2E Complete Handbooks Revisited (Part One: Bard's Handbook)


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The 2e PHBR "Complete Handbooks" series were a mixed bag, at best. Some aspects, especially of the kits, embodied the worst of the inattention to game balance of that edition, and at times they seemed slapped together with little thought or creativity. But at their best, they remain some of the most inspiring and exciting books on my shelf. My first D&D book was the Complete Wizard's Handbook (I didn't realized I needed the PHB, too), and the thoughts of rolling up a Wu Jen who couldn't cut his hair or going off in search of a grove of trees whose shadows formed the words to lost spells really grabbed me. The illustrated list of instruments in the Bard's handbook was a godsend in the pre-Wikipedia era, and I *still* want to play a hive druid.

So this thread will be my attempt to revisit (and at times, hopefully, to redeem) the 2E complete handbooks. I'm not going to convert the books cover to cover, and I'm not going to reinvent the wheel. If existing Pathfinder or 3rd Edition material gets the job done, I'll just nod to that and be on my way. I'm not going to rework every kit as an archetype, though I will rework some of them. Sometimes I'll just point out some good "fluff" or flavor, and sometimes I'll try to rework subsystems for use in Pathfinder. These will be less a set of polished conversions and more a pegboard of ideas to snag, try out, and tweak. What I want to do is make these flawed and loveable books useable in a Pathfinder game, and I welcome your input or contributions (heck, if you want to take on an entire book, more power to you).

I'll start with what was always my favorite, the Complete Bard's Handbook (PHBR7).

Introduction & Chapter 1 (Character Creation): Apart from a very brief historical note, there's not much of interest in these sections for a PF game, dealing as they do with ability scores and Thief Skill adjustments.

Chapter 2 (Bard Kits): Ah, the kits. The most maligned and beloved materials in the Complete Handbooks. Often shoddy in execution, they were sometimes absolutely inspired, and the whole concept of kits has been reworked much more effectively as archetypes in PF. Here are some ideas on redeeming the Bard kits or elements therefrom.

True Bard (p. 16):

This is just your basic bard, and pretty much everything has been covered by the standard Pathfinder Bard.

Table 12: Legend Lore Results (p. 18) – The 2e Bard’s legend lore ability has been pretty much superseded by Spellcraft and Knowledge skills, and even in 2e, there was some weird overlap with identify and legend lore. In Pathfinder, standard procedure to identify properties of an item would be a simple 1st level identify spell combined with a Spellcraft check. Get the info, get on with that game. In 2e, it was a hassle keeping track of unidentified items and dealing with players’ frustration at not using them. Still, this table is kind of neat, and could be a good way of offering fragmented knowledge about some powerful artifact.

Blade (p. 18):

The Blade is a sword-dancer, a sabre-swallower, a knife-thrower: in short, a weapons-based performer. He may be a less competent combatant than your average fighter, but he sure makes it look good.

The Arcane Duelist is perhaps a suitable archetype to emulate the Blade; it’s a more magical and serious take, though, and the Blade as presented is less about actually enhancing his weapons than making his opponent think he is more deadly than he is. There are likewise some echoes in the Dervish Dancer archetype. The idea for the Blade could be shoehorned into either archetype, but neither of them hit the nail quite on the head. Here’s an attempt to capture the spirit; it's a little wonky trying to fit the Blade's abilities into the "Bardic Performance" system, but this is a potential way of going about it:

Perform (weapons display): This new Perform category involves virtuoso manipulation of blades and other weapons, including juggling, knife-throwing, sword-swallowing, and sword-dancing. If you prefer not to add another subskill, the Perform (dance) skill may be used to represent the Blade’s weapons display.

Blade (Bard Archetype)

New Bardic Performances

Defensive Spin (Ex): At 1st level, a Blade wielding a melee weapon may begin a defensive spin as part of the total defense action. He gains a +8 bonus to AC for as long as he maintains the performance and the total defense action (rather than the usual +4)
This performance replaces Countersong.

Weapons Display (Su): The Blade may demoralize his enemies by engaging in a dazzling display of whirling blades, staves, or other weapons. This performance replaces and functions exactly like Dirge of Doom, but it relies only on visual components, and the Blade must have at least one melee weapon in hand to employ the ability.

Trick Throw (Su): The Blade may make a Disarm attempt with a thrown weapon on a target within 30 feet. He applies his Dexterity to his CMB roll, but he does not gain a size bonus or Strength bonus on his CMB roll. Any size or Strength penalties still apply. Alternatively, the Blade may add a +4 insight bonus to an attack with a thrown weapon. Each attempt can only be made after the Blade completes a full round of bardic performance. The trick throw itself is a standard action made in the second round of the performance, and after attempting a trick throw, the Blade must wait for one full round of bardic performance before trying again. This performance replaces Soothing Performance.

Terrifying Display (Sp): This ability replaces and works exactly like Frightening Tune, except that it relies on visual rather than audible components, the Blade must have at least one melee weapon in hand, and the target flees until the Blade is no longer visible or ends the performance, whichever comes first.

Comments welcome. More to come...

I loved these books and the Bard in particular. I'm waiting to see your version of the Gallant, the Thespian, the Jester...

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Next up, the Charlatan.

Charlatan (p. 21):
The name says it all. She’s a trickster, a con artist, a charming liar. Obviously, the Charlatan rogue archetype covers much of this ground. For what I think is an inspired take on the classic snake oil salesman, take a look at the Huckster Alchemist archetype, submitted as an RPG Superstar entry by Nicholas Herold (Demiurge 1138)

So there have been some great takes on the concept. But for a bard, per se, there’s still some work to be done. Here’s a possible reworking of the Charlatan kit’s abilities:

Charlatan (Bard Archetype)

Masquerade (Ex): A Charlatan adds half his class level (minimum 1) to all Disguise and Bluff checks.

This ability replaces Bardic Knowledge.

Takes One to Know One (Ex): Beginning at 2nd level, the Charlatan gains a bonus to his Sense Motive checks equivalent to his level.

This ability replaces Well-Versed.

Disarming Performance (Su) At 3rd level, a Charlatan can use his performance to charm one or more creatures, whose total hit dice may not exceed twice the Charlatan’s level. The creatures to be charmed must be within 30 feet, able to see and hear the Charlatan, understand his speech, and be capable of paying attention to him. The Charlatan must also be able to see the creatures affected. The distraction of a nearby combat or other dangers prevents the ability from working. For every three levels a Charlatan has attained beyond 3rd, he can target one additional creature with this ability.

Each creature within range receives a Will save (DC 10 + ½ the Charlatan’s level + the Charlatan’s Cha modifier) to negate the effect. If a creature’s saving throw succeeds, the bard cannot attempt to charm that creature again for 24 hours and its attitude toward the Charlatan is shifted one step toward hostile. If its saving throw fails, the creature behaves as if under the effects of a charm person spell for the duration of the performance and for 10 minutes thereafter per level of the Charlatan.

Disarming Performance is an enchantment (compulsion), language-dependent, mind-affecting ability that relies on audible and visual components in order to function.

This ability replaces Inspire Competence.

Swindling (Ex): Through charm, persuasion, and sometimes a little well-placed sleight of hand, the Charlatan can get away with paying less for goods and services. At 5th level, when purchasing an item, the Charlatan may make a Perform check opposed by the seller’s Sense Motive check. If he succeeds, he pays 10% less than normal for the item. For every six levels, beyond fifth, the percentage of the purchase price saved increases by 10%, to a maximum of 30% at 17th level.

