The Path of the Ancestral Guardian is just one of the Barbarian’s many subclasses. Players who want to use the power of their ancestors combined with natural rage will find the Path of the Ancestral Guardian suiting.
Your ancestor spirits do not merely watch over your path, talking among themselves and making choices without reach. Now you fight as one; whether that be defensive or offensive, all is done the Barbarian way!
Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian 5e – Features
Even though Ancestral Guardians have a better connection to spirits, their primary form of attack, large, heavy melee weapons, stays the same.
Ancestral Guardians are a special type of Barbarian, similar to Paladins, who defend their allies using spells (like Compelled Duel); they have an ability that allows them to physically protect their allies.
Unlike most Barbarians who defend other players by racking up heaps of damage, making them unavoidable, Ancestral Guardians do the same but with another defensive twist added onto it.
When you choose the Path of the Ancestral Guardian at level 3, whenever you enter your rage, spectral warriors will appear.
Whilst you are raging, the first creature you successfully hit on your turn will become the target of the warriors, hindering its attacks.
Until your next turn starts, the target will have disadvantage on any attack rolls that aren’t against you, and when the target hits a creature that isn’t you with an attack, the creature will have resistance to the damage dealt by that attack.
Note: If your rage ends, the effect on the target will end early.
At the start of level 6, the guardian spirits can provide aid through supernatural protection to those you are defending.
While you are raging and a creature you see within 30 feet takes damage, you can use your reaction and reduce the damage taken by 2d6.
Reaching certain levels in this subclass allows you to reduce the damage by more: 3d6 at level 10 and 4d6 at level 14.
Consult the Spirits
When you reach level 10, you receive the ability to consult your ancestral spirits. Whilst consulting them, you may cast the Augury or Clairvoyance spell without using material components or a spell slot.
Using Clairvoyance this way doesn’t create a spherical sensor. Instead, it summons an invisible ancestral spirit to the location you choose.
Note: Wisdom is your spellcasting ability modifier for these spells.
After either spell is cast this way, you can only use this feature again after you’ve finished a long or short rest.
Reaching level 14 means your ancestral spirits have grown strong enough to retaliate.
Whenever you use your Spirit Shield to reduce an attack’s damage, the attacker will take an amount of Force damage your Spirit Shield prevented.
Building a Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian
Knowing how to build an Ancestral Guardian starts with an understanding of what makes a Barbarian good in the first place, as it uses all of its tools but changes its playstyle a tad.
You’ll also need to keep in mind how well everything flows, as certain ability scores, races, skills, feats, weapons, armor, and multiclassing, works best with the Ancestral Guardian.
I know this might seem a bit daunting, but depending on your knowledge of D&D, you can always use the Player’s Handbook to guide you through these decisions or get some tips.
You can even ask an experienced player for help, as they usually know a lot about D&D (sometimes more than the book itself).
After all, you’re making your own character, so you can add anything. It doesn’t necessarily have to be meta or OP to be an option, just go with the flow and try to have as much fun with your character as possible.
Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian Ability Scores
Compared to normal Barbarians, Ancestral Guardians focus less on skills like Intimidation and more on staying alive while soaking/dealing as much damage as possible.
You’ll, without a doubt, be using a large weapon or other melee weapon to demolish your enemies. The higher the damage dice on the item, the more it activates your Barbarian neuron!
- Strength – As a Barbarian, all your attacks will use Strength because of the weapons you’ll be using.
You’ll also need to hit with these weapons to apply your tanking debuff to enemies, so having high Strength helps with landing your hits.
Note: Remember, having high Strength also affects carrying weight, breaking objects, grappling, and shoving creatures.
- Constitution – The more Constitution you have, the better. Since you’re trying to have enemies target you, you’ll need as much HP as possible to tank their blows.
If your Strength is at its max/near max, and your Dex is already at 14, there’s no reason not to dump your remaining points into Constitution.
- Dexterity – You’ll be focusing on medium armor unless you are rolling for your ability scores and end up rolling 3 times.
If you get lucky like this, then you should consider taking advantage of the unique version of unarmored defense and raise your 3 physical stats as high as possible.
Note: Heavy armor doesn’t suit Barbarians because it negatively affects their abilities, including their Rage attack bonus. Since Rage is crucial for Barbarians, losing it would be horrible, even if you swap it for high AC.
- Wisdom – Any points you have left over after raising Str, Dex, and Con should go into your Wisdom.
You’d do this for two reasons; Firstly, having higher Wisdom helps prevent yourself from being affected by common mental status effects.
Secondly, Wisdom is the spellcasting ability modifier for the spells gained from the Consult the Spirits feature.
Note: It’s also convenient to have a higher passive perception or have a bonus in Perception.
- Charisma – Since you aren’t a Totem Warrior and didn’t pick Intimidation (if you did, consider getting Charisma out of the negatives), Charisma is entirely useless to you.
If you don’t put any points into Charisma, dump them into Wisdom since that’s the next best thing if your other stats are already high.
- Intelligence – Barbarians don’t get Intelligence based skills, and Intelligence saves are rare anyway, so don’t even touch Intelligence.
