D&D Barbarian 5e Guide

Published on July 16, 2020, Last modified on April 3rd, 2023

In this post, we will be examining the barbarian’s class features and how you can optimize your barbarian through choosing your race, background, ability scores, subclass, and feats.

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Barbarian 5e Guide Rating Scheme

This guide is meant as a deep dive into the DnD 5e barbarian. For a quick overview of other 5e classes, check out our Guide to DnD 5e Classes.

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your barbarian. This color coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.

  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange is an OK option
  • Green is a good option
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized

D&D 5e Barbarian Overview

Level Prof. Bonus Features Rages Rage Damage
1st +2 Rage, Unarmored Defense 2 +2
2nd +2 Reckless Attack, Danger Sense 2 +2
3rd +2 Primal Path 3 +2
4th +2 Ability Score Improvement 3 +2
5th +3 Extra Attack, Fast Movement⁠ 3 +2
6th +3 Path feature 4 +2
7th +3 Feral Instinct 4 +2
8th +3 Ability Score Improvement 4 +2
9th +4 Brutal Critical (1 die) 4 +3
10th +4 Path feature 4 +3
11th +4 Relentless⁠ Rage 4 +3
12th +4 Ability Score Improvement 5 +3
13th +5 Brutal Critical (2 dice) 5 +3
14th +5 Path feature 5 +3
15th +5 Persistent Rage 5 +3
16th +5 Ability Score Improvement 5 +4
17th +6 Brutal Critical (3 dice) 6 +4
18th +6 Indomitable Might 6 +4
19th +6 Ability Score Improvement 6 +4
20th +6 Primal Champion⁠ Unlimited +4


If you take a look at the barbarian’s class features, it’s pretty obvious how barbarians are meant to be played. Due to the barbarian’s propensity for combat, you are usually going to put all of your ability points into STR and CON, while dumping the other stats. This will give you the fantasy equivalent of the Hulk (complete with the uncontrollable rage!), which may leave you with a bit of a meathead but at least it will be your meathead.


Barbarians are the kings and queens of melee damage in 5e. They have the ability to go into a Rage to get a bonus to any check made using STR and a nice boost to damage. Barbarians also gain the ability to attack recklessly, which makes it easier to hit opponents, with the caveat that they get to hit you more easily.

Barbarians have the unique ability to absorb tons of damage. They have the highest hit dice in the game and when combined with a maxed out CON skill, will give them a ridiculous amount of hit points. As a bonus, when they Rage Barbarians take half damage on all physical attacks. Talk about tanky.


The barbarian’s weaknesses are what you might expect from the beefiest character class in 5e. Barbarians aren’t going to offer a whole lot in the way of utility, they’re more of a “go here and hit that” type of character.

In a situation in which they can’t punch, kick or bite their way out, barbarians won’t be a lot of help to the party.

Best Races for Barbarian

Standard Races

  • Chromatic: Great option to make your barbarian even more tanky while also giving you a solid option for AoE damage.
  • Metallic: The damage resistance is great for helping you tank, plus the Breath Weapon can add a potent AoE effect multiple times per long rest. The Metallic Breath Weapon is an extremely strong ability, especially considering the barbarian's pumped CON modifier.
  • Standard: +2 STR is perfect for this class, damage resistance further improves tankiness, and an AoE is something most barbarians don't have.
  • Ravenite: +2 STR and +1 CON is perfect for this class. The extra attack is great to dish out additional damage in a pinch and Breath Weapon is useful for an AoE attack.
Dwarf: Dwarves are a great choice for melee barbarians. They get bonuses to CON and a free resistance to poison. What’s not to love?
  • Hill: More hit points isn’t bad, but not needed since the dwarf already gets a bonus to CON and barbarians have the highest hit dice. WIS saves are common so a bonus here also helps.
  • Mountain: Adding a STR bonus to the dwarf’s racial traits makes this a perfect choice for a barbarian.
Elf: Nothing here for a Barb.
Gnome: Barbarians need STR to be effective.
Half-Elf: Being able to take +1 to CON or STR is not enough to make a Half-Elf Barbarian work.
Half-Orc: +2 STR, +1 CON, and all of the half-orc’s class features are exactly what barbarians are looking for.
Halfling: The +2 to DEX and +1 to CON provided by the Stout Halfling may make enough of a case to use it for a Barbarian build. Lucky doesn't hurt either.
  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Variant humans are usually good, and this is no exception for barbarians. Variant humans can boost their STR and CON and also get a free feat like Tavern Brawler, Charger, or Great Weapon Master.
Tiefling: Only one subrace comes with a STR bonus.
  • Bloodline of Zariel: While the Zariel tiefling gets a STR bonus, you can’t cast spells while in a barbarian Rage, making the smites useless a lot of the time.

