Once again, Wizards of the Coast unveiled more Unearthed Arcana material on Monday. This time was a double class article featuring the Ranger and the Rogue. The Ranger received two additional archetypes in addition to all existing content and incorporating an mention regarding the latest revised Ranger, the Rogue on the other hand only received one new archetype which probably felt odd but since the class has received plenty of published content from Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide with the Mastermind and the Swashbuckler previously. The new Ranger conclaves were the Horizon Walker, a ranger that watches the planar portals between worlds besides just nature and civilization; and the Primeval Guardian, a more druidic or nature spirit oriented conclave with the ability to adapt tree-like qualities. The Rogue received the Scout archetype, which is a more woodland oriented rogue with a few guerrilla style tactical features. Wizards again has another survey, this time for last week’ Artificer. The new class has received some worthy discussion regarding its feasibility, development, and thematic representation. Most of the conversations seem to like the class overall with a few still voicing that the class is not as detailed or intricate as older editions provided. Either way you swing it, the class was recently offered and they guys over at Wizard’s R&D could definitely use the feedback.

Click here to get the link for the Artificer survey.

Click here for the new Ranger & Rogue Unearthed Arcana PDF.

The Horizon Walker – the planar warden we deserve

The Horizon Walker was a class name for a prestige class back in D&D 3.5 that was essentially a character that gained benefits while being in specific types of terrain and eventually gaining benefits from planar realms as well. The class was featured again in 4th Edition as a Ranger Paragon path from the Martial Powers book. Ultimately the theme of the Horizon Walker was a warden or tracker that specialized in travelling to different planes and adapting to their environments. This iteration tries to follow that legacy and ultimately follows more along of an ethereal plane oriented combatant with the means to find planar portals (which are prevalent in the Forgotten Realms).

Horizon Walker Spells. Most classes with a spells known list ultimately suffer the limitation of lacking variety and utility due to the fact they cannot select spells for preparation and instead are stuck with their spell selections for an entire level before switching to more efficient spells. It’s very powerful to give a class extra spells, especially if it expands their spell list by giving spells it normally would not have access. Learning banishment and teleportation circle are powerful spells that grant the Ranger additional roles, such as dealing with the devil or demon that’s attacking the party or connecting between two points to reduce travel time for the party.

Planar Warrior. While a Ranger typically can select planar entities like devils, demons, elementals, or fey as a likely Favored Enemy there is no martial or combative gain for this selection. The Hunter conclave was the higher damage oriented design, to keep up with that mindset and damage output, it made sense to offer some measure of additional damage. The most powerful aspect of this feature is the ability to ignore damage resistances (but not immunity) for a creature and deal additional force damage on top of that. This works great especially when the Horizon Walker wants to use Lightning Arrow but is confronting an Air Elemental, this gives back some versatility to the Ranger while keeping the ability thematic. Though I feel that the damage should have scaled since its using 1d6 for the force damage, it would’ve made more sense to up the damage since this Ranger conclave is not as damage oriented as say the Hunter or even the Beast Master.

Portal Lore. The ability to find planar portals is not as glamorous as it sounds, though it has many avenues of exploration potential for the party to explore it can ultimately become a chore for the DM if left unchecked. I enjoy the thematic integrity this feature tries to employ, it works well especially when dealing with things like demons, devils, or even the fey and the breaches made whenever they traverse between planes. It feels rather clunky of a feature since the Ranger gains the Primeval Awareness feature at 3rd level as well. I feel that this feature should’ve just incorporated itself with Primeval Awareness and be labelled as Planar Awareness.

Ethereal Step. I like this feature, it empowers the Ranger with mobility and means to either escape a tough spot or move over an obstacle. Granting the ability to cast etherealness as a bonus action for only the current turn is still quite useful, especially when you have a Ranger that either focuses on archery or becomes overwhelmed with enemies.

Distant Strike. The name of this feature almost suggests a ranged combat style but honest still works well even in melee. The Horizon Walker gains the ability to teleport up to 10 feet before each attack when using the Attack action, if the second attack is on a different target, the Ranger gains a third attack on a third target for free. No bonus action, just simply a free attack so long as they were all different targets. While it does not allow a Ranger to focus fire as much as other melee oriented classes like the Barbarian or the Fighter, this feature works well in granting more opportunities for the Horizon Walker to strike multiple creatures though it seems to conflict with the Planar Warrior feature that allows the character to focus fire as well. It’s an oddly placed ability and feels like two different combat styles thrown into one conclave which is something the Ranger class as a whole as been suffering in its class identity since its inception.

Spectral Defense. It’s essentially the Rogue’s Uncanny Dodge, simple as that. Granted the Ranger acquires this feature much later and ultimately thematically written that the Horizon Walker shifts into the planar boundary just temporarily which makes them out of sync with the realm. I like the flavor but ultimately the mechanics is not something to write home about. It does allow the Ranger to survival stressful combat situations better than say a Fighter or any other normal Ranger equivalent. It also keeps the Horizon Walker on the offensive more often since they do not have to expend spell slots to heal their own wounds.

