Ability Requirements: Dexterity 12, Intelligence 13, Charisma 15
The bard is a member of a bizarre class of entertainers and storytellers prized by the aristocratic city dwellers. Freemen all, bards are traditionally allowed access to all Athasian cities, touring in groups or individually, spreading lore, news and entertainment, then travelling on making a living with their wits and talents. It is also widely accepted that – as a consequence – many bards lead double lives as notorious blackmailers, thieves, spies, and even assassins.
As described in the Player’s Handbook, the bard must have neutral as one of the elements of his alignment. The bard’s profession puts him in touch with all sorts of people and situations and he cannot afford to have a strong polarity of alignment to complicate his interaction with them.
Bards are first and foremost entertainers. Each has some skill as an orator, singer, actor, poet, musician, or juggler. Every bard character specializes in one particular mode of performance which should be noted on his character sheet – this may become pertinent in some roleplaying situations.
Among the nobility of the cities, bards are tools. They are commonly hired by one house of nobles and sent to another as a gift. The bards are sent to entertain, and usually to perform some other subtle task (such as robbery, assassination, espionage, etc.), as well. Due to ancient traditions, it is considered rude to turn down the gift of a bard or bard company. However, when presented with a troupe of bards from one’s worst enemy, sometimes they are turned away. To get around this, the hiring party sometimes disguises their approach by using a third party to send the bards – it can turn into a very complicated collage of intrigue and deceit.
Countersong: Bards are able to counter sonic effects. Characters within 30 feet of the bard are immune to the effect as long as the bard performs the counter (which can be a song, oration, performance etc.) While doing this, the bard can perform no other action except a slow walk. If he is struck or fails a saving throw, his effort is ruined. To perform a countersong, the bard makes a saving throw vs. spell. Success means the countersong is effective and 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 suggestions.
Influence Reactions: 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 Nibenese nose-flute, or a heroic song from the old homeland. Everyone in the group listening must roll a saving throw vs. paralysation (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.
Inspiration: The music, poetry, and stories of the bard are inspirational, rallying friends and allies. If the exact nature of an impending threat is known, the bard can 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 participants are still in battle. However, troops who have withdrawn from combat can be re-inspired by the bard’s words.
Larceny: A bard selects eight thief abilities from bribe officials, climb walls, detect magic, detect illusion, detect noise, dig tunnel, escape bonds, find/remove traps, forge documents, hide in shadows, move silently, open locks, pick pockets, and read languages. The initial values of each skill are given under the thief class, and are modified by race, Dexterity, and armour. Larceny can only be used in light armour.
Unlike thieves, bards add nothing to these base values at 1st level. Each time a bard advances a level in experience, the player receives another 20 points to distribute to his character. No more than 10 of these points can be assigned to a single skill, and no skill can be raised above 95%. PCs start play at 3rd level, so a bard PC receives 40 points to distribute among his thieving skills.
Lore: All bards receive the local history proficiency for free. Furthermore, bards have a 5% chance per level to identify the general purpose 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 nature.
Poisons: A bard is a master of poisons, knowledgeable in their use and manufacture. Each level, the bard rolls 1d4, adds the result to his level, and consults the poisons table to determine which new poison he has mastered. If the bard has already mastered the poison, he gains no new poison but may alter a known poison so all saves against that poison are at -2. If the total is 21 or higher, the bard may choose any poison on the list. Once mastered, the bard can make a single application of the poison every day with a poisoner’s kit, using easily obtained materials. Each dose of poison lasts for 24 hours before becoming inert.
Brew Potions: At 21st level, bards learn to enchant magical potion fruits. But as their knowledge of the broadest spectrum of magical powers is limited, so too is the number of potions they learn to produce. At 21st level and every level beyond that, roll the Potions and Oils treasure table to see what type of potion fruit the bard learns to brew. The bard must write the recipe into a spell book. If that book is ever lost, so too is the formula. If a duplicate is rolled, then the bard has learned a second method to create the same potion fruit. If “DM’s Choice” is rolled, let the player choose the potion. The bard does not need a laboratory for potion brewing. As with potions for wizards, roll percentile dice secretly to determine if the potion fruit has “taken.” The base chance is still 70%. Improve the chance 1% for every 100 cp worth of ingredients and every level of the bard above 20th.
Illusions: Bards gain the ability to cast spells from the illusionist school when they attain 21st level. They are essentially wizards, specifically preservers, with the usual restrictions for spell books and memorization. However, bard illusionists have no weapon or armour restrictions. They are not specialist mages, so they do not gain the specialist advantages. Further, they are not subject to the 16 minimum Dexterity score for specialist illusionists. All spellcasting rules that apply to wizards also apply to bards. They use components, memorize new spells out of their own spell books, and so on. Bard illusionists are preservers. They do not cause defiling damage when they cast their spells.
Greater Larceny: At 21st level, the bard can add the remaining six thief skills to his abilities.
Read Scrolls: From 21st level, a bard can read any wizard or priest scroll and cast the spells which are upon it. The bard can determine what spells are on the scroll just by looking at it.
Scribe Scrolls: A bard who reaches 23rd level can create scrolls, subject to all the restrictions for wizards. The bard must copy each spell from his own spell book or from another scroll he already owns. Unfortunately, bard-created scrolls tend to be less reliable than those made by wizards: the bard can only add his level beyond 20th.