View Full Version : Bards!

2007-05-13, 05:23 AM

Ive played D20-based RPGs for a few years, and RPGs in general for >10 years. Recently, Ive become interested inte the Bard class. Ive neverseen it played, and never tried to play it myself. So, Ive decided that my next character will be a bard. This brings me to my questions:

1) Have any of you ever played Bard characters? How did it go? Is there any of you that only play Bards?

2) What roles can a Bard fill in a party? The class most striking feature seems to be its versatility. But does it perform well in any role? If so, what?

3) What possible avenues are there to develop the bard class into? My playing group tends to fall into powergaming (although not excessive). This makes me somewhat hesitant to play a Bard. I dont what to be the all-out-crappy-sidekick that only sings songs of competence.

Any input you would have will be greatly appriciated.


2007-05-13, 05:33 AM
I have several bards, though they are mostly low level (2-5). I quite like them too, and here's my general feeling of the class:

1) Bard, while a jack of all trades, does best when going Bard 20. Multiclassing often reduces his capabilities (fighter/bard/eldritch knight is actually a waste or etc.). One of my bards has multiclassed so much that he is more a warrior than a bard, and it does show up. He's fairly successful. My other bard stays back while disabling enemies with spells and shooting them with her bow.

2) Bard doesn't make a good melee combatant without heavy multiclassing (you aren't a bard then) or without amazing ability scores (which other classes could use better, of course). But with just a few feats, you can go more the archery route and always be a solid backup. Bardic songs, not particularly hard to augment, can be a great boon to the party. And most of all, a bard who picks his spells cleverly can rip through any humanoid encounter with ease. However, the bard isn't good vs. undead/constructs etc., where his spells usually don't work.

Of course, in an adventure where social interaction occurs a lot, Bard becomes much better. See the movie "Catch me if you can" for inspiration :)

3) So the conlclusion is... bard is okay, completely horrible and nigh useless if you make wrong choices about spells/style, but quite good if you play smart. Bards also scale favorably at higher levels, while starting out quite weak at the lowest ones. You won't deal big damage that way, but I do recommend them. After all, they're quite fun.

2007-05-13, 05:50 AM
Go for it Zid.

I used to be in the "why would anyone want to play a bard" camp, until I played one myself. I enjoy myself enormously.

One thing you have to realise about bards is that while they are very versatile, the don't often shine at any one role. You'll never deal as much damage as a fighter. You'll never be able to turn undead like the cleric. You'll never have as boomy-band spells as the wizard.

However, you will be able to contribute in a fight, especially if you have Disarm, Improved Disarm, Weapon Finesse and a whip. Enemies look pretty stupid having to pick up their weapons while the party fighter mashes them into the ground.

You can provide backup healing. Very useful if the cleric is out for the count.

While any wizard can cast fireball, many of the sonic-based spells are for the bard only, and not many monsters are immune to them. Also, you can cast haste and heroism, etc, freeing up the wizard's spell slots for his boomy-bang spells.

The bard really shines in social manipulation. Your party will never have to pay for a drink in a tavern...EVER! You will be able to talk a hostile enemy around to your point of view, convince the Lord that your party do deserve something a bit better for their services, trick those nasty monsters into believing that you are a party of polymorphed Drow just returning from a secret mission (true story). Intelligent monsters, at higher levels, don't really stand a chance if they let you get the first word in.

However, if your fellow players like to fight a lot, they might not appreciate the bard stopping fights before they start.

As for development and prestige classes, I haven't bothered. I took a dip level in fighter to get Weapon finesse, but that was it. I like the Heartwarder from Faiths and Pantheons (I think) and the Exemplar from Complete Adventurer, but my bard wasn't designed with a prestige class in mind. You'll want to think about that.

So, going back to the original point, give it a try, you might find that you're a natural born bard player.

Hope this helps.

Illiterate Scribe
2007-05-13, 05:54 AM
If you can get it, sublime chord is awesome. 9th Spells, partial bardic music progression, and abilities like the truenamer should have had. Basically, a Bard 10/Sublime Chord 10 is a sorceror with some extra stuff.

