When a monster or fiend is terrorizing the countryside it’s time to call in the specialist. Rangers are expert hunters and excel at taking down their chosen quarry. Let’s take a close look and see what makes them excellent hunters with our detailed guide to DnD Ranger 5e. Check out our Ranger 5e Spells and Ranger 5e Subclasses guides.
A Chimera had started to nest near the city. It’s been terrorizing the outlying forests for the past few weeks and the city watch has been pulling double duty to make sure the beast keeps its distance from the wall.
Of course, the call went out for mercenaries and adventurers. Most people think it’s easy money. Just a bunch of dumb townsfolk think they can trick the creature into a pitfall trap.
Out of all the fools that answered the call, it was actually a bunch of halflings that took the creature down. It would have been funny if they weren’t so scary. They knew exactly how to track it, had equipment specifically designed to kill it, and if the notches on their armor were any indication, they’d hunted at least 10 of the beasts.
Chimeras aren’t the only monsters you’ll find in the deep woods.—From the journal of Captain Vyes 3rd precinct, city watch, 23rd of Hammer, 1384
Read our detailed class guide to DnD Ranger 5e below.
Table of Contents
Overview of 5e Rangers
Rangers are excellent specialized fighters. They are the hunters of dangerous creatures in the land of DnD. Whether they’re motivated by revenge, duty, or religion, Rangers have dedicated themselves to honing their skills and stalking their chosen prey.
They’re skilled fighters in both melee and ranged, and their attunement with nature grants them some magical abilities to aid them in their hunts.
Notable Rangers in DnD
Perhaps the most famous Ranger in the DnD setting is Drizzt. He’s a Drow Elf that escaped the Underdark and along with his scimitars Twinkle and Icingdeath he’s traveled the Forgotten Realms setting and has drastically affected the world. If you’re interested he has numerous novels featuring Drizzt, his companions, and his exploits.
Ranger Class Features & Abilities
Hit Dice: d10
- Primary Abilities: Dexterity & Wisdom
- Proficiencies: Light & medium Armor + Shields
- Simple & Martial Weapons
GameCows Ranking System
There are a lot of abilities and class features, and it can get rather confusing. Here at GameCows, we’re going to use a simple ranking system.
- GameCows Ranking: 1
- This ability or feature is extremely useful and a must-have ability.
- GameCows Ranking: 2
- This ability is ok and generally useful in most situations.
- GameCows Ranking: 3
- This ability is only going to be useful in certain situations. You’d only get it or use it if you personally think it’s cool.
GameCows Ranking: 3
Level: 1 – The Ranger chooses their favored enemy and they have advantage on all Wisdom rolls to track them and on Intelligence rolls to recall info about them. The Ranger 5e also learns 1 language that their Favored Enemy speaks.
Level: 6 – The Ranger chooses an additional Favored Enemy.
Level: 14 – The Ranger chooses an additional Favored Enemy.
GameCows Ranking: 3
Similar to Favored Enemy, the Ranger chooses a favored terrain instead, arctic, coast, desert, forest, grassland, mountain, swamp, or the Underdark.
When making Intelligence Checks in their favored terrain, the Ranger gets double their proficiency bonus, and difficult terrain does not slow the group when traveling with the Ranger.
Level: 6 – The Ranger chooses an additional Favored Terrain.
Level: 10 – The Ranger chooses an additional Favored Terrain.
Level: 2 – The Ranger chooses a fighting style that they are particularly good at.
Archery: +2 bonus to attack rolls with ranged weapons.
Defense: +1 AC bonus when wearing armor.
Dueling: +2 bonus to damage rolls when using a one-handed weapon and an empty second Two-Weapon Fighting: When fighting with 2 weapons the Ranger adds their ability modifier to their damage rolls on the 1st & 2nd Attack.
The Ranger’s main Ability Modifier used to cast spells is their Wisdom.
GameCows Ranking: 1
Level: 3 – Ranger Archetypes are their Subclass. We’ll go into depth later in the guide, but the Rangers typically get bonuses at levels 3, 7, 11, and 15.
