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DnD 5e - The Ranger Handbook

Last Updated: March 11th, 2020

TEMPORARY NOTE: RPGBOT is undergoing a massive update for DnD 5e content to accomodate rules changes and new content introduced by Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. Please be patient while these changes are made. I maintain this site as a hobby, and I got access to the book on the same day as everyone else and I am rushing to catch up as quickly as I can. Please check "Last Updated" date below the title of each page. If it was updated before November 17th, it has not been updated to include the new content. To see what I still need to complete to catch up with Tasha's, see my To-Do List. To watch for ongoing updates, please follow me on Twitter.


RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.


The Ranger is an interesting mix of Druid-style spellcasting, Fighter-style combat capabilities, and Rogue-style skills. The Ranger can fill the role of either a Fighter-equivalent or a Rogue-equivalent (sometimes both), and works well as a Scout and Striker, but can't quite match the Fighter's capacity as a Defender.

After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read my Ranger Subclasses Breakdown and my Ranger Spells Breakdown.

Ranger Class Features

Hit Points: Standard for martial characters, d10 hit points gives you plenty of hp to get through the day..

Saves: Dexterity saves almost exclusively prevent partial damage from AOE effects, and Strength saves are relatively rare.

Proficiencies: Medium armor, shields, and martial weapons are great, but without heavy armor almost every Ranger will go for a Dexterity-based build. Rangers also get three skills, which is unusually high, but since Rangers fall somewhere between a Fighter-equivalent and Rogue-equivalent, it makes sense that they get an extra skill.

Favored Enemy: Situational by nature, and the bonuses you gain against the subject are really minor. The big bonuses come later from features like Foe Slayer.

  • Aberrations: One of the more numerous creature types, but very few have a CR above 10.
  • Beasts: Beasts are common at low levels, but very few beasts have a CR above 5 so you'll stop facing them early in your career.
  • Celestiais: Like Fiends, but only select this in an evil campaign.
  • Constructs: There aren't a lot of constructs in the Monster Manual, and they don't appear frequently because they're hard to shoe-horn into many adventures. Plus, how often do you need to track a golem which was created to guard a room?
  • Dragons: Dragons are a tempting option because they're so iconic and scary, but they're also a bad option because there are so few of them.
  • Elementals: There are very few elemental creatures which frequent appearances as enemies.
  • Fey: There are almost no Fey in the Monster Manual, and their CRs are all very low.
  • Fiends: A great option, especially in an all-good campaign. Fiends are numerous, and run the whole CR range.
  • Giants: There aren't a ton of giants, and their highest CR is 13.
  • Monstrosities: There are a lot great mosnters which qualify as "Monstrosities", but very vew of them have a CR above 11.
  • Oozes: There are almost no oozes in the Monster Manual.
  • Plants: There are very few plant monsters in the game.
  • Undead: Iconic, numerous, and consisting of a long list of enemies running the whole CR range. Undead pop up in many campaigns, even those where undead aren't a major them, so they're a good, reliable option.
  • Humanoid: Humanoids are hard to pin down. Depending on your campaign, you may face a huge number of humanoids or you may face absolutely none. Only select humanoids if you know that you're going to face them. Since you get to pick two types of humanoids, I recommend Humans and another race which is prominent in the campaign's setting.

Natural Explorer: You get three choices over the course of your career, so hopefully your campaign doesn't involve a huge amount of traveling. The bonuses are fairly small, but fit the flavor the class.

Fighting Style: Rangers get a subset of the Fighting Styles available to Fighters, but the ones they get offer plenty of options. Unlike Fighters, Rangers only get one Fighting Style so it's important to pick one that fits your build sincey you won't get to pick a supplemental style.

  • ArcheryPHB: The obvious choice for ranged builds. +2 to hit is a big deal in a game where a 20th-level character can expect a maximum of +11 to hit.
  • DefensePHB: AC boosts are great, but Rangers are a Strikers at heart and you need a Fighting Style which boosts your damage output. Of course, Beast Master Rangers may prefer to rely more heavily on their companion for offense, so a boost to AC can allow you to protect yourself while your companion does the work.
  • DuelingPHB: Note that this works while using a shield. 2 damage closes the damage gap between a longsword and a two-handed weapon (4.5->6.5 vs. 6.5/7). However, with no way to attack as a bonus action you'll lag behin Two-Weapon fighting rangers or rangers with Crossbow Expert.
  • Two-Weapon FightingPHB: One of the biggest issues with two-weapon fighting is that you don't get to add your ability modifier to your off-hand attack without this fighting style, and taking this style makes it considerably more viable. Unlike a Fighter, TWF is a perfectly viable option for Rangers. Hunter's Mark adds a small but notable damage boost which closes the damage gap between greatswords and short swords, making TWF highly effective for Rangers.

