Reposted from the Giant In the Playground Forum in an effort to not lose this classic from EvilAnagram
Not All Who Wander are Lost
A Ranger’s Guide
Image Copyright WotC
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Aragorn and the Rangers of the North, the Ranger first appeared as a class in one of the first original Dungeons & Dragons supplements. The wandering warrior has been a mainstay of the series ever since. Known for the variety of fighting styles they utilize, Rangers are equally skilled with blade and bow, often wield two blades at once, and are capable hunters and trackers. The archetypical Ranger wanders the wilderness as its sentinel and protector, often accompanied by a wild beast. Rangers are mobile, efficient stalkers who make excellent and versatile warriors.
Oh, and you can ride a pet pteranodon at level 3.
- This is freaking amazing! It provides many options, or will do one thing extremely well.
- This is really good, but not quite phenomenal.
- This is good. It will regularly be useful, though it won’t provide many tactical choices.
- Bad. It will be extremely rare that it’s useful at all.
- Occasionally very useful, but limited in scope or applicability.
Table of Contents:
- Wilderness Basics
- Races of the Wilds
- Paths of the Wanderer
- Powers of Nature
- The Ever Prepared Wanderer
Image Copyright WotC
- Strength: Good for skill checks, and some melee builds will need STR, but most won’t. If you’re planning on using non-finesse melee weapons, make this your primary. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter much.
- Dexterity: This will almost always be your primary stat. Ranged attacks and melee attacks with finesse weapons both rely on DEX. Aside from that, it’s a common save, it will determine your AC and Initiative, and it’s the ability for a lot of skill checks.
- Constitution: Hit Points are good.
- Intelligence: You won’t need this very much. It’s a good dump stat. Still, some important saves and skill checks rely on INT.
- Wisdom:: This is your spellcasting ability, and several skills rely on it.
- Charisma: CHA is great for skill checks. That’s about it. Also a candidate for a dump stat.
The two principal builds for a Ranger are the Archer build and the Two-Weapon build. There’s more spell support for the Archer build, but both are perfectly capable combatants. Both rely on DEX as their primary Ability.
- Hit Dice: 1d10 per level. Hell yes. Same as a Fighter or Paladin. Only Barbarians have it better, and they’re jerks anyways. This places your firmly in the “I can walk up to things and stab them without dying” range.
- Armor Proficiency: Light, Medium, and Shield gives you everything you need for any style you want. You don’t get plate, but you’re supposed to be a mobile wanderer of the wild, so you shouldn’t want plate. Most of you will pump DEX and go for Light armor anyways.
- Weapon Proficiency: You get all the weapons.
- Saving Throws: DEX is extremely common, and it should be your primary. STR is less common, but it’s not the worst to have handy.
- Skills/Tools: You have no Tool proficiencies, but you get some great skills. Athletics, Insight, Perception, and Stealth are great. Nature will probably come up. Animal Handling is important if you want to be a Beast Master, but otherwise unimportant. Survival can be great in certain campaigns, but you might not need it in an urban setting.
- Favored Enemy: The power of racism is extremely situational. It doesn’t increase your damage output like in past editions, but the languages you learn can be useful, and the advantages might come into play. When it comes into play, it will help you feel like a skilled hunter, but it won’t help much aside from that.
- Natural Explorer: You have an easier time moving through certain types of wilderness. This makes absolute sense, and it makes you feel like a Ranger. It’s still situational, but the benefits can be pretty useful in a wilderness campaign.
- Fighting Styles:
Archery is the favorite for archers (duh)
Two-Weapon Fighting is the classic melee Ranger style, and it’s great for Hunters. It’s worth noting that there is no definitive answer to whether or not commanding a Beast Companion to attack triggers TWF. It’s also a 50% boost to Hunter’s Mark damage.
Dueling is probably going to be the favorite choice for melee Beast Masters, unless your DM rules that attacking with the beast triggers TWF.
Defense is not the best choice, but if you don’t plan on sticking with one attack style, or if you want to use two-handed weapons, go ahead and take this.
Mariner is obviously great for sea adventures, but otherwise not so great.
- Spellcasting: This makes you competitive with the other martial classes. You get a pretty small list compared to full spellcasters, but the Ranger list is great at modifying your martial abilities.
- Primeval Awareness: It can be useful. It usually won’t be worth the spell slot.
- Ability Score Improvement: Obviously good for obvious reasons. The only reason it’s not sky blue is that the Fighter gets more.
