The ranger has a strong tradition in fantasy fiction and mythology. In myths and legends, rangers borrow from ancient sources such as the Greek and Roman goddess of Artemis and Diana. Medieval and later tales included the vigilante and guerilla freedom-fighter Robin Hood, the Huntsman of Grimm’s Snow White fairy tale, and even Jack the Giant-Killer. In modern fantasy fiction, the ranger borrows from a wide range of royal-blooded striders, dark elven renegades, and bowler-wearing steampunk bounty hunters. Even real-world modern rangers influence the class, including park rangers, the Texas Rangers, and US Army Rangers.
Despite these extremely varied sources, the ranger of the core rules is surprisingly lacking in customization. While numerous archetypes have been published to somewhat expand a ranger’s options, outside of those the ranger only gets to decide what his areas of specialization are – what kinds of combat feats, what types of terrain, and what favored enemies he is best at defeating. None of these choices have the impact on play style or character focus that a cleric’s choice of domains does, or a sorcerer’s choice of bloodline. Further, a ranger’s customization is often strongly suggested by a campaign’s setting (a game set in the desert near a gnoll empire makes it unlikely a ranger will choose to be at his best against giants in a forest).
But where are the rangers who love plants, but hate (and don’t get along with) animals? How does a player build a ranger focused more on nature magic than combat? Many players aren’t as concerned about their rangers being particularly combat effective (though it’s always helpful), as much as making them feel like something more than a fighter with a few multiclass levels of druid. To help in that regard, Ranger Options: Knacks of Nature presents a number of new ranger-specific abilities (knacks) that can be taken in place of traditional ranger class features to customize, expand, and enhance the way a ranger can be played.