Spellcasting: Rangers have a really interesting spell list with a lot of unique options exclusive to the Ranger. However, nearly every spell on the list uses Concentration, so it's really hard to use more than one spell at a time.

For help selecting spells, see my Ranger Spell List Breakdown.

Ranger Archetype: Ranger subclasses are briefly summarized below. See my Ranger Subclasses Breakdown for help selecting your subclass.

  • Beastmaster: Fight alongside a powerful beast companion, training them as a living weapon to aid you in battle.
  • Gloom Stalker: Hunt your foes in the dark, gaining the ability to see and fight in the dark, and to ambush your foes.
  • Horizon Walker: Walk the planes, gaining the ability to teleport in battle and to travel between planes without relying on spells like Plane Shift.
  • Hunter: A capable warrior, the Hunter is most customizable ranger subclass, capable of succeeding in a variety of fighting styles.
  • Monster Slayer: Focus on slaying single foes, gaining the ability to discern their strengths and weaknesses, to deal extra damage to your studied prey, and to resist and foil their spells and abilities.

Primeval Awareness: Situational, and not terribly useful since you can't pinpoint the creatures' locations in the 6 mile radius.

Extra Attack: You're no Fighter, but two attacks is still a considerable boost to your damage output.

Land's Stride: Difficult terrain is very frustrating for melee characters, so this will give you a big advantage in some fights.

Hide in Plain Sight: You don't get to move while using this, but it's very effective.

Vanish: Very helpful for sniping, but not as important for Rangers as Cunning Action is for Rogues since you don't get Sneak Attack. Also note that it doesn't work with Hide in Plain Sight.

Feral Sense: Invisible creatures are hugely problematic, and even knowing what square they are in is a big advantage. Being able to locate and attack them without penalty is a massive bonus.

Foe Slayer: This is at most a +5, but a +5 to an attack roll can be a huge bonus in a game where +11 is the normal maximum.


Dexterity dominates the Ranger's abilities, but be sure to put points into Wisdom to support your spells..

Str: With light/medium armor you need Dexterity for AC. Since you have Dexterity for AC, you may as well use it for weapons. Since you're using Dexterity for weapons, you can dump Strength. The only exception is if you decide to use a polearm for some reason.

Dex: Dexterity fuels the majority of what the Ranger does.

Con: As a martial character rangers should expect to draw a lot of fire, so you need the hit points to handle it.

Int: A bit for Investigation and Nature might be nice, but you don't really need it.

Wis: Adds to spells and eventually to Foe Slayer.

Cha: Dump.

Point Buy Standard Array
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 10
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 13
  • Cha: 8


Dexterity bonuses are crucial, and bonuses to Constitution and Wisdom are helpful.

AarakocraEEPC: Bonus Dexterity, Wisdom, and flight. A perfect archery ranger.

AasimarVGTM: Nothing useful for the ranger.

  • Fallen: Nothing useful for the ranger.
  • Protector: Nothing useful for the ranger.
  • Scourge: Nothing useful for the ranger.

BugbearVGTM: For a martial class limited to medium armor, the +1 Dexterity increase is easily enough to fill out your +2 Dexterity bonus to AC so you can focus on your Strength. Reach is nice, and you get Stealth proficiency for free, making it easier to keep up with other sneaky, skilled classes like the Rogue.

DragonbornPHB: Nothing useful for the Ranger.

Dwarf: Nice and durable, but without a Dexterity increase you'll lag offensively.

  • DuergarSCAG: Nothing useful for the Ranger.
  • HillPHB: A bit of Wisdom helps with your spells, but with no Strength or Dexterity increases you'll lag offensively.
  • MountainPHB: With no Dexterity increase, you'll need to rely on Strength and medium armor. Get your Dexterity to 14 at first level and grab a pair of hand axes. You won't be as sneaky as Dexterity-based rangers, but otherwise you should be fine.

ElfPHB: Dexterity and free Perception proficiency.

  • DrowPHB: Nothing useful for the Ranger beyond what you get from the base elf racial traits.
  • EladrinMToF: Unless you want the rider effects on Fey Step, Shadar-Kai is strictly better.
  • High Elf: Nothing useful for the Ranger beyond what you get from the base elf racial traits.
  • Sea ElfMToF: A great option in a game that involves a lot of water.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Dexterity and Constitution, coupled with a damage resistance and the ability to teleport are a fantastic combination for the Ranger, especially if you prefer melee combat.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Bonus Wisdom and Mask of the Wild is fantastic for Rangers.

