Baldur's Gate 3 Barbarian Handbook


Barbarians in Baldur’s Gate 3 keep a lot of the things from the tabletop that made them fun to play, but also the parts that made them somewhat frustrating. The addition of weapon masteries adds to some of what the class felt it was missing, and the addition or tweaking of some features definitely makes Barbarians feel like they have more, or at least better, buttons to push.

Like in the tabletop rules, Barbarians make great Defenders and Strikers, having the highest health in the game paired with good damage output. Their ability to deal out insane damage in melee is balanced by their distinct lack of ranged options, but their flexibility in melee play style makes them sometimes more preferable to a frontline fighter than the Fighter class itself.

Barbarians can benefit immensely from camp casting, especially if you choose to cast Mage Armor on them. Combining this with something like Warding Bond or Death Ward makes barbarians almost unkillable, which is exactly what you want in a good Defender. Ultimately, Barbarians serve the same purpose they do in the tabletop: making life miserable for frontline enemies and being extremely hard to take down.

Table of Contents


RPGBOT uses a color coding scheme to rate individual character options.

  • 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.

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Barbarian Class Features

Hit Points: As to be expected, Barbarians are the hardiest class in the game with the most hit points. Your full amount of HP will far outstrip anyone else on your team that isn’t using the Tough feat.

Saves: Constitution saves are common enough that proficiency will be appreciated throughout your career. Strength saves are less common, but you do get advantage on them when you’re raging so when they do come up, you will almost never fail them.

Proficiencies: You get proficiency in all weapons, light and medium armor, and shields. Depending on your build and how much you dumped Dexterity, it is best to avoid wearing armor unless there is a specific bonus you want.

Rage: The Barbarian’s main feature and gimmick. You get extra damage, resistance to physical damage, and advantage on strength checks and saves. You can’t rage while wearing heavy armor and you can’t cast spells or concentrate on them while raging. You start with only 2 charges of rage that recharge on a long rest so in the beginning you need to ration out your rages carefully.

Unarmored Defense: Like in the tabletop this is a mixed bag. Depending on how much you invested in your Dex and your Con, this might end up being about equal to or worse than wearing medium armor. Unlike in the tabletop, though, there is specific clothing geared towards Barbarians, some of which have really impactful features. You can also get Mage Armor from Camp Casting if you don’t want to invest heavily in Constitution.

Reckless Attack: This classic risk/reward feature that is iconic to the Barbarian class is made better by giving you the option to use it whenever you miss an attack, even on an Opportunity Attack, which allows you to have complete control over how much you want to risk. This feature also synergizes extremely well with Great Weapon Master, allowing you to nearly cancel out the penalty you receive for taking the accuracy penalty for more damage. Getting hit isn’t such a big deal due to your mountain of hit points and damage resistances.

Danger Sense: There are a lot of traps in this game and more than a few spells that target your Dexterity, so this will help you deal with them when they come up.

Extra Attack: Hitting once is nice. Hitting twice is even better.

Feral Instinct: This somewhat niche feature in the tabletop rules is amazing in a game where Surprise is not uncommon and having improved initiative means that when your enemies try to ambush you, you’ll still probably kill them first. It’s especially important to understand that initiative in BG3 is rolled on a d4 rather than a d20, so a +3 means you’ll be beating many things most of the time.

Brutal Critical: Brutal Critical has the same issues it does in the tabletop. Unless you are critting a lot, you will hardly ever feel the impact of this feature. It also highly incentivizes you to use Greataxes and not much else. You can multiclass into Champion Fighter to improve your crit range, stack that with the numerous magic items which expand your crit range, and use Reckless Attack to maximize your odds of critting. But even then, you’ll get more consistent benefits out of everything else in your build than you do from Brutal Critical.

Relentless Rage: Just one more tool in your belt to make you extremely hard to kill. It recharges on a short rest and stacks with Half-Orcs’ Relentless Endurance feature.

Barbarian Subclasses


The changes Baldur’s Gate makes to Berserker are inspired. It took a previously underwhelming and badly-optimized subclass and made it into one of the more devastating frontliners in the game. If you want your Barbarian to focus on dishing out a ton of damage very fast, pick this subclass.

3: Frenzy

Unlike in the tabletop, you don’t get exhaustion from Frenzy. You get to make an additional attack as a Bonus Action on your turn in exchange for a stacking debuff that gives a -1 to your attack bonus per stack. You can choose to forgo this and perform an enraged throw as a Bonus Action instead with no penalty.

This could be anything: silverware in your pack, a chair, or even another creature. In addition to dealing damage, it also forces anyone hit by it to become prone (no save). Since you likely won’t be using your bonus action on anything else, this feature becomes incredibly powerful and stays consistently useful throughout the game, allowing you to deal out some truly impressive damage while also controlling enemy positioning. Combine this with the Tavern Brawler feat to devastating effect.

6: Mindless Rage

This one is situational, but charm and fear effects are common.

10: Intimidating Presence

Just like in the tabletop, this feature is functionally worthless and you’re probably better off doing a dip in fighter rather than holding out for this and Brutal Critical.


