Class Acts: Bards
Welcome to a new and exciting series, wherein your beloved bard delves into the wide and often murky world that is class selection. Important to almost any tabletop role-playing game, the class exists to give each character a particular set of skills.
"Mr. Neason's is a level 20 Badass."
In this inaugural article, I shall explore a class that is very near and dear to me, but in no way was chosen as a result of bias or personal preference. Absolutely no way that my decision-making skills would be compromised by favoring one class above all others to lead the way into this new series.
I am as skilled a liar as I am a proofreader.
Behold, my friends; today we shall focus on the master of immortality. The silver-tongued scamp that can sway kingdoms and make angels weep with the strum of a lute or the simple fingering of a flute (mind out of the gutter, perverts). Yes, of course, we are speaking of...
"When people told themselves their past with stories, explained their present with stories, foretold the future with stories, the best place by the fire was kept for the storyteller.”
Bards have long held a place in Tabletop RPGs as great minstrels and chroniclers of heroic (or villainous) deeds. They sing songs, recite epic poems, recall timeless stories, and often use their charismatic abilities to sway the hearts of all (especially the occasional barmaid or stable boy)
To say a bard is a person of many talents is an understatement. By virtue of their profession, they are required to accumulate and eclectic skill set. You see, when folks think of a bard, they think of William Shakespear or some medieval minstrel strumming a lute in a king's court, and while this is true of many bard in tabletop settings, the truth is entirely more badass.
There are minstrels and storytellers, fools and criers in every corner of the world, but while every bard could be one of these professions, not many members of these professions have what it takes to be a bard. Bards are more than just musicians and tellers of tales, they are chroniclers of these things.
"If you want to be anything more than a cliffnote in history, you'd best sell yourself harder."
If a song gets written about a great battle in the north, where frost giants riding mammoths attack a dwarven citadel, the bard isn't the type of person to get second-hand accounts of what happened. There is no passion in the words. Instead, our musical maestro is at the battle (possibly in it), so that they might see first hand the passion of the struggle, the rise and fall of heroes, and the outcome, tragic or inspiring.
"Spoiler alert: We won."
Bards witness (and sometimes engage in) battles, so they train to be just good enough in combat to keep themselves alive long enough to compose what they've seen. They're well versed in history, arcane lore, and religions because many of the greatest stories ever told have already happened, and some of the greatest stories yet to be told have ties to that which has come and gone. And, if you have ever read The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfus (one of my favorite books of all time), you know full well researching into folklore can be a dangerous prospect, especially for poor Kvothe's parents.
They are versed in wilderness survival and lore because a bard never knows where their next epic will lead them. They are skilled in deception, persuasion, and sometimes intimidation, for the tongue can open doors that are otherwise closed. They are proficient in magic, for song and story are some of the oldest magics known, and if you are going to be knee deep in just about any situation, you are going to want a spell handy that can get you out of said situation.
Bards are often chastised because they can do everything, but take this into consideration, my friends; bards are good at a little bit of everything because that is what is required of them. For survival, for fame, and to be able to relate the greatest stories ever told, be it through song, poem, stage, or the spoken word.
"Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?"
That Perfect Missing Piece
We all know the "Big Four" of the classic tabletop game; The fighter, the wizard, the cleric and the rogue. These are the four go-to classes and have been since the very beginning. Rightfully so, I might add. Each of these classes brings something to the table the others do not. The fighter brings skill in combat and the ability to withstand a lot of punishment. The wizard has arcane spells that they can conjure up to bolster fellow party members or rain doom down on enemies. The rogue is built for stealth, infiltration, sudden spikes in massive damage, and of course, trap disarming. The cleric is the spiritual leader of the party, full of sage-like wisdom and divine capabilities that do more than just heal, but folks really like focusing on that healing thing.
"If you insist on throwing yourself on daggers, then I am switching religions!"
Sometimes, however, a lot of folks don't want to play these classes for one reason or another (cough-cleric-cough). In steps the bard. The bard can easily step into any of these roles at any given time. though they are not as proficient as their counterpart. They can fight almost as well as a fighter, sneak almost as well as the rogue, cast many spells that a wizard might prepare, and have enough healing spells to keep their companions alive... for a time. The bard is the ultimate switch-hitter, stepping in and out of roles like a seasoned actor. In some cases, they can even exceed the capabilities of the role they are assuming. It is this ability that allows them to the most versatile class in the game. Even if you have the "Big Four" in a game, the bard makes the perfect 5th member, able to slip into the role of any character that has fallen in combat, been imprisoned by the bad guys, or just can't do their job.
Pipes Of Gold And A Tongue Of Silver
To say that a bard's most useful ability is their uncanny charisma is like saying wizards are kinda clever. The very core of what a bard is stems from their charisma. If flows like a fine wine; silken and smooth, and in the right amount it can make your head light and your spirits lighter.
Mechanically, just about every major class ability has some hand in charisma. . When a bard casts a spell that requires a save, it comes stems their charisma modifier, but really, what does that mean?
A bard has a persona, a force of personality so profound that it coeleces in the ability to warp and change the word around them. You are not seeking old incantations in dusty tomes, beeseeching a divine power, tapping into latent magic in your blood or making unholy pacts with dark forces. You are the magic. Your song, that can move angels to tears, your word that can stop the axe of a cold-hearted executioner, your retelling of a tale that inspires your companion to feats they never knew they were capible of.
You supply the magic. It comes from no other source than the beautiful, profound and aching soul of an artist.
And that, my friend, makes you far more badass than the other magical pretenders. If a wizard is a God, than you are the voice of God, the hymns of the angels, and the writer of the holy texts. In short, the only reason people know there is a God at all is because you wanted them to know.
"Just fight the war and use your music as a weapon."
As a bard, I felt it was my duty, and my privilage to educate and enlighten on the why of of my people. If game night fast approaches, and you find yourself ready to set off on a new adventure, then I hope you consider the joys that come with playing the most diverse, interesting, and sinfully fun class out there. A being who, from level one, already knows the secret to immortality; song and story.
Roll well, my feiends,
+Ed The Bard
Need a little more versitility in your already versitile bard? Kick in the door to the Open Gaming Store. They have a mountain of affordable aids to help you be all the player you can be. Just tell them Ed The Bard sent you.
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