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5E Bards have an identity problem!

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
In 5e the Bard is as good of a caster as a Wizard or Cleric. But Bards that cast spells like Wizards cast don't feel very Bard-like. They feel more like a Charisma Wizard. That makes for a mechanically strong class but a thematically weak one. Do 5e Bards have the identity they should have?
 

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Warpiglet-7

Adventurer
In 5e the Bard is as good of a caster as a Wizard or Cleric. But Bards that cast spells like Wizards cast don't feel very Bard-like. They feel more like a Charisma Wizard. That makes for a mechanically strong class but a thematically weak one. Do 5e Bards have the identity they should have?

in my opinion no, not out of the box. I used to hate them for that reason but started see how much they are “build your own.”

Messing with lore bards, you can make them creepy and witch like, inspiring and music playing scoundrels etc.

For me—just speaking for me—they take more player initiative because their archetype is less strong than say wizard cleric or rogue.

but they can surely be made into some interesting things with background, feats and roleplay.
 


Cadence

Legend
Supporter
In 5e the Bard is as good of a caster as a Wizard or Cleric. But Bards that cast spells like Wizards cast don't feel very Bard-like. They feel more like a Charisma Wizard. That makes for a mechanically strong class but a thematically weak one. Do 5e Bards have the identity they should have?

What was the game-world identity of Bard's before? If a Magus is a Wizard/Fighter in PF, is a bard a Wizard/Thief with musical flavor and subbing out back-stab for knowledge skills?

What literature are they patterned after? Was it the Finnish section of de Camp and Pratt? What distinguishes them from a Wizard that uses words (like Earthsea or Name of the Wind) except for singing instead of saying?

Should they be more like Warlocks but with songs? Is that too limiting?
 
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Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
In 5e the Bard is as good of a caster as a Wizard or Cleric. But Bards that cast spells like Wizards cast don't feel very Bard-like. They feel more like a Charisma Wizard. That makes for a mechanically strong class but a thematically weak one. Do 5e Bards have the identity they should have?
I feel that them having magical secrets kinda takes away from their ability to be a great support character since there isn't much spell support that a bard can do that any other character can do better.

I'd like to see some buffs to their, er, buffs and debuffs rather than magical secrets.

Really bad spitballing, but replacing magical secrets with something like giving an enemy disadvantage on a debuff spell or allow an additional character to be targeted for a buff spell. That would help give them a more grounded identity as a support class. I'd also say re-do valor since the armor and weapon proficiencies as well as the extra attack is usually a red-herring for what you're better off doing as a bard anyways.
 

Mort

Hero
Supporter
For me—just speaking for me—they take more player initiative because their archetype is less strong than say wizard cleric or rogue.

I agree, player initiative is key.

The Bard in my group casts his spells by reciting haiku - and boy is it thematic. Doesn't hurt that the player actually wrote a different haiku for each spell (going on 7th level and he's still doing it). We have a wizard at the table too and the dynamic is very different.
 

Mort

Hero
Supporter
I feel that them having magical secrets kinda takes away from their ability to be a great support character since there isn't much spell support that a bard can do that any other character can do better.

I'd like to see some buffs to their, er, buffs and debuffs rather than magical secrets.

Really bad spitballing, but replacing magical secrets with something like giving an enemy disadvantage on a debuff spell or allow an additional character to be targeted for a buff spell. That would help give them a more grounded identity as a support class. I'd also say re-do valor since the armor and weapon proficiencies as well as the extra attack is usually a red-herring for what you're better off doing as a bard anyways.

I strongly disagree that bards are not a great support character or that they need any help in that department.

Every bard subclass is great at support, even the college of swords bard, IME the least "support" of the bunch (because so much of their resources go into self buffing) is great at support when they choose to be.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I agree, player initiative is key.