GameCows Ranking: 3
Level: 3 – The Ranger can use a spell slot to determine if there is a particular type of creature within 1 mile of them. If it’s their Favored Enemy then they can detect up to 6 miles around them. This does not tell the Ranger the number of creatures or the location. Only that they are there.
Like most other classes, the Ranger gets 2 new ability scores on 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th levels. They can distribute them as they want as long as they don’t go above 20.
GameCows Ranking: 1
Level: 5 – The Ranger can attack twice on their turn.
GameCows Ranking: 2
Level: 8 – The Ranger can move through difficult & dangerous terrain normally as long as it’s not magically generated. They also have advantage on Saving Throws against magical plants like the Entangle Spell.
Hide in Plain Sight
GameCows Ranking: 2
Level: 10 – The Ranger takes 1 minute to create camouflage. When camouflaged, the Ranger gains a +10 bonus to stealth checks as long as they don’t move.
Game Cows Ranking: 1
Level: 14 – The Ranger can now use the Hide action as a bonus and can’t be tracked by non-magical means unless they want to be.
Game Cows Ranking: 1
Level: 18 – When fighting an invisible enemy or an enemy the Ranger can’t physically see, the Ranger does not suffer from disadvantage on their attack rolls.
GameCows Ranking: 1
Level: 20 – Once per turn, the Ranger can add their Wisdom modifier to their attack or damage roll when targeting their favored enemy.
Ranger 5e Subclasses
Of the first two subclasses in the Players’ Handbook, Beast Master sounds really cool. Who doesn’t want a beast buddy along for a quest? The problem with the class is that the beasts only get a minimal amount of buffing and since new subclasses have been added, they’re not as useful. Other subclasses have much more strengths and can do more damage, but this is DnD, so the Rule of Cool is how I normally play.
- Exceptional Training (Level 7): As a bonus action, the Ranger can command their beast to Dash, Disengage, or Help. The beast companion’s attacks are now considered magical for damage and resistance purposes.
- Bestial Fury (Level 11): When commanding your beast companion to attack it gets 2 attacks.
- Share Spells (Level 15): When the Ranger casts a buff spell on themselves, if their beast companion is within 30ft, they also get the benefit of the spell.
The Hunter Subclass gives some decent bonuses to attack. There’s nothing too special about it, but it does make for an effective, if somewhat generic, fighter.
Hunter’s Prey (Level 3): The Ranger gets 1 of 3 different bonuses.
- Colossus Slayer: Once per turn, if a target is at or below half health they can deal an additional 1d8 extra damage.
- Giant Killer: If a Large or Larger creature misses an attack against the Ranger within 5 ft. The Ranger gets a reaction attack against them.
- Horde Breaker: Once per turn when making an attack, the Ranger can make another attack with the same weapon against another creature within 5ft of the target.
Defensive Tactics (Level 7): The Ranger gets 1 of 3 different bonuses.
- Escape the Horde: All opportunity attacks against the Ranger are made with Disadvantage.
- Multiattack Defense: When hit with an attack the Ranger gets a +4 bonus to their AC for all subsequent or follow-up attacks for the turn.
- Steel Will: The Ranger has Advantage on saving throws for being frightened.
Multiattack (Level 11): The Ranger chooses 1 of 2 different bonuses.
- Volley: This is really useful for a ranged attack build. The Ranger picks a point that they can see and hit with their ranged weapon, and can make an attack against ANY number of creatures within 10 ft. They have to roll an attack for each individual creature in range.
- Whirlwind Attack: Similar to Volley, the Ranger can make an attack to ANY number of characters within 5 ft and they’ll need to roll individual attack rolls for each enemy.
Superior Hunter’s Defense (Level 15): The Ranger chooses 1 of 3 of these bonuses.
Evasion: When making Dexterity saving throws to 1/2 damage, the Ranger automatically receives 1/2 damage and receives no damage if the Dexterity Roll passes.
