Best Race for a Barbarian in DND 5e

Choosing the best race for a Barbarian in Dungeons & Dragons 5e can significantly enhance your character’s effectiveness and enjoyment in the game. This article will explore the top races that complement the Barbarian class, focusing on racial traits, abilities, and overall synergy with the Barbarian’s playstyle. For more detailed information on Barbarian races, check out the ultimate guide on DND Barbarian races at LitRPG Reads.

Barbarians are fierce warriors known for their rage and unparalleled combat prowess. Choosing the right race can enhance these abilities, providing additional benefits such as increased strength, resilience, and unique abilities that complement the Barbarian’s core features. This guide will help you navigate the best racial options for creating a powerful Barbarian character.

Key Attributes of a Barbarian

Before diving into specific races, it’s important to understand the key attributes and abilities that make Barbarians unique:

  • Strength: Essential for melee combat and physical prowess.
  • Constitution: Increases hit points and resilience in battle.
  • Dexterity: Useful for improving Armor Class (AC) when not wearing heavy armor.
  • Rage: Provides damage resistance and bonus damage.

Top Races for Barbarians

Selecting the right race for your Barbarian can greatly influence your character’s performance and role in the game. Each race offers unique traits that can enhance the Barbarian’s natural strengths and complement their combat style. Here are some of the best races to consider:

Half-Orc

When considering the best race for a Barbarian, the Half-Orc often stands out as a top contender. Known for their physical strength and resilience, Half-Orcs are naturally suited to the brutal and relentless fighting style of Barbarians. This race combines raw power with unique abilities that enhance survivability and damage output, making them an excellent choice for any Barbarian character.

Strength and Constitution Bonuses

Half-Orcs receive a +2 bonus to Strength and a +1 bonus to Constitution, which perfectly aligns with the primary attributes of a Barbarian. These bonuses significantly enhance a Barbarian’s combat effectiveness by increasing their ability to deal damage and withstand hits. Strength is crucial for maximizing attack rolls and damage, while Constitution boosts hit points, allowing the Barbarian to stay in the fight longer.

For example, a Half-Orc Barbarian with a base Strength of 16 will start with an impressive 18 Strength, giving them a +4 modifier on attack rolls and damage. This high Strength score ensures that the Barbarian can consistently hit targets and deal significant damage, making them a formidable presence on the battlefield.


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Relentless Endurance

The Relentless Endurance trait is one of the most valuable abilities for a Half-Orc Barbarian. This trait allows a Half-Orc to drop to 1 hit point instead of 0 once per long rest when they would otherwise be reduced to 0 hit points. This ability provides a crucial second chance in combat, allowing the Barbarian to continue fighting even after taking a potentially fatal blow.

Relentless Endurance can be the difference between life and death in a tough battle, giving the Barbarian a chance to rally and turn the tide. This trait synergizes well with the Barbarian’s high hit points and damage resistance from Rage, making Half-Orcs incredibly resilient warriors.

Savage Attacks

Savage Attacks is another trait that makes Half-Orcs excellent Barbarians. This ability allows them to roll an additional weapon damage die when they score a critical hit with a melee weapon. Since Barbarians have a higher chance of scoring critical hits due to their Brutal Critical feature, Savage Attacks significantly boosts their damage output.

For instance, if a Half-Orc Barbarian scores a critical hit with a greataxe, they roll three additional damage dice instead of two, thanks to Savage Attacks and Brutal Critical. This combination can result in devastatingly high damage, especially when combined with the Barbarian’s ability to deal extra damage while raging.

Intimidating Presence

Half-Orcs naturally possess an intimidating presence, both in and out of combat. While not an official racial trait, this natural intimidation can enhance role-playing opportunities and interactions with NPCs. A Half-Orc Barbarian can use their fearsome appearance to intimidate enemies, negotiate more effectively, and establish a reputation as a powerful and fearsome warrior.

Cultural Background

The cultural background of Half-Orcs often includes a history of conflict and survival, which complements the Barbarian’s lifestyle. Many Half-Orcs are raised in harsh environments where strength and resilience are essential for survival. This background can add depth to a Barbarian character, providing motivation and context for their aggressive and relentless nature.

Role-Playing Opportunities

Playing a Half-Orc Barbarian offers rich role-playing opportunities. The combination of their physical prowess and cultural background can lead to interesting character development and interactions. For example, a Half-Orc Barbarian might struggle with their temper and aggressive instincts, creating a compelling narrative arc as they learn to control their rage and channel it effectively in battle.

