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A Dungeons & Dragons character class
Publication history
First appearance Dragon #63 (1st edition)
Editions 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 3.5, 4th
(as a standard class) 3rd, 3.5
(as an alternate class) 1st, 2nd, 4th
Source books Player's Handbook (3rd, 3.5)
Based on Barbarian

The barbarian is a playable character class in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. The class was introduced as early as 1985 and went through a number of evolutions in subsequent editions of the game.

Publication history[]

Creative origins[]

The barbarian is based on Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian, Gardner Fox's Kothar and to a lesser extent Fritz Lieber's Fafhrd.[1]

Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1977-1980)[]

An "unofficial" version of the barbarian character class was introduced in issue #4 (Dec/Jan 1977/1978) of the Games Workshop publication White Dwarf for the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (2nd version) rules.[2][3] The article was later reprinted in The Best of White Dwarf Articles #1, in 1980.[4]

This version of the barbarian character class differs significantly from the one published for the 1st edition of Dungeons & Dragons. For example, this version used d6 hit dice, had a prime requisite (constitution), had severe armor restrictions, could be played as any race, and was considered a class unto itself (that is, it was not considered a sub-class of fighter). The 1st edition version, on the other hand, used d12 hit dice, had no prime requisites, had no armor restrictions (other than not being able to use magical armor), could only be human, and was considered a fighter sub-class.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977-1988)[]

The first official barbarian character class was introduced by Gary Gygax in Dragon #63 (July 1982), as a sub-class of fighter.[5] The barbarian later appears in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons manual, Unearthed Arcana in 1985.[6] The barbarian, along with the cavalier, received a revision in Dragon magazine #148, as the author David Howery felt that the class as described in Unearthed Arcana was "too powerful and too vaguely defined."[7]

Another version of the barbarian appeared as a character class in the original Oriental Adventures in 1985.[8] According to a reviewer for White Dwarf, the barbarian was "altered to fit into an Eastern pattern", and was "primarily a steppes warrior, or a forest and jungle dweller".[8]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989-1999)[]

Barbarians appear in The Complete Fighter's Handbook as a character kit,[9] and later receive full attention as a stand-alone class in The Complete Barbarian's Handbook.

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition (2000-2007)[]

Barbarian is one of the base character classes presented in the Player's Handbook. The barbarian is seen as the archetypal warrior who uses brute strength and raw fury to excel in combat, instead of the honed skills of the Fighter or measured strength of the Monk. Of all the classes, only the barbarian begins the game illiterate and is forced to expend extra skill points or multiclass in order to read and write.

Half-Orcs, Minotaur, Korobokuru (a race of primitive Oriental Dwarves introduced in Oriental Adventures), and Diopsids (an obscure race of humanoid beetles that first appeared in Dragon magazine #267) all have Barbarian as a favoured class.

Mechanics and Abilities[]

The barbarian has fewer distinct tactical options than D&D's other primary melee combatant, the fighter. Instead of the many bonus feats that the fighter can choose from, barbarians receive a small but unique list of special abilities that make them equally valued on the battlefield.


Barbarians can tap their inner fury to fly into a berserker-like rage. Once the rage is expended, the barbarian becomes fatigued for the remainder of the encounter. Rage provides bonuses to Strength, Constitution, and Will saving throws (which can make barbarians surprisingly resistant to harmful magic), and a glut of additional hit points which expire along with their rage. Rage also reduces armour class and interferes with any skill requiring patience or concentration.

As barbarians gain in power, their rage can be used more often and provides even larger Strength and Constitution bonuses, while taking less of a toll on their bodies.

Other Abilities[]

The barbarian class confers a number of unique specific abilities to the character. Most of these come from the barbarian's feral alertness, and from sheer speed and endurance.

Barbarians can instinctively guard themselves against ambushes or opponents that surround them, as well as reacting more swiftly against traps. In straight movement they also enjoy faster than average speed for their race, able to run down most foes. Barbarians also enjoy damage reduction: every time they are damaged, they are allowed to reduce this amount. This damage reduction, while small, does grow as the barbarian gains levels, and it cannot be bypassed by any sort of weapon.

