Ranger dnd 5e

Ranger dnd 5e DEFAULT

Heavily inspired by J.R.R Tolkien's Aragorn and the Rangers of the North, Dungeons & Dragons’ Ranger class was introduced in one of the very earliest D&D books. Known for their variety of fighting styles, Rangers tend to be as skilled with a bow as they are full of deadly finesse in close combat. Our D&D Ranger 5E class guide gives you everything you need to roll up a little Aragorn (or Drizzt Do'Urden) of your own.

Admittedly, D&D 5E’s Rangers aren't as well regarded as some other classes, but, if optimised correctly, they are a formidable aide. From a roleplaying perspective, too, the Ranger offers plenty of character progression – especially with Favoured Enemy. You can lean into this ability to create a story for your character, fleshing out the dark origins of your searing hate for Goblins, and so forth.

Here, then, is our in-depth guide for the Ranger, trawling through character creation, races, Ranger subclasses, and providing a good strong beginner build to give you a solid start into your next adventure. If you’d prefer a complete scope of all the D&D 5E classes on offer, you might try our beginner's D&D 5E classes guide for more of a surface-level tour, before you make a choice and begin your journey.

If, however, you’re more than prepared to strike out and learn the ways of the wild – read on.

D&D Ranger 5E class guide Wizards artwork showing the famous Ranger / Fighter Drizzt Do'Urden

Ranger stats 5E

Hit Dice1d10 per Ranger level
HP at Lvl Up1d10 (or 6) + your Constitution modifier
Primary ability scoresDexterity, Wisdom, Constitution
Armour proficiencyLight Armour, Medium Armour, Shields
Weapon proficiencySimple Weapons, Martial Weapons
Tool proficiencyNone
Saving throwsStrength and Dexterity

Regardless of whether you’re looking to focus on ranged or close combat, concentrate on Dexterity (Dex) as your primary attribute. Even in melee, you can use Dex as a primary statistic on any weapon that comes with the “finesse” quality.

Crucially, Dex is the primary statistic for ranged combat, naturally one of the biggest draws to playing as a Ranger. Maintaining a high Dex statistic also supports Acrobatics, Armour Class, and even Stealth – which is another speciality for the class. Basically, you want Dex to be your main focus if you intend to play the class to its fullest potential.

Drizzt’s other half: Read our D&D Fighter 5E class guide

Starting at level two, Rangers can cast spells with their casting attribute in Wisdom (Wis), so this should be your secondary focus, with Strength (Str) and Intelligence (Int) being your dump statistics. At level one, you have significant experience in studying, tracking, hunting, and even talking to a certain type of enemy.

You also get to choose a type of Favoured Enemy, which grants you an advantage on Wis (Survival) to track them, as well as Intelligence (Int) to recall information about them. It’s safe to choose Orcs, Giants, or Goblins as your Favoured Enemy, since you will likely encounter these early on in the lion’s share of beginner D&D campaigns, in the Forgotten Realms setting at least.

D&D Ranger 5E class guide Wizards artwork showing a ranger running through woods with twin blades

Ranger fighting styles 5E

Once you hit level two, you’ll adopt a Fighting Style as part of your Ranger’s growing repertoire. However, you can’t take a Fighting Style option more than once, even if you get the opportunity to choose again later on. Whether you prefer picking off enemies from afar, or getting up close and personal, taking the time to figure this out will improve your overall experience of playing D&D.

Archery: +2 to attack rolls with ranged weapons is precisely what you are looking for as a Ranger. Not only are you looking to be Dex-based, but this will also help you offset the penalty from using shots with the Sharpshooter feat.

Defence: While wearing armour, gaining +1 to AC is far from impressive, but, seeing as AC is tricky to scale, it can make all the difference – especially with a high Dex statistic.

Druidic Warrior: You can learn two cantrips of your choice from the Druid spell list. But, importantly, these count as Ranger spells when you use them, so Wis is your spellcasting ability for these cantrips. Each time you gain a level as the Ranger, you can swap out one of these cantrips for another one from the Druid spell list.

Shadow broker: Read our D&D Rogue 5E class guide

Duelling: When you’re holding a melee weapon in one hand, and no other Weapons, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with that weapon. This is ideal if you want to carry a shield to provide additional defence for close combat.

Two-Weapon Fighting: When it comes to fighting with two weapons, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack. The second attack remains a bonus action, which allows you to pile on a bunch of damage in combat.

Thrown Weapon Fighting: You can draw a weapon that has the thrown property as part of the attack you make with that weapon. Also, when you hit with a ranged attack using a thrown weapon, you gain a +2 bonus to the damage roll.

D&D Ranger 5E class guide Wizards artwork showing an elf archer in a wood

Best race for Ranger 5E

When selecting one of the D&D 5E races for your Ranger, you want to look for races that will give you bonuses to your key ability scores. Anything that will boost Dex or Wis is sure to be your main focus here. If you are new to D&D, choosing Elf as your race is a decent starting point. You get +2 Dexterity, Darkvision, and you are proficient in Perception. You can expand into a subrace, such as Wood or High Elf, for additional bonuses.

Wood Elf: If you are picking your race with an optimal build in mind, Wood Elf is the way to go. You have +1 Wis and +2 Dex bonuses to boost your primary and secondary statistics. Combine that with Fleet of Foot and the Mask of the Wild ability, you have a very effective Ranger build. Admittedly far from exciting, but, if you want to go heavy into Dex for traditional Ranger build, this is your first port of call.

Variant Human: Playing as a variant Human can work, for the simple reason that this race is designed to work with any class. With a variant human, you’ll receive +1 in two different stats, and get to choose one feat and proficiency in one skill.

Sacred duty: Check out our D&D Paladin 5E class guide

Halfling: Halflings get the all-important +2 Dex, as Wood Elves do. However, combining with their natural Lucky and Brave abilities, you have a build that can explore every crevice of a dungeon without fear. Halflings are naturally stealthy, which compliments your speciality well.

Half-Orc: If you prefer to be a melee-fighting, strength-based Ranger, then playing as a Half-Orc is one to consider. You get +2 Str and +1 Constitution (Con), which are both respectable stats for this type of Ranger. You also get Darkvision, Savage Attacks, and Relentless Endurance, combining to make the Half-Orc a top-tier option for melee-first Ranger.

D&D Ranger 5E class guide Wizards artwork showing a human ranger in armour with a hawk

Ranger subclasses 5E – Conclaves

At level three, you’ll build upon your Fighting Style by picking a subclass to develop your character further. While there are only two subclass options in the Player’s Handbook, there’s a variety of alternative subclasses available in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Each grants you access to its own set of subclass-specific Ranger spells, as well as its own unique subclass abilities, unlocked at levels three, seven, 11, and 15.

Here are the seven D&D 5E Ranger subclasses:

Hunter

Found in:Player’s Handbook

LevelSubclass ability
3rdHunter’s Prey (Colossus Slayer, Giant Killer, or Horde Breaker)
7thDefensive Tactics (Escape the Horde, Multiattack Defence, or Steel Will)
11thMultiattack (Volley or Whirlwind Attack)
15thSuperior Hunter’s Defence (Evasion, Stand against the Tide, or Uncanny Dodge)

The Hunter is the vanilla Ranger subclass, representing one of the earliest, archetypal iterations of D&D’s Ranger. The Hunter is the vanilla subclass, representing one of the earliest, archetypal iterations of D&D’s Ranger. It’s basic, but you still have a wealth of options, while providing defensive and offensive bonuses. You can build the Hunter as a ranged specialist or a melee threat, depending on your combat preferences.

Beast Master

Found in:Player’s Handbook

LevelSubclass ability
3rdRanger’s Companion / Primal Companion
7thExceptional Training
11thBestial Fury
15thShare Spells

Take this subclass if you want to have a Ranger’s Companion (i.e. a pet). Beast Masters can choose any animal that is Challenge Rating 1/4 or lower, and size Medium or smaller. You can take anything from flying snakes to giant badgers, or even a Pteranodon, if you really want to make a splash at all the cool Ranger parties. Alternatively, you can opt for a magically summoned Primal Companion, which works slightly differently, but does fundamentally the same job.

Thank you for the music: Our D&D Bard 5E class guide

Your class abilities naturally centre on your beasty pal. At seventh level, its attacks become magical, and you get slightly more options for commanding it; at 11th level, it can make two attacks (or a multiattack if it has one); and, at 15th level, it can share the effects of spells you cast on yourself, so long as it stays within 30 feet of you.

Swarmkeeper

Source:Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

LevelSubclass ability
3rdGathered Swarm
7thWrithing Tide
11thMighty Swarm
15thSwarming Dispersal

With Swarmkeeper, you can conjure swarms or spirits of nature, which can attack enemies, push them away from you, and more. You get decent spellcasting options that compliment the Druidic Warrior Fighting Style. Swarmkeeper is a popular choice as it’s flavourful, and offers plenty of aesthetic juice for D&D players.

As you level up, your Swarm becomes more powerful. At seventh level, Writhing Tide lets you have the swarm fly you around the battlefield in its winged embrace. At 11th level, the Swarm’s attacks do more damage, it knocks enemies prone when it carries them away from you, and it grants you half cover whenever you use Writhing Tide to fly. Finally, at 15th level, Swarming Dispersal lets you not only give yourself resistance to damage from an attack, but dissolve into your Swarm and teleport up to 30 feet away. Neat, huh?

D&D Ranger 5E class guide Wizards artwork showing the feywild

Fey Wanderer

Found in:Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

LevelSubclass ability
3rdDreadful Strikes, Otherworldly Glamour
7thBeguiling Twist
11thFey Reinforcements
15thMisty Wanderer

If you want a wider range of spellcasting options, then the Fey Wanderer could be for you. Gifted with peculiar feywild traits like antlers, or flowers growing from their hair, these Rangers can tap into their fey home to deal extra psychic damage with their weapons, and like to Enchantment spells such as Charm Person to lock down their targets, or keep dangerous enemies at bay.

Right off the bat, your Otherworldly Glamour also grants you a bonus to Charisma checks equal to your Wisdom modifier, plus proficiency in your choice of Deception, Performance, or Persuasion – and it only gets fey-er from there.

Priestly pummelling: Read our D&D Cleric 5E class guide

At 7th level, you gain advantage on saving throws against being charmed or frightened, and, every time anyone within 120 feet passes a save versus being charmed or frightened, you can use your Reaction to try and charm or frighten another creature within the same range.

At 11th level, Fey Reinforcements teaches you the spell Summon Fey, and allows you to cast it without spending a spell slot, once per Long Rest – a handy summon in a pinch. And, at 15th level, Misty Wanderer lets you not only cast Misty Step for free, but bring one willing creature within five feet along with you to the target location – a fantastic way to spirit a wounded ally away from the front lines.

D&D Ranger 5E class guide Wizards artwork showing three Ranger subclasses

Monster Slayer

Source:Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

LevelSubclass ability
3rdHunter’s Sense, Slayer’s Prey
7thSupernatural Defence
11thMagic User’s Nemesis
15thSlayer’s Counter

Monster Slayers care about analysing enemies, and expand on the Hunter subclass with more options. At third level, you’ll also get Slayer’s Prey, an ability that piles extra damage onto a single target, stacking with the damage from Hunter’s Mark. And at seventh, Supernatural Defence kicks in, giving you additional bonuses to saving throws and escaping grapples.

From there, your superlative shut-down skills keep getting better. At 11th level, Magic-User’s Nemesis allows you to cancel out your enemies’ spells (in the manner of Warhammer 40k’s Deny The Witch), and, at 15th level, Slayer’s Counter lets you make a free single weapon attack against your Slayer’s Prey any time that you would have to make a saving throw against it. If the attack hits, the save automatically passes, and you do damage with the attack; it’s pretty savage.

Gloom Stalker

Source:Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

LevelSubclass ability
3rdDread Ambusher, Umbral Sight
7thIron Mind
11thStalker’s Flurry
15thShadowy Dodge

Sometimes you see subclasses try and shift into Rogue-adjacent builds – and Gloom Stalker is a prime example. Gloom Stalkers offers a more stealthy approach to rangering, and thus offer an ideal way to marry Rogue and Ranger, if you simply can’t settle on which class to play.

Unstoppable force: Check out our D&D Barbarian 5E class guide

Gloom Stalkers’ Umbral Sight gives them 60m of Darkvision and makes them invisible to other creatures trying to see them using Darkvision – while Dread Ambusher gifts them a speed boost, an extra attack, and extra damage on their first turn of combat. You then collect a set of sneaky subclass abilities, culminating in the excellent Shadowy Dodge, which allows you to vanish into smoke when targeted, imposing Disadvantage on enemy attacks.

Horizon Walker

Source:Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

LevelSubclass ability
3rdDetect Portal, Planar Warrior
7thEthereal Step
11thDistant Strike
15thSpectral Defence

In terms of strategy, Horizon Walkers play similarly to Gloom Stalkers when it comes to versatility – but, instead of skulking in shadows, these folks prefer to hop between dimensions.

Your subclass abilities start off strong, with Planar Warrior allowing you to use a Bonus Action to lump extra force damage onto your normal attacks. Ethereal Step, added at seventh level, grants you spell-slot-free access to the Etherealness spell, which is great for hijinx; jump to the Ethereal Plane for a turn, blink across the battlefield, and materialise right behind the enemy boss – why not, eh? You’ll top out, at 15th level, with Spectral Defence. When you’re about to take hits, you can use this ability to effectively phase in and out of the current plane of existence, granting resistance to any attacks for the rest of the turn.

Not the flashiest or most bombastic of Ranger subclasses, possibly – but there’s a lot to be said for its ultra-mobility and sense of mystique.

D&D Ranger 5E class guide Wizards artwork showing a human archer in profile with a bow

Ranger spells 5E

Unlike other spellcasters, Rangers learn their first spells at level two. You aren’t blessed with many spell slots, either, so it’s essential to make the most of the spells you can take. As such, here’s a breakdown of some of the best D&D 5E spells you can take as a beginner Ranger.

Hunter’s Mark (Level 1)

Hunter’s Mark is a must-have for any Ranger. Slap it on an enemy, and you’ll deal an extra 1d6 damage to that target whenever you make a weapon attack, with an advantage on any Perception (Wis) or Survival (Wis) check. Unsurprisingly, Hunter’s Mark comes in most useful when you’re fighting a single Strength-based foe, as opposed to when mobbed by multiple enemies.

Fog Cloud (Level 1)

Fog Cloud creates a 20-foot-radius sphere of fog on a point within range which can be plenty useful in a pinch. When you need to lose a chasing horde, or to disrupt ranged enemies taking shots at your party, Fog Cloud is an excellent spell to have in your back pocket.

Ensnaring Strike (Level 1)

Casting this as a bonus action (with Concentration), you can pin an enemy in thorny magical vines until the spell ends. While restrained, the enemy takes 1D6 piercing damage at the start of each new turn. Whether it’s pinning down a marauding foe before they can reach your lines, or trapping their back-line spellcaster in place so your Rogue can dart forward and finish them off, Ensnaring Strike can be a highly useful low-level crowd control.

D&D Ranger 5E class guide Wizards artwork showing a human ranger with a bow standing in profile

Silence (Level 2)

Inside and outside battle, Silence is an incredible spell. When casting Silence, you create a 20-foot-diameter bubble, anywhere up to a range of 120 feet, where no sound can pass through or be created.

Magical Me: Read our guide to the best D&D 5E spells

You can be creative with Silence – sure, its main use is to stop a spellcaster using verbal spells, but it could also stifle communication between two people. It’s worth noting, too, that this spell can prevent Thunder damage – relevant if you’re facing an enemy who uses this as their main damage output.

Pass Without Trace (Level 2)

Outside of combat, this spell can be key to your party’s survival. When cast, you and your companions are masked from detection: each creature you choose, within 30 feet of you, gets a +10 bonus to Dex (Stealth) checks. This spell is incredible when escaping from powerful enemies, or setting up a surprise attack.

D&D Ranger 5E class guide Wizards artwork showing an elf archer drawing back her bow

Beginner Ranger build 5E

Now you have an idea of what the Ranger can offer in a session of D&D, let’s look at an entry-level build to get you on your way.

Race: We suggest choosing Wood Elf; +2 Dex and +1 Wis is too good to pass up, since these are your primary statistics. Otherwise, Halfling offers a stealthier approach, while still giving you +2 to Dex before you begin. However, if you choose to play as a Human, you can take a Feat at level one, which could be helpful if you fancy specialising further into a particular skillset.

Level two: Fighting Style – this ultimately boils down to how you want to approach combat, but we recommend Archery, as it’ll have you picking off enemies from afar. It also ensures you can play conservatively, hanging back outside of the heat of battle – ideal for a new player learning the ropes.

Uncommon deeds: These are the best D&D 5E feats available

Level three: Pick the Beast Master subclass. It’s the best out of the two available in the Player’s Handbook – plus, having a pet can offer some incidental utility later on.

Level four: You can either increase your ability scores or take a feat of your choice. If you choose to take a feat, the Crossbow Expert feat pairs nicely with anything that takes advantage of your high Dex. Trading your bonus action for an extra attack is useful.

Level eight: Similarly to level four, you can up your ability scores, or take a feat. If you’ve taken Archery as your Fighting Style, Sharpshooter is an excellent feat to support your combat style and if you’ve already taken the Crossbow Expert feat. You take a -5 penalty to your attack roll, but if the attack hits, it deals +10 damage. It’s risky, but you can tailor your build to offset the negatives over time.

Sours: https://www.wargamer.com/dnd/ranger-5e-class-guide

DnD 5e – Ranger Subclass Breakdown

Last Updated: June 27, 2021

Introduction

Few classes have benefited more from the evolution in subclass design than the Ranger. In the core rules, the Ranger was widely considered the weakest class, especially due to the eye-catching yet ineffective Beastmaster. Over time, new supplements have introduced new ranger subclasses which have made the Ranger an iconic, diverse, and interesting class that can hold is a lot of fun to play.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and I can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Ranger Subclasses – Ranger Archetypes

Beast MasterPHB

The Beast Master redefines the ranger by giving them a cool pet who fights alongside them in combat. The image of a rough-hewn explorer braving a dangerous world with a loyal beast at their side is a classic fantasy trope, and the Beast Master executes on that trope very well.

One word of caution: If you think a drow ranger who fights with two swords and has a panther as their beast companion, it has been done. By some bizzarre feat of group think, every new player at one point in their career will arrive at this character concept independently. The idea may have originated from Drizzt Do’Urden, literally the most iconic ranger in DnD’s history, but I’m not confident in that assertion because I’ve met numerous new players experiencing this phenomena who have never heard of Drizzt, the Forgotten Realms, or any other established proper nouns, real or imagined. I’m starting to believe that R. A. Salvatore may have been an early victim of this phenomenon rather than the originator of the idea. But none of that will help you mechanically optimize your character, so let’s move on.

The Player’s Handbook presents the Ranger’s Companion feature, and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything presents a replacement feature called Primal Companion. Primal Companion is both easier and more effective than Ranger’s Companion, and I recommend using it instead of Ranger’s Companion in every case, but I’m not you and I try to encourage people to make their own decisions, so advice for both version of the subclass is presented below.

Beast Master with Primal Companion

While not officially a “version 2” of the subclass, the Primal Companion replacement feature completely alters the way the the beast Master functions. The simple correction to the action economy around managing your beast frees the Ranger to do other things with their Action, and while that will typically mean attacking for most rangers don’t feel the need to limit yourself to martial attacks.

Casting spells which take an Action feel like much less of a commitment than for most rangers, and you might even consider Fighting Style (Druidic Warrior) and pursue cantrips as your go-to combat option. Since you’re not attacking using your Bonus Action (TWF and Crossbow Expert builds are staple ranger options), Hunter’s Mark and Favored Foe become less of a crucial part of your tactics so you can explore other Concentration spells as well as feats like Shaprshooter which trade attack bonus for a flat damage boost.

  1. Primal Companion: Your defining feature, your companion is equal parts pet and weapon. Unlike summoned pets which other classes might use (Dancing Item, Wildfire Spirit, etc.), your pet sticks around all the time. You don’t need to summon it or whatever. However, like any other member of your party it needs food, healing, etc.
  2. Exceptional Training: Making your companion’s attacks magical is the only thing you actually benefit from here, but it’s crucial. Resistance to non-magic weapon attacks is common and becomes more common as you gain levels.
  3. Bestial Fury: Your beast gets two attacks and it still only costs you a Bonus Action to command them.
  4. Share Spells: This is a fantastic way to share buff spells, especially those which require Concentration.
Primal Companion Options

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything presents a replacement mechanic for the Beast Master’s Companion feature. Rather than selecting an animal with a published stat block, you pick from one of three generic beasts and you can describe it however you like. If you want a sabretooth tiger, a dinosaur, a kimodo dragon, or just a dog, you’re using the same stat block.

More important than simplifying the challenges of picking a companion, the new Companion feature also corrects the action economy issues which were the fundamental problem which made the Beast Master such a poor option. Commanding your companion is now done as a Bonus Action, allowing you to do interesting things on your turn like attacking or casting spells without leaving your pet to stand adjacent to your enemies and Dodge.

Raising your companion from the dead now takes a spell slot (so long as you do so within an hour of its death), allowing you throw your companion into combat with little regard for its safey confident in the knowledge that you can bring it right back to life good as new. Obviously that’s a horrible way to treat an animal that you’re supposed to be emotionally bonded with, but this is a game, your companion is a class feature, and as a DM I wouldn’t make a fighter spend 8 hours feeding a wild longsword table scraps until they were friends.

Changing your companion is also much easier now. If you suddenly find yourself on a boat trip and want a suitable aquatic companion, you can change your companion after a Long Rest. This may be hard for players who want to bond with a single animal, but you might choose to think of your ranger as master of all beasts rather than a master of just one beast that you drag around everywhere.

The only shortcoming of the Primal Companion feature is the limited set of companion choices. None of them appear to work as mounts (though your DM might still allow it), and no matter how you dress up the stats any two beast masters are going to feel very similar to one another.

  • Beast of the Land: Simple and iconic. With 40 ft. land and climb speed, this thing can get around very quickly. The damage will match or exceed a weapon, and Charge allows your companion to knock foes prone if they can get a running start. Unfortunately, since your beast only gets one attack until you get Bestial Fury at level 11, it can’t capitalize on knocking enemies prone on its own for half of the level range.
  • Beast of the Sea: Only viable in aquatic campaigns. 5-foot land speed is not enough for your sharktopus to hobble around on land and be effective in combat. If you can somehow get its speed up to reasonable amount (look for spells like Longstrider with long durations which don’t require Concentration), you may be able to make this work on land. If you can do it, the Beast of the Sea’s attacks grapple when they hit, which is a powerful option not normally available to players.
  • Beast of the Sky: 60-foot fly speed and Flyby. Less hit points than the other options, but with the ability to remain perpetually out of melee reach that’s less of a problem. The damage is also slightly lower than Beast of the Land, but Beast of the Land deals 6.5+PB on average and the Beast of the Sky’s 5.5+PB isn’t noticably lower. Having a flying companion discourages you from using your companion as a Defender by interposing itself between you and your enemies, but Beast of the Sky’s AC is just as good as the other options and if your companion’s hit points are looking problematic it can use Flyby to withdraw to safety.

Beast Master with Ranger’s Companion

The original version of the Beast Master faces several mechanical issues, the largest of which are the lack of viable companion options and the frankly awful action economy. Commanding your companion to attack consumes one of your attacks when you take the Attack action, so rather than pointing your companion at an enemy then doing your own thing you spend your Action every turn commanding your companion while you run around in the background largely useless except as a target for ranged attacks. Staple options like Hunter’s Mark and Favored Foe are largely worthless for the Beastmaster, so you give up staple class options and get back what amounts to a disappointing set of remote control teeth.

If you do choose to play the original Beast Master, the biggest decision to make is your type of companion, and while there is an abundance of options the vast majority of them are absolute garbage. Assuming you’re fine with one of the handful of truly effective options, your companion can be an effective addition to the party. However, remember that your companion gets just 4 hit points per ranger level and will have a fairly low AC compared to yours, so your companion will require frequent healing and protection which can make it a frustrating tax on your party’s limited resources.

  1. Ranger’s Companion: Your choice of companion is as defining as your choice of Fighting Style. When selecting your companion, consider what you want it to do: Do you want a Scout, a Striker, or a Mount? Different options work better for different roles. Mounts are somewhat difficult since you’re limited to Medium size beasts. Since your companion is a buffed version of the base creature, you may notice that the better options tend to be CR 1/4, and CR 0 creatures are rarely worth of consideration despite the conceptually small gap between 0 and 1/4.

