Thursday, August 28, 2014

4 Bards = 1 Useful Character

When I was in college, I belonged to the Table Gaming Club, TGC for short, and it was here I began to really get heavily involved in tabletop gaming. The club room had to be the coolest on campus after the Computer Club's -- which sat across from the Snack Bar. The basement of one of the University's older buildings is a suitable habitat for young geeks after all. The gray, dank, stone walls of the room might as well be the Dungeon of the titular Dungeons and Dragons we so often played many nights.

Along one wall sat a white board that was supposed to be used for club announcements. Besides the persistent, "Clean Up Your Shit" or "Sign up to run a game for con" written in black marker, we had quotes from club members that littered the board. Sometimes it was something witty a character said in game. Other times, just something clever a club member said during a meeting or just when we all hung out in our home away from home.

There was one saying that sat on the white board for an incredibly long time -- so long I can't even remember who said it in the first place.

"4 Bards = 1 Useful Character"

It's funny. We always uttered it whenever someone tried to play a bard. I continued to quip it when I left college and ventured out into the world. I'm not sure how much I believed it, though. I always saw it as a joke not just against Bards but against those who munchkin out their character, finding loopholes in the rules to make their character more powerful. They'd pooh-pooh the weaker classes. If you can't lop the head off Great Wyrm what good is it, they think.

I got thinking back to this joke lately, mostly because I am playing a bard in a friend's upcoming Dungeons and Dragons game (5th Edition). I went overboard like I usually do with character histories and made a family background for Shara and lore she could refer back to. I know perfectly well some people wonder why I would want to play a weak class. It got me thinking on just how so many people hate the support character classes. 

Now, before I continue, I don't want it to make it seem I am putting down hack and slash characters because I'm not. I have Bam Bam the Halfling Barbarian and Malak the Tactical Fighter to point out in my own character line-up. Sometimes it is fun to be the tank and some people only like to be the tank. That's fine. But the support shouldn't be bashed. Support just takes a little more care and a little more thought to earn their place, that's all. 

I met an Airborne Ranger Cook when I was in the army, something that he got a lot of side-eyes for. Then he said something incredibly wise, "Even bad-ass rangers need food." Even bad-ass fighters could use the bonus provided by Bardic Inspiration or the extra d6 damage provided in the Rogue's backstab.

Not shown -- he's cutting those babies in mid-air

The reason why bards (and low level magic users and rogues) tend to have short lifespans is mostly because people don't make them right or play them right. Those classes are not tanks. They aren't meant to be tanks. They are supposed to hang back and provide support. As a bard, you are supposed to be in the back of the battlefield, casting spells through song. And out of battle, the bard is supposed to act like a face -- the negotiator and knowledge gatherer (although a rogue can do this as well). If you are playing a bard and your first act after initiative is to run at the monster, you need to sit down in the corner and contemplate your life.

You can take any 1st level spell and use in the right way to devastating affects. I played an arcane trickster once who range pick-pocketed the arrows from a ranger sniper's quiver. No ammunition, no fighting, and the sniper had no choice but to flee. A 20th level Bard may not be able to slay the dragon with his cross-bow but he can charm the Dragon to be his friend. It is all how you use the abilities you gave your character. And there is more than one way to slay a dragon.

I really enjoy being support. It encourages out of the box thinking and a bit of creativity. Besides, at the end of the day, it feels great to prove that 1 Bard = 1 Useful Character.

I always use this gif and I'm not even sorry


  1. Sorry Mary, I like Bards, but I can't resist!!

    1. Haha that is a great example of someone who normally plays the tanks but tries support for the first time.