Thursday, October 27, 2011


It has come to our attention here at D&DWPS that some readers do not understand about how bards suck. To clarify, here is a diagram (click to enlarge):


thekelvingreen said...

This all seems pretty self-explanatory to me.

John Evans said...

On the other hand, maybe singing-as-spellcasting could be interesting. Like a magic-user variant. "If you choose the singing variant, you add your CHA bonus to any roll to influence an intelligent creature; the downside is that you must sing all your spells, so good luck being stealthy."

Zak Sabbath said...


Anonymous said...

Ok, you might have a point.

Lasgunpacker said...

Zak, I appreciate the clarification of how Bards suck.

However, and this is the important part, I have players who want to BE bards, and not just in the "I play a lute for kicks, but primarily kill things" sort of way." So I guess I need to figure out how they fit in. Or kill the PCs. Either way.

Adam Dickstein said...

I love Bards and so do my players.

Wait. Did you mean D&D Bards?

Oh yes. They do indeed suck. Carry on.

Anonymous said...

Theory: Fighters give the fantasy who being a strong badass. Thieves give the fantasy of being a stealthy and clever ninja. Magic-users give the fantasy of controlling the primal forces of nature and shooting electric death from your fingertips.
All good fantasies.
But bards give the fantasy of being a rock star who gets lots of pussy.

Zak Sabbath said...


for some people--

i don't really think wish fulfillment is a very fun part of the game. i like the part where you pick your character because it functions in an interesting way in the little fiction/chess match you are putting together.

The Cramp said...

I played a Bard, recently... Had to. I finally updated my computer and now can run Dragon Age: Origins Late to the game, I know. Also a pc game and defiant of the aims of this site, so sorry for this. But I like puzzles, and if you set the game's difficulty to "nightmare," each encounter is a brutal one.

The Bard has a chant that constantly replenishes manna to the casters and stamina to the fighter. So if you want to slay dragons on nightmare, the casters must both heal and weave in their highest damage spells (use tons of mana.) To keep the dragon off them the fighter must maintain and survive the dragon’s attention. This demands that the fighter equip massive plate to survive (a drain on stamina) and use all their high damage attacks (which cost stamina) to keep the dragon's hostility.

To my dismay I discovered if I wanted to slay dragons on a real difficulty setting, I must bring the bard.

The horror... The horror...

Anonymous said...

I play a bard. You've got me on the poofy shirt; he's a fop, at least when he's not in disguise. But bards make *great* social manipulators, especially in games with flexible GMs (e.g. - Perform can be any type of performance, not just music).

I've lead entire enemy squads single-file into lightning bolt ambushes. I once pretended to be the goddess Athena (with her permission), in order to break a siege. I may have only hit the dragon three times, but I made sure that when we fought, none of its lizard men subjects took part. And when we fight the beholder next session, it will be in an open field with lots of allies, not deep within it's trap and bandit filled lair.

And that's just counting the things that he could do explicitly because he's a bard. He also recently took down a manticore single-handed, in three combat rounds.

tl;dr: I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome Savinion is.

Unknown said...

So the guy in the middle of this picture, Cavan...

He hosts a very popular, very trashy TV show about the occult. He performs exorcisms. His paperback (in bookstores everywhere) includes a ritual for summoning the Devil---and it appears to work.

Let's say I want to adapt him for D&D. He becomes a courtier to the local prince, a sardonic Master of Mysteries. He has demonstrable magical knowledge and capabilities, but he's able to manipulate people in ways that others are unable to understand. How do I make this work?

Third edition bard. His Perform skills are all oratory, so he doesn't need an instrument (which would be an obvious tell). Suitable spell choices give him impressive sound-and-light shows, and he has the Knowledge and Use Magic Item skills to further confuse people.

Zak Sabbath said...



do you want me to explain how bards suck despite these things or should we just leave it.

Daniel Dean said...

"I'm not a cat person."
"Really? Here's a long story about MY cat who is GREAT."

"I don't care for the Broncos."
"Let me tell you about when John Elway was really nice to me."

"Heartbeeps is a miserable movie."
"Your review was good except where it forgot to mention how hilarious Heartbeeps was."

Nathaniel Eliot said...

(Blogspot seems to be failing at OpenID, today.)

@Zak: Nah, I'm good. We disagree on Lady Gaga too, and yet the world keeps turning and your blog is still interesting to read.

@Daniel: Awww. Sorry to hear disagreeing with Zak disagrees so much with you.

Unknown said...

bards can suck less when you have a party of bards. The fun there is mostly driving your DM nuts with writing song titles and/or lyrics based on every situation you encounter.

Kind of like using Randy Newmann as a weapon.

Nagora said...

Panache? Jesters have panache?! I could get into playing the Woody Allen character from All You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask, but I can't quite imagine such a character being on the same continent as pirates or Cyrano De Bergerac as regards panache. I can't imagine his life span being too long in a D&D game either, but that's a minor point.

Ryu Long said...

Seems more honest to say, 'I hate bards because, arbitrary'. I've seen plenty of bards without a single one of those attributes other than maybe a lute or 'music-magic'. However, saying 'music-magic' is stupid, but 'finger-wiggling, word spouting' magic isn't stupid, is arbitrary.

Zak Sabbath said...

