Path of the Giant 5e Guide
Published on August 15, 2023
Throw weapons, enemies, and allies around the battlefield with your giant-fuelled strength!
Bulwark Giant - Wizards of the Coast - Victor Adame Minguez
What is the Path of the Giant Barbarian?
Ever been so mad you want to throw things? That’s basically what we’re talking about here, but on a giant scale. Introduced in the giant-focused sourcebook, Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants, Path of the Giant barbarians harness the power of giants to increase their size, throw things normally too heavy for Medium creatures to throw, and fuel their attacks with elemental power.
The Path of the Giant barbarian’s main schtick is the ability to throw heavy weapons, and eventually, other creatures, to access more range options. They also increase their size and extend their range, allowing for more versatility in combat.
- Being able to throw enemies around the battlefield as a bonus action is, frankly, something that hasn’t been seen in D&D 5e thus far. As a baseline, it’s excellent battlefield control and extra damage (if you throw a creature straight up, for example). In perfect circumstances, you’ll be able to make good use of this ability to toss enemies off cliffs or into dangerous terrain.
- Adding an extra d6 to each of your attacks at 6th level is a nice bonus to your Rage damage, and scales to 2d6 when you reach 14th level.
- The increased reach leaves solid potential to combine with other powerful martial feats, like Polearm Master, Sentinel, and Great Weapon Master.
- Unfortunately, it takes until the 10th level for the ability to throw creatures comes online, which is the Path of the Giant’s stand out ability.
- The whole “throwing Strength weapons” schtick isn’t an awesome playstyle for barbarians, who want to be in the front of the battle. This means they’ll likely already have an enemy within their reach to attack, therefore providing disadvantage on ranged attacks.
Path of the Giant 5e Guide Rating Scheme
This guide is meant as a deep dive into the Path of the Giant Barbarian subclass. For a full overview of the Barbarian class, check out our barbarian 5e Guide.
For our full class guides, we use the following color rating scheme:
- Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
- Orange Situationally good, but a below-average option otherwise
- 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
For our subclass guides, we focus mainly on the Blue and Sky Blue options, because the other options are discussed in the parent guide or other subclass guides. We also discuss options that normally would be good for a typical build, but underperform when used in a subclass.
Did you know?
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Path of the Giant Barbarian Features
Path of the Giant barbarians not only growth in power as the level up, but they grow in size as well.
Giant Power: While they won’t do much for crushing your foes, an extra language, plus either druidcraft or thaumaturgy are both nice for out-of-combat utility.
Giant’s Havoc: Being able to add your Rage damage thrown weapons isn’t going to make a huge splash until you can thrown any weapon and automatically summon it back with Elemental Cleaver at 6th level. That said, the extra reach and increase in your size to Large will be useful. You can use this to grapple larger enemies, attack from farther away, and extend the range of Polearm Master and Sentinel.
Elemental Cleaver: An extra 1d6 with each attack is a solid boost to damage that isn’t common amongst barbarian classes. Being able to change the elemental damage as a bonus action is also a nice bonus because it can allow you to adjust on the fly if your enemy has a resistance to a certain damage type.
The ability to throw a weapon does unfortunately have a fundamental flaw, even when you can choose any weapon you want, it automatically returns to your hand, and you can add your Rage damage. Barbarians are meant to be in melee distance, tanking for their party, so throwing a weapon will mean you have disadvantage on your attack.
Mighty Impel: This is the reason you take this subclass: you want to throw your allies and enemies around the battlefield. You can throw Medium or smaller creatures 30 feet around the battlefield, which also includes straight up in the air. Seeing as creatures fall as normal after you use this ability, they’ll take a 3d6 bludgeoning damage if you throw them straight up and they fall 30 feet.
That’s not all. Not only is this ability a bonus action, but it can also be used an unlimited number of times. This gives you one of the best, consistent bonus actions out there, doing an average of 10 damage while also knocking your enemy prone. With that in mind, enemies will have a chance to save against this effect by making a Strength saving throw equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus (which will be +4 at 10th level) + your Strength (which should be +5 by this point), so a minimum of 17. This isn’t a particularly easy save to make, especially if you target the right enemies with it.
So, if you’re within reach of a creature, you can throw them up in the air as a bonus action, deal 3d6 damage, they fall prone, then you can take your attacks with advantage. Talk about value.
