Posted by : David Guyll July 31, 2014

3rd Edition's bard was a big bag of poorly designed suck: your attack bonus was too low to make you a competent fighter, your hit points were on par with a rogue (whom you also had fewer skill points than), and your spellcasting was, well, to put it nicely inadequate.

Some mistakenly labeled is as a "jack of all trades", claiming that it could fill in for a variety of jobs, but the reality was that it fell far short of a master in any capacity. Well, aside from rolling Perform and maybe Diplomacy checks.

I played with a variety of bard players in my 3rd Edition days, and they were either jokes, liabilities, or both. In one campaign we had a gnome bard that started with a negative modifier to his attacks, and he could heal all of 2 hit points per day.

Yeah, his utter ineptitude was funny for a time, but then it quickly became old hat, the campaign mercifully puttered out around 6th-level, and he never played a bard again.

The only other memorable campaign with a bard managed to reach 14th-level before we stopped. Like the previous bard she started out as a joke that almost died frequently, rarely hit anything, and ran out of magic constantly. I think she only lasted as long as she did because we had a party of five, maybe six people, and I did not bother to adjust the monster difficulty because I had heard that Age of Worms was pretty hard, particularly in the early adventures.

4th Edition shook things up by making the bard actually competent and useful in a variety of situations from the get-go, whether you are talking about social interaction, exploration, or combat. Your attack bonus was just behind that of a fighter (who was actually ahead of the curve), you were not at risk of randomly dying from a lucky, non-critical strike, you could mix up melee and magic with ease, you did not ever completely run out of magic, you were just as good as supporting the party as a cleric (but did so in your own way), and you could multiclass as much as you wanted to.

I do not know why it took the game over 30 years to crank out a decent bard, but at least we finally had one that I—any many others in my group—actually wanted to play as something other than a joke, experiment, or just out of plain boredom.

But why am I talking about bards today, and what does this have to do with 5th Edition?

A few pages of the 5th Edition bard were showcased several days ago, and a week or so before that a couple of my friends both sent me a, I guess "leaked" alpha pdf of the Player's Handbook (in the same day, even). It looks quite a bit different from the last public playtest packet, and the only real difference from the previewed pages—aside from some class features being ordered differently at the same level—is that the hit die got bumped up from a d6 to a d8, so I am inclined to believe that it is at least for the most part accurate.

So, how much did 5th Edition fuck it up? Surprise surprise, it actually did not. Well, from a purely mechanical perspective, at any rate. Do not get me wrong, the designers certainly did not exert any particular effort in making it inspiring (which is ironic, I know) or much more flexible, but if you are merely analyzing it for the mechanics and math then it seems much more solid and useful than it was in 3rd Edition:

  • Everything for no discernible reason uses a universal proficiency bonus, so the bard is on par with everyone else in the game when it comes to attacking things.
  • It uses a d8 for hit points, which puts it just behind the fighter.
  • You do not start out knowing many spells, but you can use as many as every other class in a daily period, and you also get cantrips and rituals, so if you are building to heal then I guess you are about as competent as a cleric.
  • The bonuses for armor make the heavy shit essentially pointless: as long as you keep upping your Dexterity you'll be a bit behind shield-bearing fighters at a fraction of the cost (sidenote: I love how the costs for armor are obviously, blatantly trying to keep it "balanced" instead of going with anything approaching reason).

However despite evening out the numbers it is still utter shit, because at its core that is all that is: a bunch of predictable math and numbers with little to no narrative backing, and this extends beyond spellcasting. I will get to the spells in a bit, but I want to talk about the other nonsense class features that were clearly designed without any concern as to how they would be explained "in-character", or even in the narrative at all.

First up, Bardic Inspiration. You can use this as a bonus action on your turn to let someone add a d6 to a d20 roll they make. I am not sure what a bonus action is, but a round is about 6 seconds, during which you can move and attack only once for some reason (balance, I guess). Basically during this six second span you can attack, run 30 feet, and still have enough time to deliver some stirring words or play a mad solo on your lute, such that one person, and only one person, gets to do one thing better of their choosing.

That is not even the silliest part. No, that goes to the fact that you can apparently only inspire someone a number of times per day equal to your Charisma modifier. How is that even reflected in the game's narrative? It does not mention it being magical, not that that would make any more goddamn sense, but at least it would be consistent with the rest of the nonsense magic. Do your friends just become numb to your words and music until they sleep it off?

At 5th-level you can regain set amounts of inspiration when you rest for an hour (or however the hell long a short rest is nowadays), which in other words means that at a certain point you can just inspire people as many times a day as you like, you just have to sit down for a while or not inspire people too frequently.

Anyway, I thought that was hilariously lazy on the designer's part. It is pretty obvious that they wanted to maintain a specific brand of game balance, which was not hard given that some people are not only satisfied with boring ass, nonsense, recycled material, but occasionally view it as something to be celebrated, something that not anyone doing their own 3rd Edition hack could have dredged up in well under a two-year span.

Next up, Bard College. Rather than enable any kind of flexibility or organic growth, at 2nd- or 3rd-level you get to make a choice. This choice gives you a class feature immediately, and locks in a bunch more down the road. The degree and reason that this "sub-class" system fails—aside from being just about the laziest way you could do a class-based system—varies from class to class, but for the bard it is the fact that you apparently "join" a college at 3rd-level, whether or not you have even been to one, and after that point you are locked in for the rest of the game.

Let us say that at 3rd-level you somehow join the College of Lore. You gain more skills and for some reason can only make fun of a monster and inspire your allies x times per day in total. Now even if you start wearing armor, wielding a big-ass sword, and train with a fighter for months, at 6th-level you just learn more spells, instead of getting the extra attack that a bard with the College of Valor would get. Riiight, makes about as much sense as the magic.

On a similar note is Magical Secrets, which is a 10th-level class feature that lets you snag two spells from any class you want. Every bard gets this when the designers felt that it was okay, no matter what, and always at the same level. I am not a fan of arbitrarily doling out class features: I think that it is far more interesting if a bard can choose this instead of something else, or just do it after researching a spell for a period of time. I mean, it does not give the bard more spells in a day, just more to choose from.

If a bard can only ever do this at levels 10, 14, and 18, why? Why can she never ever ever do it before, between, or after those levels?

Finally, spellcasting! People complained that the classes in 4th Edition were "too samey" because most of them used the same resource management model. They outright ignored the descriptive text and what classes could actually do, constantly trying to find corner-cases and deliberately misinterpreting what certain effect did, because despite many games doing the sensible thing of resolving conflicts with the same mechanics, they arbitrarily declared that if spells and swords roll the same way, then both must be magic.

Yet, they seem to be perfectly fine with a cleric, paladin, wizard, bard, etc all using the exact same system for managing magical resources, whether or not it makes any sense in the game's narrative. Frankly, magic in Dungeons & Dragons has never made any sense (and at this point I suspect it never will), and that seems to be all the justification the designers needed to just not even try to deliver something evocative and engaging. Well, that and the needless adherence to pointless traditions (which is why we again have Hit Dice, backwards conflict resolution mechanics, and other antiquated conventions).

I mean, when you think about a bard casting spells, what do you envision? Is it a bard instantly spouting out a few magical effects in a fraction of a minute, only to look at the party and say "Whelp, I'm out until I take a nap" (for that matter, I cannot envision a cleric, wizard, paladin, druid, etc doing the same thing). Actually, that is not entirely accurate: the bard would instead say, sorry guys, I can keep casting these other spells all day without any trouble, but those other two? Yeah, I cannot use those until I take a nap...unless they are rituals, then I can take a long time to cast them as many times as I want. Make sense?

No, of course it doesn't make any fucking sense.

I do notenvision a bard throwing out a magical effect in a few seconds, and with a few exceptions I certainly do not imagine her doing so in the middle of combat. The idea of someone prancing about, playing a flute while orcs chase her about with axes sounds unbelievably retarded. But, that is how Dungeons & Dragons did it before, and we all know that that is what 5th Edition is about: changing the game just enough to justify re-buying all the books you already own (ie, the Paizo method), but not so much so as to displease the grognards that fear change and frown upon people playing the game the "wrong" way.