The Primeval Guardian – For the tree-hugging, tree-loving wannabe Rangers

The Primeval Guardian is designed to be a more druidic focused Ranger, emphasizing more on protecting nature instead of being an in-between protector between nature and civilization. These rangers guard and protect druid groves and ancient forests, great multiclass for a Paladin with an Oath of the Ancients. In older renditions of a Druid-focused Ranger, the Ranger was able to Wild Shape similar to a druid, this time the iteration grants a more tree-like transformation. The capstone for this conclave grants a residual healing aura but only if your allies are under half their maximum hit points so it does not completely replace a true healer role.

Primeval Guardian Spells. Again this Ranger conclave expands the spells known for the Ranger since they are typically limited with spell options as their roles change and adapt to the way their campaign runs. The inclusion of Conjure Animals, Insect Plague, and Giant Insect offer secondary bodies that create a great barrier of combatants between the enemies and the Ranger. The spell selections seem to allow and support both key fighting styles of most Rangers which are archery and two weapon fighting.

Guardian Soul. So the Primeval Guardian gets the chance to apply tree-like qualities, mostly the Ranger becomes Large in size, movement becomes 5 feet, but the Ranger gains temporary hit points at the start of each of their turns while in this form. This is a particularly odd ability at first glance, it gives the Ranger ways to endure a melee fray if surrounded since it only requires a bonus action to use this feature. In a combat scenario, the Ranger gains more options on how to endure a tough situation especially when escape is no longer an option. Tack on the Piercing Thorns feature, this makes a Primeval Guardian a force to be reckoned with both afar and close by. Note that this feature does not specify any limitations on the amount of uses or needing rest, which means that this feature can be done used in a number of situations like assuming a tree-like form to endure a cold winter night or perhaps to hide and conceal themselves from a passing orc war band. The only real issue I have with the size change is that there are no rulings for the Ranger’s weapon and whether they lose it, or keep it, and whether or not they change to match the new size change. I would like the idea of a tree Ranger shooting a bow with segmented pieces of branches. The lower rejuvenating temporary hit points suggests that this ranger role is more midfield and possibly back in the row with other casters instead of being in the frontlines.

Piercing Thorns. This feature gives the Ranger to focus fire on an enemy combatant again. I don’t mind that this feature was scaled since the Ranger has access to a few damage dealing spells that uses their weapon, like Ensnaring Shot or Lightning Arrow. Some might feel that this feature should scale along with Ranger levels to give more potency back to the class. I feel that this feature should deal double the damage to 2d6 while using the Guardian Soul form but might create too much of a reliance the Guardian Soul feature. So honestly I feel this feature is appropriately done from causing any over abundance of role specialization and more generalization.

Ancient Fortitude. This feature is a great boon that meshes well with the Guardian Soul feature and keeps the feature in a more defensive role instead of an offensive one. Raising maximum and current hit points by twice the Ranger level can be the different between life and death for the ranger. The best part is that the Ranger keeps the current hit point value even when they leave the Guardian form. It’s a more roundabout way to self-heal but it keeps the Ranger alive longer especially when the damage dealt by enemies easily out perform the temporary hit points granted by the Guardian Soul feature. Once used, this feature cannot be used again until after a short or long rest, so it’s an emergency button when needed. This feature does not use an action, it simply can be triggered when the Ranger enters into their guardian form so it fits along the “oh crap I’m getting surrounded I need to slow down the pain” sort of vibe.

Rooted Defense. This is a useful feature especially if the Ranger and their allies are starting to get creamed or the enemy bypassed the various summoned creatures through this conclave. Making a 30-foot radius centered on the guardian form ranger difficult terrain is quite a handy feature but it removes the Ranger from a damage dealing capacity and allows casters and other back row roles to retreat and perhaps bottleneck the enemy to a central area. There are some creative tactical movements that the Ranger can implement but generically this works well when slowing down enemies.

Guardian Aura. While in guardian form, the Ranger creates an aura of restorative energy that heals injured allies. The range is just as far as the Ranger’s Rooted Defense, so together the two features creature a safe zone for allies while making it difficult for enemies to enter and flee. It grants the Ranger a secondary healing role without overshadowing a true healer role or at the very least relieve the other secondary healer like a Paladin or Bard. With more primary healers like a Druid or Cleric, this reduces their dependency and allows them to wreak havoc to the enemy. This feature also keeps tanks and other damage dealers in a relative comfort zone to continue fighting while under the refuge of their ranger ally. It might seem quite powerful since the Primeval Guardian can shift into their guardian form an infinite number of times and coupled with Rooted Defense and Guardian Aura can be a potent force to reckon with, the Ranger is almost as dangerous as letting a healer remain unchecked.

