Introduction

Barbarians run on Strength, so a Strength increase is your first priority. Bonuses to Constitution are also important since the Barbarian’s AC is typically much worse than that of other front-line Defenders like the Fighter or the Paladin, and Reckless Attack compounds that challenge. Even with damage resistances from rage, you still need those extra hit points.

Medium size can also be important for barbarians. Since most barbarians opt for large two-handed weapons, medium size is a good idea because small characters will suffer Disadvantage to use heavy weapons like greataxes. If you’re planning to use a shield or play Path of the Beast, size is less important.

Beyond those core requirements, look for traits which solve problems for the Barbarian. Damage resistances are great, move speed is nice, and other traits which complement the Barbarian’s usual tactics can be very helpful. Darkvision is great since the Barbarian can’t cast spells to get it. Additional skill proficiencies will help you stay useful outside of combat, though Primal Knowledge should give you enough if you’re using Optional Class Features.

Innate Spellcasting intended to be used in combat is a poor choice because you can’t cast spells or concentrate on spells while raging. If you can get some utility spells that may be worthwhile.

After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read our Barbarian Handbook.

Table of Contents

Filter Controls

Filter controls are loading.

Barbarian Races

Keep in mind that not all races will be available in every game. Consult your DM about which races are welcome in your game, as not all settings are appropriate to every setting or even to specific campaigns within a setting which might otherwise welcome any and all races.

AarakocraEEPC

UpdatedMMoM: Play an owlin instead. The updated Aarakocra loses their uniquely high speed and gains some innate spellcasting that’s still unappealing even if you’re not raging.

Customized Origin: Flight is great, and even if you never get far off the ground the Aarakocra’s 50-foot speed is excellent for getting into melee quickly, and Fast Movement will raise it to 60 feet. However, flight speed and ability increases are all that the Aarakocra offers, and flight is less tactically-impactful for the Barbarian than for other classes since the Barbarian is so locked into melee. You’re also limited to light armor, so you’ll likely want to rely on Unarmored Defense, which won’t match medium armor until you’re high level and have spent numerous Ability Score Increases. If you want to fly, go for the Winged Tiefling.

Default Rules: Flight is fantastic, but the Aarakocra’s abilities don’t work well for a Barbarian.

AasimarVGtM

UpdatedMMoM: Radiant Consumption is the obvious choice here. Rush into melee with as many enemies as you can, turn it on while raging, and rack up that extra damage.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace offers a +1 increase), two damage resistances, Darkvision, and Healing Hands will help you maintain your big pile of hit points despite comparably low AC.

  • Fallen: A great crowd control option for a class which has very few of them. The Frightened condition imposes Disadvantage on attacks, offsetting Reckless Attack and putting you at a tactical advantage.
  • Protector: Flight for one minute once per day may be enough to solve your flight-based needs in most scenarios, and the damage boost is always helpful.
  • Scourge: Scourge’s transformation hurts you, but you have plenty of hit points to burn. What the Barbarian doesn’t have is a way to handle crowds, which Scourge’s transformation addresses fairly well.

Default Rules: Two damage resistances, Darkvision, and Healing Hands will help you maintain your big pile of hit points despite comparably low AC.

  • Fallen: A +1 Strength increase is enough to scrape by, and Necrotic Shroud is a powerful crowd control effect which helps the Barbarian handle crowds of enemies.
  • Protector: Access to flight is tempting, but you can get that from other places.
  • Scourge: Interesting, but you need a Strength bonus more than a Constitution bonus.

Aasimar (DMG Variant)DMG

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and two damage resistances. That’s a fine base, and the innate spellcasting may be somewhat helpful for the Barbarian since their healing options don’t go beyond hit dice and they can’t produce light without an item.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Air GenasiMMoM

Most of the power budget is tied up in innate spellcasting that won’t help you.

Bugbear

UpdatedMMoM: Barbarians can often manage a bit of Dexterity to make Stealth work, and both Darkvision and proficiency in Stealth support that tactic. The Barbarian’s Danger Sense makes Surprise Attack a little easier to use reliably, and with Reckless Attack you can almost guarantee that you’ll hit unless you’re using Great Weapon Master or something, so your turn 1 damage can be phenomenal.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2 Str, +1 Con, Darkvision, and one skill. Long-limbed may not be as useful for the Barbarian as it is for some other classes because hit-and-run tactics generally don’t make sense for the Barbarian, but if you can make it work you may be able to offset the drawback of Reckless Attack by remaining far enough away that enemies can’t attack you. Surprise Attack is hard to use unless you invest enough in Dexterity that you can easily surprise your enemies.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Dexterity might not seem like an obvious benefit for a barbarian, and it’s not as good as Constitution, but the AC bonus is still helpful. Reach makes it easy to compete with larger creatures or attack smaller foes at a distance, and Sneaky allows you to be an ambush predator.

Centaur

UpdatedMMoM: The updated version of the Centaur remains a very solid choice for the Barbarian. Good speed and Charge are great for getting into melee and hitting hard. The updated version does limit your skill choices, and none of the options are fantastic for the Barbarian, but they fit thematically. The damage on Hooves also improved to 1d6.

Classic (Customized Origin)GGTR: +2 Str, +1 Con, one skill, and 40 ft. base speed. The Centaur was already a great choice for the Barbarian, and the Customizing Your Origins rules don’t change that. Charge is a great way to open combat, especially if you raged before you moved into melee so that you can spend your Bonus Action on that turn to Hoof someone.

Classic (Default Rules)GGTR: The Strength increase is a great start, and Charge is fantastic on a barbarian. If you rage before charging, the hoof attack is an extra opportunity to apply your Rage bonus to damage, not to mention your crazy Strength bonus.

