Dwarves make fine barbarians, with their very-high Con and their bonuses on saving throws. The lack of a bonus feat hurts a lot early on, however.
Dragonborn get additional Con, on top of whatever your race might give, which makes it an obviously-good choice for a barbarian. More importantly, it can also give you flight, which is exceptionally difficult to get otherwise.
Has to be mentioned; humans are an excellent choice because of the bonus feat. Your first feat is almost-certainly going to be Extra Rage, but there are a lot of other feats you want ASAP. Depending on prestige class choice, human may be compulsory (only way to get all the feats you need on time).
Goliath (Races of Stone)
Goliaths are LA +1, which is kind of a bummer. Particularly at low levels. However, their Powerful Build is very valuable to a lot of barbarians, making them much better at many forms of combat maneuver, and they can improve that with the mountain rage ACF (see below).
Warforged (Eberron Campaign Setting)
Warforged offer very considerable defensive bonuses, between +2 Con, 25% fortification, built-in armor, and a natural weapon. The warforged juggernaut prestige class is also ideal for throwing your weight around and shrugging off any response your enemy can muster. Finally, dragonborn warforged are extremely good, though ask your DM before you do it as it is more than a bit cheesy (Dragonborn is supposed to remove most racial features, but one thing it does not remove is any subtypes you have, and most of warforged’s best features come from their Living Construct subtype; you lose the slam and composite plating, but can even still take e.g. Adamantine Body to get better composite plating than normal).
Choose a rage variant
- +4/6/8 Str, +4/6/8 Con, +2/3/4 Will, −2 AC
- Free action, on your turn only
- Fatigued after rage
- Hits all the right spots; Str and Con are typically your most important ability scores, the bonuses to Will are crucial for not being turned against your allies, and the AC does not matter that much.
- Free action means the only limit is on your daily uses.
- Fatigue is easy to get immunity to
- +4/6/8 Str, +4/6/8 Dex, 4/5/6+Con round duration, −2 ranged attack rolls beyond 30 ft.
- Immediate action, that may explicitly be taken while flat-footed
- Sickened after ferocity, sickened immunity only halves penalties
- The ability score bonuses are good but not as good as rage; most of the time, Dexterity is a tertiary concern for barbarians. Becomes excellent if you’re going for throwing weapons, though.
- Immediate action, even while flat-footed, means you are always going to be in ferocity when you need to be. This is huge if you have defensive boosts from rage-or-similar that you don’t want being bypassed by a surprise attack.
Resilient Rage (Dragon vol. 330)
- +4/6/8 Dex, +4/6/8 Con, DR (1/2/3)/–
- Free action, on your turn only
- Fatigued after resilient rage
- Solid defensive bonuses, but unfortunately tacked onto the “implacable” barbarian variant that also replaces fast movement—might be worth considering in some cases if you can cherry-pick just this rage, but not worth losing fast movement (or, rather, other things you can trade fast movement for)
- Free action means the only limit is on your daily uses.
- Fatigue is easy to get immunity to
- +4/6/8 Str, +2/3/4 AC and Reflex, have the option of an extra attack at full BAB in exchange for −2 attack penalty for the round.
- Fatigued after the whirling frenzy.
- Counts as rage, merely with different-than-usual bonuses; this fact may be useful with stickler DMs
- Like mountain rage, this variant gives you something new rather than just bonuses. That’s a big deal. The extra attack stacks with things like Two-Weapon Fighting, Rapid Shot, or haste, which means you cannot easily replace it.
- You still get Strength, which helps.
- Lion spirit totem (see below) becomes that much more important, but it was always pretty much must-have.
Mountain Rage (Races of Stone, goliath-or-stoneblessed-only)
- Is an improvement to rather than a replacement of rage; could arguably be in addition to another rage-variant
- Another +2 Str on top of regular bonuses
- You grow one size category (!). This replaces your powerful build.