- Extra Attack: Again, it would be nice to have more. Still, this is amazing for the Beast Master, since you and your companion will finally both be able to attack.
- Land’s Stride: Not bad. It’s not a major advantage, but it keeps you mobile.
- Hide in Plain Sight: A good, nonmagical way to help yourself with scouting.
- Vanish: Making it easier to Hide is great, but it’s not much of a high-level bonus.
- Feral Senses: Too situational to be Blue. It’s still a useful ability.
- Foe Slayer: The bonus is way too small for a capstone. This is really underwhelming, and it probably should have showed up as a Class Feature much, much earlier. Useful, but disappointing.
As you can see, there’s a reason for the popular notion that the Ranger is the weakest class in the 5e Player’s Handbook. Rangers have a great deal of very situational abilities, and the capstone ability should have been rolled into Favored Enemy to begin with.
However, the Ranger’s access to spells provides solid boosts to damage, and its situational abilities are flavorful and can be useful outside of pure-combat campaigns. The argument for the Ranger’s worth lies in the assertion that the spells and archetypes make up the for the lack of basic damage bonuses.
Races of the Wilds
Image by Jee Hyung-Lee
- Hill Dwarf: You boost your two secondary stats and gain some defensive features. Not great, but decent.
- Mountain Dwarf: Like the Hill Dwarf, but subs in a tertiary stat for a secondary one.
- High Elf: Like all Elves, High Elves get Trance, proficiency with Perception checks, and a DEX boost. Not enough to let them shine compared to the others.
- Wood Elf: Excellent option. You get your two most important stats, everything great about being an elf, extra speed, and Mask of the Wild will definitely help out.
- Drow: DEX is good, but CHA is not. Improved Darkvision is good, but Sunlight Sensitivity is not. The spells are good, but they’re based on a dump stat. It’s an okay choice.
- Lightfoot Halfling: The Halfling racial powers are great, Naturally Stealthy is useful, and you get DEX +2. However, CHA is useless to you.
- Stout Halfling: Boost to a primary and secondary stat? Absolutely! The other racial powers combine to make this choice phenomenal.
- Human: Plus one to every stat? Sure.
- Variant Human: Feats are fun.
- Dragonborn: You get stat boosts to a tertiary stat and a dump stat. The rest of it is cool, but not cool enough to pick it over an elf.
- Forest Gnome:Your main stat boost goes to a dump stat, but you do get a boost to DEX and Gnomish cunning is great. You can mount an animal companion as a Gnome.
- Rock Gnome: Same as the Forest Gnome, but without the DEX boost.
- Half-Elf: You get a Charisma bonus and a boost to your two favorite stats. Add in Skill Versatility, and you’ve got a solid start.
- Half-Orc: You get a bump to a secondary and tertiary score, and you get solid combat features. Good for someone who intends to go melee without finesse, but otherwise they aren’t particularly good.
- Tiefling: You get a bump to two dump stats and a few neat powers. Not good for a Ranger.
Dungeon Master’s Guide:
- Aasimar: The WIS boost is okay, but the spells aren’t great. The resistance is nice, though.
- Eladrin: Fey Step is nice, but INT isn’t great.
Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
- Duergar: The spells are very nice for your purposes. Great for a STRanger.
- Deep Gnome: DEX is great, and you can get advantage on a lot of saves and Stealth. A very cool option for an Underdark campaign. It still sucks that your primary stat boost is for a dump stat.
- Ghostwise Halfling: It’s just like Stout, but with psychic crap and the other secondary stat.
Volo’s Guide to Monsters
- Aasimar: Charisma is not great, and the other stat boosts aren’t ideal, but damn those are some nice features. Healing, resistances, and extra radiant damage are all nice in my book.
- Firbolg: This is a perfect stat spread for a STR build, and the invisibility and utility spells are pretty solid to top it off. It’s very nice.
- Goliath: STR, CON, and damage reduction on a short rest. If you want to focus on STR, this is a solid option.
- Kenku: A perfect stat boost, and some utility features for being sneaky. Very nice.
- Lizardfolk: If you want a STRanger, look no further than this guy. Extra offense, extra defense, and both secondaries go well with that sweet frill.
- Tabaxi: The mobility and DEX are both very nice, and it frees up some class skills.
- Triton: They could be decent STRangers, but I just don’t think these guys ever wanted to be Rangers. It’s cool, though. They can do other things.
Volo’s Monstrous Races
- Bugbear: Rangers, when played well, should utilize ambushes and skirmishes to maximize their efficiency. Bugbears boost both potential primaries and improve the effectiveness of both your ambushing and skirmishing. They’re quite excellent.
