Whether a class in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition (or any role-playing game for that matter) is good is entirely subjective. What you might think is good is probably different from someone else.
But, I’ll try to make a case to answer the question "is the barbarians good in 5e?"
But today, we’re gonna get right into whether the 5e Barbarian is good or not.
Is the Barbarian Good in 5e?
Long story short, yes. The Barbarian class in D&D 5e is good.
While the typical Barbarian seems limited, the class has a surprising amount of flexibility in how you play. And, while the class has its weaknesses (as all the classes do), it’s still a fantastic choice to play.
But, what makes the Barbarian in D&D 5e good? And, what makes it bad?
I’m going to break down the strengths and weaknesses of the class so you can see the pros and cons of playing one.
While I think the Barbarian is good, you might decide you don’t like it because of its weaknesses. Which is the whole point of this article to begin with.
Anyway. That’s enough of the preamble. Let’s get to the strengths of the Barbarian.
Strengths of the 5e Barbarian
There are a few things that make the D&D 5e Barbarian good.
From its survivability to its combat prowess the Barbarian is a powerhouse when it comes to combat. And, often, Barbarians are great for adventuring between combat encounters too.
Strength #1: The Babarian’s Survivability
The biggest strength of the Barbarian in D&D 5e is its survivability.
When you’re making a Barbarian character you’re probably going to prioritize Constitution as one of your top two or three Ability Scores. Add the biggest Hit Die (12-sided) for any class and you have a beefy character with a respectable amount of hit points.
And, the best part?
You effectively double your hit points with the Rage class feature.
…Well, against bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. But, still.
Since the Barbarian’s Rage feature halve damage from these sources, that basically (and mathematically) means your effective hit points are doubled.
I won’t go too much into the different subclasses here (like how the Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian following the Bear adds more damage resistances). But, if you want a bit more insight on them, check out my post on comparing the Barbarian subclasses here. Just know that some Barbarian Paths grant additional damage resistances. But, the class itself is pretty durable.
Strength #2: The Barbarian’s Combat Prowess
The next greatest strength (or tied for the best because this and the previous point are what they’re known for) for the Barbarian class is its absolute brutality in combat.
As far as the more mundane (as opposed to magical) classes go, the Barbarians hits the hardest. Maybe not as often or as discreetly. But, they’re known for their ferocity in combat and relentless drive towards victory through bloodshed.
And, the best part?
They can back it up
Because of their Rage class feature they deal more damage with each melee hit. Add that on top of the fact that they’re a bit harder to kill than the other classes, you have the perfect recipe for an angry musclehead wailing on you for several consecutive minutes with the weapon of their choice.
This makes 5e Barbarians great for dishing out damage…
…For the most part. But, we’ll get to that later.
Strength #3: The Barbarian on the Road
The last major strength of the Barbarian in 5e is they’re actually pretty useful outside of combat too.
How many times has your party come across a door you couldn’t open? Or, needed to lift a heavy object for whatever reason (saving a wounded ally, moving a boulder from the road, etc)? Or, needed to hunt for food in the wilderness?
Granted, a lot of these problems can be solved magically. But, I guarantee you your party turned to your Barbarian first.
Here’s the thing, spell slots are finite but strength lasts forever…
…Unless you’re fighting a Shadow. But, that’s beside the point.
The point I’m making is that often, you won’t want to resort to magical solutions to mundane problems because what if you need those spells slots later? Your Barbarian can lift boulders, kick in doors, and forage for food all day.
Also, and I hate that this is where my mind goes…you can use the party Barbarian as a test subject.
Here’s the scenario; you’re invited to dinner with the shady noble. The soup is served. Do you eat it? Well, it’d be rude not to. But, what if it’s poisoned? Well…
…Why not have the Barbarian try it first? They’ve got a good Constitution score. So, even if it is poisoned, they’ve got a better chance at stomaching it than anyone else in the party.
This method also applies to:
- Testing water depth
- Testing rooms filled with toxic gas
- Seeing just how many arrows will shoot out of the trap wall
- Holding open portcullis’ that close at a dramatically slow rate
- Standing in front of the healer/spellcaster when opening a suspicious door or chest
And, the list goes on and on.
Basically, got a problem that can’t be solved with logic, dexterity, or you want to save spell slots? Give it to the Barbarian.
Weaknesses of the 5e Barbarian
Now, just because the Barbarian is good that doesn’t mean it’s without weaknesses.
Furthermore, the faults of the class aren’t that big of a deal. But, they could be enough to dissuade you from playing one.
So, let’s get to the weaknesses of the Barbarian in D&D 5e.
Weakness #1: Mundane Damage
Perhaps the biggest downside to playing a Barbarian is their lack of diverse damage types.
With a few exceptions (such as the damage types from the Path of the Storm Herald), Barbarians will only ever deal bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage. And, that’s all going to depend on what weapons your character uses.
So, what happens when you encounter an enemy that resists or flat out ignores those damage types?
Well, your character becomes a lot less useful in combat is what.
Not to say that you can’t do anything. But, your Barbarian’s damage output is gonna suffer because of it.
Now, this can all be negated with magic items or your subclass choice.
But, no matter how you slice it, it is a downside to the class as a whole.
Weakness #2: Range Problems
The next weakness of the Barbarian is they tend to be a bit weaker when engaged in ranged combat.
Barbarians can still use ranged weapons mind you. And, if your Ability Scores are placed in such a way, they can still be okay at it.
But, because of the wording in their Rage feature, Barbarians don’t add their bonus damage to ranged attacks. Only your melee weapon attacks get your bonus damage. So, you’re cutting out an integral part of the class when engaged with far-off enemies.
At this point many of the other classes outshine the Barbarian.
Again, this can all be negated with magic items. But, on their own, Barbarians have a rough time fighting enemies they can’t get up on.
Weakness #3: Role-Playing Restrictions
Now, that’s not entirely true. There aren’t any restrictions on playing a Barbarian character. But, there’s a tendency to play a Barbarian as the big, dumb musclehead.
I’m including this as a weakness mostly because of the reputation of the class.
If you’re joining a pick-up game at your local game shop or an online game with strangers, you could run into issues where people assume things about your character’s story.
Now, this can happen with any class. So, it’s only so much of a drawback to the Barbarian specifically. But, I feel like a good group of players assume every Barbarian is the same.
Much like the Bard or the Rogue, Barbarians get pigeonholed into a specific niche.
There’s nothing wrong with playing a trope-laden character. But, what if you want to be different?
If you’re table’s cool, that won’t be a problem. But, getting those stereotypes out of peoples’ heads can be…frustrating.
A good way to alleviate this when choosing your Barbarian’s background. You can go with the usual or break free and do something weird with your character.
Whatever sounds fun to you.
So, that’s about it the question of is the Barbarian good in D&D 5e.
Personally, I say yes. The Barbarian is good. They’re great to have in a party for combat and exploration. Heck, I’d even say they’re good in social encounters if you’re looking for a little intimidation.
But, remember: this is all subjective.
While I can overlook the drawbacks of the Barbarian they may be a deal breaker for you. And, that’s fine. There are 12 other classes for you to try.
Do you think the Barbarian is good? What issues do you have or what do you love about the class? Leave a comment and we can discuss.
Thanks for reading. And, winds at your back.