The single character that ran level 1-18, session 1 to campaign conclusion, in my most recent 5e game was the Ranger, Althea.
Ranger is problematic in 5e.
This was evident to me before we even started, which is why I suggested that the player use the Revised Ranger (which she did). And while the Revised Ranger was a solution to some of the problems inherent with the class, namely making it more competitive in terms of power level, we still had frustrations.
Favoured Enemy is still dependent on DM Fiat or Metagaming but somehow ironically worse now, your DPS depends on it. The out of combat applications of Natural Explorer basically remove the exploration pillar of play. Primeval Awareness sounds cool but is straight up goofy in actual play, especially when the Ranger chooses Beasts as their favourite enemies.
“Yes, Althea, you sense the presence of millions of earthworms below you. There are 14 deer and three black bears in the forest. 4 Miles to the east, you sense saltwater fish…
Player and DM, we still weren’t happy with the Ranger. So after some prodding, around level 8 or 9, I put together a Re-Revised Ranger addressing the problems that I had with the class.
Since then, an Unearthed Arcana, has been released that addresses some of the issues quite nicely actually, and I think if that gets tuned and released in an official capacity, it might be the best iteration of ranger so far. But until then, and for posterity, here is how I fixed the Ranger.
The Re-Revised Ranger
Abstract: Why Revise the Ranger… Again?
The Ranger, as it appears in the Player’s Handbook, has received a lot of criticism for being under-tuned and more importantly, not particularly fun to play.
The popular “Revised Ranger” Unearthed Arcana did a lot to address the complaints about the power level and combat utility of the class, particularly with the complete overhaul of the Beast Master archetype. However, it did little to address the holes in the overall design of the class that lead to an unsatisfying play experience. These unsolved problems, as I see it, are the following:
- The Ranger fills an ill-defined combat role, being neither as mobile as a rogue, nor as powerful as a fighter, and lacking the burst damage of the Paladin or the sustain of the Barbarian, they lack the means to stand out relative to other martial and “half-caster” classes.
- When compared to the other “half-caster”, the Paladin, the Ranger is outclassed in tanking potential (Heavy Armor Proficiency), burst damage (Divine Smite), burst healing (Lay on Hands), spell selection (with Paladins preparing spells from their full list, and access to Oath spells), party support abilities (Aura)… In a direct comparison the Ranger falls short in almost everything aside from actually trekking through the wilderness.
- Long-distance travel, the one niche where Rangers truly stand out, is rarely relevant. Starving or getting lost in the woods shouldn’t pose a dire threat beyond the first few levels of play, even for parties lacking a ranger, and urban campaigns never benefit from many of these abilities.
- Favored Enemy, the signature ability of the ranger, is a holdover from previous editions that is among the most poorly designed class features in the core game. The Revised version, while improved by the addition of some combat utility, still doesn’t address the core failing of the ability. Favored Enemy benefits a Ranger most in campaigns that lack a diversity of foes. Rangers must choose one of a few viable, common creature types (Monstrosity, Humanoid, etc.) or risk infrequently benefitting from the ability (Oozes and Plants).
- Too many passive abilities limit the tactical choices and agency of Ranger players. Players like to use abilities, make choices, and roll dice. Class features like the inability to get lost while travelling do not offer a sense of satisfaction for the player, and instead only serve to reduce the opportunities for the DM to create tension or drama.
In contrast, this redesign of the Ranger should:
- Fill a unique roll, mechanically and in class flavor. The new Ranger will focus on preparation, planning, awareness and support.
- Feel useful and have tactically-relevant abilities at all levels when compared to other classes, particularly the other half-caster Paladin.
- Have versatility that does not rely on encountering certain enemies, certain terrains, or performing overland travel.
- Use Favored Enemy frequently, as the signature ability of the class.
- Make more choices, roll more dice and use less passive abilities overall.
I think my redesign of the class is a success in these regards. When paired with any archetype except Beast Master it stacks up against any other class in the game, in a way that Ranger did not before.
