Bard Class Guide
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Bard Class Guide
Types of Bard
Developing your Bard
The NWN Bard
The Narfell Bard
- Minstrel Items
The Pen and Paper Bard
Bard Colleges in the Forgotten Realms
It is said that music has a special magic, and the bard proves that saying true. Wandering across the land, gathering lore, telling stories, working magic with his music, and living on the gratitude of his audience—such is the life of a bard. When chance or opportunity draws them into a conflict, bards serve as diplomats, negotiators, messengers, scouts, and spies.
A bard’s magic comes from the heart. If his heart is good, a bard brings hope and courage to the downtrodden and uses his tricks, music, and magic to thwart the schemes of evildoers. If the nobles of the land are corrupt, the good bard is an enemy of the state, cunningly evading capture and raising the spirits of the oppressed. But music can spring from an evil heart as well. Evil bards forego blatant violence in favor of manipulation, holding sway over the hearts and minds of others and taking what enraptured audiences “willingly” give.
By mastering a great amount of skills, magical abilities and martial prowess, the bard is the jack of all trades, and the master of none. He has arcane spells like a wizard, stealth skills like a rogue, combat ability like a fighter, and healing skills like a cleric. Each of those characters is better than the bard in his or her own field of expertise, but the bard can provide backup for everyone.
Bards see adventures as opportunities to learn. They practice their many skills and abilities, and they especially relish the opportunity to enter a long-forgotten tomb, to discover ancient works of magic, to decipher old tomes, to travel to strange places, to encounter exotic creatures, and to learn new songs and stories. Bards love to accompany heroes (and villains), joining their entourage to witness their deeds firsthand—a bard who can tell a marvelous story from personal experience earns renown among his fellows. Indeed, after telling so many stories about heroes doing mighty deeds, many bards take these themes to heart and assume heroic roles themselves.
A bard brings forth magic from his soul, not from a book. He can cast only a small number of spells, but he can do so without selecting or preparing them in advance. His magic emphasizes charms and illusions over the more dramatic evocation spells that wizards and sorcerers often use.
In addition to spells, a bard works magic with his music and poetry. He can encourage allies, hold his audiences rapt, and counter magical effects that rely on speech or sound.
Bards have some of the skills that rogues have, although bards they are not as focused on skill mastery as rogues are. A bard listens to stories as well as telling them, of course, so he has a vast knowledge of local events and noteworthy items.
Bards are wanderers, guided by whim and intuition rather than by tradition or law. The spontaneous talent, magic, and lifestyle of the bard are incompatible with a lawful alignment. A bardic character who becomes lawful loses none of their talents and skills, but can’t progress any further as a bard.
There’s a great deal of variety in the gods bards worship. Popular choices are ones which hold travel, trickery, music, art or knowledge in their portfolios, such as Finder Wyvernspur, Selûne, Oghma, Shaundakul, Tymora, Mask and Lliira. Elven bards find common patronage in Corellon Larethian, Hanali Celanil and Labelas Enoreth. Dwarven bards look to Sharindlar and Marthammor Duin. Gnome bards look toward Garl Glittergold for inspiration.
For the full list of deities accepted in Narfell please see here:
Bards are most often instructed in their art in either bard colleges or by bard mentors. Urban bards are most often taught in bard colleges in great metropolises, such as Waterdeep or Silverymoon, while in wilder lands mentorship or self-teaching are more common. Bards are masters of the informal and their learning often takes on very informal and spontaneous aspects. Bards may come from all walks of life, from the lowliest street urchin to the high nobleman's child, and are universally loved by all in Faerûn – their combination of great looks, charismatic demeanors and cheerful dispositions wins them a great many friends, admirers and, in many cases, lovers. Their reputation as peerless scoundrels, as well as the Harpers' influence, ensures that bards enjoy a level of influence and popularity in Faerûnian society few beyond rulers and powerful heroes can brag to have. Still, the bard has no strong allegiance to bards as a whole. In fact, some bards are highly competitive with other bards, jealous of their reputations and defensive about their territories.
Bards are commonly human, gnome, elf, or half-elf. Humans take well to the wandering life and adapt easily to new lands and customs. Gnomes have a sense of humor and trickery that lends itself to a bardic career. Elves are talented in music and magic, so the career of the bard comes naturally to them. A bard’s wandering ways suit many half-elves, who often feel like strangers even when at home. Half-orcs, even those raised among humans, find themselves ill suited to the demands of a bard’s career. There are no bardic traditions among dwarves or halflings, though occasional individuals of these races find teachers to train them in the ways of the bard.
