Ranger

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The ranger is one of the player roles in NetHack. Rangers can be either neutral or chaotic, and can be humans, elves, gnomes, or orcs.

Rangers can get expert in dagger, sling, dart, boomerang, spear, bow and crossbow, and also in divination spells. Rangers cannot use two-weapon combat.

The guidebook entry for the ranger has this to say about them:

Rangers are most at home in the woods, and some say slightly
         out of place in a dungeon.  They are, however, experts in archery
         as well as tracking and stealthy movement.

Starting equipment

A Ranger's starting equipment depends heavily on their race:

Human Gnome Elf Orc
Melee weapon +1 dagger +1 dagger +1 elven dagger +1 orcish dagger
Launcher +1 bow +1 crossbow +1 elven bow +1 orcish bow
Primary ammo 50-59 +2 arrows 50-59 +2 crossbow bolts 50-59 +2 elven arrows 50-59 +2 orcish arrows
Secondary ammo 30-39 +0 arrows 30-39 +0 crossbow bolts 30-39 +0 elven arrows 30-39 +0 orcish arrows
Cloak +2 cloak of displacement +2 cloak of displacement +2 elven cloak +2 cloak of displacement
Food 4-8 cram rations 4-8 cram rations 4-8 lembas wafers 4-8 tripe rations

two stacks of 1-2 random foods

A chaotic Ranger, regardless of race, has a 1% chance each of their primary and secondary ammo stacks being poisoned.

Intrinsics

Skills

Ranger skills
Max Skills
Basic
Skilled
Expert

Rangers start with Basic skill in Dagger and the category of their starting launcher (either Bow or Crossbow).

Special rules

Rangers have a role bonus for multishot which applies to stackable ranged weapons except daggers. Skill and racial bonuses apply as normal.

Rangers have a bonus to their chance of disarming floor traps.

Rangers have a +2 penalty with emergency spells.

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

Rangers always succeed in disarming bear traps, unless impaired. (commit e4cb3f08)

Rangers get a multishot bonus when wielding the Longbow of Diana.

Strategy

Character creation

A Ranger has many options during character creation, with difficult tradeoffs for each:

  • Humans have the most HP growth, and are the only race that can reach the maximum strength damage bonus without gauntlets of power. This becomes useful around the mid-game if you find it cumbersome to swap back and forth between your melee weapon and launcher, and want to switch to darts. On the downside, you have no racial multishot bonus, and the lack of infravision hurts your ranged combat until you gain extrinsic telepathy from your Quest artifact.
  • Gnomes are the only race to enjoy a relatively peaceful Mines. As a Ranger, you're likely to want to tackle the Mines early to find armor and claim the luckstone to make ranged combat more reliable, so this is a strong advantage. However, your starting crossbow imposes a multishot penalty until you have 16 strength. There's a chance you'll start with that much, but 14 or 15 is more likely, and even lower values are possible. Engaging in melee combat when it's safe to do so, and pushing boulders in Sokoban, should eventually make up the deficit. The gnomes in the Mines and the centaurs on your Quest should supply all the bolts you'll need for the rest of the game, whereas orcs and elves often need to ration their racial missiles.
  • Orcs have the poorest-quality missiles and lose their racial multishot bonus if they switch to better ones. Orcish starting food is generally inferior, forcing them to dive for food more quickly than other Rangers; the starting tripe rations are probably best used for training apport rather than consumption, although pets and a ranged game often do not mesh well. On the other hand, you can obtain pre-poisoned orcish arrows from hostile orcs, giving you a means to inflict instadeath on a threatening monster; poison resistance is also a general early-game boon, e.g when untrapping dart traps for their missiles.
  • Elves have the best starting missiles when you include the racial damage bonus, and enjoy a total +2 to-hit bonus when firing them. Elven arrows are also inherently protected from rust monsters and the various acidic blobs and jellies in the early game, although gelatinous cubes can eat them. However, since elven monsters are always peaceful to you, they never spawn in groups, so lost elven arrows are difficult to replace. You can immediately turn your elven dagger into Sting if you wish, and your starting lembas wafers alone will last you thousands of turns, letting you play more slowly and methodically than other races. Elven disadvantages mostly show in the late game, when you'll need gauntlets of power to reach maximum strength and encumbrance (which in turn gives a -2 to-hit penalty when used with bows), and your lower constitution penalizes your HP and its recovery.
  • As a neutral character, you're more likely than a chaotic one to receive a useful sacrifice gift. An elf can force Stormbringer as their first gift by naming Sting and Orcrist beforehand; while not likely to quickly receive a second gift with three artifacts generated, Stormbringer can prove sufficient enough. Chaotics have the usual advantage of a more merciful mysterious force.

Early game

Objectives

If you're not a gnome, the Mines will be fairly dangerous. However the resident gnomes and dwarves will have plenty of ranged weapons and armor that you might want. It will be hard to attack enemies from a distance on dark levels, especially for players without infravision.

