Friday, March 1, 2013

Tuned to the Urban: Bards

Early yesterday afternoon I was ready to sit down and write some piece about bards being in tune with a city's culture the same way thieves are with money and assassins are with personality.  But then yesterday proved to be an odd day.

Part of my plan in selling my book has been to do public readings, and towards that end I walked over to a place downtown called The Auburn ... where they play music, where there's an open mic, where there's an opportunity to read your stuff to a large audience of strangers in a large, open air venue.  Here's an image from the website, more or less from the direction of the stage:

Back in November, when I was still trying to wrap up Pete's Garage, I sat with the the very cool, laid back, artistic owner - I think he's a guitar player - and worked out some of the details for 'borrowing' the space for a book launch in March ... and since I actually received the hardcopy of the book Wednesday, I went around to the Auburn to show it off and hammer down the final details ... or I would have, except ... well ...

The two notices in the window describe how Jesse, the owner, managed to let the Auburn fall $32,000+ behind in the rent.  The second notice discusses how the first notice was basically ignored, and that as of February 19, the place has been seized and is now no longer in business.

And standing in the cold outside, there's the cold, brutal reality about musicians.  They fuck everything up.

I know the gentle reader would like me to talk about really cool art schools and music colleges run by centuries-old organizations that produce bards of inordinate quality, but I gotta tell you - it just ain't happening.  Musicians, swear to gawd, just don't give a shit about organization.  They're not tuned into the 'scene.'  Jeez, half the time if you talk to them in a bar - as I did afterwards, making my way over to one of the musician's haunts in the city called Mike's Juke Joint - they haven't a freaking clue about the running of the establishment itself.  Let them run wild in a free space and they will destroy it ... I've seen that happen over and over again.

They care about music.  Specifically, their music.  They're shit at coping with ordinary people, they have trouble facing down the complexities of paying rent, they're oblivious and self-oriented and for the most part subject to the ebb and flow of shit they don't care about.  Gawd love the bastards, they're possibly the best people on the planet, but if you're looking for me to write something about how they're "tuned in" to city life in some way that offers a practical D&D mechanic for a party, you are sorrowfully looking in the wrong place.

I challenge anyone to name up a musical school or college that hasn't been state run, and therefore filled with people with rods and canes to keep the musicians in line.  The most successful, independent, long-term organization of artisans - music and other things - that I can rack my brain to come up with is the entire culture around the Japanese geisha ... which was isolated and rigid in the extreme.  Take a talented geisha and drop her into a city - a Japanese one, obviously - and what is she going to be able to tell you?  Nothing.  Seriously.  She knows geisha.  She does not understand what other people do.

Now, this is not a weakness.  Put her in a room with eight men and she will own that room.  This is true with any confident musician - and therefore, bard.  Room, 8 people, bard ... bard owns the fucking place.  But not because the bard has any special knowledge about the audience - if fact, the bard probably knows - or cares - jack shit about the audience.  That doesn't matter.  Fact is, the bard is the most interesting person there, the bard knows it, and everything revolves around the bard.

That's what makes them such crappy businesspeople.  They get their space, they let themselves get really comfortable, they love what they have ... but deep down inside, they know its fleeting.  Actually working at keeping the thing alive is not in their nature.  Man, that would be work.  Work sucks.  As the musician told me repeatedly at the bar last night - as we got drunk on drambuie and coffee:

"Playing the shit Britney Spears plays, that ain't selling out.  Playing weddings and office parties and shit, that isn't selling out, either.  You want to know what selling out is?  It's working a job for an oil patch company to pay the fucking bills.  That's selling out."
  And he's right ... in a way.  'Selling out' is giving a crap about anything except music.  So long as you're still playing, and you're not buying into the daily grind, you're still an artist ... man.  This guy - he was working for an oil company.  He told me about how when he'd been 18, he'd toured Hard Rock Cafe's around the world, and how they'd been too fucking busy to drink or do drugs, and about how there were people on their necks all the time making them practice and perform and hauling their shit from venue to venue.  That's why it rang true - because he described it as work and he described it as slavery.  He had loved it ... you could see in his eyes that he had loved it.  But 'Music,' he said, had ruined his life.  It made it next to impossible for him to tolerate everything that had come after.

He was 44.  I'm 48.  And as we talked, and as I beat down his closed doors one by one, we got down to the brass tacks of what makes artists do the shit they do.  It took awhile to get a chisel between the jamb and the door for some of them, but that's my way ... and as he unloaded on me, and felt like he could talk about what he loved without being judged, he began to remember what it had been like to be 18.  He told me so.  And he told me how good it felt.

