The Basics and Links: All That Buggering Introduction Stuff
With the release of 4E, we've seen eight new classes and four defined roles for them to fill. There's the Defender, designed to pin down enemies and take their hits; this is also known as the Tank (MMO) or Big Stupid Fighter (TML20) role. There's the Controller, intended to screw around with the battlefield and the enemies' positions within it; you may have heard of this as God (TML20) or the Crowd Controller (MMO). There's the Leader, who gets to improve things for his allies as an inversion of the Controller; this is arguably a variant on God (TML20) or the Buffer (MMO).
And then there's the role shared by the Ranger, the Rogue, and the Warlock: the Striker. They're the ones capable of bringing the offense to a single monster, whether directly or indirectly, and have also been called Glass Cannons (TML20 and MMO). All three are capable, far more so than the other classes in 4E, of dealing large piles of damage at a consistent rate. The Ranger's particular shtick, unlike that of the Rogue and Warlock, is less mobility than Lots of Attacks and Lots of Damage. Seriously, many of the Ranger Powers grant multiple attacks at a time, something no one else gets. It still does have mobility to help it keep up with its foes, however. A number of its powers suffice as well to hold enemies in place. But if you're playing a Ranger, your goal is first and foremost to deal Lots of Damage.
So as a Ranger, what ability scores should you focus on? Depends on whether you're playing a predominantly melee or ranged character. If you go with melee, you'll want to focus most on Strength; most if not all of the melee Powers you'll get depend directly on it. You'll still want some Dexterity, both for weapon-specific feats (more on that later) and for Reflex and initiative. If you go with ranged, you'll instead want to focus on Dexterity; as with melee, most if not all of your ranged powers use that ability score. Depending on your setup, you may wish to employ Strength as a secondary ability or instead dump it in favor of Constitution. Either way, Wisdom is a secondary ability score you'll want to care about. Not only do half of your available Trained Skills depend on it, but it's also a secondary variable in several of your Powers (melee or ranged) and it shores up your otherwise lower Will defense.
Key: I'll be grabbing Dictum Mortuum's style here for grading options; the effects are rather obvious and pleasing to the eye. Red: A poor choice, and likely a trap. Stay from it. Purple: Still a poor choice, but less bad than Red. It might still be useful in some circumstances, but such will likely be situational. Black: In the middle, mediocre, neither particularly good nor particularly bad. Your choice, really, though it's useful for providing flavor. Blue: A good choice, and one you'll want to make if you can fit it in. Which may or may not be easy, depending on the circumstances. Sky Blue: Awesome. Take it like your life depends on it; your character's life certainly will.
To complement the eight classes in the Player's Handbook, WotC made up eight races. Six are old stalwarts; only the gnome and half-orc didn't make it. 'Course, the gnome still shows up in the Monster Manual, and the half-orc had vicious delusions about being a regular orc and thus was assimilated. (Half-elves have at least had the excuse of being popularized by Tolkien.) But neither was known for exploits or statistics related to Rangers, so that's no big loss. Rounding out the pack are Dragonborn and Tieflings. The former are some amalgam of draconic characters from all sorts of sources, though I can't understand for the life of me why the females of a reptilian have to have breasts. In any case, they're good for tanking. The latter were instead yanked directly out of Planescape and fitted with some new "Bael Turath" origin; it's still better than Planescape.
Dragonborn: Yes, I know I called them tanks above. That doesn't mean that they don't make decent melee rangers. With +2 Strength and +2 Constitution, you'll be capable of dealing damage and taking it too. The other benefits aren't as good, however. The skill bonus applies to stuff you're NOT looking for, and Dragonborn Fury and Draconic Heritage are more suited to dedicated tanks. (You're a secondary tank AT BEST.) Dragon Breath doesn't help, either, considering that it's an AoE. AoE is not your job, and other classes - especially Wizards and Clerics - can do it MUCH better than you can. Stick to evisceration.