FirbolgVGTM: Decent ability increases and several excellent innate spellcasting options which fit the theme of the ranger very well.

GenasiEEPC: Bonus Constitution is always nice.

  • Air: A bit of Dexterity, and Levitate is nice for archers.
  • Earth: Nothing useful for the Ranger.
  • Fire: Nothing useful for the Ranger.
  • Water: Wisdom isn't as useful as Dexterity, but the Water Genasi's other abilities are much more interesting than the Air Genasi's.

Gith: Very little that works for th Ranger.

  • GithyankiMToF: Rangers nearly always build around Dexterity, so the Githyanki offers little beyond their psionics. You can make a Strength-based build work, but it's a hard prospect for the Ranger.
  • GithzeraiMToF: Ranger spellcasting is secondary to their other functions, so +2 Wisdom isn't appealing without a Dexterity increase.

Gnome: Nothing useful for the Ranger.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: A bit of Dexterity and Stone Camouflage are tempting, but not enough to make this viable.
  • ForestPHB: A bit of Dexterity is nice, but not enough to justify the choice. Speak With Small Beasts is amusing, but not especially useful.
  • RockPHB: Nothing useful for the Ranger.

GoblinVGTM: Great ability increases, and Nimble Escape gives you the important parts of Cunnin Action.

HobgoblinVGTM: Nothing useful for the ranger.

GoliathEEPC: Nothing useful for the Ranger.

Half-Elf: The Charisma is totally wasted on the Ranger, but the other abilities are great.

  • AquaticSCAG: Only if you're in an aquatic campaign.
  • DrowSCAG: Some decent magical options.
  • High/Moon/SunSCAG: Rangers rely too much on weapon attacks, and don't really need utility cantrips.
  • Keen SensesSCAG: The sidebar describing half-elf variants specifices that you can take Keen Senses in place of Skill Versatility, or a trait based on your elf parentage. Keen Senses give you a single fixed skill, and you're giving up proficiency in any two skills. It should be immediately apparent that this is a terrible trade.
  • WoodSCAG: The Wood Elf is a great option for Rangers, so taking some of its abilities is great for a Half-elf.
  • VanillaPHB: The skills are great on a highly-skilled class like a Ranger.

Half-OrcPHB: Nothing useful for the Ranger.

HalflingPHB: Bonus Dexterity, and Lucky is absolutely fantastic.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: A wisdom bonus is fantastic for your spellcasting. Silent Speech is cool, too, but unfortunately won't work with an animal companion because none of the available companion choices can learn languages.
  • LightfootPHB: The Charisma is wasted, and Naturally Stealthy isn't as useful for the Ranger as it is for the Rogue.
  • StoutPHB: Bonus Constitution and resistance to poison.

HumanPHB: Versatile and fantastic at everything.

  • Vanilla: Half of the bonuses are totally wasted.
  • Variant: You still get crucial bonuses to your Dexterity and Wisdom, and you can get an awesome feat at level 1.

KenkuVGTM: Fantastic ability increases, and the free skills help close the skill gap between rangers and rogues. Be sure to pick up Thieve's Tools proficiency if you're playing your party's Rogue-equivalent.

KoboldVGTM: Pack Tactics is absolutely unfair when you combine it with beast master ranger.

LizardfolkVGTM: Extremely durable, though the lack of a Strength or Dexterity increase means that your damage output will lag a bit until you get some Ability Score increases. Wisdom is helpful for ranger spellcasting, and natural armor will allow you to exceed the AC offered by manufactured armor once you reach 20 Dexterity.

LocathahLR: Increases to both Strength and Dexterity make it easier to build a Strength-based build because you can manage decent scores in both at 1st level. Two additional skills help close the skill gap with Rogue, and Leviathan Will protects you from several annoying status conditions.

OrcVGTM: Half-orc is objectively better, but neither are great for rangers.

TabaxiVGTM: Kenku is a better option, but the two provide many of the same benefits.

