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According to the tier system, bards are tier 3. This makes them the fifth-most useful core class.

I want to play a viking skald for the next campaign, so I decided to play a bard/war chanter. Available books are PHB, DMG, MM, Complete Warrior, Draconomicon, Planar Handbook and Races of Eberron (no psionics).

I tried making this character (starting level 10), human bard 6/war chanter 4. And... he seems really weak.

I've seen bard handbooks and optimization guides, but most of the good feats and races are in books I don't have access to.

So why does my bard seem weak? Is it because of my lack of books? Is the tier system only true when all books are allowed? Am I really bad at character building? Are war chanters horrible? Is it because of my lack of spellcasting?

I understand that you will need to see my build and all in order to judge my character properly. I'm just wondering if I'm the first person to doubt the power/usefulness of bards.
So why does my bard seem weak? Is it because of my lack of books? Is the tier system only true when all books are allowed? Am I really bad at character building? Are war chanters horrible? Is it because of my lack of spellcasting?

Basically, pretty much all of these.

Core bard is pretty much Rogue+, which means it's pretty mediocre. Splat writers have a bizarre fetish for bards, though, so it evens out in the end. 
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That makes sense. Thank you for the quick answer.
example of a Core Bard thread, with some recommendations:

Would your DM be amenable to the on-line SRD, and a smidge more options?

Here comes your 19th forums breakdown ... ohh who's to blame, it ain't 5E driving you insane.


To piggyback on what EA said, yeah, bards got a lot of support outside of core.  They're still one of the better core-only options, though.

That said, War Chanter is really only worthwhile in a few niche cases, like using it to break the +20 BAB cap.   It's actually strictly a downgrade from straight bard.

So, here's my advice on a core bard:

1.  Think of yourself as a rogue with significantly less bonus damage, but a more reliable method of delivery.  I highly recommend you take advantage of that as your main combat method.  I find that archery tends to work best for core bards - volley attacks will benefit most from the consistent attack/damage boost of bardic music, and with your book list, you don't really have many ways of easily mixing it up in melee.  That said, you will not be a major source of damage.  At level 10, you can probably expect to hit with four arrows per round with a little bit of bonus damage.  That's not terrible, but it's not going to win you any awards, either.  Damage is not your primary goal.

2.  What makes you a decent class?  Spells, mostly, so make the most of them.  Some reasonable core spell choices include...

Level 1: 
Grease (Cause flat-footedness by forcing balance checks, and prone is a decent debuff against enemies with low saves)
Silent Image (Just generally handy, although its power differs depending on the DM... remember that otherwise mindless creatures are NOT immune to image spells, as they don't have a mind-affecting tag)

Level 2:
Alter Self (There are entire threads dedicated to this spell, but it basically serves as an excellent defensive or mobility-based buff, and is very flexible)
Glitterdust (Area save-or-lose with a nice bit of utility built in)
Pyrotechnics (Underrated BFC)
Shatter (General utility)
Silence (Decent utility and debuff - cast it on your melee before they close with enemies that rely on verbal spells)

Level 3:
Glibness (That's a tremendous bonus to an already abusive skill... I've seen games fall to pieces because of this spell)
Haste (One of the best buffs that doesn't rhyme with Schlolymorph)
Leomund's Tiny Hut (You and everyone inside the hut get total concealment... but you can still see outside just fine)
Slow (If you've got a high Charisma, this is a solid debuff)

Level 4:
Freedom of Movement (There are so many things that this spell completely shuts down, it's not even funny)
Shadow Conjuration (As a spontaneous spellcaster with a pretty limited number of spells, versatility is not your strong suit, but spells like this help)

Level 5:
Greater Dispel Magic (One of the best debuffs that doesn't rhyme with Schmisjunction)
Shadow Evocation (See Shadow Conjuration, above... slightly less useful here, though)
Mirage Arcana (Hallucinatory Terrain is a really cool spell, except for the 10 minute casting time...)

Level 6:
Animate Objects (Seriously underrated spell, with a little planning this is strictly better than any summoning spell)
Find the Path (Trapfinders?  Scouts?  Who the hell needs them?)
Otto's Irresistible Dance (If they don't have spell resistance and they're within touch range, this spell will kill them)
Project Image (Decent defensive spell with some fun uses for the creative mind)
Thank you both for the help. I think I'll wait with the war chanter then.
I see your DM allows Races of Eberron, what about the Core Campaign setting book? I know you didn't explicitly list it, but it really makes sense here. In there you'll get Song of the Heart which is +1 to Inspire Courage. Don't do Warchanter, as people point out, it's neat but you give up your best feature (spellcasting) in favor of slightly betterish music.

If Complete Warrior's allowed you should also make a pry for Complete Adventurer. The first level spell "Inspirational Boost" will add even more bang to your Inspire Courage.

This will give you a real leg up on other combat buffing characters. You will be able to get Inspire Courage to +3 as early as level 3, and it's quite crazy how much that tilts combats which can't be easily won by low level rocket tag (Like Grease, Sleep, Hold Person etc.)

