You could already feel your jaw clench when you first saw them, the demons were almost frolicking amongst the remains of the village with twisted glee. Your bicep bulged as your hand began to squeeze the haft of your ax, knuckles turning white to contrast the red mist descending on your vision. The Bard attempted a calming hand and words of caution, whilst the Fighter uttered something about planning how to deal with this, but it all fell on deaf ears. Before you knew what was happening you sprinted forwards, your throat burning with a primal roar as you leapt into the air and brought the edge of your ax down on the head of the biggest, meanest looking demon amongst the lot. Claws raked your skin, thunderous blows rocked your bones, but you shook it all off with a determination and focus second to none. This is what you lived for.
Ever since you were a child you’ve drawn your strength from within, a primal roar your battle cry as you engaged your siblings foes. Years later, your battle-scarred body is a honed weapon to channel your primal rage through, striking fear in the hearts of your enemies. You want to play a Barbarian, so grab your protein shake, and let us show you the ropes.
In this guide, we’ll train you on your options as a Barbarian, as well as supportive choices you can make to build your character to achieve what you want. Whilst reading through this guide, you may find this article on jargon and this list of books (and their common abbreviations) helpful.
This Barbarian DnD 5E guide will evaluate each option for the Barbarian on a scale of 1-5 — this is a rating of the abilities’ potency and overall usefulness, primarily focusing on combat where appropriate. That said, I will still evaluate everything, hopefully, to aid you to weigh any choices you might be considering at a glance, helping you know what to expect and make changes accordingly if desired. The rating scheme is:
1 – Usually a bad choice, to be avoided 2 – Below average, this can apply to powerful but very niche abilities 3 – Average to Good, you won’t go wrong with it 4 – Very good 5 – Amazing, a must-have if there is such a thing
This rating system exists to best help you understand the effectiveness of all the options available to the Paladin for you to build and enjoy your character. Remember though, your fun comes first; it’s actually very difficult to build a character that is entirely bad in 5E, so if you have a concept that doesn’t rate highly, you might still have fun playing it. This is a guide, not a contract written by Asmodeus. Let it advise you and not force you away from your own ideas.
It’s recommended to have your book/PDF/DnD Beyond page open to reference and follow along with the guide.
Hit Dice (5) – The largest Hit Die size available, a d12 is exclusive to the Barbarian and provides them with a large number of hit points to reinforce their role as a tank, and theme of being the toughest martial.
Armor (4) – Ironically you have proficiency with every armor except heavy, the only type to have a Strength requirement. Medium armor and shield proficiency give a competitive AC, but most Barbarians won’t be fighting for the highest AC in the party.
Weapons (5) – You have proficiency with all weapons, whilst you are heavily motivated to just use melee weapons, it doesn’t hurt to carry a longbow with you for the times you’re caught out at range.
Tools (1) – You’re far too angry to learn any tool that isn’t designed to smash evil’s face, which are called weapons.
Saving Throws (4) – Constitution is a save attached to not only significant damage but also nasty debuffs, making it a great save to have. Strength is often the precursor to bad things happening to you, like attacks at advantage and being digested. Part of what makes these saves so good on a Barbarian is the coverage of Dexterity saves that Danger Sense provides.
Skills (4) – You have some options to branch out your utility, but still have the choice of the excellent Perception and the potentially very useful Athletics, which combined with your high Strength and Rage benefits, you can excel at.
Rage (5) – The bread and butter of a Barbarian with a damage boost, some damage resistances, and advantage on Strength related checks and saves. This feature takes some getting used to and is awkward at first, unless your table has few encounters per day, you will have to judge which combats to Rage in and which to not. This problem goes away as you gain levels and have more uses of Rage to spend each long rest, as long as you’re conscious of the drawbacks this is a very potent ability.
Unarmored Defense (4) – Having a decent AC when you’re without armor, for example, if you’re sleeping or have been captured, can be very valuable. As long as you have a shield the formula works well enough to be competitive and has a high potential of 22 AC before your 20th level ability, be aware though: using this feature as your primary method of AC will increase the MADness of the class. You’ll save gold not having to buy better armor though, which can be helpful depending on your campaign and shopping habits.
Reckless Attack (4) – A double-edged greatsword of an ability, being able to give yourself advantage at-will is amazing, but the heavy cost of advantage against you is something you need to consider carefully. This can facilitate builds that require higher accuracy, such as with the Great Weapon Master feat, but recklessly using this can easily lead to making a new character.
Danger Sense (5) – Fantastic defensive ability that mostly makes up for the lack of Dex save proficiency, it won’t help against hidden or invisible dangers though.
Extra Attack (5) – The quintessential martial damage increase, this pairs perfectly with the additional damage from Rage, and if you’re interested in shoving/grappling with the Rage benefits this allows you to do both, or one whilst still attacking.
Fast Movement (5) – Additional movement is always welcome, 10ft is a significant speed boost that allows you to close into melee more reliably, or get away more effectively if things go badly! This gets a 5, as it is not attached to Rage and comes alongside the already great Extra Attack.
Feral Instinct (5) – Advantage on initiative is a fantastic boost to compensate for your middling Dex, in the same vein as Danger Sense helping your Dex saves. Protection against being surprised is a nice bonus, but may not come up often depending on your DM.
Brutal Critical (2) – Additional damage is always nice, but the only way to increase how often you get crits built into the Barbarian is Reckless Attack, and the actual benefit you gain varies greatly by the weapon used and luck. This is certainly something you can build around but as a general damage feature, it’s lackluster. This adds additional dice at 13th and 17th level as well, meaning that your higher-level Barbarian might have to seek out damage increases from their subclass instead.
Relentless Rage (5) – Shrugging off death makes you feel like a Barbarian and the DC resetting every rest means you will be able to take an outlandish amount of punishment on any given adventuring day. Well, as long as you don’t roll a 1 on this saving throw…
Persistent Rage (4) – Not exciting, but this shores up a weakness in your Rage-based defenses allowing you to keep Rage going if you can’t get to another target in time, or get struck with something like Hold Person. Some would argue inner peace isn’t always the answer, just saying.
Indomitable Might (2) – A niche ability which feels more like a ribbon than a higher-level ability, most useful for a grappling Barbarian, but will come in hand occasionally for most.
Primal Champion (5) – Although not the most exciting–surely, you can Insight the theme here–certainly very potent and notable for allowing you to smash through the normal ability score limit of 20. To get the most value from this capstone you should have taken both Strength and Constitution to 20 first, however, this is a heavy investment in the meantime and isn’t really necessary.
Optional Class Features (TCoE)
Both optional class features available to the Barbarian are additions to the class, rather than modifying or replacing an existing feature, and will be covered in this section.
Primal Knowledge (5) – One common criticism of the Barbarian is a lack of out of combat features, the addition of more skill proficiencies goes a long way to help this. The reason this gets a 5 is that it is both an addition, and comes at levels 3 and 10, where you get other features.
Instinctive Pounce (5) – A problem Barbarians can face as a melee-centric class is not being able to close the distance to a target. Fast Movement helps to deal with this to some extent, but an additional 20 feet, on average, of movement on your first turn can significantly reduce the chances of this happening.
Stats for Barbarians
The Barbarian class is heavily pigeon-holed into using Strength as its primary attribute, with a need for some degree of Dexterity for AC and Constitution for hit points and potentially AC. This all adds up to a mildly MAD character, although a character’s need for any one of those stats varies greatly depending on how they’re built. For example, a player who doesn’t want to invest in Dexterity for their AC could choose to use a shield to compensate.
For a typical Barbarian starting with a Strength of 16, Dexterity of 14 and Constitution of 14 or 16, would give you a strong base for your character, but you don’t need to have those stats that high to be effective and have fun.
Strength (5) – Your primary stat, ideally this should start at a 16 and be raised to 20 when possible, or 18 if you plan to use an ASI for a feat early on. As Rage and Reckless Attack only work with Strength-based attacks, you’re going to be using this stat constantly so it pays to invest in it. On the plus side, a high Strength combined with Rage makes you an excellent grappler and shove-er, for those that like control in their Barbarians.
Dexterity (4) – A powerful stat for all characters with its ties to initiative, various skills, and how common Dexterity saving throws are, this is wanted for AC on a Barbarian. For most builds leaving this at a 14 is more than adequate and gives you a viable chance with a bow if you need to attempt ranged combat.
Constitution (5) – The Barbarian in some ways is defined by a larger amount of hit points, Con is essential for this, as well as providing AC if you don’t wear armor, and saving throws to not die once you get Relentless Rage. Try to have no lower than a 14 here, but ideally, 16 to start out and then as high as you can afford to go afterward is recommended.
Intelligence (1) – The only reason to invest in this is roleplay or if you want to be good at Int-related skills.
Wisdom (3) – Very useful for increasing your perception, it is recommended to have a positive, even just a +1, in this stat to assist with Wisdom saving throws that can remove you from combat and end your Rage.
Charisma (2) – Only slightly better than Intelligence for you and that’s only because Charisma skills typically come up more often than Int ones. If you’re planning on multiclassing into Paladin for Divine Smite, this is essential and needs at least a 13, otherwise whatever you have leftover will do here.
Primal Paths (Subclasses)
How a Barbarian plays can be greatly influenced by the subclass you choose as they often provide abilities that allow you to fully step into a role you want, such as tank or damage dealer. Uncommon for most classes, the subclasses for the Barbarian often involve different choices to make within the subclass, this allows a great deal of customizability for your character builds.
This Barbarian has a spiritual connection, choosing an animal spirit to guide and inspire them in battle. Arguably the most well known Primal Path for the Barbarian is also the most customizable, allowing you to pick a different totem option at every level you gain a feature, contrary to a common misconception that you’re locked into your 3rd level choice for all other levels. Notably, this is one of only two Barbarian subclasses to get access to any spells.
Spirit Seeker (4) – Whilst situational, this is a great boost of utility that is otherwise lacking in the Barbarian class and compliments the natural spiritualism of the subclass.
Totem Spirit 3rd level – We will now go through all of the totem options, options that were added in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide will be denoted by [SCAG].
Bear (5) – The popular choice for good reason, expanding your Rage resistances to every damage type except psychic is a huge boost to your durability, effectively doubling your hit points.
Eagle (4) – For the skirmishing Barbarian, disadvantage isn’t as nice a skirmishing ability and denying opportunity attacks altogether like the Mobile feat, but should help protect you. The ability to dash as a bonus action whilst raging is great for both skirmishing, closing distance to your next target, and running away when things have gone very badly.
