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D&D 5E Is favored enemy and natural explorer really that bad?

Favored Enemy should give a +Proficiency Bonus to damage against the chosen foe type. At this point, it's such a common house rule that even video games are using it. Once per turn, or primary hand only, might be a conservative compromise.

Natural Explorer is honestly really good, but it's invisible. When it works, nobody sees it working, just that you traveled from A to B and things we're uneventful. A good DM can go a long way to highlight the Ranger saving the party from hazards, though.
 

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Shadowedeyes

Explorer
Both Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer have the problem of needing to guess what is going to be useful. In some games, that might be easy (Rime of the Frostmaiden, Red Hand of Doom, Tomb of Annihilation, etc) but other times you choose wrong and basically don't have any 1st level abilities unless the GM takes pity on you. That's not great to start.

Secondly, Favored Enemy's name doesn't match up with what people's expectations. Favored Enemy makes you think guy(or gal) who specializes in fighting your chosen enemy, but in reality it doesn't do that. Natural Explorer on the other hand, does what you think a master of exploring that terrain could do like not getting lost, finding lots of food, traveling quickly and silently, etc. But most of that stuff is just a couple of dice rolls, so when it comes up you don't feel awesome, you just ignore a few rolls. And you can't use the moving silently quickly with the rest of your party anyway.
 

I guess I'll see if that is the case as my campaign develops. So far, haven't seen ranger do more damage than anyone else on average - but the party is only 4th verging on 5th.

Even with no feats, and just spamming a longbow a Hunter Ranger is dealing 2d8+1d6+5 at that level, which is a lot of at will damage in a feat-less game.

Sharpshooter ramps that up considerably.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
They are both bad design.

On the part of the player, they are your class defining features that you never get to pick if you can use them, unless you go "I am leaving and going off into the woods to hunt X"

On the part of the DM, they require you to customize the adventure to make them useful but not game breaking.

When they donapply, they either negate mechanics so much you barely know the mechanics existed, or they mean you are the 2nd best at knowledge checks in your narrow area but still behind the high int wizard or experise rogue.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Even with no feats, and just spamming a longbow a Hunter Ranger is dealing 2d8+1d6+5 at that level, which is a lot of at will damage in a feat-less game.

Sharpshooter ramps that up considerably.

Not sure how that's the case damage wise and not sure I'd use the term "spamming" for any of the combat that takes place in the games I run. I mean, sure the hunter ranger in my group (she's multi-classed ranger/sorcerer actually) does really well when ranged combat is possible and strategically the best choice for her - but that is not always possible in every encounter or for its entirety. Also, you have to hit - so it is not like that damage is guaranteed.
 

auburn2

Adventurer
Both Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer have the problem of needing to guess what is going to be useful. In some games, that might be easy (Rime of the Frostmaiden, Red Hand of Doom, Tomb of Annihilation, etc) but other times you choose wrong and basically don't have any 1st level abilities unless the GM takes pity on you. That's not great to start.

Secondly, Favored Enemy's name doesn't match up with what people's expectations. Favored Enemy makes you think guy(or gal) who specializes in fighting your chosen enemy, but in reality it doesn't do that. Natural Explorer on the other hand, does what you think a master of exploring that terrain could do like not getting lost, finding lots of food, traveling quickly and silently, etc. But most of that stuff is just a couple of dice rolls, so when it comes up you don't feel awesome, you just ignore a few rolls. And you can't use the moving silently quickly with the rest of your party anyway.
Agree. I will say though after going for a level without it, my party in TOA definitely noticed after I took the Ranger multiclass. But you are right, if I had been a 1st level Ranger they would have never known how much I was saving them from.
 

I don't think they are bad, they're just basically ribbon abilities. My issue is that both of the Ranger level 1 abilities are abilities that may or may not come up in the course of level 1 play even if the DM is actively steering you to a place where they would be useful. The other martial characters get level 1 abilities that are almost definitely going to be useful at some point before they hit level 2, and the full casters have spells already. Level 1 Rangers basically feel like strictly worse versions of Fighters.

If Rangers got their Fighting Style at level 1 with one of these abilities and the other came at level 2 or 3, I don't think there would be so much hate for the abilities.
 

