Resolving Bardic Music bonuses with RP (D&D 3.5)

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Hello D&D Community!

I'm not a full DM, but this seems like the most appropriate location for this question, since it is about combining game mechanics with the movie screen version of the game. I'm "co-DMing" with my husband in Eberron 3.5 - he's the main DM but I'm assisting with pictures and the "game soundtrack". When we play we like to really "see" what is happening, full of description and as much in-character as possible. He's doing most of the story (and he doesn't tell me everything so I'm still surprised as a player), the NPCs, XP, items, I'm just giving support to increase storyline complexity and enhancing the game. :D  This is his first real campaign as a DM and my third campaign ever - the previous one was 5 years long though and went from level 0 as a 9 year old kid to a 26 year old at level 38.

Get to the point, you say!

I'm playing a Bard.

...

I've never played a bard, or played with someone that played a bard. So, I've poured over all the materials, looked at character optimization, polled my previous playing partners, and searched this board and Google for ideas... but. Dude. 

HOW do you VISUALIZE bardic music with an eye towards "movie sequence" without it being just a little ridiculous?

I'm not struggling with the mechanics of a 3.5 bard (especially with 3 new players that don't know what CharOp is yet). But, I am having a hard time resolving the combat game mechanics with roleplay. I'd like to see if any of you have ideas. 

Game mechanically, bards are second best at everything, which means they aren't good at anything (unless you do a lot of CharOp), but I'm okay with that. She doesn't always hit, but often enough to stay useful and her other skills keep her valuable enough to not feel like I'm dragging the group down. On the RP side, I'm enjoying finding her personality. Music is what makes her tick, so she is always humming or singing or dancing something. I'm brushing up on my music terms to throw those into random conversations. She's got a pretty detailed backstory, and reasons to be adventuring with the current party (Phiarlan bard spying on everyone and making them tools of the House, why not?). 

Bardic Music is pretty nice game mechanically. She can give everyone a +2 to hit and damage at level 3, which is pretty big when you're fighting goblins with an AC of 15. But, I don't know how to RP bardic music. Yes, there is magic in music. It can move the soul of people, and inspire them to greater things. But, when you pull back and look at it like a movie action scene it just sort of falls flat for me and becomes silly. 

The group is surrounded by orcs, all snarling in intense anger, armored heavily, and brandishing sharp blades. The paladin raises his greatsword and narrows his eyes, preparing for his first attack. The sorceress takes a demure step back out of the orcs' range and levels her fingers, the glow of sorcery glowing in her eyes. The rogue's hands tighten around his dual daggers and he crouches, waiting for the prime sweet spot to slice. 

...and the bard bursts into SONG! LA LA LA LA!!! 

WTF. 

LAWL. 

Dorkness Rising.

I need help. 


HELP.


Easy.  Don't use music.

Instead of Perform (instrument) or (song), take Perform (Oratory).  Chuck the musical instrument; make dramatic, inspiring speeches and give solid, useful tactical advice instead of plunking on a lute like a dork.  Pick your spells to not be 'musical' ones, or reflavor them and rename them into less silly things.
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Since the premise of the character is that she is a musical performer, it's too late to chuck music. Plus, I find speeches to be even LESS inspiring in a fight. At least music really *can* get to your soul. I can't say I've ever been motivated by a speech. But then, in high school I was a band geek that played music all the time rather than a sports player that had coaches giving me speeches. ;)

I had two of my previous gaming partners suggest this:

"I think the easiest way to play it would be to say it's like... the oldest, most primitive form of magic (basic sounds and words spun together), and just treat it like actual magic. Like anyone can play music, but few people actually have the Gift, you know? Casting through her voice, not so much as singing, but something like in anime, where she begins to sing and something enchanted happens, the song is more ethereal nearly like an echo, air becomes lighter, leaves float slightly from the ground, and suddenly her allies are cutting through the air quicker. Or something like that."

And one of our current players suggested that it isn't the words so much as it is the harmonies. So while all bards might sing/play a different song to cast a magical/supernatural effect, be it "inspire courage" or a magical spell, they all are hitting the same specific chords at the right timing interval. What happens in between those chords is just the individual bard's way of focusing the magic. 

I feel like those suggestions are getting close, but not... quite... there.  And those suggestions don't fit at all for bards that use perform (oratory), but since no one is playing that kind of bard in this campaign it doesn't really matter. :D
Well, you can still PLAY the instrument, just don't use it for the actual 'Bardic Music' class feature.  The sheer dorkiness of playing a musical instrument in the middle of a fight is the main reason I've hardly ever played bards (and the one I did play in 3e, I played as stated above with no 'musical ability').
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Do what we do in 4th Edition and reflavor it completely.

