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What's the point of Bards?

Posted on 22nd Jun 2009 at 10:32 by Clive Webster with 25 comments

Clive Webster
I'm still ploughing through the prequel novel to Dragon Age: Origins (yes, I know it's been ages, but I'm almost finished - review soon, I promise). Between readings I've been musing, as is my wont, about the role of Bards in role-playing games. What exactly is the point of them? They're not as cool as Thieves or Assassins and and don't have the fighting abilities of even a Ranger or Cleric. Why bother?

There might be some point in Dragon Age though, as David Gaider (the writer of the novel and lead-writer of the game) pitches Bards as spies and historians. This could be of use, as Dragon Age sees you travelling around the world trying to recruit people to fight The Blight - perhaps you could use a spy to scope out a noble or even replace him with a more amenable alternative.

However, there's an ambiguity in the plot of the book. A Elven Bard called Katriel is hired to assassinate the protagonist Maric (don't worry, this isn't a spoiler) and yet later talks about the code of Bards:

"A bard must know history so she does not repeat it. She tells the tales but is never part of them. She watches but remains above what she sees. She inspires passion in others and rules her won."

So what exactly is the point of a Bard? They can be hired as assassins or spies but won't take an active role in changing history? Pah!

Perhaps Bards are useful for their lore skill. There's a point later on where Katriel uses her knowledge of history to offer an alternative plan to the tricky predicament that Maric and his friends find themselves in. And then she reveals that she can read some Dwarvish too, and so can decipher some clues.

So, is the only point of having a bard to unlock new conversation and event branches, perhaps? Even if that's true, I can't see myself including a Bard in my party. In fact, I think I've only played as a Bard once in an RPG - in Baldur's Gate and then for about half and hour before realising that it's a rubbish class and I should start over.

Unfortunately I started over as a Mage, which is even harder to play as in BG so I had to restart the game for a second time...

25 Comments

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liratheal 22nd June 2009, 10:42 Quote
Maybe to sing songs about how awesome your character is (or isn't) ala Fable/Fable2?

Honestly, I couldn't tell you the point of a Bard, either.

I'm sure there's a D&D buff around here that'll school us, though >.>
Sifter3000 22nd June 2009, 10:49 Quote
It would be different if there was a SingStar/Guitar Hero style minigame in Dragon Age, though. Then Bards would be awesome.
liratheal 22nd June 2009, 10:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sifter3000
It would be different if there was a SingStar/Guitar Hero style minigame in Dragon Age, though. Then Bards would be awesome.

Dude, don't say things like that too loud or often, it'll only be a matter of time before Activision release 'Bard Hero' with some bizarre peripheral and compatability with Guitar Hero.
liratheal 22nd June 2009, 11:01 Quote
Quote:

Jesus christ.

That's it. I'm leaving the gaming world.

Yes, I realise it's a joke :p
steveo_mcg 22nd June 2009, 11:03 Quote
What's the point of Bards.... why to be Bard ass off course

/gets coat, shuffles off
CardJoe 22nd June 2009, 11:06 Quote
They're all rounders, plain and simple - and that's especially true in BG 2. They have OK fighting skills, a small selection of spells, a handful of Thief skills and a few unique abilities that make they handy for specific situations. The Bardsong is a great party buff at higher levels and the high Lore is handy at lower levels when you need magic items but can't keep shelling out for Identify Scrolls.

They don't excel at anything though and that's their major weakness - that they need constant back-up in combat situations. That said, their typically high Charisma and Wisdom makes them good spokespeople for your party, even if they don't have anything else to recommend them.

On the other hand though, they aren't ever really worth going out of your way for - especially if you're an experienced RPGer and are confident you can manage with specialists instead. When I play Baldur's Gate 2 I tend to recruit Haer'Dalis though still, but that's mainly because I like his character. His bundle of unique equipment does make him pretty useful though.
Sifter3000 22nd June 2009, 11:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by liratheal
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sifter3000
It would be different if there was a SingStar/Guitar Hero style minigame in Dragon Age, though. Then Bards would be awesome.

Dude, don't say things like that too loud or often, it'll only be a matter of time before Activision release 'Bard Hero' with some bizarre peripheral and compatability with Guitar Hero.

LUTE SOLO!
steveo_mcg 22nd June 2009, 11:17 Quote
Cousin of Han...
liratheal 22nd June 2009, 12:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sifter3000
LUTE SOLO!

