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Pathfinder 2e - The Ranger Handbook

Last Updated: May 18th, 2020

Disclaimer

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.

  • 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.

Introduction

The Ranger is skilled martial character sharing elements of the Fighter and the Rogue with some nature elements, capable of filling several roles within the party. The Ranger thrives as a Scout and Striker, and can provide some Support capabilities depending on their choice of class feats. The Ranger has ample skills, gaining more base skill proficiencies at 1st level than any class except the Rogue, which leaves ample room to fill other roles in the party based solely on your skills. With the right skills and ability scores, the Ranger can serve as a Librarian or as a Face, though you won't be able to compete with classes which provide Class Feats for those skillsets or which use Intelligence or Charisma as their Key Ability Score.

If you are familiar with the Ranger from 1st edition Pathfinder or from any edition of DnD, there is a lot here that is different. While the core concept of the Ranger is still the same, a lot has changed here. You can still have an animal companion, and two-weapon fighting and archery builds are still great, but PF2's rangers don't have spellcasting, and core features like Favored Enemy and Favored Terrain have been made into class feats so you're no longer locked into them.

One of the more novel changes which Paizo has made to the ranger between editions of Pathfinder is granting the Ranger a number of support features, allowing them to share the benefits of their signature Hunt Prey and Hunter's Edge features with their allies. The intent is that you'll do this with your Animal Companion, but the Ranger Class Feats which grant these support options can apply to any if your allies, so if you have another capable martial ally in the party like a fighter or a rogue you can act as a significant force multiplier, boosting their effectiveness considerably by sharing your own capabilities temporarily. That should by no means discourage you from investing in an Animal Companion, because the Ranger has several great and unique ways to do so, but it's an interesting and refreshing concept to let the ranger play a supporting role without relying on magic or something.

Ranger Class Features

Key Ability: Strength or Dexterity.

Hit Points: 10+ hit points matches martial classes like the Champion and the Fighter, but without heavy armor and Armor Specialization Effects, you're not quite as durable as those classes but the Ranger is still perfectly capable of standing on the front lines, especially with an Animal Companion to support them.

Initial Proficiencies: The Ranger isn't the best at anything (though they get the best Class DC progression and use it for nearly nothing), but they're good at everything. They're a spectacularly versatile class capable of a wide variety of builds and roles, and their initial proficiencies do a lot to support that.

  • Perception: The Ranger starts at Expert in Perception, and advances nearly as quickly as the Rogue.
  • Saving Throws: The Ranger's Fortitude and Reflex saves are fine, but their Will saves are among the worst, and without a class dependency on Wisdom it's easy to accidently dump your Will saves.
  • Skills: A total of 6+ skills, so the Ranger has more base skills than any class except the Rogue, though the Ranger geta skill increases and skill feats at the same speed as everyone else.
  • Attacks: Your weapon proficiencies advance as quickly as other martial classes like the Barbarian and the Champion.
  • Defenses: Light and Medium armor, and your proficiency advances as quickly as the Fighter's. You never get access to Armor Specialization Effects, so there's nothing compelling you to wear heavier armor than you need.
  • Class DC: The Ranger matches the best Class DC progression in the game, but they use it for nearly nothing. It applies to Critical Specialization Effects, and you can use it for Snare DC's if you take Ranger Expertise, but without taking an archetype there's nothing else.

Hunt Prey: On its own, Hunt Prey doesn't do much. However, it allows you to use Hunter's Edge and many Ranger Class Feats against your Hunted Prey. As you gain levels, you'll gain access to Class Feats which add to the effects and which allow you to target multiple foes and/or share the benefits of Hunt Prey with your allies. Hunt Prey is a central mechanic of the Ranger, both in and out of combat, so understanding how it works is crucial to playing the Ranger well.

For most of your career, Hunt Prey takes 1 Action and targets a single creature. The bonuses you get from Hunt Prey, including things like Hunter's Edge, are significant and can improve as you add class feats. If you can, try to use it outside of combat to save yourself the Action when a fight breaks out, but remember that you'll likely want to pick new prey as soon as your existing prey is dealt with. You don't necessarily need to kill your target before changing prey: incapacitating them, causing them to flee, or any other means of making them no longer a threat is sufficient that you can justify changing targets in many cases.

Hunter's Edge: Hunter's Edge defines your viable build options in much the same way that other classes' subclasses do. Flurry and Precision emphasize very different ways to fight, and therefore different ways to build your character. Outwit takes much of the emphasis off of offense, and places it on skills.

Keep in mind that if you take an Animal Companion, your Animal Companion also gains the benefit of your Hunter's Edge, so it's often helpful to plan your companion and your Hunter's Edge at the same time to ensure that they work well together.

  • Flurry: Generally your go-to option. PF2 relies heavily on characters making multiple Strikes in a turn, and Ranger Class Feats like Hunted Shot and Twin Takedown allow you to make as many as four Strikes in a turn, so reducing your Multiple Attack Penalty pays off very quickly. This is the go-to option for most rangers.
  • Precision: A good option for builds which aren't making huge numbers of attacks per turn, like two-handed weapon builds, crossbow builds, and sword-and-board builds. This is also a good option for Animal Companion builds because your Animal Companion only gets two Actions per turn (unless you use Companion's Cry), so they won't get much out of Flurry. The damage is significant, especially at low levels, and the scaling is decent.
  • Outwit: The best option for a skill-based ranger, the bonuses to skills are easy to apply even in social situations because Hunt Prey doesn't have visual or audio components, so targets won't know that you're using it. You can use it on your friends, and they'll never know unless you tell them. The AC bonus is a Circumstance bonus, so it won't stack with weapons with the Parry trait or with the bonus from Raise a Shield. Even so, an AC bonus is always useful, and if you have an Animal Companion they get the bonus too.

