The 8 best 5e Barbarian Backgrounds in DnD – Ranking Guide

Anger-fueled warriors throw their bodies face-first into danger. The barbarians are both great damage dealers and damage sponges. The backgrounds used for barbarians are often simple, much like the barbarians themselves. As long as combat is in some way involved in the background, it can and will work. Here are some great options for Barbarian Backgrounds in 5e dnd listed from good-best: 

8. Hermit

This background can be easily added to a barbarian’s backstory. Spending a great deal of time in the wilds surviving and exploring could have led to a primal awakening in character. In addition, the hermit background offers proficiency in medicine and religion. Religion is wasted on the barbarian but medicine is advantageous.

Along with proficiency in the herbalism kit, the barbarian can effectively act as the party’s healer if it already doesn’t have one. The background also offers an additional language, survival equipment, a winter blanket, a set of common clothes, an herbalism kit, a scroll case, and 5 gold coins.

7. City Watch

A barbarian can serve his tribe or village as a protector of the people; city watch is just that. Protecting the folk from crime, the city watch acts as the police. While barbarians often hold a carefree nature with anger issues, defending their folk is a priority.

The background grants proficiency in athletics and insight. These proficiencies are great for chasing and interrogating criminals, but are also great with the barbarian’s high strength and sound wisdom. It also offers two additional languages and the Watcher’s Eye feature.

This feature allows you to quickly discover criminal dens and city watch outposts. The background also contains the general equipment of a city watch, a uniform, a set of manacles, a horn for summoning help, and 10 gold coins.

5e background barbarian

6. Far Traveler

A far traveler is someone who has traveled across the lands and sees, unlike most other common folk. Many barbarians originate from tribes deep in forests or mountains, which they leave to explore the world or fulfill a purpose.

This background easily matches many barbarian backstories. It offers proficiency with insight and perception, both generally good proficiencies which can find us on a barbarian, perception more so. Additionally, it provides proficiency with a chosen musical instrument or gaming set. While not useful, it can be something from your homeland to deepen the character’s backstory.

Along with these proficiencies, it also grants an extra language. The far traveler background comes with traveling-focused equipment, a set of traveler’s clothes, the chosen musical instrument or gaming set, poorly made maps of your homeland, a small piece of jewelry, ten gold coins of your homeland, and five standard gold coins.

The far traveler background offers pretty useful proficiencies but none that capitalize on the barbarian’s ability score. The background can also be worked into the backstory of most barbarians without much hustle.

5. Sailor

Sailor is best utilized in sea/aquatic-based campaigns, but the proficiencies are excellent for any adventure. The first skill proficiency is athletics, which is a must-have for barbarians and the other is perception, a superb proficiency to have in general.

The other proficiencies are primarily useless in non-sea/aquatic-based campaigns. These proficiencies are navigator’s tools and maritime vehicles. In sea/aquatic-based campaigns, these proficiencies are truly amazing to have and get a lot of use.

The equipment includes 50 feet of rope, a lucky charm, common clothes, and 10 gold. The background’s feature is also only valuable for sea/aquatic-based. It allows you free passage on other ships you have had relations with.

4. Mercenary Veteran

Making decent gold while enjoying yourself in life-threatening battles is easily applicable to many barbarians. While being paid to join wars and battles can be great, the adventuring life offers more potential gold and even mightier battles. As a mercenary veteran, you gain proficiency in athletics and persuasion.

Athletics is perfect for a barbarian with their significant strength and persuasion. While also good, barbarians often lack the social skills to use them effectively. With these skill proficiencies, the mercenary veteran gains proficiency with a chosen gaming set and a chosen land vehicle.

The gaming set proficiency is not beneficial, but the land vehicle proficiency comes in handy with most adventuring parties, covering the traveling needs and costs. Much like the soldier background, the mercenary veteran’s equipment includes a uniform of the company served in, insignia of rank, the chosen gaming set, and a pouch with 10 gold which are your last wages.

The feature granted by the background is quite useful; due to your mercenary experience, you know some information about most mercenary groups and can recognize them from their insignia. In addition, you know about their leaders, operations, and previous work. Besides general information about these groups, you can also recall the places where they abide in certain areas.

Overall, the mercenary veteran is a great background with good proficiencies and a great feature for most campaigns. 

Barbarian background 5e

3. Outlander

Outlander is a standard option for barbarians, both for the backstory and the proficiencies. The skill proficiencies granted are both from the barbarian’s skill list, but are both great. Athletics combined with really high strength and survival.

The additional musical instrument proficiency is largely wasted on the barbarian, but is not completely useless. The background also gives an extra language and some survival equipment: a staff, a hunting trap, and traveler’s clothes.

Along with the proficiencies and equipment, the player gains the Wanderer feature, which allows you to always recall the general layout of the terrain and have an easier time foraging food. This feature is better suited for parties that spend a great deal of time exploring and traveling. Generally a good background for the barbarian but not outstanding. 

2. Folk Hero

A hero of the folk destined for great power and glory works well with many barbarian backstories. Growing strong in the tribe and becoming their champion who will someday save the world is not an uncommon story for barbarians.

Folk hero offers proficiencies with animal handling and survival skills, both skills already in the barbarian’s skill list. It also grants proficiency with artisan tools and a land vehicle.

The artisan’s tool proficiency is probably wasted on a barbarian, but the vehicle proficiency covers most of the travel needs of most parties, cutting down costs and possibly boring roleplay.

The equipment of the background is not outstanding but can be useful in common adventuring scenarios. It includes a set of artisan tools, a shovel, an iron pot, a set of common clothes, and ten gold coins.

Folk hero also grants a useful but situational feature. The feature makes it so the folk you originate from will try their best to help you out as long as you are not disrespectful or harmful. Folk hero is a good background that covers the backstory of the barbarian and offers great proficiencies for adventuring parties.

1. Soldier

Barbarians yearn for combat, and being a soldier can be the cause and solution. War could have triggered something inside the character, a deep rage that resulted in the barbarian or a barbarian entering the fight just to enjoy the horrors of war.

Either way, this background aligns with most barbarians. This background offers proficiency with athletics and intimidation, which can often be the most used skills of a barbarian, especially with the barbarian’s insanely high strength and fearful appearance.

The rest of the proficiencies include a gaming set and vehicle proficiency. The gaming set does not get much use, but the vehicle proficiency is useful in most adventuring parties. You also gain military equipment.

The feature of this background can be used combined with intimidation to assert oneself in a military outpost or base. This background provides skill proficiencies perfect for the barbarian and some fun additional proficiencies.

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