Monday, October 12, 2015

What is a Ranger?

What is a Ranger?
A Crash Course on the Ranger Character Archetype

This is a response to WotC's extended focus on the Ranger character class, and why nobody likes it.

WotC launched its second survey way back in February, where they noted that the first survey told them people are dissatisfied by the Ranger class presented in the PHB.

They then produced a Ranger variant for Unearthed Arcana in September.

In October, they opened another survey, this time focused entirely on the Ranger.

Clearly this annoys them.

I think the answer is simple, really:

People don't like your ranger class because it looks like you have no idea what it is supposed to be, or at least, what you want it to be. I think you guys painted yourselves into a corner when you made the other classes so flexible. (Which isn't an insult, so much as a compliment- the other character classes are just so good that such a thematically restricted class can't compete)

Let's do the emulation test. This is where you try and build several unique iconic characters from popular culture who symbolize a given archetype. Can you do it without the dedicated class?

  1. Want to emulate Aragorn? Play a Human Fighter with feats to fill in the blanks.
  2. Want to emulate Legolas? Play an Elven Rogue. Or an Elven Fighter.
  3. Want to emulate Drizzt? Dark Elven Rogue+Fighter.
  4. Want to emulate the Huntsman? Human Rogue.
  5. Want your ranger to be more mystical? Crossclass into Druid, take the Eldritch Knight or Arcane Trickster archetypes, or take the Magic Initiate or Ritual Caster feats.
  6. Want an animal companion? Go buy, or tame/train one. The DM's just gonna kill it ASAP anyways, why waste a perfectly good feature on something mortal that doesn't scale with your enemies or you? You're probably better off buying packs of mastiffs. (It's kind of like having extra arms equipped with short swords, except you can't fully control them all)

So, given that you can currently build a more powerful and competent "Ranger" without using a dedicated Ranger class, how does one go about building a desirable dedicated Ranger class?

Let's ask Google. Everything below is simply a compilation of text and images gathered from a google search for "Fantasy Ranger". This is just a cursory overview of the public imagination of what a Ranger is. I didn't even dig past the second page of results, and I already have a very clear understanding of what people expect out of this class.

(Let's start with the basics. What does the word actually mean?)




1. forest ranger.

2. one of a body of armed guards who patrol a region.

3. (initial capital letter) a U.S. soldier in World War II specially trained for making surprise raids and attacks in small groups.
Compare commando.

4. a soldier specially trained in the techniques of guerrilla warfare, especially in jungle terrain.

5. a person who ranges or roves.

6. (especially in Texas) a member of the state police.

7. British. a keeper of a royal forest or park.

(I'm sorry. I know D&D has tried to distance itself from Tolkien since the very beginning, but as a work of fantasy that is equally influential, you kind of have no choice but being tied up with it. Tolkein's Rangers were the original inspiration for the character class, and this has been well documented. You cannot discuss or create the class without acknowledging that people will try to make Aragorn. So learn the damn history.)

In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the Rangers were two secretive, independent groups organized by the Dúnedain of the North (Arnor) and South (Gondor) in the Third Age. Like their Númenórean ancestors, they appeared to possess qualities closely attributed to the Eldar, with their keen senses and ability to understand the language of birds and beasts. They were great trackers and hardy warriors—defending their respective areas from evil forces.

The two groups of Rangers were the Rangers of the North and the Rangers of Ithilien. The two groups were unconnected to each other, though distantly related by blood. (This means Tolkien's Rangers wee actually an ethnic or cultural group; more of a race than a class)

Tolkien's Rangers (and Aragorn in particular) are the primary inspiration for the Dungeons & Dragons character class called "ranger".


In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the Dúnedain /ˈduːnɛdaɪn/ (singular: Dúnadan, "man of the west") were a race of Men descended from the Númenóreans who survived the sinking of their island kingdom and came to Eriador in Middle-earth, led by Elendil and his sons, Isildur and Anárion. They are also called the Men of the West and the Men of Westernesse (direct translations of the Sindarin term). They settled mainly in Arnor and Gondor.

The Westron name for Dúnadan was simply Adûn, "westerner", but this name was seldom used. This name was reserved to those Númenóreans who were friendly to the Elves: the other, hostile survivors of the Downfall were known as the Black Númenóreans.

The Dúnedain were descended from the Elf-friends, the few Men of the First Age who sided with the Noldorin Elves in Beleriand. Their original leader was Bëor the Old, a "Vassal" of the Elf lord Finrod. His people settled in Eldar lands, and he was an ancestor of the Lord Elros, a half-Elf. In the Second age, the Valar gave them Númenor, an island-continent to live on. They later created fortress-cities along the western coasts of Middle-earth, which dominated the lesser men of these areas. In time, Númenor was drowned and a small number of the Faithful (led by Elendil) escaped the destruction.

Sauron's spirit fled from Númenor to Middle-earth, and he again raised mighty armies to challenge the new Dúnedain kingdoms, Gondor and Arnor. With the aid of Gil-galad and the Elves, Sauron was defeated, and he vanished into the wild East for many centuries. Gondor and Arnor prospered during this time.

As Sauron began to re-form and gather strength, a series of deadly plagues came from the East. These tended to strike harder in the North than the South, and caused a population decline in Arnor. The chief of the Nine Ringwraiths, known commonly as the Witch-king of Angmar, began assaulting the divided Northern Dúnedain kingdoms from a mountain stronghold (Carn Dûm). Eventually, he succeeded in destroying Arthedain, the last of the Northern kingdoms.

After the fall of Arthedain, a remnant of the northern Dúnedain became the Rangers of the North, doing what they could to keep the peace in the near-empty lands of their Fathers. The surviving Dúnedain population of Arnor retreated to the Angle south of Rivendell, while smaller populations made isolated settlements in far western Eriador.

Over the centuries, the southern Dúnedain of Gondor intermarried more and more with so-called Middle Men. Only in regions such as Dol Amroth did their bloodline remain pure. Their lifespan became shorter with each generation. Eventually, even the Kings of Gondor married non-Dúnedain women occasionally.

In the Fourth Age, the Dúnedain of Gondor and Arnor were reunited under King Aragorn II Elessar (who was also called the Dúnadan). He married Arwen, daughter of Elrond (a cousin removed by sixty-four generations) and reintroduced Elf-blood into his family line.

In addition to the Faithful, there were Dúnedain in the South who manned Númenórean garrisons at places like Umbar. Many of these folk had been turned toward evil by Sauron's teachings, and remained loyal to him after the fall of their homeland. These are referred to as the Black Númenóreans.

Tolkien's Dúnedain are superior to the other men of Middle Earth in nobility of spirit and body, although they were still capable of evil if corrupted, and tended to do more evil in such circumstances. They were tall, with dark hair, pale skin and grey eyes.

In addition, Dúnedain, especially those of high rank, possessed great wisdom and discernment, and occasional prophecy. They benefited from longer life-spans (three times the life of a regular man) than ordinary men and could retain their youth until the very end of their days. Though the reason is not fully explained in the 'Tale of the Years', one factor that almost certainly contributed to their numerical decline was an extremely low birth rate, with many couples having only one child.

Rangers of the North

In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the Rangers of the North, also known as the Dúnedain of the North, were the descendants of the Dúnedain from the lost kingdom of Arnor. Their menfolk ceaselessly patrolled the boundaries of Eriador and were by necessity skilled with the sword, bow and spear.

The Rangers were grim in life, appearance, and dress, choosing to wear rusty green and brown. The Rangers of the Grey Company (see below) were dressed in dark grey cloaks and openly wore a silver brooch shaped like a pointed star during the War of the Ring. These Rangers rode rough-haired, sturdy horses, were helmeted and carried shields. Their armament included spears and bows.

Like their distant cousins, the Rangers of Ithilien, the Rangers of the North spoke Sindarin (or some variation of it) in preference to the Common Speech. They were led by a Chieftain, whose ancestry could be traced back to Elendil and beyond, to the ancient Kings of Númenor.

During the War of the Ring, the Rangers of the North were led by Aragorn, but the northern Dúnedain were a dwindling and presumably widely scattered folk: when Halbarad received a message to gather as many of the Rangers as he could and lead them south to Aragorn’s aid, only thirty men (the Grey Company) were available at short notice for the journey. The Grey Company met up with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli at the Fords of Isen in Rohan, and at Pelargir, along with the Dead Men of Dunharrow, they captured the ships of Umbar. The Dead Men then departed and the others continued on to fight in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. There, Halbarad was killed. They are also mentioned as part of the army Aragorn commanded at the Battle of Morannon.

With the exception of Aragorn, the Rangers of the North are virtually omitted in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film series, save for a few mentions in the extended cuts. Arnor itself is mentioned only in one line in the extended edition of The Two Towers, when Aragorn explains to Éowyn that he is a "Dúnedain Ranger", of whom few remain because "the North-kingdom was destroyed". The film calls them "Dúnedain Rangers", perhaps to distinguish them from the Rangers of Ithilien, though Tolkien calls both groups Dúnedain (men of the west).

Jackson's terminology appears in some of the film's merchandise, like the computer and video games by Electronic Arts. In the game The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age there is an original Ranger character called Elegost. In another, The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II, Dúnedain Rangers are playable units, but they are like the Ithilien Rangers. Halbarad is featured in The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game and, together with his fellow Rangers, in The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game.

