Bard - Stupid Newbie Questions

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As described in my other thread: community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758... (How do I make that a link? I see an "insert link" button, but it's greyed out, so I can't use it)


I'm pretty new to 4e, and I've been invited relatively last minute to join a campaign starting tomorrow, so I need to build a character fast. The big caveat is that since our group is all 4e newbies, the DM has decided we'll only use the Players Handbook and Players Handbook 2 for making our characters. The rest of the group had a character creation session before I was invited to join, so based on what they're playing, and my own preference, I wanted a primarily non-melee leader or controller.


Based on the thread I mentioned above, I've decided to go with a Cunning Bard. But being new to 4e, I don't know much about the class, so I've got a ton of questions.


1. Do bards need a ranged weapon? They're proficient with some of them, but looking at their powers, it looks like they can get away with just casting Vicious Mockery or another spell every turn and it'll be just as good (if not better) than shooting arrows at the bad guys. I'm used to Pathfinder bards who are primarily archers when they aren't using spells, so the idea of a bard who doesn't run out of spells and thus doesn’t need a plan for what to do when he's not casting spells is new to me.


2. Do bards need strength? It looks like bards do benefit from carrying a melee weapon, even if they don't intend to use it very often. But it also looks like their melee attacks are going to use cha based spells instead of the melee basic attack. So is strength good for anything other than making sure your chainmail doesn't slow you down (carrying capacity)? Which brings me to my next question...


3. Does a bard really need chain mail? I know it's the best armor that bards are proficient with, but if I’m travelling with 5 melee combatants, and I'm standing in the back with the sorcerer, then is it really worth the effort? After all, it does weigh you down, and hurts stealth, swim, and climb checks.


4. Do bards need dex? This goes back to #1. If I'm not using a ranged weapon, then dex really only affects initiative and stealth. And I haven't decided yet if I'm going to be a stealthy bard or not, though I'm leaning towards not.


5. Since I've already asked about str and dex (the bard dump stats, if I understand correctly), let's talk other stats. Cha is obviously the most important, followed by int for a Cunning Bard, and then con is probably still third. But how important is int, really? Is it worth sacrificing points that could be spent on con and wis (which seems useful for perception, insight, and heal) to try and really max out your int, or is it better to spread the points around, while still making sure int is slightly higher than the others?


6. And that kinda ties into race, since that will affect stats. What race should I go with?


Before picking a race, it's worth noting what type of personality I want my character to have, since that relates to choice of race. I picture an outgoing, friendly character, who will probably be the party's "face" for social situations. So even though tieflings have the cha/int stat bonuses, the image of an intimidating horned creature just doesn't jive with how I’d picture and play my character. And for that matter, gnomes have the same stat bonuses, but they’re more stealthy and reserved than what I envision for a character who probably wants to always be the center of attention.


I’m kind of leaning towards half-elf, since they get the cha bonus, diplomacy bonus, and that dilettante thing to grab an extra power from another class. But again, that goes back to how important it is to max out int by going for a race with cha/int bonuses instead of the cha/con of a half-elf, since my stat priority is probably Cha > Int > Con > Wis > Dex > Str. If I do go half-elf, what’s a good at-will from another class (PHB and PHB2 only) to grab as an encounter power? I was thinking maybe one of the sorcerer powers, since they have cha based at-wills that can hurt multiple foes at once, which is something bards normally can’t do, but I’m very much open to other suggestions.


Remember that I’m only using PHB and PHB2, so eladrin doesn’t get the cha bonus. I actually emailed my DM to ask if he’d let me use my copy of Heroes of Fallen Lands to make an eladrin character, so I could get the cha/int bonus playing one of them, but I’m not sure I’d definitely do it, even if he says it’s ok. Like I said, I’m leaning towards half-elf, but the bonus to con instead of int is a minor sticking point.


That leaves human as the only other obvious choice. They only get one stat bonus, which would obviously go on cha. They get some nice race bonuses (defenses, extra skill training), but their biggest advantage seems to be the extra feat at first level. Which I guess leads into the next question.


