Gloom Stalker 5e Guide
Published on April 4, 2021, Last modified on May 19th, 2022
In this post, we will be examining the Gloom Stalker’s class features and how you can optimize your Gloom Stalker through choosing your race, background, ability scores, and feats.
David Rapoza - Wizards of the Coast - Rites of Reaping
What is this guide?
This guide is meant as a deep dive into the ranger subclass, the Gloom Stalker.
For our full class guides, we use the following color rating scheme:
- Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
- Orange is an OK option
- Green is a good option
- Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
- Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized
For our subclass guides, we focus mainly on the Blue and Sky Blue options, because the other options are discussed in the parent guide or other subclass guides. We also discuss options that normally would be good for a typical build, but underperform when used in a subclass.
Did you know?
D&D Beyond can help create your characters by making choices using a step-by-step approach. Full customization and control of your character, none of the flipping through hundreds of pages to reference obscure rules.
What is a Gloom Stalker?
Gloom Stalkers are Rangers that stick to the shadows, hunting in places that most would never dare enter. Whether it be caves, ominous forests, or even the Underdark, Gloom Stalkers hunt their prey under the cover of darkness, striking fear into the hearts of even the most evil of beasts.
Gloom Stalkers put a twist on what is usually expected of the Ranger class. While most Rangers are thought to be the explorers and trackers of the party, Gloom Stalkers are granted spells and abilities that are perfect for stealth, ambushes, and social encounters.
One of the best features of the Gloom Stalker is that they essentially counter enemies with darkvision, rendering them just as useless in dark environments as if they didn’t have darkvision. If your campaign often takes you to low light environments, Gloom Stalkers will excel more than any other class.
Gloom Stalkers suffer from the same thing most Ranger builds do – the base Ranger class features are quite underwhelming. While Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything helps the Ranger, the class still struggles with its identity.
Gloom Stalkers are probably at their best fighting in very dark environments. If your party members lack darkvision, this could lead to them feeling useless while you carry the team, or your DM may just choose not to take you to dark environments very often. In addition, Gloom Stalkers are extremely powerful in the first round of combat, after which they can feel like any other vanilla Ranger class with some stealthy spells mixed in. They are excellent at stealth and ambush tactics, but that’s as far as their specialties take them.
Before You Start
Check out our Guide to DnD Races for non-standard races. Keep in mind, most races and subraces are limited by the setting and source material chosen by the DM. Below are some of the best options for Gloom Stalkers from the standard races.
Gloom Stalkers will do well with any race that gives a +2 DEX bonus. In addition, look for races that give secondary bonuses in WIS or CON. Darkvision is not necessary, as Gloom Stalkers get it for free, but choosing a race that already has darkvision will make it even better.
Elf: Elves get +2 to DEX, ideal for this subclass. As an elf, you also gain access to the Elven Accuracy feat, boosting WIS or DEX even further and making attack rolls more reliable.
- Wood Elf: Wood Elves are the classic choice for Rangers, and they hold up just as well for the Gloom Stalker variant. The racial feature Mask of the Wild makes Gloom Stalkers even better at hiding in natural environments.
Halfling: Halflings come with the +2 DEX bonus, which is great for Gloom Stalkers. Lightfoot Halflings offer some CHA, Stout Halflings offer some CON for survivability, and some of the non-standard subraces offer WIS to go with DEX.
Variant Human: Variant Humans are powerful for pretty much any build. Boost WIS and DEX, take a feat at 1st-level like Sharpshooter or Crossbow Expert, and you’re pretty well set up from the jump. Because the Gloom Stalker gets access to darkvision by 3rd-level, and advantage on WIS saving throws at 7th-level, the opportunity cost of taking a Variant Human over an Elf subrace is greatly smoothed out. If you are planning on playing a high-level campaign, or are starting at 5th-level, the Variant Human is likely your best choice.
Gloom Stalkers are flexible in their background choices. Good choices are backgrounds that give DEX skills, WIS skills, or social skills. Ideally, choose one that works for your backstory and fills in some of the gaps in your skill proficiencies.
- Charlatan: If you want to deceive people, this background goes all in. Deception, Sleight of Hand, as well as proficiencies in the Disguise kit and Forgery kit.
- Criminal: Deception and Stealth are great, and the crowbar can come in handy.
- Folk Hero: Perfect if you’re lacking WIS skills, granting Animal Handling and Survival.
- Guild Artisan: An interesting choice for roleplay. Insight and Persuasion are both decent for Gloom Stalkers.
- Urchin: Sleight of Hand and Stealth are both pretty neat if you want to take on a Rogue-adjacent role. Proficiency in the Disguise Kit and Thieves’ Tools help achieve that goal.