I imagine a bard gradually building up a magical effect, unleashing it as her song reaches a crescendo to call forth a storm or destroy a bridge, or just allowing it to subtly settle on an area, causing creatures to fall to asleep or at least become groggy or distracted. I see the bard having limited access to the more immediate, overt magic, like deafening, destructive screams: she is more subtle, humming or singing to herself while she peruses books, ponders a puzzle, or works on something, creating a kind of tempo that keeps her and everyone around her focused and active. She does not cast comprehend languages to instantly, absolutely translate a text, but goes through her mental catalog of stories and legends to try and suss out a general meaning.

Even healing people is not something I see a bard routinely doing, at least not quickly and after blurting out three seconds of a song, like watching a YouTube video on a bad internet connection. I see her building up everyone's spirit when they make camp, granting her allies increased healing, or maybe a bonus to shaking off a persistent injury, curse, disease, or poison (which sounds like the Song of Rest class feature, which debuted in 4th Edition, which probably explains why it is a good thing). I see her entertaining a crowd at a tavern, allowing her to acquire a kind of "plot currency" that she can spend to get people to open up to her or do favors.

I do not believe that 3rd Edition's bard was the best possible representation of the class. I do not even think that 4th Edition was the best (it still had nonsense magic, after all), which is why I do not think discarding most of 4th Edition and mashing the leftovers together is something worthy of acclaim or even note. It is the bare minimum. Actually, no, for a major company with two years of "development", it is less than the bare minimum.

It is disappointing and uninspired.

{ 78 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I think you are being really negative. You point out all kinds of positive changes, and then you complain that despite these changes, they do not fit your ideals of what a bard in a game should be or should do.

    Your post should instead focus on the topic of why DND seems to have a bard whose concept does not parallel your own.

    I don't really want to explain solutions to your ills, such multiclassing or ignoring /changing the flavor of colleges if you dont like them, because it seems every single aspect of the game is in your bad list :)

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    1. All kinds of positive changes? I basically say that it is a step above the 3rd Edition bard (which isn't saying much), but still waaay behind 4th Edition.

      Multiclassing or changing the flavor of the colleges is not a solution, either, because a major part of the bard's problem (and D&D at large) is how magic works. They would need to discard it, and then develop magic systems that actually make sense in the context for each class.

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    2. Behind 4E? nothing can be behind 4E in so many levels. Just hating change doesn't make it bad. It is not what you expected to see, i get that. For once, in this edition the magic system makes more sense than the previous 3 editions combined. it's more realistic (as far as magic goes), flexible and interesting both in cases of power and choices. And without leaving non-magic users as far behind as it did in previous editions. Every magic class has a unique way to access and use it's magic. I really can't figure out something that horribly wrong yet, and seriously i doubt any smart-ass reviewer can even before the PH's official release on the 19th or some serious test-play.

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    3. Oh I don't "hate change". Change is why 4th Edition is better than 3rd, and why 5th is worse than 4th: rather than continue to change and evolve the game, they just reverted it back because it's "classic", which is another way of saying that the designers couldn't be bothered to actually design anything.

      And why should they? The look, feel and concept of D&D can be evoked by much better, more elegant mechanics, but Mike can just wax nostalgia, recycle tired edition war arguments, and voila! All the grognards will line up for a game and content that they already own.

      As for magic, I'm going to give you the same challenge I give all the traditionalist pro-pseudo-Vancian grognards: pretend you're a wizard, and in-character explain it to someone interested in learning magic.

      And now going down the rest of your post:

      How is it more "realistic"? The whole spell-level, spell-slot thing is about as artificial as it can get.

      Casters didn't leave anyone behind in 4th Edition: wizard was just one of many other perfectly viable classes.

      The only magic class with any meaningful differentiation in terms of spellcasting is the warlock: every other magic class, no matter what the actual concept is, uses cantrips and spell slots per day, per level. The bard and sorcerer also have spells known.

      How do I, a "smart-ass reviewer" know that? Because, well, despite your "official release date" of the 19th, many stores had it over a week ago.

      Of course, that's not even what I am saying. I am saying that the fiction, the concept behind the bard and the lazy-ass "classic" mechanics they re-attached to it don't match up, and don't even make any sense. Not that people like you care: all that matters is that it's "classic", "traditional", or whatever other buzzwords Mearls threw out.

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    4. 4th being better than 3rd and 5th worse than 4th is a matter of opinion (mostly yours and generally wrong but ok. If you like playing pokemon in PnP, then sure go ahead.) Uninteractive separate abilities, even though unique to each class don't make a game better. A fireball is a fireball no matter who throws it and what his magical heritage is. Game mechanics don't inhibit roleplay. Having to improvise rules to play through the most simple stuff that a designer chose to ignore does (yes i still prefer grappling rules in 3e than 4e)
      As for the magic system, why the vancian system is so bad, but the ability to prepare a single cube shaped fireball without the power to burn a combustible object once per day because your powercard says so is perfect it's beyond me. If there was an unrealistic magic system ever that was 4E's pokemon powerchoises. In every other edition, every class could create a unique experience and play-style by just combining simple rules with different approaches. In 4E you had the exact same system for every single class in the game, with minor iterations from one power source to another, but somehow that is a more elegant mechanic that promotes the concept of the class?
      Sorry i'm not buying it.
      In the question at hand, at least bardic inspiration now has a specific concept: you advise or inspire a specific person on a specific situation and it works. It's better than the boring +X to attack that 3rd had and so much better than the daily "inspire" of 4e or the "I sing as a minor action in a 6sec window and heal 2 people" mechanic

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    5. He is simply stating that 4E tried to solve the problems of 3E with with innovative rules Granted ,you didn't like the solutions but at last they designed something new ,the same thing can't be sad for 5E,wich is a mix of old rules.By the way ,if you always need a line to explain how a spell or other effects with the fire descriptor has the ability to ignite ,it's your problem not the rules

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    6. @Anon: I wasn't aware it was amateur hour for the trolling-traditionalists, but okay, I'll bite.

      "4th being better than 3rd and 5th worse than 4th is a matter of opinion (mostly yours and generally wrong but ok."

      That's not exactly the most compelling...anything. I could just as easily say that what you said is just a matter of opinion, and also generally wrong, and that I am right because I said so.

      I love how you say generally, as in "in most cases the opinion is wrong, but not every time". So, in what cases is 4th Edition overall better than 5th?

      "If you like playing pokemon in PnP, then sure go ahead.)"

      No WoW/MMO reference? Well someone's mixing it up. I mean, you're still uninformed and wrong, but I'll give you points for trying: I know how much your type LOVES hoarding unnecessarily large amounts of points, after all.

      "Uninteractive separate abilities, even though unique to each class don't make a game better. A fireball is a fireball no matter who throws it and what his magical heritage is."

      The separate abilities I get, but how are they uninteractive? Also, a fireball is only a fireball in legacy editions and those copying them, because for some reason certain "desginers" believe that the best way to explain what a monster's ability can do is to refer them to an entirely different book.

      At least in 4th Edition they try to add in some amount of deviation to conceptually similar stuff (like blasts of fire and what have you), and everything you need is in the same damn area.

      "Game mechanics don't inhibit roleplay. Having to improvise rules to play through the most simple stuff that a designer chose to ignore does (yes i still prefer grappling rules in 3e than 4e)"

      I agree that game mechanics don't have to inhibit role-playing. I'm not sure what you feel 4th Edition ignored, or what that has to do with 3rd Edition's needlessly convoluted and ultimately wasteful grappling mechanics, but I fully believe that you prefer them.

      I'm not sure why, and I don't really care, because whatever explanation you give will make no goddamn sense, but I still believe that you think they were somehow better before.

      "As for the magic system, why the vancian system is so bad, but the ability to prepare a single cube shaped fireball without the power to burn a combustible object once per day because your powercard says so is perfect it's beyond me."

      I'm guessing that, despite pointing out the "cube-shaped fireball" you're going to conveniently ignore all the cube-shaped horses, snakes, and dragons in 3rd and 5th Edition, right? It's not like using square-shaped areas is just an abstraction (along with hit points and poison) that makes it easier to deal with these.

      I like how you don't even bother addressing the fucked up, nonsense pseudo-Vancian system: you just reference something that 3rd and 5th Edition also do, and since 4th Edition doesn't do it by your definition of "right", it's okay to do it even worse.