Ranger Feats: See Ranger feats, below.

Skill Feats: Standard for everyone except the Rogue.

Skill Increases: Standard for everyone except the Rogue.

Iron Will: Will saves are your worst save, so any bonus is welcome.

General Feats: Standard.

Ability Boosts: Standard.

Ancestry Feats: Standard.

Trackless Step: Very situational. Fortunately, it doesn't cost you annything to use and the Ranger is Trained in Survival at first level so even if you totally disregard this ability it'll continue to work in the background until the one time your DM decides that you've been tracked. Unfortunately, the the "Cover Tracks" action doesn't mention allies or other creatures, so it appears to only apply to your own tracks.

Weapon Expertise: Your proficiency with weapons advances at the same rate as other martial classes like the Barbarian and the Rogue. You also gain access to Critical Specialization effects, but only against your Hunted Prey.

Evasion: Rangers get the second-best Reflex save progression in the game, behind only the Rogue. This helps reinforce the Ranger's ability to replace the Rogue as a Scout, allowing you to survive things like disarming traps.

Vigilant Senses: Rangers get the second-best Perception progression in the game, behind only the Rogue.

Weapon Specialization: More damage is always great, and with options like Hunted Shot and Twin Takedown, small damage bonuses can add up quickly over multiple attacks.

Nature's Edge: Situational. Fun when it comes up, but since the terrain needs to be natural difficult terrain it's hard to count on unless you've drawn your foes into an ambush or something. You can also trigger this effect with a Snare, but the only Snare which creates difficult terrain is the Hampering Snare. If you're investing in Snares, using Hampering Snare to trigger Nature's Edge is a great way to get a lot out of a cheap, low-level Snare, but it's not going to kill your enemies on its own.

Ranger Expertise: Rangers follow the best Class DC progression and get access to Critical Specialization Effects, so if you're not already using a weapon with a good effect, you should strongly consider it.

Juggernaut: Between Evasion and Juggernaut, you're well-protected against both Fortitude and Reflex saves, but you're still vulnerable to Will saves so be cautious around enemy spellcasters and other such enemies.

Medium Armor Expertise: More AC is always welcome.

Wild Stride: This is great for melee builds, and if you rely on Snares and use the Hampering Snare to create difficult terrain you can move through its effect unimpeded while your Hunted Prey suddenly suffers the effects of your Nature's Edge feature.

Weapon Mastery: More attack bonus.

Greater Weapon Specialization: More damage.

Improved Evasion: No more fear of fireballs.

Incredible Senses: Legendary in Perception feels really good, and you'll use it almost constantly.

Masterful Hunter:

  • Flurry: Further reduce the Multiple Attack Penalty. Your Multiple Attack Penalty with your third and subsequent attacks is just -4, which is the same penalty that most characters suffer for using an Agile weapon on their second attack.
  • Precision: This is a frustrating option. You spent 16 levels putting a ton of damage into a single Strike, now suddenly you're being tempted by multiple Strikes per turn. You get diminishing extra damage, but it's still enough damage that a second Strike will feel nice despite not getting quite as much extra damage.

    Because it's explained terribly, I'll summarize the effects: At level 17 when you gain Masterful Hunter, you add 2d8 with your first attack and 1d8 with your second. At level 19, you add 3d8 with your first attack, 2d8 with your second, and 1d8 with your third.

  • Outwit: Unless you invested enough Skill Increases to get the affected skills up to Master, you might get nothing from this. That seems unlikely, but it's technically possible if you intentionally make a terrible character. You don't get the AC bonus improvement until level 19, either. Really, this whole feature is incredibly frustrating. Still, a +4 bonus on a skill is really good.

Second Skin: More AC is always nice.

Swift Prey: This a massive game changer for the Ranger. The 1-Action cost to use Hunt Prey has been a frustrating tax on your action economy for your whole career, and suddenly it's mostly gone.

Ability Scores

The Ranger's ability to capitalize on nearly any ability score is vexxing. It's hard to recommend specific ability score spreads because there's so much room to customize. Honestly, from a class design perspective it's impressive, but from the perspective of someone trying to write a character optimization handbook it's confusing.

The Ranger allows you to select either Strength or Dexterity as your key Ability Score, and either can work depending on what capabilities you want to emphasize. Beyond that, rangers can be incredibly diverse so it's difficult to recommend specific ability socres. Rangers get more skills than most classes, and with the additional skills at first level you can easily fill a variety of skill-based roles in the party. So long as either your Strength or Dexterity is high and you have enough Constitution you can make everything else work.

Your choice of ability scores is going to vary wildly depending on your build. In most cases you'll pick your Key Ability Score (Strength or Dexterity), then raise the other option to 12 or 14 at first level, and you might never boost it again. From there, Constitution will typically be your second-highest Ability Score. Then, pick two of the mental ability scores which complement your build, and boost those with any remaining ability boosts. If you're every unsure, go for Intelligence and Wisdom.

Str: Crucial for Strength-based builds. Even in a Dexterity-based build, Strength can still offer some helpful extra damage, especially at low levels. Dexterity-based melee builds still add Strength to weapon damage even while using Finesse weapons, and archers can use compostite bows with the Propulsive property get a little bit of extra damage. But if you need to dump Strength to focus on other ability scores, you can dump Strength and avoid Propulsive weapons and you'll do just fine. You may need a bit of Strength to meet the Strength Threshold for your armor, but a Dexterity-based build won't need more than 14 Strength (though more may add some extra damage if you need it).

