Elewan's Pathfinder Barbarian Guide

  1. Guide Guide

I'm using Treantmonk's color coding because his guides are great and the coding works a treat.

Red – Bad or nearly useless

Orange – Decent option or useful in rare circumstances

Green – Good choice

Blue – Must have

  1. Introduction

First off, I am totally unqualified to write the guide. I've enjoyed the guides written by Treantmonk and Rogue Eidolon, and I was disappointed that there was no barbarian guide. I began to collect and consider the barbarian class information and figured I could put together a good initial draft of a barbarian guide. However this is only going to be useful if people provide feedback about what works and what doesn't.

Barbarians are an iconic fantasy staple. With barbarian rage, they're fun to play and can do immense amounts of damage. In Pathfinder, the additions to barbarian rage and the barbarian archetypes in the Advanced Players Guide allow a great amount of customization to the class. While all types can be fun to play, only some of these additions improve the effectiveness of the barbarian class.

  1. Fighting Styles

Archer Don't do this. Yes, archer is now a viable option in Pathfinder, but Barbarians are not made for archery. Your rage doesn't give you bonuses to Dex, you don't get archery feats as quickly as a fighter. You don't get the paladin's smite bonus to your damage, and you don't have class bonuses to archery like a ranger. And what are you going to do? Carry around two mighty composite longbows, one for raging and one not? Just stay away.

Pros: Good full attack damage, Lots of full attacks

Cons: Other classes are much better archers

Two Weapon Fighter Difficult option for a barbarian. You don't gain feats as fast as a fighter, and TWF requires a lot of them. There aren't any rage abilities that particularly help TWF either. Consider fighting with natural weapons instead.

Pros: Lots of attacks, Lots of damage

Cons: Requires lots of feats

Sword and Shield Inferior to “One big weapon” in nearly every way. Sure you get a bump to AC, but slowing down your damage means that fights last longer, and you only have a limited amount of rage. Leave this style to the fighters that aren't in any hurry.

Pros: Higher AC

Cons: Less damage, Longer fights

One Big Weapon This is the classic barbarian. Charging into battle swinging the largest weapon he can handle, dealing massive damage without regard to his own well being, trusting his rage to make his opponent fall first. If you're just looking to play a standard barbarian, this is your build.

Pros: High damage

Cons: The fight ends too quickly?

Hurler Do you want to be the Hulk? Does picking up a tank and throwing it at your enemies appeal to you? Sadly you can't quite get there, but Hurler will get you close. Instead of doing normal melee damage, you'll be making ranged touch attacks and doing damage based on the size of your hurled item. Unfortunately your opponents will get a reflex save. Also in the negative category is that hurling requires a full round. A barbarian can acquire Greater Hurling at 12th level. This allows him to hurl an object of a size category larger than himself. If he's been enlarged, that means he can throw a huge object for 6d6 +STRMOD of damage. Sadly, the reflex save still includes the STRMOD damage – and opponents with evasion can save for no damage. The Achilles heel of this character is ammunition. If he's in a boulder-strewn field, best case scenario is still one hurling attack every two rounds since he must get to his next boulder. Worst case scenario puts him in an environment without appropriate ammunition lying about. You'd better have a discussion with your GM about ammunition before even considering this build.

Pros: Attacks are range touch attacks

Cons: Ammunition, Reflex save for half damage (evade no damage), Full round action per attack

Natural Weapon Fighter Want to really get in touch with your savage side? How about charging up to your target, pouncing on him and savaging him with a claw/claw/bite attack?

Pros: More attacks sooner, Two Weapon Fighting feat is not needed

Cons: Need amulet of mighty fists to add magical bonus

Mounted Fury Looking for a mounted warrior who's less stuffy than a paladin or cavalier? Want your mount to share your rage? Want to scare the crap out of the Paladin's war horse? Do you want to literally trample your enemies? All these are available to a mounted fury barbarian. The downside is that a large creature is difficult to maneuver through enclosed spaces like a dungeon, and unlike the paladin, you cannot summon your mount to you.

Pros: Excellent movement, Lots of attacks

Cons: 2x rage cost, Animal companion at Barbarian level -4, Only good in campaigns where mounted combat is viable.