7. What feats are good for a bard?


8. What rituals are good for a bard? Given the casting cost, I can’t see using these very often, at least at first level. Is it even worth picking up components during character creation, or save that for later when I have more money?


9. Which class power choices do you think are the highlights that I should definitely take? I’ve already decided on Vicious Mockery, since it’s a damage/debuff combo. Slightly less damage than Misdirected Mark, but with a straight -2, rather than just giving a mark. I figure I should pick one of the melee spells as my second at-will, even though I don’t intend to use it very much, just so I have it if necessary. Other than that, Stirring Shout looks like a GREAT daily, and Blunder looks like a good encounter power, though there are other good options.


10. Just to make sure I understand this, there’s no point in picking up a wand until I can afford one that’s actually magical, right? Which leads me to wonder why a non-magical wand is in the equipment lists as available to buy for 7 gp or whatever it was.


11. On the other hand, a non-magical instrument is still useful for rituals, song of rest, etc, though I’ll probably want to get a magical one as soon as I can afford it.


Well, I’ve babbled long enough. It probably sounds like I’m a total munchkin trying this hard to come up with a good character, but I’m actually focused very much on role playing during the actual gaming sessions. I just think part of the fun of RPG games is customizing and working on characters between sessions, which is when I come up with ways to optimize my character to be more useful to the group. And in this case, I really don’t know squat about the bard class in 4e, so I have a ton to learn.


Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for any advice.

Carpe DM - Seize the Dungeon Master!
1: no, not really.  You can build a ranged weapon bard, but you have no particular need to if you don't want to.

2: A traditionally-built Bard will almost never use a stat other than CHA for attacking.  The new Skald makes melee basic attacks, but can use CHA for them.

3: It's usually better than the other options, but you're often even better off getting Scale.

4: Again, you'll rarely be attacking with anything other than CHA.  However, everyone needs a bit of DEX, for initiative and/or reflex defence (and AC if you stay in light armour).

5: If nothing in your class is based on a stat, you generally don't need to pay attention to it unless it affects something out-of-class.  Principally initiative, and non-ac defences.

6: Race has no impact on personality.  Pick the race you want, play it with the personality you want.  However, Half-Elves make outstanding bards.

7: Don't forget your Expertise, don't forget Superior Will.

8: Really, really campaign-dependent.  However, my two free ones on a Bard would be Glib Limerick and Comrades' Succor.

9: See general comments.

10: Expertise is a good reason.  You don't get the expertise bonus if you don't use the wand.  However, for many builds, you're better off using your weapon as an implement.

11: Not really a question :P

In general: go into Char Op.  Read the Bard's Handbook.  All your questions and more will be answered.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
Thanks for the reply. I wasn't sure what you meant by Expertise, but I figured it out from context and hunting around. I'm thinking Implement Expertise (Wand) looks like a very good 1st level feat choice for a Cunning Bard, since most of what I do will be spells that can use a wand implement, and I can get a cheap wand for 7 gp, so it's a free +1 to hit with most of my attacks.

Next stupid question: When using a melee weapon with a bard spell, does the weapon proficiency bonus apply? I wasn't sure if that only applied to normal weapon attacks, or also to spells that use a weapon.
Carpe DM - Seize the Dungeon Master!
All your bard powers have either the "Weapon" or "Implement" keywords.  If you have a Songblade or other weapon you can use as an implement, you can use its enhancement bonus for both kinds of attacks, but proficiency bonuses still apply ONLY to weapon attacks.  You don't have any inherent ability to use weapons as implements, though.  The various Songblade enchantments allow the weapon to be used as an implement by a Bard, but they're in Adventurer's Vault IIRC, so if you're only going to have access to PHB1&2 items, that's a no go.  The other way to use a weapon as an implement is to get implement proficiency in light blades or heavy blades.  Your only real option for that is the Arcane Implement Proficiency feat (gee, I think that's in PHB2... if it's in Arcane Power you're SOL), given that multiclassing swordmage isn't an option in those books.

