Level Up (A5E) Battle Hymn Mechanics

Majoru Oakheart

Adventurer
I am reading the rules for the first time and I’ma little confused by Battle Hymn. I read somewhere that it used to last multiple rounds and was changed to only last one but its mechanics seem really odd to me. First, it uses no action economy at all. It is free to turn it on and free to target things. It also can be activated ”at any time“ which isn’t really clarified. Almost every other action in the game has a type of action both to tell you the timing of it and to limit stacking too many effects on the same round.

This ability seems to use rather convoluted mechanics where you need to decide which Hymn to activate at the beginning of your turn and then at some point later target someone within 30 feet with it. It also gives you the option to Sustain it for another round without spending another use.

My real question is: am I missing something? Wouldn't this entire ability be less confusing and work almost the same way if you just activated the ability as some sort of action when you want to use it? Like if you changed Harmony of Pain to be "as a Bonus Action, you can expend a use of Bardic Inspiration and give a target creature within 30 feet temporary hit points equal to a roll of your Bardic Inspiration die" wouldn't that be less confusing, fit in with the overall mechanics of the rest of the system better and remove a huge paragraph about activating and sustaining the ability that isn't really needed? Even if you think the change to make it take an action of some sort is bad, you could keep it a free action but make it do you target and use it immediately.

As it is now, I'm not sure if you can use Harmony of Pain on an enemy's turn or even in reaction to somebody taking damage to absorb it.
 

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Waller

Hero
That's a pretty long post with like a milion qustions. But regarding the action requirement it says "Once at the start of your turn, you can activate a battle hymn by expending a use of Bardic Inspiration (no action is required). Performing a battle hymn requires your concentration, as though you were casting a spell. Once activated, a battle hymn continues until you lose concentration or the start of your next turn." That feels fairly clear to me?
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
A possibility: the text strongly suggests that you must already be performing some sort of musical art ("It can be expressed in any way you like — a special leitmotif in your music, a change in pitch, or even a more advanced version of your favorite art."). Playing the music/singing/whatever already takes up your action, since this is using a skill, and normally those typically require an action to use in combat. Plus, battle hymns are often the equivalent of an attack, casting a spell, or using the Help Action

Thus, spending the BI and using a battle hymn doesn't require any additional actions on top of that.
 

Majoru Oakheart

Adventurer
That's a pretty long post with like a milion qustions. But regarding the action requirement it says "Once at the start of your turn, you can activate a battle hymn by expending a use of Bardic Inspiration (no action is required). Performing a battle hymn requires your concentration, as though you were casting a spell. Once activated, a battle hymn continues until you lose concentration or the start of your next turn." That feels fairly clear to me?
Sure, that’s how you “turn it on“. But “at the start of your activate something" isn't the activation method for anything else in the game. So it is very weird and seems out of place in the system. There are a couple of times where you make a decision at the beginning of your turn but they are all reactive rather than active. Pretty much every active ability takes an action or bonus action. So it seemed like a weird design.

Plus, activating the ability does...well, nothing. It allows you at some point in the future to have an effect when you choose to target someone with it. But targeting something also doesn't take an action. It just says to choose someone within 30 feet to become the target at any time. But then the effect only lasts until the beginning of your next turn. Which is also a weird design. You set up an effect that does nothing that you need to maintain from round to round or it goes away, having done nothing at all. You need to avoid being hit so your concentration isn't broken before you decide on a target.

All of that doesn't seem to add anything to the design. It becomes more complicated and takes multiple steps to perform while providing no benefit that I can see.

So I only really have 1 two-part question: "Why was it designed this way and is there some benefit to doing it this way that I don't understand?"
 

Heraldofi

Explorer
My understanding is that you're correct that it's entirely outside the action system. The decision chart is thus:

Bard's Turn
1. Activate Hymn?
1a. Choose Hymn
1b. Spend Bardic Inspiration
2. Normal actions

Other turns at any point:
1. Choose target for Hymn
(Most of the abilities modify a roll/react to circumstance, so the triggers are pretty obvious for when to use them)

Bard's Next Turn
1. Does Hymn have target?
1a. If no: Sustain for free (essentially just holding it for another round to activate later)
1b. If yes: Hymn ends.

