Author Topic: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class  (Read 1143 times)

Offline MrWolfe

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Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« on: February 08, 2017, 08:24:04 PM »
So I'm working on a rework of the 5e Ranger class. Yeah, I know, me and everybody else. (Including WOTC  :rolleyes) I'm still fairly new to 5e, so I thought I'd post my ideas here and get some input from people with a better undestanding of the system.

Some background:
I'm going to be running my first game of 5e soon, and one of my players expressed an interest in playing a beastmaster ranger. Of course, we quickly realized the PHB ranger sucks, and honestly the UA Beast Conclave version fixed the wrong problems: Their companion animal kicks ass but the ranger themselves still sucks in combat.

The concept we're going for is a Van Helsing/Diablo 3/Hansel and Gretel style sneaky, crossbow wielding monster hunter, but with an animal companion that serves as a mount and helps in combat. (Without overshadowing the ranger.) Obviously, this is probably going to involve tweaking the base class as well as the Archetype.

My current ideas:

  • Turn Hunters Mark into a class feature - Sort of like the UA Way of Tranquility Monk's ability to use Sanctuary. Make it useable once per minute, with the duration scaled to your class level. (So it lasts for 8 hrs when you get access to 3rd level spell slots, and 24 hrs when you get access to 5th level slots.) Also, make it not require the ranger's concentration, so they can actually use their spells while it's up.
  • Give Rangers the ability to cast their ritual spells as rituals - not sure how many ritual spells are on the ranger list offhand, but being able to put up Alarm over the campsite at night without blowing a spell slot would be nifty.
  • Switch ranger over to a preperation model rather than "spells known", like the rest of the divine spellcasters, giving them some more flexibility.
  • Tweak the animal companion so it works more like a ritual version of the Paladin's Find Steed spell, (ie: You summon a fey or celestial beast spirit, and re-summon the same spirit if it is 'killed.')
  • Limit the companion to serving as a mount and taking the Help action. - It can give you advantage on attack rolls in combat, and advantage on things like perception checks out of combat, but doesn't actually maul things for you unless you're not there or incapacitated.
  • Maybe add an upgrade at higher levels that lets the companion actually attack.
  • Maybe give the companion Powerful Build so a medium character can still use their companion as a mount without requiring it to be Large, since Large companions are a pain to take with you on dungeon delves.
  • Add some Paladin-style damage dealing capabilities (Divine Smite?, some of the Smite spells?) so the ranger isn't relegated to being a glorified wilderness guide.
  • Let the ranger craft holy water, like a Cleric/Paladin can.
  • Add a couple extra tool proficiencies, representing the ranger's self-sufficient outlook and survival training. (IE: Grabbing proficiency with Smith's, Leatherworker's, or Woodcarver's tools so they can craft and repair some of their own gear.)

At this point, I'm so far "outside the lines" that I'm not really sure how much of these changes to make or how to structure them. The game is set to start at 3rd, so ideally the main features should be online by then, other than that I could really use some feedback/ideas on how to proceed. Or, if anybody knows of an existing hombrew that already does what mine is trying to do, maybe point me in that direction so I don't waste a bunch of time trying to reinvent the wheel?

Thanks in advance.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2017, 08:54:19 PM by MrWolfe »
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Offline bruceleeroy

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Re: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2017, 11:48:58 PM »


Are you sure that the beast conclave ranger still sucks in combat? Especially as a sneaky crossbow wielder? Natural explorer means you go first and have unhindered mobility and advantage with your Crossbow Expert/Sharpshooter combo. Favored Enemy/Greater Favored Enemy are not insignificant boosts. 2d6+dex+24 is a nice chunk of damage at most levels of the game, and comes online at 4th for a V. Human Ranger.

Ritual casting for the Ranger seems like a minor houserule to me. Here's the Ranger spells with the ritual tag:
Alarm   
Detect Magic   
Detect Poison and Disease   
Speak with Animals   
Animal Messenger   
Beast Sense   
Locate Animals or Plants   
Silence   
Water Breathing   
Water Walk   
Commune with Nature
Normally, I would be reading this, open the reply box, decide what I had to say didn't need said, and close out. But this is just too ridiculous.