    Companion options are discussed below.

  2. Exceptional Training: Sometimes it will be better for you to attack twice than to have you companion attack. On those occasions, giving your companion some extra movement might set them up to attack on the following round, or you can always have them Dodge while they draw fire.

    Also note that errata updated this ability to make your companion’s attacks magical so that they can bypass resistances to non-magical weapon damage types.

  3. Bestial Fury: This doesn’t invalidate your ability to make a single weapon attack, so your beast gets two and you get one. If your beast has multiattack, they can now use multiattack instead of making two attacks, effectively doubling their damage output.
  4. Share Spells: This is a fantastic way to share buff spells, especially those which require Concentration.
Ranger’s Companion Options

Using the default companion ruleas means that you’re typically shopping through the Monster Manual to find a decent companion, and while CR is used to limit your selections to companions which won’t be too powerful, CR isn’t a perfect indicator of how good a companion will be. However, creatures with CR 0 are so weak that they can typically be disregarded on that point alone.

Your choice of companion is as defining as your choice of Fighting Style. When selecting your companion, consider what you want it to do: Do you want a Scout, a Striker, or a Mount? Different options work better for different roles. Mounts are somewhat difficult since you’re limited to Medium size. Since your companion is a buffed version of the base creature, you may notice that the better options tend to be CR 1/4.

It’s also important to note that many options are outright wasted because the Ranger’s proficiency bonus doesn’t add to the DC of the companion’s abilities. This considerably limits the number of viable options, and excludes iconic and popular choices like the Mastiff and the Wolf. If your DM is nice, you may be able to convince them to let you add your proficiency bonus to ability DC’s in addition to the other stats.

There are some rulings on how ranger companions work addressed in the Beast Mastter FAQ, below. Be sure to check the FAQ before selecting a companion.

  • BaboonMM: CR 0. Baboons notably have human-like hands, and could in theory use tools and possibly even magic items. However, with 4 Intelligence and no ability to understand language, it may be difficult to convince your baboon to do so. Even if you use magic, your DM likely won’t allow your baboon to do anything which is beyond its limited intellectual capacity.
  • BadgerMM: CR 0.
  • BatMM: CR 0.
  • Blood HawkMM: The damage isn’t great, but good flight, Keen Sight, and Pack Tactics all make the Blood Hawk a viable option. Proficiency in Perception makes the Blood Hawk a fantastic aerial Scout.
  • BoarMM: Passable at low levels, especially thanks to Charge, but won’t scale well.
  • CatMM: CR 0.
  • CrabMM: CR 0.
  • Cranium RatVGtM: CR 0.
  • DeerMM: CR 0.
  • DimetrodonVGtM: Great bite damage and a swim speed, but that’s all.
  • EagleMM: Blood Hawk and Pteranodon are strictly better.
  • Flying SnakeMM: Multiple movement types including good flight, Flyby, Blindsight, and impressive poison damage which doesn’t allow a save. Continues to be amazing once you get Bestial Fury at 11th level.
  • FrogMM: CR 0.
  • Giant BadgerMM: Burrow speed, Darkvision, Keen Smell. According to the errata, giant badgers don’t get multiattack until you get Bestial Fury at 11th level, which unfortunately means that the giant badger is limited to a single attack. They’re still a decent option and they’ll probably do more damage one a single attack than you will.
  • Giant CentipedeMM: Blindsight, a Climb speed, and poison with very solid damage, but the poison allows a save and the DC won’t scale so you’ll be less effective against creatures with good Constitution saves.
  • Giant CrabMM: The Giant Crab’s big scary mechanic is grappling with its claws, but since it doesn’t have proficiency in Athletics and your companion’s ability scores never increase the DC to resist the grapple never scales. Still, grappling a target on a hit means that you can reliably restrict the targets movement at least until they escape. While this won’t matter for a great many creatures who are fine standing still and murdering your pet crab, it can be problematic for highly mobile creatures or creatures who don’t like to be in melee. It still costs the target their action to escape the grapple, so if they want to get away from your crab you’re still getting some of the benefits of your crab grappling. The Crab’s AC is also impressively high, starting at a base of 15 before you add your Proficiency Bonus, so if you leave your crab to Dodge while it has a creature grappled, the grappled creature may find itself flailing against the Giant Crab’s frustratingly high AC with little effect.
  • Giant Fire BeetleMM: CR 0.
  • Giant FrogMM: This is an easy option to overlook. Bite not only grapples but restrains the target. Grappled is a great way to restrict enemies’ movements, but Restrained also provides advantage on melee attacks against the target. Swallow adds an additional way to inhibit (and often kill) small creatures, many of which are bad at escaping grapples. Despite the low DC to escape the frog’s grapple, it still costs the target their action to do so, which means that the target is wasting the bulk of their turn just offsetting the effects of your pet. In many encounters, that could be a fight-winning advantage. Once you get Bestial Fury at 11th level, remember that Swallow is a specific action, not a type of attack, so your frog can’t bite something and swallow it on the same turn.
  • Giant Poisonous SnakeMM: Blindsight (though the range is tiny), poison with very solid damage, and a swim speed, but the poison allows a save and the DC won’t scale so you’ll be less effective against creatures with good Constitution saves.
  • Giant RatMM: Darkvision, Keen Smell, and Pack Tactics. Unfortunately the Giant Rat has no special movement types and its damage is bad.
  • Giant WeaselMM: Fast, Darkvision, and Keen Hearing and Smell. No special movement types and bad damage.
  • Giant Wolf SpiderMM: Very similar to the giant poisonous snake, but the giant wolf spider gains better speed and Spider Climb in exchange for 1d6 poison damage. I think it’s a good trade, but it further compounds the issue of unreliable poison damage due to the saving throw.
  • GoatMM: CR 0.
  • HawkMM: Blood Hawk and Pteranodon are strictly better.
  • HyenaMM: CR 0, but pretty good for its CR thanks to Pack Tactics.
  • JackalMM: CR 0. Very similar to the Hyena, but it trades damage for Keen Hearing and Smell.
  • LizardMM: CR 0.
  • MastiffMM: Perception, Keen Hearing and Smell, and decent damage with a knockdown effect. Unfortunately the DC of the knockdown effect won’t scale. It’s a decent option on its own, but Wolf gets all of the same things with better numbers. If you really want a dog instead of a wolf, use the wolf stat block and call it a “wolf hound” or something.
  • MuleMM: The Pony is better unless you want your companion to pull a wagon.
  • OctopusMM: CR 0.
  • OwlMM: Cr 0. The abilities are tempting, especially since it’s one of few flying options with Stealth proficiency, but Blood Hawk and Pteranodon are both so much more effective in combat that it will be hard to justify the Owl.
  • PantherMM: Perception, Stealth, a Climb speed, and Keen Smell. The Panther’s damage is decent, but Pounce’s knockdown DC won’t scale.
  • Poisonous SnakeMM: The giant version is strictly better.
  • PonyMM: The best option for a mount, but at medium size it only works for Halflings.
  • PteranodonMM: Flight with good flight speed, 2d4+1 damage, and flyby allows your pteranodon to hit and run, allowing it to stay at a safe distance while still dealing considerable damage.
  • QuipperMM: CR 0.
  • RavenMM: CR 0. Ravens have the ability to repeat sounds that they’ve heard, but your beast companion is no more intelligent than a normal animal, so unless you can give it specific instructions using magic of some sort it’s difficult to bring this ability to bear. It’s also hard to justify comitting your signature subclass feature to amounts to a poorly-designed flying audio recorder.
  • ScorpionMM: CR 0.
  • Sea HorseMM: CR 0.
  • SpiderMM: CR 0.
  • StirgeMM: Darkvision and flight, and surprisingly good AC. Blood Drain looks very tempting, but since the Stirge detaches after dealing 10 damage it will become less and less effective as your proficiency bonus increases.
  • VelociraptorVGtM: Tiny with decent damage and Pack Tactics. Unless you need a companion which will fit into small spaces, Wolf is considerably better.
  • VultureMM: Surprisingly good for CR 0, the Vulture offers Perception, Keen Sight and Smell, and Pack Tactics. Its damage won’t match that of the Blood Hawk or Pteranodon, but it’s not completely awful.
  • WeaselMM: CR 0.
  • WolfMM: Perception, Stealth, Keen Hearing and Smell, Pack Tactics, and really decent damage. Even though the knockdown effect won’t scale, the Wolf is still a decent Scout and Striker, and once you get Bestial Fury at 11th level it can bite twice and hope to get lucky with the knockdown effect.

Beast Master FAQ

Can the Beast Master Ranger’s Companion use Multiattack?

Only once they get Bestial Fury. That means that companions like the Giant Badger don’t get multiattack until 11th level.

Does the Beast Master Ranger’s Companion add the ranger’s proficiency bonus to poison damage?

The damage bonus applies to the initial damage dealt by the attack and eals the same type of damage. If your companion deals poison damage which requires a saving throw, that’s treated as a separate source of damage and doesn’t gain the bonus. If the poison damage is dealt immediately upon the attack hitting, you could choose to make the damage bonus be poison damage since that’s part of the attack’s damage.

Fey WandererTCoE

Tricky and effective, the Fey Wanderer is an excellent subclass with a lot to offer to players who know how to use it to its fullest. You can play this subclass like a typical ranger like you would play a Hunter or a Monster Slayer, but you’re going to miss out on a lot of what really makes the Fey Wanderer shine.

If you choose to explore the Fey Wanderer, pick up Face skills like Persuasion. That’s normally a difficult prospect for the Ranger, but thanks to Otherworldly Glamour you can add both Wisdom and Charisma to Charisma checks, allowing you to be profoundly effective as a Face. You can also create a character who is highly skills in both Insight and Charisma-based Face skills at the same time, which is normally difficult to do.

The Fey Wanderer’s spells and class features lean heavily on your spellcasting ability, which makes it tempting to use Fighting Style (Druidic Warrior), but be cautious if you go this route. Dreadful Strikes only works with weapons, so you shouldn’t rely on things like Produce Flame as you go-to attack option. Shillelagh will work great, though.

  1. Dreadful Strikes: This roughly matches Hunter’s Mark, but with a lot of advantages. The most obvious benefit is that it’s free, but it doesn’t stop there. There’s no action costs. It stacks with Hunter’s Mark’s damage bonus. The damage is psychic, which is rarely resisted. It only applies once per target per turn, but if you can hit multiple targets they’ll all take the bonus damage. It also applies on Opportunity Attacks (Hunter’s Mark does, too, but it’s still really nice). The one drawback is that it doesn’t work quite as well as Hunter’s Mark does when focusing on a single target, so Hunter’s Mark may still be worth the spell slot.
  2. Fey Wanderer Magic: The vast majority of the options are only situationally useful, but you do get Misty Step which is good on exactly 100% of characters.
    • 3rd-Level: A strange choice mechanically, but the theme makes sense. Your save DC won’t match a full spellcaster unless you’re using Druidic Warrior to build around Wisom, and Charm Person doesn’t give you any indication that it worked, so you need to be extremely cautious when using it. You don’t get enough spell slots to cast it repeatedly just to be absolutely sure that it worked.
    • 5th-Level: The best teleportation option in combat.
    • 9th-Level: Essential in any party, but a ranger should not be the one casting this. You don’t get the high-level spell slots to make this automatically dispel stuff, and most rangers don’t have the Wisdom to back up the ability check. Look for Enhance Ability if you can get it from another spellcaster. Of course, at that point just have the other spellcaster cast Dispel Magic.
    • 13th-Level: Less of a go-to combat teleportation option than Misty Step, but it has better range and doesn’t require line of sight so it’s more powerful outside of combat or if you need to completely escape an encounter. You’ll still get more frequent use out of Misty Step thanks to its Bonus Action casting time and lower-level spell slot requirement, but Dimension Door can get you through walls and locked doors.
    • 17th-Level: Situational. Not a great option in combat, but out of combat this provides a passably safe way to scout an area or to trick other creatures if mundane stealth won’t do the trick for some reason.
  3. Otherworldly Glamour: One Face skill and you add your Wisdom modifier to all Charisma checks on top of any Charisma modifier. This is enough to make you a decent Face without high Charisma, but a little bit is still a great idea.
  4. Beguiling Twist: Hillarious and very effective, but likely difficult to use to its greatest potential.

    The obvious use case is to take charm/fear effects from your enemies and essentially redirect them back at your enemies. That works great, and can lead to scenarios like dragons being frightened by their own Frightful Presence. To make this as effective as possible, you want allies in your party who can reliably pass saving throws against charm/fear effects. These are nearly always Wisdom or Charisma saves, so high scores in those ability scores and proficiency in the saves both help, but also look for racial traits like Brave and class features which help like Aura of Protection.

    The less-obvious use case is using this offensively. If you have allies who can produce charm/fear effects (often spellcasters, but there are non-spell options too), you can capitalize on any creatures who pass saves against your allies’ abilities and force the creature to make another save against Beguiling Twist.

  5. Fey Reinforcements: Summon Fey once per day for free without the 300gp material component. The spirit’s attack bonus is based on your Spellcasting Modifier and the spell is heavily dependent on spell level, both of which are hard prospects for many rangers. But even if it’s not quite as effective offensively as something summoned by by a full spellcaster, it’s still an effective pet for up to an hour per casting.

    The second benefit allows you to cast a shorter version of the spell without the Concentration requirement, but that’s a really hard prospect with the Ranger’s limited pool of spell slots.

  6. Misty Wanderer: Misty Step for free several times per day, and you can even bring a friend along! This makes it easy to Rescue your friends from grapples or restraints, and you become very hard to keep in one place during combat.

Gloom StalkerXGtE

Gloom Stalker is considerably more powerful than other ranger archetypes if they’re played in campaigns which frequently enter dungeons, caves, the Underdark, or other dark places. Umbral Sight alone makes the Gloom Stalker a terrifying threat in a game where most of the Monster Manual is utterly incapable of combating invisibility.

The one thing that the Gloom Stalker lacks is a numeric damage boost. Most ranger subclasses have a feature that adds additional damage to their attacks like Dreadful Strikes, Planar Warrior, and Giant Killer. The Gloomstalker gets no such bonus, so you’re largely left on your own to find sources of additional damage output. Once Umbral Sight comes online you can get consistent Advantage on your attack rolls, so consider feats like Sharpshooter to trade some of that additional accuracy for a big damage boost, and don’t forget core ranger tactical options like Hunter’s Mark/Favored Foe.

While it can be extremely tempting to build for melee, Gloom Stalker often works better when built to fight at range. The ability to shoot your enemies from an area of darkness ensures that even if the enemy is carrying a light source which you didn’t anticipate you are frequently able to remain undetected.

  1. Gloom Stalker Magic: Mostly situational options, but a couple fantastic options.
    • 3rd-Level: Situational.
    • 5th-Level: A fantastic way to rest safely, and normally exclusive to wizards. But rangers get very few spell slots, and spending one to take a Short Rest safely is a high cost for the Ranger. Do your best to avoid needing this.
    • 9th-Level: It’s unlikely that you have sufficient Wisdom to make any spell which allows a saving throw reliable, so you’ll want to save this for encounters with numerous weak foes.
    • 13th-Level: Amazing on any stealthy character. Ideally you’ll never need this because you can rely on Umbral Sight, but if your enemies pull out a torch you can cast Greater Invisibility and remain unseen.
    • 17th-Level: Situational, but very helpful when your party needs to go somewhere where the locals are unfriendly.
  2. Dread Ambusher: The first round of combat is the most important. The bonus speed will help you get into position, especially if you’re built for melee, but the real bonus is the extra attack. If you can get Hunter’s Mark running before initiative is rolled, you absolutely should so that your first turn can be a big pile of damage.
  3. Umbral Sight: Getting free Darkvision is fantastic on its own, but invisibility to Darkvision is absolutely crazy. Most creatures that will ambush you using Darkvision won’t have a light source in their possession, so you functionally have Improved Invisibility. Even if an enemy finds a light source, if you extinguish it you’re right back to invisibly murdering them.
  4. Iron Mind: Additional saving throw proficiencies are always welcome.
  5. Stalker’s Fury: Not quite as powerful as an additional attack, but still extremely helpful. The fundamental math of 5e assumes that a player following the attack vs. AC progression will hit with attacks roughly 65% of the time againt CR-appropriate foes. If you’re making two attacks per turn, you have a roughly 42% chance to miss with at least one attack, so you’ll benefit from Stalker’s Fury consistently.
  6. Shadowy Dodge: It only works once per round because it consumes your Reaction, but that’s often plenty. The Gloomstalker thrives on being unseen, so this is powerful insurance if your enemies manage to attack while you’re not in total darkness and also not running Improved Invisibility.

Horizon WalkerXGtE

Not quite so stealthy as the Gloom Stalker, but no less effective. The Horizon walker gets a handful of abilities which help them travel between planes, but their main gimmick is teleporting around in combat and hitting stuff.

  1. Horizon Walker Magic: Almost all excellent options.
    • 3rd-Level: An absolutely fantastic buff.
    • 5th-Level: Fantastic, especially if you’re built for melee.
    • 9th-Level: One of the best buffs in the game, and it gets better the more allies you have. The extra attack also gives you another chance to apply the bonus damage from Planar Warrior.
    • 13th-Level: A wonderful spell, but you likely don’t have the Wisdom to back it up with a decent spell DC unless your built around Druidic Warrior.
    • 17th-Level: One of the safest and easiest ways to transport your entire party long distances.
  2. Detect Portal: Situational. In most games this won’t matter much, but in a plane-hopping campaign it could be extremely useful.
  3. Planar Warrior: Since this consumes your Bonus Action, two-weapon fighting and other sources of bonus action attacks like Crossbow Expert won’t work. However, the benefits are still amazing. Bonus damage, and weapon damage on the affected attack all becomes force damage (which is resisted by almost nothing). It only works once per turn, so you may be able to do more damage by investing in two-weapon fighting or taking Crossbow Mastery, but this is free, it scales on its own at level 11, and without the need for two-weapon fighting melee rangers can easily justify using a shield.
  4. Ethereal Step: One round is frequently all you need. Walk through walls or doors or slip past enemies (including those which have Blindsight or can see invisibility). Etherealness even lets you move upward or downward, allowing you to move through floors and ceilings (albeit at half the rate as moving horizontally).
  5. Distant Strike: The teleportation is on top of your normal movement. If you have two enemies to attack in a small enough area, you could teleport back and forth between the two while attacking in order to trigger the additional attack from Distant Strike. You don’t need to hit both targets, and rangers typically fare best when focusing on a single target, so think of the additional attack from Distant Strike as a free attack against a different nearby enemy while you’re busy focusing on your primary target.

    Consider casting Haste before you jump into combat. The additional attack provided by Haste an an Attack action, so it qualifies to trigger Distant Strike, allowing you to teleport and attack four times (2 from Extra Attack, one from Haste, one from Distant Strike) in a turn without using your bonus action. You can still use your Bonus Action to engage in two-weapon fighting, but it won’t trigger the teleportation because it’s not part of the Attack action.

  6. Spectral Defense: You don’t need to use this until you get hit, so if your AC is decent and you manage to avoid drawing too many attacks, this can prevent a ton of damage. Spectral Defense works against all forms of attacks, including spell attacks, but since it gives you resistance to the damage it won’t stack with any other resistances. This isn’t quite as good as Uncanny Dodge (which halves the damage rather than granting Resistance to it), but it’s close.

HunterPHB

Simple, unpretentious, and lacking any of the fancy magic nonsense common to many ranger subclasses, the Hunter is a simple yet effective martial option. The Hunter also notably has the most decision points of any ranger subclass, allowing you to tailor your build to your play style and your role in the party.

Despite mostly focusing on offensive options, the Hunter is arguably the most durable ranger archetype, as it has the most options to directly prevent the Ranger from taking damage.

While still perfectly viable, Hunters can’t compete with the capabilities of the new subclasses presented in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Unfortunately it can’t compete with the Gloom Stalker’s capacity for stealth, or with the Horizon Walker’s damage output.

  1. Hunter’s Prey: Much like your choice of Fighting Style, this is a definitivie part of how your Ranger fights. Targeting foes which optimize your choice of Hunter’s Prey will is a central part of the Hunter’s tactics, so choose targets carefully rather than rushing the closest enemy.
    • Colossus Slayer: Always reliable and always effective, 1d8 damage for free each round is a nice boost that roughly matches similar damage from other ranger subclasses. Most creatures will take some amount of damage early in a fight, so it’s easy to trigger this damage bonus and you don’t need to spend a Bonus Action to activate it like some other subclass damage boosts, so options like Two-Weapon Fighting and Crossbow Expert are still viable.

      Generally this is the best Hunter’s Prey option for melee builds because melee builds are usually forced to focus on a single enemy at a time since switching targets typically involves getting hit with an Opportunity Attack.

    • Giant Killer: A lot of enemies are Large or larger, especially big martial enemies like beasts, dragons, fiends, etc. This requires that the subject attack you, but if your AC is decent and you can handle being attacked a few times this can be an excellent source of damage output. Unfortunately, since this doesn’t apply to every enemy, you may find that numerous encounters don’t benefit from Giant Killer. If you know that your campaign will involve numerous oversized enemies (Storm King’s Thunder is a great example if you’re looking at published campaigns), this is a good choice. Otherwise, you might just decide to be happy only using this some of the time.
    • Horde Breaker: In encounters with numerous foes, this is a significant damage boost, but the extra attack has strict requirements and doesn’t cooperate with staple ranger options like Hunter’s Mark/Favored Foe which encourage you to focus on bringing down one target at a time rather than spreading damage to multiple foes.

      Melee builds will have trouble using this unless you have reach, especially if enemies are attacking your allies rather than swarming you. Ranged builds will have less trouble because you can easily switch targets to any enemies who happen to be close enough together.

  2. Defensive Tactics: All of the options are technically situational, but I would pick Multiattack Defense nine times out of ten.
    • Escape the Horde: Rangers are more durable than Rogues, so running away from enemies isn’t something you typically need to do. If you do need to run away, consider taking the Disenage action. If you need to run away a lot, consider the Mobile feat.
    • Multiattack Defense: Large single enemies frequently have multiple attacks, especially as you gain levels, so this boost to AC will occur frequently and will prevent a lot of damage.
    • Steel Will: Fear effects are common, but generally won’t get you killed. You can also get this resistance from numerous sources, such as the Halfling’s Brave trait.
  3. Multiattack: Both options are fantastic.
    • Volley: The obvious choice for ranged builds. This won’t benefit much from Hunter’s Mark/Favored Foe, but hitting three or more foes will typically deal more damage than focusing on a single marked target.
    • Whirlwind Attack: Melee builds not built around two-weapon fighting will get the most out of this ability since their normal attacks deal higher damage than TWF builds, and since you’re not taking the Attack action you can’t spend your Bonus Action to make an additional attack. Unfortunately, it’s limited to creatures within 5 feet of you, so you can’t abuse reach to get additional targets.

      However, even TWF builds may find this ability helpful since they may still get the same number of attacks without consuming their Bonus Action, allowing you to use it for something like casting a spell.

  4. Superior Hunter’s Defense: Uncanny Dodge is clearly the best option here, but Evasion is good, too.
    • Evasion: With high Dexterity and proficiency in Dexterity saves, this makes you practically immune to AOE damage effects like Fireball and breath weapons.
    • Stang Against the Tide: The positioning to make this work is very difficult in most situations, and as soon as enemies see you do this they’re reasonably going to space themselves out to prevent you from doing it again.
    • Uncanny Dodge: The majority of damage you will take in the game will come from attacks. Combined with Multiattack Defense, you can reduce the damage of the first hit, then dramatically reduce the likelihood of suffering further hits.

Monster SlayerXGtE

In many ways the Monster Slayer is a simplified version of the Hunter. It functions very similarly, though it lacks the customization options, and due to the subclass features there’s much less build flexibility. That said, it’s still a very functional and effective subclass, striking a good balance between damage output and durability without the stress of additional decision points. If you’re looking for a relatively simple ranger, the Monster Slayer is a great choice.