- Goblin: The stats are good, and the bonus action to disengage/hide gives you a big chunk of what Rogue dips offer.
- Hobgoblin: Saving Face is really the only reason to pick a Hobgoblin. You don’t need the Martial training, and the stat boosts aren’t great, but Saving Face is very good for a primary attacker.
- Kobold:Pack Tactics is extremely good and will often wash out the Sunlight Sensitivity, and you at least get a +2 to DEX.
- Orc: Less impressive than a Half-Orc, really. Aggressive is nice, but not nice enough to justify picking this.
- Yuan-Ti Pureblood: Boost two dump stats and cast with one dump stat.
- Aarakocra: You can fly, and you get perfect stat boosts. This is great.
- Genasi: All the Genasi options provide a CON boost and casting with a secondary stat.
The Tortle Package
- Tortle: It’s fine. It has defensive capabilities that are nice, but not that nice, and its ability bonuses work well.
Plane Shift Zendikar
Holy crap, it’s a Magic/D&D crossover. A lot of the races in this supplement don’t fit the races in traditional D&D settings that well, so be sure to talk to your DM before utilizing them.
- Human: About what you’d expect.
- Kor: Ghostwise Halfling drops psychic shenanigans for a climb speed.
- Merfolk: Emeria aren’t bad: a Druid cantrip and WIS boost are really nice. The Ula and Cosi are less impressive for Rangers.
- Vampire: This guy doesn’t really give you anything that helps Rangers.
- Goblin: A boost to Constitution and two resistances is going to be nice for any class.
- Elf: Tajura get the basic WIS boost, but not much else that helps. Juraga are basically Wood Elves, and Mul Daya have WIS spell boosts and a STRanger boost.
Unearthed Arcana supplements have provided a few new options:
- Changeling: The only thing that Changelings have to offer Rangers is a tiny DEX boost.
- Shifters: Shifters tend to be solid Rangers. Having a boost to your primary stat never hurts, nor does the shifting temp HP.
Paths of the Wanderer
Image by Stefan Ristic
Hunters are an excellent choice if you want to consistently deal decent damage. By level 11, you’ll be able to take on hordes or take down giants with ease.
- Colossus Slayer: It starts out competitive with Sneak Attack, but doesn’t scale at all.
- Giant Killer: It’s a decent reaction that triggers on a common occurrence, but it still uses up your reaction.
- Horde Breaker: More attacks are always good.
- Escape the Horde: It’s a really consistent advantage against op-attacks. I like it.
- Multiattack Defense: This can keep you alive against nasty multiattacks. It won’t help against a group of single-attacking enemies, though.
- Steel Will: Halflings already have this. Still, a lot of those high-level creatures can inflict Fear.
- Volley: An at-will ranged burst attack? Yeah, that’s sky-blue.
- Whirlwind Attack: Similar to Volley, but for melee.
Superior Hunter’s Defense
- Evasion: A lot of classes have something similar to this, and it’s always worth taking.
- Stand Against the Tide: It’s similar to a Swordmage power from 4e, but less fun. It’s useful if you keep getting into the thick of battle against numerically superior foes. It’s still less useful than Evasion.
- Uncanny Dodge: This can keep you alive against heavy-hitters, but it eats your reaction.
Beast Masters have it rough. They lose access to all the fun abilities of the Hunter, and in return they gain an animal companion who uses their attack to make its own attack. However, you can get a good bit of battlefield control out of having another creature’s opportunity attacks, and by level 7 you can make more attacks with greater consistency than a Hunter in melee. Gnome and Halfling players can even ride their companion if it’s medium sized, and that does include wolves and pteradons. Really, if you’re clever and can use it well, your animal companion can be a massive boon.
The recent errata has put an end to some debates, as companion animals can definitely use opportunity attacks, and they can multiattack with Bestial Fury. We can now definitively say that the Beast Master has access to several companion options that boost his damage above that of Rogues and Barbarians. And with Beast Bond, having an animal companion with permanent advantage is now possible.
- Ranger’s Companion: The primary feature has proven itself, despite its detractors, to be solid. Having a mount or a poisonous snake you keep on hand is pretty neat, and some animals pump your damage into the stratosphere.There are limitations: you can only acquire beasts no larger than medium and of CR 1/4 or lower, so no bears or lions or sharks. You can still get a few cool companions, but they eat up your action to attack. At level 5, you get to make two attacks, which raises the usefulness of a companion up to blue . For example, your pet wolf attacks and knocks your enemy prone, then you walk up and stab it while you have advantage. Furthermore, a beast companion can occasionally outperform you in the damage department. Of course, your companion will have about 20 HP around that time because its HP scales terribly. In the mid game, you can lose a companion very quickly.
