Legendary Rangers (Patreon Request)
This installment of the series dealing with class-redesigns clocks in at 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 51 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.
The supplement begins with something I enjoyed seeing, namely truths and lessons learned. These include knowing that nature is not your friend, that one should rely on oneself, that all tools and weapons should be used, that enemies should be wisely considered – you get the idea.
The legendary ranger base class doesn’t per se change the chassis, but addresses something interesting: You see, rangers are a super-popular class in my game – but none of them ever actually go the route of the classic ranger. I’ve had blood magic-using changelings, insane pirates and more…and these end up with class features they don’t really require. The legendary ranger gets full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves, d10 HD, and the 6+Int skills per level that makes the class so attractive to my players. The legendary ranger is proficient in simple and martial weapons, light and medium armor, as well as shields, with the exception of tower shields. That being said, the class does do a lot of things different: At first level, we get adaptive learning, which absolves the legendary ranger of the need to meet ability score requirements for feats, and treats their level as fighter level, stacking them if applicable. I am ambivalent here. I do think that some prerequisites like Expertise and Power Attack? Yeah, there, the ability to bypass them makes sense. On the downside, this’d allow e.g. Large characters to gain Awesome Blow rather easily, which is not something I am fond of, or think of as intended. I’d strongly suggest limiting the ability to apply only to ability score requirements ranging from 10 to 18, or to limit it to combat feats.
The ranger also begins play with a natural gift – this may be an animal companion, animal summoning, shapeshifting (1/2 class level + Wisdom modifier times, up to 1 minute duration per use), which nets one form from a list of available choices, +1 form for every 4 levels after 1st. The forms improve at 11th level, sizeshifting (9th and 17th level unlock sizes beyond Tiny/Large), or a shaman’s spirit companion. There also is an option to make healing extracts, which is rather cool; while defaulting to the standard is easy here, I’d still have appreciated it if the ability stated the action required to imbibe an extract. There is also one important caveat missing from them, namely that they become inert when leaving the ranger’s possession, or at least briefly thereafter. I assume that choice was made because the word “extract” points towards the alchemist, but these extracts do no not behave as “pseudo-spells”, so having that explicitly stated would imho have been prudent. All of these options also have exclusive talents included, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Back to the main class, which gets a retooled quarry ability at first level. The ranger must be able to clearly visualize and describe the target to render them a quarry; 1/round as a free action, he can make any target they observed for at least 10 minutes within the last 24 hours their quarry; if they have interacted with a being for at least 2 hours, that countdown extends to a whole year. This decision to declare someone as quarry does not require the target to be present. If a legendary ranger meets a person, they can spend a move action to make the target the quarry immediately, provided they have some way to perceive them. Finally, evidence gathered can allow the legendary ranger to designate a target as their quarry, but a failed check prevents them from trying that target again for 24 hours. The class gets half their class level, minimum 1, to attempts to track them and may move at full speed while doing so, sans the usual penalty, and halves the penalty for moving at twice the normal speed. Perception checks to locate the quarry also get this bonus, and the ranger may use Knowledge to identify a quarry based on tracks. The ranger can also make a Perception check opposed by the target’s Bluff or Disguise to gain information about its condition, and the information gleaned makes sense and is codified properly.
Quarry also interacts with the Predation class feature, which is a scaling insight bonus to attack rolls against it, as well as +1d6 precision damage; these bonuses increase by +1/+1d6 every 4 levels beyond the first. Baffling oversight: Predation lacks that caveat that it isn’t multiplied in critical hits. EDIT: I’ve had a discussion with two friends on Facebook about this, so let me state this clearly: Analogue abilities like bombs, sneak attack, etc. do explicitly state that the bonus damage is not multiplied on critical hits. This lacks this caveat. /EDIT Since quarry is super-easy to apply and has no limits, one can’t argue that this is intentional, either. While the number of bonus damage dice is less than that of sneak attack, predation does not have sneak attack’s flanking OR ranged restrictions, which allows for a damage escalation of the already VERY potent ranged builds out there. I like predation, but it’s RAW too wide open for my tastes. I do *like* that you can apply this at range, but I think it should AT LEAST be a ranger talent, with some prerequisites or scaling, preferably.
