Ranger Class Revisions by u/Throrface

Ranger Class Feature Variants + Exploration Content Guide

Brief overview and reasoning for Ranger changes

The primary goal for these changes was identifying the fantasy of the Ranger class and reinforcing this fantasy in the class’ abilities.

The secondary goal of these changes was to identify gameplay features that do not feel good and attempt to introduce some more fun into the equation.

The tertiary goal of this document was to not be a complete redesign of the Ranger class. I don’t want to rewrite the class advancement table from scratch. This document contains an assortment of changes which modify the PHB ranger and they can be used independently of each other, so you are free to pick and choose the ones you like. If I don’t mention an ability in this document, that means I am not changing it and it remains as it is in PHB.

Things that were not the goal of these changes:

  • Increasing the Ranger’s damage output. While there are some changes that will increase damage output, these were entirely made with the primary and secondary goals in mind.

  • Fixing the Beast Master. The changes made in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything are decent in my opinion.

What is the ranger class identity?

The following are my thoughts on what the ranger class is. The document will attempt to reinforce these ideas in several places. Your opinion on the ranger class identity may vary.

  • The ranger is a martial character, their primary way of fighting revolves around the use of weapons.

  • Rangers use a wide variety of weapons, the class isn’t only about ranged combat.

  • Rangers are half-casters with spell selection largely shared with druids. They call upon the primal forces of nature to cast their spells.

  • Rangers are survivalists who specialize in certain terrains. In their natural terrain they excel at exploration.

  • Rangers are hunters who have a preferred prey, which they are particularly good at hunting. I expect them to be good at seeking out and slaying their favored enemies.

  • One of the few unique spells that Rangers have is Hunter’s Mark. The ranger was designed with the intention of making a frequent use of this spell.

Level 1 Improvements

  • Favoured Enemy does not provide any combat bonuses, which is in stark opposition against the class fantasy of a hunter who is capable of slaying their prey.

  • Favoured Enemy grants advantage to tracking, which I find problematic. When the Ranger makes a roll to track, they may not know what kind of creature they are going to find, or even if there are tracks in the first place. However, if they are told to make a roll with advantage, they are given a clear information that there are tracks that belong to their favored foe, without even having to roll. The overall feeling of this is bad and players either end up with meta-game information they shouldn’t have, or the feature forces the DM to come up with some kind of roll shenanigans to obscure this.

Better spellcasting

  • Rangers in PHB are a type of spellcaster who has to learn their spells, which I consider a very strange choice for the following reasons:

  • It makes the Ranger feel very rigid in their spellcasting, whereas the core identity of the Ranger class should be survivalism and adaptability.

  • Having an unchangeable and rather small spell list feels bad, situational utility spells are omitted for consistently useful “optimal” spells.

  • When compared to other half-caster classes (Paladin, Artificer) Rangers are the only outlier in having to learn their spells.

  • Rangers are thematically close to the Druid class, who also prepare their spell selection. A comparison could be made with the class duo of Paladin and Cleric, who share much of their spell lists and themes. Both of those classes prepare their spells.

  • In conclusion, one of my modifications below changes the Ranger to a spellcaster who prepares their daily spell selection.

Level 6 Improvement

  • Made more interesting by further improving the Favoured Enemy feature.

Level 10 Improvement

  • Made more interesting by further improving the Natural Explorer feature. The ranger at this level becomes truly excellent at exploration of their preferred terrain.

Level 20 Improvement

  • I consider the ranger level 20 feature extraordinarily lackluster. So much so that I moved it to level 1 and merged it with Favored Enemy. This might seem like an audacious change, but based on my testing, it doesn’t result in any major change in gameplay balance.

  • If Druids and Clerics would consider Ranger a worthwhile multiclass because of this modification, I would be delighted.

  • I replaced the ability with a new one, inspired by the Arrow of Slaying. This magic item fits excellently into the ranger theme.

  • My new lvl 20 feature provides a combat benefit even when you are not fighting your favoured foes.

  • My new lvl 20 feature provides a combat benefit even when your Wisdom modifier is 0.

  • The PHB Foe Slayer ability is so bad.

Archetype spell tables

  • I added archetype spells to the Hunter and Beast Master to put them in line with subclasses published in sources past the PHB.

Expanded spell list, updated spells

  • I believe one of the major issues that the ranger class suffers from is a very badly designed spell selection. When compared to Paladins and their unique spells, one could make a conclusion that significantly less effort has been put into giving the Rangers a good and flavorful spell selection.

  • The ranger does not have a way to meaningfully spend their spell slots in battle, like the paladins do. Other half-casters have ways to bolster their damage output by burning spell slots. I wanted to design some ways to do this for the rangers too.

  • Most of the ranger combat spells are Concentration based, which is particularly painful when the class is designed to make frequent use of Hunter’s Mark in combat.

  • If one was curious what it looks like when Wizards of the Coast make conscious effort to come up with worthwhile ranger spells, one merely needs to take a look at the Arcane Archer subclass for the Fighter. Take note that their magical shots do not require concentration and are made specifically to allow the fighter to still make all of their extra attacks. If only ranger spells would have comparable qualities.

  • In conclusion, I am adding several new spells which draw inspiration from cantrips such as Booming Blade and Green Flame Blade: they allow you to make a weapon attack, provide an additional bonus, and don’t require Concentration.

  • I also took something from the Arcane Archer and converted it into a ranger spell. 

Additional Content

The document also contains some of the following:

  • I provide my explanation of the various Favoured Enemy types aimed towards players. I find the PHB woefully lacking when it comes to explaining what the individual creature types are, so whoever is creating a level 1 ranger can’t make a very well informed choice. I also added suggestions for how picking a favored enemy might influence your character in the form of various personality quirks.  

  • A brief guide on how to create exploration based content. I believe that the survivalist aspect of the ranger is very interesting but often overlooked or underplayed. One of the reasons for this might be that DMs don’t know how to create challenging and compelling exploration encounters that take place in the wild. I try to provide some DM-focused advice on how to create those in this section.

Optional Class Features

Text that is identical to the PHB rules is in black color. Any changes are written in red.

Favored Enemy


1-st level ranger feature (enhances 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. Alternatively, you can select two races of humanoid (such as gnolls and orcs) as favored enemies. When choosing your favored enemy, consultation with your Dungeon Master could be a tremendously helpful step. Your DM knows their campaign setting and may give you helpful hints, such as: “Dragons do not exist in this world.”

If you’d like to know more about the various types of creatures you can pick with this ability, check this section of this document.

Once on each of your turns, you can add your Wisdom modifier (but a minimum of +1) to the attack roll or the damage roll of an attack you make against one of your favored enemies. You can choose to use this feature before or after the roll, but before any effects of the roll are applied.

