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5E Bards have an identity problem!

Gadget

Adventurer
One of the problems with many of the spell casting classes in 5e is the lack of differentiation among spell lists. Sure, you still don't have wizards using healing, and clerics are a lot more support and buff oriented, but with the proliferation of spell casters in 5e, it is hard to make many unique unless spell casting is a lesser part of their class. Paladins and Rangers at least started out with a number of spells unique to their class, and that helped with the paladin a good bit (Rangers less so, for a variety of reasons, but helped make them a little less Druid-lite and Cleric-lite).

Bards are hit harder in this than most classes, since for the first time they are full spell caster able to cast 9th level spell spells. Early spells and cantrips (Vicious Mockery), combined with class features help them feel a bit more unique, but once you get past, say, third level spells, they start feeling an awful lot like wizards with a slightly more restrictive spell spell selection (which is somewhat mitigated by magical secrets).
 

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Crimson Longinus

Adventurer
Plus, that leeches design space from enchanters, illusionists, necromancers, etc., and their 10 subclasses starve classes that actually need subclasses.
Wizard subclasses are so bad. Many of them are thematically very weak and indeed step on the toes of other classes. Enchanting and illusion magic for example to me sound like things that should be the forte of the bards.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Wizard subclasses are so bad. Many of them are thematically very weak and indeed step on the toes of other classes. Enchanting and illusion magic for example to me sound like things that should be the forte of the bards.
Should we take weapons away from Paladins, Rangers and Rogues? Weapons are the forte of fighters after all. This idea that a class can't do something that another class does is absurd to me. It's okay for Wizards to be able to use illusion and charm magic.
 

Mort

Hero
Supporter
1. D&D Bards are based on charisma and wit. They are dabblers. Decent at many things but not experts at many.
The problem is, Bards have been various things through various editions - the big commonality being their magic through music.

5e has settled on Excellent at some skills (Expertise) good at other skills (proficient) and better than many at many skills (Jack of all trades) AND that bards get access to magic through sound (not necessarily music - though that's what it often is). So in a way they are music mages - since that is the source they draw from.

2. D&D bards are based Musical magic.

for 2, Music itself has no magic properties. What is the source of the bards music magic? That’s where I find fault in treating bards as about music magic. There needs to be more elaboration on how his music magic is coming about.
IMO, that's a really odd opinion to hold for a D&D world!
There are all sorts of myths, legends etc. of music having real magical power.
In a world where magic actually exists, why shouldn't music have real power for those that know how to access it?
For example, the Forgotten Realms has the weave, mages access it through arcane writings, symbols etc. Bards access it through music - seems to make perfect sense.

for 1, that’s what I envision as a bard. It doesn’t really mesh well with the concept of someone who is primarily concerned with music magic.
So the 5e bard doesn't have the right identity for for what you envision. That doesn't mean the 5e bard lacks a coherent identity it just means it's not one you like. Which is fine. Personally, I do like the 5e bard as someone who is to an entertainer like a 5e wizard is to a street magician.
 

Crimson Longinus

Adventurer
Should we take weapons away from Paladins, Rangers and Rogues? Weapons are the forte of fighters after all. This idea that a class can't do something that another class does is absurd to me. It's okay for Wizards to be able to use illusion and charm magic.
I didn't say wizards shouldn't have those spells, I said that they shouldn't have dedicated subclasses themed around such magic.
 

FrozenNorth

Adventurer
Bards are also storytellers, so words can take the place of music. The key is entertainment and USUALLY that takes the form of music with a Bard, but not always.
What is the context of your disagreement with RuinExplorer concerning music?

I think there is plenty of room for a bard’s magic to be “musical” (for a sufficiently broad interpretation of music) without bards are being fops strumming a lute during battle.

Just off the top of my head, I would consider Gregorian chanting, a shaman, a fey-like music as a compelling voice, a military drummer, magic brought into effect through dance and Cthulhu-esque discordant notes as non-stereotypical bards that are covered by the bard class.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
What is the context of your disagreement with RuinExplorer concerning music?
He's dismissing music as being a major part of the Bard class. I was pointing out that it's a very large part.

I think there is plenty of room for a bard’s magic to be “musical” (for a sufficiently broad interpretation of music) without bards are being fops strumming a lute during battle.