Known in the tabletop as the Path of the Totem Warrior, this subclass is great pretty much all the way through due to its flexible playstyle options and versatility. You can make some extremely strong and fun builds in this subclass. The one downside to it is that its damage output may fall behind the Berserker. If you want your Barbarian to be more of a Defender or battlefield Controller, pick this subclass.

3: Speak with Animals

This is a fantastic free spell to have in this game as the interactions you can have with animals are humorous or sometimes even beneficial. There is no downside to this, and, since it doesn’t require concentration, you can keep it up even while you are raging

3: Bestial Heart

 The main draw of the subclass. Some options are better than others but you can make some very powerful and fun builds if you play your cards right.

  • Bear Heart: The ultimate Barbarian tank. Resistance to all but psychic damage is very strong and makes you even harder to kill. That said, while this feature is very impactful in the early game, it begins to fall off in the late game, where psychic damage becomes much more common. Additionally, your options for added damage are somewhat limited. If you want a tank that can take a beating, a fighter with improved AC is probably going to be better in the late game. There are also numerous items which provide resistance to various damage types, including consumable elixirs, making this feature feel less unique.
  • Eagle Heart: This option is way better than it may first appear. Barbarians’ biggest drawback is their lack of maneuverability while also being built exclusively for melee combat. Bonus action Dash, when combined with your rage movement and disadvantage from enemies on Opportunity Attacks, ensures you can always go exactly where you are needed. Diving Strike is also incredibly powerful in a game where different height levels are extremely common in battles. There are also some magic items which trigger when you Dash which synergize nicely.
  • Elk Heart: A weaker version of Eagle Heart, giving you a flat improvement to your movement speed and a straight line attack that knocks people prone. Good, but there are better options.
  • Tiger Heart: The ability to jump far is very useful in this game, especially considering that, as a Barbarian, you can already jump further than most people. Tiger’s Bloodlust gives you a useful AOE option that also grants free damage in the form of bleed. Be aware that this feature is less useful on creatures that don’t have blood, but they will still take the initial AOE damage.
  • Wolf Heart: Advantage for you and your teammates is very strong, especially if you have another melee Striker like a Monk or a Rogue. Being able to allow your teammates to reposition is also useful, though the fact that it takes your action to do so will often make this hard to justify.

6: Animal Aspect

At 6th level you get to customize your build even further with some passive features that add a little something to your kit. You’ll want to choose options that synergize best with your heart. You get to choose another option at level 10

  • Bear: This feature is bad. You can send things to your allies or just send stuff to your camp if you’re encumbered and you already get advantage on strength checks while raging. The times where you will use strength checks outside of combat are limited and your allies can buff those checks with Guidance or Enhance Ability.
  • Chimpanzee: Falling is more common than you might expect, especially if you need to get somewhere fast. Being able to blind foes with supplies is funny and effective since camp supplies are in abundance throughout the game.
  • Crocodile: Water is common in fights in this game, but this is still only situationally useful because water isn’t ubiquitous unless you bring it yourself. That said, there are a lot of spells and effects in this game that create water or ice, and falling prone ends your turn immediately. Taking this helps you avoid those devastating situations when they come up.
  • Eagle: Useful if you took one of the few races that don’t get Darkvision, or if you don’t have a high wisdom character in your party. Otherwise skip it.
  • Elk: Extra movement speed for your whole team is nice, and this stacks with other movement buffs like Longstrider
  • Honey Badger: Extremely situational. The situations where it is useful are more common in this game than in the tabletop rules, but the fact that it’s only a 50% chance makes this less impactful. Also if you are subjected to these effects and you aren’t already raging, you have either supremely messed up or something has gone terribly wrong. Don’t plan to mitigate failure; plan to succeed more consistently
  • Stallion: This feature is godly, especially when combined with the Eagle Heart’s ability to Dash as a Bonus Action. Every time you run out of temporary hit points, just Bonus Action Dash to get them back even if you don’t need to move. You become even harder to kill than Bear Hearts in some circumstances.
  • Tiger: This is obviously meant to be combined with Tiger Heart for added damage. It’s also still useful in situations where your party uses poison effects a lot. Survival is a useless skill.
  • Wolf:Stealth is supremely useful in this game, especially when it comes to setting up surprise rounds. Obviously the value of this feature depends on how much Dex you have. If you have access to Pass Without Trace, your party is nearly undetectable so long as you’re not in an area of bright light.
  • Wolverine: On its own, this one is situational, but when combined with Tiger Heart it becomes very powerful. The ability to reduce your enemies’ movement speed to 0 forces them to focus their attention on you rather than moving to attack your squishy allies. Combine this with prone to even greater effect, as they’re totally unable to stand. You and your allies can find other sources of Bleed from weapon special attacks, and you and your allies can inflict Poisoned with certain types of poisons and with spells like Ray of Sickness.

8: Land’s Stride

Difficult Terrain in combat is common enough that this will be useful, especially if your party can create difficult terrain with spells or other features.

Wild Magic

I feel this is an often underrated subclass in the Baldur’s Gate community. It can’t compete in terms of damage with the Berserker Barbarian, nor does it have the versatility of a Wildheart, but what it lacks in those departments it makes up for with style, fun factor, and utility. If you have a party that focuses on casting a lot of spells, you will appreciate the benefits of having a Wild Magic Barbarian in your party

3: Wild Magic

The main reason we are here. Unlike your cousin, the Wild Magic Sorcerer, the surges you get are all beneficial to you and your party in some way. Some are better than others, though.

