I was pretty pleased with the review copy I received of Unorthodox Druids, so I went ahead and shelled out $2 for Unorthodox Rangers. The Unorthodox series has been a series of products presenting five alternate versions of a base class. Unorthodox Druids was fairly good. Let's see how the ranger fairs under similar treatment.
Appearances: We get three different files in the downloaded. There is a landscaped PDF for screen viewing, a portrait PDF for printing, and an RTF file for those who want to edit in a word processor. This variety of formats is a real plus in The Le Game's favor. The cover art is cool in a really rough style sort of way, depicting a green cloaked figure firing an arrow at point blank range into what looks like a skum (a humanoid fish monster). The interior art is clip art and it does its job, though the portrait they use for the Partisan class is butt ugly.
Content: There are five new classes and nothing else in this book. The first thing I notice is that none of these variants on the ranger have spells. I know that a lot of people like the idea of rangers without spells, but I was disappointed that there weren?t any ranger options with spellcasting ability.
Beast Lord: This concept is fairly common among rangers. It's sort of like a fighter who gives up some feat progression and the ability to wear armor for some animal related abilities, favored enemies, natural AC bonuses and damage reduction, and improved unarmed attack damage. The class seems to balance out okay in the end, but I think it would have been more inspiring if it seemed like they had any special ability regarding the beasts they presumably lord over besides a few petty things. They do at least get the Druid's number of companions rather than having their limit halved like a normal ranger. Over all this class is kind of ho-hum...usable but dull.
Hunter: Hunters specialize in bringing things down, usually animals but also monsters and intelligent creatures. They can even use their favored enemy ability against their own race without being evil, which makes perfect sense (there's a lot of good reason to make a living hunting ones own race). They're good at finding their opponents weaknesses and exploiting them. There isn't really anything about them that's terribly nature specific...they're basically just killers with the tracking ability. Obviously, they'd make great bounty hunters.
Outdoorsman: This is a survivalist class, focused on being able to stay alive in the wild. They are fairly uninteresting. They're one of those classes that would be handy to have around but not really much fun to play since their abilities, aside from some defense bonuses, won't come into play much.
Partisan: These are theoretically guerrilla warriors, taking full advantage of their environment. For something one would expect to be rather formidable, they really feel hobbled. Their abilities feel a little haphazard and one of them is called "Fast Enough for you, old Elf" which is the lamest name for a special ability that I've seen in a long time, which is a shame since it's the most interesting ability the Partisan has (being able to avoid generating an attack of opportunity with a reflex check).
- Trapper: Some people hunt, other's trap. Trappers have some interesting abilities that make them good at taking people alive, but they certainly do seem to give up a lot for them.
In Conclusion - I'm really disappointed in this product. The classes in Unorthodox Druids were really well designed and interesting. The classes in Unorthodox Rangers don't hold a candle to them in terms of quality. The word kludgy comes to mind. All these classes feel like they give up too much for the abilities that they gain, which feel rather haphazard. If you give them the normal ranger spellcasting, a lot (but not all) of the underpowered problem goes away, but it still feels like sloppy design. While not completely worthless, these classes will require too much tinkering to make worthwhile for me to justify giving this product more than two stars.