You have a +5 bonus to Wisdom (Survival) checks to track your favored enemies, as well as on Intelligence checks to recall information about them. The Dungeon Master can apply this bonus to your checks secretly if they don’t wish to discern that you are dealing with your favored enemy before you make a check.

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. The languages are usually the following:

Aberrations

Deep Speech

Beasts

None

Celestials

Celestial

Constructs

None

Dragons

Draconic

Elementals

Primordial

Fey

Sylvan

Fiends

Infernal or Abyssal

Giants

Giant

Monstrosities

None

Oozes

None

Plants

None

Undead

None

If your favored enemies do not grant you a language, you are instead able to communicate simple ideas with creatures who are your favoured enemies. They can understand the meaning of your words, though you have no special ability to understand them in return.

These are the default languages usually spoken by various creatures according to the Monster Manual. However, these languages may differ depending on which campaign setting you play in. Consult your Dungeon Master when picking your favored enemy type and make sure you receive a language which is appropriate for their chosen setting.

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.

Spellcasting


2-nd level ranger feature (enhances Spellcasting, replaces learning spells)

Preparing and Casting Spells

The Ranger table shows how many spell slots you have to cast your ranger spells. To cast one of your ranger spells of 1st level or higher, you must expend a slot of the spell’s level or higher. You regain all expended spell slots when you finish a long rest.

You prepare the list of ranger spells that are available for you to cast, choosing from the ranger spell list. When you do so, choose a number of ranger spells equal to your Wisdom modifier + half your ranger level, rounded down (minimum of one spell). The spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots.

For example, if you are a 5th-level ranger, you have four 1st-level and two 2nd-level spell slots. With a Wisdom of 14, your list of prepared spells can include four spells of 1st or 2nd level, in any combination. If you prepare the 1st-level spell cure wounds, you can cast it using a 1st-level or a 2nd-level slot. Casting the spell doesn’t remove it from your list of prepared spells.

You can change your list of prepared spells when you finish a long rest. Preparing a new list of ranger spells requires time spent in prayer and meditation: at least 1 minute per spell level for each spell on your list.

Archetype Spells

Each ranger archetype has a list of associated spells. You gain access to these spells at the levels specified in the archetype description. Once you gain access to an archetype spell, you always have it prepared. Archetype spells don’t count against the number of spells you can prepare each day.

If you gain an archetype spell that doesn’t appear on the ranger spell list, the spell is nonetheless a ranger spell for you.

Favored Enemy Improvement


6-th level ranger feature (enhances Favored Enemy)

Additionally, whenever you roll a 1 on the d20 for an attack roll against your favoured enemy, or a saving throw against an ability or spell used by your favoured enemy, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll.

Natural Explorer Improvement


10-th level ranger feature (enhances Natural Explorer)

By 10th level, you have gained affinity for your chosen environment that approaches perfection. Whenever you make an Intelligence or Wisdom check related to your favored terrain, you can treat a d20 roll of 9 or lower as a 10.

Foe Slayer


20-th level ranger feature (replaces Foe Slayer)

Once you reach level 20, whenever you find tracks that belong to your favoured enemy, you can roll an Intelligence (Nature) check against a DC that is equal to the CR of the creature you are tracking. If you follow tracks that belong to multiple creatures, you roll against the CR of the most powerful one in the grou. On a success, you can also read all of the following information from the tracks:

  • Whether the creature’s hit points maximum is higher or lower than yours.

  • Whether the creature’s current amount of hit points is higher or lower than yours.

  • Damage Vulnerabilities, Resistances and Immunities of the creature.

In addition, you learn how to craft a magical oil that can be applied to your weapons to give you an edge in any fight, but it is particularly potent when used against the  creatures from your favoured enemies reportoire. To create a single bottle of weapon oil, you need alchemical ingredients (these ingredients should mostly consist of rare herbs or similar natural reagents) worth 500 gp and you must spend two hours fully concentrated on crafting. The maximum amount of this magical oil you can have at once is equal to half your Wisdom modifier, rounded up (minimum of 1). Whenever you attempt to create a magical oil that would exceed this limit, the oldest magical oil you created loses its magical properties the moment you start the process of creation of the new oil.

(Naturally, you can adjust the crafting cost of this oil to whatever amount you find approapriate. I chose 500 gp because it’s a fair amount of money, but it shouldn’t be difficult to obtain at all at level 20. Alternatively, you might allow your Ranger to venture into the wilderness and collect the ingredients for his weapon oils for free.)

The magical oil you create with this ability can be applied to a single weapon or three pieces of ammunition. The oil is applied as a bonus action. The weapon or ammunition covered by the oil acts as a Weapon +2 or Ammunition, +2. If the weapon already has a bonus to attack and damage rolls the bonuses do not add up, only the highest one is used. In addition, every time you hit your favored enemy with it, the creature must make a Constitution saving throw against your Spell save DC, taking an extra 6d10 piercing or slashing damage (depending on your weapon) on a failed save, or half as much extra damage on a successful one. If the oil is applied to a weapon, it loses its properties after 3 succesful hits are made with the weapon. This magical oil is imbued with your hunting prowess and hatred towards your favored enemies, so if it is used by anyone other than you it loses its magical effects.

Archetype Spell Tables


3-rd level ranger feature (enhances the Hunter and Beast Master subclass)

I am going to list the spell tables of all ranger subclasses for easier comparison. I did not make any changes to the tables of subclasses that already had one. The Hunter and Beast Master subclass tables are new.

Hunter Magic

Ranger Level

Spell

3rd

Shield

5th

Melf’s acid arrow

9th

Elemental weapon

13th

Staggering Smite

17th

Destructive wave

Beast Master Magic

Ranger Level

Spell

3rd

Find Familiar

5th

Enlarge/Reduce

9th

Haste

13th

Find greater steed

17th

Awaken

Horizon Walker Magic

Ranger Level

Spell

3rd

Protection from evil and good

5th

Misty step

9th

Haste

13th

Banishment

17th

Teleportation circle

Gloom Stalker Magic

Ranger Level

Spell

3rd

Disguise self

5th

Rope trick

9th

Fear

13th

Greater invisibility

17th

Seeming

Monster Slayer Magic

Ranger Level

Spell

3rd

Protection from evil and good

5th

Zone of truth

9th

Magic circle

13th

Banishment

17th

Hold monster

Swarmkeeper Magic

Ranger Level

Spell

3rd

Faerie fire

5th

Web

9th

Gaseous form

13th

Giant insect

17th

Insect plague

New Ranger Archetype: Warden


Defender of the Forest

3rd-level Warden feature

You gain proficiency with heavy armor. You prefer to avoid wearing armor made of metal, but aren’t prohibited from doing so. Ask your DM about the possibility of acquiring heavy armor made of an alternative material, such as wood, bones or animal scales.

