D&D 5e: Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian Guide
D&D 5e: Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian Guide
Role in the Party
Are you the kind of person who likes doing the most damage? Do you want to celebrate your accomplishments by telling tales of your battle scars? Such is the life of a barbarian, but how about being not just the one to do all the damage– but the one to prevent the most damage as well?
Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian, from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, is the ‘Scary on the outside, lovable on the inside’ protector your party needs. While they won’t be healing, and they’re probably not going to be the face man of any party, the Path of the Ancestral Guardian barbarian is both a great offense and a great defense for your party.
The Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian subclass is found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Click here to pick up your own copy of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything!
Path of the Ancestral Guardian Features
This subclass is interesting, because it takes the “Big Damage Numbers” aspect of the Barbarian, and turns it into a protector on the way.
At third level when you take this subclass, you gain Ancestral Protectors. This means that when you’re raging, enemy attacks on your allies gain disadvantage, and damage against your allies is resisted. You do have to keep in mind that this does nothing for you, however, as your ancestral guardians are apparently much more interested in helping your buddies than you.
At 6th level, your guardian spirits add MORE protection to your allies with Spirit Shield, by letting you reduce damage to an attacked ally. The only real limiter on its use is that you must be raging, and you must use your reaction to do it.
At 10th level, you gain Consult The Spirits, which lets you cast Augury or Clairvoyance without using a spell slot or material components. When doing Clairvoyance, it summons an invisible spiritual guardian instead of a sensor, presumably so that when the BBEG has truesight, your spiritual guardian can taunt them with rude gestures. You can only cast the spell once this way per long or short rest.
At 14th level, you gain Vengeful Ancestors, which means when an enemy attacks your spiritual shield, you get to reflect it back for equal damage, in force damage.
The Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian is interesting because it takes “Tank” to a new literal. You’re not just standing in front taking all the damage, you’re also actively preventing damage.
This subclass is also very flavorful, as it doesn’t specify what “Ancestral guardians” are. It could be your great-great grandad, or it could be a guardian dragon, a la Mulan. And if you’re a dragonborn, it can be both! Since your guardian is purely a flavorful choice and what it is doesn’t affect the numbers, you can have it be anything, making it a fun thing to play with.
If you’re playing a Barbarian, you know what you’re about: Hitting Stuff Real Good. You won’t be healing yourself without multiclassing, you don’t have many ranged options, and you’ll probably be low int and/or wisdom (Unless you’re planning multiclassing), so good luck with those saves.
Best Race Options
–Half-Orc: For the classic Barbarian, most go to the classic PHB Half-orc. +2 strength, +1 Con, Darkvision, proficiency with intimidate, relentless endurance, additional damage on crits. The Half-Orc is the stereotype for barbarians for a reason: It’s made for them. Ancestral Guardian barbarian is no exception.
If your DM does Racial feats, you can also take Orcish Fury, to take another +1 to Strength or Con, add ANOTHER damage dice to normal attacks once per rest, and use a reaction after relentless endurance to make a weapon attack.
–Goliath: +2 strength, +1 Con, and you can use Stone’s Endurance to reduce damage. You can only do it once per long or short rest, so you should be able to pair that nicely with all the other ridiculous ways you can reduce damage, and get the most out of your short rests. Given your abilities to resist, send back, or take on damage for your party, you’ll need a few ways to handle that damage yourself.
-Gem dragonborn: While any ol’ dragonborn is a great choice for this class for my corner case concerns, Gem Dragonborn would be a top choice. More variable stat upgrades, more interesting breath weapons/resistences, and more frequent breath weapons, which regenerate after a long rest. At 5th level you can also summon spectral wings for one minute, giving your tanky barbarian the ability to tackle airborne enemies, which would typically be your one weakness.
While you’re taking Dragonborn, ask your DM if you can do racial feats, and try to snag Dragon Hide, for +1 strength or con, AC as 13+Dex mod, and natural claw weapons.
