I would like to see bard move away from traditional spellcasting.


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Bard has always been the odd one out when it came to spellcasting.

Clerics and Paladins get spells from their devotion to a God, Druids get their spells from a deep connection to nature, Sorcerers have magic in their blood, and Wizards study arcane science. Bard... music good and that makes them magic?

Traditional spellcasting for the bard feels a bit out of place. We now have an entirely new spell subset for them, Occult, which feels a little off brand and more in line with a warlock theme (monster summoning, shadow control, telepathy, teleportation, mind control, and the like).

I see a lot of potential in the composition cantrips... and I think Bards should lean into that. If they're still going to have spells, find a way to get away from traditional spell slots. Perhaps use resonance -- a word that frankly has a lot to do with sound and music.

Make them a lot more like Alchemists in form and function. Thematically, they are perhaps the most closely connected. Give them more functionality as a party buffer and a single-enemy debuffer.

There are plenty of existing features you could already copy and reflavor for them. Use the Cleric's Channel Energy for Bless/Bane. Use the Paladin's Rightous Ally but offer a singing sword, a special instrument, or an extraordinary wardrobe. Or even give them a social version of the Ranger's Hunt Target.

Whatever the case, I think the current version has some thematic issues that stem largely from a combination of holding over too much from previous editions and simultaneously trying to distinguish them from the other casters. The easiest way to fix all of that is to just stop making them casters.

I think that when most modern people think of medieval bards, they think of non-magical poets, writers, or minstrels, but in Celtic history, folklore and mythology, bards like Teliesin, Myrddin Wyllt (Merlinus Caledonensis), and Myddin Emrys (Merlin Ambrosius) were very magical bards. In Celtic folklore and mythology poems, songs, and music do produce magical effects. Taliesin's poetry and songs does things like control winds and cause chains to drop off of prisoners. Poetry and music are very much like casting a spell. The dividing lines in Celtic history, folklore, and mythology between shamans, bards, druids, alchemists, and wizards are very thin, and all of them overlap quite a bit. A figure may be labelled as more than one of those frequently. There's actually a case to be made that a bard could have the same powers as a wizard, witch, shaman, or druid, but just cast spells through music instead of another method. Linking the effects of spells more directly to music does make some intuitive sense, but in folklore and mythology, that's not necessarily the case. In Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon books, people are bards before they become druids, and music is an underlying force under all magic, even if poetry, song, and music aren't performed to produce magic later in one's spellcasting career.

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