Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ranger Discussion

Good Morning Game Fans, we’re back to continue our deeper investigation into the mysteries of Dungeons and Dragons, and how it shaped the larger roleplaying game community.  We’ve put a temporary hold on our discussion about races in fantasy roleplaying (We’ll pick back up with the races from Volo’s Guide to Monsters and the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion after this interlude).  We’re going to discuss the role of Classes in fantasy roleplaying games, and then we’ll take a look in turn at each of the character classes in the Player’s Handbook for Dungeons and Dragons, 5th Edition.

So what is a Character Class?  In Dungeons and Dragons (and many other roleplaying games) A Character Class represents a combination of special abilities, options and skills that make up a character’s occupation.  Your Character Class helps define what options you have to interact with the larger game world, and determines whether you’re a sneaky expert, or a bold warrior, or a crafty arcane magician.  

It also serves to indicate to other players what they can expect your character to be capable of doing.   In other words, it can serve as a keyword for you to identify a variety of factors.  It’s also the second most common descriptor used to identify a character after race.  For example, “He’s a human ranger, or she’s an elven wizard.”  in the same way that people can identify as a lawyer, or a doctor or a soldier, the fantasy adventurer identifies as a barbarian, or a ranger, or a wizard.  


A Ranger is a warrior of the natural world.  A master hunter and survivalist, the Ranger roams the wildest parts of the world.  They know hidden paths and trails throughout their chosen domains and keep watch over the wilds, protecting them from incursions of evil humanoids, monsters, and the insidious forces of corruption.  

The Ranger is a warrior character, with nature magic as a component.  In a similar way to the Paladin, the Ranger can be considered a hybrid of the druid and fighter classes.  This class draws ideas from wilderness warriors from a variety of sources, but one of the most iconic members of the class is Strider, from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy

Creating a Ranger:

Why did you pick Ranger for this character?  Is your character a watchman of the wild spaces?  Is your character a devoted hunter of evil creatures?  Is your character a champion of animals and makes new animal friends everywhere?   Answering these questions can help you figure out where your Ranger came from and how you’re going to want to build your character.  

Rangers revolve around two primary ability scores, Dexterity/Strength and Wisdom.  Rangers benefit from two primary fighting styles, and the ranged combat (archer style) relies heavily on Dexterity while the other fighting style (Two Weapons) runs on Strength.  The other ability score Wisdom runs a lot of the Ranger’s naturecraft and tracking abilities, as well as their nature magic.

Class Features

This section contains all of the mechanically and statistically relevant information that you will need as a player to build your character.  

Hit Points:

Hit points represent the amount of damage a character can take before being incapacitated and potentially dead.  Every class has a specific range of potential hit point totals, modified by the character’s Constitution modifier.

Hit Dice: Rangers use a D10 for their hit dice, and this means that the average Ranger is going to have a lot more hit points than most other classes.  The only class with a higher base hit die is the barbarian
Hit Points at 1st level: A 1st level Ranger will have 10 hit points plus an additional number of hit points equal to their constitution bonus.  
Hit Points at higher levels:  Every level after first, a Ranger gains an additional D10 hit die, which they can roll for hit point, or take the average value of 6.  They also get to add their Constitution modifier to whatever they roll.  The new Hit Die plus Con mod is added to their existing Maximum hit points, and they are off to the races.  

For example, a level 4 Ranger has just gained enough experience points to achieve level 5.  They roll a D10, and come up with an 8.  The player adds their Constitution bonus of +3, and this comes to an 11.  Added to the existing maximum Hit Point total of 38, the new 5th level Ranger has 49 hit points.


Proficiencies represent specific training and competency levels with a variety of weapons, armor, saving throws, tools, and skills.  When using weapons and skills your character is proficient in, as well as making saving throws of types your character is proficient with, you get to add your proficiency bonus to the die roll.  

Armor:  Light Armor, Medium Armor, Shields
Weapons: Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons
Tools: None
Saving Throws:  Strength, Dexterity
Skills:  Choice of two from: Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Investigation, Nature, Perception, Stealth, and Survival.

