Path of the Giant | Giant Barbarian 5E Guide

While the wait for the next Dungeons & Dragons Next playtest slowly makes its way to our desks, we can always look at some of the Unearthed Arcana remaining! The options available in these extra pamphlets ranged from underwhelming to game-changing! And it is surprising how many of them made their way to print. So, when the “Giant Options” Unearthed Arcana came out, we knew it was going to be a banger! The Path of the Giant Barbarian Path offers a Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition berserker with some long-ranged options. This is the best ranged character for Barbarian, which is hilarious, and also provides some intense area control. If you’re wanting a new Barbarian, we can walk you through this weird class in our Giant Barbarian 5E Guide.

Dominate the Hills: Giant Barbarian 5E

path of the giant

The Path of the Giant Barbarian is the first Barbarian path with a focus on thrown weapons. This unique setup allows players to bring wimpy options like Handaxes and Javelins and make them hurt during a rage. They also provide reach and easy access to the Large size category, something not often heard of in 5E. Finally, they provide some surprising utility for such a simple-sounding archetype. A switch-hitting playstyle might not sound like a giant’s forte, but clearly, Wizards of the Coast disagrees! Let’s find out if the only subclass released with Glory of Giants is worth it.

Giant’s Power

To begin, a huge amount of utility! In a rare addition, at level 3, you get benefits in and out of range: Knowledge of the Giant language and access to either druidcraft or thaumaturgy. You use wisdom as your spellcasting modifier either way.

Giant is a language that is used only in specific campaigns. You’re not going to be desperately looking for Giant most of the time, and Giants are commonly enemies due to their low intelligence. A creative GM might make a small giant village or something similar… But, as a Barbarian, you probably weren’t the first line of communication anyways. 

Druidcraft and Thaumaturgy each do immensely similar tasks. Thaumaturgy is probably very slightly more impressive in terms of options, but Druidcraft lets you instantly light torches! Your choice here is far from the be-all end-all of your character, so don’t think about it too long. We’d suggest Druidcraft for the legitimately useful ability to light a torch without needing anything in your hand.

Giant’s Havoc

Your first raging ability from this archetype gives you two significant benefits. The first lets you apply your Rage Damage to thrown attacks. The second improves your size to Large and increases your reach by 5 feet. These benefits are very strong, but they also kind of fight with one another.

Thrown weapons in 5E are exceptionally difficult to use effectively. Typically, only specific ranged weapons return to your hand after being thrown. This means you often need to throw a weapon, get another one, and then throw that one. You run out of ammo, and sometimes your DM will force you to spend actions to retrieve additional weapons. Until you get a very high-level weapon – like the Dwarven Thrower – this playstyle is very hard to stick to.

The second benefit is more generically useful and is very helpful. Becoming Large and extending your reach are two upgrades that you can really abuse. Large size clogs up a lot of doorways, hallways, and roads. And since you resist physical damage while raging, you are going to make a very efficient wall! Your reach means you can use a weapon like a Glaive or Halberd and get 15 feet of reach! That’s a lot. You can be exceptionally effective from a massive distance.

Of these two benefits, focus on the Large size. With a Halberd or other reach option, you can use your size and reach to stuff enemy attempts to escape, hit over your allies, and generally become a nuisance on the frontlines. The thrown stuff is nice, but… Just pack a few javelins. Bam, good ranged option.

Elemental Cleaver

At level 6, my advice shifts very slightly. While raging, your weapon becomes infused with elemental damage of the acid, cold, fire, thunder, or lightning types. Your weapon’s damage becomes that damage type, it deals 1d6 bonus damage, and can be thrown to 20 feet or 60 feet with disadvantage. In addition, it immediately teleports back to your hand after being thrown. You can swap the damage type with your bonus action.

This is… Actually really cool. By default, you’re dealing 3.5 extra damage per swing while raging. Strong, since that’s almost as much bonus damage as a level 20 rage! Modulate your damage to capitalize on enemy vulnerability. There shouldn’t be any enemies that can resist all five of these damage types! So, make sure you hit hard with this. And, worst case scenario, you can always switch damage types between attacks. So… Go with your gut!

Then, interestingly, it both solves my previous problem with thrown weapons… And invalidates thrown weapons in their entirety. You now can use your +3 enchanted weapon and throw it without fear of losing it or having to stockpile… But, you also don’t need a thrown weapon anymore. Just chuck your Halberd at enemies. The simplicity is very much appreciated, since you now have a melee and ranged option at all times.

This is a huge boon for you. Chuck your generic weapon as much as you like! Since you get to use Strength for the attack roll, you’re going to have a damn good chance to hit your mark.

Mighty Impel

And now… The hilarious benefit. At level 10, you can chuck willing targets 30 feet to a square of your choice as a bonus action. Unwilling targets get a save to resist.

This ability’s wording is a bit lackluster at the moment. Unoccupied squares could potentially mean throwing them 30 feet above you, depending on your DM. We’re going to assume you must try to throw them onto a ground that could support them, or a liquid that could catch them. 

This ability is, sadly, limited only to characters that are smaller than you. At this point, it’s just Mediums. No chucking bears around the woods yet! That does mean you can throw every member of your party (most of the time) as well as a significant number of enemies in the book.