If you aren't going to have a weapon that you can also use as an implement, and you'd like to play at range, nothing's forcing you to have a weapon at all, since it takes monetary and feat investment to keep the weapon competitive as you level, and wasting actions to equip and re-equip in combat is no fun.  There are plenty of good implement powers for bards, and you can stick to them exclusively.  Being able to continually cast as a spellcaster is a great innovation in 4e.  You never have to feel like you're out of class options and stuck doing mundane things... and Vicious Mockery has always been my favorite at-will power to roleplay.

Re: Armor.  Remember that in light armor (up to hide) you gain the higher of your Dex or Int bonus to AC, but in heavy armor (chain and up) you don't.  So if your Bard is using Int as a high off-stat (16+ post racial start and always bumping along with Cha), your AC will be just as high in Hide as in Chain, and you'll move a little faster.  And Cunning Bards get enough use out of Int for riders and class features that it's potentially worth raising that high, especially if you're a Cha/Int race like the Tiefling or Gnome.

While we're on races, those are the two most synergistic choices for cunning bards out of the options you have available.  Tieflings are generally considered to be stronger, but gnomes have some fun features and ready-made flavor for bards of that type.  If you're looking for something else, anything with a Cha bump will serve you at least moderately well: Dragonborn can start with a pre-racial 11Str/13Con to qualify for Scale Armor Proficiency, so you won't mind the lower Int too much.  Half-Elves have plenty of cool dilettante options even in just PHB1&2... nothing really broken or amazing comes to mind, but you could easily grab a Warlock, Sorcerer or Paladin at will power to use occasionally.  And the Con bump means you'll have the same ease getting Scale as a Dragonborn.  I don't really recommend Human for this, because the Bard already only has 2 at-will powers each for weapon and implement (in the books you have access to), and no one Bard really needs any three of those.  Halflings are okay, but probably inferior to gnomes for your build.

[edit: just actually read your race thoughts.  If you get the int/cha eladrin option, that's solid and also fun.  It's always good to have a teleport every encounter whether you like melee or not, and an extra trained skill is nice if you're into the skill versatility of the bard (although 4e skills are drastically simplified compared to 3.5, so it may feel a little weird at first).  Also, I second the notion that you shouldn't worry about racial fluff that doesn't sound like the personality you want.  Assume every race has at least as much variance in personality as humans do... there might be a trend or stereotype for gnomes or eladrin or dragonborn, but you're not just a cookie cutter member of your race, you're an adventurer (and a bard, at that)!  Even if you assume that gnomes, as a group, are introverted, quiet and shady, it's not the average gnome who becomes a bard, it's that weird, pattern-breaking one who likes to use his gift for arcana to attract attention, and lots of it.  He's no more implausibly different from your "average gnome" than Iggy Pop or David Bowie is from your average human.]

The power list you have should be a good start.  Those powers should give you a good sense of the kinds of things a cunning bard is good at and get you used to the playstyle.  It should be a solid intro to 4e.
Thanks for the reply. I wasn't sure what you meant by Expertise, but I figured it out from context and hunting around. I'm thinking Implement Expertise (Wand) looks like a very good 1st level feat choice for a Cunning Bard, since most of what I do will be spells that can use a wand implement, and I can get a cheap wand for 7 gp, so it's a free +1 to hit with most of my attacks.

Next stupid question: When using a melee weapon with a bard spell, does the weapon proficiency bonus apply? I wasn't sure if that only applied to normal weapon attacks, or also to spells that use a weapon.


Wand Expertise (from heroes of the fallen lands) is objectively better than Implement Expertise (Wand) - it scales earlier, and comes with the side benefit of ignoring cover and concealment.

However, this might not be available to you.

I'd also really, really suggest reading the 'understanding the game' chapters of whatever players' books you have access to.  You don't appear to have understood a number of important concepts in how to read powers, and what bonuses etc apply to each.

All that being said, some relevant form of Expertise is a very good pick in the first couple of levels.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.

