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?

Comments (12)

  1. Reply

    The Wyrd Bow list is… weird. The RoCo1 Minor Druidstaff gives: +1 spell adder, +5 quarterstaff, can be thrown as a spear (Krush crit), and only one Druidstaff can be had at a time. I don’t know why the destruction penalty was added. I didn’t compare every spell, but it’s definitely been powered up excessively (and I’ve never allowed Druids, as they’re just “more badass Animists”, which utterly misses the point).

    RoCo1 also has Guardian Ways, which makes Rangers fairly powerful in their woods and their war.

    I adjusted the ChLaw semi-spell users mediocre weapon skills based on RoCo1, so Rangers have the same costs as Paladins, did something similar with Bards (1-2 DP more at each weapon than Thieves) so they’d be competent swashbucklers.

    Rangers also have one of the cheapest Channelling costs, and I use that heavily to receive PP or spells at “holy” sites (“gods” being more extradimensional patrons & power sources than the religious thing). Rangers need to play up the mystical elements and work with Animists, not as much the military.

    In practice, a couple Rangers passed thru my games, and they did fine. One rerolled as a Barbarian almost immediately and was happier.

    • Hurin

      Reply

      Yes, the skill cost issue is still a bit of a concern; the Paladin has much better costs. I guess that is the price the Ranger pays for all those utility skills, but it does make it hard for a Ranger to keep up with the Paladin in the combat arena.

      Good find on Guardian Ways.

  2. Finwe

    Reply

    I don’t agree that the Ranger is worse than the fighter with the bow. At least it will be the same if you develop the same ranges. and if you have a high Agility (as usual in this profession), you will have better OB with the bow than fighter.
    In addition, neither Legolas nor Robin Hood were Rangers in the concept that Rolemaster gives them (with spells), but rather warriors or explorers.

  3. Peter R

    Reply

    In the games I run, and in those I get to play in, bows just are not a thing. The game I am playing in as involved dungeon crawls and the wilderness has been filled with night ambushes and sneak attacks.
    Once everything is close quarters a bow is more of a liability.

    Rangers tend to use either spears, shortswords or hand axes in our worlds. If the class can only afford to develop one weapon then picking one that can double up as a half skill thrown weapon or can be used in two weapon combo or can be used with ambush are all big plusses.

    To a large extent, the Ranger has become synonymous with Commando rather than Legolas for us.

    I agree that tinkering with the magic is the way to go in making the profession more popular. When I have played them I have gone down the Spell Research route to make the ranger more fun to play. Night vision is much more useful that Light spells if you are trying to be stealthy, for example.

  4. BriH

    Reply

    Ranger seems to be one those professions that has quite a bit of variation in how people see it compared to most other classes. Some model the Ranger after ME, others see a game warden, a bowman, others see a fighter/animist, tracker, bounty hunter etc. Depending on the person’s perception you could really vary the appropriate spell lists that you use.

  5. Hurin

    Reply

    So maybe my concept of the Ranger is off?

    I like the concept of an Arms-based outdoorsman, who relies on his own wits and skill to survive, but personally I could probably take or leave the spells. I don’t need my outdoorsman to be a pious devotee of an anthropomorphic God.

    This was why I liked the 4e DnD Ranger, because his power source was not divine; it was a mix of martial and natural (‘Primal’ indicated connection to ancient traditions or spirits of the natural world ).

    I’ve never seen anything like that or the DnD Scout (Rogue variant) in the versions of the Ranger in the RM core, but the extended RM books did offer the Outrider and Barbarian. Maybe that’s why I find the RM Ranger underwhelming?

    • BriH

      Reply

      Hurin, similar to the argument for Monk, you could easily make your Ranger either a Mentalism or Essence user?

      • Hurin

        Reply

        Yes, I thought about that. RM does already have the Beastmaster class, which is a Semi-Mentalism outdoorsy class (I even made skill costs for him in RMU), but the idea of making a Mentalist or Essence Ranger did cross my mind. It kind of is interesting the way RM (and DnD) divide spells into realms. The Ranger could fit in any realm, really, depending on how you see him. His spells in RM are definitely more divine, but combat buffs like range increases and trick shots could easily fit in Mentalism or Essence.

  6. Pingback: Three Tales of Ranger Magic. – The Rolemaster Blog

  7. Reply

    Aragorn’s Rangers and Faramir’s Rangers were all stealthy warriors. I always think they have more in common with the scout of MERP and Rogue of RM than the Ranger Profession, especially if you can use the array of open lists with similar spells as mentioned above.

    • Hurin

      Reply

      Yes, I think that has set the paradigm for me too — that is kind of how I see them. I view them less as spellcasters and more as commandos I think.

      Really, when you think of it, the outdoor skills is more of an archetype or focus applicable to arms, semis, or spell users. Give a pure caster an outdoors focus and you have a Druid; give an arms user the same focus and you have a scout; give it to a semi and you have the DnD/RM ranger.

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