  • Bolt of Light: Useful as a ranged attack, assuming you don’t need your Bonus Action for anything else. The blindness effect will rarely go off on higher level targets because Constitution saves are consistently high and increase faster than other save bonuses.
  • Dark Tendrils: A very underwhelming ability. It only goes off once when you start your Rage and after that point it’s like any other rage. Temporary hit points are always useful, but enemies take no damage if they save, assuming you are within range of enemies when you start your Rage in the first place, which isn’t a guarantee. This becomes more usable with the Unstable Backlash feature.
  • Intangible Spirit: This one is funny, but less impactful than some others. When exactly it explodes seems to be somewhat inconsistent despite the text of the feature, and your enemies might move out of its range. They also take no damage on a successful Dexterity Saving Throw. Still, force damage is the most powerful damage type in Baldur’s Gate. Unfortunately, the 1d6 damage doesn’t scale, so at high levels it won’t feel impactful even when it does work.
  • Magic Retribution: Force damage resistance is rare, and if you wade into the thick of a bunch of melee combatants, it’s essentially free damage. Strongly consider intentionally triggering Opportunity Attacks for the free damage. If you have temporary hit points, it’s almost free damage output.
  • Teleport: This power addresses one of the Barbarian’s other big weaknesses: Maneuverability. The ability to teleport as a Bonus Action will never not be good.
  • Vine Growth: This one is probably the most underwhelming. Not only does it also affect your allies, enemies annoyingly have the habit of jumping over difficult terrain, and most enemies don’t have anything more interesting to do with their Bonus Action. In circumstances where they can’t jump without taking an Opportunity Attack from you, they probably weren’t going to move anyway.
  • Weapon Infusion: Almost nothing resists force in this game, and it solves your biggest weakness as a Barbarian: ranged combat. This also works extremely well with the Tavern Brawler feat, but since Wild Magic is unpredictable, this isn’t enough to make Tavern Brawler a must-have.

3: Magic Awareness

This is a powerful ability, but situational. It requires a Bonus Action which, as a Wild Magic Barbarian, you use more than many other characters, and it only lasts one turn. So, unless you know that the evil Wizard is going to cast a big save or suck on you and your closest allies, this can be difficult to gauge when it would be useful.

6: Bolstering Magic

This feature is what really makes Wild Magic barbarians shine in their utility. You get a single target Bless-like feature that you can cast once per long rest. It’s an Action to use, so if you want this in combat, try to use it before combat starts.

If you have spellcasters in your party, they will definitely appreciate being able to get spell slots back for free as well. You can restore a 1st and 2nd-level spell slot to an ally once per Long Rest. At 9th level you can also additionally give them a 3rd-level slot back. Use this on your most valuable caster whenever you can.

10: Unstable Backlash

The ability to reroll your Wild Magic Surge is useful to avoid the crappier ones, especially since you can choose whether to do it or not. The only drawback is that it consumes your Reaction, but that’s usually not a problem.

Barbarian Ability Scores

Barbarians are frontline combatants that focus on weapon attacks. This means you are going to focus almost entirely on your physical ability scores and ignore those pesky mental traits. Leave the book learning to the Wizards.There are several feats that give you a +1 to your Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution. Leaving these ability scores at odd levels can thus be beneficial if you plan on taking one or more of these feats.

Str: Your main source of damage and what you will be using most often. This should absolutely be your highest ability score. You can also choose to take advantage of several different elixirs that set your Strength to higher levels and ignore your base Strength.

Dex: Useful for gaining more initiative in combat and for increasing your Armor Class. You can choose to game the system a little bit here and tank your Strength in favor of Dexterity and then use elixirs to keep your Strength high. This is a somewhat risky, but highly rewarding strategy if you can keep a consistent supply of Elixirs of Cloud/Hill Giant Strength.

Con: This should ideally be your second highest stat. Not only does it give you more of your mountain of hit points and increase your Constitution saves, it adds to your AC as long as you aren’t wearing armor.

Int: Dump stat. We don’t need no fancy school learning.

Wis: Wisdom saves and Perception checks are both common.

Cha: Our other dump stat. Barbarians probably have the most class-specific dialogue options in the form of unique Intimidation checks that typically have a DC 5. A little bit of Charisma helps with these, but proficiency in Intimidation is usually all you need.

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Barbarian Races

As a Barbarian, you want to try and find races that synergize with your natural physical talents. Extra armor/weapon proficiencies will be useless to you, but races that give added skills, movement options, or abilities to make up for your weaknesses should be your main priorities.


Slow, and both Darkvision and Poison Resilience are replaceable with 2nd-level spells. The weapon proficiencies are useless for Barbarians, since you already have them.

  • Gold: More HP is great on a class that already has a ton of hitpoints, but which often has poor AC.
  • Shield: You already have Medium Armor proficiency.
  • Duergar: Advantage on some saves is nice, but the innate spellcasting will be useless for you.


Permanent damage resistance is nice to add to your rage resistances. The breath attack is also welcome on a class that has very limited AOE capabilities.


