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What is the Ranger to you?

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
I think that’s a big part of the ranger’s identity crisis. It has gotten too caught up in trying to imitate past versions of itself that it has lost sight of the archetype it ostensibly represents.
The Ranger is the low-hanging fruit or tip of the iceberg or insert tired metaphor of choice:
because the whole game has that goin' on.
 

Paul Farquhar

Explorer
And that’s totally fair. But given the evolution of D&D’s design since then, it would seem to me that demand for rangers to be spellcasters in modern editions has more to do with reproducing the 1e ranger than it does reproducing Aragorn.

I think that’s a big part of the ranger’s identity crisis. It has gotten too caught up in trying to imitate past versions of itself that it has lost sight of the archetype it ostensibly represents.
I think the identity crisis is more to due with "ranger" being a familiar occupation in the real world. Most of us have come across rangers who protect National Parks, or Texas Rangers - frontier lawmen. But the D&D ranger wasn't based on either of those real life rangers, it was based on a particular ranger in a particular novel.
 

Charlaquin

Explorer
Magic in Tolkien's universe is a very important topic, and if you get confused about it you could really take away some really weird impressions - like the poor early confused reviewers that thought the whole thing was an allegory of WWII.

'Magic' per se in Tolkien's universe doesn't exist. All the 'wise' characters affirm this. What is perceived by the unlearned as magic is one of two things: advanced technology or else a natural gift that the person was created with (or sometimes both at the same time). So for example, at the beginning of The Hobbit, the narrator affirms that the magic of Hobbits is that they can move around very quietly and secretly: "There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off." Essentially, what seems magical to "large stupid folk" is ordinary stealth to a Hobbit, because they are naturally gifted when it comes to stealth.

The same thing applies to the Hobbits interactions with Dwarves, Elves, and to a large extent even wizards. To the Hobbits, Gandalf's magic is recognizable to us as just extraordinary talent with fireworks - a product of technology. His real 'magic' he keeps hidden. To the hobbits, the toys made by the Dwarves are 'magical', but we might well recognize them as windup toys and other objects of advanced mechanical skill. To Sam, the rope made by the Elves seems magical, but when he asks them about it, they have no idea what he means and answer, "Well, it's certainly well made. If we had known the craft delighted you, we could have taught you much." When characters in the stories talk about "magic", they are mostly talking about something that they themselves can't do and can't even imagine how it is done. But, some one can teach you how it is done, if you have a talent for it.

When Galadriel is asked about 'magic' she expresses confusion over what the word even means, and hints that she finds the word not particularly useful because it is such an umbrella term that it covers things which are completely unalike. However, she tells Sam that she will show him "the magic of Galadriel", by which she means what she can do with her knowledge and authority.

Authority is a big deal in the Tolkien universe. Beings in it can do things because they have the authority to do them. All the authority in the universe is delegated by its creator, and beings can choose to use or misuse that authority. Maiar, elves, and humans each have a certain sort of authority over the natural world, which allows them to reshape the world to suit their designs. Humans call their magic 'technology' because they understand it, but it's not really that different than what elves or maiar can do. Maiar and elves just do it a bit more directly because they are more plugged into the world, while humans are not native to it but simply sojourning in it. Gandalf's magic as a "wizard" turns out to mostly be his authority as a spiritual being over certain aspects of the universe, combined with authority granted to him as a vassal of more powerful spiritual beings for the purpose of the mission (symbolized by his staff), combined with the authority he gets from wielding a Ring of Power (more on that in a bit), combined with his deep education. Gandalf's "spells of opening" if inspected turn out to be more like what we'd call "passwords" - proof you have the authority you claim to have, and when he finally does open the door it is explicitly a "pass word" that he uses.

The closest thing to 'magic' in the D&D sense in D&D is that you are allowed to pour a part of your authority into the things you make, transferring your authority to them. This happens at a natural level, of for example a son inheriting his father's authority, or at the level of technology where you can bottle the essence of authority and invest it in an object. Essentially, if you make anything with enough love and appreciation for what you are making, if you care enough it make your best, if you put a lot of emotion into the making of it, and you make it well then this happens, and the result is a 'magic' item. The Rings of Power are the most salient and powerful examples of this, as they essentially bottle up a portion of the authority of a whole race and focus and amplify it, so that the wearer of the ring inherits a huge portion of the authority and natural gifts while amplifying his own. But there is still some sense in which they are just multi-dimensional technological artifacts - Clarke-tech if you will.

