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DnD Ranger 5e class guide

Wizards of the Coast's DnD Ranger 5e is tough, dextrous, and indispensable - here are the best Ranger DnD races, subclasses, and spells.

Human DnD Ranger 5e holding bow in woods (art by Wizards of the Coast)

Heavily inspired by J.R.R Tolkien’s Aragorn and the Rangers of the North, the DnD Ranger class was introduced in the earliest D&D books. Known for their variety of fighting styles, Rangers tend to be as skilled with a bow as they are full of deadly finesse in close combat. Our Ranger 5e class guide gives you everything you need to roll up a little Aragorn (or Drizzt Do’Urden) of your own.

Admittedly, the DnD Ranger 5e class isn’t as well regarded as some other DnD classes power-wise, but, if optimized correctly, they are a formidable aide. From a roleplaying perspective, too, the Ranger offers plenty of character progression – especially with Favored Enemy. You can lean into this ability to create a story for your character, fleshing out the dark origins of your searing hate for DnD Goblins, and so forth.

Below you’ll find all the info you need for Ranger character creation, including the best DnD races to choose, Ranger subclasses, and strong beginner DnD character builds to give you a solid start on your next adventure. We also recommend skimming our DnD character sheets and free online DnD character creator tools, to make the creation process a breeze.

Here’s what you need to build a Ranger 5e DnD character:

DnD Ranger 5E class guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing the famous Ranger / Fighter Drizzt Do'Urden

Ranger 5e stats

Hit dice 1d10 per Ranger level
HP at lvl up 1d10 (or 6) + your Constitution modifier
Primary ability scores Dexterity, Wisdom, Constitution
Armor proficiency Light armor, medium armor, shields
Weapon proficiency Simple weapons, martial weapons
Tool proficiency None
Saving throws Strength and Dexterity

Regardless of whether you’re looking to focus on ranged or close combat, concentrate on Dexterity (Dex) as your primary attribute. Even in melee, you can use Dex as a primary statistic on any weapon that comes with the ‘finesse’ quality.

Crucially, Dex is the primary statistic for ranged combat, naturally one of the biggest draws to playing as a Ranger. Maintaining a high Dex statistic also supports Acrobatics, Armour Class, and even Stealth – which is another specialty for the class. Basically, you want Dex to be your main focus if you intend to play the class to its fullest potential.

Starting at level two, Rangers can cast spells with their casting attribute in Wisdom (Wis), so this should be your secondary focus, with Strength (Str) and Intelligence (Int) being your dump statistics. At level one, you have significant experience in studying, tracking, hunting, and even talking to a certain type of enemy.

You also get to choose a type of Favored Enemy, which grants you an advantage on Wis (Survival) to track them, as well as Intelligence (Int) to recall information about them. It’s safe to choose Orcs, Giants, or Goblins as your Favored Enemy, since you will likely encounter these early on in the lion’s share of beginner DnD campaigns – in the Forgotten Realms DnD settings, at least.

DnD Ranger 5E class guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a ranger running through woods with twin blades

Ranger 5e fighting styles

Once you hit level two, you’ll adopt a Fighting Style as part of your Ranger’s growing repertoire. However, you can’t take a Fighting Style option more than once, even if you get the opportunity to choose again later on. Whether you prefer picking off enemies from afar or getting up close and personal, taking the time to figure this out will improve your overall experience of playing D&D.


+2 to attack rolls with ranged weapons is precisely what you are looking for as a Ranger. Not only are you looking to be Dex-based, but this will also help you offset the penalty from using shots with the Sharpshooter feat.


While wearing DnD armor, gaining +1 to AC is far from impressive, but, seeing as AC is tricky to scale, it can make all the difference – especially with a high Dex statistic.

Druidic Warrior

You can learn two DnD cantrips of your choice from the Druid 5e spell list. But, importantly, these count as Ranger spells when you use them, so Wis is your spellcasting ability for these cantrips. Each time you gain a level as the Ranger, you can swap out one of these cantrips for another one from the Druid spell list.

Wizards of the Coast art of a DnD Ranger 5e Githyanki


When you’re holding a melee weapon in one hand, and no other weapons, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with that weapon. This is ideal if you want to carry a DnD shield to provide additional defense for close combat.

Two-Weapon Fighting

When it comes to fighting with two DnD weapons, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack. The second attack remains a bonus action, which allows you to pile on a bunch of damage in combat.

Thrown Weapon Fighting

You can draw a weapon that has the thrown property as part of the attack you make with that weapon. Also, when you hit with a ranged attack using a thrown weapon, you gain a +2 bonus to the damage roll.

