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How to Mix and Match the Ranger in DnD 5e
Rangers are the black sheep of DnD and the original players handbook version of these valiant survivors of the wilderness never quite found their footing mechanically. But the rangers have seen more reworks than any other 5e class and they're now battle ready as martial survivalists, tough but with adaptable martial prowess features and a touch of spellcasting for withstanding what the wilderness can throw at you. With the ranger improved, what shenanigans can we get up to by mixing it with other classes? Grab your camo cloak and some trail rations as we go through everything you need to know.
Why Play a Ranger Multiclass?
With the enhanced edition of the ranger with all the new optional class features, a ranger multi class now offers a beefy amount of hit points, fighting styles, spellcasting, and the favored foe feature that will add in a little bit of additional damage to typically every attack you make. Rangers also uniquely gain access to the powerful spell hunter’s mark that can stack yet another damage die onto all your attacks making a ranger multiclass appealing.
What are the Downsides?
The ranger class wasn’t reworked so many times because it was too good. Rangers suffered from the situational nature of their core features and while the revisions have largely fixed that it’s hard to say what ranger multiclassing does better than other classes. There are however some choice synergies we can achieve by taking multiple classes.
Even the best multiclass builds still mean making a multiclass character that foregoes some late game class features and that has slower progression overall than with a single class, even if you only dip by 1-3 levels. A single-class character has more focused powerful features and faster ranger progression, while a multi-classed character will have more versatility and options.
What Ranger Class Features Do We Care About?
We’re going to go through multiple potential multiclass builds using the ranger so while not all of the following features will factor into every build, they’re all the ranger features we should keep in mind.
- Hit Points. Rangers have d10 hit dice which is the beefiest you can get short of a barbarian. This means we can use the ranger to gain access to spellcasting and features without sacrificing hit points.
- Deft Explorer. This is one of the new optional features that replaced natural explorer and all the better for it. It doesn't provide additional skills, but deft explorer now grants double proficiency on a chosen skill, a couple extra languages, and with 5 ranger levels it also grants us a fast walking, swimming and climbing speed.
- Favored Foe. This class ability uses concentration, which means we can’t stack it with hunter’s mark (sad I know) but it’s still basically free damage that will scale up with our ranger levels. Every time we make weapon attacks, they'll gain an extra d4 of damage for free. This is also an offensive option that doesn’t take any action, you can just choose to apply it when you hit with an attack making it even more free.
- Extra Proficiencies. Rangers get 3 skill proficiencies at the start with a solid class skill list, and in most cases, you'll want to take your 1st level as a ranger for that extra skill.
- Fighting Styles. Just like a fighter, the ranger gains specialized martial capabilities in the form of a fighting style at level 2 that will be integral to some of our builds. Archery and the dual wield two-weapon style options are typical choices but thrown weapon fighting can also be useful for additional attacks with throwing hatchets.
- Hunter’s Mark. We get favored foe already which is almost like a free downsized version of this unique ranger spell, but the original stuff still matters and can add 1d6 whenever we deal attack damage. The big difference is that hunter's mark takes a spell level and a bonus action, rather than applying automatically like favored foe.
- Summon Spells. Some of our builds rely on some summoned teamwork, and the ranger spell list grants access to almost as many summoning spells now as druids do.
- Archetype Features. Rangers gain their archetype at 3rd level and for some of them it’s worth the dip, we’ll go into each of them later but for now know that we’ll be caring about each ranger subclass and their 3rd level abilities.
Ranger Multiclass Builds
There’re all sorts of ways to multiclass and you won’t be “wrong” for making whatever you like, however, the following multiclass options combine some synergistic features to create something more than the sum of its parts.
Shove Bug Druid/Ranger
Right off the bat druid and ranger levels complement each other quite well, they’re both Wisdom-based spellcasting classes and are even quite similar thematically. We’re going for something a bit more specific and sneakier though with a fair share of utility options. Here we plan on making druid our primary class, with ranger as a strong secondary class.