This ability replaces Lore Master.

Method Acting (Su): At 12th level, the Charlatan becomes so immersed in his disguises that his thoughts and dispositions are disguised as well. Whenever the Charlatan is the target of detect alignment, detect thoughts, discern lies, seek thoughts or effects that mimic these spells, the results of these spells correspond to the Charlatan’s chosen disguise.

This ability replaces Soothing Performance.

I really liked the paladin and the cleric handbooks. good luck.

Bardess wrote:
I loved these books and the Bard in particular. I'm waiting to see your version of the Gallant, the Thespian, the Jester...

I agree. I loved the complete handbook, but the bard handbook was my favorite.

Very nice work on these!

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Sorry for the long silence. Real life and all that. But here's our next kit, the Gallant! (For everyone who's ever wanted to play as a more altruistic Loras Tyrell...)

Gallant (p. 25):
A romantic warrior, the knight in shining armor, the favorite in the tourney. Rather like the Blade, the Gallant is not necessarily the one who will win the day going up against a real Cavalier or some such, but he’s the one people will fall in love with, the one the kids will pretend to be. A romantic at heart, the Gallant’s charm and steadfast commitment to love and beauty are infectious.

Gallant (Bard Archetype)

Weapon Proficiencies: The gallant is proficient with all simple weapons, plus the lance, longsword, and shortsword. The gallant is proficient in light, medium, and heavy armor. The gallant can cast bard spells while wearing light armor and using a shield without incurring the normal arcane spell failure chance. Like any other arcane spellcaster, a gallant wearing medium or heavy armor incurs a chance of arcane spell failure if the spell in question has a somatic component

Trained to the Tourney (Ex): The gallant receives the benefits of the Mounted Combat feat at 1st level. This ability replaces Bardic Knowledge.

Essence of Purity (Ex): The gallant gains the benefits of the Diehard feat at 2nd level. This ability replaces Well-Versed.

Defend the Defenseless (Su): At 5th, level, whenever a member of the gallant’s party is reduced to 0 hp or below, and is not dead, the bonus granted by the gallant’s Inspire Courage ability is doubled. This effect lasts until the party member is either dead or no longer below 0 hp. This ability has no effect if the gallant’s Inspire Courage ability is not active. This ability replaces Lore Master.

Poetic Charm (Su): At 10th level, whenever the gallant casts an enchantment spell or uses a bardic performance that is an enchantment ability against a target who is (or could be) sexually attracted to him, the target’s receives a -2 penalty to his saving throw; additionally, he receives a +2 bonus to diplomacy and bluff checks against such targets. At 16th level, this penalty and bonus increase to -4 and +4, and at 19th level to -6 and +6. This ability replaces Jack of all Trades.

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I like the Gallant... I think the feat replacement for Bardic Knowledge is a step backwards and under powered but its offset by some of the additional proficiencies.

I feel the change in proficiencies should not include heavy armour though... as jousting did take place in Chain in the early days of the sport so its possible. Heavy armour is a bit of a boost when you compare to the cleric for instance.

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Thanks for the feedback! I agree with you that Mounted Combat/Bardic Knowledge swap is an awkward trade (not just because of the power level, but because of the fairly apples-to-oranges nature of the swap). As you suggested, it was my thinking that the step down could be offset by the medium/heavy armor proficiency.

But the point's well taken about heavy armor. What about something like this? Keep the Weapon Proficiencies the same as in the version above, nix the medium or heavy armor proficiency, and add:

Trained to the Tourney (Ex): The gallant receives the benefits of the Mounted Combat feat at 1st level. Additionally, when mounted, the gallant applies only 1/2 of the armor check penalty (minimum 1) to attack rolls for wearing armor in which he is not proficient, and only 1/2 of any applicable armor check penalty (rounded up) to the Ride skill. This ability replaces Bardic Knowledge.

I'm still not sure that this is the most beautiful design, but maybe it puts the power level a little more in sync, and does kind of stick with the theme of a bard who's not really a mounted-combat expert but just plays one on TV.

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Next up, the Gypsy-Bard.

Gypsy-Bard (p. 28):
This is an odd “ethnic” kit that ends up as a hodgepodge of stereotypes (crystal balls and tambourines) and head-scratchers (psionics, hippie sensibilities, and animal rapport?). Add to that some weird rules — how often do you end up with a Deck of Many Things to keep around for fortune-telling? Or two other gypsy bards to dance with so you can cast spells? - and you get a hard kit to translate.

My original thought in looking at the handbooks was not to try to shoehorn every kit into an archetype, but to think about ways to capture the spirit of the kit in the PF ruleset. So, one simple way to get the feel of the kit as presented would be to take a level or two of ranger along with the Fortune-Teller feat. Combine that with the right set of clothes and some good music, and you’ve got yourself a gypsy-bard.

I’ll be mentioning some sources of inspiration when I get to the role-playing chapter, but, for gypsy music in particular, there are worse places to start than with Ando Drom. Especially if you’re interested in tilting a little to the “real-world” traditions of gypsy musicianship rather than the clichéd version in the book, there are a host of different traditions from Roma musicians in various countries.

Finally, here’s a rough attempt at an archetype:

Gypsy-Bard (Bard Archetype)

Wild Empathy: At 1st level, the gypsy-bard may improve the initial attitude of an animal. This ability functions just like the Ranger class ability of the same name, except that the gypsy-bard adds her bard class level and her Charisma bonus to the 1d20 roll to influence an animal’s attitude. This ability replaces Bardic Knowledge.

Fortune Telling: At 2nd level, the gypsy-bard gains the benefits of the Fortune-Teller feat. This ability replaces Well-Versed.

Alluring Performance: At 5th level, the gypsy-bard’s fascinate performance becomes even more compelling than that of other bards. Any subject fascinated by the gypsy-bard takes an additional -2 penalty on skill checks made as reactions (including Perception checks); this penalty increases to -4 at 11th level and to -6 at 17th level. Additionally, when the fascinate effect ends, victims must make an additional Will save or be staggered for 1 round. At 11th level, this effect increases to 2 rounds, and to 3 rounds at 17th level. This ability replaces Lore Master.

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Hark, the herald!

Herald (p. 31):
“My name is Bard, James Bard.” Oh yes, it says that. He’s a linguist, a diplomat, an orator, and an undercover agent for the FBI. This kit combines what we would usually think of as a herald with an intelligence agent. It’s kind of quirky, but fun. This kit concept could be played out by a bard/rogue multiclass, or a straight bard with an emphasis on Diplomacy, Knowledge (Local) and (Nobility), and Linguistics (this might be my preference).

A rogue with the Investigator archetype might also be a framework to consider if that aspect of the kit appeals.

Alternatively, here’s an archetype that tries to get at the idea behind the kit, with its emphasis on diplomacy and information gathering.

Herald (Bard Archetype)

Student of Humanity(Ex): The Herald adds his full bard level to all Knowledge (Geography), Knowledge (History), Knowledge (Local), Knowledge (Nobility), and Knowledge (Religion) checks, and may make such checks untrained. This ability replaces Bardic Knowledge.

Master Communicator (Ex): Beginning at 2nd level, the Herald receives a bonus rank in the Linguistics skill at each level. This ability replaces Versatile Performance.

