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D&D 5E [Guide] How to Win Fights and Intimidate People (Another Barbarian Primer)

Frankie1969

Explorer
How to Win Fights and Intimidate People
(Another Barbarian Primer)

based on Jell_Moo's Guide
Latest update: 2020-Nov: Tasha's Cauldron.


Contents:

1: Introduction, Ability Scores, Races, Skills
2: Class Features, Primal Paths
3: Weapons & Feats, Multiclassing, Unearthed Arcana



Introduction:
Let's start with some fighting words: Barbarian is often compared to Fighter. Both are usually(*) martial melee combatants based on Str & Con. Both are often expected to hold the front line of battle as a "tank", trading blows with enemies that would love to reach your squishy ranged ally a few steps away.

(*) "usually" = Yes, there are lots of builds, but this is the most common. Barbarians don't put up with smarty-pants whining about counter-examples.

One big difference is that Barbarians are reliable. Whether you talk to spirits, or to gods, or just to yourself, when combat starts you charge in there and hit really hard. But Fighters? They're all over the place. A few fight almost as hard as Barbarians, but many dance around with fancy footwork, others are literally part Wizard, and some even stand in the back with bows. Bah! How can you call that "fighting"?

Here's the colors you see in every guide:
  • Sky Blue = Top dog. Don't overdo this in a low-op game.
  • Blue = A very strong choice.
  • Black = Playable, but usually not optimal.
  • Purple = More limited than other options.
  • Red = If you have to ask, don't take this.


Ability Scores:
Unlike other melee classes, Barbarian isn't designed for a Dex-only option. You need Str, followed by Con, and then also some Dex.

Str: Half of your job is hitting things with Str. You want to max this.
Dex: 3rd choice. Try to get 14 Dex, or more if unarmored.
Con: Taking hits is the other half. Absolutely vital if unarmored.
Int: Conan the Librarian is not in this guide. Dump Int.
Wis: Helps with Perception and most mental saves.
Cha: Only for Intimidation, and Berserker's level 10 feature.


PHB Races:

Hill and Mountain Dwarf: Con is solid; darkvision and poison resistance are pluses. Mountain's double +2 stats are the best in the game for Barbarian, even though the armor feature is wasted. Hill's built-in half-Toughness is great, but the lack of Str bonus knocks it down a notch.
Drow, High and Wood Elf: Elves lack both Str & Con boosts, but they have some utility. Dex isn't bad, Darkvision is a plus, advantage vs charm is decent, and Perception means an extra class skill. Wood's speed & hiding are a better fit than High or Drow spellcasting.
Lightfoot and Stout Halfling: Dex is okay, but small size is a big hurdle; heavy weapon builds are out. Stout's Con boost and poison resistance are good, but Dwarf does those things better.
Standard and Variant Human: As with every class, Standard's stat boost can get you triple 16s in point buy (but nothing else) whereas Variant's 1st level feat completely changes the early game. (WotC dropped the ball; Standard should at least get the extra skill.)
Dragonborn: Str is great and element resistance isn't bad. AoE breath (with Con-based DC) is useful at low level, but it doesn't scale well.
Gnome: Same problems as Halfling with worse stats. Either Dex or Con is useful, but Int is wasted. The only interesting feature is advantage against "save or suck" spells that many Barbarians can't handle.
Half-Elf: This gets very little play, but versatile stats (+1 Str & Con for you) and two extra skills add up to a capable "party face" build. (IMO, Half-Elf deserves a nerf in 5.5.)
Half-Orc: The most-played Barbarian race in the PHB. Everything lines up perfectly: Str & Con, Darkvision, Savage Attacks for more damage, and Relentless Endurance is a free use of a feature that other Barbarians don't get until level 11.
Tiefling: Neither stat boost is good, and you can't cast while raging. Fire resistance is nice, but Dragonborn can do that plus better stats and a more usable ability.

Splatbook Races (Volo, Mordenkainen):

