Saving the Bard

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.
In theory, that's fine - you just have to remove things like CHA and social skills from the game, entirely, in recognition of the fact you won't let them do anything. ;) Replace CHA - since it's function as a prime requisite for several classes is as caster stat - with WILL or POWer or SPIrit or something, and off you go...
 

pemerton

Legend
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.
I'm pretty sure that boxing, as well as being the sweet science, is in this context also a soft science.

Mechanical resolution isn't really about metrics. It's about a system for establishing what happens in the fiction.

To stick to my same example, in Prince Valiant social resolution - like everything else in the system - is either vs a difficulty set by the GM, or else an opposed check. Rousing the crowd will have been resolved against a difficulty. In a later session, when the PCs had taken a castle, the same character persuaded the lady in the keep to accept the PCs' victory - this was extended opposed resolution (Courtesie vs Courtesie, with the marging of success reduing the other side's pool until - in this case - the lady was reduced to zero).

Combat in the system works the same way, but normally is Arms vs Arms.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
Yeah, not sure that Bards need saving in 5E. The Lore Bard is one of the best all around classes in the game.
Agreed, my first 5e character was a half-elven Lore Bard and he was easily the most powerful character in our party with all of his skills (6 from Bard, 2 from Background, 2 from Half-elf), his spells (I mean Fireball at 6th level, Animate objects and Conjure Elemental at 10th? yes please.), and his Cutting words to really dodge those attacks.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
I'm pretty sure that boxing, as well as being the sweet science, is in this context also a soft science.

Mechanical resolution isn't really about metrics. It's about a system for establishing what happens in the fiction.
In theory, that's fine - you just have to remove things like CHA and social skills from the game, entirely, in recognition of the fact you won't let them do anything. ;) Replace CHA - since it's function as a prime requisite for several classes is as caster stat - with WILL or POWer or SPIrit or something, and off you go...
This might hold some water, actually. Why do mental attributes have to be measured numerically? Why not remove those numbers, and replace them? As Pemerton points out, we don't need to measure someone's Charisma, we just need to establish how well he schmoozes. So, in WOIN terms, Strength, Agility, and Endurance have dice pools measured in number of d6s. The mental attributes, Intuition, Logic, Willpower, and Charisma might use a Fate-like system, using Aspects instead of dice pools, and "soft"ening up the social side of the game?

One way that helps bards is it removes the requirement for their best stat (number) to be in Charisma.

Also, Pemerton, if you think boxing is a soft science, you haven't seen Rocky IV. Look at all those metrics!
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
In theory, that's fine - you just have to remove things like CHA and social skills from the game, entirely, in recognition of the fact you won't let them do anything. ;)
You really know how to excite your audience!

Do you know how we all knew charisma was a useless stat? BECAUSE IT WAS THE GATEKEEPER TO BE A PALADIN.
 

DrunkonDuty

Explorer
Hmm. I like having some sort of mechanic for social interaction. For the same reason we have a mechanic for settling combats rather than having the players punch one another. And I don't have a problem with it being simple numbers on a dice. DnD keeps it simple with (usually) one dice roll determining the outcome of a social situation. Legends of the 5 Rings is a bit more nuanced; one successful social roll will not win you a new friend. Although this is more implied than stated.

But if you want a more complex social mechanic it isn't hard to dream one up. Pemerton's example from Prince Valiant has one that works just like combat - a pool of hit points (social points?) that get worn away. It is possible to have something where the participants use different tactics to achieve different goals; say befriending, embarrassing someone or just trying to score points in front of an audience. I recently dreamed up something like this for my HERO game; and all based on opposed skill rolls.

I don't know the Fate system, how do Aspects work?
 

DrunkonDuty

Explorer
As for setting - I agree with all the above who've said that the setting will have a major effect on how we see the bard as effective or not.