The role of the Rangers of the North has been greatly expanded in The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, which includes numerous Dúnedain spread across the remnants of Arnor. It features several Rangers (including some created expressly for the game) as key characters in the first volume of its story. The Dúnedain in the game have at least two major permanent settlements: Esteldin near the ruins of Fornost and Tinnundir near Annúminas on the shores of Lake Evendim. When the Grey Company rides south, it consists almost entirely of named Rangers with whom players have already interacted. (Aragorn and Halbarad are the only northern Rangers named in the book.)

Rangers of Ithilien

In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the Rangers of Ithilien, also known as the Rangers of the South and Rangers of Gondor, were an elite group of the Southern Dúnedain warriors who scouted in and guarded the land of Ithilien.

The Rangers were first formed at the end of the twenty-ninth century of the Third Age by a decree of the Ruling Steward of Gondor, for Ithilien was frequently subjected to enemies from Mordor and Minas Morgul. One of their chief bases was Henneth Annûn, the Window of the Sunset.

These Rangers were descendants of those who lived in Ithilien before it was overrun and, more distantly, of the ancient Númenóreans. Like their cousins, the Rangers of the North, they were able to speak Sindarin (or some variation of it), their preferred language as opposed to the Common Speech. Their camouflaging green and brown raiment proved to be a useful asset to their secret activities, which mainly concerned crossing the Anduin to assault the Enemy in a manner much akin to guerilla warfare. They were skilled with swords and bows or spears.

During the Fourth Age, it is presumed that most of these men became a part of the White Company, the guards of Faramir, the first Prince of Ithilien.

Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy has an original Ranger of Ithilien named Madril, played by John Bach. He serves as Faramir's lieutenant. He helps defend Osgiliath, but is fatally injured and is eventually killed by Gothmog by a spear-thrust. New Zealand actor Alistair Browning played Damrod.

The likeness of the actor who portrays Anborn was also used in the 2006 EA video game The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II as the portrait of the Men of the West's worker unit, and the Ithilien Rangers are playable archer-like units.

What Wikipedia Has to Say:
(Shockingly, they have a lot to say on this! You should read every section but the one about D&D Rangers. You already know what the Ranger has been in the past, and that basically nobody likes it. Look at what other games and works of fiction have done with the ranger. This is what your game has inspired. This is the public imagination, and it is much bigger than any single edition of D&D. Learn from your descendents.)

A Ranger (also known as Hunter, Archer, Scout, or Tracker) is an archetype found in many fantasy fiction and role-playing games.

Rangers are usually associated with the wisdom of nature. Rangers tend to be wise, cunning, and perceptive in addition to being skilled woodsmen. Many are skilled in stealth, wilderness survival, beast-mastery, herbalism, and tracking. Archery and (often dual-wielding) swordplay are common to rangers, though there are many instances where rangers use a variety of weapons, skills, and sometimes magic or have a resistance to magic.

Ranger skills in books and games can include and are not limited to:

  • Skilled with the bow, usually because they use them so often for the hunting of wild animals.
  • They tend to be well versed in other forms of combat however, most notably dual-wielding short swords or long knives, although rangers prefer using ranged weapons, and their melee combat abilities often pale in comparison to other character classes such as a warrior or barbarian.
  • Throwing knives
  • Stealth
  • Climbing
  • Detecting or laying traps
  • Taming, calming or charming animals
  • Tracking and leaving no trail to be tracked
  • Knowledge of herbs for medical and poisonous uses
  • The art of healing (magical or medical) due to their self-reliance
  • Land and nature related magic and enchantments or the ability to recognize them or resistance to them
  • Ability to move quickly through the forests due to them living amongst them
  • Skilled in speaking the language of all creatures.
  • Skilled in training wild animals.

In Dungeons & Dragons, rangers typically worship a nature god or goddess, and they take a role similar to druids by protecting nature and slaying foul creatures. Rangers gain offensive bonuses against certain creatures through the choosing of a "Favored Enemy" (such as giants, dragons or undead). They may also gain defensive bonuses within certain terrains through the choosing of a "Favored Environment" (such as Desert, Forest or Urban) that stacks with their "Favored Enemy"; this further illustrates their cunning. In addition, rangers have access to divine magic and an animal companion to aid them in battle.

Rangers tend to prefer the company of fellow rangers. They are extensively trained. However, good rangers will often act as the guardians of others - whether appreciated or not - by repelling "evil" forces and protecting the weak.

Some noteworthy fictional rangers are Drizzt Do'Urden and Hank in the Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon.

Rangers have appeared as in various Final Fantasy games, including the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI. Rangers have also appeared in one form or another in other Final Fantasy games often called Archer or Hunter. In Final Fantasy Tactics Advance Hunter is an upgraded class of the basic class, Archer.

Rangers in Guild Wars are sleek looking individuals who primarily use bows, but are allowed to use some of the game's other weapons such as swords, axes, spears. The headgear of rangers is a mask shielding the face (similar to the appearance of "Old West" robbers). Rangers can tame pets, summon nature spirits, set traps, command beasts, use a variety of combat "stances" to evade attacks or run faster, and use powerful marksmanship skills. The ranger class worships Melandru, the Goddess of Earth and Nature. Rangers wear medium armor (higher than spellcaster classes, lower than warriors) and the highest elemental defense in the game.

In the Guild Battle portion of Guild Wars Player versus player rangers are known for their survivability and effectiveness as solo characters, often acting separately from the rest of the team, reflecting the hardy and cunning nature of a ranger.

Rangers in Dark Age of Camelot are an archer class in the realm of Hibernia. The races of Elves, Lurikeen, Celt, and Shar may become rangers. The differ from the archer class of the other realms in that they wield two weapons instead of a sword and shield, or a large spear. The weapon of choice for a Dark Age of Camelot Ranger is the Recurve Bow. Like all archers, they employ spells to augment their abilities as bowmen, and are adept at stealth.

In Fire Emblem units of the Archer class can wield only bows, allowing them to attack most enemy units without receiving a counterattack, but at the same time preventing them from counterattacking enemies who manage to close to melee range. Hunter is a similar class with lower defensive stats, but the ability to move through forest terrain without being slowed. The Hunter's promoted form Horseman is a cavalry unit which can equip both swords and bows, making them extremely flexible; in addition they usually lack some of the normal weaknesses of mounted units, such as vulnerability to anti-cavalry weapons and inability to pass through rough terrain. In some games the Horseman class is instead known as Ranger, and can be promoted from both Mercenary (a balanced class specialising in two-handed swords) and Archer.

In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance the protagonist Ike's initial class is named Ranger, but is otherwise identical to the Mercenary class described above.

The rangers in Heroes of Might and Magic, as usual, were a ranged class (their special class ability was a slight bonus to their ranged skills.) However, they were notable for not having any connection to nature, only to pathfinding, and for being an advanced class of either the barbarian or the thief (neither of which normally become rangers.)

Although there are not definitive classes in RuneScape, Rangers are characters who have decided to invest most of their resources in the Ranged skill and its associated equipment, increasing their ability with bows, crossbows, throwing knives, and all of the games ranged weapons. They show none of the regular attunement to nature and animals, being primarily a distance attacker, though certain items allow the traditional usage of poisons. Like many other Rangers, RuneScape Rangers use lighter, leather armour, placing their defensive ability somewhere between the low-armour magical classes and the high-armour melee classes, Though during PVP they are known to wear Heavy armour helmets and legs if their defence level allows it. A Ranger may also invest in the Mage skill so that they may use restricting spells that can hold the opponent in place while the caster attacks from a distance with Ranged.

In Maplestory the ranger is a third advancement from the bowman base class. Rangers specialize in bows and rapid attacks in contrast to their cousin, the sniper, who specializes with crossbows and power. Although there is not a clear affinity for nature, both Rangers and Snipers can summon a silver hawk and golden eagle respectively, that can aid their caller in battle by stunning a nearby monster.

"Ranger" is a character class in NetHack. Rangers can become skilled or expert with many thrown or fired weapons such as spears, bows, and daggers. Rangers enjoy the ability to be able to skillfully cast "Divination" spells that help them discover monsters, identify objects, map areas, etc. Orcs, Elves, Gnomes and Humans can play ranger, the alignments available to this class are neutral and chaotic.

"Ranger" is a Class in the role-playing game Dragonfable. Zhoom, the master Ranger, is the main NPC in the town the Sandsea. You must complete Zhoom's Quest, The Hard Way, to unlock the armor. The Rangers of DragonFable are described by Zhoom as moving from place to place and calling no one place home. All Rangers have different codes of honor, but they live and die by that code. Zhoom also states that, "Rangers serve no king." Rangers have an affinity for nature as well, and each have an animal that they consider a partner and seen to share a spiritual connection with. Zhoom has a PrideLord named Zixcy, but he teaches the player character Falconry after the player completes the Hudson's Hawk Quest.

