Level Up (A5E) Percussion and String Art Specialties Need Help

xiphumor

Hero
I was glancing at the Art Specialties today, and I realized that the Percussion and String Art Specialties for the Bard, while fine in principle, don't really have enough spells to make them viable choices, especially at low levels. In fact, before GPG 15, String Instruments was entirely useless until 7th level. The fact that Bards are known spellcasters makes their application even more niche. Compare that with visual or voice, which are extremely good and widely versatile.

This situation is improved somewhat if you permit 3PP stuff, but in general, I think we need some more sound, movement, and teleportation Bard spells if someone is struggling to think of their next GPG pitch.
 

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steels12

Explorer
This was actually one of the really big problems my campaign ran into with our Bard. I took some time out this month to really dive deep into the bard class (not so much the subclasses yet), and it seems like especially the "String" specialty is almost purely made for Lore bard. Now, I know we all love Lore bards as the archetypal bard, but it's pretty ridiculous how useless this ability is without being a lore bard. Essentially you would only take it for Dimension Door, MAYBE Etherealness, and niche situations like if you regularly go around with a party of 10 people.

"Sound" spells are a little bit better, owing almost purely to the fact that Accelerando and Battlecry Ballad are incredibly powerful spells, and being able to double their range IS quite effective, but I agree with you that the list is quite short as it stands.

I honestly didn't really have a good way to fix this issue succinctly, and it ended up being a part of the many MANY issues I have with Bards in A5e, so I can't really offer advice on how to help you in your particular situation. Just to highlight what I mean I'll post a little snippet from the spell list I compiled while researching all of this.

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Honestly, I think Bard might be in dire need of a retune, it was basically single-handedly destroying my campaign both in and out of combat, and it was only thanks to my party's bard being a very understanding and generous person that we lasted as long as we did. We all agreed a lot of the mechanics felt either half-baked or poorly implemented, and didn't give much identity to the bard itself both within a developing game world and from a roleplay perspective. I ended up writing a framework for an entire class rework (or re-tune as it were hehe). We haven't yet play-tested it in combat situations, I am definitely debating if it's an issue that should be raised on the forums, but I guess for now it is what it is. I feel your pain
 

Ondath

Hero
Huh, I had never considered this, and this seems like a pretty serious issue. On the fact of it, the Bard has a lot of fun ideas (and I was thrilled when I saw that doing bard stuff besides singing got some coverage through the art specialties), but I had never checked if the game truly supports all of them.

But I'm curious as to what you mean when you say that the Bard nearly destroyed your campaign @steels12. Was your Bard game-breakingly powerful, or were they incapable of contributing tot he group? If they were too strong, what made them so strong?
 

I haven't played or DM'd with any a5e bard yet, so I'm curious to understand what all these difficulties are. On paper I don't see any issue, as you can change your art specialty every short or long rest from level 1, as a bonus action from level 5, and at level 7 you can have the benefits of a specialty regardless of the instrument you're choosing.
While I do understand that having only a few viable spells that synergize with a spell can be a problem, due to the fact that you can super easily switch between the art forms I think it should't be a deal breaker.
Would you guys care to elaborate better what were the campaign breaking issues you encountered?
 

xiphumor

Hero
I haven't played or DM'd with any a5e bard yet, so I'm curious to understand what all these difficulties are. On paper I don't see any issue, as you can change your art specialty every short or long rest from level 1, as a bonus action from level 5, and at level 7 you can have the benefits of a specialty regardless of the instrument you're choosing.
While I do understand that having only a few viable spells that synergize with a spell can be a problem, due to the fact that you can super easily switch between the art forms I think it should't be a deal breaker.
Would you guys care to elaborate better what were the campaign breaking issues you encountered?
I haven’t played with an A5e bard yet, but my issue is partly that it limits the kinds of characters you can viably play. Sure, you can switch to another art specialty, but what if you just want to be on the strings for the sake of your character concept?
 

I haven’t played with an A5e bard yet, but my issue is partly that it limits the kinds of characters you can viably play. Sure, you can switch to another art specialty, but what if you just want to be on the strings for the sake of your character concept?
I think what the system is trying to do is to give you an option that can have a different and sitiuational mechanical benefit.
Your bard is mostly a dancer? You'll probably have "visual" as art specialty most of the time, but if you really want to maximise the effect of your Freedom of movement spell it may be worth switching temporarily to strings (and by level 5 this only costs a bonus action, while allowing you to affect an additional creature!)
But again, I agree that the spell options can be quite limited. This however is less of a class feature problem, and more of a spell schools association problem IMO. As such, it can only improve with time, as new spells are added
 

steels12

Explorer
Huh, I had never considered this, and this seems like a pretty serious issue. On the fact of it, the Bard has a lot of fun ideas (and I was thrilled when I saw that doing bard stuff besides singing got some coverage through the art specialties), but I had never checked if the game truly supports all of them.

