Using a subclass in 5e DnD gives an entirely new dimension to your character. Barbarians are one of the most beloved classes in DnD and have plenty of unique subclasses to choose from. No matter what you have in mind, there is likely a playing style that you will enjoy when picking one of the subclasses from our list. Most of these subclasses are pretty straightforward in terms of roleplay.
We have ranked the following 10 subclasses from best to worst, based on our own campaigns, the input of our readers, and common sense. We have included a short summary of some of the main benefits of these subclasses.
1. Path of the Zealot
One of my favorite ways to play a barbarian is to give them a deity they adore and devote their life to. This deity can be a War God, but you can also choose something more unorthodox like a goddess of harvests.
The Path of the Zealot subclass for your barbarians allows them to follow such a deity and get particular benefits from it. If your barbarian falls in battle, they can be resurrected if the deity approves of their actions.
On top of this nice perk, you also get increased damage against undead and you get to bypass certain damage resistances. The Path of the Zealot is a fantastic pick if your party does not have a Paladin and does not have a reliable way to deal with the undead.
2. Path of the Ancestral Guardian
The barbarian subclass Path of the Ancestral Guardian is a fantastic pick from both a combat and role-playing perspective. The Barbarian can tap into the powers of the ancestors and ask them to aid them in battle.
The Path of the Ancestral Guardian has a few interesting perks. Your ancestors can protect allies and reduce the damage you take while being hit. The ancestral guardian has the ability to force enemies to attack them instead of an ally, serving as a very nice way to make your tank more reliable and protect your allies.
I would strongly advise you to pick this barbarian subclass if your party needs a strong frontliner and is missing a tank.
3. Path of the Totem Warrior
The Path of the Totem Warrior completes our top three of the best barbarian subclasses in 5e. This one allows you to choose a totem animal as your spirit guide. This subclass is considered to be extremely versatile and probably the most beginner-friendly one. There are a few very clear benefits to picking Path of the Totem Warrior:
- Damage resistance when raging to all damage types.
- Allies within 30 feet get resistance to a certain damage type.
- Creatures can be knocked prone when you are raging.
- You can pick an animal to boost your stats (Eagle for wisdom, Wolf for pack tactics, and increased hit points for the bear).
4. Path of the Berserker
The Path of the Berserker is a classic subclass to pick for your Barbarian, as it gives you more damage output when you are raging. I am pretty sure this is the most popular pick out of all subclasses on this list. We did not put it in the top three as you need to be pretty experienced to make the most use of it. While you can deal more damage, you also become more frail and easy to kill by enemies:
- Frenzied rage gives you more attacks but you suffer from exhaustion after.
- Intimidation does not work on enemies after your rage.
- Rage grants immunity to charm and fear.
- Your melee weapons get bonus damage during a rage, and you can use another melee attack after killing a target.
5. Path of the Rune Knight
The Path of the Rune Knight focuses, as the name suggests, on magical runes and their powers. When you choose this subclass, you can engrave runes into your weapons and armor.
Thanks to the runes, you can deal more damage, get increased magical resistance, or even the ability to use flight. As a fun extra perk, you can summon a giant to aid you in battle:
- Inscribe runes on armor and weapons.
- Boost damage or get magical resistance.
- Summon a magical giant to fight.
- Use runes to become invisible or become larger.
6. Path of the Wild Magic
If you enjoy high fantasy, sword fighting, and magic, then the Path of the Wild Magic Barbarian subclass is just what you are looking for. The subclass allows you to use the table of wild magical effects whenever you go into a rage. While random, the abilities you can roll are powerful. You get access to spells like teleportation and fireballs and will never get bored with this pick:
- Roll on the table of wild magic.
- Get potent (random) magical effects to help you.
- Can be strong and useless, no way of telling.
7. Path of the Battlerager
The Path of the Battlerager sounds like it is pretty closely related to the Berserker, but it is not. This subclass allows your barbarian to use spiked armor to damage your enemies. So whenever an enemy attacks you, they are likely to take damage doing so.
You – while being attacked – can make additional attacks as a bonus action to strike back. The spiked armor can also be used as a shield to buff up your AC and make you more survivable. The Path of the Battlerager is my go-to pick for a frontliner for parties without the need for a dedicated tank and who want to deal damage.
- Use spiked armor that deals damage to attacking enemies
- Additional attacks as a bonus action
- Spiked armor can be used as a shield and grants resistance to piercing damage
8. Path of the Storm Herald
A less used, but still very fun and potent barbarian subclass is the Path of the Storm Herald. This one focuses on the elemental powers and the power of storms. There are a couple of interesting perks to picking this one:
- You can deal elemental damage to creatures
- You get resistance to an element of your choice, and you can give your allies the same resistance
This barbarian subclass is great if you want to add a bit of magic to your build instead of just hacking and slashing things.
9. Path of the Soul
Number 9 on our list is the Path of the Soul subclass. The subclass is pretty rare, as not many players use it. The subclass gives you the ability to enter the state of spiritual attunement, and you get the ability to read the thoughts of others.
The main perk in combat that this barbarian subclass gives is that you can transfer your own HP to your allies and summon spectral allies to fight with you.
- You can enter a state of spiritual attunement
- Transfer your HP to allies
- Summon spectral companions to aid you
10. Path of the Beast
Path of the Beast is an amazing subclass for role-playing. If you are sick of being a berserker but don’t want to change too much regarding being a big brute with power, then Path of the Beast is a fantastic option.
The Path of the Beast turns your Barbarian into a beast. When you turn into a beast, you get stronger and have claws and wings to fight with. Next to that, you also get more hit points and some damage resistance.
- Transform into a beast
- Get additional abilities, claws, and wings
- More hit points and additional damage resistance
- Faster movement speed
There are a ton of interesting, great barbarian subclasses in 5e to choose from. You might want to try a few in a test campaign to see how much you like them and how they hold up in battle.
The barbarian often fights at the front. So you will deal a ton of damage while also having to tank quite a few hits. The Barbarian is a strong warrior, but being too glassy can be the end of you. Make sure you pick a balanced build that can take a few hits or have an escape plan.
Role-playing-wise, most of these subclasses are a blast. I prefer the Path of the Zealot and the Path of Wild Magic if you want to put emphasis on this part of the game.