Killing you softly with their songs - badass bards
A: This is the first conversation we’re going to do about the classes. Hopefully we’ll end up doing all the core classes and also witches because they’re the best. But we’re starting with bards because…reasons.
C: Well, you’ve played a bard character for literally years now—Farrar, your Gnome Bard, from my campaign. It makes sense to start with the ones we know the best.
A: Farrar might not be the greatest bardic role model. She’s lovely, but she does have terrible stats.
C: They’ve gotten better, to be fair. She’s at least akin to a fifteen point buy now.
A: True, but her highest stat, which is Charisma, is 14, which means the DC for her spells is quite low. Which is unfortunate because a lot of bard spells are mind-affecting. Anyone with good willpower can overcome Farrar’s spells.
C: That’s true. It’s not like wizards where you can sneak through a bunch of attack spells that don’t necessarily go against saves. Bards get Performances, though: Fascinate and Inspire Courage and Suggestion and all the rest. They’re cool.
A: Yeah. Farrar only really uses Inspire Courage, which helps her allies rather than hurting enemies, but the others can be useful too. I’ve used Fascinate a bit, though it doesn’t often work.
C: You did fascinate a dragon at one point.
A: I did. And then it ate me. So, you know, not totally sure who came out on top there.
C: You, uh, escaped, though.
A: That’s true. But my point was originally going to be that, for a long time I thought Farrar was a typical bard—that all bards were the healers and the helpers of a party—and then I started DMing and I discovered all the crazy mind-affecting spells that she’d ignored because she didn’t have the Charisma to make them work.
A: And those spells are messed up. It opened up a whole new way of thinking about bards.
C: Bards can do war crimes. Reader, make your villains bards; it’s, like, the best class. I wish I’d made one of my recurring bad guys a bard instead of multiclassing him. All those creepy, fucked-up mind control spells. Jealous Rage, Unnatural Lust, False Belief…
A: Also the whole bardic vibe—they’re performers, so they can be over-the-top as villains. I think some of the most memorable boss battles in your game have been against bards.
C: Like the Derro Magister? (Oh, and quick disclaimer, for those of you who have used a Derro Magister in Vanilla Pathfinder and are thinking, ‘Actually you’ll find the Derro are a psychic class, not a bard class.’ Well, I changed it. I changed it and now it’s a bard. What are you going to do about it? It’s my game.)
A: Is it really Derro? I always heard it as ‘Darrow’ to rhyme with Harrow, like the school. If they ever appear in my game, there will be a Darrow Master and he will be incredibly posh. And also a bard.
C: Making the Derro Magister a bard meant that we got to sick-ass bard duel in the middle of the session, which was a lot of fun. Farrar went toe-to-toe with him.
A: That was a good session. But I was actually thinking about the harpy—wasn’t she a bard?
C: She was a witch—
A: Oh yes. Her familiar was a caterpillar called Fred!
C: A centipede, yes. So she wasn’t a bard, in truth. But harpies get Captivating Song, which is a cool monster ability where they can essentially Fascinate enemies. That makes them a bit like flying beast bards.
A: Also, she had this great music playing whenever she did things; it added to the bard-sense.
C: Yeah, she was voguing and posing with a Madonna remix on in the background. Fuck, she was one of my better characters, I think. I should bring her back.
A: No, don’t! She hates us because we may possibly have accidentally mortally wounded Fred. But she was going to kill us!
C: What about bards in your game? I don’t think we’ve met any. Unless they’re continually Suggesting us and we have no idea.
A: I mean, you do keep giving Miriam and Geozy lots of money and getting into fights on their behalf and stuff. They say it’s for the orphans, but do you really know that? Maybe they’re mind controlling you.
C: Fuck, we’ve been had.
A: But no, you haven’t got to interact with many bards in my game. Yet. This is a slight spoiler, but I did make a great bard villain and then you guys didn’t go down that path. Now I just have this bard sitting there in the middle of the marsh, waiting for people to hold up.
C: Just chilling in the ether space, strumming his guitar.
A: Exactly. I haven’t got to playtest him yet. So my belief that bards make the best villains is mainly based on your game and on the Empty Throne campaign, which one of our friends DMs and we both play in.
C: We’ve meet some fucking tight bards in the Empty Throne.
A: Like the skeleton party? They were incredible. We were in this creepy dungeon and it was deserted—there was just this weird moss growing in an underground fountain but nobody was around. And then we went down this corridor and all of a sudden there was this parade of skeletons. Like, an actual parade, with music and dancing and everything. But they were skeletons.
C: Party-hard skeleton squad. They rolled up with a dead dude in a chair and he had a crown or a party hat or some shit on and they were all vibing and they used bard spells on us. It was like, ‘Ow, I’m dying, this is one of the toughest fights we’ve been in. But also—party skeletons.’
A: They were so jolly and so terrifying. Also, I think both of us have shied away from having bards who specifically are like, ‘Here is my instrument, watch me jam.’ Whereas his bards were much more like, ‘We toot-toot on our horns and also there is now a cave-in.’ It was fun to see how embracing the traditional bard-as-a-musician worked.
C: As someone who plays a lot of D&D, and who watches a lot of D&D, there’s no situation that can’t be improved by a bard. Maybe that makes me sound vaguely chaotic evil because a lot of people are going to be like, ‘Bards just want to have sex with all the NPCs and do crimes and use mind control to fuck things up.’
A: In fairness, at least two of those things Farrar does.
C: Two out of three. But, bards are a great class. Fuck, I love them.