Hello adventurers! Welcome to my spellbook and thank you so much for checking out the first ever class guide we’re doing. Heck yeah! We’re gonna be starting out with the barbarian here and a lot of you are probably going to ask why don’t i start with the artificer. There’s a couple reasons for this, firstly i feel like the vast majority of people who are going to be reading this are going to be relatively new to dnd or at least new to these classes in particular, so for that reason i’d rather start out with the simpler ones that way as we progress they can kind of get accustomed to it.
Also i’d rather start out with the ones that are in the players handbook, just so people don’t feel pressured to get additional books and spend extra money for classes that they might not like playing just because they haven’t read the full series you know what i mean. Also you know the artificer is a relatively complicated class all things considered and i’d rather do a lot more research on it before i seak on it and also with tasha’s cauldron of everything coming out pretty soon here.
I’d rather wait till after that books out and see what changes they did to their spell list and kind of go from there. In any case we’re talking about the Barbarian for today and honestly i’m really surprised, i can honestly say i haven’t played a barbarian before not because i dislike them or anything to do with that but more so because i typically just don’t play martial classes. I’ve almost always been a spellcaster in almost any RPG i’ve played, tabletop or even digital like video games i’m almost always a caster when it’s available so i haven’t really delved into them before.
But let me tell you after really looking at them…god damn are they impressive. Honestly, insanely impressive. A lot of the subclasses as well just so much flavor and utility. I’m probably going to play a barbarian into my next game to be honest. It would worth just going over the quick build recommendation before we dive into it. So put your highest ability score in strength followed by constitution as a second and choose outlander as your background.
That’ll set most people up, certainly most new players as you get more comfortable with the backgrounds and the playstyle you want. Then you can kind of branch out from there. I got some interesting thoughts at the end for you guys but without further ado let’s get started. So let’s just quickly go over how your class chart looks and just talk about it a little bit.
Table of Contents
So along the far left hand column you’ll see your level, to the right of that your corresponding proficiency bonus. Now if you’re brand new to d&d…whenever you’re proficienct something you add this bonus to it. Helps you consistently roll a little bit higher in that area and as you progress in levels that number will get higher starting out as +2 and then working your way up to +6. This chart will be at the beginning of every class i’m not gonna get too too deep into the chart here but to the right of that you have what class features you get for the corresponding levels to the right of that you have it kind of varies from class to class in the casters it’s your spell slots or sorcery points and then to the right of that whatever else pertains to your class.
In the barbarians case its rages and then your rage damage which is extra damage you get when you crit. The barbarians in case you don’t know are all about taking and dealing massive amounts of damage. Various subclasses have various other niche roles for them but for the most part that’s kind of the barbarian in a nutshell. Now let’s move on to their hit points.
The barbarins have access to the D12 for their hit points. Making them have the largest hit point pool in general out of any other class which is really cool and really goes to refine their tankiness. Your hit points at first level is 12+your constitution modifier and at higher levels it’s 1d12 or an average of 7 plus your con modifier per barbarian level after first. Which is really, i don’t know every class is basically like that only with smaller hit dices as i mentioned earlier. But it’s really neat. Now moving on to proficiencies.
They are proficient in light armor, medium armor and shields. Under weapons they’re proficient with simple weapons and martial weapons and i’ll show you those in a little bit here. Under tools they don’t get any because they’re not really built to be artisans. You can of course get access to tool proficiencies through your background and we have a series for that as well. Under saving throws they’re proficienct in strength and constitution saves as you might hope right.
Under skills you can choose two, so animal handling, athletics, intimidation, nature, perception and survival are your options whichever two strikes your fancy or goes with your character got for it. There’s no real wrong choices in this one but just be sure to factor it into the overall kind of build and theme for your character.
Under equipment you get some starting equipment here. So you get either a great axe or any martial weapon. You also get access to two hand axes or any simple weapon. And an explorer’s pack and four javelins. So the first thing you get at level one is your bread and butter as a barbarian you get your rage.
Now how you want to describe the rage and how it plays out thematically…… that’s up to you, you don’t really have to go into a furious temper tantrum. It can be more subtle like in the warforge i want to make, i want him like i want his eyes to turn red and have like lightning shoot across his body. I think it’d be really cool and i have the perfect archetype in mind just saying, i’m sure a lot of you know what it is but or this the perfect subclass in mind if you want to look at it that way but i’ll get into those in later articles so just stick with the series and you’ll figure it out.
But in terms of the rage itself it is a bonus action to activate it and it starts for one minute at least initially you’ll figure out what i mean by that in a little bit here. And it kind of scales with level, so i have this handy dandy little chart for you here pertty cool. So feel free to take a glance at that and your corresponding level and how it relates to how many rages you get and then what the additional damage is.
