The Barbarian screamed in fury as his enemies stabbed at him. He continued to swing his sword, hacking, punching and biting. His Rage was something beyond human. It was fury and power incarnate.
When the dust settled, the Barbarian was covered in grievous wounds, but he never stopped moving or swinging until there was nothing left to fight.
Table of Contents
What is Barbarian Rage 5e?
Rage is the Barbarian’s defining class feature. They are able to channel their inner rage and manifest it in a variety of ways empowering their physical attributes.
Sometimes this Rage comes from pure anger, spirits, magic, or even gods. Whatever powers their Rage is channeled into various effects that make them hardened fighters on the battlefield.
How Does Barbarian Rage Work?
According to the ability text from the
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.
- If you are able to cast spells, you can’t cast them or concentrate on them while raging.
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. You can also end your rage on your turn as a bonus action.
Once you have raged the number of times shown for your Barbarian level in the Rages column of the Barbarian table, you must finish a long rest before you can rage again.
The Barbarian Rage ability in essence does several things.
- Temporary HP.
- Advantage on Strength Checks & Saves.
- Bonus Melee Damage.
- Damage Resistances.
- The user cannot cast spells.
- Need to attack or take damage to sustain Rage.
As the Barbarian levels up their Rage grants stronger bonuses and the number of times they can use their Rage ability increases. In addition, at level 3 the Barbarian can choose their subclass and each subclass adds new Rage bonuses and abilities depending upon which subclass is chosen.
Today we’re taking an in-depth look at the Barbarian’s various Rage abilities.
Barbarian Rage 5e Improvements
As players level up, they’ll receive 2 different upgrades to their rage abilities. These are universal for all Barbarians.
Some Subclasses may offer additional bonuses and improvements to their Rage abilities, but we’ll talk about those individually in a moment. All Barbarians are eligible for Relentless Rage and Persistent Rage when they reach levels 11 & 15 respectively.
“Starting at 11th level, your rage can keep you fighting despite grievous wounds. If you drop to 0 hit points while you’re raging and don’t die outright, you can make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. If you succeed, you drop to 1 hit point instead.
Each time you use this feature after the first, the DC increases by 5. When you finish a short or long rest, the DC resets to 10.”
Relentless Rage basically gives you a buffer from getting knocked unconscious. A DC 10 is pretty easy to make especially with a Constitution save with a Barbarian. You can probably get 1-2 saves before the difficulty gets too high.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t protect you from instant death. If you lose enough hit points that would take you into the negative equal to your max hit points, Relentless Rage will do nothing.
Hopefully, this doesn’t happen at level 11, but you never know.
“Beginning at 15th level, your rage is so fierce that it ends early only if you fall unconscious or if you choose to end it.”
Rage has a weird quirk that most people don’t pay attention to. It ends if you don’t attack or take damage during your turn. At level 15 you can simply ignore this requirement.
Barbarian Rage Subclass Improvements
Each of the Barbarian Subclasses (Paths) give different bonuses and buffs to the Rage ability.
Ancestral Guardian Rage Abilities
The Ancestral Guardian subclass has 2 different Rage-specific upgrades.
- Ancestral Protectors (level 3)
- Spirit Shield (level 6)
Ancestral Protectors summons spirits of the ancestors to aid you when you are raging. The first enemy you hit on your turn becomes the target of these annoying spirits. The effect lasts until the start of your next turn when you can then target somebody else with the ability.
I call them annoying because they don’t actually do any damage to the target, but they do annoy them in the form of debuffs. The spirits mess with the target and they have Disadvantage on targets other than the Barbarian, and if they do attack someone else, the spirits give damage resistance to the target.
It’s a weird attack, but it’s great for tanking and forcing targets to keep away from your weaker enemies.
Spirit Shield is the next upgrade Ancestral Guardian Barbarians get. It’s great for tanking and protecting other teammates.