- This is extremely potent, with superior bonuses and becoming truly Large, for the reach and combat maneuver bonuses. Extraordinary size increases are rare. Goliaths are not worth LA +1 on their own, but with this... they very well could be. Worth considering.
- The stoneblessed prestige class, below, can allow you to get this as a non-goliath (read: without LA +1), but that comes at the extremely high cost of three entire levels of “not much” in terms of class features and delaying your first barbarian level to 6th.
Totems and Spiritual Totems
Unearthed Arcana has a series of variant barbarians known as totem barbarians, which get slightly different class features.
Complete Champion has a series of alternate class features known as spiritual totems, which replace fast movement with something.
Note that these two are separate options, and so long as your Totem does not replace fast movement (i.e. horse or wolf totem), you can also have a spiritual totem. In both cases, the totems are based on animals, but you need not choose the same animal for each. The Unearthed Arcana totem represents the tribe you come from, whereas Complete Champion’s spiritual totem is much more of a personal spirit animal. They need not be the same.
The best choice for totem is wolf, without a doubt. Improved Trip without having to take Combat Expertise (which you cannot use in a rage, requires Int 13, and is really weak anyway) is a massive win, and they do not lose fast movement so a spiritual totem is still an option. The only other way to have both a UA totem and a spiritual totem, horse totem, is garbage unless you for some reason need Run as a prerequisite for something. None of the other totems are particularly good, even though they do sometimes get some useful feats (e.g. ape’s Power Attack, bear’s Improved Grapple without Improved Unarmed Strike), since you want a spiritual totem.
Specifically, you want the lion spiritual totem. This is clearly, far-and-away, the best thing you can get for fast movement, and in fact is so important that it is in itself a reason for a lot of people to dip barbarian. The lion spiritual totem gives you pounce, the ability to make a full-attack at the end of a charge. This instantly and immediately solves a lot of the huge mobility problems that 3.5 melee usually has. See “What are the best ways to move and full-attack in the same round?” for more details.
Other ACFs and variants
Dragon vol. 349 has several useful options:
City Brawler: Gain Improved Unarmed Attack and Two-Weapon Fighting (but only for unarmed strikes) instead of various armor and weapon proficiencies. Even if you plan on using weapons, for a barbarian who was multiclassing something that had those proficiencies anyway, this is basically free.
Dashing Step: Ignore AC penalty during a charge instead of gaining trap sense. Pure win: trap sense is worthless. But really, you probably won’t actually take enough barbarian levels to get it, and it’s not a reason to do so on its own.
Devil’s Luck: Gain bonuses to all saves instead of DR /–. The save bonuses are honestly more valuable, the DR is never in large enough amounts to actually matter. But really, taking enough barbarian levels to even see this is not all that recommended.
Number of Barbarian levels
Barbarian is a very front-loaded class; you get rage and fast movement at first, uncanny dodge at second, and then... you get some nice-ish stuff spread out over a lot of levels, most of it after tenth. Improved uncanny dodge is cool and all, but it’s less important than uncanny dodge itself, and it’s three levels later. More uses of rage are important, but they come too slowly to wait for them from simple barbarian levels (you will want Extra Rage). The DR is small, nice as DR/– is, and trap sense is really tiny. And greater rage, indomitable will, tireless rage, and mighty rage are all past 10th level, which is a very long way away.
Thus, I recommend only one or two levels of barbarian. The first one gets you your rage-variant of choice and pounce, the second gets you uncanny dodge or Improved Trip, and you’re done.
Other base classes
Cleric offers a fantastic amount of stuff for a single level by choosing your domains carefully; you can do very well that way. You do lose ¼ BAB, or ½ if you are cloistered, though, which may hurt meeting prerequisites. Note that plenty of violent, aggressive, or angry gods exist out there for you to pray to, even in the Good pantheons. Your two domains can get you a pair of feats you need (see this list for possibilities), or possibly bonuses even better than a feat, or you could swap one or both for devotion feats out of Complete Champion for stuff like Travel Devotion (you’re a nomad, and Travel Devotion is the other way to get movement+full-attack), Chaos Devotion (Law is a little better but you can’t take that), Animal Devotion (flight! or other bonuses), etc. Cloistered clerics get far more skill points, and a free Knowledge devotion which... you cannot really use much, but meh. Particularly if not using sane multiclassing rules (read: fractional), the difference between ¾ BAB and ½ BAB is zero when you take only one level. Even with fractional rules, the ¼ difference may not matter (e.g. if all your other levels are full BAB).