And that’s just a baseline. If you’re near a cliff or a pit of lava, you can easily one-shot your enemies with a quick toss.
Needless to say, Path of the Giant barbarians will be chomping at the bit to get to 10th level.
Demiurgic Colossus: This allows you to grow to Huge size, increases your reach by another 5 feet, and deal 2d6 extra elemental damage with your Elemental Cleaver ability. Not a crazy boost, but you can also grapple and throw larger creatures and make better use of combos that involve your reach.
The Basics of Playing an Path of the Giant Barbarian
Barbarians are built with one playstyle in mind: tanking and melee weapon attacks. Their class features leave little room for a more versatile build that will be effective at supporting their party or excelling out of combat. If you don’t want to get up in the front of combat, swing every round, and soak damage, you’ll want to pick a different class.
While the Giant barbarian can throw their weapons around, it doesn’t mean that they’ll want to. Seeing as barbarian’s want to be between the enemy and their allies, they’ll likely have enemies within 5 feet of them at most times. This means that their thrown weapon attacks will have disadvantage, which makes them inefficient.
Before 10th level, your playstyle won’t change drastically from a typical barbarian. The main thing you’ll want to build around is your increased reach, which we discuss in our build guide below. After you reach 10th level and can start tossing enemies around, you’ll have a solid use for your bonus action pretty much every turn.
“The Fastball Special”
One of the things that makes this subclass so cool is you can “fastball special” your allies. This is a term coined by the X-Men, where Colossus throws Wolverine at bad guys and he tears them apart. The Giant barbarian’s Mighty Impel allows this to be pulled off in D&D and will certainly be a fantasy fulfilled for comic book fans, especially if you have a Path of the Beast barbarian party member to chuck at your enemies.
Path of the Giant Barbarian Playstyles
While barbarians always play pretty straight forward, Path of the Giant Barbarian can take a couple different paths for their primary playstyle:
Ultimate Shut-Down Martial
If you combine your increased reach with Sentinel and Polearm Master, enemies won’t be able to come within 15 feet of you before you can opportunity attack them. This will allow you to keep enemies out of their melee range, which will activate your ability to throw your weapons around with Giant’s Havoc and Elemental Cleaver.
When you want to use Might Impel, just take a step forward, grab an enemy and toss them. One very important thing to note is that you only get advantage when attacking prone creatures when you’re within 5 feet of them. So, if you’re building a polearm Giant barbarian and want to use Mighty Impel to toss enemies around and attack them while prone, you’ll have to close the distance to do it.
Like the Rune Knight, increasing a barbarian’s size can allow them to grapple more effectively. Then, you can pick up the Grappler and Tavern Brawler feats, and pick up the Unarmed Fighting Fighting Style either through a fighter dip or by taking the Fighting Initiate feat.
Thrown Weapon Build
Seeing as Giant barbarians are built around throwing things, including sometimes weapons, this is probably the best shot you’ll get at a Strength-based thrown-weapon build. Seeing as you have to wait until 6th level to throw any weapon and have it zip back to your hand, you’ll want to focus on melee weapons with the Thrown property from levels 1-5. The handaxe is a decent option, but spears do the same damage and are cheaper, so you can buy a bunch and chuck ’em without worries to pick them back up.
When you do get to 6th level, use your Elemental Cleaver ability on whichever heavy weapon suits you best, ideally a greatsword or maul. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use Great Weapon Master with thrown attacks because they’re ranged attacks. But, that means you could always pick up Sharpshooter instead.
Path of the Giant Barbarians gain Ability Score Increases (ASI) at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level. As with all barbarians, they’ll want to pump Strength and Constitution first, followed by Dexterity.
- Strength: This one is obvious. Barbarians are strong and hit things, thus they need a high Strength modifier. This is especially important if you plan on going for a grappler build, as you’ll want your modifier to be as high as possible for your Strength (Athletics) contested checks to grapple enemies.
- Constitution: Barbarians are made to tank. Yes you get a d12 hit dice and yes you take half damage from mundane sources, but you still need hit points to soak damage. A barbarian that needs to be constantly revived is a liability, and that remains so for Path of the Giant barbarians. Also, Constitution plays into your Armor Class (AC) thanks to Unarmored Defense.
