Bard Skills: Performance and Occultism


Skills, Feats, Equipment & Spells


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My wife is creating a 7th-level bard character for Affair at Sombrefell Hall. I hate watching her suffer. Bards had been one of her favorite classes, both because she is a musician and because she likes versatile, flamboyant characters. The playtest bard is only 1/3 as versatile as the PF1 bard. And they don't seem musical. They are occult.

The Pathfinder 1st Edition Core Rulebook is a magnificent work of design in the clever ways it corrected many flaws of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5. My wife played bards in D&D, and she spent skill points on Perform(sing) and other Perform skills because she wanted her character to be able to sing and play musical intruments. That was pure roleplaying, for the Perform skill had no mechanical advantage worth caring about. Pathfinder invented Versatile Performance for bards, where Perform can substitute for two other skills, and voila, bards could afford--and were rewarded for--to put skill points into a Perform skill. And it made sense that bards were so versatile that they could adapt their stage skills to non-stage situations.

In Pathfinder 2nd Edition, Versatile Performance costs a class feat. As a polymath muse, the bard would gain Versatile Performance for free along with Summon Monster, but that is not really free. That costs the muse selection, passing up lore muse with Bardic Lore and True Strike and maestro muse with Lingering Composition and Soothe. My wife's elf noble bard Loriel wants Bardic Lore (lore is even in her name) and Inspire Competence, which requires Lingering Composition. Polymath muse is third out of three on her choice of muses, despite her being married to a math muse.

The ingenious way that Versatile Performance encouraged bards who actually sing and play music has been shot down for over half the bards. Maybe Pathfinder 2nd Edition's use of musical instruments as casting components will help restore music to the bard, but it will be unskilled music.

Meanwhile, I have a problem with Occultism skill. As a GM, I have difficulty telling the difference between arcane and occult. I am also annoyed at how Doomsday Dawn says to make an Arcana, Nature, Occultism, or Religion check as if the writer cannot figure out which skill covers spellcraft.

Other people have another gripe about Occultism: Why is occultism not charisma based? and Suggestion: Occultism skill should be CHA based. As thorin001 explains, the two classes that use occult magic, bard and occult sorcerer, are Charisma casters. So why is understanding their magic based on Intelligence? Rysky replied, "I'd come at from the other way and say that Religion should be INT as well, since they represent the Knowledge in this game."

Rysky has a good point, too. If Religion skill is nothing but Knowledge(Religion) with a shorter name, then it is an Intelligence skill. And since Religion skill has only the actions Recall Knowledge, Identify Magic, Learn a Divine Spell, and Read Scripture, it does seem to be solely a knowledge skill. Nature skill has a better grounding in Wisdom, with Handle an Animal and Command an Animal also under its reign.

Occultism has the same actions as Religion: Recall Knowledge, Identify Magic, Learn an Occult Spell, and Read Esoterica. It is a knowledge skill; hence, its bonus is from Intelligence. To justify switching it to a Charisma skill, we ought to add Charisma actions to it, just as Nature has some Wisdom actions in it.

To find Charisma-based occultism, look at the bard and ask what makes the class occult? Bards tell stories and uncover the hidden. Bards sing songs and play music, which affect people's emotions rather than their intellect. Musical powers are beyond cold-hearted calculations, beyond science. The occult side of bards is their stories and music.

Time for a sanity check (sanity checks are often necessary when dealing with the occult). Let's see if this fits the other occult classes. Aside from occult sorcerer, those classes exist only in PF1 right now: Kineticist, Medium, Mesmerist, Occultist, Psychic, and Spiritualist. Constitution-based Kineticists draw from inner elemental powers like sorcerers. Mediums and Spiritualists deal with spirits, which ordinarily be under Religion and Wisdom. That holds for the Wisdom-based Spiritualists, but the more occult Mediums must influence the spirits with their Charisma. Intelligence-based Occultists rely on occult implements and mental focus. The mind-based spells of Psychics so based in Intelligence that I can imagine them using the intellectual Arane spell list instead of the bardic Occult spell list. The Mesmerist is a more clearly an Occult magician, dealing in delusion and misdirection.

Thus, the occult side of bards is digging into mystery, influencing feelings, and weaving delusions. Occultism is defined as the secrets man is not meant to know, because knowing leads to insanity. Friedrich Nietzsche said, "If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you," and the bard knows to manipulate the occult frivolously without gazing into it intellectually. Occultism is not Intelligence, because the bard must tap into the occult without understanding it.

