D&D 5E Bard as a subclass

I want the bard to be

  • a class with a bunch of entertainer types under it

    Votes: 41 70.7%
  • a subclass of a greater arcane gish type class

    Votes: 17 29.3%

Ashrym

Legend
It's not clear to me whether or not you're using the class names ("cleric", "bard", "wizard" etc) in their D&D sense or in some other (ordinary Engish?) sense.

As a class, clerics - according to Gygax in his PHB - are inspired by the crusading military orders, whose members were not priests but were lay brothers. But in D&D, clerics always had "priest" as a level title, and are I think are now indelibly associated with the idea of priesthood.

I don't really see how you can say that Vainamoinen is a bard (seems plausible) and that bards are not priests, given that Vainamoinen is a placeholder in the story either for a god or for some sort of ur-priest ancestral figure.

And I don't really grasp the basis on which you're saying wizards are not healers. "Wizard", in D&D terms, doesn't really correlate with any historical or mythological notion - historical witches and wizards can (by reptuation, at least) perform healing as well as other magical feats. There are D&D books that put forward Merlin as an archetype of a wizard, but of course it is just as easy to present Merlin as a druid or a bard. And if we look to literary rather than mythical characters, Gandalf - another archetypical wizard - could just as easily be presented as a bard (he heals, and as a spirit-being is clearly in tune with the music of creation). Elrond is a healer and a loremaster, but except for the D&D demarcations around who can and cannot use healing magic there would be no deep reason to label him a bard rather than a wizard, nor vice versa.

The warrior-skald built using the D&Dnext bard class has d6 HD and is therefore hugely vulnerable in combat. And is a spell caster.

The loremaster is proficient in the rapier and shortsword for no very good story reason that I can see.

The rougish minstrel isn't particularly represented by this bard class at all, other than the rapier and light armour proficiency (which the rogue also gets). In particular, all the social capabilities provided by the College of Wit are expressly called out as magical abilities (except perhaps Seeds of Doubt). As far as non-magical wit and charm, a rogue build is just as viable as a bard build. (The College of Valour actually has more non-magical social abilities, but they're confined within the combat mechanics.) As far as I can tell the bard has no special competence or advantage within the interaction mechanics.

So I personally don't see the D&Dnext bard as covering all the historical and literary archetypes. I see a magician class based around musical/oratory performance and some other support magic, who is also a loremaster and perhaps a fairly weak warrior. It's an oddity of the D&D world, with no real basis in myth and history, that the best loremasters also happen to be rapier duelists (at least until 9th level, at which point the full casters get access to Commune and Contact Other Plane).

Most of my comments on the term 'bard' are based on the origins of the term as the Welsh Bard or Scottish/Irish Fili. Merlin was actually the archetype for a bard and was based on the Myrridin the bard. The word druid refers to bards and wizards too. Vainamoinen was a bard because the magic he used was with the power of his voice and he sang his magic, and used a kantele. He was associated with music and poetry. An example was when he sang a boat into creation and sailed it across the sea. In Finnish stories spells were created from lyrics and that's where that magic came from. That's a bard, easily, based on the mechanics used. Any class defined by the mechanics as a bard in game terms could still have a priest background (like DDN has) or be religious on top of the class structure.

Vainamoinen is even referred to as "the eternal bard".

Gandalf was patterned after stories of Merlin and Vainamoinen as a lorekeeper, and when he used magic he chanted (as bards cast - it's not all lutes and dancing) with power in his voice. That's a bard too. The issue is a lot of people don't understand or know the origins of bards. The role was to maintain history using a oral tradition, the term bard is refers to prophet in an older meaning, and bards were judges, historians, teachers, arbitrators, mediators, advisors, herbalists, and healers among other things. The role changed over time as oral tradition made way to written history.

The reason bards are not priest is because they didn't necessarily serve in religious orders or functions. I know clerics are fabrication based in part on teutonic knights, hospitalers, and templars and giving divine magic. Priests as a class also prayed for magic. Bards were born with the gift of magic. It was called 'awen' and meant inspiration, but not in the modern sense; inspiration was "in a state of spirit" and true inspiration carried a more supernatural meaning as it stemmed from the root word "spirit".

