Xanathar’s Guide to Everything wanted the ranger to explore places not normal for humanoids to walk. The Gloom Stalker may be relatively close to home, but nothing gets more out-there than the Horizon Walker. Rather than focusing on the exploration of the familiar face of the Material Plane, the Horizon Walker trains to defend it. There are threats from other planes constantly risking the delicate balance of this realm. As a Horizon Walker, you’re to team up with benevolent dragons, fey, and even player characters to defend it. So how well does the Horizon Walker function when searching for trouble in traditional dungeons? Read our Horizon Walker 5E Guide to find out.
Defend Your Plane: Horizon Walker Ranger 5E
The Horizon Walker is a skirmisher-type Ranger with weird utility. The ability to change your weapon damage to Force basically guarantees that you’ll be useful in any fight; including against Swarms! You get relatively fantastic mobility, and none of your class skills hold you to melee or ranged combat. It’s just a Ranger archetype with fantastic additions, especially in campaigns against outsiders.
Horizon Walker Magic
The Xanathar’s Rangers all get spells that they automatically have prepared. This spell list is rather impressive!
|3rd||Protection from Evil and Good|
Protection from Evil and Good makes sense flavorfully, and is super strong… Against the specific listed types. Remember that this spell doesn’t protect you from the evil and good alignments, but the creatures that are naturally evil and good – protects you from Undead, but not the necromancer. It’s a good spell to have locked and loaded, but use Hunter’s Mark most of the time.
Misty Step is one of the best level 2 spells in the game. Being able to teleport that far in a bonus action will save your butt in 99% of situations. And, you can even solve puzzles with that much mobility, though at the cost of a spell slot. Use it wisely, and you’ll see how good moving 30 ft without provoking or… needing ground… can be.
Haste is a pretty simple spell, letting you get extra attacks or move extremely fast. It’s a fantastic buff effect, and the ranger’s third level options are pretty specific. Haste will be your best option in fights against a single creature, unless you wanna drop summoned animals on their forehead.
Banishment is… fine? You basically procrastinate on killing a relatively potent threat on the battlefield. Your (likely) low saving throw, plus the Legendary Action to automatically save, means you should probably not use this on big bosses. Use them instead on the second most threatening creature; taking a Cleric or Wizard out of the fight for a while can actually save your party.
Teleportation Circle is actually a good choice for your 5th level spell slots. It’s heavy utility (perfect, since Swift Quiver is all the combat power you need). Make sure you know where a permanent teleportation circle is… hopefully amongst your allied NPCs!
Are you really a ranger if you don’t have an awkward detection utility ability? Well, now you’ve got two!
At 3rd level, you gain the ability to magically sense the presence of a planar portal. As an action, you detect the distance and direction to the closest planar portal within 1 mile of you.
Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.
This can either solve the entire arc of a campaign, or never be useful. Completely up to your DM.
So, on the bright side, if your party is ready to take on the enemies that a planar portal can summon, this is pretty great! You can close it quickly to ensure that horrible creatures don’t sneak in. Or, you can talk to the creatures at the portal and make allies. Either or!
And, if your party is plane hopping, knowing where portals are can be a lifesaver. You can bounce around without needing to spend resources.
However, most campaigns just don’t revolve around planar portals. Creatures are normally summoned temporarily and a lot of fights are against threats on the material plane. It’s super inconsistent.
Don’t worry about using this too often. It’s not gonna come in handy… unless it really comes in handy.
Rangers without animal companions tend to throw d6s or d8s at their enemy. The Horizon Walker is no different.
At 3rd level, you learn to draw on the energy of the multiverse to augment your attacks.
As a bonus action, choose one creature you can see within 30 feet of you. The next time you hit that creature on this turn with a weapon attack, all damage dealt by the attack becomes force damage, and the creature takes an extra 1d8 force damage from the attack. When you reach 11th level in this class, the extra damage increases to 2d8.
This ability is actually really nice, and thus you don’t really want to Two-Weapon Fight. You’ll be using your Bonus Action to do this all the time, so you might as well hit them with the biggest weapon you have.
This has a 30 ft range, so make sure you’re not trying to snipe someone all the way outside of the dungeon. You can still be ranged without much of an issue, just at a relatively close distance.
How good is changing all damage to Force damage? Well, there is exactly one creature in traditional monster manuals that is immune to Force; the Helmed Horror. There are plenty of creatures resistant or immune to Bludgeoning, Piercing, or Slashing. And don’t even get me started about non-magical weapon resistance.
Early on especially, being able to change weapon damage to force damage is almost always going to be better. You’re much better at fighting ghosts and some undead types, and you don’t really need to have a backup weapon.
That said, bludgeoning weapons are pretty good, when it comes to vulnerabilities. Maybe have a club in your pocket for skeletons. Then you can make it a Force Club in emergencies.
