How good is a bard at frontline combat?


Advice

Scarab Sages

Im making a bodyguard for a caster and i was thinking of a brawler mix of fighter and monk would be a good choice. However then i noticed a number of combinations of Alodri dueling sword including a trait that gives one for free at first level along with +1 to hit and another that makes it coubt as a one handed piercing weapon for the duelist class. So im considering a Bard to duelist class combo instead but it would take several levels for the bard to go into the prestife class so im wondering how do people feel about Bard as a frontline combatant.

If they're decent i may go with another concept of guard/social guide to an antisocial caster. Both protection and "Now this is how you talk to people when you want information no fiery doom threats needed.".


They are actually surprisingly well equipped for frontline combat. You gent armored spellcasting with light armor and shields, you get proficiency with some of the best one-handed melee weapons available, 3/4 BAB, and you are a walking arsenal of buffs and debuffs. On the early days, Bards were frequently frontliners, they were by their very nature excellent arcane gishes. It wasn’t until the magus stole the spotlight that they started to become viewed as more of a ranged class.


The problem with bards isn't whether or not they can put out damage (they can), but whether or not they can make their fort-saves after being grabbed and pumped full of poison, then swallowed. (This is one reason why half-orc skalds with Sacred Tattoo and Fate's Favored are popular.)


Yeah Inspire Courage does as much for the bard as anyone else. They have a few weaknesses that need to be addressed though:

1. Fort Saves. As Slim pointed out the have a poor Fort Save. I don't see this as any worse than a low Will save, but it's something you want to think about.

2. Weapons. Actually this isn't necessarily a weakness, they have some nice weapons. If you want something else though you'll have to spend resources on it.

3. Armour. This one's a bit tougher. You can't wear medium armour without spell failure (or being a 10th pevel dwarf or whatever), so upping your DEX will help. This is probably one of the main reasons Archers are popular.

4. Hitpoints. D8 isn't much so you'll have to invest something here. 14 CON, Toughness and your Favoured class Bonus get you an average of 8.5hp/level, but that costs you a feat, 5 build points and your FCB, and 8.5/level isn't that impressive. Essentially you're spending resources just to be OK at something.

None of these are deal-breakers, but they're things you'l have to think about. Races/feats/gear/archetypes/etc can all be used to offset these problems, but you have to work out what you want to spend where.

For the record, the Archaeologist Bard with a Longsword in my Iron Gods game was out-damaging my Bloodrager until they both exploded =P He didn't quite have the staying power, but he was very effective till his spells ran out.


MrCharisma wrote:

Yeah Inspire Courage does as much for the bard as anyone else. They have a few weaknesses that need to be addressed though:

1. Fort Saves. As Slim pointed out the have a poor Fort Save. I don't see this as any worse than a low Will save, but it's something you want to think about.

2. Weapons. Actually this isn't necessarily a weakness, they have some nice weapons. If you want something else though you'll have to spend resources on it.

Their weapons are high-threat, but they usually don't have the feat space to really exploit them. (Attend to Slim Jim's Bard Feat Axiom.)
Quote:
3. Armour. This one's a bit tougher. You can't wear medium armour without spell failure (or being a 10th pevel dwarf or whatever), so upping your DEX will help. This is probably one of the main reasons Archers are popular.
Dwarves can move faster in armor, but they're not relieved of arcane spell-failure (and dwarves racially dump charisma). Archery is extremely feat-intensive (see SJBFA above). The primary reason for decent dexterity is, not archery, but filling out the best armor a bard can wear: mithral breastplate (which, in conjunction with the Armor Expert trait, will have ACP and ASpF of 0 each). See this post.
Quote:
4. Hitpoints. D8 isn't much so you'll have to invest something here. 14 CON, Toughness and your Favoured class Bonus get you an average of 8.5hp/level, but that costs you a feat, 5 build points and your FCB, and 8.5/level isn't that impressive. Essentially you're spending resources just to be OK at something.
Compare to a dwarf fighter or an any-race rage-class, and you'll still be 3 or 4hp behind them, per level. Any slight nick will tear up your entire Toughness feat's contribution. Toughness fools you into thinking you're good in melee; well, you're not, unless you're one of those super Crane Wing bounce-monkeys (and you'll be multiclassed to get away with that).
Quote:

None of these are deal-breakers, but they're things you'l have to think about. Races/feats/gear/archetypes/etc can all be used to offset these problems, but you have to work out what you want to spend where.

For the record, the Archaeologist Bard with a Longsword in my Iron Gods game was out-damaging my Bloodrager until they both exploded =P He didn't quite have the staying power, but he was very effective till his spells ran out.

The best-built bards avoid fighting entirely. (This usually cramps the fun of other murderhobo players, but every so often it's hilarious being part of a bard party cakewalk team that plows through a mod without a single combat just twisting everything around his little finger.)

Scarab Sages

Thanks for the advice. I was thinking last night a bard works better with the arcanist their protecting too. A brawler is a better guard but a bard can be an assistant/partner for the stageshows they do to earn a living providing songs, narration, music, performance advice and even taking on an actual assistant role.

There are ways of raising fort saves and i was thinking of taking the trait and feat that gives you a free Aldori dueling sword and lets ypu move into the duelist prestige class for more HP and AC.

