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D&D General Rulings, not Rules: How Will You Solve the Bard / Half Elf Dilemma?

How would you rule on the AD&D (1e) Bard / Half-Elf Conundrum

  • 1. Ban bards. With extreme prejudice.

    Votes: 8 11.1%
  • 2. Characters are not multiclass nor dual class, but "pre-bard" until they become a bard.

    Votes: 13 18.1%
  • 3. Both humans and half-elves follow the rules for dual-classing until they become bards.

    Votes: 12 16.7%
  • 4. Half-elves may multiclass (Fighter/Thief) into bard.

    Votes: 21 29.2%
  • 5. Use a custom/Dragon/3PP Bard class that doesn't have the fighter/thief prerequisite.

    Votes: 11 15.3%
  • 6. Other- I will explain my own awesome ruling in the comments. JUST WAIT FOR IT!

    Votes: 7 9.7%

  • Total voters
    72
  • This poll will close: .

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
So another thread has gone by wherein we all marveled at the clarity and interoperability of the 1e Gygaxian Ruleset, each of us remarking, "Those rules are as clear as an unmuddied stream; verily, the rules are as easy to apply as soft butter on a hot griddle!"

Unfortunately, we did manage to find one rule that didn't quite click. So I did a quick canvas of this site (some of the history) and some other hidden places where grognards congregate before spawning* to see how other people dealt with the rule in question, so that I could present this as a poll.

*Grognards spawn by telling young'uns about the good ol' days until the grognards die off and the young'uns realize that they are the ones kvetching about how people just aren't doing it right anymore. Such is the virtuous cycle of getting people off my lawn.

Let me present the various rules from 1e... this is the BARD EDITION:

1. A bard must be human or half-elven. ...Bards begin play as fighters, and they must remain exclusively fighters until they have achieved at least the 5th level of experience. Anytime thereafter, and in any event prior to attaining the 8th level, they must change their class to that of thieves. Again, sometime between 5th and 9th level of ability, bards must leave off thieving and begin clerical studies as druids; but at this time they are actually bards and under druidical tutelage. Bards must fulfill the requirements in all the above classes before progressing to Bards Table 1.
(PHB 117)

2. 6-sided Dice for Accumulated Hit Points shows an asterisk after the initial "0" to indicate that the bard has as many hit dice as he or she has previously earned as a fighter (plus the possible addition of those earned as a thief if that class level exceeds the class level of fighter).

3. The game assumes that only non- or semi-human characters can be multi-classed, and only certain class combinations are possible, depending on the race of the character. ...Fighter/thief: By combining these two classes- the armor, weapons, and combat capabilities of the fighter with the stealth and other abilities of the thief - a very effective character is created, even though thieving functions restrict the character to leather armor and no shield. Hit points are good. Dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves, halflings, and half-orcs may be fighter/thieves.
(PHB 32-33)

4. Unlike multi-classed characters who are of non- or semi-human race, the character with two classes must be human. To attain the second class, the character must switch his or her profession at some point. Thereafter no progression in the original class is possible.
In order to switch from one class to another, the character must have an ability score of 15 or more in the principal attribute(s) ability of the original class and a 17 or 18 in the principal attribute(s) of the class changed to. Note that nearly any combination of classes is thus possible, i.e. cleric 8 fighter, cleric & paladin, cleric & ranger, etc. Alignment will preclude some combinations.
When the character opts to cease his or her old profession and become a new class, the character retains the number of hit dice (and the commensurate hit points) due to a character of the level of his or her class. However, all other functions of the character are at 1st level of experience, for that is his or her ability in the newly espoused class. Furthermore, if, during the of any adventure, the character resorts to the use of any of the cap s of functions of his or her former class, the character gains no experience for the adventure. Having switched classes, the character must perform strictly within the parameters of his or her new profession. Reversion to the former class negates all experience potential for the new class with respect to the course of recent activities, i.e. the adventure during which original profession functions were resorted to.
At such time as the character has attained a level of experience in his or her new class which exceeds the character's former class level, the following benefits are gained:
1. A hit die appropriate to the new class is gained for each increase in level of experience, up to the maximum normal for the class in question (and thereafter hit points are likewise gained), and
2. The character may mix functions freely and still gain experience, although restrictions regarding armor, shield, and/or weapon apply with regard to operations particular to one or both classes.

(PHB 33)

4. Half-elves can be druids, but cannot multi-class with druid. Half-elves are the only race other than humans that can be druids.
(PHB 14, 17).

So here's the basic problem if you haven't seen it already- the rules for the weird 1e bard class seem to exactly track the rules for human dual-classing, which is not available for half-elves. The rules even include the hit die rule (you don't get more hit points as a thief until you exceed your level as fighter) and the strange notion of abandoning one class to start another.

On the other hand, it says that half-elves can be bards.

So here's the question, and the poll question today:

How would you rule on this issue? How does a half-elf become a bard? I've located these possible rulings-

1. Ban bards. This is my solution. This is ALWAYS my solution. Give that (1) I came up with it, and (2) it involves getting rid of bards (a/k/a the mosquito of the D&D classes), this is the ideal answer.

