Saving the Bard

DMMike

Game Masticator
Bard is hands down one of the most powerful 5e classes. I have no idea why they'd need saving or uplifting. They kick butt in this edition. What is the issue?
Erm, not everyone plays 5e?

Meanwhile, the Bard should absolutely be it’s own class, and be magical.
Agreed. Bards should be separate and distinct from all the other classes, because they fill a niche: the social guy. Wizards: magic. Rogues: thievin'. Warriors: killin'. Who does the talkin'? The priest? No, she's the healer. The bard is the schmoozer.

Thanks, @LuisCarlos17f , but I can't tell if Lindsey is helping or hurting bards. I mean, being a necromancer-bard is pretty cool . . . unless they do choreography.
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
In previous editions the bard may need saving, in 5e they are awesomely strong. One of the best classes imo.
 

DrunkonDuty

Explorer
What sort of bard are we talking about?

A character class that fills a given niche in an assumed party that is optimised for an standard type of level appropriate dungeon crawl? And if so, which game system?

A traveling troubadour who spends their time seducing everything and everyone?

One actually based on Celtic mythological figures? A sort of combination of herald, sorcerer, sacred personage, trickster?

Maybe a folk hero who rallies the common folk against tyrannical overlords. Or at least sings some scathing satires about the tyrants?

Some sort of singing warrior who leads with raw charisma?

As far as the character filling a tactical niche thing goes - bards rock. In DnD they have done since 3rd ed. Buffers. De-buffers. Good at subtlety. Good at winning friends, both legitimately and by using mind control. They know all sorts of whacky shit. They were never big damage dealers, but that's fine. You don't play a bard hoping to smite the Demon Lord for a 100hp damage.* Other people can do that.

My wife plays a bard in our home Pathfinder game. She loves the range and versatility. Sometimes she gets frustrated by his lackluster damage output. But there is no scenario Iggy (the bard's name) cannot contribute to in some way.

In other game systems there's usually more flexibility in character design, so being a jack of several (if not all) trades is much less restrictive in terms of relative power.

The others types I suggested above are more role play choices; relative power is neither here nor there. DnD can be a bit restrictive when it comes to characters outside the preset archetype. But other game systems would easily accommodate these character types.



*although you could always play a Paladin Bard. :-D
 

pemerton

Legend
Erm, not everyone plays 5e?
What sort of bard are we talking about?

A character class that fills a given niche in an assumed party that is optimised for an standard type of level appropriate dungeon crawl? And if so, which game system?

A traveling troubadour who spends their time seducing everything and everyone?

One actually based on Celtic mythological figures? A sort of combination of herald, sorcerer, sacred personage, trickster?

Maybe a folk hero who rallies the common folk against tyrannical overlords. Or at least sings some scathing satires about the tyrants?

Some sort of singing warrior who leads with raw charisma?
This (or these).

The others types I suggested above are more role play choices; relative power is neither here nor there.
But not this.

One of the PCs in my Prince Valiant game is a wandering performer. Part of what makes the character viable as a PC is that the system includes social resolution. (The character also throws knives when the chips are down.)
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
The idea of party face characters should die in a fire. Not just any fire though. Like a dumpster fire. The idea that an entire class of challenges that have a pivotal impact on the course of play and can be lengthy and involved should be entirely in the hands of a single player while the other players sit back and watch it happen is antithetical to what I consider good play.

Bards are generally cool though. The general transition to them being full casters is a good one. I just do not think they should stand alone in the social pillar.

Also Expertise that is not generally applicable. That too should die in a dumpster fire.
 

LuisCarlos17f

Adventurer
Usually we imagine bards playing magic music, but in the most of musical comedies characters aren't always singing. A superhero or magical girl who always is singing in the battlefield may be annoying or even ridiculous.

Bards as characters are popular in the fiction if he is a "Don Juan" ( = a womanizer libertine) but in the dungeons there aren't girls to be dated.

Bards can be useful, but the gameplay isn't fun when in the clobberin' time the other players are kicking-asses and he only is playing a flute, a laud or a harp.

My suggestion is adding some game mechanic to gather magic glamour when is playing music, and later these "points of glamour" are spent for effects as a potions or another single-use magic item (tattoos, runes or talismans).
 
One of the constants of older editions was that Bards suck. That is absolutely over in 5e. So to save the Bard, play 5e.

Also, villain bards in combat:

 

pemerton

Legend
In my first Rolemaster campaign, close to thirty years ago now, there was more than one character who - if they were to be statted up in D&D - would be a bard.

The more memorable one was a snow elf grey moon mage - he had modest melee and judo ability, quite good archery, good social skills, and a range of spells to enhance his schtick - illusions, disguises and shape changes, some charms, etc. He was also an expert athlete and skiier. And new plenty of languages. I don't think he did any singing or reciting of tales.

