I confess I’ve never really liked the Ranger in Rolemaster. It’s not that I dislike the archetype: who wouldn’t want to be Robin Hood, Legolas, or Drizzt? The problem lies in the implementation.
The RM2 Ranger had a great set of utility spells (to help with Stalking and Hiding, Movement, survival in the wilderness, etc.), but very little that buffed him in combat; indeed, a fighter was better than a Ranger with a bow. Shouldn’t Robin Hood be better with a bow than Lancelot? Also, many of the Ranger’s spells were also duplicated, in stronger or weaker versions, on the Open and Closed Channeling lists, so there wasn’t very much that was unique. Nor is Rolemaster alone in having an underwhelming Ranger: D&D has missed the mark sometimes too. While the 4e version of the Ranger was strong, the 5e version has been one of the most severely criticized aspects of 5e, and Wizards has tried several times to use supplemental material to fix the class. Opinion on it is still quite mixed.
So how can we revive the Ranger? I would say the key is adding and modifying the Ranger Base spells. These are easier to distinguish than other aspects of a class, because in Rolemaster, other classes can buy the same weapon skills and wilderness skills and even Ambush too. The spells, though, are unique.
I am happy to report that RMu has added a new spell list for Rangers (Beastly Ways) that is quite good, especially in its higher level spells. The Ranger uses these spells to mimic creatures: Rabbit Reflexes give a bonus to initiative, while Boar Strength gives a big strength buff, for example.
The new RMu Ranger list is both useful and flavorful, but one thing is still lacking: a list to buff his bow. Happily, supplements and later editions to Rolemaster do point the way to our Holy Grail. I direct your attention first and foremost to the list Wyrd Bow, published in the Guild Companion in 2000. This list is based on the Druid’s own Druidstaff (RMCompanion I), but adapted to fit the Ranger: http://www.guildcompanion.com/scrolls/2000/jun/wyrdbow.html . This list provides a number of strong buffs: it gives a bonus to the bow, turns it into a spell adder, and enables trick shots, quick loading, and extended ranges. Now there’s a Ranger I could get behind – and definitely would not want to get in front of!
Given that the Wyrd Bow list is based on a Druid list that some consider overly powerful, I would recommend toning down some of the spells on the list, especially the first level spell, ‘Minor Bow’. This turns the bow into a +10 magical bow, but if it is ever destroyed, the caster is at -35 for 1-4 weeks. Ouch. That’s too strong for my tastes, and the downside is also too punishing, so I would recommend toning down both the benefit and the malus. How about we make it just a +5 magical bow, and substitute the destroyed clause for just saying the caster can only have one Wyrd Bow attuned?
The Channeling Companion also offers some Priest lists that would help beef up the Ranger. Hunting Mastery gives the all-important low level combat buff (Aiming), while The Hunter gives the RM Ranger a D&D-style favored enemy, against which his attacks hit harder. Either or both would be welcome additions to the Ranger’s quiver.
So what do you think? Does the Rolemaster Ranger do it for you? What changes would you make to the class?