Hand crossbows are not very useful for a Barbarian as you are better off using javelins or anything else that you can throw.

Darkvision can be replaced with a 2nd-level spell. Fey Ancestry and proficiency in Perception are both good. The spellcasting is useless on a class which can’t concentrate most of the time.

Lolth-sworn Drow and Seldarine Drow are mechanically identical, but get access to different dialog choices.


The weapon proficiencies aren’t helpful, and Darkvision can be replaced with a 2nd-level spell. Fey Ancestry and proficiency in Perception are both good.

  • High Elf: You can’t cast spells while raging.
  • Wood Elf: Additional speed and yet another skill proficiency.


Gnome Cunning is an amazing defense, especially since Barbarians don’t have proficiency in Wisdom or Intelligence saves.

  • Rock: Adding twice your proficiency to History checks is nice, offsetting your poor Intelligence score when making History checks, but those checks are infrequent.
  • Forest: Speak with Animals is amazing in Baldur’s Gate 3, and you only need to cast it once a day anyway. But it’s also available from abundant and inexpensive consumables.
  • Deep: Advantage on Stealth is great if you spend a lot of time sneaking.


Astral Knowledge is proficiency in as many as 4 skills, and you can change it every Long Rest. The Enhance Leap spell can be useful for the Barbarian, as it doesn’t require Concentration and increases your mobility. Just make sure you cast it before you start Raging. You already have proficiency in Medium Armor.


You already have the proficiencies this race offers. You get Darkvision (which is replaceable with a spell), Fey Ancestry, and a subrace..

  • High Half-Elf: You can’t cast spells while raging.
  • Wood Half-Elf: Better speed and proficiency in stealth. More speed is very helpful in Baldur’s Gate 3 because the game makes positioning so important. But there’s no reason to play this instead of a full Wood Elf.
  • Drow Half-Elf: You can’t cast spells while raging.


Probably the best race for a Barbarian. Proficiency in Intimidation is very useful on a class that gets a lot of special Intimidation options. 

Savage Attacks also stacks nicely with your Brutal Critical feature and Relentless Endurance, when combined with Relentless Rage, makes you nigh unkillable. If it’s your first time playing a Barbarian in BG3, this race is a great choice.


Baldur’s Gate 3 makes a natural 1 a Critical Failure, meaning that you automatically fail whatever attack/check/save. This makes Halfling Luck extremely useful. Brave is also nice, especially in a game where fear effects are surprisingly common.

  • Lightfoot: Advantage on Stealth is great if you spend a lot of time sneaking.
  • Strongheart: : Poison Resistance is available as a 2nd-level spell which lasts until your next long rest, so getting it from your race is pointless beyond low levels.


You already get proficiency in everything this race offers so all you are really getting is a free skill proficiency which is just not worth it when there are far superior options.

The problem with humans isn’t that they’re bad: it’s that for whatever you want from the human, there is a better solution. Do you want skills? Wood Elf gets two, and Githyanki gets Astral Knowledge (which can be as many as 4). Do you want Better AC? Half-elf gets the same Civil Militia feature, or Githyanki and Shield Dwarves both get medium armor.


Resistance to fire is a great start. Fire damage is common. Unfortunately the subraces all just provide spells which you can’t use while raging.

  • Asmodeus Tiefling: You can’t cast spells while raging.
  • Mephistopheles Tiefling: You can’t cast spells while raging.
  • Zariel Tiefling: The smites can be useful if you want to save your Rage but still need decent damage. Otherwise, stay away.

Barbarian Skills

  • Acrobatics (Dex): This is useful for avoiding getting shoved but your Str will be higher than your Dex.
  • Animal Handling (Wis): Largely replaced by Speak with Animals or an equivalent potion.
  • Athletics (Str): Very good skill for a Barbarian as you will be doing more and receiving more shoves than the rest of your teammates. You also get Advantage on such checks, ensuring that you can shove and throw your enemies around like rag dolls pretty consistently while being an immovable monolith yourself.
  • Arcana (Int): Intelligence is a dump stat, but if you have to take one knowledge skill, I recommend this one, as it comes up more than any other. This should not be surprising in a game dealing with Mind Flayers.
  • Deception (Cha): Charisma is a dump stat, and, if you have to take a Face skill, Intimidation is better.
  • History (Int): Intelligence is a dump stat, and you’re better off taking Arcana.
  • Insight (Wis): Occasionally rolled during conversations.
  • Intimidation (Cha): Barbarians get the most amount of class-specific dialogue options in the game, usually in the form of reduced difficulty Intimidation checks. Simple proficiency in the skill will get you a long way even if you dump Charisma
  • Investigation (Int): Intelligence is a dump stat and you’re better off taking Perception or Arcana.
  • Medicine (Int): Almost never matters.
  • Nature (Int): Intelligence is a dump stat and you’re better off taking Arcana.
  • Perception (Wis): Consistently useful.
  • Performance (Cha): Charisma is a dump stat.
  • Persuasion (Cha): Charisma is a dump stat and you’re better off taking Intimidation.
  • Religion (Int): Intelligence is a dump stat and you’re better off taking Arcana.
  • Sleight of Hand (Dex): Open locks, disarm traps, pick pockets. Barbarians can invest enough in Dexterity to make this work, but you won’t compete with classes that have access to Expertise.
  • Stealth (Dex): Barbarians can have enough Dexterity to make this work, and, even with Invisibility on the table, Stealth is still very helpful.
  • Survival (Wis): The buried chests are not worth the skill proficiency to find them.