Finally, the class gets wildspeak, which allows for communication with animals and magical beasts, as well as +1/2 class level to Diplomacy with them. 5th, 9th and 13th level unlock new creature types, and at 17th level, the ranger may talk to the earth itself. At 3rd level, the ranger gets improved quarry, which first allows him do designate a quarry and move as the same move action. 7th level allows for the use of quarry as a swift action; 11th allows the ranger to thus quarry a creature they can’t see (opposed skill roll required); 15th level may the action optionally immediate, and 19th level, a free action.
3rd level nets relentless stride, which allows for full Climb movement sans penalty, or ½ speed when using a shield on a successful Climb check; he may also move at full speed when swimming, is immune to tripping by slick and icy surfaces (including magical ones!), and move at full speed through undergrowth without damage/impairment, etc. At 7th level, the ranger can walk on walls and ceilings, provided he starts his turn on solid ground, and he falls if his movement ends; additionally, he can walk across water. While I like the intent of this ability, making the ranger essentially a terminator-bloodhound, I think it’s overkill. It includes stuff you’d usually associate with ninjas, assassins and rogues, and does not account for encumbrance, armor, etc. This should probably be at least something that needs to be chosen, considering how much it trivializes the most common forms of terrain hazards. 4th level nets the Wisdom-based spellcasting you’d expect.
5th level nets Hunter’s Edge: At this level and every 5 levels thereafter, he chooses a class skill and gains the skill unlock powers as appropriate for the ranks in the skill. Important note: I am not sure if the ranger continues to get the higher rank skill unlocks if they progress in a skill once chosen, or if they’d require taking the same skill again. 7th level nets covert nature, which means the ranger leaves no track, and can use Stealth while observed; 11th level allows the ranger also to negate detection by scent, as well as blindsense and blindsight – much appreciated, and appropriate for the level. 11th level nets evasion, which is upgraded to improved evasion at 15th level. Also at this level, we get blindsight that only allows the ranger to see objects and creatures that moved within the past round, the range doubling from 30 ft. to 60 ft. at 19th level. 19th level nets immunity to nonlethal damage as well as all diseases and poisons. He may also spend a swift action to gain temporary hit points, 20 to be precise, which last for 24 hours. These don’t stack with themselves or others, but any ability to redistribute hit points from the ranger to other beings makes this an infinite healing exploit. Booo! The capstone ability makes the ranger hit and deal half damage when rolling a natural 1 on an attack roll against the quarry.
At 2nd level, and every even level thereafter, the legendary ranger gets a ranger talent. These denote whether they are extraordinary or supernatural; talents with (Predation) as a descriptor obviously modify said class feature, and analogues are provided for Wildspeak etc. – the first of these predation talents maxes your predation damage dice when targeting flat-footed beings or those denied their Dexterity bonus. Some of these have scaling benefits: Ancient ways, for example, lets you always act in a surprise round, and at 6th level nets you uncanny dodge, at 12th level improved uncanny dodge. That’s usually 3 class features, all rolled in one. On the plus-side, at 4th level, we have gaining a wild-card combat feat up ¼ class level (minimum 1) per day that can’t be stacked with itself. We have a talent that nets you at-will detect magic as a move action, gaining instantly all information, and the legendary ranger learns the highest spell slot the quarried target can prepare, no save or skill check to counter. That is one that I seriously wouldn’t want to GM: Detect magic at will can already be super annoying; the secondary effect has no countermeasure as written, and wrecks plenty of plots of published adventures, where powerful casters masquerade as non-casters or weaker individuals. It also instantly unravels each plot where an individual masquerades as a caster, regardless of Bluff, Disguise or items. Not cool.