I don't know why musicians close themselves off.  It's a protection racket, I think.  A safety feature.  I don't think a 15th century bard would have been any different.  The problems are the same.  The drive is the same.  The expectation of the audience and the expectations they have for themselves are the same.  Perform.  Be brilliant.  Don't fuck it up.

In the midst of it all, he asked me point blank what the point of my book was.  He stared so hard at me I thought I was going to fall off the stool.  He was challenging me and I met him eye for eye.  "It's about getting past everything you've lost, and grabbing what you can still get."

And he went on staring at me for about twenty seconds, and I stared at him.  I knew what he was looking for.

"I'm buying that book," he said.

And he did.

Was a strange night.  I think I know musicians pretty well.  I don't think there's such a thing as a bard that could walk into a strange town and tell you anything about what the people in that town wanted, or how they related to one another.  But if there was a musician playing where a bard could hear, I think he or she could tell you exactly how long they'd been playing, what they were doing wrong and how long it was going to take before they could do it right.  Because it is the music, and the manufacture, that they understand.

They don't know shit about people.


Keith S said...

I wonder if we mistake knowing about people for being able to get people to do stuff?

I've always viewed bards as information thieves or dealers. They poke, pry, and rifle through other people's business,and look for ways to profit from that.

Music is part of that. Everyone wants to hang out with the band after all. To be part of the scene/seen.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I've never known a musician to pry through a person's business. I've known them to pry through someone's cupboards, looking for food ... but their business? No.

I think you need to sit down and talk to more musicians ... better yet, have one or two or ten of them move into your house. I've done that. I've been cheek and jowl and sharing hand towels with a lot of musicians. You have to watch them live their daily lives. On stage or in a bar isn't close enough. You've got to be there long enough to watch them quit their jobs or fight with their families on the phone or 'borrow' your stuff.

If you want to be part of a 'scene,' try that one.

Keith S said...

To your point, I guess that's why I wouldn't equate a bard with a musician. My experience with musicians, albeit limited, mirrors yours.

As a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn't always a square, so a musician is a bard, but a bard needn't always be a musician. Just a possible way of looking at it.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Jeez, Keith. I'll be damned if I know what you think a bard is, then.

My definition of 'bard' describes a professional poet, author, singer and narrator; its all rhythmic, lyrics mixed with musicality, etc. I know of no reason why the nature of the modern musician and the nature of the medieval bard should be so different as to suppose that somehow bards were of a different ilk than the performance artists we know.

But if they are ... if they are ... then willy nilly, I've never met a bard, and without a time machine I'm never going to meet one. So I guess, if you need to believe they're whatever you want them to be, all power to you. On THIS blog, however, where I was asked to give my opinion about their knowledge of cities, the ruling stands. I'll wager you've never met a bard, either, which makes your opinion on the matter is as shit as mine ... but at least I told interesting stories and drew parallels that didn't involve just four sides.

I really don't want to ride your ass, Keith, but you're really profoundly able to be unaccountably dismissive of things when you've demonstrated zero knowledge about them.

You might want to think about getting that checked.

joe said...

A bard's chief preoccupation is with beauty.

All else is to be neglected, must be neglected.

Find any great artist in any field that hasn't been accused throughout history of being at least a little bit crazy.

It's not that they are crazy, but that they are possessed of a single-minded obsession powerful enough to obliterate everything else in their life.

Class-wise, the way I've always treated bards is as jacks of all trades, masters of none and traveling entertainers.

In either case, they are bad at paying the rent.

Lukas said...

Perhaps the problem arises that in later editions the core stat for a bard is Cha.

This boosts pretty much all the social skills, and since the bard tends to have a lot of skill points unlike the sorcerer, they become the de facto social expert.

Furthermore the bard is generally given some boosts to forgotten lore and rumors and the like.

I must admit I don't have a strong familiarity with your edition of the Bard, but 3rd+ tends to exhibit a strong social emphasis.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Granted, Lukas, the charisma gives them sociability. And artists are sociable.

I just don't see how that translates into social knowledge. I can sure understand how a lot of people could read it that way.

Carl Nash said...

I totally agree with you that musicians should not have any kind of special social knowledge, even if other people find them cool and want to hang out with them.

