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D&D 5E The Dual Wielding Ranger: How Aragorn, Drizzt, and Dual-Wielding Led to the Ranger's Loss of Identity


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Undrave

Hero
now that just makes them even less cool.
I think that was the point.
Maybe a little? I honestly think 'sits at the border of two worlds' is a decent hook for the class. They could have easily defined archetypes based on what border the Ranger is apt at defending. Then add some combat style feature to pick from so you can mix and match and voila!

My biggest gripe with the ranger is the whole Beastmaster schtick. I find that if your pet isn't a summoned creature it runs into all sorts of issues that could easily be solved by instead treating the pet as an extra PC. Maybe a 'beast' sidekick class with its own progression and everything. Then any character could have a beast companion if they wanted to, but the Ranger would be designed with a combat style that allow it to partner well with another character, doing combination attacks and stuff, so they would be the best at having a sidekick. If you want a Beast companion, you just gotta be willing to do the extra work and the DM just needs to basically balance their encounter with an extra PC in mind.
 

jayoungr

Legend
I think Tolkien is trying to use "hardy" to generally indicate "capable of surviving on any terrain because he knows how to endure, what measures to take", rather than like "literally resistant to cold/fire" here, though.
Quite possibly. He's slippery like that with his use of words.
 



Minigiant

Legend
Maybe a little? I honestly think 'sits at the border of two worlds' is a decent hook for the class. They could have easily defined archetypes based on what border the Ranger is apt at defending. Then add some combat style feature to pick from so you can mix and match and voila!

My biggest gripe with the ranger is the whole Beastmaster schtick. I find that if your pet isn't a summoned creature it runs into all sorts of issues that could easily be solved by instead treating the pet as an extra PC. Maybe a 'beast' sidekick class with its own progression and everything. Then any character could have a beast companion if they wanted to, but the Ranger would be designed with a combat style that allow it to partner well with another character, doing combination attacks and stuff, so they would be the best at having a sidekick. If you want a Beast companion, you just gotta be willing to do the extra work and the DM just needs to basically balance their encounter with an extra PC in mind.

Beastmaster ranger was a result of 3e Druid being OP OP.

Most D&D clones, MMOs, and fantasy games shifted beast companions to ranger from druids after Druidzilla. also 3e ranger was weak so ranger players utilized their weak beast buddy more whereas druids could easily forget they exist
 


It's pretty much the opposite! You can't subvert a trope that hasn't been established!
Clerics have a clear enough basic identity: fighting priests. You can subvert that by making them not part of a church or changing how they fight, but the basic trope still exists.

A wizard without a spellbook won't make people forget that wizards usually have spellbooks.

But rangers just have "often found on forests" as a core trope, which is... a weak thing to base a DnD class on.
 

Clerics have a clear enough basic identity: fighting priests. You can subvert that by making them not part of a church or changing how they fight, but the basic trope still exists.

A wizard without a spellbook won't make people forget that wizards usually have spellbooks.

But rangers just have "often found on forests" as a core trope, which is... a weak thing to base a DnD class on.
so what are the bitts of ranger we care about? like the things people could logically like about it separated out?
 


steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Clerics have a clear enough basic identity: fighting priests. You can subvert that by making them not part of a church or changing how they fight, but the basic trope still exists.

A wizard without a spellbook won't make people forget that wizards usually have spellbooks.

But rangers just have "often found on forests" as a core trope, which is... a weak thing to base a DnD class on.
Well, not really, when you look at the context. When the Ranger was created, as the forest Aragorn guy...well, 1) was being based on Aragorn, who was -as was Middle Earth- accustomed to fairly temperate foresty places.
2) D&D of the day was essentially in wooded, temperate terrain. Nearly universally. Deserts and jungles were rare, odd and just plain "alien" types of terrain/cultures to find. The people from such areas were exotic and mysterious. The D&D "default" was for a land of forests, mountains, rolling hills and fields -for the elves, dwarves, and halflings to live in, if nothing else- basically temperate/four seasons (that seemed nearly always to be in spring, summer, or early fall) in nature.

Given that, basing a class archetype on "a guy good at living/surviving/adventuring in forests" seems like a pretty central and solid idea.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
To the OP: You say in your title that Aragorn and a few other things "led to the ranger's loss of identity." But the ranger's original identity was just ... Aragorn. Is that really an identity to lose?

The original Fischer version of the Ranger was, quite literally, an attempt to translate Strider/Aragorn into a playable class. Everything from being really tough (double hit dice at first level, high minimum constitution) to the evolution from Outdoorsy/Woodsman to Knight/Lord (the abilities starting with tracking and a restriction on carrying stuff, and evolving into casting spells, using crystal balls, and holding down a castle).

But once that archetype (I'M ARAGORN, AND YOU'RE NOT!) was established, you had the essential issues with the class identity. The AD&D (1e) Ranger just carried forth the Aragorn concept, and from there it just got more muddled.

You had the addition of archery in UA, but then it was untethered to using dexterity- why have a heavily armored, strength/con fighter with no other advantage be required to use a bow? So it didn't really take.

Then there was the complete and total revamp in 2e, which turned the Ranger into a lightly-armored, dex martial build that relies on dual wielding and missile weapons (the first real martial dex build in the core rules- no, the 1e Monk does not count). Confusingly, it switched out the intelligence requirement (and MU/Druid spells) for Priest spells as well.

Usually there is some continuity of class or concept in the TSR-era archetypes to build on; but the Ranger was a serious swerve; once you start adding in other bits (PETS!) it gets more confusing.

It's just difficult to ascertain what the core of the class is- I suppose "something something fight-y with a dash of outdoors, with outdoors being construed broadly" is about as narrow as you can go.
 

