Bard Playtest discussion

Making a thread to discuss the changes to Bards specifically, hopefully others can make them for other classes. Will edit in the changes I note as I go through:

1) Changed from Simple + trad Bard weapons to just Simple weapons. Odd change because an awful lot of Bards use Rapiers, but a simplification.

2) Bardic Inspiration changed to a Reaction on someone failing a roll or taking damage, which potentially makes it a lot more flexible and makes Bards very good at getting people up who just got downed. PB/long rest uses at L1, PB/short rest (so they do still exist!) from L7. Also at L7, if the roll a 1 it doesn't use up the Inspiration, nice!

3) Spell Preparation. If I'm reading correctly this now works more like they're a Cleric/Druid? I.e. they choose what spells to prep from a list, and can change on a long rest, including cantrips. That's pretty big.

EDIT - It's a subset of the Arcane list, I see - Only Divination, Enchantment, Illusion or Transmutation. However this overall still feels like a buff.

4) Expertise in 2 skills at L2, 2 more at L9 nice.

5) Songs of Restoration - Always have healing spells prepared so no excuse to not have them/cast them! Kind of seems like a 4E role vibe there, but certainly technically a buff.

6) Magical secrets - Now it's pick a spell LIST and you can memorize 2 spells from that. At 14th pick a different list and get the same. Simple, flexible and useful.

7) Capstone is now 2 uses (up from 1) on rolling initiative and L18 like all capstones.

College of Lore (only subclass for now):

8) Still not available until L3 despite WotC saying this wasn't something they liked, interesting.

9) Gives Arcana, History and Nature instead of letting you choose ensuring you can't be awful at knowing things lol.

10) Cutting Words is explicitly rolled after a SUCCESS, so that's great. Also does psychic damage from L10!

11) Inspiration dice are rolled with Advantage from L6 lol nice.

12) Peerless Skill changed to be "after you fail" instead of the ludicrous "before the DM says if you succeed or fail" approach.

Overall my impression?

I don't have any complaints. This is a straight upgrade that addresses virtually all the major issues with Bard gameplay. Yes, it is slightly more restrictive, in that it's forcing you to be competent at your role, but I had no problem with that in 4E and have no problem with it here.
 
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rooneg

Explorer
My only real question is how giving classes like the bard full spell selection flexibility is going to affect the overall power level of casters in the game. Like, the ability to swap out your spells all the time is the Wizard's thing, you know? So now the Bard gets to just pick from huge swaths of the Arcane spell list with no Spellbook restriction? I mean, I like it from the Bard's POV, but I'm not sure I'm in love with the overall impact (although it's not like Wizards are underpowered or anything, so maybe I just shouldn't care?).
 

Amrûnril

Adventurer
The Arcane/Divine/Primal spell system and the associated changes to magical secrets seem like the biggest changes (with the arguable exception of spell preparation). Frankly, I don't see the advantage of this system over giving classes unique spell lists. The change to magical secrets is great for players who want more flexibility with spell choice, but it takes away from the "signature spell" dynamic the previous version had. And the loss of additional magical secrets takes away what I thought was the main appeal of the Lore Bard.
 


I mean, I like it from the Bard's POV, but I'm not sure I'm in love with the overall impact (although it's not like Wizards are underpowered or anything, so maybe I just shouldn't care?).
Given WotC, they'll likely use this as an excuse to buff Wizards.
Frankly, I don't see the advantage of this system over giving classes unique spell lists.
It's likely to be a lot easier to balance and theme, especially if they add more classes in future.
The change to magical secrets is great for players who want more flexibility with spell choice, but it takes away from the "signature spell" dynamic the previous version had. And the loss of additional magical secrets takes away what I thought was the main appeal of the Lore Bard.
Frankly Lore Bards (and I say this having played more than one) were OP. And it was Magical Secrets that pushed them over the top in terms of appeal and wildly outcompeting other subclasses. I don't view the changes as a real nerf, because Magical Secrets is hugely better now. The only issue is by delaying the first one to 11th means most players will never see the feature.

