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D&D 5E Paladin and Ranger Are Backward

I'm in 110% agreement with the OP. Actually, make that 120%.

I just finished a 1-20 campaign with a beast master ranger and a vengeance paladin. Admittedly, the ranger's player wasn't the savviest at utilizing spells and understanding the optimal way to use class features. But even if they had been, the ranger was not competitive with the paladin. The paladin was consistently OP.

Mechanically, most paladin spell slots will be expended on smites. So as a practical matter they don't need to know a bunch of spells -- because they'll never use them! In my campaign, the paladin did very little spellcasting. Which is a shame, because there are some cool spells on the paladin's list.

Meanwhile, it makes thematic sense for the ranger to be able to adapt to any environment and any situation. For literally years I've been unable to figure out why the ranger spell design is so constrained. And also why the ranger spells aren't more awesome.

I feel like Spells Known / Spells Prepared is a vestigal relic of design from earlier editions and can probably go away. Thematically, there are things I like about Spells Known, but mechanically I just don't think it works with the spirit of 5E.

Like some others in this thread, I think the warlock chassis would have been a great fit for the ranger. It's been my starting point every time I try to do a redesign of the ranger.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Okay, so my ideas so far, with feedback taken into account.

Ranger:
  • Favored Enemy:
    • Communicate and Understand simple ideas with favored enemies regardless of language. Perhaps give beasts and one other type as favored enemies. All rangers know about beasts, that's how you train to even become a ranger.
    • Craft poisons during short rest or by spending ten minutes. Wis mod number of poisons, prof mod times per day. Each favored enemy has a poison, which simply makes that type of enemy easier to take down. There would be a base poison as well, that does something minor that is sort of generically useful. Ignores poison resistence and negates any advantage against being poisoned. At level 11 it also ignores immunity. The poisons would be usuable against any creature, but is designed with that creature type in mind.
      • Stuff like for giants causing vertigo, causing them to have to make dex saves whenever they attack a creature further away than 5ft or move more than half their speed, or fall prone. Or reduce a damage immunity to resistance, or negate a resistance, but that would likely also be what it'd be for dragons. Undead might gain vulnerable radiant, or make them weaker against being turned, or something?
      • The key here is that it makes the enemy more vulnerable to the whole team, not just the ranger.
    • Once per day starting at level 6, you can cast hunter's mark without concentration as long as the target is a favored enemy.
    • You can gain a new favored enemy during play, by studying a member of the creature type. I'm tempted to make this a thing that you have a chance to fail at, involving essentially a skill challenge, and restrict it to adding a specific race of creatures, like trolls and white dragons, rather than a broad type.
    • Lastly, you can study a creature that you can see, or that you have seen within the last 24 hours and is within range while using Primeval Awareness (see below). If you do, you gain advantage on attacks and wisdom ability checks against the target for 1 hour, and treat that creature as a favored enemy for the next 24 hours. This takes an action, and you can do it prof mod times per day, after which you can spend a spell slot to regain a single use.
  • Natural Explorer:
    • Add the first part of Canny at level 1, but no additional language. The rest of Deft Explorer gets added as is.
    • Tone down the auto-success stuff, and add the ability to give the whole group a bonus to stealth and to con saves while traveling in your favored terrain.
    • Introduce a better travel system that makes this stuff more interesting, if possible. If not, do a second pass that puts this more into non-travel exploration.
    • Prof mod per day, allow yourself and up to X allies to ignore difficult terrain even while not traveling, for up to 1 minute.
    • Maybe the Ranger can Help an ally while also doing something else, under specific circumstances?
    • Make it explicit that "related to your favored terrain" does not mean "while in your favored terrain", but instead gives broad narrative authority to the ranger player to say, "this is also a thing in forests, so my Natural Explorer feature applies", barring the DM saying "that makes no sense. no."
  • Primeval Awareness
    • Completely rewrite this entire ability, and combine it with Primal Awareness
    • Once per day, and then you can spend a spell slot to regain a use
    • You learn what general kind of creature is in the area, in what numbers, how fast they're moving if traveling, and in what direction. Lasts for 10 minutes, and has a range of 6 miles in wilderness, 1/2 a mile in a settlement, 60ft within a building. Creatures within the range have disadvantage on checks to hide from you or ambush you, and you can make wisdom (perception or survival) checks against them even if you cannot see them, while the effect lasts. If you concentrate, you retain this sense for a scaling amount of time. 1 hour, then 8 hours, then 24 hours, like hunter's mark.
    • Add Hunter's Mark to your "always prepared" spells, and you can cast it once per day without a spell slot. If you're concentrating on Primeval Awareness, you can also concentrate on Hunter's Mark, and cast it on a creature you have seen within the last 24 hours, as long as they are withing the range of Primeval Awareness.
  • Spellcasting
    • You become a prepared caster, and any feature that adds to your spells known instead adds to your prepared spells without counting against your number of prepared spells. You also gain ritual casting, with the special ability that you can learn druid spells as rituals during play, and can only cast them as rituals unless they are also a ranger spell, and you don't have to have a ritual prepared to cast it. Your ritual spells you can learn are limited to spells of 1/2 your ranger level, rounded down. If you have levels of Druid, those levels count toward your total ranger level for this feature.
      • This does mean that you can do druidic rituals that are of a level that you do not have the ability to cast. That's intended.

