The ranger is an explorer at heart, but they always felt somewhat uncomfortable in the dark. Xanathar’s Guide to Everything fixed that with the introduction of the Gloom Stalker. Gloom Stalkers are at home in the dark caves and cluttered forests. They are among the most talented ambushers in the Forgotten Realms, and will boldly venture where light refuses to glimmer. They are residents of the Underdark, fearless wanderers, and currently right behind you. But, do any of those traits make them good adventurers? Let’s find out, in our Gloom Stalker 5E Guide.
Arrows From The Shadow: Gloom Stalker 5E
The Gloom Stalker takes a tiny bit of Rogue flavor and becomes a minor ambush class. The first round of a Gloom Stalker’s combat is extremely important. Thankfully, they get a ton of tools to help them make that first round powerful. In addition, they get a ridiculous amount of darkness synergy and crazy amounts of defense. This is one of the most durable and utility-driven rangers in the game!
Gloom Stalker Magic
To begin, the Gloom Stalker automatically learns one additional spell at each spell level.
Not an awful setup, but there are better lists. Disguise Self is horribly situational, and the Ranger likely doesn’t have the Deception to save them if someone gets suspicious. It’s a good thing to have for social encounters, but won’t help in combat (unless your GM loves creativity).
Rope Trick is actually really useful. By storing your party in a pocket dimension, you can take a full short rest with no chance of getting ambushed. Only a Dispel Magic would realistically find a party who doesn’t want to be found! And the fact that the Ranger can cast this means the Wizard can save second level slots for potent save-or-suck effects.
Fear is good, because Frightened is good. Forcing enemies to run away from your casters (or yourself) can easily save lives. And because it’s a cone, you can turn situations where your party is outnumbered and only deal with half the number of enemies. That’s great! Make sure you position yourself correctly beforehand.
Greater Invisibility is, hilariously enough, not too useful for you. It’s a great spell to have, of course, but you get another ability at level 3 that actually mimics it. You’ll be better off casting this on a caster or Rogue, so they can deal a lot of damage from the safety of somewhere else.
Seeming is an absolutely fascinating spell. You basically cover your entire party in illusions that change their appearance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up to physical inspection. Your Bard or Sorcerer would have to try and convince your potential investigators that they don’t have to be touched. Not necessarily hard! You can make Seeming work to your advantage… but you get it extremely late. You likely won’t have many situations where Seeming can solve a problem anymore.
That was just the first benefit. We have… four more to go over!
At 3rd level, you master the art of the ambush. You can give yourself a bonus to your initiative rolls equal to your Wisdom modifier.
At the start of your first turn of each combat, your walking speed increases by 10 feet, which lasts until the end of that turn. If you take the Attack action on that turn, you can make one additional weapon attack as part of that action. If that attack hits, the target takes an extra 1d8 damage of the weapon’s damage type.
To start, adding Wisdom to your Dexterity will be helpful, but not overmuch. You already had a pretty good Dexterity score, and your Wisdom is probably lagging behind a bit. This does let you have one of the largest Initiatives in the game, at least! And if you max out Wisdom for better DCs on Fear and such, you’ll actually approach +10 to your initiative modifier. You’ll be going first constantly!
If that wasn’t enough, your first turn is insane. You get 2 attacks (3 at level 5), and one of them deals d8 more. This doesn’t really keep up with the Hunter’s Colossus Slayer, but that may be enough to severely wound a threat. Then your party members can follow up on your awesome start!
The speed increase is nice, don’t get me wrong. But you’re probably using a bow. Ten feet of movement probably won’t do much to influence the fight, unless your Barbarian started a fight across the map.
Really insane pile of benefits!
Don’t worry, we’re almost done.
At 3rd level, you gain darkvision out to a range of 60 feet. If you already have darkvision from your race, its range increases by 30 feet.
You are also adept at evading creatures that rely on darkvision. While in darkness, you are invisible to any creature that relies on darkvision to see you in that darkness.
Darkvision is one of the most important sight types in traditional dungeon crawlers. Being capable of exploring dark areas without waving a torch around is huge. It allows for much more stealthy strategies, and you’ll be constantly ready for combat. 60 feet is typical, but 90 feet is quite substantial, and is worth considering if your race already had darkvision.
Now, the second benefit is absolutely astonishing. A lot of creatures that live in caves (funnily enough) like to see while in those caves. That either means they’re bringing torches or have darkvision. And if they have the latter, you have permanent Greater Invisibility while they’re nearby. That’s absolutely ridiculous.
Make sure you’re out of sight – or snuff out – any torches that appear in the combat. A longbow can easily outrange a torch’s 40 feet of light, so you can stay in the dark even while enemies try to locate you. Against creatures like goblins or kobolds, they likely won’t bring light sources at all, so you’ll just deck them from invisibility constantly.
This is a crazy benefit that’ll come up surprisingly often. Make use of darkness, and try to have a party that either doesn’t use torches… or are willing to stay far away from you.
Okay, level 3 was absolutely crazy. It’s time to slow down and just get some basic benefits.
By 7th level, you have honed your ability to resist the mind-altering powers of your prey. You gain proficiency in Wisdom saving throws. If you already have this proficiency, you instead gain proficiency in Intelligence or Charisma saving throws (your choice).