- Exceptional Training: This is a very good thing, especially if you’re mounted on your companion. Many companions can move in, attack, and grant you advantage on your next attack.
- Bestial Fury: Depending on you choice of Beast, this could make you more powerful than just about any other character when it comes to single-target damage.
- Share Spells: It’s solid. It can definitely increase your companion’s survivability.
The Hunter archetype is simpler and more intuitive than the Beast Master. That said, the Beast Master certainly has extremely fun and powerful options with tons of utility and damage, so it’s up to you which you prefer. It should be noted that the Beast Master with the Giant Poisonous Snake is potentially the most powerful single-target damage dealer in the game.
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
Xanathar’s Guide is in, and I’m conflicted. On the one hand, I think it’s fundamentally unfair that the new archetypes get extended spell lists and an extra feature that provides some situational fun. On the other hand, the Beast Master already had a situational leg up over the Hunter, and none of the spells provide a major power boost. In fact, I’m going to go against the grain and say that I don’t think that older Ranger archetypes are totally undone by this and nothing apocalyptic has happened.
The only spells on the extended lists that provide combat boosts use Concentration, and they’re not particularly more powerful than the base Ranger spells. Guardian of Nature is easily as good as Greater Invisibility I would still recommend giving Hunter and Beast Master players an extra spell known at the levels in the extended spell lists, purely out of a sense of fairness, but they’re still far from underpowered. If you want to be a Ranger in a PHB+1 situation, I would still take Xanathar’s Guide, but you don’t need to feel like you have to play one of the Xanathar archetypes.
Be the night. Or the cave. Probably the cave. You’ll get a lot more use out of your features in caves. You’ll be pretty good in daytime,too, but you’re constantly going to be suggesting to everyone that you should check out the Underdark because it’s super cool. Caves are cool.
- Gloom Stalker Magic: Greater Invisibility and Fearboth provide some solid combat benefits, but the others are all situational. Both of these spells use Concentration, though, so you’ll have to choose which spell to use.
- Dread Ambusher: Getting an extra attack once an encounter is pretty nice, and the bonus to initiative isn’t bad either.
- Umbral Sight: It’s awesome when you’re sneaking around creatures with Darkvision and no light sources, but that’s a pretty rare circumstance in most campaigns.
- Iron Mind: Well, failing a Wisdom save can mean being out of combat, so this is pretty damned sweet.
- Stalker’s Flurry: A redo is pretty nice. It’s a fun way to raise your average damage without raising your max damage.
- Shadowy Dodge: It’s a pretty solid defensive ability. Imposing disadvantage on an attack is nice, but you have to use it before you know the attack roll.
You can teleport, and you can deal force damage, and you can teleport, or even teleport. Also, you can teleport.
- Horizon Walker Magic: Between Banishment, Misty Step, and Haste, this provides some pretty sweet combat options that provide a good deal of combat versatility. It’s also extremely thematically appropriate. Even the more situational spells are solid.
- Detect Portal: Obviously, this is extremely useful when you’re searching for a portal to another plane. Hopefully, this will be part of your adventure.
- Planar Warrior: It’s like Colossus Slayer, but with force damage. And it muddles up your bonus action usage. And it scales. Comparing them, it’s a bit of a wash.
- Ethereal Step: It’s a really cool way to… avoid using Misty Step? I mean, in a vacuum it’s a really great ability. In the progression of this particular archetype, it avoids using a spell slot to Misty Step.
- Distant Strike: You can be Nightcrawler! This is pretty sweet.
- Spectral Defense: This is pretty late in the game for Uncanny Dodge, but okay.
It’s a great class for hunting Vampires, Fiends, and snarling monsters. Of course, it’s really good against casters for some reason. It doesn’t have the mass damage potential of other archetypes, but I think shutting down casters is a solid tradeoff.
- Monster Slayer Magic: Banishment and Hold Monster are both great, but they both only appear after most campaigns have ended. The others are perfectly serviceable spells for the theme.
- Hunter’s Sense: You read the Monster Manual! Yay!
- Slayer’s Prey: Hunter’s Mark Lite? With further benefits down the line? I like it.
