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Many theorycrafting posts & topics exist about how you could incorporate barbarian rage when planning a character, but I have not seen one that really explores the limits of what options a character loses when raging.

Here's the full quote from d20srd.org that explains what a character can't do while raging:

While raging, a barbarian cannot use any Charisma-, Dexterity-, or Intelligence-based skills (except for Balance, Escape Artist, Intimidate, and Ride), the Concentration skill, or any abilities that require patience or concentration, nor can he cast spells or activate magic items that require a command word, a spell trigger (such as a wand), or spell completion (such as a scroll) to function. He can use any feat he has except Combat Expertise, item creation feats, and metamagic feats.

The part about skills is clearly only limited to actual 'capital S' skills. Casting spells and activating magic items are clearly defined actions in the rules. The list of feats you can't use is clearly defined.

How can we determine what is included in the "any abilities that require patience or concentration" piece of the description? Even if we assume "concentration" in that quote refers only to the Concentration skill, it's unclear what skills in the game require patience.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For some additional context, I was thinking about multiclassing options for a melee-focused factotum I'm currently playing in a campaign, and I don't know how to tell whether any of the Cunning abilities would be unavailable during rage. Sure, I could just make my DM figure it out, but I'm curious how to evaluate this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kinda
    Mar 21 at 0:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ The question about Divine Smite that you link is about the 5th edition of the game; 3.5e paladins have “smite evil” rather than “Divine Smite,” and both smite and rage work somewhat differently between the editions. You can’t expect an answer about specific mechanical interactions to be consistent from one to the other. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 21 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ good catch, I just struck that from the question \$\endgroup\$
    – Kinda
    Mar 21 at 0:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's really hard for me to imagine the motivations of a player who would roll up a barbarian character and then want to rules-lawyer and negotiate about what mundane actions are possible during rage. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 21 at 3:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KarlKnechtel There are a lot of people out there with very wrong ideas about what rage does. I’ve heard people describe campaigns where a raging barbarian was treated as all but an NPC, with the DM using rage as an excuse to railroad their behavior. Some such DMs act that way not out of malice, but because their DMs acted that way. So knowing what the rules actually say can be relevant. Moreover, plenty of people like roleplaying characters very different from themselves—some would argue that’s the point, even—so a more analytical player choosing a more reckless class is not that odd. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 21 at 3:36

2 Answers 2

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Ultimately, the restrictions on activities during rage are open-ended: patience is not a defined thing under the rules. That part of the rage rules is left there for a DM to rule as they see fit, as an ad hoc, “I know it when I see it,” kind of thing. This is a reflection of the fact that characters can get up to any conceivable activity, and the rules cannot possibly cover them all: they’re literally infinite.

That said, the things that the rules do cover are fairly clear, and also meant to be illustrative, I think, for DMs needing to adjudicate uncovered situations. That is, I think it is implausible to suggest any intent or expectation on the authors’ part that DMs would substantially expand the kind of thing blocked by rage, rather than simply extrapolate from what we have to handle situations that the rules don’t cover.

To wit: if we have rules for an activity, then we should also have clear rules for whether or not rage blocks it, mostly whether or not that thing requires concentration, which is a defined term in the game. That is, the rules clearly indicate when things require concentration, because such things interact with the Concentration skill (and also with other mechanics, such as rage itself). If you have defined rules for things and those don’t note that the thing requires concentration, then you can do that thing during rage. This covers supernatural abilities like a paladin’s smite evil, for example—those definitely do not require concentration, and so definitely can be used with rage.

Well, I say “definitely,” but as I said originally, the rules really are open-ended: “patience” is pretty much up to the DM. Anything could be said to require some patience. But at that point, you could even include clearly-meant-for-raging-barbarians activities like attacking, which requires an element of timing. Rage doesn’t even prevent the use of Weapon Finesse or sneak attack. Supernatural abilities are magical in some fashion, but they are “natural” to those who have them, possibly even more so than making a trained weapon attack. So while the rule is open-ended, I feel pretty confident that I can say that smite evil is “definitely” allowed. Ruling that it is blocked would be inconsistent with the precedent that we have.

