Karlach in Baldur's Gate 3, recognisable by red skin and demon features.
Image via Larian Studios

Baldur’s Gate 3: Best Karlach build in BG3

Crush your enemies with ease.

Companions are crucial in any Baldur’s Gate 3 playthrough. Karlach is certainly one of the best, and you can improve her further with the right build.

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While you cannot change the race of your companions, you can alter their class and subclass, so you can customize them to fill whatever role you need in your party—though changing Karlach from a Barbarian isn’t wise.

Instead, you should take advantage of the Barbarian’s many traits and bonuses to turn Karlach into a brilliant damage dealer and tank capable of cutting her way through even the most difficult enemies. While any choice of subclass, abilities, and build are viable, here’s our pick of the strongest options to select.

Best Karlach build, subclass, feats, and level progression

The subclass selection screen for Karlach, a Barbarian, showing three options and the bonuses.
Frenzy is a crucial asset. Screenshot by Dot Esports.
Level 3Choose Berserker subclass
Level 4Choose Ability Improvement for Feat
Level 8Choose Great Weapon Master for second Feat
Level 12Choose Ability Improvement or Mage Slayer for third Feat

Lovable Karlach best serves the party as a Berserker Barbarian — the high-damage option among the Barbarian Subclasses in Baldur’s Gate 3. Barbarians are important to BG3 parties as they can soak a lot of damage by halving physical hits during their Rages. Since Karlach has the ability to deal an extra d4 damage on each swing using Soul Coins, this is an important offensive option for you.

Once Karlach reaches level three, you will need to choose a Barbarian subclass. The best Barbarian subclass for Karlach is Berserker, which takes advantage of your bonus action and allows for greater damage from range, which is important, as otherwise your range is severely lacking. This leaves you with either middling ranged damage as a bonus action or the ability to make another weapon swing as a bonus action.

Be careful with the extra weapon swing, though. Frenzied Strike is a great tool when used once or twice. However, each additional swing gives Karlach a penalty to future ones. You can solve this problem with Reckless Attack, but the penalty stacks. Try to use Enraged Throw as much as possible to add damage to your Rage with bonus actions without sacrificing accuracy.

At level four, you’ll unlock a Feat. The best Feat choice for a level four Karlach is Ability Improvement, putting both points into Strength to raise Karlach to 19. Or 18, if you decided to respec her ability scores to be a bit more reasonable.

Level five is where Karlach really starts to shine, with multiple attacks in a single turn. Usually, this means three attacks per turn while raging, but using a Potion of Speed, you can increase that to five so you can quickly whittle down the health of any enemy.

Major class improvements then unlock at further levels, blocking crowd control effects and preventing you from being surprised, with another Feat then unlockable at level eight.

You should take Great Weapon Master as your second Feat, which allows for a second attack when a heavy weapon attack—like a Greatsword or Greataxe—scores a Critical Hit or kills an enemy. While it does give you a minus-five penalty to attack rolls, damage is increased by 10, and the reward is worth the risk. In addition, magic weapons that give bonuses to attack rolls, like the plus-three on the Balduran’s Giantslayer and Reckless Attack, can easily offset the penalty, letting Karlach deal this bonus damage at a minimal loss.

At level 12, you get your final ability score improvement. We recommend the best level 12 Feat for Karlach, which is Ability Score Improvement to Strength. With this, you will be at 20 Strength using our recommended ability scores.

Tip: Ability Score Improvement to Strength can be further improved

If you got Karlach to 20 Strength at level four using Auntie Ethel’s hair or by using the Potion of Everlasting Vigor (which she’s a great candidate for, but has competition with Lae’zel) during Act Two, then this Feat opens up considerably. 

The best level 12 Feat for a 20-Strength Karlach is Mage Slayer. Act Three features many magic users of all different types, all of which Karlach has a major disadvantage against. Unless you want Karlach to spend most of her fight paralyzed, use Mage Slayer to engage with enemies early and prevent them from casting. Advantage on the saving throw should give her a modicum of a chance.

Karlach’s opportunity attacks, especially with Reckless Attack and Great Weapon Master activated, should be enough to break concentration on the common Hold Persons you run face-first into.

Karlach’s Barbarian Class Progression

If your Karlach reaches level 12 Barbarian, she gains the following features:

  • Level 1: Unarmored Defense, Rage
  • Level 2: Reckless Attack, Danger Sense
  • Level 3: Additional Rage Charge (Three Rages), Frenzied Strike, Enraged Throw (Berserker), Frenzy (Berserker)
  • Level 4: Ability Improvements (Feat)
  • Level 5: Extra Attack, Fast Movement
  • Level 6: Additional Rage Charge (Four Rages), Mindless Rage (Berserker)
  • Level 7: Feral Instinct
  • Level 8: Great Weapon Master (Feat)
  • Level 9: Brutal Critical
  • Level 10: Intimidating Presence (Berserker)
  • Level 11: Relentless Rage
  • Level 12: Additional Rage Charge (Five Rages), Ability Improvement or Mage Slayer (Feat)

Your big power spikes are at levels three, five, and eight. Frenzy is a huge damage boost, as is Extra Attack.

