I was invited to take part in a lvl 20 D&D 3.5 campaign and I would like to play a barbarian. What I have in mind is basically a stereotypical viking: a guy who rushes into battle with an axe in each hand and a smile on face. Horned helmets are not mandatory, though.

It has been years since I last played D&D and I don't remember much about the system. I've been reading some of the barbarian related books but I'm literally overwhelmed with information and not going anywhere. I tried to sketch some builds using the Tempest prestige class, but I have the overall feeling it just sucks. I'm not familiar with the system anymore, so I can't be sure.

I have 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 to distribute among my stats and 20k gold pieces to spend, but I can't buy anything costing more than 4k on its own. Nobody in the party has a defined character yet, though I know there will be a sorcerer and maybe a hexblade. I need 17 dex to use all the feats required by Tempest, and would like to have 18 str, but not sure how to employ the rest of my stats.

Have anyone tried something like this before and has advice to give? I would also like to see actual builds, if anyone has one and would like to share.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you been told anything about the campaign or the other players' PCs? (That is, you might find a barbarian like the imagined a less than stellar participant in a level 20 campaign—like Ragnar Lothbrook of the television series Vikings hanging out with DC's Grant Morrison-era Justice League.) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4, 2017 at 16:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, welcome to the site! Take the tour. A question like this might be in danger of being put on hold without more information. The site can help with optimization questions (which is what this is), but the more information the site has about the circumstances in question, the better. No matter what though, enjoy your stay and have fun. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4, 2017 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, unfortunately it is not taking place in a coastal area, otherwise I would be using a lot of ships and viking raids in my background history and character construction, but other than that the whole viking thing fits smoothly in the context. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4, 2017 at 16:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's seeking general idea generation. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4, 2017 at 19:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you certain of the 20,000 gp? A little over three-quarters of million gp is typical for a level 20 PC. Also, what about psionics? (There are good fightin' options in psionics.) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 5, 2017 at 0:15

2 Answers 2


Option #1:

The City Brawler variant, from Dragon Magazine #349 (p. 92) gives an actual Barbarian TWF, but only with unarmed strikes. With a Necklace of Natural Attacks to enchant your fists properly, and using Spirit Lion Totem for Pounce, this would function.

Option #2:

A Swift Hunter build, or more accurately, Scout 4/Ranger 16 (or some variant of this for minor optimization) would give you greater two weapon fighting with no sacrifices to the build, really. A Dip into Cleric or Barbarian nets you an effective psuedo-pounce, allowing you to maintain your Skirmish mechanic. If allowed, try to trade your Animal Companion for Solitary Hunting, Dragon #347(p. 91) although this isn't an important part to the build.

Fluff-wise, this is a more Vikings from Netflix option, rather than Olaf from League of Legends.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Vikings from Netflix is exactly what I had in mind, I'll look into it. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4, 2017 at 23:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DouglasFinamore, I should mention, with the Cleric dip, that you'll need Travel Devotion as well. Specifics on how to optimize Swift Hunter are available via handbooks on various forums. \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Jun 4, 2017 at 23:55

Let's be honest here: Two-Weapon Fighting just doesn't work that well in D&D 3.5.

There are multiple issues for that, foremost are:

  1. It requires feats to work. There are 3 feats required to get 3 attacks with your off-hand, when a typical character only ever get 7 feats over the course of 20 levels to start with.
  2. The feats required have annoying requirements, specifically, Greater Two Weapon Fighting requires Dex 19 which neither increase your chances to hit nor your damages in general (Weapon Finesse allows using Dex to hit, but only for Light Weapons).
  3. You only get to use your off-hand during Full Attacks, the rest of the time it's sitting idly: Single Attack, Attack of Opportunity, ...
  4. And whenever you do get a Full Attack, you get a penalty to hit of at least -2, and -4 if you are not using a Light Weapon in your off-hand.

Unless you have a very specific build in mind, which derives its strength from the number of attacks rather than individually powerful attacks, Just Don't.

Having said that, there is a very simple solution for your Barbarian: throw WYSIWYG out of the window.

That is, use two axes as part of the fluff, but treat them as a single Greataxe as far as the rules are concerned.

This way you have your cool imagery, without the headache of Two-Weapon Fighting.

Some concerns were raised about the disconnect between the imagery and the rules used:

  • Drawing Weapons speed: according to the rules, it takes as much time to draw a dagger from a scabbard at your belt that it does to draw a greataxe from your back... or draw a bow from your back and string it.
  • Disarm/Sunder/Single Axe: you have to decide whether your character can wield a single axe (with its own stats) or not; it's simpler not to, it's more realist to allow it.
  • Enchantment: the two Axes should be enchanted as a set.
  • Foes Tactics: a character wielding two weapons can either be Strength-oriented (it works for Rangers) or Dexterity-oriented, and those are two very different fighting styles requiring different counters; it's relatively easy for the DM to apply the appropriate counter.

Of course, as any adaptation it requires your DM's approval. It seems simple enough to me; YMMV.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry it that comes out as a stupid question, but what exactly do you mean by "treat them as a single Greataxe as far as the rules are concerned"? Can I just put a greataxe in my sheet and roleplay as if I was wielding two axes, that's what you are saying? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4, 2017 at 16:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DouglasFinamore you will need yor DM's approval to do this, but the basic idea is that you play a character that wields a greataxe, but describe it as if you were wielding two axes. This might be unavailable because of the disconnection between the rules and the perception of characters (it will look like you need way less time to draw both weapons, disarm and sunder attempts affect both at once, you cannot use a single hatchet one-handed for some unknown reason and foes will "unexplicably" employ tactics unsuited for dealing with a TWFighter.) Most 3.5e DMs I know don't allow it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Jun 4, 2017 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel: I tried addressing your concerns. I personally don't see much of an issue, there are indeed some points to clarify as usual when adapting material, but the rules are necessarily a simplified model of reality and there are far greater disconnect out there (bows! crossbows!) in the name of easing play. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 5, 2017 at 8:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was just pointing out in advance some reasons that the DM might have used to disallow this, in order not to get Douglas too excited about the idea. I have allowed this in my D&D 4e campaign myself (I had a druid whose animal form was a dragon and was her real form). \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Jun 5, 2017 at 17:26

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