From the PHB, page 48, under the "Rage" section:

In battle, you fight with primal ferocity. On your turn, you can enter a rage as a bonus action.

Does this imply that a Barbarian can only enter a rage whilst in combat? And if not, does there need to be an impetus for the rage to occur, or can it be on a whim? For instance, if my Barbarian decides she wants to rage to impress the lord of a manor with her enhanced strength, is that an acceptable condition to start raging?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @TheSexyMenhir Rage doesn't always have to be the Dragonball "scream and punch things" variant. Think of the mercenary the Sheriff of Nottingham brought in in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: When he got doubted he grabbed a burning piece of wood and burned himself while staring the guy down. It would definitely count in my book. \$\endgroup\$
    – Haquim
    Jul 13, 2017 at 11:08
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ "That's my secret Cap, I'm always Angry!" \$\endgroup\$
    – frarugi87
    Jul 13, 2017 at 14:34

3 Answers 3


No, a barbarian does not need to be in combat to rage.

Defining things as "Actions", "Bonus actions", "Reactions" etc. are only to specify how much you can do in a turn or round of combat, since you effectively only have a 6-second timeframe to do things. Much like casting spells that require a minute long casting time - you can still attempt to cast them... you just need to be uninterrupted for 10 rounds.

The only catch is that to sustain your rage, you need to attack (which doesn't have to be successful, mind you), or take damage, "every round", so a timeframe needs to be defined outside of combat to sustain it:

Your rage lasts for 1 minute. It ends early if you are knocked unconscious or if your turn ends and you haven't attacked a hostile creature since your last turn or taken damage since then. You can also end your rage on your turn as a bonus action.

Note: the rule does state "hostile creature", so it'll be up to you and the GM to define what states as "hostile". Spanking a misbehaving child, or punching a passer-by may not exactly qualify.

However, as suggested in the comments, setting yourself on fire would be an ideal way to maintain the rage - constant damage, therefore, constant rage.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you want to impress someone with your rage, and don't want it to end prematurely, set yourself on fire. Most Barbarians can deal with it just fine for a few rounds and it's sure to leave a lasting impression :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Jul 13, 2017 at 7:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ -1 I'm confused, what in this answer prevents the barbarian from entering rage? Even if it ends early? \$\endgroup\$
    – Segfault
    Jul 13, 2017 at 17:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Erik also, ninjas can't catch you if you are on fire. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 13, 2017 at 18:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Segfault nothing prevents it, the question is "must the Barbarian be in combat to rage", and the answer is "no". \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Jul 13, 2017 at 20:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @FuriousFolder is it both a joke and a legitimate strategy. drmcninja.com/archives/comic/4p15 \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Jul 14, 2017 at 17:30


It's going to be hard to restrict actions as only appropriate "in combat." To be "in combat" is vague and very easy to circumvent, if the DM was imposing these restrictions.

Take this example:

  • Your Barbarian wants to rage to impress the lord of a manor, but the DM prevents her because she is not "in combat"

  • Your Barbarian turns to her party mate and whispers, "I want to fight you"

  • Your Barbarian engages in PvP against a party mate. The two of them roll initiative. According to the D&D 5e game engine, they are now in combat.

  • The other person wins initiative and goes first. They skip their turn, opting to do nothing.

  • Your Barbarian uses their bonus action to rage and, instead of using their action to attack, does a feat of strength to impress the lord of a manor instead

  • Both party mates do not seem to be engaging in combat anymore. Combat ends

Above is a way for the Barbarian to always be "in combat" by simply always engaging in PvP against her party mates. In their combat, all the players keep choosing to not attack, but they are all still technically under initiative and hence, "in combat."

The initiative system is a meta concept

The point is, to be "in combat" in a mechanical sense is a meta concept. We use initiative because it lets us track combat actions in a fair way, but to restrict anyone from doing anything on the basis of "you have to be in combat to do that" is to restrict an in-game character due to an out-of-game reason.

Meta concepts have no equivalent in-game explanation. Nobody in real life waits until their enemies have finished taking their turns. So, it doesn't make sense to impose a meta restriction onto an in-game character this way.


Yes and No.

There are two sets of rules, HOUSE and RAW. RAW is Rules As Written, meaning we look at how the structure of the rule is delivered. HOUSE rules are home-brewed or tweaked to the liking of the table.

RAW The first statement is "While in battle", this indicates that YES you must be in battle to initiate this "as a bonus action". It clearly states the terms and as written must be upheld. Define battle in the physical sense, while you are physically engaged or physical engagement is imminent to induce such an adrenaline reaction as RAGE and cannot be done whimsically as the PC is not in battle. Therefore RAW dictates in a definitive manner that one cannot use RAGE outside of combat, it is not a meta concept as it is meant toward a trigger that only comes from battle itself, combat is not meta. If you're being punched in your face versus buying a chicken, everyone knows which scenario is in combat and which one isn't, you don't need to have a higher sense outside of your PC's knowledge to understand that. This is why some have come up with setting themselves on fire to induce longevity of RAGE while ENGAGED in battle. Meaning there is a threat imposed to induce the instance of battle. For example, sticking a fork in your hand doesn't cause you to RAGE because you're not in battle and no threat is upon you, you did it to yourself, therefore you are NOT in battle and cannot induce the RAGE effect.

HOUSE rules, aka 'home-brew' may deem it a bit strict to decide that a PC can only RAGE while in battle. Several deciding factors could occur to induce RAGE outside of physical combat. For instance if they lose at a card game, a distant memory of a time that causes adrenaline, or simply thinking about punching someone in the face to them, would mean, they could RAGE regardless if actual battle was triggered. The variables could be endless, and I personally allow my Players to RAGE without needing to be in physical combat or the threat thereof.

Hope this helps define a few things besides stating that something JUST IS without analyzing the entire context of the game. Ultimately it's up to your table how you want to define it, or rather, the DM should define the terms when going over your sheet if they are experienced. But if they're fairly new and make a judgement call, it would be something to discuss after the session or briefly state your reasons at that moment in a reasonable manner.


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