- Urban Bounty Hunter: Many useful choices from Deception, Insight, Persuasion, and Stealth. If you also want proficiency in an instrument, game, or Thieves’ Tools, The Urban Bounty Hunter fills those gaps.
Ability Score Increases (ASI) at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level.
Like most Rangers, Gloom Stalkers should max out DEX first. They are happy to boost either WIS or CON after that depending on their survivability needs and playstyle. Because the Gloom Stalker is geared towards a more stealthy/deceptive playstyle than a traditional Ranger, putting some points into CHA isn’t a bad idea.
In summary, Gloom Stalkers should prioritize DEX > WIS/CON > CHA.
STR: Dump and focus on other stats.
DEX: Rangers only have access to light and medium armor, so DEX will be the main way they can increase their AC. Attacks will also rely on DEX, so pump this as high as you can.
CON: CON will keep you alive. If you want to play as a melee Gloom Stalker, consider taking more CON than WIS.
INT: Dump and focus on other stats.
WIS: WIS is used for the Gloom Stalker’s spellcasting. Early WIS is likely a better choice than CON for a Gloom Stalker because they do particularly well as ranged combatants.
CHA: Deceptive characters do well with some CHA to help out with social skill checks.
Gloom Stalker Class Progression
Hit Points: A d10 hit dice is great, and is a nice safety net for a subclass that prefers to sneak over facing enemies toe to toe.
Saves: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.
Proficiencies: Gloom Stalkers get access to all the weapons and armor they could ever need.
Skills: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.
Favored Enemy: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.
Natural Explorer: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.
Fighting Style: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide for the various Fighting Style Options. As a rule of thumb, Archery is by far the best if planning to use a bow.
Spellcasting: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.
Ranger Archetype: Gloom Stalker
Source: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
Gloom Stalker Magic: The spells the Gloom Stalker receives are themed around stealth and deception.
- 3rd Level – Disguise Self: This is a spell Rangers don’t usually have access to, but for the Gloom Stalker it slots in nicely. Disguise Self can be really useful for infiltration or to extract information from inhospitable NPCs.
- 5th Level – Rope Trick: Rope Trick is a mechanically hilarious way to get a short rest or to set up an ambush.
- 9th Level – Fear: Fear provides solid crowd control, especially if you choose to prioritize WIS over CON.
- 13th Level – Greater Invisibility: Greater Invisibility is simply amazing. Unlike regular Invisibility, attacking doesn’t break the invisibility, making this spell useful both in and out of combat for a stealth-based character.
- 17th Level – Seeming: Disguise Self for the whole party. The use case is the same, but this time you will have your friends as backup in case something goes wrong.
Dread Ambusher: This subclass feature makes the Dread Stalker extremely powerful in the first round of combat, often setting the pace for the rest of the battle. Rush in, take some shots with bonus damage, and slink back into the shadows.
Umbral Sight: Getting darkvision on any race is amazing, and those that already come with darkvision get an upgraded version. However, the best part of Umbral Sight is that it acts as a hard counter to the many creatures that come with darkvision. With Umbral Sight, you are essentially fighting with permanent Greater Invisibility against those creatures if you are in darkness.
Primeval Awareness: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.
Extra Attack: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.
Iron Mind: WIS saves may not come up a whole lot, but failing them usually sucks. Proficiency in WIS saving throws helps keep you in the fight, so Iron Mind is a great addition to your Gloom Stalker’s arsenal. This plus your classes’ inherent darkvision ability makes a lot of the benefits given by the Elf subclass less appealing if you are playing a high-level campaign.
Land’s Stride: Land’s Stride may be a touch better for the Gloom Stalker than for the other Ranger subclasses. Gloom Stalkers can rush in with Dread Ambusher before retreating to the shadows, so being restricted by Difficult Terrain would be a huge annoyance.
Hide in Plain Sight: This class feature synergizes really well with what Gloom Stalkers are good at: using stealth to get the jump on unsuspecting enemies.
Stalker’s Fury: Ideally this would be another Extra Attack, but Stalker’s Fury is about as close as you can get. Making your weapon attacks more reliable makes this subclass that much better.
Vanish: Once again, a Ranger class feature is a perfect synergy for the Gloom Stalker. Hiding as a Bonus Action means you are free to make attacks with advantage. Combine this with Umbral Sight and Gloom Stalkers are simply a menace to fight in dark environments.
Shadowy Dodge: Another huge boon for the Gloom Stalker. Shadowy Dodge is a fantastic use of your reaction and provides a reliable way to drive up your survivability.
Feral Senses: Gloom Stalkers automatically come with darkvision, so this will only really help you fighting Invisible creatures. Still, at this point, a creature will have an extremely difficult time trying to hide from you.
