Baldur’s Gate 3: The Best Barbarian Class Build

Baldur’s Gate 3: The Best Barbarian Class Build

The Barbarian is a heavy-hitting class that takes hits like a champ. These builds will help players make the most of Baldur’s Gate 3’s angriest class.

This article is part of a directory: Baldur’s Gate 3: Complete Guide & Walkthrough

Table of contents

Baldur’s Gate 3, the long-awaited third entry in the Baldur’s Gate series, added the Barbarian class relatively late into its Early Access period. Players familiar with D&D 5th edition will no doubt be very familiar with these incredibly tough warriors who can easily resist non-magical physical damage while tearing through enemies like wet tissue using their signature ability, “Rage.”

Baldur’s Gate 3 features the Barbarian class with three powerful subclasses, The deadly and frenzied Berserker, and the Animal Channeling Wildheart, and the Wild Magic Barbarian. With the Barbarian and three subclasses newly added to the game with its official release, players will surely want to make the most of the class, and this guide will provide all the tips and tricks needed to become a truly terrifying Barbarian.

Updated August 21, 2023, by Thomas Hawkins: Now that the full release of Baldur’s Gate 3 has been available for some time, this guide has been updated to account for abilities unlocked at higher levels and items that can be acquired later in the game. This will include weapon suggestions, along with some information regarding the Origin Character “Karlach,” who is a Zariel Tiefling Barbarian perfectly suited to one of the builds.

As a guide-in-progress, this build will be updated regularly with more information about choices in the mid to late game as players make their way through the expansive Baldur’s Gate 3.

Starting Stats and Race

D&D-Warlock-Tiefling Hexblade Warlock RPG

Barbarians are a physically focused class who perform well with either no armor, light armor, or medium armor and are at their best when wielding melee weapons (two-handed weapons being a favorite of many players). As such, their most important stats are Strength, for swinging their weapons with maximum force, and Constitution, for shrugging off damage with tons of hit points. Dexterity is also a very useful stat for helping them to mitigate the damage they take, especially if going unarmored or lightly armored.

As far as picking a race for a Barbarian, Gold Dwarves have a boost to HP every level-up, while Half-Elves have the additional benefit of Fey Ancestry which can be useful when dealing with charm and sleep effects which would otherwise neutralize the Barbarian during a fight.

An unusual but interesting choice for a Barbarian would be the Zariel Tiefling, which learns Searing Smite at level 3. This ability is used to make the Barbarian’s powerful swings even more deadly by applying additional fire damage to an attack. They also have fire resistance, which combined with their rage can make them resistant to both physical and fire damage while raging.

Class Abilities

Baldur's Gate 3_Barbarian_Art

The Barbarian is a very dangerous class when engaging in combat, able to render itself resistant to physical damage while dealing extra damage with all melee and improvised weapons (which includes thrown objects). Ideally, their role in the party is that of a front-line fighter, tanking hits and paying them back with interest while keeping attention away from the squishier members of the party.

Their Signature Ability, Rage, causes them to deal 2 extra damage with all melee and improvised weapons, and thrown objects, while also gaining resistance to physical damage and advantage on strength checks and saving throws. It lasts for 10 turns but ends early if a turn passes without the Barbarian dealing or taking damage. This means the Barbarian needs to always be attacking and/or being attacked if they want to get the most out of their Rage. It’s worth noting that their allies can strategically poke them with a weak attack to meet this requirement, keeping their angry friend in top form even if said friend can’t hit anything that turn.

The Unarmored Defense ability grants them tremendous defenses even while completely unarmored. More specifically, it grants them an armor class equal to 10 + Dexterity Modifier + Constitution Modifier. This means they can easily achieve armor class totals that rival heavy armor with enough investment into their Dexterity and Constitution stats.

They also gain the Danger Sense ability at level 2, which allows them to gain an advantage on dexterity saving throws against effects they can see, such as spells and traps. They only gain this benefit if they are not blinded, deafened, or incapacitated. Notably, this is very useful in reducing the damage taken from powerful damaging spells like fireball.