2. Bards are neither multi-class nor dual class, but "pre-bard" when they are a fighter or a thief.

3. Allow humans to dual class (and change their minds) into bard, and half-elves to dual class (but not change their mind) into bard.

4. Rule that half-elves "multiclass" into Bard as Fighter/Thieves.

5. Run a custom bard class in 1e that doesn't have these insane requirements.

6. Other- explain in the comments.
 

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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
If I was going purely by the rules, a half elf can only be a bard if they level as a fighter/thief to 5th level. After which, their druid levels are bard levels.

But if I were running 1e by my own rules, each "race" would have their own classes. A bard would be a single "human only" class that works like a fighter for 5 levels, gets thief feature at level 6, and becomes a bard at level 8. A half elf has access to human and elf classes and can dualclass or multiclass a human class and an elf class.
 
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I'd go with "specific beats general" and the bard is a specific case of the multiclassing rules. Ergo, use those as written when they disagree with other rules. So by default, option #3.

But I might also allow a multiclass half-elf instead of dual-classing, because balance isn't a thing in 1e anyways.
 

So another thread has gone by wherein we all marveled at the clarity and interoperability of the 1e Gygaxian Ruleset, each of us remarking, "Those rules are as clear as an unmuddied stream; verily, the rules are as easy to apply as soft butter on a hot griddle!"

Unfortunately, we did manage to find one rule that didn't quite click. So I did a quick canvas of this site (some of the history) and some other hidden places where grognards congregate before spawning* to see how other people dealt with the rule in question, so that I could present this as a poll.

*Grognards spawn by telling young'uns about the good ol' days until the grognards die off and the young'uns realize that they are the ones kvetching about how people just aren't doing it right anymore. Such is the virtuous cycle of getting people off my lawn.

Let me present the various rules from 1e... this is the BARD EDITION:

1. A bard must be human or half-elven. ...Bards begin play as fighters, and they must remain exclusively fighters until they have achieved at least the 5th level of experience. Anytime thereafter, and in any event prior to attaining the 8th level, they must change their class to that of thieves. Again, sometime between 5th and 9th level of ability, bards must leave off thieving and begin clerical studies as druids; but at this time they are actually bards and under druidical tutelage. Bards must fulfill the requirements in all the above classes before progressing to Bards Table 1.
(PHB 117)

2. 6-sided Dice for Accumulated Hit Points shows an asterisk after the initial "0" to indicate that the bard has as many hit dice as he or she has previously earned as a fighter (plus the possible addition of those earned as a thief if that class level exceeds the class level of fighter).

3. The game assumes that only non- or semi-human characters can be multi-classed, and only certain class combinations are possible, depending on the race of the character. ...Fighter/thief: By combining these two classes- the armor, weapons, and combat capabilities of the fighter with the stealth and other abilities of the thief - a very effective character is created, even though thieving functions restrict the character to leather armor and no shield. Hit points are good. Dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves, halflings, and half-orcs may be fighter/thieves.
(PHB 32-33)

4. Unlike multi-classed characters who are of non- or semi-human race, the character with two classes must be human. To attain the second class, the character must switch his or her profession at some point. Thereafter no progression in the original class is possible.
In order to switch from one class to another, the character must have an ability score of 15 or more in the principal attribute(s) ability of the original class and a 17 or 18 in the principal attribute(s) of the class changed to. Note that nearly any combination of classes is thus possible, i.e. cleric 8 fighter, cleric & paladin, cleric & ranger, etc. Alignment will preclude some combinations.
When the character opts to cease his or her old profession and become a new class, the character retains the number of hit dice (and the commensurate hit points) due to a character of the level of his or her class. However, all other functions of the character are at 1st level of experience, for that is his or her ability in the newly espoused class. Furthermore, if, during the of any adventure, the character resorts to the use of any of the cap s of functions of his or her former class, the character gains no experience for the adventure. Having switched classes, the character must perform strictly within the parameters of his or her new profession. Reversion to the former class negates all experience potential for the new class with respect to the course of recent activities, i.e. the adventure during which original profession functions were resorted to.
At such time as the character has attained a level of experience in his or her new class which exceeds the character's former class level, the following benefits are gained:
1. A hit die appropriate to the new class is gained for each increase in level of experience, up to the maximum normal for the class in question (and thereafter hit points are likewise gained), and
2. The character may mix functions freely and still gain experience, although restrictions regarding armor, shield, and/or weapon apply with regard to operations particular to one or both classes.

(PHB 33)

4. Half-elves can be druids, but cannot multi-class with druid. Half-elves are the only race other than humans that can be druids.
(PHB 14, 17).

So here's the basic problem if you haven't seen it already- the rules for the weird 1e bard class seem to exactly track the rules for human dual-classing, which is not available for half-elves. The rules even include the hit die rule (you don't get more hit points as a thief until you exceed your level as fighter) and the strange notion of abandoning one class to start another.

On the other hand, it says that half-elves can be bards.

