[RPG] Is this homebrew Path of the Totem Warrior for grapplers balanced


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?

Best Answer

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.