The design achieves a few things:
Pro: it's not an action, so you can still cast spells and hand out other Bardic inspirations/make attacks on your turn in addition to doing something musical.

Con: You have to commit to what benefit you're going to hand out before you know it's necessary. You might be able to disadvantage enemy attacks, provide a save boost, or do an emergency heal, but you have to commit to which effect you're queuing up before it applies.

I think this filled a real hole I felt like the 5e bard had, where they didn't have any real incentive to perform in combat, outside of the implied performances in their spell components. "Start singing to give a bonus to your friends" from Inspire Courage and other bard songs in previous editions felt missed, but those abilities were not very dynamic and mostly just a set it and forget it type thing. Now the bard has a few different buffs to play with, but has to decide which one they want to prepare.

The text is also more fiddly than ability really is in play. If you're willing to tie up your concentration for a buff (Battle Hymn focus at 4 will make that either a lot more appealing when it's a team buff, or free if you remove the concentration requirement), you pick the one you want, and then wait until it becomes relevant. Only after you've spent it do you have to worry about picking a new one.
 

Majoru Oakheart

Adventurer
The design achieves a few things:
Pro: it's not an action, so you can still cast spells and hand out other Bardic inspirations/make attacks on your turn in addition to doing something musical.
But isn’t that just free power? Most of the effects are roughly the equivalent of a spell effect so it essentially lets bards in this system cast two spells a round and still have a bonus action left for whatever they want? the action system was created to specifically prevent 3 things from activating in the same round. Bards didn’t really need the power boost.
Con: You have to commit to what benefit you're going to hand out before you know it's necessary. You might be able to disadvantage enemy attacks, provide a save boost, or do an emergency heal, but you have to commit to which effect you're queuing up before it applies.
Which is really weird. 5e has a fairly consistent design philosophy and this doesn’t fit it. Especially considering the way I see this ability working most often is that you activate it at the start of your turn and immediately using its benefit to give our temp hitpoints or give a save bonus. There’s no reason to activate it early.

It isn’t even clear if it can be activated on other people’s turns since normally something needs to be a reaction to be used outside of your turn.
I think this filled a real hole I felt like the 5e bard had, where they didn't have any real incentive to perform in combat, outside of the implied performances in their spell components. "Start singing to give a bonus to your friends" from Inspire Courage and other bard songs in previous editions felt missed, but those abilities were not very dynamic and mostly just a set it and forget it type thing. Now the bard has a few different buffs to play with, but has to decide which one they want to prepare
They don’t really have incentive to perform with this ability either. None of the effects provide benefits for longer than a round. Activating one of these and then holding on to it for most of a combat is a bad idea. You don’t know which one you are going to need in advance and it costs a use of Bardic Inspiration when you turn it on, not when you target it, so if the battle ends before you Target it, you’ve just wasted a use of it for no good reason.

So tactically this encourages people to perform for 6 seconds in the middle of a combat somewhere and then immediate stop. Which, thematically is nearly identical to imagining their spells or use of Bardic Inspiration as a bit of performance.
 

Anselm

Adventurer
But isn’t that just free power?
In action economy sure but it still costs a bardic inspiration and your concentration that, as @Heraldofi mentioned, may not end up being relevant. To that effect it is like a second spell that has opportunity costs. Doing it for free in action economy means you can just sneak it in every round.

But do that and you're out of bardic inspiration in 5 rounds between short rests. It gets used up very quickly and stops all the major crowd control a bard has with hypnotic pattern, hold person etc.

I think in the end you are absolutely correct that there's a bit of different design philosophy going on with this ability. Different does not mean bad.
 
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Heraldofi

Explorer
But isn’t that just free power? Most of the effects are roughly the equivalent of a spell effect so it essentially lets bards in this system cast two spells a round and still have a bonus action left for whatever they want? the action system was created to specifically prevent 3 things from activating in the same round. Bards didn’t really need the power boost.
The cost is Bardic Inspiration, a quite limited resource, and possibly your concentration slot, unless you specifically take the benefit to avoid that at 4th level. The effects you're providing tend to be small in effect, and are often less effective than handing out the Bardic Inspiration die directly, unless you can pull off an impressive feat of timing (i.e. providing a saving throw bonus on several saves hitting in the same round, instead of 1).

