Way back when the D20 craze started, I seem to recall there being plenty of new classes in book after book. But of late, we’ve seen more and more adventures, settings, and other things, with fewer classes. (Maybe it’s just me?) That changed recently however with Open Design’s new book: New Paths: The Expanded Spell-less Ranger by Mark Radle. The
book offers an alternative to the traditional D&D 3.5/PFRPG Ranger class with spell-casting abilities.
And though short, the book offers much of what I expect from Open Design – solid details about new bits that can be used and repurposed in interesting ways. It also doesn’t hurt that it has another great layout and a terrific cover featuring art from artist Christopher Swal. Weighing in as a 15 page PDF, it offers ten pages of content between the covers along with some helpful sheets you can print out to track some of the stats for your Spell-less Ranger and their animal companion.
Quite honestly as I was reading through the book I was struck by how obvious it should have been to have included a variant of this type in the core PFRPG book or 3.5 (or earlier) books. As the quote says on page 2 – “Aragorn Didn’t Cast Spells” – and it’s a fair assessment. The traditional Ranger in my head is more like Robin Hood or Aragorn than somewhere between a Druid and a Fighter. With no spell-casting abilities at all, this Ranger gets additional ranger talents (like rogue abilities), some new class abilities, as well as a twist on the “favored enemy” idea from way back when as a “favored terrain” option, these wilderness wanderers are not suffering from the loss of arcane talent.
I especially like the enhancements to healing through a use of the naturally occurring gifts in the wild and the favored terrain options. Watching a recent episode of Game of Thrones I pondered the differences between the Rangers north of The Wall in their frozen world and the Dothraki scouts in the grassy, savanna-like world of the Dothraki Sea… Both require great tracking, horsemanship, and weapons skills, but each has its own rules for survival. A Ranger born to one environment may not necessarily do as well in the other.
In addition, the enhanced use of animal companions – almost to the degree of a Druid – also makes this spell-less variation quite interesting. I could see someone like Tarzan in the jungle with his animal friends and having a simple way to communicate with Tantor and Cheetah. Or even someone along the lines of a modern Pied Piper with a herd of intelligent rats at his beck and call. Though these characters might be less able to deal in a social setting with other humanoids, their connection to their animal friends could serve them well.
Also included are new feats such as Coordinated Companion (better coordination with an animal companion in combat), Natural Tracker (easier to identify tracks), and Improved Deadly Accuracy (better ranged weapon attacks), which could be used by regular Rangers as well as the new Spell-less variety. And two new archetypes to show off some of the new abilities – the Dual-Style Ranger who can more effectively wield multiple weapon styles and the Companion-Bound Ranger who spends a lot of alone time with their animal companions…
Though this is a short supplement, it offers plenty of food for thought if you’ve been considering playing a Ranger of some type in PFRPG. The new options and ways of exploring the beefed up animal companion rules in PFRPG offer plenty of new tools in the toolbox for players and GMs alike.