Ill Winds Over Verbobonc
Ranger of the Gnarley Forest
The following prestige class is a bespoke adaption of the material presented in From the Ashes by Carl Sargent.
The rangers of the Gnarley are some two hundred strong, most of them born woodsmen with a few half-elves among their number. This group has traditionally been a very loose-knit fellowship but it is in the process of becoming more cohesive as terrible wars threaten to engulf the lands of weal and the ancient forest herself. Mindful of the lessons learned from having the Temple of Elemental Evil arise in their own backyard and on their watch, they know from personal experience that the Old One must be stopped now, before his evil has a chance to grow. To that end, the last decade has seen no few rangers volunteer their services as scouts in service to Furyondy and the Highfolk, and many veterans of the Greyhawk Wars have found their way into their numbers.
The group is democratic and has no true leaders who issue orders or directives, but there are seven Ranger Knights who meet at Corustaith each season so that they might share information amidst the warmth and comfort of the Gilded Acorn. Each knight has his own following of younger rangers who swear personal allegiance. In return, each of them undertakes to train the younger rangers as needed, and holds an annual feast for all his juniors each Brewfest. The oath taken is not very restrictive, involving promises to protect the integrity of the forest, to help good folk in need, and to revere a Power of weal or balance (usually Ehlonna, but Beory and Obad-Hai).
The current Ranger Knights of the Gnarley Forest are: Parsimmon Tumercan of the Central Wildlands, Henretha of the Welkland Border, Belgin of the Lake Verge, Jon Blacksmith of the Greyhawk Verge, Barda Tharrow of the Riverland, Owain Lynwood Terfellan of the Kron Woods, and Rendar Tarimson of the Tor Badlands. The last of these knights is young for his role, but he is a hero of the Greyhawk Wars, and the post was gratefully relinquished by the aged Drey Garson, who was much desirous of retiring from active duty.
The knights do not have formal delineations of territory or spheres of control, although each has a particular area (which may overlap with others) where they expend most of their protective efforts. Quite frequently, their purview also falls within the borders of this established realm or that, such as the Domains of Greyhawk or Dyvers, the Viscounty of Verbobonc, or the Fae Kingdom of Celene, and the rangers are mindful of the worldly authority of these nations and more than willing to work hand in glove with trustworthy officers of them.
The rangers strive to bring good folk together. In addition to the thousands of woodsmen who dwell under the boughs of the ancients woods, warm relations are enjoyed with gnomes, swanmays, and werebears of the Gnarley. Conversely, they are quite cautious in their dealings with the elves; much mutual respect is readily in evidence, but the elf clans of the wood keep to their own, love their secrets, and are look askance at meddling from the younger races. For their part, the rangers are respectful of the elves, but they do not trust them. Cool politeness is the order of the day, and the half-elves among their numbers are sometimes pressed into service to serve as diplomats to their kin when cooperation is required.
The druidic hierarchy of the Old Faith is strongly allied to the Gnarley Rangers, for the two organisations have much in common. Both desire the protection of the ancient woods, and to keep malignant forces from disrupting the balance of nature. They also protect its peoples, although they do part ways as to why. The rangers do so because the freedom to live freely, by no ones leave, is dear to their ethos, while the druids merely seek to protect their faithful, for the common folk still cling to the old ways of worship.
Rangers of the Gnarley Forest care little for politics, instead concerning themselves solely with the welfare of the forest and the people who make their homes within it. When asked to weigh in on the squabbles over the border delineation between the dominions of Dyvers and Greyhawk, their answer was to remain pointedly ambivalent. They do not see the growing influence of either city on the northern and eastern marches of the woods to be desireable, and their refusal to take sides protects the interests of their friends in the forest. The receding power of Verbobonc is thought to find approval with the Gnarley Rangers, although they readily work with the Mounted Borderers and a number of proactive border nobles to make sure it does not slip too far. Viscount Langard is thought to have friends among the rangers, and his rule finds favour with them. Finally, Celene is looked upon with some suspicion, especially since the elves of the northern Welkwood are increasingly intolerant of human incursions, and show their distrust by patrolling the indistinct border in force.
The Gnarley Rangers use the following symbols and insignia for mutual recognition: juniors receive a silvered oak leaf on a neck-chain; cadets are identified by a silver oak leaf pair above an acorn, worn as an amulet or badge; senior rangers keep a golden acorn with two silver leaves (again, as amulet or badge); and the ranger knights add a moonstone to this last arrangement. If the Gnarley Ranger is a follower of Ehlonna (as the majority indeed are) they will often add a symbol of a unicorn horn to their insignia upon reaching the rank of cadet.
