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Treantmonk's Guide to Bards (Optimization)


Advice

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Note to readers: Welcome to my first Pathfinder Handbook, the guide to Bards. I would like to remind all readers that I cannot edit this post. Mistakes, additions, or any other kind of edit will never be seen in this post.

However, please take a look at this Google Document of Treantmonk's Guide to Bards which not only has lots of nice pretty pictures, and different colors, but will also be edited as required, so, the longer this post is here, the more reason you have to click the link, rather than read the rest of this post here.

My only request to you the reader is to please comment. Do so by replying to this post. I will be checking replies regularly, and responding to any questions or comments regularly as well. If you like what I've done, let me know. If you don't, by all means let me know that as well. Let me know what you agree with, and what you don't (but don't forget to tell me why I'm wrong!). I appreciate all replies, whether positive or negative, so thank you in advance for replying.

So, without further ado:

Treantmonk's Guide to Bards: Pathfinder Core Rules

The Bard is often a class with misunderstood abilities. He is not a martial class, not a cannon, not a primary caster, not a primary healer. However, too often is the term "JoAT" used (Jack of All Trades), when in truth, the Bard's ability to do "fill any role required" in a party is also often overstated. If your Bard's job is to fill in for a missing party fighter, I recommend having your replacement character ready (probably a fighter type?). So exactly what is the Bard supposed to be doing? How is the Bard going to be a class that fills a meaningful role in the party? What role do you fill?

I hear the following comments often: "The Bard is good at what he does.", or "The Bard is an excellent 5th party member". The first comment of course leads to the question "Exactly what does he do? Are you suggesting he's good at sucking?", while the second comment is pure code for, "The Bard cannot fill a role in a four person party". If you want an effective Bard, it needs to be a Bard that is an effective party member in a 4 person party. We need to see and explore exactly what the Bard is good at, and how that fits into a four person party.

That is the purpose of this Handbook. Most class handbooks take a pretty standard approach, discuss race options, attribute priorities, feat choices, prestige class choices, then offer you some builds.

However, the difficulty with that for Bards is depending on your build, your race options, feat choices, and even attribute priority will change significantly. Therefore, this handbook will be a compilation of a few smaller handbooks, discussing the builds of each separately. The spell section and Bardic Music section will then be at the end, which will be advice for all builds.

Backwards Compatibility Note

OK, so Pathfinder has been officially declared backwards compatible. Personally, I've already had some issues with backwards compatibility, so our group plays core only (until Pathfinder specific support is published). I'm guessing there are many others in the same boat...this handbook is for them. If 3.5 material is allowed in your campaign, read no further, there is nothing I can offer in core Pathfinder that can compare with the various options in 3.5 splatbooks that allow casting comparable with wizards or pump your inspire courage to ungodly levels. This handbook is to help core Pathfinder players make an effective core Pathfinder Bard. My quick suggestion for players who have 3.5 options is I can't help think what excellent synergy there would be between the new Bardic Knowledge mechanics and Knowledge Devotion (Complete Champion)...

Types of Bard:

Really with a Bard, you have to accept that you are a secondary caster, you can't cast as often, know less spells, and are less specialized towards casting than any full caster. That said, spells are still your best ability, however, you need to spread your wings, because if you focus completely on spell casting, you will find yourself a pretty lousy sorcerer. So each Bard build I recommend will be showing one other combat viable option you can build your Bard towards to fill the gap that weaker spell casting represents. These options are the Archer Bard, the Melee Bard, and the Controller Bard. You can mix and match the ideas within these builds to create a bit of a hybrid if you like, but some specialization will ensure that you can fulfill the role. Even with specialization to their specialty, expect to find each of these styles to be fairly flexible.

Before getting into specifics for each type though, we all know that there is one skill that every Bard must have (probably multiple times), and that is Perform. In the case of the Bard, Perform not only is a requirement for your Bardic Music, but Versatile Performer allows you to use Perform to cover other skills. Every 4 levels you will be able to cover 2 more skills with one more perform type. This is a good deal, and every Bard should take advantage of it.

Perform styles that use instruments: These perform choices carry the obvious disadvantage that you need to use an instrument. This requires that a) you actually have the instrument available, and b) that you use your hands to play the instrument. These are some pretty significant disadvantages, so in general, I don't recommend this as your primary perform type. However, the advantage of this style of perform is that you can get a masterwork instrument, which gives a very nice +2 bonus that stacks with pretty much anything.

Perform styles that don't use instruments: These perform choices won't require an instrument, which provides the obvious benefit of using the perform skill whenever, even if you are using a sword and wearing a shield. Also, based on whether your perform skill is Oral (like Sing or Oratory), or Visual (Like Dance) will potentially allow you to use your perform without sound, or without being seen. I recommend your first perform skill be one that doesn't use an instrument, either visual or one that uses sound, and you will use this for both your first versatile performance and for Bardic Music. The last thing you want in the middle of combat is needing to draw or conjure and instrument, using up valuable actions.

Versatile Performance:
This ability must be considered before choosing your skills. It allows you at 2nd level to use your perform bonus in place of skill bonuses for other skills. The way it is worded, it seems you use your perform skill total, including any bonuses (presumably stat and masterwork instrument bonuses), this suggests that if you can get skills covered that would normally be based on a weaker stat (like Sense Motive), you are increasing the benefit of the ability.

It also suggests that your character is actually performing, which means if you are using Perform (Keyboard) to duplicate intimidate, this creates the obvious inconvenience of needing a keyboard instrument to do it. Once again, perform skills that do not require an instrument will be more convenient.

In general I think 2 perform skills is appropriate for a 1st level Bard. This will cover versatile performance for your first 9 levels. Around level 6 you need to start increasing a 3rd perform to prepare for your 3rd versatile performance at level 10. Naturally, you are best to plan ahead, and not waste skill ranks on skills which will eventually be replaced by perform. The Bard has no shortage of excellent skills to choose from, so this will not be difficult. Either leave these skills at 0 ranks, or, if you really want to use them in the first few levels, take 1 rank to activate your class skill bonus and you should be OK.

Also you need to avoid redundancy. Taking Acting and Comedy as your first 2 performances will give you Versatile Performances that each provide bluff. If the second perform skill is only covering one skill, it really isn't much of an advantage over just taking that skill instead.

My personal recommendation? I recommend Oratory as your first Performance skill, than either Act or Dance as your second, depending on your Bard's style. If my Bard is especially espionage centred, I would take Act first.

Act: Bluff and Disguise. Uses no instrument which is nice, and gives two skills that are both fairly useful. This will work best for the espionage style of character

Comedy: Bluff and Intimidate. Uses no instrument which is nice. Half Orcs should take note that they may be better off with their base Intimidate than through this ability

Dance: Acrobatics and Fly. Note that you never get a fly spell, but this will be especially useful for Bards who maybe don't have great Dex scores, so they can use CHA in place of DEX.

Keyboards: Diplomacy and Intimidate. Two good skills, but I have to consider keyboards the most inconvenient instrument possible. Make sure you have summon instrument!!!

Oratory: Diplomacy and Sense Motive: Sense motive is based of Wisdom normally, so this is a big bonus, and there is no instrument, and you get to be a storyteller!

Percussion: Handle animal and Intimidate: Handle Animal offers some skill versatility, Instrument based

Sing: Bluff and Diplomacy: Both strong skills and no instrument required, a good first choice

Wind: Diplomacy and Handle animal: Again, the Handle Animal is nice for versatility, and diplomacy is always a good option

Bardic Knowledge:
Now adds 1/2 your level to your Knowledge checks and lets you use Knowledges untrained. Past low levels, untrained really doesn't do you much good, as you're bonus will be too low. Investing one skill rank activates the Class Skill bonus, so every knowledge is probably worth one skill rank at some point. After that, raising your primary knowledges every other level should keep them at totals that will work nicely for you. Maxing out is not really required, unless you want to be "super" at one particular knowledge - certainly not something you can afford for more than one or two knowledges.

Lore Master:
Once you are level 5, you can take 10 on knowledge rolls if you like, and as a standard action you can take 20 on one knowledge roll per day, and you can do it more often as you increase levels. This is really nice, because it means even knowledges that you aren't really great with, you can take 20, and with your Bardic Knowledge added in, a lot of ranks in the skill will likely not be required. This ability truly turns all Bards into "Lore Masters"

Jack of all trades:
Not something you should put too much thought into at character creation. This ability will
let him use skills untrained at level 10 (an overrated ability), then at level 16 you consider all skills to be class skills, but unless pretrained in that skill (which you probably wont be) it's a bit late to get it up to par; Finally, at level 19, you can always take 10. An OK ability, but at that level, not a big deal.

The rest of your skill points:

If you are taking 2 kinds of perform right at level 1, then we usually will have 4 to 6 more skill points to spend. Here's some of the Bard Class skills that you likely won't cover with versatile performance, that you should consider:

Use Magic Device: You have a good CHA, and this is a great skill. There really is no excuse not to take this
Stealth: A very useful skill that is based on Dex, which you likely have a level from decent to good
Knowledge (any): Loremaster and Bardic Knowledge aren't going to do you much good without at least one rank in each of these to activate your class skill bonus. Putting one rank every other level will give you the same bonus as another class that maxed it out.
Spellcraft: How sad would it be to have a Bard that couldn't identify magic items? Pretty sad. Spellcraft is a good option.
Perception: It's wisdom based which hurts, but it is also the most used skill in the game by far, I would recommend taking this.
Acrobatics: If you are a halfling, you probably want to take advantage of your skill bonus, in addition, tumbling is very good for skirmishers, which you are

You are more than out of skill points now. I know, 6 per level sounds like a lot doesn't it? The 2 perform skills, use magic device and perception would be my first priorities - then go from there. One rank in each knowledge can make quite a difference as well, even if you can't afford to keep them up.

The Archer Bard

The Archer Bard uses arrows to pound away at enemies between spellcasting. The problem with a core archer build in 3.5 is the ability to do damage. It is one thing to put a bunch of arrows in the air that all hit, but if you are rolling d6 damage for those arrows, you are really not contributing much. An Archer Bard needs to contribute significant damage with his arrows, and although you cannot hope to compare with a Rogue or even a Fighter in this regard, Pathfinder creates some options that will make your arrows sting far worse than they did in core 3.5. Check the Feats section to see what options I'm talking about.

Attributes:
The Archer Bard is relatively balanced on attribute requirements. Any Bard eventually requires a 16 CHA (so they can use their highest level spells), but beyond a 16 is not really required. A 15 starting CHA works the Stat buy to best effect. Beyond that, you want a good Str (for damage), Dex (to hit and feat requirements), and you don't want to dump either Con or Int, but a 10-12 range is acceptable for either. Wisdom is truly a dump stat, so dump away.

So for example, if I was playing a Human Bard with a 15 point stat buy my stats would look something like this:

Str: 14 (5)

Dex (+2 racial): 17 (7)

Con: 10

Int: 10

Wis: 7 (-4)

Cha: 15 (7)

So, by priority your requirements would be Dex, Cha, Str, Con, Int, Wis

Race:
Obviously, for this build a good Dex is key. Feats like Manyshot have Dex requirements that should be planned to meet at character creation, and Dex is directly affecting "To Hit" as well. Therefore, Dex bonuses are key in racial choices. The following races all serve the build well:

Elf: The Int and Con modifiers will cancel out equally in point buy, leaving you with a +2 Dexterity mod. Elves are proficient with Longbow, which is a slightly preferable weapon than the shortbow other Archer Bards will be using (expect +1 damage on average - the range won't come in to play often, but is a nice to have). Elves also get a +2 to perception roles (which will offset the Wisdom dump), and a +2 on defeating SR (mechanically the same as taking the spell penetration feat - not a huge priority for Bards, but for free we'll take it gladly). Also, if you want to go down the Arcane Archer route, Elf is a better option than Half Elf)

Halfling: The Cha and Dex bonuses are excellent. The strength minus hurts, and I recommend spending a bit extra to make sure that Strength is a 12 or 13 starting at least (if you go 13, use a stat increase to get to 14). Halflings small size gives a +1 to hit as well (and +1 AC). Stealth bonuses for size are also very nice. There are a few skill bonuses that are helpful (Stealth, Perception, Acrobatics, and perhaps Climb), and +1 to all saves is a welcome bonus. The big disadvantage of the Halfling is the 20 feet movement rate. Tactically this can really hurt, especially at lower levels when other movement options aren't really available (phantom steed will eventually end this problem for you). Overall, the Halfling is my favorite choice for the Archer Bard.