Changeling

UpdatedMMoM: The Changeling’s skill are all Charisma-based, and the Barbarian typically dumps Charisma. Shapechanger is mostly only useful in games with a lot of intrigue, which isn’t usually where you want to play a barbarian.

Classic (Customized Origin)ERLW: +2 Str, +1 Con, two skills, and Shapechanger. Shapechanger doesn’t fit well with the Barbarian’s play style, so there is basically no mechanical reason to play a changeling barbarian. The ability score increases and skills are obviously fine, but there are numerous other races that provide those benefits and also traits which help the Barbarian.

Classic (Default Rules)ERLW: Bad ability spread.

Deep GnomeMMoM

If you want a bit of Dexterity so that you can be sneaky, the Deep Gnome’s traits are a nice complement. The Deep Gnome’s only addition in combat is Gnomish Magic Resistance (which is great for the Barbarian), but outside of combat their innate spellcasting doesn’t require Concentration and the spells’ durations are very long. Pair that with 120 ft. Darkvision and Svirfneblin Camouflage and you’re a surprisingly decent Scout.

DragonbornPHB

Chromatic: The damage resistance is great, but lines are difficult AOE, and with a mountain of hit points it’s less important to temporarily upgrade your damage resistance to immunity.

Gem: A conical breath weapon and the best damage types to use offensively. Gem Flight provides temporary flight which will work for one encounter, allowing you to handle flying enemies when you need to without making that the defining feature of your race. The Gem Dragonborn’s damage resistances are less useful because the damage types are less common, but and emerald dragonborn bear totem barbarian can have resistance to all damage, which was previously only possible for the Kalashtar.

Metallic: A conical breath weapon, and once you hit level 5 the additional ways to use your breath weapon make it easier to justify picking a common damage type like fire.

Customized Origin:

  • ClassicPHB: With the introduction of the Fizban’s variants, there is no reason to play the classic Dragonborn, either with or without the custom origin rules. The new variants are strictly better in absolutely every way.
  • DraconbloodEGtW: +2 Str, +1 Con, Darkvision. Forceful Presence can help make up for dumped Charisma on the rare occasions that you feel the need to make Charisma checks. Giving up damage resistance hurts, but it may be worth the trade.
  • RaveniteEGtW: +2 Str, +1 Con, Darkvision. Vengeful Assault is guaranteed to get used. Barbarians tend to get hit a lot, and more attacks means more damage output early in a fight.

Default Rules:

  • ClassicPHB: With the introduction of the Fizban’s variants, there is no reason to play the classic Dragonborn, either with or without the custom origin rules. The new variants are strictly better in absolutely every way.
  • DraconbloodEGtW: Bad ability spread.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Better ability scores for the Barbarian than the standard Dragonborn, and you can survive without the Dragonborn’s damage resistance. Ravenite adds Darkvision, a Constitution increase, and Vengeful Assault which offers an occasional boost to your damage output.

DuergarMMoM

Darkvision, Dwarven Resilience, and Psionic Fortitude are all great for the Barbarian. The Duergar’s innate spellcasting is harder. Enlarge/reduce will be basically useless unless you’re out of rages.

DwarfPHB

For the updated version of the Duergar, see their separate race entry on this page.

Customized Origin: +2 Str and each subrace will provide a second increase. Darkvision is great, and resistance to poison will mitigate one of the most common types of damage which Rage doesn’t give you resistance to by default. The weapon proficiencies are redundant, so trade for 4 tool proficiencies. The Dwarven Fortitude racial feat can be a great way to keep yourself alive in combat if your AC is low and you don’t have healing readily available.

  • DuergarSCAG: Sunlight Sensitivity is a huge problem, but otherwise this is a fine option. Duergar Resilience provides resistance against two very common status conditions which can easily take the Barbarian out of a fight, and while the innate spellcasting won’t work while raging it gives you other options to solve problems.
  • HillPHB: +1 con and even more hit points on top of it. Not super exciting, but very functional.
  • MountainPHB: +2 con, and trade the armor proficiencies for two more tool proficiencies.

Default Rules: The Constitution bonus is great and Darkvision is always welcome. The Dwarven Fortitude racial feat can be a great way to keep yourself alive in combat if your AC is low and you don’t have healing readily available.

  • DuergarSCAG: In a subterranean campaign, this is at least on par with Mountain Dwarf. Otherwise, Sunlight Sensitivity is a huge problem.
  • HillPHB: A bonus to wisdom is nice, but not going to make a big difference. The bonus hit points is also helpful, but you already have a d12 hit die and a Constitution bonus from the general Dwarf traits. Hill Dwarf is fine, but it feels silly to choose Hill Dwarf over Mountain Dwarf.
  • MountainPHB: A bonus to Strength on top of the Dwarf’s bonus to Constitution is perfect for the Barbarian. Two +2 increases means that you can start with two 17’s at first level, and can reach 20 Strength and 20 Constitution at level 12. This leaves more room to raise your Dexterity or to pick up feats without sacrificing exceptionally high Constitution.

Earth GenasiMMoM

Most of the power budget is tied up in innate spellcasting that won’t help you.

EladrinMMoM

Fey Ancestry is a helpful defense since barbarians are often vulnerable to charm effects due to poor mental saves. The teleportation effect is fantastic, allowing you teleport short distances as a Bonus Action, and since it’s not a spell you can do it while raging. Your mental ability scores will be too low to give you a reliable save DC, so stick to Spring or Summer.

ElfPHB

For the updated versions of the Eladrin, the Sea Elf, and the Shadar-Kai, see their separate race entries on this page.