A level or two of fighter is... not the end of the world, if you really desperately need feats. Fighter bonus feats are useful to you. Avoid that if you can, however. Alternatively, take six levels for the Dungeoncrasher ACF out of Dungeonscape (deal 8d6+3×Str damage to someone you bull rush into a wall; goes extremely well with goliath, war hulk, or warforged juggernaut), or nine levels for Dungeoncrasher and the soldier of Zhentarim ACF from this Champions of Valor web supplement, which massively improves your ability to intimidate others. Complete Scoundrel’s Never Outnumbered skill trick and Drow of the Underdark’s fearsome armor property are both very useful if you go that route (like “swift-action reduce all enemies to cowering” useful; excellent against mooks).
A level or two of psychic warrior could stand in for fighter to get feats, if you can afford the BAB loss. Powers like expansion are very, very good, and can be used before starting a rage. Probably takes a bit too much dedication to psionics to really claim to be a “rage-focused” character though.
Ranger gets you some skills, which you probably won’t need. Still, if you do, it’s there, though try to keep the number of levels to a minimum.
Tome of Battle
This is, more-or-less, where you want to end up. I strongly recommend your fifth character level be in either crusader or warblade. Because of the way initiator level works (other class levels count half), you will start with IL 3, sufficient to take 2nd-level maneuvers with your initial load-out of maneuvers. This is very nice.
The crusader gets a delayed-damage pool: they can delay any damage they take by a round, and while they’re delaying damage they get bonuses to their attack and damage. Very appropriate for a rage-based character to have his wounds fuel his retribution, and of course it’s useful for a tanky character. Unfortunately, the pool (and thus the bonuses) is quite small, but it’s something. The crusader’s Devoted Spirit discipline, on the other hand, has some of the very few aggro-drawing abilities in 3.5, with iron guard’s glare giving all adjacent allies +4 AC and defensive rebuke causing enemies who attack an adjacent ally to provoke an attack of opportunity from you.
The warblade’s class features are less useful to you, but the Iron Heart discipline more than makes up for that. Iron Heart is all about brutal, reckless, perfect attacks, with options like +1d6 damage for −2 AC (punishing stance), attacking multiple foes at once (steel wind, and later the metal hurricane maneuvers), and also general you-cannot-stop-me-ness (iron heart surge ends any status effect). Tiger Claw also allows large amounts of damage, being very offensively-oriented. Diamond Mind, sadly, is not really useful to you since it relies on Concentration.
And both of these classes get access to Stone Dragon and White Raven. Stone Dragon is all about being tough as nails, while bashing through enemies’ defenses. Mountain hammer, a 2nd-level maneuver, is also extremely useful as a tool, since it ignores Hardness – queue bashing through walls. Also allows access to Stone Power: trade attack penalties for temporary HP, making it very difficult to do lasting damage to you. White Raven, on the other hand, is all about leading the charge: you charge and ignore AoOs, charge and do extra damage, charge and all your allies charge with you, etc. etc. As a barbarian with Pounce, charges make you very happy indeed. And the ability to improve your allies around you is also extremely potent.
Bloodclaw Master (Tome of Battle)
This only really works if by “two-handed weapon” you mean a double weapon, and that only works well if your DM accepts the RAW that double weapons only count as a one-handed and light weapon for attack penalties and otherwise both ends count as being wielded in two hands (which is almost certainly unintentional). Still, dwarves get martial proficiency with a double weapon, which could make them solid for this class, though its best feature is kind of wasted. I’d probably just stick with more warblade levels.