Non-Standard Races

Aarakocra: Barbarians need to be in melee range to tank for their parties. Flying around and no beneficial racial bonuses means this race does not work for this class.
Aasimar: Nothing for a barbarian here. The only exception would be a Totem of the Bear barbarian + Radiant Consumption so you can take half damage while everyone else takes full damage. The racial bonuses somewhat line up with a +1 to CON or STR.
Air Genasi: Another resistance and some increased movement speed is alright, but you won't be able to cast spells when raging.
Astral Elf: You likely won't have the CHA, INT, or WIS necessary to roll with sacred flame, but free castings of misty step can be indispensable for maneuvering the battlefield. While an astral elf barbarian may be not the most thematic, the Fey Ancestry and Astral Trance features are relatively large buffs to an otherwise prominent barbarian weakness. This will make it tougher to turn your barbarian against the party using spells like dominate person.
Auto Gnome: The auto gnome's natural armor is rendered useless by the barbarian's Unarmored Defense and, unfortunately, their Small size restricts auto gnomes from wielding heavy weapons. The healing, extra survivability, and d4 to attack rolls are all tempting, but there are better options for barbarians out there.
Bugbear: +2 STR is what Barbarians are all about. The DEX helps with AC and a free stealth proficiency is great.
  • Updated: The new bugbear is even better with the barbarian class due to the Surprise Attack update. Still take +2 STR, but now you can decide between DEX or CON for your secondary ASI.
Centaur: The +2 to STR and the Charge ability are perfect for barbarians.
  • Updated: The updated centaur is slightly better due to improved hoof damage and the option to put an ASI to DEX or CON instead of WIS.
Changeling: Barbarians can use the free ability score increase for STR, though they would much rather see +2. CHA isn't all that effective on Barbarians, though it may be quite funny to have one that is the face of the party.
  • Updated: Barbarians can now get their +2 STR, though they don't have anything in their toolkit to synergize with the changeling's racial traits.
Deep Gnome: Not much here for barbarians. The advantage on saves against INT, WIS, and CHA spells can help save you from a dominate spell, but that's not usually a big enough draw for barbarians to choose a deep gnome. They also can't wield heavy weapons, which limits their effectiveness from a pure damage perspective.
Duergar: Advantage against stunned and charmed will help keep you fighting longer. Unfortunately, you're not able to concentrate on either of the spells granted by Duergar Magic when you're raging.
Earth Genasi: Barbarians already have a way to reduce physical damage and ways to increase their movement. So, despite being thematically synergistic, earth genasi are mechanically subpar for barbarians.
Eladrin: Barbarians love the ability to misty step in battle and it won't interfere much outside of the initial Rage activation. Whether they need to close in with an enemy or get out of the thick of it to be healed, a bonus action teleport is extraordinarily useful. Now, stack on the different rider effects from the Fey Step's seasons and it's even better. Obviously the barbarian's favorite will be the Summer ability because they're most likely to teleport into a large group of enemy to maximize the damage they put out. That said, the Winter ability would also be nice as it will allow them to focus fire on an enemy without risking too much incursion. On top of this, the passive abilities of the eladrin are nice to have, especially Fey Ancestry which can help resist nasty mind-control effects.
Fairy: Nothing here for a barb.
Firbolg: The +2 to WIS is going to be wasted, except for when you cast your Firbolg Magic spells. The +1 to STR and Powerful Build is nice. Being able to go invisible and cast some limited spells can improve your utility to your party.
  • Updated: Though you can take +2 STR, the spellcasting doesn't add anything useful to a barbarian's arsenal.
Fire Genasi: Fire resistance can help you tank against elemental and spellcaster enemies, but the spells will go by the wayside as they can't be cast while you're raging. If you're able to catch a group of enemies on the first round of initiative, it could be worthwhile to cast burning hands before you rage.
  • Earth: The earth genasi provides the perfect ability scores, improved movement options, and a reliable way to be stealthy as a barbarian.
Giff: Some bonus damage on your attacks is nice, but Rage already gives you advantage on STR checks and saving throws.
Gith: INT is useless for a barbarian.
  • Githyanki: +2 STR means the barbarian is happy as a Githyanki, even if Martial Prodigy is a complete waste of a racial trait. While it’s funny to have spellcasting on a barbarian, you won’t be able to cast them while in a Rage.
Goblin: Barbarians need STR to be effective.
  • Updated: You do get the bonus damage from Fury of the Small, but nothing else is very appealing here for a barbarian as they typically don't want to run and hide.
Goliath: Goliaths are perfectly suited for barbarians, giving even the half-orc a run for their money. Stone’s Endurance makes Reckless Attack less scary, so you can be even more, well, reckless!
  • Updated: Goliaths remain one of the absolute best choices for any barbarian as not much has changed.
Hadozee: The hadozee's Dodge will go twice as far for barbarians, who already get their damage reduced by half with Rage. Beyond this, some movement options are always nice.
Harengon: The harengon's abilities are quite synergistic to the barbarian's. Leporine Senses and Lucky Footwork go well with Danger Sense, Hare-Trigger goes well with Feral Instinct, and Rabbit Hop and compliment your Fast Movement to move around the battlefield.
Hobgoblin: Barbarians need STR to be effective.