On the plus-side: Claim Dominion is an interesting high-level ability, though one that won’t work for every setting: It requires level 16, and lets the ranger call forth a region’s champion, which is a frickin’ CR 20 creature of the GM’s choice, to fight it in a duel, with only animal companions allowed. Once that creature is bested, the ranger gets powers in that dominion and instinctive fealty. This can be cool, but won’t fit every game – it implies that there’s a CR 20 creature for every 25 mile domain, so it’s something that some GMs might want to be on the lookout for. Fist of Resolve is also an interesting one: 2d6 damage to self as a swift action that cannot be reduced in any way to cease the effects of confused, fascinated, frightened, nauseated, panicked, shaken, sickened; conditions that build on those still apply – see, this is design-skill-wise a really cool one that fits the “grit my teeth”-trope perfectly. Its minimum level of 6th is a bit low for my tastes as written, though. I think it’d have been more elegant to have the talent scale and lack the minimum level: Start off with shaken, fascinated and sickened, then unlock frightened, nauseated at 6th, then panicked and confused at 8th, perhaps with scaling damage costs as well. Just my 2 cents. 10th level nets an additional attack at full BAB when directed against the quarry until it is reduced to 0 HP – it’s an always-on haste, which is pretty brutal, but at least it does not stack with haste or other attacks that grant an additional attack, so no monk-dip exploit. Ritualized dabbling in druid spells as a ceremony, better shield AC, improvising Crafting materials, hideouts that can avoid magic…and what about the ability that lets you ignore concealment bonuses and miss chances by focusing your gaze as a swift action on your quarry? Marauder’s step is brutal and makes pounce weep: At 8th level, you can move half your movement as a free action before a full attack. *cough* Dual wield with speed boost */cough* This one should imho be higher level than it is. On the plus-side, there is Dexterity to damage, and threat-range increases have proper caveats. Variants of solo tactics and pack tactic are here; there is a high level option to get a fey shadowmate (built uses PC rules, so essentially a better cohort), who can also once return the legendary ranger to life; there is a 12th level option to use immediate actions to disrupt spellcaster quarries (nice!)…you probably got the idea by now.
As for the talents exclusive to a natural gift, well, here we have some really cool ones: Like raise animal companion, which does what it says on the tin, and really, really helps keeping the emotional bond. +4 Strength and Constitution for summoned creatures (nope, can’t be stacked with Augment Summoning – kudos for getting that!), mutagens lite, poisons that cripple, but don’t kill…pretty cool ones. Personal peeve of mine: The rather powerful poisonous extracts mentioned are pretty save or sucky: The penalty caused is 1d6 + ½ class level, half that on a successful save, which’ll reliably reduce targets to an ability score of 1 between mid and high levels; making that effect get the one save and then deliver the total damage over time, such as in increments of 2 or 4, would have been more interesting imho. Why am I not screaming at this ability? Well, while it’s too much for my tastes, it’s neither ability score damage, nor drain, but a penalty, and does not stack with itself – see what I mean when I say that the design does get complex rules-interactions done right? Even more interesting, the penalty gradually vanishes, which makes for a good reason why a villain might retreat for now… So yeah, I’m very ambivalent about this one, but I appreciate its design. Size shifters can take a talent to increase the size of one limb when using the attack action, which is kinda funny, kinda cool, and makes me think of Everybody Games’ excellent Microsized Adventures…
The book comes with 8 favored class options, available for any race.
