1st Ed AD&D: The Ranger


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The Players Handbook states: “Rangers are a sub-class of Fighter who are adept at woodcraft, tracking, scouting, and infiltrating.”


The AD&D archetype for the Ranger is Aragorn (also known as Strider around these parts) and this class is one of the most popular of those available during this period of the game. 


It is not unreasonable to surmise from AD&D the idea of what a Ranger was, and how they behaved forever changed the fantasy genre.


Aragorn may have been a template, but to many, the Ranger is a bow firing two-weapon wielding combat monster.


Which is not far off from the truth.




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Being a Ranger requires some skills. Strength 13; Intelligence 13; Wisdom 14; Constitution 14. To achieve those scores alone, places the Character in the top couple of percentiles of the general population. The Players may argue the scores aren’t high enough, but to the average Human of 10 to 11 in all Stats, the Ranger appears nearly superhuman.


Combined with a Charisma of over 13, the Ranger would be the go-to leader of the party, and many outsiders dealing with the party would assume this to be the case also.



Arms and Armour

As part of the Fighter class, the Ranger is not limited by arms and armour, and this is supported across many examples of book and film – even Aragorn suited up in chainmail before the siege of Helmsdeep.


The only real limitation to the Ranger is that the class is limited to what they can carry as per the Paladin limitations:

  • 1 suit of armour;
  • 1 shield;
  • 4 weapons* of any type (magical and/or non-magical);
  • 4 of any other magical items.

*Bows and arrows (and the like) are considered one weapon – whether magical or not


The Ranger begins an adventuring career with three Weapon Proficiency slots and gains the next weapon proficiency at 4th level; as with other Fighter types, the Ranger starts with a healthy 50 to 200 g.p. of equipment.


Without a limitation of armour for either class or abilities, it is entirely possible for the Ranger character to be suited up in Plate mail armour and shield. With this in mind; there is a feeling of whether this is quite right. The Ranger in 1st Edition AD&D is all about “...tracking, scouting, and infiltration and spying.”


Rules as written, the Plate mail clad Ranger is as capable of tracking, scouting, and infiltrating and spying as well as a Ranger wearing Leather, or even no armour.


Unlike the Thief, there seem to be no caveats for special ability use and armour.


Looking at the special abilities of the Ranger (as listed in the Players Handbook), the ability to surprise 3 in 6 is probably the only ability the DM may negate (normal surprise is 2 in 6). A ranger in Plate mail armour and in a party surrounded by similarly armoured companions would have a hard time sneaking around!


From the weapons closet, the Ranger is again, not limited by classification or category. The Ranger does possess a solid array of statistics, and some bonuses may be garnered from high Dexterity and/or exceptional Strength.


It is in the selection of arms and armour that the character of the Ranger can be explored (the ‘types’ of Ranger will be examined at depth in a later topic) and highlight the upbringing or training of the character.


Not every Ranger has to be Strider.




The Ranger is limited to Good alignment. With this, the Alignment can be Lawful Good, Neutral Good or Chaotic Good.


Lawful Good characters believe that rules and discipline are required for the betterment of self and others. The Lawful Good Ranger is one that has a strong sense of right and the personal moral code to believe it is the Ranger’s job to help and protect others.


The Neutral Good character knows that to accomplish good deeds means sometimes stepping outside the law and going it alone. The Neutral Good Ranger is one with a ‘will do’ attitude, they will work within the confines of the laws, but will quickly disregard them when innocents are being threatened.


Chaotic Good characters have no need for rules and feel that the rules of people-law inhibit others being free. The Chaotic Good Ranger may even feel that the rules of nature supersede those of the rules of the land, and all one needs to be free are healthy instincts. 


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In the 1st Edition AD&D the Ranger class was available for two races: The Half-elf and Human.


The demeanour of Dwarves makes for a great Fighter, excellent craftsman, and all-round hard worker. To recap the Ranger introduction: Woodcrafting, tracking, and scouting and infiltrating. None of these make for temperament of the 1st Edition AD&D Dwarf. Same too goes for the Halflings, Gnomes, and Half-orcs.


“What-ho!” I hear you shout, “What about the Elves? Do they not frolic among the trees and woods?”


Very true, they do indeed live in nature as Druids and Rangers would. Elves already get a surprise bonus (and are themselves difficult to surprise), they already have affinity with certain weapons, and so on.


The Elves (in a 1st Ed. AD&D sense) are magical creatures with a preference for magic and magical items. To be a class such as Ranger, Paladin, and Monk require a large amount of self-discipline for simpler needs, and moreover a sense of helping others (particularly for the Paladin and Ranger).


It may sound mean: Elves are aloof creatures with their own motives and agenda, to sum up them up: insular and selfish.


The wandering Half-elf

Half-elves are a breed that are always on the move. They are the race that fits between two others and can neither live with either or be accepted by them. Eventually, the Half-elf outlives any Human companion, and the Elf companion would do likewise to the Half-elf.


The Ranger class is a force for good, but not always in the way local officials will accept. The Ranger is the stereotypical gunman arriving from nowhere and then disappearing when the job is done. To the Half-elf, this is the ideal way of life.


With Strength 18, the Half-elf can reach 8th Level, otherwise 7th level for Strength 17, or 6th level for anything less.


Multi-classing the Ranger

The Half-elf can multi-class the Ranger with Cleric. The minimum Wisdom for a Ranger of 14 provides 2 additional 1st Level spells per day to be cast. The Cleric/Ranger multiclass starts with some of the most HP (short of being a Ranger single class), throwing up half of 3d8 worth of HP at 1st Level (before Constitution bonuses), providing an average of 6 to 7 HP. 


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Special Abilities

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Twists on an old theme

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