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Pathfinder - Ranger Combat Styles Breakdown

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Combat Styles

The Ranger is a very versatile class. Based on your combat style and skill selection, the ranger can serve as a tank, a scout, a striker, and a librarian to some degree. How you function in combat is defined largely by your combat style, but how you function as a character is more broadly defined by your archetype.

See also: Ranger Archetypes Breakdown.

The most important part of the Ranger's Combat Style feature is that you can select bonus feats without meeting the pre-requisites. Many combat styles grant the Ranger feats several levels before a normal character could take them.

Archery

Rangers were one of the better options for archery characters in 3.5, and the style had improved dramatically in Pathfinder. Combat Style helps greatly with the long list of essential archery feats, and the ability to take the bonus feats without pre-requisites really cuts down on the feat cost.

Note that the feats on the Archery combat style listed in the core rulebook were expanded in later supplements. This list reflects the updated version.

Crossbow

Entirely worse than Archery, the only benefit to using a crossbow is that you don't need strength to deal damage. You may notice that there is a lot of overlap in the feat choices for the Archery and Crossbow combat styles, but some of the Archery options have been replaced with feats that make you better at reloading. The base set of feats is slightly better than Archery, but crossbows are still a considerably worse choics than bows.

Mounted Combat

You won't be as good a horseman as a Cavalier, but your animal companion makes a pretty great mount. With power attack and a decent lance, you can make an excellent striker.

Natural Weapon

If you want to use this for natural weapons and don't already have some, this archetype is completely worthless. If you do already have natural weapons, you may still find this archetype to be extremely mediocre and disappointing. But if you're as much of a fan of Vital Strike as I am, this archetype is surprisingly amazing find. If you want to play a ranger and use Vital Strike, there literally isn't a better wau to do it.

Thrown Weapon

Thrown Weapon builds require two sets of feats: archery feats, and two-weapon fighting feats. The Thrown Weapon combat style provides the basics of both, but doesn't help you get any of the difficult feats. You could get any worthwhile feat in this combat style by level 5 with little effort. You would be much better served by either the Archery or Two-Weapon Fighting combat styles, depending on how you want to distribute your ability scores.

Two-Handed Weapon

Two-Handed weapons require a fairly small number of feats to be effective, and this combat style doesn't offer a lot of good feats. Rangers get medium armor and d10 hit points, which makes it hard to be in melee without a shield. If you really want to use a two-handed weapon as a ranger, consider the Wild Stalker archetype instead of this combat style.

Two-Weapon Fighting

Two-Weapon Fighting can be a great options for rangers, and they are the only class that can get away with two-weapon fighting without a ton of Dexterity. If you want a Strength-based two-weapon fighting build, invest in dual-wielding shields. If you want to go the Dexterity route, stick to light armor and pick up Slashing Grace and Sawtooth Sabres. You might not be able to keep up with rogues in terms of damage, but your full BAB lets you get considerably more attacks than a Rogue, and you can actually hit things.

Weapon and Shield

Weapon and Shield is a Two-Weapon Fighting archetype. Because Rangers get to ignore prerequisites for feats, the Two-Weapon Fighting combat style is strictly better. Two-Weapon Fighting allows you to bypass the steep dexterity requirements of the Two-Weapon Fighting feats. The only thing that Weapon and Shield really has going for it is that you can get Shield Master 5 levels early.