[RPG] Are 5e Rangers competitive with other core classes


Rangers have a lot of flavor and interesting utility spells and abilities. However, it's not clear from a quick reading of the class whether they are mechanically competitive. Their Beast Master option seems more effective than its surface appearance, but does it compete well with other classes in terms of enhancing party survivability through dealing damage and preventing harm?

We have a question regarding Linear Fighters, Quadratic Wizards. Does the damage and combat utility of the Ranger hold up in a similar analysis, as compared to other non-multiclassed classes from 5e? If it does not, do they have utility powers that increase other PCs' effectiveness to a competitive degree?

Please assume a "vanilla" Ranger as compared to other base classes at a low-to-middle level. I'm sure that there are wacky combos possible with feats and multiclassing and that things get weird near level 20, but I'm looking for a more practical analysis.

Best Answer

Beastmaster is a bit of a trap

The Hunter Archetype incorporates both the Hordebreaker and Giantslayer archetypes from the playtest into itself, letting players pick and choose their features as they level. Either way you build is a strong choice and the Hunter gets Volley or Whirlwind at lvl 11 which really ups their ability to deal damage to multiple targets in a round. In comparison the Beast Master is only getting a CR 1/4 ally which costs an action to attack. You are able to make 1 weapon attack yourself when your beast attacks at lvl 5 so at least you aren't missing out on the extra attack, but this will scale very poorly as you always only have a CR 1/4 beast as your companion. Even though the Beast eventually gets to make two attacks itself, and gains the benefit of any spells targeted at you as buffs it still is a very, very poor choice in comparison to the Hunter's abilities. Also, why would you ever want to be like Drizzt?

Ranger spell-casting is utility focused, not inherently weaker

Rangers get a lot of healing spells in their list and share them with clerics. In addition to that, Rangers have access to a lot of buffing or debuffing spells with which to help the party and impede their foes. Additionally, they have some very strong story and skill oriented spells allowing them to track and find objects and people and manipulate nature to their advantage. This synergies with the class features the core Ranger gets with their Natural Explorer and Favored enemy features.

Rangers are still a strong choice — they just aren't as purely combat oriented as they have been in previous editions

Rangers in 4e were the striker with twin-strike at level one and a plethora of nova-round dailies and encounter powers. 5e's Rangers, while very competent in combat, are designed as a class to be tied to a certain type of terrain(s) and enemy type requiring some work and buy-in from the GM and the table to reach their peak effectiveness. From a flavor perspective, the ranger is closer to the Rangers in Tolkien's works.

Like Faramir, Aragorn or even Legolas, the ranger is extremely competent in his terrain of expertise and hunting their favored enemies. In terms of a campaign, the ranger could make all the difference between barely surviving and constantly being beset by monsters while traveling the wilderness and actually thriving, ambushing enemies first, avoiding them at will, and always being able to find and forage food to keep moving.