Striking a Musical Chord

2009 March 16
by Stupid Ranger

I took the exclusion of the bard in the PHB as a personal insult, and I’ve been waiting (somewhat impatiently) for the Players Handbook 2 in order to bring out my lute again.  And while it was a hardship to wait so long, I think the new bard was worth it.

The Combat Stuff
I have loved the bard since my first character back in 3.0.  But one of the difficulties of the 3.0 bard (and 3.5 to a certain extend) was trying to stay alive in combat; bards weren’t always ideal for melee and not always effective as ranged.  And while I had many great moments with my various bards, my group members will tell you what they remember: the bard sitting in a corner playing her lute for the Inspire Courage bonuses, because giving others +2 was the best she could do.
The new 4E bard seems to have a lot more opportunities in combat.  Many of their first level spells deal additional weapon damage.  So they are not quite as weak in the combat department.  But bards as also Leaders; they inspire and heal their comrades, and that concept is very obvious as you read their powers.
There are two “virtue” paths for the bard: Cunning and Valorous.  The Cunning bards prefer to use their wits and personality to overcome obstacles; they tend to use ranged attacks, overseeing the battle as opposed to joining it.  The Valorous bards remember the stories of heroes who fought bravely in combat, and those bards relive the old tales by entering into the fray.  I’m currently playing a Valorous, which gives healing benefits to your or an ally.
One of the changes here I really enjoy is just the change in the bard’s activities in combat.  I always thought it was kind of silly to pull out a valuable instrument in the middle of combat.  Who really wants to take the risk of it breaking?
So, Why Do You Need an Instrument?
Without the Inspire Courage during battle, why does the 4E bard need an instrument?  Besides the obvious “You can’t be a bard without some sort of music,” the instrument comes into play for specific performances.  The Song of Rest is a great opportunity to tune your lute for a great, quick performance.  This Bard Class feature helps the group’s healing efforts during a short rest.
Rituals also give you opportunties to play a song.  Bard rituals usually involve a material cost and a focus cost, which is generally an instrument of a specified value.  So you play a song to cast a ritual.  One of the cool tricks of rituals for bards is that once a day, you can ignore the material cost of a bard ritual (increases to two per day at 11th and three at 21st).  One of my favorite first-level bard rituals is “Create Campsite,” which causes a campsite to be created, then broken down 8 hours later.  Combined with the “ignore materials” option, once per day, a first level bard and just play into being a campsite; how wonderful at the end of a long, grueling day.
I love the new bard, and while my bard, Rynna, is only first level, I’m excited about her potential.  If you’ve ever been a fan of the bard, you should check out the new PHB2.
You can also read Uncle Bear’s review of the bard, as well as other class reviews from any of these other sites participating in the Player’s Handbook 2 online release event:
Atomic Array, Game Cryer, Gnome Stew, Critical Hits, Campaign Mastery, Critical Ankle Bites, Kobold Quarterly, The Core Mechanic, Flames Rising, and Musings of the Chatty DM.

Be sure to check them out, and stay tuned here for continuing coverage through the official release on Tuesday!

One Response leave one →
  1. Valonia permalink
    April 7, 2009

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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