So whenever Tolkien is talking about magic, he's usually talking about knowledge and technology. And he wants to distinguish sharply good uses of technology that increase comfort, security, and beauty compared to the misuse of technology which is short sighted and destructive. He compares the good use of technology to the Medieval notion of "Natural Philosophy" (or perhaps Theurgy), the White Magic that you could learn by studying the world and using your natural authority rightly. And he compares the misuse of technology - even if it's something that's literally technology like a steam engine (such as Sarauman builds to run the Mill at bywater) or gunpowder (such as the blasting powder Saruman uses to destroy part of the wall at Helms Deep) when its used for destructive purposes - to the medieval notion of Goëtia. Goëtia was black magic that came by communing with evil spirits and trying to transcend the natural bounds of your own authority so that you could rule over things you weren't meant to or in ways you weren't meant to. Goëtia represents the temptation to do things that you know you ought not do, and is embodied in The One Ring, which is Sauron's attempt to transcend his own authority by stealing everyone else's authority and hording it as his own, effectively making everyone and everything else in the world his slave. This is why Galadriel is so confused by the word "magic" because it joins together two things that are for her opposites. She knows how it is all done, and to her its two very different 'crafts'.

Aragorn's "magic" is simply a really good education in healing from Elrond, combined with natural sciences (natural compounds from plants), combined with the fact that as King he has inherited a certain amount of authority over his subjects which, if they are in their natural (good) state, they'll be inclined to obey. So Aragorn can go and call back Faramir's despondent broken spirit, and Faramir's spirit would be more inclined to obey Aragorn, because Aragorn is his good and rightful king.

If you get this wrong, then you think that the story is somehow anti-reason or anti-technology, when Tolkien is really just critiquing what people use technology for ('rings' in his opinion, which is what he referred to the 'atomic bomb' as in his letters) rather than what they should use it for (blessings, if you will).
This is certainly more thorough and well-stayed than my own post, but it’s what I was trying to get at. Rangers needing spellcasting to be like Aragorn is kind of nonsense in my opinion because the little bit of magic Aragorn does is nothing like spell casting in D&D.

Also, worth noting that in an unsent letter to one of his friends and proofreaders, Tolkien did clarify that neither magia nor goetia is inherently good or evil, that both are capable of being used for good (improving life) or for evil (dominating other free beings). The distinction he drew between them was not that one was good and the other evil, but that magia produced real, tangible results in the world, while goetia was subtle and influenced others in some way.
 

Yaarel

Explorer
I think the identity crisis is more to due with "ranger" being a familiar occupation in the real world. Most of us have come across rangers who protect National Parks, or Texas Rangers - frontier lawmen. But the D&D ranger wasn't based on either of those real life rangers, it was based on a particular ranger in a particular novel.
Yeah. In my mind, ‘Ranger’ means:

1) tough-smart covert ops with medium armor plus sword (or gun)
2) wilderness police

For me, D&D blurs these two into:

3) forest hunters, survivalists
4) whence by extension, primal warriors with
4a) a spear
4b) or a bow

In sum, the Ranger is first and foremost, nonmagical, with strong speedy stealth tactics and-or nature reverence. Being both Strength *AND* Stealth might be a distinctive Ranger thing.

Magic is an afterthought.

Increasingly further away on my radar are:

5) Druid spells
6) gishy combat spells
7) dual-weapon Dexterity warrior
8) animal companion
9) monster companion
10) fey planes walker
11) underdark terrain

12) funny enough, favored enemy didnt even occur to me until now − being a dumb concept
 

Gadget

Explorer
@Toledo

That's an interesting take on the Ranger you DM has. I can see where he's coming from, but I did not mean to imply by my post that think the Ranger should be "better" than other martials; that was one thing from 1E I think we can put behind us, where the Ranger (and Paladin) were Fighter++. "Congratulations, you rolled insanely well for stats, you get the additional benefit of qualifying for this super special class with all these abilities! Tell them what else they've won Don..."