The archetypes provided are the chasseur, a mounted ranger; the chrysanth caller is a ¾ BAB-archetype with fey-theme, Charisma as governing ability score, modified spell list (based on bard, with a selection of sorc/wiz spells added), and the ability to establish a telepathic bond with their quarry; a complex class hack that radically changes how the class operates. Earthshakers are the barbarian crossover archetype; feral scavengers are the crossover with the unchained monk and some survivalism thrown in for good measure; the hand of nature’s might is a Spheres of Might crossover tweak, and hand of nature’s power, you guessed it, does cover that aspect for Spheres of Power. Harrier Scouts made me smile, big time: They get a unique natural gift that focuses on thrown weapons, and a combo-engine consisting of primers, follow-ups, and executions – somewhat akin to how the Swordmaster of old and some Interjection games classes, or the awesome Prodigy behave, just in a more limited version, as the abilities unlocked are fixed. In a change of pace, only one primer, follow-up, or execution may be enacted per round, so it’s less of a linear build-up, and more of a mix and match. Still, I enjoyed this archetype’s 2.5 pages andgenuinely think that this type of design, applied to each o the traditional combat styles, would have made for an interesting angle to peruse. The head hunter gets macabre trophies and is particularly adept at hunting down escaped prey. The pack leader is BRUTAL: He essentially establishes a collective-like bond with allies, whoa re assigned certain roles, gaining potent benefits. These include never being surprised (at first level!), and also features bonus damage (not properly typed), but at the cost of moving down on the initiative order. Guardian role extends the reach of a character by 5 ft. Always, At first level. As part of the ability array of this fellow. Compare that to what you need to usually do to get an increased reach. This is a super-cool engine, but even PARTS of its base benefits are overkill for the levels; considering that they’re always on and last for days and are Ex, this is ridiculously strong. Dipping for even one level into this archetype makes the whole group much more deadly, and comparable commander archetypes and classes pale, big time. This is cool, but as written very much over the top.
Planar explorers get a frickin’ eidolon AND an expanded spell list, as well as a portal opening ability, but lose evasion. They still weirdly seem to get improved evasion, though. Skirmishers are spell-less rangers who receive a secondary, massive list of tricks, which includes adding no-save halving of movement, no save shaken, no-save entangled etc. to targets hit….but since they can be used 10 + Wisdom modifier times per day only, that kinda works. Kinda. No save conditions that can be caused via ranged attacks are problematic. The wild-plains drifter is, bingo, the gunslinger crossover – it uses an interesting variant of the quarry engine that builds focus while the target is in sight, which can then be used for better shots and damage – I really like this base engine, as it represents rather well what you, well, do. You aim, observe, fire. Two thumbs up to whoever designed this one.
The feat array allows for the playing of Intelligence- or Charisma-based rangers. Mass Trap Spell makes you generate more traps – important if you’re like me and use lots of obscure books: This Is NOT meant to be based off of Rogue Genius Games’ Trap Spell ability to make spelltraps! Instead, the feat refers to one of three new spell types herein. Trap spells are placed in squares and pretty much d what they say on the tin; you can’t place them where they’d be immediately triggered. Primeval spells enchant a single piece of ammunition; herbal spells require either foraging or can be paid for. The spells provided are pretty cool, with terrain that heals allies and harms enemies, traps, ammo inflicting a negative level, a herbal variant of lesser restoration…I generally like a couple of them, but +1d6 times CL electricity damage (max 5d6 at 9th level) and +3 to attack rolls (UNTYPED!) vs. metal wearing foes for a swift action level 1 spell? Pretty darn brutal. Some spells here imho should make them specify that they can’t be made wands or potions, otherwise, you’ve just broken the already lax pricing. Take Life from the Land, for example, is a 4th-level spell, and cures blinded, confused, dazed, dazzled, deafened, diseased, exhausted, fatigued, insanity, poisoned and sickened. (Oddly not nauseated). It also cures all ability score damage, and 1d6 HP per CL, and it has a 50% chance to send you back home on another plane. It’s only personal, but in a world where you can make wands of this fellow, not taking UMD would be rather dumb. This guffaw is in as far puzzling, as the other variant healing spells, like treat critical wounds, seem to be line: Said spell affects the creature touched and heals 4d12 hit points, plus 1 per CL. However, if the creature has been affected by it in the last 8 hours, that is halved. This is an interesting angle, and checks out well regarding spell-levels, etc. There is also a spell that heals you whenever the wielder of the enchanted weapon hits an attack – but the healing is low enough to make a kitten-exploit monetarily unfeasible, which I considered to be a nice touch.