So, that package of abilities means that you can prepare for a group of enemies in several ways, you make your whole team better at traveling and surviving, and the class abilities function a bit better as a whole. Your toolkit is perhaps the broadest of any non-full caster in the game, as it should be, but your combat power isn't really increased much. Just enough to put you into the top third of weapon-based classes, I reckon, which is fine.


Paladin

  • Spellcasting
    • I want to reduce Paladins to Spells Known, but add ritual casting, but I'd be okay with just adding ritual casting, as well. Normal ritual casting, though. Paladins are already good at too many things, it just feels weird that they can't do ceremony or detect magic as rituals.
    • Definitely reduce overall spellcasting a bit. Perhaps that means fewer spells prepared, or trimming the spell list a bit, not sure yet.
  • Divine Sense
    • This ability becomes passive, and always on.
  • Lay on Hands
    • This is added to the Cleric, and the Paladin version is reduced significantly. Otherwise, this stays Paladin only, and Paladins lose most healing spells. Don't worry, I'd be changing the Cleric more into a priest as well.
  • Add a new ability
    • that allows the Paladin to basically turn mortals, making them rethink their life and potentially flee. This would be wholly unique in that it would explicitly state that the rethinking their life is genuine, and last after they save out of the primary effect, and that while it won't likely make them attack their allies or risk their life for the PCs, they might retreat or otherwise remove themselves from the fight.
      • This is radical, I know. The idea is that the Paladin is someone whose words and deeds are difficult to ignore, and who has an almost tangeable effect on people. When the Paladin gives you a "you need to go to church" talk, it's nearly impossible to not actually give their words some thought. But it is up to the DM whether someone actually turns their life around, leaves the service of the dark lord or the crime boss, or whatever, or if they shake it off and are just a bit shaken by the experience. A wya to give it mechanical wieght might be that targets who fail the initial save have disadvantage against the ability in the future.

That's it for them, I think, other than adding some new spells for both classes, and maybe making Find Steed available at a lower level. Perhaps a small class feature that works like a Find Lesser Steed or something.
 


ehren37

Adventurer
I really think Ranger should get all ranger spells known, and then spells known can be from any class. This emulates the 1st edition ranger's access to magic user spells, and fits the theme of a character who often has to go solo and bring a wider toolkit.

As is, their spell casting sucks. Most of it is irrelevant by the time they could waste one of their precious spells known slots on it. Hail of Thorns? Cordon of Arrows? Who designed this trash? Clearly it wasn't the same person in charge of making sure paladins were overpowered.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I really think Ranger should get all ranger spells known, and then spells known can be from any class. This emulates the 1st edition ranger's access to magic user spells, and fits the theme of a character who often has to go solo and bring a wider toolkit.

As is, their spell casting sucks. Most of it is irrelevant by the time they could waste one of their precious spells known slots on it. Hail of Thorns? Cordon of Arrows? Who designed this trash? Clearly it wasn't the same person in charge of making sure paladins were overpowered.
LOL those spells are perfectly in line with what they should be doing at the levels where you’d be using them.