D&D Ranger 5E class guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing an elf archer in a wood

Best race for Ranger 5e

When selecting one of the races for your Ranger, you want to look for races that will give you bonuses to your key DnD stats. Anything that will boost Dex or Wis is sure to be your main focus here.

If you are new, choosing DnD Elf as your race is a decent starting point. You get +2 Dexterity, Darkvision, and you are proficient in Perception. You can expand into a subrace, such as Wood or High Elf, for additional bonuses.

If you’re more experienced, or you’re playing with someone who has more than just the core DnD books, you may want to try out the Custom Origins rule from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. This divorces a character’s race from the ability scores they can boost – with these rules, anyone could conceivably make a decent Ranger.

Below are some of our top picks for Ranger races, based on the classic 5e rules:

Wizards of the Coast art of a DnD Ranger 5e Elf

Wood Elf

If you are picking your race with an optimal build in mind, Wood Elf is the way to go. You have +1 Wis and +2 Dex bonuses to boost your primary and secondary statistics. Combine that with Fleet of Foot and the Mask of the Wild ability, and you have a very effective Ranger build. Admittedly far from exciting, but, if you want to go heavy into Dex for a traditional Ranger build, this is your first port of call.

Variant Human

Playing as a variant DnD Human can work, for the simple reason that this race is designed to work with any class. With a variant Human, you’ll receive +1 in two different stats, and get to choose one feat and proficiency in one skill.


The DnD Halfling race gets the all-important +2 Dex, as Wood Elves do. However, combined with their natural Lucky and Brave abilities, you have a build that can explore every crevice of a dungeon without fear. Halflings are naturally stealthy, which complements your specialty well.


If you prefer to be a melee-fighting, strength-based Ranger, then playing as a Half-Orc is one to consider. You get +2 Str and +1 Constitution (Con), which are both respectable stats for this type of Ranger. You also get Darkvision, Savage Attacks, and Relentless Endurance, combining to make the Half-Orc a top-tier option for melee-first Ranger. 

DnD ranger 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of three Dragonborn drinking by a fire

Best background for Ranger 5e

D&D backgrounds mainly provide flavor for your backstory, with a few minor mechanical bonuses. Because of this, the best background for a D&D Ranger depends on what kind of person you want them to be.

There are a few obvious choices if you’re feeling stuck. The Outlander or Hermit background tells the story of a Ranger who has shunned society in favor of a more rural lifestyle. The Outlander’s Wanderer feature also complements your choice of class excellently, allowing your Ranger to find food for five at will – as long as you’re surrounded by nature.

Your choice of subclass (more on these later) may also suit particular backgrounds. A Gloomstalker might have once been a Criminal or an Urban Bounty Hunter, for example. Or perhaps your Fey Wanderer is a Feylost because you were kidnapped and brought to the Feywild as a child.

These backgrounds have natural ties to the Ranger class, but it’s never a bad choice to go with something more out-of-the-box. Consider the roleplaying opportunities of a Ranger who was once a Mercenary Veteran, an Investigator, or a humble Fisher.

To find your perfect background, consider a few key character questions:

  • How did your Ranger learn their most important skills?
  • How does your Ranger survive day-to-day? Do they earn money or live off the land?
  • If your Ranger has allies and enemies (animal or otherwise), how did they meet? If they have no one important to them, why is that?
  • When your Ranger isn’t on an adventure, where do they call home?
  • What secret information about your Ranger might surprise other party members?

DnD Ranger 5E class guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a human ranger in armour with a hawk

Ranger 5e subclasses – Conclaves

At level three, you’ll build upon your Fighting Style by picking a subclass to develop your character further. While there are only two subclass options in the Player’s Handbook, there’s a variety of alternative subclasses available in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Each grants you access to its own set of subclass-specific Ranger spells, as well as its own unique subclass abilities, unlocked at levels three, seven, 11, and 15.

For advice on which are the best Ranger subclasses 5e, see our dedicated guide. And here’s everything else you need to know about the seven D&D Ranger 5e subclasses:


Found in: Player’s Handbook

Level Subclass ability
3rd Hunter’s Prey (Colossus Slayer, Giant Killer, or Horde Breaker)
7th Defensive Tactics (Escape the Horde, Multiattack Defense, or Steel Will)
11th Multiattack (Volley or Whirlwind Attack)
15th Superior Hunter’s Defense (Evasion, Stand against the Tide, or Uncanny Dodge)

The Hunter is the vanilla Ranger subclass, representing one of the earliest, archetypal iterations of D&D’s Ranger. It’s basic, but you still have a wealth of options, while providing defensive and offensive bonuses. You can build the Hunter as a ranged specialist or a melee threat, depending on your combat preferences.