D&D separated the healing and buffing divine magic from arcane magic as a rule and in the process created room for bards because they shared commonality as historians, knowledgeable, and magicians with the arcane classes; and healing magic like the divine classes. The song magic separate from the spells is a D&D mechanic because what bards in stories did was use lyric verse and poetry to create magic in the power of their voice. This is like Amergin (a bard) calming the storms sent by the druids with his poetry during the Milesian invasion when the invasion was predicated on his prophesy of victory and the reason the invasion began, or Taliesin (a bard) shaking the keep in which Elphin was imprisoned by singing up a terrible wind strong enough to shake the keep until Elphin was brought forth and Elphin's shackles dropped from him with another song when Taliesin and seen the imprisonment from home, or the example of Vainamoinen singing up a boat. Separating the classes by that song mechanic also provided distinction and could be reinforced by Ceasar's accounts of the bards inspiring the barbarians in battle during the Roman invasion.

Witches would also chant or sing in stories and follow the bard concept of making magic with singing or lyrics or verse. That's a definitive association and mechanic

There's a lot of a myth from which to draw the bard archetype. WotC is drawing more from the minstrel or jongleur approach that occured much later with bards. They kept the bardic knowledge, and provided bards expertise bonuses to skills so it's easy for a bard to be the most sagely and knowledgeable class in DDN by choice in those options but also not necessarily for those who want more of that rogues scoundrel wandering bard. It's handled by the skill choice and background because bards are also the only class in the playtest with an unlimited class choice from which to select their skills. Rogues get one more skill proficiency but from a specific list, a bards get the jack-of-all-trades bonus to non-proficient skills. I can take the guild thief background on a bard and choose some skills to go with it, and take expertise in my thief tool proficiency if I want to build a roguish bard. Background and skills help define the characters and I like the fact that the choice exists between taking a bard with a thief background or taking a rogue with a minstrel background, or taking a cleric with a minstrel background or taking a bard with a priest background, for example.

You are correct, a rogue can easily take proficiencies in bard skills with the right back ground and cover the skills. Not the jack of all trades or minimum roll on all knowledge checks but pretty good as the other skill based class. The rogue won't be healing anyone though, or casting spells as swift actions using the battle magic bard ability. The game could function just fine with the 4 classic classes but the 6 optional classes open up options. The bard could also be using silence, invisibility, and knock spells.

The college of wit is interesting, because it add more performance abilities but it's clearly based on the jester role based on the abilities and description with the magic applied per bard. The bard class itself is clearly less of the original bard caste and myths, and more of a middle ages jongleur or minstrel. It takes more of the modern definition of a bard as a poet and calls out the performance as magical, like a mix of the original bard stories and the wandering minstrel concept. There is more modern fiction using the same concepts even if it's not accurate to the original concepts and stories.

I agree, it doesn't cover the expected historical and literary archetypes. I can list off a lot of similar roles in a lot of societies if a person really wants. I can see the amalgam of old concepts and more middle ages concepts in there as DDN uses the name while making their own version of it. What I can do is build on it with the backgrounds and in the skill choices. I also expect more than 2 colleges when all is said and done. College of valor is clearly a 4E style meets 1E concept as what Mearls listed as the Celtic / Skald warrior concept. I agree they are on the high side of squishy on the scale for that but DEX based using bows and finesse weapons helps there. As I mentioned, college of wit is the traditional jester role. I'm hoping for a college of lore, college of medicine, and maybe a college of espionage for additional directions.

If I repeat myself or seem tired you are correct in that I am. ;)
 

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vagabundo

Adventurer
+1 Bard as class
My only reasoning for this is because the Complete Bard's Handbook was all sorts of awesome.

Some of my favourites that might make good subclasses:
Blade
Gypsy-bard
Herald
Jester
Skald
 

pemerton

Legend
[MENTION=6750235]Ashrym[/MENTION], thanks for the reply. I don't disagree with any of your historical analysis or archetypes. I'm not quite as keen on the bard implementation as a class - for instance, I don't feel the force of the contrast between singing (the bard) and chanting (all spell casting by default - How to Play p 26).

Given the way D&D already establishes wizards, clerics, druids etc the bard has to be distinctive, but I think I would prefer the combination of healing and control (which is the 4e approach, and has precedents in AD&D 1st ed and 3E) with a bit less of the distinctive music/singing approach - which could then be subsumed into the verbal components in general.
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
As an aside to the main topic of this thread:

As a class, clerics - according to Gygax in his PHB - are inspired by the crusading military orders, whose members were not priests but were lay brothers. But in D&D, clerics always had "priest" as a level title, and are I think are now indelibly associated with the idea of priesthood.

I'd like to question "indelibly".

