It’s easy to view all Barbarians as different flavors of the stereotypical raging brute, but the Totem Warrior Barbarian offers a different path.
Sure, they are still strong and powerful warriors who can use their inner rage to devastate their foes. But what makes the Totem Warrior Barbarian so different is the spiritual path that they follow.
With the guidance and protection of an animal spirit, these characters fight with a type of supernatural ferocity.
What spirit will guide you on your next adventure?
This is the full subclass guide to the Totem Warrior Barbarian in D&D 5e!
What is the Totem Warrior Barbarian in D&D 5e?
Totem Warrior Barbarians hail from traditions that are deeply spiritual and exist within tight-knit communities.
Developing their connection with the natural world, these characters also open themselves up to a connection with the spiritual world. This ultimately takes the form of a deep connection with an ancient totem spirit.
Taking the form of an animal, these spirits offer guidance, protection, and inspiration.
Whether a tribe is facing a brutal winter that threatens to starve them, an aggressive enemy that is attacking them, or any other threat, Totem Warriors act on the guidance of these spirits.
In combat, the Barbarian’s Rage is enhanced as the spirit can channel its power through the Barbarian. The effect of this varies from totem spirit to totem spirit depending on the animal.
Most tribes will only have one totem animal that their tribe embodies. It’s unusual for a tribe to have more than one, but it does happen.
With a journey as far-reaching as yours will likely be, stay open to lessons from new totem spirits as well as the one from your tribe!
The Totem Warrior Barbarian appears alongside the Berserker Barbarian in the 5e Player’s Handbook. However, two new totem options were also published in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.
Role in the Party
The Totem Warrior Barbarian is supremely versatile. It’s impossible to put it in a single role simply because of just how much they can offer a party!
Depending on your choices and the needs of your party, you can be more of a tank, a striker, or even more of a frontline support character.
So instead of focusing on the specific role of the Totem Warrior Barbarian, let’s instead look at what each totem spirit tends to lean towards.
That will better help you mix and match as you continue reading this guide and play your character!
- Bear – Very tanky, resist tons of damage, ace anything requiring Strength checks, and eventually give enemies penalties for not targeting you with attacks.
- Eagle – Great for skirmishing, less risk of opportunity attacks, quick dashing in combat, gain incredible eyesight, and eventually fly in short bursts.
- Elk – movement-based utility and support, extra movement to keep you acting swiftly, doubles movement for you and your party while traveling, can knock enemies prone and trample them.
- Tiger – bonus skills with some extra skirmishing ability, increased jumping abilities, gain extra skills, gain more attacks when charging at enemies.
- Wolf – support, give your allies advantage against nearby enemies, expertly track enemies without losing speed, knock enemies prone and dogpile them.
Totem Warrior Barbarian Abilities
Most of the features that you’ll be gaining from the Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian subclass present you with several options.
Keep in mind that a Totem Warrior Barbarian can have multiple totems. If you choose the Bear spirit at level 3, you aren’t locked into choosing the Bear spirit for your level 6 and 14 features as well.
You can make any combination that you would like!
In fact, calculating 5^3 there are 125 different combinations of totem spirits you can choose from. (Any math peeps out there, feel free to double-check that and let me know in the comments if I’m calculating that correctly or not.)
Just keep in mind that once you have chosen a spirit for each Totem Warrior feature, it is locked in and can’t be changed unless your DM rules otherwise.
The Bear, Eagle, and Wolf options in the 5e Player’s Handbook. Meanwhile, the Elk and Tiger options are from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.
Spirit Seeker (Level 3)
Totem Warrior Barbarians have a special attunement with nature. They are able to communicate and bond with beasts in a unique way.
You gain the ability to cast the Beast Sense and Speak With Animals spells, but only as rituals.
This feature is more on the situational side, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be useful. It’s a nice touch that may or may not come in handy.
Beast Sense is great for asking one of your new beast friends to do some scouting for you. While this might be redundant with a Wizard or Warlock’s familiar, you might not have those in your party.