Well, not really, when you look at the context. When the Ranger was created, as the forest Aragorn guy...well, 1) was being based on Aragorn, who was -as was Middle Earth- accustomed to fairly temperate foresty places.
2) D&D of the day was essentially in wooded, temperate terrain. Nearly universally. Deserts and jungles were rare, odd and just plain "alien" types of terrain/cultures to find. The people from such areas were exotic and mysterious. The D&D "default" was for a land of forests, mountains, rolling hills and fields -for the elves, dwarves, and halflings to live in, if nothing else- basically temperate/four seasons (that seemed nearly always to be in spring, summer, or early fall) in nature.

Given that, basing a class archetype on "a guy good at living/surviving/adventuring in forests" seems like a pretty central and solid idea.
The thing is: I'm not playing OD&D in the 70's. So something that works in that specific contexts is interesting, but not useful to me.

Or, based on how the class evolved, to many other people either.
 

Minigiant

Legend
I think another problem which Rangers is many don't imagine what a ranger would be in a D&D world and instead transplant characters wholesale only to be upset.

Aragon is just accidentally a good D&D ranger. Toughness, tracking, skill with divination, and healing are good aspects for a dude who sits in a hut in the middle of nowhere and stabs orcs, giants, and cultists in the brains every 3 days.

Now if your rangers are supposed to man castles on a giant ice wall, you might want different skills.
 

jayoungr

Legend
The original Fischer version of the Ranger was, quite literally, an attempt to translate Strider/Aragorn into a playable class. Everything from being really tough (double hit dice at first level, high minimum constitution) to the evolution from Outdoorsy/Woodsman to Knight/Lord (the abilities starting with tracking and a restriction on carrying stuff, and evolving into casting spells, using crystal balls, and holding down a castle).

But once that archetype (I'M ARAGORN, AND YOU'RE NOT!) was established, you had the essential issues with the class identity.
That's the thing, though: I wouldn't call Aragorn an archetype. An archetype should have multiple recognizable examples that are variations on the theme--like, the thief archetype encompasses the highwayman, the cat burglar, the cutpurse, and all manner of styles from the rough-and-tumble to the smooth and socially polished.

But Aragorn is one specific character, and although he spawned a host of imitators, that's not the same thing as being an archetype. Furthermore, as you note in the OP, his abilities are all over the place. He's a woodsy tracker AND a semi-magical healer AND a charismatic leader (when he's not a gruff outsider) AND a heavily-armored fighter.

So, can you say that a class whose schtick is literally just "emulate this individual character's highly idiosyncratic skillset" truly has an identity?
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
So, can you say that a class whose schtick is literally just "emulate this individual character's highly idiosyncratic skillset" truly has an identity?
Yes - and quite obviously so. A class based on an individual has an obvious identity. The question is - is it generalizable enough to be a playable archetype for characters who aren't that individual? Given the popularity of the ranger back in 1e, I'd say that's a yes.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
I've thought for a long time now that at least since 3e they've settled into a "pick your ranger type: Aragorn, Legolas, or Drizzt" for the Ranger's identity.
 

Voadam

Legend
2) D&D of the day was essentially in wooded, temperate terrain. Nearly universally.
I don't know about that. Literally the 2nd module TSR sold took you out of temperate climates and into a Glacial Rift.

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Einlanzer0

Explorer
The main problem with rangers is nothing other than peoples' fixation on the idea that classes must be mechanically "pure" and unique in some significant way, which is unnecessary in cooperative tabletop gaming and it's kind of a new trend inspired at least in part by video game logic (I'm not dissing gamers, I am one myself).

Wizard vs sorcerer is a good example of this - they arguably have more thematic overlap than fighters and rangers, but because the subtle differences in how they handle spells run straight up through the spine of each class, players don't have as hard a time accepting them as separate classes.

In contrast, rangers do not have this type of hard line with fighters or any other classes - they instead serve up a grab bag of warrior, beastmaster, archer, scout, and nature priest character archetype options drawing inspiration from multiple sources. It's the thematic grouping of these options in a single class that makes them unique, not a single overarching mechanic, and there is nothing wrong with that, just like how there is nothing wrong with the idea of a fully baked witch class that sits alongside the wizard or sorcerer with some variant options. People just think there is for some reason and it leads to all of these philosophical discussions about the ranger's place in D&D - guess what? Rangers are exactly as easy or hard to justify as at least 6 of the other 12 classes. Ultimately, all that matters is that the ranger has a cohesive set of competitive options and is fun to play. I think they did a great job with the ranger concept in 5e, just a sloppy job with the execution, which has unfortunately helped feed this type of debate.
 
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Einlanzer0

Explorer
Well, not really, when you look at the context. When the Ranger was created, as the forest Aragorn guy...well, 1) was being based on Aragorn, who was -as was Middle Earth- accustomed to fairly temperate foresty places.
2) D&D of the day was essentially in wooded, temperate terrain. Nearly universally. Deserts and jungles were rare, odd and just plain "alien" types of terrain/cultures to find. The people from such areas were exotic and mysterious. The D&D "default" was for a land of forests, mountains, rolling hills and fields -for the elves, dwarves, and halflings to live in, if nothing else- basically temperate/four seasons (that seemed nearly always to be in spring, summer, or early fall) in nature.

Given that, basing a class archetype on "a guy good at living/surviving/adventuring in forests" seems like a pretty central and solid idea.

Not only that, but the ranger has expanded alongside this shift - which is why you have subclasses like planar stalkers and gloomwalkers in 5e.

Honestly, being an expert wandering loner with unusually good tracking/hunting/survival skills is very much a solid core identity for a D&D class.
 

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