In order to Level Up this Class, the player needs to give Zhoom three Ancient Treasures, which can be obtained by completing various Quests throughout the Sandsea. The Class armor consists of leather armor, leather boots, and leather gloves with cloth pants. It carries a bow and arrows, a knife, and the player's equipped weapon, which is displayed hanging from the waist of the armor. While the Ranger's default attack is Melee, most of its attacking Skills involve Ranged damage. Its Skills involve enchanting arrows to cause flashbang and poison effects, using multiple arrows to attack, and using multi-hit attacks that can involve both Melee and Ranged attacks.

In Scions of Fate the Ranger is a slow attacking warrior that uses arrows to attack from far distances. He has relatively low health and defence ability. However he has a very high dodging ability and attack power. The class is not actually called "Ranger". The cycle goes Novice Bowman - Bowman - Silent Strider - Swift Ranger. This class can only be accessed if the Order Faction is selected.

The Ranger of Norrath is a cousin of the Druid, though one that specialises in melee as opposed to magical combat. They are usually referred to as Guardians or Wardens of Nature and many have similar beliefs and principles to Druids; though as their equipment often requires repairs and periodic replacing Rangers tend to be more comfortable socially than their spell casting counterpart. They do still have a similar ability to call upon spirits (of nature) and unseen forces but it is much more limited in its power, as such they are extensively trained in many weapon types and combat abilities, usually to a far greater level of proficiency than any Druid would be expected to reach.

A Rangers combat training focuses on offensive skills, with the defensive side left to an individuals cunning and agility. Many of a Rangers spells can either be used at a distance or allow the Ranger to fight outside their opponents range, archery is one of a Rangers primary weapon skills and when mastered becomes one of the most powerful weapons available to them. Rangers can also slow movement, 'root' a target to the ground and when fighting animals make them flee in fear. They gain some of the Druid 'blast' spells and can transform into a wolf when they reach the required level of power.

While defensively limited, a Ranger does have some defensive boons including the capability to wear chain armour. Their armour class and hit points can be magically raised and they can cast a shield which harms their opponent when they strike the Ranger. In addition Rangers can reduce aggression and 'lull' creatures enough that they wouldn't attack when approached, giving enough distraction to pick groups of them off one by one. Along with the best tracking ability of any profession this means Rangers are often considered the masters of hunting, commonly taking responsibility for scouting ahead or choosing suitable 'prey' for a party.

A Hunter of WoW is a ranger character class that has an animal companion and employs firearms.

Rangers are a Scout Class in the Live action role-playing game, The Vorydian Chronicles. They are more combat oriented than the other two Scout Classes, Rogue or Spy, in order to better survive the wilderness on one's own. Rangers are specialize in wooded environments, able to slip past animals and carnivorous plants unnoticed, track, camouflage one's self, and they are given the ability to dual-wield swords, in addition to the existing Scout Fighting Styles. Their combat skills are generally centered on Marksman (archery and thrown weapons) and gladiator (dual-swords), and they receive fighting style proficiencies, as well as Expert Flanking proficiencies. Defensively, Rangers receive Vaea boosts to their hit points, as well as a threshold soak, up to two chosen element types to take minimal from, and immunity to a poison of choice. At the highest common rank, a Ranger may receive a Spirit Animal. Rangers may achieve any one of the Exemplar lists: Stalker, Ghost, Sniper, or Bounty Hunter.

A young adult fantasy book series based in medieval times revolves around Rangers. They are the "police" of the country and widely feared. Normal people consider them sorcerers of the black arts, but the rangers of Rangers Apprentice do not associate with magic. There are fifty active rangers in the Ranger's corps and all of them are skilled bowmen, trackers, knife fighters and throwers, and are masters in unseen and unheard movements. Only one ranger in the corps, Gilian, knows how to fight with a sword. Every ranger, and any apprentice to a ranger, has their own horse. The horse they have is specially bred and trained to travel for long distances at fast speeds. These horses all have a sort of "password" needed to ride. If a person attempts to ride on the horse and they do not know the password then the horse throws them off. This word is only needed to be spoken into the horse's ear the first time someone attempts to ride. (OMFG, THAT IS SO COOL.) Each certified ranger is required to protect and deal with trouble and laws in their fief, which is similar to a county. The series bases itself around a young orphan named Will who becomes apprentice to a high ranking ranger named Halt. By book five Will completes his apprenticeship and is a certified ranger and is called upon to go on missions. Most of the time on these missions he is accompanied with Horace, a knight who grew up with Will in the orphanage, and Halt.

Rangers in the MMORPG Midgard Rising are masters of Curbing beasts. Curbing is the term used to described taming combat pets. The Ranger and pet are a force to be reconned with in the World of Midgard (WoM). The ranger has a full compliment of ranged skills to choose from. They have a multitude of ranged weapons to choose from including various assortments of bows, guns, and crossbows. The ranger is not limited to ranged weapons; they are just as effective in melee combat as well with the use of varying axes, daggers, and claws. The rangers can melee with two handed weapons or are just as at ease dual wielding as well. Rangers have a large arsenal of skills at their disposal; with skills revolving around tracking, scouting, setting snares, and the use of their combat pets, the rangers are always well equipped. The rangers of WoM are able to wear cloth, leather, or mail armour.The ranger is just as at home in a full party of other players providing ranged or melee dps, or crowd control as they are running solo with their trusty pet companions. They are sort of a Jack of all trades class.

(If you're going to restrict the usage of an animal companion, at least make it halfway decent.)

What TV Tropes Has to Say
(If you want to know anything about pop culture, hit up TV tropes. It is the most awesome kind of horrible.)

No, we aren't talking about the kind fellow at the national park who wears the snazzy uniform.
We're talking about the forest-dwelling recluse who serves as a self-appointed guardian for their ancient and enchanted home. They may wear green in an attempt to blend in to their forest surroundings. They guard their forest with their bow slung across their back, and would rather take your hat off with an arrow than post a polite notice to please put out your campfire before you leave. In a fantasy setting, expect at least one elf to be this trope.

The Forest Ranger may also be a Nature Hero and have similar associating tropes, however, the Forest Ranger is not a hero and may be a member of a large group of forest dwellers, such as elven city, or even be guard to such a city.

The Ranger Class: Other Names: Hunter. Rangers are woodsmen skilled at surviving in the wild. They may be lumped in with Fighters or Rogues (above) but more often than not are a separate tree of classes all their own. Archery is generally their favored skill, although most can fall back on swordplay if necessary. Rangers may also be skilled in some form of wilderness or nature magic. They may be very good at fighting a specific type of enemy, and often take on the role of The Hunter against such foes. Rarely, a Ranger may have access to guns as well as bows.

The Sniper Ranger: This version is totally reliant on archery, but usually does higher damage because of it. May have a variety of status-inflicting arrows to slow or otherwise annoy enemies. Keeps to the back of a battle.

The Archer is a skilled bowman. They're generally independent and used to working alone. This tends to make them practical, a little haughty or arrogant and not the best at following orders especially from those they don't respect. The archer is generally stealthy and graceful and tends to fight at a distance. As a result, they're often portrayed as vulnerable up close unless they switch to a different weapon for close combat.

The archer is most likely to be found in a wild setting and can share traits with the Cold Sniper, most notably an analytical and calculating nature. This archetype tends to be depicted as having a more slender build despite the great upper-body strength required to draw a powerful bow without mechanical assistance. The character is likely to also be The Chick, a Nature Hero, a Forest Ranger, and/or an Elf. This also has the benefit of keeping the delicate female safely out of the bone-crunching melee.

The Pinned to the Wall trope is a common enough tactic by this archetype in comics. Most notably, Hawkeye and Green Arrow.

The Bow and Blade Ranger: A version of the ranger that can handle bladed weapons as well, allowing them to defend themselves against approaching enemies or close in for the kill. The most likely Ranger to overlap with the Fighter archetype.

A character who wields both a bow and sword (this includes crossbows). This is quite common in fiction for a number of reasons:

It makes tactical sense. Even the toughest swordsman or most accurate archer will find their weapons useless when fighting at the wrong range.

It looks damn cool.

It gives the author another tool for their hero to use, allowing for easier writing during action sequences.
Besides these more down-to-earth or aesthetic reasons, using a bow and sword competently takes a lot of training and time; it can symbolise dedication, co-ordination, flexibility of character and perhaps even a certain kind of intelligence. It's certainly the mark of a wary, well prepared character; if you're this well prepared you're either naturally thorough in preparing for circumstances or have been taught the value of said preparations by experience. Characters like this are often royalty or nobility in reduced circumstances; the combination of a bow, a relatively humble weapon, beside a sword or other heraldric arm, a sign of high birth. It might also be a character from a humble background who has come into a more heroic, important role in life.

It can also signify that this character, for all his noble bloodlines, is an amoral person. Be wary of sword and crossbow combinations in particular.

Characters armed this way tend to be rather lightly armoured. This may of course be due to the fact that most archers are lightly armored. (When was the last time you saw or read about a hero in full plate using a bow?) For some reason, the archer element seems to dominate. They tend to either be extremely agile or wily and cunning in order to make up for it. This does make some sense, given that the more weapons you carry, the less weight you can devote to armor.

Of course, it's rather difficult to wield both a bow and a sword at the same time (though some characters with crossbows small enough to be fired one-handed manage) unless you've got more than two hands. The favoured technique for this style is typically to shoot foes with arrows from a distance, and then draw the sword once they get too close for comfort.

