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The Ranger is one of my favorite classes…

Ok, you all knew I’d have to post a bit about Rangers after Brandon opened the floor.  From Hank the Ranger in the animated series to Drizz’t, Rangers have been a staple in the D&D game for a long time.  In fact, I think it is appropriate for the Ranger to be examined at the same time as the Paladin since they both began as upgrades to the original Fighter class.  You could make the argument that these two were the first templates!

Also in keeping with the theme of examining class roots in literature, it would be appropriate to say that Rangers are a representation of the Dunedain from Middle-Earth.  The people of Gondor did in fact refer to them that way.  But the class has been defined in several ways by different settings.  My personal favorite was the version presented in the CRPG Ultima III.  That Ranger gave up heavy armor proficiencies for moderate access to both Wizard and Cleric spells.  I’ve always identified the Ultima settings “Avatar” with the Ranger as well.  The aforementioned Hank the Ranger was an early range attacker with a very cool magic bow.  In the early AD&D days the class seemed to be just Fighters with a few more skills and a penchant for Giantslaying.  But R.A. Salvatore probably did more to change that than anyone with his iconic character, Drizz’t D’Orden.  After Drizz’t it seemed to be a full season of dual wielding for the remainder of 2nd Edition.  The exception to the Driiz’t rule is another favorite of mine, Minsc, a heavy armored two-handed weapon fighter with a miniature giant space hamster that broke all kinds of stereotypes!

3rd Edition seemed to mold the Ranger into more of a Fighter/Druid/Rogue class with a clear choice to pursue either the bow and arrow or a dual wield build.  The class was significantly broken from a mechanical sense, but was corrected in the 3.5E revision.  Still, thematically, the magic using aspects of the class always took a significant back seat to the skill-based portion.  The intrinsic value of nature has always been a core component of the Ranger though, throughout all editions of D&D and almost every other iteration.  World of Warcraft definitely continues this theme with the Hunter.

I’ve personally always been somewhat averse to the rules pushing my characters in any direction with role-playing.  I prefer to play a Human Ranger as more of a paramilitary type, not necessarily with any strong ties to nature.  In this regard I further emphasize the Rogue aspects a great deal almost to the point of ignoring the watered down spell casting.  I often multi-class into Arcane abilities to regain a little of the flavor I enjoyed from the Ultimas.  But the 3.5E changes that lowered the hit points while boosting skill points were right up my alley.  4E has taken this approach quite a bit further.  Rangers are now all out Strikers, which is synonymous with DPS.  They still have an above average skill set as compared to most classes.  But the spell-casting portion is all but abandoned.  Several of the Paragon paths do allow for an arcane flavor to return though.

The latest iteration of the Ranger offers the flexibility to play a character in many ways.  The class offers the best options for snipers and beast master hunters.  The D&D staple dual wielding tornado of death is still plenty viable as I can attest.  I think the only thing I really feel is missing is the slaying aspect of Rangers.  They’ve always been treated like more intelligent killers that gain an advantage over their foes in previous editions.  I’d love to see a return to the Favored Enemy mechanic.  I think this offers wonderful roleplaying opportunities and a nice little situational combat bonus.  I would wholeheartedly recommend playing the Ranger in every campaign you play that doesn’t already have a character named Treyolen!

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The Paladin is one of my favorite classes.

And I think it’s almost always played wrong.

In fact, I think they’ve usually been played wrong for the majority of their class history. Every time someone talks about them along with their lawful good alignment it makes them sound boring and terrible. The play archetype seems to be a magic knight who ends up being a jerk and ruining it for everyone else.

Everybody knows what I’m talking about. The paladin who refuses to ever get paid for actions and who attacks the rogue because he’s a rogue. The paladin who prevents anyone from doing anything but the most white-washed of acts because he’s a pure douchebag. Worst of all, there’s the paladin who has never had a bad thought in his incredibly boring life and is somehow arrogant about it.

This is not what paladins are and not how they should be played.

Paladins are easily traceable to the Knights of the Round Table. These guys are the first paladins, ruled by a strict code and doing holy miracles and finding the holy grail. This is an extremely useful role-playing resource, because they all have rich, deeply detailed traits. Using them as a  base we can do a comparison and figure out how to make really cool, interesting characters.

Let’s take the granddaddy of them all, Lancelot. In a lot of ways he is like the jerko paladin I describe above. He’s holy, he does magical healing, he never accepts rewards (except when he does, wink-wink), and he’s always praying at the drop of a hat. That’s ok, though, because he’s also very flawed. First of all, in the T.H. White version he’s a massively sadistic bastard who basically hates himself.

What?

