Ranger D&D Monsters

By R.J. Compton on 9 April 2023.

Rangers are formidable combatants. They make excellent allies in numerous scenarios. As Dungeon Masters, though, we might wonder how they could become foils to our heroic parties or merry vagabond bands. Despite their less-than-welcoming reception in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, rangers still provide a host of abilities, narrative strands, and wild ideas to Dungeon Masters for custom D&D monster creation. Look in the current edition of D&D, gaze into the past, and pick what you like. You're bound to find a nice mound of ranger-scented truffles.

Today, that's what we're exploring: how to make a D&D monster with the ranger player class. 

Like any sensible ranger, let's rush right into the fray.

A Simpler Approach

While crafting a set of traits of our own may be fun and thought-provoking, there is a simpler way to attach ranger abilities and ideas to D&D monsters. Let's check out this simplified method before delving deeper.

Gather and peer through the various ranger subclasses in fifth edition D&D, or look at rangers of editions gone by. Pick a feature, steal it, and plop it right on a monster. There you go: you have a ranger-like monster to pit against your party. Here are a few great ranger subclass features to attach to your monsters.

  • The Gloom Stalker's Umbral Sight. The monster gains darkvision out to a range of 60 feet. If they already have darkvision race, its range increases by 30 feet. They are also adept at evading creatures that rely on darkvision. While in darkness, they are invisible to any creature that relies on darkvision to see them in that darkness.
  • The Horizon Walker's Distant Strike. The monster gains the ability to pass between the planes in a blink of an eye. When they use the Attack action, they can teleport up to 10 feet before each attack to an unoccupied space they can see. If they attack at least two different creatures with the action, they can make one additional attack with it against a third creature.
  • The Hunter's Horde Breaker. Once on each of the monster's turns when they make a weapon attack, they can make another attack with the same weapon against a different creature that is within 5 feet of the original target and within range of their weapon.

Identify Ranger Traits

Alright, time to go in-depth.

Before we even start crafting monsters, we need to identify what traits of the ranger class we can swipe and insert into our monsters to further flavor and embolden them. Each of these major traits can be used to build a set of possible abilities or background bits.

What do you think about a goblin defined by the decrepit caverns he wanders? Or a bugbear who specifically hunts other bugbears? Perhaps a fire giant who swaps between multiple weapons in a battle, each crafted in the fiery forges of the obviously best variety of giant?

Let's define the obvious ranger traits.

Wild Spirit 

Generally, rangers are free-ranging and intimately connected to the unbounded straits of land. Forests, plains, mountains, swamps, caverns, and deserts are where they roam best, though a select few might treat urban environments as their wilderness of choice. Rangers typically take on aspects of the region around them in their personality, appearance, and even combat technique. For example, a ranger who lives in a forest might have a firm personality like the trees around them, rely on a strong support system as each member of the forest family relies on each other, and abhor civilization from tearing apart the forest to build mockeries of the ranger's own home.

Imagine a goblin ranger who embodies the mushroom grove he lives in. The goblin wears a mushroom cap hat, carries pouches filled with dangerous spores, lives inside a massive mushroom, and even has an odd dog-shaped mushroom companion. Mix a ranger combat trait or two into that and you have a unique, mushroom-obsessed goblin ranger.

Favored Foes

Since I've played D&D, I've associated rangers with the favored enemy trait. Whether it was third edition, Neverwinter Nights, or the wacky implementation of the concept in fifth edition, I'd always look forward to crafting my own ranger around their favored enemy. You can do the same with a monster. However, if it's going to be battling the characters, do your diligence and ensure its favored foe is in the party. It won't be an interesting enemy trait if it doesn't ever come up in battle.

Imagine pitting a kobold with a pension for hunting halflings against your primarily-halfling group. How about a balor demon with a fierce hatred for elves and is able to sense them miles away? Maybe a hill giant who embraces the fine art of dwarf smashing? The favored foe trait need not only provide combat bonuses to this ranger monster, but it can also provide plenty of storytelling opportunities for you and the rest of the group.

Numerous Fighting Styles

Why stick to one way of fighting when you can style on your foes? A classic function of the ranger is a wide range of weapon combat options. An elven ranger may specialize in dual-wielding longswords and weaving quickly through the bloodshed. A dwarf ranger might practice archery and outshine even the finest human archers. Another could wield only a battleaxe, or a scimitar and shield, or a greatsword of mighty proportions. Plus, each of these rangers could swap between these fighting styles swiftly; one round they might dual-wield, the next they may retreat behind cover and loose a volley of arrows.

Elf by artborne-wd.

This is a great way to make a battle dynamic. A ranger-based monster can focus not on a wide array of abilities, but on a decent arsenal of different weapons to swap between.