- Supernatural Defense: Thematic for a Van Helsing-esque character since it works equally well againt Strahd and Mordenheim’s Monster, and it’s a solid ability to top it off.
- Magic-User’s Nemesis: A short-rest Counterspell? …Cool.
- Slayer’s Counter: A free, damaging Counterspell? …Cooler.
- Warforged: Good ability bonuses, a bonus to AC, and Living Construct bonuses. STR Ranger is even better.
- Minotaur: You get a bonus to STR and WIS, and you get some cool attack options. It’s a great option for STR Rangers.
A New Path
Image by Linda Lithén
The Revised Ranger is here, and it will probably be published at some point! It might change a bit before it’s published, but until then we have this work in progress to play with, so let’s play!
The basic features (hit dice, proficiencies, starting equipment) are unchanged, so let’s skip the basics and jump to the meat!
- Favored Enemy: Well, this is quite nice. Advantage on knowledge and Survival checks is good on its own, but +2 damage is great! And you can share that benefit with your beast companion! And a language!
- Natural Explorer: The slew of situational benefits is quite nice on its own, especially without the old restrictions. Of course, you also ignore difficult terrain and get advantage on initiative rolls and first round attacks! This is really, really good, especially if your group does a lot of traveling.
- Fighting Styles:
Archery is the favorite for archers (duh).
Two-Weapon Fighting is the classic melee Ranger style, and it’s great for all options. The Beast Conclave, unlike the original Beast Master, definitely gets this.
Dueling is pretty solid for both javelin specialists and melee Rangers. The Quarterstaff Polearm Master combo needs this.
Defense is not the best choice for offensive Rangers, but if you don’t plan on sticking with one attack style, or if you want to use two-handed weapons, go ahead and take this.
Mariner is obviously great for sea adventures, but otherwise not so great.
- Spellcasting: This is the key to your DPS, your control, and your buffing abilities. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t full casting by a long shot, but it’s the perfect compliment to your martial abilities.
- Primeval Awareness: Solid situational ribbon material. Not every feature can add damage.
- Ability Score Increase: Super good, but limited compared to Rogues and Fighters.
- Greater Favored Enemy: Excuse me while I take a sip of this delicious Bombay green chai as I read this abili- fffppttptptt cough cough hack sputter cough gasp It’s good. hack cough extra damage cough and hack save shenanigans cough on top of the normal sputter Favored Enemy is burp super good.
- Fleet of Foot: More movement is nice.
- Hide in Plain Sight: They took the original ability and made it much, much better.
- Vanish: Not bad, but it’s a bit weak for a high level feature.
- Feral Senses: Still situational to a degree, but it’s just so damned useful when those situations arise.
- Foe Slayer: It’s more widely applicable, which makes it a much nicer capstone.
Well I”ll be a goblin’s nanny. This is a much, much more powerful base Ranger.
The Hunter and Deep Stalker are essentially unchanged – the only difference being that the 5th level Extra Attack is a Conclave feature, not a Ranger feature – so let’s just look at the Beast Conclave.
I still enjoy the old Beast Master, but the new Beast Conclave is better. It fixes the save DC vagueness, and it creates a more immediate, natural feeling to your beast’s actions. Also, it’s a straight up power boost for the early levels.
- Animal Companion: You guys want a sub-list? Let’s do a sub-list!
- Companion’s Bond: Yeah, this is how you make those animals really effective at their job. It boosts their hit points, their attack values, their damage mods, their save DCs, and their AC. And you get to give them ASIs!
- Coordinated Attack: Attack three times a round when all those suckers not paling around with a Giant Badger are only attacking twice! Except Monks.
- Beast’s Defense: Advantage on all saving throws while it can see you is… good.
- Storm of Claws and Fangs: It gets its own Whirlwind Attack! And it doesn’t have to give up anything at all! Cool!
- Superior Beast’s Defense: You know all those high-level hits that hurt super duper bad? This makes them hurt much less, although your beast is giving up an attack to do it.
The Hunter and Deep Stalker are essentially unchanged, save that they now get Extra Attack as Conclave features rather than Ranger features. I’m not covering the Whirlwind Attack difference until it’s confirmed that there is one. Everyone who asks about it deserves smallpox.
Powers of the Wild
Ikoma Shika from L5R, by someone who isn’t me
Rangers augment their martial skills through spells. They are not full spellcasters, and their spellcasting abilities should not be judged according to those standards. It’s more fair to judge them against Paladins and Monks, as those classes also augment martial abilities with magic.