Bloodstorm Blade (Tome of Battle)
Excellent because it gives you range on your Tome of Battle maneuvers. You only want 2 or 4 levels of this; the rest of the features aren’t so great, but Martial Throw and Lightning Ricochet are excellent. It’s all about Iron Heart, too, which is very “rage-y.” Might go well with hulking hurler and master thrower.
Deepstone Sentinel (Tome of Battle, Dwarf-only)
The Tome of Battle version of the dwarven defender, the deepstone sentinel is quick, easy, and Stone Dragon is very good about throwing yourself into the fray without a care in the world. Be careful about the restriction that Stone Dragon maneuvers may only be initiated on the ground; does not work well with, e.g., dragonborn dwarves.
Note this class becomes much better if your DM includes a very-common houserule waiving the “standing on solid ground” requirement of Stone Dragon.
A sort of interesting choice; whatever you do to get arcane spellcasting is going to be somewhat ruined between rage and the lack of progression, but you will get considerable ability score bonuses and at the end of it, the sweet Dragon type.
Particularly interesting (amusing) in the case of mountain rage goliaths, as half-dragons are entitled to dragon wings only when Large or larger, which means that when you mountain rage, you suddenly sprout enormous, functional dragon wings. More of a novelty than anything else though.
Frenzied Berserker (Complete Warrior)
Has to be mentioned, because it is the best rage-based prestige class in the game (though honestly it doesn’t have a lot of competition in that regard). Your question indicates that you are already familiar with it. Just note that there are a lot of ways for a prepared team to handle you if you lose control: marbles or grease, for example, will knock you prone every time, since you cannot use Balance. And the fact that frenzied berserker gains, in addition to its iconic frenzy, supreme cleave and improved and supreme power attack, both features you are very interested in, this becomes an excellent choice. Just talk with your group and DM before doing it.
You gain “frostrage” which gives natural armor and better unarmed attack damage. Not particularly impressive, really. The Frozen Berserker feat it requires, however, is excellent in combination with Sandstorm’s Blazing Berserker.
Hulking Hurler (Complete Warrior)
Do stupidly-huge damage with thrown rocks. I don’t really recommend this; it sticks you in a really tight niche and it relies on really poorly-designed rules. Still, a good option for range and damage.
Could be interesting with bloodstorm blade, though. Also, shares a lot of prerequisites with master thrower, which helps if you go in for the thrown weapon thing.
You gain an alternate form, which adds sizeable ability score bonuses that improve with level, plus the claws and such of that form (which must be a dinosaur or dire animal). The alternate form can be a size category larger than you, too, which is awesome. You get more Str, Dex, Con, and Wis all the time, too, but at the cost of Int and Cha. The feat requirements are awful, too.
Ruby Knight Vindicator (Tome of Battle)
A strange choice for a barbarian, but a potent one. A dip in cleric is already pretty solid for you; while the increased spellcasting isn’t that useful since you will have many more non-spellcasting levels and rage et al. prevent in-combat casting, they can still be useful, plus the rest of the features of ruby knight vindicator are excellent, particularly divine impetus. Between Devoted Spirit, Stone Dragon, and White Raven, you maintain excellent “aggressive” options, and Wee-Jas is a neutral goddess of death; pretty appropriate for a barbarian. And Shadow Hand offers a couple of excellent utility maneuvers (most of all the short-range teleports, which don’t have any prerequisites aside from sufficient initiator level).
Stoneblessed (Races of Stone)
Stoneblessed allows you to basically “adopt” one of the races that Races of Stone focuses on. You can qualify at 2nd level, and it is only 3 levels long, so you can finish it by 5th level. The advantage is that its capstone is the ability to count as your chosen race for prerequisites. Getting that by 5th means the ability to start a racial prestige class on time at 6th.
