Barbarian - Background/Theme or Class?

How would you like the barbarian implemented in 5E?

  • There should be a barbarian background and a berserker theme - the should not be a barbarian class

    Votes: 54 47.8%
  • The barbarian should be its own class with related backgrounds for other classes

    Votes: 48 42.5%
  • Other - Explained in the thread

    Votes: 11 9.7%


First Post
Would you like to see the barbarian in 5E handled as a class, or would you like the theme of the barbarian stripped down into a theme and class? There's a number of points for each side.

As a background, you could have barbarian fighters, rogues, sorcerers, druids and whatever class you felt like. You'd get the training in the skills you'd expect a barbarian to have, and some neat background ability to give you the flavor of an uncivilized character, like Uncanny Dodge from previous editions or something similar. As for the theme, which would probably be called "Berserker", you'd get the archetypical rage abilities of the barbarian, usable for a multitude of classes. You could have a fighter, ranger or even a paladin that can go into a state of fury that would grant increased offensive combat abilities at the cost of your defense. The barbarian would be who you are, and not necessarily what you do. Not every barbarian would have to be a character who enters a rage on a regular basis, but it would reflect your primal background. For those that wanted the ability to rage, you could take a theme to do so.

As a class, you could have a well sculpted version of the archetypical barbarian, with rage abilities and some of the more primal utility stuff, but the upside would be picking themes and backgrounds to fluff out your character. You could be a barbarian with the slayer or lurker theme, and choose from various backgrounds that would probably make the barbarian a bit more "global". You could have a barbarian with the commoner background and the slayer theme, for example, to represent a character who's got a primal nature but civilized roots, for example. A barbarian wouldn't be where you were from or how you were raised, but something you were born with and the primal powers you'd have developed over time. You could also have backgrounds to serve other classes such as "primal" or "savage", but the rage ability would still be inherently the barbarian thing to do.

Personally, I'd prefer the background/theme approach. I'd like to be able to create characters that enter some sort of state of rage without having to take the barbarian class. A paladin entering a state of holy fury, a ranger embracing his bestial side or just a fighter that gets really, really angry! I'd also like to be able to create a character that has a barbarian background but is a bit more reserved than your typical enraged barbarian. A barbarian ranger sharpshooter who served as a tracker for his tribe, or the barbarian sorcerer who had mystical powers and lived as a hermit.

I know we've had a lot of "should this class be a class or a theme/background", such as for the paladin and the ranger, but I think the barbarian doesn't have enough of a niche over the fighter to warrant his own class. Please share your thoughts.

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Falling Icicle

The barbarian has never made sense to me as a class. Barbarians are a type of culture and upbringing. Why wouldn't a druid, ranger, shaman, fighter or any other character raised in the wilderness as part of a tribe be considered a barbarian? And what does going into a berserker rage have to do with being a barbarian anyway?

That, and barbarians really didn't have much of a niche. They were just fighters with d12 HD and rage. Rangers and Paladins at least had a great deal of distinguishing features, barbarians never did.

I think barbarians make much more sense as a background, and the concept of the raging fighter works better as a theme.

[Edit] If they do have a "barbarian" class, I really hope that they rename it to "berserker" or something else.
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First Post
Prefer it as a class. As a theme it means that any barbarian character is going to come with the mechanical baggage of the base class, and it also means that you can't have for example a barbarian slayer. Make it a class, with some associated themes that other classes can use to make barbarian-like builds, and I think everyone is richer for it.

Gold Roger

First Post
The barbarian needs more than just the rage ability and some sort of raging should be available for every class (spellraging wizards ftw).

That said, when the question comes up wether a class that was in an initial PHB should be a background/theme or a class, I'll always vote class.


First Post
I'm a little biased perhaps-just having completed a substantial rewrite of the barbarian during my houserule consolidation project. Barbarian seems like a classic to D&D. It's hard for me to see the fighter accomodating the concept. Then again, I can definitely see the philosophical argument as to why "barbarian" is a background, not a career, and as to why the berserker is just part of the fighter and/or ranger.

I'm going to cop out and say both. Make a barbarian class, but also make a savage background, and a theme that includes berserk rage.


First Post
Im for background + Bezerker theme.

That said, I just got through accepting that people really want ranger and paladin as a class. I dont necessarily agree, but I accept the concensus.

Now, if I accept that paladin and ranger are classes, how can I not accept the same for the barbarian?


