Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Disagree-a-thon: Bards

As promised, we're doing disagreements this week. You get to watch human beings talk about something we don't agree on without freaking the fuck out

Today Simon will defend the worst thing in all of roleplaying: Bards.
Smirking at what exactly, guy?
Zak

Ok, Bards, so...

1. Late-era bards w/magic powers: Music as magic out on an adventure looks silly. There's literally never been any pictorial or cinematic depiction of this that didn't look ridiculous. (Noise Marines don't count). 

And hokey.


2. Late/middle-era bards as "encouraging you to fight via music"--again, if you picture this happening in a dungeon it's a preposterous image and has never not looked hokey. If goblins are attacking, put down the lute and pick up a rock.


3. Old-era bards who are just travelling thief/fighters. These are just journeyman thief/fighters, the fact they have a day job doesn't make them a new class--why should it?

A duellist is just a kind of fighter, a burglar is just a kind of thief. What's the point?


4. Bard-as-charisma-wizard. Sure, a character can be charming, but the idea that the performer is somehow especially charming suggests a charisma that translates far away from the culture where said performer is famous for performing. While it's easy to picture a performer being charming to people who like lute music in some farming hellhole somewhere, it isnt going to translate when you're doing things other than trying to impress the mayor at festival time. It's not like being in a band helps you convince TSA not to search your bags.


Your turn.



Simon


Hokay. 


1. It does look silly if it happens in a dungeon during a goblin attack. Outside of a dungeon, though, I say it can work just fine. In "Secret of Kells" animated movie the scene where a fae girl transforms a cat into a spirit by singing "Pangur Ban" looks cool. So, the party needs to rescue someone from a locked tower, it's hard to climb, it's suicidal to attack, the bard steps forward and sings, and music makes his magic happen, putting guards to sleep or summoning mist or whatever - I can see it working. 


2. Yes, this, too, is preposterous in a dungeon. It can work if you view it like Jedi Battle Meditation in "Knights of the Old Republic", which is as 3rd edition D&D as it can possibly get, with skills and feats and all. It works when you gather an army and it's on the march and you raise their spirits with drums or battle songs or whatever. It doesn't work when goblins attack in a dungeon, unless you want to play silly. Sometimes playing silly is okay.


3. Sure, playing a bard as a thief or a fighter or a mage who has a day job is fine. Like playing a pirate or a duelist or a knight - basically it's a thief or a fighter but with some fluff. You can add some stuff like this thief is an important member of Thieves' Guild, or this fighter is in the brotherhood of bards so he has some sort if diplomatic immunity, you can't just throw a bard in jail because the next month in every tavern of every town of your neighbouring contries everyone will sing the new ballad about you being a petty tyrant, and also fat and bald and impotent. But it doesn't require a new class, agreed.


4. The charisma-wizard thing seems as natural to me as intelligence-wizard thing. Sure, the mage is smart, but it takes more than just a well-operating brain to summon fire and ice and monsters and transform people into statues, and it takes more than a silver tongue to be a magic-using bard. It's more like someone who's so in tune with music, which is basic and primitive enough that pretty much any culture knows and uses it and is affected by it, - so that this someone can feel and use the very sort of music that would affect this audience before him. Which is, in my view, how charisma works - you meet someone, you feel what makes them tick, you do the thing that makes them tick.


And playing someone like this would be fun for everyone, I'd say. 


Your turn.

Why would anyone want any of this to happen?



Zak


1 & 2 Seem to center around the difference between the actual english word "Bard" and the image it conjures in the mind--which means an either court-bound or travelling medieval-ish poet/musician ---and a much broader definition that only gamers use, which is "music->magic". I have no opposition to someone doing magical effects via some suitably cool-looking music playing, like, you hit a gong and it causes an earthquake. All your examples seem like a VERY poor fit for the english word "bard" though--and I think the associations make it a bit like saying "Well I have a knight but he rides shoes instead of a horse and wears cloth instead of armor (because cloth protects you from cold, so it's a kind of armor) and he wields a paintbrush instead of a sword". Like: why are we using the word "bard" for this kind of PC that's only interesting with a completely different image unrelated to the word "bard" or its english-language associations?