      "If there was an unrealistic magic system ever that was 4E's pokemon powerchoises."

      I'm going to ask why, but won't expect a rationale, legible response. Mind you I never said that 4th Edition's way of handling stuff was the best, or even ideal. It merely does it better, which is admittedly not a particularly high bar to overcome.

      I'm not giving points this time for the Pokemon reference: not because it is as inaccurate as the previous reference, but because even if you're throwing out incorrect, uninformed trollshit, you gotta mix it up.

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    7. "In every other edition, every class could create a unique experience and play-style by just combining simple rules with different approaches. In 4E you had the exact same system for every single class in the game, with minor iterations from one power source to another, but somehow that is a more elegant mechanic that promotes the concept of the class?"

      If you'd actually played 4th Edition, then you would know that even classes with identical roles and power source (like the ranger and rogue) still offer a unique experience. Yeah, the way you manage resources is largely the same, but the actual feel and playstyle extends beyond that.

      That's the important thing: now how the powers were given or managed, but what they DID. Also, unlike 4th Editionyou get some actual flexibility.

      "Sorry i'm not buying it. "

      Of course you don't: you don't even understand it.

      "In the question at hand, at least bardic inspiration now has a specific concept: you advise or inspire a specific person on a specific situation and it works. It's better than the boring +X to attack that 3rd had and so much better than the daily "inspire" of 4e or the "I sing as a minor action in a 6sec window and heal 2 people" mechanic"

      Holy shit, you're RIGHT: 5th Edition DOESN'T allow you to- oh, wait, Healing Word.

      Wow, I already knew you didn't know jack shit about 4th Edition, but 5th Edition, too?

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    8. Funny thing is that people like you are the ones writing blogs.

      We could easily argue over how healing word is a magic word spell and how inspirations, healing words or whatver you call it in 4e depending on ppwer source may or may not be the same. Even though even magic healing you in an instant is a bit exhagerated it is still magic. And apparently so is a warlord hitting you in the head to motivate you to heal a quarter of your HP, but only to a point, cause even magic can't heal you more than healing surges/day, but apparently a good night sleep can. In 5e too! even though they tried to wrap it up a bit with slower recharge rates.

      I get it. Mechanics can't always be perfect, Square fireballs. sure. square horses, sure, it's just a matter of itteration, becayse counting feet andmultiplying is hard for 6yo. But when you have to houserule every other bit of the game, referring back to previous editions to explain the simplest thigns that just aren't there, then yes i'll make as many wow/mmo referenses it takes because that's just what it is. a freaking mmo. Hell we r even playing with patch updates because i can't find a single ability in PHB that wasn't revised to some extend,. That's 50bucks down the drain. Meaning the designers not only didn't even testplay it before passing it as toiletpaper, they had the nerve to toy with consumers, by releasing "revised downloadable update". At least 3.5PHB had a single page of explanation of the RAW, not 100 pages of "Delete and Replace"

      Also calling "unique experience" the differences between ranger and rogue, which are supposed by definition to be at least different,shows that your petit mind simply can't grasp the core problem. You can flavor anything differently and play with it differently but when everything uses the same sucky atwill/encounter/daily/utility/perday system which may actually be, not by my words but expressed by the community's outrage, the Worst D20 system ever created the edition is bount to fail, as it did, again, proven by the actual sales numbers and the fact that the greatest rpg organizations and shops worldwide chose to go to pathfinder than continue with 4e.

      So please, by all means you and your "RPG buddies" can go back to playing whatever easy-to-get childish monopoly-squares-using game you want and call it anything you want, but apparently the only idea you have about rpgs is friday night D&D "encounters". Enjoy the ability to strike really hard with a greatsword once per day then not being able to use it again because "balance", or "coolness", but when you get out of your closet and try a few more games/systems out there, see a few more rules and editions, you will understand why the greatest part of the D&D community stopped playing 4e: because it takes a big steamy shit on almost everything D&D was suppoesed to offer.

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    9. @Anon: "Funny thing is that people like you are the ones writing blogs."

      Funnier thing is that, for all the stuff you just outright dismiss or ignore, you're the one responding to them. :-)

      Though, honestly, 5th Edition isn't universally viewed as the supreme One-True-D&D-Way: there are plenty of people that are just "meh" about the whole business, when they aren't thinking why the fuck does this exist?

      "We could easily argue over how healing word is a magic word spell and how inspirations, healing words or whatver you call it in 4e depending on ppwer source may or may not be the same. Even though even magic healing you in an instant is a bit exhagerated it is still magic. And apparently so is a warlord hitting you in the head to motivate you to heal a quarter of your HP, but only to a point, cause even magic can't heal you more than healing surges/day, but apparently a good night sleep can. In 5e too! even though they tried to wrap it up a bit with slower recharge rates."

      Actually, you brought up both instant-healing spells and square fireballs to prove some...kind of point. I was merely pointing out that 5th Edition has instant-healing spells (even for the bard) and square snakes.

      Oh, you're going with the warlord "shouting-wounds-closed" argument? That takes me back. I guess you ran out ways to tweak outdated, disproven trollshit already.

      I'll just link you to this post here to illustrate just why not all damage is physical trauma (and in fact cannot be):
      http://daegames.blogspot.com/2013/11/d-next-miss-conceptions.html

      "I get it. Mechanics can't always be perfect, Square fireballs. sure. square horses, sure, it's just a matter of itteration, becayse counting feet andmultiplying is hard for 6yo. But when you have to houserule every other bit of the game, referring back to previous editions to explain the simplest thigns that just aren't there, then yes i'll make as many wow/mmo referenses it takes because that's just what it is. a freaking mmo. Hell we r even playing with patch updates because i can't find a single ability in PHB that wasn't revised to some extend,. That's 50bucks down the drain. Meaning the designers not only didn't even testplay it before passing it as toiletpaper, they had the nerve to toy with consumers, by releasing "revised downloadable update". At least 3.5PHB had a single page of explanation of the RAW, not 100 pages of "Delete and Replace""

      Skipping to the part of this paragraph where you actually try to make a coherent point, what "every other part of the game" did you "have" to houserule?

      Of course you'll make WoW/MMO references instead of making actual points: you have no points to make, and are going with the whole "WoW/MMOs are inherently no-matter-what-you-say-bad" from yesteryear. Not that I consider it to be either of those things.

      You can't find a single ability? Try most of the races, powers, feats, magic items, and gear from just the first Player's Handbook. Also, I just checked the most recent 3rd Edition errata for the 3rd Edition PH I could find (the D&D site is a mess): it was published in 2006, runs three pages, and on the FIRST page it has a Delete entry for Overrun.

      I love how you even try to claim that it wasn't playtested. There is an entire page with a three column layout of named playtesters on page 316 of the PH. Go tell Mike Mearls (who is also on there) that it wasn't playtested. I'd love to hear his response.

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    10. "Also calling "unique experience" the differences between ranger and rogue, which are supposed by definition to be at least different,shows that your petit mind simply can't grasp the core problem. You can flavor anything differently and play with it differently but when everything uses the same sucky atwill/encounter/daily/utility/perday system which may actually be, not by my words but expressed by the community's outrage, the Worst D20 system ever created the edition is bount to fail, as it did, again, proven by the actual sales numbers and the fact that the greatest rpg organizations and shops worldwide chose to go to pathfinder than continue with 4e."

      I love, fucking LOVE, how you just crap out that I "can't grasp the core problem", and prattle on about how AEDU is sucky, and the "Worst D20 system" EVAR! You don't even explain why, you just shit out a bunch of words someone else wrote (as you say, "the community's outrage"), and expect me to just believe it at face value.

      I ALSO love how your kind is so, SO insecure that when confronted by reasons your only recourse is to just babble out something about "sales figures". Going by your logic, then Transformers 4 is a fucking objective masterpiece of cinema, and Kim Kardashians, er, "game" is a must buy.

      Also, your opinion is expressed by SOME of the community. As I said before, not everyone is loving 5th Edition as much as you so desperately seem to think, or want me to.

