CLASSics: Rangers Lead the Way, Part 6
By Cape Rust
Let’s get back into this with the last of the 29 rules Rogers had for Ranging, which is what Rangers do. Rule 23 encourages Rangers to not use the enemies trail when following them, but rather come up with a plan to cut them off and ambush them. The British would say those kinds of tactics were not very cricket, but if it works….. If an adventuring party is in this situation, it is good advice; unless you are following the enemy to find their base of operations, then the ambush might not be such a good idea.
Rules 24 through 26 deal with water operations, mostly rivers. Rule 24 suggests that when traveling by water, leave at night so as not to be seen, 25 encourages boats traveling in a line to stay in contact with the boat directly astern of it. Rule 26 assigns at least one person per boat to watching the shore for fires or movement. It isn’t that these rules are not important, but while some adventures take place on the water, even fewer involve extended river operations. The Lord of the Rings movies gave GMs planning river and raft operations some great ideas and combining these rules with those inspirations should make for some interesting role playing situations.
Rule 27 sticks with the river/water theme, but it deals with shore-based ambushes. This rule recommends leaving a detachment of the other side of whatever body of water you are conducting an ambush from in hopes of driving the enemy towards your waiting detachment. As a GM, this is a great tactic to use against your PCs . If they are facing a foe much weaker than them and you are trying to even things up a bit with numbers, then this is a great way to make an encounter really challenging, but making it a two-stage ambush rather than the normal one shot deal. Springing one of these two-stage ambushes right when the PCs are recovering their spells and abilities is a typical and effective time to attack. The addition of a second ambush in waiting makes bad things go to worse quickly. Good times!
Rule 28 Calls for patience. Patience is especially important when locating an enemy whose strength you don’t know. Send out a scouting party, determine their numbers and positions, take all day if you need to, to plan your attack. Finally, Rule 29 advises that a force scatter, as if routed, if attacked in rough or flat ground; then in a predetermined place, turn around fire closely with ranged weapons, then switch to hatchets and route the enemy in return. How cool would it be to set up an encounter where the bad guys/monsters did that to an adventuring group? As a GM it is important to ensure that, on occasion, you give the bad guys some brains and a few tactics. If you have a tactically minded group of PCs, and they try this, reward them for good tactics and think about how much fun it will be to describe the action.
This lengthy series is focused on the Ranger, and just by readings these rules for ranging you can see how they can work for and against an adventuring party. If you are a GM and you have a player who is new to playing rangers, try to get them a copy of these rules, it might act like a really good primer and give them some interesting ideas without causing them to have to do hours and hours of research to become an “expert” tactician/woodsman. As a GM, try to look over these rules and set up some situations where they can be implemented. There are hundreds of possible encounters contained in these rules if you just scout them out.