D&D 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.

barbarianrage.jpg

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

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.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Charles Dunwoody

Charles Dunwoody


log in or register to remove this ad

Kingreaper

Adventurer
My barbarian took the 4e explanation fully to heart: Rage was unleashing the chained primal spirits within his soul.

This became more extreme once he multiclassed Runepriest, learning divine magic to reinforce the chains so that they would only slip when he chose to let them.
 

Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
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.

Good point. It's a potential problem when abilities that are deeply connected with flavor text become important.

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.
Well in a way yes there is, and indeed there are many possible ways to end a Rage, built right there into the text:

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.

So many spells that deny an attack are likely to do the trick. As an example, Banish works great, or Hold Person, as examples. The Berzerker gains some ability to sustain a Rage through debuffs at level 6, but other barbarians don't.
 




On barbarian I played walked the line between his civilized human heritage and his primal orcish blood. In the heat of battle, the orcish blood rises, sometimes filling my brain with hate. When that happens, I sometimes forget friend from foe, and turn my rage against everything (it was a 3E prestige class where I couldn't end my rage early). In theory, my friends were supposed to help figure out a way to help calm my mind... instead they kept finding ways to get away from me during combat!
 

Because it's easier to rage than focus on my depression and alienation from the means of production caused by the economic class disparity inherent in the class struggle that placed my tribe into a state of impoverishment by the bourgeoisie.
Thats especially funny because thwre is a 99% chance that you are indeed yourself the bourgeoisie if you are posting on this wehsite with your pc or a public pc in your neighborhood or a family member or friends pc. Bahahahaha! I assume you said this in jest. I got a good laugh out of it.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
I rage because howling at the full moon in all good fun ... only stirs up something deeper, within me. (4e Shifter druid/barbarian)

4e Primal Power discussed this question also. I recommend it as a source of inspiration, not as if it was The Final Answer.
 


TiwazTyrsfist

Adventurer
Preface: I make my Adventurer League characters by rolling class, race, and background randomly, then coming up with a backstory.

So my latest character is Wickleford (formerly of the University of Neverwinter) a Rock Gnome Barbarian with the Sage background.

Wickleford (Int 10) was a (barely) adequate academic. However he eventually passed his level of competence. Working on his dissertation, past his depth, stress growing constantly, eventually he broke.

Wickleford rages because Research Funding is handed out Unfairly, and in a Preferential buddy network manner. Because Academia is a Rats Nest of In-Group Wankery and Petty Bickering. Because Success has nothing to do with Hard Work, or Skill, but is all Back-Room Politics. And mostly, Because nobody could understand the Brilliance of his Work, they rejected his Thesis, Proof at last, that Ogres are Actually a Form of Rutabega!

[Wickleford is BF Crazy]
 


Wiseblood

Adventurer
I am a lizard-man. I hatched in the swamps. I hunted for food when I was a few hours old. I am always hungry. I know you call my mindless aggression rage. A small part of me is still calculating when I am like this but it is mostly quiet...waiting to be fed. It makes me tired. It is not anger that drives me or pride. I am driven by hunger. If I do not eat I will be eaten.
 

Preface: I make my Adventurer League characters by rolling class, race, and background randomly, then coming up with a backstory.

So my latest character is Wickleford (formerly of the University of Neverwinter) a Rock Gnome Barbarian with the Sage background.

Wickleford (Int 10) was a (barely) adequate academic. However he eventually passed his level of competence. Working on his dissertation, past his depth, stress growing constantly, eventually he broke.

Wickleford rages because Research Funding is handed out Unfairly, and in a Preferential buddy network manner. Because Academia is a Rats Nest of In-Group Wankery and Petty Bickering. Because Success has nothing to do with Hard Work, or Skill, but is all Back-Room Politics. And mostly, Because nobody could understand the Brilliance of his Work, they rejected his Thesis, Proof at last, that Ogres are Actually a Form of Rutabega!

[Wickleford is BF Crazy]
This made me laugh but also very angry. There is absurdity, realism, and absurdist realism in your character construction that reminds me of the absurdist reality of the real world. I liked reading that.

As a person who has lived half their life in a backwater town and then half their life in academia studying physics, psychology, and neurology (heavy focus on neurophysics), being disgusted to the pont of manic laughter at times at aspects of both worlds, i somewhat can relate to wickleford (although my life went in somewhat of a different order and my int score is certainly not just 10).

The nepotism is real. And a lot of people have good reason to resent the system.

I like this character. Sometimes i just want to smash faces too like wickleford. 😹
 

ccs

41st lv DM
My 1/2ling barbarian Rose Burrfoot rages not because she's angry, but because she's NOT a trained combatant & is scared to death when the fighting begins. Thus she often freaks out & attacks recklessly.
And leveling up hasn't helped this any because the things attacking are ever worse than before!
 

Aldarc

Legend
Thats especially funny because thwre is a 99% chance that you are indeed yourself the bourgeoisie if you are posting on this wehsite with your pc or a public pc in your neighborhood or a family member or friends pc. Bahahahaha! I assume you said this in jest. I got a good laugh out of it.
I did say my post in just, but this is also a false understanding of the philosophy, but unraveling it would (1) involve having to explain a joke, (2) explain why buying a PC does not make someone bourgeoisie, and (3) derail the thread in a way that is neither productive nor relevant. So I will drop this matter.
 

Lakesidefantasy

Adventurer
Similar to Shiroiken's character above, my only Barbarian character, Sir Eward Hexenhammer, is a malformed and misshapen man whose grandfather was an orc. Outwardly he exhibits very little of his orc heritage, but on the inside, he is cursed by a hidden rage. He is a godly man who entered the faith as a Paladin, but in a fit of orcish rage he murdered someone. Now as a fallen Paladin his career continues as a Barbarian. He still wears his shining breastplate and desperately tries to control his rage in an effort to reconnect with his god, but he is still lost and bitter--unable to escape his anger.

He's been a lot of fun the few times I've had a chance to play with him. Right now Sir Eward is a Paladin 1/Barbarian 1, but in the future I think I'll just continue with Fighter levels.
 

cmad1977

Hero
Mostly for fun and profit.


Or: Claoimh rages because the teachings of the Wolf ancestors stress protecting the pack. When the pack is in danger.... Rrrraaaaaaaagghhhooooooo!!
 

Unwise

Adventurer
My Barbarian has an acquired brain injury. He was kicked in the head by a mule, but tells everybody the dent in his head is from a giant's club. He has very poor impulse control and his brain misfires a lot, hence the rage.

He is based on Lennie from Of Mice and Men and is a really nice and gentle bloke 90% of the time.
 

Related Articles

Visit Our Sponsor

Latest threads

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top