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D&D 5E Why are non-caster Ranger themes so popular?

Not necessarily. For starters, you are assuming that a) anyone has the capability to learn and cast spells and b) all spells are universally availble both culturally and to practioners of all styles of magics.
Well, the rules do assume that. Anything else is up to the table.
 

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I mean DMs don't know what is easy, moderately difficult, or hard for a ranger to do. The community doesn't agree on what they are.

That's my point from way back in in the early pages.

We can't even, in a thread about rangers, agree which level a nonspell casting ranger can speak to animals... if ever. And that's the whole problem with the non-spell-casting ranger. Every homebrew nonspellcasting ranger puts features at different levels and different strengths. Without spells as a gauge, we as a community cannot agree what and what level a ranger can do anything rangery.

I already explained this reason.
The D&D fanbase and D&D IP owners have always pushed D&D to be more and more magical and spell based.
This nudges the ranger class to be more magical and spell based.
Rangers of popular fiction are usually not in settings as magical and spell based as D&D.
This creates a hole as fans also want to play ranger characters similar to fiction and nonfiction in D&D.

However due to lack of ranger consensus within the community, reluctance to adjust magic, martial and skill levels of the fandom. the designers reluctance to act on their own due to fear of backlash, and the evermoving churn of new product means the non-spell casting ranger never comes from official channels.

This creates a feedback loop as the missing concept never materializes in a full official form, stays missing, and increases the popularity.
After 18 pages of this, it's pretty clear that your personal position on this is solidly ossified, so I don't know if this is particularly worthwhile. Regardless, I think that you do not give the community enough credit. If a solidly rigorous non-magical task resolution system were actually built, it is entirely possible that the player base would take to it in a heartbeat. As it stands that seems like a great untested proposition. Likewise, although I agree that with 5e the designers initially leaned extra hard into the 'use a spell to accomplish things whenever possible' mentality, they have been slowly expanding the mundane activity rules, quite possibly because the fanbase has been asking for it. I suspect that the further expansion of D&D 5e in 2024 may well include greater expansion down the direction that XGtE and TCoE started.

Regardless, I have no idea why this would matter to the thread at hand, which is not the game designers, official publishers, or anything else. The thread topic seems to be what is the thing that the people who wish for a spell-less ranger actually want, and to the discussion of that, it seems whether the larger community would accept it is largely irrelevant. This category of people can want the thing and it has no bearing on the community at large. It isn't a case of 'you'll get what you want, and it will keep me from getting what I want' because neither this subgroup of gamers, nor the participants of this thread, have that kind of power.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Yep, it is; that's certainly a legitimate point.
But the OP question is why the idea of a spellless ranger is popular, not whether it's practical in D&D. And the answer to that is that a lot of people's idea of "what a ranger is" derives from non-D&D genre works of fiction such as Tolkein. (And many of those works of fiction were huge influences on D&D itself, obviously!)
Plus, rangers exist in real life: park rangers, army rangers, etc.
 

Kinematics

Explorer
Plus, rangers exist in real life: park rangers, army rangers, etc.
Yep.

Army rangers:
The 75th Ranger Regiment encompasses the "Big five philosophy": marksmanship, physical training, medical training, small-unit tactics, and mobility for the success of the individual Ranger and the Ranger mission.
  • Marksmanship = Archery, one of the common weapon choices for a ranger
  • Physical Training = Athletics, climbing, swimming
  • Medical Training = Some means of healing. Unfortunately D&D has a strong leaning towards magical healing, so this becomes a notable source of conflict for a non-caster ranger.
  • Small-unit tactics = A basic D&D party, so nothing particularly special here
  • Mobility = Ignoring difficult terrain, plus climbing and swimming again
Nothing too special, just noting that it lines up reasonably well with some of the basic concepts of the ranger.

Forest rangers:
A forest ranger has a wide range of responsibilities. In this career, you work in a national park, national forest, state park, or other nature preserve. Your job responsibilities include providing safety services for the visitors of the park, which could involve patrol duties, trail maintenance, fire prevention, or insect control. You are also responsible for the protection of the environment inside the park or preserve. You work to maintain the park in its natural state and stop activities such as littering, poaching, or other misuses of the land. In some roles, you may work closely with wildlife, while other positions focus more on visitors.
Again, all pretty much in line with people's idea of the D&D ranger. The D&D ranger may not be helping park visitors, but he is expected to act as the main guide for the party when traveling in the wilderness.

