Your 5E D&D Game is But a Dream with Fey Wanderer from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
My approach to Dungeons & Dragons always centers on the story more than mechanics. This remains true for fifth edition D&D same as it did way, way back in the day when I started playing the game with the classic Red Box and applies whether I’m the Dungeon Master or not. My perspective often surprises people, these days mostly because of the sort of work I do. So whenever I check out new 5E D&D material from Wizards of the Coast, our own content or any other creators I’m most interested in how these characters, objects and places inspire the gaming experience. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything introduced lots of exciting new subclasses to the game and I’m positively enchanted by the Fey Wanderer Ranger Archetype and what it brings to the table. So let’s get into it.
Storytelling through mechanics of 5E D&D
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything brings two new Ranger Archetypes into 5E D&D and while Nerdarchist Dave examined the Swarmkeeper I called dibs on the Fey Wanderer. There’s lots of reasons for this. I’m a huge fan of fey folklore in general for starters. The Fey Wanderer also wonderfully illustrates a thought I had not long after Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything released. In fact since first thinking along the lines of 5E D&D content subtly encouraging more players to become DMs my view of the book’s hidden incantation makes me think the game is transitioning into the roleplaying game subgenre as a bonafide storytelling game.
These types of games de-emphasize rules in favor of creating a believable story and immersive experience for all involved. I don’t know if this sort of thing is ever discussed internally at WotC but the anecdotal evidence I see through interactions with the D&D community (and in this job it’s quite heavy!) shows me this is the case for many players. Based on the tremendous growth of the game during this 5E D&D era I can’t argue with the expansive variety of playstyles out there. And while I’m far removed from being a crunch enthusiast it does seem strange to me and a little disappointing considering the vast array of other RPGs out there.
But I digress. You’re here to read more about the Fey Wanderer Ranger Archetype! What I dig about this and many of the subclasses in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is the emphasis on how the mechanics of the features incorporate what these abilities can mean from a storytelling perspective. Earlier material approaches this with a light touch but most class and subclass features focus on the mechanical benefits. In contrast the Fey Wanderer evokes not only what these rangers can do but how they’re manifesting such powers. Augmenting their attacks with “mind-scarring magic, drawn from the gloomy hollows of the Feywild” and blessings by the royal courts of the Feywild with the assistance of fey beings carry a lot of weight for players and campaigns as a whole.
A wise DM picks up on the choices players make for their characters and folds these ideas into adventures. A player who creates a Fey Wanderer for a campaign suggests their interest in fey things and rewarding this interest enriches the 5E D&D experience. How these characters acquired their fey magic and their new responsibility as a representative of both the mortal and fey realms should add as much to the campaign story as anything else. These bits of flavor give DMs an opportunity to help players tell the story of their characters in much more meaningful ways.
On the other hand there’s still huge numbers of players who get their 5E D&D kicks from the crunchy stuff and what they can do with such features. Character builds trump character stories and looking at class features from a purely mechanical perspective may or may not mean the Fey Wanderer is a great Ranger Archetype or the worst of the bunch. I’m not a deep analysis guy so I won’t attempt to weigh in on any of this. But I can share my thoughts on the Fey Wanderer features.
Fey Wanderer features
- Dreadful Strikes. Like just about every other Ranger Archetype there’s a feature to boost damage output. Some do it with extra weapon damage or free attacks, others via a trained beast or bonded creature companions of one kind or another but they all receive a means to deal additional damage. The Fey Wanderer does so in the form of psychic damage, which can only affect an individual creature once per turn.
- Fey Wanderer Magic. This one is interesting. Every Ranger Archetype outside the Player’s Handbook receives additional spells. Incidentally we think the Hunter and Beast Master ought to get this benefit too. The interesting thing here is the Feywild Gifts fall under the same feature heading as the magic. Feywild Gifts are blessings of the fey manifesting as evocative physical features. In the past these sorts of narrative features are included in the subclass description like the Shadow Magic sorcerer’s Shadow Sorcerer Quirks. I believe Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything moves these under feature headings since the Clockwork Soul’s Manifestations of Order is also presented this way. I don’t know if this holds any meaning beyond organizational for their content. It does bring to mind something I recently heard on a podcast about how the more rules and material a game system presents the more likely players will feel like they cannot do these sorts of things during a game if they do not possess the feature. Like what if I imagine fresh, seasonal flowers sprout from my Hunter ranger’s hair each dawn? Is 5E D&D telling me I cannot do this because the character doesn’t have Feywild Gifts? It’s a silly thing to think about I know and features like this are intended to spark players’ imagination but it seems worth mentioning.
- Otherworldly Glamour. A feature like this is a great example what I meant earlier about DMs picking up on player choices. A Fey Wanderer’s social interaction mechanics are very strong, which makes perfect sense. Providing these characters opportunities to engage in this kind of gameplay lets them really explore what it means to be a Fey Wanderer. I take umbrage at the idea something like this is what people call a ribbon ability. Most of the time when I come across this view it’s for something that isn’t a combat feature. Take note DMs: characters with features like these want to use them so hand waving social interactions means they miss out. Familiarize yourself with How to Play in the Introduction to the game in the Basic Rules (or page 6 of the PHB) and call for some checks!
- Beguiling Twist. Charmed and frightened effects abound in 5E D&D and similar to The Archfey warlock’s Beguiling Defenses this feature not only guards a Fey Wanderer against them but if they succeed on their saving throw they can redirect the effect to another creature and make themselves the source of the effect. Basically they trade The Archfey’s immunity for the versatility of who becomes affected. Imagine what a trip to a fey court would be like with this feature!
- Fey Reinforcements. What would a ranger be without calling on supernatural forces for aid? In this case they can cast summon fey and I really like how the feature modifies this new spell from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything too. Not only do you know the spell and get a free casting without using a spell slot but you can choose to not require concentration in exchange for a shorter duration. It would be neat if spells like this and similar ones considered their application outside of combat. There’s some player agency incorporated into the spell description but it doesn’t include any guidance beyond this. It’s not particular to this spell only but it’s worth mentioning.
- Misty Wanderer. The Fey Wanderer capstone turns these rangers into misty step masters who can cast this terrific spell without expending a spell slot and when they do they can take along a willing creature too. Amazing! On the other hand compared to the original capstone feature from Unearthed Arcana this is lame. Misty Presence made you basically disappear from someone’s reality for a day. It was really weird and powerful and probably could have used some tweaking. Don’t get me wrong — misty step is one of my favorite spells and this ranger’s power over the magic is very cool and thematic. But the original was just so different and neat I would’ve rather seen it revisited here.
Players who dig the idea of a much more magical ranger can find a lot to enjoy with the Fey Wanderer. I love the strong connection to the Feywild baked into this Ranger Archetype and playing one seems like a ton of fun. I would be disappointed if the campaign didn’t touch on these qualities though. At the very least it would be immensely satisfying to explore how this character’s presence would play out in the Material Plane (or the Waking World as I call it in my 5E D&D setting). If fey folklore, themes and adventures sound cool to you too you might dig our own Winter Court Soiree. We designed this for 1st-6th level 5E D&D characters who receive an invitation to a fancy party in the fey realm, which also includes new fey spells for players too. Check it out here and remember when you sign up for Nerdarchy the Newsletter one of the things you’ll receive is $9.99 in store credit for whatever you want. Learn more about it and snag a couple of free gifts right here.
*Featured image — A human Fey Wanderer ranger as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]