D&D 5e Character Optimization – Ranger
So a lot of the character optimization posts were deleted when Wizards of the Coast’s closed their community page this week. Fortunately, I saved several of the ones that I liked. What follows is the character optimization for the Ranger from Wizards with additions from Giant in the Playground with my editing, formatting and tweaks. Just like the Barbarian Optimization, this is a living article that will have updates as changes are requested and discussed with readers.I present this week:
The Outdoors-man Guide to Natural Ranging: A Rangers Guide
- Ability Scores and Races
- Proficiencies, Skills, Backgrounds, and Class Features
- Beast Companions
Standard Color Values for Ratings:
Gold: Amazing, a must have.
Sky-Blue: Really good.
Blue: Good pick up
Black: Average. This shouldn’t hurt your character.
Purple: Not the best of choices… If you can make it work then more power to you!
Red: To each their own… do you have a backup character though?
Part 1: Introduction
However you want to build your ranger, from Park Ranger to Power Ranger, this guide will help you get there. The 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons Ranger has a familiar feel to it which has the player channeling her inner champion of nature for sure. Will you be a master of the ranged attack? Bringing a volley of death down upon your foes with an accuracy of that rivals that of Robin Hood. Or will you fray into combat with melee weapons ready to strike dead all those before you? Ranged or Melee, this guide will break down all the pros and cons of every power, skill and build. First thing to ask yourself is what kind of ranger do I want to build, melee or ranged?
Conceptual Start to Your Build: Lets talk about base build ideas before we jump into the nitty gritty of it all. There are two VERY basic ideas to Ranger for base builds being melee or ranged. Lets talk about melee first.
Melee: There are two base routes you can go with a melee ranger that can off-shoot into many other builds. Those two base routes are Dexterity vs Strength builds. Lets go over the grand idea of each. I’m not going to use the color system here because this is just conceptual thoughts I want folks to think about before building their character. I will break down dexterity versus strength in the ability section in much great detail.
Dexterity: Go this route if you like the idea of wearing light armor, dodging fireballs, striking with finesse and hiding in the shadows.
Strength: Go this route if you want to use brute force to swing your weapons and make use of medium armor.
Ranged: The twang of the bow sending arrows of death at your foe! Ranger is iconic in gaming for being a master of ranged attacks A ranged weapon wielding Ranger will almost always use Dexterity as their main stat. A Strength based thrower can be done if you want to hurl thrown weapons at your foe instead.
Keep these ideas in mind while we explore all the options of Ranger.
Part 2: Ability Scores and Races
All recommended starting stats are assuming that you are using the point buy system.
For Dexterity Builds:
- Dexterity  Dexterity is the best stat for Rangers hands down. It adds to Attack and Damage for Finesse Melee weapons and Ranged Weapons, Armor Class, Dex Saving Throws, three skills, and initiative.
- Constitution  Everyone needs Constitution. Melee Rangers should put a bit more into it for survivability. It also helps with concentration check for when you have a concentration spell cooking.
- Wisdom  Wisdom is a pretty important stat for rangers. First it’s your stat for spell casting so any spell attacks or DC’s will be set by your wisdom. Second, wisdom is linked to a number of skills that rangers are going to use on a regular basis. Third, there are some other class features that are linked to wisdom
- Intelligence  Intelligence helps with knowing about your favored enemy as well as doing investigation checks. If you can pull off an above average Intelligence then great, but not at the cost of any higher rated stat
- Strength  This can be a dump stat for non strength builds
- Charisma  8 is great for this stat. Dump it hard
For Strength Builds, put Strength at the top of your list, and keep the same order as before.:
- Strength  Besides athletic skill, strength checks, saves and encumbrance, Strength just doesn’t do much for Ranger (Besides Strength builds) Again, if you want to use a non finesse melee weapon then you WILL have to do a Strength build. For strength builds have a 16-17 to start.
- Dexterity  Strength based ranger, start with a 14 to help your armor class.
- Constitution 
- Wisdom 
- Intelligence 
- Charisma 
Human [+1 to All scores] +1 to all your stats is great! But that is about all you are getting from this race.
- Variant Human [Strength Build: (+1 to Str and +1 Con), or Dexterity Build: (+1 Dex and +1 Wis), Plus a Feat ] Aragorn stand tall and be proud, Humans (Variant) have dethroned Elves as alpha wolf and now claim the throne as top race for rangers. +1 to two stats of choice (Dexterity or Strength and Wisdom or Constitution based on your build) a free skill and language and the real prize, a feat at first level. There are some feats that are game changers for Rangers which we will go over later. But trust in me that this alone makes Variant Human your top choice for race when it comes to Rangers.
Elf [+2 Dex] In past editions Elf has been the top race to select for Rangers with their high dexterity and being freaking children of nature. Pros: +2 Dexterity, proficiency in Perception, Fey Ancestry and Trance are all amazing for Rangers, seems like Elf might still be alpha wolf
- Wood Elf [+1 Wis] Most likely the best choice for Ranger in the game. +1 wisdom is very nice and +2 dexterity is just so nice. Fleet of foot for a base 35ft speed and Mask of the Wild, which lets you attempt to hide while lightly obscured by natural phenomena is simply amazing. Elf weapon training is again redundant. Down side is there will be lots of wood elf rangers out there are you might not feel unique. So the next best option for a Dexterity Based Ranger after Variant Human.
- High Elf [+1 Int] +2 Dexterity is tops and +1 Intelligence helps with many great skills for ranger. Getting a free wizard cantrip is amazing, I recommend any of the non-spell attack or DC cantrips. Some that stand out are blade ward, minor illusion, message and true strike. Elf Weapon Training is redundant.
