Introduction

The Hunter is easy to dismiss at a glance. After all, it’s one of the original subclasses from the PHB, it’s in the SRD, and it’s old, so surely newer subclasses are superior. Not necessarily. The Hunter might not be flashy, but instead it’s incredibly consistent, being able to pump out plenty of weapon damage every turn with options for both ranged and melee.

In a party, the Hunter Archetype is all about increased damage and increased self survivability, but with choices at every feature the exact nature of those benefits is the Hunter’s choice. For example, a Colossus Slayer Hunter does an extra 1d8 once per turn when it hits with a weapon attack while a Giant Killer Hunter can attack as a reaction if a Large or larger creature attacks the Hunter regardless of the triggering attack’s hit or miss.

What really sets Hunter apart is the Multiattack feature. Most Ranger Archetypes gain some kind of attack steroid at eleventh level, usually some extra damage or one extra attack. Hunter instead gets either a melee swing against every adjacent target, or a ranged attack against every target in a 10 foot radius of a point within range, multiplying the benefits of additional damage from sources such as Sharpshooter or Elemental Weapon.

The example build makes some silly choices in order to wear heavy armor and be part Cleric while firing all the arrows. If you want to do damage with a light side-dish of support, this build will show you a fun way to pull that off.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

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. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we 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.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Hunter Features

  1. Hunter’s Prey: Much like your choice of Fighting Style, this is a definitive part of how your Ranger fights. Targeting foes which optimize your choice of Hunter’s Prey will is a central part of the Hunter’s tactics, so choose targets carefully rather than rushing the closest enemy.
    • Colossus Slayer: Always reliable and always effective, 1d8 damage for free each round is a nice boost that roughly matches similar damage from other ranger subclasses. Most creatures will take some amount of damage early in a fight, so it’s easy to trigger this damage bonus and you don’t need to spend a Bonus Action to activate it like some other subclass damage boosts, so options like Two-Weapon Fighting and Crossbow Expert are still viable.

      Generally this is the best Hunter’s Prey option for melee builds because melee builds are usually forced to focus on a single enemy at a time since switching targets typically involves getting hit with an Opportunity Attack.

    • Giant Killer: A lot of enemies are Large or larger, especially big martial enemies like beasts, dragons, fiends, etc. This requires that the subject attack you, but if your AC is decent and you can handle being attacked a few times this can be an excellent source of damage output. Unfortunately, since this doesn’t apply to every enemy, you may find that numerous encounters don’t benefit from Giant Killer. If you know that your campaign will involve numerous oversized enemies (Storm King’s Thunder is a great example if you’re looking at published campaigns), this is a good choice. Otherwise, you might just decide to be happy only using this some of the time.
    • Horde Breaker: In encounters with numerous foes, this is a significant damage boost, but the extra attack has strict requirements and doesn’t cooperate with staple ranger options like Hunter’s Mark/Favored Foe which encourage you to focus on bringing down one target at a time rather than spreading damage to multiple foes. Consider instead buffs that boost your weapon on all attacks like Elemental Weapon or Guardian of Nature.

      Melee builds will have trouble using this unless you have reach, especially if enemies are attacking your allies rather than swarming you. Ranged builds will have less trouble because you can easily switch targets to any enemies who happen to be close enough together.

  2. Defensive Tactics: All of the options are technically situational, but I would pick Multiattack Defense nine times out of ten.
    • Escape the Horde: Rangers are more durable than Rogues, so running away from enemies isn’t something you typically need to do. If you do need to run away, consider taking the Disengage action. If you need to run away a lot, consider the Mobile feat.
    • Multiattack Defense: Large single enemies frequently have multiple attacks, especially as you gain levels, so this boost to AC will occur frequently and will prevent a lot of damage.
    • Steel Will: Fear effects are common, but generally won’t get you killed. You can also get this resistance from numerous sources, such as the Halfling’s Brave trait.
  3. Multiattack: Both options are fantastic. To get the most out of this feature, look for effects that add damage to every attack, such as Magic Weapon or Great Weapon Master.
    • Volley: The obvious choice for ranged builds. This won’t benefit much from Hunter’s Mark/Favored Foe, but hitting three or more foes will typically deal more damage than focusing on a single marked target.
    • Whirlwind Attack: Melee builds not built around two-weapon fighting will get the most out of this ability since their normal attacks deal higher damage than TWF builds, and since you’re not taking the Attack action you can’t spend your Bonus Action to make an additional attack. Unfortunately, it’s limited to creatures within 5 feet of you, so you can’t abuse reach to get additional targets.