  1. Abilities

The appropriate ability scores are the same for pretty much every viable barbarian build: STR > CON > DEX > WIS > INT> CHA. Strength is your most important ability. Constitution is secondary, and pretty much on par with dexterity. Constitution is more important for barbarians than other fighters because it helps determine how long the barbarian can rage. However, the CONMOD is only added once and therefore becomes less important over time. For example, one barbarian starts with a constitution of 14, and the other at 18. At first level, the rage rounds are 6 vs 8. At tenth level they are 24 vs 26. Even if the second barbarian boosts constitution twice, it only adds one more round of rage. The lesson is: don't go wild with the constitution. It's still mostly for hit points.

As a lightly armored fighter, Dexterity is important. You may also be taking combat feats that require a minimum dexterity score. Wisdom is important for will saves and your perception / survival skills. It is not your dump stat. Intelligence and charisma are your dump stats. There are some decent Intimidate options available, so you'll need to put some points in charisma if you're going that direction.

  1. Races

You want a race that gives you +2 to STR .

Human: +2 into STR and a bonus feat and skill point. Easily your best bet.

Half-Elf: +2 into STR and you can add the skill focus and racial bonus to perception. +2 to enchantment saves is good for the barbarian, and low-light vision is handy.

Dwarf: +2 to CON and WIS, -2 to CHA are very good adjustments. Darkvision and save bonuses are good. Speed reduction is a negative. Overall a solid choice.

Half-Orc: +2 into STR is good, but the remaining bonuses leave the half-orc a step down from the recommended options (unless you're going to focus on Intimidate).

Elf/Halfling/Gnome: Ability penalties to all these are bad.

  1. Skills

You're not going to have a lot of skill points, especially if you're not a human.

Acrobatics Very good for a lightly armored warrior moving around in combat

Climb Drop a point here to get the class bonus, then forget about it.

Craft Nope.

Handle Animal Forget it.

Intimidate There are a few options for builds using this skill. If you want to go that direction, a half-orc gets a +2 bonus, and the Intimidating Prowess feat lets you add your STRMOD.

Knowledge (nature) This can be a very useful skill, but you have few skill points and a low intelligence. Take a better option.

Perception The most frequently used skill in the game, and it's a class skill for you. Put your points here.

Ride If you're making a mounted fury, ride is blue.

Survival another good skill if you've got the points.

Swim See climb.

  1. Class Features and Alternative Class Features

There are a number of different barbarian archetypes which replace class features, however if you take one level, you have to take them all.

  1. Constant Class Features

Rage This is the major barbarian class skill. This is why we build barbarians. Nothing exchanges for it.

Greater Rage Increase in Str, CON and Will save

Indomitable Will Additional bonus to Will saves vs enchantment

Tireless Rage No fatigue after raging

Mighty Rage Increase in Str, CON and Will save

  1. Archetypes
  1. Vanilla Barbarian

Fast Movement +10' to movement

Uncanny Dodge The barbarian cannot be caught flat-footed.

Trap Sense Bonus to reflex saves and AC vs traps. Yawn.

Improved Uncanny Dodge Can't be flanked.

Damage Reduction Up to 5 DR/--.

  1. Breaker

Destructive Add half your level to damage against objects or sunder attempts.

Uncanny Dodge The barbarian cannot be caught flat-footed.

Battle Scavenger No penalties for improvised and broken weapons plus a bonus to damage with them. Really, you want to build a character around this?

Improved Uncanny Dodge Can't be flanked.

Damage Reduction Up to 5 DR/--.

  1. Brutal Pugilist

Fast Movement +10' to movement

Savage Grapple Half penalties to Dex, attack rolls, and combat maneuvers while grappled. Good enough if you're going for a grapple focused build.

Pit Fighter +1 bonus to a specific Combat Maneuver. As you gain levels you gain the bonus to additional maneuvers, but it stays at +1 (+2 if not wearing armor).

Improved Savage Grapple No penalties to Dex, attack rolls and combat maneuvers while grappled.

Damage Reduction Up to 5 DR/--.

  1. Drunken Brute

Raging Drunk Can drink a potion or alcoholic drink as a move action. This particular ability isn't that great, but it opens up all the drinking rage powers. Drink rounds don't count against rage rounds. After rage, you're nauseated (can't attack) for 1 round for each drink.

Uncanny Dodge The barbarian cannot be caught flat-footed.

Trap Sense Bonus to reflex saves and AC vs traps. Yawn.

Improved Uncanny Dodge Can't be flanked.

Damage Reduction Up to 5 DR/--.