The Bard in my group casts his spells by reciting haiku - and boy is it thematic. Doesn't hurt that the player actually wrote a different haiku for each spell (going on 7th level and he's still doing it). We have a wizard at the table too and the dynamic is very different.

it’s not how they flavor the spell casting. It’s that they are doing pretty much the same things the wizard is doing.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I strongly disagree that bards are not a great support character or that they need any help in that department.

Every bard subclass is great at support, even the college of swords bard, IME the least "support" of the bunch (because so much of their resources go into self buffing) is great at support when they choose to be.

it’s not that they aren’t great. It’s that what they are great at doesn’t align to their identity.
 

Mort

Hero
Supporter
it’s not how they flavor the spell casting. It’s that they are doing pretty much the same things the wizard is doing.

1. The fact that they can be the arcane cater in the group is a plus IMO. it means not every group has to have a wizard.

2. Even so, they can't do everything a wizard can do - a bard, even a lore bard, simply won't have the variance of spells a wizard can bring to the table.

Again the party I DM has both, they don't step on each other's toes at all.
 



Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
I strongly disagree that bards are not a great support character or that they need any help in that department.

Every bard subclass is great at support, even the college of swords bard, IME the least "support" of the bunch (because so much of their resources go into self buffing) is great at support when they choose to be.
They are as good at support as any other class with the same spell, assuming no extra features from those other classes. There's obviously the sorcerer but there's also the wizard who can protect an ally by being abjuration or giving certain effects through a transmuter's stone. A bard has no features to make any of their support spells stand out or be better.

In fact, they only get 2 features that can even be considered support, bardic inspiration and song of rest. Everything else is selfish for the bard.

So, they can fulfill support, but they're no greater (and even less so) than other characters in this regard.

It makes them feel like a psuedo-wizard instead with their magical secrets trying to have an answer for everything they wouldn't normally have.
 

Mort

Hero
Supporter
it’s not that they aren’t great. It’s that what they are great at doesn’t align to their identity.

Well, the boards subclasses likely lead to different identities - they're so diverse. So the question of whether they're is alignment may not be the same for each subclass.

The bard in my group is a blade (college of swords) bard. His class identity seems to be that of an warrior poet. He uses his chants to augment his fighting prowess and to assist his allies in overcoming the enemy.

Could another class work here? Maybe, but the bard certainly makes it an easy fit.
 


FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
What was the game-world identity of Bard's before? If a Magus is a Wizard/Fighter in PF, is a bard a Wizard/Thief with musical flavor and subbing out back-stab for knowledge skills?

What literature are they patterned after? Was it the Finnish section of de Camp and Pratt? What distinguishes them from a Wizard that uses words (like Earthsea or Name of the Wind) except for singing instead of saying?

Should they be more like Warlocks but with songs? Is that too limiting?

I don’t have the answer. Musical invocations would be really cool. Tone back the spell casting into half caster level maybe.
 




Mort

Hero
Supporter
They are as good at support as any other class with the same spell, assuming no extra features from those other classes. There's obviously the sorcerer but there's also the wizard who can protect an ally by being abjuration or giving certain effects through a transmuter's stone. A bard has no features to make any of their support spells stand out or be better.

But they mix spells other classes generally don't. You're not going to see a wizard slinging healing word, for example.

And sure it's a cantrip, but viscous mockery can't be ignored for how much it can aid the group. That's bard exclusive.

In fact, they only get 2 features that can even be considered support, bardic inspiration and song of rest. Everything else is selfish for the bard.

But other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?

Bardic inspiration is huge, especially for lore bards.

So, they can fulfill support, but they're no greater (and even less so) than other characters in this regard.

Every time I've seen a bard in a group they lift the group up with their support. I've listed a few ways, in due they're not exclusive.

It makes them feel like a psuedo-wizard instead with their magical secrets trying to have an answer for everything they wouldn't normally have.

I guess our experiences differ, in the groups I've seen, the bars maintains a very separate identity from the Wizard.
 

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