrate and Power Word Kill which become very scary, but otherwise you’re fine.

Path of the Zealot Ability Scores

Like most Barbarians, we want Strength, Constitution, and Dexterity, and don’t care too much for the other stats.

Str: We do damage. This lets us do the damage.

Dex: We want enough for medium armor. Even with Unarmored Defense, it’s hard to get enough of both Constitution and Dexterity without sacrificing Strength.

Con: Not dying is still more optimal than relying on Warrior of the Gods.

Int: Someone else can know things.

Wis: Someone else can be aware of things.

Cha: Someone else can talk to things.

Point BuyStandard Array
Str1515
Dex1413
Con1514
Int810
Wis1012
Cha88

Path of the Zealot Races

As a Barbarian, we’ll be pretty sturdy, and Zealot already brings a decent amount of damage to the table, so we value racial traits that bring additional utility. In particular, a Zealot is not relying on their bonus action for much beyond activating Rage and using Zealous Presence once per day. Anything not listed below can be found in the Barbarian Races Breakdown.

  • Astral ElfSJ:AiS: A bonus action teleport is really nice for a Barbarian. If picking this option, choosing the Light cantrip is good additional utility. Even with Darkvision, you need light to see colors.
  • Custom LineageTCoE: There’s a lot you can do with a bonus feat at first level.
  • EladrinMMoM: A bonus action teleport with extra effects, such as teleporting an ally instead or doing some fire damage, is very nice for us since we’re not heavy on bonus actions.
  • Shadar-KaiMMoM: A bonus action teleport with additional damage reduction attached after the teleport. While raging provides some resistances, this provides all resistances, and can even be handy if we’re saving our rage uses for a different fight.
  • Variant HumanPHB: There’s a lot you can do with a bonus feat at first level.

Path of the Zealot Feats

As always, refer to The Barbarian Handbook for anything not listed here.

  • Polearm MasterPHB: We lack a consistent use for our bonus action, so weaponizing that is a major boost to damage.

Path of the Zealot Weapons

The same as The Barbarian Handbook.

Path of the Zealot Armor

Not different from The Barbarian Handbook.

Example Path of the Zealot Build – Starbarian

Gone in a flash before our time

Up in the skies together

The vow we have made has kept us strong

Don’t fade away it’s time to shine

Burning Bright – Star Guardians (League of Legends)

From days of long ago, from uncharted regions of wildspace, comes a legend. The legend of an approachable Barbarian subclass that doesn’t ask much of the player beyond doing all the normal Barbarian things like Rage. Some other Barbarians have to worry about positioning to help allies or using a bonus action to activate extra powers, but we forgo complexity for simple bonus damage once per turn.

Abilities

We start with an atypical spread, with 15s in Strength and Constitution, but 14 in Dexterity, with leftover points in a 10 Wisdom to remove penalties for Perception.

Point BuyIncreasedLevel 20
Str151724
Dex141414
Con151624
Int888
Wis101010
Cha888
The extra points in Wisdom aren’t necessary for anything special, so they can go into any of the mental scores of your choice.

We do have the option of taking a different route. If we instead put a 15 in Dexterity and leave Wisdom at an 8, we can put 3 +1s into our Physical stats. Taking this option, we would have to forgo the hybrid feat we planned for eighth level in favor of an ASI for +2 Strength, but in return our AC would be a point higher going forward and we could rely on Unarmored Defense from the start.

Race

We’re using Astral Elf as our race for flavor and because the bonus action teleport is nice. AElves get a choice out of three cantrips and we’re taking Light because we can make use of the utility, Darkvision can’t see color in the darkness.

If you wanted to play this race almost exactly the same but with different Elves, Shadar-Kai and Eladrin work just fine too. Harengon also have a bonus action movement option, but it’s not a teleport. Space elf sent by gods from space is just too fun.

Background

We’re taking the Marine background. While it normally gives Athletics and Survival, we’ll be picking those from the Barbarian list which allows us to choose any skills to replace the duplicates from our Background. This enables us to gain Insight and Religion, keeping on theme with a Warrior of the Gods.

I can’t use setting backgrounds in the example build but if you are able to, take the Wildspacer background from Spelljammer instead. The skills are identical, but the background grants the Tough feat.

Skills and Tools

Astral Elf grants Perception proficiency and a floating proficiency that can be changed every Long Rest. We’ll just say Stealth for now. It’s useful. From Barbarian, we take Athletics and Survival. From Marine (or Wildspacer) we take Insight and Religion.

