Sunday, March 8, 2009

Featuring: the Ranger

After a few skirmishes with lesser foes, I feel ready to face my arch-nemesis class. Today, I will take a first step towards turning Rangers into enjoyable, balanced characters. There is much work to do, so expect several posts on the subject until I'm satisfied with the result.

An iconic ranger

On this entry, I will address Ranger class features. As I explained in my class overview posts, these are terrible overall. I'm convinced that better features would make the class more enjoyable to play but there is little room to improve them from a balance point of view, as the Ranger's power level is somewhere around the stratosphere. In order to keep a semblance of balance, consider the following revision to Twin Strike (which I will comas a requirement to the feature changes proposed:

I propose the following modifications for Ranger class features:

Hunter's Quarry - damage reduced to 1d4 (heroic), 2d4 (Paragon), 3d4 (Epic)

(The feat Lethal Hunter now increases the dice to d6 instead of d8)

Skirmish (new feature) - On your turn, if you move at least 3 squares away from where you started your turn, you gain a +1 bonus to melee attack rolls until the end of your next turn.


Replace Archer Fighting Style and Two-blade Fighting Style with the following:

Archer Fighting Style: Gain a +2 bonus to AC against Opportunity Attacks. Your Prime Shot increases damage done by your Hunter's Quarry by your Wisdom modifier, in addition to its normal effect.

Two-Blade Fighting Style: Because of your focus on two-weapon melee attacks, you can wield a one-handed weapon in your off hand as if it were an off-hand weapon . (Make sure to designate on you character sheet which weapon is main and which is off hand). Your Skirmish feature increases damage done by your Hunter's Quarry by your Wisdom modifier, in addition to its normal effect, as long as you are wielding two melee weapons.

What is the reasoning behind these feature changes? I pursued the following objectives:

- More build differentiation. Previously, the archer build didn't have any feature that actually improved your archery. Now, although any build can do a decent job at either range or melee, there will be one clearly favoured option.
- Get rid of unwanted, "free" feats. They are poor, uninteresting choices for class features, unless the feats in question have strict requisites, like Two-Weapon Defense or Armor Proficiency. Which wasn't the case.
- More fun. In this case, I tried to accomplish this by increasing the importance of movement and positioning. Prime Shot was a good idea, but it often wasn't worth the effort for Archer Rangers, so I improved the bonus. Likewise, I gave melee builds a similar tool. In order to balance for the added damage, I reduced Hunter's Quarry damage.

Note that there was a published alternative for the new Skirmish feature, in the Prime Strike feat from Martial Power. I could have used that instead, but I disliked the lack of control that a Ranger (with few pushing powers) had over the effect. Skirmish works well, from my experience with monsters and the Warlock's Shadow Walk.


  1. I just get rid of Twin Strike entirely. It uses an entirely different mechanic from any other power in the game. Perhaps it could be:

    Primary attack: 1[W] damage.
    Effect: Make a secondary attack.
    Hit: X Damage + your weapon's enhancement bonus.

    The second damage instance isn't a damage roll, but it is a separate damage instance. "X" could either be an ability score, or a flat value of some sort. If it's your ability score, hitting twice is roughly the same as a basic attack that happens to add your enhancement bonus twice. It's still a lot better than just a single attack, since you have two chances to crit (as both attacks deal damage, I *believe* you still can add bonus critical hit damage, though I'm not entirely certain).

    Giving Twin Strike a penalty to hit is one solution I suppose, but in the right circumstances, it's sort of irrelevant, and rangers *still* routinely outperform everyone in terms of damage per round. It doesn't really address the real issue-that rangers are the only class capable of consistently dealing damage twice per round to the same target, meaning any +damage item, feat, feature, etc is doubled for them.

  2. Regarding archer specialization and hunter's quarry damage being tied to prime shot:

    Do you feel that your suggestions is rather punishing to archer rangers when they are unable to get prime shot effect? For example, when the party is facing a solo monster or all but one monster has been dispatched (and assuming that there is at least on melee PC in the group), the archer ranger would likely need to be adjacent to the monster in order to gain prime shot.

  3. Hm, that's a good point that I hadn't thought about. The difficulty of gaining Prime Shot is just about right for normal scenarios involving multiple monsters, but in solo fights it becomes almost impossible, unless you are willing to provoke opportunity attacks. Mind you, provoking from a marked enemy, when you have the +2 bonus to AC from archer ranger and your defender is likely to retaliate is far from terrible, but it still doesn't feel right as the default option.

    I think that the best way to address this would be by creating a feat - there's a Warlock one called Cursed Shot which pretty much fills this function. The ranger version could look like this:

    Prime Archery
    Heroic Tier
    Prerequisite: Ranger, Prime Shot class feature, Hunter's Quarry class feature
    Benefit: While you are within 2 squares of your target, you ignore all allies nearer than you for the purposes of Prime Shot.

    By the way, this series of posts is a bit outdated, since I haven't had the chance of revising them after Martial Power 2 came out. I'll try to make them compatible with the new ranger builds, one of these days.

  4. I still insist that the problem with Rangers is more fundamental-that they get +damage effects 2/round instead of 1/round.

  5. Yeah, it's very likely that trying to balance Twin Strike without getting rid of the doubled damage modifiers is futile. On the other hand, even if rangers stopped dealing a zillion damage, they'd still be rather boring to play, which is the other thing I was trying to change with these posts...

  6. Boring schmoring. That's what multiclassing and hybrids are for.