Human: The flexible stat bonus will hit Dex. The main purpose of taking a human is for the bonus feat. This will allow your character to make rapid shots right at level 1, and make no mistake, the Bard remains feat hungry even in Pathfinder, so a bonus feat is a good bonus. The extra skill point is also nice, as you will find your 6 skill points per level run out really fast (even with the concentration feat gone).

Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Gnome: These all make decent Archer Bards, but I would consider them secondary choices. The Dwarf is probably your weakest choice.

Favored Class Bonus: So, you can choose between the extra HP or Skill Point. I'm not going to suggest which is better for a Bard, because I think it really depends how your Con turned out (a lower Con will benefit from the extra HP, while a lower Int benefits more from the extra Skill Point). Nothing is wrong with switching off these bonuses each level either.

Feats:

I recommend you take these feats in approximate order (alter for personal preference), starting at level 1. If you are a human, maybe switch Far Shot for Mounted Combat/Mounted Archery for your level 17 and 19 feat.

Naturally, if you need to qualify for a Prestige Class, consider your requirements. For Example, if you want to be an Arcane Archer, you need weapon focus.

Point Blank Shot: +1 to hit and damage within 30'. You aren't a long ranged archer, so this is workable. More importantly, Point Blank shot is a prerequisite for most of the archery feats. Take this at level 1

Rapid Shot: Fire an extra arrow with every full attack. The -2 to hit is well worth it. The 13 Dex requirement is no problem.

Precise Shot: Eliminate penalties to fire into melee. Hint: You will be firing into melee most of the time, so this is a good pick, since -4 to hit is pretty painful.

Arcane Strike: Use a swift action at the beginning of the round to add +1 damage to your attack and make your attack magical for the purpose of defeating DR. The +1 increases with level. This is just a really great ability for Bard's in general, but specifically for archers, note that the bonus is not restricted to "melee only" which makes it good for the Archer Bard. If you've played an archer before, you know how easy it is to run out of magical ammunition. This bonus isn't typed, so it's stackable with enhancement bonuses.

Deadly Aim: -1 to hit for +2 damage. Then -2/+4 etc as you level up. This feat alone makes archery a viable option in Pathfinder. Well done Paizo!

Manyshot: You need a 17 Dex, which you probably should be able to do. This makes your first arrow attack doubled on a full attack option. It seems you can use both Manyshot and Rapid shot on the same attack, which is pretty cool. Furthermore, your damage bonuses aren't precision based, so you'll be adding everything except critical bonus damage to both arrows.

Dodge: Is a requirement for mobility

Mobility: Is a requirement for shot on the run

Shot on the run: Specifically you want this at higher levels to use on your Phantom Steed. You can then attack at any point in your phantom steeds movement, and you can do a full attack for lots and lots of stingy arrows.

Far Shot: Not a huge priority, but can allow some very long range shots, especially with a longbow. Makes any range pain you are having with shortbow go away.

Prestige Class suggestion:

I'm not a big fan of prestige classes for the Bard. The reason is because Bardic Music isn't going to be advanced by any prestige class. However, there is one prestige class that meshes pretty good with this build if you want to focus more on archery than other aspects of your build, and that's the Arcane Archer. Elven Bards can qualify quite easily by level 8. Don't consider this a necessary PrC for your Archer Bard - but it's certainly a viable option, just remember that your focus moves more heavily to archery when you take this option, while spellcasting weakens, and Bardic Music doesn't progress at all. Also, you will be more skill hungry than ever.

Arcane Archer: If you haven't seen what Pathfinder did to this Prestige Class take a look. The Arcane Archer is a beast. Instead of the flat enhancement bonuses added to arrows, Arcane Archers are now enhancing with Flaming, Icy burst, Holy, etc with every arrow. This will not only vastly increase damage, it will also make almost any DR passable. In addition the Arcane Archer is now providing 7 levels of spellcasting progression. The "Special arrow" options are familiar from the 3.5 versions.

The Melee Bard

Don't make the mistake of thinking I'm suggesting turning your Bard into a front line fighter. That simply cannot be done effectively, Instead, the melee bard will skirmish, closer to the style of a Ranger. Does that mean I'm recommending TWF for a Bard? As a matter of fact...no. I wish I could, because I think the Melee Bard would be very effective with TWF, unfortunately, try as I might, the attribute requirements are too intensive as are the feat requirements. Instead, the Melee Bard is a bruiser, using Strength as it's primary tool to add melee support to the front liners.

Melee Bards that take the Combat Expertise chain want to carry a whip, in addition, a two handed weapon will make for a quick switch when tripping or disarming isn't your best choice. Longspear is a nice choice for most Bards giving you two handed damage with reach. Half Orcs may want to go with a Greataxe or Falchion instead.

Melee Bards that skip Combat Expertise (the main reason would be to avoid the Int requirement) then wearing a shield becomes a very real possibility. Classic Sword and Board works OK, though, I would recommend either rapier and shield or Falchion (if you are Half Orc) to get the most out of critical feats.

Attributes:
Any Bard eventually requires a 16 CHA (so they can use their highest level spells), but beyond a 16 is not really required. A 15 starting CHA works the Stat buy to best effect. Beyond that, you want a good Str (for damage), Dex (AC and initiative), Your Int should be 13 for feat requirements (alternatively, if you want to give up on tripping, you can take a 10), whatever you got left can go to Con. Wisdom is truly a dump stat, so dump away.

So for example, if I was playing a Human Bard with a 15 point stat buy my stats would look something like this:

Str (+2 racial): 16 (5)

Dex (+2 racial): 13 (3)

Con: 12 (2)

Int: 13 (3)

Wis: 7 (-4)

Cha: 15 (7)

(Use level 4 stat increase on STR, then your level 8 on CHA, then your level 12 on Dex)

So, by priority your requirements would be Str, Cha, Dex, Int, Con, Wis

Race:
Obviously, for this build a good Str is key. Your to-hit and damage will each rely on having a good Strength score. No race has a set Strength bonus, but 3 races have flexible stat bonuses. Small size is bad for Melee Bards, so Halflings and Gnomes along with their Str penalties aren't great choices.

Half-Elf: The flexible stat modifier can go into STR. Bonus skill focus naturally is a very nice bonus for Bards as they can put it into their primary perform skill at they are really getting skill focus for 3 skills. The bonus to perception helps cover the low Wisdom score. Unfortunately, the extra "favored class" ability is wasted since the best Bards don't multiclass with other base classes.

Half-Orc: The flexible stat modifier can go into STR (making you more traditional as a half orc as well). Personally, I enjoy having darkvision, and the intimidate bonus works nicely with a CHA strong class. Half Orcs start with a proficiency in Falchions and Greataxes, each an excellent choice for a melee Bard. Orc Ferocity may be very useful since you may find yourself in need of healing, and that standard action can allow you to get off that important healing spell. Yes, half orc is probably the best choice for the Melee Bard.

Human: The flexible stat bonus will hit Str. The main purpose of taking a human is for the bonus feat. Combat Expertise/Improved Trip are good options. Alternatively, Arcane Strike and Toughness are also good starting choices.

Elf, Gnome, Halfling and Dwarf: None make very good melee Bards.

Favored Class Bonus: With this build I would pretty much take the extra HP exclusively.

Feats:

These feats are not listed in order they should be taken, since it really depends how you want to focus. If your character is going to be more of a tripper, start with the combat expertise chain. If you are going to be more of a hitter, then Start with Arcane Strike then enter the Power Attack chain.

Arcane Strike: Provides +1 damage and magic weapon for the purposes of defeating DR. The +1 increases with level. It's stackable damage as well. Makes up for a slightly lower Str score than a dedicated meleer would have.

The Power Attack Chain:

Power Attack: -1 to hit and +2 damage. +3 if the weapon is a two-hander. This penalty and bonus increase with level.
Cleave: For a -2 to AC, get an additional attack with a standard action attack against another adjacent enemy, who thought of Cleave as a skirmishers feat?
Improved Sunder: Help out the fighter by destroying his enemies weapon. Also good for enemy casters spell component pouches or spell focuses

The Combat Expertise Chain:

Combat Expertise: Trade to hit for AC. Try to avoid needing this, but it's a prerequisite, and there are times you may need an AC boost
Improved Trip: You are proficient with the whip, this gives a 15' reach trip weapon you are proficient in, and you are STR based build.
Greater Improved Trip: Have your trip of the enemy provoke attacks of opportunity. This means you trip the guy in melee with your party brute.
(The disarm and improved disarm feats are also options, though personally, I think trip is more often useful)

The Critical Chain:

Improved Critical: Double your threat range. This works best with 18-20 base crit ranges, like the rapier or the falchion
Critical Focus: +4 to confirm criticals, and more importantly, the prerequisite for some really sick feats
Sickening Critical: Available at level 15, causes sickened effect on victim

The Dodge Chain:

Dodge: +1 AC. Nothing great, but OK
Mobility: Skirmish more effectively with a +4 AC when your movement provokes attacks of opportunity
Spring Attack: Skirmish in and out of melee as you like.

Toughness: Probably a good consideration for a meleer. Essentially the same as a +2 Con in regards to HP

Prestige Class suggestion:

I'm not a big fan of prestige classes for the Bard. The reason is because Bardic Music isn't going to be advanced by any prestige class. However, there is one prestige class that meshes pretty good with this build if you want to focus more on your melee attacks than other aspects of your build, and that's the Dragon Disciple. Any Melee Bard can qualify in his sleep. I think for a Bard Meleer, this is a better choice than Eldritch Knight.

Dragon Disciple: Much improved from 3.5. 10 levels gets you 7 spellcasting levels, continues your moderate BAB and gives 2 fast save progressions. A nice HP boost is coming with a d12 per level. You get the Sorcerer "Draconic" bloodline powers at level 1 (not great, but OK), your natural armor will begin to improve from level 1, you get some nice ability boosts to Str, Con and Int - very nice. 3 bonus feats over the first 8 levels, a bite attack (which is pretty decent with a good str), a breath weapon at level 3, blindsense at level 5 (a very nice power), form of the dragon as a spell like ability, and eventually wings. Strongly consider breaking out at level 8, as the last 2 levels offer less than the first 8, and it will save you a caster level loss at level 9.

The Controller Bard

The Controller Bard refuses to be forced into the role of damage support. When it comes to melee, the Controller Bard is really a pretender. He lashes about a whip like an expert, but is all tricks and no bite. When the whip isn't out, then its other control options rather than damaging weapons. When the Bard doesn't have the right spell at hand, he debuffs and controls the battlefield in more contemporary ways. In my personal opinion, the Archer Bard is probably the most effective Bard build, but I have a special affection for this build, that is completely tactical.

Attributes:
The Controller Build needs some Str for combat maneuvers and net tug-of-wars, but it's more of a CHA intensive build than the others.

So for example, if I was playing a Human Bard with a 15 point stat buy my stats would look something like this:

Str: 14 (5)

Dex: 14 (5)

Con: 12 (2)

Int: 10

Wis: 7 (-4)

Cha (+2 Racial Mod): 17 (7)

So, by priority your requirements would be Cha, Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis

Race:
Small Size is not good with this build either. Combat Maneuvers will be at least part of your bag of tricks, and strength is a higher requirement, so really, the racial choices are pretty similar to the meleer build.

Half-Elf: The flexible stat modifier can go into CHA. Bonus skill focus naturally is a very nice bonus for Bards as they can put it into their primary perform skill at they are really getting skill focus for 3 skills, this is especially useful when applied to Intimidate so you might want Comedy as your primary performance type. The bonus to perception helps cover the low Wisdom score.&nbsp; Unfortunately, the extra "favored class" ability is wasted since the best Bards don't multiclass with other base classes.

Half-Orc: The flexible stat modifier can go into CHA (I know - weird). Personally, I enjoy having darkvision, and the intimidate bonus works nicely with a CHA strong class, especially with this build. Orc Ferocity is OK, but not huge, and the weapon proficiencies really won't be in play.

Human: The flexible stat bonus will hit CHA. The main purpose of taking a human is for the bonus feat. You'll see in the Feat section that you have lots of options.

Others: Size is going to be an issue for Combat Maneuvers, and Elves are gaining stats in the wrong places, but nothing is off limits.

Feats:

First off, you don't need to worry about qualifying for a prestige class with this build (the prestige class section is missing for a reason - just don't do it). Secondly, these feats don't need to be taken in any particular order, though I recommend exotic weapon proficiency at level 1.

Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Net. Interesting idea? I think so. With a touch attack (easy) you are entangling enemies which means -2 on attack rolls and -4 to Dexterity. Furthermore, movement is halved, charging is impossible, and movement beyond the net's reach require an opposed STR check (and your STR isn't bad). Casters need to make concentration checks when entangled as well. You'll never need a magical Net (unless you want to entangle incorporeal creatures - then you need ghost touch), but masterwork will be handy. Also, don't restrict yourself to one. Carry a couple folded nets handy at need.

Weapon Focus (Whip or net): +1 to hit with the whip. Doesn't sound like a very good feat, but with it you can then get...
Dazzling Display (whip or net): 30' radius intimidate effect. You rock at this, it is made for Bards. Also, lets face it, the flavor is great (The bard being more style than substance using his weapon...come on, perfect.) The Shaken effect is pretty much -2 on everything. The Bard can make this effect last multiple rounds with a good intimidate check, and it is going to ignore SR, and then you don't need to worry about things like hitting in combat, instead just use one of your best skills. This works especially well if other meleers in your party take shatter defenses and deadly strike. You shake the battlefield, they take advantage of it.

Skill Focus (Perform or Intimidate): Make your dazzling display more dazzling. Half Orcs will put this in intimidate, Humans will put it into perform (comedy), half-elves took it already.

Intimidating Prowess: Add your STR and CHA to intimidate rolls. Take this with your half orc

Combat Expertise: Sacrifice to hit for AC. Since your attacks will be touch attacks, I think this is a good deal.
Improved Trip: Put that whip to use. You don't have full BAB, but you've got a decent STR and a pretty good BAB
Greater Improved Trip: Another +2, and their fall provokes attacks of opportunity

Can you see how this works? If you aren't casting, then you are throwing a net, tripping or using dazzling display to debuff the enemy. Should keep you busy. Also, get wands. Wand of Silent Image very early, then some more impressive Battlefield Controls later. Staves are for higher levels (when you can use magic device more effectively). Black Tentacles, Glitterdust, Fogs are all terrific.

ALL BARDS:

So now you have an idea of 3 different ways you can create your Bard to fill the holes when you aren't casting spells. All should work reasonably well, though they all do it in different ways.

So how does this fit into a 4 person party? Generally you mix between skirmisher and caster. Consider yourself similar to a Ranger for the niche you fill, except you can take some weight off the caster's shoulders as well. The exception is the Controller Bard who will be replacing the primary caster. With a controller bard, you really need 3 other party members who can do damage in combat. With any of these builds, the Bard is NOT the "best 5th party member", instead he becomes a viable and vibrant member of a 4 person party, leaving no notable holes in the role he fills.

Well Versed:
A very minor ability all Bards get at level 2. You get a +4 (untyped) bonus to save vs. Bardic Performance, Sonic, and Language Dependant effects. Pretty circumstantial stuff, but, hey, I'll take it.

Bardic Performance:

All Bards will be using Bardic Music increasingly as you increase levels. Generally, for a first level Bard, Bardic Music is basically a waste. The key is 7th level, when you can start Bardic Performance as a move action, and then 13th level, when you can engage it as a swift action.

Duration: Duration is very short, measured in rounds/day. This pretty much kills any attempt to add it to a skill where 20 is being taken. Also, it means if you are spending a standard action to activate it, it's often not going to be worth it (unless you can prepare for a combat beforehand). The Extra Performance Feat adds 6 rounds duration, honestly, for the feat starved Bard, this will seldom be worth it.

Countersong: Unless you KNOW that a language or sonic dependant attack is coming the way of you or your allies, I just can't see ever having this up. It's way too circumstantial for an ability with a rounds/day duration.

Distraction: If you read my reason why Countersong isn't great, you will see how it also relates to this ability, that requires you to KNOW that a vision dependant spell effect is coming. If you do know, then it's useful, but that is going to be a rare circumstance, potentially never through an entire campaign.

Fascinate: The DC is no longer based on your perform check, but a more standardized 1/2 level + CHA +10, which should be a bit better than your spell save DC's. This makes this ability less optimal, but still quite useful as the save is anything but a sure bet. As you gain levels the DC increases as does the number of targets, meaning this ability will remain useful as you increase levels. The main purpose of this ability will be to distract an opponent while your allies do something you don't want him to see, like sneaking up behind him, or buffing themselves like crazy...these penalties should stack with the lullaby cantrip as well.

Inspire Courage: The Iconic Bard ability. This will be a common use of Bardic Performance after level 7, though before it could be OK if you have a chance to prepare before combat. This ability improves with level. The bonuses are never huge, but they are significant, and will aid you as well. Being that the bonus affects attacks, and Combat Maneuvers are a "special attack", then I think the bonus will help you with your combat maneuvers as well, eliminating the penalty a non-full BAB gives you.

Inspire Competence: Available at 3rd level, this no longer is useful when your ally is taking 20 (because of your duration limits), but for skill checks where taking 20 isn't an option, it can be handy. According to Bardic Performance description, you can use this on yourself, which seems to me to be a very nice option if you are using your use magic device ability (which you can't take 20 on anyways)

Suggestion: Available at 6th level, this simulates a 2nd level Bard spell (or 3rd level Wiz/Sor), which alone makes it good for a 6th level ability. The target must first be fascinated for this ability to work. The DC will be higher than if you actually take the suggestion spell (which would be pretty redundant honestly).

Dirge of Doom: An 8th level ability. This creates the Shaken effect (with no save) for all opponents within 30 feet. If you are a controller bard, you can do this already in your sleep. For the other bards, this is a nice little debuff (-2 on pretty much everything). Nothing too special though.

Inspire Greatness: Available at 9th level. A bonus of 2 HD and a Fort save bonus to an ally (more allies with more levels). In the end, it's a few extra HP, nothing too special.

Soothing Performance: A 12th level ability. Creates a Mass Cure Serious Wounds effect, in addition it removes the conditions fatigued, shaken, and sickened. The problem (and it's a doozy) is that you need 4 rounds to complete this. That pretty much prevents it from being a reactive ability. Instead began 4 rounds ahead in a battle you might think you may need it 4 rounds later. Nah...you are probably better using inspire courage...now out of combat, if the party is low on healing, this may be a somewhat useful ability then.

Frightening Tune: 14th level ability. Much like Dirge of Doom except instead you are creating the frightened effect in your enemies. The Frightened effect is a battle ender, so this really is an amazing ability. It's like the Fear spell with a better AoE and no HD limits and an ever increasing DC. Nice.

Inspire Heroics: A 15th level ability. Gives a +4 to saves and AC (morale and dodge respectively). Considering the level that this becomes available, and that a single ally is affected (2 at level 18), I think this is a bit underwhelming.

Mass Suggestion: Available at 18th level. Really, Mass Suggestion doesn't do much for me when I'm 18th level. The spell was available 5 levels earlier. It's OK at best.

Deadly Performance: The 20th level ability. Basically a single target save or die. One nice aspect is a creature that saves is still staggered. Also, this is a supernatural ability, so SR doesn't help. Overall, a pretty decent ability, but you have to be level 20 before you get it, so I would hope so...

Spellcasting:

Whether you are an Archer, a Meleer or a Controller Bard, your spellcasting plays an important part of your character's role. Bards may not be on par with Sorcerers when it comes to casting, but it is important to remember that this isn't a minor ability for Bards. They get their full level as their caster level, as well they get early access to some very potent enchantment spells. Furthermore, their spell list is an extremely versatile list, containing Battlefield Control, Enchantment, Debuffing, Buffing, Illusion, Utility, and Healing.

However, a Bard will have less spells per day than a primary caster, significantly so. You simply will not be casting every round, you just don't have the staying power. In addition your spells known list is small, so its important to avoid redundancy or circumstantial spells and pick a list that serves your Bard type best. Spells that remain viable at higher levels need to be given preference. Spells like Sleep may be effective at low level, but at high level it is a wasted spell known. You can use "spell trading" to trade out these spells later, but never take them in the first place unless your trade out plan is already set. If in doubt, just avoid these spells entirely and pick spells that improve with your caster level, this is always a strong option.

Also, keep in mind that the Bard isn't just a spellcaster, but also a martial class, so when you can have your spells fulfill a different function than your attacks (target a specific enemy offensively), they build your versatility. Therefore, more so than with a Wizard or Sorcerer, area of effect or multi target spells have great value for Bards.

So, when looking at my "ratings" below, avoid just picking the highest ratings. I'm forcing you to put some thought into this and pick spells that a) accomplish tasks with a high level of versatility b) Target different saving throws if they require a save c) Compliment your other abilities and spells and avoid redundancy.

Cantrips are now a "cast as often as you please" effect, so pick carefully keeping this in mind. For other spells, realize beforehand that your castings are quite limited.

Ratings: I've rated all the spells, but please consider first of all, these are only recommendations, and secondly, these are based on my opinion only, by no means is this any form of official rating system. If you disagree with my rating, by all means let me know in the replies, but also, let me know why you disagree. Be aware that I don't make any guarantees that I will change my rating, but if you change my opinion, then I will.

One Star * This spell is probably one you shouldn't even consider
Two Stars ** On the weaker side, or is replaceable by a superior spell
Three Stars *** A strong option, worthy of consideration
Four Stars **** A very strong option. Don't wonder if you should take this, instead wonder if there is any reason not to.

0-Level Bard Spells

Dancing Lights: *** Can make the illusion of will-o-wisps or torches (the latter to be used in conjunction with "Ghost Sound" However, this isn't a very flexible illusion - we've all used this one right?), it also can replace a "Light" spell, except you can move it, like to make out that movement on the high ceiling (though maybe later you'll wished you hadn't!!!). The 1 min duration is the limitation, but after all, you can cast it over and over again.

Daze: *** Daze is a really just "lose a turn" for Pathfinder. The HD limit makes this a candidate for a swap-out later, but at low levels this is a decent spell, especially since you can use it as often as you like.

Detect Magic: **** Once upon a time this was a 1st level spell. Detect magic is super useful and will remain super useful forever. It is a "must have".

Flare: * Dazzled is pretty much the least impressive status you can give anyone. A -1 to hit to one person won't make a bit of difference in most combats, and that's only if they don't make their save. Throw a rock, intimidate, make a distraction, these are probably more useful things to do with your action than "Flare"

Ghost Sound: **** Used with Silent Image, you essentially make it "Minor Image", Ghost sound is a highly useful little illusion that is free to use.

Know Direction: ** This cantrip is your own personal compass. It will help you from wandering in circles in the wilderness, circumstantial, and probably pretty useless if you have a Ranger or Druid in the group.

Light: ** The standard spell to replace torchlight. The duration is pretty good. The standard strategy is to cast it on something light and small, like the feather in your cap, so you can move it around with Mage Hand or Prestidigitation at need, since it illuminates a relatively small area. Since You can only have one active at a time, light isn't entirely redundant with dancing lights - though in general you are probably better off picking one or the other.

Lullaby: * Creates a burst area where victims must make a will save or feel drowsy, giving a -5 perception penalty and a -2 save vs. sleep. I get the idea, but I'm not sure of the practical application, since Bards can't cast silently, making me think the victims are likely to figure out that they've been victimized, which I can't think works with any intention of this spell. Maybe someone else can think of a way this spell might be good.

Mage Hand: *** Like a minor Unseen Servant. Picking up and moving things at a distance can be very useful, and frankly, other than very heavy doors and chests, this spell can make the Open/Close spell kind of worthless.

Mending: *** Repair broken or sundered items to working condition. Surely its clear how this can be handy?

Message: *** Like a nerfed telepathy ability. The check to "listen in" is pretty difficult (DC 25), so most of the time this should allow at least semi-private conversations with your party members. Also useful if you are being sneaky and need to communicate with the other sneaky party members.

Open/Close: ** The purpose of this spell is to be able to open and close at a distance, thus to avoid poison gas traps, or ambushes on the other side, or those pesky mimics. Somewhat useful, though it can often be duplicated with the more versatile Mage Hand (though Open/Close can move up to 30 lbs)

Prestidigitation: *** I like Prestidigitation, not because anything it does is overly powerful, but because it can do so many things. It is a lightly powered mage hand (1 lb), it can clean you and your clothes (you are a Bard - no excuse being dirty or stinky), it can create small items (not useful as tools or weapons, but still there are various circumstantial uses). The duration is good, and I see no limitation on doing only one thing at a time with it.

