Thursday, February 19, 2009

The @%!&#! Bard

The bard has always been a pain in the ass. The original write up in the Player's Handbook was always a ridiculous concept (I have to become a high level fighter AND a high level thief so I can use druid spells and cast charm? Fuck that.

From the beginning we accepted players who just started off as bards, but honestly, it made a lousy character. The charm thing was flat out useless most of the time and even when it did work it seemed either too powerful for the level of the cleric or too stupid to be worth the time. Third edition just made the class into just another spellcaster. Most of all, in no way did it encourage the creation of a character anyone could respect (like a drummer in a rock band).

We played about with having bard characters write their own songs, arguing that "not everyone can be a bard," but overall it was too esoteric to make it playable. And yet there were always people wanting to be a bard, somehow...regardless of how lame the actual character was.

Perhaps someone in a magazine somewhere solved this problem. I never heard about it, I never had one of the forty or fifty people begging to be a bard in the last three decades toss the requisite Dragon magazine issue at me so that I could steal and adapt as needed. Everything I saw just looked more lame or far too powerful--and most of all, NEVER was anything I saw primarily focused on the art. So sometime around '94, I retired the bard and told wannabes that, sorry, I didn't run that class.

Until about three years ago. I started thinking about it again, starting with the premise that the whole "enchant" option had to go. I recognize that Orpheus and the Satyr and all the Greek mythos seemed to demand that a bard be able to cast a sweeping charm spell over crowds, and that "music hath charms to soothe the savage beast." But really, it always sucked. What if, instead, I founded a bard character upon actual artists, rather than mythological creatures? What ought actual artists to be able to do, and how might they affect others. I considered Michaelangelo, and the effect the statue of David had upon the city of Florence (he made dozens of Davids--it took more than a decade of attempts to create the masterpiece).

Watching the Longest Day, showing the piper walking straight into a firefight without a weapon, I thought, "That's what it needs! A brave, foolhardy bastard playing the pipes and winning the battle!"

The result is below. This is virtually all me, almost nothing being stolen from other sources. It may not be your concept of a bard, but I've played it and it works exactly as I'd want--the bard character in my world, at 5th level, has become someone to be reckoned with.

Note that there is less emphasis on spell "power" and much less emphasis on druidism. You might notice a few spells not appearing elsewhere. They are those which I have added with a distinctly "artistic" flavour. If anyone has suggestions on those lines, I will consider...the sixth level spells could use a few.

The Bard

The primary attribute of the bard is charisma. A character must have a wisdom and charisma ability of 15 each. Bards do not receive experience point bonuses.

Bards are artists; their primary abilities focus on the creation and presentation of their art—through artistic means, they have learned how to modulate and redirect the fabric of their universe. Most bards unite to form colleges, which help establish boundaries to the activities of recognized and rogue bards alike. However, since bards are of a highly individualistic nature, the bardic collegiate tends to adopt a “live and let live” perspective. However, they are not above exerting their influence to encourage others along paths towards the collegiate use.

Low-level bards are rarely wrapped up in such doings—indeed, they are hardly conscious of them. Their typical concern is an audience, their work and a place to bed for the night.

Bards profess at varying studies, but principal colleges focus upon music, painting, lyrics or sculpture; lesser schools train dancers, actors, jugglers and the like—would-be bards who are able to do little else rarely reach the first level of experience. However, bards often become interested in the lesser arts to round out their performances. Normally, a young bard makes claim to a single major form, but there is no requirement that this must be done—a Renaissance personality is sometimes adopted, as it was with DaVinci.

Bards have a six-sided die (d6) per level to determine how many hit points he or she has. Besides dedication to their art, bards also have some magical ability and are versatile with a number of weapons (they may use any which either a thief or a druid might use). They are able to wear chain mail armor but no better, and are prohibited from using a shield. A bard begins with two weapon proficiencies, gaining a new one every third level above first (at 4th, 7th, 10th, etc.). Bards are able to employ magic items normally employable by thieves or fighters.

EXPERIENCE NEEDED TO ADVANCE



200,000 experience points are required per level for each additional level beyond 12th. Bards gain 2hp per level after 10th.

At first level, a bardic rhymer will typically carry an instrument of choice, tools for writing, sculpture or painting and provisions.