- Eladrin [+1 Int] and a triple nope even with Misty step [DMG]
- Dark Elf (Drow) or (If Underground) [+1 Cha] The race that made rangers famous thanks to Drizzt Do’Urden. Oh 5th edition… you take back what 4th had given the players… which was a playable Drow. Pros: +2 Dexterity, Amazing darkvision, Drow Magic is top notch with dancing lights, faerie fire and darkness. Cons: Weapon training again…+1 Charisma is kind of meh, and the big whopper… Sunlight Sensitivity. Unless you are playing an underdark campaign sunlight sensitivity makes drow unplayable.
Half-Orc [+2 Str, +1 Con] +2 Strength and +1 constitution are solid stats for a strength build Ranger (for dexterity based go to BLACK). Darkvision is great as well as a free intimidation skill proficiency. Savage attacks adds an extra dice on critical hits. That plus Relentless Endurance for a melee build ranger makes even Dexterity Melee Builds take a long look at Half-Orc. So the next best option for a Strength Based Ranger after Variant Human.
Halfling: +2 Dexterity makes Halflings a front runner for top race. Other factors one why Halfling make some of the best rangers are: first and foremost the Lucky ability, being able to reroll a 1 on a d20 for attacks, saves and ability checks is unreal. Brave gives the Halfling advantage on saves for frightened which can save your hide. Halfling nimbleness is great for those dungeon crawls with tight spaces, while other races are stuck waiting their turn to move Halfling go where they please. The only cons are lower speed at 25 feet and no darkvision.
- Lightfoot Halfling [+1 Cha] +2 Dexterity is win & +1 Charisma is a waste, but gaining naturally stealthy is awesome. Melee or ranged can gain benefits from being able to hide behind larger party member’s. At lvl 14 Halfling rangers really come into power with the vanish ability.
- Stout halfling [+1 Con] +2 Dexterity is wonderful, +1 Constitution will be of more benefit to a melee ranger and advantage and resistance when it comes to poison is great when you need it. Stout lacks the flair of Lightfoot but it is for sure a solid choice.
- Ghostwise Halflings [+1 Wis] Not a bad choice. [SCAG]
Goliath [+2 Str and +1 Con] Ability scores are good for a Strength build Ranger, the free Athletics skill ensures easy grappling, and Stone’s Endurance makes an already durable character fiendishly difficult to kill. However, Stone’s Endurance will compete for other reaction options, so these guys are a step below the Half-Orc.
Aarakocra [+2 Dex] You can fly, and you get perfect stat boosts. This is great. [EE]
Gnome [+2 Int] While +2 intelligence isn’t a total waste on rangers it’s not your main stat. What I really like about gnome is Gnome Cunning which gives advantage on all intelligence, wisdom and charisma saves, which not the best saves for rangers. Darkvision is another plus. Base move of 25 feet is a bummer.
- Forest Gnome [+1 Dex] +1 Dexterity and +2 Intelligence makes Forest Gnome a very playable race for ranger. Gaining Minor Illusion cantrip for free is great. Speak with small beasts could be fun RP or maybe even useful once in a blue moon.
- Deep Gnome [ +1 Dex] DEX is great, and you can get advantage on a lot of saves and Stealth. A very cool option for an Underdark campaign. It still sucks that your primary stat boost is for a dump stat. [SCAG]
- Rock Gnome [+ 1 Con] +2 Intelligence helps…+1 Constitution is good for any class and that’s about all I can say for Rock Gnome for rangers. I guess if you want to RP a steam punk ranger then go for it…
Dwarf [+2 Con] As a whole dwarves isn’t that bad of a choice. Bonus to constitution, Darkvision, and Poison Resilience are all pluses. Combat Training (redundant) and reduced speed are both negatives
- Hill Dwarf [+1 Wis] +1 Wisdom, +2 Constitution and +1 extra HP per level is good for any Ranger.
- Duergar [+1 Str] gives a +1 Bonus to Strength, Superior Darkvision and Innate magic of Enlarge, invisibility makes it a good choice, but with Sunlight sensitivity makes him very limited. [SCAG]
- Mountain Dwarf [+2 Str] +2 Strength and +2 Constitution are pretty solid stats but for any build other then a strength ranger (BLACK ranking for strength based Ranger) this isn’t the best race to pick, Dwarven armor training (like Combat Training) is redundant. Mountain Dwarf just doesn’t bring enough to the table for me.
Half-Elf [+2 Cha, and (+1 to Dex/Wis or +1Str/Con)] +2 Charisma is a waste… but the half-elf bring more pro’s then con’s to the table. Darkvision, Fey Ancestry and two extra proficiency of your choice make half-elf very tempting. Put your two extra +1 stats into Dexterity/Strength and Wisdom/Constitution and you have a very skill based ranger this is pretty solid…
- Half-Elf Variants [+2 Cha, and +1 to Str/Con] Reducing Skills for flavor. Pass. [SCAG]
Genasi [+2 Con] All the Genasi options provide a CON boost and casting with a secondary stat [PotA]
- Air Genasi [+1 Dex] Might be a good choice for a Dexterity based Ranger
- Earth Genasi [+1 Str] Not a bad choice, and you get to move over difficult terrain and get into the action quickly
- Water Genasi [+1 Wis] If you must.
