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A Dungeons & Dragons character class
Publication history
First appearance The Strategic Review Volume 1, Number 2
Editions All except BD&D
(as an alternate class) OD&D

The ranger is one of the standard playable character class in most editions of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game.[1] They are hunters, skilled woodsmen, and often live reclusive lives as hermits.

In 3rd edition, Rangers are the favored class of Wood Elves, Lupins (a race of canine humanoids from the Mystara Campaign setting, updated to 3.5 in Dragon magazine #325), Shifters from the Eberron campaign setting, Centaurs (Monster Manual I and Races of the Wild), Gnolls (Monster Manual I and Races of the Wild), and Catfolk (Races of the Wild).

Publication history[]

Creative origins[]

The ranger was primarily based on the character Aragorn, and the Rangers of the North of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth mythos, as warriors who use tracking and other wilderness skills to hunt down their enemies.[2] The AD&D second edition handbook mentions several other inspirations from myth and legend, such as Robin Hood, Jack the Giant Killer, the huntresses of Diana, and the Greek hero Orion.[3]

Although it is commonly thought that the ranger character Drizzt Do'Urden may also have influenced the development of the class, particularly with regard to the second edition inclusion of the ability to fight with two weapons, this notion has been rejected by the lead designer of that rule set, David "Zeb" Cook, and the lack of provision for players to be able to emulate Drizzt using the ranger class as it appears in the PHB seems to support his assertion.[4] More likely, the Drizzt character was influenced by Unearthed Arcana, which introduced the drow as a player character race and contained somewhat ambiguous wording that allowed them to use a secondary weapon not normally permitted in AD&D. Drizzt appeared as a first edition character in the 1988 release FR5 The Savage Frontier. Interestingly, few AD&D computer games based on the second edition rule set included provision for fighting with two weapons, and those that did seem to have not have included the ranger class ability (most notably, Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, which provided rangers with an extra attack when not using a shield.)

Other notable rangers in the literature of Dungeons & Dragons include Hank from the cartoon series, King Tristan Kendrick from Forgotten Realms, and Ren from Pool of Radiance.

Dungeons & Dragons (1974–1976)[]

The ranger was introduced in The Strategic Review Volume 1, Number 2.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977–1988)[]

The ranger was one of the standard character classes available in the original Player's Handbook.[5] The ranger was one of five subclasses presented in the original Players Handbook.[6]:145 The first edition rangers were a subtype of the fighters,[7] using any weapon and wearing any armor, but they gained extra attacks at a slower rate than fighters and paladins. Unlike other warriors, the ranger used d8 hit dice instead of d10s, but had a second hit die at 1st level and maxed out at 11 hit dice instead of nine. Rangers also had extensive tracking abilities, based on a percentage score, and were able to surprise opponents on a roll of 1–3 on a d6 (rather than a 1–2) while they themselves could only be surprised on a 1. Rangers also gained limited spell use at level 8, acquiring 1st–3rd level druid spells and 1st and 2nd level magic-user spells (two per level maximum). Rangers were most effective when fighting giants and humanoids (such as orcs), gaining a +1 to damage per level against these opponents. High level rangers gained followers, ranging in type and power from classed player character races, to such fantastic creatures as pegasus mounts, pseudodragons and werebears, and even to copper dragons and storm giants. As a general rule, the fewer followers a ranger gained (based on random dice rolls) the more powerful each individual follower was.

Rangers were required to be of good alignment, and were initially limited to humans and half-elves. The only multi-class option open to rangers was the ranger/cleric, allowed to half-elves. This all changed with the release of Unearthed Arcana, which opened the class to most sub-races of elvenkind, and allowed ranger/magic-users, ranger/thieves and even the ranger/druid. This last combination envisioned a neutral-good character, and thus broke with the earlier restriction of druids as always neutral. The first edition ranger was not viewed as a protector of nature or wilderness, but rather the protector of the civilized and good in the wilderness and borderlands. Thus, they were not necessarily allies of the druid character class—even the druid/ranger mentioned above was expected to adopt the ranger's outlook rather than the druid's.

Dungeons & Dragons (1977–1999)[]

The ranger was not available as a character class in the game's "Basic" edition. However, the Best of Dragon Magazine Volumes 2–3 contained variant rules for Rangers for this version of D&D, including spell lists, henchmen, and tracking ability.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989–1999)[]

The ranger, as part of the "warrior" group, was one of the standard character classes available in the second edition Player's Handbook.[5] The second edition Player's Handbook gives several examples of rangers from history and legend: Robin Hood, Orion, Jack the giant killer, and the huntresses of Diana.[3]

Rangers went through several changes in second edition. Their hit dice were changed to match fighters and paladins. Rangers could still wear any armor, but several of their new abilities required the use of light armor, including the skill to use two weapons without penalty and the thief-like abilities of move silently and hide in shadows. The class still retained its tracking abilities but, in this edition, the ability was based on a skill check instead of a percentage roll. Rangers also gained an animal empathy ability which allowed them to calm frightened or hostile animals. Instead of gaining a damage bonus against all giant and humanoid monsters, the ranger focused on a specific creature, which did not have to be of giant or humanoid stock. The class's spell abilities were also limited to 1st–3rd level priest spells from the Plant and Animal Spheres. High level rangers also gained followers, which could include various woodland animals, mythical creatures (like the treant, pegasus, and pixie), or even classed characters like druids, clerics, or other rangers (presumably low-level rangers wishing to train under a more experienced one).


