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5E Brainstorming a new Rage mechanic

Xeviat

Adventurer


Hi everyone. Since way back in 3E, I never liked barbarians having limited uses of rage per day. I always thought rages should be limited in another way, such as by their penalties or some sort of requirement. I never liked the idea of a barbarian "deciding" to rage; it always gave me the image of a polite barbarian cleaning their monocle and saying "no, I think it's not time to rage".

D&D has kept Rage as a daily limited mechanic ever since. I don't particularly want to see it as a short rest mechanic either. Pathfinder, though, had it as a number of rounds per day, and let you toggle it on and off. That was interesting.

Pathfinder 2, though, has made it functionally unlimited:

Pathfinder 2 SRD
Rage
Barbarian Concentrate Emotion Mental
Source Core Rulebook pg. 84
Requirements You aren’t fatigued or raging.
You tap into your inner fury and begin raging. You gain a number of temporary Hit Points equal to your level plus your Constitution modifier. This frenzy lasts for 1 minute, until there are no enemies you can perceive, or until you fall unconscious, whichever comes first. You can’t voluntarily stop raging. While you are raging:
  • You deal 2 additional damage with melee weapons and unarmed attacks. This additional damage is halved if your weapon or unarmed attack is agile.
  • You take a –1 penalty to AC.
  • You can’t use actions with the concentrate trait unless they also have the rage trait. You can Seek while raging.
After you stop raging, you lose any remaining temporary Hit Points from Rage, and you can’t Rage again for 1 minute.

For those not familiar with Pathfinder 2, "agile" is a weapon trait that makes second and third attacks in a round have a lower attack penalty; pathfinder 2 operates on a 3 action system, and multiple attacks normally have a -5 cumulative penalty. The limit on agile weapons limits them stacking that additional damage more on extra attacks and keeps them with bigger more thematic weapons.

Looking at 5E, the low level (level 1-8) +2 damage is only equal to the fighter/paladin/ranger's Duelist. It's better than Great Weapon Fighting (greatsword 8.33 vs greatsword 9 with rage, but 8.5 with greataxe), but I think that's just because Great Weapon Fighting isn't that great. Once we hit level 9, we're very close to level 11 and get into competing with 2nd Extra Attack, Improved Divine Smite, and Ranger's 11th level archetype feature. Brutal Critical at 9th isn't a huge damage boost either, unless you're getting more crit bonuses from somewhere.

But, resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage is a big benefit. Pathfinder 2's temp HP is a much smaller benefit. Weighing the barbarian's Damage Resistance against, say, the Paladin's Lay on Hands or the Fighter's Second Wind is a lot harder.

So, how would you go about changing rage to not be limited to X/day?
 

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MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
Just spitballing, but it seems like you could redo rage so you automatically rage when you take X amount of damage, but you need to take Y amount of damage to keep the rage going, where X and Y vary by level (and Y is smaller than X, but maybe not by much) and there is no other way to enter rage. That should divorce it from time.

I would power up the rage benefits (maybe give all rages the retaliation power that berserkers have at level 14 and give berserkers some kind of brutal display ability to cause fear in a group of enemies), since you are losing some control.
 

You could make it rely on a Charisma save.

After you rage, you make a DC 10 Charisma save to be able to rage again. Each time you succeed this check, it increases by 5. After a long rest, the DC resets to 10.

At level 6, you can add your proficiency to the check.
At level 12, you can add double your proficiency to the check.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I know I already posted my take on this, but I'll copy it here:

The sting from your foes' attacks fuel the mighty fury that burns within you. Each time an hostile creature hit you for 5 damage (after resistances, immunities or damage reduction) or more, mark a level of rage. You can also use your reaction to mark a level of rage when you fail a saving throw or an ability check. The levels of rage are cumulative. Your rage lasts for 1 minute. It ends and reset to 0 level of rage 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.

1. You have advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.

2. Your melee attacks using your Strength deals +3 damage

3. You have resistance to Bludgeoning, Slashing and Piercing damage

4. Your melee attacks using your Strength deals +5 damage

5. After a hit from a melee attack using your Strength, the target's speed is reduced by 15 feet until the end of its next turn

6. Once per turn, after you hit an hostile creature with a melee attack using your Strength, you deal damage equals to half the damage you did on your damage roll to every creature within 5 feet.
 


jgsugden

Hero
Here is a take:

When you roll initiative, you must enter a rage. You may also elect to enter a rage as a reaction immediately after you take damage or are the target of a harmful spell or effect.