  1. Elemental Kin

Fast Movement +10' to movement

Uncanny Dodge The barbarian cannot be caught flat-footed.

Elemental Fury You get to rage longer when you take energy damage. Circumstantial, but okay.

Improved Uncanny Dodge Can't be flanked.

Damage Reduction Up to 5 DR/--.

  1. Hurler

Skilled Thrower +10' to range increment of any thrown weapon or object. Base feature for the hurler build. Take something else.

Uncanny Dodge The barbarian cannot be caught flat-footed.

Trap Sense Bonus to reflex saves and AC vs traps. Yawn.

Improved Uncanny Dodge Can't be flanked.

Damage Reduction Up to 5 DR/--.

  1. Invulnerable Rager

Fast Movement +10' to movement

Invulnerability DR/-- at half your barbarian level, double that vs non-lethal damage. It scales nicely and ends up with 10 DR/--. This replaces uncanny dodge, Improved Uncanny Dodge and Damage Reduction, but it's still worth it.

Extreme Endurance You get Endure Elements vs either hot or cold, and up to 5 points fire or cold resistance. At least as good as trap sense.

  1. Mounted Fury

Fast Rider +10' to mount's movement. Excellent swap for Mounted Fury.

Uncanny Dodge The barbarian cannot be caught flat-footed.

Trap Sense Bonus to reflex saves and AC vs traps. Yawn.

Bestial Mount Mount is treated as a druid's Animal Companion at barbarian level – 4.

Damage Reduction Up to 5 DR/--.

  1. Savage Barbarian

Fast Movement +10' to movement

Uncanny Dodge The barbarian cannot be caught flat-footed.

Naked Courage Inspired by Braveheart. Dodge bonuses to AC and morale bonuses to saves vs fear when wearing no armor. Maxes out at +3 at level 15. Maybe just wear armor.

Improved Uncanny Dodge Can't be flanked.

Natural Toughness Natural armor bonus to AC when wearing no armor. Maxes at +5 at level 19. Sadly replaces damage reduction.

  1. Superstitious

Fast Movement +10' to movement

Uncanny Dodge The barbarian cannot be caught flat-footed.

Sixth Sense Bonus to initiative and AC during surprise rounds. Goes up to +6.

Improved Uncanny Dodge Can't be flanked.

Keen Senses Over time you gain low-light vision, darkvision, scent, blindsense and blindsight.

  1. Mashups

If archetypes don't overlap in the class features they replace, you can use both. Here are some combinations worth considering.

Drunken Brute / Invulnerable Rager

Drunken Brute / Superstitious

Elemental Kin / Mounted Fury

Mounted Fury / Superstitious

  1. Rage Powers

Rage powers are another way to customize your barbarian, and you gain access to one every second level. Keep in mind, though, that they are only active and available while raging.

  1. Totem Powers

There are four different totem types with three rage powers each. Barbarians are restricted to a single totem type, so choose carefully. The later powers have the earlier ones as prerequisites.

  1. Beast

The Beast Totem tree is how you build a natural attack barbarian. If that's your build, look no further. Even if you're using a weapon, there's still a lot here to like.

Lesser Beast Totem Gain 2 claw attacks. (primary, full BAB 1d6)

Beast Totem Natural Armor Bonus (+2 to +6, level 6)

Greater Beast Totem Pounce! Oh, and your claw damage goes up to 1d8. (level 10)

  1. Chaos

Lesser Chaos Totem Bonus to AC (deflection) and some saves up to +3.

Chaos Totem 25% chance to avoid extra damage from sneak attacks and criticals. Also +4 to Escape Artist. (level 6)

Greater Chaos Totem DR/lawful at ½ level, your weapons are chaotic for DR. (level 10) DR doesn't stack, so this is an option if you didn't take Invulnerable Rager.

  1. Fiend

Lesser Fiend Totem You grow horns and get a gore attack. This would be awesome if you could have this and the Beast Totem, but you can't.

Fiend Totem Spikes. Anyone hitting you in melee takes 1d6 damage. (level 6)

Greater Fiend Totem Damage/shaken aura. Not bad, but doesn't work on evil creatures. (level 10)

  1. Spirit

Spirits surround you while you're raging. No, I don't know why.

Lesser Spirit Totem One additional 1d4 attack, but based off your CHAMOD.