ART

A bard’s primary weapon is art; through art the bard may bolster, pacify, compel or inspire opponents—through the mastery of various artistic forms. Each form is described below, and is limited by a combination of the bard’s level, chosen art form and endurance.

Martial Spirit

The bard has the ability, through the playing of martial music, to raise the morale and fighting spirit of his friends. The effect is similar to the second level cleric spell, chant, except that because it is not a spell, interrupting play does not affect the bard’s ability to return to playing (although it might result in a round’s interruption). All attacks, damage and saving throws of the bard’s allies are made at +1.

The bard is limited somewhat by his ability to play at such an intensity; in the space of a given day, a bard can play for 4 rounds per level.

The only other condition which must be noted is that the sound of the bard’s strains are limited in range to 60 feet, so that none beyond that range are affected by the bard’s playing.

Music is the only art form which may be applied effectively to this power.

Pacify

If the bard so wishes, he may potentially cause others to cease any sort of aggressive action through the telling of stories, playing of music or performance of a dance. The power of the bard enables one creature per level, per hour, to be affected. Creatures are allowed a saving throw against magic—failure indicates that the individual will lose interest in combat. They will not actively stop others from fighting, but they themselves will not fight. Subjects so pacified may help bind wounds or cast healing spells, or take any other non-aggressive action.

If an ally attempts to compel a pacified person to take an aggressive action, the affected individual will, for one round, strike at the ally before withdrawing to a defensive position. Attacking and causing damage to a passified individual breaks the effect.

Persons will remain passified for an equal number of rounds which the bard has been playing, up to a maximum of four. Thus, if the bard played for three rounds, the passified individual will be affected during the bard’s play and three rounds after the bard has ceased.

Dispel magic will return the affect individual to normal.

Work

Permanent art produced by a bard can have an influence over those who view it, as it has the potential to frighten, encourage or inspire. Such work refers to written materials, sculpture, painting or other permanent artwork (music is exempted).

In the creation of an artwork, the bard must expend time and, often, materials. Greater artworks are more expensive to produce, but will be viewed by more a greater number of persons, who in turn will feel its effects. Below is a table outlining the effort required to produce each quality of artwork.

ARTWORKS



Effort indicates the base number of weeks which must be expended in order to produce the work, per 10’ of cubed space; divide this number by the level of the bard to give the actual period of work involved. Thus, a tenth level bard would require only 212 weeks per 10’ of cubed space to produce a masterpiece.

Materials indicates the modifier to the base cost of the material in question; for example, if a block of marble were to be obtained in order to produce a crude work, it would cost only the value of marble as it usually appears in the equipment list. But for a masterpiece, the value of the marble would be 55 times that listed—on account of the unusual or unlikely presence of a high quality raw piece. The same would apply with regards to paints, canvases, vellum and so on.

Minimum level indicates the level needed to attempt such a work.

Any artwork is also limited the number of persons who can view the artwork at any one time. A book, for example, could only affect an individual able to read, and who took the time to do so—yet it might have a magic which would ultimately affect thousands, but not until those thousands were to read it. A book, however, may be copied by anyone, once the artwork is produced—enabling thousands of copies to be made, and thus the necessary viewers to be affected.

With regards to painting or sculpture, it may be presumed that the number of persons who may view the work is limited by its size; a small painting, even a masterpiece, would require time for people to come and view it. A huge monolithic sculpture, on the other hand, would enable thousands to see it at once.

The “effect” of the artwork is the power inherent in the piece. The maximum affected refers to the maximum at any specific, given time—people, by and large, when not viewing art will generally forget it, and the effect will be lost. As well, any single piece will not affect any individual more than once…though under particular circumstances, that may be a lifetime.

For example, let us suppose the bard constructs a flag, which is a masterpiece. And that this flag influences 6000 persons—this means that whenever in the company of this flag, these same persons will be motivated by the representation of that flag…to march into battle, let’s say. It may be that when they return to their homes, they are not under the influence of the flag—but when recalled, and given sight of the flag again, they will be motivated once more by its influence. In this way an army may be raised.

The intelligence of individuals will reduce the chances of success, with a –10% modifier offered to each point of intelligence less than 11. There is no corresponding bonus modifier for intelligence.