Personally I'd like to play in a Celtic style setting where a bard would really come into their own. So much story potential.
 

uzirath

Explorer
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.
If every social interaction had to be handled by the Face, then, sure, that would be a bore. Just like if every battle had to be handled by the Beefcake and every puzzle by the Brain. With that said, though, I can't think of a group I've played in where we didn't develop a sense of who-would-be-best in various situations. We don't send the scholar to the front line in a fight with the troll. We don't ask the barbarian to pick the lock on the casket of jewels (though we might ask him to bash it open). Similarly, although all of the characters role-play during social scenes, if the stakes are high, we will usually depend on the most diplomatic character to do the bulk of the negotiating because it gets us a better deal. That has always seemed fun to me. And, of course, depending on circumstances, we might use a different Face. In my GURPS games, we commonly see three different types of Faces, the high-status negotiator, the terrifying intimidator, and the streetsmart underworld person. Sometimes these are combined into one character; sometimes not. I've seen bards excel in all three roles in various combinations.

Hmm. I like having some sort of mechanic for social interaction. For the same reason we have a mechanic for settling combats rather than having the players punch one another.
I agree. As with combat, player skill can be rolled into this if that is the group's preference. With combat, players who have a better sense of strategy and tactics will often have an advantage, even if these skills are not represented in the mechanics. In social situations, glib players who pay attention to the social dynamics of the setting might have a natural advantage. More detailed mechanics can mitigate this and can allow players to play characters who have expertise in areas where they don't excel. If a player with little interest in military strategy and martial arts wants to play a skilled combat leader, we can represent that with a mechanical skill. A socially-oriented character, like a bard, might have skills that represent empathy, social awareness, etc., that help the GM provide tips to an otherwise clueless player.

As for setting - I agree with all the above who've said that the setting will have a major effect on how we see the bard as effective or not.
I would hope that a GM who intended to entirely nerf a class would just ban it outright, or at least include that information in their session zero notes. I've run games, for example, where magic was severely limited, but still allowed players to choose a magical character. They knew, going in, that they were choosing the "hard" skill-level for the game. If I had dropped the bomb on them mid-campaign, that would be no fun for any of us.

In most games that I've played, whether 5e or various GURPS flavors, the bard concept has worked fairly well. I even know of a group that was entirely composed of bards!
 

Mark Chance

Boingy! Boingy!
I've not played a 5E bard, but I've seen them played. Seldom has the bard need saving.

I did play a bard in Dungeon World. He ended being one of the party's most effective characters in and out of combat. He was also the character with the highest armor rating, being better defended than the group's paladin.

Way back when, I briefly played in a 2E game. I wanted to play a bard, but didn't hit the required stats, so I made up a thief who wanted to be a bard. He sang, danced, et cetera. Didn't work quite as well as the actual thing.

:)
 

aramis erak

Explorer
Bards in 5E really do nicely as 2/3 face-man, 2/3 cleric, and 1/3 combattant. (Yes, I know that totals 5/3, but only if you don't allow overlaps. And the overlaps matter.)

Several of my parties preferred a bard to a cleric. Not that they'd turn one away, but they want the bard.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
But if you want a more complex social mechanic it isn't hard to dream one up. Pemerton's example from Prince Valiant has one that works just like combat - a pool of hit points (social points?) that get worn away. It is possible to have something where the participants use different tactics to achieve different goals; say befriending, embarrassing someone or just trying to score points in front of an audience. I recently dreamed up something like this for my HERO game; and all based on opposed skill rolls.

I don't know the Fate system, how do Aspects work?
"Progress" points is what I like to call them. Which is actually a more accurate name for hit points, based on how they're usually treated.

An Aspect is a word or phrase that has something to do with your character. Simple as that. When one applies to a roll you're about to make, you get +2 on the result. I think. I haven't played Fate for as long as I can remember.
I did play a bard in Dungeon World. . . He was also the character with the highest armor rating, being better defended than the group's paladin.
That's...just...wrong. Unless: magic.
Bards in 5E really do nicely as 2/3 face-man, 2/3 cleric, and 1/3 combattant. (Yes, I know that totals 5/3, but only if you don't allow overlaps. And the overlaps matter.)

Several of my parties preferred a bard to a cleric. Not that they'd turn one away, but they want the bard.
This begs the question: IS the 5e bard actually a bard? Or just a cleric who has a musical instrument? Did 5e save the bard by putting the real bard out of his misery?
 