  • Updated: Entering and leaving Rage uses up your bonus action, as do some abilities of the barbarian's subclasses, making Fey Gift hard to justify at times. Of the options, temporary hit points are probably the best use of Fey Gift to make you even more tanky and to give some support abilities to a barbarian. Fortune from the Many is good, especially since most barbarians dump several stats so this could help you succeed on tougher ability checks or saving throws.
Kalashtar: Barbarians need STR to be effective.
Kender: Barbarians really want to be wielding a heavy weapon so they can output max damage. That said, the kender's Taunt ability will be able to draw fire from weaker party members onto your buffed out barbarian. You'll have to pump either CHA, INT, or WIS to make the save DC for this effect worth it, which also goes against your barbarian instincts.
Kenku: Barbarians need STR to be effective.
Kobold: Barbarians really want a STR ability score bonus. Reckless Attack should be enough advantage to consider picking a race with a STR bonus.
  • Updated: The biggest thing holding back the kobold here is the Small size, as you won't be able to effectively use heavy weapons like greataxes. Reckless Attack also makes Draconic Cry unnecessary.
Leonin: Perfect ability score array, the bonus to your walking speed can help you close with enemies, and your Daunting Roar can provide a massive debuff to enemies you're in close quarters with. What's not to love?
  • Dhampir: Some extra movement is useful for closing with enemies and the Vampiric Bite will be at it's best with your pumped out CON modifier.
Lizardfolk: Barbarians need STR to be effective, and Natural Armor doesn’t stack with Unarmored Defense.
Loxodon: Barbarians have Unarmored Defense, which is better than Natural Armor (the effects do not stack). Barbarians need to see a STR bonus to be at their best, but at least the loxodon comes with CON. Powerful Build, Loxodon Serenity, and Trunk are interesting enough to make this build possible, although it is not very potent.
Minotaur: Minotaurs are ideal for barbarians. STR and CON is all that most barbarians care about, and Goring Rush gets you right in the face of your enemies when the battle starts.
Orc: As expected, orcs make the perfect barbarians. Orcs have perfect ASIs for the class, get increased mobility through the Aggressive trait, and get some free skill proficiencies where they may otherwise be lacking.
Plasmoid: Because of Unarmored Defense, barbarians can actually get a surprising amount of use out of the Amorphous trait. Unfortunately, you won't be able to carry your greataxe with you through the holes, but a Tavern Brawler build could make for a very interesting barbarian plasmoid.
Satyr: No STR or CON for barbs, but this race is STILL worth considering. The extra movement speed can help close the distance with enemies, the natural weapons will work well with your STR, and the resistance to magic will make you harder to put down (or be mind controlled).
Shadar-kai: Barbarians already gain damage resistance to physical damage while raging. If damage resistance is particularly important to you and you're not taking the Path of the Totem (Bear) subclass, this can be a decent option. More often than not, if you want access to misty step, it'd be best to choose another elf subrace like the eladrin.
  • Beasthide Shifter: Will make a near unkillable monster of a character. The main downside to this combination is that both the barbarian’s Rage and Shifting use your bonus action, meaning that you won’t be fully buffed up until the third round of combat at the earliest.
  • Longtooth Shifter: Great offensive option for all-out attacking barbarians. The main downside to this combination is that both the barbarian’s Rage and Shifting use your bonus action, meaning that you won’t be fully buffed up until the third round of combat at the earliest.
Simic Hybrid: Barbarians love CON and STR, so choose your ability score accordingly. Nimble Climber, Grappling Appendages, and Carapace are all amazing choices for any barbarian build.
Tabaxi: Barbarians really need a STR bonus to be effective. This is disappointing because the mobility options of Feline Agility and Cat’s Claws could be very interesting for barbarians.
Thri-kreen: Unfortunately, barbarians already get Unarmored Defense, which negates the baseline AC bump provided by Chameleon Carapace. That said, they do still get the benefit of being able to use their action to get advantage on Stealth checks. When it comes to the Secondary Arms, you can wield a two-handed heavy weapon like a greatsword in your two primary hands, then hold a shortsword in your Secondary Arms. This allows you to offhand attack, which can be another opportunity to output Rage damage. If you want to beef up your barbarian, you could also instead to wield a shield along with a longsword in your primary hands, and a shortsword in your Secondary Arms.
Tortle: Tortles make amazing barbarians. Barbarians don’t wear armor anyways, so Shell Defense automatically brings them up to 17 AC without needing to put points into DEX. A STR bonus is also the most important stat that barbarians look for when choosing a race, so this makes tortles one of the best choices for the class, leaving them open for feats.
Triton: STR and CON here is a good start, although not having +2 STR hurts. Remember that spellcasting doesn’t work when in a Rage, so Control Air and Water won’t be useable for the majority of the time you spend in combat.
Vedalken: Barbarians need STR to be effective.
Warforged: Barbarians already have incredible survivability, so the CON boost and Constructed Resilience can make you near unkillable. Since the only other stat barbarians care about is STR, taking that with your free ASI point is the obvious choice.
Water Genasi: Another resistance is nice, but acid damage won't come up often.
Yuan-ti Pureblood: Barbarians need STR to be effective. Magic Resistance would make a yuan-ti pureblood barbarian nearly unkillable, however.

