Beast Barbarian guide D&D 5e

Beast Barbarian Comprehensive Guide: D&D 5e

D&D Path of the Beast Barbarian guide featured art is art from Wizards of the Coast’s books for D&D 5e, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and Monster Manual.
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My favorite Barbarian subclass is Path of the Beast. I’ve played a campaign as the Beast Barbarian, and I was impressed by the options that most Barbarians don’t have.

I’ve seen comments on YouTube and Reddit that say this subclass doesn’t do enough damage to be viable. I disagree! I’ve done more sophisticated calculations than 98% of players will ever do that indicate that I’m correct. Aside from damage, the Beast Barbarian has options that freshen up the one-note Barbarian class, so it’s not merely a “white room” DPR analysis that I’m providing.

My goal is to make this article the most comprehensive guide to Path of the Beast on the internet.

The purpose of this article is to completely exhaust the analysis of the subclass so you can use it to its fullest potential. Additionally, I’m seeking to completely dissect the character options for the Path of the Beast to show players that it is not suboptimal with its DPR for combat, but also that it has fun options that players will enjoy. If you’ve ever played a Barbarian and gotten bored because you felt like you were always doing the same thing, the Beast Barbarian is for you.

I’ve also found that many of my ideas are not found anywhere else on the internet. It might be that they’re out there, but I haven’t found them. I believe this is the most comprehensive guide on the Beast Barbarian that you can find. You can find the Path of the Beast in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.

Here’s what you can expect in this beast of an article:

  • What’s so appealing about the Path of the Beast?
  • Roleplay and flavor
  • Subclass feature breakdown
  • Character concepts and builds (some DPR math included)
    • Feats
    • Races
    • Tactics

Beast Barbarians Have Options

Players enjoy options, and I’m no exception to that norm. One of the usual weaknesses of the Barbarian is that it feels one-note; players end up doing the same things on repeat. The Beast Barbarian has its optimal choices, but there are more options available to it (that don’t suck) than any other Barbarian I’ve played.

I’m going to dissect the subclass to explore those options and point out how there are hidden strengths to them. I’ll go through the features individually, and then I’ll transition into some macro concepts to consider. I may have character concept suggestions along the way.

Here are the pros and cons of the Beast Barbarian (BB):

Pros:

  • Less dependent on feats to be fun/viable.
  • Enables small races to be Barbarians.
  • Open to utilizing bonus actions in new ways that don’t involve the Polearm Master feat (especially because PM says the bonus action attack only works if you “only” attack with your polearm).
  • Able to use a shield and other options without a heavy weapon.
  • Compatible with riding mounts more than heavy-weapon Barbarians.
  • Dependence on magic items is almost non-existent since natural weapons become magical.
  • Can’t be disarmed while Raging with natural weapons (unless they’re severed).
  • This subclass may be the most synergistic with the Barbarian’s capstone feature at level twenty: Primal Champion and unlimited uses of Rage. I say this because the +4 Constitution bonus helps Infectious Fury’s DC. Unlimited Rage allows you to keep adapting the natural weapons you manifest and activate Call the Hunt multiple times in a fight instead of having to save it for the next fight’s Rage instance. You can also choose more allies to be affected by Call the Hunt when your Con is raised.

Cons:

  • Rage dependent for most of its subclass features.
  • Weaker critical hits (less synergy with the Barbarian’s Brutal Critical feature).
  • Players and DMs need to know varied fringe rules of D&D 5e to maximize fun.
  • Might find magic items that don’t jive with natural weapons.

Let’s look at the features of the subclass and break them down!


Subclass Features of Beast Barbarians

The origin of your bestial powers can come from many sources, and you can even re-flavor the subclass to be less beast-focused. Maybe you’re an Aasimar who looks like true biblical seraphim when you Rage (truly terrifying).

The suggested “Origin of the Beast” table gives a few suggestions for your powers’ origins (backstory and flavor ideas):

  • Lycanthrope parent (Werebeast hereditary powers).
  • Descendent of a powerful shapechanger as an archdruid (heredity passing of natural power).
  • You met a spirit that gave you powers (fey gift/pact, Animorphs).
  • An ancient animal spirit shares your form (symbiotic relationship, Totem Barbarian knockoff).

If those origins don’t sound fun, here are more ideas:

  • You’re an experimental subject who escaped or was set free (great for a Ravenloft/Domain of Dread setting).
  • Cursed by a hag when you failed to honor a bargain, you now have an unstable form.
  • Permanently altered by a botched Polymorph spell or potion.
  • Your transformations are based on body augmentations instead of a supernatural, bestial change (Wolverine, Archangel, General Grievous).
  • Psionic powers allow you to siphon the evolutionary advantages of other creatures to improve your form (Mr. Sinister).
  • Your astral self manifests when you Rage (rip off the Astral Self Monk).

The backstory and flavor potential are vast with this subclass. I highly recommend getting creative to find something that is fun for you.

Form of the Beast (Level 3, Beast Barbarian Subclass Feature)

When I played a BB, I loved describing my transformations when I Raged. I would vary the beasts I was emulating. Sometimes I had the claws of a polar bear or a badger, the tail of a manta ray or crocodile, or the jaw of an ant.

These transformations create another level of dependence on Rage for this subclass, but I’m ok with that. By the way, if you want to change the natural weapons you’ve manifested, you can use a bonus action to activate another use of Rage and change your natural weapons. You can review the rules for overlapping effects with the same name if that’s unclear.

Natural weapons that manifest from Form of the Beast count as simple melee weapons. This is an important distinction to categorize them in this way, and it will affect whether or not they can be used with certain feats and abilities to be explored later in this article.

If you have other transformations that don’t negate your class features, such as with a Druid multiclass for Wild Shape, your new forms can still Rage and gain Form of the Beast mutations. I’ll speak more on this later, but it could be very fun. You’re going to be a mutant like a fish in the lake next to a nuclear power plant.