Generally, especially at lower levels, you're taking a penalty to the effectiveness of your BI to preserve the bonus action and/or to gain targeting flexibility.

Which is really weird. 5e has a fairly consistent design philosophy and this doesn’t fit it. Especially considering the way I see this ability working most often is that you activate it at the start of your turn and immediately using its benefit to give our temp hitpoints or give a save bonus. There’s no reason to activate it early.
I think you're really missing the benefits here. You can hand out the save bonus when a target has to make a save, or disadvantage on an enemy attack roll exactly when the enemy makes an attack. There are several abilities that don't benefit from delayed targeting, but it's definitely a feature.

It isn’t even clear if it can be activated on other people’s turns since normally something needs to be a reaction to be used outside of your turn.
It is perfectly clear; there's no need to create an action restriction where one doesn't exist. "At any time" allows it be used at any time, without the need to spend any kind of action.

They don’t really have incentive to perform with this ability either. None of the effects provide benefits for longer than a round. Activating one of these and then holding on to it for most of a combat is a bad idea. You don’t know which one you are going to need in advance and it costs a use of Bardic Inspiration when you turn it on, not when you target it, so if the battle ends before you Target it, you’ve just wasted a use of it for no good reason.
I don't see how this is a problem really. You're deciding to queue up, say Bastions of Justice for a saving throw bonus or maybe Heaven's Blessing, and you'll wait until someone has to roll a saving throw against against a particularly dangerous effect (or with a bad save) or a bardic inspiration die is really necessary to correct a failed roll. You might very well be holding that effect for 2 or 3 rounds, which is a fine use of a BI when you get around to it.

Setting a cost to the ability upfront makes it not strictly preferable to using conventional Bardic Inspiration, and provides a small tactical puzzle for the bard to chew on.

So tactically this encourages people to perform for 6 seconds in the middle of a combat somewhere and then immediate stop. Which, thematically is nearly identical to imagining their spells or use of Bardic Inspiration as a bit of performance.
This is not true for many of these abilities. If you're going to do that, you're generally better off just handing out your BI dice normally. There's a real case for picking a Battle Hymn, and sustaining it for a couple rounds until you find a time to use it.
 

Majoru Oakheart

Adventurer
In action economy sure but it still costs a bardic inspiration and your concentration that, as @Heraldofi mentioned, may not end up being relevant. To that effect it is like a second spell that has opportunity costs. Doing it for free in action economy means you can just sneak it in every round.
Action economy IS the balancing factor in 5e, generally. Most battles last 2-3 rounds so the more you can shove into those 3 rounds the better it is for you. My understanding on A5E was that the goal was to add more options without increasing power. This ability lets you do everything a Bard could do before in o5e plus add 1d12 temporary hitpoints to someone every round of combat or give one of you allies +5 to all their saves every round of combat.

But do that and you're out of bardic inspiration in 5 rounds between short rests. It gets used up very quickly and stops all the major crowd control a bard has with hypnotic pattern, hold person etc.
It gets used up pretty quickly but if you only have one random encounter per day then who cares? Even if there's more, stop and rest for an hour before continuing and it is fine anyways.

You will turn off certain concentration spells when you do it, true. Which is weird enough as it is since all the Battle Hymn effects all last only one round. There's no one round concentration effects anywhere else in 5e that I'm aware of. Mainly because there wouldn't be a point. Concentration as a design is meant to prevent you from stacking continuing effects. Battle Hymn doesn't provide any continuing effect so it doesn't fit into the category of effects that should have concentration. There's no practical reason it should be using up your concentration. The only reason I can see is that (from what I've read) during testing it used to stay up and keep its effects active the whole time until you stopped performing or lost concentration. If that was the case, it makes perfect sense as an ability...but it doesn't do that anymore.

It really feels like that one thing was changed for balance reasons (and that sounds like the right thing to do, that sounds absurdly powerful), but the minimum was done to fix it, when it needed to be entirely overhauled to make any sense anymore.

