I’ve really been into tracing down origins of different D&D tropes and assumptions over the last few years. That, coupled with the fact that my game group is doing a “slow-read” of the Dark Elf Trilogy, made me think once again about how rangers changed from Oe to “modern” D&D (3e forward).
[Windowing out for a second - a slow read is an idea I came up with and have used to good effect in a few book clubs. You take a rich work and divide it into about two chapters at a time. Then read through it with the group over the course of a few months. We read Lord of the Rings that way and it was brilliant. I have read Gene Wolfe that way, and Dragonlance too. Anyway…]
There are two things about rangers that mostly were seeded in the early days but came to fruition between 2e and 3e.
One is two-weapon fighting. It appeared as a small paragraph in the 1e DMG (page 70). But before 2e I don’t think two-weapon fighting was a common trope in D&D. I know it wasn’t in Oe or Holmes Basic, but I need to look into the supplements and Dragon mag from that period to see if it was ever discussed seriously between 74 and 78. I do know that 2e used it to differentiate the ranger. (Zeb Cook went on record somewhere saying this very thing.) By 3e it was the subject of a lot of feats and mechanics.
The other is the animal companion. In Oe there is the idea that you could be recruiting monsters/creatures as well as humanoids into your cadre of retainers. But that’s more of a vague suggestion than a discussion. In 1e they talk about it in the DMG somewhere. (I need to revisit my research on this for specific references and will probably write all this up in my blog.) Of course Magic-Users has their spell for familiars. But those are different - more extra senses or tools than animal friends. And gnomes and druids got some stuff along that line. When did it first become a thing for the ranger?
I guess my whole point/question here is the ranger that was based on Aragorn, Robin Hood, or other woodsmen of literature is quite different than the Drizzt Du’Orden style of modern two-weapon fighting ranger with animal friends.
Which do you prefer? Why do you think the change happened? Is Drizzt the fictional archetype or can you point to literary/pop-culture rangers that fit the modern mold before Drizzt?