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Bards! What are they good for? Huh. Absolutely nothing.
Started on March 19th, 2002 at 6:32AM CST by Sulerin
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I've always been unhappy with bards. They seem underpowered and unnecessary. 2nd edition bards were a wimp class. Sure, they had spells, they could use some weapons. But, what about armor? If you wanted to be a spell casting bard you couldn't wear any and then it was too dangerous to be in combat and you ended up playing the part of a sucky mage. If you wanted to be a fighter type bard you could wear armor, but then you couldn't cast spells, turning a bard character into a sucky fighter. Switching into and out of armor is too time-consuming to switch from one role to the other in an encounter. If you wanted to be a rogue... why not play a rogue instead and take a few wizard levels?

But that was 2nd edition. Here comes 3rd edition D&D, Wizards of the Coasts' new flagship roleplaying empire product line. Thank god someone took it out of the dying hands of TSR. Not that I had anything really against TSR, but that's a subject for another post which has already been discussed to death on

Back to my point, 3rd edition bards. WoTC had a chance to do something right with them and didn't, that being - getting rid of them. "What? Get rid of them? But I like bards! They're so flexible." I can hear the thoughts of some who will respond to this post already.

Yes, get rid of them. Bards suffer the same problem in 3rd edition. They aren't tough enough to be fighters, they suffer the problems of armor wearing and spell casting (though it's only a mischance in 3rd ed), and their spell casting abilities aren't that great to make up for forgoing armor and combat skills. They say bards are a jack of all trades and master of none... and they really, really mean it. There is nothing a bard is a master of except being mediocre at everything. From low to high levels of play, being mediocre at everything but playing an instrument is  ineffective when it comes to adventuring.

Oh, but what about the roleplaying possibilities? The roleplaying activities of a bard could easily be taken over by a charismatic rogue, or any other class for that matter, especially were some small changes made (see below).

They don't deserve to be a character class. Their abilities aren't distinct enough to justify a character class. Their singing powers? They are pathetic when compared to the powers that other character classes receive at beginning and later levels. Make them feats. Their bardic knowledge? Useful, but easily replaced with knowledge skills, legend lore, and gather information.

Get rid of bards. Turn their music skills into feats which require a certain number of ranks in perform before they can be taken. Make perform a class skill for all character classes. If you must, make Bardic Knowledge a feat which can be taken by characters who have 8 ranks or more in 3 or more knowledge skills.

Play a sorcerer-rogue and take some perform skill ranks if you must.

Tell me how wrong I am. *grins*


Bards! What are they good for? Huh. Absolutely nothing.
Posted on December 20th, 2002 at 5:12AM CST by Guest [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
I agree.I mean, BARDS ARE HORRIBLE,not to mention sorcerers and rogues are two of my favorate classes (they are fighter,sorcerer,rogue,ranger,monk)
Bards! What are they good for? Huh. Absolutely nothing.
Posted on May 14th, 2003 at 0:05AM CST by Guest [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
Ok, i agree to dis agree on this one Randy...
Bards can be replaced by almost any character...
The challenge of a Bard PC actually lands in the hands of the DM, Bare with me on this :)
If your PC's come up short do to a Bard PC respect the fact that someone wants to play music and send good cheer to the other's (PC's)
Bagpipes: When played by a Bard the sound comes forth with great intensity (Shout as a 7th level wizard)
Drums of (fill in the blank): The rythmatic beats the bard puts forth cast (Fear as a 7th level wizard) on all foes.
C'mon Randy, your too smart to let a little bard get to ya'
My own solution.
Posted on May 22nd, 2003 at 3:46PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
Presently, bards have to choose between being lame fighters or lame wizards. They can't be mediocre at both at the same time because of armor issues for the most part. Keep in mind I'm not addressing bards usefulness in social situations, rather, their lack of usefulness in combat. And really, I don't think it would take much to fix that.

I've seen some pretty heavily changed versions to the bard class done by different publishers, most notably in the Book of Eldrich Might II (Malhavoc Press), and some minor prestige class possibilities in the quintessential series by Mongoose Publishing. Disappointingly, the Song and Silence book didn't really do much for bards with the exception of one prestige class and a few new spells.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Here's what I've done with bards in my campaign:

Give them the Armor Adaption feat for free.
By giving them this feat for free they can wear leather armor and not have to worry about making a caster check every time they cast one of their spells. Though bards don't have a lot of spells, improving their ability to cast in armor encourages players to use the spells that bards do have. This isn't going to make the bard as great a caster as a Wizard, Druid, or Cleric, but it gives them a chance to show off their talents without the worry of being vulnerable from no armor or suffering an arcane casting chance of failure. You won't see too many bards wearing heavier armor, and so the flavor of their roguish nature is nicely complimented.

Make all bard spells verbal component only.
This emphasizes that bards sing their spells. Focuses should still be required, but somatic and material components should not. This also gives bards the option of holding an instrument in their hand while casting spells. How many instruments can you think of that you can carry around the country side and play with only one hand? A bard with maracas? I don't think so. For the more combat inclined then carrying a short sword and a shield is an option.

