Ranger 5e DND: How to Have Fun in the Forest

Ranger 5e DND Ultimate Guide + How to Play

The thrill of exploration, the freedom of the wilderness, a bond with nature that transcends ordinary life; welcome to the world of the Ranger in Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition. The Ranger class embodies the archetype of a damage-dealing tracker who is one with the outdoors, a wilderness survivalist who can deal massive damage from close or far, and a skilled hunter who isn’t afraid to head to the front lines of the fight. Rangers have a traditional place in our collective imagination; Aragorn from Lord of the Rings or Robin Hood leap to mind as quick examples embodying this versatile class.

Historically stemming from the lore of isolated protectors of the frontier, Rangers in D&D have a long and storied role. They were originally introduced in the 1st edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons as a subclass of Fighters, eventually evolving into their own unique class as the editions progressed. Today, they remain stalwart defenders of the wilderness against encroaching threats, both natural and supernatural.

Rangers fit comfortably in a wide range of D&D campaign settings and narratives. Whether the party is trekking through uncharted wilderness, delving deep into mysterious dungeons, or exploring sprawling urban environments, Rangers bring a set of skills to the table that can be invaluable. Masterful explorers and survivalists, Rangers are capable of leading their parties through an array of environments with ease, while keeping them safe from threats thanks to their ability to track and anticipate danger.

Yet, the journey to becoming a Ranger involves decisions and choices that may appear complex to beginners. Don’t fret; with helpful tips and insights, this beginner’s guide aims to serve as your compass. From your choice of race and background to the subtleties of tracking, archery, and spellcasting, we will guide you through the trails and tests of shaping your Ranger. Your journey begins here; come, let us blaze the trail together.

Ranger 5e DND Guide

Are 5e Rangers Worth Playing?

Rangers are a fan-favorite class for many D&D players, but are they worth playing? Well, that largely comes down to your personal playstyle and what you want out of your character. Let’s delve into specifics.

Versatility in Combat and Exploration

Rangers are renowned for their versatility. They can dish out substantial damage in combat, especially against favored enemies, and can arc their arrows or swing their swords with the best of them. Equally, their skill sets lend themselves superbly to exploration, survival, and tracking. If you love the idea of being a versatile character who excels in both fighting and the fine art of exploration, a ranger could be an excellent choice.

Specializations and Archetypes

The ranger class offers a variety of specializations and archetypes that introduce different mechanics and roleplay elements. For instance, you can customize your ranger via the Hunter subclass, where you can select particular enemies to specialize in hunting them down. Or, if you prefer, opt for the Beast Master subclass and adventure alongside a loyal beast companion. This diversity means there are multiple ways to play a ranger and a multitude of playstyles to explore.

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Potential Drawbacks

However, keep in mind that rangers aren’t without their drawbacks. They have limited magic usage compared to full spellcasters like wizards and druids, and their abilities often emphasize particularity over generality. This makes them highly effective in certain situations, but less so in others. For example, if your ranger has honed their skills to hunt down and fight giants, they’ll struggle if the journey requires tacking harpies or dragons instead.

Best Races for Playing a DND 5e Ranger

A ranger’s abilities and effectiveness can be significantly influenced by the race you choose for your character. Certain races naturally complement the ranger class, boosting ability scores that align with a ranger’s specific needs. Here are some optimal choices:

Wood Elves: Agility and Perception

Wood elves are a perfect fit for the ranger class, with their naturally heightened Dexterity and Wisdom. Their keen senses enhance their perception, which is essential for a ranger, and their proficiency in stealth makes them excellent at tracking and ambushing prey.

Humans: Adaptability

Humans in D&D 5e are known for their adaptability. In terms of ability score increases, humans can boost any one of their abilities, an advantage that can significantly benefit a ranger. This versatility enables you to tailor-make your human ranger to your preferred playstyle.

Half-Orcs: Strength and Resilience

Despite their racial traits leaning more towards melee-centric classes, half-orcs can make interesting and effective rangers. They possess robust Constitution and Strength scores, making them hardy and resilient. Their Menacing trait aids in aggression and intimidation, adding another dynamic to your ranger’s abilities.

Dwarves: Stamina and Resilience

Dwarves are a hearty, resolute race ideal for D&D players wanting to play a durable, enduring ranger. Their increase in Constitution and Strength give them a solid foundation, and their dwarven resilience trait provides resistance to poison and critical advantage to Wisdom (Survival) checks – both useful traits for venturing out into the wild.