2007-05-13, 06:10 AM
Lets not forget that bardic songs can be very useful buffs. No need to touch, affect all allies. And +2/3/4 to damage can be very important for archers/ Two- weapon fighters.

2007-05-13, 06:10 AM
I used to have a friend who would play bards almost exclusively. I've never done the class myself but I really like some of the spells on the spell list. While I don't know how well a bard would fare in open combat, look at some of those spells: Glibness gives you a +30 (!) on bluff checks when lying, and protects against magically detecting lies. The bard has a respectable amount of skills and enough magic to be a very cunning and subtle opponent--very handy, as noted, against humanoid opponents, and in campaigns of intrigue and such.

Apart from the obvious use as a party diplomat, I think bards really are best in a support role, though. She could be a secondary combatant with archery, a secondary spellcaster, even a secondary scout/stealth character. But you really shine in situations with social interactions.

2007-05-13, 06:50 AM
I have played a few bards and they can effectively play as blaster/shutdown/faces.

The half elf bard substitution in Races of Destiny gives you a calm emotions effect removing one opponent from combat on a will save vs. your diplomacy check. This is a spell like effect so you will have difficulty against spell resistance but I have used it against a dragon and the dragon could only win his roll on a twenty. By level sixth this upgrades into command and you can disarm the calmed opponent, cast shatter on his weapon and move on to the next opponent while the party makes short work of him.

Blaster bards are best with the Lyric Thaumaturge PRC from Complete Mage. It lets you add the spell's level in d6's to the damage of any spell with the Sonic Descriptor. This means that you can shutdown all opponents within a hundred feet of you if they fail their will save and deal 2d6 damage to them regardless of saves with enthrall. You can make bad guys beat the crap out of each other on a failed will save and deal all of them 5d6 damage with Song of Discord. Even without the PRC, the feat Metamagic Spell Trigger is designed for blasting bards because it lets them expend charges on wands and staves to activate metamagic feats. A maximised, empowered shivering touch can drop almost anything. Sculpted, widened Evard's Black Tentacles control the battlefield. A bit pricey though since you go through wands like a hot knife through butter.

Face bards are the easiest bards to build.

2007-05-13, 07:18 AM
Bards aren't bad against undead and constructs... Well.. They aren't GREAT against them, however:

a) Nothing stops a bard taking Power Attack. It won't be as effective as for a full BAB class, but at higher levels it is still nothing to triffle with.

b)Grease is the bane of all things that walk on land. From time to time.

c)Summon Monster is your friend.

d)Positive energy hurts undead.

Nothing great, but you're not useless against them. In fact you are somewhat better than a rogue, monk or your average archery focused fighter/ranger (assuming his favoured enemies are not undead or constructs ofcourse)

But I've said too much... They'll get me...

2007-05-13, 09:13 AM
Face bards are the easiest bards to build.

Face bards? Im not really familiar with the term.

Also, IMHO humans seem to be a good race for bards. Have I overlooked anything?

2007-05-13, 09:54 AM
Face bards? Im not really familiar with the term.

Also, IMHO humans seem to be a good race for bards. Have I overlooked anything?

You are the "face" of the party. You do the negotiating, bargaining, fencing of the goods, gather information, etc. Basically, the social skills.

The Wizard is the brain.
The Fighter is the fist.
The Ranger is the eys/nose

2007-05-13, 10:30 AM
I like to play human bards. I won't go overboard because I am known to be a bard nut, but I can say that Bards can do anything they are properly built to do. I'd check your cache of books (group or personal) for the Complete Adventurer. It is very useful for a young bard. There are a few feats that make you feasible as a fighter type, but not godly.

Arcane Strike
Complete Warrior
Prerequisite: Ability to spontaneously cast 3rd level arcane spells, BaB +4
Benefit: Sacrifice a spell for +1 to attacks +1d4 damage per level of the spell for 1 round.