In medieval England, rangers, originally called under-foresters, were the most junior officials employed to "range" through the countryside enforcing the forest law imposed by William the Conqueror to protect the "vert and venison".

A druid may protect nature because she is a part of nature. A ranger is more likely to protect nature because of the problems that disturbing it causes, and to enforce the "laws" protecting the forest. Fire prevention because fires are bad. Trail maintenance to avoid injuries to either travelers or wildlife (because injured wildlife becomes bait for predators or monsters, and you don't want them near traveled trails). And numerous similar cause-and-effect problems where civilization can shoot itself in the foot in its ignorance of how nature works. Also, anti-poaching enforcement.


Beyond that, rangers are trackers and hunters, which brings its own set of implications. Tracking is not just following a physical trail; it's understanding the nature of the beast and the environment. Beyond merely the Survival skill, it's Investigation (information gathering) and Nature (understanding how creatures interact with their environment). It's knowing whether a creature will head downstream or upstream at this time of year, for purposes of shelter or food. It's knowing where a creature will head to feel safe, if it was injured. It's knowing migration patterns and mating seasons of not just the creature, but the animals that the creature may hunt for food. It's knowing where to not go during flood season, or to avoid the soft snow that's likely to trigger an avalanche.

And of course it takes very little to shift all this from 'creature' to 'person'. (Explicitly so when dealing with poachers.) Whether ordinary hunter, monster hunter, or bounty hunter, a ranger's skills are all tuned to helping him accomplish his goals.

Speaking of animal companions, I was trying to come up with a list of all the ranger companions I could think of.

Drizzt: Guenhwyvar (panther)
Grizzly Adams: bear
Old bounty hunter in Battle Angel Alita: cyborg hounds
Lone Ranger: Silver (horse)
Batman: Robin (/s)
Rachel from Worm: dogs

And it occurred to me that Rachel's dogs, when transformed, are basically using the Wildshape mechanic. Their large forms can be destroyed, but the dogs themselves can safely escape the evaporating husk. It would be interesting to apply this mechanic to the beastmaster's animal companion.


As for the relation with magic, the only thing that a ranger commonly does that really needs magic is healing. And 'needs' in the sense that D&D doesn't really allow for healing others without magic, or a magic-like ability (Lay on Hands). Of course that's not really a strict rule, and the exceptions give some interesting ideas of how else it might get implemented.

So, setting aside healing, the only other thing that a ranger does that 'needs' magic are the various arrow spells that are spells solely for the sake of limiting them via concentration and number of spells known.

So spellcasting solves the 'problem' of both healing and mechanics for special arrow attacks. It's not that ranger needs to be a spellcaster; it's that it's a convenient game mechanism for giving ranger some archery and healing features. It just also causes a rift in the perception and expectation that people have of the core concept of the class.

So I'd say that people want a non-caster ranger because casting isn't a part of the class concept; it's only a mechanic that was tacked on for convenience. Some rangers may find spellcasting to be an actually useful tool, but it really doesn't feel like something that defines the ranger class itself.
 

Also Texas Rangers, who are broad-scope park rangers drafted into generalized law enforcement, and are now the sate police force.

IMO, the ranger trope is "wilderness warrior", and neither wilderness nor warrior requires magic, therefore it doesn't follow that rangers need magic. Ergo, nonmagical rangers make sense in the setting/game/genre, so of course someone wants to play it.

Paladin are "holy warriors," but in DnD "holy" is a kind of magic, so paladins are obviously spellcasters (or at least magic users.)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So I'd say that people want a non-caster ranger because casting isn't a part of the class concept
Well, they want a non-caster ranger because they don't see it as part of the concept, but it (or at least overt magic) is for those of us who prefer a casting ranger.

And techbased special arrow attacks certainly don't fit, so unless one proposes they just get battlemaster manuevers with some paint, I don't see a non-magical way to do those that feels like a ranger, and...tbh I don't think the ranger needs trick shots, nor a focus on ranged combat. (I do think they should drop fighting styles and instead make all rangers competent at range and up close)

TBH, I can't see any way within 5e's mechanics to do both without using an expanded "ki ability" style format with both magical and non-magical abilities to choose from, or allowing the ranger to learn poultices and traps and the like that are fueled by spell slots but aren't necessarily overtly magical.

