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Yes, I'm back with another Class-related question. Don't worry; I looked through all 24 of my Classes and decided to focus on only the ones I can't come up with roles for.

Recap-How Classes Work: In my book, a mysterious pulse of energy sent a young man named John into another world called Alendyias. This event resulted in John becoming Rorjon, a bluish ghost-like being (Kanyeri) that acts as a force of good, guiding, advising, and blessing the people of his new world (Alendyias). One of these blessings was based on John's love of RPGs like DnD, namely Classes. All Classes magically enhance one's potential (capacity), but only within the limits of their held Class. The level of this enhancement increases as the Class-holder grows and gains experience in their Class, and this increase is measured by Levels.

This question is about the Ranger Class, which falls into the Speed and Combat categories. Like all Classes, this Class is almost invariably inherited or granted at birth, magically enhancing the holder's potential. However, this Class's enhancements concern aim, perception, survival skills and adaptiveness.

Rangers are known for their knowledge of nature and their natural gift for surviving. I can see Rangers acting as guides or archers, but in a medieval fantasy society, what other roles would Rangers have? Restated, my question is: What Role Would Rangers Have In a Medieval Fantasy Society?

Consider:

  1. I have the Hunter Class as well; I figure their specialty will be hunting animals, whereas a Ranger's will be survival, and I have to wonder if I should just combine the two Classes or if I can keep them unique even though they are very similar. The reason this matters is because if the Hunter Class exists, they'll capture animals or hunt game to "pay the bills" and Rangers will have to either find another vocation or compete with them.
  2. Any input will be appreciated; thank you for your help!
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  • $\begingroup$ What job would you do if you had X super power? $\endgroup$ – user81643 Jan 8 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ I see your point, user81643, but I believe some of the best questions follow that exact format. $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Jan 8 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ If I remember right you world has persistent monster infestation. in that case a rangers job is to find monster's before they cause problems. $\endgroup$ – John Jan 8 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ What makes a ranger different than a hunter? $\endgroup$ – John Jan 8 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ Great job remembering that John! Specialized Rangers (Monster Hunters) are the ones who do that. $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Jan 8 at 18:03

11 Answers 11

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Imperial Messengers and Scouts

In the middle ages travel was dangerous, travel times uncertain, and it was easy to get lost. A Ranger (I'm imagining in my head someone like the Tolkien Rangers personified by Aragorn-as-Strider) overcomes all those obstacles. They're talented enough trackers/survivalists/archers that they can avoid traps by brigands or being eaten by wild animals. They're quick through rough terrain because they can live of the land and know how to find their way. In short, they're the perfect person to handle important documents, lightweight valuables (anything that could fit into a saddle-bag and be carried all day by a person on foot at need) or getting a high-value person quickly and secretly to a given location. I would imagine most Rangers in your setting would work for regional governments like Kings or free cities, perhaps even forming a Guild whose network connects the realms together. They might also be of some use as guides, but someone skilled at surviving alone can only help but so many people in a group. (Aragorn guiding 4 hobbits is a big help. He can feed them all and make sure they're doing the right thing. Aragorn guiding 100 hobbits with wagons and ponies is less good, as his skills are diluted.)

As scouts they could range ahead of an army on the march. Sure they can spy out the enemy, but their main job would be to mark trails/roads/paths for movement of troops (it is WILD how many battles, even modern-day ones, occur/change/don't occur because troops take the wrong road) find suitable campsites (fortified positions near running water) and similar functions. But as wars are always a part-time gig for Medieval Kingdoms and paying for idle hands is a waste, I see this as more an additional task for the Royal Courier Service than a stand-alone full-time employment.

They might also find work as wandering law-men. Their survival skills would help them chase down and bring back, say, a murderer who kills a guy and runs off into to woods. Their skills would also let them travel through the less densely populated parts of the Kingdom where anything more than 5 miles from villages is trackless wilderness. The problem there is that A: Contrary to popular belief, a random peasant in the woods is likely to die on his own without help. and B: when you don't do "jails" because you can't spare the manpower to feed an idle body, "bring back criminal to face justice" is less of a priority. But bounty hunter might also be a thing for similar reasons.

