Multiclassing 5e Ultimate Ranger/Fighter build

Does your group  frequently multiclass? Our group typically does not. I remember being the first in my playgroup to try it and it was not a fun experience. Multiclassing has a reputation for being unfun to play until the finished project. This leads multiclass builds to be unfun to play during certain levels and broken at others. However if you are meticulous, precise and thoughtful about how you multiclass it can be rewarding. Multiclassing can add layers to your character, fix gaps within subclasses and can unlock combos in the mechanics. The Swarmkeeper/Arcane Archer multiclass is perfect because it accomplishes all 3 of these things. If you want to see how, I implore you to keep on reading. Multiclassing 5e (fifth edition) is super easy to do but hard to execute.

The Flavor

One of my favorite things about this build is how flavorful it is. An Arcane Archer seems like a ranger so why not make it one. What led me to choose Swarmkeeper specifically, isn’t it just a bunch of insects? What does that have to do with a magical sharpshooter. Well actually a swarm doesn’t need to be insects, it can be anything you want it to be! I like to imagine that they are Fey pixies that imbue arrows to allow them to be Arcane shots. The Arcane shots revolve around schools of magic, one idea could be to make the pixies change color or even form depending on the shot used. Remember flavor is free! These two subclasses mix very well together in that the weapon can be very special to the player. Their ranger magic could be explained by the swarm blessing them. I always had problems understanding why rangers had magic.

The Idea

The Idea mechanically is to combine the swarmkeepers forced movement with grasping arrow which adds an extra 2d6 if they move. This comes with a strength saving throw but if we are fighting a monster with a high strength saving throw we can opt for the extra d6 damage provided by Swarmkeeper’s gathered swarm ability.  We can add other movement penalties such as spike growth to the mix for maximum effect. That spell deals 2d4 for each 5 feet traveled in the radius. With this combo we can average 30 damage without sharpshooter. There’s also something so satisfying about forcing the opponent to move which activates grasping arrow and spike growth.  This build excels at damage and control. There’s also potential for enabling other strategies with your teammates which is always a plus. We are still functional without the combo. We are essentially a ranger with burst damage through arcane shots and action surge. Those 3 levels of a fighting style, action surge, and arcane shot are much better than favored foe improvement, deft explorer improvement, 10 foot hover and an ASI/FEAT. The general problem with arcane archer is that you only get 2 shots but swarmkeepers gathered swarm is always active which makes you stand out even if you have used up your arcane shots.

Level 1

This build could be very Mad and you could go for it if you roll for the stats and get lucky. However for those of us who do not want to tempt fate I will build around a less MAD build.  We will Prioritize Dexterity, strength ,constitution,  wisdom, intelligence and charisma in that order. For race consider variant human for the sharpshooter feat or a tabaxi for the climb speed and increased movement. Make sure not to take a small race as the long crossbow is a heavy weapon. As for equipment make sure to take a longbow as it will be your primary weapon. We will take our 1st level in ranger. Going fighter delays our build but could be an interesting trade off as we get heavy armor proficiency as well as constitution saving throw proficiency. If you are starting at a level where this is a good trade for getting abilities slower then go for it! It’s why i recommended to take strength.

Level 2-5

Continuing, we will stick with ranger until level 5 where we get a whole bunch of stuff. level 2 we get spellcasting, make sure to take hunter’s mark but you probably knew that. For a fighting style we will take archery. At 3rd level we become a swarmkeeper. At level 4 increase your dexterity or take sharpshooter if you don’t have it. Crossbow expert is also a good feat choice. At level 5 we get 2nd level spells as well as extra attack. So far you have just played a normal ranger but what comes next? The beauty of this build is you get value by switching to fighter instead of having a couple of lame levels.

Level 6-20

Here we take our first fighter levels and rush to the fighter subclass of Arcane Archer. For the fighting style I recommend superior technique or defense. Next at level 7 we get action surge. This will feel so nice combined with spells. Finally our build will come online at level 8 and we can take grasping and bursting arrow. We will have so much to do with relatively good numbers. I recommend going fighter the rest of the way. Swarmkeeper doesn’t have good mid level abilities so we get to go all in on arcane archers super good abilities such as curving shot. This build will feel like a perfect blend while also its own thing which is exactly what a multiclass should be. Hopefully no level feels boring to go through.

Buffing Arcane Archer

A common complaint that people have about the arcane archer is that the amount of shots you get doesn’t scale.  Fortunately you can homebrew your play groups rules (with the dms permission). Fixing Arcane archer meets all the criteria of homebrew rules that we talk about in another post! Making the number of Arcane shots equal to proficiency bonus makes multiclassing very beneficial. You will have more chances to use your defining abilities. Which is truly the magic of DND. Ideally this build will be super fun even without it but everything is relative. If people are playing op classes such as the chronologist wizard or twilight cleric I would certainly be willing to buff the Arcane Archer. Balance the players to be equal to one another. For example I played a buffed version of berserker barbarian and loved it. Playing a homebrew changed character can feel very rewarding and make the character special. If you are a dm and have balancing issues please shoot me an email and I’d love to hear about your situation. You can reach me through contact forms on this site. Thank you for reading this build and I hope you make your dream character.

Example Backstory

Here is my example ranger fighter multiclass character. His name will be Ryland Brittleroot. He was a child born to a normal family, although his ancestry hinted that if you went back a couple generations, maybe it wasn’t so normal after all. Ryland discovered in his childhood that he had fey ancestry when a pixie was attracted to him. He was like a magnet to this Pixie, it was pretty wild for someone his age to be able to display command over such a creature. To Ryland’s parents they thought how they could take advantage of this. With his first 2 pixies who followed him, his parents sent him to work for the town guard.

Upon seeing the abilities Ryland had with his Pixies, the guards leader called higher up who called someone else who was higher up. This chain of command led Ryland to be deployed in an Elven city where planar shifts to the feywild were frequent. This led Ryland to attract more Pixies. Eventually he had a full swarm of pixies doing his bidding. They were able to aid his archery by giving his arrows more force with their magical prowess. 

This wasn’t the only reason Ryland was deployed here, oh no, he had a mentor named Elrick, the Elder. Elrick was trained in an ability that was supposed to be kept amongst the elves. Although this unknown benefactor of Ryland had other ideas and most likely bribed Elrick to teach Ryland. Ryland learned the tradition of the Arcane Archer. His Arcane Shots were able to work in tandem with his pixies and the schools of magic effected the pixies. When he returned to meet his benefactor the, benefactor somehow stole all the pixies but the two he started with. This led to Ryland losing his powers, he was then kidnapped and taken to (wherever your campaign takes place). Where he would be exiled.  

It’s a little awkward because you have to explain the class features being taken away but you can end up with the abilities of what level you start at. There are other ways you can describe this as well. While Arcane Archer is exclusive to elves in the forgotten realm, that can be completely different in your setting. It could be that Arcane Archer is totally accessible to any race. I personally think that the ruling is a little arbitrary because only a couple subclasses have requirements. It could be interesting to have this rule apply to other classes though and enforce it.

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We are working on providing more character builds for you but the subreddit r/3d6 is super good for finding builds for power gamers.

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