An Introduction to the Ranger Class for Players New to Dungeons and Dragons 5e
Do you like to describe yourself as “outdoorsy” or “adventurous” on dating profiles? Want to be able to play a character that actually is those things? Well, then you should check out the Ranger class for fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons!
Side note: This guide assumes you have the Player’s Handbook for more detailed information, and is more intended to give you an idea of what this class can do. If you also need help with the process of creating your first character, click here first for my character rolling guide for new players.
Overview: It’s Only Natural
For some people, the thrill of the hunt and life in the wild will always be preferable to the comforts of civilization. Rangers are individuals who are accustomed to life in the wilderness, whether they be loners wandering through their own stretches of wood and avoiding contact with other people, trackers working for a city, or mercenaries that sell their services as guides.
The Wilderness is, after all, an extremely dangerous world in Dungeons and Dragons – filled with fearsome beasts and monsters. Those that are able to navigate that world safely would be in high demand for anyone looking to travel from the safety of one city to another.
Role in the Party
In a party, a ranger fills the role of Damage Dealer and Scout. Most of their abilities center around improving either their martial prowess or their ability to navigate the wilderness. You can choose to build your ranger as either a melee or a ranged combatant, which will determine whether you want to focus on Strength or Dexterity. Rangers are proficient with shields and medium armor, meaning they can be somewhat durable in melee combat if you choose that path. To support the limited spell-casting abilities you receive and make your ranger better at tracking foes, you should also ensure you have a good wisdom score.
As a scout, the ranger is unparalleled out in their natural element. With the Natural Explorer feature, you will choose an environment (arctic, forest, coast, etc.) that your ranger is familiar with. In their favored terrain, they gain special bonuses to their ability to navigate those areas, track enemies, and forage for food. Your ranger will also have a Favored Enemy that they are familiar with, and will gain a bonus to tracking these foes. Nobody is more useful to have along than a Ranger if you know you’re going to be out in the wilds for a while, and it is nearly impossible to escape a party being led by a ranger if they want to find you in their natural terrain.
As a melee martial combatant, the ranger doesn’t have the same punch as the Fighter, but can still be a respectable presence on the mid-to-front line. They are more commonly seen in the back with a bow during a fight, though. Their small selection of spells allows them to supplement their physical abilities while also providing some support to allies with spells like cure wounds or pass without trace. You will want to especially take note of hunter’s mark; this is usually considered a central spell for rangers.
Looking Ahead: High Level Rangers
At higher levels rangers get even better at tracking foes and helping their less-savvy friends navigate the wild. You will be able to move through difficult terrain without penalty and only leave a trail to follow if you choose to. If a ranger flees pursuit into their home terrain, the ones chasing them are better off just letting them go at that point – following them in would be a death sentence.
You have two subclass options in the Player’s Handbook for the Ranger. As a Hunter, you will receive abilities that enhance your capabilities in combat. The hunter allows you to choose which features to take at each level, so there’s plenty of customization options within the subclass. The Beastmaster is a fun and flavorful subclass that, unfortunately, lacks the power level of the hunter. These rangers have bonded to an animal companion who accompanies them in their travels, and focuses on enhancing the abilities of that companion. I won’t go into the reasons why the Beastmaster archetype is weaker (it’s been beaten into the ground if you really want to read into it), but this is a good time to remind everyone that Dungeons and Dragons doesn’t have to be about building optimized characters. If you want your ranger to have a faithful animal companion, pick this subclass and live your truth.
So if you want to be an expert tracker, able to uncannily hunt down your foes in the wilderness while leaving no trace yourself, this is the class for you!