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I'm planning a new campaign setting which treats most magic use as a significant cultural taboo, unless used by trained and certified practitioners. Use of magic by untrained individuals is seen as very dangerous and unstable.

As a result, there are a number of professions specialized at hunting down and capturing (or killing) rogue magic users. This seems particularly suited for a ranger archetype.

That being said, I'm pretty inexperienced at homebrew classes. I tried to stay fairly close to the progression of the base Hunter archetype, but I'm having a hard time evaluating how strong some of the Hunter abilities are, since some are "always on" or situational abilities compared to limited use abilities in my homebrew.

Here's my archetype:

Silencer

Stabilizing Words - At 3rd level, you can use your reaction to attempt to disrupt a spell. You may target a creature casting a spell within 30 feet of you. The target creature makes any applicable attack rolls for that spell with disadvantage. Any saves made to avoid the effects of that spell are made with advantage.

After using this ability, you must complete a short or long rest before using it again. You gain one extra use of this ability before requiring a short or long rest at levels 6, 9, and 12.

Disrupting Words - At 7th level, you may use your bonus action to attempt to strip a target of spell effects after making a successful melee attack on the target. This acts as if the spell Dispel Magic has been cast on the target using the ranger's Spellcasting ability.

Pronouncement of Redirection - At 11th level, you can use your reaction to change one target of a single spell you see being cast within 60 feet of you. The new target must be within 30 feet of you. You can only use this ability once per long rest. The spell you target must have a range of 5 feet or greater (includes touch spells altered by Distant Spell metamagic).

Grounded Reality - At 17th level, you have advantage on all saves you make against hostile spells or magic effects.

Is this Silencer homebrew ranger archetype balanced against the other published ranger archetypes?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Stabilizing Words" should that be "Destabilizing Words"? The name doesn't match the ability. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Mar 27 at 2:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin the "stabilizing" comes from the idea that magic effects come from destabilizing the natural order to create the desired effect. This ability stabilizes reality to make magic more difficult. \$\endgroup\$ – Beofett Mar 27 at 2:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah ok. It reads more like you are destabilizing the spell caster. Maybe add flavour text to the effect off "your words sooth the weave making it more difficult for caster to create effects." \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Mar 27 at 2:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin the campaign is built around a complex and well defined magic system unique to the setting. There's going to be extensive flavor background that will add context to how these abilities work, but I didn't want to distract from the mechanics in this question by including too much flavor. \$\endgroup\$ – Beofett Mar 27 at 2:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @András at this point, OP shouldn't change the question however, since that would be a significant shift that would invalidate the answers below. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 27 at 17:44
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Silencer is mostly balanced

However, I am assuming that most, but not all encounters, feature enemy spell casters. Because this subclass is so specialized against a single type of enemy, the true answer may vary considerably between campaigns depending on how prominent casters are.

While it does not dirrectly pertain to the balance, it's worth noting the the progression of the Silencer's features is unusual:

3rd level: defensive.
7th level: offensive.
11th level: offensive and defensive.
15th level: defensive.

Whereas Ranger Subclass features usually progress like so:

3rd level: offensive.
7th level: defensive.
11th level: offensive.
15th level: defensive.

The only two features seem which seem problematic to me are:

Disrupting Words

I suspect that this feature will be somewhat underwhelming in actual play for two reasons:

  1. In my experience enemy casters rarely use buffs.
  2. Enemy spell casters may often be subject to debuffs which the Ranger does not wish to dispell, including the Ranger's own hunter's mark.

However, that is assuming Disrupting Words isn't meant to be used as an at will dispel magic against objects like traps or arcane locks. This feature would be unbalanced if that were the case.

Pronouncement of Redirection

This feature is likely too powerful.
It reminds me of the Hunter's Volley in that it can completely outclass the damage of other 11th level features like Stalker's Flurry and Distant Strike under the right circumstances, but in addition to that it also protects from harm.
For example, changing the target of a powerful AoE from a point between the party to a point between the enemies can make a huge difference, but such a circumstance may never present itself. Some spell effects can't even be measured with damage, for example redirecting a forcecage or a feeblemind can outright win a battle.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The question does ask for a comparison against other Rangers, but they are arguably the weakest class in the game. When compared to other classes, Pronouncement of Redirection is not that strong, as it is once per day. \$\endgroup\$ – András Mar 27 at 12:32
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Slightly Overpowered

This analysis assumes that enemies with spellcasting or spell effects will appears in at least half of the encounters. If you were to use this subclass in a low magic monster hunter campaign it would be extremely situational.

I'll break the class down and compare it feature by feature.

Stabilizing Words

This once per short rest ability imposes disadvantage on all spell attacks (or advantage on saves) for one turn. This is a pretty strong ability and improves with level. Let's compare it to the existing subclasses:

  • Beast Master: Ranger's Companion; a terrible feature, yours is stronger.
  • Gloom Stalker: Magic, Dread Ambusher, Umbral Sight; Access to additional spells, darkvision and a bonus to initiative + damage. You feature is likely equal or slight weaker than this.
  • Horizon Walker: Magic, Detect Portal, Planar Warrior; Access to additional spells, very situational portal detection and a good damage buff against a single target. Your feature is fairly balanced with this.
  • Hunter: Hunter's Prey; choice of three fairly even offensive abilities. Yours is fairly well balanced.
  • Monster Slayer: Magic, Hunter's Sense, Slayer's Prey; Access to additional spells, knowledge of enemies, and free damage that stacks with hunter's mark. Your feature is fairly balanced.

