5E [GUIDE] Seeing the Forest for the Trees: The Ranger Guide

Gladius Legis

Adventurer
Seeing the Forest for the Trees: The Ranger Guide
ranger.jpg

“You're no ranger, Jon, only a green boy with the smell of summer still on you.”
A Game of Thrones

Guide linked on Google Docs, as well.

NOTE: This is an update of my very, very old and horribly outdated "Into the Woods We Go" guide, complete with the updated material. I gave it a new name to distinguish it. I also got tired of waiting for control of my old guide so decided to make a new thread with a snappier new name.

Table of Contents:
I. Introduction
II. Basics of the Class
III. Ranger Archetypes
IV. Races
V. Feats
VI. Spells
VII. Equipment
VIII. Multiclassing
IV. FAQ
X. Builds and Combos

This guide will use the following ratings:
Red is dead. A choice that either adds nothing of value to your character or might even actively hurt it.
Purple is a substandard choice. It might be useful in corner-case situations, but overall it's not worth the investment.
Black is average. You're not hurting your character by taking this, and it might even help in some situations, but there are better choices.
Blue is a good choice. It definitely helps your character in the majority of cases.
Sky Blue is a fantastic choice. An option you should strongly consider above most others.
Gold is mandatory. It's a rare rating that denotes something that is so good that you must take it, or you can't call yourself optimized.

This guide takes from the following sources:
PHB - Player’s Handbook
MM - Monster Manual
DMG - Dungeon Master’s Guide
EEPC - Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
SCAG - Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
VGM - Volo’s Guide to Monsters
XGTE - Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
MTOF - Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
*** Note: Material from Unearthed Arcana is always considered playtest material and will not be rated in this guide. But feel free to discuss it in the thread.


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I. Introduction

What's a Ranger?

The common motif about the Ranger in D&D 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. It was loosely based on Aragorn from Lord of the Rings, originally.

The other details have varied from edition-to-edition, to the point that it's often debated as to what a Ranger is really supposed to be.

The 1e AD&D Ranger was able to cast low-level Magic-User spells (in addition to Druid spells) and use all the items that a Magic-User could. It also was especially effective at killing Giants (with HUGE damage bonuses against them), had the stealth abilities that's still associated with the class to this day, and was pretty much impossible to catch by surprise and was often effective at having the party get the jump on enemies. Its combat skills were also as solid as ever, capping out at the same number of attacks as the Fighter, but just at a couple levels later. It also had to be of Good alignment or risk losing all its abilities (a convention most closely represented now by the Oath of Ancients Paladin).

The 2e Ranger was something of a curiosity. Because right before the release of 2e, a Drow Ranger named Drizzt Do'Urden, the ultimate Mary Sue of the Realms, was renowned for his ability to dual-wield scimitars. Ignoring the fact that Drizzt dual-wielded because he was Drow (who had an enhanced ability to dual-wield in 1e), the makers of 2e decided instead to give that ability to the Ranger, thus setting the stage for the next few renditions of that class as THE dual-wielding class — an arbitrary addition to its identity. The Ranger's Giant-killing abilities were extended instead to a choice of "racial enemy" or "favored enemy," which made the 2e Ranger more effective against a certain type of foe, although not NEARLY as much so as the 1e Ranger was against Giants, being just a +4 bonus to attack (not damage) rolls. The stealth parts of the Ranger remained, as did the alignment restrictions and the Druid spells (the Mage spells were removed). The 2e Ranger was considered mostly solid in performance (it was still mostly a Fighter-plus, after all, minus weapon specialization/mastery), if not uninspired and dissonant in its design.

In 3e, the Ranger could select multiple favored enemies as they leveled for the first time, although the way those damage bonuses scaled was ineffective (you basically had to commit to a strong enemy type you most likely never faced at 1st level to max out that bonus). It also, for the first time, removed the alignment restriction, because it was determined that a character shouldn't need to be Good-aligned to be an effective tracker. Although, the 3e Ranger wasn't effective at much of anything, really. It got "free" dual-wielding, a carryover from 2e, but dual-wielding was a weak style in 3e in general, and the Ranger's free dual-wielding never got any better. Also, all classes got the ability to use Stealth to a certain degree, making the Ranger less special in that category, and its spell list left a lot to be desired. The 3e Ranger, as a result, was considered one of the weakest classes, if not THE weakest.

3.5's revision to the Ranger gave it a solid boost, with favored enemies that scaled MUCH better and removed the "pick the strongest enemy you're going to face at Lv. 1 or else" dilemma, and for the first time actually gave the Ranger an option to focus on archery instead of dual-wielding. (Amazingly, Rangers had long been associated with archery in mind, but never specifically in deed to this point.) The 3.5 Ranger also got more skill points to be more versatile out of combat and in exploration and scouting, and gave it more effective spells as well. Eventually, it got another indirect buff with the Scout class, which was like a Ranger without the Druidic-type spellcasting and an ability to be effective in combat on the run; with the Swift Hunter feat it was possible to effectively gestalt the best of the Ranger and Scout abilities when multiclassing between the two classes.

4e kind of took the idea of the Scout as a non-magical warrior of the wilds and ran with it for its Ranger class. Or, rather, tried to. The 4e Ranger was, for the first time, purely a Martial class, with no spellcasting. And boy, was it effective. It was by far the strongest Striker class in that edition, with the real possibility of killing Elites with a single nova if optimized properly. Unfortunately, it was also really boring flavor-wise. The "warrior of the wilds" flavor just wasn't really there; the 4e Ranger's claim to fame was to be the archer or dual-wielder who just did damage and lots of it. Again, effective without a doubt, but also really boring. Stealth was also not a much-exercised option in 4e, further reducing the 4e Ranger to basically the big-damage combat unit. The Essentials subclasses, Hunter and Scout, came along later to add some modicum of its magical origins back into the Ranger concept, although the spellcasting of old wasn't there; the magic was represented more by the stances reflecting animal names.

Now with the coming of 5e, the Ranger gets another makeover. For the first time since 1e, dual-wielding is not an assumed aspect of the class; and for that matter neither is archery. Both of those are still options, to be sure, but are no more a part of the Ranger class' identity than the Fighter's. The features give it an emphasis on use of skills in their preferred environments, some abilities to stealth and scout that other classes don't get, and while favored enemies make their return, the impact of those are lessened. Spells also make a return to the Ranger's arsenal, better than ever. The overall results, as you'll see, are mixed.

Mechanical overview

Rangers are back to being a half-caster in 5e. Which actually isn't nearly as bad as that was in earlier editions. They top out at the same number of spell slots at Lv. 1-4, and only one less at Lv. 5, as the full casters do. Furthermore, as the effectiveness of spells is determined by proficiency bonuses that increases for all classes equally, a spell cast by a Ranger is just as effective as that same spell cast by a Druid or Wizard. In addition, Rangers also have a much stronger class spell list overall than in the past, and as you'll discover, that is a major saving grace of the class.

Rangers now learn spells instead of prepare them from a list as they used to; they are now more like the Sorcerer and Bard in that respect than the Cleric and Paladin, and they only learn a few of them. So spells must be chosen with care.

Rangers have always been multiple-attribute dependent (MAD), and that hasn't changed in 5e. Although MAD isn't quite as debilitating this time around as it was in the past, it still means that Rangers are limited on the feats they can take, and must pick those wisely.

The class features for the Ranger are, to put it mildly, a mixed bag of highly situational talents. Many of their abilities seem to be geared toward solo play rather than party play, or at least a role in which they're scouting well ahead of the party all on their own. And if you're coming over from 4e, the Ranger is no longer the ticking nova bomb of this edition; indeed, the Ranger’s ability to nova for a massive damage turn is rather lacking compared to the Fighter or Paladin.

Strengths and weaknesses

Strengths:

  • Solid array of skills, as far as that goes. Their three skills from class are more than most classes aside from the Bard and the Rogue.
  • Solid spell list, which goes well with a combat- and exploration-focused class. Although they have to learn them, instead of prepare them, Rangers are supported just fine in this department. In fact, spells are where much of the power in this class lies, including strong offensive and defensive buffs, conjurations, and area of effect damage spells.
  • Very diverse subclasses, especially after XGTE. One of them could fit your playstyle somehow.

Weaknesses:

  • Weak nova damage. Rangers’ sustained damage-per-round figures are solid enough, or can be, and they may have some situational boosts to their damage in one round or another, but they’ll never wreck a boss in a single turn like a Fighter or Paladin can.
  • While their spells are solid, they learn them instead of prepare them, making them less versatile than, say, the Paladin in that department. Moreover, Rangers learn the fewest spells in the game.
  • Many of their class features, including their signature favored enemies and terrains and their stealthy features, are quite poorly designed. They’re highly situational at best and tend not to mesh well with a party setting, especially a combat-heavy setting where opportunities to advance scout are at a minimum.
  • When Rangers are NOT in their favored terrains or dealing with their favored enemies, their skill effectiveness and exploration ability are sharply lessened.
  • Highly reliant on their choice of subclass as to whether they’ll be an effective character, since the core class’ features are weak for the most part.
  • One particular subclass, the Beast Master, has serious issues and is quite underpowered as a whole.
 
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Gladius Legis

Adventurer
II. Basics of the Class


Hit Die - d10: Only the Barbarian has it better than this. You’re on par with the Fighter and Paladin here, definitely good for keeping you upright in battle.

Proficiencies

Armor: Basically everything except heavy armor. You're good to use shields, too. Good enough for you.
Weapons: All simple and martial weapons is as good as it gets.
Tools: None. If you get any proficiencies here, they'll likely be from your background. Also, at least you can actually spend money and downtime to pick up proficiencies in this category.

Saving Throws: Every class gets one "common" save (DEX, CON, WIS) and one "uncommon" save (STR, INT, CHA). Yours are Dexterity and Strength. DEX is arguably the weakest common save, since all it really protects you from is damage (as opposed to CON and WIS which deal in most of the game's really nasty effects). STR is the most common "uncommon" save, by far, so good for you there, but the consequences of failing STR saves typically amount to little more than prones and forced movement ... usually not the worst things in the world.

Skills: You get more than most classes, being able to pick three from your list, although two of them will be spoken for as, quite frankly, mandatory skills. (Your background will give you more skill proficiencies, which are not restricted to this list. Your race may also give you more chances to pick skill proficiencies, again not limited to this list.)

  • Animal Handling (WIS): Well, it’s definitely appropriate for the class. Occasionally useful, moreso if you plan to be mounted a lot.
  • Athletics (STR): Most Rangers will prefer to increase DEX rather than STR, but it still helps to be able to climb, jump and swim. If you ARE going to attack with STR, then this skill is mandatory, as it will be your main defense against grapples and shoves.
  • Insight (WIS): Good for countering against lies and attempts to deceive you, so it’s a fairly important skill. With a strong a WIS as you're likely to have, you'll be effective at this.
  • Investigation (INT): Can be a useful skill, although INT is not a priority for you, so generally this one is on the back-burner.
  • Nature (INT): Its most significant use is for harvesting poisons. Or you can just train during downtime for poisoner’s kit proficiency, instead, which eliminates the need for this skill unless you planned to somehow Expertise it. (Or … just have an Assassin or Wizard ally do the extracting.)
  • Perception (WIS): Take it. Period. End of sentence.
  • Stealth (DEX): Rangers without Stealth just aren't Rangers. And you at least want to get some use out of their stealthy features, situational as they might be.
  • Survival (WIS): This skill lets a Ranger do a lot of what Rangers are expected to do, such as track, hunt, guide, assess what creatures are near, avoid hazards and predict weather. And as it's a WIS-based skill, it's enhanced by the Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer features.