Additionally, the Half-Orc’s struggle for acceptance in both human and orcish societies can add layers to their character. This internal conflict can drive the Barbarian’s actions and decisions, leading to meaningful and engaging role-playing experiences.

Example Builds

To illustrate the effectiveness of Half-Orcs as Barbarians, consider the following example build:

  • Ability Scores: Start with a high Strength and Constitution, taking advantage of the racial bonuses to maximize combat effectiveness.
  • Background: Choose a background that complements the Half-Orc’s abilities, such as Outlander or Soldier, to enhance survival skills and combat prowess.
  • Feats: Select feats that enhance the Barbarian’s strengths, such as Great Weapon Master for increased damage or Tough for additional hit points.

By focusing on these key areas, a Half-Orc Barbarian can become a powerful and resilient warrior capable of taking on the toughest challenges and emerging victorious.

For more detailed information on Barbarian races, check out the ultimate guide on DND Barbarian races at LitRPG Reads.

Goliath

Goliaths are one of the most fitting races for the Barbarian class in Dungeons & Dragons 5e, known for their immense strength and endurance. Originating from mountainous regions, Goliaths possess a natural affinity for physical prowess and survival in harsh conditions. This makes them exceptional Barbarians, able to harness their physical gifts and unique racial traits to excel in combat.

Strength and Constitution Bonuses

Goliaths receive a +2 bonus to Strength and a +1 bonus to Constitution. These bonuses are particularly beneficial for Barbarians, who rely heavily on these attributes to maximize their combat effectiveness.

  • Strength Bonus (+2): This bonus directly increases the Barbarian’s melee attack rolls and damage. With a higher Strength score, a Goliath Barbarian can deliver more powerful blows, increasing their lethality in battle. For instance, starting with a base Strength of 16, the +2 bonus brings it to 18, resulting in a +4 modifier that significantly boosts attack and damage rolls.
  • Constitution Bonus (+1): This bonus enhances the Barbarian’s hit points, making them more resilient in combat. Higher Constitution means the Barbarian can endure more damage before falling, which is crucial given their role as front-line fighters.

Stone’s Endurance

Stone’s Endurance is a racial trait unique to Goliaths, allowing them to reduce incoming damage once per short or long rest. When they take damage, they can use their reaction to roll a d12 and add their Constitution modifier to the roll, reducing the damage by that amount.

  • Damage Mitigation: This ability provides a significant boost to the Barbarian’s survivability. In the heat of battle, being able to reduce damage from a powerful hit can be the difference between staying in the fight and being knocked unconscious. This trait pairs well with the Barbarian’s Rage feature, which already halves damage from bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing attacks.

Powerful Build

Goliaths have the Powerful Build trait, which allows them to count as one size larger when determining their carrying capacity and the weight they can push, drag, or lift.

  • Carrying Capacity: This trait is particularly useful for Barbarians who often carry heavy weapons and armor. It also enhances their ability to perform feats of strength, such as breaking down doors or moving large obstacles, which can be advantageous in various situations during an adventure.

Natural Athlete

Goliaths gain proficiency in the Athletics skill due to their Natural Athlete trait. This proficiency complements the Barbarian’s physical abilities, enhancing their performance in activities that require strength and endurance.

  • Athletics Proficiency: With this proficiency, a Goliath Barbarian can excel in climbing, swimming, and other physical activities. It also improves their ability to grapple opponents, which can be a valuable tactic in combat. The combination of high Strength and Athletics proficiency makes Goliaths exceptionally capable in these physical challenges.

Mountain Born

Goliaths are naturally adapted to high-altitude environments, including elevations above 20,000 feet. They are also resistant to cold damage.

  • Environmental Adaptation: While this trait is more situational, it can be beneficial in campaigns that involve high-altitude or cold environments. The cold damage resistance can also provide an edge in battles against foes that use cold-based attacks.

Role-Playing Opportunities

Playing a Goliath Barbarian offers rich role-playing opportunities. Goliaths have a unique culture that values strength, competition, and endurance. This background can be woven into the character’s story, providing motivation and depth.

