Player’s Handbook 2: Bring on the Bards

Admittedly, it’s gotten easier to create a Bard player character over the years. In 1st Edition AD&D, the Bard only appeared in the appendix as a ridiculously complicated advanced class. To even qualify as a Bard, you had to have a 15 in Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom and Charisma. You also had to have at least 5 (but no more than 8 ) levels of Fighter, then 5 (but no more than 9) levels of Thief, and then you could go study under a Druid to officially be considered a Bard.

Compared to that, having to wait for the release of Player’s Handbook 2 in order to play a 4th Edition Bard doesn’t seem like such a bad deal. Since 1st Edition Bard picked spells from the Druid’s spell list, I had almost wondered if Wizards of the Coast delayed the Bard to tap into the Primal Power Source (also introduced in this book, along with the 4th Edition Druid). No, the Bard has an Arcane Power Source, and fills the Leader role. This was an interesting choice, since I always saw these characters in more of a supporting role both in fiction and in the D&D games I’ve played in. It makes sense, though; through song, poetry, and performance the Bard inspires the other members of the party. This fits well with the Role structure of 4th Edition.

Bard Class Features are about what you’d expect from other editions. They make friends easily, they can choose multiclass feats from more than one class, and their spells are largely song and performance based. Different from previous incarnations of the class is the ability to heal people with their words, and to provide the chance for a healing surge with a song. They’re also Ritual Casters, and begin with two rituals. These changes are in line with the spirit of the class, and provide more balance and usefulness to the class than previous editions. The 3rd Edition Bard in particular was very “front loaded”; you got a lot at 1st level, and not much afterward. The Bard-specific spells, cross-class feats and rituals allow for interesting development as the character gains levels, and maintains the concept of Bard as a jack-of-all-trades type character.

Creating a Bard offers two options. The Cunning Bard is more of a trickster, relying on stealth and deception and ranged attacks. The Valorous Bard is an inspirational, sword-wielding close combat specialist, almost Paladin-like, literally leading others into battle with rousing speeches. They’re both neat twists on the class, showing the versatility of how a Bard could be played.    To further demonstrate this, there are four Paragon Paths. The Student of the Seven path follows mythic muses and revels in all forms of knowledge, going back to that jack-of-all-trades shtick again. The Summer Rhymer follows Tiandra, Summer Queen of the Fey, and focus on beauty and fey-touched abilities. The Voice of Thunder path uses the Bard’s voice as a force of nature, booming, intimidating, fearsome and destructive. The War Chanter path is almost priest-like in its role to inspire the troops with music and oratory.

Overall, I like the new Bard. It captures the potential the class has always had in previous editions but never quite lived up to. I look forward to the opportunity to play one in the future.

Buy Player’s Handbook 2: A 4th Edition D&D Core Rulebook (Bk.2)

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