Non-class skills: You can’t get these with your class options, but you might get these from your background or race:

  • Acrobatics (DEX): If you're DEX-based and can get proficiency in this somehow, you must definitely do so. It’s the DEX option for escaping from grapples and resisting shoves (but NOT for grappling or shoving yourself), and it can also do things like help you stay on your feet or on a tightrope. Some DMs even use it as a straight-up substitute for Athletics when climbing or jumping, but that’s not always the case. Not nearly as essential if you’re STR-based.
  • Medicine (WIS): Occasionally useful, and you’ll probably be good at it. Not a priority, though.
  • Sleight of Hand (DEX): While it has its uses, there are simply more all-around useful skills for Rangers to consider.
  • Arcana/History/Religion (INT): Your INT likely won’t be high enough to put these to any good use.
  • Deception/Intimidation/Persuasion/Performance (CHA): Rangers have all the Charisma of a wet paper bag and will thus have no use for these skills.


Attributes

Your biggest decision will be whether you want to attack with Dexterity or with Strength. That will also determine what array you'd prefer to use, assuming point buy is an option. DEX-Rangers are less MAD on the whole; in fact, they can literally get away with 15, 15, 15, 8, 8, 8. STR-Rangers, on the other hand, are much more MAD (they still need some DEX for Armor Class in medium armor) and will have to take an array more like 15, 14, 14, 12, 8, 8.


  • Strength: One of two possible attack stats for the Ranger, which results in a more MAD character than the other option. A STR-Ranger still needs some DEX (14 is ideal) since Rangers don’t have heavy armor proficiency and they’d still at least like to have passable Stealth. Still, a high STR can pay off with grappling and shoving becoming viable combat options, as well as builds based off the feats Great Weapon Master and/or Polearm Master. If you’re attacking with DEX, you can actually get away with dumping this.
  • Dexterity: The other possible attack stat, and the most efficient of the two options for it. If you’re making an archery build this is obviously the choice for you. Also the stat for using finesse weapons. Going DEX means higher initiative, higher DEX save, ability to wear lighter armor and have a solid AC and less MAD, as you can straight dump STR if you want. To wit, even STR-Rangers need some investment (14) in this stat.
  • Constitution: More hit points are always a good thing, and a lot of nasty status-inflicting spells and attacks test the CON save. CON is also important for concentration saves used to maintain spells, making it especially important for a melee build. No lower than 12 in any case, and melee Rangers want this at 14 at the very least, if not higher.
  • Intelligence: Well, INT-based skills do work with Natural Explorer, so there’s that, I suppose. Other than that, you’re not missing out on much if you lack smarts. Overall a fairly safe dump stat.
  • Wisdom: A fairly important secondary or tertiary stat for the Ranger. It determines the DC of certain Ranger spells, and Ranger class skills like Perception, Survival, Insight and Animal Handling key off this stat. Nasty mind-affecting conditions often target the WIS saving throw, too. Try to start with at least a 12 here, and higher if you can. DEX-based archery Rangers especially should try starting with a 14 or even a 16.
  • Charisma: Rangers aren’t known for being sociable. Dump it, it does nothing for the class.


Backgrounds

You can customize your background with help from your DM, but here are the "official" backgrounds.

Also keep in mind that if a background gives you a skill you already had from your class or race, you get to pick any other skill to replace it (including a non-class skill). This is a good way to pick up, say, Acrobatics for you DEX-Rangers.

Acolyte: Insight is good, but everything else is so not Ranger-worthy. You don't even get any tool proficiencies.
Charlatan: Nope.
Criminal/Spy: Thieves' tools proficiency and Stealth (which in practice gives you another skill you may want) save this background. Criminal contacts can come in handy, but you're stuck with a skill in Deception that's useless to you.
Entertainer/Gladiator: Well, you get Acrobatics at least. Everything else sucks, though.
Folk Hero: Very solid, and pretty appropriate as well for the Ranger flavor-wise. Survival and Animal Handling as skills. Plus Rustic Hospitality is nice.
Guild Artisan/Guild Merchant: Insight is good. Persuasion is not. On the other hand, proficiency with a set of artisan's tools (or navigator's if Merchant) and guild membership's benefits are pretty nice.
Hermit: One meh skill in Medicine, and the rest of this is useless for a Ranger.
Noble/Knight: Two useless skills. Get out of here.
Outlander: Thematically appropriate and a top pick for a Ranger. Survival is a staple (if you have it from your class, pick up Acrobatics), and Athletics is great especially if you're STR-based. Amazingly, the Wanderer benefits are not redundant with the Ranger's own terrain features, but rather complement them very nicely and even give the Ranger something to work with, exploration-wise, even if not in their favored terrain.
Sage: Ha. Ha. Ha. No.
Sailor/Pirate: Perception, woo! (Which should translate to a free pick of Acrobatics as you get Perception from your class already.) Athletics is also good, especially if you're STR-based. Also great tools proficiencies in navigator's tools and water vehicles, and both Ship's Passage and the Pirate's Bad Reputation certainly have their uses. A top background choice, for sure.
Soldier: You get Athletics, and that's about it as far as relevance to Rangers. Stick with Outsider or Sailor/Pirate.
Urchin: Much like Criminal/Spy, Stealth/free skill pick and thieves' tools proficiency save this one. City Secrets is also nice if you want to be more of an "urban Ranger."

City Watch: Athletics, Insight and two languages is pretty nice. This background is a little dissonant with your typical Ranger though.
Clan Crafter: History sucks, but Insight, artisan’s tools and Dwarvish are OK. Overall, meh.
Cloistered Scholar: No.
Courtier: Not for you.
Faction Agent: The Harpers and Emerald Enclave are decent for Rangers.
Far Traveler: Insight and Perception, musical instrument and some social access. Very good.
Inheritor: Survival is good, but the rest not so much.
Knight of the Order: No.
Mercenary: Athletics good, Persuasion not your thing. Overall, pass.
Urban Bounty Hunter: Insight and Stealth and some very useful connections. Good one.
Uthgardt Tribe Member: Athletics and Survival, musical instrument or artisan’s tools and some nice allies. Very good.
Waterdhavian Noble: Two skills you can’t use effectively. No.



Class Features

Lv. 1

Favored Enemy (Lv. 6, 14)
: One of the Ranger's long-time signatures makes a return in name only. This time around it has nothing to do with combat (well, until what passes for the class' capstone at Lv. 20). Instead, it gives you advantage to track your favored enemies with Survival and advantage on those useless INT knowledge skills about them, along with one language of said enemy. And you only get three of these your entire career (or up to six humanoid races). A very poorly designed class feature that is situational in the best-case scenario.

Natural Explorer (Lv. 6, 10): Much like Favored Enemy, highly situational at best. Expertise on all INT and WIS checks and skills if you’re in your Favored Terrain, but you only get three of those your whole career. Bleh. You could literally go entire campaigns without ever enjoying the benefits of this. The host of other perks of this feature likewise only work in your Favored Terrain. This may very well be the worst designed class feature in all of 5e, battling it out only with, well, Favored Enemy. Lucky you. (As an aside: The whole Favored Terrain concept would’ve been MUCH more flavorful AND effective if, when you picked specific terrains, you gained some benefits unique to your terrain choices that still applied everywhere.)

Lv. 2

Fighting Style
: Choose one among the following.

  • Archery: If you're going to attack primarily with ranged weapons, then you take this without a second thought. The +2 to hit is especially sexy when it partially mitigates the penalty from the Sharpshooter feat's hit-for-damage trade.
  • Defense: Since Rangers don’t get the Great Weapon Fighting style, this is what those who want to use a two-hander or polearm will take. Which many argue is a better style for two-hander and polearm wielders, anyway. +1 AC is boring but beneficial.
  • Dueling: The best choice if you plan to primarily use a single one-handed weapon, thanks to the flat damage bonus on each hit. That +2 to damage works out to around a 20% increase in damage at early levels and still a substantial boost even later. Works with a shield.
  • Two-Weapon Fighting: Well, if you're going to dual-wield, then obviously you'll go for this style. Question is if you want to. Dual-wielding isn't exactly the strongest in 5e, although if you've got Hunter's Mark up against the biggest threat it does help.

Spellcasting: With many of the Ranger's leveled class features being either highly situational or just plain bad, it is the spellcasting that is the one MAJOR saving grace for the class, power-wise. Despite being only a half-caster, the Ranger gets much of its combat prowess, utility and exploration from a spell list that really is quite solid. With that said, however, the mechanics of the Ranger's spellcasting feature are arguably the weakest in the game. They learn only a very limited amount of spells; similar in manner to the Bard, Sorcerer and Warlock but not even as many as they do. So the Ranger must pick spells wisely and eliminate many options right off. Even compared to, say, the Paladin, the Ranger's spellcasting is very lacking in versatility. And as for material components, it's a component pouch or bust.

Lv. 3

Ranger Archetypes will be described under their own section.

Primeval Awareness: An occasionally beneficial use of a spell slot in the exploration tier, especially when you’re about to set up camp for the night and have a spell slot left over. Although, hilariously, it’s less precise if you use this in your Favored Terrain! (Which goes back to what a dumpster fire of design THAT feature is.)

Lv. 4 (8, 12, 16, 19)

Ability Score Improvements
: You get the standard 5 that everyone else who isn't the Fighter or Rogue gets. You're a pretty MAD class overall, so you'll likely just have room for a couple of feats.

Lv. 5

Extra Attack: Obviously great; at this level it literally doubles the power of your Attack action. Like every other major weapon-using class that isn't the Fighter, this caps at two attacks.

Lv. 8

Land's Stride
: Move normally through nonmagical difficult terrain, along with advantage on saves vs. magical plants that impede your movement. This one's a decent enough ribbon that comes at a level where you also get an ASI.

Lv. 10

Hide in Plain Sight: In party play, you’d typically use this if you’re on night watch in an area with nowhere else to hide otherwise, getting surprise rounds if you detect approaching enemies with Perception and manage to stay hidden. Otherwise, this is yet another situational Ranger class feature that usually doesn’t mesh with the party. Aside from night watch, you could use this for eavesdropping on a hostile warband's meeting or something similar — when you already somehow figured out the location of said meeting in advance and arrived there to camouflage yourself before they arrived. If you're in a team of Rangers this would be useful for setting up an ambush.

Lv. 14

Vanish
: Well, this would’ve been nice about, oh, at least eight levels ago? I mean, for the love of Mielikki, this is 1/3rd of the Rogue’s Cunning Action 12 levels later than the Rogue! I mean, I appreciate that longbow archers, in particular, can use this to get constant advantage, but that’s a playstyle I would’ve liked to have had available a whole lot sooner, again, like it was for said Rogue. The can’t-be-tracked part is a ribbon.

Lv. 18

Feral Senses: Wow, a Ranger main class feature that is actually pretty good. Attack creatures you can't see without suffering disadvantage, and you auto-detect invisible enemies out to 30 feet, which is actually far enough to be useful.

Lv. 20

Foe Slayer: Finally, at the capstone, your Favored Enemy gets a combat application. Which makes it as useful as Favored Enemy has been for 19 levels. Yeah. Exactly. The mechanic of the effect itself works out to an infinite use of the Battle Master Fighter’s Precision Attack maneuver, using your WIS-mod instead. Which would’ve been nice at about, oh, Lv. 11, maybe, and that’s if it applied to everything and not just Favored Enemies? As a capstone though, pretty underwhelming, and that it’s attached to Favored Enemy makes it just plain worthless.
 
