How to Roleplay Bard?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion


I wanted to open a discussion on what are the best ways players have seen a bard roleplayed, conventionally or unconventionally.

Of all of the classes that have ever graced the pages of a Paizo sourcebook, and all the way back into D&D, only one class has ever intimidated me in a way that I was actually scared the play it: The [dreaded] Bard!

I think there are two big barriers to entry for me: one being the musical theme of the class, and the second being the pressure I feel to have many actions be detailed and novel.

I love support, and love the idea of a support-dedicated class, but I always hated that it was stuck behind the barrier of a class that is all about music and instruments and things that I am so unfamiliar with, and not especially interested in trying to roleplay. You can also go the oratory route, but that side of the Bard that is like, “Go ahead, say something inspiring,” it's a lot of pressure! While a Fighter swings a sword and a wizard might cast a fireball, it feels like the bard is expected to come up with something totally new and unique to do each time they use their abilities. Like casting a spell to give a +1 bonus vs. giving a speech nobody's ever heard before to give a +1 bonus. Yikes!

So above, when I say “conventionally or unconventionally”, what I mean to ask is how people have seen the traditional bard done well in a way that makes it more manageable and inviting, or how they've seen untraditional bards break the mold, get away from their stereotypes, and be played in a way that opens up some other interesting options for roleplay besides music and oratory.


One neat addition to the bard I like is that they called the Bard subclasses their "muse," and gave examples for what kinds of subjects could have inspired that muse. I think it gives a decent starting point for thinking about why your bard chose to be a bard in the first place by asking the question, "So, what does your bard think is sublime?"


I had a bard that inspired via comedy. Insulting the enemies to make the party feel they could take them on better was the idea, though it mostly turned to bad dad jokes I found through quick google searches.

Best bit happened at a flgs. My turn coming around when I wasnt expecting it. "Uh... wanna hear something funny? 'Something funny'!" Got booed by the next table over


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User6263 wrote:

I think there are two big barriers to entry for me: one being the musical theme of the class, and the second being the pressure I feel to have many actions be detailed and novel.

I love support, and love the idea of a support-dedicated class, but I always hated that it was stuck behind the barrier of a class that is all about music and instruments and things that I am so unfamiliar with, and not especially interested in trying to roleplay. You can also go the oratory route, but that side of the Bard that is like, “Go ahead, say something inspiring,” it's a lot of pressure! While a Fighter swings a sword and a wizard might cast a fireball, it feels like the bard is expected to come up with something totally new and unique to do each time they use their abilities. Like casting a spell to give a +1 bonus vs. giving a speech nobody's ever heard before to give a +1 bonus. Yikes!

If the GM is gating your character using CHA based skills and abilities on your IRL ability to do those same things, that is really unfair and punishing.

Because you are absolutely right. A fighter doesn't have to be played by someone who is capable of swinging a sword effectively. A wizard doesn't have to be played by someone who is capable of conjuring fire. A monk doesn't have to be played by someone who is capable of climbing walls and jumping long distances and doing lethal damage with just their fists.

If a fighter wants to attack with their sword, they announce their intentions first; then dice are rolled; and only after that is any description of the events created. And sometimes that description of events are created by the player of the fighter, and sometimes it is created by the GM, and occasionally it is created by one of the other players at the table.

So why couldn't the same thing be done for Bard. If you want to use Bon Mot, announce your intentions; make your skill roll; and then based on the results of that roll, if anyone feels like describing the witty quip, they can do so. Whether that is you, the GM, or another player.


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My first Bard was a necromancer with a sax (I had a mobile app with sax versions of irl songs, was really fun). My second one was a military officer that used her magic while commanding. You can make use of music or you can ignore it completely. If I were you I would focus on what you would feel comfortable roleplaying first and mold the class after that. You don't need to shout inspiring lines if you would feel awkward about it.


Besides the standard bard roleplaying issues, you also have to deal with PF2e's unique issue where your lovable, musical character also have to deal with the crushing temptations of otherworldly beings seeking to influence and/or benefit from their actions, sometimes in ways that no sane man would pursue.

Yeah, I thought it was weird that they basically made bards into oracles. Which admittedly might work well since you are having trouble with traditional bard roleplay.

Basically, find as many ways as possible to distract yourself from the ever growing chasm in the back corner of your mind that seeks to draw you over the edge. And you do that... with SONG! Also, the traditional escape mechanisms of those trying to escape from their psychological issues- alcohol and one night stands.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I think Bards work best when you're not among people who voraciously read Bestiaries and Setting splats. If you're among people who all equally aggressively scan wiki entries and digest backstory, they're not as fun.


breithauptclan wrote:

If the GM is gating your character using CHA based skills and abilities on your IRL ability to do those same things, that is really unfair and punishing.