Don't think of it as music, or singing, or anything like that necessarily. Some of the uses of bardic music don't actually require a skill check, as I recall, so the exact type of performance is irrelevant. Think of it as the bard doing unusual things, taking a lateral approach to the situation, thinking outside the box. It involves an audio component, I believe, so it can still involve her humming snatches of tune, or calling to her allies. But the exact effect can be that she's humming mnemonics to remember something she heard about this kind of monster, or this type of terrain and calling out hints to her allies. Or it can be in-jokes and references, perhaps to songs, that mean tactics to her allies. I can't think of a good example now, but I'm sure we've all seen movies in which one character has made a reference back to something earlier in the movie that prompted all his allies to duck or jump at just the right time. Maybe she has been passing on some bits of martial training she learned and is shouting "Sand deck! Paint fence! Step in time!"

I was just advising a bard in a 4th Edition game to think of the advantage he provides as tapping into the bard's penchant for picking up a little of everything. It's a bit easier in 4th Edition, but some of it can apply to 3.5, too. Maybe the bard is working minor cantrips that pop in the enemies faces (and just happen to do so in time to a tune she and her allies know). Perhaps she pulls out a tiny porcelain bird she picked up somewhere, and it comes to life, whizzing across the battlefied encouraging her allies and hindering her foes.

You can still have your hands occupied, or be subject to whatever restrictions the Bardic Music feature has. When your uses of it run out, maybe it's mental block, or your clockworks need winding, or you can't find the tindertwigs for your fireworks. Go nuts with it.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Bards basically do the same things that wizards do.  They just do it with melody and rhythm.  When a bard sings a melody or strums a tune on a lute, she is weaving magics in the same way that a wizard or sorcerer would recite arcane words of power.

Keep in my that the only bard ability that requires you to actually perform is Bardic Music.  And I usually prefer to interpret Bardic Music as a sustained magical chant.  But instead of merely reciting unintelligle arcane words of power like a wizards, bards intead use the homonization of voice or instrument as their verbal component.  Or if your perform of choice involves body movement, such as Perform (Dance), again, bards simply supplant the rigid gestures of the wizards for something more flowing.

Additionally, you don't actually have to sing intelligible words to make Bardic Music function.  Your "words" could be composed of the same or similar verbal utterances used by other arcane casters.  Sorcerers, for example, seem to be able to learn the special language of magic without guidance or books.  The same can be true for bards.  Or, your songs could voiced in an ancient, long-forgotten tongue.  Or your songs might lack words completely; Your bardic draws power not from words of power, but rather from the rhythm and pitch through which you channel your arcane magics.  Actually, that last explanation can work if you sing intelligle songs or use other methods of perform that are meant to be understood, such as Perform (Poetry) or Perform (Oratory).  The magic comes not from what you say, but rather the magics you weave into how you say it.


Also note, most other bard abilities don't require you to perform.  Their spells, for example, all require verbal components, but don't necessarily requires a performance despite what is implied.  Likewise, Suggestion and Mass Suggestion base their success off your perform skill, but don't actually require you to perform.  You can think of it as those two abilities drawing from your ra, natural talent.

So if you can accept the flavor of how wizards cast spells in 3.5, accepting how bards do so shouldn't be too big of a leap. 
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Keep in my that the only bard ability that requires you to actually perform is Bardic Music.

Even that is vague. You need a certain number of ranks in Perform, but it's not said what those ranks are used for. The rules say the bard can "can use music or poetics to" do something, but it doesn't say how it's used. For much of it, it could come down to the bard imbuing him or herself with confidence and an improvisational tempo, that facilitates non-linear thinking in him or herself, which then carries over to his or her allies, etc. Taking the rules literally, or assuming what it means is not likely to be any more beneficial in this case than it is in any other case.

It's very easy to get into the mindset that if one doesn't doesn't imagine something the way they think it was intended, that something will go wrong. I definitely think that more often than I should. But most of the time, as long as you follow the mechanical restrictions (and even when you don't), the game works the same no matter how you interpret it. Lines like "can use music or poetics to" are not hard and fast rules. Take them with a grain of salt.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

It's very easy to get into the mindset that if one doesn't doesn't imagine something the way they think it was intended, that something will go wrong. I definitely think that more often than I should. But most of the time, as long as you follow the mechanical restrictions (and even when you don't), the game works the same no matter how you interpret it. Lines like "can use music or poetics to" are not hard and fast rules. Take them with a grain of salt.



