Rangers are the Symptom
I think that the multitude of discussions surrounding the D&D Ranger class act as an indication of an underlying problem or dissatisfaction with Class systems. Just like how a blister on your foot tells you there's something wrong with your footwear or gait.
This is exactly the sort of thing that irks me about D&D in particular, but also about class based systems in general. I've been playing for 14 years now, and although Classes, as a game construct, offer instant familiarity and understanding, they confound things together. And I think the Ranger has always been the greatest point of contention for this, except maybe 2nd edition Fighter/Mages, which are an excellent example of a disturbing use of game features. I know that one possible benefit of a class and level system is engineered game balance, but how often is that actually a problem for each of us (real question, not rhetorical)? Another benefit is ease of character generation and the creation of in-game conventions that lead to better ease of use for players (better able to make assumptions, for good or bad). Can this be just as well achieved by the use of things such as templates in a non-class and level system? Or am I missing out on something particularly special?
A discussion in gamegrene about Rangers (http://www.gamegrene.com/node/197) involves a lot of different views as to what a ranger is, could be or should be. Many of us have probably followed other threads elsewhere discussing the ranger in 3rd edition, 3.5, and seen Monte Cook's solution. My point is that there is no particular instantiation of the ranger that is broken, but rather that a class based system, even augmented with prestige classes or kits, is bound to inflexibility and a high potential for dissatisfaction with design freedoms.
It seems like when people plan out a concept for a ranger progression including multiclassing, prestige classes, feat selection and skill selection, that they're trying to build a particular sort of character. I know when I do this I often look at certain aspects, and think something like "I don't want spells. And I don't think he should be able to fight melee at all, because I don't envision that for him." And I can do things like just not carry a melee weapon, or not use one I do carry, but that's...dissatisfactory. And I also think things like "If this person trained so much at stalking and hunting, with a bow or crossbow, and not ever with weapons of war, why would he have the rest of these incongruent feats or abilities or statistics?". And then I weep tiny sad roleplayer tears. ;(
Ok, so I'm being overdramatic, but who else can agree with me, that the discussions around the ranger in particular indicate an underlying issue? Sorry if this has already been discussed somewhere, but it's my first post, and this has been on my mind for more than a few years.
P.S. Scott Free: Found you! It's Eric, from Edmonton. We still have your Witches of Eastwick, The Pledge, and...and...and...The Brotherhood of the Wolf! You moved before we remembered we had them and had to give them back to you! It's been a while, but how have things been?