Terrorize 5E D&D with the Path of the Beast from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
Fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons allows players to make their own characters with a variety of mechanics to support their favorite archetypes and custom craft their own unique person to play in a story woven by friends. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything added a deluge of new options to the 5E D&D mix. Between the recent Unearthed Arcana introducing Gothic Lineages and the new announcement regarding Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft I can’t think of a better time to talk about the Path of the Beast Primal Path for 5E D&D barbarians.
Tame the Path of the Beast within
Back when I played World of Warcraft I remember the introduction of the Worgen race. This lycanthrope option embraced all the gothic aesthetics of Ravenloft and they put a really interesting twist on the whole thing — druids used an ancient ritual to help these victims of lycanthropy retain their humanity and control the monster within them. It was a really interesting twist of allegiance and I thought it was clever to have shapeshifters help lycanthropes master their newfound forms. I could absolutely see an origin for a Path of the Beast barbarian cursed with lycanthropy and while they’ve mostly tamed the form to be harmless there are still times of intense stress where the beast tears itself free anyway.
I really love when a character is perhaps reluctant or fearful of their power. Something about the fear of achieving power or already possessing it is very human and it speaks to those of us who struggle with imposter syndrome from time to time. As for the fantasy of it all the visceral nature of this subclass screams horror. At least it does for me. This subclass feels like it would be right at home in a Curse of Strahd or Ravenloft campaign.
A menagerie of options
Unlike a strictly werewolf class the Path of the Beast is quite open ended. While werebeast is clearly the driving theme a wolf is but one of a whole kingdom of animals to choose from. The ability to tailor your benefits from this subclass hearkens to the Path of the Totem Warrior but in a much different context.
Beginning at 3rd level Form of the Beast lets these barbarians manifest a natural weapon when they rage as their form shifts into a half beast. While you can absolutely embrace the classic werewolf with this subclass you could also be a werebear, wereboar or even a weregator if you really want to get wild. The limit is your imagination and the rules facilitate a number of beast options.
The fact you can choose a new option for this feature each time you rage means you can change your animal form every time. This evokes many super heroes I can think of. Low key I absolutely thought of X-Men’s Wolverine here. Honestly without the weremonster flavor this could absolutely be how Wolverine mechanically manifests his claws and flies into a rage.
This feature is yours to define so get wild with this one!
As these barbarians continue to master the beast inside them the creature mutates, or possibly they train enough to effectively use new aspects of its existing physiology. At 6th level the Bestial Soul feature lets these barbarians enhance their movement by assuming the form without a rage — or at least a piece of your form. This helps the subclass feel distinctly feral as they learn to move in inhuman ways and just flat out manifest these things without the limited uses of rage.
Another perk of this feature is the all important “counting as magical for the purposes of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical damage.”
At 10th level the Infectious Fury feature feels solidly seated in horror. When these barbarians strike a creature they infect them with a temporary bout of madness forcing them to succeed on a saving throw or attack another creature of the barbarian’s choice. Alternatively a Path of the Beast barbarian might cause the primal terror of their form to deal additional psychic damage to the target. This literally manifests their fear hurting them.
As with many new options from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything this feature relies on your proficiency bonus.
Fury of the pack
The capstone for this feature Call the Hunt at 14th level emblazons a primal pack mentality into the minds of the barbarian’s allies and causes them to deal additional damage when they hit a creature. This could present as a rallying howl, the empowering screech of a wereraven or even an insectoid hivemind telepathy if you wanna get really out there with your flavoring.
Ravenloft, here we come!
The lore of Ravenloft is riddled with classic monsters and werecreatures are definitely a part of those ranks. Whether a werewolf on the side of Lord Strahd, a wereraven combating him or another werecreature from a totally different Domain of Dread your next Ravenloft campaign would easily accommodate the Path of the Beast from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Let us know if you give this 5E D&D subclass a spin in your next Ravenloft or Curse of Strahd game! Also make sure to howl at us on Facebook and Twitter!
*Featured image — A human Path of the Beast barbarian as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]