Success indicates the portion of the population viewing the item which will influenced upon contact. A masterpiece will affect nearly everyone. A crude artwork will affect hardly anyone. Thus, to influence that 1 person capable of being influenced by the art, it’s likely that 24 other persons viewing the piece would feel nothing about it.

Artworks are able to produce a variety of effects. Any artwork is designed to produce a specific effect and no other. The options are discussed below:

Motivation. Otherwise disinterested persons are inspired to take up a cause; a war, the destruction of an edifice, even the execution of undesirables (such as the St. Valentine’s Day massacre). The artwork conveys no special combat strength, only the motivation.

Fearfulness. The artwork will discourage others from taking up arms against whatever institution features the artwork, reducing the chance of national enemies going to war or local townspeople harassing the party’s home.

Fertility. The artwork will increase the likelihood of procreation among those able to view it. Maximum affected will be limited to the number of pregnancies which would be ongoing at any one time. Note that, in large kingdoms, a particularly successful fertility artwork would incur hatred, attempts at its destruction and possible long-term negative consequences (over population and such)

Settlement. Persons will wish to move to where the artwork can be viewed; the effect is limited by the distance by which the artwork can be viewed effectively. For each ten feet of cubed space the artwork occupies, 5% of the total maximum affected indicated will settle in the town or nearby.

Note that several bards may attempt a single work, particularly in the case of edifices. Add the level of all bards together and divide by the total required effort. The maximum number of bards which can work in a single 10’ cubed space is one (thus a painting the size of the Mona Lisa could not be shared out). Lesser bards may be involved in artworks where a sufficient level bard is overseeing their work. Maximum affected persons are increased by 5% for each additional bard of at least the 5th level that participates.

Intelligence

Note that all aforementioned effects are somewhat limited by the intelligence of the creature they are used against. Non-intelligent creatures are utterly immune. Animal and semi- intelligent creatures are subject only to music, but not to any form of emotion, such as that caused by compulsion or heartsickness. Low intelligence creatures cannot read, appreciate canvas painting or most esoteric designs; they might be affected by hideous, terrifying sculptures, such as gargoyles. Average intelligence and up are subject to all effects.

SPELLS

Bards have their own collection of spells, largely drawn from the backgrounds of clerics, druids, mages and illusionists—and a few which are special to only themselves. They gain spells much like mages, in that the spells take time to regain. Bards call this period “tuning,” and it is really a period in which they get in touch with their inner selves to recall how once they managed a particular feat.

SPELLS GAINED AT EACH LEVEL



SPELLS: FIRST TO THIRD LEVEL



SPELLS: FOURTH TO SIXTH LEVEL



FIRST-LEVEL SPELLS

Alarm

Range: 10’
Duration: until dispelled or tripped
Area of Effect: 20’ square per level
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

This is the same as the first level mage spell of the same name.

Animal Friendship

Range: 10’
Duration: 1 turn per level
Area of Effect: one animal
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

This is the same as the first level druid spell of the same name.

Animal Trance

Range: 25’ + 5’ per level
Duration: 3 rounds per level
Area of Effect: 3 hit dice per level
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Causes the bard’s music to enthrall creatures with animal intelligence, so that they will take no action but to listen; if the bard moves while playing, so too will those creatures enthralled, so that they will follow the bard. Where the bard goes, so too will the creatures—though not off a cliff, even if the bard himself were to step off and fall or fly. They can, however, be led into cages or hidden traps. Causing damage to a listening creature will break the spell.

Audible Glamer

Range: 70’ + 10’ per level
Duration: 3 rounds per level
Area of Effect: hearing range
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level mage spell of the same name.

Change Self

Range: self
Duration: 3-18 minutes + 2 minutes per level
Area of Effect: self
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the first level illusionist spell of the same name.

Command

Range: 60’
Duration: 2 rounds
Area of Effect: one creature
Casting Time: spoken word (1 second or less)
Saving Throw: negates

This spell is the same as the first level cleric spell of the same name.

Dancing Lights

Range: 40’ + 10’ per level
Duration: 5 rounds per level
Area of Effect: special
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the first level mage spell of the same name.