Ability Scores

Ability Score Increases (ASI) at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level.

Barbarians value STR above all else, followed by CON. DEX shouldn’t be ignored so you can either equip armor or rely on the Unarmored Defense class feature.

STR: Barbarians want to hit things, and hit them hard. They also want to hit things with the biggest weapon they can get their hands on, so pump STR as high as possible.

DEX: Good DEX means a higher AC and access to better armor options. People will expect you to fill the role of the tank, so consider some DEX.

CON: As the tank, expect a lot of hits to come your way since you will likely be on the front lines. With Unarmoured Defense, your CON bonus also contributes to your AC.

INT: Dump for sure. You’re not out here trying to get a PhD.

WIS: WIS saves happen all the time, but barbarians will likely survive even on a failed save.

CHA: Barbarians aren’t built to be charismatic.

Barbarian Class Progression

1st Level

Hit Points: Barbarians are blessed with d12 hit dice, the best around.

Saves: CON saves come up very often, and STR saves do happen now and again.

Weapon/Armor Proficiencies: Barbarians have access to most of the weapons and armor they could ever need.

SkillsOnly two skills from a small list, but there are some good options here.

  • Animal Handling (WIS): Usually not too helpful, especially if you cant speak with animals.
  • Athletics (STR): You’ll likely be the athlete of the group, and also the one to grapple or shove your foes.
  • Intimidation (CHA): Intimidation seems like it was made for a scary looking barbarian, but it is unfortunately not a STR-based skill.
  • Nature (INT): Your INT will be pitiful, so you won’t be able to make good use of this skill even if you wanted to.
  • Perception (WIS): The best skill in the game. If you can get Perception, it’s usually the right choice to pick it up.
  • Survival (WIS): Survival proficiency can save the whole party. Get it if nobody else does.

Rage: This is the reason to play a barbarian. Advantage on STR checks and STR saving throws bonus damage, and damage resistance pairs perfectly with the playstyle. Rage is also the reason not to go for heavy armor proficiency since you don’t get the benefits in that case. Regardless, running around without armor or medium armor should serve you just fine.

Unarmored Defense: Perfect for roleplaying if you want to play the typical shirtless barbarian, and can help give a boost to AC at early levels. Once you have access to the best medium armor (half plate), Unarmored Defense is strictly worse for most stat combinations you will likely achieve. This means you should really only boost your DEX high enough to equip medium armor and let your damage resistance and large hit point pool handle the rest. On the other hand, with 20 DEX + 20 CON + a shield, you can attain the highest possible AC for playable classes D&D 5e, so that’s pretty cool too.

2nd Level

Reckless Attack: Perfect for landing devastating blows against your enemies. Attack rolls against you having advantage doesn’t matter too much due to your damage resistance and substantial hit points. You aren’t (quite) invincible though, so be careful using this when completely surrounded since all attack rolls against you will have advantage.

Danger Sense: Advantage on DEX saves is awesome and definitely will contribute to your longevity in battle.

3rd Level

At 3rd level barbarians may choose their Primal Path. None of the options are outright unusable, so choose the subclass that benefits your party the most or simply the one you think you will enjoy.

Path of the Ancestral Guardian

As the name implies, the Path of the Ancestral Guardian excels at tanking and protecting your party. For that purpose, this build is one of the best in all of D&D 5e, but if you're looking to maximize damage you won't find that here.

  • 3rd level
    • Ancestral Protectors: Ancestral Protectors strongly discourages your enemies from attacking anyone but you when they are affected by it, which is exactly what you want as a Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian.
  • 6th level
    • Spirit Shield: An amazing use of your reaction that scales decently well. There’s absolutely no reason not to use this every round of combat unless your Rage wore off. Your party members will be delighted!
  • 10th level
    • Consult the Spirits: Augury and Clairvoyance are both powerful utility spells that you can cast without any magical prowess. You can only cast one of them every short rest but that doesn’t detract from how good this feature is. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of Augury, especially when playing with indecisive people.
  • 14th level
    • Vengeful Ancestors: Increases the usefulness of your Spirit Shield for free! Redirecting damage from your party members to whatever you’re fighting every single round is really strong.

Path of the Battlerager

Path of the Battlerager is a strange subclass. The most important thing to know is that it is restricted to dwarves, but luckily dwarves are one of the best races for barbarians. Secondly, to even consider playing this subclass you need to make sure that you can get spiked armor. It is probably a good idea to talk to your DM about this and make sure they are willing to let you acquire it relatively early on. Aside from these oddities, the Path of the Battlerager is not particularly strong compared to the other subclass options. It can be fun, however, especially when played as a grappler build.

  • 3rd level
    • Battlerager Armor: This is what encourages you to grapple. Not great damage, but it does give an extra attack as a bonus action.
  • 6th level
    • Reckless Abandon: Temporary hit points add survivability. They come at the cost of using a Reckless Attack so the mediocre AC of the spiked armor may be problematic.
  • 10th level
    • Battlerager Charge: Dashing as a bonus action helps you close distance and get your attacks or grapples in effectively.
  • 14th level
    • Spiked Retribution: The damage on its own is quite low but it will add up if you get attacked a lot, which is very probable.

Path of the Berserker

The Path of the Berserker is what most people would associate with the barbarian archetype. If you just want to hit things, and be really good at hitting things, this is the subclass for you. While none of the features are overly exciting or unique, this build is straightforward and effective.

  • 3rd level
    • Frenzy: Frenzy makes your damage go through the roof. One level of exhaustion isn’t too backbreaking, but by three levels of exhaustion your character will start having a really tough time doing anything in a fight.
  • 6th level
    • Mindless Rage: Smart enemies will try to stop you from participating in the fight if they notice how much damage you can deal. Charmed and frightened are annoying conditions that can be hard to get out of, so Mindless Rage really comes in clutch.
  • 10th level
    • Intimidating Presence:  Not the best since it uses your action, especially if you are one of the main damage dealers of the group. If for some reason you can’t attack (enemies are out of reach of melee, for example) this is a pretty good way to spend your turn. If you plan on using Intimidating Presence regularly, you probably shouldn’t be dumping your CHA stat.
  • 14th level
    • Retaliation: Great way to get in more damage and make use of your reaction when toe to toe with a baddie.

Path of the Giant

Check out our Path of the Giant Barbarian 5e Guide for build optimization tips.

Path of the Storm Herald

The Path of the Storm Herald adapts well to change. Starting at 3rd level, every time you level up you may choose an environment from desert, sea or tundra, and that affects what abilities you have access to. Unfortunately, you don't always level up when it would be ideal and you usually don't know what dangers lie ahead. Still, it's mechanically interesting and will keep things fresh, all while being useful to whatever party makeup you run with.