The idea of party face characters should die in a fire. Not just any fire though. Like a dumpster fire. The idea that an entire class of challenges that have a pivotal impact on the course of play and can be lengthy and involved should be entirely in the hands of a single player while the other players sit back and watch it happen is antithetical to what I consider good play.
Yes, and maybe also no.

Absolutely yes as far as the idea that a particular sort of situation should be the monopoly of a particular PC (either build type, or a particular PC at the table). I think that's acceptable for the most hardcore Advanced Squad Leader-style play, but that's not a RPG approach I personally have any interest in.

But I don't mind PCs whose specialty is the social sphere. Like the character I mentioned above, who was good at disguising himself and engaging in intrigue. In that campaign the players would come up with plans that relied on that PC, plus another who was a full caster with a similar but appropriately stronger spell load out (a mystic, for any RM fans out there), infiltrating enemy cities or citadels or whatever whether as the spearhead for an assault or to collect intelligence.

In my Prince Valiant game, the three primary PCs are all knights - two with Brawn 4, Presence 3 and one with Brawn 3, Presence 4. The former have doubled down on their Brawn with Arms 4, while the latter has Arms 2 but a greater range of social skills. Which have given him a different narrative trajectory from the others - it's not a coincidence that he was knighted in play by a NPC knight; that he was the first of the three to be married; and that when they needed to split the party into a "noble" contingent and a "commoner" contingent he was part of the second contingent (together with the travelling performer mentioned earlier) who infiltrated the village without letting on who they really were.

I am struck by the number of posts in this thread which frame capability and also group play primarily if not purely in combat terms. Especially given this is the General and not the D&D forum.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
What sort of bard are we talking about?

A character class that fills a given niche in an assumed party that is optimised for an standard type of level appropriate dungeon crawl? And if so, which game system?

A traveling troubadour who spends their time seducing everything and everyone?

One actually based on Celtic mythological figures? A sort of combination of herald, sorcerer, sacred personage, trickster?

Maybe a folk hero who rallies the common folk against tyrannical overlords. Or at least sings some scathing satires about the tyrants?

Some sort of singing warrior who leads with raw charisma?

As far as the character filling a tactical niche thing goes - bards rock. In DnD they have done since 3rd ed. Buffers. De-buffers. Good at subtlety. Good at winning friends, both legitimately and by using mind control. . . .
That's a good question. I guess I'm talking about the Public Opinion Bard. Or the Medieval Bard...because for some reason Ed Sheeran is cool (level 12 halfling (modern) bard) but this guy isn't:

It's kind of weird for bards to fill a "tactical" niche, because realistically, if you're effective in combat it means that you've been neglecting your musical talents. But since you're talking D&D that makes sense, given the Three Pillar System: COMBAT! Exploration. social

Traveling troubadour: possibly. Sex scenes don't convert well to RPGs.

Celtic bard: sounds like those are good to go.

Folk hero: will need some saving if the common folk wield common weapons.

Singing warrior: might get beat up by the warrior with raw strength.

 

Phion

Explorer
That's a good question. I guess I'm talking about the Public Opinion Bard. Or the Medieval Bard...because for some reason Ed Sheeran is cool (level 12 halfling (modern) bard) but this guy isn't:

It's kind of weird for bards to fill a "tactical" niche, because realistically, if you're effective in combat it means that you've been neglecting your musical talents. But since you're talking D&D that makes sense, given the Three Pillar System: COMBAT! Exploration. social

Traveling troubadour: possibly. Sex scenes don't convert well to RPGs.

Celtic bard: sounds like those are good to go.

Folk hero: will need some saving if the common folk wield common weapons.

Singing warrior: might get beat up by the warrior with raw strength.
The bards I've seen hold their own well enough in a fight with support tactics such as spells of even using the help action. If they decided to take a more martial role then the trade off is being less effective in their support role. It seems fair really; otherwise every other class needs to ask the question of "well the bard gets all that for combat, what do I get in the social and exploration pillar?"
 