So why does this matter? Well, this movement is considered to be forced. You can “teleport” an ally out of danger by chucking them 30 feet to safety. Or, you can throw a slow Fighter at an annoying caster, letting the fighter lock them down.

For enemies, this is great for grouping enemies together or separating key targets. The Necromancer just hid himself in a pile of skeletons? Yoink him with your Reach and chuck him to your waiting Paladin! A cleric is trying to reach their master? Grab him and chuck him 40 feet further back! There are a lot of possibilities here.

And, if your DM allows you to throw to unoccupied squares in the air, then this Bonus Action does 3d6 damage and knocks them prone. That’s… Unreal. Seriously, this version of the ability is hilarious but probably won’t fly at most tables. That’s a lot for a repeatable bonus action!

Demiurgic Colossus

At level 14, your Barbarian has touched a well of Giant strength deep inside. They become your choice of Large or Huge, they gain 10 foot reach, and Mighty Impel now hits Large creatures. In addition, Elemental Cleaver deals 2d6 bonus damage.

Where to start! Huge is actually a bit annoying, since a lot of hallways can’t contain your muscle at that point. If you can get to your maximum size, then you’re going to plug up anything that your heart desires. But, even if not, you get to keep your massive reach and the ability to chuck Large creatures. So… Who cares if Huge is awkward? You’re an area control machine! Combine this with Sentinel and a Halberd and you have 20 feet of space where enemies just can’t go. Plus, you can always choose to go with Large size instead of Huge when needed.

As a side note, now you don’t really have a reason to throw a weapon 20 feet… But, hey! You have 60 feet and Reckless Attack. That’s worth something!

The ability to chuck large creatures comes in handy. Large creatures clog up fights like nobody’s business, so moving them with a hard save is great. If your DM lets you toss them straight up, you even get that prone bonus on more enemy types! As you get later and later game, being able to maneuver Large-sized creatures in fights comes in handy more and more often.

Finally, 2d6 damage on each swing is… Crazy, frankly. Your weapon dealing 7 more average damage means you’re getting more from this than base Barbarians get from Rage. Not many Paths can say the same! Use your immaculate damage to the max.

Best Races for Path of the Giant

Giants want Strength. Strength, strength, strength! It really needs nothing else. So, Constitution and Dexterity are both useful for keeping yourself alive on the frontlines. Wisdom isn’t too bad for you, just for saving against some types of spells.


Gah, I’m not a huge fan of suggesting Human, since they cover so many bases. But, here, having that extra feat really does compliment your build in a powerful way.

Your two +1s should go into Strength and Constitution, while your Skill can rest in Perception. The feat should be something to make use of the massive reach that you’ll get by level 3. Sentinel is a fantastic one, allowing you to make your opportunity attacks more effective. Once you get more reach, this lets you lock down areas, ignoring Disengage and forcing enemies to stop moving. Polearm Master is another good choice, giving you a strong Bonus action and letting you make opportunity attacks when enemies enter your range.

And… Your range is 15. Soon to be 20. So that’s not bad. Sadly, these feats expand on Opportunity Attack so significantly that no other race can really compete. But, we do like one other option, if your party is okay with a bit of a… Strange addition.


The Bugbear, from Volo’s Guide to Monster, is such a strange creature. It gains +2 Strength and +1 Dex, which is good enough. It has Darkvision, which is stellar. Powerful Build means you get to be the party’s packmule, and you can deal bonus damage during a surprise round. Heck, you even get proficiency in Stealth! These are all solid benefits that any race would love.

But… You get one more benefit. Long-Limbed. This improves your reach by 5 feet on your turn. Mixed with the Giant’s benefits and a Reach weapon… You can hit someone 25 feet away from you by level 14. With a melee attack! By level 3, you’re doming people 20 feet away from you. The potential behind this build is mind-bogglingly funny. Imagine ambushing someone and your long arms smack them from the treeline!

And that’s not to say that Bugbear is just a gimmick. Their solid statline, Darkvision access, and the actually strong Surprise Attack feature all come together to make a good build. 

How Does the Official Version Differ From the UA Version?

Sometimes, Wizards of the Coast opts for major changes between what they float in Unearthed Arcana and what they print in the final publication. This time, they stuck pretty close to what was offered in the playtesting document. There are only two changes from the UA version of this subclass, and one is cosmetic. These changes are:

  • Crushing Hurl: The Crushing Hurl aspect of Giant’s Havoc has been renamed to Crushing Throw
  • Demiurgic Colossus: In the UA version, this feature caused you to grow to Huge size. In the final product, you get the choice of growing to either Large or Huge. This is a nice quality of life improvement, as there are times when being a Huge-sized creature can be problematic.

Conclusion – Our Take on the Giant Barbarian 5E

The Path of the Giant is a slightly confused archetype for the barbarian class, but is a strong option for a second melee fighter. By providing backup over the head of your other melee ally, your insane damage and area control while raging is unmatched. But, you have next to no defensive options without Polearm Master and Sentinel, and your combat versatility is based on a saving throw. If you’re trying Unearthed Arcana, give this a spin as a damage dealer… And really fight for the ability to throw creatures straight up for that juicy 3d6!

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