  • 3rd level
    • Storm Aura: Auras are great passive abilities. To keep it going after the turn you start raging you do need to use your bonus action though.
      • Desert: The damage isn’t great and it does indiscriminately affect all creatures in the aura. If you want some small AoE damage the Desert aura works well.
      • Sea: Only single target, but at least it won’t hurt your allies like the Desert aura. The damage is still pretty low though.
      • Tundra: Temporary hit points for everyone in your party! If they are within the aura, that is. Plus you can do this every turn, topping up as you see fit.
  • 6th level
    • Storm Soul: If you know that you will come across a lot of fire, lightning, or cold damage, the choice here will be obvious. Nothing here is essential to the subclass so the usefulness really depends on what you will be dealing with in the campaign.
      • Desert: Probably the safest bet since there are many sources of devastating fire damage (fireball, anyone?).
      • Sea: Unless you care about the lightning damage coming your way, water breathing and swimming speed is very situational.
      • Tundra: Not sure what you would use a giant ice cube for, but I’m sure people have found a purpose. Resistance to cold is about as useful as lightning.
  • 10th level
    • Shielding Storm: Looks good on paper, but your aura’s radius is quite small and if you know you will be hit with some powerful AoE elemental damage, sticking that close together is a terrible idea.
  • 14th level
    • Raging Storm: Makes your aura more useful, so all three options will be quite good.
      • Desert: The damage here will never be huge, and there is a DEX save involved. Still, it’s a potential option for your reaction.
      • Sea: If you manage to knock your enemy prone, the rest of your attacks will have advantage (this is used as a reaction!). If your rogue friend is higher up in the Initiative order than that enemy, free Sneak Attacks!
      • Tundra: Great at preventing a fleeing opponent from doing so.

Path of the Totem Warrior

The Path of the Totem Warrior is the complete package. There are options for tanking, dealing damage, movement capabilities, and aiding your party. On top of that, the gameplay with this subclass is less clear-cut and requires more thinking, making it very fun to play. The expanded options for the Totem Spirit are the elk and tiger, found in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide.

  • 3rd level
    • Spirit Seeker: Not useful most of the time, but a good reason to choose the Animal Handling proficiency when you roll the character.
    • Totem Spirit: This is an important choice. While there are five options, only three are worth considering.
      • Bear: The bear Totem Spirit feels outright overpowered. Resistance to ALL damage while raging (save for psychic) is insane.
      • Eagle: Great if you need some extra mobility on the battlefield.
      • Elk: You don’t really need even more movement speed and the eagle is typically better for that purpose.
      • Tiger: Jumping is rarely, if ever, beneficial.
      • Wolf: If you have other melee party members that can deal loads of damage on attack rolls, the wolf excels. If you have a party full of casters, this does nothing.
  • 6th level
    • Aspect of the Beast: You may choose the same animal as at 3rd level or one of the other options.
      • Bear: Many people don’t enjoy playing with restrictive carrying capacity or just beg their DM for a Bag of Holding. However, advantage on STR checks comes in handy when trying to force your way through a locked door or other obstacles. Sadly it only works on objects.
      • Eagle: Nice for scouting, although Barbarians aren’t typically the choice for the party’s scout. If your race doesn’t have Darkvision then negating disadvantage on Perception checks is great.
      • Elk: If you play with travel time between locations and include random encounters, this is pretty useful. If you tend to just skip travel in favor of playing at predetermined locations, avoid the elk here.
      • Tiger: Proficiency in two more skills is pretty great, unfortunately two of the four options are already available as class-based skills.
      • Wolf: Similar to the elk’s Aspect of the Beast.
  • 10th level
    • Spirit Walker: Commune with Nature as a ritual is often useful. If you’re struggling to survive in a new location, you can easily find food and water. It also helps if you’re looking for something in particular, like a building or a magical creature.
  • 14th level
    • Totemic Attunement: You may again choose the same animal as at 3rd level or something else.
      • Bear: Draws fire from your weaker allies onto yourself. If you chose the bear at 3rd level, you will have resistance to the damage they throw your way anyways.
      • Eagle: Flying is endlessly useful, even if it only functions in short bursts. Make sure you have a plan before you launch yourself into the air! Or don’t, you’re a Barbarian after all.
      • Elk: Knock enemies prone and deal some damage at the same time as a bonus action. Really annoying to any opponent if you can pull it off regularly.
      • Tiger: Bonus action weapon attacks are always great, but you’ll have to fulfill the movement requirement to do so. In tight spaces or places with obstacles you may not be able to use this ability at all.
      • Wolf: Another way to knock enemies prone as a bonus action. No added damage but you only have to connect with an attack to use it, so your next attack can be with advantage. Choosing between this or the elk is a personal preference.

Path of the Zealot

Cool for roleplay. Dying becomes more of an inconvenience than a game ending problem. Coupled with a bit of extra damage, the Path of the Zealot is a fine subclass but lacks any serious direction.

  • 3rd level
    • Divine Fury: Straightforward added damage on your attack. A portion of creatures do have necrotic damage immunity, but radiant damage less so.
    • Warrior of the Gods: Barbarians aren’t afraid of dying, and Warrior of the Gods makes coming back way more convenient. Spells like Raise Dead become practically free to use on you.
  • 6th level
    • Fanatical Focus: Outright saves you from dying from powerful effects with a saving throw.
  • 10th level
    • Zealous Presence: In a huge battle this ability gives your party a sort of “super” turn with advantage on attack rolls and saving throws. Would be a lot nicer if it worked on you as well though.
  • 14th level
    • Rage beyond Death: You basically can’t die while raging. If you have a way to heal yourself for a small amount of hit points (magic item, potion of healing, etc.) then do so before ending rage so you don’t die.

5th Level

Extra Attack: Every martial class is excited when they get extra attacks since it effectively doubles damage output. Remember that if you apply your Reckless Attack on the first attack, it works for your extra attacks as well!

