Bards (or any class really) and the player flags embedded into the playbooks

  • 6 Replies


  • 777
Hi everyone,
This thread is in response to P2's problems that (he?) has with the Beta 2 playbook. Specifically that he feels the Bard's beginning moves of Charming and Open and Any Port in a Storm are not particularly useful or 'iconic' to the class. Bards are his favourite character and the moves obviously don't speak to his concept of what a Bard should be. He prefers the concept of multi-class dabbler and the opportunities that signifies as a Bard 'diversifies'.

His response made me sit back and mull it over. I haven't played DW with a Bard in the group yet, though I really like the concept and implementation. Any Port in a Storm (in its old NPC-focused iteration) has long been used as a model for our group as the DW equivalent of the Burning Wheel Circles mechanic. I personally, really like the new version though, as it encapsulates any change in the town, and what with the new steading tags! Woo Hoo! If the GM is liberal in their use of the ask questions and use the answers principle, can support all manner of player authorship. In my mind, this is the iconic Bard move. But that's just my preference for what the Bard should encapsulate.

To me, the classes are the first 'flagged' choice that a player makes. They are unique, varied and not repeatable. They make me as a GM sit up and take notice. Why do you want to play the Bard? Why do you want to create your own signature weapon? Why to you want to cast spells? Why do you want to use deadly poisons?

They are very specific fictional (or in some cases mechanical) cues to the player (and thus me) on the type of story they want to tell. The smaller choices during chargen; look, stats, bonds, gear, and move details focus these flags and make my job as GM even easier. I know what the players want the game to be about.

Once that broad iconography is established, the fiction develops via the focus of these flags. But what if the initial playbook moves aren't what 'flag' you as iconic, or envisage the class the way you want? Is making a custom 'multi-class dabbler' move going to satisfy that discomfort?

I'm hesitant to 'hack' the playbooks most of all. Muddling their moves with others, focusing largely on the mechanical iteration instead of the powerful fictional potential of moves, dropping a move you feel is 'useless'; all seems backward to me. Heck, just playing with the basic moves as per the villager playbook leads to wonderfully disparate and 'iconic' characters based on the moves players (and GMs) make in the story and the resultant fictional choices.

It has made me seriously ponder the significance of the choices that Sage and Adam have been making. I've been 'hacking' DW ever since it first developed, as have most of the playtesters and folks giving this grand game a shot. Despite the old story games adage of 'don't hack the hack'. This feedback process however,has tempered the development of the game and the 'vision' that Sage and Adam (and Tony!) have  considered over the last 2 years. As the final iteration draws ever closer I think I'm going to leave well enough alone.

Like with any other RPG, I'm going to use the Flags as written. Rather than replace, discard or modify I'm going to encourage folks to play the game with what is on the page for a good few sessions instead of ripping it apart at chargen. Just because there is a chapter on Advanced Delving, doesn't mean you need to use it straight away before the players have had a chance to 'flag' their intent with the choices given to them already.

I'm embracing the Bard as is. I think its a wonderful, balanced class and hope that someone decides to play one this weekend so we can all see what type of stories we can craft with the moves as written.



  • 53
Hi noofy,

As I said in the other tread, I dislike this 2 moves. First charming and open, 'cause I don't think it reflects very well the bards sociability as bluff and diplomacy. It's only diplomacy, the bluff is missing. Bars are chaotic tended characters, but this move is all about order. If you are trustful with someone, this npc will be sincere with you too. But what happens if the bard is traing to deceive the npc, to bluff him to get an important information. This move rules don't count this option.

My complain about Any port in the storm is that anyone can do it very well (especialy the thief, or any character with streetwise) and I don't see why bards are better to do it.

It's all about the concept that you had over the bard. I see him as a jack-of-all-trades. Versatility is his name, 'cos He's a combination of fighter, thief and wizard in one class. Obviosly, he isn't as good as the fighter, thief or wizard, but he can do the same things that they do, and I see only the wizards counterpart in his initial moves (archane art and bardic's lore). The charming and open could represent the thief if it englobates some streetwise and bluff. As written it looks more to a paladin's move (extremely order, be sincere and other will be too). And the fighters would be abilities are only available by advanced moves (duelist parry).

