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What is the Ranger to you?

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
When I was young, a Ranger was Aragorn. When I came back to D&D in 2009 with 4E, a Ranger became a nature-loving Striker dishing out enormous damage, and that's what I prefer now.
And Aragorn became a Warlord with nature skills, martial practices or ritual magic (to cash in an oath marshalling troops and talk to animals and similar tricks not to cast spells like a wizard or druid when he finally hits name level ), also some wicked epic destinies.
 

Charlaquin

Explorer
So, I’ve noticed that a lot of people who point to Aragorn as their quintessential embodiment of the ranger archetype also say that spell casting is an essential feature of the ranger class. This has always confused me, given that Aragorn never... uh... casts spells. Anyone who feels this way care to shed some light on this for me?
 

Paul Farquhar

Explorer
So, I’ve noticed that a lot of people who point to Aragorn as their quintessential embodiment of the ranger archetype also say that spell casting is an essential feature of the ranger class. This has always confused me, given that Aragorn never... uh... casts spells. Anyone who feels this way care to shed some light on this for me?
He uses healing magic on Frodo, and in The Houses of Healing. (note that no one really "casts" spells in LotR (the book), apart from one light spell from Gandalf. Galadriel even takes Sam to task for expecting magic to work that way.)

But in 1st edition rangers didn't get spells till around 8th level, and since most characters where expected to retire around level 9, that was a very minor feature very late in the game.
 

Leatherhead

Adventurer
Rangers are example number 3 on a list I like to call "Fighters aren't allowed to do cool things."

Which is legitimately the only definition I can consistently apply to them other than "That one person who lives outside of town, closer than the barbarians, and talks to us more than the warlocks/witches or the druids."
 

Charlaquin

Explorer
He uses healing magic on Frodo, and in The Houses of Healing.
Yeah, but he does that by using athelas boiled in water. That’s not spellcasting, that’s proficiency with an herbalism Kit.

note that no one really "casts" spells in LotR (the book), apart from one light spell from Gandalf. Galadriel even takes Sam to task for expecting magic to work that way.
Yeah, but it does work that way in D&D. I would expect a D&D representation of Gandalf to cast spells, but not a D&D representation of Aragorn.
 

Paul Farquhar

Explorer
Yeah, but he does that by using athelas boiled in water. That’s not spellcasting, that’s proficiency with an herbalism Kit.


Yeah, but it does work that way in D&D. I would expect a D&D representation of Gandalf to cast spells, but not a D&D representation of Aragorn.
In Tolkien's Middle Earth no one "casts spells", not Aragorn, and not Gandalf. Magic is more of a subtle influence. There is no less justification in rendering Aragorn's abilities as spells (which are a combination of special knowledge and birthright, and can't be done by anyone else with the same herbs) as rendering Gandalf's abilities as spells. In the book, he fights with a sword, not with spells.
 

Li Shenron

Adventurer
As others have pointed out, the ranger can be a few different things. I think the class started out as a mix of a few related things, but grew out of control. It actually a good poster child for why I've become even more disenchanted by a class-based system -- I think it's stupid to use classes as bundles of abilities without archetypes, but I've found myself doing so more and more. Since the question makes no sense unless you're talking archetype, I'll go with that train of thought.
I strongly agree with everything in your post, but I want to point out that the Ranger does have an archetype and that's why it can be a class. Nothing wrong with a class-less system, but the Ranger works fine in D&D.

I don't blame the game if lots of people just look at the mechanics instead of looking at the bigger picture, think that the Ranger is just a bunch of lesser abilities, then proceed to envision an even more watered-down concept based on a couple of skills or weapon choices, and finally conclude there is no need for a Ranger in the game... it's a problem they created themselves. And pretty much the same thing can be done (and is done, in fact) on every class, see the periodic rambling about wizards and sorcerer begin too similar, druids should be just a kind of clerics, bards should be just multiclass combinations, barbarians should be just a background, paladins not much different than fighter/cleric... but all these are just part of the hobby of bored gamers to try and re-think parts of the games when they aren't playing it.

So it's not really that a class-based system is stupid, or that a class-less system is stupid. What is stupid is wasting time trying to turn a class-based system into class-less or a class-less system into class-based.

So, I’ve noticed that a lot of people who point to Aragorn as their quintessential embodiment of the ranger archetype also say that spell casting is an essential feature of the ranger class. This has always confused me, given that Aragorn never... uh... casts spells. Anyone who feels this way care to shed some light on this for me?
As I wrote in my post, for me the Ranger = Aragorn + spells.

