Lacking Capstones

Today I talk about our capstones. A capstone is a feature you gain when you reached the level cap, in D&D more specific the level cap in one class (means 20th level for now). The only D&D edition which made great capstones were 4e, Pathfinder got it right and made at least decent, but often not too great, capstones. In 5e, most are lacking.

Here I categorized them to usefulness:

Great and useful anytime

  • Barbarian’s Primal Champion (+4 STR and CON and the cap get increased to 24 for these two abilities)
  • Paladin’s [Ancient] Elder Champion (regain 10 hit points per turn, 1 action casts can be reduced to bonus action, enemies within 10ft have disadvantage to saving throws vs. your paladin spells and Channel Divinity).
  • Rouge’s Stroke of Luck (turn a miss into a hit or make a failure in a ability check to a natural 20 once per short rest)
  • Wizard’s Signature Spells (have two 3rd level always prepared and cast them once per short rest for free at 3rd spell level)

Useful in most cases

  • Cleric’s Improved Divine Intervention (100% chance that your god will help you once a week)
  • Fighter’s 4th attack (great at combat, otherwise useless)
  • Paladin’s [Devotion] Holy Nimbus (10 radiant damage per round for enemies within 30ft, advantage on saving throws vs. undead and fiend spells)
  • Paladin’s [Vengeance] Avenging Angel (Fly speed 60ft and 30ft fear aura).
  • Warlock’s Eldritch Master (regain once per day after 1min all expended Pact Magic spell slots)

Rather lacking, even though useful sometimes (like builds and cases)

  • Druid’s Archdruid (unlimited Wildshape for moon druids and spellcasting with your mind alone unless the material components cost gold)
  • Ranger’s Foe Slayer (once per turn WIS-mod. to attack or damage vs. favored enemy after seeing the roll but before knowing the result)

Useful when running into a lot of encounters

  • Bard’s Superior Inspiration (get one inspiration back when having none when rolling initiative)
  • Monk’s Perfect Self (get 4 ki points back when having none when rolling initiative)
  • Sorcerer’s Sorcerous Restoration (regain 4 expended sorcery points after a short rest)

Some of them would definitely rank higher, if there were only one to two changed details. Like the warlock’s Eldritch Master, if it’d only cost an action. Pact Magic slots are regained after an hour rest, too, after all, even though a minute is much better in that regard, I wasn’t that whelmed.

So why aim for the capstones after all, if most of them are underwhelming? Maybe high level campaigns in planning have a lot of encounters one after another, so regaining resources with initiative roll will have that much impact. Maybe the 21th+ levels will bring some juicy bonuses when you stay in your class and the ‘not-capstones-anymores’ are just a milestone to real power.

I personally think after gaining so much levels in one class, you can simply go all the way. Why would a character even bother at that point to pursue another path?

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Overview Ranger

Finally, we get to ther ranger’s overview. I already made some posts about that class, so I cut it short in the introduction. I just want to mention, that the one who made the text-routines for Internet Explorer has to be an idiot, because I had to switch to IE temporary and while I wrote all this, the browser did its best to tell me to be replaced as fast as possible.

This is an overview, so I’ll just categorize each class in certain categories to see how it cuts and give a personal grading. The end-grading won’t count the multiclass-strength in (for obvious reasons) and is more like an overall impression than a mathematical derivation.

Any feature in italic is from a subclass and a abbreviation will say which one (in the ranger’s case HU for Hunter and BM for Beast Master). And red features means there is a flaw or a minus in said category.

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Multiclass-Strength:

  • If you’re a caster, a ranger will provide half its level to your spell-slots per day
  • The first levels doesn’t provide you that straight benefits, second level brings you a fighting style and already some of the best ranger spells, you can go for archetype (here the HU is the better choice) and a strong offense trait in 3rd level and 4th will bring you an ability score improvement
  • 5th level excels with Extra Attack in case your other class won’t provide it, afterwards ranger will stoß being that useful for multiclassing into, except you want another strong HU defense feature at 7th and the ability improvement a level after
  • If you want ranger as a main-class, you can aim for level 16th or 17th without much trouble, but you can also leave it at 12th to grab another Hunter feature and ability score improvement and leave it at that
  • the capstone is ignorable

Offensive:

  • Weapon Proficiency: Always have the better tools due martial weapons.
  • Fighting Style (Archery, Dueling, Two-Weapon Fighting): More damage is more damage after all.
  • Spellcasting: Most of your damage comes from these spells, which buffs yourself quite good. Hunter’s Quarry is pretty insane for 1st level.
  • Extra Attack: More attacks means more damage.
  • Feral Senses: If you can detect the enemy, you can kill it.
  • Foe Slayer: Not too great of a capstone, but increase accuracy and or damage.
  • Hunter’s Prey (HU): Increase the amount of attacks or damage.
  • Multiattack (HU): In certain circumstances this dishes out more damage than your regular attacks (depending on the number of enemies). Sadly, it’s unfocused, but it can provide the slaying of pre-damaged goons.
  • Superior Hunter’s Defense [Stand against the Tide] (HU): If you’re mobbed and someone misses you, you can redirect the attack with new attack roll to another target. Less defensive than the name would suggest.
  • Ranger’s Companion (BM): The more obvious companions do more damage than you.
  • Bestial Fury(BM): More attacks overall.
  • Foe Slayer: Sadly only for Favored Enemies and since you get your last one(s) at 14th level, you might not get a use of it, when the campaign takes a much different turn at the end.

Resource-Management:

  • Spellcasting: Mostly a heolp to manage your hit points and such better, not that strong in the ranger’s case.
  • Vanish: Hide as a Bonus Action is pretty much the reason why you want to multiclass into rogue for 2 levels. Sadly it comes a bit late at 14th level, but for any Archer and Hit-and-Run style ranger it’s still an effective way to manage their actions better.
  • Foe Slayer: Since you can decide to use it after the role, you can make missed attacks into hits, after having an idea of the AC of the opponent.
  • Exceptional Training (BM): Somehow mitigate the downs of the companion management a bit.
  • Bestial Fury(BM): Transfer one attack of yours into two attacks of the companion.
  • Share Spells (BM): Use one spell and target you and your companion, less actions for more effect.
  • Spellcasting: The most powerful spells are concentration, so rangers might want to stay back, since they lack proficiency in con-saves normally.
  • Primeval Awareness: Uses spell slots.
  • Ranger’s Companion (BM): Uses up your own actions.

Support:

  • Spellcasting: You at least you have some minor support here and much more in the control department, so debuffs are your main-support, since enemies who have to deal with them are much less dangerous.
  • Exceptional Training (BM): Help Action for your Bonus Action and the companions actual action.
  • Share Spells (BM): Helps your companion and it’ll need all help it can get.

Survivability:

  • Hit points: A d10 is above the average d8.
  • Armor Proficiency: Only the shields are to mention here.
  • Natural Explorer: Not much, but when running away in your specialized environment is much more likely. Normal pace and stealth, so if you fight in the long run, you can be pretty annoying.
  • Fighting Style (Defense): One of the few valuable ways to enhance your AC most of the time. Especially since the ranger lacks much protection in general.
  • Spellcasting: You can heal yourself and has some lesser protection spells.
  • Land’s Stride: Natural hazards and terrain are your friends now and you get even advantage to saves when those are magically influenced.
  • Hide in Plain Sight: While having your camouflage you can hide about anywhere with this. So if things goes south, go to the wall and be never seen again…
  • Vanish: Did you really need even more ways to make it hard to track you? – Yes, indeed!
  • Feral Senses: It works as an ambush-detector, so you won’t be less often surprised by those who are confident in their stealthiness.
  • Defensive Tactics (HU): Makes it harder to hit you when provoking opportunity attacks, subsequent attacks of the same enemy or at least gives you advantage to saves of one of the m0st common conditions you’ll run into.
  • Superior Hunter’s Defense [Evasion, Uncanny Dodge] (HU): Gain either half damage for a single weapon attack per round or half to none damage to every saved dexterity saving throw. Pretty useful.
  • Ranger’s Companion (BM): Since you get another when making a short rest, you can sacrifice it when necessarily.

Utility:

  • Skills Proficiency: You get 3, which is more than most classes.
  • Favorite Enemy: Know thy enemies. And their language. And then track them!
  • Natural Explorer: Makes it so much easier to move in nature for you and your party.
  • Spellcasting: A lot of cool and trendy outdoor spells here, hard to choose from this list.
  • Primeval Awareness: Up to you how useful it is. At least you can identify if the threat might be immediate when signs show up (like burning houses, which might suggest the presence of a dragon, fiend or elemental nearby).
  • Land’s Stride: Makes it a bit easier on the scout duty.
  • Hide in Plain Sight: Scouting in the enemy’s camp? Sure, just use a minute, have a decent Dexterity (Stealth) score and you can pretty much move freely.
  • Vanish: All things included, you can scout about anything without leaving reasons to track you. Great for information gathering.
  • Ranger’s Companion (BM): The utility of having a beast companions is great if you bring a bit of imagination into it. Especially since it brings your scouting skills too the max or can even help by standing night watch, while being inactive during the day (like an owl).
  • Favorite Enemy: Since you only have limited number of choices here and no way to change them, you’d better know what the campaign will bring you.
  • Natural Explorer: Pretty much the same, only in this term with terrain-types.

