Rambling about Rangers.

Rambling about Rangers.

Rambling about Rangers.

On a recent DW, Jason Cordova mentioned that a player had gotten into the Ranger playbook but wasn’t all that interested in the animal companion move. Which, of course, was a warning trigger because that’s a pretty defining piece of the Ranger. The animal companion has bugged me for a long time.

For one thing, that animal companion comes from a pretty clear source – Drizzt. Right? I mean Aragorn didn’t have a Guenhwyvar analogue. And those are probably the two most quintessential rangers in all of fiction. If you can think of others, name then and say “yes” or “no” to whether they had an animal friend that was integral to their story.

For another, I feel like the Ranger isn’t “shooty” enough. I’d like to see more arrow tricks. I’ve seen an alt Ranger book that takes more of this “huntsman” approach, which is cool.

What I would like to see is a replacement move based on channeling one’s self through an animal (the way it works in Assassin’s Apprentice or Game of Thrones). But I would actually probably use it to replace the Druid’s shapeshifter move, and then replace the ranger’s animal move with something related to hunting and shooting and foraging. To give the Druid back some power (because the shapeshifter move is powerful!), maybe advanced versions of the move let you stay in the animal longer or give you animalistic traits (senses, strength, grace) based on your favored animal.


37 thoughts on “Rambling about Rangers.”

  1. Paride Papadia Score! You are right. So, as Jack Gulick put it, Drizzt is not to blame. (Though I’d say the bit about G being a magic item vs. a companion is a technicality.)

  2. Ray Otus Wait. IS Paride Papadia right? I don’t see animal companions in 1e. // Yep. Just searched it. The phrase “animal companion” does not appear. The two words appear in relatively close proximity in the magic user’s familiar spell. That’s it.

  3. Cursory research – druids got animal companions in 2e, rangers in 3.x. (After Drizzt. And you’ll note that’s also when they became two-weapon fighters, right?)

  4. 1e remains to this day the RPG I have the most total hours of play in.

    I have 0 recollection of Rangers getting pets.

    Maybe, by default as part of acquiring Druid spells at high level, but certainly not to start.

  5. Ralph Mazza Not to mention that I can’t think of a fictional ranger before DD who had an animal companion. The closest is maybe Andre Norton’s Daybreak 2250 (explorer dude with a sentient cat) or Philip Jose Farmer’s Dark is the Sun (explorer dude with a sentient wolf). Both involved telepathy of some kind, neither read as a “ranger” (e.g. woodsman).

  6. Rangers got the 2-weapon fighting in 2nd edition. They were getting special followers in AD&D 1st edition, which included animals and woodland creatures. AD&D 1e DMG p. 16-17 Ranger followers.

  7. Followers were just populating the stronghold you could acquire at high levels. They weren’t adventuring buddies.

    If you visited the rangers wilderness lodge there might be some woodland creatures ambling about as semi-cooperative NPC types. But that’s not at all the same.

  8. Paride Papadia I can’t find a clear history, but it seems Salvatore ran with the two-weapon fighting from 2e, which was an addition to give the ranger some kind of niche in the party re: combat. But yeah, I’m with Ralph Mazza on the animal companion. I think the animal buddy came after (and because of) Drizzt. The bit you cited is practically a footnote and has nothing to do with playing a ranger in AD&D. For one thing, it’s in the DMG and not the PHB. So players didn’t even really get to say if they got animal followers or not. They might not have even known it was a possibility.

  9. Ray Otus That is just the way AD&D 1e handled things. The followers’ table of the Ranger is at page 29 of the AD&D 2e PHB (1st print): for each follower, there’s approximately 50% chance of them being an animal.

  10. Paride Papadia Ok. But that’s pretty clearly not the same as a special animal companion, right? (I mean, it’s not worth arguing about – I hope that’s not what we are doing. That’s just how I see it.) Nathan Roberts True, true. But I’m so laaaaaazy. 🙂 Seriously, though, that would be the best way to go.

  11. I always think of Lady Hawke when I think of the Ranger. Rutger Hauer wore padded armor, very Ranger like, and used a sword and a crossbow. The hawk would aid him in combat. He would also transform into a wolf at night (sure, it was a curse, but…).

    The Beastmaster is also kind of a cross between a barbarian and a ranger with animal companions.

  12. Jim Jones Hmmm. It’s interesting that I don’t think of either of these as a ranger. I suppose some of the Elfquest characters would fit though, and they had animal companions.

  13. Ray Otus well, they had wolf mounts. So really their D&D class was “goblin”.

    …Which is kind of interesting when you ponder it. They thought of themselves as elves…but to the humans they were treated like D&D treats goblins…head canon adjusting…

  14. Gosh… I totally thought Paride Papadia had it. I feel like several of my friends played rangers with animal followers before Drizzt as if that was a regular thing.

    I’m always happy to see alternatives but I still think animal companions are super cool. In the next issue of SB we play with the idea of just swapping out all the moves related to a certain aspect of the DW norm. In our case, we’re presenting a thief that doesn’t have anything to do with poison. It would be pretty easy to do that with the ranger. Just lift anything to with the companion and replace it with a series of moves that makes more sense for your concept.

  15. I’ve found a lot of success with simply making the Animal Companion an optional background choice, rather than a mandatory core move for the Ranger. I think you could do the same for two-weapon fighting, if not remove that angle entirely from the class – give that focus to the Thief instead, with their daggers and other light weapons.

    That’d give you some more design space to play with and develop aspects like hunting, tracking, and traveling or being a master marksman, with the main progression choice basically being whether you were more Aragorn or more Robin Hood.

    The Ranger class as-is exists in this rather odd space in Dungeon World anyway, bumping sides with the Druid on a few of their moves. The DnD equivalent never seemed to really find its own identity either; it wouldn’t hurt to give them some focus.

  16. Logan Howard I use a similar approach at my tables some times. I had a friend who wanted to play a blind ranger who saw through his animal companion’s eyes, so I let him have the druid’s “Eyes of the Tiger” move.

    In another game a friend wanted to be a monster-hunting fighter, so I let him have Bardic Lore (Bestiary) and in that same game I had a girl who wanted to be a bard, but hated Arcane Art, so we dropped it and gave her druid’s “Elemental Mastery”. I think her instrument was a horn and she performed primarily wind magic. I don’t remember exactly now, but we all had a lot of fun in that game (4 or 5 sessions).

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with playing around with the playbooks a bit, as long as you don’t step on any character’s toes.

  17. Robert Finamore I don’t get it, there’s no 6-10 moves to pick from? Your only option is to take moves from another achetype? Or should the right column of moves be 6-10?

  18. Victor Julio Hurtado Yep. I just started it. I haven’t downloaded your thing yet, but I got the link and will soon. I have to pay the tax on a few other things I downloaded first. 🙂

  19. Ray Otus Its simple enough that it looks good on mobile, a bit too plain for desktop. Its easy to read on both. I have some free time so if you want, I can do a quick search for elegant but simple templates that might suit your blog and email them to you.

  20. Victor Julio Hurtado That would be cool. I use Blogger, not WordPress though, if that matters. They have some basic templates. I probably just need to shop around a bit more in the app and tweak whatever I land on. I agree, it looks better on mobile than on-screen.

  21. I’m a big fan of focusing on tracking and traps, or preparation, for a ranger over any of the combat based focuses (dual wielding, archery, pets). It’s far more unique and provides a strong base for a sort of “wilderness Batman” archetype.

    All that other stuff is great as an extra.

    Except dual wielding. Dual wielding is completely random.

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