- Fire Genasi [+1 Int] Darkvision, fire resistance and flame cantrip. I wouldn’t
Dragonborn:[+2 Str & +1 Cha] +2 Strength and +1 Charisma doesn’t do much for rangers (unless strength build). No darkvision… Breath Weapon and Resistance to a chosen your ancestry is really nice… but not enough to make Dragonborn a good pick for ranger. Up to a BLACK rating if making a Strength build ranger.
Aasimar [+1 Wis & +2 Cha] Darkvision, resistance and spells. This isn’t a great choice for a Ranger. At all. Stick with Cleric or Paladin for this race. [DMG]
Tiefling: [+1 Int and +2 Cha] Oh hells no (see what I did there?). +1 Intelligence and +2 Charisma for rangers is well, not the best. Darkvision and Fire Resistance are nice… as well as hellish rebuke once a day. Otherwise stay away from Tiefling.
- Tiefling Variant [+1 Int and +2 Dex] Would be a great option along with Winged for a Dexterity based Ranger, but you would lose Infernal Legacy. That’s cool because your Charisma is probably very low. [SCAG]
Part 3: Proficiencies, Skills, Backgrounds, and Class Features
- Light Armor: With no dexterity cap to your dex while in light armor it is the best bet. Start with studded leather if you can afford it.
- Shields: Shield is great option if you are going sword and board melee. It can mess up your spell casting while holding your weapon and shield though.
- Medium Armor: For Strength Rangers this is the way to go, everyone else stay away from it!. Most medium armor gives you disadvantage on stealth check… so make sure you read up on what you are donning!
- Martial Weapons: Rapiers, Longbow, Hand Crossbow, Whip, any of the Polearms…. you are a swiss army knife!
- Simple Weapons: Almost no reason to use a simple weapon when you are proficient with Martial weapons, Almost… *cough* Quarterstaff *cough*
None, if you want something you’ll have to pick it up from your background.
- Strength Strength saves won’t come up that often and when they do half the time they let you use your dexterity anyway…
- Dexterity. Dexterity saving throws are almost half the Area of Effect spells in the game.
Choose three from Perception, Stealth, Survival, Animal Handling, Investigation,Athletics, Insight, and Nature are all your starting skills to choose from. With your good Wisdom score Perception is going to be a must, now rogues are less likely to sneak up on you and you will have an easier time finding your favored enemy that is hiding from you. Stealth is one of your main defenses, not to mention that your job very well could be the scout for the party making stealth a must. Survival is a great skill for Rangers because it is how you track your prey.
Animal Handling (wis)
Non Class Skills
You will be able to get other skills from backgrounds or racial benefits. Two skills to keep on your radar would be Acrobatics and Sleight of Hand because of your high Dexterity score. If you find yourself with excess skill proficiency choices then take skills that fit your background and or character personality.
Sleight of Hand (dex)
Some would argue that the main thing to consider when picking your background would be the two bonus skills and tool access that it gives you. I would argue that of equal importance is does it actually fit the background story that you were thinking of while making your character? You can make it work but don’t try to cram a square peg in a round opening… That being said if a background helps you get the top 5 skills that you need as a ranger (Perception, Stealth, Survival, Animal Handling, Investigation) then they go to the top of the list and looking for non-class skills of Acrobatics
Sleight of Hand but they’re both Dexterity based, look for Backgrounds with Athletics if you have a strengthed based Ranger.
- Folk Hero [animal handling/survival]
- Urchin [sleight of hand/stealth]
- Pirate [athletics/perception] *STR Based Ranger
- Sailor [athletics/perception] *STR Based Ranger
- Outlander [athletics/survival] *STR Based Ranger
- Criminal [deception/stealth]
- Charlatan [deception/sleight of hand]
- Soldier [athletics/intimidation] *STR Based Ranger
- Entertainer [acrobatics/performance]
- Hermit [medicine/religion]
- Sage [arcana/history]
- Guild Artisan [insight/persuasion]
- Knight [history/persuasion]
- Noble [history/persuasion]
Favored Enemy I think most people get to Favored Enemy while reading Ranger and then stop. Where did my damage bonus go!?! The power isn’t horrible, it just isn’t what we are use to. I do like that you learn a language when you select a favored Enemy at least…
Natural Explorer Depending on the campaign this could be amazing, or hardly used at all
Fighting Styles Each style earns its own review
- Archery: +2 to hit in this system is amazing. Range build this is a must.
- Defense: +1 AC is good for Ranged or Melee build. I like this choice more for the sword and board Ranger.
- Dueling: +2 Damage is nothing to sneeze at. With the max attacks for a single weapon ranger being 2, this style is great early game. Not so much mid/late game.
- Two-Weapon Fighting: End game we are talking +4 or +5 damage to a single attack… I value defense over Two-Weapon even for a two-weapon fighting Ranger.
Spellcasting Covered in the Spells Section. Pretty solid spells though.
Ranger Archetype Both Archetypes feel under-powered compared to other classes. We can still work with them though! Covered more in depth in the Archetype Section.
Primeval Awareness Really cool power to find out what dangers lurk in the night, at the cost of a precious spell slot though…
Level 4, 8, 12, 16, 19
Ability Score Improvement This is just typical for all the classes, and you should focus mainly on Strength or Dexterity getting to 20, and then Constitution or Wisdom.
Extra Attack An exciting level for rangers to get
Favored Enemy & Natural Explorer Improvements…
Land’s Stride Ignoring non-magical difficult terrain for no extra movement is really nice, as is not taking damage from non-magical plants. Advantage on saves vs plants is great but rarely used.
Hide in Plain Sight This is another power that had many people shaking their heads. A +10 bonus to stealth is great but having to take a minute to get it ready and if I move then it doesn’t work… Yeah… great power for surveillance duty I guess.