Favored Enemy should give a +Proficiency Bonus to damage against the chosen foe type. At this point, it's such a common house rule that even video games are using it. Once per turn, or primary hand only, might be a conservative compromise.

Natural Explorer is honestly really good, but it's invisible. When it works, nobody sees it working, just that you traveled from A to B and things we're uneventful. A good DM can go a long way to highlight the Ranger saving the party from hazards, though.

And big YES to this bolded part AND part of DM highlighting the Ranger saving the party is to get the Ranger player to give a few narrative nuggets themself on how their character awesomed their way through said the hazards of their favored terrain.
 

And big YES to this bolded part AND part of DM highlighting the Ranger saving the party is to get the Ranger player to give a few narrative nuggets themself on how their character awesomed their way through said the hazards of their favored terrain.
I love letting players Awesome things. I do a thing where I include 'Skirmish' fights against weak foes, where the players literally get to describe how they beat the ever-loving snugs out of their foes. It's probably also why "How Do You Want To Do This?" is such a great idea.
 

Inspired by the thread on favored foe, I figure I will talk about favored enemy.

With XGE and Tasha's I no longer think the Ranger is underpowered, even without the new optional features. Using a few of the subclasses, the Ranger class holds up well even without the new features. That said, how bad are the oroginal 1st-level abilities.

1. Favored Enemy: Everyone really complains about favored enemy and has been since the PHB, but I don't see it as that bad. Advantage on intelligence checks against a whole group of enemies and an extra language is pretty cool. Not effective in combat, but broadly useful in general. the tracking feature is less useful.

Favored Enemy has a wide range of problems.

First, you've got to lock in the creature type. That means you have to make a guess what the campaign or DM is going to feature (e.g., fiends in Avernus, giants in Storm King, etc.). Creature types weren't designed to be keyed like this, so they're not balanced. Oozes, plants, and fey are extraordinarily rare. Dragons and fiends are largely late game. Giants are early to mid game. Elementals and constructs are almost always guardians or summoned. Humanoids are extremely narrow. Being so narrow is fine, but it means that the benefits should be fairly significant. (Spoiler: They aren't.)

Second, it gives you advantage on tracking. There was a time when tracking was a very common skill to use in D&D, but my experience based on the current modules I've played, read, and run for 5e... it's just not a skill that comes up very often. The real problem with tracking is that it's kind of like opening a locked door. If it's critical to the campaign that you succeed, you will. Or there will be alternative way to continue, in which case still it wasn't essential. If it's not critical, it's not a problem if you fail. And that's just tracking, not a bonus to tracking only your favored enemy. This ability could give you advantage on tracking everything and it wouldn't be that great. Further, there are some creature types you'll never track. If you pick dragon, you're unlikely to ever be able to track one. The same with air elementals, incorporeal undead, plants, etc.

Third, it gives advantage on Int checks to recall information. So, knowledge skills. Maybe it's just me, but I'd put Int as the fifth or sixth stat for Rangers. It's behind Dex, Con, and Wis, certianly, and Str and Cha are probably both better, too. So, it's a dump stat. Nothing keys to it except this. With a standard array, you'll have an 8 or 10 Int, and you're unlikely to pick up a knowledge skill (because Int isn't your bag) so you won't be proficient. So you're getting advantage on a narrow subset of a skill that you're unlikely to have a bonus on anyways. So your checks are still likely to not succeed (this is the same problem Fighter's Indomitable has). Even if you do succeed, it may not be a meaningful benefit. The result of a knowledge check is very nebulous. So, it's fairly unlikely to come up, you don't know what success on the check might do, and when it does come up the benefit gives you advantage on a check that you're the worst in the game at. That is not a benefit.

Fourth, the actual, tangible, predictable benefit of Favored Enemy is that it means you speak more languages than any other class in the game. Setting aside that that isn't actually very Ranger-like and it's basically the same as the locked door problem, it's still not that great. If you pick aberration, beast, construct, monstrosity, ooze, plant, or undead -- half the list -- you don't get the free language. You also can't learn both abyssal and infernal, or both aquan and ignan. Oh, and of course you get them at 1st, 6th, and 14th level. Other classes are picking up 7th level spells. You're getting a single language.