But how do you make those friends and ask them to do some scouting for you in the first place?
With Speak With Animals (and probably a bit of food), you can have a nice chat with some local animals. Some might be happy to help you do some scouting while others might be more content to just tell you what they’ve seen lately.
Spirit Seeker gives some fun flavor and can be used for entertaining roleplaying situations. Just brush up on the rules for Ritual Casting first!
Totem Spirit (Level 3)
At level 3, you’ll also be gaining the Totem Warrior Barbarian’s primary feature.
Remember what I said about there being a ton of options throughout this subclass? Yeah, that’s starting now!
Each of the options you are presented with at this level gives you extra benefits to your Rage feature.
Your character must make or acquire a totem (could be an amulet, a statuette, or some other item) that is made with materials gathered from that animal. It could be fur, feathers, claws, teeth, bones, or whatever else.
Additionally, you might also take on certain physical attributes based on your totem spirit. While not as drastic of a change as a Beast Barbarian, it can make for some fun flavor.
You might grow thick hair if you choose a bear or your eyes might become more cat-like if you’ve chosen the tiger spirit.
So let’s look over each of your Totem Spirit options!
Related: Barbarian Rage in D&D 5e Explained
The overwhelmingly most popular option at this level (and for good reason!) is the bear!
While raging, you have resistance to all damage except psychic damage. The spirit of the bear makes you tough enough to stand up to any punishment.
Barbarians already get some excellent damage resistance with their Rage feature. Taking this option just puts you over the top. Psychic damage is the only thing you’re not resisting, but that tends to be pretty rare, especially at this level.
I mean, you’re effectively doubling your health pool since you’re only taking half damage from everything except psychic damage. You’re even resisting force damage which is, otherwise, considered the most dependable damage type in the game!
This is almost absurdly powerful and I am hesitant to choose or recommend anything else over it. It’s just simply that good!
If you would prefer to function as more of a skirmisher, the eagle might be a good option for you.
While you’re raging and aren’t wearing heavy armor, other creatures have disadvantage on opportunity attack rolls against you, and you can use the Dash action as a bonus action on your turn.
Barbarians are typically functioning as a wall of muscle and rage between the party and whatever is attacking.
This option reimagines the Barbarian’s role into a warrior that is quickly dashing around the battlefield and picking off targets one by one.
It’s not a terrible option, but that’s a role that is usually best for Monks or Rogues.
Considering that you’re resisting damage in the first place from your Rage, an opportunity attack from an enemy isn’t likely to hurt you too badly.
When you need to hustle, the spirit of the elk can grant you extraordinary swiftness!
While you’re raging and aren’t wearing heavy armor, your walking speed increases by 15 feet.
Keep in mind that you’ll already be gaining an extra 10 feet of movement at level 5 with the Barbarian’s Fast Movement feature.
While the idea of a walking speed of 55 feet at level 5 is both hilarious and terrifying, this isn’t one of your better options.
Considering entering the long jump competition at the next Olympics? Get some help from your tiger spirit!
While raging, you can add 10 feet to your long jump distance and 3 feet to your high jump distance. The spirit of the tiger empowers your leaps.
Unless you’re trying out for the Olympic long jump event, I wouldn’t recommend bothering with this feature.
When you compare this to every other option you can choose at this level (especially the bear), it’s remarkably underwhelming.
The wolf is another excellent option and is a close second to the bear spirit at this level.
If your party has plenty of melee combatants, this is a powerful option for rallying them all against a single target.
While you’re raging, your friends have advantage on melee attack rolls against any creature within 5 feet of you that is hostile to you. The spirit of the wolf makes you a leader of hunters.
If I weren’t choosing the bear spirit for whatever reason, I would almost certainly choose the wolf spirit.
Granting advantage to your allies against whatever enemy you’re standing face-to-face with is a huge buff that gets even better the more melee allies you have.
