12
\$\begingroup\$

QUESTION: If a Barbarian enters a Rage on their first turn, and does not attack, and furthermore has taken no damage yet in this fight, does the rage cease at the end of that same turn?

Reference: A player at our game wanted a multiclassed Moon Druid/Barbarian to combine Wild Shape and Rage. They stated that in a tough-looking fight they'd use their first turn's Action to Wild Shape and their Bonus Action to Rage, and start a frantic fight the next round. This led me to wonder about the mechanics:

The pertinent wording of Rage says (PHB, page 48):

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.

So, as I see it, strictly RAW:

If something happened in this battle prior to your turn and you took damage, that should let your rage continue after this first turn because the feature never states you had to be raging when the damage was taken.

If, however, you took no damage prior to your turn, and you didn't attack, then AT BEST there is only one other option to consider:

  1. If the last time you took damage was in your last fight, and that damage took place ON or BEFORE your turn (for example, you got the killing blow or just weren't harmed after your last turn), then you've neither attacked nor taken damage since your last turn, and Rage ends now.
  2. If the last damage you took was IN ANY WAY inflicted since your last turn, whether that means an enemy hit you after your last turn and a party member finished it off, or you got hit by a dart trap, or you just stubbed your toe really hard and took 1hp of damage while exploring, then the Rage SHOULD CONTINUE because you technically took damage since your last turn, even if that turn was yesterday.

Counter-argument for #2: "Turns" represent your actions in each 6-second window. Therefore looking at your previous "turn" only goes back 6 seconds, so unless that Dart Trap was REALLY fresh, your "last turn" probably just involved walking through a doorway or listening to the party Bard trying to talk his way out of the jam you're in. And if the Dart trap is that fresh, it was probably part of the same encounter anyway, and renders the thought exercise irrelevant.

Notes: In all reality, if I was DM here, I would probably allow this on the first turn, because the Barbarian is "revving up" for the fight, and then check this the next turn. But if it was later in the fight, I'd probably be looking more carefully at damage taken between turns, potentially. And I would almost certainly not count damage taken an hour ago from another group of enemies to count as damage "since your last turn." But in a purely RAW sense, is this interpretation accurate, or am I missing something?

\$\endgroup\$
12
\$\begingroup\$

You have it almost right

The only other thing to consider is the Barbarian's reaction, movement, and free object interaction. If they can attack a hostile creature with any of those or take damage as a result of any of those they can also ensure their rage doesn't end on the first turn.

Generally, the most common way that would happen is for the Barbarian to provoke an attack of opportunity and that attack to be made successfully and result in some damage, but many other options exist; for example, the barbarian could deliberately step on a caltrop or other hazard.

All of those ways, except perhaps getting to use your reaction to attack turning the same turn, are almost always bad and unnecessary-- the Barbarian should just wait until they take damage to super rage instead. Reaction based attacks currently at-best require you to be attacked and most require you to be hit, so those are kind of a bad idea, too, unless you have built around it. Commander's Strike is an exception, if an allied battle master fighter goes before you in the first round of combat and you are not surprised and you are in position to make an attack (it doesn't have to be a melee attack so that last part isn't unreasonable) and the GM rules you can take reactions before your first turn in combat, but it is bad for a battlemaster to use, generally, because it takes both a bonus action and an attack and your reaction and that is a lot of stuff so it's 1) unlikely your allied battlemaster fighter has this maneuver and 2) unlikely it's better for them to use it even if they do have it than to do two additional attack-equivalent thingies and leave you with your reaction available.

Pretty much the only scenarios I can come up with where you'd want to do this are where you are involved in a decent-sized melee and there's an AOE trap you can trigger to hit you and the enemies but not your party and you want to benefit from your resistance to damage and where you have an allied battlemaster fighter as a result of having used a Deck of Many Things and he or she stands in the back with a longbow and uses Commander's Strike instead of attacking.