The effects however are advantage on strength checks and saves. Melee weapon attacks using strength gain a bonus to the damage roll which is pretty cool. Resistance to a bludgeoning piercing and slashing damage, which is huge especially at those early levels just if you’re not already tanky enough now most things you run into those early levels are going to be dealing half damage to you. Fantastic stuff! Absolutely amazing.
Under limitations however you can’t wear heavy armor, it’s just one of those things. You do get interesting armor later on, that’s the next thing we’re going to be talking about but let’s wrap up here. You also can’t cast or concentrate spells while you’re raging. You can however technically smite, a lot of people do that paladin, barbarian, multi-classes are ludicrously popular they work very well together huge amount of synergy.
You can also be wild-shaped and rage. So there’s huge amount of synergy with the druid as well. Very good stuff, very cool! It also ends if you are not unconscious or if your turn ends and you haven’t attacked the hastile creature since your last turn or taken damage since then. So there is some incentive to always be in combat, a lot of the subclasses help out with that hugely but at early levels just make sure you stay in the fray and your rage is reset after a long rest. So bear that in mind you only have a finite amount of them so.
At early levels at least use them when it counts, at later levels there’s ways to extend the duration of your age and at the final level you’re basically always in a rage so it is really cool but just bear in mind resource management is still important for the barbarian. Now let’s talk about their unarmored defense.
This kind of follows the barbarian trope of kind of walking into battle with nothing but your own grit to protect you. So while not wearing armor your AC is 10 plus your dexterity modifier plus your con modifier. This is really great, you should never in my opinion take dexterity as a dump stat ever. Too much relies on it and having poor dexterity if you’re constantly in the fray will likely lead to you failing some very important roles.
So that’s my opinion of course i’ve played characters with poor decks but they always hang back and their spell slingers so well. It makes sense for them and your con modifier abundantly important. So it make sense that as you progress in levels you are gonna get pretty good AC just on its own and this is stackable with the shield as well so if you really need some extra AC that’s how you’re likely gonna get it. I know that’s at level one right raging on armored defense or level one. Now let’s level you up to level two here. You get some cool stuff!
The first one we’re gonna be talking about is a reckless attack. Essentially you can take advantage on strength based melee attacks. Focused on the strength based melee part of that, all right! Made on your turn, however attacks made against you have advantage until your next turn. So it’s one of those high risk, high reward scenarios you take advantage but they also have advantage against you.
I would not recommend doing this if you’re surrounded by a ton of enemies because action economy is likely to really hurt you. That is of course unless you have some item or spell cast on your something to that effect to prevent that from being a huge issue. But just bear in mind action economy is a thing and although you got one you still have a lot of other enemies to worry about. Now let’s move on to the second trait you get at level two and that is danger sense.
Danger sense is pretty cool, it gives you advantage on dexterity saves on effects you can see. This includes spells and traps. And this stacks really well with a warlock and vacation devil’s site which provides you 120 feet of dark vision and the ability to peer through magical darkness. There is a feat in unearthed arcana that i’m going to be talking about in a later article.
That’ll technically get you access to that. It might be worth it depending on your character but a lot of races already have darkvision so i mean who knows right just thought it might be worth bringing up. To gain this benefit you can’t be blinded deafened or incapacitated. Which of course makes sense right you have to be able to see the effect. Now let’s level you up again to a third level now this is where you pick your primal path or your subclass.
Pick a subclass your subclass features are gained at level 3, 6, 10 and 14. Each subclass will be described in a subsequent article so i’m not going to get into them here just be aware they are a thing and they do change up your play style dramatically. They are what makes your barbarian unique to say the least. Now let’s carry on here. The next thing we’re going to be talking about is ability score improvement.
Ability Score Improvement
They happen at levels 4, 8, 12, 16 and 19 so roughly every four levels until the last one there. You can do one of two things such as you can increase one ability score by two or you can increase two ability scores by one. Typically if one’s on the edge of rounding up to higher modifier if you hit that one and push it over the edge. If not you’re probably going to be focusing on a strength and constitution more than anything else. Strength is a very very important things to barbarians so yeah constitution is great to have especially if you’re going to be tankier.
Now there is the feats as well. They are an optional rule almost every DM allows them however so feats are extra abilities and traits you can give yourself at the cost of an ability score improvement, there’s a lot of good ones for barbarians some of them are based around races however like there is one for the dwarves and its dwarven resilience i believe and it lets you roll one of your hit dice to get health back in combat so it’s really super useful especially at later levels.
However you know most DM’s are cool with them, we have a whole series dedicated to all the feats so check that out at your leisure of course and see if any of them strike your fancy, if they don’t there’s nothing wrong with putting it into your abilities scores. Ultimately i don’t know it kind of depends on the campaign but i find increasing ability scores usually serves more of a…it creates more of an all round better character where feats typically serve to add more niche elements.