Snowflake Wardance
Prerequisites: Bardic Music ability. Perform (Dance) 6 ranks
Benefit: By expending one of your bardic music uses for the day, you get to apply your Charisma modifier to attack rolls made with one-handed slashing weapons.

Those two feats with power attack and haste can make a decent slasher, though I prefer to pass on the wardance and just use Arcane Strike with my bow from time to time. Your spells are really too valuable to just use for some d4s to your attack damage every 5 seconds. With Song of the heart (Ebberon) you get +1 to bardic music variables and the Spell Compendium has a L1 spell that also gives +1 to Inspire Courage called Inspirational Boost. I suggest them both. At L3 you can inspire courage for 3 damage and 3 attack. You just have to remember a few rules for a bard. You are attacked when you want to be attacked (Invisibility+Message or the Subsonics feat means you don't exist while singing if you don't want to) and that every enemy is just a friend you haven't magically dominated yet.

2007-05-13, 11:05 AM
The secret that I've found for playing a bard, is that you have 3 jobs. The first is to boost the party, the second is to be the face, and the third is whatever you choose. If you want to be a slasher, all the feats Ocato mentioned are great choices. If you want to be a melee disabler, the expertise line is yours. If you want to be a spellslinger, Lyric Thaumaturge or Sublime Chord make excellent destinations (Lyric Thaumaturge is the Blaster).

Also, if your DM allows it, the Words of Creation from the Book of Exalted Deeds is a great feat to pick up at level 15-18. At that level it boosts your Inspire Courage from +3 (+4 with Inspirational Boost) to +6 (+7) for a mere 3d4 nonlethal damage. Once you hit 20, you get another +1 to it's effect.

The role of party face is somewhat optional. It's not considered a vital position in most parties, and sometimes the rogue or whatever will want it. However, bards are really good at it, better than anyone else IMO.

2007-05-13, 06:20 PM
I think the role of offensive/defensive buffer has now become optional. No one plays fighters anyway. Everyone can manage or is even better on their own. Use your daily uses of bardic music on something else.

Other awesome feats: Disguise spell, lets you sing and cast without allowing others to determine that the spell is yours unless there is an obvioius emanation effect. Melodic Casting, lets you continue singing while casting spells. Keep them calmed/fascinated while laying the smackdown. Yes please. Two feats but its a cheap and easy combo for urban settings where you will want subtle offensives.

Now there is a feat in Complete Mage, I forget what it's called, it lets you add +2 to the dc of any Enchantment or Illusion spell you cast for every bardic music use you expend. This can basically ensure a failed save.

2007-05-13, 11:57 PM
I think the role of offensive/defensive buffer has now become optional. No one plays fighters anyway.

:smallconfused: Um, what? The Fighter class is hardly the way to go, but any front-line warrior class can take advantage of buffs. With Tome of Battle now in widespread use, fighter types are a very viable option.

Heck, a Fighter is decent at lower levels anyways.

2007-05-14, 12:14 AM
Early on in the game, a Bard can seem quite.. well... weak. However, this gives you more time to develop a character that can be very fun to play. The most enjoyment comes from taking a situation, and applying what skills you have to it creatively. Low-levels spells with a good saving DC, teamed with the right Bardic Music, can lead to very entertaining results!

2007-05-14, 12:29 AM
:smallconfused: Um, what? The Fighter class is hardly the way to go, but any front-line warrior class can take advantage of buffs. With Tome of Battle now in widespread use, fighter types are a very viable option.

Heck, a Fighter is decent at lower levels anyways.

Let's see:

Round 1: Level 1 party vs. a band of orcs
Halfling Rogue: Sneak Attacks Orc, drops orc.
Half-Elf Bard: (Chooses between singing Inspire Courage or using Soothing Voice) Uses Soothing Voice. Neutralizes orc.
Half Orc Fighter: Charges, drops an Orc.
Halfling Wizard: Color Spray, drops two more orcs.
Human Cleric: Charges: drops an Orc.

Bad guys down. Which may not be the case if the bard used Inspire Courage. It takes effect after the bard's second round. Unless we are talking about twenty four hour buffs. But given the short list of spells and limited spells per day, bards should think twice against buffing anyway. Haste and fly definitely, but the wizard gets those earlier.