Customized Origin: +2 Str, Darkvision, one skill. Fey Ancestry protects you against effects which normally work very well to take barbarians out of a fight due to poor Wisdom saving throws. Each subrace provides a second ability score increase, and many provide weapon proficiencies which you can trade for tool proficiencies.

  • DrowPHB: Sunlight Sensitivity is a pain, and the innate spellcasting doesn’t work while you’re raging so it’s minimally useful.
  • EladrinMToF: Fey Step works while raging, but all of the secondary effects are Charisma-based, which limits their effectiveness. You’ll likeky have better results with the Shadar-Kai.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: Because you actually cast a spell, Misty Step won’t work while raging. The weapon proficiencies are useless, so trade them for tool proficiencies. At that poit, the regular Eladrin is a better choice.
  • High ElfPHB: An Intelligence-based cantrip is nearly useless for the Barbarian.
  • Pallid ElfEGtW: Advantage on Wisdom (Insight) can helpful in social situations where the Barbarian frequently struggles, but beyond that Invisibility as an innate spell is the only benefit. That’s simply not enough, and there are a number of other racial options with similar benefits.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Maybe an option in an aquatic campaign, but even then Path of the Beast allows you to adapt to breath and fight underwater so this isn’t totally necessary.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Resistance to necrotic damage and teleportation. Great for a class with few movement options beyond running, and Blessing of the Raven queen provides better damage resistance than Rage does.
  • Wood ElfPHB: A little bit of extra speed, weapon proficiencies which you’ll trade for tool proficiencies, and Mask of the Wild. It works fine, but you don’t get anything that makes you a better barbarian.

Default Rules: 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.

  • DrowPHB: Nothing helpful for the Barbarian.
  • EladrinMToF: Fey Step is really good, but that’s the only appeal.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: Misty Step can’t be cast while raging.
  • High ElfPHB: Nothing helpful for the Barbarian.
  • Pallid ElfEGtW: Nothing useful for the Barbarian.
  • Sea ElfMToF: +1 Constitution is the only thing you need from the Sea Elf.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Dexterity and Constitution isn’t ideal for a barbarian, but your AC will be really good, and you get a damage resistance and the ability to teleport.
  • Wood ElfPHB: A wisdom bonus might help with your Wisdom saving throw, but that’s about it.

FairyWBtW / MMoM

The ability score increases work, but being limited to light armor means that you’re unusually MAD for a barbarian due to a heavy dependence on Dexterity. The Fairy’s innate spellcasting also isn’t helpful since you can’t concentrate on the spells while raging. If you want to fly, go for the Winged Tiefling.

Firbolg

UpdatedMMoM: +2 Str, +1 Con. Firbolg Magic is hard for the Barbarian to use, and while Hidden Step works while raging it’s rarely a good choice because you should be on the front lines drawing fire and shrugging off damage. Speech of beast and leaf is neat, but most barbarians dump Charisma.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2 Str, +1 Con. Firbolg Magic is hard for the Barbarian to use, and while Hidden Step works while raging it’s rarely a good choice because you should be on the front lines drawing fire and shrugging off damage. Speech of beast and leaf is neat, but most barbarians dump Charisma.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: A bit too tricksy and indirect for a Barbarian.

Fire GenasiMMoM

Most of the power budget is tied up in innate spellcasting that won’t help you.

GenasiEEPC

For the updated versions of the Air Genasi, the Earth Genasi, the Fire Genasi, and the the Water Genasi, see their separate race entries on this page.

Customized Origin: +2 Str is a fine start, and each subrace will provide a second increase which you can put into Con.

  • Air: Levitate isn’t helpful for a class that’s almost entirely melee-only.
  • Earth: Earth walk is neat and Merge With Stone suddenly makes you very good at stealth, but those effects are only situationally useful, so you’re mostly leaning on the same +2/+1 increases that nearly every race gets.
  • Fire: Fire resistance and Darkvision are great, but if that’s all that you want the Tiefling will do fine. The Fire Genasi’s Innate Spellcasting is Constitution-based, making it a viable for the Barbarian. You may even find that Produce Flame offers an effective option for attacking at range.
  • Water: The spells are excellent utilities. Resistance to Acid is nice, but situational. I would probably only go this route in an aquatic campaign, but it’s not as useless on land as options the Sea Elf.

Default Rules: Bonus Constitution isn’t as good as Strength, but it boosts the Barbarian’s AC (provided that you’re unarmored) and hit points, both of which are important.

  • Air: Dexterity isn’t particularly important for Barbarians, and the ability to hold your breath is extremely situational.
  • Earth: Bonus Strength, and the ability to move across difficult terrain unimpeded helps you to get into melee in situations where it’s normally difficult to do so.
  • Fire: Intelligence is for Wizards. The resistance to fire is tempting, and Produce Flame is a decent option, but the spells don’t really play to the Barbarian’s strengths.
  • Water: Wisdom is a good defensive ability, and the spells are excellent utilities. Resistance to Acid is nice, but situational.

GithMToF

For the updated versions of the Githyanki, the Githzerai, see their separate race entries on this page.

Customized Origin: A base +1 increase, and each subrace provides a +2, so you can hit +2 Str and +1 Con.

  • Githyanki: One skill and some armor and weapon proficiencies which you can trade for a total of 5 tool proficiencies. The innate spellcasting offers some utility options, including teleportation via Misty Step, but they’ll be totally useless while raging.
  • Githzerai: Mental Discipline will protect you from common status conditions which are frequent problems for the Barbarian, but the Githzerai’s innate spellcasting may be less useful for the Barbarian than the Githyanki’s, and the Githzerai does nothin to expand your capabilities outside of combat like the Githyanki does.

Default Rules: Githyanki are great, Githzerai are terrible and you should ignore them.