Most woodsfolk know a ranger or two, and they are well-versed in how to look for and understand the meaning of Gnarley Ranger insignia. In practice, they will automatically see it on a ranger openly wearing their insignia and will generally adopt a more friendly disposition. Other peoples who dwell near the borders of the forest will detect and understand the insignia with a Knowledge (Nature) roll against DC 13 or a Knowledge (Local) roll against DC 10, while folk further abroad must succeed against DC18 or DC 15 respectively. Naturally their dispositions will rely on a less vested attitude towards the Gnarley Rangers.
Gnarley Rangers quickly gain at least a working knowledge of the secret druidic tongue, although they tend to respect the wishes of their allies among the Old Faith that this knowledge be used sparingly and only when needed to add gravity or discretion to messages.
The rangers also have their own secret language, one that is part vocal and part subtle hand and eye signals. This language concerns events and phenomena important in the woodlands and to the ethos of weal. Thus, if one ranger looks at someone and then casts his gaze down and to his right, a second ranger viewing this will know that the first rangers considers that person evil or dangerous. An almost imperceptible (to the uninitiated) clenching of a fist accompanying this shift in gaze indicates that the ranger feels the person is certainly evil or very dangerous. This verbal/nonverbal mixed language has a broad vocabulary, but doesn’t handle much in the way of abstract concepts. The Gnarley Ranger language is complex and subtle, but communication system is automatic among those of cadet level and beyond. However, junior rangers, woodsfolk of the Gnarley, and those trained by the Gnarley Rangers must succeed on a Knowledge [Nature] roll against DC 20). Alternatively, the language may be purchased with skill points in the usual manner, and may never be selected as an automatic starting language.
Gnarley Rangers have an equally complex set of signals in the form of terrain markers: scratches left on trees, a wedge cut out of a capped fungus, interweaving of small branches or ferns, and the like. These signals generally indicate fairly simple things, often monsters (kech, orcs, goblins, etc.). Gnarley Rangers of Cadet rank and higher are proficient in this signalling system, but juniors have an imperfect understanding. To understand they must make a Knowledge (nature) roll against a variable difficulty, depending on the complexity of the signal. Non-Gnarley Rangers will not be able to recognise it at all unless taught by one of their brethren who knows it well. Most Gnarley woodsfolk know something of this signalling system, since rangers often leave simple signs to warn them of perils and hazards. They too may make a Knowledge (nature) roll against a variable difficulty. Those who take Knowledge (local) in the Gnarley Forest region are assumed to have been introduced to the same signals, and may also attempt the same roll.
To qualify to become a Ranger of the Gnarley Forest, the character must meet the following criteria:
Base Attack Bonus: +5
Feats: Endurance, Run, Track
Skills: Hide 8 ranks, Knowledge- Local (Gnarley Forest region) 3 ranks, Knowledge- Nature 5 ranks, Move Silently 5 ranks, Survival 5 ranks
Special: In order to become accepted into the ranks of the Rangers of the Gnarley Forest, one must undergo a period of training under the supervision of a recognised senior ranger. This is as much for the leadership to gain a firm firsthand knowledge of the junior ranger’s character and methods as for imparting knowledge of the ways and ideals of the organisation. At the end of the training period, a junior ranger either swears loyalty to a Ranger Knight or parts ways with the organisation, usually on amicable terms.
The ranger’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Gather Information (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Knowledge (geography) (Int), Knowledge (local) (Int), Knowledge (nature) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Search (Int), Spot (Wis), Survival (Wis), Swim (Str), and Use Rope (Dex).
Skill Points per Level
6 + Int modifier
All of the following are class features of the ranger.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency
A ranger is proficient with all simple and martial weapons, with light armor and with shields (except tower shields).
Spells per Day/Spells Known
A Ranger of the Gnarley Forest continues advancing in divine spellcasting ability. With each even-numbered level, the character gains new divine spells per day (and spells known, if applicable) as if they had also gained a level in whatever divine spellcasting class they belonged to before they added the prestige class. They do not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained.
If a character had more than one divine spellcasting class before he became a Gnarley Ranger, the player must decide which class to assign each even-numbered level of the prestige class for the purpose of determining divine spells per day and spells known.
At 1st level, the Gnarley Ranger has passed beyond the rank of junior ranger, and the newly raised cadet trades in his silvered oak leaf for a silvered oak leaf pair above an acorn. Having sworn loyalty to a Ranger Knight, the cadet can forthwith expect friendship and succor in the hall of their master, and automatic support from any number of brother and sister rangers.