After a bunch of craziness, you get to relax for four whole levels. Then, you get this.
At 7th level, you learn to step through the Ethereal Plane. As a bonus action, you can cast the etherealness spell with this feature, without expending a spell slot, but the spell ends at the end of the current turn.
Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.
For those who don’t know about Etherealness (totally understandable; it’s a niche spell), you turn into a ghost. You can float through walls, fly up or down, and fight ethereal creatures. You ignore all things that aren’t on the ethereal plane, including spells or effects that target you on the material plane.
Most importantly, even though it has an extremely short duration, you just got a 7th level spell… at level 7. That’s kinda awesome!
Unfortunately, one round isn’t going to be substantial, and you don’t even get the defensive benefits.
You just get the ability to do one round of moving. Consider using the Dash action if your goal is to float past a barrier. You just spent your Bonus Action, so you can still attack. That means you can try and take out something that’s also on the Border Ethereal, like a fleeing wizard.
As a reminder, you can’t use Blindsight to see Ethereal creatures. You also foil most ways to see specifically invisible creatures (though See Invisibility works on you.)
Perhaps most importantly, this is going to make your DM really frustrated, since nothing really exists on the Border Ethereal. You might find yourself running into Ghost Doors after you completely negate one or two of the DM’s puzzles.
To continue the theme of really interesting utility features, you get this.
At 11th level, you gain the ability to pass between the planes in the blink of an eye. When you take the Attack action, you can teleport up to 10 feet before each attack to an unoccupied space you can see.
If you attack at least two different creatures with the action, you can make one additional attack with it against a third creature.
Being able to move – and attacking multiple creatures for extra attacks – is a skirmisher ability. It took a while, but you’re finally a real mobile fighter!
No matter what, you get to teleport before each attack. At minimum, this increases your movement speed by 10 feet. With Haste, you can teleport 40 feet and hit 4 enemies Or, you can teleport 30 feet and make 3 swings at the same guy, just to be stylish.
This is obviously a little better for a melee build, but this allows a Ranged character to get out of the way of a melee combatant. You can teleport without Sentinel being able to catch you, and then move to safety. It’s also significantly easier for a ranged character to qualify for the third creature clause. Once again, an ability that is really well-designed to allow for characters to be either play style.
Your last ability is your only real defensive option, since Ethereal Step is more for utility.
At 15th level, your ability to move between planes enables you to slip through the planar boundaries to lessen the harm done to you during battle. When you take damage from an attack, you can use your reaction to give yourself resistance to all of that attack’s damage on this turn.
This is essentially the Rogue’s Uncanny Dodge. You just get it really late.
Unlike the Rogue, the Ranger has a lot of health. You can tank hits much easier than that d8 class. If you’re in melee or ranged, your AC is also probably just a touch higher, since Medium Armor is nice. You won’t be needing this benefit most of the time, and when you do, it can be on something that deals a lot of damage.
There’s not much to say here. This is a wonderful use of your Reaction, but it comes so, so late. You can use it quite efficiently, and at this point, damage is going to be high. So, at least you can avoid most of it.
Best Races for Horizon Walker Rangers
The Horizon Walker focuses on Dexterity, but you can make a Strength build work. Constitution is important if you plan on doing melee combat, while Ranged characters can use Wisdom to make their DCs higher. Banish whoever doesn’t belong, with almost guaranteed results!
These turtle people from the aptly named Tortle Package are the perfect Strength rangers. +2 Strength, +1 Wisdom is nearly perfect for you. You get some natural weapons that deal d4 damage, free Survival, and can hold your breath… But, most importantly, you gain Natural Armor. The Tortle’s natural armor is at 17 by default. You can still modify it with shields or Bracers of Defense. And, with Shell Defense, you can boost your ridiculous AC even higher… at the cost of your ability to take actions. Still, if you want to be a Greatsword-wielding, nature-defending turtle… now’s your chance.
Worried about being ranged and not being able to see over your Goliath Barbarian? Worry no longer! The Aarakocra from the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion has a high fly speed by default. They also have +2 Dexterity, +1 Wisdom; basically designed to be a bow-wielding ranger! The claws are unimportant, but they let you kick the heck out of someone that’s trying to grapple you, so… that’s nice? These are probably the best bow-wielding rangers in the game.
Conclusion – Our Take on the Horizon Walker
The Horizon Walker has some awkward utility abilities that may not come into play often. But, it overcomes that so well with their fantastic list of known spells, great utility and offensive abilities, and a good defensive one. Your Bonus Actions are a little bit clogged, but you can make do with starting a fight with Hunter’s Mark and then slamming them with Force damage. If you’re looking to build any type of Ranger, the Horizon Walker is worth looking into. If your campaign is going to go outside of the Material Plane, then this class is a must-have.
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