But more importantly to a rage-focused character, if your adopted race is goliath, you qualify for mountain rage. That means you cannot take your first level of barbarian until 6th, which hurts quite a lot (particularly for a so-called “rage-focused” character), but getting mountain rage without LA +1 is pretty nice.
Unfortunately, it has mediocre everything: ¾ BAB, d8 HD, 2 + Int skills, a truly pitiful skill list. Good Fort and Will, that’s OK. But aside from the prerequisite-meeting capstone, its class features are entirely forgettable (minor skill bonuses, combat bonuses against a specific creature type).
Warforged Juggernaut (Eberron Campaign Setting, warforged-only)
Excellent, excellent defensive abilities. With this prestige class, a large amount of magic just simply does not work on you, which is huge. Combines extremely well with pounce (i.e. lion spiritual totem) and bull rush (e.g. great with Dungeoncrasher). Frees up a ton of feats and wealth for pure offense because so much defense is covered already.
Warhulk (Miniatures Handbook)
You can get into this using mountain rage, but I am not a huge fan of this class. It’s extremely fitting, no doubt, but getting zero BAB for ten levels hurts a lot, no matter how much Strength you get. Exception: a dungeoncrasher build would do amazing, disgusting things with this. Note that goliaths can also take the excellent Knockback feat that pairs extremely well with Dungeoncrasher.
Warhulking hurler, by the way, is the basis of a theoretical-optimization build that does ludicrous damage by throwing things like the moon. Problems abound with that sort of thing, obviously.
Wildrunner (Races of the Wild, Elf/Half-elf-only)
The prerequisites are rough (particularly being an elf or half-elf), but it does offer a rage-like feature in primal scream, which offers +2 Str and +6 Dex, and can also be used to scare enemies and even grant yourself pounce (though you should already have it).
Extra Rage (Complete Warrior)
Taking this once (3 extra uses of Rage or similar) is practically a must; on most days, that will cover you, but without it rage is a 1/day trick unless you take a lot of Barbarian levels. Taking it more times may be useful but you will probably want a lot of feats.
Don’t bother unless you get this with wolf totem (you probably don’t want Int 13, and definitely do not want Combat Expertise), but if you do, this is an excellent feat. Especially good with Combat Reflexes and ferocity.
Ferocity builds will probably want this, which means they’ll probably also want Improved Trip. Probably not particularly worth it otherwise.
Improved Bull Rush
A must for dungeoncrashers and warforged juggernauts, still highly desirable because it’s required for Shock Trooper (see below). Outside of dungeoncrashing, bull rush is a niche maneuver, but you’ll have it available.
Knockback (Races of Stone, requires Powerful Build or Large size)
Basically, attacks let you initiate bull rushes, which is great because usually bull rush only happens on a standard action. Excellent with dungeoncrashing.
The obvious, but it’s still excellent. You will want Shock Trooper, however.
Shock Trooper (Complete Warrior)
Shock Trooper provides three options, two of which are awesome. One, Power Attack penalties apply to AC instead of attack on a charge: what could be more Rage-focused than that? Two, you can redirect creatures you bull rush, which helps massively for dungeoncrashing. The third thing is that you can bull rush one creature into another to trip both; useful, but usually worth it only if you simply do not have a wall available for dungeoncrashing.
Blazing Frozen Berserker
These are two separate feats, but you want to take them together as they cancel out each other’s drawbacks. If your DM houserules they cannot stack or you cannot take both or whatever, then you probably want neither unless you’re in a very themed campaign.
Blazing Berserker (Sandstorm)
You gain the Fire subtype while raging, which makes you immune to Fire damage, but vulnerable to Cold damage.
Frozen Berserker (Frostburn)
You gain the Cold subtype while raging, which makes you immune to Cold damage, but vulnerable to Fire damage.
Stone Power (Tome of Battle)
Every round you can get up to 10 temporary hit points (in exchange for a −5 attack penalty, which is a big deal but if anyone can do it you can), which means, at low levels, you can shrug off enormous damage. Note that it can be used instead of Power Attack for prerequisites; you probably want Power Attack anyway, but worth knowing.