Natural Explorer Improvement
Vanish FINALLY a power us Rangers can use. Hide action as a bonus action? Yes please! Also not being able to be tracked is great.
Favored Enemy Improvement
Feral Senses Depending on the amount of Invisible creatures out there this may go up to gold. Attacking invisible creatures doesn’t give disadvantage… you also know the location of any invisible creature that isn’t hidden within 30 feet. Holy cow!
Foe Slayer Once per turn add your wisdom modifier to the damage on a favored enemy. This makes me want to Multi-class.
Part 4: Archetypes
Choosing the Hunter archetype will turn your Ranger into a death machine of flashing blades or singing arrows. This archetype has many different options, each option can really change the feel of your Ranger so choose wisely.
Hunter’s Prey: (3rd level) gain one of the following features:
- Colossus Slayer: This power is great if you are getting more then one attack a round. Once per turn you do an extra 1d8 damage to a foe that is below its maximum hit points. Sure you can trigger this by attacking a target that is already wounded, but what if when you turn starts there is no wounded targets? I rate Colossus Slayer if you are using more then one attack via off hand attacks, polearm master, crossbow expert and so on. For sword and board I rate Colossus Slayer.
- Giant Killer: The power it self is amazing. Anytime you can get an attack outside of your turn is a major bonus. When a large or larger creature attacks you, you can use your reaction to attack the creature. So why the Purple rating? Besides only working verses large creatures the creature must be within 5 feet of you to use the power. Many of the large or bigger creatures have reach, so if the creature moves up to you and attacks at a 10ft reach, you don’t get to use your power. For non-crossbow expert ranged builds I rate Giant Killer.
- Horde Breaker: Horde breaker could be the best of all three, as long as there is a horde to fight… The free attack you get is just that, FREE, no bonus action required. Once on each of your turns you may make another attack with the same weapon against a target within 5 feet of the first attack. Much like Giant Killer, Horde Breaker won’t be used in every fight but when it is used it will be amazing.
Defensive Tactics: (7th level) gain one of the following features:
- Escape the Horde: Opportunity attacks against you are made with disadvantage. This is a great power for melee builds that want to rush past the enemy front line and get at the softer targets in the back. For all range builds, besides crossbow expert, I rate Escape the Horde because now you aren’t screwed when you need to step out of combat and take an Attack of Opportunity
- Multi-attack Defense: After a creature hits you with an attack you gain +4 AC against all attacks made by that creature for the rest of the turn. This is a good power against really beefy enemies with lots of attacks, say a Dragon. It will get used more often then not (plenty of monsters have two attacks)… but I give it a BLACK rating because I hate powers that trigger after I already had my rear end handed to me. For a Sword and Board (tanky) Ranger I bump up Multiattack Defense everyone else stays at the given rating.
- Steel Will: You have advantage on saving throws against being frightened. Normally I rate anything related to saving throws pretty highly, but this is just so darn specific. If you know you are going up against a lot of dragons this could be a great power for you. If you are a halfling you already have this so pick one of the other two.
Multiattack: (11th level) gain one of the following features:
- Volley: Action, make an attack against any number of creatures within 10 feet of a point (10ft radius) you can see within your weapons range, with a separate attack roll for each target. The ONLY downside to this power is that is says you must have enough, ‘ammunition’ for each target so a thrown weapon Ranger can’t use this power with say daggers or hand axes. The targets you’ll be using this power (level 11 and higher) most likely won’t be one shot by it, but what a great way to wound a large group of your enemies.
- Whirlwind Attack: Action, make a melee attack against any number of creatures within 5 feet of you with a separate attack roll for each target. This is only a 15′ square rather then the 20′ square from volley. One thing you can do to improve this power is to be mounted. On horse back? Now you are whirl winding a 20ft’ square with you in the center. On the back of an Elephant? Now up to 25ft’ square. The physics are strange… you can RP that the Elephant has you in its trunk and is swinging you like a rage doll…
Superior Hunter’s Defense: (15th level) gain one of the following features:
- Evasion: Unless you have the Ring of Evasion (which is better then the power) pick this one up! Downgraded to Evasion for melee Rangers because half the time you’ll be in combat and ‘most’ monsters won’t AoE their allies.. Rangers get evasion late in the game, but better late then never.
- Stand Against the Tide: When a creature misses you with an attack you may use your reaction to force the attacking creature repeat its attack against another target other then itself. This could be one of the most fun powers in the game. Hill Giant 1 misses the ranger, ranger uses her reaction to force Hill Giant 1 to attack Hill Giant 2. Hill Giant 2, ‘Ooowwwww that Hurt, why you hits mee?’. Like many of the Ranger powers, Stand against the tide won’t always come into play. A great tool to have on your belt though. For Melee Rangers I bump up Stand Against the Tide because they are more likely to get use out of it.
- Uncanny Dodge: Use reaction to half the damage of a single attack. This could very well save your life, this rating all depends on what you need your reaction for. Again a great tool for the tool belt.
Choosing the Beast Master archetype will give you an animal companion that will follow your every lead. While this archetype doesn’t have the customization of Hunter, Beast Master still gives a unique feel to your ranger that no other class gets.
