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5E Barbarian, Why Do You Rage?

Your barbarian sees his hated foe and rage fills him, fueling his upcoming attacks. What does that rage look like—out of control, cold, or emotionless? And why does he rage at all? Answer these questions to enhance roleplaying your angry character.


From D&D 3E forward, barbarians were rage filled fighting machines their time spent on wind swept savannas and misty jungles background only. If you decide to play a character driven by anger, you can further explore who that person is by deciding what the rage looks like when it bubbles up and why they are so murderously angry in the first place. Roleplaying a rage fueled character doesn’t just apply to barbarians. Any character could be driven by anger and so consumed by rage that it begins to define them.

If you want to start with how your character’s rage manifests here are five options. Rage may be expressed as: always angry, cold and emotionless, wild and out of control, focused and relentless, or just business.
  • You might always be angry. Your rage is simply an extension of anger always bubbling under the surface. You come across like a dangerous wild creature, not fit to be among men.
  • As the rage builds, your emotions cool until they disappear all together. When the rage infuses you, you fight without emotion or mercy grimly determined to end your opponent’s life.
  • You seem calm, even happy most of the time. But when something trips that rage switch you become wild and out of control. You lash out, you may scream, and your entire physical appearance becomes rage: blood rushing to the surface, pulsing veins, bulging eyes, yelling, and lots of violence.
  • When you see an enemy your demeanor changes to that of a stalking cat. Your world shrinks to just kill or be killed. You focus on foes and will not stop until they or you are dead.
  • To you, rage is just business. You could be eating and your party leader says that guy is a threat and you calmly stab him to death with your knife. Then you continue eating. Anger and killing is just another job, something that has to be done. You likely scare people who are around you for any length of time.
There are many reasons a character might be filled with rage. She might be a former slave, seeking vengeance, inherited it from family, learned it as a fighting style, been born angry, or wants to stop but can’t or won’t.
  • Someone who has endured slavery and escaped will harbor deep negative emotions and scars about the experience. You choose to focus on the rage you felt and use it to put enemies down. You are likely filled with the best battle rage when killing those who oppress others.
  • You loved someone and a bad person killed them. This made you angry. You may even have killed the bad person. But the rage remains and you decided to hone it into a weapon. Your rage is all you have left and you may consider it the only real part of you.
  • Your family raised you to grow up hard. They may or may not have been abusive, but they were physical and drove you to learn to protect yourself and lash out when someone tries to thwart your will or get in your way. You carry on the family tradition. Whether you are proud of this upbringing or ashamed or a bit of both may not be clear, even to you.
  • Rage may be a chosen fighting style, a way to put down enemies. You focus on your anger when fighting and use it to fuel your attacks.
  • You have always been angry. You solved problems with your teeth and fists as a child. Fighting is simply an extension of who you are and the greatest part of you is rage.
  • Your anger scares you. You use rage to kill people after all. But you can’t or won’t stop. You may have an excuse or you may simply accept it. You might even secretly like it. You live with the rage like you would with a dangerous pit bull. You try to keep it on a leash and never turn your back on it. If it gets loose, you direct it toward an enemy. But you worry that someday it will turn around and tear you apart instead.
Any person constantly tapping into anger and rage is going to see that emotion become a focus in their life. Whether you are playing a barbarian or simply a character driven by rage, deciding how the rage manifests and why can enhance your roleplaying of what the rage does to your barbarian and deepen your understanding of your character. If you let your DM know where your character’s rage comes from she may be able to tie aspects of your rage into future adventures.
 
Charles Dunwoody

Comments



Once I was in frenzy state, and I mean in rea life. It was like a reflex action (against a couple of boys who were bullying me). It was like fast camera with the closed eyes. I didn't notice the hit in my front with a bottle, and I have got still the scar. It is pure instict, and you don't know what has happened, like awakening up and you can't remember the dream very well.
 




For the pretty colors. The altered mental state. Stripping naked to roll around in the snow then jumping in a hot tub. Rinse and repeat all steps.