Spirit Shield basically allows you to reduce damage to anyone you can see within 30ft while raging. As a reaction, you can send your spirits to block the blow, by reducing damage by 2d6. This damage reduction increases in levels as well.
The Ancestral Guardian rage abilities don’t grant any additional damage, but they’re fantastic for tanking and shielding allies.
Battlerager Rage Abilities
The Battlerager subclass can be found in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.
Battlerager is an odd subclass since it’s specifically designed for Dwarves, but the defining feature is their ability to deal damage with their armor and it’s inherently tied to their Rage ability.
All of the Battlerager’s abilities require the Barbarian to be using their Rage. There are 4 different effects that they receive.
- Battlerager Armor (Level 3)
- Reckless Abandon (Level 6)
- Battlerager Charge (Level 10)
- Spiked Retribution (Level 14)
Battlerager Armor allows players to use their armor like a weapon. This lets them use their bonus action as an armor melee attack (1d4 Damage). It’s not the most efficient damage, but it’s an extra attack, and it also deals additional damage while grappling.
Reckless Abandon is a nice little boost that simply grants temporary hit points while raging.
Battlerager Charge is good for getting into the fight quickly. It allows the Barbarian to use the Dash action as a bonus action.
This is probably the best of the Battlerager’s abilities. In essence, it is a thorns ability that damages enemies as they attack you.
All of the Battlerager’s abilities require the Barbarian to be raging which thematically is cool, but you’ll need to constantly balance resting to regain Rage uses otherwise your subclass abilities don’t really do anything.
Beast Rage Abilities
The Beast Subclass can be found in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
The Beast Subclass turns the Barbarian into a BEAST while raging. Sometimes quite literally. Their abilities let them take on bestial qualities while in their rage form and make them even deadlier.
The Beast Barbarians have four different Rage abilities.
- Form of the Beast (Level 3)
- Bestial Soul (Level 6)
- Infectious Fury (Level 10)
- Call the Hunt (Level 14)
Form of the Beast
When Raging, you’ll gain the ability to grow/transform a natural beast weapon. Beast Barbarians can choose from several different natural weapons to manifest while raging that deal slashing, piercing, or special combat abilities. They can include claws, razor-sharp teeth for a bite attack, or a tail for a bludgeoning/sweeping attack.
At level 6, your Beast Weapons become magical for damage purposes which can allow them to tear through magical resistances while raging.
At level 10, the Beast Barbarian’s Rage weapons get enhanced with psychic damage. The ferocity of their attacks can cause psychic damage or turn their targets feral, making them attack one of their allies.
Finally, at the 14th level, the Beast Barbarian’s Rage can infect other characters. They’ll also gain temporary hit points and bonus damage on attacks.
The Beast Barbarian’s Rage abilities thematically are fantastic. It’s very much a feral werewolf vibe, and they offer a lot of versatility on the battlefield.
Berserker Rage Abilities
The Berserker Subclass can be found in the Player’s Handbook.
The Berserker Barbarian is one of the standard subclasses that can be found in the Player’s handbook. While Raging, their abilities allow the Berserker to make more attacks and they can negate or cause charm & fear effects.
- Frenzy (Level 3)
- Mindless Rage (Level 6)
- Retaliation (Level 14)
The Berserker, although thematically one of the quintessential Barbarian subclasses, is not a great class. Their best ability lets them use a reaction to attack someone every time they’re hit, but the charm and frighten effects aren’t nearly as useful as you might think.
Overall, their Rage abilities sound cooler for RP than for actual combat and statistics. Berserkers are not optimized fighters, but they’re cool thematically.
Storm Herald Rage Abilities
The Storm Herald Subclass can be found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
The Storm Herald Barbarian creates a literal storm around them while using their Rage ability. When they fly into a rage, they create an elemental storm around themselves.
These Barbarians can channel their rage into a specific elemental type that grants various elemental effects like damage and resistance. Storm Heralds can choose from Desert, Sea, or Tundra to enhance their elemental rages.