First Post
I've actually always liked the barbarian class. I just hate the name of the class. Bezerker fits so much better. Barbarian is a type of society not a class. Change the name and I'm ok with the class.


Barbarians go into a rage which boosts their combat abilities. And that's kind of it. Unless the barbarian gets something that sets it apart from other combat classes (like in 4e with the Primal Melee Striker gig), it feels like a real waste to make it a class. One ability doesn't make a good class, no matter how much fluff you add to it. It would also be far more interesting to build a theme with a rage ability that could be applied to multiple classes. I'd love to see a battleraging wizard or rogue.


Ideally, Barbarian background and Berserker theme... or even subclass. All I really care about is that there shouldn't be a class called "Barbarian." It would be fine if the base Fighter was the "skilled, trained weapon combatant" and there was a subclass for the "unskilled, untrained, but powerful, melee fighter."

Just don't call it Barbarian.


Definitely not a Background - there should be MANY barbaric BGs. That is where you could distinguish different tribes or even cultures. This barbarian word gets associated with complete savages and ferals, to tribal folk, right through to Viking-like cultures. Heaps of room there for many BGs.

AS for themes. What are the main things Barbarians have? Rage and higher HPs. I could see a Rager and 'Tank' as 2 separate themes (but then if the Barbarian is not a class, then access to both might be difficult, which doesn't bother me any).

Raging barbarians should no have to be part of every barbaric/wild type of character. So I guess theme and BG for me.

Though I certainly would not be upset if it stays a class with the ability to build different types of barbarians. (Of course Fighters, Rangers, Druids, SHamans, etc hep to do that anyway)?

Barbarian should be a background, because that is what it is. Berserker should be a class or theme or prestige class. Not every barbarian is a berserker, annoys the hell out of me the class name.

However not going to happen since the Barbarian class has been in since UA, Barbarian will be a raging class :(

Jeff Carlsen

If the barbarian were being introduced today, I'd definitely say a background and theme. But it's not, so it should be designed as a class first. If that falls apart, then there's the better alternative.

WotC has already hinted that all classes that have ever been in a PHB will be making a comeback in the new edition. I'm not sure if that will change or not, but it's worth noting.

With that being said, I'm with the Barbarian Background/Beserker Class crowd. A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.


I'd like "Barbarian" to be a background.

I voted for it to be a class, though. I want them to pull a "Thief" and change its name into something more accurate. Battlerager, berzerker, whatever.. Just not Barbarian (since a barbarian can be many things, not just a berzerker).


First Post
There is this Lego table-top game for kids called Heroica, and even they saw the need to have a Barbarian character. Barbarian, even though it is so similar to other classes, is a staple of the fantasy genre, and thus deserves it's place as a full-class.

While I'm on the topic of 'dose X deserve to be a class or a background/theme' I personally don't see a reason why we can have both for every class. All classes have a thing, even if it's something small, that captures the idea of that class as a whole. Then there are other things, which are common but not exactly set in stone to be a part of that class. Let's use Barbarian as an example. When I think Barbarian, I think lightly armored warrior who can 'rage' to to things not normally physically possible, or just rip dudes apart. This is what makes up the barbarian class, but what of the other elements common to the class; Connection to primal spirits, untrained warrior, or warrior from a primitive clan. These things are ofter forced on to the class, but don't always fit the character, and characters of other classes could use these elements, and thus should be background/themes. Heck, we could even have a theme that gives the user a simpler rage like ability that would still be useful to caster types.

One last side note, I like what Pathfinder did with Barbarians, or at least the rage mechanic, and could see something similar being used to flesh out 5E Barbarians to being more than "I get angry and smash things So many times per day".


Savage Background
Barbarian class
Berserker theme

Knight background
Paladin class
Crusader theme

Survivor background
Ranger class
Hunter theme

Troubadour background
Bard class
Leader theme

Naturalist background
Druid class
Beast theme

Ascetic background
Monk class
Brawler theme

Ya dig?


I really liked the 4e Barbarian, giving the class a more Primal feel. It allowed the Barbarian to exist with the "Battleraging" Fighter, and give it a more distinct identity than "raging fighter". So, chalk me up as another voting for "all of the above", I want a class, theme and background.


First Post
I voted Other.

Barbarian is the very definition of a background. It's a cultural label, not a career or fighting style.

The mechanics traditionally associated with the Barbarian class in D&D need a new name (Berzerker being a popular choice), but I think they'd work better as a class than as a theme, so there wasn't a poll option that fit.

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