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The Revised Ranger is Dead, Long Live the Ranger (Homebrew)

Posted by Jedd Pearce on Nov 2nd 2018

The Revised Ranger has been declared dead by Jeremy Crawford, the Lead Rules Designer of D&D, but not all hope is lost for this class. Much has been done to counterbalance the sub-optimal class with the subclasses found in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, and the Beastmaster - a real contender for the worst subclass in the game - is getting some minor errata to make it… not terrible. But there are still some problems with the base class - namely that its Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer features are too situational to really be useful. Here are some homebrew options that will make your level one Ranger feel more useful to the party in the roles they're expected to fill.

Natural Explorer

Instead of choosing a single favored terrain, have your player choose between Wild terrain (includes coasts, forests, grasslands, and swamps), Barren terrain (includes arctics, deserts, and mountains), and Urban terrain (includes towns and cities). All the normal favored terrain bonuses still apply, and you still choose a second option at level 6 and a third (or in this case final) option at level 10. 

This will make your Ranger feel like they have a specialization while still being useful in a number of situations.

Favored Enemy

Specializing against a specific monster type is great, but it'd be nice if the skills acquired to hunt one type of monster had some broader applications. We recommend giving your ranger an additional benefit based upon the favored enemies they choose at levels 1, 6, and 14. (And humanoid doesn't need to broken into separate races - just let your Ranger pick the entire type if they want to hunt people.) Since Rangers get an additional language based upon their favored enemy type, some bonus features are weaker (or stronger) than others to compensate (we included all languages options from all published content for your convenience).

Our design philosophy was to look at how common certain monster types were, the range of languages they granted you, and create a bonus feature that would be particularly useful against them but also potentially useful against other monster types. If we had just given a flat damage bonus versus that type, we'd be in the same problematic territory as the Revised Ranger. This philosophy also allowed us to create non-combat applications for certain creatures (such as humanoids).

Aberrations

Language Options: Any
Recommended Language(s): Deep Speech or Undercommon
Bonus Feature: As a bonus action, you may make an Intelligence (History) check to assess a creature’s strengths and weaknesses. On a 10 or higher you are aware of its immunities, on a 15 or higher you are aware of its resistances, and on a 20 or higher you are aware of its weaknesses.
Our Thought Process: Choosing Aberrations allows you to pick up any language, which is strong. But we couldn't find a common thread between them - they are all so different. So hunting aberrations has made you really good at identifying strengths and weakness in new foes.

Beasts

Language Options: None
Bonus Feature: Choose a beast creature with a CR of ¼ or lower that can be found nearby (consult your GM for your options). That creature becomes your familiar as though you had cast the find familiar spell, except it's still a beast and it can still attack. At 1st level, your familiar gets a bonus to its AC equal to your Wisdom modifier. At 6th level, it gains this bonus to its attack rolls, and at 14th level it gains it to its damage rolls.
If your familiar dies, it instead falls unconscious, and you may spend 10 minutes treating its wounds to restore it to one health. When you finish a long rest, your familiar is restored to full health. 
Our Thought Process: Beasts are the only monster type that has no language options so we wanted this choice to have one of the best features from this selection. So we gave them their own unique familiar. It's stronger than a wizard's familiar in pretty much every way, and lacks the invisibility of warlock familiars, but is actually a decent companion for combat (though not to the same degree as the Beast Master's companion).

Celestials

Language Options: Any
Recommended Language: Celestial
Bonus Feature: Your weapon attacks deal 1 extra fire damage.
Our Thought Process: Celestials were also tricky. They can potentially speak any language, but there aren't too many of them, and they don't have a lot in common. But none of them are resistant to fire damage, and extra fire damage is a great buff to have. Fire is the most resisted damage type (after non-magical weapon damage), so while useful, it's not overpowered. We wanted to be pretty careful with extra damage so as to not make it an auto-pick (especially for a type that can speak any language), so we settled on a single point of extra damage instead of a 1d4 or something. Even in it's limited form, I can still see some players considering a one-level Ranger dip just for an extra point of damage on every attack.

Constructs

Language Options: Any
Recommended Language: Modron
Bonus Feature: When you hit a creature with a mace, flail, or maul, you may force it to make a Constitution saving throw (DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier) as a bonus action. On a failure, it takes 1d8 extra bludgeoning damage.
Our Thought Process: While restricting this feature to three weapons and making it require a failed Constitution save (one of the higher scores that monsters have), a potential 1d8 extra damage for the cost of a bonus action is still worth it. It also opens up some possibilities for a Strength-based, maul wielding Ranger, which is very cool. Plus, we liked the flavor of "breaking" these constructed creatures.

Dragons

Language Options: Aquan, Draconic, Giant, Sylvan, or Terran
Recommended Language: Draconic
Bonus Feature: When you take Acid, Cold, Fire, Lightning, or Poison damage you can use your reaction to transform your body for 1 minute. While transformed you have advantage on Dexterity and Wisdom saving throws, a fly speed of 80 feet, and either a burrow, climb, or swim speed of 40 feet (your choice). After you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you complete a long rest.
Our Thought Process: I was surprised that Dragons have a limited language set for the Ranger, and wanted to make its feature something cool. While not as versatile as a Ranger who hunts beasts, a Dragonhunter can meet dragons on their own turf (once per day). For one minute, they can fly with the best of them, avoid their dragon breath and mental attacks, and follow them wherever they go - all triggered by taking that first blast of dragonflame. And as lots of creatures deal elemental damage through spells or natural means, you'll get to turn the tables on a lot of foes.

