The Tyranny of Dragons: Dawn of Heroes
Montolio held out his arm, and the great owl promptly hopped onto it, carefully finding its footing on the man's heavy leather sleeve.
“ You have seen the drow?” Montolio asked.
The owl responded with a whoo, then went off into a complicated series of chattering hoots and whoos. Montolio took it all in, weighing every detail. With the help of his friends, particularly this rather talkative owl, the ranger had monitored the drow for several days, curious as to why a dark elf had wandered into the valley. At first, Montolio had assumed that the drow was somehow connected to Graul, the chief orc of the region, but as time went on, the ranger began to suspect differently.
— R.A. Salvatore, Sojourn
Long have rangers walked the wilds of the Sword Coast and the Savage Frontier. Like druids, their practices date back to the earliest days of humanity. And long before humans set foot in the North, elf rangers strode through its forests and climbed its mountains. The traditions and outlook of these people are now shared by members of many races. In particular, lightfoot halflings frequently hear the call of the wild and become rangers, often acting as guides and protectors of roving halfling bands, and shield dwarves forced to wander far from old clanholds sometimes follow the ranger’s path.
Not every prospector wandering far hills or trapper hunting through uninhabited lands becomes a ranger. True rangers go out into nature and find it holy, and like paladins, they are touched by something divine. Their gods and creeds might differ, but rangers share similar values about the sanctity of nature. While by no means always aligned with one another, rangers are bound into a loose community of sorts— one that often connects with circles of druids.
In the North and throughout much of the Heartlands, rangers use special marks to indicate campsites, dangerous areas, evil creatures, foul magic, goblinoid activity, hidden caches of supplies, safe passage, shelter, and graves or tombs. Many of these symbols were derived from elven lore or borrowed from groups like the Harpers. While by no means a secret language, these trail marks are often obtuse to non-rangers, and even druids might not understand them.
As a whole, rangers serve to help societies survive and thrive in the wilderness. Much of the Sword Coast and the North are unsettled. Rangers are driven to explore these lands, searching for fertile soil in which the seeds of civilization might grow, seeking resources (such as metals) that will benefit settled lands, or rooting out evil before it can spread. Other rangers spy on enemy troops or hunt down dangerous beasts or criminals. Given that so much of the North is frontier, rangers play a critical role in keeping communities safe and are often admired within them.
Human rangers of the Moonshaes are devoted to the Earthmother, and those that work closely with druid circles on the mainland often honor the gods of the First Circle, but most rangers among humans favor the goddess Mielikki. However, they consider the goddess too wild and primal for them to pray to directly. Instead, they pray to Gwaeron Windstrom to bring their words to the goddess. Gwaeron is said to sleep in a grove of trees west of the town of Triboar, and most of his followers travel to that place at least once in their lives as a holy pilgrimage. Evil human rangers usually honor Malar for his ferocity and hunting skill.
Elf rangers are usually associated with a particular community such as Evereska or the tribes in the Misty Forest. Rather than being wandering explorers, elf rangers typically act as scouts and guardians of elven realms. Such elves usually devote themselves to Rillifane Rallathil or Solonor Thelandria. Elf rangers driven to roam might instead favor Fenmarel Mestarine, god of lone wanderers, or Shevarash, elven god of vengeance.
Most halflings who revere nature and its raw beauty come from lightfoot stock. Their bands spend at least as much time on the road and river as in village and town, and the role of a ranger is a natural fit with the lifestyle of most lightfoots. Lightfoot rangers tend to favor the god Brandobaris in his aspect as patron of exploration. Halflings more inclined toward nature itself typically prefer Sheela Peryroyl. Those who devote themselves more to the protection of settlements or travelers honor Arvoreen. The few strongheart halflings who become rangers tend to favor those latter two deities.
Most dwarves prefer to hunker down under a mountain, rather than roam the wilderness of the surface or the Underdark. Most often, a dwarf ranger is either a shield dwarf cast out of a clanhold or a clanless dwarf seeking a place in the world. Sometimes dwarf rangers are prospectors who explore the world seeking new veins of orc. In any case, there are two deities who appeal to such dwarves: Marthammor Duin and Dumathoin.