As for "silly is ok" at that point you're arguing you might as well have literally any class, like a ceiling-toucher class made of people who are good at touching ceilings. That's fine to play a silly game, but it's not a good argument that it's as essential to fantasy RPGs as wizards and fighters.


3. Ok, you conceded that we can drop it,


4. First, that isn't how musicians actually interact with the world at all. Second, the wizard-intelligence thing only makes sense because the wizard has magic. And bards having magic is silly as proved up in 1 & 2.


Your turn.

Hail fellow well m...Hey where are you going?
Simon


Okay. 

1. When I say/hear "bard" I think of the old legendary figures like Taliesin. Since I'm not a native English speaker, no wonder that there can be poor fits like this. I don't mind using synonyms instead of "bard", minstrel, troubadour like that class that you made up, whatever. (Or I could argue that King Arthur's knights in reality wore cloth rather than heavy armour which didn't exist back then and didn't have lances, but that would be pointless and not interesting to anyone.) 


Agreed about silly games. 


4. First, if we talk about magic-musicians, I say they should be stranger and different from just musicians, and it should be somehow related to their connection with music. Second, I think we agree about doing magical effects via some suitably cool-looking music playing being okay. Some mages cast spells by reciting strange words and making gestures, some call the wind by whistling, or make the dead rise by tapping a complex rhythm, or make stone and steel shatter by singing a high note like an opera tenor breaking glass. And having a mage whose powers are limited to such musical things is fun. If it's more fun when we don't call him a bard, okay. We can call him something else. 


Are we still disagreeing?

Who's the real troll here?

Zak


1 & 2. Ok, so Taliesin is, if i understand, a travelling mythic middle-ages bard. Not an ethereal faerie singing a song to cast magic spells. 


So none of your reasoning makes sense there.


4. See 1&2


The idea is: Bard --in a rhetorical framework where it's an adventuring class as essential as a wizard or a thief--doesn't have much to stand on.


Wizard-but-singing or banging an organ is really a different image altogether.

No, you're a cringey dork


Simon


Taliesin was something similar to Thomas the Rhymer, a historic figure with legends connected to him. Thomas was supposed to be a lover/prisoner of faerie queen for seven years and gifted with prophetic abilities by her; there's a tale about Taliesin that a king tried to imprison him, and the bard sang a song that called a terrible monster to come out of the sea and do nasty things to the king. The king wasn't impressed until the monster really did arrive. 


So - historically they were travelling poets, but I like to think of them as travelling poets who could make magic happen with their poetry. 


4. When we speak of adventuring class - sure. It can be a variant of any basic one. I mean, Fafhrd wanted to be a scald - here's a fighter-bard, or rather a fighter/thief-bard. Something to fleshen out the character. If we're talking about essential classes, once again, a bard isn't more essential than a burglar or duellist, or illusionist. If we want to have a mage who's specializing in casting illusions, I don't see why not have a mage who's specialty is using music for spells. If we want to have essential adventuring classes - we have fighter, who doesn't do magic, we have wizard, who does magic, we have thief or specialist who does other things - then there's no reason to make bard a separate class.

Stop.


Zak


An illusionist has a job that has to do with adventuring.


A bard only has a job if we add-on to the word "bard" a bunch of associations which either aren't implied by the word (singing and the monster appears, so just a wizard basically) or which look silly (lute during goblin fight).


Simon


Isn't an illusionist just a wizard, basically, but limited to illusions?


Zak


Yes. Which is a legitimate adventuring person.


A "bard" is as much an adventuring class as a baker.


Simon


I could imagine, say, "Butcher" as an adventuring class, though probably not baker. Anyways, 

if we take an essential wizard and slap some limitations on him, and call him something shorter than "wizard who uses music" to keep it simple, would there be a problem with it?


Zak


No problem: but the name can't be arbitrary. Words have associations, especially in historical or fantasy contexts.


The name should be about what the class brings to the adventuring table AND not conjure an image of something that's not an adventurer.

Must be casual friday.


Simon


True enough. And I suppose people could find a name suitable for such a character, I'm pretty sure you could if you needed one. Not that I ask you to give one right now, just that there are suitable names that could be used, aren't there?