But I'm curious as to what you mean when you say that the Bard nearly destroyed your campaign @steels12. Was your Bard game-breakingly powerful, or were they incapable of contributing tot he group? If they were too strong, what made them so strong?

Bards, in general, are exceedingly powerful both in combat and outside of combat. One of the big problems as well, something Lichmaster very briefly kind of alluded to but didn't mention directly, is that bard get a bunch of cool abilities, but as they level up they don't really get MORE, they kind of just get access to them all at once. So you're going from a class that has a handful of really powerful abilities and you can only choose one, to a class that can just have the entire handful all at once with no meaningful choice involved.

Let's take a look at my party's bard, for example. So bear in mind, he went Minstrel and by level 8 had a +5 CHA and a +2 WIS and a really good CON as well, so he was rolling with 7 bardic inspirations. More than average, but I don't think ANY bard should have less than a +4 in CHA by level 8 so that's not crazy to me. He chose the focus that allowed him to affect a number of creatures with his hymns = to his CHA, he went with the Vocal specialty, so he had advantage on every concentration check, and once he hit level 11 he changed his Hymn Focus (because we asked him) to "Hymns no longer require concentration" and took the Vocal master, so his spells could never fail concentration checks

So at almost any point in the campaign he could:
  • Give the entire party +5 to all saving throws
  • Give every creature disadvantage on hitting ANY member of the party
  • Give the entire party 1d8 or later 1d10 temporary hit points per turn
  • Never possibly fail any concentration checks for both Hymns and Spells
  • Cast both a concentration spell AND a hymn at the same time

And all of this wasn't even mentioning the other insane things he COULD have done, like being able to multi-cast polymorph and just have multiple giant monkeys on the field. Now, naturally, the counter-argument to this is "But it all costs 1 bardic per turn", but honestly? That's not even a high cost. Even if he only had 5 bardic as would be normal if he didn't have the Minstrel subclass, that's 5 entire rounds he can do this. Not to mention he can, as a reaction, switch any of the hymns at the end of a creature's turn. Bards barely use their reactions, so this is almost always an option. I understand I'm glossing over minor costs that contribute to chipping away, but in terms of game-feel, it genuinely just seemed to my entire party (the bard himself included) that he could just keep this up for an entire combat without it ever even eating into a single of his other incredibly powerful resources like spell slots. Further, by level 5 he gets all his inspiration back on a short rest, so he can basically go nova twice per dungeon. The 60-foot range on Hymns is also insane because Hymns only specify a creature needs to perceive your performance, so you can totally do it behind full-cover as long as your party isn't deaf. Idk how big you all make your maps, but a 60-foot RADIUS is basically the entire map unless you've decided to suicidally move a million miles away from your party. It also didn't feel good that I, as the DM, was pressured to build encounters specifically to counter him. I don't WANT to have to throw in a "Dispel Magic" user in every combat encounter, I don't WANT to have my big baddies supernaturally just "know" who to target.

All of this is to say, the bard feels tremendously passively powerful, which isn't a good type of power, at least to me and my party. It doesn't feel like they have meaningful choices, they have incredibly powerful choices that always work, affect basically everyone, and are nothing more than a "set it and forget it" mentality. They get almost all of their tricks at a relatively low level, and all levelling up does is mean they don't have to choose, they just get more of their tricks all at once, and that doesn't help with their level scaling. There are also some cool ideas in there that are just never capitalized on, like having bards specialize in a "School" of magic, but that's only used for like three of their ten arts, and one of them is very useless

So I didn't see a viable way of "tweaking" this, and by the end of looking over all of this, I realized there just wasn't any salvaging this class as it is. I ended up re-writing pretty much the entire battle hymns, hymn focus / specializations, and both art specializations and art masteries, as well as a few supporting rules baked into the Bard class to help smooth everything over. Like I said, we haven't playtested any of it yet (my party is in a long downtime at the moment), but it looks very promising :)

Sorry for the effort-post lmao
 
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Ondath

Hero
Bards, in general, are exceedingly powerful both in combat and outside of combat. One of the big problems as well, something Lichmaster very briefly kind of alluded to but didn't mention directly, is that bard get a bunch of cool abilities, but as they level up they don't really get MORE, they kind of just get access to them all at once. So you're going from a class that has a handful of really powerful abilities and you can only choose one, to a class that can just have the entire handful all at once with no meaningful choice involved.