Wolf (3) – Potentially very powerful, but entirely dependent on the type of party members you have and even by what the terrain is like and how many enemies there are. This is best leveraged in a party that has a GWM user and a Rogue, as they’re classes that rely on accuracy more than most.
Elk (2) [SCAG] – Faster movement speed is always nice, but unlike Eagle, this totem doesn’t give you any additional tools to use that movement without getting hit by an opportunity attack. This can be valuable for certain builds, like a Barbarian that takes the Mobile feat, and would lead to speeds that would make a Monk blush.
Tiger (1) [SCAG] – This is so thoroughly underwhelming and niche for an in combat ability, it could have at least given you a pouncing ability to knock enemies prone or do more damage.
Aspect of the Beast 6th level – These abilities are primarily utility features that function even when you’re not raging. Again it’s important to note that you can choose any option here, you’re not stuck with what you chose at 3rd level.
Bear (3) – Very campaign-specific, but pairs well with your high Strength score to give you a very high carrying capacity. Most useful for tables that do a lot of dungeon crawls and need to haul their treasure out without the aid of animals.
Eagle (4) – You become the party’s spyglass, the best part of this ability is preventing disadvantage to Perception checks in dim light. This is a minor improvement for races without darkvision, but for those with darkvision, it makes your Barbarian see as well within their range as a Warlock would with Devil’s Sight in mundane darkness.
Wolf (2) – Very table dependent as some tables don’t use travel rules at all, and unfortunately, you need to get Stealth proficiency from your race in order to make the most out of moving stealthily.
Elk (2) [SCAG] – Another niche ability as it requires the travel rules, but for those that use them frequently, it’s a huge boon, essentially cutting travel time in half.
Tiger (5) [SCAG] – Two additional skill proficiencies, especially Stealth, makes for a fantastic ability that stands out among its animalistic peers. Meow indeed.
Spirit Walker (3) – An exceedingly powerful and thematic utility ability, allowing you to cast a 5th level spell only one level later than fullcasters that get it can. This only gets a 3 as it’s limited to wild areas and the information it can provide you varies greatly in usefulness.
Totemic Attunement 14th level – Just like the 3rd and 6th level abilities you’re free to choose any of the following options, no matter which totem you chose at those previous levels.
Bear (4) – A great defensive ability against melee opponents this doesn’t quite get a 5, however, because immunity to the frightened condition is not uncommon at higher levels.
Eagle (5) – Gaining a flying speed is a huge boost to your mobility, even if it is only on your turn. This pairs excellently with Fast Movement, the 3rd level Elk option, Mobile, and any race that has a higher than 30ft movement speed.
Wolf (2) – Knocking a creature prone without a saving throw is very nice, but in Tier 3 Huge and above enemies shouldn’t be too uncommon and it requires your bonus action, which you may have found a use for already, such as Polearm Master.
Elk (3) [SCAG] – In essence, this is a charging attack, it allows you to knock a large or smaller creature prone like the Wolf ability, but also allows you to do a decent amount of damage to that creature at the same time. This only gets a 3 as Strength is typically a strong monster saving throw.
Tiger (2) [SCAG] – Bonus action attacks are nice, but needing to move 20 feet beforehand is an unnecessary restriction, especially when the attack doesn’t do any additional damage or push the creature, etc.
A subclass focused on channeling Rage into unstoppable violence to meet the ends of the Barbarian using it. This subclass is widely discounted because of the penalty associated with the 3rd level ability, but it is still certainly playable. If you are hesitant but want to play this subclass then make sure to work with your DM to perhaps alter or remove that penalty.
Frenzy (2) – A bonus action attack is a source of significant additional damage, however, gaining exhaustion for using your subclass ability not only feels bad, but the power of the feature also doesn’t warrant a penalty to begin with. Besides gradually reducing your overall effectiveness, the other negative here is that you can’t actually make that attack on the turn that you enter Rage, which is poor design. All of that said, the damage potential of the bonus attack is too high to rate this a 1, and to make the most out of this ability you should use larger damage die weapons.
Mindless Rage (5) – An excellent defense for a Barbarian that helps cover their poor Wisdom saves and prevent losing Rage due to being debuffed by the enemy.
Intimidating Presence (1) – This ability is just plain bad, not only do you have to give up your entire action to trigger it and subsequent actions to keep the effect going, but it suddenly incorporates your Charisma modifier for a single ability, ten levels into your character. The opportunity cost is too high, the MADness is unnecessary and holds the reliability of the feature back, and the end result is a condition that’s easy to impose and doesn’t impact a lot of monsters at all due to immunity.
Retaliation (4) – More damage to double down on the theme of this subclass, getting additional attacks is always good, but without some additional damage or rider effects this doesn’t warrant a 5. Much like Frenzy, this is worth what you make of it in terms of the weapon and additional abilities you use with the attack.
An unusual subclass that focuses on the use of a specific kind of armor, spiked armor, the Battlerager is restricted to dwarves only by RAW, however, it is worth noting that a similar restriction on the Bladesinger Wizard was removed when it was reprinted, so discuss with your DM if you’d like to play another race. Spiked armor is medium armor that gives disadvantage on Stealth and an AC of 14 + Dex modifier, maximum of +1. This subclass is often dismissed due to the reliance on armor that isn’t competitive with half plate for AC, perceived power level, and being published in the SCAG but not later reprinted in XGtE or TCoE.
Battlerager Armor (4) – Despite the low damage die, the damage brought to the table by this feature is the same as the PAM feat’s bonus action attack. The majority of the damage here is actually delivered by the Rage damage bonus and Strength modifier, both of which scale to some degree. The icing on the spikey cake here is the automatic damage when grappling, adding additional incentive to lock down an enemy. This doesn’t tip over into 5, as there’s no built-in way to make this damage magical, and ideally, in later levels, the damage of the bonus action attack would scale a little. Similar to the Berserker you can not make this attack on the turn that you rage. If you’re playing a higher level game where resistance/immunity to nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing is fairly common then the rating for this ability drops severely.
Reckless Abandon (3) – Reducing the risk of using Reckless Attack is a huge boon, unfortunately, this can’t push above a 3 as the temp hp is relatively minor, although they are deceptively effective if the damage is bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing.
Battlerager Charge (2) – Dashing as a bonus action is always nice, but without allowing you to make your bonus action attack as part of the Dash, this ability is directly at odds with your core subclass feature. This is still useful to close distance to a new target, or potentially flee, but it’s niche with a high opportunity cost.
Spiked Retribution (2) – 3 damage at 14th level and higher is very small, and in addition to that the damage is likely to be resisted or completely ignored at such a high level.
Steeped in a tradition of revering their ancestors, this subclass focuses on tanking by protecting party members and making sure that the enemy is incentivized to hit you instead of them. It’s recommended to not delay your Strength score progression with this subclass, as the 3rd level feature relies on you hitting a creature, so accuracy is key. Interestingly, this subclass is one of the few for the Barbarian that can be played at range. This is done by using Ancestral Protectors to give the monsters disadvantage on their attacks against everyone else, whilst you hide in the backlines.
Ancestral Protectors (4) – A fantastic tanking ability that really encourages the enemy to attack you, rather than focus fire the squishy teammates that you’re protecting. This only gets a 4 because it can only affect one creature at a time, unlike the Armorer Artificer’s Thunder Gauntlets.
Spirit Shield (5) – Being able to reduce damage to your allies is a great ability and there’s just enough scaling here to keep the ability relevant no matter what level you are.
Consult the Spirits (4) – A welcome utility feature for the Barbarian that is very in-theme with being in touch with your ancestral spirits. This is only a 4 as you have to pick which spell you want to use per rest, if you could cast both of them per short or long rest then this ability would be a 5. It’s worth noting that your Spirit Shield increases to 3d6 at this level in addition to gaining this feature, and this is factored into the rating.
Vengeful Ancestors (5) – An amazing upgrade to Spirit Shield, 4d6 force damage that hits automatically is roughly equivalent to casting Magic Missile at 2nd level, on top of reducing the damage your ally takes, and all as a reaction!
When a Barbarian’s primal Rage meets the primal forces of nature, you get a Storm Herald, a warrior that channels the forces of nature in an aura around themselves. The aura given by this subclass gives a variety of abilities, from damage to control, with a sprinkling of support in between.
Storm Aura 3rd level – Note that whilst there are multiple options, unlike the Totem Warrior, you must use the same choice for all abilities.
Desert (3) – Automatic damage is always great, this doesn’t warrant higher than a 3 as the aura is a low amount of damage over the course of the day, it can hurt your allies, and fire damage is one of the more commonly resisted/immune to damage types for monsters.
Sea (2) – Using your bonus action to inflict only 1d6, save for half, is okay at first but very quickly becomes lackluster, with the scaling being too little at too high a level to really keep this competitive. This is worth a 2 instead of a 1 as lightning is generally a good damage type and the option of using a Dexterity saving throw instead of targeting AC is nice for tougher enemies.
Tundra (3) – Giving yourself and other party members temp hp is always useful, especially as they may be doubled by your Rage. Unfortunately the amount of temp hp handed out is extremely few, and the aura itself is pretty small, really limiting the usefulness of this ability.
Storm Soul 6th level
Desert (3) – A damage resistance, protection from an environmental hazard, and a utility ability that doubles as a neat party trick. There’s nothing bad here, but there’s nothing standout good either.
Sea (3) – Similar in a lot of ways to the Desert option, the ability to breathe and swim is great for certain environments but is entirely dependent on where you’re adventuring.
Tundra (3) – Possibly the best generic option of the three, you could make use of the ice generation ability in creative ways although it’s a shame that the ice only lasts for one minute.
Shielding Storm (2) – Sharing your resistance is great, but a single resistance is always going to be niche unless your campaign has a clear theme in terms of the damage you are being subjected to.
Raging Storm 14th level
Desert (2) – The additional damage is nice, but on a successful save they only take the damage from your 3rd level ability and it’s still fire damage.
Sea (3) – Strength is normally a strong save for a monster, but being able to weaponize your reaction and knock a creature prone without any size restrictions is very good.
Tundra (2) – Similar to the Sea effect for this level, but unless one side is actively attempting to flee or the monster is trying to attack the backline, reducing movement speed for your bonus action isn’t as potent as knocking a creature prone.
What kind of Barbarian doesn’t fear death? The kind that doesn’t have to reimburse the Cleric for reviving them! This subclass delivers a substantial damage increase, as well as outstanding durability and unwillingness to stay dead.