Zak


It's probably conceivable, but I don't have one in mind.


Simon


Okay. So I guess we've reached the point where we agree. If it's not called a bard but has a reasonable name, and it's not silly on the level of playing a lute in the middle of goblin attacks to make everyone feel better, it can be fun, and fun things should be used in games.


Zak


Fair enough. A pleasure, Simon.


Simon


The pleasure, dear sir, is all mine!


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Thank you for reading the disagree-a-thon. If you left a comment with a good disagreement and haven't gotten in touch yet, email zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm.

The only cool bard--by Jacques Callot.
He's dead now.
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Eager for more bardic content. A new Cube World installment, FUCKING BARDS, is now available in The Store, go get one.


47 comments:

Benjamin Cusack said...

Is the disagreeathon going to be a daily thing, or longer spaces between?
Additionally, I think the reason you guys disagreed is because fairy tales are gameable, but not directly.
So, in myth and legend and folktale and any kind of cultural story,
The issue is that in all those examples, the powers are not calculated or balanced.
In most traditional stories, powers are made up for a variety of reasons, so if you look at any mythological figure, they will have several forms, interpretations, powers, conflicting goals or stories associated.
So a person playing the lute to stop an attack could be gameable, but categorizing and working through how to make something that is a one-off in a historical folktale a power that could happen every combat or session is more complex.

Zak Sabbath said...

@benjamin

I don't know about scheduling--I don't plan very much.

But I take your point--in a fairy tale a frog prince is a good idea -because_ it's novel. Whereas wizards and fighters are interesting kinda always.

Lupis42 said...

I'm going to do something somewhat unexpected, and come out in defense of bards, though with the caveat that I think D&D bards are universally terrible, and when DMing I suggest that players decide what they'll want to play after the bard dies and skip to that to save time.

Fundamentally, however, as an archetype to draw on, Bards have a ton of great source material. Egil's saga is one of the best of the Icelandic sagas, and it's protagonist is fundamentally a charismatic and sometimes violent asshole, who uses witty banter, force of personality, and poetry battles to get into and out of trouble all over the place. Talsein is probably the ur-Bard from Anglo-Celtic traditions, and offers a great example of the magic <> music connection as inextricably linked.
With regards to the type of magic, bards are almost always tied with the more subtle, low magic that you see from someone like Gandalf, which helps drive the question of whether it's even really magic, or whether it's just force of personality and power of music to stir the emotions of those who hear it, changing the moods or minds of even large groups of people. The most extreme examples make monsters appear, or change the weather, but even the Lord of the Rings gives you the clean and compelling example of Tom Bombadil, who is able to break the compulsion that the wights have laid on the party of Hobits because his singing is able to command their attention, and he aays repeatedly that this explains his ability to daunt and command the old willow tree too. "His songs are stronger songs"

Modern literature gives us examples like Kvothe (Name of the Wind) and Johnny Silverhand (Cyberpunk), characters who are capable of fighting, may have other relevant skills (magic, technology, intelligence) but who are first and foremost charisma based heroes, who interact with the world primarily socially - by charming, manipulating, impressing, seducing, leading, etc. The ideal Bard has the charisma to charm and impress a ruler from another culture, across a language barrier, and with nothing more than their music, possibly supplemented by good looks and strong stage presence.

Of course D&D collapsed that down to "plays a lute in the dungeon in the middle of a fight", and most D&D players try to expand it back as "seduces people in taverns, steals the focus, and concentrates on things that leave nothing for the other players to do" - but that's a failing to reflect useful mechanical properties for bards, not a failing of the concept.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Lupis42

As soon as you cite Johnny Silverhand you get right back to the same problem: that may be an adventurous person who has to do with music, but that's not a "bard". A bard isn't a modern person or a person in the future--the word itself has a resonance that's era-specific.

An argument that just talks about the utility of adventurer-musicians and doesn't talk about the word itself is missing the point of that whole conversation.

Lupis42 said...

But here's my issue: when I see Johnny Silverhand, I immediately think 'Bard'. As opposed to, say, Adam Smasher ('fighter') or Rogue (eponymous).

