Bards have always come across as a perfect class for villains. The natural direction for a bard is someone who can convince a great deal of people to their side or obey their commands through both innate charisma and magical influence. A bad guy with dozens of faithful minions to throw at you seems harmless enough until he takes a simple farmer and buffs him with spells and song to create a sort of horrible champion of his cause.
A good example of this was I was playing with some friends and we came across a massive tavern that had its own walls. This place was almost its own complex which could survive without aid for years. It stood alone in the middle of nowhere and was a great resting spot for weary travelers and the like. We were tired and yearning for some food and a bed when we came across some bards who were a little too enticing with their music for our taste. The wizard detected some extremely powerful enchantments in their music, more than it should be, and the barbarian decided to call them out on it. Little good it did for us. The people who had been charmed and controlled by these bards for so long became diehard loyalists and were all too willing to comply with the bards' orders to kill us. We ran and eventually lost them but were trapped in the giant tavern castle with a population out to see us dead. We had to utilize every trick in the book from our rogue making disguises for us to our own bard battling one of the bad bards with the only use of Countersong I've ever seen in DnD. It was tense and exciting with surprisingly little combat. We escaped the tavern after a six session escape mission including four separate escape plans. We alerted the authorites of the neighboring city and when the constables arrived at the tavern castle, it was abandoned. We still are trying to find these three bards. It was both adventurous but also slightly "Amnesia" or "Call of Cthulhu" like with us sneaking in the shadows to avoid these obsessed followers.
Does anyone else have examples of Bards playing a villain in their campaign? Always good to share ideas.
I've also (as a DM) run a couple of Bard assassins- welcome in, tell a few stories, share some news, and gee, the mayor's dead, how did that happen?
|The Dandy Lion|
One 3.5 campaign I was in, one of the villains was actually a former party member (who was already evil aligned before the player left the group). The GM did have their consent.
Over the campaign, while the bard was still with the party, we were reliant on his magic/skills for a lot of diplomatic situations. Naturally, he used this to squeeze us for items, and use the high level diplomacy our group was engaged in to secure himself a great deal of allies.
The whole time, he was learning what items we had, the weaknesses and ties of the party, and eventually sold us out to the antagonist's faction.
He convinced the king of the main friendly nation that our party was the reason the kingdom was threatened, and to join the antagonist instead - leading to the party in exile. He kidnapped the rogue's loved one within the kingdom, and since our group was exiled and more or less kill-on-sight, and our arcane caster WAS said bard, our rogue had to go it alone. Naturally, the bard had traps and enchantments waiting.
Even when we seemingly thwarted the antagonist's plans and destroyed his nation, the Bard was nowhere to be seen, having left for security in the next most powerful nation available, without a trace.
Honestly, I love Bards as villains. They tick off so many smug villain tropes and still get away with it all.