Really hoping WotC has improved more stuff in the 11-20 range to make that more worth playing in and less of a headache for the DM, as a lot of classes now have cool features in that range.
 

My problem isn't with the loss of unique spell lists for the classes, it's with the loss of unique spell lists for the characters. Every bard gets to pick their base spells from the same list. Which means they are much more interchangeable as characters and with a whole lot less character customisation. Yes the ranger and the sorcerer were too crippled in spells known by the PHB - but this is less flavourful characters.
 

My problem isn't with the loss of unique spell lists for the classes, it's with the loss of unique spell lists for the characters. Every bard gets to pick their base spells from the same list. Which means they are much more interchangeable as characters and with a whole lot less character customisation. Yes the ranger and the sorcerer were too crippled in spells known by the PHB - but this is less flavourful characters.
In a purely mechanical and non-roleplaying sense, sure.

But that's a double-edged sword.

What you see as "flavourful" is also how a lot of newer players or players who simply have poor system expertise get themselves into bad traps. If you let a newbie just select spells as they feel, the large number of poorly-balanced spells in 5E (and likely 1D&D) means they can very easily dig themselves into a hole where they're not very effective.

Without Tasha's, they're basically stuck there forever, or near enough.

With Tasha's they can very slowly get out of it, but what they can't do is experiment. They can't try stuff out. They can't try that spell that sounded cool. They can't adapt for specific situations, which means they basically can't have "niche" spells on their list, so the actual spells used by 98% of Bards tend to be a TINY subset of the actual Bard list, like, less than 30% of it.

Now I'm not saying you're wrong, to be clear. I get what you're getting at, and WotC sees it as a bug not a feature, because making D&D more gamist and characters slightly more generic mechanically is likely to help with their longer-term plans and certainly benefits accessibility (which is clearly a key goal here, c.f. the lists of suggested spells etc.).
 

In a purely mechanical and non-roleplaying sense, sure.

But that's a double-edged sword.

What you see as "flavourful" is also how a lot of newer players or players who simply have poor system expertise get themselves into bad traps. If you let a newbie just select spells as they feel, the large number of poorly-balanced spells in 5E (and likely 1D&D) means they can very easily dig themselves into a hole where they're not very effective.
I understand the argument - but it's IMO a fallacy of the excluded middle when WotC has been showing us for years how to hit that middle, and they've even done it in this play packet. The Bard gets "Songs of Restoration" which gives them a solid list of spells that will always be effective, while the Xanathar's Rangers and Tasha's Sorcerer subclasses (plus an always known Hunter's Mark) give you a starting spell list that should have enough of a foundation that this isn't a major issue.
 


I understand the argument - but it's IMO a fallacy of the excluded middle when WotC has been showing us for years how to hit that middle, and they've even done it in this play packet. The Bard gets "Songs of Restoration" which gives them a solid list of spells that will always be effective, while the Xanathar's Rangers and Tasha's Sorcerer subclasses (plus an always known Hunter's Mark) give you a starting spell list that should have enough of a foundation that this isn't a major issue.
That doesn't make any sense to me. How is it an "excluded middle" fallacy? Can you explain? I can't find any definition of that which makes any sense in the context of what you're saying. Is there perhaps a different phrase which might make more sense?

Also I strongly disagree with the argument - Songs of Restoration does not do that - rather if those are the only good spells they have, it locks them into a "reactive healer" role, which is pretty bad. None of those spells are interesting, cool, or fun to use. They're purely the most boring and reactive kind of "party support" spells. I mean some, like Lesser Restoration, are basically a "spell tax", i.e. where one PC is forced to give up spells simply to remove penalties from another PC, and it's not cool or dramatic, it's just required.

They absolutely COULD design a baseline list of spells every Bard has that DOES make them all viable, then let you build from there. It's a classic bit of design in fact to do that. But they haven't.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Having those healing spells always prepared was necessary because Bards now cannot get healing otherwise with all the healing spells moved over to the Abjuration school (which Bards don't get.) By giving out those 5 spells under Songs of Restoration, Bards can maintain having some healing without needing to be given the entire Abjuration school, which I'm sure WotC didn't want to do. Last thing Bards need is to have access to Mage Armor and Shield from the get-go.
 