So that covers everything that has rules: if it says it uses concentration, you can’t do it during a rage. If it doesn’t say that, you’re fine. There may be some corner cases for long-term, “downtime” activities where the failure to mention concentration may arguably be an accidental omission on the authors’ parts, since they likely never imagined that such activities would ever need to interact with stressful situations such as those covered by the Concentration skill. For example, item-creation never says it requires “concentration” per se, but it definitely requires focus and a lot of time, and rage definitely blocks that. Extending that precedent for such cases would be reasonable. You’re also fairly unlikely to want to use rage during such times anyway.

For times when you might actually want to use rage—combat, mostly—you’re not talking about any long-term downtime activities by definition. And for those things which have rules, we can expect those rules to specify if concentration is a factor—and we can expect that, if they don’t mention concentration (and aren’t Charisma-, Dexterity-, or Intelligence-based skills that aren’t Balance, Escape Artist, Intimidate, or Ride), they can work with rage. For factotum, that means everything except ardent dilettante—which is spell-like and therefore explicitly requires concentration—can be used in a rage.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I must say that imagining a hiding/sneaking barbarian while he is in RAGE seems quite hard. I would probably not allow a raging barbarian to silently approach a target and perfom a sneak attack. \$\endgroup\$
    – Falco
    Mar 22 at 9:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Falco The Hide skill is not allowed to a raging barbarian, that’s true. Sneak attack doesn’t require either hiding or sneaking, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 22 at 13:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ This does answer my question, though I was hoping the answer wasn't going to be that it's the DM's decision. Also, your idea of it being "implausible to suggest any intent or expectation on the authors’ part that DMs would substantially expand the kind of thing blocked by rage" is interesting, because it implies a layer of design which includes the designers' expectations of the extent to which dungeon masters ignore the design of the game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kinda
    Mar 23 at 2:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kinda By that—and I really need to edit that sentence, so convoluted—I basically mean that while it is up to the DM, the expectation seems to be that it’s up to the DM to decide things the rules haven’t covered, not to expand the limitations to cover things the rules do cover but don’t block during a rage. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 23 at 2:50
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any abilities that require patience

As has been mentioned, "patience" is not part of the rules. So it's clearly the catch-all for those activities that players can initiate more descriptively, or in other words, it's something for the DM to decide. In real life, the concept of "patience" would probably be related to something that requires a steady hand, calm breathing, a calm mind and so on and forth; this interpretation matches with the part of the rule where Dex or Int-based capital-S-Skills or Concentration are disallowed.

Example: The raging barbarian clearly sees plenty of enemies that he can easily attack. The player decides to instead let his raging char run to the side, hunker behind some wall, and calmly prepare an action based on a trigger that seems quite patience-requiring (e.g., "when I hear the nearby church bell chime"), and then patiently watches the battle unfold over the next rounds. This clearly does not conflict with any rules (it only uses the "prepare" mechanic), but also goes against the spirit of what rage means to me, and probably for others.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the meaning of the word "patience" in the rule book then, @KRyan? Obviously there is a spectrum of interpretation here (or the question would not have come up), and my answer gives one example which I have constructed to fall into the spirit of the rule in my opinion. My point was exactly to avoid weird cases in the middle (where one could discuss this ad nauseam), but a clear-cut case which would illustrate (in my mind) what the authors of the book could have meant with that verbiage. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnoE
    Mar 22 at 8:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you have a suggestion how to improve it, @KRyan, or would you say this answer is not salvageable? \$\endgroup\$
    – AnoE
    Mar 22 at 15:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's how it shall be, @kryan, thanks for the input! :) \$\endgroup\$
    – AnoE
    Mar 24 at 9:02

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