Analysis and Comparisons

Of course, these are not the only viable races for a ranger in D&D 5e. There are many others, including Half-Elves, Lightfoot Halflings, and even Dragonborn. Your choice ultimately depends on the game you’re playing, the current campaign or setting, and how you want to embody your ranger character.

The Role of a Ranger in D&D

Rangers play a unique role in a D&D campaign, with their skill set drawing from a myriad of areas – excelling at tracking, scouting, survival, and combat. With a deep knowledge of nature and a unique array of spells, Rangers can read the lay of the land and the creatures within it. Their versatile abilities allow them to adapt to almost any environment, be it a dense woodland or a treacherous mountain range.

Skillset Overview

A Ranger’s abilities largely focus on survival in the wilderness, hunting down enemies, and navigating through rough terrains. They are skilled in Stealth and Perception, enabling them to act as scouts for the party. Enabled by their combat skills, Rangers can focus on archery, dual wielding, or even beast mastery, lending their companions unusual and much-needed assistance. Their spellcasting, while not as extensive as the arcane classes, provide advantageous utility and can give the Ranger an edge both outside and within combat situations.

The Importance of Nature and Tracking

Of course, perhaps what Rangers are most notable for is their attunement with nature. This featured expertise enables them to track other creatures with ease while aiding their allies in minimizing the difficulties of rough environments. They excel in finding paths through the wilderness, foraging for food, and gaining tactical and strategic information about their surroundings. By selecting a ‘Favored Terrain’ type, the Ranger can track at normal speed, and even when they are in unfamiliar surroundings they bring valuable navigation skills to the party.

Working in a Party vs. Solo

While Rangers are solitary creatures in popular lore, in a D&D party a Ranger can bring varied and pertinent skills to the table – from scouting and damage dealing, to crowd control and support. They excel at striking from a distance or from the shadows yet can be adaptable when a more front line role is required – illustrating their ability to work in a team setting. That being said, a Ranger’s skills also lend themselves quite well to solo adventuring, should the situation arise.

How They Fit into Various Campaign Themes

Given their specializations in natural environments and dealing with specific creatures, Rangers can be critical resources in campaigns focusing on outdoor exploration or in those which pit them against their favored enemies. With their spellcasting and physical combat abilities combined, they embody the bridge between man and nature, capable of unleashing nature’s wrath or guiding their allies through it.

Is Ranger an Easy Class in D&D?

Like all D&D classes, playing a Ranger comes with its own set of challenges and complexities. However, with their varied skill set and the right guidance, they don’t have to be difficult or intimidating for beginners to pick up.

Learning Curve for Beginners

The learning curve for a beginner Ranger can be less steep in comparison to some of the more complex classes like the Wizard or Bard. Starting with their straightforward combat abilities, a beginner can gain a good handle on their role in the party, later branching out into exploration and utility spells.

Abilities and Mechanics Complexity

Mechanically speaking, Rangers can be seen as a midpoint between a Rogue and a Druid. They combine the martial prowess of the former with a softer touch of nature-based magic from the latter. The complexity arises not from mastering individual abilities, but more so from understanding how these abilities blend together, thus maximizing their effectiveness.

Comparison with Other Classes

When compared to other classes, Rangers may seem less potent in their specialization areas – Fighters can deal more damage, Rogues are stealthier, and Druids have more powerful magic. But the beauty of a Ranger lies in their blend – their ability to switch gears and offer a different kind of support whenever the situation calls for it. The Ranger isn’t a master of one, but a jack of all trades, able to adapt and survive whatever a D&D campaign might throw at them.

Building a Ranger Character

Rangers are masters of nature and the wild, skilled in tracking, survival, and often ranged combat. In building a Ranger character, a solid balance of attributes is essential. Your choice of background and alignment aligns closely with its intimate relationship with nature or a specific type of terrain, or maybe even a sworn enemy. The weapons and feats you choose will further define your Ranger’s skill set and combat style.

Stats and Abilities Breakdown

While Rangers can be versatile in their abilities, a typical Ranger build prioritizes Dexterity for ranged weapon accuracy and AC, followed by Constitution for added resilience, and Wisdom for spellcasting. Strength can be useful for melee-focused Rangers, but due to their often jack-of-all-trades role, Intelligence and Charisma usually take the back burner.

