After spending lots of time reading up on Grappling in 5e, the Grapple Manual 2.0, and all kinds of posts and what not... I felt kind of let down. It's neat and all, but I simply felt like something was missing. I sat down and wrote up a new Path of the Totem Warrior for Barbarians and would love some feedback on game balance, please don't be to harsh.

Totem Spirit Serpent


At 3rd level while raging you count as one size category larger when you grapple. At 7th level you count as two size categories larger when you grapple. At 11th level you count as three size categories larger when you grapple. At 17 level you count as four size categories larger when you grapple.

Constricting Squeeze

At 6th level as a bonus action you can begin to crush a successfully grappled opponent. Make another grapple check and on success you cause 1d6+str damage (failing the grapple check made to cause damage does not break the grapple, but causes no damage that round). Each consecutive round that a successful grapple is maintained with damage, the crushing damage multiplies. First round 1d6+str, second round 2d6+2x str, third round 3d6+3x str, and so on. This damage climb resets if you move, or if the target breaks the grapple, or if you fail the grapple check to cause damage that round. If raging, the bonus damage from rage is included and would also multiply.

Spirit Walker

(Same as RAW) At 10th level, you can cast the commune with nature spell, but only as a ritual. When you do so, a spiritual version of one of the animals you chose for Totem Spirit or Aspect of the Beast appears to you to convey the information you seek.

Serpents Strike

At 14th level while raging if an enemy enters an area within your movement speed and you can still move, you get an AOO to pounce and initiate a grapple. If the grapple is successful your target is grappled and also pinned (both you and the target are restrained until the grapple ends).

Is this a balanced option to the game mechanics?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sadly enough, Stackexchange is not a very good fit for a "what do people think?" kind of question. We deal in questions with a "correct" answer, and people vote on it. Your question is a far better fit for a forum-type discussion where people can give you feedback. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 10:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! Have you taken the tour? In its current state this question will get flagged as too broad or primarily opinion based. Asking for review of your homebrew is definitely allowed though. See this answer on How to ask a good homebrew review question. Good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 10:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I am specifically looking for if this seems balanced. \$\endgroup\$
    – Raptor
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 10:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Raptor It's not a problem, that's why we leave these messages here. It is worth checking out the tour and help-centre when you get a chance. You'll even get a badge for it! \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 10:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ (Please leave game elements unchanged from the original. Editing it afterward invalidates already present answers that were provided in good faith. When you've decided on a second or later version that has significant changes from the first, pose a new question instead. Also see this Meta question.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 11:49

2 Answers 2


You have a few issues

I'll go through feature by feature to assess it.

First I think it's important to clarify the rules of grappling.

When you want to grab a creature... make a special melee attack, a grapple. The target of your grapple must be no more than one size larger than you, and it must be within your reach. (PHB.195)


This feature is a good idea however is totally broken. Technically 5e only has 6 size categories in total. (Tiny, Small, Medium, Large, Huge, Gargantuan) Increase size category just once already means you can grapple Huge creatures which include adult dragons. This is extremely powerful.

For context Enlarge Reduce is a 2nd level spell that increases your size by one category for 1 minute and requires concentration. Other class or race features that allow you to "count as one size larger" specifically limit it to carry capacity. (Goliath's Powerful Build or the Brawny feat)

If you do want to keep this feature it needs to be reduced only to the initial benefit of 1 size larger. Which is still strong for 3rd level and should potentially be moved to 6th.

Constricting Squeeze

This feature is likely underpowered though cool. The first round effect is less damage then you could do simply by attacking with a one-handed weapon. The chance of successfully getting enough grapples to inflict serious damage is unlikely in combat. Either due to one of you going down or the combat being over by the third round. (Typically combats last between 4 and 6 rounds).

It also breaks with traditional norms of 5e rules. There are very few abilities that allow you to apply a single ability modifier more than once to a single damage roll. Unlimited scaling is also not a good idea.

I would suggest changing this to simply the 2d8+str of the Giant Constrictor snake that is the totem. Though 2d6+str may be more balanced.

I would also remind you that a grapple is an attack (little a) therefore you can trigger this ability multiple times per turn with extra attack. Consider making it an Action with the higher damage output.

The other thing to consider is that this is significantly different from the existing 6th level Aspect of the Beast features. All other totems gain out of combat proficiencies of movement benefits at this level.

Spirit Walker

As per RAW, no need to comment.

Serpents Strike

This is extremely overpowered. At 14th level Barbarians can have 40ft (or more) of movement. This gives a huge threatened area that applies additional benefits. Compare this to the Polearm Master feat

While you are wielding a glaive, halberd, pike, or quarterstaff, other creatures provoke an opportunity attack from you when they enter your reach. (PHB.168)

This gives a threaten range of 10ft by default (can be extended through optimisation) and is considered a powerful feat. Most DPR optimised builds will use either it or Sentinel another powerful opportunity attack feat.