Let's take a look at my party's bard, for example. So bear in mind, he went Minstrel and by level 8 had a +5 CHA and a +2 WIS and a really good CON as well, so he was rolling with 7 bardic inspirations. More than average, but I don't think ANY bard should have less than a +4 in CHA by level 8 so that's not crazy to me. He chose the focus that allowed him to affect a number of creatures with his hymns = to his CHA, he went with the Vocal specialty, so he had advantage on every concentration check, and once he hit level 11 he changed his Hymn Focus (because we asked him) to "Hymns no longer require concentration" and took the Vocal master, so his spells could never fail concentration checks

So at almost any point in the campaign he could:
  • Give the entire party +5 to all saving throws
  • Give every creature disadvantage on hitting ANY member of the party
  • Give the entire party 1d8 or later 1d10 temporary hit points per turn
  • Never possibly fail any concentration checks for both Hymns and Spells
  • Cast both a concentration spell AND a hymn at the same time

And all of this wasn't even mentioning the other insane things he COULD have done, like being able to multi-cast polymorph and just have multiple giant monkeys on the field. Now, naturally, the counter-argument to this is "But it all costs 1 bardic per turn", but honestly? That's not even a high cost. Even if he only had 5 bardic as would be normal if he didn't have the Minstrel subclass, that's 5 entire rounds he can do this. Not to mention he can, as a reaction, switch any of the hymns at the end of a creature's turn. Bards barely use their reactions, so this is almost always an option. I understand I'm glossing over minor costs that contribute to chipping away, but in terms of game-feel, it genuinely just seemed to my entire party (the bard himself included) that he could just keep this up for an entire combat without it ever even eating into a single of his other incredibly powerful resources like spell slots. Further, by level 5 he gets all his inspiration back on a short rest, so he can basically go nova twice per dungeon. The 60-foot range on Hymns is also insane because Hymns only specify a creature needs to perceive your performance, so you can totally do it behind full-cover as long as your party isn't deaf. Idk how big you all make your maps, but a 60-foot RADIUS is basically the entire map unless you've decided to suicidally move a million miles away from your party. It also didn't feel good that I, as the DM, was pressured to build encounters specifically to counter him. I don't WANT to have to throw in a "Dispel Magic" user in every combat encounter, I don't WANT to have my big baddies supernaturally just "know" who to target.

All of this is to say, the bard feels tremendously passively powerful, which isn't a good type of power, at least to me and my party. It doesn't feel like they have meaningful choices, they have incredibly powerful choices that always work, affect basically everyone, and are nothing more than a "set it and forget it" mentality. They get almost all of their tricks at a relatively low level, and all levelling up does is mean they don't have to choose, they just get more of their tricks all at once, and that doesn't help with their level scaling. There are also some cool ideas in there that are just never capitalized on, like having bards specialize in a "School" of magic, but that's only used for like three of their ten arts, and one of them is very useless

So I didn't see a viable way of "tweaking" this, and by the end of looking over all of this, I realized there just wasn't any salvaging this class as it is. I ended up re-writing pretty much the entire battle hymns, hymn focus / specializations, and both art specializations and art masteries, as well as a few supporting rules baked into the Bard class to help smooth everything over. Like I said, we haven't playtested any of it yet (my party is in a long downtime at the moment), but it looks very promising :)

Sorry for the effort-post lmao
Oh.

Well, that doesn't really sound balanced, no. I'm never a fan of "everyone gets a +5 bonus to ALL saves!" approach (I think it's busted on Paladins/Heralds as well). Coupling that with an ever-increasing range, use limit tied to a 5/short rest resource and most features becoming permanently on, this sounds really worrying.

I'd like to know what the people who designed the class have to say, really. This many broken features surely came up in a playtest or something?
 
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steels12

Explorer
Oh.

Well, that doesn't really balanced, no. I'm never a fan of "everyone gets a +5 bonus to ALL saves!" approach (I think it's busted on Paladins/Heralds as well). Coupling that with an ever-increasing range, use limit tied to a 5/short rest resource and most features becoming permanently on, this sounds really worrying.

I'd like to know what the people who designed the class have to say, really. This many broken features surely came up in a playtest or something?

I'd be very interested as well, but I don't want to give the impression that it's all bad, just I think the tuning is a little off. I've been debating about making a huge deep-dive effort-post about my problems with bard (and maybe Barbarian next) and then proposing my re-tune to the community, but like I said we haven't playtested it yet, so I'm worried about potentially running into big unforeseen issues (probably most likely with subclass interactions, since I didn't dive very deep into those). But we'll see, I'm very on-the-fence about it right now
 

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