Feats

At fourth level, we take the Great Weapon Master feat. With Reckless Attack, we can more reliably land the attack with the penalty. Alternatively, we could take Polearm Master and swing a glaive. Thanks to easy Advantage from Reckless Attack, the difference in DPR between the two options is rather small. We have several important things that need to use a bonus action, including activating Rage, so the real output actually depends on how often the PAM reaction is triggered.

At eighth level, we take the Slasher feat, putting the +1 into Strength. Slowing down foes when we fight is very useful to spoil their positioning. If you’re taking the alternate ability scores discussed above, this would instead be an ASI for +2 Strength.

At twelfth level, we take an ASI for +2 Strength to reach 20. We catch back up with the Fundamental Math so we can do our best at doing damage.

At sixteenth level, we take an ASI for +2 Constitution. Because Unarmored Defense gives us AC from Constitution, this is a great way to boost HP and AC together.

At nineteenth level, we take another ASI for +2 Constitution. Same as the previous one.

Levels

LevelsRages/DamageFeats and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
12/+2Rage

Unarmored Defense

Skills
-Athletics
-Insight
-Perception
-Religion
-Stealth
-Survival

Tools
-Vehicles (Land)
-Vehicles (Water)

Cantrip
-Light

Starlight Step
We grab a greatsword and swing it around.

With Unarmored Defense, we start at 15 AC, which is fine for this level. We might eventually grab a half-plate to wear until our Constitution is 20.

Other than that, use Rage in tough fights or when you need extra Strength.

We take Light because it lasts an hour and doesn’t use Concentration, and don’t forget that bonus action teleport from Starlight Step.
22/+2Danger Sense

Reckless Attack
Advantage on Dex saves we can see. Good.

Advantage on attack rolls whenever we want: Great.

Being easier to hit in exchange for that Advantage: it’s an unfair trade; we hit harder than they do.
33/+2Path of the Zealot
-Divine Fury
-Warrior of the Gods
We take the path of the Zealot and gain extra damage during Rage. We have the option of making it Necrotic or Radiant, and Radiant is both thematically and mechanically a better option for this character.

Warrior of the Gods is not a bad feature and we certainly don’t want to have to use it, but it’s nice to have insurance.
43/+2Feat: Great Weapon MasterGetting consistent Advantage from Reckless Attack means the -5 penalty hurts much less than it otherwise would.
53/+2Extra Attack

Fast Movement
Swing Twice. Run Fast. Good level all around.
64/+2Fanatical FocusReroll any failed save once per Rage. It’s great insurance against difficult saves which target your low stats.
74/+2Feral Instinct

Instinctive Pounce (Optional)
Advantage on Initiative checks is nice. Gets us into position early.

Being able to get extra movement in the same bonus action that starts Rage is nice. Like getting half an extra Starlight Step to start each Rage.
84/+2Feat: Slasher+1 Strength (17=>18)We already move faster than most people and can teleport. Making our foes slower is just mean.
94/+3Brutal Critical 1An extra die when we crit. Not bad, but not a common occurrence either.
104/+3Zealous PresenceGive up to ten allies Advantage on attack rolls and saves for a turn.

We’ll have to carefully consider when to use this. Getting the most out of it depends on how many allies are going to make attack rolls in the next round.

If it also happens to protect them from some nasty saves, that’s nice, but far less predictable.
114/+3Relentless RageMake saves to not die. Good feature.
125/+3ASI: Strength +2 (18=>20)Get stronger, hit harder.
135/+3Brutal Critical 2It’s even more damage per crit, but it’s still unreliable.
145/+3Rage Beyond DeathNow we just don’t die the normal ways if Rage is active, and we only stay dead at the end if we still haven’t been healed before Rage is over.

By “normal” I mean effects that allow Death Saves. We can still be disintegrated for example or killed by anything else that would bypass Death Saves.
155/+3Persistent RageUntil now, Rage had a stipulation that we had to take damage or make an attack against a hostile creature each turn or we don’t get the full minute. This removes that part.
165/+4ASI: Constitution +2 (16=>18)More HP. More AC.

This brings Unarmored Defense to 16 AC. One less than Half-Plate.
176/+5Brutal Critical 3It’s really nice to crit, but still too unreliable.
186/+5Indomitable MightThe total we roll on any Strength Check can’t be lower than 20 now. Nice for grappling, climbing and swimming, I guess.
196/+5ASI: Constitution +2 (18=>20)Now Unarmored Defense is equal to Half Plate, so we can lose the armor.
20Unlimited/+5Primal Champion
Strength +4 (20=>24)
Constitution +4 (20=>24)
Our Strength and Constitution now have +7 modifiers.

This is great for both the accuracy and damage of our attacks, but amazing for our Unarmored Defense, which is now 19 AC.