Barbarian - Half-Caster Variation

Duncehack Edition

So who are you?

Just some tosser with an over inflated sense of self importance.

Send verbal abuse via

What is the Duncehack?

It emerged from a place of frustration. There's quite a number of areas where 5e could be improved but... it's not going to happen for various reasons.

The Duncehack is my attempt to fix these problems I have. Plan is to go through the whole game - all of it - and homebrew it into the game I think is should have been.

Feel free to disagree with me, but ultimately I think there's no harm in putting my thoughts out there, at the very least if even one DM decides to adopt these rules, then my job is done.

No DM Guild? No OGL Release?

I chafe under binding contracts and both of these are exactly that.

The DM Guild gives you more room to mess with established rules, but basically demands that all be under the service of flagship settings.

The SRD on the other hand gives more room for interesting settings but clamps down extremely hard on what established rules you're allowed to use. Their biggest contention is that they don't want someone to sell a sourcebook that removes the need for core books. Translation: they don't want Pathfinder to happen all over again.

More to the point, both assume money will change hands. I don't want money, I just want Wizards to fix their game.


Groundrules for the Duncehack are as follows:

  • No Nerfs: the goal is to bring weaker archetypes on the level of the stronger ones.

  • Remove Traps: incentives built into classes and archetypes should provide an active payoff, rather than be the suboptimal choice.

  • Frontload Agency, Backend Power: Generally speaking, people like having more options to do things, rather than more raw power. As a design rule: things that feel like core class features, or are defining class mechanics, should happen in the first ten levels, sheer numeric increases in power should come after that.

No money changed hands here

This is a passion project. I want to keep it that way.

I also want to avoid legal issues for self-evident reasons.

No UA?

Too much changes between UA and official release.

The fewer corrections I have the do between UA changes, the better.

Obligatory Natural Crit Plug

Someone else made a thing that lets me make homebrews without having to post them on pastebin or something. They deserve a lot of credit for that.

Obligatory /tg/ Plug

The feedback I got from various Anons on this helped me build it into something that wasn't bad and stupid.

No Images?

Needed to get it under 8mb so I could upload it literally anywhere.

So what is this?

Thought experiment:

What if you fuelled Barbarian rage with spell slots and turned them into a caster?

No promises that any of this is even remotely balanced by the way.


The wording on features going ahead dropped the requirements for them to be Strength Based and/or melee weapon attacks. Way I see it, Barbarians have enough benefits to go for strength based weaponry as it is without being forced to do it by their features.

If you're not fine with that however, it's almost no effort to reinstate these restrictions.

The features where this matters are:

  • Rage
  • Reckless Attack
  • Brutal Critical



Barbarian as Third-Caster

In order to open out the Barbarian to spellcasting without instantly making them overloaded, we need to trim their power slightly elsewhere.

Main thing is, we need to be able to keep their rage going - primarily because archetype features are completely reliant on rage and I don't want to rewrite all of them, I want the archetypes to slot in neatly into this new model.

Spirit Rage

In battle, you fight with primal ferocity. When you cast a spell on your turn that uses a spell slot, you can enter rage as part of the action. You rage lasts for a number of rounds equal to the spell slot level. If you cast a spell while raging, you increase your rage duration by this amount.

Cantrips cannot be used to add time to a rage (although damaging cantrips can prevent it from ending early), nor can they be used to begin a rage. Instead, if you are not raging and you cast a cantrip, you can use that to benefit from rage's effects until the end of your current turn.

While raging, you gain the following benefits if you aren't wearing heavy armor:

  • You have advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
  • You have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
  • You may cast and concentrate on spells while raging.
  • While raging you add your Wisdom Modifier to the damage of your weapon attacks.

You rage is fuelled directly through magic use and thus can be dispelled via dispel magic, and you cannot enter rage if the spell you are using is denied via counterspell. You can also end your rage on your turn as a bonus action.

You rage ends early if you are knocked unconscious or if your turn ends and you haven't attacked a hostile creature since your last turn, used a spell to prolong its duration, or taken damage since then. You can also end your rage on your turn as a bonus action.


You fuel your rage via spellcasting, and as a result, you also learn a handful of useful spells to supplement your abilities.

Cantrips. You learn one cantrip of your choice from the Druid spell list. You learn an additional Druid cantrip of your choice at 3rd level, and at 10th level.

Spell Slots. The Shaman Spellcasting table shows how many spell slots you have to cast your Druid spells of 1st level and higher. To cast one of these spells, you must expend a slot of the spell's level or higher. You regain all expended spell slots when you finish a long rest. For example, if you know the 1st-level spell shield and have a 1st-level and a 2nd-level spell slot available, you can cast shield using either slot.

Spells Known of 1st-Level and Higher. You know one 1st-level Druid spells of your choice. The Spells Known column of the Shaman Spellcasting table shows when you learn more Druid spells of 1st level or higher. Each of these spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots. .

Whenever you gain a level in this class, you can replace one of the Druid spells you know with another spell of your choice from the Druid spell list. The new spell must be of a level for which you have spell slots.

