I've always admired the way that the Paizo Player's Guides take the time to spell out good choices for favored terrain, favored enemies, and other campaign-appropriate choices. Is there any reason to not take a cue from this practice and make similar recommendations in a home game? I mean, do you gain anything by letting the rangers of the world guess what your campaign is going to be about?
As the writeup below the comic says, communication is important. I feel like forcing your ranger to guess or misleading them is just going to end up annoying players more than adding anything beneficial to the campaign.
Even if there's a big twist to the campaign I still think you can talk about what's going to happen early game and they can use their higher level enemies/terrains to adapt to what happens later in the campaign.
|David knott 242|
Most of the adventure path player's guides offer suggestions for favored enemy. In some cases, they do the same for favored terrain, especially if most of the adventure path is set in a single terrain type.
So a ranger with those class features should definitely have a talk with his GM before play begins, if possible.
Of course, your 5th level choice of favored enemy and 8th level choice of favored terrain can easily overtake your initial choices, so it should be hoped that by that point a player of a ranger character has enough information to guide the first such choices that truly matter.
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I don't have a ranger in my current homebrew campaign, but the brief blurb I gave them made it clear that we would be starting play in a desert frontier region, and it also mentioned a few notable threats in the area (orcs, hobgoblins, death cults). I left it unsaid that they would be traveling elsewhere eventually (they know the setting is much bigger than the starting area).
This start point was one of three I presented my players with when we were first gearing up for the campaign. One player adopted one of the other pitches as his back-story, which means they knew at least one place they would be visiting eventually. (And in fact, they've just entered the elf forest for the first time last session. It's inspired some highly amusing roleplaying, as the elf PC rhapsodizes about being among real trees again, while one of the desert-born PCs is freaking out about all the greenery and noise, and lack of open sky.)
If there's a particular trend in terrains or creature types the PCs are likely to encounter, I just I flat out the players. Nobody wants to stat a dragon slayer or Mr. I Sneek Like Snek in Jungles and end up spending half the campaign hunting giants in the tundra. For that matter, I try to make sure there are trainers available if the PCs are going to make a foray into unexpected terrain and the situation has enough slack time to allow for retraining. Players have to live with enough of their choices already without being screwed out of class abilities because they guessed wrong on something before the game even started.\
Now, if they want to go on a foray to the Elemental Plane of Shrimp, they may have a hard time finding a trainer for that. (Maybe they could find an aboleth willing to help them out or something...?)
I have always thought that letting the players know the themes of the proposed campaign, including at least enough information to derive things like favored enemies and favored terrain was GM 101.
I've seen GMs play things close to the vest. I think the idea is that there's a great big wilderness out there, and starting PCs can't be sure what lies beyond in the great unknown etc. etc.
There's value in surprise, but I agree that this is one situation where you've got to give players some lore so that they can make informed decisions.