The Dual Wielding Ranger: The Dual Wielding Ranger most famously represented by the famed Drow ranger Drizzt Do'Urden, who uses two melee weapons, though it does predate him by quite some time. Very common in Dungeons & Dragons-based material, but less so elsewhere.

This trope refers to wielding two weapons at once. After all, if one weapon is good, then two weapons must be twice as good. The tactics can vary widely. A character might be concerned only with offence, and therefore decides that he wants to kill with both hands rather than just one. More tactical characters might typically use their off-handed weapon for blocking or tricky counter-attacks. Game mechanics often grant additional attacks to characters with two weapons.

The types of weapons used can also be diverse. If the character has one hand dominant, he might wield a long weapon in one hand and a shorter weapon in his off-hand, such as a classic rapier and dagger pairing. Two small weapons is also pretty common, with the idea that smaller, nimbler weapons won't get tangled up with each other. However, some characters will dual-wield long weapons, such as swords or axes, which is generally portrayed as quite a feat. Mary Sue and Munchkin characters stereotypically wield two katanas. A Bifurcated Weapon might allow the character to switch between one- and two-weapon styles on the fly. On the extreme end of the scale, a character might wield a One-Handed Zweihänder in each hand!

Whatever the weapon, you'll probably see a lot of Flynning and Slice-and-Dice Swordsmanship in the choreography. Two crossed weapons are also perfect for a Blade Lock.

Dual wielding appears in various Real Life cultures and combat styles, but it tends to be over-represented in fiction because it's... well... cool.

The Beastmaster Ranger: This class specializes in either taking temporary or permanent control of wild animals, and then allowing their pet to rush to the front lines while they support with healing and long-range attacks.

A type of character who uses the assistance of an animal, force of nature, or just some sort of not-highly-sentient creature (with free will) to help them fight.

There are a few variations to this:

A) The creature in question has befriended the Beastmaster with a lifelong bond, and is always by his/her side, constantly ready for combat and play.

B) The Beastmaster can convince, cajole, or outright force a critter/creature to fight with them via some type of influence or power. Sometimes he is also a Nature Hero.

C) The beast being used is actually mystical in nature, such as an elemental or spirit, typically requiring a pact; and is normally called with magic.

D) The ally is artificial in nature, normally constructed by the master. Is either a Robot Buddy (a Robot Master), or a puppet controlled by either magic or plain-old strings (a Marionette Master).

E) The Beastmaster can grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals or telepathy and convince them or request for them to help. (AQUAMAN!)

F) The Beastmaster can see through the eyes of animals and maybe even control it from the inside with a form of mind control.

In video games, the Beastmaster either has complete control over their ally, an ally that follows the "Monkey-see, monkey-do" mentality and follows the master's actions, or the ally just does what it wants in range of its master. As the AI isn't always very good at doing actions that don't kill everyone, the playerbase may regard the job as unpopular. This will normally not be the case in other forms of fiction, as no computer is directing the ally's actions, that's now the plot's job.

Due to the fact that the ally is, at best, another damage dealer/damage taker, Beastmasters are generally able to do things on their own in an MMORPG environment.

The Trapper Ranger: The Trapper is a character who can lay down various traps in an area that the enemy can walk into, making them vulnerable to ambushes or follow-up attacks.

The Magical Ranger: A version of the ranger who can uses enchanted or Trick Arrow to take advantage of Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors, or slow down and disable enemies with "net arrows" or "freezing arrows" and the like.

So You Want to Be a Ranger?
By Nemo of Calh
(Read this. It doesn't say anything about what a ranger is mechanically, but it gives us something very useful- a deep look into the mind of someone who has spent the better part of a decade living as one)

I have been playing a Ranger in Dagorhir for seven years.  I have been told in the more recent of those years that I have very good Ranger gear, but it was not always that way.  I did not enter into Dagorhir looking as if I stepped out of a movie; it took me five years to refine my garb to the point that, looking back on it, I can at least be satisfied with it now.  Even in the years since, I have not stopped improving my Ranger gear, and I am at the point now where I feel as if, given the right skills, I could live as a Ranger in a fantasy world.

I say this because I want new people to understand that they won't look like me immediately.  It takes years of time, thought and money to develop a well thought out set of gear that blends with a flushed out character.  I hope that the advice I can give in this thread will help Dagorhirrim both old and new who want to portray a Ranger to think in new directions.  I never stop improving my gear, and there is no reason anyone else needs to.

Some of you may have noticed already that I have made a distinction.  For me, "garb" and "gear" are two separate yet overlapping concepts that are both essential to looking like a Ranger.  Garb is what most people think of.  It's just the clothing a Ranger wears.  Gear, on the other hand, is everything from weapons and tools to belts, quivers and even tents.  Some garb items--such as a cloak or a wool doublet--are both Garb and Gear. I say both are essential for portraying a Ranger because of what a Ranger does: he ranges.  Ranging is "mov[ing] around or through a region in all directions," or "rov[ing], roam[ing] or wander[ing]".  More than (to use Dungeons and Dragons terms) a fighter, a rogue, or a bard, Rangers have to travel as much as fight.  As such, a Ranger's gear is as important to his appearance as his garb.

This article will be broken up into three sections, each of which is equally important to the creation of a Ranger's garb and gear.  Being more versatile than many other types of characters--fighting at close and long range, as well as sneaking--Rangers often work alone.  As such, they need to be self-sufficient.  This includes not only often working without the aid of other people, but without the aid of a cart or even a horse--should a fight go poorly, it would work against a Ranger to have to defend something other than himself.  It would be better, instead, to run and live to fight another day.  A Ranger is at one with his environment, so he would disappear and defeat his foes from afar if he could not fight them head-on.  Thus, the three aspects that I feel determine the garb and gear of a Ranger are stealth, combat and travel.


Stealth comes first because it determines the base layers of a Ranger's appearance--his garb.  In modern times, we have camouflage, but most fantasy cultures would not have such.  Instead, those wishing to portray Rangers have to make their own, more basic camouflage clothing.  This does not mean "wear green" as most people would immediately assume.  The forest is not exclusively green, nor is it a uniform green where it is.  Ranger garb should contain some green, but it should predominantly be browns and greys.

Equally as important as the coloring of a Ranger's garb is its silhouette.  Modern camouflage is not only designed to blend in with the colors of its environment, but to break up its wearer's silhouette.  An enemy scanning the trees looking for a Ranger will be looking for a human shape, but if no colors draw his eye, and the patterning of the Ranger's silhouette does not appear immediately human, he will overlook the Ranger.

Animals in the wild do this as well.  Deer, for example, are darker on the top and lighter on the bottom, and this helps to break up their outline and make them more difficult to see for predators.

For this reason, what I recommend for garb are loose garments.

I made the mistake early on of thinking the newbish "black=stealth!" when I bought my most expensive garments.  I should have gone with grey instead.  Nevertheless, wearing this gear during the woods battle last Rag, I was able to successfully hide five feet away from a group of four people who were all looking for a fight.  By crouching and standing absolutely still, I was able to use the patterning of my garb to hide myself.  If some people in the camp I was defending had not charged the group I was watching and had instead let them advance, I would have stayed hidden and been able to come in behind them when the two groups engaged (as it stands, I was forced to try to shoot one of them through the branches of a tree, the arrow bounced off, I killed one of them with my dagger when he rushed me, and I was double teamed by two others and killed).

Wear long vests, a hood, and a cloak.  The cloak is the most important piece of equipment in a Ranger's gear.  Not only does it break up the Ranger's silhouette, but it is an important piece of travel equipment (more on that later).  Wear multiple layers in various shades.  Make sure that there are as few solid colors as possible showing.  There are no straight lines in nature--why should you have any?  My doublet is brown, but only the sleeves show under the black long vest, and there is brown over top of that.  Having no solid colors next to each other will make you appear less human, and thus will allow you to blend into the forest better.

Quote from: Fayne Erving
One thing you didn't stress a lot of importance on is the hood. It also serves to sell the fantasy ranger look, but more importantly, it keeps the sun off the face, the rain off the neck, the wind out of the ears, and helps with stealth! When I used to be in a paintball league, our unit leader taught us when hiding in the woods from enemy units, don't stare directly at them, even if they don't know where you are. Subconsciously, people pick up when someone is staring at them. But if you lower your head a bit, look off to the side and only watch them with your eyes, not your face, their subconscious is much less likely to clue in. A hood does the exact same thing for you. It hides your face, obscuring your (in my case, pasty white basement) skin. If you notice, the first picture Nemo posted is a great example. At first, I thought he was looking at the ground, and my subconscious wouldn't think twice about it. But upon closer inspection, you can see he has one eye trained on the viewer. A ranger without a hood, or at the very least a hat, is like an elf without ears.


I will freely admit that I am not the best fighter on the Dag field, so my advice is not on the best weapon combo to use to win, but the best equipment to carry to appear to be a Ranger.  As I said, Rangers travel often, and they have limited carrying space.  Thus, every weapon a Ranger carries should be a multi-tool.