Bite

This will be the option you use the least (probably). The damage is the same 1d8 as the tail option, but it doesn’t have a defensive reaction. If you’re below half of your hitpoints, and you have other damage dealers in the party who can deal the big damage, you might spend your attacks biting. Once per turn, while you’re below half of your maximum hitpoints, your bite heals you equal to your PB. This healing becomes twice as effective when you’re resisting incoming damage (resistance makes every hitpoints twice as valuable).

You don’t need to hold your jaws/teeth, so your hands remain free while you manifest the bite option. You can keep your defenses up with Defensive Duelist and a shield while you gnaw some tasty sustenance with your bite.

Do you want to know a few tricks with this bite feature? Try to make non-lethal attacks against your enemies so you knock them unconscious. Then finish them off with a bite attack so you regain hitpoints. Doing so gets you an extra bite before they die and become objects (no longer creatures). You can also use your allies’ summoned creatures at the end of a fight as chow time to regain hitpoints with your bite before your Rage concludes. This incentivizes summoning quantities of creatures instead of quality (though sometimes you can get both).

Claws

I was most interested in the claws option for this subclass. I will grow into great detail about how claws can be used effectively later in this article.

The best part of the claws is that you get another attack that doesn’t clog up your action economy after you make one claw attack on your turn. You get to add Rage damage and your Strength modifier to the damage of each claw attack. The claws deal 1d6 damage, but the real prize comes from the damage modifiers that are added to each attack.

The claws also allow you to be better at grappling without sacrificing as much of your action economy or juggling your two-handed weapons. Your weapons are built into your hands, so it’s easy to keep hands free for grappling. Your claw attacks also don’t rely on having two clawed hands; you can make multiple attacks with the claws on one hand.

I’m going to suggest a build that utilizes the Dual Wielder feat, claws, and handaxes. I encourage you to talk to your DM about simplifying the weapon juggling by allowing you to count your claws as weapons you are “holding” so they are compatible with two-weapon fighting after taking Dual Wielder (since they’re not light weapons). Shucks, I’d even encourage your DM to allow you to treat your claws as light for the sake of two-weapon fighting. The damage isn’t insane compared to the “usual” combinations that martial characters achieve with feats.

Tail

The reach property can be useful while you keep enemies away, especially if they only have five-foot melee attacks. If they get too close, your reaction can stop an attack. The roll of 1d8 makes it less reliable than Shield, but the average is still +4.5 AC. The AC boost only works against the triggering attack, so it’s still not as good as Shield. But you’re a Barbarian, so you can’t cast Shield while Raging if you have it.

Your hands remain free for other things while your tail can attack and defend. This opens you up to creative defensive options while maintaining decent offense. If you can grapple an enemy while attacking it and defending yourself, you can stop them from attacking your allies (or have disadvantage on ranged attacks while next to you).

Bestial Soul (Level 6, Beast Barbarian Subclass Feature)

This feature is amazing. First, it makes your natural weapons magical, meaning you’re not going to be useless against supernatural monsters that would resist non-magical attacks. You become less dependent on magic items because of this feature. If you find a magic item that is better, that’s great, but you can’t guarantee magic items in a game.

Second, the adaptations you can choose from are excellent. I adore that they don’t depend on your Rage. The adaptations are useful for both combat and exploration. I’ll talk about each of the three adaptations briefly:

Swim speed and water breathing

Any sort of aquatic situation will inflate this adaptation’s value. You can survive underwater as you breathe and swim effortlessly, but you can also fight underwater without disadvantage regardless of your weapons of choice. If you don’t know what that means, it means that having a swim speed is specifically stated in the rules to remove the limitations on underwater combat: your speed isn’t halved, you don’t have disadvantage with most weapons, etc. This is also an excellent exploration feature.

I imagine a strong Barbarian could swim up a waterfall with this adaptation. That would be an incredible feat of strength and athleticism!

Wall crawling (including ceilings)

As my favorite adaptation, I can’t say enough good things about this. My first 5e character had permanent spider climbing from a magic item, and it was so much fun. Climbing without needing your hands can be as tactically relevant as flight. You can attack from above with a reach weapon or ranged weapon. You can drop from a high ceiling to activate the rules for falling onto a creature (more on that later). This is also an excellent exploration feature.

You should ask your DM if they’d allow you to drop prone while you’re on a wall or ceiling. This would give enemies disadvantage to hit you, so dropping prone on a wall or ceiling could be a great way to end your turn. Being prone while climbing isn’t something the rules say you can and cannot do, but it would be preferred over being a flying creature knocked prone and falling to the ground.

A DM might allow you to use your climbing ability on gargantuan monsters. It would remind me of Shadow of the Colossus as you try to find a weak point in a titan’s form.

Super leap

Most players consider this to be the weakest adaptation, but I’m here to tell you it has its place. You can’t always climb or swim in an exploration situation. It’s unfortunate that the jump distance is based on a roll, so you might not jump as far as you needed to jump. You’ll have advantage on the Athletics roll if you’re Raging, making the jump d20 roll more reliable. I’ll explain in great detail how you can use this adaptation in combat later in this article. It involves dropping onto people and dragging them around. The jump distance becomes reliable when you get Indomitable Might as an 18th-level Barbarian.

Barbarians aren’t great at ranged attacks, but you’ll find flying monsters in your travels. If you can’t reach them with a climbing speed, surprise them with a crazy-high jump. Grapple them or shove them prone while they’re flying. Knocking them prone will make them fall to the ground if they’re not held aloft by magic or a hover effect. Grappling them will allow you to drag them down as you fall back to the ground. Either way, you both take fall damage and become prone on the ground (unless you take no falling damage). Suddenly, that flying threat is in big trouble!

You can gain this adaptation’s jump boost once per turn, so make it count. You can vault over difficult terrain, for example. The Jump and Longstrider spells are usually unpopular spells, but spellcasters might warm up to them with you on their team. Maybe your party’s Wizard can spare a first-level spell slot or two for you. It would certainly shock enemy spellcasters to see you leap over their frontline minions to directly assault the squishy casters.