You can consider Intelligence a complete dump stat, so don’t touch it – really, don’t.
Ideal Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian Races
Choosing Ancestral Guardian races really isn’t that difficult, especially compared to other classes.
The main stats you’ll be looking for is Strength and Constitution, but if they have Dexterity and Strength (which is quite rare), then that also works:
Some of the most popular Ancestral Guardian races are Half-Orcs, Orcs, Goliaths, Hobgoblins (Hobgoblins of the Feywild also work), and Scourge Aasimar.
Note: Half-Orcs are probably the most common as they have bonus Strength and Constitution, while Hobgoblins (of the Feywild) have some good effects that build on your already supportive mage-like playstyle.
Races like Half-Orcs, Orcs, and Goliaths are more physically capable, sporting high Strength and Constitution numbers. These fellas are also pretty intimidating to come across and play well into backgrounds and character customization.
Scourge Aasimar and Hobgoblins are a bit more technical, as Hobgoblins come with some great supportive spells, while Scourge Aasimar has abilities/features like Light Bearer, Healing Hands, Celestial Resistance, and Radiant Consumption (all building on your Ancestral Guardian’s kit).
Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian Background and Skills
When you create your Ancestral Guardian, understanding which background and skills are relevant for your character is very important.
Your background is an overarching choice, meaning it affects the tool proficiencies you receive, the skills you obtain, and the way your character acts.
Skills are more self-explanatory, as you choose a number of them available to you as a Barbarian (common skills are Stealth, Animal Handling, and Deception).
There are a ton of backgrounds out there, but a few examples that’ll work well for an Ancestral Guardian are Folk Hero, Soldier, Outlander, and Sailor.
Folk Hero gives you proficiency in Animal Handling and Survival, two skills that aren’t wasted on a Barbarian. It also allows one proficiency with one type of Artisan’s Tools and a land vehicle.
Soldier gives you proficiency with Athletics and Intimidation, two skills that work really well with the Barbarian. It also gives you proficiency with one Gaming Set and land vehicles.
Outlander is a common background for Barbarians, as it encompasses a childhood in the wild and gives you proficiency in Athletics and Survival. It also gives you proficiency with one type of musical instrument, which is good but too exciting.
Sailor is a great background to take on aquatic campaigns, as it gives you proficiency in Navigator’s Tools and a water vehicle (BOATS). It also gives you proficiency in the Athletics and Perception skills.
Note: There are so many different backgrounds you can choose from, so don’t only go after the “best” ones if your goal isn’t optimization; go after the background that fits your character best and lets you roleplay.
As an Ancestral Guardian, you’ll have access to six skill proficiencies; Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival.
Perception (Wis) and Intimidation (Cha) are two popular Barbarian skills, so try adding proficiency to them.
Note: Just make sure you think about which one you’ll be using most often, as Perception is a very common skill, while Intimidation can only be used in certain situations (your Wisdom stat will also be higher than your Charisma stat in most cases).
Since Athletics is a Strength skill, it’ll be one of your strongest skills, meaning you don’t really have to add proficiency to it.
Animal Handling (Wis), Nature (Int), and Survival (Wis) are very situational and depend on your character’s identity and if you need that skill in your campaign.
Note: In all honesty, there are so many different ways you can incorporate skill proficiencies into your Barbarian. Examples range from becoming a replacement for a Rogue, acting as a supportive spellcaster, or just shielding all the damage your party members would’ve taken.
Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian Feats
While Backgrounds can be thought of as character customization, Feats are important elements of a character’s gameplay.
Even though there is an abundance of Feats to choose from, not all Feats are good, and sometimes it’s better to opt into increasing your Ability Score rather than choosing a new Feat.
Below are four examples of Feats that work well for an Ancestral Guardian:
Hitting a Creature using an opportunity attack forces their speed to become 0 for the rest of their turn, and creatures provoke your opportunity attacks even if they take their Disengage action.
Whenever a creature makes an attack against a target other than you (and the target doesn’t already have this feat), you may use a reaction and proceed to make a melee weapon attack against the creature that’s attacking.
Since Ancestral Guardians mainly focus on defense, Sentinel will enable the Guardian to protect more party members without having to directly target enemies.
Note: This feat also “forces” enemies to target you instead of your allies, as if they constantly focus them, you’ll just destroy them using reactions and opportunity attacks.
Gift of the Chromatic Dragon
Chromatic Infusion allows you to use a bonus action and touch a martial or simple weapon, infusing it with one of these damage types: Poison, Lightning, Fire, Cold, or Acid.
For a minute, the weapon now deals an extra 1d4 damage on a hit of the infused damage type. After using this bonus action, you can’t do so again until after finishing a long rest.
Reactive Resistance lets you use your reaction to give yourself resistance to whichever damage you took out of the following types: Poison, Lightning, Fire, Cold, or Acid damage.
The reaction can be used a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you’ll regain all uses whenever you finish a long rest.
The bonus damage is quite useful, and the Reactive Resistance will protect you from most damage types Rage doesn’t protect you from, which will increase your ability to tank for your allies.
