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.


7 Answers 7


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.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @aviose that might make sense but it is clearly a house rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 5:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Flanking is only really helpful if there is a rogue, otherwise possibly landing 1 opportunity attack a round adds little to the fight. Short of someone having sentinel there is no reason not to rush the back line of the party. Having the panther or wolf or what have you auto-attack is not supported by the rules in anyway. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 12:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Aviose any change to the rules is by definition a house rule. If you want to argue this further take it to chat, comments are not for extended discussion but to improve answers and questions. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 16:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ In the players handbook it clearly states that the beast doesn't take an action unless you use your own action. If you change this then it is a houserule. "The beast obeys your commands as best as it can. It takes its turn on your initiative, though it doesn’t take an action unless you command it to. ... You can use your action to verbally command it to take the Attack, Dash, Disengage, Dodge, or Help action." \$\endgroup\$
    – Johan
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 20:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Correction: -As per the 2018 Nov Errata, a beast companion that is not given a command is "dodging" . Observation: -A Beast does not remain a CR 1/4 creature. Using the DMG guide for creating new monsters and running the beast companions adjusted stats through the chart it is clear that the beasts CR changes. As an example, a CR 1/4 Giant poisonous snake becomes a CR 2 giant poisonous snake.for a level 7 ranger. \$\endgroup\$
    – user28536
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 19:08

The basic Fighting Style features seem reasonably powerful as second-level abilities, and the Hunter archetype has a lot of options that are quite strong (with Colossus Slayer probably being an easy favorite, and Escape the Horde being nice for combat mobility). The spells are pretty good too — it's easy to escape notice, but a minor version of Arcane Archer is basically rolled into 5e Ranger, with ranger-only spells Hail of Thorns and Lightning Arrow (and Cordon of Arrows, Conjure Barrage, and Conjure Volley too).

The exploration and tracking utility features are decent, especially with a communicative / cooperative DM where they actually match the campaign — and double-especially in a game with a lot of exploration and travel. (Although for skills and general helpful magic, it's kind of hard to keep up with the bard — I'm kind of tempted to ask a "Are 5e Bards kind of overpowered?" question.)

So, back to the archetypes.... I think that Hunter isn't underpowered. That brings us to the Beast Master archetype, and to Does the Ranger's Companion synergize with the Ranger?. I think, as Joshua says, the quick consensus seems to be that it's kind of weak in comparison, at least in terms of sheer combat power. But, one could also consider the companion as a non-combat helper, and in that case, as a DM, I would have no problem ruling the companion's training and ability to communicate with you as significantly higher than what you could get by buying or raising a pet with the animal handling skill and no class feature. Scout for something in specific; fly overhead and look for danger; fetch items that a normal animal couldn't distinguish; basically do anything out of combat that isn't completely unreasonable. Or, closer to combat, I'd let you not be surprised when your (nearby) companion isn't, for example.

If you're looking for combat, Panther and Wolf are probably the best Player's Handbook options, and I'd be strongly inclined to support the "attacking companions keep doing that without needing more instruction" house rule mxyzplk offers in the does it synergize? question. Particularly, I'd have a hard time explaining that the companion can't do that but that if you went to an animal trainer and bought an attack dog, it could. (Insert boring metagame discussion about NPCs taking XP.)

And I might also house rule a higher minimum hit point rule, because as a DM, the other alternative is really to have combat opponents mostly decide to not target the companion, which could feel inauthentic. I have a suspicion that the current "4× ranger level" minimum doesn't scale appropriately, but I haven't actually seen it in action. Likewise, you add your proficiency bonus to saving throws the companion is proficient in — but I don't think any beasts are proficient in any saves, so that's moot in practice. I think adding a little more protection here is warranted (maybe half proficiency to all saves?).

Also, there's currently no mention of the companion using hit dice to recuperate with a short rest, but I would certainly also allow that, and provide more dice with ranger levels to keep up with the party. (Mike Mearls notes on twitter that the companions can use hit dice like characters, but doesn't address scaling — 15th level characters have 15 hit dice, but the poor companion is stuck with the initial one or two.)

Since the consensus seems to be pretty much that the Beast Master is a weaker choice, I think most game tables would be okay with these rules. But if not, you might want to consider focusing on the Help action (at 7th level, the ranger can give this instruction as a bonus action). (Maybe combine this with a companion like the owl for flyby help without staying in range or provoking attacks of opportunity.)

