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4e barbarian - phb2
A human barbarian

Barbarians are mighty warriors who rely on their strength and incredible toughness, as empowered through ancestral totems and nature spirits to win battles. Barbarians are less versatile than the often more civilized fighters but are adept at dealing heavy damage to their foes quickly.[1]

The most famous barbarian of Toril is likely Wulfgar, friend and companion to Drizzt Do'Urden.


Barbarians are common within several organizations within Faerûn such as Uthgardt warrior traditions of the Silver Marches and Icewind Dale, the primal warriors of the Reghed Glacier, wild tribes of the Chondalwood, Chult, and the famous berserkers of Rashemen and its neighboring regions.[2] However, contrary to common belief, not all warriors who live outside civilization's borders are barbarians. Only those who embrace the wild and primal ways of the rage can rightly call themselves barbarian, imbuing them with a wild spirit not found amongst most warriors.[3] Barbarians' feral nature means they lack the discipline to be lawful, though all other alignments are found amongst barbarians.[4]

Barbarians have a reputation, perhaps not completely deserved, as reckless ruffians and savage nuisances who needless disrupt society by acts of mayhem. However, barbarians, while undoubtedly feral and unpredictable by the nature of their rages are not necessarily uncultured brutes and have time and time again proven cunning and resourcefulness as well as sheer physical power and endurance. Sometimes, in spite of their aversion to order, barbarians even demonstrate honor.[4]

However, barbarians are united, no matter their origins, by a marked lack of disciplines or patience for the laws and traditions that others adhere to. Likewise, while a generalization, it is true to some degree that nearly all barbarians come from outside the confines of settled civilization, being far more common amongst nomadic tribes or frontier settlers than they are amongst urban city dwellers. It is from these remote origins that barbarians often derive their reverence for nature, which brings them close to druids, rangers, and others who venerate the wilderness and honor it.[4]

Many barbarians are human, since humans are amongst the most widespread of the race as well as, in many cases the most uncivilized. However, orc and goblinoid barbarians are more common still and are sometimes the most commonly encountered soldiers of their race.[4] Barbarians from the other races are relatively rare, though amongst elves there are the wild elves, amongst halflings the ghostwise, and amongst dwarves the wild dwarves, each of which have barbarian traditions. Half-elves from the Yuirwood are also sometimes drawn to the way of the barbarian, as are planetouched raised amongst tribal cultures.[2] Dragonborn, goliath, and half-elven barbarians are also fairly common, dragonborns and half-elves preferring the way of thaneborn barbarians, while goliaths are more often rageblood barbarians.[5]

Barbarians have varying attitudes towards magic. On the one hand, barbarians distrust most things they do not understand and this extends towards what they call "book magic" or magic learned in a school or university, such as that used by swordmages or wizards. On the other hand, barbarians are themselves wielders of primal magic, as are the druids many barbarians call friends, or at least allies. Likewise, barbarians often show a large degree of respect for sorcerers, whose approach to magic is much like their own approach to combat. In no small way it is likely that the barbarian prejudice against scholarly magic is due in part to the fact that many barbarians are illiterate.[6]


Dragonborn barbarians - Steve Argyle

A group of dragonborn barbarians.

As handy with a weapon as a fighter, barbarians become tougher and more agile as they become more powerful. Though barbarians can wield one-handed weapons many prefer to use two-handed weapons in order to deal maximum damage. Barbarians are also well-versed in the use of light armor but typically lack training in heavier forms of protection such as chainmail or shields,[3] though a few are trained in the latter.[4] Because they lack heavier forms of armor and put their emphasis on power over speed most barbarians train themselves to take incredible levels of punishment that would easily fell lesser beings. Barbarians also develop an aptitude for following up deadly blows with smaller ones, so as to finish off their enemies quickly and easily.[7]

Barbarians draw upon the primal energies of the natural world and its guardian spirits, often in the form of ancestral totems, for empowerment, gaining powerful abilities called evocations.[8] The feral might gained by barbarians can manifest in many other ways and some use it to empower themselves to the point of nigh invulnerability, finding it easier to take blows and plow onwards rather than dodge them. Others might gain the ability to literally shape their fate, affecting the quality of luck dealt them through force of will.[5]

The most distinctive aspect of barbarians is their ability to "rage," wherein they let loose powerful emotional bursts fueled by their primal power. When they rage, barbarians gain powerful benefits to their lesser evocations that last until they collapse or enter a new rage. Barbarians can also use a fraction of their raging power to deal a devastating attack known as a rage strike.[9]

Barbarians have been known to take on other, less common abilities. For instance, many but not all barbarians are trained in moving more swiftly than other adventurers, at least while wearing chainmail or lighter armor, by a factor of roughly twenty to thirty percent. Other barbarians have the capacity to react to danger instinctively, before they are even aware of its presence, giving them an edge against invisible or otherwise unseen attackers. When this ability is developed further these barbarians become difficult or nigh impossible to flank effectively, reacting instantaneously to threats from all around them, be they enemies, traps, or magical effects.[10]


  1. Rob Heinsoo, Mike Mearls, Jesse Decker, & Robert J. Schwalb. Playtest: Barbarian (PDF). Dragon magazine 368 p. 18.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition, p. 22. Wizards of the CoastISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2, p. 48. Wizards of the CoastISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams (August 2000). Player's Handbook 3rd edition, p. 24. Wizards of the CoastISBN 0-7869-1551-4.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2, p. 49. Wizards of the CoastISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
  6. Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams (August 2000). Player's Handbook 3rd edition, p. 24-25. Wizards of the CoastISBN 0-7869-1551-4.
  7. Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2, p. 48-49. Wizards of the CoastISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
  8. Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2, p. 50. Wizards of the CoastISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
  9. Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2, p. 49-50. Wizards of the CoastISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
  10. Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams (August 2000). Player's Handbook 3rd edition, p. 25. Wizards of the CoastISBN 0-7869-1551-4.

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