Tuesday, February 11, 2020

D&D Class: Calidar Ranger

Wow Elf by Clayscence, Deviantart.com
Developing Alfdaín for Calidar's upcoming CAL3 gazetteer presents an opportunity for a different look at rangers. They are an important class in Alfdaín, but also in the Dread Lands, either for natives dwelling there or Calderan prospectors looking for Seitha.
            While some OSR games do not offer such a character class, others do but with varying abilities and approaches. The latest D&D version is probably a no-go, since it is already very detailed. Feel free to adapt or retrofit what is described here. This article addresses rangers of different settings (not just Alfdaín)with a "modular" design allowing players to build their own versions as their characters earn experience.

Advancement: Calidar’s rangers use standard warrior experience, combat, and saving throws charts from the chosen RPGs. Combat maneuvers and special abilities attributed to conventional warriors are also available to rangers. They acquire a mix of druidical and magic-user spells later in their careers.
            Their advancement chart provides two experience tracks  (see later on). Column 1 is intended for fighters with d8 base HD, such as Basic D&D. Column 2 addresses other OSR games whose warriors use d10s as their base HD, such as AD&D. Column 2 can also be used for recent RPG designs, although encounter challenges should be adjusted significantly to match the combat abilities available to PCs in these games.
            In exchange for enabling special abilities and spellcasting talents, a ranger’s career progresses more slowly than a conventional warrior’s. The penalty to apply to all earned experienced is expressed in the XP column (–10% initially to –30% at the highest levels). Each of the ranger’s experience levels requires an extra 120,000 XP to advance beyond the limits of the conventional fighter’s experience progression table. Starting at level 10, these rangers only earn +2 hit points  (+3hp with AD&D game mechanics) when leveling up.

Prerequisites: The three best rolls must be allocated to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma ability scores, in any order the player chooses. The career is available to all races, provided they have a plausible backstory justifying a ranger’s career choice. Calidar's Sherandol and Meruín elves are the most-likely candidates in Alfdaín.
            Elven rangers often honor the following deities: Delathien (Sherandol, Elëan), Sphiel (Elëan), Bëlianda (Sherandol, Meruín), Durandil (Meruín), Melrenwë (Meruín, Tolarin), and more rarely Ashebai (Tolarin, especially spies, scouts, and guardians of hidden places) or Maëlrond (Sòldor, especially those who choose dragons as foes of choice). Rangers of the Dread Lands and those who do not worship gods receive their spells from the World Soul (see CC1 Beyond the Skies, pg. 206).
            In games that only consider Law vs. Chaos, ranger philosophy is typically Neutral. In games also featuring Good vs. Evil, rangers need to retain at least one Neutral component, in keeping with their druidical mindsets. In both cases, adopting a divine liege’s ethos is always acceptable, as long as the chosen god favors nature, druids, rangers, or some relevant sphere of interest.

Equipment: Rangers favor lighter armor (leather, studded leather) or armor largely made of organic materials (fibers, bones, scales, etc.) Provided they wear their favored armor (or none at all), rangers earn combat benefits: either a +2 bonus to hit with bows and single-handed swords, or fighting with two melee weapons without penalty (generally two short swords or one sword and a dagger). These benefits are interchangeable during combat. Some special abilities, when so noted, aren’t available when a ranger wears armor other than the preferred type.

Favored Settings: Although rangers initially share common spellcasting talents and special abilities, their effectiveness may vary depending on the rangers’ native environments when specified in the text. Five main settings are fleshed out in this book: Midlands, Wastelands, Frostlands, The Deep, and Diredark.
            Midlands: This setting includes primarily temperate grasslands, moors, marshes, bogs, and forests. It is the expected environment for Sherandol and Elëan elves. A Midlands choice requires selecting either temperate or tropical options; the latter focuses on hot savanna and rainforest such as may be found in the Dread Lands.
            Wastelands: It is the realm of hot deserts and low, open scrublands—generally hot and arid regions. Alfdaín does not feature this setting. Wastelands rangers are more appropriate in Narwan.
            Frostlands: This includes taiga, boreal forests, tundra, cold uplands, and permanently snowbound or frozen regions. It is one environment that mountain-dwelling Elëan favor.
            The Deep: The aquatic realm of the Meruín elves governs marine, riverine, lacustrine, and swamp settings at any latitude, from fathom to sea spray and above.
            Diredark: The euphemistic label refers to Calidar’s subterranean world. Although the Tolarin find it appealing, it is the ancestral realm of the Sòldor elves. Dwarven rangers are said to thrive in the Diredark of Araldûr.

