Busting Stereotypes Part 6 – The Bard
They’re dandies in fine clothing, carrying the obligatory lute, and always ready to give a chipper song. Sure, they’ve not made their way in with 4th Edition, but word on the street has them coming in the PHB II. That’s right folks, I’m talking about the good old bard, one of the most maligned classes in all of D&D. However, bards are incredibly useful and don’t have to suck quite as badly as people think!
Of course, the first thing you need to do before playing a bard is make sure there’s plenty of role play opportunity for your character. Bards tend not to excel in combat, and players get bored inspiring their companions alone, so if you’re playing a hack & slash type campaign, take my advice. Play a rogue instead.
However, if you’re fortunate enough to have a heavy role play campaign, the bard can be a very useful class. With the typically high charisma, they make great diplomats. The 3rd Edition bards had healing spells that could serve a party well also. Bards aren’t completely useless in combat either, though to say their useful is a bit of a stretch.
Yep, but bard is a pretty cool class when played to it’s potential. But the stereotype is that of a performer who seems to want to play his lute more than anything else. So, how do you stay true to what a bard is good with, without playing the stereotype up to the hilt? Easy. Storyteller.
Most of the bards abilities are based on CHA. By making him a storyteller, you eradicate the dreaded instrument they typically lug around. He also has more chance to interact with people, possibly encouraging a DM to give them a plus to his bardic knowledge check. In addition to that, he may get synergistic bonuses to diplomacy, bluff, and intimidate! In short, the bard can be the “mouth” of the party! He’s definitely better suited to it than the arrogant wizard who thinks that everyone should kiss his feet anyways, right?
His dress can be muted, and he can carry a typical adventurers equipment. Perhaps he has multiclassed as a fighter or something, and therefore has some skill with a sword that even the average bard doesn’t have. So, what people would see is a man in regular clothes, carrying a sword and regular gear. Maybe some leather armor. NPCs would think “low level fighter” (if the DM wants them to anyways). Or, if dressed in finer clothing of a non-bard nature, perhaps a lower noble traveling through. Either way, nothing necessarily screams “bard” to anyone.
The bard, to break the stereotype, must be played against the stereotype. Most of what makes the bard unique is in 3.5 class abilities. As we still don’t know what they look like in 4th edition, no one can really speak of how that all will work, but I suspect they’ll be powers instead. Same difference really, as far as playing a bard. Those powers/abilities are necessary since they are what makes a bard!
However, the crunch doesn’t dictate how you play them. In truth, it’s trickier to play a bard against stereotype because the crunch doesn’t make it easy. However, if it were easy, the stereotypes would have been crushed long, long ago 😉