I'd also really, really suggest reading the 'understanding the game' chapters of whatever players' books you have access to.  You don't appear to have understood a number of important concepts in how to read powers, and what bonuses etc apply to each.



Seriously? A newbie asks a question about something in the rules that seems weird, and your first instinct is to insult the person and not even pretend to answer the question?

And yet, your non-answer was surprisingly useful to me, just not in the way you probably intended. I had heard complaints about 4e being too much like a computer game, and I thought it was just because people didn't like the new character roles being spelled out, even though that's really just ignorable fluff. But your answer of "Just read the rules literally, even when they don't pass the common sense 'sniff test', rather than looking to see if there's a clarification elsewhere" seems very much like computer programmer logic, both in the way you answered and in the way the rules were written. And I work in IT, so I know what I'm talking about when it comes to programmer logic.


Carpe DM - Seize the Dungeon Master!
No insult intended.

And yes, that's the way the rules work.  The rules provide a structure for the game; the flavour is whatever you want it to be.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.

 In 4E, the rules do exactly what they say they do - no more, no less. It's important to read the rules as written because different people may infer or assume that the rules imply different things that aren't written based on their own idea of "common sense", which is why the developers clearly spelled out the rules (yes, using precise "programmer" language, if you insist on that description) so that "common sense" isn't the arbiter of how the rules work.
(For example, Common Sense might imply to you that a fire genasi with flames for hair would set the bed on fire every time they slept. But the rules don't expressly say that they do, so therefore they don't.)

 In both the Player's Handbook and Heroes of the Fallen Lands/Forgotten Kingdoms, there's a section on how to read a power, which explains the Weapon and Implement keywords.

 - When a power has the Weapon keyword, you add the weapon's proficiency bonus to the attack roll, in addition to the weapon's enhancement bonus.
- When a power has the Implement keyword, you add the implement's enhancement bonus to the attack roll.
(Even if you are using a weapon as your implement, you don't add the weapon's proficiency bonus because the power does not have the Weapon keyword.)

 As a bard, some of your powers are Weapon attacks and some of them are Implement attacks.
 This means that you use your wand for the powers that are Implement attacks and your weapon for your Weapon attacks.
 (Bard's are proficient with wands as implements. They can't use weapons as implements, and implements generally can't be used to make weapon attacks. So if a power has the Weaon keyord they have to use a weapon with it. If it has the Implement keyword, they can only use that power with a wand. )


 (If you somehow gain the ability to use a weapon as an implement, then that weapon behaves in all ways as an implement when you use it with your Implement powers. The write-up of the Bard in the Player's Handbook 2 mentions that bards are able to use certain specific magic weapons (called songblades) as implements (directing the reader to the section on magic items for further clarification), and the fact that weapons used as implements do not add the weapon proficiency bonus to Implement powers is stated there on page 204. It's also further clarified on page 275 of the Rules Compendium.)


Also, on a general note, when someone suggests that you read a section of the rules text, they're not trying to insult you - they're pointing out that there's some part of that text that you either missed or misunderstood. And chances are that whatever you missed or misunderstood is spelled out in that section that they suggested you go back and read again.


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(Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.)

 

I am the Lawnmower Man.

(I AM GOD HERE!)

 

I am the Skull God.

(Koo Koo Ka Choo)

 

There are reasons they call me Mad...

Common sense and past versions of D&D agree on a few things:

1. Attacks using melee weapons are melee attacks.
2. Spells are spells.
3. Attacks using melee weapons are not spells.
4. Spells are not melee attacks.

Apparently, #s 3 and 4 have changed in 4e. Bards can now cast spells using melee weapons, which follow some of the rules for melee attacks, but not all of them. I don't think it's that far fetched for a newbie to this version to ask for a clarification to make sure he's understanding all the details related to that, especially since it seems pretty random at first glance as to which melee rules get thrown out the window on bard weapon attacks. Unfortunately, I've been using the internet long enough to know that it is far fetched to expect a polite, simple answer to a question on most internet forums.