I was more trying to express that the Ranger should have a nebulous belonging to a group that has a purpose; others have expressed it as a guardians, or protectors. I can get behind that, though I'm opposed to the Druidic Paladin that I've seen others here espouse. I don't see Rangers as champions of Nature, merely operators that are comfortable in and familiar with the natural environment.

You also bring up a good point in that many game don't focus much exploration/wilderness part of adventuring, other than to hand wave most of it. This too, is a problem the Ranger concept struggles with in most games, imho.
 
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BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
I think the identity crisis is more to due with "ranger" being a familiar occupation in the real world. Most of us have come across rangers who protect National Parks, or Texas Rangers - frontier lawmen. But the D&D ranger wasn't based on either of those real life rangers, it was based on a particular ranger in a particular novel.
And yet that particular novel Ranger does have something in common with those examples of real life Rangers: years spent on the frontier guarding civilization/civilized people from the dangers of the wild.

Edit: I think that is the very definition of Ranging that inspired Tolkien to use the word for the Rangers of Arnor and the Rangers of Ithilien.
 
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Xeviat

Explorer
And yet that particular novel Ranger does have something in common with those examples of real life Rangers: years spent on the frontier guarding civilization/civilized people from the dangers of the wild.

Edit: I think that is the very definition of Ranging that inspired Tolkien to use the word for the Rangers of Arnor and the Rangers of Ithilien.

After reading a lot here, this seems to be the crux of the Ranger. It only speaks so much to abilities. It could be done with a fighter/rogue for non-magical settings. D&D is a magical setting so I like it that way. Being close to nature, whether you are protecting people from it, protecting it from people, or emulating it's hunters, rangers are somewhere between the civilized and the wild.
 

Kobold Avenger

Explorer
I think the identity crisis is more to due with "ranger" being a familiar occupation in the real world. Most of us have come across rangers who protect National Parks, or Texas Rangers - frontier lawmen. But the D&D ranger wasn't based on either of those real life rangers, it was based on a particular ranger in a particular novel.
But there's also the idea that Bears can Park Rangers thinking about more modern stories...
 

Draegn

Explorer
But the paladin is specifically based around the knight in shining armor. Who are your archetypal rangers?
I would debate that the paladin is not based entirely on the "knight in shinning armour", for, if you consider Arthurian legend many of the characters therein are problematic in their actions and not fitting what a paladin is in game.

There is not a particular figure to define the archetypal ranger. If you consider both a paladin and ranger to be defenders of the land and people, a paladin would do so openly. The paladin might stand in a square in front of a cathedral and call for a crusade. A ranger would operate more discretely. Not everyone would know that in times of trouble the folk of the woodlands gather at a sacred place and from there the chosen few and those with them go out to meet the threat.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I would debate that the paladin is not based entirely on the "knight in shinning armour",
Oath bound heroes of legend and myth are definitely not all knight in shining armor nor are their oaths monotonic ... Cuh Culaine, Sampson and (depending on presentation) Lancelot. Actually the armor seems kind of more variable than other bits at times. The oath of Cuh Cuhlaine is totemic for instance.

But there definitely seems source material for it.
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
And that’s totally fair. But given the evolution of D&D’s design since then, it would seem to me that demand for rangers to be spellcasters in modern editions has more to do with reproducing the 1e ranger than it does reproducing Aragorn.

I think that’s a big part of the ranger’s identity crisis. It has gotten too caught up in trying to imitate past versions of itself that it has lost sight of the archetype it ostensibly represents.
I disagree entirely. I only ever played 1e long after playing 2e, 3.5, and various non dnd related games, and didn't find anything about it particularly enjoyable.

LOTR, on the other hand, was an immense formative factor in my development. I read it before puberty had hit full swing. It helped shape my outlook on life.

