Tales from the Gazebo – CLASSics: Rangers Lead the Way, Part 2

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Classics: Rangers Lead the Way, Part 2
By Cape Rust

Last week I opened my coverage of fantasy Rangers by introducing a brief history of Rogers Rangers and posted Robert’s rules for ranging. Yes it was at least twice as long as my normal articles, but I think posting these rules is important for GMs who want to make their players glad they chose to play a ranger. Having served in the military and supported Rangers, I have a good idea of what they do and how they do it. However, there are plenty of GMs out there who have not served or never worked with Rangers; consider my coverage and adaptation of these rules as a really poor primer. I will frame all of my comments on the rules where they are applicable to fantasy Rangers.  So here we go starting with rule 1.

Fantasy rangers don’t need to bring their muskets; however, they do need to keep their hatchet sharp and be ready to move out at all times, at a minute’s notice. This is good advice for any adventurer, but especially for Rangers. The 2nd rule gives advice on marching formations and in fantasy games this still holds true. March single file if it is best for the terrain you find yourself in and keep enough distance so no one trap can take out the entire party, and make sure you can signal to the other party members. The third rule is more marching advice, dealing with marshland and marching abreast rather than in a straight line. Rule 3 includes marching until it is really dark before camping, which is good if you are not fighting creatures with dark vision as it reduces some creatures/races from observing exactly where and how an adventuring party is camping. Rule 3 also recommends camping on high ground where your players on watch can observe enemies approaching. Finally rule 3 says to keep 50% of your party awake and on watch. While this might work in modern times, in a fantasy game you have to rest those glass cannon Wizards.

The 4th rule recommends sending out a forwarding party with folks you can trust to an area you are going to investigate and try to find the best place to observe that area. Rule number 5 is near and dear to my heart as I was in a unit that specialized in holding enemy prisoners of war. Rule 5 says if you take prisoners, keep them separate. The more isolated they feel, the less likely they are to want to try to escape; this isn’t a guarantee that they won’t try, but as a GM, I make them less likely to if my players follow this part of the rule. The last part of this rule is really important; never take the same route out that you took into an area. This way you have a better chance of finding the enemy before they find your adventuring group. If you do discover the enemy and they are greater in number, disperse, change your course or do whatever you need to survive. So if you are a typical 4-person party, chock full of 2nd level adventurers, and you come across 50 or so Orks, you might want to give them the right-of-way or at least take another path. If you ignore this rule, a TPK (Total Party Kill) might follow.

The 6th rule recommends marching into columns of three led by good officers. This is simply a modified version of the 2nd rule and generally won’t apply to the fantasy adventuring party. The last part of the rule encourages maintaining security which is always a must. Rule 7 is one that players often forget, if you come under fire, take cover or at least make yourself a smaller target. Wait until they are finished firing at you before you stand up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen my players simply stand where they are and try to return fire whether it was with spells or with bows. This rule encourages meeting an equally sized force with direct action, by moving half of your people forward at a time from tree to tree maintaining cover. If using single shot weapons like most of the weapons fantasy Rangers use, have the front guys fire, duck and reload while the guys in back fire, in theory by the time the second group has fired, the first group will be ready to fire again, and if you can keep this up it will be hard for the enemy to counterattack.

There are only 21 rules to go, stay tuned.

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