A bard works well with companions of other classes. He often serves as the spokesman of the party, using his social skills for the party’s benefit. In a party without a wizard or sorcerer, the bard contributes his magic. In a party without a rogue, he uses his skills. Universally appreciated and appreciating of other careers and paths, the bard is everybody's friend and all can find something to appreciate in his talents. A bard is curious about the ways of more focused or dedicated adventurers, so he often tries to pick up pointers from fighters, sorcerers, and rogues.
The bard is perhaps the ultimate generalist. In most adventuring groups, he works best in a supporting role. He can’t usually match the stealth of the ranger or the rogue, the spellcasting power of the cleric or the wizard, or the combat prowess of the barbarian or the fighter. However, he makes all the other characters better at what they do, and he can often fill in for another character when needed.
Faerunian bards are as likely to create their own heroic sagas as they are to sing of others' exploits.
Types of Bards
Bards are perhaps more varied than any other class. Here are some examples of bard types along with suggested specialities.
Developing your Bard
Selecting traits will help define your bard's persona. Examine your character as a whole, then fill in the gaps and add some extra details. Pick or ignore as interests you.
Neurotic, Normal, Slightly insane, Stable, Unstable, Very stable.
Careless, Curious/Inquisitive, Fanatical/Obsessive, Perceptive, Precise/Exacting, Relaxed, Retiring, Somber, Studious, Suspicious/Cautious.
Egoist, Arrogant, Humble, Modest Proper, Haughty, Servile, Obsequious.
Altruist, Benevolent, Extroverted, Hedonist, Introverted, Optimist, Pessimist.
Active, Anti-intellectual, Average, Brilliant, Flighty, Dull, Ponderous, Scheming.
Brave, Calculating, Craven, Fearless, Foolhardy, Normal.
Aesthetic, Amoral, Depraved, Immoral, Lustful, Lusty, Normal, Perverted, Sadistic, Virtuous.
Average, Iconoclastic, Impious, Irreligious, Irreverent, Martyr/ Zealot, Pious, Profane, Reverent, Saintly.
Driven, Energetic, Lazy, Motivated, Norma, Slothful.
Altruism, Athletics, Community service, Dancing, Exotic animals, Fishing, Foods & Preparation, Gambling, Handicrafts, History, Horticulture, Hunting, Husbandry, Legends, Nature, Politics, Religion, Smoking & Pipes, Wines & Spirits.
Armor, Artwork, Books & Scrolls, Coins & Tokens, Knives & Daggers, Minerals & Gems, Ornaments & Jewelry, Porcelain, China, & Crystal, Shields & Weapons, Swords, Trophies & Skins, Weapons.
Caves, Enclosed places, Crowds, Dark, Dying, Heights, Horses, Insects, Loneliness, Pain, Poison, Priests, Sight of own blood, Snakes, Spiders, Torture, Traps, Undead, Water, Wizards.
Authority, Bad food, Beggars, Braggarts, Bullies, Greed, Guards, Heretics, Laws, Lower class, Farmers, Priests, Rival clan, Selfishness, Stupidity, Thieves, Big cities, Upper class, Warriors, Wizards.
Abrasive, Antagonistic, Blustering, Capricious/Mischievous, Compassionate/Sensitive, Courteous, Diplomatic, Forceful, Foul/Barbaric, Helpful/Kindly, Hostile, Opinionated/Contrary, Overbearing, Practical joker/Prankster, Rash, Rude, Trusting, Vengeful, Violent/War-like, Well-spoken
Aloof, Cheerful, Cruel/Callous, Easygoing, Even-tempered, Forgiving, Hard-hearted, Harsh, Hot-tempered, Pleasant, Moody, Silly, Peaceful, Reserved, Scheming, Soft-hearted, Solitary/Secretive, Taciturn, Unfeeling/Insensitive, Unforgiving,
Average, Deceitful, Liar, Scrupulous, Truthful, Very honorable.
Dandyish, Dignified, Foppish, Imposing, Slob, Spartan, Stately, Typical.
Disheveled, Immaculate, Nonchalant, Organized, Perfectionist, Prim and proper, Scatterbrained, Sloppy.
State of Clothing
Clean, Dirty, Immaculate, Ragged, Rough, Unkempt.
Ascetic, Average, Charitable, Covetous, Generous, Greedy, Miserly, Spendthrift, Thrifty, Wastrel.
The NWN Bard
The Narfell Bard
Everyone who's tried an IG performance has felt that their audience is ignoring them at some point or another. Sometimes that blank silence is hushed conversation (meaning PCs wrapped up in private conversation), the dreaded afk, or, it can even mean someone is actually paying attention to the performance and doesn’t want to interrupt the flow. And other times, the sad truth can be that people just plain don't care (IC or OOCly both) - and the perform check to change that just doesn't exist.