I could have write this in the other tread, but I was a little sleepy and tired form work and study when I wrote that reply.

So, these are my arguments, maybe then don't fit your or sage and adam's vision about the bard, but these are my 2 cents about this matter. Hope you understand them.




  • 53
Hi noofy, about your doubt, I'm male =p
My name is Paulo Segundo (that means "the second") that's why I use P2 as my username =]



  • 777
Hi Paulo!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Bard :)
I understand where you are coming from with the Bard as a fighter-thief-wizard, that's awesome! I can see how the class as written doesn't match your expectations. That's O.K! There is no set stricture on what the Bard 'should (or shouldn't) be.

For me though, the Bard is a troubadour first and foremost, and a bit of a rascally, carousing duelist second. We tend to play up the narrative potential of moves in our group, only triggering them if the story warrants it. Thus the thief could notice changes about the town, but only the Bard gets the GM pondering and as the Bard starts asking all sorts of questions about the town (and perhaps steering the story a little) the GM can throw it back on them and say 'sounds like you are using Any Port in a Storm, Yes?' and co-author from there. It also starts the move snowball in all sorts of unexpected 'Bardic' ways.

Thanks for all your interesting questions on the game Paulo, it has definitely made me consider the game more closely, as Sage says, its an enjoyable thing to think about your observations. I hope that you get some play out of the Bard, and keep us informed about what you think of your implementation?

For me, the Bard is about three things: inspiring/entertaining people, knowing things, and being socially proficient and connected. Magic's good, but to me the Bard isn't about magic. Versatility's good, but encouraging more multiclassing in a strong-archetype game like DW isn't a great idea, IMO. If the most attractive option for your playbook is to take something from another playbook... that's a problem.

For me, the Bard is about three things: inspiring/entertaining people, knowing things, and being socially proficient and connected. Magic's good, but to me the Bard isn't about magic. Versatility's good, but encouraging more multiclassing in a strong-archetype game like DW isn't a great idea, IMO. If the most attractive option for your playbook is to take something from another playbook... that's a problem.

Agree. Excellent point about the multiclassing. I'm not sure where niche protection ranks as a design goal for the writers, but with only 7 classes, even a little crossover is quite noticeable in play especially in a 4+ character group.

Maybe multiclass type stuff for a bard should be there, but rather than take something wholesale from another class, the bard's "multiclass" moves should be more direct. "Multiclass Fighter" means you get X, where X definitely "looks" like it could be a fighter move (some kind of damage mitigation or weapon flourish), but actually isn't. It's just the mechanics and flavor for that particular advanced move that's called "Multiclass Fighter." Though I guess that would put you on the hook for 6 new moves just to play up the iconic dabbling for which bards are known.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2012, 10:15:09 PM by iserith »



  • 53
Hi guys,

The multiclassing thing was just an idea for use instead of Any port in the storm. We can brainstorm something else...

But, as I've complained about Bard's "Charming and Open" and "Any port in the storm", I spent some time thinking in options for changing these moves.

I got a draft for changes in Charming and Open by now. It goes something like this:

"Charming and Open
When you speak with someone to gather sensitive information, tell lies, mislead or pretend to be someone else, roll + Cha. On a 10+, Hold 3; or they believe whatever you say. On a 7–9, Hold 1, and they get to ask you a question from the list below too; or your bluff is hard to believe, the GM will offer you two options between suspicion, danger, or cost. Spend hold, 1 for 1, to ask a question from the list below. The answers have to be truthfully.
   Whom do you serve?
   What do you wish I would do?
   How can I get you to ______?
   What are you really feeling right now?
   What do you most desire?"

I tried to make it more chaotic oriented and include the bluffing thing that bards are know for. I hope you like it and I'm waiting for your commentaries.

P.s.: I thought about substituting "tell lies, mislead or pretend to be someone else" for only "deceiving", but I wasn't sure if this word would cover all of these themes.