The Power Of Rage
So I just had a shouting match with my GPS while it struggled to find me in a construction-ridden city...and it was a profoundly cathartic and motivating experience. Venom and vitriol exploding from my face strung together with punctuated, palpable, and percussive expletives really gets the blood pumping and the mind moving. Heh.
I've heard Ken, one of my mentors, say "Where focus goes, energy flows" and I think that, though anger can be draining, people like me - who can generate sometimes an excess of energy - need to burn that extra bit to help us focus. Like a laser beam from our mind's eye.
Words become clearer, wit becomes sharper, recall gets faster --- at least for ME.
BLIND RAGE, however, is NOT okay. It shuts us down - we're so angry, we can't even function. ...That's not I'm talking about. I just wanted to make sure we understand that THERE IS A DIFFERENCE, HERE.
Rage is different than anger, I believe. Rage is deeper. Rooted in our core emotions, it flies forward with power, focus, energy, and strength. This can motivate us to do great things - some good, some bad, but all terribly great. Learning to wield your rage toward the positive is the true skill, not stamping it out. Everyone has something - connected to the marrow inside their bones - that will bring our rage forth, so learning to handle it when it happens and use that energy to focus on something productive is one of the most effective superpowers we mere mortals can achieve.
And, believe it or not, we can practice it.
At The Table
The key class in 5th Edition that utilizes Rage is, of course, the Barbarian. In fact, since the Barbarian's inception way back in 1982 as a fighter sub-class, then officially introduced in 3rd Edition, the high-damage class has always utilized the concept of Rage as a feature to augment damage output, survivability, and show off a full range of extra powers and versatility.
In 5th Edition, Barbarians enter a Rage for a damage boost, a general damage resistance, and, depending on their archetype specialization (their Primal Path), gain access to more devastating powers that grow in intensity as they get stronger. Those mechanics are all varied and versatile, but the focus of this post is on the Rage itself.
Many people assume, and I understand why, that a Barbarian's Rage comes from them losing control and/or becoming angry. In past editions or variants (like Pathfinder), there were some builds or archetypes that would have you roll a 'control check' when you took damage or suffered a trauma in order to avoid going into a berserker rage - losing track of your allies and entering into a blind destructive wave. In its most recent iteration, Rage feels A LOT more flexible.
I urge you to consider the following: what if the Barbarian's Rage is instead connected to the deep, primal feelings that surround their innermost selves; like a well. They only tap into this energy when they need it, because they know of its great power. Rage, not anger, is utilized as a focus point - a taxing, intense hyper focus on whatever task is at hand (often, battle). They DON'T lose control - it is a CHOICE to enter a Rage. Meaning, their intense feeling is always present, just like all of us, and we can choose when and how to unleash it to do the most good or be the most effective. We know that unfocused energy is wasteful. We wouldn't enter a Rage, a finite resource of strong emotion, on a whim. And that scarcity is a strong lesson.
Have you ever watched a person who is angry all the time? I have. It taxes them. It drains them of their empathy - their ability to connect with others, though they desperately need it. They spend so long finding things to be angry about that they have no concept of life without being angry. Their bodies are exhausted, and their hearts full of judgement and blame, to the point that they can barely function as a fellow human.
Rage...can be a resource. It is not something you spend without thinking. You know it will drain you, but you save its power until the best time, and by controlling it, it only manifests the way you want it to. The same way that my father, a man of few words and one who appreciates silence and mindfulness, would choose how and when to wield his words to be the most effective in communicating whatever he needed to at the time. You'd never see his rage; it was a focus for him, and him alone. Others would call it Drive. A need to change things. He controls it - it doesn't control him. And that's the difference.
So when you play your Barbarian, you're not a loose cannon, nor do you have to be a wild card. Your Barbarian doesn't have to be the moron, or an angry mess. Their battle rage is their resource; their nuke; their last resort - because they know the devastating power it has, and they can CHOOSE to press that button and ride the lightning that now courses through their veins. I long to see the quiet, intelligent, and perceptive strategist barbarian. One who takes her time, and watches, and waits for the best moment to open that well and unleash hell in defense of her allies. And when the smoke clears, she takes a deep breath, and that energy subsides. Control, focus, choice. That's what Rage can be. Get practicing.
See you at the table.
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Professional Game Master musician, music teacher, game designer, amateur bartender, and aspiring fiction author.
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