With the coming of AD&D second edition's class handbooks even more options were open to the ranger. Rangers could select from several of the kits in The Complete Fighter's Handbook, becoming exotic or specialized characters like an Amazon warrior, a Beast-rider, or a Samurai. Later, TSR released a handbook specifically for rangers. This book expanded on the various aspects of role-playing a ranger and introduced a new rule: Primary Terrain. Rangers were allowed to specialize in survival in one type of environment (such as forest, jungle, aquatic, and even urban). This choice would ban some kit choices for the character and would also indicate which creature a ranger could select as a species enemy and what type of followers the ranger would receive. For instance, a ranger who selects desert as his primary terrain would probably not select white dragons as his hated enemy, nor is it likely he would attract a treant as a follower. The Ranger's Handbook also introduced several new ranger-only kits, such as the Sea Ranger, Mountain Man, and Giant Killer. There were also rules for halfling, dwarf, and gnome rangers.

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition (2000–2007)[]

The third edition of Dungeons & Dragons saw more changes to the ranger. The species enemy is now called favored enemy, and the ranger is allowed to select additional enemies during advancement. The class retains its spell casting ability, but gains it much earlier, and has its own spell list. The nature of the ranger's companions also changed significantly. Instead of gaining multiple followers the ranger gains a single animal companion, and at an earlier level than in previous editions. Finally, as of edition 3.5, the ranger uses the d8 for hit points like its First Edition ancestor (though they do not start with two hit dice). Rangers do not need to focus on two weapon fighting; they can choose to specialize in archery instead.

The race and alignment restrictions of the earlier editions were dropped, allowing evil rangers for the first time.

Like most 3rd edition divine spellcasters, a Ranger's access to magic is limited by his/her Wisdom score to spells of level matching (or lower than) their wisdom score - 10. (In addition, Wisdom complements many of the ranger's key class skills, such as Survival, Spot, and Listen.) Dexterity and Constitution are also useful to Rangers, as even those specialising in melee combat tend to be lightly armoured and make use of stealth.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008–2013)[]

Rangers in the 4th edition of D&D retain their ability to specialize in Archery or Two Weapon Fighting (respectively called Archer Rangers and Two Blade Rangers) through the Fighting Style class feature. Rangers have the Striker role, specializing in single-target damage, as well as mobility. They have the Martial power source, and, like all Martial classes, their powers are called exploits. Their special abilities make them better suited to hit and run tactics and focusing on a single opponent. Many of their new combat abilities encourage the ranger to use cunning and mobility as opposed to brute force. Other abilities allow the ranger to aid his companions with skill checks and avoiding ambushes.

Their Hunter's Quarry class feature allows them to designate the enemy who is currently nearest as a quarry, dealing extra damage to that enemy until a new quarry is designated or the encounter ends. Generally, ranger attack exploits use Strength for melee attacks and Dexterity for ranged attacks; many ranger exploits also benefit from Wisdom. Another Ranger class feature is Prime Shot, which improves the accuracy of ranged attacks when no other ally is closer to the target.

The Martial Power supplement introduces the Beast Mastery alternate class feature which replaces Fighting Style and Prime Shot and gives the ranger a beast companion.[8] The 4th Edition Ranger has no ability to cast spells on its own, but, like all classes, can perform rituals with the Ritual Caster feat, and, as of the Martial Power 2 Supplement, they (like other martial classes) can use "Martial Practices" to accomplish such tasks as forgery, pathfinding, and other abilities which could not previously be accomplished by powers and class features alone.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition (2014-)[]

The ranger has been included as a character class in the 5th edition Player's Handbook.[9]


  1. Livingstone, Ian (1982). Dicing with Dragons: An Introduction to Role-Playing Games (Revised ed.). Routledge. ISBN 0-7100-9466-3. 
  2. DeVarque, Aardy. "Literary Sources of D&D". Archived from the original on 2007-07-21. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Cook, David (1989). Player's Handbook. TSR. ISBN 0-88038-716-5. 
  4. [1]
  5. 5.0 5.1 Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0-87975-653-5. 
  6. Ewalt, David M. (2013). Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. Scribner. ISBN 978-1-4516-4052-6. 
  7. Turnbull, Don (December 1978 – January 1979). "Open Box: Players Handbook". White Dwarf (Games Workshop) (10): 17. 
  8. Martial Power excerpts: Beastmaster Ranger at Retrieved on December 4, 2008.
  9. "Keeping it Classy | Dungeons & Dragons". 2014-07-28. Retrieved 2014-09-21. 

Further reading[]

  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition Player's Handbook
  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition Player's Handbook
  • The Complete Fighter's Handbook
  • The Complete Ranger's Handbook
  • Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition Player's Handbook
  • Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition Player's Handbook
  • The Quintessential Ranger (Mongoose Publishing)
  • The Quintessential Ranger II: Advanced Tactics (Mongoose Publishing)

External links[]

Template:D&D character class

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