Even tho I said Aragorn/Strider, I should have said Dunedain in general, not just a single character.

The spells addition to the Aragorn baseline is important because it tunes the archetype to the more magical world of D&D, compared to the less-magical world of Tolkien, and because it emphasizes the mystical-otherwordly nature of Rangers, thus strenghtening the archetype.

But it really matters which spells. If it was a subset of druidic spells it would not be good at all, and in fact when it happens, it dilutes the Ranger archetype into "part-time druid" and even forces some religious aspect which is not needed and just gets in the way. If it's a mix of different classes spells it's only slightly better, but still it suggests the Ranger is just scraping up random stuff from others, instead of having something of her own.

Have a more unique spells list as in 5e, and the Ranger herself gains a stronger identity. It's not anymore like the Ranger learning other's abilities here and there, it's everybody else who will not be able to do the same stuff unless they pick up a whole Ranger's life.

Then of course, allow multiclassing in the game, and you can just throw everything out of the window, but that's for another topic.
 

Lanefan

Hero
Someone upthread said it best - the Ranger is to the Druid what the Paladin is to the Cleric: the warrior side of the coin; only the Ranger doesn't need much if any religious aspect to back it up.

And when I say warrior, I do mean warrior: somebody has to like the concept of the heavy-metal tank Ranger who uses his extra hit points as a damage sponge for the party, and that's me* - stand in toe-to-toe melee with the other side's heavies instead of this namby-pamby dancing around half-naked with two weapons stuff.

When they want to do things other than combat, e.g. track or scout, they can take the armour off. That said, the class should be flexible enough that a light Robin-Hood-like Ranger works too.

* - maybe because the very first character I ever played was just this: a heavy Ranger. Still one of my favourite character concepts.

I don't mind some limited magic use but the trick is to base it on herbcraft - and in all of its editons the game's still never really given us a decent take on magical herbs. There was an early Dragon article that kind of waved at the idea, but they didn't follow up - yet this should be the basis for the Ranger's magic.

And fer gawds sake lose the stupid pets. And the smart pets while you're at it. Can't stand 'em. Don't see any of Robin's merry men hauling bears and tigers behind 'em, do ya? :)
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Not in the 5e structure.

Better to develop a secondary system of maneuvers that can replace the Spellcasting trait optionally, and give the ranger spell and maneuver options that are purpose built to support the companion, and plenty that aren’t, so that people can play with or without both spells and companion.
Not sure what you mean or how you think the "class structure" comes into play.

By the sound of it, what you're suggesting is too complex for 5E, but again, not sure what you mean.

Anyway, complexity and options detract from the bigger picture, that WotC simply needs to design a class with abilities that actually feels powerful for once, and the players will embrace it.

The core issue of the Ranger is that nobody likes a class that feels constrained, limited with odd wonky restrictions for no good purpose...
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
So, I’ve noticed that a lot of people who point to Aragorn as their quintessential embodiment of the ranger archetype also say that spell casting is an essential feature of the ranger class. This has always confused me, given that Aragorn never... uh... casts spells. Anyone who feels this way care to shed some light on this for me?
Yeah no, casting a few weak-ass spells have never felt core to me.

I would gladly give them up, especially since they're likely rated far higher than their actual worth. Put that design space into actual combat ability for master or companion any day!
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Rangers are example number 3 on a list I like to call "Fighters aren't allowed to do cool things."
Yeah, Aragorn is obviously a Fighter who just happened to take the Survival and Herbalism proficiencies.

Don't get me wrong, I definitely think there's design space for a "Ranger", but basing it so heavily on Strider-Aragorn is awfully narrow...
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Rangers are example number 3 on a list I like to call "Fighters aren't allowed to do cool things."
Bingo But I bet some consider it a longer list and arguably could even include the Warlord (sort of).

I am interested in hearing your take on the details.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
So, I’ve noticed that a lot of people who point to Aragorn as their quintessential embodiment of the ranger archetype also say that spell casting is an essential feature of the ranger class. This has always confused me, given that Aragorn never... uh... casts spells. Anyone who feels this way care to shed some light on this for me?
And even talking animal languages was something anyone in that world could use or learn. The D&D ranger was spell using entirely because the games designers acted like it had no design space for non-magic using characters doing nice things which has been mentioned... so they had to have spells.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
One might postulate that the magic of oaths which affected characters even across the gulf of death was "Kings Magic" - I have a martial practice called Marshal Troops which arguably could be leveraged if one wanted a mechanical element for that plot fix but the dude saved up huge amounts of karma LOL. Kings magic is also asserted in story as to why using just a weed and simple handling which any healer could do - was miraculously effective and not just him being an herbalist or ranger but rather of him being something else entirely different.