The Monster Slayer works best with a high-Dexterity build with Fighting Style (Archery), and generally it doesn’t even require feats like Crossbow Expert or Sharpshooter, which are normally common go-to options for archery builds. Slayer’s Prey, Hunter’s Mark, and Favored Foe all provide plenty of damage output, and since Slayer’s Prey and Hunter’s Mark monopolize your your Bonus Action it’s hard to make room for Crossbow Expert. The damage boosts from Slayer’s Prey, etc., only work if you hit, so Sharpshooter is usually a bad gamble. If you max out Dexterity and want to explore feats, consider options like Skill Expert.

Technically the only thing that locks the Monster Slayer into ranged weapons is Slayer’s Counter, so if you know for certain that your campaign will end by level 14 you may be perfectly happy with a melee build.

  1. Monster Slayer Magic: Most of the options are situational or difficult for you to use.
    • 3rd-Level: An excellent defensive buff.
    • 5th-Level: Situational, and your save DC likely won’t be good enough to make this work well.
    • 9th-Level: Situational.
    • 13th-Level: A wonderful spell, but you likely don’t have the Wisdom to back it up with a decent spell DC.
    • 17th-Level: Great, but your spell DC is probably still mediocre.
  2. Hunter’s Sense: Great if you have time to observe the creature from hiding, but I would rarely spend an Action to do this during combat.
  3. Slayer’s Prey: As far as I can tell this stacks with Hunter’s Mark/Favored Foe. Both Hunter’s Mark and Slayer’s Prey require Bonus Actions, so use this first since it’s free, but against tough foes definitely consider using both.

    While Slayer’s Prey provides a damage bonus as large as Hunter’s Mark, it only works once per turn. This means that tactics like Two-Weapon Fighting and Crossbow Expert are less important, and the Bonus Action cost to activate Slayer’s Prey and cast or re-target Hunter’s Mark means that your Bonus Action on most turns is already committed, so Two-Weapon Fighting and Crossbow Expert are hard choices.

  4. Supernatural Defense: A bit unreliable since multiple foes might force you to make saving throws in quick succession, but this is still fantastic. Be sure to keep Slayer’s Prey running and keep it focused on the foe most likely to force you to make a saving throw. Remember that you can use Slayer’s Prey an unlimited number of times, so you can easily change targets whenever you need.
  5. Magic-User’s Nemesis: Not quite as good as being able to cast Counterspell, but it still might prevent an enemy from escaping or prevent them from casting a spell which would really ruin your day.
  6. Slayer’s Counter: This is absurdly good. There’s no limitation on its usage, so if you’re fighting a spellcaster (most spells force saving throws) you might be able to get free attacks against them every round. However, you’ll need to be able to reach the creature that created the effect, so stick to ranged weapons.

    You can repeatedly trigger this by running a Concentration spell like Hunter’s Mark. The save to maintain Concentration qualifies, and if you have good enough Constitution saves (consider the Resilient feat) you can reliably maintain Concentration while fishing for free attacks with Slayer’s Counter.

Swarm KeeperTCoE

The Swarm Keeper is most obviously associated with bugs, since those are what you generally think of when someone says “swarm”. But don’t let that limit your thinking. The subclass entry suggests a swarm of pixies as an example, and I’ve seen some very immaginative of swarm keeper rangers with swarms of oppossums and raccoons. You might have a swarm of birds, fish, lizards, or any number of other miniscule critters. Their appearance is purely cosmetic and has about as much mechanical impact as your character’s hair color, but it’s a fantastic character detail.

The Swarm Keeper is simple to play, but a lot of fun. Gathered Swarm adds a small but meaningful tactical consideration to every turn, encouraging the player to apply their attacks strategically rather than simply piling damage onto the first things in need of stabbing. The subclass has no decision points, so it’s an easy option for new players but also has enough mechanical hooks that veterans will some room to push the subclass beyond its expected capabilities. It’s a welcome addition in a party that can effectively capitalize upon area control effects like Wall of Fire provided by allies, but even without those options the Swarm Keeper still works well.

  1. Gathered Swarm: Using this will add some tactical complexity to every one of your turns. Keep in mind that this only works once per turn so it’s no replacement for something like Hunter’s Mark/Favored Foe in terms of sheer damage output, and you’ll want to have a plan at the start of your turn before you start attacking. This will be more reliable if you’re making multiple attacks, so consider two-weapon fighting until you get Extra Attack.

    While each of the options below are rated as orange to indicate that they are only situationally useful, their combined capabilities are excellent. It’s like having a toolbox with three tools in it: any one tool can only do a couple things, but between the three of them you can do a lot.

    • Damage: Your go-to option in most cases, but also your option of last resort. Use the other options if they’re going to have any significant impact. Otherwise, the 1d6 damage is a small but satisfying bonus. Unfortunately, since this is from a separate source rather than “extra damage” added to your attack, the damage isn’t multiplied on a critical hit and resistance to non-magic piercing damage will apply and there’s literally nothing you can do about it.
    • Move Target: Moving enemies can force them to break grapples with your allies, and can put them into bad places like ongoing area damage, open pits, etc.
    • Move Self: This is the option you are least likely to use, but it’s still helpful. Moving yourself 5 feet can get you out of melee reach, out of grapples, out of area effects, and generally out of trouble.
  2. Swarmkeeper Magic: Some really good utility options, but the offensive options will be hard to rely upon.
    • 3rd-Level: Mage hand is a good cantrip, and rangers generally don’t get cantrips. Even if you take Druidic Warrior, Mage Hand isn’t an option. Faerie Fire is a great combat option, but your save DC will likely be low, so save it for when you’re facing a crowd (statistically some of your enemies will still fail their save) or when you’re facing enemies which have poor Dexterity like ogres or the Tarrasque.
    • 5th-Level: Web is a hard choice. Since creatures can use Dexterity to avoid it or Strength to break out, you can’t make it work by targeting creatures with low saves of either type. Plus, they can always burn their way out of the webs.
    • 9th-Level: A great way to infiltrate places, to escape, to scout, and generally to go somewhere without other creatures causing you trouble. The move speed is very limited, so combine this with buffs like Longstrider to boost your speed and get more done in the 1-hour duration.
    • 13th-Level: Even though you get it much later than dedicated spellcasters, Arcane Eye is still one of my absolute favorite divination options for scouting from a safe distance.
    • 17th-Level: Constitution saves tend to be high and ranger’s save DCs tend to be low, which is a hard combination. But with a 10-minute duration and half damage on a successful save, if you can trap enemies in an enclosed space or repeatedly knock them into the area with Gathered Swarm, you can still deal huge amounts of damage even if enemies consistently pass the saving throw.
  3. Writhing Tide: Flight of any kind is great, but 10 ft. speed definitely isn’t much. You can get off the ground and over small obstacles, but don’t expect to travel like this. Remember that you can Dash if necessary, so if you have nothing else to do you can fly up to 200 feet on one usage. You can also boost your speed with buffs like Longstrider and Haste, which will go a long way to make this more useful both in and out of combat.
  4. Mighty Swarm: Huge improvements to the movement options. The damage option improves so little I’m confused why they bother to improve it at all.
    • Damage: 1d6 to 1d8 is not a meaningful difference. If they made the damage magical, that would be nice and it would solve the issue of resistance/immunity to non-magic piercing damage which has plagued you since level 3.
    • Move Target: Knocking the target prone is great if you have melee allies who will benefit from them being prone or if you need to cut the target’s movement. However, if you’re attacking at range you’ll make your own life harder by knocking your target prone.
    • Move Self: +2 AC for one round. If you’re fighting in melee that’s a huge benefit and you should consider using this every turn.
  5. Swarming Dispersal: By this level you have plenty of daily uses for this. Use it to gain Resistance against high-damage attacks like critical hits or high-level spells, and also to get yourself out of melee combat if you don’t want to be there. You can technically use this by willingly taking damage in order to trigger the teleportation, but it’s probably not a significant abuse case because the uses per day are limited and the range is so short. Still, if you need to get out of somewhere nasty (a grapple, a pool of acid, an ongoing spell effect, etc.) you can always slap yourself for 1+Str damage to trigger the teleportation.
Sours: https://rpgbot.net/dnd5/characters/classes/ranger/subclasses/
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DnD 5e – The Ranger Handbook

Last Updated: September 25, 2021

Introduction

The Ranger is an interesting mix of Druid-style spellcasting, Fighter-style combat capabilities, and Rogue-style skills. Themed around nature and exploration, the Ranger is a welcome asset in parties exploring untamed lands above or below ground.

The Ranger can fill the role of either a Fighter-equivalent or a Rogue-equivalent (sometimes both), and works well as a Scout and Striker, but trades the Fighter’s durability for better skills and improved damage output. While they do have the ability to cast spells, and can therefore provide healing and utility options, the Ranger doesn’t have nearly enough magic to serve as a Healer or a Utility caster.

Rangers are a cool concept that has long captured players’ imaginations, but they’ve been plagued by mechanical issues since they were first introduced, literally decades before the original release of 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons. The features which make them unique and interesting often go unused because they force rangers to specialize in solving problems and fighting enemies which players can’t guarantee that they’ll face. The Ranger’s Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer features ask players to choose creatures and places which the Ranger specializes in fighting, and if those things don’t appear in the game the features are essentially wasted.

To further torment ranger players, the Beast Master subclass as it was published in the Player’s Handbook was so frustratingly bad that it poisoned the communities opinion of rangers to the point that years later the Ranger is still the character optimization community’s favorite punching bag.

But 5+ years into 5e’s life span, the Ranger has come into its own. The introduction of numerous exciting subclasses like the Gloom Stalker and the Swarm Keeper, rules fixes like new ways to handle the Beast Master’s companion, and Optional Class Features which replace the Ranger’s least-useful features have all made great strides to make the Ranger both fun and effective.

After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read my Ranger Subclasses Breakdown and my Ranger Spells Breakdown.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and I can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Ranger Class Features

Optional Class Features are detailed below under Optional Class Features.

Hit Points: Standard for martial characters, d10 hit points gives you plenty of hp to get through the day.

Saves: Dexterity saves almost exclusively prevent partial damage from AOE effects, and Strength saves are relatively rare.

Proficiencies: Medium armor, shields, and martial weapons are great, but without heavy armor almost every Ranger will go for a Dexterity-based build. Rangers also get three skills, which is unusually high, but since Rangers fall somewhere between a Fighter-equivalent and Rogue-equivalent, it makes sense that they get an extra skill.

Favored Enemy: Situational by nature, and the bonuses you gain against the subject are somewhat small.

Favored Enemy is perhaps more indicative of the problems with the Ranger than any other part of the class: it requires the player to make a decision which is unchangeable and which is often made with little or no information guiding that decision, and if the player makes the wrong decision they may never benefit from the feature even if they’re fortunate enough to play that character all the way to level 20. And even in those cases where the player has the right Favored Enemy, the effects are so minor and fleeting that it feels like there’s no benefit.

  • Aberrations: One of the more numerous creature types, but very few have a CR above 10.
  • Beasts: Beasts are common at low levels, but very few beasts have a CR above 5 so you’ll stop facing them early in your career.
  • Celestiais: Like Fiends, but only select this in an evil campaign.
  • Constructs: There aren’t a lot of constructs in the Monster Manual, and they don’t appear frequently because they’re hard to shoe-horn into many adventures. Plus, how often do you need to track a golem which was created to guard a room?
  • Dragons: Dragons are a tempting option because they’re so iconic and scary, but they’re also a bad option because there are so few of them.
  • Elementals: There are very few elemental creatures which frequent appearances as enemies.
  • Fey: There are almost no Fey in the Monster Manual, and their CRs are all very low.
  • Fiends: A great option, especially in an all-good campaign. Fiends are numerous, and run the whole CR range.
  • Giants: There aren’t a ton of giants, and their highest CR is 13.
  • Monstrosities: There are a lot great mosnters which qualify as “Monstrosities”, but very vew of them have a CR above 11.
  • Oozes: There are almost no oozes in the Monster Manual.
  • Plants: There are very few plant monsters in the game.
  • Undead: Iconic, numerous, and consisting of a long list of enemies running the whole CR range. Undead pop up in many campaigns, even those where undead aren’t a major them, so they’re a good, reliable option.
  • Humanoid: Humanoids are hard to pin down. Depending on your campaign, you may face a huge number of humanoids or you may face absolutely none. Only select humanoids if you know that you’re going to face them. Since you get to pick two types of humanoids, I recommend Humans and another race which is prominent in the campaign’s setting.

If your group is using Optional Class Features, consider trading Favored Enemy for Favored Foe (yes, I know those are synonyms). See below, under “Optional Class Features”, for more information.

Natural Explorer: You get three choices over the course of your career, so hopefully your campaign doesn’t involve a huge amount of traveling. The bonuses are fairly small, but fit the flavor the class.

If your group is using Optional Class Features, consider trading Natural Explorer for Deft Explorer. See below, under “Optional Class Features”, for more information.

Fighting Style: Rangers get a subset of the Fighting Styles available to Fighters, but the ones they get offer plenty of options. Unlike Fighters, Rangers only get one Fighting Style so it’s important to pick one that fits your build sincey you won’t get to pick a supplemental style.

  • ArcheryPHB: The obvious choice for ranged builds. +2 to hit is a big deal in a game where a 20th-level character can expect a maximum of +11 to hit.
  • Blind FightingTCoE (Optional): This one is hard. Blindsight, even at just 10-foot range, is extremely useful. It solves issues of invisible enemies, it helps make up for lack of magical options for Darkvision, and it addresses effects which block line of sight like fog, magical darkness, or other stuff. But those effects don’t appear in most encounters, so this is only situationally useful. When it works it’s great, but the rest of the time it’s useless. Unless you have allies in the party who plan to frequently use magical darkness or other options to obscure vision I would skip this.

    Races which suffer from Sunlight Sensitivity might consider this as a solution to their sunlight issues. If you don a blindfold (or close your eyes), your DM may allow you to overcome the effects of Sunlight Sensitivity by willingly blinding yourself. The text of Sunlight Sensitivity isn’t perfectly clear if it only applies to attacks which rely on sight, so this may not work RAW, but the idea makes sense.

  • DefensePHB: AC boosts are great, but Rangers are a Strikers at heart and you need a Fighting Style which boosts your damage output. Of course, Beast Master Rangers may prefer to rely more heavily on their companion for offense, so a boost to AC can allow you to protect yourself while your companion does the work.
  • Druidic WarriorTCoE: Access to cantrips allows the Ranger to build around spellcasting as their primary combat option. Shillelagh is your go-to choice for melee combat, and Produce Flame is your go-to ranged option. If you can do without one or both of those options, Guidance is a great utility, and Thunderclap can help handle crowds.

    While Druidic Warrior allows the Ranger to be built around Wisdom instead of Strength or Dexterity, it comes with its own complications. Wisdom-based builds will need medium armor, which means that you need 14 Dexterity and you’ll suffer Disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks just like Strength-based builds. Rangers also have very little spellcasting and few directly offensive spells, so your Wisdom score doesn’t do as much for the Ranger as it does for the Druid.

    If you look at the pros and cons of Druidic Warrior and you still want to use it on a ranger, the last question you need to ask yourself is “what will this character do that a druid couldn’t do better?” If you have an answer to that question which satisfies you (and there are some good answers), Druidic Warrior will work fine. Beast Master is a great go-to example; since you can rely on your beast in combat, focusing on Wisdom and spellcasting is often much easier. But for many other subclasses, sticking to weapons is often a better choice.

  • DuelingPHB: Note that this works while using a shield. 2 damage closes the damage gap between a longsword and a two-handed weapon (4.5->6.5 vs. 6.5/7). For many subclasses, this is the go-to melee option because your Bonus Action may be monopolized by other things like commanding a beast companion or using features like Planar Warrior.
  • Thrown Weapon FightingTCoE (Optional) Finally a way to make thrown weapons workable in 5e! Unlike a bow or crossbow, you can use thrown weapons one-handed and some even work effectively with two-weapon fighting since thrown weapons are usually melee weapons with the Thrown property. If you’re using magic weapons you may have some trouble since you’re repeatedly throwing your weapons away, but you’ll be able to recover them after combat.

    Thrown Weapon Fighting has some unique interactions with other fighting styles. If you use a melee weapon with the light and thrown property like handaxes, you can benefit from the Two-Weapon Fighter style. If you take the Dual Wielder feat, you can upgrade to Javelins. If you instead use ranged weapons with the thrown property like darts, you can benefit from the Archery style, adding +2 to both attacks and damage. That allows you to match the average damage of a longbow while still holding a shield.

    To summarize: This is probably the most complex Fighting Style because you need to combine it other options (feats and/or another Fighting Style) to make it as truly effective, but those complex interactions also allow some really fun combinations. I don’t recommend this for new players, but an experience player could build a very interesting character around this.

  • Two-Weapon FightingPHB: One of the biggest issues with two-weapon fighting is that you don’t get to add your ability modifier to your off-hand attack without this fighting style, and taking this style makes it considerably more viable. Unlike a Fighter, TWF is a perfectly viable option for many Rangers. Hunter’s Mark adds a small but notable damage boost which closes the damage gap between greatswords and short swords, making TWF highly effective for Rangers since the extra attack offers an additional opportunity to deliver Hunter’s Mark’s damage boost.

    However, two-weapon fighting struggles with the action economy. Hunter’s Mark requires a Bonus Action to cast or re-assign, so in the heat of combat you often need to decide between using Hunter’s Mark or making your additional attack. Many subclasses also have features like Planar Warrior or Slayer’s Prey which also consume your Bonus Action, as do many other ranger spells so for many subclasses you’ll find that your Bonus Action is in use too often to make use of two-weapon fighting. TWF can still work very well for the Hunter, but many other subclasses should avoid it. Before you commit to this, take a good look at your subclass and see if you’ll need your Bonus Action to activate subclass features.

Spellcasting: Rangers have a really interesting spell list with a lot of unique options exclusive to the Ranger. However, nearly every spell on the list uses Concentration, so it’s really hard to use more than one spell at a time.

For help selecting spells, see my Ranger Spell List Breakdown.

Ranger Archetype: Ranger subclasses are briefly summarized below. See my Ranger Subclasses Breakdown for help selecting your subclass.

  • Beast Master: Fight alongside a powerful beast companion, training them as a living weapon to aid you in battle.
  • Fey Wanderer: Gain fey power and use it to beguile, charm, and outwit other creatures.
  • Gloom Stalker: Hunt your foes in the dark, gaining the ability to see and fight in the dark, and to ambush your foes.
  • Horizon Walker: Walk the planes, gaining the ability to teleport in battle and to travel between planes without relying on spells like Plane Shift.
  • Hunter: A capable warrior, the Hunter is most customizable ranger subclass, capable of succeeding in a variety of fighting styles.
  • Monster Slayer: Focus on slaying single foes, gaining the ability to discern their strengths and weaknesses, to deal extra damage to your studied prey, and to resist and foil their spells and abilities.
  • Swarm Keeper: Use a swarm of fey spirits to empower your attacks, to defend you in combat, and even to carry you through the air.

Primeval Awareness: Too expensive, too limited, too situational. The fact that this costs spell slots to activate is frankly insulting. Primeval Awareness is so laughably useless that if you simply removed it from the Ranger no one would notice. I once had a ranger in my party use it while we were trying to search for some undead enemies. They read the effect, the DM told us “Yes”, and the entire group paused in stunned silence to reflect on how truly worthless Primeval Awareness is even in a situational perfectly suited for Primeval Awareness to succeed.

If your DM allows it, trade Primeval Awareness for the Primal Awareness Optional Class Feature. See below, under “Optional Class Features”, for more information.

Extra Attack: You’re no Fighter, but two attacks is still a considerable boost to your damage output.

Land’s Stride: Difficult terrain is very frustrating for melee characters, so this will give you a big advantage in some fights.

Hide in Plain Sight: You don’t get to move while using this, but it’s very effective.

Vanish: Very helpful for sniping, but not as important for Rangers as Cunning Action is for Rogues since you don’t get Sneak Attack. Also note that it doesn’t work with Hide in Plain Sight.

Feral Sense: Invisible creatures are hugely problematic, and even knowing what square they are in is a big advantage. Being able to locate and attack them without penalty is a massive bonus.

Foe Slayer: This is at most a +5, but a +5 to an attack roll can be a huge bonus in a game where +11 is the normal maximum.

Optional Class Features

Introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Optional Class Features offer ways to add additional features or replace existing ones. These rules are optional, and you should not assume that your DM will allow these features without consulting them first.

Assessments and suggestions for specific Optional Class Features are presented here, but for more information on handling Optional Class Features in general, see my Practical Guide to Optional Class Features.

Rangers have recieved more Optional Class Features than any other class. Of every “replacement” feature published, only one of them isn’t a Ranger feature. Wizards of the Coast saw the problems and they gave us a ton of tools to fix them. Because there are so many Optional Class Features for the ranger, you may need to be more cautious when consider the new features than you would with other classes.

Deft Explorer (Replacement): Deft Explorer replaces each of the three favored terrains which the Ranger gains as they gains levels.

  1. Canny: Expertise in one skill and two free languages. Expertise in a skill helps close the skill gap between the Ranger and the Rogue. The languages seem like a weird choice since rangers make terrible Faces (the Fey Wanderer is an exception). Personally I’d like the ability to trade the languages for tool or vehicle proficiencies, but you can always get those from your background if you need to. Normally if you want Expertise I recommend a level in rogue, but this makes that class dip less important.
  2. Roving: Climb speeds are the next best things to fly speeds. Swim speeds are only occasionally useful, and if you want the swim speed for an aquatic campaign it won’t solve the issue of breathing.
  3. Tireless: Activate the temporary hit points after every fight. It’s a free hit die worth of hit points. The Exhaustion removal is only situationally useful, but it has the hilarious benefit of allowing you to negate the effects of starvation and dehydration by taking a nap.

I hate the Natural Explorer feature to a degree that I can’t adequately justify, and which I definitely can’t justify explaining twice in one article (see the assessment above, under Ranger Class Features). Replacing Natural Explorer with Deft Explorer is a dramatic improvement on the Ranger in every sense: more effective mechanically, simpler and more satisfying to play, and more interesting.

I recommend allowing Deft Explorer on all single-class rangers. It allows them to more easily fill a role as the party’s Rogue-equivalent, and it fits the theme of the Ranger as a capable and hardy explorer very well. It’s a linear buff to the class and the Ranger gives up basically nothing to get Deft Explorer, but in the case of the Ranger I really don’t think that’s a problem.

Favored Foe (Replacement): A small damage boost once per turn. This has two interesting benefits to the function of the Ranger which go far beyond “deal extra” damage. First, builds which don’t attack as a Bonus Action feel less weak compared to two-weapon fighting and crossbow expert builds, and subclasses like the Horizon Walker which have reliable Bonus Action features don’t need to choose between ignoring subclass features and getting more damage out of Hunter’s Mark.

Second, Hunter’s Mark becomes less of a crucial damage option and therefore less of a tax on the Ranger’s limited pools of spell slots and spells known. Hunters Mark is still good, and it’s is still better for rangers who can make numerous attacks than Favored Foe is, but Favored Foe can frequently cover situations where you can’t manage Hunter’s Mark, and it’s close enough in effectiveness that you could use your spell slots (and your Bonus Action) for something more exciting.

I recommend allowing Favored Foe on all single-class rangers. Favored Foe isn’t a fantastic ability, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s always useful, and though the damage bonus is small it’s reliable and doesn’t require guesswork for the player to make it effective. It also reduces the need to take Hunter’s Mark, removing a frustrating tax on the Ranger’s extremely limited pool of spells known.

Additional Ranger Spells (Addition): The Ranger’s spell list is small, weird, and limited. It’s best known for signature spells like Hunter’s Mark and Zephyr Strike, but since the Ranger draws most of its spells from the Druid’s spell list while being so much worse as spell casting, most of the Ranger’s spell list isn’t worth exploring. The new spells add a lot of a really interesting options which give the Ranger something worthy of their Concentration that’s not Hunter’s Mark or Guardian of Nature.

There are some odd options here. Searing Smite is a weird choice, and Aid, Revivify, and Greater Restoration feel somewhat out of place. But considering that Revivify was added to the Druid, and that the Ranger gets those spells considerably later than other spellcasters, I think they’re interesting additions that introduce some very important new capabilies to the Ranger without making them outshine other classes like the Druid.

I recommend allowing the additional spells on all rangers. The Ranger’s spell list has long been a pain point, and expanding those options means that we may finally see some diversity in spells known since there are more than a handful of worthwhile spells on the spell list.