Grading:

Multiclass: Decent
Offense: Good (BM) to Great (HU)
Resource Management: Decent
Support: Bad
Survivability: Good
Utility: Fantastic

Overall: Good

OK, this class is complicated. Especially the Beast Master brings some easy mechanism into play, which are pretty complicated if you want to use them at best. But the ranger beats the monk and the fighter class in being good at fighting (even not as great as them) and being uber-useful out of combat, especially in a natural environment. The spells brings some diversity and can bring stable and dangerous boosts to the combat if needed while having access to some neat controlling mechanism, which provides some special tools if you need them. But sadly not enough and too single enemy focused to make a good support.

Worrisome are the resource management and the fact, that this class get problems when built up melee focused, since it seems to lack some answers a melee would normally need, especially in terms of survivability, so I’d rather compare the meleeness of the class more to a rogue, while the ranged abilities does rival a ranged focused fighter pretty well. Well, it’s a ranger.

I do think, that some level rangers for multiclassing purposes are good, but the class peaks at staying single-classed.

Overall the ranger is a class which does what it does pretty well, but seems to cover more fields of expertise adequate than it really does. The danger lies here to think, that you can do too much too well. Stay in safety when possible, use your features to get as much advantage beforehand as possible and do it sneaky and fast, whenever the situation arises. If you do so, you shouldn’t run into more problems than any other class and possibly even a lot less.

My nemesis is my species enemy and became my favored enemy, do you understand?

The internet is a trap! After regaining connection for one day, I already wasted my whole evening and did nothing for the blog… Since I’m going to a Pathfinder session soon, I have too less time to make my overview, but I just took a topic which I wanted to talk about: The ranger’s favored enemy and how it changed in the editions.

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1st Edition: The ranger didn’t have the choice of an enemy, but gained a flat +1/level damage to giants and certain humanoids like orcs. Flat but useful like most choices of the 1e.

2nd Edition: Here we got the species enemy feature, where a player chose a specific type of creatures which had to be accepted by the DM and should be tied to the ranger’s back-story. And got rewarded with a +4 to hit, while having a penalty of -4 to reaction. But in the end, those +4 were really useful and even if the choices were more open, it’d kicked asses.

3rd edition: The species enemy got renamed to favorite enemy and it’s the first time, the feature get a bonus outside combat (even though these were often disregarded). The +hit and +damage of the feature made it especially sexy to choose a favored enemy which will be either confronted often over several tiers of play or are tough to crack, like humanoids (human), undead, aberrations or constructs. And a big difference: You can select multiple favored enemies over the course. But since the 3e mechanic wouldn’t make the most iconic enemies like orcs a thread at high levels anymore, many possible choices weren’t that good.

4th edition: No favored or species enemy here, the ranger got additional damage to a target he declared (and is nearest to him at that time) and gets extra damage once a round.

5th edition: This is my favorite. The reason is simple, unless you hit 20th level, you get no benefits for combat purposes. This means that you choose your favored enemy more for the out of combat purposes, like advantage to recall lore and tracking and the possible additional language. So now having orcs as favored enemy will have much more of an impact than before, while constructs, undeads, fiends, etc. won’t suffer much that way. And since you get multiple favored enemies and when choosing humanoids you get two instead one subtypes, you can actually get a decent amount of knowledge about your foes without breaking out the bounded accuracy due to too many bonuses. And in this edition, even a 20th level ranger will be careful when facing a hundred orcs alone.

 

Why do I think, that the combat bonuses aren’t that important? Because I think this distracts you from the core of being a ranger. In my opinion a ranger fights enemies well is because he knows and understands them much better than a non-ranger could do, the advantage mechanism is a pretty neat way to ensure reliability with a certain error margin. And since the ranger’s spells are a huge benefit for his damage output and attack rolls have this sweet bounded accuracy, I don’t think the ranger especially need it.

Even though the 20th level Foe Slayer does grant combat bonuses, they’re ignorable. I think it comes a bit too late, too or shouldn’t be restricted to favored enemies. Or at least another effect.

Build: The defending Ranger

Back in the blog! My PC had some issues (refusal to work, absenteeism, blue screen of doom) and because of work, I couldn’t find enough time to fix it myself, so I brought it to a friend and finally it works. Even though I really consider to get a new one. Without PC, I couldn’t make all the posts I’d like to do and today I just completed the one, which I was working on the moment, when my PC decided to be a jerk.

 

Since I didn’t got the time back then to make an actual overview after reading the ranger class once more, I decided to make a more unusual build today and named it ‘the defending ranger’.