  • Cultural Traits: Goliaths live by strict codes of conduct, often striving to prove their worth through feats of strength and bravery. This can lead to interesting character development and interactions, as the Goliath Barbarian seeks to uphold their cultural values while adapting to the broader world.
  • Personality Traits: Goliaths often have larger-than-life personalities, driven by their desire to compete and excel. This can make for a compelling character who is always looking for the next challenge or adversary to conquer.

Example Builds

To illustrate the effectiveness of Goliaths as Barbarians, consider the following example build:

  • Ability Scores: Start with a high Strength and Constitution, taking advantage of the racial bonuses to maximize combat effectiveness.
  • Background: Choose a background that complements the Goliath’s abilities, such as Outlander or Soldier, to enhance survival skills and combat prowess.
  • Feats: Select feats that enhance the Barbarian’s strengths, such as Great Weapon Master for increased damage or Tough for additional hit points.

By focusing on these key areas, a Goliath Barbarian can become a powerful and resilient warrior capable of taking on the toughest challenges and emerging victorious.

For more detailed information on Barbarian races, check out the ultimate guide on DND Barbarian races at LitRPG Reads.

Human (Variant)

The Variant Human is one of the most versatile and customizable options for Barbarians, offering a balanced approach to character creation that can enhance a Barbarian’s strengths and provide additional flexibility.

Ability Score Increase

Variant Humans receive a +1 bonus to two ability scores of their choice. This flexibility allows you to tailor your character to maximize effectiveness in combat and resilience.

  • Customized Ability Scores: For a Barbarian, allocating the +1 bonuses to Strength and Constitution is typically the best choice. This enhances the Barbarian’s physical prowess and durability, ensuring they can hit hard and take a beating in combat.

Feat

One of the primary advantages of choosing a Variant Human is the ability to start with a feat at 1st level. Feats can provide significant bonuses and abilities that enhance a Barbarian’s combat effectiveness and versatility.

  • Great Weapon Master: This feat is an excellent choice for Barbarians, allowing them to deal additional damage with heavy weapons and make an extra attack on a critical hit or kill.
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  • Tough: This feat increases the Barbarian’s hit points by 2 per level, providing additional resilience and making them even harder to take down.
  • Alert: For Barbarians who want to ensure they act quickly in combat, the Alert feat boosts initiative and prevents them from being surprised.

Skills

Variant Humans gain proficiency in an additional skill, providing more versatility and options for character development.

  • Athletics: Proficiency in Athletics can enhance a Barbarian’s ability to perform physical feats, such as climbing, swimming, and grappling.
  • Perception: Proficiency in Perception can help a Barbarian detect threats and ambushes, making them more aware of their surroundings and better prepared for combat.

Versatility in Role-Playing

Variant Humans can be tailored to fit a wide variety of backgrounds and character concepts, providing rich role-playing opportunities.

  • Backgrounds: Choose a background that complements the Barbarian’s abilities and enhances their role-playing potential. For example, the Soldier background can provide proficiency with vehicles and tools useful in a military campaign, while the Outlander background offers survival skills and a connection to nature.
  • Customization: The ability to choose different skills, feats, and ability score increases makes Variant Humans highly customizable, allowing players to create a Barbarian that fits their unique vision and playstyle.

Example Builds

To illustrate the effectiveness of Variant Humans as Barbarians, consider the following example build:

  • Ability Scores: Allocate the +1 bonuses to Strength and Constitution, maximizing combat effectiveness.
  • Feat: Choose Great Weapon Master for increased damage output, or Tough for additional hit points.
  • Skills: Select Athletics for enhanced physical capabilities and Perception for better awareness.

By focusing on these key areas, a Variant Human Barbarian can become a versatile and powerful warrior capable of adapting to various combat situations and role-playing scenarios.

Mountain Dwarf

Mountain Dwarves are resilient and tough, making them strong candidates for the Barbarian class. Known for their sturdy constitution and combat training, Mountain Dwarves bring a unique set of abilities that complement the Barbarian’s strengths.

Strength and Constitution Bonuses

Mountain Dwarves receive a +2 bonus to both Strength and Constitution, which aligns perfectly with the primary attributes of a Barbarian. This makes them exceptionally durable and powerful in combat.

  • Dual Bonuses: The +2 bonus to Strength enhances the Barbarian’s ability to hit hard in melee combat, while the +2 bonus to Constitution increases their hit points and resilience. This combination makes Mountain Dwarves one of the most robust choices for a Barbarian, able to deal significant damage and withstand heavy blows.

