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The Fabulous Bard


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Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

I like the bard upgrade in general. I think that the lower levels are still a little weak, but around level 8 they get pretty powerful performance effects. This is good. I think bards need more than a combat upgrade, though, and I'll try to explain.

One thing that remains missing, IMO, is a well-defined party role. The class still comes across as "jack of all trades" (though I don't think that it's an earned impression in Pathfinder, it still remains). I think my problem is that bards still lack a well-defined party function and a sense of flash (and if there's a class that should have flash it's the bard!). I think Terry Zimmerman has a good start with adding some of the swashbuckler abilities but that doesn't sit quite right with me--at least in terms that it's only a piece of my itch with bards.

This is too bad because I think a bard does have a natural party role that the rules have simply never supported. When a party comes to the "talky bits" (audience with the king, recruiting cannon fodd... er... henchpersons, negotiations with a potential short-term ally), the party naturally wants to turn to the bard. The problem is, bards don't have any built-in, natural abilities in that department. And they should! Something like the Dread Pirate's honorable line of abilities would be a good start. Something that codifies a bard's sense of fame and general welcome. Something that gives bard players a clear path that allows them to fall into success during those talky bits.

At a minimum, a bard should get natural bonus(es) to diplomacy--without a performance check. i.e. they should be naturally glib. It wouldn't hurt if they got some Sense Motive (which, BTW is missing from both the "Unchanged Skills" and "Altered Skills" lists) as well.

Here's where my creativity runs out. If I were to get any fancier, I'd try to put together a "Fame" or "Reputation" stat (like in d20 Modern maybe) and see where that goes. Maybe call the diplomacy/sense motive bonus "Fame" and bump it every couple of levels?

Shadow Lodge

IMO one of the big problems with bards is there is no decent counterpart in fantasy fiction that make a lot of sense. There are some examples of Wizards/ sorcerers that cast spells using songs/ music but IMO they are more like D&D sorcerers than D&D bards. The closes think in fiction I can think of for a bard parallel is JonTom From the Alan Deal Foster's Spellsinger series.... however even he is more like a battle sorcerer than a Bard.

Looking at the bulk of fiction I read there are 3 main heroic 'roles' the wizard, the rogue, and the fighter. Sometimes the fighter matches the ranger/ barbarian/ paladin role more closely. Clerics are usually secondary characters. Bards like they are in D&D? Rare or non-existant.

-- Dennis


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
0gre wrote:

IMO one of the big problems with bards is there is no decent counterpart in fantasy fiction that make a lot of sense. There are some examples of Wizards/ sorcerers that cast spells using songs/ music but IMO they are more like D&D sorcerers than D&D bards. The closes think in fiction I can think of for a bard parallel is JonTom From the Alan Deal Foster's Spellsinger series.... however even he is more like a battle sorcerer than a Bard.

Looking at the bulk of fiction I read there are 3 main heroic 'roles' the wizard, the rogue, and the fighter. Sometimes the fighter matches the ranger/ barbarian/ paladin role more closely. Clerics are usually secondary characters. Bards like they are in D&D? Rare or non-existant.

Eh? I have to disagree. Yeah, bards aren't as common in the literature as warriors or wizards, but they're hardly absent. The wikipedia article on D&D bards gives enough background on the inspiration for the class to understand why they've been in D&D since 1e. From Fflewddur Fflam in Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain to Stephen R. Lawhead's Taliesin, bards can hardly be said to be absent in the literature.


If we're naming fantasy bards, let's also count Rein from Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber and Carisman from Terry Brook's The Druid of Shannara (also numerous fools and lovers from Shakespeare's plays and other classic sources of literature).

The bard has always been my favorite class mainly because they could be anything from an archeaologist to a troubadour to a court jester. I love the knew bardic knowledge system (easier on the DM and on the player). It sucked to have this really versatile ability that either yielded a golden egg or bupkiss and made the DM have to create random stories on the fly.

I can see how bards get pigeonholed into the role of negotiators: they're the only core class besides sorcerors and paladins who NEED a good charisma AND have the points to invest in the skills that make that role work. But to say that bard's have to fill that role, doesn't that take away from the jack-of-all-trades mentality?

