Unearthed Arcana Review: The Ranger, Revised

Yeah, it’s a new blog post after 3 months of silence. Deal with it.

So Mike Mearls and the D&D Crew have officially released another version of the Ranger in this month’s Unearthed Arcana, attempting once again to create the perfect version of the class. Or at least the version that satisfies the majority of people. And I mean that, by the way. This is very obviously an attempt to satisfy as many people as possible. I’ll get to why that is in a bit.

Did they succeed in that? I don’t know. Only time, playtesting, and surveys will tell if it satisfied the majority of people. I can’t answer for them. I can only answer for myself. So, did the new ranger satisfy me?

In a word: no. But I’m rarely complacent with just writing a single word. So, what’s going on with this Ranger? Why can’t I just be happy with what I’m given?

Read the ranger for yourself HERE!

Continue reading “Unearthed Arcana Review: The Ranger, Revised”

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[UPDATED!] Return of the Ranger: Alpha Version 2.2

UPDATE!: Due to feedback given by valuable readers (which can be viewed below, in the Comments section), I have made minor adjustments to the class, updating it to version 2.2. I added the Adrenaline Surge feature at 6th level, in order to grand added survivability, and replaced the Nature’s Ward feature of the Seeker path with the more expansive Spirit Guide.

So, finally, I have a Ranger Alpha which I am comfortable handing over to you. Because, let’s be real, guys. The last alpha was a bit of a mess. It was rushed and sloppy: a product of my own attempt at biting off WAY more than I could chew. The various features which were designed to make use of the Bonus Action mechanic in 5e actually just created a major limiting factor for the class: it had a lot of cool shit to do, but not enough actions to do it all. I’ve mitigated that by getting away from the original “bonus action playground” mentality of version 1.0. Instead, I’ve gone with more of a streamlined approach, primarily focusing around triggered abilities and passive benefits.

I’ve also distanced myself, thematically, from the “wandering mystic” version of version 1.0, and have focused instead on a more general survivalist idea. And I played with the concept of the ranger being more of a warrior than it was before, specifically focusing on skirmishing tactics.

The good news of is that this is a decidedly better version of the ranger than the last version I put out (and, if I’m being bold, I would say that it’s better than the core class).

The bad news is that what I’m presenting here is only a 6 level build. It’s small because I’m working my way up. I have a general layout for a full 20-level build, but I’m not sure how all of the pieces fit together (and my recent attempt at building and playing a level 11 version for playtesting resulted in kind of an overload of features, so things are still very much in flux).

I’m not going to go point-by-point with this version of the ranger. I have a few design notes, but nothing significant.

Why Six Levels?

I decided on six levels, rather than five or ten, because I wanted to give enough for a ranger that’s just starting out, but also allow you to play the low-level ranger to its fullest potential. In order to do that, it needs to have its Strider feature, which allows it to maneuver through difficult terrain. And that comes at level 6. And, besides that, if I only included 5 levels, then you’d really only be getting 3 levels of content, since levels 4 and 5 are taken up by an Ability Score Increase and Extra Attack respectively, and those features are a dime-a-dozen.

You can download a PDF copy of my new ranger playtest here: The Ranger: Alpha v2.2

Continue reading “[UPDATED!] Return of the Ranger: Alpha Version 2.2”

Treasure Type Z: The Revised Hunter

So, I’m working on an updated and revised version of my Ranger class right now. I can’t make any promises as to when it will arrive. Unlike last time, I’m not working toward a deadline. I’m just going to work on it when I can (this season is hell on my free time) until I’m done. Until then, however, I do have something to share.

See, one of the things I was rather disappointed with last time was how I was unable to do a complete write-up for the Hunter subclass. Of course, the Hunter already exists in the standard ranger, but I wanted to change things up and make something a bit more active and focused on battlefield control, rather than the oddly-situational benefits that the normal hunter gets.

Therefore, I have created THIS version of the archetype. It’s intended to be used with my upcoming version of the ranger, but can definitely function with the existing class in the Player’s Handbook.

I’m not going to give a whole lot of analysis or justification for this. It’s a Treasure Type Z article, so it’s just supposed to be new stuff. But I still wanted to give a bit of a preface to this, considering the odd situation. Also due to this odd situation, I will not actually be including a pdf link for this subclass until my updated ranger is complete.

And, without further rambling, here’s the revised Hunter archetype for the ranger class. Continue reading “Treasure Type Z: The Revised Hunter”

The Ranger Class: Alpha Playtest

Well, here it is! It took me a month, but I finally built my ranger! After four weeks of teasing and taunting and over-long articles about class design, it’s finally here. And not only am I presenting it to you all, but I’m actually also going to talk about the design of the class. What abilities I chose, which ones I didn’t, and why.

Before any of that, though, I have a couple of notes.

Regarding Playtesting

When I said that it took me a month to build this class, I wasn’t lying. I went through several variations on class abilities and builds before I finally came to a configuration with which I was comfortable. And I’m still not 100% on the thing. You will see more versions arrive as I playtest and observe where the class exceeds and wanes.

In addition to my own playtesting, I would love to see the community participate. Share this document everywhere you can. Convince your DMs to let you try it out. DMs, let your players take it for a test drive. I know it might be imbalanced, but this is how the classes in the Player’s Handbook got to where they are: RIGOROUS PLAYTESTING. And please, if you do playtest it, send me your feedback. You can click the About/Contact Me tab at the top of this page to send me a message, and here, I’ll even Provide you with a link.

