When Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition was first released, the ranger class was dumped on more than any other. It seemed like Wizards of the Coast had taken everything that was fun and powerful about the class and snapped it over their knee. For awhile, no one wanted to make these sad, underpowered rangers.
But you can still build a great character using the ranger class. They're meant to excel at ambushes and quick skirmishes, which can be a lot of fun to plan and carry out. Plus they have a lot of really useful, if admittedly situational, abilities that add to their utility. Here are some ways to squeeze the most use of a ranger.
10 Argue For Revised Ranger
An easy way to give your ranger character a big boost in power is to make an argument for using the Revised Ranger that WotC released in Unearthed Arcana. It goes back over the class presented in the Player's Handbook and rebalanced some key features, making them useful instead of just...there. Unearthed Arcana isn't technically officially published material, but it is released as playtest material and has probably had at least one competent person look over it professionally. A lot of DMs will let you use this variant; just ask!
9 Pour Stats Into Dexterity
Most players favor Dexterity-based builds over Strength-based for their rangers. That's not to say that there aren't perfectly good Strength Rangers out there, but if you want to play as a bruiser, there are usually better classes that cater to that desire. Dexterity is the stat of choice for ranged attackers and for characters using finesse weapons, like daggers or rapiers. But no matter what you use to attack, Dexterity is still the stat that governs your Armor Class and is probably a good choice for at least a second highest trait.
8 Be Born A Halfling
Some people might say that a wood elf is the best choice for a ranger, since they take bonuses to both Dexterity and Wisdom (the ranger's spellcasting ability). But you'll have to trust us on this one. Make a halfling instead. You still get a +2 Dexterity bonus, plus Halfling Nimbleness which is great for a skirmisher. Not to mention the trait Lucky, borderline OP all on it's own, which lets you reroll natural 1's. From there, you can choose from the Lightfoot or Stout subraces and each have their advantages. Lightfoot gives you some extra stealth on the battlefield, while Stout boosts your Constitution, likely more useful to you than the former's Charisma bonus.
7 Take Up Archery
The bow is the iconic weapon of a ranger and for good reason. They're envisioned as stealthy hunters, using their environment to shield their movements before attacking with devastating strength and precision. Nothing accomplishes this quite like a headshot from a distance.If you've already invested heavily in Dexterity, your attack with your bow should already be pretty powerful. From there you can take the Archery Fighting Style for an additional +2 bonus to your attack rolls. For an ideal archery build, you can also take the Sharpshooter feat, giving you the ability to ignore all but full cover and let you choose to trade accuracy for power.
6 Ambush Your Foes
No matter what weapon you choose, you'll want to tailor your play style to take advantage of the strengths of the class. As we said, the ranger excels at staging ambushes and moving swiftly through the battlefield.
The Revised Ranger's Natural Explorer trait exemplifies this. You have advantage on initiative rolls, to help ensure you go first, and you also have advantage on any attacks against enemies who haven't acted yet. If you also manage a surprise round of combat, this can be a devastating blow to your foes before they even knew what hit them.
5 Know Your Enemy
Rangers are also renowned hunters and one of their features gives them bonuses to hunting their favored prey. You can choose one from among beasts, fey, humanoids, monstrosities, or undead. In other words, pretty much the most common enemies you'll be facing in any campaign; you might be able to ask your DM for more info to choose the best one. No use picking undead if there won't be any zombies. But once you pick a favored enemy, you not only get advantage on rolls to track them or recall information on them, but also a flat +2 bonus to any damage rolls against them.
4 Mark Your Prey
Hunter's Mark is basically necessary for any ranger build and one of your most useful magical abilities. Marking an enemy lets you roll extra damage against them any time you hit them with a weapon attack until the spell ends.
The spell has a juicy 1 hour duration, so if you can maintain it, you'll be dishing out a lot of extra damage over the course of even long combats. It even casts as a bonus action, and if your mark dies while the spell's still running, you can mark a new target with another bonus action without having to cast the spell again.
3 Multiclass Into Fighter
Multiclassing into Fighter is probably one of the best opportunities to boost your damage output in combat and if you take enough levels gives some excellent control options as well. What you're primarily going to be gunning for are Extra Attacks and Action Surge, giving you so many more attack actions per turn it's a little unreasonable. You can also get Second Wind to help buff your health and pick up an extra Fighting Style while you're at it.
2 Master The Beasts
In 5e's first incarnation of the ranger, the Beast Master archetype felt distinctly underpowered, which was a shame since an animal companion is a big part of a ranger's draw. But Revised Ranger gives us a much more powerful Beast Conclave. Now your animal companion doesn't use up your own attacks and gets it own level of progression as you gain levels. Now it's actually worth it to bond with a beast, even if they aren't the strongest in the animal kingdom, because you don't need to trade out your actions for theirs.
1 Bond With A Pteranodon
Remember when we told you to trust us about picking halfling for your race? Well here's where it really pays off. See, halflings are small-sized creatures, which means they can comfortably ride beasts of medium-size. A pterandon is a medium-sized beast of challenge rating 1/4, making it perfectly legal to have as an animal companion as well as being a flying mount. Plus they have the ability Flyby, which means they don't provoke opportunity attacks when flying. You might have to argue with your DM for the inclusion of dinosaurs, but if you want a really OP ranger, it's worth it.