Ranger’s Companion: You gain a beast animal companion that is trained to fight alone side you. The animal must be no larger then medium size and have a Challenge Rating (CR) or 1/4 or lower. Add your proficiency bonus to the beast AC, attack rolls and damage rolls, as well as to any saving throws and skills it is proficient in. Its hit point maximum is equal to its normal max or to your ranger level time four, which ever is higher. So far pretty good right!? It acts on your initiative when you give it the attack, dash, disengage dodge or help action, but at the cost of your own action. At level 5 the beast attack becomes much better in that you can take one attack yourself when you give it the attack action. There are quit a few beast to choose from and we will be breaking them down in a later chapter. Now, why the BLUE rating and not higher? A couple draw backs, in most cases your Ranger will have better attacks then your companion, it takes 8 hours to summon a new companion if your buddy dies and that is just to bond it to you. If you have a really awesome DM they will make you find the animal and RP with it to make it not hostile to you which could take a long, long time.
Side note. If you picked a small sized race you just jumped up one rating if you choose Beast Master. The reason is you can ride your Companion! There are flying medium beast… flight at lvl 3 is kinda silly. There is MUCH more to talk about with this power, but again we will go over it in the Animal section.
Melee or Ranged can make use of having a pet. Solid Archetype for ether build.
Exceptional Training: This ability is subtle with its power. If you pet didn’t attack you can, with a bonus action, have your pet take the Dash, Disengage, Dodge, or Help action. This is super powerful for melee or ranged. For melee you can have your pet do the help action so that you have advantage on your next attack, this is great for when you are attack a super high AC bad guy. Now take the Archer build, there is a big ogre breathing down your neck, have your pet engage the ogre in combat before the ogre can get to you. Now, as a bonus action have the pet dodge. If you are a good master you put your pet in some Barding and your pet is off tanking and keeping your pretty little archer butt out of melee. Level seven for beast master is very much like level 2 for rogues, things just get really fun!
Bestial Fury: Extra attack from your beast companion? Yes please. With an off hand attack you are now at 4 attacks a turn at lvl 11, two from the Ranger and two from your pet. Not too bad at all!
Share Spells: While your pet is within 30ft of the Ranger you can have any spell that targets yourself also target your pet! Level four ranger spell, stoneskin… and that is just one of many fun options.
Part 5: Feats
Before even looking at feats I highly recommend that you get your primary attack ability to 20. Most likely you will be getting feats at level 12. If you ever have an odd ability score some of the feats will be bumped up a level in assessment due to getting your ability score to an even number.
- Crossbow Expert: One of the best feats a ranged attack Ranger could take. First you ignore the loading quality of crossbows which makes crossbows usable for when you have multiple attacks. Second, you can now shoot crossbows in melee without disadvantage. These means you are now a ranged AND melee character! Third, you gain a bonus attack with a crossbow when you attack with a one handed weapon. This feat has been under some strong debates on the forums about how the bonus action is triggered and what weapon(s) are needed in hand. I am in the camp that you can use this feat with a Single Hand Crossbow. Double check with your DM on their ruling for how they want feat to function. Crossbow Expert is the best option if you start play as a Variant Human and want to be a ranged attack ranger. The down side is that you are going to be using a Hand Crossbow which is a d6 on damage.
- Lucky: I love picking this feat up at level 12 plus for any ranger build. With those three luck points you can basically roll advantage on attacks, saves and ability checks at crucial moments. It’s also great to stop critical hits from wrecking you by making the attacker take your luck dice roll instead of the DM’s nat 20. Overall one of the best feats out there.
- Polearm Master: For strength build Rangers only. Do NOT pick this up for a Dexterity build Ranger. This feat makes Quaterstaffs and polearms some of the best weapons in 5th edition. Not only are you getting a bonus action attack with glaives, halberds and quarterstaffs but you are also getting a very reliable attack of opportunity if you wield a glaive, halberd, pike or quarterstaff. Because pike doesn’t get the bonus attack I would stay clear from it, but the other three weapons are tops. This just might just be your first feat (even over strength bumps) for a strength build NON duel weapon ranger. This is the other feat that makes Variant Human so amazing.
- Resilient: Saving throws versus High Level Spells and effects become the greatest threat to characters. If you still have a low wisdom saving throw versus a Dominate Person spell or worse then you are now a major problem for your party to deal with. Worse then that is when you start getting the save or die (or removed from combat) type spells. My preference is to start taking this feat at level 12 (once my main stat is to 20) and then again at 16 and 20. Take the saves that you are having the most issues with, Wisdom for starts, then Constitution, the last one being your preference. Constitution Resilient is also a big deal for your concentration spells in that you are now proficient for those concentration checks. When you are damaged and you have Swift Quiver or Freedom of Movement up, you’ll be happy you took Resilient ‘constitution’. I feel that it is a designer flaw that these feats become a MUST at high levels. To get the most bang for your buck, have odd stats in the ability scores that you plan to take Resilient in.
Sharpshooter: This feat is a must for any ranged attack build. Ignoring all but full cover is crazy good. Against low AC targets this feat is deadly when you -5 to hit for +10 damage. Couple this power with the hunter Colossus Slayer and you will be putting out a world of hurt at even low levels.
- Alert: This feat is great for any class. Going sooner in combat is a plus and no one likes getting blown up by the rogue… That being said this isn’t a must for any Ranger build but if you can fit it in, go for it!
- Dual Wielder: for any non dual weapon build. While this feat isn’t a must for a dual weapon build it has some very nice perks. Adding +1 to AC is wonderful, a damage boost for both weapons (I recommend Rapiers for Dex Build and any 1d8 Weapon for Strength builds), and being able to draw or stow both your weapons as part of your move is very useful. A nice feat to pick up at lvl 12 after getting your main stat to 20 for melee dual weapon builds.
