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Tinkering with the Ranger

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Part One

 

Alright, I'm not satisfied with the 3.x ranger. Why? Multiple reasons:

 

1. It's the only full-BAB class that receives less than a d10 for HD. Even the hexblade gets a d10. Why is this important? First, it is a matter of design. 3 separate hit die values for classes is ridiculous IMO. Second, the purpose of all full-BAB classes is to fill the role of combat specialist in the traditional 4-member party. With a d8/level and being limited to light armor, the ranger can't fulfill this role. The 3.5 PHB even describes the 3.5 ranger's role as "secondary combatant and opportunity attacker". If this is what they want, go whole-hog and reduce the ranger's BAB to 3/4 to match his HD. They couldn't do this, though, as they knew that the ranger had to be good at combat. Oh, and I don't buy the whole, "It's a throwback to 1st Edition" argument, as the differences in HP in 1E between a ranger and a fighter were significantly less than in 3.5E.

 

2. The ranger is a hack job of a class, design-wise. Virtually all of its abilities come from other classes, of which the druid and rogue have the most influence. The ranger feels and plays like some kind of warrior (not fighter, but the NPC class)/druid/rogue hybrid, and not like a class that has a distinctive role to play in a party. Oh, sure, it gets Track, but anyone can get Track and some, like the barbarian, can do it better, and it recieves limited bonuses to tracking that don't make the ability shine.

 

3. The ranger's signature ability, Favored Enemy, sucks. There's no other way to put it, really. I love the concept behind it, and on paper it looks like the coolest, most useful ability ever, but in practice it is atrocious. Why is it atrocious? Simple: its utility is entire dependent upon DM fiat. Sure, the player makes a choice as to what his FEs are, but the occurance of FEs in an adventure is up to the DM. The DM shouldn't be forced to include FEs in every adventure just so that the ranger can feel useful, if doing so goes against the DMs story or makes other players feel left out. No other class, by the way, has its signature ability totally dependent upon the DM.

 

4. Virtual feats are a cheap attempt at balancing. I don't like them. Either give free full feats (preferrably with choice), or give special abilities that one cannot mimic with feats. A good example of both approaches is the monk. The monk essentially receives Improved Unarmed Strike at first level, but his unarmed attack is significantly better than anyone else's strike, as evidenced by the fact that his damage starts at more than 1d3 and ends up being 2d10 (for medium monks). The monk also receives 2 feats, chosen from 4 choices (bad sentence structure, but, hey, it works), that he doesn't have to meet the prereqs for and doesn't have any restrictions on. The ranger's, on the other hand, artificially limit him to light armor, and, in the case of the melee combat style, force him into a role which the PHB admits he is not qualified for.

 

5. Animal Companions are, IMO, a wasted ability. At half Effective Caster Level, all the AC is good for is scout, and if you get bonuses to Spot and Listen, why do you need the AC to do it for you? They're ineffective in combat, and most likely will get killed shortly after entering combat. None of the famous rangers in D&D novels, or otherwise, save Elbryan, have Animal Companions. True, Drizzt has Guenhyvvar, and the Justicar has Cinders, but Guen is a figurine of wondrous power and Cinders is a sentient hellhound pelt (and didn't become Jus's traveling companion until he'd been skinned). Ren o' the Blade didn't have one, Tanis didn't, Riverwind didn't, Strider didn't, and so on and so forth. It's a bit of a shame that it's such a useless ability for the ranger, as it was originally a ranger-only ability (in 2e).

 

6. Hide in Plain Sight breaks the rule that no class should be able to sneak better than the rogue. This ability also has the net effect of turning the ranger into some kind of assassin, rather than the warrior that he is.

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Part Two

 

So, how do you fix this broken class? To be honest, I no longer know. I had a fix which has now been rendered obsolete by the scout class from Complete Adventurer (which does what the ranger should do much better than the ranger, IMO). I have, however, collected a few ideas, and would love to hear some feedback on them. BTW, these are all balanced with the idea of upping the HD to d10.

 

1. Remove combat style and HiPS. Alter FE so that one only has to pick type (not subtype in the case of humanoids and outsiders) and give a bonus to saves equal to FE bonus at 17th level (Favored Enemy mastery). This makes FE more appealing and more useful, but the ranger will still only get his benefits with 1/3 of the creature types he encounters. This is the smallest of the changes that I've come up with.

 

2. Remove combat style, HiPS, FE, Animal Companion, Evasion, and the good Reflex save. Instead, give the Whirling Frenzy variant Rage ability from UA to the ranger while in light or no armor and d10 HD. When using WF, the ranger will get an extra attack, bonus to AC, and bonus to Reflex saves. At 14th level and beyond, he will also gain Evasion while whirling around. This gives the ranger an ability that he can choose when to use, gives him an extra attack (which the designers of 3.5 deem necessary for the ranger), and gives him some of his current bonuses when using this ability. This also makes the ranger a sleek, fast fighting machine, who rushes in when enemies appear and works to quickly eliminate them. Suddenly, the ranger is the sleek alternative to the barbarian, and a viable choice for a combatant type in a four person party. Of course, the Whirling Frenzy name would have to be changed, as Frenzy doesn't quite fit any of the rangers from fiction or reality. Whatever it will be called, make it a result of special training on the part of rangers.