For example the ritual caster feat is almost aimed at adding magical utility to characters and it’s amost built around the concept of having a party with that’s lacking magical utility so. And the feats you might want might change as your character develops as well but in any case that’s enough talking about ability score improvements. Let’s move on, let’s level you up to level five now.
So you gain an extra attack it’s pretty simple whenever you take the attack action you can attack twice. You can also attack as a bonus action as well although you don’t add your modifiers to it. So just bear that in mind and also at level five you gain access to a Fast movement.
So long as you aren’t wearing heavy armor you gain an extra 10 feet of movement. Which is pretty nice overall, now at level 6 you will gain a one of your primal path features. So tune in to the articles pertaining to those to kind of fill in the blank here. Leveling up again to level seven you’ll gain access to feral instinct.
Feral instinct is really cool, it reminds me of wolverine in a lot of ways and however you want to roleplay this is up to you whether or not you want a role played as having a strong sense of smell like wolverine seems to have or more of just an inert sense. You can like spider-man would be a good example of that you can do that as well. You have advantage on initiative roles is kind of the flat benefit.
However there’s more of an active benefit as well. So so long as you are not incapacitated and enter into a rage you are not affected by surprise rounds. So what this means is is if you’re a caught off guard or if your party’s caught off guard and there’s a surprise around you can make the decision to use your bonus action to rage and you can proceed through that surprise round as usual.
This is really beneficial just simply for action economy reasons, if there’s a lot of enemies and they have a full round to just ravage you. Odds are you’re not making it out of that unscathed. Feral instinct makes that so not only are you in a position to damage or potentially kill one of your enemies but you’re also in a position to position yourself literally you see what i did there.
In a fashion where you are attracting the majority of the aggro and there are some class features that are subclass features rather that really help out with that so. Bear that in mind now let’s level you up again and at level eight in case you don’t remember you just gain another ability score improvement so you can either do one ability score by two or two ability scores by one or pick a feat assuming your DM allows them. Now let’s level you up again to level nine here. We’re about halfway done mish.
So level nine you gain access to brutal critical. Now this is where the barbarian really starts to just turn to a damaged machine. At least a potential damage machine to be fair, so roll one additional weapon damage die when determining the extra damage for a critical hit with a melee attack.
The melee attack component obviously pretty important. At level nine you only gain on one additional dice however at level 13 you gain two and a level 17 you gain three additional dice in addition to what you’re already rolling for a critical hit. So whatever your weapon damage dies is make sure you got a lot of them on hand, if you are a half work as well you get even more and there’s certain multi-classes that’ll just really make this disgusting for lack of a better term.
The paladin smite is a good example of this and as is the assassinatability for the rogue so there’s just a lot of nonsense you can do with this particular feature. Level you up to level 10 and you’ll gain access to one of your primal path abilities. Now let’s level you up to level 11, this is relentless rage.
This is the point where your tankiness is really gonna start to take a more prominent role on the battlefield. This is also the point where stickiness becomes an issue. So when stickness is brought up in dnd land what that means is your ability to attract and maintain agro.
And DMs are constantly accused of avoiding barbarians with mobs and the reason is it gets to a point where the barbarin specializes at soaking and dishing out so much damage that they’re able to compensate for the weaknesses of a lot of the other party members and to be fair that’s their job but a lot of the time it’s difficult for new DM’s in particular to impose a challenge onto the party at that point. So relentless rage works as the following.
If you drop to zero hit points while you’re raging and don’t die outright. You can make a DC 10 CON save, if you succeed, you drop to 1 hit point instead.
So you’re able to maintain in combat even after being dropped to zero. Each time use this feature after the first, the DC increases by 5, resetting to DC 10 after a short or long rest.
So you use it once the DC is 10 you use it again 15 and then again 20 etc etc…by level 11 odds are you have a pretty decent CON modifier so you should be able to succeed hopefully more than once but it’s all up to the luck of the die i suppose. If you are a half ORC you do gain access to an ability that props you up even more. Now let’s take a look at your level 15 ability.
So at level 12 just worth noting you gain access to another ability score improvement so go nuts there. At level 13 your brutal critical dice goes up by one so instead of one you have two now and at 14th level you gain another path feature so once again check out the article corresponding to whatever path you’re on and that’ll help you out there. So level 15 in terms of your core barbarian traits as it were, you gain persistent rage.
This is where your resource management doesn’t really matter. So it depends on how you’re playing but for the most part this is where it becomes less important for sure. So rage only ends if you are unconscious or if you choose to end it. That one minute duration no longer thing.
So if you role play your rage in a way where it kind of doesn’t influence how you act too too much. There’s no real reason not to be raging at least not by raw right. So this topic gets brought up a decent amount, maybe it’s more of a misconception than anything else but it’s going to be worth putting a fine point on this, there’s no reason to role-play rage as aggressive. I get its name implies that in a literal sense but rage for you so like the path of the zealot barbarian is the example i’m gonna use.