You’ll especially be making any Rogues and Monks in the party happy. The Rogues will be reliably pulling off their Sneak Attack each round while the Monks are getting advantage on each of their many attacks.
When it comes to powerful offensive features, this is excellent!
Related: Advantage and Disadvantage Explained
Aspect of the Beast (Level 6)
At level 6, Totem Warrior Barbarians gain the Aspect of the Beast feature.
As before, you choose which option you would like. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to choose the same spirit that you chose for your Totem Spirit feature at level 3.
The benefits here are fairly minor for the most part and are mostly for flavor and some utility.
Fortunately, they are always active and don’t require you to be raging to use.
Sometimes the party needs someone who can lift or carry a ton of weight. In that case, all eyes will be turning to you.
You gain the might of a bear. Your carrying capacity (including maximum load and maximum lift) is doubled, and you have advantage on Strength checks made to push, pull, lift, or break objects.
This isn’t bad and would actually be pretty good in a group that actually keeps track of carrying capacity.
It’s one of those rules that gets ignored or forgotten about a lot except in situations where a character is attempting to just casually carry 1400 lbs of treasure out of the dungeon.
If the advantage on Strength checks helped you out for things like grappling or climbing, this would be better.
But, as written, it’s not the most useful choice.
The eagle spirit is back to redeem itself with your level 6 feature. While it was a “meh” choice at level 3, this benefit is actually one of the better ones available to you with Aspect of the Beast.
You gain the eyesight of an eagle.
You can see up to 1 mile away with no difficulty, able to discern even fine details as though looking at something no more than 100 feet away from you.
Additionally, dim light doesn’t impose disadvantage on your Wisdom (Perception) checks.
Even if you have darkvision, you would still be rolling perception checks at disadvantage without this.
Getting around that is already great but being able to see up to 1 mile away with no difficulty makes you great at scouting ahead, especially in more survival and exploration type situations.
Traveling takes time. Whether you’re hoofing it or mounted, the elf spirit can put some extra wind to your back and keep you moving quickly towards your destination.
Whether mounted or on foot, your travel pace is doubled, as is the travel pace of up to ten companions while they’re within 60 feet of you and you’re not incapacitated. The elk spirit helps you roam far and fast.
This is another feature that is made awkward because of how most tables use a specific mechanic. While you absolutely can track travel time, many groups simply narrate the traveling to get right back to the action.
“The group heads from point A to point B and maybe has a random encounter or two along the way.”
Unless your group tracks the time traveling from place to place (and does a lot of traveling as well), go with a different option.
If they do track all of that, this becomes more useful but I’d still say go with either the Eagle or Tiger. The benefit here isn’t a lot for a level 6 feature.
Barbarians don’t typically get a lot of skills. They’re excellent at combat and probably a couple of other skills, but that’s usually it.
The tiger is also back to redeem itself from the level 3 feature and actually offers a pretty nice benefit!
You gain proficiency in two skills from the following list: Athletics, Acrobatics, Stealth, and Survival.
I would still probably side with the eagle spirit for the Aspect of the Beast feature, but this is great if you need some extra skill proficiencies.
However, the optional Primal Knowledge feature from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything should be plenty if you’re using it.
If you’re hunting and tracking, the wolf is happy to help you out.
You can track other creatures while traveling at a fast pace, and you can move stealthily while traveling at a normal pace.
Unfortunately, this is the only feature that I would “hard pass” on for Aspect of the Beast.
It doesn’t extend the benefit to your party members and hunting/tracking is typically just a quick dice roll with the Survival skill to determine if you’re successful or not.
Go with something else. I recommend the Eagle or Tiger spirits.
Recommended: Full Guide to the Barbarian’s Reckless Attack
Spirit Walker (Level 10)
At level 10, the Totem Warrior Barbarian gains the Spirit Walker feature.
If you are like me and can get overwhelmed by “analysis paralysis” when there are too many options, this is your chance to take a quick breather.