Because you are absolutely right. A fighter doesn't have to be played by someone who is capable of swinging a sword effectively. A wizard doesn't have to be played by someone who is capable of conjuring fire. A monk doesn't have to be played by someone who is capable of climbing walls and jumping long distances and doing lethal damage with just their fists.

I cannot agree more!


I'm playing as a bard in an Extinction Curse campaign. I'm not expected to back up my character's speeches, which is good. I for the most part ignore the occult part of the class as I found it difficult to work it into the peaceful follower of Shelyn I had in mind, but if you want an idea of how exactly occult=bard Secrets of Magic diagnoses how they tie into each other in the section on occult magic. It's not necessarily what lemeres suggests. The TL:DR is that the bard can have nothing to do with freaky, otherworldly horrors outside their adventuring life, and they can simply piece together how they work a little bit better using their knowledge of horror stories. In fact, the storytelling is really the key part of the class. A bard might bring an enemy to the point of despair using scathing rhymes, put someone to sleep by singing a lullaby, hype up an illusory beast as they shape it, and so on. You can ignore this aspect or play it up, but you should definitely think about what kind of stories your bard is passionate about as expressed in your choice of muse, and think about why they're passionate about that in the first place. Hopefully after that it all clicks together.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
lemeres wrote:

Besides the standard bard roleplaying issues, you also have to deal with PF2e's unique issue where your lovable, musical character also have to deal with the crushing temptations of otherworldly beings seeking to influence and/or benefit from their actions, sometimes in ways that no sane man would pursue.

Yeah, I thought it was weird that they basically made bards into oracles. Which admittedly might work well since you are having trouble with traditional bard roleplay.

Basically, find as many ways as possible to distract yourself from the ever growing chasm in the back corner of your mind that seeks to draw you over the edge. And you do that... with SONG! Also, the traditional escape mechanisms of those trying to escape from their psychological issues- alcohol and one night stands.

i...don't think occult nessecairlly means you are being tempted by otherwordly beings. Like sure you can roleplay it as such but none of that is inherent to the bard identity.


pixierose wrote:
lemeres wrote:

Besides the standard bard roleplaying issues, you also have to deal with PF2e's unique issue where your lovable, musical character also have to deal with the crushing temptations of otherworldly beings seeking to influence and/or benefit from their actions, sometimes in ways that no sane man would pursue.

Yeah, I thought it was weird that they basically made bards into oracles. Which admittedly might work well since you are having trouble with traditional bard roleplay.

Basically, find as many ways as possible to distract yourself from the ever growing chasm in the back corner of your mind that seeks to draw you over the edge. And you do that... with SONG! Also, the traditional escape mechanisms of those trying to escape from their psychological issues- alcohol and one night stands.

i...don't think occult nessecairlly means you are being tempted by otherwordly beings. Like sure you can roleplay it as such but none of that is inherent to the bard identity.

I think lemeres meant the muses when they referred to "otherworldly beings."


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Gisher wrote:
pixierose wrote:
lemeres wrote:

Besides the standard bard roleplaying issues, you also have to deal with PF2e's unique issue where your lovable, musical character also have to deal with the crushing temptations of otherworldly beings seeking to influence and/or benefit from their actions, sometimes in ways that no sane man would pursue.

Yeah, I thought it was weird that they basically made bards into oracles. Which admittedly might work well since you are having trouble with traditional bard roleplay.

Basically, find as many ways as possible to distract yourself from the ever growing chasm in the back corner of your mind that seeks to draw you over the edge. And you do that... with SONG! Also, the traditional escape mechanisms of those trying to escape from their psychological issues- alcohol and one night stands.

i...don't think occult nessecairlly means you are being tempted by otherwordly beings. Like sure you can roleplay it as such but none of that is inherent to the bard identity.
I think lemeres meant the muses when they referred to "otherworldly beings."

ar...are you getting actual powers from your muse or are they inspiration for your powers? I mean I could see it be fluffed either way.


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Muses are not the actual source of your powers, nor are eldritch beings from beyond the stars, so I question some of the answers being begged here..


I usually pick my favorite singer or musician, then use their music as my compositions. Or some great orator who gives powerful speeches.

Bard is hard to imagine. Not sure what fantasy character they are based on.


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Characters such as Fflewddur Fflam spring to mind as the source for Gary Gygax et al in the original DnD, but moreso legendary/heritage Celtic/Norse/Finnish bards and skalds, Welsh Taliesin etc…trickster gods across mythologies.

Todays “Bard” runs the gamut from Ocean’s Forty Six to Jackie from Yellowjackets - the inspirer, the personaility, the face, the wordsmith, dubstepoierista or just that person who is indefatigable in the face of overwhelmingly crappy situations. And for some weird reason, food/cooks etc. ;)

There is no reason that anyone playing a bard should have to “act out” their mechanics any more than any other player of any other class. Having said that, players that describe generally what their characters do seem to push the realisation of the story a little more than those who don’t, so merely saying you awesomely be awesome in (insert school/muse/style/fashion) way is pretty good enough.