Wizards of the Coast art of a DnD Ranger 5e and two companions fighting a sea monster in a boat

Beast Master

Found in: Player’s Handbook

Level Subclass ability
3rd Ranger’s Companion / Primal Companion
7th Exceptional Training
11th Bestial Fury
15th Share Spells

Take this subclass if you want to have a Ranger’s Companion (i.e. a pet). Beast Masters can choose any animal that is Challenge Rating 1/4 or lower, and size Medium or smaller. You can take anything from flying snakes to giant badgers, or even a Pteranodon if you really want to make a splash at all the cool Ranger parties. Alternatively, you can opt for a magically summoned Primal Companion, which works slightly differently but does fundamentally the same job.

Your class abilities naturally center on your primal pal. At seventh level, its attacks become magical, and you get slightly more options for commanding it; at 11th level, it can make two attacks (or a multiattack if it has one); and, at 15th level, it can share the effects of spells you cast on yourself, so long as it stays within 30 feet of you.


Found in: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

Level Subclass ability
3rd Gathered Swarm
7th Writhing Tide
11th Mighty Swarm
15th Swarming Dispersal

With Swarmkeeper, you can conjure swarms or spirits of nature, which can attack enemies, push them away from you, and more. You get decent spellcasting options that complement the Druidic Warrior Fighting Style. Swarmkeeper is a popular choice as it’s flavorful, and offers plenty of aesthetic juice for D&D players.

As you level up, your Swarm becomes more powerful. At seventh level, Writhing Tide lets you have the swarm fly you around the battlefield in its winged embrace.

At 11th level, the Swarm’s attacks do more damage, it knocks enemies prone when it carries them away from you, and it grants you half cover whenever you use Writhing Tide to fly. Finally, at 15th level, Swarming Dispersal lets you not only give yourself resistance to damage from an attack, but dissolve into your Swarm and teleport up to 30 feet away. Neat, huh?

DnD Ranger 5E class guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing the feywild

Fey Wanderer

Found in: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

Level Subclass ability
3rd Dreadful Strikes, Otherworldly Glamour
7th Beguiling Twist
11th Fey Reinforcements
15th Misty Wanderer

If you want a wider range of spellcasting options, then the Fey Wanderer could be for you. Gifted with peculiar Feywild traits like antlers, or flowers growing from their hair, these Rangers can tap into their Fey home to deal extra psychic damage with their weapons, and like to Enchantment spells such as Charm Person to lock down their targets or keep dangerous enemies at bay.

Right off the bat, your Otherworldly Glamour also grants you a bonus to Charisma checks equal to your Wisdom modifier, plus proficiency in your choice of Deception, Performance, or Persuasion – and it only gets Fey-er from there.

At seventh level, you gain advantage on saving throws against being charmed or frightened, and, every time anyone within 120 feet passes a save versus being charmed or frightened, you can use your Reaction to try and charm or frighten another creature within the same range.

At 11th level, Fey Reinforcements teaches you the spell Summon Fey, and it allows you to cast it without spending a spell slot, once per long rest – a handy summon in a pinch. And, at 15th level, Misty Wanderer lets you not only cast Misty Step for free, but bring one willing creature within five feet along with you to the target location – a fantastic way to spirit a wounded ally away from the front lines.

DnD Ranger 5E class guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing three Ranger subclasses

Monster Slayer

Found in: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Level Subclass ability
3rd Hunter’s Sense, Slayer’s Prey
7th Supernatural Defense
11th Magic User’s Nemesis
15th Slayer’s Counter

The Monster Slayer cares about analyzing enemies and expands on the Hunter subclass with more options. At third level, you’ll also get Slayer’s Prey, an ability that piles extra damage onto a single target, stacking with the damage from Hunter’s Mark. And at seventh, Supernatural Defense kicks in, giving you additional bonuses to saving throws and escaping grapples.

From there, your superlative shut-down skills keep getting better. At 11th level, Magic-User’s Nemesis allows you to cancel out your enemies’ spells (in the manner of Warhammer 40k‘s Deny The Witch), and, at 15th level, Slayer’s Counter lets you make a free single weapon attack against your Slayer’s Prey any time that you would have to make a saving throw against it. If the attack hits, the save automatically passes, and you do damage with the attack; it’s pretty savage.