Just off the top of my head, I would consider Gregorian chanting, a shaman, a fey-like music as a compelling voice, a military drummer, magic brought into effect through dance and Cthulhu-esque discordant notes as non-stereotypical bards that are covered by the bard class.
I agree with most of that. The primary thing that makes a Bard a Bard is telling a story. You can chant the story, speak it, sing it, etc. I wouldn't consider military drumming or the Cthulhu example by themselves to be sufficient. There would need to be a verbal story component going on as well.
 

Mort

Hero
Supporter
Just off the top of my head, I would consider Gregorian chanting, a shaman, a fey-like music as a compelling voice, a military drummer, magic brought into effect through dance and Cthulhu-esque discordant notes as non-stereotypical bards that are covered by the bard class.
It would be interesting to have a bard who casts through dance - houserule that no verbal component is required for spells but any spell that requires a verbal component (which for bards is most of them) instead requires the bard to use 5' of movement for somatic components.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
Bards are artists, performers, creatives. They're dabblers in magic, with full spellcasting and a broad range of spells that seem to be drawn from all of the Wizard, Cleric, Druid, and Sorcerer lists, not any one other casters. But while they have access to many different types of spells that they can learn, they have very limited numbers of individual spells known, more akin to that of a Ranger in that sense.

They're also skillmonkeys like a rogue and not entirely useless in melee combat (and the Colleges of Swords, Valour, Whispers, and the Dirgesinger all have melee-benefitting abilities).

They're supporters, beguillers, enchanters, thaumaturgists, musicians, poets, dancers, courtesans, troubadours, artistes, skalds, choir singers, war chanters and war drummers. Music CAN be a major part of the class, but it's not required - performance of some sort, however, is.

Your Bard could be a prima donna ballerina, or a Geiko master of tea ceremonies, dance, song, and traditional arts. Your Bard could also be a 4e-style Warlord, or an itinerant jester travelling with a circus. You could be the 1st Viola in an orchestra ensemble (and thus, despite your expertise, the butt of everyone's jokes). You could be a philosopher-senator in a Greco-Romanesque forum, debating the merits of logos, pathos, and ethos. You could be a playwright, an actor, a gladiator, a warrior-poet, a scholar-bureaucrat, or even a phantom thief.

This is not an identity problem, it's a THEME.

Unlike any other class, The Bard is all about being a Polymath (at best) or a Dilettante (at worst). It's the classic Jack of All Trades, Master of None, and rather than restricting their mastery of spells by halfing the number of spells prepared each day, 5e restricts their spellcasting via a limited number of spells known.

Wizards are versatile in that they can know basically every Wizard spell as long as they can find the formula for it and inscribe it into their spellbook.
Sorcerers are versatile in that they can shape and sculpt their spells with metamagic to do different things with them than they'd normally do.
Warlocks are versatile in that they can cast all day long with their short rest-recovery spells and at-will invocations that sculpt their cantrips.
Bards are versatile in that they can learn almost any spell from any spell list and their default spell list crosses the thematic streams of every other spellcaster, to boot.
 
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Bards are also storytellers, so words can take the place of music.
Emphasis added.

Sometimes the Bard concepts are only about the wording, not music.

This is the case for their lore skills, as sages, often employed as an advisor or teacher or expert, as a job.

Likewise, their capacity to foresee the future, is also why governments (including the Arthur) employed bards as advisors. In addition to blessing the wellbeing of the government.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Sometimes the Bard concepts are only about the wording, not music.

This is the case for their lore skills, as sages, often employed as an advisor or teacher or expert, as a job.

Likewise, their capacity to foresee the future, is also why governments (including the Arthur) employed bards as advisors. In addition to blessing the wellbeing of the government.
I have trouble picturing a wizard working off of anything but intelligence. It feels like I could come up with a bard concept that used intelligence (remembering the stories and songs) or wisdom (sensing how the language of the world worked) instead of charisma.
 

Krachek

Adventurer
for me identity is done first by the background.
then you find a class that match it at best.
the latest bard I meet is a charlatan, snake charmer, coming from an Arabic culture.
he just don’t look like a classic bard, but from all classes my friend choose bard.
he is not singing or playing instrument except in rest.
classes are made open, and allow multiple play and interpretation.
if it was not, we would whim that classes force too much single identity.
 