LuisCarlos17f

Adventurer
The bard was created, or adapted, to be a buffer, perfect as secondary or deuteragonist, but not for main character.

Maybe the bard needs only the right character in the main media fiction, something like a mixture of Jack Parrow, Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games), Disney's Descendants and Equestria Girls, princess and pauper, fairy tale and picaresque novel, artist with a sensitive heart but also a cynical mouth. Somebody who would rather astuteness, tongue and talent than brute force.





----

Yes, some bards have got really weird tastes.




 
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Don Durito

Explorer
I don't really get the 5E Bard. It just basically does everything.

Sure they can buff - but so can lots of characters. What do they get other than Bardic Inspiration (which is an awkward mechanic) which really facilitates this roll?

I think if I was designing a bard for 5E I'd give them some kind of mechanic where they can use music to keep several concentration spells going at the same time.
 

aramis erak

Explorer
So, just like the wizard, cleric, sorcerer, ranger, ...
The cleric and the wizard are, within the scope of the "Vancian" magic system, pretty close to the tropes of fantasy novels. The bard is not.

Noting of course, that the Vancian magic isn't a match to Vance's first three novels (as far as I could stand to read of it). And that the proper term is Magic-User for OE, but I'll use Wizard for that class. Sorcerers and Rangers are later additions.

From the various stories, we know Merlin can Polymorph others, locate objects, become invisible, lock doors, open doors, clairvoyance and clairaudience, plant growth and charm monsters... all of which amount to 4th level wizard under OE. In some flavors, he was also able to talk with animals...

Morgan also can polymorph, and she's able to hold person on Merlin... and has a number of other things..

Both really do fill the bill for being 9th level wizards.
Gandalf is only using spells equivalent to a 5th level wizard, & he's a demigod, as well. (See the article in Dragon about this.)

The cleric really seems to be more akin to Van Helsing and the tales of the various miracle working bishops in the Lives of the Saints than the typical fantasy clergy pre-D&D — for what little I've read in Fantasy lit — the OE spell list is a good match to both the Lives of the Saints and to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, with a healthy dose of the various norse Goði.

The Wizard really is a good fit to the fiction base.

Rangers have several prototypicals which were explicitly mentioned in the article introducing them; again, the adaptation is reasonable, within the class/level/vancian-magic paradigm.

In all cases, yes, they do become their own thing, in the same way that D&D is now essentially its own genre

Now, to be fair, I don't generally read fantasy, save for the classics my mother used as bedtime stories. What I have read includes Howard (I've read a bunch of both Kull and Conan), Tolkien's Hobbit & LOTR, most of Anne McCaffrey's output, Bujold's Curse of Chalion, the first few Dying Earth novels, Costikyan's Cups and Sorcery books, the Lost Regiment series, half a dozen Dragonlance novels, A bunch of ERBoroughs, a smattering of others, and a number of norse sagas, several variations on arthurian myth (I wonder just how many drugs TH White was on...). And a lot of mythology — both Christian and classical Greco-Roman, and some norse.

That said, the Magic-User as introduced in D&D OE is consistent with the MU class abilites.
 

Phion

Explorer
To be honest some players are just made to be the face of the party and have a higher wit and charisma themselves that make them ideal for such classes with superior skills sets. Also the class tends to determine the style of face you play. If I intend to become a more of a social character I find my personality suits more of a mentor/advisor (druid/cleric) role or a straight up trickster (rogue swashbuckler) who charms people with a silver tongue and gets the party caught up into mischief; they are forgiven typically because it brings about good results or I have warped reality with my words to convince the good characters that it was not directly my fault.

However I could not be the face as a paladin as I don't really wield a personality that demands instant respect from the players or other characters which I personally feel I would need. As for the bard, I would struggle to be the face because I am not very good at story telling; it could be argued I could use the same style as my rogue but I think the danger of sneak attack and my general willingness to commit crimes to my benefit adds a element of....dare I say aggressive negotiations.
 

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