Fighting Style Options (Addition): Exciting new options. Druidic Warrior is notably exclusive to the ranger, allowing players to explore a more casting-focused ranger and potentially build around Wisdom rather Strength or Dexterity. The new options are all interesting new build concepts, though they’re no more powerful than those which are already available.

I recommend allowing the new Fighting Style options on all rangers. I don’t expect the new options to supplant Archery or Two-Weapon Fighting as the best options for the Ranger, but the new options introduce exciting new build possibilities. Plus, rangers still only get one unless they spend a feat or multiclass.

Spellcasting Focus (Addition): The flavor makes sense, but for the vast majority of character using a spellcasting focus instead of a spell component pouch is a purely cosmetic change. The one exception is using a staff, which can also double as a quarterstaff, making the staff an effective choice if you want to combine Shillelagh, a quarterstaff, a shield, and potentially the Polearm Master feat.

I recommend allowing Spellcasting Focus on all rangers. The impact is extremely minor, but the flavor is fun.

Primal Awareness (Replacement): Five free spells known isn’t a huge benefit, and all of the spells are situational, but getting them for free means that rangers (who must permanently learn spells rather than preparing them) actually have a chance of casting these spells from time to time. Giving up Primeval Awareness for even something as modest as Primal Awareness is a good trade.

I recommend allowing Primal Awareness on all rangers. It allows some very situational spells to see some use without a druid needing to take a Long Rest, and rangers get so few spell slots that it’s not going to upset your game.

Martial Versatility (Addition): Being locked into your choice of Fighting Style at level 2 gives you very little time to decide on how your ranger is going to fight. The ability to change styles occasionally makes that decision less permanent, and allows you to change styles if something happens like you find a cool weapon or you need to switch roles within the party.

I recommend allowing Martial Versatility on all rangers. Like with other retraining mechanics, players still can’t have more options at the same time than they could get if they didn’t retrain, so players will be more satisfied with their character but won’t actually be any stronger than they could be.

Nature’s Veil (Replacement): The uses for this are impressively numeorus, and getting as many as 6 uses per day means that you can make this a go-to tactical option. Turn invisibile to run out of melee or to quickly sneak between cover. Turn invisible to dart into melee unnoticed before ambushing someone. Turn invisible to get Advantage on your next attack. Get creative.

I recommend allowing Nature’s Veil on all rangers using subclasses which I’ve rated green or lower. This is a powerful feature that can allow the ranger to do a lot of stuff which normally requires magic, and the more powerful subclasses don’t need the additional tactical option to be competitive with other classes.

Ability Scores

For the vast majority of rangers, Dexterity dominates the Ranger’s abilities because rangers are most effective in light armor using finesse weapons or ranged weapons. Constitution is always helpful, and rangers should invest a little bit in Wisdom to support their spellcasting and crucial skills like Perception.

Strength-based builds are possible, but face additional difficulties not faced by Dexterity-based builds. Half plate (the best medium armor) imposes Disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks, and thrown weapons have much shorter range than bows. Rangers are most likely to stick to one-handed melee weapons, and the rapier is just as good as any one-handed weapon which you would use with Strength. You’ll be able to use two-handed melee weapons, but there’s very little reason to do so when so much of the Ranger’s damage can come from Favored Foe and Hunter’s Mark. To summarize: Strength-based builds suffer immediate setbacks, and gain essentially no benefit.

Finally, Fighting Style (Druidic Warrior) allows for Wisdom-based builds. Take the Shillelagh cantrip and a ranged attack cantrip like Produce Flame, and you can fight both in melee and at range using Wisdom instead of Strength or Dexterity. Furthermore, your spellcasting will be more effective. However, you’ll likely resort to medium armor and suffer the same challenges Dexterity (Stealth) checks faced by Strength-based builds. The improved spellcasting and Wisdom-based skills may be worth the trade, but this is an unusual build.

Str: With light/medium armor you need Dexterity for AC. Since you have Dexterity for AC, you may as well use it for weapons. Since you’re using Dexterity for weapons, you can dump Strength. The only exception is if you decide to use a polearm for some reason.

Dex: Dexterity fuels the majority of what the Ranger does. Even for builds that aren’t Dexterity-based, you need at least 14 to fill out the Dexterity cap on Half Plate.

Con: As a martial character rangers should expect to draw a lot of fire, so you need the hit points to handle it.

Int: A bit for Investigation and Nature might be nice, but you don’t really need it.

Wis: Adds to spells and eventually to Foe Slayer.

Cha: Dump.

Dex-BasedStr-BasedWis-Based
Point BuyStandard ArrayPoint BuyStandard ArrayPoint BuyStandard Array
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 10
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 13
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 15
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 12
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 12

Races

Dexterity bonuses are crucial, and bonuses to Constitution and Wisdom are helpful. The Ranger is somewhat MAD, especially if you’re going for a Strength-based build, so it’s crucial that your ability score increases support your build choices. If you’re going for a melee build, look for things that improve your durability like Constitution increases and damage resistances. If you’re going for a ranged build, you’ve got more space to explore things like flight and innate spellcasting. If you’re in a small party or if you’re playing your party’s Rogue-equivalent, look for additional skill proficiencies.

Note that setting-specific races like the Changeling and the Satyr are addressed in setting-specific sections, below.

AarakocraEEPC

Customized Origin: The Aarakocra was already a great option for the Ranger. However, the ability to customize the Winged Tiefling means that the Aarakocra is less effective in every way except their 50 ft. speed.

Default Rules: Bonus Dexterity, Wisdom, and flight. A perfect archery ranger.

AasimarVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two damage resistances, and Darkvision. Transformation is still the big reason to play the Aasimar. The damage bonus applies once per round, but it’s wasted if you don’t hit, so you want to make as many attacks as possible. Normally I would recommend an AOE damage spell, but that’s a really hard choice for the Ranger, so your best bet is to look for Advantage while you’re transformed and/or make numerous attacks against low-AC targets.

  • Fallen: The range is short so this is only viable in melee, and the DC of the fear effect is Charisma-based so it will never be reliable.
  • Protector: Flight when you need it. Ideal for archery or thrown weapon builds.
  • Scourge: Viable in melee, and a great way to handle crowds of enemies, but be sure that you have a good source of healing ready to go because it eats your hit points.

Default Rules: The Aasimar’s traits are really fun, but without a Dexterity increase your options are extremely limited.

  • Fallen: A Strength increase looks like it will be enough for a Strength-based build, but the secondary effect of Transformation is Charisma-based and the Ranger is already too MAD to survive a Charisma dependency.
  • Protector: A Wisdom increase could work with a Druidic Warrior build, but that’s the only way to make this viable.
  • Scourge: Bad ability spread.

Aasimar (DMG Variant)DMG

Customized Origin: The Ranger already gets access to Lesser Restoration and Daylight, so you’re not gaining anything new here except Darkvision and the damage resistances.

Default Rules: A Wisdom increase could work with a Druidic Warrior build, but that’s the only way to make this viable.

BugbearVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Long-limbed is great for rangers focusing on damage output durability, and Surprise Attack provides a great damage boost if you can go early in combat. I recommend building around Dexterity and Constitution, and plan to rely primarily on two-weapon fighting from just outside of your enemies reach.

Default Rules: For a martial class limited to medium armor, the +1 Dexterity increase is easily enough to fill out your +2 Dexterity bonus to AC so you can focus on your Strength. Reach is nice, and you get Stealth proficiency for free, making it easier to keep up with other sneaky, skilled classes like the Rogue. The Bugbear may be one of the best options for a Strength-based ranger build. Weirdly, Surprise Attack relies on your going early in combat, which depends on you having high Dexterity. Frustrating, but not insurmountable.

Custom LineageTCoE

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Custom Lineage.

Default Rules: The only ability score that the Ranger absolutely needs is Dexterity, so +2 to Dexterity, a feat, and Darkvision is a fantastic starting point for the Ranger. Of course, Rangers can cast Darkvision, so you might prefer the skill proficiency instead.

DragonbornPHB

The Draconblood and Ravenite subraces are addressed under Races of Wildemount, below.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increase and damage resistance. The Dragonborn’s signature trait is their breath weapon, but the damage won’t significantly exceed your weapon attacks unless you manage to hit three or more targets.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread, and even for a Strength-based build the Dragonborn isn’t good enough to get by.

DwarfPHB

Customized Origin: One +2 increase and a second increase from your subrace, poison resistance, plus a bunch of proficiencies which you’ll trade for tool proficiencies.

  • DuergarSCAG: Invisibility as an innate spell is nice, but that’s the only big appeal here. Sunlight Sensitivitiy is a pain, and Enlarge/Reduce isn’t especially useful for the Ranger.
  • HillPHB: Bonus hit points are always nice, especially since the Ranger’s AC tends to be slightly lower than the Fighter’s and the Paladins so you’re likely to be hit more frequently.
  • MountainPHB: On a MAD class like the Ranger, two +2 increases is a really big deal. That means that you’ve got room to easily fit a feat into your build beyond level 1. Start with 17 in two scores (probably Dexterity and Constitution), raise them both to 18 at level 4, and you’re off to a fantastic start.

Default Rules: Nice and durable, but without a Dexterity increase your options are limited.

  • DuergarSCAG: Nothing useful for the Ranger.
  • HillPHB: A bit of Wisdom works for Druidic Warrior builds, and the extra hit points reduce your reliance on Constitution which will help reduce some of the Ranger’s MAD issues.
  • MountainPHB: With no Dexterity increase, you’ll need to rely on Strength and medium armor. Get your Dexterity to 14 at first level and grab a pair of hand axes. You won’t be as sneaky as Dexterity-based rangers, but otherwise this is a solid choice for a Strength-based ranger due to the Dwarf’s natural durability and the mathematical effectiveness of two +2 increases.

ElfPHB

The Palid Elf subrace is addressed under Races of Wildemount, below.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, one skill (which you should leave as Perception).

  • DrowPHB: Decent in a subterranean campaign, but nothing good enough to offset Sunlight Sensitivity.
  • EladrinMToF: The teleportation is neat, but the rider effects are all Charisma-based, so avoid everything except Spring.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: Trade the standard Eladrin’s rider effect for four weapon proficiencies which you’ll trade for tools. They’re roughly equivalent, so choose whichever you like better.
  • High ElfPHB: Access to Booming Blade is tempting, but using it will result in a significant reduction in damage output compared to using Hunter’s Mark with more frequent attacks.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Great for melee builds, teleporting into melee with resistance to damage makes it easy to dive into melee and focus on high-priority who might be protected by their allies or otherwise difficult to reach.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Thematically excellent, but mechanically the Wood Elf has fallen far behind other racial options. Without the advantage of having perfect ability score increases, the Woof Elf’s signature traits are a tiny speed increase and Mask of the Wild, neither of which are going to make a significant difference.

Default Rules: Dexterity and free Perception proficiency.

  • DrowPHB: Nothing useful for the Ranger beyond what you get from the base elf racial traits.
  • EladrinMToF: Unless you want the rider effects on Fey Step, Shadar-Kai is strictly better.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: The Shadar-Kai’s ability score increases work better for the Ranger.
  • High Elf: Access to Booming Blade is tempting, but using it will result in a significant reduction in damage output compared to using Hunter’s Mark with more frequent attacks.
  • Sea ElfMToF: A great option in a game that involves a lot of water.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Dexterity and Constitution, coupled with a damage resistance and the ability to teleport are a fantastic combination for the Ranger, especially if you prefer melee combat.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Bonus Wisdom and Mask of the Wild is fantastic for Rangers. The Wood Elf is perhaps the most iconic race choice for the Ranger.

FirbolgVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases. The innate spellcasting is somewhat situational, but thematically the Firbolg is a nice fit. Speech of Beast and Leaf can be helpful if you’re doing a lot of natury ranger stuff, and Hidden Step mimics the benefits of the Nature’s Veil feature a long time before you get access to it.

Default Rules: Decent ability increases and several excellent innate spellcasting options which fit the theme of the ranger very well.

GenasiEEPC

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), but the vast majority of the Genasi’s traits come from the subraces.

  • Air: Play a race that can fly.
  • Earth: Nothing new for the Ranger. You can already cast Pass Without Trace.
  • Fire: The Constitution-based innate spellcasting is interesting, but it won’t ge good enough to outdo weapons. Burning Hands might be helpful at low levels, but don’t expect to get much use out of Produce Flame.
  • Water: Only in an aquatic campaign.

Default Rules: Bonus Constitution is always nice.

  • Air: A bit of Dexterity, and Levitate is nice for archers provided that you don’t need to move horizontally. But at that point, why not just play a race that can fly?
  • Earth: Nothing new for the Ranger. You can already cast Pass Without Trace.
  • Fire: Bad ability spread.
  • Water: Wisdom works for Druidic Warrior builds, but I would probably only try this in an aquatic campaign.

GithMToF

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +2), but the bulk of your notable racial traits come from your subrace.

  • Githyanki: After you trade away the redundant proficiencies, you’re left with one skill, five tools, and the innate spellcasting. Mage Hand is neat, but Jump is borderline useless. You’re here for Misty Step. Compare the Githyanki to the Variant Eladrin: The Variant Eladrin gets to use Misty Step on a Short Rest, and the Githyank gets to cast Mage Hand and Jump and gets one more tool proficiency. It’s not a great trade.
  • Githzerai: Resistance to common charm and fear conditions, and interesting innate spellcasting. Keep in mind that you need a free hand to cast Shield, so the Githzerai loses effectiveness unless you’re using a two-handed weapon like a polearm or a bow.

Default Rules: The Intelligence bonus is wasted on the Ranger, and

  • Githyanki: The Strength bonus, one skill, and Misty Step once per day are nice, but compare that to the Shadar-Kai: the Githyanki provides similar benefits, but adds the challenges of a Strength-based build.
  • Githzerai: Tempting for a Druidic Warrior build at a glance, but you can’t cast Shield without a hand free and going without a mundane shield isn’t worth the risk, so there’s minimal benefit here.

GnomePHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace offers a +1 increase), Darkvision, and Gnome Cunning.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: You’re not saddled with Sunlight Sensitivity, but the Svirfneblin still doesn’t offer enough that it’s useful outside of a subterranean campaign.
  • ForestPHB: Minor Illusion is great. It’s easy to compare the Forest Gnome to the High Elf: you give up the ability to pick your cantrip and a skill in exchange for Gnome Cunning.
  • RockPHB: Tinker is not useful enough to make this appealing.

Default Rules: Gnome Cunning is always nice, but the Intelligence is wasted.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: A bit of Dexterity and Stone Camouflage are tempting, but not enough to make this viable unless you’re in a subterranean campaign.
  • ForestPHB: A bit of Dexterity is nice, and Minor Illusion can do a lot before you care about your terrible Intelligence. Speak With Small Beasts is amusing, and if anyone’s going to make it useful it’s the Ranger.
  • RockPHB: Bad ability spread.

GoblinVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and Darkvision. Nimble Escape helps you get out of melee when you need to, enabling hit-and-run tactics and protecting ranged builds from getting dragged into melee. Fury of the Small is a nice damage boost.

Default Rules: Great ability increases, and Nimble Escape gives you the important parts of Cunnin Action.

GoliathEEPC

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and damage resistance. Stone’s Endurance will help make up the durability gap between the Ranger and the Fighter caused by the Ranger’s slightly lower AC.

Default Rules: A viable option for a Strength-based build. Stone’s Endurance will help make up the durability gap between the Ranger and the Fighter caused by the Ranger’s slightly lower AC.

Half-ElfPHB

Customized Origin: For a MAD class like the Ranger, three ability increases is a huge benefit. You also get Darkvision and Fey Ancestry.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: The innate spellcasting is Charisma-based so it’s minimally useful. Darkness is the only part that you’ll benefit from consistently, and you can get that from several varieties of Tiefling which may be a better fit.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Booming Blade is your best bet, but rangers typically rely on the damage boost from Hunter’s Mark, so reducing your number of attacks by relying on Booming Blade will reduce your damage output.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: The combination of three increases, two skills, and Darkvision makes the Half-elf an excellent go-to race option for the Ranger. The ability increases allow you to be effective in the Ranger’s full breadth of capabilities without making huge sacrifices, and the two skills close the skill gap between the Ranger and the Rogue, allowing you to thrive in non-combat roles, too.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: The Wood Elf is a decent package for the Ranger, but breaking up their traits and making you pick one of them is a terrible trade. The Wood Elf is a much better option than a Wood Half-Elf.

Default Rules: The Charisma is totally wasted on the Ranger, but the other abilities are great.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only if you’re in an aquatic campaign, and even then the Aquatic Elf is a better choice for the Ranger.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: The innate spellcasting is nice, but it’s Charisma-based so you’ll find that Faerie Fire is unreliable.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Booming Blade is your best bet, but rangers typically rely on the damage boost from Hunter’s Mark, so reducing your number of attacks by relying on Booming Blade will reduce your damage output.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: The skills are great on a highly-skilled class like a Ranger.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: The Wood Elf is a decent package for the Ranger, but breaking up their traits and making you pick one of them is a terrible trade. The Wood Elf is a much better option than a Wood Half-Elf.

Half-OrcPHB

Customized Origin: It’s nice to not be locked into a Strength-based build, but rearranging ability scores doesn’t address the big problem that the Half-orc’s most distinguishing trait is only impressive with a greataxe so half-orc players will likely keep their ability increases right where they started.

Default Rules: Passable for a Strength-based build, but Savage Attacks won’t be noteworthy since you’re likely using two-weapon fighting with weapons that use d6 damage dice. Consider the full Orc instead.

HalflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Brave, and Lucky. A great starting point.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Silent Speech is great for stealth, but unfortunately won’t work with a Beast Companion because none of the available companion choices can learn languages. You’ll need to use it to communicate with the humanoids in your party instead.
  • LightfootPHB: Naturally Stealthy is only situationally useful without Cunning Action to enable you to hide in combat without sacrificing your Action.
  • StoutPHB: Poison resistance is really nice. Poison damage is common.

Default Rules: A Dexterity increase, Brave, and Lucky. Basically any rubrace will work with those traits as a basis.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: A wisdom bonus is fantastic for your spellcasting. Silent Speech is cool, too, but unfortunately won’t work with a Beast Companion because none of the available companion choices can learn languages, so you’ll need to use it to communicate with the humanoids in your party instead.
  • LightfootPHB: The Charisma is wasted, and Naturally Stealthy isn’t as useful for the Ranger as it is for the Rogue.
  • StoutPHB: Bonus Constitution and resistance to poison.

HobgoblinVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and three proficiencies which you’ll trade for tool proficiencies. The Hobgoblin’s noteworthy feature is Saving Face. It provides a great way to turn near-miss failed rolls into successes, especially if you have numerous allies nearby. This provides great insurance against problematic saving throws, but you generally shouldn’t waste it on an attack roll.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Human

Customized Origin:

  • Standard: With perfect ability scores on the table for every race, there is no reason to play the Standard Human.
  • Variant: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Variant Human.

Default Rules: Versatile and fantastic at everything.

  • Vanilla: Half of the bonuses are totally wasted, but the Ranger is fairly MAD so the vanilla human’s numerous increases may somehow work out. A Strength-based build could more easily afford to hit 16 Strength, and 14 in Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom than most characters.
  • Variant: You can get crucial bonuses to your Dexterity and either Constitution or Wisdom, and you can get an awesome feat at level 1.

KenkuVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and two skills. Expert Forgery and Mockery aren’t particularly impactful.

Default Rules: Fantastic ability increases, and the free skills help close the skill gap between rangers and rogues. Be sure to pick up Thieve’s Tools proficiency if you’re playing your party’s Rogue-equivalent.

KoboldVGtM

Customized Origin: +2 increase and Darkvision. The Customizing Your Origin optional rule does little to change the Kobold unless you’re dead set on a Strength-based build for some reason. Pack Tactics is still geat, and Sunlight Sensitivity is still a pain, but Pack Tactics conveniently provides a way to negate it.

Default Rules: A Dexterity increase and Darkvision are a grat start. Pack Tactics is absolutely unfair. Make as many attacks as you possibly can, and your damage output will be reliably high. If you need an easy way to keep an ally in melee, play a Beast Master and keep your companion in melee with your target.

LizardfolkVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and natural armor. If you’re fine with Hungry Jaws being unreliable, you can build around Dexterity and hit 20 AC with a shield and 20 Dexterity.

Default Rules: Extremely durable, though the lack of a Strength or Dexterity you’ll likely want to pursue a Druidic Warrior build. The Lizardfolk’s natural armor will allow you to exceed the AC offered by light or medium armor once you reach 20 Dexterity, though that will likely take a long time to achieve.

LocathahLR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and Leviathan Will. Among the better aquatic options, Leviathan Will provides a robust defensive option against a long list of harmful status conditions which any adventurer is sure to face.

Default Rules: Increases to both Strength and Dexterity make it easier to build a Strength-based build because you can more easily afford 16 Strength and 14 Dexterity without making sacrifices elsewhere, though sticking to Dexterity still works fine. Two additional skills help close the skill gap with Rogue, and Leviathan Will protects you from several annoying status conditions. Taken as a whole, the Locathah is a versatile and capable race which can work in a variety of builds.

OrcVGtM

Note that errata has corrected the multiple versions of the Orc to all provide the same traits. The Intelligence decrease has been removed, and the Primal Intuition now allows selecting two skills from a list. The Orc of Exandria entry from Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount omits the Powerful Build trait, but it’s not clear if that was an intentional change.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, two skills. A great option for any melee build, Aggressive allows you to quickly close to melee without sacrificing your Action to Dash, but keep in mind that it will conflict with crucial Bonus Action options like two-weapon fighting, Hunter’s Mark, and many subclass features, so your first round will necessarily result in less damage output than you might expect if you spend your Bonus Action to get into melee. Compare that to the Tabaxi, which provides similar benefits but is less dependent on your Bonus Action.

Default Rules: A good option for an aggressive Strength-based melee build, the Orc’s Aggressive helps close to melee quickly, and the two skills help to close the skill gap between the Ranger and the Rogue. Where the Goliath is sturdy and safe, the Orc is comparably high risk but also high reward.

TabaxiVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, two skills. Feline Agility is the Tabaxi’s signature trait. It’s roughly equivalent to the Orc’s Aggressive, but it also allows you to run away (rather than only toward an enemy) and doesn’t eat your Bonus Action so it’s arguably a litle better.

Default Rules: Kenku is a better option, but the two provide similar benefits.

TieflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and damage resistance. Most subraces/variants offer innate spellcasting of some kind. The innate spellcasting is Charisma-based, so anything which requires an attack or a save is difficult for the Ranger to use.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: Hellish Rebuke will be unreliable, so just expect it to always deal half damage. Darkness is the biggest benefit here, but remember that you don’t have a way to see in magical darkness.
  • BaalzebulMToF: The spells are too offensive to be useful.
  • DispaterMToF: Situational utility options.
  • FiernaMToF: The spells are too offensive to be useful.
  • GlasyaMToF: The Innate Spellcasting provides some useful stealth options which feel at home on the Arcane Trickster, but which are not typically available to rangers.
  • LevistusMToF: Ray of Frost and Armor of Agathys will be useless, so this is strictly worse than the Asdmodeus Tiefling.
  • MammonMToF: Situational utility options.
  • MephistophelesMToF: The spells are too offensive to be useful.
  • ZarielMToF: The spells are too offensive to be useful.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: The Customizing Your Origin optional rules make the Feral variant obsolete. All it does is rearrange your ability score increases.
  • Variant: Devil’s TongueSCAG: The spells are too offensive to be useful.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Burning Hands is a harder choice because it takes your Action and the save DC wiull be too low for it to be reliable.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Flight in up to medium armor. You trade some of the Aarakocra’s speed for Darkvision and damage resistance. It’s a good trade.

Default Rules: The standard Tiefling’s ability scores are terrible for a Ranger, but the other traits are fun, and the Feral variant subrace does a bit better. The biggest issue is that Charisma does very little for the Ranger, the Charisma increase is one of the Tiefling’s biggest benefits, and all of the Tiefling’s innate spellcasting options are Charisma-based. Your best bet is to combine the Feral variant with a subrace which provides usable spellcasting or with the Winged variant.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: Bad ability spread, but workable if you combine it with the Feral variant.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Bad ability spread, and the spells are too offensive to be salvageable.
  • DispaterMToF: Bad ability spread, but workable if you combine it with the Feral variant.
  • FiernaMToF: Bad ability spread, and the spells are too offensive to be salvageable.
  • GlasyaMToF: When combined with the Feral variant, this works very well for the Ranger. The Innate Spellcasting provides some useful stealth options which feel at home on the Arcane Trickster, but which are not typically available to rangers.
  • LevistusMToF: Ray of Frost and Armor of Agathys will be useless, so this is strictly worse than the Asdmodeus Tiefling.
  • MammonMToF: Bad ability spread, and the spells are too situational to justify.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Bad ability spread, and the spells are too situational to justify.
  • ZarielMToF: Bad ability spread, and the spells are too offensive to be salvageable.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: Dexterity is enough to get a viable ranger.