Now when you say 'Bard' my first image is probably more like Adaon from Lloyd Alexander's prydain chronicles. Someone who is, first and foremost charismatic, and derives a lot of that charisma from the ability to make music that has tangible effects on people.

Lupis42 said...

The more I think about the naming question, the more I think I put Bard as considerably more archetypal than paladin, barbarian, or ranger, and maybe than thief/rogue. Basically, the wizard is someone who is smart and studied enough to manipulate the world, the bard is someone who is enthralling enough (99% of the time that would be musical+attractive) to manipulate the world, and the fighter is someone who is strong and/or courageous, and simply defeats foes directly.

Zak Sabbath said...

again to me:
a bard is primarily the name of a civilian profession like a baker

add a certain Point though if you say your mental image of some thing the I can’t disagree

Lupis42 said...

It may be a literature background - the stuff I read when I was a kid, and when I was an adult, has never left me thinking of bard as a profession, but rather as a type of person who might go into that profession. I don't know how many of those were influential on OSR game designers directly, but if any of them read Dune, they probably just found `troubador/warrior` too cumbersome.

I'm curious if you first came upon the word/concept from D&D, or whether you already had an idea in your head of what 'Bard' meant when you picked it up for the first time, because that does seem to be where our disagreement lies, and I have no idea whether my idea of a bard is more common or more rare, so maybe I'm just the one with an unusual conception.

Adamantyr said...

Could the same arguments not also be made about clerics, druids, and so forth? That they're really a civilian profession?

Zak Sabbath said...

@adamantyr

Well druids in general and religious people in a fantasy setting where the God is Not christian or any other familiar earthly religion carry a mystery and a sense of fantasy with them immediately

Zak Sabbath said...

@lupis42

I first heard of bards in a D&D book and then after that I heard about them as you know guys from the middle ages who played lutes and also Shakespeare

Picador said...

“Cleric”.

Wow that guy filing papers, or that church functionary, must rob tombs and murder goblins for a living!

This argument makes no sense.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Picador

This was addressed in the exchange above with Adamantyr.

Please leave a comment confirming you read and understood that before making other comments.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Picador

Erased.

You gotta respond to the previous point before posting again. (It also looks like you didn't read the post before typing your comment bc it repeats information that's in th epost).

Picador said...

Yes, apologies for the duplicate argument.

In sur-reply to your reply to Adamantyr: men who travelled from one fiefdom to another carrying the news and bringing poems from faraway lands would, I dare say, “carry a mystery and a sense of fantasy with them” at least as much as any priest.

Adamantyr said...

So what if they had called the class "Skald" instead? Same problem or does it sound more interesting and less civilian?

Picador said...

Ok Zak. Lots of rules!

Zak Sabbath said...

@Picador

At the time, maybe, but I am talking about to a person that I meet in the 21st century and invite to come play a game:

This person knows what a fighter is, they know what a wizard is, they know what a knight is--those words are so common they reappear in modern speech all the time outside actual fantasy.

I am not referring to -what you might know or find out about bards with research- I am referring to the common associations and definitions in the mind of me and people I'm familiar with.

A bard is either something they don't know, or is Shakespeare or a guy with a lute or something.

Zak Sabbath said...

@adamantyr

I don't know because I myself personally (even now) have no clear idea of what a "skald" does other than:

-vikingness
-knows or writes poetry
-sings

it's a cool word but if you told me "skald" was a class in your game, I'd have no idea what kind of in-game adventurer abilities that character. Might as well be a Theurge or a Triudian--one of those classes whose flavor was system-specific rather than one whose function was easily understood just from the name.

Zak Sabbath said...

Not to say Skalds can't do cool things, Im just using myself as an example of someone pretty well-versed in the kinds of words associated with sword & sorcery lit and I still don't have strong ideas about what a skald might be up to in a dungeon.

Zak Sabbath said...

@picador

Well yes, there are rules but part of the point of the whole disagree-a-thon is to show that the rules keep the conversation understandable and help make it more interesting and not just some gibberish hydra of people talkng past each other because the internet lets them:

https://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com/2021/10/reader-participation-disagree.html

Adamantyr said...