When in a rage, you deal additional damage equal to (half your proficiency modifier (rounded down) + 1) when making strength based attacks. You also have advantage on strength ability checks and saving throws. When in a rage, you have damage resistance from slashing, piercing, and bludgeoning damage. Whenever you take damage during a rage, take a rage counter.

Your rage ends when you end a round and are not in combat, or when combat ends.

When your rage ends, roll a constitution saving throw with advantage with a DC equal to 10 + the number of rage counters you've collected. If you fail the save, take 1d6 damage for each point by which you failed the save. If you make the save, take no damage. This damage may not be reduced by any effect and ignores temporary hit points. After you make or fail this saving throw (and take the damage), you discard all rage counters.
 

The best way to have it be unlimited is to offset the benefit with a penalty, just like Reckless Attack does. Keeping the current benefits, I feel one of the following might work:

  • You must make a melee attack on your turn if possible; the Rage does not end until after the minute has passed or you make a Wis (Cha?) save (DC: 10?) at the start of your turn
  • When your rage ends, your movement is reduced by half and your attacks have disadvantage for the same duration of the rage (won't hurt a lot of combats, but if the rage ends early, it can be punishing)
  • While raging, you have disadvantage on all Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma check and saves, and your vision is limited to 10 feet or the nearest creature (whichever is further)
  • You cannot trigger your rage, but instead it triggers automatically when you take damage you would resist, and lasts until the end of your next turn; until this ends you have disadvantage to attack anyone other than the creature that triggered the rage (even if it's dead)
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
An easier take:

As a bonus action, enter Rage. If you have an exhaustion level, you must make a Con check against a DC of 10+2 per exhaustion level to enter rage. While raging, you gain the following benefits:
  • Gain 2d6+level THP
  • Attacks with Str deal +2/4/6 damage
  • Advantage on Str saves and checks
  • Disadvantage on Wis/Cha/Int ability check.
  • Cannot cast spell or maintain concentration on a spell or effect.
  • last for 1 minutes or until you drop to 0 hp.

After the rage end, you are winded for 1 minute. While winded, your speed is halved, you have disadvantage on all ability checks and you cannot rage.
 
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Xeviat

Adventurer
I don't think it needs any complicated mechanics to enter it or sustain it. Half damage is cool, but the amount of healing that would require to sustain would be a drain on the party.

As I pointed out, early on, the damage portion can be balanced against Fighting Style. Any damage resistance or temp HP can be balanced against Rage's own penalties and against the Fighter's second wind. Fighters are getting 3x(5.5+level) extra hp per day, while Barbarians are just getting 1.5x(level+1) extra hp from their 7 hp per level and d12 HD.

@vincegetorix, yours looks like it has potential.

I think the only thing I'd be worried about as far as balancing is a barbarian picking up 1 level of fighter for fighting style and second wind ontop of their stuff, but that problem is already there isn't it?
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
think the only thing I'd be worried about as far as balancing is a barbarian picking up 1 level of fighter for fighting style and second wind ontop of their stuff, but that problem is already there isn't it?
Second Wind doesnt not scale that well, and with the barbarian d12 HD + (lets say) 2d6 + level per rage, I dont think that SW would make that much of a difference. Fighting Style could be at worst a few more damage, so a player with 1 level of fighter (which delay extra attack) would no gain much.

Now, a fighter with an at-will rage thru a barb 1 level dip could be frustrating, but If we me make the thp and damage boost scale per barbarian level and not class level, it wouldnt be that much.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Maybe instead of thp, raise its current and max hp per 5 per tier ala Aid spell? Augment the rage duration to 10 minutes instead of 1 minute (do the same for the winded condition). So the barbarian could be healed for more when raging.
 

Xeviat

Adventurer
Second Wind doesnt not scale that well, and with the barbarian d12 HD + (lets say) 2d6 + level per rage, I dont think that SW would make that much of a difference. Fighting Style could be at worst a few more damage, so a player with 1 level of fighter (which delay extra attack) would no gain much.

Now, a fighter with an at-will rage thru a barb 1 level dip could be frustrating, but If we me make the thp and damage boost scale per barbarian level and not class level, it wouldnt be that much.
I always felt like second wind scaled really well. At low levels, its the equivalent of having a healing word per short rest. Over the course of 2 short rests and 1 long rest, it's more healing than Lay on Hands until 8th level.