If there's ever a Bard Hero with a Lute controller, I'm blaming you! :P
Malketh 22nd June 2009, 14:26 Quote
I must agree with the general consensus that the bard is quite a useless class. The only time I've found a bard in a game or book or other entertainment medium that wasn't a useless twit was in the Spellsinger series by Alen Dean Foster. Granted he was still a somewhat useless twit, but at least he was funny and could pull off some serious stuff when needed.
wgy 22nd June 2009, 15:18 Quote
bard class was in morrowind (possible oblivion) too, it was just a hybrid of all 3 schools. Magic, Combat, Stealth. thus resulting in being bad at all of them.
salesman 22nd June 2009, 16:56 Quote
It sounds like game developers don't know what a bard is either, "Yeah give em all the abilities but make em suck at them". I see the point Joe a character good at nothing.
naokaji 22nd June 2009, 17:37 Quote
If you dig through the D&D rulework there is a point to bards, but how many % of games actually stick to that? not many, so in most games bards are pretty much pointless.
C-Sniper 22nd June 2009, 21:31 Quote
I know from Vanguard Bards were for the group Buffs. they had the ability to heal, speed the party up, increase attack and defense, etc. For doing group quests they are great otherwise the aren't the best.
docodine 22nd June 2009, 21:44 Quote
Barbarians in D2 could be built as a bard, and still kick some serious ass with AOE skills, especially with parties. Not sure about other games, I think there was a musician in Ragnarok, but all I ever saw them do was hang around town and play music. :?
willyolio 23rd June 2009, 05:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by docodine
Barbarians in D2 could be built as a bard, and still kick some serious ass with AOE skills, especially with parties.
ah, but the true bardbarian was very difficult to play. hilarious, though.
Claave 23rd June 2009, 12:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by liratheal
Maybe to sing songs about how awesome your character is (or isn't) ala Fable/Fable2?

Honestly, I couldn't tell you the point of a Bard, either.

I'm sure there's a D&D buff around here that'll school us, though >.>

If they were like Robin's minstrels in Monty Python's Holy Grail, then I'd definitely sign one up. Yet to meet a Bard in a game that doesn't have an annoying voice and poor sense of humour though.
thehippoz 24th June 2009, 00:21 Quote
bards are there to annoy people.. spell singer always sounds like the coolest thing ever.. but buffing party with your songs while you let the real men do all the damage.. I gues chicks like to play these classes but I find them boring =] just buff me oh mighty bard then laugh while crit some beaverface for 2000 running up a hill

what I loved about lineage was we'd have a 3-4 man team with good micro we could take out groups of insane monsters as long as the tank could hold.. double the healer with bard type skills and it made for a crazy beeoyt who could keep our dps up and keep the tank from going belly up.. only cool thing was the hexes imo, like herpes through the group and those were usually bard types

mage is always a trip to play.. put those bard/crafters rofl to sleep and then wake them up with a fireball to the face.. put them back to sleep- repeat XD let's see you buff your way out of that!
jamesthebard 24th June 2009, 07:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by thehippoz
bards are there to annoy people.. spell singer always sounds like the coolest thing ever.. but buffing party with your songs while you let the real men do all the damage.. I gues chicks like to play these classes but I find them boring =] just buff me oh mighty bard then laugh while crit some beaverface for 2000 running up a hill

Crap, people have figured out my true nature...
KayinBlack 24th June 2009, 07:35 Quote
If you've never played a REAL tabletop D&D game with a REAL DM, you don't know bards.

They can, with the right campaign and DM, talk you into and out of anything. Screw singing (their songs can kill,) screw casting (got an awesome one that makes demons reveal their true nature,) screw all that-the awesome Charisma combined with a bit of ingenuity and you can talk through anything so long as it can talk.

I could tell stories of some super-interesting encounters. BTW, my parties always had cash-Perform check at the inn. Bam-money.

Yes, they get watered down in games, but if you invest in an area of theirs, and take time to max it, bards are awesome.

Besides-it fulfills the requirements for Red Dragon Disciple while giving better armor AND HP.
Skiddywinks 25th June 2009, 13:24 Quote
My only real experience with Bards comes from BG2, as I am sure is the case with many others.

And judging from that experience, they really don't have a point.
mooseguy 3rd July 2009, 09:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by KayinBlack
If you've never played a REAL tabletop D&D game with a REAL DM, you don't know bards.

+1 - Bards are the best DnD class ^_^. They can be built to do an pwn just about anything.
MaverickWill 3rd July 2009, 10:29 Quote
Bards in Wizardry games (Wizardry 8 in particular) could kill EVERYONE in about 3 seconds flat. I luffed me my bard, I did.
Mithyx 3rd July 2009, 21:48 Quote
Bards are great characters. You just need to play at the weakness of your enemy. You're not going to be able to brawl with the barbarian, out cast the wizard, etc... but you will be able to slow the barbarian, stay at range and drop him without getting hit. Or silence the wizard, close to melee range, and drop him. If you have a well built party, your buffs will make them that much better.

The biggest point of the bard is to use that charisma. You can talk your way out of almost any problem. Convince the noble to let you help for a higher price or the guard that this invitation really is legitimate.

That being said, I don't enjoy playing them. I just like having one with me :)
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