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In a group I currently run, there is an Aarakocra ranger that likes to fly a lot. It's been fun overcoming some of the challenges this can bring to the table, but I have something coming up that I'm not sure how to handle.

The group are about to spend a few sessions wandering through a big ol' forest, one of the ranger's favoured terrains.

Would their bonuses still apply to the party if the ranger is scouting ahead flying above the tree tops?

They aren't strictly with the party, or even really 'in' the terrain. Does the ranger have to travel on foot with the party for them to take advantage of the natural explorers bonuses? Would only some of the bonuses count?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 13 at 1:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi, as a long time pilot "flying through" terrain will kill you. flying over terrain? That's what flying creatures do. So I edited your title. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 13 at 2:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast: Heh, I actually debated whether to use "over" or "through" but picked "through" so as not to make it sound like they were flying far overhead (nowhere near the terrain itself). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 13 at 4:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Good point, with really tall trees like in Avatar,or a small flyer, "flying through the forest' would make sense while flying 'through' the desert would not. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 13 at 13:46
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The ranger benefits still apply.

Good question! A ranger's Natural Explorer feature is not an aura spell, but instead comes from their knowledge of the terrain. While certain skill checks would have problems with flight (being stealthy while out in the middle of the sky, for example), the benefits of Natural Explorer wouldn't be affected in any special way. Let's look at the benefits of Natural Explorer from an RP perspective:

  • Your group can’t become lost except by magical means. The ranger is flying and quite literally has the bird's eye view. He's not going to let the group get lost.
  • Even when you are engaged in another activity while traveling (such as foraging, navigating, or tracking), you remain alert to danger. This wouldn't change at all, since he's still looking for danger up in the air. You might make his perception check at disadvantage for ground-based enemies due to canopy cover and distance, but that's a limitation on perception checks in general while flying.
  • If you are traveling alone, you can move stealthily at a normal pace. There's not really any place to conceal yourself while flying, but that's more a limitation of stealth in general. If he finds a way to be stealthy in the air, he would move at a normal pace.
  • When you forage, you find twice as much food as you normally would. There's nothing about foraging that would be limited by flying. You might get more duck meat than boar meat, but nothing mechanical should change.
  • While tracking other creatures, you also learn their exact number, their sizes, and how long ago they passed through the area. This would probably require the ranger to examine the tracks more closely, but that's a limitation on the tracking survival checks in general.
  • Difficult terrain doesn’t slow your group’s travel. As a ranger, it's generally assumed you would set the path and warn your group about techniques for navigating your favored terrain. This is one of those situations that don't need to be explicitly played out. And you said yourself, the ranger is scouting ahead. Any exceptionally difficult terrain would be spotted and reported back.

Honestly, the ranger is doing exactly what a ranger would be doing, taking the lead and keeping an eye out for any upcoming problems. Flight has it's own challenges from a role playing perspective, but that shouldn't affect the ranger's ability in any special way.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I could have sworn there was a distinction in real life with foraging meaning looking for fruits and vegetables whilst hunting meant animals and game; yet I've just looked it up and apparently not. I wonder what video game incorrectly taught me that growing up! \$\endgroup\$ – RyanfaeScotland Feb 13 at 1:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanfaeScotland It may have been one of the Oregon Trail remakes (a game I also played as a kid) where foraging for berries was distinct from hunting. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Feb 13 at 5:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ If he finds a way to be stealthy in the air If you consider the canopy as blocking line of sight for the second bullet point, then that works both ways, so the flyer is also hidden from sight for the third bullet point. \$\endgroup\$ – Flater Feb 13 at 10:27

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