Guide to Building a Barbarian Path of the Ancestral Guardian: DnD 5e

A barbarian in DnD 5e that follows the Path of the Ancestral Guardian is aided by the spirits of their ancestors to become an extremely effective rage tank.  These spirits add extra benefits to my barbican and the allies I battle beside.  I must enter a rage to summon these spirits during battle.  However, later levels will bring other advantages to my communion with my ancestors.

To build a barbarian Path of the Ancestral Guardian in DnD 5e, consider the following aspects:

Choose a strong race with a proud lineage: dragonborn, bugbear or leonin

For this build, we need a beefcake with a high Strength score and a strong connection to his or her people.  I like to use a splash of monster in this build for feral abilities that could complement my berserker fighting style.  Dragonborn, bugbear and leonin are all choices that offer raw, ferocious Strength and fierce racial abilities.

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A dragonborn barbarian gains a +2 Strength benefit, as well as an elemental Breath Weapon and inherent resistance to that element.  Dragonborn have proud lineages from the dragons themselves and hold the clan above all else.  This connection to the clan fits the ancestral aspects of this barbarian subclass well.

The lion-like leonin race are proud and fierce, gaining a +2 Constitution/+1 Strength combination that fits the barbarian well.  Hunters Instincts gives me a bonus proficiency in Survival, Intimidation, Athletics or Perception, and my claws will be usable weapons.  However, Daunting Roar is the most impressive trait, causing enemies within 10 feet of me to make a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of me.

A bugbear barbarian would gain the advantage of a +2 Strength/+1 Dexterity combination and 5 feet extra reach with Long-Limbed.  Bugbears aren’t usually thought of as honorable or loyal, but the fact that they are big, natural leaders gives them a sense of royal lineage.  Plus, I’ll gain proficiency in Sneak and gain an extra 2d6 damage when I use Surprise Attack once a day.

Use basic barbarian traits like Rage, Unarmored Defense, Reckless Attack and Danger Sense

For my basic barbarian setup, I’ll choose a great sword over a greataxe—I prefer rolling 2d6 over 1d12 so my lowest damage possible is 2.  Because I’m an unusual tank with speed, Strength, Constitution and Dexterity will be my highest scores.  For my beginning Skills, I’ll choose Animal Handling for a roleplaying option and Athletics to strut my Strength score.

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Barbarians differ from other martial classes with the ability to enter a Rage twice a day, which triggers 3 different effects.

  • I have advantage on Strength checks and saving throws.
  • Deal extra damage with melee weapons using Strength equal to the Rage Table—starts at +2.
  • Resistance to piercing, bludgeoning and slashing damage.

As I level up, I’ll be able to trigger my Ancestral Guardian abilities while in this Rage.

Secondly, I’ll gain Unarmored Defense at level 1, which equals 10 + Dexterity and Constitution modifier.

Reckless Attack comes next at level 2, trading advantage on my first attack for advantage on attack rolls against me.  A part of the barbarian strategy is to pull enemies into attacking me instead of my allies.  Even without as much armor as a plate-wearing tank, I’ll gain plenty of advantages with my high Constitution score and combat damage resistances.

Danger Sense gives me an edge against visible traps and dangers, giving me advantage on Dexterity saving throws.  I see this character as a protector in many ways, with a sense of loyalty embedded into the class.  Whether that happens quickly or slowly with the party is up for debate.  However, skills like this give my party extra protection and once again place my character in the path of danger.

Lean into Ancestral Protectors, Spirit Shield, Consult the Spirits and Vengeful Ancestors

At level 3, I’ll choose the Path of the Ancestral Guardian and gain abilities with ghostly ancestor spirits that protect my party and enhance my combat abilities.

Ancestral Protectors is my first ability at level 3, conjuring my ancestors when I enter Rage to aid me in combat.  The first creature I attack becomes the target for my warriors, who hinder their attacks against my allies.  Target gets disadvantage on attack rolls against my allies.  Plus, my allies gain resistance to damage from the target.  How’s that for pulling aggression?

At level 6, I learn Spirit Shield, which directly reduces damage against my allies by 2d6.  This damage reduction is increased to 3d6 at level 10 and 4d6 at level 14.

Consult the Spirits comes at level 10, giving me the ability to communicate to my ancestors for guidance.  For DnD 5e, this means casting clairvoyance or augury with no components needed.  Wisdom is my casting ability, and I can cast this once between short or long rests.

Finally, I learn Vengeful Ancestors at level 14, giving my Spirit Shield the ability to reflect enemy damage back at them.

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Round up the barbarian character build with Extra Attack, Fast Movement and other late-level barbarian abilities.

Once I reach level 5, I’ll gain Extra Attack (an extra attack turn) and Fast Movement.  Fast Movement offers me 10 more feet of movement speed, which is impressive for a big guy.  When it comes to mobility, the barbarian is the Strength answer to the monk class.

Then, level 7 brings Feral Instinct and level 9 Brutal Critical.  Feral Instinct grants me advantage on my initiative roll, which will allow me to unleash my Rage as soon as possible.  Plus, if I’m not incapacitated, I can act normally on my first turn during a surprise attack.  I’ll have to be sure and Rage as a bonus action first.  Brutal Critical gives me one extra damage die when I roll a critical hit.

At level 11, Relentless Rage keeps me on my feet when I drop to 0 HP—if I roll a 10 Constitution save, which shouldn’t be too hard.  Then, my anger is upgraded to Persistent Rage, keeping my Rage state active until I go unconscious or choose to end it.

My final two abilities will be Indominable Might and Primal Champion.  Indominable Might is learned at level 18 and grants me my Strength score for any Strength roll I make.  Finally, Primal Champion grants me +4 Strength and Constitution with 24 being the maximum at level 20.

In conclusion

Barbarians are savage warriors with the fiercest loyalties.  Between the barbarian’s mobility, attack options, defense and resistances, I can play this character to support my friends and hammer enemies at the same time.  My ancestral guardians add an interesting visual element to the tabletop gameplay—offering advantages to my friends and bringing a richness to my backstory.

How would you build a barbarian Path of the Ancestral Guardian?  Let me know in the comments below.

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