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The barbarian requires that you make attacks using Strength in order to get a number of benefits. This, to me, sounds very much like someone trying to enforce their personal notion of what a barbarian “should look like,” rather than a serious balance limitation. As that kind of mechanic annoys me to no end, I’d like to remove the limitation.

I realize that there might be issues with Hexblade if we open things up entirely; maybe not so bad (or no worse than Hexblade is normally), but maybe it is. Either way, that is beyond the scope of this question: the point of this question is solely opening up barbarian class features to Dex-based attacks.

So, what are the mechanical balance implications of allowing Dexterity-based attacks to benefit from barbarian class features? Primarily, does this cause Dexterity-based barbarians to overshadow the more traditional Strength-based barbarians, or do Strength-based attacks still have their niche? I don’t want to make Dexterity-based barbarians better than Strength-based ones, I just want to make them also work, ideally about equally well.

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2 Answers 2

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There is no longer a trade-off of defense vs offense

By allowing rage/barb features to work with Dex then the Barbarian becomes much less MAD when having to decide point attribution for Offense vs Defense.

In the official scenario, you have to decide between CON/DEX for higher AC/HP or STR for better attacks. If you can lump them all together, then the Barbarian gets much better AC and still gets strong attack options.

What you lose by not pursuing STR

Weapon Types/Damage dice

The biggest loss is the removal of heavy weapons or the largest damage dice. But that's not an enormous deal as you can get a 1d8. but you lose out on heavy property items/feats/mechanics. But that's not anywhere comparable to what you gain.

Saves

As with all ability scores, there are often saves associated with them. Lower STR means more likely to succumb to STR based mechanics.

Carrying Capacity

Many tables hand-wave this, but for those that don't, a lower a strength means you carry less.

Grappling

While you can use Dex(Acrobatics) to contest a grapple, you are still required to use STR(athletics) to initiate one. With a lower strength, this special melee attack becomes a less likely option.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 2, 2019 at 8:00
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It is only unbalancing if you play without feats

The feat Great Weapon Master requires Str1, and this feat alone is enough to make Str based Barbarians better than Dex based ones, even after your proposed changes.

With Great Weapon Master

It is so good that in about half of the games I played, the DM simply banned it2. That is for average characters, Barbarians, who can build their own advantage with Reckless Attack, get even more mileage out of GWM.

Without Great Weapon Master

If GWM is not an option, because feats are not used in your game, or you chose to play a Small Barbarian 3, than Dex based is clearly superior after your change.


1) indirectly, the second benefit works only with heavy weapons, and not one of them has the Finesse property
2) I disagree with this, GWM is about the only reason to play a Str based non-Barbarian
3) just don't

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