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A better ranger (mostly beast master)


I know WotC has seen some significant problems with the ranger in their surveys and we've seen attempts to make it better a few times in Unearthed Arcana. I honestly think a hunter is fine. The two-weapon fighters do have some problems, mostly with the off-hand attack bonus action and hunter's mark being so often in conflict. And I think their level 11 abilities leave something to be desired (often not very useful, especially the melee option which is a lot weaker). Finally, their spell options are just highly limited (every ranger I've seen has taken hunter's mark and cure wounds at 2nd level and it's not until level 9 that reasonable options start appearing).

Generic ranger improvements:
  • Rangers level 5-10 get one additional spell known.
  • Rangers level 11+ get two additional spells known.
  • Any spell that is a ritual acquired as a ranger can be cast as a ritual.
That gives a handful of more options and makes some spells (like water breathing) a much better option.

Hunter improvements:
  1. Giant killer also triggers off of favored enemies (in addition to Large)
  2. Whirlwind attack: If you hit 2 or more opponents with this attack, you get a +2 AC bonus until the start of your next turn against melee attacks.
1: Colossus slayer no longer is the "only" choice (and it makes favored enemy matter more)
2: Volley is _so_ much better (16 squares impacted instead of 8, can be anywhere on the board, can use a -5/+10 feat if you wish) and it makes it easier to wade into a group (always scary in 5e).

Beast Master improvements
  1. Beast gets 5 hit points/level minimum
  2. Share spells is a standard feature (starts at 3rd level)
  3. Beast gets the proficiency bonus to Dex and Str saves (rather than proficient saves)
  4. Make it clear the beast can attack as a reaction like any other creature
  5. 7th level: Beast gets either evasion or 6 hit points/level (chosen when creature summoned)
  6. 11th level: Additional order ranger can give (as a bonus action) is "guard" which effectively causes the beast to ready an action to attack the next enemy that enters melee range of the beast.
  7. 15th level: Bonus action options from level 7 and "guard" are now free action (total of 1/round)
1 and 3 just help with keeping the beast up (a real problem) without making it tougher than other party members.
2nd seems cool and makes beast a lot better (can cure beast at range while also healing self!) Hunter's mark (basically a class feature) is otherwise useless for a beast master who is using the beast to attack.
4th makes it clear that the beast can help with board control.
5th would like to just give evasion, but extra hit points might seem more reasonable for "big" creatures. But by this level area-of-effect attacks against the party have become common and the beast needs something.
6th is important as it gives a ranged beast master something useful to do with the beast. Needs _some_ kind of a bump at 11th level and this is actually pretty good.
7th this point bonus actions are key and this is a significant bump.

I feel this "power up", mainly focused on the beast master, would address many of the concerns people have about the ranger without hugely impacting the game or power-levels. All in a way that is cleaner (and I think more balanced) than the UA options thus far presented.
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Entropic Good
I very much like your improvement to giant killer, it resonates with correctness.

I hadn't realized that not every spell class gets rituals. I agree the ranger should, and I think all of them probably should too.

In general, very even handed and stout suggestions. Thanks.


First Post
Nice work, brehobit. Awhile back I had jotted down a few quick fixes for the Beastmaster myself, and this is what I had came up with:

Beast Master improvements

At 3rd level, the Beast Master Ranger must always use his Action to have the beast Attack, but he can use a Bonus Action to have the beast take the Dash, Disengage, Dodge, or Help actions. If the beast gets no commands, it will always take the Dodge action in combat.

The Animal Companion also has the following improvements:

The Animal Companion's hit points are their hit point maximum or 5x the Ranger's level, whichever is higher. They also add their CON modifier (if any) to their hit points every time the Ranger levels up.

The Animal Companion gets to add the Ranger's proficiency bonus to its Dexterity and Constitution Saving Throws.

The Animal Companion uses the HD/Healing rules as a PC does

At 7th level, the Ranger's Animal Companion gets the Evasion ability.


These ideas are rather similar to yours. I haven't playtested this yet, so I don't know if it goes too far in compensating for the Animal Companion's weaknesses. But on paper it seems like it would be OK.

I do like the "Guard" order you've listed. I may try to work that in somehow.


First Post
1. Add a Ranger 'Oath: Hurt 'em and Heal 'em': Cure Wounds, and Hunter's Mark at Level 2. Plus normal spells.
2. I like adding Giant Killer to Favored Enemies.
3. Beasts get HD equal to Ranger level but only the original HD are maximized, minimum 4/HD (really only applies to d4 Tiny/d6 Small or low Con beasts). Currently they get the HP but not the additional HD for short rest recovery)
4. Beasts get Prof. to all saves (current is none).
5. Hunter's Mark also benefits Companion attacks (Share spells doesn't apply because the Ranger is not the target).
6. When the Ranger uses an action to Dodge, Disengage, or Dash the companion may also do so. (the level 7 ability let's them do separate actions).
7. Change Giant Poisonous Snake CR to 1/2. It is too good after including the above changes. Possibly add more creatures closer to Boar, Giant Frog, Panther, and Wolf balance at CR 1/4.

Normal healing (HD) rules is already RAW, as is Reaction use.
Remember to include Beast skill use and checks in normal encounters. Many have solid perception checks and stealth.

Rather than trying to balance Whirlwind and Volley I'd prefer to nerf Sharpshooter. I think GWM and Sharpshooter skew the DPS numbers enough to warrant changing them rather than trying to balance damage while including them.

If the player wants full actions or stronger companions (large) consider using the NPC rules in the DMG allowing for additional NPCs in the party which I would include in encounter building and experience division.


In response to [MENTION=5590]jodyjohnson[/MENTION] :

1: a reasonable way forward.
4: Might be too much. Not sure a companion should generally have better saves than the PC.
5: Good point, I agree
6: I'm good with

Thanks for the feedback!

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