Outside on a winter’s night as the rain begins to fall
There’s a chill in the air and the howl of a wolf while the rain beats at the door
Seven kings will ride on the wind up towards the mountains high
And the only sound that will break the air is the warrior’s bitter cry

Starfire – Dragonforce

Introduction

The Path of the Totem Warrior grants your Barbarian a list of customizable features that allow the build to lean into a few different roles. You could be some unstoppable juggernaut that shrugs off damage, or a bit of a roamer picking off isolated stragglers, or provide a bit of minor support by granting Advantage to allied attack rolls while engaging foes. Kind of a mixed bag to choose from which is why you’ll want to keep reading to see which abilities are great and which abilities won’t keep up.

Maybe you want to just ignore your health bar and smack things. You can do that. Maybe you want to just declare your whole team has Advantage. You can do that. You wanna come in like a wrecking ball and swing an extra time with your bonus action. You can even do that.

Our example build, What is Nature’s Call, elects to go with the party synergy of the Wolf totem instead of the additional resistance of Bear totem. If you want to provide Advantage to all your melee companions, give this build a peek.

If instead you would like to check out a more shenanigans multiclassed build, have a look at our Totembreaker build, The Scourge of Nature.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

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

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Path of the Totem Warrior Features

  1. Spirit Seeker: Very situational.
  2. Totem Spirit: Totem Spirit defines your combat tactics. Bear is for Defenders, Eagle is for Strikers, and Wolf is for Barbarians with other Strikers in the party.
    • Bear: You are basically an unstoppable pile of damage resistance and hit points. This is the go-to option at this level.
    • Eagle: Running around between enemies isn’t something the Barbarian does on a regular basis, especially if you’re the party’s only Defender.
    • ElkSCAG: Barbarians already get Fast Movement, so your speed should be fine. If you really feel like you need this, talk to your DM about using the Optional Class Feature Instinctive Pounce.
    • TigerSCAG: Jumping almost never matters in a game where you can gain magical flight. This is especially frustrating because it only applies when you’re raging.
    • Wolf: This is extremely helpful for characters in your party who are heavily-dependent on attacks like rangers and rogues. Rogues can get Sneak Attack for attacking enemies threatened by an ally, so Advantage isn’t strictly required, but giving them Advantage makes them considerably more reliable and results in a huge increase in average damage output. Unfortunately it doesn’t do anything directly helpful for you, but acting as a force multiplier for your party may be more impactful, especially in a large party.

      The text of the feature specifies that it applies to your “friends” rather than your “allies”, which is a weird inconsistency. As far as I can tell this was an error and you don’t actually need to be friends with your allies for them to benefit.

  3. Aspect of the Beast: Remember that you don’t need to select the same animal which you selected for Totem Spirit. The PHB options are mostly for flavor, but the options introduced in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide are considerably better.
    • Bear: Carrying capacity is usually ignored, and you can always buy a mule to carry your heavy stuff or you can play a race like the Goliath which gets the same benefit to carrying capacity. The advantage on Strength checks only affects objects, and breaking objects isn’t a frequent activity in most campaigns.
    • Eagle: Dim light imposes Disadvantage on Perception checks, so even if you have Darkvision you’re susceptible to ambushes if it’s dark. This solves that issue, so if you’re going to spend a lot of time fighting underground or at night (you know, like eagles do) this can be a significant advantage.
    • ElkSCAG: Overland travel generally happens in plot time, so in most campaigns this will have no perceivable effect. But if your table does track travel time, this is very good.
    • TigerSCAG: Barbarians have very limited capabilities outside of combat, so adding two additional skills can do a lot to make you more useful to the party. However, if you’re desperate for more skills you should first talk to your DM about the Optional Class Feature Primal Knowledge. You might even combine the two if you really want lots of skills.
    • Wolf: Only applies to you, and even then the benefits are both extremely situational and can be better handled by Elk. Doubling your travel pace with Elk, then halving it to move stealthily is the same thing as not halving your speed to move stealthily.
  4. Spirit Walker: Commune With Nature isn’t very powerful as far as divinations go, but it can be very useful when exploring new terrain.
  5. Totemic Attunement: Totemic attunement is an improvement to your combat tactics established by Totem Spirit.
    • Bear: Force nearby enemies to attack you instead of your allies. They can still move away from you, but that draws an Opportunity Attack from a huge horrifying Barbarian.
    • Eagle: Fly over enemies. Fly into the air to hit a flying wizard, then land on something until your next turn. This might even look like Wushu fighting if you do it right.
    • ElkSCAG: This is a cool trip mechanic which allows you to knock an enemy prone without cutting into your attacks. You need to use it on large or smaller enemies, which covers most enemies, but at high level you’ll frequently encounter very large foes which won’t be affected by this ability and it really sucks to face big dangerous foes and not be able to use your most unique tactic.
    • TigerSCAG: Basically the Charger feat but better. Not only can you still use Extra Attack, but you gain an additional attack as a Bonus Action.
    • Wolf: Knocking an enemy prone gives you Advantage on attacks against them, including your second attack with the Extra Attack feature. Allies threatening that enemy can already get Advantage from you if you selected Wolf for your Totem Spirit, and you can already get Advantage from Reckless Attack, so this may not be very useful.

