Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is exactly what I was looking for in a 5E book. Offering new class options, archetypes, and so much more, this book really allows players to start making characters! The Beast Barbarian is no different! By embracing the primal side of the Barbarian, they can change their bodies, shapeshifting into beasts. Their hearts are not for nature, necessarily; they could be little more than feral animals. But, they can also be blessed by nature, or by the fey, to take those who challenge nature. Either way, join the Druids and Rangers in our Beast Barbarian 5E guide.
Check Out Our Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything New Subclasses Guide
Beast Barbarian 5E
The Beast Barbarian is not much different than most Primal Paths. However, it replaces a large weapon with natural attacks, which replace the Barbarian’s standard weapons during rage. These weapons can be situational or become your primary method of DPS. In addition, your other traits increase your mobility and actively mess with the battlefield using (no joke) mental command effects. This is as close to a hard Support Barbarian as you can get!
If you’re wondering how your Barbarian became this way, there is a very short table of options; You’re part lycanthrope, you’re descended from an archdruid, a fey blessed you, or you have an ancient spirit within you. D&D’s a magical world, though; basically, any excuse you come up with will work just fine.
Form of the Beast
At level 3, when you rage, you have a choice between one of three natural weapons that you can use. They are strength-based, and do not gain the Finesse quality. You can choose which natural weapon you manifest every time you rage.
Bite: Your mouth transforms into a bestial muzzle or great mandibles (your choice). It deals 1d8 piercing damage on a hit. Once on each of your turns when you damage a creature with this bite, you regain a number of hit points equal to your proficiency bonus, provided you have less than half your hit points when you hit.
Bite is by far the most situational of the three natural attacks. It’s a healing move; you lose damage from your two-handed weapon to heal your proficiency bonus. That’s legitimately good healing, since you get it every turn (that you hit), but it’s so rare that you’ll enter a rage while below half health.
If you do, Bite doesn’t lower your damage by that much, and with Extra Attack you’ll stay afloat in most fights. It’s a good choice, but if you have to use it, your Cleric is in dire straights.
Claws. Each of your hands transforms into a claw, which you can use as a weapon if it’s empty. It deals 1d6 slashing damage on a hit. Once on each of your turns when you attack with a claw using the Attack action, you can make one additional claw attack as part of the same action.
Claws are weird. Their only benefit is making another attack, suggesting that they are the DPS weapon. However, you can only manifest these during rages. That means you either need natural attacks from another source, or you need to use a weapon and then use Claws only while raging.
Still, making three natural attacks in a round is good, and if your DM is nice, maybe you can swing a light weapon in your offhand. It’s fairly high DPS, as long as you’re confident in your ability to hit, since it lets you apply the bonus to your rage three to four times a turn. Of course, later on, you might run into the problem of magical items outpacing these natural weapons… But hey, DMs can make magic handwraps for monks, right?
Tail. You grow a lashing, spiny tail, which deals 1d8 piercing damage on a hit and has the reach property. If a creature you can see within 10 feet of you hits you with an attack roll, you can use your reaction to swipe your tail and roll a d8, applying a bonus to your AC equal to the number rolled, potentially causing the attack to miss you.
Tail is probably the most generally useful. Reach is hard to get, and even harder to get Strength to without dedicating everything to it. So, you can now have your high damage Greatsword and have the benefits of Reach. That’s… really strong, actually, and worth having another option, even if it doesn’t hit hard.
In addition, the reaction is pretty good! Adding 4 average AC will make most attacks miss, and Barbarian Reactions are quite limited (though opportunity attack is fantastic!). If you think that blocking a specific attack is worthwhile, then you have something to do.
In general, grow a tail. That thing is really useful, especially if you get Sentinel or other Opportunity Attack feats. Bite can help you heal through damage, and Claws are only really useful if you’re building specifically for them. Not to say the Claw build is bad, at all; it’s just that Barbarians benefit from making attacks with huge weapons.
At level 6, you get a few weird general benefits. First of all, your natural weapons are magical. Secondly, after any rest, you may choose to get a speed of your choice. This bonus lasts until your next rest, when you can choose another one.
- You gain a swimming speed equal to your walking speed, and you can breathe underwater.
- You gain a climbing speed equal to your walking speed, and you can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.
- When you jump, you can make a Strength (Athletics) check and extend your jump by a number of feet equal to the check’s total. You can make this special check only once per turn.
The first benefit comes just in time. You’re about the level where you can start running into things that are resistant or immune to your natural weapons. Unless your DM is kind to you, this is the only way that Claw builds can even consider keeping up with other weapons. This doesn’t give them an enchantment bonus, mind you; just deals additional damage through non-magical weapon resistances.
Now, let’s talk about the other bonuses, which last outside of rage!
- Swim speed is good for… situations where Swim Speed arises. That’s a pretty boring answer, but c’mon; if you think you’re going for a swim, you get the swim speed buff. For underwater campaigns, you have this exact option that you are going to spam every rest.
- Climbing speed is so useful, and is likely your primary choice. You get to climb very fast, and you can climb whatever you want. For caves or dungeons, this can completely invalidate puzzles, or allow you to reposition very effectively. It’s no Flight speed, but it’s close!