So, in essence, yes, your reading is correct, but technically no, and the answer might change as better ways to use your reaction to attack during your turn are published.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a really good example of how a rule technicality can be satisfied (dropping caltrops and stepping on them as free interaction & movement) but is arguably better if the DM just lets it be satisfied by fiat for efficiency/narrative sake. \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Jul 9 at 18:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rykara But they can't drop the caltrops themselves (their action was already spent wild shaping.) Someone else needs to do it. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 9 at 18:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point about having other potential methods to trigger damage and/or attacks. That certainly wasn't on the player's mind when they were explaining this strategy (and so for their specific goal it's a "no"), but RAW it gives some more feasibility to the option, especially if they're well-planned. \$\endgroup\$ – Mister B Jul 9 at 18:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I mean, I think Dark has it right: Just wait until the barbarian takes damage, which is probably already going to happen in order to ascertain that this is a tough fight, and then he can spend the next turn doing his power-up without losing the Rage, since he did in fact take damage since last turn. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jul 9 at 20:50
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @Naut I don't think that's a foregone conclusion. The whole bag of caltrops requires an action to use, but the rule on interacting with things states "fish[ing] a few coins from your belt pouch" is a free interaction (as is dropping an object) and caltrops/coins are effectively the same thing in this case. So if only a couple caltrops were pulled out and dropped, that's within the scope of free actions according to the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Jul 9 at 22:13
6
\$\begingroup\$

By RAW, yes the rage would end.

You have spelled out everything: Assuming the Barbarian had not taken damage very recently (it is only 6 seconds like you said so very unlikely) or attacked a hostile enemy (pretty much impossible since initiative wasn't going), the turn they activate rage still checks the "turn end" conditions, so they would leave rage.

\$\endgroup\$
2
\$\begingroup\$

Yes, but...

You have the rules here correct.

But the rule itself is bad. There is no real reason to limit rage by dealing or taking damage. There are any number of things that a barbarian could rage at that aren’t about damage, and in any event, situations like this one, or even the simple situation where an evasive enemy plays stays out of the barbarian’s reach, don’t justify the rage ending. If anything, the failure to attack in the latter example should be quite enraging in and of itself.

And there is simply no need for this rule. It doesn’t impose an important balance restriction, it doesn’t enhance gameplay or roleplay, it just... honestly, what it seems to be trying to do is establish that the rage doesn’t continue after a fight has finished, with neither attacking nor taking damage for a round standing in for the concept of one fight being over. Except, as established, it fails to capture that idea very well.

Worse, the rule also invites the barbarian to cheese their way around it, doing things to make sure they continue to take damage each round so they can maintain their rage. This is nonsense—not only does it add nothing to the game, it also encourages meta-gaming. There is no reason why a warrior should want to hurt themselves, but because of this rule, a barbarian’s player may well want to. It’s not impossible to justify a narrative reason for this, but it isn’t easy—and it isn’t going to work for a lot of characters. Which means that, for those characters, they either meta-game, acting out of character for a mechanical benefit, or they don’t and roleplay their characters properly—for which they get punished.

So the rule is bad for the game. It isn’t adding anything, it isn’t correctly enforcing even the ideas that seem to be behind it, it encourages meta-gaming, and it punishes those who don’t meta-game. Your game will be all-around superior for having ditched it.

This does leave a problem with Persistent Rage—a 15th-level class feature now doesn’t do much of anything. It was already a problem that a 15th-level class feature did so little—after all, two fights within one minute is fairly unlikely—but now it does literally nothing. One solution to this is to replace the “no attacks, no damage taken” rule with an ad hoc ruling from the DM that “the fight is over, your rage ends,” which no longer applies once you get Persistent Rage. That will also improve your game, but it does mean that the DM and the player have to be on the same page about what does and does not constitute the same fight, and disagreements can lead to arguments and bad feelings. OK in a game where everyone trusts one another and is on the same page; bad if not.

Otherwise, if you just let Rage always last the full minute—which frankly is what I recommend anyway, even if the DM and player have a great, trusting relationship—and let Persistent Rage be pointless. You would then most likely have to replace it with something—it was never very valuable, so it wouldn’t have to be much. I’m thinking that we can eliminate the sight and hearing requirements on Danger Sense. After all, hyper-vigilance seems rather appropriate to a barbarian, and allowing Danger Sense to be used while the barbarian is blind and/or deafened is fairly niche and low-power while also being extremely cool and impressive in the narrative—a perfect replacement for a low-power, high-level feature like Persistent Rage.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jul 9 at 19:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.