Disregarding combat style optimization and how I learned to love the stealth attack and favored terrains & enemies
While this blog primarily serves as a journal for my Pathfinder roleplay character, I’ve decided to discuss and share my experiences with playing the spell-less ranger alternate base class. You can participate and contribute here or in the relevant thread at paizo forums
Having browsed and searched mainly the Paizo forums looking for general experiences about gameplay with the spell-less ranger (SLR) class in particular, I regret there are very little in the way of good discussion outside the paizo.com’s “official” thread for Q&A about the class here. I’m hoping to change that by opening a thread were I discuss my personal experiences about playing (and roleplaying!) a spell-less ranger. I call other spell-less ranger players to join me in the discussion, and of course, comments from non-players are welcome as well.
If you are unfamiliar with the SLR, read more here or here, or bug Marc Radle, the class developer. In very short, the SLK exchanges spell-casting abilities for ranger talents (resembling rogue talents, but specifically designed with the ranger in mind), stealth attack (more or less the same as sneak attack, but can be only performed against favored enemies or in favored terrains) and an animal companion that has the same level as the ranger itself (normal ranger’s companion’s level is -3 to the ranger’s).
As a short brief, I’ve been playing a SLR called Alpharius in a RotRL campaign for the past four months or so (read about the campaign through Alpharius’ eyes in his personal journal here or here in the blog). Alpharius is a loner, bounty hunter and ex-slave half-elf from Molthune on a quest to find his twin brother (not called Omegon, for you 40k fans!) and had the (mis-)fortune to be swept into a riveting adventure with other fantastic characters. The first defining moment in his life took place when he was nine, when slavers raided his home village and took him and his twin brother as slaves, and later when he was eighteen, when the head of the slaver family sent his brother to a suicide mission, whereupon Alpharius decided to escape to find him – right after he had assassinated the head of the family in cold retribution. He is now 25, and has spent the last years on the run, looking for his brother. The funniest thing is that Alpharius really isn’t a ranger per se, but a bounty hunter by training – who just happens to have the skillset of a spell-less ranger! I love it how the class allows this!
DISREGARDING COMBAT STYLE OPTIMIZATION AND HOW I LEARNED TO LOVE THE STEALTH ATTACK AND FAVORED ENEMIES & TERRAINS
From the start I envisioned Alpharius’ brother as the heavy hitter of the family with a huge blade and Alpharius himself as the more traditional ranger with the longbow and arrow. But, due to a) his past as a slave hunting other slaves, thiefs, assassins and killing people his master wanted to have killed and b) his owner family owning and maintaining a cadre of gladiators, I wanted him to be proficient with two-weapon fighting, namely the gladii. To me, it didn’t make sense to have a bounty hunter character trained by gladiators and assassins that focused on archery only, and that was when Rule of Cool made an entry. When I was coming up with him, I quickly realized my personal code when it came to RPing was Rule of Cool > Roleplaying > Powergaming. At level2, the ranger chooses a combat style specialization, wherein he can choose combat feats from a list specific to that combat style at regular intervals, and can choose to disregard the normal feat prerequisites. Given my vision how I wanted to roleplay Alpharius, and what his story was, I chose Archery (and the Precise Shot feat) as his speciality.. but at third level, instead of starting to optimize his archery skills, I took two-weapon fighting to reflect his skill with the twin blades. Because having a character wielding two gladii is just so f*cking badass. This duality became a very defining trait for my character, and while it offers awesome roleplaying possibilities, I was afraid it would hurt his contribution as a team member in combat encounters, i.e. Alpharius would suck at both and become a bystander while the big boys and girls dished and took the damage.
Ah boy, did he suck in the beginning. Measly 1d8 DAM for arrows (if he happened to hit) and 1d6+2 DAM for gladius. To his left and right, an elemental sorceress was blasting away with ~20 DAM spells and a barbarian was pummeling enemies to the ground with 10-15 DAM hits.
Enter levels 3 and 5 – 1st favored terrain and 2nd favored enemy, respectively. Granted, Alpharius didn’t really face humans (his natural 1st Favored enemy) at the first stages of his career, but expanding the base where he could utilize stealth attack really started to make the difference. Now, at lvl 7, a fight in the forest and urban areas (as I took an additional favored terrain for Alpharius’ 7th level ranger talent, to reflect the fact he had trained mostly in the city as a teenager) is a welcome encounter. Honest to his persona and style, Alpharius can and always looks to approach in stealth and surprise his enemies with arrows – and given how the fight is going, he can reliably and credibly switch to melee (just as he has “always” done in his past) and flank his enemies to provide satisfactory 1d6+2+2d6 DAM per attack.
In my experience, especially with this particular character, this allows roleplaying favored terrains and enemies in a manner unlike typical rangers – instead of forcing the character to have “ranged” the terrains with the intent of becoming a killer extraordinaire of particular types of enemies in said terrains, here we can roleplay characters that have simply grown up in this areas, and have been trained to kill certain enemies – that need not to be native to said terrains.
But from a powergaming and game mechanics standpoint, I’m afraid the character’s reliance on favored terrains and enemies (and stealth attack damage) forces me to maximise them – just to keep up with the other characters as we progress in levels. But time will tell.