Read Magic: **** Not 100% necessary, but if you want to use magical scrolls, you'll need this. (Unless you use the less reliable Use Magic Device)

Resistance: * +1 Resistance bonus for 1 minute. Of very moderate use at very low levels, then entirely useless once everyone has permanent resistance bonuses to saves.

Summon Instrument: ** One might call this a "must have" for Bards, but the more I think about it, the less certain I am that its necessary at all. If I'm playing a Bard with a performance that requires an instrument, then yes, by all means take this (but use your masterwork instrument instead whenever possible), and if Keyboards are your performance of choice, then you absolutely should take this. Singing, Dancing, Acting, Comedic, Oration Bards don't need this spell.

1st-Level Bard Spells

Alarm: ** A "camping" spell. Be aware that DM's know all kinds of ways to attack you without setting off the alarm spell. Bards really aren't going to be the best class for spells to keep your campsite safe. Even after the nerfing - Rope trick is really the best camping spell for its level in the game. That said, an alarm spell on the rope itself is probably a good tactic, but can't the wizard do that for you?

Animate Rope: * A so-so spell that really doesn't do much more for you than an unseen servant could do with the same rope.

Cause Fear: ** A decent spell at low level, but a 5HD limit means that this spell won't serve you for more than a few levels. Unless you have plans to swap it, skip it.

Charm Person: *** Only usable on Humanoids, which makes it circumstantial, but if they fail their save, you win. Often the strategy is to Charm the person to make them friendly, then use diplomacy to make them helpful.

Comprehend Languages: ** Circumstantial in use, though certainly appropriate for most Bard characters. Remember that the spell doesn't let you speak the language.

Confusion, Lesser: * Confuse 1 creature for 1 round. Even if they fail their save, there is a decent possibility that they will act normally for that one round. For this spell to be decent, it needed multiple round duration.

Cure Light Wounds: *** The standard base healing spell.&nbsp; The wand is cheap and WAY cheaper than potions. Having the spell does improve the amount healed somewhat since the spell improves up to caster level 5.

Detect Secret Doors: * Unfortunate truth #1: Bards will never replace the party rogue as a skill monkey. You don't have the castings to be casting spells like this.

Disguise Self: ** Creates a nice bonus to your disguise roll, and lets you disguise yourself instantly. The use of this spell really depends on the style of Bard you are playing. If you are playing a Bard who is going to be using disguise regularly, then this is a must.

Erase: * Erase magical writings, including the kind that blow up. However, extremely circumstantial, and if you are aware of the bad thing, then there are other ways to deal with it that don't require you to have a whole spell ready for it.

Expeditious Retreat: *** I do like this spell, despite the fact it is poorly named (since if you need to retreat, you usually don't want to spend a standard action casting a spell)

Feather Fall: ** Circumstantially extremely useful spell. The lower rating is because of how circumstantial it is. However, this is a good option for a swap-in later on, once you are flying around on phantom steeds and the like.

Grease: **** One of my favorite first level spells in the game. Targets Reflex which is a bonus, and gives you a chance to control the battlefield right from level one. Why trip someone when you can trip everyone? Also note that anyone who moves within a Grease spell (like those that get back onto their feet for example) is flat-footed, and therefore sneak attack bait. There is a save to avoid falling, but saving doesn't save you from the other controlling effects of grease. You can also cast this on a single item (if the one use wasn't enough) so that it is dropped...like someones weapon, or the Cleric's holy symbol. You can also cast this on your armor (or an ally's) to help them escape a grapple or ensure they don't get grappled in the first place. Sold yet?

Hideous Laughter: *** A reasonably effective spell that actually kind of reminds me of Hold Person. The victim of this spell is, and I quote, "can take no actions while laughing, but is not considered helpless", OK, so like daze. Good enough for me. There isn't a HD limit either, though animal Int or less won't be affected, and creatures of a different type get a considerable bonus to save. Nevertheless, potentially a combat ender.

Hypnotism: * Redundancy, your name is "Hypnotism". Very similar effect to your "Fascinate" ability (but the save doesn't go up). Not a carbon copy - but close enough that you are hindering your versatility if you take this.

Identify: ** Less important than in previous editions because you don't necessarily need the spell to identify items, but it helps.

Magic Aura: * Once again, a super circumstantial spell that I can't see using once in most campaigns.

Magic Mouth: * "Hey, don't steal me!!!" any other great uses for this spell? I can't think of any off the top of my head.

Obscure Object: * I have yet to successfully avoid being scryed by guessing what the target will be. In any case, this is going to be extremely circumstantial unless your campaign is based around one really important item in possession of the party (in which case, you still might want a wand instead because this spell would need cast 3 times every day).

Remove Fear: ** Usable as both a proactive (to grant +4 to fear saves) and reactive (to remove fear). A useful spell when you need it, though fairly circumstantial. The wand version is dirt cheap and provides nearly as good an effect (increased caster levels will eventually allow more than one target being the primary difference between taking this spell and using a wand)

Silent Image: **** One of the most versatile spells in the game. Silent Image gives NO save until you "test" it, which means a silent image wall for example, must be touched, or in some other way tested, to grant a saving throw at all. Mix with Ghost Sound as required. However, one thing I should mention before giving it "must have" status is to point out that a Silent Image wand is dirt cheap, and the duration is not level dependant, and if you avoid a saving throw then pretty much every disadvantage of using a wand is gone. Maybe instead Silent Image is the "must have" wand instead of the "must have" spell...

Sleep: ** At level 1 this spell is super awesome. At level 5 it's pretty much useless. Not a bad selection at level 1 as long as you have a plan to swap it out.

Summon Monster I: *** I've always been a fan of summoning for the sheer versatility of the spell. The lists in Pathfinder aren't quite as large, but one thing I can say, is if you are going to be a summoner, be neutral - it improves your versatility greatly. (then you can choose the celestial or fiendish template) Also a disappointment is the loss of my personal favorite trap detector...the celestial monkey.

Undetectable Alignment: ** Definitely not as useful as, say, disguise self. However, if that is your type of character, you may want this as well. Infiltrating the big bad guy's fortress is always easier if you aren't leaking good intentions out your ears.

Unseen Servant: ** Telekinesis minor. Definitely more useful than mage hand, but in the end, often mage hand will do the job, which would save you needing this spell at all. I like using an unseen servant to carry something heavy which I may need in haste

Ventriloquism: * 3 out of 4 times you think you need this spell, you will find ghost sound or message fill the bill. That one out of four times, comes very rarely.

2nd-Level Bard Spells

Alter Self: *** Grant yourself a quick disguise, gain darkvision, low light vision, scent or swim, and a small bonus to Str or Dex. Certainly a mere shadow of the 3.5 version (which was broken), but not anywhere near useless. Note that the Str or Dex bonus is a "size" bonus, which will pretty much stack with all your other stat boosts, making this spell, in many cases, a better stat boost than Bull's Str or Cat's grace.

Animal Messenger: * Use up a spell known and cast to operate a carrier pigeon. The advantage of this over an actual carrier pigeon would be that you can give directions. The use is very circumstantial, and in almost every case, Sending is just better.

Animal Trance: ** Like hypnotic pattern for animals. If you are in a campaign where you expect to fight lots of animals, this would be pretty good. If not, pretty circumstantial.

Blindness/Deafness: *** A bit redundant with Glitterdust (which you probably want instead), but the duration on this is permanent, which makes it superior against solo opponents. The save is a Fort save, which tends to be the easier save for most creatures. Since they target different saves, I can see the point to taking both, but be aware of some redundancy in effect.

Blur: *** Gives the subject concealment giving a 20% miss chance. Why so high a rating? It also makes you completely immune to sneak attacks (since you can't sneak attack a concealed target), which means your level of protection is better than it first appears.

Calm Emotions: *** Possibly better than you think. Calm emotions covers an area, and those affected cannot attack unless attacked first. This gives you a tactical advantage against enemies (getting in position, sneak attacking, buffing, etc). Also, it suppresses all kinds of buffs, but removes confusion, which is a condition that can otherwise destroy your party.

Cat's Grace: ** Grants a +4 enhancement bonus to Dex. The problem with this spell is it isn't going to stack with the primary attribute boosting magic items in the game. However, at lower levels it can be a nice little buff.

Cure Moderate Wounds: ** Bard's are useful as a secondary healer, but spells beyond cure light wounds really are more for "in combat" applications. My recommendation is to skip this and stick to out of combat healing with cure light wounds (By wand or spell)

Darkness: ** Reduces the level of light by one level. Nukes cantrips like light or dancing lights. Darkvision works in magical darkness now, so using this on creatures with darkvision is pretty useless. However, if you're party is the one with darkvision...potentially very useful.

Daze Monster: * Like the cantrip Daze. You know, the one you can cast every round all day? Except this one increases the HD limit by...wait for it...2 HD. Yep, now you can have that cantrip work on 6HD creatures instead of the normal limit of 4. Wow...that's awful.

Delay Poison: *** Not as good as neutralize poison, but not bad. You delay the effects of poison until later, or can be used proactively if you know that poison is a threat. Eventually, this will be a near all day buff that makes you basically immune to poison. Not bad at all.

Detect Thoughts: *** Fairly useful divination spell that creates a pretty big cone effect (that you can move) to detect the presence of intelligent creatures (detect the presence of hidden or invisible). Also useful to detect surface thoughts, though this provides a Will save. Conversations can be led through roleplaying to bring particular surface thoughts to mind...a decent use of this spell I've seen used.

Eagle's Splendor: ** Again, not going to stack with your magical items. For low levels, it will give a +2 save DC to your spellcasting in addition to some key skill boosts. That it is an enhancement bonus is why this is not more valuable, and should be swapped out later if taken at lower levels.

Enthrall: *** Pumps up your fascinate ability so that the fascinated creatures are not noticing anything happening around them. Any form of attack ends this effect for all involved. There are a number of restrictions and caveats, and in many ways I think Calm Emotions can achieve similar effects in tactical situations more simply, but the duration of enthrall is far superior, providing perhaps a greater number of circumstances it could be used for.

Fox's Cunning: ** Like all the Stat bonus spells, Fox's Cunning isn't going to stack with intelligence boosting magic items, and INT is only going to be useful for a select few party members. You can use it for boosts to your knowledges, or for the party Wizard to boost his spell DC's, but not much else.

Glitterdust: **** Nerfed in Pathfinder to give a save every round, but still potentially the best 2nd level spell. Reveals invisible creatures to everyone (unlike see invis), but in addition it blinds over an area. Blinded creatures are really pretty screwed. You can't take your time afterwards, but this is a devastating debuff, especially when you hit multiple creatures.

Heroism: *** A small bonus buff (+2) to attacks, saves and skill checks, the selling features are the decent duration and the stackability. In fact, it even stacks with the attack bonus from Inspire Courage, or the skill bonus with Inspire Competence which are both competence bonuses strangely enough.

Hold Person: ** Paralyzation on one humanoid for up to 1 round/level. This ability offers a Will save every round, so don't count on a full duration effect. Paralyzation can completely end a combat (Paralyzed creatures are helpless - can we say coup de gras?) - but the drawbacks are the restriction to Humanoids and that it is single target.

Hypnotic Pattern: * Two reasons I do not recommend this spell are 1) The ability is redundant with your Bardic Music fascinate ability, 2) There is a 10 HD limit - unlike your fascinate ability.

Invisibility: **** For anyone who has played this game, you surely already know that Invisibility is a very useful spell. The commonly held belief that it is only usable out of combat is often true, but not completely true. Try casting this on the party Druid while he summons up an army for example, or yourself while you buff up your party members. The point is, only direct attacks break the invisibility, and there are lots of combat actions that can be taken that are not attacks.

Locate Object: ** This is a fairly circumstantial divination spell. However, if you are looking for a specific item, the area it covers is very large which should help. Also, you can use it to detect general items, like gold for example.

Minor Image: ** I do think this is a good spell, but many times you might need an illusion, Silent Image will do the job just as well as this one (add Ghost Sound for audio if required). There is some undeniable added utility to this spell, and if for some weird reason you can't cast Silent Image, then this spell becomes a must have. I'm just reminding you to avoid redundancy.

Mirror Image: **** A fantastic self buff for defense. When this spell is first cast, the miss chance it provides dwarfs blur. Of course, as the mirror images get picked off, eventually this spell wears off entirely. However, during that time, you will have avoided several attacks directed at you.