Cordon of Arrows is a pre-battle prep spell that doesn’t require concentration and lasts 8 hours. Literally the only thing wrong with it is that rangers know too few spells and pass without trace is one of the best spells on their spell list.

Hail of Thorns is exactly right for an AOE attack, and at worst just adds 1d10 onto a normal attack, while at best does that and does 1d10 damage to several other creatures as well. Like most weapon attack spells, it shouldn’t be concentration, but that is a system problem, not a “ranger spells” problem.
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
I am a big fan of the ranger using something similar to warlock invocations. I suspect if I were to build the ranger from scratch, it wouldn't even have casting as a class feature (maybe a subclass would have it), but rangers could pick up bundles of once per long rest spells that don't require a spell slot through the invocations, although doing that means you have less invocations for being a super archer, having your pet fight beside you (and live), and other such stuff.

If I was rebuilding the paladin (and the cleric), I think I would give the paladins divine strike (damage type based on oath and who you give the oath to) while cutting the paladin's spell slots down, and giving clerics access to the smite spells (probably go up to level 9). Clerics have a lot of slots so one who wants to melee can use the smite spells, and it would open up some design space where divine strike/extra damage from cantrips goes now. Paladins would always hit hard, and arguably be extra.

I think I would use a matrix like warlocks for paladins. You have three oaths (in short, you swear to hit something, to find something, or to protect something), and you give your oath to something (fiends for extra damage, celestials for extra healing, fey for extra stealth, grandpa's ghost to be extra good at finding stuff), which would let the paladin be good for 1-2 things. If you wanted to be good at hitting something and finding something, you could swear an oath to hit something to grandpa's ghost or swear an oath to find something to a fiend, but either way you have little to contribute as the party's healer. The white room guys can obsess over oath to hit something to a fiend.
 

ehren37

Adventurer
LOL those spells are perfectly in line with what they should be doing at the levels where you’d be using them.

Cordon of Arrows is a pre-battle prep spell that doesn’t require concentration and lasts 8 hours. Literally the only thing wrong with it is that rangers know too few spells and pass without trace is one of the best spells on their spell list.

Hail of Thorns is exactly right for an AOE attack, and at worst just adds 1d10 onto a normal attack, while at best does that and does 1d10 damage to several other creatures as well. Like most weapon attack spells, it shouldn’t be concentration, but that is a system problem, not a “ranger spells” problem.
Cordon of Arrows is available at 5th level, trading one of the ranger's two spell slots for an effect I would easily allow with a tripwire and a couple of crossbows. It deals up to 4d6, which is bad for a 2nd level spell in general, but even worse at 5th level, when the damage is nuisance level (on top of making me roll up to 4 saves). If it was a ritual, it would be OK, but as is, it's weak.

Hail of Thorns uses concentration, as you note, making it automatically downgraded. It deals 1d10 in a 5' radius, which is pretty mediocre. It (and really all ranger spells in early game) are competing with Hunter's Mark, the class feature disguised as a spell that also unfortunately uses concentration (as does pass without trace). Middling damage, tiny radius, no secondary effect, concentration... what more could you want to throw it in the garbage pile?
 


vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
RE: the ranger's spell list.

The thing that irks me the most about that list is the total absence of ''camp/housing'' spell.

I mean, the guy is a survivalist, living in the wood. The guy can carry much with him and must travel light. The guy can cast spells. The guy can know spells that will help surviving in the wild. There's actual spells that allows for safe-ish, comfortable, indestructible housing...why are they not on that guy's list?!

I mean: Tiny Hut, Secret Chest, Catnap, Faithful Hound & Private Sanctum seem to the like pretty useful for a wilderness explorer!
 

Mort

Legend
I'm in 110% agreement with the OP. Actually, make that 120%.

I just finished a 1-20 campaign with a beast master ranger and a vengeance paladin. Admittedly, the ranger's player wasn't the savviest at utilizing spells and understanding the optimal way to use class features. But even if they had been, the ranger was not competitive with the paladin. The paladin was consistently OP.

Well yes, if you take the (near unanimously) top rated paladin subclass and put it next to the (again, near unanimously) worst rated ranger subclass it won't even be close.

If you use the fixes to the ranger, especially the beast master ranger, available in Tasha's; the ranger will fare better. If instead you compare to the gloomstalker ranger (Xanathar's) the ranger will likely keep up.