Hit Dice: 1d10 per ranger level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 10 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d10 (or 6) + your Constitution modifier per ranger level after 1st
Armor: Light Armor, Medium Armor, Shields
Weapons: Simple Weapons, Martial Weapons
Skills: Choose three from Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Investigation, Nature, Perception, Stealth, and Survival
(Note, the above features are unchanged from the PHB Ranger. Spellcasting and Starting Equipment are likewise unchanged.)
|1st||+2||Favored Enemy, Natural Explorer|
|2nd||+2||Fighting Style, Spellcasting|
|3rd||+2||Ranger Conclave, Live off the Land|
|4th||+2||Ability Score Improvement, Favored Enemy Improvement|
|6th||+3||Hide in Plain Sight|
|7th||+3||Ranger Conclave feature|
|8th||+3||Ability Score Improvement, Land’s Stride|
|10th||+4||Favored Enemy Improvement, One Eye Open|
|11th||+4||Ranger Conclave feature|
|13th||+5||Ability Score Improvement|
|14th||+5||Vanish, Favored Enemy Improvement|
|15th||+5||Ranger Conclave feature|
|16th||+5||Ability Score Improvement|
|19th||+6||Ability Score Improvement|
Beginning at 1st level, you have experience studying, tracking, and hunting creatures of various types. With adequate time to prepare yourself, you can steel yourself against a certain type of foe, adapting your equipment and conditioning your mind to exploit their weaknesses. Whenever you complete a long rest, you may choose Beasts, Plants, or Humanoids to be your Favored Enemy. When selecting Humanoids, you must choose a specific sub-type, such as Gnolls, Goblinoids, or Elves, to apply this feature to. You gain +1 to AC against attacks made by creatures of this type, and you cannot be surprised by your Favored Enemy.
Beginning at 4th level, you have become an experienced leader and trainer, able to prepare small groups for combat. When you choose a Favored Enemy, you may target a number of friendly creatures equal to 1 + your Wisdom Modifier (minimum 1) that you can see. These creatures gain a +1 AC against attacks made by your Favored Enemy until they complete another long rest. Additionally, the list of creature types you may choose from expands to include Oozes, Undead, and Monstrosities.
Beginning at 10th level, you gain advantage on saving throws caused by your favored enemies abilities, other than spells. The list of creature types expands to include Fey, Giants, Aberrations, and Elementals. Additionally, you can select now 2 creature types to be your Favored Enemy when completing a long rest.
Beginning at 14th level, the list of creature types expands to include Celestials, Constructs, Dragons, and Fiends. In addition, the bonus granted to targeted friendly creatures gives advantage on any saving throws caused by your favoured enemies abilities, other than spells.
You are a master of navigating the natural world and you act with swift and decisive action when attacked. This grants you the following benefits:
- You have advantage on initiative rolls.
- On the first turn during combat, you have advantage on attack rolls against creatures that have not yet acted.
In addition, you are a seasoned guide, skilled at navigating the wilderness. You gain the following benefits when traveling for an hour or more:
- Difficult terrain does not slow your group’s travel.
- You have advantage on Survival checks to avoid becoming lost, to forage food, or to find fresh water.
- You may engage in another activity while traveling (foraging, navigating, tracking) while remaining alert to danger.
- If you are traveling alone, you may move stealthily at a normal pace.
- Archery: You gain a +2 bonus to Attack rolls you make with Ranged Weapons.
- Defense: While you are wearing armor, you gain a +1 bonus to AC.
- Dueling: When you are wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other Weapons, you gain a +2 bonus to Damage Rolls with that weapon.
- Two-Weapon Fighting: When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second Attack.
Live off the Land
You gain proficiency with two of the following tools: Carpenter’s tools, Cartographer’s tools, Cook’s utensils, Herbalism kit, Leatherworker’s tools, or Woodcarver’s tools.
Beginning at 5th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.
Hide in Plain Sight
Starting at 6th level, you can spend 1 minute creating camouflage for yourself. You must have access to fresh mud, dirt, plants, soot, and other naturally occurring materials with which to create your camouflage.
Once you are camouflaged in this way, you can try to hide by pressing yourself up against a solid surface, such as a tree or wall, that is at least as tall and wide as you are. You gain a +10 bonus to Dexterity (Stealth) checks as long as you remain there without moving or taking actions. Once you move or take an action or a reaction, you must camouflage yourself again to gain this benefit.
Starting at 8th level, moving through nonmagical difficult terrain costs you no extra Movement. You can also pass through nonmagical Plants without being slowed by them and without taking damage from them if they have thorns, spines, or a similar hazard.
In addition, you have advantage on saving throws against Plants that are magically created or manipulated to impede Movement, such those created by the Entangle spell.
One Eye Open
You are a master of resting in adverse or dangerous conditions. Starting at 10th level, you still benefit from your full passive perception score when sleeping or meditating, and you are aware of anything that moves through your line of sight during that time.
