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- Join Date
- May 2009
Bardic College - College of Pied PipersLadies and gentlemen, children of all ages! Fiends, celestials and eldritch abominations too!
Because, you know, 5e has no more Outsiders...
My third attempt at homebrewing 5th Edition is, as far as I know, my first attempt to deal with the Bard. I actually played a Bard in 3.5 for quite some time (Jingo Ningel Jabberwocky Zen'kei-Jingles, to more adventures with you, you Yuan-Ti-or-Shulassakar-tainted Gnome!), and I had a good grasp of what I could do: I realized at that moment that I love playing support classes (almost as much as Paladins, which are...partially a support class!!), and I found the Bard could be powerful when dealt correctly.
Thus, I was...can I say horrified?...at the Bard rehaul in 5th. I should feel happy, because the Bard is really good; I'd probably play one (if it weren't because I want to play a Paladin, darnit!), but I was horrified at just how powerful it is. Truly, the Bard stopped being a master of none, while keeping its "jack of all trades" intact. A class that fights as well as a Fighter, has almost as many skills as the Rogue (and with Expertise, to boot!), and 9th level spellcasting from a pretty varied list...sure, the Bard spell list is not...wait, Magical Secrets!?
So yeah: because of Proficiency bonus (and College of War), the Bard is almost as good as a Fighter in its own terrain, except it has full spellcasting (thus, it is officially a gish); because of Expertise and the ability to choose between all skills (and College of Lore), it can be equal or better than a Rogue in its own terrain, and because of Magical Secrets and 9th level spellcasting, it could be better than nearly every other spellcaster. You can understand that I feel the Bard was overhauled way too much, and it edges dangerously to overpowered.
This isn't an attempt to curb its power, since after additional revision, the other classes happen to have their benefits (Action Surge, Extra Attacks and Battlemaster/Eldritch Knight make Fighter pretty good; Cunning Action and Sneak Attack make the Rogue super-good, and prepared spellcasters are almost as powerful as before), but I still believe the Bard is a tad TOO powerful (not to mention that it has Ritual Casting while being a genuinely spontaneous spellcaster, something other classes lack).
One thing I miss, though: Bardic Music (which is now known as Bardic Inspiration) is genuinely bizarre. The default effect is an Inspire Competence-esque effect, and Inspire Courage is now a College of War exclusive feature, so their ability to buff many allies has drained slightly, turning into a mild buff at best. This also means that many other powers got lost, including Fascinate (in fact, it didn't cross from the Playtests, where it was part of the "College of Wit" as Fascinating Performance). Eventually, it weaved with a pretty famous archetype; that of the Pied Piper, the multi-colored wind instrument player who could charm animals with its song. Finding a common trend between the two, I decided to blend the Pied Piper with the Fascinate ability and expand it beyond animals, which is reasonable as the end of the story has the Pied Piper fascinating children. It's simple, easy, but also very flavorful.
So, without further ado, my third attempt at 5e homebrewing.
COLLEGE OF PIED PIPERS
Bards of the College of Pied Pipers have a strong affinity for animals, particularly for vermin. The college has no official name, and its lore is spread between those few who dare to teach its secrets. They all can be rooted to a legendary bard whose peerless skill with wind instruments (some say flute, some say panpipes) entranced vermin. The tale speaks of how this bard travelled between cities, offering its trade to the citizens; those who paid had their vermin troubles swept away, but those who couldn't pay its exorbitant price suddenly found themselves robbed of what they loved the most. Legends cannot tell if the story is true, if the piper did this as a service or for wicked ways, but the secrets of controlling vermin were spread between enterprising bards who wished to sway creatures to their service.
Bards of this "college" are mentored by experienced "pipers", who teach them the secrets of the trade. They are not just skilled at entrancing music, but are experts at enchantments; the most experienced pipers can easily bend the minds of powerful beings, but they always find beasts and vermin the easiest to control. The power this bard holds can be terrifying when crossed; the tales say that pipers could take away children as punishment, but some claim that those same children (or rather, the youth) were sent to war, a cautionary tale of how the lure of beauty, power or simple enchantment can turn into a dangerous weapon.
ANIMAL AND VERMIN INFLUENCE
When you join the College of Pied Pipers at 3rd level, you gain proficiency in the Animal Handling skill.
Whether you already had proficiency in the skill or not, you can attempt to influence any beast of low
Intelligence (1 or 2) using your Charisma modifier rather than your Wisdom modifier when using Animal
Spoiler: Commentary on Animal and Vermin InfluenceMost Bardic Colleges grant extra proficiencies when you enter, so I decided to rework this into something available at 5th Edition; special applications of proficiencies. This is a hybrid of the Extra Proficiency feat and concepts such as the Knowledge Domain's class feature and the Stonecunning racial feature of Dwarves, which grants special benefits. Rather than apply double proficiency bonus (you still have Expertise slots), you gain the unique ability to expand its application to all beasts (not just animals) and to use Charisma, which is probably (if not obviously) higher than your Wisdom.