Reckless Attack, their other level 2 ability, is a deadly double-edged sword that allows them to gain advantage on attack rolls until their next turn while giving enemies an advantage on attack rolls against them until the Barbarian’s next turn. This can be greatly effective at increasing their odds of hitting foes with high AC, and for increasing the odds of a critical hit, but should be used cautiously when surrounded, lest it backfire spectacularly when the enemy gets a turn.

At level 3, Barbarians gain an additional charge of their Rage ability, allowing them to use it an extra time each long rest. This is also the level where they get to choose their subclass, both of which will be discussed in the next section. Level five unlocks “Fast Movement,” giving them an extra 3m of movement as long as they don’t wear heavy armor.

At level six, they get another Rage charge, giving them a total of four uses per short rest. At level seven, the Barbarian gets the ability “Feral Instinct,” which gives them +3 to initiative rolls and prevents them from being surprised. This makes them quite useful when heading into areas where they might get ambushed.

At level nine, the Barbarian gets “Brutal Critical,” letting them roll an extra damage dice whenever they land a critical hit. The damage bonus they gain when raging is increased from +2 to +3 too. Level 11 unlocks “Relentless Rage,” letting them avoid falling unconscious (instead being restored to 1HP) if they run out of HP when raging, once per short rest. Finally, level 12 grants another Rage Charge for a total of five rages per short rest.

Subclasses

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The Barbarian has three subclasses to choose from when reaching level 3, each of which grants different benefits to their playstyle. The first of these is the Berserker, a furious warrior whose rage is upgraded into the Frenzy ability.

Frenzy is an incredibly dangerous upgrade to rage, which grants the barbarian the ability to make an improvised weapon attack as a bonus action during each of their turns, and also gives them access to the Frenzied Strike and Enraged Throw abilities while enraged. The extra attack granted by this ability makes positioning more important, as the player ensures the barbarian is always close to something they can grab to smash or throw into enemies. (With sufficient strength the Barbarian can always just cut out the middleman and use the enemies as improvised weapons, of course.)

  • Frenzied Strike allows the barbarian to make an additional attack with their weapon each turn by using a bonus action, providing them with additional damage and allowing them to maximize their attacks per turn even without access to an easily grabbed improvised weapon.
  • Enraged throw allows them to grab and throw an object or enemy as a bonus action, dealing damage and knocking the target prone. This is an excellent means of attacking foes at a distance and rendering them vulnerable to follow-up attacks from the barbarian or their teammates.

At level six, the Berserker unlocks “Mindless Rage,” gaining immunity to charm and fear effects and the spell “Calm Emotions” when raging. This is handy since these effects can cause a lot of trouble for a Barbarian during combat.

Level ten Berserkers can use “Intimidating Presence,” spending their action to instill fear in a target that fails a Wisdom saving throw.

Baldur's Gate 3 Barbarian Class Introduction Screenshot

The second subclass available to the Barbarian is the Wildheart, an adaptation of “Path of the Totem Warrior” from 5e. The Wildheart communes with the spirits of beasts to empower their rage and gain special capabilities.

On choosing this subclass, the Barbarian gets to choose from five Bestial Heart options, each of which grants a different benefit:

  • Bear Heart: Grants the Barbarian the ability to heal themselves for 1d8+2 Hit Points as a bonus action while raging by using the “Unrelenting Ferocity” ability, while upgrading their rage damage resistance to cover all forms of damage except for psychic damage. This option makes the Barbarian unbelievably durable, especially when paired with high constitution and dexterity.
  • Eagle Heart: The Barbarian can dash as a bonus action and foes have a disadvantage making attacks of opportunity against them. The Barbarian can use “Diving Strike” while raging to leap onto a foe who is below them (the barbarian must be at least 1.5m above the target), knocking them prone and dealing weapon damage while ignoring any fall damage they would normally take from the drop. This option allows the Barbarian to move around the battlefield with impunity, avoiding attacks of opportunity from foes they pass.
  • Elk Heart: The Barbarian’s rage makes them far swifter, increasing their movement speed by 4.5m and allowing them to use “Primal Stampede”, which allows them to charge 9m through enemies knocking them prone and dealing bludgeoning damage to them. The Elk Heart is excellent for setting up enemies for follow-up attacks from allied rogues, fighters, and (at some point in the future) paladins.
  • Tiger Heart: The Barbarian’s Rage allows them to pounce great distances, increasing their jump distance by 4.5m and allowing them to use “Tiger’s Bloodlust” while raging, an ability that lets them lash out at up to three targets simultaneously, dealing half damage but causing bleeding. A fantastic crowd control ability that makes the Barbarian especially adept at handling groups of foes.
  • Wolf Heart: The Wolf Heart Rage inspires the Barbarian’s allies, granting them an advantage on attacks against foes within 2m of the Barbarian, and also allows the use of “Inciting Howl” which allows allies within earshot to move 3m further during their next turn. The Heart of Choice for Barbarians who want to support their team while keeping enemy aggro.