Dwarven Resilience

The Dwarven Resilience trait provides advantage on saving throws against poison and resistance to poison damage. This resilience can be incredibly useful in campaigns where poison is a common threat.

  • Poison Resistance: Many enemies in D&D use poison as a weapon, and having resistance to poison damage can greatly increase a Barbarian’s survivability. The advantage on saving throws against poison also means that Mountain Dwarves are less likely to suffer from poisoned conditions, keeping them in fighting shape.
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Dwarven Combat Training

Mountain Dwarves have proficiency with battleaxes, handaxes, light hammers, and warhammers. This combat training can enhance a Barbarian’s combat capabilities, providing more options in battle.

  • Weapon Proficiency: Proficiency with these weapons allows Mountain Dwarves to use a variety of effective melee weapons, giving them flexibility in combat. This can be particularly useful if the Barbarian needs to switch weapons for different situations, such as using a handaxe for ranged attacks or a warhammer for heavy melee damage.

Tool Proficiency

Mountain Dwarves gain proficiency with the artisan’s tools of their choice: smith’s tools, brewer’s supplies, or mason’s tools. While not directly combat-related, this proficiency can add depth to a Barbarian’s character and provide useful skills for downtime activities.

  • Artisan Skills: These skills can be useful for crafting, repairing equipment, or earning extra income between adventures. They also provide role-playing opportunities, allowing the Barbarian to have a background as a craftsman or tradesman.

Dwarven Armor Training

Mountain Dwarves are proficient with light and medium armor. This proficiency allows a Barbarian to have more armor options early in the game, enhancing their defenses.

  • Armor Proficiency: Being proficient in medium armor can provide a significant boost to the Barbarian’s Armor Class (AC), making them harder to hit in combat. This is especially useful in the early levels before the Barbarian’s natural defenses and unarmored defense abilities are fully developed.

Cultural Background

Mountain Dwarves have a rich cultural background that emphasizes honor, duty, and craftsmanship. This background can provide motivation and context for a Barbarian character, adding depth and personality.

  • Background: A Mountain Dwarf Barbarian might come from a clan with a proud warrior tradition, driving them to prove their worth in battle. Alternatively, they might be seeking to reclaim lost dwarven artifacts or avenge a fallen clan member, providing a strong narrative hook for their adventures.

Role-Playing Opportunities

Playing a Mountain Dwarf Barbarian offers rich role-playing opportunities. Their cultural emphasis on strength, resilience, and craftsmanship can lead to interesting character development and interactions.

  • Character Traits: Mountain Dwarves often have a strong sense of duty and loyalty to their clan and allies. This can lead to compelling role-playing scenarios where the Barbarian must balance their personal goals with their responsibilities to others.
  • Interactions: The Dwarf’s reputation for toughness and combat prowess can influence their interactions with other characters, earning them respect or fear from those they encounter.

Example Builds

To illustrate the effectiveness of Mountain Dwarves as Barbarians, consider the following example build:

  • Ability Scores: Maximize Strength and Constitution to take full advantage of the racial bonuses.
  • Background: Choose a background that complements the Dwarf’s abilities, such as Soldier or Guild Artisan, to enhance combat skills or provide useful crafting proficiencies.
  • Feats: Select feats that enhance the Barbarian’s strengths, such as Durable for additional hit points or Sentinel for improved combat control.
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By focusing on these key areas, a Mountain Dwarf Barbarian can become a resilient and powerful warrior, capable of taking on the toughest challenges and emerging victorious.

For more detailed information on Barbarian races, check out the ultimate guide on DND Barbarian races at LitRPG Reads.

Tom Davis

LitRPG Author Tom Davis

Tom Davis, known as the "Monster Maestro" among his peers, has a fascination with the creatures that inhabit the fantastical world of Dungeons & Dragons. With a background in biology and a vivid imagination, Tom studies, categorizes, and invents monstrous beings that both terrify and fascinate. As a Monster Ecologist at LitRPG Reads, Tom's articles explore the ecology, behavior, and anatomy of various D&D creatures. He provides insights into creating believable monsters, understanding their roles in the ecosystem, and designing encounters that thrill and challenge players. When he's not dissecting a dragon, sketching a new beast, or talking about all the great DND classes, Tom enjoys nature hikes, wildlife photography. He also spends time contributing to conservation efforts and the local art scene in Muncie, Indiana.

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