Friends

Range: self
Duration: 1 round per level
Area of Effect: 20’ + 10’ per level radius
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Except as noted above, this is the same as the first level mage spell of the same name.

Invisibility to Animals

Range: touch
Duration: special
Area of Effect: creature touched
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

This is the same as the first level druid spell of the same name.

Mending

Range: 40’
Duration: permanent
Area of Effect: one object
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the first level mage spell of the same name.

Message

Range: 240’ + 40’ per level
Duration: 5 rounds per level
Area of Effect: not applicable
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the first level mage spell of the same name.

Perception

Range: 120’ + 20’ per level
Duration: 5 rounds per level
Area of Effect: not applicable
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Enables the bard to be able to hear the minutest of sound, from the subtle whispers of a bare wind to the scratching sounds of an ordinary ant as it walks along. The bard is able to tune in to whatever is desired to be heard, so that a conversation in a busy tavern could be selected or whispered words spoken some distance away. In cases where the bard cannot identify visually what might be making a sound, the effects of the spell correspond approximately to the thieving ability, hear noise.

Remove Fear

Range: touch
Duration: permanent or 1 round per level
Area of Effect: 3 persons
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

This is the same as the first level cleric spell of the same name.

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter

Range: 25’
Duration: 1 round per level
Area of Effect: one creature per level
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

With either visual or verbal humor, the bard initiates a creature into laughter, so that it cannot stop for the duration of the spell. The humor of the situation will so grip the creature affected that it will fight only defensively, and at –4 to hit. Once affected, the creature will stumble drunkenly in a random direction at a speed of 5’ per round...it will continue to be affected even if it has stumbled out of the spell range (which applies only in the round in which the spell is thrown). Obviously the bard can move away from the creature.

Taunt

Range: self
Duration: instantaneous
Area of Effect: 2 hit dice per level within a 60’ radius
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

This is the same as the first level cleric spell of the same name.

Vanity

Range: 30’
Duration: 2 rounds per level
Area of Effect: two creatures per level
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Causes creatures within range to focus their attention on the bard’s actions, thus drawing them from hearing or seeing anything else. While this might have the effect of causing said affected creatures to attack the bard, they will be drawn from defending a doorway, attacking others who might be casting spells, obeying the orders of a commander or any similar action. If the affected creatures are attacked, or must face defenders in trying to attack the bard, they will fight at –4 to their to hit dice.

Ventriloquism

Range: 20’ per level (maximum 120’)
Duration: 2 rounds + 1 round per level
Area of Effect: one object
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the first level mage spell of the same name.


SECOND-LEVEL SPELLS

Accompaniment


Range: touch
Duration: 4 rounds + 1 round per level
Area of Effect: one additional bard per 2 levels above first
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Enables a given number of bards the power to increase their effectiveness by 20% per joined individual. This includes the time duration and area of effect of cast spells, as well as the bard abilities to pacify or play martial music.

For example, three bards join together to play martial strains during a battle. While the +/- to attacks and damage would require five bards to increase to the modifier to 2, the range on the martial strains would still be extended to 84 feet, or 17 hexes. The strains would then affect everyone who was within that range of any of the bards who were playing, who could increase their mutual effectiveness once the spell was cast.

Charm Person or Mammal

Range: 60’
Duration: one hour
Area of Effect: one hit die per level
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level druid spell of the same name.

Deafness

Range: 90’; see below
Duration: special
Area of Effect: one creature per three levels above 3rd
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the similar to the second level illusionist spell of the same name. By means of an instrument, the bard is able to extend the normal range to 90’ (through the creation of an unpleasant, but audible sound). If no instrument is available, treat the range as 60’.

Charm Person or Mammal

Range: 60’
Duration: one hour
Area of Effect: one hit die per level
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level druid spell of the same name.

Enthrall

Range: 40’
Duration: special
Area of Effect: spell range
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level cleric spell of the same name.

Forget

Range: 30’
Duration: permanent
Area of Effect: 30’ diameter circle
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level mage spell of the same name.

Forte

Range: self
Duration: one time, plus once per 2 levels above fourth
Area of Effect: 50’
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Produces a powerful shock-wave chord which will sweep through all able to hear in a wave radiating outwards from the bard. The effect will be to drive back all facing towards the bard to stagger backwards 10’. Those who are turned more than 120 degrees to the bard will move forward five feet. The spell does not distinguish between friend and foe.

