I have a variant of ranger prepared, but I'm concerned the abilities may be overpowered?

Spirit Hunter Ranger

Replaces: hide in plain sight, camouflage, and the 5th favored enemy.

Grants: Spirit channeling.(Su) You can call on the natural spirit animals of the world for a short time. You can use spirit channeling a number of times equaling 3 + your wisdom modifier per day

5th level: Wolf:(Su) You become as stealthy as a wolf, and can become invisible for a number of rounds equaling 5 + your wisdom modifier

10th level: hawk:(Su) you can channel your spirit to ride the wind like a hawk. Gain a fly speed equal to your natural movement speed, you cannot attack or take actions requiring hands whilst you are flying. You are semi transparent (representing the spiritual nature of the ability), requiring a DC 20+(1 for each 10 feet above the spotter you are) perception check to see you in flight at a decent distance. You gain flight and can fly for up to 10 rounds, once your 10 rounds are up you will slowly fall to the ground. only taking 1d6 damage no matter what the height is (so the character isn't killed instantly by his flying)

15th level: Bear:(Su) By channeling the mighty bear you gain its strength. as a standard action (rather than a free action for channeling normally) make a melee touch attack against all enemies in within a 10 foot circle. Each enemy you successfully hit is sent flying outwards 10 feet and are prone and staggered. You get a +2 circumstance bonus to the attack roll. Does not work against enemies that are not on the ground.

Is this ranger explicitly better than the ranger to an extent that there is no reason to choose any other Ranger Archetype?


3 Answers 3


"Overpowered" is an interesting metric, especially in a 3.5e game. There are two answers I see here, and I will give them both:

Are these swapped abilities better than their originals?

Yes, they are. Invisibility is much better than hiding in plain sight, or favored enemy, or camoflage. Especially if it doesn't break after attacking (although this might just be an oversight?) So if flight. And probably so is the option to push everyone away from you.

If you want to make a Ranger, this option is strictly better than playing an ordinary Ranger and other than roleplaying reasons I do not see why a Ranger would not pick these options. Even with a Wis of 6 (and thus only 1 use per day) this would probably still be better than the original powers.

Are these swapped abilities better than anything available at that level?

That is; would a Ranger with these abilities outshine any other character? The answer is: no. Comparing to the Wizard, he can do all of this by just spending a few spell slots, at an earlier level, with more uses per day, and he can buy extra uses of all these abilities and much better ones for GP.

Should you use this?

So, should you use these abilities? It depends. 3.5e is not exactly known for its balanced gameplay. Check with your table: is the Ranger clearly the weakest player at the table? This change will be harmless (and probably flavorful). Is (almost) everyone playing martial characters? This is probably quite strong. Are there two Rangers and will the other one not want this option and then feel left out? Probably not a good idea, because you might upset the other player.

As most things when it comes to 3.5e balance, do not judge based on one ability vs another ability; judge on whether or not your players would enjoy the game more. That's much more important and if you go looking for balance, 3.5e probably isn't your best choice anyway.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, How could I balance it to not "explicitly" be better than vanilla ranger? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18, 2015 at 23:28
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @CataruMoore That's another question entirely (and one that is very big and involved); I suggest you ask it as such. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18, 2015 at 23:39
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Camouflage + Hide in Plain Sight + decent Hide/Move Silently is way better than invisibility. Invisibility is hard-countered by see invisibility and similar. Hide is countered only by having a higher Spot bonus. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 19, 2015 at 0:35

This assumes the balance point is Pathfinder, where a ranger can survive until level 15. In Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, characters typically stop taking levels in the ranger class early, making PC rangers anyway rare.

No, these abilities aren't too powerful...

A character won't overcome challenges beyond his own Challenge Rating with these abilities. The ability to turn invisible, fly, and take a full-round action to attack multiple foes aren't game-breaking at the levels they're granted. Since all but the last are easily duplicated by low-cost magic items, 2 of the 3 abilities just save the ranger some gp that he would've spent on consumable items if he wanted to do the same thing. A potion of invisibility (2nd-level spell at caster level 3) (300 gp; 0 lbs.) and a potion of fly (3rd-level spell at caster level 5) (750 gp; 0 lbs.), while not cheap, aren't excessively expensive.

