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Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian 5e D&D Guide

Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian 5e D&D Guide

Those who walk the Path of the Totem Warrior go down a spiritual journey as they accept a spirit animal as their inspiration, protector, and guide.

Preparations for battle are done by channeling the spirit’s supernatural might and adding magical fuel to your crude Barbarian rage.

In most Barbarian tribes, a totem animal spirit is considered to be kin of that particular clan. Therefore, most individuals don’t have more than one totem animal spirit, but exceptions do exist.

Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian 5e – Features

The Totem Warrior Barbarian is known as the most customizable path out of all the paths.

Whether you want to become a tanky juggernaut that ignores damage and rampages through enemies, or if you want to become a powerful duelist who can quickly eliminate enemies, or even pick up a more supportive role that grants allies advantage, the Totem Warrior Barbarian has it all.

My point is, if you love the Barbarian class but want versatility and lots of it, you should try giving the Totem Warrior a try. It has a surprisingly high skill ceiling that isn’t too difficult to get into and is exceptionally rewarding when mastered.

Spirit Seeker

You seek attunement with the natural world, bestowing you a kinship with different beasts. When you’re level 3 and adopt this path, you may cast the Beast Sense and Speak with Animals spells (only as rituals).

Totem Spirit

Starting at level 3, when you become a Totem Warrior, you may choose a totem spirit, gaining its feature.

You must acquire or make a physical totem object – an amulet or some similar adornment – that incorporates feathers or fur, bones, teeth, or claws of your totem animal.

You may also gain slight physical attributes representative of your totem spirit if you choose.

Example – If you chose a bear totem spirit, you may choose to become unusually hairy and thick-skinned, or if you instead chose an eagle, your eyes may turn bright yellow.

The animals listed below might be one of your totem animals, but it can always be an animal more appropriate to your homeland. You might choose a vulture or a hawk in place of an eagle.

Bear – While you are raging, you gain resistance to all damage except physical. The spirit of the bear will make you tough enough to withstand any punishment.

Eagle – While you are raging and not wearing heavy armor, other creatures will have disadvantage on opportunity attack rolls against you, and you may use the Dash action by expending a Bonus action on your turn.

The spirit of the eagle turns you into a predator capable of weaving through the fray without fail.

Elk – While raging and not wearing heavy armor, your walking speed will increase by 15 feet. The spirit of the elk increases your swiftness.

Tiger – You may add 10 feet to your long jump and 3 feet to your high jump distance while raging. The spirit of the tiger increases the distance of your leaps.

Wolf – While you are raging, your party members have advantage on melee attack rolls they make against hostile creatures within 5 feet of you. The spirit of the wolf transforms you into a leader in a pack of hunters.

Aspect of the Beast

Reaching level 6 means you gain magical benefits based on your chosen totem animal. You may choose the same animal you chose at level 3 or go for a different one.

Bear – You become as mighty as a bear. Carrying capacity (including maximum lift and maximum load) becomes doubled, and you have advantage on Strength checks made to lift, push, pull, and break objects.

Eagle – Your eyes become like those of an eagle. You have vision up to 1 mile away with no difficulty and can discern fine details as though you were looking at something not more than 100 feet away. 

Dim light also doesn’t impose any disadvantage on your Wisdom (Perception) checks.

Elk – Whether you’re on foot or mounted, your travel pace is doubled, and so is the travel pace of up to ten followers if they stay within 60 feet of you and you aren’t incapacitated. The elk spirit allows you to roam far and fast.

Tiger – Gain proficiency with two skills from this list: Athletics, Acrobatics, Survival, and Stealth. The tiger spirit trains your survival instincts.

Wolf – Gain the hunting sensibilities of a wolf. Track creatures while traveling quickly (fast pace) and move quietly while traveling normally (average pace).

Spirit Walker

Becoming level 10 means you can now cast the Commune with Nature spell (only as a ritual). 

Doing so makes a spiritual version of one of your animals from the Totem Spirit or Aspect of the Beast appear and conveys the information you require.