Spellcasting: During their careers, rangers receive a mix of spells reflecting their races. Calidar elves and gnomes are magical in nature and favor secular spells. For every two magic-user spells they memorize, they can obtain one druidical incantation at the most. The opposite applies to most other races, including shamans of the Dread Lands. Dwarven rangers receive clerical spells only. The highest spell level available at any point during a ranger’s career only accommodates the race’s favored magic.
            For example: At Level 16 (13 for AD&D), a ranger’s spellcasting enables Spell Level I x5, Level II x3, Level III x1, for a total of 9 spells altogether. Therefore, the elven ranger may obtain up to 3 druidical incantations, the balance accommodating 6 magic-user spells (the Level III slot must be a magic-user spell). The exact opposite would be true for a human ranger.
            At the referee’s discretion, magic-user spells should relate to the ranger’s native environment. Basic D&D doesn't offer offer enough spell choices to support an adequate ranger’s specialization. It is suggested that magic-user spells pertaining to summoning elementals relevant to the rangers’ native environments be therefore allowed.
            For example: In the Wastelands and Diredark, rangers ought to be able to summon earth elementals, water elementals in the Deep, ice elementals in the Frostlands, or possibly air elementals for Elëan spellcasters—and so on. Low level spells can be devised to affect minor spirits of nature, such as rudimentals (see CAL2 On Wings of Darkness, pg. 68-69).
            Rangers cast magic as if they had the minimum experience level required for the highest spell level available to them. For example: at experience levels 11-15 (9-12 for AD&D), they dispatch magic-user spells as magic-users level 3 (or clerical spells as clerics level 4 in Basic D&D). Ranger magic tops out at Spell Level IV.

Ranger Advancement
Experience Scales
XP
Special Abilities
Spell Levels
d8 HD
d10 HD
I
II
III
IV
1
1
–10%
Home Advantage




2
2
3
-
4
3
Career Choice I
5
4
6
5
–15%
2
7
6
Career Choice II
2
8
-
2
9
7
3
10
8
Career Choice III
3
11
9
–20%
3
2
12
10
4
2
13
-
4
2
14
11
Career Choice IV
4
3
15
12
5
3
16
13
–25%
5
3
1
17
14
5
4
1
18
-
Career Choice V
5
4
2
19
15
6
4
2
20
16
6
5
3
21
17
–30%
6
5
3
1
22
18
Career Choice VI
6
5
3
1
23
-
6
5
4
2
24
19
6
5
4
2
25
20
6
5
4
3

Home Advantage: Rangers are adapted to their native environment and outdoor life. This grants them several special abilities.
            Survival: Rangers in their native environments are always able to find food and water sufficient to survive, given reasonable time to hunt, fish, or forage. In foreign settings, this skill requires a daily Wisdom Check with a +2 bonus. If it fails, food and water (if scarce) aren’t found during that day. Hunting and fishing are components of survival. Rangers possess an innate sense of what is safe to eat/drink in their native environments. In foreign settings, this knowledge requires an Intelligence Check with a +2 bonus. They also are immune to non-magical diseases common to their native environments. In foreign settings, this resistance requires a weekly Constitution Check with a +2 bonus.
            Pathfinding: Unless magic is involved, rangers in their native environment always sense where they are relative to their destination (if known) or to where they started out. Pathfinding also applies to rangers of the Deep navigating the seas. While they travel in foreign settings, this sense requires a daily Intelligence Check with a +2 bonus.
            Tracking: In their native environments, rangers should receive a substantial bonus to their tracking skills, as appropriate to the chosen RPG mechanics and at the referee’s discretion. The suggested bonus is +30% to percentile scores to succeed, or +6 on a d20 scale. Halve this bonus in foreign settings. One daily tracking check is generally sufficient unless conditions change (different terrain, intersection with other tracks, rain, etc.) As long as previous tracking checks succeeded, rangers receive a +10% bonus (+2 on a d20 scale) to the next roll. Using a trained dog (see Trainer Career Choice) bestows another +50% bonus (+10 on a d20 scale).

