The bard is an optional character class that can be used if your DM allows. He
makes his way in life by his charm, talent, and wit. A good bard should be
glib of tongue, light of heart, and fleet of foot (when all else fails).
In precise historical terms, the title “bard” applies only to certain groups
of Celtic poets who sang the history of their tribes in long, recitative poems.
These bards, found mainly in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, filled many
important roles in their society. They were storehouses of tribal history, reporters of
news, messengers, and even ambassadors to other tribes. However, in the AD&D
game, the bard is a more generalized character. Historical and legendary
examples of the type include Alan-a-Dale, Will Scarlet, Amergin, and even Homer.
Indeed, every culture has its storyteller or poet, whether he is called bard, skald,
fili, jongleur, or something else.
To become a bard, a character must have a Dexterity of 12 or more, an
Intelligence of 13 or more, and a Charisma of 15 or more. The prime requisites are
Dexterity and Charisma. A bard can be lawful, neutral or chaotic, good or evil, but
must always be partially neutral. Only by retaining some amount of detachment
can he successfully fulfill his role as a bard.
A bard, by his nature, tends to learn many different skills. He is a
jack-of-all-trades but master of none. Although he fights as a rogue, he can use any
weapon. He can wear any armor up to, and including, chain mail, but he cannot use
All bards are proficient singers, chanters, or vocalists and can play a
musical instrument of the player's choice (preferably one that is portable).
Additional instruments can be learned if the optional proficiency rules are used -- the
bard can learn two instruments for every proficiency slot spent.
In his travels, a bard also manages to learn a few wizard spells. Like a
wizard, a bard's Intelligence determines the number of spells he can know and the
chance to know any given spell. These he keeps in his spell book, abiding by all
the restrictions on memorization and spell use that bind a wizard, especially
in the prohibition of armor. Hence, a bard will tend to use his spells more to
entertain and impress than to fight. Table 32 lists the number of spells a bard can cast at each level.
Since bards are dabblers rather than full-time wizards, their spells tend to
be gained by serendipity and happenstance. In no case can a bard choose to
specialize in a school of magic. Beginning bards do not have a selection of spells.
A 2nd-level bard begins with one to four spells, chosen either randomly or by
the DM. (An Intelligence check must still be made to see if the bard can learn a
given spell.) The bard is not guaranteed to know read magic, as this is not needed to read the writings in a spell book. The bard can add
new spells to his spell book as he finds them, but he does not automatically
gain additional spells as he advances in level. All spells beyond those he starts
with must be found during the course of adventuring. The bard's casting level
is equal to his current level.
Combat and spells, however, are not the main strength of the bard. His
expertise is in dealing and communicating with others. To this end, the bard has a
number of special powers. The base percentage for each power is listed on Table 33. This base percentage must be adjusted for the race and Dexterity of the bard
as given in the Thief description. After all adjustments are made, the player
must distribute (however he chooses) 20 additional percentage points to the
various special abilities. Thereafter, each time the character advances a level,
he receives an additional 15 points to distribute.
Bard abilities are subject to modifiers for situation and armor as per the
Climb Walls enables the bard to climb near sheer surfaces without the aid of tools, just
like the thief.
Detect Noise improves the bard's chances of hearing and interpreting sounds. He may be able
to overhear parts of a conversation on the other side of a door or pick up the
sound of something stalking the party. To use the ability, the bard must stand
unhelmeted and concentrate for one round (one minute). During this time, all
other party members must remain silent. The DM secretly makes the check and
informs the player of the result.
Pick Pockets enables the bard not only to filch small purses, wallets, keys, and the like,
but also to perform small feats of sleight-of-hand (useful for entertaining a
crowd). Complete details on pickpocketing (and your character's chances of
getting caught) can be found in the Thief description.
Read Languages is an important ability, since words are the meat and drink of bards. They
have some ability to read documents written in languages they do not know, relying
on words and phrases they have picked up in their studies and travels. The
Read Languages column in Table 33 gives the base percentage chance to puzzle out a foreign tongue. It also
represents the degree of comprehension the bard has if he is successful. The DM can
rule that a language is too rare or unfamiliar, especially if it has never
been previously encountered by the bard, effectively foiling his attempts to
translate it. At the other extreme, the bard need not make the dice roll for any
language he is proficient in. Success is assumed to be automatic in such cases.
The bard can also influence reactions of groups of NPCs. When performing before a group that is not attacking (and
not intending to attack in just seconds), the bard can try to alter the mood of
the listeners. He can try to soften their mood or make it uglier. The method
can be whatever is most suitable to the situation at the moment -- a fiery
speech, collection of jokes, a sad tale, a fine tune played on a fiddle, a haunting
lute melody, or a heroic song from the old homeland. Everyone in the group
listening must roll a saving throw vs. paralyzation (if the crowd is large, make
saving throws for groups of people using average hit dice). The die roll is
modified by -1 for every three experience levels of the bard (round fractions down).