  • GithyankiMToF: +2 Strength, some extra proficiencies, and Githyanki Psionics gives you some magic options to overcome problems that many barbarians can’t handle.
  • GithzeraiMToF: Nothing helpful for Barbarians.

GithyankiMMoM

Basically the only useful thing here is resistance to psychic damage. The ability to cast Jump is neat because you can more easily jump over difficult terrain, but if you want to jump around like that, Path of the Beast is much easier and sustainable.

GithzeraiMMoM

The innate spellcasting isn’t helpful, but resistance to charm, fear, and psychic damage is a really tempting combination. Combine that with bear totem and you’re basically unstoppable.

GnomePHB

For the updated version of the Deep Gnome, see their separate race entry on this page.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases () Small size can be hard, but you can get by with a longsword in two hands or by using Path of the Beast and fighting with teeth and claws. Darkvision is always nice, and Gnome Cunning will protect you from magic effects which are a serious problem for most barbarians.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Superior Darkvision without the usual limitation of Sunlight Sensitivity, and Stone Camouflage helps with stealth in some cases. Neither are especially useful for the Barbarian since barbarians don’t fight at range and generally the Barbarian isn’t built for stealth.
  • ForestPHB: Natural Illusion and Speak with Small Beasts are weird choices for the Barbarian, but Minor Illusion can do a lot before your spell save DC actually matters so you may be able to use it to great effect outside of combat.
  • RockPHB: Nothing useful. Tinker is a fun novelty, but it doesn’t actually make your character better

Default Rules: Nothing helpful for the Barbarian.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Dexterity and stealth abilities aren’t useful for Barbarians.
  • ForestPHB: Nothing helpful for the Barbarian.
  • RockPHB: The constitution bonus helps, but it’s not nearly enough to make the Gnome viable for a Barbarian.

Goblin

UpdatedMMoM: Better than the custom origin version thanks to the addition of Fey Ancestry, but still not amazing. Fury of the Small adds a tiny bit more damage, and Nimble Escape allows hit-and-run tactics if you’re into that for some reason.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2 Str, +1 Con, and Darkvision. Fury of the Small is a decent damage boost, and Nimble Escape makes hit-and-run tactics possible, but those don’t add much to the Barbarian.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Nothing helpful for the Barbarian.

Goliath

UpdatedMMoM: Cold resistance and Stone’s Endurance add a lot to your durability. Grab a two-handed weapon and go nuts. You also get proficiency in Athletics, which is one of the Barbarian’s best skills.

Classic (Customized Origin)EEPC: +2 Str, +1 Con, one skill, and damage resistance to cold. Stone’s Endurance adds the Barbarian’s already impressive ability to withstand damage. A great package, and very simple to build and play successfully.

Classic (Default Rules)EEPC: 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-ElfPHB

Customized Origin: +2 Str, +1 Con, +1 anything else (I recommend Dex or Wis), Darkvision, and Fey Ancestry will help with charm effects.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: Innate spellcasting is hard for the Barbarian to use, especially combat options like Faerie Fire.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Tool proficiencies can be helpful, especially crucial options like Thieves’ Tools, but I would take two skills over four tools every time. The cantrip is nearly unusable unless you go for a utility option, but in that case I would still rather have two skills.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: To skills. Always useful.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: Nothing as good as two skills.

Default Rules: 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.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only if you’re in an aquatic campaign.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: The spells are decent, and Faerie Fire presents a way to handle invisible foes which Barbarians normally can’t handle, but you’ll have trouble using Dancing Lights and Darkness, and you can’t cast spells while ragin.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Weapon training is redundant, and Barbarians won’t get much use out of a cantrip. You might consider Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade, but you’ll have better damage output from relying on conventional attacks and you can’t cast spells while raging.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Two skills can get you quite a lot. Coupled with the Half-elf Charisma bonus you could easily be your party’s Face.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: Weapon training is redundant and Mask of the Wild won’t be useful without Stealth proficiency, but Fleet of Foot is great if you want to be fast.

Half-OrcPHB

Customized Origin: With the exception of possibly changing the racial skill, the Half-Orc is already a perfect barbarian. Even with customized origins, Relentless Endurance and Savage Attacks synergize very effectively with the Barbarian’s existing features.

Default Rules: 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. The Prodigy racial feat is excellent if you plan to use Athletics for grappling, but Skill Expert would also work. The Orcish fury racial feat is tempting with a greataxe, but probably not worth the feat.

HalflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2 Str, Brave helps against common fear effects, and Lucky is good on literally any character. Subraces provides a second increase which can go into Con. Small size is a hindrance because it limits your weapon options, but you can get by on using a longsword two-handed.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Silent Speech is a hard choice since most barbarians dump Charisma.
  • LightfootPHB: You should not be hiding behind people. The Barbarian is the class that everyone else hides behind.
  • LotusdenEGtW: The innate spellcasting will be very unreliable, and you can’t use it while raging.
  • StoutPHB: Poison resistance protects you from one of the most common damage types which Rage doesn’t already protect you against.

Default Rules: A dexterity bonus is okay for Barbarians, but small size is a hindrance because you can’t use big weapons like a Greataxe, and without a Strength bonus you’re at an even larger disadvantage compared to other races.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Nothing helpful for the Barbarian.
  • LightfootPHB: Nothing helpful for the Barbarian.
  • LotusdenEGtW: Nothing useful for the Barbarian.
  • StoutPHB: A small Constitution bonus, and resistance to poison. Like a small dwarf.

HarengonWBtW / MMoM

The extra skill is nice, but Hare Trigger isn’t super important for martial characters, and Rabbit Hop is primarily useful for getting out of melee, which is a thing that the Barbarian generally doesn’t do.