Foe Slayer: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.
Feats are good for Gloom Stalkers, especially those that want to use bows or crossbows. There are quite a few feats that are reasonable, so feat-heavy builds will likely want to choose the Variant Human to get an extra feat for free.
- Alert: Alert plus Dread Ambusher all but ensures that you will act first when combat starts. Not being able to be surprised and avoiding advantaged attacks from hidden creatures is also very on-brand for the Gloom Stalker.
- Crossbow Expert: Mandatory if you want to fight with a crossbow. Sadly crossbows are not as good as longbows with Sharpshooter, but they can still make for very fun builds that can make up to four attacks in the first round of combat with this feat.
- Elven Accuracy: If you are an elf, Elven Accuracy is very tempting. You can increase your DEX or WIS score by 1, as well as reroll one die if you have advantage on the attack. Getting advantage on attacks should be pretty easy for Gloom Stalkers when fighting in dark environments because of Umbral Sight.
- Sharpshooter: With Sharpshooter, you can shoot up to 600 feet with a longbow without disadvantage, as well as ignoring half and three-quarters cover. The most interesting part of this feat however is the option to take a -5 penalty to your attack rolls to deal +10 damage. This is partially mitigated with the Archery Fighting Style, Stalker’s Fury, or Elven Accuracy.
- Skulker: The improved hiding seems almost redundant at this point, but the fun with Skulker is that missing ranged weapon attacks while hidden doesn’t give away your location. Dim light also won’t affect your Perception checks, meaning that when in total Darkness (which acts as dim light with darkvision) you can make Perception checks as normal.
Example Gloom Stalker Build
This build is centered around the use of a bow for damage. While melee builds are possible, evading enemies with the Gloom Stalker’s Umbral Sight is much easier when attacking from a distance. The Archery Fighting Style is the obvious choice and will help make Sharpshooter more consistent when you pick it up at 4th level. After choosing Sharpshooter, max out DEX before moving on to CON for more survivability.
Choosing a Wood Elf is typical for a Ranger, as DEX and WIS are exactly what they like to see, and Mask of the Wild helps you hide more easily. We take a few extra points in CHA to lean into the Gloom Stalker’s social/deceptive abilities, forgoing STR and INT which are both useless to this character.
Gloom Stalker spells are marked by an asterisk (*).
- Race: Wood Elf
- Background: Urban Bounty Hunter
- Ability Scores (Point Buy): STR 8 (-1), DEX 14 (+2), CON 14 (+2), INT 8 (-1), WIS 15 (+1), CHA 12 (+1)
- Skill Proficiencies: Animal Handling, Deception, Insight, Perception, Stealth, Survival
- Equipment: Longbow, arrows (20), 2 hand axes, leather armor, dungeoneer’s pack, traveler’s clothes, a pouch containing 20 gp
- Favored Enemy: Your choice depending on campaign. Humanoids (goblins, kobolds, gnolls, and orcs) are likely a good option at lower levels.
- Natural Explorer: Your choice depending on campaign
- Fighting Style: Archery
- Spells: Goodberry, Hunter’s Mark
- Ranger Archetype: Gloom Stalker
- Dread Ambusher
- Umbral Sight
- Primeval Awareness
- Spells: Disguise Self*, Detect Magic
- Feat: Sharpshooter
- Extra Attack
- Spells: Rope Trick*, Pass Without Trace
- Favored Enemy improvement: Your choice depending on campaign
- Iron Mind
- Spell: Lesser Restoration
- ASI: +2 DEX (DEX 18)
- Land’s Stride
- Spells: Fear*, Conjure Animals
- Hide in Plain Sight
- Natural Explorer improvement: Your choice depending on campaign
- Stalker’s Fury
- Spell: Lightning Arrow
- ASI: +2 DEX (DEX 20)
- Spells: Greater Invisibility*, Locate Creature
- Favored Enemy improvement: Your choice depending on campaign
- Shadowy Dodge
- Spell: Conjure Woodland Beings
- ASI: +2 CON (CON 16)
- Spell: Seeming*, Swift Quiver
- Feral Senses
- ASI: +2 CON (CON 18)
- Spell: Conjure Volley
- Foe Slayer
Other Ranger Subclass Guides
Sources Used in This Guide
- Basic Rules
- Eberron: Rising from the Last War
- Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
- Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
- Fizban's Treasury of Dragon
- Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica
- Monsters of the Multiverse
- Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
- Mythic Odyessys of Theros
- Player's Handbook
- Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
- Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
- Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
- Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
- The Tortle Package
- The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
- Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft
- Volo's Guide to Monsters
- Xanathar’s Guide to Everything