Barkshield

3rd-level Warden feature

You learn the Shillelagh cantrip and you can use it on your shield. While your shield is enchanted with Shillelagh, you can use it as a spellcasting focus.

Thematic armor.

As a warden, you can enchant your shield and could also acquire heavy armor made of non-metallic material. Feel free to inject some nature-like themes into the visual descriptions of these defensive tools. If your favoured terrain is Forest, your armor and shield may appear to be overgrown with bark and lichen. A coastal Warden could carry armor and shield adorned with seashells, coral and shark bones. If your chosen terrain is the tundra, you may carry heavy armor made of thick layers of enchanted fur.

Warden Magic

3rd-level Warden feature

Starting at 3rd level, you learn an additional spell when you reach certain levels in this class, as shown in the Monster Slayer Spells table. The spell counts as a ranger spell for you, but it doesn’t count against the number of ranger spells you know.

Warden Spells

Ranger Level

Spell

3rd

Compelled Duel

5th

Blur

9th

Counterspell

13th

Death Ward

17th

Circle of Power

Bastion of Nature

7th-level Warden feature

When you are holding a shield enchanted with Shillelagh, you can add half of your Wisdom modifier (rounded down) to your Armor Class.

Ardent Defender

11th-level Warden feature

You learn how to steel your mind against magical assault and grow even more proficient when using your shield. You gain proficiency in Wisdom saving throws.

You can also choose a new option from the Fighting Style class feature, but your choice is limited to the following: Defense, Protection, Interception.

The Protection fighting style can be found in the Fighter class while the Interception fighting style can be found in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.

Mighty Guardian

15th-level Warden feature

You learn how to become an unstoppable guardian of nature: you learn the Guardian of Nature spell. It doesn’t count against the number of ranger spells you know. You can also cast it once without a spell slot, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest.

Whenever you start casting the spell, you can modify it so that it doesn’t require concentration.

Spell list changes


3 enhanced spells, 4 new spells

Naturally, all of these new spells are in the Ranger spell list. There are 4 new combat spells, 3 spells that have been updated from the PHB.

Zephyr Strike (Updated)

1st-level transmutation

Casting Time: 1 bonus action

Range: Self

Components: V

Duration: 1 minute, requires concentration

You move like the wind. Until the spell ends, your movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks.

Once before the spell ends, you can give yourself advantage on one weapon attack roll on your turn. That attack deals an extra 1d8 force damage on a hit. Whether you hit or miss, your walking speed increases by 30 feet until the end of that turn.

At Higher Levels. If you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, you can use the enhanced weapon attack that this spell grants you 1 extra time for each slot level above 2nd.

Ensnaring Strike (Updated)

1st-level conjuration

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: depends on weapon used

Components: V, M (a weapon)

Duration: 1 minute

As part of the action used to cast this spell, you must make an attack using a weapon against one creature within the weapon’s range, otherwise the spell fails. As part of the spell, you gain advantage on the attack roll of this attack. On a hit, the target suffers the attack’s normal effects, and the target must succeed on a Strength saving throw or be restrained by magical vines until the spell ends. A Large or larger creature has advantage on this saving throw. If the target succeeds on the save, the vines shrivel away.

While restrained by this spell, the target takes 1d6 piercing damage at the start of each of its turns. A creature restrained by the vines or one that can touch the creature can use its action to make a Strength check against your spell save DC. On a success, the target is freed. 

At Higher Levels. If you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the attack you make to cast the spell deals an extra 1d6 damage and the periodic damage of the vines increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 1st.

Watering Arrow

1st-level conjuration

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: depends on weapon used

Components: V, M (a ranged weapon)

Duration: instantaneous

As part of the action used to cast this spell, you must make a ranged attack with a ranged weapon against a creature or object within your weapon’s range, otherwise the spell fails. On a hit, the target suffers the attack’s normal effects and it is doused in 1 gallon of water.

The water can put out a fire. After it douses the target, it quickly vanishes.

At Higher Levels. If you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, the spell can dispel persistent spells that deal Fire damage and the spell Continual Flame as if it was like the spell Dispel Magic cast at the same level as you used to cast the spell.

Cordon of Arrows (Updated)

2nd-level transmutation

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: 30 feet

Components: V, M (a ranged weapon, four or more arrows or bolts)

Duration: 8 hours

You shoot four pieces of nonmagical ammunition – arrows or crossbow bolts – in the ground within range and lay magic upon them to protect an area. Until the spell ends, whenever a creature other than you comes within 30 feet of the ammunition for the first time on a turn or ends its turn there, one piece of ammunition flies up to strike it. The creature must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take piercing damage equal to the damage dice your ranged weapon uses for normal shots. If the creature is marked with your Hunter’s Mark spell, it takes an additional 1d6 plus your Dexterity modifier piercing damage. The piece of ammunition is then destroyed. The spell ends when no ammunition remains.

When you cast this spell, you can designate any creatures you choose, and the spell ignores them. 

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, the amount of ammunition that can be affected increases by two for each slot level above 2nd.

Tethering Shot

2nd-level conjuration

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: depends on weapon used

Components: V, M (a ranged weapon)

Duration: 1 minute

As part of the action used to cast this spell, you must make two ranged attacks with a ranged weapon against two creatures or objects which are no further than 30 feet apart, within your weapon’s range, otherwise the spell fails. On a hit, the targets suffer the attack’s normal effects. If both targets are hit, a magical chain forms between them and prevents them from moving more than 30 feet from each other.

The chain is strong enough to withstand the weight of up to 500 pounds. The chain can be torn apart if the tethered creatures cooperate, one of them must use an action to try to pull on the chain and the other creature must use its reaction to join in the effort. They both roll a Strength (Athletics) check against your spell save DC. If only a single creature can make this attempt (for instance if a creature is tethered to an object, or if the two tethered things are both part of the same giant creature) it rolls a Strength (athletics) check against your spell save DC increased by 4.

If a creature wishes to move further than the chain would allow it, it can roll a contested Strength (Athletics) check against the other tethered creature. Succeeding on this check allows the creature to move and pull the other creature, but its movement speed is halved. The chain can not be destroyed by this kind of movement.

While the two targets that are tethered together perceive the chain as corporeal and everyone can see it, for all other purposes the chain is incorporeal. For instance, if a third creature would try to grab the chain and pull on it, it wouldn’t work.

Heart-seeking Flurry

3rd-level divination

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: depends on weapon used

Components: V, M (a weapon)

Duration: Instantaneous

As part of the action used to cast this spell, you must make two attacks with a weapon against one creature within your weapon’s range, otherwise the spell fails. These attacks have a +1 bonus to hit. On a hit, the target suffers the attack’s normal effects, and it also suffers 1d6 extra damage. (So if you hit with both attacks it deals 2d6 extra damage total.)