- Mage Slayer: A great feat for the melee ranger. While you are within 5 feet of a spellcaster you own them. It gives you an Attack of Opportunity if they cast a spell next to you, a much needed defense to your saving throws verse spell casters and you have a great chance to knock their concentration spells down when you damage them. If you DM likes casters (that’s ALL DM’s btw) then pick this feat up if you are a melee build!
- Magic Initiate: This feat can help really customize your character with spells. You get two cantrips and one first level spell from a class of your choice. If you are taking attack or DC based spells you really need to take a close look at your stats. If you tanked all the mental slots this feat can still work for you, just take buff/no attack/no DC spells. Some great cantrips for rangers are as follows: True Strike, Minor Illusion, Message, Guidance and Shillelagh to name a few. First level spells that stand out are: Sleep, Shield, Find Familiar, Bless, Healing Word, and Magic Missile. *some people feel that the first level spell is added to your spell list which would bump this feat up but I’m in the camp that the feat allows you to cast the spell once and it is not on your spell list, so as always, check with your DM.
- Mobile: This is a great feat for the Melee Ranger. 10 extra feet of movement is BIG for closing ground on your prey. The dash action ignores difficult terrain isn’t going to come into play much unless you multiclass 2 levels of rogue, which could be pretty strong. Which really makes this feat a great one to pick up for ANY ranger is that when you make a melee attack (hit or miss) on a target your movement doesn’t trigger opportunity attacks from that target for the rest of the turn. Lets break this down more: a melee ranger can swing once at the ogre he is in melee with and then run straight to the mage without having the ogre clobber him. A very useful trick for getting to the target that you want to kill. Now for the ranged attack ranger. How is this feat good for him? Lets say the ogre is on the ranger with a bow. With the feat the ranger just has to draw a dagger attack with it once and then run away from the ogre, drop the dagger and stick the ogre with arrows with any remaining attacks.
- Athlete: (+1 STR/DEX for rangers with an odd str/dex stat) A nice feat if you want to make a Jackie Chan type character, running up walls and jumping off cliffs like a ninja not to mention doing ‘kip ups’ from prone at the cost of only 5 feet movement is pretty neat.
- Grappler: This is a very specific feat for a specific build. If you are a strength build ranger this feat could be a lot of fun. If you can make a target restrained by pinning it, you’ve just made all your parties attacks on it at advantage and all the enemies attacks at disadvantage. Grappler is very strong for the right build and a strength ranger wouldn’t be a bad choice for it. Couple it with Tavern Brawler for even more fun.
- Martial Adept: This feat could be really fun with any ranger build (many of the maneuvers can be used on ranged attacks). You gain two maneuvers from the Battle Master fighter archetype as well as one 1d6 superiority die. While limited to only usable once per short rest this could lead to some interesting combos. One that stands out to me is to take the Commander’s Strike maneuver with a beast master, at level 5 you can now have your beast attack twice in the same round which can be very deadly with the high damage striker pets. Again only usable once per short rest so while its ‘fun’ its a one and done power.
- Mounted Combatant: Mounts are lots of fun until the dungeon crawl starts and then they are left at the entrance. When you are able to use mounts this feat is great! Advantage on melee attacks versus creatures smaller then your mount, you can force a target to attack you instead of your mount as a free action, your mount also gets evasion! This feat gets bumped up for small sized Beast Masters, who can use their beast friends as mounts. This will be covered in much more detail in the animal companion chapter.
- Observant: A good feat if you have an odd wisdom score. Getting +5 to your passive perception and passive investigation is pretty solid. It’s a shame this feat doesn’t help with your tracking at all which is a survival check.
- Sentinel: A great feat for a tank… which you are most likely not. If you did go sword and board ranger and you feel pretty survivable then this is a much better feat for you but make sure you have a buddy in combat with you to make this feat work. Also a good pick up for melee build Beast Master rangers that want to keep their animal buddy up longer.
- Skilled: A great option in a campaign where the DM favors RP and leg work over combat.
- War Caster: At first I wanted to rate this feat higher but after some thought I put it where its at. My thought process is this, as nice as it is to have advantage on concentration checks and to be able to cast spells while wielding a bow or two weapons… there are ways around those things. First off, again I would take resilient Constitution before this feat, its just better. Second, as for casting spells… just stow your weapon and cast the spell OR cast your spell and then draw your weapon. The only time this won’t work well is when you have a reaction spell.
- Charger: If you take the dash action (and move at least 10ft in a straight line) you can take a single attack as a bonus action with a +5 to hit on that attack. It also lets you do a push attack rather then a normal attack that pushes the target 10ft, this can be really nice for breaking the line and getting into the soft back ranks of the bad guys. Charger combos nicely with the Great Weapon master feat… but I don’t see many ranger wielding great weapons (it’s doable though!) Only take this feat if going melee.
- Defensive Duelist: If you are not making use of your reaction this is a good feat to pick up. As a reaction you can add your proficiency bonus to your AC against a SINGLE melee attack. . At higher levels this power gets better… +6 to AC to a single attack gives Defensive Duelist a better rating.
- Dungeon Delver: This feat is nice to pick up only if you are doing a lot of dungeon crawls and you are the main perception guy for your group.
- Durable: +1 to constitution is nice if you have an odd con score. The second benefit is great if you have a high con score and no healer in your party. Durable gets bumped up for high con melee rangers but only if they have an odd constitution score.
- Healer: A nice feat to take if you don’t have a healer OR if your healer likes to play in the front ranks and is falling in combat a lot. Although rangers do get the cure wounds spell with your limited spell slots ANY extra healing in a limited healing party would make this feat an okay investment.
