If you’ve never piloted a 3.X barbarian, you’ve never experienced the ass-clenching terror of “Sudden Onset Death.” What’s that, you ask? Well here’s the rule in question:

In a rage, a barbarian temporarily gains…a +4 bonus to Constitution… The increase in Constitution increases the barbarian’s hit points by 2 points per level, but these hit points go away at the end of the rage when his Constitution score drops back to normal. (These extra hit points are not lost first the way temporary hit points are.)

That means that, when combat is over and you’re kicked to shit, dropping out of rage can mean dropping into negative hit points. And as we all know, that way lies Valhalla. It’s moments like that when it pays to keep an insult comic in the party.

I’ve always loved this rule in theory while hating it in practice. I mean, first and foremost, it conjures up this amazing mental image. When your blood is up, and when you’re bleeding from a dozen wounds, and when there’s a circle of broken enemies lying around you on the battlefield, it’s all kinds of satisfying to imagine your big dude grinning a satisfied grin before passing out in the snow. What’s less satisfying is having to roll up a new character for the sake of the cool mental image. Perversely, it even has the effect of making barbarians cautious. The indignity!

So for today’s discussion question, I turn to all your grognard barbarians out there. Have you ever experienced the dire consequences of ending a rage too soon? How did you deal with it? Let’s hear all about your best brushes with sudden onset death down in the comments!


DO YOU LOVE WAITING? If not, you should check out the “Henchman” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. For just one buck a month, you can get each and every Handbook of Heroes comic a day earlier than the rest of your party members. That’s bragging rights right there!