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    11. "So please, by all means you and your "RPG buddies" can go back to playing whatever easy-to-get childish monopoly-squares-using game you want and call it anything you want, but apparently the only idea you have about rpgs is friday night D&D "encounters". Enjoy the ability to strike really hard with a greatsword once per day then not being able to use it again because "balance", or "coolness", but when you get out of your closet and try a few more games/systems out there, see a few more rules and editions, you will understand why the greatest part of the D&D community stopped playing 4e: because it takes a big steamy shit on almost everything D&D was suppoesed to offer."

      We will. We do, because unlike you I'm perfectly fine playing a game that strangers on the internet seem to hate without being able to convey any coherent explanation why. Well, besides that it's different, and as we all know there is a D&D demographic that will only accept D&D as D&D so long as the rules are the same (or within an arbitrary range). Nevermind about the most important part, ie the play experience and feel of the game. No, we gotta have Hit Dice and saving throws and armor class and samey nonsense magic systems, because THAT'S what we all love about it, right?

      Try a few more systems? Okay, when it comes to Dungeons & Dragons I've played Basic, 2nd Edition, 3rd Edition, 4th Edition, and 5th Edition. I've also played the most recent edition of Gamma World, Rifts, Macross II, Palladium Fantasy, Beyond the Supernatural, System Shock, Shadowrun 2nd and 3rd Edition, Vampire: the Masquerade, Mage: the Ascension, Wraith: the Oblivion, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, Exalted, Dragonball Z, Bubblegum Crisis, Big Eyes Small Mouths, GURPS, Numenera, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, Star Wars d20, the WEG version of Star Wars, Fiasco, Dungeon World, Dresden Files, and FATE.

      Those are just the ones I remember. There might be a few more that I've forgotten about.

      On top of that, I own 13th Age, Shadowrun 5th Edition, The Dying Earth, Dragon Age, CthulhuTech, Call of Cthulhu, Legends of Anglerre, Mouse Guard, FantasyCraft, and Death Watch. There is also a slew of digital games and board games.

      So tell me oh great, informed, rational Nerd King, what more must I do before my opinion becomes valid to you?

      Oh, wait, you aren't any kind of authority, and I don't give a shit, especially when you refuse to actually address anything I said. So, keep on spewing your trollshit.

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    12. @Anonymous

      I'm reading your posts here, and they just make me long for this perfect no-nonsense RPG system.

      The Mighty D&D 3E, with it’s simple and streamlined, yet deep and realistic mechanics. Rules, that are so thought-out and at the same time easy to understand, that they leave you no choice, but roleplay you pants off! Especially the magic system, that's so miraculous, you can believe, that if magic exists in real world, it should work exactly the same! DM-tools, that help you create completely realistic you-can-live-at worlds, filled with unique monsters, treats and treasure, so your players just forget they are only playing, not living in it!

      Oh, these wondrous days of D&D 3E, where have they gone...

      But then I remember playing it, and it was nothing this.

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    13. Nothing *like* this, I mean :)

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    14. I like how this basically boils down: how realistic is your fictional magic system?

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    15. @Anon: Yeah, a magic system that actually makes sense from a narrative/fictional perspective isn't for everyone. Some people are perfectly content to have a very artificial, "gamey", lazy magic system that makes absolutely no sense.

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  2. Is it his problem too that grappling actually means "grabbing the edge of your shirt really hard while you keep casting non-component spells"? or that disarming is a 16lvl fighter option only? or that a dagger can actually make his piercing damage cold enough to immobilize an opponent into a permanent sneakattack position? cause this list keeps going and no fire descriptor doesn't light things on fire cause it "made things complicated". Magical fire doesn't burn permanently for some reason in 4e

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    1. sorry i meatn "its damage cold"

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    2. And the list goes on and on and on and on, but hell, grapling is not supposed to work like this is WoW. It's too complicated for 10yos

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    3. Here my question... You can do any of you are talking about in D&D 3rd edition? Magical Fire permanently in D&D 3rd? Anyone uses Disarm in D&D 3rd, in any level, at all?

      So, shut the fuck up.

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    4. @Anon: Yeah, because it's not like there is a whole table on how to handle off the cuff stuff on page 42 in the DMG, right? Oh, wait, you haven't actually played 4th Edition: you just regurgitate second-hand, 6-year old trollshit.

      You want to disarm/take something from a monster, make an opposed Strength/Dexterity check, or even make an attack against their Fortitude or Reflex defense. I could also just determine whether I think it's easy, medium, hard, etc, and have you roll against a static value. So, there you go: three ways to handle it.

      Oh, hey! I just realized: in 5th Edition PH the fire damage type doesn't explicitly say that it lights things on fire, delayed fireball blast only ignites things that aren't being held (so if a barbarian is holding a sheet of paper it doesn't get lit on fire), a fiery elemental weapon also I guess can't light things on fire (after all, it doesn't EXPLICITLY say so, right?), and neither does fire shield or flame blade.

      A lot of spells do, which I guess means 5th Edition players are 10-year olds that have to be TOLD that fire makes things burn, right?

      @Darcy: I'm not sure where the magical fire thing comes from. Fire inflicted by magic was not inherently permanent.

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    5. @David, yeah, i read that and my brain goes "wtf he is talking about?". I never read anything about "eternal magical"... Maybe he is talking about Permanent "Drow's Dark Fire" or something like that.

      But still don't make sense, at all. And still bitching.

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  3. I think you all try too hard to defend wrong points of the game. Every edition is different, in bot a good and a bad way and they adress different types of players. If you don't like one, then try another. they all have plenty of support. And there is no point in searching for "realism" or real-world logic in a fantasy game, especially when the d20 system is not the best system to do that. In any edition. For any reason, Vancian or no Vancian or encounter based or not. If you want realism, try something else, likeWorld of Darkness or smth

    On the other hand, the 5e bard seems a bit bad-ass. Many flavorfil skills, good skillmonkey role and either hand-to-hand comabt or versatile spellcasting within the limits of the edition and some good buffs. Calling him uninspired is a bit harsh and uncalled for.

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  4. Realism? In World of Darkness? You are shitting me, Anonymous?

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    1. @Anon: I have basically tried all of them. I even did a brief stint with OD&D just to see what it might be like (we all hated it).

      I get that the d20 system is not the best for realism and real-world logic, which isn't why I go to it: I like the simple, abstract mechanics, as they keep the game moving without bogging it down in random hit locations, wound severity, persistent conditions, etc.

      I'm not opposed to Vancian magic, but to be clear D&D has never used Vancian: it uses pseudo-Vancian. Vancian magic actually makes sense, pseudo-Vancian does not.

      That's the difference: I'm not searching for realism, but a magic sytem that can be explained "in-character". Also, a magic system that makes thematic sense for the class using it: when almost every spellcasting class uses the same nonsense system, there's a problem.

      As for the bard, I agree that it is mechanically competent. Unlike 3rd Edition's bard it can actually DO things. However that is a very, VERY low bar, especially when you had two design teams taking two years on this.

      Where the bard fails is its flavor, feel, theme, or whatever you want to call it. It is just a pseudo-Vancian spellcaster with a throttled list and the ability for some reason to throw out x number of inspirations. There is no reason for any of this, except, well, tradition.

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    2. @Darcy: I did like the magic system from Mage: the Ascension, but I can't really speak for the "realism" of the game. It had a lot of stats and skills, and I hear tell that the whole botch canceling out success thing just lead to more botches with the more dice you roll. Or maybe I'm thinking Exalted?

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    3. Yes and No, Exalted its just the most famous example of the problems of Storyteller System, the big your dice poll is, worse your character are at something.

      Because the variable difficult, so throw the dice curve out of the window, and the "1" canceling your success, more dices you have, more chances of roll a critical failures you have.

      And Mage: The Ascension magic system its batshit insane, because how Paradox works, its basically Calvinball rules, you a number of dots, and you can do absurd shit with it. You only need its to talk to your GM, so your can do something to totally vulgar (like blow up a city) as Coincident...

      And its not a hyperbole.

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    4. Btw, sorry for the bad grammar, but i am in a mobile.

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    5. @Darcy: It's cool: your writing is still more legible than the Anon above. :-P

      When we played Mage, and I guess it was just how I ran the game and/or the people that ran it, but we would ask if we could do something and what the potential risks were. I recall that there was a lot of potential for abuse and dickery on both sides, but only a select few of those in my gaming circle played it, and we played to have fun as opposed to fucking each other over.