At higher levels, the Storm Herald gains the ability to spread their aura to allies, and deal additional damage to enemies within their aura. The Storm Herald Rage abilities are some of the best in the game, and they make excellent damage dealers and tanks.
Totem Warrior Rage Abilities
The Totem Warrior can be found in the Player’s Handbook.
The Totem Warrior’s Rage abilities allow the Barbarian to choose an animal totem that channels their rage into the powers of their beast totems.
Totem Warriors choose a beast totem like the bear, eagle, elk, wolf, or tiger and while using their Rage, they gain abilities similar to that of their beast totem.
Each beast totem adds different attack bonuses, abilities, and resistance, depending upon the animal. Most of these abilities are only available while raging. Totem Warriors can only pick one particular totem for each ability but can choose a different totem at the various levels where abilities are upgraded.
For example, at level 3 they can choose a bear totem for the Totem Spirit ability, and at level 6 they can choose a different animal or the same for the Aspect of the Beast ability.
Their rage bonuses are all dependent upon the chosen totems and since there are so many, it does offer a lot of variety for the Barbarian’s Rage ability.
Wild Magic Rage Abilities
The Wild Magic subclass can be found in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Similar to the other Wild Magic subclasses, the Barbarian can randomly be forced to roll on a Wild Magic table when they use their Rage ability. Effects are usually good but extremely unpredictable.
The Wild Magic adds a lot of cool bonuses to the Barbarian’s Rage ability, but you’ll have zero control over exactly what happens with your Rage. On the plus side, if you roll well, it can be an effect that is much stronger than you intended.
Zealot Rage Abilities
The Zealot subclass can be found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
Zealot Barbarians fuel their Rage with their intense loyalty to a divine creature. That divine creature helps and empowers their rage with magical abilities.
Zealot Barbarians empower their Rage with Divine Fury, which in essence, simply adds extra damage to their attack rolls while raging.
In later levels, they can reroll saves, but the most interesting ability is their level 14 ability, Rage Beyond Death. With this ability, the Barbarian can actually get knocked down to 0 hit points and not die.
They can keep fighting until their rage ends. If they aren’t healed by the time the Rage ends then they can still die. It’s a cool ability that really emphasizes the power of the Rage.
Zealot Rage abilities are straightforward, hit your enemies and never stop, but it works well both thematically and with their stats and abilities.
Barbarian Rage 5e FAQs
What does rage do for barbarians?
Rage grants several different universal bonuses and each subclass adds unique abilities. Universal effects while raging include:
Advantage on Strength Checks & Saves.
Bonus Melee Damage.
They cannot cast spells.
Need to attack or take damage to sustain Rage.
What is barbarian rage 5e?
Rage is the Barbarian’s defining class ability. While using Rage it grants several bonuses to the user, like temporary hit points, damage resistances, and subclass-specific bonuses.
Can barbarians rage while raging?
Yes. As odd as it sounds you can use Rage while already Raging. You would do this to extend your rage duration or renew some of the “once per rage” abilities.
You cannot stack Rage abilities, but they can be renewed with a new rage if applicable and the duration can be extended by using another Rage. You do not need to come out of a rage to enter a new rage.
Can a barbarian rage in heavy armor 5e?
Yes. The Rage ability can be used regardless of what armor your character is wearing.
The only restriction is if a specific Rage ability states it cannot be used while wearing heavy armor. This would not stop the Barbarian from using their Rage, but they would not be able to use the specific ability.
Before starting GameCows with his wife Kendra, he used to teach English Language Arts in the US. He combined his love of gaming with education to create fun game-based learning lessons until he eventually decided to run GameCows with Kendra full-time. He’s known for pouring over rulebooks in his spare time, being the rule master during game night, and as the perma DM in his DnD group. Bryan loves board games, writing, traveling, and above all his wife and partner in crime, Kendra.