Yeah, Lancelot is totally evil inside. He lives by his code because he wants to be good, if he was truly good he wouldn’t need a code. He always grants mercy when asked, because his nature is to just lop off some heads. He fights evil ogres and barons because they do all the stuff he wants to do but which he wont allow himself to indulge in.

Meanwhile, he’s ends up fucking the queen. He thinks about her all the time, and becomes consumed by these thoughts. This is not the “I’m immune to lust” paladin you’d expect. He rescues a woman, Elaine, from a magical boiling pot, and then he ends up banging her while thinking he’s doing Guenevere. In fact, the whole reason he’s adventuring is to get away from the queen. As a result of all this, he spends the next few decades convinced he has done wrong, is no true knight, etc. He’s still treated like the greatest knight, but that only serves as a constant reminder that he’s living a lie. For instance, when he ends up healing a man whose wounds can only be tended by the greatest knight living, he weeps “like a child who has been beaten”.

There’s nothing black and white about this character, and it would be very rewarding to play and play with a character designed to this type.

Who are you?

Below is my oft mentioned character survey. Please answer these for your main characters. You can answer for those you have in case of death* but only do so if you have the time and/or gumption.

Some of these you probably wont be able to answer specifically, as you don’t know the in-and-outs of the campaign. That’s fine. A good rule of thumb to follow is to just answer approximately when you’re unsure. Give a general answer; I can help you fill in the blanks. Oh, and try to avoid ‘grunt’ answers like “killin’ stuff.” Of course, you can answer that way if that’s how your character would answer!

Please answer as soon as you can. Oh, and these are questions that I think Tyler is fulling capable of handling! He’s answering for a character, after all. 🙂 Really think about your answers. I hope they’ll tell you as much as they tell me.

Also, send your answers directly to me. I’ll make them public once we know how the party came together.

*A note on character death. I’ve decided to allow replacement characters to come in at equal level to the party. It just makes sense that way. Gear might not be equivalent, but it wouldn’t be fun to be of a lower level.

The Character Survey:

1) Describe yourself in ten words or less.

2) What do you think is your greatest strength?

3) What do you think is your biggest weakness?

4) What is your most distinguishing feature?

5) Why did you choose the adventuring life?

6) Which family members or friends do you hold most dear?

7) What people, groups, or objects hold your greatest loyalty?

8.) What career could you see yourself in one year from now? Five?

9) What place do you wish to visit?

10) Consider your skills. How did you acquire them?

11) What do you like to do when not adventuring or training?

12) What magic items do you crave?

13) Where do you enjoy hanging out? What kind of places?

14) How do you want people to remember you after your death?

Thanks for taking the time!

Up next, where in the Realms you’ll be starting out!

Races in the Realms

To role-play a character properly you should know how those you meet might react to you. And it can also be helpful, when putting together a character in a fleshed out setting like Forgotten Realms, to know where you’re from. I’m hoping the post below can help you do both things. What will follow will be, for each race, a brief description description of where you can be from and how others will react to you. At the end I’ll post a current map of Faerun which should help give you a sense of scale. Finally, a list of languages should help you round out your character sheets and will end out the post.

Hope you find this stuff useful!

Deva

Deva, or aasimars as they were once known, came to Faerun as angelic servants to ancient deities. Just as deities must send avatars into the world, so the Deva needed to incorporate themselves in mortal flesh. The price for their corporal immortality was perpetual reincarnation. Deva don’t have a homeland as do other races. But they are more likely to be found in the east than anywhere else.

Deva are very rare. When unmasked most will react to a Deva with outright fear or open hostility.

Dragonborn

Dragonborn in Faerun basically hail from one of two places: Abeir and Tymanther. Those Dragonborn in Abeir, a small continent found west across the Trackless Sea, toil as slaves for cruel Dragon-kind masters. To both break free of this slavery and arrive safely in the main continent of Faerun would make for an amazing character indeed. The free nation of Tymanther, in the east, is your other option for an origin location. Tymanther is a recently independent nation, and struggles to make lasting, peaceful relationships with the lands around them.

Dragonborn are seen as peculiar and are often kept at a distance by most people in Faerun. Their customs are seen as strange and their uncertain origins make establishing trust a difficult proposition. Don’t expect to make fast friends with anyone. Your race’s natural sense of duty and honor is your greatest asset in this case.

Drow

The Drow are a cruel and wicked elven race that inhabit the Underdark, a vast network of caves under the surface of Faerun. Beautiful and decadent, these dark elves favor strength and shun weakness. From birth drow are taught that they are superior to all other races, and that those who lack strength to defend themselves are to be used as the drow see fit. You can see then how they can seem a bit arrogant and condescending to others.