A cadet ranger flawlessly understands how to leave signals in the forest in the form terrain markers: scratches left on trees, a wedge cut out of a capped fungus, interweaving of small branches and leaves and the like. These signals generally indicate fairly simple things such as warnings relating to dangerous terrain and monsters, but can also indicate the way to secret caches of supplies and safer resting places, or even as subtle mile markers to distant settlements.
Lastly, a cadet ranger gains a +2 on all charisma-based skill checks when interacting with friendly residents of the Gnarley Forest and also to others who have a positive disposition towards the organisation.
At 1st level, and again at 5th, the Ranger of the Gnarley Forest gains a bonus feat from the following list (provided any prerequisites are met): Alertness, Ehlonna’s Way, Extra Favoured Enemy, Favoured Critical, Favoured Power Attack, Improved Favoured Enemy, Natural Bond, Quick Reconnoiter, Self-Sufficient, Sharp-Eyed, and Stealthy.
As a cadet, they also learn in full the secret code of whistles and chirps that can summon aid from their fellows immediately (providing they are within earshot). They also learn all the nuances of a secret language of verbal and non-verbal cues including hand and eye signals. This is a useful system for communicating basic ideas about weather, forest conditions, strangers and so, but it is unsuitable for communicating abstract concepts. See the section on Languages above for further information. This language is a free language, and does not count towards the normal number of tongues applicable to the character’s intelligence.
The cadet may also now learn the secret language of the druids, a carefully guarded secret that the rangers of the Gnarley Forest keep in trust to their colleagues among the Old Faith. They may now purchase the druidic language with skill points, or simply take it if they have free language slots.
Levels of Ranger of the Gnarley Forest stack with both Ranger and Druid levels for the purposes of animal companion advancement and enhancement.
Starting at 1st level, when in a temperate forest the ranger gains a +1 competence bonus to all Hide, Listen, Move Silently, Search, Spot, and Survival checks. This competence bonus improves to +2 at 3rd level, and +3 at 5th.
When in an area with which they are intimately familiar, the ranger is even more capable. At 2nd level, the cadet designates their home turf, generally an area no larger than ten leagues in diameter (30 miles or roughly 1 hex on a darlene map). While in this area the ranger, gains doubles their field-craft competence bonus. Additionally, the ranger gains an extra +2 competence bonus on tracking rolls and wild empathy checks, to represent familiarity with the terrain and the wild creatures who lair within the ranger’s home turf.
At 4th level, the area of home turf expands to roughly fifty leagues in diameter (150 miles or five hexes on a darlene map, all of which must be in a roughly circular pattern). It should be noted that while different rangers claim different swathes of the forest as existing under their protection, overlap is not at all uncommon and issues of “rightful territory” simply don’t enter into their thinking. They serve the forest, not the other way around. However, generally speaking a ranger will stake out home turf close to the purview of their Ranger Knight.
Fast March (Ex)
A ranger of the Gnarley Forest is quite used to travelling fast and light over diverse terrain and makes arduous journeys without a second thought and with little need for preparation. When moving through temperate forests, a Gnarley Ranger can cover 25% more ground per day and lead a party of additional travellers equal to their class level + charisma modifier (if positive, or a minimum of one extra creature per class level) at the same speed. When on his home turf, the ranger can cover 50% more ground and lead twice as many creatures.
Swift Tracker (Ex)
Beginning at 3rd level, a ranger can move at his normal speed while following tracks without taking the normal -5 penalty. He takes only a -10 penalty (instead of the normal -20) when moving at up to twice normal speed while tracking. If the Gnarley Ranger learns Swift Tracker from another class, this penalty for tracking at speed is instead reduced to just -5.
Senior Ranger (Ex)
At this point, the ranger adopts the insignia of a golden acorn with two silver leaves. Aside from the mundane kudos of being considered a senior member of the organisation, and the possibility of joining the ranks of the Ranger Knights should a vacancy become available, the character gains two concrete benefits. Firstly, the ranger has become so well-known and respected among the goodly folk of the forest that his bonus on all charisma-based skill checks with them improves to +4. And secondly, the senior ranger is given supervision over two to five (1d4 + 1) junior rangers and two cadet rangers. As the command structure of the organisation is loose, these rangers will usually be off doing their own thing nearby, but with time they can be summoned to perform specific missions for their leader. It should be remembered, however, that their ultimate loyalty is to their Ranger Knight, not their immediate superior.