Building a berserker playbook to replace the barbarian at our table.

Building a berserker playbook to replace the barbarian at our table.

Building a berserker playbook to replace the barbarian at our table. Have yet to find a satisfactory way to implement the idea of being in a blind rage, where you have to attack anybody around you including allies. I like the idea, conceptually, and it’d make for fun roleplay, but within the confines of DW I just can’t think of a good way to mechanically do it.

Here’s the starting moveset so far (mostly this class will be similar to the Barbarian with appetites stricken and some new moves to tie into the rage).


When you suffer injury, frustration, loss, disappointment, or hurt, hold 1 Rage, up to a maximum of 3, and let your anger build. When you hold 3 Rage and would be made to hold 4, go Berserk.

You may choose not to Berserk if you wish. If you do, ignore this slight and take a Debility (the GM will tell you which) until you have had time to calm down.

Rage will dissipate over time: for every hour spent in rest or meditation, reduce your held Rage by one.


When you fly into a Berserk rage, roll+CON and lose control. Spend the Rage you have accrued to:

 Add forceful, messy, or stunning to an attack

 Add +1d6 damage to a successful attack

 Terrify an enemy, causing them to flee, panic, beg, or fight—their choice

 Halve the damage or effect of an incoming attack

 Ignore the effects of any debilities for a short time

 Perform a nigh-impossible feat of strength

On a 10+, your frenzy has no drawbacks. On a 7-9, choose one drawback. On a 6-, choose one, and the GM chooses another:

• When your rage ends, take a debility (you decide which)

• You cannot Berserk again until you’ve had significant time to rest or meditate

• You’ll break or hurt something important during your rage—the GM will tell you what

When you take action requiring a cool head, thought, discussion, subtlety, or finesse while Berserking, lose one of your held Rage. Your frenzy cannot be willed to end early: it ends only when you run out of Rage.

Any advice? Is it worth it to even try? Maybe if I more clearly define actions taking subtlety/finesse as to include differentiating friend from foe? The biggest trouble I’m seeing is that this caveat relies very heavily on fictional positioning, and I worry it’d require too much time spent haggling over who’s standing closest to the berserker.

10 thoughts on “Building a berserker playbook to replace the barbarian at our table.”

  1. What you have would work but my gut feeling would make the move dangerous for allies and ennemies alike. Right now on 10+ you have super efficient fighter thats all. Frenzy should be uncontrolled, dangerous and mouth frothing madness IMHO. I dont get that feel with this.

  2. Peter J Looking at that playbook, I’m thinking the player who originally brought this up to me must have seen it, because the similarities are uncanny. (long story short, have a player who wanted a berserker, nobody objected — nobody cares for the barbarian at our table — and the player offered to jot down some moves they’d seen somewhere on the net)

    I like it, and that’s basically what I was shooting for to begin with. I think I’ll work with my players to make some tweaks (there are some barbarian holdovers we’d like to keep).

    Vincent Quigley What do you think would be a better arrangement for the hit/soft hit/miss? Or just some caveat for the 10+? We talked about it in our group and we see the long game being somebody who rides the razor’s edge, or even uses strong discipline and control to turn berserking to their advantage — almost a blend of berserker and monk.

    Perhaps if we reflavored to focus on the rage as something more like a battletrance? We want savagery to be an option, but not the default (or, at least, a path to trim the savagery some).

  3. I personally go with something like this, but it might not fit your vision:

    When you unleash the rage that’s been boiling inside it’s always bloody add the messy tag to your attacks and roll+CON

    On a 10+, choose 3. On a 7-9,choose 1. On a miss, you loose control completely, the GM will tell you the terrible things that you do…

    -You don’t injure your allies or yourself.

    -You inflict terrible wounds add +1d6 to your damage

    -Everyone notices you’re the bigger threat here

    -You don’t break anything important/valuable/you own.

    Please note that I came with this off the top of my head. There’s some work to do on the options but it gives a risk/reward move that make the beserker a scary bloody killing machine. Of course in the fiction you and the player have to really push on the messy tag. Guts and innars flying everywere.

  4. So I was thinking you had yet to find a way to implement the blind attacking of everything around you, I’d say go with the 10+ approach and make it one of the drawbacks.


    When you spill blood (yours or another‘_s_) and give in to your boundless rage, hold 3 Frenzy. While you hold Frenzy:

    * You cannot fall unconscious

    * You are immune to anything that influences your mind or your emotions

    * You ignore the effects of the Weakened, Sick, and Shaky debilities.

    While you hold Frenzy, the GM gains the following moves they can use against you:

    * Grossly distort your perceptions

    * Reveal that you overlooked something

    * Present a friend as a foe

    When you try to control your rage, roll+WIS: on a 10+, lose 1 Frenzy and act as you wish (for the moment at least); on a 7-9, lose 1 Frenzy but pick 1:

    * Vent your fury, but tell us how and on what

    * Take some deep breaths and count to ten, fuming all the while

    On a 6-, ask the GM what damn fool thing you do.


    Requires Blood Rage

    When you take damage while you hold Frenzy, you can mark a debility to take 0 damage. You still suffer the fictional consequences of your injuries–you just don’t lose HP.


    Requires Blood Rage

    When you hold Frenzy and attack a foe in melee or with a thrown weapon, roll+STR: on 10+, deal your damage +1d6 (forceful, messy); on a 7-9, as a 10+ but the GM chooses 1.

    * Expose yourself to attack

    * Shatter, break, or destroy something important

    * Lash out an ally or bystander

    When you lash out at an ally or bystander, inflict your damage +1d6 (forceful, messy) unless they find some way to counter or evade your attack.

  6. Taking inspiration from Jeremy Strandberg’s move above, I might simplify it for some of my tables. My players struggle with hold mechanics. :-/


    When you spill blood (yours or another’s) and give in to your boundless rage you go into a Frenzy. While in a Frenzy you:

    – do +1d6 when you deal damage

    – gain the tag terrifying

    – take +1 to H&S and physical Defy Dangers

    – are limited to physical moves only

    – on any 9- rolls of your own, the GM will make an additional move related to your Frenzy.

    – on any 9- rolls of your party members, the GM’s move may be related to your Frenzy.

    When you try to control your rage, roll+WIS: on a 10+, you come out of your Frenzy and act as you wish; on a 7-9, you come out of your Frenzy but are exhausted, take time to rest or minus 1 ongoing until you do; on a 6-, ask the GM what damn fool thing you do that shocks you out of your Frenzy.

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