Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Bard Colleges

This is the second of my follow up posts to this project, today's class is the Bard. The goal of this project is to create a "minigame" of sorts for each sub-class for D&D 5e that allows the character to grow in ways not directly tied to their level progression and that makes each sub-class feel unique and interesting.

College of Lore:

Original Idea: "Your mind is a well from which you can draw history and knowledge from the depths of the past. Your long study has given you an unrivaled grasp of Lore. For every lost secret that you unearth your knowledge deepens."

So the idea with this sub class is to be an searcher for Secrets, the better the Secret the more revelatory the discovery. Perhaps this is a more story/adventure based advancement than the other sub-classes, but I think its a fun way to make an investigative and lore driven bard. These are the kind of characters that want to delve deep into ruins of ancient civilizations so they can learn more about their plumbing. Not all Secrets are arcane and world shattering...

So as the Lore Searcher finds secrets they act like subtle Wish spells. The Bard discovers something in the dungeon they are delving in and the player gets to decide what exactly they discovered! I want the onus of this to fall on the player, not the DM, so its up to the player to declare when they are discovering a Secret, the DM just lets them know when they have delved and studied enough to merit a new Secret discovery. Below is an example, but this should be super fungible.

DM, ConBon: CWilly, as you are lowered down the shaft you start making out some inscriptions in the stone, you flickering lantern dimly illuminating them...

Player, CWilly: I holler up to the Barbarian, "STOP!!! This could be what I've been looking for! These look to be diagrams to the Ancient Yuan-Ti super weapons..."

ConBon: No they aren't dude, its just like a shaft leading down to the next level... Why would they put super weapon plans here?

CWilly: Okay, okay. Then they are graffiti from the Yuan-Ti's slaves, it says the name of their God-Ruler and that he was afraid of fire.

ConBon: Alright, that sounds good, but it'll be a while till you get another Secret, okay? The name of the God-Ruler was Issak the Cruel, and he was deathly afraid of fire...

In the example above the DM lets the player  have a say in defining the final boss of the Dungeon, giving him a weakness to fire. There is some negotiation involved, as there should be.

Not a wizard! A bard!

College of Valor:

Original Idea: "You thrill in the heat of battle, pounding a martial beat as you urge your allies on. You have taken to the sword as a duck to a pond. Keep track of every bardic inspiration die that is the difference between life and death for an ally or foe."

You've chosen a path of empowerment, a martial archetype for a musical/performance based class. There is a rich tradition of these kind of characters across cultures: the skald (warriors and storytellers), the samurai (meant to be masters of martial and sensitive arts), the knight (the chivliric ideal has knights that write poetry), etc.

The original idea was a little boring I think, and I have been playing a loosely Redwall based game recently, we sing a lot of songs, shout a lot of battle cries, and describe feasts often; its all been really fun. So the Bard under the tutelage of the College of Valor seeks out greater and greater conflicts to participate in so that they can write sagas about their exploits. Think of it like you get to play Homer writing the Odessy while its happening!

The Bard gets to write a new bad-ass song for each new scale of conflict they are embroiled in. A computational way to represent this would be CR (Challenge Rating), the metric that describes how much XP should be awarded for a combat encounter. There is all sorts of arcane maths behind this computation, so the leg work is done for us, we just get assign rewards for writing poems.

Of course to use these the player actually has to tell a story/sing a song/recite a poem! For example the Heroic Ode should be written for each party member you want to use it on, "Oh Scar-Faced Johnny, Slayer of Naga Queens and Terror of the Eastern Wastes, you story cannot end here...!", therefore each party member has to have done something Ode worthy for this to work. The format doesn't have to be these forms of course, this isn't some stupid creative writing class, let the player have some fun with it.

CRSaga Unlocked
0-4 (Amateur hour bub)Campfire Story
5-8 (Wow! You sound like some kind of hero!)Folk Song
9-12 (Hear anew the voice! O hear and listen!)Heroic Ode
13-16 (And so Hercules slayed the hydra...)Legendary Story
17-20 (Tell me, O Muse, of the man of many devices...)Epic Poem

Campfire Story: You can tell a Campfire Story of one of your Party's exploits while taking a long or short rest, this allows your allies to re-roll all 1's on their HD rolls when regaining health.

Folk Song: When you sing your Folk Song in public you get advantage on preform checks when trying to make money in down time

Heroic Ode: When an ally is making death saving throws you can take a full round action to recite their Heroic Ode to instantly stabilize them at 0 HP as long as you are within 30ft of them.

Legendary Story: During combat you can make begin to tell your Story, for every round that you recite your allies get +1 on attack/damage/saving throws (each party member chooses which one they want for the duration) for every round that you continuously tell the story, as a concentration spell up to 1 minute (can use Battle Magic while doing this), usable 1/week

Epic Poem: This is effectively a ritual spell (takes 10 minutes to cast) that can be used to cast any spell on any class's spell list lower than 6th level, and the epic poem must some how relate to the spell being cast. For example a Create Undead spell could go like this:
Facing to the northern clime,
Thrice he traced the Runic rhyme;
Thrice pronounced, in accents dread,
The thrilling verse that wakes the dead,
Till from out the hollow ground
Slowly breathed a sullen sound.

This is usable 1/week.

Cult: You have accumulated enough of a cultural impact that you now have a whole cult devoted to the contemplation of of your art and the mysteries contained within. When ever you come into a settlement that is a town or larger roll to see how big your following is here, using your Preform skill. Depending on the success of the role, your Cult could be very developed in a way to aid you. At the least you get a fan club most places you go.


I think the Secrets mechanic is especially interesting, giving the PC a way to color and change the world in creative ways. It gives some of the DM's agency to the player, which is fun. I haven't thought of a good way to standardize it, though I am not too worried.

I'm not totally satisfied with how tied to level advancement the Sagas mechanic is, but I think it makes some sense. That they have to recite their work makes it fun, hopefully. Perhaps encourages players to do some riskier things than they normally might, all because it would make a great story. And that is awesome.

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