This spell has a special interaction with the spell Hunter’s Mark. While your Hunter’s Mark is active, whenever you use this spell against a target, you can choose to transfer your mark to the target you are about to hit. In addition, if you kill a target that has been marked with Hunter’s Mark using this spell, you can also transfer your mark to a different target. Both of these effects can be used at once if the other circumastances are met. You do not need to use your Bonus Action to make the transfers when you use this spell.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the damage of each attack increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 3rd.

Banishing Attack

3rd-level abjuration

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: depends on weapon used

Components: V, M (a weapon)

Duration: 1 minute

As part of the action used to cast this spell, you must make an attack with a weapon against one creature within the weapon’s range, otherwise the spell fails. On a hit, the target suffers the attack’s normal effects, the damage of the attack is increased by 2d6 force damage, and the creature must succeed on a Charisma saving throw or be banished. While banished in this way, the target’s speed is 0, and it is incapacitated. At the end of its next turn, the target reappears in the space it vacated or in the nearest unoccupied space if that space is occupied.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the damage increases by 2d6 for each slot level above 3rd.

One with the Land

4th-level divination

Casting Time: 1 hour

Range: self

Components: V, S

Duration: 48 hours

You perform a magical rite which creates a temporary bond with the land you are currently in, and grants you deeper knowledge of its secrets. Whichever biome you are currently in when casting this spell becomes your favored terrain for the Natural Explorer ranger class feature, for the duration of the spell. When you cast this spell while you are in an area that doesn’t fall under any of the ranger’s Natural Explorer options, the spell has no effect.

Additional Content

All of the content in this section is “new” content, so there will be no more red text.

Favored Enemy Tips, Explanations and Quirks

The Players Handbook asks the Ranger to pick a favoured enemy from a plethora of enemy types, but doesn’t explain any further what these types are. There are people out there who might not be quite as familiar with what all the enemy types are, so I thought I would write this up as a short explanation of each enemy type.

Keep in mind that you get to pick a favored enemy at levels 1, 6 and 14, so you end up with 3 types of favored enemy creature types. When picking a favored enemy, you will always have to make a choice between something that might be more common, or something that might be rare but really dangerous, and having it as a favored enemy might save your life. As a rule of thumb, I would recommend picking a more common creature type at level 1 and leave the more “advanced” creatures for levels 6 and 14. However, if a certain creature type goes really well with the story you made up for your character, do not hesitate to pick anything at any level.

I am also going to suggest some ways your chosen enemy type could contribute to the personality/visual appearance of your ranger. I’ll call it Quirks. Keep in mind that these are supposed to serve as a source of inspiration and you are in no way obliged to make use of them. I would guess that a vast majority of Rangers do not reflect their favoured enemy type in their personality or visual appearance at all, and I think it’s a pity.

Aberrations

Alien otherworldy beasts with tentacles and possibly more eyes than one should have. Things that do not belong into your world, whatever your world is. These Lovecraftian horrors often rely on magical attacks and manipulation of minds. They may not be the most common enemy type, but when you meet them, you will be glad to know more about them as they tend to make up for some tough encounters. 

Even if you speak the language of these beings, do not expect them to be very good debate partners.

Quirk: How did your Ranger learn to fight such a rare and dangerous creature type? Have you stumbled into another plane by accident? Have you been kidnapped into a strange alien colony and experimented on? A hunter of aberrations may have had his mind touched by otherworldly beings one too many times. This may have made him twitchy, and perhaps a little bit less sane than the usual person. Maybe he likes to talk to himself, to keep his cool and cope with difficult situations. Perhaps he had some pretty bad experiences with telepathy in the past, and reacts with fear or agression when telepathy is used on him in the future.

Beasts

Basically animals. The most basic ones you can imagine. This includes aquatic animals, insects, flying things, with the occasional dinosaur here and there. More fantastical creatures, such as gryphons, do not tend to belong to this creature type, even if they do look like animals. If you are going to move through the wilderness, you are very likely to bump into some beasts. However, they are probably not going to be a “boss fight”. Beasts often rely on brute strength and on hunting in larger numbers.

When communicating with beasts, do not expect them to be deep thinkers. They act on basic instincts.

Quirk: You may be able to tell someone is a beast hunter from a distance. Beast hunters proudly display their scarred flesh and adorn themselves with trophies of their most prestigious kills. Lion’s mane around their neck, a necklace of tiger teeth, pauldrons adorned with bear skulls, massive stag horns on their head, the sky is the limit. A beast hunter ranger loves the hunt and considers himself an apex predator, but isn’t above hunting in a well coordinated pack.

Celestials

Think angels. There is more to this type than that, but there really is a lot of angels too. Celestials usually have wings and are brightly colored. They also tend to be quite… good. As in, good aligned. This is a relatively rare creature type with some seriously powerful creatures in the mix. Celestials can often cast spells that Clerics usually have, and a fair amount of them make formidable martial combatants as well.

Celestials are usually highly intelligent beings, so understanding their language can lead to lengthy debates.

Quirk: What motives drive someone to become a slayer of angels? Perhaps in your background you come from a family of devouted worshippers of some deity who have been betrayed (or think they have been betrayed), and you sworn revenge on the deity and its servants? Maybe you just like to see the world burn, or made a deal with the devil? Or, could it be that you have met a corrupted celestial, one who has turned to evil? Whatever it is, there is one thing that is certain: you do not trust things with wings. You might be suspicious of clerics and paladins as well. A particularly cruel angel slayer might chop the wings off of the most powerful angel they’ve slain and wear them on their back as a grim trophy and sign of cruel mockery.

Constructs

Robots, golems but also war machines. Inanimate objects given life and purpose by magical or technological means. Unless you are playing in some kind of more technologically advanced setting (like Eberron), they might be pretty rare. You might bump into constructs when exploring workshops of mysterious inventors and forbidden quarters of powerful spellcasters.

Constructs don’t really have a standard language, but most importantly, many of them aren’t really sentient or don’t have free will. A chat with a trebuchet is going to be painfully one-sided. Constructs that were programmed to perform some kind of task are hardly going to be convinced to stop, but it may be possible. Constructs that do have some kind of intelligence are usually created with a knowledge of the language of their creator.

Quirk: Maybe your construct slayer dabbled in mechanics/golemancy himself? A character who specializes in destroying the automata might be naturally interested in the laws of physics and mechanics. Try to conduct a scientific experiment every now and then. You might be interested in more mechanical weapon choices as well, such as crossbows or… sawblade axes? Maybe you have a mechanical limb somewhere under that cloak? Or perhaps it’s completely the other way around: you shun technological advancement and prefer to stick to more primitive means, such as slings and giant clubs.

