There and Back Again.
by Ruty Rutenberg (@RutyWoot)
Last month, Mike Mearls and the design team whipped a redesign of one of the most iconic fantasy classes of all time. Every group needs a ranger and whether you fantasize your ranger Aragorn, Vex’ahlia, or even Drizz’t, a hunter marked with a lot of flavor lacked a lot of punch. However, if you’re intending to spend the next foreseeable years playing as friend to flora and fauna (without turning into either), you should be made to feel as though your contributions to the group are more than token aesthetics. Every dog has its day and the crew at Wizards of the Coast are nothing, if not dedicated to hearing the call from their fans. I mean, you got 5th Edition right? What a godsend! On to the Ranger.
Favored Enemy (1) & Greater Favored Enemy (6).
Unfortunately for the enemy, this received a nice tune up with the damage boost even if it became a little more focused. Honestly, sometimes reducing the amount of choice can make for a much more flavored and iconic character in the hands of a good player. Thumbs up!
Natural Explorer (1).
Natural Explorer actually got a huge buff by removing the restriction of choosing a terrain at all. My biggest question mark here comes from the first bullet, “You ignore difficult terrain”. As a DM, I have to read that as written to imply ALL difficult terrain, even that created by magic, which feels a little out of the natural flavor of things and powerful beyond any other movement feature at first level. Remember Land’s Stride at 8th level? This is much better and at 1st.
The second bullet, advantage on initiative rolls sounds awesome. Maybe a little overpowered at first level but later, say 6th level, as a staggered upgrade instead of immediate.
The third bullet grants advantage in combat against any creatures that have yet to act. On its own, it feels very rogue, which is pretty on point to the ranger’s theme. Admittedly, I haven’t seen enough interaction between this feature and the Assassin feature and I’d be curious to see how Natural Explorer works in tandem. As the Monday Morning DM here, I’d suggest the same staggered implementation, placing it back at the 10th spot where the previous Natural Explorer gained its final terrain.
As a DM, this becomes almost too good of a multi-class to pass up provided my character could spare the 13 dexterity and wisdom to grab it. Basically, there is no reason for a monk not to take one level of this class, as the ROI is certainly better than the monk class capstone, especially when stacked with the damage increase of Favored Enemy. The flavor works pretty spot on for me. To be sure, balancing for multiclassing is one of the hardest things to get right. So hard, I reserve the right to put my foot in my mouth. Beyond that, the group benefits that follow after all seem both nice and appropriately adjusted.
Fighting Style, Spellcasting (2), Vanish (14), Feral Sense (18) & Foe Slayer (20).
These are established to this point. I don’t see anything really wrong with them in the first place. At most, some could be swap around with other features to ease the strain on multiclassing. Moving along.
Primeval Awareness (2).
Primeval Awareness is one of my favorite new abilities. The flavor gives both the player and the DM something to advance the story without a significant worry of abuse. It is definitely something I’d expect a ranger to be able to do.
Fleet Foot (8).
Why not? It makes sense to me, and it far enough down the line to discourage multiclassing when the classes that do get this feature pick it up much earlier.
Hide in Plain Sight (10).
While it’s hard to discern the difference at a glance, I think this is a great triumph for the design. The subtle change of gaining a +10 bonus to Stealth verse a -10 to the enemy’s perception is actually much more beneficial to the player, and considering all they are giving up that round to remain hidden, I think it’s a good fit.
One, A little more balance on the types of creatures available. Even if they are more exotic. Perhaps an option for each type of terrain that is close to the same power curve. Most seem to be very woodland focused and the Bear seems as if it will be the overwhelming choice.
Two, a clarification on feats for the beasts. As a DM, I would say obviously not. However, I could understand a player pushing for it, and since my job is to facilitate the player’s fun, I would just prefer to have an official note here to clarify.
This guy hasn’t changed much. I do feel as though Steel Will has always been a little too situational compared to the other two at that level. Maybe this would be a good chance to increase the power to match the frequency at which the other features might trigger. In my home game, I might allow the play to test out how immunity to frighten or maybe double proficiency (or Advantage) on all INT, WIS, and CHA saves would work instead.
Deep Stalker Conclave.
This build feels very good to me. In a “sitting on the beach with a drink” kind of way. It is very combat encounter heavy but some players want that… and honestly, the amount of love the class just received in terms of flavor overall feels right.
Grade A Prime Rib!
From the comfort of my armchair, this revision seems pretty close to ready as the team did a great job balancing the flavor and new mechanics. My biggest concern lay with the implementation of Natural Explorer. As a 1st level feature, it seems too good to pass up, no matter what class you ultimately decide to stick with. Beyond the major improvement on the class, this revision should leave fans with the feeling that not only is Wizards listening but they are apt and able to make meaningful changes.
My views are my own, and not necessarily shared by anyone at all. However, I'd love to hear your thoughts; agree, disagree, see something I overlooked?
You can find the Unearthed Arcana Ranger PDF here: https://media.wizards.com/2015/downloads/dnd/DX_0907_UA_RangerOptions.pdf