Hobgoblin

UpdatedMMoM: Many barbarian subclasses have a way to use their Bonus Action every turn while raging, but they may not be as impactful as Fey Gift so skipping your subclass’s Bonus Action for a few rounds per day won’t kill you. If nothing else, the Hospitality option’s temporary hit points are a good layer of additional protection, especially once you’re raging and have damage resistance. Fortune of the Many can help you succeed on difficult saving throws, especially mental ones which often take barbarians out of a fight.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2 Str, +1 Con, Darkvision, and some proficiencies which you can trade for tools. Saving Face is great for saving throws, and if you have enough allies nearby the bonus can make up for the Barbarian’s weak mental saves.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: The Constitution bonus and Saving Face are both great, but that’s really the only thing that the barbarian can use.

Human

Customized Origin:

  • Standard: With perfect ability scores on the table for every race, there is no reason to play the Standard Human.
  • Variant: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Variant Human.

Default Rules: Versatile and fantastic at everything. The Prodigy racial feat is excellent if you plan to use Athletics for grappling.

  • Standard: Barbarians really only need two ability scores, but a +1 to all of your scores can be helpful if you use the point buy ability generation method to give yourself low, odd-numbered base abilities to save points or if you want to start with 16 Str, 16 Dex, and 16 Con.
  • Variant: You still get crucial bonuses to your Strength and Constitution, and you can get an awesome feat at level 1. Great Weapon Master seems like an obvious choice, but remember that at low level a -5 penalty to your attacks is crippling, so you may want to save it for higher levels when you can more easily handle that penalty. The bonus skill is nice, but not essential.

KalashtarERLW

Customized Origin: +2 Str, +1 Con, and some interesting mental defenses. Resistance on all Wisdom saving throws is really appealing for the Barbarian, protecting you from most charm and fear effects, as well as countless spells and other more unique abilities. Resistance to psychic damage is appealing for the bear totem barbarian because you can get resistance to all damage types while raging.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread. Resistance to psychic damage is neat because it means that a bear totem barbarian can be resistant to all damage, but that is not enough to make this a good choice.

KenkuVGtM

UpdatedMMoM: Kenku Recall’s Advantage mechanic can be helpful for Athletics checks to grapple when you can’t Rage for whatever reason, and two additional skills offer additional options to be useful outside of combat which the Barbarian sorely needs.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2 Str, +1 Con, two skills. That’s really everything that the Barbarian benefits from.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Nothing helpful for the Barbarian.

Kobold

UpdatedMMoM: Small size limits your weapon options, Draconic Cry is partially redundant with Reckless Attack, and your options with Kobold Legacy are limited.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2 Con, Darkvision, and Grovel, Cower, and Beg. You play a kobold for Pack Tactics, and Pack Tactics is much less appealing since you have Reckless Attack.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Pack Tactics is redundant with Reckless Attack, and if you want need Pack Tactics there is basically no mechanical reason to play a kobold.<

LeoninMOoT

Customized Origin: +2 Str, +1 Con, Darkvision, one skill. The Leonin’s signature trait is Daunting Roar, which provides a powerful crowd-control option that helps the Barbarian handle crowds. Even better: the DC is Constitution-based, and it recharges on a Short or Long Rest so you’ll have it available often enough to be impactful.

Default Rules: Leonin make great barbarians for many of the same reasons that half-orcs do, but they trade Relentless Endurance and Savage Attacks for claws, better skills, and the ability to roar and scare enemies.

Lizardfolk

UpdatedMMoM: Hungry Jaws is great on a barbarian (bonus action attack which applies your Rage damage bonus), but the Lizardfolk’s Natural Armor isn’t any better than Unarmored Defense. If you can get 16 Constitution at first level, Unarmored Defense matches Natural Armor and will improve as you increase your Constitution. The two extra skills overlap heavily with the Barbarian’s class skill list, but two more skills means that you have more options outside of combat where barbarians frequently struggle to be useful.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2 Str, +1 Con, two skills, and Hungry Jaws. Natural Armor is mostly redundant with Unarmored Defense, and you’ll almost never use Bite except when you’re using Hungry Jaws. Cunning Artisan and Hold Breath are neat, but rarely impactful. That makes Hungry Jaws the big draw here, and at once per Short or Long Rest, it’s good but not fantastic.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Natural Armor and the lizardfolk’s Constitution increase conflict a bit on a barbarian because Unarmored Defense and Natural Armor both provide alternatives to conventional armor, but the lizardfolk still makes a fun barbarian.

LocathahLR

Customized Origin: +2 Str, +1 Con, two skills, and an impressive list of condition resistances which will help keep you in a fight when special abilities are being thrown around. Limited Amphibiousness is a bit of a pain, but you can solve that with a sufficiently large bathtub or barrel dragged around in a cart or wagon.

Default Rules: Similar to the Bugbear in terms of ability increases, but not quite as useful. The natural armor is wasted unless you have less than 14 Constitution, which is a terrible idea. Leviathan Will offers some helpful defenses against status effects, and two additional skills will make you more capable outside of combat.

LoxodonGGTR

Customized Origin: +2 Str, +1 Con, and some more unique traits. Loxodon Serenity protects against very common status conditions can frequently take the Barbarian out of combat due to poor mental saves. Natural Armor is somewhat redundant with Unarmored Defense, but since it’s Constitution-based rather than Dexterity-based you could dump Dexterity to 8 and still get as much AC as a barbarian in half-plate. Keen Smell is neat but most Perception checks are based on hearing or sight so you may not find is particularly useful. Trunk is similarly neat, but may not be impactful unless you rely on Grapple and Shove frequently.

Default Rules: The Constitution increase is great, but Natural Armor will hopefully be overridden by Unarmored Defense, and the Loxodon has very little else to contribute to the Barbarian.