The Scout – Hey wait a minute! And there they go

We featured a Scout archetype for the Rogue several months back (click here) and followed the same thematic roots as Wizards did when they crafted their own version. There were some design elements that this blog and Wizards pleasantly shared and then there was some separation afterwards, I’m pleased to say that both iterations still carry the mentality of a guerrilla warrior that has a good lay of the land, moves and escapes quickly, ambushes their foes, and hits them hard where it hurts. I’m equally pleased that the Scout was a new Rogue archetype whereas some traditionally would’ve considered the trope more of a Ranger role.

Survivalist. So the Rogue gains Nature and Survival as skills, and is treated as having Expertise in both of these skills. Meaning that whenever the Scout uses either one of those skills, they add double their proficiency bonus which was an emphasis of their natural terrain specialization. I’m always on the side of giving more archetypes and subclasses more skills especially when thematically appropriate.

Skirmisher. Since the Scout goes deeper into the frontier than most scouting based classes (like the Ranger and other Rogue archetypes), they may be times where they need to find a way to escape combat or at least have a means to make it easier. As a reaction, they can move half their speed which is quite potent since it does not create opportunity attacks. Once its their turn, the Scout may choose to flee a scene and use the Dash action along with their normal movement. Saving the scout some use on the action economy, plus if the scout is ranged combat oriented, the movement helps them distance themselves from an enemy so they do not get disadvantage on attack rolls while in melee. Quite a handy and useful feature for even for melee scouts since they can move away enough and probably move to find a decent hiding spot to prepare for their next ambush.

Superior Mobility. Extra movement speed is always good, especially with a class that emphasizes on movement and using hit-and-run tactics. Most rogue features at this level typically have to do with either utility in combat or exploration based situations. A wood elf Scout has a land speed with this feature of 45 feet per round, coupled with a double Dash (using a normal Dash Action and Dash as a Cunning Action), that’s 135 feet of movement in a single turn. Even moving 45 feet per turn and then hiding as a bonus action which is subsequently followed by an Attack action can be lethal to a single target with all those sneak attack dice.

Ambush Master. The role of a Scout is to find the enemy, rely the information back to the party, and lead the ambush. Surprise rounds are already powerful from either end of the spectrum, granting a +5 bonus to initiative to allies when surprising their foes is quite useful. Especially when there might be a warrior or caster with low dexterity modifiers and sometimes need a boost. additionally, for the surprise round, all allies gain a 10-foot speed increase which really helps them reach their targets which is often a problem for melee combatants that must traverse a good distance unlike casters and possibly the Scout. Your allies can never be faster than the Scout, which makes sense and often will just be tied on the initiative order instead.

Sudden Strike. Rogues are good about focus firing against an enemy, and this feature really takes it home. Not only does this feature give the Scout an extra attack on a bonus action, if the target was the same target and still satisfied the requirements for Sneak Attack, there is a second Sneak Attack. At 17th-level, the Scout can dish out 18d6 damage when using this feature. That’s quite potent and deadly when combined with a surprised round along with allies entering into the fray. Granted this feature may not be used all the time if the enemy keeps hitting the scout, and losing the bonus action for Cunning Action will lead the Scout to make a tougher choice of which feature to utilize. But Rogues like to have options and escape options are the best kind. Either way, this really pushes the Scout to being similar in potential damage output with the Assassin archetype which is equally a powerhouse.

Final Impressions

The Ranger was a class from the original printing where many fans, players, and commentators felt that it was sub par when compared to other classes. The original printing was indeed rather lackluster and felt behind in terms of combat prowess, utility, and the ability to focus on a role. The revised Ranger from Unearthed Arcana was somewhat of an improvement, moving a few features, changing the wording of a few, and reworking the Beast Master conclave which was by far the weakest of all. But ultimately there were very few choices for a Ranger player to choose, the few Unearthed Arcana that were released offered the Dark Stalker conclave and most recently the Horizon Walker and Primeval Guardian. The Horizon Walker is an interesting theme, especially for the Forgotten Realms since there are plenty of portals scattered through the realm but also if Eberron were to be released later on it would also fit since the elemental planes are constantly being exposed due to the exploits of Artificers. The Primeval Guardian adds a stronger support role for the Ranger, especially in situations where may not be a dedicated healer in the group. Even a druid is technically not a full-fledged healer, they can heal for sure but not as efficiently as a cleric could. Overall the two Ranger conclaves add some new role possibilities for the Ranger and expands them further with expanded spell lists and utility features that empower them better to set up a favorable scenario. My one big compliment would have to be the flavor and themes for the two conclaves were both distinct and did so in a way to give more distinct roles depending on the Ranger is built for a particular campaign.

The Scout archetype has done well to give further mobility to an already mobile class, with the Skirmisher feature offering additional means to escape and set up the next ambush. Empowering allies when springing the ambush itself, and finally the ability to hit an enemy hard where it hurts. I feel that this archetype is very close to the Assassin archetype for its destructive capabilities in a surprise round but the Sudden Strike feature truly gives the Scout a means to hit hard often instead of the first time in combat. The Scout can afford to be aggressive and still find a means to escape is far more than what the Assassin would have to do.

Please make sure to do the Artficer survey by clicking here.

Click the link for the playtest material for the Ranger & Rogue here.

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