This is something that bothers me endlessly, and lately there has been a few conversations or situations where the topic has come up and I’ve really decided to put my foot down for once and for all. It is no surprise in the geek circles I move, bards always get all the crap thrown down their way – ALL the memes in the internet are about bards did or didn’t. Bards are useless characters. Bards can’t fight. They can’t think either, cause you know, apparently the only stat they know how to use is something charisma related and sometimes not even that. Bards are no good in social situations, they certainly are not made for politics, or war…God damn it, so What Are Bards Good For?! :0
Well, guess what?! The true answer is Everything – IF you know how to use them.
It all comes down with how people play games, and how many, many people choose to play bards cause they think it would be cool and adventurous…or that is what they tell their mates. In reality these people ain’t got a clue and would just try to see if they can get away with the rock star behaviour, cause that seems like a legit enough connection to reality. This is the way everyone’s idea of a bard in an RPG looks a bit like Assurancetourix (which for some bizarre reason in the UK is called Cacofonix?! missing the joke btw, cause in French the name sounds like assurance tout risque o assurance tous risques – an all risk cover on your insurance policy…But hey…).
Admit it: you are the kind of horrible human being that just laughed and thought of a friend because of the many, many times something like that has happened in-game. Well let me tell you, if that how you think this works, you don’t know how to rock n roll – which for sure means you immediately do not qualify for the job!
If you’re gonna play a bard because of the reasons I mentioned earlier, just pick a rogue or a cleric, make yourself at least useful; let someone else have the creative thinking drive. If you are gonna do this properly, you need to go into this venture with two very clear ideas: you ARE NOT a support character…You Are Just Letting Everyone Else Believe You Are, until you are in fact indispensable. Bards offer a ridiculous versatility, and I have played them all. The first thing you must do when creating a bard worthy of its name is: what would be my job like in real life in the real world? Are you an artist and you are seeking fame? Are you just a curious mind that seeks experiences out and then likes bragging about them? Perhaps you are out in the world to get first hand knowledge of everything and anything so then you can pass it on. Can you talk? And I mean Can YOU roleplay a character that talks? Because if you can’t, you may not want to try to pull the: ARGHHMAAAYYYGGGASSSSHHHH IIIMMMMSSSSSOOOOCCCHHHAARRRRMMIIINNGGG…Or in fact anything that has to do with speaking and performing in such a way. Are you a Poe and Lovecraft fan who is just nuts or broody about the world and is trying to spread this feeling of doom? Cool. Do you get it now? Do you have it in your head? Is it believable? Can you pull this off? Because otherwise; you’re done. Do not get me wrong, you do not need to be charismatic in real life to be a bard, or be good with words that way either, but you must be able to have the ability of making others believe you are. This is key to your whole persona: it is all a matter of attitude or all the other kids are gonna be pushing you about in the playground. The tank will break your legs cause you squishy, the wizard will think you’re dumb, and so on and so forth.
Thing is; doesn’t gotta be that way. Once you are sure that you can do this, certainly you should consider spending a decent amount of points in your class stats and abilities, but don’t be a fool. Do NOT spend it all that way. If you are a one-man/woman/other-show, you need to take care of yourself somehow. Perhaps you aren’t strong, but you are a resilient bastard who the rest of the party will thank later for rescuing their arses (+2 to constitution). You may have had a school deprived childhood but you have been around, you know a fair bit about folks and things (increasing Wisdom as we speak). And if you play an instrument, I hate to break this to you bro, but you needa have some skillz: and Dex is your friend. And you know what you are already with that set up? Better than the ranger; you’re already in with the cool kids. But that is not the only way. Once I played a bard whose second best stat was intelligence and was better at casting magic than the wizard. Why? Because I could combo like a boss with my charismatic skills to create distractions and a bloody spectacle around all the fireworks until it was too late for people to realise I was the one setting things on fire and not just playing a power ballad. Get what I am sayin? Right, so maybe you are more of a suave, sneaky kinda person. No problem. You know what is the best way of making money from a show that didn’t pay off proper? Steal it. And how to big up your name when you can’t hire a marketing advisor? Be your own. Grow street smarts, get ambitious, get political. Disguise, deceive: off to the shenanigans you go! The world is yours for the taking. And, if in doubt, you can always break people’s legs: your tank does it and he ain’t nothing special (no offense). Do the same, but with epic flowing hair because L’orien; you’re worth it. Not really my style, but, you get what I am getting at.
Being a bard is another way of truly saying go wild. Impress yourself, impress your friends, get out of your comfort zone, step into everyone elses garden, eat their pies, do it solo. The sky is the limit. The possibilities are endless. Just Do NOT let the rest of the Party determine What you are, what you can do and how you do it. In other words: you know Odin is a god of war, but also magic? Do you know what Odin is also good at? Poetry. If the All-father is the top dog of the Norse pantheon, you can be the leader of this group too (and the universe will come, later). Cause guess what Harry, you can also be a wizard that plays metal like a pro, but without blowing yourself up like that wanna be Merlin who is neither here nor there in what regards moral issues and making decisions. 😉
And That is How you do Bards: with Attitude, Sass, Determination and Smarts. The next time any of you comes bitching about my lute, Imma play it so hard your ears will explode 🙂 8)