When it comes to 5e‘s Player Handbook, I think the archetype system was a great choice. It provides more distinction between members of the same class (a Nature Cleric feels much more different than a Life Cleric, as compared with 3e) and a lot of design space to incorporate the gimmicks or interesting minor mechanics that would’ve been prestige classes or paths or destinies in previous editions.
With that said, there are a handful of base classes* that got short shrift in the book. Bards, Druids, Rangers, and Sorcerers have only two class options from which they can choose, so we should rectify this problem with homebrew. Today we’ll be looking at Rangers (saving my frustration at the Bard’s design for another day). For inspiration, we’re going to look at two primal-based classes, one from 3e and one from 4e, and see how to adapt them into 5th edition.
* To be fair, this isn’t as much of an issue for Rangers because the Hunter archetype gives design options, but this is also a good piece on adapting previous editions’ material.
The first is the Deepwood Sniper, whose flavor is about long-range attacks. All of the Ranger’s features are somewhat combat-related, so we don’t have to worry about allocating things for utility / exploration purposes as much.
Within the darkest forests, keen archers practice their craft, defending their homes with accurately placed arrows. The most exacting of their number gain greater renown as deepwood snipers, an order of archers recognized for their supreme precision and patience. A deepwood sniper always waits for the best shot, taking careful aim at all who would defile the forests they call home. While the order started among the elves, in recent years a number of other races have proven their aptitude and been inducted into their numbers. Whatever the threat, deepwood snipers can quickly appear to loose a volley of arrows at their foes.
Keen Arrows: Beginning at 3rd level when you choose this archetype, when you make a ranged attack roll you threaten a critical hit with a roll of a 19 or 20.
Far Shot: Starting at 7th level, you no longer have disadvantage when you make a ranged attack roll with a bow or crossbow at long range.
Rapid Shot: Beginning at 11th level, whenever you use the Attack action to make at least one ranged weapon attack, you can make an additional ranged weapon attack with that weapon as a bonus action.
True Aim: Starting at 15th level, when you make a ranged weapon attack, you can gain advantage on the attack roll. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of 1). When you finish a long rest, you regain all expended uses.
Keen Arrows provides an immediate combat boost that fits the flavor of a skilled sniper. It arguably steps on the Champion Fighter’s territory, but for a sniper I don’t think that’s bad. Far Shot locks this in as a martial archetype, although it’s not defensive like the Hunter’s 7th level options, but it doesn’t provide a straight damage boost. Rapid Shot is where Rangers gain additional attacks–tying it into the action economy restricts the archetype somewhat so it’s not quite as good as the Fighter. True Aim is fairly simple but reinforces the feel of someone who can just make that shot.
The second is the Primal Seeker, an adaptation of the 4e class that used nature’s spirits to control the battlefield. Because it had both the Bloodbond and Spiritbond paths, I’ve also folded those into it. Much like the Hunter, this archetype is really two in one.
New Ranger Archetype: Primal Seeker
Although they have the drive for exploration and share an archery focus with many other rangers, primal seekers have become more adept with the magical elements they wield and use their powers to control the battlefield. Primal seekers receive additional aid from the spirits of the wild, calling on these forces to hinder their foes and give them an advantage in every type of terrain.
Seeker’s Bond: Beginning at 3rd level when you choose this archetype, choose either the Bloodbond or Spiritbond option. Your choice gives you one of the two features below and also affects other archetype features. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of 1). When you finish a long rest, you regain all expended uses.
- Bloodbond – Encaging Spirits: As a bonus action, you can choose a creature within 60 feet that you can see. It must make a Constitution saving throw against your ranger spell save DC as angry spirits surround it. If it fails, you can push it up to 10 feet in any direction of your choice, and its speed is reduced by 10 feet for its next turn.
- Spiritbond – Spirits’ Rebuke: When you are targeted by a melee attack, you can use your reaction to repel that creature. It must make a Strength saving throw against your ranger spell save DC or be pushed up to 10 feet away to an unoccupied space of your choice. If you are no longer within the creature’s reach after it is pushed away, the attack misses harmlessly.
Primal Agility: Beginning at 7th level, you gain additional quickness and precision from one of the two features below.
- Bloodbond – Heated Blood: You can use the Dash action as a bonus action.
- Spiritbond – Helping Hands: You no longer have disadvantage on thrown weapon attacks made at long range, and any thrown weapon you use can bounce off your target and return immediately to your hand.
Inevitable Shot: Beginning at 11th level, when you take the Attack action and miss with a ranged or thrown weapon attack, you can make one additional attack with a ranged or thrown weapon.
Seeker’s Prowess: Beginning at 15th level, you have even greater mastery over the spirits that aid you. You gain one of the two features below.
- Bloodbond – Bloody Despair: When you hit a creature with a ranged weapon attack roll, you can force your target to make a Constitution saving throw against your ranger spell save DC. On a failure, that creature has vulnerability to the next successful weapon attack it suffers before the beginning of your next turn. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of 1). When you finish a long rest, you regain all expended uses.
- Spiritbond – Storm of Spirits: As an action, you can choose a number of squares you can see within 60 feet of you equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of 1) and conjure an angry spirit within that square. These spirits can occupy the same space as a creature, and allies within those squares have cover. Enemies who begin their turn sharing a square with a spirit have disadvantage on the first attack roll they make each turn. On your turn, you can command these spirits to move up to 30 feet each as a bonus action, but they must remain within 60 feet of you or they dissipate harmlessly. These spirits last for 1 minute or until you dismiss them as a bonus action. You must finish a long rest before you can use this feature again.
Most of these features are adaptations of 4e powers. Seeker’s Bond gives some battlefield control from the very beginning–multiple uses are almost a necessity because we won’t give more until 15th level. Primal Agility adds some combat utility and gives an option for throwing weapons that is currently not filled by any class options. Inevitable Shot gives another conditional attack, and Seeker’s Prowess further gives control options, returning us full circle to the archetype.
What adaptations of previous editions would you like to see?