Divine Fury (5) – This is a significant damage increase that will scale well throughout your career, as well as giving you access to radiant (or necrotic) damage, which is uncommon for a Barbarian. Radiant is the recommended choice for the damage type unless you’re planning on storming Mount Celestia at some point in your campaign.
Warrior of the Gods (5) – Almost a ribbon ability, removing the gold cost from reviving you can really change how you play in combat, providing you have a spellcaster capable of bringing you back of course!
Fanatical Focus (5) – A significant boost to your save-based defenses, and if you lose your Rage for any reason you can even use it more than once per combat.
Zealous Presence (4) – A very powerful support feature that can really turn the tide of a combat, this doesn’t get a 5 because it doesn’t affect you and is only useable once per long rest, whilst this is powerful it isn’t quite that powerful.
Rage Beyond Death (5) – The encapsulation of being an unkillable Zealot, this ability works excellently with the Barbarian’s Relentless Rage feature to make you insanely difficult to kill.
If you’re interested in playing a werewolf-type character or are a fan of the Order of the Lycan from Matt Mercer’s Blood Hunter class, then this is the Barbarian for you. This subclass is very customizable on the fly rather than during level up, this is because you can decide which natural weapon you use every time you enter Rage, with each weapon giving a different type of benefit.
Bite (2) – A very niche weapon, being a 1d8 it’s not giving you a damage boost, but the amount of healing it provides is very small and only applies if you’re under half health. On the positive side you can wield a shield whilst using this weapon with no downside, but to get the most out of this ability you would want to use a larger damage die weapon like a greataxe for your second attack. Ideally, this would apply to more than one attack per turn, or not be limited by being under half your hit point maximum.
Claws (5) – While they may only be 1d6 weapons, the strength of the claws is giving you an additional attack which gives you another opportunity to leverage your Rage damage and high Strength modifier. If you’re looking to get even more out of the claws, you can use a larger weapon like a greatsword, as you only need to use your claws for one attack in order to gain the additional attack. It may also be possible to make a bonus action attack with the claws using the two-weapon fighting rules if you take the Dual Wielder feat, but be sure to check with your DM first as not all agree on this interpretation of the rules.
Tail (5) – A great defensive option, the reach property combined with Fast Movement allows you to be an effective skirmisher, and the reaction gives you the potential for very high AC if combined with a shield.
Some players gravitate towards the chaotic fun of wild magic, be it the Wild Magic Sorcerer, or the Wand of Wonder magic item, if those interest you or if you’re just looking for a more whimsical Barbarian, then look no further. Due to the random nature of the subclass, it’s a little hard to plan around, but it’s effective and fun. One criticism of this subclass is that it doesn’t scale very well, it’s mostly all about the Wild Magic table, but the table has no built-in scaling for later levels.
Magic Awareness (2) – A thematic ribbon ability, this gets a 2 rather than a 3 as it’s going to be very niche in application.
Wild Surge – Rather than rating the overall ability, instead we will rate each option you could potentially roll on the table.
1 (3) – This can damage a lot of enemies and the temporary hit points you get can go far with your resistance, but relying solely on 1d12 can be very swingy for example, you may get a 10 but you may also just get a 1 or 2 and there’s no damage on a successful save. It’s also a shame that this only triggers when you initially use Rage, you can’t use it on subsequent turns as a bonus action like other entries on the table.
2 (5) – Essentially this is like being able to cast Misty Step for free every turn, but without the limitations of casting a spell. Excellent for skirmishing, chasing down enemies and, looking cool.
3 (2) – An odd one, this is a delayed AOE with small damage and no damage on a save. This could come in handy and any additional damage is welcome, but it’s not something I’d be excited to roll.
4 (2) – Changing your weapon damage to force is great, being able to use two-weapon fighting with a great axe in one hand is hilarious, but the throwing mechanic is clunky at best. As the weapon only returns to you at the end of your turn, you can only throw it for one of your two attacks once you have Extra Attack.
5 (5) – Automatic force damage is excellent and can really add up if the creature attacking you has multiattack, or if you’re being attacked by multiple creatures.
6 (4) – Raising the AC of yourself and party members is great, but with only a 10ft range this doesn’t quite make a 5.
7 (5) – A great debuff for your enemies, this is pushed into being a 5 as the difficult terrain won’t affect you or your allies.
8 (5) – Both a ranged option and a debuff that you can do every turn as a bonus action, the blinded condition can give you and your allies advantage on attacks, as well as allowing you to walk away without an opportunity attack.
Bolstering Magic (5) – A great mix of buffs for the party and yourself, this is one of the few ways to facilitate another character regaining spell slots that can allow you to give some additional longevity to your party’s casters. The increase to attack rolls can help offset the penalty from Great Weapon Master if you’re looking to enhance yourself.
Unstable Backlash (2) – Whilst this could be helpful, you may also be trading one of the better options for something more lackluster or situational. For example, if you roll the difficult terrain option, that isn’t going to help you in the current situation until your turn at best.
Controlled Surge (2) – This makes your subclass more reliably helpful, but feels a little disappointing. At the very least this should have included some scaling for the damaging options on the table, the 1d6 options especially would be aging very poorly by this level.
In this section, I’ll review all of the racial options based on how well they complement the Barbarian as a whole, commenting where specific features may benefit certain subclasses. Races are good places to pick up abilities for certain character concepts, so if you’re thinking about playing a Barbarian build but that race isn’t rated well here, it doesn’t mean your particular combination wouldn’t work or be fun to play. Like I said previously, it’s actually pretty difficult to make a truly bad character in 5e.
A race that provides spellcasting intended to be used in combat will generally be rated a little lower to represent those spells not working with Rage.
Subraces and variants will be listed under the central race rating, indented to the right, and noted by italics.
If your DM allows the TCoE optional rules for reassigning racial stat bumps, every race becomes a minimum rating of 3 and you should decide entirely based on the other benefits they give. The only exceptions to this, are races that give more points to stats than is typical, like the half-elf or mountain dwarf, which would be at least a 3.5 before features are considered.
The player race options offered by Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse will be separated in their own section instead of being listed alphabetically. This is to make them more distinct on the list as they stand out as primarily revisions of existing races. If a race option from this book doesn’t have any changes from an entry already covered in this section, it will be omitted.
Aarakocra (2) – The Dex is usable but the star here is the flight, which is so good that I can’t rate this as a 1 despite not having an Str bump and actively denying you the opportunity to wear medium armor. Worth noting here that Fast Movement would compensate for the lower walking speed and make your flying speed even higher!
Aasimar (2) – +2 to Cha is a bad start unless you’re a Berserker, however, being able to patch yourself up with Healing Hands is nice and the resistances are welcome on most Barbarians. The additional damage given by each subrace’s once per long rest ability is a welcome boost for the Barbarian, but it comes at a steep cost and you should evaluate the benefits of the feature besides damage first.
Protector (2) – The low end of a 2, whilst flying is useful, you risk losing your Rage if you activate your flight and Rage on the same turn. The lack of Str or Con as a stat increase really makes this an unappealing option unless you have a roleplay reason.
Scourge (3) – A damaging aura is great for a class that wants to run head-first into melee range, with the Barbarian’s larger Hit Die size compensating for the self-inflicted damage. This rates higher than the Protector as, unlike the flight ability, Radiant Consumption can keep your Rage going by damaging you at the end of your turn.
Fallen (1) – Just bad, the DC for Necrotic Shroud will be low to match your low Cha and it only gives one opportunity to cause the frightened condition. Not enough here to warrant losing an Attack action, certainly not enough to risk losing Rage.
Astral Elf (4) – Magic not being able to put you asleep protects your Rage, whilst the bonus action teleport helps you close the distance to the next monster you need to smash, this is especially valuable as it’s not a spell, so will work perfectly whilst you’re raging. The cantrip is lackluster for out of Rage utility, with Sacred Flame a terrible pick for a class that prevents itself from casting spells in many combats, and doesn’t have a reason to have a high mental score. This is held back from being a 5 because there are no features that enhance your durability or damage, whilst the teleport is slightly undermined by the existence of superior versions on the MotM Eladrin and Shadar Kai.
Autognome (4) – Additional resistances are greatly appreciated on any Barbarian that isn’t Totem of the Bear, especially since this helps you avoid being paralyzed, which could lead to losing your Rage. Built for Success is great for helping you land those Great Weapon Master power attacks, and nudging you over the DC of that devastating Wisdom saving throw you just narrowly missed. If you’re playing a more MAD Barbarian, then the Armored Casing feature can allow you to lower your Con to 14 without compromising on unarmored AC. This doesn’t warrant a 5, as Armored Casing will be irrelevant for a lot of Barbarians and Healing Machine cuts you off from some sources of healing, including your Paladin friend’s Lay on Hands, which is a risky proposition for a class who’s main schtick is getting hit in the face.
Bugbear (5) – The stats are great, Stealth is an excellent skill to gain, and Long-Limbed gives you the option of skirmishing or threatening more enemies at once. For the best chance of being able to use Surprise Attack make sure to avoid armors that give you disadvantage on Stealth checks.
Centaur (4) – The fastest walking speed of any race combined with Fast Movement will make you want to challenge a Monk to race. This added speed helps you trigger the Charge ability for an additional attack, you’re even fast enough to back up first if need be!
Changeling (1) – A great roleplay choice, but you probably didn’t pick Barbarian to infiltrate the local ball.
Dhampir (4) – The 35ft base speed and Spider Climb ability pair well with Fast Movement to make sure that you can hit an enemy far more reliably. Vampiric Bite using Constitution is actually a good thing for you, not as good as Str, but still. Very good and thematic choice for a Barbarian.
Dragonborn (3) – The stats are okay, the additional resistance is nice, and the option of an AOE ability is very handy for Barbarians, fortunately, that option scales with your Con modifier so it’ll even have a good DC. A solid choice, but not an exceptional one.
Dragon blood (1) – No physical stat bumps and a social ability are usually the opposite of what you’re looking for. The breath weapon is already lackluster in damage, it certainly isn’t enough to save this from a 1.
Ravenite (4) – Great stats, Vengeful Assault is a welcome damage boost, and the option of the AOE make for a good Barbarian base.
Dragonborn (FToD Version) (5) – This version of the dragonborn moves most features into subraces, but assigning your own stats is an excellent start.
Chromatic (4) – A breath weapon that only replaces a single attack is great, resistance is good, if only was less niche and more user-friendly this would be a 5.
