Rangers were warriors who excelled at exploring the fringes of civilization and hunting down deadly monsters. Hunters, scouts, trappers, and assassins, rangers could be found wherever civilization bordered the wilderness. To aid them in their outback treks, rangers were trained in a number of combat techniques, survival skills, and even magic.
Most at home on the edge of civilization, rangers were often hunters, trackers, or some combination of the above, serving as protectors of the civilized world against the wilderness' feral threats. Stereotyped as wild frontiersmen, rangers were often imagined most at home within dense woodlands. However, this was not true of all rangers and others were more at home within ancient ruins, vast deserts, the world caverns or city sewers. What defined a ranger was not so much a bond with nature, though many share such an affinity, but rather their attraction to the unknown and the untamed, most often to protect it but sometimes to subjugate it or emulate its feral power instead, a drive which inspired rangers in as distant and varying locations as the Silver Reach, the Sunsir Desert, Narrock, Hul, the Cainscape, Morat Ras, or Danasia. Undoubtedly useful allies, rangers could also be deadly enemies. When in combat, rangers generally relied on evasive hit-and-run tactics, darting in and out of harm's way.
The stereotype of the nature-loving ranger was not without merit, however, and many rangers fit the image of cunning hunters and protectors of forests or other wildlands. These rangers saw themselves as guardians against nature's corruption and had a special affinity for barbarians and druids, who often shared similar goals. Other rangers were however more mercenary, fighting for personal glory or wealth. As their aspirations differed so did rangers' backgrounds: some came from special military training while others learned under solitary mentors who vested them with lessons on how to survive in places where few of the civilized races cared to tread. Regardless of how they came about their training, all rangers were fairly self-reliant and were as much at home (if not more) in the wild as in a bustling city.
Rangers were very often motivated by good intentions and many had a well-placed sense of right and wrong. Many felt it was their calling in life to protect the innocent from monsters, hunting down the wicked wherever they arose to terrorize the weak. Conversely, many rangers had an innate distaste for civilization's creature comforts and the griping it inspired in city folk forced into the wild. For this latter reason — and in spite of their often good nature — rangers rarely got along with paladins. Rangers with other motives were not uncommon however, and evil rangers who took on the role of a cruel and savage predator were rightly feared. Similarly, while rangers are often chaotic in mindset, others felt an attraction to law or preferred to put themselves on neither "side" of law and chaos. In spite of their general desire for distance from the trappings of civilization, many rangers did align themselves with larger organizations. Regardless of their moral or ethical outlook, most rangers held themselves accountable to gods of the wilderness, such as Cernunnun or the Old Faiths.
Among the civilized humanoid races, rangers were most common among the elves, whose culture placed a high value on the natural world and whose natural grace lent itself to a ranger's lifestyle. Copper elves in particular were very common, though many gold elves also pursued the way of the two-blade ranger. Among the other races humans, due to the race's physical and mental versatility. Half-orcs and half-elves were often attracted to the ranger's ways as well, half-elves particularly through their elven ancestors and half-orcs out of a desire to get away from the ostracizing confines of civilized society or — for that matter — orcish society. Dwarven rangers, while rare, were well-respected and commonly known as "cavers" among their people. Perian halflings were, however, both physically well-suited for a ranger's lifestyle and culturally acclimatized to the role. The rarest of the civilized races to breed rangers were gnomes, with an exception for ore gnomes who often produced rangers to explore the world cavern. Among the savage races rangers were rarer, though goblin-kin rangers were not entirely uncommon.
Trained to be nimble and deadly, rangers were experts in survival wilderness, both on their own and with company. They could move quickly over difficult terrain, evade natural hazards, and disguise their tracks or camouflage themselves to blend in with their surroundings, hiding themselves from their enemies. Although these skills were often very general in nature, every ranger also had their own particular terrain that they knew best, over which they could travel, forage, and track more effectively. Some rangers preferred the wilderness of the surface world, while others dwelt beneath in the world caverns. In either case rangers trained their senses to an extremely keen level, allowing them to focus their awareness on the area around them to notice if deadly monsters were nearby. With additional experience, rangers could even perceive unseen enemies as easily if they were visible.