Don’t forget the rules for jumping over difficult terrain (more on that later). You can avoid battlefield hazards entirely if you play your cards well.

Who needs ranged attacks when you are the ranged attack?

Infectious Fury (Level 10, Beast Barbarian Subclass Feature)

While I love this feature, I should point out a few shortcomings of it. The 2d12 psychic damage doesn’t work like Divine Smite or Sneak Attack, meaning it doesn’t get added to the attack’s damage. The damage is separate from the attack. That’s an important distinction because you can’t critical hit for 4d12 psychic damage (or more than that with Brutal Critical). It also does nothing if the enemy passes its Wisdom saving throw.

On the bright side, this feature can be used without crowding your action economy; you choose to do it, and it happens.

The option to make an enemy attack someone is amazing. I love anything that turns enemies against themselves. Additionally, this makes the enemy use their reaction, taking away their option for an opportunity attack or Counterspell, for example. Beast Barbarians make impressive supports for your spellcasters since they can get in the face of an enemy spellcaster and remove their ability to cast Counterspell for a given round. The Initiative order needs to line up to make this useful. Interestingly, if the spellcaster you attack is concentrating on a spell, they’ll attempt Constitution saving throws to maintain concentration from your attacks and Infectious Fury separately. It’s an additional way to break concentration.

Call the Hunt (Level 14, Beast Barbarian Subclass Feature)

Once again, I love that this feature doesn’t depend on an open spot in your action economy. Call the Hunt happens as part of entering your Rage. I wish it gave the BB a d6 once per turn for extra damage, but the feature makes it clear that the temporary hitpoints are for the BB, and the 1d6 is for the allies. This feature is best if you have at least two allies who make attacks that roll damage. The temporary hitpoints will assist you with your survivability.


Beast Barbarian Character Concepts and Builds

I’ll start with the character builds from the perspective of combat mechanics. Those will be the most useful to expound in greater detail, and I’ve put much effort into several DPR calculations for a clawed two-weapon Barbarian concept (among others).

Claws and Two-Weapon Fighting (Dual Wielding)

Your natural weapons count as simple weapons, but not light weapons. You’re also not technically “holding” your claws. When you have Extra Attack and you’re using your claws, you’d get three attacks. This is because you’d make two weapon attacks with your claws with your Attack action, and the nature of the claws would give you one more claw attack. You wouldn’t be able to make a bonus action attack with the two-weapon fighting rules since the claws are not light and you’re not holding them. I’ll explain why I believe DMs should ignore those limitations.

Read this if you are inclined to not allow two-weapon fighting rule compatibility with claws: Even if the claws don’t work with two-weapon fighting, you can make it work using hand axes. In round one, you draw your first handaxe while attacking with your claws. In the second round, attack with your claws twice, your first handaxe once, and draw your second handaxe for your bonus action attack. You’re two-weapon fighting! It seems silly, right? You’re juggling handaxes while using your claws. You might as well just allow the claws to work with two-weapon fighting rules. Do it! I’ll assume you’re on board with that line of thinking, but if you’re not, my DPR calculations are based on handaxe juggling.

If you take the Dual Wielder feat so you can use two-weapon fighting with non-light weapons, you can gain a fourth attack with your claws as a bonus action. Dual Wielder will also boost your armor class by one. I usually say Dual Wielder is a horrible feat for a horrible style of fighting, but this Barbarian breaks the mold somewhat.

You can find a way to gain a Fighting Style and choose Two-Weapon Fighting to improve the bonus action attack’s damage, such as with the Fighting Initiate feat. Multiclassing is another way to gain a Fighting Style (more on multiclassing ideas later). A rapier or longsword would be acceptable for two-weapon fighting (again, if you have the Dual Wielder feat) since they use 1d8 instead of 1d6 as your claws do, but it’s not a big deal.

It is worth checking with your DM that they’ll allow your natural weapons to count as weapons you’re “holding” for two-weapon fighting. If your DM is hesitant to allow it, tell them about this article and how the damage per round is similar to other builds, and two-weapon fighting is rarely viable for dealing damage. This should soften their hearts and assure them that you’re not asking for much. I imagine most DMs won’t resist the idea in the first place.

Resource Management Note: The Beast Barbarian’s DPR is dependent on Raging to activate claws; that’s a fair point to remember if you’re playing in a game with multiple encounters per day where you need to ration your Rage uses between long rests. Other Barbarians can afford to fight without Rage once in a while because of Great Weapon Master and Polearm Master while getting advantage with Reckless Attack (which doesn’t require Rage).

Dual Wielding Handaxes and Claws DPR

For starters, here are my DPR (damage per round) calculations for the claws when coupled with handaxes. These calculations do not include feats, racial bonuses, or anything else outside of the subclass claws. I also don’t analyze based on how long you can survive a fight or how many rounds you’ll have between long rests (too many considerations for me at this point, but maybe one day I’ll include those details). Here is how the plug-and-play claws work with handaxes (which I’ll improve later in this article):

Beast Barbarian Claws with Hand Axes and No Feats DPR

If you’re wondering to juggle handaxes while using your claws, it involves using your free action during round one to draw your first handaxe and attack with it once, then use your claws for two more attacks (this is at level five). On round two, you draw your second handaxe so you can activate two-weapon fighting after you’ve made two claw attacks and one handaxe attack. Yes, you’re practically juggling one of your handaxes to make this work, but it does work (Jeremy Crawford indirectly confirms)!

A quick note on my calculation comparison baselines (the damage builds I’m competing with). The comparison DPRs are from Treantmonk’s DPR baseline (Warlock with Eldritch Blast + Agonizing Blast + Hex) and from my own calculations of a vanilla Barbarian and Zealot Barbarian Raging while using Polearm Master and Great Weapon Master. I differ from Treantmonk’s baseline in this way: assumption of monster AC scaling by level according to DMG recommendations. I did not assume opportunity attacks each round for any of my DPR analyses; I don’t believe opportunity attacks can be reliably included (even with Polearm Master for comparison Barbarian calculations).

