Ranger Revised 5e: The Power of the Beastmaster Conclave

The Revised Ranger is an unofficial alternative to the Ranger class released in the Player’s Handbook.

Designed to fix some of the issues that made the original ranger far too situational (not to mention the fact the Beast Master subclass was straight garbage), the Revised Ranger was released as part of Wizards of the Coast’s ongoing series of playtest material, Unearthed Arcana, in 2016. 

While the Revised Ranger was never made “legal” – meaning you can’t rock up at an Adventurer’s League table and play one, and their inclusion in your home game is still very much at the DM’s discretion – it’s remained a firm favorite of the community since its release. 

In this article, we’re going to be giving you the rundown on the Revised Ranger, focusing on the areas where this class outshines the original – especially regarding the Beastmaster Conclave subclass. 

A Short History of the Reviled Ranger and the Ranger Revised 

When Dungeons & Dragons 5e was released back in 2014, the new, sleeker, more narrative-focused edition received widely positive reactions – especially in contrast to the kind of stodgy, wargame-ey experience of playing 4e

However, there were a few teething issues. 

Chief among them was the fact that, both in terms of mechanical balance and player enjoyment, the newest iteration of the ranger class… kinda sucked. Actually, not even kinda.

By just about any metric, the ranger (especially the Beastmaster subclass, which should have been the easiest concept to sell to players; “You get a friend who’s a bear, and it hits stuff for you” is a pretty strong pitch) was the worst class in D&D 5e

It was clunky, underpowered, and hyper-specialized in ways that made it feel more or less useless unless you were in the right situation fighting the right type of enemy. 

To their credit, Wizards of the Coast’s designers listened to the feedback from the community. 

In a move that I personally think was pretty damn gutsy, they turned around in 2016 and essentially said, “Our bad guys. We really beefed it on the whole ranger thing. Here’s our second draft.” 

And thus, the Revised Ranger was introduced as the focus of Unearthed Arcana 17

The Revised Ranger vs. the PHB Ranger 

The Revised Ranger set out to rectify the issues that made the PHB Ranger so uniquely terrible – namely, its Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer features meant that, as soon as a ranger had to fight something that wasn’t their preferred enemy outside of their favored terrain, the class lost access to more than half of its defining bonuses. 

This led to rangers often feeling way too powerful in specific situations and almost completely useless the other 90% of the time.

The Revised Ranger tackled these issues with the goal of making the ranger’s skill set more broadly applicable and giving the class some much needed utility, which would hopefully allow it to keep pace with the rest of the party. 

The changes to the base ranger centered on a few core areas. 

Favored Enemy 

Favored Enemy in the official rules is pretty much a tracking and interaction-based feature.

You gain advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to track your favored enemies as well as on Intelligence checks to recall information about them.

When picking your favored enemy, you can choose between aberrations, beasts, celestials, constructs, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, giants, monstrosities, oozes, plants, or undead.

Alternatively, you can select two races of humanoid (such as gnolls and orcs) as favored enemies.

The Revised Ranger shrinks down that list to some of the more commonly encountered foes (beasts, fey, monstrosities, and undead), but it lumps all humanoids together into a single category, which makes it a much more viable option than two individual races (hobgoblins? Sorry, guys. I can only do goblins and flumphs. Totally out of my depth here.).

Also, more impactfully, the feature gives you a +2 damage bonus against enemies of your chosen type. 

You get to choose a second type of favored enemy at 6th level from a list of more powerful creature types, your damage bonus against all your favored enemies becomes +4, and you get the extra bonus of advantage on saving throws against effects produced by the Greater Favored Enemy.

All this extra damage and advantage on saving throws makes the Revised Ranger feel like they’re actually better at fighting their favored enemy.

Natural Explorer 

Natural Explorer also received a revamp, removing the PHB ability’s double-proficiency bonus to Intelligence and Wisdom checks related to your favored terrain.

Instead, the Revised Ranger gets a whole suite of powerful combat and exploration abilities in any terrain. 

  • You ignore difficult terrain.
  • You have advantage on initiative rolls.
  • On your first turn during combat, you have advantage on attack rolls against creatures that have not yet acted.
  • 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.

