D&D 5e: Warforged Barbarian Guide

A rusted metal warforged barbarian standing tall with his greatsword.

D&D 5e: Warforged Barbarian Guide

The Warforged are artificial beings literally created to wage war, and the Barbarian is a class that’s happiest when it’s throwing its axe first at the biggest creature it can find. Are you seeing what I’m seeing?

The Barbarian and Warforged seem like a match made in heaven, but is this actually a good race/class combination? This brief guide breaks down the most important aspects of the class, and how to make an effective build. 

How to Make a Warforged Barbarian

Barbarians are a relatively simple class to build at character generation. Max out Strength so you hit things harder and more often. Then put points into Constitution and Dexterity so you’re harder to hit and much tougher. 

The Barbarian class itself is also relatively simple, mechanically speaking. The core feature of the class is Rage, which boils down to taking less damage and dealing much more. Barbarians can use any weapon, but tend to lean towards the biggest thing they can carry, and can wear most armor and shields, but can also get away with none. 

The Waforged builds on this chassis with several extra layers of defenses. 

To start, the Warforged comes with +1AC built in. This is huge and goes a long way toward making a Warforged Barbarian one of the toughest melee characters in the game. 

On top of this, the character also has permanent immunity to disease, resistance to poison damage, and no need to eat, breathe, or sleep, all of which helps to make the character feel like an unfeeling, unstoppable juggernaut. 

That’s not to say that everything is focused on combat. Choosing a Warforged also comes with skill and tool proficiency, both of which are excellent for a class that suffers from its low number of total proficiencies.   

How to Play a Warforged Barbarian

Barbarians are primarily combat characters. Their role is to engage with enemies directly, deal consistent damage, and take hits in return. The core class offers everything a character needs to admirably fulfill both of these roles, with the biggest hit die in the game, access to all gear, built-in accuracy bonuses, damage steroids, and defensive buffs. 

That being said, Warforged Barbarians can be specced in two different directions, leaning heavily into either damage or protection, depending on the subclass. 

If you want to play a striker, the Path of the Beast subclass is the best option. It offers a wide range of buffs that can be changed every time you decide to Rage, letting the character hit harder, increase their AC, and at later levels even run up walls or force enemies to hit their allies. While the fluff of the subclass might not seem to mesh, it’s easy enough to say that instead of channeling its inner Beast, the Warforged itself shifts form, engaging go-go gadget claws to slash enemies to ribbons, then literally growing dolphin fins when it dives into the ocean. 

But a Warforged Barbarian is also uniquely positioned to build itself into a Defender, focusing more on preventing enemies from effectively harming the character’s allies over dealing damage. (Though it will still do a ton of damage.) 

The Totem Warrior subclass has incredible defenses (effectively halving all damage you take when raging is … silly) but the Ancestral Guardian is also an excellent choice, forgoing its own toughness to almost wholly prevent a single enemy from hurting anyone that’s not you. For both of these builds, a shield and one-handed weapon are key to push your Armor Class as high as possible, building on that sweet boosted AC racial trait. 

The Barbarian also benefits massively from picking up an early Feat centered around their choice of weapon. Most weapon feats increase damage in some way and offer something to do with your Bonus Action, which the Barbarian class generally doesn’t use beyond the first round of combat. 

Good choices include Great Weapon Master and Polearm Master, which revolve around having the biggest weapon you can carry, then attacking more often with it. Shield Master is a defensive choice, letting you try and knock enemies prone, which the Barbarian is excellent at, gaining Advantage to the check whenever they’re raging. 

Finally, if you’re making a  defensive build, Sentinel literally prevents an enemy from moving away from you, and lets you take a reactionary swing if an enemy attacks a friend close by. Both of these things are, obviously, good at keeping the focus on you and not your squishy wizard ally.

Out of combat, Barbarians can feel like they lack utility. The class isn’t typically a Face and doesn’t have access to many skills, nor the stats to power them. Choosing Warforged helps with this, adding another tool and skill proficiency, but you’re still never going to match a Rogue or Bard. Choose a lane, a thing to do in social and non-combat encounters, and specialize in it as much as you can. 

How to Roleplay as a Warforged Barbarian

The Warforged are a race that was literally built for combat, and many of them struggle with their place in the world and being little more than living weapons. Many still seek a place, looking to expand their horizons and become more than what they were built to be. Others are resigned to their lot, or even happy pursuing what seems to come naturally. 

A good starting point when it comes to RPing is asking why your character continues to fight, now that the Last War has ended. Is it all they know, or do they keep up arms because they were witness to the horrors and atrocities of war, and fight to prevent more from being committed? Are they mission focused and aggressive, or protective, caring more about the safeguarding of their allies?

As a class, the Barbarian revolves around combat prowess and directed anger, but it’s the source of that anger that’s important. Ask yourself where the character’s rage comes from, and how the powers the class grants affect them. Also ask whether that anger is controlled, and how it affects them when they’re not fighting. 

Finally, Warforged were designed as weapons, but the options available from your skills and background can add interesting sidelines and character traits. After all, who would expect a Barbarian, fresh from the battlefield and incapable of eating, to be an established and exceptional chef?

As created warriors, all of these choices would be self defined, and can really add a lot of character to your, well, character. 

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