How To Build a Dragonborn Barbarian in DnD 5e

As far as barbarians go, Dragonborn is a great choice!

Most people, when asked, will say that Dragonborn makes for great Paladins because of the Strength and Charisma bonuses.

While this is true, you could just as easily swap the Charisma bonus for Constitution using the rules from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, but even then, there are still some great places where a Barbarian can use Charisma.

You could incorporate Intimidation checks into your roleplay or even do a little spellcasting.

Regardless, this post is about creating your Dragonborn Barbarian: the stats, the feats, the subclasses — everything.

At 1st and 2nd Level

Subraces

There are about five different Dragonborn subraces, but two of them (the Ravenite and the Draconblood) are specific to the Wildemount campaign setting, so we will leave them be.

From Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, we get the three main types: the Metallic, the Chromatic, and the Gem Dragonborns.

Each type gets a damage resistance and a breath weapon that is tied to your Constitution modifier (Great for Barbarians!) and a special 5th-level ability.

For Gems, it is flight; for Chromatics, it is an energy immunity; and for Metallics, it is a special property added to your breath weapon.

Long story short, any of these abilities are great for Barbarians, so pick whichever one meets your flavor preference.

Stat Distribution

As a Barbarian, you’ll want your Strength and your Constitution to be your main stats. So take that +2 with glee. Go ahead and make Charisma your third so that the +1 isn’t wasted.

Background

The best background for the Dragonborn Barbarian is the Soldier.

This grants you proficiency with Athletics and Intimidation, meaning your +2 to Strength and your +1 to Charisma are both being used adequately.

Furthermore, the Intimidation skill will work both when pulling rank via your Military Rank feature and also if someone decides to let you do the talking.

Starting Gear

If you want to use a giant weapon, then you’ll get one right off the bat. If, however, you can get a shield and use a battle axe or a longsword, do that, as the +2 to AC will benefit you more in the long run.

You do not start with any armor because of your unarmored defense bonus, so get a shield as soon as you can — even if you pick up the dining table.

An explorer’s pack will come with lots of basic goodies, and the entire purpose of javelins is to give you something to do while you are crossing the distance to your enemy.

Class Abilities and Tactics

Right, here’s the fun stuff. Tactically, your job is to get in there and hit things. That’s it. But read on so that you can be smart about it.

Your ranged combat will be limited to whatever weapons you carry or feats you take (see below), but you are most effective in melee.

As a Dragonborn, you get a nifty breath weapon, which is only useful if you find yourself surrounded by weak mobs.

This is good. Being surrounded by weak mobs is one of the things you do best. Get a shield.

Your Unarmored Defense will add your Constitution modifier to your Armor Class like the Monk gets with their Wisdom.

Unlike the Monk, you can still use a shield with this, so make sure you do so since your Dexterity modifier will probably be a bit low.

You’re looking at having a 16 Armor Class at best (+2 for Dexterity, +2 for Constitution, +2 for shield).

But that’s okay, because for what you lack in AC, you make up for in Hit Points!

Do Not Pick Dragonhide, It’s a Trap

The Dragonhide feat promises you an AC bonus of 13 + Dexterity.

This is a trap because while you can still use a shield, you will not be able to add your Constitution bonus, and this will ultimately give you a lower AC.

As a Barbarian, you do not need this feat.

You will also get the Danger Sense ability, which will grant you advantage on saving throws against spells and effects you can see, allowing you to protect yourself a bit better than your average Monk or Fighter.

Reckless Attack gives you an offensive feature that makes you great for crowd control.

If you are diving into combat against a number of weaker mobs, you can gain advantage on the attack if you consent to other attacks against you having advantage for one turn.

If used poorly, this can leave you very hurt. Do not use this ability if your opponents are getting sneak attacks.

If your opponents have Pack Tactics, like some humanoids and beasts do, then they will have advantage anyway, and you may as well charge on in.

Reckless Attack and Sneak Attack

Let me take a moment to say that the Reckless Attack is not a reason to multiclass with Rogue. It will work just like you think it will – you will get advantage on every attack if you want it.

However, if you use this too often, the dice will take their toll, and you will take too much damage. The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long as they say.

And, of course, Rage. This gives you a number of benefits and is worth reading the entry in the Basic Rules, as it is too long to be posted here.

What makes Rage work well for Dragonborn Barbarians in particular is that you can still use your breath weapon since it is not a spell.

This is unique as many other magical races gain spells and therefore lose a racial bonus when the rage.

Not you, you scaly wonder.

Levels 3 and Up: Subclasses, Feats, and Using Your Abilities

Subclasses

For the Dragonborn, there is not one particular subclass that is inherently better than the other on a mechanical level.

The Dragonborn breath weapon works in close range as do the majority of Barbarian abilities.

However, on a thematic, flavorful level, we recommend either The Path of the Storm Herald or the Path of the Beast.

Path of the Storm Herald will allow you to work within your draconic ancestry to grant you unique energy-based abilities. Most of these abilities work with fire, lightning, or cold damage and resistance.

This matches with all but the Green, Black, Copper, and Gem Dragonborn. That being said, you do not have to stick to any one type of damage.

Acid burns, yeah? So, if you are a Desert Storm Herald of the Black Dragonborn ancestry, you will have an affinity with acid and fire damage.

Radiant damage is celestial light, right? So then, feel free to play a Crystal Dragonborn with an affinity for fire damage via the Path of the Storm Herald abilities.

Secondly, the Path of the Beast will fit your dragonborn badassery quite well.

Dragons are mighty physical specimens, and in previous editions of Dungeons and Dragons, they were spellcasters also.

In my games, they still are (Pact Magic spellcasting with sorcerer spells, their CR equals twice their spellcasting level).

Magic aside, they are powerful enough to eschew weapons and armor and rely on their position as top-tier, apex predators that are definitely smarter than you.

The Path of the Beast takes this idea into account.

Although originally designed for lycanthrope-flavored characters (shifters and tabaxi, maybe?), the abilities transfer easily into a draconic context.

When you rage, you will gain natural weapons, such as claws, a bite, or a tail.

At 6th level, you will gain physical bonuses to your movement types usable even when you aren’t raging.

Channel the raging dragon within!

Feats

The single best feat, in my humble opinion, for the Dragonborn Barbarian is aberrant dragonmark.

It will give you two cantrips that you can use to make up for your lack of ranged weaponry.

I know, I know; you can’t cast spells while raging. However, if you are far enough away to cast firebolt as a Red, Gold, or Brass Dragonborn; chill touch as a Topaz Dragonborn; or ray of frost as a White or Silver Dragonborn (see what I did there?), then you shouldn’t be raging, anyway!

Choose the ranged cantrip that matches the energy related to your draconic ancestry. As for your 1st-level spell, choose one that does not require concentration and that either has a prolonged effect or an instantaneous one.

A favorite of mine is color spray. That way I can have my big, flashy anime freakout by casting color spray and then raging in the same turn. Other options are jump or false life.

The best part is that this spell is Constitution-based like all of your other abilities!

Final Thoughts

This is why Dragonborn is one of the best classes for a Barbarian.

You are descended from gods that walk the material plane. Act like it.