    According to the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, the Feral Variant is compatible with other variants.

  • Variant: Devil’s TongueSCAG: Bad ability spread, and the spells are too offensive to be salvageable.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Burning Hands is a harder choice because it takes your Action and the save DC wiull be too low for it to be reliable.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: The Ranger is one of few classes where the Winged Tiefling is a worse choice than the Aarakocra. It’s still a good choice, but the Aarakocra’s ability increases are sligthly better for the Ranger.

TortleTP

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and natural armor. Having your AC fixed at 17 means that Strength-based and Wisdom-based builds are both considerably easier because you don’t need to raise Dexterity to 14 to max out medium armor.

Default Rules: Tortle natural armor matches the AC cap for medium armor. That means that you get the same AC as other Strength-based rangers without needing to get 14 Dexterity to fill out your armor and without suffering Disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks, allowing you to easily focus one increasing other ability scores instead. The tortle’s ability scores are perfect for a Strength-based ranger, and you even get Survival for free.

TritonVGtM

Customized Origin: Three +1 increases, Darkvision, amphibious, and some innate spellcasting. Like the half-elf, having three increases is great for a MAD class like the Ranger. Unfortunately, the innate spellcasting is situational and Charisma-based so the Triton isn’t quite as effective as the standard Half-Elf.

Default Rules: Not awful, but the triton doesn’t complement the ranger’s spellcasting or skills.

VerdanAcInc

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Telepathic Insight protects you from the most common mental saves. Black Blood Healing will help pad your hit dice a little bit, but it’s not going to work reliably due to the Ranger’s d10 hit die so it’s not a lot of extra healing. Limited Telepathy is great for sneaky rangers.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, poison immunity, and Magic Resistance. A good package for a durable ranger. The innate spellcasting is garbage, but spamming Animal Friendship on snakes feels like a thing that rangers would do, so maybe you can make it useful somehow.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Setting-specific races are address below. Not every setting allows every race, and while most races presented in the core rules and in content for the Forgotten Realms can be used in other settings, races specific to settings like Ravnica aren’t typically allowed in other settings. Talk to your DM about what races are allowed in your game. 

Races of Eberron

BugbearERLW: See above under the general Races section.

ChangelingERLW

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and two skills. Shapechanger is neat, but very situational and won’t be consistently useful in most games. Instead, consider a race that can cast Disguise Self as an innate spell.

Default Rules: Shapechanger is neat, but the Charisma increase doesn’t cater well to the Ranger’s typical skillset, and the Changeling’s skill options are mostly Charisma-based so it’s not as effective as choices like the Orc or the Tabaxi.

GoblinERLW: See above under the general Races section.

HobgoblinERLW: See above under the general Races section.

OrcERLW: See above under the general Races section.

KalashtarERLW

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases. Resistance to psychic damage is nice, though psychic damage isn’t common. Dual Mind provides an important defense, but other options like the Yuan-Ti Pureblood and the Verdan are more appealing and may be more broadly effective at protecting you from stuff that hurts your brains.

Default Rules: An exciting choice for a Druidic Warrior build, the Kalasthar’s Wisdom increase and mental defenses are exciting, but they have nothing that makes them more physically durable and they don’t get additional skills so their capabilities as a ranger are very limited.

ShifterERLW

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +2), Darkvision, and one skill. The Shifter’s signature trait is Shifting, which is a Bonus Action combat buff which works great but can compete with the Ranger’s numerous other uses for their Bonus Action (Hunter’s Mark, Two-Weapon Fighting, subclass features like Planar Warrior, etc.). It’s a decent buff on its own, and your subrace will offer additional effects.

  • Beasthide: A bigger pool of temporary hit points and a modest AC bonus can help melee rangers stand on the front lines unassisted for short periods.
  • Longtooth: An interesting way to get an extra attack from your Bonus Action. The attack is Strength-based, so this works best on Strength-based melee builds which aren’t using two-weapon fighting.
  • Swiftstride: A good option for archery builds. Use the Shifting Feature to safely escape enemies who attempt to engage you in melee. On your turn, shoot them from 10 ft. away, then move to safety. Of course, the Goblin can do this without limit, so while this is a good benefit it’s not unique.
  • Wildhunt: The shifting feature is borderline useless.

Default Rules: Many subraces of the Shifter are good options for the Ranger, though Shifting may compete with your Bonus Action if you rely heavily on Hunter’s Mark.

  • Beasthide: Strength is a hard choice for the Ranger, but not impossible, and the additional durability from Beasthide’s Shifting can let the Ranger stand as a front-line Defender for brief periods.
  • Longtooth: If you’re fighting in melee and not using two-weapon fighting, you’re not using your Bonus Action to get extra damage out of Hunter’s Mark. This offers a way to do that while still using either a shield or a two-handed weapon, though remember that the attack is Strength-based so you’ll either need to build around Strength or you’ll need to suffer having an unreliable bite attacj.
  • Swiftstride: A good option for archery builds. Use the Shifting Feature to safely escape enemies who attempt to engage you in melee. On your turn, shoot them from 10 ft. away, then move to safety. Of course, the Goblin can do this without limit, so while this is a good benefit it’s not unique.
  • Wildhunt: The best ability spread of the Shifter’s subraces, but the Shifting Feature is nearly unusable for the Ranger.

WarforgedERLW

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Warforged. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: The ability increases work fine thanks to the flexibility ability increase, and the bonus resistances and bonus AC make you abnormally durable for a ranger.

Dragonmarks

While the design intent for Dragonmarks was that they would offer some innate spellcasting for everyone, every dragonmark includes an expanded spell list which is arguably a more significant benefit than most of the provided racial traits. Because the expanded spell options are such an important part of the dragonmarks, if you’re not playing a spellcaster you’re giving up a huge part of your racial traits, which makes it exceptionally difficult to justify playing a dragonmark character who can’t cast spells.

Dragonmarked DwarfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Warding: While most of the benefits are situational, Mark of Warding has some interesting benefits for a Dexterity-based ranger. The bonus with Thieves’ Tools isn’t quite as good as Expertise, but it’s helpful. Mage Armor is +1 AC compared to the best light armor and lasts 8 hours, providing a consistent increas in durability. Armor of Agathys is new to the Ranger’s spell list, and provides both an easy source of temporary hit points and a way to punish enemies for hitting you. Taken as a whole, Mark of Warding easily makes up for the AC gap between the Fighter and the Ranger.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Warding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Shadow: You almost certainly won’t benefit from the Persuasion bonus, but the remainder of the subrace’s traits give the Ranger a lot of capabilities similar to the Arcane Tricksters. Combined with the Elf’s base traits, this is an excellent way to split the difference between the Ranger and the Rogue.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Shadow: The base Dexterity increase from the Elf is a great start, and Mark of Shadow’s new spellcasting adds numerous interesting options which typically aren’t available to the Ranger.
Dragonmarked GnomeERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Scribing: The skills and innate spellcasting don’t help the Ranger, and the spells which are new to the Ranger’s spell list are very situational.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Scribing: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Detection: See Invisibility is a great addition to the Ranger, and the expanded divination options help improve your capabilities as a Scout.
  • Mark of Storm: Everything here is situational, so you may have trouble making the racial traits and new spells consistently useful.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Detection: The flexible ability increase can go into Strength or Dexterity (probably Dexterity), and the added divination options allow the Ranger to expand their already excellent scouting capabilities.
  • Mark of Storm: The ability increases are good enough, and the spells add some interesting options, but most of them are very situational so you may not get a lot out of the new spell options.
Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: This is a great fit for a high-Wisdom ranger, even if you’re not primarily built around Wisdom. The skill bonuses are both on Wisdom-based skills, and while many of the dragonmark spells are already on the Ranger’s spell list, you get some great new additions like Faerie Fire.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: Workable for a Druidic Warrior build, but the spells aren’t good enough to make you viable unless you’re using Wisdom in combat.
Dragonmarked HalflingERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Healing: The added healing options allow you to cover many of the core healing options which typically require a dedicated divine spellcaster. Granted, Cure Wounds and Lesser Restoration are already on the Ranger’s spell list, but this adds the ever-crucial Healing Word, and reduces the strain on your limited number of spell slots and spells known.
  • Mark of Hospitality: The most interesting addition to your spell list is Aid, which is already available if you’re using the Additional Ranger Spells Optional Class Feature.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Healing: Great ability score increases, and the added healing options allow you to cover many of the core healing options which typically require a dedicated divine spellcaster. Granted, Cure Wounds and Lesser Restoration are already on the Ranger’s spell list, but this adds the ever-crucial Healing Word, and reduces the strain on your limited number of spell slots and spells known.
  • Mark of Hospitality: The ability score increases include a crucial Dexterity increase, but the spellcasting isn’t as good as what you get from Mark of Healing, and the skills aren’t helpful either.
Dragonmarked HumanERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your normal racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: If there is anyone who can use Mark of Handling well, it’s the Ranger, but even that it is a stretch. The ability score increases are good, the skill bonuses are good, and you get several spells from the Druid spell list which expand your ability to work with animals. But that doesn’t solve the issue that Beasts and low-Intelligence Monstrosities are a small portion of the monster manual, so the whole spell list is situational at best.
  • Mark of Making: Magic Weapon for free is an interesting choice, and the innate version that you get doesn’t require Concentration so you can combine it with things like Hunter’s Mark. A ranger with Fighting Style (Archery) would be exceptionally accurate. The added spells also offer some great options like Elemental Weapon and Stone Shape.
  • Mark of Passage: Access to spells like Misty Step and Dimension Door offer some very exciting transportation options for the Ranger.
  • Mark of Sentinel: The skill bonuses are both excellent for the Ranger, and the spellcasting adds numerous excellent options to protect your and your allies. Wisdom-based builds may find Compelled Duel and Counterspell appealing, but if you’re built around Strength or Dexterity you can still benefit greatly from spells like Shield and Shield of Faith.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: If there is anyone who can use Mark of Handling well, it’s the Ranger, but even that it is a stretch. The ability score increases are good, the skill bonuses are good, and you get several spells from the Druid spell list which expand your ability to work with animals. But that doesn’t solve the issue that Beasts and low-Intelligence Monstrosities are a small portion of the monster manual, so the whole spell list is situational at best.
  • Mark of Making: The ability score increases are workable, and there are some interesting spellcasting options.
  • Mark of Passage: Perfect ability score increases, and the spellcasting adds capabilities normally limited to the Planeswalker. In fact, a mark of passage planeswalker ranger would be an incredible master of teleportation and quick movement.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Without a Strength or Dexterity increase you’re limited to Wisdom-based Druidic Warrior builds, but that may actually be the best choice anyway. Compelled Duel requires saving throws from the target, and having a reliably high spell DC will allow you to use it to reliably draw attention away from your allies. But be cautious if you go that route: you’re not as durable as a paladin.

Races of Ravnica

CentaurGGTR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and Fey creature type. Rearrange the Wisdom increase into Constitution, and you’re set up for a very effective Strength-based melee build. Grab Mobile and consider casting Longstrider, and you can do hit-and-run tactics with as many attacks as two-weapon fighting while still using a shield or a two-handed weapon.

Default Rules: An interesting choice for a Strength-based melee build. Charge provides similar benefits to two-weapon fighting while allowing you to use a shield, allowing you to achieve a unique blend of durability and speed. Throw Mobile into the mix and you can easily achieve very effective hit-and-run tactics.

GoblinGGTR: See above under the general Races section.

LoxodonGGTR

Customized Origin: The Loxodon’s natural armor works equally well for Strength-based and Wisdom-based builds, allowing you to dump Dexterity without sacrificing crucial AC. In fact, a Strength-based build would allow you to use Trunk in combat (though it’s mostly a novelty since the rules for where your hands are during a Grapple/Shove are ambiguous), so a high-Strength loxodon ranger could do very well without the normal MAD issues typicaly of Strength-based builds.

Default Rules: An excellent option for a Druidic Warrior build, though not a good choice for other builds. The Loxodon’s natural armor is Constitution-based, and with the Loxodon’s Constitution increase you can easily match the AC progress of rangers in light armor while splitting your increases between just two ability scores instead of three or four as is typical for the Ranger. Beyond that, the Loxodon’s other traits provide defenses against common charm and fear conditions and some situational bonuses to Wisdom-based skills which you’ll be very well-suited to use.

MinotaurGGTR

Customized Origin: Hammering Horns is of limited usefulness to the Ranger, and without their signature trait there is little reason to play a minotaur.

Default Rules: While the Minotaur is typically a great choice for Strength-based characters, it’s a hard choice for the Ranger. Hammering Horns eats your Bonus Action, which is hard for rangers since you typically rely on two-weapon fighting or some other Bonus Action damage boost (Planar Warrior, etc.). You also never get more than two attacks, so unlike the Fighter you won’t get much benefit out of knocking a foe prone since you’ll get at most one attack against them before they can stand back up.

Simic HybridGGTR

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Simic Hybrid. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Fantastic and versatile, but the Ranger can replicate most of the Animal Enhancement options using either spells or class features so the Simic Hybrid’s usefulness is diminished compared to many other classes.

VedalkenGGTR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, one tool. Vedalken Dispassion is a powerful defense, and Tireless Precision can provide useful bonuses with skills and tools, not quite matching the Rogue’s Expertise, but still making up part of the gap.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread. You can go for a Wisdom-based build, but those are already hard and trying to limp along with nothing but a +1 Wisdom increase is extremely difficult.

Races of Theros

CentaurMOoT: See above under the Races of Ravnica section.

HumanMOoT: See above under the general Races section.

LeoninMOoT

Customized Origin: 2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Daunting Roar provides a great crowd control effect, and since the DC is Constitution-based it should be reasonably reliable, assuming you go for a Dexterity-based build so you’re not extremely MAD.

Default Rules: A possibility for Strength-based builds, but you may struggle to keep your Constitution high enough to keep Daunting Roar effective.

MinotaurMOoT: See above under the Ravnica Races section.

SatyrMOoT

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, Fey creature type, and Magic Resistance. Not quite as durable as the Yuan-Ti Pureblood, but you give up that durability for extra skills which are important on a class like the Ranger which is generally serving as the party’s rogue-equivalent.

Default Rules: Basically just a +1 Dexterity increase and Magic Resistance. Everything else is hard for the Ranger to use.

TritonMOoT: See above under the general Races section.

Races of Wildemount

AarakocraEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

AasimarEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

BugbearEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

DragonbornPHB

Wildemount presents two new Dragonborn variants, each replacing the standard Dragonborn’s ability score increases and damage resistance.

Customized Origin:

  • DraconbloodEGtW: Forceful Presence is not useful for the Ranger.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Vengeful Assault is great on a class which frequently relies on making multiple attacks to repeatedly apply Hunter’s Mark.

Default Rules:

  • DraconbloodEGtW: Bad ability spread.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Probably the best option if you want a dragonborn ranger, but you’ll still need to stick to a Strength-based build.

Elf

Wildemount elves share the core traits of PHB elves, but Wildemount adds two new subraces. See above for more information on other elf subraces.

Customized Origin:

  • Pallid ElfEGtW: With the ability to rearrange your ability scores, the Pallid Elf loses much of its appeal. Consider the Glasya Tiefling instead.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: See above under the general Races section.

Default Rules:

  • Pallid ElfEGtW: The same ability increases as the Wood Elf, but arguably better traits for the Ranger. The skill bonuses are good, and while the innate spellcasting isn’t great, casting Invisibility once per day is much more broadly useful than Mask of the Wild.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: See above under the general Races section.

FirbolgsEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GenasiEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GoblinEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

HalflingPHB

Wildemount halflings share the core traits of PHB halflings, but Wildemount adds a new subrace. See above for information on other halfling subraces.

Customized Origin:

  • LotusdenEGtW: Great for any ranger, but the innate spellcasting is especially effective for Druidic Warrior builds. You may choose to rearrange the ability score increases, but Dexterity/Wisdom still works great so you may not need to do so.

Default Rules:

  • LotusdenEGtW: Great for any ranger, but the Wisdom increase and innate spellcasting are especially effective for Druidic Warrior builds.

HobgoblinEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GoliathEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

KenkuEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

OrcEGtW: See above, under “Races of Eberron”. Wildemount uses the updated Orc racial traits rather than the original traits published in Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

TabaxiEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

TortleEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

Skills

  • Animal Handling (Wis): Even for a Beastmaster Ranger this is still worthless.
  • Athletics (Str): Rangers are Dexterity-based and don’t have a good way to make use of Shove or Grapple.
  • Insight (Wis): Rangers need a bit of Wisdom, so pick this up to back up your party’s Face.
  • Investigation (Int): Very useful, especially if you’re serving as your party’s Rogue-equivalent, but Intelligence isn’t a great ability for Rangers.
  • Nature (Int): Your only knowledge skill. It’s a good skill, but Intelligence is hard for Rangers.
  • Perception (Wis): With high Wisdom there is no reason not to take this.
  • Stealth (Dex): Rangers don’t strictly need to be stealthy, but with hight Dexterity it certainly doesn’t hurt.
  • Survival (Wis): Situational, but if anyone was going to take this it should be a Ranger.

Background

This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don’t cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.

Rangers can get every skill that they need with their three class skill choices. If you’re acting as your party’s Rogue-equivalent, pick up Thieves’ Tools proficiency. Otherwise, pick up whatever you want. Many backgrounds will give you bonus languages, but with no social skills the Ranger has no way to make use of them.

If you’re having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:

  • CharlatanPHB: Interesting for a Rogue-like build, but without Thieves’ Tools you can’t fully replace a Rogue.
  • City WatchSCAG: Athletics and Insight are both passable options, but the languages are totally wasted.
  • CriminalPHB: Deception won’t get much use, but the rest will allow you play your party’s Rogue-equivalent.
  • Far TravelerSCAG: Insight is passable and Perception is fantastic. The instrument/gaming set proficiency might actually be more useful for you than the language.
  • Folk HeroPHB: Several passable options, but nothing that you absolutely need to have.
  • Mercenary VeteranSCAG: Persuasion is wasted on the Ranger, but the rest is usable.
  • OutlanderPHB: Several passable options, but nothing that you absolutely need to have.
  • SailorPHB: Good skills, but nautical stuff isn’t useful in most campaigns.
  • SoldierPHB: Everything is good except Intimidation.
  • Urban Bounty HunterSCAG: A good list of options which allow you to take the place of a Rogue-equivalent.
  • UrchinPHB: Allows you to easily play your party’s Rogue-equivalent.
  • Uthgardt Tribe MemberSCAG: A few passable options, but on the whole nothing excisting.

Feats

This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don’t cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover feats which I think work especially well for the class or which might be tempting but poor choices.

  • AlertPHB: Going first isn’t terribly important for the Ranger.
  • ChargerPHB: Rangers have plenty of ways to use their bonus action, so this presents a considerable loss of action economy. Even if you’re built for melee, you should use the space to buff yourself or soften your enemies at range before gradually closing to melee.
  • ChefTCoE: With the choice of a Constitution or Wisdom increase, it’s easy for many rangers to fit this into their build. The difficulty is fitting this into your action economy. Rangers who use two-weapon fighting are already relying on their Bonus Action, as are subclasses with Bonus Action damage boosts like the Horizon Walker. Rangers who fight at range without using their Bonus Action seem like the best Chef users, but they also need it the least. If you plan to share the treats, Inspiring Leader will be more efficient even if you dump Charisma.
  • Crossbow ExpertPHB: All the action economy of TWF with the range of Archery, and you can do it in melee combat.
  • CrusherTCoE: Without a way to improve your chance of scoring a critical hit, there’s little reason to take this.
  • Defensive DuelistPHB: A tempting way to boost your defenses, but the Hunter already gets options to protect themselves, and the Beastmaster should have enough health between themselves and their companion that they can survive a few hits.
  • Dual WielderPHB: Not necessary by any means, but if anyone were to take this feat it should be a melee Ranger.
  • Dungeon DelverPHB: In a dungeon-heavy campaign, this can be a great option for you.
  • DurablePHB: Rangers can cast Healing Spirit, which solves the issue of healing out of combat.
  • Eldritch AdeptTCoE: If you don’t have Darkvision from your racial traits, the Devil’s Sight invocation is a great way to get it. If you want to consider other invocations, see my Warlock Eldritch Invocation Breakdown.
  • Elemental AdeptPHB: Rangers don’t get enough elemental damage spells to justify this.
  • Fey TouchedTCoE: Misty Step is great and isn’t available to most rangers, but the leveled spells may be difficult. The best options available all require Concentration, and most rangers are already heavily reliant on Concentration for staple options like Hunter’s Mark.

    For more advice on Fey Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • Fighting InitiateTCoE: There’s little for the Ranger to gain from additional fighting styles, but the additional options bring you a bit closer to the Fighter if you’re trying to stand in as your party’s primary Defender.
  • GrapplerPHB: Just a terrible feat in general. You don’t need it to grapple successfully.
  • Great Weapon MasterPHB: Rangers are all about Dexterity, and two-handed weapons require Strength. Even if you build around Strength-based weapons, Hunter’s Mark will provide a more reliable boost to damage output than gambling with your attacks.
  • GunnerTCoE: If your game uses firearms and you’re desperate to grab a gun, this is fine, but in most cases you’ll do better sticking to bows.
  • HealerPHB: Learn Cure Wounds.
  • Heavily ArmoredPHB: If you’re going for a Strength build, you probably want this but you could also get it from a level dip into cleric or fighter. If you take proficiency in Stealth and cast Pass Without Trace, you might even mamage to be stealthy despite Disadvantage imposed by your armor.
  • LuckyPHB: Good on anyone.
  • Mage SlayerPHB: Too situational.
  • Magic InitiatePHB: There really isn’t anything that the Ranger needs from other spellcasting classes to be functional. If you want to use cantrips, consider Fighting Style (Druidic Warrior)

    For more advice on Magic Initiate, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • Martial AdeptPHB: Not useful enough with only one superiority die.
  • Medium Armor MasterPHB: A feat for a net of +1 to AC over light armor and 20 Dexterity. Spend the feat on Defensive Duelist instead.
  • Metamagic AdeptTCoE: Powerful, but the Ranger doesn’t get enough spellcasting to make this an easy choice. For advice on Metamagic Adept, see my Sorcerer Metamagic Breakdown.
  • MobilePHB: Rangers already get a ways to handle a lot of difficult terrain, and if you want to avoid opportunity attacks pick up Escape the Horde or Zephyr Strike.
  • Mounted CombatPHB: Beast Master Rangers are one of the only characters in the game where I would consider this feat a decent option, and even then it has serious problems. If your character is small you have several excellent options for mounts, but since most monsters are medium or larger you’ll give up the first benefit of the feat almost all of the time since your mount will never be bigger than they are. Still, the extra protection afforded to your animal companion may be enough to justify the feat.
  • ObservantPHB: If you are the only character in the party with decent observation skills, this might be a good idea.
  • Polearm MasterPHB: Rangers are built on Dexterity, so they typically don’t have the Strength to back up a polearm. If you’re going for a Strength-based build anyway, Polearm Master can work very well with Hunter’s Mark, effectively allowing you to attack as effectively as a two-weapon fighting build but still use a shield.
  • PiercerTCoE: Easy to fit into your build, and the ability to reroll a damage die works very well since rangers depend on multiple dice for damage (Hunter’s Mark, subclass features like the Horizon Walker’s Planar Warrior, etc.). Piercing damage is also an unusually common damage for rangers since daggers and short swords are go-to melee options and bows are the go-to ranged options.
  • ResilientPHB: Resilient (Constitution) will help you maintain Concentration on crucial spells like Hunter’s Mark, but you don’t get a lot of spells so unless you also want proficiency in Constitution saves more generally this feat may feel disappointing.
  • Ritual CasterPHB: Leave this for the full casters if you can.
  • Savage AttackerPHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per turn.
  • SentinelPHB: The third part of the feat is tempting for Beastmaster Rangers. Since you have a pet that you can drag into melee with you who will likely have lower AC (and therefore will draw a lot of attacks), it’s easy to capitalize on Sentinel to get free attacks.
  • Shadow TouchedTCoE: Invisibility is great for a class which is often stealthy, but few of the 1st-level spell options appeal to the Ranger.