2. Natural explorer: NAtural explorer usefulness depends entirely on the game and DM. In an outdoor campaign, if your DM is rolling for you to get lost or slowing you in difficult terrain,find food etc, this ability is actually OP for a 1st-level ability .... especially the never lost part. Playing Tomb of Annihilation at 1st level my party was lost so often that I chose to multiclass to Ranger at level 2 with a character who happened to have a 13 Wisdom and dex. This was not even remotely in my original build idea for that character but we needed a solution to being lost all the time. This 1-level dip completely changed the nature of our game.

Natural explorer is powerful. The problem with this ability is that nothing happens. That is, when natural explorer works, you typically don't have an easy encounter or an encounter with an easier challenge. You typically have no encounter at all. Which is to say, when this ability works, you get no XP.

Sure, conceptually your PCs are skipping encounters so that you have more resources later. However, (a) that's not really how resting works in 5e, and (b) the DM knows you have this ability so this isn't going to count against your encounters per day.

Further, in most cases you can hire a guide. And the ability is only marginally better than just having a high bonus in Survival skill, which works in any terrain. And then there's the Wanderer background feature, which also works in any terrain.

Frankly, Deft Explorer: Canny (Survival) is probably just better. You should have a +2 Wis or better, and a +6 Survival increasing to a +14 Survival is going to be good enough. If it's not, you were probably working against magic anyways. Survival works in all terrains, too, and it helps with tracking.
 

auburn2

Adventurer
Favored Enemy has a wide range of problems.

First, you've got to lock in the creature type. That means you have to make a guess what the campaign or DM is going to feature (e.g., fiends in Avernus, giants in Storm King, etc.). Creature types weren't designed to be keyed like this, so they're not balanced. Oozes, plants, and fey are extraordinarily rare. Dragons and fiends are largely late game. Giants are early to mid game. Elementals and constructs are almost always guardians or summoned. Humanoids are extremely narrow. Being so narrow is fine, but it means that the benefits should be fairly significant. (Spoiler: They aren't.)

Second, it gives you advantage on tracking. There was a time when tracking was a very common skill to use in D&D, but my experience based on the current modules I've played, read, and run for 5e... it's just not a skill that comes up very often. The real problem with tracking is that it's kind of like opening a locked door. If it's critical to the campaign that you succeed, you will. Or there will be alternative way to continue, in which case still it wasn't essential. If it's not critical, it's not a problem if you fail. And that's just tracking, not a bonus to tracking only your favored enemy. This ability could give you advantage on tracking everything and it wouldn't be that great. Further, there are some creature types you'll never track. If you pick dragon, you're unlikely to ever be able to track one. The same with air elementals, incorporeal undead, plants, etc.

Third, it gives advantage on Int checks to recall information. So, knowledge skills. Maybe it's just me, but I'd put Int as the fifth or sixth stat for Rangers. It's behind Dex, Con, and Wis, certianly, and Str and Cha are probably both better, too. So, it's a dump stat. Nothing keys to it except this. With a standard array, you'll have an 8 or 10 Int, and you're unlikely to pick up a knowledge skill (because Int isn't your bag) so you won't be proficient. So you're getting advantage on a narrow subset of a skill that you're unlikely to have a bonus on anyways. So your checks are still likely to not succeed (this is the same problem Fighter's Indomitable has). Even if you do succeed, it may not be a meaningful benefit. The result of a knowledge check is very nebulous. So, it's fairly unlikely to come up, you don't know what success on the check might do, and when it does come up the benefit gives you advantage on a check that you're the worst in the game at. That is not a benefit.

Fourth, the actual, tangible, predictable benefit of Favored Enemy is that it means you speak more languages than any other class in the game. Setting aside that that isn't actually very Ranger-like and it's basically the same as the locked door problem, it's still not that great. If you pick aberration, beast, construct, monstrosity, ooze, plant, or undead -- half the list -- you don't get the free language. You also can't learn both abyssal and infernal, or both aquan and ignan. Oh, and of course you get them at 1st, 6th, and 14th level. Other classes are picking up 7th level spells. You're getting a single language.
On FE:
Character creation is a partnership with the DM. Most DMs will give you a recommendation on character creation if it isn't obvious from the art on the campaign, the name of the adventure or the narrative the DM uses to start. If this is not the case in your campaign, certainly don't play a Ranger and arguably don't play with that DM.