Dwarf: Again with the stuff more suited for tanking! They're not Red, but most of the features of Dwarves are incidental to your role. They get +2 Constitution and +2 Wisdom, which doesn't help directly but does increase your hit points and boost the secondary effects of your Ranger powers. (It's not worth as much as +1 attack/damage, though.) The skill bonuses are neat, being associated with actual class skills. But the rest? Pshaw. Cast-Iron Stomach is highly situational - how often will you be poisoned, hmm? Dwarven Weapon Proficiency is worthless (you're ALREADY proficient with both weapons). Encumbered Speed shouldn't matter, considering that you're not the bugger in Plate. (The speed reduction doesn't help either.) And Stand Your Ground shouldn't matter for you considering that TANKING IS NOT YOUR JOB.
Eladrin: Oh, look, more useful benefits! Getting +2 Dexterity is good for any Ranger, regardless of focus. +2 Intelligence doesn't matter, but you take what you can get. The skill bonuses look poor...until you consider that Eladrin also get an extra trained skill. And trust me, you'll want all the skills you can get. Eladrin Weapon Proficiency is of course useless for the same reason as Dwarven Weapon Proficiency. Eladrin Will helps to shore up your otherwise poor Will defense. Fey Origin and Trance are situational, but Eladrin get SO MANY features (incidental or not) that you won't really care. And Fey Step? Hey, you're supposed to be mobile; teleportation is thus rather nifty.
Elf: One of the top two races for Rangers. They've got both +2 Dexterity AND +2 Wisdom; getting a boost to two associated ability scores is a feature unique to Elves. (In the PHB, at least.) There's also the speed boost, unlike the speed reduction of dwarves, that aids in mobility. And the skill bonuses (both in Ranger skills), Wild Step, Elven Accuracy, Group Awareness...what's not to like about Elves?
Half-Elf: You'd think that if Elves were Sky Blue, and so were Humans (see below), then Half-Elves would at least be Blue, right? WRONG. None of the features of Half-Elves relate to Rangers at all. +2 Constitution and +2 Charisma is useless for you, Dilettante is a waste of space (you'll want to focus on your own at-wills for the attacks, not someone else's), Dual Heritage is simply not worth it when you've got other good feats to choose from as well...really, Half-Elves are better suited to tanking than to being Rangers.
Halfling: Halflings have a similar relation to the Ranger as Dragonborn did. Except that more of their abilities synergize with the class. +2 Dexterity is always nifty; +2 Charisma is sort of like the +2 Intelligence for Eladrin. They're small, so they can't wield longbows or bastard swords, but shortbows and scimitars (Scimitar Flurry!) are arguably good enough for them. Both Nimble Reaction and Second Chance are great for mobile characters like Rangers; while not directly related to it, they're good at keeping you from being hit and subsequently pinned down. The skill bonuses (one associated, one not) and Bold aren't as nifty, but Halflings still may be better Rangers than Dragonborn.
Human: ...And this is the other fantastic PHB race. No, you don't get two associated ability scores, but you do get to CHOOSE your one associated one. Plus, you get another skill (score!), another feat (score!), a bonus to your non-AC defenses (score!) and an extra at-will power (for versatility). Not much more to say, really; Humans are at least a Blue choice for every class in the game.
Tiefling: Once again, we have an example of some bastard offspring of humanity that retains none of its versatility or applicability to the Ranger class. As with Half-Elves, none of their features relate to the class, being better suited to the trifecta of W-classes.
Note: I'm a bit iffy on declaring Dragonborn Black but Halflings Blue; if someone convinces me one way or the other I might change that opinion.
The Player's Handbook has eight races, so given past precedent we might expect, say, six races in the Monster Manual?
Well, no, instead we got SIXTEEN - double that in the Player's Handbook. And that's rather nifty.
Bugbear: Bugbears get both +2 Strength and +2 Dexterity, which is VERY GOOD on its own for a Ranger. And then with Oversized (more damage per attack!) and Predatory Eye (*coughSneakAttackcough*)...Bugbears are rather mean Rangers.
Doppelganger: It's more of the "nothing that benefits Rangers" deal here.