The pdf closes with the sample character Raqir (CR 4), complete with a compelling background story and boon benefits for befriending him. There is a superfluous + in his HD, but otherwise, he is a solid build.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level; I only noticed e.g. italics missing and similar cosmetic hiccups. I think. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports nice full-color artwork. Much to my annoyance, the pdf lacks bookmarks, which is a big comfort detriment for a crunch book of this size.
Andrew J. Gibson, Wren Rosario and Jeff Gomez have written a class rebuild that leaves me deeply torn; more so than any of the Legendary class rebuilds before. On one hand, we have a plethora of abilities I genuinely LOVE. The quarry rebuild is great and actually makes you feel like the sharp-eyed hunter/tracker; the class, as a whole, very much feels distinct and FUN. It has a wide selection of abilities that do allow you to roleplay, while never forgetting the mechanics. Which brings me to my primary concern: I’m not sure if the authors realized how strong their combined designs made the legendary ranger when compared to e.g. the legendary rogue or fighter. Just saying, since the sample NPC-build is relatively tame.
The lack of limits on predation makes every legendary rogue grit their teeth: Not only does the legendary ranger get the ability to walk on walls and ceiling and ignore the deadly terrain as a hard-coded class feature, they also have their full BAB for more consistent hits, and bonus damage that makes them much deadlier ranged combatants.
Know what did not need a damage boost of all things, at least not when played by a remotely capable player? Ranged ranger combatants.
In many ways, the legendary ranger is better at many rogue/assassin-y things than the legendary rogue. The different authors also show in the power-levels of the archetypes, which range from “solid” to “inspired”, to “conceptually great design, but broken as hell.”
To cut a long ramble short: I would not allow this class as written in my game. Not because of a personal pet-peeve of mine regarding mechanics, but because the overall package of the legendary ranger being better than that of the regular ranger, or talented ranger, or comparable classes by Legendary Games. I had peeves with the samurai and barbarian, with hiccups, some design decisions. But this one?
This is the first class in the series that I would not allow in my game due to balance concerns.
And it doesn’t look like the power level was anything but intended. The class is per se very finely-tuned, but omission of the usual balancing caveats in some key aspects taint it for me. I also have a legendary rogue player in my game, and where the legendary rogue or legendary gunslinger needs to invest and choose, the ranger just…gets stuff, and stuff that’s leagues better. This pdf has me rather concerned, to be honest.
How to rate this, then? Well, are you looking for a high-end class regarding power-level? Did you always think that your debuff full BAB-attacks should have no save? Tired of having to deal with the tactical ramifications of problematic terrain? Want to be a bloodhound? Or a witcher-like character? Then this’ll be pure awesome for you.
Are your PCs already fearsome enough with regular rangers? Oh boy, do you need to beg them not to power-game this beast.
For me, as a person, this is a 3-star file; its power-level is beyond what I consider appropriate for the games I run, and there are several components herein that I consider to be broken, too dippable, etc. – which breaks my heart, for the ideas and general chassis on display here are the finest I’ve seen for the concept.
As a reviewer, I have to account for the part of my demographic who is looking for such high-powered classes, though – for you, this should be a 5-stars file, though even you should beware of some options herein, while others may elicit less excitement from you.
Which leaves me with the formal criteria, and here, the lack of bookmarks hurts this book.
I thought long and hard, and compared this to my ratings of other comparable books, including the other installments in the series…and in the end, my final verdict can’t exceed 3.5 stars, rounded down.
You can get this overly powerful, but also very inspired class here on OBS.
If you consider my reviews to be helpful, please think about leaving a donation. Or join my patreon. Every bit helps to keep this operation running.