What makes this build exactly work? Don’t have an idea, but I build from the base, that ranger aren’t especially supposed to be front-line characters, which are actually able hold a line, but more of skirmishing striker characters. But it’s unusual and maybe even fun.

The first question is, which of the few ranger features are the ones who can enhance the defending capabilities of this class.

  1. Armor Proficiency: Here we have primary the shield, but since the feat Medium Armor Master does increase the cap of usable dex-mod. to medium armor additionally with getting rid of the annoying disadvantage on stealth makes it a useful choice here
  2. Fighting Style: The only one who can enhance your defending qualities is the Defense-Style, which gives you more AC and make it harder to hit you.
  3. Spellcasting: The ranger don’t have actual defender spells, but he’s able to heal himself per Cure Wounds and brings some damage boosts with him, which might persuade the DMs who let monsters decide their target per ‘aggro’ to attack the ranger instead of its allies
  4. Extra Attack: Another aggro boost.
  5. Hunter-Subclass: The better subclass for this build is the Hunter, since even though you might be able to protect your animal companion, too, I take the approach in this case, that this ranger won’t have another front-row PC as back-up and it won’t be that good to spread attacks only between you and your companion.
    1. Horde Breaker: As a defending character, you better be able to take care of more enemies
    2. Multiattack Defense: This will definitely help you with staying alive, while at that level, a lot of monsters and humanoids you’re going to face in melee will have more than one attack. Best of all: Only triggers after a hit, so until the enemy hits, he won’t have an excuse to not attack you with the subsequent attacks
    3. Whirlwind Attack: We’re talking about a melee build here.
    4. Evasion: Since the Sentinel Feat is one of the best ways to ensure your defending capabilities, you shouldn’t take anything which robs you from your reaction

The ranger doesn’t have too many great defending capabilities in the first place, so you should be rather looking forward to use feats to fill that hole, instead of maxing out your abilities. Better to see first, which feats are essential and at least practical. Here my ranking:

  1. Sentinel: Without this feat you won’t have any bite in your defending stuff.
  2. War Caster: As long your DM won’t allow you to cast with weapon and shield by quickly put your weapon in your shield hand and take it after the spell again in one turn (by interacting with one object), then this feat will ensure, that you will be able to heal yourself without forfeiting your Sentinel attack of opportunity. And of course you want your concentration spells to not disappear.
  3. Resilient (Constitution): This should help to prevent you concentration spells going downhill.
  4. Medium Armor Master/Heavily Armored: To pick up a better AC will be useful to get less hits. Depending on your main attribute to hit, this might differ.
  5. Tough: If you think that your con-mod. won’t be able to max, this feat might proof even more useful than before.
  6. Shield Master: Your dex-saves are already pretty good, but the shoving might get useful and every bit of bonus will help greatly.
  7. Martial Adept: Some great maneuvers are out there to help you, but I personally wouldn’t bother here.

In my version, I just blindly forfeit all the ability score options and simply plan to make most use of the ability scores from the start. Since I didn’t want to use a human variant (because even a monkey would be able to build everything with this) and a wood elf ranger wouldn’t less likely to use such a ranger build, I took the stout halfling.

With Medium Armor Master as a goal, I have to end up with dexterity 16, wants to have an uneven score at constitution to get more bonus out of Resilient, some wisdom and as much even scores as possible. So I use the point array for: 12, 14, 14, 10, 14, 8. As a stout halfling I end up with 12, 16, 15, 10, 14, 8. The halfling is trained, but not bulky, is a more cunning but intelligent character and socially awkward.

The feats would be: 4th Sentinel, 8th Medium Armor Master (since spellcasting isn’t that impressing at that point), 12th War Caster, 16th Resilient (Constitution) and 19th Tough. The weapons of choice are one-handed melee weapons plus a shield, the ranger capabilities aren’t at the higher, but definitely not the lower end and the character is actually good enough in taking hits and protecting others to actually do its job, even though it lacks the capabilities of a defense specialized barbarian or paladin, it can most likely keep up with most fighters.

Afterwards pick background, skills, personality traits and such as your liking. Here my personal choices:

  • Background: Folk Hero
    • Artisan’s Tool Proficiency: Woodcarver’s tools
    • Defining Event: I stood alone against a terrible monster.
  • Personality traits: I avoid to speak long sentences, since I stutter. If someone is in trouble, I’m always ready to lend help.
  • Ideal: The peaceful compromise beats a violent solution.
  • Bond: I rather see myself hurt than the innocent.
  • Flaw: I may be too naive when it comes to other humanoids.
  • Ranger Skill Proficiency: Nature, Perception, Stealth

After buying equipment (since the ranger’s equipment choices don’t include shields) we’re ready to go. Here my level 1 version.

This evening (local time) I begin the ranger overview, so it should be ready tomorrow.