Totemic Attunement

Lastly, at level 14, gain a magical benefit based on your chosen totem animal. You may choose the same animal previously selected or a new one.

Bear – As you are raging, hostile creatures within 5 feet of you will have disadvantage on their attack rolls against you or targets with this feature.

An enemy is immune to the effect if it can hear or see you or if it cannot be frightened.

Eagle – As you are raging, you’re flying speed equals your current walking speed. However, this benefit only works in short bursts, making you fall if you end your turn in midair and nothing holds you aloft.

Elk – As you are raging, you may use a Bonus action and move to pass through the space occupied by a Large or smaller creature.

The creature is forced to succeed on a Strength saving throw (DC 8 + your Proficiency bonus + your Strength bonus) or be knocked prone, taking 1d12 + your Strength modifier in Bludgeoning damage.

Tiger – As you are raging, moving at least 20 feet in a straight line at a Large or smaller target before making a weapon attack lets you use a Bonus action to make an additional melee weapon attack against the target.

Wolf – As you are raging, use a Bonus action and knock a Large or smaller creature prone when hit with a melee weapon attack.

Building a Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian

Let’s be clear: The Totem Warrior Barbarian has many choices for players, and depending on the situation, their choices will differ.

While certain animals with specific abilities are incredibly situational, the same animal with a different ability might be your best option, so be open to quick changes in your character development.

On the other hand, everything else functions the same as an ordinary Barbarian would. Hit hard, get hit, and make the enemies you’re fighting against fear you!

Path of the Totem Warrior Ability Scores

The Ability scores for the Totem Warrior Barbarian stay the same compared to an ordinary Barbarian. 

Strength and Constitution are must-haves, and Dexterity is next in line. Wisdom can be important, but the rest can be ignored if you don’t focus much on multiclassing.

  • Strength – As for all Barbarians, you need Strength, and a lot of it. Without a high Strength score, the enemies you hit will get back up, and we don’t want that.
  • Constitution – Using Reckless Attack has some drawbacks, like being more vulnerable to attack, and we know this. Therefore, just increase your Constitution score after Strength to counteract the damage.
  • Dexterity – Since you’ll be wearing medium armor, it would be a good idea to get Dexterity up to 14. 

You don’t need to get it any higher since you’ll only use a maximum of +2 in combination with your medium armor for its modifier.

  • Wisdom – Animal Handling, Survival, and especially Perception can be excellent skills to have a high modifier with, so if you have points to spare, put them into Wisdom.
  • Charisma – You won’t benefit from Charisma unless you choose to multiclass into a Paladin or Warlock, so if you don’t plan to do this, don’t bother with Charisma.
  • Intelligence – Intelligence benefits you even less than Charisma, but if you were to multiclass into a Wizard, you can put some points into Intelligence. If not, just leave it.

Ideal Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian Races

Totem Warriors will work with classic races like Half-Orcs, Goliaths, Dwarfs, Shadar-Kai, Aasimar, or Centaurs, but others also fit well.

Dragonborn – Dragonborn has a ton of different flavors, especially if you want to gain uncommon damage-type resistance. 

For example, by taking the Bear totem to gain resistance against Psychic damage, you can get even more by becoming a Dragonborn (Emerald).

However, if you think the Bear totem gives you enough Psychic resistance, and you know there’ll be creatures that deal Necrotic damage, become a Dragonborn (Topaz).

Orc – Similar to the Half-Orc in stats, but gaining the Powerful Build feature lets you become a powerhouse, especially if you take the Bear totem and try to grapple enemies with your overpowering strength.

Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian Background and Skills

When you create your Totem Warrior Barbarian, understanding which background and skills are relevant to your character is very important. 

Your background is an overarching choice, affecting many character aspects, such as the tool proficiencies you receive, the skills you obtain, and how 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 a Totem Warrior Barbarian are Outlander, Sailor, and Soldier.

Note: Backgrounds are helpful if you have a specific build that will benefit from the added proficiencies and features. On the other hand, Backgrounds are also quite personal and can play a significant role in character development, so don’t just go with something because it’s good. Go with what fits your character.