Perform when one of these is true:
1. You feel like it for your own sake
2. There seems to be a perceptive crowd present.
Yes, it does suck to get no response, and yes, it also sucks when the text of your song gets chopped to bits by uncaring PCs conversation about the weather or somesuch - but try not to focus on those times. Re-use the song for another occasion, and don't lose heart so long as you enjoy creating the performances! There are appreciative audiences and players out there too.
Bards who would like to make more gold for their performances might benefit from being proactive in plugging themselves to DMs and pre-arranging stuff. Also certain acts can be more involving for the audience, like a magical juggling act, and depending on how your bard’s Dex/spellcraft rolls go, the audience could well be rolling reflex saves!
Message a DM.
You can send a polite message to the DM channel informing them that your bard will be performing. They might pop in to watch and drop some XP or bring along NPCs to watch and tip. It might even lead to your PC being commissioned to do something for an NPC.
Your PC can advertise in game or on the forums to announce forthcoming performances or invite commissions.
Use your Tip Bag.
How often do bards really emote putting a hat on ground or anything such where one could drop their tip? More often it really feels like they are just performing for fun, not for living and PCs might think giving tips would be offensive to the bard.
Whether songs, stories, poetry or whatever else, you may like to record your bard’s creative works on the Narfell forums:
There is also a Bardic College, but that is something to find out about in game.
It is sometimes possible to import books of bardic works in game. If you hope to do this please contact a DM.
At character creation a bard is given a ‘Minstrel Performance’ which represents the bard's ability to perform such entertainment that does not require objects. Instruments are available in game.
- Use the item on yourself: start/stop playing it.
- Use the item on the ground: put down a bag where you click for tips.
- Use the item on any other object: broadcast to those nearby your (official) skill at performing
- You tire of performing, according to your Perform Skill: once tired, you will require a short break.
Bardic Morale Bonus
While playing, there is a small chance of boosting the morale of those who are battered and bruised from battle, this can encourage the healing process.
For a Manual Skill Rolling Guide see here:
Please note that while you’re welcome to roll Bluff/Persuade/Taunt/Sleight of Hand whenever appropriate that other players and DMs will assign a Difficulty Check which will depend on your RP and their PC/NPC’s attitude.
This skill is disabled in Narfell. If you’ve mistakenly spent points in it please contact a DM.
Use Magic Device
Narfell does not make your character roll a D20 to use this skill. They’re always able to ‘take 20.”
A Narfell Bard may learn additional languages for only 1 skill point each.
In pen and paper (PnP) games bards have access to a huge variety of spells which aren’t included in the NWN game engine. The following is a list of common 3.5 bard spells. Narfell is technically 3.0 but I couldn’t find a list of those online.
You may learn one of these but it will count as one of your known spells. This means that for your bard to know a PnP spell you must give them a NWN spell to represent that – then never ever use that spell.
If you want to go down this route double check with a DM that your choice is allowed then record the Known Spells for each spell level in your Character Description entry – along with which spell represents the PnP spell – that you will never use since your bard doesn’t actually know it. You should also have a Full description of exactly how the spell works available to supply to DMs at their request.
The Narfell bard is automatically proficient in rapier use.
As an arcane caster bards require access to specialist facilities to be able to enchant. Many Narfell groups have these. To gain access to these ask about it in character, in game.
Narfell accepts 3.0 and 3.5 spells for enchanting purposes.
For more information on enchanting see here:
The Pen and Paper Bard
You may get some ideas here which you might be able to use in game with DM permission:
Bard Colleges in the Forgotten Realms
The great barding colleges fell into decline. Before that, bards would often belong to a college which changed as they advanced. One they had graduated from all 7 colleges (in a set order) the bard was said to belong to the “Magna Alumnae” college.
The Decline of the Barding Colleges
The New Olamn Bard College
Lock Picking Guide
Drugs and Poisons
Most bards would not be caught dead without at least one musical instrument upon their person or near at hand. Instruments are also used as status symbols, trade symbols, and as part of the bard's personal garb. Some instruments take on a life of their own, gaining more fame than the bards who play them.
Musical instruments are very rare, expensive, and complicated devices. Only a master craftsmen would even think of constructing a lyre or herald's trumpet, let alone a pipe organ. Bards not only understand how these rare and complex devices work, they can use them to produce beautiful sounds. By simply working the strings and keys of these devices, bards can bring a crowd to tears or have them leaping for joy
Most bardic colleges agree that the instruments of the time should be divide into four general categories: wind, stringed, percussion, and keyboard. Common instruments within each of these categories follow as well as an "Other" category for several instruments that do not fall into the four general categories
Instruments of the Forgotten Realms
This bass-range instrument can reach low notes that other citterns cannot. It has a rich and mellow tone the girds up even the quietest of voices. Scalloped sides are said to enrich the timbre.
