• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is coming! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

Problems with Bardic Music Fascinate ability


First Post
I ran a session yesterday with a semi-climactic battle against a single villain, it was supposed to be a pretty rough one. We roll initiative and the PC Bard (4th level) goes first. He wants to use the Fascinate ability and he arguments that he should be able to do this since the battle hasn't actually started yet. I look it up in the PHB and tend to agree with him, so I let him do it.

The bard makes his Perform check, and this would on average be 23-24 (7 ranks + 16 CHA + Skill Focus), which is a dastardly high Will save compared to any spell the party wizard could cast or indeed any Will save the PCs would have to make at the present. The villain fails his save and is Fascinated. The other PCs now cast a few buffer spells on themselves and place themselves around the villain (they don't approach him). They then delay their actions and before the fascination stops they all attack him at some specified initiative count. Since there is a lot of flanking (and sneak attacks) and general buffing they manage to severely damage him. When the villain can act, he does put up a bit of a fight, but a few rounds later he bites the dust without having been a serious threat.

All in all this combat had become rather easy and though it was clever of the PCs, I would rather not have this become a standard tactic because the initiative roll then decides whether the battle is easy or not. It would make it rather difficult to plan this sort of encounters.

Has anybody had similar experiences with this or does anybody have any suggestions for what I could do about it?

log in or register to remove this ad


SRD said:
Fascinate (Sp): A bard with 3 or more ranks in a Perform skill can use his music or poetics to cause one or more creatures to become fascinated with him. Each creature to be fascinated must be within 90 feet, able to see and hear the bard, and able to pay attention to him. The bard must also be able to see the creature. The distraction of a nearby combat or other dangers prevents the ability from working. For every three levels a bard attains beyond 1st, he can target one additional creature with a single use of this ability.


While fascinated, a target takes a –4 penalty on skill checks made as reactions, such as Listen and Spot checks. Any potential threat requires the bard to make another Perform check and allows the creature a new saving throw against a DC equal to the new Perform check result.
Any obvious threat, such as someone drawing a weapon, casting a spell, or aiming a ranged weapon at the target, automatically breaks the effect.
Emphasis mine. As the DM, you may rule otherwise, but I would say that a group of people that you intend to attack (or have just surprised you) may be considered enough of a danger and a distraction that the fascinate ability would not work.

Furthermore, a group of people casting spells on themselves and carefully positioning themselves around you (even if they are not actually flanking you) represents a potential threat if not an obvious threat. If you are feeling generous to the PCs, you might give the fascinated NPC a Listen check to notice the spellcasting and a Spot check to notice the party surrounding him. The DCs should be fairly low - probably DC 0 plus distance modifiers, but the NPC gets a -4 penalty for being fascinated.


First Post
I tend to agree that the fascinate ability should not be able to work in the situation, that was also my impression in the first place. But as I read the description in the PHB in the heat of battle, I think I caught on to the word "other" in other dangers.


Even as a person who plays a Bard, I don't think you can use Fascinate in that way. Even if you are the first person in the initiative order, in my opinion one initiative is rolled then combat is joined.



First Post
I agree with the other posters. I would let the Bard use his fascinate ability at the beginning of the initiative order to let him shine a bit - get a one up on the bad guy and help his friends buy some time. However, as soon as the other party members began to cast spells or moved towards the bad guy with weapons drawn or with other intent (ie. arrow trained on the villain to fire if he awakens) I would allow the villain to make further saves to avoid fascination.

Come on...let the Bard shine...


I wouldn't have let it work this way. Fascinate is a great way to get your allies to sneak in and infiltrate a place. It's a great way to let an already stealthy assassin get in position. It's a great way to do many things. But, it is not a great way to start off a battle against a known-hostile target. At best, it would provide a way to get a drop on the bad guy and demand surrender. It might get you a whole round to buff/position yourselves, depending on initiative. Of course, with good initiative, you could do that anyway. As soon as the NPC saw any actions that could be construed as hostile, Fascinate would fail.

OK, some players will argue that all they are doing is prepping spells and there is no reason why the bad guy would feel "threatened". If they argue that, ask them what their reaction would be in the tables were turned.

Lord Pendragon

First Post
Rolled initiative does not necessarily mean that combat is joined. In the PH Lidda has a showdown in a dark alley, where both participants spend rounds sizing each other up, even after initiative has been rolled. As far as the term goes in relation to Fascinate, I'd say combat has not been joined until one side or the other moves to attack.

I don't see a problem with the party buffing themselves while the the BBEG is Fascinated. Casting Bull's Strength is not a hostile action in and of itself. But once the party starts moving to surround him, I'd give him a new save.

I'd let the bard try this. In order to pull it off he needs to have a high initiative, and face a single enemy, who then has to fail a save. It's restricted enough that I'd let the bard be the hero of the encounter. I mean, really, are we actually talking about nerfing the bard?


First Post
Count me as another one, who believes that the bard can fascinate before any actual combat starts. The casting of buffing spells also does not bother me. However, the moment a single party member moved to flank is when the fascinate should have come down. Up to that point the bard can use his suggestion ability to avoid combat altogether. Fascinate gives bards a way to avoid combat. The ability should not be allowed to setup an opponent for an ambush.

Last edited:


First Post
I agree the bard could start the ability but would require a new check each round spells are cast, A Bard's perform check is reasonable enough to succeed on these but you never know. On the other hand I also agree, any attempt to noticably move to flank, draw weapons etc.. would be threatening and break the ability.

On the other hand.. if the party were able to move away and hide in the shadows and then proceed into flanking positions from hiding... that would be okay. The enemy would have to have a discernable 'blind spot' to allow an enemy to approach from hiding (or have the person be invisible). Hard to do vs dragons who have their superior sensory abilities that allows them to know if just about anything's sneaking up on them.

Consider the possibility that in the future if they want to pull this, that the enemy knew they were approaching and has a ready'd action when they appear or approach within so close. this can circumvent or prempt a bard's Init and thus make the combat joined.


I have a problem with the buffing spells. Those should break the ability immediately; no re-roll the Perform check and another save attempt; ability ends.

Any obvious threat, such as someone drawing a weapon, casting a spell, or aiming a ranged weapon at the target, automatically breaks the effect.

It doesn't say "casting a damaging spell", it says "casting a spell."


Remove ads