What I've Learned About Bards and What I Hope They Can Do.

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I haven't seen one in Next yet, so I'd like to, sort of just underline my final understanding of the Bard from my, shall we say, extensive, research. 

The basic fifth-wheel question of Bards was, "why is Elvis adventuring with Indiana Jones and Conan?",
or, you could point out Willie Scott, in Temple of Doom.

Also, there's a problem with Bards fitting into a party, as they tend to be a bit less violent by default than most other classes - even when it would make sense for, say, a Cleric to avoid overt violence.

However!

First of all, a bard is, probably, most typically, a travelling storyteller. These people were close to celebrities during their time, certainly. Also, such a character doesn't need much of a motive for joining an adventure, which is always useful, so contextually, there's definitely a place. 

See also: Väinämöinen

Second, the mystery of bardic power starts to unlock, when you look at people who use the most bardic of means in fiction:

Fascinate, Suggestion, and Performance. 

These abilities make a Bard the master of the Bavarian Fire Drill. In a heist story, they'd be the grifter. In a dungeon adventure, they're the guy who can wander right through a band of monsters, making lots of noise, and for some peculiar reason, not being attacked, leaving a wake of confused critters staring after the bard --- and, potentially, with their backs turned to the rest of the party. 

A Bard has the potential for being a technical pacifist - namely, they kill, they don't get their hands dirty. Instead, they provoke others to violence, or use the environment if necessary.

Mechanically, a bard should be able to stun and interrupt enemies, and bolster their allies as well as remove negative effects from them. 

Notable (potential) Bard examples: 

Michael Weston,
Axel Foley, 
Fletch, 
James Bond,
MacGyver, and

The Doctor. 
 
Now, I can hear people arguing these people would be Rogues in some cases --- the question is, would they be closer to rogues, or bards... if there was magic? 

Also, when is a Rogue's charisma NOT a dump stat? :P

The Doctor has alien abilities, James Bond has gadgets, and MacGyver fabricates anything on the spot. 

So, whatever the Bard ends up being, I hope they can do these things.  

*edit* 
Oh, and freakin' ODIN. 
one of Odin's nicknames was "Sole Creator of Magical Songs", making him the god of bards. Also known as Lord of the Undead. :D

I want to see bards, necromancers and druids in 5e here's hoping!
Up to a point, depending what one wants to see from them, you could do them as kits or modifications of existing classes - Rogues to Bards, Wizards to Necromancers and Clerics to Druids. 
I quite liked some bits of Dread Necromancers wayback, although I prefer energy drain to undead raising and controlling, and it was heavily geared towards the second. 
Calling James Bond or McGyver bards seems very weird to me. They would fit more as a rogue or ranger, but are kind of their own thing anyway.

Reminds me of a strange discussion I had with a friend, we were trying to decide what D&D classes different nintendo characters were. We decided that Link was a bard and Mario was a monk.
Calling James Bond or McGyver bards seems very weird to me. They would fit more as a rogue or ranger, but are kind of their own thing anyway.

Reminds me of a strange discussion I had with a friend, we were trying to decide what D&D classes different nintendo characters were. We decided that Link was a bard and Mario was a monk.

MacGyver SO has bardic lore. also, the gadgets he fabricates are so unlikely, they might be modelled with spells. 

James Bond, again, consider Gadgets == Spells, and his knack of getting into easily escapable death traps - clearly, Suggestion at work.  

Of course, neither character has magic in their native setting, but if they existed in the world of elves, dragons and such, they totally would.  
Calling James Bond or McGyver bards seems very weird to me. They would fit more as a rogue or ranger, but are kind of their own thing anyway.

Reminds me of a strange discussion I had with a friend, we were trying to decide what D&D classes different nintendo characters were. We decided that Link was a bard and Mario was a monk.

MacGyver SO has bardic lore. also, the gadgets he fabricates are so unlikely, they might be modelled with spells. 

James Bond, again, consider Gadgets == Spells, and his knack of getting into easily escapable death traps - clearly, Suggestion at work.  

Of course, neither character has magic in their native setting, but if they existed in the world of elves, dragons and such, they totally would.  



Well, gadgets map closer to magical items, and assuming Bond has Use Magic Device (or something similar), I'd put Bond as a Rogue or other sort of specialist.  Maybe a Ranger, depending on how it is designed.

I'd prefer to keep the sort of mundane yet still very effective charm skills as just that: skills that don't need magic to "power" them.  If it takes magic to do what Bond does, then what can those without magic hope to do?

MacGuyver is totally an Artificer, by the way.

Essentials zigged, when I wanted to continue zagging. Roll dice, not cars.
Some sort of a tweaked Rogue might work for Bond, yes. A charisma-heavy diplomatic rogue, I've played one.

Ranger, though? Not known for their charisma and socializing skills. Also, I don't recall Bond having an animal companion.

Totally agree on the totally artificier, really. However, an artificier could easily be a tweaked bard :D 
( or a wizard, really. )  

We're sort of off-topic, though - although I do enjoy matching fictional characters to DnD crunch.

Columbo would probably be a bard, too, seeing as how his modus operandi is talking the bad guys into incriminating themselves.

Every lawyer, every grifter would fit too.  
Also, when is a Rogue's charisma NOT a dump stat? :P


4e, where it was often a secondary stat.
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
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Ranger, though? Not known for their charisma and socializing skills. Also, I don't recall Bond having an animal companion.



He could have just been level 3.


MacGuyver is totally an Artificer, by the way.




