What comes to mind when I bring up the class: Bard?
Most times we see an extrovert troubadour obnoxiously making time with anything that moves all the while playing the songs that not only make the girls cry, but inspires the party to fight harder and their enemies to wimp out and run in fear. Now, while a lot of that is true in most cases, the Bard class is truly much more than this. In fact, over and beyond any of the other classes in 5E D&D, the Bard is absolutely the most diverse of them.
Also, within the confines of this class, you can bring in elements of the martial, magical and rougish. Which gives a great deal width and breadth of which to work with. So, what I would like to do here is to study the confines of this class to its very extremes.
One of the most powerful foci of the bard is their use of words whether spoken, sung or written. It is through the words of the bard that inspiration comes to their allies and damnation to their enemies. Most, if not all, of the spells the bard uses require vocal components. And a good percentage of those that come to this class wish to be heard. That is, of course, why the typical bard is pictured up in front of a crowd, telling their stories any way they can.
But this opens up a great deal of options beyond the instrument playing performer. Maybe your bard can be an orator that makes speeches, tells stories as a way of inspiring those around them to be more while never singing a note. Possibly your bard has a talent in acting where they get the crowd’s attention by doing soliloquies from popular plays; inspiring others with the words of beloved characters that people already worship. Your bard could be a poet or prose writer whose original words change the lives of other.
In battle, your orator will encourage his teammates and damn those against them with strong words in a booming authoritarian voice. Your actor could replay a popular fight scene from a work of written art that is known by all and the message of either support or disdain is clear. Your poet could recite either historic works or original at a time when they are sorely needed or just create poetry to woo a love interest. There is a myriad of ways to even speak a word or convey a powerful thought.
See Mythic Odysseys of Theros for the COLLEGE OF ELOQUENCE for a great option for the orator.
Maybe your bards use of words are as much written as they are spoken. They could be a chronicler who is collecting tales for a grand work of art. Your charisma could charm those around you as they think they are going to be a part of history. Or perhaps the bard’s talent is in forgery. They could present forms or documents to lead the locals to believe whatever is needed. The bard could pull off the KNIGHT’S TALE gambit by forging heraldry papers and impersonating nobility. This brings us to my next point.
The unique, defining theme of the bard is their love for performance. The wish to be seen as much as heard, to captivate not just one person, but a crowd becomes an obsession. This is where we begin to learn that the bard is more than their voice. It gives us options that are more important that speech or, rather, gives us even more options with the entertainer’s voice.
This brings the question as to what is performance. As stated before, this is where we begin to branch out and study the unique boundaries as to what is a bard and venture off the beaten track. For performance, as those veterans of past editions know, encompass many differing actions. Besides singing and the playing of an instrument, other actions listed are dance, comedy and (as refered to before) acting. A comedic bard has the UA College of Satire, acting we’ve talked some about and dancing can be found on DMs Guild or reddit. But I think performance moves far beyond these confines; giving us a myriad of choices.
For example, in one of my games I play a young Yuanti pureblood bard named Jessh who takes a lot of different cues from the class. He doesn’t have multiple personalities (but how cool would that be?) but, being a malevolent killer who catalogs the looks, speech and mannerisms of his victims, he uses performance to pull off the many visages to use when the need arises. Of the three main personas, one being his own, two access different uses of the skill. One, a roguelike skulking character, makes use of performance to both distract and disappear. The other, a flamboyant showman, uses his charisma to work a crowd; all the while, accessing an amazing slight of hand ability to both pull off tricks for the show and lift whatever he can get his hands on.
He can sing and play an instrument, but his weapon of choice is metal throwing cards that he expertly handles thanks to his training in the COLLEGE OF DISCORD.
See a detailed write up on JESSH below. But you can see that there a lot of options accessed here.
Jessh was inspired by the circus knife throwers who wow a crowd by targeting scantily clad ladies set up as targets. In fact, a bard can be made off any circus folk. A ringmaster is an obvious but you can just as easily fashion a character after any type of performer in this profession: acrobats, animal tamers, clowns (as mentioned before), jugglers, contortionists, sideshow freaks, escape artist, fire eater, or magician. (Man, do I feel another article coming)
But you get the idea. Performance reaches so far beyond the box we have put it in; even a few steps further than 3E or 4E did. And, if I may return to my soapbox, this is the beauty of 5E. The game can be as simple or difficult as you make it. In this situation, 5E gives us as much territory to work with as the imagination of the player can take us tempered with the wisdom of the DM.
You can see why the Bard is the most versatile class in D&D where you can be the ‘Jack of All Trades’ but have to be careful to not be the ‘Master of None’.
There’s so much more we could go into. But what unique bards have you made? What are some of your unique Colleges? What are some ideas that test the limits of this class and the performance skill? We want to hear from you for YOU are as much of the process, if not more, than we are. Let us know in the comments below or follow our links to our social media and let’s talk about it!
https://i.redd.it/y1gww79na5731.png College of Discord