One of the constants of older editions was that Bards suck. That is absolutely over in 5e. So to save the Bard, play 5e.
It was even over in 3.5: the Bard was Tier 3, that's a solid, respectable, balanced class, and clearly superior to the Tier 5 fighter, just in a game with Tier 1 Wizards and CoDzilla. Completely over in 4e, when the Bard was neatly balanced with the other leaders, like the Cleric and Warlord.
But, yeah, the 5e Bard has continued to move up in the world, and is very plausibly the best of the Tier 2 casters, if not honorary Tier 1, in spite of being spontaneous rather than neo-Vancian.
Agreed. Bards should be separate and distinct from all the other classes, because they fill a niche: the social guy. Wizards: magic. Rogues: thievin'. Warriors: killin'. Who does the talkin'? The priest? No, she's the healer. The bard is the schmoozer.
And that somehow requires spellcasting and a lute?
The idea of party face characters should die in a fire. Not just any fire though. Like a dumpster fire. The idea that an entire class of challenges that have a pivotal impact on the course of play and can be lengthy and involved should be entirely in the hands of a single player while the other players sit back and watch it happen is antithetical to what I consider good play.
Also Expertise that is not generally applicable. That too should die in a dumpster fire.
Those are closely related, yes. Mearls coined the Three Pillars in the runup to the Next playtest, and actually applying them to design would mean there can be no 'face' holding down the whole social pillar, and no niche-protected thief or ranger doing the whole exploration thing in the dungeon or wilderness, respectively. 5e's not as all-in on that as it could be, but the Bard certainly doesn't rest it's existence on being Party Face - not with 9 levels of spells on tap.
 
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Fenris-77

Explorer
The idea of party face is fine for an old school dungeon crawl campaign where the party is infrequently in towns for anything more than a heal and reload. I don't think that really applies to 5E generally though. There are 4 core classes that run on CHA, which means that all of them will be useful in 3rd pillar play to some extent, plus Rogues as a skill heavy class. That's 5 out of 12 classes who are at least partially indexed to 3rd pillar play. No need or impetus for the Bard to play the face all by his lonesome.

Plus yeah, they are also top drawer mechanically.
 

DrunkonDuty

Explorer
I should probably expand upon what I said up thread about certain types of bard not being about "relative power." I shouldn't have used that word; "relative power" can be a measure of whatever you're chosen schtick is. I really should have said "relative ability to deal out damage" or "DPS." I should have also added that DPS is not a universal metric, plenty of people play without much interest in damage dealing.

So...

My first example was a response to the DnD* concept of each character filling a role effectively in tactical mini war game. Although bards in your typical DnD style game don't do much DPS they nevertheless excel in other areas of combat such as buffs, debuffs, control, etc. They also do well in the other, non-combat, parts of the game. Hence my conclusion that DnD bards rock.

But the other examples I gave of bardic types were intended for NOT DnD* style games. The sort of games where DPS isn't much of a concern (or at least not as much as it is in more combat oriented games.) Games where characters have goals other than getting to the end of the dungeon. Games where character niche is not defined so much by mechanics but more by about how you play your character. And in these sort of games the examples I gave are intended to be playable types that have interesting story hooks and goals. So when I said "power" isn't that important, I should have said DPS isn't important. Being good at your schtick is important.

@DMMike. re. Singing warrior being poned by strength warrior. I respond: Galavant!

*Yes, I know one can play any style one wants in DnD. There's no need to stick to the presupposed model of dungeon crawling fools. yada yada yada. I'm using DnD as a short hand for a given style of game.
 

pemerton

Legend
Rather than debating the mechanical details of one PC build in one RPG, can we talk about the role, in FRPGing or similar mediaeval-themed RPGing, of a bard-type character?

So we're talking here about a character who is personable or even charming; who is a traveller; who perhaps knows bits and pieces of lore, or is a storyteller; and who - when we think about adventure RPGing - is probably a bit roguish or a thief or con-artist.

For that sort of character to be viable, what do we need?

Setting: plenty of people about to be charmed or conned; tales that are worth telling or lore that is worth knowing; new places to go to when old ones get too hot!

System: some sort of social mechanic, so that the charming and the conning can be resolved in an engaging way that doesn't involve pre-determined outcomes; probably some sort of mechanic for determining what happens if you work a crowd picking pockets, or busking, or similar; and if you want to be part of a bigger team, some sort of mechanic for conferring benefits of rousing a crowd, or distracting it, or similar.

I mentioned Prince Valiant upthread, and it handles all this sort of thing straightforwardly. It's default setting - an Arthurian Britain (and Europe) as a backdrop to knight errantry - is perfect. Cortex+ Heroic would do all this well also, both system and easily accommodating the requisite setting (the closest I've come to GMing a bard character in that system is Nightcrawler in our MHRP game). HeroQuest revised is another example. I don't have any Fate experience, but think it should be able to handle all this too.

I also mentioned RM upthread. It has a (slightly creaky) social resolution system that can handle some of the charming and conning although leaning a bit more heavily on GM fiat than is my taste these days. It hasn't got a good system for working a crowd for money, and it has no system - other than GM fiat - for rousing or distracting a crowd to the benefit of one's companions.

I'll leave it to others to consider these matters through a D&D lens.

EDIT: One of the better movie representations of a bard that I know is Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight's Tale.
 
