Forest guardian, border runner, bounty hunter, and more - the full potential of the ranger class has never been plumbed. Until now.
Come learn the inner most secrets of one of the most popular AD&D character classes. Details on every part of the ranger's life, from allied forest brethren to unusual outdoor equipment. With 15 new and exciting character kits, this book is an information-packed accessory for the AD&D Game. A special appendix give the rules for the original AD&D ranger class.
Gamers were becoming slightly leery of TSR supplements' wildly swinging power levels by the time The Complete Ranger's Handbook was released in 1993. The Complete books tended to be either well-balanced but dour in imagination and scope (The Complete Priest's Handbook, for instance, was the only supplement to actually reduce the power of the core class) or they were brilliantly imaginative and poorly balanced (as popular opinion holds of The Complete Bard's Handbook, a book misunderstood because it replaced core bard abilities instead of just supplementing them like other Complete books did).
It was with this feedback in hand that TSR produced the Ranger's Handbook, one firmly settled amid the two extremes.
Why Is There a Bear in My Bar? The first three chapters are given over to character creation, ranger abilities, and followers. Character creation is relatively straightforward, with additional details about favored terrain and handy charts showing the adjustment to key abilities from different kits. Ranger abilities include tracking (in almost a simulationist level of detail), species enemies, animal empathy, nature lore, strongholds, and detailed follower rules. (Frankly, I'd play an Underdark ranger just for the chance of getting a mimic as a loyal follower.) There are surprisingly complete rules for animal and follower training, including training techniques, tricks, and timing. The artwork of a ranger lounging in the sun while his trained ape washes the dishes perhaps does not communicate a huge amount of heroism, but it gets the message across loudly.
These three chapters cover the basics while expanding possibilities for a ranger player, exactly what you'd want from a supplement of this sort.
Beastmaster! No, not the old movie with Marc Singer (rumored trivia: back in the mid-80's, that film was re-run so many times that HBO stood for "Hey! Beastmaster's on!"), although it's based on that. There are 15 new kits for rangers, including the beastmaster. Some are highly specific - you may not want a sea ranger unless your campaign is specifically oceanic - but they tend toward the flavorful. The explorer and pathfinder are experts in outdoor traveling and adventures; the feralan (one of my favorites) are feral children who become rangers; the forest runner does a fine job of modeling Robin Hood; and the greenwood ranger actually turns the ranger into a living, walking tree. The justifier is an incredibly skilled guerilla fighter (ironically, one that could conceivably get a gorilla follower, leading to a guerilla gorilla, which is a little self-recursive), and the giant killer is focused towards one particularly flavorful sort of enemy.
It's recommended that you examine special hindrances for kits that rely heavily on animal companions, as they tend to add insult to injury. The falconer, for instance, sinks into grief for 1-4 weeks when she loses a falcon follower; such mechanics encourage the player not to put her follower(s) in danger, which runs contrary to the theme of the class. Some tweaking may be required to make these kits mesh perfectly with your campaign style.
Some ranger kits use role-playing hindrances to balance mechanical benefits, but there are no stand-out balance issues that cause concern. They are for the most part both fun and mechanically solid, with some really creative ideas interspersed throughout.
The book allows non-standard rangers to become demi-rangers, requiring the use of a kit and allowing some interesting possibilities. If you want a feral halfling and you aren't in Dark Sun, this may be your best bet. I also like that guidelines are given for hacking these kits into new kits, changing the giant killer into a dragon killer or creating a crypt ranger who is followed by non-evil undead.
Spells, Gear, and Personality. The remainder of the book is taken up with spells, proficiencies, gear, role-playing advice, and religion. While the rules chapters are solid (if a bit low-fantasy), the roleplaying chapter is particularly interesting. It talks through how people become rangers, the classic traits of rangers (such as introversion and a love of nature), the details of a ranger's duties, and different sorts of personalities you'd typically find in the class. More intriguingly, it discusses linked characteristics and the kits that might work best with that sort of a personality.
The book finishes with a discussion of religion and a description of a forgathering, a ranger conclave where many rangers gather to meet, trade, and discuss strategy, tactics, and current events. It's an interesting concept that can lead to some interesting adventure hooks.
Overall, The Complete Ranger's Handbook is a useful supplement for anyone interested in the class. It occasionally rises to creative brilliance and consistently provides good, solid game design for the class.
About the Creators. Rick Swan is the author of The Complete Guide to Role-Playing Games and wrote material for Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and core AD&D. He once wrote an adventure (Nightmare Keep) that takes place entirely inside the body of a massive undead lich. Not everyone can say that.
About the Product Historian
History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.