Ranger – Opinion and Tweaking

Now, if you frequent the /r/dndnext/, one of the regularly occurring comments is how overland exploration in 5E is lacklustre, and the class that should be good at it? Just removes it as an obstacle.
Of course, revising the Ranger’s exploration means we’re going to need to take a look at exploration, but that may be a much bigger topic and a future post, but for now?

Lets tweak the Ranger’s core ability, Natural Explorer.
First step, lets take a look at the feature straight out of the SRD and then discuss.
I’ll pop my ideas in here and you can put yours in the comments.

You are particularly familiar with one type of natural environment and are adept at traveling and surviving in such regions. Choose one type of favored terrain: arctic, coast, desert, forest, grassland, mountain, or swamp. When you make an Intelligence or Wisdom check related to your favored terrain, your proficiency bonus is doubled if you are using a skill that you’re proficient in.
While traveling for an hour or more in your favored terrain, you gain the following benefits:

  • Difficult terrain doesn’t slow your group’s travel.
  • Your group can’t become lost except by magical means.
  • Even when you are engaged in another activity while traveling (such as foraging, navigating, or tracking), you remain alert to danger.
  • If you are traveling alone, you can move stealthily at a normal pace.
  • When you forage, you find twice as much food as you normally would.
  • While tracking other creatures, you also learn their exact number, their sizes, and how long ago they passed through the area.

You choose additional favored terrain types at 6th and 10th level.

Though it is behind “favoured terrain” and requires an hour, the Ranger is still going to remove most difficulties in travel.
Even when playing a long-form game, you’re not going to end up in many different types of terrain, in fact many of the published adventures only cover a couple of terrain types.

So lets break it down, if you’re a ranger:
Difficult terrain isn’t an issue for the group.
You can’t become lost, at all
Always alert to danger.
No stealth penalty while alone.
Foraging is twice as effective.
You know exact details for creatures you’re tracking.

The emphasis there is of course my own, but two of these features I see as less of a problem.
Now as we’ve noted, the ranger removes any difficulty of overland travel.
As long as there is a ranger in your party, you can’t be slowed down by difficult terrain, can’t become lost (except for magical means), you can’t be surprised while the ranger is awake and when tracking someone you know everything about the party you are tracking.
Removes any real risk when out in the world, doesn’t it?

Dungeons and Dragons is meant to be heroic fantasy but this removes a large portion of the game.
It has been argued that the design of D&D is really just to get you into a dungeon, whether that is true or not the design of the Ranger removes any associated risk of travel.
So lets scale the Ranger down from essential to asset.

Difficult terrain doesn’t slow your group’s travel.
We’re starting with a difficult one, D&D’s movement limits us to regular movement or half speed and there’s no real way to directly tweak this as a benefit.
Ideally I would say “You can lead your party over difficult terrain, finding non-direct paths that only slow you down for 5ft per 10ft travelled”
Admittedly this is a little convoluted, but it doesn’t just straight up ignore difficult terrain.
Truthfully I would not have the ranger skill confer anything to the party here, and probably just leave it out, Rangers can ignore difficult terrain at level 8 and I don’t want to bring that forward and weaken them later (even with the 1 hours travel requirement).

Your group can’t become lost except by magical means.
Again, this one straight up removes an issue and doesn’t make a great deal of sense, if you are exploring a new plain it is just as easy to get lost after an hour as it was in the beginning, since a lot of overground travel will take multiple hours it just removes threat.
But this one is a simple fix, scale it back to advantage against getting lost.

Even when you are engaged in another activity while travelling (such as foraging, navigating, or tracking), you remain alert to danger.
This one is troublesome because it doesn’t really define “alert to danger” in itself, but it just boils down to the character not getting any detriment to their perception when doing things, so it doesn’t need changing but maybe rewording.

While tracking other creatures, you also learn their exact number, their sizes, and how long ago they passed through the area.
Finally, this isn’t Lord of the Rings, getting so much detail at level one is just odd, instead I would scale it back to group sizes of small/medium/large/army, and scale the time frame to within an hour/three hours/the day/over 24 hours ago, as for sizes? I’d give the Ranger footprint size/type (boot/foot/paw/etc).
To me, this still maintains the intent of the design but takes it from an almost mystical level of knowledge to something maybe more realistic (or maybe just still provides more challenge)

One thing I must admit, it feels like WotC are trying to give Rangers a “home terrain” that they know intimately, but making that an entire type of terrain just potentially destroys an entire portion of the game, and though I know my thoughts are far from perfect they at least make sure the party has something to do while travelling instead of hand-waving everything away.
What do you do to keep travel relevant when there’s a anger in the party? Let me know in the comments

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