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I want to tweak the Favored Foe optional class feature for the Ranger from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything

I'm fairly disappointed with the Favored Foe optional class feature for the Rangers released in TCoE, it's essentially just a worse Hunter's Mark. This feature allows more versatility with your Foe Slayer feature at level 20, but it also locks your concentration. Since it's a worse Hunter's Mark, Favored Foe will probably see less use until you get Foe Slayer (and how many games reach level 20?). The only saving grace to this feature is the improved action economy. Two weapon fighting or crossbow expert Rangers might see some use out of this.

While the UA version is definitely better in terms of damage, I'd have to agree with this Reddit post that says that the UA version incentivizes 1 level dip to the Ranger class, but doesn't incentivize more levels in Ranger. User u/ZatherDaFox added "One of the ranger's biggest issues has always been a lack of really cool mid and late game abilities to justify taking the class that high."

Now, I'm trying to come up with a solution after Favored Foe was officially published in Tasha's Caudron of Everything. tl;dr, here's the changelog:

  • Renamed it to Hunter's Mark
  • If you take this optional class feature, it replaces your Favored Enemy class feature and removes the Hunter's Mark spell from this Ranger's spell list
  • The damage still scales exactly the same as TCoE's Favored Foe, but now it applies to every attack that hits (even spell attacks)
  • Added the advantage to track and find it bit from the Hunter's Mark spell
  • Duration is 1 hour, following the Hunter's Mark spell
  • Number of uses equal to proficiency bonus per short or long rest
  • At level 11, it no longer requires concentration

Hunter's Mark

1st-level ranger feature, which replaces the Favored Enemy feature and works with the Foe Slayer feature. Furthermore, Hunter's Mark is removed from your spell list.

When you hit a creature with an attack roll, you can call on your mystical bond with nature to mark the target as your favored enemy for 1 hour or until you lose your concentration (as if you were concentrating on a spell). Until your concentration ends, you deal an extra 1d4 damage to the target whenever you hit it with an attack, and you have advantage on any Wisdom (Perception) or Wisdom (Survival) check you make to find it.
    You can use this feature to mark a favored enemy a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a short or long rest. This feature's extra damage increases when you reach certain levels in this class: to 1d6 at 6th level and to 1d8 at 14th level. Furthermore, once you have reached 11th level in this class, this feature no longer requires concentration.

What this aims to fix:

As stated before, I want people to want to play the Ranger class and experience them at higher levels, not just as one level dips. I play a Ranger in my homebrew campaign, but I use the Revised Ranger UA version because the PHB just seems very DM-/campaign-dependent and, to me at least, is poorly designed compared to the other classes. Tasha's has introduced a lot of new optional class features for the Ranger that I'm eternally grateful for (I'll literally never take the PHB Natural Explorer ever again). So it sucks to see that one of them just barely misses the mark (get it? Hahah).

The changes don't really alter the playstyle of the Ranger prior to level 11, I think. I set the uses at PB per short or long rest since this Hunter's Mark can't jump between targets when you reduce one to 0 hit points. And every Rangers still need to contemplate the usual "do I drop my Hunter's Mark now and try something different, or should I stick with it?" This has always been a problem with me in my campaign, and in its current state I do plan on multiclassing into Rogue very soon, since I don't think I can utilize many spells because my Wisdom is not that high. I know that sounds more like a me thing but Wisdom is not generally the Ranger's main ability score either, so it's usually lower than their Dexterity, de-incentivizing creative uses of spells with a saving throw or a to-hit.

This changes in level 11, though. This Ranger's Hunter's Mark now no longer requires concentration. I read somewhere (can't find it anymore) that advised people who wants to homebrew stuff to stay away from altering the concentration mechanic in D&D 5e, among other things (action economy was also mentioned). I removed the concentration at level 11 because it's entering a new tier of play, so I think it's a fitting jump in terms of prowess for this class. Also, since it no longer requires concentration at this level, Rangers can now try more experiments with their spells! It removes one decision point in combat for the Ranger, which I think is a good thing.