If the saving throw fails, the group's reaction can be shifted one level (see
the Reactions section in the DMG), toward either the friendly or hostile end of the scale, at the player's
option. Those who make a successful saving throw have their reaction shifted one
level toward the opposite end of the scale.
Cwell the Fine has been captured by a group of bandits and hauled into their
camp. Although they are not planning to kill him on the spot, any fool can
plainly see that his future may be depressingly short. In desperation, Cwell begins
spinning a comic tale about Duke Dunderhead and his blundering knights. It has
always been a hit with the peasants, and he figures it's worth a try here. Most
of the bandits have 1 Hit Die, but the few higher level leaders raise the
average level to 3. Cwell is only 2nd level so he gains no modifier. A saving throw
is rolled and the group fails (Cwell succeeds!). The ruffians find his tale
amusing. The player shifts their reaction from hostile to neutral. The bandits
decide not to kill Cwell but to keep him around, under guard, to entertain them.
If the bandits' saving throw had succeeded, the bandits would have been
offended by the story (perhaps some of them served under Duke Dunderhead!), and their
reaction would have shifted from hostile to violent. They probably would have
roasted Cwell immediately.
This ability cannot affect people in the midst of battle; it is effective only
when the audience has time to listen. If Cwell tried telling his tale while
the bandits were attacking his group, the bandits would have quickly decided that
Cwell was a fool and carried on with their business. Furthermore, the form of
entertainment used must be appropriate to the audience. Cwell might be able to
calm (or enrage) a bear with music, but he won't have much luck telling jokes
to orcs unless he speaks their language.
The music, poetry, and stories of the bard can also be inspirational, rallying friends and allies. If the exact nature of
an impending threat is known, the bard can heroically inspire his companions
(immortalizing them in word and song), granting a +1 bonus to attack rolls, or a
+1 bonus to saving throws, or a +2 bonus to morale (particularly useful in
large battles) to those involved in melee. The bard must spend at least three full
rounds singing or reciting before the battle begins. This affects those within
a range of 10 feet per experience level of the bard.
The effect lasts one round per level. Once the effect wears off, it can't be
renewed if the recipients are still in battle. However, troops who have
withdrawn from combat can be reinspired by the bard's words. A troop of soldiers,
inspired by Cwell, could charge into battle. After fighting a fierce fight, they
retreat and the enemy does not pursue. Cwell, seeing them crestfallen and
dispirited, once again rouses their will to fight. Reinvigorated, they charge back into
battle with renewed spirit.
Bards are also able to counter the effects of songs and poetry used as magical
attacks. Characters within 30 feet of the bard are immune to the attack as long as the
bard sings a counter song (or recites a poem, etc.). While doing this, the bard
can perform no other action except a slow walk. Furthermore, if he is struck
or fails a saving throw, his effort is ruined. Success is checked by having the
bard make a saving throw vs. spell. Success blocks the attack, failure means
the attack has its normal effect (everyone affected rolls saving throws, normal
damage is inflicted, etc.). The bard can use this ability once per encounter or
battle. This power does not affect verbal spell components or command words; it
is effective against spells that involve explanations, commands, or
Finally, bards learn a little bit of everything in their studies and travels. Thus, all bards can read and write their native
tongue (if a written language exists) and all know local history (without cost
if the optional proficiency rules are used). Furthermore, bards have a 5%
chance per experience level to identify the general purpose and function of any
magical item. The bard need not handle the item but must examine it closely. Even
if successful, the exact function of the item is not revealed, only its general
Since Cwell the Fine is 2nd level, he has a 10% chance to know something about
a magical sword +1. If he succeeds, he knows whether the sword is cursed and whether it has an
alignment ("This sword was used by the evil warrior Lurdas. I wouldn't touch it
if I were you!"). This ability does not enable him to identify the sword's exact
properties, only its history and background. He has no idea of its bonuses or
penalties or any special magical powers, except as can be inferred from the
Being something of a warrior, a bard can build a stronghold and attract
followers upon reaching 9th level. The bard attracts 10d6 0th-level soldiers into his
service. They arrive over a period of time, but they are not automatically
replaced if lost in battle. Of course, a bard can build a stronghold any time, but
no followers arrive until he reaches 9th level.
Upon reaching 10th level, a bard can attempt to use magical devices of written
nature--scrolls, books, etc. However, his understanding of magic is imperfect
(although better than that of a thief), so there is a 15% chance that any
written item he uses is read incorrectly. When this happens, the magical power works
the opposite of what is intended, generally to the detriment of the bard or
his friends. The DM will tell you what happens to your character, based on the
situation and particular magical item. The result may be unpleasant, deadly, or
embarrassing. (Deciding these things is part of the DM's fun!)
(See also The Complete Bard's Handbook)
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