What a musician can do, is tap into something inside that allows them to make beautiful music. People who do not share this ability nonetheless recognize it because hearing music triggers emotional reactions. The musician does not have to understand why the audience becomes emotional - going further, the musician does not have to know the first thing about the audience. The musician just taps into the music and lets it fly, and the music itself causes the emotional reaction. To someone who does not possess the ability to do this, it would be easy to ascribe all kinds of extra knowledge to the musician. That guitar player must have known this pain that I carry, or this joy - how else could she have expressed what I feel so precisely? She didn't. She just played music, and that music touched my pain or sang to my joy.

joe said...

At the core of all great art is communication, groans of the human condition that transcend crude medium.

Lukas said...

I think we may be losing track.

The bard knows how to abuse the human condition to their own ends.

The bard does not know how the human condition effects the cultural exchange between Taiwan and London.

KenHR said...

We're...ummm...not _all_ like that, you know.

Alexis Smolensk said...


Buy the book!

YagamiFire said...


I agree with the content of the post insofar as it refers to musicians. Having known is spot on.

I will, however, disagree with the application of it to least as I understand them and have played them. Now, I don't want this to seem like a "WELL in MY world" sort of is entirely just limited to my understanding. If that creates dialogue, cool...if it is incompatible with your understanding of bards, Alexis, also cool.

What I see here is a take on the bard-as-minstrel, which is the later status of the role. This is the common image of the wandering minstrel with lute and lute-suit (thank you, Adventure Time) outfit. This idea is of the minstrel-bard as a wandering vagabond, street-performer sort that would, nowadays, be embodied (at low level) by guys performing in subways and (at high level) by those guys selling out stadiums and getting panties thrown at them.

This jives perfectly with the post above and the examination is spot on.

The original bard, however, when applied to a specific role more closely associated with a biographer, not a musician, as far as societal job. They were tellers and chroniclers of great deeds (whether real, imagined or somewhere in-between) who were paid for that role. And these guys were NUTS. It was a full on tradition and vocation. This wasn't something someone picked up and started doing necessarily.

These guys praised those who they agreed with and socially destroyed (or attempted to) those that got in their way (or didn't pay) through satire & song. Do they both make music? Absolutely. The purpose is much different, however. For ease of comparison I'll use minstrel for the bard described in the article above and bard for what I'm describing. Please do not take this as me trying to invalidate your statements about the bard by trying to label it as "minstrel" to separate it...that is truly not my intent.

The minstrel performs music for music. They are the musician of today, following a passion and being all-but consumed by it. The bard does it as their job and the music or poetry is not the music...the purpose is in invoking very specific reactions. The minstrel can create without concern for others because their fire burns internally...they are speaking to something in themselves and, often, that speaks to other people but even if it doesn't that is immaterial to the minstrel because if they have spoken to their own soul they have succeeded.

YagamiFire said...

This is not so for the bard. If the bard doesn't get the response he is looking for he does not get paid...or he even angers his patron. Or if he is trying to cut someone down, the people he is speaking to side with that person against the bard instead. So the bard MUST understand his audience...he must know people. He must know what inspires them, what people want to hear, what incenses people, what makes people laugh, what makes them cry. He needs to know this.

Furthermore, in his job he will learn about people because he is, again, a biographer. This is, however, far different from what the assassin is cultural knowledge of the person and personal knowledge of the culture. Different things move different people. This is not observational like the assassin. The assassin works best as a high-functioning sociopath...the highest functioning. A person that can reduce people down mechanically...take them apart like robots and observe them like bugs under glass. The bard, however, must not become invisible like the assassin...they have to go native. They have to understand the people they are with and interact with them. They have to understand the soul and the zeitgeist...what motivates and moves the cultural norms around them, otherwise they will stick out like a sore thumb instead of becoming the positive center of attention. They will fail to capture the spirit of the people and if they cannot do that they cannot hope to make a king into a hero or a general into a villain.

In capturing that spirit, the bard becomes aware of how to twist it to his own ends. He uses magic to enhance his performances (of course knowing just what will be accepted, what will wow and what is verboten). He uses rigorous mental discipline to be able to recall epics on the spot (something bards truly did do) and is versed in blade to pantomime great battles or to slay those that became upset with his performance (whether that anger is intentional or not).

The bard is not a minstrel...the bard is not a musician. The bard is the Doctor (of Doctor Who). The bard is the magician on stage and the revolutionary behind the mic. A master of cultures with knowledge obscure and wonders amazing. He can befriend anyone and he can fit in anywhere because he knows how to observe and adapt like a social chameleon.