So how does a bard learn something without understanding it? Other glimpse the unknowable and code it into symbols, recitations, music, rituals, or implements to hide the details. Then the bard masters the coding. Occultism is about figuring out the answer from the following the symbolism rather than mentally grasping knowledge that is too hot to handle. Bards answer questions indirectly through drama (obligatory Order of the Stick comic, All Available Resources).

Okay, now that I defined Occultism, let's get rid of it.

As I said earlier, to make Occultism not a knowledge skill, it needs actions that are not knowledge actions. I don't see any actions related to symbolism and rote recitation that we can invent from scratch. The only such actions in the game are already covered by another skill. So, let's merge Occultism and that other skill, which is Performance. The bard literally performs occult magic as a staged performance.

Don't yell that Occultism is a knowledge skill and Performance is an active skill so they can't be merged. Occultism is not supposed to be abstract knowledge. Occultism is about dealing with the unknowable eldritch phenomena of the world.

This serves two purposes. (1) Occultism will become better separated from Arcana, because it will be tied to symbols, rituals, and mystery rather than knowledge. (2) The bard will have a reason to study Performance.

Xenocrat, in the "Suggestion: Occultism should be CHA" thread said, "It should stay INT based. Intelligence has few enough uses, and Charisma already has plenty." Giving Intelligence a skill that only bards will bother studying does not help Intelligence much. Better to take rename Arcana skill as Knowledge and let it expand, too.


My real issue about making Occultism Charisma based is that it's not just the bard who is going to worry about the skill. Like "Psychic Magic" comes from the book "Occult Adventures" and Psychic magic is pretty important in Golarion outside of Avistan (it's fairly common in Vudra).

So just to fill out the setting we are going to have to reintroduce things like Psychics and Spiritualists. So are those going to get their own, brand new, spell lists (Mental + Vital and Material+Spiritual are available)? Or are we going to have to consider that non-Charisma classes are eventually going to care about Occultism.

If we do give the previous "Occult" classes their own unique magic, then how do we add a skill associated with it? I have no issues with adding a new skill to the game, but you would need to change the character sheet, which doesn't seem like something Paizo wants to do.


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Pathfinder Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

When I think of Occultism "experts" in the real world, they tend to be the sorts who can mesmerize a group of people into believing things that don't follow "normal" logic. Making the occult "work" isn't must about knowing the rituals or secret knowledge, it also requires having sufficient force of personality or will.

I see every reason why Occultism as a knowledge skill would be based on Charisma, not Intelligence.

And having one or more skill uses that involve social activities, like spinning a mesmerizing story or gathering followers, would be pretty awesome.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:

My real issue about making Occultism Charisma based is that it's not just the bard who is going to worry about the skill. Like "Psychic Magic" comes from the book "Occult Adventures" and Psychic magic is pretty important in Golarion outside of Avistan (it's fairly common in Vudra).

So just to fill out the setting we are going to have to reintroduce things like Psychics and Spiritualists. So are those going to get their own, brand new, spell lists (Mental + Vital and Material+Spiritual are available)? Or are we going to have to consider that non-Charisma classes are eventually going to care about Occultism.

If we do give the previous "Occult" classes their own unique magic, then how do we add a skill associated with it? I have no issues with adding a new skill to the game, but you would need to change the character sheet, which doesn't seem like something Paizo wants to do.

I learned about The Once and Future Kai's thread, Could we have less crossover between the Arcane and Occult Spell Lists?, because he mentioned it in another thread 29 minutes ago. In two comments Tholomyes speculates that the Witch will be another Occult spellcaster and that Vital/Mental magic would be Psionic (Psychic).

If we do ever gain Vital/Mental and Material/Spiritual as fifth and sixth magic lists, I doubt that Paizo will add another skill to cover them. Adding a skill would suddenly force unrelated classes to need that skill as they encounter the new magic.

Paizo is much more likely to add the knowledge and spellcraft rolls of the fifth and sixth magics to existing skills. Medicine would work for Vital/Mental, especially if Medicine shifts to an Intelligence-bases skill as some people suggest. The skill for Material/Spiritual magic will depend on the form of that magic. For example, if Material/Spiritual magic is about the shadow plane and shadow magic, it could use Stealth.