I like to see what the character is doing in my mind's eye. The bard is harder to see that than any other character. Very hard to see what they're doing in a battle that moves in rounds.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Someone already brought up the comedian approach. We had a bard in our aborted EC run that ran that way, and often the idea was that the jokes were so bad that the enemies were literally stunned by their terribleness.

Another bard idea I want to pursue is an enigma must bard that recites strange, esoteric stories that are supposed to be deeply symbolic, something like absurd secrete society parables or really dark fairy tales.
The entire build is sort of inspired by https://2e.aonprd.com/Feats.aspx?ID=2123.


pixierose wrote:
lemeres wrote:

Besides the standard bard roleplaying issues, you also have to deal with PF2e's unique issue where your lovable, musical character also have to deal with the crushing temptations of otherworldly beings seeking to influence and/or benefit from their actions, sometimes in ways that no sane man would pursue.

Yeah, I thought it was weird that they basically made bards into oracles. Which admittedly might work well since you are having trouble with traditional bard roleplay.

Basically, find as many ways as possible to distract yourself from the ever growing chasm in the back corner of your mind that seeks to draw you over the edge. And you do that... with SONG! Also, the traditional escape mechanisms of those trying to escape from their psychological issues- alcohol and one night stands.

i...don't think occult nessecairlly means you are being tempted by otherwordly beings. Like sure you can roleplay it as such but none of that is inherent to the bard identity.

Not occult. But bard muses specifically are pretty loaded narratively, and they hit the same chords as oracles for me. Whether you are inspired by a celestial, infernal, or lovecraftian creature, someone is watching over your should, quite possibly with an agenda.

Classically, a musician with a patron is expected to perform for that patron and spread his fame. But PF2e made the patron into something more akin to a witches patron, rather than just some rich noble that gave you a scholarship to bard school, and he is just some guy you skip town on when you decided to join an adventuring party.

Liberty's Edge

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The Muse is the source of your inspiration. Not your boss.

Liberty's Edge

I think the base of the Bard is that they know and deeply feel all the stories and they create new ones.


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lemeres wrote:
pixierose wrote:
lemeres wrote:

Besides the standard bard roleplaying issues, you also have to deal with PF2e's unique issue where your lovable, musical character also have to deal with the crushing temptations of otherworldly beings seeking to influence and/or benefit from their actions, sometimes in ways that no sane man would pursue.

Yeah, I thought it was weird that they basically made bards into oracles. Which admittedly might work well since you are having trouble with traditional bard roleplay.

Basically, find as many ways as possible to distract yourself from the ever growing chasm in the back corner of your mind that seeks to draw you over the edge. And you do that... with SONG! Also, the traditional escape mechanisms of those trying to escape from their psychological issues- alcohol and one night stands.

i...don't think occult nessecairlly means you are being tempted by otherwordly beings. Like sure you can roleplay it as such but none of that is inherent to the bard identity.

Not occult. But bard muses specifically are pretty loaded narratively, and they hit the same chords as oracles for me. Whether you are inspired by a celestial, infernal, or lovecraftian creature, someone is watching over your should, quite possibly with an agenda.

Classically, a musician with a patron is expected to perform for that patron and spread his fame. But PF2e made the patron into something more akin to a witches patron, rather than just some rich noble that gave you a scholarship to bard school, and he is just some guy you skip town on when you decided to join an adventuring party.

This description of Bard muses being akin to patrons is not accurate. There is nothing to suggest that a bard's muse has any interaction with them on a personal level. They are muses as in the real-world sense of the word: sources of inspiration. A bard's muse could be a famous poet who died and moved on ages ago. Muses do not even need to be creatures, they might be philosophies or simply the great unknown mysteries of the universe.

Whether you are inspired by a celestial, fiend, or eldritch abomination only has as much impact on you as an ideal which drives you to create. There is nobody watching over you unless your muse happens to be that handsome Witcher who pretends he doesn't like your company. Muses should not be confused for real world musicians' patrons. They may overlap, but there's no reason to assume your muse is going to pay your room and board, nor reason to assume you have to be inspired by the noble footing the bill, if you're even so lucky as to have one.


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A bard's muse can easily be something of great importance to them, but with no real material existence. A bard from Andoran's muse could be liberty, for instance. It changes nothing because the muse is actually a relatively minor part of the class, something treated as interchangeable even by the rules given that Multifarious Muse exists. It's important if you want it to be and is meant as a hook for bards to be built around, but is something you can ignore with no real consequence if you don't need one. If you have a fully formed character concept, you can just match your choice of muse to what was already important to the character or just pick whatever you like the most mechanically without worrying about roleplaying it. It doesn't really matter much.