Note: There are other ways to acquire certain proficiencies beyond the character class.  Certain races, backgrounds, and other options allow a character to pick up proficiencies outside their normal range, so if you see something you’re looking for, you might just find it in another section.  


Every character class has a recommended starting package of weapons and equipment.  This is an excellent way to save yourself time by grabbing a gear package and being ready to go.  All of the suggestions are laid out in a menu, and you as a player get to make one choice per bullet point for your character’s equipment.
  • (a) scale mail or (b) leather armor
  • (a) two short swords or (b) two simple melee weapons
  • (a) a dungeoneer’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
  • longbow and quiver with 20 arrows

Class Abilities:

The majority of the remaining class description will feature a combination of special abilities and tricks that only members of this specific class have access to.  These are the other professional capabilities that define this class and separate it from the remaining ones.  They give the flavoring that make the bard play differently from the sorcerer.  They have a specific format that they’ll likely follow:

1st Level

Favored Enemy
Every Ranger has a chosen foe that they made their life’s mission.  Through study, observation, and interactions, the Ranger has acquired an expertise in that foe that few others are capable of matching.  The Ranger picks a type of enemy:  aberrations, beats, celestials, constructs, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, giants, monstrosities, oozes, plants or undead.  Alternatively, they can select two races of humanoids as favored enemies instead.  
The Ranger has advantage on Wisdom (survival) checks to track the favored enemy, and on all intelligence checks to recall information about them.  Rangers also learn one of the languages of choice for the favored enemy (if they have one).  
Rangers gain additional favored enemies at 6th and 14th level.

Natural Explorer

The Ranger is a child of the wilderness, and in their chosen environs, few are as capable of surviving as a Ranger.  The Ranger chooses one type of favored terrain: arctic, coast, desert, forest, grassland, mountain, swamp or the Underdark.  While in their favored terrain, the Ranger gains the following benefits:
  • When making an Intelligence or Wisdom check related to their favored terrain, the Ranger doubles their proficiency bonus (if applicable)
  • When traveling for an hour or more in the favored terrain, the Ranger gains the following benefits:
    • Difficult terrain doesn’t slow the Ranger’s party down.
    • The Ranger’s party cannot become lost without the use of magic
    • Even when actively engaged in another task, the Ranger is still alert to danger
    • If the Ranger is travelling alone, they can be stealthy at normal speed.
    • When the Ranger forages, they find twice as much food as normal.
    • While tracking other creatures, the Ranger learns the exact number of creatures, their size, and how long it’s been since they moved into/through the area.
The Ranger gains additional favored terrains at 6th and 10th level.  

2nd level

Fighting Style
A Ranger picks up a few stylistic choices that inform the way they handle combat.  At this level, select one of the following options:
  • Archery:  The Ranger adds +2 to attack rolls with ranged weapons
  • Defense:When wearing armor, the Ranger adds +1 to his or her armor class
  • Dueling: When using a melee weapon in 1 hand and no other weapons, the Ranger adds +2 to damage rolls with that weapon
  • Two Weapon Fighting:  When using the two weapon fighting option, the Ranger adds his ability modifier to damage results with the second attack.

The Ranger can only select a specific fighting style once.

Channeling natural energy, a Ranger can create a variety of awesome magical effects with their spells..  Spellcasting is an incredibly dense topic that is covered in Chapter 10 of the PHB (Spellcasting) and Chapter 11 (The Spell Lists).  I’m going to cover the basics of how Spellcasting is affected by being all that is Ranger, but you should definitely check out both of those chapters before slinging spells.

Preparing and Casting Spells

The Ranger has a limited number of slots that they can use to cast magical spells.  There’s a big table on page 90 that will tell you how many spell slots of each level you have available.  In order to cast a spell, you need to have a spell slot of the appropriate level or higher available.  Casting the spell expends the spell slot.  All expended spell slots recover with a long rest.