That may be part of it...both bards and skalds were much more likely to be found in a noble's court instead of a dungeon. In a different kind of game focused on politics and diplomacy, their class makes a lot more sense. (Not my kind of game really, I get my fill of being diplomatic at my real job.)

Kyle T said...

I actually don't think I'd read your reasoning for your distaste for bards, so that was good to catch. Looks like the disagreement went reasonably well. I have nothing to add since my own distaste is based on the kinds of players attracted to bards in their later forms, and it's just a sweeping generalization.

Benjamin Cusack said...

@lupis42 You said "With regards to the type of magic, bards are almost always tied with the more subtle, low magic that you see from someone like Gandalf, which helps drive the question of whether it's even really magic, or whether it's just force of personality and power of music to stir the emotions of those who hear it, changing the moods or minds of even large groups of people"
Gandalf has very few examples of doing magic, but most often it ain't subtle.
Prestidigitation for the letter, cracking the rock/speeding up time, lightning bolt, leaping flames.
I think that is all the spells/magic from the hobbit, if there are more let me know.
If this is the case, one of them was not immediately obvious.

Also, aren't bards quite obvious? Like if you are playing music mid fight, or anytime in a dungeon, that is not subtle.

Savage Wombat said...

Having read your views on bards, I'm curious as to your perspective on rangers.

CJGeringer said...

To me this is an interesting discussion because I really like bards, however this discussion completely ignored how I use them in my tables: As actual Bards and ministrels. Like you can find in Warhammer/Zweihander or GURPS: Celtic Mith/vikings/russia,

I entered the hobby via things Like Gurps, and History-focused RPGs, and real World Legends and Fantasy literature, and didn´t really have much to do with D&D, and while Bards are an important aspect of my fantasy games, they don´t really fit in any of the 4 arquetypes you mentioned in the begining. They are characters focused on knowledge and social interactions. Most don´t even have magic.

A good bard can gain entry into restricted social spaces and gather information (Or plant information without arising suspicion, as well as reduce or stoke tensions between Characters and factions (NPCs or Not), help reduce stress and mental afflictions to entertainment. They can increase the party´s fame (And thus pay and opportunities).

When they do approach magic they are more effects like charming and calming animals, wich probably wouldn´t be much fun in your standard dungeon Crawl full of monster and fantastic animals but can be very good in games where battle is dangerous and to be avoided when possible, where monsters are rare set pieces, and being able to calm the party´s animals when a dangerous creature is lurking can be useful.

I do have a folk-lore inpired chanter spellcasting subclass that does magic trough singing, their main feature being that their spell can keep going for longer if they can keep their music going, but they are not bards.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Savage wOmbat

The name was always a little weird to me when I was younger (isn't that a guy who chases Yogi Bear?), but since nearly all of my adult gaming life was during the era of the Peter Jackson LoTR movies and Game of Thrones, which use the word "ranger" in a very genre-specific context, the concept seems to land differently. Plus being a wilderness tracking/survival/fighting bears person is not a useless skill when fighting goblins.

Zak Sabbath said...

@CJGeringer

What you're decribing fits completely and exactly into what I was talking about in 4. The Charisma-guy. That idea is discussed.

Lupis42 said...

@Benjamin Cusack

Gandalf does more showy tricks in the Hobbit, I was thinking more of LoTR, which I think drove a lot more subsequent fantasy, and where many of his great story shaking moments (Awakening Theoden, rallying the defenses at Minas Tirith, facing down the Witch King after the gates breach) do not rely on any overt magic at all. That's not all he does certainly, but those things are much more powerful and drive the plot, while making fire in impossible circumstances, producing light without a torch, and the flashes and bangs of the Hobbit all seem quite fitting for someone who knows a lot about fireworks, and don't involve the great displays of power of, say, the great darkness that covers the world for days.

