The Wild Magic Barbarian is one of the most unique options in D&D 5e.
There are a lot of emotions that go into the Barbarian’s signature Rage feature, but this subclass takes it further by adding in surges of raw, wild magic!
If you’ve got what it takes to embrace chaos and let the wild magic flow through you, this just might be the Barbarian subclass for you.
This is the full subclass guide to the Wild Magic Barbarian in D&D 5e!
What is the Wild Magic Barbarian in D&D 5e?
Some of the most powerful (though unpredictable) magic in all of the multiverse is only harnessed through intense emotion.
That is part of what makes things so confusing to outsiders who visit places like the Feywild where those emotions have visible effects on the environment!
Through fate, circumstance, will, or fortune, the Wild Magic Barbarian has found a way to tap into this magical power.
However, magic of this power is very difficult to control. It’s one thing to know that something is going to happen, but it’s something else entirely to have any idea what that could be!
Either way, this magical power has found a home within the Wild Magic Barbarian. In those moments of pure and unbridled rage, you can bet that it will be making itself known!
Role in the Party
Much like other Barbarian subclass options, the Wild Magic Barbarian favors an aggressive playstyle that puts you right on the party’s front lines.
You’ve got the toughness to stand toe to toe with the fiercest enemies and enough surprises to keep them guessing!
But there’s also some very handy party support to the Wild Magic Barbarian as well.
One of your potential Wild Magic Surges grants an armor class bonus to yourself and your allies. Meanwhile, your level 6 feature can be used to enhance attack rolls and ability checks or recover your casters’ spell slots!
With the Wild Magic Barbarian, it’s less about what their role is and more about how they go about it. Flexibility and adaptability are key to playing one of these characters as your Wild Magic Surge makes every combat something different.
Wild Magic Barbarian Features 5e
The most important feature to the Wild Magic Barbarian is its Wild Surge. This burst of Wild Magic can bring you several handy effects to help you in combat.
Most of your features are going to be geared towards better controlling these surges.
As you gain levels, you’ll gradually get more consistent with your capabilities though you’ll still always have that fun randomness to keep it interesting!
Magic Awareness (Level 3)
Wild Magic Barbarians actually get two features when they take this subclass at level 3!
Kicking things off, your affinity for magic allows you to sense its presence around you with Magic Awareness.
Until the end of your next turn, you know the location of any spell or magic item within 60 feet of you that isn’t behind total cover. When you sense a spell, you learn which school of magic it belongs to.
You can use this feature a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
This is effectively a built-in Detect Magic spell but it works as a single ping in a large area rather than a sustained effect over a period of time.
You’re able to determine if anything around you is magical and what school of magic an effect belongs to.
Detect Magic is an important spell for any party to have. If you know what each school of magic is all about, it can at least give you some general ideas about what kind of effect something might have.
If you’re detecting evocation magic on a treasure chest, it might be a trap that could go “boom” if mishandled. Likewise, detecting illusion magic can let you and your party know that your senses can’t necessarily be trusted.
With the Magic Awareness feature, you take some of the burden off of your party’s spellcasters. They can take a different spell instead or least save the spell slot to cast it (or the time required to cast it as a ritual spell.)
You won’t learn exactly what the spell or magical effect is, but you at least narrow the options!
Related: The Schools of Magic in D&D 5e
Wild Surge (Level 3)
This is the core feature of the Wild Magic Barbarian and the reason that you chose this subclass.
The emotions that well up when you begin raging also cause a surge of unpredictable Wild Magic to burst forth from you.
When you enter your rage, roll on the Wild Magic table to determine the magical effect produced.
If the effect requires a saving throw, the DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Constitution modifier.
There are two types of people: those who enjoy the unpredictability of features like this and those who absolutely despise it.
Thankfully, all of the options on the Wild Magic Barbarian’s Wild Magic table are beneficial!
Unlike the Wild Magic Sorcerer, for example, you don’t have to worry about turning into a potted plant or blowing yourself up with a surprise fireball.
However, you will want to stay flexible when it comes to your tactics in combat. Consistency isn’t exactly the name of the game when you’re playing a Wild Magic Barbarian!
Three of the eight effects on the table also give you new ways to use your bonus action. If you’re dual-wielding or using a feat like Great Weapon Master that also gives ways to use this bonus action, keep this in mind!