Metallic (5) – Crowd control on a Barbarian isn’t easy to come by, so having the option of making multiple creatures incapacitated or prone and pushed is an excellent addition to any Barbarian.
Gem (5) – A trade-off of potentially more niche resistance in return for a more potent breath weapon damage type makes for an interesting choice. Telepathy, whilst cool on its own, also makes that Moon Druid/Bear Totem Barbarian multiclass you’ve been tempted by even easier. Gem Flight seals this race option as a 5, Barbarians have very few solutions to vertical problems, that it only takes a bonus action is, well, a bonus.
Dwarf (5) – Con is a desired stat, poison is a very good resistance to have, and Stone Cunning gives you a little bit of depth out of combat. The weapon and armor proficiencies are unfortunately redundant, but the rest is a fantastic start.
Hill (4) – Wisdom is the best tertiary stat to bump, but who can say no to more hit points on a Barbarian?
Mountain (4) – Getting +2 to both Str and Con sets you a little above the curve, allowing you to spend an ASI on a feat without falling behind your angry peers.
Duergar (3) – You can negate Sunlight Sensitivity with Reckless Attack, unfortunately, you can use your spells in combats you want to Rage in which sets this down to a 3. However, the spells do add utility to your build and Duregar Resilience is a much-needed defense against effects that usually target your poor Wis save.
Mark of Warding (1) – Whilst there’s some utility here, this is not a good choice for being a better Barbarian at all.
Elf (2) – Dex is good for your AC and initiative and Fey Ancestry is a nice mental defense, but overall a below-average base for a Barbarian.
High Elf (1) – You have no need for Int, the proficiencies, and whilst you could grab a utility cantrip, Rage and a low Int reduces the value of the Wizard cantrip.
Wood Elf (2) – Wis is certainly better for you than Int, and a 35ft base speed helps make sure you don’t lose Rage by not making it to the next punching bag in time. Without a Str or Con boost, this doesn’t warrant higher than a 2.
Drow (1) – Cha is only slightly better for you than Int, the spells are limited in use for a Barbarian, and Sunlight Sensitivity weighs this straight down to the bottom.
Eladrin (3) – A bonus action teleport, with your choice of rider effect, that isn’t a spell is a huge benefit for this class, big enough to earn a 3 on its own.
Sea (2) – The swimming and aquatic animal communication are extremely niche, but at least the stats are relevant. Only choose this if you know you can leverage the niche abilities often in your campaign.
Shadar-kai (4) – Con bump, necrotic resistance, and a bonus action teleport that makes you resistant to all damage for an entire round, if you want to play an Elf Barbarian this is an excellent choice!
Mark of Shadow (2) – Being good at Stealth checks and sneaky situations is extremely useful and a relatively universal benefit across tables (as much as anything can be), but that’s the only reason this isn’t a 1.
Pallid (1) – Sleep doesn’t age well, but at least Light and Invisibility are useable, call it a 1.5, okay?
Fairy (4) – The spells here are largely useless to you, but being able to choose your own stats with a fly speed that will scale with Fast Movement is excellent. The restriction of not wearing medium armor may hurt some builds, but you can rely on Unarmored Defense and wear a shield still. If you want to fly and use heavy weapons this isn’t the race for you.
Firbolg (3) – Powerful Build leans into your strong guy/gal persona, Firbolg Magic focuses on out of combat utility, and Hidden Step can potentially give you advantage on one hit per short or long rest against most enemies. Your stats will struggle a little at first with on a +1 Str but this is still a solid and very thematic choice, great for those looking to play a more magical Barbarian.
Genasi (4) – +2 Con is a great start, but most of the crunch here is in the subraces.
Air (2) – With a Dex bump this will still be useful to you, just not with any of its features, barely a 2.
Earth (3) – Good stats and Pass without Trace, a fantastic spell ideal for sneaking up to your next anger management session.
Fire (1) – Int is useless to you, the spell selection isn’t a good fit either, but it at least uses Con as the casting stat. Just avoid this.
Water (2) – A damage resistance, some utility magic, and the abilities needed to function in, or under, water. Definitely a roleplay choice, but there is at least some benefits here for you.
Giff (3) – Hippo Build is entirely redundant with your Rage benefits, using a firearm doesn’t benefit from Rage, and the damage boost offered is so minimal that it doesn’t move the rating needle at all. The only real benefit here is the niche swim speed and still getting your Strength buffs outside of Rage, something that will become less and less important the more Rages you gain as you level up.
Gith (1) – I’m sure graduating night school would feel satisfying, but your day job has no need for this Int bump.
Githyanki (3) – The +2 Str keeps this from dipping into a 2, the option of using Jump and Misty Step when you’re not raging in combat or to tackle environmental challenges is still useful.
Githzerai (2) – You won’t be able to use Shield when you’re raging, however, there will be times where you get hit before you get the chance, or even lose your Rage. Being able to use Shield in those situations can save your character sheet from the shredder, and saves this option from rock bottom.
Gnome (1) – You can’t use heavy weapons without disadvantage, you only have a 25ft speed, and you have a useless +2 for your class. Whilst helping protect you from disabling mental effects is nice, Gnome Cunning specifies it only works against magic, meaning the only thing you want here you can’t even rely upon.
Forest (1) – A +1 Dex isn’t enough to save this, Minor Illusion is nice but will have a low DC to investigate your illusions.
Rock (1) – Similar to the above, but without Minor Illusion, solid 1.
Deep (1) – Superior Darkvision without Sunlight Sensitivity is nice, but still situational and a minor benefit.
Mark of Scribing (1) – You wouldn’t make it ten minutes at a desk job without raging, but you also wouldn’t make much of a Barbarian with no direct benefits to your class.
Goblin (3) – A strong race overall stats you want and some added damage from Fury of the Small, the lack of Str and penalty to heavy weapons keeps this race to a firm 3. Nimble Escape likely won’t be used much but gives you the option of playing a skirmisher.
Goliath (5) – Perfect stats, a damage reduction ability once per short rest, a damage resistance, and Powerful Build for hauling your treasure home. An excellent choice for any Barbarian player.
Hadozee (4) – The damage reduction can cover damage types you aren’t resistant to, or, can further dwindle the damage you’re taking by combining with your resistances. Glide is a bit niche, but ignoring falling damage can be good, and with a high Str score you can actually jump high enough to cover some distance from standing or if there is nothing around to climb. If you’re interested in this race for the damage reduction alone, then consider a Goliath instead.
Half-Elf (3) – Fey Ancestry., skills, and stats of your choice make for an interesting Barbarian. If you’re looking to play a face character, or just not have bad mental stats, then consider this option.
Aquatic Descent (2) – Just worse than the default.
Drow Descent (1) – Trading skills you can use for spells you won’t always be able to is a bad trade.
Moon/Sun Descent (2) – The cantrip will be Int-based, but you could at least pick up a utility cantrip.
Wood Descent (3) – 35ft movement speed is a solid sidegrade for your Barbarian compared to the skills.
Mark of Detection (2) – Being able to put your +1 in Str helps, this is an interesting choice as See Invisibility doesn’t require concentration and lasts long enough to use in one or more combats. This gives you a solution to invisible enemies that isn’t Reckless Attack, nice but still niche.
Mark of the Storm (2) – Resistance to lightning damage is far more situational than two skills.
Half-Orc (5) – Perfect stats, the ability to drop to 1 instead of 0 should your Rage fail you, and additional damage on crits that falls in line with the class’ Brutal Critical ability. It may be a common choice, but that’s because it’s a really good one.
Mark of Finding (2) – Worse stats and you can’t make use of Hunter’s Mark and Rage at the same time. The d4 to Perception checks is nice at least and Locate Object can help you hunt down your enemies, like that guy that cut in front of you at the grocery store.
Halfling (3) – Brave and Lucky are great features, it’s just a shame you’re small and have a 25ft speed, Lucky would have been great with Great Weapon Master. Still a strong choice for a shield using or two-weapon fighting Barbarian.
Lightfoot (1) – You’re more the kind of class that people hind behind, not vice versa.
Stout (5) – A con increase and Stout Resilience are both great for you.
Ghostwise (2) – Telepathy is cool and Wisdom has its uses, but a roleplay choice or for niche builds, like a Wild Shaping Barbarian.
Mark of Healing (2) – Being able to tend to your own wounds and afflictions between combat, or giving you the option of picking an ally up from zero, is certainly handy. Sadly, the Wis bump isn’t ideal and you likely won’t have a good Wis modifier for that free Cure Wounds.
Mark of Hospitality (1) – You’ve no need for Charisma, and whilst some out of combat utility is nice, this is just making you a worse Barbarian.
Harengon (4) – A surprisingly good option, the stats are whatever you want them to be, Hare-Trigger synergizes well with Feral Instinct to make sure you’re not caught outside of Rage often. Lucky Footwork combined with Danger Sense gives you a very good chance of passing Dex saving throws and Rabbit Hop not only gives you a way to retreat but can just give you a little extra movement if you don’t need your bonus action to Rage.
Hexblood (3) – Pick your own stats and some out-of-combat utility, but Hex is useless to you when you Rage, making it age very poorly as you get more uses of Rage.
Hobgoblin (2) – The Con is useful, and Saving Face can provide a nice boost, but it’s too reliant on your party to save this option from redundant proficiencies and useless Int.
Human (2) – With a desire for Str, Dex, and Con, and a weakness to Wisdom saving throws, the Barbarian wants enough stats to make this a 2, just barely.
Variant Human PHB (5) – With the ability to bump the stats that matter you can grab a feat that can greatly increase your damage potential or raise your defenses. The skill of your choice is icing on this protein-enriched cake.
Mark of Finding (2) – The same as the half-orc version above.
Mark of Handling (1) – Only take this if you like the roleplay flavour of it.
Mark of Making (2) – The Int is useless, but this option is unique in that it removes concentration from Magic Weapon meaning it can be used whilst Raging, as long as you cast it beforehand. Good enough to save it from a 1, but only really advised in games where magic weapons are harder to get.
Mark of Passage (3) – Being unable to use Misty Step whilst Raging takes a lot of the shine off of this option, but the stats are okay and 35ft base movement is still nice.
Mark of Sentinel (2) – The stats are okay but not great, and Vigilant Guardian is a great tool for a tank Barbarian, however, Shield is relegated to protecting you when caught out of Rage. Not quite 1 material, but best chosen for roleplay reasons if you want to play a Dragonmarked human.
