Ranger: Swarmkeeper in D&D’s Unearthed Arcana
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Ranger: Swarmkeeper in D&D’s Unearthed Arcana


– So the Swarmkeeper is
a ranger who has bonded with a swarm of nature’s spirits. And because of that bond, the ranger is able to
harness these spirits to bolster the ranger’s attacks, gain new movement modes, bedevil foes, scout areas out, and the ranger also knows a
number of additional spells because of their connection
to these primal beings. Now the swarm that this ranger
gathers around themself, could look like bunnies, but it could also look like bats or spiders or centipedes or a mix of all of these things. The bottom line is:
this is a ranger who has bonded with a group of nature’s spirits that take on the form of
various types of animals, again it’s up to the ranger to decide, and the ranger then is able to
harness their spirit friends to do various things. This includes bolstering their attacks, it can include, at points,
gaining the ability to climb up on the ceiling, as the ranger adopts different,
sort of, movement modes represented by the spirits. The ranger has the option at higher levels of having the spirits
actually lift the ranger up into the air and hover around a bit. So this is, again, could
either be a spooky ranger, depending again if it’s a
swarm of ravens or bats. – [Todd] Yeah. – But again, if it’s
butterflies around the ranger– – [Todd] Right. – This also could be a ranger
that feels very Fey, in theme. And we really wanted ranger
players to be able to dig in and decide what is, what’s the feel of my swarm? And we describe the swarm as having a symbiotic relationship with the ranger. Dan Dillon, who did the initial
writing on this subclass, even has a nice little bit about
the swarm potentially even, you’ve seen it crawling
under the ranger’s clothes and whatnot. (laughs) Whereas, this ranger
feels completely at home with these spirit critters and is able to use them to scout out areas, ’cause they get higher levels also, the ranger can send some of them out. The ranger can even use
them to create a large area of swarming spirits that can
bedevil the ranger’s foes. So really if anyone has ever
wanted to play the ranger, who doesn’t just befriend a
creature in the wilderness, but befriends an entire
swarm of nature’s spirits, well this is the subclass for you. – [Todd] Yeah, what’s the capstone? So you can literally walk on your swarm at some point right? – So that is a mid-level
ability for the ranger, being able to adopt a
different movement mode and you get to choose, actually, there’s a menu of options and that’s mid-range. The capstone for this subclass is being able to actually
launch the spirits out and create this sort of swirling vortex– – [Todd] Oh, wow. – Of spirits. And what’s nice too for this ranger is the ranger’s two capstone abilities. One is sort of like almost
a scrying-like ability to be able to send the spirits out. Or again, this big vortex of the spirits. The ranger has the option
of burning spell slots to use these abilities
more than the one time they can use them normally. So, basically, each of these
abilities the ranger can use once per day for free, but if the ranger wants
to keep using them, the ranger can pour spell slots into them. So it gives the Swarmkeeper
some really nice flexibility at high-level. Along with the versatility
the Swarmkeeper has at the lower levels, again with the movement mode options and also just the fun
thing of being able to have your attacks deal extra
damage because your spirits are basically swarming with your strike. And this works whether the
ranger is making melee attacks or ranged attacks. The way we describe it
is that the spirits like, you can imagine if the
ranger is slashing with, doing two-weapon fighting, that there might be spirits sort of skittering along the blade and biting the person. Or if you fire an arrow, there could be spirits sort
of swirling around the arrow as it hits a person. Whatever’s going on, whatever the manner of your attack, those spirits are gonna make
people’s days worse (laughs) as they come plowing in. And again, the ranger gets to decide
what those look like. So it could be, again, scary centipedes sort of winding
their way down your blade as you strike– – [Todd] Horrifying. (laughs) – (laughs) Or it could be sort of beautiful glimmering fireflies. – [Todd] Oh. (laughs) – (laughs) Yeah, see? That’s again, I love the Swarmkeeper, because of not only the fun abilities, but the– – [Todd] Flavor. – The range of aesthetic options. And also, you get to decide, is this ranger, personality wise? Self-sufficient, because of your swarm? I mean, in a way this ranger
is a community walking around. – [Todd] Right. – Or is this a ranger who
wants to connect with others because of this strong sense of connection they have with their swarm and they want a similar sense
of connection with others? So there also are these
different personality types that, I think, are begging to be
explored in the subclass. The ranger gains gaseous forms, so you can almost imagine the ranger turning into a cloud with their swarm– – [Todd] Yeah. – Buzzing around in their midst. Web is another one of the options. Giant insect, all things that are perfect
for the theme of this subclass.

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98 thoughts on “Ranger: Swarmkeeper in D&D’s Unearthed Arcana

  1. Unearthed arcana has had a few overpowered ideas in the past but this one is near perfect. I really hope to see these in a book

  2. I am one of the 5 people that liked the Seeker in 4e. Good to have something back that even remotely resembles it.

  3. can you tell me why when you make a item you self you can't use the spell (from players handbook page 255 if i remember correct.) Lighting Arrow. i can use lighting bolt. acis arrow and so on but Lighting Arrow doesn't exist. but when i go to spells it is show under spells ?

