RPG BOT{{(konamiCodeMode)?' - KONAMI CODE GO':''}}

{{ subtitle }}

DnD 5e - The Barbarian Handbook

Disclaimer

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

Introduction

Barbarians are all about getting angry and dealing damage. They have a ton of hit points, resistance to damage, and Rage gives a wonderful bonus to damage. Barbarians don't get much in the way of skills, so generally they're stuck as combat monsters, but they function equally well as a Defender and a Striker.

Barbarian Class Features

Hit Points: d12 is the biggest hit die available.

Saves: Strength saves are fairly rare, but Constitution saves are common and typically very problematic.

Proficiencies: Medium armor and martial weapons will get you a long way, but you get no tool proficiencies, and only two skills.

Rage: Rage is the Barbarian's defining class feature. The bonus damage isn't huge, but it's reliable and consistent. The resistance to damage makes Barbarians exceptionally durable. You can rage multiple times in the same encounter if you absolutely need to, but your number of rages per day is limited, so try not to do so if you can avoid it.

Unarmored Defense: This is great flavor for the Barbarian, but won't do much good for you unless your abilities are very high. Your Dexterity and Constitution modifiers need to total +7 to match the total AC bonus provided by half plate armor. That's generally achievable by level 8 unless you rolled for ability scores, and assuming that you started with 14 Dexterity and largely ignored Strength. More realistically, you should expect to hit 20 Constitution by 12th level, and even then Unarmored Defense will only break even with Half plate. If magic armor is an option you'll need to put an ability increase into Dexterity before you have a good reason to drop your armor.

Reckless Attack: Rage makes you resistant to damage from normal weapons (Magical weapons which do weird damage types still work fine), so advantage on attacks against you doesn't matter as much. Go crazy. Kill all of the things.

Danger Sense: In medium armor your dexterity probably isn't fantastic, but advantage on any save is fantastic.

Primal Path: See "Subclasses - Primal Paths", below.

Extra Attack: Two attacks means potentially twice as much damage in a turn, and twice as much opportunity to apply your rage bonus to damage.

Fast Movement: Amusing, but not game-changing.

Feral Instinct: You are basically immune to surprise attacks. Advantage on initiative will allow you to go first frequently, so be sure to get into position to keep enemies from reaching your squishy allies.

Brutal Critical: Critical hits are very rare, and this makes it difficult to use a Maul effectively.

Relentless Rage: This will keep you conscious for a long time if you get hit with a low numbers of high-damage attacks, but lots of small attacks will raise the DC too quickly for this to remain effective. Be sure to eliminate weak but numerous enemies before your HP starts getting scary.

Indomitable Might: By now you might very easily have 20 Strength, so you're guaranteed to get a ridiculously high roll on any Strength check. Remember that saves and attacks aren't checks, so you still need to roll high on those.

Primal Champion: The equivalent of 4 ability increases all at once. Your abilities should be absurd by this point, so now may be a good time to abandon your armor in face of running around slaying monsters in your undergarments.

Subclasses - Primal Paths

Abilities

Barbarians are all about their physical ability scores. If your scores are good enough you can forgo armor, so it's nice to have adequate Dexterity and Constitution to beat the AC bonus provided by half plate.

Str: Barbarians are all about lots of Strength and big weapons, so Strength should almost always be your best ability.

Dex: 14 Dexterity is great to boost your AC with half plate. If you prefer to go armor-less, look for an item to boost your Dexterity so that you can spend your ability increases on Strength and Constitution.

Con: Second only to Strength. Barbarians take a lot of damage, so you need all the hit points you can get. Constituion also powers Unarmored Defense.

Int: Dump stat. Intelligence saves are very rare, and Barbarians don't get any Intelligence-based skills.

Wis: Wisdom saves are common, so don't dump it, but don't put a ton of effort into improving it.

Cha: Charisma only matters for a couple of the Barbarian's skills, and for the Berserker's Intimidating Presence. If you went for Totem Warrior and didn't pick up Intimidation, you can dump Charisma and use the points to boost your Wisdom.

Point Buy Standard Array
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 10
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 13
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 10

Races

Look for bonuses to Strength and medium size so that you can effectively use big weapons like a Greataxe.

AarakocraEEPC: Flight is fantastic, but the Aarakocra's abilities don't work well for a Barbarian.

Dwarf: Most of the Dwarf's racial traits are wasted on the Barbarian, but the Constitution bonus is great and Darkvision is always welcome.

DragonbornPHB: A bonus to Strength is great, but the bonus to Charisma is wasted unless you want to use Intimidating Rage a bunch. The Dragonborn's breath weapon is helpful for handling groups of weak enemies which a Barbarian would normally need to wade through one or two at a time.

ElfPHB: A bonus to Dexterity isn't as helpful as one to Strength or Constitution, but the Elf's other racial traits are great for the Barbarian. Darkvision is excellent, and Keen Senses saves you a skill choice.

GenasiEEPC: Bonus Constitution isn't as good as Strength, but it boosts the Barbarians AC and hit points, both of which are important.

Gnome: Nothing helpful for Barbarians.

GoliathEEPC: Tailor-made to be a melee Monster. Bonuses to your important abilities, free Athletics proficiency, and Stone's Endurance adds a pile to your effective daily hit point total.

Half-Elf: Several of the half-elf variants are good choices, and if you want to excel at Intimidation half-elf is the way to go. Otherwise, the Mountain Dwarf and Variant Human will be better at killing things.

Half-OrcPHB: The Half-Orc is tailor-made for the Barbarian. Bonuses to Strength and Constitution are essential, Darkvision is great, and you save a skill choice on Intimidate. The Half-Orc's other abilities match some of the Barbarian's class features, but it appears that they work together, so you can essentially double-down on Brutal Critical and Relentless Rage.

HalflingPHB: A dexterity bonus is okay for Barbarians, but small size is a problem because you can't use big weapons like a Greataxe.

HumanPHB: Versatile and fantastic at everything.

Tiefling: Nothing helpful for Barbarians.

Skills

Background

Barbarians can't do a lot with skills, but what skills you do want are on the Barbarian skill list. When looking for a Background, try to pick up skills which complement your existing skill proficiencies.

Feats

Weapons

Armor

See also: "Unarmored Defense", above.

Multiclassing