It is important to remember that enchanted arrows and arrows which have been blessed break less often than other arrows. High Luck substantially reduces breakage of blessed projectiles, so a luckstone is essential for long term arrow use. With high Luck and blessed arrows enchanted to +2 or higher, arrows break only very rarely: less than 1 in 200 hits. This makes Mines' End a very important destination, and obtaining holy water a high priority.

Weapons

Accumulate a stack of daggers to save your arrows from breaking. You can discard these after you have a large stack of blessed, +6 or +7 arrows.

Use your +2 arrows first; not only do they do more damage, but they are less likely to break (uncursed +2 arrows breakage rate is 25%, while +0 is 67%). Note that while arrows are made of metal (which can corrode), elven arrows are made of wood, so regardless of strategy, it's a good idea to keep a few elven arrows to dispatch acidic monsters and rust monsters. Elven rangers have the advantage of having such arrows from the start of the game.

Consider poisoning your arrows by dipping them in a potion of sickness. This will cause d6 damage and will instantly kill 10% of the time if your target is not poison resistant. Some will become unpoisoned, however, giving you two stacks of arrows, some poisoned and some not. Use the unpoisoned arrows when attacking targets which are not vulnerable to poison. When you intend to enchant your arrows further (or most of your arrows have become unpoisoned), poison the unpoisoned arrows and put them back into the quiver. Note that getting potions of sickness is not difficult; 1/4 of random alchemy results become sickness, so dipping a couple of random potions together should get you a potion of sickness.

You can acquire more arrows from dead bodies or by untrapping arrow traps.

Keep in mind that Rangers can throw or fire up to 4 ranged weapons at once (except for daggers) giving them on an average 2.5 times the damage as the same weapon in melee. Unskilled or Basic skill can randomly hurl up to 1 extra weapon, 2 extra for Skilled and 3 for Expert. See multishot for details.

Armor

Rangers are extremely unlikely to cast spells in the early game, so metallic armor is fine.

General

A good strategy is to maintain a distance from opponents: most monsters are much poorer at ranged combat than a starting Ranger. Humans, Gnomes and Orcs start with a cloak of displacement which helps with this strategy.

Levitating while firing your arrows or daggers will make you fire only one missile. Also, you are paralyzed when you hurtle in the opposite direction from your shot; this lasts at least as long as you would take walking, so this is a dangerous way to run away.

Mid game

Objectives

The Quest is a bit tough, and the reward is not too great. The Longbow of Diana provides reflection, but you will want an alternate source of reflection before going on the Quest anyway, to defend against the large number of centaurs armed with wands, and it lacks the racial multishot bonus that non-human rangers enjoy. However, it does provide telepathy when carried in open inventory and gives the Wizard something else to steal (a quest artifact) other than the Amulet of Yendor.

Weapons

You can get several hundred arrows from the first level of the Ranger quest off of dead centaurs and untrapping the two arrow traps before the quest boss' lair. Also, the Ranger quest artifact, The Longbow of Diana, can be invoked to summon arrows of its corresponding blessed/cursed status. If you prefer to use a crossbow as your primary ranged weapon (likely for the multishot bonus as a gnome), you can also get a few hundred crossbow bolts from the plains and mountain centaurs in the quest.

If you have skill slots to spare, consider switching to darts as your primary ranged weapon. They are as lightweight and plentiful as arrows, don't require a wielded launcher, and despite their low base damage benefit from high Strength, unlike arrows or bolts: at a Strength of 18 darts do as much damage as elven arrows, and with 25 Strength from gauntlets of power, each dart will deal an additional 4 damage over that. The only downsides are a lack of silver damage and, for non-humans, having to disregard the racial multishot bonus.

Wishing for Magicbane (even if you're not neutral) may be a good idea because daggers are one of the few weapons Rangers can get expert in. Non-cursed athames (including Magicbane) may also be used to engrave Elbereth on the ground without dulling the blade. In addition to decent damage, it also dispenses useful magical effects on opponents (cancel, probe, stun, and scare).

Getting an artifact from your god will unrestrict the associated weapon skill. If you cannot wish or sacrifice for artifacts then spears, tridents and crysknives are all within the Rangers' skillset. You can deal significantly more damage by firing arrows in point-blank range, though.

Be careful around water: you don't want your +7 elven arrows to fall in!

Armor

Should you require extra AC, a small shield gives +1 AC and doesn't impede your Divination spells too much once you've trained. A shield of reflection can also be useful for its extrinsic, opening up your amulet slot for life-saving (or ESP, but ESP is granted by your quest artifact). Rangers cannot two-weapon, and probably should not be using two-handed weapons at this stage of the game.

A robe will likely be helpful for spellcasting.

Spellcasting

Once you have blessed your arrows and have holy water to spare, you can start blessing spellbooks and learning some of the divination spells. A good spell to practice with is light as it's easy to cast and does not take up a lot of power.