Misdirection: ** Defeat scry spells that reveal auras (like detect good) by having you "take on" the aura of another creature or object (So you can not only mask being a goody-goody - you can even make your aura an evil one). Be aware that lots of divinations are not fooled by this spell (like detect thoughts), making it a spell that can't be entirely relied upon. Overall, OK but not great.

Pyrotechnics: **** Awesome, awesome, awesome. Disappointed that Glitterdust offers a save vs. blindness every round? Allow me to introduce Pyrotechnics that still offers a will save vs. blindness (in the "fireworks" application - the area on this is huge - so have your allies divert their eyes if possible if they are in range), but does not give any additional saves if the original is missed. Or perhaps you want the "Smoke cloud" effect that completely obscures vision (more effectively than fog cloud) and causes a -4 to Str and Dex to all within (Fort to negate), an effect that lasts 1d4+1 rounds after they leave the area. The range? Long. The lone downside to this spell is the requirement of a source of fire to originate the effect. This requires either lucky circumstance, or some pre-planning on your part. Flaming arrows or alchemist fire are some quick and dirty options.

Rage: * In general, an inferior buff to Heroism. It can affect more than one creature, though in honesty, you will probably be better off with Inspire Courage. This affect does not stack with a Barbarians Rage bonuses (and provides smaller bonuses). All affected also get a -2 AC penalty as well as all the other disadvantages of a Barbarian's rage (like the inability to use most skills for example).

Scare: * Like cause fear with a 2 HD boost to the limit. I don't like this spell for the same reason I don't like Daze Monster, though in fairness, at least this is a 2HD boost to a first level spell, instead of a boost to a cantrip.

Shatter: ** A fairly effective spell that shatters an object. Generally, the most effective application is the "single target" use, which can target any nonmagical object. A wizard's spell component pouch or a Cleric's holy symbol are examples of "non magical" objects to get your mind rolling. However, the item gets a save, and it is a single target effect, so I can't put a high recommendation on this spell.

Silence: *** If you've played this game for any period of time, you've had your party caster be a victim of this spell. If you target that caster, they get a save, so that's no good. If you target a point in space near the caster, it will work, but the caster can move out of the area, so, again not terrific. If you target a member of your party who is going to ensure to stay near the caster...now that works quite nicely. Hooray teamwork!

Sound Burst: *** A staple spell, and a decent one. Sound burst is an area of affect spell (10 ft radius) that stuns all within who fail a Fort save for one round. This can be a pretty effective, if not devastating debuff. Stunned creatures can't do much other than defend themselves (and casters can't do that very well either). Oh yeah, it does a d8 damage as well - not much, but I'll take it.

Suggestion: ** You know what I'm going to say about redundancy right? Suggestion however will be available as a spell befor


The venerable Treantmonk himself. I didn't know you were around here. Good to see your material; your God's Tools series is a spectacular resource.


Viletta Vadim wrote:
The venerable Treantmonk himself. I didn't know you were around here. Good to see your material; your God's Tools series is a spectacular resource.

Thanks! Yes, I'm a Pathfinder convert. Having a lot of fun in seeing the little changes to spells I hadn't noticed before. Writing a handbook is a good way to force yourself to go through each spell individually.

Hope you enjoy. More to come (but not for awhile)


Wow, the TreantMonk! Welcome to pathfinder...

Got a nitpick:

Versatile performance: This ability is fully reliant on Charisma, you use the skills full bonus in place of the original skill... meaning that it's a charisma skill check with all appropriate modifiers... so when using Dance instead of Acrobatics your Dex doesn't matter... neither does your ACP either... since it doesn't affect Charisma based skills. Same for the sense motive (which is WONDERFUL of course since you take a dump stat skill and basically convert it into a prime stat skill).

Small note: The Wisdom stat for the archer is wrong, should be a 7 instead of a 6... minor thing.

Currently Spring attack and cleave don't stack (full round action vs standard action).

Andoran

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Builds that rely heavily on whips should strongly consider using a scorpion whip, found in the Legacy of Fire Player's Guide - basically, all the goodness of whips, and only one of the drawbacks (the AoO). Scorpion whips are considered whips for all other purposes, including proficiency and Weapon Focus.

I've been wanting to play a melee bard for awhile. Str 18 half-orc with a greataxe... heehee!

About Mind Fog: according to the PF SRD, "you do not sense when creatures succeed on saves against effect and area spells." So one star, then.


With regard to summon instrument, in a pinch it might be possible to use it to provide improvised weapons (think an endless supply of lutes to break over other people's heads.... :D )


Abraham spalding wrote:
Wow, the TreantMonk! Welcome to pathfinder...

Thanks! Been playing Pathfinder all along (through the playtest), but new to the Paizo boards. Lots of welcomes - I've been made to feel right at home. Very cool community here.

Abraham spalding wrote:

Got a nitpick:

Versatile performance: This ability is fully reliant on Charisma, you use the skills full bonus in place of the original skill... meaning that it's a charisma skill check with all appropriate modifiers... so when using Dance instead of Acrobatics your Dex doesn't matter... neither does your ACP either... since it doesn't affect Charisma based skills.

Actually I had figured that out before I posted, but missed those. Good call! The changes have been made.

Abraham spalding wrote:
Small note: The Wisdom stat for the archer is wrong, should be a 7 instead of a 6... minor thing.

Actually, I not only made that mistake for the Archer build, I made it for all the builds - including my actual Bard character for my friends campaign. All will be fixed - thanks!

Abraham spalding wrote:
Currently Spring attack and cleave don't stack (full round action vs standard action).

Sigh..that is dissapointing. I'll remove that tip.


Treantmonk:
I'd be interested what your thoughts of the Pathfinder Chronicler are since it is a prestige class that advances bardic knowledge and (with a two level penalty) also bardic performance options.
It seems to me to have a bit of a stiff skills entry requirement, but does have 8+Int per level ranks once you're in the class as opposed to a bard's 6+Int.
I suspect that the loss of spellcasting in exchange for the various odds and ends abilities is a bit too harsh for a regular bard PC to take the class (except for roleplay reasons) in most 4 man parties, but would it be worthwhile for an NPC henchman bard to look at?
Or are supporting henchmen something you would prefer to save for an entirely different day and thread altogether?


Treantmonk - I used a couple of your guides from the WotC boards, always good stuff. When I first saw your posts I was hoping you'd be active and put up some guides.

Nice stuff.


Charles Evans 25 wrote:

Treantmonk:

I'd be interested what your thoughts of the Pathfinder Chronicler are since it is a prestige class that advances bardic knowledge and (with a two level penalty) also bardic performance options.
It seems to me to have a bit of a stiff skills entry requirement, but does have 8+Int per level ranks once you're in the class as opposed to a bard's 6+Int.
I suspect that the loss of spellcasting in exchange for the various odds and ends abilities is a bit too harsh for a regular bard PC to take the class (except for roleplay reasons) in most 4 man parties, but would it be worthwhile for an NPC henchman bard to look at?
Or are supporting henchmen something you would prefer to save for an entirely different day and thread altogether?

I am extremely unimpressed with the Chronicler. Giving up spellcasting for 2 extra skill points per level and a few minor abilities is not even close to worthwhile.

As for NPC henchmen...nope, I would still go full Bard...


Dennis da Ogre wrote:

Treantmonk - I used a couple of your guides from the WotC boards, always good stuff. When I first saw your posts I was hoping you'd be active and put up some guides.

Nice stuff.

Thanks! More guides will come, but nothing right away. For the next couple weeks I'll be looking to refine this guide (and fix up mistakes pointed out). Then I'll start looking at composing the next guide.


Wow thanks for this post. I know a certain bard that will love to read it.

Your Necromancy and Summoning posts were great over at the WotC board.


Welcome, As stated previously your handbooks rock. The board (and those optimisers amongst us) will be better off for your presence.

Question: For someone who put so much work into using/analysing 3.5 material (including the splatbooks) what kind of PF game are you playing in/prefer, core only or 3.5 allowed.

(Just interested as I'm firmly in the camp of those who did not want to see their shelves of 3.5 material go to waste)

Cheers.


Treantmonk:
I'm slightly surprised you don't consider recommending Spell Focus (conjuration) on the feat list for the controller bard, given the usefulness of grease & glitterdust and that it is a step on the way towards Augment Summoning (if desired) and creatures which might last half a round longer from the point of view of providing flank bonuses or acting as physical obstacles to enemy movement.
Although I suspect using cures (also conjuration school) as weapons against incorporeal undead under PFRPG is much less effective than it was in the days of 3.5 when incorporeals took full damage from positive energy spells and were frequently glass cannons if you could reliably hurt them.
These days though, the clerics & paladins can do much more to undead with their channel energy anyway, and hopefully the bard shouldn't need to provide cover.

Edit:
The enhanced aid another of the Chronicler looks useful, and at 9th level in the prestige class you can use your bardic music to get an extra standard action out of another character, but, sadly, I suspect that you're right and the Chronicler isn't worth the trade-off in terms of spells for a bard...
<Sigh>


You know, I've always had a love/hate relationship with handbooks or CO. For one, I tend to think like most here that it awakens the potential munchkin in otherwise fine players. But also, I think it's great for newcomers who risk being disappointed by making up a character that doesn't end up being able to do what they had envisioned it doing. Nothing like the feeling of being useless to the party and not living up to one's mental image of the character to give a bad first experience.

I think this guide is great. Because of the lack of 20+ terribly unevenly balanced splat books, I feel like this handbook talks about what a Bard is, instead of unbalanced overpowered characters who's first couple of levels happen to be Bard levels. And the little strategic advice at the end is great. If you could provide fluff/RP suggestions that expands on what is in the core description of the class, it would make it even better.

Here's to hoping for a new breed of handbooks!


Okay, one more observation before I have to sign out for now.
I don't see trait recommendations in the post, Treantmonk, though I could have passed them over, or they may be yet to come...

Anyway, a big thank-you for taking the time to think these things through and post them. I may not concur with absolutely everything you have to say, but your level of courtesy does you credit... :)

Edit:
Okay, hopefully that was my last edit for this session, too. ;)


Thanks for this thread. I do find some choices odd and you have made some mistakes.
But choices isn’t a big deal. Just a matter of taste so I won’t go into detail just name a few.
I hope that’s fine by you. Thanks for the link.

Treantmonk wrote:


Versatile Performance [...]It also suggests that your character is actually performing,

No, it actually isn't. You don't have to perform. The text only says "He can use his bonus in that skill in place of his bonus in associated skills." You can use the bonus. You don't use the perform skill.

Treantmonk wrote:


Inspire Competence [...]
According to Bardic Performance description, you can use this on yourself, which seems to me to be a very nice option if you are using your use magic device ability (which you can't take 20 on anyways)

No, According to Bardic Performance description you can't use it on yourself.

Treantmonk wrote:


Dirge of Doom: An 8th level ability. This creates the Shaken effect (with no save) for all opponents within 30 feet. If you are a controller bard, you can do this already in your sleep. For the other bards, this is a nice little debuff (-2 on pretty much everything). Nothing too special though.

Sure it's special. It gives you options. Even if you are not a controller bard you will use spell sometimes and other spell casters in your party will love it. I use it all the time.

Dire of doom as a move action then grease or glitterdust. The rogue and the cleric loves me.
I keep it up until our cleric has cast his flame strike or holy smite.

At higher levels you can, in the same round, use Dirge of Doom as a move action, cast spells like grease, glitterdust, shout or any spell that need DC, then start Inspire Courage as a swift action to boost your party. All in the same round.

Dazzling Display is a full round action and you have to beat their DC.
Dirge of Doom has no save and no DC to beat.

Treantmonk wrote:


Shot on the run: Specifically you want this at higher levels to use on your Phantom Steed. You can then attack at any point in your phantom steeds movement, and you can do a full attack for lots and lots of stingy arrows.

No, you can't use Shot on the run and a full attack. You can only make a single ranged attack.

Treantmonk wrote:


Any Bard eventually requires a 16 CHA

Yes, but there are items like Headband of Alluring Charisma and spells like wish.

The Archer Bard and The Melee Bard need no more than 14 Charisma.

As for Archer Bard I would go for cross bow and pick rapid reload and don't worry about Str. Even If I played Elf bard and use longbow I would never give an Archer bard more than 12 Str. I might even give him 10 str. I would rather give the Archer Bard 12 Con and 12 Int. This way his fort. saves would be better and he can use his favoured class points on skills.