Fallen, Protector, or Scourge Aasimar: Simple math: races with +2 Cha shouldn't be good at Barbarian. Fallen is the least bad with a Str boost. At least Healing Hands isn't a spell.
Bugbear: Str/Dex, Darkvision, REACH, Stealth, and surprise damage. Your Con won't be the best, but other than that Bugbear is a brutally capable Barbarian.
Duergar Dwarf: Con/Str, and partial magic resistance are excellent, but Sunlight Sensititivity can be a problem. Top tier for an Underdark campaign; not good for trekking across open plains in summertime.
Eladrin, Sea, or Shadar-Kai Elf: Fey Step isn't a spell. Dex/Cha Eladrin is sub-par, but Dex/Con Sea Elf & Shadar-Kai are reasonable. Shadar-Kai's damage resistances lose value due to Rage. Sea Elf easily rates blue for a water-heavy campaign.
Firbolg: Anything with an Str boost is workable. Hidden Step is usable during Rage, and talking to nature might help once in a while.
Githyanki and Githzerai: Githyanki has Str boost and a skill. Githzerai doesn't offer much for barbarians.
Deep Gnome: same problems as other Gnomes.
Goblin: same stats, same size, same issues as Stout Halfling.
Goliath: Str & Con together is always great for Barbarian. Athletics, occasional damage reduction, and other features all make sense too. Goliath is the #1 choice at low level, but Stone's Endurance doesn't scale. Perfect for a short first-tier campaign.
Hobgoblin: Con/Int is mediocre and Martial Training is wasted. Saving Face is okay.
Kenku: another Dex/Wis race not as good as Wood Elf. Trickery skills are not a Barbarian thing.
Kobold: Str reduction, small size, sunlight sensitivity, and literal groveling as a racial feature. You'd be better off as a raceless generic humanoid.
Lizardfolk: Con boost is worth looking at. Hungry Jaws, two bonus skills, and various niche features make a solid package. Would be sky blue with a point of Str, or if Natural Armor stacked with Unarmored Defense (it doesn't).
Orc: the right stats, but clearly inferior to Half-Orc. Various Primal Path features offer better movement abilities.
Tabaxi: Dex/Cha isn't great, but Darkvision, two skills, climbing, claws, and a speed boost make these cats about equal to Wood Elf.
Infernal Tiefling: Zariel with Str boost is worth considering.
Triton: Str, Con, cold resistance, and darkvision are nice. The spellcasting isn't great, but I'd easily pick Triton ahead of Water Genasi for a sea campaign.
Yuan-Ti: same problems as standard Tiefling, but overpowered magic resistance and poison immunity makes them workable.

Worldbook & Adventure Races (Sword Coast, Eberron, Elemental Evil, Ravnica, Theros, packages)

Aarakocra: The sole reason to consider Aarakocra: do you want to fly really fast unarmored?
Centaur: Str/Wis, speed increase, hoof attack, charge, and a skill makes for a solid skirmisher build.
Changeling: Cha & disguise aren't your thing. A floating stat boost & skills are usable.
Air, Earth, Fire, and Water Genasi: Other than Con boost, Genasi features aren't as good as most races. Earth is the best of the bunch; the other three only make sense if you know the campaign will focus on that element.
Grung: Dex/Con and poison immunity are decent, but small size and water dependency are big drawbacks. Poisonous skin is okay at low levels but doesn't scale.
Variant Half-Elf: none of the options are as useful as two skills. Stick with standard.
Ghostwise Halfling: same problems as Lightfoot.
Kalashtar: Wis/Cha isn't much use, but Wis advantage & psychic resistance covers the weakness gaps of Bear Totem.
Leonin: Str/Con, darkvision, claws, a skill, and a fearsome roar. Lions are natural born barbarians.
Loxodon: Con/Wis, fear resistance, and a bunch of niche features. The trunk could help a grappler build.
Minotaur: Str/Con, horns with two different bonus action attacks, and Intimidation. Ideal for a great weapon Ancestral Guardian, which doesn't come with bonus actions.
Satyr: Cha/Dex & Cha skills aren't great, but magic resistance, head butts, and jumping are playable.
Beasthide, Longtooth, Swiftstride, and Wildhunt Shifter: THP that scales nicely. Each subrace has some useful features, but Beasthide is the best fit; its AC bonus stacks with Barbarian. Wildhunt deserves special mention because it almost negates the disadvantage of Reckless Attack.
Simic Hybrid: Con & a floating boost (aka Str), darkvision, a movement mode, and later a body enhancement adds up to at least blue, maybe sky blue? Carapace stacks with any of your armor options.
Feral and Winged Tiefling: Dex boost is better than Cha. Trading spells for flight is a nice step up.
Tortle: Str/Wis, built-in Mithral Splint Mail, and some outdoorsy features make a decent package.
Vedalken: no useful stats; advantage on mental saves is the only useful feature.
Warforged: Con, construct benefits, armor boost, and other useful features. The ERLW version is strong but within reason; the WGtE version is clearly overpowered, if you like that sort of thing.

Unearthed Arcana & Planeshift Races:

Aereni or Valenar Elf: For your purposes, Aereni variant Wood Elf is PHB plus a bonus skill with expertise.
Aetherborn: same stats as Half-Elf and comparable features, works for an Intimidation build.
Ibis and Hawk Aven: Dex is okay, but you're here for the flying. Hawk Perception boost is useful, Ibis Int skill isn't.
Dwarf or Elf variants: mostly the same as Hill Dwarf or Wood Elf.
Ixalan and Zendikar Goblin: Ixalan offers very little; Zendikar's Con & resistances almost make up for small size.
Innistrad Human: Gavony is standard, Kessig is mobile, Nephalia is brainy, Stensia is tough.
Khenra: Dex/Str is decent, plus either fear immunity or a situational version of Halfling Lucky, but nothing else.
Kor: Dex/Wis with useful skills, plus Lucky & Brave from Halfling.
Merfolk: wrong stat boosts and spellcasting.
Naga: Con boost, constrict, poison and poison immunity.
Siren: the only redeeming feature is flying.
Abyssal Tiefling: Abyssal's Con & HP boost make it less bad than standard.
Ixalan and Zendikar Vampire: basically Tiefling, but Blood Thirst (free healing) is better than spells.
Viashino: Dex/Str, natural attack as a reaction, and a useful skill. I'd play that.

