The Gloom Stalker Ranger proves that it’s not unreasonable to have a fear of the dark. After all, you never know who or what might be skulking silently in the shadows!
Characters who walk the path of the Gloom Stalker Ranger have no problem entering the darkest and most treacherous tombs, lairs, or other such locations.
Someone has to stand against the threats that reside in these places, after all! So why not strike before those threats have the opportunity to become bigger problems?
If you have what it takes to overcome fear and venture into the darkness, this is for you.
This is the full guide to the Gloom Stalker Ranger in D&D 5e!
What is the Gloom Stalker Ranger in D&D 5e?
Whether in dark alleyways, fog-shrouded forests, or ancient underground dungeons, Gloom Stalker Rangers venture forward without fear.
These characters have familiarized themselves with the types of creatures that hide in the shadows. In fact, they have learned to turn that darkness into their greatest ally when fighting such creatures!
Sure, Gloom Stalkers aren’t usually known for having a cheery disposition. But when it comes to fighting back evil where it lurks and keeping the rest of society safe, there are few more qualified than these Rangers.
Patiently and methodically, they move through the shadows and wait in ambush for their prey. When an opening presents itself, they strike with everything they have to quickly eliminate their target before silently retreating back into the darkness.
A party that is preparing to venture where even the light won’t dare to shine is much better off with a Gloom Stalker on their side!
The Gloom Stalker Ranger appears in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything alongside the Horizon Walker and Monster Slayer subclasses.
Role in the Party
Gloom Stalkers mix the Ranger class’s exploring utility with some Rogue class elements to become exceptional ambushers.
It’s a subclass that can hit hard and fast without sacrificing any durability or scouting utility.
The Gloom Stalker Ranger is a very useful and powerful subclass option, though they’re at their best in dark environments. Exploring caves and dungeons or venturing into places like the Underdark is where the Gloom Stalker is in their element.
As a subclass that relies heavily on scouting and ambushing enemies, there will be occasions where the Gloom Stalker Ranger has to move ahead of the party. Thankfully, it’s a very self-sufficient subclass when in the right environment.
Gloom Stalkers especially work well if the party tends to be more strategic in how they operate.
The Gloom Stalker can quickly move in to strike and usually remove at least one threat as combat is beginning. From there, the rest of the party can take advantage of the opening and overrun the ambushed enemies.
Gloom Stalker Ranger Abilities
The features you gain as a Gloom Stalker Ranger are seriously impressive and among the most impactful in all of D&D 5e.
You’re an ambush predator first and foremost with more than enough tools to catch your enemies off guard. Moving stealthily and striking quickly, you won’t struggle to get the upper hand in combat if you stick to the shadows.
The early features of the Gloom Stalker subclass are incredibly impactful and will serve you well throughout your adventuring career. The features you gain in the mid-late levels of this subclass serve to make you more efficient and resilient.
With that said, let’s get into the specifics!
Gloom Stalker Magic (Level 3)
Choosing the Gloom Stalker Ranger subclass gives you access to more spells as you reach certain levels.
These spells count as Ranger spells for you and do not count against the number of Ranger spells that you know. As with your other Ranger spells, Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for these.
Most of the spells the Gloom Stalker Ranger gets are more on the situational side. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re bad!
Disguise Self and Fear are the least reliable spells of the bunch. It’s not that they’re bad spells, it’s just that your spell save DC is going to naturally be lower.
As you invest more in your Wisdom score, your spell save DC will improve which will make these better. However, Dexterity will still be your priority which means these are risky uses of your limited spell slots.
If you absolutely need a safe place to take a short rest and your party’s spellcaster doesn’t have a solution, Rope Trick is handy.
However, you probably don’t have anywhere near the spell slots that your party’s Wizard (or other spellcaster) has. If you have no other option, this is nice to have. Otherwise, save the spell slots.
But the real standout of the Gloom Stalker’s spell list is Greater Invisibility.
This is truly an amazing spell. You’ve got the stealth options (and advantage on your attack rolls) that come with being invisible, but you don’t lose invisibility when you attack. Your enemies will quite literally never know what hit them!
