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5E Bards have an identity problem!


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Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Merlin Sylvestris was a Bard who Geoffrey of Monmouth later coopted into the legends of King Arthur.

So based on Merlin Im happy with the Bard regaining its historic role as Prophet-Loremaster and mysterious wizard
Merlin is a Bard.
Myrddin Wyllt / Merlin Sylvestris seems like a bard. The co-opted one most people think of and who has the place in popular culture, not so much?

Does the 5e bard match the original source Geoffrey pillaged?
 

Merlin is a wizard.
No, he is a Bard.

Merlin is a composite of historical persons, especially Myrddin, a Bard.

The 5e Bard draws largely from British concepts relating to lore about the magical aspects of the Bard.

The 5e Bard also is excellent for mythologically accurate shamans of various other cultures.

The Bard makes sense.

It is the Wizard class that lacks sense.
 

Myrddin Wyllt / Merlin Sylvestris seems like a bard. The co-opted one most people think of and who has the place in popular culture, not so much?

Does the 5e bard match the original source Geoffrey pillaged?
The historical Myrddin is mainly a prescient.

The mythological Merlin who advises Arthur and so on, feels more like a shaman − things like shapeshifting, and so on. And the 5e does all of these kinds of magic well.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Somewhere, somehow, the Bard class managed to get a reputation as "the character class that can do it all" at my table. So my players are always really surprised when they realize they don't bring anything to the table that wasn't already brought (and done better) by the other characters. Well, except vicious mockery I suppose. That's a pretty fun cantrip.

The bard would make an excellent subclass for rogue or wizard, but as a stand-alone class it just feels uncommitted. Like a diluted wizard, or a rogue with low battery.
 
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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Somewhere, somehow, the Bard class managed to get a reputation as "the character class that can do it all" at my table. So my players are always really surprised when they realize they don't bring anything to the table that wasn't already brought (and better) by the other characters. Well, except vicious mockery I suppose. That's a pretty fun cantrip.

The bard would make an excellent subclass for rogue or wizard, but as a stand-alone class it just feels uncommitted. Like a diluted wizard, or a rogue with low battery.
Yes but not just that. The supposed way it powers it’s magic just don’t make sense that it would be on par with the other 5e Full casters.

wizards studies magic. Clerics granted magic by the gods. Bards pick up a lite and cast spells?
 

Crimson Longinus

Adventurer
Yes but not just that. The supposed way it powers it’s magic just don’t make sense that it would be on par with the other 5e Full casters.

wizards studies magic. Clerics granted magic by the gods. Bards pick up a lite and cast spells?
Bard are not just musicians, they're an magical tradition of their own. If a spell can be inscribed in a book then surely it can also be sung?

But ultimately there are too many caster classes and thus their thematic design space is cramped. And of course, as noted, the wizards being 'can do anything with magic except heal' leaves little room for others.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
If anyone thinks Bards have an identity problem, no amount of defense that other people give here is going to change that. You either grok the Bard's identity or you don't.

Truth be told, all magic in D&D is a mish-mash and none of it makes any really categorical sense. So the Wizard vs the Cleric is just as wishy-washy as the Wizard vs the Bard, or the Cleric vs the Druid, or the Cleric vs the Warlock, or the Bard vs the Sorcerer etc. etc. etc. Whether you like their identities is all going to be personal preference and I'll bet anyone here $10 that not a single one of you is going to come out of this thread slapping your forehead and saying "Oh my god, you're right! What was I thinking? I GET it now!"

Heh... that ain't happening. So don't even bother trying. Waste of all of your times. :)
 

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.

I guess our experiences differ, in the groups I've seen, the bars maintains a very separate identity from the Wizard.
I agree with both of these statements. Bards can seemingly fulfill almost every role in the game, with support being the primary focus. I've seen groups using the Bard as the healer, as the trapfinder, as the face, and as the mage. I've not yet seen a tank bard, but I've been told by others in my group they've seen it in other games. The only thing that seems out of the bard's grasp is great DPR.
 

GSHamster

Adventurer
What is the power source for each?

Druids = nature (or nature gods or nature spirits)
Clerics = divinities or the powers behind them
Warlocks = demonic
Wizards = the science of magic (?)
Bards = ?
Creativity, inspiration, ideas, reason. The collective unconsciousness. The divine fire which Prometheus stole and gave to humanity.

Maybe there's just inherent magic in groups of intelligent beings, like there is in nature, and that is what the bard is tapping into.
 

The mythologically accurate Bard associates with at least three magics.

• fate (foreknowing the future, thus changing it by blessing or by curse, by means of praise or satire, respectively)
• telepathic mind magic (charm, frighten, domination, dream, etcetera)
• shapeshift (full on shapechange into anything or anyone, including bodily healing)

They are also scholars, of various kinds, including physicians, founding reallife colleges.