Tiefling: The vanilla Tiefling's ability scores are terrible for a Ranger, but the other abilities are fun, and the Feral variant subrace does a bit better. The biggest issue is that Charisma does very little for the Ranger, and the Charisma increase is one of the Tiefling's biggest benefits.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: Bad ability spread.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • DispaterMToF: Interesting and potentially viable, but Charisma does almost nothing for the Ranger.
  • FiernaMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • GlasyaMToF: Legacy of Malbolge provides some useful stealth options not typically available to rangers.
  • LevistusMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • MammonMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • ZarielMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: Much better than the Vanilla Tiefling, but the Intelligence bonus is till wasted. According to the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, the Feral Variant is compatible with other variants, so if your DM allows it you may be able to use this in conjunction with another useful subrace.
  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: Nothing useful for the Ranger.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Nothing useful for the Ranger.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Excellent if you combine it with Feral, otherwise flight won't fix the ability score increases.

TortleTP: Tortle natural armor matches the AC cap for medium armor. That means that you get the same AC as other Strength-based rangers without needing to get 14 Dexterity to fill out your armor, allowing you to focus elsewhere. The tortle's ability scores are perfect for a Strength-based ranger, and you even get Survival for free.

TritonVGTM: Not awful, but the triton doesn't complement the ranger's spellcasting ro skills.

VerdanAcInc: Bad ability spread.

Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGTM: Nothing useful for the Ranger.

Setting-specific races are address below. Not every setting allows every race, and while most races presented in the core rules and in content for the Forgotten Realms can be used in other settings, races specific to settings like Ravnica aren't typically allowed in other settings. Talk to your DM about what races are allowed in your game.

Races of Eberron

BugbearERLW: See above under the general Races section.

ChangelingERLW: Shapechanger is neat, but the Charisma increase doesn't cater well to the Ranger's typical skillset.

GoblinERLW: See above under the general Races section.

HobgoblinERLW: See above under the general Races section.

OrcERLW: Bad ability spread.

KalashtarERLW: Bad ability spread.

ShifterERLW: Many subraces of the Shifter are good options for the Ranger, though Shifting may compete with your Bonus Action if you rely heavily on Hunter's Mark.

  • Beasthide: Strength is a hard choice for the Ranger.
  • Longtooth: If you're fighting in melee and not using two-weapon fighting, you're not using your Bonus Action to get extra damage out of Hunter's Mark. This offers a way to do that while still using either a shield or a two-handed weapon.
  • Swiftstride: A spectacular option for archery builds. Use the Shifting Feature to safely escape enemies who attempt to engage you in melee. On your turn, shoot them from 10 ft. away, then move to safety.
  • Wildhunt: The best ability spread of the Shifter's subraces, but the Shifting Feature is nearly unusable for the Ranger.

WarforgedERLW: The ability increases work fine thanks to the flexibility ability increase, and the bonus resistances and bonus AC make you abnormally durable for a ranger.


While the design intent for Dragonmarks was that they would offer some innate spellcasting for everyone, every dragonmark includes an expanded spell list which is arguably a more significant benefit than most of the provided racial traits. Because the expanded spell options are such an important part of the dragonmarks, if you're not playing a spellcaster you're giving up a huge part of your racial traits, which makes it exceptionally difficult to justify playing a dragonmark character who can't cast spells.

Dragonmarked DwarfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

  • Mark of Warding: Bad ability spread.

Dragonmarked ElfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

  • Mark of Shadow: The base Dexterity increase from the Elf is a great start, and Mark of Shadow's new spellcasting adds numerous interesting options which typically aren't available to the Ranger.

Dragonmarked GnomeERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

  • Mark of Scribing: Bad ability spread.

Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.

  • Mark of Detection: The flexible ability increase can go into Strength or Dexterity (probably Dexterity), and the added divination option allow the Ranger to expand their already excellent scouting capabilities.
  • Mark of Storm: The ability increases are good enough, and the spells add some interesting options.

Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW: Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.

  • Mark of Finding: Bad ability spread, and the spells aren't good enough to make up the difference.

Dragonmarked HalflingERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

  • Mark of Healing: Great ability score increases, and the added healing options allow you to cover many of the core healing options which typically require a dedicated divine spellcaster. Granted, Cure Wounds and Healing Spirit are already on the Ranger's spell list, but this adds the ever-crucial Healing Word.
  • Mark of Hospitality: The ability score increases include a crucial Dexterity increase, but the spellcasting isn't as good as what you get from Mark of Healing.