Gloom Stalker

Found in: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Level Subclass ability
3rd Dread Ambusher, Umbral Sight
7th Iron Mind
11th Stalker’s Flurry
15th Shadowy Dodge

Sometimes you see subclasses try and shift into Rogue-adjacent builds – and Gloom Stalker is a prime example. Gloom Stalkers offer a more stealthy approach to rangering, and thus offer an ideal way to marry DnD Rogue and Ranger if you simply can’t settle on which class to play.

Gloom Stalkers’ Umbral Sight gives them 60m of Darkvision and makes them invisible to other creatures trying to see them using Darkvision – while Dread Ambusher gifts them a speed boost, an extra attack, and extra damage on their first turn of combat. You then collect a set of sneaky subclass abilities, culminating in the excellent Shadowy Dodge, which allows you to vanish into smoke when targeted, imposing Disadvantage on enemy attacks.

You can learn more in our full Gloom Stalker 5e subclass guide.

Wizards of the Coast art of a DnD Ranger 5e firing a bow

Horizon Walker

Found in: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Level Subclass ability
3rd Detect Portal, Planar Warrior
7th Ethereal Step
11th Distant Strike
15th Spectral Defence

In terms of strategy, Horizon Walkers play similarly to Gloom Stalkers when it comes to versatility – but, instead of skulking in shadows, these folks prefer to hop between dimensions.

Your subclass abilities start off strong, with Planar Warrior allowing you to use a Bonus Action to lump extra force damage onto your normal attacks. Ethereal Step, added at seventh level, grants you spell-slot-free access to the Etherealness spell, which is great for hijinx; jump to the Ethereal Plane for a turn, blink across the battlefield, and materialize right behind the enemy boss – why not, eh?

You’ll top out, at 15th level, with Spectral Defence. When you’re about to take hits, you can use this ability to effectively phase in and out of the current plane of existence, granting resistance to any attacks for the rest of the turn.

Not the flashiest or most bombastic of Ranger subclasses, possibly – but there’s a lot to be said for its ultra-mobility and sense of mystique.

DnD Ranger 5E class guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a human archer in profile with a bow

Ranger 5e spells

Unlike other spellcasters, Rangers learn their first spells at level two. You aren’t blessed with many spell slots, either, so it’s essential to make the most of the spells you can take. As such, here’s a breakdown of some of the best 5e spells you can take as a beginner Ranger.

Hunter’s Mark (Level 1)

Hunter’s Mark is a must-have for any Ranger. Slap it on an enemy, and you’ll deal an extra 1d6 damage to that target whenever you make a weapon attack, with an advantage on any Perception (Wis) or Survival (Wis) check. Unsurprisingly, Hunter’s Mark comes in most useful when you’re fighting a single Strength-based foe, as opposed to when mobbed by multiple enemies.

Fog Cloud (Level 1)

Fog Cloud creates a 20-foot-radius sphere of fog on a point within range which can be plenty useful in a pinch. When you need to lose a chasing horde or to disrupt ranged enemies taking shots at your party, Fog Cloud is an excellent spell to have in your back pocket.

Ensnaring Strike (Level 1)

Casting this as a bonus action (with Concentration), you can pin an enemy in thorny magical vines until the spell ends. While restrained, the enemy takes 1D6 piercing damage at the start of each new turn. Whether it’s pinning down a marauding foe before they can reach your lines, or trapping their back-line spellcaster in place so your Rogue can dart forward and finish them off, Ensnaring Strike can be highly useful for low-level crowd control.

DnD Ranger 5E class guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a human ranger with a bow standing in profile

Silence (Level 2)

Inside and outside battle, Silence is an incredible spell. When casting Silence, you create a 20-foot-diameter bubble, anywhere up to a range of 120 feet, where no sound can pass through or be created.

You can be creative with Silence – sure, its main use is to stop a spellcaster using verbal spells, but it could also stifle communication between two people. It’s worth noting, too, that this spell can prevent Thunder damage – relevant if you’re facing an enemy who uses this as their main damage output.

Pass Without Trace (Level 2)

Outside of combat, this spell can be key to your party’s survival. When cast, you and your companions are masked from detection: each creature you choose, within 30 feet of you, gets a +10 bonus to Dex (Stealth) checks. This spell is incredible when escaping from powerful enemies, or setting up a surprise attack.

DnD Ranger 5E class guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing an elf archer drawing back her bow

Beginner Ranger 5e build

Now you have an idea of what the Ranger can offer in a session of D&D, let’s look at an entry-level build to get you on your way.


