Monday, September 12, 2016

Unearthed Arcana – The Ranger, Revised (Is this the Ranger we've been waiting for?)

So we've been patiently waiting for Wizard of the Coast's Mike Mearls to finally take another run at the 5E Ranger class from the PHB. After posting several teases last week via his twitter handle, today WOTC released the September Unearthed Arcana article featuring his long awaited Revised Ranger.

This 8 page PDF contains a reworked basic Ranger class as well as several archetypes, now renamed to "Conclaves."   
You can find links to the original article and the download here: Original Article | PDF

“Over the past year, you’ve seen us try a number of new approaches to the ranger, all aimed at addressing the class’s high levels of player dissatisfaction and its ranking as D&D’s weakest class by a significant margin.”

I've take a first pass thru the new class and accompanying conclaves, so let me lay it out for you. The base Ranger receives the following changes:


  • The core defining class ability receives several tweeks
  • Favored Enemy is now split in two; Favored Enemy at 1st level and Greater Favored Enemy at 6th
  • Each version grants a small damage bump (+2 or +4) vs. favored enemies
  • Enemy types are slighly altered, humanoid is now a single group
  • Enemies are also split between Favored and Greater


  • The other defining class ability of the Ranger combines a few new features
  • Now proficient in all terrains
  • Ignore difficult terrain during movement
  • Advantage on initiative
  • First turn advantage on attack rolls against creatures that have not yet acted


  • They can talk to the animals!
  • Concentration based, no need to burn spell slots


  • Formerly "Land's Stride", now changed to grant "DASH" as a bonus action


  • No need for camoflage, remain still to grant enemies a -10 penalty to WISDOM (Perception) checks


  • Receives a slight tweek to allow vs. all opponents instead of just Favored Enemies

The Ranger Archetypes have received a name change and are now called "Conclaves." The Ranger, Revised contains 3 Conclaves. Once big change, but one that makes alot of sense, is moving the Ranger's Extra Attack feature out of the base class and into the Conclaves.


  • A re-conceived Beast Master, this version appears to work much more smoothly.
  • Animal companions are now bonded with their Ranger and can advance some
  • They no longer require a Ranger's actions, they are independent.
  • Coordinated Attack
  • Beast's Defense
  • Storm of Claws and Fangs
  • Superior Beast's Defense


  • Pretty much stays the same as the previous Hunter Archetype.
  • Options from Hunter's Prey
  • Defensive Tactics
  • Multiattack
  • Superior Hunter's Defense


  • Slightly altered version of the same Archetype released in the previous UA on the Underdark.
  • Underdark Scout 
  • Deep Stalker Magic
  • Iron Mind
  • Stalker's Dodge

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Colorful Characters: The Brothers Grimm (part 3)

The long awaited return of The Brothers Grimm articles is finally here with today's posting of Ziljinn Popos Zilwinn Grimm and his ever-present, but mostly silent living construct companion Bulwark.

An interesting pair to be sure, Ziljinn and Bulwark were already companions when they joined with the Brothers Grimm nearly 50 years ago. Next to Felonius & Larcenius, they are the longest tenured members of the troupe, having joined the brothers on their grand adventure shortly after its founding.

A venerable old rock gnome of some 200+ years, Ziljinn Popos Zilwinn had spent most of his early years like many of his rock gnome kin, quietly working away as tinkerer and toy-maker. Life was simple and life was good. Then one day, quite unexpectedly, Ziljinn heard the calling of the Maker deep in his heart. Never particularly devout, Ziljinn paid lip service to the god of artifice, but no more so than the other gods. For some reason known only to the Maker, he had chosen Ziljinn as one of his own, gifting him with a spark of divinity and welcoming him to the brotherhood of his clergy.

Ziljinn would come to know the Maker's plan for him soon enough as a series of adventures led to the discovery of an ancient Atlantean stronghold and hidden cache of Atlantean technology, including a long dormant Warforged construct. With the Maker's guidance, Ziljinn was able to activate the Warforged who would become his friend, companion and protector for many years to come.

It would be many years later that the two companions would encounter The Brothers Grimm. They had returned to Ziljinn's home and a quieter way of life when a gloom had settled on the region. A shadow had settled on the land, crops withered, monsters roamed and innocents had begun disappearing. It was not long after the darkness had fallen, when a strange travelling circus of dwarves arrived in town. Drawn to these strange travelers, Ziljinn again received a omen from the Maker that these dwarves would show him the way forward. From the Brothers Grimm, Ziljinn learned of the hags who tainted his homeland, causing death and destruction everywhere they went. He joined the Brothers circus that day, he and his trusted companion Bulwark. Together they hunted down the hags that menaced his home, putting them to the sword and fire, ending their predations on the innocent. 

They have travelled with the Brothers Grimm from that day forward. Ziljinn faithful in the believe that they do the Maker's bidding and bring good to the world. Bulwark quietly accompanying his friend, watching out for the good-hearted gnome. Content to accompany and protect his friend, happy in his own way to be needed and helping others.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Colorful Characters: The Brothers Grimm (part 2)

As promised in our first Colorful Characters posting, I have returned with updated 5e stat blocks for the brothers themselves.

