Is Melee Ranger viable 5e in D&D?
Melee Ranger 5e d&d works in the relatively short range of 30′. However, it gives some decent bonus damage and turns the damage type into force. Using it is a bonus action, so this is a single-wield build. That’s incidentally something of a theme with Ranger conclaves. The archer ranger is just plain better than melee versions. Rangers have good hit points, but their AC will inevitably be sub-par, and a significant component of their damage output in combat comes from their concentration spells. They’re going to get hit a lot and lose their concentration quickly. If you want to do a two-weapon fighting skirmisher, probably go with a rogue for the ability to get in and out of combat quickly. You don’t get +dex to damage with the offhand, but you get twice as many chances per turn to trigger a sneak attack.
Melee ranger 5e works great up to level 8 with Horizon Walker, Dueling fighting style, using a hand weapon and shield. There are so many things a ranger can do with their bonus action. You even might not require dual wield. For an animal, you could grab Magic Initiate for the Find Familiar spell and maybe grab Booming Blade cantrip as well for another melee option. There are many Class Variant features from Unearthed Arcana, most of which will be in Tasha’s Cauldron soon.
If you want a pet by the rules, you can use speak with animals to let you make friends with it and animal handling to communicate your desires when you don’t have the spell active. You can also buy trained dogs or similar pets if your DM allows it. The trouble with the Beastmaster ranger is that the pet’s attack replaces your Ranger’s attack when you choose to use it, and also, the designated animals are underpowered for that job. Not only do you not get to attack if Fluffy attacks, but Fluffy also isn’t as good at attacking as you are. You also lose out on the combat effectiveness bumps every few levels that every other Ranger subclass gets because those bumps go to an animal that still isn’t as good as just shooting your longbow.
Best melee ranger 5e subclass: Gloomstalker, Fey Wanderer & Horizon Walker.
The top stats are Str, Con, and Wis. Don’t put your Dex above 14. Your end goal should be breastplate, so anything above 14 is a waste, and you need all the ability points for Str, Con, and Wis. Since its nice to get Dex to 14 just about any race that gives you bonuses in Str, Con, Wis, or Dex are helpful.
Gloom Stalker 5e gets the extra attack first round and can see and hide in the dark. If you end up taking Resilient, you could end up with proficiency in Saves in Con and Wisdom. So if you like making saving throws, it is a good jam. Your mobility is not very good as a Gloom Stalker. Consider the Fey Touched Feat so you can have Misty Step 5e if you go that route. If you play a human, take it as your 1st level feat, and take Hunter’s Mark as your other spell. Use the extra ability point in Wisdom to increase point buys on Str and Con. Also, Zephyr Strike for mobility reasons.
The second-best melee ranger 5e subclass is Horizon Walker. The mobility stuff is excellent in that you can be in different places. The Gloom Stalker can sometimes get stuck in the front line with limited ways to get out. That does not happen with Horizon Walker.
Fey Wanderer plays nicely with a strength-based Ranger. Both Fey and Horizon get Misty Step, and it is such a perfect spell to fix the mobility problems of a melee Ranger in dnd 5e.
A couple of things to think about Melee Ranger may not be subclass-related. Figure out the following: Shield, Archer, Two weapon fighting, or Great Weapon. Archer is complicated to pull off with Shield and Great Weapon. You may have a shield-based Ranger and end up burning a level as an Arcana Cleri. It may be in part to get Chill Touch 5e (better range than a bow, can do somatic with my shield, and cantrips scale nicely). Some rangers act differently.
Bonus action for Melee Ranger 5e
The bonus action is pretty significant in general for the Ranger, so if you’re dead set on dual-wielding scimitars, you’ll want to watch out for what subclass abilities require the bonus action, so you don’t run into issues. Here are some thoughts on all subclasses and how it works with a Two weapon fighting build.
- Beast Master 5e could work just fine as a melee ranger 5e, but it does not work if you want dual-wield scimitars. Two weapon fighting and the new pet feature from Tasha’s both need the bonus action to work. You may avoid this one unless you switch to a two h weapon or a shield build.
- Drakewarden 5e (UA) is the same problem as Beast Master. Your pet needs the bonus action to work, as does your two-weapon fighting.
- Fey Wanderer 5e doesn’t seem to need the bonus action for anything special. That could work.
- Gloomstalker 5e works well. To get the most out of that extra free attack in the first round, it’s generally best to have a two-handed weapon, but dual-wielding will be just fine. Stalkers Flurry works great with dual-wielding. You get that bonus action attack means you have another chance to miss meaning you’d be more likely to put this to use. If you’re picking a race without darkvision, I think this is your best pick. If you’re going with something that doesn’t need it, it’s still probably one of the best if not the best option.
- Horizon Walker is great, a melee ranger in 5e dnd. However, it does not work with two-weapon fighting. Its main feature at level 3 uses the bonus action every round, so it’s just not something that will work well.
- Hunter 5e works, although I’m not a massive fan of this subclass in general.
- Monster Slayer 5e requires the bonus action reasonably regularly, so I would say it’s not a great option. It doesn’t need the bonus action every turn.
- Swarmkeeper 5e doesn’t need much from your bonus action, so it’s not a bad option. The level 7 feature gives a fly speed which to me screams archer. It would work with two weapons in melee, though.
As you can see, many of these subclasses already use the bonus action quite regularly, which means you’re limited if you’re going with Dual Scimitars. Two weapon fighting requires the bonus action to be helpful, so you’ll want to stay away from those subclasses. Gloomstalker gets my vote.
Melee Ranger Design issues in dnd
Rangers’ low-level abilities lend very little to being better at taking damage, avoiding direct damage, or incapacitating opponents. As a class with d10 hit dice for HP, this leaves them significantly behind the Barbarian and the Fighter as tanks to prevent enemies from reaching the back lines to kill the squishier casters. Since Rangers are a d10 melee-capable (though not consistently effective) class, they should be able to deal comparable damage output at least to a Fighter or Monk one level behind them.
One of the significant arguments for how defenders of the status quo PHB Ranger frame they argue that their spells supplement their weapon proficiencies to boost damage. Here is where the melee Ranger 5e has both potential and problems. While the core Ranger has access to some beneficial spells, most of their better combat options are concentration spells, including the popular ones like Hunter’s Mark, Zephyr Strike, Conjure Animals, and Grasping Vine. However, the Ranger has fewer spell slots than a Paladin with 16 or higher Charisma. Importantly, they are not proficient in heavy armor and lose out on stealthiness in medium armor. That means the average Ranger who gets within striking range of a level equivalent monster with Multiattack will likely lose her concentration spell in a round or two of combat. It is a design flaw for a class. the strength of the Ranger lies in their ability to surprise the enemy. Their proficiency in Perception and Stealth gives them a much better chance to get a surprise, and then they can do a lot of damage before the enemy even has a chance to act. Most encounters don’t last many rounds, so surprise in an encounter that lasts 3-4 rounds will considerably impact the Ranger’s ability to deal damage compared to other classes.
When it comes to melee ranger in dnd 5e, two feats more or less fix some of the problems. Of course, that means 8th level or Var. Human.
Medium Armor Master 5e: no disadvantage on stealth checks, and max Dex bonus of 3 rather than 2. (though a breastplate, chain-shirt, or hide armor that doesn’t have the penalty.)
Dual Wielder 5e: +1 AC while DWing. use two one-handed weapons that aren’t light. (this gets you into d8 weaponry.)
With these two feats, you don’t have the disadvantage with your armor. Also, you are wearing a shield while using 2d8 weapons. Just make sure to invest in stealth.