Overall this feature doesn't seem too unbalanced. It is strong but with the limited uses mostly ok.

Disrupting Words

Dispel Magic at will as a bonus action. I don't even need to look at the other subclasses. This feature is overpowered.

As written this allows you to bypass any defensive magic in the game simply by hitting them once. True requiring them to hit does mean that some spell effects will be difficult to negate with this, however it is still very effective.

To make it balanced I would suggest limiting the number of uses on it, leaving it as an action, requiring some kind of check/save for it to work or as per Andras's great suggestion limiting it to only work on creatures.

Pronouncement of Redirection

Once per day completely negate a spell and cause it to target an enemy instead. This is a very strong ability but highly situational. As most of the other ranger subclasses simply get an always on additional attack option it is difficult to assess. I'm going to say this is likely slightly overpowered.

Grounded Reality

Firstly this should be at 15th not 17th level by the normal advancement table. Either at or before this level most of the other subclasses have gained advantage on saves or disadvantage on incoming attacks in some form or another. Your feature is good but equally situational. Perhaps slightly stronger than other subclasses but not broken.

Conclusion

Overall this is probably stronger than any of the options available to the ranger currently. You give up expanded spell lists and additional attacking options in exchange for significantly more defensive control over magic. Disrupting Words is the only truly unbalanced feature that would need to be fixed though, others could just be tweaked.

Also you are comparing this to a set of subclasses that are already considered weak, so a slight power bump is not the worst thing in the world.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Generally agree with the assessment, but think you overvalue Disrupting Words just a tad: The requirement for a melee attack hit implies that you need to be able to hit the target. So it's more "Dispel Magic at will as a bonus action against a very narrowly defined subset of magic". +1 nonetheless \$\endgroup\$ – DonFusili Mar 27 at 10:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DonFusili Perhaps I overstated it a bit. I've edited to tone down my criticism slightly. An at-will 3rd level spell at 7th level is still very strong. In and out of combat. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Mar 27 at 10:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed, hence "a tad" :-) \$\endgroup\$ – DonFusili Mar 27 at 11:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ In a world where magic is frowned upon, your subclass will not be used in most of your encounters. \$\endgroup\$ – András Mar 27 at 13:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BenjaminOlson That is for the level three feature, that feature is mostly fine. It is the later ones that make it slightly overpowered. I started by comparing each feature but it became a lot of work and wasn't adding that much to the answer so I took a more general approach for the rest. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Mar 27 at 23:08
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It is very situational

This means weak in most situations, and adequate in a few. The main question is how many of the encounters will contain mostly casters?

If only half, this subclass need to be twice as strong as other Rangers to be about similarly effective overall.
As magic is frowned upon in the world you created, I guess spellcasters are rare.

In all of the DnD campaigns I ever played in (not limited to 5e) spellcasters were not even in one quarter of the encounters, and even if there is one, the Ranger might have to face its non-caster henchmen.

Pronouncement of Redirection might sound strong, but it is once per long rest at best1. I would pick rerolling a missed attack2 per round over this every time.

Disrupting Words is too good against traps, so I would limit it to creatures (than it is very underpowered) or make it once per short rest.

Mitigating the limitations

Expand Stabilizing Words to every effect that forces a save. This way the Ranger will feel subclass-less only 25% of the time, not 50%.


1) or 0 if no casters are in the encounters, or they are further than 60 feet away, or...
2) Stalker's Flurry (Gloom Stalker)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ To clarify: magic is frowned upon in my world because it is too accessible; all that is necessary to generate magical effects is reciting the correct words. However, pronunciation is very important to avoid wild magic-like surges, and a strong will is required to properly control the magical effects, which is why the taboo is on use by people not officially trained at one of the main, approved schools. That being said, I anticipate most magic encountered will be flavor replacements for standard abilities; casters won't be rarer than normal, but neither will they be unusually common \$\endgroup\$ – Beofett Mar 27 at 17:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good points, btw. I will definitely tighten up the wording of Disrupting Words to apply it only to creatures. I'll have to consider what other possible impacts my magic system will have on encounters to decide how I want to handle Stabilizing Words. \$\endgroup\$ – Beofett Mar 27 at 17:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ if casters are not that common, all Silencer Rangers will have serious effectiveness issues. I would feel robbed if my whole subtype is useless most of the time \$\endgroup\$ – András Mar 27 at 17:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I would too. While casters are not more common, I do expect them to be among the most dangerous foes, and I was hoping that this archetype would help parties deal with this, but I think I need to plan out the details of exactly how those changes will impact casters before I finalize the archetype. I'm not sure if making the deadliest foes more manageable justifies being underpowered 50% of the time. \$\endgroup\$ – Beofett Mar 27 at 17:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Applying Disrupting Words to only creatures is a great restriction. That brings the class much closer to balanced. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Mar 27 at 23:43

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