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Gladius Legis

Adventurer
III. Ranger Archetypes


Hunter: Of the two PHB Ranger subclasses, this is the more combat-focused, and by far the more effective overall. And it’s customizable at each stop, too. This archetype is meant to reflect the tactics the Ranger uses to fight against his or her most targeted enemies, moreso than the old Favored Enemy bonuses of the previous editions did. It’s a respectable subclass still, though it’s lost some of its luster with the XGTE subclasses’ arrival.

Lv. 3, Hunter's Prey: Pick one of the following.

  • Colossus Slayer: This one is geared toward single-target damage with its extra once-per-turn 1d8 damage on an enemy that's already injured. A solid pick for both melee and ranged that makes you more effective in focus-fire assaults against strong enemies. Also, the important thing to note about this damage being once per turn, as opposed to per round, is that it also applies on your Opportunity Attacks or other reaction attacks you make, making those more threatening.
  • Giant Killer: A reaction attack after an enemy Large or larger hits or misses you. Sounds good, right? It does ... until you realize that the enemy has to be within 5 feet of you, and if a creature is Large or larger, chances are pretty good they have reach. Even if you ended your turn bearing down on the enemy, there's a chance it can attack one of your allies instead from its position. If you have the Sentinel feat, you can still get an attack in that situation and make this feature actually work for you indirectly, but what does it say about a feature that requires a feat to be remotely useful? If you're an archer, don't even think about this one.
  • Horde Breaker: On the one hand, it is a chance of getting an additional attack every round, which always counts for something. On the other hand, it’s never against the same enemy, and the second enemy you attack with this has to be right next to your first one, making this a bit situational.
Lv. 7, Defensive Tactics: Pick one of the following.

  • Escape the Horde: OAs against you at disadvantage. This does wonders for your survivability, mobility and targeting ability when navigating a horde or a group of multiple enemies. Overall, this one is typically the melee Ranger's favorite pick at this level (especially with Whirlwind Attack coming four levels later).
  • Multiattack Defense: This one is good for defense against strong enemies (often bosses) with multiple attacks in a single action, making their focus-fire attempts against you more difficult with a hefty +4 to AC after it hit you. Likely a ranged Ranger's favorite, but it’s a good choice in general.
  • Steel Will: Plenty of higher-level bosses can frighten you, and frightening is a rather annoying condition, so advantage on saves against that seems like a good thing. Problem is, Rangers do not have proficiency in WIS saves (which frightening typically targets), and only DEX-Rangers (in particular archers) will have a WIS high enough to make this advantage work for them appreciably. You can take the Resilient feat for proficiency in WIS saves, which does make this better, but that means not taking that feat for CON save proficiency, which is typically the better choice for Rangers. If you started as a class with WIS save proficiency and multiclassed into Ranger, then this gets better, as well. But, overall, you should stick to one of the other two options at this level.
Lv. 11, Multiattack: Pick one of the following for what is effectively your at-will AoE.

  • Volley: This ranged weapon option is overall the more effective of the two, with double the area of effect (10' radius) of Whirlwind Attack. The ammunition requirement for each target generally limits this to arrows and bolts, however, as opposed to thrown weapons. With Sharpshooter's damage bonus and Archery fighting style in play, you can deal quite a lot of damage to a group of enemies at once.
  • Whirlwind Attack: The melee option isn't quite as sexy, targeting enemies within 5 feet of you only (even if you're using a reach weapon). And getting in a position to attack a significant number of foes with this can be rather hazardous, to say the least. (Escape the Horde helps A LOT there.) If you took Horde Breaker, that one does work with this for a nice double-tap against one enemy, so there's that.
Lv. 15, Superior Hunter's Defense: Pick one of the following.

  • Evasion: 8 levels after the Rogue gets it. Better late than never with this wonderful ability, though. If you absolutely, positively want to ensure you survive a dragon's breath, accept no substitute.
  • Stand Against the Tide: Meh. Very situational, and typically for not a whole lot of damage even then.
  • Uncanny Dodge: Cut one hit's damage in half with your reaction. It’s alright, but no Evasion.


Beast Master: I tried. I really did. I wanted to give this subclass a chance, hear the case in favor of it, wait for errata. But nope, sorry — the Beast Master is just plain awful. It’s not the theoretical white-room DPR figures, which actually check out OK. And, yes, some companion choices even have some utility functions. It’s that the beast just has no damn hit points. 4x your level, on a companion that’s supposed to contribute meaningfully to combat, is just asking for the poor animal to get ganked after one or two rounds. AND if you lose your pet — and you most likely will — you have to sideline yourself to first find another animal buddy, which could take Silvanus knows how long, and then ANOTHER 8 hours on top of that (!!!) to form the bond, and who has time for that in a typical campaign?

That said, fun is the most important thing, and if this subclass is your idea of fun, then more power to you. Generally, your best options for a pet will be Wolf, Panther, Boar, Pteranodon, Giant Crab, Giant Centipede, Giant Poisonous Snake, or Giant Wolf Spider.

  • Ranger's Companion (Lv. 3): Aside from the MAJOR issues already listed above, for the first four levels as a Beast Master, you have to give up your action to get the beast to actually do anything other than move or (after latest errata) Dodge.
  • Exceptional Training (Lv. 7): Finally, you get some basic functionality. Now your beast can Dash, Disengage or Help with your bonus action instead of taking up your action. The bonus-action Help is particularly nice, letting you effortlessly grant advantage to someone (yourself or an ally) on one attack every round — assuming your beast can stay alive long enough. Oh, and as of the latest errata, your beast’s attacks can overcome resistance to nonmagical attacks, so, yay.
  • Bestial Fury (Lv. 11): Your beast can now attack twice if you give up your second attack on your Attack action. (Or use multiattack, but that’s weaker for the one CR 1/4 beast that has it … we hardly knew ye, Giant Badger.)
  • Share Spells (Lv. 15): Your beast becomes affected as well when you cast a spell on yourself. There are some good spells to take advantage of this (Freedom of Movement and Stoneskin, to name two).


Gloom Stalker (XGTE): This archetype is an ace in the first round of combat, typically the most important round. And it’s just generally the best Ranger subclass for maintaining focused assaults on one enemy at a time.

  • Gloom Stalker Magic (Lv. 3): Like all the newer Ranger subclasses introduced in XGTE, the Gloom Stalker comes with a list of bonus spells at each level the Ranger will eventually be able to cast, many of which aren’t on the Ranger’s default spell list. These bonus spells give the newer subclasses quite an edge over the PHB archetypes. The Gloom Stalker specifically gets three spells that are quite useful: Rope Trick to guarantee the party a safe short rest, the top-tier crowd control/debuff spell Fear, and then the especially lovely Greater Invisibility, though that last one not until Lv. 13.
  • Dread Ambusher (Lv. 3): Your Attack action gets one extra attack the first round of every combat! And unlike the Hunter’s Horde Breaker, you can focus-fire this attack on the same enemy you used your other attacks on! And on top of that, this extra attack does an extra 1d8 damage! This feature is a lot more reliable than the Assassin Rogue’s Assassinate in a similar function. And with Sharpshooter or Great Weapon Master feats in play, it can even result in a considerably more damaging alpha strike, every single combat, than Assassinate, with the Assassin Rogue not catching up until the early teen levels. Oh, and you also add your WIS-mod to initiative and are 10 feet faster in the first round, which is just extra gravy on an amazing feature.
  • Umbral Sight (Lv. 3): Oh, hey, free Darkvision if your race didn’t have it already. Extended range of Darkvision if your race did already have it. Messing with your enemies’ Darkvision only comes up occasionally, but it’s nice when it happens.
  • Iron Mind (Lv. 7): Wisdom save proficiency. Good. (Or INT or CHA saves if you somehow had WIS save proficiency already.)
  • Stalker’s Flurry (Lv. 11): Well, they weren’t going to give you the Fighter’s third attack outright, but this is still quite nice. Thing is, unless your hit chances are already 75% or higher, you’re actually more likely than not to get the additional attack from this feature. (e.g. 70% hit chance = 49% chance you’ll hit with both attacks = 51% chance you’ll miss with at least one attack and thus get this feature’s additional attack.) So this feature can help encourage you to use something such as the -5/+10 hit/damage trade from Sharpshooter or Great Weapon Master more often. And it especially works wonders during your Dread Ambusher round, since your chances of hitting with all three attacks there are even less. (e.g. even a 75% hit chance for Dread Ambusher = 42% chance of all 3 attacks hitting in that first round = 58% chance of the additional attack happening.)
  • Shadowy Dodge (Lv. 15): Reaction for disadvantage to one enemy attack. It’s just alright, but after 12 levels of greatness you can handle one average feature.


Horizon Walker (XGTE): Mobility is the name of the game for this archetype. It’s powered by a strong bonus spell list, and later on you’ll be doing wonderful things like walking through obstacles and teleporting all over the battlefield.

  • Horizon Walker Magic (Lv. 3): Misty Step at Lv. 5! Haste at Lv. 9! And the other spells on the list aren’t bad, either. If you’re playing a melee Horizon Walker, especially, do try to get Resilient (CON) and/or War Caster by Lv. 8 so you can better maintain concentration on Haste and have some fun.
  • Detect Portal (Lv. 3): Ribbon feature. Comes into play in campaigns involving a lot of planar travel.
  • Planar Warrior (Lv. 3): Sort of an odd duck as far as Ranger extra damage features go, not overly powerful, but interesting. It takes a bonus action every round for its extra 1d8 damage, which really means Horizon Walkers should not be dual-wielding or taking Crossbow Expert or Polearm Master. On the other hand, it turns all your damage on the attack into force damage, which is almost never resisted. And it does give you a bonus action to use every round with a typical sword-and-board, longbow archer or great weapon build that otherwise doesn’t use many bonus actions, making it especially good for rounds in which you don’t need to apply a Hunter’s Mark. And at Lv. 11, the extra damage scales up to 2d8, which is nice.
  • Ethereal Step (Lv. 7): A short-rest recharge, 1 turn bonus-action Etherealness spell allows you to move through walls, enemies and other worldly obstacles to get to wherever or whoever you need that round.
  • Distant Strike (Lv. 11): Now you’re literally teleporting all over the battlefield on every Attack action. Fun, and a terrific mobility boost. Your Attack action becomes better against multiple foes, too, getting three attacks if they’re all against different enemies. While a Hunter’s Volley has a higher number of potential attacks than this, this isn’t limited to a 10-foot radius, actually making this better in a fair number of instances.
  • Spectral Defense (Lv. 15): It’s literally Uncanny Dodge with different flavor text. So, it’s just OK.


Monster Slayer (XGTE): A specialized archetype with extra defenses against enemies that cast spells or use other nasty save-inducing effects against you. Unfortunately, you sacrifice quite a lot of offense compared to most other subclasses for features that are a bit on the situational side of things.