Just need to decide on whether to use archetypes and whwould be a good instrument for them.

They don't need to be THE front line class just decent enough at combat to protect the arcanist talking their way out of a fight works just fine, better really. Think less 2 person party and more 2 person stage magic (bodyguard and caster, magician and assitant, manager and talent, etc) travelling group who join the party at the start of the adventure where they'll have a pure melee option to take on front line duties.

Silver Crusade

Bards can be very effective front-line combatants, in my experience. You do have to prioritize your main combat stat, though. Mirror Image helps immensely with defense. I like taking the Resilient trait to help with my Fort save, and fit in Great Fortitude somewhere down the line.

Some options:

An Arcane Duelist Bard eventually gets Heavy Armor Proficiency.

Halflings make great Dawnflower Dervish Bards. You get dex to hit and damage for free at 1st lvl, so you can take Toughness as your first feat. My PC started with 19 AC and 14 HP.

You could make an effective reach build using a longspear with just the Core Rulebook.

As for instruments, your voice doesn't require any hands to use. :)


Senko wrote:
There are ways of raising fort saves...

The easiest way is to just multiclass a dip level.

*Fighter gives you +2, and a feat-slot.
*Barbarian[Dreadnought] give you +3 (when counting the half-powered rage that works with spellcasting).

--Either also provide better weapon and armor proficiencies.

Quote:
They don't need to be THE front line class just decent enough at combat to protect the arcanist

If an Arcanist needs protection, they're terrible.

(Tip for aspiring Arcanists: take Dimensional Slide as your 1st-level Exploit. By 4th, you should be Invisible full-time.)

Scarab Sages

This is 1st level arcanist later on it'll be different.

They will be a singer but having an instrument too is sort of traditional.


I am having a great time playing an Arcane Duelist Bard.

Currently level 6, and I do alright whenever I actually have to participate in the melee.

I use a longspear with the Banner of Ancient Kings. I will be taking Flagbearer at level 7.

I mainly sit back and give morale support, but it's a party of three, so I have to get my hands dirty every once in awhile. I actually end up fighting quite a bit, and can absolutely reinforce the need to address your Fort save.

Big spiders, swarms of baby spiders, in quick succession, ouch. But I lived because I had already taken Additional Traits, grabbed Resilient and something to help against death affects.


Slim Jim wrote:
MrCharisma wrote:
2. Weapons. Actually this isn't necessarily a weakness, they have some nice weapons. If you want something else though you'll have to spend resources on it.
Their weapons are high-threat, but they usually don't have the feat space to really exploit them. (Attend to Slim Jim's Bard Feat Axiom.)

I meant to add feats to my list. No bonus feats can be tough on a combat class. Good pickup.

Slim Jim wrote:
MrCharisma wrote:
3. Armour. This one's a bit tougher. You can't wear medium armour without spell failure (or being a 10th pevel dwarf or whatever), so upping your DEX will help. This is probably one of the main reasons Archers are popular.
Dwarves can move faster in armor, but they're not relieved of arcane spell-failure (and dwarves racially dump charisma). Archery is extremely feat-intensive (see SJBFA above). The primary reason for decent dexterity is, not archery, but filling out the best armor a bard can wear: mithral breastplate (which, in conjunction with the Armor Expert trait, will have ACP and ASpF of 0 each). See this post.

I was referring to the FCB for dwarves (which does reduce arcane spell failure), but they'd still end up wearing a Mithral Breastplate, so it seems like a pretty pointless FCB when you look at it properly.

Slim Jim wrote:
MrCharisma wrote:
4. Hitpoints. D8 isn't much so you'll have to invest something here. 14 CON, Toughness and your Favoured class Bonus get you an average of 8.5hp/level, but that costs you a feat, 5 build points and your FCB, and 8.5/level isn't that impressive. Essentially you're spending resources just to be OK at something.
Compare to a dwarf fighter or an any-race rage-class, and you'll still be 3 or 4hp behind them, per level. Any slight nick will tear up your entire Toughness feat's contribution. Toughness fools you into thinking you're good in melee; well, you're not, unless you're one of those super Crane Wing bounce-monkeys (and you'll be multiclassed to get away with that).

That was kind-of my point. You spend resources on HP and you still end up with "OK" levels of health. You have other defenses (mirror image etc) which will help a lot, but in the end if you're on the front-line you're going to get hit. Spending some resources on HP is mandatory. I think comparing a Bard's HP to a raging Barbarian/Bloodrager is a bit silly, it's like comparing a Bloodrager's spells to a wizard's. Just because they're not the best at it doesn't mean it can't be useful. The point is that you'll have less HP than other front-liners, so plan accordingly. Using defensive spells, fighting defensively and going DEX-based are all options, but you'll need something to help you when you eventually take a hit (bards have some nice immediate action spells, so they could potentially be used to mitigate some of those hits - I'm not an expert on bard spells though so you'd have to ask someone else).

Slim Jim wrote:
The best-built bards avoid fighting entirely.

That's entirely subjective. The best Bard for a two-person party almost certainly does fight. The best Bard in a Gestalt game probably needs to do something other than buff. What's "best" is what you'll enjoy the most, and since this thread is about a front-line bard we might as well explore that.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Advice / How good is a bard at frontline combat? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.