Even if you ignore the weird design, you can still cast a non-concentration spell, activate a normal bardic inspiration (or just dual wield a weapon or cast a bonus action spell) AND still use an effect from the list every round. Which is strictly better.

I think in the end you are absolutely correct that there's a bit of different design philosophy going on with this ability. Different does not mean bad.

It does mean bad if it breaks rules that were in place for a reason. Rule number 1 of designing things for 5e is: Do not allow anyone to do anything that has a combat effect without using an action of some kind (action, bonus action, reaction). It is a major balancing factor and it breaks that rule.

It has no saving throw of any kind for putting negative effects on people. That rule is a huge balancing factor of 5e as well. The o5e Bard can use a Bardic Inspiration to give an enemy a penalty to ONE attack roll. There's an

Plus, consistency lets people intuitively understand things. This ability is extremely confusing. For instance, every spell, ability, and class feature in 5e follows the same formula: Use an action(actions and bonus actions on your turn before or after your movement, reactions on other's turns in reaction to a specific trigger) to activate an ability, choose a target, see if that ability affects the target (attack roll, saving throw, or rarely no defense), then apply the effects. People get used to this idea and it helps them to understand the game. Battle Hymn is activated only at the beginning of your turn for free then appears to be able to be targeted at literally any time your turn or theirs in reaction to anything(?) I guess. It might be able to interrupt things, it might not. That's not specified. Like can you apply the one that gives a penalty to saving throws after the roll has been made but before success is determined? It is confusing because it doesn't follow the standard formula and we have nothing to compare it to.

It's weird design is confusing because, for instance, Battle Hymn ends at the beginning of the turn after you target it. There's one Battle Hymn choice that lasts until the end of the combat though. Which is weird, since it can't...Battle Hymn ends at the beginning of the next round. Which either means the effect ends with it or the Battle Hymn is separate from the Battle Hymn EFFECT. Which is even more confusing. Does the effect require concentration? How long does it last?

Plus, it doesn't fit the theme. I explained this to someone else I know and their response was:

"I am playing this song for no one, lalala" "oh, now it is for YOU" aaaand it's over.

------

I propose this is the right way for this ability to work:

As a bonus action, you can choose a creature within 30 feet of you to target with one of your known Battle Hymns and spend a Bardic Inspiration. It lasts until the beginning of your next turn.

I'd then change a bunch of the effects that have weird triggers to remove those so they work immediately.
 

Heraldofi

Explorer
I propose this is the right way for this ability to work:
I mean, you can obviously do whatever you like at your table, but I don't think there's any need to be quite so dogmatic about this ability. It works fine as written, it provide the bard a little more to do with handing out buffs and gives them a little more active decision making with their abilities outside of spells.

You seem really keen on removing the primary decision making component of this ability, which is the dynamic targeting once you've burned a BI to activate it. It sounds like what you want is a list of Cunning Words style variant uses for Bardic Inspiration, when this is more of an alternate system that uses BI as the activation cost/currency.

As for the concentration point, the real cost is that you can't use this ability and a concentration spell at the same time. You're picking between handing out spell-based buffs, which you have a ton of as a bard, or you're using your concentration round to round for these smaller effects. This, combined with eating through your BIs, is the opportunity cost of the ability you're looking for. I suppose in the 1/day, 2 round fight situation you proposed, assuming a comparison against an O5E bard that eschewed concentration spells, this will provide some additional strength to the A5E bard, but it's pretty marginal stuff.

I'll cede the point that "You may choose to target a creature at any point," could be clearer about the exact timing, but it really isn't that hard to adjudicate. You're going to give a save bonus right before a save is rolled, you're going to hand out attack penalties as attacks are made, and so on. Willful Serenade is a bit of an outlier, but still pretty easy to parse as effect that continues separate from the Battle Hymn itself.
 

Anselm

Adventurer
Action economy IS the balancing factor in 5e, generally. Most battles last 2-3 rounds so the more you can shove into those 3 rounds the better it is for you. My understanding on A5E was that the goal was to add more options without increasing power. This ability lets you do everything a Bard could do before in o5e plus add 1d12 temporary hitpoints to someone every round of combat or give one of you allies +5 to all their saves every round of combat.