Path of the Totem Warrior Ability Scores

We’re Barbarians. We hit things hard. Really really hard. And we get hit by things. Not as hard, but just as often.

Str: As much as I want to make some kinda joke, just put as many points as you can here.

Dex: We can wear Medium Armor so we only need to hit 14 here.

Con: So the thing about Reckless Fighting is that we get hit a lot and we’d like to not die.

Int: We don’t directly benefit from this. See Multiclassing Section.

Wis: Handle Animal, Perception, Survival. If we have points to spare, put them here first.

Cha: We don’t directly benefit from this. See Multiclassing Section.

Point BuyStandard Array
Str1515
Dex1313
Con1415
Int88
Wis1212
Cha108

Path of the Totem Warrior Races

All the options from the Barbarian Handbook still work here, but some notable standouts work well with our features.

  • KalashtarERLW: The Bear totem leaves Psychic resistance as a hole for flavour reasons, and Kalashtar can fill that hole in while also having Advantage on Wisdom saves. Not a bad option.
  • Dragonborn (Emerald)FToD: For the same Psychic Damage resistance as above, but with a cool cone shaped breath weapon and a handy damage type. And if you’re not taking Bear totem (or even if you are) for resistances, the other Gem flavours are also great options with other good uncommon damage types for both resisting and breath attacking.
  • GithMMoM: Okay options if you want a little magical flavour with your psychic damage resistance.

Path of the Totem Warrior Feats

All the standard Heavy melee feats work well for Totem Warriors.Barbarism takes plenty of ASIs to do the job though, so we’ll maybe take one or two feats at most.

  • Great Weapon Master: We have multiple weapon options that go great with this feat that lean into different Totem options.
    • Bear: All that resistance means we sacrifice less to not have a Shield, but if we also have reach then we’re just bullying them harder.
    • Wolf: We’ll want to pile right up on the enemies to grant our team Advantage, so get one of the higher damage non reach weapons like a Maul or Greataxe.
  • Polearm Master: Some of the totems have bonus actions that compete with this feat, but other options are just looking for something nice to use.
    • Bear: If we want to double down on defence with a Shield, this feat is compatible with Spears.
    • Eagle: Even though the Totem allows Dashing as a bonus action, plenty of turns won’t require that much extra movement.
    • Elk, Tiger, or Wolf Attunement: These options unfortunately take bonus actions to activate and will end up competing with Polearm Master.

Path of the Totem Warrior Weapons

The Barbarian handbook has plenty to say on this, but also consider:

  • Lance: The Lance can be held in one hand if you’re mounted, allowing for both a Shield and a d12 damage die. While this is nothing new, it would work fine with Brutal Critical and even Piercer should we choose to take that feat.

Path of the Totem Warrior Multiclassing

So Rage is funny. You can’t cast spells and you can’t concentrate and you can’t wear Heavy Armor. Oh except you can totally wear Heavy Armor and only lose anything that specifically says it stops working when you’re wearing Heavy Armor. Because Heavy Armor doesn’t prevent Rage, it only prevents certain benefits of Rage. Admittedly, all of the basic benefits of Rage such as Rage Damage, resistance, and Advantage on Strength are part of the prevented list.

The reason I’m bringing this up here is that if we were to start as a class with Heavy Armor Proficiency, that does give us the option to play a little weird with a Full Plate Barbarian.

Things that still work while Raging in Full Plate:

  • Bear Totem
  • Wolf Totem
  • Tiger Totem
  • Every Totemic Attunement
  • Things that are not Spells even if they cost a spell slot
  • War Wizard: So, the only cost to using the Arcane Deflection Reaction for +2 AC or +4 on a save, is not casting a spell the next turn. We’re already Raging, so we’re already not casting a spell next turn.
  • Warlock: Warlocks are an ever popular dip, getting so much at first level. In particular, Hexblade can curse a target for crits on 19 and bonus damage, synergizing with Brutal Critical. Genie patrons on the other hand get the same bonus damage as a Hexblade, but only once per turn on every turn instead of all attacks on one target for a minute. Also if you take Genie to 6 you can non-concentration Fly for 10 minutes PB times per day.
  • Paladin: You can Smite while raging. You can cast Find Steed, which doesn’t require concentration. You get a Fighting Style.

Example Totem Warrior Build – What is Nature’s Call?

This build is a fairly standard Totem Warrior all things considered. We take the Wolf totem in order to provide our allies with Advantage to melee attacks, though this build could easily use Bear instead if we don’t have many melee allies.

Abilities

We use point buy for 15s in Strength, Dexterity and Constitution. Then we get 3 +1s from our racial choice and add those to start with three 16s.

Point BuyIncreasedLevel 20
Str151624
Dex151616
Con151524
Int888
Wis888
Cha888

Because of Primal Champion, the Barbarian capstone, this build is able to end with 24s in Strength and Constitution.

