You are the protector of the wild, guardian of forbidden frontiers and shepherd to the weak. You attack your foe with blade, bow or beast. You provide no warning of your attack, dispatching your opponents quickly and decisively. You are a Ranger, and to you falls the duty and the privilege of fighting to protect the natural world.
In a recent poll held here at Dungeon’s Master we asked which class in the Players Handbook was most deadly. The response favoured the Ranger over all other options. As a result I’ve decided to take a deeper look at the class to explain just why it is such a deadly choice.
The Ranger is the only class that is given three very different attack options through the various builds that are available. When you consider this against other martial classes who all depend on different variations of melee builds this differentiates the Ranger substantially. The Ranger is a master of the bow, blade and beast.
Rangers who select the ranged build probably make the most deadly strikers. They have a high armour class and good attack score. Most of their enemies are likely dead before they make it within melee range. Factor in the ability to shift that comes with many powers and archer Rangers are the most elusive striker.
However, the ability to wield two weapons in combat shouldn’t be overlooked. As mentioned above many ranger powers allow the Ranger to shift before or after an attack. Some allow for both, making the melee Ranger a frustrating opponent. A smart Ranger/Fighter team can keep an opponent off balance with effective use of shifting and marks. Further, it is entirely possible to select the two-weapon build as a ranger and then select powers that are marked as ranged or melee weapons. This gives the Ranger excellent versatility. Combine this with the Rapid Draw feat and any opponent who thought the archer was a soft target is in for a nasty surprise.
Finally, there is the beast Ranger. Martial Powers brought a new form of Ranger love in the presence of the animal companion. Now the ranger doesn’t need the Fighter, he’s brought his own best friend to the party. Many of the beast Ranger powers allow the two to work off one another and there is nothing stopping you from picking up the odd ranged power or two weapon power.
Location, Location, Location
It’s said location is key and Rangers are the masters of moving around the battlefield. With powers that allow them to shift before or after attacks, Rangers are able to position themselves to deal maximum damage. It also allows them to get the heck out of Dodge when things start getting rough. By moving through the battlefield the Ranger is able to harry his opponents with the effective use of Hunter’s Quarry.
Hunters Like No Other
Hunter’s Quarry allows the Ranger to deal out extra damage upon their foes. Unlike Rogues, who require combat advantage to deal sneak dice, a Ranger only requires a minor action to target a foe and then destroy them with extreme prejudice. Hunter’s Quarry isn’t situational; it is pure carnage in the hands of the experienced Ranger. Woe is the opponent who doesn’t take the mark as a serious threat to their continued existence.
I Know You, Friend
Knowledge is key and in this regard the Ranger has choice. The wise ranger selects both Dungeoneering and Nature as trained skills. This allows the Ranger with but a glance to know the strengths and weaknesses of his foes. As protector and champion of the wild places knowledge is required of you to stop your foes. This knowledge is only available to those who take training. While at lower levels this choice may appear unbalanced or seem to hinder the Ranger in other abilities. As the Ranger advances this quickly becomes a moot point, but the knowledge remains and this makes the Ranger a much more cunning and canny foe.
The Ranger receives a variety of options regarding class skills. Most of these cater towards the physical abilities. While certain physical skills will play to the build that you’ve selected, the other options should not be overlooked. I’m a firm believer that skill challenges and the versatility of the character should be considered during character creation. Many martial classes have a tendency to pick the physical skills as this is what their best abilities lend themselves to. However, the knowledge skills as I’ve mentioned above are a useful choice for the Ranger to take, as are Heal and Perception. These are two skills that can be used in a variety of creative ways and they are keyed to Wisdom, which I would argue should be the Rangers second highest stat, perhaps tied with Dexterity (if you are a melee build.)
The Ranger is perhaps the most versatile class to come out of the PHB and it is only suitable that it be named as one of the more powerful classes. The ability to shift with many attack powers allows the Ranger to mitigate the damage that they receive. The option of archer or melee build, and the ability to combine the two builds allows for a great amount of versatility. It’s no wonder the Ranger is the prime hunter on the battlefield.