These two small changes go a long way to solving my gripes with the class. I thought maybe you'd like to give them a try too.


For all the bards (save one!)
Posted on November 19th, 2003 at 9:42PM CST by Guest [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
Get rid of bards?  Death first!  Wait, poor choice of words considering the class!

I'm here to step up to the challenge and defend the bards (except Connor).

The 2nd edition bard was easily the most defensible.  Well handled, a 2nd edition bard could be very powerful indeed.  The main advantage was rapid level advancement.  A bard required nearly half the experience points of a mage.  And that's the right comparison here.  The 2nd edition bard was a quasi mage, not a quasi Thief.  Bards had no stealth abilities save Pick Pockets.  Rangers made better scouts than they did.  But bards could cast any wizard spell that they could get their hands on.  Sure, they got fewer of them and needed to be higher level to cast them, but bards advanced in levels far more quickly!  Take a look at the old chart and see how much more quickly the bard advances.  Big gains get made at the early levels and they preserve the lead later on.  Moreover, bards get d6 hit dice, for significantly higher potential hit point totals.  

Bards might run out of spells sooner, but unlike mages bards could still act even when their daily spells were used up!  Bards got to choose from any weapon.  That's a free chance to cherry pick the weapons list for only the best: longsword, composite longbow, whatever you want, really.  Bards could put on armor when they needed it, unlike mages who were always threatened.

The problem with bards is that a lot of players didn't handle them quite right.  A bard needs, first and foremost, to take a good dexterity score.  That score provides armor class and the potential to use ranged weapons effectively.  It's also a class requirement.  Next the bard needs to grab a few good defensive spells.  Armor, shield, invisibility, it doesn't really matter.  There are several mage spells that more than make up for the bard's inability to wear armor and cast spells at the same time.  Once the dex and the defensive spells are set you can go ahead and choose whatever ranged weapon you want and load up on offensive magic.

This bard is a potent fighting machine.  Capable of switching from ranged attacks to powerful offensive spells in a hurry.  Sure he runs out of firepower quick, but he's still got options even when that's gone.  The ability to throw on armor as heavy as chain mail meant that you could get into a fight and not get hit every round, and d6 hit points may not be much, but they're a lot better than what the mage gets!

Either way, the 2nd ed bard was great if you saw them as a sort of martially oriented mageling.  Not quite a full wizard, but with a number of other talents to make up for it, bards definitely edge out mage/thieves in my opinion based on their hit points and advancement.

Now, Connor was an example of doing the bard wrong.  I focused on Strength and Charisma, to the detriment of Dexterity.  This meant Connor got a lousy AC.  Moreover, I chose only melee weapons (and an odd, but fun, one at that).  So Connor had no chance to avoid combat by fighting at range and didn't have the AC to hold up in melee.  I also never bothered to search out the right spells.  Some good defensive and offensive magic could have put him on a whole different footing.  Either way, Connor was poorly handled and poorly played from a "gamist" point of view.

Now the third edition bard (3.0, to be precise) is totally helpless.  They have to tie up one of their few skills in Perform.  They can't cast spells in armor.  They lose out on all the big gun offensive spells, the essential defensive spells and the big ticket items like teleport.  In exchange they get bardic music abilities and healing magic.  The healing magic is just crap if you ask me.  Go call a cleric for that.  Worse, it practically forces the bard to use one of their precious "spells known" slots on cure spells that are just boring.  The bardic music is worse than crap.  It forces the DM to include an entirely new magic system in one of the core classes!  The idea that all bards learn these mystical ways of enchanting the mind makes them practically psionicists.  This is the kind of "innovation" that is worse than useless.  Moreover, the new bard doesn't get the flexibility to choose any weapon.  They have a short list to pick from.  It's a good list, but it's not the same.  These bards are basically singing enchanter/illusionists.  Nothing like the flashy invoker/swordsmen from 2nd ed!  Those bards at least offered the chance to be cool!  

The 3.5 bard goes further down this road.  They still have the bardic music, still have the weak spells list.  6 skill points per level and the ability to cast spells in armor make them at least playable in my opinion.  They have to be accepted on their own terms or not at all.  Sadly, the way they were written I'd almost prefer not at all.  Still, the 3.5 bard is at least playable: you can get a good armor class, a variety of useful spells and a few potent attack forms with the right feat and weapon choices.

The 3.5 bard is vastly better than a Sorceror Rogue.  The bard can cast spells in armor.  The bard will eventually cast spells up to 6th level, while the Sorceror Rogue tops out at 5th (they are better spells, tho).  The bard gets a BAB of +15, while the Sorceror-Rogue tops out at +12 (why even HAVE a base attack bonus at that point).  Finally, the bard doesn't get robbed on hit points or skill points.

