Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Bardic Mini-Game

With proposed changes to the bard of late, I have seen several express a concern about the bard character becoming its own "mini-game" ~ enabling bards to play while other players sit on the sidelines and watch.

I can understand that concern.  I'm against such gaming on principle.  All players deserve attention during the game and it is up to the DM to find ways to ensure that a particular character or character class doesn't get this kind of privilege.  That people go to this place, however, this concern that the game will suddenly become bard-centric, is an expression of how other character classes created by other RPG designers suddenly became all the rage, excluding other classes.

I think that is because most RPG designers are "bored" with the old character classes.  They need something new to base the whole game on because they've become dried old prunes on the cleric or the mage, having run out of ideas, and now that they have a NEW character class to waffle on until they get bored of that, naturally everything in the game must now become about the new class.

This isn't me.  I have tons and tons of cool shit left to add to the cleric and the mage ~ and all the characters, really.  It is only that right now I happen to be talking about the bard, a class I'm trying to rescue from the dustbin of game design by making it actually relevant.

Does it mean that the bard will have some character to swing around in the game once it's been fleshed out?  Yes.  But do consider how much time is spent in the campaign listening to the cleric harp on about religion or the mage about spells, or the fighter about weapons, armor and fighting.  These classes have their "mini-games" already; it is only that we're used to the amount of time dredged up for pissing contests between hit point totals and the need to sacrifice something as soon as possible, so let's all go on a quest to do that.  No one is carping about the "mini-game" of yet another fallen paladin that has to drag the party on yet another bloody quest to get a lost virtue restored.

And let's face it: having another reason to quest, having another character class that deserves consideration, having another conversation at the table about what's relevant and what can we do now, won't be a bad thing.

To my mind, the way I will design the "work" the bard does, it won't be any different from a cleric building a temple, a fighter building a castle, a mage building a laboratory, a thief building a guild or any of the other establishment things that any character class might get want.  I think another part of the issue is that its imagined the bard will, almost immediately, be rushing around creating art and being famous.

That is not how this is going to be.  Like a 1st level fighter that is little better than a squishy mess waiting to happen, a low-level bard will enjoy an artist's path: being ignored, having little practical ability, the frustration of too little ability for too much ambition and ultimately waiting, waiting for the day when they're actually able to make the show they might dream of having.  It isn't handed to them on a silver platter.

In short, they've got to adventure like everyone else.


Baron Opal said...

How are you envisioning how bard's solve problems? For example, you could say fighters resolve problems through direct, incremental, continual physical action. They break things and kill critters. Magicians resolve problems through direct, situational, sporadic magical action. They cast one of a strictly limited number of spells that fixes or bypasses a problem.

While granting an experience increase is novel, that seems to be an occasional action. It's not something they would do in combat. I take it they will have a second-line fighter role, similar to thieves and clerics?

Alexis Smolensk said...

More or less. Bards have sound and sensory spells, which I've described here and here. They have a better fighting capacity with weapons and they have better armor choices.

The sage abilities that I'm planning will flesh this out. I'm going to publish a post about that within an hour or two. Keep in mind, every class has to wait for another level, to get more spells, to get more hit points, to have a greater effectiveness of every kind. The bard won't be different.

James said...

This seems to be an odd complaint. If nothing else, your described ideas are more party-friendly than other classes'. If you have a fighter, cleric and mage in a party, finding enough real estate for a stronghold, temple and a library isn't easy. Plus managing three separate strongholds, someone is likely losing out. RAW monks need to go duel higher-level monks, again, pretty solitary.

The bard wants to create art. It is (relatively) location neutral, and his or her end goal benefits everyone.

At least that is my take.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I don't make either monks or druids duel, James, but apart from that, we agree.

James said...

I was referring to the AD&D versions, that was why I specified "read as written." You haven't posted much regarding monks yet, asfar as I am aware.

Alexis Smolensk said...

No, not yet. But as I am getting the bard put to bed, I will be starting on the monk next.