Dragons

You probably know what Dragons are. They are big trouble. If you are lucky, you are going to bump into them very rarely. But you might like to know that there are some creatures that are not quite the classic giant dragons that still belong under the dragon type. Young dragons, drakes and various dragon-like hybrids could still belong under this type and might be a little more common foes. Dragons fly, are strong and resilient as hell, and they really like to make you do dexterity saving throws.

Dragons tend to be pretty intelligent, so knowing their language might definitely come in handy.

Quirk: A dragonslayer might also like to adorn themselves in leftovers of slain dragons, but not for the same reason as the Beast hunter does. Thing is, dragon scales might be a powerful material for armor crafting. So it’s not just for decorative purposes, but also utilitarian. Dragon slayers hunt prey that is far beyond the possibilities of humans, and they might consider lesser threats as too mundane for their mighty attention.

Elementals

Otherworldly magical beings heeding from elemental planes. The basic elements are fire, water, earth and air, but you might meet elementals of other types as well. Elemental beings have a huge variation in strength, but the most common ones (the ones that spellcasters can summon) have a sort of mid-tier difficulty. Speaking of which, elementals can often be powerful minions for spellcasters. There is one specific thing about elementals worth mentioning. In other games, elementals often have a rock-paper-scissors dynamic, where they are weak against some element but strong against another? Don’t expect this to be the case with D&D elementals. 

Quirk: The elements are a popular theme in media, and it is easy to assign personality traits to them. As an elemental slayer, your ranger might have a positive affinity towards a certain element, and take on some of the characteristic personality traits of that element. The fact that elementals often hang out with spellcasters might mean that your ranger harbors an animosity towards wizards as well.

Fey

Magical beings from the Feywild plane. There are both good and bad fey, and even the bad ones can be cute at first sight, but they all have a vicious side to them as well. If your adventures are going to take you into the Feywild, you are probably going to be fighting a lot of these. Hags, who are fearsome evil witches, also belong under fey.

Quirk: A slayer of fey could go many ways. You could be a stalwart enemy of hag covens, or a ruthless brute who wears a necklace made of dead pixies. The folk often tell stories about Fey creatures, so your character might seem like a nice and friendly collector of folk tales and rumors with a much more sinister motivation to do it.

Fiends

This is an extremely wide spectrum of enemies. The other creature types often refer to things that are prevalent in a single plane of existence… fiends are a major inhabitant of at least three planes of existence, and since they are a popular type of villain, there is an absolute crapload of them. They cover a complete spectrum of power as well, from lowly imps to the powerful archdevils, no matter what level you are, there probably are fiends you can already fight. Also, if there is a final boss somewhere in your campaign, chances are pretty good that it might be a fiend.

Quirk: As a slayer of fiends, your path is clear. There are all these evil beasts from the lower planes of existence, and they just keep. On. Coming and trying to corrupt or kill people. You might have given up on the thought that the world can truly be rid of them, and you see yourself more as the guy with a bucket in a sinking boat. Corruption among people upsets you because it is what creates the gates for all the infernal scum that keeps pouring in. Certain types of fiends love to hang out around humans, so a fiend hunter could be a type of ranger who is most acclimated to civilization. If only poeple could stop inviting them over! It all comes down to temptation. How good is your ranger at resisting temptation?

Giants

You probably know who these are as well. Really big stompy folks. There are all sorts of giants, some stronger or more intelligent than the others. Giants are pretty good stock for villains or bosses, so it’s a fair choice. Not all of them are evil, too, so that’s nice.

Quirk: As a slayer of giants, it is clear that you should be short. Definitely below average for whatever race you play. You are particularly sensitive about mild earth tremors – the telltale sign that a giant is about to strike. As a giant slayer, you are used to fighting enemies who vastly outsize you, so you are surprisingly fearless when you encounter large creatures. 

Monstrosities

Often resembling beasts, but with some sort of an unnatural twist to them. Think of any mythological beast… it is probably categorized as a monstrosity. Gryphons? Sphinxes? Basilisks? Check! I would say this is a fairly common type of enemy in any magical setting.

Quirk: Could be pretty much the same as a beast slayer, except your trophies are weirder. Many of the creatures you are good at hunting have been created by some kind of magical influence, but it’s not usually as easy to blame on wizards as elementals or the undead. Rather, you might be suspicious of magical places. Anomalies in the world where raw magic mutates creatures into unnatural forms. Surely, most of these magical places are perfectly harmless, but there is still that little tinge of distrust in your mind, which drives you to be the one who is holding watch over night even if you sleep in an inn.

Oozes

Slimey disgusting things that slither around, make weird squelching noises when you hit them, and are mostly interested in digesting flesh. Oozes are not a very numerous enemy type. If the villain of your campaign is an alchemist who likes to create artificial life you might get to meet them fairly consistently, and you are almost guaranteed to meet at least ONE ooze on your adventures, but in general I wouldn’t count on it being all that consistent.

Quirk: Oozes are extremely unapologetic about their eating habits. If you encounter them often, you have probably seen a fair share of humanoid bones, picked clean. So much so that you may have grown a little desensitized to seeing any kind of human remains. Maybe you even started to feel like there is something aesthetically pleasing about the sharp features of a skull? Surely nobody would find it weird if you collected some of them. But only the nice ones, not the ugly ones. That would be weird.

Plants

Plants.

Quirk: Plants?

Undead 

Things that used to be dead but thought they might do something else than just lie around, always assisted by some sort of magic. The undead are extremely common and popular in many campaigns. They are an extremely easy pick for a low level ranger, chances are pretty good you are going to see some zombies or skeletons. The only circumstance when the undead might not be the easiest pick is when your DM would like to play in a very low-magic setting. When there is no magic, there are not many undead. Otherwise… yeah undead are a popular villain type. There are even very powerful undead that can serve as major villains, so you are just as likely to bump into them at high levels as well.

Quirk: There might be people out there who would advocate the use of undead as a cheap work force or a reliable ally in battle. You see these people as necromancers, and as a slayer of undead it is only logical that you are also a slayer of necromancers. There are deities who are against the existence of undead, and this type of ranger is definitely a good candidate to have a little bit o a religious zeal thrown into the mix. Your experience with the undead may have taught you to be very particular about funeral rites. You don’t think it is wasted time to burn the dead, or at least chop them to pieces before putting them in a grave.

Overall recommended picks for level 1: Beasts, Undead, possibly Fiends. Undead and Fiends have a better chance to be useful all the way to max level, beasts stop being a major threat once you level up a bit. At higher levels, pretty much anything goes.

Exploration content, exploration challenges and how to design them

Why is this here?

Making the ranger feel useful does not fall entirely on the shoulders of the ranger. The ranger is a class that excels in the exploration pillar of the game, and to actually make that show in the game, the Dungeon Master needs to be able to create compelling exploration-based content. Therefore, you can consider this a section for Dungeon Masters.