Note 1:  Some spells work better when cast with higher level spell slots.

Spells Known of 1st Level and Higher

A Ranger knows 2 1st level spells at 2nd level, and there’s a handy chart on page 90 that shows a Ranger when they learn more spells.

Spellcasting Ability

Wisdom is the spellcasting attribute a Ranger uses. The Ranger’s connection to the natural world draws in energy and power their spells.   What this means in game terms is as follows:
  • Spell Save DC = 8 + Ranger’s Proficiency Bonus + Ranger’s Wisdom Modifier
  • Spell Attack Modifier= Ranger’s Proficiency Bonus + Ranger’s Wisdom Modifier

3rd Level

Primeval Awareness
The Ranger can channel his or her senses into detection and awareness of the wider area around himself or herself.  The Ranger spends an action and expends a spell slot to focus on the area around the Ranger.  For the next minute (per level of the spell slot expended), the Ranger can detect the presence of the following creatures within 1 mile of the Ranger’s location (6 miles if within favored terrain):  aberrations, celestials, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead.  This sense won’t reveal the numbers or location of these creatures, just their presence.  

Ranger Archetype Ability 1
Depending on which Ranger Archetype you select, you’ll get one of two abilities.  I’ll cover these below when i cover the archetypes in greater detail.

4th Level

Ability Score Increase

You can increase one ability score of your choice by two points or you can increase two different ability scores by one point.  You can’t increase an ability score over 20 using this ability.  Some games allow feats, and you can substitute a feat for an Ability Score Increase.

5th Level

Extra Attack
When the Ranger takes the attack action, he or she can attack twice in a turn.  

6th Level

Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer improve at this level

7th Level

Ranger Archetype Ability 2

Depending on which Sacred Oath you select, you’ll get one of two abilities.  I’ll cover these below when i cover the archetypes in greater detail.

8th Level

Ability Score Increase

You can increase one ability score of your choice by two points or you can increase two different ability scores by one point.  You can’t increase an ability score over 20 using this ability.  Some games allow feats, and you can substitute a feat for an Ability Score Increase.

Land’s Stride

Moving through difficult ground of a nonmagical nature costs the Ranger no additional movement.  Moving through nonmagical plants without being slowed or damaged by them is also possible at this level.  In addition, the Ranger has advantage on saving throws against plants that are magically controlled or created specifically to impede movement like entangle.

9th Level

No new abilities gained

10th Level

Hide in Plain Sight

The Ranger can spend 1 minute creating camouflage for themselves.  This requires natural materials and obscures the Ranger.  Once masked with these materials, the Ranger can attempt to hide against a solid surface.  This grants a +10 bonus to Dexterity (Stealth) checks as long as the Ranger doesn’t move or act.  

Natural Explorer improves at this level as well

11th Level

Ranger Archetype Ability 3

Depending on which Ranger Archetype you select, you’ll get one of two abilities.  I’ll cover these below when i cover the archetypes in greater detail.

12th Level

Ability Score Increase

You can increase one ability score of your choice by two points or you can increase two different ability scores by one point.  You can’t increase an ability score over 20 using this ability.  Some games allow feats, and you can substitute a feat for an Ability Score Increase.

13th Level

No new abilities gained

14th Level


The Ranger can take the Hide Action as a bonus action.  Further, the Ranger can’t be tracked by nonmagical means unless they choose to leave a trail.  

Favored Enemy Improves at this level.

15th Level

Ranger Archetype Ability 3

Depending on which Ranger Archetype you select, you’ll get one of two abilities.  I’ll cover these below when i cover the archetypes in greater detail.

16th Level

Ability Score Increase

You can increase one ability score of your choice by two points or you can increase two different ability scores by one point.  You can’t increase an ability score over 20 using this ability.  Some games allow feats, and you can substitute a feat for an Ability Score Increase.