Choosing a Background and Alignment

The type of deed the ranger is sworn to undertake often gauges the character’s background and alignment. A near-apocryphal Ranger might have taken an Outlander background or a Hermit if they’re extremely secluded. Remember, your character’s subplot, ethics, and ideals can draw a lot from the Ranger’s intimate connection with nature and its wildlife.

Equipment and Feats Selection

Rangers are proficient in many weapons and armors, including light and medium armors and shields. But they are often depicted wielding longbows or twin shortswords due to their Dexterity-driven capabilities. Key feats to consider for Rangers include Sharpshooter, Dual Wielder, or even Magic Initiate for those wishing to broaden their spellcasting abilities.

Animal Companions and Other Unique Features

Amongst the Ranger’s most unique features is the “Animal Companion” available under the Beast Master archetype. Choosing your companion can greatly impact your tactical options, with choices often between versatile birds, persistent wolves, or lethal big cats. Other archetypes offer their unique features, too, from the shadowy Gloom Stalker to the plane-roaming Horizon Walker.

Tips and Strategies

Being a Ranger is not just about dealing damage from afar or exploring the wilds; it’s also about understanding your class’s unique abilities and integrating with your party.

Combat and Role-Playing Tips

On the battlefield, understand and exploit your “Favored Enemy” bonuses and “Natural Explorer” perks. Make use of your Ranger’s unique spells, such as the damage-boosting “Hunter’s Mark” or the terrain-altering “Spike Growth.” In social or exploration scenarios, play up your character’s tracking expertise and wilderness survival skills.

Working with a Party

Rangers can serve as the party’s scout, given their knack for navigating landscapes and spotting hidden dangers. Communication is key when coordinating the group’s movements or when warning them of any detected threats. Remember, with your broad skillset, you can assist in ways beyond just dealing damage.

Understanding and Using Spells

While not as prolific as true spellcasting classes, Rangers’ spells should not be underestimated. From healing and buffing allies with spells like “Cure Wounds” and “Barkskin”, to controlling the battlefield with “Entangle” or “Fog Cloud”, be sure to exploit these abilities to the utmost in order to make your Ranger all the more versatile and valuable in your adventuring party.

Ultimately, playing a Ranger is about versatility and the ability to deal with a variety of scenarios. Through your skills, spells, and deeply rooted connection to nature, you can make your Ranger an unforgettable character in your campaign.

The Role and Playstyle of a Ranger

First, let’s take a look at some of the basic questions about playing a ranger in D&D.

What does a Ranger do in D&D?

In the sprawling universe of Dungeons & Dragons, where classes define the capabilities, skills, and roles of characters, a Ranger is often the eyes and ears of the party. Woven into the fabric of their identity is the wilderness, a natural tracker, an adept survivalist, and a fierce guardian of nature. Whether it’s navigating uncharted territories, identifying enemies’ weaknesses, or communicating with beasts and plants, a Ranger brings versatility and utility that can be pivotal in both combat and exploration.

Are Rangers worth playing in D&D?

The answer usually thrives in personal preference and playstyle. Still, there’s a unequivocal ‘yes’ from players who relish the balance between crowd-controlling capabilities, a wide range of skills, and melee or ranged damage output that Rangers offer. Additionally, they present unique role-playing opportunities, as they can create a symbiotic bond with the natural world and harness its elements for their advantage. Every decision to track, forage, scout, or fight becomes a tactical play, making the journey diverse and rich. The Rangers’ unique spell list, imbued with a nature theme, further expands role-playing and combat possibilities.

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Is the Ranger an easy class to play in D&D?

While ‘easy’ may be subjective depending on the player’s experience with D&D and other RPGs, the Ranger class is certainly approachable, especially for beginners. With a defined and straightforward role, Rangers have clear objectives and goals in combat and exploration scenarios, which makes decision-making easier. Rangers can also handle a variety of situations, from tracking enemies to engaging in ranged or melee combat, making them adaptable and flexible. Learning to master a Ranger’s abilities can offer new players an opportunity to understand core D&D mechanics while faced with a challenge that is engaging but not overwhelming.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Next, let’s take a look at the various strengths and weaknesses of a ranger character in D&D.

What are the Ranger’s weaknesses?