Persuade Crowd (Ex): Beginning at 10th level, the Herald adds ½ his bard level to Bluff or Diplomacy checks made to influence reactions or convince another of a fact (or lie), opinion, or point of view. This bonus is not applied to Bluff checks to feint or convey secret messages. This ability is language-dependent. This ability replaces Jack of All Trades.

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My favorite would be the complete ninja for the martial arts, though some were nerfed from 1st ed. (Eagle claw). It also didn't have any of the additional arts from dragon. One issue in particular had some really cool abilities like splits kick and staff shield.

Second would be elves, cause elves. And blade-singer.

A monk/ninja archrtype that used those martial arts would be cool. Distance death or one-finger-push to give them some ranged attacks and some range abilities. Plus just the coolness of instant stand, immovable, etc.

I have both books and the mag somewhere. I'll have to dig those out and see if i can come up with something.

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@Belazoar: I loved the diversity of martial arts covered in the Ninja's Handbook. A friend of mine played a sumo wrestler in a 2E campaign I ran. The system was a little unwieldy, but when everything lined up, it was incredibly fun.

On another note, I had forgotten about the Court Bard archetype from the APG, which is a great choice for a Herald-type bard. The Heraldic Expertise ability from that archetype is probably less powerful than the Student of Humanity ability I gave in my archetype, but it does affect Diplomacy (a more active skill) and allows for a reroll or rerolls of the relevant skill checks, so it’s a bit more or a wash, I think. At any rate, I like the Court Bard a lot, and the slate of abilities is really well-done.

Anyway, on to the Jester, who’s been popping up in D&D since the early days of NPC classes in Dragon, but, surprisingly, doesn’t seem to have made an appearance in Pathfinder as yet. (If someone knows of a PF version, I’d be curious to know). It’s often been cast as its own class, and I think there’s something to that, but here’s an effort at making it a bard archetype based on the Bard’s Handbook kit.

Jester (p. 33):

The jester is exactly what you’d expect; a buffoon, a prankster, and just a little bit mad. As the book suggests, this is not a role for every campaign, but, in the right group, it can be a lot of fun.

Jester (Bard Archetype)

Jumbled Mind (Ex): At 2nd level, the Jester receives a +4 bonus to saves vs. confusion, insanity, and madness effects. Additionally, whenever the Jester is the target of an Enchantment (charm) spell or spell-like ability, the caster must make a Will save (DC 10 + ½ the Jester’s level + the Jester’s Cha modifier) or become confused for 1 round per level of the Jester. This ability replaces Well-Versed.

Fool’s Luck (Ex) Beginning at 5th level, once per day, the Jester may reroll any one saving throw after the result is known. He must keep the second result, even if it is worse than the first one. He may reroll one additional saving throw per day for every 6 levels beyond 5th, to a maximum of three per day at 17th level. This ability replaces Lore Master.

Jesting (Su): At 8th level, the Jester may use his bardic performance to infuriate a single enemy. To be affected, a target must be within 30 feet and be able to see and hear the Jester’s performance. If the target fails its Will save, it attempts to attack the Jester in preference to all other actions, including defending itself or attacking other foes (unless they prevent him from reaching the Jester), for as long as the Jester continues his performance. The infuriated victim receives a -2 penalty to attack rolls and a -6 penalty to Perception checks while subject to this effect. The victim will not engage in obviously suicidal activity in order to attack the Jester, but may ignore more dangerous enemies or situations. The victim may choose the means by which he attacks the Jester (melee or ranged, lethal or nonlethal, etc.). This ability replaces Dirge of Doom.

Joking (Su): A Jester of 14th level or higher may use his performance to create an effect equivalent to the Hideous Laughter spell, except that this ability affects all enemies who can see and hear the Jester and are within 30 feet. Each enemy within range receives a Will save (DC 10 + ½ the Jester’s level + the Jester’s Cha Bonus) to avoid the effect. If the save succeeds, the creature is immune to this ability for 24 hours. The effect persists for as long as the Jester continues the performance and the victims can hear him, even if the Jester moves further than 30 feet from an affected victim. Joking is a language-dependent, mind-affecting ability that relies on audible components. This ability replaces Frightening Tune.

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I’ll plan on compiling and editing these again once I’ve gone through them all. I’ve already spotted some things I’d like to do differently (for example, the Jester’s “fool’s luck” is more powerful than I’d like, especially for what it replaces; I believe I’ll either be removing it entirely or adding a penalty to the re-roll). But I really do appreciate any feedback as I go along.

On to the next kit:

Jongleur (p. 36):

The jongleur is a juggler and acrobat; surely a staple of all sorts of performance traditions. In game terms, he is a descendent of the old Thief-Acrobat, and in Pathfinder, it would be easy to make a high-charisma rogue (Acrobat or Roof-Runner archetypes) fit the bill. Although the Daredevil bard archetype has some echoes of the jongleur, it’s more of an Errol Flynn archetype. I will, however make use of two of the abilities from that archetype (Agile and Derring-Do) in the one presented below, because they fit perfectly, and the first was exactly the ability I’d planned for this archetype even before looking up the Daredevil.

Jongleur (Bard Archetype)

Weapon Proficiencies: The jongleur is proficient in all simple weapons, as well as the throwing axe, harpoon, trident, shuriken and whip.

Agile A jongleur adds half his class level (minimum 1) to Acrobatics, Bluff, Climb, and Escape Artist checks. This ability replaces bardic knowledge.

Derring-Do (Su): A jongleur can use his performance to bring out grace in the clumsiest allies. The jongleur and any allies who see him receive a +1 morale bonus on Reflex saving throws and a +2 competence bonus on Dexterity-based skill checks. Allies who move at least 10 feet during their turn gain a +1 dodge bonus to their Armor Class until the start of their next turn. At 5th level, and every six bard levels thereafter, the saving throw and Armor Class bonuses increase by +1, to a maximum of +4 at 17th level, and the skill check bonuses increase by +2, to a maximum of +8 at 17th level. This is a mind-affecting ability that uses visual components. This ability replaces inspire courage.

Versatile Juggler (Ex): At 2nd level, the jongleur receives the benefits of either the Throw Anything feat or the Deflect Arrows feat, even if he does not otherwise meet the prerequisites for the feat. This ability replaces Versatile Performance.

Artful Dodge: At 2nd level the jongleur receives a +2 dodge bonus to his armor class versus all ranged and ranged touch attacks. The jongleur does not receive this bonus if his speed is reduced due to carrying a heavy load or wearing medium or heavy armor. This ability replaces Well-Versed.

Greatest of Ease: At 5th level, the jongleur may automatically move across a narrow surface at half-speed without falling. On a successful Acrobatics check, the jongleur may move across a narrow surface at his full speed. Additionally, with a successful DC 15 Acrobatics check, the jongleur can ignore the first 20 feet of a fall (instead of the normal 10) when calculating falling damage; the next 10 feet are converted to nonlethal damage. At 11th level, the jongleur never lands prone after a fall unless he takes enough damage to be dying or dead. This ability replaces Lore Master.

Master Acrobat:: At 10th level, the jongleur may take 10 on any Dexterity-based skill check, even if it is not normally allowed. At 16th level, the jongleur receives a +4 bonus to Acrobatics checks used to jump. At 19th level, once per day, the jongleur may take 20 on an Acrobatics skill check as a standard action. This ability replaces Jack of All Trades.

