Much of this has been inspired by Orzel's excellent ideas for the new Ranger. I too agree with his dislike of favored enemies, but I have gone into more detail as to some actual class features that offer the great range of customization that seem to be the theme of DnD next, yet giving the ranger his own unique flavor. This is my first draft. I'm hoping to get lots of constructive criticism by more left brained people to bring the actual numbers in line (I'm all right brain creativity). Please tell me what you think and feel free to run with it, modify, and make your own spin on it.
My idea of a ranger is that of a tenacious, gritty, skilled hunter or green beret rather than a crusader of nature. A person who isnt necessarily concerned with the welfare of the forest (though he can be), but motivated by any number of causes: perhaps they seek the destruction or harvest of particular people or creatures as a personal vendetta, or for monetary gain. They can be guides, navigators, subtle healers and party buffers.
Magic, reverence of nature and animal companionship seems more of the role of a druid. The choice of fighting styles (dual wielding OR bow only) also seemed forced.
To me, a ranger is more like Grizzly Adams or an army Green Beret or navy Seal. I don't see rangers as being main combatants. Their damage comes not from power or skill like a barbarian, but from technique and knowledge; carefully studying their enemies. Like barbarians, rangers are tough, outdoorsy, and wily, but If barbarians are the muscle, rangers are the brain. They trade some damage for utility and survivability. The ranger should be one of the last to die and has several skills to allow him to do that.
As an alternative to magic and something more "Ranger-ish", I present the ability of "Pharmacopeia": the unique ability of rangers to use various herbs to increase their battle prowess or help their allies.
And instead of forcing a ranger into a battle style, I offer a list of Cunning skills which are drawn from some of the fighter maneuvers and rogue tricks. He can now choose to be more offensive, defensive, stealthy, ranged, or melee.
Since rangers are technicians, their abilities are driven by skill dice. They have no martial damage dice like fighters. However, they follow the fighter progression in terms of hit dice, damage bonus, and hit bonuses.
For now, lets give them light and medium armor and all simple and martial weapons.
Here are the skills I propose.They are in no particular order.
Note: The numbers next to the skills are just to keep the presentation organized. They are not the proposed levels at which he should get those skills. Some of the skills are clearly very powerful and should be available at later levels. What those later levels are, I don't know. It would be arbitrary at this point. So I'll show you everything I've thought of so you have an idea. Here's where I'm hoping some of you number crunchers can give some of their feedback.
1. Hunstmanship: The Ranger's repertoire of outdoor skills that allow him to safely reach his objectives.
Adds the skills survival and track, plus two skills from the hunstsmanship list. Adds ranger level to survival and track checks. Every (?) level adds one more hunstsmanship skill.
Ranger skills (huntsmanship):
2. Cunning: The Ranger's repertoire of skills that allow him to overcome enemies.
Pick one skill from the cunning list at level 1 and every (?) level. Since this version of the ranger has no martial damage dice, he can use his skill dice to power these skills, or a separate Cunning dice. But skill dice are lower than equivalent levels of martial damage dice.
3. Weathered. The ranger has spent so much time outdoors that he can now move normally through rough terrain, and is unnafected by temperature extremes (heat stroke, hypothermia, etc). Also, he has Advantage when making climb, swim, and jump checks. Also, dodge penalty to AC in medium armor is reduced.
The ranger can now hide under light obscurity.
5. Hide in plain sight
The ranger is a master of camouflage and can now hide anywhere, even in the middle of an empty room.
6. Vendetta. The ranger is a relentless and unforgiving opponent. If a creature damages the ranger for more than half his hp, his next attack has advantage on hit and damage
7. Find Weakness :
This is what would replace favored enemy. It is now more useful as its based off knowledge, and works with more creatures.
Adds skill die to hit, damage, and save rolls if that creature falls under the ranger's knowledge skill. (Read the knowledge skills for the types of creatures listed). Humanoid knowledge falls under the Heal skill.
If its a very powerful, rare, or eccentric version of that creature, the dm may require a knowledge check for the ranger to figure out that creature.
8. Stalking: In the absence of prior knowledge, careful observation can reveal his target's weaknesses. The ranger can observe a creature as an action(the ranger can move and make reaction rolls but not standard actions).. Every round of observation allows a wisdom check with a dc of 10 plus the creature level. if successful, the ranger gains the find weakness ability to that creature only. This can be done hidden or while in combat and will obviously benefit rangers who go into stealth.
This skill is in place so as not to punish rangers who do not have the knowledge skills for every single creature. Mostly to help low level rangers. It's trade off is that it only works on one creature at a time and uses up at least one round.
: The ranger has become so tough and mentall driven that if he dies, he automatically stabilizes and eventually returns to 1 hp.
10. Wily : The ranger is clever, perceptive, and resourceful. He is also screwed with stat allocation as rangers need strength or dex, AND wisdom and in most cases constitution to be effective. His animal charms and intimidation are charisma skills. Searching for clues is Int based. Rangers seem to need every stat. Let's loosen the reliance on stats a bit. The Ranger's wisdom and common sense helps him in other ways. Hence:
He can swap his Dexterity bonuses with his Wisdom bonuses for purposes of saves, ranger skill dex checks (sneak, balance), initative bonus, and Dexterity bonus to AC. This helps balance out their stat allocation and especially helps melee rangers.
Also, he can use his wisdom in place of charisma for charisma checks to creatures affected by his Find Weakness skill (bluff, intimidate, persuade, etc) and use Wisdom for search checks.
If he is caught off guard, he can also spend skill die to be unsurprised.
11. Saving throws
Due to their resilient nature, I'm looking for some kind of bonus to saves. So far, I have three ideas:
1. He can spend his skill dice to add to a saving throw.
2. His "weathered" skill adds a bonus or flat damage resistance to fire, frost, lighting, and poison.
3. He can have a saving throw bonus (skill die) to creatures under his Find Weakness ability (similar to Orzel's idea).
12. Pharmacopeia. The signature ranger ability that sets him apart from other classes and gives him his own style and usefulness.
As the ranger goes about his adventures, he picks herbs, mushrooms, roots, scorpion glands, fungi, and other reagents. This is assumed to be automatic.
During a rest, he prepares them the way a wizard prepares spells, concocting preparations to aid him and his allies in the hunt. Like spells, he has slots in which to use those abilities. Perhaps he has one slot at lv 1 and gains a new slot every (?) levels or starts out with all his slots already (?) He can use his herbal abilities a certain number of times per day (like a wizard's spells). I think the abilities match and complement this ranger theme of natural wisdom combined with resilience and determination.
Envenom: The ranger poisons his weapon, lasting (?) rounds and doing bonus damage equal to his ranger level (or adds skill dice to damage, or 1d6 every 2 levels, or whatever).
Antidote: taken if poisoned. Either clears the poison or grants a bonus to save.
Healing salve: Acts as a healing potion. Scales with level.
Herbal Stimulant (coca leaf?!): Adds an additional attack every round for (?) rounds and perhaps a movement increase.
Pain suppressant: Reduces damage taken and/or allows one to fight past 0 hp until it wears off.
Frenzied concoction: Target is immune or has a bonus to fear and mind affecting effects.
Blinding powder: Target rolls a save or is blinded.
Sedative: Target rolls a save. If he fails, he is sedated and is more succeptible to charm, persuasion, bluff, etc). Nice synergy w rogues.
Paralyze: Obviously a very high level poison.
Intoxicated: A nauseous poison that grants the intoxicated condition.