It should be noted, that the brothers originally hale from the central hills region of the Chimeran Empire and both claim to have served several tours of duty with the empire's legions. As such, both still possess weapons and armor in the style of the Chimeran Legionnaires. Each brother's most prized possession is his imperial gladius, a gift of the empire for their time served. Each also wears a Legionnaire's Ring.

The brothers and their travelling band are quite a site to see as they roam the world performing as a travelling circus and side show. They are however, highly competent and could be if so inclined, quite dangerious. They present a gruff, often off-putting demeanor to the world at large and have a reputation for brawdy shows and petty thievery. This public face is meant to keep the general public at and arms length and to keep the local authorities guessing.

This exterior facade provides a cover for the brothers more secretive endeavors. Their primary motivations being to seek out and neutralize any evils that might prey on the weak and helpless. They have been known to hunt witches and hags preying on local children, fight off maurauders or roaming undead or even finding and destroying artifacts of evil which can sometimes corrupt a community.

The stats for the two brothers include their imperial gladius (shortsword) and legionnaire's ring (ring of protection).

The brothers and the members of their travelling circus are smart, connected and resourceful. Feel free to equip them in whatever manner you feel is most appropriate. Given a need and some time, they brothers are able to get their hands on just about anything that they might need to deal with their current situation, whatever that might be.

May I present The Brothers Grimm...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

5e Homebrew Rules: Classes - The Ranger (part 2)

Here is the long awaited follow-up to my first post on the 5e Ranger class. Funny how weeks can fly by between posts when the real world intrudes on fantasy.

So, where was I?

That's right, my thoughts on the Ranger are that for the most part, the class is a workable, playable, jack-of-all-trades. It is competent in a few things, but lacks any truely defining abilites and just doesn't standout or really define the niche role that is an archetypal Ranger.

Many of the attempts to fix the class that I have researched and reviewed attempt to fix the class with whole-cloth rewrites. Many of those I feel fail spectacularly by attempting to make up for the perceived lack of abilities by wildly overpowering their versions.

I took a different approach. My own opinion on the class is that it's fuctional yet boring and that it lacks any defining abilities. So my own approach is to simply make several minor alterations.

  • Give the Ranger expertise in the survival skill at 1st level. Similar to a Rogue's skill expertise. Rangers should be the absolute best at wilderness survival and tracking.
  • Give them a small boost to the Favored Enemy ability. In this case, we grant a small combat bonus to damage based upon the Ranger's WIS modifier.
  • Give the base Ranger a larger more defined combat boost by adding the ambush ability as described under the "Deep Stalker" Ranger archtype in the Unearthed Arcana Underdark article, at 2nd level.
  • I also rewrote the Foe Slayer capstone ability to apply to all foes, all the time.
  • Because ambush now allows the Ranger to hide as a bonus action, we removethe Hide in Plain Site and Vanish abilities.
  • We also slightly modify Primeval Awareness & Feral Senses. They are now lumped together under a new header Primal Instincts and no longer cost a spell slot to activate.

Here are the detailed write-ups as they would appear written into a class document:

Survival Expert
Beginning at 1st level, you are an expert outdoorsman, knowledgeable in the skills needed to survive and thrive in the wilderness. You double your proficiency bonus for any ability check you make that uses the Survival (Wisdom) skill.

Favored Enemy
Beginning at 1st level, you have significant experience studying, tracking, hunting, and even talking to a certain type of enemy.
Choose a type of favored enemy: aberrations beasts, celestials, constructs, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, giants, monstrosities,oozes, plants, or undead. Alternately, you can select two races of humanoid (such as gnolls and orcs) as favored enemies.
You have advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to track your favored enemies, as well as on Intelligence checks to recall information about them.
You gain a bonus to damage on each attack against your favorite enemies. This bonus is equal to your Wisdom modifier.
When you gain this feature, you also learn one language of your choice that is spoken by your favored enemies, if they speak one at all.
You choose one additional favored enemy, as well as an associated language, at 6th and 14th level. As you gain levels, your choices should reflect the types of monsters you have encountered on your adventures.

At 2nd level, you master the art of the ambush. On your first turn during combat, you gain a +10 bonus to your speed. If you use the attack action on that turn, you can make one additional attack.
You gain an additional benefit on all turns after your first turn. At the end of each such turn, you can attempt to hide as a bonus action if you meet the normal requirements for hiding.

Primal Instincts
At 3rd level your survival training has honed your senses to an uncanny level. You can spend an action, and 1 ranger spell slot to use this feature to heighten your senses and gain one of the following benefits.
Primeval Awareness
At the 3rd level you can use Primal Instincts to focus your awareness on the region around you. For 1 minute per level of the spell slot you expend, you can sense whether the following types of creatures are present within 1 mile of you (or within 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.
Feral Sense. 
At 18th level, you gain preternatural senses that help you fight creatures you cannot see. When you attack a creature you can't see, your inability to see it doen't impose disadvantage on your attack rolls against it. You are also aware of the location of any invisible creature within 30 feet of you, provided that the creature isn't hidden from you and you aren't blinded or deafened.