Barbarian Backgrounds

Backgrounds provide two skill proficiencies and determine the way that your character earns Inspiration. The game has ample opportunities to earn Inspiration for every background, so choosing a background typically comes down to what skills you want.

  • Acolyte: Insight can be very useful in social situations, but Religion is useless for a Barbarian.
  • Charlatan: Deception is useless and Sleight of Hand is only ok for a Barbarian.
  • Criminal: Stealth is useful for everyone, but Deception won’t do much for you.
  • Entertainer: You’re better off choosing anything else.
  • Folk hero: Animal Handling can be handled magically, and Survival is only useful for finding disappointing chests.
  • Guild Artisan: Insight can be very useful in social situations, but Persuasion is useless for a Barbarian.
  • Haunted One (Dark Urge only): If you’re playing Dark Urge, you’re locked into this. You get Medicine and Intimidation, only the latter of which is useful for a Barbarian.
  • Noble: Neither of these skills are particularly helpful.
  • Outlander: Athletics is a great choice for the Barbarian, but Survival is only useful for finding hidden chests scattered across the map that inevitably have disappointing treasure.
  • Sage: You’re not a Wizard.
  • Soldier: Probably the best option for the Barbarian as both skills are very useful in a variety of situations.
  • Urchin: It’s entirely possible to have 16 Dexterity as a level 1 Barbarian, which is plenty to make these skills work.

Barbarian Feats

This section does not address every feat, as some clearly aren’t relevant to the class. For more general discussion on feats, see our Practical Guide to Feat Selection.

  • Alert: Going first is great for Barbarians. However, it is somewhat redundant given your Feral Instinct class feature.
  • Athlete: +1 to Strength or Dexterity and you are able to get up from prone easier while also being able to jump further in a game where jumping is borderline broken.
  • Charger: This is pretty great for your overall mobility and battlefield control. Both unique actions take both an Action and a Bonus Action, though, and there are better feats.
  • Dual Wielder: You’re better off using two-handed weapons, as your features are more geared towards it, and each subclass has better things to do with their Bonus Actions.
  • Durable: A +1 to your Constitution is definitely valuable and being able to regain all of your massive pool of hit points on a short rest helps add to your viability in drawn out days, especially when you usually gain very little on a short rest.
  • Great Weapon Master: This feat was made for Barbarians. Reckless attack allows you to effectively cancel out the penalty for the first benefit, allowing you to achieve some impressive numbers. On Berserker Barbarians, you need to be careful that you don’t overdo it using your Frenzied strike, as it will make an already significant penalty even more brutal.
  • Lucky: Good on every character.
  • Mage Slayer: Useful, but a bit more situational. This will pay more dividends in the late game when about half of the enemies you face will be dangerous spellcasters.
  • Mobile: Being more Maneuverable is extremely valuable to a Barbarian, especially if you combine this with the Eagle Wildheart feature.
  • Polearm Master: This is better taken on a Fighter that isn’t so heavily pushed towards using greataxes. That said it does have its uses and using a polearm is better for your Brutal Critical feature than using a greatsword.
  • Resilient: You already have proficiency in Constitution saves, which is the main reason to take this feat. You could take it for Wisdom for added protection against some bad save or suck spells.
  • Savage Attacker: Like with the tabletop, this feat is a bit of a trap. The math just doesn’t work in your favor and there are far better feats.
  • Sentinel: Another really great feat for a Barbarian. Opportunity Attacks can benefit from your Reckless Attack and rider features, so having more opportunities to use them is valuable. Also, tying down your foes ensures that they need to focus their attention on you instead of attacking your squishier allies.
  • Tavern Brawler: This is particularly good on a Berserker Barbarian and may even be better for them than Great Weapon Master due to their frenzied throw ability. It will add your strength modifier twice to the attack and damage of whatever you throw. It also makes a completely unarmed Barbarian actually viable. With max Strength, your damage comes to be about equal with the average damage on a greataxe, so you are basically sacrificing a higher damage ceiling for more consistent, static damage.
  • Tough: Why not just double down on your massive health pool to really exhaust your enemies? Because attrition fights are always a losing battle for players. Focus on ending encounters faster rather then on dragging them out until your party is out of resources.

Barbarian Weapons

Like Fighters, Barbarians have access to all the weapons in the game. However only a handful of these weapons are actually worth your time due to how your features work.