All rangers were proficient to some degree in light or medium armor and most military-grade weapons as well as shields. Generally, rangers preferred to be lightly protected, as it allowed them more agility and use of their reflexes then heavier armor made possible. In addition to their general proficiency with martial and simple weapons, rangers specialized in a particular fighting style, such as archery, the use of armor, dueling with a single weapon, or dual wielding. Rangers who emphasized either style often become members of traditions that further specialized them, such as the Order of the Bow or the knightly Order of the Ancients. Whatever their particular combat style, rangers were deadly foes, and with a little bit of experience could attack with startling speed. Rangers also honed their combat skills against particular foes whom they had a particular enmity for, such as aberrations, dragons, or undead, allowing them to better track, hunt, or even communicate with such adversaries. The most experienced rangers could also exploit their knowledge of a foe's weakness to more easily injure or kill them.
While all rangers were expert scouts and trackers, their precise methods differed from one ranger to another. Some of the most common kinds of rangers are listed below.
Beast Master rangers took their strength from a primal bond with an animal companion, most often a relatively common creature such as a wolf, panther, horse or sometimes something more rare or exotic. Through this bond, the ranger and their beast companion became a formidable team, acting out as extensions of one another. A skilled Beast Master and their companion could carry out flanks and other advanced maneuvers all on their own. As a result, most Beast Master exploits focused on this spirit of coordinated action. In general, Beast Masters emphasized their physical strength for the purpose of athletics and melee combat though agility and wisdom remained important facets of their training.
As a Beast Master and their companion grew more accustomed to working together, they became capable of several impressive feats. A well-trained beast companion could come rapidly to their ranger's aid, moving with impressive speed to help their ally or attack a shared enemy. The most experienced Beast Masters could also share their magical abilities with their beast companion, applying the effects of spells they cast on both themselves and their friend.
The strong bond between ranger and beast, which was more like that between two good friends than that found between a master and their slave, sometimes allowed beast companions to develop abilities similar to those of their bonded ranger. Like rangers, beast companions were skilled at fighting in close quarters and they also possessed the capability to act as extensions of their ranger's senses. Beast companions learned beside their rangers, improving in capability as the ranger did. When a Beast Master fell unconscious in combat, a beast companion would often leap to the ranger's defense, carrying on the fight for them.
The training of a Beast Master did not come without its costs. Though a Beast Master had an edge over other rangers in maneuverability and combat flexibility the effort of coordination meant that they couldn't act as quickly as others, dividing their time and focus between themselves and their companion. Likewise, Beast Masters couldn't take on more than one companion at a time and could only gain a new companion when their old one had either left them or been killed. New companions were also generally quite difficult to acquire, requiring a ranger to not only locate another suitable animal but to spend 8 hours magically bonding to it.
Professional monster slayers, Hunters dedicated themselves to the eradication of deadly creatures found on the outskirts of civilization. Hunters perfected the specialized hunting techniques used by all rangers to track down and kill specific quarries. The precise target of a Hunter's ire varied significantly, from dread-inspiring to hordes of orcs. Whatever the threat however, the Hunter was better trained than most to face it.
Because of the diversity of foes a Hunter might face, their capabilities similarly differed greatly. Some techniques focused on taking down a single, massive foe, like the colossus slayer technique, which allowed tenacious hunters to wear their enemy down through repeated strikes. Others were better suited to taking on multiple adversaries at once, like the stand against the tide technique, which Hunter could use to redirect enemy attacks toward the attacker's allies. Additionally, some techniques served a primarily defensive purpose, like steel will, which gave a Hunter the ability to brace themselves against fear, making it more difficult to panic them.