"I hate bards because arbitrary" would be a lie and I do not lie.
"I hate bards because of my taste" would be true.
To say my taste is arbitrary would be partially true, but aesthetics (taste) are not purely arbitrary but related to different peoples' biological intuitions (entirely emotional) about survival strategies and their hardwiring.
Music magic, as visually depicted in every bard I have ever seen, looks bad (subjectively).
Every time it is done well (the horror-movie organ, the noise marine) it has been done appealingly by stripping away the trapppings associated, visually, with the pre-modern travelling troubador.

Ryu Long said...

No, I get the latter, puffy shirts suck. I get taste as well, the arbitrary part is where the assumption all bards have to be the 'traveling troubador' with the shitty taste in clothing. Would it not be more genuine to say 'I hate the default assumption for bards', much like you do with a lot of other things?

I pick on this particular point because you seem to have a love of reskinning things you feel don't work. I don't tend to agree with why those things don't work, or how you change them, but I respect that you make them work for you. Why is the bard different?

Zak Sabbath said...

As the chart clearly demonstrates, any change you make to a "bard" which retains a desirable element of that class brings it into the sphere of a different word with better associations. (Noise Marine and Insane Horror Composer could easily be on there)

The word itself (and this is the whole point of words) personifies all the bad and undesirable things about the archetype. "re-skinning" requires removing the aesthetically undesirable elements. The word itself, its associations and the imagery it evokes, is a huge part of the aesthetically undesirable thing here.

Any good or neutral idea attached to the word "bard" already is owned by some other concept, so use that instead.

Ryu Long said...

Why come up with a bunch of words to describe something if bard is viable and succinct?

What if what he does is travel with a party to keep them in good spirits, but also serves the purpose of being part healer (as 'Type III' and 'Type IV' bards can do) and part rogue? Should he be called a 'rogue with healing powers and music'? If you need a sentence to describe something that includes many concepts, it seems that at that point, it is simply a different thing.

Again, I don't deny that the 'default' assumptions for bard suck, but so do many of the default assumptions of the fighter or wizard or halfling (the hobbit variety).

D&D (and tabletop gaming in general) should challenge definitions. It would be boring to play in the game with only clerics of a sun god that heal people, old man wizards engrossed in books, and bland fighters that differ only in their weapon choice. A bard should no more have to be a nancy-boy fop, than a paladin needs to be an overzealous, lawful-stupid symbol of Christian values. No more than a barbarian should be a mindless, foam-at-the-mouth killer that speaks in broken Common (or whatever language).

In the end, your argument seems to be attacking the bard in broad strokes, when it seems what you dislike is either a single concept under the bard, or the word 'bard'. If that is all, then I concede, you may define a word as you please, but I don't think your other concepts completely illustrate all that the bard concept can be, especially if it easily falls into three or more of those categories.

Zak Sabbath said...

You seem to think we are having a conversation about ideas and cliches derived from games, we are not.

This is a conversation about the connotations of words even outside a game context.

"Bard" is succinct but not viable. It succinctly implies a bunch of undesirable ideas. Like "Belle-lettriste" or "assweasel" succinctly implies a bunch of undesirable ideas.

"What if what he does is travel with a party to keep them in good spirits, but also serves the purpose of being part healer (as 'Type III' and 'Type IV' bards can do) and part rogue? Should he be called a 'rogue with healing powers and music'?"

"Rogue"--baggage free. "Entertainer". Whatever. The word itself summons an image. The image is bad. The image does not belong in any game I want to play. So long as the word summons that image (as it inevitably does) it is aestheticaly undesirable.

Like you can make a class mechanically identical to a knight and call it an "assweasel" and go "but why not just use the word assweasel?" Because the word assweasel summons ideas into the mind--unbiddedn--that have baggage that interfere with enjoyment of the gaing experience. Not because there is some d&D cliche about the assweasel class I am unable to let go of.

"Again, I don't deny that the 'default' assumptions for bard suck, but so do many of the default assumptions of the fighter or wizard or halfling (the hobbit variety)."

Not assumptions about the CLASS, implications of the WORD. "Bard" is not a shitty CLASS NAME in D&D it is a shitty WORD in all of human discourse. Like "assweasel".

The word "wizard" implies only cool things, even outside a game.

The word "bard" implies "musician" and then a bunch of terrible things, in or out of a game context.

If you want to play a musician, create a class and call it "musician".

If you want to pay a pretentious musician who is annoying with terrible taste in clothes then that is succinctly expressed in the word "bard".

Ryu Long said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryu Long said...

Then your issue derives directly with your definition of the word 'bard' alone. That's fine, but your diagram doesn't express that clearly. It just as easily suggests that bard (the archetype/class) is only capable of being those things mentioned, and therefore its concept as a whole, sucks.

However, I don't have that sort of a connection to words and imagery where I cannot separate the two. So to me, it feels arbitrary to ascribe a singular definition like that. I define words like 'wizard' or 'bard' by setting.

I'll concede your dislike of the word, however, that doesn't bother me in any particular way. I merely did not feel the original argument was clear on that. It was not that I '{thought} we {were} having a conversation about ideas and cliches derived from games', it's that I didn't know what we were conversing about specifically.

EDIT: (Repost to fix a mistake, wow that is annoying.)

Zak Sabbath said...

Different people associate different ideas with different words. The diagram illustrates my own associations and those of a great many other people. I make no claim to have universal associations or even those in line with those of the majority.