As for the Rage penalties, I like AC penalties, but those are kind of fiddly for 5E's system. Forcing Reckless Attack while raging just balances itself out though. But, then again, a reworked barbarian might not need Reckless Attack to make them feel like a barbarian at all times since rage would be the new norm.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I think my favorite incarnation of the Barbarian was the 4e Berserker, where they were a Martial Defender by default, but if you used any of their Primal powers they switched to being a Striker for the rest of the encounter. But something like that in 5e would require a complete overhaul of the class at least, if not the entire class system.
 

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Make the barbarian's rage the player version of the monster trait Wounded Fury.

Whenever you are reduced to half hit points or fewer, or whenever you see a companion reduced to 0 hit points, you may use a bonus action to Rage.
 

dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
An easier take:

As a bonus action, enter Rage. If you have an exhaustion level, you must make a Con check against a DC of 10+2 per exhaustion level to enter rage. While raging, you gain the following benefits:
  • Gain 2d6+level THP
  • Attacks with Str deal +2/4/6 damage
  • Advantage on Str saves and checks
  • Disadvantage on Wis/Cha/Int ability check.
  • Cannot cast spell or maintain concentration on a spell or effect.
  • last for 1 minutes or until you drop to 0 hp.

After the rage end, you are winded for 1 minute. While winded, your speed is halved, you have disadvantage on all ability checks and you cannot rage.
This makes me think it would be a good idea to have a condition between "normal" and "exhaustion", such as "winded". I have seen a lot of place where people want to use "exhaustion" as a penalty for a feature, but feel needing a long rest to remove it is too high a cost. Having a sort "minor" or "short-lived" exhaustion feature would be a nice idea. It is like how people have discussed a third sort of rest period in other threads.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
This makes me think it would be a good idea to have a condition between "normal" and "exhaustion", such as "winded". I have seen a lot of place where people want to use "exhaustion" as a penalty for a feature, but feel needing a long rest to remove it is too high a cost. Having a sort "minor" or "short-lived" exhaustion feature would be a nice idea. It is like how people have discussed a third sort of rest period in other threads.
There's always the corner case of Haste damaging the target with ''lethargy'' at the end of the spell.
''the target can't move or take actions until after its next turn, as a wave of lethargy sweeps over it. ''

You could do the same with different durations?

There's also one case of an effect that causes an Exhaustion level that can be cured on a short rest somewhere in the DMG, but I just cant remember where (somewhere in wilderness hazard?)
 

OB1

Jedi Master
How about something as simple as, When you take damage from a hostile creature, you can enter a Rage as a reaction. Everything else stays the same.
 

dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
How about something as simple as, When you take damage from a hostile creature, you can enter a Rage as a reaction. Everything else stays the same.
I like where the idea is coming from, but I don't know if I would allow it this way as it makes it really powerful. I have seen in our group where the barbarian holds off on raging, gets smashed for full damage, and really wished he had already decided to rage. Even if you make it before the damage is done, it is still a powerful bump to something that is already a very powerful feature IMO.
 

GlassJaw

Adventurer
Overall, I don't have too much of an issue with the barbarian but (having played a barbarian in 5E) I do agree that managing rages/rest is extremely important - and challenging. And much more so if the campaign runs closer to the expected number of encounters/rest.

Because so much of its power is tied to rage, the barbarian is really lacking when not raging. Interestingly enough, the barbarian feels it much more at lower levels because rages increase with level.

So I see two design goals: 1) mitigate the "all or nothing" feel of raging vs. not raging, and 2) mitigate the necessity to manage the rages/rest.

I do like the idea of making rage more of a "stance" that can be toggled on and off. I also like the idea of using different conditions to trigger various rage effects. Hmm...:unsure:

Now I'm thinking of different types of "rages", each with different effects (positive/negative) that are triggered (either turned on or off) by different conditions. Different rages (stances) could be tied to the subclasses as well. Even better if the player can choose their rage "type" at level 1 (moving all path choices to level 1 has been one of my homebrew projects as well).
 

Xeviat

Adventurer
How about something as simple as, When you take damage from a hostile creature, you can enter a Rage as a reaction. Everything else stays the same.
This also takes away one of the exploration benefits of raging for the advantage on strength checks.

I just need to figure out how to nerf the defensive benefit of Rage to make it more comparable to the Fighter's Second Wind. As it stands, resistance to physical damage is nearly worth doubling the Barbarian's HP.
 

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