  • Monster Slayer Magic (Lv. 3): Well, Protection from Evil and Good is decent if you’re facing the creature types it protects you from. Other than that, it’s two situational utility spells at Lv. 5 and 9, and then two combat spells at Lv. 13 and 17. Eh.
  • Hunter’s Sense (Lv. 3): Even if you’ve studied your Monster Manual, some DMs will consider it metagaming to apply that knowledge in-game, so this is essentially a cover-your-butt power for that scenario. It takes a whole action to use, though, which is not ideal. Useless if your DM isn’t that strict about metagaming.
  • Slayer’s Prey (Lv. 3): This ability can be used at will, it's just the benefit against an enemy that expires on a rest. And it only takes one bonus action at the start of combat to activate on an enemy, which makes it alright. Note that the 1d6 extra damage is once per turn, so it can apply on any reaction attacks you may have, as well. Casting Hunter's Mark is still generally superior with the same bonus action in the first round, but at least this can be stacked in subsequent rounds if you have bonus actions yet to spare. Also higher-level features of this subclass key off this one.
  • Supernatural Defense (Lv. 7): Basically this feature exists to encourage you to use Slayer’s Prey before Hunter’s Mark against enemies that cast spells, have some other nasty save-inducing abilities or are good at grappling. An extra d6 bonus on saves and grapple escapes is solid against those kinds of enemies.
  • Magic-User’s Nemesis (Lv. 11): Where every other Ranger subclass gets a substantial at-will boost to their offense, you get a situationally useful 1/short rest Counterspell-ish type feature that works off your spell DC and also stops teleports. Which just isn’t nearly enough to make up for the weaker offensive capability at this keystone level, if you ask me.
  • Slayer’s Counter (Lv. 15): Another feature that encourages you to use Slayer’s Prey as early as possible against a spellcaster or anything that forces you to roll saves. Getting a reaction attack and a possible auto-success on a save is pretty nice, I’ll give it that.
 
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Gladius Legis

Adventurer
IV. Races


Dwarf: +2 to CON is a big deal, along with advantage on saves vs. and resistance to poison, and Darkvision. Bonus proficiencies in an artisan's tools are a neat little bonus.

  • Mountain: +2 to STR makes this the obvious subrace of choice for a STR-Ranger.
  • Hill: Decent for DEX-Rangers, with the extra hit point per level being quite nice, along with the +1 WIS. STR-Rangers should definitely go Mountain, though.
  • Duergar (SCAG/MTOF): +1 STR, Superior Darkvision, advantage on saves against illusions, charm and paralysis, and free Enlarge and Invisibility. Not a bad package, although Sunlight Sensitivity is regrettably quite the pain.

Elf: All Elves get a +2 to DEX, so make that your attack stat. Immunity to magical sleep and advantage vs. charms are very good, as are Darkvision, Trance and automatic proficiency in the all-important skill Perception.

  • Wood: Well, they say cliches exist for a reason. Easily a top Ranger choice with the extra speed, the WIS bonus and the ability to hide in light obscurity.
  • High: At least there are some useful Wizard cantrips that don’t need INT you can pick with this. The INT bonus isn’t the best, though.
  • Drow: Sorry, Drizzt fans, but the Drow is a pretty suboptimal choice. The CHA bonus is worthless, you won't be able to use the Drow's Faerie Fire effectively because it's CHA-based, and while there are ways to get around Sunlight Sensitivity in a lot of cases, it can still be a pain in the butt.
  • Eladrin (MTOF): +1 CHA is bad, but Fey Step is a nice 1/short rest minor-action teleport with a nifty season-based side effect.
  • Sea (MTOF): +1 CON is nice. Unfortunately water breathing and swim speed are very situational, and only really useful in a sea-based campaign.
  • Shadar-kai (MTOF): Now this one’s great. 1/short rest bonus action teleport like the Eladrin, but with a much better stat bonus with +1 CON. And the side effect of this teleport gives you resistance to all damage.

Halfling: +2 to DEX, so you know which route to go with your attack stat. Lucky is straight-up awesome, protecting you from that dreaded natural 1, and moving through occupied spaces opens up a lot of options on the battlefield. Halflings can also ride their animal companions as a mount (provided it's a Medium animal), making the Beast Master option a little more useful for them.

  • Lightfoot: Hiding behind a Medium or larger ally is pretty nice, somewhat making up for its useless +1 CHA.
  • Stout: The +1 CON of this subrace is more useful overall, and plucking the Dwarf's anti-poison defenses is great, too.
  • Ghostwise (SCAG): +1 WIS is good, but telepathy is pretty situational.

Human: Meant to be the most versatile race. One particular variant delivers on that promise.

  • Default/Stock: +1 to all attributes, the bottom three of which aren't going to make a difference, is really quite tame.
  • Variant: The Variant Human, on the other hand, is absolutely fantastic, and in a game that uses feats, arguably the best race for this class considering its attribute needs. The bonus feat means you get a potentially build-making ability at Lv. 1 that other races have to wait until at least Lv. 4 to get, while being a full ASI ahead. That’s huge. And just having an extra feat on top of the other one, maybe two, you planned to take is also really beneficial. On top of that, you get two +1s you can put in any attributes you want, as well as a skill proficiency of your choice.

Aaracocra (EEPC): Yeah, this race is pretty unfair in general with its at-will flight from the start, and especially so for DEX-based Rangers, for whom the +2 DEX and +1 WIS are a perfect stat match. The introductory paragraph pretty much leaves it up to the DM whether or not to even allow you to play this race, and for good reason.

Dragonborn: +2 to STR, so it's obvious which type of Ranger this is for. Resistance to one type of energy is solid, and since you're likely to have a decent CON score, you'll be able to use the Breath Weapon decently under bounded accuracy. That CHA bonus is a waste, though.

Genasi (EEPC): All Genasi get a +2 to CON, a solid stat bonus for all characters. All subraces get a 1/day free spell with no material components.

  • Air: +1 DEX, hold your breath forever as long as you’re not incapacitated, and Levitate as the racial spell. Pretty nice.
  • Earth: +1 STR, ignore some difficult terrain, and the very useful Pass Without Trace as the racial spell. Good.
  • Fire: +1 INT is a waste, making this the worst subrace for Rangers. Darkvision and fire resistance aren’t bad, though.
  • Water: +1 WIS is a relevant Ranger stat even if not optimal, and breathing air and water and having a real swim speed can come in handy in campaigns with a lot of water.

Gith (MTOF): Compulsory +1 INT ensures this race choice will always make a suboptimal Ranger.

  • Githyanki: +2 STR and you eventually get 1/long rest Misty Step. Meh. The Shadar-kai is teleporting once every short rest.
  • Githzerai: +2 WIS, and 1/long rest for Shield isn’t enough to make a substantial difference. Again, meh.

Gnome: Generally a bad race for Rangers, with that +2 to INT being a complete waste. Advantage on all mental stat saving throws vs. magic is about the only real positive. Stick to Halfling if you want to be small.

  • Forest: +1 DEX, a cantrip that’ll be useless without a good INT score, and a cute talk to small animals ability. Not enough to make you a good Ranger.
  • Rock: Nope. +1 CON is OK, but Rangers have no use for tech knowledge.
  • Deep (SCAG/MTOF): +1 DEX and Superior Darkvision. Probably the best Gnome Ranger race by default (damning with faint praise much?), but still not enough for success.

Half-Elf: The immunity to magical sleep and advantage vs. charms that Elves get, plus the two free skills of your choice are tempting, but the +2 CHA bonus is mostly a dealbreaker. The +1 to two other stats helps, but not enough to ever recommend this over a Wood Elf or Variant Human.

Half-Orc: +2 to STR and +1 to CON are great, but what really puts this race over the top as a STR-Ranger are things like adding an extra weapon die to a crit, Darkvision, and staying upright once per day on a would-be KO. Intimidation proficiency is sort of a waste, but the rest of this package is awesome.

Tiefling: Bonuses to your two least useful stats! Don't be a Tiefling … at least not in PHB or MTOF form.

  • Feral (SCAG): On the other hand, if you want to be a Tiefling and have SCAG options available, you could replace that useless +2 CHA with the very useful +2 DEX. You’re still stuck with the also-useless +1 INT, but at least you’re a viable Ranger now.
  • Devil’s Tongue/Hellfire (SCAG): No and no.
  • Winged (SCAG): If your DM lets you, this, together with Feral, is awesome. Replaces those useless Infernal Legacy spells with flight. And since you won’t wear heavy armor anyway, you’ll be putting this to very good use.

Aasimar: The Paladin-lite abilities are pretty strong, but there’s just no getting away from the fact +2 CHA is simply the worst stat bonus for a Ranger, bottom line. None of the three subrace options changes that fact, either.

Firbolg: +2 WIS and +1 STR mean the stats are in the right place for STR-Rangers. Also short-rest recharge Disguise Self and Detect Magic (WIS-based), short-rest recharge round of invisibility and talking to animals and plants are all pretty beneficial. A solid Ranger race.

Goliath: +2 STR and +1 CON, automatic Athletics proficiency, reduce damage taken from something once per short rest and ability to carry and lift more stuff round out a terrific race for STR-Rangers.

Kenku: +2 DEX and +1 WIS and racial training in Acrobatics and Stealth. You won’t be good at the Deception stuff, though, so that takes this down a peg.

Lizardfolk: +2 CON and +1 WIS are two good Ranger stat bonuses (even if not attack stats). A bite that means you’re always armed, swim speed, hold breath for a long time, natural armor that’s better than the standard light armor, 2 free skills from a list that includes the Ranger staples such as Perception, Stealth, Survival and Animal Handling, and a short-rest recharge bonus-action attack.

Tabaxi: +2 DEX is great, and doubling your speed for one turn while giving up your movement for a later turn has its tactical uses. You’re also trained in the all-important Perception and Stealth and get Darkvision. The only real knock on this race Ranger-wise is the +1 CHA.

Triton: +1s to STR, CON and CHA. Two of those stat bonuses are relevant. Aside from that, swim speed, breathe water and air, talk to water creatures, and cold resistance. Also note that of the three racial spells, only Gust of Wind actually uses your CHA for anything, so feel free to cast Fog Cloud or Wall of Water instead.

Subject to DM approval, so consult with your DM first before playing one of these.

Bugbear: The highlight is the extra 5 feet of reach when you make a melee attack (but only on your turn). +2 STR and +1 DEX means it fits both STR- and DEX-Rangers. Also gets Darkvision, free Stealth proficiency and 2d6 extra damage when attacking from surprise. Good one, for sure.

Goblin: Small size, but 30 feet speed. +2 DEX and +1 CON, Darkvision, short-rest recharge extra damage against something bigger than you, and Disengage or Hide as a bonus action (effectively 2/3rd of the Rogue’s Cunning Action) are all great. (You get the best part of Vanish 14 levels early, yay.) Weave through enemy traffic with no fear of OAs, and even use Stealth if you need to.

Hobgoblin: +2 CON, +1 INT (the latter’s a waste), Darkvision, and short-rest recharge power that lets you add up to +5 (or less depending on number of allies you have) to a failed attack, save or ability check. Eh.

Kobold: -2 STR, but you get +2 DEX, so that’s the route to go. The signature ability is Pack Tactics, giving you some sweet advantage practically every round as long as an ally is next to your target. That’s pretty nice, though Sunlight Sensitivity is always a drawback to consider; if it’s not much of a factor in your campaign then this race gets a lot better. A Kobold with Sharpshooter and Crossbow Expert will kill a lot of enemies.

Orc: +2 STR and +1 CON at the expense of -2 INT, which doesn’t hurt you too much since you don’t care about INT. Bonus-action movement of your full speed helps close to melee range quickly, always a plus if you’re melee. Much less so if you’re ranged. Also get Darkvision and free Intimidation proficiency. Pretty solid for a STR-based melee build, actually.

Yuan-ti Pureblood: A fantastic race for those classes that can take advantage of its talents, but unfortunately that's not you. Bonuses to two Ranger dump stats, and you're not likely to have the CHA regardless to put Suggestion or any of its other racial spells to good use.
 