Dex: Crucial for Dexterity-based builds, but even Strength-based builds will want at least 12 to fill out the Dexterity cap for your armor.

Con: Hit points and Fortitude Saves. In most builds, this will be your second-highest Ability Score. Rangers are still a martial class, so you're expected to draw fire away from your squishier allies like wizards and rogues.

Int: Rangers get more initial Trained skills than most classes, and Warden builds can benefit from the extra bonus to knowledge skills like Arcana and Occultism.

Wis: Perception and Will Saves. Will Saves are the Ranger's biggest weakness, so dumping Wisdom is a terrible idea

Cha: The closest thing that the Ranger gets to a dump stat. While none of the Ranger's class features rely on Charisma, they get enough skills that you could easily be your party's Face.

Ancestries

Because rangers can thrive on so many different combinations of ability scores, there is a ton of flexibility in your Ancestry options. Look for other benefits which complement your build like Darkvision for stealthy rangers, new weapons for more directly offensive builds, and interesting Ancestry Feats which might complement your combat tactics.

Dwarf: Without resorting to the Optional Flaw rules, the Dwarf is a great basis for any ranger. Constitution and Wisdom boosts will pad your hit points and raise your saving throws, and you can put the Flexible Ability Boost into your choice of Strength or Dexterity. Darkvision and high hit points from your Ancestry are a great benefit for stealth builds and for front-line melee builds, and the Clan Dagger is a decent off-hand weapon for two-weapon builds (though the Main-Gauche is better). The Heritages Ancient-Blooded Dwarf and Death Warden Dwarf offer defenses which way be helpful against effects which target the Ranger's poor Will Saves. The Dwarf Lore feat is tempting for both Warden builds and Snare builds.

Elf: Dexterity and Intelligence are great for a highly-skilled ranged build. With a Constitution flaw I'm always hesitant to recommend melee, but with Hunter's Edge (Flurry) the Elven Curve Blade looks tempting. Elf Ancestry Feats offer ways to improve your mobility like Nimble Elf and Elf Step, and the Ancestral Longevity feat chain is a nice complement to the Ranger's already excellent capabilities with skills.

Gnome: The ability scores work well for a Face build, which the Ranger has plenty of skills to do. If you don't want to be a Face, use the Optional Flaw rules. Gnome Ancestry Feats offer fun options like access to an animal familiar and some limited spellcasting, both of which can be exciting ways to expand the Ranger's capabilities.

Goblin: A Wisdom Flaw is hard since Will Saves are the Ranger's biggest weakness, but you can survive a -1 penalty. The Razortooth Goblin's bite attack offers an interesting combination with Hunter's Edge (Flurry), allowing you to switch to an Agile weapon held in hand while still using a shield. Goblin Weapon Familiarity offers access to the Dogslicer, which is a powerful option for finesse builds. Junk Tinker might work with Snares without using the normal crafting rules (Snares normally take 1 minute to craft, but you can do the normal 4-day crafting to then spend more time to save money), but check with your GM to see how they'd like to handle it. Rough Rider works great for Animal Companion builds.

Halfling: The ability boosts are perfect for any Dexterity-based build, and the Strength Flaw is easy to either offset or ignore. Keen Eyes overlaps with Hunt Prey somewhat since they both provide Circumstance Bonuses, but that's fine. Several Heritage options look interesting for a variety of use cases. The Halfling Luck feat tree is spectacular, and can help protect your from the Ranger's poor Will saves.

Human: Two Free Ability Boosts is plenty for most builds, and the Human is exceptionally customizable which fits the Ranger very well. The Natural Ambition Ancestry Feat can make you very powerful at first level, and makes it easier to combine aspects of different Ranger build concepts.

Backgrounds

If you're built for melee, look for a Constitution Boost. Otherwise, you just need a Boost to your Primary Ability Score. Ranged builds tend to suffer less damage, so you're free to spread your Ability Boosts around rather than pouring all of your resources into a straight Str/Con or Dex/Con build, so you might boost Intelligence for extra skills or Wisdom to compensate for your low Will saves and to improve your Perception.

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

  • Animal Whisperer: Boost Dexterity and Wisdom, and go for a ranged build with an Animal Companion.
  • Artisan / Artist: Snares!
  • Bounty Hunter: Tracking doesn't come up much, but thematically this makes a lot of sense.
  • Hermit: Great for Librarian/Support build.
  • Hunter / Nomad / Scout: Probably the most obvious and generic ranger background options, these three are nearly identical, mostly differing only in the Skll Feat which you gain from the Background.

Skills and Skill Feats

You get Skill Increases at 3rd and 5th level to raise skills to Expert, increases at 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th level to raise skills to Master, and increases at 15th, 17th, and 19th level to raise skills to Legendary. That means that you can maximize at most three skills, and the rest of your skills might not advance beyond Trained.

You get Skill Feats at even-numbered levels, giving you a total of 10 Skill Feats (and maybe another from your Background) by 20th level. Generally you want to invest these feats in the same skills which you are choosing to maximize, though in some cases you may want to grab feats from skills which don't require that you be more than Trained.