I do agree that knowing animals and their behaviors and needs is a necessary component of the class, and I think that at the very least Natural Explorer should include "and creatures native to the favored terrain" in it's description of benefits.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
IMO, the ranger trope is "wilderness warrior", and neither wilderness nor warrior requires magic, therefore it doesn't follow that rangers need magic.
Really? DnD wilderness isn't necessarily magical? The place where fairies and satyrs and forest gnomes and ettercaps and dispacer beasts dwell? Where hags make their homes and the trees can come to life and whole forests, from ground to canopy, can be overtly magical?

This is where I get stuck with the nonmagical ranger. The most dangerous stuff in the wilderness is magical and/or requires magic to effectively combat. The DND ranger not having magic is like not giving US Marshal firearms.
 

Scribe

Hero
  • Marksmanship = Archery, one of the common weapon choices for a ranger
  • Physical Training = Athletics, climbing, swimming
  • Medical Training = Some means of healing. Unfortunately D&D has a strong leaning towards magical healing, so this becomes a notable source of conflict for a non-caster ranger.
  • Small-unit tactics = A basic D&D party, so nothing particularly special here
  • Mobility = Ignoring difficult terrain, plus climbing and swimming again
Nothing too special, just noting that it lines up reasonably well with some of the basic concepts of the ranger.

Had another think on this while walking the dog and I've come to believe this is the best basis for the class, even 'non-caster' Healing.

Some kind of baseline should cover all of those items, with subclass specialization if one desires, to improve the (imo) main lines of
  1. Archer
  2. Pet/Companion
  3. Hunter
  4. Caster
What I finally came around too, is you can do magical things, without casting, and even in a 'physical' way, if you account for it via potions or scrolls, right?

If we can heal in such a manner already, and the class is already understood to be able to do some things which are 'not natural' it shouldn't be too much of a break, just have it be something reasonable, at N times per long rest = Prof Bonus and off you go.

Now, if I can wrap my head around the Warlord's healing being more than a Temporary HP boost (or is that sufficient?)...I'm off to World Hunger next.
 

niklinna

Looking for group
What I finally came around too, is you can do magical things, without casting, and even in a 'physical' way, if you account for it via potions or scrolls, right?
Yes, for me that's what I imagine. I just don't want my Ranger doing 1-action spellcasts. Their magic stuff should be items crafted from natural objects and such: Poultices, potions, runes, imbued ammo, and the like.
 
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Scribe

Hero
Yes, for me that's what I imagine. I just don't want a Ranger doing 1-action spellcasts. Their magic stuff should be objects crafted from natural objects and such: Poultices, potions, runes, imbued ammo, and the like.
Yeah, however one constructs the fluff around it, when I squint at it long enough, I can get there.

Just takes me a bit longer to come around on some ideas, I'm unfortunately stubborn. :ROFLMAO:
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yes, for me that's what I imagine. I just don't want a Ranger doing 1-action spellcasts. Their magic stuff should be objects crafted from natural objects and such: Poultices, potions, runes, imbued ammo, and the like.
What about overtly magical defenses against magic? So, freedom of movement as a class feature, ability to speak intelligibly while paralyzed, some manner of bonus to saves vs charm, etc?

Basically, “what are the biggest magical effects that getting hit by while alone is a total loss condition?” Followed by “how can Rangers be more resilient against those effects?”

And also “poultices” and traps and such. Maybe wards? Like, doesn’t it makes sense that the people who train to protect wilderness from the trampling of civilization and also protect civilized people from blundering into dire consequences in the wilderness, and protect wilds and folk from nature’s great monsters, to be able to ward stuff?

Like, a simple one is creating a warded encampment that is easy to miss, hard to find, creatures have to make Int saves to walk into the camp (and so mundane beasts will have a penalty to the save but humanoid ambushers have a shot at success). At higher levels the camp also protects against weather and extreme temperatures.
 