Starting at 14th level, you can use the Hide action as a Bonus Action on Your Turn. Also, you can’t be tracked by nonmagical means, unless you choose to leave a trail.
At 18th level, you gain preternatural senses that help you locate creatures. You gain Blindsight of 30 ft. This feature does not work if you are Deafened.
You also have advantage on any Intelligence (Investigation) check to discern illusions.
At 20th level, you become an unparalleled hunter of your enemies. Once on each of your turns, you can add your Wisdom modifier to the Attack roll or the damage roll of an Attack you make against one of your Favored Enemies. You can choose to use this feature before or after the roll, but before any effects of the roll are applied. If it is reduced to 0 hit points by this attack, all hostile creatures within 60 feet of you and who are able to see the target must make a Wisdom save against your spell save DC or become Frightened of you for 1 minute. They may repeat this save at the end of each of their turns.
Notes on Changes Made:
1: Overall, level 1 is mainly a less front-loaded version of the Revised Ranger’s first level.
The new Favored Enemy, grants a defense boost.
Originally, as in the Revised Ranger, it added a damage boost. However, this falls off in utility in high level play, and with the ability to grant a similar effect to your team later on, it became a nuisance to track. AC, because it is relevant outside of your turn, proves easier to remember. It’s a buff, but still nothing crazy.
The targeted creature type can be changed on a long rest, which is a considerable buff that is only particularly useful once the ranger advances to higher levels. At level 1 ability the ability is heavily restricted by creature types available. The 1st-level options will rarely be relevant outside low level encounters, but the available options increase as the ranger increases in level.
Favored Terrain has been removed, as in the Revised Ranger, due to its over-specificity. Instead, Natural Explorer is not limited by terrain type, but its passive abilities have been nerfed slightly. They now grant advantage to more rolls, rather than providing automatic success to certain activities, giving a more active feel to using the ability. Natural Explorer’s combat bonuses from the Revised Ranger have been retained, granting an interesting first-level combat advantage that does not lose its utility as the ranger advances in level.
2: No change made.
3: Primeval Awareness received a major overhaul in the Revised Ranger, but in neither version was it particularly useful, nor did the quasi-magical super-sense match the flavor of the class. It also proved problematic in play, scanning a radius of many miles which could include thousands or more of a certain creature type. It is almost impossible to practically convey anything that is both valuable and realistic using that information in play. Particularly this becomes an issue with the Revised Ranger’s version, with the “Beast” or “Humanoid” favoured enemy.
Instead, the ranger gets a ribbon ability “Live off the Land” which opens up a little roleplay by allow the ranger to fill a couple under-utilized out-of-combat niches. Since players are also choosing a Conclave at this level, a minor side upgrade is fine.
4: A boost to Favored Enemy is provided in addition to the regular Ability Score Improvement for this level. It provides a minor boost to the party’s overall defense and gives access to more useful creature types.
5: Unchanged, level 5 provides a major power spike for the Ranger.
6: As Natural Explorer and Favored Enemy improvements no longer occur on this level, Hide in Plain Sight has been moved from Level 10 to Level 6. This is a “slow” level following the fast growth and powerful abilities granted in levels 3, 4, and 5. Hide in Plain Sight is a specialized and generally underwhelming ability, so granting access to it earlier does not provide extra power ramp.
7: Conclave Features are currently unchanged.
8: Lands Stride is another somewhat weak ability, but falling on the same level as an ASI, I see no need for changes.
9: Unchanged. The Spell Level and Proficiency Boost on their own is sufficient and in line with other classes.
10: The ranger no longer receives a new Favored Terrain (removed) or Hide in Plain Sight (moved to level 6). Instead the Ranger gains an improvement to their Favored Enemy, granting more options, a defense boost to non-spell abilities (emphasizing their role as a monster hunter), and the ability to designate 2 Favored Enemies per rest, for a major boost. They also receive a new ability, One Eye Open, which like Hide in Plain Sight is situational but flavorful, and benefits the ranger’s role as guide and lookout.
11-20: The first 10 levels have been adjusted to scale better into higher level play, so only small adjustments were made to later levels.
Rather than an additional favored enemy at 14, the ranger now has access to all creature types and provides their saving throw buff to other party members.
Feral Senses was a fundamentally situational ability that was nowhere close in utility or power to what other classes receive at this level. It now grants full Blindsight for 30 feet, conditional on being able to hear, and Advantage in discerning the nature of illusions.
Foe Slayer has been buffed with a powerful Fear ability to make it a more fitting capstone ability.