Now updated with spells from Elemental Evil and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
- Absorb Elements (EE/XGtE): This is an excellent ability. It allows you to both reduce incoming damage and also augment your next attack, and you can do it as a reaction.
- Alarm: This spell is only occasionally useful and is really better left to a full caster.
- Animal Friendship: For the Hunter who wants a pet bear. It’s okay, but all Ranger spells have a lot to compete with.
- Beast Bond (EE/XGtE): There are Beast Master builds that rely entirely on this spell. (Concentration)
- Cure Wounds: Healing can be scarce, so more healing is good.
- Detect Magic: Situationally useful, but it’s just not the usual bag of tricks for a Ranger. Leave it to the wizard. (Concentration)
- Detect Poison and Disease: Can be pretty useful, but it’s not your best choice with so few spells that you can learn. (Concentration)
- Ensnaring Strike: Solid ability that can be nasty if your enemy fails a few saves. (Concentration)
- Fog Cloud: For being sneaky and keeping yourself safe. Not bad. (Concentration)
- Goodberry: Meh. More like okayberry. It can bring someone from the brink, and it can keep you nourished, but it’s a poor use of limited resources. It has a higher healing potential than Cure Wounds for the first few levels, but it’s not any good in combat and doesn’t scale.
- Hail of Thorns: The first in a series of Ranger powers that amount to, “Magically shoot more arrows than you had in your hand.” It’s a solid ability for both crowd control and extra damage, and it scales pretty well. (Concentration)
- Hunter’s Mark: Competitive with sneak attack, especially if you picked Colossus Slayer. It scales in a very strange way, but being able to continue marking folk for more damage is nice. (Concentration)
- Jump: You’re going to pick three or four spells from this level. Don’t get this. It’s too situational for such a limited number of spells known.
- Longstrider: Again, there are much more versatile options. Just don’t.
- Snare (XGtE): If you want to take down an Ogre or an Owlbear, this is certainly a way to do it. As you reach higher levels, more of the enemies you would want to restrain will be too big for this trap. Still, it’s at least on-point thematically.
- Speak with Animals: Again, it’s a very flavorful, situational power that you might get mileage out of, but not much. Good for a Beast Master, I suppose?
- Zephyr Strike (XGtE): The melee Ranger finally gets a workhorse that’s just for him. Move like the wind without provoking opportunity attacks, and deal one particularly nasty hit. It’s a sweet spell, especially for a Beast Master, as it targets self. (Concentration)
- Animal Messenger: You might occasionally use this, but you only know 11 spells by level 20, so it has competition.
- Barkskin: Great for a Beast Master that wants his pet safe. Otherwise, you should already have an AC above 16. (Concentration)
- Beast Sense: Good for scouting. Otherwise, not that good at all. (Concentration)
- Cordon of Arrows: The damage is minor, but it’s more fun than Alarm.
- Darkvision: Most players will already have Darkvision. If you don’t, this is nice.
- Find Traps: Not as nice as you hope it is, but it can help against a trap-happy DM.
- Healing Spirit (XGtE): It’s a solid in-combat party healing spell, and healing conga line is arguably broken outside combat. (Concentration)
- Lesser Restoration: Solid power for any Ranger, but the Cleric and Druid might want to take it first.
- Locate Animals or Plants: Helpful for hunting or gathering specific herbs. Not helpful for anything else.
- Locate Object: Helpful when looking for a Macguffin. Not helpful at all other times. (Concentration)
- Pass Without Trace: It’s arguably the best spell for stealth in the game. (Concentration)
- Protection from Poison: Exactly what it says on the tin.
- Silence: This can be a decent debuff against enemy spellcasters and help out during stealth missions. (Concentration)
- Spike Growth: This can be a nasty trap when you’re facing a numerically superior foe, and it can halt pursuers. Very nice. (Concentration)
- Conjure Animals: When Bear’s Attack. This is a very useful spell with a wide variety of applications. Definitely worthwhile. (Concentration)
- Conjure Barrage: Another in the “shoot more arrows than you were holding” line. It deals quite a bit more damage over a larger radius, though. And no Concentration!
- Daylight: Can be useful. If you’re fighting Drow, I would consider getting this.
- Flame Arrows (EE/XGtE): It’s like Hunter’s Mark, but not as good and costs a third level slot! The only time this spell could possibly be useful is if you’re up against something that’s weak against fire… and Hunter’s Mark will still be better because it doesn’t have a 12 arrow cap and can be used with melee weapons. At the cost of a 1st level slot. Don’t get this. (Concentration)
- Lightning Arrow: The damage is excellent, and it spreads out nicely. I like it. (Concentration)
- Nondetection: This is a spell you should leave to a full caster, but it’s still pretty useful.
