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At 7th level, a Barbarian gains Feral Instinct:

Feral Instinct

... If you are surprised at the beginning of combat and aren't incapacitated, you can act normally on your first turn, but only if you enter your rage before doing anything else on that turn.

At first glance, it would seem that he cannot be surprised as long as he enters a rage but if you contrast this to the Alert Feat:

Alert

... You can't be surprised while you are conscious.

Feral Instincts merely says "you can act normally" and not that you can't be surprised as contrasted by the Alert feat.

If a creature with Surprise Attack (such as a Bugbear) hits an enraged surprised Barbarian, does it count as a Surprise Attack?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Would it change the answers if I used the Rogue Assassin archetype's Sneak Attack instead of a creature's Surprise Attack? \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Aug 27 '15 at 5:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, having read "Surprise Attack" I think the answer is slightly different for Surprise Attack versus the Rogue Assassin's surprise-based crits. Because SA says "hits ... during the first round of combat" whereas the Rogue Assassinate ability says "a creature that is surprised" and my understanding is that the creature stops being surprised at the end of its turn, so it would matter if the Assassin were before or after the surprised barbarian in initiative order. \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Aug 27 '15 at 5:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleVermont It doesn't make any difference to this question though. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Aug 27 '15 at 8:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman true, I was answering daze413's in-comments question about whether it would change the answer if he asked about the Assassinate ability instead. \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Aug 27 '15 at 15:19
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Yes, the Barbarian is still surprised for any and all effects (including Surprise Attack) that rely on a creature being surprised.

Surprise is a whole section, but the key part which really defines it is:

Any character or monster that doesn’t notice a threat is surprised at the start of the encounter. If you’re surprised, you can’t move or take an action on your first turn of the combat, and you can’t take a reaction until that turn ends.

So if the Barbarian doesn't notice a threat at the start of the encounter, he's surprised, just like anyone else. What makes him different is that he gets to move despite being surprised. Notice that Feral Instinct only allows him to act normally on his first turn, so prior to his first turn he will still be unable to take reactions.

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