At 20th level, the Path of the Zealot barbarian (Xanathar's Guide to Everything, p. 11) can rage indefinitely by virtue of starting a new rage just prior to their initial rage ending. This is confirmed by this question.

At 14th level, they also picked up the Rage Beyond Death feature, which lets them stay active at 0 hit points and regardless of how many death saves they've failed:

While you’re raging, having 0 hit points doesn’t knock you unconscious. You still must make death saving throws, and you suffer the normal effects of taking damage while at 0 hit points. However, if you would die due to failing death saving throws, you don’t die until your rage ends, and you die then only if you still have 0 hit points.

At 15th level, barbarians gain the Persistent Rage feature, meaning their rage ends only if they fall unconscious or choose to end it.

Given that the Barbarian can constantly remain in a state of rage, how can I ever reliably kill them? Reliably meaning they won't get a save to negate the effect since they would be able to constantly cycle their Fanatical Focus to ensure rerolls on saves.

up vote 39 down vote accepted

Brute force won't work, but any other effect will work, provided it is hit point dependent

At first blush, the 20th level Zealot Barbarian is unkillable and this is true if you play the Barbarian's game by engaging them in direct melee combat. Indeed, by RAW the Barbarian could massacre an entire army of mundane soldiers and continuously maintain their rage until they were able to find any sort of healing to recover the minimum 1 hit point necessary for them to keep on trucking.

However, 5e has a handful magical effects that can be used to reliably handle this situation, though.

  • Sleep: It's only a 1st level spell, but if you can reduce the Zealot's hit points enough (or upcast the spell high enough), you can forcibly end the rage by knocking them unconscious. If you do this when the Zealot is at 0 hit points and has failed 3 death saves, they will die on the spot.
  • Power word kill: If you can get the Zealot below 100 hit points, you have the option to drop them outright with this.

This is a fairly short list that curiously hits both ends of the spellcasting spectrum, but either will stop the Zealot on the spot.

There are a few other options accessed by turning into a creature with true polymorph or some other method to access them. These all require you to reduce the Zealot to 0 hit points, be aware that it can be difficult to do this because the Zealot can make several saves due to Relentless Rage to instead be reduced to just 1 hit point:

  • Shadow Dragon's Shadow Breath (MM, p. 85) will instantly kill a creature reduced to 0 hit points by this attack.
  • Mind Flayer's Extract Brain (MM, p. 222) will instantly kill a creature reduced to 0 hit points by this attack.
  • Phase Spider's bite attack will paralyze a creature for 1 hour if the poison reduces them to 0 hit points, which means that the rage will lapse after 1 minute and the Zealot will die.
  • Swarm of Centipedes' bite attack (MM, p. 338) will paralyze a creature for 1 hour if the poison reduces them to 0 hit points, which means that the rage will lapse after 1 minute and the Zealot will die.

These methods are most viable after you've reduced the Zealot to 0 hit points since you won't trigger their Relentless Rage, which the Zealot can probably reliably make 2-3 times before it starts getting tricky. I've avoided effects that rely on trying to reduce the Zealot's maximum hit points to 0. While they technically would work, you would find yourself spending an absurd number of rounds trying to reduce a feasible 275 maximum hit points.

One last method that would reliably work is:

  • Forcecage: Trapping the Zealot in creates a situation whereby you can plink down the Barbarian's hit points and implement any of the other strategies.
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – mxyzplk Aug 17 at 18:17
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    And by moved to chat, I mean discuss further in chat. Comments will be deleted immediately. – mxyzplk Aug 18 at 15:53

I agree with Pyrotechnical's comprehensive answer, but I think he missed a few spells:

  • Plane shift (CHA save) to the Abyss, the Plane of Fire, or some other inhospitable plane on a non spellcaster is an agonizing certain death warrant. (But not, sigh a surefire death warrant.)
  • Polymorph (WIS save) disables class features (like rage), ending the rage, which allows you to then cancel your concentration and kill the barbarian.
  • Disintegrate (DEX save kills creatures if they are reduced to 0 HP.
  • You can possibly stop rage with command ("chill" or "stop" or "halt" ); suggestion might work as well, as does mass suggestion. (WIS save) But this depends on the DM, as all of these spells don't allow you to give a command that would directly injure the creature, and ending the rage could be consisted as directly harming it.
  • Banishment (CHA save) incapacitates the target for a minute, ending rage. Also sends them to another plane out of your reach.
  • Hypnotic pattern (WIS save) incapacitates for a minute, again ending the rage. Ends early if the barbarian is damaged.
  • Hold person (WIS save) can potentially work as well, but it seldom lasts long enough, and so it's probably not worth using; the same applies to hold monster.
  • Dominate person (WIS save) works in a similar vein to suggestion and command, but also allows you to use the weak-minded barbarian as your slave, for a short duration.
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    "be calm" is not one word. You might want to suggest a one word command for command instead of a 2 word one. – Yakk Aug 19 at 11:06
  • Soul Cage: "when a humanoid ... dies" is a requirement, not an effect. – Foo Bar Aug 19 at 16:51
  • Whoops, misremembered the effects of soul cage – Garret Gang Aug 19 at 17:29
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    I think those would still be ambiguous. In general, it's hard to use command to get someone to do something specific that's not explicitly mentioned in the spell description, specifically because of the one-word restriction. – V2Blast Aug 19 at 19:40
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    @HeyICanChan Unless they have been polymophed into a living sailboat with the natural ability to control winds. As was the habit at the time. – Yakk Nov 9 at 16:36

Ability Score damage.

Drain their Int scores with Intellect Devourers (MM 191) (enough of them are a threat to a Lv 20 due to bounded accuracy.) Their Devour Intellect power will drop Int to 0 immediately. When the Barbarian hits 0 Int they are stunned. Bye bye rage actions.

With the Shadow, (MM 269) their Strength Drain can whittle down the Barbarian's Strength 1d4 at a time until they die at 0 strength. It would take a lot of them, but once again, bounded accuracy makes it doable.

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