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Pojo's Book Reviews



01.04.02  - I've been playing 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) with some friends for over a year now.  I recently wrote this as a response to a friend asking how I'd build a Bard, one of the coolest Character Classes in the game.  Since time is short I thought it might be a neat idea to post this on my garage.  D&D is made by WOTC, same as Magic and there are definite similarities.  One cool thing about D&D is that it's much cheaper than playing competitive Magic!  This article should be very interesting for people who already play the game, and a great Character Building source for people who are just getting into the game.  I'll be back to Magic fixes by next week... although if this gets a good reaction I could do more D&D stuff!  Let me know what you think.    Thanks,  Aaron


Bards are very diverse in how they can be run/built. Multiclassing is certainly an option, there are different races that all work well, and equipping the Bard varies greatly depending on how you build them.

Lets face it, a Bard is not meant to be a Tank.  Low HD, an aversion to overly heavy armor (spellcasting), and bad Fort saves all add up to a Bard not wanting to be in Melee combat.  This is why I like the idea of the Bard filling the "Archer" role as he can still contribute to combat (along with Bardic Music).  An Archer should be able to stay out of the way of Melee MOST of the time.

Saying this, lets address Multiclassing. Multiclassing in general is a vehicle to "enhance" combat skill.  I don't think 2 levels of fighter is needed to make a better Bard.  Yes, spending those feats on Archer related feats or "generic" ones would be nice... but what's it costing the Bard?  Not obtaining 1st level spells till 4th level at the earliest sucks.  This also slows the progression of Bardic Music abilities and cool skills.

So far we've got a STRAIGHT Bard Archer!

Let's address skills.  Again the cool thing about Bards is they can literally be built to do about anything.  I like the idea of taking "bad" skills that have little to do with combat as odds are a normal party will greatly benefit from these since no one takes them.  Diplomacy, Sense Motive, and even Bluff all work with the obvious high Cha stat to make the Bard good at what he should be, interaction with NPC's.  The ability to talk himself out of a tricky situation or knowing if the party is being sent on a wild goose chase helps quite a bit.  You mentioned using skill points to learn languages early and I agree, although you do need 3 ranks in Perform to Inspire Courage.. not 1.  Perform is just a given.  Listen is also nice as you don't want your Bard getting snuck up on too often.  I also think Climb is worthy as an archer likes to scurry up a tree to get out of harms way.  Sniping the enemy from above is always a good idea if possible.

(of course move silently and hide would be nice to stay out of trouble as well... the 28 point buy makes it tough to get everything you want tho.  Again I'd go 32 point... but we're building a RPGA character here so we gotta stick to the rules.)

Speaking of RPGA rules... we only have 160 GP at first level.  Pretty limiting since a Longbow costs 100 GP right off the top.  (Longbow being the "free" martial weapon I'd pick.) Morningstar would make for a nice melee weapon as it is 1d8 damage and does blunt AND pierce damage.  May as well use a Buckler, I'd also like Chain Shirt but it's too expensive for now so Studded Leather will have to do at first level.  I thought about Scale Mail but it's 2x as expensive with 10% higher spell failure and slows your movement down by 10 feet.  That leaves us with enough money to buy any equipment that ain't fancy.  Caltrops could be quite cool combo'd with an Archer.

OK, so we've got a STRAIGHT Bard Archer with a fast talking nature and decent equipment.

Deciding on Race was hard.  Elves are so cool for a number of reasons.  Bonus Language is cool.  Low Light vision and only 4 hours "sleep" makes for an excellent night watchman.  Not having to prepare spells means the Bard can stand guard the majority of the nite letting everyone else get their needed rest.  Bonus to Listen Search and Spot is like a "super" feat as they are all good skills, and Secret Door Detection is very nice as well.  Being proficient with Longsword is worth noting, not to mention Immunity to Sleep and +2 save vs. Enchantments.  Getting a 16 Dex score and only paying 6 points for it kicks hind end too!  

(I'm adding this after I finished the article.  After thinking about it this character SHOULD go for Arcane Archer... which requires our Bard to be Elven.  The Arcane Archer gives a boost in HD as well as Fort saves and BAB.  Same amount of Skills as the Bard with a few new ones that are really good like Spot.  All this and a KILLER progression of special abilities.  By 8th level when you'd think about taking Arcane Archer, you've already got most of the benefit out of being a Bard and are prolly looking at Prestige Classes anyway.)  