@Zak

This definitely seems to be about archetypes, which is why I go to that question. I imagine Shakespeare, had he taken a slightly different path in life, could have very easily been a kind of adventurer, parlaying his ability to enthrall people directly (he was an actor before he was a playwright) and his skill with language for diplomacy. Certainly, if I was organizing a raid on a Dragon's lair, and thought we might have to talk to the Dragon, he'd be the guy I'd tap for that. Though Robert Burns (also known as The Bard to Scots, in the same way Shakespeare is to the English) might be another good candidate.
The D&D bard has always made me think of Cacafonix (from the Asterix books), rather than of any of the bards from more typically D&D style sword-and-sorcery stuff, and if my go-to idea of what a Bard is was more like that, I'd be looking for something else to call the class. Not sure what I'd land on though.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Lupis42

Shakespeare and his friends did steal an entire theater:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3349063/Shakespeare-armed-robbers-stole-theatre-rebuilt-Globe-document-reveals.html

Lupis42 said...

@Savage Wombat+Zak

Paladin is the other one that interests me most, being another highly divisive class in D&D in general, and also notably lighter on explicitly named examples in the most popular sources - LoTR being the most prominent one.

Rangers are too familiar to modern people, as even park rangers (wrangle bears and other big scary monstrous wildlife, survive and rescue people in the wilderness) are pretty adventurous by nature, and it wasn't that long ago that Texas Rangers was basically "D&D adventurer, but as a career choice". Even if LoTR hadn't used the word explicitly, I don't think it would be nearly as unfamiliar a concept as Paladin or Bard are to a lot of people.

Lupis42 said...

A theater is a really good haul for a party. Ought to be a lot of XP with that much treasure!

Benjamin Cusack said...

@lupis42, yes, his magic in the trilogy is definitely more low magic. But I think a big part of this is that in the hobbit, he is a wizard. In the Lord of the rings, he is an Istari, and the differences make his actions very different. Tolkien had more plot to do, more planning and reasons and world building. I think it might be even be considered a different character in some ways.
Good examples though.
I think this also applies to Harry Potter, who for the most part succeeds because of friends and emotions and actions, not the spells he knows. In fact, it is mostly down to true magic, ie emotions, for most all conflicts. Things like friendship and love are upheld as the underlying sources of magic, and I think that this kind of magic was directly from what you are describing about gandalf.
Thank you for the excellent response!
Also, could you weigh in in the letter? Or the speeding up time?
These seem to be largely disregarded in the discussions about the hobbit I have had, but they are incredibly interesting if they are magic.

Lupis42 said...

@Benjamin Cusack

I don't recall any instance where Gandalf speeds up time in the Hobbit, unless you mean the conversation with the trolls, which I took as mostly about keeping them from noticing the passage of time, not speeding things up.
For the letter, prestidigitation is a good word for it - just like modern "magic tricks", slight of hand and clever thinking are quite possibly all there is too it - just as his knowledge of fireworks and "explosive powders" is plausibly magic to his audience, but does not feel magic to a modern person with some education about how these things work.

Ī©mega said...

I don’t know if this counts as an argument or not. Just wanting to contribute to the conversation about bards. I run a campaign on the big judges guild hex maps, and someone wanted to play a bard.

I never liked the musical magic aspect, so I nixed that, but instead gave the bard the ability to perform in towns and villages. If they performed a song about the party’s exploits, a combination of the town’s population and the bard’s level determined how big a radius that story would spread.

It’s a way to create a reputation for the party or for individual characters that can affect any and all interactions, including with intelligent monsters in the wilderness or dungeons.

We expanded this when the player had the idea to use their powers to malign an enemy and spread nasty rumors about them in the region, so I had it work the same way, and it definitely had a fun mechanical impact on the game.

But otherwise, he was mostly what you call a charisma wizard. Always trying to parlay, negotiate, seduce, etc. And because the nature of the campaign involved gallivanting around the countryside where reputation and social interaction, that was largely useful. In the dungeon, he was basically a rogue in combat - though likely to try talking the enemy out of a fight if at all possible.

Zak Sabbath said...

I usually run endless kitchen-sink D&D campaigns, so the Troubadour was meant to be somebody who was social with humans but also had legit useful dungeon skills for when nobody spoke your language except the rust golems progammed to kill anything that moved

p1r8z0r said...