The Iconic barbarian is Krusk, a male half-orc.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008-)[]

The barbarian appears in the 4th edition as a player character class in Player's Handbook 2 (2009).[10]

As strikers, barbarians are focused on single target damage. Some defender or leader capabilities are also available to the class. Barbarians are proficient in melee weapons and light armor. Barbarians use the primal power source.

Barbarians possess several class features. Feral Might provides one of several options, chosen at character creation, Rageblood Vigor, first presented in the October 2008 preview article, which grants the barbarian temporary hit points and charge with the Swift Charge power whenever he or she reduces a foe to 0 points, as well as making some Barbarian powers more effective, another Feral Might is Thaneborn Triumph, which grants the power Roar of Triumph and gives allies a bonus to attack rolls when you bloody a target . Rampage allows barbarians to make extra attacks if they score critical hits with their attack powers. Rage Strike allows a barbarian to expend a rage power while already in a rage in order to attack a single target for damage dependant on the power's level.

Two barbarian builds have been detailed, the Rageblood Barbarian, which focuses on the Rageblood Vigor form of Feral Might, Strength and Constitution and leans towards the defender role, and the Thaneborn Barbarian, which focuses on Strength, Charisma and a different form of Feral Might, and leans towards the leader role. Barbarians' powers are called Evocations, and one other build has been mentioned. Most of the barbarian's daily attack powers have the Rage keyword, each such power combines an attack with a persistent buff on the barbarian, a barbarian can only benefit from one rage at a time, rages last until the end of the encounter unless the barbarian activates another rage or is reduced to 0 hit points. All published barbarian attack powers use Strength for attack rolls, some powers have other effects tied to Constitution or Charisma, many barbarian powers have effects which require the barbarian to be raging.

The Rageblood Berserker paragon path was first presented in the 2008 preview for Player's Handbook 2.[11] The Player's Handbook 2 has several barbarian paragon paths, including the Bear Warrior, Fearbringer Thane, Frenzied Berserker and Wildrunner.[10]

Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition (2014-)[]

The barbarian has been included as a character class in the Player's Handbook.[12]

Barbarians in specific campaign settings[]


In most Dungeons & Dragons games, the barbarian is represented as a savage, tribal warrior. However, in the Eberron campaign setting, barbarians are more like nomads—while they may not be civilized, they are certainly not savages.

Forgotten Realms[]

Barbarians in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting are similar in presentation as the class presented in the core rulebook. Barbarians can be of any race in the Realms, though some are more uncommon than others. Barbarians are described as being confused by the cosmopolitan nature of certain regions of Faerûn.


  1. DeVarque, Aardy. "Literary Sources of D&D". Archived from the original on 2007-07-21. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  5. Gygax, Gary (July 1982). "The Big, Bad Barbarian". Dragon (TSR) (63): 8–10. 
  6. Acaeum "Later AD&D Manuals"
  7. Howery, David (1989). Dragon Magazine 148: 18–23. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Shepherd, Ashley (February 1986). "Open Box: Dungeon Modules". White Dwarf (Games Workshop) (74): 9–10. ISSN 0265-8712. 
  9. Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. p. 109. ISBN 0-87975-653-5. 
  10. 10.0 10.1
  11. Heinsoo, Rob; Mike Mearls, Jesse Decker, Robert J. Schwalb (October 2008). "Playtest: The Barbarian" (PDF). Dragon Magazine. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2008-10-06.  Lua error in Module:Unsubst at line 14: <strong class="error"><span class="scribunto-error" id="mw-scribunto-error-0">Script error: The function &quot;unsubst&quot; does not exist.</span></strong> requires parameter $N (template name).
  12. "Keeping it Classy | Dungeons & Dragons". 2014-07-28. Retrieved 2014-09-21. 

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