Setting Spotlight: Rangers

The following is based on a campaign setting variant idea i had and may have mentioned somewhere on YDIS at one time or another. The concept is deceptively simple. Your players play Rangers, that is to say, a band of civilised men that voluntarily forsake the comforts of civilisation in order to protect it, not the fighter-druid-treehugger interpretation of post 3rd edition DnD. They are a small band consisting at most of 4 people, maybe 3. Got that? Okay, now draw a giant hex map and fill it with a human civilisation, maybe more, you may sprinkle elves and dwarves to taste if you so desire. Excellent. Don’t forget to add borders in the form of encroaching giant forests filled with filthy humanoids that need culling, add rivers and mountains and trade routes and everything. Are your players getting acclimatised with patrolling the vast stretches of forest land and having only intermittent contact with civilisation? Excellent. You may now trigger the cataclysm that causes all humans/dwarves and elves to vanish without a trace, leaving behind nothing but empty cities, roads, and villages.

Your players are now entirely alone as they are exempt from the curse. Well, not quite. The closest thing they have to company are the murderous tribes of monsters they have been killing that are now moving back into civilised lands, to inherit the fruits of mankind’s labour. You could talk to those, but you would have to tie them up first. You could talk to the weird fucked up Faery Creatures that live beyond the edges of the map, ask them if they know what the fuck is going on. You’d have to go around the humanoid tribes though. What will your players do? Will they attempt to figure out what the fuck is going on and why they were spared? Will they try to search for other survivors? Will they attempt to murder as many humanoids as possible, stalking them until you become legend? Will they hold on to their oath to protect civilisation even if they are all that is left of it? Will you just give up and lie down in the moist earth until you die of cold, starvation or exhaustion?

This game needs a hex map and lots of bookkeeping. And you had better get yourself some decent weapon and armor degradation rules. And a fuckton of weather tables. Good weather tables. And encumberance rules. Annoying but manageable and worth it. You can find plenty of gold but it is worthless. To humanoids now bereft of unscrupulous human merchants to trade with it is used as little more then decoration or a mark of prestige. A steel sword in pristine condition is the find of the campaign. Most of your adversaries should be wild animals or humanoids. The occasional freaky faery creature or giant vermin should add some variety. And no resurrection. If you die you are out of the game. Can they find out what the fuck happened, are there still humans about, is it reversible? This is up to the GM.

Inspirational Reading/Watching:
-I am Legend by Richard Matheson. Just picture the humanoids as Vampires and you got it.
– While the ranger concept was probably based off of Aragorn from Lord of the Rings one of the most suitable interpretations of the ranger archetype for the purpose of this variant may be found in G.R.R Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice. The Night’s Watch, with its oaths, its isolation and its tradition of grim and solemn service is eminently suitable for the rangers in Ranger.
– Weird fucked up Faery creatures should be based off of classic Faeries and thus they should be strange, capricious and whimsical. They should never express pity, concern or understanding for the players’s plight in any but the most superficial and insincere of manners.
-The classic Twilight Zone serials “Where is everybody” and “Time enough at Last” should serve as suitable inspiration for conveying the creeping, crippling isolation.
-Watch some survival shows set in Canada or Alaska. That’s the kind of forest i am going for. Deep, dark, endless, frigid, hostile.

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11 thoughts on “Setting Spotlight: Rangers

  1. Neat. Similar to something I’m using to playtest Aces High, though your post-apocalyptic note is something distinct (like the cheese sauce on a fine steak). I am reminded of that one Scandinavian webcomic (the name of which will come to me shortly after posting this comment but shortly before I am resigned to ask my ex what the hell it was called) and also the upcoming/long-in-the-pipeline Thornwatch from those Penny Arcade knobs. Must be something in the water.

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      1. Modesty?!? In this monument to monstrous egotism and hubris that would appal the likes of Fabius Bile and Lucifer himself?

