Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Rangers are Bugbears and/or Halflings

Here are two different Rangers for Old School D&D adjacent games [edit: three, there's two Bugbear Rangers]. They owe a debt to two posts, both from B/X Blackrazor. The first I've already linked to in my recent post on halflings. The second, I just read yesterday and it helped condense some Ranger-based thoughts brought on by finding out about the pioneer sergeant/assault pioneers (beards, axes, clearing the way ahead).

Image result for coldstream guards pioneer sergeant

None of these gets any spell-casting ability; that's on you if that's what you need.

[edit: Sorry they're not actually Halflings or Bugbears, either; that's also on you if that's what you need]

Old School Ranger as Halfling.

Halflings are stealthy, swift and hardy, so are Rangers.
  • Use the Halfling class, but call it a Ranger. That's it. 
  • AC bonus vs. larger-than-human covers AD&D 1e/2e bonuses vs. 'giant-class'/favoured enemy.
  • Missile and Initiative bonuses are Ranger appropriate.
  • Outdoor stealth is a no-brainer.
  • Armour choices map to AD&D 1e.
  • Weapon restrictions would fit with the environment of crowded trees and tangled undergrowth.

Further Elaboration (untested).

  • Use Cleric or Thief saves instead, to offset the following.
  • Give 2d6D1 hp at 1st level.
  • Track as find secret doors/traps (or INT/WIS check).
  • No XP bonus for high Ability Scores.

Old School Ranger as Bugbear.

(The B/X Blackrazor post explains what I mean better than me re-hashing it)

A bit more difficult, as there isn't a core class that can be directly reskinned.

Dwarf Hack (untested).

  • Use the Dwarf class as the base, but regular Fighter saves.
  • Feature swap: instead of infravision, they get the Bugbear's ability to surprise 1-3 on d6.
  • Feature swap: instead of languages, they get 2d8D1 hp at 1st level.
  • Feature swap: instead of detection, they can track 1-2 on d6.
  • Same reasons for their weapon restrictions as Old School Ranger as Halfling.

Orcs of Thar Bugbear Hack (untested).

  • Use the Bugbear class as the base.
  • Do not apply Ability Score adjustments at chargen.
  • Do not use negative XP levels (Youngster, Teenager).
  • No infravision.
  • Surprise 1-3 on d6.
  • Start with 3d8+1 hp; no additional hp at 3rd & 7th level.
  • Tracks as find secret doors/traps (or INT/WIS check).
  • No XP bonus for high Ability Scores.


Rural folk hero, incognito king, brutal forester, unsociable monster hunter, practical bandit, hippy with a bow...

The Ranger is one of my all-time favourite* D&D classes (more accurately 1e/2e AD&D), and one that was conspicuously missing from the archetypes presented to me in my earliest game materials (the version in MERP didn't inspire much, but that was for me a wider problem with the setting and system).

1e Ranger was interesting; 2e was more like how I thought a Ranger should/would be (dual-wielding seemed right, though I wasn't aware of the influence of Drizzt Do'Urden on this). The modified Ranger of 1e Lankhmar setting, attaching to Fafhrd and assorted berserkers, and lacking alignment constraints, was a stepping stone between the two. 

My conception of the ranger was influenced more by reading the statblocks in White Dwarf, the brief description in What Is Dungeons & Dragons?, and hot-pants-and-face-like-a-crumpled-apple Aragorn of Ralph Bakshi's LOTR (first voice crush was likely John Hurt, though could just as easily be from Watership Down), than it was by what was intended in 1e AD&D. 

This conception has been updated since I came off ttrpg hiatus.

* My favourite is multi-class Fighter/Druid.


  1. Huh...interesting (especially the literal bugbear hack from the Orcs of Thar GAZ). The halfling has always been a good model for a woodsy archer type (I used it as the basis for a B/X wood elf back in...oh...2011 or so). Tracking should probably be higher than that, considering the original (1E) ranger class...the ability was a flat amount, unadjusted for character level and the % almost EXACTLY parallels the B/X halfling's stealth ability (90% base in the outdoors, 65% indoors).

    The dwarf hack I'm a bit less keen on.

    Wood Elf link:

  2. Thanks for taking the time to have a look and give your opinion, JB.

    I'm coming back to all this relatively recently, and it's helpful to find that ideas/theories that are new to me have been previously explored: I don't have the time or the groups to test much (which is also why I try to work with pre-existing mechanics and subsystems).

    I think -for the right sort of game/setting- the Dwarf Hack would work better by keeping the languages feature (as a Trader/Scout on the Humanoid Fringe, or something).