Tasha's Custom Races:

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything offers a straightforward but radical option: with DM approval, any race can rearrange ability score boosts. Many subraces move up in the rankings when given a Strength bonus. The following deserve special note:
  • Hill Dwarf barbarian gets the highest HP of any PC.
  • Half-Elf or Triton can get triple 16 Str/Dex/Con in point buy.
  • Protector & Scourge Aasimar shine brightly.
  • Lizardfolk or Tabaxi offer skills and special features.
  • Aarakocra or Winged Tiefling bring raging death from above.
  • Kalashtar bear totem is resistant to all damage and difficult to charm.
  • Satyr or Yuan-Ti magic resistance and other features are strong.
  • Wildhunt Shifter rises to sky blue.


Class Skills:
Like most classes, Barbarian doesn't come with the tools to be a skill monkey (but variant features can change that). You're most effective when your handful of skills mesh well with the rest of the party, filling gaps where needed.

Animal Handling: Party dependent, and often replaced by a couple 1st level spells.
Athletics: Your strong suit, used for shove & grapple attacks. Bring a rope when you jump/climb/swim so your party can follow.
Intimidation: Cha isn't your forte. Better if your DM uses Variant: Skills with Different Abilities.
Nature: Int is your dump stat.
Perception: Important enough for multiple characters to have.
Survival: Dependent on party composition and DM preference.

Non-Class Skills:

Acrobatics: Less important than Athletics.
Arcana: Int skill that someone else should cover.
Deception: Others in your group are probably better at this.
History: Another Int skill that someone else should cover.
Insight: In social situations, almost as helpful as Perception.
Investigation: You aren't Sherlock Holmes, but this helps against illusions.
Medicine: Int skill, and partly covered by 5gp of equipment.
Performance: Mostly just for roleplay purposes.
Persuasion: Others in your group are probably better at this.
Religion: Another Int skill that someone else should cover.
Sleight of Hand: Maybe take this if no one else does.
Stealth: A party can never have too much stealth. Less useful if you wear bulky armor.

Backgrounds:

Always remember that Customizing A Background is a full-fledged non-variant core rule (PHB page 125, A.L. legal). You should be able to find choices that fit your build, your fluff, and your party at the same time. But if not, talk to your DM and work it out (this is also a core rule, PHB page 126).
 
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Frankie1969

Explorer
Barbarian Guide, Part 2
I'm finally seeing how upper-tier barbarian features work, and it isn't good. The capstone is powerful, but it probably isn't worth staying single class to get there. See the mutli-class options in part 3.


Class Features:

Hit Dice: What is best in life? D12 is literally the best life in the game.
Armor & Weapon Proficiencies: Everything except heavy armor (which you don't want anyways).
Other Proficiencies: You get two skills, like most classes.

Rage: The defining Barbarian feature that other melee classes can't match. The damage bonus is okay, but the real benefit is resistance to physical damage types (including non-weapon damage). Laugh while trading hits with bad guys. Last, advantage on Strength checks & saves can be helpful, particularly with shoving or grappling. However, Rage has drawbacks:
  1. It only lasts 1 minute, and you only regain uses of Rage after a long rest. Don't waste a rage at the wrong time, especially at low level.
  2. Until level 15, Rage ends if you spend a single turn without attacking or taking damage, so pay attention to battlefield position. Have a throwable weapon handy for times when the next foe is more than a move away; hit or miss, it'll keep the adrenaline flowing.
  3. Damage bonus is only for Str-based melee attacks, not Dex-based or ranged attacks.
  4. No heavy armor.
  5. No spellcasting, or concentration on spells already cast.
Unarmored Defense: Wear your Con modifier instead of armor. Assuming your Dex is 14+, compare (Con mod)+(Dex mod) to (best medium armor available to you)+2, and use whichever one is better. It's not a lifelong decision; you can switch whenever circumstances change. With armor, you'll want to reach 20 Str/14 Dex/14 Con, which any Str-bonus race can do by level 8. Your AC is only 16 in Breastplate or 17 in Half Plate (plus magic items).

Unarmored Defense can beat that AC, but it's stat intensive in Con and Dex. The highest starting stats in point buy are Mountain Dwarf with 17 Str/15 Dex/17 Con (and 8 for Int/Wis/Cha). If you use all 5 ASIs to increase ability scores (aka no feats), a single-class Barbarian can't reach triple 20. Maybe if you roll stats and get lucky. That said, you don't actually need to max it out. Reaching a combined Con+Dex of +7 makes your skin equal to Half Plate, and anything higher is a bonus.

Reckless Attack: Have advantage, give advantage. One on one, damage resistance gives you the edge in this trade, but if you're surrounded, giving advantage to multiple enemies could be dangerous. In any case, it gives enemies incentive to focus on you rather than your teammates.

Danger Sense: Lots of traps & spells are Dex saves, so this is a respectable feature. Advantage is actually better than proficiency, until high levels.

Ability Score Improvement: Given how stat intensive the Barbarian is, you won't have much room for feats, especially if you go unarmored. Fighter gets more of these than you.