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Muse-as-patron is a cool theme thing you can do. Go for a bit of a John Dee vibe, talking about the secret language of angels, hear them singing at night, claim to receive knowledge from them, etc. Then have it seem a bit weird that the spells aren't divine, that the songs definitely aren't Celestial (or anything else recognizable), and the messages have a lot more to do with weird things like geometry than any sort of "doing good deeds".

My approach to a comedy Bard is less "comedy" and more "Comedy". Part slapstick, but also part abstracted grand tradition of theater dating back millennia. Ideals like the jester in the king's court, speaking truth that nobody else can. That bigger picture helps sell that it's something that you could use as an inspiration for how you do magic.

Liberty's Edge

Your choice of spells can be a good indicator of your Bard's interest and art form.


If I were to play a comedy bard, I'd do something like Jimmy from the stick of truth.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

One easy path to oratory performance: battle cries. You only need one or two that you can reuse and suddenly you've got great branding. Ex: Sir Will on the Glass Cannon podcast.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

My bard in Strength of Thousands is a cheerleader, so that's another way to flavor your RP: as someone who's super exited about their team and cheers them on at every opportunity.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I once paid a bard 10,000 gold to travel the kingdom writing songs about how great our party's wizard was, all of that just because our wizard 3 weeks later in real-time was still upset my character had bluffed casting one of his spells to intimidate an enemy to surrender without a fight. in the end, because our wizard's fame was so out of proportion with his level he ended up having to bluff his way out of a duel with a wizard 8 levels higher when he was. All of this without anyone else in the party ever knowing I had hired a bard to sing songs. I had asked the bard I hired to do just one other thing as he traveled the kingdom. I asked him to send me any interesting news he came across, over time that lead me to have the best news network in the kingdom. The only thing I did was pass the GM one-note with the original deal. The Gm loved it any time we got off the track he just had the bard send me a news update with the new plot hooks.
Looking back turning that NPC bard into a PC might be fun.

I really like the idea of dancing bards, especially sword or fire dancing bards lots of good inspiration for that online.

Cossack sword dancing .

Fire Fans Mariya Prokazina.

sword dancing using your neck.

Trying to think if threes any good examples of an RPG-style bard in any movies. I think some of Lindsey Stirling videos are close to music combat but with lots of dancing as well
Lindsey Stirling.


One way to look at it is that the Bard is a performer, at their core. They're typically someone who's either good at getting along with people, or who wants all eyes on them. (Or both.) They have an assortment of skills, possibly but not necessarily logically connected, used to tell their tales and sing their songs. Like a minstrel, they're a storyweaver; they keep verbal traditions alive, and sing the praises of others, portraying different characters through body language and tone. To them, life is not just an adventure, but the stage upon which they perform; their very life is a show that they put on, both for others and themselves.

So, in short, they're a live-action roleplayer. Have your Bard choose a role to LARP. ;3

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

FOund another Lindsey Stirling video where she actually has a violin crossbow
more Lindsey Stirling.

Here's a song to put fear into your enemies, have to read the subtitles for the lyrics
The HU - Wolf Totem.

so the HU is a band, not a single person which gets me thinking of what if a group of bards played as a band.

Liberty's Edge

Ashbourne wrote:

FOund another Lindsey Stirling video where she actually has a violin crossbow

more Lindsey Stirling.

Here's a song to put fear into your enemies, have to read the subtitles for the lyrics
The HU - Wolf Totem.

so the HU is a band, not a single person which gets me thinking of what if a group of bards played as a band.

This way, they can alternate buffing through Inspire Courage and having real 3-actions rounds.

Liberty's Edge

There have always been musicians at the forefront of armies, like the Scottish bagpipes players. These are actually RL bards.


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I've roleplayed an oratory bard as someone with legal or debate training. Making arguments in a courtroom may be just as much about performance as legal knowledge. In battle, that can be forthrightly explaining why the enemy has no right to the area and why they do. It might fit more of a Kingmaker-style or Curse of the Crimson Throne-type game where you're worried about politics, land, or authority, but it's doable. Besides, if you're inspiring your own, then it's about rallying them to believe their cause is just. No music needed.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
The Raven Black wrote:
There have always been musicians at the forefront of armies, like the Scottish bagpipes players. These are actually RL bards.

Love bagpipes use to go to the Scottish highlands festival in Estes Park every year.

For an army music typically has 3 roles to play, communication, setting and keeping pace, boosting morel. None of these are even magical effects. For communication, all that is needed is for the PCs to agree to do certain actions when hearing certain songs or rhythms. A group fighting at a synchronized pace with each other could do a synchronized attack for greater effect. A bard setting pace could help the party travel faster or farther over a period of time.

maybe another use of bardic knowledge would be to roll to see if you can understand the musical signals of another group to help know their intended actions.

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