- Plant Growth: This is a weird one. It’s situational, yes, but it’s very good at these situations. It can stop pursuers or people you’re pursuing, and it can endear you to locals because you ended the blight on their crops. Definitely worth considering.
- Protection from Energy: You’re using up your Concentration, which hurts some of your offensive potential. That said, resisting fire damage is pretty nice when you’re going up against a Dragon, so it’s worth considering. (Concentration)
- Speak with Plants: This spell embodies “situational at best” more than any other.
- Water Breathing: Pirate campaign? Sure! Anything else? Don’t touch it.
- Water Walk: Same as above.
- Wind Wall: Solid spell, both offensively and defensively. (Concentration)
Spoiler: 4th Level Spells
- Conjure Woodland Beings: As many have pointed out, this spell is open for abuse. Summon Pixies who can cast spells for a jolly good time. (Concentration)
- Freedom of Movement: Decent buffs for situations that might not come up much.
- Grasping Vine: Battlefield control, but not very good at it. (Concentration)
- Guardian of Nature (XGtE): This is probably one of the better offensive spells for a martial character. It has versatility, both offensively and defensively. (Concentration)
- Locate Creature: Again we have something that is situational at best. (Concentration)
- Stoneskin: I like not taking damage. Do you like not taking damage? (Concentration)
- Commune with Nature: A good way to search an area quickly for what you need, but overshadowed by other options.
- Conjure Volley: The very best “shoot more arrows than people expected” spell you can get! This can take a solid chunk out of an army!
- Steel Wind Strike (XGtE): Finally, a mass-attack spell for a melee Ranger, and it’s a teleport, too!
- Swift Quiver: More dakka! It would be sky-blue if you could use it in tandem with Hunter’s Mark, but you can’t. (Concentration)
- Tree Stride: You should not pick this over any other spell at this level. You’re given too many excellent options.(Concentration)
- Wrath of Nature (XGtE): This is one of the few Ranger spells that don’t augment your normal abilities, but instead just have a really cool effect. Well, four really cool effects. Four really cool persistent effects. Four really cool persistent effects that leave your action free. Four really cool persistent effects that leave your action free and also affect a Beast Companion.
The Ever Prepared Wanderer
Image copyright WotCSpoiler: Multiclassing
- Barbarian: Unarmored Defense is nice, and raging could be fun for a melee Ranger, but only if his primary is STR. Danger Sense and the Bear Totem path also make this a solid choice.
- Bard: No spellcasting synergy. Maybe if you have a good CHA for some reason. Although the skill bumps are nice.
- Cleric: Good choice if you want to expand your spellcasting since both Ranger and Cleric use WIS.
- Druid: If you want to be a better caster, this is your other good option.
- Fighter: Fighting Style, Extra Attacks, Second Wind, Action Surge, Combat Maneuvers… this is a great multiclassing opportunity.
- Monk: Unarmored Defense is nice, and you get to use DEX to attack with Monk weapons. Four levels in Monk will net you a decent unarmed attack, Ki powers, Deflect Missiles, and a Monastic Tradition. Another level nets you another attack and Stunning Strike.
- Paladin: Your spellcasting abilities don’t mesh. Probably not worth it when there are better options.
- Rogue: Sneak attack and skill expertise make this worth it all by themselves. Six or seven Rogue levels are worth it.
- Sorcerer: Spellcasting with your dump stat is a bad idea.
- Warlock: Again, spellcasting with your dump stat is a bad idea.
- Wizard: Don’t cast spells with your dump stat!Spoiler: Feats
- Alert: If you multiclass into Rogue and take the Assassin route this goes sky-blue.
- Athlete: It’s okay. It makes you a better skill monkey, but that’s it.
- Actor: If you want to be the face, I don’t know why you chose to be a Ranger.
- Charger: It’s okay. You get to charge, just like you did in the last system. Nothing special.
- Crossbow Expert: If you want to use a crossbow, it’s either necessary or broken, depending on how your DM rules it.
- Defensive Duelist: Great for any melee build, and archers will find it useful when combat gets tight, too.
- Dual Wielder: Solid if you went the Twin-Weapon route.
- Dungeon Delver: Great if your DM is a bit trap-happy.
- Durable: It’s okay. Nothing special, but it’s a good half-feat bonus.