Minotaur

UpdatedMMoM: Goring Rush gets you the most important part of the Charger feat, and Hammering Horns gets you part of the Shield Master feat (but not the part that knocks things prone).

Classic (Customized Origin)GGTR: +2 Str, +1 Con, one skill. Minotaurs are absolutely perfect barbarians. Goring Rush gets you the most important part of the Charger feat, and Hammering Horns gets you part of the Shield Master feat (but not the part that knocks things prone).

Classic (Default Rules)GGTR: Minotaurs are absolutely perfect barbarians. The ability increases are fantastic. Goring Rush gets you the most important part of the Charger feat, and Hammering Horns gets you part of the Shield Master feat (but not the part that knocks things prone).

Orc

UpdatedMMoM: Adrenaline Rush may be useful late into combat if you need to switch targets, but in most combats they’ll be within range of your 40 ft. speed. Many barbarian subclasses also have a consistent use for your Bonus Action, so using Adrenaline Rush is often difficult even in situations where it might be useful, so you may end up using Adrenaline Rush outside of combat just to get the temporary hit points, and at that point the Goliath and the Hobgoblin are better choices.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: The Customizing Your Origins rules doesn’t change the Orc much for the Barbarian. The ability score increases still work great, but you might choose to take skills not on the race’s list of options. Regardless, the Half-orc is still probably a fit for the Barbarian.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Aggressive is cool, but the half-orc is considerably better than the full orc.

OwlinSCoC

The Owlin’s traits are great, but being restricted to light armor is a problem for the Barbarian because it introduces an increased reliance on Dexterity, making the Barbarian more MAD than it needs to be. If you want flight, consider the Winged Tiefling.

Satyr

UpdatedMMoM: Barbarians are very susceptible to magic, so Magic Resistance is a great defense. Mirthful Leaps can help get over difficult terrain, which is helpful for a class almost entirely locked into melee. The skill and tool proficiencies aren’t especially helpful.

Classic (Customized Origin)MOoT: +2 Str, +1 Con, two skills. Magic Resistance and the Fey creature type will protect you from problematic spells, especially options like Hold Person which may be difficult even with Magic Resistance. Mirthful Leaps may let you jump over small natural hazards like difficult terrain. If you just want durability I would consider the Yuan-Ti Pureblood first, but the Satyr’s additional skills offer some utility outside of combat which is very appealing on a class which is already so combat-focused.

Classic (Default Rules)MOoT: Bad ability spread.

Sea ElfMMoM

Darkvision, Fey Ancestry, and proficiency in Perception are all great for the Barbarian, but you can get those the Eladrin or any other variety of elf. Cold resistance is useful. Friend of the Sea is hard on a class with poor Charisma, and being amphibious only matters in campaigns where water is a consistent issue. With the exception of Path of the Beast, the Barbarian doesn’t have a way to breath underwater unassisted, so in campaigns where the Sea Elf makes sense as a choice, the Sea Elf makes an excellent barbarian.

Shadar-KaiMMoM

Great for all the same reasons as the Eladrin, but you’re locked into the Shadar-Kai’s damage resistance rider effect on the teleportation which is partially redundant with Rage. I think the Eladrin is a slightly better choice, but it’s a very small gap.

Shifter

UpdatedMMoM: Lots of good choices here. Beasthide makes you more durable, longtooth gives you more damage output, and Wildhunt can negate the drawback of Reckless Attack. You’ll have some difficulty getting both Shifting and Rage going at the same time since both require your Bonus Action, but otherwise it’s great.

Customized OriginERLW: Each subrace will give you a +2 increase (put it into Str), a +1 increase (put it into Con, generally), Darkvision, and one skill. You also get Shifting, which is the Shifter’s signature feature. It’s a decent combat buff on its own, and your subrace will offer additional effects.

  • Beasthide: A bigger pool of temporary hit points and a modest AC bonus do a lot to complement the Barbarian’s already impressive durability.
  • Longtooth: Many barbarian subclasses don’t lean heavily on their Bonus Action once Rage is running, so adding the ability to make a bite attack with your Bonus Action is a significant increase to your damage output. Unfortunately, you’ll need to spend two Bonus Actions at the beginning of combat to get the Rage+Bite combo going, but in long combats or if you have a couple turns to prepare before combat you can be very effective.
  • Swiftstride: The intent of this ability is to let you move away from enemies when they get into melee with you so that you don’t need to Disengage on your turn. Barbarians want to get into melee as fast as possible and stay there.
  • Wildhunt: Negate the Advantage on attacks against you granted by Reckless Attack. That alone is mathematically much better protection than the extra temporary hit points and the AC bonus from Beasthide.

Default RulesERLW: Darkvision is great, and some of the Shifter options work for the barbarian conceptually, but you may have trouble combining Shifting and Rage since both are activated as a Bonus Action. At low levels Shifting can provide a useful alternative while your number of Rages is small, and even once you can comfortably rage during every fight you may find that in some situations it helps to use Shifting before you use Rage so that your Temporary Hit Points can absorb some damage while you get yourself up and running.

  • Beasthide: Perfect ability score increases, proficiency in an important skill, extra Temporary Hit Points, and you get +1 to AC while shifting so you’re even more durable.
  • Longtooth: While Dexterity isn’t quite as nice as Constitution, it’s still somewhat helpful. Intimidation isn’t a good skill for the barbarian, but that’s not the draw here. The ability to bite as a bonus action means that you get as many attacks a character using two-weapon fighting without giving up a shield or a two-handed weapon. Extra attacks means more opportunities to apply your growing damage bonus from Rage.
  • Swiftstride: Bad ability spread.
  • Wildhunt: Bad ability spread. The Wildhunt Shifting Benefit can temporarily offset the drawback of Reckless Attack, but you don’t get to use Shifting frequently enough to make this a good option in the face of the lack of a Strength bonus.