The core idea is to use the ranger’s swarmkeeper archetype ability to shove creatures we attack into the powerful damaging area of effect spells we cast using our druid levels. Many of the most damaging druid spells utilize static areas of effect that become useless once the enemy moves out of them, why not have your bug friends shove them right back inside?
To accomplish this, we’ll need a minimum of 3 ranger levels to take the swarmkeeper archetype, and while it is partially effective with even a single druid level, it really turns on once we hit 3 druid levels to take the circle of the land archetype for the additional spellcasting options and to get up to boosted 2nd level druid spells. This means the build starts showing full effectiveness at our 6th class level. And for a final split, expect to go 7 levels ranger and 13 levels druid.
For our ability scores, we want to prioritize first Wisdom and Dexterity, with a secondary consideration given to Constitution. Which is convenient since these are the stats most druids and rangers want to begin with.
Due to the metal armor restrictions of the druid class, we're locked out of heavy armor and we'll most likely be stuck wearing light armor or very bad medium armor. If your DM allows it, there can be "non-metal" armors though that can provide you with better defensive options.
For the fighting style we gain from our ranger levels we want to choose archery and should be wielding a longbow along with a druidic spell focus.
With the circle of the land archetype, choose underdark as your land, as it grants us some of the nastier AoE spells not normally available to druids like cloud kill and stinking cloud. The swamp option is also attractive and is worth considering for acid arrow.
So how does this work? Simply put down a nasty area of effect spell such as moonbeam, flaming sphere, stinking cloud or anything else that hurts enemies for standing in it or near it. If we get high enough for a 7th level spell slot, I recommend whirlwind for the devastating damage and restraint potential. Each offensive option has its own strengths and weaknesses, but our main goal is to have a nasty spot on the map we can keep shoving the target into.
With the swarmkeeper feature it gains at 3rd level gathered swarm, we can have our bugs shove up to one target we hit every turn up to 15 feet. Now with our longbow at the ready and keeping concentration on our spell, we can just keep shoving our target back into the spell while shooting them with a buffed-up arrow to boot!
Let’s look at an example of this build at just 6th level:
You cast spike growth around an enemy 35 feet away on your turn which makes a 20-foot area around him into difficult terrain that deals 2d4 piercing damage to them for every 5 feet they travel through it. On their turn, they move out, taking 4d4 (2 x 2d4) and assuming they have a normal 30-foot movement speed, they’ll have to double move to make it to you because of the difficult terrain, ending their turn.
On your turn, you fire your bow at the enemy (1d8 + Dex) and assuming you hit they’ll have to make a Strength saving throw or get shoved 15 feet right back into the spike growth, dealing them another 2d4 for every 5 feet they move through it since the spell doesn’t care if the movement is voluntary or not.
That’s a nasty game of keep away dealing a likely 1d8 + 8d4 + Dex mod to a target every round while keeping them off you and your allies, not to mention that area is still being a problem for any other enemies on the map. The effectiveness is situation reliant, but it’ll get nastier and nastier as you advance in druid levels and gain access to more dangerous area of effect spells. Circle of land also lets us recover spell slots on a short rest, meaning you’ll be able to reliably do this combo every combat. And remember you have wild shape in your back pocket for emergencies.
One final note is to make sure you eventually get up to a 7th ranger level to get not only an extra attack feature at level 5 for more chances to hit and shove, but also the 7th level swarmkeeper feature writhing tide. Writhing tide grants you a swarm-based flying speed, it’s slow, but the ability to hover over targets while shoving them from a distance into your damaging area spells is just fantastic!
Monk on the Range
Ranger damage features trigger on every attack and out of the martial classes the monk has access to the most attacks. If you combine the martial ability of the monk with the reworked favored foe, it makes even a single level of ranger dip a VERY tempting option for monks now. Making monk your primary class with just a minor level dip into ranger as a secondary class can make for some powerful characters.
