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Following the question Do Rage and Uncanny Dodge stack?, what are some of the balance issues that can arise from this combination? And if you do not houserule it away, how -- and should you -- adjust around this, if you know your player is going to take both of them?

Concerns:

  • It could trivialize boss encounters, or put them in a place where they're safe in boss fights
  • Compared to the rest of the party, this character would have the best defense, even naked
  • You can get more defense by taking Bear Totem Barbarian (resistance to all but psychic), and Evasion (at most half damage to all saving throw damage spells), which makes the difference in "naked" defense capability worse

Is this something to be concerned about, or should the game not be worked around around this combination at all?

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I don't see it as a concern. It requires Rogue 5/Barbarian 1, so is unlikely to be used except as a splash for a Rogue. The Rogue gets nothing else from that level (Rage damage is only to Str attacks, unarmored defense won't help unless they have a very high Con), and is required to have a Strength of 13 (which is of no use to a Rogue).

Ways to deal with this, if you find it a problem:

1) Make sure you're having multiple battles a day. If there is only one fight, then using Rage (a consumable ability) is automatic. If there are 8 fights (as suggested) then you have to use it sparingly.

2) Target them with something that's not just hitting them: magic, venom, etc.

3) Knock them unconscious

4) Remove their reaction or get them to spend it on an Opportunity Attack (no Uncanny Dodge)

5) Attack them more than once a round

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In highlighting the multiclass focus, consider referencing the requirements to dip into either class from the other. Specifically towards the stats. \$\endgroup\$ – Drunk Cynic May 9 '16 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DrunkCynic Sure, I added something in. I didn't add anything for the Barbarian, because a 5-level dip into Rogue seems especially bad... \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle W May 9 '16 at 20:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KyleW What if your "dip" is your first level? Barbarian 1/Rogue 5+ would only need high Dex to multiclass into Rogue, unless I'm mistaken? \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus May 10 '16 at 0:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Adeptus multiclassing requires you to have the minimum scores in both classes' abilities. A Barbarian/Rogue needs 13+ STR and 13+ DEX, regardless of the order the classes were taken. \$\endgroup\$ – Greenstone Walker Aug 18 '16 at 7:35
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Hit 'em Where it Hurts

When raging, they have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. Uncanny dodge is a reaction. With those two things in mind:

  • Use elemental damage attacks. If they're hit with fire bolt rage won't protect them
  • Gang-up! Since uncanny dodge is a reaction, you can only use it once per combat round. Multiple attackers means they have to choose which to dodge.
  • Use hidden enemies. Uncanny dodge only works against attacks you can see. Hidden attackers are not seen, and can't be dodged.
  • Tempt them with opportunity attacks. Both OAs and uncanny dodge are reactions, so tempt them to use their reaction on an OA to get in their sneak attack damage a second time that round (you can sneak attack once per turn)
  • Multiple combats. Rogues are Dex-based, and thus get very little out of multiple levels of barbarian. Therefore, their number of rages are going to be limited. More combats means they have to choose when to rage and when not.

But Not All the Time

While the above points can counter the barbarian/rogue's abilities, don't do it all the time. They took those abilities because they want to be that awesome. Be a fan of the player and let them be awesome. For every few combats where you shut down their abilities, give them one where they shine!

If the player is constantly unable to use their class features, it starts to seem like a waste, "why did I get uncanny dodge if I can't dodge anything?"

As the DM, it is your job to make an exciting and fun story for the players—including yourself. Don't shut down one player all the time, or it'll be less fun for them.

I Don't See a Balance Concern

While it seems like an overpowered combo, it's not. Rogues are Dex-based, and most of the barbarian features focus on Str-based attacks and thus the two classes don't play well together for more than just a small dip (a level or two).

While it's an interesting trick, it's nothing game-breaking.

Your Specific Concerns

It could trivialize boss encounters, or put them in a place where they're safe in boss fights

If you only have boss encounters, this is an issue. But as long as you sprinkle in non-boss encounters it should be good.

Compared to the rest of the party, this character would have the best defense, even naked

Not quite. One half-damage reaction per round and resistance to weapon attacks may make your HP go a bit farther, but a rogue/monk will have a higher AC when naked than a rogue/barbarian. As above, hit 'em where it hurts to get around the halving of damage.

You can get more defense by taking Bear Totem Barbarian (resistance to all but psychic), and Evasion (at most half damage to all saving throw damage spells), which makes the difference in "naked" defense capability worse

As I mentioned above, going deep multiclass rogue/barbarian is going to have a lot of "dead" levels since rogue is Dex-based and barbarian is Str-based. Many barbarian features require Str checks/attacks and rogue features proc off of Dex checks/attacks. This makes the non-defense features mutually exclusive.

Barbarian Features

Assuming a rogue 5/barbarian 5, here's what you get as a barbarian that is of little use:

  • Rage bonus damage (only applies to Str-based attacks)
  • Unarmored defense (Con will need to be 14+ to be better than armour, and won't likely be that high due to 13 Str requirement for multiclass barbarian)
  • Reckless attack (requires Str attacks)

The following features will be useful:

  • Rage resistance
  • Danger sense, ironically, is surprisingly useful even for a rogue with high Dex and proficiency in Dex saves
  • ASI
  • Bear totem resistance

Extra attacks is of dubious use, considering that you can only add sneak attack damage once on your turn, and most of your attacks will be with advantage, and thus are super-accurate to begin with.

For all those things, you're giving up 5 entire levels of rogue, which include evasion (better than danger sense), two ASIs, an archetype feature, and 2d6 of sneak attack damage.

Conclusion

Multiclassing barbarian is a decent way to improve your defenses, but you sacrifice some potent rogue features to do so.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the detailed reply! I left out that this is a Str-based character since it didn't seem in scope of the question. But, even with the investment in Rogue levels, their AC is probably comparable to a Monk/Rogue, and they would be able to benefit from their Barbarian levels. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 May 10 '16 at 2:34
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A rogue/monk isn't going to be tougher than a rogue/barbarian.

Anyway, it's a strong combo, and you can build around it even further to create the almost perfect tank. But it's not game-breaking and can be countered by any number of things. Remorhazes come to mind. I play a Barbarogue and one of the things I hated fighting the most until I found a way to get Fire Resistance is the Remorhaz.

Barabrogues also tend to dump either Wisdom or Intelligence (or both) making them susceptible to mind effects. Load up on hypnotic pattern or even just hold person for your monsters and watch 'em squirm.

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