D&D 5e: Tiefling Barbarian Guide
If you’ve witnessed any D&D media before, you’ve likely heard of the tiefling, an infernal race born of tainted blood. More likely you’ve heard of Jester, the tiefling played by Laura Bailey in the popular series, Critical Role.
Barbarians are likely not the first class that comes to mind when one thinks of a tiefling, usually depicted with a slender build and with their natural bonus to intelligence and charisma. This is where the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (SCAG) comes in handy with tiefling variants!
The variant options available in SCAG will no doubt be a boon in creating the ideal barbarian to smash and rage your way through your next campaign, all the while rocking the cool lore that tieflings share.
How to Make a Tiefling Barbarian
Now then, if you want to play a super optimal barbarian, you might end up trying to stretch yourself too thin by being Multi Ability Dependent (MAD). This is because you rely on your strength for damage, your dexterity for armor class, and your constitution for health and additional armor class bonuses.
Rather than try to optimize all three, I’d suggest you first prioritize your strength because it represents your combat power. After this, prioritize your constitution for extra health and a higher armor class. Constitution isn’t used for much in D&D, but you gain access to damage resistance while you’re raging (and you’re almost always raging).
If your DM allows Tasha’s Cauldron’s alternate origins, swap out your natural tiefling bonuses for strength and constitution, and then the rest of your skills are up to you, though I would recommend dexterity as your third priority.
It is worth noting that your biggest weaknesses, and the few things that will stop you in your tracks (as I found out running the game for a very strong barbarian character), are spells such as Command or Hold Person, which relies on wisdom saves. For this reason, do NOT dump wisdom, but at least try to keep it average if you don’t want spellcasters to lock you down.
I did mention those variant tieflings. There are a few of them you might want to consider. If your DM doesn’t allow Tasha’s Cauldron, ask if you can at least play a feral tiefling, you keep the intelligence bonus and swap the charisma bonus for a dexterity bonus instead, which is still more useful to you. Finally, if you don’t see yourself using your infernal legacy, consider swapping it out for the winged trait, granting you a flying speed. Definitely check with your DM before doing this though.
As for your Primal Path (subclass), barbarians have a variety, and just about all of them are great choices. All except the battlerager that is, I would not recommend this option on the grounds that despite having some fun lore to it, it does not scale well at all.
The variety in the rest of the paths, however, depends more on the function you wish to perform. Zealot barbarians are almost impossible to kill but deal less damage than some others. Ancestral Guardians are great as tanks, Totem Warrior has the most customization, the Path of the Beast is very well-rounded, and Berserkers will go the extra mile for the kill. Your desires here should guide your decision.
How to Play a Tiefling Barbarian
Many people opt not to play barbarians, on account that they are a simple class, but this is not entirely true. Most barbarians will be doing their damage by hitting something with a very big weapon, but that doesn’t make them simple. Depending on the primal path you’ve chosen, you may be granted additional benefits while raging.
One thing that is common to all barbarians is that in combat you can enter a state of rage during which you have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. This alone makes you pretty durable on the frontlines but doesn’t necessarily make you a tank, given that it’ll be some time before your armor class can compete with heavy armor.
Your innate danger sense will help with your defense against spells too, granting you extra staying power. You’ll still want to keep yourself near your enemies, as your rage will usually end if you haven’t attacked or been attacked between turns. Your primal path will determine the remainder of your combat strategy.
How to Roleplay as a Tiefling Barbarian
One of the greatest injustices done to barbarians is their usual depiction as morons, and this is simply not the case. While it’s true that charisma and intelligence aren’t necessary or popular stats for barbarians, this doesn’t have to come across in your roleplay.
The fact that you smash things with your strength using a big weapon doesn’t make you a slow-witted brute either. R.A. Salvatore’s novels depict barbarians as proud warriors, masters of their art of combat, with powerful instincts. Your barbarian might be quite the suave and well-mannered individual until it’s time to throw down (especially as a tiefling). With that being said, don’t struggle too hard to break the stereotype if you don’t want to – it can be fun to play a mindless mass of muscle.