    For more advice on Shadow Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • SharpshooterPHB: Archery builds might enjoy this. Hunter Rangers who pick up Volley will particularly enjoy the ability to attack at long ranger without Disadvantage so that you can handle large groups of enemies at a comfortable distance.
  • Shield MasterPHB: The only thing making this hard for Rangers is that you need high Strength to make good use of Athletics, which you need to make good use of the ability to Shove foes as a Bonus Action.
  • Skill ExpertTCoE: Helpful to close the skill gap between the Ranger and the Rogue.
  • SkilledPHB: Rangers already get more skills than average, but unless you got Thieves’ Tools proficiency from your background you may want to pick it up.
  • SkulkerPHB: Sniping is for Rogues.
  • SlasherTCoE: The speed reduction is a great way to keep enemies from escaping you, but rangers aren’t built to be Defenders like the Fighter or the Paladin so this may be a hard choice.
  • ToughPHB: You shouldn’t need hit points this badly. Rangers are not build to be a front-line Defender. If you still want this, reconsider your tactics.
  • War CasterPHB: Rangers don’t have cantrips which work with the Reaction mechanic. You can get them from Druidic Warrior or another source like your race (High Elf, etc.), but that’s a lot of investment for a gimick. Advantage on Concentration checks is probably the reason you’re here, but mathematically Resislient (Constitution) yields better results.

Weapons

  • Longbow: The Archery Ranger’s go-to weapon.
  • Quarterstaff: If you use the Spellcasting Focus Optional Class Feature, a staff can serve as both your focus and your weapon, and it works with Shillelagh (available via Fighting Style (Druidic Warrior)) and Polearm Master.
  • Rapier: Defensive and Dueling Rangers will want the biggest Finesse weapon they can get.
  • Shortsword: The TWF Ranger’s go-to weapon.
  • Whip: The only finesse weapon with reach. If you go for a melee Horde Breaker build, a whip is a good choice so that you can reach multiple foes without running back and forth between them.

Armor

  • Leather Armor: Scale Mail will give better AC, but will also impose disadvantage on Stealth.
  • Scale Mail: Better AC than Leather, but imposes Disadvantage on Stealth.
  • Studded Leather: Your best bet long-term.

Multiclassing

This section briefly details so obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn’t fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see my Practical Guide to Multiclassing.

  • Cleric: A single level of Nature Cleric gets you a skill proficiency, heavy armor proficiency, a Druid Cantrip, plus all of the spellcasting of a 1st-level Cleric. Plus, you can do this at any level rather than being forced to do it at 1st level to get heavy armor like you must with martial classes.
  • Druid: Two levels to pick up some cantrips and a subclass offers a lot of interesting options, but delaying Extra Attack can be hard at low levels and there are few Druid+Ranger combination builds that work well long-term.
  • Fighter: Another Fighting Style is tempting, though you can get it from the Fighting Initiate feat if that’s all that you want. If you start with Fighter you get access to a similar skill list plus heavy armor proficiency. With heavy armor, you can go for a Strength-based build instead of depending on Dexterity like every other Ranger in the game.
  • Monk: Unarmored Defense is a decent option, and Martial Arts removes the need for TWF, but you’ll need to forgo armor, which means that you need much more Wisdom than a typical ranger.
  • Rogue: Cunning Action, Expertise, and more skill proficiencies. If you’re going to grab a level of Rogue it should be your first level because you get more skills and the differences in armor and weapon proficiencies are’t impactful unless you’re building around Strength instead of Dexterity. If you just need Expertise in one skill, ask your DM if you can use the Deft Explorer alternate class feature.

Magic Items

Common Magic Items

  • Horn of Silent AlarmXGtE: A helpful tool for any Scout, the effect allows you to communicate with your allies (albeit in very simple fashion) at a distance without giving away your position and without relying on more complicated and expensive options like telepathy. Use one blare to alert your party that you’re in danger, and establish a meaning for two or more blares before you go off scouting. Example: Two blares means come to me, but be cautious. Three blares means come get me, but the way is safe.
  • Moon-Touched SwordXGtE: This solves two problems for martial characters. First, the sword glows almost as brightly as a torch, allowing you to see in dark places without devoting a hand to a torch and without asking your allies to cast light or something. Second, and more important, it allows you to overcome damage resistance to non-magic attacks. Resistances like this are common as you gain levels, and the Moon-Touched Sword is an inexpensive way to overcome them until a better weapon comes along.
  • Unbreakable ArrowDMG: Great for archers to overcome resistance to damage from non-magical attacks, but it’s only one arrow so you really want to get a magic bow. Since the arrow can’t be broken, it’s weirdly useful for wedging doors and windows closed or open.
  • Walloping ArrowDMG: Great for archers to overcome resistance to damage from non-magical attacks, but the DC of 10 won’t be reliable and knocking foes prone makes it hard to hit them with ranged attacks which may hamper you and your allies.

Uncommon Magic Items

  • Ammunition, +1DMG: Single-use and expensive. Get a +X weapon instead, if you can.
  • Amulet of Proof against Detection and LocationDMG: Permanent Nondetection, similar to the spell. Combine this with Invisibility, and you can’t be detected by common countermeasures like See Invisibility.
  • Boomerang, +1DMG: Helpful for thrown weapon builds or for Strength-based builds that need an occasional ranged option, but if you hit you’re still out a weapon so it doesn’t perfectly address your need for magic weapons to overcome damage resistances.
  • Boots of ElvenkindDMG: Helpful on any stealthy character, though not effective as a Cloak of Elvenkind. Combine with a Cloak of Elvenkind for maximum effect.
  • Bracers of ArcheryDMG: An easy choice for archer builds. Unfortunately, they don’t work with crossbows so Crossbow Expert builds won’t benefit.
  • Broom of FlyingDMG: Easily overlooked, but one of the best ways to get flight for any character. It doesn’t require attunement, and has a fly speed of 50 feet, though many medium characters will exceed the 200 pound limit to reduce the speed to 30 feet, but even then 30 feet fly speed with no duration cap and requiring no action after speaking the command word is absolutely incredible. The only drawback is that you’re using the item’s speed rather than giving yourself a fly speed, so things that improve your speed won’t make the broom move faster, and you can’t Dash with the broom. Even so, I honestly can’t justify why this is only Uncommon considering how exceptionally good it is.
  • Cloak of ElvenkindDMG: Essential on any stealthy character. Creatures attempting to detect you suffer Disadvantage, and you gain Advantage on Stealth checks to avoid being seen, so you get two layers of protection against creatures detecting you. For maximum effect, combine with Boots of Elvenkind.
  • Cloak of ProtectionDMG: Good on any character, but it requires Attunement and it’s not very interesting.
  • Eyes of the EagleDMG: Perception is the most frequently rolled skill in the game, and you are likely the person in the party who is best at it. Advantage provides a great deal of insurance and protection against ambushes and other surprises.
  • Gauntlets of Ogre powerDMG: Maybe helpful for Dexterity-based builds. If you dumped Strength to 8, going straight to 19 can be helpful. But at that point you’re mostly using it for saves and for Athletics checks.
  • Gloves of ThieveryDMG: Easily replaced by the Enhance Ability spell, but still helpful for stealthy characters.
  • Goggles of NightDMG: Crucial for races which don’t get Darkvision, especially if your party can’t cast the Darkvision spell for you.
  • Moon SickleTCoE: +1 to spell attacks, save DC’s, attack rolls, and damage rolls, and you can use the sickle as a spellcasting focus which reduces the need to juggle your weapon when casting spells. The ranger will benefit little from the improvements to spellcasting, so in the vast majority of cases this is just a +1 sickle.
  • Nature’s MantleTCoE: This isn’t quite Cunning Action, but it’s still good. Lightly Obscured includes things like areas of dim light, smoke, and potentially thick foliage, so there are numerous ways to make yourself lightly obscured in order to hide.
  • Sentinel ShieldDMG: Most rangers go for either archery or two-weapon fighting, but for the handful of rangers using shields this is a spectacular option.
  • Shield, +1DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Slippers of Spider ClimbingDMG: The next-best thing to flight. Walking up a wall has all the benefits of flying out of reach, making this an excellent option for ranged builds.
  • Stone of Good LuckDMG: Excellent on literally any character, but if you just want better defense a Cloak of Protection may be more effective. Stone of Good Luck shines if you’re heavily reliant on skills and ability checks.
  • Weapon, +1DMG: A numeric bonus to attack and damage is hard to beat. As you gain levels weapons more interesting than a +X bonus to attack/damage may be more interesting and more effective, but at the Uncommon rarity nothing can compete with a +1 Weapon for your offensive needs. Perhaps the biggest problem for the ranger is that melee builds often rely on two-weapon fighting, so you likely need two of them.
  • Winged BootsDMG: Excellent on its own, but Winged Boots are more limited in use than a broom of flying, and they require Attunement.

Rare Magic Items

  • Ammunition, +2DMG: Single-use and expensive. Get a +X weapon instead, if you can.
  • Amulet of HealthDMG: Setting your Constitution to 19 means that you don’t need to put Ability Score Increases into it unless you’re really certain that you want 20 Constitution. Less ASI’s into Constitution means more room for feats.
  • Armor of ResistanceDMG: Excellent, but unpredictable in most games since you can’t perfectly predict what sort of damage you’ll face. Fire and poison are safe choices.
  • Armor, +1DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Barrier Tattoo (Rare)TCoE: +1 breastplate will provide the same without requiring attunement and still doesn’t impose Disadvantage on Stealth checks, so +X armor is a better choice.
  • Belt of Giant Strength (Hill)DMG: Strength-based builds are typically very hard for the Ranger, but a magic item raising your Strength above 20 certainly makes that much simpler.
  • Cloak of DisplacementDMG: Among the best defensive items in the game. Taking damage from any source (spells, etc.) suppresses the effect temporarily, so make a point to kill anything that can damage you without an attack roll.
  • Cloak of the BatDMG: A Cloak of Elvenkind may be more effective for Stealth because it also imposes Disadvantage on Perception checks to detect you, but Cloak of the Bat isn’t limited to vision-based checks so it may be more broadly effective if your enemies can also hear or smell you (yes, that’s a thing). You can also use it to fly in dim light and darkness, though your hands are occupied (you need to hold the edges of the cloak) so flying in combat may be difficult.
  • FlametongueDMG: Mathematically the +2 bonus to attack rolls from a +2 weapon will be a more consistent improvement to your damage output,especially with the damage bonuses from Hunter’s Mark and other on-hit damage boosts.
  • Mantle of Spell ResistanceDMG: Many martial characters struggle when targeted by spells, and the Ranger is no exception. A Cloak of Protection is probably easier to find and provides more general defense, but Mantle of Spell Resistance focuses on protecting you from your biggest weakness.
  • Moon SickleTCoE: +2 to spell attacks, save DC’s, attack rolls, and damage rolls. See Moon Sickle under Uncommon Magic Items for more.
  • Periapt of Proof Against PoisonDMG: Poison damage is very common across the full level range, so immunity to it is a significant improvement in your durability.
  • Ring of EvasionDMG: A great way to mitigate damage from AOE spells and things like breath weapons which can often be problems from front-line martial characters, especially if you’re not build around Dexterity.
  • Ring of ProtectionDMG: Cloak of Protection is lower rarity and has the same effect.
  • Ring of ResistanceDMG: A fine item in a vaccuum, but a Ring of Spell Storing full of Absorb Elements will be much more effective.
  • Ring of Spell StoringDMG: Fill it with Absorb Elements and Shield, and recharge it whenever possible and this is a spectacular defensive asset.
  • Shadowfell Brand TattooDMG: A Cloak of Elvenkind will technically be better at keeping you hidden because it also imposes Disadvantage on Perception checks to notice you, but this is still great. Shadowy Defense provides an effect similar to the Rogue’s Uncanny Dodge, allowing you mitigate a big pile of damage (a spell, a critical hit, etc.) once per day.
  • Shield, +2DMG: +2 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Sword of WoundingDMG: Persistent damage that stacks with itself. It’s only 1d4 and only once per turn, but it stacks with itself and “once per turn” means that if you can attack again outside of your own turn (Opportunity Attacks, etc.) you can get additional dice very quickly.
  • Weapon, +2DMG: Mathematically spectacular. It’s difficult to beat the math here.
  • Wings of FlyingDMG: Broom of Flying is much better, lower rarity, and doesn’t require attunement.

Very Rare Magic Items

  • Absorbing TattooTCoE: Good, but too high rarity to devote to a single damage type. Get a Ring of Spell Storing and fill it with Absorb Elements.
  • Ammunition, +3DMG: Single-use and expensive. Get a +X weapon instead, if you can.
  • Animated ShieldDMG: Tempting for anyone not fighting with a one-handed weapon, but a Cloak of Protection is two rarities lower, works persistently, and arguably provides a better numeric bonus.
  • Armor, +2DMG: +2 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Belt of Giant Strength (Frost, Stone, Fire)DMG: Much like a +X weapon, it’s hard to beat the math here. For a Strength-based character, raising your Strength above 20 is a massive benefit, and going up as high as 25 is spectacular. Add a +X weapon on top of that, and you hit so reliably that you almost can’t miss with your attacks.
  • Frost BrandDMG: Less damage than the Flame Tongue, but higher rarity and it requires attunement. Yes, you get resistance to fore damage, but you can get that from dozens of other sources by this level.
  • Manual of Bodily HealthDMG: Permanent Constitution bonus and raises your cap by 2. Unless you’re using a magic item that fixes your Constitution as a specific score, this is excellent.
  • Manual of Quickness of ActionDMG: Spectacular for Dexterity-based builds.
  • Moon SickleTCoE: +2 to spell attacks, save DC’s, attack rolls, and damage rolls. See Moon Sickle under Uncommon Magic Items for more.
  • OathbowDMG: So cool, but so weak. Unless you’re attacking your sworn enemy, it’s just a magic bow with no benefit other than being chatty. Imagine using Action Surge and Haste and making 9 attacks in one turn and having the bow struggle to whisper “Swift defeat to my enemies” 9 times in six seconds.
  • Scimitar of SpeedDMG: Among the best weapons to use with the Dueling style, you get two-weapon fighting action economy on a single weapon.
  • Shield, +3DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Spellguard ShieldDMG: A minor upgrade from the Mantle of Spell Resistance, the Spellguard Shield protects you not just from spells, but from all magical effects.
  • Sun BladeDMG: Basically a +2 rapier that deals radiant damage and does a bit more damage to undead. It’s not significantly better than a +2 rapier in the majority of cases. Radiant damage is great, but most creatures with resistance to weapon damage types are affected normally by magic weapons so the benefits of radiant damage compared to piercing or slashing damage from a magical wapon are minor. It works, but I’m not certain that it’s worth Attunement compared to a +2 weapon unless you can expect to face fiends and undead with some regularity.
  • Weapon, +3DMG: Mathematically spectacular. It’s difficult to beat the math here.

Legendary Magic Items

  • Armor, +3DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective. It feels underwhelming at this rarity, but the math if good.
  • Belt of Giant Strength (Cloud, Storm)DMG: As good as a +4 weapon for Strength-based character, and that doesn’t even consider Athletics checks or saves.
  • Blood Fury TattooTCoE: The first ability provides a great damage boost which also heals you, and since it’s “extra damage” the damage is multiplied on a critical hit. The second ability provides a way to counterattack using your Reaction, and with Advantage on that attack it’s an easy and reliable boost to your damage output.
  • Cloak of InvisibilityDMG: Invisibility is extremely powerful in 5e. Note that this is just the invisible condition, not the spell spell Invisibility, so you can still attack or whatever while invisible. Unless you’re playing a Defender and actively trying to draw attacks away from your allies, this is absolutely amazing.
  • Ioun Stone (Mastery)DMG: Proficiency Bonuses apply to a lot of things and a +1 bonus goes a long way. Attacks, saves, skills, etc. all benefit.
  • Luck BladeDMG: Bonuses to attacks and saves, a once per day reroll, and it can cast Wish a few times (maybe. 1d4-1 could be zero). Green if it can’t cast Wish.
  • Ring of InvisibilityDMG: Cloak of Invisibility and Ring of Invisibility are very similar, but there is some important nuance to understand. Ring of Invisibility can make you indefinitely invisible, allowing you to do anything except attack and cast spells without breaking your invisibility. Use a breath weapon, activate items (as long as doing so doesn’t make you cast a spell), steal things, use the Help action, pick locks, disarm traps, take long rests, etc. can all be done while totally invisible without limit. However, the second you roll initiative the Cloak of Invisibility becomes more powerful because its invisibility isn’t broken by you attacking or casting spells.
  • Ring of Spell TurningDMG: Given the choice, I would much rather haqve a Mantle of Spell Resistance simply because the Ring of Spell Turning doesn’t provide any protection against area effect spells. Otherwise, this is a really fun item, and if it provided Advantage on saves against area of effect spells it would shoot straight up to blue.
  • Ring of Three WishesDMG: Use this to do one of the things that risks permanently removing the ability to cast Wish, such as granting 10 creatures permanent resistance to once damage type. If you lose the ability to cast Wish, pass this off to another ally who will never be able to cast Wish by any other means. Repeat until the last charge is used.

    For more help with Wish, see my Practical Guide to Wish.

  • Scarab of ProtectionDMG: An upgrade from the Mantle of Spell Resistance, the Scarab of Protection adds a limited benefit against necromancy and undead creatures, and doesn’t take up your cloak slot, leaving you free to take items like a Cloak of Protection or Cloak of Invisibility instead.

Example Build – Human Ranger (Hunter)

Sinclair Fleet-Foot the Human Hunter

Scarcely a sound betrays the approach of the dusky-hued man standing before you. Indeed, not a single broken twig or trampled leaf marks his passage. Though he stands in a relaxed position, his copper eyes are in a permanent half-squint, keenly looking for signs of danger, senses sharpened by countless seasons spent hunting in his favorite terrain. His thumbs are tucked into his wide leather belt, of a piece with the leather armor worn surreptitiously under his earth-toned cloak, hands placed for a fast draw of his well-worn but carefully maintained fighting daggers. The longbow on his back has seen some use, certainly, but a practiced eye reveals that this ranger prefers to get into the thick of things when trouble starts.

— Boxed text provided by dScryb(affiliate link)

This is a “Staple Build”. This build is simple, and relies on options from the SRD and the Basic Rules wherever possible. If you need a functional build with nothing fancy or complicated, this is a great place to start.

Of the two Ranger Archetypes in the Player’s Handbook, Hunter is clearly the better choice, and I’m glad that it was chosen for the SRD. The Hunter is an excellent scout and striker, and it has enough decision points that you can tailor it to your tastes.

Perhaps the most defining build choice we make is our choice of Fighting Style. Rangers get just two options, so it’s really a choice between melee and ranged. Melee will have higher damage output, especially with Crossbow Expert off limits due to our SRD-only limitations for staple builds, but melee is also much more risky. I’ll present suggestions for both choices.

Abilities

We will make some adjustments to the point-buy abilities recommended above to capitalize on the human ability score increases. Depending on which skills and background you select, you might switch Intelligence and Charisma.

BaseIncreased
Str910
Dex1516
Con1314
Int1112
Wis1516
Cha89

Race

Human. In the SRD, the Human is the only way to get bonuses to both Dexterity and Wisdom. You could shuffle around the ability scores and select Halfling or even High Elf if you’d prefer, but we’ll go with Human to keep things simple.

Skills and Tools

Ignore Animal Handling and Athletics, and we’ve got 6 skills that we care about. We get three from the Ranger’s proficiencies and two from our background, so we’ll need to skip one.

Background

Criminal is the best option available in the Basic Rules or the SRD. Deception isn’t great, but we want Stealth and Thieves’ Tools will let you stand in for a rogue. Folk Hero would also work, but I think Thieves’ Tools are important enough that proficiency makes Criminal the better choice.

It’s a little concerning how many of my “Staple Builds” use the criminal background. It’s purely for character optimization reasons, but it still feels odd.

Feats

Rangers get far more ability increases than they can reasonably use, making feats an excellent option. Once you’re comfortable with the game and you’ve hit 20 Dexterity, consider exploring feats. Skilled will expand your proficiencies, and there are a number of excellent options to boost your combat abilities like Dual Wielder and Sharpshooter.

Levels

LevelFeat(s) and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
1
  • Favored Enemy
  • Natural explorer

For your starting equipment, choose leather armor (as much as we want the AC from scale mail, Disadvantage on Stealth is a problem), two short swords (or two daggers), either pack, and the longbow and arrows.

Favored Enemy is immediately a difficult choice. At level 1 you may have no idea what you’ll face at level 2, let alone at level 20. You get to select additional favored enemeis later, but you get a total of just 3 over your entire career. Talk to your DM to see if they’re willing you offer suggestions

Natural Explorer requires you to select a Favored Terrain, which presents all the same challenges as a Favored Enemey. At level 1 you might be exploring forests, but by level 10 you might be lost in the Underdark for the rest of your characters’ life. You have no way to know, and no way to later change your decision. Talk to your DM to see if they’re willing to offer suggestions.

At this level, do some experimenting. Try melee. Try archery. Try sneaking around. Get to know your character and get a sense of where you fit into the rest of your party before you’re locked into a fighting style.

2
  • Fighting Style
  • Spellcasting

By now you’ve hopefully had enough time to decide between fighting at range or in melee. If you’re fighting in melee, take Fighting Style: Two-Weapon Fighting, and if you’re fighting at range, take Fighting Style: Archery.

Spellcasting introduces a lot of interesting options. You get just 2 spell slots, but fortunately you can get a lot of mileage out of your spells. Hunter’s Mark is a particularly important part of the Ranger’s repertoire. Cast it as soon as you go into a fight (or beforehand if that’s an option) to maximize the extra damage you can get. With a 1-hour duration, you can easily stretch one spell slot through every encounter you’ll face between short rests. unfortunately that may mean that one third of your day doesn’t include Hunter’s Mark (assuming the “Adventuring Day” rules in the DMG, which suggest two short rests in a full day of adventuring).

On days when you stop to take a long rest, cast Goodberry with all of your remaining spell slots. There’s no cap on how many hit points you can heal from Goodberry, so each casting gives you and your party 10 hit points worth of healing that you can consume between fights to stretch other resources like hit dice and other healing magic.

3
  • Hunter
  • Hunter’s Prey
  • Primeval Awareness

If you took Fighting Style: Two-Weapon Fighting, take Hunter’s Prey: Colossus Slayer. If you took Fighting Style: Archery, take Hordebreaker.

4
  • Ability Score Improvement (Dexterity 16 -> 18)

More AC, better attacks, and better damage.

5

Any martial class loves Extra Attack.

5th level also brings 2nd-level spells, including a few notably useful options. Lesser Restoration allows you to contribute your limited healing capabilities, and Spike Growth provides an excellent area control option. Pass Without Trace offers a significant bonus to Dexterity (Stealth) checks, allowing even clumsy, heavily-armored party members to accompany you with a decent chance of going unnoticed.

6
  • Favored Enemy improvements
  • Natural Explorer improvements

Choose another favored enemy and another favored terrain. All of the same issues apply, but hopefully by now you know where the bulk of the campaign will be taking place and who the primary antagonists are.

7
  • Defensive Tactics: Multiattack Defense

Multiattack Defense is the best option for Defensive Tactics. Escape the Horde is tempting for melee builds, but at that point just Disengage and make better use of your next turn.

8
  • Ability Score Improvement (Dexterity 18 -> 20)

Your AC now hits its maximum at 17 in studded leather, and your attacks and damage improve.

9

Nothing at this level except 3rd-level spells. You get some fun options like Conjure Animals, but remember that anything which requires Concentration will conflict with Hunter’s Mark. You can also cast Hunter’s Mark as a 3rd-level spell to make it last 8 hours, allowing you to stretch a single casting all day long provided that you can maintain Concentration.

10
  • Natural Explorer improvement
  • Hide in Plain Sight

Your last favored terrain. Hopefully you’ve covered enough bases that you’ll never be outside of your favored terrain.

Hide in Plain Sight isn’t what it was in previous editions. In previous editions you could simply hide where you stood. I guess WotC realized how problematic that was without using a spell, so now you need to spend some time camouflaging yourself. Since it takes a full minute and requires you to remain still, you’ll need to use this for spying on or ambushing enemies. Combine it with Spike Growth and you can turn an area into a killing field with a few minutes of preparation.

