Classics: Rangers Lead the Way, Part 3
By Cape Rust
Who needs preamble when you’ve got rule 8. This one is great; if you make your enemy retreat, be careful when you pursue them, don’t get sloppy and don’t let them get high ground that might make them think they should fight back. As a GM, I have seen plenty of hot pursuits go horribly wrong, because that player with the increased land speed got ahead of everyone else and quickly found themselves surrounded with no help in sight for a few combat rounds, recipe for disaster.
Rule 9 covers what you should do if you find yourself on the other side of rule 8, which is in retreat (wait, I mean advancing to the rear). Advancing to the rear should be done in an orderly manner and you should fire at the enemy while you do it to slow them down or discourage them altogether. In game terms, pop off a few magic missiles or send a few crossbow bolts behind you if you find yourself engaging in a tactical withdraw. Rule 10 isn’t the longest, but it is full of great information. It says that if your adventuring party is outnumbered, try to disperse and meet at a pre-arranged location. This rule is a bit backwards, because after giving you this advice it tells you to designate a location to meet if things go south. As a player, I do this when my party is traveling overland; it has bailed several of my groups out of some really bad situations. This is a great device (without meta gaming) for getting the party back together after a disastrous attack or ambush. This meeting place is often called a rally point and is normally accompanied by what is known as a drop dead time. The drop dead time is the latest time in which you should stay at the rally point before you leave to save yourself. If none of your players suggest a rally point, have one of the NPCs, even if it is a porter, suggest it, or ask about it. This will make getting the party back on track and together. The 2nd part of this rule lets us know that if your party has suffered injuries or is surrounded to form a square or circle for the best defense and make your stand until night time when it is easier to escape. This is tactically sound, but when the bad guys have darkvision, darkness isn’t the advantage that it normally would be.
The 11th rule is basically about maintaining security if you are attacked. Rule 12 is another building rule. Rule 12 says that once you meet at the rally point (rule 10), if you decide to make a stand, try to do it on high ground where you can see the enemy coming. In some systems an attack from elevation infers bonuses on attack rolls. As a GM I tend to lower the percentage of cover afforded to attackers depending on how elevated the position is. Think of it like a bird’s eye view. I like to call rule 13 the whites of their eyes rule. Rogers advises his Rangers to hold fire until the enemy is really close and that fire will cause the most confusion. By holding fire with ranged weapons, it makes it much easier to attack the enemy with melee weapons. Depending on the situation in your game, I’m not always a fan of this rule. I have noticed that many of the game systems that I play encourage close encounters, so they can easily be re-created with miniatures. I am a firm believer of taking the minor penalties that range might cause to fire a ranged weapon once or even twice, then draw that melee weapon and engage the approaching enemy. The other great thing is that crossbows don’t do much to reveal your position, other than giving the enemy a general direction that you are in. If used at range, it is a much harder perception check to locate the person who fired that crossbow.
Rule 14 goes back to the camping advice that we saw earlier. This rule focuses on large groups of guards which won’t be most parties, but it does stress the guards being as quiet as possible, always good advice. Rule 15 recommends waking everyone up in the morning as it is often a time when savages attack. In Fantasy worlds, they attack whenever and where ever, depending on your foe. I generally like to throw enemies at my players when they are sleeping, no matter what time it is. Those casters need their sleep and when I’m feeling mean, I like to interrupt it as much as possible.
We are getting closer….