Hunter Ranger DPR is pretty good, though it plateaus in Tiers 3 and 4 where other classes grow. Multiattack at 11th level is good though situational, and it has synergy issues with other features.
I took a look at 12 different builds: a Berserker Barbarian, 4 variations of Fighter, a Monk, 2 variations of a Vengeance Paladin, a Rogue, and 3 variations of the Hunter. (Not all will be in the final answer unless requested to try and keep things manageable)
I worked with the following assumptions:
- Build logically: when applicable, take an aggressive fighting style
that fits main weapon type; increase main attack/damage stat as early
as you can; single-class only, single-person only (no
- Keep equipment standard based on build: greataxe, longbow, dual
- This is a single fight, with limited rationing of resources for later, BUT
- Where burst damage applies (paladin, battlemaster), apply conservative spending of
resources in an attempt to ‘average’ the damage out (1 smite on a 2-attack turn; 1 maneuver per 2 attacks, round down)
- Assume for the round we're counting, 2WF builds can use offhand attack
- Rogue gets sneak attack on each turn; Barbarian is already raging; Paladin and Ranger have already cast Hunter's Mark
- Assume a party exists if only to allow for fights against equal CR
creatures without prompt death (which will in turn allow for extremely
rough to-hit-chance math)
- We care about long-term actual-play playability of each build, so
take a look at 5th level, 11th level, and 20th level to see how
things might change over time.
- No crits, no advantage/disadvantage (for ease of math)
A Note On the Math:
I am not a stats person, so the math here is layman’s math and is therefore rough. Luckily, with the restrictions given around levelling, everyone’s chance to hit the same target will be equal at the levels we're looking at, with those able to take the Archery fighting style having a minor edge over others: assuming simultaneous ASIs, everyone (else)'s attack bonus is +7 / +9 / +11 at 5th, 11th, and 20th levels.
Against a rough mode AC found in single creatures of equivalent CR to the level (15 for level 5, 17 for level 11), everyone's chance to hit is about 65% (75% for Archers), and generally speaking better for lower-CR creatures. At level 20, that gets very swingy due to the varied nature of high-CR monsters. Encounters will vary, so your experience will as well.
Because I am not a stats person, I calculated minimum, average, and maximum damage for each build’s turn, rounding down for odd numbers of dice, BUT in doing so also assumed each hit lands for the example round to make things easier on me.
Everyone has +4 from their main combat stat by level 5, and +5 by level 11.
- 2 attacks, +1 from Frenzy; +2 damage per hit from Rage; use a greataxe, as the bonus action attack from Frenzy doesn't stack with a bonus action offhand attack from 2WF
- As you level, Rage damage increases, Capstone increases STR to 24 for +7, and crit dice will increase from Brutal Critical.
- Formula: 3d12+6+12 => 3d12+9+15 => 3d12+12+21
- 2 attacks (+1 offhand attack with full stat bonus if 2WF)
- chosen Maneuver adds to the damage (Disarming Attack, Trip Attack, Menacing Attack, etc.) Once per fight (short rest) can roughly double these numbers with Action Surge
- 1 manuever per turn for 5th, 11th; 2 per turn for 20th
- As you level, gain +1 attack per Attack at 11th and at 20th level; Action Surge gains a second use by max level. Superiority die increases to a d10, then a d12; uses increase to 6 per short rest.
- 2WF: 3d6+12+d8 => 4d6+20+d10 => 5d6+25+2d12
- Archery: 2d8+8+d8 => 3d8+15+d10 => 4d8+20+2d12
- 2 attacks + 2 from Flurry of Blows; Martial Arts die = d6
- As you level, your Martial Arts die increases in value to a d8, then a d10
- Formula: 4d6+16 => 4d8+20 => 4d10+20
Oath of Vengeance Paladin:
- 2 attacks
- GWF style
- +d6 per hit from Hunter’s Mark (oath spell)
- Can be boosted through Divine Smite burst damage; 2nd level slots available for +3d8 per hit. For our purposes, assume one 1st level Smite in a round.
- As you level, your spell slots increase in level, allowing more Smite damage. Assume 2nd level slot for level 11, and 3rd level slot for level 20. Max burst damage caps at +12d8 over two successful hits. At 11th level, you gain Improved Divine Smite, which adds a free d8 radiant damage to each melee attack
- Formula: 2d12+2d6+8+2d8 => 2d12+2d6+10+2d8+3d8 => 2d12+2d6+10+2d8+4d8
- 1 attack +1 from offhand attack for 2WF
- 3d6 from Sneak attack
- As you level, your sneak attack increases (6d6 at 11th, 10d6 at 20th)
- Formula: 2d6+4+3d6 => 2d6+5+6d6 => 2d6+5+10d6
- 2 attacks (+1 from offhand attack if 2WF)
- +d6 per hit from Hunter’s Mark
- +d8 per turn from Colossus Slayer
- As you level, you gain Multiattack at level 11 (separate section); higher spell slot allows for Hunter's Mark to be held for longer, possibly freeing up other slots for other things; your 20th level capstone allows you to add your WIS mod (assume +5) to either attack or damage, once per turn, favored enemy only.