 

3. Remove combat style, FE, Evasion, Animal Companion, and HiPS. Bump HD to d10, and give the ranger a smite ability, usable x number of times a day. Call it "Ranger Strike", and have it do y amount of damage while also bestowing some kind of penalty to the target at higher levels (such as save vs Fort or be blinded for two rounds). Damage will be minimal, so as to balance the status effects. This has the advantage of representing special training (which is what FE is supposed to represent) and presenting the ranger as a guerilla fighter without being a wilderness rogue. Of course, how much damage, how many times per day, and what status effects should be applied I have no clue as yet.

 

Anyway, these are my three main ideas that still work. I prefer the third, but the second would probably work best right now. I'm not looking to make the ranger uber or anything, just give him his own identity and make him more fun for players while making sense from a class design standpoint. I have, in each case, attempted to remove powerful abilities in an attempt to balance the new abilities.

 

I would, of course, appreciate feedback, both positive and negative, about each of the proposed changes.

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What I like about the Ranger is that it's a full-AB class with a wide assortment of skills. I think the d8 hit die is a fair trade for 6 skill points and a very nice selection of class skills.

The only thing I really don't like about the Ranger is the favoured enemy; I'd rather have something like Favoured Terrain, that gives you a bonus to certain skill checks and combat rolls.


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Thats not a bad point Phosphor, would like to know where the tradition of Rangers getting FE came from, FE seems more like an assassin bonus rather than Rangers. But thats only because I am viewing the Ranger class as a goodie goodie roll.

 

:)

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Thats not a bad point Phosphor, would like to know where the tradition of Rangers getting FE came from, FE seems more like an assassin bonus rather than Rangers. But thats only because I am viewing the Ranger class as a goodie goodie roll.

 

:)

 

 

In 1st Edition, rangers added damage equivalent to their level to damage against "giant-class enemies", which ran the gamut from orcs to trolls.

 

Phos, Unearthed Arcana has a variant called Favored Terrain, which gives skill bonuses to the ranger when in his terrain.

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Thinking of maybe a different approach. The ranger is supposed to be a tough character, surviving in the wilderness when no one else is able to, going up against big baddies either solo or in small groups and emerging victorious, and so on. Perhaps the problem, then, lies not with Favored Enemy in particular, but in focusing the ranger's class ability on offensive abilities. Maybe instead of pure offensive abilities like Combat Style and Favored Enemy, the ranger needs support and defensive abilities to represent his toughness and self-reliance. Maybe make some extraordinary, and others supernatural. Perhaps some of these abilities may be useful in combat, but be useful outside of combat as well, like some kind of stat-boosting ability. This would keep the barbarian and the fighter as the pure damage classes, the paladin as tank, and the ranger as survivor.

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I think that the Ranger unfortunately doesn't provide a whole lot of incentive to stay in it for more than a few levels. It does however serve well as a stepping stone to several p-classes, already taking two levels of fighter but still need one of the combat feats ranger provides? Take ranger and get some extra skill points too, want to take a p-class that has some high skill requirements and a BAB requirement? Take a level of ranger (this works with swashbuckler too). I really think the easiest way to fix the ranger is dump the ranger spellcasting or raise the power level of the ranger spell list. As it is now the scout class in complete adventurer at least provides a very good alternative to the ranger.

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The Ranger too is very much a role-playing class. Looking at it as just a breakdown of number and abilities doesn't do justice to the class, as playing a Ranger does require a rather specific outlook and "character".

I think there is incentive to stick with the class, as a high level Ranger is quite formidable. It just takes a while to get there but the payoff is well worth it, I think.


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Well after 20+ years of playing this game seeing the ranger go through many variations being the most changed class period, this is my take....

 

*d8 HD is fine (used to get 2d8 at first level, that could be an option)

 

*Favoured Enemy is set properly for how it improves (+1 damage/5 levels) but IMO they should get to chose a favoured enemy every 3 levels.

 

*I love the favoured terrain idea mentioned, limit it to one choosing out of the basic enviorments (Forest, desert, urban, swamp, mountain, artic, grassland/plains and aquatic). Make it follow the same progression as the favoured enemy granting the bonus to AB, skills and saves.

 

*I have never been a fan of hide in plain sight for any class other than the SD(a prestiege class in any event) so IMO it goes.

 

*Grant a limited d6 sneak attack starting at level 4 and improving every 4 levels there after.

 

*Wouldn't change their spells at all, they are the most limited spell casters for a reason and the spells they have are for minor aid only.

 

*I like what was done in the 3.5 as far as their weapon style choices.

 

 

That's my take, enjoy heh

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks

Finny

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