In my view, the 5e Bard works best as a psionic class: prescience, telepathy, and psychometabolism.

(Even the D&Dism of sound manipulation appears a form of telekinesis − "echokinesis".)



Generally, bardic magic was spoken as poetry, and highly literary with sophisticated verse structures and so on.
 
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rgoodbb

Adventurer
The Bard being able to fill many niches is what gives it its identity. It is a great class for moulding to your personal idea of a character concept.

I have seen an equal amount of wizards and bards at my tables. The wizards all really felt same-ish to me and the bards all felt very different. They fulfilled a need for their players.

ps. less than half of the bards were musically driven:
Tap Dancer
Town Crier
Chain swinging performer
Tarot Card reader
Tongues Witch
…..and of course, a cat with a fiddle...
 


If there are players who want a nonmagical Bard, I feel creating a Rogue subclass is the solution.

Maybe when Dark Sun comes out, its "bards" that are Assassin Rogues − who can perform − might help.
 

@FrogReaver

If you want a partial caster, maybe use the Trickster Rogue, and use the Bard spell list instead of the Wizard spell list. Or similarly, the Eldritch Knight. Both would feel somewhat old-school. Rogue/Fighter.

Make Charisma the casting ability. Pick whatever skills, one wants.

I havent measured the Bardic Inspiration feature, so I am unsure what features can be swapped for it. Is it important to you?

Or use the Paladin as the partial caster, swap out all smites, for the Bardic Inspiration. I am guessing it might be a fair trade. Use the Bard spell list. At level 1, give up heavy armor, and pick up a cantrip. That might feel like a 3e Bard.

It all depends on whether one wants the "minstrel" to be fighterish or roguish.
 
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Saelorn

Hero
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?
The iconic Bard of all fantasy gaming is Edward "Gilbert" Chris von Muir. If you aren't playing a musical instrument in the middle of combat, then you simply don't look like a Bard.

Most of the Bards I've seen played in D&D, at least since 2E, have felt more like Rogue/Wizards or Red Mages than actual Bards. If I had to take a guess, it's because most people feel like playing a musical instrument in the middle of combat is kinda silly; and while I don't necessarily disagree on that point, it is nevertheless what the Bard is all about. Playing a Bard, while running away from those things that make the Bard what it is, feels very disingenuous.

For what it's worth, my own take on the Bard class turns it into an at-will dedicated de-buff class, that's only available for multi-classing. (My 5E heartbreaker, Gishes & Goblins, is heavy on multi-classing. It uses a standardized sub-class structure, where any class can cross with any other class by giving up their sub-class.) The reason it's only multi-class is because a dedicated de-buff class couldn't actually contribute toward the goal of combat, so making sure they're also a Wizard or Fighter or something means they can still deal damage when the Bard gimmick starts to wear thin. (And then their capstone ability basically lets them cast disintegrate at-will by jamming so hard; which is also exactly like Edward.)
 

aco175

Hero
I find them to be a bit- do everything role, rather than a do everything ok role. In older editions they were 2nd tier PCs that were great at being the 2nd best fighter or cleric or wizard or thief, but 5e has them being on par with all the classes. They feel plastic in that they are moldable at 3rd level to become the class rather than the back-up.

I could see them becoming a part caster with a few options to give them similar to a warlock. Every few levels they can pick a song of power or whatever that can do things- heck this could even have a warlord feel. I know that is blasphemy to some though.
 

jmartkdr2

Adventurer
I agree with both of these statements. Bards can seemingly fulfill almost every role in the game, with support being the primary focus. I've seen groups using the Bard as the healer, as the trapfinder, as the face, and as the mage. I've not yet seen a tank bard, but I've been told by others in my group they've seen it in other games. The only thing that seems out of the bard's grasp is great DPR.
I've tried to play a tank bard - it would work if everyone else is a backliner, because you can be pretty tanky if you want, but you'll never out-tank a fighter or paladin.

Then again, I've seen tank-wizards, so this doesn't really move the needle on OP's issue.
 

Benjamin Olson

Adventurer
If your Bard feels too much like a Charisma Wizard for your tastes, stop choosing so many Wizard spells for your Magical Secrets and stop choosing so many spells in common with the Wizard list from the Bard list.

But really I don't find them particularly Wizard-like. They don't learn a comically large number of spells, they don't learn a lot of the basic and iconic Wizard spells (even if they spend every magical secret on Wizard spells), they aren't generally big ritual casters (because those spells are rarely worth choosing as always prepared spells), they cast healing spells, they wear light armor, and they use musical instruments as foci.

Resemblance to Wizards comes merely from Wizard spells generally being most of the strongest ones for Bards to choose. There is a little bit of resemblance also in them being the one non-Wizard Arcane caster who is given enough spells known.
 
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