To play a Gloom Stalker ranger, consider this build…
- Choose a race with a high Dexterity bonus
- Choose archery fighting style.
- Build ranger spells around Dread Ambusher, field work and damage.
- Master the special Gloom Stalker spells.
I personally love the ranger class and always have. Sure, there’s some hullaballoo about this class sucking in 5e, but I totally reject that idea. Rangers have much to offer, both in story and combat. Maybe they were better in previous versions, but I tend to find myself missing my ranger when I play other characters.
If you’d like a premade campaign to play your Gloom Stalker, check out my pirate adventure below.
Gloom Stalker Essentials
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything introduced me to the gloom stalker archetype in the ranger class. A fanatic of both the beast master and hunter archetypes, this one struck me at a different angle. It seemed something picked out of the Drizzt Do’Urden storyline, a ranger class hand made for exploring the Underdark. Although Drizzt seems more like a hunter to me, his race is perfect for this kind of ranger.
The ranger is connected to the wild, an expert in adventure. And what do we come to the DnD table for if not adventure? Let’s jump into this.
The features of this archetype are Umbral Sight and Dread Ambusher, each of which gives multiple benefits.
Umbral Sight gives me a boost in my dark vision, which, let’s face it, I’ll already have as an elf or tabaxi, that equals 90 feet (60 without the racial ability). That’s next level—such is the drow’s dark vision. What’s even cooler is that I’ll be invisible to enemies with dark vision, allowing me to remain stealthy in underground environments (where monsters might have an advantage). Camouflage remains consistent, all around, day and night.
Dread Ambusher is another multifaceted gift. First, it gives a wisdom modifier bonus to my initiative rolls. Good luck swinging before me. Secondly, an additional 10 feet will be added to my walking speed, and I’ll be granted an extra attack roll with extra d8 damage on my first turn, which makes sense—ambush!
Use a race with high a dexterity bonus.
Dexterity is a big deal in DnD 5e. The dex bonus can be added to light armor, initiative, attack and damage. This means you can lean on this as a power attribute (along with wisdom, naturally). In fact, with any ranger, I would lean on these two stats the most. Everything else doesn’t matter when you play your role correctly.
The ranger is a tactician, even if their intelligence score is subpar (as it should be). Dexterity is all my combat, and wisdom powers my druid-like spells. In my opinion, the other stats don’t matter all that much.
|DnD 5e Guide to Building a Ranger Hunter ||DnD 5e: Guide to Building a Monster Slayer Ranger|
Choose archery fighting style.
Gloom stalkers work best as ambush fighters, similar to rogues but with more fire power. This is why I tend to choose the archery fighting style with this character build. In fact, other than my master swordsman class, I generally choose archery for every ranger I make. It just fits, both in combat and in theme.
The +2 bonus on my attack rolls will help ensure my accuracy. I’ve seen players swing huge weapons to little effect, eating blows after they miss and leave themselves vulnerable. The gloom stalker doesn’t need to worry about this. Between the sneak proficiency and range, I’ll stay clear from most enemies.
Of course, I’ll want to team up with a solid fighter or paladin, maybe even a cleric, to tank enemy fire and pull aggression. Teamwork and strategy go hand-in-hand.
Build ranger spells around field work and damage.
I’ll have two spells before I even make it to gloom stalker status at level 3. So, I’ll have my build prepared for that moment. The first two spells I’ll choose are Hunter’s Mark (a ranger class staple) and Detect Magic.
Hunter’s Mark allows me to add an extra d6 of damage to a single target. My prey, if you will. Being consistent with my bow attacks will allow me to utilize this extra damage to great effect. Being a tactical fighter, I’ll probably make my way around a group of enemies, eliminating the minions around a stronger creature and free up my companions to make moves.
Detect Magic is a practical spell for how I’ll play this character. A stealthy ranger is perfect for scouting ahead in dungeons or in the wild, and the ability to detect magical foes, clues or traps could be of enormous benefit. This ability will even allow me to recall the source from where the magic spawns. Is it fey wild? Is it cosmic? I’ll know before my party blindly stumbles into the unknown.
Fog Cloud is a fantastic candidate for the next spell at level 3. Because I’ll rely on stealth, Fog Cloud could be used to further distract opponents and possibly provide cover for my allies. I’m all about the stealth, so let’s stick with this classic. I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s something so ninja about this spell. It reminds of me the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies or Batman in general.
As far as 2nd level spells, there are a number of tricks worth considering. Find Traps would connect with my ability to detect magic well, giving me more advantages as a scout. Cordon of Arrows would allow me to set my own trap. Using the arrows in my quiver, I can spike my ammo into the ground to fire like a turret at nearby enemies.
No joke, Animal Messenger could be clutch for sending information to allies without exposing my location. For example, I could befriend a bat in the cave to send info to my allies while I scout forward. How’s the DM gonna tell me there isn’t a bat in the cave?
Master the special gloom stalker spells.
At level 3, I will also receive my first unique spell from this class, Disguise Self. We’re going full on James Bond for this one.
As one can imagine, this spell grants the ability to create a believable disguise. An important note: it needs to be something with the same number of limbs in the same arrangement, not a buffalo or octopus.
Then, I’ll receive a real treasure of a spell called Rope Trick, and as you can imagine, it’s a tricky one. This spell opens a small portal into another pocket dimension, floating above a rope like child’s balloon. This pocket dimension can hold a considerable number of people, allies or enemies, and can be helpful for storing special items as well. I imagine trapping difficult enemies could be a clever way to use this spell, something like Kakashi from Naruto.
Wait a second, this would be a perfect Kakashi character. #kakashirulez