Tales from the Gazebo – CLASSics: Rangers Lead the Way, Part 5

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Classics: Rangers Lead the Way, Part 5
By Cape Rust

Rule 19 recommends avoiding the usual river fords, in case the enemy has discovered them and is waiting in ambush. This seems like it would be common sense, but it ends up making things hard and people don’t always like to take the hard right over the easy wrong. Not using river fords is much easier on lightly armored players; for some reason full plate and deep fast moving water just don’t mix. Now as a GM if you are feeling really nasty, this would be the time to make those players suffer for not putting ranks into swimming. River crossings are dangerous in both the real and fantasy worlds. If you want to add tension in your game, force a river crossing. If your players laugh at your river crossing, have them do it under fire. You get the idea. If you decided to incorporate a water hazard, amp up the danger of what is down river or stream from wherever the players are crossing. If you decide to give them a shallow crossing, make it a fast current. One misstep and that heavily armored tank is going to have to try to impersonate an amphibious vehicle really quick. Add a waterfall just downstream from the crossing, or even a dam to slam into. All of these things increase the feeling of danger and make even a routine crossing tenser. I do however recommend avoiding the Total Party Kill -on a river crossing. You want the players to respect the river, but how lame is it if your entire party of 1st level adventurers is killed trying to cross a shallow river to get to a dungeon that they will definitely get killed in?

Rule 20 maintains the water advice by recommending not walking too close to the edge of a large body of water, so that if you are attacked, your means of escape won’t be cut off.  This rule is really a great cue for the GM to try to use things like large bodies of water as obstacles for your players. As GMs we are supposed to vary the types of places our players have to fight and adding a large body of water to move around combined with an ambush will totally fit the bill. Rule 21 I love if the enemy pursues you; circle around until you find your own track then ambush them. I don’t see players do this very often and it is as effective as it is simple! Imagine the trolls surprise when they start getting peppered with flaming arrows from the people they were just chasing. If your players start to abuse this tactic, add a second pursuit force that is following just close enough behind the first force to create a confusing and interesting battle. Now your players are sandwiched between to enemy forces.

Rule 22 is kind of a variation of don’t use the fords when crossing rivers and never go out the same way you came in, only this time it deals with returning home or to secure places, like a fort. This is especially important when everyone is tired. We all know how excited we get in the real world when we get close to home after a long trip, and this reaction is natural for players when their characters have just slugged their way through a tough dungeon. Imagine how they will feel if they just assume the way home is clear and get ambushed by the momma bugbear who is upset because the party just killed her cubs? I guess Rogers finally decided to keep themes clumped together. Rule 22 says avoid directly tracking any enemies that you’ve spotted near your fort and they will be on high alert. Instead, head them off and ambush them someplace like a narrow pass. So often in movies we see the direct pursuit and while it looks cool, it might not be the best tactic in the real world or the fantasy world. Most adventurers will not be operating out of a fort, but plenty of them will be in situations where someone or something is following them and this tactic would work great. If you follow the logic of this rule, make sure any enemy scouts have better perception skills and get bonuses for being alert; they are scouts or bad guy Rangers after all.

Well the good news is I’m almost finished covering the rules for ranging, the bad news is I still have more stuff to discuss after that.

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