There is one version of this feature and it doesn’t matter what totem spirits you’ve been taking.
At 10th level, you can cast the commune with nature spell, but only as a ritual.
When you do so, a spiritual version of one of the animals you chose for Totem Spirit or Aspect of the Beast appears to you to convey the information you seek.
When it comes to scouting ahead and figuring out what the party’s next course of action should be, Commune With Nature is nice to have.
As someone whose favorite class is the Druid, let me assure you that this is an excellent spell to have prepared.
There is no reason not to have this at the ready, especially if your adventure is more survival/exploration based. It’s less useful in dungeon settings, but still far from useless.
Plus, why wouldn’t you want some face time with your totem spirits?
If you have a Druid in your party, they’ll be glad you’ve got this feature. It’s one less spell that they have to have prepared for the day and can focus on other things since you’ve got this handled.
Totemic Attunement (Level 14)
Alright, back to making decisions we go!
At level 14, you gain the Totemic Attunement capstone feature. This adds even more benefits to your Rage feature based on the totem spirit option you choose!
We’re kicking it off with our good friend, the bear spirit.
This is a fantastic option and will be your go-to pick if you tend to be the party’s primary defender.
While you’re raging, any creature within 5 feet of you that’s hostile to you has disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than you or another character with this feature.
An enemy is immune to this effect if it can’t see or hear you or if it can’t be frightened.
There aren’t really any “taunt” mechanics in D&D 5e that explicitly force an enemy to attack you, but this comes very close. If they do choose to attack someone other than the screaming Barbarian in front of them, they’ll be doing so at disadvantage.
Most enemies will either take their chances attacking you (which is what you want) or try to run.
Figure out what the biggest melee threat to the party is and get right in their face. While you are dealing with them, the rest of your party can pick off the weaker enemies!
It just wouldn’t be a bird spirit if it didn’t eventually give you the power of flight, would it?
As it just so happens, that moment has arrived!
While raging, you have a flying speed equal to your current walking speed.
This benefit works only in short bursts; you fall if you end your turn in the air and nothing else is holding you aloft.
Considering that one of the only things more terrifying than a screaming Barbarian in a fit of rage is one that can fly, this is an excellent option as well.
Just be mindful that this isn’t a sustained flight. You need to have a clear place to land safely or else your stylish ascent will end with some noticeably unstylish falling damage.
Those who don’t get out of the way of a charging Barbarian run the risk of getting trampled. The elk spirit gives you a very nice use of your bonus action.
While raging, you can use a bonus action during your move to pass through the space of a Large or smaller creature.
That creature must succeed on a Strength saving throw (DC 8 + your Strength bonus + your proficiency bonus) or be knocked prone and take bludgeoning damage equal to 1d12 + your Strength modifier.
While you can already reliably gain advantage with your Reckless Attack feature, knocking an enemy prone makes them an easy target for the rest of the melee combatants in your party.
Toss in that decent extra damage and you’ve got a solid feature!
You might use this to start a dogpile on an enemy yourself, but it can also be useful if you’ve got one enemy blocking a hallway to protect a squishier caster behind them.
Knocking the first enemy over, you can make a beeline to the caster and really ruin their day without having to down their guardian first.
The only downside to this is that you can’t use it against enemies that are bigger than the Large size category. So be mindful of that!
Speaking of charging, the tiger spirit has a thing or two to teach you about pouncing!
While you’re raging, if you move at least 20 feet in a straight line toward a Large or smaller target right before making a melee weapon attack against it, you can use a bonus action to make an additional melee weapon attack against it.
Fitting with the “skirmisher” style of the tiger spirit thus far, this is great way to pick a fight with a creature. Charge up from at least 20 feet away then proceed to bring the pain.
You’re getting your two regular attacks from the Extra Attack feature with your action and an extra one with your bonus action!
If they’re still standing after that, they won’t be happy!