- The Jump bonus is absolutely hilarious, but sadly not very useful. You can get Athlete or something to make your Jump build absolutely insane… but the turn limitation and the limits on jumping in general make this pretty bad. You might catch Flying characters off guard, though!
Climb is the most useful generally. Swim speed is, of course, fantastic if you know about underwater situations coming up. If you know that you’re not going to be able to climb anything to reposition against opponents, then go crazy with your frog legs!
Now for the weird mental effect. At level 10, while you’re raging, the target must make a Wisdom save (8 + your Constitution mod + proficiency) after hitting them with a natural weapon. If they fail, they do one of the following (you choose).
- The target must use its reaction to make a melee attack against another creature of your choice that you can see.
- The target takes 2d12 psychic damage.
You have a number of charges of this equal to your Proficiency Bonus, and you get them all back after a long rest.
This is a pretty fantastic ability! You don’t necessarily have to do it on your turn, so your tail can make an opportunity attack and trigger this.
The first ability does two things; spend your target’s reaction, and deals damage to another creature. If a creature has a really strong reaction that you know about, this can really lower their damage output or ruin their game plan! Or, if the creature has a really painful melee attack, this can crush someone else! Normally, I’d say that the removal of a reaction tends to be more useful.
2d12 psychic damage is pretty boring; average of 13. That’s a less fun way to use this ability, but if you’re against a caster and you’re the only melee attacker on it… then you don’t exactly have a choice, right? Most DMs won’t say they can make a melee attack with infinite range, so the target that they attack should realistically be in range. On the bright side, if you’re flailing with your claws, you can proc this ability on every swing, dealing 13 extra psychic damage on each attack… If you really want to spend all of your uses!
Use this ability to shred reactions, or shred bosses. It’s actually pretty good at doing both, depending on your build.
Call the Hunt
The final ability is really flavorful, but also rather low in power. At level 14, whenever you rage, you choose a number of creatures within 30 feet equal to your Constitution modifier.
You gain 5 temporary hit points for each creature that accepts this feature. Until the rage ends, the chosen creatures can each use the following benefit once on each of their turns: when the creature hits a target with an attack roll and deals damage to it, the creature can roll a d6 and gain a bonus to the damage equal to the number rolled.
You can do this a number of times equal to your proficiency mod, and regain it on a long rest.
That’s right, you just gave your entire party bardic inspiration to their damage rolls. And not just weapon damage rolls, no; any attack roll gains 3.5 average damage. Your Fighter and your Monk just fell in love with you!
You also gained a bit of health, and since there is no downsides to accepting the Call, your entire party should do so. That gives you a solid 15 health shield. That’s… okay, maybe solid is overdoing it. That’s an okay defensive boon that might block a full damage roll if you’re lucky. If you can give more creatures the bonus, then you can get more temp hit points. That’s solid, but doesn’t scale at all with level; just party size.
The damage bonus, as mentioned above, is awesome, but also doesn’t scale. At level 20, when you’re fighting demigods, you’re still just adding 3.5 average damage. Great, but not exactly incredible.
In general, it’s a pretty cool support ability, and if you have any characters with many attacks they’ll love you.
Best Races for The Beast
The Beast wants to get great Constitution and great Strength. Constitution increases their defensive abilities, their support abilities, and boosts the DC of the Infectious Rage ability. Strength is a Barbarian’s damage stat, and this build is no different! Sadly, this is another archetype that falls out of the Dexterity Barbarian build, simply due to the limitations on the natural attacks.
These race picks assume that you aren’t using the new Tasha’s rule, that allows you to place ability boosts wherever you’d like. That’s an awesome rule that you should talk to your DM about! But these are assuming you don’t use that.
These Volo’s Guide beasties are great for a tail-focused build! +2 Strength, +1 Dexterity isn’t quite perfect, but you can boost your Constitution with starting stat points. Their Long-Limbed ability allows you to use a Greatsword at reach, and then use your tail for attacks of opportunity. You also carry more, which is honestly good for Strength builds. Just in case that’s not enough, you can also stalk prey, like a true animal. It’s an honestly fun build idea, and Bugbears are naturally pretty lazy; it’d be weird to see a feral one!
Is this perhaps a gimme? Yes. Is it hilarious? Also yes. Beasthide Shifters from Eberron: Rising From the Last War are pretty great for you. +2 Constitution, +1 Strength is perfect. You have darkvision and can use a bonus action to become bestial once per short rest, boosting your hit pool and gaining AC. Natural Athlete gives you a skill proficiency where you want it, rather than in Stealth. And… you’re already a shifter! There’s no need to come up with a complex backstory. Heck, this archetype was basically made for these guys!
Conclusion – Our Take on the Path of the Beast Barbarian 5E
The Beast is a pretty stellar Path. If you’re looking for a pseudo-support with a unique Natural Attack mechanic, there’s nothing quite like this. That being said, you’re also a tank, and a frontliner, so coordinate with your party to make sure there are people to protect, rather than an army of melee characters. This guy really excels with the Tail/Sentinel build to keep any creature from escaping your grasp!