  • Acrobatics (Dex): While not incredibly useful on its own, Acrobatics lets you qualify for Cloud Step and Implausible Infiltration, both of which are spectacular.
  • Arcana (Int): Essential for Warden builds, but still helpful for other builds to identify monsters.
  • Athletics (Str): A useful option for melee builds, but not essential.
  • Crafting (Int): Rangers have several feats which relate to using Snares, and if you intend to use Snares you need Crafting. Depending on your build and your role in the party, you may also
    • Alchemical Crafting: If you're going to invest heavily in crafting Snares, a little bit of extra investment could make alchemy viable, too.
    • Inventor: While Snare builds do get numerous formulas for free, high-level formulas are still very expensive. Inventor can help cut that cost significantly.
    • Snare Crafting: No one cane use snares as well as the ranger.
    • Specialty Crafting: Snares aren't a listed specialty for some reason.
      • Impeccable Crafting: You don't make Craft checks to craft Snares in most cases.
  • Deception (Cha): Useful for a Face, but otherwise unimportant.
  • Diplomacy (Cha): Essential for any Face.
  • Intimidation (Cha): A great option for a Face, and Demoralize makes it a useful option in combat, especially on builds which use Hunter's Edge (Precision) and get greatly reduced benefits from numerous Strikes in the same turn.
    • Assurance: If you're heavily reliant on Demoralize, you need this. However, Assurance won't always guarantee success. See my Practical Guide to Assurance for more information.
    • Battlecry: Demoralize for free when combat starts. It might not be a good option if you're hiding, but otherwise it's a free debuff at the beginning of every fight.
    • Terrified Retreat: Counting on a critical success is hard, but if your Charisma is very high it might work.
    • Scare to Death: Spend one Action to pick out the creature in the room the lowest Will save and kill them or send them fleeing. Repeat until the room is cleared. At this point you only need weapons for things that are strong enough to threaten your whole party on their own, and even then this can still replace the Demoralize action almost entirely.
  • Lore (Int): Versatile, but vaguely defined and hard to rely upon. If you have high Intelligence at 1st level and your party can cover essential knowledge skills like Arcana and Religion, consider picking up a few types of Lore.
  • Medicine (Wis): Not crucial, but you should have enough
  • Nature (Wis): You're Trained in nature for free.
    • Bonded Animal: Basically "Diet Animal Companion". While the animal is helpful to you, it's not any more powerful than a normal animal. You could get a horse to serve as a mount, or a bird to fetch items and deliver messages, but don't look for anything to fight with.
    • Natural Medicine: This is a bad feat. It only applies to Treat Wounds, and if you're good at Nature you have everything that you need to be good at Medicine, too. Instead of wasting a Skill Feat on this, spend that same Skill Feat to improve your options with Medicine.
    • Train Animal: A nice way to add some extra tricks to your Animal Companion so that it can do more than fight things.
  • Occultism (Int): Essential for Warden builds, but still helpful for other builds to identify monsters.
  • Performance (Cha): Not particularly useful
  • Religion (Wis): Essential for Warden builds, but still helpful for other builds to identify monsters.
  • Society (Int): Useful for Face builds, and feats like Read Lips and Sign Language are helpful for scouting.
    • Read Lips: Occasionally Helpful in campaigns with humanoid enemies which you can spy on.
    • Sign Language: Great for communicating stealthily, provided that someone else your party also takes this.
  • Stealth (Dex): In most parties, you're the party's Rogue equivalent, so you'll be expected to do some sneaking and exploring.
    • Assurance: Get a consistently high result on Initiative, and never worry about being spotted because you rolled terribly. However, Assurance won't always guarantee success on normal Stealth checks where you're opposing a target's Perception. See my Practical Guide to Assurance for more information.
    • Foil Senses: Special senses like Tremorsense can easily negate even the best Stealth checks if you don't know to be prepared for them. This feat removes that annoyance.
    • Quiet Allies: The phrase "using the lowest modifier" means that your allies add the +2 Circumstance Bonus, rather than using whichever Circumstance Bonus you would normally get based on your Proficiency. You also share a single roll with your party, so you're no longer effectively dragged down by whoever rolls the lowest/
    • Swift Sneak: Extremely helpful if you're sneaking in combat.
  • Survival (Wis): Only rarely useful, but you're Trained for free.
  • Thievery (Dex): Used for both opening locks and disabling traps, no adventuring party is likely to succeed without someone passable at Thievery.

General Skill Feats

  • Automatic Knowledge: Helpful for Warden builds, but it only works once per day so it's hard to justify spending a feat on it.
  • Dubious Knowledge: This feat is silly and it's hard to seriously recommend it, but I would absolutely love to see this on a Warden build because I want to watch a party stumble through fights, sometimes making life-or-death tactical decisions based on information which might be wildly inaccurate. I don't want to do it myself because that would likely lead to the untimely death by myself or a party member, but I wan't to see it happen purely for the comedic value.