      I like the concept of the magic system: you have various areas of magic, and you can use them with varying degrees of proficiency. I remember disliking the avatar and how you improved arete, but the general idea is something I am taking into 4Ward: you have ranks in schools of magic, which caps how much willpower you can pump into a magical effect.

      As you level up, you can opt to boost a rank, allowing you to do more and more with it.

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    6. I kinda like more how magic work in the Mage: The Ascension Introductory Guide, the effects seem more reasonable and less abusive, hell, the all the Introductory Guide of oWoD have a better system.

      But if i am wanting to play something like WoD, i am going to use Unisystem (Buffy RPG, Angel RPG or Witchcraft, plus, Witchcraft you can get for free) or Dresden Files RPG instead.

      Hell, Cinematic and Classic Unisystem needs more love.

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  5. All 5e stuff aside, I'd argue that you're shortchanging the 3.5e Bard by quite a bit. They're nowhere near a full caster (or even a specialty full caster like the Beguiler) in raw power or versatility, but they have quite a bit going for them.

    Most significantly, their spell list is actually really good. They don't have literal save-or-die effects, but they do have access to many of the dickery-centric spells that made Wizards the god-kings of 3E. Level 1 Bard spells include Charm Person, Grease, Sleep, and Tasha's Hideous Laughter. Level 2 has Alter Self, Glitterdust, and Invisibility. Level 3 has Haste and Scrying. Being a spontaneous caster tends to work against them, but there are still very potent options in there. Even if you're just going for bland effectiveness, Haste+Inspire Courage is a gigantic contribution to a battle for a typical party.

    On the weapon side of things, Longsword & Rapier proficiency are as numerically effective as you could ask for, whether you're prioritizing Strength or Dex. And they get free proficiency with the Whip for some reason, giving you the option to attempt Disarm/Trip from a safe distance away.

    And for one final quirk, they get Speak Language as a class skill, so you can permanently learn all of D&D's stupid languages without too much investment. If you're into that.

    In terms of overall potential effectiveness, they're probably right behind the full-casters and in front of everything else. The biggest difficulty is that -- like the Fighter and so much else in 3E -- you need to know exactly what you're doing, build-wise, or you can end up with a gigantic crapsack of a character.

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    1. "All 5e stuff aside, I'd argue that you're shortchanging the 3.5e Bard by quite a bit. They're nowhere near a full caster (or even a specialty full caster like the Beguiler) in raw power or versatility, but they have quite a bit going for them.

      Most significantly, their spell list is actually really good. They don't have literal save-or-die effects, but they do have access to many of the dickery-centric spells that made Wizards the god-kings of 3E. Level 1 Bard spells include Charm Person, Grease, Sleep, and Tasha's Hideous Laughter. Level 2 has Alter Self, Glitterdust, and Invisibility. Level 3 has Haste and Scrying. Being a spontaneous caster tends to work against them, but there are still very potent options in there. Even if you're just going for bland effectiveness, Haste+Inspire Courage is a gigantic contribution to a battle for a typical party."

      They get access to spells at the earliest one level after the others do, assuming their Charisma is high enough to get bonus spells, and even then they just have one. So, wizards can always cast 2nd-level spells at level 3, bards cannot until 4th, assuming their Charisma nets them bonus spells: they do not get default access until 5th, which is when the wizard can start using use 3rd-level spells.

      Even if you compare them to a sorcerer, she gets three times as many spells before you start factoring bonus spells. So, they get them at the same time, but the sorcerer can through out about four times as much.

      So not only do their spells lag behind a bit (since saves are based on the spell's level), they also run out after using like, one thing.

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    2. "On the weapon side of things, Longsword & Rapier proficiency are as numerically effective as you could ask for, whether you're prioritizing Strength or Dex. And they get free proficiency with the Whip for some reason, giving you the option to attempt Disarm/Trip from a safe distance away."

      Their base attack bonus also lags behind, and if you're not upping your Strength then so does their damage: at first level a bard using her feat for Weapon Finesse can have a +2 to hit, maybe +3, but assuming everything is equal the fighter is going to have a +3 to +4, or +4 to +5 is he takes Weapon Focus. That's already a 1-2 point lead right out of the gate.

      At level 5? The fighter will be another two points ahead of the game due to Base Attack Bonus alone. At 10th-level, assuming the fighter took Greater Weapon Focus and all other things are equal, he will be four points ahead.

      This is key when you consider a bard trying to trip or disarm someone.

      At 1st-level unless you get surrounded (whips provoke opportunity attacks) against a goblin or kobold you're going to have some nice odds thanks to the +2 whip bonus to trip/disarm (though why bother when you can just deal damage and take them out just as easily). But against a gnoll? You've got about 50:50 odds of pulling it off. Against an orc? Forget it: even with the +2 the orc is still 4 points ahead of the game since it's packing a two-handed axe.

      At higher level it's just going to get worse, as monsters start having more Hit Dice and/or being larger in general. At 9th-level if you also took Combat Expertise and Improved Trip for the +4 bonus, you'd end up with about +14. Unfortunately the only CR 10 things that use weapons are the frost giant (which has +26 to resist a disarm attempt) or the elder stone giant (+25 to resist), and the CR 10 range doesn't look much better. The things that might use weapons, like the avoral or bone devil can always default to potent natural weaponry.

      That's really the crapper: why the hell would I want to build a whip-bard, when I could just make a whip fighter? I'd have way more feats to throw around, and my attack bonus and Strength would kept up to snuff, meaning that my odds would improve significantly. Plus, since the fighter's Strength is being boosted and it's average hit points are 2 higher, it can take and dish out more damage.

      Frankly, even if whip-bards were the most viable at whipping, that is pretty lame that the only thing the class can do is whip. I want a bard that can get into melee and start hacking things down. Not as good as the fighter, but just a bit behind if they really wanted to. Unfortunately the 3rd Edition math is borked up all over the place.

      "And for one final quirk, they get Speak Language as a class skill, so you can permanently learn all of D&D's stupid languages without too much investment. If you're into that."

      Most things speak Common, and if there is a spellcaster in the group someone can just roll out comprehend languages. Honestly, I would love D&D a lot more if there were not essentially "auto-pass challenge" spells for virtually every circumstance you can imagine.

      "In terms of overall potential effectiveness, they're probably right behind the full-casters and in front of everything else. The biggest difficulty is that -- like the Fighter and so much else in 3E -- you need to know exactly what you're doing, build-wise, or you can end up with a gigantic crapsack of a character."

      I disagree. In my experience they are at least several steps behind everyone at everything, except for maybe the whole party-face role, but even then a rogue could fill in at least passably. The only things that the bard owns are the bard-exclusive class features, which really don't make any sense.

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    3. Bards (and Rogues/Monks/etc.) can't take Weapon Finesse at level 1. You need +1 BAB, which they don't have yet. Oh, 3rd edition, how I don't miss you.

      At a basic level, you're correct on both counts. The Bard's spellcasting is not as good as the Wiz or Sorc, and his attacks aren't as good as the Fighter's. But spellcasting in 3E is so-so ridiculously good that just [i]having[/i] it puts him a step up from counterparts like the Rogue.

      In the grand scheme of things, spell DCs aren't really a huge deal. Grease is bonkers powerful even if they hit the save. Glitterdust is crazy if they fail the save but still has utility if they don't. Alter Self, Haste, and Invisibility don't care. Yes, it's no substitute for a Wizard. There IS no substitute for a Wizard. But for a Rogue? Absolutely. That sucker's gotta spend level after level jacking up his UMD check just so that the ubiquitous Wand of Cure Light Wounds doesn't blow up in his face. (This actually happened to my Rogue, knocking him out and nearly killing him while trying to stabilize a teammate.) If you do need the broad-spectrum utility of a maxed out UMD, it's still a class skill for the Bard, too.

      Speak Language is indeed a novelty. But it's a unique novelty, and I love the class for it, even if D&D's system of languages is super dumb. Dropping a point or two to not need Comprehend Languages or Tongues isn't a bad trade for a spontaneous caster, though, and the party Wizard will appreciate not needing to use any spells learned from level-ups on those as well.

