Gaming My Way

13 Oct

Why Bards Aren’t as Bad as People Think

In D&D, the bard gets a bad rap. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of bards myself, but I’ve played one before, and I’ve seen others play them well. The real trick is to decide where your focus is in a few areas, and be prepared to make sacrifices to make your focus areas really good.

If you want to play a melee bard, make your physical stats high, at least strength and constitution. Spellcasting will suffer, but if you can get even a 12 into charisma, you can get that up to a respectable 16 by the time you get 6th level spells. You won’t be winning any spellcasting awards, but if you’re playing a warrior bard, you’ll be using those spells to buff yourself and others, for supplementing the clerics healing, or a combination of the two. Bardic music also provides good buffs, and it would be silly to ignore them… though the bookkeeping can be a little crazy at higher levels.

Alternatively, you could make a caster/social bard. In a social game, these bards will absolutely shine, as most of their spells are geared toward social situations already, and the high charisma doubles as their casting stat and the key stat in most of the skills they’ll want. Check out spells like glibness if you want an idea of how awesome bards can be in social settings.

If you want to be a combat caster, your options become much more limited. If you aren’t using only core rules, it might be time to pick up some supplements and look at the sublime chord prestige class. I’m writing this for a core bard though, so I won’t use those. The summon monster line of spells is useful in combat, though not as useful as the ones your full caster buddies will be throwing around. Tasha’s hideous laughter and grease are good 1st level options for knocking your opponents prone or possibly slowing them. Blindness/deafness and hold person make good 2nd level spells, and can be rounded out with some defensive spells like mirror image. Eagle’s Splendor is a great way to boost charisma, and therefore saving throw DCs for your spells. Dispel magic and fear are good 3rd level selections.

Hold monster makes a good choice at 4th level if you deal with lots of non-humanoids, and shadow conjuration will grant you access to a number of good low level conjurations whenever you want them. This can provide you with a couple of sorely missing attack spells, like Melf’s Acid Arrow, as long as the save DC is high enough that your opponents reliably fail. Dimension door and freedom of movement are good choices if you care about mobility in combat. And dominate person is like having a long lasting summon, as long as you pick a worthy foe and handle with great care.

At fifth level, shadow evocation will become your new best friend providing you all the blasting power you could ever hope for as a bard. Just make sure the save DC is high, since opponents can reduce the damage through both reflex and will saves on most shadow evocation effects. Mind fog will destroy an opponent’s will save and wisdom checks, and greater dispel magic is always great for stripping magical effects from your enemies.

Otto’s irresistible dance is the ultimate disabling spell, available at 6th level. It almost completely disables an opponent for a few rounds, and allows no saving throw. Animate objects can help you build a small temporary army, or create a giant creature of awesome who will aid you in battle. Greater shout is a good damaging spell, and adds in some hefty penalties to boot if they fail the save. And you can laugh maniacally if your opponent was wearing armor of the crystal variety.

For a combat caster, you’ll definitely want use magic device and a few of the more offensive wands, scrolls, or staffs to supplement your own spells. Of course, use magic device is a good choice for any bard with some money to throw around, as improving your magic repertoire is always helpful. Also, I’d recommend still focusing on some social aspects of the bard with leftover spells and skills even if you want to play a combat caster. The social stuff still comes in handy sometimes. Extra defensive spells wouldn’t hurt either though, so you might have to choose which is more important to you.

Also, even if you’re a caster, don’t forget bardic music still makes for good buffs, and you get to use it a lot at higher levels. And there are other uses, such as countering sound dependent spells, and distracting enemies who you aren’t yet engaged in combat with. At higher levels, bardic music can allow you to cast break enchantment and use the suggestion spell to name a couple.

Bardic knowledge is good for any bard, and makes a great substitute many times for all the knowledge skills a wizard gets. You’ll want to pick up one or two knowledges if you want an area of expertise, but bardic knowledge covers a lot.

Playing a social character is likely the easiest way to go, but might not work for all campaigns, as D&D does tend to be combat heavy. As a melee character, they can do a lot, and supplement their abilities well with magic and social skills. As a caster, they can be both social and combat ready, but it will take some preparation to be the equals of other classes as a combat caster.


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6 Responses to “Why Bards Aren’t as Bad as People Think”

  1. 1
    Amanda Says:

    Ah, the bard. The best character I ever had was a bard, and she only lasted for about 3 game sessions (fell off a roof and died).

    She was mostly just an attention hound, but she also worked as a spy for our party. Tons of fun to get invited to the castle to perform, and walk out with all the info/gold you’d want just because the Baron took a shine to you.

    Oh, and she was a juggler, of course – but with a twist. The juggling balls doubled as thrown weapons. (My husband is a juggler and was able to convince our DM that juggling is all about the throwing, not the catching).

    That bard was so much fun.

  2. 2
    Kenry Says:

    Haha ^^ nice, is there a section to follow the RSS feed

  3. 3
    Vereen Says:

    Is there a way to locate someone locally to try this?

  4. 4
    Eclipse Says:

    Hmm, it appears to be mini Q&A time.

    The RSS feed can be found at http://gamingmyway.com/feed/
    There’s a link on the sidebar to the right as well towards the bottom.

    As for finding people local to you to play, there are three ways I can think of. The first is convince a few friends to join you for a game. The second is to hit up a gaming store that lets people hang out and see if anyone there is interested. The third is to find any local or school gaming clubs and join those. If there is a lack of a gaming club, suitably geeky alternatives include book clubs, especially if they have a fantasy or sci-fi theme, and anime clubs. You’ll likely find a fair number of gamers in these clubs and other similar clubs, as there’s a fair bit of overlap in the hobbies. Good luck.

  5. 5
    xn0o0cl3 Says:

    For a long, long time in our d&d games we always ranked bards as the worst class ever. No one ever played one, no one ever wanted to, they were just the garbage of the player’s handbook, wasted space. A friend of mine who started playing recently was really into character flavor as opposed to mechanics, which was rare for us, so one game he makes a changling bard. I will never question the power of the bard again lol. We were level 3, and found ourselves facing down a pit fiend (apparently our DM had some epic chase scene planned for this. Of course, we weren’t expected to touch this thing.) Instead of running for the nearby ruins like everyone else, my friend shapes into a warforged and slams down his big, adamantine sitar (which he had invested literally ALL of his money in) and rolls his perform check for fascinate: rolls a 19, comes out to 31, and trust me, this could easily have been higher. Pit fiend fails, and bam, fight is over. Everyone turns around to see our bard tearing his fingers apart on his strings, the big scary CR 20 devil only able to stare dumbly. Our DM grudgingly opened up the experience table.

    Never doubt the bard.

  6. 6
    TC Says:

    Some friends and I played an all-bards campaign once. It’s still one of my favorites, looking back, even though we only got to about level 11 (started at 3). One of our group bluffed his way into godhood, so that’s cool.

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