Favored foe allows you to mark an enemy that you hit, and while marked every attack you do deals 1d4 extra damage. For monks with all their additional attacks, this essentially doubles their damage output at early levels and that additional damage will add up fast when you’re dishing out 3-4 attacks in a round.
Unarmored defense will likely also push us past the armor class we'd be getting from medium armor or will at least be on par with our other defensive options. Unarmoured defense goes off our Dexterity bonus and our Constitution bonus, which we wanted high in the first place.
You can also consider taking a second ranger level to gain access to a fighting style (dueling typically being the best option for the monk dip) and the hunter’s mark spell for a somewhat upgraded version of favored foe. Hunter’s mark functions in most of the same ways, except it will cost you a bonus action for the initial spell rather than being applied for free as a part of the hit, and it adds an extra d6 damage instead of the d4.
For example, at only level 3 (1 ranger level and 2 monk levels) if you perform a flurry of blows using a quarterstaff and unarmed strikes on a target you've tagged with hunter's mark and deal 1d8 + 3d6 + 2d4 + 9 damage over the course of 3 attacks!
The goal of this build is to create an invisible darkness assassin rogue who can one-shot targets for maximum damage with a longbow from hundreds of feet away before disappearing into the night.
To accomplish this, we need 3 levels of ranger specifically to pick up the gloom stalker ranger archetype and it’s 3rd level features dread ambusher and umbral sight. Then our remaining 17 levels go into rogue as our primary class not only for the assassin archetype but also as much sneak attack as we can manage. You can consider a 4th level in ranger to pick up the ability score increase, but keep in mind that will lock you out of the powerful death strike feature that would otherwise be your capstone.
First, we want to make our Dexterity as high as possible, with secondary considerations for Wisdom and Constitution. We also want to take the archery fighting style for a bit of extra damage.
We're going stealthy, so when you pick your skill proficiencies and your expertise from your rogue feature, make sure to pick Stealth for one of them.
It’s also highly recommended that you go with a race that provides darkvision, our umbral sight feature will provide it anyway, but if we already had it the range improves which is definitely favorable for sniping.
Here’s how it works, assassinate gives us advantage on attack rolls against a surprised or unaware target, and turns a hit against such a target into a critical hit automatically. Dread ambusher gives us a bonus to initiative rolls equal to our Wisdom modifier, making it more likely that we go first even if we’re not actually ambushing, and tosses in a free d8 of damage for our first attack in a combat (which is conveniently doubled for crits). We also have favored foe adding in an extra d4 (also doubled on crits), or if we have the time a hunters mark can give us a d6 (conveniently also doubles). We can easily make sure we get advantage so long as it’s dark using umbral sight, which is worded oddly, but it essentially turns us invisible so long as it would normally be too dark to see us which grants us advantage on all our attacks.
Putting this together at level 6 (3 levels ranger, 3 levels rogue), you should be able to start off any combat with a devastating assassination attack for 4d8 + 6d6 + 5 damage (1d8 damage for the bow, 1d8 damage for dread ambusher, 2d6 sneak attack, 1d6 hunter’s mark, all dice doubled for the crit, +3 for Dexterity bonus, and +2 for the archery fighting style). That’s an average of 44 damage for an attack at level 6 in the first round before your enemy has even moved and even if they survive, you’re still invisible and free to take as many at-advantage sneak attack bow shots as it takes.
Alternatively, you can play this a bit more up close and personal by taking two-weapon fighting and grabbing a pair of martial weapons rather than the longbow. You'll be more in harm's way, but two-weapon fighting makes you more battle ready in situations where setting up a sniper shot isn't feasible and you have access to some defensive spells to make up for it.
It scales well also since sneak attack will continue to climb as you gain rogue levels and that sweet sneak attack damage doubles. Gloom stalker also adds disguise self to our spell list, a handy pick-up for any aspiring assassin!
This build is all about getting the maximum number of animal friends together and keeping them healed while they completely swarm whatever dared to enrage the forest.