That said, I think changing the Ranger to spells prepared and allow the full appeal list is a decent idea.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Cordon of Arrows is available at 5th level, trading one of the ranger's two spell slots for an effect I would easily allow with a tripwire and a couple of crossbows. It deals up to 4d6, which is bad for a 2nd level spell in general, but even worse at 5th level, when the damage is nuisance level (on top of making me roll up to 4 saves). If it was a ritual, it would be OK, but as is, it's weak.

Hail of Thorns uses concentration, as you note, making it automatically downgraded. It deals 1d10 in a 5' radius, which is pretty mediocre. It (and really all ranger spells in early game) are competing with Hunter's Mark, the class feature disguised as a spell that also unfortunately uses concentration (as does pass without trace). Middling damage, tiny radius, no secondary effect, concentration... what more could you want to throw it in the garbage pile?
Yeah you play a different game from any I’ve seen irl.

You often have 4 crossbows in your pack?

It’s a no-concentration spell that you can set up before a fight, and it just works, no further fuss required. While you’re dealing full warrior class damage on top of it. 🤷‍♂️

Hail of Thorns doesn’t deal 1d10 in a 5ft radius, it deals that on top of an attack action.

Concentration doesn’t downgrade the spell, all spells that add to an attack as part of the spell do.

You seem to be comparing ranger spells to full caster spells, rather than the result of a turn of actions of a ranger against the result of a turn of actions of a full caster. This will lead to false results, because it isn’t a valid comparison.
 

Sithlord

Adventurer
If fighter subclasses did more, I’d be more into fighter subclasses, but so much of the fighters power is its base class features and extra ASIs, that it’s subclasses are flavorful but fairly superficial mechanically.

I’d also change those spells to be part of an attack, and not use concentration unless they have a lasting effect, but yeah I’m okay with that.
I’d also make Lay on Hands less powerful, and just generally make the Paladin more warrior and the cleric more priest, but that’s maybe another thread.

I love that idea, and I wonder if it could be what gives Favored Enemy some punch.
I had thought to give Rangers herb-craft based healing and poisons, and be able to make poisons that bypass resistances and special defenses of creatures.

Once again we find that the games I’ve played, run, seen others run, and consumed as digital media, are completely different from your experiences of the game.

I’ve never seen a 5e Paladin not cast spells.
I’ve never seen a 5E paladin cast spells. Full on smite.
 




CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I’ve never seen a 5E paladin cast spells. Full on smite.
Yup, same here. The entire paladin spell list could be just a single first-level spell, and the paladin player in my group wouldn't even be able to tell you its name.

Why even have spells at all, at that point? Why not just have a "Smite X times per day" and be done with it? (Real question, not trolling I promise.) Seems like that would be easier for all involved.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yup, same here. The entire paladin spell list could be just a single first-level spell, and the paladin player in my group wouldn't even be able to tell you its name.

Why even have spells at all, at that point? Why not just have a "Smite X times per day" and be done with it? (Real question, not trolling I promise.) Seems like that would be easier for all involved.
Well, because only some players see 2d8 damage as worth more than a little less damage and frightening a target, much less spells like Bless or later spells like Crusader’s Mantle*, not to mention out of combat spells.

If you have other melee/short range party members/pets/other allies, and are smiting at 3 level, and it isn’t because you got a crit, you’re wasting that spell slot. Mantle is 1d4 per hit to every ally with 30ft of you. That is going to outdo a smite in a single round, much less the 2-3 rounds it’s likely to be up.

Even a crit smite...just do it at level 1.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
This is the biggest problem with the Paladin class. If you cast any spells you feel like you are wasting your slots.
My experience with my own characters and running for or observing others play is, almost without exception, completely the opposite.

Most spells are worth more than 2d8 extra damage.
 

This is the biggest problem with the Paladin class. If you cast any spells you feel like you are wasting your slots.
Matter of opinion i think. Playing my paladin, if i smite on a non-crit, I feel I'm wasting my slots. Burning a potential Bless or Protection from Evil or even Command for a measly 9-average damage?

The only thing from stopping me casting even more spells is the relative lack of good Concentrationless spells on the list. I'll have to give Warding Bond a try though, now Tasha added it as a paladin spell.
 

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