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This question was inspired by the question about what constitutes a bardic spellcasting focus.

A Ranger's spellcasting ability is described thusly:

By the time you reach 2nd level, you have learned to use the magical essence of nature to cast spells, much as a druid does.

As discussed here, a Ranger meets the definition of a spellcaster in that a class feature, not an item, grants the character the ability to cast spells. While that would support a Ranger using a spellcasting focus, only three spellcasting foci get explicit treatment in the rules (unless I missed a spot).

  • A Holy Symbol (Basic Rules p. 48.)
  • A Druidic Focus (Basic Rules p. 48.)
  • An Arcane Focus (Basic Rules p. 47.)

    Aside: I may be making a leap. The text on druidic focus does not mention Rangers. The leap is based on the Ranger class spellcasting feature being explicitly tied to druidic spellcasting in the brief text covering that class feature.

  • Spellcasting Focus:

    You can use a druidic focus (see “Equipment as a spellcasting focus for your druid spells).

  • Druidic Focus.

    A druidic focus might be a sprig of mistletoe or holly, a wand or scepter made of yew or another special wood, a staff drawn whole out of a living tree, or a totem object incorporating feathers, fur, bones, and teeth from sacred animals. A druid can use such an object as a spellcasting focus.

    In a case of specific over general, Paladins and Clerics are called out as being able to use a holy symbol as a spellcasting focus (Rangers were left out). This left me with two questions, only one of which is germane to the Ranger2. The Ranger gets no specific call out (unlike the Paladin) on whether the character can use for a spellcasting focus a holy symbol, a druidic focus, or an arcane focus. (Since the Ranger is a spellcaster, there's got to be something that the class can use to substitute for material components, right?)

Why would this matter?

A lot of Ranger spells have material components. Just reviewing the SRD (which isn't the whole list) the following spells calling out "V,S,M" in the components line:
Level 1
Alarm, Animal Friendship, Detect poison and disease, Goodberry, Jump, Longstrider
Level 2
Animal Messenger, Barkskin, Darkvision, Locate Animals or Plants, Locate Object, Pass without a trace, Spike Growth
Level 3
Nondetection, Water Breathing, Water Walk, Wind Wall
Level 4
Conjure Woodland Beings, Freedom of Movement, Locate Creature, Stoneskin
Level 5
Commune with Nature

The adventuring Ranger won't always be in a "home" environment

Considering that terrain types generally coincide with Druid Circles ...

Arctic, Coast, Desert, Forest, Grassland, Mountain, Swamp (I'd call seaborne adventure close enough to Coast for these purposes)

... it might be impossible to find mistletoe in the desert when a material component is needed.

Question restated

Can the Ranger use an arcane focus or a holy symbol as a spellcasting focus, or is the ranger constrained to the druidic focus (a holly symbol1?) based on the class' spell casting feature being heavily druidic in nature1?


1 Please excuse the puns. Sometimes we can't help ourselves.
2 I leave the idea of druids being priest of nature (mostly gotten around with Nature Domain clerics) for another question regarding a holy symbol as a spellcasting focus for a druid.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please do not use code formatting for things that are not, well, code. They have specific semantic meanings that may be interpreted in undesirable ways by some alternative browsers (e.g. screen readers for the blind, which may read them out letter-by-letter). See the meta discussion for more details. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 14 '16 at 18:34
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Rangers Don't Get Foci

All classes that use a focus have a "Spellcasting Focus" subheading to their Spellcasting (or Warlock) feature:

  • Wizard (arcane focus)
  • Warlock (arcane focus)
  • Sorcerer (arcane focus)
  • Paladin (holy symbol)
  • Druid (druidic focus)
  • Cleric (holy symbol)
  • Bard (musical instrument)

The wizards feature for instance reads:

SPELLCASTING FOCUS

You can use an arcane focus (found in chapter 5) as a spellcasting focus for your wizard spells.

PHB 114

With the exception of the Ranger and Eldritch Knight, which specifically don't mention foci as part of the spell casting feature. Who have no such text.

It Is Intentional

Jeremy Crawford clarified in a tweet that the omission of focus for the ranger class is intentional. He was asked:

[D]o rangers use spellcasting foci, and/or do they need to buy component pouches at 2nd level?

And replied:

The ranger doesn't have a spellcasting focus. The trusty component pouch will do the job.

https://twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/687417277231267844?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

This makes sense as most rangers would likely have a bow. All bows, even the hand cross bow (even with Crossbow Expert), requires a free hand to load. So holding a focus would mess with the traditional ranger with bow. You keep a free hand for spells, pouch and loading firing arrows.

Mechanically

Using a bow, you have the weapon in one hand and the other on string. After you fire, your hand is free again. When you cast you pull out the components and put them back, or they are consumed, and your hand is free again. Works great with a bow. However, the arcane and druidic focus require object iterations, and you either have to drop it or spend the book keeping at the start and end of each turn.

Yes, a holy symbol could be worn and keep the hands free, likely why they did that for paladins, but they chose to go a different direction with the ranger.

Thematically

Ranger forage for food and materials, they are self reliant. It isn't hard to see them restocking their component pouch as they move through the wild area.

What about the Mistletoe?

it might be impossible to find mistletoe in the desert when a material component is needed.

The PHB says this about the component pouch:

Component Pouch. A component pouch is a small, watertight leather belt pouch that has compartments to hold all the material components and other special items you need to cast your spells, except for those components that have a specific cost (as indicated in a spell's description).

PHB 151

The pouch has all the components your spells require, and Material Components aren't consumed unless the spell says they are:

If a spell states that a material component is consumed by the spell, the caster must provide this component for each casting of the spell.

PHB 203

So, you have mistletoe once, and you have it forever -- unless your DM rules that lose it or it goes bad, etc. Then you have to buy more mistletoe or buy a new pouch. Such a thing, however, isn't in the rule.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast - Assuming the component pouch is tied to your belt or dangling from your neck, you use your free hand (which you normally use to draw arrows) and your free item interaction to procure material components from said pouch when you cast the spell. There's no reason for your component pouch to interfere with your archery, or vice versa. \$\endgroup\$ – Dungarth Sep 15 '16 at 2:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, spellcasting focuses are fairly recent in D&D history. Traditionally speaking, material components were always required to cast spells, even for clerics who also needed a divine focus. Since keeping track of spell components on a spell by spell basis was a tedious chore (and, let's face it, mostly anti-fun), the mechanics were simplified for 5E. Rangers don't get the spellcasting focus feature and must use the default component pouch, which is mechanically 100% identical to using a holy symbol on a necklace. Some DMs require you to buy a fresh one once in a while, most just handwave it. \$\endgroup\$ – Dungarth Sep 15 '16 at 2:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast You're not convinced a Ranger doesn't get a focus? My answer says as much, with a quote from Crawford saying as much. What other kind of evidence do you need? \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Sep 15 '16 at 13:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Using a component pouch does not require using your item interaction. If it did, casting reaction spells with M components like feather fall would be impossible. \$\endgroup\$ – Derek Stucki Sep 15 '16 at 14:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am accepting this answer even though I disagree that Crawford's tweet addresses the question I asked. What I particularly like about this answer is that is a good example of a frame challenge, and that the text/rules/example analysis holds together very well. Also, +1. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 15 '16 at 17:20

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