Drow: Drow have +2 Dexterity and +2 Charisma, which is neat. (Again, the latter is incidental.) Lolthtouched is also fun for stomping some nearby enemy (Cloud of Darkness is arguably better), but Drow suffer from simply not having enough racial features to run with. (Maybe the 4E FRCS will change things.)
Githyanki: I'm not rating them Red due to Danger Sense, Githyanki Willpower, and Telekinetic Leap. All three still aren't worth a bonus to Strength or Dexterity, however.
Githzerai: Unlike their brethren, Githzerai make rather good Rangers. They're pushing Sky Blue, but they simply don't have enough features that link directly to the Ranger to solidly hit it. The skill bonuses are fun, along with Danger Sense and Iron Mind, but they're not quite good enough IMO. Perhaps some other text will expand on them; then they'd be Sky Blue.
Gnoll: Gnolls are better Rangers than you might think. Not only do they have +2 Dexterity (+2 Constitution is always nice as a secondary score), but they have a speed boost as well. No one else in the Monster Manual does. The other features are more suited for tanking, but those two alone are fun.
Gnome: Gnomes are not Red only due to Reactive Stealth and Fade Away. Even then, those powers are better suited to Rogues than to Rangers.
Goblin: Despite having +2 Dexterity, Goblins are iffy for Rangers. Goblin Tactics is the best feature they get otherwise, and it's still quirky in that it triggers on a miss rather than an attack. (If you're a ranged Ranger - which you'll likely be with +2 Dexterity - being attacked in melee means that you have bigger problems.)
Hobgoblin: Yeah, nothing that relates to the Ranger class here. Moving along.
Kobold: They're the Small equivalent of Gnolls. Really, just take a look at that +2 Dexterity and Shifty. Dancing around in melee is so much fun with one of Pun-Pun's kin.
Minotaur: This is another iffy judgement. Minotaurs get the same ability bonuses as Dragonborn (+2 Strength, +2 Constitution), but also have associated skill bonuses (better than Dragonborn) and Oversized (better than Dragonborn). So they might be as good as Halflings.
Orc: Exactly the same situation as Dragonborn. They get the same ability bonuses and nothing else related to Rangers. Solid Black.
Shadar-Kai: They've got the same ability bonuses as Eladrin, and share similar sorts of boosts. In fact, Shadow Jaunt is better than Fey Step, considering that you're insubstantial (half damage) for a turn.
Longtooth Shifter: With +2 Strength and +2 Wisdom, what's not to like? They've also got associated skill boosts and Longtooth Shifting. While the latter requires you to be bloodied for activation, being a Ranger is all about DAMAGE; a small boost (along with scaling regeneration) is nice (but not fantastic) for a melee Ranger. They don't have enough benefits to be Sky Blue, but the 4E ECS will likely change that.
Razorclaw Shifter: Like their cousins, the Razorclaw Shifters have a couple good features but arguably aren't QUITE good enough to be Sky Blue.
Warforged: Wait, why are they Blue but similar folks (Dragonborn, Minotaurs, Orcs) aren't? Because there's more going for them, that's why. The Monster Manual is not the only word on Warforged; WotC actually realized a web enhancement of sorts here. Which means that Warforged can wield various component items. Like, oh, Warsoul weapons. (If in doubt with a Warforged character, always go with Warsoul weapons; each grants a stacking +2 bonus to initiative.) Embedded components are also fun if you find yourself needing to swap between a lot of weapons; you may want to start out with two Warsoul weapons (+4 initiative) before dropping them and Quick Drawing your embedded stuff. Some of the feats are fun too. While most rely on boosting Warforged Resolve, all such feats give some small benefits to it. Warforged Tactics is also fun, as it's a bonus to attack rolls (and such are very rare).
More people should list Keirsey or Myers-Briggs types in their profiles instead of those stupid "The test says I'm a LF Elven Paladin" things.
They, you know, actually say something about who you are.
ENFP Champion, Idealist here :D I've found I usually get along great with you rationals. It's the Guardians I absolutely cannot stand. We're just oil and water. We're philosophical, flexible, and creative...they're...boring and simple minded :p