Amrûnril

Adventurer
In a purely mechanical and non-roleplaying sense, sure.

But that's a double-edged sword.

What you see as "flavourful" is also how a lot of newer players or players who simply have poor system expertise get themselves into bad traps. If you let a newbie just select spells as they feel, the large number of poorly-balanced spells in 5E (and likely 1D&D) means they can very easily dig themselves into a hole where they're not very effective.

Without Tasha's, they're basically stuck there forever, or near enough.

With Tasha's they can very slowly get out of it, but what they can't do is experiment. They can't try stuff out. They can't try that spell that sounded cool. They can't adapt for specific situations, which means they basically can't have "niche" spells on their list, so the actual spells used by 98% of Bards tend to be a TINY subset of the actual Bard list, like, less than 30% of it.

Now I'm not saying you're wrong, to be clear. I get what you're getting at, and WotC sees it as a bug not a feature, because making D&D more gamist and characters slightly more generic mechanically is likely to help with their longer-term plans and certainly benefits accessibility (which is clearly a key goal here, c.f. the lists of suggested spells etc.).

I like the idea of character specific known spells, but agree that it's important to have some flexibility, especially for new players. I think Tasha' probably took the wrong approach to this, though. Rather than designating specific level-ups for re-spec'ing, it would have been better to emphasize that the DM should allow this as appropriate to help players learn the game and to reflect character developments- something akin to the discussion of changing subclasses rather than a standardized class feature.

Having those healing spells always prepared was necessary because Bards now cannot get healing otherwise with all the healing spells moved over to the Abjuration school (which Bards don't get.) By giving out those 5 spells under Songs of Restoration, Bards can maintain having some healing without needing to be given the entire Abjuration school, which I'm sure WotC didn't want to do. Last thing Bards need is to have access to Mage Armor and Shield from the get-go.
This is one of the reasons I think class-specific spell lists are a good idea.
 

That doesn't make any sense to me. How is it an "excluded middle" fallacy? Can you explain? I can't find any definition of that which makes any sense in the context of what you're saying. Is there perhaps a different phrase which might make more sense?
Basically you seem to be saying either (a) you give permanent unguided choices and newbies get lost or (b) you give pure freedom and pure spells prepared for the newbies. I'm saying that both these are bad - but there is a middle way as indicated
Also I strongly disagree with the argument - Songs of Restoration does not do that - rather if those are the only good spells they have, it locks them into a "reactive healer" role, which is pretty bad. None of those spells are interesting, cool, or fun to use.
And I consider this to be a subtle goalpost shift (and I disagree that Healing Word in specific isn't fun). Your initial claim was about picking an entire spell list that was in your words "not very effective" The spells in question are all effective ones even if I agree with you that Lesser Restoration is a spell tax and consider Healing Word the only fun one on the list.

But if we're talking about effectiveness then being able to heal and lesser restore means that they will never be ineffective. And the newbie spells problem is normally that they go for interesting and cool over effective. But with a core of effective (if dull) spells going for flash on top of that won't be a problem.
 

Basically you seem to be saying either (a) you give permanent unguided choices and newbies get lost or (b) you give pure freedom and pure spells prepared for the newbies. I'm saying that both these are bad - but there is a middle way as indicated
I agree there is a middle way. I don't at all agree it's what you've suggested. The spell-lists for Sorcerers and the like are closer, but inconsistent (some have absolutely terrible spells on them, or all combat, or all non-combat). And the inability to experiment is a genuine problem imo.
And I consider this to be a subtle goalpost shift (and I disagree that Healing Word in specific isn't fun).
There's no goalposts, because this isn't that kind of discussion, so you can't shift something that isn't there. I'm trying to discuss how this actually works, not beat Tottenham 4-0.

My point is that all you have there are reactive healing spells. You're not disputing that. And when I say effective, sorry for the short-hand, but I personally include "being fun for the player" in that, and assumed others would. I kind of agree re: Healing Word, but it's still reactive spell which largely duplicates the healing usage of their Inspiration. They have two different abilities which do almost exactly the same thing, just one is a Reaction and the other a Bonus Action. It's not terrible, but it's not engaging (and is kind of clumsy design).
But with a core of effective (if dull) spells going for flash on top of that won't be a problem.
Hard disagree.