Either way, you've got to give it to the bards.  Played right, they rule.  Played like Connor . . . well, mostly they just die :)

Posted on May 5th, 2005 at 11:05AM CST by morgana [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
i suppose it's simply the fact i had a totally great time playing my bard Nuala Alune from 1st to 11th level in a campaign that lasted 2 & 1/2 years with a die-hard 3rd ed ADnD group that can make me say this:

in the end, it's not how the bard's built up - it's how you play her (or him, of course...).  

It was the music I was capable of bringing out into the game, it was the fact I knew my abilities had a hand in helping out my comrades, it was my wit that made me speak up during the high-tension times of "the-king's-about-to-have-us-all-beheaded, i'm-sure!" and save the day, it was the fact with her, i had the chance to be powerful, and powerful I did become.

Hey guys - it's good that the rules, details, limitations etc. are out there for us to argue over, rail at, debate on and present to the public - as long as you realize they're just that: rules, details, & limitations, which we all, with our mental acuity, should be able to work around with and thus ENJOY THE GAME.  

Do not forget the power of poetry, of music, of beauty.  That's what bards embody, and to have them around gives as much romance to the RPG setting as the knight and the princess in a bower.

Sigh... or am i talking to a bunch of hairy rednecks who think that a cold bottle of beer and a bowl of popcorn equals gourmet cooking anyday?  I'm sure not.



just had to add this:

you said: "They don't deserve to be a character class. Their abilities aren't distinct enough to justify a character class. Their singing powers? They are pathetic when compared to the powers that other character classes receive at beginning and later levels. Make them feats. Their bardic knowledge? Useful, but easily replaced with knowledge skills, legend lore, and gather information."

Uhm, randy... maybe it's just that you're not the type of gamer who would do a bard justice?  have you thought of that?  

I've never been able to successfully enjoy playing a barbarian.  I tried once, named him Farkles, and the result, though comic and memorable, tragically left me a tad queasy in the mental department.  

have a great day, all!
Bards.... in edition three point five! (...five ...five ...five ...five)
Posted on May 5th, 2005 at 7:53PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
As some of you may have noticed, this post was started right around the end of 3rd Edition D&D and just before the rise of edition 3.5 (...five ...five ...five ...five .... can you hear the echo in the power of half an edition?).

Since then quite a bit has changed with the bard class which addressed my original complaints. Interestingly, some of my suggestions were what was changed. I might think I contributed some small bit to their being better, but I won't flatter myself.

For example, third edition bards can wear light armor while casting spells. That's great! Now they can stay close enough to their front line companions to aid them with the magical effects of their music. In the official rules they still have somatic components... I'm still inclined to make them all verbal only, but that's a fairly minor complaint since they can hold a weapon while spellcasting now.

Another great thing that's happened over the last year is the publishing of several quite good prestige classes for bard characters. These appear in the Complete Adventurer and there are two in the Complete Arcane. I'm not a huge prestige class advocate, I think they are a sign of the times though and that they will have an important influence in any forthcoming 4th edition of the D&D game. The prestige classes in these books though do a lot to address the somewhat mundane nature of the bard as a performer, making them more magical, mystical, and offering interesting suggestions for what a bard really could be.

It's also nice that the bardic song powers have been slightly altered to scale with level a bit better. It would be nice if they said something about the range of each of them though. Some bardic song descriptions are missing this critical piece of information.

What do you think of bards in 3.5 Edition? Do they still need improvement?
Beating the Dead Bard...urm...Horse.
Posted on April 2nd, 2007 at 6:24AM CST by Korbin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
I hail from the old age of AD&D where bards were multi/dual classed fighter rogues.

The orginal concept was very potent and sometimes hard to attain under a brutal or strict DM.

The basic concept of the bard then was a jack-of-all-trades, and that has been held to in different degrees through Second Edition and 3E and 3.5.  Going from a AD&D version Bard to a 2E was a horrid disappointment for many of my group all those seeming centuries ago.

Me personally...I never played one in a PnP setting, but I did finally break down and make the attempt in live RP a while back....

Within the game's engine (NWN1 which uses 3E rules for the base) my Fighter/Bard (the multi was due to the background I had written) quickly turned dominate bard over his fighter levels and in his chosen areas of skill was effective.  

He was not highly feared in this live enviroment, but as a broad range support proved to be highly valued among the players that he often worked with.  I know that this does not FULLY appily due to the RP / dialog aspects playing as much a factor in the higher end RP servers I prefer.

In that same enviroment when he was at his lower levels his survival without some backup was quite low, that changed fairly quickly as he entered intermediate levels....around 5th.
Bards.... in edition three point five! (...five ...five ...five ...five)
Posted on April 5th, 2007 at 9:34PM CST by Sulerin [bookmark]  [printable]  [reply]
I just read the Factotum class in the new Dungeonscape book. If you like the idea of playing a jack-of-all-trades and don't mind the absence of bardic music from your characters flavor, it's a class seriously worth looking at.