        I believe Von might be referring to Aces High, an ultra rules-light rpg of his own fevered imaginings(correct me if i am wrong old bean) that i should be checking out now that i am a much-read and feared member of the blogosphere. I tried commenting on Tenkar’s blog the other day but i think i might still be banned there for throwing down the gauntlet 😦

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  2. This setting would make powergamers cry. There’s a reason why I always have my characters take club and sling proficiencies… in the interest of full disclosure, I also like to spam footpads.

    Will they attempt to murder as many humanoids as possible, stalking them until you become legend?

    One of my all-time favorite endings to a novel.

    I’m also reminded of Helm Hammerhand, king of Rohan… Tolkien does grimdark:

    He would go out by himself, clad in white, and stalk like a snow-troll into the camps of his enemies, and slay many men with his hands.

    He’d fit right in.

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    1. [Powergamers]
      In my experience there are two distinct types of powergamer. The first is the Stat-optimization Powergamer that exploits the system by picking optimised feat choices and selecting the correct equipment. That one would hate this.

      The second type, the Gentleman Powergamer, which is nigh indistinguishable from the Interesting Player, abides by the rules and spirit of the game but uses every situation, piece of equipment and previous canonical event to his advantage and is perpetually weary of GM trickery. That one might get a kick out of Rangers.

      I usually settle for a dagger in the boot since getting completely disarmed is comparatively(and perhaps lamentably) rare in DnD(unless your team gets captured a lot or attends a lot of formal dinner parties).
      I figured that given your relationship with mr. Oscar Anderson, you would have spammed this instead;

      http://units.wesnoth.org/1.10/mainline/en_US/Saurian%20Oracle.html

      [Helm Hammerhand]
      Man what a badass. I need to read Lord of the Rings. It is a shameful gaping hole in my phanta’asay litcheratur nerd cred.

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      1. Ha, Oscar Anderson likes this.

        In the saurian faction, the skirmisher line is the one to spam- the ability to bypass zones of control and the multiple attacks make the saurian fighters perfect for killing heavily wounded units. For the human loyalist faction, the fencer line fills this role, though they are less versatile, not getting ranged attacks until second level.

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      2. Oh, and LotR is the ur-text of modern fantasy- it’s worth reading just to see how far the current tropes have gotten from their Tolkienian roots. It can be slow-going at points- it’s paced a lot more sedately than a typical sword-and-sorcery pulp, and there are a lot of poems and songs interspersed in the text. If you find it slow-going, tackle it one chapter at a time, it does pick up.

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  3. I’ll tackle it after i finish Hodginson’s Nightland and some more Leiber. Ive got the books so i just need time. In the interest of full disclosure, i picked up a 2nd hand copy of Meritt’s Moon Pool today!

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  4. Never read Nightland, but I’ve read a lot of Hodgson’s nautical stories, like The Voice in the Night, A Tropical Horror, and The Boats of the “Glen Carrig”.

    In my estimation, Merritt is the most ‘Gygaxian’ of the pulp authors. He loves lost world narratives, stories of hidden races with technology indistinguishable from magic and all that. My favorite by him is “Dwellers in the Mirage”… pure Gygaxian purple prose.

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    1. [Hodginson]

      Are any of his nautical stories set in the far distant future where the sun has gone out, the perpetually night-shrouded world is inhabited by hideous abominations and invisible malginant forces and humankind’s last reboudt is a 7 mile high pyramid boat by any chance?

      [Merrit]
      Man that sounds awesome. I dig the lost world expedition stuff(I must cite Lovecraft’s ‘the Mound’ and probably ‘At the mountains of madness’). You can tell Gygax was a fan of the pulps in his Greyhawk adventure ideas section. Pure fucking poetry. So many good ideas. I’m on the fence about ancient technology in fantasy games but the few iterations in published TSR works are cool, though that could be a side-effect of them being so rare(Temple of the Frog and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks spring to mind but not much else, City of the Gods and the Principalities of Glantri maybe).

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