Tales from the Gazebo – Mile Wide, Inch Deep: Bards, Part 4

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Mile Wide, Inch Deep: Bards, Part 4
By Cape Rust

No foreplay for you; last week sneaky, sneaky Bards and Seekers of the Song, this week, other types. Next I’ll look at the dilettante; this is the type of bard that I think most people have encountered at their gaming table. This is the dabbler, who really doesn’t care about anyone but themselves. Yes a player can have a bard that dabbles and cares about others, but as a GM I’ve seen lots of these types of bards. I would go so far as to say these folk give bards a bad name (cue Bon Jovi). As a GM I love to put these types of bards in situations where they have to help others, think about others and even rely on others. I tend to take away everything that matters to them and force them to think outside of their own box. My players know this and every now and then one of them will take up this role and it is normally fun for the whole group. This situation works best if the party has a Dudly-do-right to help the bard through these trying times. Children NPCs are great for keeping this bard out of their comfort zone as well. The dilettante is on a journey as well, but it is much different than the Seeker of the Song. If you allow or encourage one of your players to take up this role, let them know that things might get rough, and be sure to let the other players know so the entire group can join in on the fun and make this bard’s redemption more enjoyable.

Now here is one that is always fun, the combat bard. This is the bard whose rapier is as sharp as their wit. Normally they tend to dual-wield or use light weapons. They dance around the battlefield, encouraging their fellow party members and dealing out death by 1,000 cuts, and normally they look good doing it. Sometimes this type of bard is best realized as a prestige or multi-classed bard, but a more effective version of this type of bard can be achieved if the GM and player work together. I had one player who chose to use a powerful, non-charismatic race to play a combat bard, the character was fun but it ended up being more of a bardbarian rather than a swashbuckling damage dealer. When this player comes along, you have to give them things to jump from and swing into battle with. You should always set up 3D encounters, but make sure there is interactive scenery to give that bard a chance to shine or at least use their unique fighting abilities. The biggest risk with this type of bard is that they get cocky and take on a foe that they can’t handle. The inability to wear heavy armor and the lack of health means that the combat bard has to fight smarter, not harder.

There are easily as many types of bards as there are performance styles. Find out what type of bard your player is thinking about and find a few situations where that player can shine, then backtrack and find a few situations where that player can fail in the most epic way possible. After all, isn’t that what bards do?

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