D&D 5e’s Most Upgraded Character Class for the "Science Minded" Still Has its Exploration and Hunting Strengths Too!
Fantasy lovers want to play the 5e Ranger class. The class is here by necessity; no self respecting fantasy lover is going to play a TTRPG that does NOT have a class that fits Aragorn, Jon Snow, or Geralt of Rivia. After all, the Ranger has almost become synonymous with high fantasy.
Thankfully, the smart people at WOTC have worked hard to rectify the classes flaw. This beginner 5e Ranger guide shows that the class can do a lot of things well while being AMAZING at a couple things in particular.
Players That Want To EXPLORE the Wilds
First things first… the D&D 5e Ranger is all about exploration and surviving the wilds of the Forgotten Realms. Due to the exploration pillar being D&D 5e’s weakest pillar, this is partially why the class is unpopular. However, that does not mean it is a bad class!
Right off the bat, at level 1 the Ranger gets ‘Natural Explorer’ and picks a favored terrain (they get one more at 6th and 10th levels). Basically when you are in that terrain A) you never get lost while traveling, B) you can forage for food with ease, C) you can be stealthy and fast, even in difficult terrain. This combined with the ability to choose three of the essential exploration skills (Survival, Nature, Perception), makes it VERY hard for you to die from exposure.
But that’s not all… at 8th Level you get ‘Land’s Stride’ which means difficult terrain NEVER slows you down, even when they are created magically. In fact, you get ADVANTAGE on your saving throw! This is huge… and can mean the difference between life and death for your party. The ‘Hide in Plain Sight’ class ability lets you basically throw yourself into some bushes, rub some mud on your face, lie perfectly still… and no one will be able to find you in the forest. You become one with nature, even if a hungry Owlbear is hunting you.
Why should you play the 5e ranger? Because the Ranger is the emperor of exploration!
Players that Want to Fight… And Cast Spells
Exploring the wilderness is no good if you can’t hold your own in a fight. And given how many monsters and bandits are out there, that's pretty important!
They have enough marital combat abilities to put them in the ranks of Fighters, Paladins, and Barbarians. They can pick a Fighting Style at level 2 (‘Two Weapon Fighting’ and ‘Archery’ being the most popular) and get an extra attack at level 5. They can use all martial weapons, have access to medium armor, and have a 1d10 hit dice. That's enough health, defense, and firepower to get by.
But the Ranger is also a “⅓” caster… they have access to some really game-changing spells. Spike Growth is the best low level area control spells in the game. Pass Without a Trace is a necessity if there is not a stealthy Monk or Rogue in the party. Swift Quiver is the quintessential Ranger spell, providing unlimited ammo and two extra attacks. And, of course, the controversial ‘Goodberry ‘ breaks any attempt at a survival campaign!
Players that Love Bow Hunting
As you can see from the section above… if Swift Quiver is an essential spell for the Ranger, then the bow is likely an essential weapon! The Ranger’s previously mentioned medium armor and reliance on Stealth and the Hide Action indicates that this is a warrior that stays out of enemy head-chopping range. Their allies charge ahead, and the Ranger picks off enemies from a distance.
But the emphasis on the bow also plays into the other Ranger archetype: they are explorers… AND HUNTERS.
The ‘Favored Enemy’ is the biggest example of this; rangers can choose a type of creature (like dragons, beasts, fiends, etc.) and know just about everything about them (adv on Wisdom and Intelligence check regarding them). The idea is that your ranger has become an EXPERT on that type of creature and will always find a way to track them. And by level 20, with ‘Foe Slayer’, they become an expert in KILLING them.
Other class abilities fall into that hunting category. ‘Primeval Awareness’ lets a ranger sit and zone into an environment, able to magically search a region and determine if a type of creature has been present. ‘Feral Senses’ is similar, but lets them fight those creatures in the DARK (effectively blinded).
Players That Like Hiking the Boundaries of Civilization
Fantasy Rangers patrol the wilds… D&D 5e Rangers patrol the borders of magical planes of existence! The Ranger subclasses expand the imaginative possibilities for the ranger, turning it from a one dimensional class to something exotic and extraordinary.
Beast Master Conclave: Gain an animal companion for your adventures! Complex new rules in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (pg 61)… but hey, at least it is not only a great idea, but a really great subclass too!
Drakewarden Conclave: Combines the Beast Master Conclave and Draconic Origin Sorcerer. Summon a draconic spirit that fights, flies, and fumes alongside you, growing in power as you grow in levels.
Fey Wanderer Conclave: You interacted with the upside-down crazy feywild and now you brighten up any room you walk into. Excellent spell options not usually available to the Ranger, and allows you to be a Wisdom-based “face” of the party.
Gloom Stalker Conclave: Some monsters lurk in the shadows… these rangers hunt those monsters! Great spells, darkvision, and several abilities that give you huge advantages in ambushes. Excellent for an Underdark campaign or Curse of Strahd.
Horizon Walker Conclave: Find, guard, and/or close portals to other planes. A flamboyant ranger that excels in battlefield mobility with several teleportation abilities that blend well with two weapon fighting. For added role playing bonus, you are usually friends with the magical beings from these realms!
The Hunter Conclave: The Ranger-iest Ranger that ever rangered. Improves on the standard combat ranger abilities, with lots of room for customization. Become particularly good at one method of killing and getting out of sticky situations.
Monster Slayer Conclave: Supercharged version of the “‘Favored Enemy’ class ability. You can perceive a monster's weaknesses and attack accordingly. Several situational abilities that match well with a diverse range of monsters.
Swarm Keeper Conclave: Bugs? Small animals? Spirits? You decide the swarm that surrounds you in battle! Control your swarm to position your enemies in compromising positions… or let them lift you so you can fly!
For more information on the 5e Ranger subclasses, check out RPGBOT.net.
How One D&D Improved the Ranger Class
Now… in this blog post series we have not covered any of the class changes proposed by One D&D and Unearthed Arcana. And that is because 1) Unearthed Arcana isn’t official yet, and 2) One D&D is just Dnd 6e, and this is a 5e blog post (fight me!).
That said, the Ranger class was sooooo underwhelming that if any class deserves the One D&D update, it's the Ranger. So this beginners guide to the 5e Ranger needs to touch on it real quick…
Rangers now always have “Hunter’s Mark” prepared
Their lame 20th level ability has been replaced with an awesome level 20th ability
Most of their class mechanics, which brought a lot of personality and flavor, are gone
What replaced them are feats, subclass features, and expertise.
Want to explore some more?
Check out other D&D 5e character classes:
The Arcane-Master Wizard Class
The Eldritch Warlock Class
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