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  • $\begingroup$ This was an _amazing_answer! I've seen responses from experienced contributors, and yours looked just like one! Thank you for your thorough input! $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Jan 8 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ I think Peregrin Took might have something to say about Strider "feeding" them! Properly at any rate, if you take my meaning. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 8 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ "or getting a high-value person quickly and secretly to a given location" Within reason, of course; one does not simply walk into Mordor. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Jan 8 at 19:59
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They are a part of the military

They are going to be involved as invisible sentries, border security agents, and tactical strike teams. Their responsibilities include:

  1. Challenge entering foreigners (as long as they're not threatening).
  2. Scout and report information about invasions, or ahead of an invading body.
  3. Sabotage and harass encroaching enemies.
  4. Light beacons in case of emergencies.
  5. General law enforcement, dealing with highwaymen, etc.
  6. Augmenting the archer corps in large actions
  7. Augmenting the hunters when traveling with the army.

Advantages:

  1. They require little to no upkeep, as they live off the land.
  2. Stealth, enemies can't fight what they can't see.
  3. Speed, strike first and strike hard, then run away.
  4. Information wins wars, not just battles. Good rangers = Good informaiton
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  • $\begingroup$ Very well thought! Thank you, I appreciate your perspective! $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Jan 8 at 17:44
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Hunters seek to bring resources from nature back to civilization while rangers seek to bring resources from civilization out into nature.

Yes, a hunter may know the land well, but fundamentally their purpose is to extract resources from the land. A hunter's ability to fulfill their role increases the more they stay in one place and the closer of a relationship they form with the land. They learn to manage animal populations, they learn where the animals move, and the learn how nurture their territory. A ranger, on the other hand, does not go into the wilderness to get something, they go there to reach a destination. A ranger might be a courier, delivering goods, or they might be a guide leading people to a destination. A ranger's ability increases the more new land they see.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting....I like how you created a yin-yang situation for the Hunter and Ranger Classes, especially since I created a Hunter/Ranger character. $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Jan 8 at 16:38
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Frame challenge: Consider you may be defining your classes and job too narrowly, a class may only tell you on average what a person is good at. There should be lots of overlap because in the real world, jobs have a lot of overlap. A blacksmith still has to be a decent woodworker, a fisherman can be very good at finding rare fish, really good at catching lots of fish, or really good at selling fish, a police officer can specialize in winning fight, preventing fights through negotiation, finding tax evasion, or crime scene investigation.

to use your character, consider DnD, a fighter makes a damn good archer, but so does does a rogue or ranger. Creative use of class abilities makes for a better story, and more variety, it also gives your reader/player something to think about, you can create unique characters while giving your readers forshadowing.

jobs to consider for wilderness survival: prospector, mushroom/herb finder, trapper, fisher, guides, military scouts, lumberjacks, explorers, monster tracker, human tracker (bounty hunter/cop), cattlemen, pioneer, fisherman, whaler, animal tamer, hunter, pearl diver, messenger, smuggler, smuggler hunter, poacher, game warden.

to quote an old gamer.

" I'm a thief."

"but your huge and can't hide, pick locks, or pick pockets"

"I'm not that kind of thief"

"what kind are you?"

Whack takes wallet from unconscious body.

"that kind"

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    $\begingroup$ Wow; this is really thought-provoking. Also, that dialogue at the end was beautiful! Do you mind if I use that? Wait, who would I have to attribute that too? $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Jan 8 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ That is from the spoony one. youtube.com/watch?v=WKgmhmEtgx4 $\endgroup$ – John Jan 8 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ Spoony one? I have no idea what you mean? $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Jan 8 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ Spoony is a content creator who used to put out video retelling the strange games he had played/DMed and offering DM advice. Real name was Noah Antwiller. His counter monkey videos are well worth the watch. $\endgroup$ – John Jan 8 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, thank you! $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Jan 8 at 18:48
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I suspect Rangers, as a class, would be fairly adaptable. They'd be able hunters, trackers, warriors, odd jobs men, kings in waiting, news bringers, mercenaries, and the like.