Race

We chose Eladrin for this build because the bonus action teleport is a very handy feature. While Shadar-Kai is also a tempting choice, we already have damage resistances from Rage, and the utility of being in Spring Eladrin form is very handy. Teleporting a willing ally as a bonus action is about as close to the fastball special we can get, and that’s way too much fun to pass up.

Background

We chose Outlander, granting proficiency with Athletics and Survival as well as a musical instrument of our choice.

A suggestion though, if you’re able to, switch this out with Wildspacer to get the same skills but also the Tough feat for free. Those extra hit points are great.

Skills and Tools

From Eladrin, we gain Perception. From Barbarian we choose Intimidation and Nature. From Outlander we gain Athletics and Survival.

Feats

At fourth level, we take Polearm Master. The DPR increase of this feat is not to be underestimated.

At eighth level, we take an ASI for +2 Strength.

At twelfth level, we take an ASI for +2 Strength.

At sixteenth level, we take an ASI for +2 Constitution.

At nineteenth level, we take an ASI for +2 Constitution.

Levels

LevelsRages/DamageFeats and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
12/+2Rage
Unarmored Defense

Skills
-Athletics
-Intimidation
-Nature
-Perception
-Survival

Fey Step
Right out of the gate, we can rely on our Unarmored Defense of 16 thanks to having a 16 in both Dexterity and Constitution.

For starting equipment, we can grab a halberd for a martial weapon, a spear as a free simple weapon, and our background gives us a quarterstaff, which covers all three basic damage types in Polearm Master-compatible weapons.

If we can spare 10 gold, we should also pick up a shield for another +2 AC.

Save Rage for tough fights; we only have two at this level.

As an Eladrin, we have Fey Step, which allows us to teleport 30 feet as a bonus action PB times per day. If we are in the Spring form, we can instead send a willing creature 30 feet away, and this is the form we recommend staying in.
22/+2Danger Sense

Reckless Attack
Danger Sense is nice, giving us Advantage on most Dexterity saves.

The important part of this level, however, is Reckless Attack. Now we can have Advantage on attacks for the price of enemies having Advantage to hit us back. Good thing we’re a wall of meat and damage resistance.
33/+2Path of the Totem Warrior

Totem Spirit
-Wolf

Spirit Seeker
We pick up Totem Warrior and choose Wolf for our Totem Spirit. With the Wolf, our allies will have Advantage when making melee attacks against any foes within 5 feet of us.

We also gain limited ritual casting for the spells Beast Sense and Speak with Animals. It’s neat, but not our focus.
43/+2Feat: Polearm MasterNow we can bonk for 1d4+str damage as a bonus action. This is great as it also adds our Rage damage.

Additionally, the opportunity attacks this allows us to make will also gain Rage damage, further increasing our damage output.
53/+2Extra Attack

Fast Movement
Stab. Stab. Bonk. Zoom. Zoom.
64/+2Aspect of the Beast
-Eagle
Most of the Aspects are very minor, but Eagle pairs nicely with Darkvision, removing the last bit of penalty that non-magical darkness can impose on our vision.
74/+2Instinctive Pounce (Optional)

Feral Instinct
Pounce is nice, getting some extra distance on the turn that we enter Rage.

Instinct gives us Advantage on Initiative rolls. This is pretty handy to get an edge on the competition.
84/+2ASI: Strength +2 (16=>18)Get stronk. Hit hard.
94/+3Brutal CriticalThis is an okay boost when we land a critical. It’s nice, but won’t happen that often, and the DPR increase isn’t significant
104/+3Spirit WalkerAnother ritual spell. Again, it’s not useless, it’s just not useful either.
114/+3Relentless RageMake a Constitution Save with a fixed DC to not die. We’re good at those. Time to be even more reckless.
125/+3ASI: Strength +2 (18=>20)Capped Strength. For now…
135/+3Brutal Critical 2Another tiny increase to DPR.
145/+3Totemic Attunment
-Eagle
Flying is great even if it’s limited to short bursts of 40 feet. Punch birds out of the sky.
155/+3Persistent RageNow our Rage will always last 1 minute even if we can’t hit something or get hit. That’s helpful.
165/+4ASI: Constitution +2 (16=>18)A boost to HP and AC. Nothing flashy, just good to have.
176/+5Brutal Critical 3Still super unreliable, but hey the damage is really nice when it does happen.
186/+5Indomitable MightThis is kind of like the Rogue’s Reliable Talent, but based on the total of the roll and not the die.

It’s cool insurance to have when grappling or shoving.
196/+5ASI: Constitution +2 (18=>20)More HP. More AC. Our Unarmored Defense is as good as Plate for now.
20Unlimited/+5Primal ChampionThis is a pretty bonkers capstone, all things considered.
+4 Strength and Constitution.

With our already capped scores, they both gain +7 modifiers.

This makes unarmored defense even stronger than Plate.

Attacks not only have an extra +2 damage on top but also that’s an extra +2 to attack rolls, making it easier to land hits.