I'm starting a campaign at level 8 soon, and I'm curious if this Fighter 5/Barbarian 3 build is possible, although the DM may reject it working this way:

If I choose Bear for my 3rd level totem spirit, I gain the following feature: [PHB 50]

Bear. While raging, you have resistance to all damage except psychic damage. The spirit of the bear makes you tough enough to stand up to any punishment.

Now, on the general rules for barbarian rage, it says: [PHB 48]

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

Followed by the benefits of damage resistance, rage damage, etc. However, the specific rule for the 3rd level Bear totem omits the "if you aren't wearing heavy armor" passage. Note that just below the Bear option for 3rd level, the Eagle option does specify that you mustn't be wearing heavy armor.

Since specific overrides general, can I wear heavy armor from my Fighter class and still get Bear damage resistance?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I would ask whether this is overpowered as a seperate question. \$\endgroup\$ – gburton Nov 21 '16 at 16:36


A Barbarian does not benefit from the special damage resistance from the bear totem while in heavy armor.

...but the 6th-level totem choices can benefit a Barbarian wearing Heavy Armor if it doesn't mention that they can't be wearing such armor to gain the benefit.

According to Jeremy Crawford: The intent is that anything that relies on Rage does not benefit a Barbarian wearing Heavy Armor.

Why? I take this ruling to mean a Barbarian is incapable of gaining any and all benefits of Rage while wearing heavy armor, totems included.

To me, this means you simply can't Rage while wearing heavy armor, because there would never be any usefulness or benefit to entering a Heavy Armor Rage; however, Crawford has added more context to his ruling that states that Heavy Armor does not prevent you from entering a rage, only benefiting from it.

As you quoted, it says you gain the benefits of Rage only if not wearing heavy armor... so if you are wearing heavy armor but can not benefit from Rage, you also do not benefit from any features that depend on Rage, such as the 3rd level totem features.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Nov 22 '16 at 21:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey, I unselected this as the answer, but I wanted to let you know that's because the crux of it relies on your reading and doesn't include Crawford's RAI statement in the chat mxyzplk created. I think that might be part of the reason it has a few downvotes as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Eidolon108 Nov 23 '16 at 4:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eidolon108 then you missed the part where I edited in: "...however Crawford has added more context to his ruling that states Heavy Armor does not prevent you from entering a rage, only benifitting from it..." I have been unable to change the hyper link due to being on my cell phone. Though I believe someone edited that for me recently \$\endgroup\$ – Airatome Nov 23 '16 at 14:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer should probably note the distinct between what Crawford states is RAW (you can Rage in heavy armor and still get the benefits from totems that don't state "no heavy armor" as a requirement), and what he notes is RAI (Rage doesn't work in heavy armor). As a sidenote, it seems strange to specify "no heavy armor" as a requirement for some totems but not others if it was, in fact, intended that Rage shouldn't work at all in heavy armor... \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 12 '18 at 17:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Jeremy's tweets are no longer official rulings, per the latest Sage Advice Compendium. \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin Hubbard Mar 19 '19 at 19:32


Counter to Airatome's point (which relies on a designer's input without errata), the rules as written are quite clear.

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

You can rage regardless of your armor. The second sentence, which provides the listed benefits, is not part of entering a rage. It relies on you already being in a rage. The act of entering a rage does not care about the armor you have.

The feature is similarly clear. "While raging..." It makes no caveat about the armor you have. From the class' rage feature, we can see the terminology the game uses to disable a feature while wearing heavy armor.

There's no reason to assume that not being able to gain benefits forbids you from a course of action.

As an additional point (that you noted), the Eagle and Elk totems give clear examples of how they word these abilities to explicitly forbid heavy armor, in contrast to the others:

  • Bear. While raging...
  • Eagle. While you're raging and aren't wearing heavy armor...
  • Wolf. While you're raging...
  • Elk. While you're raging and aren't wearing heavy armor...
  • Tiger. While raging...

In summary, wearing heavy armor doesn't prevent you from entering a rage, and the Bear feature only cares about whether you're raging.

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