Stand Against the Tide: When being targeted by a melee attack, if the attacker misses, the Ranger can force the attacker to attack another creature in range. It’s almost like a Three Stooges sketch where they hit their buddy instead of the Ranger.
Uncanny Dodge: If hit with an attack and the Ranger can see the attacker, the damage is halved by using up their reaction.
The Ranger’s run-in with the Fey has left them touched with their magic. Whether they wandered into the wrong part of the woods or are simply friends of the fey folk, they can draw on a fraction of their powers.
Dreadful Strikes (Level 3, Upgrade at Level 11): The Ranger infuses their weapon with fey magic and deals an extra 1d4 Psychic damage once per turn when they hit. At level 11, the extra damage becomes 1d6.
Fey Wanderer Magic (Level 3): The Ranger borrows a bit of Fey Magic and gets additional spells that don’t count against their other Ranger spells and they get a Fey Gift.
Level & Spells
- 3rd Level, Charm Person
- 5th Level, Misty Step
- 9th Level, Dispel Magic
- 13th Level, Dimension Door
- 17th Level, Mislead
Fey Gift: Players can choose a fey from below at Level 3 or roll to randomly determine their gift. It’s mostly for RP purposes and doesn’t really affect the game too much.
|1||Illusory butterflies flutter around you while you take a short or long rest.|
|2||Fresh, seasonal flowers sprout from your hair each dawn.|
|3||You faintly smell of cinnamon, lavender, nutmeg, or another comforting herb or spice.|
|4||Your shadow dances while no one is looking directly at it.|
|5||Horns or antlers sprout from your head.|
|6||Your skin and hair change color to match the season at each dawn.|
Otherworldly Glamour (Level 3): Charisma checks can use the Ranger’s Wisdom modifier as a bonus. If they don’t have a positive Wisdom Modifier the Ranger just gets +1. The Ranger chooses to gain proficiency in Deception, Performance, or Persuasion.
Beguiling Twist (Level 7): The Ranger gains advantage on saving throws against being charmed or frightened. They can also change targets when trying to charm or frighten creatures if the initial target makes their saving throw.
Fey Reinforcements (Level 11): Rangers learn the Summon Fey spell which doesn’t count against the Ranger’s known spells. They can also cast it without any components and can cast it once per long rest without using a spell slot.
Misty Wanderer (Level 15): The Ranger can cast Misty Step equal to their Wisdom Modifier (or once if they don’t have a positive modifier). This doesn’t require a spell slot and recharges after a long step. They can also bring another creature within 5ft along with them.
Gathered Swarm (Level 3): The Ranger can choose how their nature spirits manifest. You can roll for it or work with your DM to come up with something cool. The standard options are insects, mini twig blights (mini tree spirits), birds, or pixies.
On the Ranger’s turn, they can summon their swarm to assist them after they hit a creature. They can:
- Add 1d6 piercing damage to the attack.
- Move their target 15ft away (Strength DC vs. Ranger Spell)
- Move 5ft in a direction.
Swarmkeeper Magic (Level 3): The Ranger learns Mage Hand which takes the shape of their swarm spirits. Rangers also get extra spells as they level up that don’t count against the number of Ranger Spells their class grants them and they all count as Ranger Spells.
- 3rd Level, Faerie Fire
- 5th Level, Web
- 9th Level, Gaseous Form
- 13th Level, Arcane Eye
- 17th Level, Insect Plague
Writhing Tide (Level 7): The Ranger can focus the swarm to lift them up and gain flying speed of 10ft and can hover for 1 minute. Charges for Writhing Tide are equal to the Ranger’s Proficiency Bonus. Charges reset after a long rest.
Mighty Swarm (Level 11): Gathered Swarm’s damage becomes 1d8. Gathered Swarm can knock a creature prone if they fail their save. When moving with Gathered Swarm, the swarm gives half cover until the next turn.
Swarming Dispersal (Level 15): Swarming Dispersal gives the Ranger teleporting abilities. They can disappear in their swarm and reappear within 30 ft surrounded by the swarm. Using their reaction, the Ranger can also use their swarm to gain resistance to whatever is attacking them while in the swarm. The charges for Swarming Dispersal are equal to the Rangers Proficiency bonus and refreshes after a long rest.
