Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bards or "Michael Jordan plays ball. Charles Manson kills people. I talk. Everyone has a talent."

What is a bard?  In my mind, a bard is Nick Naylor from "Thank you for smoking".   The magic, the jack of all trades,  no...that to me is not a bard.  That is a bunch of stuff thrown in there to give a bard something to do in D&D because talking to people doesn't really do much (at best in future editions it appears to be a one roll for succeed/fail).

That's crap to me.   The other problem is that many GM's don't think you should be able to trick a king into trading a cart full of diamonds for a cart full of onions and have the king think it was a brilliant move.  In reality no.  In reality no warrior with a pointy stick is going to take down a fire-breathing, flying, armoured  intelligent dinosaur either.  In Neoclassical Geek Revival,  Social Conflict is handled in a set of round by round partial success (unless you get lucky) almost identically to combat.  This gives something for bards to do immediately,  but lets get beyond how social conflict works and go back to what bards do specifically.   They may be generally better at talking than other classes,  much as warriors are better at fighting.  But they also have a few additional tricks.

1.)  Acting as a guide:   One of the powers a bard might have is language interpretation,  this allows bard to act like Dr. Daniel Jackson or C3P0 and learn an unknown foreign language in a short period of time.  If you are exploring into the wilds,  have a bard.
2.)  Helping everyone be a little more awesome:  Another one of the bard powers gives an increasing bonus to everyone in the party at the end of the night, to their awesomeness score.  Further proving that you should never go into battle without an actor.
3.) Leading mass combat:  Bards leading forces have a much higher morale and are less likely to break.
4.)  Being a smart ass:  Bards can use their rapier wit to harm the luck points of character.  While this will never kill someone,  it can be a good way to weaken an opponent.
5.) Being REALLY good at talking:  Just specialize in what they already do well.

Lastly the bard also acquires "Henchmen" as their personal "item".  These are hopelessly devoted zero level tag-alongs who are literally red-shirts.  Any time something terrible or fatal is about to happen to the bard,  the bard can have (through some fluke of luck) the terrible thing happen to one of his henchmen instead.

From Neoclassical Geek Revival:  Pages 16-18

The Forum of the Bards: 'The pen is
mightier than the sword'
The term ‘bard’ here is used
loosely, it is used as a fantasy catch all
for the character who is adept at dealing
with people. Unlike many games, the
bard has no innate rogue or magical
powers. The bard’s power of speech
also rival what a warrior can do with a
pointy stick in terms of shaking
believability. A powerful bard is the one
who can truly convince the emperor of
his new clothes, or that a wagon full of
onions is worth a wagon full of gold.
In terms of game play, the bard is
only useful if you are going to interact
with sentient beings, it may also require
a mind shift for many game masters to
allow the players to cause massive world
changes based on words alone.
Powerful bards can be the equivalent of
those great orators who occasionally
appear in the history and alter
civilization. A bard’s powers are
intimately based on other sentient
A bard adventures to boost his
image, spread his word and, more
importantly, find followers to do his
work for him.
Characters gain the following benefits
per level:

Pie Pieces Presence
0               1/3 per level
1               2/3 per level
2               1 per level
3               1 per level, +1 per milestone
4               1 per level, +2 per milestone

The Manifesto
Bard Powers
1.) Reputation: This power represents
the fame a bard attracts. This grants the
bard and every other player in the group
+1 ‘awesomeness’ (cumulative) per
2.) Leadership: This power represents a
bard’s role as a leader. Forces under the
bard’s command add the bard’s presence
to their morale checks.
3.) Silver Tongue: This power gives a
bard the ability to re-roll the influence
die and choose the better result in any
type of social conflict.
4.) Interpret: This power represents the
bard’s skill as a cunning linguist to
understand foreign and alien languages
at a basic level. Using hand gestures,
miming and by speaking both slowly and
loudly in an annoying tourist kind of
way, the bard can understand and
communicate basic terms like ‘Follow’
or ‘Danger’ or ‘The cheese is moldy,
where is the bathroom’. The bard must
make a social check, modified by
awareness. On an epic success the bard
can gain this level of communication
within an hour, a normal success
requires 3d6 hours of communication
and a normal failure requires 3d6 days of
communication. An epic failure
prevents the bard from establishing this
level of communication.
5.) Wit: This power represents a bard’s
ability to lash out with his razor sharp
wit and cause deep psychological scars
to his victim. While a clever insult or
witty pun won’t ever do any physical
damage, it can hold sway with the
trickster deities who dole out luck to the
various heroes and villains. A Scathing
remark in combat allows the bard to
remove luck points from the target
(ignoring damage multipliers due to
size). The bard may elect to make a
social conflict appeal instead of a regular
attack during a combat, causing 1 point
of luck damage per point of influence
normally scored. The bard may only use
this ability when interrupting someone
that is attacking him or her, or as an
opportunity attack.

4th Pie Piece Power
Beloved: This power represents the
almost superhuman loyalty a bard of this
level of skill has with his followers. A
bard with this power can use the luck
points of his followers, allowing them to
flow ‘up’ instead of the normal limit of
only flowing ‘down’.

Personal Item: Henchmen
Rather than an actual item, bards
gain special followers. Any time a bard
completes a particularly impressive
debate, trial, military campaign or
similar event, the bard gains an
opportunity to acquire a henchman. If
the event was particularly epic the bard
automatically acquires a henchman.
The henchman will loyally serve
the bard and may take the form of a
bodyguard, squire, personal assistant,
student or some other role. The main
benefit of the henchmen is that the bard
can choose to make any unexpected or
sudden danger befall one of his present
henchmen instead of another member of
the party. This could include a volley of
fire from an ambush, setting off a
dangerous trap or being crushed by
falling rocks in a landslide. You can feel
free to give each henchman a nice red
shirt if you would like. The henchman
should be someone relevant or related to
the bard’s recent task. Henchmen have
attributes averaging 10 and are normally
0 level. When the bard reaches 10th
level they advance to 1st level.
For a bard to gain a henchman,
the bard must score a 10+ on the 2d6.

1 comment:

  1. I'm getting an image of Hitler as a high level bard. And that really is food for thought.