Friday, November 25, 2011

A Two-Part Revelation About Bards

1. Zak's initial breakdown.

2. Zak's additional clarification, also reprinted below:

(Note especially the comment in the far bottom left: 
"people obsessing over their mechanics as if that mattered")

With all due respect to Uncle Junkal, who I very much enjoy having in my campaign, I admit to feeling this way myself sometimes.  My annoyance has less to do with objection to the Bard character type as such, but to the immense difficulties inherent in making the Bard class work within the rules without feeling patently stupid or wonky at times.

Should Bardery simply be role-played?


  1. The problem is now people (that is to say players) for some strange reason have this weird expectation that when they play a bard they get that mix of fight, thievery and magic goodness.

    Otherwise yes, being a 'bard' is entirely a matter of role playing.

    In my OSR homebrew there are no bards, however I've created an Entertainer background. This means that a character was once an entertainer before they became an adventurer. If they wish they can make some money based upon their experience level, during downtime. If their ability to entertain becomes important in play then there will be some sort of modified dice roll to see how effective they are.

    Otherwise it's just colour.

    "Yes, yes. You've come a long way since you used to play your damned lute here back in the day. You may claim to be a baron of the frontier all you like, but you're still barred!"

  2. @Niles: Your "Entertainer Background" solution seems perfect, just how I'd do it ideally.

  3. But... bards are an adventuring icon.

    Think the bard in Monty Python Holy Grail 'Brave brave Sir Robin'

    Think of the bards that follow the hero just for a good song.

    Is this just motivation and background? Or a class of adventurer?

    Skip the magic, keep the 2d6 mechanic, and don't overpower them. Sleight of hand, yes. Earn their keep with music (not charm), yes. Knowledge of history, heraldry and culture, yep.

    So what do they bring to the dungeon?

    Perhaps let them read magic scrolls and start to use magic user specific items as they advance in levels.
    But in some campaigns, like yours Carter - they would fit in fine. A hack and slash perhaps not.

    Just thoughts as I bravely run away to bed.

  4. Just get rid of the Bard.

    1E Bard: Replace with Fighter / Thief / Druid
    2E Bard: Replace with M-U / Thief
    3E Bard: Replace with Sorcerer / Thief (although 3E is all about the prestige classes)

    And then roleplay it as a Bard instead of a F/T/D or whatever.

  5. If I had to point to the problem on a map, I'd say that it isn't the bard class per se, it's your idea of what a bard actually is.

    I don't know exactly where the perception of bard-as-poet-fop first came from (Final Fantasy IV, maybe?), but that image certainly isn't faithful to the source material. Have a look at where the word "bard" comes from, that being Celtic legend -- they were entertainers, certainly, but also magicians and loremasters. Some would have it that being a bard was a step along your way to becoming a druid (but, of course, to the Celts, a druid was a lot more than a shapeshifting nature cleric) -- if you look at Amergin and Taliesin, it's apparent that the line between "bard," "druid" and "warrior" is very blurred. It is well attested to in the legends that bards were readily able to do magic through their words and music -- one accounts relates how a bard mocked a king so hard that blisters erupted on his face.

    Or take the Viking skald: there's a battle-poet if ever there was one, able to fight and exhort his comrades at the same time. As far as the thievery goes, I can't think of any examples right off the top of my head, but didn't you just point out a week or so ago that "thief" shouldn't even really be a class?

    If your only idea of "bard" is Edward, then I suggest reading some Celtic legend. Or go watch 13th warrior -- both ibn Fahlan and Hergel are bardish in nature. Or Dolomite -- now there's a man that can kick ass and then mock you in rhyme. Jeff Rients pointed out that Gandalf is more like a bard than he is a wizard, and I'd agree.

    So, is there a need for a separate "bard" class? Depends on how flexible your other classes are. In LL/OD&D clones, I think that absolutely there should be a bard class, given that multiclassing is an ugly, ugly beast when it's possible at all. Moreover, I think your decision to go with a non-magical variant is, at the very least, not in keeping with the lore-inspired bard. Ironically, 3e is the edition perhaps least in need of a dedicated "bard" class, and yet it's the 3e bard that, I think, most closely captures the core concept (with the possible exception of the beautiful mess that was the 1e bard).

    There are two things that bards (IMO) should bring to the table that warrants their being a separate class: lore skills and inspiration. Your allies will fight all the harder if you're shouting out battle chants as you swing your sword, or hanging in the back beating drums or playing bagpipes. And the grasp of lore is just one of the things that makes bards, bards. These two things need to be represented mechanically -- being a bard is more than just roleplaying carrying a lute around. The adventuring (and historical) bard is a jack-of-all-trades and a master of morale and inspiration.

    My two sou.

  6. Wow, GREAT comments everybody! I like the notion of Bard as Loremaster a lot -- see our recent session reports -- and I think that all our resident Bard fans can take heart at many of the suggestions in Taeligan's comments. Very thorough!

  7. Many insightful points there that make me appreciate a the bard's potential more (or feel like trying to make it work, perhaps).

    I'd point out that the exhortation giving combat bonuses in battle is already classically covered by the cleric with spells like Bless, Holy Chant and Prayer. There the Bard might be stepping on toes if it was given similar powers.

  8. @Spawn I rather think the point of a bard is that it covers some of what each of the other classes can do. That's what it means to be a "jack of all trades." ;-)

    3E gave bards some heal spells, which I don't really get -- it's not terribly well attested to in the lore, but I imagine they wanted to make sure the bard really could fill in as the ideal "fifth man." Also, clerics in 3E were very much not necessarily about the healing -- spontaneous conversion was a real game-changer.

    I'm going to draw up a LL bard as *I* think they ought to be and post it ssomewhere, and people can get all picky about my version. ^_^