With a tune in her heart and a song on her lips Eliza rallies her friends in the heat of battle. Swinging his sword, taking down a foe, the fighter looks towards Eliza, “What would we do without you my friend?”. Eliza chuckles, “You would all die a sombre depressing death.”
The old group I use to play with decided to have a reunion game so I decided to write some more on this blog. I have played the version 3.5 rules and have no plans at this time playing version 4, so everything I write here is based on 3.5
The Bard is defiantly a strong jack of all trades. The bard is a decent warrior being able to use a formidable selection of weapons and gains a middle of the field base attack progression. The bard also is able to cast spells both from the cleric’s list and the wizards list as well and even able to cast these in light armour without negative. Lastly, the bard gains the second most skills in the game and haves a decent selection of skills including some of the ones used by rogues. The bard covers a little bit from all the major classes making it, arguably, the closest thing in the core rules to a jack of all trades, but personally, I would consider the bard the second best behind the rogue. Including the benefit of being a decent jack of all trades the bard gains the ability to help and boost their group using Bardic Music and Bardic knowledge. the music can give a fairly large assortment of bonuses including benefits similar to a prayer spell. The ability to fight, cast spells, and the ability to boost the group makes the bard useful and wanted addition to any group.
Even though the bard can cast spells, you will quickly find that their selection of spells is the worse in the game. They may gain the benefit of being able to cast cure spells as well as sleep spells, but they do not have any attack spells on their list. Only spells that hinder the enemy, but none able to down an enemy. This makes the bard a nice bonus to have around, but not a necessity in a close encounter. the bard will always depend on other classes to finish the job. To add to this the Bard gains higher level spells much slower than the caster classes and their number of known spells are so limited that their spellcasting seems almost worthless. Add to this their small number of spells per day and you quickly find out that it is always necessary to create bards that never depend on their casting.
Even though the Bard does have a decent selection of weapons and an impressive ability to cast in light armour they are not a very good warrior when compared to the other classes. All the warrior classes have better weapon selection, more hit points, better armour feats, and better base attack bonuses. Even the other middle of the ground fighting classes like the rogue, monk, and priest classes have benefits over the bard. Most have more hp than the bard and all the others have some special ability to increase their combat ability that is better than the bard’s. A rogue haves sneak attack, the monk haves fury of blows, and the cleric/druid have many spells to increase their ability to attack that the bard can not cast. Even the Sorcerer/Wizard have spells that improve their hand-to-hand fighting ability that the bard con not cast.
2nd Edition was the first D&D version I played extensively. I first really liked the Bard class when the class books came out for 2nd edition D&D . I loved the Herold kit from the 2nd edition Bards book and that became my favorite class to play. The herald was similar to my favorite image of the bard which comes from one of my all time favorite fictional characters. The character Geoffrey Chaucer from the movie A Knight’s Tale.
When 3rd edition came out I really did not like the bard as much. I did love their ability to cast healing spells, but their lost of casting most other spells really cause my attention to falter. The only reason I would create a bard would be to create that image of a charismatic character I truly enjoy, but I would much rather create a rogue for that image. If I wanted a lightly armoured jack of all trades caster I would just create a rogue with one level of wizard. A single level of wizard or sorcerer would give the rogue the casting ability of a 4th level bard with much better selection of spells and would allow the rogue the ability to cast any spell from a wand up to 4th level. On top of this the rogue could always take use magic divices to cast from scrolls and wands from any spell from any class.
If you want to jump right in and create a true bard with no multiclassing you should select the bard’s spells very closely. The best choice is make sure to select cure and sleep spells, probably the two most useful spells on the bard’s list. When selecting abilities strength and agility will become very important along with charisma for the bard’s special abilities. A good agility and strength will allow the bard to be a useful warrior and allow them to take full advantage of their weapon selection. Also, make sure to select feats that will improve the bard’s ability to fight which will further make them useful as a fighter which is very important as they can not depend on their spellcasting for very long and the bard needs to be useful while not using their bardic music.
Even better would be to not use the bard as a true class and to mutliclass instead. As long as the character is not an elf or halfling the character could take a single level in fighter, paladin, ranger, or barbarian (class depends on race) which would add the full warrior spectrum of weapons as well as possibly add additional armour. This greatly increases the bards ability to fight on the field when he is not using his bardic music or spells. Even if you need to go with half levels of bard and half in another class adding a warrior, especially a fighter, would create a formidable character.
Another route to go with would be for spells. You could add a single level of a caster class to the bard to add aditional spell casting. Adding a 1st level of a caster class would not only give the bard considerbly more spells to cast it would also allow the bard to use a wand to cast up to 4th level spells from the list of spells of the chosen second class; even if the second class is only 1st level. An elf would allow the addition of a wizard to be only 1st level while a gnome, human, or half elf would allow any spell caster class(Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, or Wizard) to be 1st level without any experience penalty.
The best way to play the bard is to take full advantage of the bards skills and bardic special abilities inside and outside of combat. Use all the decent list of skills outside of combat as well as use the bard’s bardic knowledge as much as possible. In combat always start off using the bards music (choose only the tougher battles if the bard is lower level) to aid the group members in melee combat. Then fight along with the warriors, trying to be defensive (remember the bard is only lightly armoured) waiting to cast the bard’s limited spells for the perfect time.