Simic HybridGGTR

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Simic Hybrid. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: With the flexible ability increase in Strength, the Simic Hybrid is an interesting and versatile option for the Barbarian. The first round of Animal Enhancement gets you some utility options which the Barbarian has no way to replicate, and the second offers several appealing combat options which will nicely complement your class features.

Tabaxi

UpdatedMMoM: Feline Agility is great for closing to melee quickly, but it’s not going to be useful often enough to justify your race. The Tabaxi’s skills are decent for the Barbarian, but not fantastic, and the fact that they’re fixed limits your options.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2 Dex, +1 Con, Darkvision, two skills. The signature feature is Feline Agility, which works fine with Fast Movement but it doesn’t solve any problems that you couldn’t solve by dashing occasionally.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Bad ability spread.

TieflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2 Str, +1 Con, Darkvision, and fire resistance. Most subraces/variants offer innate spellcasting of some kind. The innate spellcasting is Charisma-based, so anything which requires an attack or a save is largely worthless, and since you can’t use it while raging it’s even harder to use. If you really want something similar, consider the Fire Genasi if you can’t find a tiefling with worthwhile spellcasting.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: Bad spellcasting options for the Barbarian. Hellish Rebuke is the best part, but you can’t use it while raging so it’s still a really hard option for the Barbarian to use effectively.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Bad spellcasting options for the Barbarian.
  • DispaterMToF: None of the spellcasting is offensive, but it’s all situationally useful utility options which may be hard to use effectively.
  • FiernaMToF: Bad spellcasting options for the Barbarian.
  • GlasyaMToF: Not typically in the Barbarian’s wheelhouse, but minor illusion can do a lot before you save DC matters and Invisibility doesn’t care about save DC at all.
  • LevistusMToF: Ray of Frost is offensive, Armor of Agathys will break immediately, and you can’t fight in magical darkness.
  • MammonMToF: Utility options which you might be able to use out of combat
  • MephistophelesMToF: Mage Hand is probably the best part.
  • ZarielMToF: All offensive options which will conflict with Rage.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: The Customizing Your Origin optional rules make the Feral variant obsolete. All it does is rearrange your ability score increases.
  • Variant: Devil’s TongueSCAG: Bad spellcasting options for the Barbarian.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Hellish Rebuke is better for the Barbarian than Burning Hands, so we went from a bad option to a worse option.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Innate spellcasting is hard, but flight is great. The Winged Tiefling is a better and more interesting option than the Aarakocra. You still have issues with flight being less useful when you’re locked into melee, but unlike the Aarakocra flight isn’t the race’s only interesting racial trait since you still get Darkvision and fire resistance, and you also get to stay in medium armor so your AC will be better.

Default Rules: Nothing helpful for the Barbarian.

  • AsmodeusPHB / MToF: Nothing helpful for Barbarians.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Nothing helpful for Barbarians.
  • DispaterMToF: Nothing helpful for Barbarians.
  • FiernaMToF: Nothing helpful for Barbarians.
  • GlasyaMToF: Nothing helpful for Barbarians.
  • LevistusMToF: Nothing helpful for Barbarians.
  • MammonMToF: Nothing helpful for Barbarians.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Nothing helpful for Barbarians.
  • ZarielMToF: Legacy of Avernus has some neat spells, and the Strength increase is nice, but that’s not enough to make this a useful option.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: Bad ability spread.
  • Variant: Devil’s TongueSCAG: Nothing helpful for Barbarians.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Nothing helpful for Barbarians.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Flight doesn’t fix the ability score mismatch.

TortleTP / MMoM

Customized Origin: +2 Str, +1 Con, one skill, and fixed 17 AC without a shield so you can dump Dexterity to 8 and not worry about it (except for Dexterity saves, which are common). Hold Breath and Shell Defense are neat but won’t see much use, so the big appeal of the Tortle is being able to dump Dexterity without sacrificing AC compared to medium armor. That will free up points to start with higher mental ability scores, which can help a great deal with skills.

Default Rules: +2 Strength and 17 natural armor is fantastic for a Barbarian. With a solid source of AC, you don’t need to worry about Dexterity, especially at low levels before you’ve picked up multiple Ability Score Increases. Survival proficiency is nice, too.

Triton

UpdatedMMoM: Darkvision, cold resistance, and some innate spellcasting that won’t be particularly useful.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +1 to three ability scores, Darkvision, cold resistance. The innate spellcasting offers some situational utility options. Emissary of the Sea is hard since most barbarians dump Charisma. Still, this is one of the most functional and interesting of the aquatic race options for a non-aquatic campaign.<

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: The ability increases are decent, but the triton’s other racial traits don’t do much for the barbarian.

VedalkenGGTR

Customized Origin: Vedalken Dispassion is a better version of the Gnome’s Cunning trait, but beyond that and ability score increases the Vedalken’s traits are useless for the Barbarian.

Default Rules: Nothing helpful for the Barbarian.

VerdanAcInc

Customized Origin: +2 Str, +1 Con, one skill. Telepathic Insight isn’t quite as good as the Gnome’s Cunning, but it’s still good, and Intelligence saves are fairly rare. Black Blood Healing is neat, but on a d12 hit die it’s not reliable. The weird size mechanic is annoying since the Barbarian typically depends on using big weapons. Telepathic Insight is a helpful mental defense against saves which the Barbarian typically has trouble with, but you’re going to struggle offensively.

Default Rules: +1 Constitution is not enough, and Black Blood Healing is less effective with larger hit dice.

