When assembling your Baldur’s Gate 3 adventuring party, unless you’re going for something extra spicy, you’ll need at least one solid frontliner. As a Barbarian, Karlach is well-suited for this role. Her being a Tiefling also synergizes well with her class – the fire resistance is a nice addition to the regular Barbarian resistances. This guide leverages these features to turn Karlach into a reliable and sturdy melee damage dealer.
Companion Build Goals
To start things off, here are our general guidelines for companion builds:
Here are the major things we’ll be focusing on as we level our Karlach:
- Key Features:
- Important Gear
- Halberd of Vigilance
- Adamantine Scale Mail
- Horns of the Berserker
As a Barbarian, Karlach can be deceptively tough. Even though she won’t have the highest AC in the game, while raging (and she should be raging in all but the easiest of fights) she’ll take only half damage from physical attacks. As a Tiefling, she’ll be similarly resistant to fire damage. This will allow her to take a lot of punishment for the team. We’ll beef her up even further by using a suit of Adamantine armour that makes her immune to critical hits and lowers all the damage she takes by an extra 1 point. This, of course, means that we won’t be utilizing her Unarmoured Defence feature past the earliest stages of the game.
Still, taking Karlach’s relatively low AC into account, we’ll choose to utilize a reach weapon as our primary choice. This will give her a small extra layer of protection. And we’ll also acknowledge that she’ll get hit more than your average tank, and so some of our gear choices will reflect that.
With her fiery personality, Karlach is perfectly suited to eventually become a Berserker. This subclass will essentially give her an extra attack per turn while raging. And seeing how it’s the most straightforward Barbarian subclass, it’s the perfect choice for a companion Barbarian.
Upon reaching Act 3, our Karlach will also become adept at throwing weapons thanks to a combination of her subclass, a certain legendary trident, and the Tavern Brawler feat. This will turn her into a well-rounded killing machine capable of both getting up close and personal, and bombarding your foes from a safe distance.
Here’s what Karlach will bring to the table when you first meet her as a level 1 Barbarian:
- Race/Subrace – Zariel Tiefling
- Starting Class – Barbarian
- 17 Strength
- 13 Dexterity
- 15 Constitution
- 8 Intelligence
- 12 Wisdom
- 10 Charisma
- Background – Outlander
- Skill Proficiencies
Feats and Abilities
This section will highlight all the things we’ll be picking when raising Karlach’s level.
When she reaches level 3, Karlach will be able to properly channel her rage into becoming a Berserker. While the benefits of this subclass you get at higher levels are underwhelming to say the least, it’s strong straight out of the gate – an extra melee or thrown attack you perform as a bonus action is just too good to pass up. In our experience, the stacking attack penalty downside rarely becomes a problem. But if it does, you can always manually cancel your rage and the penalty will disappear.
While there are multiple interesting ways to build a Barbarian in Baldur’s Gate 3, a companion Barbarian like Karlach is very straightforward. After all, her main job is to just deal damage and not die without monopolizing all the choice loot.
- Ability Improvement
- At level 4, we’ll mostly be fixing Karlach’s default stat spread by putting an extra point into Strength and Dexterity.
- Ability Improvement
- After hitting level 8, we’ll be maximizing Karlach’s Strength by putting two points into it for a total of 20.
- Tavern Brawler
- A dedicated Tavern Brawler Barbarian can be very fun to play. It does require a bit too much direct attention to be a good fit for a companion. As such, we’ll be grabbing the feat at level 12 to get Karlach’s Constitution to 16. And with all the gear at our disposal at that point, we’ll be able to make a proper thrower out of Karlach without sacrificing anything.
The Unarmoured Defence feature Barbarians have might suggest to you they shouldn’t wear armour in the game. It also may seem like a trap once you start playing. The truth of the matter is that there are ways to make an unarmoured Barbarian viable and very strong. But that works better when said Barbarian is your main character. For Karlach, who likely won’t have your undivided attention, it’s much better to just use some armour.
Still, without a high Dexterity score, access to the best loot you can find, or a team of dedicated supporting spellcasters at her disposal, Karlach’s AC score will be somewhat lacking. Our gear choices reflect that by trying to minimize her shortcomings and even utilize the fact that she’ll be getting hit more than your other characters.
- Main Weapon – Halberd of Vigilance
- This +2 Halberd deals extra force damage, provides a bonus to your Initiative that stacks nicely with the natural Barbarian bonuses, and gives Advantage to your Perception checks – a skill Karlach is proficient in. The extra reach is also very nice. And you get it relatively early in Act 2 – buy it (or obtain in some other way) from Lann Tarv in Moonrise Towers.
- Main Weapon Option – Balduran’s Giantslayer
- A +3 legendary greatsword you get late in Act 3 while pursuing Wyll’s personal quest. Doubles your Strength bonus when it comes to calculating damage and lets you become giant. A really fitting weapon for Karlach.
