I mostly play online nowadays, but when I do play in person it’s usually with my in-laws. We all get together and play through small arcs in various settings like Alfheim or Bearcats. No matter the setting though, each of them has preferences on the types of characters they play. My sister-in-law, for example, always ends up playing a Hunter, an Archer, or a Scout character because she enjoys playing as a Ranger like Aragorn.
So I thought instead of mixing and matching between CORE and MASTER EDITION, I’d just make a custom character type. I’d try to include some of the things I’ve seen her do regularly at the table along with a few new options that will, hopefully, be fun to try out!
Note: Like with anything custom, I’ll most likely be tweaking things as we playtest and get feedback. I’ll add any updates or learnings to the bottom of this post. So if anything looks super broken at first, that’s okay. I have a plan!
As I was putting this all together, I tried to lean more into the Archer/Scout side of things from CORE instead of the Hunter from Master Edition. The unique movement and archery skills were what I saw my players wanting instead of more “druidy” features that often come with Rangers. Nothing really in the way of nature magic or animal companionship here. I’ll leave that for the Priests and Druids.
FOCUS FIRE: A very consistent approach for my Ranger player is to stand in the back and take shots at various targets. Focus Fire gives them a benefit when they’re attacking the same enemy over and over again, but it may not be as useful with swarms. In those cases, I imagine they’ll be switching their targets up pretty often.
RANGER SENSE: I decided to go with gathering insight on the TIMER because it was a way to get that “tracker” intuition without always having to be tracking something. I mean how often does that really come up? Now they get to “feel” what might be coming and warn the party before it does.
SIDESTEP: I’m very excited but also very scared of this ability! It was originally going to be with a HARD DEX check, but I was advised that that could be pretty cheesy as they constantly roll to dodge. So I adjusted to once per session and Mastery could give them that HARD DEX once we get a feel for how to challenge a player who can easily step out of the way.
QUICK BOOTS: A variation on the “Winged Boots” in CORE. With the ability to move, take an action, and move again, a Ranger with Quick Boots will be flying around the map as they move in and out of where they need to. It gives them a lot of good movement, but we’ll see what they do when they get trapped.
NIGHTWOOD BOW: It’s a shotgun without being a shotgun essentially. But I also wanted to provoke the Ranger with a bonus when they get in CLOSE. Most of the time, they will stay out of range, but with the Nightwood Bow, maybe they’d risk diving into the fray. Similar to the WARHAMMER in Master Edition, once three points of DEF were taken from the enemy, I’d just make every attack against them EASY for everyone.
SURVIVAL KIT: This is another one that originally was very different. The Survival Kit was going to grant temporary HP at the beginning of each session, but upon review, it didn’t feel very good. Yeah, it was extra health but it was selfish and didn’t help the party very much. So I switched it to RECOVERING with WISDOM. A small tweak on a very familiar mechanic.
EVEN STRONGER: Even though it’s found in every Character Type, Even Stronger gives me an opportunity to define a repeatable milestone. My player loved unique arrows and so having a milestone for that just made sense. All they have to do is work with me on what kind of arrows they want and with only six, I’m going to be pretty comfortable with whatever crazy idea they have. Limited use always makes it easier to push the boundaries.
EXPERT AIM: Why should the Shadow and their daggers be the only ones that get to crit on an 18, 19, or 20? They shouldn’t be! That’s why Expert Aim expands the critical criteria to natural 18, 19, and 20s.
BLEND IN: This is another one that was inspired by how my player liked to play. They always seemed to want to stealth into position or other parts of the room. Now they can step out for a ROUND and reappear wherever they want. Sort of like a modified Blip Module. The only downside is they are out for a ROUND while they get into position. Hopefully, they can time it right.
DEFLECT: I see this happen all the time in movies. Someone is about to hit and the ally throws a knife or shoots an arrow, it hits the enemy right in the hand, and their friend is saved! That’s what I wanted Deflect to do. With them having to see the attack and make the HARD DEX check, I’m not too concerned with allowing it once per encounter.
HERBAL REMEDY: Aragorn was able to use King’s Foil to help Frodo while he was poisoned, so why not do the same thing with a little healing? BASIC effort should keep it from becoming the main source of health regeneration but it can certainly help in a pinch. Plus what are they going to do in a place that doesn’t have plants around?
BUSHWHACK: I think this one is just fun to say. With the focus on movement, being able to avoid any difficult terrain that might come up would be a great boon for the Ranger. Whether it’s thorns, vines, ice, or mud, they’re used to traversing difficult areas with ease.
DEFENDER’S CLOAK: I have a picture in my mind of how I want this work, but I also think it’s the one most likely to get changed. I imagine the Ranger jumping in to save a friend who is in danger and putting themselves between the threat. With that added DEFENSE, they have a better chance of resisting damage, but if something does get through I want it to hurt both of them. I’m keeping a close eye on this one to see if it’s easy to track and makes sense for my players.
Obviously, I’m going to learn a lot more by seeing the Ranger in action, but I have a good idea of what is going to happen. Firstly, movement is going to be a game changer, and the key to really challenging the Ranger. Finding ways to limit their movement, place Blocking Terrain, or trap them will be some of my main methods. Then I’ve got their off-turn abilities. I’m hoping that none of these will interrupt the flow of the game too much and I can leave my player to manage them. I don’t want anything more than a hiccup when Sidestep gets used. I did make sure not to include things that would grant extra actions like the Speed Quiver from CORE. That was one of my player’s favorite items, but it did bog things down as they fired off three, four, and sometimes even five hits in a row. None of that.
And that’s it for now! I’d love feedback and thoughts on how you’d build a Ranger. If you end up trying this out in one of your own games, let me know how it goes. Playtesting is the best and I’ll leave any details I find when we try it out below.