      However, even TWF builds may find this ability helpful since they may still get the same number of attacks without consuming their Bonus Action, allowing you to use it for something like casting a spell.

  4. Superior Hunter’s Defense: Uncanny Dodge is clearly the best option here, but Evasion is good, too.
    • Evasion: With high Dexterity and proficiency in Dexterity saves, this makes you practically immune to AOE damage effects like Fireball and breath weapons.
    • Stand Against the Tide: The positioning to make this work is very difficult in most situations, and as soon as enemies see you do this they’re reasonably going to space themselves out to prevent you from doing it again.
    • Uncanny Dodge: The majority of damage you will take in the game will come from attacks. Combined with Multiattack Defense, you can reduce the damage of the first hit, then dramatically reduce the likelihood of suffering further hits.

Hunter Ability Scores

Hunters can just follow the Ranger Handbook and do fine, or they can go Strength and pick up a greatsword for Horde Breaker Whirlwind shenanigans. The main problem with Strength builds are the multiclass minimums for Rangers: 13 Dexterity and Wisdom.

Str: More often than not, we want to go Dexterity based. There are some interesting Strength builds though, which is why this is Orange.

Dex: We’ll use this for everything important nine times out of ten Even if we go Strength, we need Dexterity for medium armor or multiclass minimums.

Con: We want HP and we have some very important Concentration spells.

Int: Dump it.

Wis: Perception, Survival, Save DCs and Multiclass minimum.

Cha: Dump it.

This table assumes we’re just doing Dexterity based.

Point BuyStandard Array
Str812
Dex1515
Con1514
Int810
Wis1513
Cha88

Hunter Races

Consult the Ranger Races Handbook as nothing is significantly different about the needs of the subclass.

Hunter Feats

Read the Ranger Handbook for anything not mentioned here.

  • Crossbow ExpertPHB: You might think this is a good option, but the bonus action attack is incompatible with Volley because Volley is not the Attack Action. However, that only applies after we get Volley at eleventh level. Switching to a Heavy Crossbow when Volley becomes an option would work, but at that point this feat is losing more ground to Gunner because it gives up the +1 Dexterity.
  • Great Weapon MasterPHB: Because we have options that allow for getting in extra attacks against extra foes, added flat damage is great.
  • GunnerTCoE: Even if you can’t get a firearm, using this with a bow still works for ignoring Disadvantage firing in melee, while being a hybrid feat for +1 Dexterity. At high enough levels, Swift Quiver spell will give the only part of CBX that this doesn’t have, but Swift Quiver isn’t blocked by the Volley ability.
  • Heavily ArmoredPHB: If we want to go with a Strength based build without multiclassing, this becomes a very nice option.

Hunter Weapons

Hunter builds split down the center between Ranged and Melee options.

Melee

Because Rangers have access to all Martial weapons, there are cases to make for using Strength and Heavy weapons on the melee route. The following ratings assume a Strength Whirlwind GWM build for the Heavy weapons.

  • Glaive / Halberd / Pike: Whirlwind only works on creatures within 5 feet, but Horde Breaker does benefit from reach.
  • Greatsword / Maul: 2d6 on a Whirlwind attack can really cut up a lot of foes.
  • Whip: If we’re going with Dexterity based melee instead, the Whip can use the Dueling fighting style and while it can’t gain damage from Great Weapon Master, that means we don’t need to take that feat.

Ranged

Going for a Ranged setup, Bows are generally the go-to option followed by Firearms. Crossbows are not terrible. The problem comes from Crossbow Expert losing to Gunner when we Volley and due to competition for the Ranger’s Bonus Action from options like Hunter’s Mark and Swift Quiver.