What is an exploration challenge?

Just a heads-up, I don’t think this is some kind of an official term, so don’t expect to get any solid results from looking it up on dndbeyond. Exploration challenge is content aimed at exploration-based capabilities of your players that is challenging, in the same way as a combat encounter is supposed to be a combat challenge. Anyway, let’s stop speaking in abstract terms, I’ll give you a concrete example of an exploration challenge.

Imagine you are a rogue and you want to steal an item from a house. This house is well guarded, locked up, trapped, and somewhere inside the house there is a hidden key to a secret vault. This is an exploration challenge. Your rogue player is going to be exploring this house, and he is going to interact with the environment using his Skills and Tools, and exploring the house will be a challenge because there are many things that can thwart the rogue’s plans.

It’s pretty easy to imagine an exploration challenge that is focused on the skills of a rogue or a bard, such as the house I just mentioned above. With a ranger in the group, though, you might want to try to create some exploration challenges set in a natural environment. But how do you do that?

Preparation

Before I get to the nitty gritty of the preparation, I would like to drop this advice here. I’ll offer you a guaranteed way to boost your creativity. When you are coming up with new ideas, you are building them from ideas you have already experienced. So the guaranteed best way to get better at creating things is to absorb a lot of other ideas. Like a sponge.

To put this into more concrete terms. If you want to get better at creating nature based exploration content, you should go and watch some bloody Bear Grylls. Expand your knowledge of what it means to be a survivalist and what difficult things one can encounter in nature. Try to read up on how to survive in a desert, watch a movie about someone who is stranded on an island, check out what sorts of nasty things can live in a swamp, find out how the people who live in jungles managed to survive when everything around them wants to kill them. I am not saying you should become an expert on all of this. All I’m saying is that every single new thing you learn counts.

Anyways, back to talking about the rules.

Creating an exploration challenge, step by step

First, try to come up with a scenario. What is the primary objective of the challenge. In my previous example with the house, the primary objective was to rob the vault. Some things that can help you create a scenario is… focusing on the environment your players are in, thinking of which skills you would like to target and not forgetting to keep it a challenge. I’ll break these down a little more.

Thinking about the environment

Is your group in a forest? Good, so your challenge is going to be forest-related. Think about the obstacles one can bump into in a forest. Perhaps some terrain that is really hard to pass through? Or a nest of something that is so mean it would be best to sneak by? Maybe your players could bump into some ancient ruins, so overgrown that they are hardly distinguishable, but with magical hazards still present?

Related to this is the placement of your exploration challenge. When should your players bump into an exploration challenge? I would say camping is a pretty good opportunity for a small chunk of exploration. When your group decides to spend the night in wilderness, your characters might try to look for a good camping spot. Finding it is an exploration challenge in itself, but once they have settled down, maybe there could be some points of interest around the campsite?

Targetting skills 

In the roguish challenge I described earlier, some of the main challenges are entering the house without being noticed and stealing the key to the vault from a sleeping baroness. To put it simply – these objectives come down to skill checks. It is easiest to come up with a set of objectives if you have a concrete list of skills that you want to target. If you are designing a challenge for a natural environment, these are the most relevant skills:

  • Survival

  • Nature

  • Athletics

  • Perception

  • Investigation

  • Stealth

  • Animal Handling

  • Herbalism Kit

  • Poisoner’s Kit

I would recommend writing these down somewhere and having that handy when creating exploration based content. Mark which of those skills your group is proficient at. Try to come up with some checks for those skills. It’s quite possible that if you’d just came up with a single skill challenge for each of those, and then put all of those challenges into a bundle that fits together, you would have come up with a neat exploration challenge.

Challenge

Without a challenge, you are going to end up with a wet noodle of a content where your players are going to repeatedly attempt skill checks until they succeed at something and then move on. This probably isn’t what you want. In the roguish example earlier, the challenge was mostly in the threat of being detected. What can you do to make something challenging in the wild?

  • Time constraints. Whenever your players are on a timer, the stakes are automatically higher. Do your players need to get to a campaign objective before it is too late? Suddenly, every obstacle that can eat your time away becomes a lot more dangerous. An extreme example of this is a chase. When your group is running through a forest, chased by a horde of orcs, their very life might depend on how they can traverse obstacles – or use them to their advantage.

  • Limitted attempts. When your players can perform a skill check on something that can break, boom, the stakes are up. Try not to make this artificial. Don’t just say “you can only attempt to pick this flower once”, think of WHY. For instance, when trying to extract a healing herb, it might be pretty difficult to pick it without ruining the vital part of the herb. Skinning an animal can be done in a way that will make the pelt a valuable piece of treasure, but you might also ruin the pelt, or greatly decrease its value. Failing to climb a fragile vine might tear the vine down.

  • Limitted resources. The core of every survival game. I would dare to guess that most groups travel around with bountiful resources, and have access to spells that can easily provide food and drink, but there still are resources that can be precious for your group. Hint: Spell slots and hit points. When traveling through a hostile natural environment, every spell slot counts, and having someone who can provide food, drink, shelter and perhaps even some healing without needing spell slots becomes more valuable. Another limitted resource might be fuel, if your group uses some kind of vehicle. Even horses need “fuel”, and finding some in a desert might be rather challenging.

  • Combat threats. There are situations in which your players would rather avoid a combat encounter, and these often turn into exploration challenges (or social interaction challenges). If the combat your group is trying to avoid seems particularly difficult, this will inevitably make any exploration attempts seem riskier. In the wilds, the simplest way to avoid an encounter is to sneak past (Sneak skill check), but there may be other ways around. Maybe your characters could find a herb that repulses a certain type of enemy when it burns? This could be a way to avoid combat using a Nature skill check.

What to be wary of when creating exploration based content

Succeed or die situations

I would bet that this is an extremely common mistake when some DMs try to create stealth based content, but this can pop up in a multitude of situations really. Basically, this happens when a DM comes up with an exploration or social interaction encounter that is meant to be an alternative to combat, and does not account for the possibility that their players may start a fight. Suddenly, you may have a battlefield with an unnecesarily large amount of guards that are impossible to defeat. When you come up with a stealth based exploration encounter, don’t let your players catch you off guard by this. Account for the possibility that they will just try to fight their way through. Don’t throw yourself into a situation where you resort to nerfing and fudging the dice to prevent a TPK. Consider the consequences your player’s actions would have.

A good alternative to a consequence of failure, much less harsh than death, is missing out on treasure. Players value treasure and will always feel a sting when they clearly lose something cool, but the campaign can still continue just fine.

