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The classes in D&D are clearly selected as classic archetypes, either from an iconic character or frequently reccurring within Fantasy fiction.

The idea of bow-wielding rangers is a good example (Robin Hood, Legolas, etc.), but where does the dual-wielding version come from? I often think of Aragorn (in his guise of Strider) as an iconic melee ranger, but he never used two weapons.

Of course, there are plenty of examples after the variant became established within the D&D canon. But can anyone point me to examples pre-dating that?

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When a mommy ranger and a daddy ranger love each other very much... –  okeefe Dec 13 '11 at 2:02

3 Answers 3

up vote 20 down vote accepted

In AD&D, there were dual-wielding rules in 1e (1977) but they were not specifically identified with rangers. A high Dexterity did mitigate the associated penalties, however, meaning that characters otherwise concentrating on a high Dexterity, like rangers and rogues, were natural fits for the style. In 2e (1989), rangers got the class ability to avoid the usual -2/-4 dual wielding penalties.

Aragorn, one of the major fictional inspirations for the ranger, did double wield at least once in the Lord of the Rings (at Weathertop), but it wasn't a major part of his deal. Many other historical figures dual wielded including Davy Crockett and other pioneers that commonly fought Indian style with tomahawk and knife, which has some clear ranger analogues. I remember being inspired re: dual wielding by Madmartigan in Willow (1988) but that's too late to drive the 2e rules.

Much of the shift seems to be game mechanic driven. Not being as armored or as hard-hitting as the fighter, the ranger needed something to boost them mechanically, and dual wielding was chosen due to the alignment with high-Dex.

But What About The Drizzle?

Those who weren't around at the time seem to think that this ranger ability stemmed from the fictional exploits of Drizzt Do'Urden in several Forgotten Realms novels. Drizzt the famous double wielding drow ranger was published in 1988 after being made up on the spot in 1987, really too late to affect the course of the 2e rules. Besides, in 1e drow could (debatably in some circles) double wield; his ability to do so is this more about his drow-itude than being a ranger. Not that he was much of a ranger either, his character sheet on wizards.com says Ftr10/Bbn1/Rgr5.

David "Zeb" Cook, designer of 2e, said when asked where the two-weapon ranger came from,

I'm not sure where the ranger took shape, though I know it wasn't an imposition because of Drizzt. (Frankly, I've never read more than bits of the Drizzt series.) It was more to make them distinct and it fit with the style and image.

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This is all I could find on the matter. Referenced from TV tropes.

It is sometimes believed with regard to earlier editions that the introduction of Drizzt Do'Urden (see above) resulted in dual-wielding rules being added to the game. This is amusingly backwards, however; the rules for dual-wielding predate Drizzt by a good while, and he was created partially to promote them... which he did far too well. Now we are forever stuck with the concept of super badass dual-wielding rangers.

It seems like the rules were introduced circa first edition, Drizzt came out to promote them, and as he developed into a ranger people picked up the idea that rangers should fit that stereotype.

Unfortunately I can't find a better reference than someone's personal experience.

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OK, thanks to mxyzplk's timeline stating that the style was introduced in 2e in 1989, I'd like to try answering my own question! I suggest Nasir from the Robin of Sherwood TV series may have inspired this fighting style. He is certainly the example I give to explain to others what a dual-wielding ranger might be like.

However, he is not really tied to nature the way a ranger is supposed to be; in fact, I would probably simulate him as a fighter/rogue multi-class.

I think it's a shame that Aragorn is not better represented by this class, as he was never focussed on using the bow or dual weapons. But he is occasionally described as performing rituals that could be considered spells, such as healing, and listening to 'the rumour of the earth' during the pursuit of the Uruk-hai.

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