Dull but effective spells combined with cool but ineffective spells is absolutely a great way to get people to quit a class. To get bored with a game. Particularly if the effective spells are primarily cast on other people.

I'm not saying this just to be difficult, to be clear, you're describing something that's happened countless times in both videogames and TTRPGs. The character who has some boring-but-vital abilities, and has some cool abilities, but they don't work very well, so you need to focus on the boring-but-effective ones. Like, seriously a significant percentage of classes in early MMOs fit into this. Clerics and SPs in 2E fit that.

And people endlessly quit those classes or didn't want to play them.

So I'd say any set of baseline abilities must include some cool and effective abilities.

WotC didn't go with that though, they've gone with a Cleric/Druid-like option. I'm not sure if that's the best choice, but I can say it'll definitely work.
 


Clint_L

Adventurer
2) Bardic Inspiration changed to a Reaction on someone failing a roll or taking damage, which potentially makes it a lot more flexible and makes Bards very good at getting people up who just got downed. PB/long rest uses at L1, PB/short rest (so they do still exist!) from L7. Also at L7, if the roll a 1 it doesn't use up the Inspiration, nice!
Being able to use inspiration to heal as a reaction is incredibly powerful. I already think healing word is too strong, and this is even better. It adds another cheat death mechanic to the game, which IMO is bad for maintaining narrative tension in combat. A player going to 0 hit points should be a crisis, not a momentary whoopsie.
 

Stalker0

Legend
The fact that bards can now swap out their spells every day with anything on their list just puts their flexibility even further beyond. That ability alone is an incredible boost in class power.
 

Being able to use inspiration to heal as a reaction is incredibly powerful. I already think healing word is too strong, and this is even better. It adds another cheat death mechanic to the game, which IMO is bad for maintaining narrative tension in combat. A player going to 0 hit points should be a crisis, not a momentary whoopsie.
Well there are two ways to read it:

1) The healing applies after they take damage but before they go down, in which case it's okay but not that powerful, because in a lot of cases it won't prevent someone being downed. For example, PC on 7 HP takes 12 HP swipe from a bear, Bard does his Inspiration, gets a 1/2/3/4 and the PC still goes down, now the Bard needs to use Healing Word to get them up. That's not that great.

2) That the healing applies after they take damage and after they go down, in which case it's basically "Yo-yo healing: The ability!". In the same scenario the PC goes down to the 12 HP swipe, but the Bard uses Inspiration, and now the PC is back awake (albeit Prone) on 1d6 HP.

Way #2 is I think what you're assuming, and yeah, that'll be super yo-yo if that's the intended reading. And to be honest I think it IS actually the intended reading, because they're only buffing healing so far in 1D&D. Long Rest got a buff, for example, restoring 100% of HD instead of 50%, and removing all HP-max-reducing effects.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
This sort of baffles me. What are you warding against, negative chi?
That's always been the goofy bit of dividing spells into schools... oftentimes spells are so wishy-washy in terms of what they do that there's no real rhyme nor reason as to what school they should get placed in. Healing in years and editions past has been Necromancy, it's been Conjuration, it's been Evocation, and now it's Abjuration-- all trying to either find the most "applicable" place for it to go, or else just trying to balance out the schools themselves with relatively equal numbers of quality spells.

I mean in truth the school of Necromancy should be renamed 'Animancy' or 'Biomancy' and be about the entire circle of life and death, in which case healing would go here. But the Necromancer concept is so ingrained in D&D that no one has really ever tried broaching the idea of changing the school's name to make the healing spells really fit. So what can you do?
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
I mean in truth the school of Necromancy should be renamed 'Animancy' or 'Biomancy' and be about the entire circle of life and death, in which case healing would go here. But the Necromancer concept is so ingrained in D&D that no one has really ever tried broaching the idea of changing the school's name to make the healing spells really fit. So what can you do?
Move healing spells to Abjuration, apparently. :)
 

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