I rolled up Medium-difficulty encounters on kobold.club and ran a 1-PC simulated fight, rolling dice for everything. I went from levels 1 to 4. The assumption was that Rock got dropped into an arena, immediately in melee range with one or more combatants. Here’s how it went.
This encounter was against 3 rats. Rock starts out wielding his two hand-axes, and is unarmored.
- In the first round, two of three rats hit, and Rock killed one.
- On the second round, only one rat attacked before Rock, and Rock wiped out the remaining two on his round, using his bonus action for a two-weapon attack.
Rock lost 3 HP. Spending 1 HD would heal most or all of that damage.
This encounter was two commoners and two goats. Rock is equipped as before.
- In the first round, one of the two goats hit, and Rock killed one of them. Both commoners miss.
- The remaining goat hits, Rock kills it, and his bonus action damages one of the commoners.
- Both commoners attack and hit. Rock kills one, but his bonus attack misses the other.
- Rock’s regular attack takes out the remaining commoner.
Rock lost 11 HP. Spending 2 HD would heal 8 of that.
This encounter is two blood hawks and two scorpions. It’s more interesting because the blood hawks have Pack Tactics, so advantage is on the table.
- One scorpion hits, but Rock resists the poison and takes half damage. He kills one scorpion with a handaxe, but misses the other. One hawk hits.
- The surviving scorpion misses, and Rock takes it out. His bonus action hits a blood hawk, but the damage isn’t quite enough to kill it. One hawk hits. On this round, the scorpions are out of the way, so Rock drops his weapons and draws his greataxe (interacting with an object).
- Rock attacks the wounded hawk and kills it. The remaining hawk no longer has advantage, and misses.
- Rock crits on the surviving hawk for a total of 26 (!) points of damage.
Rock lost 15 HP. Spending 3 HD would heal 12 of that.
Rock gains Great Weapon Mastery as a feat. He’ll start this fight with his greataxe, instead of the handaxes. The fight is one giant lizard and two monodrones.
- Only one drone hits. Rock uses Reckless Attacker for advantage and hits, killing a drone. His bonus attack from GWM hits the other drone and kills it.
- The lizard attacks with advantage (the downside of Rock using RA), but misses. Rock Recklessly Attacks and takes off half its HP.
- The lizard attacks with advantage and hits. Rock returns fire, doing enough damage to kill the lizard.
Rock only lost 8 HP. Spending 1 HD would heal 9.
The 5E rules for Interacting with Objects let you draw or sheathe a weapon, or pick one up, once per round. Sage Advice says that dropping items takes no action. Because Rock’s handaxes are light, he can make a second attack at levels 1 - 4 with a bonus action, but his damage with them is not great. Against small, low-HP creatures like Scorpions or Rats, this is actually a better tactic than greataxe hacking. The axes can also be thrown, which is handy. So it’s really neat that there’s some tactical decision-making at the lower levels as to which weapon(s) to use, it’s not just “hit it with the biggest attack you have”.
At 4th level, it’s probably better to use the big weapon due to GWM. You’re just as likely to hit with a greataxe, and you’re almost as likely to have a bonus action to spend on a second attack - but that second attack does much more damage!
Reckless Attack against creatures with Pack Tactics is basically gravy - they have advantage against you anyway, so why not?
It’s too early to see how real the RA-GWM synergy is, but I think I can see it.
So yeah! The Barbarian can carve his way through an encounter solo, no buffs, no nothing. Enough healing potions and Hit Dice would carry him through. The party for this character consists of a Bard (buffs!), a Druid (either battlefield control or another melee), and a Sorcerer (blasty backup). It’s not clear yet how much buffing he’ll be getting, but two of the three PCs can heal effectively.