DnD: Powerful Barbarian Build Guide

Rage issues aren't a problem for a Dungeons & Dragons Barbarian, primarily because a well-built Barbarian knows exactly how to channel their anger into powerful attacks that deal massive amounts of damage. Barbarians may not be great conversationalists, and they probably won't know where to look for clues when solving great mysteries that lead the party to untold treasures, but they will know exactly how to handle obstacles standing in front of those treasures.

Building a powerful Barbarian is pretty easy. There are a few tips and tricks that can be implemented during the initial build and as the Barbarian levels up that all but guarantee a character few will dare to provoke.

Related: How to Build Dungeons & Dragons' Most Powerful Rogue

Strength Is a Barbarian's Most Important Stat

When it comes to brute strength, Barbarians are tops. As their core stat, STR is where they need to pour as many points as possible during the initial character creation. Maxing it out as quickly as possible guarantees more powerful attacks and brutal damage. It also influences how well they can grapple opponents to hold them in place, how much they can carry or lift and how easy it is for them to move large, heavy items.

Second to STR is Dexterity, which determines important things like initiative placement and armor class, which is really important for unarmored Barbarians. While not as essential as STR and DEX, Constitution is still necessary because it provides the Barbarian with a strong base pool of hit points to keep them going as they recklessly rage through battle.

Choosing the Right Race

When trying to decide on a race, it's important to look at what each one has to offer. Sure, any one of the offered races in 5e could easily become a Barbarian, but there are a select few options that seem as if they were born to bash and rage. Goliaths, for example, start the game off with +2 STR and +1 CON, making them remarkably sturdy right out of the gate. These giants stand between 7-8 feet tall and have a natural Stone's Endurance that allows them to shrug off damage with a roll of the dice. They are also natural athletes, which gives them proficiency in the STR-reliant Athletics skill.

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Orcs, Half-Orcs and Minotaurs also get +2 STR, +1 CON, while Bugbears and Locatah both get +2 STR, +1 DEX. Examining other useful traits each race has to offer can be a major factor when determining which one is best for the sought-after build.

The Best Barbarian Primal Paths

When Barbarians choose their Primal Path at level three, they are locked into that path for the remainder of their time in the campaign. That's why it's imperative to carefully consider what each Primal Path has to offer before setting it in stone. Primal Paths like the Berserker offer access to powerful abilities like Frenzied and Mindless Rage, which offer a bonus melee attack and protection against being charmed or frightened, which really comes in handy against enemies like dragons that exude debilitating fear. Berserkers also possess an intimidating presence that frightens enemies and keeps them from drawing close.

Path of the Totem Warrior and Path of the Beast are two other powerful options that tie the Barbarian's rage and abilities to a primitive root. For Totem Warriors, they draw their power and gain the resistances of an animal totem that grants them kinship with beasts. Those who follow the Path of the Beast actually become beasts, sometimes drawing from a primal spirit within that they allow to come through and overtake them as they rage.

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Best Feats & Background for a Barbarian

Choosing a background means picking up some useful skills that come in handy while out in the field. One of the most iconic backgrounds for Barbarians tends to be the Outlander, who gain proficiency with Athletics and Survival, both of which are essential. Outlanders also learn an extra language and have the skill to play at least one musical instrument, which can make nights around the party's campfire a bit more fun.

The Criminal background is useful because it makes the Barbarian a bit more stealthy, which is never a bad thing. They also have proficiency with thieves' tools, and if there's no rogue in the party that makes the Barbarian useful for more than just smashing things to a pulp.

Taking on feats can sometimes be a gamble because getting that core STR stat to 20 as early as possible is highly recommended. On the other hand, there are a handful of feats worth their weight in gold. One of the most obvious feats for a Barbarian to take is Great Weapons Master, which allows them to take a -5 penalty on their attack roll with a weapon they are proficient in and then add a +10 damage bonus on a successful hit. It also lets them make an additional melee attack as a bonus on a critical hit or when they reduce a creature to 0 hit points.

Savage Attacker is another strong candidate because once per turn the Barbarian can reroll their damage dice to achieve a higher total and choose from either roll. Grappler takes advantage of the Barbarian's ability to grapple enemies, giving them an advantage on attacks against creatures they are attempting to grapple and pinning the creature so it becomes restrained.

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Jennifer Melzer (416 Articles Published)

Artist, writer, avid gamer, lover of comics, manga and anime and all around nerd, Jennifer has been creating online content for numerous websites for over 15 years. She can generally be found on Tuesday nights playing Drow Warlock Zaelien Vel'rai in the So Many Levels D&D campaign on Twitch!

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