Agree completely on tracking and that is largely worthless.

Disagree completely on intelligence checks. Advantage is roughly a +5, which means even with a 10 intelligence you will probably be better than anyone else who did not get expertise. This is the difference between life and death - for example knowing devils are resistant to non-silver and immune to fire before the wizard casts burning hands and the Rogue sneak attacks with his normal short sword.

The free languages work on almost all of the types, in fact there are more languages available from some the examples you gave than from other choices. This is not a complete list, just a small sample:
1. Undead allows any language that is spoken by undead, which is a lot of languages as many undead speak "the languages they knew in life". This means if you take undead you essentially can pick any language, because some Vampire somewhere speaks that language.
2. Aberations: Deep Speech, Undercommon, Slaad
3. Monstrosities: Worg, Goblin, Draconic, Celestial
4. Constructs: Modron, also similar to undead; any language spoken by anyone who has ever created a Scarecrow
5. Ooze: Like undead, any languages spoken by Oblexes, which is probably all of them.
6. Plant: Vegepygmy, Drudic, Elvish, Sylvan

In fact the only group which does not have any members with a language in the MM is beasts, and I believe even they may have some with languages in other publications. Finally, I believe Aquan and Ignan are both dialects of Primordial, so while you can only pick one to speak, you can still communicate with someone who speaks the other.

I am not saying this is an awesome ability, but comparing it to other classes 1st level abilities, it is nothing to sneeze at even just by itself. When you add it to natural explorer in the right campaign, or deft explorer in any campaign, I think it stacks up well with Fighters or Paladins and other classes that get martial weapons at 1st level.
 
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Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
Favored Enemy should give a +Proficiency Bonus to damage against the chosen foe type. At this point, it's such a common house rule that even video games are using it. Once per turn, or primary hand only, might be a conservative compromise.

Natural Explorer is honestly really good, but it's invisible. When it works, nobody sees it working, just that you traveled from A to B and things we're uneventful. A good DM can go a long way to highlight the Ranger saving the party from hazards, though.
(Emphasis in final sentence added.) It's possible to go beyond just highlighting the Ranger saving the party from passive hazards. Instead, let the party turn those hazards to their advantage. This can be as simple as letting the players opt to freely ambush any encounters instead of avoiding them, or as nuanced as letting them know the locations of triggerable hazards like potential rockslides, or concealed hazards like quicksand that the party can later use against foes that they've lured to the area.

And in addition to exploitable hazards, the DM can point out potential resources to a Ranger in their favored terrain, either for exploitation by the PCs or their allies or for sale to NPCs (e.g. selling the location of an ore vein to miners, or ironwood to loggers, or rare flowers to herbalists, etc.).

In my opinion best practice would be to allow even a Ranger-less party to get some of this information on a survival check (with more information gated behind successively higher DCs), but let the Ranger autosucceed with the best possible result in their favored terrains. This gives the Ranger a huge comparative advantage, without making the ability to get useful information about the terrain exclusive to the Ranger class.
 

Horwath

Hero
Favored Terrain and Enemy would be much better if they added "global" benefits, but benefits that are most useful within that category.

I.E.
Favored enemy:
Dragons: advantage on dex saves and saves vs. fear
Humanoid: 2 skills from the list of: History, Insight, Deception, Intimidation, Persuasion,
Undead: proficiency in Con saves
Fey: advantage vs enchantment and illusions
etc...

Favored terrain:
arctic: resistance to cold
desert: resistance to fire
coastal: swim speed and longer hold breath(5× or something)
forest: climb speed
swamp: climb and swim speed at half speed
grasslands: +10 ft speed
underdark: 60ft or +60ft darkvision
etc...
 

Favored Terrain and Enemy would be much better if they added "global" benefits, but benefits that are most useful within that category.

I.E.
Favored enemy:
Dragons: advantage on dex saves and saves vs. fear
Humanoid: 2 skills from the list of: History, Insight, Deception, Intimidation, Persuasion,
Undead: proficiency in Con saves
Fey: advantage vs enchantment and illusions
etc...