Regarding Legality

I want to make something entirely clear. I have no idea whether or not my version of the ranger is legal. This is free, which I figure counts in my favor, but I still wanted to cover my bases (unknowable as they are). I am using the 3rd edition OGL here, as I don’t think I’ve used any copyright terminology in this class. I did my level-best not to re-print any features word-for-word from the Player’s Handbook. I specifically used different names for similar features, and changed up the function of some of them. Most of this is due to the different direction of my ranger, but some of it is admittedly to prevent copyright infringement. I also made the conscious decision to NOT print features that saw no change from one version to the other. If you don’t own a Player’s Handbook and you’re looking for a free look at the ranger, then you have come to the wrong place.

With those out of the way, let’s get to it, shall we? Hold onto your butts, because this is gonna be a long one. Continue reading “The Ranger Class: Alpha Playtest”

Deconstructing the Ranger: Part 2

Read Part 1 HERE.

So, the spell-less and…spirit ranger? I don’t exactly know what to call it. They never gave it an official name. But since its primary feature seems to be its companion spirit, I feel like calling it the spirit ranger is appropriate. Real quick, before I get started:

Spell-Less Ranger: LINK

Spirit Ranger: LINK

Going back over these documents, I realized that they’re designed for very different reasons, and therefore have very different goals inherent to their design. The spell-less ranger was designed without taking into account the fan outcry against the Beast Master. It’s more a practice in replacing class abilities and the basics of class design than actually creating an alternate, flavorful ranger. On the literal opposite end of the spectrum is the Spirit Ranger. Its ENTIRE goal was to create a ranger that is wholly different from the existing version. Its flavor is different, its class features are different, and its entire concept is derived from a different place.

Honestly, it’s interesting just to imagine what was going through the designers’ heads when they came up with this feature or that. What was the inspiration for the spirit companion? Where did they derive the poultice? Did they think about the implications of Ambuscade? I haven’t thought this way about a class for a while, and it’s nice to get my analytical and creative juices flowing.

Anyway, onto the rangers.

Continue reading “Deconstructing the Ranger: Part 2”

Deconstructing the Ranger: Part 1

So…there’s been a lot of talk about the ranger, recently. This is, mostly, due to Wizards deciding that the class might need a tune-up. And by tune-up, they of course mean that the class needs to be remodeled from the ground up. This is after they already came up with an alternate, spell-less ranger progression. Add onto that the fact that EN World recently came out with two new ranger archetypes with their EN5ider line, and Kobold Press presented the Hivemaster in Southland Heroes, and rangers have been quite a popular topic of late.

But why? What makes the ranger so interesting? That’s kind of an easy question to answer, and yet it’s a bit difficult. Rangers are cool, man. Take a look at Aragorn, or his cooler alternate identity: Strider. Just think about the first time he shows up, sitting across the room, watching our heroes in dark silence. Then, later, he busts out his fightin’ skills and wrecks face on Weathertop. Dude’s a badass, is what I’m saying. Or what about Benjen Stark, in A Song of Ice and Fire? Just think about the mystique built around the idea of being a ranger when you first meet him. How much does Jon want to be part of that elite group? How much do you feel for him when he gets chosen to be a steward? Because, to him, and to us, being a ranger MEANS something. Being a ranger is like being a member of an elite team of super-soldiers who “range” out into the dangerous wildlands. Who WOULDN’T want to be among their number? And, of course, let’s not forget my favorite ranger of all time. His name is Max. His world is fire and blood. Yes, Max Rockatanski, Mad Max, is most definitely a ranger. He wanders the wasteland, mapping what he finds, occasionally helping others. But more than anything else, he is a survivor. He even has an animal companion in The Road Warrior (that’s Mad Max 2 for you international folks).

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My point is that rangers are, thematically, badasses. That was their origin. And even to this day, it persists. Whether we’re talking about Aragorn, Benjen, Max, or even D&D’s golden boy Drizzt, rangers are designed to be…cool. They’re survivors, warriors, and natural guides and guardians. They can be warriors on the wall or stalkers in the night.

So why is everyone trying to modify and re-write the ranger? Well, I think because the class, as it stands in 5e, doesn’t really convey what people desire. They can talk all they want about whether or not the class is “balanced” compared to other, comparable martial characters, but I think that it really comes down to how the class feels when it’s being played. I mean, compare it to the new Ranger that Mike Mearls and the Wizards team released recently. Yes, it is quite a departure from the original ranger mechanically, but even they admit that it’s intended to be a return to the class’s original concept and flavor. It’s about changing the feel of the class, finding something that makes the ranger unique, and still remains true to the class’s origin.

Maybe they’ve done that. The general opinion I’ve seen on the interwebs, however, is not a positive one. Other bloggers have introduced the idea of a class-divorced ranger: a fighter who uses the Outlander background and focuses on two weapon fighting and bows. But is that sufficient? Does that cover the full extent of the class’s themes? Over the course of the next couple articles, I’m going to take a deeper look at the ranger as a class. What does it do right? What does it do wrong? And then, I’m going to take what I’ve learned and try to construct some form of “definitive” ranger. Will I succeed? Probably not. But, hey! As anyone who knew me in my Pathfinder days would tell you, class design is my forte. So let’s see what I can do.

Continue reading “Deconstructing the Ranger: Part 1”

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