  • Crossbow, Hand: Before level 11, this is an okay option as long as you take Crossbow Expert, but switch over to a Heavy Crossbow once you start to use Volley.
  • Crossbow, Heavy: The problem with this is that you’ll need Crossbow Expert even with Volley.
  • Longbow: The most flexible of the weapons, Longbow is not beholden to any specific feat, but can benefit from Gunner if you want to fire in melee.
  • Musket: Will do the most damage of any ranged weapon but requires the Gunner feat.
  • Pistol: Half the price of a musket for about 1 less DPR.
  • Shortbow: You have Longbow proficiency.

Hunter Armor

The Ranger Handbook is accurate for Dexterity Hunters

For Strength Whirlwind Hunters however:

  • Plate: Find some way to get proficiency with this if you’re pumping Strength. The easy way is the Heavily Armored feat. The hard way is Multiclassing because with Multiclassing we would need to still have at least 13 Dexterity to multiclass out of Ranger, and at that point you’ve almost filled out medium armor.

Hunter Multiclassing

Consult the Ranger Handbook as nothing is too different.

Example Hunter Build – Gunnhildr’s Blades

Your hands tell me that your skill in archery is far from ordinary.

Yoichinoyumi will fit snugly in your sure grasp.

-Ghebben (FFXI)

The Hunter can really choose to lean either into melee or ranged and both do fine but Ranged just does a little more with the benefits of ranged attacks. This example build can work with either a Longbow or a Musket because the Gunner feat gives us melee shooting even without having a firearm. We’re using Leonin as our race primarily for the 35 speed and Darkvision.

The reason we want a faster race is that we’re going to multiclass into Cleric and pick up Heavy Armor. Because we have 8 Strength we’ll lose 10 feet from our speeds, but because of the Deft Explorer optional class feature, we’ll gain 5 feet at sixth level. Together this lands us at 30 feet walking speed in heavy armor. It’s dumb, but it works and it’s funny.

We’re also taking Favored Foe as an optional class feature just because Favored Enemy is not great. It’s an option for rare occasions that we have one target and are not also using our Concentration on something else more important.

Abilities

Our race is Leonin, and we’re using Custom Origin rules to move the +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Wisdom.

BaseIncreasedLevel 20
Str888
Dex151720
Con151518
Int888
Wis151616
Cha888

Race

Leonin is our race for this build, but anything faster than 30 ft walking speed will work. We don’t really care about the claws, but the Darkvision is nice to have, and we can try out that roar that causes fear.

Other options include:

Centaur 40ft speed exceeds what we require, not that that would be a bad thing, but it loses Darkvision which can be a bad thing.

Dhampir Some skills, a climb speed equal to walking speed, Darkvision. Perfectly fine to use in this build.

Wood Elf Instead of claws it has four martial proficiencies that can be traded out with Custom Origin rules for any four tools or for scimitars or whips as suggested above.

Background

For a background we pick Gladiator or Entertainer (which are identical by the way) because despite being supposedly about Dexterity, Rangers can’t pick Acrobatics. If you can pick a Strixhaven background, Prismari Student has the same skills and bonus spells. If you can’t pick a Strixhaven background but can pick a Ravnica background, Rakdos Cultist also has the same skills and different bonus spell list.

If we go with Prismari, the cantrips we take from Prismari Initiate are Prestidigitation and Ray of Frost, and for a 1st-level spell we take Shield off the Sorcerer list.

Skills and Tools

From Leonin we take Survival. From Ranger we pick Animal Handling, Perception, and Insight, with Expertise in Perception from Deft Explorer. From our Background we get Acrobatics, Cook’s Utensils, and Performance.

Feats

We’ll be dipping a level of Cleric with the Life Domain at second level which will delay our ASIs/feats by a level.

If you have access to Strixhaven backgrounds, at first level Prismari Student gives us Strixhaven Initiate feat as described above in the Background subsection.

At fifth level, we take the Gunner feat to add +1 to Dexterity and allow us to fire our Longbow in melee without Disadvantage. If you have access to firearms, a Pistol or Musket are both good upgrades from a Longbow, but this feat still works great with Archery.

At ninth level, we take Sharpshooter to boost our damage against less armored targets as well as make more use of attacks at long range. The Archery style will help offset both the penalty from using Sharpshooter and from not taking our ASI this early.

At thirteenth level, we take an ASI to cap Dexterity.