  • Battleaxe/Longsword/Warhammer: A longsword, battleaxe, or warhammer wielded with two hands can be decent, considering how Brutal Critical works. Counterintuitively, a d10 damage die is better on a Barbarian than the 2d6 offered by a Greatsword due to the fact that Brutal Critical only gives you an extra damage die, instead of doubling the damage.
  • Dagger: Barbarians would call these butter knives and they are not worthy of our time or consideration.
  • Glaive/Halberd/Pike: Like the versatile weapons, these are more satisfying due to the size of their damage dice. They also have the added benefit of reach and can go extremely well when paired with either Sentinel or Polearm Master. Just don’t take both as Baldur’s Gate seems to treat the AOO granted by Polearm Master as separate from the one granted by Sentinel, so your enemy will still very much be able to move.
  • Greataxe: The go to and default weapon for most of your career. It has the highest damage dice in the game and scales the best off of your Brutal Critical.
  • Greatclub: Unless you want to live out your caveman fantasy stay away from this. 1d8 is pathetic for a damage dice and there is a distinct lack of good magical options for this weapon.
  • Greatsword: This is usually a trap weapon in the tabletop version. But due to the abundance of strong magical Greatswords in the game, you can effectively use these and not miss too much from your brutal critical feature.
  • Handaxe/Javelin: A useful answer to ranged combat for the Barbarian.
  • Heavy Crossbow: Useful for when you run out of javelins or handaxes, and they have more range, but Dexterity is a secondary attribute for you.
  • Longbow: Not really worth your time to use offensively, but there are a few longbows with great passive buffs amd swapping weapons is free even in fights.
  • Maul: Has the same issue as a greatsword, but has very few magic options that are worth your time.

Barbarian Armor

For the most part, you want to be unarmored as a barbarian, but there are some useful medium armors out there like the adamantine scale mail. However, there are a bunch of very useful clothing pieces tailor-made for an unarmored Barbarian. You can generally overlook light armor because your Unarmored Defense AC will almost always be better.

Barbarian Multiclassing

Due to their limits on spellcasting and their somewhat MAD playstyle, Barbarians are mostly limited to multiclassing with other martial classes.

  • Bard: Bardbarian is a great meme, but that’s all it really is. You can’t benefit from most of their spells. However, there is nothing that prevents you from inspiring your party members while you rage. You can also benefit from a third short rest like anyone else, especially if you pick up the Durable feat.
  • Cleric: A 1 or 2 level dip can be useful for a Barbarian, as the Cleric has several buff spells that don’t require concentration and last until a long rest. Some cleric subclasses, especially the war domain cleric, synergize really well with a Barbarian.
  • Druid: If you are going Druid you should really choose Moon Druid or maybe Spore druid. Rage persists while you are in animal form, making you extremely tanky. That said, it does take two turns to fully come online and your damage won’t be as good as if you went full Barbarian, but do this if you’re looking to be a damage sponge.
  • Fighter: Barbarians get a lot out of multiclassing with Fighters and vice versa. Action Surge is such a great ability for anyone, and your huge health pool will appreciate second wind. You also get a Fighting Style, which is always useful. As for subclasses, Battle Master gives you some amazing maneuvers while Champion helps you take advantage of your Brutal Critical more often. Avoid Eldritch Knight, though. Just be aware that extra attacks don’t stack, so it’s not worth your time going further than a 4-level dip into fighter.
  • Monk: Thanks to Tavern Brawler, this multiclass is not as terrible as it may first appear. That said, your Bonus Action will be spoiled for choice in a lot of possible Barbarian builds.
  • Paladin: You can’t cast spells and you can’t use smites while raging.
  • Ranger: This is just a worse fighter for our purposes. If you do plan to go this route, take Hunter for the added damage options.
  • Rogue: About the only thing you’re getting out of this is Cunning Action, and there are feats and class options that can basically replicate it. If, however, you combine a Berserker and a Thief, you get the ability to furiously throw two people into other people per turn, which is both extremely efficient damage and enormously satisfying
  • Sorcerer: You can’t cast spells while raging.
  • Warlock: Very little synergizes with Barbarians here and, as has been stated multiple times, you can’t cast spells while raging.
  • Wizard: Wizard has a few non-concentration spells Barbarians can take advantage of, and Transmutation and Divination wizards can provide useful passive abilities, but otherwise they aren’t worth your time.

Barbarian Illithid Abilities

Barbarians can get a good amount from the Illithid abilities as most are just useful for everyone. That said, there are some clear overall winners. Please check out our Practical Guide to Illithid Powers for more information.

[SPOILERS]: If you plan on investing heavily into Illithid powers as a Sorcerer, I highly recommend you attempt to get the Awakened buff in Act 2, which will turn all your Illithid powers into bonus actions.

Tier I

  • Concentrated Blast: You can’t concentrate, so don’t take this ability.
  • Favorable Beginnings: Can be very powerful when used on attacks like Great Weapon Master, and synergizes well with Luck of the Far Realms. Be aware, though, that if a member of your party attacks your target before you, you won’t get this benefit on that creature. It’s unclear if this is intended or a bug. This can also be very handy for social situations with creatures you just met and you need to make a good impression on.
  • Force Tunnel: Useful as a get-out-of-melee card, especially if you can do it as a bonus action. The potential of knocking enemies off cliffs is also there, and you won’t affect your allies.
  • Psionic Overload: Added damage is useful, especially when we get more attacks and the damage has a negligible effect on our massive health pool.
  • Transfuse Health: Useful as an “Oh Shit” button when your squishy casters are looking weak. You have so much health as a Barbarian that you can heal most other people to full from 1hp and still have plenty of health left over. Of course, why not just have them drink a healing potion as a Bonus Action?