The tolkien ranger is a Dunedain its a race akin to half elf. In a story where elves are ageless.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Yeah no, casting a few weak-ass spells have never felt core to me.

I would gladly give them up, especially since they're likely rated far higher than their actual worth. Put that design space into actual combat ability for master or companion any day!
Agreed - In the early game it was pasted on at a level that was too high... they were low impact in comparison to every single thing happening they were low level effects too little to late.
 
As others have pointed out, the ranger can be a few different things. I think the class started out as a mix of a few related things, but grew out of control. It actually a good poster child for why I've become even more disenchanted by a class-based system -- I think it's stupid to use classes as bundles of abilities without archetypes, but I've found myself doing so more and more.
I can see where you are coming from, but in my experience with high detail rules heavy point buy systems they tend to make for terrible games. I can think of some ways around that such as character burners, but class based systems have one huge advantage - they enforce breadth of skill that makes it much easier to play ensemble games with everyone contributing.

What I tend to think you are talking about is more the result of bad class design than it is an inherent problem with class based systems.

In my own game, I had huge problems with the Ranger because it was inherently too narrow, and my big thing in classes is, "Could you have a party of 4-6 characters where everyone took this class and they all felt different?" If you have a class that is an animal handling wilderness magic using archer, you've already made so many choices for the player as to what their character was like that the answer to that question is probably 'no'.

So what I did was strip Ranger down to what I thought was it's bare essentials, and that for me was the idea of Hunter - this is someone that specializes in finding and killing particular things. So in this view of things, Von Helsing is a Hunter, because he's the archetypal Undead Hunter. And Jason Bourne is also a Hunter, because he's trained as an Assassin - to kill his fellow human beings. And of course Bounty Hunters are hunters, and so potentially is a police detective - Javier from Les Miserables is a Hunter. All of these ideas and characters open up for the class, if you strip the class down a bit and allow the player and not the system to make the choices for the class.

The thing is, with just a little bit of work, you can make a 'Hunter' into anything that a Ranger can be, either with build choices or by multi-classing. Want to be a druidic paladin? Multi-class into a spell-casting class to pick up some minor spells, or have a sub-class or both. Want to be death on wheels? Emphasis your combat ability and maybe multiclass into fighter. What to be a twf master, well that's basically 'death on wheels' with some particular build choices. Want to be a wilder-rogue, or to put another name on it, a 'scout'? Well, emphasis your stealth capabilities and maybe multi-class into rogue. Want to be an animal handler? Sure, you have the skill set to become good at that and all that is needed is some appropriate build choices whether feats or subclass.

Just imagine if in 5e the core class was Hunter and not Ranger, just how many different new and exciting subclass possibilities that would open up.

As an aside, I've always assumed Aragorn was mostly a Paladin who'd picked up some woodsman type skills. He was after-all in disguise, and the rangers in the story were basically outcast Cavaliers - men of noble birth and blood that were forced by circumstances to live in the wilds. Aragorn spends 2/3rds of the books wearing mail, fighting battles, leading other men into battle, and riding horses. If you read his background, he spent most of his life as a 'Black Knight' - his disguise in more civilized lands. Consider also that Aragorn has the ability to 'lay on hands', as any good medieval High King would (thus the 'hands of the king are the hands of a healer'). I've always felt the Ranger class was a really bad translation of what Tolkien was going for, obviously inspired though it was by the book.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
ideally, none of those would have a level of Ranger, except perhaps the trapper. Rogues and fighters with the right skills and backgrounds cover those characters.
So your argument is "because some other class could also fulfill the role, these can not be done with Ranger? That's trivially seen as incorrect.

The Ranger isn’t just a hunter or scout or woodsman. They’re a champion of nature and defender of the free folk. That’s why we use the term Ranger rather than scout or hunter. The core element of Tolkien rangers that has always been and should always be part of the identity of the class is that purpose. Being not just a simple scout, but a guardian as well.
I could accept your premise if there was a Ranger oath section like the Paladin has.

Baring that, I'll have to go with the fluff provided in the first several sections of the ranger, including the "Creating a Ranger" section, which clearly gives examples outside of this narrow view.

While any particular setting or table might have specific roles for the classes, in terms of D&D 5e the PHB clearly gives examples of rangers who are outside this view. Rangers can be everything you say - but there are plenty of other valid Rangers that are not.
 

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