At seventeenth level, we take Resilient (Constitution) to round it off and boost our Concentration saves.

At twentieth level, we take an ASI for +2 Constitution.

Class Features

Because Hunter has choices at every subclass feature, this section goes over those choices.

At Ranger third level, for Hunter’s Prey we take Horde Breaker because it’s free additional attacks. While Colossus Slayer is slightly more consistent since Horde Breaker requires multiple targets to be adjacent, any additional damage we can get on attacks, such as Sharpshooter or magical bonuses, will apply to the free attack.

At Ranger seventh level, for Defensive Tactics we take Multiattack Defence. Sure, we have to actually get hit once for it to trigger, but it’s still more useful than the other options.

At Ranger eleventh level, for Multiattack we’re taking Volley because we’re ranged. Importantly, Volley can trigger Horde Breaker, which would allow us to hit someone twice if adjacent creatures are in the Volley together.

At Ranger fifteenth level, for Superior Hunter’s Defense, we’ll be taking Uncanny Dodge. If we happen to know Shield from the Strixhaven Initiate background we’ll want Evasion instead because Shield is a better use of our Reaction than Uncanny Dodge because the AC lasts the entire round.

Levels

LevelsFeats and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
1-Ranger 1Skills
-Animal Handling
-Acrobatics
-Insight
-Perception
-Performance
-Survival

Tools
-Cook’s Utensils

Deft Explorer

Expertise
-Perception

Favored Foe 1d4
We take the starting equipment for a Ranger.
Ranger
-Scale Mail – It’s decent medium armor for our start.
-Two Melee Weapons – These are mostly for the wilderness utility of being a small axe and a small knife.
–Dagger
–Handaxe
-Explorer’s Pack
-Longbow and Arrows – Our primary weapon. 1d8+dex
2-Cleric 1Life Domain
-Heavy Armor
-Domain Spells
–Bless
–Cure Wounds
-Disciple of Life

Spellcasting
-Cantrips
–Light
–Mending
–Word of Radiance
-1st-level Cleric Spells
We immediately take a dip into Life Cleric to gain Heavy Armor proficiency and Disciple of Life. We’ll eventually put on some plate armor to be well armored, but we’re really interested in Disciple of Life. Next level when we get back to Ranger, we’ll choose Goodberry as one of our spells. Each individual berry gains the bonus healing, which is great for healing in between battles, giving us a total of 40 hp worth of healing from a 1st-level slot.

We also gain three Cleric cantrips. We choose Light, Mending, and Word of Radiance. Because Clerics can prepare new spells each day, consult the Cleric Spell Breakdown for good options. Personally, Healing Word, Protection from Evil and Good, and Shield of Faith would be my go-to picks.
3-Ranger 2Fighting Style
-Archery

Spellcasting
-1st-level Ranger Spells
–Fog Cloud
–Goodberry
Hold up. Did you catch that? We don’t have Hunter’s Mark. Aren’t Rangers required by law to take that spell?

Let’s review our Concentration spells really quickly. Life Domain means we always prepare Bless, which is a boost to three targets both offensively and defensively. We also carry three flavors of defensive buff: Protection from Good and Evil, Shield of Faith, and Fog Cloud. On Fog Cloud, cast it behind yourself when you’re fighting at long range then just stand a few feet into the cloud when it’s not your turn. And if we don’t need any of those, Favored Foe can just stand in for Hunter’s Mark.

Also, as mentioned above, Goodberry combines well with Disciple of Life to be the most healing that can be squeezed out of a 1st-level spell slot. In fact, because Goodberry lasts 24 hours, if you have slots at bedtime, spend every slot on tomorrow’s Goodberries. Yes, even higher-level slots, as each slot adds +1 health per berry because of Disciple of Life.
4-Ranger 3Ranger Archetype
-Hunter
–Hunter’s Prey
—Horde Breaker

Primeval Awareness

Spellcasting
-1st-level Ranger Spell
–Longstrider
We gain our subclass, Hunter, and make our first choice, Hordebreaker, which allows us to attack an extra target adjacent to our first target. This is part of why we chose to forgo Hunter’s Mark, which only applies to one target while Bless would apply to every attack.

We’re taking Longstrider because it will give us additional movement speed. In a few levels, Deft Explorer will grant Climbing and Swimming speeds equal to Walking speed which this will boost as well.