YagamiFire said...

Now, of course, the bard wears many is part of their nature. They are poet and musician, warrior and mage, rogue and rake. This is the nature of the bard though to wear faces but they are just facets of what the bard does. The bard is what the person they're interacting with needs to see for the bard to get what they want be it information, insight or just a roof over their head. People feel at ease when they believe they understand who and what they are dealing with...and that is precisely what the bard wants. They want people to feel as if they understand the bard...with understanding comes trust or, at the very least, a lowering of ones guard. After all, if you're only talking to a musician, what's the problem right? Musicians don't know anything about people...they don't even really care. So when you tell them why the song spoke to them...well they don't even really care right? You're just baring a bit of your soul in a cathartic way. And, to a musician, as Alexis so rightfully pointed out, it wouldn't matter. To a bard, though? It matters immensely even though they might just smile and nod absently like a musician...because that is, again, just the bard putting forth a face.

This all, of course, jives with the role the bard fulfills in the game. When the bard performs to inspire they have to KNOW it will inspire. When they perform to satire they have to KNOW it will satire. A musician, as outlined in the post, would perform and the result would be the result based solely on what the person feels. It is reactive because, again, the musician is focused inward towards their art. The bard, on the other hand, cannot afford that luxury. They need to bolster their allies or impede their foes this time and every time. They need to know what will make the orcs sloppy and stupid(er)...they need to know what will make a ragtag group of militiamen facing those orcs gain courage. To do that they must know what moves those people. The art is not enough...the effect is what matters both in-game and to the bard themselves.

The difference really lay in that the musician speaks with his soul...the bard speaks to the souls of others. Now, looking at that from the outside, it will look pretty much identical...but it's a different thing all-together. Now, I do not agree with Keith that the bard is an information broker...that is not their nature. Secrets are exchanged in quiet places...the bard performs in public. The bard gives voice to what is in other people. The bard multiplies what is already there. Now, as so correctly pointed out "The bard does not know how the human condition effects the cultural exchange between Taiwan and London." but if they have been to Taiwan and London they will know that in London one does not speak ill of the queen unless it is wrapped in a fantastical tale of a tyrannical evil fairy queen that eats babies. And they will know that, even colored by Taiwanese cultural tropes, the same tale would not move people in Taiwan because it does not play upon the same memes in that culture in the same way. It wouldn't be understood in the same capacity.

This is why I can't say a bard is a musician in the same way as described in the article though, at times, the bard will very much want you to believe that.

(sorry for the long reply, but the thoughtful post warranted a well-explained reply)

Arduin said...

Hi Yagami, nice to meet another fellow who gets swept up by these posts.

That said, I do see what you're getting at. Patronage is what seperates the Bard from the Rocker, as it were.

More importantly, your description more closely matches the revised bard the Taoist has via the SUwiki, which I find a definite plus.

I think the bard, under the arguments presented by Yagami and the rules as presented by Alexis, may best be represented not as a cultural superstar in the modern sense but as an emotional focus for what the area needs.

Rather, they do not understand "culture", but they do understand THIS culture, that being their own.
See: geisha.

The bard is compelled to feel strongly and create strong feeling, and to do that one must understand stories, the narrative by which people live their lives, or music, or painting, or whatever medium the bard uses. Why it works.

The message is unimportant, what is important is that the bard is good enough to make it important. The Art is everything.

He need not understand how people operate, just how his art makes these people operate.

The way I see it, the bard is what ingratiates the party to the town. The bard can't tell you what the people want, but the bard can make sure the people don't want to throw you out, can make them love you.

They want to prove they are the best. To themselves, to the party, to the world.

Killing orcs makes a man a fighter. The bard makes a man a hero.

Well, goddamn it, I got swept up too. You bardy bastards.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I just want to stick up and say at this point that I disagree with just about everything Yagami has said. Not that I want to chew it down point by point, but that I think it should be evident to any reader that it is all conjecture. I don't see any facts to back up any of those assertions.

YagamiFire said...

Arduin, a pleasure to meet you as well. Also, Alexis, I purchased your book. Looking forward to having it in hand.

I have a reply to this discussion that is more fact based as well that I will post up soon.

YagamiFire said...

In the interest of respecting your blog space I did some legwork and set up a page so I could respond via link.

Jhandar said...