Favored terrain:
arctic: resistance to cold
desert: resistance to fire
coastal: swim speed and longer hold breath(5× or something)
forest: climb speed
swamp: climb and swim speed at half speed
grasslands: +10 ft speed
underdark: 60ft or +60ft darkvision
etc...
Yes, absolutely. Thats the right design philosophy. Apparently Mike Mearls was playing around with something like this for his personal revision.
 

Shadowedeyes

Explorer
The replacement feature in Tasha's itself kinda does that, although it gets rid of choosing a terrain entirely for some more generic all purpose survival abilities.
 

Favored Terrain and Enemy would be much better if they added "global" benefits, but benefits that are most useful within that category.

I.E.
Favored enemy:
Dragons: advantage on dex saves and saves vs. fear
Humanoid: 2 skills from the list of: History, Insight, Deception, Intimidation, Persuasion,
Undead: proficiency in Con saves
Fey: advantage vs enchantment and illusions
etc...

Favored terrain:
arctic: resistance to cold
desert: resistance to fire
coastal: swim speed and longer hold breath(5× or something)
forest: climb speed
swamp: climb and swim speed at half speed
grasslands: +10 ft speed
underdark: 60ft or +60ft darkvision
etc...
Baldur's Gate 3 wanders down this path.
 

Undrave

Hero
Inspired by the thread on favored foe, I figure I will talk about favored enemy.

With XGE and Tasha's I no longer think the Ranger is underpowered, even without the new optional features. Using a few of the subclasses, the Ranger class holds up well even without the new features. That said, how bad are the oroginal 1st-level abilities.

1. Favored Enemy: Everyone really complains about favored enemy and has been since the PHB, but I don't see it as that bad. Advantage on intelligence checks against a whole group of enemies and an extra language is pretty cool. Not effective in combat, but broadly useful in general. the tracking feature is less useful.

Favored Foe is better in combat and if you are building a combat-focused character I get why this would maybe be a better choice, but I don't think it is a better ability overall especially if you are building a skill character.

2. Natural explorer: NAtural explorer usefulness depends entirely on the game and DM. In an outdoor campaign, if your DM is rolling for you to get lost or slowing you in difficult terrain,find food etc, this ability is actually OP for a 1st-level ability .... especially the never lost part. Playing Tomb of Annihilation at 1st level my party was lost so often that I chose to multiclass to Ranger at level 2 with a character who happened to have a 13 Wisdom and dex. This was not even remotely in my original build idea for that character but we needed a solution to being lost all the time. This 1-level dip completely changed the nature of our game.

I like the idea of Deft explorer and as a character who likes skill monkeys I really like the idea of expertise in a skill and am drawn to it. I think this is way inferior to natural explorer if you are playing the kind of outdoor game noted above, but better in just about every other game.

Thoughts?

They're boring do-nothing abilities. Favored Enemy is practically pure fluff, and if you stop encountering that type of enemy it might not matter for a while. Favored terrain is also a do-nothing feature. Either it's on and you don't have to worry about anything, or your DM take you to another terrain and you lose your class feature entirely. I think they really should have granted passive abilities RELATED to your favoured terrain, but that can be applied in other situations. You favour the coastline? Have a swim speed! You favour the mountain? Have a climb speed! You favour the desert? Have a bonus to resist overheating and thirst! That sort of thing you know?

The REAL issue, though, is that a first level Ranger gets literally nothing to do. They have no decision points, no ability they might or might not want to use, during any type of scenes. Everything is a boring on/off continuous bonus.

It's BORING and unexciting, regardless how good (or not) they might be in theory. I think in theory they rather suck (though I know people seem to like them) and the Ranger needed SOMETHING more active to do in their first level. How about 'once per short rest, when you attack your Favored Enemy, you can decide to forego rolling and automatically hit them." There. It's limited in use like a Fighter's second Wind, it works with Favored Enemy, it takes away your chance of criting, and it sounds cool. 'You won't escape my Blade!'.
 

How about 'once per short rest, when you attack your Favored Enemy, you can decide to forego rolling and automatically hit them." There. It's limited in use like a Fighter's second Wind, it works with Favored Enemy, it takes away your chance of criting, and it sounds cool. 'You won't escape my Blade!'.
So, what happens if you don't encounter your favoured enemy?
 

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