I like these least two or three the most. Keep doing a great job.

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I’m in luck with the next two kits. I've said I don't want to reinvent the wheel, and in these cases, the wheel's already there.

The Loremaster (p. 40) is quite well-represented by the Archivist archetype, and the Animal Speaker is, to all intents and purposes, the Meistersinger (p. 41).

I have a special place in my heart for this latter kit, as it was the first character I played in a really long-running campaign. The Meistersinger kit in the book does differ from the Animal Speaker archetype in two important ways: it offers the bard an animal companion, and grants a limited wild shape ability. If it’s important to you to have this as part of the character concept, the simplest thing to do is a bard/druid multiclass. You may not win any applause from the power-gaming set, but it would feel just about right.

Alternatively, you could experiment with keeping the Animal Speaker archetype and, additionally, replacing Inspire Courage with an Animal Companion ability. This is a pretty significant change, steps on the druid’s toes, and might warp the power curve: I don’t think a bard with an animal companion is more formidable than a druid with one, but I do think the Animal Companion ability is stronger than the Inspire Courage ability it replaces. I would’ve had to pay more attention in math class to figure out the marginal difference between granting all allies a 5% (then 10%, then 15%, then 20%) bonus to attack rolls and a variable percentage bonus to damage vs. having an additional attacker at the power level of an animal companion.

Anyway, if it ends up too strong but you’re still desperate to have an animal companion, one option might be to slow its advancement, so that every 2 bard levels count as 1 druid level for purposes of the companion’s advancement.

As for the Wild Shape, I actually don’t think it fits very well with the image the rest the kit paints of an animal charmer/pied piper (especially not the bizarre ability whereby the Meistersinger changes just his head and arms into those of one of his companions). So I’ll leave it out and just suggest to those that really want this feature to play either a bard/druid or a straight druid with ranks in perform and frequent use of Charm Animal.

I think that's far enough into the weeds on this one. Next up will be the Riddlemaster and the Skald!

What about replacing Inspire Courage/Greatness/Heroics?

There's also the Animal Tamer archetype from Pathfinder Database, which's stackable with Animal Speaker.

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@Bardess: That could work well. Maybe in that case, the bard could still have access to the Inspire Courage/Greatness/Heroics effects, but only with respect to the animal companion (or maybe all allied animal companions or even all allied animals, if you wanted your party druid to really love you). That would let the bard keep something of his performance schtick while significantly sacrificing for the companion.

I like the Animal Tamer archetype, too, and that + Animal Speaker could be just the ticket with no meddling needed.

Thanks as always for the feedback and ideas!

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Once again, sorry for the delay. Lot of big real-life activity, and more to come. Coming up next, we have the Riddlemaster.

Riddlemaster (p. 44):

This is a genuinely great archetype. The riddler or rhymer is everywhere from ancient legend to classic literature to modern film, from the Sphinx to Gollum to Tim the Sorcerer, out to puzzle heroes from Bilbo to Batman to John McClane. One of the Internet’s early gifts to me, almost 20 years ago now, was a netbook of riddles, culled from a newsgroup and, as it turns out, still available. Excuse me a moment while I drown in nostalgia.

Unfortunately, riddles can be tough to pull off in a game: some players just hate them, some love them, and some react like this. Moreover it’s tough to find a middle ground between disappointingly easy and maddeningly obtuse (exhibit A: the Riddler in the Adam West Batman TV show and movie). There’s plenty more to be said about riddles in general (see this thread for example), but what about this Riddlemaster kit? He has some awkward abilities as presented: he gets to guess riddles twice, he gets random bonuses to showcase his common sense, and he gets to ask the DM which door he should open when he’s stuck. All of these are a bit problematic in one way or another, so here’s a stab at rethinking the kit as an archetype.

Riddlemaster (Bard Archetype)

Riddle Game (Su) – At 1st level, the riddlemaster can fascinate interlocutors with verbal games, puzzles, and linguistic tours de force. This ability works exactly like the bard’s fascinate ability, with the following two exceptions: riddle game is a language-dependent ability, and each target receives a penalty to its Will save equivalent to twice its Intelligence bonus (if any). If the target has no Intelligence bonus or has an Intelligence penalty, its Will save is made normally. A target fascinated by a riddle game may be targeted by other bardic performance abilities that require the target to have been fascinated by the riddlemaster.

This ability replaces fascinate.

Analyze the Situation (Ex) – At 2nd level, the riddlemaster receives a +2 bonus to Perception and Sense Motive checks due to his ability to quickly and accurately size up his environment and his interlocutors. These bonuses increase by +1 at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter.

This ability replaces versatile performance.

Probable Path (Ex) – At 10th level, the riddlemaster is able to use his mastery of probabilities to find the most likely course of action. Once per day, he can take 10 on any d20 roll. He may use this ability one additional time per day for every three levels after 10th.

This ability replaces jack of all trades. Note: This ability is copied from the Archivist bard archetype

I struggled with this archetype, since so many of the kit’s abilities don’t translate well into 3rd edition and Pathfinder design philosophies. I love that the 2nd edition Riddlemaster is better at guessing riddles than others (that’s the whole point), but abilities like, “guess twice when you come to a riddle” or “get a GM hint as to which corridor to take” are tied to a very particular style of play. If your group has such a play style, I encourage you to think about adopting a rule like this, but Pathfinder doesn’t default to abilities like this, and I didn’t want my archetype to, either.

Another note: I debated making Riddle Game separate from the fascinate ability, allowing him to fascinate normally and get that bonus against too-smart-for-their-own-good opponents in lieu of another bardic performance ability; what do you think?

Comments especially welcome on this one.

Skald (p. 47) – A cool kit, though you can see the writers were running out of steam when they made his introductory rhyme (“I’m Herak the skald/and I am quite bald”). Luckily, the APG gives us the Savage Skald archetype, which does the job nicely.

Next up, the Thespian! I’m leaving for a 3-month trip on Monday so it may be some time before I wrap up the kits and move on to the rest of the book, but I’m hopeful I’ll have some time to press on in the coming weeks.

Riddle Game seems more powerful than Fascinate. Does he lose something elsewhere for balance?

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@Bardess - I felt like the language barrier, even with access to tongues or similar abilities, compensates for the intelligence penalty. At least when I've played a bard, it seems like at least half of the time I've been using fascinate against creatures that either don't speak or with whom my character doesn't share a language. Maybe a penalty equal to [i]double[i] the intelligence bonus is too much though, and just a flat one-to-one equivalency would be better. What do you think?

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Well, it's clear now that posting will be much slower in the coming two months or so, maybe even grinding to a halt. But I'm not abandoning the project, and I'll update when I can. We're moving to the end of the Kit section of the Bard's Handbook now, with the last of the "normal" kits, the Thespian.

Thespian (p. 49):

This is what the name implies, and it’s an obvious choice for a bard archetype. The PHBR version has abilities in line with what you might expect, most of them boiling down to the ability to convince people you are someone or are doing something that you’re not. In Pathfinder, these abilities have basically been superseded by the Bluff skill; I think a very good thespian bard could be built with no archetype at all and just a massive investment in this and/or the Perform (Act) skill. Cast a few shadow conjurations, make your bardic performances dramatic soliloquies rather than tunes, and you’re pretty much there.