- Elemental Adept: More of a full-caster feat.
- Grappler: Good if paired with Tavern Brawler in a STR Ranger, but otherwise I wouldn’t get it.
- Great Weapon Master: Good if you want to wield a two-handed weapon, but Rangers don’t get much support for that.
- Healer: More Heals based on a WIS check? Worth it.
- Heavily Armored: You really shouldn’t need Heavy Armor. At all. In fact, Medium Armor Master makes it completely unnecessary. Don’t get this feat.
- Heavy Armor Master: This is the only reason to get Heavily Armored, but the benefits aren’t worth sacrificing two Ability increases.
- Inspiring Leader: You probably won’t have the Charisma to make it work, but if you do it’s not bad.
- Keen Mind: There’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s also nothing particularly good about it.
- Lightly Armored: You already have the benefit.
- Linguist: In my experience, knowing the right language at the right time can save your ass.
- Lucky: This is an exceptionally powerful feat. Definitely worth taking.
- Mage Slayer: Good for a melee Ranger who frequently has to deal with mages. Otherwise, skip it.
- Magic Initiate: Expand your casting ability. I like it.
- Martial Adept: Might be worth it if you multiclass into Battle Master. Otherwise, I’d skip it. 1d6 per short rest is just not worth giving up the Ability Points.
- Medium Armor Master: Good for a STR build that relies on Medium Armor, since you won’t have to pump DEX quite as much to get a great AC.
- Mobile: Amazing for a melee build, still great for archers.
- Moderately Armored: You already have the benefit.
- Mounted Combatant: Obviously, this is only good if you are frequently mounted. I’m looking at you, Gnome and Halfling Beast Masters.
- Observant: It’s a great bonus to two skills that are extremely important to a party.
- Polearm Master: Great synergy with Sentinel. Only for STR-based builds.
- Resilient: For a single ability point, you gain a save proficiency. That’s awesome.
- Ritual Caster: Save your spell slots and gain more spells. This is great!
- Savage Attacker: More damage is a good thing. Only for melee.
- Sentinel: A melee Ranger could benefit from this in theory, but it’s really much better for a tank. Moves up to Blue if you have Polearm Master.
- Sharpshooter: Great benefits for a ranged Ranger.
- Shield Master: Great if you use a shield, and you won’t even have to take Evasion if you’re a Hunter!
- Skilled: Almost required for a skill monkey.
- Skulker: Sneaky stuff can always work to your advantage.
- Spell Sniper: This is not made for a Ranger.
- Tavern Brawler: This is only good if you’re playing around with an unarmed character concept.
- Tough: It’s a fairly good benefit, and it ends up giving you 40 HP at level 20.
- War Caster: Definitely more helpful to a melee Ranger or one who has multiclassed into a full-casting class. I wouldn’t take it on an archer build.
- Weapon Master: You already have proficiency with everything.Spoiler: Racial Feats from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
- Bountiful Luck: Giving someone a free reroll on a critical failure without using any resources is unreasonably awesome.
- Dragon Fear: If you’re at all familiar with me, you’ll know I like frightening enemies.
- Dragon Hide: Getting a boost to your AC for half a feat is good all by itself. The damage boost to unarmed and ability point are gravy.
- Drow High Magic: I will never turn down extra spells. Never. Do you hear me!? Never!
- Dwarven Fortitude: This is a pretty solid boost to your resilience.
- Elven Accuracy: This is goooooood. Really good. Like, really, really good. Dang. It’s so good. Why is it so good? It should be less good.
- Fade Away: Turning invisible as a reaction with no spell slot is damn nice.
- Fey Teleportation: A half-feat that provides a situational ability with a great slotless teleportation spell. Yay!
- Flames of Phlegethos: If you want a feat that won’t help you as a Ranger in the least, this is the feat for you.
- Infernal Constitution: Resisting three kinds of damage and getting advantage on poison saves is nice. Also getting a point in CON is great.
- Orcish Fury: This is an especially sweet feat for a melee Ranger. As someone who has played a melee bruiser Ranger, I wish I had it.
- Prodigy: Four situational abilities make a blue. That’s just science.
- Second Chance: I like mulligans, especially when you’re forcing them on others. At the very least, you can negate 20s.
- Squat Nimbleness: This is basically an “I don’t want to be grappled,” feat, which is fine. Being grappled can be debilitating, so it might be worth it.
- Wood Elf Magic: It’s a solid way to boost your casting as a Ranger.