Offline MrWolfe

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Re: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2017, 04:06:39 AM »
Beast Conclave Rangers are stuck with one attack through 20th level. You could get a second attack from dual wielding or crossbow mastery, but so could any other class that already does more damage than you. Ditto for Sharpshooter. Plus, dual wielding ties up your bonus action which you need for virtually all of the Ranger's attack-enhancing spells--most of which are fairly lackluster anyway and require concentration. A Beast Conclave Ranger's damage output is even worse than a vanilla Ranger's, and that's really saying something.

Not to mention all their Archetype features go towards boosting their companion, not the ranger themselves. You'd be better off just playing the animal companion and hiring an NPC wilderness guide. Or playing a druid.

Thanks for the list of ritual spells though. Looking at that, I think it would definitely be worth adding the ability to cast rituals, though like you said it's still a minor bump in capability compared to the other classes. More of a "why didn't they have this from the start?"
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Offline TenaciousJ

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Re: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2017, 08:38:24 AM »
You can't look at the Beast conclave's damage individually.  The ranger never gets Extra Attack in Beast conclave because the companion gets 1 guaranteed attack and a trivially easy to trigger reaction attack.  That's 3 attacks by level 5 independent of bonus actions with the tradeoff that only 1 can be affected by Sharpshooter or Great Weapon Master.

The ranger PC is only half the package, so of course it sucks when you ignore the other half of the package in the calculations.  Putting Extra Attack on it makes it outclass the other martials and reinforces the reliance on Hunter's Mark.  The revised Beast ranger is dancing carefully to avoid crossing the line the 3.5 druid's animal companion crossed where the companion is practically another PC under the control of an independently fully-functional PC.

IMO it's better to balance the base ranger without the companion and leave that as an archetype ability.  You'd have to tone down the offensive capability of the Hunter and Deep Stalker to put a companion on them and not overpower them relative to other martials.

I can agree with your first 3 bullet points and the last bullet point.  For my own games, I'm a fan of giving a magic item reward that lets the ranger maintain Hunter's Mark for its full duration and cast Hunter's Mark proficiency modifier times per day without using a spell slot.  I do it this way to prevent people deciding to dip into ranger for a couple free Hunter's Mark uses.

Be aware that switching to the prepared spells model cuts off ranger from making good use of Magic Initiate.  With the spells known model and no restriction on which class list the spell slots are used for, the ranger can cast his Magic Initiate spell with his spell slots.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2017, 08:52:16 AM by TenaciousJ »
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Offline MrWolfe

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Re: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2017, 04:59:05 PM »
Thanks for the feedback, TenaciousJ. That's definitely helpful in figuring out how to do this. As for using spell slots with MI, that's something I might houserule anyway, as I'm not a fan of some classes getting an advantage that other's don't merely because of a trick of wording. Still not sure about the prepared vs spells known thing, it just seems like Rangers suffer from a lack of really good spell options, which makes their limited selection bite them even harder than it does, say, the Paladin. Being able to choose your loadout based on what you expect to encounter could somewhat make up for their spells being more situationally useful in the first place.

As for dip-bait, that's less of a concern with my group. We're all relatively new to 5e, and there's not a lot of aggressive optimization going on. If anything, part of why I'm reworking the ranger is because that player doesn't want to have to juggle multiple classes to make their concept work. Though it is something to consider if I decide to post the class for larger consumption.

I will say though, you kind of have to look at the ranger and their companion seperately--because the players will. Having most of your combat capability come from your pet may be "balanced" in the overall sense, but from the player's perspective it just makes their character seem even more nerfed and useless. Instead of getting shown up by the rest of the party, now they're being shown up by the rest of the party, and their own animal companion.

You don't pick the ranger class to hide behind a pet in combat, that's a summoner's schtick. (A playstyle that seems mostly unsupported in 5e.) People pick the ranger class because they want to play a badass hunter--not a badass hunter's sidekick, which is what Beast Conclave turns you into.
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Offline bruceleeroy

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Re: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2017, 10:37:23 PM »
Sounds like you might want to just add a summon familiar style spell, with a few extra animal options, to the ranger list and direct them toward the hunter or deep stalker. Both of those archetypes are powerful and fun, they just don't have a companion.