Having Occult magic use Performance as its knowledge and spellcraft skill would lay the foundation for the other magics selecting existing skills for their knowledge and spellcraft.


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With respect to the Wis/Int for Religion thing, it also gets back to the old question of why we even have the two as separate abilities. Historically, as in in AD&D, Strength was Fighterness, Dexterity was Rogueness, Intelligence was Wizardness, and Wisdom was Clericness, plus Constitution and Charisma as endurance and leadership for everyone. It's why we have oddities like swords using strength (imagine a steak knife. You don't need to be ripped), fine and gross motor skills being the same ability, and the eternal confusion of Int and Wis.

So historically, the reason Religion is based off Wisdom is that Wisdom is still used for Clericness, but as you pointed out, since it's effectively become Knowledge (Religion), which was Intelligence, it calls into question why the two are still separate.


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RazarTuk wrote:
With respect to the Wis/Int for Religion thing, it also gets back to the old question of why we even have the two as separate abilities. Historically, as in in AD&D, Strength was Fighterness, Dexterity was Rogueness, Intelligence was Wizardness, and Wisdom was Clericness, plus Constitution and Charisma as endurance and leadership for everyone. It's why we have oddities like swords using strength (imagine a steak knife. You don't need to be ripped), fine and gross motor skills being the same ability, and the eternal confusion of Int and Wis.

I started seriously playing D&D in 1980, so I learned that Charisma was Bardness and Constitution was Barbarianness, too. And some classes used two stats instead of just one.

RazarTuk wrote:
So historically, the reason Religion is based off Wisdom is that Wisdom is still used for Clericness, but as you pointed out, since it's effectively become Knowledge (Religion), which was Intelligence, it calls into question why the two are still separate.

I can imagine Religion being reimagined as Spirituality or Affinity and being a Wisdom ability again, but it would need some spiritual or empathic activities based on it, such as Read Aura or Sense Motive.

Currently, we have:

Strength -> Athletics
Dexterity -> Acrobatics, Stealth, Thievery
Constitution
Intelligence -> Arcana, Crafting, Lore, Occultism, Society
Wisdom -> Medicine, Nature, Religion, Survival
Charisma -> Deception, Diplomacy, Intimidation, Performance

We have stronger arguments for moving Medicine to Intelligence than moving Religion to Intelligence. Medical doctors in the real world as as wise or foolish as the rest of the population, but they are all smart. Priests, pastors, and rabbis, in contrast, have a reputation for saintly patience and self-control. The problem with the Religion skill is that there is no reason for a Cleric to use it, despite them being the experts in Religion. Currently, the "Learn a Divine Spell" activity is useless, and the rest can be done by non-Clerics. The problem with the Medicine skill is that likewise Clerics have no reason to use it; in fact, they have the best alternatives to Medicine.

My own, momentary preference would be:
Strength -> Athletics, Intimidation
Dexterity -> Acrobatics*, Stealth, Thievery
Constitution
Intelligence -> Arcana, Crafting, Lore, Medicine
Wisdom -> Nature, Perception**, Society***, Survival
Charisma -> Deception, Diplomacy, Performance****

* Acrobatics gains more actions related to movement.
** Perception returned to skill status.
*** Society absorbs Religion and gains Sense Motive action.
**** Performance absorbs Occultism.

I will probably change my mind within a month.


Excellent Post. Really gets to the heart of the problems with the bard


I think that Occultism being Int-based is currently very annoying, and the player of my party's Bard agrees. However neither Sorcerers nor Bards are the anchor Occult spellcaster. Sorcerers crop up in every tradition, so they don't count. Bards are neither prepared casters, nor does their key ability match the Occultism Skill. So I contend they aren't intended to be the best at it.

Occultism is being published in core for the same reason as the alchemist... Paizo doesn't want to publish any massive system additions later because of how problematic it was to introduce Alchemy-As-Not-Quite-Magic and Psychic Magic later. IIRC they've publically stated they don't plan to introduce any new magical traditions later (despite there being open design space indicating otherwise).

I strongly suspect the Witch will be the first anchor occult caster (being an Int-based, prepared spellcaster), otherwise it'll be the Occultist because the dev-team lurves Mavaro.

