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I have a player who's using the new Unearthed Arcana Update Ranger. They argued that should have advantage on initiative and on their first turn during combat all of the time. As a level 1 ability, I find this to be incredibly overpowered.

The way I see it, Natural Explorer should only come into affect when the Ranger is outside, i.e. not in a building. Currently, the player is inside, in a Mage's Tower.

Does Natural Explorer apply all of the time, or only when outside?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just a small bit of reassurance: I am the GM of a regular group with one and we have been playing it that way (it always applies). While it is certainly powerful, it hasn't felt OP. I like it a lot because it helps the Ranger find a nice, new niche - the guy who is always alert and ready to act quickly when danger strikes. \$\endgroup\$ – Answulf Dec 15 '16 at 14:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ It does make an assassin with a 1 level dip in Ranger pretty impressive. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Dec 15 '16 at 17:32
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As written, the ranger gains advantage on all initiative rolls and on (most) first-round attacks.

The relevant portion of the class feature Natural Explorer is simple:

  • You have advantage on initiative rolls.
  • On your first turn during combat, you have advantage on attack rolls against creatures that have not yet acted.

You have advantage on initiative rolls. Is it an initiative roll? Then you've got advantage.

You're attacking someone? Did they act yet? No? You've got advantage on that attack.

This clearly contradicts the intent of the class. Or does it...?

The opening line of Natural Explorer sets the tone:

You are a master of navigating the natural world, and you react with swift and decisive action when attacked.

It seems like you're reading onto that line the proviso "react with swift and decisive action when attacked in the natural world." But it's not there in the text. (To be fair, that's the read I gave it at first, too.)

Most of the features of the new ranger do tie into the nature theme. But this isn't the only that's just a pure buff to combat: Fleet of Foot, Vanish, and Feral Senses all would apply (as written) equally-well in an urban or dungeon environment as in overland.


The intro to that UA clearly states that the class--both as a whole and its features considered severally--was just seen as weak and unfun. It's your call as to whether they've gone too far pumping some power and fun into the Ranger, but that's exactly what the authors were trying to do.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A good proportion of the disagreements and misunderstandings about 5e relate to confusion in the books and other releases between flavour text and mechanics text. This from the Natural Explorer feature is an example: 'In addition, you are skilled at navigating the wilderness. You gain the following benefits when traveling for an hour or more: • Difficult terrain doesn’t slow your group’s travel. • Your group can’t become lost except by magical means...' Is the bit about the wilderness mere flavour text or rules text that imposes a real constraint. I wish Wizards would differentiate! \$\endgroup\$ – Clearly Toughpick Dec 15 '16 at 22:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ClearlyToughpick I don't understand what confusion that engenders. You are skilled at navigating in the wilderness. Check. You get benefits A, B, C, D. Check, check, check, check. I don't see any reason/room to differentiate between "rules" and "flavor." The authors didn't draw that distinction, why are you? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Dec 15 '16 at 22:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ So in the example I gave, do you have to be in wilderness to take advantage of not being slowed by difficult terrain, or do you get this benefit in settled lands too? And can I guarantee that I won't become lost in a city, or does that feature only apply to the wilderness. What counts as wilderness anyway? I do accept that the second word of my previous comment may have been too much, though! \$\endgroup\$ – Clearly Toughpick Dec 16 '16 at 10:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ClearlyToughpick that might be worth its own question post, so that it'll be archived for posterity. But as written, the benefits of natural explorer are "always-on" for the UA revised Ranger. So: yes, if you've been traveling for an hour in a city you can't get lost. Note that the UA Ranger has done away with "favored terrain." All those things that made a Ranger a great NPC to have along when in favored terrain (PHB) now make the ranger a great NPC to always have along =) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Dec 16 '16 at 13:34

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