Spirit Totem 20% miss chance for ranged and non-adjacent melee. (level 6)

Greater Spirit Totem 1d8 damage aura, and your additional attack gets 15' range. (level 10)

  1. Drink Powers

These powers are based off of drinking during your rage. You'll need the Drunken Brute archetype to make these work, but the problem is it still slows down combat. You'll need to spend a move action to boost these powers which means you're giving up attacks while you do so. Your drinking rounds don't count against your rage rounds, but the rest of your party is fighting while you're drinking. These powers are not progressive.

Boasting Taunt Make Intimidate check to make your enemy shaken until it attacks you, +2 bonus for each drink. (level 6). One enemy for a standard action, needs Intimidate skill, needs CHA or Intimidating Prowess feat.

Good for What Ails You Take a drink to get a new save vs many status effects. Might be a good enough reason to take Drunken Brute.

Liquid Courage Bonus to saves per drink. (scales by level)

Roaring Drunk Bonus to Intimidate per drink. (scales by level) Barely decent if you're making an Intimidate build.

Staggering Drunk Bonus to AC (dodge) per drink. (scales by level)

  1. Mount Powers

These powers all affect your mount. If you're making a mounted fury build, you'll want these. If not, you won't. Ferocious mount is required for all the other powers.

Ferocious Mount Your mount gets the benefit of your rage, but you pay with your rage rounds. This is why the Mounted Fury build pretty much requires Extra Rage.

Spirit Steed Your mount gets DR/magic at ½ your level. Too bad magic is so common. (level 6)

Greater Ferocious Mount Your mount gains the benefit of your constant rage powers. (level 8)

Ferocious Trample Trample! (level 8)

Greater Ferocious Trample You can now trample large creatures. Overrun is a free action against those who miss their saves. (level 12 and requires Ferocious Trample)

  1. Hurling Powers

These are the rage powers you'll need if you're dead set on making a Hurler build. They are also progressive except for Hurling Charge which just requires Lesser Hurling. You'll also need the Throw Anything feat for improvised weapons. Full damage is only for stone and metallic objects.

Lesser Hurling Throw a rock one size smaller than yourself. Full round, ranged touch attack, 3d6 (medium object) + STRMOD + PA, reflex save.

Hurling Range increase and one size increase (4d6 for large). (level 8)

Greater Hurling Another range increase and a size increase (6d6 for huge). (level 12)

Hurling Charge Get an extra attack during a charge. Doesn't have to be a rock or improvised weapon. You could hurl a javelin while charging. Requires at least 20' charge and lesser hurling as a prerequisite. (level 6)

  1. Elemental / Energy Powers

These powers are progressive, much like the totem powers, however there is no prohibition against taking these powers with each other or with totem powers.

  1. Elemental

A nice set for increasing your damage, and you can switch energy type to overcome resistances.

Lesser Elemental Rage +1d6 energy damage to a melee attack once per rage. (level 4) Lame, but needed for the better powers.

Elemental Rage All melee attacks do an additional 1d6 energy damage (level 8)

Greater Elemental Rage Critical hits get +1d10 elemental damage (2d10 for x3, 3d10 for x4) (level 12)

  1. Energy Resistance

These powers grant resistance to one type of energy which is chosen when the power is taken. They can be taken multiple times to apply to different energy types.

Energy Resistance Gain resistance to one energy type at ½ level.

Greater Energy Resistance Take half damage from an attack (once per rage) of a type you have energy resistance to. (level 8) Possibly useful, but red for once per rage.

Energy Absorption Instead of taking damage, you absorb one energy attack (of your chosen type) into temporary hit points. Requires greater energy resistance. (level 12) Should be red for specific energy type and once per rage, but sucking up a 10d6 fireball into 10d6 temporary hit points is pretty cool.

Energy Eruption Instead of taking damage, you absorb one energy attack (of your chosen type) and release it as a breath weapon. Requires energy absorption. (level 16)

  1. Superstition Powers

This is a pretty impressive set of powers. They're grouped because it's another progressive set, although Witch Hunter only requires Superstition.

Superstition Bonus to saving throws vs spells, supernatural abilities and spell-like abilities. Goes from +2 to +7. Downside – you must also save against allied spells. So what? Work around it. Mega blue.

Disruptive Gain Disruptive feat. (level 8)

Spellbreaker Gain Spellbreaker feat. (level 12)

Witch Hunter +1 to +6 damage bonus to creatures with spells or spell-like abilities. Requires superstition.