11

Multiattack is split into a clearly melee-oriented option and a clearly ranged option. Volley is for archers, and Whirlwind Attack is for two-weapon fighters. However, note that neither of these actions is the “Attack” action, so you can’t actually do two-weapon fighting, and if you took Crossbow expert you can’t use the bonus action extra attack. Either way, Multiattack won’t be your go-to option. Look for opportunities to use it, but in most cases enemies won’t be neatly clustered enough for you to get more attacks from Multiattack than from a normal Attack.

12
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 14 -> 16)

With maximized Dexterity, it’s time to start improving other ability scores. We started with 16 Wisdom, which is absolutely plenty for the ranger, so focus on increasing your Constitution instead to get the extra hit points. Your AC is going to be stuck at 17 for the rest of your character’s career (excluding spells and magic items) so you need all the durability you can get.

The one counter-point which might convince you to increase Wisdom instead of Constitution is Foe Slayer. Foe Slayer is based on your Wisdom bonus, and it’s pretty good. Unfortunately, it’s 8 levels off, and if you don’t live to level 20 it won’t matter how high your Wisdom is.

13

Nothing at this level except 4th-level spells. This is very exciting, but with just 4 spells included in the SRD you have very few options.

14
  • Favored Enemy improvement
  • Vanish

Vanish is considerably more useful for archers than it is for melee rangers, but even a melee ranger is good with a bow. If you need to avoid attention, jump in a bush and snipe things.

15
  • Superior Hunter’s Defense

Rogues get both Evasion and Uncanny Dodge, but you are forced to choose one or the other. I recommend Evasion for archery builds and Uncanny Dodge for melee builds.

16
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 16 -> 18)

More constitution gets us a nice pile of extra hit points at this level.

17

Nothing at this level except 5th-level spells, and the SRD contains just two 5th-level Ranger spells. Look at your lower-level spells for options that work well when cast with a higher-level spell slot.

18

Invisible creatures were a problem long before this. Hopefully by this level you’ve found a solution to that challenge, but Feral Senses is likely a better solution.

19
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 18 -> 20)

You’re now as durable as you can get, which is nice considering that your AC is still stuck at 17, while enemies’ attack bonuses and damage have gradually climbed over time. If you’re doing alright with 18 Constitution, you might increase Wisdom instead to get another point out of Foe Slayer now that it’s only one level away.

20

This is the first time our 16 Wisdom has ever been a setback, but the difference between +3 and +4 typically won’t be a problem.

Foe Slayer can turn a miss into a hit since you can use it after the roll is made, so the primary use case is as an attack bonus. Turning a miss into a his will deal more damage than applying the +3 damage. If you make it to your last attack for the turn and all of your attacks either hit or rolled too low to save, use Foe Slayer for the bonus damage. You can use it once every turn, and you should make every effort to do so.

Sours: https://rpgbot.net/dnd5/characters/classes/ranger/

The DnD 5e Ranger Guide

What is this guide?

This guide is meant as a deep dive into the DnD 5e Ranger. For a quick overview of the Ranger Class, see our breakdown of the DnD 5e Classes. You can see the Ranger Class Features here.

In this post, we will be examining the Ranger’s Class Features and how you can optimize your Ranger through choosing your Race, Ability Score, Spells, Feats, etc.

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your Ranger. This color-coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.

  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange is an OK option
  • Green is a good option
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized

So if you’re ready, grab your granola, grab some animal friends, and let’s get into it.

D&D 5e Ranger Overview

The 5e Ranger is a master of survival who uses their knowledge of the outdoors to track foes and provide advantages in combat. The common motif around the Ranger in DnD 5e is a skilled hunter, tracker, and woodsman, most at home on the fringes of civilization and the first line of defense against threats from the wilds.

Most Rangers are played as loners in social settings and will be more than happy to scout out ahead for the party.

The 5e Ranger is a controversial class because they are typically deemed as being underpowered. Their early level’s class features provide zero benefits if you are not in the proper environment or fighting the correct monster. This can make your Ranger feel limited in their abilities, compared to other versatile classes.

There has been so much talk about this that Unearthed Arcana actually released a Revised Ranger to address some of the concerns with the class. This new version of the Ranger hasn’t been published in any materials but it is commonly included at tables despite the fact that is it still in “playtest” mode. We will address the Revised Ranger in a later article.

Playstyle

The common motif around the Ranger in DnD 5e is that of a skilled hunter, tracker, and woodsman, most at home on the fringes of civilization and the first line of defense against threats in the wilds.

Most Rangers are played as loners in social settings and will be more than happy to scout out ahead for the party. While their semi-caster status gives them some versatility, their class features get nerfed quite hard when traveling in environments that are not preferred or fighting enemies that are not their favored type.

Strengths

Rangers are the best of the martial classes against multiple enemies and hordes. Many of the Ranger’s combat abilities are designed for attacking multiple foes in a turn. To bolster that role, Rangers also have area of effect spells that can damage multiple foes.

Rangers have two other very unique abilities granted at 1st Level: Preferred Terrain and Favored Enemy. The Favored Enemy ability grants the Ranger advantages on attacking and tracking their favored enemy. Preferred Terrain helps the Ranger and their party survive, travel, and navigate certain environments.

Weaknesses

Many of the Ranger’s abilities, including the Favored Enemies and Favored Terrains class features, are highly situational and don’t always mesh well with the campaign’s setting, especially if you are traversing an environment where opportunities to scout are at a minimum.

When Rangers are not in their Favored Terrains or dealing with their Favored Enemies, their combat effectiveness and exploration abilities are heavily nerfed, so those abilities are situational at best.

Before You Start

Races

Check out our Guide to DnD Races for non-standard races. Keep in mind, most races and subraces are limited by the setting and source material chosen by the DM. Check with your DM before selecting any of the races not listed below.

Rangers are a semi-caster class that uses WIS as it’s spellcasting modifier. Their play style is similar to that of a Rogue. Rangers are great at stealthiness and getting the drop on their opponent. The are also played optimally with a maxed DEX score. Your next priority will be WIS or CON based on how you plan to use your Ranger.

If you are going to get up close and personal, casting minimal save-based spells, CON is where you will want to focus.

If you are going to stay back and utilize the full Ranger spell list, stack your WIS.

Dragonborn: +2 STR is nice for a melee Ranger, the +1 CHA is wasted.

Dwarf: +2 CON and Darkvision are nice.

  • Hill: +1 to WIS makes this an alright pick.
  • Mountain: Doesn’t help a Ranger.

Elf: +2 DEX is exactly what you are looking for with a Ranger. Advantage on saving throws against being charmed and immunity to sleep is icing on the cake.

  • Drow Elf: CHA won’t do a Ranger much good and sunlight sensitivity is annoying.
  • High Elf: INT is useless for Rangers.
  • Wood Elf: Small WIS bonus, increased walking speed, and Mask of the Wild. This is the optimal Ranger choice.

Gnome: INT is useless for Rangers.

  • Forest: Small DEX bonus, Minor Illusion, and Speak with Small Beasts somewhat makes up for the Gnome’s useless bonus to INT.
  • Rock: Not good for Rangers.

Half-Elf: The CHA bonus is largely unproductive for Rangers, but increasing two ability scores by 1 allows you to boost WIS and STR/DEX to create a rather well-rounded character. Advantage on saving throws against being charmed and immunity to being put to sleep is nice.

Half-Orc: Relentless Endurance and Savage Attack are good for those that want to get in close. The STR and CON bonuses will certainly help with that.

Halfling: +2 DEX is exactly what we are looking for and Lucky is always nice to have.

  • Lightfoot: CHA is mostly wasted on a Ranger but Naturall Stealthy is certainly a nice benefit.
  • Stout: More CON never hurts, the poison resistance will help at some point.

Human: Humans are always decent.

  • Vanilla: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Boosts to WIS and DEX and a nice feat at first level? This is among the best choices you can make for your Ranger. Check out our Feats section for more info.

Tiefling: Tieflings don’t have any features that make them appealing for a Ranger.

Backgrounds

Sticking with the fact that we are going for DEX and WIS for a Ranger doesn’t leave us with a ton of options for backgrounds:

  • Folk Hero: Animal Handling and Survival are two skills that a Ranger SHOULD really be good at. Animal Handling as written is definitely a subpar skill though.
  • Urchin: Sleight of Hand isn’t a DEX based skill Rangers typically have access to. Stealth is an awesome free proficiency.
  • Criminal: Deception proficiency will help offset a dumped CHA stat and can help you face a bit more for your party. Free Stealth proficiency is awesome.
  • Outlander: This is another “flavor pick”, similar to Folk Hero. The skill proficiencies aren’t great but the backstory and Wanderer feature certainly make sense for a Ranger.

Ability Scores

Ability Score Increases (ASI) at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level.

Prioritize WIS over the other Ability Scores. Once WIS is maxed, the decision is between CON and DEX based on the Ranger Circle you choose.

STR: This is a definite dump stat for Rangers as they can get by with finesse weapons if you want to go melee.

DEX: Seeing as the only armor Rangers have access to is light or medium, DEX is your primary means of defense (it’s better to be missed than hit with some extra HP). DEX also plays into your weapon attacks, damage, Initiative, the all-too-common DEX saving throw, and the very important Stealth skill.

CON: If you plan to go for a melee Ranger, it is best to forgo WIS in place of CON. This will allow you to maintain concentration on your awesome Hunter’s Mark spell. If you’re going for a ranged Ranger you can save this for after you stack your WIS.

INT: Don’t bother with INT.

WIS: If you plan to go for a ranged Ranger, it is best to forgo CON in place of WIS. This will allow you to get your spell save DC and spell attack modifier to a relevant level. If you’re going for a  melee Ranger you can save this for after you stack your CON.

CHA: Rangers shouldn’t try to focus on social skills outside of WIS based ones. If you must, the overall effectiveness of the character will suffer.

Ranger Class Progression

1st Level

Hit Points: Rangers have a nice of the road d10 hitdice.

Saves: Proficiency with STR and DEX saves is great. DEX saves are extremely common, STR saves are less so but helpful against being knocked prone and restrained.

Weapon/Armour Proficiencies: Light armor, medium armor, shields, simple weapons, and martial weapons is exactly what the Ranger wants to work with.

Skills: Rangers aren’t known for their diverse skillset. They can only choose two of the following eight skills.

  • Animal Handling (WIS): Animal Handling as written is a trash skill. If your DM is lenient with the rulings it is definitely a worthwhile skill for Rangers to pick up but otherwise avoid this.
  • Athletics (STR): Atheltics isn’t a super common ask for someone in the Ranger’s position. It also doesn’t mesh well with the dumped STR score.
  • Insight (WIS): Insight is great for social interactions since it can give you a ton of information on the person you are trying to convince or manipulate.
  • Investigation (INT): Investigation can sometimes mesh with Survival, it is best to choose Survival to play to the Ranger’s strengths and go with the WIS based skill.
  • Nature (INT): Nature is an important INT skill. If nobody else in your party has it, it makes sense for the Ranger to know what’s up when you’re out in the woods.
  • Perception (WIS): We’ve said it before, Perception is the best skill in D&D. Getting proficiency and expertise in this can help make up for your low WIS score. 
  • Stealth (DEX): If perception is the best skill, stealth is a close second.
  • Survival (WIS): Similar to Nature. If you don’t have another savvy woodsman in your party, it is your duty as a Ranger to pick this up.

Favored Enemy: You can select your favorite (or least favorite, I guess) creature type and gain some minor bonuses, such as: advantage on tracking them and recalling information about them. This feature is certainly a weak class feature and is where the Ranger class begins to go off the rails a little bit.

The creatures to choose for your Favored Enemy vary wildly by campaign, but looking at the Monster Manual shows us that Beasts, Fiends and Undead are very likely to show up. Beasts are likely to show up at lower levels, but you get to choose more favored enemies at 6th and 14th level.

Natural Explorer: Natural Explorer is a stronger passive ability than Favored Enemy but is still extremely situational. You can choose one of eight possible terrains to gain a myriad of bonuses in, but if you’re not in the chosen terrain you are SoL.

2nd Level

Fighting Style:

  • Archery: +2 to attack rolls with ranged weapons is exactly what you’re looking for as a Ranger and helps offset the penalty from taking Sharpshooter shots.
  • Defense: +1 to AC isn’t overly exciting but seeing as AC is hard to scale it can make a difference in the early and long game.
  • Dueling: Being able to wield a shield while dealing close to two-handed weapon damage is a very, very tempting option.
  • Two-Weapon Fighting: WhileTwo-Weapon Fightingcan make you hit a lot easier with your offhand weapon, there are some disadvantages to being a dual-wielding fighter. Mainly, the fact that attacking with your offhand takes your bonus action. This doesn’t cause your offhand attacks to scale with your extra attacks. This will cause the damage you output to quickly become overshadowed by something like using a Greatsword or taking the Dueling Martial Archetype.

Spellcasting: Rangers are a semi-caster, this means they only get spell slots up to 5th level and no Cantrips. Their spell list focuses mainly on passive, utility/survival abilities, with the exception of Hunter’s Mark. Hunter’s Mark is to Rangers as Hex is to Warlock. It is their bread and butter extra damage spell that keeps their attacks on a similar level to Fighters and their extra attacks.

3rd Level

Primeval Awareness: This is…not a great ability. You can tell when certain creature types are within 1 mile, but not their location or number. Definitely not worth a spell slot 90% of the time.

Ranger Archetype

At 3rd Level, Rangers get to choose their Ranger Archetype. A Ranger’s Circle completely defines how the build plays, so choose the one based on a playstyle you might enjoy the most.

Beast Master
  • 3rd Level
    • Ranger’s Companion: This one is a bit of a bummer. The Ranger Companion is strictly worse than a Wizard’s Familiar (and much worse than a Pact of the Chain’s Familiar) at lower levels. The main reason for this is because a Familiar takes actions independently of you, so you don’t have to waste an action to command it around. If you want your companion to do anything, you have to have willing to give up your action own in order to do so. You also can’t use your Compaion’s senses or have it deliver touch spells like you can a Familiar. The Companion does get better at later levels, but until the 7th Level, it is pretty much useless.
      • Flying Snake: Flyby can keep the Flying Snake out of trouble and it has blindsight. Damage is alright.
      • Giant Badger: Unfortunately, you cannot use multiattack until you unlock Bestial Fury at 11th Level, where each other Companion gets the ability to make two attacks. This makes the badger strictly worse than the Wolf in every way.
      • Giant Crab: Good AC and HP, can breathe air and water and can grapple a target. Damage isn’t great.
      • Giant Poisonous Snake: Good AC, HP is on par with a Wolf, and the damage from the failed CON save makes this the potential heaviest hitter out of all the Companions.
      • Owl: Flyby, so it doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks, but the low AC, pitiful damage and HP, make this a hard choice. It really comes online at the 7th level when it has the ability to give the help action on each turn.
      • Pteranodon: Great HP and good AC. Flyby and solid damage. This is your best option in the air.
      • Vulture: If you don’t have a Pteranodon handy to make your familiar, the Vulture will do just fine. Worse damage, AC, and HP than the Pteranodon but has Pack Tactics.
      • Wolf: Ahh, the tried and true Ranger Companion. Good damage, HP, AC, Pack Tactics. and a chance to knock an enemy prone makes this a top tier choice.
  • 7th Level
    • Exceptional Training: This makes your Companion a lot more useful, you can use it to give you advantage to one shot each turn.
  • 11th Level
    • Bestial Fury: This pairs nicely with giving the Companion feature that allows you to give your Companion one of your attacks. To put this in perspective, if you are using a longbow, have Hunter’s Mark on, and have stacked your DEX, you will be doing 1d8+5 + 1d6 (average of 12). For the sake of it, if you hit twice with your Wolf you are doing on average 2d4 + 6 x 2 (average of 20). This is, of course, assuming you don’t have any upgraded weapons.
  • 15th Level
    • Share Spells: Rangers have some nice buff spells to increase the lasting power and effectiveness of your Companion. Stone Skin is an obvious choice for this.
Gloom Stalker

Source: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Check out our Gloom Stalker 5e Guide

Horizon Walker

Source: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Check out our Horizon Walker 5e Guide

Hunter
  • 3rd Level
    • Hunter’s Prey
      • Colossus Slayer: Deal an extra 1d8 of damage per turn reliably.
      • Giant Killer: Good use for a reaction, but is somewhat limiting due to the caveat that it has to be a Large or larger creature.
      • Horde Breaker: Extra attack that can be taken reliably, multiple times each combat. Very good.
  • 7th Level
    • Defensive Tactics
      • Escape the Horde: Decent ability to get out of danger. Good for moving around in combat or if you are a ranged fighter than constantly finds themselves in melee range.
      • Multiattack Defense: Lots of creatures have multiattack. This is essentially a free Shield spell against them when they hit you.
      • Steel Will: Advantage on saving throws against being frightened is a fairly limited ability.
  • 11th Level
    • Multiattack
      • Volley: Good pick up for ranged builds. If you have already picked up Horde Breaker, this will only net you an additional attack if 4 creatures are jammed into the 20ft square.
      • Whirlwind Attack: Again, a good pick for melee builds but likely won’t net you more attacks than your two attacks + Horde Breaker.
  • 15th Level
    • Superior Hunter’s Defense
      • Evasion: Great ability because DEX saves are so common. Your high DEX score and proficiency in DEX saving throws will likely cause you to not take damage from these effects unless you roll very poorly.
      • Stand Against the Tide: This is a fun one and can cause some major damage in the right situations. The fact of the matter is that these situations are far and few between.
      • Uncanny Dodge: One of the best defensive abilities in the game.
Monster Slayer
  • 3rd Level
    • Monster Slayer Magic
      • 3rd – Protection from Evil and Good: A potent buff against common creature types.
      • 5th – Zone of Truth: Good for RP, but seems really out of place in the Monster Slayer’s spells list.
      • 9th- Magic Circle: This is situational, but will be a good effect if you can land it in the right circumstances.
      • 13th – Banishment: A failed save on a Banishment can mean taking a creature out of the fight for good, or just long enough to help control the battlefield and action economy.
      • 17th – Hold Monster: Even one round of being incapacitated is bad news for any creature.
    • Hunter’s Sense: This is a cool ability. Unfortunately, not many creatures have vulnerabilities and most creatures with resistances are fairly obvious.
    • Slayer’s Prey: A strictly worse Hexblade’s Curse. It’s even worse than Colossus Slayer for the Hunter and Planar Warrior for the Horizon Walker. Just underpowered in general
  • 7th Level
    • Supernatural Defense: This is where Slayer’s Prey starts to get good. Adding a d6 to any saving throw and checks against grapples is pretty darn good.
  • 11th Level
    • Magic-User’s Nemesis: A free Counterspell per short or long rest. If you have a good WIS modifier this is a great ability to improve your Ranger’s versatility.
  • 15th Level
    • Slayer’s Counter: This is an awesome capstone for the Monster Slayer.

5th Level

Extra Attack: Extra attacks are the bread and butter of all the martial classes. Like the other semi-caster, the Paladin, Rangers only get 1 extra attack. Luckily, they have Hunter’s Mark to make up for lost damage.

8th Level

Land’s Stride: Being immune to nonmagical difficult terrain will come in handy a couple of times per campaign, but it isn’t a huge game-changer.

10th Level

Hide in Plain Sight: This is great for ambushing creatures, something that Rangers really like to do. It is extremely nerfed by the fact that you have to camouflage after each time you move, making this useless for infiltrations.

14th Level

Vanish: Being able to Hide as a bonus action will be very beneficial for the Rangers, who like to stay at a distance among cover. Being untrackable by nonmagical means can be beneficial as well.

18th Level

Feral Senses: This is great if you have to fight an invisible creature, something that may or may not happen when you are this late into the campaign.

20th Level

Foe Slayer: A great ability, massively limited due to the fact it can only be applied to your favored enemies.

Feats

Rangers have a lot of options when it comes to feats. The important thing to note here is that Rangers are a predominately DEX based class. This means their AC, attack, damage, DEX saves, stealth, etc are all affected by one ability modifier. Unless expressly stated, you will likely want to max your DEX before taking any feats. If you are a variant human, well done.

  • Alert: Rangers, especially Gloom Stalkers, like to go first in Initiative.
  • Crossbow Expert: This can provide a ton of damage for any DEX-based class. The Ranger’s Hunter’s Mark makes this even more effective. This is a great pick-up even before you max your DEX.
  • Defensive Duelist: If you are going for a melee build, this can help reduce damage.
  • Dual Wielder: Taking two-weapon fighting with this makes the build somewhat viable.
  • Heavily Armored: Decent option to boost your AC if you find some mithril plate lying around. You definitely don’t want to sacrifice your stealth for this though.
  • Lucky: Lucky is a feat that is useful to any character.
  • Magic Initiate: This feat is a good choice if you pick Wizard as the class that you can draw spells from. The tried and tested Find Familiar as your 1st level spell lets you deliver touch spells and give Help actions to players.
  • Mounted Combatant: If you are a small creature (halfling or gnome) and take the Beast Master archetype, you can make your Companion a bit more defensively inclined. You likely won’t get to use the advantage on melee attacks a whole lot because your Companion is limited to a Medium creature.
  • Resilient (CON): If you are going to be in combat, you need to make sure your Hunter’s Mark stays active when you get hit. Advantage on CON checks helps your Concentration checks immensely.
  • Sharpshooter: Ranged attacking is already a very powerful mechanic. This ability provides a ton of extra versatility to ranged attacks and can net some huge damage, especially combined with the number of attacks Hunter Rangers can get. Take this as soon as you max your DEX.
  • Skulker: Being able to hide when lightly obscured is nice as is remaining hidden after you miss an attack. Also, Rangers can hide as a bonus action at 14th Level.
  • War Caster: Advantage on CON saves are nice, but your limited spells and spell slots provide quite a low ceiling for this feat. Stick with Resilient if you need it.

Ranger Spells

Rangers have access to a lot of spells. Therefore, we think it would be the most beneficial to only talk about our favorite spells at each level, and which ones to avoid. Just remember that this doesn’t mean the ones we don’t mention are necessarily bad or don’t have a purpose.

For a full list of Ranger spells click here.

1st Level Spells

  • Animal Friendship: This will likely get you out of at least one low-level beast encounter.
  • Cure Wounds: Healing is important so pick it up if you think you’ll need it. 
  • Detect Magic: Every party should roll with at least one character who has access to Detect Magic.
  • Goodberry: Not particularly useful in combat but if you make Goodberries at the end of each day you will have a solid pool of healing to pull from.
  • Hunter’s Mark: THE Ranger spell. It gives you extra damage and some nice tracking abilities.
  • Speak with Animals: Its effectiveness is limited but do you really want to be a Ranger that can’t talk with animals

2nd Level Spells

  • Animal Messenger: This has a lot of caveats. If you have someone in your party with Sending you will never need this.
  • Barkskin: The go-to spell before Wild Shaping.
  • Find Traps: Reveals the presence of traps but not their exact location. Rangers can find much better uses for their spell slots.
  • Lesser Restoration: Diseases and conditions do come up from time to time, so you’ll be happy to have this when they do.
  • Pass without Trace: If you are infiltrating an area you are not supposed to be with your party, the +10 bonus to Stealth is massive.
  • Silence: Silence is a niche spell with a high ceiling. It can be used in stealth scenarios but it’s most powerful usage is if you can target a caster who won’t be able to cast spells requiring a verbal component. Of course, it’s only a 20ft radius so you will either need to be fighting in close quarters or will need to find a way to prevent the caster from moving.
  • Spike Growth: Moderately good crowd control or can be used to stage an ambush because it is camouflaged.

3rd Level Spells

  • Conjure Animals: Great boost to your party’s HP and action economy. Keep in mind that the DM gets the final say on what animals get summoned, you just get to choose the CR.
  • Daylight: The Light cantrip on steroids. Dispelling darkness could be situationally useful.
  • Plant Growth: Slows down pesky enemies moving around a lot or trying to escape, but not particularly good at either. Also cool for story beats to restore nature that has been devastated by war.
  • Protection From Energy: This is typically outshined by Absorb Elements except in the specific circumstances when you are constantly being subjected to a type of damage.
  • Speak with Plants: The flavor is spot on with this spell, it just doesn’t have that many uses.
  • Water Breathing:  This is extremely useful for enabling underwater traversal, which may or may not happen a lot in a campaign.
  • Water Walk: This is likely not to see use in an entire campaign.
  • Wind Wall: Useful against lots of archers, swarms of flying enemies, or against deadly fog. Other than that the damage is pretty bad.