If you’re looking for something a bit more crunchy, here's a stab at a Thespian archetype.

Thespian (Bard Archetype)

Observe Motions (Ex) – At 2nd level, the thespian’s attunement to motions and bodily cues grants him a +2 insight bonus to his armor class and a +2 bonus to attack rolls in the first round of combat. The bonus to armor class is retained even if the thespian is surprised or flat-footed.

This ability replaces Well-Versed.

General Acting (Ex) – At 5th level, through his mastery of taking on a role, the thespian receives a +4 bonus on Bluff and Disguise checks and on Perform (Act) checks being used to replicate these skills through the Versatile Performance ability. At 11th level, this bonus increases to +8.

This ability replaces Lore Master.

Method Acting (Su) – At 10th level, the thespian has acquired an almost preternatural affinity for the roles he plays. Whenever the thespian is playing a role and is the target of a spell or ability that detects alignment, thoughts, or intent, the thespian makes a Bluff or Perform (Act) check opposed by the caster’s Sense Motive check. If the thespian’s result is higher, the results match the thespian’s desired role or disguise. Thus, if a chaotic good thespian is pretending to be a lawful evil soldier in order to infiltrate the evil duke’s stronghold, a detect alignment spell would reveal the thespian to be lawful evil, and a detect thoughts spell would reveal the normal surface thoughts of a loyal soldier. At 15th level, once per day, the thespian may take 20 on a Use Magic Device check to emulate a class feature, ability score, race or alignment, or to use a scroll, wand, staff, rod, or other spell trigger item. At 19th level, the thespian may take 20 on such checks 3 times per day.

This ability replaces Jack of All Trades.

Note: I started out with Method Acting allowing the thespian to emulate a number of 1st-level class abilities (e.g. rage, smite evil) as a character of the given class nine levels lower, and decided this was just too much a can of worms and too many qualifiers were necessary, so I developed the above, only to realize that the Master Spy prestige class from the APG possesses something very similar to the first part of Method Acting. An honest case of independent invention, and anyway, the abilities (and the archetype & prestige class in which they are housed) are different enough that I don't think there's a need to either make them identical or dump it from my own archetype.

Next up are the Demihuman Bard Kits, a really nice feature of the book which let you play a dwarf or halfling bard back before that was supposed to be allowed! I'm in a bit of luck here, as well, because Wil Upchurch converted these into prestige classes on the WotC website way back when, and I think they're pretty great:

The Dwarven Chanter


The Halfling Whistler

That just leaves the Gnomish Professor and the Elvish Minstrel, but I think I'd like to give the Half-Orc some love as well, and maybe make a Gnomish bard archetype or prestige class more in line with the gnomes of Golarion. So we'll be at kits for a little while longer at least (maybe a long while, since, as I said, I won't have too many chances to work on this over the summer).

While you wait -- there's more! The book gives a list of other ideas for kits to make on your own:

Historical Bard--Druid historian
Dervish--Arabian Dancer/Healer
Muse--Singing Healer
Scop--Anglo-Saxon Minstrel
Entrancer--Spell Dancer
Rustic--Folk Singer
Rhythmist--Instrumental Dancer
Savage--Medicine Man

Right now, in the interests of getting through the book, I won't try to flesh all these out, but I just wanted to point out how full of inspiration these PHBR books could be. I really do recommend seeking out a copy (or getting the PDF now that it's been made available for purchase again).

Thanks for your interest in this thread, and I'll hope to have the next installment before too long.

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Well, as I said, the pace will be slow for a while until I’m back stateside, but I found myself with some time to tackle the remaining two demihuman kits. The first is the Elven Minstrel (p. 56), which really seems to me to need little in the way of conversion. They seem basically a way to sidestep racial class limitations without much change, except for “spell singing,” which (at least as I read it) has little game effect. To render this kit in Pathfinder, all I’d do is take the Spellsong feat (which is a better rendition of the idea of casting spells through music) and call it a day.

The Gnomish Professor, on the other hand, is a pretty dramatic reimagining.

Gnomish Professor (p. 58):

The Professor, in the Bard’s Handbook, draws on a very particular take on gnomes (sort of a more buttoned-up and together version of those in the Dragonlance books): absent-minded professors with a knack for machines and a tendency to drone on and on about complex topics and schemes. That’s obviously not the default take in many settings (including Golarion), but I think it makes for a wacky and fun character, and, really, there’s no reason to limit it to gnomes. I worked out a 10-level prestige class, but I’ll post an archetype version for now, since I tend to prefer the archetype system to the prestige class system, and they’re really the logical evolution of the kits.

This archetype is a bit of a monster, as I tried to give a nod to all the various abilities granted by the kit and replace some of the bard abilities that don’t quite fit the image. Some of the abilities end up unwieldy, and I’m grateful for suggestions on streamlining.

Professor (Bard Archetype)

Profess (Su): At 1st level, a professor can analyze a combat situation and articulate a plan of action for himself and his allies (the plan may be devised in conjunction with allies). The professor must know and describe the nature of the enemy to be faced and the general location, although precise details such as numbers of enemies and their position within the location need not be known. The professor must spend one full minute describing the plan and must decide in advance how many rounds the effect will last, expending that many rounds of bardic performance. If he is interrupted during this time, or if the planned combat does not occur within 12 hours, the chosen number of rounds of bardic performance are lost. If an ally is unable to hear the professor or engages in combat or other activity requiring concentration during this time, that ally receives no benefit from the ability. An affected ally receives a +2 competence bonus on attack and weapon damage rolls, a +2 competence bonus to skill checks, and a +2 competence bonus to initiative rolls for the duration of the encounter described by the professor, so long as the ally continues to act according to the basic plan articulated. At 5th level, and every six bard levels thereafter, the bonus to attack and weapon damage rolls and to skill checks increases by +2, to a maximum of +8 at 17th level. Profess is a mind-affecting, language-dependent ability that requires audible components.

This ability replaces Inspire Courage.

Mechanically Inclined (Ex): At 2nd level, a professor gains a +2 bonus to any two of the following skills: Use Magic Device, Disable Device, any Craft skill, or Knowledge (engineering).

This ability replaces Well-Versed.

Befuddle (Su): A professor of 8th level or higher can use his performance to cause his enemies to become distracted and confused, taking a -2 penalty to attack rolls, Reflex saves, and concentration and Perception checks. Additionally, any Dexterity bonus to Armor Class is reduced by 2 (to a minimum of 0). To be affected, an enemy must be within 30 feet and able to see and hear the professor’s performance. The effect persists for as long as the enemy is within 30 feet and the professor continues the performance. Befuddle is a mind-affecting effect that relies on visual and audible components.

This ability replaces Dirge of Doom

Stimulating Performance (Su): A professor of 12th level or higher can use his performance to create an effect equivalent to the mass cure serious wounds spell, using the professor’s level as the caster level. In addition, this performance removes all Wisdom and Intelligence damage. The professor may also expend extra rounds of bardic performance to restore points of Wisdom and Intelligence lost to ability drain at a rate of one round of bardic performance per restored point.

This ability replaces Soothing Performance.

Drone (Su): A professor of 14th level or higher can use his performance to overwhelm his enemies with boredom and weariness. To be affected, an enemy must be able to hear the professor perform and be within 30 feet. Each enemy within range receives a Will save (DC 10 + ½ the professor’s level + the professor’s Charisma modifier) to negate the effect. If the save succeeds, the creature is immune to this ability for 24 hours. If the save fails, the target falls asleep (as per the sleep spell for as long as the professor continues the performance and for 1 minute thereafter. Befuddle relies on audible components.