Tier II

  • Ability Drain: This is absolutely busted on a Barbarian. Since you will be hitting with Strength most of the time, you can debuff Strength-based martial enemies over the course of just a few turns. If you have other Strength-based martial allies, this becomes even more impactful because it functions per character and the penalties stack.
  • Charm: Having abilities to avoid getting hit is very useful, especially if you plan on abusing your Reckless Attack. It does use your Reaction, though, so it competes for space with Opportunity Attacks.
  • Cull the Weak: This is a weird one as its value goes up as you invest more points into Illithid powers. If you plan on exploiting this, hoard those tadpoles for yourself alone.
  • Displace: As a Barbarian, you will most likely be shoving/throwing people off cliffs pretty regularly, so more damage when you do is welcome.
  • Luck of the Far Realms: A guaranteed crit per long rest is amazing on anyone, but this is especially potent with Brutal Critical and Great Weapon Master. You can slice through enemies like butter if you set yourself up right.
  • Perilous Stakes: This is very useful especially on a Bearbarian Defender character. Your Rage resistance effectively cancels out the damage vulnerability, allowing you to heal for as many attacks as you have and can land. Also extremely powerful when used on enemies outside of Honor mode (you can’t use this on enemies in that mode).
  • Psionic Backlash: This is a very funny power that also uses your Reaction. I have killed more than my fair share of spellcasters with this ability, and it is never not hilarious. Enemies who you might not consider spellcasters can still trigger this because many unique abilities are implemented as spells, but they’re also implemented as 1st-level spells, so the damage you deal is negligible. It also competes for space with your Opportunity Attacks.
  • Repulsor: An upgraded form of your force tunnel that’s useful if you get surrounded. Be careful, as this power does affect your allies, so be sure you don’t knock them off a cliff with it.
  • Shield of Thralls: This is incredible on a Barbarian. More health is always welcome, and you can make it last longer than most characters due to Rage resistance. The stun effect is absolutely brutal as you will be fighting in melee most of the time. If the stun goes off on even one melee enemy, it’s like Christmas has come early.
  • Stage Fright: This is better cast on a Fighter with high AC. As a Barbarian you need to accept that you will be hit more than most people, making this ability fairly useless for you.
  • Survival Instincts: This is good on everyone. Extra survivability is never not useful. Keep in mind that you can’t buy this power normally: You need to acquire this from a sidequest in Act I.

Tier III

  • Absorb Intellect: Situational. Towards this stage of the game there are a lot of enemies that will resist this effect, and the healing you get from it is pathetic.
  • Black Hole: The ability to pull a bunch of enemies to a single point, and then slow them and recast it for several turns is amazing. As a bonus action it is godly, deserving an upgrade to a Blue rating.
  • Displacer Beast Shape: Like with Wild Shape, your Rage persists in this form, so you can essentially treat it as an additional pool of hitpoints with some very good abilities that allow you complete control over the battlefield.
  • Fly: You get this one for free, and it is all upside.
  • Fracture Psyche: Very useful for setting up your harder-hitting abilities like Great Weapon Master or balancing out the penalty from Frenzied Strike. The fact that it takes an Action reduces its value somewhat, but as a Bonus Action it is all upside.
  • Freecast: Not nearly as useful on a Barbarian as other classes aside from getting one free Rage per long rest.
  • Illithid Expertise: You’re not a face. Expertise in Face skills is nice, but you’re still going to suffer due to poor Charisma.
  • Mind Blast: The damage is respectable and stun is very useful for a Barbarian to exploit. Obviously more valuable as a Bonus Action.
  • Mind Sanctuary: This is probably the best ability in the game. Every class can use this to some extent. What makes it a worse pick for Barbarian is that it is a stationary effect in a small area, so you need to be very strategic about where you place it.
  • Psionic Dominance: This is essentially free counterspell lite. Definitely worth taking by everyone on your team if you can.

Barbarian Example Build: The Immortal Eagle

This build is pretty simple, as most Barbarian builds are. The main goal of this Defender build is to make it so you get temporary hit points as frequently as possible, making you extremely difficult to kill while also ensuring that you can be wherever you need to be on the battlefield as quickly as possible. We will be going Wildheart Barbarian and taking advantage of the maneuverability and synergy of the Eagle Heart and Stallion Aspect.

Ability Scores

For this I like having my Strength at 17 because there are some good feats that will also give you a +1 to Strength. Additionally, there are several elixirs and equipment that will boost your Strength substantially so consider respeccing in the late game to dump your Strength and forgo ASI’s to get more interesting feats.

Our two next highest ability scores should be Constitution and Dexterity to keep us durable. Keep Wisdom in the positive modifier if you can for those nasty save or suck spells and dump the other two ability scores.

Base+2/+1 IncreasesFinal


We’re going to go Half-Orc for the extra traits that synergize perfectly with barbarian while both adding to our damage and increasing our survivability even further.


I recommend Soldier for this build as it’s the only one that has two useful proficiencies for us. Intimidation proficiency will come in handy to offset our terrible Charisma while also giving us some options in dialogue with our unique Barbarian intimidation options.

