We all remember the famous scene in Lord of The Rings where Strider, the mysterious ranger from the north comes to the aid of the Hobbits as they blunder about Bree doing anything but keeping a low profile. Ironically, in the DnD world, it would be the Halfling (Hobbits) who would make the better ranger and be more likely to come to the aid of a human, rather than the other way around. Why? Because Halflings make great rangers and here’s why.
Rolling up a Halfling Ranger
The Halfling race comes with a +2 dexterity bonus to reflect the nimble and lightfooted nature of this small DnD race, so if you chose Dexterity as your main statistic you should end up with a very quick and quiet character, the perfect attributes for the Ranger class. Of you then take Consitution as your next highest statistic to help add to your Hit Point score and Wisdom to aid both spell-casting and some of the more specialist skills such as survival and animal handling, you will end up with a powerful Ranger, one that belies its short stature.
Playing the Ranger
If the fighting classes are the tanks of the party, the offensive line that is first to the fray, and the rogues are the defensive opportunists, looking to exploit any weaknesses as they present themselves, the Ranger combines both those rolls. They can bring a bit of additional muscle to the front ranks when needed but they are best used as long-range attackers or to locate enemies, tracking them down and spotting hidden ambushes, then helping to deal consistent damage every turn once you corner your prey.
The Ranger Subclasses
The ranger has 7 subclasses, called Conclaves, these represent specialized training within the Ranger community and are as follows.
- Beast Master: The Beast Master fights with a trained animal companion at their side. Unfortunately, the Beast Master suffers from rules that make them a fairly poor option especially as the companion is generally easy to kill, making it a liability as you will spend a lot of your time protecting it, rather than the other way around.
- Fey Wanderer: These Rangers have a connection with the magical Fairy Kingdom and benefit from extra damage to attacks, the gaining of mind-affecting spells, and the ability to use their Wisdom as a bonus for social skills.
- Gloom Stalker: The Gloom Stalker is what happens when the Ranger cross-trains with certain Ninja-like skills. They can move faster, hit harder, see in the dark, and hide from creatures that can do the same.
- Horizon Walker: Sensitive to creatures not of this earth this sub-Ranger can detect planar and elemental creatures, knows how to fight them, and adds non-resistible damage to their attacks.
- Hunter: This is the Ranger pushed into more of a combat-focused role, where they specialise in fighting particular targets, whether that’s a single big monster or hordes of smaller ones.
- Monster Slayer: Even more specialised than the Hunter, this Ranger has learned everything that there is to know about their chosen nemesis. They can track them easier, shrug off their assaults, and understand the best way to kill them.
- Swarmkeeper: A bit like the Beast Master except that this Ranger fights alongside a swarm of bugs, faeries, or something even stranger that flit around the battlefield, move your enemies, and mimic Wizard spells.
Role-Playing the Halfling Ranger
The natural back story for a Halfling Ranger is that they come from a small rural community, one where the people are used to living off the land and you just took that a stage further and turned it into a more specialised profession. Alternatively, you could decide that the character is ex-military and worked as a scouting party.
Spend a bit of time thinking about the specialisation of the sub-class too. Why does your character dedicate its life to seeking out and destroying certain monsters? How did they come to have specialist knowledge of non-corporeal beings? What led to them having a swarm of bees at their beck and call? These are all interesting parts of the characters life to fill in, at least in part.
Underwhelming? Not at all!
There is a train of thought running through DnD 5e that The Ranger is a fairly underwhelming character, neither a strong fighter nor a very good rogue. But I think it is this sweet spot between the two classes that is its real selling point. Although the Beast Master is a bit of a letdown in a few areas, the Ranger, in general, does a decent amount of damage, especially if you opt for the Hunter conclave.
Although the Ranger may have started out a bit underpowered in the early incarnations of the game, the various rules revisions over the years have made up for this. The revised ranger advantage on initiative, advantage on attacks first turn, is seriously powerful when combined with gloom stalker, especially if dual-wielding.
And remember, DnD is all about role-playing rather than roll playing, not every character has to be the most powerful in its area of expertise, in fact, there is a lot of enjoyment to be had playing things a bit more cautiously, and who is going to be more cautious than a person who is used to sneaking around nighttime woodlands or following game trails through snow-covered Tundra.
Fighters might have more fun on the front line of combat and Rogues might be great for taking advantage of the opportunities that arise during the ebb and flow of combat, but Rangers, when played right can be hugely rewarding. Halflings, along with Wood Elves and Forest Gnomes, make for great Rangers and there is a lot of fun to be had from sniping arrows from the back rows of the combat line or tracking down an injured quarry using your specialist knowledge.
In rural landscapes, they are the eyes and ears of the party, watching out for ambushes or making sure that you travel along paths that few others even know about. Even underground, in caverns and dungeons, they have the ability to sense anything unnatural in the surroundings, spot traps or sense danger.
They might not be masters of their skills but they are certainly a useful jack-of-all-trades type character, sort of like the Swiss Army Knife, with plenty of different useful functions all in one handy package. Don’t leave home without one.