Regardless of what type of bard you play. Bards are a lot about skills. I would probably give any kind of bard at least 12 Int, perhaps even 14.

Treantmonk wrote:
2nd-Level Bard Spells

I would add Silence and Tongues to the list.

Silence is great.


Abraham spalding wrote:


Versatile performance: This ability is fully reliant on Charisma, you use the skills full bonus in place of the original skill... meaning that it's a charisma skill check with all appropriate modifiers... so when using Dance instead of Acrobatics your Dex doesn't matter... neither does your ACP either... since it doesn't affect Charisma based skills. Same for the sense motive (which is WONDERFUL of course since you take a dump stat skill and basically convert it into a prime stat skill).[...]

No he doesn't use the perform skill. He uses the bonus from that skill. "He can use his bonus in that skill in place of his bonus in associated skills."It doesn't say, He can use that perform skill in place of the associated skills.


Treantmonk wrote:

I am extremely unimpressed with the Chronicler. [...]

As for NPC henchmen...nope, I would still go full Bard...

Agree with you.

Perhaps the Chronicler is just a joke.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Awesome job, great to have your mind working the world of Pathfinder!

(big fan of your 3.5 Focused Specialist work)

Osirion

Abraham spalding wrote:


Versatile performance: This ability is fully reliant on Charisma, you use the skills full bonus in place of the original skill... meaning that it's a charisma skill check with all appropriate modifiers... so when using Dance instead of Acrobatics your Dex doesn't matter... neither does your ACP either... since it doesn't affect Charisma based skills. Same for the sense motive (which is WONDERFUL of course since you take a dump stat skill and basically convert it into a prime stat skill).

While I agree that Vesatile Performance is a great boon when replacing non-charisma skills, I'm afraid I can't agree with the idea that armor check penalty no longer applies.

First, the text of armor check penalty under skills says:

Quote:


Armor Check Penalty: If this notation is included in the skill name line, an armor check penalty applies (see Chapter 6) to checks using this skill.

In Chapter six it is mentioned that armor check penalties apply to Strength and Dexterity based skills. However, Versatile Performance only says that the skill bonus (in entirety) is replaced by your performance skill bonus. Not that the skill is now a non-Strength or Dexterity based skill.

Finally, I'd expect that if it were to overcome armor check penalties, it would have explicitly said so.

Thanks,
JP

Osirion

As an additional note concerning Versatile Performance, be wary of taking Oratory and Acting or Dancing as your first two performances. You would be unable to use the Countersong ability as it requires Keyboard, Percussion, Wind, String, or Song. You can find Oratory listed under Distraction with the other visual performances. I assume this is for balance purposes (so as to have an equal number of performances capable of either ability).

Make sure to check with your GM as to whether Oratory will be considered a "visual" performance for the purposes of the other bardic abilities as well. None of the other specify which can be used, so you could argue that Oratory is "audible" for the purposes of all powers except Countersong.

With this limitation it becomes quite difficult to choose two performances that don't overlap in some way. If it's within concept to choose two that don't, then obviously you've lucked out. However, I'd suggest satisfying oneself with only overlapping one skill between the two and getting three free skills out of it. (Oh, the horror!)

Thanks,
JP


Vaellen: Thanks, I hope he finds it helpful.

Ardenup: This isn't going to be the response you are hoping for. In fixing all the stuff from 3.5 (and improving stuff that wasn't necessarily broken), Pathfinder's backwards compatibility is a bit less than advertised IMO.

My group is using Pathfinder Core only. If you are using your 3.5 material, I would recommend looking at Complete Champion at the feat Knowledge Devotion. Then look at the new Bardic Knowledge ability, then laugh maniacally. However, I caution you to consider material carefully before allowing it with Pathfinder. Its really like mixing 3.5 and 3.0, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Charles Evans 25: The reason I did not suggest spell focus (Conjuration) and Augment Summoning for the controller Bard is even the Controller Bard is not a primary spellcaster. The Controller Bard NEEDS feats placed to help non-magical methods of Battlefield Control or Debuff like Dazzling Display or Improved Trip. The Controller Bard simply can't keep up casting like a Wizard or Sorcerer, so these other options need to be improved to the point where they are a viable alternative to spellcasting. I don't think SF (Conjuration) or Augment Summoning are terrible options, but I just think it's concentration in the wrong direction, Wizards, Sorcerers, Clerics and Druids ALL get more out of those feats than a Bard.

Jaramin: Thank you very much, glad to have a convert! I don't like to offer too much fluff material in a handbook for the same reason I'm so-so on fluff material in the class description. I think a Player should be able to create any character concept he can envision, if the mechanics behind the classes or prestige classes can bring that concept to life. Fluff is a great way to offer a character-concept suggestion to a player, but it shouldn't pigeonhole you to the character concepts of the game designers. That's my opinion at least. However, if someone is interested in discussing character concept in the replies, and wants some feedback or suggestions, I would be happy to.


Zark wrote:


Treantmonk wrote:


Versatile Performance [...]It also suggests that your character is actually performing,
No, it actually isn't. You don't have to perform. The text only says "He can use his bonus in that skill in place of his bonus in associated skills." You can use the bonus. You don't use the perform skill.

I agree the text does not say you have to perform, I think it implies that you do (or that's at least the only way the ability makes any sense to me). I could be wrong, but I would certainly be interested in getting the opinions of some other posters on this subject. Guys? What do you think?

Zark wrote:
Treantmonk wrote:


Inspire Competence [...]
According to Bardic Performance description, you can use this on yourself, which seems to me to be a very nice option if you are using your use magic device ability (which you can't take 20 on anyways)
No, According to Bardic Performance description you can't use it on yourself.

On this one I'm correct. Reread the first sentence of the Bardic Perform ability, "...including himself if desired." It's quite clear.

Zark wrote:
Treantmonk wrote:


Dirge of Doom: An 8th level ability. This creates the Shaken effect (with no save) for all opponents within 30 feet. If you are a controller bard, you can do this already in your sleep. For the other bards, this is a nice little debuff (-2 on pretty much everything). Nothing too special though.

Sure it's special. It gives you options. Even if you are not a controller bard you will use spell sometimes and other spell casters in your party will love it. I use it all the time.

Dire of doom as a move action then grease or glitterdust. The rogue and the cleric loves me.
I keep it up until our cleric has cast his flame strike or holy smite.

I certainly understand your point, and I agree that Dirge of Doom is certainly helpful to spellcasters.

However, the difference between saving vs. your Glitterdust with or without Dirge of Doom is 10%. That means, although Glitterdust makes failing the save more likely, 90% of the time, the result is exactly what it would have been anyways.

It's not an insignificant penalty, so using Dirge of Doom to soften up opponents against spells is certainly a good tactic, I'm just saying it's a nice ability, but it doesn't blow me away.

Zark wrote:
At higher levels you can, in the same round, use Dirge of Doom as a move action, cast spells like grease, glitterdust, shout or any spell that need DC, then start Inspire Courage as a swift action to boost your party. All in the same round.

You can take a move action in place of a standard action (it says so specifically under "move action" and "standard action" in the rules) Does it say anywhere you can take a swift action in place of a move action? I didn't think that was legal.

More importantly, the Bard can only have one performance type active on any round. See pg 35 under Bardic Performance, "Each round, the Bard can produce any one of the type of Bardic Performances that he has mastered..." (emphasis mine)

Zark wrote:

Yes, but there are items like Headband of Alluring Charisma and spells like wish.

The Archer Bard and The Melee Bard need no more than 14 Charisma.

Magic items that add enhancement bonuses are treated as "temporary" stat bonuses (see description of Headband of Alluring Charisma).

Temporary Charisma Stat Bonuses (as per pg 555) add to: Charisma based skill checks, spell DC's based on Cha, and the DC to resist your chanelled energy.

It will not give your Cha 14 Bard with a +2 headband the ability to cast 6th level spells.

That's why you need an "actual" 16 Charisma with any Bard build by the time 6th level spells become available.

I hope this doesn't screw up any current Bard you have.

Edit: I'm wrong on this last one. I'm checking on the Rules Questions board for the implications of enhancement bonuses being treated as raising the stat for all purposes...


Treantmonk wrote:
Magic items that add enhancement bonuses are treated as "temporary" stat bonuses (see description of Headband of Alluring Charisma).

Read it again:

"Treat this as a temporary ability bonus for the first 24 hours the headband is worn."

If you wear it for more than 24 hours, you're fine.


Zark wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:


Versatile performance: This ability is fully reliant on Charisma, you use the skills full bonus in place of the original skill... meaning that it's a charisma skill check with all appropriate modifiers... so when using Dance instead of Acrobatics your Dex doesn't matter... neither does your ACP either... since it doesn't affect Charisma based skills. Same for the sense motive (which is WONDERFUL of course since you take a dump stat skill and basically convert it into a prime stat skill).[...]

No he doesn't use the perform skill. He uses the bonus from that skill. "He can use his bonus in that skill in place of his bonus in associated skills."It doesn't say, He can use that perform skill in place of the associated skills.

I originally had the same opinion as you, but the ability is vague, so I checked the rules questions board and found multiple threads where Paizo staff has specifically said your total performance bonus, including Rank, feat bonuses, and attribute bonus is used, so I assume that is what the ability intended.

Stuart Haffenden: Thanks! I feel very welcome!

Aptinuviel I agree with you on this one. Logically, armor check penalty should still apply in my opinion. I don't think its required for the ability to specifically say that they still apply, I would think it would be required for the ability to specifically say they don't.

As for the visual vs. audible performance types, good call, however, personally, I wouldn't let the ability to use Countersong in any way dictate how I make my build. Countersong is really an ability that you may never use once, and almost certainly will not use often. If you can't use it, chances are good you will never miss it. Better to make your selection to enhance your skill list in my opinion.


hogarth wrote:
Treantmonk wrote:
Magic items that add enhancement bonuses are treated as "temporary" stat bonuses (see description of Headband of Alluring Charisma).

Read it again:

"Treat this as a temporary ability bonus for the first 24 hours the headband is worn."

If you wear it for more than 24 hours, you're fine.

Hmmmm...OK, I stand corrected. I guess I'm used to 3.5 where enhancement bonuses don't actually have you treat the stat as higher for several things.

I'll consider this for awhile before I jump and make changes, and double check for any enhancement bonuses in Pathfinder and post a question at the Rules Questions board to get more heads involved to ensure it's all legit. If so, I'll consider the impact and potentially make changes at that time...if changes are made, I'll post here.

Osirion

Treantmonk wrote:


As for the visual vs. audible performance types, good call, however, personally, I wouldn't let the ability to use Countersong in any way dictate how I make my build. Countersong is really an ability that you may never use once, and almost certainly will not use often. If you can't use it, chances are good you will never miss it. Better to make your selection to enhance your skill list in my opinion.

Again, I'd recommend checking with your GM before making your decision. I think it's an easy thing to convince someone that Oratory involves an audible performance (since, y'know...it does) but if your GM has decided to follow the Countersong/Distraction distinction (for balance purposes or otherwise) you may find yourself without quite a few options.

Otherwise I agree that Countersong is not a make or break ability and having a whole separate skill trumps it's usefulness (in my opinion, of course). I simply see this as a place where player and GM could disagree on something that would drastically change what powers are available to the character.

Thanks,
JP

Andoran RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

Interesting thread. I've found that dazzling display works quite well for bards. Yes, by 8th level you can do this with dirge of doom, but by using dazzling display you save your rounds of bardic performance for other abilities.

Also, I plan on taking medium armor proficeincy to get mithral breastplate and have it not interfere with spell casting as well as boost my AC 2 points over a chain shirt.

Osirion

Quote:


Inspire Courage: The Iconic Bard ability. This will be a common use of Bardic Performance after level 7, though before it could be OK if you have a chance to prepare before combat. This ability improves with level. The bonuses are never huge, but they are significant, and will aid you as well. Being that the bonus affects attacks, and Combat Maneuvers are a "special attack", then I think the bonus will help you with your combat maneuvers as well, eliminating the penalty a non-full BAB gives you.

Inspire Courage has always been, and remains, the greatest utility that a bard brings to a party. If anyone is under the misguided idea that bards don't do a lot of damage they should keep track of how many attacks only hit because of this ability, and how much extra damage everyone else is doing because of it. It seems low (plus a point here and there), but it adds up. Also, consider the times where someone is able to use Power Attack where they otherwise might not because of the lower attack bonus. This is a *ton* of extra damage.