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Gladius Legis

Adventurer
V. Feats

Rangers are pretty MAD overall, so they're likely going to limit themselves to one or two feats (maybe three if a Variant Human). So it's important to pick wisely.

Crossbow Expert: Mandatory if you're using crossbows, especially hand crossbows. With hand crossbows, you get a bonus-action attack every round ... which just so happens to be another chance for Sharpshooter's damage bonus to happen. Ignoring loading means you can execute your full Extra Attacks (and even the Hunter’s Volley) with a crossbow, too. The damage can get outright obscene with this one. You also no longer suffer disadvantage for firing in the thick of melee, which applies on any ranged attacks, not just crossbows, also a tremendous benefit. Obviously, melees ignore.

Great Weapon Master: Mandatory for great weapon Rangers; obviously, don't bother otherwise. If you don't plan on taking this feat, you might as well just go sword-and-board. This feat makes up nearly all of the damage advantage using a great weapon has, thanks to the -5/+10 hit/damage trade. You're most likely to use that when you have advantage or have your attack rolls buffed via Bless or similar, in which case your damage goes through the roof. Bonus-action attacks on crits or death blows are also good against BBEGs and hordes alike.

Polearm Master: Mandatory if you’re going to use a polearm as a main weapon; no need to bother if you’re not. The butt-end attack adds your STR-modifier and makes for a better version of dual-wielding that’s compatible with Great Weapon Master’s hit/damage trade, and the opportunity attacks against enemies entering your reach makes this amazing when combined with Sentinel.

Resilient (CON): Getting proficiency in CON saves, along with a +1 to CON itself, is as good a pick as any for you, especially if you’re melee. CON is targeted often and by some pretty nasty effects. And then there's concentration saves so you stand a better chance of keeping that Hunter's Mark or that Conjure Animals active when you take damage. Horizon Walkers will REALLY want this (and/or War Caster) to keep Haste up.

Sharpshooter: For ranged weapon Rangers, it's a matter of when, not if you're taking this. And ignoring any cover short of full may have you taking this before your first DEX bump. Nixing disadvantage at long range is nice, too. And then there's the infamous -5/+10 hit/damage trade, which Archery Fighting Style substantially mitigates the negative effect of. Woo. Obviously, don't take if you're melee.

War Caster: Like Resilient (CON), and perhaps even in conjunction with it, the advantage on concentration saves can really help you maintain spells like Hunter's Mark or Conjure Animals when you take damage. The ability to perform somatic components with both hands full is also very good for dual-wielders and shield-users; in fact, it’s mandatory if you’re one of those build types and are taking somatic reaction spells like Absorb Elements.

Alert: +5 initiative is good for just about everyone. Can't be surprised is helpful, too.

Defensive Duelist: Only DEX-melees need apply, this one stands a really good chance at turning melee hits against you into misses once every round once your proficiency bonus is around +4 or better. Obviously STR-Rangers and archers ignore. Gloom Stalkers and Horizon Walkers get a defensive reaction of comparable effect as their Lv. 15 features, so they don’t need it either.

Lucky: THE can't-go-wrong feat of the bunch when you can't think of anything else to take.

Magic Initiate: Taking Wizard with this feat and Find Familiar as your 1st-level spell is a good way to get a better animal companion than the Beast Master’s (certainly much easier to replace upon death), while still taking a much better Ranger archetype. Getting two cantrips with the deal is nice, too; there’s some useful and/or fun ones that don’t use your casting stat.

Ritual Caster: Another good way to get Find Familiar (again, choose Wizard with this feat). WIS 13 is good for a Ranger to have in general, so it’s easy to qualify for, and you’ll generally just get a lot of utility without the cost of any of your spell slots.

Sentinel: If you played the Fighter in 4th Edition, this will look very familiar; this is essentially the 4e Fighter's Combat Challenge and part of Combat Superiority packaged into one feat. And while Rangers aren't quite as well suited to playing a defender role as Fighters, Paladins and Barbarians, getting or threatening more damage is still pretty nice (especially if the DMG marking rules are in effect). If you're a Polearm Master build, the value of this goes way up, as it takes on a whole new meaning with its OAs stopping enemy movement and keeping approaching enemies possibly out of reach from you. Obviously, ranged builds ignore.

Shield Master: One of the more controversial feats recently. The newest Sage Advice isn’t perfectly clear, either, but it at least seems to allow for you to bonus-action shove after making one attack with your action (and thus committing to taking an Attack action), and then making your other attack(s) after. Which makes this pretty good from Lv. 5 onward, as you can at least get one attack with advantage after shoving prone. Becomes even better if your DM rules that you can shove before all your attacks as long as you declare you’re taking the Attack action. Becomes rather third-rate if your DM rules you can only shove after making all attacks of your Attack action. The two DEX-save benefits are pretty nice, too, but let’s face it, that’s not what you’re really here for.

Dual Wielder: +1 to AC while dual-wielding is pretty nice, and you now also get to dual-wield with weapons that aren't light (e.g. rapiers, longswords, battleaxes, warhammers, etc.) for an extra point of damage above the usual shortswords setup. Not a bad feat to take, for admittedly a suboptimal mode of attack to begin with.

Mobile: Extra speed and free disengagement from enemies you attack. Decent.

Healer: Good benefits for healing kit use, but this feat should typically be left to a Thief.

Heavily Armored: Well, if you want to play a less-MAD version of the STR-Ranger (one that doesn’t need a 14 DEX), and you don’t want to start as a Fighter and then multiclass to Ranger, here you go. You won’t have any Stealth capability to speak of, though, which just isn’t very Ranger-like. You do get +1 STR for your troubles.

Heavy Armor Master: If you somehow do opt for a heavy armor STR-Ranger (either via starting as a Fighter or taking the Heavily Armored feat), then the damage resistance is pretty nice. But again, going heavy armor as a Ranger has its own drawbacks despite the lesser MAD. And spending two feats on heavy armor use doesn’t sound like a very good idea, regardless. At least you get +1 STR here, too.

Mage Slayer: Effective if you fight a lot of spellcasters, but you’ll likely have higher priorities.

Mounted Combatant: Might be worth a look for a Halfling Beast Master riding their companion as a mount. For anyone else, meh.

Observant: Bonus to passive Perception and Investigation. Also +1 to WIS or INT. You have higher priorities.

Skilled: 3 more skill (or tool) proficiencies is nice, but you're feat and ASI-starved. Just no room to make this a priority.

Tavern Brawler: +1 STR or CON, bonus-action grapple and better unarmed attacks. Interesting if you want to make a niche grappler build, but Ranger isn’t exactly the best class for that.

Tough: ONLY take at all if you already maxed out CON at 20. Not before.

Athlete: +1 STR or DEX and a few benefits you don’t really need. Pass.

Actor: +1 CHA if you care. You’re not a Bard and Deception and Performance are likely not your thing. Pass.

Charger: Beyond useless. Next.

Dungeon Delver: Leave the trapfinding and trap handling to the Rogue.

Durable: Just take +2 CON, or even Resilient (CON), instead.

Elemental Adept: You’re not a Wizard or Sorcerer (and it’s not all that great for them, either).

Grappler: Useless even for characters who actually grapple. Grapple + shove accomplishes everything this feat does but better. Pin is beyond worthless as written.

Inspiring Leader: Great feat, but you won’t have the CHA to qualify.

Lightly Armored/Moderately Armored/Weapon Master: You’re already proficient in the armor, shields, and weapons in question.

Keen Mind: Boosts a dump stat with marginal benefits attached.

Linguist: +1 INT, three languages and a secret writing code. Whatever.

Martial Adept: A single d6 Superiority Die is weak. Multiclass 3 Fighter levels if you want maneuvers that badly.

Medium Armor Master: A DEX-Ranger could get 1 more AC with this feat than from studded leather, but that’s hardly worth an entire feat.

Savage Attacker: Damage reroll only applies to weapon dice, and it's just once a turn regardless. Weaksauce.

Skulker: The first benefit post-errata is of questionable worth even for a Stealth-using character. And the rest of it is isn’t much better.

Spell Sniper: Of the magic-granting feats this is easily the worst. Take Magic Initiative or Ritual Caster instead. You can’t get a familiar with this one.



Racial Feats (XGTE)

A new concept introduced with the XGTE, Racial Feats can only be taken by characters of a certain race. To be honest, only a few of these are really worth taking in general on their own merits (though many of them come with a +1 to an ability score that may be useful for rounding out your stats at even numbers).

Elven Accuracy (Elf or Half-Elf): Good for DEX-Rangers (STR-Rangers need not apply), especially in parties where you can get lots of advantage. (Or a Lv. 14 ranged Ranger with Vanish.) It gives you a sort of “super advantage” when you have advantage on attacks with DEX. You also get +1 to DEX (or WIS, INT or CHA).

Prodigy (Human or Half-Elf or Half-Orc): Free skill proficiency, tool proficiency, language and, the best part, Expertise of one skill. Can actually be a worthwhile pick, particularly Expertising Athletics for grapplers and Shield Masters so their craft can be that much more irresistible.

Bountiful Luck (Halfling): Basically extend your Lucky trait to an ally. Eh.

Dragon Hide (Dragonborn): Natural armor and natural weapons for unarmed strikes. Typically not worth it, but at least you get +1 STR, CON or CHA.

Drow High Magic (Drow): Detect Magic at will and Levitate and Dispel Magic (CHA-based) with 1/day slotless casting. Still not really worth a feat.

Dwarven Fortitude (Dwarf): +1 CON, and a modicum of healing attached to your Hit Dice and Dodge action. Hardly a staple, but if you need to even out CON at late levels, it’s there.

Fade Away (Gnome): DEX-based Gnomes may appreciate the +1 to DEX (not INT), with a decent but hardly staple invisibility reaction.

Fey Teleportation (High Elf): Misty Step 1/short rest, and also +1 CHA or INT and extra language. One of the better racial feats, but still not your thing, and the stat bonuses are worthless to you.

Infernal Constitution (Tiefling): Resistance to cold and poison damage and advantage on saves vs. poison. Still not really worth a precious feat slot. +1 CON, too, which is nice at least.

Orcish Fury (Half-Orc): 1/short rest modest damage boost and a highly conditional extra attack when you’re about to get KO-ed but use Relentless Endurance. Again, hardly a staple ability, but at least it also comes with +1 STR or CON.

Second Chance (Halfling): 1/short rest make an enemy reroll an attack against you when you get hit. Not enough by itself, but coming with +1 DEX, CON or CHA helps.

Squat Nimbleness (Dwarf or Small race): +1 STR or DEX, faster walking speed to match other races, free Athletics or Acrobatics proficiency and easier grapple escapes. Not really inspiring, but if you need to even out STR or DEX, you could do worse.

Wood Elf Magic (Wood Elf): Free Druid cantrip and Longstrider and Pass Without Trace as slotless casts 1/long rest. Eh.

Dragon Fear (Dragonborn): You won’t have the CHA to put this to good use, so don’t even try.

Flames of Phlegethos (Tiefling): You don’t have that many quality fire spells, or fire spells at all, really.
 
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Gladius Legis

Adventurer
VI. Spells


You are a class that has to learn spells, rather than prepares them, thus limiting your versatility as compared to a class such as the Druid, Cleric or Paladin. Furthermore, you learn the least amount of spells in the game, so you must pick wisely. (At most you'll know around two spells per spell level on average.) Also, you can retrain a spell after every level you gain, and you might be making use of that at times.