The other ability granted to Wildheart Barbarians at level 3 is Speak with Animals, which does exactly what it sounds like it does. By speaking with animals a Wildheart can gather useful additional information from animals throughout the game world, providing additional utility when not in combat.

It should be noted that Barbarians can change their selected Bestial Heart whenever they gain a level, if they decide they made the wrong choice or would like to try out a different Beastheart. At level six, the Wildheart chooses an “Animal Aspect,” gaining bonuses based on their chosen aspect.

  • Bear: Double Carrying Capacity, Advantage on Strength Checks.
  • Chimpanzee: Resistance to Falling Damage, Throw Camp Supplies (Food Items) to Blind Targets.
  • Crocodile: 3m Movement Speed boost when standing on water-based surfaces, Advantage on Saving Throws against being knocked Prone when on slippery surfaces.
  • Eagle: See in the dark up to 12m, Advantage on Perception Checks.
  • Elk: Boost Movement speed for self and all nearby allies.
  • Honey Badger: 50% chance of automatically raging without spending a Rage Charge when starting a turn Poisoned, Frightened, or Charmed.
  • Stallion: Dashing grants temporary hit points equal to twice the Barbarian’s level.
  • Tiger: Add strength a second time to all attack rolls against Bleeding or Poisoned targets, Proficiency in Survival skill.
  • Wolf: Proficiency in Stealth, Spend an Action to add Barbarian’s Dexterity modifier as a bonus to all stealth checks for self and allies.
  • Wolverine: When attacking a Bleeding or Poisoned target, it is also maimed for one turn.
Dungeons and Dragons Circle of the Moon Druid

At level eight, the Wildheart gains “Land’s Stride: Difficult Terrain,” which allows them to move over difficult terrain without getting slowed down. Level ten lets them choose a second “Animal Aspect” from the list.

Dungeons & Dragons Wild Magic Barbarian Subclass Tasha's

The Third Barbarian subclass, Wild Magic, allows them to add a touch of chaos to their Rage. Level three gives them access to “Rage: Wild Magic,” causing a Wild Magic surge whenever they enter a rage which can have a wide range of effects. These are usually beneficial to the Barbarian, though not necessarily their allies.

They also get “Magic Awareness” at level three, letting them spend a bonus action to let themselves and all their allies add proficiency to saving throws against spells. This lasts for one turn but can be very useful when fighting against spellcasters.

At level six, Wild Magic Barbarians get “Bolstering Magic,” which has three different variants (Bolstering Magic can target the Barbarian or an ally within 9m):

Bolstering Magic: Boon

The target gets +1d4 to attack rolls and ability checks.

Bolstering Magic: Level 1 Spell Slot

Target regains a spent level 1 spell slot.

Bolstering Magic: Level 2 Spell Slot

Target regains a spent level 2 spell slot.

Bolstering Magic: Level 3 Spell Slot

Target regains a spent level 3 spell slot.

These abilities make the Wild Magic Barbarian an excellent companion to any spellcaster.

Finally, level ten Wild Magic Barbarians can trigger an “Unstable Backlash” when they take damage or fail a saving throw, causing a new Wild Magic Surge that replaces the old effect and sowing even more chaos.

