When your Barbarian needs to go on an all-out offensive, it’s time to use the Reckless Attack feature. After all, a good offense can be the best defense!
So today, we’re going to be taking a look at one of the Barbarian’s most important features.
Specifically, we’ll be covering how Reckless Attack works in D&D 5e, how to use it effectively, and answering the most common questions players have about it.
Ready your weapon, dear Barbarian. It’s time to play some offense!
What Is Reckless Attack in D&D 5e?
Reckless Attack is one of the Barbarian’s most important features in D&D 5e. It’s up there with the Rage feature, and the two work incredibly well together.
Thankfully, you gain them both very early as a Barbarian!
So, let’s start by looking at what the 5e Player’s Handbook says about Reckless Attack:
When you make your first Attack on Your Turn, you can decide to Attack recklessly.
Doing so gives you advantage on melee weapon Attack rolls using Strength during this turn, but Attack rolls against you have advantage until your next turn.
Effectively, you’re throwing caution to the wind when you use Reckless Attack. You have a much better chance to hit with your attacks, but enemies will also be making their attacks against you with advantage.
However, don’t let this downside scare you away from using this feature. As I already mentioned, this is one of your most important class features!
Reckless Attack is a way to increase your own damage output while also giving enemies more incentive to attack you instead of your squishier allies.
Between your large amount of hit points and your Rage feature (which is halving the damage you take anyways), this isn’t the downside that you might initially think it is.
Related: Barbarian Rage in D&D 5e Explained
How Does Reckless Attack Work?
You choose whether or not you want to use Reckless Attack when you’re making the first attack on your turn. When you declare that you will be attacking recklessly, you then roll with advantage.
When you gain an Extra Attack at level 5, this benefit from Reckless Attack will automatically apply to the other attack as well.
Just be mindful that you can’t use Reckless Attack on all your attacks.
To benefit from Reckless Attack, your attack must:
- Be a melee weapon attack.
- Use your Strength modifier.
- Be made on your turn.
So, for example, you can use Reckless on attacks using weapons like Greataxes, Greatswords, longswords, glaives, mauls, halberds, and any other melee weapon that uses your Strength modifier.
Note that finesse weapons allow you to choose between using your Dexterity or Strength. So you can also choose to attack recklessly with finesse weapons like rapiers, scimitars, whips, and daggers.
However, Reckless Attack would not apply to something like a crossbow or longbow (ranged weapon attack, uses DEX) or throwing a handaxe or javelin (ranged weapon attack).
Lastly, the attack must be made on your turn. This means that you won’t also have advantage from Reckless Attack when making an attack of opportunity.
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Using Reckless Attack Effectively
There are two major benefits to Reckless Attack in D&D 5e.
First, you’re greatly increasing your chances of hitting your targets as well as the odds of rolling a critical hit.
More dice = more likely to hit = more damage output!
Of course, this can also be useful for shrugging off disadvantage. For example, an enemy might manage to blind you which would give you disadvantage on your attacks.
But by attacking recklessly, you are able to use the advantage granted to you to offset the disadvantage from blindness.
So, you’re now making a regular attack roll as the advantage and disadvantage offset each other!
The second major benefit of Reckless Attack is more on the strategic side.
Because attack rolls against you are made with advantage until the start of your next turn, enemies have more reason to focus their attention on you.
Now they are more likely to hit (potentially as a critical hit), which is a difficult opportunity to pass up! But this is exactly what you want!
If someone’s going to be attacked, you want it to be the hulking Barbarian instead of the much squishier spellcaster in the backline.
Ideally, you’re also positioning yourself on the battlefield so that enemies can’t get past you. You want to make it as easy as possible for enemies to focus on you instead of your allies.
It’s incredibly difficult to be a proper “Tank” in D&D 5e since there are very few features that work as a kind of “taunt” that forces enemies to attack you.
So, you need to give those enemies every reason to turn their attention to you.
By throwing out some heavy damage and making yourself an easier target, Reckless Attack lets you do exactly that.
Recommended: Advantage and Disadvantage in D&D 5e Explained
Is Reckless Attack Good?
Reckless Attack is an excellent feature and is essential to getting the most value out of the Barbarian class.
Remember: Barbarians can take a TON of damage (especially when they’re also using their Rage feature).
So, giving enemies advantage for attacking you instead of your squishier teammates means that you can take the hits for your party while also putting out some very respectable damage of your own!
I’ve had Barbarian players in the past who were also very scared to use this feature. They would use Reckless Attack in emergencies, but they didn’t like the idea of giving enemies advantage.
Because of that, there wasn’t as much of a buffer between the enemies and the party.
I got where the players were coming from, but I would typically talk to them a bit out of game if I noticed that they were hesitant to use this feature.
Every single time we had that conversation and they started using this feature more, they always started really enjoying playing their Barbarian much more than they initially were.
They were leaving a huge amount of potential value on the table!
Especially if you have a healer in your party, there will be very few situations where you WON’T want to use Reckless Attack.
It’s just that good!
Reckless Attack in D&D 5e – FAQ
Before we wrap up, let’s go over some of the more common questions that tend to come up regarding Reckless Attack in D&D 5e.
As always, feel free to leave a comment below if you still have questions. I’m always happy to help!
Can You Reckless Attack Every Turn?
To activate Reckless Attack, you simply declare that you will be using it. It does not require a bonus action or have a limit to how many times per day you can use it.
You absolutely can (and in many cases, SHOULD) use Reckless Attack every turn.
Can You Use Reckless Attack After Rolling?
You declare if you are using Reckless Attack as you go to make your first attack on your turn.
Some DMs may allow you to choose to attack recklessly if your first attack doesn’t initially hit, but that’s more of a house-rule exception.
At least looking at the rules as written, you are intended to decide if you are swinging wildly before you know if the attack hits or not.
Does Reckless Attack Work on Each Attack You Make?
You must declare if you’re using Reckless Attack with your first attack. From there, it applies to all the other attacks you make that turn.
So it could apply to your first attack, your Extra Attack, and even an attack with your bonus action if you’ve chosen to be a dual-wielder.
Can You Use Reckless Attack with Opportunity Attacks?
The advantage that you gain from Reckless Attack only applies to attacks that you’re making on your turn. Because opportunity attacks are reactions, they are not made on your turn.
Does Reckless Attack with Thrown Weapons or Ranged Weapons?
To gain advantage with Reckless Attack, the attack must be made with a melee weapon attack. This means that you cannot gain the same benefit with thrown or ranged weapon attacks.
Does Reckless Attack with Unarmed Attacks?
Unarmed attacks count as melee weapon attacks. Because of this, you can gain advantage on an unarmed attack that you make with Reckless Attack.
Can Reckless Attack Be Used to Trigger Sneak Attacks?
Yes. The advantage you gain from Reckless Attack can be used to satisfy that requirement of Sneak Attack.
However, be mindful that you will still need to be using a finesse weapon for this to work. You must also use your Strength modifier for the attack/damage with that weapon.
I would also recommend checking out my guide to Sneak Attack for more details on how that feature works!
Conclusion – Reckless Attack in D&D 5e
I hope you’ve found this guide to the Barbarian’s Reckless Attack feature in D&D 5e helpful!
There’s something extra fun about throwing caution to the wind and just going absolutely crazy on your foes. Especially when you combine Reckless Attacks with your Barbarian Rage, it can be a terrifying sight to behold!
Got questions or fun stories about Reckless Attack in your own D&D games? Let’s chat in the comments!