Also, as the game expands and your ranger travels to more exotic locales (or can justify having been in them as part of the backstory and the DM is good with that), dinosaurs and giant insects (and crabs!) increase the power over the Player's Handbook beasts.


The ranger is an excellent class. I play a wood elf ranger. I use the archery fighting style and sharpshooter feat with a plus two longbow. I also took the Hunter archetype.

Took Colossus Slayer at third level; I am seventh level at the moment every round I do 1d8 +16 with Sharpshooter with a plus 6 to attack after the minus 5. That is with an 18 dex. One attack 1d8 +16 second attack 1d8 +16 with an extra 1d8 and I use hunter's mark which last an hour and get an extra 1d6 a round. Also use hail of thorns with a second level slot giving me an extra 2d10. Those spells are bonus actions so they can be cast before you attack and not hinder you in anyway.

Take volley at 11 and you can get an extra attack on every enemy within 10 feet of a centered point. Being a ranger with sharpshooter you can attack up to 600 ft away and into 75% cover with no disadvantage. Plus being at that distance there is no agro so you will get flanking against any attacking creatures against another party member.

So the advantage allows the +6 to be more than sufficient at 7th level which I am. I do more damage at my distance than any other class in our party. If built like this no one can stand up to you at a distance. Plus 5e allows running and shooting with full round attack action. The ranger and barbarians are the two toughest classes in the game. And a barbarian cannot stand against a ranger at a distance.


Rangers don't deal a lot of damage with their base capabilities, but throw in spells (Hunter's Mark, various AoE spells, Lightning Arrow, Swiftquiver, various Conjure spells to bring in allies) and their damage can spike fairly decently.

Also, against a single target, the Beast Master ranger can out-damage the Hunter ranger. Consider the Giant Poisonous Snake with a level 20 ranger:

AC 20

HP 80

Bite (attacks twice) +12 vs. AC, reach 10', 1d4 + 10 damage and target must make a save DC 17 or take 3d6 + 6 poison damage (half damage on a successful save).

That's around 29 damage per hit or 58 damage per round. Compare that to the Hunter, who attacks one more time per round than the Beast Master for 1d8 + 5 + 1d6 (hunter's mark) + 1d8 (Colossus Slayer) for a total of 17.5 damage. That's a 41.5 damage per round difference! Note I'm not taking chance to hit into account (base +13 for a level 20 Ranger vs. +12 for the Beast Master pet).


The Ranger is great at low levels: having a +6 or higher to hit is great, usually much higher but with random stats or a buy in system often it is low, but the issue is at higher levels. You gain a few higher spell slots which are nice but don't compare to actual caster classes. The damage bonuses are all spell related at higher levels which causes a big burst damage increase rather than a sustainable one. I currently am playing a level 6 ranger, and will multi-class after level 9 (level 3 spell slots) as there isn't very much improvements for the ranger after level 8 or so compared to any other class. I will say that the sniper feat is mandatory: ignoring all but full cover is incredible and no disadvantage at high range is quite nice as well.


Yes, a vanilla ranger can keep up with with the other classes.

I've been playing a vanilla hunter archetype ranger for 2 years and I've found that they can deal decent damage and have some pretty useful spells. They've never dealt the highest damage or been the most useful but they have been able to contribute. I think the ranger's main problem is the fact that it feels very middle of the road and most of it's class features are only useful in certain situations.

  • \$\begingroup\$ While I think this answer is generally correct, I think it would be improved by elaborating on your observations and adding a little bit more detail. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 22:19

Ranger can be a high damage dealer at higher level.

4D8 (Lightning Arrow) +10 (sharpshooter) plus 1D8 or 1D10(Long bow or Heavy Crossbow if you have Crossbow Expert) + DEX modifier.

Crossbow Expert and sharpshooter allows you to make 3 ranged attacks (Extra Attack and bonus Action) with Hand crossbow also.(thanks to Sharpshooter, you can shoot from 120 feet away normally) * This version is extremely high damage with +10 damage from Sharpshooter.

If you have Colossus Slayer, you can add 1D8 damage to an injured enemy.

Or Volley + Sharpshooter + Lightning Arrow + Hoard Breaker is also great AOE damage. Lightning Arrow only applies to one attack roll as usual, so no to multiple uses, but still a nice bonus.


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