Extra Attack: The other big thing that Fighter gets more of.

Fast Movement: Extra speed is a good minor add-on. Some Primal Path options can make you even faster.

Feral Instinct: Higher initiative is always useful, and acting when surprised is a plus. Almost as good as Alert feat.

Brutal Critical: Once you have 2 dice of Brutal (including Half Orc Savage Attacks), d12 Greataxe average damage exceeds 2d6 weapons. (Thanks to @smbakeresq and @mellored for pointing this out.) However, the amount of added damage either way is much too small to be a primary class feature. A brutal critical die rarely does more damage (on average) than a sneak attack die, yet the rogue gets more dice and major class features on top of those dice. WotC must not have done the math.

Relentless Rage: Very helpful if your DM plays really rough and you get dropped to 0 HP frequently, superfluous if not.

Persistent Rage: Remove the drawback about rage ending early. Very useful, considering how many spells and other effects can take you out of the fight for a turn, but you wait a long long time to get it. Note: Rage is still 1 minute per use.

Indomitable Might: Eliminating bad rolls on Str checks is really weak for an 18th level ability. You already have advantage on those when Raging.

Primal Champion: In 5E, each level-up is supposed to be worth about as much as an ASI. This is 4 ASIs at the same time, plus cap increases, plus UNLIMITED RAGE. I must emphasize this: you now have physical damage resistance, Str advantage, and whatever rage boosts you get from your Path, ALL THE TIME. Just stay angry the whole day, every minute like clockwork. One of the best capstones in the game (if you don't count the weak levels it takes to get there).

Barbarian's class features in the early levels fit together and build on each other the way a class should. However, the upper level features are mediocre, and the primal paths don't scale enough.


Primal Paths (Archetypes):
Barbarian subclasses offer ways to specialize in the usual brute role options: striker, meat-shield, or defender. Some of them also provide out-of-combat utility.​

Path of the Berserker (PHB)
Berserker can be the best there is at melee damage, but the drawback (exhaustion) isn't very nice.​
Frenzy: Rage turned up another notch with a bonus action attack (best for two-handed weapons, useless for two-weapon fighting). The damage output sounds amazing... until rage ends and you get a level of exhaustion. Level 1 is disadvantage on ability checks; further levels get worse, but worst is the difficulty to remove it. If a vampire gnaws you down to 1 HP, either a long rest or Greater Restoration will fix you up, but those only cure a single level of exhaustion. Using Frenzy more than once per day will wreck your effectiveness.
Mindless Rage: Rage-induced immunity to charm & fear. The key value here is not that fear is such a scary condition on its own, but because a lot of enchantments with those effects can take you out of combat for a round or two, meaning your rage shuts off.
Intimidating Presence: Flavorful ability, hamstrung by its Cha-based save DC and action use.
Retaliation: Many characters don't use reactions enough. Hitting back is a really good use, and it doesn't require Rage. If your game starts out at high level, this makes Berserker worth playing. Meshes perfectly with Sentinel feat, if you have room for that.

Path of the Totem Warrior (PHB)
Totem warrior has many things to offer. It's much more versatile and reliable than Berserker. Bear, Eagle, & Wolf are in PHB; Elk & Tiger are in SCAG.​
Spirit Seeker: Casting rituals and hanging out with wildlife might be handy once in a while, but it isn't why we're here. Luckily it's just an add-on; your real level 3 feature comes next.
Totem Spirit: Your first animal choice adds a rage effect.
Bear: Straightforward value. Resistance to nearly all damage types effectively doubles your HP vs spells.​
Eagle: Bonus action movement and protection from OAs. Switch-hitting between tank and skirmisher can be useful if your party lacks that role.​
Wolf: Depends entirely on teamwork. Great in a melee-focused party; useless if you're the only front liner.​
Elk: Simple speed increase. I prefer Eagle.
Tiger: Increased jump distance? Very limited compared to the other options.​
Aspect of the Beast: Animal choice #2 gives you a minor always-on boost. IMO none of them are as good as an ASI. Note: you don't have to pick the same animal as before.
Bear: This is only worthwhile if your DM uses harsh encumbrance rules. You can already get Str check advantage with Rage.​
Eagle: Increased sight distance is situational, but the low-light part is valuable if you don't have Darkvision.​
Wolf: Tracking is also situational. Does your party need a substitute Ranger?​
Elk: Double your party's travel pace. Still situational, but refreshingly different.​
Tiger: Two skill proficiencies (from a limited list). Better if your game allows retraining (e.g. Adventurer's League at level 5).​
Spirit Walker: Commune with Nature ought to be a ribbon, but it's all you get at level 10.
Totemic Attunement: Your last animal choice is another rage effect.
Bear: In 4E this was called Defender Aura. Excellent option for "sticky" tanking.​
Eagle: Short hop flying has some situational uses, but it's really weak considering how many classes get permanent flight around this level. (IMO, it should be "flying speed while raging".)
Wolf: Bonus action prone after hitting, guaranteed. A decent teamwork-based effect, but heavily dependent on initiative order. (IMO, 5E should offer initiative delay like 3E & 4E.)​
Elk: Bonus action trample while moving. Not as reliable as Wolf, but added damage and so much flavor.​
Tiger: It's Pounce! With a 40' move speed, you can do this every turn (at the cost of drawing OAs), making your damage output equal to Berserker Frenzy. Works even better with a reach weapon.​

