Whether you need some extra help in combat or simply some guidance, it might be a good idea to ask those who came before you. Their strength and wisdom will serve you well!
Calling forth the spirits of the mighty warriors that they are descended from, the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian is never truly alone.
If you seek the strength to push forward and be a pillar of strength for those around you, read on!
This is the full subclass guide to the Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian in D&D 5e!
What is the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian in D&D 5e?
Ancestral Barbarians come from proud and noble traditions. Within these traditions, warriors seek the strength and guidance of their ancestors to protect their tribes, friends, and communities.
Sure, it’s a scary thing to be standing toe to toe with any raging Barbarian. But to stand against a warrior who follows this Primal Path is to also stand against the spirits of the mighty warriors that they are descended from as well!
These spirits offer their protection to the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian as well as their allies. They hinder attackers, offer supernatural protection to reduce the damage suffered by the Barbarian’s allies, and retaliate.
Outside of combat, these spirits offer a type of divine guidance to the Ancestral Guardian.
Sharing stories of the mighty deeds and victories of days past, they inspire that same resolve within their descendants.
Wearing these histories as ornate tattoos on their body, the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian aims to live up to these legends and, perhaps, share their own legends one day.
The Ancestral Guardian Barbarian appears in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything alongside the Storm Herald and Zealot subclasses.
Role in the Party
As an Ancestral Guardian Barbarian, you are your party’s primary protector.
There isn’t an “aggro” mechanic in D&D which means that it can be difficult to play a true “tank” character. However, the Ancestral Guardian addresses this wonderfully.
Conjuring spirits of your warrior ancestors to aid you in battle, you can hinder enemies and force them to focus their attention on you.
Meanwhile, you’re able to use your ancestral spirits to offer extra protection to your allies. In time, these spirits will also be able to fight back and even offer some divination utility!
While the Path of the Ancestral Guardian is mechanically a very defensive Barbarian subclass, don’t think that it isn’t still an offensive powerhouse.
Like any Barbarian, you’re exceptionally good at bringing enemies into a world of hurt!
With your ancestors’ guidance at your back, there is no enemy or challenge that you can’t stand against!
Ancestral Guardian Barbarian Abilities
The core of the Ancestral Guardian’s kit is their ability to call forth the spirits of their ancestors.
In the early levels, these spirits work to keep an enemy’s attention on you and offer extra protection to your allies. As you level up, you’re able to consult these spirits with some very nice divination utility.
If your party likes to take a strategic approach to things, this will be incredibly useful. If they don’t, it just might be enough to convince them to start doing so!
Finally, your capstone feature lets the spirits retaliate against enemies who try to harm your allies.
You’ve got plenty of damage reduction and hit points from the Barbarian class, so being able to pass this much extra protection to your party has a huge positive impact on the group as a whole!
Ancestral Protectors (Level 3)
Entering a state of Rage, the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian summons the protective spirits of their ancestors.
When you enter your Rage, spectral warriors appear and fight alongside you.
While you’re raging, the first creature you hit with an attack on your turn becomes the target of the warriors, which hinder its attacks.
Until the start of your next turn, that target has disadvantage on any attack roll that isn’t against you, and when the target hits a creature other than you with an attack, that creature has resistance to the damage dealt by the attack.
The effect on the target ends early if your rage ends.
A huge issue with trying to be a “tank” for the party is that enemies aren’t really forced to attack you in most situations.
If an enemy can’t take the tank down or manage to land an attack, they’re more inclined to switch their target to someone else instead of wasting every turn.
You want to make sure that the biggest threat on the field is the first enemy you hit each turn.
Your Ancestral Protectors feature should give them enough encouragement to focus their attacks on you instead of going after your squishier allies.
Rather than dealing with disadvantage (and only dealing half damage if they still manage to hit), it makes much more sense for that enemy to turn their focus entirely onto you.
While you deal with the enemies’ heaviest hitter, your allies should be able to mop up the weaker enemies in relative safety.
Your Reckless Attack feature should greatly help you land a hit and your Rage will give you plenty of resistance against whatever that enemy tries to hit you back with.
Remember: the goal is to keep the biggest threat’s attention on you as much as possible!
Related: Barbarian Rage in D&D 5e Explained
Spirit Shield (Level 6)
You don’t have to take all the damage that enemies are throwing at your party. Now, your Ancestral Protectors will help!
Being able to reduce the damage an ally takes for the low cost of a reaction is incredible. Even better, the damage that you prevent increases as you level up!
The impact that this feature has is simply massive!
If you are raging and another creature you can see within 30 feet of you takes damage, you can use your reaction to reduce that damage by 2d6.
When you reach certain levels in this class, you can reduce the damage by more: by 3d6 at level 10 and by 4d6 at level 14.
|Barbarian Level||Spirit Shield Damage Reduction|
There is a bit of confusion regarding whether or not the Ancestral Guardian can use Spirit Shield to reduce damage against themselves.
