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We know that when you polymorph in D&D 5e, per the spell, you lose access to your class features, as discussed in this question. However, polymorph does not say it cancels on-going effects on the target.

My specific question is: If a raging barbarian is subject to polymorph, does their rage end or continue?

On one hand, Rage is a class feature, which suggests that it ends when the barbarian is polymorphed. On the other hand, Rage essentially applies a status effect to the barbarian with conditions which specify when it ends, which suggests that it might continue while polymorphed.

I am aware that Jeremy Crawford has tweeted that the answer to this question is that the rage ends. However, Jeremy Crawford also rules that the opposite is true for Arcane Ward, another class feature with an on-going effect. If your answer is "Jeremy Crawford is right", then please also explain what components of the effects determine whether it is retained during rage, so as to clarify the apparent contradiction in Crawford's tweets.

I am also aware of this similar question on the Bladesong feature, although that is a different feature to Rage and Rage is probably a more common scenario, so I thought I'd bring it up separately.

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Rage ends when polymorphed. Arcane Ward is the odd one out: it's not part of the creature's own game statistics

Jeremy Crawford was actually asked this exact question, and gave this unofficial answer:

Arcane Ward is an external effect that you activate. Its duration isn't dependent on your form.

Essentially, once active, the Arcane Ward exists as a separate entity. This is reflected in the language used when describing its ability to absorb damage that the wizard takes:

Whenever you take damage, the ward takes the damage instead. If this damage reduces the ward to 0 hit points, you take any remaining damage.

While the ward has 0 hit points, it can’t absorb damage, but its magic remains. Whenever you cast an abjuration spell of 1st level or higher, the ward regains a number of hit points equal to twice the level of the spell.

The ward is clearly described as a separate entity with its own pool of hit points and its own behavior for what happens when it reaches 0 HP, etc. This is in contrast to temporary hit points, or maximum HP increases, which both affect the creature directly.

So, the questions and answers you have linked already explain why, in general, class features like rage and bladesinging go away while polymorphed. This answer explains why Arcane Ward is the exception to that rule.

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    \$\begingroup\$ For those reading this answer and taking it as written, note that the linked question has 2 opposing answers relating to rage, both with a positive score, and both only slightly referencing rage since they are talking about a different feature. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Feb 9, 2021 at 18:44
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Essentially, polymorph cancels the mechanical benefits of rage.

Regardless if rage persists, the benefits of raging are a class feature that polymorph negates.

Benefits while raging are a class feature.

A class feature of barbarian is the benefits they gain while raging.

While raging, you gain the following benefits...

Regardless if the creature is raging or not, without the class feature of "gaining the benefits while raging", there won't be a mechanical difference during the duration of polymorph.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer seems accurate as far as it goes, but it does matter whether the rage is actually ended or just suppressed. Otherwise, we can't say whether the barbarian will still be enraged or not once the polymorph ends. \$\endgroup\$
    – MJ713
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 16:19
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I believe the answer lies within the "self-casted polymorph" scenario.

While this may be slightly controversial, considering the JCraw response on the matter, I believe that status effects, such as Rage, Giant Might, and most importantly, concentration, can be, and are maintained while within a polymorphed form. This is strictly my RAW interpretation, and while I can definitely see how effects such as these would be deemed to be dropped RAI, the specific wording of these class features are the factor that answers this.

TLDR: I agree with your latter rationale. Rage is a status effect that, once granted, is only ended under circumstances specified within the effect itself. This is argued to be true due to the nature of concentration while polymorphed. While acknowledged and argued for, I would still follow DM discretion, as I think we can all agree that Rage, Giant Might, Bladesong, etc., would be OP on a T-Rex or Giant Ape.

For clarity on the argument, I'm labeling certain things as "status effects", these are, in essence, Conditions that are not labeled as such. There are benefits, such as Rage, that are active effects applied to a creature that are not specified in RAW as conditions. This is listed here to provide contextual links between these benefits mechanics of the game.

For the rest of us who've read way too much into this, let's look at the specifics of Polymorph:

The target's game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast. It retains its alignment and personality.

So if losing the classes' features implies that all benefits gained from them are removed upon being polymorphed, why is it possible for someone to self-cast the spell? This is because there is a spell effect cast upon them, at which point the caster gains the status effect of "concentration", and the only factor stopping the status effect of "concentration" is specified as such:

If a spell must be maintained with concentration, that fact appears in its Duration entry, and the spell specifies how long you can concentrate on it. You can end concentration at any time (no action required).