As for roles they'd be particularly good at, I'd argue that scout & spy, explorer, guide & warden would all be good fits.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for giving me something to think about and look into, elemtilas! $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Jan 8 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ Spies are mainly "city" people. $\endgroup$ – Jasen Jan 9 at 3:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Jasen -- Fair enough! I don't mean spies like, you know, infiltrate the enemy's government and steal secrets from ultra secure bunkers. Just ordinary spying on an enemy's movements out in the wild. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 9 at 3:26
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Ensure the King's wood isn't being poached. Only the owner of the land could hunt great prizes in our history. Some close allies would be invited, it was an event on its own.

Your ranger could be part of that cohort, making sure Ladies and Lords, firstborn of high pedigree and useless.... would be safe while hunting Wild beats.

Why, I can remember last year, when a Centaur dismounted some rude princeling who insisted on reigns.

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The original D&D Ranger was one of the more focused classes as far as why they existed. The setting was lots of little villages in the big forest full of monsters -- England or Germany or the Eastern US. These hamlets begged adventurers to help with really bad stuff. But day-in and day-out a Ranger was out there killing stray orcs, or worse. They weren't assigned, and didn't expect any thanks, but someone has to do it.

The rules even describe them as loners, always on the move; who must be "Good"; and who don't even care about possessions, only keeping what they can carry. As they become famous instead of attracting apprentices, they are followed by strange forest creatures, better to help them defeat the everyday encroachment of goblins and their ilk (2nd Ed Ranger).

By my thinking, they could be army scouts, but only because they show up saying "you're going to need my help getting through these hills". Or caravan guards only after some damned fool insists on going through hobgoblin country. On their own they go where needed. Pretty 1-dimentional, but a definite archetype.

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Fun fact: ‘Rangers’ are a thing IRL. Most larger modern militaries either have a dedicated commando unit that puts heavy emphasis on this particular set of skills (wilderness survival and tracking as well as high mobility and usually guerilla warfare tactics), or have a series of training courses that has the same focus. See for example the US Army Rangers, the JGSDF Ranger Courses, or various others (the name does not usually involve ‘rangers’, but almost all the big militaries have such a specialization).

In many cases, these troops serve as advance forces, operating right at (or behind) enemy lines, providing scouting information to other units and/or focusing on eliminating priority targets that would otherwise severely hinder the ability of other units to advance and complete their own objectives.

In terms of actual warfare, I strongly suspect that your Rangers will end up filling a similar role focused on advance scouting, priority target elimination, and covert operations behind enemy lines. Hunters will also end up on scouting duty to some extent, but would be more likely to be focused on scouting within territory that is already relatively secure (and would probably be tasked with scouting while hunting to replenish the army’s stocks of food).


Outside of warfare it’s a bit more interesting. Because you specifically have a separate Hunter class, the most logical thing that Rangers would do during peace times is already covered by another class.

Other roles I envision Rangers probably filling instead include:

  • Border patrol. The combination of precision, mobility, and combat skills makes Rangers uniquely suited to police border crossings when countries actually want to enforce things like entry and exit controls. They’re better suited than conventional fighter-types to apprehend individuals crossing illegally due to their mobility, and are also more likely to be able to capture them alive due to their focus on precision.
  • Professional frontier settlers. Again, Rangers are pretty uniquely suited to this. Villages did grow organically in many cases in Medieval times, but it was also not unusual for a wealthy individual to specifically start a new village. This was a risky endeavor for both the person supporting it and the people who traveled to live there, but a lot of the risk could be easily mitigated by having many of the initial wave of immigrants be people who are unusually good at just surviving. Rangers fit this perfectly, and I could easily envision one of the services offered by guilds of Rangers being to travel to an area and live there for a few years establishing farms and other critical aspects of village infrastructure to then hand them off to regular people once things have stabilized and a reasonable stock of spare supplies is laid in.
  • Courier services. I could easily see postal services being managed by guilds of Rangers in areas with lower population density. Their skills would mean they could eschew regular roads and take direct routes to their destinations, significantly shortening travel times in some cases.
  • Peacetime scouting and exploration services, including conducting geographical surveys of remote regions for cartographers. Their skill set is, yet again, uniquely suited to this type of thing, especially if there are ‘monsters’ in your world.
  • Wilderness escort services for expeditions and caravans. I actually would envision them being preferred for this over regular fighter types, as they would require less support from the rest of the expedition or caravan to stay in top fighting shape, and their mobility is going to be far more useful than raw combat prowess in many cases.
  • Bounty hunters. Probably in equal measure with Hunters. The thing is, while this may be a specialization option for Hunters, it’s arguably something Rangers are better at than normal Hunters due to their seemingly greater focus on combat.

As an aside, I would encourage you to actually look at portrayals of rangers in tabletop RPGs.

In most cases, they’re functionally highly skilled warriors who specialize in fighting in certain types of terrain against certain types of creatures. This means that ‘hunters’ are functionally a sub-class of rangers who specialize in fighting animals in whatever the local terrain is.

In some cases though, there is a distinction. Revised Third Edition D&D for example includes a special ‘Scout’ class that actually more closely fits what you seem to be describing, being optimized for guerilla warfare (they get increased movement speed, do extra damage when they attack after moving, and are good at hiding) with a heavy dose of survival kills. Similarly, First Edition Pathfinder includes a dedicated Hunter class that is, in fact, a hybridization of a Ranger and a Druid (so they’re less combat focused than a ranger, more focused on animals and more in-tune with nature), but Rangers are still commonly engaged in actually hunting in most standard settings in that system.

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Sherifs for rural area's, outlaws, bounty hunters, colonists/farmers to unhospitable lands, nomadic herdsmen, traders, protection detail for caravans, skirmishers and scouts for armies, messengers, guides, explorers, traveling entertainers (solo or group), prospectors far from civilization, mountaineers and probably more.

Each requires some level of ranger skills, even a dancing one.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wow, thank you for your contribution! I had no idea there was so many possibilities here! $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Jan 8 at 19:02
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Rangers are hoboes, tramps, scroungers and con-artists

They travel from place to place boasting about their exploits in order to entertain the locals and get tips, drinks and a free meal.

In fact they are good at surviving and living on their wits but their actual deeds are much exaggerated for dramatic effect. They are always talking about 'far off' places where there are dragon hoards they have sacked, beautiful princesses they have rescued or evil warriors they have defeated.

Their favourite way of gaining attention from the locals is to sit in a corner of the common room with a hood shading their face and smoking a pipe. This creates a mysterious atmosphere and prepares the way for their stories of derring-do.

They may also run a protection racket. They say, "I will protect your crops and animals from raiders if you pay me a certain amount of gold." If the money isn't paid, they vandalise people's property and sneak off in the night.

The more enterprising among them may hint at noble birth and persuade gullible youngsters to go on a quest set by a wizard or some such. Once well away from their home village, the ranger will steal all their possessions while they sleep and make off in search of new victims.

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Park rangers

IRL park rangers concern themselves with monitoring nature for things like forest fires, poaching, monitoring animal populations, and rescue missions.

The equivalent role in fantasy would do much the same thing, but with orcs, volcanoes, dryads, giant mushrooms, etc.

When you get a quest to take down a hydra deep in the forest, it's because a ranger saw evidence of it, tracked it back to it's cave behind the waterfall, noted the location, determined it could be a risk to the nearby village, and informed the village's mayor.

Not "in tune with nature" like a druid, but more like "patrolling nature".

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