There is also design space for at least three more spontaneous spellcasting classes (one for the Arcane, Divine, and Primal traditions), and at least one Prepared Caster that crops up in every tradition like the sorcerer. But Asmodeus only knows when/if they'll actually publish them all.


Cantriped wrote:

I think that Occultism being Int-based is currently very annoying, and the player of my party's Bard agrees. However neither Sorcerers nor Bards are the anchor Occult spellcaster. Sorcerers crop up in every tradition, so they don't count. Bards are neither prepared casters, nor does their key ability match the Occultism Skill. So I contend they aren't intended to be the best at it.

Occultism is being published in core for the same reason as the alchemist... Paizo doesn't want to publish any massive system additions later because of how problematic it was to introduce Alchemy-As-Not-Quite-Magic and Psychic Magic later. IIRC they've publically stated they don't plan to introduce any new magical traditions later (despite there being open design space indicating otherwise).

I strongly suspect the Witch will be the first anchor occult caster (being an Int-based, prepared spellcaster), otherwise it'll be the Occultist because the dev-team lurves Mavaro.

There is also design space for at least three more spontaneous spellcasting classes (one for the Arcane, Divine, and Primal traditions), and at least one Prepared Caster that crops up in every tradition like the sorcerer. But Asmodeus only knows when/if they'll actually publish them all.

Nevertheless, by publishing occult magic before psychic casting, Paiso will separate occult magic from psychic casting. Bard will be the anchor occult class regardless of Paizo's long-term hopes, because bard will be in the Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rulebook.

Witch as an occult caster makes sense, since the witch's patron seems like an eldritch entity. Furthermore, though in Pathfinder 1st Edition a witch is an Intelligence-based caster, the folklore about witches have nothing to do with intelligence.

There is no solid folklore about occultists. They are a modern addition to our mythology and not that different from witches.


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Mathmuse wrote:
Witch as an occult caster makes sense, since the witch's patron seems like an eldritch entity.

Personally I think the most likely thing is for the Witch to be the prepared version of the sorcerer where your choice of patron decides your spell list. After all your patron *could* be an angel or a faerie or some abomination from the dark tapestry in which case it would make, sense to learn Divine, Primal, or Occult magic respectively.

Way I see it, there is currently room for 10 caster classes: A dedicated prepared and spontaneous user of each of the four traditions, as well as 2 classes which pick a list one prepared and one spontaneous.

One complication- they have indicated that the Occultist is likely going to be back, and it doesn't make sense for the Occultist to eschew Occult casting, and the Occultist is not really thematically a charisma or performance oriented class.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
One complication- they have indicated that the Occultist is likely going to be back, and it doesn't make sense for the Occultist to eschew Occult casting, and the Occultist is not really thematically a charisma or performance oriented class.
Occult Adventures, Occultist wrote:

The occultist focuses on the world around him, grounded in the powers that flow throughout his environment. He studies the magic that infuses everything, from psychic resonances left in everyday items to powerful incantations that fuel the mightiest spells.

The occultist channels his psychic might through implements—items that allow him to focus his power and produce incredible effects. For him, implements are more than simple tools. They are a repository of history and a tie to the events of the past. The occultist uses these implements to influence and change the present, adding his legend to theirs. Though some of these implements might be magic items in their own right, most of them are merely of historical or personal significance to the occultist.

Playtest Rulebook, Material Casting wrote:
Special If you’re a bard Casting a Spell from the occult tradition while holding a musical instrument, you can play that instrument to replace any material component the spell requires by using the instrument as a spell focus instead. In this case, you don’t have to have a free hand to take this action and the action gains the auditory trait.

My only experience with an Occultist was a 4th-level NPC who went by the false name Lost. I created her for Lords of Rust, 2nd module in Iron Gods. She had been scrying for a nobleman in Brevoy and fled to hide in Scrapwall went his enemies figured out the nobleman's secret advantage. She resided near a haunted part of Scrapwall because her spells could keep her safe from the spirits. She was a dealer in secrets and carefully hoarded them and acted mysterious, so I could not roleplay her as an intellectual who would show off her knowledge. This perhaps has colored my view of Occultists.

Occult Adventures used the theme of psychic casting to tie its classes together, but the occultist did not seem strongly tied to psychic casting. I believe in a likely chance that in Pathfinder 2nd Edition an occultist's occult casting will be based on the bard's musical instrument variant of Material and Somatic casting. The occultist will use her or her implement like the bard uses a musical instrument. In addition, an occultist also has Focus Powers, and currently Pathfinder 2nd Edition has something called Focus Points based on Charisma.