Seeming is a fun illusion spell with a lot of creative applications. However, it’s unlikely to be quite as useful by the time you’re getting it at level 17. Situational but fun!
Dread Ambusher (Level 3)
When it comes to combat, the Gloom Stalker Ranger isn’t playing any games. They move swiftly to take out their enemies before falling back into the shadows.
Gain 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.
This is crazy good and they certainly weren’t scared to pile on the benefits!
Adding your Wisdom modifier to your initiative roll is straightforward and great at helping you act quickly when combat starts. Since you’re likely also investing heavily into Dexterity, you should be going first (or at least very early) in the initiative order for most encounters.
The extra movement is handy as well for helping you get into your ideal position as combat kicks off. This will be especially helpful if you’ve decided to build your character for melee combat instead of ranged.
But the real star of this feature is the bonus attack. Not only is this on top of your Extra Attack feature (when you get that at level 5), but the damage you deal with this attack is also increased!
In an ideal situation, you’ve been able to creep up on your enemies.
Not only will taking them by surprise give you advantage, but you’ll have time to cast Hunter’s Mark on your primary target before striking.
From there, just watch the damage pile up!
If you’re clever with your ambushes, you can remove key threats from the battlefield before combat has even had the chance to truly kick-off!
Umbral Sight (Level 3)
Your level 3 features are already off to an amazing start, but this takes things to a whole new level.
Umbral Sight and Dread Ambusher work together like peanut butter and jelly. Anywhere there are shadows for you to hide in, you’ll strike terror into the hearts of any enemies you encounter.
You gain darkvision out to 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.
If you don’t already have darkvision from your race, you gain it. If you already have darkvision, Umbral Sight bumps it up to an astounding 90 feet!
Considering that Gloom Stalker Rangers are all about venturing into dark and dangerous places, this is great to have!
But it’s the second part of Umbral Sight that really makes this feature so incredible.
You’re effectively invisible to creatures while in darkness which, as it just so happens, is pretty common in the caves and dungeons that Gloom Stalkers frequent.
Unless light shines on you or a creature has a way other than darkvision of seeing you (like tremorsense), you’re completely out of sight.
You won’t have a lack of opportunities to use this in most adventures. Venturing into dark and dangerous places is a core element of D&D and the Gloom Stalker Ranger is absolutely here for it!
Iron Mind (Level 7)
Rangers already have proficiency when it comes to Strength and Dexterity saving throws. However, they struggle a bit when it comes to their mental abilities.
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).
Iron Mind is short, simple, and has a huge impact. Wisdom saves are incredibly common so gaining proficiency with those is incredibly useful.
Many of the most punishing spell effects in D&D 5e require a Wisdom save. Now you’ll be better equipped to deal with spells like Hold Person, Polymorph, and Fear (to name only a few).
If you already have proficiency in Wisdom saves (say from the Resilient feat for example), I’d recommend going with Charisma since those saves are fairly common as well.
Stalker’s Flurry (Level 11)
Inevitable as it might be, it still doesn’t feel good to miss on an attack roll. Thankfully, Stalker’s Flurry lets the Gloom Stalker Ranger give it another try when that happens!
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.
The effect of this feature is fairly straightforward. Once per turn, you’re getting to make another attack if one of your other weapon attacks misses.
But there are a couple of key points worth mentioning about this feature.
It might be tempting to just consider this as having advantage on the attack roll, but that would be incorrect. In fact, it’s much better than having advantage!
If you’re attacking an enemy from the shadows, you’d be gaining advantage with your Umbral Sight feature. If one of those attacks still misses (it happens!), you’re now getting an additional attack that would also be at advantage!
Though be mindful of how Stalker’s Flurry stacks with Dread Ambusher.
The bonus damage from Dread Ambusher’s extra attack specifically applies to THAT attack. If you miss, you’ll get another chance to hit with Stalker’s Flurry but this would be another attack and would therefore not get the bonus 1d8 damage from Dread Ambusher.
Interestingly, Stalker’s Flurry isn’t just limited to your Attack action though!
If you’re using Two-Weapon Fighting or Crossbow Expert to make an attack with your bonus action, you can still use Stalker’s Flurry to possibly still hit!