Maybe a companion that scales half as much as thr beast conclave would be more appropriate. I doubt the hunter/deep stalker + a nerfed companion would overshadow other classes in any significant way.
Normally, I would be reading this, open the reply box, decide what I had to say didn't need said, and close out. But this is just too ridiculous.



Offline TenaciousJ

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Re: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2017, 10:49:25 PM »
Don't play Beast conclave if you don't want to cede some of the PC power to the pet.  The pet is only that good because of the ranger's training, direction, and deep bond by the lore.  It's far from a typical animal, and the PC is the reason for that.

What's the character's concept?  There's probably an easier way to achieve what the PC wants than to rewrite an entire class.

Quote
I will say though, you kind of have to look at the ranger and their companion seperately--because the players will.

That's where the guiding hand of a reasonable DM is helpful to talk about expectations.  If you frame it that the ranger and the pet are two halves of a whole and the players don't accept that, then Beast conclave is not right for that group.

You'd make less work for yourself suggesting the player play Hunter or Deep Stalker while statting up an extra not-quite-PC beast companion that scales similarly to the Beast conclave companion to accompany the group, adding another PC of half the party's level into your CR calculations.  Create a plot hook allowing this special beast to be drawn to the party because of the ranger and let each party member get a chance to bond with it.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2017, 11:05:40 PM by TenaciousJ »
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Offline MrWolfe

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Re: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2017, 12:27:48 AM »
@bruceleeroy: Yeah, that's what I'd been thinking with the companion: Something between Find Familliar and the Paladin's Find Steed, where you cast a ritual that summons a spirit-beast that sticks around and fights with you indefinitely, and that you re-summon if it ever gets popped. That fit's with the player's original idea of a spirit-beast bonded to the ranger that hunts evil alongside them.

@TenaciousJ: Ceeding some of the character's power is fine. The problem is that Beast Conclave ceedes virtually all of it, to the point that the Ranger contributes almost as much by hiding in a corner and waiting for combat to end as it does by attacking. I'm trying to find more of a middle ground.

The concept is for an order of hunters sworn to protect civilized folk from the unnatural evil beings lurking beyond it. Specifically stuff like fiends and the undead. Maybe Aberrations and Shapechangers as well.

They're self sufficient and good at surviving in the wilderness because that's where their prey is, they've undergone some degree of divine training at a temple or monastery to better understand and combat these types of foes, and upon becoming a full member of the order (ie: reaching level three and choosing this archetype) they make a pact with a spirit-beast who hunts alongside them.

Basically, they're kind of like stealthy, anti-social Paladins. Same mandate to fight evil and protect the innocent, and wielding some of the same divine power, but they go about it by skulking around in the bushes and ambushing their foes, rather than strolling up in shiny armor and challenging evil to a duel.

For this character in particular, they want to focus on the crossbow as their main weapon, using the pet as a mount and to keep enemies tied up in melee while they snipe from range. I'd almost be temped to tweak the beast conclave a little bit and have them just rely on the Crossbow Expert/Sharpshooter combo to beef up their damage, but we're starting at 3rd and they've already chosen their race so they won't have access to either of those feats.

That, and once the Gunslinger Artificer in the party takes Sharpshooter, the Ranger wil be back to being laughably irrelevant as far as damage goes.

Right now I'm looking at modifying the Deep Stalker Conclave, since they're pretty close to what I had in mind. I think a halfway point between that and Beast Conclave would work pretty well, with a bit of re-fluffing and swapping out the bonus spells for a more "demon hunter-y" list.
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Offline TenaciousJ

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Re: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2017, 12:59:21 AM »
Quote
Ceeding some of the character's power is fine. The problem is that Beast Conclave ceedes virtually all of it, to the point that the Ranger contributes almost as much by hiding in a corner and waiting for combat to end as it does by attacking. I'm trying to find more of a middle ground.

A comment like that makes me think you're arguing from ignorance of the mechanics.  Just comparing the numbers of a heavy crossbow vs. what the beast does, you've got a 1d10 attack vs. a 2d4 attack at best from the beast companion, and the ranger has a fighting style to make the crossbow more accurate.  The crossbow can benefit from Sharpshooter, and the ranger could eventually switch to a hand crossbow with Crossbow Expert for two attacks per round that can be enhanced with Sharpshooter.