I don't think Occultist will stop using Intelligence as its casting attribute, but I think that Occultist might end up as a class that depends on two attributes, Intelligence for spellcasting and Charisma for implement manipulation. Thus, Charisma as the attribute for the Occultism skill would still fit the Occultist.


Just a note, every kind of caster except Wizards have a clause noting that they can use 'something' in lieu of materials and a free hand (like the bard uses their instrument). Even for wizards it seems like an ommision not to be able to use their arcane focus or spellbook for somatic and material components.

I could also see Witch as the pan-traditional prepared spellcaster, and Occultist as the primary prepared occult spellcaster (as PossibleCabbage suggests above). As Mathmuse suggests, the Occultists secondary stat will almost certainly be Charisma, for more focus to fuel their implement powers.


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I would like to add my two cents here...

The knowledge skills aren't just knowledge skills anymore...This is because they also give you access to Rituals. The developers haven't gone into the Ritual system much but I'm going to make a post of 'Magic' suggestions soon that will encourage them to do this.

Now, onto the topic at hand... (Side note, I also agree that Int could use a boost...But I don't think this is the way.)

Like many people have said, Religion is more of a Wisdom based activity than Intelligence. Doctrine isn't so much known as understood. (I could go into this in depth but I'll refrain to save you guys time.)

Arcana is based on Vancian magic which, to those who don't know, is like high grade math and requires Logic and Intellect. (Same as above. If you are interested in Vancian magic then read the Dying Earth series.)

Occultism, as opposed to Religion which is based on Doctrine and following God's Laws, is based on 'cults', demon worshipers, and pagan practices. I would put it as Charisma.

In real life, cults and pagans aren't relying on knowledge or understanding...They sacrifice, preform a rain dance, and utter some dramatic chant to some spirit...Why? Because it asked.
Now some scientist could come up and preform the same dance and chant in a monotone...But that wouldn't really fulfill the requirements. The idea of these practices is to appease the spirit, therefore it isn't the chant that's important but how well you preform it.
It's not a science like Arcana, it's an art...This inclines me to vote Charisma.
In Golorian, Occult rituals follow the same pattern. It's not knowledge or understanding that makes it work...It's how well you 'preform' a bunch of skill checks.

Good day!


I can see bards using Perform for some of the uses of Occultism (the practical side, such as identifying magic). I guess the reason Occultism is Int based is because future occult classes will be Int based. The two occult classes I can see easily transferred is Occultist and Psychic (or a combination of the two), both Int-based in PF1.

Sovereign Court

I think the concept of Performance as the bard's casting skill is really good. It would go a long way to returning performing to the center of the bard's core.


Occultism is held to be both science and art by those who practice IRL.

(And, tangentially, it's not all cults and demon worshippers and... Well if you go by the old definition of pagan it is pagan practices, I guess. Really a lot of things that don't necessarily have any real connection to each other fall under "occult".)

Maybe this is another time to think about allowing players to have a choice between two ability scores for each skill? Or at least some skills?

I mean, wizards and clerics get to be experts on their magic, it does seem unfair for bards not to be.
Would this give an advantage to occult sorcerers over other sorcerers, though?


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Corwin Icewolf wrote:

Occultism is held to be both science and art by those who practice IRL.

(And, tangentially, it's not all cults and demon worshippers and... Well if you go by the old definition of pagan it is pagan practices, I guess. Really a lot of things that don't necessarily have any real connection to each other fall under "occult".)

Maybe this is another time to think about allowing players to have a choice between two ability scores for each skill? Or at least some skills?

I mean, wizards and clerics get to be experts on their magic, it does seem unfair for bards not to be.
Would this give an advantage to occult sorcerers over other sorcerers, though?

Isn't the whole point of the bard that they are the ultimate JOAT? Jack of All Trades, Master of None? At least that's how they've always felt to me. You could argue that it is unfair to wizards that bards get to be spontaneous casters who also have a spell book , or that the bard gets a "omni-lore" feat. Or that the bard gets a cantrip version of bless for free while the cleric is stuck using spell slots for the same effect.

Different strokes for different folks.

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