I also don’t calculate for an entire adventuring day (at least not yet). Some DPR calculators will go that effort, but I’m not there yet. Besides, the Barbarian’s Rages will often last through the multiple encounters in a given adventuring day for games I play in. Every game and group is different.

The PM+GWM baseline calculations for comparison assume Polearm Master at level one and Great Weapon Master at level four, and it doesn’t use Great Weapon Master’s damage boost when it has disadvantage. Survivability isn’t not considered here, but the Beast Barbarian is likely to have a higher AC. I chose to not differentiate damage output in round one when the bonus action is used to enter Rage because both Barbarian types will have that same time to set up.

Can Variant Human Beast Barbarian Claws Beat Baseline DPRs?

The next option I tried for improving the Beast Barbarian’s claw/handaxe damage was to take the classic Variant Human or Custom Lineage races so I can get Dual Wielder at level one. Dual Wielder is a feat that gives you the option of two-weapon fighting with non-light weapons (like rapiers or longswords), among a few other perks for AC and weapon drawing/stowing. Getting Dual Wielder might compete with the baselines at lower levels. Here’s how it turned out:

Beast Barbarian - Dual Wielder at Level One - DPR

This build starts to catch up with the other Barbarian baselines, but we have a ways to go. I’m happy to see that we’re beating the Warlock baseline until it’s matched at the highest levels.

The thing I noticed about this build is that it’s actually suboptimal compared to other builds’ DPR calculations before feats. This means even a suboptimal build can compete with baseline damages. But that’s not good enough for me. I want to see if I can rival the straightforward DPR of a Zealot Barbarian using the same Polearm Master and Great Weapon Master combo. Keep reading to see how I did it…

Halfling Beast Barbarian with Dual Wielding

One of the perks of the Beast Barbarian is that you can be a small race. Heavy weapons that couple with Great Weapon Master can’t be used very well by small races because heavy weapons suffer disadvantage on attacks for small creatures. Halflings can reroll 1s on their attacks with their Lucky racial feature (not the feat), leading to indirect boosts to their DPR with their improved accuracy.

Quick Note: I tried running the same numbers with the Half-Orc, but the Halfling’s Lucky feature won out over Savage Attacks’ crit boosting. Accuracy is important, especially avoiding rolling ones on attacks. Rerolling ones is also useful for saving throws and ability checks.

The Halfling’s Lucky racial feature gains additional ground against the baseline damage references. I calculated the Halfling getting Dual Wielder and Fighting Initiate feats that we used before, but at levels twelve and sixteen instead. The DPR is starting to look spicy, but I have more to add before I show you the numbers!

Adding Leap Attacks

What happens to the DPR if we throw in leap attacks? If we jump at least ten feet into the air on a creature that is larger than Tiny, we can land on the enemy to force a Dex save. We take half damage from the fall if the target fails its saving throw and they take the same amount of damage (thanks for breaking our fall). Don’t forget to resist the bludgeoning damage from the fall, effectively allowing you to reduce fall damage by 75% if the creature you landed on failed its save.

If the leap target is Medium-size or Small-size, they’re also knocked prone. This is a Halfling character we’re calculating, and this rule explicitly says it doesn’t work on Tiny-sized creatures. We’ll use the Bestial Soul feature to boost the high jump height; otherwise, we wouldn’t be jumping high enough to activate the rules for falling on another creature.

Most Barbarians can’t jump high enough for a leap attack, but Beast Barbarians can with Bestial Soul. They can also climb walls and meteor strike enemies from above. My calculations were based on the chance to roll high enough to jump at least twenty feet in the air for 2d6 bludgeoning damage from the fall. I could’ve settled for calculating a nearly guaranteed “two” on the jump die from Bestial Soul with advantage from Rage and rerolling of ones from Halfling Lucky, but I stuck with the ambitious leap. Don’t forget that enemies can opportunity attack you when you leap upward out of their reach, but they might be knocked prone if they’re an appropriate size, meaning you may not need to use Reckless Attack.

Nova Rounds

I want to make this a proper nova calculation (an analysis of what happens when we use our resources). To do so, I factored in Infectious Fury’s potential psychic damage and Call the Hunt’s damage benefits to allies.

Assumptions with the Halfling nova round: I assumed a 60% chance that enemies fail the Dex save against the leap and fall. I also didn’t have the mental endurance to figure in the Halfling Lucky interaction with the Athletics roll to jump high with Bestial Soul, but it’s not a huge difference. Lastly, the Infectious Fury DC was scaled with an assumption of a base 40% chance for enemies to fail their saving throw (but improving as Con increases). Accuracy was factored in for all damage.

I calculated Call the Hunt damage by assuming we have two allies that will make at least one attack each round to add the d6. Accuracy was still considered for this DPR boost.

Final Halfling Beast Barbarian DPR (Wolverine Time)

Beast Barbarian Halfling Race - Claws with Hand Axes, Leap, Feature NOVA - DPR

My observations with this Halfling claw build at this point:

  • If the Barbarian has disadvantage, the Beast Barbarian is better off than the other power builds. This shouldn’t come up often since Barbarians have Reckless Attack to cancel out disadvantage for a normal attack.
  • The Halfling Beast Barbarian can beat the Warlock baseline damage by 50-100%. Doubling that baseline feels good at several levels where it gets a power spike.
  • The Zealot Barbarian polearm build has an edge at early levels, but it’s not by much! At higher levels, the Beast Barbarian can outshine the Zealot in an adventuring day with few combat encounters (one or two).
  • I’m very happy with this result! I didn’t think we’d do this well against the Zealot’s DPR.

Tail + Polearm + Great Weapon Master

If you want to bolster your defenses while wielding a large weapon, you can still make a heavy polearm your main weapon. Growing a tail won’t hinder your offense, but you can use the 1d8 reaction to increase your AC against a hefty hit.