  1. All Other Powers

Everything else sorted by level. Things with prerequisites are grouped together.

  1. Level 1

Animal Fury Gain a bite attack 1d4 + ½ STRMOD at BAB-5. Adds to grapple damage. Use with Beast Totem, a grapple build, or to threaten adjacent squares while you use a reach weapon.

Brawler Gain Improved Unarmed Strike

Greater Brawler Gain Two-Weapon Fighting for unarmed attacks. Requires Brawler.

Guarded Life If you're reduced below 0 hit points, you convert your level in damage to non-lethal damage. You also immediately stabilize at negative hit points.

Guarded Stance Spend move action to gain +1 to +3 AC (dodge) against melee. Lasts for CONMOD rounds.

Intimidating Glare Changes Intimidate to a move action, but only adjacent. Helpful for an Intimidate build.

Terrifying Howl Affects shaken enemies in 30 feet. Will save or become panicked. Requires Intimidating Glare. (level 8) Combine with Dazzling Display feat for lots of fun, although your enemies will scatter.

Knockback Bull rush with STRMOD damage. No AoO.

Knockdown Trip attack with STRMOD damage. No AoO, but only once per rage.

Low-light Vision Meh. Only works while raging.

Night Vision 60' Darkvision, but you must have the Low-light Vision rage power or the ability from another source. Good enough for orange.

Moment of Clarity Pause your rage abilities for one round, but still burn the rage round. Once per rage. Situational.

No Escape Follow a withdrawing opponent as an immediate action. Would be green, but only once per rage.

Overbearing Advance Do STRMOD damage on a successful overrun.

Overbearing Onslaught Overrun additional enemies with a cumulative -2 penalty. Requires Overbearing Advance. (level 6)

Powerful Blow Extra damage, but you have to choose to use it before you roll and it's only once per rage. Look at Elemental Rage instead.

Quick Reflexes Get an additional AoO each round.

Raging Climber, Leaper, Swimmer add your level to the skill check. Almost orange, but remember this only applies while you're raging.

Reckless Abandon Bonus to attack and equivalent penalty to AC, up to +6/-6. I'm all for doing damage to drop your foes quickly, but remember your rage ability trades a bonus to attack, damage, hp and will for half as much penalty to AC. This is a far worse exchange. Very situational.

Inspire Ferocity Share Reckless Abandon with all willing allies. Oops. Only lasts as long as your CHAMOD. Must have Reckless Abandon.

Rolling Dodge Up to +3 AC (dodge) vs ranged attacks for CONMOD rounds.

Roused Anger Enter rage when fatigued, but exhausted for 10 minutes per round of raging after. Situational, but since you're fatigued after every rage, it comes up a lot. This power is also good for resetting all those “once per rage” powers. You'd just better make sure it's worth it because the penalty is harsh.

Scent This only works while raging, so the main use will be to pick out invisible creatures so you can hit them.

Smasher Ignore hardness on object attack or Sunder attempt. Once per rage, use before you roll. Red.

Strength Surge Add level to STR check, combat maneuver or CMD. Only once per rage, but good for maneuver focused builds or simply for defense.

Surprise Accuracy Bonus to attack roll up to +6. Use before roll, Once per rage.

Swift Foot +5' to speed, can be taken 3 times.

  1. Level 4

Renewed Vigor Jealous of the paladin's Lay on Hands ability? How about 1d8 to 5d8 plus CONMOD in healing? Self only, and only once per day.

  1. Level 6

Ground Breaker Smash the floor. Make difficult terrain. Knock people down. Oh reflex save is DC 15? Never mind.

  1. Level 8

Clear Mind Missed a Will save? Try again.

Increased Damage Reduction +1 DR. Take up to 3 times. Last of the greens or first of the oranges?

Internal Fortitude Immune to sickened and nauseated conditions (even from Raging Drunk apparently).

Unexpected Strike You can make an AoO when a foe moves into a threatened square. Yay! Once per rage. Boo.

  1. Level 10

Flesh Wound Make a Fort save (DC damage) to take half damage (converted to non-lethal) from an attack. Once per rage, but probably worthwhile.

  1. Level 12

Come and Get Me Grant +4 to hit and damage to enemies, but get a free AoO for every attack – and your attack goes first.

Fearless Rage Immune to shaken and frightened.

Mighty Swing Auto-confirm critical hit. Once per rage.

  1. Feats
  2. Equipment
  3. Builds