Kalashtar (1) – The only value here is a Bear Totem Barbarian picking up resistance to psychic damage, making them resistant to all damage types whilst Raging.
Kenku (1) – Even with useable Dex, this is purely a roleplay choice.
Kobold (2) – Best for a two-weapon fighting or sword and shield build, the combination of being small and Sunlight Sensitivity take most of the excitement out of Pack Tactics. If you want to play a small Barbarian, you’re probably better off with a Halfling.
Leonin (5) – Good stats, 35ft speed, a skill, and a bonus action frightening ability that uses your Con modifier for its DC. This is an excellent Barbarian option, that even gives you claws in case you find yourself unarmed.
Lizardfolk (2) – A thematic choice, Natural Armor is better than Unarmored Defense if you have a Con mod of 14 or lower, and Hungry Jaws is a nice additional bit of damage and endurance once per short rest. The stats are only okay, however, and as the race gives a +2 Con, it’s unlikely that Natural Armor will be better for you than Unarmored Defense for most builds.
Locathah (2) – Good stats, good skills, and excellent defense in the form of Leviathan WIll, all of this is enough to save this from being a 1. Dying from not being submerged every 4 hours is a very, very large drawback.
Loxodon (2) – Okay stats, the thematic Powerful Build, and some cover for your poor Wisdom defenses with Loxodon Serenity make this a useable option. This is still mostly a roleplaying choice of playing an elephant person, which isn’t a bad reason to pick it either.
Minotaur (4) – Great stats, a good control option with Hammering Horns, and an above-average natural weapon make this a solid choice. Goring Rush likely won’t see use often, but reduces the opportunity cost of having to Dash to get to an enemy and helps avoid losing Rage whilst you do so.
Orc (3) – The same great stats as above, but with some skills to help with your out-of-combat usefulness. Aggressive is a nice way to keep yourself in melee range of enemies but is a bit too situational to carry this to a 4.
Owlin (4) – An excellent choice for those wanting to use Unarmored Defense, the fly speed greatly helps you deal with environmental hazards and flying enemies that many other Barbarians would struggle with. The Stealth proficiency, 120ft darkvision, and choose your own stats just reinforce this being an excellent choice. This doesn’t quite get a 5, as it forces you to use Unarmored Defense, and the potency of flying will vary a lot depending on the environment you find yourself in.
Plasmoid (4) – The flexible stats and resistances carry this to a 4, with Amorphous being redundant for grappling whilst you’re in Rage, but helping you be a better grappler when you don’t have enough Rages to cover the situation. A Barbarian can do a decent job without weapons and armor to use Amorphous, but this is a race best used by the Beast subclass, which can give itself weapons when raging.
Reborn (3) – Flexible stats and poison resistance are the main draws here, though Knowledge from a Past Life can allow you to grapple/shove very effectively.
Satyr (3) – The stats are pretty bad, but Magic Resistance goes a long way towards protecting your weak saving throws, and the 35ft movement speed helps seal its position at 3.
Beasthide Shifter (4) – Great stats and a very useful chunk of temporary hit points along with an AC bump. The only thing holding this back from a 5 is needing to take one bonus action to Rage, and a second to activate Shifting.
Longtooth Shifter (3) – Still good stats, and the temporary hit points will always be the desired boost to your durability. Unfortunately, this option suffers heavily from a clogged bonus action, if you both Rage and shift, you won’t actually be able to make an attack with your fangs until the 3rd round of combat.
Swiftstride Shifter (3) – This shifter is mostly carried by the temporary hit points, whilst the additional movement speed is nice, the reaction to move away won’t often be used. Remember, you need to attack or take damage each round to maintain your Rage, avoiding melee range makes that unnecessarily difficult.
Wildhunt Shifter (4) – I know what you’re thinking, a 4 with those stats? Well besides the ever-useful shifter temp hp, the wildhunt shifter allows you to use Reckless Attack and not give your opponents advantage against you! This is a significant increase to your accuracy and durability that can’t be ignored.
Simic Hybrid (4) – Very good stats and a variety of customizable benefits, the 5th level options are great for grappling builds, general tanks, and the option to get a ranged attack that uses your Con mod instead of Dex can help sure up a ranged weakness.
Tabaxi (2) – The extreme mobility of a tabaxi is very tempting for most characters, but with only a Dex bump that you want and nothing to add to your durability or damage this takes a cat nap at a 2.
Thri-kreen (5) – Chameleon Carapace not only gives you the option of having a lower Con on an unarmored build, being able to give yourself advantage on Stealth checks is a great boon, especially for Barbarians wearing half plate. Telepathy and Sleepless are nice ribbons, especially if your DM rules that Sleepless means you can’t be put to sleep. What pushed this to a 5 is the versatility of the Secondary Arms, allowing you to wear a shield whilst using two-weapon fighting to leverage your Rage damage bonus, or circumventing the issue of not being able to draw enough javelins, because you’re already holding a couple of hand axes.
Tiefling (PHB aka Asmodeus) (1) – Fire resistance can’t save the terrible stats and spells you won’t be able to use in combat whilst doing Barbarian things.
Baalzebul (1) – Like the PHB Tiefling, but without the potential utility of Darkness.
Dispater (2) – A Dex bump and spells that are intended for out-of-combat use make this a solid 2.
Fierna (1) – Worse than the PHB in almost every way, but at least Int was replaced with Wis.
Glasya (2) – Just a touch better than Dispater as your spell save DC is less likely to come up with Invisibility.
Levistus (2) – Con and a 2nd level casting of Armor of Agathys are very nice, if you could cast Armor of Agathys like this once per short rest this might even move up to a 3, sadly it’s only once per long rest.
Mammon (1) – A more useful set of spells than the PHB, consider this a 1.5.
Mephistopheles (1) – Burning Hands and Flame Blade are not good spells and will have a terrible modifier, avoid this option completely.
Zariel (2) – For tier 1 and early tier 2 this is an interesting option, letting you use smite spells when you don’t have any Rages available.
Tortle (4) – A Str bump is a good start, but where the Tortle shines is with its AC, the Natural Armor gives you the equivalent AC of half-plate armor, but without the disadvantage on Stealth checks. You won’t be using Shell Defense often but it, the claws, and Hold Breath are nice to have in case they’re needed.
Triton (3) – A +1 to Str and Con, with cold resistance is a nice package for a Barbarian, unfortunately, there’s a lot of spellcasting available that would primarily be useful in combat. A good option for aquatic campaigns and the spells might come in hand out of combat on occasion.
Vedalken (2) – Terrible stats, but advantage on all mental saving throws is a great defensive ability for a Barbarian, so this has to be a 2 at least.
Warforged (5) – Great stats, a +1 to your AC, and poison resistance make for a fantastic tank Barbarian, with Specialized Design helping to round you out as a character.
Yuan-Ti Pureblood (2) – Awful stats, but Magic Resistance and Poison Immunity are potential very strong defenses.
Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse Race Options
As mentioned previously any races that are republished without changes won’t be included in this section. In addition, following previously mentioned guidance, there won’t be any ratings lower than a 3 in this section due to all races being able to assign stats to taste.
Note: Spells will be rated more highly here than they may appear above because all spells given can be cast with any spell slots you may have. This is a significant boost for an Artificer, giving them access to spells they may not otherwise have and freeing up their number of prepared spells.
Note: The Fey Ancestry and Trance traits listed in these races differ significantly from the versions published in other books like the PHB.
Aarakocra (3) – Flexible stats makes this birdfolk more appealing to you as a Barbarian, but with the heavily nerfed flight speed and the addition of a spell you won’t be able to cast a lot of the time has taken some of the shine off of this race. If the flight is still appealing to you then it will increase to 40 feet with Fast Movement, but you may want to consider other flying races, like the Owlin.
Aasimar (5) – The added resistances and ability to heal yourself (or other people I guess) add a fair amount of durability for your already very durable Barbarian. Whilst you do gain a spell, Light lasts an hour and won’t interfere with your Rage should you choose to use it. But the real gem here is the transformation, which adds a much-needed damage bump for the Barbarian, particularly in later levels. The bonus action activation does clash with your Rage, but at least doesn’t deny you a round of attacks like the original version. Each transformation will be reviewed below as if it was a subrace:
Necrotic Shroud (2) – Frightened is a good condition to impose, but the DC being based on your Charisma means that this will fail more often than you’d like to see.
Radiant Consumption (5) – You have the hit points to take the self-imposed damage, and you want to be in melee range of the monsters anyway. This is a chunk of free damage and a potential solution to getting swarmed by mooks for your Barbarian.
Radiant Soul (5) – Giving yourself the ability to fly is a huge boon to the Barbarian, allowing you to take the fight to a flying enemy, rather than getting stuck switching a bow. This flying speed also takes advantage of your Fast Movement feature, and any other speed boosts you get your hands on.
Bugbear (5) – Fey Ancestry is a good boost to your vulnerable mental defenses, but the star features here are Long-Limbed and Surprise Attack. The former allows you to threaten a wider area as a tank, whilst also slightly reducing the chance that you won’t be able to reach your next target. The latter potentially gives you a significant damage boost, a whopping 2d6 per attack if the monster hasn’t taken a turn yet in the current combat. This synergizes well with Feral Instinct, and greatly incentivizes the Alert feat, to add 2-8d6 to your damage each combat. The Stealth skill proficiency is just icing on this lanky cake.
Centaur (4) – With the Barbarian being so dependent on closing distance to use melee attacks, the 40 feet movement speed is reassuring at the very least, unfortunately, the bonus action attack given by Charge is likely to clash with Rage on the first round of combat.
Changeling (3) – Flexible stats is all that holds this race at a 3, the Shapechanger ability is great for roleplay situations, but there is nothing here to build a better Barbarian.
Deep Gnome (3) – Gnomish Magic Resistance provides a significant boost to your mental defenses, but the Small size category locks you out of effectively using heavy weapons, whilst the spells aren’t worth much to you.
Duergar (5) – You may be wondering why a race that has spellcasting gets such a high rating, that’s because it’s actually very synergistic casting. Invisibility can aid your stealthing outside of combat, whilst Enlarge can compensate for you lower damage in combats you can’t afford to rage in. meanwhile poison resistance is a welcome sight for almost all Barbarians, and Psionic Fortitude goes a long way to protecting your fragile mental stats. The 120 ft. darkvision is just a bonus!