I have trouble picturing a wizard working off of anything but intelligence. It feels like I could come up with a bard concept that used intelligence (remembering the stories and songs) or wisdom (sensing how the language of the world worked) instead of charisma.
When the Bard uses Intelligence, it seems more like History or Legal Studies. When the Wizard uses Intelligence, it seems more like Mathematics or Chemistry. But they share much in common, because both investigate magic power and magic traditions. So they are looking at the same thing, dreamlike symbols, despite different approaches to it.



In British history, when Christianity arrived, Christians embraced the Bard yet demonized the Druid. There must have been a difference between the two. It seems to me, the Bard was fundamentally non-theistic, while the Druid was fundamentally polytheistic.

I suspect the Christians interpreted the prescient abilities of the Bard as able to come from the Christian Holy Spirit, and likewise the blessings and curses that relate to fate, as from Divine providence. Perhaps even the overt magical abilities such as shapechanging were moreorless "secular" sotospeak, depending on ones own mind and skill.

By contrast, the Druid appears to be a sacred priestly caste dedicated to Celtic gods, as Romans mention, and that they also functioned as community leaders as teachers. It seems, structurally, the Druids functioned much the same way that Irish Catholic priests traditionally function in Ireland, more as sacred community spiritual leaders, separate from secular government leaders. Their focus was on the personal wellbeing of the members of their congregation, and had much say about the lives of each member, and moral authority. The Druids appear to be members of a specific family, a clan or tribe who inherited their priestly status. Romans mentioned Druids were pacifists, in the sense sacred tradition forbade them from fighting with weapons. But the Druids were known for magical abilities, including cloud magic for divination. I suspect the potion-making traditions (across Celtic Europe) with weird natural ingredients of the "eye of newt" variety, are probably a Druid thing. Celtic lore mentions such potions. An other feature of Celtic magic generally is the union of opposites, where both opposites are true simultaneously. For examples, new year is both the end and the beginning of the cyclical year, an earthmound is both above ground and below ground at the same time, wearing a sod of grass as a hat is both above and below ground, Merlin was born as an elder and aged backward becoming more youthful, and so on. These unions are vehicles of magical feats. In any case, cognates of the word "druid" later became a generic word for "magic" generally, so it is difficult to distinguish which kinds of "magic" the historical Druids practiced. But at least, it seems the Druids did do magic, and their magic was inherently polytheistic in approach.
 
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If the abilities made more sense, I would love to divide up spell tropes by abilities.



Here is a fix of the abilities to make them more mutually exclusive and balanced to each other, that other players seem to be able to live with, that I can also tolerate despite preserving the traditional sextet. :)

PHYSICAL
• Strength − athletic agility, including run,jump,fall,land,climb,balance,tumble; hit hard
• Dexterity − manual precision, stealth; aim shot
• Constitution − strictly passive, physical toughness, health, no active usage

MENTAL
• Intelligence − perception, deception, five senses, lore, knowledge, intuition, deep structure, Wizard magic
• Charisma − persuasion, empathy, morale, leadership, artistic appeal, identity, self-expression, personal relationships, Cleric magic
• Wisdom − strictly passive, mental willpower, sanity, no active usage

Heh, accordingly, the mythic Bard can excel at both Charisma and Intelligence, but can still have low Wisdom and be insane. Even Merlin was seducible.



Thus spell tropes divide accordingly:

• Intelligence: Prescience-Teleportation, and probably Elemental magic including ether-force-telekinesis-fly
• Charisma: Telepathy-Enchantment, and probably Life magic including shapeshifting and healing

Like a Fighter needs to develop different physical abilities to be good at different things, any mage needs to develop different mental abilities to be good at different things.
 
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Let's test that. Here are the abilities and those that have something to do with music.

1. Spellcasting: Music? Yes. X Optionally
2. Bardic Inspiration: Music? Yes. X Optionally
3. Jack of all Trades: Music? No. Correct
4. Song of Inspiration: Music? Yes. Correct
5. Expertise: Music? No. Correct
6. Font of Inspiration: Music? Yes. X False
7. Countercharm: Music? Yes. X Optionally
8. Magical Secrets: Music? Yes. X Optionally
9. Superior Inspiration: Music. Yes. X False

So for main Bardic abilties, 7 out of 9 have something to do with music.
That's flatly untrue. I'm honestly surprised you'd so willing to lie about something so obvious.