Spellcasting Ability. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for your Druid spells, since you learn your spells through study and memorization. You use your Wisdom whenever a spell refers to your spellcasting ability. In addition, you use your Wisdome modifier when setting the saving throw DC for a Druid spell you cast and when making an attack roll with one.

  • Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier
  • Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier

Shaman Spellcasting Table
Level Cantrips Spells Known 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
1st 1 - - - - - -
2nd 1 2 2 - - - -
3rd 2 3 3 - - - -
4th 2 4 3 - - - -
5th 2 4 4 2 - - -
6th 2 4 4 2 - - -
7th 2 5 4 3 - - -
8th 2 6 4 3 - - -
9th 2 6 4 3 2 - -
10th 3 7 4 3 2 - -
11th 3 8 4 3 3 - -
12th 3 8 4 3 3 - -
13th 3 9 4 3 3 1 -
14th 3 10 4 3 3 1 -
15th 3 10 4 3 3 2 -
16th 3 11 4 3 3 2 -
17th 3 11 4 3 3 3 1
18th 3 11 4 3 3 3 1
19th 3 12 4 3 3 3 2
20th 3 13 4 3 3 3 2
Note on the spell list

The Druid spell list was chosen because it was balanced around a full caster, and thus doesn't provide as much power as the half-caster exclusive spell lists. If it proves too weak/unsuitable, then switching it to the Ranger (or even Paladin as Zealot exists), is fine.


Reckless Attack

Starting at 2nd level, you can throw aside all concern for defense to attack with fierce desperation. When you make your first attack on your turn, you can decide to attack recklessly. Doing so gives you advantage on cantrip and weapon attack rolls during this turn, but attack rolls against you have advantage until your next turn.

At 9th level, when you activate this feature with a cantrip, you may make a weapon attack as a bonus action.

At 18th level, when you activate this feature with a spell that requires a spell slot, you may make a weapon attack as a bonus action.

Another Quick Note

If you want to allow for two weapon fighting builds (this applies to Eldritch Knights and Valor Bards too), or more likely you don't want this to get in the way of class features such as those from the Storm Herald, you can change the wording of these 'weapon after spell' features to the following:

"When you use your action to cast a cantrip/spell, you may make an extra weapon attack during a bonus action."

Instinctive Pounce

At 7th level, As part of the spell cast that requires a spell slot to enter your rage, you can move up to half your speed.

Feral Instinct

By 7th level, your instincts are so honed that you have advantage on initiative rolls.

Additionally, if you are surprised at the beginning of combat and aren't incapacitated, you can act normally on your first turn by spending a spell slot of first level or higher.

When you use a spell slot in this way, you do not cast any spells, however for a number of rounds equal to the spell slot level used, enemy creatures do not gain advantage on attack rolls against you for being hidden from you.

Brutal Critical

Beginning at 9th level, you can roll one additional damage die when determining the extra damage for a critical hit with a weapon or spell attack.

This increases to two additional dice at 13th level and three additional dice at 17th level.

Optional: Switching to Wisdom

This is an option for DMs who are worried about Multiple Attribute Dependency, as this modified version of the class is more or less dependent on Wisdom to function. There's a few areas where this really matters, so pick any number of the following (or you can allow the player to do it as an irreversible selection as they gain the feature). The fact is, I'm hesitant to simply switch things from Constitution to Wisdom because that counterintuitively makes them weaker casters overall, so its up to you how far you take it.

  • Replace the Strength check/save advantage from Rage to Wisdom.

  • Replace one of your proficient saving throws with Wisdom.

  • Replace the AC bonus provided by Unarmoured Defense with Wisdom.

  • Replace the Relentless Rage saving throw to avoid being reduced to 0HP to Wisdom.

  • Replace all archetype features that use Strength and Constitution modifier (i.e. for saving throw DCs) with Wisdom.

  • Replace either the Strength or the Constitution increase provided by Primal Champion to Wisdom.

Dev notes

This is a shorter one so there's no call me dedicating a full page to these notes.

I debated with myself a good, long while over whether or not this should be a half-caster or a third caster and I'm still sort of not sure.

I went with half-caster spell slots, because you can get a maximum of 41 rounds of rage this way when you get the full load of spell slots (compared to 60 from 6 uses of rage) - which seems a fair loss really as you're also getting the utility of said spells when you initiate your rage.

Like I said before, the Druid spell list was chosen specifically because you're not quite getting the same out of each spell slot use as you would a Paladin or a Ranger (swift quiver and destructive wave are big deals), theory being that you'll be a weaker caster than the other half-casters, but you'll make up for it with the rage feature.

That theory is untested though, so feel free to buff them if need be.

The cantrips were given as compensation for losing infinite rages at 20th (as they provide the means to 'fake it'), and for the fact that unlike Ranger (whose archetype features are largely weapon based) or Paladin (who gets access to channel divinity and aura features), this class is funtamentally useless if it's not constantly burning through spell slots.

I went with third caster known spells however, because for some reason, Eldritch Knights get more known spells than Rangers.