Every class in Dungeons & Dragons has its unique advantages and limitations, and the Rangers are no exception. Like a well-sharpened blade, a Ranger’s strength often lies in their ability to track, hunt, and survive in the wilderness. But this specialization can become a weakness in other types of scenarios. Rangers often struggle when they face challenges completely unrelated to the wilderness or nature. Scenes set in urban locales or intricate political scenarios can put them at a disadvantage compared to other classes that excel in these areas.

Furthermore, Rangers’ spellcasting, a secondary class feature, tends to be less potent than their main martial abilities. The Ranger spell list is limited when compared to full spellcasters like Wizards or Sorcerers. Therefore, Rangers may come up short during encounters where magical damage or utility spells are of utmost importance.

Who is the most powerful Ranger type?

As for the most powerful Ranger archetype, it often depends on the type of campaign you’re participating in and the role you wish to fulfill in your adventuring party. However, the Hunter archetype is frequently recognized as a solid choice for numerous situations. This subclass enhances the Ranger’s martial prowess, offering compelling choices of abilities that significantly increase the Ranger’s damage output, either against a singular mighty foe or swarms of enemies.

In contrast, for those more inclined to pet companions and who like the idea of a beast at their side, the Beast Master archetype presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is a commendable choice. This enhances the Ranger’s versatility, and role-play possibilities, allowing the Ranger to build a symbiotic relationship with their beast companion, which can undertake a multitude of beneficial actions in combat or offer assistance in role-playing scenarios.

Are Rangers good in combat?

Rangers, as a whole, are indeed formidable in combat, especially in outdoor environments or against their favored enemies. With the right choice of spells, weapons, and tactics, a Ranger can contribute significantly to a fight. Their martial abilities are comparable to other martial classes like Fighters and Barbarians, while their limited spellcasting can add an extra edge.

Maintaining a balance between shooting from afar with a bow and skirmishing with two weapons up close, a Ranger can adapt to varying combat situations. They can also select spells to heal allies, protect themselves, or control the battlefield, making a well-played Ranger a highly flexible and dynamic addition to any adventuring party. However, it demands a deep understanding of the class and strategic use of their abilities to bring a Ranger’s full potential to the forefront in combat situations.

Abilities and Stats

Choosing abilities and stats for your ranger is important, so listen up!

What is the most important ability for a Ranger?

The most crucial ability for a Ranger depends largely on the style of play you look forward to. That said, at the core of every Ranger, irrespective of subclass or personal role-play preferences, two abilities almost always take precedence – Dexterity and Wisdom.

Dexterity is the quintessential stat for most Rangers. With a high Dexterity, a Ranger can be remarkably capable in both ranged and melee combat. This is because many Ranger weapons, such as longbows and short swords, utilize Dexterity for attack and damage rolls. In addition, Dexterity contributes to your Armor Class, initiative, and several essential skills, including Stealth and Acrobatics.

Wisdom, however, is what fuels your Ranger spellcasting. Rangers, like many other classes, have access to a variety of unique spells, allowing them to heal allies, hinder enemies, and manipulate the natural world. With a high Wisdom score, not only will your spells be harder for enemies to resist, but you’ll also be more perceptive and better at survival skills, both attributes which fit well with the Ranger’s wilderness theme.

What stats do you want as a Ranger?

In addition to Dexterity and Wisdom, Rangers should look to develop other abilities based on their stylistic preference and campaign demands. Constitution, often important to all characters for its contribution to Hit Points and resilience, is no exception to the Ranger. It will help ensure your survival in the face of multitude adversities and dangers that lurk in the wild and beyond.

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Strength might be a secondary consideration unless you’re playing in a manner that is more melee-focused or you prefer using Strength-based weapons. However, since Rangers are often far from the heat of direct combat, a high Strength score may not always be necessary.

Intelligence and Charisma, while not the most beneficial abilities for a Ranger, can still come in handy in certain situations. For example, Intelligence can assist in navigating arcane puzzles, and Charisma can aid in mustering allied support.

Keep in mind, though, that every campaign and every player’s style can vary greatly. The beauty of Dungeons & Dragons is its ability to create unique and personalized adventure stories, so don’t feel strictly bound by these guidelines. Let your Ranger character take the shape that best fits your imagination and brings you the most joy in playing. After all, the wilderness may be unforgiving, but it’s also full of limitless possibilities, just waiting to be discovered by intrepid Rangers like you.

Comparisons and Choices

How does a normal vanilla fighter stand up against a ranger? Let’s take a look, shall we?