Outlander is a go-to Barbarian background, as you can get two skill proficiencies (Athletics and Survival) for Barbarian skills. 

While the other additions are generally wasted, the Wanderer feature and additional language could be helpful, especially if you decide to multiclass into a Paladin or Warlock.

Sailor is a great background for 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.

Soldier is similar to Outlander and Folk Hero, providing the character with two Barbarian skill proficiencies and a vehicle (land) proficiency.

The other additions aren’t beneficial, but the skill proficiency and the vehicle (land) proficiency are excellent, as they include vehicles like carriages, which a party will use a lot when they don’t have teleportation magic.

Soldier is also a great Background if you want to add extra “lore” to your character, which helps both the roleplay and character development aspects.


As a Totem Warrior Barbarian, you’ll have access to six skill proficiencies (where you may choose two): Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival.

Out of all the skills, Perception (Wis) and Athletics (Str) will be your most beneficial. Athletics (Str) is often used for grappling, and Perception (Wis) is the most common rolled checks in D&D, so keep that in mind.

Animal Handling (Wis) and Survival (Wis) aren’t all too useful, but given the right circumstances, they can be effective. Just don’t immediately go for them, as they aren’t rolled nearly enough and don’t provide too much benefit.

Intimidation (Cha) should be taken if you obsess over Charisma and don’t have any other character to build it. If not, don’t bother with it.

Nature (Int) can be valuable, but because it uses Intelligence, just ignore it (it’s not worth investing points into Intelligence for only one skill).

Note: Remember that your race, background, and feats can also provide skill proficiencies.

Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian Feats

While Backgrounds can be considered character customization, Feats are essential 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 a Totem Warrior Barbarian:

Great Weapon Master


You use the weight of a weapon to your advantage, having its moment empower your strikes for you and gaining the following benefits:

  • When it’s your turn, and you score a critical hit while using a melee weapon or reduce a creature’s HP to 0 with a melee weapon, you may make a single melee weapon attack as a bonus action.
  • Before making a melee attack using a melee weapon you have proficiency in, you can decide to take a -5 penalty to its attack roll. If the attack were to hit, you would add +10 to the damage of the attack.


If you’re taking the Bear totem, having extra reach (with a weapon) while gaining extra resistance makes bullying enemies easier.

If you take the Wold totem, you’ll want to get on top of the enemies in order to give your party Advantage, so leverage weapons that don’t have reach, like a Maul or Greatsword.

Polearm Master


Gain the following benefits:

  • Taking the Attack action and attacking with only a spear, glaive, halberd, or quarterstaff allows you to use a Bonus Action and perform a melee attack with the opposite end of your weapon.

Attacking this way uses the same modifier as the primary attack. Your weapon’s damage die for this attack is d4, dealing Bludgeoning damage.

  • While wielding a spear, glaive, halberd, or quarterstaff, other creatures will provoke an opportunity attack from you when entering the reach you have with that respective weapon.


If you don’t mind using a shield and sacrificing the damage, you can opt in for the Bear totem and use a Spear.

Note: If you want more reach on your weapon and feel like the totems don’t always use Bonus actions, use Polearm Master.

Shield Master


While holding a shield, you gain the following benefits:

  • Taking the Attack action on your turn allows you to use a bonus action to try and shove a creature within 5 feet of you with your equipped shield.
  • If you’re not incapacitated, your shield’s AC bonus can be added to any Dexterity save you make against a spell or other harmful effect that only targets you.
  • Being subjected to an effect allowing you to make a Dexterity save to only take half damage means you can use a reaction to take no damage if you succeed on the save, interposing your shield between the source of the effect and yourself.


As I’ve spoken previously, Polearm Master can work exceptionally well with a Shield, and in combination with Shield Master, it works even better.

Remember, you’ll have increased AC (but decreased damage), be able to live longer, and your Shield’s AC can be added to certain Dexterity saves (spells, which is one of your biggest weaknesses).



When you gain this feat, your HP maximum will increase by an amount equal to twice your level. After that, your HP maximum will increase by an additional 2 HP whenever you gain a level.