You may increase your Strength and Constitution by 1, but not above 20. You also become proficient with improved weapons, and your unarmed strikes now use a d4 for their damage.
Whenever you hit a creature with an improvised weapon or an unarmed strike on your turn, you can expend a bonus action in an attempt to grapple your target.
If you want to become a grappler, then Tavern Brawler will complement your build nicely.
You can increase one of your ability scores by 1, but only to a maximum of 20, and you’ll gain proficiency with one skill you choose.
Then, you may choose one skill you have proficiency with, gaining Expertise with that skill and doubling any ability checks made with it.
The chosen skill must be one that isn’t currently benefiting from a feature (like Expertise), which can double your proficiency bonus.
Ancestral Guardians are most useful out of combat than most other Barbarians, but they can still do with one extra skill proficiency.
On the other hand, gaining Expertise in Athletics can make you an unstoppable grappler (including shoving), especially when you add the Strength bonuses from Rage.
Note: Running Skills Expert in combination with Tavern Brawler works well if you are using grappling.
Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian Weapons and Armor
Ancestral Guardians will receive the same equipment Barbarians do (except if you buy your own or have added equipment from your background), but imagine only being able to pick the default options for now.
One difference Ancestral Guardians have compared to normal Barbarians is their tendency to use magic or combine a finesse weapon with a shield.
Note: Even though Ancestral Guardians use spells, their main damage will always come from melee weapons, as they don’t have access to enough spells to become full-blown mages, except if you create a wacky multiclassed Barbarian.
Below are three options that can work well with most playstyles of an Ancestral Guardian:
Greataxe – Greataxes are heavy weapons that deal 1d12 Slashing damage, weigh 7 lb./3,1 kg., and require two hands to wield.
The Greataxe is considered the gold standard as it uses Brutal Critical, the best of any other weapon, so if you want to be a classic Barbarian, consider it.
Greatsword – Greatswords are heavy weapons that deal 2d6 Slashing damage, weigh 6lb./2,7 kg., and require two hands to wield.
Greatswords have more reliable damage than Greataxes but at the cost of not using Brutal Critical to its full potential.
Rapier – Rapiers are finesse weapons that deal 1d8 Piercing damage and weigh 2lb./0,9 kg.
Some full-tank Ancestral Guardians use the Rapier in combination with a Shield, using the Rapier because it has the highest damage dice out of all the finesse weapons available.
As I’ve mentioned, you’ll either want to get 14 in your Dex, work towards medium armor, or go completely naked.
There are a few other options, but below I’ll show you one meta option and one “experimental” option.
Breastplate – The Breastplate allows you to add your Dex modifier (maximum of 2) to the AC, which is why you need to have 14 Dex.
A Breastplate only weighs 20 lb./9 kg. and doesn’t give any Stealth disadvantage.
Shield – You generally want to avoid Shields as a Barbarian, as they aren’t designed to work well with two-handed weapons.
However, if you try a full-tank build that incorporates a Shield, then be sure to use it with a Rapier or a similar finesse weapon.
Shields add +2 to your AC and weigh only 6 lb./2,7 kg.
Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian Multiclassing
When choosing to multiclass, we must remember that Ancestral Guardians are Defenders/Supports who use their high melee damage, large HP pools, and abilities/spells to help allies.
Even though Ancestral Guardians might use a handful of spells, their melee is the most important, so forget about multiclassing into a spellcasting class unless you’re trying a very custom build.
Fighters are a classic multiclassing option, so you won’t go wrong with it.
You won’t go wrong with having Action Surge, and at level 3, you can become a Champion (increasing how often you crit), or you can become an Echo Knight, using your echo to attack someone 30 feet away.
Another multiclassing option is the Rogue, but that’s only if you plan on getting Expertise in Athletics and using grapples/shoves.
Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian 5e FAQs
How Powerful Is the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian in 5e?
When ranking Barbarian subclasses from worst to best, the Ancestral Guardian is definitely close to the top, if not looking down on the rest.
You’ll need to ask yourself; What does my party need, and how do I want to act?
If you want to become the ultimate Barbarian tank, then the Ancestral Guardian is the best, especially when defending a well-organized party that understands its roles.
What Is the Best Race for an Ancestral Guardian Barbarian in 5e?
Compared to the other races available to you, Goliaths and Half-Orcs (even Orcs, if you’re able to pick it) fare extremely well as Ancestral Guardians.
This is because these races have increased Strength from their racial ability score. These creatures are also known to be powerful melee fighters and often tower above or outperform other races physically.
If you want to become a Barbarian but don’t want “dealing heaps of damage” to be your only use, then the Ancestral Guardian is perfect for you.
Not only will you be able to put out loads of damage, but you’ll be supporting your party while dancing, lopping off heads. The main difference compared to an ordinary Barbarian would be that you aren’t focusing entirely on damage.
That’s something quite difficult to believe as I’ve shown you how much damage even the Ancestral Guardian can do, but remember, you’re a guardian, not a fighter.
When you become an Ancestral Guardian, your party will definitely be glad to have a tough, supportive sentinel guarding them and helping them in their endeavors.
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