Many people have made attempts to “fix” the ranger in 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. There is a particular school of thought on this that Wizards of the Coast attempted to call out to in their spell-less re-imagining of the ranger in an unearthed arcana article (another, more mystical attempt is here).
There are few problems with the ranger in 5th edition. Rather than go over them in great depth, I’ll just give a short idea of why they’re issues that drive the fixes I’m going to propose.
- The ranger’s role. There seems to be no idea what a Ranger should be good at past “I play well in the woods and track fast.” If you wanted that, it might be better to take the Outlander background and just play a class that can give you expertise in Nature/Survival. You could argue for the primeval awareness ability, but it’s not that good, and gets even worse in your favored terrain.
- Damage at later levels. Others online have looked into this, and the complaint seems to be that if you wanted to play a ranger who dealt damage that could keep up with other martial classes, you shouldn’t play the hunter archetype (beast master keeps up fairly well, actually). If you want a stealthy woodsman who hunts down quarry, then play a rogue with expertise in survival or a fighter with the outlander background.
- Favored “things.” So maybe this was what the ranger was supposed to be good at: a particular type of enemies and living in terrains. The problem is that these are very situational, since a DM may decide to never throw your favored whatever at you during the game.
There is an excellent post on the dndnext subreddit that describes how I personally believe the ranger should be built to resolve issues. Basically, the ranger is a fighter with some abilities that allow it to be more capable in non-combat situations. Think of it as a fighter that deals extremely well in uncivilized areas. This is what rangers were originally, and it is only in later editions that we see the ranger as a high-fiving friend of the druid.
Below you’ll find my re-imagining of the ranger as a fighter’s martial archetype.
(Fighter) Martial Archetype: Ranger
Level 3 – Proficiencies and Natural Explorer
The ranger gains proficiency in Survival. The ranger also gains the abilities of the “Natural Explorer.”
- Difficult terrain doesn’t slow your group’s travel.
- Your group can’t become lost except by magical means.
- Even when you are engaged in another activity while traveling (such as foraging, navigating, or tracking), you remain alert to danger.
- If you are traveling alone, you can move stealthily at a normal pace.
- When you forage, you find twice as much food as you normally would.
- While tracking other creatures, you also learn their exact number, their sizes, and how long ago they passed through the area.
Level 7 – Hunter’s Mark
As a bonus action, you may mark a target that you can see. When marked this way, the next attack against that target is made at advantage. This ability is usable Wis modifier (minimum 1) times per short or long rest.
Level 10 – Vanish
You can now take a bonus action on your turn to attempt to hide.
Level 15 – Saw it Coming
When you are targeted by an attack, you may use your reaction to cause that attack and all other attacks against you until the end of your next turn to be made at disadvantage.
This ability is usable once per short or long rest.
Level 18 – Feral Senses
At 18th level, you gain preternatural senses that help you fight creatures you can’t see. When you attack a creature you can’t see, your inability to see it doesn’t impose disadvantage on your attack rolls against it.
You are also aware of the location of any invisible creature within 30 feet of you, provided that the creature isn’t hidden from you and you aren’t blinded or deafened.
I’ll be putting up the next martial archetype for all those fans of the Beastmaster soon!
[My plan is to eventually create a compendium of archetypes and changes that give more options to players and “fix” some things (which some people will argue is not needed), like the ranger. It’ll be in a free PDF whenever it’s finished.]