Guide to Building a Monster Slayer Ranger: DnD 5e

When building a ranger monster slayer in DnD 5e, consider these elements of a DnD vampire hunter:

In DnD 5e, the ranger monster slayer is a specialist in countering supernatural monsters with anti-magic effects, monster knowledge and a unique list of cleric-related spells.  These rangers follow the archetype of the classic vampire hunter—Van Helsing, Blade, Vampire Hunter D—using knowledge, specially-crafted spells and cunning to track and hunt evil prey.

Try a wood elf or dhampir (UA)

Wood elf rangers seem straightforward for a ranger build, carrying a +2 Dexterity/+1 Wisdom bonus.  However, they make an interesting dynamic against vampires and ghouls, pitting the forces of life against the forces of death.  They inherently resist being charmed with Fey Ancestry and act as the opposite side of the coin to vampires.  Both are sharp-eared, attractive hunters with an immortal nature, just on different sides of life and death.

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Lately, the dhampir race is making an appearance in Unearthed Arcana as a half-vampire/half-human hybrid.  The lore of the dhampir fits the character perfectly—being essentially the makeup of Vampire Hunter D and Blade.  For now, I can choose our ability bonuses—another +2 Dexterity/+1 Wisdom combination.  Plus, I’ll gain the ability to walk on walls with Spider Climb and absorb HP with Vampire Bite (1d4, heal as much, gain bonus on next ability check or attack roll).

Use Dueling Fighting Style with katana

Though I’ll always keep a bow on hand for any ranger build I make, a vampire hunter wouldn’t be right without sweet sword moves.  Therefore, I’ll start my build off with a katana (1d8 finesse) and Dueling Fighting Style, which gives me a +2 bonus to damage rolls made with one-handed weapons.  Naturally, Dexterity will be my highest ability score, which I’ll lean on to increase my AC with leather armor.

Because I intend on dealing melee damage, I’ll be sure to have healing spells and capabilities that work with this strategy.

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Choose Deft Explorer and Primal Awareness

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything introduces new early-level ranger abilities and spells, such as Deft Explorer, Favored Foe and Primal Awareness.  In my opinion, these abilities are way more interesting than the original.  Therefore, I’m going all in with this build.

Deft Explorer gives me simple, yet cool, abilities based around exploration.  Canny (level 1) doubles my proficiency in a Skill of my choice.  I’m thinking Perception is a good candidate for this ability.  Roving (level 6) adds 5 feet to my walking speed and grants me climbing and swimming speed equal to my walking speed.  Finally, Tireless (level 10) can be used to grant me temporary HP equal to 1d8 + Wisdom modifier.

Primal Awareness grants my ranger bonus spells that relate to the land and animals surrounding me, including:

  • Speak with Animals: I can communicate simple ideas with surrounding wildlife or domestic animals.
  • Beast Sense: Concentrate and sense the world through a nearby creature.  This grants unique abilities like a bird’s eye view or blindsight.
  • Speak with Plants: Communicate simple ideas with surrounding plant life. This grants me the ability to ask trees about who has passed by recently.  Perhaps I could even ask a plant monster to chill out.
  • Locate Creature: Find the direction of an animal within 1,000 feet.  Must be able to visualize creature.
  • Commune with Nature: Connect with the environment and learn its layout within 3 miles.  Plant life, bodies of water, civilization, extraplanar contact and monsters can be found with this spell.

I gain these spells as I level up, with one free use per day.

Monster Slayer abilities: Hunter’s Sense, Slayer’s Prey, Supernatural Defense…

When I reach level 3 and gain the monster slayer archetype, I’ll learn 2 abilities off the bat: Hunter’s Sense and Slayer’s Prey.

Hunter’s Sense can be used as an action to discern a targets immunities, resistances and vulnerabilities.  This information can be shared with the party—an information-gathering ability with subtle benefits.  However, if the creature is hidden from divination magic, I read nothing.  Again, this class is like a fusion between a ranger and cleric.

Slayer’s Prey adds 1d6 extra damage on the first hit of the turn.  I’ll have to use a bonus action to choose my prey.  However, I’ll be able to stack this damage with the damage from hunter’s mark.  This means my katana strike can look like 1d8 + 4 (Dex) + 1d6 (Slayer’s Prey) + 1d6 (hunter’s mark).