The rage for you might be divine protection or it might be like a moment of almost enlightenment i guess you could phrase it as so in that case when you gain persistent rage you’re in a state of constant enlightenment and a more silly example is where bruce banner in that like kind of meme worthy moment, everyone’s like well what’s your secret he’s like i’m always that’s my secret, i’m always angry or something to that effect.
It could be done either way but it’s just don’t be that jerk at the table that’s always yelling is what i’m trying to say, i see that a lot in adventures league and it’s not, it’s funny for the first bit but it gets boring pretty quick at least i don’t know maybe i’m just desensitized to it, it’s hard to say. Let’s move on in any case.
So moving on to level 16 here you’re gonna hit this gap where not a lot happens for a couple levels. So level 16 rolls around it’s just another ability score improvement and level 17 is just another brutal critical. So now you’re up to three dice for brutal critical. Now at level 18 you’re kind of getting to almost god to your level in terms of power you gain indomitablemight.
So if your total score for a strength check is less than your strength score, you can use that score in place of the total. So what this means is let’s say this point you have a 20 in strength and most of you will probably be around there and you requested to make a strength check for like lifting a boulder and you roll a natural one, you can just be like no you know actually it’s a 20 because my strength scores are 20. That’s about it, there’s no limit on how many times you can do this, so you’re not quite god tier in terms of strength of course but you are transcending almost every mortal you’re gonna come across in terms of strength.
I don’t know abuse it at your own priviliege after 18 levels you know, you’ve earned it god damn it you’ve earned it. And at level 19 you just get another ability score improvement and level 20 is primal champion. This is kind of the end-all be-all when it comes to barbarians level 20.
It’s not super exciting either for them, your strength and constitution score increases by four to a maximum of 24. So odds are if you weren’t are yet 20 or above in one of them you are now kind of at least up there you have to be unless you’re making like a gish character or something to that effect. That’s pretty much it when it comes to barbarians. Let me share some personal thoughts.
So the barbarian class is one of the simpler ones to play. It’s a really good introductory one for a lot of beginners and it scales really nicely as you level. It takes very kindly to magical equipment and it’s just naturally rugged and tough and performs well at virtually every level and it has a very consistent growth curve to it, which is nice.
At higher levels its damage potential is really impressive. There’s ways to make it even more ridiculous by incorporating magic and other classes ability but just being a straight level 20 barbarian puts you in a class leagues above most of the creatures you’re going to be running into at that point and if you’ve been playing with a party for a long duration of time, odds are you ever you’ve already adapted to combating each other’s weaknesses and so forth.
That being said, there are certainly ways to take down barbarians relatively easily and this is the best way to address the stickiness kind of complaint regarding them. It’s very rare for barbarians to have much in the way of magic resistance, some of the subclasses do but for the most part it’s kind of the last thing they’re built for right!
They’re pridominantly built to soak in physical damage and they are often at least from what i’ve seen it’s more common than not for them to have intelligence as a dump stat. So if you can attack that intelligence score as opposed to attacking them outright that’s another easy way of doing it. There’s a lot of illited enemies that would do that just fine and some of them are relatively low CRs you could just bog them down with a mob.
However i’m kind of against targeting individual characters, but you can make sense in the progression of the total story by having the bbeg get sick and tired of the barbarian just throwing goon after goon into just the dirt and eventually they get crafty enough and come up with something like a potion that inverts their strength and intelligence so they’re ludicrously smart but just a feebly weak and then the party has to go in a quest line and stuff like that or it’s just a temporary potion that removes them from a fight or two or makes them pursue the fight in a different way.
Really cool stuff! Because i know you’re gonna ask, in terms of best and worst multi-classing you know i’d probably avoid the full casters in terms of multi-classing into them just because of that concentration restraint over your rage right!
That being said, if you’re looking at a lot of the half casters it works really really well. The only exception to the full casters might be the druid actually and even then you’re going to want to focus primarily on wild shapes so, take that with a grain of salt. However i find the paladin multi-class to be incredibly effective same with the assassin multi-class very very effective and the assassin one works well with unarmored defense as well so to bear that in mind. In addition the champion fighter with their expanded crit range is very very lucrative. Especially if you are using a larger weapon size and getting something like a d12 of damage. Very impressive stuff there!
That being said, let me know what you think of the barbarian down beneath in the comment section. This is probably the longest article on my website by a long shot, so if you’ve stuck with it this far my god man! good on you seriously you are one hell of an adventurer. That being said, let me know what you think down beneath, mention any thoughts, questions, comments, concerns, ideas, build concepts or cool stories involving the barbarian. Happy adventuring everyone.