Career Choices: From this point onward, all other special abilities are part of optional career choices. There are 8 career options: Exemplar, Explorer, Messenger, Prowler, Scout, Stalker, Trainer, and Witcher. Each of these career choices provides multiple abilities, improvements, or benefits.
            New career choices can be picked in any order as the ranger earns experience. None can be picked more than once. The order in which careers are selected, therefore, makes rangers stand apart from each other. Once selected, career choices cannot be changed; more are available than can be acquired during the entire course of a ranger’s career.

Exemplar: Exemplars earn three improvements picked from the following list. The same options cannot be picked more than once. Another can be picked with each career choice earned henceforth. There are more improvements options than can possibly be picked during the exemplar’s entire career.
·   Ability Scores: Add +2 to the three lowest ability scores, or +1 to the three best (scores above normal maximums are valid only with the referee’s approval).
·   Armor Class: Improve AC +2 permanently.
·   Defense Checks: Add a +2 bonus to the three lowest saving throw scores, or +1 to the three best.
·   Excellence: Once a day, when rolling dice for any reason, roll three times and keep the best score.
·   Experience: Subtract 10 from the exemplar’s current and future XP penalties (thus –15% becomes –5%).
·   Life Points: Add +1 hit point for each current Hit Die and when earning new ones.
·   Notoriety I: Monsters above animal intelligence and with HD below the exemplars’ suffer a penalty to their Morale Checks (–1 on a d12 scale, –2 on a d20 scale, or –10 on a percentile scale).
·   Notoriety II: Add +1 Notoriety Point whenever the referee awards any to the exemplar.
·   Regeneration: The exemplar regenerates 1 hit point per day, and can only ever be killed if decapitated, burned entirely, or devoured.
·   Temerity: The exemplar is immune to magical fear.

Explorer: This career choice governs movement and traveling.
            Unhindered Movement: Explorers in their natural environment are not subject to movement penalties related to flora or terrain. They also receive a saving throw against magic manipulating flora or terrain when none is normally permitted, or a +2 bonus to the roll. Thorns and natural sharp features do not inflict damage to explorers. Insects and other small pests in any setting keep away as well.
            Trackless Movement: If they so choose, explorers in their native environment can travel on foot without leaving a trace of their passage. Explorers in a foreign setting can be tracked, but with a substantial penalty (–30% to percentile scores to succeed, or –6 on a d20 scale).
            Sure-Footing: In their natural environment, explorers can dispense with Dex Checks when moving through challenging terrain, such as tree branches through a forest canopy, a frozen surface, yardarms and decks of a skyship or a naval vessel during a storm, unstable or slippery rocks, etc. In foreign settings, Dex Checks receive a +2 bonus. When earning any subsequent career choice, explorers can safely step past semi-liquid or fragile surfaces, such as quicksand, thin ice, a snow bridge, rotten wood, etc.
            Land Striding: Whether on foot or riding mounts (flying, in the case of Elëan elves, or if riding flying mounts), explorers increase their normal daily travel distances by +30%. This does not include mechanical or magical devices (flying carpets or vehicles). Halve this bonus if in a foreign setting or if travelling with other character classes.
            Vanishing: When earning any subsequent career choice, explorers can teleport 30’ away once a day. Depending on their native environment, vanishing produces a short-lived whirl of harmless fog, leaves, dust, sand, ice, sea surf, or a cloud of ink if under water. Each additional career choice earned henceforth adds another use of this power the same day and extends its range +30’.

Messenger: This competence focuses on communication.
            Hidden Signals: Messengers leave seemingly innocuous markers on their paths for fellow rangers to notice. These include rocks, twigs, or bones set in specific patterns, or marks etched in a tree’s bark or in the dirt, conveying simple phrases up to five words.
            Silent Communication: With direct eye-contact between each other, rangers can exchange similar messages. Sign language is a given. More discreetly, they also use glances, eye movement, slight facial expressions, and nearly imperceptible head or body movements. Without direct eye contact but within earshot, messengers rely on animal mimicry and various imitations of the sounds of nature. When earning any subsequent career choice, a ranger also acquires the ability to use ultrasounds, such as that produced by bats or whales, to communicate with messengers able to hear them. Limited to 30’ per earned career choice (300’ for messengers of the Deep), it enables perception other than visual and can be used during combat. Echo-location can be magically silenced.
            Long Range Messages: They depend on local culture, such as smoke signals or drums. Rangers can also use an empathic connection with common animals to carry messages (birds, bats, rats, lizards, felines, foxes, fish, seals, etc.). Empathy conveys where and to whom to deliver them. They can be written or purely “empathic,” for another ranger or a druid to sense (treat as Hidden Signals). Animals rarely enter buildings or dungeons, hiding outside instead until contact can be established safely. They return to wildlife after completing their deeds.
            Rangers of the same native environment can decipher all these types of messages and signals. Those from foreign settings require an Intelligence Check.