Truth.
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Instead, consider it your job to pick the music for every encounter. As you slink through the sewer, play something creepy and use your inspire competence ability for the survival checks. As you run into battle, play through the fire and flames for your inspire courage. 


In game, I just wouldn't acknowledge the musical effects as being musical. Call them something like inspirational auras. I also always take perform oratory or sing depending on what fits the character better. 


About to play a bard in an upcoming game, inspired by samurai champloo, afro samurai, and the wu tang clan (and more). I have the soundtrack prepped and relabeled for various situations. He has perform beatbox/sing/rap and carries a katana(greatsword). Personality wise, I play to play him close to mugen and or ninja ninja. Probably a bit of Kamina from Gurren Lagann thrown in too. 

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"

Bards basically do the same things that wizards do.  They just do it with melody and rhythm.  When a bard sings a melody or strums a tune on a lute, she is weaving magics in the same way that a wizard or sorcerer would recite arcane words of power.



I always envisioned it much the same way. In the OP you mention the sorceror, eyes glowing with arcane power. I reckon the bard would do something similar. As the orcs snarl and brandish their weapons, the bard takes a deep breath, focusing intently on preparing to bring forth her special brand of magic. As she strums her first note, the air crackles with the magic imbued in her song. Something like that.  
Bards are rediculous.  The whole class is in 3.5.  Why did you pick a bard otherwise?
But bards have been in use.  *ahem*
By the power of Greyskull!
Thunder, thunder, thundercats, HOOOOOO!
Fire!  Earth! Wind! Water! Heart!  Go Captain Planet!
Reboot!

Sure, it is rediculous.  But while the players groan, it's missed when not heard.


Bards are rediculous.  The whole class is in 3.5.  Why did you pick a bard otherwise?
But bards have been in use.  *ahem*
By the power of Greyskull!
Thunder, thunder, thundercats, HOOOOOO!
Fire!  Earth! Wind! Water! Heart!  Go Captain Planet!
Reboot!

Sure, it is rediculous.  But while the players groan, it's missed when not heard.




Not sure if serious?
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Fireclave, Centauri, ad Drakthor, that's similar to what my previous group suggested, that the music (or dance) is how the bard focuses her connection to arcane power. Most bardic music requires that the targets can hear the bard, but I think that interpreting it as the bard is choosing the music for *herself* (to focus) rather than singing a song for her teammates works a little better.  

So more like mystical chanting to reach the arcane, less like "Come fellows, go forth and strive against the enemy! LA!"  



 
Fireclave, Centauri, ad Drakthor, that's similar to what my previous group suggested, that the music (or dance) is how the bard focuses her connection to arcane power. Most bardic music requires that the targets can hear the bard, but I think that interpreting it as the bard is choosing the music for *herself* (to focus) rather than singing a song for her teammates works a little better.  

Just remember that the mechanics of what you're doing only really matter when they limit you. Yes, they have to hear you, but if nothing's going on to prevent that, and you're not trying to do something like remain undetected, then you're not actually gaining an advantage by describing it some other way. Yes, you need a certain level of Perform to use certain abilities, but if the number of ranks never really factors in then it doesn't matter how the effect is actually manifesting. Et cetera.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

So more like mystical chanting to reach the arcane, less like "Come fellows, go forth and strive against the enemy! LA!"  



Yeah, basically.  Not that either is more right or wrong, nor that they are mutally exclusive.  Just go with whatever works best for you.
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Or, heck, just ... cast spells.

  Like the others have said - basically, you cast spells. The only difference between you and a sorceror or wizard is that yours usually rhyme and are easily set to music. Where a wizard sees magic as a series of formulae and equations, you see it as vibrations, tones and harmonies. You make magic by playing those things like an instrument, sympathetic magic strumming the very chords of reality itself in resonance with your own performance. You're forcing your will on the world around you to work magic, focusing the power through the ritual of song and plucking the very strings of reality by strumming a minor chord or two.
   Have you ever seen the Tom Cruise/Tim Curry movie Legend? The way Blix the goblin speaks in rhyme is the way I've always imagined bard spells to be cast. A brief chant accompanied by a few strummed chords is all it takes to cast a spell.
Bardic Music effects are a bit different, but are basically the bard using a continued chant under their breath or a few plucked strings to maintain their focus on whatever brief "spell" they cast to bestow the mechanical effects of their Bardic Music. From a mechanical point of view, the rules simply require that you take some form of action in game in order to represent the effort required to keep the muscal effect going.

