Unearthed Arcana tries to fix the Ranger. Fails.

A dungeon, somewhere on the coast, inhabited by wizards:

“The community seem pretty unhappy with the Ranger class we gave them. They say it’s weak and broken.”

“Broken eh? I’ll give them broken, just watch this! Mwa ha haa!”

Thunder crashes as fingers smash a keyboard. Something terrible is being created….

For those that aren’t aware, Wizards produce a ‘Unearthed Arcana’ about once a month. The idea is to give the community new, untested ideas, such as rule tweaks, new class options or new settings. Sometimes it’s cool, sometimes it needs more work, but it’s always interesting and sure to provoke a lot of discussion. This month they published a ‘fix’ to the 5e ranger class:

The Problem

The ranger stealthily approaches its foe...
The ranger stealthily approaches its foe…

I don’t think it’s totally broken, but the ranger is a little uninspiring. While a fighter can eventually attack 4 times a turn, and paladins can dish out massive damage with their smites, the ranger ends up feeling like their slightly dim cousin from the country.

The ‘hunter’ archetype is ok, although the class features aren’t amazing, they do feel roughly like playing a ranger from previous editions. The ‘beastmaster’ meanwhile is just awful. You’re given an animal companion that isn’t much more powerful than the average fodder, and they were so scared of breaking action economy (i.e. don’t let the players do too much each turn) it can’t do anything. You have to spend your action for the round ordering your animal to attack (or dodge, withdraw, etc), so it never feels like you’re fighting as a pack of hunters, rather a wrestling tag team who can only have one person in the ring at a time.

The ‘Fix’

For those too lazy to click the link, let’s summarise:

  • 2d6 hit dice (and 12 hp per level) – this is a massive upgrade, but what’s terrible is it now overshadows the barbarian, for whom taking-a-hit is pretty much their thing.
  • Ambushcade – get a free surprise round every combat, and become immune to being surprised. I see what they were going with, but this is very open to abuse, especially as you get it from level 1 (ranger/assasin dual class?)
  • Skirmisher’s Stealth – “you remain hidden from that creature, regardless of actions”. What. You can set yourself on fire and give the creature a lap dance AND REMAIN HIDDEN.
  • Spirit Companion – no no no no no! A ranger should have an animal companion, not something they summon and dismiss like some kind of bourgeois wizard.
  • Loss of spellcasting – not a terrible design choice, but a strange one. It does take a lot of the ranger’s flexibility away.

My Verdict

Is it not clear by now? I don’t like this.

The ‘spirit companion’ idea isn’t terrible, I’ve seen homebrew classes that do something similar (see the Resources page). It just doesn’t feel like a ranger, who should treat their animal companion as a friend and partner. Someone they’ve travelled with, fought with, and would take a bullet/arrow/fireball for. Like Turner and Hooch!

“Everyone’s a critic! Like you could do better.”

Do you know what: maybe I could!

Coming soon – my fix for the ranger.

2 thoughts on “Unearthed Arcana tries to fix the Ranger. Fails.

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