OH RAGE! Not rave...oh... 🙃

Well you see, for the pretty colors. The altered mental state. Stripping naked to fight in the snow then bathing in the hot blood of my enemies. Rinse and repeat all steps...

;)
 
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delphonso

Explorer
Once I was in frenzy state, and I mean in rea life. It was like a reflex action (against a couple of boys who were bullying me). It was like fast camera with the closed eyes. I didn't notice the hit in my front with a bottle, and I have got still the scar. It is pure instict, and you don't know what has happened, like awakening up and you can't remember the dream very well.
I've boxed for the last few years (recently stopped due to a broken rib), and there's a sort of mind-space like this I've thrown myself into a few times. It's like a trance. For me, it's been in a controlled athletic scenario - I'm sorry to hear yours was without that structure, but know it's not unusual at all.
 


Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
Once I was in frenzy state, and I mean in rea life. It was like a reflex action (against a couple of boys who were bullying me). It was like fast camera with the closed eyes. I didn't notice the hit in my front with a bottle, and I have got still the scar. It is pure instict, and you don't know what has happened, like awakening up and you can't remember the dream very well.
Yes, for better and worse, this what highly adrenalized states are like. Time seems to slow down and become disconnected (this happens because the sensory integration parts of the brain turn off), vision can become black and white, and so on. It also feels quite draining when it ends.
 

Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
Well in 5e 'why I rage' could be strongly influenced by which subclass I took.
And backstory.

For instance, I build an NPC in my Desert of Desolation campaign who was a Zealot Barbarian. The Desert of Desolation is set in Raurin, which is a largely abandoned and ruined area of Mulhorand. She had been a younger daughter of a noble by a concubine and was destined to be some lesser wife of some lesser noble. She'd been taught the rudiments of blade by an indulgent older brother and she was taught acrobatics and movement by the dancing master, but she was always willful and rebellious of her fate as a bride. When it was evident she was to be married off, she ran out into the desert to die but followed the light of the moon to a ruined shrine to Nephythys. This put her on the path of the Zealot.

The PCs met her in a battle with some slavers when she was trying to rescue some captives who were about to be sold to githyanki. In my version of FR, the Gods of the Nile are all older incarnations of existing FR gods, so this is now Selune, but the Desert of Desolation has been cursed by the gods and largely abandoned by them. Campaign events eventually had her join the Ten Thousand Gods Dervishes, who the PCs had ultimately developed a ultimately solid alliance with.
 


Iry

Adventurer
I rage against the machine.

Any kind of technological progress in the setting? Break it. Gadgets, gizmos, and tinker gnomes? I would see them driven before me. Even sewers, crop rotation, and pretty cathedrals get the side eye. Barbarians like me are responsible for maintaining the technological status quo for thousands of years.
 

lyle.spade

Explorer
I think this is a really good question, and one that tugs at the balance of game vs. story in DnD. When I first read it, I thought about how there are so many class abilities that, without a reason within the story, are just mechanical means to flex muscle, sometimes figuratively, sometimes more literally.

Then I thought about it this way: if Rage is a manifestation of some past trauma, a very harsh upbringing, conditioning to evoke and channel extreme aggression...could it be medicated away? Is there any arcane or divine Xanax to calm the beast? Of course, this would be used against a Barbarian by an opponent, but I think it's worth considering.
 

Iry

Adventurer
Is there any arcane or divine Xanax to calm the beast? Of course, this would be used against a Barbarian by an opponent, but I think it's worth considering.
"This bottle contains a 90 day supply of Calm Emotions."
"Don't worry, it's Fantasy Dungeon Association approved!"
 


Tonguez

Hero
In 3e I tried to pitch a Barbarian Monk concept with a former GM which had ‘lawful rage’ as a kind of battle trance whereby the ‘Monk’ became supremely focussed, outwardly calm but with intense rage within ready to release. It wasnt allowed because according to GM lawful rage doesnt make sense, its a frenzy not a trance

With 5e and Wild Soul Barbarians it might now be a thing, but I havent played a 5e Barbarian yet
 



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