Sticking with the wolf’s theme, you’ve got a new way to make openings for your allies to jump all over an enemy.
While you’re raging, you can use a bonus action on your turn to knock a Large or smaller creature prone when you hit it with melee weapon attack.
Similar to the elk spirit, this gives you a way to knock an enemy prone.
However, this doesn’t give them a save against the trip effect like the elk spirit does. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t give you the extra damage.
This is the weakest of the options at this level.
Remember that you don’t need an enemy to be prone to attack with advantage thanks to your Reckless Attack.
Meanwhile, selecting the wolf spirit for your level 3 feature would already be giving your allies advantage against the nearby creature.
This isn’t necessarily a bad feature, but it feels a bit redundant and doesn’t have the same “capstone sparkle” that the other options have.
There are some fascinating connections that you can use to tie a Totem Warrior Barbarian into the game world.
Beyond being excellent at beating enemies into a fine pulp, this is actually a very introspective class. They are continually seeking guidance from their totem spirits!
Not only do these characters develop their body, but they make it a point to temper that by developing their spirit as well.
It might be under the guidance of this very spirit that your character left their homeland and met the rest of the party. As you continue your adventure, your totem spirit is helping you grow and develop in preparation for some large event that has yet to happen.
If you’re using multiple totems, you could do this theme as well. The Wolf could teach you the value of working with the pack while the Bear fills you with endurance and the Tiger teaches you to act swiftly and decisively.
Everything is tied to a lesson and a chance to prove oneself for the greater good.
Keep in mind that there’s also some wiggle room with your totem spirit as well. If it better fits your character’s theme, you could choose to use a different but similar type of animal spirit.
For example, you might use a lion or panther instead of a tiger. Instead of an eagle, you might choose a different bird of prey like a falcon or hawk.
Is the Totem Warrior Barbarian Good?
I absolutely love the Totem Warrior Barbarian and I think you would be hard-pressed to find many people who disagree.
It’s versatile and can fit perfectly into any party thanks to how many options you’ve got for each feature!
The biggest drawback here is that it is much more complex than any of the other Barbarian subclasses. You have a lot of factors to consider when choosing your features based on your own performance and the overall tactics your party tends to use.
No pressure, but you can’t change your decisions once you’ve made them!
If you spend some extra time upfront planning your character’s progression, you’ll be in a much better position than trying to pick feature options based on what you need at that given moment.
This is a subclass that rewards planning!
Related: Ranking Every Barbarian Subclass in D&D 5e!
Best Totem Warrior Barbarian Options
Considering how many different ways there are to build your Totem Warrior Barbarian, I want to round this guide out by including a few of the more popular builds.
The most famous build for Totem Warriors is choosing the Bear option for both your level 3 and level 14 features. You can pick whatever you would like for the level 6 feature. This is great for a defensive “tank” type character.
If you prefer a more offensive and supporting role, take the Wolf option at level 3 and the Bear option at level 14. If you’ve got several allies who prefer melee combat, you’ll be able to overwhelm enemies by supporting your allies and keeping the enemies’ attention on you.
To play more of a skirmisher Barbarian, try taking either the Eagle or Elk at level 3 and the Tiger at level 14. (I’d recommend Eagle, personally.) The goal with this combo is to pounce on weaker or weakened enemies as you rush across the battlefield.
But like I said, there is a boatload of combinations that you can use. Drop your favorite totem spirit combos in the comments!
Conclusion – Totem Warrior Barbarian in D&D 5e
This has been a colossal guide, but there’s just so much to the Totem Warrior Barbarian to cover. Thankfully, it’s all some incredibly fun and exciting stuff!
I hope you’ve found this guide to the Totem Warrior Barbarian in D&D 5e helpful.
The Bear spirit is my personal favorite overall, but the Tiger and Eagle spirits also have strong offerings as you level up.
What’s your favorite totem spirit? Still got questions about the Totem Warrior Barbarian? Let’s chat in the comments!
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