Then, level 7 brings me Supernatural Defense, which adds 1d6 to saving throws or grappling saves against my Slayer’s Prey target.  With my wood elf example, this means I have resistance to vampire charm, and I get to add 1d6 to the saving throw.  However, this counts for all kinds of saving throws: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Wisdom…

Magic-User’s Nemesis (level 11) makes me a pain for spellcasters, forcing them to make a Wisdom save before casting a spell or teleporting.  The creature will need to be within 60 feet of me, but a failed save counters their spell.  Plus, I can only use once per short or long rest.

Slayer’s Counter (level 15) is the ultimate monster slayer move, giving me a free attack against my Slayer’s Prey when I’m forced to make a saving throw.  If my attack hits, I automatically succeed on the save.  As a finale, this works amazingly to create a counter-magic ranger.

Monster Slayer magic: protection from evil and good, zone of truth

As a monster slayer, I also gain access to special cleric spells.  This flavors my ranger as a defender against the forces of evil and adding a defensive flavor that most rangers don’t have.  These spells include:

  • Protection from good and evil: (Level 3) Touch a willing target and they gain several benefits against aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends and undead. These foes have disadvantage on attack rolls.  My target also can’t be frightened, charmed or possessed.
  • Zone of Truth: (Level 5) Create a 15-foot sphere zone of truth, where creatures who start or end their turn inside the zone must make a Charisma saving throw. On a failed save, they are unable to lie.  Naturally, I know if each creature fails or succeeds the saving throw.
  • Magic Circle: (Level 9) A 10-foot radius cylinder that is 20 feet tall creates a magic barrier against aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends and undead. These creatures can’t enter the barrier except by magical means.  If they do teleport or enter magically, they must succeed on a Charisma saving throw.  Also, attacks against my allies inside the circle have disadvantage and my allies can’t be frightened, charmed or possessed.
  • Banishment: (Level 13) Target must succeed on Charisma saving throw or be sent to another dimension. If the creature is native to the plane, it gets sent to a harmless demiplane.  This creature is incapacitated while in the demiplane for up to 1 minute.  Otherwise, it is sent back to its own plane for the allotted time.
  • Hold Monster: (Level 17) Target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or be paralyzed for up to 1 minute. Ironically, this spell doesn’t affect undead.  Plus, the paralyzed creature can make a Wisdom save at the beginning of its turns to break the spell.

Add basic ranger spells for damage, trapping and tracking.

Rangers don’t receive big lists of spells and available spell slots.  However, they have more than enough to create powerful effects.  For my monster hunter, I’ll want spells that help me trap, damage and stalk my foes.

1st-level

  • Hunter’s Mark: Using concentration, mark a target and deal an extra 1d6 damage with weapon attacks.  This ranger staple simply stacks on the extra damage.
  • Cure Wounds: Heal 1d8 + Wisdom modifier HP.  As a sword fighter, I’ll need a solid healing option.
  • Ensnaring Strike: When I strike a creature, they must succeed on a Strength saving throw or be restrained by thorny vines. The thorns deal 1d6 damage at the beginning of the creature’s next turn.  Naturally, I can move through enemies, trap them, and move on.
  • Detect Magic: I can detect where a source of magic is coming from and what school it belongs to.  As a slayer of supernatural forces, this spell adds an extra tracking feature.

2nd-level

  • Summon Beast: I can summon a Small creature related to earth, water and air.  My earth and water forms have 30 HP and Pack Tactics.  However, my flying summon has 20 HP and Flyby.  Summoning creatures like bats, hounds and snakes to help me fight and track my prey sounds right for this slayer.
  • Cordon of Arrows: Stick 4 pieces of ammunition into the ground.  Whenever a creature ends or begins its turn within 30 feet it must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw.  A failed save deals 1d6 piercing damage.  Alongside a sword style, this extra damage output can be fun.
  • Pass without Trace: Add +10 to Dexterity (Stealth) checks to allies within 30 feet of me.  We can’t be tracked except by magical means.  This spell can come in handy with simpler zombies and melee minions.

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