Illithid Powers

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Players wanting to take advantage of the Illithid Tadpole currently nesting behind their Barbarian’s eye will find there are plenty of options that synergize particularly well with the Barbarian playstyle.

“Psionic Overload,” which was previously known as “Unending Rage” during Early Access, is the obvious pick here. It deals 1d4 psychic damage to the Barbarian each turn in exchange for causing all their attacks to deal 1d4 extra psychic damage. This ensures that their rage won’t end early by dealing a small amount of damage to them each turn while also strengthening their attacks further. It lasts 10 rounds and can be used once per short rest, meaning it will last as long as a single Rage if activated on the same turn as the Rage. This ability is also the prerequisite for “Ability Drain” and “Stage Fright,” letting the Barbarian drain enemy ability scores and impose disadvantage on their attacks for added utility in combat.

“Force Tunnel” and “Repulsor” can be useful for repositioning and knocking foes away from allies, or just creating some space. Getting “Displace” can allow the Barbarian to deal more damage when throwing enemies off ledges or otherwise causing them to fall. Grabbing “Favorable Beginnings” and “Luck of the Far Realms” can also be an excellent choice for improving accuracy and guaranteeing a critical hit once per long rest.

Final Build Suggestions

Dungeons and Dragons DND D&D Dwarf Battleaxe Wizards of the Coast

With all of this information, players should have a pretty good idea of how to build a truly terrifying Barbarian. Here are some sample builds using everything we discussed earlier.

Wildheart Tank

  • Race: Gold Dwarf
  • Background: Folk Hero
  • Ability Scores:
  • Strength 16, Dexterity 14, Constitution 17
  • Intelligence 8, Wisdom 10, Charisma 10

This build is all about tanking damage and holding the enemy’s attention. Grab Wildheart at level 3 and take Bearheart to gain immunity to all non-psychic damage while raging and this build will be able to handle anything Baldur’s Gate 3 can throw at it. Players should focus on increasing Constitution and Strength when they gain feats, but grabbing the “Sentinel” feat to punish foes that try to run past the Barbarian and hit squishier allies is very useful too.

If using Illithid Powers, grab “Psionic Overload” and “Stage Fright” to dish out some extra damage and make it harder for the enemy to hit anything. “Ability Drain” is also a great choice for weakening difficult foes, especially melee-focused enemies.

For early weapons, players should try to grab the Everburn Blade from the tutorial by disarming or defeating Zhalk. This will serve them well for a good while. Alternatively, players can go and find Karlach and help her take out the “Paladins of Tyr” in the first area after escaping the Nautiloid. This will reward players with the “Sword of Justice,” which can cast an AC-boosting spell as a bonus action.

Later on, players might want to consider nabbing Balduran’s Giantslayer or the Orphic Hammer as their final weapon, but explaining how to get those here would involve heavy spoilers.

baldurs-gate-3-karlach-key art

Flaming Berserker

  • Race: Zariel Tiefling
  • Background: Outlander
  • Ability Scores:
  • Strength 16, Dexterity 14, Constitution 14
  • Intelligence 10, Wisdom 10, Charisma 10

This build is designed to dish out damage and keep the enemy on the ground with the use of improvised weapons. Take Berserker at level 3 and use Searing Smite on large foes to maximize damage. Players should also make good use of positioning and Enraged Throw to knock enemies to the ground, so they can gain an advantage on melee attacks against them. Players who choose Karlach as their Origin Character will not only be perfectly positioned for this build but will also be able to take advantage of her Infernal Engine for additional buffs in combat (assuming they have a Soul Coin handy.)

When gaining feats, this build will want to prioritize buffing their strength, so that they can grab and throw heavier objects and foes. They should also consider “Great Weapon Master” for the extra attack and damage boost it provides when wielding two-handed weapons.

The weapons mentioned for the other build are also very effective here, though players could also consider grabbing the “Dual Wielder” feat and using a pair of axes, longswords, or warhammers. (Or mix and match for damage type variety)

These two builds are excellent examples of how to build a Barbarian, but there are plenty of other ways to build a Barbarian.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is available now for PC and Mac, and will release for PlayStation 5 on September 6th, 2023.

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