It gets used up pretty quickly but if you only have one random encounter per day then who cares? Even if there's more, stop and rest for an hour before continuing and it is fine anyways.

You will turn off certain concentration spells when you do it, true. Which is weird enough as it is since all the Battle Hymn effects all last only one round. There's no one round concentration effects anywhere else in 5e that I'm aware of. Mainly because there wouldn't be a point. Concentration as a design is meant to prevent you from stacking continuing effects. Battle Hymn doesn't provide any continuing effect so it doesn't fit into the category of effects that should have concentration. There's no practical reason it should be using up your concentration. The only reason I can see is that (from what I've read) during testing it used to stay up and keep its effects active the whole time until you stopped performing or lost concentration. If that was the case, it makes perfect sense as an ability...but it doesn't do that anymore.

It really feels like that one thing was changed for balance reasons (and that sounds like the right thing to do, that sounds absurdly powerful), but the minimum was done to fix it, when it needed to be entirely overhauled to make any sense anymore.

Even if you ignore the weird design, you can still cast a non-concentration spell, activate a normal bardic inspiration (or just dual wield a weapon or cast a bonus action spell) AND still use an effect from the list every round. Which is strictly better.



It does mean bad if it breaks rules that were in place for a reason. Rule number 1 of designing things for 5e is: Do not allow anyone to do anything that has a combat effect without using an action of some kind (action, bonus action, reaction). It is a major balancing factor and it breaks that rule.

It has no saving throw of any kind for putting negative effects on people. That rule is a huge balancing factor of 5e as well. The o5e Bard can use a Bardic Inspiration to give an enemy a penalty to ONE attack roll. There's an

Plus, consistency lets people intuitively understand things. This ability is extremely confusing. For instance, every spell, ability, and class feature in 5e follows the same formula: Use an action(actions and bonus actions on your turn before or after your movement, reactions on other's turns in reaction to a specific trigger) to activate an ability, choose a target, see if that ability affects the target (attack roll, saving throw, or rarely no defense), then apply the effects. People get used to this idea and it helps them to understand the game. Battle Hymn is activated only at the beginning of your turn for free then appears to be able to be targeted at literally any time your turn or theirs in reaction to anything(?) I guess. It might be able to interrupt things, it might not. That's not specified. Like can you apply the one that gives a penalty to saving throws after the roll has been made but before success is determined? It is confusing because it doesn't follow the standard formula and we have nothing to compare it to.

It's weird design is confusing because, for instance, Battle Hymn ends at the beginning of the turn after you target it. There's one Battle Hymn choice that lasts until the end of the combat though. Which is weird, since it can't...Battle Hymn ends at the beginning of the next round. Which either means the effect ends with it or the Battle Hymn is separate from the Battle Hymn EFFECT. Which is even more confusing. Does the effect require concentration? How long does it last?

Plus, it doesn't fit the theme. I explained this to someone else I know and their response was:

"I am playing this song for no one, lalala" "oh, now it is for YOU" aaaand it's over.

------

I propose this is the right way for this ability to work:

As a bonus action, you can choose a creature within 30 feet of you to target with one of your known Battle Hymns and spend a Bardic Inspiration. It lasts until the beginning of your next turn.

I'd then change a bunch of the effects that have weird triggers to remove those so they work immediately.
I mean first off, have you used it or had a player use it in game? I'm dming for a bard, we're 35 sessions in and this is far from game breaking. You are welcome to change it based on all your reasons above but the fact that it doesn't fit into the nice design space that you think exists in O5E (which has no need to continue into A5E design space as long as the abilities can coexist) is just looking at a thing that's different and crying wolf.

There's no one round concentration effects anywhere else in 5e that I'm aware of

It's the same idea as readying a spell. If you use this or ready a spell, it breaks concentration on whatever you have up for the round and if you don't use it, it wastes the resource.

As always you are welcome to use the changes you outlined in your game because the DND police can't stop you. :) However, it is unnecessary for what you have in the book based on my experience of actually running. It could be worded slightly clearer but that is not a problem with the mechanics as written.
 

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