Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Rangers Reconsidered

Back in October, Alexis chided me over a post I wrote about fatigue rules in AD&D, stating specifically:

Face it. The REAL reason you chafe at this nonsense is that you're finding excuses not to make a setting, design an adventure and start a campaign. As long as you are able to continue to futz around about this petty jazz, and get pats on the back from your readers about its importance, the longer you can find excuses to disparage AD&D and thus avoid the real meat of being a dungeon master.

And (as I admitted at the time) there's more than a little truth to what he wrote. "Futzing around" with rules complaints IS a form of procrastination. I took his advice to heart and ceased posting about "needed" rules changing that weren't pertinent to the work of actually crafting an adventure or campaign...the real meat (as Alexis rightly points out) of being a DM. With the result being very few posts on this blog aside from some Blood Bowl items.

Thing is, I have been working on campaign ideas the last couple months...something I hope to write about in a future post. Not the ideas themselves (though I might get to that just for the sake of writing), but about my approach to creation, which some might find helpful/interesting...and/or which might incite feedback that I can use to adjust my approach to creation.

However, THIS post is about rangers.

I've written about rangers before (more than once): I wrote about how I thought it was a dumb class (and my reasons), later providing some circumstances that would justify its inclusion in the game, and even added a stripped down version for Holmes basic some time later. All of which should lead folks to the conclusion that, generally speaking, I am dissatisfied with the ranger class.

I've since changed my stance. Yeah, I'm so fickle about this stuff...only took eight plus years.

As I've begun diving back into Advanced D&D, especially with the goal of simply taking the rules as written, there are two major points that have shifted my perspective:

1) The literary origin of the class means NOTHING to me. That it was originally based on some Tolkien fan-boy's interpretation of Aragorn and the Dunedain means nothing more than an interesting footnote: it's a piece of trivia. The inspiration for the class is of no concern when one is dealing with the Rules as presented; my campaign setting is not Middle Earth so I have only to examine whether or not the class "fits" as a playable option in my own world.

2) The class as originally written (in the PHB) IS well-balanced and written in relation to the other AD&D classes. The hit point bonus (relative to normal fighters) fades by 5th level, the spell abilities acquired at high level (useful but limited in compared to spell-casters of similar level) help make up the difference for a character with limited equipment/followers. These abilities, including the extra melee damage versus common foes, helps make the character more independent and self-sufficient...emphasizing the theme of the character...while NOT making the class "all powerful," at least if one is bringing the full brunt of the AD&D rules to bear.

I'll talk about the alignment thing in a separate post.

For my purposes (and to be clear, I'm speaking of my purposes as a Dungeon Master, nor as aloud-mouthed blogger), the ranger class works, and this is important because it allows me to proceed with world building for an AD&D campaign. I can justify the class in my own mind, and thus I am armed with the arguments I need to speak with authority on its inclusion in my setting. For me, it is important for me to go through these examinations so that when a player asks "why?" I can provide them with an answer that satisfies...thus allowing both of us to get back to the important business at hand: playing the game.

Rangers can (and do)
wear plate armor.
No, the ranger is not an "archetype;" it is a bit too specific in its application. But a campaign world is composed of specifics, not generic archetypes; it has to be, in order to engage the players and, frankly, to engage the Dungeon Master. The fighter class can comprise every warrior from the poorest mercenary the most prestigious knightly order with only the individual's kit (based on wealth) being the difference. The ranger is a different OPTION ("option" being the important word) outside the paradigm of "dudes seeking fortune and fame with martial prowess."

I think it's important that the campaign have these options. I think that the eleven classes presented in the AD&D Players Handbook (and their related multi-classes) provides just enough variation to sustain a long term campaign. I could kick the ranger to the curb in favor of my own "option," but there's no guarantee it would be any better. Less actually, considering the years of play testing the ranger has received.

So, yeah. I take back what I said about rangers. They're not a "dumb" class. In fact, I'm looking forward to seeing some in the next campaign I run...just no more than three at a time.
; )


  1. The nice thing about having class choices is the ability to play what you want the way you want it.
    I have posted before about having a particular PC in mind and looking at the different ways I could make that PC happen with RAW.
    A class does not need to have a literary component to exist nor does it need any external validation other than "this is what I want to play".
    If the Ranger can do a character than a fighter with levels of druid, then great! Play a ranger! And most importantly, have fun doing it.

  2. It a bit late of a reply here, but I agree completely.

    I have some thoughts about what's informed my sense of Rangers, and it's that woodcraft aspect. I run a much more out of doors game than many, and I've read a bunch of Louis L'Amour, and I was able to integrate some ideas of outdoor expertise into my games. Survival, weather sense, hunting and trapping, tracking, cutting for sign, terrain sense, an aversion to settlements--the sorts of things L'Amour wrote a lot about.

    I also dig on the very light nuance of organization that Rangers exist within. I run my lower level Rangers as sturdy outdoorsmen who are Rangers Errant and aren't let in on the bigger picture. Until later on.

    Like your Zenopus campaign, where your players were rolling hilariously high for their characters, my family had--out of five characters rolled up--two of them qualified to be Rangers, so they were.

    And wow. Between the surprise aspects and the hit points, two Rangers, a Fighter-Thief, a Fighter, and a Magic User with a War Dog and a cleric NPC companion in a first level party in the out of doors are a force to be reckoned with.

    So, yep.

    1. I believe most (if not all) the new, non-B/X classes found in AD&D work better in the out of doors.

      [and to be clear, I understand B/X was published AFTER the creation of these subclasses for OD&D; I'm speaking as B/X as being a foundation based on the original Little Brown Books + thief]

      While the thief (from Supplement I) has obvious applications in a dungeon, other classes are a bit hamstrung in a subterranean environment: paladins with their warhorses, druids (of course), bards (by extension), and definitely rangers. All of these have abilities and skills that pertain to a wide-open world type of exploration, and it doesn't surprise me in the slightest that their inclusion in your group's party has helped them survive and thrive...whereas USUALLY outdoor exploration is fairly deadly for low-level parties (especially in B/X and its close cousins).