The shift from Charisma to Wisdom is probably where I deviate the most; while it is a viable choice for a DM to adjudicate, there are no clear examples of it. This makes an official change, which might seem iffy to some. This is also a slight return to 3.5 rules, where Animal Handling (or rather, Handle Animal) was a Charisma-based skill, rather than a Wisdom-based skill.
Also at 3rd level, you learn how to use your inspiring performance to sway the minds of those that can hear you. You can spend your action and expend one or more uses of your Bardic Inspiration in an attempt to fascinate a number of creatures equal to the result of your Bardic Inspiration dice that are closest to you; allies are not affected by this ability. All creatures affected must make a Charisma saving throw against your spell save DC; you add your proficiency bonus only when using a musical instrument you are proficient with, or if you have proficiency in the Performance skill. All creatures that fail their saving throws sit quietly and listen to the song (or watch your perfornace), taking no other actions for as long as the bard maintains concentration and continues to play (for up to 1 minute). While fascinated, the creature takes a -5 penalty on all passive checks (which is negated if the target has advantage on the skill). A creature is given a new saving throw if an ally of the creature spends its action to wake it up, or if it detects a potential threat with its passive skill. The effect ends on the creature if it takes damage from an attack or spell. The bard cannot use this ability in the midst of combat, but it can be used before combat begins.
Spoiler: Commentary on Fascinating PerformanceI must say this is a clever use of the Bardic Inspiration die (or dice), in order to create a multi-target ability. Something you'll notice about Bards is that they lack multi-target class features, and that's for good reason; while Monks and Sorcerers use their point pools to buff themselves (or the spells they cast), Bards use them to buff others. This is no buff, but rather a condition; the original version made it so that you could easily convince a lot of people.
The playtest version of Fascinating Performance made all fascinated creatures Charmed, with some additional effects. I chose to default to the 3.5 version, because Charmed can be pretty powerful; you are entranced by the music, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're charmed by it. On the other hand, it can be a powerful way to stop battles, since people remain still; thus, it can't be used on combat.
That said: Passive Perception is a cool way to work the issue of used vocabulary. Rather than say "when a weapon is drawn" or something, you simply use Passive Perception instead. However, to make it harder, I decided to place a penalty which is akin to imposing Disadvantage on a Perception check (which you can check on the Passive Checks section on the Basic Rules), so that anyone who tries to sneak upon has the possibility of doing so. Of course, an untrained individual attempting Stealth or Sleight of Hand against someone with at least a decent Passive Perception score will end up breaking the effect, and potentially inducing a domino effect that will ruin the Bard's efforts. I find this a cool way to handle the ability, since it can be broken pretty easily but it still can be useful.
Finally, it's a Charisma save, not a Wisdom save. Yes: mental assaults are usually Wisdom saves, but I find Charisma is more effective in this regard.
At 6th level, you add conjure animals to your list of known spells. You also add animal friendship, animal messenger and speak with animals to your list of known spells if you don't now them already; if you do, you automatically learn a spell of the same level or lower than the spell you already know. These spells do not count against the number of bard spells you know.
Spoiler: Commentary on Beast MagicIn short: it's like Magical Secrets, but with more options. On the other hand, all options are limited.
All four spells are thematically fitting: Conjure Animals could work as your song summoning creatures fascinated by it; Animal Friendship once again taps on the power of your connection with animals; Animal Messenger allows using animals for communication, and Speak with Animals allows you to learn from them. All share a common trend; they exert some sort of control over animals, imparting them with abilities they would otherwise lack. Thus, it should make sense that "beast" magic is related to beasts, at least on the control or improvement of them.
IMPROVED BEAST MAGIC
At 14th level, you add Dominate Beast and Insect Plague to your list of known spells; if you have learned them already (via the Magical Secrets class feature), you immediately choose two other spells of the same level or lower than the spell you already know. These spells do not count against the number of bard spells you know. Whenever you use a Dominate Beast, Dominate Monster or Dominate Person spell, you can spend one Bardic Inspiration dice to dominate additional creatures. You can dominate additional creatures you have previously fascinated with your performance, and only up to an amount based on the total number of creatures you have fascinated or your Bardic Inspiration die result, whichever is lower. You must spend an action to give the same command to all dominated creatures.
Spoiler: Commentary on Improved Beast MagicFeels kinda weird that the last ability this College grants is more spells, so I decided to work out something from the Playtest.
You see: in the Playtest, Bards were limited to 5th level spells. However, they got the ability to improve certain spells they learned, often by Bardic Inspiration uses (dice weren't implemented until the very end). To make this ability a bit more palatable, I decided that only THIS College would have the potential of making mass Dominations, but only if they had previously used their Fascinating Performance class feature.