Dragonmarked HumanERLW: Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: If there is anyone who can use Mark of Handling well, it's the Ranger. The ability score increases are good, the skill bonuses are good, and you get several spells from the Druid spell list which expand your ability to work with animals. Beastmaster is still garbage, unfortunately, but the theme makes a lot of sense.
  • Mark of Making: The ability score increases are workable, and there are some interesting spellcasting options.
  • Mark of Passage: Perfect ability score increases, and the spellcasting adds capabilities normally limited to the Planeswalker. In fact, a mark of passage planeswalker ranger would be an incredible master of teleportation and quick movement.
  • Mark of Sentinel: A lot of great defensive options, but without a Strength or Dexterity increase you're going to lag offensively.

Races of Ravnica

CentaurGGTR: Charge conflicts with two-weapon fighting, and rangers do much better with Dexterity than with Strength because they're limited to medium armor.

GoblinGGTR: See above under the general Races section.

LoxodonGGTR: With the Loxodon's natural armor you can match the AC of the best light armor while totally naked. Unfortunately you'll lag offensively without a Strength or Dexterity increase until you pick up some Ability Score Increases.

MinotaurGGTR: Both Goring Rush and Hammering Horns conflict with two-weapon fighting, and rangers rely too heavily on Dexterity because they're limited to medium armor.

Simic HybridGGTR: Fantastic and versatile.

VedalkenGGTR: Nothing useful for the Ranger.


  • Animal Handling (Wis): Even for a Beastmaster Ranger this is still worthless.
  • Athletics (Str): Rangers are Dexterity-based and don't have a good way to make use of Shove or Grapple.
  • Insight (Wis): Rangers need a bit of Wisdom, so pick this up to back up your party's Face.
  • Investigation (Int): Very useful, especially if you're serving as your party's Rogue-equivalent, but Intelligence isn't a great ability for Rangers.
  • Nature (Int): Your only knowledge skill. It's a good skill, but Intelligence is hard for Rangers.
  • Perception (Wis): With high Wisdom there is no reason not to take this.
  • Stealth (Dex): Rangers don't strictly need to be stealthy, but with hight Dexterity it certainly doesn't hurt.
  • Survival (Wis): Situational, but if anyone was going to take this it should be a Ranger.


This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.

Rangers can get every skill that they need with their three class skill choices. If you're acting as your party's Rogue-equivalent, pick up Thieves' Tools proficiency. Otherwise, pick up whatever you want. Many backgrounds will give you bonus languages, but with no social skills the Ranger has no way to make use of them.

If you're having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:

  • CharlatanPHB: Interesting for a Rogue-like build, but without Thieves' Tools you can't fully replace a Rogue.
  • City WatchSCAG: Athletics and Insight are both passable options, but the languages are totally wasted.
  • CriminalPHB: Deception won't get much use, but the rest will allow you play your party's Rogue-equivalent.
  • Far TravelerSCAG: Insight is passable and Perception is fantastic. The instument/gaming set proficiency might actually be more useful for you than the language.
  • Folk HeroPHB: Several passable options, but nothing that you absolutely need to have.
  • Mercenary VeteranSCAG: Persuasion is wasted on the Ranger, but the rest is usable.
  • OutlanderPHB: Several passable options, but nothing that you absolutely need to have.
  • SailorPHB: Good skills, but nautical stuff isn't useful in most campaigns.
  • SoldierPHB: Everything is good except Intimidation.
  • Urban Bounty HunterSCAG: A good list of options which allow you to take the place of a Rogue-equivalent.
  • UrchinPHB: Allows you to easily play your party's Rogue-equivalent.
  • Uthgardt Tribe MemberSCAG: A few passable options, but on the whole nothing excisting.


This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover feats which I think work especially well for the class or which might be tempting but poor choices.