17th Level

No new abilities gained at this level

18th Level

Feral Senses

The Ranger no longer needs to be able to see a target to fight it effectively.  When attacking a target the Ranger can’t see, the Ranger no longer suffers disadvantage because he or she can’t see the target.  The Ranger can also sense the presence of invisible creatures within 30 feet if the creature isn’t hidden, or the Ranger isn’t blinded or deafened.   

19th Level

Ability Score Increase

You can increase one ability score of your choice by two points or you can increase two different ability scores by one point.  You can’t increase an ability score over 20 using this ability.  Some games allow feats, and you can substitute a feat for an Ability Score Increase.

20th Level

Foe Slayer

The Ranger becomes a master slayer of their chosen foes.  Once on each of the Ranger’s turns, it can add it’s Wisdom modifier to the attack or damage roll made against one of its favored enemies.  This ability can be applied before or after the roll is made, but before the effects are applied.  

Thoughts and Ideas:

The Ranger feels like it’s got two primary modes for game play.  It’s either going to be a long range attacker, using its ranged combat style and mobility to stay out of reach of the bad guys, and sniping from cover before moving on.  The other version is a short range skirmisher that is probably well suited to intercepting attackers going after softer and squishier targets.  

The combination of natural explorer and favored enemy means that a Ranger has almost unparalleled opportunities for customization and tailoring.  You can easily build whatever type of Ranger that favors specific types of terrain and hunts specific monsters.  Make sure you keep your Wisdom score high because it boosts most of your abilities and powers your spellcasting.  


A character class is built to be as broadly encompassing as it can be.  There are many types of wizards in the world, and different types of fighters as well.  Each class has access to a selection of Archetypes that allow a player to further tighten up their concept and build the type of character they are specifically looking for.  Rogues have access to both thief and assassin, for example, and while they are both Rogues at heart, the abilities that each Archetype uses definitely change the way the class feels to play.  

The two Ranger Archetypes offered in the Player’s Handbook for the Ranger are the Hunter and the Beast Master.  Each one adds a group of abilities to the core Ranger, and they can shift the way you look at your character and the feats of awesome you might want to pull off.  


The Hunter is a warrior of the wilderness who embraces the challenge of finding and dealing with the monstrous foes that threaten the wild world and imperil civilization.  This is a character that will go to the ends of the world to end threats posed by a variety of monsters.  The Hunter has learned a variety of special tricks and tactics to deal with these threats.  

Hunter’s Prey

At 3rd level, the Hunter gains one of the following abilities.  
  • Colossus Slayer:  When the Hunter hits a creature below it’s starting maximum hit points, the Hunter deals an additional 1D8 points of damage.
  • Giant Killer: When a Large or bigger creature within five feet of the Hunter misses the Hunter with an attack, the Hunter can use its reaction to immediately attack the creature, provided the Ranger can see it
  • Horde Breaker: Once on each of the Hunter’s turns, when it makes a weapon attack against a creature it can make an attack with the same melee weapon against a different creature within 5 feet of the original target and range of the weapon.   

Defensive Tactics

At 7th level, the Hunter gains one of the following abilities
  • Escape the Horde:  Attacks of Opportunity made against the Hunter are made with disadvantage.
  • Multiattack Defense:  When a creature hits a hunter with one attack, the Hunter gains a +4 bonus to his or her AC against any other attacks made by the creature until the end of the turn.
  • Steel Will:  The Hunter has advantage on Saving Throws against being frightened.  


At 11th level, the Hunter gains one of the following abilities.
  • Volley:  The Hunter can use its action to target a point on the battlefield.  Everything within 10 feet of that point is subject to a ranged weapon attack from the Hunter.  Each attack uses its own ammunition and requires a separate attack roll.
  • Whirlwind Attack:  The Hunter can use its action to make a melee attack against any number of targets within 5 feet.  Each attack requires a separate attack roll.