This ability replaces Frightening Tune

Invention (Ex): Once per day, a professor of 20th level may attempt to create an invention that duplicates the effects of any magical item of 25,000 gp or less in value whose effects could reasonably be considered to be mechanically replicable. Additionally, nearly any nonmagical item from the mundane to the innovative and bizarre could be created given reasonable constraints on materials. Items that bestow permanent effects may not be created with this ability. Items with charges may only be used by the professor himself and require the expenditure of one round of bardic performance per charge used. The creation of the invention requires at least 1 hour and requires access to an appropriate volume of material (although professors are remarkably talented at cobbling their inventions together from goods at hand). The inventions are inherently unstable, inevitably breaking down and becoming nonfunctional after 24 hours; a nonfunctional invention may be repaired daily by expending the use of this ability. Some examples might be an electrically charged weapon duplicating a sword +1, shocking burst, a hovercraft acting like a carpet of flying, or a wagon with draft horses in the center of the wagon to protect them from attack.

This ability replaces Deadly Performance.

Obviously, this last ability is a little bit bonkers and requires some GM adjudication, but, hey, it’s a capstone ability.

And that’s it for the kits! I’ll be back when I can to continue moving through the book. As I said, I would like to come up with a few more archetypes or prestige classes to fill some gaps, but I think for now, anyway, I’ll keep moving toward the original goal of making everything in this really enjoyable book useful to a Pathfinder campaign.

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Ok, it's been quite some time, as I said it might be, but here's a look at the next two chapters and what can be drawn from them for a Pathfinder game. As always, comments are welcome!

Chapter 4: Proficiencies (p. 64)

This chapter may seem to be of little use in a Pathfinder game, since part of the design philosophy of 3rd Edition was to streamline and consolidate the proficiencies system. There are still some nuggets that might be of use either from a rules or strictly roleplaying perspective, though, so we’ll consider them briefly.

This is covered by Perform (Act) now; the "synergy" bonus idea of 3rd edition already crops up here.

This proficiency makes repetitive action easier, at the DM’s discretion. It could be reworked as a feat:

Fortifying Chant
Your rhythmic chanting can ease the strain of repetitive labor or strengthen the soul against privation.

Whenever you or any ally within 30 feet must make a Constitution check to continue running, a Constitution check to avoid nonlethal damage from a forced march, a Constitution check made to avoid nonlethal damage from starvation or thirst, or a Fortitude save made to avoid nonlethal damage from hot or cold environments you may make a DC 15 Perform check. If this check is successful, you and all allies within 30 feet may add your Charisma bonus to the Constitution check or Fortitude save.

(While on the subject of chants, I think there’s some design space for either feats or archetype abilities that involve chants that negatively affect opponents Will saves, that increase the effectiveness of divine spells, or that improve summoning spells. I may revisit this later.)

Craft Instrument:
This is pretty easily subsumed under Craft; it’s up to you and your DM whether it should be its own Craft subtype or rolled into Woodworking, etc. I think it would be fun to play as an adventuring Stradivarius.

Crowd Working:
This, too, could be a feat, allowing you to substitute Perform checks for Diplomacy checks (I know that Versatile Performance lets you do this already for certain kinds of performance, diminishing the value of this feat to bards) and to earn double the gold for a successful Perform check. Not an outstanding feat as it stands – could almost be a Trait – but preserves the feel of the skill.

Easy enough. This is Perform (Poetry)

Could be Perform (Whistling); this skill as written up includes something that’s basically the Innuendo skill from 3.0, which is now a function of the Bluff skill. I heartily support a character describing her secret messages using the Bluff skill as a kind of whistling.

As an aside, some inspiration: Geert Chatrou, World Whistling Champion

Chapter 5: Bard Abilities (p. 68)

This chapter is, alas, pretty much obsolete, dealing as it does with the 2nd Edition Bard abilities borrowed from the Thief class. These are now all skills, and this chapter is really only interesting for a look back at an earlier conception of what skills the Bard possessed.

Ok. That’s it for now – next up will be the Magic chapter, with a few new spells, and then a discussion of some of the really fantastic “fluff” to be found in the following chapters. It may not be until I return home at the end of September, but the show will at some point go on.

burrahobbit wrote:

@Bardess: That could work well. Maybe in that case, the bard could still have access to the Inspire Courage/Greatness/Heroics effects, but only with respect to the animal companion (or maybe all allied animal companions or even all allied animals, if you wanted your party druid to really love you). That would let the bard keep something of his performance schtick while significantly sacrificing for the companion.

I like the Animal Tamer archetype, too, and that + Animal Speaker could be just the ticket with no meddling needed.

Thanks as always for the feedback and ideas!

Actually, I just discovered the Speaker's Companion feat in Rite Publishing's 101 Bard Feats, allowing the Animal Speaker to take an animal companion like a ranger of the same level. Problem solved! Needless to say, one Speaker I know will be very happy about that.

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Ok. It’s been quite some time, but let’s finish this up. First, Chapter 6 of the book introduced some new spells, many of which have already been updated or superseded, but let’s go through the list.

New Spells (p. 75)

Alter Instrument:

This spell seems a bit redundant now that bards have Summon Instrument as a cantrip, but I suppose there could conceivably be moments when one might want to alter rather than summon an instrument, particularly when dealing with a magical instrument, an instrument larger than that which can be summoned with Summon Instrument, or an instrument being used by a rival bard.

Alter Instrument

School alteration; Level Bard 1

Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V,S

Range Touch
Target One musical instrument
Duration 1 minute/level
Saving Throw Will negates (object) Spell Resistance Yes (object)

The affected musical instrument becomes another type of instrument of the same size category for the duration of the spell. Magical and masterwork instruments retain all of their abilities, but any Perform checks to use the instrument change to match the new instrument type.

Sound Bubble:

This one is replaced by Zone of Silence. Interesting how an understanding of its flexibility bumped it all the way from 1st to 4th level. Even with the slightly different bard spell progression, that’s quite a leap. What other spells have made that kind of jump?

Silence 15’ Radius:

This is now just the Silence spell. (Ok, so the PF version of Silence has a 20’ radius, but I guess they’re keeping pace with inflation).

Improved Magic Mouth:

This is an odd one to adjudicate, but, what the hey. It may be a bit of a headache and fuzzier than PF likes a spell to be, but I don’t think it’ll be breaking any games, and could be a good mechanism for an info drop on PCs.

Improved Magic Mouth

School illusion (glamer); Level Bard 3, sorcerer/wizard 4

Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M (wax and jade powder worth 50 gp)

Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target One creature or object
Duration permanent until discharged
Saving Throw Will negates (object) Spell Resistance Yes (object)

This spell functions exactly like magic mouth, except that the mouth can engage in conversation, respond to questions, and interact with individuals present when the effect is triggered. The mouth is endowed with the caster’s current knowledge and personality at the time of casting, and speaks and behaves accordingly. It does not acquire additional knowledge or awareness of changes in the caster’s attitude following casting. After being triggered, the effect persists for 5 minutes or until the end of the conversation, whichever comes first.