Bard are not a profession, they are a social class and a calling in their own right. The ones that are recorded in history have close to mythic status, but the ones of legend, especially the Welsh, are almost as powerful and mythic as druids. Let go of our collective, modern ideas of bard = travelling musician. They are keepers of law, practitioners of enchantments, shapechangers, tricksters, and the only people who can bestow or remove curses. Here's a good place to start: http://bestoflegends.org/kingarthur/bards.html

If you haven't already read The Mabinogi, I highly recommend the translation by Patrick K Ford, because he traces the stories, and the role of bard, back to the bronze age and those zaney proto-indo-europeans and their horse-fucking ways.

This is why the 1e AD&D bard was written the way it was, as something powerful to be earned. In 1e play they are a powerhouse: You can charm with the magic of music. You are learned. You are a warrior-hero, a scoundrel, and a holy man. Kings both fear and court bards because they understand the power they have over minds and rumors.

Bards were neutered in 2e and have never recovered.

That's my two coppers and I'm sticking by it.

Zak Sabbath said...

@p1r8z0r

Words have the connotations they have for any given person, they can't just -decide- to have another, no matter how well justified.

Ask the tufted titmouse or the african wild ass.

p1r8z0r said...

@zak: then I can call the old 1e AD&D Bard a Fili and be done with it, because that's really what they are. Funny argument: someone along the way in human history decided to equate fili = bard = minstrel, which was incorrect. So why not reclaim it? Humans do have the power to utilize language as well as use it: hence poetry. I'll stick with mythical bards because they do fill a role-playing niche: social combat (charm music/suggestion), lore, spying, and party buff/protection - all of it neatly found in archetypes of fiction and legend. To each their own.

Zak Sabbath said...

@p1r8z0r

I don't know what a fili is.

CJGeringer said...

I disagree, that it does.

Your #4 Talks about the bard as the “charisma-wizard“ and mention the other stuff as a complement to that , While my use doen´t even have magic as an aspect most of the time.

I am not talking simply about charisma, I am talking about charisma, and cunning, and social manipulation, and perspicacy, rumor-mongering, Knowledge, and leaning into customs, and using known stories as precedents in legal disputes.


Zak Sabbath said...

@cjgeringer

well however you interpreted that #4 — what you just wrote is exactly what I meant to say. The reasons I gave why it apply. seem to work very well to me still apply.

Zak Sabbath said...

@cjgeringer

sorry typo at the end: what I meant to say was the reasons I give why I don’t think it works that well in games still apply: it’s a limited class outside of a familiar culture.

CJGeringer said...


@Zak,

That is partially the point of my original comment.

A bard does not have to be any more limited than a fighter or thief, if a system has a limited bard that is a design problem of the system, not inherent in the Bard concept.

As for being outside of a familiar culture, that is highly dependent on your own cultural background. for example, to me bards were more familiar as a concept than paladins (a concept I was only introduced to after I started playing RPGs). But I understand that is not true for most RPG players

Zak Sabbath said...

@CJGeringer

Nah, that's not what I mean by "culture" here--what I mean is that Mr Charming Sage is a lot less useful outside their own culture.

Like: in a mindflayer city or in a giant spider's mouth.

Thief, Wizard and Fighter skills are still useful there. Aside from mayyybe spouting some lore ("The mind-flayer is said to be vulnerable to rusted weapons!"--which will get old fast, there's not much a culture and charm guy can do down there

p1r8z0r said...

@zak

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fil%C3%AD

In short, there were a part of the pre-Christian druidic hierarchy in Ireland, with similar roles in proto-celtic and proto-european cultures dating back to the bronze age. They were seen and treated as distinct from warriors, thieves (horse/cattle rustlers), druids/priests, and other magic-using types for their use of memory, influence, and interpretation of law.

In gaming terms, they are specialists in reaction/loyalty roles the way a fighter is a specialist in attack. They buff and protect parties socially just by their presence (it was considered bad form to refuse to host a Fili/Bard) and magically vs "vocal/musical" influence. Built properly (like 1e AD&D) and played properly (like in the tales of old) they can change the nature of any campaign or dungeon crawl. It is a niche the other classes can fit but not as well.

I hope this helps.

Benjamin Cusack said...

Yeah, I meant the troll.
He cracked the stone to reveal the sun right?
And in some ways the ventriloquism was a spell, not the use of it to gain time.
So the only non low&magic would be the leaping fire and the lightning I guess.