If you want to play a ranger who specializes in tracking down and capturing or killing fugitives, you might want to try this character build. Here are some tips on how to create and play a bounty hunter ranger.
Goals of this Build
- Expert Tracker: Rangers are well-known as expert trackers in the forests and the natural world. You, however, are not a regular ranger. You grew up in the city, you live and breathe its atmosphere and culture. Every nook and cranny of the city has been memorized by you. If someone is hiding in your city, you’ll know where to find them. They can’t escape.
- Hunt Them Down: Your enemies may try to run once you’ve cornered them. Your keen senses, expert tracking skills, and deadly accuracy will ensure that they don’t get the chance to escape. You’re deadly from a long distance while still being able to book your weakened foe and take them in for a reward. You never lose a quarry and you always get paid.
Books Needed for this Build.
The Player’s Handbook
Name: Kasteel Sylth
Class: Ranger (20)
Note: This build could also work well as a Rogue/Ranger for a stealthier tracker that can deal a LOT of initial damage or even a Ranger/Fighter for a high damage dealing semi-tanky bounty hunter.
Background: Urban Bounty Hunter
Note: This is a new Background that rips off of the Criminal background from the PHB. Here’s a link to the page in the Sword Coast Adventure Guide.
Race: Human Variant
Note: I wanted to play as an Elf originally, but the setting we are in is extremely racist towards Elves and Half-Elves. To the point of finding work as a bounty hunter EXTREMELY difficult as finding good, honest work is almost impossible for Elves.
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Note: Entirely flavor-based.
- 10 STR
- 19 DEX – 18+1=19 because of Human Variant
- 11 CON
- 11 INT
- 13 WIS – 12+1=13 because of Human Variant
- 11 CHAR
Note: I’m going to stick to a pure Ranger build for this character, though it is very tempting to stick a few levels into Rogue or Fighter for the damage. I’m mainly going to be building her as a tracker more so than a damage dealer.
(Homebrew) Into the Fray: being within 5ft of a hostile creature doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.
Grants proficiency in acrobatics. If proficiency is already had, then double it.
Note: The DM banned the feats Lucky and Crossbow Expert. He added a few homebrew feats to compensate for this. Into the Fray sounded fun. However, I would’ve taken something like Alert or Crossbow Expert had this not been an option.
Post Level 1
You will get 10 ability score points to spend on your journey to level 20 Ranger
You probably won’t get the same stat spread as I did. What are the priorities for this build then? For the most part, it is a basic Ranger build with some different choices made during the background/archetype process.
Primary: DEX or STR; these are your damage stats depending on if you go ranged/finesse melee or straight-up melee. I tend to prefer a more Dexterous Ranger myself for this build as stealth is a huge bonus for killing an unsuspecting target.
Secondary: WIS and CON (and DEX if going STR); Wisdom is your casting ability as well as your stat for the Survival and Perception skills. Survival is an absolute must for this build. It is your tracking skill that is essentially what this build is based around. CON is for your HP and is almost always a Secondary stat in any build. Dexterity should be prioritized like these if you are rolling an STR dual wielding Ranger for some reason.
Tertiary: INT; This is your information gathering skill. This build focuses on playing smart and researching the target and using the investigation skill to help gain info on your targets. You also get advantage on making knowledge checks about your favored enemies so this helps get even better rolls for that.
Commodities: STR(if going DEX build) and CHAR; STR is great for Athletics skill rolls and STR saves which you have proficiency in. It’s a great bonus for avoiding encumbrance too. CHAR can be useful when you speak to people so it’s another information gathering skill. However, neither of these are honestly necessary for this build, or other abilities can pick up the slack. I’d dump negative stats into these two.
Instead of using an ability score bonus, if you feel that your abilities are perfectly fine the way they are consider some of the following feats for this build.
Alert: A bonus +5 to initiative, being unable to be surprised while conscious, and creatures being unable to gain advantage on you when hidden from you is a pretty solid bonus for a bounty hunter. Being able to get the first attack in is super useful.
Crossbow Expert: This is a very powerful feat for any ranged character or spell caster. You ignore the loading quality of crossbows that you are proficient with. So you can now use your Extra Attack ability with crossbows. You now can make ranged attacks (with any weapon or spell) on creatures within 5ft without disadvantage. Lastly, you can make a bonus attack with a hand crossbow you are holding so long as you attack with a 1 handed weapon using your attack roll that turn.
Lucky: Lucky is also a strong feat to take with pretty much any character. The ability to re-roll up to 3 1d20 rolls in between long rests is very powerful. Sure you have to use it before it’s said to be a pass or a fail, but it’s generally fairly easy to judge this.
Observant: You get a +1 to either WIS or INT, the ability to read lips and understand what the creature is saying if you know the language, and a +5 bonus to passive Wisdom (Perception) and passive Intelligence (Investigation) scores. Pretty decent for information gathering if you already have high stats in your core stats and don’t want to use any other feats.
War Caster: Advantage on CON saves to maintain concentration while casting? Great for using some of those buffs for long periods. Being able to use spells for an attack of opportunity is nice, but generally not very useful for Rangers compared to full caster classes. The main benefit here is the ability to perform somatic components when wielding weapons in both hands. This is super useful if you take spells like Cure Wounds for example.