I've marked it above so people can see. In all cases where you claimed music was involved, the text clearly states otherwise. This is not up for argument. Do you need me to quote every single one? In all cases I am correct - it always clearly states words or music.

College of Lore

1. Cutting Words: Music? Yes. X False
2. Additional Secrets: Music? Yes. X Optionally
3. Peerless Skill: Music? Yes. X False
Again, this is false, and I have marked it.

I think you may be overlooking that since Bardic Inspiration has something to do with music, every single ability that uses inspiration also has something to do with music.
Why lie, when it's so easy to prove? The text says:

5E D&D said:
You can inspire others through stirring words or music.
It doesn't even mention music first!

Bards are also storytellers, so words can take the place of music. The key is entertainment and USUALLY that takes the form of music with a Bard, but not always.
This is again false. In all cases the text extremely clearly says words or music, or doesn't suggest music at all. There's no "usually". It's an option, not a requirement.

This is most hilarious argument. You're relying on gaslighting me into just going "D'oh, oh okay!" and not just opening up Beyond in another browser window to check the actual wording. Come on.

In British history, when Christianity arrived, Christians embraced the Bard yet demonized the Druid. There must have been a difference between the two. It seems to me, the Bard was fundamentally non-theistic, while the Druid was fundamentally polytheistic.
As someone who studied the history of this period, I'd like to point out that this is complete nonsense with no basis in historical fact.

The rest is the most spurious kind of baseless speculation, indeed it's worse than baseless, it's actually contradictory to historical accounts.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
That's flatly untrue. I'm honestly surprised you'd so willing to lie about something so obvious.
Don't call me a liar. Especially when it's your inability to understand your own words that's at fault here. You claimed that they had NOTHING TO DO with music, which is patently false as I proved. That each of those abilities can key off of MUSIC or words proves they do all have something to do with music.

Unless your next response to me includes an apology, don't respond to me again on this topic.
 

Don't call me a liar. Especially when it's your inability to understand your own words that's at fault here. You claimed that they had NOTHING TO DO with music, which is patently false as I proved. That each of those abilities can key off of MUSIC or words proves they do all have something to do with music.

Unless your next response to me includes an apology, don't respond to me again on this topic.
I don't agree, but this is semantics - you're trying to claim that you know what I meant, better than I do, which is uh, somewhat problematic to put it mildly.

Let's be really clear - not a single 5E Bard ability in the normal setup requires you to use music, nor does Bardic spellcasting require you to use music. It's an option. Any suggestion otherwise is misleading at best.

So in a sense we're both right - you're right that many of these abilities can involve music (though a couple you said could don't, I notice), and I'm right that not a single one of them requires it.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
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?
We do not. (forges new id to get pass the bouncer FrogReaver).
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I don't agree, but this is semantics - you're trying to claim that you know what I meant, better than I do, which is uh, somewhat problematic to put it mildly.
I'm not talking about what you meant. I'm talking about what you said. Your words were that those abilities have nothing to do with music. Everyone of them that I listed as having something to do with music does have something to do with music. We're discussing the abilities themselves, not any individual bard's choices with how they use those abilities.

Bardic Inspiration the ability says "words or songs," so it does in fact have something to do with music. Joe the Wanderer may use the words option, but that doesn't change the fact that the ability itself has something to do with music.

So in a sense we're both right - you're right that many of these abilities can involve music (though a couple you said could don't, I notice), and I'm right that not a single one of them requires it.
None of those I listed failed to have something to do with music. Some of them didn't specifically use music in the ability itself, but they did mention Inspiration, which does have something to do with music, so the music association goes along with the Inspiration.

I never said requires the use of music. I used your criteria of "having something to do with music."

Edit: You really should apologize for calling me a liar. I didn't lie or even attempt to mislead anyone. What I said was the simple truth.
 

Mistwell

Legend
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 just wizards who identify as entertainers.

There's nothing wrong with that identity choice. Stop judging them!
 

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