It’s a complex build that kicks off at 7th character level, consisting of 3 ranger levels, 3 druid levels, and 1 cleric level. The build then caps off with druid levels as our primary class, for a final build of 16 druid levels, 3 ranger levels, and 1 cleric level. All 3 classes are spellcasting classes, meaning you'll have additional spellcasting options galore.
All the classes involved rely on Wisdom for their spellcasting ability and we’re planning on concentrating on a lot of spells so Constitution should be our next highest ability score. We want these scores as high as possible, so prepare to spend your ability score increases here rather than on feats.
The druid levels mess with our ability to wear armor, but you should still be able to use medium armor and if you’re really lucky your DM will let you use some “non-metal” better armors, but the cleric archetype we’re taking doesn’t provide heavy armor proficiency anyway.
To make this work we want to take the peace domain for our one cleric level, we want the drakewarden ranger archetype, and for our druid levels we want to take the circle of the shepherd.
The peace domain gives us the emboldening bond feature at level 1 that sort of acts like a mass bless. It gives a number of creatures equal to your proficiency bonus a d4 bonus they can add to attack rolls, checks, and saving throws. This will be key to pushing the combat effectiveness of all our creatures over the top, and since it only cares about proficiency bonus and not levels of cleric, we only need the 1 level to get all the benefits. If you want some more healing, an second level will grant you a strong channel divinity option that heals for 2d6 + your Wisdom modifier. I'd personally only take the single level but the channel divinity is worth considering. We also pick up some extra spells we can devote to cures or damage spells like guiding bolt.
If you want more healing and utility options over pure martial options, you can also consider taking the life domain over the peace domain. Unkitted cleric healing is good enough as it is, but the life domain grants us consistent extra healing with barely any levels of cleric. I personally like the peace domain here as a more consistent offensive option, but life domain is a valid choice.
Next the drakewarden archetype gives us an awesome little dragon companion that's arguably the best companion animal in the game (second only to the battle smith artificer)! You can command it using a bonus action, rather than an action, making it infinitely better than the beast master archetype that you’d naturally think would fit this build. Your little dragon also has a reaction ability called infused strikes which lets it add 1d6 elemental damage to any friendly creature’s attack within 30 feet. This makes your drake your “personal guard” that can add to combat while staying next to you away from combat.
Finally, the core of our creature summoning power comes from our druid levels. For a start with the optional rules, druids get a familiar now! Familiars are more powerful than they seem, and while direct attacks from them are wimpy, they can deliver touch spells for you or use the Help action to grant advantage against a target.
Next the circle of the shepherd grants us a quite frankly bonkers feature called spirit totem that lets us summon a magical buffing spirit as a bonus action. It has several options, but the one we care about is the bear spirit which grants ANY NUMBER OF ALLIES within its 60-foot radius a number of temporary hit points equal to 5 + your druid level.
This includes all our summoned creatures, so for the low price of a bonus action we can often add somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 temporary hit points to the battlefield spread across all our beasts.
And speaking of beasts, we need to summon some of those! Thankfully with our druid levels we have access to the best summoning spells in the game, including summon beast, conjure animals, and conjure woodland beings. Make sure in particular when you gain 3rd-level spells to pick conjure animals as its extremely powerful for the level.
Putting all of this together, let’s say you’re level 9 (3 ranger, 5 druid, 1 cleric), and at the start of combat you cast conjure animals to summon 8 wolves and your bonus action to summon your bear spirit totem. You are now controlling 11 creatures (8 wolves, your familiar, your drake, and yourself), all of which just gained 10 temporary hit points (so you just added 110 hit points between them all), and up to 4 of them have a d4 blessing on their attacks not to mention the wolves all have pack tactics. On each round you’ll be able to make 10 attacks, 9 of which with advantage on attack rolls (8 pack tactics and one help action from the familiar). Every attack action blows the action economy out of the water, and even if the attacks are weak they'll add up.
Be prepared for a very angry dungeon master because you’ve now become a whole adventuring party of just you!
Last updated: January 27, 2019
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