Having said all that... I still think the human is beter in this case.  Not getting Precise Shot 'till 3rd level for an Archer character sucks.  With a Human you can have Rapid Shot by 3rd level!  The bonus skills are nice too as we have a long list of quality skills to choose from.  While Low Light is nice for sneaking, Bards get the cantrip Light so there won't be too many instances where a Human will be stuck in the dark (this also kinda makes Hide not as good a skill since it's hard to be sneaky holding a light source.  I guess it's tough to be Moving Silently and Singing at the same time as well... both good arguements for not needing these skills right away.)

OK, now my thoughts on spells.  I think early on the Bard should wear armor.  At some point around 4-8th level this will prolly change due to Mage Armor or Bracers or something.  This then limits the Bards spellcasting in combat due to the Armor Spell Failure.  Again, this opens up some underused spells to the Bard that normally won't get picked since they aren't useful in combat.  I'd take Cure Light Wounds right away... even with a Cleric present in your party.  In early levels healing is very valuable and since healing is done USUALLY out of combat there's no risk of spell failure (even is the DM was a real stickler... you can always take the armor off while out of combat).  Alarm is a cool spell, especially for RPGA events as both our campsites got raided in the night and caught half the party asleep.  Identify becomes valuable in both early and late levels.  Other cools spells would be Mage Armor, Feather Fall, and Charm Person for later levels when your n

Second level spells I like are Mirror Image cause it's got a decent duration. See Invisibility is cool along with Detect Thoughts.  Cure Mod is a possibility if there isn't a Cleric in the party but only if that's the case.

By the time you're at third level Arcane Spell Failure won't be an issue hopefully so you can take advantage of some SERIOUS combat related spells.  Charm Monster, Confusion, Haste, Slow, Gaseous Form are all options.

Ok, so spellcasting becomes important at that point... which means really you'll want a 16 in Cha for the extra spell. Puting the bonus stat in Cha at level 4 means you'll need a 15 Cha at first level.  Aside from that, I think I favor Con over Str for this character for the extra Fort save (a big weakness to the character, this guy CANNOT get into melee as Poison will rip him apart) and the extra HP help as well.  So here's the final stats...

Human Bard Level 1
HP: 8
Initiative: +2
Speed: 30'
BAB: 0
AC: 16 (+3 Studded leather, +1 Buckler, +2 Dex)
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +2
Abilities: Str 12, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 15
Skills: Diplomacy 4, Sense Motive 4, Listen 4, Perform 3, Climb 3, Speak Lang. 2
Feats: Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot
Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven
Equipment:  Morningstar, Longbow, 20 Arrows, Studded Leather, Buckler, Backpack, 50' hemp rope and Grappling Hook, 2 days rations and waterskin, Bedroll, Caltrops, 3 torches and Flint & Steel.

The cool thing is that the Bard is so flexible... he can actually change his specialties and abilities as the rest of the party needs him to!  Jack of All Trades is an uderstatement.  There is a huge list of Feats down the road that will work well with the bard.  Extra Slot and Extra Spell from Tome and Blood at later levels could make the Bard a much beter mage if needed.  Feats like Shot on the Run would allow an Archer to run from behind cover, shoot, and then move back behind the cover EVERY TURN!  (reguires Dodge and Mobility as pre-req tho)  Rapid Shot and Improved Crit would prolly be beter choices for feats than Dodge and Mobility.  And if you don't need to focus on Mage or Fighting abilities... there's always Improved Init, Skill Focus and Great Fortitude not to mention Item Creation!.  Also, at higher levels there will come a point where you'll be able to get ranks in ALL those skills you like.  There are very few skills were you HAVE to max them out

This is the Bard I would built, but really there is no right answer as far as "what's the right way to build a Bard".  Alot of it has to do with the party the individual Bard is traveling with.  (This is why I like our Campaigns so much more than going to the there RPGA events... you never know who you will be playing with.  Of course, if you went with a bunch of your friends they will let you all play together!)

Oh, lastly I'd name him Whistler.  That gives you an idea to his mode of music as well!  =)


PS  I've thought about the Extra Music feat you mentioned from Song and Silence.  While prolly usefull at first level, this feat will most likely never be needed after that.  I guess I just don't value the Bardic Song abilities all that much, but even if you do... are you really gonna sing 9 times a day when you're level 5?



Copyright 2001 Pojo.com


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