Best Skills for Karlach in BG3

An on-fire red-skinned woman with a tail raises her leg in order to kick a short, green-skinned, leather-wearing man in the back. Both fighters have weapons on their backs in BG3.
Seriously, why’d they have to make the rage push animation so good? Screengrab by Dot Esports via Larian Studios.

Even with our adjusted ability scores, Karlach runs into a minor issue of not having much out-of-combat variety. That said, her default skill setup is essentially perfect.

  • Athletics and Survival are what Karlach gets for being an Outlander, and they’re both very strong. Survival is a decent enough skill to help you find the million buried treasures around BG3, and Athletics lets her push people around like a champ.
  • Perception is also handy out-of-combat, letting her find important things around town.

On top of this, Intimidation is very good for Karlach. With Karlach’s 10—or 8, with our preferred scores—Charisma, you’d think it’d be worthless. However, 80 percent of conversations with a Barbarian have an Intimidation check with advantage as an option, and Karlach has the Thaumaturgy cantrip permanently known. Getting two to four extra points in Intimidation makes the advantage more likely to succeed.

Best Karlach Ability Scores

Karlach’s initial ability scores aren’t incredible, focusing a lot on awkward odd numbers that mean you have to fix her as you level up. We recommend spending the 100 gold at Withers to adjust her scores to the following:

  • Strength: 16
  • Dexterity: 14
  • Constitution: 16
  • Intelligence: 8
  • Wisdom: 12
  • Charisma: 8

This setup gives her decent unarmored defense—though not better than wearing armor like Scale Mail or Lae’zel’s Githyanki Half Plate—while ensuring you have the maximum possible damage immediately.

You can drop her Wisdom down to 10 and boost her Strength to 17 if you plan on her being the recipient of Auntie Ethel’s Hair, though everyone in the party can benefit from that buff. 18 Strength without an ability score improvement is strong. However, since it could go to everyone, we’ll recommend rounding her out.

That’s especially because of Act 2’s Potion of Everlasting Vigor, an item only useful to Lae’zel and Karlach. If you’re running both, then one will have to bite the bullet and take an ability score improvement instead.

Best weapons, gear, and armor for Karlach

The Tiefling Barbarian Karlach squares up, as if she's about to start boxing, on the class selection screen of BG3.
Scale Mail works great on Karlach until plus-one armors and Githyanki Half Plate become more relevant. Screengrab by Dot Esports.

Any heavy weapon with high damage is great for Karlach, though I have been using an uncommon Greatclub for now—simply because it provides Tenacity, meaning you will do four damage even if you miss your attack.

For protection, stick with Medium Armor unless your Karlach’s Constitution gets high enough for Unarmored Defense to be better. For that to happen, you’ll need quite a bit of Constitution and Dexterity; the endgame Amulet of Greater Health in the House of Hope makes this very achievable. Then, you can wear something like The Mighty Cloth to buff her Strength to 20.

I’m currently rolling with Thermoarcanic Gloves that provide Heat when dealing Fire damage, as well as Cinder Shoes, which give Heat whenever you burn someone. These pair brilliantly with the Legacy of Avernus: Searing Smite as well as Karlach’s Infernal Fury mechanic. The Fireheart amulet is only useful during certain battles and only until you find better late-game amulets.

Tip: Be ready to change armor if the situation demands!

Keep in mind that both Gloves and Boots are interchangeable in the late-game for items that improve her defense. She is a tank, after all. Gloves of Dexterity paired with that 23 Constitution amulet give her a base AC of 20 with no other magical items, which is excellent for a Barbarian without armor.

However, both Gloves and Boots are interchangeable in the late-game for items that improve her defense. She is a tank, after all. Gloves of Dexterity paired with that 23 Constitution amulet give her a base AC of 20 with no other magical items, which is excellent for a Barbarian without armor.

I found that items that mitigate Karlach’s weakness to mages are the most useful as you move toward Act Three. Primarily, she’s a great option for the Helmet of Autonomy, a head slot that provides Wisdom saving throw proficiency. It doesn’t make her immune to annoying ambushes, but it boosts her chance of surviving them considerably.

Honestly, even with Enraged Throw, the rings that give 10 feet of movement speed are the best rings for Karlach. She wants to hit people with big weapons and the Barbarian’s Fast Movement sometimes doesn’t get her there. Boots of Speed can help, but even something as simple as Crusher’s Ring can get Karlach in front of someone in time. The other ring we like for pure Barbarian is Killer’s Sweetheart, which makes use of Karlach’s Brutal Critical by guaranteeing a crit after a kill once per day.