The biggest thing that needs tweeking are the numerous abilities whose save DC is the bard's perform check. Even if the player didn't feel like cracking out their character, a level 20 bard with max ranks and a 20 charisma will still have an average save DC of 37 vs. death. Maybe if it was just based on their ranks, instead of their rolls...


How about some real bards?

Shakespeare
Will-A-Dale
Homer

How about the Skalds, the sort who kept tales like Beowulf alive?


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
rein451 wrote:
I can see how bards get pigeonholed into the role of negotiators: they're the only core class besides sorcerors and paladins who NEED a good charisma AND have the points to invest in the skills that make that role work. But to say that bard's have to fill that role, doesn't that take away from the jack-of-all-trades mentality?

I don't think that the "Jack-of-all-Trades mentality" is an asset to the class. I think it leaves people without a handle on playing the character or what their role in the party can/should be. Which means the bard is often the after-thought/forgotten character when it comes to party dynamics. Which I think is a crying shame for a class that is ostensibly extroverted enough to have "perform" as a required skill.


A Bard from the movies no one mentioned:

So they sent for a witch with a terrible twitch
to ask how my future impressed her.
She took one look at me... and cried,
"He, he, he, he, he, he, he, he, he, *HE*!
What else could he be but a jester?"

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049096/

Danny Kaye is da Bard! :-)


A bard has a very clearly defined role: support. The PRPG bard is now more of a battlefield controller, but his previous abilities of support remain. Despite the diverse bard skill list, many 3.5 bards used their skill points primarily for Knowledge skills, being one of only two classes with all Knowledge skills on their list. It was natural for many players to want to take advantage of that. Their bardic music abilities are designed to support the party, protecting them and enhancing their existing abilities. Their spells were a mix of battlefield control and support spells, much like the cleric. Ultimately, the bard filled a support role similar to that of a cleric or druid with less emphasis on healing.


Jacob Proffitt wrote:
rein451 wrote:
I can see how bards get pigeonholed into the role of negotiators: they're the only core class besides sorcerors and paladins who NEED a good charisma AND have the points to invest in the skills that make that role work. But to say that bard's have to fill that role, doesn't that take away from the jack-of-all-trades mentality?
I don't think that the "Jack-of-all-Trades mentality" is an asset to the class. I think it leaves people without a handle on playing the character or what their role in the party can/should be. Which means the bard is often the after-thought/forgotten character when it comes to party dynamics. Which I think is a crying shame for a class that is ostensibly extroverted enough to have "perform" as a required skill.

When I say Jack-of-all trades, I mean that you can build a bard to fit any role, mechanically, based on party makeup. If you have a wizard, fighter, and rogue in the party, you can build him to be a healer. You can make your bard anything you want...that to me is a big attraction of the class.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
rein451 wrote:
When I say Jack-of-all trades, I mean that you can build a bard to fit any role, mechanically, based on party makeup. If you have a wizard, fighter, and rogue in the party, you can build him to be a healer. You can make your bard anything you want...that to me is a big attraction of the class.

I know that's what you meant. I'm saying this isn't an asset for a class that is supposedly extroverted. All the bards from fiction and imagination want to have the spot-light. When most people think of a bard, they think of the guy on the stage, the focus of all attention, directing their emotions through a performance. The bard directs and controls and that's not a support or stop-gap or band-aid kind of role. If your concept of the bard is as a band-aid to fill in where needed or as the best alternative to having the "real thing", then you'll find the actual role fundamentally at odds with the popular concept. That makes it hard to get a handle on the personality of your bard as a player (whether you're playing the bard or dealing with one in your party).