Related: Barbarian Rage in D&D 5e Explained
Wild Magic Barbarian – Wild Surge Table
When you activate your rage, roll a d8 to determine the effect of the Wild Surge. The effect lasts until your rage ends except for the first effect (rolling a one on the d8) which triggers once.
|Wild Surge Effect
|Shadowy tendrils lash around you. Each creature of your choice that you can see within 30 feet of you must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or take 1d12 necrotic damage. You also gain 1d12 temporary hit points.
|You teleport up to 30 feet to an unoccupied space you can see. Until your rage ends, you can use this effect again on each of your turns as a bonus action.
|An intangible spirit, which looks like a flumph or a pixie (your choice), appears within 5 feet of one creature of your choice that you can see within 30 feet of you. At the end of the current turn, the spirit explodes, and each creature within 5 feet of it must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 1d6 force damage. Until your rage ends, you can use this effect again, summoning another spirit, on each of your turns as a bonus action.
|Magic infuses one weapon of your choice that you are holding. Until your rage ends, the weapon’s damage type changes to force, and it gains the light and thrown properties, with a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet. If the weapon leaves your hand, the weapon reappears in your hand at the end of the current turn.
|Whenever a creature hits you with an attack roll before your rage ends, that creature takes 1d6 force damage, as magic lashes out in retribution.
|Until your rage ends, you are surrounded by multi-colored, protective lights. You gain a +1 bonus to AC, and while within 10 feet of you, your allies gain the same bonus.
|Flowers and vines temporarily grow around you. Until your rage ends, the ground within 15 feet of you is difficult terrain for your enemies.
|A bolt of light shoots from your chest. Another creature of your choice that you can see within 30 feet of you must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or take 1d6 radiant damage and be blinded until the start of your next turn. Until your rage ends, you can use this effect again on each of your turns as a bonus action.
Fittingly enough, most of these effects are more offensive in nature. However, you’ve got some solid defensive effects in there as well.
Most of these effects rely on you having enemies within range to get their full effect. Make sure that you are activating your Rage when you’ve got plenty of enemies nearby!
From there, you can adapt to whatever effect your Wild Surge is giving you.
Bolstering Magic (Level 6)
Who says Barbarians can’t play a supporting role?
With your level 6 feature, we’re briefly stepping away from the Wild Magic Surge table. But don’t worry, we’ll be coming back to it soon enough!
For now, though, it’s time to hand out some buffs!
As an action, you can touch one creature (which can be yourself) and confer one of the following benefits of your choice to that creature. (Detailed below)
You can take this action a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
Bolstering Magic is an interesting feature that lets you offer some helpful effects to your allies. Of course, you can also use this on yourself if you’re so inclined!
When you use it, you choose one of two options for the effect.
Option 1: For 10 minutes, the creature can roll a d3 whenever making an attack roll or an ability check and add the number rolled to the d20 roll.
Rolling a d3 (a d4 and rerolling fours) means this is an average of a +2 bonus to attacks and ability checks for 10 minutes.
This lasts for way more than enough time to get a ton of value out of it. Not to mention, a +2 bonus (especially at this stage of the game) is massively powerful.
Especially if you know that you’re about to walk into a room with a big fight, this is an almost obscenely powerful buff to use before combat kicks off.
Option 2: Roll a d3. The creature regains one expended spell slot, the level of which equals the number rolled or lower (the creature’s choice). Once a creature receives this benefit, that creature can’t receive it again until after a long rest.
Spell slots are incredibly precious resources. Especially if you’ve got a Cleric or Wizard who is starting to run low on spell slots, a free recovery of one spell slot is fantastic!
However, things get a little weird if you’re using this on a Warlock…
Recommended: Full Guide to the Barbarian’s Reckless Attack
Using Bolstering Magic on Warlocks
You can always count on the Warlock to complicate things, eh?
Ok, ok, sarcastic jokes aside, let’s address a certain elephant in the room here.
Warlocks have a unique form of spellcasting that doesn’t always fit quite as smoothly with other rules and effects as you might think.
While other casters have spell slots of various levels up to the maximum level that they can cast, Warlocks only cast spells at their highest level.
Even if they are casting a level 1 spell, it uses a level 3 spell slot (if that’s their highest possible slot level) and gets any benefits from upcasting if eligible.
If we’re going off of rules-boss Jeremy Crawford’s ruling, Bolstering Magic only benefits the Warlock IF the d3 rolls their maximum/only spell level.
So if a Warlock casts all their spells at level 3, the Wild Magic Barbarian would have to get a result of 3 on their d3 roll.