Forward movement will be ended by the forte, and charging creatures will come to an abrupt stop. Creatures charging the in the direction of the bard at three times or greater speed will suffer 1-4 damage on account of the spell. Following the spell, initiative must be re-determined.

Creatures massing more than 500 lbs. will be moved no more than 5’ by the chord.

Grazioso

Range: touch
Duration: 6 rounds per level
Area of Effect: one creature
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Increases the dexterity of any creature by 1-6 points. This will affect the creature’s initiative, missile accuracy, thieving abilities, dexterity checks and so on. Dexterity may be increased to a maximum of 25.

Hold Person

Range: 60’
Duration: 4 rounds + 1 round per level
Area of Effect: up to two creatures
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level cleric spell of the same name.

Magic Mouth

Range: 10’
Duration: until activated
Area of Effect: one object
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

This is the same as the second level mage spell of the same name.

Pyrotechnics

Range: 60’
Duration: special
Area of Effect: 60’ from the source fire
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the third level druid spell of the same name.

Remove Curse

Range: touch
Duration: permanent
Area of Effect: see below
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the third level cleric spell of the same name.

Rope Trick

Range: touch
Duration: 2 turns per level
Area of Effect: special
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

This is the same as the second level mage spell of the same name.

Serenade

Range: 60’
Duration: permanent
Area of Effect: one creature
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Casts a powerful charm over the recipient, provided they are of the same race and of the opposite sex to the caster. The specific target must be identified, and if a saving throw is failed then they will fall in love with the caster. This spell will last until a dispel magic or remove curse is cast.

While the recipient will not become the puppet-slave of the caster, he or she will seek by whatever means are available to increase the power, influence, wealth or success of the caster. They will also seek to join with the caster physically should the opportunity arise, and beg for some form of permanent union.

The bard may cast serenade upon as many individuals as wished, but should any affected recipient encounter any other, they will fight to the death unless separated; further, both recipients will immediately seek to have the spell dispelled if not specifically addressed and reassured by the caster. Of course, this could involve recasting the spell, which would eliminate all former discords—but the bard may also seek to make promises or even carry the recipient away.

It happens that recipients that manage to have the spell abjured will often seek to bring about the death of the caster, just as before they sought his or her well-being.

Shatter

Range: 90’
Duration: permanent
Area of Effect: one object
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level mage spell of the same name.

Snake Charm

Range: 40’
Duration: special
Area of Effect: one snake per level
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level cleric spell of the same name.

True

Range: 90’
Duration: permanent; see below
Area of Effect: one object
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Fixes an object with precision, so that any flaws of measurement in the object will be brought into perfect alignment. Measuring devices will be exact in length and degree, corners will be made exactly perpendicular or surfaces placed so they are exactly parallel. The precise length of a rope or dimension of a surface will become known.

The spell also allows the accurate placement of foundation stones, the location in which a well should be placed (provided the water table is not lower than the spell range), where a mine entrance ought to be opened (although the direction of a vein is not determined) to ensure the least likelihood of a cave-in and so on.

Dangerously unbalanced structures or large objects will be revealed to be out of alignment with complete accuracy—even if such may not be visible to the human eye. A construction or mining crew daily assessed by means of this spell will be virtually safe from hazard. The spell duration for examining objects is 6 rounds per level—if the caster then chooses to “fix” a particular joint or brace, the spell comes to an end.


That's enough spells for the present. I'm sick of formatting them for blogspot.

3 comments:

Will Douglas said...

That may be the first actually fun bard I've ever seen.

I've played a lot of bards, but you're right -- they all end up kinda "meh".

This one, however...I think you really have something here.

I may need to volunteer for your game, just to take a crack at one.

Delfig Kôlhupfer said...

You had me at this: A brave, foolhardy bastard playing the pipes and winning the battle!

Of course, if he's able to sneak a bit 'o loot from somewhere, he'd be even happier.

Yea, bard/thief. I like this combo.

Max said...

Impressive, and versatile from a player's view point.

(And the spell True would sure come in handy for my bike tires. Never got the hang of doing it by hand.)