And aside from the role-playing aspects, being a second-class anything is a suck. If your party needs a healer, make a cleric. If it needs a fighter, create a fighter. A Jack-of-all-trades sucks because you'd always prefer to have the real deal when the chips are down.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
airwalkrr wrote:
A bard has a very clearly defined role: support. The PRPG bard is now more of a battlefield controller, but his previous abilities of support remain. Despite the diverse bard skill list, many 3.5 bards used their skill points primarily for Knowledge skills, being one of only two classes with all Knowledge skills on their list. It was natural for many players to want to take advantage of that. Their bardic music abilities are designed to support the party, protecting them and enhancing their existing abilities. Their spells were a mix of battlefield control and support spells, much like the cleric. Ultimately, the bard filled a support role similar to that of a cleric or druid with less emphasis on healing.

That's the current concept. I think that concept is flawed. When a typical player thinks of bard personalities from fiction or popular conception, they aren't seeing support. They are seeing star. They are seeing ego. They are seeing charisma and leadership. If the rules don't support that conception (and you have pretty much admitted that they don't), then playing the bard is going to be an exercise in frustration from the cognitive dissonance resulting from the disconnect between reality and concept.


Lorenz Lang wrote:

A Bard from the movies no one mentioned:

So they sent for a witch with a terrible twitch
to ask how my future impressed her.
She took one look at me... and cried,
"He, he, he, he, he, he, he, he, he, *HE*!
What else could he be but a jester?"

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049096/

Danny Kaye is da Bard! :-)

Definetly need a Danny Kaye Prestige Class...

Osirion

Jacob Proffitt wrote:
That's the current concept. I think that concept is flawed. When a typical player thinks of bard personalities from fiction or popular conception, they aren't seeing support. They are seeing star. They are seeing ego. They are seeing charisma and leadership. If the rules don't support that conception (and you have pretty much admitted that they don't), then playing the bard is going to be an exercise in frustration from the cognitive dissonance resulting from the disconnect between reality and concept.

How do the rules not support Charisma and Leadership? Charisma is the basic stat of the bard and they can take leadership as a feat just like everyone else. Bards make great talky characters, and at 6th level they take leadership and can lead a horde of underlings against their enemies. Sure they aren't directly great at combat, but creating a leader character is very possible. They just tend to lead from the middle, not the front.


0gre wrote:

IMO one of the big problems with bards is there is no decent counterpart in fantasy fiction that make a lot of sense. There are some examples of Wizards/ sorcerers that cast spells using songs/ music but IMO they are more like D&D sorcerers than D&D bards. The closes think in fiction I can think of for a bard parallel is JonTom From the Alan Deal Foster's Spellsinger series.... however even he is more like a battle sorcerer than a Bard.

Looking at the bulk of fiction I read there are 3 main heroic 'roles' the wizard, the rogue, and the fighter. Sometimes the fighter matches the ranger/ barbarian/ paladin role more closely. Clerics are usually secondary characters. Bards like they are in D&D? Rare or non-existant.

-- Dennis

To the contrary, I see quite a lot of characters in fantasy fiction that just scream "bard" to me, ranging from Peter Piper to Demyx of Organization XIII, and everything in between. However, the problem is that D&D designed THEIR bard in such a way that it doesn't match up with most of these archetypes very well, and fiction rarely portrays "bard" characters as the D&D rules do, such as with the playing a lute through the skirmish to give allies courage nonsense. In fact, this problem runs deeply enough that even some directly D&D-based fiction runs their bards in a very different fashion from the way the D&D rules do! See, for example, Bound By Iron.

The greatest error of the bard design is, in my opinion, that it doesn't work well for fulfilling many bard concepts beyond those directly based on D&D! It just doesn't match up. It doesn't represent all that fantasy fiction that D&D is suppposed to let you represent as well as one might think it should.

I also think these misconceptions about the bard's mechanics need to be addressed. For one thing, they're HARDLY weak (and indeed, can be extremely abusive), though they do suffer from a lot of mechanical oddities and flaws. To quote from the WotC CharOp boards "The old-fashioned notion that the Bard is weak has long since fallen out of style here." Another thing is that they tend to benefit far more from specialization than being a "jack of all trades," and experienced bard players tend to come out with strongly specialized builds. Just cuz the PHB fluff tells you they're a jack of all trades doesn't mean that it's true. Will give more explanation and examples and evidence and whatnot on all that when I get a chance.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

It seems odd to me that folks think being a jack-of-all-trades makes someone ill-suited to be a leader. To the contrary, the best leaders are those with a strong and engaging personality who can inspire others — an advocate You can trust to stand up for You or watch Your back.

