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Survive to Ensure Your Targets Won’t
Rangers are martial survivalists, tough but with adaptable features and a touch of spellcasting for withstanding what the wilderness can throw at you. Rogues are masters of stealth and subterfuge, only plunging in the knife at opportune moments before disappearing back into the darkness. Put them together and you get a ghost, a legend of the forest that is only proven real as it slices an unsuspecting throat. Put some camo gear on and get ready for a long stakeout as we go through everything you need to know.
Why Play a Ranger/Rogue Multiclass?
The ranger and rogue features overlap specifically for strategies that want to sneak up and stack damage. Both classes use very similar ability score spreads and both have numerous class skills and bonuses to skills. You’ll find the build feels very seamless in game without many odd or underpowered level steps. Rogue is one of the safest classes for martial multiclassing since you'll typically be just adding raw damage to whatever else you're doing. The newly reworked dnd ranger multiclass has a lot of class passive features that add to a martial build's effectiveness, and those additions alongside medium armor and shields are welcome boosts to the armor class of the otherwise squishy rogue. The build stacks many different attack enhancements, and your attack talent will multiply your damage per shot.
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 the ranger does better than other classes. We can achieve some very useful synergies with the rogue class but taking any ranger levels is a debatable choice at the start.
The other issue is the action economy. Both ranger and rogue features care about the bonus action, and our standard action, bonus action, and reaction isn't always enough to utilize all our features during the same turn. At a superficial level this is giving us more options, but in general we can be stuck in odd spots where we can't for example dash and hunter's mark in the same turn.
And as always, multiclassing means that you forego some late game class features and are slower to acquire others. A single-class character has more focused powerful features, while a multi-classed character will have more versatility and options.
When Does This Build "Kick In"?
Technically the ranger/rogue multiclass will start "working" as early as a single level in each class. You gain sneak attack at your first rogue level, and favored foe at your 1st ranger level, both features that can neatly stack some extra damage to a single attack, with extra chances to trigger the features with additional attacks.
However, the specific themed builds we're going for rely on the early archetype features of both classes, meaning our builds will really start to function at 6th level taking 3 levels of each class.
What Ranger Class Features Do We Care About?
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 a d10 hit die 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. 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, climbing and swimming speed.
- Favored Foe. This is essentially the reworked favored enemy. It uses concentration, which means we can’t stack it with hunter’s mark (sad I know) but it’s still basically free damage boosts added to our weapon attacks that will scale up with our ranger levels. It also doesn’t take any action; you can just choose to apply it when you hit with attack rolls making it even more free.
- Fighting Styles. Just like a fighter, the ranger gains access to a fighting style that will be integral to some of our builds. All our features rely on weapon attacks and these each push a different weapon strategy by adding to attack rolls or attack damage.
- 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. Hunter’s mark is a ranger exclusive and amazing spell that stacks an extra d6 damage for every hit we make for the rest of a combat for the low cost of a 1st level spell slot and a bonus action.
- Extra Attack. Gained at 5th level, snagging an extra attack is an excellent way to gain more chances on triggering that sneak attack.
- Summon Spells. Some of our builds rely on some summoned teamwork, and rangers have access to almost as many summoning spells now as druids do. A lot of the time you'll be making attacks over casting spells but they're great options.
- 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 the ranger archetypes.
What Rogue Class Features Do We Care About?
While not all of the following features will factor into every build they’re all the ranger features we should keep in mind.
- Sneak Attack. Raw damage on the condition that you either have advantage, or your ally is within 5 feet of the target, and the weapon must either have finesse or be ranged. As we’ll see there are several ways to make this damage happen using ranger features, and a lot of the builds are focused on maximizing the damage potential of this feature.
- Cunning Action. If you’re primarily a ranger with only a dash of rogue, this feature may justify the 2nd level allowing you to dash, disengage, or dodge using a bonus action.
- Archetypes. We’ll need to go into the relevant options in more detail but several of the rogue archetypes offer powerful features for the multiclass, even as early as their initial 3rd level feature.
- Uncanny Dodge. While not as important, the ability to halve damage from a nasty hit is worth considering and may be a juicy upside if you’re just trying to maximize sneak attack anyway.
- Steady Aim. This is a new optional feature gained at 3rd level, it essentially unlocks ranged sniper rogues as you gain the ability to give yourself advantage as a bonus action if you haven’t moved that turn.
- Evasion. While not necessarily worth the 7 rogue levels, evasion is a tried and true feature that will let you survive otherwise lethal attacks and spells.
