The Problem Of Rangers

Rangers, by design, are loners.

Take a look at the special rules for Rangers in AD&D’s Player’s Handbook:

  • No henchlings and no hired troops until 8th level.
  • You only own what you can carry.  Everything else gets donated to Fantasy Ducks Unlimited or maybe some broke druids or a socially responsible tree-hugging organization.

Those are some pretty rough drawbacks, but you get that juicy +1 damage per level when fighting the greenskins, a 50-50 shot at surprise, you are never surprised for more than one segment, and you get pretty good odds of tracking creatures.

But those troubled loner restrictions bite deep when you look at how they intersect with the rest of the game.  Consider a fifth level Ranger who is ready to find a mentor and level-up.  He needs to have 7,500gp of ready cash on hand to pay for that.  That second restriction means he can’t stash his spare cash a vault at Gringott’s.  He has to carry it.

That makes Ranger PCs walking piggy banks.  They suddenly become high value targets that provide rich loot drops.

This was revealed to me in a session where Aragoon made a second run at the as-yet unnamed ruined tomb.  We players knew that 750ep and a magic item were stashed behind a secret door, but he didn’t.  After a brief discussion, we decided that passive secret door checks would be made at 1 in 12 every time he entered this dungeon.  He is a ranger, so he does have some ability to notice odd things out of place, after all.

To our great surprise, he found the door on his first trip back.  Grabbing a jeweled trident of obviously fine manufacture, he then faced a difficult choice.  All that coinage weighs 75 pounds, and he can’t carry all that and still move at any reasonable speed.  If he did take it, the journey back to safety would take three extra days and force a whole lot of random encounter checks.  Instead, he took the time to ferry what he couldn’t carry (400 coins and spare supplies he no longer needed) out to a cache half a mile away.  With the 300 coins and spear he still moved slower than he liked, but he needed that coinage to get the trident identified.

Or so he thought.

Now here comes another conundrum.  Can rangers leave loot they can’t carry in a safe stash out in the wilds?  On reconsideration, that seems like a cheap out – a dodge to get around the ‘lone wanderer’ restriction.  Alternatively, it still lies deep in the wilds, and he has not counted xp coup over it yet.  It might be found while he is out, so maybe this is a case where leaving a cache of unrecovered treasure doesn’t count as ‘his possessions’.

Back to Aragoon, he skirted Castle Weasel, moving a little faster through the edges of the plains, and made his way to the shore of Long Lake.  After attracting the attention of the fishermen out on the water, he found himself surrounded by nine wild and very hungry wolves.  They don’t call this area the wolflands for nothing! Now a spectator in a deadly race, he had to hope the fishermen could pluck him off the shore before the wolves closed in.

In game terms, he scored a big surprise result which allows him to avoid the encounter.  In head canon terms, he lit a fire on shore as his signal for pickup and set about cooking dinner while waiting for his fantasy boat uber.  The wolfpack, smelling a much bigger dinner, closes in.  A warning growl from his two dogs, Folger and Maxwell, alerts Aragoon to the danger so he grabs a brand from the fire and backs slowly up to the lapping waves of the lake.  The wolves close in, and Aragoon shouts

at his excited and snarling, barking dogs to stay back.  The fishermen glide in close and Aragoon tosses his sack of coinage into the boat.  The fishermen lower nets to scoop up the dogs and the wolves make one last furious dash for dinner.  A few stabs with boat-hooks keep them at bay long enough for Aragoon to clamber awkwardly over the side of the boat, and they are away.

But his troubles are not yet ended.  He has a trident that we players know is worth 10,000gp.  But he doesn’t know that, and can’t know that unless he goes for a swim and finds something nasty and hungry in the depths of the lake.

No thanks.

The 150gp worth of electrum will come in handy, but he can’t just drop 100gp worth of coins to find out what the thing is.  He’s going to have to walk back to civilization – the 200 person fishing village known as Corvusburg doesn’t have the firepower necessary to identify the item – which means another day of random encounters, five days of travel, and then more time for appraisal and finding a reputable salesman.  Those last couple are going to be tough for a quiet country bumpkin type like Aragoon.

The good news is that even if he only nets 5,000gp for the trinket, he’ll be way up into second level and within striking distance of third.  He’ll have enough to train, upgrade his gear, get himself a decent horse, and spread some gold around Corvusburg to make the locals happy.  Given enough donations, Aragoon might just be able to influence the campaign in a tangible way.  All that money flooding in might drive up prices in Corvusburg, but if he spends his wealth properly, maybe he lets a few happy young couples build a home and start a life of their own instead of haring off to the Big City.  It will take time, but he’s got training to do, and he is in this for the long haul.  This could in time lead to a larger population, a thriving Corvusburg, and provide in-game benefits to Aragoon, even if they aren’t direct economic benefits.

Maybe investing in the younger generations and easing their housing cost burdens instead of spending all his wealth on Jimmy Buffet concerts and third homes in the tropics would result in an overall economic growth and stability that makes life better for himself in countless unseen ways.

Wouldn’t that be crazy?