The bow is, in my opinion, the most important tool in the Ranger's arsenal.  It allows him to silently attack from hiding, constantly harassing his foes until every one of them is dead.  Using a bow, a Ranger could kill any number of men without being seen or heard.  It serves both as a weapon and a hunting tool.  Rangers can use meat from their prey to eat, they can use its hide to patch their clothing, they can use its bones as tools, and they can trade any part of it for much needed coin on their journeys.  I prefer a shorter bow that can be used in dense woods, covered in leather to blend in, but longbows have a storied tradition among Rangers.  Rangers should carry as many arrows as they comfortably can.  Some can be reused after a fight, but many are likely to break, so it is important to have spares.

Melee weapons should be light and compact.  In Tolkien's universe, Rangers carried swords and spears, and Dungeons and Dragons Rangers specialize equally in dual wielding long weapons, but I do not believe that swords are the best weapons for a Ranger to carry with him always.  They are long and heavy, and they can get in the way.  Carrying two compounds the problem.  Everyone is perfectly welcome to carry a sword if they want to, but, in my opinion, the perfect weapon combination for a Ranger is a tomahawk (Otherwise known as the handaxe, the single only verifiably broken weapon in 5e) and a dagger.

Quote from: Fayne Erving
I agree that a ranger's weapons should double as tools, and that carrying a dedicated weapon increases encumbrance, but you did mention if a ranger carries a dedicated weapon, it should be easy to maintain. My ranger is part of the Order, which is essentially a guerrilla-tactic, underground good guy group. As such I change my ranger style just a tad bit. Fayne carries a two handed sword because a single, long blade is easier to maintain when you're far from home base than a sword and a shield or even two swords, and a two-hander is devastating in the right hands. My point is I feel your ranger is more focused on stealth and travel. If anyone reading this is an aspiring ranger, it's perfectly acceptable to focus your ranger on other parts of the trifecta, as long as you don't forgo parts either. It's quite ok to focus on travel and combat, as my ranger is, but also note my garb/gear is stealthy too.

Tomahawks are perfect weapons and multi-tools.  They are light and compact.  If they have a hammer head on the back like mine, they can be used for cutting attacks against unarmored targets or bludgeoning attacks against armored foes.  They have no less reach than a mace, yet they are also balanced enough to be thrown, and can have a devastating effect whether or not they "stick."  They are easy to sharpen, yet the weight in their head makes them nearly as effective blunt as they are sharp.  As I will discuss in the Travel section, they are essential tools as well.

When paired with a dagger, the combination is even more devastating.  Both are small and light.  The dagger can attack faster than the tomahawk, and, since it is not being used as a tool, it can be kept razor sharp until it is needed.  A hunting knife can be substituted as well, should the Ranger want to carry no single-purpose items like a dedicated weapon.

I have found, however, that this combination works poorly in Dagorhir. Combat in Dagorhir takes place over much greater range than it would in real life, and it is not as necessary to commit to attacks.  Thus, short weapons like the tomahawk and dagger are difficult to use alone.  Should combat be more important to a new Ranger than characterization, or the Ranger does not mind the extra burden of a sword, then a long one handed sword or a short two handed sword would likely be a better choice.

Again, as Rangers travel more than other types of characters, armor is most often a poor choice.  I am of the opinion that, if armor does not feel or act like real armor, it should not be worn.  Thus, soft leather armors that most people picture Rangers as wearing are an affront to my eyes.  If a new Ranger is trying to look the part of a real Ranger, they will stay away from "larp armor."  Hardened leather armor can work with a Ranger look, but even that restricts movement and adds additional weight that serves only one purpose.  For the sake of saving energy on the countless miles a Ranger will be walking, he will likely forgo armor in favor of stealth and agility.

Quote from: Fayne Erving
I would venture to say a ranger should never wear soft leather larp armor. Unhardened leather, even setting aside its crappy protection and ahistorical significance, does one thing no ranger ever wants: squeaks. It squeaks when you breath, when you walk, when you blink. I've taken off larp armor and set it in my tent, only to be woken up by its vengeful squeaking late in the night. Hardened leather, however, does provide a bit of protection and if it's wax hardened, easily slides without sound. It also only makes sounds when it's hit.

At the same time, any garb and worn gear should be very comfortable to wear and not restricting in any way.  Rangers fight as much as they travel, and restrictive clothing would be a detriment to both.


The last need for a Ranger in defining his look is the ability to travel.  This aspect is what separates a great Ranger kit from a mediocre Ranger kit.

Personally, I wear the entirety of my gear with me at all times.  This means that, when I am on the battlefield, I am carrying everything I would need to set up camp and survive in the wilderness.  To me, this is essential to being a Ranger, as the Ranger's side could lose a fight, forcing him to flee into the wilderness.  A fighter with a cart full of equipment in camp will be lost without it once the enemy takes it, but a Ranger with his gear on his back will be right at home.  Other opinions may differ, and I am not saying that a Ranger kit cannot be good without pounds of gear on the Ranger's back, but nothing screams "Ranger!" like the look of self-reliance.

With careful planning, it is possible to have all of this equipment on comfortably and not lose significant effectiveness while fighting.  For example, I wear a two part cloak.  The inner layer can be separated from the outer layer and used as a blanket, while the outer layer can be used as a small shelter if it is needed.  Rather than carrying one large pack that move my center of gravity backward, I distribute my gear among many pouches so that, not only is the weight more evenly distributed, but I can easily get any item I need quickly without removing a pack.

The important thing is to learn how to be comfortable with very little.  I only carry one change of clothes that fits in a pouch at the back of my belt (which doubles as a pillow!).  I use my long vest as a ground cloth.  I carry light trail foods.  This past Ragnarok, the only extra things I brought with me were a couple of cans of meat (to simulate hunting), my Dag weapons, a sleeping pad, and a tent in case of emergencies and to store everything out of sight.  I lived for a week with only the items I brought in on my back, and it was not difficult.  I did have portions of some meals my unit made and I bought one or two meals from vendors, but this would not be out of the question for a Ranger on the move.

Everything a Ranger carries should have multiple purposes.  I do not carry a large dedicated weapon because I have my tomahawk, which can not only be used as a weapon but also to hammer tent stakes, split firewood, and even climb trees.  My Cloak doubles as a blanket and a shelter.  My long vest doubles as a ground cloth.  My clothing pouch doubles as a pillow.  Even my garb serves an additional purpose besides looking good and hiding me in the woods.  The linen and wool doublet regulates my body temperature in hot and cold.  The long vest and my boots protect my legs from thorns.  Thought and planning can turn Ranger garb from the mediocre "it looks good," to the amazing "it feels real."

The ideal materials for Ranger garb are leather and a combination of linen and wool.  Linen and wool do an amazing job of regulating body temperature, and leather is very durable and provides protection against light damage such as thorns or abrasions.


The strength of a Ranger is versatility.  He should be able to hide, fight, and travel equally as well.  As such, if you are planning a Ranger character, think hard about every item you add to your kit.  It cannot serve only one purpose.  It cannot stand out in a forest.  It cannot hamper you in a fight.  Though seven years of refining my garb, I have found a balance where I can hide, fight and travel equally, and that, more than the physical appearance of my gear, is what has made me look like a Ranger.  You will not become a great looking Ranger overnight.  It takes work.  Whether you buy your gear or make it, you will need to strongly consider every addition and how it will affect stealth, combat and travel.

I wish you luck, fellow Rangers.  Good hunting.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hand 2 Hand, a Combat Hand Game

This is a hand game designed to represent martial arts combat in an extremely fast-paced, action packed way, without any incidental risk. The intent is to incorporate this into my LARP system so that players have no reason to act out or perform combat in any way whatsoever, but can still get some degree of exhilaration and excitement from the activity. Past methods of defusing risk of clumsiness injuries mostly just defused any excitement from combat, making parlor play LARPS very... Blah. Hopefully, something fast and furious like this can bring some life to it.

Game play is based on Rock Paper Scissors, but the gestures are changed, as are the win/lose conditions. In this variant, you have a set of offensive hand gestures, and a set of defensive hand gestures. Offensive hand gestures deal damage, while defensive gestures have utility functions. Each player has a limited amount of HP, which is a limit for how much damage they can be dealt before they lose and can no longer play. The game takes place over a series of rounds, with participants counting to three, then shouting "GO!" in unison as they make their gestures. The results of the round are then tallied up and the next round begins. Players play rounds until only one player remains.


Offensive Gestures:
Each offensive gesture deals a set amount of damage and has a couple of mechanical features which determine which defensive strategies it is effective or ineffective against. There are three standard attacks and 4 combined versions of these, for a full arsenal of 7 offensive gestures to choose from. Deciding which gesture to use is all about reading your opponent and making a judgement balancing risk and reward. So long as an offensive move does not fail, it deals its damage to the opponent. So, if two players make offensive moves at each other, both players take full damage.

Pinky Extended: Fast Attack
A fast attack deals 1 damage. Though a fast attack can technically be blocked, its damage is reduced to 1, so this is merely a technicality of ruling; the damage goes through anyways. A fast attack cannot be dodged. The only truly effective method of intercepting a fast attack is to parry it. This makes the fast attack the single safest offensive gesture in the game, despite also dealing the least damage.

Index Extended: Moderate Attack
A moderate attack deals 2 damage. A moderate attack can be effectively countered by a block, dodge, or parry. It's slow enough that an opponent can react, and gentle enough that the opponent can manipulate the attack. Moderate attacks are, then, the most easily countered single attacks in the game, making them a fairly risky action to make.

