Sunday, October 5, 2014

5th Edition: Aquatic Builds (Barbarian)

In this series, we will be presenting archetypes applicable to 5th edition D&D games set in coastal or entirely aquatic settings.


Barbarians from coastal and island cultures often draw on the spirit of the ocean's greatest hunters to inspire them in battle. Barbarians who choose an aquatic hunter as their spirit animal take the aquatic hunter class feature in place of the spirit seeker feature. Aquatic totems include killer whales (orcas) and sharks. As with the standard barbarian build, an aquatic barbarian may select from different animal totems at 3rd, 6th and 14th levels.

Path of the Totem Warrior

Aquatic Hunter
Yours is a path that seeks a connection to the greatest hunters in the aquatic world. At 3rd level when you adopt this path, you gain the ability to cast water breathing on yourself at-will. You may also choose one of the following spells to cast as indicated: hunter's mark (once per day as a 1st level spell) or speak with animals (as a ritual).

Totem Spirit
At 3rd level, when you adopt this path and choose either orca or shark as your totem, you may channel the power of your totem to gain additional powers, you must make or acquire a physical totem object--an amulet or similar adornment--that incorporates the teeth, skin or jaw of the animal. You may also gain minor physical attributes that are reminiscent of your totem spirit. For example, you may have dark eyes, a vicious smile, lack of hair or sharpened teeth.

Orca: While you're raging, your friends have advantage on melee attack rolls against any creatures within 5 feet of you that is hostile to you. Orca's travel and hunt in packs, learning to work together to defeat their prey.
Shark: While raging, you have resistance to all damage except psychic damage. The spirit of the shark allows you to shake off all but the most brutal damage while the scent of blood is in your nose.

Aspect of the Beast
At 6th level, you gain a magical benefit based on the totem animal of your choice. You can choose the same animal you selected previously or a different one.
Orca: While raging, you gain blindsight to a range of 10 feet in air, or 60 feet underwater. As this ability is gained by echolocation, you can't use this ability while deafened.
Shark: You gain the ability to track blood by scent and sense the bioelectric field put off by all living creatures. You can track other creatures while traveling at a fast pace, and you can move stealthily while traveling at a normal pace.

Oceanic Blessing
At 10th level, you may cast the water breathing spell normally, but only as a ritual. You may still cast water breathing on yourself at-will as long as you are the only target.

Totemic Attunement
At 14th level, you gain a magical benefit based on the totem animal of your choice. You can choose the same animal you selected previously or a different one.
Orca: You learn to use your size and speed to your advantage in combat. While you are raging, you can use a bonus action on your turn to knock a Large or smaller creature prone when you hit it with a melee weapon attack.
Shark: Your emotionless ferocity is more terrifying than any wild rage. While you're raging, any creature within 5 feet of you that's hostile to you has disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than you or another character with this feature. An enemy is immune to this effect if it can't see or hear you or if it can't be frightened.


    The Barbarian is probably my favourite class, so I soon felt that three totem choices were few. I noticed that an aquatic totem was missing and started to write down its aspects but an important thing was missing: what clan, or tribe, or race could have a so strong connection with an aquatic animal? It is supposed to be a predator, and this kind of barbarian is supposed to live in or near or above water. The only reply I gave myself were the Sea Elves of Krynn, and the Atlantean barbarians like At-tuma of the Marvel Universe. I wanted to create a Shark totem, but I hadn’t enough characters that inspired me.
    Then I read “Demon Drums” by Carol Severance: Of course! I forgot the Pacific Ocean religions and tradi-tions. So, even if Juti Manho, the star of the novel, was a mix of a Ranger, a Barbarian and a Warrior, the flavour was the right one.
    I specifically wrote the totem aspects thinking about the Shark: the head shaking, the hard skin, the enhanced smelling and the tail strike. This is an error. I believe it firmly, because an aquatic totem is supposed to be a template for other sea beasts to be based on. But you can change anything you want if you feel closer to a Killer Whale or to a Dolphin!
    Shark. The predator spirit pervades your body, trans-forming your skin and your lungs. While you are raging:
    • you can breathe in water, like when under the Water Breathing spell and you have no disadvantage while fighting in water;
    • your skin becomes harder and bruising. Bludgeon, piercing and slashing damage is reduced by 1. You gain resistance to cold damage. If you are not wear-ing any armor, when you successfully shove (special attack) an enemy you also cause a slashing damage equal to your CON modifier.
    Shark. Your smell and taste senses attune to the blood of your enemies. You can easily track down enemies you wounded. You have advantage on the Perception checks made to find creatures you bit, you made bleed or whose blood was tasted by you, for an hour.
    Shark. The beast attunement transforms your mouth and teeth in deadly weapons. While raging you become proficient with the bite attack, which deals 1d4 slashing damage. Alternatively, you can perform a grab attack using your bite (see the Grab special attack). Like a hun-gry Shark, when you’re grabbing a creature using your bite, you can perform a “shaking” attack in place of one of your attacks. You have advantage on the attack roll and it inflicts Nd4 slashing damages where N is your CON modifier.
    If you move at least 5 feet before an attack and you hit a creature with a shove attack, you can Shove Aside it (see DMG, page 272).