We all know bard is the greatest class ever, end of conversation. With the release of the PHB2 and the introduction of bards into 4e, we can expect an influx of newbies strumming the lute for the first time as well as the old virtuosi coming back to the songs and tales of their old favorite. Whether you are picking up the pan pipes for the first time with a new 4e bard or you are an old-schooler still playing the impossibly difficult to attain bard from the first AD&D, we want to help you make the most of your character.
Make Your Bard Unique
There’s a lot of room to maneuver within the bard class. Bards provide mechanical bonuses to the companions with performances but the way they accomplish that is left largely open to the imagination. Most often these performances are imagined as singing with or without instruments. Just a little bit outside the mainstream is the reciter of epic stories and poetry. You could make a bard who is a traveling actor who gives inspiring monologues and theatric performances. Both very cool but nothing people haven’t seen before. Lets go wild shall we?
What about a genius bard who really makes use of his knowledge and jack-of-all-trades abilities, whose “performance” is to point out the weakest point of an elder white dragons scales, the vulnerabilities of a six tumbler cold iron lock or what joke to lead with when making a business deal with a dwarf.
Or you could try a slight variation on that concept, a nagging bard. He offers constant, unwelcome, but most frustratingly, helpful advice to his friends. “You’re using an overhand axe swing at a zombie? Everyone know that a horizontal slash works better” or “you’re really going to use the three inch hook pick on that lock? I guess you could do it that way”. He’ll be a very memorable character even after the rest of the party kills him (“You’re using fireball on me? Everyone knows I have high reflex, you should target fortitude”).
We could take it another way. Lets go back to the singing and instrumental bard. What if his music wasn’t inspiring his comrades but was actually words and notes of power that invoked the power of a deity. It’s an idea I think about every time I hear the song Hallelujah, “Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord, that David played, and it pleased the Lord”. If your bard knows a holy word that calls upon the favor a god he had better take care in using it, someone might try to steal it!
Bring Music to the Table
Now I’m not suggesting that you run out and learn to play the harp for your bard (although that would be awesome!). However you can get recordings of minstrel songs and the kind of music you find a renaissance faires and play it at your table when your bard songs. If you’re gifted or particularly confident you can sing along with them. Ren faire music usually relies on humor value more than singing voice so as long as you aren’t tone deaf, you can accompany it. Obviously if you are already a skilled singer or musician you don’t need me to tell you to work it into your character! If you’re looking for some quirky music, I have to give a shout out to a pair of modern day minstrels, the Brobdingnagian Bards. They do some ren faire and Celtic classics, some instrumental mood music, some modern compositions that pay homage to the classics, some modern day geek culture songs played on autoharp and mandolin and lots of drinking songs! I only discovered them a few months ago but I’m a huge fan already. It seems like no matter what they aim to do with a song they nail it every time.
Be in the Spotlight
Bards come in all varieties, but the one thing they have in common is they are never meek. Bards are usually loud, boisterous and extroverted. You should be too! If you are playing a bard you need to make sure that you talk to the NPCs, befriend the village drunks and generally make it clear that your character is having a grand old time. Let the wizards be cowardly and the rouges be cautious and suspicious, bards are bold and quite often heedless! I’m not suggesting that you trample over the other players in the group. However, you should make it clear that you are present in a scene and you have your own ideas about how things should be done, even if no one wants to listen.
Are you a bard lover? Are you up to 11? Rock out in the comments!