Instant Audience:

This spell is really goofy, and I’m not sure I understand the application, except perhaps to encourage the belief that the caster is the kind of person who plays to a full house. The Bard’s HB makes it a conjuration spell, but it really should be an illusion. Major Image should cover it, although it does require concentration: if you wanted to make this a spell on it’s own, I would call it “Illusory Audience,” and have it work exactly like Major Image except that it can only create the illusion of a plausible audience for a given activity or performance, the illusionary audience members can interact with and respond to their environment, and the illusion persists as long as that activity or performance lasts (maximum 4 hours). Trade the versatility of Major Image for the freedom not to have to concentrate. But again, I can’t imagine filling a spell slot with this.

Wall of Sound:

Paizo has kindly given us a version: Wall of Sound, which is, however, quite different from the Bard’s HB spell. That one might be rendered something like this:

Wall of Sound

School evocation [sonic] Level Bard 3, sorcerer/wizard 4

Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M (a piece of slate and a finger nail clipping)

Range medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Effect Shimmering wall of sound up to 20 ft. long/level or a ring of sound with a radius of up to 5 ft./two levels; either form 20 ft. high
Duration concentration + 1 round/level
Saving Throw Fortitude partial (see below) Spell Resistance Yes

This spell brings forth an immobile, shimmering curtain of disturbed air. One side of the wall produces a voluminous roar that completely disrupts all communication, command words, verbal spell components and any other distinguishable sound within 30 feet. In addition, all creatures within 10 feet of this edge of the wall are deafened for 1 round per level of the caster (Fortitude save negates). A loud roar is audible on the other side of the wall, but communication is possible and proximity does not cause deafness.

Touching or passing through the wall (from either side) deals 2d6 points of sonic damage (Fortitude save ½) and any creature touching or passing through the wall is permanently deafened. If you evoke the wall so that it appears where creatures are, each creature suffers the effects of passing through the wall. A silence spell suppresses the wall within its area, but the wall reappears when the silence ends.

Conjure Cabinet:

This is an interesting (or as the book has it “a very special”) spell that is very similar to Pathfinder’s Secret Chest spell, with the exception that the cabinet is only for bards, can contain only performance-related gear, and rather than hiding on the Ethereal Plane, has a permanent resting place elsewhere on the same plane. I’d be fine with giving bards access to secret chest at 4th level. If you wanted to match the book more closely, I think it actually works just fine to tweak that spell thus:
First, the chest/cabinet is actually summoned, rather than hidden, by the spell.
Second, the chest/cabinet teleports back to a home location on the Prime Material Plane when the spell’s duration ends, rather than being hidden on the Ethereal when the spell is cast. There is no chance of the chest being irretrievably lost.
I think this is a pretty reasonable trade-off.
If you want to limit the versatility and match the book even more, the chest/cabinet can only contain materials “of a performing nature,” though that’s subject to some judgment calls and could lead to arguments.

Ok, so that’s the spells! Thanks for reading -- magic items will be next.

Also, thanks, Bardess, for the 101 Bard Feats tip!

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

That book is one of my all time favorites. I have had memorable characters in games of the Blade, Jangleur, Gallant, and Charlatan. Bards are really great.

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Next up, Magic items!

Case of Compression:

Nice little item; we’ll make some slight adjustments for versatility.

Case of Compression
Aura faint transmutation; CL 5th
Slot none; Price 1,000 gp Weight 1 lb.

When touched to any musical instrument of Medium size or smaller, this miniature (2” x 4”) case of hard leather alters its size and shape to fit the instrument perfectly. When the case is closed and locked with the instrument inside, it returns to a size of approximately 2” x 4”, retaining its shape but weighing only 1 pound regardless of the weight of the instrument. When the case is set on the ground and unlocked, the instrument and case return to full size. When the instrument is removed from the case, the case returns to its original size.

Construction Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, shrink item Cost 500 gp

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Hello Burrahobbit,

Thank you for doing these conversions. they are fun to read and could be very useful,

Thanks again,


PS "whats a Burrahobbit's got do do with my pockets? "

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A couple more magic items:

Gourd of Travel:

Gourd of Travel
Aura moderate conjuration; CL 9th
Slot none; Price 12,000 gp

By shaking this gourd and saying the command word, the user may teleport as per the spell, bringing with him the equivalent of 3 touched Medium creatures (see the teleport spell description). When created, a gourd of travel has 10 seeds inside; each time the item is activated, one of these seeds vanishes, and when all seeds have vanished, the gourd becomes a nonmagical item.

Construction Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, teleport
Cost 6,000 gp

Harp of Healing:

A relic from a different healing/HP era (heal one hit point per hour!). Here’s a simple update that makes it more powerful and utilitarian.

Harp of Healing
Aura Moderate conjuration; CL 9th
Slot none; Price 60,000 gp

This harp is beautifully made and always in perfect tune. Once per hour, when played for at least one full round with a successful DC 10 Perform (stringed instruments) check, the harp may heal up to 10 creatures within 50 feet of 1d8+10 points of damage. The harp may instead deal an equivalent amount of damage to undead creatures (Will save ½).

Additionally, once per day, if played continuously for 1 hour with a successful DC 25 Perform (stringed instruments check), the harp eliminates all exhaustion, fatigue, and temporary ability damage from up to 10 creatures within 50 feet; this performance also restores to these creatures all points lost to ability drain of a single ability score, chosen by the user.

Construction Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, mass cure light wounds, restoration
Cost 30,000 gp

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And finishing up with the magic items!

Horn of Amplification:

Ok. This is fairly silly in appearance, but the effect is very nice for a bard. I toyed with turning it into a trumpet or megaphone, but ended up staying with the quirky original.

Horn of Amplification
Aura moderate evocation CL 7th
Slot head; Price 32,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.

This solid horn resembles that of a rhinoceros, and magically adheres to a creature’s forehead when touched. The horn may be removed as a standard action by the wearer (or if the wearer dies) but is otherwise permanently affixed.

The horn bestows several effects on the wearer: first, whenever the wearer chooses, he can modulate his voice so it carries twice as far as normal. Second, the horn doubles the area of effect of any bardic performances by the wearer. Third, the horn doubles the range of any evocation [sonic] spell with a range greater than touch cast by the wearer. Finally, 3 times per day, the wearer can shout as per the spell (the horn does not double the range of this effect).

The wearer can also use the horn as a natural weapon dealing 1d4 points of piercing damage.

Construction requirements Craft wondrous item, shout, 16,000 gp

Horn of Baubles:

This kind of item was generally discarded in 3rd Edition’s design philosophy, but if you like a little bit of terrifyingly deadly zaniness, this is fun. Basically it’s a horn that spits out a bunch of useless baubles, with an increasing risk of sucking the user in and spitting him out as a bunch of baubles, a fate from which only a wish can rescue him. I won’t bother with the mechanics.

Lyre of Wounding:

Cursed items are a bit on the outs with a lot of groups these days, but if you’re feeling a little mean…

Lyre of Wounding
Aura moderate necromancy; CL
Slot none; Weight 5 lbs.

This elegantly carved lyre inflicts 1d6 points of Dexterity damage whenever played, as its strings cut and tear at the player’s fingers. Once used for the first time, it stubbornly remains in the user’s possession and springs to hand whenever the user attempts to make a Perform check and compels the user to play it.

Note: if you as a GM are feeling particularly cruel, the lyre could spring to hand whenever the user attempts either a Perform check or to activate a bardic performance ability.