These benefits aren’t game breaking, but they conspire to both make the Revised Ranger feel more like a quick-footed, Dexterity-based fighter in combat and a master of wilderness travel.

Primal Awareness 

Primeval Awareness was essentially useless in the PHB.

The feature requires the ranger to burn one of their few, cherished spell slots to sense whether the following types of creatures are present within 1 mile of you (or within up to 6 miles if you are in your favored terrain): aberrations, celestials, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead.

This feature doesn’t reveal the creatures’ location or number. 

The Revised Ranger reworks Primeval Awareness to not only let you perform a tweaked version of the PHB ability (you learn the number and direction of any favored enemies within range) just using a minute of concentration, but it also gives you the ability to communicate (not speak, mind you) with beasts.

Useful, doesn’t drain your precious spell slots, and adds some nice flavor. 

Fleet of Foot

Fleet of Foot becomes available at 8th level, replacing the PHB’s Land’s Stride ability.

This feature grants the ability to Dash as a bonus action, which is generally useful for anyone anyway, but it contributes to the ranger’s mobility.

Hidden in Plain Sight

Hide In Plain Sight has also been reworked. Previously, this ability used to require a minute spent covering yourself with mud and leaves and granted +10 to stealth checks.

The Revised Ranger flips the script a little, imposing a -10 penalty to enemy perception checks made against you if you stay perfectly still, making this ability more versatile in combat situations and less like a reskin of the Pass Without Trace spell. 

The Revised Ranger keeps a fair amount of stuff from the original PHB version, including Fighting Styles, spellcasting, and the 14th level Vanish feature that lets you Hide as a bonus action and prevent enemies from tracking you except by magical means. 

Of the three original ranger subclasses, only the Hunter remained relatively unchanged. The Monster Slayer subclass was replaced completely by the Deep Stalker.

We’re not going to go into too much detail regarding the Deep Stalker, as it’s been functionally replaced by the official Gloom Stalker ranger released in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

However, the new Beastmaster Conclave, which revises the rules for the original Beast Master ranger (widely regarded to be the worst subclass in the game) are definitely worth exploring in greater detail. 

The Beastmaster Conclave 

The original Beast Master ranger suffered from a number of issues.

Namely, it was limited to CR 1/4 creatures when choosing an animal companion, whether you were 1st or 20th level (meaning the two most viable options at just about any tier of play were a big dog or a cow), and directing your animal companion in battle required an action. 

As a result, the Beast Master ranger had to give up its multiattack in order to take an action with its animal companion, making the core focus of this entire subclass slightly less useful than a wizard’s familiar. 

The Beastmaster Conclave subclass in the Revised Ranger rules is a significant upgrade. When you take the subclass at 3rd level, you gain the following features, unlocking more as you progress. 

Animal Companion

At 3rd level, you learn to use your magic to create a powerful bond with a creature of the natural world.

By spending 8 hours (and 50 gp worth of rare herbs and fine food), you can call forth an animal from the wilderness to serve as your faithful companion.

Either the DM picks (based on the terrain or you may select an animal from among the following options (all of which are better than a cow): an ape, a black bear, a boar, a giant badger, a giant weasel, a mule, a panther, or a wolf. 

At the end of the 8 hours, your animal companion appears and gains all the benefits of your Companion’s Bond ability. You can have only one animal companion at a time.

If your animal companion is ever slain, the magical bond you share allows you to return it to life.

With 8 hours of work and the expenditure of 25 gp worth of rare herbs and fine food, you call forth your companion’s spirit and use your magic to create a new body for it.

You can return an animal companion to life in this manner even if you do not possess any part of its body.

Ok, the fact that you basically become an animal necromancer is pretty wild.

Personally, I think the new Beast Master rules introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (which state your animal companion is a beast spirit from the start) handle this a little less creepily. 

If you use this ability to return a former animal companion to life while you have a current animal companion, your current companion leaves you and is replaced by the restored companion. 

Companion’s Bond

Your animal companion gains a variety of benefits (and penalties) while it is linked to you.

