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5E Bards have an identity problem!

my own take on the Bard class turns it into an at-will dedicated de-buff class, that's only available for multi-classing.

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.
Can the Intimidate skill be used to debuff during combat? If so, it could be both at-will and nonmagical, and benefit from Cha.

The Intimidate skill has its own difficulties. Recently, I switched the key abilities as follows.

- Str (Intimidate) - strictly physical intimidation.

- Int (Deception) - that can survive scrutiny

- Cha (Persuasion) - psychological charm, frighten, and reconciliation.

I am happy with this skill threesome. In this context, Persuasion can influence morale, thus be used both to buff and to debuff during combat.
 

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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?
The D&D bard, to the best of my knowledge, is based on the following:
The Celtic Bard, as a musician/performer and master of lore, the 2e PHB specifically cited Amergin Glúingel from Irish folklore as an inspiration for the Bard class.
The 2e AD&D PHB also cited Alan-a-Dale and Will Scarlett of the Robin Hood myths as examples of Bards from folklore.
The Scandinavian Skald, as a similar archetype of a loremaster and performer to the Celtic Bard is often cited as an inspiration for the class.

It seems to be the D&D interpretation of the archetype of the minstrel, the jongleur, the bard, the skald. . .the performer and master of lore that may serve in a court or may wander from place to place, but they are adept at the performing arts and often possessed of great learning and knowledge.

30 years of D&D since 1e has made the class a little self-referential, like how the modern D&D Ranger is as influenced by the Drizzt Do'urden novels as by any historic, literary or mythical roots, as the bard now combines the original source of the class being master of lore and performing arts with a general "jack of all trades" class that has at least basic elements of most other classes, such as the basics of swordsmanship from a fighter, the basics of thievery from rogues, rudimentary healing magic from Clerics, and basic use of other magic from Wizards.
 

Warpiglet-7

Explorer
I think to @FrogReaver ’s point they are widely divergent from most of these stories if you wish. They are very loose.

if you look at “roles” which I generally do not, they are very malleable too.

example: if you like melee take moderately armored feat and at 4th, take magic initiate. With magical secrets for a lore bard you can muster gfb, armor of Agathys, hex, Eldritch blast and spiritual weapon——at level 6.

that’s a lot of melee/combat ability for a full caster. Very odd. I know feats are optional but nonetheless bizarre.

and your magical secrets scale...
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
wizards studies magic. Clerics granted magic by the gods. Bards pick up a lite and cast spells?
This isn't just a problem with the bard, though. If you're going to compare the "Core Four" classes side-by-side with the rest of the classes in the PHB, you're gonna have to do a lot of squinting if you want them to make sense. Because in many ways, Paladins are fighters who went to church once. Bards are rogues with violin lessons. Artificers are wizards who took shop class. Et cetera.

It's easier (and probably more fair) to compare the Bard to the Eldritch Knight or the Arcane Trickster.
 

1e bard was a "prestige class" sotospeak with levels in fighter and rogue as prereq.

So a 5e version of a 1e bard is almost exact as a multiclass rogue and-or fighter who dips bard to pickup inspiration.

The 1e bard used the druid spell list, but the 5e bard spell list is more mythologically accurate.
 

SkidAce

Hero
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?
Bards are like warriors, they can fit any aesthetic...

chanting lore keepers
song mages
herald/skalds
minstrels
riddlemasters of hed (obscure reference ftw)

I feel they are perfect in that regard.
 

Bards are like warriors, they can fit any aesthetic...

chanting lore keepers
song mages
herald/skalds
minstrels
riddlemasters of hed (obscure reference ftw)

I feel they are perfect in that regard.
Dont forget the Shaman. The Bard class is excellent for shaman concepts.

Also note the recent UA for spirit summoners, that feel like making stories come to life.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
This isn't just a problem with the bard, though. If you're going to compare the "Core Four" classes side-by-side with the rest of the classes in the PHB, you're gonna have to do a lot of squinting if you want them to make sense. Because in many ways, Paladins are fighters who went to church once. Bards are rogues with violin lessons. Artificers are wizards who took shop class. Et cetera.

It's easier (and probably more fair) to compare the Bard to the Eldritch Knight or the Arcane Trickster.
no problem with those classes. Just bard.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The historical Myrddin is mainly a prescient.
There is no historical Merlin. Just like there's no historical Arthur. Or Lancelot. None of these are historical figures.

There are several folkloric Merlins. Maybe the one you are talking about is mostly a prescient.
 

If you divide the spell tropes into three major themes, namely, Life, Mind, and Elements:

Bard = Life and Mind
Druid = Life and Elements
Wizard = Mind and Elements

Mainly, the Wizard feels like Renaissance protoscience. Hence the complex books.

There are a handfull of Life-trope spells in the Wizard class spell list, like Regeneration, Alter Self, Enlargement, even Find Familiar if the familiar is a natural beast. But the Life spells are rare, and can be easily deleted.

I would split off all necromantic stuff into its own class, mainly being death or undeath to Life, but also including fear, forgetfulness, and insanity to Mind, and void and erosion to Elements.

Probably leave the celestial/fiend stuff to the Cleric/Warlock.

