Tuesday, April 2, 2024

A (Hopefully) Unique Complaint About the 5e Ranger

 Jessica, from Accounting*
I haven't talked about 5e much on the blog, even though I ran it for a few years. Still, I have some pretty strong feelings about the game (strong enough that I just run OSE now) and I thought I'd share one of them here because there's a broader point about game design to be taken from it and I haven't seen it discussed elsewhere. If it has been, I apologize in advance.

Most criticisms of the ranger, which is generally agreed to be one of the weaker 5e classes, center on the animal companion feature which I don't
honestly care that much about. The artificiality of companions in 5e bothers me in general so I'm much more likely to take a subclass that doesn't include them. The ranger, regardless of subclass, has a bigger problem: it eliminates the thing that should be it's spotlight.

My two favorite classes to play in D&D are Ranger and Rogue/Thief. Despite running a generally deadly game, as a player I am often overcurious and headstrong enough to put my head in holes it probably shouldn't go. These classes allow me to do that separated from the party so that I'm the most likely to suffer the consequences. They both scout ahead and check for traps.

In 5e, for the rogue this is fairly well done. You make checks, and the rogue is super good at those checks so they're more likely to succeed. You still have to make the check so there is sort of in game "on screen" time that the rogue is doing their thing and they're usually really good at it. Neat!

The ranger, on the other hand, cannot get lost in their favored terrain. This sounds like it'd be real useful, but in effect what it does is remove the spotlight from the player. DMs in my experience rarely describe this as a moment when the ranger's leading the party is super expert and cool. Instead it becomes a thing ignored - no mechanics so we don't need to talk about it. 

The thing the rogue is good at is a thing everyone gets to see because they make the roll and they're better at the roll than everyone else. The thing the ranger is good at nobody sees because it immediately fades into the background. It sucks.

*And honestly my default D&D character.


  1. Totally agree! 5e makes the things a ranger excels at fade into the background. Pass Without Trace tends to just skip the sneaky phase of infiltrations too.

    Is there an edition that you think does the ranger especially well? I got my start with D&D on 4e and for all the problems with that system, I recall the Ranger class being really fun.

  2. I really enjoyed your unique take on the 5e Ranger, Jessica. Your insights about how the class design can unintentionally sideline the ranger’s spotlight moments were spot on. It’s refreshing to see a different angle on this discussion. Keep up the great work!