Chapter 1: Subclasses
The main figures in any D&D campaign are the characters created by the players. The heroics, folly, righteousness, and potential villainy of your characters are at the heart of the story. This chapter provides a variety of new options for them, focusing on additional subclasses for each of the classes in the Player’s Handbook.
Each class offers a character-defining choice at 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level that unlocks a series of special features, not available to the class as a whole. That choice is called a subclass. Each class has a collective term that describes its subclasses; in the fighter, for instance, the subclasses are called martial archetypes, and in the paladin, they’re sacred oaths. The table below identifies each of the subclasses in this book. In addition, the section for druids presents details on how the Wild Shape feature works, and the warlock receives a collection of new choices for the class’s Eldritch Invocations feature.
Each of the class presentations leads off with advice on how to add depth and detail to your character’s personality. You can use the tables in these sections as a source of inspiration, or roll a die to randomly determine a result if desired. Following the subclasses, the section called “This Is Your Life” presents a series of tables for adding detail to your character’s backstory. The chapter concludes with a selection of feats for the races in the Player’s Handbook, offering ways to delve deeper into a character’s racial identity.
Class Subclass Level Available Description dominate the battlefield Barbarian I have witnessed the indomitable performance of barbarians on the field of battle, and it makes me wonder what force lies at the heart of their rage. — Seret, archwizard
The anger felt by a normal person resembles the rage of a barbarian in the same way that a gentle breeze is akin to a furious thunderstorm. The barbarian’s driving force comes from a place that transcends mere emotion, making its manifestation all the more terrible.
Whether the impetus for the fury comes entirely from within or from forging a link with a spirit animal, a raging barbarian becomes able to perform supernatural feats of strength and endurance. The outburst is temporary, but while it lasts, it takes over body and mind, driving the barbarian on despite peril and injury, until the last enemy falls.
It can be tempting to play a barbarian character that is a straightforward application of the classic archetype — a brute, and usually a dimwitted one at that, who rushes in where others fear to tread. But not all the barbarians in the world are cut from that cloth, so you can certainly put your own spin on things.
Either way, consider adding some flourishes to make your barbarian stand out from all others; see the following sections for some ideas. Rawr! I’m really angry! Funny, I don’t feel any stronger. Maybe because I’m always angry, I’m always in top condition. Stands to reason.
Barbarians tend to travel light, carrying little in the way of personal effects or other unnecessary gear. The few possessions they do carry often include small items that have special significance.
A personal totem is significant because it has a mystical origin or is tied to an important moment in the character’s life — perhaps a remembrance from the barbarian’s past or a harbinger of what lies ahead. A personal totem of this sort might be associated with a barbarian’s spirit animal, or might actually be the totem object for the animal, but such a connection is not essential.
One who has a bear totem spirit, for instance, could still carry an eagle’s feather as a personal totem. Consider creating one or more personal totems for your character — objects that hold a special link to your character’s past or future. Think about how a totem might affect your character’s actions
1 A tuft of fur from a solitary wolf that you befriended during a hunt
2 Three eagle feathers given to you by a wise shaman, who told you they would play a role in determining your fate
3 A necklace made from the claws of a young cave bear that you slew singlehandedly as a child
4 A small leather pouch holding three stones that represent your ancestors
5 A few small bones from the first beast you killed, tied together with colored wool
The members of many barbarian clans decorate their bodies with tattoos, each of which represents a significant moment in the life of the bearer or the bearer’s ancestors, or which symbolizes a feeling or an attitude. As with personal totems, a barbarian’s tattoos might or might not be related to an animal spirit.
Each tattoo a barbarian display contributes to that individual’s identity. If your character wears tattoos, what do they look like, and what do they represent?
1 The wings of an eagle are spread wide across your upper back.
2 Etched on the backs of your hands are the paws of a cave bear.
3 The symbols of your clan are displayed in viny patterns along your arms.
4 The antlers of an elk are inked across your back.
5 Images of your spirit animal are tattooed along your weapon arm and hand.
6 The eyes of a wolf are marked on your back to help you see and ward off evil spirits.
Barbarians vary widely in how they understand life. Some follow gods and look for guidance from those deities in the cycles of nature and the animals they encounter.
These barbarians believe that spirits inhabit the plants and animals of the world, and the barbarians look to them for omens and power. Other barbarians trust only in the blood that runs in their veins and the steel they hold in their hands.
They have no use for the invisible world, instead relying on their senses to hunt and survive like the wild beasts they emulate. Both of these attitudes can give rise to superstitions.
These beliefs are often passed down within a family or shared among the members of a clan or a hunting group. If your barbarian character has any superstitions, were they ingrained in you by your family, or are they the result of personal experience?
1 If you disturb the bones of the dead, you inherit all the troubles that plagued them in life.
2 Never trust a wizard. They’re all devils in disguise, especially the friendly ones
3 Dwarves have lost their spirits, and are almost like the undead. That’s why they live underground.
4 Magical things bring trouble. Never sleep with a magic object within ten feet of you.
5 When you walk through a graveyard, be sure to wear silver, or a ghost might jump into your body.
6 If an elf looks you in the eyes, she’s trying to read your thoughts.