A few Drow escape the Underdark and make a new life on the surface. It goes without saying that trust and friendship are hard to come by, and outright hostility will often be a given – especially from Eladrin and Elves.

Dwarves

As is a staple in fantasy settings, the glory of the old Dwarven kingdoms has faded. Many of their strongholds are long in ruin, but they hold on stoutly to what remains. There are two varieties of Dwarves to be found in Faerun. The arrogant Gold Dwarves hold fast to their kingdom of East Rift, set against east wall of the vast Underchasm in the south. Shield Dwarves, found almost anywhere else in Faerun, are far more open and amicable than their Gold Dwarf cousins. Gold Dwarves are known for their stylized goods made in expensive and beautiful metals and stone. Shield Dwarves work in far more practical elements, but their craftsmanship is just as expert.

Dwarves are accepted nearly everywhere in Faerun and will be shunned or turned away by only the most prejudiced. Gold Dwarves might face a cold shoulder due to their people’s reputation for arrogance, but for the most part they are accepted on a Dwarf-by-Dwarf basis.

Eladrin

The Eladrin are the second of the elven races races in Faerun. They are often known collectively as “High Elves” or “Light Elves” amongst other races, but they are called Eladrin amongst themselves. As with Dwarves, there are two varieties of Eladrin to be found in Faerun, Moon Elves and Sun Elves. The pale Moon Elves are more likely to appreciate the companionship of other races, and they are by far the most numerous. Some make their lives in the great cosmopolitan cities of Baldur’s Gate and Waterdeep on the west coast of Toril. Their Eladrin brothers, the lightly bronzed Sun Elves, are far more cautious and insular. They make their homes within the safe confines of the elven cities of Myth Drannor and Everska, where you can also find Moon Elves. Both varieties can be found on the Elven home island of Evermeet, west across the sea.

With the exception of those lucky residents of Baldur’s Gate and Waterdeep, the mysterious Eladrin are not often seen by other races in Faerun. When encountered they are treated with suspicion and often fear. Rarely, if ever, are they treated with disrespect.

Elves

The third and final of the Elven races, Elves are often considered the standard; say “Elf” in Faerun and this race will come to mind. As with the Dwarves and Eladrin, our Elves are divided into two groups. Collectively known as “Green Elves” they are the Wood Elves and the Wild Elves. Wood Elves are the most numerous of the two. They make their homes in the arbors of the High Forest and the Lethyr, Wealdath, Chondalwood, and Cormanthor woods. Though it’s not out of the question to find them wherever there are woodlands. Their cousins, the Wild Elves, are xenophobic, and even distrust other elves. They make their homes far from others and have settled in bleak places such as Elfharrow and the deeper portions of the Chondalwood. Wherever you find an untamed woodland you may just find a Wild Elf.

Like Dwarves, Elves are accepted in most parts of Faerun and only those with a natural prejudice will reject them. Wild Elves will often be treated with curiosity more than anything.

Gnomes

Gnomes, known as the Forgotten Folk, are rare in Faerun. Small communities exist in the Western Heartlands, Elturgard, along the coast of the Shining Sea, and usually anywhere you can find Dwarves. Some Gnomes have even settled in the Underdark.

Most view Gnomes with curiosity or dismissive humor.

Goliaths

Goliaths are virtual unknowns in Faerun and have only recently started to descend from the hills and mountains. Goliaths live mostly in the little-known ranges of eastern Faerun – the Thesk Mountains, the Mountains of Copper, the Sunrise Mountains, and even the bitterly cold Icerim Mountains. The lands around these mountains are largely desolate and few people venture into their lands.

Goliaths who venture away from home soon find that their great size and talent for combat opens up a world of possibilities. Though many should prepare themselves for the prejudice of others and the assumption that their pastoral and uncivilized history means they as a race are stupid and easily fooled.

Half-Elves

Half-Elves appear throughout Faerun wherever elves and humans dwell near one another. Half-Elf settlements exist, but they are unusual. The largest populations of half-elves are found in Aglarond, Gulthandor, the Dales, and Luruar. Many of the half-elves formerly occupying Cormyr have moved north over the past decade, finding the north a bit more welcoming.

Travelers, traders, and adventurers half-elves are born diplomats whose glib tongues invite friendly smiles and inspire welcoming-arms. Even so, not all half-elves are born of a loving relationship. And many have a troubled past that can be the consequence of prejudice directed at one parent or the other.

Half-Orcs

While some half-elves have a checkered past, nearly all half-orcs are certain to. In human communities half-orcs surface in Vaasa or lands to the northwest of Cormyr. Though they can be found anywhere nomadic orc raiders have assaulted an unsuspecting human community.