      On the attack side of things, they end up either even with or one point behind the Rogue, depending on whether you go Cha > Dex or Dex > Cha. Again, that's largely determined by your spell selection; if you're using no-save spells (like the buffs that constitute a ton of his class list), a Cha of 14 is totally fine until 7th level, when you start missing that bonus 3rd level spell. (Though you're approaching Stat Boosting Item range there.) Regardless, it's still in contention with the closest point of comparison, even if it's a good step behind the kings of melee.

      The whip is not a good primary no matter who you are. It's non-lethal, and you flat out CANNOT deal damage with it to a lot of enemies. But 15 feet range and disarm/trip gives it room as a low risk/high reward tool, even if that comes at less than stellar odds. That largely stems from how awful the Trip & Disarm rules are in 3E. Being out of range, provoking the AOO doesn't matter and they can't attempt a counter-Trip/Disarm on a failure. It stops working on monsters since higher CR = bigger size & strength, but it remains a good tool against humanoids for a fair while.

      And again, Haste + Inspire Courage is MONSTROUSLY good. That on its own is a huge contribution to a battle. It doesn't have the spike damage of a Sneak Attack, but my experience in years of playing a Rogue is that you tended to get one Sneak Attack in before getting totally blown up anyway. Our party was sort of ideal for H+IC - we had both a Barbarian and an archery Fighter - but even with only one meatsack frontliner it goes a long way.

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    4. To go on just a bit... Look at the first 3 levels of Bard versus Rogue.

      Level 1. The Rogue has Trapfinding, Open Lock, and Disable Device, and two more skill points to funnel into them. In my experience, crowbars and greataxes are the best lockpicks, and traps are few and far between, but your mileage may vary. No Weapon Finesse, so they're using shortbows or thrown weapons to take advantage of their Dexterity. Due to a probable Dex advantage, assume they have +1 to hit over the Bard. They might get 1 Sneak Attack per fight, if they roll initiative well, but their melee sucks so they'll never be flanking.

      The Bard can Inspire Courage to grant *the entire party* +1 hit and damage, making him the better archer and helping out the Fighter & Cleric at the same time. (And maybe even the Wizard plunking away with his crossbow, because 3rd Edition.) He can only do it 1/day, unfortunately. Alternatively, he can totally skip an encounter via using his music on Fascinate, which will on average have a higher DC than the Wizard's spells since it's based on a Perform check. He only has cantrips as spells, but Mage Hand and Ghost Sound have out of combat utility and Daze does work inside of it.

      Level 2! Still no Weapon Finesse, so the Rogue is still rocking his maybe-once-per-fight Sneak Attack while the Bard gets his second use of Inspire Courage, which is still way better. The Bard can now cast Grease (aka Summon 10'x10' Banana peel) once per day, turning a deadly enemy into a bumbling idiot. The Rogue gains Evasion, but the Bard has +3 Will to the Rogue's 0.

      Level 3. Weapon Finesse! It's basically required for the Rogue, but optional for the Bard depending on how much he likes bows. The Rogue can now use his +2d6 Sneak Attack multiple times for fight by flanking, assuming he doesn't get greataxe'd in the face for daring to enter melee. The Bard can now use his music 3/day, meaning you're potentially using Inspire Courage for every fight. He also gets another 1st level spell, meaning one more fight that can be potentially be trivialized via Grease or Tasha's Hideous Laughter. Do wands of Cure Light Wounds show up around now? If they do, he can use it automatically, but the Rogue is playing with fire because his UMD isn't good enough yet.

      To me, that looks pretty decisively in the Bard's favor so far. The Rogue's Sneak attack will continue to scale up while the Bard gets more and more potent spells and his Bardic Music essentially becomes unlimited. He also gets to have a decent Will save, meaning he's pretty much half as vulnerable to save-or-dies.In my eyes, that tradeoff goes clearly in favor of the Bard.

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    5. "Bards (and Rogues/Monks/etc.) can't take Weapon Finesse at level 1. You need +1 BAB, which they don't have yet. Oh, 3rd edition, how I don't miss you."

      Derp, I thought that was just Exotic Weapon Proficiency, and yes, I too do not miss 3rd Edition.

      "At a basic level, you're correct on both counts. The Bard's spellcasting is not as good as the Wiz or Sorc, and his attacks aren't as good as the Fighter's. But spellcasting in 3E is so-so ridiculously good that just [i]having[/i] it puts him a step up from counterparts like the Rogue."

      I agree that spellcasting CAN be very good when you have enough of it, but when the monsters artificially scale to keep pace with the assumed numbers and you're best tricks are not only short in supply but behind the curve, well... I suppose a bard buffed up might be better than the rogue, but that's really only going to last for the encounter in which you use that spell. Or two, after you've gained a level.

      "In the grand scheme of things, spell DCs aren't really a huge deal. Grease is bonkers powerful even if they hit the save. Glitterdust is crazy if they fail the save but still has utility if they don't. Alter Self, Haste, and Invisibility don't care. Yes, it's no substitute for a Wizard. There IS no substitute for a Wizard. But for a Rogue? Absolutely. That sucker's gotta spend level after level jacking up his UMD check just so that the ubiquitous Wand of Cure Light Wounds doesn't blow up in his face. (This actually happened to my Rogue, knocking him out and nearly killing him while trying to stabilize a teammate.) If you do need the broad-spectrum utility of a maxed out UMD, it's still a class skill for the Bard, too."

      Grease can be briefly useful in the right situations (low duration), but again since bards have so few spells it basically ends up being their one thing for the day. Glitterdust is something I DO recall the bard using, which when it worked let the rogue tear things apart since blindness = no Dex mod = sneak attackable. Oh, alter self: I loved that spell just for the ability to walk around with a small nat armor bonus and claw attacks. I remember trying to help a guy optimizie his fighter/wizard using that, mage armor, and shield. Plus, being able to disguise yourself could be handy (especially since bards are already Cha-dependent). That one has a longer duration, but honestly aside from maybe helping you disguise yourself as one of the monsters isn't going to amount to much.

      Now Invisibility and Haste are pretty good, though the durations are low to the point where they'll only be useful for maybe one encounter, and a bard won't be rolling them out until 4th- and 7th-level respectively (and then, again, only once in a day).

      "Speak Language is indeed a novelty. But it's a unique novelty, and I love the class for it, even if D&D's system of languages is super dumb. Dropping a point or two to not need Comprehend Languages or Tongues isn't a bad trade for a spontaneous caster, though, and the party Wizard will appreciate not needing to use any spells learned from level-ups on those as well."

      This is something I'm trying to figure out for 4Ward: if you you're trying to interact with someone and you both aren't fluent speakers in the same language, you take a penalty in interacting with them. Same goes for puzzles and the like. For example, if you're talking to a dwarf and no one is fluent in dwarven (and the dwarf isn't fluent in common or whatnot), then you get a -1 or something to reflect that.

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    6. The only thing about magically being able to bypass it is that in every game where language has been a barrier, it's exclusively been something written down, so the party leaves, takes a nap, preps the "right" spell, and comes back. That, or the wizard keeps a scroll on hand since it costs a pittance in both cash and XP to make. This is kind of why I prefer it as a ritual spell better: you just crap out some gold and suss it out. It would be more interesting, I think, if you couldn't just do that, or if magical divination had a chance to reveal incorrent information.

      "On the attack side of things, they end up either even with or one point behind the Rogue, depending on whether you go Cha > Dex or Dex > Cha. Again, that's largely determined by your spell selection; if you're using no-save spells (like the buffs that constitute a ton of his class list), a Cha of 14 is totally fine until 7th level, when you start missing that bonus 3rd level spell. (Though you're approaching Stat Boosting Item range there.) Regardless, it's still in contention with the closest point of comparison, even if it's a good step behind the kings of melee."

      The good self buffs don't crop up until 4th-level, and even then the bard only gets one, so you're choosing between a useful stat booster or invisibility. At 5th-level you can opt to do both, still just once a day, and I'd argue that both are plain better spent on the rogue: she has a better chance to go first, hit, and avoid getting hit.

      On that note, rogues in my campaigns were often able to roll out Sneak Attack by flanking with the fighter or cleric pretty frequently. Yeah, they might get hit (because despite the fighter being billed as a protector, he has absolutely no capability to protect anyone), but then the cleric would just top them off (something ELSE I hate about D&D). That's really what made the difference, and in a lot of cases made them equal to or better damage dealers than the fighter (until he changed his character to a warblade from Book of Nine Swords).