Path of the Ancestral Guardian (XGE)
Dig out your 4E "Marked" tokens; the Defender role is back with a spirit-based flavor (great for RP). It lets you coerce enemy behavior, but the starting feature isn't quite as good as it should be.​
Ancestral Protector: while raging, single target mark that keeps the opponent focused on you. Battlefield control is good, but note that it only works when you hit. (IMO, it should be "first creature you attack in melee" or "each creature you hit".)
Spirit Shield: while raging, reduce damage to an ally as a reaction. The amount is sufficient but not spectacular (2d6 to 4d6). On the bright side, it reduces damage from any source (spells, traps, etc), and most classes don't get to use their reaction this frequently.
Consult the Spirits: Augury or Clairvoyance 1/rest is better than some other Paths at this level, but still mediocre.
Vengeful Ancestors: now your Spirit Shield also deals punishment damage to the attacker, making your reaction more efficient with both carrot and stick.

Path of the Battlerager (SCAG)
Battlerager is a Dwarf archetype beloved since 2E. The 5E version has the right flavor, but it doesn't scale. Okay at low levels, progressively worse at higher levels.​
Battlerager Armor: Spiked scale mail that adds a so-so bonus action attack while raging. Also, 3 automatic damage when you succeed on a grapple. (Why 3?) Ask your DM if magic armor bonus adds to spikes.
Reckless Abandon: It wouldn't be Battlerager without Temporary Hit Points, but Con mod THP when you use Reckless Attack is weak sauce. (Note: in 5E, THP never stack.)
Battlerager Charge: Bonus action Dash while raging. Useful if you aren't in range to spike someone.
Spiked Retribution: Whenever an adjacent enemy hits you while you're raging, you automatically spike them back ... for 3 damage? I guess it could work if you're swarmed by a hundred stirges, but I don't see it mattering against most high level foes.

Path of the Beast (TCE)
Your inner beast becomes your outer beast, and you get to say "were-barian".​
Form of the Beast: When you rage, pick between vampiric bite, swift claws, or long tail. They're good, but lose value as magic weapons get stronger.
Bestial Soul: You pick amphibious, spider climb, or super jump, and can switch after any rest. Very versatile. Also, your beast form weapon counts as magical.
Infectious Fury: Make a creature struck by your beast form weapon save vs either extra damage or a forced team-attack.
Call the Hunt: Give your teammates a d6 damage bonus per turn, and get THP in the process. Extra damage with no action cost isn't bad, but I'd like a little more of it from a level 14 feature.

Path of the Storm Herald (XGE)
This path does one thing: a primal elemental aura based on a chosen environment (Desert, Sea, or Tundra). The good news is that the effects have Con-based save DCs. The bad news is that they aren't very powerful.​
Storm Aura: while raging, 10' aura effect as a bonus action, but not much of it. Flat damage fire aura, single target Dex save lightning, or THP aura for Tundra. Scales slightly, but some other paths do more. IMO, it should have higher damage or bigger aura.
Storm Soul: permanent resistance to your elemental damage type. Also, Sea becomes amphibious, Desert can set fires, Tundra can freeze water.
Shielding Storm: allies in your rage aura gain that resistance too. Okay.
Raging Storm: additional rage aura effects. Desert & Sea each get a minor effect usable as a reaction, Tundra gets a free "save or stop" effect. Okay but not great.

Path of the Zealot (XGE)
Zealot is a wild-eyed religious nutjob. Solid damage output, and I love the flavorful RP. (I'm imagining a medieval "buddy crusader" action comedy with a Zealot & a Paladin. Braveheart & Galahad?).​
Divine Fury: while raging, bonus weapon damage (including ranged if needed). Scales well.
Warrior of the Gods: no gem cost when raising you; a ribbon to encourage an even more recklessness than other barbarians.
Fanatical Focus: Reroll a failed save (like the Fighter feature Indomitable) once per Rage. At 20th level it recharges unlimited times with a bonus action.
Zealous Presence: Coordinate that nova round; the whole party gets advantage for 1 turn per day. Doesn't require rage.
Rage Beyond Death: "You don't die until your rage ends." For 1 minute you're utterly unstoppable by any amount of damage, but you still have to watch out for pesky non-damage effects like charm, banishment, transmutation, etc. Good thing you have Fanatical Focus. Oddly enough, lowly Sleep spell is your nightmare with no saving throw. If your DMs allows consecutive rages to sustain you for multiple minutes, then Epic Zealot is effectively immortal.

Path of Wild Magic (TCE)
Wild Magic Barbarians are less dangerous than Wild Magic Sorcerers, to both friend and foe.​
Magic Awareness: A magic-detecting ability. It's usable during rage, but why? Regular Detect Magic spell would be better.
Wild Surge: Random effects can spice up the game. Unfortunately, these effects are weak, targeted (no friendly fire), and non-scaling.
Bolstering Magic: Either provide a Bless-like effect or refill a d3 spell slot, with limitations.
Unstable Backlash: Reroll your surge as a reaction to being harmed. Sounds about right.
Controlled Surge: You gain advantage on your surge rolls. That would be great, if the options were wilder.
 
