Oh the lowly Bard, how many years has it been and still you hold the title of the worst class in the game? Of course, I still remember the days when one had to have 17's and 18's in just about all their stats and spend time in most of the classes just to be a Bard. (Though they were still considered a waste of time then.) In our quest to make all things at least a little better we addressed this poor, ridiculed, and beleagured class to try and make them more user friendly. To do that, one has to ask themselves why the Bard is so sub-par when it has decent HP's, decent To-Hit, useful Save bonuses, access to self buffs, access to healing spells, access to group buffs, access to many popular illusion and enchantment spells, the best skill selection in the game, second best skill points, the ability to actually WEAR armor while casting arcane spells, and a list of abilities about as ponderous as the paladin's. Why? The answer could only revolve around their class ability, the Bard Song. This is the crux of what makes a Bard a Bard and yet until recently, they could not even attack while singing. So wait - I get all these perks but my spiffy class specific ability makes me stand there like a post and not be able to do anything else at all? Well. NOW it makes more sense. Why would anyone in their right mind give up all their perks for what usually winds up being +1 To-Hit and Damage? Just play a Cleric if you want to buff, right? Well, here's what we did to fix this problem and frankly, I've got to say - the Bard is actually a desirable class for versatility now that doesn't lose its edge.
Fixing the Poor Bard
Fixing the Bard was actually quite simple. If you basically just alter the way their songs work and how they can be used, no sweat right? Well, most would argue that the reason they cannot use their spells while using Bard Song is because they have to concentrate to cast their arcane spells. To this, I must say simply - WHY? Face it. Bards are SUPPOSED to be support role characters or leader characters. If you hamper this in any fashion, they're worthless. The answer to the problem is quite simple. Change the way Bard's cast their spells. Instead of concentrating to channel their energy, which totally makes the fact that Bards have some pretty spiffy song abilities and vice versa pointless, simply connect the two. What? Yeah, its actually that simple. By making the spells that Bards use tie into their use of song you get something that actually works and is surprisingly balanced. Basically, in essence, the Song itself is how Bards cast their spells - they weave their magic into the songs that they sing because their spells are songs themselves. Sounds cheesy to you? Then stop thinking about some doof playing a lute and singing sweet nothings. You think someone will ALWAYS be playing and singing such nonsense when they have an ability called Dirge Song? Have you even heard a proper Dirge? Spells can be sung, played, chanted, drummed... anyway you think your Bard would use his Perfom skill that's relavant to your character.
Wow, so... now Bards cast their arcane spells as songs. Wait, then that means...? Yup. With this change in logic, Bards CAN cast their spells and use their Song abilities at the same time. Why? They're already performing! The spell is woven into the performance like any beautious melody. Similarly, a chanting Bard or one using Oratory to spin epic tales of inspiration can still use their basic attacks. Once the magic's started, it creates its own life that the Bard can end voluntarily or be cancelled by other means such as a Silence spell. Similary, at the cost of ending the previous song's effect, the Bard can alter the mood of his/her song in order to get the effects of a new song. Such as if you suddenly need to give a boost to Skills instead of To-Hit and Damage. The previous buff ends and the new begins with a change in the song being used. Anyone who has played music knows that this is a done thing in orchestrations and symphonies - meaning its completely plausible.
This hardly makes the Bard a broken class. Clerics and Druids still trump them in outright spells overall while rogues out-do them in damage and any of the warrior classes out-fight them. However, one thing Bards do well is help the party be even more amazing. You want a versatile class? Take the Bard. Need an extra healer but don't want to have another Cleric with stunted skills? Pick a Bard. Want a solid line-holder with buffs to boost his or her party? Hello Mr. Bard. Looking to add a few more buffs/debuffs to make your party more solid? Lookout, it's the Bard. Bards can even play healers with the right party set-up [such as with a Paladin frontline warrior or a very stout Fighter or Barbarian build based on damage absorption]. With this set-up, Bards can finally claim their role as the versatile slot fill support class and actually have useful applications with some careful cross-classing now. Many warriors could benefit from the Bard's versatility. What warrior doesn't like a little extra damage, to-hit, boosted low saves, self-buffs and some heals? Same with classes like the Sorceror. Another plausible combination for party support would be splashing Cleric or Oracle as you would stock-up on even more buffs/debuffs and more depth in low-level healing spells that can be boosted by the Healing Domain. All-in-all we have had great success with this class alteration and guess what? They don't stink anymore and people actually CONSIDER Bard levels! If you still think the song thing is cheesy and wimpy sounding then I strongly suggest you listen to some Gregorian Chants with the more ominous feeling or New Zealand All Black rugby team and their pre-game Haka (Haka with Translation). See if your imagination can't come up with something that sounds more 'robust' in your mind then. IF you do somehow think this is overpowered, its as easy as attaching a check to it of some kind such as a Concentration check to maintain the song.