  4. All I can imagine after reading this is having a bunch of Kodama (Tree Spirits from the movie Princess Mononoke) just climbing on you, sitting on your shoulders, running around, doing that kinda creepy head rattle thing… really like this Subclass.

  5. This is interesting, but no infestation cantrip?
    Anyways, this is a perfect third option for an "bee mage" along with druid, warlock and blood hunter

  6. I don't like the focus on spells with these gimped caster classes. They might retain their less-than-half caster progression but their subclass spell progression might follow a normal spell progression as spell-like-abilities. You know, so they aren't obsolete by the time you get them or ten levels past when they're useful. The only reason the paladin works is that I've never even see anyone playing paladin cast a spell, it's just smite fodder.

  7. Honestly ranger 5e still has all the worst prestige classes. Oh boy we get to have swarm pets instead of just one animal.

    The core ideas of rangers have been handed to fighter and it really dissapoints me. Rangers are now just weird poorly combined magic martial classes

  8. Matthew Mercer: "Okay, Jester: you have multiclassed into Ranger. So now that you have the Swarmkeeper subclass, what would you like your Gathered Swarm to…?"
    Jester: "Hamster Unicorns!"
    Matthew Mercer: "…Uh…well, okay. But you can have your swarm spirits look like ANY beast, not just…"
    Jester: "TINY. FEY. HAMSTER. UNICORNS!!!"

  9. My first thought was a beekeeper ranger, but Im seeing everything from Fey Batman to Disney Princess in the comments, and that's honestly so cool… really hope this gets into Xanathars 2/whatever new book we get in the future…

  10. I have never wanted to play a ranger more than I do now! I'm thinking a Corvo (Dishonored) type multiclassed with a shadow monk or assassin rogue.

  11. I really love the concept of this subclass, and I think you can tell it obviously started and evolved from a good place (which lead to a strong design overall).

    My favorite piece to this, and something that I think may be overlooked, is the use of spell slots to fuel features for the Ranger! I love this idea, because it’s something I felt needed to be addressed with the Ranger. While it’s issues span over multiple levels of gameplay, the specific one I have always noticed is the prevalence of multiclassing. The class really gives the player no reason to stay Ranger vs going Rogue the back half. The higher level spells aren’t that useful (so most players are fine with stopping at 3rd), Vanish is a piece of Cunning Action, and Feral Senses and Foe Slayer aren’t as useful as something like Sneak Attack, Uncanny Dodge, and Evasion.

    I really like them kind of addressing this. Better features at 11 and 15, and the ability to fuel stronger abilities with spell slots is a great strategy.

  12. It’s cool and creative that’s what it is! Great job on this one! An interesting ranger, downloaded it earlier; nice!

  13. Bonus spells are good, bonus spells for Hunter and Beastmaster when? Could do without Mage Hand though, no ranger gets cantrips and no reason to start not
    Gathered Swarm, i'm not seeing the connection to the force damage here, try poison or something. The 5' random movement is a nice touch though, like Infestation

    Writhing Tide is fun

    Scuttling eyes doesn't feel very special when anyone with a familiar has been doing the same sort of trick from level 1 and then again at level 7 with Arcane Eye. I think this feature should be replaced with the ability to shapeshift into part of your swarm for a short time.

    Swarm of minions is cool but the damage is poor for when you get it. At least the blinded rider and healing are good.
    It's good, I like it.

  14. Step 1: Play a female Ranger
    Step 2: Pick Swarmkeeper
    Step 3: Make your swarm squirrels.
    Step 4: Be unbeatable

    But seriously, this subclass kind of makes me want to play one, which is the best thing you can say about any subclass.

  15. My first thought is a Nicolas Cage character, whom has become one with the bees. But then…

    Warforged + Swarmkeeper = Robot with nanomachines.

    C'mon, that's too cool to pass up.

  16. Can we…uh…get a functioning base Ranger before we go for more UA stuff. I mean, we haven't even gotten that revised Ranger they promised to give us.

  17. i dont like the flavor of spirit swarm.

    why not an actual swarm ? why FORCE dmg? why at lvl 3 you get to send out an SPIRIT instead of a bunch of rats??

    let me tell you how you do it:
    lvl 3 gain find familiar (swarm) done

    lvl 11 you gain poison or acid damage on your weapons when you atack as the swarm atacks with you

  18. Normal people: "now I can use bees and create sparkly firefly spells."
    Me, an intellectual: "Great I can be Zouken and drain people's life force with a swarm of Crest worms! "

  19. Player: "I want to be a naruto character."
    Me: "Sure. Monks are pretty cool. Wait. On second thought…"
    Spends next 3 hours making Shino Aburame for D&D

  20. I've been homebrewing a warlock subclass ever since throne of eldraine and Piper of the swarm came out I was almost done with it when my ranger sent me this…

  21. Can we please talk about how the new lighting for Tod makes him look like a god damn evil emperor I would follow into the most dire mortal danger? Lol

  22. Can we bring back the Swarm Druid? I love the concept of just melting into a million bugs and moving into enemy spaces and stuff.

  23. Can't wait to play female dark elf worshiper of Lolth Swarmkeeper Ranger with an army of tiny spiders crawling all over her. Just need to get over my fear of spiders first lol.

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