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Frankie1969

Explorer
Barbarian Guide, Part 3

Optional Class Features (TCE):
Tasha has two suggested add-on features for Barbarian. (In testing they were replacements for Danger Sense & Fast Movement.)​
Primal Knowledge: You get free bonus skills at 3rd & 10th level. Sure.
Instinctive Pounce: You get a free half move when you enter rage. Useful.


Weapons & Weapon Style Feats:
As we've said already, Barbarians use Str-based melee weapons, and your ASIs are in short supply. There are four main options:
  • Great Weapon (Greataxe, Greatsword, or Maul): This is a classic, straightforward path to high damage. Obviously you want Great Weapon Master feat, using the power attack option when you have advantage (which you can get from Reckless Attack). You can also do this with a pole arm if you prefer having reach.
  • Pole Arm (Glaive/Halberd): Barbarians usually don't have enough feats for this, but the combination of Polearm Master and Sentinel is a 10' meat grinder aura. And then Great Weapon Master on top?
  • Sword & Board (d8 one-hander + shield): Increased AC at a small cost to damage, good for tanking. Shield Master feat is decent, but it costs a bonus action and only after attacking. As with Pole Arm fighting, this can become very effective if you have enough feats, but that "if" is a problem.
  • Two Weapon Fighting (various): This build can offer high damage at levels 1-4, but it requires planning. Barbarians have many options (entering Rage, numerous Path features, etc) that compete with 2WF for bonus actions. You might want Dual Wielder feat and a 1 level dip in Fighter to get Str mod damage on your off-hand weapon. Maximum damage is with any two of the d8 martial weapons. 2WF probably falls behind 2HW once you get Extra Attack.
Other Feats:
These options are mainly for Variant Human; most other Barbarians don't have feats to spare.
  • Alert: A generally good feat, but Feral Instinct already gives you partial surprise protection.
  • Fighting Initiate (TCE): pick up a fighting style without multiclassing.
  • Lucky: Extra rolls in clutch situations make this a useful feat for any character.

Feats That Might Work If You Have One Odd-Numbered Ability Score That Matters (if you have two odd-numbered important stats, use a regular ASI to increase both of them)
  • Resilient - (Dex or Wis) if that save comes up a lot in your game.
  • Crusher: (TCE, Str or Con) if you use blunt weapons and like forced movement.
  • Dragon Fear (XGE, Str or Con, Dragonborn only) AOE fright that lasts a while isn't completely terrible.
  • Orcish Fury- (XGE, Str or Con, Orcish ancestry only) a little bit of extra damage.
  • Piercer: (TCE, Str or Dex) if you use pointy weapons and like re-rolling damage.
  • Skill Expert: (TCE) Expertise in Athletics might be useful.
  • Slasher: (TCE, Str or Dex) if you use edged weapons and like weak slow effects.
  • Squat Nimbleness- (XGE, Str or Dex, Dwarf or small race) a little bit of speed and a skill.
  • Tavern Brawler- (Str or Con) if you really love improv, maybe. Ask your DM if a grappled enemy can be used as a weapon.
The remaining feats are less valuable to you than Ability Score Increase and will not be discussed here. Only take them if you know what you're doing.


Multiclassing:
Like many of the non-caster or half-caster classes, Barbarian is front-loaded and has several weak levels in the teens. As such, it can be stronger to build a multi-class character.​

Barbarian multiclass level recommendations:
  • 1 for Rage, Unarmored Defense, & proficiencies.
  • 2 for Reckless Attack & Danger Sense.
  • 3 for subclass feature. Good stopping point for Fighter multiclass.
  • 5 for Extra Attack.
  • 7 for Feral Instinct. Good stopping point for Rogue multiclass.
Fighter multiclass level recommendations:
  • 1 for Fighting style, Second Wind, & proficiencies.
  • 3 for subclass feature. Battlemaster or Champion are good combos for Barbarian.
  • 5 for Extra Attack.
  • 7 for subclass feature.
  • 11 for Extra Attack 2.
Rogue multiclass level recommendations:
  • 1 for proficiencies, Expertise, & Sneak Attack. Sneak Attack works with a rapier, even using Strength.
  • 2 for Cunning Action.
  • 3 for Sneak Attack 2 & subclass feature. Assassin, Scout, Phantom, or Soulknife are good options.
  • 5 for Sneak Attack 3 & Uncanny Dodge.
Other possibilities:

Ranger: Wis requirement. Ranger is flavorful and has out-of-combat benefits, but Fighter is a more efficient way to get a Fighting Style, and Rogue Scout is a better way to get hunting skills.

Druid: Wis requirement. Less optimized than sticking with single class, but Moon Druid at 2nd level gives you CR1 Wild Shape twice per short rest, which is useful for scouting, worth 37 THP if needed, and lets you say "Bearbearian".