Ranger / Rogue Ability Scores
One of the nicest things about this class combination is that they rely on the exact same abilities (assuming you were going with a Dex Ranger).
You want your Dexterity at an ability score minimum of 16 but ideally you want it as high as possible, with your Constitution as a secondary consideration. Depending on how far into ranger you want to go Wisdom is used for some but not all of our spellcasting. Weirdly a lot of the ranger’s spellcasting doesn’t really need a high Wisdom score to function so you can drop it by or keep it low, but keep Wisdom in mind as a solid 3rd ability score.
Remember that your ability score increases are a bit weird for multiclass builds, so you'll be picking up an ASI at your 4th level, 8th level, and 12th level, in each class not for your character overall. 1-3 levels are often an ideal level dip, but not taking the 4th means missing out on an ASI. Keep that in mind as you level up.
Finally, the remaining 3 abilities Strength, Intelligence, and Charisma can all be dump stats for you or at least neutral 10’s.
Fighter / Rogue Races
Your best picks for this multiclass are essentially the same as the best picks for a typical rogue. You’re looking for a +2 Dexterity bonus in particular and the following races provide it:
Aarakocra gain +2 Dex and +1 Wis. As a race with built in flying, the birds get banned from basically every table. If your DM is kind enough to let you take this race then try taking advantage of your supreme maneuverability by making your attack with bows while airborne.
Base elves gain +2 Dex and between all the subraces you’ll be able to pick up +1 in basically anything else. The base elf abilities are decent, but both mechanically and thematically the drow fit quite well. Superior Darkvision is nothing to sneeze at while trying to outmaneuver your foes in the dark.
Feral tieflings gain +2 Dex and +1 Int. This feral variant of tiefling arrived in The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and with the +2 Dex they make far better rogues than the standard version. With that Int bonus they particularly make for strong arcane tricksters, especially with the strong racial spells helping make up for the low number of spell slots.
Goblins gain +2 Dex and +1 Con. Stacking Fury of the Small alongside the rogue sneak attack feature can feel really good as a high damage nova strike. However, a lot of the utility gained from playing a goblin comes from their Nimble Escape feature, which ends up getting wasted on rogues who already get the slightly better Cunning Action feature. While they line up alright, I actually find goblins are better for playing other races a bit like rogues, rather than rogues themselves. Still, the Dex bonus is ideal, and thematically they fit wonderfully, just know some of your utility is not optimal and redundant. Check out out PC guide for Goblins in 5e here.
Grungs gain +2 Dex and +1 Con. These little poison dart frogs are technically only from the land of Chult and they’re locked behind a special supplement. If you do get the opportunity to run them, their Poisonous Skin feature can add a ton of damage to your strikes. Sadly it doesn’t scale though, so grung rogues are really only scary at low levels.
Base halflings gain +2 Dex and between the subraces you can pick up another +1 of your choice. The Lucky feature is enough to justify choosing a halfling all on its own making sure you don't fumble really important attack rolls or saving throws. Lightfoot halflings in particular are usually one of the best picks for most rogues. They pick up +1 Cha and their Naturally Stealthy feature all but guarantees you’ll be able to hide when you need to.
Human (Base or Variant)
Base humans gain +1 to each ability score and the variant human gains +1 to two abilities of your choice (and a feat). Humans may feel a bit boring but they’re always going to be flexible enough to fit any mold. I recommend base human if you’re trying use that rogue talent to veer into the skill utility role, as the full spread of ability score increases will ensure you’ll have at least a small bonus in everything.
Kenku gain +2 Dex and +1 Wis. Kenku abilities often feel a bit “meh” but they really shine with rogues. Forging documents and mimicking voices can really come in handy when outwitting the guards and escaping authority. Very strong option if you plan on getting up to no good and relying on subterfuge to subvert obstacles.
Kobolds gain +2 Dex. Kobolds are secretly one of the strongest race options as their feature Pack Tactics is utterly insane, especially as a rogue. Pack Tactics grants you advantage on melee attacks as long as one of your allies is near them, which means you’ll be able to use your sneak attack every round almost guaranteed. I highly recommend kobolds if you want to build your rogue/ranger as a melee fighter and you have a reasonable expectation of some allied attacks at your side.