Foe Slayer
At 20th level, you become an unparalleled hunter of your enemies. On each of your turns, you can now add your Wisdom modifier to both your attack and damage rolls when you make an attack against any foe you face. They no longer need to be one of your favored enemies.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

5e Homebrew Rules: Classes - The Ranger (part 1)

Much has been made since the release of 5e that the Ranger class was somehow missing something. I've come across hundreds of blog posts, forum entries and twitter rants on the subject, not to mention a couple of Unearthed Arcana columns partially addressing the topic.

The Ranger has always been a personal favorite of mine, I cut my teeth in 1e many years ago by running Orion the Ranger thru many harrowing adventures in my friend Chris's campaign. Orion eventually reached 15th level and was retired to live out the rest of his days as a Ranger Lord from a keep somewhere on the borderlands.

While I have yet to run a 5e ranger myself, I admit to having a lackluster feeling regarding the class as written. To this end, I've spent countless hours searching the internet for every manner of homebrewed solution I could find. My countless hours of research in other's homebrewed efforts have lead me to the conclusion that if we consider the PHB version of the class to be broken or at least missing something then the host of various internet fixes nearly all error on the side of over-powering the class.

The ranger as written is a fairly solid class, a jack-of-all-trades. Able to hold their own in combat, backed up with utility spellcasting and better than most in the exploration phase of the game, they still lacked a signature power or unique defining characteristic. The Hunter archetype tries to compensate by granting a bevy of options to choose from, some more useful than others but none particularly evocative of what a ranger is. The Beast Master has potential, but the economy of actions seems to put the archetype at a disadvantage.

Of course this leads me to try my own hand at "fixing" the class. My own approach is to simply make a minor alteration or two.

  • Give the Ranger expertise in the SURVIVAL skill at 1st level. Similar to a Rogue's skill expertise. Rangers should be the absolute best at wilderness survival and tracking.
  • Give a small boost to the Favored Enemy ability. In this case, we grant a small combat bonus to damage based upon the Ranger's WIS modifier.
  • Give the Ranger a combat boost by increasing their first strike abilities. We add the AMBUSH ability as described in Unearthed Arcana.
  • We modify Feral Senses and lump into the Primeval Awareness ability.
  • Do away with the Hide in Plain Site and Vanish abilities as they become redundent with the addition of AMBUSH.

I'm in the process of writing this class up in a pretty PDF file, however I'm finding it's harder than expected... and I'm not so good at it. Stay tuned.

5e Homebrew Rules: Races - The Warforged

Ever since the introduction of the Eberron campaign setting, the Warforged race has been one of my personal favorites.

While WofC has not officially updated them for 5e as of yet, Mike Mearles did take a pass at them in the first of the Unearthed Arcana columns. His draft didn't quite hit the spot for me, so I have taken  a turn at trying to adopt them to 5e in my first Homebrew Rules posting.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Colorful Characters: The Brothers Grimm (part 1)

The Brothers Grimm
A traveling band of misfits, malcontents, grifters, charlatans and monster hunters.

I created these colorful NPC’s years ago after I had first seen the movie “the Brothers Grimm” staring Matt Damon and the late Heath Ledger. I was looking to add some colorful characters to my homebrew world that we were playing in at the time.

Initially, they consisted of a band of traveling misfits akin to a small traveling circus or gypsy band. They provided minor entertainment as well as bringing some petty crime to town. Then I wanted to add a secret element to the group and thought that witch or monster hunters really worked.

In all of their incarnations, the band has always been run by two dwarves, twin brothers known as the Brothers Grimm. Besides the brothers, none of the other members had been named or stated out as I wanted to keep my in-game flexibility. Their roster always included whatever I needed at the time.

Their merry band almost always numbers a lucky 13 members. This includes a core of permanent named members and is then supplemented with added muscle, replacements, temporary members and specialists.

I had come up with the name “Felonius” for a dwarven rogue character that I played in the D&D Stormreach MMO and I liked him so much that I decided he would be the model for the twin brothers leading the Brothers Grimm. Shortly thereafter it lead to the creation of his brother “Larcenius”.
In the time since their original incarnation, I have played one or both of the brothers in a few one off adventures, including an epic castle seige during an Extra-Life charity game last year.

The current roster of the Brothers Grimm for my 5e game is as follows:

Core Members:
Felonius Grimm - (Male Hill Dwarf Figher/Rogue)
Larcenius Grimm - (Male Hill Dwarf Fighter/Rogue)
Ziljinn Popos Zilwinn Grimm - (Male Tinker Gnome Cleric)
Bulwark - (Warforged Fighter)
Farnum Grimm - (Male Human Bard)

Supplemental Members:
3 Goblin Acrobats (Rogue)
2 Human Swashbucklers (Rogue)
2 Dwarf Savages (Barbarians)
1 Dwarf Mystic (Druid)

Stay tuned for detailed character write-ups on the named members.