The Ranger's current level 11 class feature is tied to their subclass, so this adds another oomph to those as well. But, I am also deathly afraid that messing with concentration like this is going to overpower the Ranger when compared to the other martial classes. My biggest argument is that the Paladin gets Improved Divine Smite also at 11th level, which is very similar to this Hunter's Mark since it's a straight damage buff.

tl;dr, the question: do these changes for Favored Foe, now renamed Hunter's Mark, significantly buffs the Rangers, to the point of overpowered when compared to the other martial classes?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It is rare to come across such a well-stated homebrew-review question, I hope someone provides a thourough answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Jan 15, 2021 at 10:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu thank you! :) I'm a bit unsure if making a question like this have too many information for it to be coherent/interesting enough for people to want to answer. But it's been pointed out to me in the past that I should give thorough explanations on what I'm trying to achieve with the homebrew so that's what I'm trying. \$\endgroup\$
    – field158
    Jan 15, 2021 at 10:26

1 Answer 1

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Upsides

Short Rest Recharge: Favored Foe comes back on a Short Rest, but it's weaker than Hunter's Mark due to triggering off every attack. This makes the stronger version consistently available without putting a drain on spell slots.

Greater Scaling: Applying to multiple attacks means that this becomes stronger than the original Hunter's Mark eventually, adding 1d8 to every attack instead of 1d6.

No Action: You don't get the benefits on your first hit, but having this be triggered on-hit frees up your bonus action for other things, such as a two weapon fighting attack or another spell.

Can't Lose It: One feature of concentration is that it can be lost when the caster is damaged, a feature that is particularly relevant on a tracking spell if the target would like to run away. Without concentration, this becomes notably harder to get rid of.

Multiclass Potential: Hex is a 1st level spell that is already largely similar to Hunter's Mark - once Hunter's Mark no longer requires concentration, you can have both up at the same time if you've done something like multiclass to Warlock, probably Hexblade. This may not be an issue in your particular game, if you're interested in sticking purely with ranger to high levels.

Downsides

This can't be moved to a new target if the first one dies, unlike the original spell.

Losing Hunter's Mark from the spell list means you may have more limited uses in scenarios where short resting is infeasible.

Paladins

This ability does bear some resemblance to a Paladin's Improved Divine Smite. However, the Paladin class has additional restrictions that make this ability comparatively less potent than it seems at first glance.

Fighting Styles: Paladin fighting styles do not increase the number of attacks or the accuracy of attacks the way Ranger fighting styles do. These abilities serve as multipliers on any extra damage per attack ability like Divine Smite or Hunter's Mark by allowing them to be triggered more often.

Drive Me Closer: Improved Divine Smite can only trigger off melee attacks, and Paladins are a class with limited mobility. Their spell list includes no movement-enhancing spells beyond Find Steed, a situationally good spell but which has significant limitations and downsides. Compared to a bow-wielding ranger, or even one two weapon fighting bolstered by Ranger abilities like Land's Stride or spells like Zephyr Strike, a Paladin is much more restricted in their ability to pick targets and dish out damage by speed, enemies, and terrain.

Conclusions

Adding bonuses to attacks or damage that don't require concentration is dangerous because of the potential for stacking, and Ranger is a class that has a lot of different potential stacking effects already. Extra damage per attack is magnified by features such as two weapon fighting for bonus action attacks, Archery fighting style that makes rangers some of the most accurate attackers in the game, and the ranger-exclusive spell Swift Quiver which requires concentration and allows making 2 attacks as a bonus action each turn. Most of the power of this ability kicks in at higher levels when it loses concentration and goes up to a d8, and is definitely a significant buff.

Improving the Ranger class is quite a challenge, as evidenced by the difficulties Wizards themselves have with it. However, I would lean away from non-concentration buffs that scale with the number and accuracy of attacks. Maybe look into some of the things that work well with the Sharpshooter feat. The tradeoff of accuracy for damage rewards using some of the other non-Hunter's-Mark ranger spells like Ensnaring Strike to set a target up, or getting advantage on all your attacks with Guardian of Nature, as well as going non-magic and hiding with the level 14 Vanish feature

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nitpick: Flame Arrows actually does require concentration (part of the reason why it's almost universally a worse version of Hunter's mark) \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrendire
    Mar 11, 2021 at 16:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Edited, whoops. I misread Flame Arrows, that is a less than stellar spell. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 11, 2021 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's no need to signify edits, you can just make the changes needed and it will be tracked in the post history if needed for some reason. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Mar 11, 2021 at 17:56

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