Your polearm attacks become impressively versatile as a Beast Barbarian. You can use Bestial Soul to leap onto enemies, but I’d save that tactic for the Halfling claw concept I explained at great length earlier. Instead, you can choose to scale walls and ceilings to stay out of reach of enemies below who lack reach or ranged weapons. It’s as good as flying in circumstances.

Underwater combat is challenging for many characters specializing in heavy weapons, but not for you! Bestial Soul can give you a swim speed. Players often forget that a swimming speed removes the usual limitations on weapons underwater (see my article on underwater rules to learn more).

Your white-room damage output won’t match the Zealot Barbarian, but there will be nuanced circumstances where you’ll be glad to be a Beast Barbarian.

Bite + Finesse (Rapier) + Shield

The option that is the least useful for Form of the Beast is certainly the bite, but it can make an interesting tool. You can be a Barbarian who focuses on defense (not the ‘destroy them before they destroy you’ kind).

Most Barbarians focus on heavy weapons, but you can use a finesse weapon like a rapier while holding a shield. The Defensive Duelist feat affords you a reaction that scales with your PB without needing to grow your tail. You can attack with your rapier each turn (still using your Strength because you don’t HAVE to use Dex with finesse weapons. Using your Strength allows you to use Reckless Attack and Rage damage. This concept will focus on the Rage damage in that caveat.

Your bite can be used when your hitpoints become low, but your hands will still be used to defend yourself. Attack twice with bite, react with your rapier to boost your AC, and wear a shield to boost your AC. Longevity is your goal.

Tail + Spear + Shield

One of the most interesting weapon details in the game comes from the spear. It’s not a two-handed weapon (versatile), but it’s included in the Polearm Master feat’s list of weapons that can use the opposite end to attack as a bonus action. This means you can attack three times with it while holding a shield. You can also grow your tail to attempt parries of incoming attacks. It’s a great way to raise your damage output without sacrificing defenses. Spears can also be thrown at a low range when you need non-melee options.

If you’re not sure why I suggest a spear instead of a quarterstaff, it’s because errata to the PHB added spears to the Polearm Master feat. Spears can be thrown and they deal piercing damage if you want to use the Piercer feat for the spear, your tail, and your bite.

Tactical Note: Flying Enemies

You shouldn’t rely solely on your melee options. Keep a crossbow or a set of javelins handy. Use them when you can’t quickly get to an enemy (if it all). The Beast Barbarian is like other Barbarians in that it doesn’t synergize much with ranged attacks. You’ll need to have your ranged actions available for emergencies. It won’t feel as good as your melee options when you toss javelins at a pesky flying dragon. It’s better than doing nothing if you don’t need to Dodge or something.

You can Ready your action to make a melee attack or grapple a flying creature if it’s using flyby tactics. As soon as it gets close, grab it and grapple it so it loses its mobility. You can make quick work of it at that point. Ready action can prepare your movement instead of another action. You can potentially jump above a flying enemy as it’s above you. You jump up and onto it so both of you fall prone to the ground. This won’t work the same for creatures flying with magic or hovering. If the flying creature is reasonably within your jump height on your turn, you can jump up and onto it. You can also shove the flying target prone or grapple them down to the ground with you.


Multiclassing Concepts for Path of the Beast

I like the Path of the Beast as a pure Barbarian build, but I’m aware that it’s not a “high optimization” concept. This gives me freedom to think of fun builds that aren’t horrible since being a Barbarian is already considered weak from an optimization standpoint (mostly due to lack of spellcasting). Here are some fun ideas you might like for your Beast Barbarian. Some of them are just plain weird.

Druid Multiclass for Wild Shape

If you have other methods to transform your body, such as with a Druid multiclass for Wild Shape, your new forms can still Rage and gain Form of the Beast mutations. You can turn into the Rabbit of Caerbannog, the killer bunny from Monty Python on the Holy Grail. You’ll need a Wisdom score of 13 and Strength score of 13 to grab two levels of Druid to gain Wild Shape and a Druid Circle/subclass. Circle of the Moon makes a lot of sense.

Get creative as you become little mutant beasts. To quote Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, “I’m gonna make some weird shit.”

Ranger Multiclass for Path of the Beast

You can gain some massive perks from the Ranger. Three levels gets you a Fighting Style, spellcasting, and some solid subclass options. I recommend the Swarmkeeper or Gloom Stalker because their benefits won’t bog down your action economy. Some of these benefits will be helpful when you can’t afford to use a Rage in an encounter. I would probably go for four levels of Ranger, but a fifth level is tempting to get the Pass without Trace spell. If you don’t want the BB’s Call the Hunt feature, you could go seven levels of Ranger to gain another subclass feature.

Wizard Multiclass for Path of the Beast

Two levels of Wizard can get you several spells for utility and defense. You could also become your own engine for casting Longstrider and Jump on yourself. The subclass that I’d recommend is the War Magic Wizard for Arcane Deflection. It will permanently give you an option to boost your AC or saving throw rolls with your reaction. Arcane Deflection works while you’re Raging, and its downside won’t affect you since you’re not relying on spells during combat.

If you don’t need to Rage and you’re up against many spellcasters or archers, casting Fog Cloud sounds like a good option. Charge into the cloud and use Reckless Attack to strike blindly without disadvantage.

You could gain a familiar to be your beast buddy! Additionally, reaction spells like Feather Fall, Absorb Elements, and Shield can be lifesaving when you’re not Raging.

Rogue Multiclass for Path of the Beast

Several levels of Rogue can be useful to gain Expertise in Athletics for better grappling. The Swashbuckler and Assassin subclasses stand out as potential fun for you without needing to hog your bonus action. Assassin gives you excellent ambush rounds where all your successful attacks can crit against a surprised creature (learn about Surprise rules in my article on the topic). Swashbuckler works well for a Barbarian to kite enemies and move away after attacks. You might consider four levels of Rogue for the ASI at that point, but the fifth level would give you Evasion for another damage resistance option.

Fighter Multiclass for Path of the Beast

The Battlemaster would make a fine Fighter subclass for you. Empowering your natural weapons with Battlemaster Maneuvers would lend well to your damage output and your combat options. You’d also get Action Surge, though many of your abilities are once per turn, not once per action. Getting a Fighting Style is also helpful!

