Tales from the Gazebo – CLASSics: Rangers Lead the Way, Part 7

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CLASSics: Ranger Lead the Way, Part 7
By Cape Rust

Now that I’ve gotten finished with the 28 rules, I’m going to start discussing Ranger concepts. Let’s start with the baseline. Well actually, because of the utility of the Ranger, it is just a bit harder to establish a true baseline. So rather than use the word baseline I guess I should talk about the fundamentals of the class. To be frank, the fantasy ranger owes its current form to Tolkien and Dungeons and Dragons. Strider from Lord of the Rings was the first Ranger I ever encountered. Sure, some folks called him Aragorn or at times your majesty, but as a Ranger he was and always will be Strider.

The image of the mysterious woodsman that was as fierce an opponent as he was skilled at woodcraft is such a compelling combination. Of all of the basic character classes, the Ranger is one of the most versatile, even in its form as written. A Dungeons and Dragons Ranger can be a ranged or melee combatant. They can survive in the wilderness, track things, eventually gain an animal companion and can even cast a limited amount of divine spells. To add to that brief description, the Ranger who decides to go melee can do it two-handed. Add a good amount of skills and decent hit dice and you have the makings of a very versatile character, almost like the duct tape of character classes.

I have seen 100s of variant Ranger classes and class abilities; some of them have been really cool while others well, you know. I feel compelled to start the types of Rangers out with the Strider wandering woodsman type. Yes, this is the most common type, but we see so many of them at the game table because they work. For anyone who has spent large amounts of time outdoors and away from people, you know how cathartic it can be depending on your personality. Now place yourself in a fantasy setting where your job is to be out in that very same cathartic environment, or better yet you have been led by your god to pursue an austere vocation like ranging. Now imagine how loud and disorienting stepping into even a small tavern in an even smaller Thorpe would be, thus the mystery. I always got the impression that Strider was always more comfortable in the wild and with everything in his background, who wouldn’t be.

Adding to this mystery, I always got the impression that Strider was never lost and was always packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. These are two things that, to me, scream Ranger. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but for this series of articles, it’s important to mention. These traits, as well as many others, create this mysterious woodsman archetype. If you decided to play this type of character, then your wilderness skills and abilities must be as high as they possibly can be. Max stats that apply to those skills. When thinking about your characters animal companion, really think about your character’s personality. Normally I advise people to choose animal companions with utility, but for a thematic character like this, try to choose one that really reflects the character’s personality. If you have a big, surly, hairy, character, why not choose a bear. If your character is scrappy and lean, the coyote is a good choice. Quite wise and deadly, the owl is a winner. This doesn’t always have to be the case, but it is a fun way to “advertise” the type of character you are playing.

I didn’t get too far in the weeds with this type of Ranger because it is one of the most common. Next week we will look at a few other types of Rangers.

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