Weighing in at 15 pages (Front cover -1 page, credit/PID – 1 page, 2 pages of tracking sheets, OGL) we've got roughly 10 pages of new material here to work with.
A spell-less Ranger....this class has long been plagued by the fact that whereas any class tossing spells about is kinda cool in its own right, the iconic characters who inspired this particular class were men existing by their own skill, and their ability to utilize the lands around them to some amazing feats. I've seen a few attempts to go spell-less with a ranger in the past, and it has always come out looking very much like a pigeon-holed fighter....so let us take a look and see if Mr. Radle has found the balance required to ground the ranger back in the land of the everyman, without taking away all that made this class one that people would want to play.
Interestingly enough, once again I find myself going through a Marc Radle design, missing his artwork, lol. Luckily the artists tapped for this piece were more than up to it, and the PDF comes off with a very good look and feel to it visually speaking. Now, having said that, I do have a complaint regarding artwork...the background image, as it is, makes it very hard to read the text in the corners of the pages from time to time. Perhaps a slight fade on the background image might have aided with that. Editing wise, I only found two mistakes, and they were essentially the same mistake, and an extremely minor one at that. An errant “s” was added in two different spots to a word, but truly did not alter enough of the meaning to disturb the reading of the text.
Right off the bat, taking away spells from the progression of this class, the spell-less ranger finds himself the beneficiary of a host of new class abilities, and Ranger Talents (similar in nature to Rogue Talents)...at 2nd level the decision must be made what path of combat you are looking to advance your character down with the Combat Style Feat. Now, the PDF opts for the up close and gritty two-weapon combat style or the archery combat style, but does leave it open for you to choose from any of the ranger combat styles available under your GM. The advantages behind this particular class ability is that the combat styles come with a pool of feats that you will be picking from as you progress that allow you to ignore prerequisites. Next up in the realm of cool has got to be Nature's Healing, gained at 3rd level. Giving game mechanics to bring to the table the fact that a ranger, in their favored terrain, knows which root, which mushroom, snail, leaf or mud is going to allow them to gain the absolute best results out of their Heal skill checks. Therefore, this ability grants bonuses to heal checks, in various differing manners. Hunter's Bond is another of those choice situations, this time with the options of sharing a percentage of your favored enemy bonuses with allies, or picking up an animal companion (trust me, looking through all the different options here, you want the animal companion). Now, I did think there were a few animals that would have been obvious choices for the list of animal companion options, but that would be a personal choice issue. It would be wrong of me to not mention the Stealth Attack class ability, as any ranger worth his salt had better be able to attack unseen within their own terrain.
The Ranger Talents, 25 of them, are an interesting alternative to a spell progression for a ranger class, and offer everything from extra feats, to additional animal companions. Faster movement, farther range, and critical hit modifiers. There is enough here to allow for several different styles of play to evolve in comfort never feeling limited by choice.
Following this we are given 18 new Feats, covering everything from Additional Favored Enemies or Terrain, Extra Ranger Talents, an Expert or Master option for Favored Terrain granting additional bonuses on top of the normal ones already given by Favored Terrain. Coordinated Companion allows your animal companion to benefit from teamwork feats you possess as if they also had them. And Savage Terrain Warrior (my personal favorite of this batch) gives what every ranger needs...HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE!! For the animal companions, on top of the coordinated companion feat, we also get an Improved, Greater and Invulnerable – adding a DR to yer critter companion.
We are presented with two archetypes here that are both limited in their way, but in taking the limitation are both extremely more powerful within their parameters.
The Dual Style Ranger gives up multiple favored enemies in favor of learning a second combat style, and applying all further advancements that would normally give a new favored enemy back into the single enemy.
The Companion Bound Ranger gives up multiple favored terrain for a singular concept, but forms a bond with their animal that hearkens back to the classic ranger/animal duos of literary history.
The APG's list of ranger combat styles is re-presented here in appendix form for ease of character build, in case one wishes to choose a style outside of the two presented here as options.
Following the appendix are two tracking sheets for ease of handling favored enemy/terrain and animal companions. They remind me greatly of sheets I remember using during the 3.0 days, and have that feel to me.
So, final thoughts...did this PDF present a ranger sans magic that is worth playing? That is what it comes down to, right? The answer to that is resting on my printer, in the form of an NPC I will be introducing tomorrow evening at my regular game night. This class is not only playable, its exciting and intriguing. For a player like myself, there are a massive amount of options presented to really explore the concept of an animal companion. Or go the complete other direction, and create that whisper in the trees, who's only detected when his arrow is in your throat. Now, flipping to the other side, the background on the pages make some pages hard to read, and I would have preferred to have seen the background done with a lighter hand perhaps, but that it truly the only design/layout choice I can see worth complaining about or even pinging against the rating. Yes, I know I stated that the letter S shows up twice for no reason, but again, it does not change the meaning of the text it is within, nor does it make it any harder to understand. So, final tally...this is going to be one of those I want to give a 5 to, as the design is excellent, but layout is going to hold it back, and am finalizing with a 4.5. For those sites where I must go 4 or 5, I'll have to round down to a 4.
New Paths: Expanded Spell-Less Ranger (Pathfinder RPG)
Date Added: 04/23/2012 by Joshua Gullion