You could go for the Rune Knight Fighter so you can grow in size to temporarily become a Large creature. Doing so would allow you to pick up larger enemies for your grapple-and-jump tactics (or any grapples you want to use). Carrying capacity when moving enemies would be less of a problem. It’s noteworthy that Giant’s Might can make your Small race, like a Halfling, Large. I say this because it’s easy to misremember the feature as growing you by one size, but it makes you Large.

Sorcerer Multiclass for Path of the Beast

You only need one level of Sorcerer to gain a subclass and spells. Divine Soul Sorcerer is excellent because you’ll gain Favored by the Gods to fortify your saving throws.

You could also become your own engine for casting Longstrider and Jump on yourself. If you don’t need to Rage and you’re up against many spellcasters or archers, casting Fog Cloud sounds like a good option. Charge into the cloud and use Reckless Attack to strike blindly without disadvantage. Additionally, reaction spells like Feather Fall, Absorb Elements, and Shield can be lifesaving when you’re not Raging.

Warlock Multiclass for Path of the Beast

The Hexblade Warlock can’t seem to stay away when a player whispers ‘multiclass’ to their DM. I can’t help but consider it. The Beast Barbarian can gain some quick spellcasting and Hexblade’s Curse for a damage boost against cursed targets. A second Warlock levels gains Invocations. Note that the Hexblade’s Curse damage scales with Proficiency Bonus. If you want to invest slightly in Charisma to make your BB more versatile, Hexblade Warlock can be a useful option.


Viable Feats for Beast Barbarians

I’ve mentioned several feats of note throughout this article, so I’ll summarize them and mention others. The Beast Barbarian would do well to prioritize its Strength score before investing too heavily in feats. If Strength is already 18 or 20, here is a list of feats that stand out for Beast Barbarians.

  • Dual Wielder (Claw)
  • Defensive Duelist (Bite or Claw)
  • Polearm Master + Great Weapon Master (Tail)
  • Fighting Initiate
    • Get Two-Weapon Fighting if you’re specializing in claws.
  • Shield Master
    • Utilize your bonus action to shove if you’re not specializing in two-weapon fighting.
  • Skill Expert
    • Athletics, only if you’re not playing toward high levels and want to grapple often.
  • Fey Touched
    • A teleportation option is important for high-level play to attempt escape from effects like Force Cage. You might multiclass with a spellcaster instead.
  • Slasher or Piercer
    • These are acceptable if your Strength stat is odd. Pick the one with the damage type you use the most.
  • Tough
    • I wouldn’t normally recommend this feat. There is a case to be made for it if the hitpoints are effectively doubled by your Rage damage resistance. Your Rage only resists bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing damage, so it’s not 100% effective. I’ll need to analyze and calculate whether Tough is a trap for Barbarians.

Suitable Races for Beast Barbarians

Not everyone wants to play a Variant Human or Custom Lineage character. I want to suggest several races for Beast Barbarians. These races have interesting synergies that could suit a BB’s specialties.

Longtooth Shifter Race Option for Beast Barbarians

I’ll mention other races that could be fun options later. For starters, here’s another race that you might prefer instead of two-weapon fighting: the Longtooth Shifter from Eberron.

Longtooth Shifter (Eberron) is an option if you want more setup and resources. This is an alternative to taking a feat and a Fighting Style. Longtooth allows you to attack as a bonus action while Shifted. You can Shift once per short rest and Shifting requires your bonus action. You won’t make your bonus action attack until round three since you need to Rage as a bonus action, too.

One strength of being a Shifter is that the Longtooth can make its bonus action bite attack. That bite is not predicated on using the Attack action first. This means you could potentially use the Dodge action when you’re in trouble while still attacking to maintain your Rage. After all, you never want your Rage to end early. Shifting can also be used without requiring you to Rage, so it’s another resource for you.

The Longtooth Shifter isn’t my top choice, but I saw some comments online from some players who enjoy the idea.

Harengon Race Option for Beast Barbarians

I mentioned leap attacks earlier, and the Harengon’s bonus action Bunny Hop can make the jump even higher! Pair it with the jumping from Bestial Soul to enjoy being Tigger or a Gummy Bear bouncing around.

In addition to leap attacks, you could try to grapple multiple enemies. Your hands are free while your tail defends you. Grab two enemies, then jump into the air. Your DM might allow you to drop them at the crest of your jump, so they fall and take damage. Then you fall on one of them to deal more damage if they fail a Dex save. They’ll also be prone from the fall along with you, but you can stand up immediately. Remember, you might not jump very high if you’re encumbered by those you are carrying/pulling into the air.

Besides, Harengon characters are great with their Perception proficiency and bonus to Initiative. After all, winning Initiative is like getting an extra turn!

Loxodon Race Option for Beast Barbarians

You can grapple an extra enemy with your Loxodon trunk before you perform a jump and drop! You could also just hold someone in place with your trunk while you tear them to shreds with your claws. Powerful Build allows you to not hit your carrying capacity when you leap into the air. You might carry enemies grappled by you without penalty. This means you can jump to your normal height with heavy enemies. Powerful Build effectively doubles your carrying capacity as if you are a large creature.

Loxodon Natural Armor replaces the need to get your Dex to 14 at level one, so you might have options for multiclassing with the Loxodon as your race. Investing in Wisdom instead of Dexterity could allow some Druid Wild Shape fun with your Form of the Beast morphing and Bestial Soul adapting. Loxodon natural armor is based on Constitution, so that’s why I say it can replace the need for armor class Dexterity.

If you choose the swimming adaptation with underwater breathing, you can grapple enemies and pull them into the water to fight you there. Your adaptations will give you an advantage against them. You can use your trunk as a snorkel if you didn’t choose the water adaptation, so they might suffocate/drown before you do (it might take a while if your DM doesn’t determine a way that they could lose their breaths and begin suffocating to death (rules on page 183 of PHB).