Feats

Ranger Feats

1st Level
  • Animal Companion: Animal Companions are powerful, but also complicated. For help with your Animal Companion, see my Practical Guide to Animal Companions. The Ranger notably gets to grant their Hunter's Edge to their Animal Companion, offer a significant buff against your hunted prey. However, it also means that your choice of Hunter's Edge is an important consideration when selecting your Animal Companion.
  • Crossbow Ace: If you're going to use crossbows, this is essential. But crossbows aren't a great option, and there aren't enough feats to overcome the fact that you need to spend 1 or more Actions to reload them. The damage bonus is a Circumstance bonus, so it won't stack with other options like Deadly Aim.
  • Hunted Shot: Two attacks in one Action, and you get to combine their damage for the purposes of damage resistances and weaknesses. Two attacks is usually enough in a turn, but if you don't need to move you can make 4 attacks in 1 turn right from level 1. This only works with Reload 0 weapons like bows and you need to use Hunt Prey on the target before you can use this, but if you're going to use a bow this is simply too good to pass up. Bow users from other classes should absolutely multiclass into ranger just for this feat.
  • Monster Hunter: This is a bad feat at the root of a terrible feat tree. You need to critically succeed on a Recall Knowledge check which requires an Action which you must take after the Action for Hunt Prey (typically during combat) in order to get you and each of your allies a +1 Circumstance bonus to one attack each against a single creature. If you're facing 4 of the same type of creature, you need to spend the two Actions to Hunt Prey then to Recall Knowledge to have a chance to get this bonus. The later feats in the tree don't make this better.
  • Twin Takedown: Two attacks in one action. Essential for two-weapon fighting builds. You do need to use Hunt Prey first, but this will offset the Action cost for doing so.
2nd Level
  • Favored Terrain: Ignoring nonmagical difficult terrain in a single terrain is not enough for a feat, and while the secondary benefits are tempting they don't come into effect until 11th level, at which point you have much more interesting feats available and you can use spells or magic items to replace the effects in most cases. You can pick up Terrain Master at 8th level to change your Favored Terrain, but that still seems like a high cost when you could just buy a scroll or something.
  • Hunter's Aim: Situational, and the Action cost is high. Concealed is a 20% miss chance, and in most cases you'll have a better chance of hitting if you make two Strikes instead.
  • Monster Warden: Adding more benefits to Monster Hunter doesn't make it any easier to use, and it adds a ton of tracking that you and your entire party need to do in combat.
  • Quick Draw: In most case where you're somewhere dangerous, you'll know with enough warning to draw a weapon. This looks helpful for thrown weapon builds, but you'll want to retrain this as soon as you can get a Returning rune on your weapon.
  • Wild Empathy: While animals seem like they won't be a problem, the Animal creature type includes high-CR creatures like purple worms. The Ranger has the skills to be a Face, and with decent Diplomacy and Wild Empathy you can trivialize encounters with an entire creature type. But, while that capability is nice, it's also replicated by the 2nd-level spell Speak With Animals.
4th Level
  • Companion's Cry: If you're built around your Animal Companion, spending another Action to give you companion another Action may be more effective than using your Action to do something like make a Strike. This is by no means essential, even in an Animal Companion build, but in some builds it's a good option.
  • Disrupt Prey: Spectacular for a melee build, this is very similar Attack of Opportunity, but it only applies to your Hunted Prey.
  • Far Shot: Unless you're using thrown weapons, range increments are rarely a problem.
  • Favored Enemy: Unless you're in a campaign dominated by creatures of the chosen type, this will be a wasted feat in the vast majority of encounters.
  • Running Reload: Spectacular in a crossbow build.
  • Scout's Warning: Perception bonuses are the default for Initiative, so you can reliably grant the bonus to your allies in most encounters. But if you're beaing sneaky, you're likely going to roll Stealth for Initiative, so this is a bad option for sneaky rangers. The bonus is only +1, and while PF2 really likes +1 bonuses mathematically it's only singificant because your whole party gets it.
  • Snare Specialist: This requires the Snare Crafting General Feat. You gain free forumlas based on your proficiency in Crafting, but it doesn't appear that you get more free formulas if you later increase your proficiency. Annoying, but not a deal breaker. The real appeal is that you get a number of snares per day without paying for materials, and you can craft and place those snares in 3 Actions so you can place them during combat.
  • Twin Parry: Even with Hunter's Edge (Flurry), Multiple Attack Penalties are still significant, so making three or more attacks in a turn isn't always worthwhile. Spending an Action to boost your AC for the turn can make a difference, especially if you have a weapon with the Parry trait like a Main-Gauche to raise the bonus to +2. Still, the +1 isn't always mathematically significant, so you don't absolutely need this.
6th Level
  • Mature Animal Companion: Crucial for Animal Companion builds. The secondary benefit gives your companion an Action even if you don't command them, allowing them to move (great for mount companions) or make a single Strike (great if you have Hunter's Edge (Precision).
  • Quick Snares: If you're going to use snares in combat beyond the few you get from Snare Specialist, you'll need this. For some reason this isn't a prerequisite for Lightning Snares, so be sure to retrain it when you pick up Lightning Snares.
  • Skirmish Strike: A free step is almost always useful. Use this to get into position to flank, to Step away before making a ranged attack, or just to inch closer to wherever else you want to be without Striding. Crossbow builds will get more use out of Running Reload, but you could use both in the same turn if you need to.
  • Snap Shot: By combining this with Skirmish Strike and Disrupt Prey, any ranged build can pin down their Hunted Prey in melee range. If you're built for range but tend to find yourself in close quarters like dungeons, this is a must. Otherwise it's a good option but if your party has plenty of melee threats it may not be useful.
  • Swift Tracker: Tracking almost never comes up in a typicaly campaign, and unless you're tracking foes almost contantly it's not worth two feats to get this.
8th Level
  • Blind-Fight: For a class with no magical way to handle invisible creatures, this is a powerful option. Usually options like Seek are sufficient, but if your DM likes to use hidden enemies, invisible enemies, or ambushes this can be very beneficial both offensively and defensively.
  • Deadly Aim: -2 isn't a massive penalty, especially on your first Strike of the turn, and the damage bonus is both good and scales as you gain level. Keep in mind that this feat has the Open trait, so you can only use it on your first Action per turn, which means that even if you really like this feat you only get to use it once per turn.
  • Hazard Finder: The bonus is small and situational, but that's not why you want this. Being able to find hazards which normally require searching means that you won't accidently step into traps or something just because you forgot to search.