Gloom Stalker Magic (Level 3): Rangers also get extra spells as they level up that don’t count against the number of Ranger Spells their class grants them and they all count as Ranger Spells.
- 3rd Level, Disguise Self
- 5th Level, Rope Trick
- 9th Level, Fear
- 13th Level, Greater Invisibility
- 17th Level, Seeming
Dread Ambusher (Level 3): The Ranger gets an initiative bonus equal to their Wisdom Modifier.
This ability makes the Ranger much deadlier right at the start of combat. The first turn of any combat, the Ranger gets +10ft speed, if they attack they can make an extra attack, and if the extra attack connects they deal an extra 1d8.
Umbral Sight (Level 3): The Ranger gains Darkvision (60ft). If they already have Darkvision through a racial feat or another ability it increases by +30ft.
That’s not all, though. If another creature has Darkvision and is looking for the Ranger, they are invisible to them if they are relying on Darkvision to see.
Iron Mind (Level 7): The Ranger gains proficiency in Wisdom saving throws. If they’re already proficient they can choose to become proficient in either Intelligence or Charisma throws.
Stalker’s Flurry (Level 11): Once per turn, if the Ranger misses, they can make another attack as part of the same action.
Shadowy Dodge (Level 15): If the Ranger is being targeted for a normal attack (no advantage or disadvantage), the Ranger can force the attacker to roll at disadvantage. This needs to be declared before any rolls.
Horizon Walkers work to keep the balance between the different planes of existence. They’re adept at tracking and attacking otherworldly beings as well as moving between the different planes.
Horizon Walker Magic (Level 3): Rangers also get extra spells as they level up that don’t count against the number of Ranger Spells their class grants them and they all count as Ranger Spells.
- 3rd Level, Protection from Evil and Good
- 5th Level, Misty Step
- 9th Level, Haste
- 13th Level, Banishment
- 17th Level, Teleportation Circle
Detect Portal (Level 3): The Ranger can sense a planar portal within 1 mile. They know the distance and direction of the portal. Detect Portal can be used once and it recharges with a long or short rest.
Planar Warrior (Level 3): The Ranger channels its power through the planes. Using their bonus action the Ranger targets an enemy within 30ft. The next time they hit the target all damage becomes force damage and they are dealt an extra 1d8.
Level 11: The force damage becomes 2d8.
Ethereal Step (Level 7): The Ranger can cast Ethereal Step as a bonus action without using a spell slot. However, the spell ends at the end of the turn. This can be used once before needing to be recharged with a long or short rest.
Distant Strike (Level 11): When attacking, the Ranger can teleport 10ft before each of their attacks an empty space they can see. If they hit 2 enemies using this ability they can make another free attack against a 3rd.
Spectral Defense (Level 15): The Ranger can phase in and out of the planes of existence. When hit they can use their reaction to gain resistance to all damage on their turn.
This is probably the most popular of the Ranger subclasses. Think of Geralt from The Witcher or one of the characters from the Monster Hunters series. These Rangers specialize in taking down the big monsters that go bump in the night and are fearsome damage dealers.
Monster Slayer Magic (Level 3): Rangers also get extra spells as they level up that don’t count against the number of Ranger Spells their class grants them, and they all count as Ranger Spells.
- 3rd Level, Protection from Evil and Good
- 5th Level, Zone of Truth
- 9th Level, Magic Circle
- 13th Level, Banishment
- 17th Level, Hold Monster
Hunter’s Sense (Level 3): The Ranger can tell a monster’s weakness just by looking at it.
Using their action, the Ranger can look at a creature within 60ft and learn its damage immunities, resistances, and vulnerabilities. If the creature is immune to divination magic the Ranger simply senses nothing.
This can be used equal to the Ranger’s Wisdom modifier or once if they don’t have a bonus. Charges are refreshed after a long rest.