Normal activity, such as moving and attacking, doesn’t interfere with concentration. The following factors can break concentration:

Casting another spell that requires concentration. You lose concentration on a spell if you cast another spell that requires concentration. You can’t concentrate on two spells at once. Taking damage. Whenever you take damage while you are concentrating on a spell, you must make a Constitution saving throw to maintain your concentration. The DC equals 10 or half the damage you take, whichever number is higher. If you take damage from multiple sources, such as an arrow and a dragon’s breath, you make a separate saving throw for each source of damage. Being incapacitated or killed. You lose concentration on a spell if you are incapacitated or if you die. (From PHB Concentration)

This is the main hole in the argument for status effects being removed if class features are removed, because concentration is tied to spellcasting (since it's a part of the duration of a spell), which is removed when polymorphed. If the form you take doesn't have spellcasting, how does it know how to concentrate on something it doesn't inherently understand? Not to mention the specific section of Polymorph:

The creature is limited in the actions it can perform by the nature of its new form, and it can't speak, cast spells, or take any other action that requires hands or speech.

If a creature is polymorphed, they lose access to the activation of features, just as they lose access to the activation of further spells, but they do not lose access to the status effects provided by these features during (and prior to) the casting of Polymorph, unless a character causes them to end early as specified within the effects themselves.

The way I see it is as follows:

  1. Spell/Feature is activated as specified within the spell/feature's description.
  2. Once activation is completed, a status effect is established (in a spell's case, both the spell effect and the status effect of concentration are placed upon the creature/s).
  3. At this point, access to the spell/feature is no longer relevant to maintaining this effect, as the conditions for maintaining are established.

Example of this in action, starting with, "Activation":

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

Simple, you use a bonus action during your turn on a round, the feature is used to bestow the status effect of, "Rage".

Now the effects and duration are in the phase of, "Establishment":

While raging, you gain the following benefits if you aren’t wearing heavy armor:

You have advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.

When you make a melee weapon attack using Strength, you gain a bonus to the damage roll that increases as you gain levels as a barbarian, as shown in the Rage Damage column of the Barbarian table.

You have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. If you are able to cast spells, you can’t cast them or concentrate on them while raging.

Your rage lasts for 1 minute.

The effects bestowed have been established for the status effect, "Rage".

And finally, you begin following what you must to "Maintain" the effect:

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.

You can see this same ability structure throughout several other features. While all passive effects are removed, as the feature is no longer on your sheet, ongoing status effects are never specified within the description of Polymorph itself. And while Wild Shape does specify that keep feature benefits, Polymorph never specifies that it removes active benefits, simply that access to the features are removed. So if you lose Rage due to not being attacked, attacking, or becoming incapacitated, you lose the status effect and cannot reactivate it until you regain access to the class feature, just in the same way that concentration is kept when polymorphing one's self, but you cannot cast any new spells until you are out of the new form.

But I will end this by saying that at the end of the day, it's entirely up to your DM, and it's certainly unfair to expect a DM to take this as the laid down law of the land. I mean, 136 HP with resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage (in the case of a Raged T-Rex) is pretty busted.

Secondly, for those arguing the use of items to cast spells prove that concentration is not specifically tied to spellcasting, you're proving my point on the matter of the effect of Rage not being tied to the access of the Rage class feature. When you use an item to cast a spell, you gain access to the Activation of the spell specified within the item. After the effects of it are Established, the only thing you need to follow at that point is what you need to do to Maintain the spell, regardless of your character's access to the Spellcasting feature. The same can be said about the effects of Rage, or Bladesong, since it follows the same structure described within the mechanic of concentration.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In my experience, self-casting polymorphers usually have their concentration ended long before they run out of hp, and resistance will do little to change that. Intelligent opponents will target the caster of polymorph, if it is not self-cast. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 4:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ DnD doesn't have "status effects" and concentration isn't a condition. It's a something a character must do for maintaining some spells. \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 5:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are items that allow characters to cast spells that require concentration, such as the wand of web. That demonstrates that characters with out the spellcasting class feature can be required to concentrate on a spell that a magic item permits them to cast. So concentration isn't exclusively tied to the spellcasting class feature. \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 5:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Beyond the example of magic items, Concentration is a generic rule, not a class feature, while Rage et al is a class feature only defined within the class. This makes the logic of extrapolating from concentration to rage a bit tenuous. \$\endgroup\$
    – BBeast
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 7:44

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