Tabaxi gain +2 Dex and +1 Cha. Tabaxi rogues have a lot going for them. They gain proficiency (for free!) in Perception and Stealth, Feline Agility gives you a boost of speed when you really need it and the climbing speed gained from Cat’s Claws definitely comes in handy when climbing your way up through windows. Please excuse the pun, but these cats make great burglars. Climbing to otherwise inaccessible heights is also a great strategy when you want to attack at range.
Ranger/Rogue Multiclass Builds
There’re all sorts of ways to multiclass and you won’t be “wrong” for making whatever you like, however, the following builds combine some synergistic features of both rangers and rogues to create something more than the sum of its parts.
The goal of this build is to create an invisible darkness 5e rogue assasin who can one-shot targets 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 its 3rd level features dread ambusher and umbral sight. Then our remaining 17 levels go into rogue for not only the assassin archetype but also as much sneak attack as we can manage via the death strike and assasinate abilities.
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 at level 2 for a bit of extra damage.
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 favorable for sniping.
Here’s how it works: the assassinate ability gives us advantage on any attack 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 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 hunter’s 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 for the bow, 1d8 for dread ambusher, 2d6 sneak attack, 1d6 hunter’s mark, all dice coupled for the crit, +3 for Dexterity bonus, and +2 for the archery fighting style). That’s an average of 44 damage for 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. If you've got that 17th level as an assassin, and they are surprised, they need to make a constitution saving throw or take double damage from the initial attack!
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 gives you access to the disguise self spell, a handy pick-up for any aspiring assassin!
It's important to note here that the often overlooked Infiltration expertise can also come into play here very well. Imagine a trusted guard, servant, or other NPC suddenly lunging towards your favorite big bad after a long campaign of subterfuge.
The goal of this build is to create a hit and run melee character held aloft on hundreds of tiny bugs (or whatever type of swarm you’d like for flavor) that can swoop in, deal damage, and escape while always staying just too far away to be attacked on the enemy’s next turn. This is my favorite option for melee rangers and rogues as it keeps you survivable while still dashing into melee.
To accomplish this, we need 3 levels of rogue, specifically to pick up the swashbuckler rogue archetype and its 3rd level features fancy footwork and rakish audacity. Then our remaining 17 levels go into ranger for the swarmkeeper ranger archetype and all the lovely keepaway options that the archetype brings us.
First, we want to make our Dexterity as high as possible, with secondary considerations for Wisdom and Constitution. We can also gain a bonus to initiative rolls through the swashbuckler’s features equal to our Charisma score so that’s a decent 4th place consideration, but it’s not necessary. We also want to take the dueling fighting style for a bit of extra damage. We want to be wielding a rapier as our one-handed melee weapon (specifically because it does a d8 as a finesse weapon) and since we have another hand free, we can use a shield to buff up our AC.
Here’s how it works: fancy footwork lets us hit an enemy and negate their ability to make attacks of opportunity against us for the rest of the turn. Normally this works most of the time to allow a swashbuckler to get a hit in and escape without reprisal. But against enemies with higher movement speed or in cases where you had to use a lot of your movement just to get to your target, you may not be able to get far enough away to escape them on their next turn.
With the swarmkeeper, we get the gathered swarm feature at 3rd level that once per turn grants us our choice of 3 options:
- Do an extra d6 damage on a hit.
- Force a Strength save to push a target 15 feet.
- Move an extra 5 feet.
So, what we can do is use our movement (improved to 35 feet at our 6th ranger level thanks to the reworked deft explorer) to get into melee. We use an action to make our one big attack (Dex mod damage bonus + 1d8 rapier + 2d6 sneak attack + 1d6 hunters mark). We use the gathered swarm feature to try and push the target back 15 feet as a part of the attack, then we use our bonus action to dash using our cunning action and move another 35 feet out of danger. Assuming we can get our target to fail a save, we’ve likely gotten 50 feet away even if we had to use all of our movement speed to reach the target to start with. We don’t provoke attacks of opportunity for our escape thanks to fancy footwork
As a lovely and downright annoying bonus, the swarmkeeper also gains access to bonus spells like web and gaseous form, meaning you’ll have very strong spell methods for escaping payback and controlling the battlefield as you pick off isolated targets.
Continuing with ranger at higher levels towards the late game gives us access to a fly speed through the swarmkeeper’s writhing tide feature at 7th level and invisibility through the base ranger’s newly reworked nature’s veil feature at level 10. If you want to focus more on straight damage dealing it’s also valid to keep going on rogue levels, but I prefer the near untouchability granted by the later ranger levels for this particular strategy.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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