- Assume target is Favored Enemy to be nice and to get new numbers.
- 2WF: 3d6+12+3d6+d8 => 3d6+15+3d6+d8 => 3d6+15+3d6+d8+5
- Archery: 2d8+8+2d6+d8 => 2d8+10+2d6+d8 => 2d8+10+2d6+d8+5
OK, but can there be actual numbers please?
I highlighted Hunter Ranger and also the highest average damage each time.
||Lvl 5 min - avg - max
||Lvl 11 min - avg - max
||Lvl 20 min - avg - max
||21 - 37 - 54
||27 - 43 - 60
||36 - 52 - 69
|2WF Battlemaster Fighter
||16 - 26 - 38
||25 - 39 - 66
||32 - 53 - 79
|Archery Battlemaster Fighter
||11 - 21 - 32
||19 - 33 - 49
||21 - 49 - 76
||20 - 30 - 40
||24 - 38 - 52
||24 - 42 - 60
|GWF Vengeance Paladin
||14 - 35 - 60
||19 - 50 - 86
||20 - 55 - 94
||9 - 21 - 34
||13 - 33 - 53
||17 - 47 - 77
|2WF Hunter Ranger
||19 - 37 - 56
||22 - 39 - 59
||27 - 44 - 64
|Archery Hunter Ranger
||13 - 28 - 44
||15 - 30 - 46
||20 - 35 - 51
If you really need non-bursty, non-magic DPR, Berserker is your best bet until level 20, and Paladin will never not be a precision nuke with the Smites. But Hunter Ranger manages to keep up pretty darn well. One weakness of my layman's math: 2WF and Hunter's Mark have awkward synergy and can clash. If you're fighting something big and you can use your bonus action to offhand attack frequently, you get more milage out of the 2WF fighting style; if your combat needs you to move the spell around a lot, you're missing out on between 7-17 damage per turn.
Poor Archery here has the lowest damage ratings by the end, but is also showing another weakness in my layman's math, as their increased accuracy means that, in actual play, more hits will actually land. Ranger Capstone also lets you increase accuracy so long as it's a Favored Enemy, so you can sacrifice your last possible damage boost in return for an increased chance to hit that Ancient Red Dragon--maximum +18(!) if you optimized an archer.
Multiattack can be extremely useful: using a single action with no limit-per-day, and rolling each hit separately, you can make a [ranged/melee] attack against any number of creatures...
- Whirlwind: ...within 5ft of you (maximum 8 targets)
- Volley: ...within 10ft of a point you choose within range (max 16 or possible 24 targets depending on how you calculate "a point" on a gridded battlemap)
That's more attacks than anyone else can get off, ever 1. Tactically speaking, the melee version is great for running in to get yourself mobbed, and the ranged version is great for when a friend gets mobbed. It loses tactical efficacy against small numbers of tough creatures, or enemies that keep themselves spread out; it's unlikely to kill enemies that aren't already quite weakened. This is because any individual hit is a plain weapon hit, d8+5 or d6+5 in this example, and does not benefit from any further increase in damage aside from one or possibly two individual creatures in the mob.
(Compare against Steel Wind Strike or Hail of Thorns for some interesting pros and cons about using the spell vs. the feature.)
Notably, Multiattack lacks good synergy with Hunter's Mark, the capstone Favored Enemy WIS bonus, and Colossus Slayer: the latter two are explicitly once-per-turn, and Hunter's Mark is applied to the target, not the attacker--and Multiattack is one attack per creature. It does have better synergy with Horde Breaker, which you can use once during a turn when you make a weapon attack; a 2WF Ranger with Horde Breaker and Whirlwind can try to hit everyone around her, and has 2 extra general attacks for that one guy she really wants dead. So like most things Ranger, it depends on what you're fighting.
Ultimately, it looks like a Hunter Ranger has reasonably good DPR, though not record-setting, and Multiattack is situationally useful where there are a lot of enemies on the field, especially if they're hordes of lower-threat creatures. You want to be careful about how you build it though, since there's a greater chance to build a style geared toward specific types of combat encounters through the various feature choices.
: A hasted max-level Fighter using Action Surge and 2WF can make 10 attacks, and also gets to double up on targets. Before level 20, his limit is also 8 attacks.