...But trading power later for power now is always a good deal

A character with this archetype is trading the extraordinary ability camouflage gained at level 12, the extraordinary ability hide in plain sight gained at level 17, and the 5th favored enemy acquired through the extraordinary ability favored enemy at level 20 for special abilities that are available at levels 5, 10, and 15, respectively.

Other archetypes typically trade things for things gained at the same levels. From a metagame perspective—and I don't mean metagaming in a bad way, like memorizing the Bestiary, but metagaming as in knowing the kinds of campaigns that occur at the table—, this archetype could very well be better than all the other ranger archetypes because the campaign could end for any reason at any moment. Campaigns are fragile. Getting 5 folks together weekly or whatever who all want to do the same thing is challenging. If an option allows trading a thing the player may not ever get for a thing right now, that's a good deal.

Further, it's unlikely that were Blackleaf to die, the player would be kicked out of gaming group. The player'll make another character, the GM'll find a way to slot that character into the campaign, and all the late-game power that the player's previous character surrendered so his character could be more powerful in the campaign's early stages is no longer a factor with the new character for whom the player made entirely different choices.

It's possible that the players in your campaign don't even consider such things, but the game's rules do, and they do for a reason.

A Quick Rewrite

It's possible I'm overstepping—and I'll gladly remove this if I am—, but here's an unplaytested alternative.

Spirit Channeling: At level 5 the spirit hunter gains spirit points equal to his Wisdom bonus (minimum 1) and an additional +1 spirit point at levels 5, 10, 15, and 20. At dawn, the spirit hunter regains any spirit points he spent the previous day. The spirit hunter can spend 1 spirit point to use any 1 of the special abilities below. This special ability replaces the ranger's 2nd favored enemy.

  • Wolf (Sp): At level 5 the ranger can take a swift action use an effect identical to the 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell invisibility except this effect's duration is 1 round.
  • Eagle (Sp): At level 10 the ranger can take a swift action to use an effect identical to the 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell fly except this effect's duration is 1 round. While this effect is active, creatures at least 30 ft. from the ranger treat the ranger as though he had concealment (20% miss chance). This spirit channeling special ability replaces the ranger's 3rd favored enemy.

    At level 20 when using this fly special ability the ranger's speed doubles, his maneuverability is perfect, and creatures beyond 30 ft. treat him as if he had total concealment (50% miss chance). This spirit channeling special ability replaces the ranger's 5th favored enemy.

  • Bear (Sp): At level 15 the ranger can take a swift action to use an effect identical to the spell discordant blast except this effect sounds like a bellowing bear and uses the ranger's Wisdom modifier instead of his Charisma modifier. This spirit channeling special ability replaces the ranger's 4th favored enemy.

In a low-powered campaign these could be standard actions to activate, while in a high-powered campaign (wherein the ranger might need all the help he can get) they could be free actions to activate.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like MOST of the changes My main small problems are time length (since I don't understand how much you can do as a scout (reconnaissance agent) within one round to fly or be invisible. I also like the mentioning of discordant blast. Though, how much does taking all of these favored enemy abilities weaken the ranger? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2015 at 2:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CataruMoore The special ability favored enemy is only as rad as the DM makes it. In this case, the ranger's traded away an ability he could conceivably never use for an ability he knows he can use. In other words, a lot if he knows what he's up against (e.g. Against the Giants) and far less if he doesn't (e.g. Desert of Desolation). I assumed the flying-and-invisible-all-the-time ranger wasn't a thing, that he'd use such abilities when detected. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2015 at 8:21

I'd say yes it's overpowered.

First off, assuming I read your writeup correctly and you're not making other adjustments, you're substituting standard Ranger abilities from 12th(PF)/13th(3.5), 17th and 20th levels with abilities from level 5, 10 and 15. This means they get this power earlier. Even if the abilities were equivalent, this would be unbalancing however I believe the abilities you give are stronger. Also, since you say 3 things it's replacing I am assuming Spirit Hunter Rangers get all other "normal" ranger abilities not specified here. If that's untrue and they just get these 3 then my answer 180s.