Tough is a simple maximum HP increase feat, so if you’re worried about dying when fulfilling your role as a Barbarian, take Tough.

Note: Chef is arguably better than Tough, but it isn’t that bad of a feat, especially if your only goal is to increase your Constitution.

Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian Weapons and Armor

Totem Warrior Barbarians use similar weapons and armor as all other Barbarians. 

Since you need to deal damage and stay alive, you’ll want to see what goes best with your Dexterity and which weapons give you the best damage (sometimes, it’s not a bad idea to sacrifice AC for damage or damage for AC).

Ideal Weapons

Below are a few weapon options that work for a Totem Warrior Barbarian:

Lance – Lances are special weapons with reach that deal 1d12 Piercing damage and weigh 6 lb./2.7 kg.

A Lance works well with a Shield and has a pretty large hit die. It can also fit well with the Shield Master or Piercer feats if you choose them.

Note: You’ll need to be mounted to use a lance with one hand, so an alternative would be the Spear (1d6 Piercing, 3lb/1.3kg, Thrown [20/60], Versatile [1d8])

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 utilizes Brutal Critical better than any other weapon, so if you want to be a classic Barbarian, consider using it.

Handaxe – Handaxes are light weapons that deal 1d6 Piercing damage, weigh 2 lb./0,9 kg., and can be thrown (20/60).

Having Handaxes means you can choose between using a melee weapon or engaging enemies from range.

Ideal Armor

Your Dexterity should be at 14 since you’ll want to wear medium armor and get the +2 modifier. 

Scale Mail – Has an AC of 14 + Dexterity modifier (maxed at 2), weighing 45 lb./20,4 kg. and giving a disadvantage on Stealth.

Scale Mail gives good AC at only 50 GP and is much cheaper than Spiked Armor or a Breastplate.

Note: The only problem would be that you have disadvantage on Stealth, but if you aren’t planning on using Stealth, then don’t worry about it.

Shield – A shield gives a +2 bonus to AC and weighs 6 lbs./2,7kg.

A shield provides extra AC early on, so try using it with one-handed weapons or when you want more defense.

Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian Multiclassing

Two great multiclassing options are the Warlock and Paladin.

You’ll want to dip into the Hexblade subclass as a Warlock and gain some damage. You can also become a Genie, allowing you to fly up to 10 minutes daily.

The Paladin is another solid choice, as you can cast Smite and Find Steed, both spells that can work exceptionally with specific weapon builds (Lance!). You’ll also receive a fighting style.

Note: Specific effects can’t be held while raging, and certain “spells” can’t be cast while raging.

Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian 5e FAQs

Is the Totem Warrior Barbarian Good in 5e?

It’s the best Barbarian subclass around! Not only that, but it also features some of the most customizations of any class and has some excellent interconnected features that hook new players and give veterans a reason to come back.

The totems can also be changed and configured to fit your character, making it even more customizable and adding much more to the entire subclass. 

They knew what they were doing when they made the Totem Warrior!

What is the Best Animal for Totem Warrior Barbarians in 5e?

There isn’t a definitive best totem, but each totem is unique regarding what makes it great.

Bear totems are more defensive; Eagle totems are for strikers; Wolf totems are when you have other strikes in your party; and Tiger and Elk totems are for mobility.

Each one has its uses, so depending on your situation, the usefulness of each totem changes.

Final Thoughts

Totem Warriors are some of the most interesting Barbarians out there, and they’re extremely powerful to boot.

So, should you play as one? If customization is your thing, go ahead, and if you want power, then don’t go for another subclass.

Just know that the customization can become complex, as there are so many intertwined effects that it gets challenging to keep track of them all. But you’re playing D&D, so you probably know how to handle complexity!

You might also be interested in the following:

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Monday 4th of December 2023

[…] Totem Warrior – Totem Warriors go on a spiritual journey, accepting a spirit animal as their guide, inspiration, and protector. In battle, the spirit fills them with magical power, giving them magical fuel for their rage. […]