Prowler: Stealth lies at the heart of this career choice. In any setting, a prowler wearing favored armor (or none at all) can move silently like a thief with equal experience. Prowlers also are adepts at camouflaging/concealing themselves or a small area.
            Personal Concealment: Using either foliage or cloaks made to appear like the local terrain (sand, rock, or snow) prowlers can hide in plain sight. Whether prowlers are in their native environment or a foreign setting, any ranger with the Scout career choice may spot them with the usual roll of 1-2 on a d6 if within 120’ (see Scout description). Other observers can only spot prowlers hiding in a foreign setting with a roll of 1 on a d6, when within 120’ and searching intentionally for hidden foes. Any observer can see a hidden prowler within 10’.
            Area Concealment: Prowlers can camouflage an area with enough time to prepare, taking an hour for every 100 sq. ft. to conceal. Discovery odds are the same as above, although the distance from which the hidden area can be spotted increases +30’ for every 100 sq. ft. concealed. For example: a 400 sq. ft. campsite might be seen from as far away as (30 x 4) + 120 = 240’. Any observer within 30’ of its closest edge can see a hidden area.
            Other Considerations: Only roll once for the observer closest to a hidden prowler (or the one with the best spotting chance). An additional roll with a +1 bonus should take place in any combat action during which prowlers perform one or more ranged attacks or cast offensive spells. This bonus enables an observer otherwise-unable to detect prowlers in their native environment to spot them with a 1 on a d6. Prowlers moving faster than MV 10’ or performing melee attacks always betray their hidden positions. Camouflage cannot be dispelled, but the right magic can reveal concealed prowlers nonetheless.
            Upgrade the die rolled for detection whenever the prowler earns any subsequent career choice (d8, d10, d12, etc.) For example: with “Prowler” as a first pick, the d6 can be upgraded all the way to percentile dice when reaching Career Choice VI. Using the same scheme, a rival ranger with the Scouting career choice can downgrade the die to a d4 at best.

Scout: This competence concerns perception.
            Cunning: The ranger senses hidden foes, impending ambushes, concealed paths, and traps within a 120’ range outdoors. Conscious detection requires a roll of 1-2 on a d6 (fortuitous detection occurs with a score of 1). The referee performs a secret check once for each of the applicable instances. Magical concealments including invisible foes can be sensed but not located. Add +40’ to the detection range whenever any subsequent career choice is earned.
            Long Sight: Scouts (including those of the Deep when navigating on the surface) possess unusually sharp vision enabling them to spot man-size, ground-level features approximately 3 miles away, or up to 6 miles away from an elevation. If well above the horizon, large monsters and skyships can be spotted up to 12 miles away. The line of sight should be unobstructed, the weather clear, and the observed feature in full daylight. Distances are halved by moonlight (reverse daylight/moonlight ranges for scouts of the Diredark). Scout acuity enables general identification (race, tribe, mounts, numbers, type of monster, skyship style, speed/heading, etc.)
            Hearken: Scouts can hear noise as a thief with equal experience. This also includes placing one’s ear to the ground to interpret unusual vibrations up to a mile away—footfalls, the pounding of hooves, or the gait of a large monster. A successful ear-to-ground check should identify the nature of the sounds (what, how large, how many, how far, what direction, biped/quadruped/other, machinery, waterfall, etc.)
            Weather Sense: It enables rangers in their native environments to predict shifting conditions for the next 12 hours, unless magic is involved. In foreign settings, the prediction holds for 6 hours. This includes sensing likely wind or temperature shifts, coming dust storms in deserts, developing blizzards or mountain storms, a nascent gale brooding at sea, etc., how soon they might occur, and how severe a change may be. Diredark scouts perceive instead slight air currents indicating the location of exits, shafts, or large caves, and smells associated to life in the depths, dwellings, lairs, or the nearby presence of subterranean rivers and lakes.