WarforgedERLW

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Warforged. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Increase Constitution, a flexible increase which goes into Strength, +1 AC, some resistances and immunities, and no need to sleep. A great formula for a simple, durable barbarian. Be sure to pick up proficiency in Perception to capitalize on the fact that you don’t need sleep so that you can remain alert and watch over your party during long rests.

Water GenasiMMoM

Most of the power budget is tied up in innate spellcasting that won’t help you.

Yuan-Ti

UpdatedMMoM: The updated version of the Yuan-Ti is weaker than the custom origin version, but it’s still very good without being so good that your DM should consider banning it. Poison resistance and Advantage on saves against spells are both excellent defense for the Barbarian.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2 Str, +1 Con, Darkvision, poison immunity, and Magic Resistance protects you from one of the Barbarian’s biggest and most problematic weaknesses. The innate spellcasting is useless, but honestly it doesn’t matter because everything else is so good.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Magic Resistance is great, but not nearly enough.

Dragonmarks

Dragonmarked DwarfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Warding: Warder’s intuition offers nothing that the Barbarian is likely to use, and the spellcasting options do nothing useful for the Barbarian.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Warding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Shadow: Stealth and subtlety aren’t typically in the Barbarian’s skillset, but the bonus on Dexterity (Stealth) checks helps, and the innate spellcasting offers some magical solutions which you may find useful outside of combat.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Shadow: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked GnomeERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Scribing: The benefits are way too situational to justify, and since most barbarians dump Charisma the communication options aren’t helpful.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Scribing: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Detection: The bonus to Insight and See Invisibility are the only things which you will find consistently useful. Detect Magic is helpful, but what are you going to do about magic when you find it?
  • Mark of Storm: Damage resistance is nice, but the innate spellcasting is too situational.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Detection: Bad ability spread.
  • Mark of Storm: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: The theme and the skill bonuses work surprisingly well, but you may find it very difficult to use the innate spellcasting effectively since maintain Concentration on Hunter’s Mark is so difficult for the Barbarian.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked HalflingERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Healing: The healing provided by the innate spellcasting is extremely minor. Access to Lesser Restoration is nice, but if your party can’t provide Lesser Restoration with actual spellcasting you won’t be able to make up the difference by casting it once per day.
  • Mark of Hospitality: None of these features add to the Barbarian’s capabilities in any meaningful way.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Healing: Bad ability spread.
  • Mark of Hospitality: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked HumanERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your normal racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: You don’t have the Wisdom to make Animal Friendship reliable, Speak with Animals is only situationally useful, and the skills aren’t especially helpful
  • Mark of Making: Magic Weapon is the only thing that you’ll really benefit from, and it’s too hard to maintain Concentration to make it viable.
  • Mark of Passage: A little bit of extra speed and Misty Step once per day. Play an Eldarin or a Shadar-Kai instead.
  • Mark of Sentinel: A good option for front-line Defender characters like the Barbarian, though without access to spell slots it’s not quite as good as it is for spellcasters. Shield is helpful but won’t work during Rage, but Sentinel’s Intuition helps to make the Barbarian more useful out of combat, and Vigilant Guardian allows you to take a hit for an ally (ideally while you’re raging). That’s not enough to make this an easy go-to option, but it’s definitely playable.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: A flexible increase means that you can get a crucial Strength increase, but there isn’t enough here that’s appealing to the Barbarian. If your DM will let you explore training creatures outside of your class features to get things like a griffon mount this might be more useful, but mounts are generally far too frail to be useful in combat, and even if they weren’t that’s a big assumption to make of your DM.
  • Mark of Making: Bad ability spread.
  • Mark of Passage: Strength and Dexterity work fine for the Barbarian, and Magical passage is really useful for a class so totallybereft of magic options, but that’s all that we care about and that’s simply not enough.
  • Mark of Sentinel: An interesting possibility for a tanky barbarian focused on defending their allies, but you’ll lag offensively by a hug emargin, and this isn’t nearly as interesting without the ability to cast spells.

Lineages

Published in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and beyond, no Lineage exists prior to the introduction of the Customizing Your Origin rules, and as such each lineage has flexible ability score increases. Every Lineage has the choice of +2/+1 increases or three +1 increases except for the Custom Lineage which only receives a single +2 increase.

Lineages are applied on top of a base race. While the Custom Lineage isn’t affected by your base race, the three lineages published in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft (Dhampir, Hexblade, and Reborn) borrow from your base race thanks to the Ancestral Legacy trait. Despite selecting a base race, you do not count as a member of your race for the purposes of any other effect, such as qualifying for feats or using magic items.

Custom LineageTCoE

+2 Strength and a feat. Personally I prefer the Variant Human because 16 Str and 16 Con is better at low levels than 17 Str and 15 Con, but Darkvision is really tempting so I won’t blame you for choosing the Custom Lineage over the Variant Human.

DhampirVGTR

The Dhampir’s Constitution-based Vampiric Bite attack seems like a great combinatin for the Barbarian, but Rage’s damage bonus only applies to Strength-based weapon attacks, so the combination isn’t perfect. The ability to empower yourself by biting something has some uses, but if you’re dead set on biting things, Path of the Beast is similar and works better for the Barbarian.

HexbloodVGTR

The ability scores work since you can pick whatever combination you need, but the Hexblood’s other traits are borderline useless for the Barbarian.

RebornVGTR

A good combination of passive resistances to common problems that you’ll face as a front-line martial character. The Reborn is similar in many ways to the Warforged, but you give up a little bit of durability for Ancestral Legacy, which you can use to get two skills and improve your usefulness outside of combat or to get a new move speed from your base race (ex: climb from tabaxi, swim from triton, or flight from winged tiefling).