Is the Ranger or Fighter better?

Deciding whether the Ranger or Fighter is “better” primarily depends on your play style and the nature of your campaign. Fighters are the quintessential combat class; they have the highest potential for damage output and the best armor class. Fighters shine when they’re on the front line, showing their might in hand-to-hand combat. If you love classic melee combat, you might lean towards the Fighter class.

Rangers, on the other hand, are a blend of a martial class and a spellcaster. They excel in ranged combat and have access to spells that can help in exploration, battle, or social scenarios. They’re also skilled survivalists who can track creatures and navigate the wilderness with ease. If you think you’ll enjoy a mix of role-play, exploration, and combat, the Ranger class may be the one for you.

The biggest changes between UA Ranger (Unearthed Arcana) and PHB (Player’s Handbook)

The Unearthed Arcana (UA) Ranger was introduced as an optional redesign of the original PHB Ranger, based on player feedback that the PHB Ranger was less satisfying to play. The key changes include the addition of class features that scale with the character level, making the UA Ranger more competent throughout the game. For instance, in the UA version, the Ranger gains a version of the Rogue’s “Expertise” feature, whereas the PHB version does not.

The Revised Ranger and Official Changes

Here we have a look at the revised ranger and official changes. (No word on DND 6e – ie One DND yet!)

What’s the difference between the Ranger and the Revised Ranger in 5e?

The Revised Ranger, a newer iteration of the Ranger class, addresses certain perceived weaknesses of the original version. For example, the “Favored Enemy” feature in the original Ranger is replaced in the Revised version by “Foe Slayer,” allowing the Ranger’s combat abilities to have broader application. Similarly, the “Natural Explorer” feature gets a substantial upgrade, benefiting the Ranger in any kind of terrain, rather than a specific type chosen at the start.

Is the Revised Ranger official?

Explanation about Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything’s role

While the Revised Ranger proposed in Unearthed Arcana offered several improvements, it never became an official variant in the core rules. However, some of its concepts found their way into “Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything”. This supplement book provides class feature variants and new subclasses that can be used to customize your Ranger’s abilities. Although not officially labeling it as the “Revised Ranger,” these options deliver a similar capacity to fine-tune the Ranger’s capabilities better than ever before.


In summary, the Ranger is a versatile yet challenging class to master due to its ability to mix multiple roles from combatants to healers. Its power comes from its adaptability, which allows you to tailor your character to suit your campaign and allies. This guide aimed to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the complex mechanics the Ranger offers, including the pros, cons, and functions of different abilities, skills, races, subclasses, and play styles.

For new players, it is recommended to start with a Dexterity-based Ranger for its effectiveness and simplicity. It will provide you with a balanced mix of damage output, skill proficiencies, survival capabilities, and versatility in combat. I would advise against starting as a Magic-based Ranger, as the class’s spellcasting features require more experience and understanding of the game’s mechanics. However, once you’ve got a grasp of the core mechanics, consider expanding your knowledge with a Wisdom-based build or a hybrid build to explore the class’s full potential.

It’s important to remember that the complexity of the Ranger class comes with vast potential. The Ranger can be whatever you need it to be, whether that’s a stealthy scout, a deadly archer, a beast-tamer, or a leader of the party. Each decision you make will shape your character’s capabilities and role within your party.

Dungeons and Dragons is about letting your imagination run wild and growing your characters in the midst of daring adventures. The Ranger, with all its options and features, gives a plethora of opportunities for unique character creation. Whether you’re roaming the wilderness, slinging spells, or tracking a dangerous beast through dense forests, playing a Ranger truly emboldens the sense of adventure.

So, embrace the thrill of the unknown, plot your course, and let your Ranger leave an indelible footprint in the realm of D&D. Above all, DnD is a game – never forget to experiment and have fun! Adventure awaits in the wilds, Ranger. Happy gaming!

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Paul Bellow

LitRPG Author Paul Bellow

Paul Bellow is a LitRPG author, gamer, RPG game developer, and publisher of several online communities. In other words, an old school webmaster. He also developed and runs LitRPG Adventures, a set of advanced RPG generators powered by GPT-3 AI. Here at LitRPG Reads, he publishes articles about LitRPG books, tabletop RPG books, and all sorts of DND content that's free to use in your personal tabletop campaign - i.e. non-commercial use. Enjoy your stay and reach out on Twitter or Discord if you want to make contact.

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