Choosing the Right Skills
For Barbarian, you get to choose two between Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival. I’d recommend Athletics and Perception. You don’t want your barbarian stuck being the only party member who doesn’t see the threat. -or worse, for your ancestral guardians to miss what they’re supposed to see- That said, swap one or both of these out for intimidation and survival if you choose a background that makes these redundant.
Sentinel: Sentinel is a great choice early on. If you catch a creature with an opportunity attack, their speed is zero, and since your whole thing as an Ancestral Guardian Barbarian is getting enemies to focus on you instead of your friends, that gives you all space to focus damage on you. I recommend getting this early, just because it’ll save trouble in the long run.
Durable: another con increase, and when you roll a hit die, “the minimum number of hit points you regain from the roll equals twice your constitution modifier (minimum of 2).” (PHB) The wording of this feat is unclear, but the usefulness isn’t: You’re gonna get a lot of HP with a Barbarian’s D12 hit die. When your whole thing is getting hit for your party, you need more health, more often.
Tough: Double-down on that incredible health by getting Tough, to gain a hitpoint maximum upgrade equal to twice your level, and add +2 to every level beyond that. Why stop at a lot of hitpoints, when you can have all the hitpoints? While Durable is less good, Tough is better taken at a later level, for maximum Oomph, so take Durable first.
–Outlander: Outlander already gets Athletics and Survival proficiencies. along with your supplies, you get the feature ‘Wanderer’ and can provide for your party in the wilderness as long as the wilderness has anything to provide you with. Like the rest of your class, be a provider. A wanderer looking for a tribe to take care of sounds like a good story.
–Sailor/Pirate: You get Athletics and Perception as skills, and along with your equipment You can also gain the feature “Ship’s Passage”, which is helpful at least once in most campaigns. Alternatively, you can take the variant and be a pirate, gaining the Bad Reputation feature instead, and get away with some minor criminal offenses. A criminally overlooked feature, you might say. A seaman guarded by a ghostly crew, on the search for treasure? Sounds pretty cool.
–Soldier: If you’re looking for something a little more orderly, you might’ve been a soldier in your past life. Proficiency in Athletics or Intimidation, land vehicles, and you get the feature Military Rank, so you’re in good with others of your military organization, and can even score some supplies. A true soldier’s spirit– both literally and figuratively– can turn the tide of your party’s battle.
–Fighter: While it may seem redundant, the Fighter’s fighting style options give you Great Weapon Fighting or Protection as options, so you can optimize either how much damage you do, or how much you protect others. The fighter’s additional features can only help from there. This helps any Barbarian, but Path of the Ancestral Guardian fighters are more likely to carry and use a shield to great effect, so maximize it here.
–Cleric: As Wisdom casters, healers, and getting the ability to choose their domain at first level, Cleric is potentially viable if you’ve chosen your stats carefully for it. Since you get so many flavors of a cleric with just one level, pick something that best suits your needs. Due to the Ancestral Guardian’s defensive nature, healing yourself or using storm magic to hit hard-to-reach enemies can’t hurt. Just remember, you can’t cast while you rage.
–Blood Hunter: If your DM allows unofficial Critical Role material at the table, a Blood Hunter could potentially be an option, due to the high constitution nature of a barbarian. An Ancestral Guardian could use this class to manipulate the enemy lines. As an Ancestral Guardian, you’re already pretty good at doing that, so why not double down and become a machiavellian tactician?
Would I recommend playing an Ancestral Guardian Barbarian?
There’s some fun flavor to be found in this version of the barbarian. This is the barbarian who looks out for their friends like they’re family, protects the weak, and thinks about their actions (even if they aren’t especially bright in the end). A warrior-poet or a devoted berzerker, there are a lot of great roleplay and combat options for you.
For both flavor and efficacy, the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian is a great class, with a lot of options.
Video on this subclass here, from Indestructoboy on Youtube.