Slayer’s Prey (Level 3): The Ranger can use their bonus to designate a single creature within 60ft. The first hit each turn by the Ranger on the target deals an additional 1d6.
Supernatural Defense (Level 7): The target of Slayer’s prey has trouble hitting the Ranger. When the creature targeted by Slayer’s Prey attacks the Ranger and requires a saving throw or a grapple check the Ranger can add a 1d6 to the roll.
Magic-User’s Nemesis (Level 11): The Ranger gets their own form of counterspell. If a creature attempts to teleport or casts a spell within 60ft of the Ranger they can attempt to counter it using their reaction. The creature has to make a Wisdom throw against the Ranger’s Spell Save DC. If they fail, the creature’s spell fails. This can be used once per long or short rest.
Slayer’s Counter (Level 15): If the creature marked with Slayer’s Prey forces the Ranger to make a saving throw, the Ranger can use their reaction to make an attack against the creature. This happens before the Save roll, and if it hits the Ranger automatically succeeds at their Save roll and does damage to the creature.
The Drakewarden subclass is a bit of a niche subclass and is found in Fitzbans’s Treasury of Dragons. The Ranger binds themself to a draconic ally and as the Ranger grows in power, so too does their ally.
Draconic Gift (Level 3): At level 3, the Ranger makes a connection with their draconic powers and they gain the Thaumaturgy Cantrip, and they learn to speak, read, and write Draconic.
Drake Companion (Level 3): The Ranger can magically summon their bound drake. The Ranger can command the drake and it remains until it has 0 hit points. This can be done once per long or short rest or the Ranger can use a 1st level or higher spell slot to summon it.
Bond of Fang and Scale (Level 7): The drake gets even stronger when summoned. It now grows wings and has a flying speed equal to its walking speed.
The drake can also be mounted and ridden by the Ranger. It cannot fly when mounted. The drake also adds 1d6 damage to its bite and the Ranger gains the chromatic resistance of the drake.
Drake’s Breath (Level 11): Both the Ranger and the drake can use the dragon breath ability. It deals 8d6 and the targets must make a DC save for half damage.
Level 15: The damage increases to 10d6. This ability is recharged with a long rest or the Ranger can use a 3rd or higher spell slot to cast.
Perfected Bond (Level 15): When summoned, the drake’s attack deals an extra 1d6 damage (total of 2d6 bonus damage from previous abilities), and when mounted by the Ranger can fly.
When either the drake or Ranger take damage within 30ft of each other, they can gain resistance to whatever damage type used against them. This can be done equal to the Rangers proficiency bonus and then recharged during a long rest.
Playing as a Ranger in 5e
Rangers are going to be your damage dealers in the party. Their ability to track creatures and their favored enemy abilities will make them invaluable members of the party.
In addition, depending upon the Ranger Subclass chosen, they may bring extra bonuses to the table like an animal companion. At higher levels, the animal companion isn’t that great in combat, but it’s always helpful to have another character.
The Ranger Subclasses are some of the best in the game. The Monster Hunter, Gloom Stalker, and Horizon Walker are particularly good when it comes to overall damage dealing for the party.
My personal favorite for both usefulness and roleplaying purposes has to be the Swarm Keeper. It’s such a cool concept and extremely useful as well as a bit creepy.
For DMs with a Ranger 5e in the party, make sure you discuss with your player when they choose their favored enemy and terrain. It’s not going to be fun having a Ranger specializing in tundra and hunting giants when the entire campaign is set in a swamp with dragons. You don’t have to tailor the campaign for one particular player, but you do want to make sure that everyone has a chance to shine and use their abilities. It’s not fun having a character specialized for a specific monster and terrain if it’s not ever going to show up.
Before starting GameCows with his wife Kendra, he used to teach English Language Arts in the US. He combined his love of gaming with education to create fun game-based learning lessons until he eventually decided to run GameCows with Kendra full-time. He’s known for pouring over rulebooks in his spare time, being the rule master during game night, and as the perma DM in his DnD group. Bryan loves board games, writing, traveling, and above all his wife and partner in crime, Kendra.