There’s been a lot of words bandied about here at High Level Games concerning which Dungeons and Dragons class is the best.
While I respect my colleagues here (and even like a few of them), in this case, they couldn’t be more wrong. The best class is not the bard, that meaningless musician of miniscule magic. Nor is it the cleric, the ambulatory first aid station and religious pamphlet. It isn’t even the sorcerer, that forceful yet fragile freak whose favorite feature is derived from a random number generator. No, the best class in Dungeons and Dragons, oh discerning reader, is the true jack of all trades, the powerful, flexible, and durable ranger. Here’s why:
1. The true generalist-
The ranger can succeed at almost any role in the party with the exception of the damage dealing arcane spell caster. While so many other classes focus so specifically in their combat roles - try having a wizard hold the line or a barbarian healing and buffing the party - the ranger can excel at either a support or frontline role, switching comfortably between the two as needed. Rangers combine the martial prowess and multi-attack of a fighter with sneakiness of a rogue and the divine spellcasting of a cleric. They can deal out significant damage in melee combat or at range, they can be a tank protecting other more delicate party members (compensating for lack of heavy armor with an array of defensive skills), they can provide healing and buffing spells for the party in addition to dealing a modest amount of magical damage (the cleric is obviously better with spellcasting but they lack the ranger’s martial prowess). Let’s see a bard do all that half as well…
2. The specialist-
Even though rangers are capable of filling almost any role in the party, they are also able to focus on filling a specific role, through their selections of fighting style and ranger archetype. The choice of fighting style at second level gives them the ability to increase their efficiency in their chosen style of combat, increasing damage output or survivability as desired. The choice of ranger archetype, hunter or beast master, can be used for both frontline and/or support roles, depending on how the character is built. The hunter has increased attack and defense capabilities that can benefit either ranged or melee combat, focusing on defeating multiple enemies or facing powerful ones. The beast master gains an animal companion, chosen from any animal with a challenge rating of less than ¼, which can enhance their chosen role in and out of combat according to the type of animal chosen.
3. Incredible survivability-
With the same hit die as a fighter (d10) and a variety of defensive skills, ability, and magic, the ranger is the ultimate survivalist. While it lacks the ability of the fighter or paladin to don heavy armor, the ranger has their equivalent in hit points supported by various defensive abilities (e.g. multi-attack defense, defensive fighting style), divine healing, potential animal companion support, and something no other frontline-ready class has: enhanced stealth abilities. The ability to disappear entirely out of a disadvantageous combat situation can be a literal life-saver. Out of combat, rangers are the most capable class (with the possible exception of druids) at surviving in the wilds, with augmented foraging capabilities, the ability to move with stealth at speed, and superior tracking skills.
4. Mix of martial and divine magic-
This description mainly describes two classes in DnD 5e, the cleric and the ranger. While the cleric might be the classic martial spell caster, they are far better at magic then they are at fighting. The ranger has more hit points, increased damage output from class skills, the ability to use more complex weapons, and most importantly, multi-attack. The cleric is best suited to absorbing damage on the frontlines while bringing their magic to bear, both in support of the party and against the foe; once out of spells, the cleric is essentially reduced to a crappy if religious fighter. The ranger, though with fewer and less diverse spells than the cleric, remains a significant fighting force, near equal to dedicated fighters or barbarians once the well of spells has run dry. The main areas in which the spells of the ranger lack relative to that of the cleric is in the area of damaging and healing spells. The lack of damaging spells is more than compensated by their increased damage in combat. Furthermore, even though a ranger cannot provide the sheer number of hit points worth of healing that a cleric can to the part, they can provide ample healing for themselves as well as limited healing to the party, if need be.
5. Skillful, able, and proficiency-ful-
Finally, rangers come with a varied set of skills, proficiencies, and abilities which, while difficult to classify into simple categories, combine to contribute to the ranger’s greatness. Favored enemies and terrain types are limited in their scope but powerful in the right context; as rangers gain multiple favored enemies and terrains as they increase in level, the bonuses are able to be used more and more frequently. Rangers are proficient with all armors but heavy and are proficient in both simple and martial weapons, which is a boon when it comes to gearing up. They are proficient in strength and dexterity saves, which are particularly important in combat as most damaging combat spells (burning hands, fireball, etc.) are cast against the dex save. Lastly, their skill proficiencies are typically practical rather than knowledgeable, and thus will often see more frequent use (for example, perception will needed in more situations than history knowledge; furthermore, failing a history check usually won’t have life-threatening consequences).
As you can see, rangers are the most versatile of all the classes. The argument for it being the best class is purely opinion, of course, but there are few situations in which the addition of a ranger into the party would be ill-suited. Even though the thought is ridiculous, a party consisting entirely of rangers would also be more successful than a party consisting of a single type of any other class. Now there’s an idea for a new campaign…
- Jake is a young(ish) gamer and writer of blogs. His fist character in a tabletop RPG was a Halfling ranger in D&D 3.5 (told you he was young), whose fate he often tries to forget.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.