Class Feature Choices (Pg 91-92 of the PHB)
Favored Enemy: at level 1 you get your first choice of this, but you’ll get more at levels 6 and 14. You have multiple options here. You essentially choose a type of enemy and get advantage on WIS (Survival) checks, a language of your choice that is spoken by the chosen enemy, and advantage on INT checks to recall info about them. However, if you choose the Humanoid option for a favored enemy, you choose 2 races. I chose Elf and Human as the city we will be staying in the entire game has primarily those two races. This means at 14th level we could choose 6 different humanoid races. We will then have huge bonuses for tracking the targets that will most likely be humanoids of some sort.
Natural Explorer: This is similar to the Favored Enemy feature except with terrain. At levels 1, 6, and 10 you can choose a specific terrain to gain movement and survival bonuses for your group. This will depend mainly on your background story or where the campaign is taking place.
Fighting Style: at Lvl 2 you can choose between 4 different fighting styles. I chose Archery for this build so I gained a +2 bonus to attack rolls with ranged weapons. The +1 AC from Defense is nice. However, the offensive prowess from Archery for a Ranged build or Two-Weapon fighting for a melee build is necessary. We want to end fights quickly and collect our payment.
Spellcasting: Choose your spells at your discretion. Honestly, this depends more on party composition than the build. Rangers have great support spells and are versatile in that aspect.
Class Archetype Choices (Pg 93 of the PHB)
Hunter:The Hunter Archetype gives us a lot of straight-up damage with some decent defensive perks. Our other choice would be the Beast Master archetype. However, it does not fit the vibe we’re going for. We want to be quick, have a lot of burst damage, and be able to maneuver around easily. Beast Master provides a lot more utility, but less damage and we would have to maneuver both ourselves AND our companion around to be effective.
Hunter’s Prey: We have 3 separate choices for this feature: Colossus Slayer, Giant Killer, and Horde Breaker. Depending on the situation I would say both Colossus Slayer and Horde Breaker have their place in this build. Giant Killer is great if you are specifically hunting large beasts or creatures, but this build is a humanoid tracker and hunter.
Colossus Slayer is the single target choice for us. “When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, the creature takes an extra 1d8 damage if it’s below its hit point maximum” (once per turn). This is very useful for bursting down a target after we’ve initially weakened it. You won’t be very tanky so ending a fight or quickly killing/incapacitating your target quickly is a must.
Horde Breaker is the cleave option for us. “Once on each of your turns when you make a weapon attack, you can make another attack with the same weapon against a different creature that is within 5 feet of the original target and range of your weapon.” Some of your quarries may have henchmen. Having a cleave option allows us to whittle them down quickly.
Personally, though I’d take the Colossus Slayer as you are almost always guaranteed an extra 1d8 damage against a target on most rounds after the initial round of a fight. Horde Breaker is good if you’ll be against groups of creatures regularly.
Our choices here are: Escape the Horde, Multiattack Defense, and Steel Will.
Throw steel will out the window. Unless for some reason you intend to be fighting lots of creatures that will attempt to frighten you.
Escape the Horde is great for maneuverability as “opportunity attacks against you are made with disadvantage” so essentially a dodge option for us as we move around enemies.
Multiattack Defense is amazing against enemies that will attack you multiple times in the same turn. The perk is “when a creature hits you with an attack, you gain a +4 bonus to AC against all subsequent attacks made by that creature for the rest of the turn”. That is a HUGE temporary bonus to our AC, but do remember it’s only for that specific creature for that turn.
I’m going to go with Multiattack Defense. Escape the Horde is great for being able to gain some distance as a ranged Ranger. However, I’m not looking to be fighting large groups of creatures. I want protection for when creatures blow past our front line and start wailing on me, or if I am unable to kill my target before it can reach me.
If you are melee you’ll grab Whirlwind Attack to gain a melee AoE. If you are ranged you will grab Volley for a ranged AoE.
Superior Hunter’s Defense
Our choices here are Evasion, Stand Against the Tide, and Uncanny Dodge. As a ranged build, my choices are going to be either Evasion or Uncanny Dodge. The idea is that I won’t be in the melee range of multiple targets to make Stand Against the Tide worthwhile.
Evasion is a bonus to your Dexterity saves against AoE damage effects. If you succeed on a DEX save and it would generally half your damage, you take no damage. If you fail a DEX save and it would do full damage, you take half damage. It’s great for hunting dragons and magical creatures, but that’s not the point of the build.
Uncanny Dodge allows you to use a reaction after you have been hit with an attack and half the damage. Honestly, this is probably the all-around strongest ability out of the 3 for any build as you can practically always use this in any encounter. The other two are situational; good but situational.
Currently, I’m level 2 so I’m not entirely sure how great this build will work. Honestly, it’s not a very unique build on paper. It’s more the play style and flavor you’ll have to adapt to when playing a character like this. Rangers are natural choices for a bounty hunter. They have an innate ability to track and survive in various biomes.
I may remake this or do a follow-up post at some point. The more I read through the abilities, the more I wanted to grab some levels in Rogue. The two classes mesh VERY well together in this case. The burst damage of a Rogue with the out of combat effectiveness of a Ranger for tracking and info-gathering purposes is a very strong combo.