If you’re walking in on the middle of the Advanced Fantasy Dungeons series, there’s an index here.
Ok, so my problem with favoured enemies is that it’s pretty racist, but there is a mechanical reason for the generality of it: If I say “I hate all goblinoids”, my ranger is more useful that if they specifically hate orcs. In a game without races, but with heritage, this sits poorly. But goblins are not are not the grey-maned goblins of Mount Folly, let along orcs.
But on the other hand, giant slayers and warg hunters are iconic. What I want to do is turn favoured enemies into a story about our relationship with our enemy, instead of a mechanic about hatred, but that cycle causes a problem:
Why does the ranger favour their enemy? I can’t really think of many of these: An orc clan destroyed the rangers village, a dragon burnt the rangers husband and children, the ranger was indoctrinated against the giants by their mentor, theelf folk of Grazz have a long-standing feud with the dwarf folk of Bezimir. Basically, something happens to make the ranger believe that that enemy must be prevented from doing great harm. So, we have two potential stories that can be told: They both begin the same way: The ranger suffers a defeat, the ranger believes their enemy will do harm again, the ranger devotes themselves to fighting them. And then either: The rangers hate decreases through positive interactions, and realises that not all members of that people are, in fact, their enemy, and they generalise their learning to a groupThe rangers hate increases through negative interactions, and they generales their learning to a group
Even in trying to narrativise this mechanic, regardless of the dramatic potential, it still bakes racism into the game, so it’s a no from me. I got a little stuck, until Erasmus made an interesting suggestion: Bake the “favoured enemy” mechanic into an anachronistic “favoured terrain” mechanic. Let’s try it:
Gain a favoured terrain. You can prepare for a a single encounter in that terrain with a creature native to that terrain. Declare the creature you are preparing for during a rest watch. You gain +1d6 on reaction rolls against the creature, threaten +1d6 damage when attacking during that encounter, and gain mastery +1d6 when tracking the creature.
I don’t know how balanced this is, but it requires anticipation and planning, and varies wildly in terms of effect. It’s not racist though, and it feels iconic. But, maybe we can make this into favoured enemy without hatred, instead making it about experience?
Gain a favoured terrain. You can prepare for a a single encounter in that terrain with a creature native to that terrain.
Both your terrain and the creature are specific: Not forest, but “the forests of the Far Reach”; not orc, but “Icewatch Orcs”; not dragon, but “White dragon” or “Ice drake”). If you are in a similar terrain to your favoured terrain, gain half the bonus, rounded down.
Declare the creature you are preparing to encounter during a rest watch. You gain +1 on reaction rolls against the creature, threaten +1 damage when attacking during that encounter, and gain +1 when tracking the creature.
Mark each time you prepare and encounter a specific creature. For every five marks against a creature, your bonus to reaction rolls, damage and tracking increases by 1.
It’s a bit rulesy for my liking, but it’s good rules. It’s no more complicated than turn undead for paladins, and there’ll be less load than weapon mastery for fighters or spells for clerics or wizards. Ironically, thieves and bards are the most straightforward classes right now.
There are other options here as well, especially given my burgeoning desire to expand weapon mastery to beyond weapons to fighting styles, to have a few specific weapon styles around iconic ranger abilities: Collossus-climbing might give mastery on attempting to climb massive creatures, horde-breaker threatens damage to all within melee range, giant-killer might an advantage on saves against creatures of giant stature. I like these expanded options, so long as they’re a subselection of fighter capabilities. We’ll see what comes of them.
Finally, I can pull out the favoured enemy power as natures nemesis, perhaps: You can declare a specific beast or threat to the natural order (“the one-eyed warg of grey moor, who slew the innkeepers’ son”, that has done great harm as your nemesis, and threaten 1d8 additional damage on attacks against them and gain 1d8 bonus to tracking them until they are slain.
Here are a few neat options to adding flavour to the ranger class by expanding the concept of favoured enemy and trying to remove this concept of evil or hatred from it. I don’t see why you can’t have them all?
This has been a part of the Advanced Fantasy Dungeon Series! Let me know your thoughts on favoured enemies!
12th June 2022