Stormguard Warrior (Tome of Battle)
The Iron Heart tactical feat, it allows you to turn attacks of opportunity that you don’t take into large bonuses to attack and damage. Note that since you do not take the AoOs, you don’t use up your ability to take more and therefore do not need Combat Reflexes. Only really worthwhile when you have more opportunities to generate attacks of opportunity: the Karmic Strike (Oriental Adventures) and Robilar’s Gambit (Player’s Handbook II) feats each make enemies provoke when attacking you (Karmic Strike requires they actually hit), allowing you to skip many more AoOs and generate much larger bonuses.
Conclusions and Suggestions
I see three primary ways to do this:
Lord of War
The basis of this build is something like Barbarian 2/Fighter 2/Crusader-or-Warblade 1, using the ferocity variant. You get things like Extra Rage, Combat Reflexes, Improved Trip from wolf totem, possibly Blazing and Frozen Berserker for the ability to ignore those effects. You charge into battle, laying waste all around you. Your maneuvers are primarily Stone Dragon and White Raven, plus either Iron Heart or Devoted Spirit (you might even consider levels in both Crusader and Warblade to get both!). By charging about, using Shock Trooper to avoid attack penalties (and maybe Stone Power to trade some of that extra attack for more life), and then being there with Combat Reflexes and huge damage bonuses from your Str and Power Attack, you will be drawing a lot of enemy attention and doing a lot of damage.
Dwarf works well as a race, but I like both goliath and warforged better. Dwarves should consider deepstone sentinel, particularly if the campaign will stay grounded or waives the obnoxious Stone Dragon rule. Goliaths have mountain rage for the reach, which is huge, while warforged have even more defensive ability to shrug off damage. I’d probably rather be a dragonborn version of any the above, really, though in the case of a dragonborn dwarf that will not work well with deepstone sentinel (unless houserule says it does).
Swapping one of the fighter levels for a dip in cleric, particularly of Wee Jas, is quite useful. Ruby knight vindicator is better for this build than more levels of crusader and warblade, and the way Tome of Battle prestige classes interact with having more than one initiating base class makes taking both crusader and warblade that much better.
Otherwise, simply take more levels in crusader and/or warblade, with possibly a few levels of bloodstorm blade.
Rage et al. give very large bonuses to Strength, and nothing uses Strength like dungeoncrasher. The basis of this build is Barbarian 1/Fighter 6, using the standard Rage variant most likely (though all of them give Str so all work).
Goliath is the winner here, with powerful build giving bonuses to bull rush and allowing you to take Knockback. See if your DM will let you voluntarily lose war hulk class features if you lose its prerequisites—then you only get war hulk features during a mountain rage. This is a good thing because it means you do not take war hulk’s penalties and limitations on mental activity the rest of the time.
Warforged is a close second-place, and much better if you can find a reliable source of getting larger. Warforged juggernaut is a gimme when you already have Improved Bull Rush, and the class is excellent. Attempting to use stoneblessed to get mountain rage as a warforged is an interesting notion, but there just isn’t room for all the levels you want (dungeoncrasher demands six, warforged juggernaut and warhulk would both like ten, you need to fit some barbarian in there, etc.). Becomes a much more interesting idea in a gestalt campaign.
Because dungeoncrasher already provides huge damage, your feats are free for things like Blazing and Frozen Berserker, Stone Power, and so on, making you that much harder to stop once you get going.
A well-timed dip in warblade (ECL 5th or ECL 9th) can add a lot to this build in terms of flexibility. You’re looking for charging minotaur strike, mountain hammer, iron heart surge, leading the charge, battle leader’s charge, and the like.
Just to bring this back up, frenzied berserker adds a lot to both of the above builds, because you simply do not die unless you get hit with a lot of stuff. I particularly like this in combination with Blazing Berserker, Frozen Berserker, and warforged juggernaut: a huge array of effects just fail when they target you.