I would say that being well-rounded and possessed of diverse skills actually helps the bard's cause as a leader. A king or president doesn't need to be an expert warrior, financial genius or brilliant scientist in order to lead a nation. However, if they have a broad education and surround themselves with capable specialists then they might better appreciate their individual talents and know how to put them to go work. By comparison, someone who knows only war could make for an awful leader during times of peace or be ill-suited to handling diplomatic encounters.

In terms of being the star, is the vocalist of a rock band less of a leader because they do not necessarily have to be specialized in an instrument? In many bands, the vocalist will also play bass which is an important part of backing and filling-in the rest of the group's sound.

IMO, if a D&D bard is incapable of coming across as the star/leader of the party, it's not due to any failing of the rules but rather a failure of the player to know how to approach the class and realize its potential.

Quite frankly, the bard is one of my favorite classes right up there with the Ranger and Cleric. The indentity crisis that others have had with the class or the perceived failings of the class that OOTS likes to poke fun at have never hindered me.

My favorite character? Yep, she's a bard — something of a cross between a female James Bond, Cyrano de Bergerac and Batman. She leads a crew of privateers and while she isn't the toughest, or the best caster, or the most devastating fighter, she has cunning and force of personality. When she leaps about the battle-field, rapiers flashing, she take out key obstacles, rescues allies, and sings raucous hymns with bravado that unnerves the enemy and gets her allies blood pumping.

Screw the lute...

Bards are METAL!


Interesting thread,

I would like to have find it before i post on another thread :

http://paizo.com/paizo/messageboards/paizoPublishing/pathfinder/pathfinderR PG/feedback/alpha3/racesClasses/firstThoughtsBard

I suggest in my thread a few improvement for the bard, but i agree that a core ability that would make the bard feel special is good, but this is not the purpose of the bardic performance ? No other class have this. Maybe we could give a few more usages out of this other than the usual +1/+1 usage or fascination. The inspire courage is great, make me think of the local rock band that can boost a audiance. Inspire competence always was a little silly (i replace by a dragon magazine variant that boost caster level of other casters). Why not more complete list of choice that would represent a few bards (the leader, the charmer, the buffer/group inspiration, the story or knowledge seeker that follow the heroes). Maybe a usage of bardic music to boost diplomacy check ? I mean, this is the unique ability, so if you want to give the bard a unique role other than being a jack of all trade, why not focus on this and give more options (as you can have the "ranger archer" or "ranger warrior with two weapons" style).

and i maintain my idea to buff a little bit the bard with a evasion or trap sense class ability.

So here are a few bards....

Orpheus, that have gone to hades to bring back is lover only with his voice, charming the cerebus and the demons that kept her alive....

Puck, the little "entertainer" of Oberon. Machiavelous, full of trick to fool other arounds. More the "magic" type.

Somebody quoted Cyrano de Bergerac. More a "fighter/bard", but still a bard. His "cadet de gascogne" inspired by his passion and his poetry been a weapon he master as much as his sword in combat to demoralise his enemies.

For fan of the French caracter Asterix, the bard Assurancetourix, the annoying bard nobody likes, but that his own adventure as his voice is a powerful curse breaker in another country (it tend to rain when he sing...)

Shereazade, surviving a thousand and one night with her only ability to charm a prince with her stories. Manipulating him so he always wanted to have more

And that 300 caracter that survive sounded to me like a warrior/bard...

And so on... Bard are iconic caracters. Not as present as fighters, but at least as present as any other class in litterature.


I think the OP is right.
Take a look at the SW:SAGA Edition (if you can).
Especially the Jedi Consular and the Noble Talent Trees.
Those should be good starting points for additional bard abilities.

On the other hand,

I actually always felt that the bard was and is still a big concept failure. Honestly.
Giving him a bunch of spells AND several bardic music effects is just streching the point (or whatever you name it).

I think he should gain EITHER bardic music OR spells that must use singing, playing, orating as components.

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