What's the point of Bards?

Written by Clive Webster

June 22, 2009 | 10:32

Tags: #david-gaider #dragon-age-origins #novel #prequel #rpg

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...
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