Guide to Building a Half Orc Barbarian: DnD 5e

Consider this build for an optimum half orc barbarian:

The half orc barbarian is a real hoot.  I love a good brawler, the type of character that can take a hit and relish in the carnage, and there’s no better example than a berserk orc.  My goal for this build is to leverage the attack features of barbarians while sustaining a fight.  In other words, I want to hit hard and avoid dying.

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Utilize half orc traits as a barbarian

Unsurprisingly, the half orcs have features that fit perfectly with a barbarian build (that’s going to be fun to keep saying).  For instance, their Strength ability score is increased by +2, and Constitution is boosted by +1.  These are the two ability scores I need the highest.

Similar to other fae races, half-orcs have Darkvision, which means they can see 60 feet in the dark.  They also a trait called Menacing, which gives proficiency in the Intimidation skill.  Because, you know, they’re scary looking.

But wait, it gets more barbaric!

Relentless Endurance allows me to keep on my feet when I might otherwise fall.  When I’m reduced to 0 hit points, but not outright killed, I can bump up to 1 HP.  This ability isn’t on all the time, so I’ll have to rest in between uses.  But really, how often are we expecting to get killed?

Savage Attacks make critical strikes a whole lot more critical.  Whenever I roll that sweet, sweet 20, I can roll my weapon damage 2 times and add it to the damage.  I plan on swinging for the fences, so my time for this will happen and it will be glorious.

Fight with shield and axe

Building a barbarian, it’s tempting to want a two-handed weapon berserker.  For some of us, the concept of screw it and go crazy seems like a good time.  Maybe Fate will bless my courage?  Not likely, especially at early levels.

Therefore, my barbarian will utilize a shield and have to settle for a battleaxe (1d8).  This class doesn’t use armor like fighter or paladin, so the extra shield will balance my fierce attacks.  Plus, if we choose to go with a shield, we can afford to crank our Strength to the highest ability score.  Otherwise, we might have to consider Constitution score as the highest.

That being said, I prefer a solid +3 or +4 to each attack than take my chances rolling a bigger die.  Even a d12 can roll a 1.  Not to mention, it’s easy to end up dead if my plan to kill doesn’t go accordingly.  Therefore, take the shield and be the strongest warrior in the group.

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Use barbarian abilities strategically

Now, for the fun stuff.

Barbarians are granted a few abilities that play into their chaotic role in the party.  The first 2 abilities are Rage and Unarmored Defense, the staples of the barbarian archetype.

Rage can be a state entered as a bonus action, jacking up my ability to fight.  This ability makes the lack of armor even more worth it.  I’ll be big, angry and naked.  With this ability, I’ll gain:

  • Advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
  • When I make a Strength-based melee attack, I gain a special bonus to the damage roll.
  • I have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage.

This is quite a bit, both offensively and defensively.  Don’t be discouraged by not wearing armor.

Unarmored Defense allows an extra advantage to my naked barbarian.  With this ability, I can build my armor class like this: 10 + Dex mod + Con mod +2 (shield).  I’ll probably have some Dexterity, as this barbarian simply doesn’t need Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma.  My Constitution, however, will be one of my top scores.

At level 2, my barbarian gains Reckless Attack and Danger Sense.  Remember, this part is about using moves strategically.

Reckless Attack grants me advantage on attack rolls using the Strength modifier but leaves me vulnerable to the same advantage.  In other words, I can hit with advantage and be hit with advantage.  I’ll probably want to save this for a finishing blow—or to pick off an isolated enemy.  That way, I won’t have to worry about retaliation.

Danger Sense gives me advantage on Dexterity saving throws.  The idea is that barbarians are experienced, perceptive and resourceful.  It’s useful for spying traps and magic that might otherwise surprise my party.  However, I can’t use it if I’m blinded, deafened or incapacitated.

Choose Path of the Berserker

At level 3, I’ll be able to branch out my barbarian build.

For the half-orc, I’ve decided to stick with Path of the Berserker, wielding a battleaxe and shield and dishing out multiple attacks.  This path is simple and straightforward, a pure Viking warrior of epic proportions.

Frenzy will be my starting ability on this path.  Whenever I activate my rage, I can choose to go into a frenzy.  For the duration of the rage, I’m able to take an extra attack action against another opponent on my turn.  That’s two attacks at level 3, with the added benefits of barbarian rage.  After the frenzy, I’ll suffer one level of exhaustion.  As always, using this ability at the right time is crucial.

Later, I’ll learn Mindless Rage, which prevents me from being charmed or frightened in combat. This will be more effective when the monsters become more and more magical in nature. I’ll be swatting dudes like a nonstop murder machine.

To sum it up

The half-orc was all but built to play barbarian.  As much as I love the creativity of trying new class/race combinations, the classics are so optimized.  Half-orcs and barbarians go together like peanut butter and jelly, all you have to do is give them a little personality.  I like to think of this character as pure fun and chaos, but with a touch of strategy.

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