5e has done more to break this connection than any other edition, and if it persists it's because old players can't or won't let go. With the existence of the Priest background, it is now mechanically explicit that clerics are not priests (unless they also have that background). Clerics are not priests, they do not have a home parish, they do not perform religious rights for the village or the local military outpost.

This has been their strength since Backgrounds were introduced. It is both a great step forward and, as you note, a return to the origins of the game. If clerics-as-priests persist, it is because we as players want it, or just don't think.
 

Ashrym

Legend
Ashrym , thanks for the reply. I don't disagree with any of your historical analysis or archetypes. I'm not quite as keen on the bard implementation as a class - for instance, I don't feel the force of the contrast between singing (the bard) and chanting (all spell casting by default - How to Play p 26).

Given the way D&D already establishes wizards, clerics, druids etc the bard has to be distinctive, but I think I would prefer the combination of healing and control (which is the 4e approach, and has precedents in AD&D 1st ed and 3E) with a bit less of the distinctive music/singing approach - which could then be subsumed into the verbal components in general.

The chanting spells is why I think the sing and dancing stereo type is off base that a lot of players see the be bards. Even the performance has always been listed as including oration. I was expecting more of a 4E approach and was surprised things didn't go that way, but apparently there were a lot of players who do like having the song mechanics. Making the class distinctive is as easy as giving it a unique spell list and continued focus on the knowledge and social abilities. 4E bards heal and have some control spells still.

As an aside to the main topic of this thread:



I'd like to question "indelibly".

5e has done more to break this connection than any other edition, and if it persists it's because old players can't or won't let go. With the existence of the Priest background, it is now mechanically explicit that clerics are not priests (unless they also have that background). Clerics are not priests, they do not have a home parish, they do not perform religious rights for the village or the local military outpost.

This has been their strength since Backgrounds were introduced. It is both a great step forward and, as you note, a return to the origins of the game. If clerics-as-priests persist, it is because we as players want it, or just don't think.

2E did the same thing with the inclusion of a philosophy or ideal or universal principal. The 5E description making the same associations continues immediately afterward to stating the cleric is a conduit to the power of the gods. The spells rely on understanding the intuitive understanding of your god's wishes, the ability to attune yourself to your god's presence, and your zeal to impose your combined wills on the world. The description still for the spells list formulaic prayers or ancient rites, and the the cleric class abilities add a mechanic to request divine intervention. The descriptions and mechanics make it hard to disassociate the clerics from religion, although a solitary chosen one concept as opposed organized religions seems easy, or a hermetic prophet (getting back to design space overlap).
 

gyor

Legend
The Priest background is more about involvement in church hierachy then saying anything without this background is not a priest.

Its obvious that the Cleric has a special spiritual investment fromva diety.
 

pemerton

Legend
I'd like to question "indelibly".

5e has done more to break this connection than any other edition, and if it persists it's because old players can't or won't let go. With the existence of the Priest background, it is now mechanically explicit that clerics are not priests (unless they also have that background). Clerics are not priests, they do not have a home parish, they do not perform religious rights for the village or the local military outpost.
I see your point. The class description (p 10 of the Classes document) describes them as "no ordinary priests or temple servants" - I'm not sure that implies that they're not priests, or rather that they are priests/temple servants, but special ones.

There is also reference to "dedicated service to a deity" - so maybe "devotee" rather than "priest" would be a better notion. But then how, in story terms, do they differ from paladins?
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
There is also reference to "dedicated service to a deity" - so maybe "devotee" rather than "priest" would be a better notion. But then how, in story terms, do they differ from paladins?

Well this IMO is one of the biggest damages the FR did, by conflating paladins with gods. Still while subtle the difference is there: paladins are empowered people who fight for justice and stuff, who follow deities and their causes but don't necessarily serve them nor derive their power from them ("I'm a paladin of Bahamut, I put my powers in his service because he shares the same cause as me"). On the other hand the cleric is a servant and follower of a deity who was granted power from that deity to advance the cause ("I'm a cleric of Bahamut, I follow his cause because I serve him, and he grants me power in exchange for my devotion").

If you ever watched the Hades saga of Saint Seiya we can draw a semi-example, both the saints and the specters can walk among the land of the dead, however the saints (Paladins of Athena) do it because they reached eight sense on their own, while the specters (Clerics of Hades) because that is a boon from their god.
 
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MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
Ok, less obscure example, consider two archer superheroes:

Green Arrow.- Fighting crime with arrows out of pocket (Paladin)

Hawkeye.- Fighting crime with arrows out of shield's pocket (Cleric)
 

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