I once played with a guy who envisioned his bard (flavored as a sort of gypsyish flamenco guitarist) as playing the score of the fight scenes like it was a movie, only instead of the music being choreographed to the action, he was actually using the music to dictate the action... Playing the appropriate theme music set the reality of the scene. He'd also keep up a steady stream of witty banter and play-by-play color commentary while fighting, basically describing the effects he was bestowing on the other characters. All in all, he was rather reminiscent of Zorro.


 Check out a series of books called Bedlam's Bard by Mercedes Lackey, about a modern-day bard who routinely uses music to create magic in battle - during a fight he whistles, sings or hums bits of music pretty much under his breath that evoke a certain emotion that he associates with the effect that he wants to happen.

Show

I am the Magic Man.

(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...


  Like the others have said - basically, you cast spells. The only difference between you and a sorceror or wizard is that yours usually rhyme and are easily set to music. Where a wizard sees magic as a series of formulae and equations, you see it as vibrations, tones and harmonies. You make magic by playing those things like an instrument, sympathetic magic strumming the very chords of reality itself in resonance with your own performance. You're forcing your will on the world around you to work magic, focusing the power through the ritual of song and plucking the very strings of reality by strumming a minor chord or two.




However, none of that is required.  Your spells can simply be arcane formulae and equations as well.
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www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MkMdlfl8Hg
Skip to 0:40, and make your bard play the horn.
Adventurers love horns.
The way I've seen it, imagined it, whatever, is the Bard plays a note or a full cord or two, if a instrument, but the right cord or note that really sets the mood that gives the increased moral to the party. I prefer the speech method (Oratory) personally for bards it makes sense to me. Another way to look at it, is the inspiring performance needs to be done prior to the fight, along with an increase in duration (something like 5 rounds + 1 round/level, or maybe 10 + 1 round/level). As this would make more sense in the "I play the inspiring ballad of Sir Shineybritches" kind of way, then the party beats up a bunch of goblins like Sir Shineybritches did in the ballad.

The only thing I see, and make a point to my players to follow, is in their magic. When they cast spells I make a point to add to the description that a series of notes is played as part of their casting. Usually, a longer series of notes indicates a higher level spell. I do something similar with cleric spells and healing. For example, a priest(ess) of Yondalla healing someone, I would describe a sensation of comfort and feeling like they had a good meal like mom used to make, or a priest(ess) of Dol Arrah healing someone, I would describe a sensation of warmth like the sun on their face. House Jorasco healing is just you feel better as the wounds are gone, no other sensations just feeling better. You know since its Eberron, figured I'd through that in too. It's pure fluff and has no effect on the game but I like to think it adds to the flavor of the world. 
"And the bard slowly draws her blade while simultaneously beginning a deep, primal chant that brings her fellow monster-hunters into a combat focus..."

Ok so if you ever watched the original Conan movie (with Arnold) most of the fight music was deep chanting that didn't really form words, like a baseline in good rock music. No 'lalala', more like 'eeeya, boom boom eeeya, boom boom, etc. Some of the fights and action sequences in the Lord of the Rings movies are the same way. For the roleplaying part, try using a thick book and just tap out a deep sounding drum beat on it, or just try using a chant from a movie or something.

But yeah, pulling out a mandolin when others are drawing swords and axes would be stupid, so stick to mainly using vocals in tight situations like fights.

By the way, bards are actually just about the best at a couple of things... information gathering being most prominent. High charisma allows for better reactions when trying to gather information, and when using diplomacy. Take knowledge- history, it gives a bonus to your Bardic lore checks! You can spread the points out a little to simulate the 'jack-of-all-trades' aspect early in the campaign, then focus on 1 or 2 areas once things get moving and you know what general areas the party needs more of. I love that 3rd edition gave bards some healing spells, including some mid-level spells. Knowledge skills and languages--- BARDS RULE AT THESE. No other character class has the variety of knowledge skills and languages combined with a good number of skills points.

Back in 2nd edition, they came out with a multiclass combination that I fell in love with, and still love it for 3rd/3.5 ed. Ranger/Bard. Maybe add a level or 2 of ranger to boost his/her combat abilities without having to give up any skill development, since both get lots of skill points. Only a level here and there, I don't mean giving up the focus of being a bard, just a supplement to his/her abilities.

take preform hekkeling (spelling?) it's an oratory thing so you still have your hands free.. and every round you get to make bad jokes in the name of keeping inspire courage going.

