Tales from the Gazebo – CLASSics: Rangers Lead the Way, Part 9

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CLASSics: Rangers Lead the Way, Part 9
By Cape Rust

Here we are again with some variations or themes for the Ranger class. One variation on the class that I have seen get a lot of love is the bounty hunter type Ranger. There are plenty of prestige classes dedicated to this type of Ranger in D&D, but even from level 1 a savvy player can start down this path. Boba Fett was and still is one of the most popular characters in the Star Wars universe. Awesomely cool armor aside, he proved that being a bounty hunter is cool! If a player wants to go this route, encourage feats and abilities that allow them to do non-lethal damage without penalty, track their prey and the ability to use weapons or items that facilitate the capture of “prey.” As a GM, I like to throw in the ability to use things like man catchers, lassos and nets. The need to not kill, and safely transport someone to a distant location, is always good for many wild and crazy adventures. Throw in some bounties of the opposite sex and things really start to get steamy. As a GM, this type of Ranger is a dream come true; don’t let these amazing RPG moments slip past you or your gaming group.

Enough of the variations and themes, let’s talk multi-classing. The Ranger is arguably one of the most versatile classes out there. They have a decent amount of skills and hit dice combined with the ability to survive in combat; however, multi-classing really changes things. Now when I talk about mulit-classing I am focusing on multi-classing in the d20 sense of the word, but the concepts can easily be applied elsewhere. I will start with two of the other traditional “nature oriented” classes, the Druid and the Barbarian.

Both of these seem like a no-brainer, but there are a few things to think about. The Barbarian complements the Ranger in many ways, the increased hit dice combined with extra land speed alone are worth deviating onto that route for a few levels. However, if you are bow shooty not two sword swingy Ranger, the rage class feature heads into a grey area. The stat increases that Rage provides won’t hurt a ranged Ranger, but depending on how your GM plays rages, things could get nasty. I like to see raging Barbarians go cra-cra, I’m not beyond having fellow party members who get too close, getting hit every now and then for flavor. If your GM is anything like me, then you can start to see how the raging ranged Ranger could end badly.  In my game that raging Ranger/Barbarian would rush head long into battle without a second thought, or really any thought, but unless specially made for it, how useful is that bow your ranged Ranger normally carries in a knock down, drag out melee fight? Most savvy players will draw some sort of melee weapon before they go into a rage, but if not, I like to make their character charge in, bow swinging… I generally make the proper firing of ranged weapons difficult for raging characters, not because I hate ranged weapons, but because I think it adds to the mystic of the Barbarian rage. Some ranged rage options are out there floating around, but for me, at my table, rage is a dish best served up close.

The Druid is another interesting combo, if you can live with all of the restrictions. If you and your fellow gamers play the Druid as written, then there will be some real armor and weapons restrictions that must be taken into consideration. Dual wielding scimitars is still really cool, but you might quickly feel the strict limits placed on that class. Leather armor isn’t a bad option, but a chain shirt provides much better protection. Where this combo really pays off is the ability to get an animal companion earlier, making it more powerful at higher levels, and the increased and enhanced spell casting abilities. I like that most Rangers can cast a few spells, but talk about synergistic improvement with the Druid spell list to pick from. These powers work best when foes least expect them and GMs should include the surprised reaction of the parties’ foes when the guy or gal with the bow drops it and summons a lighting storm in the middle of combat.

Next week I will keep going with this and cover the roguish ranger and the lute bearing, song singing Bardic Ranger.  Until then, protect your dice sack, caress your d20s and always make your saving throws.

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