How edgy. Also, how great!
Saving throws are one of the hardest proficiencies to get, requiring a feat or class feature every time. This ability essentially gave you Resilience (Wisdom) for free. That’s quite powerful!
Wisdom saves are probably the most impactful and important saving throws to succeed on. These are effects like Dominate Monster, Hideous Laughter, Hold Person… all of the ones that don’t let you play the game. In almost all cases, you’re going to want to play the game instead of, you know, full paralysis.
There’s not much else to say. If you’ve already grabbed Wisdom saving throw proficiency, then I’d personally take Charisma instead of Intelligence. Charisma has a few more spells that you have to save against, and they can be as impactful as Wisdom.
Did somebody say, pseudo-advantage on attacks?
At 11th level, you learn to attack with such unexpected speed that you can turn a miss into another strike. Once on each of your turns when you miss with a weapon attack, you can make another weapon attack as part of the same action.
I sure hope you did!
This is significantly better than advantage. Say you’re using your Umbral Sight feature on a Kobold. You’re invisible, you have advantage. The dice completely betray you and give you two 1s, causing you to miss horribly.
Well, don’t you worry. Now you get a third weapon attack, at advantage, that you can make on this little lizard.
The main problem with this ability is that 5E is a system that doesn’t make you miss too often. Your attack rolls are pretty high compared to your opponents AC, so you’re usually landing hits… especially if you have advantage. Think of this ability less as a third attack per round, and more as a “I want to hit twice this turn” insurance policy.
In that case, this is still absolutely fantastic. And it synergizes well with Dread Ambusher! Just be warned that this is an additional weapon attack, not a reroll on that specific weapon attack. You don’t get the extra d8 if you use this ability because your Dread Ambusher missed.
This does also work with your Bonus Action attack, if you Two-Weapon Fight or use Crossbow Mastery. If you miss with your bonus action, you can Stalker’s Flurry to try the Bonus Action again. Just another cherry on top of this pretty fantastic ability.
Just in case being totally invisible while in darkness wasn’t good enough defense for you, you get something else!
Starting at 15th level, you can dodge in unforeseen ways, with wisps of supernatural shadow around you. Whenever a creature makes an attack roll against you and doesn’t have advantage on the roll, you can use your reaction to impose disadvantage on it. You must use this feature before you know the outcome of the attack roll.
Thankfully, this doesn’t step on your invisibility’s toes… Because if you’re invisible to the creature, this is literally nothing. Yikes.
However, this is pretty stellar! When you’re in the light, you get to force disadvantage on an attack. Depending on what you fight, you can force a Dragon to potentially miss the Bite, or an Ogre to miss a tree trunk slam. This ability can easily save you from an average of 35 damage at level 15… and that’s a relatively low guess!
Super good for spell attack rolls, super good for anything with a unique attack ability – Shadowy Dodge will not disappoint you!
Do remember that giving someone disadvantage when they already have disadvantage doesn’t work. This ability only works when they have just a normal attack roll… Which is all the dang time.
Best Races for Gloom Stalker Rangers
The Gloom Ranger is specifically Dexterity-based. Stealth is probably your best option, since you’re invisible a significant amount of the time anyways! You’ll likely want to do ranged combat to make good use of your Dread Ambusher, too! Wisdom will boost your initiative and some spells, and Constitution will save you from unconsciousness.
If you’re willing to either use Hand Crossbows, wade into melee, or use weaker weapons, this Volo’s Guide race is for you! Goblins are awesome, because they have +2 Dexterity, +1 Constitution. Perfect in it of itself! You get to use your bonus action to Disengage or Hide; neat, for a stealthy ranged character! Darkvision gets increased to 90 feet, and Fury of the Small means you can use Dread Ambusher to burst someone for an extra Weapon + d8 + Level right away. That’ll melt someone! Unfortunately, you can’t really use longbows.
Also in the Volo’s Guide, Kenku replaces the Goblin’s burst options with skill proficiencies. Kenku gain +2 Dexterity, +1 Wisdom. Arguably even better than Goblins! They’re medium, so you can use a Longbow. Kenku Training is really the only other important aspect; free Stealth and maybe Deception is nice! Otherwise, you get a few things for sneaking around social encounters, but that’s about it. Good, if you’re using the Gloom Stalker to replace a Rogue!
The tieflings from Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide got a little less charismatic, and a little more dexterous. These tieflings gain a +2 to Dexterity, +1 to Intelligence; not perfect, but okay. They have Darkvision, so you can see to 90 feet, and Hellish Resistance is crazy strong. Just in case that’s not enough, you can choose a variant feature. If you want to, you can cast Darkness once per day to give yourself a way to escape. We suggest you take the Winged feature, to gain 30 feet fly speed and just dart around caves on the ceiling.
Conclusion – Our Take on the Gloom Stalker Ranger
The Gloom Stalker is a pretty fantastic reason to play Ranger. The ability to swing up to a Fighter number of times per turn is unique, and you gain a ton of defensive options. You gain everything a ranger could ever want (and frankly, rangers need quite a lot). If you’re going for a ranger, and are possibly replacing your party’s rogue, this is a fantastic option for you.