If you’re reading this guide, chances are you’re either a fan of D&D, a curious newcomer to the game, or looking for some fresh ideas to invigorate your campaign. Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (5e), in particular, is loved for its balanced mechanics, robust character options, and simplified gameplay, making it an excellent edition for both beginners and experienced players.
This post is a deep dive into the Dwarf Barbarian—a character build that combines the tenacity of the Dwarf race with the brute strength of the Barbarian class. We’ll navigate through the nuances of creating this character, from their backstory to their battleaxe. By the end, you’ll have a thorough understanding of the Dwarf Barbarian and how to effectively bring this character to life in your game.
Understanding the Basics
Before we start shaping our Dwarf Barbarian, let’s first understand the core components of this build—the Dwarf race and the Barbarian class.
The Dwarf Race
In the lore of D&D, Dwarves are renowned for their craftsmanship, combat ability, and resilience. Dwarves are known for their stout stature and are innately resistant to poison, thanks to their hardy constitution—a trait that dovetails nicely with the Barbarian’s rugged survival instincts. There is also the opportunity to select specific Dwarf subraces, like Hill or Mountain.
The Barbarian Class
The Barbarian, on the other hand, is the embodiment of raw power. Unleashing unparalleled physical strength and primal instinct, the Barbarian excels at taking hits and delivering devastating blows. Its signature feature, Rage, makes it a formidable force on the battlefield, amplifying its damage output and resilience.
Why Choose a Dwarf Barbarian?
Now, you might ask—why consider a Dwarf Barbarian? This combination creates a robust front-line character, merging the defensive qualities of the Dwarf with the offensive capabilities of the Barbarian. The Dwarf’s racial traits—such as Darkvision and Dwarven Resilience—complement the Barbarian’s melee focus, while the Barbarian’s Rage feature and hit points maximize the Dwarf’s inherent toughness.
Building Your Dwarf Barbarian
Crafting a compelling character involves much more than merely picking a race and class—it’s about weaving a narrative that ties their abilities, personality, and backstory together. Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of building our Dwarf Barbarian.
The core of any Barbarian, including our Dwarf variant, lies in Strength and Constitution. Strength fuels your attacks and damage, while Constitution bolsters your already impressive pool of hit points and aids in maintaining concentration.
As a Dwarf, you get a +2 bonus to your Constitution score, which lends itself well to the physical fortitude of a Barbarian. Here’s a suggested distribution, using the standard array (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8):
- Strength: 15 (Your main ability for attacks and damage)
- Constitution: 14 (+2 racial bonus, essential for hit points and some Barbarian features)
- Dexterity: 13 (Helps with Armor Class and certain saving throws)
- Wisdom: 12 (Boosts some useful skills and Wisdom saving throws)
- Intelligence: 10 (Not a vital ability, but useful for certain skills)
- Charisma: 8 (Can be a ‘dump stat’, unless you have specific roleplay reasons)
Choosing the Right Background and Skills
Your character’s background not only gives them depth and personality, but also provides additional skills and tools. A couple of fitting choices for a Dwarf Barbarian might be the Soldier or Outlander background—each complements the Barbarian’s rugged lifestyle and the Dwarf’s disciplined nature.
Dwarves gain proficiency in the History skill due to their appreciation for tradition, and as a Barbarian, you can choose two skills from Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival. Prioritize Athletics and either Perception or Survival, given their direct combat utility.
Choosing the Right Barbarian Path
At 3rd level, your Barbarian will choose a Primal Path—subclass—that grants powerful features. For a Dwarf Barbarian, the Path of the Berserker or the Path of the Totem Warrior can be excellent choices. The Berserker’s Frenzy feature, allowing for a bonus action attack, works well with a Dwarf’s inherent hardiness, while the Totem Warrior’s versatility and resilience can reflect a Dwarf’s stubbornness and connection to the earth.
Here’s a summary table to capture these key character-building elements:
|STR: 15, CON: 16, DEX: 13, WIS: 12, INT: 10, CHA: 8
|History, Athletics, Perception/Survival
Equipment and Weapons
As a front-line warrior, your Dwarf Barbarian’s equipment choices are paramount. Let’s focus on the starting equipment you’ll need to launch your adventuring career.
Upon choosing the Barbarian class, you get:
- (a) a greataxe or (b) any martial melee weapon
- (a) two handaxes or (b) any simple weapon
- An explorer’s pack and four javelins
A greataxe is the quintessential Barbarian weapon, dealing significant damage. With your high Strength, you can wield it in two hands and use your Rage feature to add bonus damage. For versatility, the two handaxes option can provide you with a range weapon, especially useful when you can’t reach your enemies.
The explorer’s pack includes vital basic adventuring gear. Javelins, versatile and ranged, will be an excellent backup, particularly when you need to strike from a distance.
In terms of armor, Barbarians have an unique class feature—Unarmored Defense. This allows your Dwarf Barbarian to calculate their Armor Class (AC) based on their Constitution and Dexterity if they aren’t wearing any armor. That said, you may still want to consider wearing medium armor (like a breastplate) if you find one during your adventures, as it can potentially provide a higher AC.
Roleplaying a Dwarf Barbarian
The creation of a character is more than stats, equipment, and abilities; it’s about personality and narrative. A Dwarf Barbarian, with their rugged strength and unyielding resolve, can be an incredible character to role-play.
Maybe your character is a stern and solitary figure, driven by an unquenchable thirst for revenge against the orcs who razed his mountain home. Or perhaps they are a jovial and reckless brawler, always eager for a good fight or a drinking contest, using their intimidating presence to break tension and inspire camaraderie. Whatever your choice, strive to reflect the hybrid nature of your character—the stoic, steadfast demeanor of the Dwarves, combined with the wild, unbridled spirit of the Barbarian.
Tips and Tricks for Playing a Dwarf Barbarian
The Dwarf Barbarian is a frontline fighter through and through. Your main role in the party will be to soak up damage and dish out as much (or more) in return. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Use your Rage: As a Barbarian, your Rage feature is your best friend. It gives you bonus damage on your melee attacks and resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
- Protect your allies: With your high hit points and resistance to damage, you’re a natural shield for your more vulnerable allies. Use your positioning on the battlefield to keep the enemies focused on you.
- Don’t neglect your Dwarven resilience: Your Dwarven racial trait gives you advantage on saving throws against poison, and resistance to poison damage. This can be a life-saver in certain situations, so don’t forget about it!
Remember, the Dwarf Barbarian is a character of unyielding strength and indomitable will. They are the unbroken rock upon which the waves crash, the fiery tempest that rages through the battlefield. So grab your axe, bellow your battle cry, and embrace the storm of war with all the fury of your Dwarf Barbarian.
Whether you’re cleaving through goblins in the murky depths of a dungeon or standing as an unyielding bulwark against a dragon’s fiery onslaught, the Dwarf Barbarian is a character that embodies resilience, strength, and the sheer joy of melee combat. This distinctive blend of Dwarf racial traits and Barbarian class features makes for a truly exciting character to play, offering a wealth of tactical options and role-playing opportunities.
Remember, while the mechanics and strategy are essential, Dungeons & Dragons is, above all, a game of collective storytelling. Your Dwarf Barbarian is more than just their axe or their hit points—it’s their hearty laughter echoing in a tavern, their booming battle cry sending shivers down a troll’s spine, their unyielding resolve that inspires their comrades to fight on despite the odds.