Bard - Too simple?

  • 3 Replies
Bard - Too simple?
« on: February 17, 2014, 11:52:34 AM »
This thread concerns the Bard class and its somewhat SIMPLE playstyle, lack of adding to the fiction, and how a certain build only exacerbates the situation.

I should have known what I was in for when I designed a "Heal-bot" bard. But I would like to bring up some thoughts about how a Bard plays (in general, and specific to my build) in Dungeon World, and welcome any ideas or thoughts you all may have to add:

The Arcane Art ability is neat and SUPER versatile. It is SO useful and versatile in fact that I can basically survive an entire combat using ONLY it.

"Oh you're hurt? I heal you 1D8 hp"
"Nobody's hurt? Please take +1D4 forward to damage"

So the issue is, a bard has almost no reason NOT to use the BARD BUFF move, and this is even more true for my Bard which is currently multi-classed in Cleric (whenever I heal, also add +2 Forward, AMAZING). And I plan on exacerbating the situation as I level up through 5th and multi-class paladin and take some key Bard advanced moves.

"Oh you're hurt? I heal you 3D8 hp and you take +2 Forward AND you take +1D4 forward to damage"

There is almost no reason, other than personal preservation, to do anything except buff a teammate. And the buff is extraordinary. Now that's all good, except for this: Using this ability adds NOTHING to the fiction. When a warrior attacks an orc, she has the opportunity to describe something like "I chop his arm off" in which case she rolls Hack&Slash, hits, deals damage, and chops off his arm. The situation has changed in a unique way and the enemy now has fewer options.  To use Arcane Art, a Bard simply describes a situation in which you sing/play/orate/etc, and then roll CHA for your Arcane Art.  I have tried to get clever and describe things like lecturing a teammate to "walk it off" (Heal), but even this doesn't actually ADD to the fiction.

It's like I've found a way to twink in Dungeon World which I didn't really think was possible since it was so fiction-heavy. Thoughts or remarks?



  • 405
Re: Bard - Too simple?
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2014, 05:04:51 PM »
One question you should always be asking is what are the downsides to failing an Arcane Art roll?  Sure, failure might be rare given a high CHA, but to what does it expose you?  Given that bards are out there, I would presume that every NPC is aware of their general abilities (just like for a Wizard or a Paladin).  Fail a roll and suffer a hard move?  Maybe you strummed a grace note and opened your mouth, only to have someone chuck a dagger into it because they know you're trouble.

Even if you succeed, what does it mean to be standing there singing/playing/orating in the middle of a fight?  Speaking as the hypothetical NPC fighting the guy you've just healed and/or buffed, if I smack him and I see that you sing a little pep-talk and he gets back in the fray with renewed vigor, my next attack is going to be targeted at you, not at him.

As for adding to the fiction, you might want to consider ways to make your Arcane Art have more tangible fictional effects.  Rather than just a largely mundane dude playing a rousing, inspirational tune you are actually a Spellsinger, and you are effectively casting magical spells with a specific verbal, somatic, and/or material component (i.e. your lyrics, your playing, and your lute).  It is called Arcane Art after all.  Like any other magic, maybe it has visible, fictional effects.  Maybe the reason someone gets a buff to their damage is because your music is making them dance through their opponent's attacks to land a hit on a weak spot.  Maybe the reason they're healing is that your music is a direct appeal to their patron deity.  Or yours.  Depending on the patron deity in question, that might have all sorts of ramifications.

But you raise a valid point in that the Bard is quite possibly one of the most poorly-thought-out character classes present in the (A)D&D X.Y canon.  I can't even blame the DW writers for this because they have tried to faithfully capture the functional mechanics of a character class that is at its core pretty lame.  The old "sing to give your buddies +1" thing just lacks...anything really.  But mostly panache.

That said, I have played a Bard in D&D and it was one of the most fun characters I have ever played.  But I think I can count on one hand the number of times in the entire campaign that I used the buff.  The ability that I used most frequently was charming a crowd (such that my partner the thief could more easily pick pockets in whatever inn or tavern we were working).  In combat, I was usually trying to be inconspicuous and sneak past the bad-guys in order to get first pick of whatever loot we were after, generally using my party-mates as a distraction.  But what made the character the most fun was almost completely RP, and that was that I was a total wastrel.  I had a well-established "weakness for the ladies" that got us into all sorts of fun trouble.  And we'd roll into town after some haul and all of the other characters would be like, "I buy magic armor," or "I buy Boots of Speed," or "I research a disintegrate spell."  My response was usually more along the lines of "I spend [rolls a random die] 800 gold pieces on ale and whores!  Now keep in mind that I only have 600, but I spend 800.  I figure after the first 2 or 3 hundred, someone will extend me a line of credit.  Boy are they gonna be surprised in the morning.  Also, some time before sun-up I roust you guys out of wherever you are and whisper, 'Ssshhh.  We need to be going.  Like now.'"

Because my character class abilities were generally so lame and ridiculous I took it upon myself to become less of a mechanical advantage and more of a plot device, and in doing so had an absolute blast.



  • 609
Re: Bard - Too simple?
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2014, 03:10:54 PM »
I think the GM needs to be more creative with unwanted attention on a 7-9. A horde of undead erupting from the ground will clear things right up ;)
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."

Re: Bard - Too simple?
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2014, 02:40:27 PM »
First of all, I don't think relying on the Arcane Art ability is a BAD thing. It's powerful, versatile, and the Bard's most important and useful ability in combat. Still, I understand that sometimes it's TOO powerful an option, and in those situations there are a couple of excellent ways to deal with it.

First, as Munin and noclue noted it's absolutely okay for the GM to declare that the Bard has drawn a lot of enemy 'threat' from their casting (should they roll a 7-9). Draw unwanted attention tends to be a go-to choice for some players, after all they're already fighting so what's the harm in drawing a little attention? The solution is reinforcements and/or traps being prepared.

Second, another possible consequence of Arcane Art is having the magic affect unwanted targets. Perhaps that healing spell doesn't just affect the Paladin, but also the three orcs he's fighting. Maybe it breaks the sleep spell the Wizard cast on the ogres outside the cavern, and now they're hankering for some revenge. There's a decent amount of leeway with the ability, enough for a canny GM to exploit the roll.

Regardless, even for a Charisma 18 Bard, getting a 10+ on an Arcane Art roll is still only about 40%. While the ability CAN be incredibly useful, especially when healing characters during 'down-time', it's not consistent enough to be 'spammed' without long-term consequences.