- Dexterity: Not as important as the above ability scores, but plays into your Unarmored Defense.
- Wisdom: Path of the Giant barbarians use Wisdom when casting their cantrips they get through Giant’s Power at 3rd level, but this won’t be a particularly important part of your build.
- Charisma and Intelligence: These abilities are generally of lower priority for Path of the Giant Barbarians, unless you have specific multiclassing considerations.
Best Races for Path of the Giant 5e
If you’re using the Player’s Handbook to create your Path of the Giant Barbarian, consider the following options:
- Mountain: Some defensive bonuses plus an unrivaled +2 to Strength and Constitution. This is a solid base for Giant barbarians (in more way than one).
Half-Orc: Strength and Constitution, plus a bonus to your critical attacks. This is a perfect start to any barbarian and the Path of the Giant barbarian is no different.
- Variant: Boost your Strength and Constitution and pick up one of the numerous feats that can benefit your build.
If you’re looking for more options for your Path of the Giant Barbarian outside of the standard ones offered in the Player’s Handbook, or if you’re using the Customize Your Origins optional rule from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, here are some solid options:
- 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.
- 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.
- Updated: 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! This is also one of the most flavorful picks you can take, as goliaths are descended from giants.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Best Feats for Path of the Giant 5e
- Grappler: If you want to wrestle a dragon and throw it into an arm bar to restrain it, the Giant barbarian is one of the best builds to allow you to do so. Seeing as you can grow to the Huge size, you can grapple Gargantuan creatures. And, you'll have advantage on Strength checks because of your Rage.
- Great Weapon Master: Great Weapon Master is a mainstay for most barbarians. If you plan on throwing enemies in the air, letting them drop prone, then wailing on them, this will be a great way to boost your damage. Seeing as you can attack prone enemies with advantage, it can easily offset the -5 penalty.
- Fighting Initiate: Seeing as Giant barbarians are great grapplers, this is a good way to get the Unarmed Fighting Style which can help boost your damage.
- Mobile: This may seem like a weird feat for a barbarian who likes to be up close and tanking. But, it actually has a purpose with Giant barbarians. See, you can only get advantage on prone creatures if you're within 5 feet of them. This puts you in within their reach. For Giant barbarians, who have a 10-foot reach by 3rd level, you don't love this idea. So, Mobile allows you to knock a creature prone by throwing them, move within 5 feet, attack them with advantage, then back out of range and hopefully keep your attacker from coming any closer with Sentinel and Polearm Master.
- Polearm Master: One of the best feats for martial classes. If you want to make the most out of your reach, this is a great way to do so. If you wield a halberd (or other applicable weapon with reach), you can attack creatures as they come within 15 feet of you (20 feet when you get access to Demiurgic Colossus at 14th level). Keeping enemies out of your range will also allow you to throw weapons using Elemental Cleaver more effectively.
- Sharpshooter: Not normally a feat for barbarians, but if you want a thrown weapon build, you can make use of this to extend your range, deal more damage, and ignore cover.
- Sentinel: This feat makes you an absolute menace to close in with, especially when Polearm Master comes into play. Creature enters your 15 foot reach, you hit them with an opportunity attack, their movement drops to 0. On your turn, take your attacks, back up, and repeat.
- Tavern Brawler: Normally, we don’t care about this feat, but because 5e Giants barbarians are excellent grapplers due to their Rage and ability to increase their size, this makes you a dangerous foe with a free hand.
Path of the Giant 5e Build Example
Giant barbarians are extremely fun to play and have a lot of draw due to their Mighty Impel ability. Their size increase, elemental damage, and thrown weapon capabilities add on top of throwing creatures around the battlefield to create a barbarian that actually has a varied combat strategy.
Our build will focus on keeping enemies at bay with our huge reach. This will allow us to throw our weapons when it suits us (because attackers won’t be within 5 feet) and also step up and toss enemies when we feel like it.
To make this work, we’ll be investing into Polearm Master and Sentinel as soon as possible, then focusing on getting Strength to 20. Because we hopefully won’t have any enemies getting within range to attack us and we’ll have Rage to back us up, we’ll mostly neglecting Constitution after character creation.
You can view this character on D&D Beyond.
Sources Used in This Guide
- BR: Basic Rules
- : 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
- 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