These pear shaped variations on the common yarting have four sets of paired string that produce rich tones. The Patriarch of Song in Waterdeep says, “Citterns add spice to peasant music.”
These round backed instruments have become a fizture in royal courts as far north as Sundabar.
Small, pear0shaped instruments which produce a delicate, fluttering sound when strummed for accompaniment. They also make excellent solo instruments.
The music of this plucked dulcimer fills the houses of the peasants and the castles of kings from Narfell to Cormyr.
Whether half-elf of human and whether in the wilds of Icewind Dale of the sprawling hordelands, yarting music in the bard’s staple diet. Yartings feature a wooden construction, a fretted fingerboard and coiled steel strings.
With all the clarity and beauty of a common dulcimer and the flexibility of a yarting, the ziether is fast becoming a fixture in the streets and courts of the land. Its lower strings are fretted to allows the left hand to stopper them, and the upper strings, tuned in fourths, can be plucked by the right thumb. The resulting music suits rigorous peasant dances as well as reiteration of ancient lore.
In varying scales.
Ancient squarish instruments which are highly portable and provide excellent background sound to epics, as they have for ages.
No manor house or castle would be complete without a harpsichord. This large and versatile instrument, when played by one or two keyboardists, produces a cheerful jangling that will fill any room. But when notes come few and slow it creates a sober and pensive effect.
This grandfather to the modern violin is the instrument of choice for the lively
music of the peasant folk.
These deeply resonant, 6-stringed cousins of the violin work well alone, or can flesh out a larger ensemble of instruments. With melancholy music they are matchless. Favored by dwarven players for their dark tones and mournful voices.
Cousin to the common longhorn, the birdpipe produces sound through many vertical tubes of varying height. The rich wood tones of the birdpipe are said by some to charm even ferocious animals.
These long and elegant brasswork horns produce a most strident and heroic tone. Their conic simplicity makes them perfect for banners of state.
This valvued hron has a versatility that other trumpets cannto begin to match. It scurved shaped makes its tone a brash, metallic roar that stirs the heart of anyone. By blwoing continuously while operating the valves, swooping pitch changes occur, to great effect.
These small, curved horns produce a loud clarion call that can carry as far as two miles.
Longhorns produce perhaps the purest, most lyric tones of any instruments. Their siomple elegance, playability, and portability have made them rival the yarting in pop[ularity. The treble variety creates very high and piercing tones, like those of birds chirping. The common longhorn covers the mid to upper tones. Tenor longhorns are also available.
This old brass horn produces a variety of low tones through use of a sliding mechanisms. The sliding action can also produce a very vulgar slurring sound, made loud and blatty by the broad bell at the end.
This double reed instrument creates an exotically textured sound. When played poorly, the instrument buzzes like a large insect, but in the hands of a master, the shawm has the clear, melancholic voice of migrating geese. Either way, shawmns should be played out of doors.
Child of the longhorn, the shorthorn can achieve high and piercing tones of remarkable clarity. Though the range of this instrument is limited, due to its size, it is sure to be heard in any ensemble due to its birdlike voice. The shorthorn is an easy instrument to learn for those proficient on the longhorn.
This instrument has a mellower, less strident tone than its sister, the longhorn. Its beauty is very clear in alto and tenor ranger where longhorns gutter.
A kind of rustic longhorn, te thelarr or whistelcane is a dried swamp reed cut to produce a specific pitch. The dry fibers within a whistllecame produce a buzzing sound. Several pipes (and several players) Can produce melodies and chords.
Zulkoon are portable organs. By means of a bellows contraption that lies upon the ground and is pumped by the player’s feet, air is forced over what amount to a set of odd organ pipes. The constant flow of air from the zulkoon produces a loud drone that underlies the other tones.
The sound of chimes, whether the patter of small chimes or the somber ring of large chimes, always stirs the hearts of listeners.
Often including a shoulder trap, they work well to mark the rhythm of ensemble play, to alert trail mates of danger, or to accompany wild tales by the campfire.
A favorite of children across Toril, gourd rattles have many uses in ensemble play as well.
This jangling hoop helps to emphasize rhythms in ensemble play, and adds spice to campfire dances.
These carved wooden bells lie upon a crossbeam and are struck by a hammer (they have no clappers). Tocken thus create a very pleasant ringing tone that contains the dark subtleties of the wood itself.
These broad, heavy disks of copper produce a sudden, thunderous sound when struck heavily, and a sustained rumble when mallets roll upon the surface. Wargongs sound from high courts to battlefields; chains of them send signals from outpost to outpost across hundreds of miles.