Weather or not you can get the aforementioned Feat from ECS and spell from CA, focus more on stuff like using Sleep/Hold Person to ruin encounters.  Fascinate can be fairly useful if you've got stealthy characters or ones that can just do stuff like reposition in a fight, to give your party an advantage.

Hope this advice helps, and good luck with jamming those two really simple books  into a game that they make every bit of sense in. "The first four Complete (Not complete Champion, or Scoundrel), A single campaign setting, and the non campaign specific Races of _ books" is a pretty reasonable set of 'you can use these', Spell Compendium and Magic Item Compendium are not far off that list either. In fact if someone allows that list, Spell Compendium's just reparitive to the text of many of the spells within them.
I should probably have mentioned this in the original post. In my group, we sometimes swap DMs. The books are mentioned are books I have and books our local library has, as I'm the only person in the group who owns any D&D books. We allow all books we have access to, except things we agree not to use. I have Races of Eberron but not the campaign setting. We agreed to allow most of the races and feats in the book, therefore I mentioned it among the allowed books.

Thank you for the help anyway.
Without access to two of the books you have listed here (it's not that I don't have them, I just don't know where they were shuffled off to after a flood), I can't fully gauge the usefulness of those books, but I'll do my best with those that we both have access to.  Let's go by book:

Draconomicon - Nothing really of use.  Dragonsong looks promising, but you could run into situations in which the +2 DC is made useless (undead, mindless creatures, etc.).

Races of Eberron - Are you set on a race yet?  If not, you might look at Longstride Shifter (+2 Dex, +10-foot speed bonus), Beasthide Shifter (+2 Con, +2 natural AC), or Changeling (decent bonuses to somewhat useful skills).  These also open up a few feat options:  Shifter Agility (Longstride, +1 dodge to AC and +1 to Reflex saves), Shifter Instincts (all Shifters, +2 initiative and +1 to Listen/Sense Motive/Spot), and Disturbing Visage (Changeling racial tactical, reduces your opponent's fighting acumen [-5 damage against you, -2 attack rolls, and/or -2 AC]).  The only other thing I can see that is of use is the Recaster PrC;  the class is kind of hard to access (since you need to be at least 8th level), but:

     1.  You get to alter your spells.  At first level, you need no more spell components and you get a free Silent Spell or Still Spell once per day per Recaster level (Silent doesn't work for Bards, though);  at third, you can pseudo-Quicken a spell three times per day;  at fifth, you can alter your spell's spatial characteristics (range, area, number of targets, etc) five times per day.

     2.  You can add two spells to your list...from any class's spell list.  This translates to a free spell of up to second level and one of up to third level, so choose your favorites.

     3.  You can apply a metamagic feat that you know (from Empower, Enlarge, Extend, Maximize, or Widen) with no level change once per day per Recaster level.

     4.  It's a 4/5 casting class, so if you wanted to expand your casting, it's decent. 

DMG - The only useful part is the PrCs...and the best of these is probably the Assassin (Blackguard is a close second).  You can enter a couple with difficulty (Arcane Archer, Loremaster*) and others that don't really give you anything outstanding (Dragon Disciple, Duelist, Horizon Walker, Shadowdancer**).

Complete Warrior - Only one PrC in here strikes me as a bardic PrC (beyond War Chanter, but that destroys your spellcasting):  Dervish.  It also stops your spellcasting, but it grants you better melee abilities (d10 HD, full BAB, a small AC bonus, and A Thousand Cuts).  The only problem with it is that you're still not a melee monster, so A Thousand Cuts only puts you at 8 attacks at Bard 10/Dervish 10 (if you have Improved Two-Weapon Fighting...without, you've got 4 total).

PHB - I'd suggest making use of your free whip proficiency:  it lets you trip and disarm at a 15 foot range (and you can use it against anyone near you, too) and allows Weapon Finesse (which reduces the need for Strength);  it's not a weapon that's used for damage, after all (carry something else for when you really need to whack something).  As for feats, look at Combat Expertise (and Improved Trip/Improved Disarm), Leadership (since you're Cha-based, it's fairly useful...and you can recruit someone to hit things for you), Weapon Finesse, one or two of the crafting feats (if you want to be a crafter), and/or a metamagic feat or two (especially if you want to be a Recaster...I suggest Extend and Heighten for that).
     Use your spells to mess with your opponents;  you've got grease, sleep, Tasha's hideous laughter, and others that take the opponents out of the fight safely.  You do have a few buffing spells, but you've also got bardic music to do some buffing.

* - That is, if you can indeed enter the class.  I don't know if the Bard can access enough divination spells to make the prerequisite.
** - Yes, it looks nice, but it's pretty mediocre.  It's more suited for melee classes that are mobile (evasion, uncanny dodge, defensive roll) probably shouldn't be in the front lines (light armor, d6 HD, no real defensive abilities).     
Funnily enough, I also allow a lot of material from Races of Eberron, because it provides support for the races that showed up in the Monster Manual III (changelings, shifters, and warforged).

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In terms of spells, I have a spell list somewhere on my hard disk, listing all spells from PHB and SC and a comment on their usefulness. Not everything should be right, but it is a good start. If you give me your email, I could send it to you.
Thank you all for the help. I'll go re-think my build.