The interaction with those two feats is also something you should consider with this feature. By allowing the free grapple you essentially allow the best feature of Sentinel.

When you hit a creature with an opportunity attack, the creature's speed becomes 0 for the rest of the turn. (PHB.169)

Though this isn't necessarily unbalanced it does take away the best feature of a good feat, giving less options for ASIs.

Additional allowing this grapple sets you up for the Constricting Squeeze attack multiple times on your next turn.

Consider limiting the range to 10 feet or completely re-writing this feature. Though is deals no damage, you can effectively stop any creature in a 100ft cube from moving.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, so if it is kept to just one size category increase, is it a bit to powerful having that benefit at level 3? \$\endgroup\$
    – Raptor
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 11:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you! this has been extremely helpful!! \$\endgroup\$
    – Raptor
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 11:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin Quick question, on the last concern you pointed out, pairing it with Sentinel, I did think of that which is why I added the "pin" condition to the strike. Which restrains both you and the target. Does this not overwrite being able to par it with Sentinel? Or is that what makes it overpowered? \$\endgroup\$
    – Raptor
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 12:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Raptor essentially you are providing the best benefit of sentinel without the cost of taking the feat. At the same time you are penalising the grappler by taking away their movement. Pinned/restrained isn't a very useful condition unless you have attacks that require a dex save. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 12:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Raptor comments aren't a good place for iterative suggestions. I've created a chat room but unfortunately you don't have enough rep yet to participate (Need 20). I don't have the power to do anything about it but hopefully someone else will upvote your question soon so that you can. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 12:55

in it's current form

Your class is OP

The main problems are your level 3 and 6 features. The size increase is too much and gets way out of control. The damage multiplier is a bit confusing; it'll either never come into play or you'll start doing 8d6 damage twice a turn to the boss that you planned. It's going to make problems for someone.

My first question is why you didn't start with just making alternate totems, to go along with the existing Totem Warrior Class? Maybe that's what you intended, but it doesn't seem that way to me.

The existing totem layout

• Tier 1 (Level 3) - defensive or utility
• Tier 2 (Level 6) - Pure Utility, often movement based
• Tier 3 (Level 14) - Battlefield control

Maybe that's not aggressive enough for your player.

the vague power tiers of other classes

• Level 3 - a cantrip's worth of damage, once per turn (or impose disadvantage)
• Level 6 - Survivability. Usually resistance
• level 10 - usually an out of combat effect, though can be a fight initiator
• Level 14 - deal damage, usually in response to taking damage.

I propose the following changes

Level 3 - Serpent's strike.

I'm going to basically steal this from the battle-rager.
While you are raging, you make make an unarmed attack as a bonus action or attempt to initiate a grapple.

Additionally, when you use the Attack action to grapple a creature, the target takes 3 piercing damage if your grapple check succeeds.

Level 6 - Grappler's Garrison

While grappled, maintaining a grapple or maintaining a pin, you are considered to have partial cover (regardless of attacker positioning).

Level 10 - Some utility spell

You had Commune with Nature. That works. I'd consider Greater Restoration (as a ritual) and make it self-only. Maybe called "Honey Badger Doesn't Care". Enlarge Person (self only) would be fun, but probably OP.

Level 14 - Aggressive Repositioning

When a creature within 5 feet of you hits you with an attack, you can use your reaction to attempt to initiate a grapple.

Custom Class features are hard. I'm sure there's something wrong with what I have above. The best course of action is often to compare the existing options and try to keep in line with their power levels and impact on the battlefield.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you so much. I worked with linksassin in chat and already started a revision using much of what you pointed, the intent was to make an alternate totem path, the path of the serpent. I've already dropped the damage rise, and changed that to the size increase to only go as far as one size category larger and switched that to the level 6 ability instead of the level 3, and changed the damage to level 3. and totally reworked the serpents strike. And doing so with exactly what you stated, using a compare to existing options. I will be posting the revision tomorrow using all this input. \$\endgroup\$
    – Raptor
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 16:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RaptorI Maybe this is what you were planning, but I suggest posting your revision as an answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 18:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @goodguy5 that is not how we handle iterative homebrew review on this site. See this meta for details. If the OP is sure that they have the final version posting as an answer is probably a good idea but they can't ask for additional review on it. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 0:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Raptor this level 14 feature is actually really good. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 0:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin I like his level 14 one too. I will certainly be reworking the main idea. Thank you all so much! My group tends to play rather OP characters and game settings, as our DM likes the super hero feel, but it tends to curb the mindset as to what appears to be balanced to us. LOL So all this is exactly what I was looking for! \$\endgroup\$
    – Raptor
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 1:25

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