The Bard Handbook
So, you want to be a Bard, huh? Think it's all about charming the ladies, prancing around, or earning lots and lots of coin? Think again. You're here to lead people into battle, and I don't mean going all Pied Piper and marching kids into a war zone (although some of you might think that's fun). In fact, you might want to make sure you're as good with that blade as you are with your lute. Celts and Vikings are more our model here.
So why play a Bard?
Clerics close wounds fast and Warlords make things die fast, so what is special about you besides the fact you can sing? Well, quite a bit:
* You are the master of positioning. You have a knack for making sure your allies are in the right place at the right time. After all, it doesn't matter how good your party's nova potential is if they're not in a position to unleash it, and you can get a party into position more consistently and expediently than any other Leader can. And not only do you get your allies into the right place, but you also tend to force enemies there.
* You tend to cripple the enemy as much as you help your allies. With your natural secondary role as Controller, this isn't really a surprise. You like to jinx the enemies' attacks, strip their defenses, inflict status effects, and generally do a lot of nasty things to their survival chances. You're still a team player, but you can't help but get some satisfaction yourself as your powers have more of a direct effect than those of other Leaders. There's something about dominating a foe and making him do your bidding that just sounds really cool.
* You are extremely versatile. Want to lead from the front with a shiny blade in hand? You got it. From the back? You got it. With a conductor's baton? You got it. With a bow? You got it. Strumming a lute? You got it. And it doesn't stop there. You are free to dabble in as many other classes' abilities as you'd like to tailor your arsenal as you see fit. Want more healing? You got it. Want things to die faster? You got it. Need more control? You got it.
* You are a master of skills. In fact, only three of the skills in the entire game aren't on your class skill list. Moreover, you start with the second-most number of trained skills after the Rogue. Because you're charismatic, you excel in conversational skill challenges involving skills like Diplomacy and Bluff. And to top it all off, you have the ability to make the skills you didn't train almost as good as the ones you did train.
Red: AHHHH! My ears! A trap, or just plain garbage.
Purple: A rather sour note. Situational at best.
Black: Tolerable, an acquired taste even.
Blue: A fine selection, indeed.
Sky Blue: Bravissimo! Meaning, you definitely want this.
Gold: Mandatory. Not just the best. Mandatory. A very rare rating.
This Handbook covers the following sources:
PHB - Player's Handbook
PHB2 - Player's Handbook 2
PHB3 - Player's Handbook 3
AP - Arcane Power
HotF - Heroes of the Feywild
E:HFL - Essentials: Heroes of the Fallen Lands
E:HFK - Essentials: Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms
FRPG - Forgotten Realms Player's Guide
MM - Monster Manual
MM2 - Monster Manual 2
MME - Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium
AV - Adventurer's Vault
AV2 - Adventurer's Vault 2
D XXX - Dragon Magazine, issue XXX
DA XX - Dragon Annual, year XX
MOTP - Manual of the Planes
NWCS - Neverwinter Campaign Setting
DSCS - Dark Sun Campaign Setting
PHBH - Player's Handbook Heroes
MP - Martial Power
DP - Divine Power
PP - Primal Power
EPG - Eberron Player's Guide
PHR:T - Player's Handbook Races: Tieflings
HoS - Heroes of Shadow
AEDU - At-will, Encounter, Daily, Utility. Used to denote the power structure of all classes in 4e before PHB3 and (especially) Essentials. Both the original Bard and the Skald conform to this power structure.
AoE - Area of effect, often denotes a burst or blast attack.
AP - Action Point
Bard Taxi - A build concept written up by Thaldryn here, which involves the Bard's teleport feats Bardic Wayfarer and Walk Among the Fey and a multiclass to Warlock to take the paragon path Evermeet Warlock. The result is a hyper-teleport-focused build of Bard that exerts impressive control over ally and enemy positioning on any battlefield.
BBEG - Big Bad Evil Guy (typically a Solo or an Elite)
Charmer - A character who takes a preponderance of powers with the Charm keyword and optimizes their use. Bards are well predisposed toward being this type of character.
DPR - Damage per round
ED - Epic destiny
Fake Skald (or F-Skald) - An original Bard (typically melee-inclined) that takes the feat Skald Training and picks up a CHA- or INT-based MBA to emulate the defining characteristics of the Skald subclass while keeping the original Bard's features. Can be a powerful build, but it is also rather feat-intensive.
Feywalker - A Paragon Tier Bard who took the feat Walk Among the Fey to change all his sliding powers into 2D teleportation powers. Bard Taxis are an extreme example of this type.
MAD - Multiple-attribute dependency. Otherwise known as stretching your ability scores too thin. Typically a designator for a build needing three or more ability scores to function.
MBA - Melee basic attack
MID - Multiple-item dependency. Having to use both a weapon and an implement is a cause of this, eating up more of your allocation of finances, feats and other resources.
NAD - Non-AC Defense (Fortitude, Reflex or Will).
OA - Opportunity attack
O-Bard - The original Bard class from the PHB2, used when it is necessary to distinguish it from its subclass, the Skald.
PP - Paragon path
RBA - Ranged basic attack
THP - Temporary hit points.
Wayfarer - A Bard who took the feat Bardic Wayfarer, generally with the intent to optimize around teleporting. Bard Taxis are an extreme example of this type.
Everyone who posts and helps out.
Authors of other classes' handbooks, some of which REALLY helped for the multiclassing section.
NOTE: This handbook will cover both the original Bard from PHB2 and the Skald from HotF. Since both variants use the same AEDU power structure and have access to all the same powers one way or another and only differ in the class features, the Skald could conveniently be folded into this handbook.