Bard: Cha requirement. Definitely suboptimal, but lets you say "Bardbarian". 3 levels for Lore Bard is a full-fledged skill monkey. Focus on out-of-combat spells, of course.

Cleric: Wis requirement, doesn't offer much for you.
Monk: Wis requirement, you add either Con or Wis to AC, not "and".
Paladin: Cha requirement, not as worthwhile as Fighter or Ranger.
Sorcerer: Cha requirement, casting isn't great for you.
Warlock: Cha requirement, casting isn't great for you.
Wizard: Int requirement, we're done here.


Cecil B Hartley said:
Man was not intended to live like a bear.
 
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smbakeresq

Explorer
Great work so far but if IIRC Brutal Critical is extra damage die, not dice. So a great axe is an extra d12, but a maul or greatsword is only an extra d6. Make sure to add greataxe under weapon options.


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mellored

Explorer
Great work so far but if IIRC Brutal Critical is extra damage die, not dice. So a great axe is an extra d12, but a maul or greatsword is only an extra d6. Make sure to add greataxe under weapon options.
Yes, it's only 1 die.

Assuming reckless attacking...
To-hit: 1-(.35*.35) = .8775
To-Crit: 1-(.95*.95) = .0975


No Brutal critical and the axe loses by 0.14625.
Brutal critical 1 and the axe leads by 0.14625
Brutal critical 2 and the axe leads by 0.43875.
Brutal critical 3 and the axe leads by 0.73125.

But given that the extra damage is on a crit, and likely to overkill, I would personally stick with the maul until level 13 (9 for half-orcs).

Though, it's less than 1 damage either way. So it's not a big deal. Also, and +1 magic weapon would be a much bigger benefit.
 

mellored

Explorer
And without reckless attack.

No brutal critical and the axe loses by 0.175
Brutal critical 1 and the axe loses by 0.025
Brutal critical 2 and the axe wins by 0.125
Brutal critical 3 and the axe wins by 0.275

So yea. I'd wait until level 13.
 


smbakeresq

Explorer
Yes, it's only 1 die.

Assuming reckless attacking...
To-hit: 1-(.35*.35) = .8775
To-Crit: 1-(.95*.95) = .0975


No Brutal critical and the axe loses by 0.14625.
Brutal critical 1 and the axe leads by 0.14625
Brutal critical 2 and the axe leads by 0.43875.
Brutal critical 3 and the axe leads by 0.73125.

But given that the extra damage is on a crit, and likely to overkill, I would personally stick with the maul until level 13 (9 for half-orcs).

Though, it's less than 1 damage either way. So it's not a big deal. Also, and +1 magic weapon would be a much bigger benefit.



Sure, but with that Brutal Crit you can roll that 12 makes you forget all the math. That's more important :cool:
 

MatsuKurisu

First Post
Solid start.
I think you are really undervaluing the flexibility / impact of a grapple or shove prone splash
You are maxing str and rage gives advantage on the athletics checks. Your athletic checks will almost automatically succeed
This adds to the strengths of the sword and board build with minimal extra investment (1 feat)

I have built a Var Human with Shield Mastery, using Axe and Shield.
Need GM game play interpretation on the Bonus Action Shove Prone from Shield Mastery - Can you do this BEFORE your main attack action, if so you are golden :)

(Not played this character yet, however will be my next game)

For most combats you Shove Prone /Attack with Adv and if you need to be sticky you can release one hand (shield or axe depending on situation) and grapple the biggest threat (only needs one hand RAW)

I would expand on the Athletics skill assement to flag its use for Grappling which opens a whole extra dimension of combat for str melee characters
 
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smbakeresq

Explorer
Solid start.
I think you are really undervaluing the flexibility / impact of a grapple or shove prone splash
You are maxing str and rage gives advantage on the athletics checks. Your athletic checks will almost automatically succeed
This adds to the strengths of the sword and board build with minimal extra investment (1 feat)

I have built a Var Human with Shield Mastery, using Axe and Shield.
Need GM game play interpretation on the Bonus Action Shove Prone from Shield Mastery - Can you do this BEFORE your main attack action, if so you are golden :)

(Not played this character yet, however will be my next game)

For most combats you Shove Prone /Attack with Adv and if you need to be sticky you can release one hand (shield or axe depending on situation) and grapple the biggest threat (only needs one hand RAW)

I would expand on the Athletics skill assement to flag its use for Grappling which opens a whole extra dimension of combat for str melee characters

I played a Barb with a shield and hammer with shield master and it was fine. The constant advantage you get is well worth it, with enlarge spell or powerful build if your DM lets you proning huge creatures is now possible.

More importantly it’s FUN. Bashing people around with that Shield as a bonus action is just something neat to do.


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ppaladin123

Adventurer
Something weird going on. I added it...it shows up if you try to edit the post (you'll see it is there in the bullet-ed list) but it doesn't show up on the page otherwise. I looked at the html and there isn't anything obviously wrong there. Maybe @Morrus or [MENTION=6780961]Yunru[/MENTION] can help?
 