4th Level Spells

  • Conjure Woodland Beings: Pretty much the same as Conjure Minor Elementals, but fey have some distinguishing effects from elementals.
  • Freedom of Movement: It’s nice to give extra movement options to allies, but there are better buff spells and this one is pretty situational.
  • Locate Creature: This will be a lifesaver at least once in a campaign.
  • Stone Skin: Effectively double the HP of a melee fighter (or your Wild Shape) against creatures without magical weapons or spells for an hour.

5th Level Spells

  • Commune with Nature: Great for roleplay and story progression, not so great for combat.
  • Tree Stride: A fun spell with a multitude of uses if you can get a bit creative. Without trees nearby you won’t be striding anywhere though.

Hope you liked the guide! If you have any questions or feel like we missed something for the 5e Ranger, go ahead and post a comment below. If you like our content subscribe to Arcane Eye!

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the veritable jungle of houseplants that have invaded his house. He is the author of Escape from Mt. Balefor and The Heroes of Karatheon. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with unique settings and scenarios. Follow Mike on Twitter.

Sours: https://arcaneeye.com/class-guides/ranger-guide-5e/

5e ranger dnd

Class Features

As a ranger, you gain the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d10 per ranger level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 10 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d10 (or 6) + your Constitution modifier per ranger level after 1st

Proficiencies

Armor: Light armor, medium armor, shields
Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons
Tools: None
Saving Throws: Strength, Dexterity
Skills: Choose three from Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Investigation, Nature, Perception, Stealth, and Survival

Equipment

You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • (a) scale mail or (b) leather armor
  • (a) two shortswords or (b) two simple melee weapons
  • (a) a dungeoneer's pack or (b) an explorer's pack
  • A longbow and a quiver of 20 arrows

Favored Enemy

Beginning at 1st level, you have significant experience studying, tracking, hunting, and even talking to a certain type of enemy.

Choose a type of favored enemy: aberrations, beasts, celestials, constructs, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, giants, monstrosities, oozes, plants, or undead. Alternatively, you can select two races of humanoid (such as gnolls and orcs) as favored enemies.

You have advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to track your favored enemies, as well as on Intelligence checks to recall information about them.

When you gain this feature, you also learn one language of your choice that is spoken by your favored enemies, if they speak one at all.

You choose one additional favored enemy, as well as an associated language, at 6th and 14th level. As you gain levels, your choices should reflect the types of monsters you have encountered on your adventures.

Favored Foe (Optional)

This 1st-level feature replaces the Favored Enemy feature and works with the Foe Slayer feature. You gain no benefit from the replaced feature and don't qualify for anything in the game that requires it.

When you hit a creature with an attack roll, you can call on your mystical bond with nature to mark the target as your favored enemy for 1 minute or until you lose your concentration (as if you were concentrating on a spell).

The first time on each of your turns that you hit the favored enemy and deal damage to it, including when you mark it, you increase that damage by 1d4.

You can use this feature to mark a favored enemy a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

This feature's extra damage increases when you reach certain levels in this class: to 1d6 at 6th level and to 1d8 at 14th level.

Natural Explorer

Also at 1st level, you are particularly familiar with one type of natural environment and are adept at traveling and surviving in such regions. Choose one type of favored terrain: arctic, coast, desert, forest, grassland, mountain, swamp, or the Underdark. When you make an Intelligence or Wisdom check related to your favored terrain, your proficiency bonus is doubled if you are using a skill that you’re proficient in.

While traveling for an hour or more in your favored terrain, you gain the following benefits:

  • Difficult terrain doesn’t slow your group’s travel.
  • Your group can’t become lost except by magical means.
  • Even when you are engaged in another activity while traveling (such as foraging, navigating, or tracking), you remain alert to danger.
  • If you are traveling alone, you can move stealthily at a normal pace.
  • When you forage, you find twice as much food as you normally would.
  • While tracking other creatures, you also learn their exact number, their sizes, and how long ago they passed through the area.

You choose additional favored terrain types at 6th and 10th level.

Deft Explorer (Optional)

This 1st-level feature replaces the Natural Explorer feature. You gain no benefit from the replaced feature and don't qualify for anything in the game that requires it.

You are an unsurpassed explorer and survivor, both in the wilderness and in dealing with others on your travels. You gain the Canny benefit below, and you gain an additional benefit when you reach 6th level and 10th level in this class.

Canny (1st Level)

Choose one of your skill proficiencies. Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make using the chosen skill.

You can also speak, read, and write 2 additional languages of your choice.

Roving (6th Level)

Your walking speed increases by 5, and you gain a climbing speed and a swimming speed equal to your walking speed.

Tireless (10th Level)

As an action, you can give yourself a number of temporary hit points equal to 1d8 + your Wisdom modifier (minimum of 1 temporary hit point). You can use this action a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

In addition, whenever you finish a short rest, your exhaustion level, if any, is decreased by 1.

Fighting Style

At 2nd level, you adopt a particular style of fighting as your specialty. Choose one of the following options. You can't take a Fighting Style option more than once, even if you later get to choose again.

  • Archery. You gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls you make with ranged weapons.
  • Blind Fighting. You have blind sight with a range of 10 feet. Within that range, you can effectively see anything that isn't behind total cover, even if you're blinded or in darkness. Moreover, you can see an invisible creature within that range, unless the creature successfully hides from you.
  • Defense. While you are wearing armor, you gain a +1 bonus to AC.
  • Druidic Warrior. You learn two cantrips of your choice from the Druid spell list. They count as ranger spells for you, and Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for them. Whenever you gain a level in this class, you can replace one of these cantrips with another cantrip from the Druid spell list.
  • Dueling. When you are wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapons, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with that weapon.
  • Thrown Weapon Fighting. You can draw a weapon that has the thrown property as part of the attack you make with the weapon.
    • In addition, when you hit with a ranged attack using a thrown weapon, you gain a +2 bonus to the damage roll.
  • Two-Weapon Fighting. When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack.
  • Close Quarters Shooter (UA). When making a ranged attack while you are within 5 feet of a hostile creature, you do not have disadvantage on the attack roll. Your ranged attacks ignore half cover and three-quarters cover against targets within 30 feet of you. You have a +1 bonus to attack rolls on ranged attacks.
  • Interception (UA). When a creature you can see hits a target that is within 5 feet of you with an attack, you can use your reaction to reduce the damage the target takes by 1d10 + your proficiency bonus (to a minimum of 0 damage). You must be wielding a shield or a simple or martial weapon to use this reaction.
  • Mariner (UA). As long as you are not wearing heavy armor or using a shield, you have a swimming speed and a climbing speed equal to your normal speed, and you gain a +1 bonus to armor class.
  • Tunnel Fighter (UA). As a bonus action, you can enter a defensive stance that lasts until the start of your next turn. While in your defensive stance, you can make opportunity attacks without using your reaction, and you can use your reaction to make a melee attack against a creature that moves more than 5 feet while within your reach.
  • Unarmed Fighting (UA). Your unarmed strikes can deal bludgeoning damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier. If you strike with two free hands, the d6 becomes a d8.
    • When you successfully start a grapple, you can deal 1d4 bludgeoning damage to the grappled creature. Until the grapple ends, you can also deal this damage to the creature whenever you hit it with a melee attack.

Spellcasting

By the time you reach 2nd level, you have learned to use the magical essence of nature to cast spells, much as a druid does.

Spell Slots

The Ranger table shows how many spell slots you have to cast your spells of 1st level and higher. To cast one of these spells, you must expend a slot of the spell's level or higher. You regain all expended spell slots when you finish a long rest.

For example, if you know the 1st-level spell Animal Friendship and have a 1st-level and a 2nd-level spell slot available, you can cast Animal Friendship using either slot.

Spells Known of 1st Level and Higher

You know two 1st-level spells of your choice from the ranger spell list.

The Spells Known column of the Ranger table shows when you learn more ranger spells of your choice. Each of these spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots. For instance, when you reach 5th level in this class, you can learn one new spell of 1st or 2nd level.

Additionally, when you gain a level in this class, you can choose one of the ranger spells you know and replace it with another spell from the ranger spell list, which also must be of a level for which you have spell slots.

Spellcasting Ability

Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for your ranger spells, since your magic draws on your attunement to nature. You use your Wisdom whenever a spell refers to your spellcasting ability. In addition, you use your Wisdom modifier when setting the saving throw DC for a ranger spell you cast and when making an attack roll with one.

Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier

Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier

Spellcasting Focus (Optional)

At 2nd level, you can use a druidic focus as a spellcasting focus for your ranger spells. A druidic focus might be a sprig of mistletoe or holly, a wand or rod made of yew or another special wood, a staff drawn whole from a living tree, or an object incorporating feathers, fur, bones, and teeth from sacred animals.

Primeval Awareness

Beginning at 3rd level, you can use your action and expend one ranger spell slot to focus your awareness on the region around you. For 1 minute per level of the spell slot you expend, you can sense whether the following types of creatures are present within 1 mile of you (or within up to 6 miles if you are in your favored terrain): aberrations, celestials, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead. This feature doesn’t reveal the creatures’ location or number.

Primal Awareness (Optional)

This 3rd-level feature replaces the Primeval Awareness feature. You gain no benefit from the replaced feature and don't qualify for anything in the game that requires it.

You can focus your awareness through the interconnections of nature: you learn additional spells when you reach certain levels in this class if you don't already know them, as shown in the Primal Awareness Spells table. These spells don't count against the number of ranger spells you know.

You can cast each of these spells once without expending a spell slot. Once you cast a spell in this way, you can't do so again until you finish a long rest.

Ranger Conclave

At 3rd level, you choose to emulate the ideals and training of a ranger conclave. Your choice grants you features at 3rd level and again at 7th, 11th, and 15th level.

Ability Score Improvement

When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can't increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.

Martial Versatility (Optional)

Whenever you reach a level in this class that grants the Ability Score Improvement feature, you can replace a fighting style you know with another fighting style available to rangers. This replacement represents a shift of focus in your martial practice.

Extra Attack

Beginning at 5th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.

Land's Stride

Starting at 8th level, moving through nonmagical difficult terrain costs you no extra movement. You can also pass through nonmagical plants without being slowed by them and without taking damage from them if they have thorns, spines, or a similar hazard.

In addition, you have advantage on saving throws against plants that are magically created or manipulated to impede movement, such those created by the Entangle spell.

Hide in Plain Sight

Starting at 10th level, you can spend 1 minute creating camouflage for yourself. You must have access to fresh mud, dirt, plants, soot, and other naturally occurring materials with which to create your camouflage.

Once you are camouflaged in this way, you can try to hide by pressing yourself up against a solid surface, such as a tree or wall, that is at least as tall and wide as you are. You gain a +10 bonus to Dexterity (Stealth) checks as long as you remain there without moving or taking actions. Once you move or take an action or a reaction, you must camouflage yourself again to gain this benefit.

Nature's Veil (Optional)

This 10th-level feature replaces the Hide in Plain Sight feature. You gain no benefit from the replaced feature and don't qualify for anything in the game that requires it.

You draw on the powers of nature to hide yourself from view briefly. As a bonus action, you can magically become invisible, along with any equipment you are wearing or carrying, until the start of your next turn.

You can use this feature a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Vanish

Starting at 14th level, you can use the Hide action as a bonus action on your turn. Also, you can't be tracked by nonmagical means, unless you choose to leave a trail.

Feral Senses

At 18th level, you gain preternatural senses that help you fight creatures you can't see. When you attack a creature you can't see, your inability to see it doesn't impose disadvantage on your attack rolls against it.

You are also aware of the location of any invisible creature within 30 feet of you, provided that the creature isn't hidden from you and you aren't blinded or deafened.

Foe Slayer

At 20th level, you become an unparalleled hunter of your enemies. Once on each of your turns, you can add your Wisdom modifier to the attack roll or the damage roll of an attack you make against one of your favored enemies. You can choose to use this feature before or after the roll, but before any effects of the roll are applied.

Sours: http://dnd5e.wikidot.com/ranger
Ranger Subclass Tier Rankings for Dungeons and Dragons 5e (Part 1)

Dungeons & Dragons 5E ranger class explained

The ranger is the Bear Grylls of any Dungeons & Dragons 5E party. Grizzled and resourceful, capable of finding passable trails in otherwise treacherous landscapes, rangers bring a hefty amount of utility and customisation.

Rangers are an unusual type, which, when you think about it, is something you could say this about pretty much D&D 5E class. (Compare the options and learn how to pick your class in Dungeons & Dragons with our guide.) But rangers are genuinely weird when compared to their Dungeon & Dragons brethren, simply because they’re both incredibly customisable and yet quite streamlined.

  • Choosing ranger skills and equipment: what proficiencies to give your ranger, as well as weapons and armour.
  • Selecting a favoured enemy and terrain: what these unique ranger elements are and how to choose the best options for your ranger.
  • How do rangers use magic in Dungeons & Dragons 5E?: rangers have a very specific way of using spells, find out how in this section.
  • What is extra attack and how can rangers use it?: Extra Attack is one of a ranger’s most useful feats - learn more in this section.
  • Using Primeval Awareness, Land’s Stride and Hide in Plain Sight: These are the quintessential powers that define the ranger class, find out how to use them in this section.
  • Selecting a ranger archetype: these are the different paths that your ranger can take to further focus their abilities, decide which one to choose here.
  • The Hunter archetype: a ranger archetype that focuses on monster slaying.
  • The Beast Master archetype: a ranger archetype that enables you to tame creatures.
  • What race should I play as a ranger?: What kid of races work with the ranger class and how to choose the right race in Dungeons & Dragons 5E

In concept, rangers are a bit like Batman as their character is entirely based around their chosen nemeses’. This is also what makes the ranger a particularly strange class to create, as they have the opportunity to choose loads of little quirks focused around whatever creature they’re most obsessed with defeating. This may make rangers seem very limited, but they also get a whole smorgasbord of talents, skills and even spells on top of all this - which you can learn to use with our guide to the basics of Dungeons & Dragons.

So enough philosophising. Let’s get into what is actually involved in making a D&D 5E ranger.

Choosing ranger skills and equipment

Dungeons & Dragons 5e Players Handbook artwork 25

Despite being one of the more limited Dungeons & Dragons classes when it comes to weapon proficiencies, rangers still get a nice mixture of equipment to choose from at first level. If the word ‘proficiencies’ is coming up with a blank, then we recommend you have a look at our guide to Dungeons & Dragons 5E terms explained.

Before we dig our hands into the pile of ranger equipment you get to choose from, we need to decide which of the beginning skills you want your character to have proficiency in. You’ll get to pick three skills from a list of animal handling, athletics, insight, investigation, nature, perception, stealth and survival.

Whichever you choose entirely depends on the flavour of ranger you’re aiming to create. Are they a friend to all animal kind and a master of mother nature’s fine bounty? Then the animal handling and nature skills should most definitely be included in your chosen three. Or how about a ranger that confidently bounds through forests hot on the trail of some sort of rapid beast? Taking the athletics and survival skills are guaranteed to get them on the path towards this dream.

Once you’ve got your chosen proficiencies down, you can get stuck into the ranger’s starting equipment. It’s arguably one of the most well-balanced groups of equipment sets in Dungeons & Dragons 5E, with a varied mix of armour, weapons and packs. Choose between the (a) and (b) options of each set, with the last being mandatory (because every ranger needs a longbow). What you decide on will likely be driven by which of the upcoming fighting styles you want your ranger to adopt, and if you want them to embrace manoeuvrability over resilience. Other than this, you’ll be selecting between a dungeoneer’s or explorer’s pack, which contain rather similar items, aside from some differences in tools over comforts. If you plan on breaking in anywhere, then pick the dungeoneer’s, otherwise the explorer’s pack is probably a damn sight more useful.

Selecting a favoured enemy and terrain

This is where the ranger weirdness really begins to kick off. You’ll select what’s known as a favoured enemy from the available options on page 91 of the Dungeons & Dragons 5E Player’s Handbook, which are roughly the kind of aggressive groups you might face throughout your journey. You’ll likely find more information on each of these groups in the Player’s Handbook or many of the other sourcebooks for Dungeons & Dragons 5E. Your ranger’s favoured enemy can be decided by a number of factors, including the idea that they simply hate that kind of creature (it is hard to love an ooze). Another approach is to simply ask what setting your DM intends to run your campaign in, and do a little research into what kind of creatures might dwell in such a place.

You can take a similar approach to selecting your favoured terrain with the Natural Explorer talent; either pick an environment that would likely appear in the setting of your upcoming campaign, or one that would make sense in the context of your character.

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Favoured Enemy and Natural Explorer are both entirely unique to the ranger class in D&D 5E, and don’t really involve any of the usual elements seen in most talents. The Favoured Enemy talent gives you advantage on wisdom ability checks whenever you want to track that particular type of creature. Alongside advantage on any time you want to roll an intelligence ability check to recall information about that creature. What is advantage and what are ability checks? They’re fundamental gameplay concepts featured in our guide to the basics of Dungeons & Dragons, which should clear any potential confusion.

The Natural Explorer talent is even weirder than Favoured Enemy, as it provides a wide variety of general benefits you can expect to receive whenever you happen to come across the particular terrain you’ve chosen. These include not getting lost (except through magical means), finding more food whenever you forage, and not being slowed by difficult terrain (image heavy mud and the like).

How do rangers use magic in Dungeons & Dragons 5E?

Despite not being primarily a spellcasting class, all rangers gain access to a list of spells at second level. These spells exist in their own subclass of ranger spells, which means that you will be limited to only casting spells from this list.

As rangers are not a spellcasting class, their spellcasting ability is derived directly from their wisdom ability score rather than a spellcasting ability score as it is with wizards, sorcerers, and the like. Ability scores are hashed out in our Dungeons & Dragons 5E character creation explained guide, so hop there if you want to work out what your wisdom score might be.

You begin second level with just two first level ranger spells, but this total slowly increases as and when you level up.

If you were interested in learning more about spellcasters, then how about having the Dungeons & Dragons 5E wizard class explained?

What is Extra Attack and how can rangers use it?

Extra Attack is gained by rangers at fifth level, and simply put, enables them to attack twice in a single round, rather than just once. This talent can be used once per combat round, and can be stacked with any other spells or abilities that otherwise allow your ranger to attack more than once.

If you want to learn more about combat rounds, then have a read of our guide to the basics of Dungeons & Dragons.

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Using Primeval Awareness, Land’s Stride and Hide in Plain Sight

As your ranger continues to level-up, they’ll gain access to a few more neat little talents to help improve their tracking and stealth abilities.

The first of these is the Primal Awareness talent, which also happens to tie into your spellcasting ability. By expending one of your spell slots, your ranger will acquire a sort of sonar sense to detect whether any creatures of a certain type are in the surrounding area.

The second of these talents is Land’s Stride, which you’ll gain at eighth level. Land’s Stride makes you immune to any slowing effects caused by difficult terrain and any non-magical plantlife; think tangled vines or particularly vicious thorns.

The final of these talents is Hide in Plain Sight, which takes your ranger’s ability to blend into their natural surroundings beyond the figurative. With Hide in Plain Sight, your ranger will be able to camouflage themselves using resources found around them, Predator-style. This will give you a +10 bonus to stealth checks whenever your ranger attempts to hide in that environment.

Selecting a ranger archetype

Whereas most D&D 5E classes get to choose between at least three different variations of their character build, rangers only get the two. At least, when it comes to the content featured in the Dungeons & Dragons 5E Player’s Handbook. There are, of course, several ranger archetypes out there, including those featured in various other sourcebooks for Dungeons & Dragons 5E. However, for this guide we’re going to stick to those options found in the Player’s Handbook

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Luckily enough, these two archetypes are different enough that rangers aren’t really missing out by not having a third option. The Hunter archetype is all about expanding your ranger’s existing specialisations, mainly the Favoured Enemy talent, into an even deadlier arsenal of monster-killing abilities. Whereas the Beast Master archetype takes your ranger down an entirely new route, one that involves taming powerful creatures and setting them on your enemies.

The Hunter archetype

Taking the Hunter archetype will turn your ranger into the ultimate monster slayer, with talents to significantly improve their combat capabilities.

You’ll get your first combat talent as soon as you take up the archetype, with the Hunter’s Prey selection. This particular chocolate box of combat options includes a talent for each flavour of encounter, whether you’re facing an enormous beast, a towering giant or a swarm of minions. You’ll get to choose from three great abilities, depending on which of the above encounters your ranger is most prone to stumbling into. We have to say that Colossus Slayer is particularly good, as it can apply to any enemy, as long as they’re currently below their hit point maximum (meaning, as long as they’ve taken damage).

Whereas, the next toolset you’ll get to pick from is more defense-based, with nifty little talents saving you from nasty status effects and attacks of opportunity. Again, your decision is dependent upon what situations you want to give your ranger a helping hand in. Admittedly, the Multiattack Defense talent works especially well when tackling enemies with a larger pool of hit points, as it gives your ranger a +4 bonus to their AC whenever you face an attack from something that’s hit you on a previous occasion. (Want to know how to calculate your AC? Head over to our guide to Dungeons & Dragons 5E character creation explained.)

Whichever talents you choose next, will be decided by your ranger’s chosen weapon and general approach to combat. If they use a ranged weapon, then take Volley; if they use a melee weapon, take Whirlwind Attack.

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The Beast Master archetype

Taking the Beast Master archetype sends your ranger down a completely different route.

Yes, that’s right. Animal companions.

Rangers who adopt the Beast Master archetype gain the ability to tame a beast of your choosing, as long as it’s no larger than medium sized and isn’t higher than a challenge rating of one quarter. This essentially means that your ranger gets their very own Toto-slash-Battle Cat to travel around with them, just as long as they don’t pick anything too enormous or overpowered. You can find a lot of potential candidates for your animal companion in either the Dungeons & Dragons 5E Dungeon Master’s Guide or the Dungeons & Dragons’ Monster Manual, alongside their associated stats, size and difficulty rating.

What can your animal companion do besides look really cute and awesome? Well, they essentially become another member of your D&D party; using your proficiency bonuses for their modifiers, they’ll be able to take their own combat turn and perform their own actions independently from you. During combat, you’ll be able to command it to take one of the major actions available to it (attack, dash, disengage or help), and even if your ranger is incapaciated or otherwise out-of-action, then your animal companion can keep fighting.

As you level-up, your animal companion will gain new talents that allow it to attack multiple times during its turn and your turn.

What race should I play as a ranger?

Which races work best for the ranger class has been lightly covered by our guide to how to choose the right character race in Dungeons & Dragons 5E, which is a great resource if you want to peruse D&D’s various available races. In the interests of streamlining your character creation experience, we’re going to cover the subject in a little more detail here.

With their lithe frames and gentle footsteps, elves are generally a good shout for classes that thrive on dexterity. Benefitting from a dexterity score increase, having darkvision, and a proficiency in perception, makes elves rather perfect for skulking around nature’s highways. This especially goes for wood elves who, with their Fleet of Foot trait and ability to hide in bad weather, makes them particularly manoeuvrable in natural environments.

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Dexterity comes in handy once again with the halfling race, who not only get an increase to their DEX ability score, but also benefit from the nimbleness trait (which allows them to move through spaces containing larger creatures). They’re also surprisingly good damage dealers, as they have the ability to re-roll any ones on attack rolls.

It seems that most good things do come in small packages, as gnomes are also a brilliant choice of race for the ranger class. Alongside the ever-useful trait of Darkvision, gnomes also get advantage on all charisma, wisdom and intelligence saving throws, which is an especially beneficial when fighting against monsters that may attempt to put status effects on you. The forest gnome is a particular good choice when creating a ranger, as they get an increase to their dexterity ability score.

That’s pretty much a wrap on how to create your perfect ranger, but if you’re curious about what other classes D&D has to offer, then you can find everything you need to know in our guide to how to pick your character class in Dungeons & Dragons 5E. Maybe you want to be a rogue? Perhaps have a look at our Dungeons & Dragons 5E rogue class explained. Or if you fancy making a fighter, then have a read of our guide to Dungeons & Dragons 5E fighter class explained.

Sours: https://www.dicebreaker.com/games/dungeons-and-dragons-5e/how-to/ranger-class-explained

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