Can anyone help me explain the Ranger’s strong points?

Can anyone help me explain the Ranger’s strong points?

Can anyone help me explain the Ranger’s strong points? I GMed a one-shot last night and someone played a Ranger, and we were all pretty confused about it. Called Shot never came in useful, as most enemies were already aware of the players (I ruled that someone engaged in combat with someone else is also surprised to give him some chances to use it), Hunt & Track didn’t came in useful (though that’s probably campaign-dependent), and both player and GM found the animal companion clunky. There is pretty much no way a Ranger wouldn’t use his animal companion all the time for the increased bonuses, and I, as a GM, found it overly punishing to keep separating the two just to get rid of the bonuses (“your wolf is now surrounded by skeletons, there’s no way he’s able to help you now”). Besides, I was hesitant to injure the companion as he has no HP and harming him would just be a freebie for the players, unless I used the mechanics to screw over the ranger (“the owlbear swipes at your wolf and knocks him unconscious against the wall”).

In general, we both found the Ranger to be unwieldy, clunky, and difficult to find a niche to excel in, but that might be just our lack of experience with the system (I GMed twice, and he was a player for both of these oneshots). I’ll gladly be proven wrong.

17 thoughts on “Can anyone help me explain the Ranger’s strong points?”

  1. This might me harsh, but it sounds to me as if you were not being a fan of the character. The player chose the Ranger because they thought its abilities were cool. They need to use them, but you as GM also need to present situations where the abilities would be useful.

  2. I ran a pregenned oneshot that’s sort of been improvised (group fell apart, I offered to do this), so I didn’t have time to prep. Hunt & Track wasn’t needed at all, and he forgot about his animal companion most of the time because he found the mechanic clunky. I tried encouraging him, and eventually he just kept doing the same thing over and over again as that gave him the bonuses. I tried shaking things up by sometimes separating them, giving a sense of fear for his companion, but in the end, neither of us felt really satisfied with it.

  3. Not having time to prep shouldn’t matter in the slightest.

    Can you explain a bit more about why Hunt & Track wasn’t needed?

    What about the animal companion did the player find clunky?

    What did the player keep doing over and over again just to get bonuses?

  4. I was running the Slave-Pits of Drazhu, so there really wasn’t anything to track. At least, not something he could think of.

    He (and I) just found the fact that the companion has no HP and basically has plot immunity until I put him in danger unwieldy. His ferocities, cunning, and instinct also didn’t really come into play, though that might be just me not really incorporating it into the adventure. I placed the wolf in danger several times just so he could feel he needed to save him, but most of the time, he just sort of got in the way of roleplaying.

    Basically, whenever he attacked, he says “oh yeah, my wolf attacks him as well” for the +2 damage. He didn’t really roleplay it, he just mentioned it for a bonus. I should’ve encouraged him to roleplay it, but by then, he actually got a bit tired of his companion, and that just feels like a waste.

    This was his third DW adventure and he has plenty of roleplay-experience, so it isn’t that he doesn’t know how to roleplay it. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but the animal companion just didn’t really gel with the adventure.

  5. Bottom line, the Ranger and its animal companion are just like everything else in Dungeon World; if you (player or GM) don’t do anything with them, then they won’t be interesting.

    The animal companion not having HP doesn’t mean it has plot immunity, it means any damage it takes is purely narrative. But that doesn’t mean damage doesn’t do anything.

    If the companion’s ferocity, cunning and instinct didn’t come into play, it’s because the player didn’t use them.

    If the player just says “Oh yeah, my wolf attacks too” then it’s your job (as with anything else) to ask them HOW it’s happening.

  6. First of, read the (unofficial) Animal Companion FAQ to get a better handle on it. 

    Secondly, why were all the enemies aware of them beforehand? 

  7. Our group’s Ranger ensures they don’t lose an enemy that withdraws, which is prime material to set up escalating violence for me, the GM!  The party’s ambush wounds The Pretender, but he (6 or less) remounted his stead and escaped into the woods.  Now he’s heading to his hunting camp and throwing together hasty defenses.  Etc

    Most fights that start as a combination of minions and one or two heavy hitters result in the Ranger BLACK(ing) OUT THE SUN and dropping all or most of the minions right off the bat.  He has used his owl familiar to scout out Dragon caves. 

  8. Easy. 

    On a miss you seperate them. Drazhu manages to capture the wolfie then he Gloats and explains the futility of resistance in the face of destiny!

    The party manages to come across the ritual that Drazhu is setting into motion (according to plan) and involves the sacrifice of said wolfie.

    You offer them an opportunity (to use called shot to manage to strike the chains holding wolfie and free him before the knife falls) The cost being the impending sacrifice.

    Christopher Stone-Bush  nails it by reminding you to keep seating it back in the fiction.  Asking ‘how’ something is happening not only gives you details, but also some breathing room to come up with cool stuff on the fly.

  9. Kwinten Koeter I’m with you on the animal companion.  I’ve had 2 rangers in ongoing games, and in both cases the animal companion was meh. Easily forgotten by both me and the player, and when it came to combat and danger it felt fairly arbitrary as to how I’d threaten or harm the companion.  I’d prefer that the companion be handled more like a secondary PC, able to make moves on its own (like Aid or H&S) or on behalf of the ranger (like Discern Realities). 

    But Hunt & Track and Called Shot are gold. Called Shot in particular: even if you don’t use the special effects, the ability to just deal damage at range against an unaware foe is wicked powerful. 

  10. We did treat the Ranger’s companion as a secondary PC, or a loyal hireling. It could do anything that was reasonable for a Wolf you can talk to do. The mechanics just tell you what happens when the companion attacks the same target, etc. Where the mechanics don’t say, you follow the fiction, just like you do for everything else.

  11. Also you don’t have to take the options that make your animal good in combat if you don’t want it to be in combat. You could have a sneaky cat that finds things and is helpful in tracking and discerning realities. Nothing is there that says you need to go for highest damage and combat beast. 

  12. Adrian Brooks I’m not saying you can’t treat it that way. I’m saying that the Animal Companion move doesn’t really help or prompt you to do so; it leaves almost all the work in the players’ (including GMs). I find that it’s really easy to just forget about it as a result. 

  13. In my Zombie Apocalypse one-shot game, I let the Ranger use his called shot against the minion zombies to hit them in their weak spot, or to stun them temporarily by shooting them in the head. (I shook up Zombie tropes; it wasn’t until he rolled a 13 on Volley late in the game that he discovered he needed to shoot them in the lungs instead of the head.)

    From what I’ve read from other forumites, using the Cunning abilities for Track/Discern Reality is the killer AC power, rather than the vicious combat monster (who typically can only fight monsters & guard, since the AC trick number is so low.)

  14. Ran a Ranger and she combined empathy (as OOC the most naturally social person in the party) with a cat companion who was always acting catlike. When the cat would do something cute, it’d remind me to put a clue at cat’s-eye-level.

    When I did a ranger-style session, I made sure there was a big challenge (overland travel through a snow storm, caused by a member of the ranger’s extended family) and the spotlight worked well.

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