We suggest choosing Wood Elf; +2 Dex and +1 Wis are too good to pass up, since these are your primary statistics. Otherwise, Halfling offers a stealthier approach, while still giving you +2 to Dex before you begin. However, if you choose to play as a Human, you can take a 5e feat at level one, which could be helpful if you fancy specializing further in a particular skill set.

Level two

Fighting Style – this ultimately boils down to how you want to approach combat, but we recommend Archery, as it’ll have you picking off enemies from afar. It also ensures you can play conservatively, hanging back outside of the heat of battle – ideal for a new player learning the ropes.

Level three

Pick the Beast Master subclass. It’s the best out of the two available in the Player’s Handbook – plus, having a pet can offer some incidental utility later on.

Level four

You can either increase your ability scores or take a feat of your choice. If you choose to take a feat, the Crossbow Expert feat pairs nicely with anything that takes advantage of your high Dex. Trading your bonus action for an extra attack is useful.

Level eight

Similarly to level four, you can up your ability scores, or take a feat. If you’ve taken Archery as your Fighting Style, Sharpshooter is an excellent feat to support your combat style and if you’ve already taken the Crossbow Expert feat. You take a -5 penalty to your attack roll, but if the attack hits, it deals +10 damage. It’s risky, but you can tailor your build to offset the negatives over time. 

DnD Ranger 5e Drizzt Do'Urden fighting a monster (art by Wizards of the Coast)

One D&D Ranger

While One D&D (also known as DnD 6e, or just the next iteration of the core rulebooks) is still being drafted, playtests have shown us what the next-generation Ranger will likely look like. There’s a lot of familiar ground, but plenty of new paths for a Ranger to wander.

Firstly, spellcasting has been moved to level one, replacing the Natural Explorer class feature. The ‘Deft Explorer’ feature is now also included at level one, which gives you Expertise in a skill you’re proficient in and advantage on Nature and Survival checks about a chosen terrain. Rangers also gain Weapon Mastery at level one, allowing them to master two specific kinds of weapons.

Favored Enemy has moved to level two, and Primeval Awareness seems to be missing from level three. Level six introduces a new feature, Roving, which increases your speed by ten feet if you aren’t wearing heavy armor. It also gives you a climb and swim speed equal to your regular speed.

The Hide and Vanish features are both gone, but they’ve been replaced with Nature’s Veil at 14th level. This allows you to expend a spell slot as a bonus action to become invisible until the end of your next turn.

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It seems only Feral Senses and Foe Slayer have stayed in place (though there have been some tweaks to make Foe Slayer more powerful). Additionally, Conjure Barrage and Conjure Volley are two of the latest features introduced for the Ranger, and they ensure a Ranger always has those two spells prepared.

We don’t know what all the Ranger subclasses will look like at this stage, but we’ve seen some that’ll give us a clue.

The new Hunter

For example, take the Hunter subclass. Here, the third-level Hunter’s Prey feature replaces Giant Killer with Retaliator, which allows the ability to apply to creatures of all DnD sizes.

The third-level Hunter’s Lore ability allows you to learn the immunities, resistances, and vulnerabilities of a creature affected by your Hunter’s Mark. Additionally, Defensive Tactics now includes options originally found in Superior Hunter’s Defense, plus a new one called Hunter’s Leap.

Multiattack has been replaced with Superior Hunter’s Prey, which lets you choose another Hunter’s Prey option. Plus, Superior Hunter’s Defense gives you an extra Defensive Tactic at level 15.

Wizards of the Coast art of Minsc, a DnD Ranger 5e

A fresh Beast Master

Player’s Handbook Playtest 6 also features an updated version of the Beast Master (our least favorite 5e Ranger subclass by far). This one takes notes from the Beast Master in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and introduces a Primal Companion at level three.

Exceptional Training allows you to spend a bonus action commanding your companion to Dash, Disengage, Dodge, or Help, and it lets the beast’s attacks ignore damage resistance. A summoned creature now also benefits from your Hunter’s Mark spell.

The new Gloom Stalker

According to the most up-to-date playtest documents, the future Gloom Stalker has many of the same features – but with new tweaks. For example, Dread Ambusher now allows you to deal extra damage beyond the first turn of combat.

Umbral Sight now increases your Darkvision to 60 feet, and Shadowy Dodge gives you the chance to teleport immediately after an attack misses (even if it has advantage). Stalker’s Flurry has seen a total overhaul, now allowing you to make extra attacks or spread fear after Dread Ambusher is triggered.

Once you’re ready to play a Ranger, it’s time to find the perfect DnD campaign or DnD one shot for them to join. Or, if you think you’d like to run a game, here’s our top tips for how to be a DM.