A few days ago I posted a criticism of the Unearthed Arcana ranger. So as promised, here’s my, much better, version.
Obviously this is all untested and work-in-progress, so please comment and let me know what you think!
I’ve barely touched the core abilities, and instead focused on the archetypes, in particular the Beast Master.
The only change I would make is to take away medium armour proficiency at level 1, and then have the Hunter gain that proficiency at level 3 (so essentially the Beast Master only has light armour proficiency).
I’d keep this exactly as it is, I think the Hunter archetype is quite good. I would consider giving all the features listed at each level – most of them are quite situational and it feels harsh to force the player to pick only one. But that might be overpowered, so I’ll leave it for now.
I would just add this:
When you choose this archetype at level 3, you gain an animal companion. Choose any medium or smaller beast of challenge rating 1/4 or lower. The creature has the standard stat block for that creature, but with an extra 1d4 hit points for every ranger level past 3rd. The creature acts on its own initiative in combat and may take any standard action. Due to your bond you and your creature can communicate simple ideas or orders to each other. For example your creature may warn you of danger, or you may ask it to track a creature, keep guard, etc.
If the creature dies you permanently lose 1d4 hitpoints, but may gain a new companion after a period of meditation or similar.
This is essentially a scaled-back version of a familiar, so I figured it shouldn’t break anything too greatly. My thinking with the hp loss is to force players to not use their companion in combat all the time. An animal companion taking the ‘help’ action every turn could give the ranger near-constant advantage in their attacks. It should just be a flavourful extra that can help in tracking, gathering food, etc.
This one is difficult, and I’m not sure I haven’t gone too far the other way, and made it quite overpowered. Anyone fancy giving it go and letting me know?
At 3rd level, you gain a beast companion. Choose either ape, bear, dog, dire badger, dire boar, horse, large cat (panther, lion, etc), giant spider, giant snake, or wolf (or similar animals at DM’s discretion). The beast acts in your initiative during combat and you may use your bonus action to order the beast to make one standard action (attack, dodge, help, shove, etc). If your beast is killed you may gain another after a period of meditation or similar. The beast has the following stats:
Medium fey, alignment matches ranger
- AC 13
- Hit points 15 (+1d6 per ranger level past 3rd)
- Speed 40ft
- Str-12 Dex-14 Con-11 Int-10 Wis-12 Cha-8
- Perception +2 (passive perception 12)
- Attack (bite, claw, etc) +4 to hit. Hit: 1d6+1
In addition, choose one of the following bonuses to apply to your beast:
- Flying – you may choose a large bird of prey or similar as your companion. Your beast has a flying speed of 40ft and a walking speed of 10ft
- Tough hide – your beast gains +2AC
- Hardy – your beast gains 1d8 extra hitpoints
- Strong – your beast has a Str of 16 and an athletics skill of +5
- Stealthy – your beast has a Dex of 18 and a stealth skill of +6
- Alert – your beast has a perception of +5 and one of keen eyes/nose/ears (advantage on perception checks that use sight/smell/hearing)
- Sharp teeth/claws(/hooves?) – your beast does 2d6+2 damage when it attacks
- Relentless – if your beast is reduced to 0 hit points or less it is reduced to 1 instead (recharges on long rest)
At 7th level your beast gains a second bonus from the list above.
At 11th level your beast gains a third bonus, either from the list above, or from the following:
- Pounce – on a succesful attack, the attacked creature must make a DC13 Str save or be knocked prone
- Poisonous fangs/claws(/hooves?) – on a successful attack, the attacked creature must make a DC12 Con save or be poisoned. The poison does 1d6+1 damage at the start of the creature’s turn for 1d4 turns. The creature may repeat the save each turn (after taking damage) to remove the poisoned condition.
- Share spells – whenever you cast a spell targeting yourself you may choose to include your beast also.
- Ferocious attack – your beast may attack twice whenever it takes the attack action.
- Roar – your beast may spend its action to let out a fearsome roar. Any hostile creature within 20ft must make a DC13 Wis save or be frightened for the round.
- Blink – as an action, your beast may teleport up to 30ft to any open space. This does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
At 15th level your beast gains a fourth bonus, from either list.
I realise the ‘beast’ companion starts to overshadow the ranger themselves at some point, but I think that’s sort of the point. A player who has chosen the beast master archetype is essentially playing a pair of characters, which I think fits the flavour of a ranger and their long-term animal friend.
I’m considering adding a drawback that occurs if/when the beast is killed, to hopefully force the player to not just treat them as meat shield. Maybe the ranger falls unconscious from the psychic backlash?
So what do you think? Did I do better than the ‘official’ release? The answer is yes by the way…