For your convenience, spells will have their components listed, along with their action type (action, reaction, bonus action) and if they require Concentration. An "M" with an asterisk (*) means that the material component has a cost and/or is consumed by the spell, which means you need more than just your component pouch. Also, a WIS will denote if the spell uses the Ranger’s Wisdom for anything remarkable, such as a saving throw; some Rangers may not increase their WIS high enough to be a casting stat and will thus want to know whether to avoid considering those spells.



Lv. 1 Spells (Ranger Lv. 2)

Hunter's Mark: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. This spell might as well be a class feature. It is the Ranger class' staple damage boost, applying to every single weapon attack you make against the target you marked with this. Every other Concentration spell you consider will have to be measured against this one. You can mark a new target after you killed a prior one as long as you're still concentrating on this spell, using another bonus action. Note that some builds will have rounds where they’ll have to weigh different options for their bonus action (especially dual-wielders, Crossbow Experts, Polearm Masters, Horizon Walkers, Monster Slayers, and Beast Masters), but even those builds should put this spell to use enough, particularly against boss-type enemies, to make it a vital part of their arsenal.

Absorb Elements (EEPC/XGTE): 1 reaction; S. A strong defensive reaction spell against elemental damage which also boosts your offense the following turn. Very nice. Note, however, that you will need War Caster to cast this when dual-wielding or using a shield, because of the somatic component, so if you’re one of those builds you’ll want to weigh whether you’re going to take that feat before taking this spell.

Goodberry: 1 action; V,S,M. Overall, the Ranger's "healing" spell of choice at this level, as long as it's cast out of combat. The total healing amount just edges out a Cure Wounds cast with a 1st-level slot, and it can be spread out among allies as need. This spell also doubles as free food creation, which amusingly also means it renders the Ranger's enhanced foraging ability from Natural Explorer kind of redundant.

Hail of Thorns: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration; WIS. You get a pretty good low-level AoE spell if you favor ranged weapons. It'll do its thing as part of your normal attack routine.

Zephyr Strike (XGTE): 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. Walk through enemy forces to your heart’s content without drawing OAs for a full minute. That’s a really good mobility boost for melee Rangers and really not bad for any build. The one-time attack with advantage and extra damage is also followed by 30 feet extra speed, which is good for any Ranger, melee or ranged.

Beast Bond (EEPC/XGTE): 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Basically, this is a spell for melee Beast Masters who don’t take a Wolf. Which I would call a mandatory spell for those Beast Master builds if it were a good idea to constantly have the beast in the thick of combat to begin with. Obviously, everyone else ignore this spell.

Ensnaring Strike: 1 bonus action; V; Concentration; WIS. Restraining with piercing damage round-to-round when you hit with a weapon attack (melee or ranged) after casting this. It’s solid early but quickly loses value at higher levels when you face more Large and larger enemies.

Alarm: 1 minute; V,S,M. Has its uses, but you can do without it.

Animal Friendship: 1 action; V,S,M; WIS. Charm an animal for a day. It’s Ranger-y, to be sure, but there’s just better things to take.

Cure Wounds: 1 action; V,S. Goodberry is better. And if you need to stabilize a dying ally, use a Medicine check.

Fog Cloud: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Creating a place to hide on a whim is neat, but, again, your opportunities are too few to give this a serious look.

Snare (XGTE): 1 minute; S,M*; WIS. Admittedly cool and flavorful for the Ranger, but too limited in use to seriously consider.

Speak with Animals: 1 action; V,S. Interesting, probably fun, and can get decent information, but generally not a priority.

Detect Magic: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Your repertoire of learned spells is limited and precious. Don't waste such opportunities on spells like this.

Detect Poison and Disease: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. No.

Jump: 1 action; V,S,M. Definitely not worth one of your precious learned spells.

Longstrider: 1 action; V,S,M. No. There’s just much better spells to learn with your limited repertoire.

Gloom Stalker:

Disguise Self: 1 action; V,S; WIS. Not something you’ll cast all the time, but having it on tap for when it is useful is appreciated.

Horizon Walker, Monster Slayer:

Protection from Evil and Good: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Good to have on tap when you’re about to face the creature types on the list.
 
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Gladius Legis

Adventurer
Lv. 2 Spells (Ranger Lv. 5)

Healing Spirit (XGTE): 1 bonus action; V,S; Concentration. Why, yes, you do get one of the best healing spells in the game, and most definitely the best healing spell within the first five levels of spells. The whole party can just walk through the spirit every round outside of combat and heal up as much as they need to. Eat your heart out, Paladin.

Pass without Trace: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. +10 to the whole party’s Stealth checks means even the party’s walking tin cans with 10 DEX can succeed at them much of the time. Which is quite awesome when a stealthy approach is preferred.

Spike Growth: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration; WIS. This is a terrific battlefield control spell for archers, who are likely to have the high WIS to put it to optimal use. Enemy hordes without a good Perception skill will die in bunches from the damage this spell can do, with your arrows or bolts picking off any survivors.

Lesser Restoration: 1 action; V,S. Ends one disease, or one of blinded, deafened, paralyzed or poisoned. Good one to keep around.

Silence: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. This is great if you fight spellcasters a lot. It’s pretty much death for them, as nearly all spells have a verbal component. Even if you don’t fight them constantly, you probably will occasionally at least, making this useful to keep on tap.

Beast Sense: 1 action; S; Concentration. Has its uses in scouting, but generally you should pass on it.

Darkvision: 1 action; V,S,M. Completely useless if you already have Darkvision somehow (race, Gloom Stalker). And even if you don’t, Goggles of Night are merely uncommon and require no attunement, so you’ll probably find some at some point.

Protection from Poison: 1 action; V,S. Generally inferior to Lesser Restoration. The advantage on saves against poison and resistance to poison damage is too situational to really matter.

Animal Messenger: 1 action; V,S,M. Cute, but no.

Barkskin: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Trap. Shame what an old classic has been reduced to. By the time you get this, your AC will likely be 16 or higher already. A Beast Master might make use of this early, depending on their pet choice, but eventually even the beast's AC will scale to or past 16. And it's a Concentration spell besides, so it competes with Hunter's Mark and just doesn't measure up.

Cordon of Arrows: 1 action; V,S,M; WIS. Oh, my, this is just weak.

Find Traps: 1 action; V,S. Your Perception skill should find most traps without this spell.

Locate Animals or Plants: 1 action; V,S,M. No.

Locate Object: 1 action; V,S,M. No.

Gloom Stalker:

Rope Trick: 1 action; V,S,M. Guarantee the whole party a safe short rest. Nice.

Horizon Walker:

Misty Step: 1 bonus action; V. 30-foot bonus-action teleport. It’s glorious, and you’ll use it a lot.

Monster Slayer:

Zone of Truth: 1 action; V,S; WIS. Useful for interrogations, sure, but how often will you conduct those?
 
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Gladius Legis

Adventurer
Lv. 3 Spells (Ranger Lv. 9)

Conjure Animals: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Even after the Sage Advice ruling making it so the DM gets to choose which animals show up, this is far, far and away the best spell at this level for any Ranger. Without exception, it should be every Ranger’s pick once they get to 9th level. It’s a terrific spell with both endless utility and significant combat presence.

Conjure Barrage: 1 action; V,S,M; WIS. 3d8 (save for half) is a bit on the low side damage-wise, but the 60-foot cone is a decent area of effect. Archer Hunters will want to stick with Lightning Arrow, but this is probably the AoE of choice at this level for other Rangers. Unlike Lightning Arrow it doesn’t take your concentration, either.

Lightning Arrow: 1 bonus action; V,S; Concentration; WIS. 10’ radius isn’t necessarily the best, but Lightning Arrow’s advantage is that it’s used as part of your usual attack routines — it can even be used as the first shot of an Archer Hunter’s Volley to stack the AoE damage on top of the Volley’s damage.

Wind Wall: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration; WIS. A decent defensive spell that's effective against hordes of Small or smaller enemies, who can’t pass through it. Also worthwhile against hordes of enemies who use ranged attacks short of boulders or siege engines.

Nondetection: 1 action; V,S,M*. Good when the situation warrants, but said situation is too infrequent to spend a learn on this one. Leave this to a full caster.

Plant Growth: 1 action/8 hours; V,S. Leave this one to Druids and Paladins of the Ancients.

Protection from Energy: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Useful when it's warranted, but again, one best left to a caster with more flexibility.

Speak with Plants: 1 action; V,S. Interesting, but pass on this.

Water Breathing: 1 action; V,S,M. Again, one best left to more flexible casters. If you spend most of your time at sea this might be worth a look.

Water Walk: 1 action; V,S,M. Again, leave to other casters.

Daylight: 1 action; V,S. Torches are a thing.

Flame Arrows (EEPC/XGTE): 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Eww. This is simply as bad as it gets. Use your known spell, 3rd-level spell slot and concentration on something, anything else. Preferably an upcast 8-hour Hunter’s Mark or a Conjure Animals.

Gloom Stalker:

Fear: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration; WIS. A top-flight AoE disabler and debuff. Frightened is a powerful condition, and as long as the enemy can see you they’re not getting another save to end this.

Horizon Walker:

Haste: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. The spell that makes Horizon Walkers a real offensive threat starting at Lv. 9. Just make sure, ESPECIALLY if you’re melee, to have Resilient (CON) and/or War Caster by Lv. 8 so you’ll be ready to cast this and minimize your chances of losing concentration, because the consequences of doing so aren’t so fun.

Monster Slayer:

Magic Circle: 1 minute; V,S,M; WIS. Very situational and pretty underwhelming.
 
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Gladius Legis

Adventurer
Lv. 4 Spells (Ranger Lv. 13)

Freedom of Movement: 1 action; V,S,M. Ignoring difficult terrain is good, automatic escapes from grapples is great, and immunity to paralyzed and restrained is bloody fantastic. A key defensive buff, moreso since it doesn't use Concentration.

Guardian of Nature (XGTE): 1 bonus action; V; Concentration. In one form or another, you get advantage on all your attacks for the fight, Great Tree for DEX (and WIS if that’s relevant) and Primal Beast for STR. Which is, of course, awesome. The Great Tree gets the added bonus of being easier to maintain concentration on with advantage on CON saves. It’s not as high priority for Gloom Stalkers, who get Greater Invisibility, but even for them it’s not a bad idea down the road.

Conjure Woodland Beings: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. Remember that Sage Advice dictates that the DM chooses which creatures show up. Which put the kibosh on the 8 Pixies cheese from early in the edition’s life cycle. None of the other possibilities are as effective in combat as what Conjure Animals offers, either. That said, a summon spell is still a summon spell and still has its uses.

Stoneskin: 1 action; V,S,M*; Concentration. The old classic gives resistance to all the typical weapon damage types from nonmagical weapons, which protects you from a lot of things even at high CRs. 100 gp cost per casting ain’t cheap, though.

Grasping Vine: 1 bonus action; V,S; Concentration; WIS. A fairly cool-sounding battlefield control spell, but one you don't really need.

Locate Creature: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration. How about no.

Gloom Stalker:

Greater Invisibility: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Cast on yourself, click on Sharpshooter or Great Weapon Master, and laugh. Or cast on a Fighter with one of those feats, or any Rogue, and laugh even harder. Blindsight, truesight and tremorsense can thwart this spell, though, so Gloom Stalkers may still want to consider taking Guardian of Nature at some point to cover their bases on getting advantage.