Since blasting is not a party role that the wizard should be considering, that role is easy to fill for the UMD using Bard. He has access to Decipher Script, Spellcraft and UMD, netting him a +9 on UMD checks on scrolls at level two before ability modifiers. The wizard scribes the area blaster spells and bard uses them and succeeds at a roll of a twelve or better.

2007-05-14, 12:37 AM
Bards aren't bad against undead and constructs... Well.. They aren't GREAT against them, however:

a) Nothing stops a bard taking Power Attack. It won't be as effective as for a full BAB class, but at higher levels it is still nothing to triffle with.

see also not taking it and using heroics (spel commpendium, not heroism from the phb) this INANELY useful spell is even castable multiple times, so your barde can actually have powerattack and shocktrooper for ZERO feats for the low cost of a handful of second level spells. beat that with arcane strike, i dare yas. :smallbiggrin:

as far as undead go, isn't that why you are traveling with a radient servant? seroiusly, only sublime chord/paladin gish type bards see real benefits there as i understand it.

PS: phb2 has a nice feat called apprentice which is a must for any multicalssing bard, as it allows you to advance your UMD (yes, every bard should take this skill at max ranks) and perform on non-bard levels.

2007-05-14, 02:25 AM
1st: According to the SRD, only 1 bardic music ability (Inspire Heroics) requires the listeners to hear the bard sing for a full round, unless it's written otherwise somewhere else, the rest of the base bardic music abilities take effect immediately.

anyways, I don't know about the campaigns I haven't played in, but in the ones I have been in, most important fights last more than 4 rounds, making Inspire Courage much more viable. Boosting spells are more situational at low levels, but keeping Remove Fear and Joyful Noise on your spell list is never a bad idea.

Other than keeping that in mind, you can pursue life as a booster, or take another path however you desire, but never discount the usefulness of your boosting melodies.

However, if your party is made up almost exclusively of spellcasters, you are probably better off taking Captivating Melody (CMage) and spending your music uses to raise the save DCs of your enchantments.

2007-05-14, 08:08 AM
I play mostly bards, and in most of my friend's circles am known as the "Other Bard" (I argued that Shakespeare and a few other poets allready held the title of "The Bard").

I agree with the three facets outlook. Bards should always be buffers and faces (those are the classes two primary features). Then, it is up to you on the third. I tend to go toward either blaster or swashbuckler (via seeker of song or sublime chord).

If you tend to powergame, Lyric Thaumaturge--CM--is one of the best ways to do it at low levels. A single level of Ninja (with Ascetic Mage--CAd) or cleric (with divine might, divine shield, etc--CW) are good choices if you want melee (both make your Cha more useful). A level of spellthief (with Master Spellthief--PHB2) gives you some cool options, trapfinding, and sneek attack. A couple of levels in the Marshal class and the right Auras gives you some excellent Cha based buffs, which generally fit well with the rest of your class abilities. These generally don't kick in until mid levels though, and I highly recommend not multiclassing (except into prestige classes).

For prestige classes: Sublime Chord or Seeker of the Song--CAr--are great, but don't kick in until tenth level. Spellsinger--RoF--can allow you to combine those two prestige classes. The Lyric Thaumaturge gives you more and better spells. The Arcane Duelist--Online at WOTC--is useful for a couple levels to give you more melee. If you are looking for a celtic flavor bard, go for the crazy multiclassing and take the Fochluchan Lyrist (sp?)--CAd-- which gives you dual spell progression in druid and bard, bardic music, and full BAB, but you generally need to take some levels as rogue (and possibly fighter). Most other prestige classes are sub-par, but only if compared to these. They can add fun flavor (for a jack of all trades you can't beat Chameleon--RoD--or Master of Masks--CS), which can be far better than mechanics, and their mechanics can be very useful as well.