Skill Proficiencies

Since we already get Athletics and Intimidation from our background, this frees us up to take different skills. I recommend Perception and Survival. Perception is always useful and Survival, while not great, is better than the other two options. As a Wildheart, Animal Handling will be largely replaced by your Speak With Animals spell and Nature almost never comes up. When it does, the fact that your Intelligence is a dump stat will make this still useless. The chests you find with Survival may be disappointing but it’s sometimes better than nothing.


You have some flexibility here based on what your goals are. Of the feats that give you +1 to your Strength, Athlete and Charger are probably our best options for this build to add even more to our incredible mobility. I recommend taking Athlete as its features are more generally useful in a variety of situations. Later we will get the Great Weapon Master feat to increase our lower damage output compared to a Berserker and then either Mobile for more maneuverability or Sentinel for less maneuverability for our enemies.


LevelFeat(s) and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
1-All Armor/Martial Weapon Proficiency
-Rage Uses: 2
-Unarmored Defense
Nothing really to write about here. You hit stuff and that’s about it. Be sure to save your Rages for the tougher or longer fights and not the short easy ones. Use greataxes where you can, or try to get the flaming sword from the devil commander on the Nautiloid for an early boost to your damage.

Remember that weapons have special attacks which recharge on a Shot Rest, and you change weapons between fights to get access to different abilities, offering additional offensive options at low levels.
2-Reckless Attack
-Danger Sense
Don’t be shy about using Reckless Attack whenever you can. Getting hit is not a big deal as we have an ungodly amount of hitpoints, even at this level. That said, avoid using it when there is an enemy you know can dish out really big single hits, like a Paladin with Smite.

Dange sense will passively work to keep you alive throughout your adventure
3-Subclass: Wildheart (Eagle)
-Rage Charges: 3
This is where things start getting interesting. We’re going Wildheart Barbarian and choosing the Heart of the Eagle. Bonus Action Dash is invaluable for us as we need to be able to move fast and we won’t really be using our Bonus Action on anything else. The Diving Strike ability is admittedly more situational, but there are more than enough situations in this game where you will be glad you have it.

You also have a bit more flexibility in your Rage charges, so don’t be afraid to use them.
4Feat: AthleteThis will get our strength up to 18 and give us more options for mobility and maneuverability. Adding to our jump distance is very useful in a game where jumping is frequent and sometimes more useful than simply running. You can also stack this with Enhance Leap to basically become like Superman on the battlefield. Being able to get up from prone easier is also useful for those times when you fail your Athletics checks.

This also synergies really well with your Eagle Heart’s Diving Strike ability. Jump up to a higher elevation like a cliff or a building and then dive onto your enemy.
5-Extra Attack
-Fast Movement
Now we can start dishing out respectable damage and add even more to our mobility. Fast Movement combined with Bonus Action Dash should ensure an enemy is never out of our reach except in the case of difficult terrain, which we will have an answer to shortly.
6-Animal Aspect: Stallion
-Rage Charges: 4
This is when our build really starts to come online. Not only are we super mobile, but every time we use the Bonus Action Dash granted to us by the Eagle Heart, we gain temporary hit points equal to twice our level. At level 6 that equates to 12 temporary hit points we can get for just a Bonus Action. Effectively, that means an attack that does less than 13 damage to you (25 if it’s physical damage) is functionally ignored. This ability only gets stronger the more we level up.

With 4 Rage charges you can essentially stop worrying about conserving your Rages unless you are really trying to avoid long resting.
7Feral InstinctMore initiative, immune to Surprise, and +2 to your temporary hit points from Eagle Heart. Other than that, not much happens for you at this level.
8-Feat: Great Weapon Master
-Land’s Stride
For this build, I am going with Great Weapon Master to make up for our lower damage output at this level. If you don’t care about damage (maybe the rest of your party has that under control), Mobile is also a great Feat to add to our already insane movement speed, or Sentinel to really lean into the tank fantasy.

As Wildheart Barbarians, we also get a bonus feature at this level that makes us immune to difficult terrain, really ensuring that nothing can slow us down.
9Brutal CriticalAs a Half-Orc we already have Savage Attacks, so this makes our critical hits even more exciting.
10Animal Aspect: ElkWe get another animal aspect at this level, which is nice. You can pick whatever you want here, but I chose Elk for even more increased speed for us and our teammates. Crocodile is also a good option to avoid the icy surfaces that were the only thing that could keep us tied down, but even then there are several items which can solve that problem for us.
11Relentless RageCombined with our Relentless Endurance trait from Half-Orc, this basically makes us unkillable. In those rare times your enemies manage to break through your constantly refreshing pool of temporary hit points, you will be glad when this feature kicks in. I didn’t hear no bell.
12Rage Charges: 5
-Feat: Sentinel/Mobile/ASI Strength
We’ve reached the peak and have enough Rage charges to ensure we will almost never need to worry about them. 

As for the Feat, you have some options here. The build is basically done, so anything you get here is just icing on the cake to accomplish the goals that are most important to you. If you really don’t want to be tied down and want to make sure that you are exactly where you need to be when you need to be there, take Mobile. If you’re sick of enemies not wanting to deal with you and going after your squishy backline, take Sentinel. If you just want more damage and Elixirs aren’t doing the job, take the ASI and max out your Strength to 20. There’s no wrong answer here.