5 D&D Bards for Players & DMs
“I hate creating a player character,” I wrote to a friend today, “Because I love doing it.” You see, I’m starting a new campaign as a player and I thought I had something simple in mind: A bard with probably a charismatic race. I thought either Neutral-ish with CG tendencies or Neutral-ish that has evil gardens of greed and selfishness. We will be a two-person party so I also wanted to be flexible (the other one is a ranger) without worrying too much about powerplay. Result? I went through so many ideas! I can’t play all of them so I thought I’d share them here. Feel free to take one and adapt it as a PC or utilize them as NPCs.
1 — Monster Bardbarian
The fighter looked at the wound on his arms. The orcs touch, as he sang to her, was healing the wound. “Thanks”, she said and received a kind nod from the orc. “But did you really have to attack them? Five bugbears are nothing to scoff at!” she queried. The orc stopped and matched the fighter’s eyes in a stare and calmly answered: “They insulted my singing.” he said as he clenched his fist. “NO ONE insults Grokh’s singing.”
Bardbarian is a Bard/Barbarian multi-class character from a monster race such as Orc, Bugbear or Goblin. I thought of a few different personalities and backgrounds.
One background is being from a tribe that trades with “civilized” races and during trips to the city, hearing and growing interest in music. This one would use crude versions of civil instruments and sing in that way. This one starts with a dip in Barbarian (Fighter or Ranger could also be used, especially for Hobgoblins) and continues as a bard after embracing the adventures.
Another one is one that embraces a shaman-y approach, making music with drums and wind instruments made of bones and primal singing. This one alternates between bard and barbarian. You could take the shammy approach even further by adding a dip in a caster class like sorcerer or cleric — but read the next paragraph.
Bardbarian isn’t optimized at all. It’s purely conceptual so I’d recommend it either for 1) games that aren’t focused on combat 2) a party of at least four people 3) NPCs.
That said, it can definitely work. You could dip in either class. If you dip in Bard and go Barb, you will gain a lot of utility. If you dip in Barb and go Bard, you get some extra toughness and proficiencies.
2 — Yuan-ti Pureblood Spy/Rebel
Sso, you propose we risk our lives to help thiss… farmer and only receive some apples in return. Why don’t we just take the apples if we want them? Are you going to tell me I’m misssing the point again? Maybe you are the ones who should be more… efficient.
Bard requires charisma and Yuan-ti Pureblood gains charisma. They also get Int, can cast suggestion, get 3 languages and magic resistance. Great, right? It’s a match made in heaven… well, or somewhere in hell… because the Yuan-ti aren’t exactly hero material, are they? Plus, bard? Here are two ideas.
First, being undercover. You are sent to spy on the warmbloods either with a particular purpose or to prove yourself by finding something noteworthy to do. You can’t survive alone. If only there were people that were more open-minded than the regular folks, who travel around and are always in the middle of important things… oh wait, there are! Adventurers. So want to join a band and you’ll care about them because they’ll be useful tools that not only will help you navigate the world but also act as a disguise. Later on, you might get used to them and switch sides as well.
The second one is similar to Fearun’s obsidian sweetheart, Drizzt. You don’t fit in the Yuan-Ti society. Maybe it’s because you had problems in the hierarchy, maybe you think they lack vision, maybe it’s something else. So you take off and again, you find the adventuring life more fitting as a private person. Your alignment and “camp” may go anywhere from here.
As for being a bard, I think of more unconventional performances such as dancing and music with exotic percussions such as rattles and rainmakers that focus more on rhythm than melody in the traditional sense. This bard almost always performs to small crowds and keeps eye contact, almost hypnotic. Performances, like everything else, are merely more tools. Tools convenient for someone who needs to disguise himself in an alien society.
Not much to say here in terms of gameplay. If your DM is okay with a Yuan-ti, be the bard that you want. You may think about concealing your Yuan-ti properties, especially considering you will be a prime candidate for social interaction. You don’t want the villagers to run from your pretty eyes.
3 — Goliath Skald
The party sat around the campfire along with the rest of the caravan. As the fire cast shadows on the woods around, one stood out. Not only this shadow was much larger than the others, but it was also moving the most. “Have I told you the one where the Great Father swallowed the sun? You know, he pukes it out later along with fire giants!” yelled the shadow, taking a large slurpy sip out of his huge mug.
Be a goliath. Be nord-y. Drink and speak of the great sagas of your people: The one where Annam swallowed the sun, the one where he was lying around and how his armpit sweat produced puny little humans, the one where Annam’s bird-pets ran out of it cage, only to be known as Bahamut and Tiamat.
Are they all correct? Probably not. But are they great stories to tell anyway? By the snowing beards of Thrym, they sure are!
In terms of gameplay? Well, I guess a sword/valor Bard is a natural choice. You could cast spells to support yourself and your party and break some bones as you sing battle hymns to gods and heroes of the giantfolk (such as Virdur, the Cloud Giant that threw rocks so hard that some of them flew to heavens to become stars)
PS: I made up all the stuff here, except the armpit thing — that’s from Nord mythology.
4 — Firbolg Flower-giant
A gentle giant takes out a ukulele almost the size of a guitar and starts singing an improvised pastoral song. It’s strangely relaxing and before long, little creatures of the forest gather around, listening to the enchanting music. The Firbolg smiles as the song concludes and asks the squirrels if they saw two dark-robed humanoids pass by.
A firbolg bard can be a quite naive, traditionally good character that wants to spread peace and love. They could be hippy-ish. Maybe a smart one could be the liaison between a city and an angry circle of druids.
Once again, this isn’t really optimized, but it doesn’t suck either as Firbolgs have nice bonuses. You can talk with animals, become invisible, disguise self into a regular humanoid daily. Surely Wisdom isn’t as useful as Charisma but it isn’t bad either. I don’t think any bard college would stand out.
5 —Fallen Aasimar Bard/Bardlock
A blond human with yellow eyes was singing on the stage. His hair and skin looked radiant and pale at the same time. Despite a permanent concern in his eyes, he sang with joy. When three people in the crowd revealed themselves to be demonic assassins, the bard let out a sigh. “You won’t let me enjoy anything, will you?” His eyes filled with rage unwillingly, as tendrils of magical power surrounded his hands. “Come then, you owe me a good suffering.”
This Aasimar was a creature of light and nobility until a fateful day. Maybe he actually lost himself to evil. Maybe he took a dark path to do something good. Maybe evil was forced unto him. Regardless, evil is not the path he wants to walk anymore and music helps him keep the demons away.
The bard could either be extra lovely and joyful to overcompensate the darkness within or rather edgy and open to shady acts because he knows it’s never black and white and evil return the kindness you show them.
This Bard potentially dips in a few levels of warlock with an evil entity. RPwise, this could be how he starts the character or happen around a time when he embraces the evil for one reason or the other.
Overall, Aasimar charisma bonus works well with any bards. On top of that, the lock dip is apparently a popular option. One level could net you Eldritch Blast (which you can get without the dip anyway), two levels could add a useful Agonizing Blast invocation (which seems to be the “optimized” option) and at three levels, you could pick your pact too. Personally, I think the most interesting idea is to actually get three levels and pick pact of chain to summon a familiar and combine with a lore bard that has an incredible amount of utility and reliable damage option with EB+AB.
I still haven’t decided! What do you think? What’s your favorite? What are some cool bard ideas you have?