Protector Aasimar Race Option for Beast Barbarians

The Aasimar subraces in Volo’s Guide to Monsters caught my eye because of their damage-boosting transformations, but we can gain tools from the base Aasimar first. Radiant damage resistance and healing are nice to have.

I choose the Protector subclass of the Aasimar because it allows a once-per-turn damage boost with a flying speed. This works thematically for me, but it can also be encounter-breaking to gain flight. You can fly over enemies with a reach weapon, rain arrows from above, or chase another flying creature with your Beast Barbarian claws. The downside of the transformation is that it requires an action to activate, but that will change to a bonus action when Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse comes out.

Halfing Race Option for Beast Barbarians

You can choose whichever Halfling subrace you prefer. I covered how I would utilize a Halfling earlier in this article. I played a Beast Barbarian who was a Halfling and I enjoyed it very much. Rerolling ones on your attacks, saving throws, and ability checks can be clutch!

Half-Orc Race Option for Beast Barbarians

While I mentioned earlier how Halflings provided better options for me with the Beast Barbarian, the Half-Orc is a classic choice for Barbarians. Half-Orcs have racial features that complement any Barbarian. If you’re not specializing in claws, such as if you’re using heavy weapons, Half-Orc won’t steer you wrong. Besides, Half-Orcs have some of my favorite lineage lore with their biological response where they experience literal pain when they’re emotionally compromised.

Bugbear Race Option for Beast Barbarians

Long-Limbed gives the reach property to your natural weapons! You might make a kiting Barbarian with this rage flexibility. The other Bugbear features are good, too.

Kobold – Race Option for Beast Barbarians

Like the Halfling, Kobolds are small and ready to fight. Pack Tactics (Volo’s version) can eliminate the need for Reckless Attack at times, which means you can choose the defensive options that I’ve mentioned throughout this article while keeping up the offensive pressure.

Owlin or Aarakocra- Race Option for Beast Barbarians

Flying races can be heaps of fun for Path of the Beast. You can use your tail ten-foot-reach attacks from above, grapple enemies, and drop them from a great height (assuming you have the movement and carrying capacity for it), and you can be like a flying fish as you swim and fly in the same round.

Dhampir – Race Option for Beast Barbarians

The Dhampir from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft has a built-in bite attack that can heal and empower you. Instead of choosing the BB’s bite option, pick the tail to use defensively while you attack with your bite and guard with your shield. You’ll have one hand free to grapple an enemy. You’ll also have built-in spider climbing, so you can choose your jump or swim adaptations to double up.

Simic Hybrid – Race Option for Beast Barbarians

Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica brings us the Simic Hybrid. It’s a race of evolutionary hybridization that fits the Path of the Beast very well. You can gain permanent climbing and swimming speeds, underwater breathing, tentacles for attacks and grapples, armor-like carapace, acid spit, or flying squirrel gliding wings. You’ll get two adaptations.

The Grappling Appendages option is cool because you can attack twice with your claws, then use Extra Attack to strike with your tentacle or claw, ending with a grapple attempt as a bonus action. This makes you an excellent grappler so you can hold enemies underwater or drop them from heights.

Fairy – Race Option for Beast Barbarians

You can fly while becoming a ferocious little fairy. I love the visual of this, and it reminds me of when Tweety Bird beat up the Monstars in Space Jam.

Grung – Race Option for Beast Barbarians

The Grung is another small race with fun tools for Beast Barbarian. Grung skin can harm grappled creatures with poison, and they have superior high jumps and long jumps. You can jump high enough to trigger fall damage on an enemy with ease. The Grung’s wall-crawling, leaping, and amphibious water breathing are complementary versions of Bestial Soul’s adaptations, so you can dabble in the Bestial Soul options you didn’t choose in a given situation.

Lizardfolk – Race Option for Beast Barbarians

Lizardfolk are interesting creatures with a bonus action chomp (Hungry Jaws) once per short rest! They make fine Barbarians, and they have tools that can be useful to Path of the Beast. You get two skill proficiencies, an optional natural armor, holding breath underwater, swimming speed, and bone tinkering to make weapons.

Curse of Lycanthropy

Becoming a Werewolf or any kind of lycanthrope over the course of an adventure would be incredibly fun. You could become a super Werewolf with your Form of the Beast and Bestial Soul transformations while enjoying some of the perks of being a lycanthrope. It should have its downsides to make it interesting, but the perks and challenges sound very fun to me. Feel free to hint to your DM that this kind of curse would be fun for you if you agree with me. Maybe you can work with your DM to make an overwriting lineage like the Dhampir I mentioned earlier, allowing you to start as one race but then changing you when you experience a physiological change.

Learn more about lycanthrope werebeasts with this other article by Opal.


Beast Barbarian Jump Shenanigans

I’ve been talking about jumping throughout this article, so I thought I’d concentrate on the rules and discussion on jumping here for easier reference.

Due to your Bestial Soul ability to enhance your jumping distance, we can utilize a strange but fun mechanic of 5e. We’re going to jump/fall onto enemies to share our fall damage with them and knock them prone. We might even grapple an enemy and jump into the air with them in tow, dropping them at the top of the jump so they fall, then we fall on them for additional damage.

It will be helpful to gain Expertise in Athletics so you can jump higher (multiclass or get a feat if that interests you). The roll is only helpful for this tactic in intervals of ten, and you want to roll greater than twenty so you can jump into the air as difficult terrain while dragging a grappled enemy. You need to jump at least ten feet up to have this tactic do anything. Alternatively, you can keep the creature grappled so it drops prone when the fall completes, so then it can’t get up because grappling reduces its speed to zero.

Remember, you resist bludgeoning damage while Raging, so fall damage does half damage to you when you’re Raging. Jumping doesn’t require your action economy, just your movement, so you can always wonder if a situation would be good for fall/jump tactics. Watch out for enemies with good Dex saves since they can avoid you falling on them. You’ll need to budget your movement since jumping does use your movement.