Stalker: The stalkers’ goal is to hunt down specific prey.
            They select a monster type as a foe of choice (giants, lycanthropes, ogres, orcs, trolls, dragons, etc. as deemed appropriate by the referee) or take on the role of bounty hunter. The latter targets any and all individuals for whom rewards have been posted by local authorities. Bounty-hunting stalkers must positively identify targeted individuals for any of them to qualify as foes of choice. Targeted monsters must be of a type dwelling in the stalkers’ native environments. They can also add another foe of choice whenever any subsequent career choice is earned, therefore up to six at the most.
            Against these opponents, stalkers receive either a +4 bonus to hit or an extra attack. These bonuses can be freely switched during combat, after declaring the decision to do so and before rolling attacks. Stalkers receive a +10% bonus (or +2 on a d20 scale) when tracking foes of choice. With successful rolls, stalkers also sense the general direction of their quarries’ locations at the time of the checks and whether they are present within 360’.
            Stalkers also understand their chosen monsters’ languages, cultures, and traditions, if any. If tracking foes of choice succeeds, stalkers can identify their types, sizes, numbers, and how old footprints are.

Trainer: Animal and monster companions are the focal point.
            Natural Empathy: Trainers sense the mindsets of animals they can see. One connection can then be established enabling a trainer to look and listen through the animal’s normal senses. This link is severed beyond 300’, although the range extends another 300’ with any career choice earned from this point onward.
            Connected animals cooperate within the limits of their intelligence if the trainer succeeds a Charisma Check. They can be made to watch over a sleeping party, for example. Cha Checks incur a –4 penalty if the animal is uncommon to the trainer’s native environment, a dangerous predator (wolves, large felines, bears, sharks, anacondas, eagles, crocodiles), or possesses half as many HD as the trainer. Magically charmed animals, giant versions of animals, and most monsters (see Monstrous Affinity later) are impervious.
            Animal Husbandry: With adequate time and effort, animals can be tamed and trained to obey simple commands (subject to the initial Charisma Check). Natural empathy is maintained with all personally trained animals, beyond the range described earlier. This ability also grants a +2 bonus to Dex Checks when riding a personally trained mount. Use the chosen RPG’s mechanics on training animals.
            Familiars: Trained animals can become their master’s permanent and loyal companions, fully able to communicate. Trainers can possess no more than one familiar per earned career choice (therefore up to 6 at best). Use the chosen RPG’s mechanics on familiars.
            Monstrous Affinity: When earning any other career choice, an affinity emerges with giant versions of animals and animal-intelligence monsters with fewer than half the trainer’s HD (round down). Successful Charisma Checks at –4 establish empathic connections to begin training, as described earlier. Only one such creature can be made into a familiar at any given time, regardless of experience and later career choices. A familiar trained at a young age may “outgrow” its master, at which point the bond is forfeit and the beast may depart.
            Undead, non-intelligent (or above animal intelligence), low-life, alien, outer-planar, elemental, mechanical, enchanted, lycanthropic, non-corporeal, and spell-casting monsters are immune unless approved by the referee and with plausible circumstances justifying the association. If in its best interest, a sapient monster can decide of its own free will to join a ranger (former familiars in particular), and it may change its mind at any time.

Witcher: Spellcasting and slaying monsters are the witcher’s strong points. Scout and stalker career choices, however, are prerequisites for the witcher.
            Charms: The witcher is immune to charms and can, once a day, dispel charm effects affecting an animal, monster, or a person.
            Polyvalence: The balance of druidical versus magic-user spells is no longer in effect. The witcher freely selects druidical and magic-user spells among those available.
            Vital Magic: Druidical spells can be cast beyond normal limits in exchange for sacrificing hit points, at the rate of 2d4+2 magical damage per Spell Level. Using the same method, the witcher may heal wounds on others, sustaining 2d4+2 damage for each d8 hit points cured.
            Eldritch Strike: This form of attack may be invoked once per day. It requires a silver blade and uses the stalker’s single attack with +4 bonus to hit vs. foes of choice (see Stalker Career Choice earlier). If this attack hits, the witcher immediately gets another with a +3 bonus, the next one at +2, and so on until the bonus is reduced to zero or an attack misses. Reroll critical fails and damage scores below average. The +4 bonus is negated for the remainder of the day after invoking an eldritch strike.


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