Best consumables, potions, and items for Karlach

Karlach sitting with a player character by a fire during a romantic cutscene.
Screengrab via Dot Esports

As mentioned above, the Potion of Speed is the best consumable for Karlach. It provides extra attacks on top of the numerous Actions Karlach can already take, while also increasing movement speed, boosting armor, and more. It’s great on everyone, admittedly, but Karlach can even soak hits while Lethargic, which might keep her Rage alive.

An Elixir of Hill Giant Strength is also useful for difficult combat situations, as it raises Strength to 21 until you take a Long Rest. This Elixir runs out of power once Karlach reaches 20 Strength, though, since the modifier stays the same. Once that happens, the best Elixir for Karlach becomes the Elixir of Bloodlust, an item that provides her with temporary HP and an additional action whenever she kills something.

Any throwables that deal fire damage—like Alchemist’s Fire—are also beneficial if you want to try the Heat build. This build grants her some additional damage while taking a minimal amount of Fire per turn, thanks to her Fire resistance.

Potions are also a necessity, as they are with every companion, to provide healing whenever required. Karlach has no internal healing cycle and takes damage all the time, making her your prime Potion of Healing recipient for turns where she isn’t braining people with furniture.

Best Multiclass Options for Karlach

If you want your Karlach to be optimal, then the last four levels of Barbarian don’t matter much for a Barbarian build. Especially for a Berserker, the best thing you’ll get out of your last four Barbarian levels is the extra rage charge. Instead, you should invest four levels of Karlach into Fighter for a multiclass build.

Sadly, Barbarians are very difficult to efficiently multiclass. Rage is extremely powerful, but negates spellcasting and concentration. This leaves Karlach in an unusual spot where she doesn’t like Raging in fights where she wants to use spells. It effectively kicks most classes out of contention, except for the Fighter.

Four levels of Fighter gives Karlach a Fighting Style—Great Weapon Fighting for damage, or Defense for AC—as well as Second Wind, Action Surge, and a Martial Archetype. Great Weapon Fighting increases damage by about two on average, and Second Wind provides some reliable emergency healing, but Action Surge is the name of the game. This ability gives Karlach another turn to wreak havoc on her foes, potentially getting seven greatsword attacks during the same round if she’s hasted. This is a huge boost to Karlach’s damage per short rest that’s hard to ignore.

For martial archetypes, as much as we like Battle Master, Champion is more consistent for multiclassing. Barbarians have a good chance to crit with Reckless Attack, and Champion increases the range of your crits by one. That means you’ll be decimating enemies quite often, which is important for a Berserker who likes her fights short and sweet. Though, if you want the Feat, you’ll have to lose Brutal Critical at Barbarian nine. And that Feat is important, so we recommend taking the better consistency at the cost of damage. 

The Feat stays the same: 20 Strength or Mage Slayer if you’re investing permanent stat buffs into our favorite Tiefling.

Combat tips for Karlach

The red-skinned Tiefling Warrior Karlach runs towards the camera in BG3.
Transform your Barbarian from a wall of health to a deadly force. Image via Larian Studios.

Using this build, you should pop Frenzy on Karlach’s first turn and initiate combat either at range or with melee, depending on the situation. Frenzy should remain active on Karlach’s second turn, which allows you to attack with an action and attack again with a bonus action.

Your priority should be to activate Frenzy whenever needed at the start of your turn before entering combat. If you lose the Frenzy status, activate it again with your bonus action before using your action to attack.

Be careful about popping it willy-nilly, though. Frenzy has a number of uses per day based on your Barbarian level. Even the maximum of five usually might not be enough to use it every time it goes down. Consider saving it for dangerous fights or situations where you can chuck huge amounts of furniture.

Whenever you attack, make sure you have Reckless Attack on “Ask” as part of your Reactions in your spellbook. Reckless Attack can activate on a miss, meaning you can roll again for the attack at the cost of making Karlach very likely to take damage. We recommend using it almost all of the time if she’d miss, especially while raging, since Barbarians can soak damage quite well.

At higher levels, Karlach will be able to make even more attacks on each turn, which provides a massive boost in any combat situation. For big combat encounters, prebuff with Haste or Potions of Speed right before entering battle to give Karlach time to run in and deal damage to a priority target. If she’s the center of attention and under Reckless Attack, the AI tends to focus on her.

Because of this, we recommend pairing Karlach with reliable support characters. A Wizard like Gale provides access to strong buffs like Haste or Fly that Karlach needs to run people down. A Cleric like Shadowheart can buff her with spells like Bless to improve accuracy and is critical for getting her back up when she inevitably goes down with spells like Healing Word.

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Josh Challies
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