DnD Aragorn should have spells because DnD is more directly and profoundly magical than Middle Earth. In DnD, the ultimate bond with nature is represented by the Druid (which is where I'd look to model Gandalf, were I inclined to do so), which is a spellcaster. Therefor natural magic is done via spells. Therefor Aragorn would have spells in DnD.

Because the Ranger isn't just a woodsman, no matter what nonsense they put in the phb this time around.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
First and foremost, the Ranger needs to be good at what he does, whatever that is.

Okay, so you say spells are central to the concept? Well, make it a full caster, like the Bard, then!

It is the feeling of compromise that dooms the Ranger; the cloying smell of designed-by-committee!
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
First and foremost, the Ranger needs to be good at what he does, whatever that is.

Okay, so you say spells are central to the concept? Well, make it a full caster, like the Bard, then!

It is the feeling of compromise that dooms the Ranger; the cloying smell of designed-by-committee!
I love the smell of committee design in the morning.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I disagree entirely. I only ever played 1e long after playing 2e, 3.5, and various non dnd related games, and didn't find anything about it particularly enjoyable.

LOTR, on the other hand, was an immense formative factor in my development. I read it before puberty had hit full swing. It helped shape my outlook on life.

DnD Aragorn should have spells because DnD is more directly and profoundly magical than Middle Earth. In DnD, the ultimate bond with nature
Aragorn in a high fantasy summons an army of dead using Kings Magic and the Blood Oaths that are integral to it... heck Tolkeins subtle flavor is pretty close to that.
Not thinking the Returned king has Nature magic as his primary field and flavor (though he could have some)
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
After reading a lot here, this seems to be the crux of the Ranger. It only speaks so much to abilities. It could be done with a fighter/rogue for non-magical settings. D&D is a magical setting so I like it that way. Being close to nature, whether you are protecting people from it, protecting it from people, or emulating it's hunters, rangers are somewhere between the civilized and the wild.
And to me the ranger has to be the best at those things. If the Ranger was relegated to be the Pet master class, but was being outdone in nature related exploration by the Rogue Scout or Fighter Scout, then what you have is a pet master, not a Ranger.
 

Xeviat

Explorer
And to me the ranger has to be the best at those things. If the Ranger was relegated to be the Pet master class, but was being outdone in nature related exploration by the Rogue Scout or Fighter Scout, then what you have is a pet master, not a Ranger.

Definitely. The ranger, at a minimum, should be getting expertise in nature and survival, since the rogue can get that easily. Stealth and perception too, again since the rogue can get 4 expertises. I wouldn't mind the ranger overlapping with the rogue, as they're similar in my opinion

People keep saying they're okay with the fighter being better than a ranger in a fair fight. I'm okay with that too. That says to me that a ranger is part wilderness rogue and should be more of an "expert" class. Not that rangers can't be damage dealers, rogues are, just that they're skirmishers and should have things that make hit and run or ranged attacking better.

I just like pets. I can see I'm not in the majority on that.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
If the Ranger was relegated to be the Pet master class, but was being outdone in nature related exploration by the Rogue Scout or Fighter Scout, then what you have is a pet master, not a Ranger.
You could almost call it... the Hunter

BROOM

*lifts sunglasses*
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
Aragorn in a high fantasy summons an army of dead using Kings Magic and the Blood Oaths that are integral to it... heck Tolkeins subtle flavor is pretty close to that.
Not thinking the Returned king has Nature magic as his primary field and flavor (though he could have some)
Sure, really that is the sort of thing that makes 4e Paragon paths and epic destinies so wonderful. That King’s Magic stuff isn’t a level one class concept, mostly because it shouldn’t be bound to one class.

But it in terms of what about Aragorn can be used to helps define a class, it’s a person who can listen to the rumble of the earth and learn the movements of creatures miles away, be deadly with an array of weapons, know some secrets of the Wise, but not in depth, and who stalks the boundaries between the wild and civilization to protect both and keep a watchful eye for the agents of The Enemy.

In DnD, a lot of that translates to nature based spellcasting. Because you could make it some kind of non spell based magic, but that presents needless complexity. In a game that already has Druids, it’s simpler and gets to the same goal to just use spellcasting and write up a handful of unique spells.
 

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