  • AlertPHB: Going first isn't terribly important for the Ranger.
  • ChargerPHB: Rangers have plenty of ways to use their bonus action, so this presents a considerable loss of action economy. Even if you're built for melee, you should use the space to buff yourself or soften your enemies at range before gradually closing to melee.
  • Crossbow ExpertPHB: All the action economy of TWF with the range of Archery, and you can do it in melee combat.
  • Defensive DuelistPHB: A tempting way to boost your defenses, but the Hunter already gets options to protect themselves, and the Beastmaster should have enough health between themselves and their companion that they can survive a few hits.
  • Dual WielderPHB: Not necessary by any means, but if anyone were to take this feat it should be a melee Ranger.
  • Dungeon DelverPHB: In a dungeon-heavy campaign, this can be a great option for you.
  • DurablePHB: Rangers can cast Healing Spirit, which solves the issue of healing out of combat.
  • Elemental AdeptPHB: Rangers don't get enough elemental damage spells to justify this.
  • GrapplerPHB: Just a terrible feat in general. You don't need it to grapple successfully.
  • Great Weapon MasterPHB: Rangers are all about Dexterity, and two-handed weapons require Strength.
  • HealerPHB: Learn Cure Wounds.
  • Heavily ArmoredPHB: If you're going for a Strength build, you probably want this. If you take proficiency in Stealth and cast Pass Without Trace, you might even mamage to be stealthy despite Disadvantage imposed by your armor.
  • LuckyPHB: Good on anyone.
  • Mage SlayerPHB: Too situational.
  • Magic InitiatePHB: There really isn't anything that the Ranger needs from other spellcasting classes to be functional.
  • Martial AdeptPHB: Not useful enough with only one superiority die.
  • Medium Armor MasterPHB: A feat for a net of +1 to AC over light armor and 20 Dexterity. Spend the feat on Defensive Duelist instead.
  • MobilePHB: Rangers already get a ways to handle a lot of difficult terrain, and if you want to avoid opportunity attacks pick up Escape the Horde or Zephyr Strike.
  • Mounted CombatPHB: Beast Master Rangers are one of the only characters in the game where I would consider this feat a decent option, and even then it has serious problems. If your character is small you have several excellent options for mounts, but since most monsters are medium or larger you'll give up the first benefit of the feat almost all of the time since your mount will never be bigger than they are. Still, the extra protection afforded to your animal companion may be enough to justify the feat.
  • ObservantPHB: If you are the only character in the party with decent observation skills, this might be a good idea.
  • Polearm MasterPHB: Rangers are built on Dexterity, so they don't have the Strength to back up a polearm.
  • ResilientPHB: If you were going to be good at a save, your class would have given it to you.
  • Ritual CasterPHB: Leave this for the full casters if you can.
  • Savage AttackerPHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per turn.
  • SentinelPHB: The third part of the feat is tempting for Beastmaster Rangers. Since you have a pet that you can drag into melee with you who will likely have lower AC (and therefore will draw a lot of attacks), it's easy to capitalize on Sentinel to get free attacks.
  • SharpshooterPHB: Archery builds might enjoy this. Hunter Rangers who pick up Volley will particularly enjoy the ability to attack at long ranger without Disadvantage so that you can handle large groups of enemies at a comfortable distance.
  • Shield MasterPHB: The only thing making this hard for Rangers is that you need high Strength to make good use of Athletics, which you need to make good use of the ability to Shove foes as a Bonus Action.
  • SkilledPHB: Rangers already get more skills than average, but unless you got Thieves' Tools proficiency from your background you may want to pick it up.
  • SkulkerPHB: Sniping is for Rogues.
  • ToughPHB: You shouldn't need hit points this badly. If you do, reconsider your tactics.
  • War CasterPHB: Rangers don't have spells which work with the reaction mechanic.


  • Longbow: The Archery Ranger's go-to weapon.
  • Rapier: Defensive and Dueling Rangers will want the biggest Finesse weapon they can get.
  • Shortsword: The TWF Ranger's go-to weapon.
  • Whip: The only finesse weapon with reach. If you go for a melee Horde Braker build, a whip is a good choice.


  • Leather Armor: Scale Mail will give better AC, but will also impose disadvantage on Stealth.
  • Scale Mail: Better AC than Leather, but imposes Disadvantage on Stealth.
  • Studded Leather: Your best bet long-term.


This section briefly details so obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn't fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see my Practical Guide to Multiclassing.

  • Cleric: A single level of Nature Cleric gets you a skill proficiency, heavy armor proficiency, a Druid Cantrip, plus all of the spellcasting of a 1st-level Cleric. Plus, you can do this at any level rather than being forced to do it at 1st level to get heavy armor like you must with martial classes.
  • Druid: Two levels to pick up some cantrips and a subclass offers a lot of interesting options, but delaying Extra Attack can be hard at low levels and there are few Druid+Ranger combination builds that work well long-term.
  • Fighter: Another Fighting Style is tempting, and if you start with Fighter you get access to a similar skill list plus heavy armor proficiency. With heavy armor, you can go for a Strength build instead of depending on Dexterity like every other Ranger in the game.
  • Monk: Unarmored Defense is a decent option, and Martial Arts removes the need for TWF, but you'll need to forgo armor, which means that you need much more Wisdom than a typical ranger.
  • Rogue: Cunning Action, Expertise, and more skill proficiencies. If you're going to grab a level of Rogue it should be your first level.

Example Build - Human Ranger (Hunter)

I will tolerate two scimitars, but I draw the line at having a pet panther.