If you're feeling really generous, mention how useful it is to your wizard or sorcerer friend in making those ranged touch attacks almost auto-hit.

Quote:


Dirge of Doom: An 8th level ability. This creates the Shaken effect (with no save) for all opponents within 30 feet. If you are a controller bard, you can do this already in your sleep. For the other bards, this is a nice little debuff (-2 on pretty much everything). Nothing too special though.

As a debuffer you should know that most good debuffs come with a save. This one doesn't. You should also know that most debuffs come with discrete decreases to your enemies. This one doesn't. It's a blanket -2 to a ton of things. Did I mention it doesn't have a save? It's biggest weakness is that it's a mind-affecting fear effect, which means it doesn't work on a lot of things that the bard is already really bad at dealing with. It's second weakness is that you can't give your allies Inspire Courage while also using this on your enemies.

Thanks,
JP


Zark wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:


Versatile performance: This ability is fully reliant on Charisma, you use the skills full bonus in place of the original skill ... meaning that it's a charisma skill check with all appropriate modifiers... so when using Dance instead of Acrobatics your Dex doesn't matter... neither does your ACP either... since it doesn't affect Charisma based skills. Same for the sense motive (which is WONDERFUL of course since you take a dump stat skill and basically convert it into a prime stat skill).[...]

No he doesn't use the perform skill. He uses the bonus from that skill. "He can use his bonus in that skill in place of his bonus in associated skills."It doesn't say, He can use that perform skill in place of the associated skills.

You mean like I said? Cause you know, total bonus in performance skill includes the Cha bonus...

Osirion

Quote:


Flare: * Dazzled is pretty much the least impressive status you can give anyone. A -1 to hit to one person won't make a bit of difference in most combats, and that's only if they don't make their save. Throw a rock, intimidate, make a distraction, these are probably more useful things to do with your action than "Flare"

I'm not sure it's possible for me to disagree more. Flare is the only at-will debuff available to the Bard that doesn't come with a HD limit. It's also one of a very short list of debuffs that doesn't have a will save. It has the very rare and elusive (at least for Bards) Fort save. It also has a 1 minute duration. And finally, it's just about the only debuff available to Bards that doesn't have a Somatic component. Meaning the sword and board bard that Pathfinder makes possible can actually cast it in the middle of a fight.

A -1 to attack rolls might not seem like much to a fighter-type, but I bet that rogue (with a low Fort save) or ray using sorcerer (with both a low Fort save and abysmal BAB) will curse the day the Bard decided to shave a point off their attack roll.


Zark wrote:
Treantmonk wrote:

I am extremely unimpressed with the Chronicler. [...]

As for NPC henchmen...nope, I would still go full Bard...

Agree with you.

Perhaps the Chronicler is just a joke.

Until they errata the Chronicler it is a broke class in both abilities and a total disconnect with the new Bard). In short it just doesn't work at all, and most defiantly not in the ways it should.

Epic Tales lets you scribe scrolls of bardic music that anyone in your party can use, and they also last for a full minute (10 rounds) at the cost to you of 2 during your prep-day. Even on no down-time, while the wizard is busy memorizing daily spells you can make one Epic Tale. Granted they only last a handful of days but they cost virtually nothing.

Inspire Action, give a buddy an extra standard action. At the higher levels this is going to your wizard in a big fight so he can nuke the BBEG to cinders before he blinks. Alone and used just by the bard is ho-hum and good if you have nothing better (the guy your surging) to contribute to the fight.

Epic Tail, now we're about to get crazy. Here at 13th level (earliest). You can now hand out pre-paid Inspire Courage (or anything else) scrolls to the whole party that last 10 rounds each and were likely paid for on a day when you didn't use all of your rounds/day anyways. Each one lasts 8 days or until used.

Inspire Action (Epic Tail), is bardic music (er... performance) and can be made into an Epic Tail. Now the duration of 10 round has no impact but you can pass them out to party members. You, the Rogue, and the Fighter all read you Epic Tails to the Wizard/Cleric. Kaboom, Kaboom, Kaboom. Even though it costs your whole party their full actions you are now placing all the actions on the party member with the most effective actions to take that round. This it what high level wizards use time stop to achieve. While not nearly as broken as the action loops created using various old 3.5 products, this can do serious damage to dramatic high level fights. In just about every current AP a Chronicler could setup to simply out action any of the end fights. Hitch up Leadership to this wagon and watch the Runelord drop to the Choir of Inspired Actions.

Osirion

Awesome guide! Very, very cool to see, and even better, three different bardic options to play with, not just 'one true way!'


JoelF847: A mithril breastplate has an Arcane spell failure of 15%. You would need Med armor prof, Arcane Armor Training, and Arcane Armor Mastery to eliminate the Arcane spellcasting penalty.

In addition, you would lose your swift action every round in order to activate it.

This is a really, really, really bad deal for 2 AC. Honest.

aptinuviel: We agree that inspire courage is good, but I think we disagree how good it is. A +1 to hit is a 5% increase in chance to hit. In many battles that will not change a single hit result. After level 5, the ability gets better, though, usually as you increase level, "To Hit" becomes less and less as a problem (since AC's tend not to increase at the same rate as "To Hit" rolls).

Still, I agree with your point about adding all the damage that the Bard enabled as part of the Bard's contribution. However, I find that a Bard can actually contribute a fair amount of damage on their own anyways. Also remember that their Inspire Courage ability is improving their own attacks as well.

All that said, it's likely best for everyone if you use Inspire Courage as a regular contribution to combat only after you can activate it as a move action (so on round 1 you can activate inspire courage as well as cast a spell).

I do know that most good debuffs come with a save. The really good ones screw you if you fail the save, or have some less impressive effect, like shaken, if you fail the save.

Dirge of Doom is a good ability, but not an ability that clinches the combat. Dirge of Doom is a nice way to soften up the enemy.

Also, keep in mind that you never have Dirge of Doom and Inspire Courage active at the same time, so if you want to use Dirge of Doom instead of, say, Dazzling Display, you give up your Inspire Courage bonus.

aptinuviel Convincing me that Flare is a good way to spend a standard action will have nothing to do with convincing me that Fort saves are desireable. The problem is the effect. Even if Flare offerred NO SAVE I would not recommend it, because giving up a Standard Action to cause a Dazzled effect, even if it was a certainty, is a bad trade. (But for the record, most creatures have higher Fort saves than Will saves. Reflex is usually considered the best save to target)

-1 to hit is a 5% chance of actually changing any "To Hit" result. If that enemy gets, say, 5 more attacks in that combat - chances are that your Standard Action will have ZERO effect on the combat.

Dazzled is really just the least effective Debuff in the game. It's not only worse than all the other status effects you can create - it's a lot worse. In most combats, Dazzled won't change a single result.

Whether the Rogue or Sorcerer had an 80% chance to hit or a 5% chance to hit before the Dazzled effect isn't really the point. In the end, the Dazzled effect can't reduce that chance by any more than 5%. A Sorcerer that had a 20% chance to hit was likely going to miss anyways, even without spending a standard action to reduce it to 15%. More likely that Sorcerer would curse taking spells that required to hit rolls than the dazzled status!

Am I wrong? If so, why?

Dorje Sylas: I'll dedicate a full post to respond to your post.

Thanks everyone for replying!

Osirion

Treantmonk wrote:
Even if Flare offerred NO SAVE I...

If Flare could 'stack' and eventually result in a blinded condition, it might be halfway decent. If it had enhanced utility against daylight vulnerable or light-sensitive creatures, it might be barely tolerable, in specific campaigns.

Otherwise it's complete junk. Daze is a far more useful choice at low-levels.

Taldor

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Okay, I thought I understood Versatile Performance and now I'm totally confused! As I read each conflicting post, I say to myself "That makes sense." Arg!

My original understanding was the same as Abraham's but I'd love to see some official Paizo confirmation of this. Any staff reading this thread yet?

Abraham spalding wrote:
Zark wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:


Versatile performance: This ability is fully reliant on Charisma, you use the skills full bonus in place of the original skil ... meaning that it's a charisma skill check with all appropriate modifiers... so when using Dance instead of Acrobatics your Dex doesn't matter... neither does your ACP either... since it doesn't affect Charisma based skills. Same for the sense motive (which is WONDERFUL of course since you take a dump stat skill and basically convert it into a prime stat skill).[...]
No he doesn't use the perform skill. He uses the bonus from that skill. "He can use his bonus in that skill in place of his bonus in associated skills."It doesn't say, He can use that perform skill in place of the associated skills.
You mean like I said? Cause you know, total bonus in performance skill includes the Cha bonus...

By the way, while I prefer that one does not have to actually perform to use the Versatile Performance pseudo-skills, it is called Versatile Performance.


Treantmonk wrote:

JoelF847: A mithril breastplate has an Arcane spell failure of 15%. You would need Med armor prof, Arcane Armor Training, and Arcane Armor Mastery to eliminate the Arcane spellcasting penalty.

In addition, you would lose your swift action every round in order to activate it.

This is a really, really, really bad deal for 2 AC. Honest.

On the Mithral, from my *current* understanding you'll take the extra penalties without the medium armor proficiency but otherwise the armor is treated as light... meaning you'll still be able to cast in it as light armor... It's just the ACP penalties that don't go away. -1 to hit and all Str and Dex based skills for 2 AC is a bit different trade.

Osirion

Treantmonk wrote:


aptinuviel: We agree that inspire courage is good, but I think we disagree how good it is. A +1 to hit is a 5% increase in chance to hit. In many battles that will not change a single hit result. After level 5, the ability gets better, though, usually as you increase level, "To Hit" becomes less and less as a problem (since AC's tend not to increase at the same rate as "To Hit" rolls).

I'm guessing the character with a +1 to attack at first level will disagree on whether doubling their chances is worth it or not. Even someone with a +4 will now have Inspire Courage as a full 20% of their new attack value. That 5% might not seem like much, but there's a reason why people spend a lot to increase their stats by two. It's only a 5% increase. And yet, it's well worth it.

Also, if +1 attack doesn't make you drool all over yourself, what about the +1 damage? Is there no difference, in your opinion, between the character that does 1dwhatever+2 and the character that does +3? I've got quite a few fighters that would like to disagree with you.

Quote:


Still, I agree with your point about adding all the damage that the Bard enabled as part of the Bard's contribution. However, I find that a Bard can actually contribute a fair amount of damage on their own anyways. Also remember that their Inspire Courage ability is improving their own attacks as well.

Sure, but if you want to play a character that does a lot of damage on their own, you're playing the wrong class.

Quote:


All that said, it's likely best for everyone if you use Inspire Courage as a regular contribution to combat only after you can activate it as a move action (so on round 1 you can activate inspire courage as well as cast a spell).

I disagree. There's no action that a first level bard could possibly take that would contribute more than Inspire Courage except *maybe* in niche cases. Making every character in the party 5% more capable of hitting and everyone doing +1 damage is almost certainly better than the bards low chance of hitting anything and doing mostly inconsequential damage. Low level characters have a hard time hitting things. Even Fighters. Any way you can make that better, and do so as cheaply as Inspire Courage, is great.

Quote:


Also, keep in mind that you never have Dirge of Doom and Inspire Courage active at the same time, so if you want to use Dirge of Doom instead of, say, Dazzling Display, you give up your Inspire Courage bonus.

I believe I noted this as one of it's weaknesses. Personally, I don't think Bards really have other performance abilities beside Inspire Courage, but if you don't value IC all that highly then Dirge of Doom is certainly not useless.


Dorje Sylas wrote:
Until they errata the Chronicler it is a broke class in both abilities and a total disconnect with the new Bard). In short it just doesn't work at all, and most defiantly not in the ways it should.

By the rest of your post, I think you mean "broke" as in "too powerful". Correct?

Dorje Sylas wrote:
Epic Tales lets you scribe scrolls of bardic music that anyone in your party can use, and they also last for a full minute (10 rounds) at the cost to you of 2 during your prep-day. Even on no down-time, while the wizard is busy memorizing daily spells you can make one Epic Tale. Granted they only last a handful of days but they cost virtually nothing.

Giving another party member the chance to activate your Bardic Music, on themselves only, with the use of a full round action, doesn't seem that great to me. Surely the fighter has better things to do with his full round action than to activate a nerfed Bardic Music?

