I really enjoy the new Fifth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons (5E). I think it strikes a really nice balance between crunchy rules for the players to latch onto and enough guidelines and fluff to allow the DM to control and alter the story without the session feeling like an extended board game. I like the fact that the designers are playtesting more before they release things, and that really shows in the classes. Each class feels balanced against each other but in ways that allows each to shine with something that no one else can do.
Except the ranger. The ranger feels like a throwback to the oldest edition of the class where it was a Frankenstein-like amalgamation of other classes. The ranger in 5E doesn’t do anything noteworthy that some of the other classes can’t accomplish with their existing abilities. It has a few cool abilities that really add to the flavor, but the other classes have that as well – and then some.
Mike Mearls stated a short while ago that they feel the ranger may have missed the mark with some players and that they were going to be looking at revising it in the future. Likely this means we’ll see some variation of it in an upcoming Unearthed Arcana article, but I’m pretty impatient. I wanted to see if I could put together a revised ranger that met my goals for the class while trying to keep the design aesthetics of 5E. So I tweaked it, pretty extensively actually as you will see.
My goals with tweaking the ranger came from the following thoughts.
- The Hunter archetype has abilities that ALL rangers should have. The Beast Master archetype is neat, but when compared to the Hunter it falls waaaay short.
- Spellcasting should be an OPTION for the ranger, not the default class. And I feel having a separate spell list is redundant – the Venn diagram between ranger and druid spells overlaps so much as to make a separate list moot.
- Rangers should be mobile and focus on surgical strikes against foes. The exact details of this should be left to the individual ranger.
Looking at the existing ranger, I made the following major changes to the new one.
- I removed spellcasting as the default option and replaced its abilities with Wilderness Boons. These are spell-like abilities that can be used outside of combat once per long rest to duplicate the utility aspects of the ranger’s spell list.
- I gave them a unique ability called Mark, which scales in level in a similar fashion to sneak attack, that otherwise functions just like the hunter’s mark spell.
- I moved the Hunter archetype abilities into a category called Tactical Tricks that the ranger can select at various levels. These are things that ALL rangers should have the option of doing, which includes some defensive and offensive abilities that are more situational.
- I developed three archetypes – the Beast Master, the Stalker, and the Wild Guardian. The Beast Master functions very similarly to the existing Beast Master archetype, with some noteworthy differences (commanding your beast to attack is a bonus action, for example, and at 15th level your beast becomes bigger and better). The Stalker gets some of the more stealthy abilities of the original ranger class, and the Wild Guardian is essentially a druidic version of the fighter’s Eldritch Knight with some terrain-based abilities.
- I beefed up the 20th level ability to make it more of a “wow” feature, like the rest of the classes.
Take a look at the PDF and let me know what you think. I’ll be playtesting this with my own home group as well to see how it balances out.