  • The animal companion loses its Multiattack action, if it has one.
  • The companion obeys your commands as best it can. It rolls for initiative like any other creature, but you determine its actions, decisions, attitudes, and so on. If you are incapacitated or absent, your companion acts on its own. Note that you can verbally command your companion as a free action and no longer need to give up your action to direct it.  
  • When using your Natural Explorer feature, you and your animal companion can both move stealthily at a normal pace.
  • Your animal companion has abilities and game statistics determined in part by your level. 
  • Your companion uses your proficiency bonus rather than its own. In addition to the areas where it normally uses its proficiency bonus, an animal companion also adds its proficiency bonus to its AC and to its damage rolls.
  • Your animal companion gains proficiency in two skills of your choice. It also becomes proficient with all saving throws. The fact you can have a little bear friend who’s an expert at religion is wildly funny to me
  • For each level you gain after 3rd, your animal companion gains an additional hit die and increases its hit points accordingly.
  • Whenever you gain the Ability Score Improvement class feature, your companion’s abilities also improve. Your companion can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or it can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, your companion can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature unless its description specifies otherwise.

Your companion shares your alignment, and also develops a personality trait and a flaw. 

d6 Trait

1. I’m dauntless in the face of adversity.

2. Threaten my friends, threaten me.

3. I stay on alert so others can rest.

4. People see an animal and underestimate me. I use that to my advantage.

5. I have a knack for showing up in the nick of time.

6. I put my friends’ needs before my own in all things.

d6 Flaw

1. If there’s food left unattended, I’ll eat it.

2. I growl at strangers, and all people except my ranger are strangers to me.

3. Any time is a good time for a belly rub.

4. I’m deathly afraid of water.

5. My idea of hello is a flurry of licks to the face.

6. I jump on creatures to tell them how much I love them.

Your animal companion also gains the benefits of your Favored Enemy feature and of your Greater Favored Enemy feature when you gain that feature at 6th level. It uses the favored enemies you selected for those features.

Coordinated Attack

Beginning at 5th level, you and your animal companion form a more potent fighting team.

When you use the Attack action on your turn, if your companion can see you, it can use its reaction to make a melee attack. 

This is super powerful and basically regifts your animal companion its multiattack back again at a rate more in line with a PC’s progression.

It’s also a pretty huge power spike as you can effectively go from making two to four attacks in a single turn. 

Beast’s Defense

At 7th level, while your companion can see you, it has advantage on all saving throws.

Storm of Claws and Fangs

At 11th level, your companion can use its action to make a melee attack against each creature of its choice within 5 feet of it with a separate attack roll for each target.

This is huge if you want to recklessly throw your animal companion into hordes of weaker enemies.

If you’re using 5-foot squares to denote space, this means with the right positioning your animal companion can make up to eight attacks in a turn. 

Superior Beast’s Defense

At 15th level, whenever an attacker that your companion can see hits it with an attack, it can use its reaction to halve the attack’s damage against it.

The Best Animal Companion Options 

While pretty much every available animal companion (choose from an ape, a black bear, a boar, a giant badger, a giant weasel, a mule, a panther, or a wolf) available to the Revised Ranger is a viable option, there are a few choices that stand out above the rest. 

Ape

In addition to multiattack, better than average intelligence, and a great athletics bonus, Apes are the only animal companion available that have a ranged attack in the form of their throw rock action. 

Wolf

Solid stats all round make the Wolf a decent choice regardless, but it’s their Pack Tactics (which give all its allies, not just its ranger master, advantage on attacks when the wolf is within 5 feet of them and their target) that makes this an amazing addition to any party that likes to mix it up in melee combat. 

Black Bear 

With a great armor class, a powerful bite attack, and tons of HP, the Black Bear is probably the best “objective” choice. Also, bears are just great. Look at those little ears. 

So there you have it, folks. Now, the Revised Ranger still isn’t official, and it’s unlikely it ever will be. 

What’s more likely to happen when 5.5e rolls around is that the optional beast companion rules from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything will be rolled into the new edition of the Player’s Handbook – possibly with even more tweaks. 

In the meantime, however, the TCoE rules are pretty serviceable at making the PHB Beast Master feel effective.

If you’re still not satisfied, try out the Drakewarden from Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, or just keep pestering your DM until they break down and agree to letting you play the Revised Ranger and absolutely murder everything you encounter with a Black Bear that makes eight bite attacks per turn. 

As always, Happy Adventuring.