However, the key word in this feature is “ANOTHER creature you can see within 30 feet of you.” This means that Spirit Shield is only used for reducing damage being taken by your allies.
But I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You’ve got enough hit points and damage resistance from your Rage that you should be fine anyways.
Plus, it’s good to look after your friends!
Consult the Spirits (Level 10)
It’s good advice to listen to your elders!
Gaining some utility in the form of two excellent divination spells is both useful and wonderfully thematic for the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian.
You gain the ability to consult with your ancestral spirits.
When you do so, you cast the Augury or Clairvoyance spell, without using a spell slot or material components.
Rather than creating a spherical sensor, this use of clairvoyance invisibly summons one of your ancestral spirits to the chosen location. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for these spells.
After you cast either spell in this way, you can’t use this feature again until you finish a short or long rest.
When your party is trying to decide on a course of action, Augury is very useful. While it won’t give you specifics, it does give you an idea if you’re on the right or wrong track.
Clairvoyance is better for scouting ahead. However, it’s even more ideal than if it were being cast by someone else in your party since the spirit you summon is invisible!
Don’t ignore how useful this feature is. Even if you already have a party member who can cast these spells, being able to do this for free after each short or long rest is great!
Recommended: Full Guide to the Barbarian’s Reckless Attack
Vengeful Ancestors (Level 14)
The Ancestral Guardian Barbarian’s capstone is an incredible upgrade to the Spirit Shield feature.
Not only are your Ancestral Protectors reducing the damage your allies take, but they’re returning that damage right back to whoever’s dealing it!
When you use your Spirit Shield to reduce the damage of an attack, the attack takes an amount of force damage equal to the damage that your Spirit Shield prevents.
Vengeful Ancestors is amazing for all the reasons that Spirit Shield is amazing and then some.
If you want to get really tactical with this, have a squishier character (like a Wizard or Sorcerer) bait enemies into attacking them. While the enemy thinks they’ve got an easy target, they’re about to get a very intense wake-up call!
Now, this does use your reaction which means you can only do this once per turn and you won’t be getting any opportunity attacks.
The vast majority of the time, you’re going to want to use this feature.
Just also make sure that you choose to do so against the right attacker and that you don’t lose sight of your party’s tactics!
The concept of revering ancestors or having those who came before us grant us wisdom and protection is something strongly rooted in the real world. Nearly every real-world culture has some form of this which means it’s a very relatable theme.
(Quick note: if you do take inspiration from a real-world culture for this, make sure you do so tastefully!)
Under your ancestors’ guidance, there is no shortage of ways to tie an Ancestral Guardian Barbarian into the campaign.
These adventures might be a test or a type of proving in anticipation of conditioning your character to better stand against some great evil that has yet to make itself known.
Perhaps you are meant to gain wisdom from your friends and your travels alongside that which you gain from your ancestors.
But I also want to talk about the tattoos…
It’s very common for Ancestral Guardians to be covered in tattoos depicting the victories and history of their people.
Even going beyond the amazing theme of this, it’s a great way to also tie in magical tattoos. I could see these tattoos “activating” as the character develops, levels up, and proves themselves in the eyes of their ancestors.
You can’t tell me that wouldn’t be cool!
If you want to get really cool with it, perhaps what the character learned were legends of their ancestors were actually prophecies tattooed upon them so that they would be ready when the time comes.
The sky really is the limit here!
Is the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian Good?
The Ancestral Guardian Barbarian is an excellent option for those looking to be a defensive powerhouse for their party.
There isn’t a single feature from this subclass that I would consider weak! All of the features work together in a way that feels useful and natural without growing stale.
The Ancestral Guardian Barbarian will very quickly find themselves as the “glue” that holds a party’s combat strategy together.
While your party’s healer will have your back, make sure that you’re also as self-sufficient as possible. Otherwise, they’ll be spending a ton of spell slots keeping you in fighting form.
You’ll want to make sure you know how Hit Dice work if you’re playing this class.
It’s also not a bad idea to always keep a few healing potions on you since you will almost certainly be the one taking the most damage in combat.
But one of my favorite things about the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian is that its features leave your Bonus Action wide open.
When you’re looking to get the most out of your action economy, this is a great opportunity to look at dual wielding or a feat like Great Weapon Master or Shield Master.
If the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian isn’t the best Barbarian subclass, it’s certainly towards the top.
Check out the Full Ranking of Every Barbarian Subclass in D&D 5e!
Conclusion – Ancestral Guardian Barbarian in D&D 5e
When Xanathar’s Guide to Everything was released, the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian immediately grabbed my attention and never let go.
Everything that I could want in a “tank” character within reason is here.
Sure, there aren’t any big boosts to damage output, but protecting and empowering your allies as well as this subclass does more than makes up for that.
What are your thoughts on the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian in D&D 5e? Let’s chat in the comments!
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