This begs the question: why do this? Dominate spells were nerfed so that you couldn't dominate more than one person, because otherwise you'd have a veritable army at your disposal; furthermore, you could only concentrate on that spell, limiting your spellcasting potential. These restrictions are still part of the Dominate spell(s); what the ability does is providing some synergy by letting you expend a whole lot of Bardic Inspiration dice (which you can easily recover, mind you). The effort is somewhat less than Necromancy school minion-mancy, but you're never bound to the same people; since both abilities require spending an absurd amount of Bardic Inspiration dice, and the actual amount of people fascinated/dominated depends on the whim of the dice, you can rely on a certain amount every day, but they could fluctuate less or more.
To put in perspective: as a rule of thumb, by 14th level, the Bard has...perhaps one or two more uses of Bardic Inspiration than on 1st level (because of Charisma score increases). With Cha 20, that's 5 uses per day of a d10 size. Half of those uses go on Fascinating Performance, so that's around 11-17 people you can potentially fascinate during the day. The other half goes on Dominate, which would be around 12 people (average of 5.5, Dominate normally affects one person, so 1 + [5.5 x 2]); if you fascinate less than the result of your Dominate check, you instead dominate that amount, so the end result is somewhat lower. You have to do it all at once, so you don't have precise control over that effect, and when you do, you must remain concentrated or else you'll end up with 12 enemies beyond those you already had, which could easily become a TPK (thanks to Bounded Accuracy). It also depends on the spell slot used, because the effect could last only a few minutes at most (if you spend a 9th level spell, you have them entranced for a day). And...you spent all your Bardic Inspiration dice on that, so you need a Short Rest to work. Plus, you can't buff your allies or debuff your enemies because, well...Concentration.
So: it's a very powerful ability, but the system itself (with some help) has enough counters to make it a fair use. It's far more flexible than Necro-minion-mancy, so it might be cause for concern, though.
So: questions? Comments? Too early for 5e homebrew? Why, oh why, has WotC not called you already? Keep going with 3.5 homebrew and stop wasting my (as in, your) time? You sucked with 3.5 homebrew, don't think this will make it better? (Alternatively: you sucked with 3.5 homebrew, so let's give you the benefit of the doubt for 5e content?) Why are you making 5e homebrew with the same template? Why do you make such inane questions at the end, you fool!? WHEN ARE YOU GONNA MAKE/POST MOAR 3.5 HOMEBREW!?
- Join Date
- Aug 2011
Re: Bardic College - College of Pied Pipers
Quite pleased with this subclass, as it's another take on a classic Bard niche unrepresented by default. My concerns lie in its applications to actual gameplay.
First, the Fascinating Performance ability is brilliant. I have no real criticisms or suggestions there.
The 6th level ability, however, feels pretty underwhelming. A basic summoning spell, and then a small handful of related but HIGHLY situational spells? I could never, ever see this being chosen over Magical Secrets or Extra Attack. When compared to other classes, you have stuff like Monk basically getting the Shadow Dancer PrC, or Enchantment Wizards getting the ability to make attacks towards them hit other targets. I feel like either this should gain a second aspect, or be replaced entirely with a new feature. Maybe an actual non-spell ability regarding summoning creatures (ala the main character of Worm,) or some kind of Suggestion ability relating to performance?
Again at 14th level, while it does give you 2 spells not on Bard's list, they're spells pretty far under your character level. The additional ability is pretty good, but not -quite- enough to make up the difference.
- Join Date
- May 2009
Re: Bardic College - College of Pied Pipers
Animal Friendship, Animal Messenger and Speak with Animals are there because you're focusing on attuning to beasts. They're not part of the Bard's spell list, so they were added as early as possible. Dominate Beast and Insect Plague are the same - one lets you have full control over one (or many, based on Imp. Beast Magic) beast, the other lets you summon a swarm of locusts that deals a pretty decent amount of damage. It'd be unfair to sacrifice the Bard's limited choice of Magical Secrets (which pretty much lets it choose one spell of every level, something that definitely happens if you choose College of Lore) to choose 5 spells that fit the bill of the College of Pied Pipers, just as late (if not later), when you consider them sub-par. Animal Messenger and Speak with Animals are 1st level rituals, though, so it's not like you're gonna waste spell slots on them (and they're free, to be honest).
Finally...I did think of a Mass Suggestion effect. It fits pretty well, but the ability to increase the amount of Dominated people with the spells was both stronger and more balanced, so it got cut.
So, to sum it all up: I'm reticent to change the spells, since of all six, four are strictly thematically fitting and arguably useful choices. Suggestion is decent, but the Bard already gets the spell, and it wouldn't be fair to the Bard unless it was a Mass Suggestion effect that was keyed to the Fascinating Performance ability (as with 3e Bards), but the Improved Beast Magic effect ended up being, IMO, better and more balanced.
- Join Date
- Dec 2018
Re: Bardic College - College of Pied Pipers
I was just thinking that I wanted to make a bardic college based on the MTG card “yisan, the wandering bard” and this does a lot of what I was hoping to do with it in different ways.