5E Bards: How did these become a thing?
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  1. #1
    Magsman (Lvl 14)

    Join Date
    Dec 2007

    Bards: How did these become a thing?

    Confession time: I don't "get" bards as a character concept. I have a hard time imagining a cool character whose main power is music or singing during a fight; that's always seemed kinda lame to me. Most other class concepts I can't think of some (or several) inspiration from popular movies or TV or comics. Does this archetype really exist outside of D&D and media built from D&D?

    Tell me what makes bards so cool to you.
    Last edited by doctorhook; Thursday, 7th May, 2015 at 08:04 PM.
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  2. #2
    Greater Elemental (Lvl 23)

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    Feb 2014
    San Diego
    Quote Originally Posted by doctorhook View Post
    Does this archetype really exist outside of D&D and media built from D&D?
    The problem is that you've just defined the entire genre of traditional fantasy. Everything is built from D&D.

    The bard has more historical tradition behind it than the druid, at least. I could never figure out how that one became a thing.
    Quote Originally Posted by doctorhook View Post
    Tell me what makes bards so cool to you.
    To me, the cool thing about the bard was how it sat right in the middle of the other classes. It had thief skills, and it could use some decent weapons, and it learned the same spells that a wizard could cast. It was kind of like playing a multi-classed fighter/mage/thief, except humans could do it and you didn't have to split your experience points three ways.

    That was AD&D 2E, though. In 3E, all of that was true plus you could get some healing spells.

    I never much cared for the whole song and dance routine, though. On the one hand, you're supposed to carry a lute and sing and whatnot. On the other hand, you needed your hands for a weapon and/or shield, and you needed to leave your voice free for the purpose of casting spells. Conceptually, the image it put forth didn't really harmonize with the practicality of the situation.
    Last edited by Saelorn; Thursday, 7th May, 2015 at 08:12 PM.

  3. #3
    Greater Elemental (Lvl 23)

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    Dec 2014
    United States
    Quote Originally Posted by doctorhook View Post
    Tell me what makes bards so cool to you.
    To me, what made them cool was the Blade kit from the Complete Book of Bards. 5E doesn't have Blades of course but the insight stuck with me: a bard isn't about music per se (this might be the only time you ever see someone on the Internet spell "per se" correctly). Rather, a bard is about influencing outcomes indirectly via thoughts/perceptions instead of direct force. A bard looks really cool and flashy while fighting, and that convinces the enemy to surrender. A fighter efficiently chops your head off so you don't need to surrender. Bards make better movie action movies than fighters do--Errol Flynn was probably a valor bard. (Not necessarily true but you get what I'm saying.)

    Bards also make good diplomats and spies due to their broad knowledge base. Qui-gon Jin (Star Wars) and Shallan Davar (Words of Radiance) would be best modeled as bards in 5E.

    Anyway, that's what makes bards cool to me. Doesn't have much to do with music.
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  4. #4
    Potassium-Rich Moderator
    Hydra (Lvl 25)

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    Jan 2002
    Blame the Celts.

    The idea behind the bard is similar to the idea behind the wizard - someone whose special knowledge makes them able to access magic. The wizard archetype is bound to the book - to literacy, to runes, to heiroglyphs, to sacred writing. It is about the knowledge that being able to read and write could unlock.

    The bard is the same idea, but from pre-literate societies. That's why the song routine - epic poetry and divine music and a keen memory for stories. Without writing, you turn to the bard to hold your histories, to tell your most important stories, to recite your sagas and your lineages. Song happens to be the way most people remembered things before writing was invented, because singing something makes it easier to remember.

    This gave those who could sing these songs power - they could conjure the dead, awaken the gods, stir emotions in stoics, call up memories long-forgotten....magic. Their power is akin to the power of media - they say something, and thus it becomes true to an extent, people listen to what they have to say.

    Bardic archetypes for me are typically those legendary speakers - your celtic bard, your Nordic skald, your Arabic sha'ir, your Orpheus, your Apollo, whatnot. There's not a lot of those in pop media, but we're a literate society, so of course there wouldn't be. It's not as valued and important a skill today.
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  5. #5
    Pit Fiend (Lvl 26)

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    Dec 2003
    Aloha, or
    Read Lloyd Alexander's books. Fleuwdder Flam (I know I misspelled that) was pretty much the archetypical bard. And those books were written in the 60s, IIRC.

    The 1e bard was a giant mess. But the 2e bard cleaned all of that up, and the Complete Book of Bards really tied the class to historical archetypes, like the aforementioned Skald.

  6. #6
    Waghalter (Lvl 7)

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    Jun 2003
    Happy Valley, PA (USA)
    @Kamikaze Midget hit it on the head. The D&D Bard comes from Celtic traditions and folklore.

    see here for just a bit - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogma

  7. #7
    Cutpurse (Lvl 5)

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    Sep 2014
    Syracuse, NY
    When I think of the bard, I think more of a warrior that is going into battle fighting and then making a song or poem about it after the fight. Compiling a list of the deeds that he and his party have achieved to one day write their own epic.

  8. #8
    Scout (Lvl 6)

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    Dec 2013
    for me is a very specific archetype. A kind of sorcerer that focus his magic through performance, say dance, singing, playing instrument. I interpret the performance as a special component for special Magic. so the sorcerer sacrifices spell lvl to learn this particular kind of magic. Plus that learning maximize his social and trickery skills.

    That is what I interpret. I believe it can have roots in the skalds but I lack historical knowledge to affirm anything.

  9. #9
    Spellbinder (Lvl 16)

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    Jan 2015
    I remember when Bards were an appendix in the 1e PHB. To become a bard you had to have a 15 or better in Strength, Wisdom, Dexterity AND Charisma, plus a 12 in Intelligence and 10 in Constitution.
    You had to start as a Fighter until level 5, and then before level 8 they had to become a Thief for 5 levels and then again before 8th level, change to a Druid, at which time they actually became a 1st level Bard (under Druidic tutelage).
    So, in D&D terms, why are they a thing? Because they were so hard to become one. They were the Ultimate Character Class!
    And many DMs wouldn't allow them so, you know, verboten = I want!
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  10. #10
    Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)

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    Sep 2013
    @Kamikaze Midget stated it. Celtic folklore and similar roles and folklore in other cultures are where bards come from. Chanting or singing magic predates D&D by quite a bit in folklore and can be seen in Tolkien's work as an example with which many are familiar. Another example would be Ged singing to a spirit when he accidentally summoned the gebbeth in Wizard of Earthsea.

    We still use music to evoke emotions in modern society (anthem before a hockey game, for example) and a long history in military use even as old school psy-ops for intimidation and for patriotism.

    I find the loremaster scholar renaissance bard archetype appealing and a great class.

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