General

Because so many things need to be enchanted (e.g., melee weapon(s), arrows, silver arrows, silver dagger/spear etc), scrolls of enchant weapon are at a premium. Consider putting magic markers and wands of polymorph high on your list of priorities. (Enchanting bows is usually a waste; it only helps your to-hit calculations, not damage, and most players hit every round anyway by the time they get around to enchanting things.)

Late game

Objectives

Raising your experience level past 15 may be useful for spellcasting, but otherwise it's probably not worth the trouble. HP can be raised through alchemy and nurse-dancing.

Weapons

You will want a good melee weapon because you will likely be levitating a lot in the endgame. That makes it dangerous to fire projectiles.

Having a silver backup weapon such as a silver dagger or silver spear is a good idea. While Rangers can't use silver sabers without penalty (unless they are gifted Werebane by their god, unrestricting it), silver daggers and spears can be thrown at incoming silver vulnerable creatures to soften them up. Silver arrows are precious and should be used only on especially nasty creatures; however, blessed silver arrows enchanted to +2 will last you a long time if you have high Luck.

Remember that range is your best friend. Nasties on the upstair? Get just close enough, your maximum range, and fire away. They will not flee upstairs as you are too far away, they will not summon monsters at that range and they will not attack you.

Armor

Most of the spells Rangers will cast are not useful in battle, so a shield of reflection or elven shield might be useful additions to your ascension kit.

Spellcasting

Rangers can become useful spellcasters, particularly with divination spells. Some of the best spells in the game are magic mapping, identify and detect unseen. Among the non-divination spells, jumping is useful on the Astral Plane as well as to keep a distance from foes. Healing may be useful if you have a pet. Unfortunately, Rangers often have poor Pw growth, so you may spend some time waiting before being able to cast again.

Below is a table of all possible spells a Ranger can get at least Basic at.

Skill Spells
Basic healing, cure blindness, cure sickness, extra healing, stone to flesh, restore ability, jumping, haste self, invisibility, levitation, teleport away
Expert detect monsters, light, detect food, detect unseen, clairvoyance, identify, detect treasure, magic mapping

Rangers use intelligence as their spellcasting stat.

Skill slot management

Rangers may find themselves short on skill slots. A starting ranger will likely want to advance skill with their starting bow. Shortly after that, the ranger might want to advance skill in dagger and their melee weapon (e.g., spear). Later, a ranger will likely want to advance skills in spellcasting and either shuriken or dart. Consider if you'll continue to use a weapon class before advancing to expert in order to save skill slots.

Rank titles

The status line shows you to be one of the following ranks when you reach the specified experience level:

  • XL 1-2: Tenderfoot
  • XL 3-5: Lookout
  • XL 6-9: Trailblazer
  • XL 10-13: Reconnoiterer/Reconnoiteress
  • XL 14-17: Scout
  • XL 18-21: Arbalester
  • XL 22-25: Archer
  • XL 26-29: Sharpshooter
  • XL 30: Marksman/Markswoman

Quest

Main article: Ranger quest

The quest sees you fighting Scorpius for The Longbow of Diana, the artifact bow that creates arrows when invoked and grants ESP when carried. It also provides reflection when wielded.

The Ranger quest contains many centaurs, which are are very fast and use projectiles. In addition to that, all of the quest levels contain traps. It is advised to have magic resistance or reflection when going on the quest, since centaurs may generate with wands (including, rarely, a wand of death) as offensive items; reflection will stop the worst of the wands from attacking you, and your easiest method to fight back is at a distance using poisoned arrows, reserving your melee weapon for lesser monsters such as scorpions or bats.

Scorpius is capable of inducing sickness with his sting, making it vital to have a cure as part of your kit; a blessed unicorn horn is typically enough, though there are more statistically reliable means available. Upon reaching the goal level, you can check the maximum range of your bow in order to wake and wound Scorpius at that much distance from the upstair, then finish him quickly with a sprat of enchanted arrows.

Variants

SLASH'EM

See Ranger(SLASH'EM)

Unnethack

In Unnethack, rangers are restricted to skilled in spear.

Encyclopedia entry

"Lonely men are we, Rangers of the wild, hunters -- but hunters
ever of the servants of the Enemy; for they are found in many
places, not in Mordor only.
If Gondor, Boromir, has been a stalwart tower, we have played
another part. Many evil things there are that your strong walls
and bright swords do not stay. You know little of the lands
beyond your bounds. Peace and freedom, do you say? The North
would have known them little but for us. Fear would have
destroyed them. But when dark things come from the houseless
hills, or creep from sunless woods, they fly from us. What
roads would any dare to tread, what safety would there be in
quiet lands, or in the homes of simple men at night, if the
Dunedain were asleep, or were all gone into the grave?"

[ The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien ]

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