Perhaps another way of looking at a bard in keeping with the theme laid out for the assassin and thief is less of a master of anything and more of a perpetual victim. If we boil down the assassin to a master of intuition regarding other people through patience, observation, and experience, and we equally boil down the thief to a master of deduction, using the traits associated with their craft, I then think that it may be at root, a safe assumption to say that the bard has logically neither time not inclination to pursue the path to social mastery that the thief and assassin as they have other shit to do; music. I agree that the bard would be more focused on their own thing, caring little for much but their particular muse or focus at the moment.
So then why are bards a perpetual victim? It is because audiences are dumb, and they project more than they are actually open to the performance. The audience will view the performance through the lens that they want it to often times completely independent of the artist itself. The audience makes assumptions based on little to know information except what they expect and assume it to be the God’s honest truth and are often times disappointed or confused when reality does not match their expectations. Examples would be things like; musicians are promiscuous on the road, comedians are funny all the time, etc. Alexis you mentioned in your post ‘Pete’s Garage Copy in Hand’ the assumption that authors on the road drink and use drugs pointing to the validity of this stereotype and then countering with the statement that you would not do that. However, once upon the road (which I hope happens for you soon) that will be the shared assumption of a portion of the people that you will interact with. I would even be willing to wager that you will be offered a drink or street drugs while on tour at one point or another.
And it is in those moments that the bard gets their knowledge and their social power, if they so choose to use it (and most likely would not). Bards are the rock stars, therapists, confidants, lovers, compatriots, newsmen, and anything else that a person wants from the bard, regardless of if the bard wants to be it or not. The act of stepping on stage, or proscribing lines of separation from performer and audience, takes the bard out of the ‘any other Joe’ category and immediately makes them something more (and likely something different) in everyone else’s eyes.

Jhandar said...

Whereas the assassin could tell you if the king is merely a puppet, the bard may have a guard to the High Chancellor (or the man himself) confide it in them while trying to impress the bard. Where the thief may deduce and observe a wool merchant stockpiling his wares and artificially creating a shortage to drive up prices, the bard may be told this over a drink with the merchant because the merchant wants the bard to like him and recognize his wealth.
To further this line of thinking, let us say a bard wanders in from a long journey, barters a trade of room, food, and tips from the inn keeper for some songs. The bard opens up his set with a local folk song to draw the crowd in, follows it up with a song about the exploits of one of the king’s knight’s recent events, and finishes the night with a love ballad. While now, the tired bard may just want to eat and sleep, here comes the crowd, the fans, the hangers on. Perhaps a young love struck man who wants romance advice about how to woo his love whom he cannot court due to a family feud or rivalry. Perhaps a few barmaids pass him some drinks ‘on the house’ along with whispers of promises of clandestine encounters later where they talk about the town during pillow talk. Perhaps a member of the local rebellion heard the song about the knight, and due to the bard just being tired, feels that the bard was being sarcastic and tries to feel him out to see if the bard is sympathetic to the rebellion and could be used as an agent.
To me, that is the power of the bard. He wants none of this information, just to sing, maybe a drink, some food and a bed. But the people project their wants and needs on to him, and he has to sort through the mess of the information left behind.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I simply cannot believe the level of conjecture that has appeared on this thread. Much of it stems from some weird conclusion that "bards are different from their modern counterparts" ... which is further compounded by a strange assumption that "bards were celebrities."

I have no idea what this is based on. Certainly not what we know. Shakespeare himself was so not a celebrity in his own time that we have practically no knowledge of his actual life at all. He was retrofitted to the celebrity role. We know even less about Thomas Malory, the author of l'Morte de Arther, to the point that there are still ongoing theories about who he was. Chaucer, the greatest poet of the medieval age, is only known about because he was a public servant, and by all accounts appears to have lived a largely ordinary life, large parts of which are lost. We know virtually nothing about his contemporaries William Langland and Pearl Poet.

I think there is the stupidest wish-fulfillment imaginable going on here, where somehow people automatically saw the arrival of a bard in their village as the greatest event of their lives...which almost certainly that's bullshit. The local priest wouldn't have liked the competition. The Lord of the land nor the priest would not have been fond of money going out of his economy and into the hands of wanderers. Many poor people wouldn't have been anxious to share their pitiful bounty with anyone, particularly a stranger with wild, lurid ideas about life, which would be seen to potentially stir rebellion.

I think what a lot of readers here would not like to think about is that the bard most likely would have been picked up on one end of town like the sheriff picking up Rambo, and moving him along down the road.