Favourite solution situation

When creating exploration based content, you might come up with some challenge and think of how your players could solve that challenge and prepare some DCs. Basically, you come up with a solution, and prepare for it. And then, your players try to solve the situation in a completely different manner. What do you do? Are there issues that should be solved a certain way? I don’t think so. Personally, I’m always glad when my players catch me off guard, as long as it’s within reason. There might even be situations when the players find a way to absolutely trivialize what you considered a difficult challenge, possibly through magical means. In situations like that, you might get the idea that you don’t like how your players conquered the challenge so effortlessly. I would recommend learning to supress this feeling. After all, overcoming impossible odds is what the game is about. 

Personally, when I create exploration based content, I do prepare some solutions, and even when the players decide to go on a different path, at least I have a prepared set of skill check DCs, which helps me quickly come up with improvised skill checks.

Knowledge checks

I wanted to give this a special section because I’d say this might also be something that some DMs could use some tips on. Knowledge checks are in the game to convey the fantasy that the player character is knowledgeable in a field, even if the player of that character isn’t. If the player doesn’t know something, he can try to make a skill check, and if he succeeds, the character knows it.

There is a problem though. It is not that easy to realize that you don’t know something. For example, a pack of wolves is blocking a path your characters wish to pass through, and with a good nature check, someone in the group could find out an easy way to avoid a fight with the wolves. But they just… don’t think of it. They don’t get the idea that their character might know something like that, so they look to other, more obvious solutions. Usually this results in combat, or attempts to speak with the animals, and a needlessly large amount of resources is spent on what could have been a knowledge check.

When I DM, I sometimes go and ask my players to make a knowledge check when I think there is something their character could think of. Basically, I treat knowledge skills kinda as if they also had a passive element to them. Heck, that wouldn’t be a bad variant rule, actually. Passive knowledge skills? I’ll make use of these in the examples I give you further down the line.

Sample Exploration Challenges

In the Dungeon Master’s Guide, they try to spur people’s imagination by providing a load of tables where you can randomly generate… ideas. I am not a huge fan of tables, so I’m not gonna do that, but to help stimulate your imagination a bit, I’ll provide some examples.

Camping

The group is traversing an ancient haunted forest, and they’d like to take a long rest. There is noone with Leomund’s Tiny Hut in the group, what a shame. The party tries to find a suitable resting spot.

Locating a good place to rest may be a Wisdom (Survival) check. Keep in mind that if your Ranger has Forest as a favoured terrain, he basically has Expertise (that means doubled proficiency bonus, you get this from Natural Explorer) for that skill check. And hey, let’s have multiple DCs for that check, that can lead to different results. Kinda like this:

  • If the result is 9 or less – The group wastes a fair amount of time trying to find a spot that seems to be clear enough. The group will be victim to a guaranteed nightly ambush in this location.

  • DC 10 – The group finds a spot that seems alright. There is a big tree that can provide full cover. Nightly ambush is very likely, but not guaranteed.

  • DC 15 – The group finds a good spot. The campsite has full cover from the northern side and there is difficult terrain to the west. Nightly ambush is likely.

  • DC 20 – The group finds a great spot. The campsite has full cover from two sides, a fair amount of half cover on the other two sides, and there is a large patch of difficult terrain that can slow the approach of anyone and make it harder to sneak. Basically a natural fort. Nightly ambush is likely.

  • DC 25 – The group finds an epic spot. In addition to the DC 20 one, there is also a large blueberry bush and a clean stream of water. Nightly ambush is likely. (Come on, it is a haunted forest. And what’s the point of finding a perfectly fortified position if you don’t get to stomp a combat encounter with it.)

Hold up, multiple DCs? Yes.

A check with multiple DCs is something I do to create a more marginalized scale of success than a simple win/lose scenario. It is very simple to do. You make the player roll once, and you look at the highest DC that the player has passed or matched with his roll.

Once the camp is made, anyone with a passive Nature higher than 16 or passive Perception higher than 20  (Keep in mind your Ranger has Expertise on these too, if he picked Forest) can get this hint:

There is something strange about the surroundings of your campsite. You can’t quite say what it is, but you have a hunch that it might be worth it to look around.

Searching the surrounding area of the camp will be an Intelligence (Investigation) check if your group wants to search for interesting places, or a Wisdom (Survival) check if they try to look for tracks. I am going to stop reminding you that your Ranger might have Expertise on these checks now. The Investigation check has the following yields:

  • Less than 20 – The group finds an empty small burrow, that belonged to some rodent. A daring hand will find an Iron Ring worth 1sp inside.

  • DC 20 – The group realizes the surroundings of the campsite used to be a small village, but it was a really long time ago. Only rough outlines of the huts can be seen if you really know what to look for. One of the ancient houses contains a stone tablet which points to an interesting location in the forest. (Location is not described here, but you can make it up or connect it to a quest the group is on.)

  • DC 25 – In addition to the previous find, the group realizes that one of the ancient huts belonged to a herbalist, and the plants surrounding the hut might still contain some rare herbs. (Finding them is described below.)

  • DC 30 – In addition to the previous finds, the group finds a slab of rock that hides a tunnel into an old cellar. The cellar used to contain wine barrels, but they have fell apart. One barrel still remains, it may have been magical once but its magic has faded. The wine inside is still good, though, and worth about 200gp.

If your group is looking for herbs around the herbalist’s hut, it would be an Intelligence (Nature) or maybe a Wisdom (Herbalist’s Kit) check? If someone is proficient in both, they can have advantage on the roll. If your group passes a DC of 22, they find 4 herbs called Granny’s Nose, a peculiar herb with higher potency in bigger doses, which can be turned into a salve if you mush it into animal fat. Applying 1 Granny’s Nose heals 1d4+1 hit points. Applying 2 Granny’s Nose at once heals 1d4+1 hit points and takes away 1 level of Exhaustion. Applying 4 Granny’s Nose at once heals 2d4+2 hit points, takes away 1 level of Exhaustion and restores 1 Hit Dice. A single creature can only benefit from Granny’s Nose once per long rest, whatever the dosage is. It might be worth it to look for herbs once the party leaves camp, maybe they will find more Granny’s Nose.

If your group looks for tracks (I mentioned this earlier), it is a Wisdom (Survival) check with these results: 

(There are Beast tracks, so if your ranger has Favored Foe – Beasts, grant him advantage on the check, or secretly add +5 to his roll.) 

  • Less than 20 – No tracks found.

  • DC 20 – There seem to be wolf tracks. If someone has Favoured Terrain – Forest: There are wolf tracks, belonging to 6 different wolves. 5 of them are Medium sized and 1 is Large. The tracks are 3 hours old.

  • DC 25 – In addition to previous finds, you notice that one of the wolves (the large one) leaves behind white hair. A pelt of a giant white wolf might be worth a lot of money (possible combat encounter). Alternatively, a giant alpha wolf might make a strong ally (possible social interaction encounter with Speak with Animals? Animal Handling check?).