Additionally, once Warlocks hit level 7 and are casting all of their spells at level 4, this effect is useless to them. They do not have the appropriate spell slot levels to receive the benefit.
But don’t think this is just all about raining on your party’s Warlock’s parade. They’ve got plenty of resources (invocations, eldritch blasts, etc) to get them to their next short rest where they can recover all of their spell slots!
So why not prioritize using Bolstering Magic on a spellcasting ally who would need a long rest to recover slots?
Unstable Backlash (Level 10)
So, I think we can all agree that Wild Magic surges are fun.
But do you know what’s even more fun?
EVEN MORE WILD MAGIC SURGES!
Immediately after you take damage or fail a saving throw while raging, you can use your reaction to roll on the Wild Magic table and immediately produce the effect rolled. This effect replaces your current Wild Magic effect.
Your enemies will never know what you’re going to do next.
In fact, neither will your party.
Or even you, for that matter!
You’ll likely be able to use this every single round since you’re right in the enemies’ faces in combat. It’s a great use of your reaction, especially if there is a specific Wild Magic effect that you’re fishing for.
This ultimately comes down to a judgment call on your part. You might get something that better fits your situation, or you might get something less helpful than what you’ve already got.
If you rolled a 1, you’ve already dealt your damage with that effect and gotten the temporary hit points. In that case, you should always take advantage of this opportunity to produce another effect.
Otherwise, use your best judgment for the situation at hand.
Controlled Surge (Level 14)
At level 14, you get the Wild Magic Barbarian’s capstone feature: Controlled Surge.
As it turns out, there is some method to the madness after all!
Whenever you roll on the Wild Magic table, you can roll the die twice and choose which of the two effects to unleash. If you roll the same number on both dice, you can ignore the number and choose any effect on the table.
While there aren’t any bad effects on the Wild Magic table, you’ve likely got one or two that are your favorites. Now you’re much more likely to get those or whatever else better fits your current situation!
Keep in mind that this works any time you’re rolling on the Wild Magic Table.
Whether you’re getting a Wild Surge from entering your rage or using your Unstable Backlash feature, you’ll get to roll on the table twice and pick which effect you want.
Of course, rolling doubles to take your pick of any of the options just makes this even better!
The chaotic and impulsive magic of the Wild Magic Barbarian is the backbone of how you can tie one of these characters into your game world.
Stumbling through some kind of rift into a place like the Feywild or other place filled with powerful magic, some of that power may have seeped into your character’s being.
Because Barbarians tend to feel very deeply (hence why their rage is so terrifying), that could quickly make for the perfect storm.
Perhaps they lost their temper fighting enemies too close to a site of ancient magical power. This burst of emotion then somehow caused the site to reawaken. As it was awakened once again, a portion of that arcane power got absorbed into the character.
With an event like this, numerous spellcasters would be bound to take an interest.
Druids might have ancient lore or prophecies related to the site’s power while Wizards might be more keen to study the effects of this magic on a character that survived this burst of energy.
I think of the famous scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark but with someone who managed to not have their face melted!
Who knows? Your character might have been an otherwise average person until the Wild Magic woke the Barbarian within them!
There are countless ways you can work a Wild Magic Barbarian into your game’s story. When it comes to crazy magical shenanigans and these characters, there’s no such thing as too much!
Is the Wild Magic Barbarian Good?
Opinions on the Wild Magic Barbarian are bound to be all over the place. As I said earlier, this isn’t exactly a subclass for those who want mechanics that are predictable and dependable.
Personally, I love the versatility and chaos of the Wild Magic Barbarian.
The random nature of the Wild Magic Surge table keeps things interesting. Every effect is visually compelling and useful.
While some effects might better fit the situation at hand or your party’s tactics, Unstable Backlash and Controlled Surge sway those odds in your favor.
So, it’s a bit difficult to give a definitive “yay” or “nay” verdict to this subclass.
There are just so many variables around the unique situation you’re in, your party’s tactics, and your own opinions on having a core mechanic that is random by nature.
All in all, I personally like what the Wild Magic Barbarian has to offer.
The features work well together to make for a Barbarian character that can do well on the frontlines in combat while also offering some extra support to their party with Bolstering Magic.
Conclusion – Wild Magic Barbarian in D&D 5e
I just love the theme of the Wild Magic Barbarian so much. There is just so much to work with here!
But that pretty much covers it for this subclass. I hope you’ve found this guide helpful!
If you’ve played or are considering playing a Wild Magic Barbarian, I’d love to know what your character’s backstory is! Let’s chat in the comments!
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