CLASSics: Rangers Lead the Way, Part 8
By Cape Rust
I’ve covered the ”typical” Ranger, now I’ll touch on some variations. The first that comes to mind, and granted this is another obvious one, is the urban ranger. Like his/her wilderness counterpart this ranger excels at the same kinds of things, only in a city setting. The Urban Ranger is fun, if you are in a campaign that mostly takes place in a city. Depending on the rules system, the Urban Ranger can lose a lot of their utility when transitioning to the wilds. Animal companions for these Urbanites tend towards animals one would encounter in a city, and they really should. Sure some wolves look like really big pawed dogs from a distance, but up close it is easy to tell that they are in fact wolves, and most city folk don’t take kindly to that; at least not on a daily basis, actually bears are kinda the same way.
The Urban Ranger tends to share many of the same skill sets with their wilderness brethren; however, for me, they have always had more of a roguish feel. If playing an Urban Ranger, try to view the city as the jungle that it actually is. Some parts of it are safer than others and there are some places that you go to hunt. Try to venerate the city like a living thing. I actually saw a player who took this love for the city to an extreme by making his Urban Ranger afraid of wide open, natural spaces. The character was fine in the city and in dungeons, but get him out in the woods and he fell apart.
Aside from being a really fun character to be at the table with, this character was memorable and I think the rest of the party had as much fun trying to get into situations that would take us outside the city as he had trying to keep us in the city or to get to whatever dungeon we might be headed to. I know that it seems counter-intuitive to play a character like this, which has such a big disadvantage, but it was fun for the whole party. On the flip side of the screen, as a GM, it is your job to make the most out of this situation. Force those tough choices; give that player whatever they want, just make sure the only place they can get it is in the middle of the woods. Allow that player to really shine in their home city and give them a few unspecified bonuses when they are operating in any city. Include a few dungeon crawls to let this Urban Ranger show their stuff. Most cities have sewers and that is just one of many places a party needs a good Urban Ranger.
Now I want to shift the focus to the animal companion, and when we get that we end up with the totem Ranger. This is that ranger who bases their hunting style on that of a certain animal and, depending on the GM, might even be able to trade in his or her animal companion for the ability to change into their totem animal. This is a situation where the player really needs to look at the totem animal they are going to choose and should be prepared to match their characters personality and actions to that animal. If a player and GM have a good relationship, then sometimes it’s fun to let the GM choose the totem animal for the character after they have a feeling for how the player is playing their character. I’ve done this with a few players before and I did give the courtesy of letting them know which animal I was thinking of. Of the five players that have gone this route, only one of them was unhappy with my choice and I ended up using her suggestion, and it worked out much better than it would have if we had gone with my initial idea.
If your game is set in an urban environment, try to stick with animals that are native to the location. Another way to play the Totem Ranger is to give your player a spirit guide, in lieu of their animal companion. No matter how you handle this type of ranger, make sure there are rules in place that include not harming their totem animal or allowing one to be harmed. Another great thing to do is to look the animal up and pull two or three of its unusual habits out and incorporate these into rituals or taboos they need to observe.
Next week I’ll discuss a few more Ranger options and, depending on how far I get, I might even discuss some multi-classing options. Have a safe week and may you confirm all of your crits!