Eladrin (5) – A bonus action teleport goes a long way to helping with any mobility problems you might face, with the rider effects being an added bonus, even if some of them rely on a mental stat for their DC. Fey Ancestry, the new and improved Trance, and Perception proficiency help greatly round out your Barbarian.
Firbolg (4) – Firbolg Magic adds some out of combat utility, but Hidden Step is what makes this a 4, allowing you to give yourself advantage on one attack, or escape without opportunity attacks.
Genasi, Air (3) – The abilities here are very niche, with lightning damage not common enough to raise this to a 4 and Shocking Grasp is an abysmal choice for you. At the very least Feather Fall and Levitate give you some tools to deal with vertical challenges, but that’s not good enough for us to shout our best golfer’s 4.
Genasi, Earth (4) – This is surprisingly good, but will lose some of its appeal in higher levels when you get more uses of Rage. That’s because the ability to cast Blade Ward as a bonus action lets you replicate some of the durability of Rage when you can’t afford the real deal, but becomes significantly less useful when you have enough uses to Rage in every combat. Pass without Trace is always going to be a fantastic spell out of combat, but with your Rage making it very unlikely that it would survive the first encounter, it only helps cement a low 4 for this genasi.
Genasi, Fire (3) – The primary benefit of this option is a bunch of just plain bad spellcasting, with Produce Flame being the only salvageable spell for a torch substitute. Fire resistance alone isn’t enough to bump this to a 4.
Genasi, Water (3) – This is only recommended if you’re going to be adventuring around water for most of the campaign or fighting a lot of oozes, otherwise the abilities and damage resistance is too niche for anything but a roleplay choice.
Githyanki (4) – This scrapes a 4 thanks to the psychic resistance (we can all see you salivating bear totems) and the large amount of utility an invisible Mage Hand and Astral Knowledge offer. Rage will, unfortunately, lock you out of the excellent Misty Step in a lot of situations you may want to use it, but it can still be of some use.
Githzerai (5) – Mental Discipline combined with Psychic Resilience is a significant defensive boost for any Barbarian, with Githzerai Psionics giving you some utility. Shield is even useful for the times you get attacked before you get the chance to Rage. Surprisingly good choice for a Barbarian, though it may feel a little plain in combat.
Goblin (4) – One of the things some Barbarian builds may struggle with is damage, getting a damage bump in from Fury of the Small a number of times per day equal to your proficiency bonus can help with that. Combined with Fey Ancestry and the options Nimble Escape offers you is just enough to warrant a 4.
Goliath (5) – Cold resistance is useful to have, but the upgraded Stone’s Endurance is a huge boost to your durability. You’re now able to use it round after round to tank huge amounts of damage in tougher fights, just remember that the damage reduction will be applied first, and your resistances will be applied last.
Hobgoblin (4) – This would be an interesting choice for a tank/support Barbarian like an Ancestral Guardian, allowing you to provide support for your party members as a bonus action, but all Barbarians will appreciate being able to give themselves a little temp hp. Fortune of the Many can help land blows when it matters, particularly any Great Weapon Master +10 damage attacks, and Fey Ancestry helps cement this race as a 4.
Kenku (3) – If you want to add a little skill monkey to your Barbarian then this is a great choice, but there’s nothing here to make you a better Barbarian overall.
Kobold (4) – On-demand advantage on your attacks for a turn, multiple times per day, is a huge offensive boost, extending that benefit to your party is a huge bonus. Kobold Legacy adds some customizable utility, but unfortunately being small holds this race back from being a 5. Without being able to adequately use heavy weapons, a kobold Barbarian won’t be able to leverage advantage as well as a medium-sized Barbarian.
Lizardfolk (4) – The Natural Armor feature might benefit some Barbarians that can’t, or don’t want to bump Con to a +3 for some reason, but the real star here is Hungry Jaws. Not only does it increase your offense in combats that might need it, but it also provides some temp hp that your resistances will stretch further than other classes. This is only a 4 as you don’t get enough uses of Hungry Jaws for it to be worth more, and you can’t use it on the round you Rage.
Minotaur (4/3) – This has two ratings to reflect a difficult position, part of what made the original minotaur appealing was its great stat bumps for a Barbarian. But, in the context of races that can now assign stats as they please this option loses a lot of its appeal. This now becomes a roleplay choice, unless the control of Hammering Horns really appeals to you. Had the race not lost their additional skill this could have remained a low 4 completely, but the new Labyrinthine Recall is exceedingly niche.
Orc (5) – The fantastic Relentless Endurance is a huge boost to the orc, with Adrenaline Rush helping to ensure you never lose your Rage just for being too far away from your next target. The latter also giving you temporary hit points along with that Dash is the icing on this 5 star cake.
Satyr (4) – Advantage on saves against spells and a 35 ft. base movement speed is good enough to scrape a 4 for this party half-animal. Being able to jump really, really well between your high Str score and Mirthful Leaps is also just plain neat.
Sea-Elf (3) – Trance and Fey Ancestry are nice, but this is primarily a roleplay choice unless you’re playing an aquatic game.
Shadar-Kai (5) – Necrotic resistance and a bonus action teleport that makes you resistant to all damage? That’s an amazing package, with Fey Ancestry and the new Trance providing ample support to this 5. Path of the Totem (Bear) Barbarians may be more interested in the Eladrin, due to most of the resistances gained being redundant.
Shifter (3) – The number of times you can shift has now been changed to equal your proficiency bonus, however, the number of temporary hit points you gain has been significantly nerfed from level+Con to just twice your proficiency modifier. This is is better at 1st level, and then never catches back up to the original formula, whilst Rage’s resistance will still increase the value of those temporary hit points, this is a substantial nerf. The individual shifting features will be reviewed below:
Beasthide (4) – The additional 1d6 temp hp and +1 AC make for a substantial increase in durability over the initial benefits of transforming. This remains a 4 due to the Shifting feature clashing with activating Rage on the first round of combat, but the increased uses of Shifting you get (now equal to your proficiency bonus) goes a long way to compensating for any combats you can’t afford to Rage in.
Longtooth (4) – The bonus action attack itself is good enough, better than what you’d get from Polearm Master, and this new version allows you to make an attack on the same turn that you shift. This allows you to get far much more value out of this feature compared to the original.
Swiftstride (3) – Additional movement is great for getting to the monsters you need to smack in the face, but the reaction movement is only useful if you want to skirmish. This is a playstyle that you can do as a Barbarian, but is counter to a lot players’ desires for the class.
Wildhunt (5) – Being able to use Reckless Attack without any penalty is an outstanding ability that will do wonders for your accuracy, and as a result, your overall damage.
Tabaxi (3) – The climb speed and Feline Agility will undoubtedly come in handy every now and again, but there just isn’t much here to make you a better Barbarian overall. A great roleplay choice with a solid mechanical backing, just not quite the cat’s meow.
Tortle (4) – This is essentially the same as the original, but with some flexibility on if you want to boost your Con or something else. Still a really good AC option for any Barbarian that doesn’t want to spend good gold on armor.
Triton (3) – The spells here are just too niche, or combat-focused, to really add much value to your Barbarian, with a lot of the other features being incredibly niche to water-based campaigns. It looks like there is a lot to this race, and there is, just not much for you. So remember, just keep swimming to another option.
Yuan-ti (4) – The combination of Magic Resistance and poison resistance is easily good enough to carry this to a 4, with some thematic spell casting to be more snake person-like outside of combat.
Being a MAD class there isn’t a lot of room in your early ASIs for feats, meaning a feat has to work very well for you or be generally really appealing to score well here. Feats that increase your durability and damage will take priority, whilst feats that provide, or enhance, spellcasting will not due to the clash with Rage. This will be reflected in the ratings each feat is provided, and as always, if you’re really interested in a feat heavy build you should consider playing a variant human for the additional feat at 1st level.
The following list of feats is arranged (mostly) alphabetically but divided by the books they are found in, to make it easy to see what you can choose from if certain sources are not allowed at your table. If a feat has a race prerequisite it is denoted in [brackets]. Other prerequisites may apply, such as minimum stats, or the ability to cast a spell so be sure to check the book text when choosing feats.
Alert (3) – This feat is generally very good but has some overlap with Barbarian abilities, the immunity to surprise specifically is mostly redundant with Feral Instinct. A higher initiative is always welcome, but the Barbarian already gets advantage, the only unique thing here is denying unseen attackers advantage on attacking you, which is nice defensively. Still a good feat, but with the overlap, not jumping out like it might for other classes.
Athlete (3) – Being able to round out an odd Str modifier makes this a fun feat to pick up, making you the terminator of Barbarians you just keep coming after them!
Actor (1) – A roleplay/social feat that might appeal to certain character concepts but is utterly useless to a generic Barbarian.
Charger (1) – This can reduce the opportunity cost of having to Dash to get into melee, but that shouldn’t be a situation you find yourself in often enough to want this feat.
Crossbow Expert (1) – This would certainly help with your ranged offense, but you could save yourself an ASI and just chuck a javelin or two.
Defensive Duelist (3) – You want a 14 in Dexterity for AC, and this feat is a terrific defensive ability for a Barbarian. This only gets a 3 because it means limiting yourself to a finesse weapon, if you wanted to play a sword and shield character anyway then you can consider this feat at least a 4.
Dual Wielder (2) – Barbarians can use two-weapon fighting to leverage their Rage damage bonus, so this has some real value, but is niche and not even a first choice for two-weapon Barbarians. Note: If your DM rules that this feat is compatible with the Path of the Beast Barbarian’s claws, then this becomes a very good feat for that subclass.
Dungeon Delver (1) – Great for dungeoneering heavy campaigns, but there are better classes to be picking this up than you.
Durable (1) – If you’re playing a game that uses Gritty Realism or other difficulty-increasing rules then sure, otherwise pass on this.
Elemental Adept (1) – You won’t be casting any spells that benefit from this.
Grappler (1) – You’re already a better grappler without wasting your ASI on some flashy title and second-rate abilities.
Great Weapon Master (5) – The chance for +10 damage on a hit and a bonus action attack on a kill or crit make it easy to see why this is one of the stereotypical ‘must haves’ for a damage orientated Barbarian. Whilst you certainly don’t need this feat to do good damage, it certainly helps, letting you use Reckless Attack to help offset the -5 penalty to your heavier-hitting attacks.
Healer (3) – This feat represents a large amount of healing for the party across an adventuring day and doesn’t rely on any stats to do so. Whilst there are classes that can pick this up with less opportunity cost than you, if your party needs more healing this is a great way to do it and if it has to be someone it could be you.