  • Powerful Snares: If you're using snares in any significant quantity, this is absolutely crucial. Snare DC's are normally fixed, so low-level snares become obsolete solely because their DC becomes too low to remain useful. Raising the DC of all of your Snares means that you can continue to use low-level Snares effectively at any level.
  • Terrain Master: If you took Favored Terrain and your GM isn't going to let you spend the whole campaign in your favorite biome, you need this or Favored Terrain is a wasted feat most of the time. Of course, that means that you're spending two feats to make a single feat worthwhile, which is a terrible way to spend limited resources. Go spend some gold on scrolls or something.
  • Warden's Boon: An interesting support option, but how useful it is depends on how well your allies' builds like up with your own. Other allies using Agile weapons will enjoy Flurry, while other allies who rely on large single Strikes will enjoy Precision. Anyone will enjoy Outwit, but spending an Action to grant one ally +1 AC doesn't feel like enough to spend an Action.
10th Level
  • Camouflage: With the exception of dungeons and cities, most adventuring takes place in natural terrain. Hiding while observed means that you can hide in the middle of combat.
  • Incredible Companion: Crucial for Animal Companion builds.
  • Master Monster Hunter: Nature is probably your best knowledge skill, so this can be helpful if you're getting a lot out of Recall Knowledge, and it will save you the trouble of investing so heavily in knowledge skills to identify monsters.
  • Penetrating Shot: Situational, but if you move around to position yourself for this, it bould be really effective for crossbow builds. For other ranged builds it makes more sense to use Hunted Shot and focus on bringing down a single foe before moving on. Hunter's Edge (Precision) might apply damage to both creatures provided that the second target is your Hunted Prey, but it's not clear if that's the case.
  • Twin Riposte: Choosing to use Twin Parry to boost your AC means giving up an Action that could be used to make a Strike. Not only does this replace the Strike you gave up, you get to make it with no Multiple Attack Penalty.
  • Warden's Step: I don't understand how this feat works in practice. Do allies use your Stealth roll when you Sneak. What happens if your allies are standing out in the open? Do allies need to be willing, or are they forcibly hidden? This feat isn't explained at all, and it's not addressed in errata yet. If you know of an official source that explains this feat in more detail, please email me because I'm totally lost.
12th Level
  • Distracting Shot: Good on almost every build, but I wouldn't take this with Deadly Aim because attack penalties reduce your chance of both scoring critical hits and hitting twice in a single turn.
  • Double Prey: Most of the time you'll use Hunt Prey before you attack anything, which gets really annoying in fights with multiple foes. This saves you at least one Action in every encounter with multiple enemies, and Actions are expensive.
  • Lightning Snares: Craft and place a snare in one Action. Be careful about which snares you use or you'll dump money into high-level snares multiple times per turn. But if you want to litter the area with low-level snares like Hampering Snares or Spike Snares.
  • Second Sting: Second Sting has the Press Trait, so it needs to follow a Strike. You're likely to use this after using Twin Takedown, so that's easy to satisfy, and since you'll have made two Strikes your Multiple Attack Penalty will be at the maximum so missing is likely. The extra damage is a nice consolation, but likely won't be significant because there are so few numerical damage bonuses in PF2. Runes of Striking and other runes which boost damage typically add damage dice, so this will porbably only aply your Strength bonus.
  • Side By Side: Flanking a target makes them Flat-Footed, which gives them a -2 AC penalty. Spending the Actions to Step to get into position to flank is expensive. This is especially appealing if you take the Rogue Dedication and Sneak Attacker, and/or if you have a Cat for your Animal Companion.
14th Level
  • Sense The Unseen: If your party doesn't have magical options for revealing invisible foes this is fantastic.
  • Shared Prey: Pick one prey, focus on them until they're gone, then repeat. Your allies will be more powerful than an Animal Companion so sharing your Hunt Prey and Hunter's Edge benefits is both generous and very effective, and Shared Prety reduces the problematic Action cost of Warden's Boon.
  • Stealthy Companion: Not essential unless you have an ambusher companion, but it's still really good.
  • Targeting Shot: Cover and concealment come up frequently, but Targeting Shot has the Press Trait so you can only use it after you've made at least one Strike already. This is situationally useful, but the situation does come up frequently.
  • Warden's Guidance: A great non-magical counter to hidden and invisible foes, but your allies do still need to spend an Action to Seek.
16th Level
  • Greater Distracting Shot: Making the target Flat-Footed reduces their AC, at least partially offsetting the Multuple Attack Penalty so that you can easily continue to shoot them. I would avoid this on crossbow builds because you won't get the full benefits of the feat, but other ranged builds should strongly consider this.
  • Improved Twin Riposte: Another possible attack outside of your own turn.
  • Legendary Monster Hunter: If you're taking this feat, you've likely taken Monster Hunter, Monster Warden, Master Monster Hunter, and Automatic Knowledge. That's 4 class feats, a skill feat, and a bunch of Skill Increases so that you can attempt to get a +2 bonus that you and each of your allies get to use once each after you spend 2 Actions to make the attempt (Automatic Knowledge only works once per day).
  • Specialized Companion: Essential for Animal Companion builds.
  • Ubiquitous Snares: At this level you have access to snares which cost as much as 1,500gp, and you can prepare as many as 16 of them at no cost. If you have Lightning Snares, you can craft and place those prepared snares with a single Action. Drop a few Hail of Arrows snares and retreat to a safe distance.
18th Level
  • Impossible Flurry: If you're already in melee with your Hunted Prey and you're using two Agile weapons and you have Hunter's Edge (Flurry), this is great. That sounds like a lot of conditions, but being in melee with your Hunted Prey is going to happen on most of your turns, using two Agile weapons and Hunter's Edge (Flurry) is a reasonable expectation for TWF builds. You won't use this every turn, but when you do it will be awesome.
  • Impossible Volley: A 10-foot radius is fairly small, but if you can hit three or more targets it'll be more effective than using Hunted Shot and making to other Strikes.
  • Manifold Edge: Hunter's Edge is a central part of your class which you build your character around. Changing your Edge is a hard choice, and probably a bad one.
  • Masterful Companion: Crucial for Animal Companion builds.
  • Perfect Shot: Designed specifically for crossbow builds, dealing maximum damage is really appealing, but the set up is hard and if you miss the attack you waste your entire turn. Of course, crossbow builds are all about gambling on a few high-damage attacks, so this is in line with htat theme.
  • Shadow Hunter: A flat 20% miss chance on attacks against you at all times.
20th Level
  • Legendary Shot: Situational, but you can make the situation happen by choosing to engage foes at extreme range.
  • To The Ends of the Earth: Very situational.
  • Triple Threat: An easy option for nearly any ranger, provided that you're in a party of at least three players.
  • Ultimate Skirmisher: Versatile and broadly useful, but not nearly as good as Triple Threat.