AD&D 1st Edition Character (Simplified)

BIOGRAPHY
Name: Brother Michael
Adventuring Class: Cleric
Adventuring Experience: 1446 out of 1501
Bonus Experience: 10%
Languages Known: Common, Orc, Elven.
Alignment: Lawful/Neutral Good
ABILITY SCORES
Strength: 10
Dexterity: 10
Intelligence: 11
Charisma: 11
Constitution: 14
Wisdom: 16
WEAPONS: HIT; MEDIUM; LARGE
Footman’s Flail: 1d20; 1d6+1; 1d4
Hammer (Thrown): 1d20; 1d4+1; 1d4
Sling: 1d20-3; 1d4+1; 1d6+1
MAGIC
Today’s Prepared Spells: Cure Light Wounds x2, Command x1
Spells Spent: Cure Light Wounds x1
Other Cleric Abilities: Turn Undead
Spell Failure: 0%
Magical Attack Adjustment: +2
DEFENSES
Armor: 5 (-4 Armor, -1 Shield)
Maximum Health: 10
Current Health: 9
CONSUMABLE ITEMS
Water Skin
7 Days of Trail Rations
7 Pints (Flasks) of Oil
1 Ounce (Vial) of Holy Water
4 Parchments
12 Sling Bullets
6 Pieces of Silver
8 Pieces of Twine

 

The basic fifth-wheel question of Bards was, "why is Elvis adventuring with Indiana Jones and Conan?"



Because that'd make for an awesome party! 
Even better if we added Harry Potter & Legoles to the roster. 


or, you could point out Willie Scott, in Temple of Doom


Willie is NOT a bard.  Bards are usefull.  Willie is a plot device. 

Also, there's a problem with Bards fitting into a party, as they tend to be a bit less violent by default than most other classes - even when it would make sense for, say, a Cleric to avoid overt violence.



Hah! 
Did you fail to notice that they're profient in decent armor, a fair # of weapons, and have a good # of offensive spells?
Sure, they might favor Cha., have numerous skills, hand out various buffs & also have a slew of less damaging spells/effects.  But don't be fooled.  D&D bards are no less violent than the other party members.

Oh, & in 1e? "Bard" is the original PRC.  By the time you can be a bard?  You can already wup ass as a member of several other classes! 


However!
First of all, a bard is, probably, most typically, a travelling storyteller. These people were close to celebrities during their time, certainly. Also, such a character doesn't need much of a motive for joining an adventure, which is always useful, so contextually, there's definitely a place.?"

 



Yes, they're also often that....
^^^  (looks at mess of post above)I hate trying to quote things from my phone....  ^^^

I find "pacifist" a strange word to define a bard, since historically nothing fed more a bard's repertoire of songs (and filled more his pockets) than war and the military prowess of his patrons.

The same can be said about Clerics since few institutions have caused or influenced more wars, executions and torture in history than the Church, and in medieval times especially lots of priests were loud and outspoken about purging infidels from existance, putting their enemies to the sword.


I do get your point though, that many bards (actually, any person who isn't very skilled in battle) would more likely find ways around a fight or convince or pay someone to fight for them. And historically most bards were just that, poets and entertainers. Although the nordic Skalds sometimes went to war with their fellows.
I just think that "pacifist" is not really the concept you're looking for.


If you take how the Bard is often depicted in D&D, it seems to incline towards the Brittish peasant/vagabond bards of the Celtic and/or pre-Saxon times, which were often travelers who learned a little bit of everything (from Druids, peasants, nobles, anyone) and who depended heavily on their charisma and ability to entertain, to earn prestige wherever they went. Due to the nature of their craft they were also gatherers of knowledge and spreaders of tidings.

If you take that notion of bard as a basis, it makes sense that the Bard class in D&D be one that isn't a master of anything (except, perhaps, social interaction) but can learn a bit of everything... skills, fighting, spells...
A bard travels and gains prestige through entertainment, and by befriending druids, wizards, warriors, nobles or anyone, he can convince them to share some of their knowledge with him, even though that knowledge might not always be accessible to everyone.

I find "pacifist" a strange word to define a bard, since historically nothing fed more a bard's repertoire of songs (and filled more his pockets) than war and the military prowess of his patrons.



No, no. I said a technical pacifist. Different. 

Master of social interaction and can learn a bit of everything, is not a bad way to put it.

In Star Wars, the... I think it was the Noble class, had an ability where they could force surrender from an injured foe. Similar abilities would be rather neat for a Bard.

any description which starts with 'he just waltzes right in and...' is at least a moderate indication of a potential Bard.

I liked your use of the word, Prestige. It might be interesting if there was some mechanical interaction with it, say, give a bard Prestige Dice which can be used to gain favors and gather information and such, and that could be traded for items of value, for an example.

Actually... I like a lot of what SW Saga Noble does, for a Bard. It's easier for mechanically-inclined players to get, than all that you can do with fascinate and suggestion.

 
4e had a mechanic that allowed one to force a wounded opponent to surrender.  It was almost universally reviled by DM's everywhere who either wouldn't let it work on principle, or would dance around with how one defines "surrender". 
"You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies." -The Doctor, Remembrance of the Daleks
4e had a mechanic that allowed one to force a wounded opponent to surrender.  It was almost universally reviled by DM's everywhere who either wouldn't let it work on principle, or would dance around with how one defines "surrender". 

Sad. Did they also revile this thing where the NPCs die when hit enough? 

I mean, sure, allow leeway with "surrender". A powerful opponent might just choose to align their goals with the players',  while a fanatic might commit suicide. 

In any case, I see it as an opportunity.

That being said, it is effectively a save-or-die, so to speak.  
4e had a mechanic that allowed one to force a wounded opponent to surrender.  It was almost universally reviled by DM's everywhere who either wouldn't let it work on principle, or would dance around with how one defines "surrender". 



Heck I had enemies running or surrendering when hit points were under half without players making the rolls...
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
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