Heavily Armored (1) – You can’t use Rage in heavy armor.
Heavy Armor Master (1) – One more time, with feeling! You can’t use Rage in heavy armor.
Inspiring Leader (1) – A very good feat that you can certainly benefit from, but it requires a 13 in a stat you don’t need and would be better taken by a Charisma-focused class, or class with additional ASIs.
Keen Mind (1) – Being a humanoid compass and whatnot is cool, but you’ve no need for Int, just stop off at one of those fancy Gnome gadget stores.
Lightly Armored (1) – You already have this proficiency, not that you’ll want to wear light armor regardless of having the proficiency to.
Linguist (1) – There are better ways to solve a language barrier than subscribing to Rosetta Stone.
Lucky (4) – A powerful feat for all characters, and if you took Great Weapon Master this can help you land those -5 attacks, but overall bland. Best taken at higher levels when you already have the stats and feats you’re really interested in.
Mage Slayer (2) – Very niche, but can be useful in a mage-heavy campaign. Or for when the Wizard makes one too many dumb jokes.
Magic Initiate (1) – If you want to add some utility to your Barbarian then this is one way to do it, but the opportunity cost of not increasing relevant stats or picking up a feat that improves your combat prowess is steep.
Martial Adept (3) – One Superiority Die per short rest isn’t much, but adding some tactical depth, or nova damage potential, to your Barbarian is a very nice prospect.
Medium Armor Master (2) – If you already have a +3 Dex, perhaps from rolling a really high stat array, then this is a good feat. That said, +3 Dex is a bit too tall an ask from a lot of Barbarians, making this niche enough to be a 2.
Mobile (3) – A movement speed boost is generally a good thing for everyone, particularly a character that needs to get into the melee range of their enemies, so this feat will give you some degree of benefit. However, you won’t get much use out of the ability to disengage by attacking a creature as you need to be taking damage and/or making attacks every turn to maintain Rage, so an okay choice but not to be prioritized for most builds.
Moderately Armored (1) – You already have proficiency in medium armor.
Mounted Combatant (1) – If you find, or buy, a mount that you’re particularly attached to there’s no reason to pick up this feat at all.
Observant (1) – Increasing your passive Perception is great for not being surprised, but with Feral Instinct at 7th level that won’t be a problem for long. There just isn’t enough value here unless it’s a roleplaying choice and you have an odd Wisdom score.
Polearm Master (5) – If you’re happy to use a polearm this can add a significant amount of damage. The bonus action attack allows you to get more out of your Rage damage bonus, and the opportunity attack on creatures entering your range allows you to more effectively deter from moving around you if you have a reach weapon. An excellent damage option for a Barbarian.
Resilient (3) – This can be worth taking at later levels to cover your WIsdom saving throw weakness as effects that target it become much more common. This can be important because Wisdom saving throws often protect you from effects that can cause you to lose your Rage, an example of this is the Hold Person spell.
Ritual Caster (1) – This is a nice utility feat, but the prerequisites aren’t ideal and there are better classes to be taking this.
Savage Attacker (1) – A heavy cost for a small, and uncertain, damage increase. If you’re tempted by this, it’s best used with d10 or d12 weapons.
Sentinel (5) – An excellent feat for protecting your party, this allows you to lock down the enemies you charge towards, rather than them just walking away from you to the squishier spellcasters behind you. This pairs well with Polearm Master by giving you the ability to stop a monster in their tracks as they enter your reach. Note: using this feat with a reach weapon is a double-edged sword as it allows you to attack, and hopefully reduce the speed of, a creature further away, but it also allows creatures to move around you more before prompting an attack for leaving your reach.
Sharpshooter (1) – You’re less of a sharpshooter and more of a hitharderer, yes that’s English. No, you shouldn’t check.
Shield Master (4) – This feat works with Danger Sense to give you a high chance of taking no damage from Dex saving throws, whilst giving you a control option with a bonus action shove.
Skilled (1) – Between your class skills, background, and potentially race you should have enough skills to do what you want.
Skulker (1) – You aren’t very likely to be making ranged attacks from hiding, and any hiding you will be doing doesn’t warrant a whole feat that doesn’t actually make you better at Stealth checks.
Spell Sniper (1) – Put that Beginner’s Guide to Magic down, pick up the big hammer, and reckless abandon for your own well-being.
Tavern Brawler (4) – A fun feat you can take without slowing down your stat progression, being able to grapple without giving up your attacks is a significant advantage to a grappling build. The ability to use a d4 for your unarmed strikes and gaining proficiency are a nice fallback for the times you’re disarmed, or when you want to play a wrestler. Give it the +1 chair!
Tough (4) – Not essential, but getting even more hit points makes you extremely difficult to kill, although the party healer may dread having more hit points to replenish.
War Caster (2) – You shouldn’t be casting spells in combat.
Weapon Master (1) – Entirely redundant, you’re already proficient in all weapons.
Bountiful Luck [Halfling] (1) – Whilst your party might appreciate it, shutting down Lucky for an entire round is not something anyone will appreciate when you roll a natural 1 to finish the BBEG.
Dragon Fear [Dragonborn] (2) – You can grab this whilst rounding off your odd Str or Con so you’re not losing out on much, but as the fear ability sets the DC using your Cha, you’re not going to be gaining a reliable ability. If you are interested in this feat then it is significantly better on an FToD dragonborn.
Dragon Hide [Dragonborn] (2) – Your Unarmored Defense is likely to be better than the AC formula you gain, but you can bump your Str or Con at least. If you’re interested in a 1d4 unarmed strike you might be better off taking Tavern Brawler.
Drow High Magic [Drow] (2) – If you really want some out of combat magic, and you happen to be a drow Barbarian, then this is a good way to grab some and the only way to get Dispel Magic from a feat. Note: This feat will use your Charisma modifier, so it’s best to use Levitate on yourself or allies and don’t rely on dispelling 4th level spells and above.
Dwarven Fortitude [Dwarf] (2) – This is only going to be useful if you’re playing a tank Barbarian, and need to buy yourself another round in front of enemies whilst being at low HP. So, let’s be optimistic and call that niche.
Elven Accuracy [Elf or Half-Elf] (1) – This doesn’t work on Strength attacks, and your class features apply to Strength attacks.
Fade Away [Gnome] (2) – If you’ve already chosen to play a gnome Barbarian, then the ability to turn invisible when you take damage will certainly come in handy, but it isn’t really worth a feat and you don’t need Dex higher than 14.
Fey Teleportation [High Elf] (1) – You don’t need the stats this feat bumps and you can’t use Misty Step whilst raging, if you’re interested in getting it any way you might be more interested in Fey Touched below.
Flames of Phlegethos [Tiefling] (1) – You still aren’t a spellcaster.
Infernal Constitution [Tiefling] (4) – A Con bump and two additional resistances is fantastic value for a feat.
Orcish Fury [Half-Orc] (5) – +1 in your main stats, a tiny burst of damage once per short rest, and making the already great defensive Relentless Endurance with an offensive twist? An outstanding feat that makes the other races jealous.
Prodigy [Half-Orc, Half-Elf, Human] (3) – If you want to be better at skills this is a good feat to take, for grappler builds gaining expertise is very important to guarantee reliability.
Second Chance [Halfling] (3) – As long as you have an odd Con score, or want another Con half feat, this is a good defense that recharges frequently enough to save you a significant amount of HP throughout the day.
Squat Nimbleness [Dwarf] (3) – You can bump Str or Con and remove the speed penalty from being a Dwarf, the advantage on escaping grapples will come in handy as monsters often cause the restrained condition when they grapple you.
Wood Elf Magic [Wood Elf] (3) – Whilst magic is usually unattractive to you, you can benefit from Longstrider whilst using Rage and Pass without Trace is a very powerful out of combat spell, making this an okay pick even for you.
Eberron: RftLW feats
Aberrant Dragonmark [non-dragonmarked race] (2) – You could pick up autility cantrip, but the spell is heavily incentivized to be combat-relevant to make use of the third bullet point. This would be a 1 if it didn’t have +1 Con attached.
Revenant Blade [Elf] (3) – Not something to go out of your way to get, but if you already wanted to use a double-bladed scimitar then this is a great way to increase your Str.
Artificer Initiate (1) – If you want spells there are betters ways to do it, if you want a tool proficiency, there are better ways to do it.
Chef (3) – A fun thematic feat to add to your character, the temporary hit points are useful for everyone, and the added short rest regeneration helps the most in more difficult games.
Crusher (5) – Resourceless control, increasing your core stat, and making your critical hits even nastier? Yes, please!
Eldritch Adept (1) – You don’t qualify for this.
Fey Touched (2) – Bumping mental stats and grabbing spells isn’t at the top of your list, but getting Misty Step as part of a larger package is good enough to warrant a 2 for the odd time you might need it.
Fighting Initiate (5) – The are many Fighting Styles that a Barbarian would benefit from, but some stand-outs are: Dueling, Two-Weapon Fighting, Interception, Superior Technique, and Unarmed Fighting.
Gunner (1) – Even with a Dex bump, this is just bad for you.
Metamagic Adept (1) – You also don’t qualify for this.
Piercer (5) – If you already use a piercing damage weapon, this is an upgrade to your damage and you can consider this an additional layer to Brutal Critical. It’s generally recommended to use the reroll when you roll below average, for example, rolling a 5 or lower on a pike attack.
Poisoner (2) – Between needing your first bonus action to Rage and only one of your two attacks benefiting from the poison, this isn’t really worth it for most Barbarians. If you’re interested in poisons then this is essential for using them more effectively, just remember that a lot of creatures may be fully immune to poison.
Shadow Touched (1) – There’s a lot to this feat, but the mental stat increase is uninteresting to you, and Rage complicates getting the most out of Invisibility
Skill Expert (4) – Increase a stat of your choice, whilst gaining a skill proficiency and an Expertise? A great way to increase your utility, or grappling potential, without slowing down your normal Barbarian progression.
Slasher (5) – Like the other feats of its ilk, boosting your stats whilst adding resourceless control to your attacks is fantastic.
Telekinetic (1) – An invisible Mage Hand is cool, but a mental stat increase and a shove that relies on that mental stat is not a good use of your ASI.
Telepathic (1) – Purely a roleplay choice, if you want to have telepathy you may want to check one of the races that get it as an ability first.