The Feywild is very Bard-like, also emphasizing Life and Mind, even art, song, enchantment, and beauty.

Anyway this three-way pairing of themes keeps the three mage classes distinct from each other.

It also helps the Wizard focus better on a distinctive flavor, and explains why they dont normally do healing magic.
 
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There is no historical Merlin. Just like there's no historical Arthur. Or Lancelot. None of these are historical figures.

There are several folkloric Merlins. Maybe the one you are talking about is mostly a prescient.
I mean historians who try reconstruct a historical Myrddin from the surviving literature and the archeological context.

If I recall correctly, there are reallife texts that are attributed to a Myrddin. Even the mythic Taliesin appears to correspond to a historical figure who lived in the 400s, with texts attributed to his authorship.

The folklores blur mythic tropes with historical events, and often are difficult to distinguish between which is which, if distinction can be made at all, since the paradigms of the times made no such distinctions. Much lore has a dreamlike symbolic quality. But modern historians try to see if they can puzzle out what "really" happened, according to modern paradigms and assumptions.
 

Tonguez

Legend
There is no historical Merlin. Just like there's no historical Arthur. Or Lancelot. None of these are historical figures.

There are several folkloric Merlins. Maybe the one you are talking about is mostly a prescient.
Yes, if you want to be technical about it.

Myrddin Wyllt in Welsh lore is accounted Chief Bard and Mad Prophet, where he fits into the British Traditions of Wild Man Prophets (the Two dragons under Vortigens tower is the most famous. Example of such prophecy). But he was most likely based on a real 6th Century Bard, born at the Welsh town Caerfyrddin (Myrddins Fort) who went mad after a major battle wherein he killed his own nephew and saw the king he served slaughtered.
 
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dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
Do 5e Bards have the identity they should have?
No. I would reinforce the dabbler in everything, master of nothing role. I see bard as able to fill any role, but never quite as good as classes whose focus is in a role, except perhaps in the social pillar. They should be good at combat, good at skills, good at magic, but not great at any of them.

IMO I would also restore bards to half-casters, but I would also allow them complete access to any spells for levels they can cast. I like the idea they pick up magic (divine or arcane or primal or whatever) wherever they find them.

Of course, we also don't allow Artificers into our games, so having another half-caster isn't a bad thing at our tables. :)
 

But Bards that cast spells like Wizards cast don't feel very Bard-like. They feel more like a Charisma Wizard
A Bard that tries to keep up spell slot for spell slot with a Wizard, winds up out of spells and reliant on Bardic Inspiration.

Arcane Recovery might seem small on paper, but the impact is noticeable.

Now the 2e Bard was a Charisma Wizard. Being on the Rogue XP chart meant a Bard was generally higher level then their Wizard companion, had access to the same level spells and the same spell list, but had a higher caster level.
Up to 7th level spells the bard was just as good, if not better then a Wizard in 2e.

The bard in 5e, plays like a bard should.
 
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cbwjm

Hero
2e bard wasn't as much ahead as people think, early levels they have around 1 class level on the wizard (the gap does widen at higher levels though) but the bard also had less spells and they were often of lower level. By the time the bard gained their first 3rd-level spell slot, the wizard was getting their 2nd 3rd-level spell slot. They were also limited to 6th-level spells which they gained again when the wizard is getting their 2nd 6th-level spell slot. Admittedly at this point the bard the caster level disparity is more noticeable as they have 3 more levels than the wizard but still far less spells per day.

Not that it really matters now that we're playing 5e, but I always felt that the 2e bard should have had their xp requirements increased much like a paladin or ranger needed more xp to advance than the fighter.
 

Wiseblood

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?
No, and problem isn’t necessarily the bard here. The problem might be the idea of a support character in 5e. All of the characters in 5e are so strong that support is redundant. The things bards used to do aren’t needed anymore. On average a first level fighter can hit any monster in the MM. After an hour or eight the same character can heal themselves completely from HP damage. 5e stripped away the needs that the bard could fill and hammered the bard into a wizard shaped hole.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I was just thinking yesterday that so far people have complained about every 5e class "lacking" except the Bard, and whether I should worry about it. Well it took less than a day to quench my fears!

The 5e Bard is in fact utterly awesome like all other 5e classes, and undoubtedly the best and most effective Bard of any edition.

This just proves my theory that the gaming community as a whole, given enough time, will complaining about anything.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I was just thinking yesterday that so far people have complained about every 5e class "lacking" except the Bard, and whether I should worry about it. Well it took less than a day to quench my fears!

The 5e Bard is in fact utterly awesome like all other 5e classes, and undoubtedly the best and most effective Bard of any edition.

This just proves my theory that the gaming community as a whole, given enough time, will complaining about anything.
nit complaining about the bards effectiveness. Complaining about it’s wizard ness.
 

Admittedly at this point the bard the caster level disparity is more noticeable as they have 3 more levels than the wizard but still far less spells per day.
Yeah..I remember having around 2 less spells per level compared to a Specialist Wizard, and being 14th level when the Wizard was around 12th level.

Bards had a pretty useful list of class features, outside the spellcasting. Being able to Levitate more weight then the Wizard by being higher level, was probably not what was intended.
 

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