Greg K

Hero
I have no issue with non-magical healing. I have seen several tv shows and movies where the hunter/trapper/tribal person treated someone's wounds, illness, or poison using herbs, poultices, are some kind of herbal broth ("Here, drink this. Now, rest").
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I have no issue with non-magical healing. I have seen several tv shows and movies where the hunter/trapper/tribal person treated someone's wounds, illness, or poison using herbs, poultices, are some kind of herbal broth ("Here, drink this. Now, rest").
This is another thing the bard steals from the Ranger. Why isn’t the Ranger making rests more restorative?

I wonder how close we can get to a spell-less Ranger cobbling together bits of 5e lol

Lots of existing Ranger stuff, bring high level features in much earlier (hide as a bonus action, hide in plain sight) bulking up others (hide in plain sight, natural explorer) make others prof bonus per day and describe non-magically (primeval awareness, certain spell effects like “large group bonus to stealth”, and “focus on one critter until it dies”), add all the plausibly non magical tashas feature to the class as additions not replacements, then steal some bits from other classes (increased movement speed, ability to shake off charm effect as an action, improve group healing in short rest), and from feats (the entire cooking feat, maybe skulker), and see what it looks like. It may not need much from there.

Could give it some dice that can be used to limit and randomize the efficacy of stuff like poultices, “bane” poisons*, traps, etc.

Le sigh…I may have to write this up
 


Minigiant

Legend
If artificer becomes core in 6e, I would love to see rangers make with infusions. Ranger could gather ordinary, rare, or magical herbs, rocks and animal bits, and alter items.


Camoflauge Armor
Druid Berries
Healing Poultice
Poison Neutralizer
Venom Cream
Weatherproof Armor

Magical effects could be explained as the ranger findiing naturally occurring magical plants and stones in the wild. The ranger isn't casting lightning arrow, they made an arrow with a fey touched tree branch that was stuck by lightning.

Maybe even favored terrain would give a free known infusion when in that terrain. Having Favored Terrain Swamp means you can always fine black dragon's teeth to make Acid Arrows.
For example at level 2, you can craft Common Potions. 5th level Uncommon Potions, 9th for Rare Potion, 13th for Very Rare Potions, 17th Legendary Potions.
 
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Really? DnD wilderness isn't necessarily magical? The place where fairies and satyrs and forest gnomes and ettercaps and dispacer beasts dwell? Where hags make their homes and the trees can come to life and whole forests, from ground to canopy, can be overtly magical?

This is where I get stuck with the nonmagical ranger. The most dangerous stuff in the wilderness is magical and/or requires magic to effectively combat. The DND ranger not having magic is like not giving US Marshal firearms.
What do you mean by "requires magic to effectively combat?" Does it require spellcasting? Other explicitly magical class features? Magic weapons?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
What do you mean by "requires magic to effectively combat?" Does it require spellcasting? Other explicitly magical class features? Magic weapons?
I chose my words correctly. Many creatures in the wild require magic to effectively combat. Especially on a reliable basis, and especially without access to a whole squad to other combatants to help you.

Thus, the Ranger must be magic. It's absurd to imagine a Ranger in any published DnD world with no magic actually surviving the job.
 

Greg K

Hero
I chose my words correctly. Many creatures in the wild require magic to effectively combat. Especially on a reliable basis, and especially without access to a whole squad to other combatants to help you.

Thus, the Ranger must be magic. It's absurd to imagine a Ranger in any published DnD world with no magic actually surviving the job.
That is your opinion, not fact
 

Greg K

Hero
Well, the rules do assume that. Anything else is up to the table.
Only because WOTC doubled down on forcing Forgotten Realms into everythingis built (Have I mentioned before my dislike for both FR, the story team, and the fantasy that WOTC pushes on top of the mechanics?). Outside of that, it comes down to individual tables, the classes and subclasses that the DM allows and what monsters the DM uses (just because things are in the MM does not mean they exist in an individual setting).
 

Tinker-TDC

Explorer
I chose my words correctly. Many creatures in the wild require magic to effectively combat. Especially on a reliable basis, and especially without access to a whole squad to other combatants to help you.

Thus, the Ranger must be magic. It's absurd to imagine a Ranger in any published DnD world with no magic actually surviving the job.
Not trying to put words in your mouth, but are you implying that a Fighter or Rogue should be basically incapable of wilderness survival?
 

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