Thumb Extended: Slow Attack
A slow attack deals 3 damage. Slow attacks can be blocked and dodged, but they cannot be parried; such an attack has too much force, and breaks through such a thin defense. This means an opponent cannot redirect your strongest single attack against you.

You can make any of the above gestures simultaneously on a single hand to make a combo attack. A combo attack deals damage equal to all of the combined attacks. If a combo contains a fast attack, the combo is a fast attack. If a combo contains a slow attack, it is a slow attack. If a combo contains both a fast and slow attack, it is a moderate attack. The key advantage to combos is higher damage output, and more efficient damage output against certain defenses. The key downside to a combo is that, in addition to their normal defensive counters, all combos can be completely negated by a grapple, something no other attack has to deal with. (Normally, if you attack someone who grapples you, you still deal your damage, their grapple only affects your next turn. If you use a combo though, their grapple cancels your attack on the spot AND affects your next turn.) All potential combos are as follows:
Pinky Index:
Fast 2-Combo
3 Damage
Countered by Parry and Grapple
Pinky Thumb:
Moderate 2-Combo
4 Damage
Countered by Block, Dodge, Parry, and Grapple
(Note that this is just as easily countered as a 3-combo with less gain)
Thumb Index:
Slow 2-Combo
5 Damage
Countered by Block, Dodge, and Grapple
Thumb Index Pinky
Moderate 3-Combo
6 Damage
Countered by Block, Dodge, Parry, and Grapple
(The most powerful attack is also the most easily countered. very risky)

Defensive Moves:
Defensive moves are much more complicated than offensive moves. Each one has its own unique mechanical function in the game. The defensive moves turn this game into a game, rather than an exercise in futility. Memorizing the defensive moves and their interactions is much more difficult than memorizing the offensive moves. Typically, if two players use defensive moves against each other, the round is a draw, as no damage is dealt. The only possible exception is the use of grapples, which will be explained shortly.

Clenched Fist: Block
When you block, all incoming actions are considered to fail. If an incoming action would deal damage to you, you only take 1 damage from it instead. (This effectively means that although you can effectively block a fast attack, it is not meaningful in any way) A block is a highly effective counter against a grapple. Because blocking reduces damage from all incoming attacks, it can save you if you're about to get dog piled in a multi-player game.

Open Hand, Palm Up: Dodge
When you dodge, you can declare which incoming action you are evading. That action fails and has no effect on you. You cannot dodge fast attacks, they're just too fast. A dodge can prevent damage utterly, and is most useful against a single opponent, but less useful in larger games with multiple opponents.

Open Hand, Palm Down: Parry
A parry causes one incoming action to fail, then copies that action against its source. So, if a person was using a 2 Damage attack on you, and you parry it, their attack fails, dealing 0 damage, and you deal 2 damage to them. Basically, it turns one action back on its source. You cannot parry slow attacks. The parry is a powerful action and, when used creatively, can completely turn a game around. Most importantly, a parry can invert a grapple.

Open Hand Karate Chop: Grapple
If you use a grapple on a player, and that player does not cause the grapple to fail, they are "grappled" for the next round. A grappled player can only target the person/people who grappled them, and can only make a heavy attack, block, or grapple. Once an opponent is grappled, it changes the meaning of your actions against them, because the risks have been altered. The obvious thing to do would be to try and take a free hit on your opponent. This may leave you open to a heavy attack, so always make an attack that deals more than 3 damage or it could be a waste, though it could still be reduced to 1 damage by a block. This also leaves you open to being grappled in response. You could try to block, in case they try to grapple or attack you, but since you know there's only one incoming action, it is safer to dodge. Dodging against a grappled opponent is the ultimate stalling move. It's like shoving someone to the floor and running away. The entire round is nullified, as literally nothing happened. Trying to grapple an already grappled opponent is a complete waste of time, as it gets you nowhere; you are essentially wasting the grapple you already got! The safest action you can make against a grappled opponent is to parry. 2/3 of their options can be redirected back at them. If they make a heavy attack on you, they deal 3 damage to themselves, if they try to grapple you, they extend their own grapple for another round. On the other hand, any smart player will see this and always block on their grappled round, making the grapple/parry only effective against more aggressive opponents. Grapples cause combo attacks to fail completely, making it a defensive gesture which can counter 4/7 potential incoming offensive actions. If two players grapple each other at the same time, both players are grappled in the next round.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Line

I just played Spec Ops: The Line in a single sitting. As a result, this week's blog will not happen. I think that game just gave me PTSD.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

FR Part 1

Furry Roleplay

I am making an RPG for the furfags. No hate, I love you guys, it's just an easy title, and I'm crass enough to use it with love. (Hey, I'm an oldfag, it's like my grandfather complimenting a "nigger", give me a break.)

The hardest part about making this game, will be making an RPG for the community. Anyone can make an RPG that features anthropomorphic creatures- hell any RPG system can be customized to do it! Even just renaming the generic races to be flavored differently, and imagining them as anthropomorphs is good enough! Because the concepts are inside your head, any RPG system, really, can represent furry fiction. However, few of these, aside from Ironclaw and Albedo, have received much attention. (And even they're kinda' forgotten these days)

The main reason for this is because RPGs do not resonate well with the furry community. RPG play is an isolated activity, focused on a close-knit group of friends with very little external interaction, is mostly done indoors, takes a great deal of preparation, consumes a great deal of time, and is a primarily sedentary activity. All of these things are contrary to what furry culture is- light, outgoing, social, emotional, active, and spontaneous. They overlap in that both are deeply creative, but from there the two cultures diverge. Thus, creating a furry RPG means more than simply making a generic RPG about anthropomorphs- we aren't making this game for a subject, we're making it for an audience. As a result, a completely different approach needs to be taken here- a whole new mode of RP needs to be invented for this audience to finally have its game.

1. First off, we don't need to add any demand of creativity. RPGs are already a fundamentally creative medium, and the target audience is fundamentally drawn to creative endeavors. So we're good on the imagination side of things.

2. Next, we need to make the game light. By light, I mean it needs to be something that someone can say "Hey, let's play this" to a bunch of strangers, play for a half hour, and still leave everyone involved feeling happy and satisfied. It needs to be pick-up-and-go, fast, easy, efficient, and have as few points of contact as possible. Setup for a game should take a matter of moments, including chargen, assuming everyone already has an idea of what they want to create. We may want it to have sort of a beer-and-pretzels-game quality to it, something you can still play while slightly buzzed and distracted.

3. Then it needs to be made versatile. You should be able to run the game just as easily in tabletop tactics or Parlour-Play LARP. (I am personally ethically opposed to full-contact LARP. I do not believe there is any safe way to run such a game) That way, people who prefer the deep combat side of things can do their thing, and people who want to go out and party with strangers can do that too.

4. Rules need to be simple enough that the entire rulebook can be memorized after only a session or two of play. The rulebook itself should be presented in a compact, pocket-size reference book format, preferably in hardcover, with a waterproof coating and a zipper to protect the pages. The pages should be made out of something tough, not cheap magazine paper. The spine needs to be able to fold internally like a moleskein notebook. This will make it portable and durable, and look cool.

Part 1: Rules Light

For one thing, a lot of RPGs attempt to describe everything in exact, objective, mechanical terms, as though they are manually simulating a little pocket-reality. This degree of manual simulation on a technical level leads to a vast overburden on the players and game system due to simple complexity and minutiae. This degree of technical processing, usually in the form of baroque mathematics to find results on charts in a large book, is often called "rules-heavy" by the general public, but is referred to as "points of contact" by RPG theorists.

In theory, we distinguish gameplay into two parts: Playing the game and operating the game's system. Playing the game is the creative part, making decisions, describing activities, experiencing the consequences of actions, roleplaying, imagining stuff, etc. Operating the game system is everything you need to do in order to keep playing, such as referencing a rule, rolling a die, checking a chart, noting changes to a character sheet, etc. Each time play is interrupted by operation is a "point of contact". In general, points of contact are a bad thing. Those who promote high points of contact usually do not actually enjoy the points of contact themselves, but their effect on the game. Theoretically, if you have two games that simulate the same subject with the same degree of complexity and depth, but one of them has fewer points of contact, the one with less contact is the better game, as it does the same things more efficiently and allows play to go on uninterrupted for longer. In order to make the game as light and efficient as possible, we need to make an engine (set of rules) with as few points of contact as possible.

One caveat, you can never truly eliminate every point of contact; something must be done to keep the game running. In this regard, I feel we can learn a thing or two from sports and 5th edition D&D. In sports, the points of contact ARE the game. In baseball, hitting the ball is not only where the fun comes from, which is play, but a point of contact which allows the game to operate. 5th edition D&D has done something remarkable; they took many parts of the game which were once slow, tedious, and disruptive points of contact, and made them into low-contact, light, fun, gameplay elements by changing their mechanism into something that is simple and fun in its own right. (IE: Downtime becomes an instantaneous transaction, with the return being the playing of a minigame.) By approaching the necessary points of contact in the game in this manner, we reduce their impact on play, integrating them into play as much as possible, lightening the game, and making the whole experience more enjoyable.