- Keen Mind: This feat has some neat ranger fluff with always knowing the hours left before sunrise/sunset and always knowing the way north, however the +1 Int is not best used on you.
- Medium Armor Master: For all Dex build rangers…for Strength builds that don’t want heavy armor. The only time I see a Dex build ranger taking this feat is if you get an amazing Half-Plate magic item.
- Ritual Caster: If you don’t have a cleric in the party this could be a great pick up. Having access to spells like augry and silence could make the difference in a successful mission. This shouldn’t be your job, but if there is a need, you have a way to fill it.
- Shield Master: This feat is a waste on any ranger build other then Sword and Board. With this feat the tanky ranger now has a great bonus action use to knock targets prone or to push targets back 5 feat. Adding +2 to your dexterity saves is always good and the once per turn evasion power is really nice and makes it so that Hunter Rangers can take Uncanny Dodge or Stand Against the Tide instead of Evasion.
- Skulker: While not a bad feat skulker just doesn’t make the cut until higher levels for a Ranger. Once a ranger has Vanish at level 14 the value of Skulker goes way up. Skulker makes it easier to hide if you are obscured, doesn’t give you disadvantage on perception checks in dim light and most importantly for Ranged Attack builds it doesn’t bring you out of stealth if you miss your target while hidden. If you are a stealthy ranged ranger take this feat at lvl 16 or maybe even early at lvl 12.
- Tavern Brawler: If you are building a strength grappling ranger that is the only time you really want to think about this feat.
- Tough: Take resilient Constitution over this feat ALWAYS. If you already have 20 constitution and resilient feat and you want to be extra beefy.. then by all means have at it.
- Actor: You should not be the face of the group. Unless you are playing a ranger in a traveling acting group… stay away from this.
- Elemental Adept: You are not an arcane dealer of death, this feat is not for you. MAYBE… once you get the lightning arrow spell, but even then not the best use of a feat.Great Weapon Master: An interesting feat. At first glance this feat is not for rangers being that must Rangers won’t be wielding a Heavy Weapon. However this feat becomes slightly better for sword and board Rangers being that you still get the bonus action attack on Critical/Kills even if you are not using a Heavy Weapon. The second part of the feat you still need a Heavy Weapon to make use of. Think of this feat on a sword and board Hunter Ranger with Horde Breaker… you’d make pretty quick work of those packs of soft HP targets. This feat rates higher with Strength builds but using a two handed weapon doesn’t give you many options with your fighting style.
- Heavily Armored: Heavy armor for any dexterity build ranger is a bad, bad idea. Totally different story for a Strength Build. If you are a strength build ranger with a 10 strength and LIVED to 4th level, this is an excellent feat for you, even better if you have a 17 Strength because the feat gives +1 to strength. Pick up some splint or plate armor and you are now a walking tin can with a great AC. You will be sacrificing of stealth for heavy armor.
- Heavy Armor Master: Again, this is not for any dexterity build ranger. Strength Builds with access to heavy armor this is an okay feat for you, much stronger at low levels and likely to have the DR ignored at mid and high levels.
- Inspiring Leader: With your tanked Charisma score this feat isn’t being optimally used. Beast Masters will make better use out of this with your pet but you are better off asking the Face of your group to pick it up instead.
- Lightly Armored: Already proficient with light armor… just take +2 Dex/Str instead.
- Linguist: Save this feat for the Wizards. If you want to play an Archaeologist Ranger, while not optimal, this feat would be great.
- Moderately Armored: You already are proficient with medium armor.
Savage Attacker: This feat leaves me wanting more. Slightly better on the hunter ranger that took Colossus Slayer.. but even then not a good pick up.
- Spell Sniper: While this is an awesome feat… it doesn’t make any viable ranger build awesome. Leave this to warlocks and such.
- Weapon Master This feat makes rangers want to club baby seals. I’m still shaken my head after reading it. They should call the feat, ‘weapon master wannabe’, because, Rangers are already the Masters of all Weapons!
Part 6: Spells
1st Level Spells
- Absorb Elements: This is an excellent ability. It allows you to both reduce incoming damage and also augment your next attack, and you can do it as a reaction.
- Beast Bond: There are Beast Master builds that rely entirely on this spell.
- Cure Wounds: Healing can be scarce, so more healing is good.
- Detect Magic: situationally useful. Leave it to the wizard.
- Hunter’s Mark: Competitive with sneak attack, especially if you picked Colossus Slayer. It scales in a very strange way, but being able to continue marking folk for more damage is nice.
- Ensnaring Strike: Solid ability that can be nasty if your enemy fails a few saves.
- Hail of Thorns: The first in a series of Ranger powers that amount to, “Magically shoot more arrows than you had in your hand.” It’s a solid ability for both crowd control and extra damage.
- Animal Friendship: For the Hunter who wants a pet bear. It’s okay, but all Ranger spells have a lot to compete with.
- Jump: You’re going to pick three or four spells from this level. Don’t get this.
- Speak with Animals: Again, it’s a very flavorful, situational power that you might get mileage out of, but not much. Good for a Beast Master, I suppose?
- Alarm: This spell is only occasionally useful and is really better left to a full caster.
- Detect Poison and Disease: Can be pretty useful, but it’s not your best choice with so few spells that you can learn.
- Longstrider: Again, just don’t.
2nd Level Spells
- Silence: This can be a decent debuff against enemy spellcasters and help out during stealth missions.
- Spike Growth: This can be a nasty trap when you’re facing a numerically superior foe, and it can halt pursuers. Very nice.