Horizon Walker, Monster Slayer:

Banishment: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration; WIS. Removing an enemy from the battlefield for a while is a strong ability. This spell’s all-or-nothing quality holds it back a little, but it tests the Charisma save, which many enemies won’t be good at.
 
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Gladius Legis

Adventurer
Lv. 5 Spells (Ranger Lv. 17)

Conjure Volley: 1 action; V,S,M; WIS. The Ranger's best anti-horde spell, and it's a good one. Damage is actually slightly above that of a Fireball upcast with a 5th-level slot, with twice the radius (which equals 4 times the area of effect). And it’s still half damage on save, too. No Ranger at this level, melee or ranged, should go without this spell; a melee Ranger should still keep a thrown weapon handy for this.

Swift Quiver: 1 bonus action; V,S,M; Concentration. Limitless ammunition while it's in effect, plus two extra ranged attacks every round as a bonus action. Unfortunately the concentration requirement means you can't have it running at the same time as Hunter's Mark, Conjure Animals, or Guardian of Nature, but with Sharpshooter and some source of advantage or other attack roll boost this will come out ahead of those spells.

Wrath of Nature (XGTE): 1 action; V,S; Concentration; WIS. A fairly good battlefield control spell with a huge area (60-foot cube) if you have a caster-grade WIS. The Roots and Vines part, in particular, is a nice restraining effect on an enemy of any size, since they have to use both their action and an Athletics check to escape. The Rocks part can really hurt flyers in the cube.

Commune with Nature: 1 minute; V,S. The knowledge gained can be nice, but this is best left to Druids and Oath of Ancients Paladins, who have more flexibility.

Tree Stride: 1 action; V,S; Concentration. Can't deny the cool factor and the convenience at times, but your limited spell opportunities are best spent elsewhere.

Steel Wind Strike (XGTE): 1 action; S,M; WIS. Yes, it looks cool, but that’s all it’s got going for it. By every practical measure, it is greatly outclassed by Conjure Volley in the same function.

Gloom Stalker:

Seeming: 1 action; V,S; WIS. Mass Disguise Self, basically. Pretty disappointing for Lv. 17.

Horizon Walker:

Teleportation Circle: 1 minute; V,M*. Can be pretty handy for exploration purposes. You can even make your own permanent circle after a year.

Monster Slayer:

Hold Monster: 1 action; V,S,M; Concentration, WIS. Paralysis is an awesome effect. This spell however is held back from greatness by (a) its all-or-nothing quality in regards to saving against it, (b) allowing the enemy a save every round, and (c ) the fact that at Lv. 17, you’re facing a lot of enemies with Legendary Resistance.
 
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Gladius Legis

Adventurer
VII. Equipment


The basics:

  • Rapier (DEX-based, single weapon); 2 shortswords (DEX-based, dual-wielding); longsword (STR-based, Shield Master); OR glaive or halberd (STR-based, Polearm Master)
  • Longbow; OR hand crossbow (Crossbow Expert)
  • Shield (if not dual-wielding or Polearm Master)
  • Component pouch, for material spell components
  • Medium armor (chain shirt at Lv. 1). If you take DEX to at least 18, switch to studded leather. If you're STR-based, get breastplate once you can afford it.


Noteworthy magic items

Remember that a character can only be attuned to three magic items at one time. If an item requires attunement, it will be noted, along with other important properties like rarity and types of armor/weapon.

Weapons:

  • Weapon +1/+2/+3: Uncommon/rare/very rare. In practice, the humble basic magic weapon will be your best option in a lot of cases. A weapon that gives a bonus to hit and damage will actually do more for your DPR figures than most other fancier magic weapons that do not have such bonuses (especially the hit bonus). That it doesn’t require attunement is an added plus.
  • Oathbow: Very rare; Longbow; Attunement. Basically, a bosskiller weapon. Gives you advantage against one enemy until they’re dead, along with a hefty damage boost (3d6) on each hit. That easily makes up for the lack of straight plusses to hit/damage in such fights and then some. Not as strong battle-to-battle as a straight +X weapon, but definitely awesome at its purpose.
  • Scimitar of Speed: Very rare; Scimitar; Attunement. If you’re a melee DEX-Ranger going sword-and-board, this is the way to get your bonus attack. It’s also a +2 hit/damage weapon. Very solid.
  • Sunblade: Rare; Longsword; Attunement. It’s literally a lightsaber! It’s nominally a longsword, but it’s finesse, making it fair game for a DEX-attacker to use. +2 to hit and damage, plus 1d8 extra damage vs. undead.
  • Vorpal Sword: Legendary; Any sword that deals slashing; Attunement. +3 hit/damage weapon, so top of the line there, and on top of that you get to ignore damage resistance. Plus your crit can deal either death or big extra damage, depending on the enemy. Pretty well worth the attunement slot, all things considered. If you’re DEX-based, your only Vorpal option is the scimitar, if you were wondering.

Armor:

  • Shield +1/+2/+3: Uncommon/rare/very rare. More AC from your shield is good. Not requiring attunement is even better.
  • Armor +1/+2/+3: Rare/very rare/legendary; Any armor. The basic magic armor is as good as anything, straight plusses to AC being the most universally useful benefit. It doesn’t require attunement, either, leaving a slot open for something else.

Amulets:

  • Amulet of Health: Rare; Attunement. Sets CON to 19. Good for you, as you’re not likely to boost your CON that high naturally.

Belts:

  • Belt of Giant Strength: Rare/very rare/legendary; Attunement. Depending on the type of giant it’s based on, sets your STR from anywhere between 21 and 29. If you're a melee Ranger, this is definitely your overall preferred type of belt to wear, and should definitely be one of your three attuned items as soon as you get one. For STR-Rangers, this can mean delaying a STR 20 in favor of a feat you really want. For DEX-Rangers in melee, consider this one a boost to attack and damage rolls with more weapon options open to you.

Bracers:

  • Bracers of Archery: Uncommon; Attunement. +2 to damage with longbows and shortbows! If one of those is your main weapon, you want this one ASAP.

Headbands:

  • Headband of Intellect: Uncommon; Attunement. Sets INT at 19. If you plan on harvesting poisons often, you might give this a look.
 
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Gladius Legis

Adventurer
VIII. Multiclassing


Basics to remember:
  • You need to meet the attribute prerequisites of ALL your planned classes, including your initial class. So, to multiclass as a Ranger, you’ll always need at least DEX 13 and WIS 13, in addition to the prerequisite of any other classes you want. Making it a little more difficult for Rangers to multiclass and limiting their class options.
  • Multiple instances of Extra Attack do not stack. Want three attacks? Take 11 Fighter levels. It’s the only way.
  • Ability Score Increases, and by extension feats, are considered class features at set levels like everything else. Which means in many cases, you may fall short of the five expected of most single-class characters’ progression. Sometimes being an ASI/feat short may be worth it, but more often it may not be. Being two or more ASI/feats short is almost never worth it. Consider the tradeoffs carefully, in any event.
  • You NEVER get the saving throw proficiencies of your new class. If you want another class’ save proficiencies to start, then you need to start as a member of that class.


Strive for 5:

A general look at all the classes will show you that the class’ 5th level is where a MASSIVE power jump occurs, particularly offensively. Warrior-type classes get their Extra Attack at that level. Full spellcaster classes get 3rd-level spells, the first real powerful level of spells. For Rogues, that’s when Sneak Attack really starts taking off. While all classes have their other major and significant levels, Lv. 5 is the first and most important of them all.

Ergo, if you’re going for a multiclass build of any sort, your first goal is to hit Lv. 5 in one class ASAP, likely your major. Pretty much without exception. Which means if you’re starting and majoring as a Ranger, you want to be a Ranger 5 and get Extra Attack before you even think of branching out.

If you started as Lv. 1 in another class (which does have its merits for some builds, notably Fighter and Rogue dips), then you need to take your next 5 levels in the Ranger class. Getting to Lv. 5 one level behind is probably tolerable, at worst you limit yourself to just one level of inadequacy. Falling two or more levels behind in that department, on the other hand, is a terrible idea.

Example of above: If dipping Fighter, starting as a Fighter gets automatic CON save proficiency without giving up anything else (you gain your extra skill back when multiclassing into Ranger). That’s great! But your next 5 levels should be all Ranger. You’ll get Extra Attack at character Lv. 6, then, which is a level late, but probably tolerable for most. As tempting as Action Surge looks at Fighter 2, hold off on it until you took your 5 vital Ranger levels. (After all, Action Surge works much better with Extra Attack in play, anyway.)


What you give up:

When planning a multiclass build for the long term, all the way to Lv. 20, it’s important to look at your primary class’ last few features, counting backwards from Lv. 20, and compare them to the levels from your secondary class(es)’ to see if it’s a build worth pursuing.

  • Lv. 20 Ranger for Lv. 1 dip: You give up that weak Ranger capstone, and that’s it. Plenty of Rangers will EAGERLY give this up for another class’ Lv. 1 gains.
  • Lv. 19 Ranger for Lv. 2 dip: You give up your last ASI or feat, your final learned spell, and one 5th-level spell slot (if you don’t multiclass with another caster). That is pretty significant. You want to make sure that what you gain at Lv. 2 (or Lv. 3 if you’re going further in your dip) is worth this sacrifice. Fighter’s Action Surge or Rogue’s Cunning Action? Yeah, I’d say that’s worth it. The Monk’s Lv. 2, on the other hand? Not worth it at all.
  • Lv. 18 Ranger for Lv. 3 dip: You give up Feral Senses, which is a solid feature, but nothing that can’t be traded away for another class’ robust Lv. 3 abilities (looking at Fighter and Assassin Rogue, in particular.)
  • Lv. 17 Ranger for Lv. 4 dip: Well, if you want to get back to your maximum number of ASIs/feats, here you go. Unfortunately, the price you pay for that is 5th-level Ranger spells, a few of which are pretty strong, and another learned spell. It’s up to you to decide whether such a trade is worth it.
  • Lv. 16 Ranger for Lv. 5 dip: You give up another ASI/feat, knocking you back to one less than the maximum. This is not a level you want to give up lightly. Remember that Extra Attack from another class does not stack. And while a full caster’s 3rd-level spell list might look good, it’s probably not enough to consider taking Lv. 5 in that class unless you’re going for something else a few more levels into that class. Thus, if you’re going to stop at a Lv. 5 dip, that class needs to have a particularly appealing feature beyond a new spell level or Extra Attack (the Rogue’s Uncanny Dodge might qualify); otherwise, don’t bother.
  • Lv. 15 Ranger for Lv. 6 dip: Hunters and Beast Masters both give up a fairly significant feature here, along with a learned spell, and (if you didn’t MC with another caster) a 4th-level spell slot. Not a level to be given up lightly. That Lv. 6 feature from your dip class had better be really strong.
  • Lv. 14 Ranger for Lv. 7 dip: You give up Vanish and your third Favored Enemy. Very easy level to give up for a Rogue MC that’s made it this far. (Vanish is mostly redundant with Cunning Action, and Rogue 7 gets Evasion.) Otherwise, Vanish does have its appeal, but isn’t anything that can’t be given up, and a third Favored Enemy is quite easy to sacrifice.


Multiclass options:

Barbarian: Only STR-Rangers will take this, and they’ll probably want STR, DEX and WIS at 13 or higher regardless, so you’re not stretching yourself any thinner than you already are there. You do get some nice features. If planning this multi, it’s better to start as a Barbarian thanks to Constitution save proficiency, and you get your extra skill back when you go into Ranger.