D&D 5e Jumping and Climbing Rules to Know

Falling onto a Creature (TCoE 170): “If a creature falls into the space of a second creature and neither of them is Tiny, the second creature must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or be impacted by the falling creature, and any damage resulting from the fall is divided evenly between them. The impacted creature is also knocked prone unless it is two or more sizes larger than the falling creature.”

Falling Damage (PHB 183): Fall damage is 1d6 bludgeoning damage per ten feet fallen (max 20d6), and the creature becomes prone when the fall ends unless it takes no falling damage.

Grappled (PHB 290): Grappled creature’s speed is zero.

Prone (PHB 292): Can only crawl or stand up. Standing up requires half their movement speed to be expended. Disadvantage on attack rolls. Attack rolls against the prone creature have advantage within five feet and disadvantage further than that. Remember, a prone creature can’t stand up if it’s grappled because its speed is zero.

Climbing onto a Larger Creature (DMG 271): Huge+ creatures can be treated as difficult terrain by much smaller creatures. Acrobatics and Athletics checks may be used.

Long Jump (PHB 182): With a ten-foot running start, jump a distance up to Strength score. Standing long jump is half that distance. This jump costs movement. The height you cover on a long jump can’t be higher than a quarter of the jump’s distance or you hit an obstacle. Lower obstacles can be cleared with a DC 10 Athletics check. If you land in difficult terrain, make a DC 10 Acrobatics check to land on your feet; otherwise, you fall prone.

High Jump (PHB 182): With a ten-foot running start, jump a distance up to 3+Strength modifier. Standing high jump is half that distance. Your reach when jumping upwards is the jump height + 1.5x your height as you extend your arms above your head. DMs might allow an Athletics check to jump higher. This jump costs movement.

Rabbit Hop (The Wild Beyond the Witchlight): This is a feature of the Harengon playable race. You use a bonus action to jump a number of feet equal to 5*PB. This does not provoke opportunity attacks, and can only be used if your speed is greater than zero (can’t be grappled or something). You can use Rabbit Hop a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, recharging with a long rest. Also, Rabbit Hop does not use your movement speed budget because it differs from the usual jump mechanics of D&D 5e.

Carrying Capacity and Push/Pull/Carry Limits (PHB 176): Don’t mess up by trying to move another creature that causes you to be encumbered and slowed down. This can make or break your plans. In my experience, DMs will have no idea what to do with this, so give your DM a heads up/advanced notice of your plans (preferably at session zero).

  • Carrying Capacity: Strength score (not modifier) times fifteen in pounds.
  • Push/Drag/Lift: Strength score (not modifier) times thirty in pounds. Your speed is reduced to five feet while you’re exceeding your limit.
  • Encumbrance and Size: Each size category greater than Medium doubles these carry limits. Inversely,

What I’d Change about the Beast Barbarian

I clearly love this subclass, but there are several details in its design that I would change for my players or that I’d consider requesting of my DM. If I didn’t want to change the subclass, I might give the player custom magic items to enhance the subclass. Here are the revisions I’d prescribe for Path of the Beast:

  • Allow Bestial Soul to change the chosen adaptation when the character enters its Rage. This would remove some guesswork. Multiple adaptations may be useful in an adventuring day, so this would be a useful change.
  • Call the Hunt changed to allow the Beast Barbarian to also receive the 1d6 damage bonus once per turn. At the moment, the Barbarian receives temporary hitpoints while its allies gain the 1d6. I don’t see any good reason to not include the Beast Barbarian from gaining the 1d6. The Barbarian doesn’t need to count itself when determining the temporary hitpoints; it merely needs to have a line added that Call the Hunt gives the Barbarian 1d6 once per turn.
  • Infectious Fury’s psychic damage changed to become part of the attack’s damage instead of a separate effect that accompanied the attack. This would be a remarkable subclass design detail because the claws that the Beast Barbarian may use are not as synergistic with the base Barbarian’s Brutal Critical feature. Giving attacks 2d12 psychic damage would allow critical hits to deal 4d12 additional damage, and Brutal Critical would add 1d12 per level of Brutal Critical. It may be that the intent behind this feature would already function as I wish, but I have not discovered Sage Advice for it.
  • Add a clause that specifically says the Form of the Beast claws are compatible with two-weapon fighting so DMs will accept it. Also, add the “light” trait to the simple weapons that are the claws.

Conclusions on the Beast Barbarian

I believe the Path of the Beast is the most fun Barbarian subclass there is. My BB character found that he usually picked to use his claws because I used my Halfling build, but he still chose the tail fairly often. There isn’t a single aspect of this subclass that doesn’t have its time and place to shine. The flavor of the subclass is rich and versatile.

Many fringe rules of D&D 5e have their showcase with the Beast. I appreciate and adore any subclass that pulls underused game mechanics out of the books and into the game.

If you enjoyed this guide, please leave a comment to tell me so or take the poll at the top of the article! We have more Barbarian articles for you right here. Thanks for reading!

6 thoughts on “<b>Beast Barbarian Comprehensive Guide</b>: D&D 5e”

    1. I’d recommend cloaks, amulets, rings, gloves, medium armors, shields, and boots. There are many magic items that can add to a Beast Barbarian’s combat effectiveness or give them more options out of combat. Even simple stat boosts can be fantastic. I know this isn’t a specific list, but there are many magic items (even without homebrew) that are fantastic. Javelin of Lightning is a good option to give the Barbarian a useful ranged option.

    1. It will certainly be fun to play! If you want to lean into the dragon theme, you could flavor the beast traits as draconic transformations.

  1. Do you think Artillerist Artificer might be a good class to combo with this? It’s obviously MAD, but that cannon is a really good bonus action and you can use it while raging.

    I was thinking of doing this multiclass for a warforge with a combat mode, and thought you could give me your two cents on if it seems viable or how to improve it.

    1. It doesn’t jump out as a particularly effective combination. Is there something about it that draws you to it other than the Warforge combat mode? I ask because sometimes re-flavoring the Beast Barbarian is better than multiclassing just for flavor.

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