Periapt of Proof Against Sound:

Periapt of Proof Against Sound

Aura faint abjuration; CL 5th
Slot chest; Price 500 gp (+1), 2,000 gp (+2), 4,500 gp (+3), 8,000 gp (+4), 12,500 gp (+5); Weight 1 lb.

This small gemmed periapt offers protection against harmful sounds. The wearer receives a bonus of +1 to +5 on all saving throws versus sonic or language-dependent attacks (including sonic damage and effects like a harpy’s captivating song) and all saving throws to prevent deafness.

Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, resistance, creator’s caster level must be at least twice the periapt’s bonus; Cost 250 gp (+1), 1,000 gp (+2), 2,250 gp (+3), 4,000 gp (+4), 6,250 gp (+5).

Pick of Strumming:

A very simple utilitarian item. I imagined it as a finger pick, since I had a hard time envisioning someone playing a harp with a plectrum.

Pick of Strumming

Aura faint enchantment; CL 3rd
Slot hand; Price 500 gp; Weight

This small ivory pick, designed to be worn around one finger, gives the user a +6 bonus to Perform (stringed instrument) checks when using any plucked or strummed instrument and allows the user to make all Perform (stringed instrument) checks as if trained.

Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, cat’s grace; Cost 250 gp

Recorder of Recording:

Ah, the bad puns return. This is a goofy and kind of fun item that in very specific situations could be useful, but that probably isn’t to all tastes and is likely too random to see much use. I tried to up the utility just a bit, which has made the text a bit confusing. What do you think?

Recorder of Recording

Aura moderate illusion and transmutation; CL 7th
Slot none; Price 3,000 gp Weight 1 lb.

Upon speaking the command word, this polished wooden recorder will store with perfect clarity all sounds made within 30 feet for up to 10 minutes. If the recorder is being played during this time, the user can command the recorder not to store the sound of its own song, so that all sounds within 30 feet are clearly audible as if the recorder were not being played. At any time after the recording has ceased, the recorder can clearly and accurately reproduce any or all of the period of recorded sound upon command. Spells and spell effects cannot be duplicated by the recorder (although the sounds themselves can be replayed, they have no special effect).

Supernatural sonic effects, however (such as a Harpy’s Captivating Song or bardic performance abilities that rely only on audible components) are recorded and duplicated by the recorder.

Ordinary sound can be reproduced as frequently as desired until the recorder is commanded to record again (at which point all previously recorded sound is erased). Supernatural sonic effects may be reproduced only once, after which they and all other recorded sound are erased.

Requirements Craft Wondrous Item; magic mouth, sculpt sound Cost 1,500 gp

Zither of Speed:

I can’t help but hear the theme from The Third Man when I think about this item.

Zither of Speed
AuraModerate transmutation CL 5th; Price 7,000 gp

Once per day the user may make a DC 10 Perform (Stringed Instrument) check to duplicate the effects of either a haste or slow spell (Will save DC 15 negates), except that all allies or enemies (chosen by the user) within 40 feet of the user are affected (if a given creature ends its turn outside of the area of effect, the effect ends for that creature; any creature entering or re-entering the area is subject to the effect). The effect continues for as long as the user plays the instrument, but each round the user must make a new Perform check, with the DC increasing by 1 each round. A failed check at any point ends the effect (if the user fails the initial check, the effect fails and the zither may not be used again for 1 day).

Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, haste, slow; Cost 3,500 gp

That just about does it for the crunchy parts of the book. I'll look at the next few chapters and some of the ways they can be used in a Pathfinder game in my next post.

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Alright, finishing off the magic items chapter first:

New Twists on Old Items (p. 87):

This is a neat section. Basically, it takes certain (mostly musical) magical items and gives bards – or certain bard kits – special twists when using them (e.g., a Charlatan gets even more benefit from a philter of glibness; a bard can play a Horn of Fog to make magical rain). While on the one hand 3e and PF made things a lot clearer and more balanced, in part by getting rid of exceptional rules for various situations, stuff like this can be a lot of fun. There’s not much conversion to do here, since if you want to bring these things into your game, they can mostly be imported as is, and there are some enjoyable ideas.

Chapter 7: Music:

I love this chapter. It’s got a quick overview of music in various historical periods and hundreds of musical instruments with their eras, family, weights, prices, and (in many cases) images, as well as a glossary of musical terms and four sample songs. Sure, these days we’ve got Wikipedia, Spotify, Google Books, Amazon mp3s, and instant access to all kinds of information, but when I was a kid and had basically this book and a modest public library, this chapter was absolute gold. I won’t repeat anything from this chapter, since it doesn’t need converted, but it holds up pretty well.

Here are a couple of links that might be of interest (most of them appropriately old-looking by now, as it happens):
Slowplayers.org is a site with sheet music and midi files for Irish session musicians.

Contemplator is a site full of English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and American traditional music.

Classical Arabic Music is a bit awkwardly laid out, but has some nice sound samples.

Mudcat.org is a longtime folk music hangout, with a huge database of lyrics and lots of really knowledgeable people.

The Music of the Crusades is an album I’ve been listening to recently. There are a number of ensembles working with early European music, and others who try to reconstruct older musical traditions, e.g., from Norse eddic poetry to Ancient Greek music

I could go on and on, but I think a separate thread is the place for that. There are obviously as many musical, poetic, and performance traditions as there are groups of people in the world, so the inspiration is literally endless. All in all, this is a chapter where, within the obvious limits, the Bard’s HB really shines. Enjoy it, no conversion necessary!

Chapter 8: Roleplaying Bards:

Again, a really fantastic “fluff” chapter, and in my opinion one of the best chapters in any of the complete handbooks. As far as rules go, the main attractions in this chapter are an optional “reputation” system and an expansion of the Perform nonweapon proficiency to cover earning income. Reputation has been covered in various iterations, and both the Bard’s HB reputation system and the Perform options can be incorporated into the PF skill system without much change if you prefer them to existing versions.

Table 28 (pp. 108-109) is a big database of personality traits and distinguishing characteristics that you can use to define your bard, and it’s just great. I remember rolling up a character who had a baker as his enemy, and that fixed the character in my mind better than a full-length novel could have. I know some other books have offered “trait tables” for PCs or NPCs, but I think this one still holds its own.

Then there’s some general advice on playing a bard, including the immortal line: “As a player you are succeeding at your job if your fellow role-players know the color of your bard’s boots.”

Chapter 9: Comrades:

This chapter floats a few ideas about bard colleges and gatherings, and then covers the business of acquiring patrons/fans as well as followers. These rules have largely been superseded by the Leadership feat in 3e/PF, and I unfortunately can’t think of a great way of making it work mechanically in Pathfinder to have a half-dozen 0-level stagehands following the bard around. But Table 34: Types of Patrons (p. 119) is great, because you have a chance of rolling up an obsessed fan who loves your bard in a crazy kind of way and will attempt to assassinate him or her if the bard ever loses the fan’s patronage. Showbiz! All this can provide some DM inspiration or ideas for a cohort.

Well, apart from an appendix giving the rules for the 1st Edition D&D Bard, that’s it for the Bard’s Handbook! Hope it’s been useful, even with the long summer hiatus. In a bit I’ll circle back and try to compile everything, and then press on with a new book.

Shadow Lodge

*clap, clap*
well done, which book is next?

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