  • Lv. 1: 2 uses of Rage per day. Better than the Ranger capstone, at least.
  • Lv. 2: Reckless Attack for on-demand advantage with STR-attacks, but you’ll be very vulnerable after. You should really only use it when you’re raging, or if you really just need to kill an enemy.
  • Lv. 3: Rage up to 3 uses per day, and if you go Bear Totem you get resistance to all damage other than psychic. Good.

Bard: Requires CHA 13, and you don’t get enough in return to be worth it.

Cleric: One-level dip here can get you cantrips and 1st-level Cleric spells (which are stat-compatible being WIS-based), along with a potentially nice 1st-level Domain benefit. If you start as a Cleric, you get Wisdom save proficiency, which is better than DEX on the whole, and you still get your extra skill back when you MC Ranger.

  • Lv. 1: 3 cantrips (WIS-based, Guidance should be one), 1st-level Cleric spells in your arsenal, and a 1st-level Domain Benefit. You have several options there. Nature’s Acolyte of Nature can get you Shillelagh, which would open up an interesting option to use WIS as a melee attack stat. Life, Light and Tempest are also solid choices.

Druid: Much like the Cleric, get WIS-based cantrips (including possibly Shillelagh for WIS-based melee) and 1st-level Druid spells. Also like with the Cleric, you might want to start Lv. 1 as a Druid to get Wisdom as a save proficiency.

  • Lv. 1: 2 WIS-based cantrips (including Guidance and possibly Shillelagh) and 1st-level Druid spells in your arsenal. A solid level, and can be more useful overall than the Ranger’s capstone.
  • Lv. 2: Land is better for dipping purposes. Natural Recovery is quite nice. Wild Shape will be more for utility, scouting and disguise, not for combat.

Fighter: If you plan a multi here, it’s pretty much strictly better to start as a Fighter. You get Constitution as a save proficiency, the best “common” save to get, and you get your extra skill proficiency back when you MC into Ranger. Easy as cake for all would-be Rangers who have the DEX 13 and WIS 13 prerequisites covered.

  • Lv. 1: Another Fighting Style can be quite good, and Second Wind is there when you need it.
  • Lv. 2: Action Surge. Fun fact if you’re a Gloom Stalker: Since the Dread Ambusher attack is part of your first-round Attack action, that attack repeats when you Action Surge in the first round. Lv. 11+ Hunters will also like using Action Surge to Volley or Whirlwind Attack a horde twice.
  • Lv. 3: Battle Master is the best pick of archetype overall, with the healthy short rest-recharge arsenal (4 d8 Superiority Dice, 3 maneuvers).

Monk: A solid one-level dip for a Ranger to give you a little more versatility.

  • Lv. 1: Unarmored Defense can result in a higher AC than studded leather if you maxed out DEX and WIS (mostly true of an archer build). And Martial Arts gives you a quick, always ready melee option complete with a bonus-action attack every round.

Paladin: You need STR, DEX, WIS, and CHA all at 13. That is ultra-MAD to the point it’s flat-out prohibitive for most. If you are willing and/or able to go with this, you do get some nice things in return. Paladin levels also add to yours to determine spell slots, so that’s nice.

  • Lv. 1: Go further or don’t bother.
  • Lv. 2: Divine Smite, giving you some tasty nova potential with your spell slots. You also get access to Bless, which is awesome and you’ll definitely want to cast.
  • Lv. 3: Oath of Vengeance is definitely the way to go with its straight-up advantage for the biggest boss enemies. It’s not CHA-dependent like so many other Channel Divinities are. Vengeance also gets Hunter’s Mark as an Oath spell, so you can learn something else on your Ranger list, now.

Rogue: Best to start as a Rogue if you're heading this route, since you get one more skill to start, then another one still when you MC Ranger. Both start off with DEX save proficiency, so no change there.

  • Lv. 1: Expertise in two skills and 1d6 Sneak Attack make for a solid replacement for your lousy capstone. Start as a Rogue and get that extra skill and free thieves’ tools proficiency while you’re at it.
  • Lv. 2: Cunning Action is simply one of the best features in the game.
  • Lv. 3: Assassin for the surprise auto-crits, which go VERY nicely with the Gloom Stalker’s first-round extra attack, I might add. Arcane Trickster might also be worth a look if you plan on taking more Rogue levels, allowing you to recoup some spell slots.

Sorcerer: CHA 13 requirement, with not enough in return. You won’t get enough sorcery points to play with Metamagic consistently enough to make the extra MAD worth it.

Warlock: CHA 13 requirement, with not enough in return. Sure, Hex is better than Hunter’s Mark, but not by enough to be worth the extra MAD.

Wizard: INT 13 requirement, with not enough in return. Take Magic Initiate or Ritual Caster instead if you want Find Familiar.
 
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Gladius Legis

Adventurer
IX. FAQ


What about the Revised Ranger?

This handbook only deals with material published in final form in an official WOTC sourcebook. Unearthed Arcana is considered playtest material, so this guide won’t go in depth on the Revised Ranger.

But since you asked, what do I think of it, generally? It’s an improvement in many ways. It would’ve needed some ironing out for final publication (that new version of Natural Explorer is FAR too multiclass-friendly for a Lv. 1 feature), but it was definitely steering the Ranger in the right direction, redoing many of the features I rated purple and red in this guide into far more useful versions. It even made the Beast Master (re-imagined as the Beast Conclave) worthwhile! At least until it got unceremoniously jettisoned.

At least the possibility stays alive of alternative class features that could give the existing Ranger some things similar to what the Revised Ranger got, so here’s to hoping.

The capstone still sucks, though. That just needs a complete redo. The capstone applying to all enemies just made it suck somewhat less. Vanish could also stand to be moved a few levels earlier and replaced with something else more suitable for Lv. 14.

Also, thing is, I like the concept of Favored Terrain, it’s just that the PHB execution of that concept is worthless. The Revised Ranger pretty much just scrapped it altogether, which made me a bit sad. As I mentioned when describing Natural Explorer, Favored Terrains would’ve been great if they gave you a constant benefit unique to the terrain you selected, but that applies everywhere you go.
 
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Gladius Legis

Adventurer
X. Builds and Combos


Your most archetypical Ranger, with your most archetypical subclass.

Race: Wood Elf
Background: Outlander
Alignment: CG

Proficient skills: Perception (WIS), Insight (WIS), Stealth (DEX), Survival (WIS), Athletics (STR), Acrobatics (DEX)
Proficient tools: Musical instrument (one type)

Armor: Studded Leather
Weapon: Longbow
Other: Component pouch

Point buy array: 15, 15, 14, 10, 8, 8

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 8, DEX 17, CON 14, INT 10, WIS 16, CHA 8
Lv. 4: STR 8, DEX 17, CON 14, INT 10, WIS 16, CHA 8, Sharpshooter
Lv. 8: STR 8, DEX 18, CON 15, INT 10, WIS 16, CHA 8, Sharpshooter
Lv. 12: STR 8, DEX 20, CON 15, INT 10, WIS 16, CHA 8, Sharpshooter
Lv. 16: STR 8, DEX 20, CON 16, INT 10, WIS 16, CHA 8, Sharpshooter, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 19: STR 8, DEX 20, CON 16, INT 10, WIS 18, CHA 8, Sharpshooter, Resilient (CON)

Fighting Style (Lv. 2): Archery
Hunter's Prey (Lv. 3): Colossus Slayer
Defensive Tactics (Lv. 7): Multiattack Defense
Multiattack (Lv. 11): Volley
Superior Hunter's Defense (Lv. 15): Evasion

Spells known (cumulative):
Lv. 2: Hunter's Mark, Goodberry
Lv. 3: Absorb Elements
Lv. 5: Spike Growth
Lv. 7: Healing Spirit
Lv. 9: Conjure Animals
Lv. 11: Lightning Arrow
Lv. 13: Guardian of Nature
Lv. 15: Freedom of Movement
Lv. 17: Conjure Volley
Lv. 19: Swift Quiver

An ace at ambushes and peppering enemies with lots of deadly bolts, especially in the first round of combat.

Race: Human (Variant)
Background: Pirate
Alignment: CN

Proficient skills: Acrobatics (DEX), Perception (WIS), Stealth (DEX), Survival (WIS), Athletics (STR), Insight (WIS)
Proficient tools: Navigator's tools, vehicles (water)

Armor: Studded Leather
Weapon: Hand crossbow
Other: Component pouch

Point buy array: 15, 15, 15, 8, 8, 8

Attributes and feats:
Lv. 1: STR 8, DEX 16, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 16, CHA 8, Crossbow Expert
Lv. 4: STR 8, DEX 16, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 16, CHA 8, Crossbow Expert, Sharpshooter
Lv. 8: STR 8, DEX 18, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 16, CHA 8, Crossbow Expert, Sharpshooter
Lv. 12: STR 8, DEX 20, CON 15, INT 8, WIS 16, CHA 8, Crossbow Expert, Sharpshooter
Lv. 16: STR 8, DEX 20, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 16, CHA 8, Crossbow Expert, Sharpshooter, Resilient (CON)
Lv. 19: STR 8, DEX 20, CON 16, INT 8, WIS 16, CHA 8, Crossbow Expert, Sharpshooter, Resilient (CON), Lucky

Fighting Style (Lv. 2)
: Archery

Spells known (cumulative):
Lv. 2: Hunter's Mark, Goodberry
Lv. 3: Absorb Elements, Disguise Self (bonus)
Lv. 5: Spike Growth, Rope Trick (bonus)
Lv. 7: Healing Spirit
Lv. 9: Conjure Animals, Fear (bonus)
Lv. 11: Lightning Arrow
Lv. 13: Freedom of Movement, Greater Invisibility (bonus)
Lv. 15: Guardian of Nature
Lv. 17: Conjure Volley, Seeming (bonus)
Lv. 19: Swift Quiver
 
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Yunru

Visitor
You got "Monster Rages" instead of "Monster Races" there, which is... different :p

Reading about the variant ranger made me sad. They had definite data that it was least popular, made to improve it, got magically new data that said otherwise, scrapped it, and ended up backing them into a corner when the very next survey the ranger was in the exact same position as before.

And finally, to be cheeky, what are your thoughts on my attempt as an improved Beast Master subclass: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?655924-The-Tinker-Ranger
 

Gladius Legis

Adventurer
I don't see it being much, if any, stronger than just a straight Ranger. You'd still need 13s in DEX, WIS and CHA to attempt it, so you're incurring more MAD than usual for probably minimal gain at best.
 

Adamant

Explorer
You may want to reconsider some of your ratings for Monster Slayer, since you made a major mistake on Slayer's Prey. It lasts until you take a rest, and can be used unlimited times but only affects 1 enemy at a time. Also, Supernatural Defense works against any saving throw, not just spells. I think that for Slayer's Prey it should be bumped up to black, since it's even with hunter's mark until level 5, and about half the effectiveness without using a spell slot after you get a second attack. It can even be stacked with hunter's mark if you have enough time, since it doesn't take concentration. Supernatural Defense is probably still black, but you should mention breath weapons and charm/fear effects to avoid giving the impression it only works against spells. I also wouldn't rate Hunter's Sense red, since many dm's frown on people bringing metagame knowledge and there's always the chance that you may not remember the monster correctly in the first place. Used immediately before combat, it will usually give accurate and occasionally valuable information that could avoid wasting time on ineffective tactics. I think it should probably be rated purple instead. I don't know if any of this would affect the overall rating of the class, but it's not quite as bad as you described it.
 

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