D&D Party Composition — Playing an All Barbarian Party
Over on the Nerdarchy YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted explore the idea of an all barbarian party for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. People really enjoy the video series and I’m having a blast with the concept here on the website. Playing an all barbarian party in 5E D&D looks to split in the video comments between people who think it sounds great or who are already playing such a campaign, and those who feel like there are too many drawbacks. Dave and Ted can give you the insights into 5E D&D party composition and over here we’re continuing to build the scenario we started with the all bard party — a campaign setting of academia for each particular character class. So let’s get into it and consider what an all barbarian party composition in a 5E D&D academic setting could look like.
How I would run an all barbarian party for 5E D&D
The all bard party campaign finds adventurers matriculating to Bard College for their higher education, warlocks attend a private school funded by special interests and clerics attend theological university together. For the all barbarian party there’s an easy premise sitting right there waiting in the description of their Primal Paths.
“Rage burns in every barbarian’s heart, a furnace that drives him or her toward greatness. Different barbarians attribute their rage to different sources, however. For some, it is an internal reservoir where pain, grief, and anger are forged into a fury hard as steel. Others see it as a spiritual blessing, a gift of a totem animal.”
In our D&D academia setting Primal Paths is a private school where those with anger issues are sent to help manage their situations. Freshman students arrive with short fuses and tough exteriors, at first leaning into these attitudes before finding their place at 3rd level. Primal Paths offers students a variety of programs to help channel and focus their rage in positive, beneficial ways.
Putting a party like this together is easy like all the other D&D academia scenarios so far — they all attend the same school — and for the all barbarian party I’d propose to the players we explore the idea these characters were sent to Primal Paths for their unruly behavior. I imagine a group of misfits stuck together for orientation, all tough on the outside. This would be an excellent opportunity to really play up each character’s personality traits. Why are they so angry? What sorts of hot water did their rage land them in to get them sent to Primal Paths?
Adventures for an all barbarian party would certainly include plenty of monster fighting. If nothing else barbarians hit hard and can take a lot of punishment so it would be foolish not to let the party cut loose. But with our premise of the party as students learning to manage their anger it’s completely believable their professors would arrange lessons where it takes more than rage and Strength to succeed.
I love the idea of adventures inspired by the narrative of character progression, and if the players are willing I’d propose a special approach to hitting 3rd level and choosing their Primal Path. In Fane of the Frost Wyrm we created a new barbarian Primal Path along with an adventure to introduce the content to your campaign setting. The Frost Wyrm tribe invites adventurers to explore their camp and celebrate their traditions before accompanying young warriors to embrace the spirit of the remorhaz — or die trying — in a rite of passage to introduce the brand new character option.
For this all barbarian party I’d suggest a similar scenario, with each character having a special quest tied to the Primal Path they wish to choose. This arrangement would work through individual milestones, so there would be some characters in the party at 3rd level while those who hadn’t completed their quest remaining at 2nd level. But these are short quests so it wouldn’t take very long to complete them all.
D&D academia course catalog
We’re not even halfway through with either the video series or these accompanying posts and an intriguing setting emerges. All of the educational organizations we’re imagining can certainly standalone but in a major metropolitan city like Waterdeep in the Forgotten Realms or Eberron’s Sharn they might all be part of a single university. Perhaps Morgrave University offers these new programs to characters in Eberron or the bards of New Olamn open their doors to the rest of the character classes with a large expansion to the Waterdeep campus.
The thing about an all barbarian party I find interesting is, unlike the other classes we’ve covered so far, barbarians are so focused. Bards, warlocks and clerics are a diverse group and creating characters with lots of different abilities is pretty easy. Barbarians are traditionally the ones who hit hard and take a lot of damage, so they have a narrower focus. But this is where we’ll have fun with party composition in the all barbarian party. Everyone’s combat prowess is great, and leaning into this aspect means we can experience incredibly action packed combats. But through race and background choices, and their Primal Paths, each character should bring something unique to the group. Exploring each character’s non-combat qualities and how they interact with the group would be tremendous fun.
I also think it would be amazing to create stories and adventures together where the characters must remain calm to accomplish their goals. Imagine a skill challenge where the group has to meditate quietly for an hour!
When we finish up this series we’ll have ourselves a solid foundation for an entire 5E D&D campaign setting in a world of academia. For a running recap, here’s the list of 5E D&D class-related institutions. I’m looking forward to exploring the next one along with the video from the YouTube channel.
- Bard College carries on a fine tradition of arts and arcane education
- Primal Paths sounds like a private school
- Domains is a seminary
- Circles is a new age school
- Martial Archetypes is a either a military school or a certified training program
- Monastic Traditions maybe a charter school
- Sacred Oaths is definitely a private school
- Ranger Conclaves is a series of correspondence courses (I know they’re called Ranger Archetypes but I think Conclaves sounds cool)
- Roguish Archetypes a trade school for sure. I learned how to pick pockets and now I’m doing great. Thanks, Roguish Archetypes!
- Sorcerous Origins get to attend Arcane Traditions U on a full-ride scholarship
- Otherworldly Patrons is 100% charter school
- Arcane Traditions clearly is the premiere institute for arcane study
- Artificer Specialists is a for profit university that confers certificates and degrees
Any of these individual campaign ideas really makes me want to play or run a campaign with these elements. 5E D&D party composition with all the characters of the same class is more about your group discussing their character choices together than about filling traditional roles. An all barbarian party has melee combat more than covered, so planning the party together and making choices to benefit the group is extra important here.
I like the idea of working with the players to develop reasons for their characters’ rage, personality and reason for being sent to Primal Paths. I’m sure all the players will be itching to roll for initiative and unleash the fury on monsters, and this would be incredible fun but between those fights I feel like exploring the all barbarian party’s personalities and quirks, and testing them without fighting all the time, would become a really immersive campaign.
What do you think? Does an all barbarian party campaign fill you with rage or joy? Do you like the idea of a 5E D&D campaign set within academia? Let me know in the comments!