General Feats

  • Feather Step: If you use Snares, the Hampering Snare is an easy way to create difficult terrain. Of course, once you get Wild Stride you should retrain this.
  • Incredible Initiative: Going early in combat is great for Snare builds.
  • Ride: Rangers are probably the best option for a mounted build without taking a multiclass archetype.

Weapons

You choice of weapons reflects your build very heavily. In most cases there's no perfect option, and you'll need to pick a weapon (or weapons) which reflect your build priorities. Even if you're building an Animal Companion build or a Warden, you'll still want a decent weapon to fill the Actions which you're not spending commanding and buffing your allies.

Because rangers depend so heavily on Hunt Prey, weapons with the Sweep trait should typically be avoided, and Forceful weapons can be very appealing.

Critical Specialization effects are also important to consider since starting at 5th level rangers can apply them to their Hunted Prey. Rangers get the best Class DC progression in the game, so Critical Specialization effects with save DCs are a great way to capitalize on the Ranger's core features.

Archery Builds

Most ranged builds will be built around using a bow. Use a composite bow if you have 14 or more Strength, otherwise a regular bow will do. If you're going to be fighting in dungeons (most adventurers will), strongly consider sticking to shortbows despite their reduced damage die. The -2 penalty from the Volley trait on longbows will prove to be a persistent source of frustration, and it's too costly to maintain two bows and switch between them. You can mitigate that by taking the Fighter multiclass archetype and taking the Point-Blank Shot feat, but between Hunt Prey and a Stance feat that's two Actions before you start attacking.

Bows and crossbows have a unique Critical Specialization effect which pins the target in place and requires them to waste an Action to free themselves. The check DC is low enough that you should expects enemies to succeed, but that's an Action which your enemies aren't attacking you and your allies.

Crossbow Builds

Crossbows are a great go-to weapon if you like Hunter's Edge (Precision), but they require a significant investment of Class Feats (Crossbow Ace, Running Reload, and possible Deadly Aim) to make them work well compared to regular bows. The big damage die and range are tempting, but the Action cost to reload a crossbow means that you need to pile a whole bunch of damage into one attack to match the damage output of a bow being fired repeatedly.

Crossbows share a Critical Specialization Effect with bows (see above).

  • Crossbow: The best compromise between reload time and damage output. If you start a turn with your crossbow loaded and nothing better to do, you can manage two shots in a turn.
  • Hand Crossbow: Fine as a secondary weapon, but there's little reason to give up the additional damage of a reguler Crossbow for the novelty of being able to fire it one-handed. If you're stressing over Bulk due to having terrible Strength, you may need to resort to hand crossbows until can find a Lifting Belt.
  • Heavy Crossbow: Two actions is not worth the difference in damage between 1d8 and 1d10 (crossbow vs. heavy crossbow), even once you start applying Runes of Striking.

Two-Handed Builds

While two-handed weapon builds aren't an obvious option for the Ranger, they absolutely work. Hunter's Edge (Flurry) is especially tempting with Forceful weapons, though there isn't a Hunted Short/Twin Takedown equivalent which allows you to make extra attacks. Still, Flurry and three attacks with a greatsword feels really good, and you could multiclass into Fighter to get Power Attack and combine it with Hunter's Edge (Precision) to deal 2d12+1d8+Strength damage on a single attack..

  • Elven Curve Blade: Two-handed, Finesse, and Forceful. The relatively low damage die hurts, but with Hunter's Edge (Flurry) and enough attacks, Forceful can make up the damage difference. In addition, the Critical Specialization Effect makes the target flat-footed, which makes your successive attacks more likely to hit. However, the setup cost of Hunt Prey can make it hard to capitalize on Forceful unless you're facing single foes with big piles of hit points to cut through.
  • Glaive: Easier to access than the Elven Curve Blade with similar benefits (though no Finesse), and the addition of both Deadly and Reach are likely worth the lose of Finesse, especially since you don't need an Ancestry Feat to gain access.
  • Greatsword: Nothing fancy, but a great staple option with a big damage die and Versatile.

Two-Weapon Fighting Builds

Since you get to use two weapons, there's more room for variance and experimentation than most fighting styles. Hunter's Edge (Flurry) is a must, and since Flurry will reduce the Multiple Attack Penalty, Agile weapons are less essential (though they're still fantastic).