Carpe DM - Seize the Dungeon Master!
Actually, only 2 is the same, mainly because 2 is a tautology.

You can use melee weapons to make all 4 attack types, because many melee weapons can also be thrown (such as daggers, and javelins), allowing you to make ranged and area attacks with them, and many attacks in hand-to-hand combat are close attacks, such as the Fighter's Come and Get It.  They type of weapon, or implement, you're using for an attack has absolutely no bearing on the attack type, which is set by a separate keyword.  This includes even such cases as ranged weapons being used to make melee attacks, for instance the Encounter power in the Elven Ranger PP Sharpshooter.

The attack type is defined in the power separately from what weapon, or implement, (or in one slightly unfortunately-written case, both) it uses.  You can use implements to make any of the 5 attack types, at the range specified in the power; you can use ranged weapons to make any of the 5 attack types, at the range specified in the power; you can use melee weapons to make any of the 5 attack types, at the range specified in the power.

The melee rules, however, do not get thrown out of the window, because you use the ones written for this game.  Previous games, in their entirety, get thrown out of the window.  They have precisely as much relevance here as the rules for Shadowrun, or Dark Heresy.  4e is not 3.5, nor is it AD&D.  It is an entirely new game, albeit one which shares many of the flavour concepts, and some of the rules concepts, of earlier editions.

If you come in expecting people to be adversarial, you're likely to believe that they are being so.

If you come in expecting this to be 3.5, and you not to need to learn a new rule set, you will be disappointed.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
1.  Need?  No.  Bards can handle themselves quite well at range with implement powers.  However, Arcane Power introduces ranged weapon bard powers which, of course, key of Cha.  The bard's ranged weapon proficiencies can also be useful when multiclassing or hybriding.

2.  Generally, no.  Bards don't have much use for strength.  Though Valorous bards might find a few points worth it to qualify for scale or plate profiency. 


3. Yes and no.  Light armor adds the higher of your Int or Dex to your AC, while heavy armor does not.  Since cunning bards use intelligence as their secondary, they are generally better off sticking to cloth, leather, and hide.  For the other bard builds, chain will net you significantly more AC.


4.  Generally no.  Bards don't have much use for dex.  But if you have points left over at character creation, there are worse stats to put the last of your points into.  More initiative is always good to have.


5.  Int is pretty important for a cunning bard.  Your Virtue of Cunning feature, the secondary riders of your build-focused powers, as well as your AC are all dependant on your Int.  While it doesn't need to be sky-high, you usually will want int to be your second highest stat at first level and increase it at every opportunity.  That said, it is very possible to build an effective cunning bard with little reliance on Int.  But in that case, you'll probably want to stick to chain or heavier armor and choose powers that don't require high int riders to be effective.


6.  As others have said, any race can be any personality you want.  Your character's personality is completely up to you.  Your tieflings are only intimidating and your gnomes only stealthy if you choose them to be. 


With that said, one of 4e's strengths is that any race can play well as any class.  Not necessarily optimal, but definately able to hold their own.  Though you usually can't go wrong with any race that gets a bonus to your class's primary and/or secondary stats.


I don't know too much about half-elf optimization, but personally, I would probably pilfer the wizard's list for a dilettante power for some AoE/control effects.

7. and 9.  I don't know much about bard optimization, but try seaching the optimization boards for Bard guides.


8.  It's hard to say since rituals can be pretty situational depending one the gaming style of you and your group.  I suggest picking up whichever ones sound fun and try to incorporate them as often as you can.


10.  Non-magical implement can still benefit from certain feats and features.  For example, You can't benefit from the Wand Expertise unless you're using a wand.  The Wizard's Arcane Implement Mastery feature can also benefit non-magical implements.

11.  Song of Rest doesn't require an instrument at all to function since you can sing instead.  Though the bard-specific rituals require a magical instrument as a focus, so if you plan on using those rituals, you'll definitely want one eventually.

Thinking about creating a race for 4e? Make things a lil' easier on yourself by reading my Race Mechanic Creation Guide first.
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