Dungeons & Delvers: Rangers & Favored Enemy

Rangers getting some sort of bonus against some monsters has been around since at least 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

In 2nd Edition you had to choose either a monster category or a specific monster before reaching 2nd level.

Examples provided are giants, orcs, lizard men, trolls, or ghouls. I don't recall any guidelines, so I'm guessing it's up to the DM whether you get an entire group or just the one.

In either case you gained a +4 bonus to hit whatever monster or monster type you chose...and that's it: unlike later editions you didn't get to make any other choices later on, so choose wisely.

In 3rd Edition you chose a creature type (and possibly a subtype), and gained a +2 to damage rolls and various skill checks made against creatures of that type.

Already looking better (especially since it's always a type), but not only did you get to make more choices every five levels, you also got to up the bonus from one choice by +2. This meant it was possible to have a whopping +10 damage bonus against a creature type...assuming you bumped into it, that is (which I'll get to in a bit).

Like many other mechanics and sacred cows, 4th Edition got rid of this mechanic entirely. Instead of locking in a bonus against a specific creature type, rangers could designate a creature at any given time as their "quarry", dealing bonus damage against it once a turn.

Unlike 2nd and 3rd Edition, this class feature was always going to be useful, all the time. The only drawback is that you must designate the closest creature as your quarry, meaning you might not be able to choose the monster you want. Not that big of a deal, as you could use it with a Swift Action and change it every round

5th Edition brings it back, but restricts it to letting you roll twice when tracking and recalling information about a given monster type. You also only get to make three choices, with your third one coming in at 14th-level.

My issue with Favored Enemy across the editions is that if you don't run into the monster(s), then it doesn't factor in (not a problem in 4th Edition since it completely ditched it). It might sound really awesome to go with, say, dragons, but how many dragons do you honestly expect to run into over the course of a campaign?

Taking that into consideration, you might try to go with something more commonplace like orcs, kobolds, or goblins (since outside of 5th Edition you can't pick general humanoids), and that might work for an adventure or two, but it's very unlikely that any of the above will be a consistent presence throughout a campaign (especially in later editions where you stop facing certain monsters at higher levels).

Going with our Age of Worms playtest campaign, since that's the longest and most recent one I've been running, over the course of the first adventure you encounter some wolves, acid beetles, giant beetles, a ghoul, water elemental, grick, mostly-human-thugs, an owlbear, skeletons, a human necromancer, and flying animated suits of armor at the end.

In the next adventure you deal with a bunch of cultists, which are a mix of humans, kenku, grimlocks, and tieflings, and then in the third one you're mostly mucking about a lizardman nest, that's also guarded by harpies and an otyugh. Oh, and there's a spawn of Kyuss at the end.

Except for all the lizardmen in the third adventure, there's really no underlying theme: if you chose dragon it wouldn't have paid off at all (and not for another three or so adventures). Ditto for angels, demons, plants, most of the humanoid subtypes...I think gricks are aberrations, so along with elementals that would have cropped up all of once.

Your best bet is to hit up your DM, ask them what might be useful but, I dunno, seems kind of lame.  Maybe not as bad as picking a monster type and then having the DM shoehorn them into an adventure just so it can be useful, but I can't think of any other class where you'd want or even need to do this sort of thing in order to benefit from a key class feature.

Initially in Dungeons & Delvers the ranger's Favored Enemy analogue functioned pretty similar to 3rd Edition, just with added damage dice instead of a static modifier, but while working on Red Book we changed it up quite a bit: instead of restricting you to x choices over 20-levels, you get a free category choice at 1st-level, and thereafter can spend skill points to pick up more categories whenever you level up.

The only caveat is that, prior to gaining the bonus, you have to study the new monster category to learn its weaknesses and capabilities. You can be instructed by someone else, or read about it in a book, but you can also study a freshly slain monster, giving the whole thing a kind of witcher-vibe.

At the start you get a +1 bonus bonus to damage rolls, as well as any skill check made to detect, track and recall information about them, and as you gain more ranger levels you can spend skill points to increase the bonus, up to a whopping +5 at 19th-level.

The bonus's cap actually scales with the Damage Bonus from the barbarian, fighter, and paladin classes, so it's not like you'd be inflicting more damage than they would, but since it applies to more than just damage and it's pretty flexible, we felt there should be some cost. Not that big of a deal, as rangers gain bonus skill points here and there.

Also, since you're spending skill points to build on this ability, unlike, say, Attack Bonuses and Multiattack it's not factored in as much when examining the ranger table and determining what you get at every level. This means you get more talents and bonus skills, and you aren't wasting a class feature to varying degrees picking monster categories that might never crop up (or only rarely).

You also don't have to wait nearly as long. If you run into goblins, you can drop a skill point after a level up to get a bonus against them. And if you never run into goblins again? Eh, it was just one skill point. Not like you blew an entire class feature or talent choice.

That said there are talents for many categories that make you even better at taking them out.

For example, Dragon Slayer gives you +1 AP versus dragons, you crit them on a 19-20, and you gain a +1 bonus on saves made to resist spells and effects from dragons. Even better, if an attack inflicts half damage on a successful save, you instead avoid it entirely (good for dodging breath weapons and the built in trample attack larger ones get).

Giant Slayer also gives you a +1 bonus to save against giant abilities, and you avoid them entirely on a successful save, but instead of AP 1 and a crit bonus they suffer a -1 to hit you, and you can move through their space without any problems.

I think these are pretty potent talents, though the downside is, again, they're limited to a single creature category. Almost wondering if I should break apart their effects into talents that apply more broadly. Like, one would let you completely avoid the effects of an attack on a successful save, but it only works against creatures that your Hunter bonus applies to.

But, I dunno, maybe I'm overthinking it. No one's said about the Slayer talents thus far, and even during my 3rd Edition days I can't recall anyone complaining about the ranger's Favored Enemy class feature before.

You can now get a physical copy of Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book in whatever format you want! We've also released the first big supplement for it, Appendix D, so pick that up if you want more of everything.

The first issue of The Delver, a magazine featuring fungal-themed content for both players and GMs (including an adventure in which myconids find religion), is available!

Our latest Dungeon World class, The Ranger, is now available.

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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