- Animal Messenger: You might occasionally use this, but you only know 11 spells by level 20, so it has competition.
- Barkskin: Great for a Beast Master that wants his pet safe. Otherwise, you should already have an AC above 16.
- Beast Sense: Good for scouting. Otherwise, not that good at all.
- Cordon of Arrows: The damage is minor, but it’s more fun than Alarm.
- Find Traps: Not as nice as you hope it is, but it can help against a trap-happy DM.
- Lesser Restoration: Solid power for any Ranger.
- Pass Without Trace: It’s a decent buff for stealth missions or daring escapes.
- Protection from Poison: Exactly what it says on the tin.
- Darkvision: Most players will already have Darkvision.
- Locate Animals or Plants: Helpful for hunting or gathering specific herbs. Not helpful for anything else.
- Locate Object: Helpful when looking for a Macguffin. Not helpful at all other times.
3rd Level Spells
- Conjure Animals: When Bear’s Attack. This is a very useful spell with a wide variety of applications. Definitely worthwhile.
- Lightning Arrow: The damage is excellent, and it spreads out nicely. I like it.
- Wind Wall: Solid spell, both offensively and defensively.
- Conjure Barrage: Another in the “shoot more arrows than you were holding” line. It deals quite a bit more damage over a larger radius, though.
- Protection from Energy: Solid spell. Absolutely worthwhile.
- Daylight: Can be useful. If you’re fighting Drow, I would consider getting this.
- Plant Growth: This is a weird one. It’s situational, yes, but it’s very good at these situations. It can stop pursuers or people you’re pursuing, and it can endear you to locals because you ended the blight on their crops. Definitely worth considering.
- Nondetection: This is a spell you should leave to a full caster.
- Speak with Plants: This spell embodies “situational at best” more than any other.
- Water Breathing: Pirate campaign? Sure! Anything else? Don’t touch it.
- Water Walk: Same as above.
- Flame Arrows: It’s like Hunter’s Mark, but not as good and costs a third level slot! The only time this spell could possibly be useful is if you’re up against something that’s weak against fire… and Hunter’s Mark will still be better because it doesn’t have a 12 arrow cap and can be used with melee weapons. At the cost of a 1st level slot. Don’t get this.
4th Level Spells
- Conjure Woodland Beings: As many have pointed out, this spell is open for abuse. Summon Pixies who can cast spells for a jolly good time.
- Stoneskin: I like not taking damage. Do you like not taking damage?
- Freedom of Movement: Decent buffs for situations that might not come up much.
- Grasping Vine: Battlefield control, but not very good at it.
- Locate Creature: Again we have something that is situational at best.
5th Level Spells
- Conjure Volley: The very best “shoot more arrows than people expected” spell you can get! This can take a solid chunk out of an army!
- Swift Quiver: More dakka! It would be sky-blue if you could use it in tandem with Hunter’s Mark, but you can’t.
- Commune with Nature: A good way to search an area quickly for what you need, but overshadowed by other options.
- Tree Stride: You should not pick this over any other spell at this level.
Part 7: Beast Companions
Looking through the lists of Monsters (Monster by Challenge Rating) there are several to choose from at the ¼CR and below. Just to make it simple, here are some beasts as a companion:
Panther – (3d8 HP & 12 AC) Probably the most powerful beast companion, combat-wise . This is because it’s the only beast companion right now which gets pounce for a chance to knock prone. As long as a target is prone (from pounce or another way) the panther gets a bonus attack. They also have keen smell.
Wolf – (2d8+2 HP & 13 AC) Wolves are all about advantage . They have pack tactics and gain advantage on each attack against a target. Along with keen hearing and smell, and every bite attack they make has a chance of knocking an enemy prone, which means advantage for other allies in melee. While the panther is more likely to deal more damage in a single round, wolves have more overall utility.
Boar – (2d8+2 HP & 11 AC) Of the three ¼ beasts in the Player’s Handbook, the Boar is tough. It’s the only beast so far with the relentless trait, though the trait is tied to a 7 hit point threshold. It also needs to charge to make the most of its tusk attacks for 2d6+1 damage. Target makes a strength DC 11 saving throw or knocked prone. This won’t really scale up as the Ranger levels up though.
Here is a full listing of beasts that you might want to take a look at: Animal Buddy: A Guide to the Ranger’s Beast Companion
Part 8 Multi-classing
- Fighter: Fighting Style, Extra Attacks, Second Wind, Action Surge, Combat Maneuvers… this is a great multi-classing opportunity.
- Rogue: Sneak attack and skill expertise make this worth it all by themselves. Six or seven Rogue levels are worth it.
- Cleric: Good choice if you want to expand your spellcasting since both Ranger and Cleric use WISDOM.
- Druid: If you want to be a better caster, this is your other good option.
- Monk: Unarmored Defense is nice, and you get to use DEX to attack with Monk weapons. Four levels in Monk will net you a decent unarmed attack, Ki powers, Deflect Missiles, and a Monastic Tradition. Another level nets you another attack and Stunning Strike.
- Paladin: Your spellcasting abilities don’t mesh. Probably not worth it when there are better options.
- Barbarian: Unarmored Defense is nice, and raging could be fun for a melee Ranger, but only if his primary is STR. Danger Sense and the Bear Totem path also make this a solid choice.
- Bard: No spellcasting synergy. Maybe if you have a good CHA for some reason. Although the skill bumps are nice.
- Sorcerer: Spellcasting with your dump stat is a bad idea.
- Warlock: Again, spellcasting with your dump stat is a bad idea.
- Wizard: Don’t cast spells with your dump stat!