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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
  • Poll closed .
A hard #5. Honestly, my eyes started rolling halfway through your post because of the needlessly picky rules in 1e. I am not familiar with 1e, but I would immediately houserule the heck out of it.
 

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Sithlord

Adventurer
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.
This is how I did it i the 1E game I am a pc I right now. And I am adoring it.
 

Orius

Adventurer
Throw out the crazy MAD 1e Bard and use 2e's instead. The 1e Bard is just ridiculous as written.

You need a 15 Str to take the class. Then, the dual-class rules would seem to require a 17 Dex, Wis and Cha, but apparently the Bard only needs them to all be 15 (another contradiction!). On top of that, you need a 12 Int and 10 Con -- who the hell in their right mind uses Con as a dump stat!?

You're stuck at your fighter level for your attack rolls. This will never improve, and you have to switch to thief before 8, so you never hit better than a 7th level fighter at most. Then your thief abilities are fixed at whatever level you leave thief which is what, 3rd at most? And this is 1e thief, which has fixed progressions for thief skills, and they're mostly mediocre at 3rd. At least your saves use the best of the 3 classes, with the bard levels having the same saves as a druid of the same level.

And since a 1st level Bard is the equivalent of a 9th level character, everyone else is hitting name level just as you're starting as a Bard.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Why is this listed as [General] rather than [1E AD&D]?

Because it's not about 1e.

I know the answer to this question; there is no answer. It's possible that I am wrong, but having looked at this several times in the past, having looked at all the core rules, having checked into everything Gygax has said that I am familiar with, having looked at Dragon magazine ... I don't think that there is a single right answer.* It's one of those cases where the rules are, at best, questionable, and at worst, conflicting, and I think it provided a great example that many people weren't familiar with as to rules that don't always jibe. Moreover, given that we have a number of people that aren't familiar with this particular rule conflict, it allows people to look at a set of rules in a way without necessarily having the burden of having to defend their own 3e/4e/5e play practices.

In another thread, I noticed someone who was analyzing the rules to 1e using the proper 5e framework (specific beats general), and it made me think about how we approach rules, and rulings, in general. About the heuristics that people are using when they are looking at the rules for D&D, and about how they determine what is a rule, and what is a ruling. This combined with some thoughts I had when I was reading the thread a while back by @Charlaquin regarding Sage Advice in 5e, and how it contrasted with the thoughts I had recently when I was looking back at the assumptions that used to be baked into Sage Advice.

So I was using this thread/poll to see how people approached this question and how they would think about the concept of rules, rulings, and rule interpretation in general in D&D- not about 1e; after all, anyone still playing 1e has already decided this the correct way by hunting down and killing every single bard in their campaign.

Admittedly, the poll itself has not been tremendously successful (they never are!); the numbers are evenly split, and the leader right now (that half-elves multi-class into bard) is a homebrew suggestion that is the only one that has no support in the rules. :) But I have appreciated some of the comments from people detailing the way that they have thought about the problem. It's provided additional information for my eventual post about the topic.


*Hey- if someone does know a single right answer, feel free to provide it... I would love to know what it is. This may be shocking to some, but there are other examples of rules conflicts I can use. ;)
 

aco175

Legend
This is why nobody at my table became a bard in 1e.

I voted for #3 with specific beating general in that there are rules for becoming a bard and only humans could do it with the multi-class rules, but the bard rules say that a 1/2elf can become a bard, so the multi-class rule of general can be broken for them.
 




Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I couldn't vote for my choice, which is "Play literally any other edition other than Worst Edition." I'm grateful I'm young enough to have '90s nostalgia instead of '80s nostalgia.

Load up on dice, bring your friends
It's fun to roll and to pretend
Twosix is over-bored, and self-assured
Oh no, "bard" is a dirty word ...
 




TwoSix

Unserious gamer
As a total aside, it never made sense to me that the long-lived races were the ones that leveled multiple classes simultaneously, but the ambitious, short-lived race only did one thing at a time and then would switch. Wouldn't dual classing make more sense for the races with level limits, that have hundreds of years to get better at new things? And wouldn't the ambitious, driven race try to do multiple things at once?
 


Voadam

Legend
I think the most natural reading is that bards are a pre-3e prestige class using the dual class rules and as written contradict those rules in the stat prereqs and half-elf aspects.

If I had a player ask about being a 1e PH half-elf bard as written I would like the unified single bard class theory that they are bards from the get go, but it looks a lot like a fighter to start who must then switch within the specified window to become like a thief, then switch again within a specified level range to become a bard trained by druids. This would mean they would have the bard limits and options for armor, shields, weapons, alignment, and such from level 1 on when they are like fighters.

While the full dual class requirement is a natural and reasonable reading, it is not a necessary one and hidden gnostic 1e technical paths are kind of aesthetically pleasing to make something work with the 1e RAW.

I would probably also allow the original bard class from The Strategic Review and the 2e one as options too (I forget if they allow half elves). When I did a Pathfinder 1e to AD&D 1e conversion for while the party entered the Fey First World where reality seemed more primal but ruled by weird esoteric rules that were difficult to parse out, I had the party kitsune bard use the original bard class and not the 1e version as his feyworld version class.
 


I wish I had known the Dragon magazine bard even existed back then. It's a far better, more coherent, class than the proto-prestige class of the 1e bard.

I actually did play a bard in 1e, going through all the hoops. And by the time I qualified, I was bored of playing that character. Figures, but at least I can say I actually did play a 1e bard.
 

nevin

Adventurer
The rules for Bard if actually followed require so much investment in time that if someone were willing to suffer through the penalties for Dual Classing I'd let it happen. Remember when Dual Classing you have access to all your abilities but if you use any of the higher level abilities you get no experience in the class you are leveling for that encounter. Which usually means you are running around with much lower level abilities, than everyone else for a loooooong time to get there. since 1977 i've never seen anyone willing to do what it takes to actually get there. I've only seen a few dual class. in 1e it just wasn't worth the effort and pain.
 

AmerginLiath

Adventurer
In actual play, we only ever used the Dragon Magazine version to do a half-elf bard (my brother played one), but I just voted #4 because I thought of a way for the multiclassing rule to work here.

A half-elf fighter/thief could qualify for the level requirements and enter the bard class (which is a special case versus a traditional dual-classing). However, note that it’s explicit that only humans can dual-class, therefore the new half-elf bard doesn’t benefit from the rule wherein he can again use his old fighter and thief abilities when his bard level matches his old levels — he has to stay completely dedicated to his new path to continue gaining XP. That seems Gygaxian to me.
 

Sithlord

Adventurer
The rules for Bard if actually followed require so much investment in time that if someone were willing to suffer through the penalties for Dual Classing I'd let it happen. Remember when Dual Classing you have access to all your abilities but if you use any of the higher level abilities you get no experience in the class you are leveling for that encounter. Which usually means you are running around with much lower level abilities, than everyone else for a loooooong time to get there. since 1977 i've never seen anyone willing to do what it takes to actually get there. I've only seen a few dual class. in 1e it just wasn't worth the effort and pain.
Yes. I got my first bars to 3rd level then failed a death save. That was is in 1990. I am playing my second one now that is a 5th level bard. Now consider that the rest of the party is about 11th level. If not for a couple problems i could have got there a little earlier. And I am no where near the most powerful member of the party. In fact my playmates and DM tease me about being a masochist and i should have just played a Druid.
 

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