Expect to get a ton of use out of this feature. Keeping with everything else so far, it’s just simply amazing!
Shadowy Dodge (Level 15)
Everything up to this point has been incredible, so why should the capstone be any different?
With Shadowy Dodge, you get a nifty way to make it even harder for an enemy to hit 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.
Giving an enemy disadvantage on their attack for the low cost of a reaction is pretty excellent.
While Gloom Stalker Rangers mostly thrive on remaining unseen, that won’t always be the case. When an enemy spots you and tries to hit you with a big attack, this can keep you in one piece while you reposition.
Since you can use this once per turn, you want to prioritize using this against an attack that is likely to do a lot of damage.
An adult dragon, for example, makes two claw attacks and a bite attack. The claws hurt but the bite is NASTY which means that might be the better option to impose disadvantage on.
Note that the disadvantage is one ONE ATTACK and not on all of the creature’s attacks.
Also, keep in mind the rules regarding advantage and disadvantage for this feature.
If the enemy already has disadvantage against you (for example, if you’re invisible), you can’t impose “double disadvantage” on them.
Likewise, Shadowy Dodge specifically says that you can’t use this feature to offset advantage (for example, if they’re attacking you and you’ve been knocked prone).
But in most situations, you should have no trouble using this feature. Just choose when to use it wisely and try to predict what your enemies will do next!
So how might you connect a Gloom Stalker Ranger into your game’s world and your adventuring party?
Because exploring dangerous dungeons and fighting terrifying monsters is such a core part of what D&D is, Gloom Stalkers fit really well in the adventurer lifestyle.
Where other members of the party might just be embracing that lifestyle, the Gloom Stalker brings a type of experience and preparedness to the party. They’re savvy and have the skill set necessary to survive the most treacherous and unforgiving places imaginable.
At the core of their theme, Gloom Stalkers are a great example of an “outsider” type of character.
They’re probably reasonably familiar with the towns near where they operate, but they spend most of their time taking care of certain issues outside of those towns.
Gloom Stalkers are familiar with the types of threats that exist beyond the towns’ walls and work diligently against them.
Depending on your character’s backstory, they may or may not be a part of a larger organization that does this to keep the area safe. Additionally, it may or may not be a thankless job.
Gloom Stalker Rangers are especially geared towards venturing into the Underdark. If the adventure is taking you there, you’ll have no shortage of opportunities to shine!
Is the Gloom Stalker Ranger Good?
The Gloom Stalker Ranger is an incredibly powerful subclass that is as popular as it is for very good reason. Everything about this subclass breaks the mold!
Their performance relies heavily on their environment, but dark places like caves and dungeons are incredibly common in D&D.
Rangers honestly tend to catch a lot of hate, though that’s probably a conversation for a different article. Regardless, the Gloom Stalker Ranger has always been considered the exception.
Seriously, every single feature this subclass gets is incredible. Dread Ambusher and Umbral Sight are especially impressive considering how early you get them.
This is a huge part of why Gloom Stalker Rangers are commonly part of multiclass builds (especially with Assassin Rogues who also rely on getting the jump on enemies.)
Whether dropping some truly impressive damage or doing some scouting, the Gloom Stalker Ranger is an excellent choice.
It will fit in most campaigns reasonably well, though adventures that see the party going to dark locations with lots of shadows to hide in will be especially fun.
Out of the Abyss immediately comes to mind as a great adventure for Gloom Stalker Rangers. After all, they’re probably the best-equipped subclass when it comes to dealing with the dangers of the Underdark!
Related: Ranking Every Ranger Subclass in D&D 5e!
Conclusion – Gloom Stalker Ranger in D&D 5e
The Gloom Stalker Ranger is a well-oiled machine that brings the best of the Ranger class to the forefront.
Mixing in elements of the Fighter’s martial ability and the Rogue’s sneakiness, it’s truly impressive! If you haven’t played one before, you’re in for quite the treat!
I hope you’ve found this guide to the Gloom Stalker Ranger in D&D 5e helpful!
Let’s chat in the comments if you have any questions, character concepts, or stories of Gloom Stalker Rangers in your game!
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