Elementals

Language Options: Any
Recommended Language: Primordial
Bonus Feature: When you take Acid, Bludgeoning, Fire, Force, Lightning, or Thunder damage you can use your reaction to gain resistance to that damage type until the end of your next turn. After you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you complete a short or long rest.
Our Thought Process: Not as flashy as the dragon's elemental trigger, but it can be used more often and even includes some bludgeoning resistance. Plus Elemental hunters get the all too common ability to pick any language.

Fey

Language Options: Auran, Aquan, Draconic, Dwarvish, Elvish, Giant, Gnomish, Sylvan, Terran, or Undercommon
Recommended Language: Elvish or Sylvan
Bonus Feature: Your weapon attacks deal 1d4 extra psychic damage to chaotic creatures.
Our Thought Process: The vast majority of fey are chaotic in alignment, and we thought it would be cool to disrupt their disruption with your mastery of arms. Your blows are so methodical and precise, their minds can't take it. Or so we like to think.

Fiends

Language Options: Any
Recommended Language: Abyssal or Infernal
Bonus Feature: As an action you may cause all evil creatures within 30 feet to make a Charisma saving throw. On a failed save, a creature is frightened of you for 1 minute. If a creature frightened by this effect ends its turn more than 30 feet away from you, it can attempt another Charisma saving throw to end this effect on it.
Our Thought Process: Fiends are typically either devils or demons, but all of them are evil. So as with the fey, we went for an alignment oriented assault. But in this case you become an avatar of justice evil-doers will fear and flee from (unless they're super charismatic themselves).

Giants

Language Options: Draconic, Giant, Orc, Undercommon
Recommended Language: Giant
Bonus Feature: You gain a +1 bonus to AC versus creatures that are Large or larger.
Our Thought Process: Giants are large and you are not. This helps in any fight with the big creatures you will face.

Humanoids

Language Options: Any
Recommended Language: Dwarvish or Elvish
Bonus Feature: You can add half your Wisdom modifier, rounded up, to Charisma (Deception) and Charisma (Persuasion) checks you make.
Our Thought Process: Humanoid hunters can potentially learn any language, and will encounter humanoids more than any other creature type (assuming they occasionally go into towns and cities); so Rangers were already well incentivize to choose humanoid. So we thought theirs should be a more utilitarian feature - and thus these hunters (often bounty hunters) are more adept at using their wisdom to deceive and persuade people.

Monstrosities

Language Options: Abyssal, Aquan, Celestial, Draconic, Elvish, Giant, Goblin, Gnoll, Hook Horror, Ice Toad, Kruthik, Olman, Primordial, Sphinx, Sylvan, Terran, Tlincalli, Umber Hulk, Undercommon, Winter Wolf, Worg, Yeti, Yikaria
Recommended Language: Abyssal or Draconic
Bonus Feature: After you hit a creature with an attack, you may make a feint with a weapon you are holding as a bonus action. That creature must make an Intelligence saving throw (DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier), and on a failure it grants advantage to the next attack roll made against it before the end of your next turn.
Our Thought Process: Monstrosities speak a whole lot of languages, but somehow not all of them. I suppose this is because they serve a lot of masters but many are not that intelligent (the Kraken is a notable exception). So we leaned into the idea of fooling them with your martial mastery as a pseudo "help" action.

Oozes

Language Options: Any
Recommended Language: Any
Bonus Feature: When you roll for initiative, you can use your reaction to immediately teleport up to 10 feet to an unoccupied space that you can see. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of once). You regain all expended uses of it when you finish a long rest.
Our Thought Process: Oozes are often ambush predators (I'm looking at you gelatinous cube!), and we thought it would be a great way to deal with them by avoiding their initial attack.

Plants

Language Options: Any
Recommended Language: Sylvan
Bonus Feature: You are immune to the poisoned condition, and have advantage on skill checks and saving throws against being grappled or restrained.
Our Thought Process: Lots of plants deal bludgeoning damage, so we considered using that, but we already have a lot of bludgeon-related stuff in this list. So we found something common to plants, but also a little more unique - conditions. Plants seem to love grabbing you, and forcing you to take crazy drugs. What that says about their alignment I'll leave up to you.

Undead

Language Options: Any
Recommended Language: Abyssal
Bonus Feature: As a bonus action you may bless a weapon you are touching. That weapon deals 1d4 extra radiant damage on a hit for 1 minute. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of once). You regain all expended uses of it when you finish a long rest.
Our Thought Process: Extra radiant damage on a weapon - yay! Who doesn't love smiting zombies with holy light? It deals more damage than the celestial buff and is less frequently resisted, but it has to be activated on a weapon you're touching, and has a limited number of uses per day. The dual wielding Ranger gets the most use out of the extra damage, but it would require two turns of bonus actions to make happen. Plus you can actually bless an ally's weapon, provided you have time to go and touch it. All in all, a fair trade.

Final Thoughts

Creating these options for the Ranger was a blast. They fix my issues with the base Ranger, give them some cool options that will come up a little more often than just tracking and recalling bits of knowledge, and hopefully bring the class up to par with other half casters such as the Paladin and Warlock.

What do you think? Could our options be improved in any way? Or is it best to leave the Ranger class alone? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Attribution

The art for this post was created by  Nathan Park under the CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 license.

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