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Phion

Explorer
@pemerton
Another important factor is a willingness of the GM to accommodate the bards playstyle at the table. Typically a bard will attempt to avoid combat through witty negotiation, but if a DM decides nothing will work then nothing will work; this is fine because sometimes npcs will not be interested dialogue in some scenarios.

Some GMs I have seen sometimes have allowed the bard to distract the enemy long enough for an unnoticed ally get into position and given them a surprise round. I always found this to be a cool way for the bard to get use out of their social skills in another wise unfruitful conversation; it also has allowed the players who like combat to not feel sidelined.
 

pemerton

Legend
@pemerton
Another important factor is a willingness of the GM to accommodate the bards playstyle at the table. Typically a bard will attempt to avoid combat through witty negotiation, but if a DM decides nothing will work then nothing will work; this is fine because sometimes npcs will not be interested dialogue in some scenarios.
I see this as feeding into the system side of the equation. Although having typed that it also contains elements of setting.

As I think I mentioned upthread, the primary PCs in my Prince Valiant game are knights. The fourth player plays a bardish type, but is only able to make it to every second session or thereabouts. In the bard's second session, the PCs had heard tell of a strong knight who was blocking a bridge to the north of the city they were in, not allowing anyone across it unless they could beat him in a joust - which so far no one had been able to do!

Naturally the PC knights decided to try their hands at this, and the bard accompanied him. I don't know how I would have adjudicated an attempt by the bard PC to persuade the knight to relinquish his stand on the bridge. But it didn't come up - the player of the bard was happy to let the knights he was accompanying do their thing. He did work the crowd up into a state of excitement, but not for any particular side (to the chagrin of the other players!) - so both PCs and NPC knight got bonus dice for their jousting, from the fervour of the crowd.

I don't know what lessons exactly I want to draw from that one episode, but maybe two: for any PC (including a bard) to work the setting has to give them scope to do their thing (ie the GM can't be pre-determining things against them); and the system also has to give that scope. Your example of gaining a surprise advantage is a way of doing that in the context of D&D-type combat resolution.
 

Phion

Explorer
@pemerton
I am not sure if the player would give a damn about a random persons opinion from a forum but let that bard know I think that was some fantastic RP.

A bard would care more about recounting a fantastic tale so he played his part by arousing everyone watching which would in turn light a passion in his own story weaving. In such a situation it would matter little which side won because its not to save lives so he didn't have to favour his supposed team; the players may have been annoyed but their knights (if we go off sterotypes) would have been annoyed if they won by anything less than skill or honour so the bard would have done a disservice to them if they gave them an edge ( a bit like a supplement in a sport setting slipped in by a coach against a athletes desire to win legit).

Fantastic RP.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
Rather than debating the mechanical details of one PC build in one RPG, can we talk about the role, in FRPGing or similar mediaeval-themed RPGing, of a bard-type character?

Setting: plenty of people about to be charmed or conned; tales that are worth telling or lore that is worth knowing; new places to go to when old ones get too hot!

System: some sort of social mechanic, so that the charming and the conning can be resolved in an engaging way that doesn't involve pre-determined outcomes; probably some sort of mechanic for determining what happens if you work a crowd picking pockets, or busking, or similar; and if you want to be part of a bigger team, some sort of mechanic for conferring benefits of rousing a crowd, or distracting it, or similar.
Another important factor is a willingness of the GM to accommodate the bards playstyle at the table. Typically a bard will attempt to avoid combat through witty negotiation, but if a DM decides nothing will work then nothing will work; this is fine because sometimes npcs will not be interested dialogue in some scenarios.
Aha - now the bard has hope. These two things can save the bard: GMs and RPGs (systems). If the GM is combat (carnage?) focused and/or doesn't like bards, playing a bard in her game with be difficult (at best). If the RPG doesn't like bards (i.e. it disregards or underplays social and musical aspects of adventuring), playing a bard will also be rough.

To be honest, Pemerton, part of me cringes a bit when I hear "social mechanic." Charming and conning are soft sciences, so it seems like there should not be metrics attached. But I suppose a social mechanic doesn't need to use numbers. Right now, there's a Fantasy Flight gamer reading this and going "hell yeah!"* Now, I don't know how Genesys runs social encounters, but a numberless die system seems like a good fit for social pursuits. Or a standard dice system that turns numbers into qualitative results.

* FFG uses "narrative dice" in some games as their chaos generators of choice.
 

Phion

Explorer
@DMMike

From a combat perspective if we are talking about the 5e bard they are still useful in combat with a mix of buffs/ heals/ utility or if you go lore stealing higher level damage spells from other classes.

Mechanically there is the help action to give the front line advantage OR my personal favourite doing the jobs the martial classes are up front spending their actions on combat the bard can use theirs to interact with the environment i.e activating traps or swiping a fundamental plot device with a cheeky wink on the way out.
 

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