Fast Movement: You won’t want heavy armor so your Barbarian will get the benefit of Fast Movement. While very useful, especially if playing with battle maps, Fast Movement isn’t as impactful as most of the other Barbarian class features.

7th Level

Feral Instinct: Really useful. It’s a big deal for the Barbarian to be at the front lines to protect the more vulnerable party members, so advantage on Initiative helps there. Avoiding surprise attacks against you is another tool in your long list of ways to mitigate damage coming at your character.

9th Level

Brutal Critical: Does make critical hits brutally effective, but they only happen 5% of the time you make an attack roll.

11th Level

Relentless Rage: With a decent CON score you may be able to pull this off more than once per short rest, making you a real thorn in the side of your enemies. When you do finally get knocked to 0 hit points, hopefully you’ve had enough of an impact on the battlefield that the battle ends shortly thereafter.

15th Level

Persistent RageAn annoying part of Rage is that situations do occur where you can’t move or don’t have enough movement to engage the next enemy, causing it to end at an inconvenient time. Since you can only Rage a finite amount of times per Long Rest, Persistent Rage helps you conserve your uses so that you can activate it for every tough battle throughout the day. If your rage lasts longer than 4 hours, please consult a physician.

18th Level

Indomitable MightIf you like to grapple and have a maxed or nearly maxed out STR score, there won’t be much your opponent can do to stop you. Other uses for STR ability checks are often less crucial, but nice to have nonetheless.

20th Level

Primal ChampionA fitting capstone for the Barbarian class, making you the tankiest tank who ever lived. If wearing medium armor, your Unarmored Defense may offer high AC when you reach level 20, so be sure to check both options.

