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Pathfinder - Character Optimization - The Unchained Barbarian Handbook

Last Updated: October 15, 2018


I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Temporary Note: Paizo has recently discontinued support of their official SRD. From this point forward SRD links on RPGBOT.net will instead link to d20PFSRD.com. While Archive of Nethys is now Paizo's officially licensed partner for the purposes of serving the Pathfinder SRD, Archive of Nethys is a horribly designed website and it simply doesn't match d20PFSRD's ability to keep pace with published content and d20PFSRD's search functionality.

If you encounter any links which still point to the old SRD, please email me so that I can correct them. I also recently added a page explaining my supported content which you may find helpful. --September 15, 2018


The Barbarian is in a lot of ways indicative of some of the design flaws of DnD 3.x which carried over to Pathfinder. Chief among them was abilities which temporarily changed a character's ability scores, requiring the player to recalculate their whole character sheet during the course of their turn, leading to frustrating slowdowns at the table. Unlike the Unchained Rogue, the Unchained Barbarian isn't a significant jump in power level and viability over the vanilla Barbarian. Instead, it's a massive simplification of the mechanics to make the class more playable with less painful and time-consuming math.

This guide is for the Unchained Barbarian. For the vanilla Barbarian, see my Barbarian Handbook.

What's New?

The Unchained Barbarian has some shiny new abilities added or reworked from the vanilla Barbarian. Here's a quick look at the new/updated features.

Since so little has changed about the Barbarian, the advice in my Barbarian Handbook is still completely valid. The only real addition is that you should pick up at least 1 Stance Power.

Because the Unchained Barbarian changed so little about how the Barbarian works, it raises a persistent question: Which is better under any specific circumstance? There isn't a clear answer across the board. If you're in a party with abundant Morale bonuses to attack and damage, the Unchained Barbarian is a poor choice. Other than that, which option is best varies from build to build.

The vanilla Barbarian does slightly more damage with two-handed weapons because their Strength increases, but the Unchained Barbarian does just as well offensively with any other weapon arrangement (sword and board, TWF natural weapons, etc.). The Unchained Barbarian is better defensively because Unchained Rage provides temporary hit points rather than altering your Constitution score and potentially killing you whenever your rage ends, not to mention the vastly improved options for defensive Rage Powers like Improved Damage Reduction. Stance powers replace a number of weak Rage Powers which ended your rage, but if you plan to rely on rage cycling, that usually doesn't matter.

If the difference of a point or two of damage doesn't seem worth the extra math required to play the vanilla Barbarian, stick to the Unchained Barbarian. I spend a ton of time doing math related to this game, and honestly I would take the Unchained Barbarian 9 times out of 10.