[RPG] Can a bear totem barbarian gain damage resistance while wearing heavy armor


I'm starting a campaign at level 8 soon, and I'm curious if this Fighter 5/Barbarian 3 build is possible, although the DM may reject it working this way:

If I choose Bear for my 3rd level totem spirit, I gain the following feature: [PHB 50]

Bear. While raging, you have resistance to all damage except psychic damage. The spirit of the bear makes you tough enough to stand up to any punishment.

Now, on the general rules for barbarian rage, it says: [PHB 48]

While raging, you gain the following benefits if you aren't wearing heavy armor

Followed by the benefits of damage resistance, rage damage, etc. However, the specific rule for the 3rd level Bear totem omits the "if you aren't wearing heavy armor" passage. Note that just below the Bear option for 3rd level, the Eagle option does specify that you mustn't be wearing heavy armor.

Since specific overrides general, can I wear heavy armor from my Fighter class and still get Bear damage resistance?

Best Answer


A Barbarian does not benefit from the special damage resistance from the bear totem while in heavy armor.

...but the 6th-level totem choices can benefit a Barbarian wearing Heavy Armor if it doesn't mention that they can't be wearing such armor to gain the benefit.

According to Jeremy Crawford: The intent is that anything that relies on Rage does not benefit a Barbarian wearing Heavy Armor.

Why? I take this ruling to mean a Barbarian is incapable of gaining any and all benefits of Rage while wearing heavy armor, totems included.

To me, this means you simply can't Rage while wearing heavy armor, because there would never be any usefulness or benefit to entering a Heavy Armor Rage; however, Crawford has added more context to his ruling that states that Heavy Armor does not prevent you from entering a rage, only benefiting from it.

As you quoted, it says you gain the benefits of Rage only if not wearing heavy armor... so if you are wearing heavy armor but can not benefit from Rage, you also do not benefit from any features that depend on Rage, such as the 3rd level totem features.