If you really want Hunter’s Mark, go ahead and take it instead of Longstrider, but I recommend trading it out for Elemental Weapon when 3rd-level spells show up.
5-Ranger 4Feat: Gunner
+1 Dexterity (17=>18)
With Gunner, our Dexterity rounds out to give a +4 modifier. Additionally, even if we’re not using firearms, the ability to fire in melee works with any ranged attack.

We don’t learn any spells at this level, but because of our Cleric level, we have four 1st-level spell slots and two 2nd-level spell slots which are great for upcasting Bless or Longstrider.
6-Ranger 5Extra Attack

Spellcasting
-2nd-level Ranger Spell
–Kinetic Jaunt
–Or–
–Pass Without Trace
We get to shoot more arrows.

More importantly, we get a 2nd-level spell. If we’re allowed to be a Prismari Student, Kinetic Jaunt is a great way to get out of dangerous situations. Otherwise, Pass Without Trace is just great for hitting maximum Stealth checks.
7-Ranger 6Favored Foe 1d6

Deft Explorer
-Roving
Roving improves our move speed and grants an equal speed to Climbing and Swimming. The important part is that if we’ve put on Heavy Armor, between this and our 35 base speed, we end up at 30 feet like the majority of playable races.
8-Ranger 7Defensive Tactics
-Multiattack Defense

Spellcasting
-2nd-level Ranger Spell
–Pass Without Trace
Between this and the plate armor, we shouldn’t be actually getting hit. Doubly so if we’re a Prismari Student and took Shield.

Pass Without Trace is useful even if we wear something that gives Disadvantage to Stealth. The +10 will help us deal with that.
9-Ranger 8Feat
-Sharpshooter

Land’s Stride
Sharpshooter is the kind of attack steroid we need. Especially when we start to fire Volleys in a few levels, this becomes a lot of extra damage. Between Bless and Fighting Style (Archery) we’ve easily offset the attack penalty.
10-Ranger 9Spellcasting
-3rd-level Ranger Spell
–Elemental Weapon
If you took Hunter’s Mark and are trading it out for Elemental Weapon, then also take Revivify.
11-Ranger 10Hide in Plain Sight

Deft Explorer
-Tireless
Hide in Plain Sight allows hiding when only lightly obscured. We’re probably not the most sneaky Ranger because of Heavy Armor, but we can always give it a try.

Tireless is a small boost. Use it once between fights to go into a fight with some temporary HP.
12-Ranger 11Multiattack
-Volley

Spellcasting
-3rd-level Ranger Spell
–Revivify
Volley is one of the best things a martial character could ever ask for: an AoE attack.

Revivify is for those times the Cleric has an oopsie.
13-Ranger 12ASI: Dexterity +2 (18=>20)Capping our Dexterity for +5 modifier.
14-Ranger 13Spellcasting
-4th-level Ranger Spell
–Guardian of Nature
Guardian of Nature in Tree Mode will grant us Advantage on all our ranged attacks.
15-Ranger 14Vanish

Favored Foe – 1d8
Not the most exciting feature. Rogues could do this at level 2.
16-Ranger 15Superior Hunter’s Defense
-Evasion
–Or–
-Uncanny Dodge

Spellcasting
-4th-level Ranger Spell
–Freedom of Movement
If we are a Prismari Student who learned Shield all the way back at first level, we’ll take Evasion because of the competing Reactions.

Otherwise, Uncanny Dodge is our pick here because most damage will come from attacks.
17-Ranger 16Feat: Resilient (Constitution)
+1 Constitution (15=>16)
This just makes it easier to keep Concentration when we get smacked.
18-Ranger 17Spellcasting
-5th-level Ranger Spell
–Swift Quiver
Unlike Crossbow Expert, Swift Quiver doesn’t care what our action was. Instead we just get two attacks with our Bonus Action, even if we used Volley.
19-Ranger 18Feral SensesA weird kind of blindsight that only beats invisibility. It’s ok.
20-Ranger 19ASI: Constitution +2 (16=>18)

Spellcasting
-5th-level Ranger Spell
–Greater Restoration
Boost that Constitution score to get a little more HP.