One thing we can readily eliminate is randomizer engagement, commonly referred to as "the dice" even if the game doesn't use dice. Every time a player engages a randomizer (Dice, spinners, cards, etc.) to determine an outcome, is a point of contact, however small. By removing randomizers completely, we remove the vast majority of points of contact in the engine. Luckily, today, in the year 2015, we have about 30 years of history of people experimenting in "diceless" game design, which we can lean on as a foundation in what does and does not work, from which we may build something new, and advance the medium further.

We know that flat diceless operation, (For example, in Amber Diceless) though functional, is not desirable, as it is considered anticlimactic and promotes excessive consideration over ones every move.

We also know that randomization can be replaced by resource management with an abstract currency, (As in Marvel Universe) though dependence on this system actually results in an amplification of points of contact, as people "manage their money" to get the best "bang for their buck" in everything they do.

We know that replacing contest checks (where one character is acting against another) with a game, (Like in the earlier editions of Mind's Eye Theatre) can actually diminish interest, if the interaction is considered ridiculous, childish, or otherwise undesirable or out of place. (For example, when MET was applied to Vampire the Masquerade, we had ancient vampire lords locked in a bloody power struggle for the fate of humanity... Playing rock-paper-scisors to determine if they killed each other. Most people found this to be, for lack of any better way of saying it, "fucking retarded".)

Finally, we also know that we can make diceless play more exciting and less predictable by introducing the opportunity to interject before results are determined from an action. (This can be seen in many games, including ARGUMENT! RPG and even in a primitive form in Amber Diceless) This allows the results of an action to be changed as characters correct what they are duing as a reaction to percieved results. Going to lose a fight because your "hand-to-hand" skill isn't as good as your opponent's? Pull a knife if your "short blades" skill is higher! If your opponent can't think of a way to react, you'll probably actually win!

For this game, I plan to use a system I developed for the finished, but content-less and mostly unplayed homebrew Mass Effect Diceless RPG I was working on. Basically, gameplay is flat diceless with the opportunity to interject tied to a currency. In other words, you spend currency in order to adjust your actions in the middle of an event before the consequences are determined.

Example from MEDRPG: You decide to run across a field. An opponent spends a point to take a shot at you while you're running through the open. Your perception is higher than his stealth, so you are informed that someone is taking aim. You may then decide to spend points to adjust your movement to evade the shot. The opponent's perception is not as good as your agility, so they do not have an opportunity to react. Unfortunately, their accuracy does exceed your agility, and the shot hits you before you reach your destination. Had their perception been higher, they would have been able to adjust their aim, which would cost more points than your reaction to their action. Every time a character reacts to a reaction, it costs more points than the reaction preceding it.

One thing that is key to diceless games, however, is player ignorance. The player cannot be allowed to know the exact values of their opposition. In the absence of player ignorance, play becomes completely crushed under the weight of the player doing only that which will absolutely work, the consequence being the impossibility of failure. I believe this is mainly due to all other diceless games trying to simulate the subject in objective terms, as though it were still based on probabilities. My solution would be to eliminate precise objective representations, and replace them with relative and subjective representations, which will be easier to keep secret, because indirectly revealing them will not mean much. Absolute secrecy will nolonger be a necessity, allowing for a certain degree of information to slip to the players without destabilizing play. This is where this engine diverges from MEDRPG; we are no longer examining the environment in detailed, technical, objective terms, the granularity is being reduced to the point where it is more like comparing glasses of water based on how full they are.

So, instead of comparing numbers, we will be comparing a general description of quality or effectiveness, separated into a standardized tier of degrees. For example, characters may exhibit varying degrees of skill with small firearms, and that skill may be described in the same terms as their skill in swimming, but the two skills are not necessarily being graded in the same standard. Just because your swimming skill exceeds a man's small firearms skill does not mean you can outswim his bullets! In this way, play becomes more subjective, with things being described in relative, rather than objective, terms, with interpretation playing a role in gameplay. This would allow the game to represent everything from "hard science fiction" to "Loony Toons" accurately and faithfully, because the interpretation of the information, not the engine itself, changes with the subject matter.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


In 1991, a post was made on describing a videogame cabinet released to a few arcades and bars in Portland, Oregon, in 1981. The game was called Polybius. The game itself is poorly described, with people arguing over whether it was a puzzle, maze, or space-shooter game, as well as what it actually looked like. The game became wildly popular within a few days, with lineups forming around the game, and fights breaking out over who got to play next. People who had played the game frequently exhibited the symptoms of PTSD, such as night terrors, seizures, halucinations, nausea, headaches, and swearing off videogames forever. It was also stated that some players committed suicide. Every couple of days, a couple of well-dressed "Men in Black" would drop by and copy information from the game. (Though whether this information was copied in hard or soft copy format is not stated) After a month, all of the game cabinets disappeared. The original poster of the game claimed to be in possession of a ROM image of the game.

The implication is that the videogame was a covert public experiment in the same vein as, or part of, project MKUltra. (Keeping in mind that MKUltra had actually officially ceased operations before 1981.)

There is no evidence of the game's actual existence. There are no newspaper articles, nor magazine articles. There are no genuine photos of the cabinets. All "eyewitness" reports are conflicting, and frankly suspect. The reported ROM image of the game has never been seen or played. There is a supposedly genuine image of the game's title screen, where it is copyrighted in 1981 to a company named sinnesloschen. Sinnesloschen is improper German, and is not something an actual German person would say, because it actually doesn't make sense unless you translate it into English literally. It translates to "thought erasing", but to a German-speaking person, would be more like "thinking deleted". Additionally, "Polybius" is the name of an ancient Greek/Roman historian who is important as one of the first people to try and describe history as a series of causes and effects, rather than an abstract series of events. He criticized other historians for writing from tradition alone, and famously believed that one should only report what can be learned from interviews with first-hand witnesses. Polybius' name, in ancient Greek, translates literally to "many life" but its actual meaning is difficult to discern, as "many" is the only correct translation of poly, so the name may have actually had meaning more related to reincarnation than life itself.

All of the above combined makes it seem quite strongly that this is a very well played hoax. And it very likely is. (Though the actual MKUltra experiments would have never been known, had it not been for an error- the CIA is very good at what they do.) Using a videogame for any type of research on a random unaware public sampling is fundamentally unreliable. It would not provide substantially meaningful information, especially if used on such a small sample group, unless the information they were seeking was very general.

But it got me thinking. What would it take to make a game that can actually do the above, and what function could it serve?

The first, and most important factor, is the purpose of the experiment. This will define all other aspects of the game's design. If it was a CIA experiment, we can basically be certain that it was weapon research. That was the basis of every single public experiment they did at the time. They were at war, and they wanted to win. These were experiments on how to covertly use chemical and biological weapons to achieve military objectives.

If that was the case, the question would likely have been, "Can we use a videogame as a lure to distribute [weapon]?" followed likely with "How effective can such a lure possibly be, and how effective is the [weapon] dispersal after delivery?" This essentially makes the videogame an experiment in vector-based chemical weapon use, treating the videogame somewhat like a flower attracting players like insects, applying a weaponized payload as though it were pollen, and then observing ultimate delivery and dispersal of the payload from the affected vectors.

If this was its actual intended function, then based on the reports, the experiment was essentially a failure, because either the game or the payload was too addictive. Instead of leaving the game to distribute the payload, vectors crowded around the lure, spreading the payload only to each other and returning it to the lure, resulting in a rapidly increasing concentration of the payload at the site of delivery and in the subjects. This would make the experimental weapon an immediate failure, as well as a liability, as excessive popularity would have resulted in a great deal of focused interest and attention; the opposite of what you want in a covert operation. Hence the sudden end to the project.

Alternatively, it may be an experiment in the impact of a weaponized payload on a single target, and the videogame as simply a lure to attract subjects into the experiment. In this case, the question would be in regards to the effectiveness of the delivery mechanism to apply the weaponized payload, and then measuring dosages based on time spent playing, number of times played, and frequency of play, for each subject, followed by monitoring the consequences indirectly, such as recording the arrival of patients with common symptoms at medical facilities and observing local news articles. In this case, data recorded from the game would likely simply be video footage or photographs of the faces of the subjects.

In this regard, the experiment would likely have been a resounding success. Within a month, the game or the payload was capable of creating localized hysteria, with massive attractiveness to subjects. If the game simply took the player's photo each time they played and each time they reached a timed point in the game, (each time a dose is delivered) a researcher could simply collect and count the photos of each face to determine dosage levels and frequency. Players played with increasing frequency and for increasing periods, resulting in rapidly increasing concentration in test subjects, while having next to no impact on surrounding unintended targets. In essence, if you want to deliver a weaponized payload to a given demographic, simply regularly deliver it in negligible dosages through an increasingly attractive lure to the target. The intended targets will rapidly build themselves up to an effective dose, while unintended targets will likely not reach that level, as they will not be attracted to the lure frequently enough. However, such a weapon has limited and unreliable use, as it is dependent on the personal tastes of the subject and coincidental exposure to the lure. If a person in the demographic just doesn't like the lure as much as the rest, or coincidentally never gets exposed to the lure, they will be unaffected by it. As with the other version of this theory, because the weapon developed such massive attractiveness, it still would have been at least a partial failure, as such attention is detrimental to its covert nature. A famous secret weapon is a disaster waiting to happen.