Best Feats for Barbarian

  • Actor: Nothing here for a barbarian, who would rather smash their way in.
  • Agent of Order: Unfortunately, your Charisma, Intelligence, or Wisdom won't be high enough to consider taking this feat.
  • Alert: Barbarians already have Feral Instinct to aid during Initiative rolls. Additional initiative improvements offer diminishing returns but can be effective for barbarians as they can activate their Rage as soon as possible into the encounter to reduce any damage taken and boost their damage ouput.
  • Athlete: You get an ASI to Strength and some minor movement buffs, but nothing amazing for a barbarian.
  • Baleful Scion: Self healing on a barbarian is an incredibly useful ability and because the barbarian's Rage gives them resistance to common damage types, the healing provided by this feat will go twice as long as normal.
  • Chef: While I don't think most barbarians can rage out in the kitchen like Gordon Ramsey, this feat isn't all bad. CON is a good boost. Temporary hit points are always nice in the heat of the moment as they are typically doubled thanks to the barbs Rage.
  • Cohort of Chaos: Unfortunately, this is too unpredictable to be a efficient use of a feat.
  • Crossbow Expert: Most barbarians won’t stay out of melee range for long, so they can skip this feat. They’re much better off with feats like Slasher or Sentinel.
  • Crusher: It's not a terrible choice for a barbarian, especially compared to the other damage-type feats from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. It offers them a chance to have a little battlefield manipulation, plus a possible damage boost.
  • Defensive Duelist: Almost all barbarian subclasses don’t offer any defensive reactions, so this isn’t a terrible choice. However, DEX barbarians aren’t particularly potent, so it's not worth it in the end.
  • Divinely Favored: While armor of Agathys would be great on barbarians, spending an entire feat to cast it once a day doesn't feel worth it.
  • Dual Wielder: Barbarians can make good use of the Dual Wielder feat, particularly if they aren't utilizing a two-handed weapon or shield. The added AC can be a good substitute for a shield, and the additional attack can take advantage of their Rage damage bonus.
  • Durable: A barbarian with a +5 Constitution and the Durable feat will recover at minimum 15 hit points with a single Hit Dice roll. This is a solid amount of healing, especially if you can find a way to roll Hit Dice mid-combat (like with the Dwarven Fortitude feat or a caster buddy with wither and bloom).
  • Eldritch Adept: Barbarians can’t pick up this feat without multiclassing, so there’s no point worrying about it.
  • Elemental Adept: Skip this entirely. This does nothing for barbarians, as you rarely will be dealing elemental damage. You’re better off with Slasher or Great Weapon Fighting.
  • Elven Accuracy: You won’t be able to benefit from this at all since barbarians don’t typically use any of the stats associated with this feat. Dex barbarians are not worth the effort at all.
  • Ember of the Fire Giant: You can pump Strength or Constitution while also getting a reliable AoE damage and debuff ability, this is perfect for barbarians.
  • Fade Away: Not only is the gnome race not good for barbarians, the ASIs from this feat don't match your priorities. Plus, barbarians usually want to be visible so they can soak damage.
  • Fey Teleportation: Neither of these stats benefits you, but a free misty step isn’t awful. However, in the grand scheme of things, you’re better off with an offensive feat like Great Weapon Master.
  • Fey Touched: A free casting of misty step will help mobility but unfortunately, all the best spells in the Divination and Enchantment schools require concentration so they can't be used when raging.
  • Fighting Initiate: There are a few styles here that are worth considering, mainly Blind Fighting and Great Weapon Fighting.
  • Fury of the Frost Giant: You can pump Strength or Constitution while also getting a reliable reaction and preventing your prey from escaping. Plus, another resistance is always helpful. This is a solid choice for barbarians that want more action economy and range.
  • Gift of the Chromatic Dragon: Extra damage resistances and boosted attacks are always a good thing. Unfortunately, you won't be able to pop this and Rage on your first turn, so your barbarian won't usually be fully online till the second round of combat.
  • Gift of the Gem Dragon: While the reaction would be awesome, your barbarian's Charisma, Intelligence, or Wisdom likely won't be high enough to make this worthwhile.
  • Gift of the Metallic Dragon: The AC boosts will be huge to help you avoid hits. Unfortunately, you won't be able to cast cure wounds while raging, but it could be useful for a spot of out-of-combat healing.
  • Grappler: A great option for a barbarian, especially if you're going for a grappling build. The advantage on attack rolls and the ability to restrain creatures can be very beneficial in combat. Plus, your Rage gives you advantage on Strength checks, which will make sure your grapple attempts land more frequently.
  • Great Weapon Master: Probably the best feat for a barbarian using a two-handed weapon, regardless of build. Extra attacks from this feat will occur often when you're in the thick of things. The bonus damage at the cost of an attack roll penalty is risky and should be used sparingly until your attack roll bonus is quite high. That said, if you really want something dead you can Reckless Attack and take the -5 penalty. This is useful in situations where an enemy is looking hurt and you want to drop them to get an extra bonus action attack.
  • Guile of the Cloud Giant: You already have resistance to mundane damage while you Rage, so this is likely unnecessary.
  • Gunner: Ranged combat doesn’t work with barbarians. Your kit is wholly based around melee damage and maintaining rage, which you can’t do with firearms. You are much better off with Great Weapon Master.
  • Healer: Barbarians might make a decent frontline medic for how tanky they are. That said, there are plenty more combat-oriented feats that will be more potent.
  • Heavily Armored: You have Unarmored Defense and can't get the benefits of Rage while wearing heavy armor, so this is a skip.
  • Heavy Armor Master: Barbarians can't wear heavy armor and Rage, as much as they would love the extra damage reductions.
  • Inspiring Leader: Barbarians don't normally stack into Charisma, so this is a skip. Hopefully you have a bard in your party who can inspire you, cause those temp hit points will go nice with Rage.
  • Keen Mind: Nothing here for a barbarian.
  • Keenness of the Stone Giant: While the ASIs are great and you'd love to knock enemies prone, this ability won't be useful while you're within melee range of enemies, which most barbarians plan to be.
  • Lightly Armored: Already has access to light armor at the start, plus Unarmored Defense is better in most cases.
  • Linguist: Skip this feat
  • Lucky: Lucky is a feat that is useful to any character but barbarians can make especially good use of it because of all the attack rolls they'll be making.
  • Mage Slayer: If you're facing spellcasters in most combats, barbarians will enjoy what this feat has to offer. Barbarians offer some of the most mobility and durability in the game, and they love to output more damage. Otherwise, this spell falls behind feats that will be useful in every combat, like Great Weapon Master.
  • Magic Initiate: Barbarians are probably the only class where this feat has a negligible impact, mainly because most barbarians want to be raging and smashing every turn (you can’t cast spells while in a rage).
  • Martial Adept: Some of the Battle Master maneuvers would be great for a barbarian, but only getting one superiority dice per short/long rest drastically limits the effectiveness of this feat.
  • Medium Armor Master: This could be a decent option for barbarians who want to focus into maxing their Strength while still having a decent AC. If you get your Dexterity to +3 and pick up half plate armor, you'll have an AC of 18 (20 with a shield). In order to match this with Unarmored Defense, you'd need to have a +5 in Constitution while still maintaining the +3 in Dexterity. While this isn't necessarily out of the question, it will take more resources and won't be available until the 12th level, even if you're devoting all your ASIs to getting there.
  • Metamagic Adept: Because they can’t cast spells, barbarians cannot take this feat without multiclassing.
  • Mobile: Barbarians can always use the extra movement to close in. Ignoring difficult terrain isn't a particularly exciting feature but will be useful occasionally. The best feature gained from this feat is being able to attack recklessly then run away so your opponent doesn't get to swing back at you.