If the group found the tracks, they can follow them to find the wolves.

Alright, that’s about it for this one. As you can see, a campsite can be just a simple way to get a long rest and move on, but it might also turn into an exploration encounter with compelling rewards.

A Secret in the Mountains

Let’s move on to a somewhat more challenging terrain type. A search and rescue-type quest in the mountains, to be precise. The challenge here is to discover a person who was lost the previous evening. Ideally, the group should bring the person back alive. Just like a Rogue might be using his exploratory skills to find a treasure in a mansion, your survivalists will be able to apply their know-how to crack this case.

Also, let’s say the lost person has 3 hours left to live. If the group takes too much time to get to it, they will find it dead. Tracking time spent on the tasks below is an important aspect of this small adventure.

The only lead the group has is a general direction the missing person went. They have to resort to moving while searching. If your group has a Ranger who is specialized into mountains, it will be very advantagous that he can keep searching while moving at a normal pace – the time saved by this may ensure that the group gets to the lost person on time!

While moving and searching for at least an hour (half an hour if the group has a Ranger with Mountains as his favoured terrain), the group can roll an Intelligence (Investigation) check with the following results:

  • Less than 14 – The group didn’t find any clues. They can reroll the check after an hour of searching.

  • DC 14 – The group finds a suspicious pile of bones. Check below for what information this pile yields.

  • DC 18 – In addition to the pile, the group finds a patch of flowers. Maybe the lost person was picking flowers? Check below for what can be found in the flowers.

  • DC 24 – The group finds an entrance into an underground cave. Check below for more info.

If a group finds a pile of bones, they can try to investigate them. The bones seem to be humanoid, picked clean. Most likely belonged to two people. It is very likely that they have been here longer than the lost person has been lost. A succesful Wisdom (Medicine) check against DC 18 will reveal the following clue to the group:

The bones are cleanly stripped of flesh and sinew. At least three humans lie dead here, one of the pelvic bones has a more feminine shape and doesn’t match well with the other two ribcages and skulls. Nothing about the bones suggests what caused the deaths of these humanoids. The cleanness of the bones is strange – usually, wildlife is what contributes to the decomposition of a body, and wildlife leaves clues: bite marks, bones cracked by jaws, skulls picked by beaks. None of these are present on the bones.

A succesful Intelligence (Investigation) check against DC 20 will reveal the following clue:

The bones lie here in a pile, all mixed up. Usually corpses found in nature still lie in the rough shape of a human being, unless they are misplaced by wildlife.

Now an ideal action a player could take in a situation like this would be to say: “I want to think about whether something nature-related could leave behind a scene like this.” This is kinda how I imagine players attempting  knowledge checks. But I also assume it might be nigh impossible that this would happen. So let’s try to make this a passive Intelligence (Nature) check against DC 22. The base number for passive checks is 10, add your players proficiency in the Nature skill and such. You can give your players a couple extra modifiers for this check: +2 if they succeeded on the Medicine check above, +2 if they succeeded on the Investigation check above, and a sneaky +5 if someone has a Favoured enemy: beasts. If anyone succeeds on this check, your players get this clue:

There is wildlife that can leave corpses like this. Beasts that do not rely on their fangs or beaks to strip flesh. Rather, they inject the body with digestive fluids that liquify the flesh, leaving only clean bones behind. Spiders, that sort of thing. If they prey on humans they must be big.

The group may also try to search for tracks. This would be a Wisdom (Survival) check against DC 20. The tracks belong to beasts, so anyone with Favored enemy: Beasts gains a secret +5. A success yields this information:

There are many tracks around. Countless things have been walking around this pile of bones.

If the group succeeded on the passive Nature check, add this: The footprints seem like they could be left behind by a giant insect-like creature.

If the person looking has Favoured enemy: Beasts: The tracks belong to spiders. There are far too many to count, but only 5 of them are mature giant spiders. The rest are too small to be bothered about. The tracks vary in age, but the newest ones are three days old. In addition, you are able to discern from the patterns of the tracks that these belong to jumping spiders.

If the group finds a patch of flowers, they can reveal the following clues. Anyone with a passive Nature over 20 can tell that there is something odd about the flowers: there are many kinds of flowers that do not tend to grow on the rocky soil of a mountain biome. The flowers can be investigated more closely, using an Intelligence (Nature) or Intelligence (Investigation) check with a DC 18. Succeeding on the Investigation check reveals the following:

Hidden in the patch of flowers, there is a tunnel opening. The tunnel seems to go deeper underground, but it is too tight to squeeze through, even for the tiniest of humanoids. A strange smell emanates from the tunnel opening.

Succeeding on the Nature check reveals the same information as the Investigation check above, but the person looking also finds three Granny’s Nose herbs. The effect of these herbs is described above, in the forest encounter.

Someone might try to analyze the strange smell from the tunnel, this is a Wisdom (Perception) check with DC 26. Succeeding on this difficult check reveals the following information:

With your keen sense of smell, you catch a whiff of sulfur and other chemical substances used in alchemy. There is also an odd quality about the air, as if it was seeped with magical power.

Anyone who has the Detect Magic spell active while looking at the flowers can immediately see gas rising from the tunnel opening. This gas is faintly magical. It doesn’t have any effects on the adventurers, but it may have caused a patch of highly irregular flowers to sprout around it.

Whether the adventurers succeed to identify the smell or not, they might realize that there is something underground. The group can try to roll an Intelligence (Investigation) check to look around the mountain again, to find an entrance that leads underground. The DC of this check is 24, but the group may receive the following bonuses to this roll:

  • +2 if they found the bones

  • +5 If they found the spider tracks near the bones

  • +2 if they found the tunnel in the patch of flowers

  • +5 if they managed to identify the smells emanating from the tunnel or have someone search while under the effect of a Detect Magic spell

If the group succeeds on the check, they find a tunnel leading into the lair of the jumping spiders. This one is wide enough to pass through.

And this is where I’ll stop describing this challenge in detail, but if you’d like to go on, my idea was that there is a cave with jumping spiders, and deeper behind that cave there is a derelict alchemical laboratory. The missing person is alive in a coccoon of spider web in the spider lair, and the group has to get to it before the spiders kill it. This missing person could have been related to the underground laboratory somehow. Maybe it was a curious adventurer, or a descendant of the owner of the laboratory.

The lair of spiders might seem like an obvious combat challenge, but it could be solved by “exploratory” means as well. For example, maybe someone with a deep knowledge of beasts might know of a herb that repels spiders when it is burned (like the Turn Undead spell). Or someone in the group might be able to cast speak with animals and make a deal with the spiders. They are not very clever, but they would be willing to trade food for more food.

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