I Guess if you gave one to every party member, and had a chance to prepare before battle, it would give you the chance to do a different Bardic music than inspire courage (if you have any Bardic Music left) - hardly gamebreaking.

Also, Bards use up 2 daily uses of Bardic Music to use the ability, but Bardic Music doesn't have daily uses anymore. So we actually don't really know the cost...2 rounds of use perhaps? Or 20 rounds? The GM will have to houserule.

Dorje Sylas wrote:
Inspire Action, give a buddy an extra standard action. At the higher levels this is going to your wizard in a big fight so he can nuke the BBEG to cinders before he blinks. Alone and used just by the bard is ho-hum and good if you have nothing better (the guy your surging) to contribute to the fight.

Yep - this is a good use for Bardic Music, and a good ability...once you get to level 9 (level 14 overall at least). This isn't going to stack with Haste mind you, but used on a Wizard or Sorcerer - very nice. However, before 9th level (you will be a 14th level character minimum by this point) this isn't so great.

Dorje Sylas wrote:
Epic Tail, now we're about to get crazy. Here at 13th level (earliest). You can now hand out pre-paid Inspire Courage (or anything else) scrolls to the whole party that last 10 rounds each and were likely paid for on a day when you didn't use all of your rounds/day anyways. Each one lasts 8 days or until used.

Hmmmm...explain how its crazy for a Wizard for example, to use a full round action to activate a Bardic Music ability, using his own Cha score mind you, rather than cast a spell? This will free up the Chronicler to shoot an arrow, or perhaps use a different Bardic Music? I'm just not seeing this as crazy powerful, but perhaps minorly useful circumstantially.

Dorje Sylas wrote:
Inspire Action (Epic Tail), is bardic music (er... performance) and can be made into an Epic Tail. Now the duration of 10 round has no impact but you can pass them out to party members. You, the Rogue, and the Fighter all read you Epic Tails to the Wizard/Cleric. Kaboom, Kaboom, Kaboom. Even though it costs your whole party their full actions you are now placing all the actions on the party member with the most effective actions to take that round. This it what high level wizards use time stop to achieve. While not nearly as broken as the action loops created using various old 3.5 products, this can do serious damage to...

So, if I'm understanding correctly, you are suggesting that the Fighter/Rogue etc should be using Full Round actions to provide the spellcasters with Standard actions? Why even have a fighter then?

Or are you suggesting that the 10 round duration means that you re-create an Inspire Action effect every round for 10 rounds? If so, I think you are reading the ability incorrectly.

Inspire Action doesn't seem to have a duration, it's a one time boost - if you want to use it again, you would need to activate your Bardic Music again. Therefore, I think the scroll would trade one full round action by one party member for a Standard action from another party member. Not great.

Overall, I agree the Inspire Action ability eventually becomes a nice ability late in the game - but not worth giving up spellcasting for IMO. The Epic Tale abilities, although clearly needing some errata, don't seem broken at all to me, but perhaps occassionally moderately useful at best. Again, doesn't make up for Losing spellcasting IMO.

Still disagree?


TreantMonk the Pathfinder Chronicler for pathfinder is available in the Prestige class section... it was in the rule book too.

Prestige Class link


Mosaic: I agree that it isn't clear. In the end, the GM is going to need to make a call until there is official Errata or FAQ that handles this.

If I'm the DM, the CHA bonus will always apply, but the instrument will need to be used (though you would get masterwork instrument bonuses - if applicable).

Abraham spalding: Hmmm...rereading it, I have to say it's not really clear. Bards have no arcane spell failure when wearing light armor, but Mithril armor is treated as one step lighter "for the purposes of movement and other restrictions", but is it really one step lighter? If so, why do you need the heavier proficiency?

I guess "other restrictions" might be used to apply to the Bards restriction on wearing armor...being that it is the only statement that could be seen to apply...with a lot of consideration...I agree with you.

As for the Chronicler - I know it's in the book - but read the ability description; it refers to "Daily uses of Bardic Music" which is a mechanic that doesn't exist.


Yeah the actual designer of the Chronicler is around here somewhere... he's stated that not everything for the class made it in, and it really isn't that much of a prestige class. A quick search of Prestige classes, or the Chronicler in particular would probably show up the thread he was talking about it in, if you are interested in his thoughts about it...

(I agree... it's not really a great prestige class for a Bard... maybe a rogue (probably not) but over all it comes off as rather 'meh' even for all it's nice fluff and such)

Osirion

Quote:


Convincing me that Flare is a good way to spend a standard action will have nothing to do with convincing me that Fort saves are desireable. The problem is the effect. Even if Flare offerred NO SAVE I would not recommend it, because giving up a Standard Action to cause a Dazzled effect, even if it was a certainty, is a bad trade. (But for the record, most creatures have higher Fort saves than Will saves. Reflex is usually considered the best save to target)

It's true that most creatures have a good Fort Save. But you have other spells to deal with those creatures. As a Bard you have next to no way to deal with anything with even a halfway respectable Will Save. Flare happens to be one of those ways.

Quote:


-1 to hit is a 5% chance of actually changing any "To Hit" result. If that enemy gets, say, 5 more attacks in that combat - chances are that your Standard Action will have ZERO effect on the combat.

Actually, if they have five more attacks, you're bound to make one of those miss if they had any chance of missing before. I'm not saying that a -1 will always change the course of your game, but if you don't think plus or minus 5% isn't that big a deal then why are Feats like Spell Focus, or Dodge, or anything that gives a +1 ever taken? Not only that, but these Feats are considered excellent choices for classes that need higher DCs or AC.

Quote:


Dazzled is really just the least effective Debuff in the game. It's not only worse than all the other status effects you can create - it's a lot worse. In most combats, Dazzled won't change a single result.

You keep saying that, but it makes a 5% different. The rogue or sorcerer that had a 80% chance (which is ridiculously high, in my opinion) now has a 75% chance. The more common sorcerer with a +1 or maybe a +2 attack bonus going after the simplest target (say AC 10) was looking at a slightly better than 50/50 shot. While Dazzled, his odds are looking even worse. You can try to convince people that 5% difference isn't worth it, but this game is all about odds. And the Bard is king of making small changes to odds that add up. There's a reason why people stack bonuses. It's not just because they like to look at big numbers.

Not only all of that, but Flare remains one of the very few spells that Bards have without a Somatic component. If you happen to have your hands full you've got very few other options. Flare is an at-will debuff that targets a save that Bards can't easily target. It might not be the best save to be taking a crack at, but it's not like you're looking for cantrips to be the mainstay of your casting arsenal. Also, it's the only at-will debuff that a Bard gets that remains relevant past level 5 (Daze having a HD limiter). While it may not be your best option at higher levels, if you're 30ft or so away from a target and you find yourself with nothing to do, giving them a possible -1 to attack rolls for the rest of the fight isn't the worst spell I can think of using.

Thanks,
JP

Thanks,
JP


aptinuviel wrote:


I'm guessing the character with a +1 to attack at first level will disagree on whether doubling their chances is worth it or not.

You are doubling their bonus to hit, not their chance to hit. You are increasing their chance to hit by 5%. The only time it is doubling their chance to hit is when they had a 5% chance to hit in the first place, which would require an opponent with an AC of 21 - no more, no less.

aptinuviel wrote:


Also, if +1 attack doesn't make you drool all over yourself, what about the +1 damage? Is there no difference, in your opinion, between the character that does 1dwhatever+2 and the character that does +3? I've got quite a few fighters that would like to disagree with you..

OK - I think I need to break this down.

Does their really need to be ZERO room between "Drooling" over an ability and believing it offers "No difference"?

Forcing me into that selection doesn't move ahead our discussion at all, since my opinion of inspire courage is neither of the options you present.

+1 Damage is OK, but I use straight language here. OK doesn't mean useless, nor does it mean I'm drooling at the power.

In combat, I don't know if using a standard action to activate that +1 damage is going to be a good use of that Standard action (once it's a move action - that's different - since I can cast with my standard action).

Especially when Bardic Music is so limited in duration. Some future combat where you could have activated the Bardic Music before combat, but can't because you used it during a combat earlier...that's poor use of abilities.

I recommend waiting to use the ability for a point where you will not lose actions in combat to use it. That may be your very next combat. Using it all up now, while using a standard action in combat to activate it is not using the ability when it is best.

aptinuviel wrote:


Sure, but if you want to play a character that does a lot of damage on their own, you're playing the wrong class.

Not at all. My 3rd level Bard does just as much damage in combat as the Half Orc Barbarian in our party. He just can't take the hits.

aptinuviel wrote:


I disagree. There's no action that a first level bard could possibly take that would contribute more than Inspire Courage except *maybe* in niche cases. Making every character in the party 5% more capable of hitting and everyone doing +1 damage is...

Attacking a prone opponent provides a +4 to hit. Futhermore, that prone opponent has a -4 to hit. Getting up from Prone provokes an attack of opportunity (thus lots more damage). Moving within a grease spell makes you flat-footed, offers more chances to fall prone, and makes you vulnerable to sneak attack. Even for 1 round, this can win a battle. A first level Bard can cast grease on round 1.

Explain again how providing a +1 to hit and damage for a couple rounds (before its used up)is a better use of a standard action?

That's one example, and the use improves significantly even by 2nd level.


aptinuviel wrote:
Quote:


Convincing me that Flare is a good way to spend a standard action will have nothing to do with convincing me that Fort saves are desireable. The problem is the effect. Even if Flare offerred NO SAVE I would not recommend it, because giving up a Standard Action to cause a Dazzled effect, even if it was a certainty, is a bad trade. (But for the record, most creatures have higher Fort saves than Will saves. Reflex is usually considered the best save to target)

It's true that most creatures have a good Fort Save. But you have other spells to deal with those creatures. As a Bard you have next to no way to deal with anything with even a halfway respectable Will Save. Flare happens to be one of those ways.

Of course you could just stab them really good and take hit points away... or use that standard action to grease them instead which causes them to be flat footed... or web them and cause them to be entangled taking a -2 to attack rolls...


aptinuviel wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:


Versatile performance: This ability is fully reliant on Charisma, you use the skills full bonus in place of the original skill... meaning that it's a charisma skill check with all appropriate modifiers... so when using Dance instead of Acrobatics your Dex doesn't matter... neither does your ACP either... since it doesn't affect Charisma based skills. Same for the sense motive (which is WONDERFUL of course since you take a dump stat skill and basically convert it into a prime stat skill).

While I agree that Vesatile Performance is a great boon when replacing non-charisma skills, I'm afraid I can't agree with the idea that armor check penalty no longer applies.

First, the text of armor check penalty under skills says:

Quote:


Armor Check Penalty: If this notation is included in the skill name line, an armor check penalty applies (see Chapter 6) to checks using this skill.

In Chapter six it is mentioned that armor check penalties apply to Strength and Dexterity based skills. However, Versatile Performance only says that the skill bonus (in entirety) is replaced by your performance skill bonus. Not that the skill is now a non-Strength or Dexterity based skill.

Finally, I'd expect that if it were to overcome armor check penalties, it would have explicitly said so.

Thanks,
JP

Armor check penalties only apply to dex/str based skills, perform is charisma based.


Abraham spalding wrote:


Of course you could just stab them really good and take hit points away... or use that standard action to grease them instead which causes them to be flat footed... or web them and cause them to be entangled taking a -2 to attack rolls...

Good call.

A Bard needs to be able to switch between martial and spell use. If the best spell you have to be effective is going to cause a -1 to hit only, then shoot your arrows, or move in with your longspear.

Bards are pretty good martially, and there is a reason I suggest using your feats to enhance this quality. Because if you don't, using flare could actually end up being your best option - and you don't want that to happen...ever.

Osirion

Quote:


Armor check penalties only apply to dex/str based skills, perform is charisma based.

I quoted the line of the book relating to armor check penalties. Also, Versatile Performance doesn't actually specify that you change the stat on which the skill is based, just that you replace the skill bonus you have in that skill with you skill bonus in the performance, and specifically includes the Charisma bonus.

Again, I'd expect that if that's what they meant, they would have said that. I'd also expect that if they meant it to overcome armor check penalties (seeing as this would be a rather large advantage) they would have also mentioned that it does.

Thanks,
JP


Treantmonk wrote:
good stuff

One thing on the mounted combat, you can do full attacks if you're doing ranged attacks. You just have penalties of -4 on doublemoves or -8 on running, mounted combat/mounted archery will cut that in 2, shot on the run's not bad but it's wasted on mounted archery.

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