New: D&D Spell Sentry Ranger
Today we are finishing up the ranger subclasses in our D&D series, looking at a style of ranger that is casting-centric, using its spells more effectively than the rest of the ranger subclasses. As we noted in the Vale Warden Ranger post, playing a martial character can be a bit boring at times, and while the ranger class has access to magic, it is a "half caster" that uses a lot of magic out of combat (with Pass without Trace and similar spells) or the same spell a lot (Hunter's Mark).
So I got to thinking, "How can we turn a half caster into a more effective spellcaster while still being a half caster," and the result was the spell sentry.
Spell Sentry: Theme and Inspiration
The spell sentry represents the "druid who does not wild shape": a spellcaster who uses nature magic, but has not given themselves over to nature in the way that the druid does. This comes with its limitations (half caster, maxing out at 5th level spell slots), but it allows you to play a caster-style ranger with cantrips and more spells while still getting the Extra Attack feature, the mobility and sensory bonuses of the ranger, and access to the ranger-specific spells that we love.
We also wanted this caster to draw heavily from nature for its power (to distinguish it from the Hunter), so we borrowed from the Nature Domain cleric in ways that we can show the harnessing of the elements to aid the ranger. Add onto this some daily versatility at higher levels to meet specific needs, and we had a versatile wilderness wanderer that is fun to play with a wide variety of tricks.
Spell Sentry: Mechanics
You can find the details of the subclass here, easily printable for your game master to consider if desired thanks to the team at Homebrewery. At 3rd level you gain two cantrips: a spell attack cantrip from the nature-themed spells (mostly druid spells), and a saving throw cantrip that are appropriately nature-themed as well. This way, if you are facing an opponent with a high Armor Class you have the option of attacking with a saving throw cantrip where your bow or other cantrip may struggle, but if you like your odds of hitting you can either attack with magic or your physical attack with a chance to do a critical strike.
As you progress you gain a power similar to the 8th level Nature Domain cleric feature where you deal added elemental damage once per turn along with the normal damage of your weapon. And with a selection of fire, cold, and lightning, you have a lot of options to get past resistances that your opponent may have.
At 11th level you gain a version of Natural Recovery to recover spell slots, but in addition (as it comes much later than Natural Recovery) your saving throw cantrip damage increases by one step (except for Poison Spray, which is already a d12). Since all of these cantrips require an action to cast, we need the potential damage of the cantrip to stay on par with your standard damage now that you have both Extra Attack, the elemental damage, and probably a magic weapon.
And to cap off the subclass, we have some added utility to meet needs for yourself and the party, gaining the ability to choose a spell each morning from a list of utility spells that you can cast up to your Wisdom modifier each day without spending a spell slot. Do you know that your party are going underwater today? Choose Water Breathing. Are you guys planning on sneaking into a fortified place? Choose Pass without Trace. Afraid of someone coming close to your camp while you regroup? You have access to Alarm. Whatever your needs are, this spell list has options for you.
And that's the class - it's a bit more caster-centric while still not getting in the way of doing what rangers do well: sending shots downwind and pulling out deadly attacks if the enemy closes. It's not as dangerous as the Gloom Stalker or the Hunter, but in a campaign where creatures have resistances to weapon damage this ranger may find itself more useful than you'd expect.
Next week we move on to the rogue class, looking at a Black Widow-style rogue who specializes in unarmed fighting without having to multi-class into monk.
Until next time,