The beast companion gets a reaction to use that 2d4-or-lower attack again, but only on the condition the ranger uses the Attack action.  If the ranger sits in the corner, the pet is doing less than half the possible damage of the ranger+pet.  Did you miss the part where the pet loses multiattack and only attacks once per turn?  The pet won't attack more than once on its own turn until level 11, and it will only do that against multiple targets.  The pet cannot benefit from Hunter's Mark, Hail of Thorns, Lightning Arrow, etc. like the ranger can.

The whole concept you described would fit a Deep Stalker that has Find Steed on his Deep Stalker-specific spell list.  Use Conjure Animals for the times the ranger wants an animal distracting an enemy in melee.  Alternatively, you could reflavor a Treachery paladin and swap some of its oath spells for ranger stuff.  Nothing is stopping a paladin from using a ranged weapon and focusing on Dex instead of Str.
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Offline MrWolfe

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Re: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2017, 05:45:44 AM »
I'm more exaggerating for effect than arguing from ignorance. :D

Though I should point out that companions don't lose abilities like pounce or trample so you can still get multiple attacks per round with a companion, just not quite as reliably as you could with multiattack. Also, companions add your proficiency bonus to damage rolls in addition to their ability score modifier.

At 3rd level that makes a wolf or bear companion's damage roughly equal to a ranger with a crossbow, assuming the ranger has an 18 dex. A panther companion will do roughly 1.5x this on a pounce.

The Ranger can burn spells to increase their damage, at best getting extra d6 for three encounters out of the day, which is about half of what the DMG recommends they face. And on average, the panther still does slightly more damage on a pounce.

This gets worse as you level up, because the companion gets the same ability score increases as the ranger, has farther to go before it caps out at 20, and the proficiency bonus keeps going up as well. Granted, the ranger also gets some better spells to crank up their damage output, but those are still only usable a limited number of times.

By the time you hit level 20, the ranger gets one attack for 1d10+5 to their companion's two attacks doing 2d4+11 each. If it's a panther or there are multiple enemies within 5ft, the companion can get even more attacks--up to the number of adjacent enemies +1 If the ranger has feats, (and that is "if", since feats are an optional rule in 5e) they can get up to two attacks at 1d6+15, which is only five points more than the companion does on average. Using spells, it looks like Beast Conclave Rangers cap out at an average of 70 points (2d6+30+6d10) in a single round using Crossbow Expert, Sharpshooter, and Hail of Thorns cast with a 5th level slot. That's a little over twice what their companion can deal on average to a single target, but the ranger can only do that twice a day.

It is worth noting that while the companion can get in a lot more attacks if it's surrounded, each of those additional attacks have to target a different creature. Since Hail of Thorns deals damage over the same radius (5ft), the ranger has a higher theoretical damage output under ideal conditions. But still only twice a day compared to the companion's at-will impersonation of a furry blender.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2017, 05:48:13 AM by MrWolfe »
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Offline TenaciousJ

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Re: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2017, 10:11:41 AM »
If you're counting rangers at level 20, don't leave out Foe Slayer for the ranger (either making up the accuracy loss from Sharpshooter or just landing hits the beast would miss on the same roll).  And you're still improperly crediting the companion's 2nd attack to the companion only.  The companion can't do it without the ranger triggering the reaction, so that's just as much the ranger's damage as the beast's.  You wouldn't say a sorcerer casting Twinned Haste on weapon-users is a waste, and similarly the Beast ranger is acting offensively through a medium.

Anyhow, I've made my suggestions for simple solutions to help with you and you're group's idea of Beast conclave balance.  You're really not describing an animal companion.  You're describing a mount, and Find Steed does that very well.  It helps to get Mounted Combatant and a Saddle of the Cavalier to stretch the mount's survivability, especially without the paladin's Charisma to saves aura.
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Offline MrWolfe

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Re: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2017, 04:42:57 PM »
Ah, good catch. The potential +5 damage from Foe Slayer does even things up a bit. Though I handn't been considering the potential difference in their attack rolls, which could swing things back the other way.

Don't get me wrong, for the most part I agree with you about the beast conclave ranger. I had originally worked up a modified version of that for this player, and it wasn't until I got their feedback on it that I realized "oh hey, players actually view the companion as a separate entity, and not just part of the ranger's class features." There's a difference between mathematical balance and percieved balance, and it's the second one that actually counts at the table.

