Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reworking the Bard

As I mentioned last May or June when I was preparing my currently running campaign, the bard is among the classes I would like to allow. However, I find the AD&D 1st edition bard to be an unsuitable mess, and I've had an inquiry from a potential new player wishing to be a bard. This forces me to do something I have been meaning to do, which is to rework the bard for my game. I'd like him to maintain his old, druidic, kind of Celtic/Germanic feel. At the same time, I don't want the bard to be a proto-prestige class. So, after perusing the internet and various PDFs I have (legitimate) access to, I have started cobbling together a middle-of-the-road version of the bard. Please feel free to critique or offer thoughts. So, the Save vs. Poison take on the Bard:

Ability Requirements: Strength 9, Dexterity 9, Wisdom 13, Charisma 15, Comeliness 12. Bards do not gain bonus experience for high ability scores.

Races Allowed: Human, Half-elf. A half-elf is limited to advancing to the 13th level. For every point of Charisma above 15, he may advance an additional level.

Alignment: At least one axis of a bard's alignment must be neutral. (Neutral Good, Lawful Neutral, etc.)

Hit Dice: 1d6 per level from 1st through 9th level. Beginning at 10th level, the bard receives 2 hit points per level, unmodified by Constitution.

Weapons Permitted: The bard may become proficient with a battle axe, hand axe, club, dagger, knife, dart, javelin, scimitar, sling, staff, sword (any), spear, or bow (but not crossbow) A bard may use flaming oil in combat, but can only use poison if evil.

Armor Permitted: Chain or lighter; shield permitted. Note that armor heavier than leather will adversely affect a bard's thieving skills, and a shield will preclude the casting of spells and some bardic abilities.

Initial Weapon Proficiencies: 2, gaining a new proficiency slot every three levels. Bards suffer a -3 to attack with a weapon that they are not proficient with.

Combat: Bards attack using the fighter matrix. Note that bards may not specialize in weapons or gain additional attacks per round as a fighter does.

Saving Throws: A bard saves as a thief.

The bard's abilities are as follows:

-A bard can Pick Pockets, Detect Noise, Move Silently, and Hide in Shadow as a thief of the same level. However, his skills may never exceed 95% A bard may also Read Languages, though his percentage is equal to his level multiplied by five. A bard may reach 99% maximum skill in Read Languages.

-A bard may use spells. Bards originally learned their arts from the druids, though over time they have developed a versatile spellcraft all their own. Bard spells are words of power taken from the druid tongue and turned into songs. The spells are taken from the other spell lists, but with these changes: a component of V indicates that the bard must sing loudly use the spell, an S indicates that the bard must play a two handed instrument to invoke the spell, and material components are ignored altogether. A bard prays for spells in the same manner as a cleric or druid. Bards progress in spells at the rate shown in the AD&D PHB1 index. (I'm still working on the list of bard spells and I shall post them when I am finished)

-A bard can charm with his music, as the magic-user spell. The ability works as charm person at 1st level and charm monster at 7th. The percentage is listed in the PHB1. Unlike the spell, the effect of a bard's music ends when he stops playing. In addition, attack from any creature or sufficiently loud noise will end the effect immediately.

-The bard has a chance to know something about a legendary person, place, or item, and a chance to discern the function of any magic item he observes closely. Percentage chance is found in AD&D PHB1.

-A bard can attempt to sway the reactions of a group of NPCs. The maximum size group is equal to five individuals per level of the bard. The group must be able to hear and understand the bard. The initial attempt takes a full round, and cannot be used on a group already in combat or who are clearly in danger. (Such as if the bard's companions are threatening the group, etc.) If the group has a clear leader, the leader may save for the entire group. The saving throw is vs. spells, with a -1 penalty for every five full levels the bard has attained, rounded down. If there is no leader, the saving throw is made at the level or Hit Dice of the highest member of the group, but at a -1 penalty. Success means the bard can sway the group one level toward the friendly or hostile range of reactions. On a failure, a group trying to be made friendly moves one more step towards hostile, and a group trying to be moved towards hostility is unaffected. The bard may try this but once per day on a given group. Note that a group that saves against the bard is immune to his musical abilities for the remainder of that day.

-A bard may attempt to rally the party and all friendly NPCs within 30 feet. The bard must play, sing, chant, orate, or otherwise communicate for two full rounds to activate the ability. During this time, the bard may move and may even engage in melee combat, but cannot cast spells or use other bardic abilities. Once activated, the ability lasts one full turn, and grants the recipients a +1 to attack rolls and +2 to saving throws against any effects that would cause fear, charm, or other mental/emotional influence. Allied NPCs receive a 10% morale bonus in addition to the aforementioned benefits. Obviously, the allies must be able to hear and understand the bard to receive the bonuses.

-A bard's singing or playing will negate the effects of a harpy/siren's song, or any other monstrous ability relying on song. The playing or singing of a bard will also still shriekers.

-A bard learns additional languages according to the table in the PHB. He may learn the druidic language, which is normally not taught to outsiders. A bard may also learn thieves' cant provided he can find a willing teacher.

-A bard may use any magic item usable by thieves, fighters, and druids. A bard may read druidic scrolls once he has learned the druidic language.

-A bard will never serve as a henchman to another longer than 1d4 months. A bard cannot employ henchmen until 5th level. A bard will only accept henchmen who are of the fighter, thief, or druid class, and only humans, elves, and half-elves. A bard will at first employ a single henchman, attaining additional henchmen at levels 8, 11, 14, 17, and 20. A bard who advances to the 23rd level can employ as many henchman as he chooses. These maximums for henchmen are superseded by the number of henchman allowed by the bard's Charisma score.

Anyone with thoughts, feel free to chime in.


  1. Very nice.
    --I especially like your Bardic Magic and the ability to learn Druidic ogham.


  2. nullify siren songs that would have been nice yesterday

  3. Yes, I feel that this would work very well. For a start, I can understand it - and visualise playing one, either as a PC or NPC. I think I'll borrow it for my Elesalia campaign, where I reckon it'll fit right in.

    We'll have to find something else to gripe about in 1e now - psionics, anyone?

  4. Ryan, I'd like to link you to Alexis's Bard variant for AD&D. I've been playing a bard in his blog online campaign and it's been a lot of fun! My combat rolls have been unlucky, but the spells have really come in handy (I have Perception, Friends, Command)

  5. Looks good.

    One question... would Bard spell casting be at all effected in the Gammaworld like platform that the party is currently in?

    I have never played a druid, or a bard that can employ druid magic... so this is VERY exciting. Looking forward to fleshing it out. A W E S O M E!

    The one thing I noticed that is "off" is that earlier in the post is says... bards to not get experience bonuses for high scores, and then later, it implies (at least in the build you sent via email) A bard with Wisdom and Charisma of 16 or greater receives a 10% bonus to all earned experience. Either way is cool with me.

    Nice moves!

  6. Kent-

    I had to edit a few bits of errata in the post. Unless I missed a second instance of the incorrect rule, bards shouldn't gain any bonus XP. (Similar to the assassin and the barbarian)

    To address your other question, the party currently has a druid, and had a previous druid who was killed in a laser fight earlier in the party's expeditions on Tarraxian. I established that druids are able to attune themselves to an alien world's nature, thus being able to use magic, though the parameters of their spells might change somewhat. I would imagine that bards can do the same thing.
    Bards do draw heavily from the druid spell list, but they are also able to use spells equivalent to some magic-user, cleric, and illusionist spells. (Though they all function the same way and are considered bardic/druidic magic) I'm still working up that spell list, which I will hopefully have finished and posted Friday or Saturday.