This is a "Staple Build". This build is simple, and relies on options from the SRD and the Basic Rules wherever possible. If you need a functional build with nothing fancy or complicated, this is a great place to start.

Of the two Ranger Archetypes in the Player's Handbook, Hunter is clearly the better choice, and I'm glad that it was chosen for the SRD. The Hunter is an excellent scout and striker, and it has enough decision points that you can tailor it to your tastes.

Perhaps the most defining build choice we make is our choice of Fighting Style. Rangers get just two options, so it's really a choice between melee and ranged. Melee will have higher damage output, especially with Crossbow Expert off limits due to our SRD-only limitations for staple builds, but melee is also much more risky. I'll present suggestions for both choices.


We will make some adjustments to the point-buy abilities recommended above to capitalize on the human ability score increases. Depending on which skills and background you select, you might switch Intelligence and Charisma.

Base Increased
Str 9 10
Dex 15 16
Con 13 14
Int 11 12
Wis 15 16
Cha 8 9


Human. In the SRD, the Human is the only way to get bonuses to both Dexterity and Wisdom. You could shuffle around the ability scores and select Halfling or even High Elf if you'd prefer, but we'll go with Human to keep things simple.

Skills and Tools

Ignore Animal Handling and Athletics, and we've got 6 skills that we care about. We get three from the Ranger's proficiencies and two from our background, so we'll need to skip one.


Criminal is the best option available in the Basic Rules or the SRD. Deception isn't great, but we want Stealth and Thieves' Tools will let you stand in for a rogue. Folk Hero would also work, but I think Thieves' Tools are important enough that proficiency makes Criminal the better choice.

It's a little concerning how many of my "Staple Builds" use the criminal background. It's purely for character optimization reasons, but it still feels odd.


Rangers get far more ability increases than they can reasonably use, making feats an excellent option. Once you're comfortable with the game and you've hit 20 Dexterity, consider exploring feats. Skilled will expand your proficiencies, and there are a number of excellent options to boost your combat abilities like Dual Wielder and Sharpshooter.


Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics
  • Favored Enemy
  • Natural explorer

For your starting equipment, choose leather armor (as much as we want the AC from scale mail, Disadvantage on Stealth is a problem), two short swords (or two daggers), either pack, and the longbow and arrows.

Favored Enemy is immediately a difficult choice. At level 1 you may have no idea what you'll face at level 2, let alone at level 20. You get to select additional favored enemeis later, but you get a total of just 3 over your entire career. Talk to your DM to see if they're willing you offer suggestions

Natural Explorer requires you to select a Favored Terrain, which presents all the same challenges as a Favored Enemey. At level 1 you might be exploring forests, but by level 10 you might be lost in the Underdark for the rest of your characters' life. You have no way to know, and no way to later change your decision. Talk to your DM to see if they're willing to offer suggestions.

At this level, do some experimenting. Try melee. Try archery. Try sneaking around. Get to know your character and get a sense of where you fit into the rest of your party before you're locked into a fighting style.

  • Fighting Style
  • Spellcasting

By now you've hopefully had enough time to decide between fighting at range or in melee. If you're fighting in melee, take Fighting Style: Two-Weapon Fighting, and if you're fighting at range, take Fighting Style: Archery.

Spellcasting introduces a lot of interesting options. You get just 2 spell slots, but fortunately you can get a lot of mileage out of your spells. Hunter's Mark is a particularly important part of the Ranger's repertoire. Cast it as soon as you go into a fight (or beforehand if that's an option) to maximize the extra damage you can get. With a 1-hour duration, you can easily stretch one spell slot through every encounter you'll face between short rests. unfortunately that may mean that one third of your day doesn't include Hunter's Mark (assuming the "Adventuring Day" rules in the DMG, which suggest two short rests in a full day of adventuring).

On days when you stop to take a long rest, cast Goodberry with all of your remaining spell slots. There's no cap on how many hit points you can heal from Goodberry, so each casting gives you and your party 10 hit points worth of healing that you can consume between fights to stretch other resources like hit dice and other healing magic.

  • Hunter
  • Hunter's Prey
  • Primeval Awareness

If you took Fighting Style: Two-Weapon Fighting, take Hunter's Prey: Colossus Slayer. If you took Fighting Style: Archery, take Hordebreaker.

  • Ability Score Improvement (Dexterity 16 -> 18)

More AC, better attacks, and better damage.

  • Extra Attack

Any martial class loves Extra Attack.