      "The whip is not a good primary no matter who you are. It's non-lethal, and you flat out CANNOT deal damage with it to a lot of enemies. But 15 feet range and disarm/trip gives it room as a low risk/high reward tool, even if that comes at less than stellar odds. That largely stems from how awful the Trip & Disarm rules are in 3E. Being out of range, provoking the AOO doesn't matter and they can't attempt a counter-Trip/Disarm on a failure. It stops working on monsters since higher CR = bigger size & strength, but it remains a good tool against humanoids for a fair while."

      Yeah, if you're wearing armor at all or the target has +3 nat armor it doesn't do shit. That's something else I thought, but I figured I'd focus on the trip/disarm thing. Also, yes, I agree that trip/disarm (and grapple) are horribly designed in 3rd Edition to the point where they are only useful for maybe highly specialized builds.

      "And again, Haste + Inspire Courage is MONSTROUSLY good. That on its own is a huge contribution to a battle. It doesn't have the spike damage of a Sneak Attack, but my experience in years of playing a Rogue is that you tended to get one Sneak Attack in before getting totally blown up anyway. Our party was sort of ideal for H+IC - we had both a Barbarian and an archery Fighter - but even with only one meatsack frontliner it goes a long way."

      Haste lasts basically for maybe one battle, and again will end up being the 7th-level bard's one cool thing in the day. Inspire Courage is basically ALWAYS useful, but one of the things I dislike about the bard, because the idea of someone singing or strumming a lute during combat is just fucking ridiculous. I see the bard as doing more of the subtle fascinate, lullaby, distraction stuff with her magic, not prancing about, summoning monsters and curing people.

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    7. "Level 1. The Rogue has Trapfinding, Open Lock, and Disable Device, and two more skill points to funnel into them. In my experience, crowbars and greataxes are the best lockpicks, and traps are few and far between, but your mileage may vary. No Weapon Finesse, so they're using shortbows or thrown weapons to take advantage of their Dexterity. Due to a probable Dex advantage, assume they have +1 to hit over the Bard. They might get 1 Sneak Attack per fight, if they roll initiative well, but their melee sucks so they'll never be flanking."

      Trapfinding is very much useful because, for some reason that I'll never understand, NO ONE WITHOUT IT CAN EVER FIND TRAPS WITH A SEARCH DC ABOVE 20. Why? Fuck if I know.

      Usually how the whole trap bullshit went down was that the characters would blunder into one randomly, and then unless there was some kind of time constraint (and there never was) they would slowly walk down hallways, taking 20 every step of the way. I fucking LOVE 4th Edition for Passive Perception, and how it claimed to want to handle traps by making them part of something bigger, instead of "roll, if you pass get XP, if you fail get damage and move along".

      I did find that rogues flanked as often as possible, especially if the monster was a humanoid that had already taken damage, because it was likely to die in the next hit anyway. Really the only time they didn't was when they couldn't because the monster was one of the "immune to SA" types.

      "The Bard can Inspire Courage to grant *the entire party* +1 hit and damage, making him the better archer and helping out the Fighter & Cleric at the same time. (And maybe even the Wizard plunking away with his crossbow, because 3rd Edition.) He can only do it 1/day, unfortunately. Alternatively, he can totally skip an encounter via using his music on Fascinate, which will on average have a higher DC than the Wizard's spells since it's based on a Perform check. He only has cantrips as spells, but Mage Hand and Ghost Sound have out of combat utility and Daze does work inside of it."

      You can only fascinate one creature at a time at 1st-level, +1 more for every 3 levels, so at 4th-level you can try to snag two creatures with it. This is something I could see a bard being more about: I would expand it to allow you to distract more creatures, and not for no good reason base it on the day. I wouldn't even make it magical: just part of the bard's flair.

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    8. "Level 2! Still no Weapon Finesse, so the Rogue is still rocking his maybe-once-per-fight Sneak Attack while the Bard gets his second use of Inspire Courage, which is still way better. The Bard can now cast Grease (aka Summon 10'x10' Banana peel) once per day, turning a deadly enemy into a bumbling idiot. The Rogue gains Evasion, but the Bard has +3 Will to the Rogue's 0."

      Grease lasts for two rounds, and the rogue never runs out of Sneak Attacks. She could also hide from creatures and snipe them from up to 30 feet away thanks to having something like +8 to +9 to hide, or more if she's a halfling or gnome. Actually, that's a good point: a halfling rogue would have an Armor Class of something like 16, probably 17 (aka a fighter's AC). Factor in a Tumble check of around +9, and it's very likely that the halfling could just backflip into a flanking spot. She could also take Dodge to prep for the Spring Attack tree.

      "Level 3. Weapon Finesse! It's basically required for the Rogue, but optional for the Bard depending on how much he likes bows. The Rogue can now use his +2d6 Sneak Attack multiple times for fight by flanking, assuming he doesn't get greataxe'd in the face for daring to enter melee. The Bard can now use his music 3/day, meaning you're potentially using Inspire Courage for every fight. He also gets another 1st level spell, meaning one more fight that can be potentially be trivialized via Grease or Tasha's Hideous Laughter. Do wands of Cure Light Wounds show up around now? If they do, he can use it automatically, but the Rogue is playing with fire because his UMD isn't good enough yet."

      My main 3rd Edition experience was Age of Worms, which generally involved 5+ fights a day. My players never bothered with healing wands because they had either potions that popped up during the adventure, or a cleric. Granted the bard could use a healing wand if they got one, but the cleric was generally able to heal during combat, and could just use the wand outside of it. Also, the DC for a wand is only 20: a 3rd-level rogue specced for UMD could have a potential bonus of +9 with Skill Focus, probably 10 if she spots it at least a 12 Charisma (case in point, the rogue in our campaign was a tiefling, and had a Charisma of 15-16 from the get go).

      "To me, that looks pretty decisively in the Bard's favor so far. The Rogue's Sneak attack will continue to scale up while the Bard gets more and more potent spells and his Bardic Music essentially becomes unlimited. He also gets to have a decent Will save, meaning he's pretty much half as vulnerable to save-or-dies.In my eyes, that tradeoff goes clearly in favor of the Bard."

      In my experience That's just never the way it happened in any campaign I've played that had a bard and/or a rogue. Maybe it was a lack of optimization (which should never be your barometer for whether a class is good), but the gnome bard was a party buffer and nothing else (had a Strength of 9), and the half-elf bard in Age of Worms doled out stat buffs to everyone else, since they could better use them. She eventually MCed into a bard prestige class that let her burn bardic music uses to do other stuff. Meanwhile, the tiefling rogue was able to zip about, stabbing the shit out of things (and even dropping darkness to make things even easier).

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    9. Something else I saw was that the mishap for UMD only occurs during blind activation, and even then only when you fail by 10 or more (a 3rd-level rogue would have to in all likelihood roll a 5 or less on a d20 for that to happen).

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    10. I can say one thing. YOU OBVIOUSLY KNOW SHIT ABOUT BARDS. You seem like the guy who likes doing massive dmg the easiest way possible and care about nothing else. You really suck at making this review cause you obviously didn't know squat about being a bard. I played a bard in 3.5 at least 3 times. One thing is for sure, i wasn't a liability. I actually saved the group many many times. Sure i never did the most dmg, i wasn't the magic artillery or the trap/lock dealer but i was always ALWAYS helping. Where my multiple skills helped the rogue with sneaking around, or searching rooms, or other skills generally, social handling was my solo job as speaks men for the party (which is DEFINITELY many times a mater of life and death) but most of all i supported the group better than anyone. My buffs made wins against serious threats a joke, my heals made the clerics job a lot easier and my magic helped at least the sorcerer/wizard of the group focus solely on making heavy dmg. After a lot of research i found ways to make my bard being master in all skills (maybe better than the classic classes) and boosting dmg of the group to legendary lvls (+9 to attack/dmg from a song +5attack/5 bonus HD and LP, plus haste, plus fast healing 5). In 5th edition i haven't had time to try it yet, but looking at the class i can say this:
      Unfortunately for me the bard is now less supportive than in 3.5. His boost is not often nor as strong as before (though considering that the whole game got vanilla again every boost is important now). He is much MUCH potent spellcaster than he was before, being a decent substitute for a wizard/sorcerer/warlock. His fighting abilities got decent being able to use dex for dmg (and taking valor school giving him the extra attack which all classes except fighter take only once). Finally skills: he got tha jack of all trades skill which makes him useful in most occasions, 3 skills proficiencies (which becomes 6 with the knowledge college - most skills than any class) with 2 (and later) 4 of them doubling their proficiency bonuses. Being a bard is NOT about being a best in a field. Is about being good in everything, useless to nothing, which is something no other class can say about itself. Being a bard means you are above average in everything. Maybe you are not awesome, but you are all the time cool.