- Thrown Weapon – Nyrulna
- A +3 legendary trident you get after hitting the jackpot on Akabi’s wheel in Act 3. Makes you faster, illuminates the surroundings, and most importantly returns to you when you throw it. When used as a thrown weapon, it also deals bonus area damage. If you’re going to be using Enraged Throw in Act 3, this is what you should be throwing.
- Ranged Weapon – The Dead Shot
- There aren’t a lot of good “stat stick” ranged weapons that synergize with Karlach’s build. But The Dead Shot longbow you get from Fytz the Firecracker in Act 3 will lower your crit range by 1. And since Barbarian crits are stronger than usual, Karlach should get it unless your PC is running a crit-focused build.
- Handwear – Flawed Helldusk Gloves/Gauntlets of Hill Giant Strength
- Once you reach Act 2, you’ll be able to exchange a piece of Infernal Iron for a pair of Flawed Helldusk Gloves at Dammon’s forge. These grant your melee weapon attacks extra fire damage. After exploring the House of Hope in Act 3, you can swap these for a pair of Gauntlets of Hill Giant Strength that will set Karlach’s Strength at 23.
- Armour – Adamantine Scale Mail
- You craft this suit of armor at the Grymforge late in Act 1. It makes you immune to crits, makes it so the enemies that do hit you are less likely to hit you again, and lowers the damage you take by 1. It’s pretty much perfect for Karlach.
- Headwear – Horns of the Berserker/Flawed Helldusk Helmet
- Since our Karlach is a Berserker, it only makes sense for her to wear Horns of the Berserker – a hat you get from Entharl Danthelon in early Act 3. It grants you extra damage and Attack Bonus against targets that have already been damaged. And since as a Barbarian, you should be dealing damage when raging every turn anyway, its downside is negligible. Until you get it, the Flawed Helldusk Helmet you get from Dammon in Act 2 is a decent substitute that will make you better at resisting spells.
- Cloak – Cloak of Protection/Fleshmelter Cloak
- With its +1 bonus to AC and Saving Throws, Cloak of Protection sold by Quartermaster Talli around the Last Light Inn is sure to be in high demand. But if no one else in your party will be using it, give it to Karlach, she’ll make good use of it. Alternatively, accept that you’ll be getting hit and give her the Fleshmelter Cloak found inside the House of Healing Morgue. It will damage anyone hitting Karlach in melee.
- Footwear – Helldusk Boots/Boots of Genial Striding
- As a Barbarian and a mostly melee warrior, Karlach will be moving a lot. As such getting slowed down by unfavorable terrain is less than ideal. To overcome this, we’ll be wearing a pair of boots that makes us immune to difficult terrain. Early on the Boots of Genial Striding you get from Blurg in the Myconid Colony will do the job. And once you get into lord Gortash’s stash in Act 3, you’ll swap them for the Helldusk Boots that do the same thing but also allow us to reroll failed saving throws and teleport around by means of a fiery explosion.
- Amulet – Moondrop Pendant
- As mentioned earlier, staying mobile is important for Karlach. This amulet will allow her to ignore attacks of opportunity when below 50% health.
- Ring – Bracing Band
- Upon shoving an enemy, you’ll get +1 AC until your next turn. Since Karlach will have a lot of Strength, proficiency with Athletics, and great mobility, she’ll be great at shoving enemies down various pits. There’s plenty of those in the game. Being rewarded for that with AC is always nice.
- Ring – Ring of Protection
- This ring grants a much-needed +1 to AC and Saving Throws. Mol gives it to you for completing her Steal the Sacred Idol quest.
For most of the game, playing with Karlach will be as simple as it gets. You see enemies – you start raging and hit them with a big stick. Later on, once you have Tavern Brawler and Nyrulna, you’ll get a choice whether you want to hit enemies in melee or throw some exploding tridents at them first. And that’s pretty much how you play Karlach.
Something to keep in mind is that when raging, you should always be hitting things. If you don’t, your rage runs out and leaves you vulnerable. This vulnerability comes from the fact that when raging, a Barbarian only takes half damage from physical attacks. Combined with their respectable health pools, this makes them very survivable. So don’t let your rage run out, and you should be fine.
While this build doesn’t utilize Unarmoured Defence to any great extent, until you find a decent suit of medium armour, you can easily run around with no armour on without sacrificing much or any survivability. Just keep in mind that while they don’t provide any AC, some helmets, gloves and boots are classified as armour. They disable the Unarmoured Defence feature if you wear them.
As a Barbarian, Karlach will get access to the very strong Reckless Attack ability at level 2. Since it not only gives you Advantage to hit your enemies, but it gives them Advantage when they hit back, you don’t want to use it unless you have to. Luckily, you can set it up as a reaction – if you attack an enemy and the game sees that you’re about to miss, you’ll get a prompt to use Reckless Attack for this hit. This means you don’t have to use it preemptively.
Finally, Karlach has a special mechanic where she can consume Soul Coins to deal extra fire damage when raging or when her health is low. This 1d4 bonus damage is nice, but nothing to write home about in the late game. So don’t hoard your coins and try to use them all in Act 1 and early Act 2.