Finally, a lot of people seem to think that the videogame would have been an experiment in hypnosis and subliminal suggestion. Nevermind the fact that by 1981, the CIA would have been very aware of the actual limitations of practical hypnosis. Still, it could be an experiment in hypnosis; hypnosis is real and functional, it is just very limited. Specifically, you cannot hypnotize someone who does not want, or is unable, to listen, and you cannot hypnotically suggest anyone to engage in a behavior or thought process that they do not specifically desire. So, if you genuinely want to quit smoking, hypnosis will effectively erase your psychological dependency, making it far easier to overcome the chemical dependency. Hypnosis is NOT reinforced by chemical influence or intoxication. The subject must have normal awareness; they cannot be distracted by excessive sensory stimuli, as this will impede message delivery and trance-like state, nor can they be numbed to normal stimuli, as this will equally impede message delivery, and likely turn a trance-like state into sleep. In order for the game to experiment with hypnosis, it must actually put players into a hypnotic state.

This is difficult, because videogames are actually hostile to a trance-like state. Videogames demand intense concentration and awareness in order to mitigate the penalties and failure from unpredictable elements. In order for the game to be challenging, and therefore "fun" or attractive, (the driving force behind psychological addictiveness) there must be elements of play which present a genuine risk of failure- meaning they must be capable of actually causing failure against a player who is giving a genuine effort. This means they must have some unpredictable element.

There is a certain degree of trance-like state in digital interfaces, colloquially referred to as "the zone" for television and "immersion" in videogames. When immersed in a virtual environment, the brain actively dismisses external stimuli as irrelevant; similar to how one slowly loses focus of driving a car while talking on a cell phone. The implication is that the brain somehow perceives the interface with the virtual environment to be similar to some form of socialization; gaming, even against a digital opponent, is social-like behavior. The more interesting and engaging social-like environment encourages us to dismiss the mundane genuine setting, regardless of whether reality is more dangerous to us or not. This is further reinforced by experience, where people less and less associate virtual environments with negative emotions, as they are less likely to have negative consequences with any lasting or meaningful impact. Those who grow up interacting with virtual environments feel safer and more comfortable there, because it is genuinely safer than reality, at least in a short-term, shallow, purely physical sort of way.

Unfortunately, in order to engage a virtual environment, and thus obtain immersion in it, the user must interact through some form of hardware interface. Kinesthetic interactions with such an interface disengage the user from the virtual environment, becoming aware of the physical reality of the controls, effectively causing them to "lose immersion", and therefore interrupting any sort of trance-like state which may have formed. Superior game design allows the controls to work as players expect, allowing them to grow accustomed to the interface rapidly. The more quickly players become accustomed to the interface, the more time can be spent developing muscle memory for the interface, transforming the hardware interface into a subconscious activity, like walking, using cutlery, or riding a bike. Once this occurs, the probability of the interface distracting the user decreases considerably, and continues to decrease exponentially with the amount of time the player has spent playing the game.

The crux of creating an immersive interface depends on the principle of KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. Good programming allows a user to do more with fewer points of contact (controls) without losing accuracy or reliability. Thus, if a player fails, it is because of their own failure, not due to a failure of the game designer's interface, allowing the players to continue "forgetting" they are interacting with an object, maintaining immersion. Likewise, the gameplay itself must be exceedingly reliable, (glitch-free) consistent, (bereft of sudden jarring changes in aesthetic features) and engaging. If gameplay is unreliable, each time gameplay fails or malfunctions, the player will lose immersion as they become aware of the game itself. If the game is inconsistent, each time a sudden change occurs, players are given a brief moment to lose immersion and think in metagame terms, such as "Ok, next level!" or "Uh oh, now what is it doing?" which equally results in a loss of immersion. And finally, if a game is not engaging, it is simply unattractive, and nobody will play it, preventing immersion from ever happening in the first place. As with the controls, gameplay should follow the principle of KISS; the fewer components a machine has, the fewer points of failure it has. Gameplay can be engaging and immersive, provided it elegantly provides deep, complex play derived from as few simple rules and functions as possible.

True to these principles, it is believed that Polybius was a fast-paced space-shooter (often described as similar to Tempest) with maze-like elements and some sort of focus on puzzles or problem solving, and its panel is often depicted as having only one joystick and only one button. Simple game means fewer glitches, simple controls means shallow learning curb.

Now, because maintaining immersion is a fundamental element of good game design, this is really essential to the creation of any type of game in general. However, immersion is the fundamental basis in which a trance-like state may be generated in a videogame, so it is absolutely essential to any experiment in videogame-delivered hypnotic suggestion.

Now, on to the subject of hypnotic suggestion. Here are modes of hypnotic suggestion that everyone thinks work, but don't:

1. Backwards delivery. The brain does not work like a digital camera. Information is not stored as a matrix of data representing images. Our brain simplifies images into abstract ideas, and only expands them into images by reference when required to. It cannot remember a sound forward and backwards, because it only remembers the meaning of the sound. It does not know the meaning of a backwards word unless the person can read backwards.

2. Rapid delivery. Again, our brains are not like computers. When watching a video, our brains do not store a million individual copies of each frame displayed. When listening to a sound, our brains do not record every vibration that impacts our ears. Speeding up a sound does not deliver it to our brains faster, it renders the sound incomprehensible. Flashing a command, no matter how simple, does not deliver it without us noticing, it simply causes us to miss the message in the first place.

3. Peripheral delivery. Delivering a message in a form that is seen but not noticed is also ineffective, as we do not record things that we don't notice or care about.

In order for hypnotic suggestion to work, it must be clear, simple, and obvious. It must be clear and simple, so that the subject understands the suggestion without need for clarification, Not understanding a suggestion will often result in instant loss of trance-like state. The suggestion must be obvious to ensure that the subject receives it despite their trance-like state, which opposes normal information delivery, focusing attention through limited channels, allowing information to arrive only through those channels. It's a delicate sort of personal sensory deprivation. The above ineffective message delivery mechanisms actually disturb a trance-like state.

So, how do you deliver clear, simple, obvious hypnotic suggestions to a single subject in a public area without alerting anyone? The most effective method I can think of is as follows:

1. The game must be hypnotic. It must rely on players focusing on something small and simple without distractions for an extended period of time. Easiest way I can think of to do this, would be to have the "player" set in the center of the screen with the game revolving around that point. Gameplay should reward players for focusing on that point with their eyes, and using only their peripheral vision to view the rest of the game, but not penalize players for blinking. The game must be relaxing, and ergonomically comfortable, allowing players to get comfy and feel safe while playing. Play-wise, this means players should be able to get into what is called a "groove", a mode of play where they can play almost entirely by muscle memory, with very little input. Gamers often describe being in a groove as being highly meditative and calming. Gameplay should encourage and reward this kind of behavior. The game must also eliminate external distractions such that the subject does not need to exert effort in order to do so. Arcade cabinets already did this to an extent, with their overhead speakers and side blinders; they were supposed to create their own little acoustic environment, where you wouldn't hear the rest of the arcade much, but can hear the game clearly, as long as you were standing at the controls.

2. The messages must be delivered to only one subject at a time, and be imperceptible to unintended targets. This can be done by shaping the cabinet to make a second acoustic environment inside the general one made for the game. This second environment would need to be small, focused around the subject's head, and directed such that sound from it rapidly dissipates outside of that area. Messages would then be delivered at a volume just loud enough to be heard inside that second environment, but just quiet enough to be covered up by the noise of the first, surrounding environment. You would also need to take measures to exclude unintended subjects from entering the area unpredictably. This can be done by making the actual accessible play area very small, and difficult to extract someone who does not wish to be removed.

3. The game must be capable of rapidly assessing the player's skill level, then presenting a challenge which appears to be a match for them but is actually easy, engaging the player long enough to enter a trance-like state, and keeping the player engaged long enough to deliver the message before ramping up difficulty to end play.

The third item is the truly difficult part. In order for it to be done, the game would need to be EXTREMELY simple, simple enough that a computer can actually interpret this kind of information. It would also need to have a deceptively complex appearance, making it harder for players to notice how simple the game actually is. Keeping the players eyes focused in only one point makes this easier, but it would still be very difficult. Assessing when a player has entered a trance-like state without human input would be nearly impossible. You would basically need to have someone remotely viewing the subject and their gameplay in order to assess their state of mind. This is particularly the case with computer technology as it was in 1981.

Now, let's pretend we actually went and built this thing- a true hypnotic videogame. Now what? We can only suggest people do or think things they would want to do anyways! Well, let's go back to our original theory of chemical and biological weapons.

If you can hypnotize a subject with such a device, then deliver a weaponized payload to them- let's say, a chemical weapon applied to their hands via the joystick when it senses their palm is sweating- you could then give suggestions for them to do innocuous actions they would have no objection to, which would ultimately distribute the weaponized substance as you desire. You could also deliver suggestions which would optimize future applications of the lure to the subject, encourage the subject to attract additional subjects to the lure, and decrease potential future interference with the lure from the subject.

And that is how you build a real-life nightmare.