Light Nature Magic

Nothing extravagant emerges from the ranger in the form of magic, but any monster inspired by them could have minor connections to nature magic. Easily, you can just drop the exact Ranger spells from any Player's Handbook onto your monster, or slightly retool them if needed. We can do this with a few Ranger spells from the 2014 Player's Handbook, such as thorn whip, entangle, and hail of thorns. It need not be extravagant; it'll provide new options and new flavor to a usual, bland monster.

Make Ranger Trait and Monster Lists

Armed with what makes a ranger and what will translate well to a D&D monster, it's time to make lists or a table of the potential monsters and ranger-inspired abilities and traits. One list needs a bunch of ranger traits. The other should be a batch of monsters you can apply these ranger traits to. Here's an example of two lists with ten items each.

Ranger Traits

  1. Terrain Attunement. The monster is able to hide in, maneuver around, and knows a lot about certain types of environments like forests, plains, caverns, or mountains. This gives them bonuses to Stealth, any knowledge check about the landscape, and inside information on the dangers and secrets in the area.
  2. One With the Land. The monster has become one with its environment. It takes on features unique to its environment. For example, a desert ranger may craft needles into their armor, have sandy yellow skin, or carve weapons from the bone of great waste beasts.
  3. Obsessed and Angry. The monster hunts a certain type of enemy. When battling this enemy, they gain great combat and out-of-combat benefits.
  4. Only Eyes For One. The monster once hunted a certain class of enemy but stopped to focus all their ire on one specific foe. When battling this sole foe, they gain incredible combat benefits. They also know everything there is to know about this individual.
  5. Rabid Weapon Swapper. The monster switches between multiple weapons and fighting styles during combat. Consider allowing it to freely swap between weapons every round, batching an interesting movement ability alongside it. When it swaps to a bow, the monster might leap into a strategic position. When it shucks its offhand sword to the side and pulls out a huge shield, it pushes its allies to the side and becomes the biggest target in the battle.
  6. It Takes Two. The monster uses one powerful weapon during its first hit point pool, then swaps to another during its second hit point pool. This should be an epic moment in the battle that showcases not only the strength of the monster but the awesome weapons it is wielding...that may soon be in the characters' hands.
  7. Healthy Helper. The monster focuses on enhancing its beast companion with nature magic. During battles with it, the true power lies in this monster's companion. However, without the ranger alive, the companion becomes a whimpering shell of its empowered self.
  8. Don't Vine If I Do. The monster wields nature magic to control its enemies. Arm the monster with thorn whip, entangle, hail of thorns, et cetera. If you don't want to look up spells during combat, just use the base monster's basic attack bonus and give it to a summoned thorn vine controlled by the monster.
Crypts of Ravenloft by vilenko.

Ranger Monster Bases

  1. Goblin
  2. Bugbear
  3. Gnoll
  4. Oni / Ogre Mage
  5. Hill Giant
  6. Erinyes
  7. Balor Demon
  8. Ancient Black Dragon

Craft Creatures Using the Ranger Class

Don't run off on your own just yet! Here's a brief list of potential monsters you can use in your D&D games. Each is inspired by the ranger in some way.

  1. Goblin Pathfinder - a goblin who specializes in blazing trails in a specific terrain type.
  2. Bugbear Stalker - a bugbear who melds into her surroundings and springs upon unsuspecting prey with nature magic.
  3. Gnoll Ravager - a gnoll who swaps between multiple weapons during battle, cycling until his foes lay dead before him.
  4. Oni Avenger - an ogre mage who tracks a specific favored foe, eager to take them out after taking extreme precautions to prepare for the battle.
  5. Hill Giant Deadeye - a hill giant who swaps from dual-wielding longsword to a great bow upon the midsection of the fight.
  6. Erinyes Raider - an erinyes imbued with bits and pieces of hell-scarred nature magic.

Lessons Learned

The player character classes of D&D provide Dungeon Masters with plenty of inspiration to build interesting monsters. 

In particular, the ranger class helps create monsters with a variety of interesting properties like nature magic, varied fighting styles, and favored foes. You can mix and match these traits with any base monster across any D&D edition and you'll end up with a more interesting creature, plus a few ideas to build their story around. 

The idea of crossing classes with monsters may seem incredibly basic, but it's powerful. If you need to make a unique monster fast, are tired of typical monster features, and have access to or knowledge of the character classes, this is a great monster-making method. 

Try it out and let me know how it goes!

If you enjoyed this post, check out last week's article, all about how to improve your Dungeon Mastering craft while on a hiatus from running games behind the screen. If you'd like to read more RJD20 articles and improve your tabletop roleplaying game sessions and worlds, check out the links below.

Related Articles

Want More RPG Tips & Tales from RJD20?

As always, thanks for reading. Please send all inquiries to rjd20writes@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

No comments:

Post a Comment