5th level also brings 2nd-level spells, including a few notably useful options. Lesser Restoration allows you to contribute your limited healing capabilities, and Spike Growth provides an excellent area control option. Pass Without Trace offers a significant bonus to Dexterity (Stealth) checks, allowing even clumsy, heavily-armored party members to accompany you with a decent chance of going unnoticed.

  • Favored Enemy improvements
  • Natural Explorer improvements

Choose another favored enemy and another favored terrain. All of the same issues apply, but hopefully by now you know where the bulk of the campaign will be taking place and who the primary antagonists are.

  • Defensive Tactics: Multiattack Defense

Multiattack Defense is the best option for Defensive Tactics. Escape the Horde is tempting for melee builds, but at that point just Disengage and make better use of your next turn.

  • Ability Score Improvement (Dexterity 18 -> 20)

Your AC now hits its maximum at 17 in studded leather, and your attacks and damage improve.


Nothing at this level except 3rd-level spells. You get some fun options like Conjure Animals, but remember that anything which requires Concentration will conflict with Hunter's Mark. You can also cast Hunter's Mark as a 3rd-level spell to make it last 8 hours, allowing you to stretch a single casting all day long provided that you can maintain Concentration.

  • Natural Explorer improvement
  • Hide in Plain Sight

Your last favored terrain. Hopefully you've covered enough bases that you'll never be outside of your favored terrain.

Hide in Plain Sight isn't what it was in previous editions. In previous editions you could simply hide where you stood. I guess WotC realized how problematic that was without using a spell, so now you need to spend some time camouflaging yourself. Since it takes a full minute and requires you to remain still, you'll need to use this for spying on or ambushing enemies. Combine it with Spike Growth and you can turn an area into a killing field with a few minutes of preparation.

  • Multiattack

Multiattack is split into a clearly melee-oriented option and a clearly ranged option. Volley is for archers, and Whirlwind Attack is for two-weapon fighters. However, note that neither of these actions is the "Attack" action, so you can't actually do two-weapon fighting, and if you took Crossbow expert you can't use the bonus action extra attack. Either way, Multiattack won't be your go-to option. Look for opportunities to use it, but in most cases enemies won't be neatly clustered enough for you to get more attacks from Multiattack than from a normal Attack.

  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 14 -> 16)

With maximized Dexterity, it's time to start improving other ability scores. We started with 16 Wisdom, which is absolutely plenty for the ranger, so focus on increasing your Constitution instead to get the extra hit points. Your AC is going to be stuck at 17 for the rest of your character's career (excluding spells and magic items) so you need all the durability you can get.

The one counter-point which might convince you to increase Wisdom instead of Constitution is Foe Slayer. Foe Slayer is based on your Wisdom bonus, and it's pretty good. Unfortunately, it's 8 levels off, and if you don't live to level 20 it won't matter how high your Wisdom is.


Nothing at this level except 4th-level spells. This is very exciting, but with just 4 spells included in the SRD you have very few options.

  • Favored Enemy improvement
  • Vanish

Vanish is considerably more useful for archers than it is for melee rangers, but even a melee ranger is good with a bow. If you need to avoid attention, jump in a bush and snipe things.

  • Superior Hunter's Defense

Rogues get both Evasion and Uncanny Dodge, but you are forced to choose one or the other. I recommend Evasion for archery builds and Uncanny Dodge for melee builds.

  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 16 -> 18)

More constitution gets us a nice pile of extra hit points at this level.


Nothing at this level except 5th-level spells, and the SRD contains just two 5th-level Ranger spells. Look at your lower-level spells for options that work well when cast with a higher-level spell slot.

  • Feral Senses

Invisible creatures were a problem long before this. Hopefully by this level you've found a solution to that challenge, but Feral Senses is likely a better solution.

  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 18 -> 20)

You're now as durable as you can get, which is nice considering that your AC is still stuck at 17, while enemies' attack bonuses and damage have gradually climbed over time. If you're doing alright with 18 Constitution, you might increase Wisdom instead to get another point out of Foe Slayer now that it's only one level away.

  • Foe Slayer

This is the first time our 16 Wisdom has ever been a setback, but the difference between +3 and +4 typically won't be a problem.

Foe Slayer can turn a miss into a hit since you can use it after the roll is made, so the primary use case is as an attack bonus. Turning a miss into a his will deal more damage than applying the +3 damage. If you make it to your last attack for the turn and all of your attacks either hit or rolled too low to save, use Foe Slayer for the bonus damage. You can use it once every turn, and you should make every effort to do so.