Barbarians in Dungeons & Dragons come in all shapes and sizes, from the tallest, lumbering tribesman to stocky dwarves, but they share a kindred spirit through their boundless rage. They unleash anger in an unstoppable flurry of attacks on anyone who is unfortunate enough to be in their path. Unlike several other classes in D&D, this one has its roots in real life. The Barbarian class has a long history, inspired by mythical figures like Hercules and authentic Roman accounts of the raging northern hordes.

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The source of that Barbarian rage differs depending on the Primal Path that the Barbarian has chosen. This is also known as the subclass, and it's the part of the character creation sheet that comes right after choosing your main class. Below is our list of worst to best subclasses, but don't let that keep you from choosing something unconventional, keeping in mind that sometimes context and flavor are more important than utility.

Updated on August 5th, 2021, by Kristy Ambrose: The Barbarian continues to evolve not only as a fun and interesting class to play on its own but as a versatile option when it comes to multi-class and homebrew creations. A few more subclasses have been added since the early days, and there are currently eight Primal Paths for the Barbarian to walk. The compilation here doesn't include experimental or unique subclasses that you can create with the help of supplemental materials or help from your Dungeon Master.

8 The Berserker

  • Source: D&D Player's Handbook
  • Main Benefit: Enter a Berserker’s Rage and move into battle with a near-total disregard for your own safety. Enter a Frenzy when raging. Provides a single melee weapon attack as a bonus action while rage persists.
  • Signature Abilities: Mindless Rage, which makes you immune to being Charmed or frightened while raging. At later levels, you gain Intimidation and Retaliation.
  • Party Role: If your goal is to deal an incredible amount of sustained damage, the Path of the Berserker is a great choice.

7 The Zealot

Barbarian fighter grappling with two opponents
  • Source: Xanathar's Guide to Everything
  • Main Benefit: Infused with the rage of powerful gods, deities of combat, violence, and endless destruction.
  • Signature Abilities: Channels Divine Fury into their weapon strikes and has the power of Resurrection at later levels with Warrior of the Gods. Rage Beyond Death is the ultimate reward for worshiping certain deities, as you shrug off fatal blows and continue fighting at zero hit points.
  • Party Role: Defense or Damage, since this subclass attracts as much aggression as they put out. Some consider Zealots to be angry Paladins that are not forced to follow the law.

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6 The Battlerager

  • Source: Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide
  • Main Benefit: Some of the most intimidating armor, at least in appearance and theatrics, wearing terrifying spiked armor that is meant to be used as a weapon.
  • Signature Ability: Spiked Retribution at level 15, which causes enemies to take damage for attacking you with melee attacks if you are raging and wearing the spiked armor.
  • Party Role: Damage, with very little variation. Dwarves are the only race allowed to take the Battlerager path unless your DM lifts the restriction to better suit the campaign.

5 The Beast

D&D creatures
  • Source: Tasha's Cauldron of Everything
  • Main Benefit: Strikes a balance between Damage and Defense, the perfect choice for a Barbarian that wants to lead the charge in battle and protect their party. Relies heavily on natural weapons and also has access to abilities related to animals.
  • Signature Abilities: Form of the Beast, in which the Barbarian chooses between Bite, Claw, or Tail damage.
  • Party Role: An equal amount of both Defense and Damage.

4 The Storm Herald

  • Source: Xanathar's Guide to Everything
  • Main Benefit: Transform your inner rage into an aura of primal magic, tapping into nature to create magical effects. Storm heralds can be found in all the most extreme temperate zones, including areas frequented by storms, freezing cold, or hot deserts, and probably have the most interesting backstory of any subclass.
  • Signature Ability: Storm Aura, which extends ten feet in all directions when you Rage and offers different effects based on choosing desert, sea, or tundra.
  • Party Role: Primarily Defensive, as their magic focuses on protection as opposed to Damage.

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3 The Ancestral Guardian

Loxodon, D&D race from Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica
  • Source: Xanathar's Guide to Everything
  • Main Benefit: Warriors long gone from our mortal world remain as mighty spirits. Barbarians on this Path can call upon these ancestors to appear as spectral warriors when entering their Rage state. Your target is also the target of these ancestral spirits, who work to hinder the opponent, provide them disadvantage, and makes them less effective in combat.
  • Signature Ability: Spirit Shield grants you supernatural protection, and later on, Retaliation in the form of force damage with Vengeful Ancestors.
  • Party Role: Equally good as Damage or Defense.

2 Wild Magic

Split image of Dungeons & Dragons' Sorcerers
  • Source: Tasha's Cauldron of Everything
  • Main Benefit: Access to the chaotic magic that's usually associated with the Sorcerer class. This Path has its own Wild Magic table and although the results are not predictable, all can be beneficial if you're creative and can think outside the box.
  • Signature Ability: Wild Surge, in which the player has to roll on the effect of unpredictable magic the same way as a Sorcerer would.
  • Party Role: Primarily Damage but some possibilities for Defense. Ideal for Barbarians on the Chaotic side of the moral spectrum.

1 The Totem Warrior

  • Source: D&D Player's Handbook
  • Main Benefit: At level three, players make or acquire a totem that represents either a bear, eagle, wolf, elk, or tiger. Each has different benefits and choosing a different animal in different campaigns is one way to experience a broad range of Barbarian activities.
  • Signature Ability: Aspect of the Beast and Totemic Attunement, which gives massive resistance to damage that is not physical, also gives hostile creatures Disadvantage on attack rolls.
  • Party Role: Primarily Damage, depending on what animal they choose at different levels, and the durable qualities of a tank by resisting most damage types.

NEXT: Dungeons & Dragons: How To Multiclass As A Barbarian

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