Let's compare:

Wolf vs Camouflage: Camouflage is based around special terrain picked so is situational. Depending on your campaign this may not matter (you may have 2 terrains ever and always be camouflaged) but one thing is certain, Wolf as written is anytime. As pointed out elsewhere, invis is WAY better than any hide (giving you essentially +20 to hide). The counterbalances are it's a limited number of rounds a day and that number is likely to be fairly low.

Hide in Plain Sight vs Hawk: Rangers have no class ability to fly. Hide in Plain comparitively is not a great feature IMO for rangers. Sniping never really came into a lot of love except for rogues that I've experienced; the ability to hide without anything around you in front of someone would be better served just shooting the enemy a bunch of times OR doing a full round melee (depending on your build). So if you're not using it to attack, you're using it to retreat in which case fly can serve the same purpose. If using it to retreat, the handlessness also doesn't matter that much. The counterbalance is hide would save you AOOs if retreating (however also has a counter check against it - fly does not). Also the fly is again a limited amount of rounds. Note, I also feel like fly is OP in itself (though part of the game). It allows you an extreme advantage over anything without fly and can allow you to bypass things entirely.

For both these abilities removed, you're also assuming the ranger hides at all. You've substituted things that benefit one skill with things that can be used by any ranger.

5th Favored Enemy vs Bear: Each favored enemy gives +2 damage and +2 skills against an enemy picked and an additional +2 vs one of the other favored. For ease let's call this +4. Bear basically gives whirlwind attack (feat) as well as +2 to hit on a touch attack (which at 15th level, seems very likely to hit) with a knockback that also basically stuns (if staggered and prone, you can stand and be restored to your original status 10' away:P) with no save. It also gives reach which "normal" bears (non-dire/non-advanced bears do not have). Anyway, to me +2&souped up feat way outweighs +4. This is also unbalanced to Fighters who would basically just get Whirlwind Attack (IF they had the prereqs). Counterbalance: This isn't as useful for archers unless they're caught up in melee then it's super useful for archers. Also, you could argue that with the shared pool of spirits per day this is probably defensive. That being said that argument potentially ignores the rest of the party...several classes/combos/feats would benefit greatly from having prone/staggered enemies, for example. The limit per day also brings this closer in line with whirlwind attack (which presumably you could do infinitely) however since it's so much better as well as affects 1 enemy (whirlwind attack on 1 enemy is basically an attack/no use) I'd still say better.

I also find unless your campaign is having folks fight the same monster type over and over that iterative damage bonuses can be "ok" (but mean nothing if you've picked the wrong type). I further believe that the genres of monsters could have been loosened some for rangers making favored enemy even weaker. Now granted if you're only fighting elves the additional "guarenteed +" is awesome. All that said, still don't think it's likely more awesome than Bear.

But ultimately, maybe the Q you need to answer is are rangers balanced/of average power. If your answer is no, then your changes may not be overpowered, they may just be making up for something. If your answer is yes (as mine would be), then I imagine your question and my answer are justified.

Disclaimer: Almost all my experience is with 3.5 D&D (not Pathfinder).

PS (semi-tangent): Not meant offensively, but when I think of wolf, I do not think invis and when I think of bear I don't not think whirlwind touch knockback attack.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, it was based on The Tyranny of King Washington from Assassin's creed 3, where the wolf gave you invisibility, the hawk let you turn into a spirit bird, and the bear let you do a knockback "ground pound" type of thing. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 19, 2015 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, there is a limit. You can only channel 3+wisdom mod times per day \$\endgroup\$ Mar 19, 2015 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CataruMoore That is neat tho from what I've seen that guy can kill platoons by himself. So that alone should answer your Q;) You may want to edit the limit into your Q however it changes my A specifics ever slightly, so do as you wish. My overall remains the same "yes". \$\endgroup\$
    – joedragons
    Mar 19, 2015 at 19:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ the limit is there, it's on the end of the spirit channeling description before the powers \$\endgroup\$ Mar 19, 2015 at 19:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CataruMoore Ah I see. It was not clear to me that the animals were the powers that were limited. I understand now. Will edit my answer slightly (but my overall remains the same still). \$\endgroup\$
    – joedragons
    Mar 20, 2015 at 13:46

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