Bards were the celebrities of their day? Utter nonsense. Virtually everything we have of them was copied and ultimately popularized by others more than a hundred years after the death of these so called celebrities.

Art has NEVER been anything but a thankless, miserable profession. If you want to point out the people who made art into coin, look to those practicing public relations ... and the same who sold Chaucer's poems after he was dead are those who invented the paparazzi culture of today. It isn't the artists who know what's going on at court - it's the thieves and cretins who learned to exploit the artists.

Butch said...

If you want to point out the people who made art into coin...

T.S. Eliot! :)

Alexis Smolensk said...

Eliot is kind of late for a medievel troubadour, no?

400 Bad Request

Butch said...

Just being silly, but it seemed apt. I love that scene in the novel, as the colonels and generals devote themselves to figuring out what a T.S. Eliot is.

Alexis Smolensk said...

reverse the T. & S. and backward it spells "toilets."

That says all about T.S. Eliot I ever care to say.

Arjen said...

I think the point you are missing here is the idea behind the lore part of the bard. This idea predates the medieval examples of bards you've given. The crux of the lore ability lies in the role of the bard in the oral traditions. Societies where history and knowledge were not put to paper but memorized and transmitted in the form that aides memorization: poetry and song. Artistry, creativity and charisma are important and useful but secondary only to the main role of the bard in that tradition: holder of information and lore. Much of the schooling of a bard went into rote teaching lore through poetry and song.

What role and place a bard as ascribed above has in the common d&d campaign which does contain books and book-learned sages is another question.

ESR said...

Alex - I thought you admitted that this thread WAS going to be mostly conjecture, because as you pointed out: no one knows anything about what bards really were, and we don't have a time machine to go back and check...

But to continue the discussion, perhaps bards WERE the con artists, and their social skills and performance skills are more to get what they want rather than create art/music of great, lasting significance. Their social and in-game bard abilities and skills can thus be explained by the force of their personal magnetism, and not by the awesomeness of their musical talents.

I disagree with the idea that bards are the keepers of knowledge / lore within a D&D game world, unless you decide that there ARE no books or libraries in your game world (which would really annoy the wizards, let me tell you!). Why would anyone rely on an oral (aural?) tradition when you can simply write things down for posterity? Writing is much less work than memorization, and less subject to the "telephone" effect, where things are lost/altered in translation. The purpose of bardic lore could again be to get what they want and impress people when they need to, rather than to save information for posterity.

Alexis Smolensk said...

ESR, my name is ALEXIS.

My world takes place in 1650, so there are plenty of books.

We know almost nothing whatsoever about druids ... to this day apart from Pythagoras we know little or nothing about Greek music. We have reason to believe that Homer, Ovid and the rest may have worked with musicians, but we have zero knowledge of what that music sounded like; none of it was written down in a form that can be reproduced. But we do have a lot of shit invented by Crowley and his crew in the late 19th century, who popularized British druids and mostly just made shit up. And we have a cultural stamp left behind by a lot of Hollywood movies. Almost everything that has been written here about the memorization of poetry and song is a lot of romantic crap. We don't know Beowulf and the tales of Marduk by people handing down oral traditions, we know it from someone finally writing it down. We don't know anything about how long those supposed oral traditions lasted except what the writers of the story told us - and its a very popular lie to say that the story I'm writing down today was told by countless generations. It makes my story SOUND better.

My favorite is the stories supposedly told by primitive peoples ... which, again, we have no proof for how long these tales were told, nor how accurate they were from generation to generation. The story told today could have been wholly different six generations ago ... yet people are always ready to get on the bandwagon of believing these stories magically remained EXACTLY the same for countless generations. We know from experimentation how much bullshit this is.

In-game, a bard is whatever a DM says it is. I say it is a musician, painter, sculptor or poet ... and we do know a lot about the lives of such people in the 17th century, when my world takes place. That knowledge isn't conjecture. We have extant documents. And as it happens, artists then were just as petulant, self-absorbed, eccentric and rabidly passionate as they are now. I am always curious to know when this pattern suddenly came into being, since it is ALWAYS argued that artists before we had extant histories weren't like that.

Based, I ask, on what?

Darcy Perry said...

I'm almost afraid to comment because you might not agree with me... however, I'm reading a book about Merlin by Geoffrey Ashe that you might enjoy.

I would offer prophecy as another string to the bow of bard.