The Yellow Sign

First Post
I think it's worth noting that the Tiger totem level 14 ability plays very nicely with polearms: just charge in, make a bonus action attack, and move back without provoking OA's to repeat on your next turn. If you have polearm master, they will likely draw a reaction attack when they pursue you.
 

Frankie1969

Explorer
Now that some time has passed, I'd appreciate hearing people's experiences with the newer Path options. I haven't seen any of them in actual play yet myself.

Also, finally added the rest of the MtG PDF races.
 

FieserMoep

Explorer
Imho I think it may be a bit to much overlapping with the Polearm Feat for you "waste" one of the bonus attacks.
I would suggest mobile instead. The additional speed works as an enabler that may even let us go through some difficult terrain easier and generally stacks nice with our speed while we get a hard AOO counter, no questions asked. If already next to the target you would attack with your multi attack once, move the 20 back without triggering an AOO and 20 forward again, attack with your second attack and then qualify for your bonus attack.
 


Frankie1969

Explorer
Moved Eberron & Ravnica into splatbook races.
Would still appreciate feedback about the newer races & subclasses, which I haven't seen in actual play.
 

El_Jairo24

Villager

Class Features:

Rage: The defining Barbarian feature that other melee classes can't match. The damage bonus is okay, but the real benefit is resistance to physical damage types (including non-weapon damage). Laugh while trading hits with bad guys. Last, advantage on Strength checks & saves can be helpful, particularly with shoving or grappling. However, Rage has drawbacks:
  1. It only lasts 1 minute, and you only regain uses of Rage after a long rest. Don't waste a rage at the wrong time, especially at low level.
  2. Until level 15, Rage ends if you spend a single turn without attacking or taking damage, so pay attention to battlefield position. Have a throwable weapon handy for times when the next foe is more than a move away; hit or miss, it'll keep the adrenaline flowing.
  3. Damage bonus is only for Str-based melee attacks, not ranged attacks or finesse.
  4. No heavy armor.
  5. No spellcasting, or concentration on spells already cast.
I have some rectifications for you: point 3: finesse weapons can be used by either strength or dexterity, so you can apply Rage bonus damage, unless you want to attack with Dexterity, which isn't a thing for Barbarians.

Shield Master Feature allows you to make a bonus action Shove action after you attack action, not before. That would be very nice for a feature to give you all these benefits, AND give you the chance to gain advantage on your attacks in melee, with no real cost?

In the features, I would value Lucky higher than Resilient, because it is more flexible. Sure Wisdom and Dexterity are really useful yet how many times will such a save come up? Sure in certain scenario's you'll have to make multiple saving throws. So I personally see lucky as a way to mitigate some weaknesses: it can cover for all saving throws or force a single attack roll on your opponent, when he has advantage against you.

I believe that you value the Ancestral Guardian Subclass a little too low. Sure the Ancestral Protectors are somewhat limiting, because you need to hit, I do agree that making it "all creatures you hit" would seem more interesting. If you would allow it to proc on any first attack, this would lead to an easy exploit: just toss a javelin towards and enemy engaged with other party members: now it attacks at disadvantage. When you need to hit something, this means that you need to invest some resources.

Yet Spirit Shield should be blue because you typically don't have a reliable reaction, preventing damage from more squishy allies is far better than healing it up. And this ability scales from 2d6 @6th, 3d6 @10th and 4d6 @14th level at which point you return the damage soaked.

Also the Path of the Berserker isn't as bad as you portray it. It's solid, just not as flashy as the other path may appear. With Frenzy you posses the ability to Nova during one combat encounter per day. Until someone can cast greater restoration on you. Which isn't bad, sure it's not something that you'll use each rage, yet it is far more powerful than other options. This should be black.
Retaliation
is as good as it gets and as you point out complements Sentinel very good: it creates a catch 22. Mindless Rages yet again, isn't that flashy but is very crucial because it cover the glaring weakness of a Barbarian: it's Wisdom Save. I do agree that Berserker could be a little more rounded out with some more fluffy features, now it's just a more angry version of Barbarian.
 

Frankie1969

Explorer
I have some rectifications for you: point 3: finesse weapons can be used by either strength or dexterity, so you can apply Rage bonus damage,
I meant "you can't use the Finesse property and choose Dex", but I'll clarify the wording.

Shield Master Feature allows you to make a bonus action Shove action after you attack action, not before.
Right, the ruling was reversed. I'll update that.

In the features, I would value Lucky higher than Resilient, because it is more flexible. Sure Wisdom and Dexterity are really useful yet how many times will such a save come up?
You're probably right.

I believe that you value the Ancestral Guardian Subclass a little too low.
Unfortunately I still haven't seen Ancestral Guardian at the table yet. Does Spirit Shield help enough to matter, or does it just leave your party with a few more unused Hit Dice at the end of the day?

Also the Path of the Berserker isn't as bad as you portray it. It's solid, just not as flashy as the other path may appear. With Frenzy you posses the ability to Nova during one combat encounter per day.
This one I have to disagree. Frenzy barely exceeds Zealot's standard damage, and if you need it early on then you're nearly useless for non-combat encounters (skill checks) the rest of the day.
 

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