  • Mounted Combatant: This option is decent for barbarians who want to ride into battle on a steed. That said, barbarians already get abilities to improve their movement and get advantage on their attacks, so Mounted Combatant isn't giving them anything particularly new.
  • Observant: This is a waste since barbarians don’t care about either of these stats. Plus, with your Danger Sense, you already have good insurance against traps without needing a feat.
  • Orcish Fury: Half-Orcs are a very synergistic race for barbarians and this feat adds additional utility to martial builds. It's a half-feat so it provides an STR or CON bonus, provides additional damage once per rest, and provides an extra attack when you use your Relentless Endurance feature.
  • Outlands Envoy: One free casting of misty step and an ASI isn't enough to make barbarians want to take this feat.
  • Piercer: If you want to use a melee weapon with piercing, this feat works incredibly well. However, you’ll usually get better damage with two-handed weapons and Great Weapon Master, so stick to a spear if you want the most out of this.
  • Planar Wanderer: Even with the tailorable damage resistance, this feat just isn't worth it for a barbarian.
  • Poisoner: Once raging, barbarians don't have much use for their bonus action outside of two-weapon fighting. Having access to an extra 2d8 poison damage on your attacks is a great way to stretch your damage and the poisoned condition is an excellent debuff. Unfortunately, the low DC for the save makes this less impactful the higher level you get.
  • Polearm Master: Polearm users are usually defensive, patient, and precise. This doesn’t scream “barbarian,” but barbarians can still make great use of this feat. Their Rage ability gives them additional damage to each strike, so more attacks will always be better.
  • Resilient: This can be a good pickup if you have an odd DEX score after character creation. +1 DEX to an uneven score could net you an AC increase, while also offering the increased survivability a bonus to DEX saving throws provides.
  • Revanent Blade: While this is a solid weapon, you're probably still better off with a heavy weapon + Great Weapon Master.
  • Righteous Heritor: Unless you're going for a Polearm Master or Sentinel build, this can offer a huge amount of damage mitigation each long rest, for both you and your allies.
  • Ritual Caster: Barbarians don't want to invest the resources necessary to take this feat, even if find familiar might be useful.
  • Rune Shaper: This feat could be worth it for armor of Agathys on its own. The 5 temporary hit points turn into 10 because of your Rage resistances and it punishes creatures for swinging at you. Plus, it has an hour duration and no concentration requirements.
  • Savage Attacker: Even though this feat is best with heavy weapons, which fits the barbarian's playstyle, it's much more worth it to go with Great Weapon Master or one of the Tasha's weapon feats.
  • Scion of the Outer Planes: If you want to go for a Bear Totem barbarian, this can allow you to grab psychic damage resistance so you're resistance to all damage types when you Rage. You'll also get guidance, which is a solid out-of-combat utility cantrip.
  • Second Chance: Barbarians usually aren't overly concerned with an attack landing. They're better off using their reaction for offense, like with the Sentinel or Polearm Master feats.
  • Sentinel: Sentinel really shines on a barbarian. It reduces the options of enemies that are in your vicinity by restricting their movement and punishing them for trying to move away or attack someone else. Remember, you actually want to be attacked as a barbarian (as opposed to those attacks hitting your squishier teammates).
  • Shadow Touched: It’s rare to see barbarians favoring a stealthy option, so this feels a little lackluster. Most first-level spells in these two schools don’t mesh well with the barbarian’s skill set, making this a pass.
  • Sharpshooter: Barbarians aren’t one for ranged attacks, so they won’t gain anything from this.
  • Shield Master: While the bonus action from raging might interfere with using this on the first round of combat, having a consistent bonus action to push enemies prone can be a solid boost to action economy. Also, they get advantage on the Strength (Athletics) checks required to succeed in the attempt to push enemies prone. This is a solid option for tankier barbarians who aren't focused on pure damage output.
  • Skill Expert: Barbarians usually aren’t the most useful class outside of combat, so many skills won’t be useful to have boosted. There are also better feats for barbarians to improve their combat prowess like Sentinel or Great Weapon Master.
  • Skulker: There’s rarely a situation where a barbarian would be sneaking around with ranged weapons for very long, making this feat useless in most cases.
  • Slasher: Barbarians want to pick this up, as it keeps their enemies close and makes it harder for them to hit back after a Reckless Attack (as the disadvantage cancels out the advantage).
  • Soul of the Storm Giant: More damage resistances, disadvantage on attacks against you, you can prevent enemies from running away, and a +1 to Strength or Constitution as the cherry on top. Barbarians will love jumping into a group of bad guys, then popping this ability and swinging recklessly.
  • Spell Sniper: Barbarians can't cast spells.
  • Squat Nimbleness: Mountain dwarves make awesome barbarians because of their +2 to Strength and Constitution. The extra speed is welcome here to get you to the front lines quicker, as is the ASI to Strength and proficiency in Athletics.
  • Strike of the Giants: Not only are some of these effects amazing for barbarians, you'll have the perfect ability scores to make the save effects hurt. The Hill Strike is likely your best bet so you can use subsequent attacks to get advantage on prone enemies. This also paves the way to the 4th-level giant feats, most of which are stellar for barbarians.
  • Tavern Brawler: Not a terrible half-feat to choose. If you're going for a grappler barbarian build it might be worth multiclassing into fighter or choose the Fighting Initiate feat to pick up Unarmed Fighting. It's also worthwhile to pick up Grappler so you can restrain your grappled targets.
  • Telekinetic: Barbarians won’t find any use for this feat as they can push enemies with brute force much more effectively than with their CHA, WIS, or INT. They also won't have any use for the ASI.
  • Telepathic: Subtlety isn't a barbarian's strong suit. Skip this feat.
  • Tough: Tough makes you even tankier, and effectively provides 4hp per level instead of 2hp because of your Rage mechanics.
  • Vigor of the Hill Giant: If this feat works for one class it's the barbarian class. Your Constitution will be sky high and you'll be in the middle of the fray which makes effects that try to move you more common. If you took the Strike of the Giants (Hill Strike) feat and wanted to continue down your path of channeling your inner hill giant, this isn't a terrible pickup.
  • War Caster: Barbarians don’t gain anything from War Caster, as they aren’t casters.
  • Weapon Master: Barbarians get access to all weapon types they need.

Sources Used in This Guide

  • BR: Basic Rules
  • GotG: Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants
  • SotDQ: Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
  • ERLW: Eberron: Rising from the Last War
  • EEPC: Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
  • EGtW: Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
  • FToD: Fizban's Treasury of Dragon
  • GGtR: Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica
  • MotM: Monsters of the Multiverse
  • MToF: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
  • MOoT: Mythic Odyessys of Theros
  • PAitM: Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse
  • PHB: Player's Handbook
  • SAiS: Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
  • SCoC: Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
  • SCAG: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
  • TCoE: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
  • TTP: The Tortle Package
  • WBtW: The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
  • VRGtR: Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft
  • VGtM: Volo's Guide to Monsters
  • XGtE: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Other Barbarian Guides

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. He is a Adamantine best-selling author of Strixhaven: A Syllabus of Sorcery on DMs Guild and is a contributing author at D&D Beyond. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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