Superior Hunter’s Defense

At 15th level, the Hunter gains one of the following abilities.
  • Evasion:  The Hunter’s ability to avoid things is legendary.  When subjected to anything that requires a Dexterity Saving Throw to take half damage, a successful saving throw results in no damage instead.  A failed saving throw results in half damage instead of full.
  • Stand Against the Tide:  When a hostile creature misses the Hunter with a melee attack, the Hunter can use its reaction to force the hostile creature to repeat the attack against another creature of the Hunter’s Choice (You can’t make the creature hit itself).
  • Uncanny Dodge:  When an attacker that the Hunter can see hits it with an attack, the Hunter can use its reaction to reduce the damage by half.  


The Hunter keys off the versatility of the Ranger and adds a series of combat tricks to augment the Ranger’s existing options.  This version of the Ranger is much more at home hunting down and ending the threats they’ve specialized in dealing with than the other Ranger Archetype, and if you’re looking for a warrior of the wilds who feels like the rangers from the works of Tolkien, this is probably your path.  


The Beastmaster is a dramatically different take on the Ranger, and adds an additional resource for the Ranger, an Animal Companion.  The Beastmaster travels with an animal of some type that shares in their adventures and becomes an essential part of their life.  The Beastmaster can always count on their Animal Companion to have their back.  

Ranger’s Companion

At 3rd level, the Beastmaster gains the Animal Companion that the Archetype is named for.  The Ranger’s Companion is a beast with a Challenge Rating of 1/4  or lower (Hawk, Mastiff, or Panther are the examples listed).  Add the Beastmaster’s Proficiency bonus to its AC, Attack Rolls, Damage Rolls, and any saving throws or skills it’s proficient in.  The Companion has a hit point maximum equal to its normal maximum or four times the Beastmaster’s Ranger level.
The beast obeys commands as best it can, takes its turn on the Beastmaster’s initiative, but doesn’t take an action unless commanded to.  On the Beastmaster’s turn, it can verbally command the beast to take an action (this uses the Beastmaster’s action) from the following list.  Attack, Dash, Disengage, Dodge, or Help.  Once the Beastmaster has Extra Attack at 5th level, it can take a weapon attack when it uses this ability to order the beast to attack.
When traveling in the Beastmaster’s favored terrain, the beast and the Beastmaster can move full speed while being stealthy if it’s just the two of them.  
Should the beast die, the Beastmaster can form a magical bond with another companion by spending 8 hours in close proximity to the beast.  The new beast does not have to be the same as the deceased one.  

Exceptional Training

At 7th level, the Beastmaster’s companion has received extensive training.  As a bonus action on any turn the companion doesn’t attack, the Beastmaster can command it to Dash, Disengage, Dodge, or Help.  

Bestial Fury

At 11th level, the beast companion can make two attacks when you command it to use the Attack action.  

Share Spells

The Beastmaster’s spells can be shared with the companion.  Anytime the Beastmaster casts a spell that targets himself or herself, he or she can have the spell affect the companion at the same time.  The companion has to be within 30 feet of the Beastmaster for this ability to work.  


The Beastmaster focuses on a different aspect of the Ranger, and it’s an interesting archetype.  Using an animal companion as a secondary party member, the Beastmaster can scout, search, and do a lot of other tasks without drawing attention to themselves (if they’re cautious).  The Animal Companion can be an asset in combat, especially for a ranged combatant who brings their own bodyguard to the battlefield.

Thoughts on the Ranger

I enjoy the Ranger as a class a lot, and with the Druid it covers the spectrum of nature focused adventurers.  (If you want to add something else to that mix, try a Warlock with a Fey Patron).  It’s a martial character that works off of a couple of different primary methods of interacting with the world.  Be cautious about taking advantage of the “I have some great options for wandering off by myself, bye guys!” special abilities.  You have the option of being a wonderful scout, but you still probably need a party of adventurers to back you up.  

The Ranger can specialize to do a lot of different things, and that’s one of the hallmark’s of the class.  You can build the super ranged combat Ranger that shoots Orcs and Goblins from downtown while inside their forest home, or they are arctic hunters who track Frost Giants across the polar wilds.  If you’re looking for a specialized martial character with a bit of nature magic, look no further.

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