So here's the question, and the poll question today:

How would you rule on this issue? How does a half-elf become a bard? I've located these possible rulings-

1. Ban bards. This is my solution. This is ALWAYS my solution. Give that (1) I came up with it, and (2) it involves getting rid of bards (a/k/a the mosquito of the D&D classes), this is the ideal answer.

2. Bards are neither multi-class nor dual class, but "pre-bard" when they are a fighter or a thief.

3. Allow humans to dual class (and change their minds) into bard, and half-elves to dual class (but not change their mind) into bard.

4. Rule that half-elves "multiclass" into Bard as Fighter/Thieves.

5. Run a custom bard class in 1e that doesn't have these insane requirements.

6. Other- explain in the comments.
I'm voting 6, simply because, were I to actually be confronted with this puzzle, I would probably unravel it thus:

Bard does indeed create a sort of 'rule of its own'. You are not a 'pre-bard', BUT you can, as either a human or half-elf, dual class, starting as a fighter, and if you both meet the prerequisites to be a bard, and switch to thief within the allotted level range, then you can continue as a thief, without meeting the standard dual classing requirements. You can then switch to Bard within the designated level range window indicated. IF you were to NOT switch to Bard, you would simply stop leveling, unless you met the normal dual class requirements (IE you better be human for starters) since such progress has no rule making it legal.

Once you switch to Bard, there's no more questions to answer, you made it to Bard, you stay a Bard. If, during your advancement, you were to lose the qualifications to become a bard, then again you would still be able to advance in your current class or do whatever, assuming such was legal for other reasons (the dual class rules, etc.). If not, then you would simply stop advancing at all, until you could come back into compliance.

All of the above I would consider to be the 'baseline' from which any additional rulings might be made on a situational basis. That is, the DM is always free to change the rules, and might do so in return for free beer, good quality pizza delivered frequently, or other unspecified considerations.
 

I'd go with "specific beats general" and the bard is a specific case of the multiclassing rules. Ergo, use those as written when they disagree with other rules. So by default, option #3.

But I might also allow a multiclass half-elf instead of dual-classing, because balance isn't a thing in 1e anyways.
Yeah, well, there are a lot of rules we made up or ignored at various times, including level limits and other racial restrictions (notably a lot of that made it into 2e). I think its also a good idea to just go with the 2e bard, since we have it. It really is NOT a bad class design. Kinda fun, does most of what the 1e bard did, just at the correct level scale.

Anyway, one thing is for sure. Bards were stupid overpowered. I think exactly ONE character in all our play EVER actually made it to Bard, but since you start at the base of an XP curve and get new hit dice, you will have a STUPID number of hit points. I remember that character ended up with like 168 HP (I think it must have had a big CON bonus, her stats were utterly ridiculous). Nobody else ever actually made it to bard, though a couple tried.
 



see

Adventurer
Like I voted, I'd go with #5 (the 0E Bard that became the 2E Bard), but if you made me use the 1E Bard, I'd go with #2.

The rules for bards look like the general "The Character With Two Classes", but are not. I particularly note that the explicit requirement that bards have a Dexterity of 15 is either a contradiction or a redundancy if we are using "The Character With Two Classes" rules, since then they would already have to have a Dexterity of 17. Between this, the half-elf mention, and the fact that no reference is made to "The Character With Two Classes", then, the bardic progression is best treated as its own independent thing, not a case of dual-classing.
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Only humans can dual class. So a half-human can duel class. But it's important to know a half-humans like the half-ogre (from Dragon if I recall correctly) can not be Bards, only humans with elven blood.

shrug I never would have ruled that back then, but it's a fun argument that half-races could follow the dual/multi-classing rules of either parent.
 





Li Shenron

Legend
Simply consider the Bard class rules more specific than the rest.

If a player wants to be a Bard, they must be Human or Half-Elf and follow the Fighter->Thief->Druid->Bard special progression rules.

There is no change of mind allowed that could result in a non-bard character with a normally illegal combination of race and classes. IIRC this is an edition where multiclassing (not dual classing) combinations are set since the start, is that right? Thus not being able to change your mind is the norm.
 

mach1.9pants

Adventurer
The bard rule is nothing to do with dual or multi classing. Dual classing is not mentioned in quote 1. So bards are different and follow the rules listed, not the dual classing rules. As long as the character had the attributes for bard, they're fine (they don't need the 17 in Dex to make a dual class Thief). They also wouldn't have the restrictions when Thief, like a dual class fighter then Thief would.

But it's all irrelevant because a) no one ever rolled 15,15,15,15,12,10 IME, and b) no one even knew about bard in the appendix, let alone wanted to be one!
 
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dmhelp

Explorer
And I think the half elf bard with a 15 str can exceed their fighter level limit.

Isn’t there a half elf bard pregen pc you can choose in tomb of horrors? Nevermind it is a ranger/cleric/MU which isn’t allowed, right? Although if gygax allows r c mu then by that logic you could play f d mu....

Maybe it was H1 or H2 with the half elf bard.

Yes level 16 half elf bard. They never say the fighter or thief level but list thaco 14 and thief skill %s.
 
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