  • Clan Dagger: The Main-Gauche is better.
  • Dagger: The Starknife is strictly better.
  • Dogslicer: Trade the shortsword's Versatile for Backstabber.
  • Filcher's Fork: Similar in many ways to the Starknife, but with the addition of Backstabber and a different weapon group. The Spear weapon group's Critical Specialization effect applies Clumsy 1, which is a minor but helpful debuff, and Backstabber adds a small but easily-accessible damage bonus.
  • Gauntlet / Spiked Gauntlet: The biggest appeal here is the Critical Specialization effect of the Brawling group. The damage die matches a dagger so you won't get much damage, but if you can apply Slow 1 that's easily worth the Strike, and with your high Class DC you can expect enemies to fail the save reliably.
  • Light Hammer: Agile and throwable, so it shares a similar niche to the Starknife. The Hammer weapon groups' Critical Specialization Effect knocks foes Prone, which makes targets Flat-Footed and forces them to spend an Action on their turn to stand.
  • Main-Gauche: A spectacular off-hand weapon for two-weapon fighting builds. Parry offers a great way to boost your AC, especially if you take Twin Parry, and the Main-Gauche has Agile, Finesse, and Versatile (Piercing and Slashing) so it's useful offensively by any build and in any situation. The damage die is small, though so you want to attack with it as little as possible. The Critical Specialization effect applies Persistent Bleed, but since the effect doesn't stack with itself you still don't want to spend all of your time attacking with your Main-Gauche.
  • Rapier: A good option for your primary weapon in Dexterity-based melee builds.
  • Sawtooth Sabre: If anyone were going to use the Sawtooth Sabre to its full effect, it would be the Ranger. Tragically, it's very difficult to get decent proficiency with them. The best option is to take the Fighter multiclass archetype, and take the Advanced Weapon Training feat, which you can't do until 12th level. Still, if you don't mind the Class Feat investment to do that, the damage bonus from Twin will pay off nicely when combined with Twin Takedown.
  • Shortsword: Nothing fancy. Agile and Versatile with a decent damage die.
  • Starknife: Despite the low damage die, the Starknife is a great weapon choice. It can be thrown, allowing you to easily transition from melee to ranged combat, and with Deadly and the Knife weapon group, critical hits deal a bunch of damage up front and Persistent Bleed.

Other Weapon Options

While they don't all fit neatly into obvious build options, there is a wide array of other weapon options which can work very well.

  • Halfling Sling Staff: The base damage of a heavy crossbow with the same reload time and Propulsive, so with a bit of Strength you can match the same damage as a Heavy Crossbow with Crossbow Ace, but without spending a Class Feat. The Sling Critical Specialization effect makes targets Stunned 1, robbing them of an Action on their next turn if they fail a save against your Class DC.
  • Sling: Hard to justify. It's basically a hand crossbow with Propulsive, but you can't boost the damage with Crossbow Ace. If you like slings, upgrade to the Halfling Sling Staff.

Armor

Dexterity-based rangers will wear light armor, while Strength-based Rangers will typically wear medium armor. Rangers never get Armor Specialization effects, so the materials don't matter, which means that as long as you're filling out the Dexterity cap and you meet the Strength Threshold you're probably fine.

  • Explorer's Clothing: Once you reach 10th level, your Dexterity could reach 20. At that point, Explorer's Clothing provides the same AC as Leather Armor, but without a check penalty and with less Bulk. You'll still want to put runes on it to boost your AC, bu transferring runes from your previous armor is easy.
  • Leather: Most Dexterity-based rangers will live in Leather armor until they raise their Dexterity to 20, and even then you only need to change to Explorer's Clothing if you don't have 10 Strength.
  • Studded Leather: If you start with 16 Dexterity, this may be the right choice. You'll get the same AC as Leather armor with 18 Dexterity, and since the Dex cap doesn't matter beyond your AC, raising your Dexterity doesn't mandate changing armor. However, the Strength Threshold is higher than Leather, so if you don't have 12 Strength you might change to Leather once you have 18 Dexterity, provided that you have 10 Strength to meet Leather's Strength Threshold.
  • Chain Shirt: Noisy.
  • Hide / Scale Mail: Fine options if you want to stop at 14 Dexterity.
  • Chain Mail: Noisy.
  • Half Plate: You can meet the Strength Threshold at first level, so the only hurdle is the cost. You likely can't afford this at first level unless it's the only thing you buy, but you should get enough gold to afford it quickly so it's perfectly fine to sart with 12 Dexterity and not goo any further, provided that you're not particularly concerned with Stealth. If you're planning to be good at stealth, you might stick to Hide or Scale Mail to save money and put more into your Dexterity.

Archetypes

  • Alchemist: Snare builds can double-down on crafting by adding alchemy. Free bombs for the Bomb Snare are nice, but don't overlook the utility of other options like mutagens. If you like throwing bombs, be sure to take Quick Draw.
  • Champion: Rangers have few built-in uses for their Reaction, so Champion's Reaction is a great option for melee rangers.
  • Cleric: The Cleric's Focus Spells are excellent, but I'm not sure that they have any specific appeal for the Ranger.
  • Druid: Wild Shape would be a really cool option if it worked well for multiclass builds. You might be able to make Wild Morph worthwhile, but I wouldn't try it until you're able to cast Focus Spells at 6th level so that the claws from Wild Morph deal the Persistent Bleed damage. Otherwise they're basically short swords. Animal Companion builds may expect something from the Druid, but the Ranger gets all of the same feats that druids get below 10th level, so there's nothing new to be gained here.
  • Fighter: Fighters get a lot of useful feats at low levels which can complement your favorite fighting style, and Fighter Class Feats make shields considerably more viable for the Ranger. Any melee build will benefit greatly from Opportunist and the Attack of Opportunity reaction.
  • Monk: Flurry of Blows has the Flourish trait, so you can't use it in the same turn as Hunted Shot or Twin Takedown. I know, I'm disappointed too.
  • Rogue: A great combination for stealthy rangers. Sneak Attack combines well with Hunter's Edge (Flurry), especially if you can easily make a foe Flat-Footed, such as by flanking with an Animal Companion. The damage die is small, but applied over up to 4 attacks it can add up very quickly. Despite lack of access to a Racket, you can still benefit from low-level feats like Twin Feint, You're Next, and Mobility.