That said, your advice has been a big help in figuring out how to put this class together. I've got a couple solid ideas on how to proceed, so I'll work on those and see if either of them pass muster.
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Offline awaken_D_M_golem

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Re: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2017, 04:43:51 PM »
Hunter's free as the damage upgrade, is fine and only counts as +1 spell per day.
Rituals would be still lesser usage upgrade than what the full caster ritualists get.
Paladin-like style sure, you don't get their mantle thingy, still not quite at their capability.
All that works OK.

Mounts?  I don't think anyone has solved how to do mounts better or more balanced.
At some point it goes from too weak to too overpowered too quickly.
Consider wotc still claims +1 to +3 magic items are supposedly unnecessary,
assume just getting somewhere into the ballpark would be OK-ish math wise.

Easy Lee did a weird Mount use of Ranger BM very early on
http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?376418-Breaking-BM
... probably not the way you're trying to go, but maybe inspirational.
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Offline MrWolfe

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Re: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2017, 11:34:32 PM »
Food for thought. It's always good to know where the stress points are when building something.

For my group, I think we're all fine with ranger+companion being a little OP, especially if it means the ranger by themselves isn't left feeling like a 5th wheel. I can always just throw another monster at the party for the beast to munch on to balance things out.

Besides, I'm going to have to deal with all of this again when the Artificer gets their clockwork pal up and running.
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Offline MrWolfe

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Re: Need Advice for a Homebrewed Ranger Class
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2017, 07:00:57 AM »
So, I've done a bit more brainstorming and this is what I'm currently toying with, using the Revised Ranger as a base:

@1st
  • Add two tool proficiencies
  • Use the old version of Favored Enemy, but keep the damage bonus--including the increase and advantage on saves at 6th. This now applies to all your favored enemies.

Archetype:

@3rd
  • Hunter's Edge: Cast Hunter's mark without using a spell slot or concentration 1x/minute. Scales as though cast with your highest level slot.
  • Sacred Training: Gain a spellbook with 3 cantrips from any list, as Pact of the Tome. Learn to craft Holy Water.
  • Hunter's Pact: As Animal Companion and Companion's Bond from Beast Conclave, but the companion gains the Powerful Build trait and can't take the attack action. Is explicitly a fey, celestial, or fiendish spirit summoned by the ritual.

@5th
  • Extra Attack
  • Improved Hunter's Pact: Ritual to summon companion now takes only 1 hour and doesn't require an offering. Your companion now fights by your side.
  • Sacred Rituals: Can now record rituals and cast them from your spell book, as the Book of Ancient Secrets invocation.

Not really sure what to do with the class after 6th. Most of the ranger abilities at that point are weaker versions of stuff the rogue gets several levels earlier, so I feel like it could use some improvement. Just not sure what direction to go.

Can't decide whether this version is over or underpowered. You effectively get features from three different archetypes, but one is heavily nerfed and the other two originally came with other powerful class features. A few cantrips and a free Hunter's mark don't seem like a huge deal, and being able to make your own holy water is almost negligible. Cramming Animal Companion/Companion's Bond in there too could be a bit much, but not letting the companion attack strips a lot of it's power. It's basically a beefed-up familiar that takes longer and costs more to summon, and you don't get the telepathic link, spell sharing, or other benefits that familiars come with so maybe it's equivalent?

I'm more concerned about the 5th level abilities, since it's pretty much flat out giving you everything Beast Conclave, Dark Stalker, and Pact of the Tome get at that level. Most of it seems pretty minor though. Cutting the cost and casting time of the summoning ritual makes it line up better with Find Steed, so it's kind of like the bonus spell a lot of archetypes would get at this level. The invocation is pretty much the only thing warlocks get at 5th, but as invocations go, the ability to learn and use rituals doesn't really seem that gamebreaking--though I suppose it could depend on what rituals they learn. The real issue is giving them all that, extra attack, and the ability to have their companion attack. Monks get Extra Attack and Stunning Fist at 5th. This is what, a little better than that?

I guess the biggest problem is I have a hard time judging how potent a given feature actually is, since the closest thing to in-game experience I have at the moment is the 40+ episodes of Critical Role I've watched. And that's hardly a sound basis, especially given how much they tend to stray from RAW. :rolleyes
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