Barbarian 5e Guide: Dungeons & Dragons

This Barbarian 5e Guide


This Barbarian 5e Guide will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition class, the Barbarian. Everything you need to know to create your first Barbarian will be discussed in this Barbarian 5e Guide, as well as the Primal Paths, how Raging works, and fun multi-classing options you might want to consider. 

The Barbarian Class

The Barbarian class in D&D 5e is one of the more fun, and sometimes ridiculous, classes to play as or with. Their ability to Rage makes them a terrifying force in combat, as Raging effectively doubles a Barbarian’s health against physical damage, while simultaneously increasing the amount of damage they deal in this state. Barbarians should maximize either their Strength or Constitution, depending upon their choice of focus on offense or defense. 

Class Features


As a Barbarian, you gain the following class features.

Hit Points


Hit Dice: 1d12 per Barbarian level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 12 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d12 (or 7) + your Constitution modifier per warlock level after 1st

Proficiencies

Armor: Light armor, medium armor, shields
Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons
Tools: None
Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution
Skills: Choose two from Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival

Equipment


You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background: * (a) a Greataxe or (b) any martial melee weapon * (a) two handaxes or (b) any simple weapon * an Explorer’s Pack * four javelins

Barbarian Multi-classing


Multi-Classing is an option starting from Level Two where you select a second class to specialize in. Barbarians are absolutely unstoppable in combat, but relatively inept in most other areas. Consider these multi-class options to create a more well-rounded Barbarian character, or potentially an even more powerful Barbarian warrior. 

Druid + Barbarian

The Druid class offers spellcasting abilities and increased utility over the Barbarian alone. This is a fun multi-class, as the Druid’s ability to transform into a variety of different beasts couples well with the Barbarian’s frequent need to quickly get into the thick of a fight. An issue with this multi-class is that the Barbarian’s Rage does not mesh with transforming into a beast, or casting spells. 

Paladin + Barbarian

The Paladin class is unique in that it offers both physical and magical damage potential. This multi-class should be considered because the Paladin can cast spells useful directly before, during, or after combat, and they get to choose a Fighting Style. Most importantly, in terms of compatibility with the Barbarian class, is the Paladin’s Divine Smite ability, which causes a melee weapon attack to deal an additional 2d8 damage at the cost of a spell slot. This damage increases by 1d8 per spell slot above Level One that is expended. The Barbarian’s natural inclination to deal massive amounts of damage couples incredibly well with the Paladin’s ability to do smite damage. 

Fighter + Barbarian

The Fighter class is all about combat, but is more concentrated and disciplined than the Barbarian. This multi-class offers the Barbarian some incredibly useful abilities, such as a Fighting Style which buffs a chosen specialty, one extra action per short or long rest using Action Surge, and a Martial Archetype at Level Three that further specializes this multi-classes chosen fighting style. 

Primal Paths


The Primal Path chosen at Level Three will alter your Rage state and give you powerful new abilities. There are eight approved Primal Paths in D&D 5e. Those are: Ancestral Guardian, Battlerager, Beast, Berserker, Storm Herald, Totem Warrior, Wild Magic, Zealot. Given how much time a Barbarian spends raging, any choice you make that impacts how you Rage should be carefully considered. 

Ancestral Guardian – Rage sourced from the spirits of a Barbarian’s ancestors.
Battlerager (Dwarf) – Rage that causes a Barbarian to thrash and strike out with body. 
Beast – Rage sourced from the spirit of a beast that exists within the Barbarian. 
Berserker – Rage that causes a Barbarian to lose all control and concern for their own health. 
Storm Herald – Rage that is connected to an element: Desert, Sea, or Tundra.
Totem Warrior – Rage sourced from a Barbarian’s connection to their Totem Animal.
Wild Magic – Rage causing an occasional surge of Wild Magic, an unpredictable magical reaction.  
Zealot – Rage inspired by a Barbarian’s devotion to their Deity. 

Barbarian Level Breakdown


At Level One, the Barbarian earns the ability to harness anger and transform it into a state of Rage. While raging, Barbarians have advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws, a damage bonus on melee weapon attacks using Strength that increases with their level, and resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. Level One Barbarians also have the Unarmored Defense ability which makes their Armor Class = 10 + Dexterity modifier + Constitution modifier — Barbarians can rage twice at this Level, and their attacks deal an additional two damage. Want to understand how to calculate armor class? Check this post!

At Level Two, Barbarians gain the Danger Sense and Reckless Attack abilities. Danger Sense highlights the Barbarian’s primal reflexes, granting them advantage on Dexterity saving throws against things they can see, like a falling rock or attacking animal. Reckless Attack allows the Barbarian to throw caution to the wind and strike without concern for how their opponent will respond. This attack is rolled with advantage, but subsequent attacks made against the Barbarian have advantage as a result. At Level Three, the Barbarian gains a third use of the Rage ability, and are allowed to choose a Primal Path that serves as the source of their Rage. At Level Four, the Barbarian may choose to either take an Ability Score Improvement or select a feat. I would suggest, regardless of the choice you make, to choose an option that raises either Strength or Constitution to a plus four.

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