Due to their ill heritage, half-orcs are treated with disdain and disrespect all over Faerun.

Halflings

Former halfling homelands in the Chondalwood, Arnrock, and Lurien are today uninhabitable. Halflings have migrated to other regions and intermittent halfling communities can be found at crossroads and along major highways. For the most part, nations have tolerated these communities and allowed them to develop and prosper. Amn, for instance, has a population of halflings larger than the population of most countries. Halflings in the eastern part of this nation outnumber humans. You can usually find halflings in large human cities, or wherever there is room for a farming community to grow.

There is a general prejudice against halflings as short, soft, and cowardly. The rarer a halfling is in a locality the more likely a negative prejudice is to exist.

Humans

Humans exist all over Faeurn and it would take far too much time to introduce all their types here. If you’re looking for a certain kind of fantasy, ethnic, or historical type just let me know and I’ll give you an good choice of locations.

Lycanthropes and Shifters

These races have always dwelled in the shadow of the human and elven realms of Faerun. A small number intermarry with humans and over generations the trait of shapeshifting diminishes. Tribes and small communities of shifters and lycanthropes dot Faerun, though there are a few larger groups that need mention. In the Werewoods outside Baldur’s Gate and the Glimmerwood near Silverymoon exist large bands of lycanthropes that have evil designs on the local inhabitants. Dambrath, The Great Dale and the Forest of Lethyr are home to small nomadic bands of shifters who just want to be left alone.

Most people consider lycanthropy an inherently evil curse or disease, so shifters and lycanthropes are feared and treated violently when known.

Tieflings

Tieflings are scattered throughout Faerun, though most originate from areas along the eastern coast of the Sea of Fallen Stars. Those who remain in the east are more likely to continue the evil practices of their forebears.

Tieflings are plagued by a sinister heritage, and face a deep prejudice and the assumption that they are all evil in nature.

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Here’s a 4e map of Faerun. If you need help finding a location, or would like more specific information, please let me know!

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Finally, here are a list of languages common to Faerun. All languages from your PHB are standard, with these additions:

Chondathan – This is our equivalent of Common. You can call it whatever you wish; Common works fine with me.

Damaran – This language is commonly spoken from the Moonsea, east along the Sea of Fallen Stars, to Thesk.

Deep Speech – I include this only to note that it is the major language spoken in the Underdark.

Netherese – Netheril

Primordial – I include this only to note that it is the major language of the Genasi in Akanul, Calimshan, and the Lake of Steam.

Shou – Nathlan

Thayan – Thay

Tuigan – The Hordelands and areas east.

Untheric – This language is spoken in the Beastlands, Chessentia, Chult, Durpar, Estagund, Turmish, and the Shaar.

Well, that’s it for now. Anything else you want to know, just ask!

Rollplaying

Little bit of humor from WotC. Realms character info, map, and character Q&A coming later today!

Party Composition

So, you’ve got a group short of four? Not sure what your party should be composed of? Here’s the DMGs take on party roles and what can happen to you if you’re short. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it. I’m of the Strikers over Controllers school, for certain. But this is just a little more to think on as your group comes together…

What don’t we have?

We don’t have a Defender!

Without a defender, the party’s controller is particularly vulnerable, and the strikers might have to sacrifice some mobility. The leader can take on some of the defender’s role. Enemy soldiers are more successful at controlling the battlefield, and enemy brutes become very dangerous for the characters.

We don’t have a Leader!

When a party doesn’t have a leader, it’s less effective overall, and healing during combat is both more difficult and less effective. A paladin can help cover the leader’s absence, providing both limited healing and boosts to the rest of the party. Healing potions can give the characters more access to their healing surges during combat. Enemy leaders and controllers have more influence on the battle.

We don’t have a Striker!

The absence of a striker is perhaps the easiest to cover. The defender and controller might need to find ways to increase their damage output to bring down monsters faster. Enemy brutes, with their high hit points, and artillery positioned in hard-to-reach places, become a greater threat to the characters.

We don’t have a Controller!

Not having a controller can free the defender up to move around more, since at that point the defender lacks a soft ally to protect. However, as with a striker, a missing controller means that monsters last longer. Large groups of monsters, and minions in particular, survive much longer in the absence of a controller who can damage multiple creatures with a single attack.

So that’s the DMG’s take on things. But my advice, as always, is to let meta-game thinking take a backseat to role-playing.

Do what’s fun!

All,

Trey asked a question about how to add a character background in the character builder. First off, be sure you’re using the full Character Builder associated with our DDI subscription. Also, the below is a screenshot which shows what the background screen looks like, and where it is in the character creation process. I hope it answers your questions.