From Dragonsfoot: a guy directed the following question at me:
The Ranger from The Strategic Review, would you allow its use in your B/X game?
Or are you from the school of thought that would say, "If you want to play a ranger or druid or what ever in a B/X game, why play B/X? Just go ahead and play 1st Edition AD&D and be done with it, adding all that stuff to a B/X game makes it some thing else other then a B/X game anyway?"
To which my [edited] reply was:
This is really two different questions, not an either/or. The short answers are "probably not" and "no." Longer answers follow.
Regarding the ranger from The Strategic Review: this is not something with which I'm familiar, so I can't say for certain. But just because it's an OD&D class (or a class written for OD&D) doesn't necessarily mean it's in my B/X game...
Regarding my school of thought: I consider AD&D to be OD&D + Gary Gygax's House Rules...here are my thoughts on adapting AD&D classes to B/X play...
#1 The Advanced Edition Companion...provides Labyrinth Lord with adaptations of the all the old PHB classes...I'm not saying they're perfect...but they're good enough for a starting point...
#2 That being said, I personally find the ranger to be a dumb class, as I do most if not all of the PHB sub-classes.
What do I mean by dumb? Well, I don't think it brings anything "to the table," really. In general, I don't find the sub-classes to be new "classifications of adventurer," but instead variants of existing classes (druid, illusionist), or souped-up versions of old classes (paladin, ranger, assassin). The monk is an exception but is a pretty complex class, unlike its B/X counterparts.
To me, any new classes should fill niche roles that are not already filled by existing B/X classes. A ranger is just a "fighter plus." Why would anyone choose to play a fighter instead of a ranger? They use the same armor, weapons, and combat tables; the ranger just has extra "special powers."
Because of the ability score restriction? Nothing prevents a player from rolling until he gets the proper scores.
Because of additional XP needed? Assuming an open-ended campaign, this poses little restriction over time.
Because of an inability to hoard treasure/magic items? This is why portable holes were invented.
And what is the ranger supposed to be anyway? What mythological or historical archetype is it based upon? Is it supposed to be a fantasy Green Beret (as in "airborne ranger")? To me, it appears evident that the ranger is a knock-off of Tolkien's Dunedain, specifically the character Aragorn/Strider from The Lord of the Rings.
Aragorn is a unique individual, not a "class" of adventurer. And I'm not running a Tolkien-esque campaign anyway. Rangers can kiss off.
As I said, that's the slightly edited version, but it contains the crux of the matter:
The ranger class is based on a specific individual literary character from fiction, NOT an archetype.
The term "class" (to me) means "classification of adventurer." There's no such thing as an "Aragorn" class of adventurer, and I find the AD&D ranger to be a rather poor attempt at modeling a unique set of skills in a "class-shaped" package. Are hunters and trackers a part of a fantasy literary tradition? Sure they are...going back to Hawkeye and The Last of the Mohicans at least. There should be a "woodsy" or wilderness savvy adventuring class in D&D, I totally agree with that.
Should such a class be restricted to "good alignment," possess spell powers, have artificial restrictions on gear acquisition, and gain special bonuses against "giant-class creatures?"
No. Fuck no. That's just retarded.
Is there any justification for it being ambidextrous (as the 2nd edition and later rangers are)?
NO. That's DOUBLE-retarded. Where the hell did that come from anyway?
Look, I understand that some people read what I write and pish-posh my point of view. "It's fun to have more options, fighters are so boring." This is, I'm certain, the same reasoning that decided juicers in Rifts weren't "kewl enough;" that they needed mega-juicers, and titan juicers, and dragon juicers.
It's the same line of thinking that leads to the Bio-Synth Cyborg class (that's Synnibarr, folks).
Even if I was playing a Tolkien-esque campaign, I wouldn't use an "Aragorn class;" again, the literary character is UNIQUE not "standard." He's a fighter with excellent longevity and a robust constitution due to his half-elven heritage. He's a great tracker/wanderer/goblin killer because he's been doing that shit for decades. He's got some healing lore because it's a literary device.
He's also the One True King, yo. Where's the King Arthur class? Where's the Lancelot class? For that matter, where's the Merlin class?
OH, there IS a "Merlin class," you say? It's called the magic-user? Really. So you get the powers of being half-demonic and aging backwards and druidic spells and bardic singing and...
No, no, no...those are literary conceits by particular authors. The magic-user class is more generic than that.
Right. That's what I mean. So take your "ranger class" and shove it where the sun don't shine.
I'm currently in the process of writing this little book, called The Complete B/X Adventurer...I know I've mentioned it a couple times before. It includes several new human classes (humans are O So Versatile) for fun and enjoyment. Each is designed to fill a particular niche or role or classification found in fantasy or "heroic" literature that is not already found in D&D.
There is no "ranger" class.
There IS a scout class however...an outdoorsman and wanderer, in some ways similar to the inhuman halfling. There is also an archer class...a master of the bow, similar to Robin Hood or William Tell. You'll also find a couple different types of hunters...specifically the bounty hunter (who specializes in two-legged prey) and the witch-hunter (who specializes in the supernatural). Any of these might fill the roles left vacant with the absence of a "ranger," depending on what you're looking for.
If what you're looking for is a guy who "does it all," who has all the fighting ability of the fighter, plus spell-casting ability, plus tracking abilities and bonuses against "favored opponents," etc....well, you're playing the wrong type of D&D. Go play your superhero game, because I'm sure you'll find B/X a little too "dry" for your tastes.
Now a word of full disclosure: I have played an AD&D ranger before. Specifically, I once played a ranger/thief-acrobat/bard (half-elf to boot)...I am no stranger to cheesy characters. In my defense, I was 12 years old at the time; I've grown up a bit since then. That doesn't mean I've "lost my imagination and childlike sense of wonder;" if anything, I think I am more imaginative and creative NOW than I ever was as a child. At least, I am more practiced in harnessing my imagination...and I don't need the crutch of a big class filled with cool powers to get my creative juices flowing. I realize that for some folks this is helpful...but dammit, playing Guitar Hero doesn't make you a guitarist, and having a ton of special abilities doesn't make you a more proficient adventurer.
I don't think so anyway.
As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and being forced to work with a few simple tools (or a few sparse class attributes) CAN result in a rich gaming experience for those willing to explore the possibilities. Sometimes, managing a bunch of "special abilities" can detract from the actual experience of "play."