 

Now on to a different subject. "Bard second best at everything" no my dear friend the Bard can do one thing no one else can do.. Buff the crap out of everyone else. Ever read the Wizard handbook? How to make a God... Work inspire courage right an you are their exact description of a god... only you can kill as well.

 

So here's the code. Start with Book o Exhaulted Deeds and pick up the feat words of creation.. Now for 3d4 of non lethel damage you double inspire courage not matter what number you get it to first.

 

Second go through Eberron and find the feat Heart of the Dragon. Good for an extra plus one.

 

Third and fourth are both spells. Inspirational boost, spell compendium notice the casting time is a swift action. 

                                                           Haromony, players guide to faerun do not use the version from magic of faerun as it doesn't stack with Inspir boost

 

One feat and two spells gives you a +3 to inspirational boost at level 3 when you're able to cast two spells per day. Add that to your original inspire courage for a +4  and double it all.... That's a +6 to a +8 before level 5!!!!

 

now add that into your original attack and damage scores and watch the GM pull his hair out of his skull and start offering levels to other players if they will bump you off. 

 

Played my bard today he's level 10 and can max out at 10 10 11 for inspire courage and still only for 3d4 non lethal damage. It's become a bit sick they way we cut down opponents, I've had to try to negotiate in certain situations just to break up the repetition. The best part is he's only going to get tougher as I start to pick up prestige classes.

I've been playing a bard recently, and the kind of music you do can actually be useful. I like to think that, somehow, the bard can play an instrument using the power of his mind. As simple as it sounds, getting ready to battle with a sword drawn and playing a song very lightly, so it can barely be heard, but still causing some noise can work both ways: want to make your enemy feel weaker? Make a music that can only be heard for said enemy that is musical "incoming doom". Want to make your allies feel stronger? Play a song for them that is just pure epicness - while having your sword drawn. You, yourself, aren't playing the instrument literally, your mind is. The instrument uses arcane magic to play said magic - and you can control it with your mind.

I stumbled on this thread while searching for answers to one of my player's questions regarding playing a bard in 3.5. Like many who play bards, they have trouble resolving the seemingly "light" musical/ministrel nature of the bard class with the grim nature of combat. It is difficult to realistically imagine someone singing, much less playing an instrument during combat.

 

However, reality is tranger than fiction. Music, both in the form of singing, and, particularly, the playing of instruments has been an integral part of warfare. Musical instruments were often used as a form of communication within an army (not generally applicable to a bard), and/or as a means of inspiring the troops while often simultaneously demoralizing the opponent. As a result, kettledrums and trumpets have long been a staple of military engagements throughout pre-electronic combat.

 

However, probably the most famous modern example of a person playing an instrument during combat occurred during World War II. During the Normandy invasion, Private Bill Millin of the English Army was ordered to play the bagpipes during the invasion of Sword Beach. So, dressed in his ceremonial kilt, armed only with a knife, Millin walked the beachhead, playing "Hielan' Laddie" and "The Road to the Isles". Through good fortune, and the fact the Germans didn't shoot him that day because they thought he was crazy(!), Millin survived WWII.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/military-obituaries/special-forces-obituaries/7952729/Piper-Bill-Millin.html

 

So, while it may seem kind of a stretch to imagine a bard playing an instrument during combat (and I would rule as DM that he would have to stop playing to become an active combatant), it can play a useful, even realistic combat role. If you want to eschew the instrument so the character can actually wield a weapon, and therefore play an active role in combat, I suggest singing; not the LA LA LA LA version, but a battle hymn. Your bard character probably worships a god of music so I suspect she probably knows a few inspirational songs.

 

I hope this helps.

Inspire Courage, Inspire Greatness and Inspire Heroics last for 5 rounds after the bard stops singing, so the stricture that the bard would have to stop playing probably won't matter that much.

 

But why anyone would see the need to restrict a bard's power is beyond me.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Really, you can flavour it however you want.  I'm more familiar with 4e bards, but I've reflavoured it as general magic, and a frog smoking a pipe and blowing herbs in people's faces.

 

As a player, I am also known to bust into showtunes at the drop of a hat - particularly Gilbert and Sullivan.

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crimsyn wrote:

Really, you can flavour it however you want. 

 

This is the most important thing.  A friend of mine once had a Dwarven Bard who would Burp instead of sing :P

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