Gift of the Chromatic Dragon (4) – An additional source of damage is always welcome, but only being able to use it once per day relegates it to boss fights or increasing your damage in fights you can’t use Rage in. The real benefit here for most Barbarians is getting a reaction to gain resistance to acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison damage which is normally accomplished with the spell Absorb Elements. This feat drops down to a 2 for Bear Totem Barbarians, which already gain resistance to most forms of damage when they Rage.
Gift of the Metallic Dragon (3) – Being able to increase youror another’s AC when hit by an attack is an excellent tanking feature, this only gets a 3, however, as it’s very limited in both the number of uses and the amount it raises your AC for most the most frequently played levels. The addition of Cure Wounds is a small amount of self-healing between encounters, or emergency healing for others, but if you’re interested in this feat for your own AC, you may want to consider the unlimited use Defensive Duelist.
Gift of the Gem Dragon (1) – Whilst the reaction itself is very good, you don’t really want the stat increase, and the reaction will likely have a very poor DC.
Note: More so than the Eberron feats, the following feats are designed explicitly for the high magic Strixhaven setting and this is reflected in the balance of the feats.
Strixhaven initiate (1) – This is just Magic Initiate with more restricted cantrips choices but freer
1st level spell choices.
Strixhaven mascot (1) – You don’t want the prerequisite feat for this, and you don’t really want this feat either.
Multiclassing your Barbarian
In this section, we’ll review each class in terms of how well they multiclass with Barbarian, mentioning how many levels and what subclass (if any) would work best. The ratings take multiclassing prerequisites into consideration; if a multiclass will require you to have a 13 in a stat other than Str, it will likely receive a lower score unless the stat is one you would already have at 13 or higher, for example, Dexterity that you need for your AC.
General multiclass tips for the Barbarian:
With Rage preventing you from casting, or concentrating on, spells it’s best to evaluate spellcasting multiclass choices based on class abilities and spells that last longer than a minute without needing concentration. An example of an ability that a Barbarian might want is the Divine Soul Sorcerer’s Favored by the Gods, and an example of a spell is Longstrider.
It’s normally okay to take a dip at first level for most classes, however, this would lose the maximum value of the d12 Hit Die. It’s recommended to take a dip after 5th level so you have Extra Attack and Fast Movement, but you should at least wait until you have three levels of Barbarian. This gives you your subclass, third Rage per day, and a solid base of hit points.
To gain the full benefits of Rage and Reckless Attack you need to use Strength as your attack modifier, so class dips that rely on using other modifiers for attacking are best avoided. Note: If you’re considering a Rogue dip, you can still use Sneak Attack as it only requires you to use a finesse weapon, not that you also use Dexterity for the attack.
Barbarians have the largest size Hit Die and partially rely on their larger pool of hit points for their durability, this means that any class you multiclass into will give you fewer hit points than staying a straight Barbarian. This isn’t very impactful if you take a level or two in a d10 class like Fighter, but with larger dips, particularly in d8 and d6 Hit Die classes you will have a significantly less HP than you were proportionately used to before the dip. This is reinforced by the resistance that Rage gives you, which effectively doubles the value of each hit point.
Features that increase your damage, critical hit range, and durability are the most desirable things to pick up.
Artificer (1) – Being able to make your own magic weapons would be great, but that requires two levels and an Intelligence of 13 which is a very steep cost and why this class should generally be avoided as a multiclass. If you do take enough levels in Artificer to gain a subclass, Armorer is highly recommended, specifically using the Guardian model. This will give you a small number of temporary hit points, but more importantly, the Thunder Gauntlets will give you a great incentive for enemies to hit you not your squishier friends.
Bard (1) – The primary benefits of this class are spellcasting and Bardic Inspiration, both of which are heavily reliant on your Charisma modifier. Whilst you can afford the prerequisite to multiclass into Bard, you can’t afford to be good at what you get from it without heavily compromising on your Barbarian stats. If you get far enough into this class to gain a subclass, the best choice is the College of Swords to gain a Fighting Style and Blade Flourish to weaponize the few Bardic Inspiration dice you have.
Cleric (3) – Wisdom is a good tertiary stat to have, making the prerequisite easy and low cost to achieve, the Cleric spell list provides healing options to let you take care of your own healing after combat, and offers Shield of Faith to increase your durability whilst not Raging. Recommended Domains are War for the bonus action attack ability and Guided Strike Channel Divinity, and Forge for giving yourself a +1 weapon or suit of armor with only a one-level dip. No more than two levels of Cleric are recommended.
Druid (2) – In general this is not a particularly good multiclass, as you only get spellcasting at 1st level, making it a larger level investment by default than the Cleric. There is one standout Druid multiclass that is particularly popular, however, and that is the Moon Druid with a Bear Totem, affectionately known as the Bearbarian. By using Wild Shape and Rage, you can take 136 points of damage every short rest without losing any of your Barbarian hit points, by simply being a brown bear in fights. This works on multiple levels, with Unarmored Defense raising the AC of most Wild Shape forms, Fast Movement increasing their movement speed, and Extra Attack giving them more damage.
Fighter (5) – You’ll already meet the prerequisites and almost every level brings you something useful, so try and set an expectation for how many levels you want to take. One level will give you a small combat heal with Second Wind, which is made more effective by resistance, and a Fighting Style of your choice which can help enhance any kind of Barbarian you want to play. Two levels will grab you Action Surge, which represents a huge damage increase, and three levels will get you a subclass. Some recommended subclasses include Battle Master for maneuvers that can add damage and accuracy to your attacks and Samurai, which would give you temp hp and advantage on all your attacks for a round three times per long rest, without giving the monsters advantage!
Monk (1) – The synergy here is very low, you already want a 14 Dex, but the Wis requirement is steep when one of the main benefits, using Dexterity for your attacks, you won’t actually want to use and you will have to forgo the option of armor and a shield altogether. The Monk having a lot of core abilities that cost Ki, but a dip providing you little Ki, is also a barrier. The only thing here is the Martial Arts bonus attack, which you could replicate with a lower cost by Polearm Master. If you really want to dip far enough into Monk for a subclass
Paladin (2) – The payoffs for dipping Barbarian are potentially high, with Lay on Hands giving you a good chunk of healing and Divine Smite giving you a burst damage option that you can use whilst Raging, and a Fighting Style. The stumbling block is needing at least two levels of Paladin to get any real benefit from it, whilst also needing at least a 13 Charisma. The first level of a Paladin dip will also feel a little dissatisfying, only getting 5 points of Lay on Hands and likely 2-3 uses of Divine Sense, so this is a dip more easily taken when starting a game at a higher level. If you take three levels, a highly recommended Oath is Vengeance, which will let you gain advantage on all attacks against one creature, once per short rest.
Ranger (1) – A similar story to Paladin, with you needing at least two levels to get real value but with less value there, at least Wisdom is an easier cost to pay than Charisma. There’s a decent selection of Fighting Styles on offer, and you can get some use out of Cure Wounds, Longstrider, and some utility spells but there doesn’t feel to be enough to warrant two levels. If you want to go three levels deep it can actually be very rewarding as the Ranger relies on subclasses for damage. Great choices here include the Gloomstalker for a bevy of benefits including an additional attack with bonus damage on the first round of every combat and the Swarmkeeper that offers the choice of damage or control. Overall more of a 1.5 than a flat 1.
Rogue (4) – You’ll likely qualify for this dip without having to purposefully do so, and there’s a significant amount of benefit for relatively little cost. You will lose two hit points per Rogue level you take and have to use a finesse weapon, but this is not an issue if you want to use two weapon fighting or sword and shield rather than a heavy weapon. The primary benefit you will get from Rogue is the Sneak Attack damage, which you can do reliably with the help of Reckless Attack, and Expertise if you intend to shove or grapple frequently. If you are okay taking a heavy dip into this class then 5th level will give you Uncanny Dodge, allowing you to halve damage you take from an attack, combined with Rage resistance this means you would only take a quarter of the original damage. For example, if you were hit for 67 damage by the BBEG, you’d actually only take 16! It’s not recommended to go further than 5 levels, with Swashbuckler being a recommended subclass for making Sneak Attack even easier to use.
Sorcerer (2) – This is a dip to avoid for the most part needing Cha as a prerequisite and primarily offering a large number of cantrips and a couple of 1st level spells. When looking at a Sorcerer dip you are primarily picking based on the subclass abilities That are offered, only two of which are recommended for a Barbarian: the Divine Soul’s Favored by the Gods which acts as either an offensive or defensive buff, and the Clockwork Soul’s Restore Balance which allows you to cancel out advantage or disadvantage with a reaction and scales with your proficiency bonus. These abilities are very potent and useful, just remember that you will be losing 3 hit points for this dip, no more than one level is recommended.
Warlock (3) – At first glance, this is a similar story to the Sorcerer, as you need Cha and just get spellcasting from the main class itself. However, you’ll gain access to Armor of Agathys which is fantastic for a Barbarian, in addition to a subclass ability. If you are willing to take a second level Eldritch Invocations open up a lot of potential benefits, including at-will temporary hit points from Fiendish Vigor and the ability to see through magical and nonmagical darkness within 120ft with Devil’s Sight. For your Otherworldly Patron, there are a few options that work well with a Barbarian but particular recommendations are: The Genie would give you a damage bonus to one attack per turn equal to your proficiency bonus and a safe place for you to rest or store items, the Celestial provides you with a small pool of bonus action healing to use on yourself or your allies, and the Hexblade gives you all of the benefits of Hexblade’s Curse (additional damage, an expanded critical hit range, and a small heal if the creature dies). Only two levels are generally recommended for a Barbarian, but it is worth noting the significant endurance that can come from combining the Celestial patron, with the Pact of the Chain and the Gift of the Ever-Living Ones invocation to maximize the bonus action regeneration Healing Light provides.
Wizard (1) – A multiclass to be avoided in general between its d6 Hit Die, Int requirement, and only spellcasting as a benefit from the first level. If you are interested in certain spells from the Wizard list you would be best looking to see if you can get those spells from other classes, like the Sorcerer, or feats, unless you are interested in having a higher Intelligence for roleplay reasons. If you do take two levels in the class the War Magic subclass is easily the best choice for you, giving you a small bonus to initiative and Arcane Deflection. The downsides normally associated with Arcane Deflection won’t affect you as you won’t be casting spells, but +2 to your AC or +4 to a saving throw is a fantastic at-will defense.
Are you feeling the burn or have you booked your first anger management session? If you enjoyed this guide and found it helpful, comment below, and check out our other class guides. Until next time, may your crits be brutal and your battle roar super Saiyanesque.