If you are inclined to play a swashbuckling type character, the Zorro whip and rapier style is a very viable option, since you can trip with the whip (or whip dagger--S&F--which is a far better option) and stab away. If you want to use a whip, consider talking to your DM about a house rule where you threaten opponents within 10ft for AoO, or one where you don't provoke an AoO when attacking while threatened.

2007-05-14, 09:46 AM
1) bards are a lot of fun, and have their uses in so many parties. the are best as the faces or enhancers (buffers more mesh for those who fit into the war role like a wizard/cleric, a bards tricks are better to be used with other select spells instead of simply bull's strength. get the spell compendium for a lot of fun spells for the bard.) personal fav bard was a fighterish build made to go along with a warmage. more built along a battler than a buffer, but still a blast. (bard9/spellswrd 1 warror skald 2 riht now)

and keep in mind compared t CoDzilla and 8-9th level spells, yes a bard seems weak. in reality it functions and meshes well it just isn't a wizard or cleric.

2007-05-14, 11:15 AM
1. I played a bard over about 40 sessions from 7th lvl to 12th lvl. I was able to make a meaningful contribution to the party, buffing up our fighter and ranger (archer type) and doing about 50% of the party healing job thru inspire greatness (with the song of the heart feat). Also helped get the party out of trouble with dimensional door and acted as the party's face, helping us avoid combat and talk our way into places and interrogate prisoners.

My biggest issue with my experience is that oftentimes the most beneficial option to helping the party suceed is to buff with either songs (greatness is great to burn for helping a party member avoid damage) or spells (haste, blur, greater invis, displacement, etc). I find this task boring when repeated in 90% of the combats. "Daren plays bard song[courage]", "Daren plays greatness on Victoria", "Daren casts haste" became very common statements for me. Sure, I expanded to make the statements more interesting towards the beginning, but when it's the 70th time you've executed the action the novelity is sort of gone.

2. Buffer, backup healer, skill-monkey, and interrogator. Bards do not fill the traditional tank role well (past placing 1001 buffs on them in which case even a wizard's familiar could fill that role) or the damage dealer role of the party. Bard's excel at helping others suceed in combat. Depending upon the books allowed they can even help casters. At the least they can help melee/archer builds and free up some healing from the cleric so they can use their offensive spells.

A bard makes a decent character for a solo game or as the 4th or 5th party member (I don't count a trap finder as an important role in 3.5 due to the way traps are commonly handled with the skill system).

3. Other people have answered it with more options than I know. My biggest piece of advice is obtain swift/free/immediate action items to use. A staff that casts quickened magic missile would be a good example. Singing a song and then UMD a staff in the same round will let you help out on multiple fronts at the same time. If you do go this route, you should have the money on an even split of loot because you don't need to spend the same amount on spellbooks, armor, or weapons as the other classes do.

2007-05-14, 06:14 PM
A quicken metamagic rod doesn't affect UMD, spell completion magic items are always standard actions.

2007-05-14, 11:17 PM

Thank you for the correction, learn something new every day. I wasn't talking about using a rod to do it, rather for the creator of the staff, but I see that it does not matter either way.

Then I'll change the example in part 3 to:
Get a staff/wand that casts cloud of knives(PHB 2). After activation you can use the free actions every round while singing or casting spells.

Fax Celestis
2007-05-14, 11:22 PM
A quicken metamagic rod doesn't affect UMD, spell completion magic items are always standard actions.

Unless you take the Metamagic Spell Trigger feat.

2007-05-15, 12:22 AM
I've found that bards get better as your party gets bigger. In a standard four person party your team would be much better served by someone who fulfills one of the 4 core roles better then a bard (tank, skill-monkey, arcane caster, and divine caster).

In a 5+ person party not only do bards have more allies to hit with their bard songs, they allready (hopefully) have allies in all the core roles, and thus they can change their focus to picking up slack rather then filling a role they arn't ment to play, adding more utility and allowing the other party members to branch out a little.

While bards do have a few areas they excel (social interacting, enchantment and illusons) they tend to do better at making their team better then being good all by themselves. Being a bard is a thankless job oftentimes, you make the entire party better, but since you do very little on your own it looks like your not doing anything.