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    11. "I can say one thing. YOU OBVIOUSLY KNOW SHIT ABOUT BARDS."

      I don't know how you came to this conclusion, given the experience I cited and my indepth mechanical overview of the 5th Edition version.

      "You seem like the guy who likes doing massive dmg the easiest way possible and care about nothing else."

      I also don't know what lead you to this conclusion, given that I specifically say--and this is from the article--that I do not envision a bard throwing out a magical effect in a few seconds, and with a few exceptions I certainly do not imagine her doing so in the middle of combat.

      Also, this bit: I see the bard having limited access to the more immediate, overt magic, like deafening, destructive screams: she is more subtle, humming or singing to herself while she peruses books, ponders a puzzle, or works on something, creating a kind of tempo that keeps her and everyone around her focused and active.

      So, dunno what to say. I don't know what I could have said to make it any clearer that when I think bard, I'm certainly not thinking damage output.

      "You really suck at making this review cause you obviously didn't know squat about being a bard."

      You already said that. Plus, this is not a review.

      "I played a bard in 3.5 at least 3 times. One thing is for sure, i wasn't a liability. I actually saved the group many many times. Sure i never did the most dmg, i wasn't the magic artillery or the trap/lock dealer but i was always ALWAYS helping."

      Congrats. Every bard I saw in action could potentially help, but were generally a liability due to low everything.

      "Where my multiple skills helped the rogue with sneaking around, or searching rooms, or other skills generally, social handling was my solo job as speaks men for the party (which is DEFINITELY many times a mater of life and death) but most of all i supported the group better than anyone."

      Ironically the rogue would be much better at handling social interaction, if she had a mind to, thanks to all the skills.

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    12. "My buffs made wins against serious threats a joke, my heals made the clerics job a lot easier and my magic helped at least the sorcerer/wizard of the group focus solely on making heavy dmg."

      If you insist. I don't believe you on healing, as bards have a pitiful amount of magic on tap.

      "After a lot of research i found ways to make my bard being master in all skills (maybe better than the classic classes) and boosting dmg of the group to legendary lvls (+9 to attack/dmg from a song +5attack/5 bonus HD and LP, plus haste, plus fast healing 5)."

      That 'lot of research' is part of the problem. You shouldn't have to do a lot of research to end up with an awesome character.

      "In 5th edition i haven't had time to try it yet, but looking at the class i can say this:
      Unfortunately for me the bard is now less supportive than in 3.5. His boost is not often nor as strong as before (though considering that the whole game got vanilla again every boost is important now)."

      I'd say he's a bit better.

      "He is much MUCH potent spellcaster than he was before, being a decent substitute for a wizard/sorcerer/warlock. His fighting abilities got decent being able to use dex for dmg (and taking valor school giving him the extra attack which all classes except fighter take only once)."

      Definitely an improvement, here.

      "Finally skills: he got tha jack of all trades skill which makes him useful in most occasions, 3 skills proficiencies (which becomes 6 with the knowledge college - most skills than any class) with 2 (and later) 4 of them doubling their proficiency bonuses. Being a bard is NOT about being a best in a field."

      Never said it was. My argument is that the 3rd Edition bard wasn't good for anything, but that overall the class doesn't really have any kind of evocative mechanics backing up it's flavor. It's just a guy, or girl, that sings...I guess, but still somehow has pseudo-Vancian magic.

      "Is about being good in everything, useless to nothing, which is something no other class can say about itself. Being a bard means you are above average in everything. Maybe you are not awesome, but you are all the time cool."

      Again, 3rd Edition's bard was only arguably useful in social situations.

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    13. Is this moron tha thinks he knows stuff about rpgs still arguing that he knows better than a game developing company which messed up his pwecious 4e?
      Seriously, since even the developers agreed that 4e was a mistake, why don't you give it a break and seriously go back to MMOs. Writting RPG blogs is obviously not your strong point. Like it isn't for many "geeks" out there. No hard feelings

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    14. Why would I have any hard feelings? Because you, a nobody came here and spouted out half-formed trollshit? "Commenting" on RPG blogs is obviously not your strong point. :-)

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  7. I had a read through your post and really like your suggestion for how a bard should work:
    "I imagine a bard gradually building up a magical effect, unleashing it as her song reaches a crescendo to call forth a storm or destroy a bridge, or just allowing it to subtly settle on an area, causing creatures to fall to asleep or at least become groggy or distracted. I see the bard having limited access to the more immediate, overt magic, like deafening, destructive screams: she is more subtle, humming or singing to herself while she peruses books, ponders a puzzle, or works on something, creating a kind of tempo that keeps her and everyone around her focused and active."
    I'm not a fan of having all caster classes use the same mechanic for casting (though it does make things easier in the grand scheme) so I'm tempted to flesh this idea out into a full class mechanic and try houseruling it into a game. The main concerns would be making it balanced, viable and most importantly enjoyable for the player.
    Sadly my experience with 5e is very limited so far so I'm not sure how well I'd do at keeping it balanced within the system. Good excuse for a design exercise though.

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    1. @Malcolm: Precisely! Not every class should use the same magic system.

      I'm not a fan of 5th Edition (SHOCK!), but this is the direction I am running with my Dungeon World bard (almost done), and once I get more stuff cleared off my plate and do more work on my own D&D clone I'll be doing the same thing.

      I'd be curious what you come up with, though!

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    2. The 4e bard had a few rituals that work in that fashion. They could be used as a reference

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    3. @David I've not had a game of 5th edition yet so I'm reserving judgement on it until then. Currently though 4th edition is my preferred system for DnD specifically, I like the structured nature of the combat in it.

      I read your post on the 5e Druid lately as well and it's made me think about unique casting rules for every magic using classes, it would take a whole lot more time and testing than just a new Bard but I reckon it would be far more interesting.

      If you are interested though, I'm currently writing up the Bard in a google doc, I could share it with you when there's something worthwhile to look at - I'm always open to criticism and feedback.

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    4. @Malcolm: Definitely! I''m doing a 4E hack and it would good to see other people's take on variant spellcasting systems,

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    5. I agree with you on the bard in 3.5. Only way i found that a bard can get pretty powerful was with the prestige class sublime chord i believed, allowed you to gain spells from the sorceror/wizard spell list. What i love about the bard is the skills department the most, having the skills to bypass any situation, or with a use of a helpful spell, if not then going into battle. 4th edition ruined the bard for me, i still played it, and there were elements that i enjoyed, like using the cha for att and damage, i thought that was awesome, but i hated how they turned them more into a healer, and all the cool utility stuff that we had went to the wizard. I loved multi classing, i did that various times to gain skills, and whatever ability i could, and some of the feats i was able to acquire (darkvision from being multiclassed into assasin was awesome). It didn't feel like a bard to me at all. Limited choices. I prefer 5th edition in this sense, i can totally see where you are coming from but i am looking past the explanation and looking at what it has accomplished. College of lore allows you to be the most skillful party member, go half elf and you are proficient with 10 out of the 18 skills, and jack of all trades allows you to add half your proficiency skills in the rest, freaking awesome! Want to be more of a combat bard, college of valor, and those have some really interesting perks as well. Do i wish i could mix them up a bit? well of course, a little bit here,a little bit there and it would be the perfect bard for me. I personally prefer this bard over 4th edition bard.

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    6. @Miguel: The 4E bard was a leader-type, which meant it was about party buffing, which is basically what bards from other editions (5th Edition included) were all about: party buffing. The difference is that 4E was like, "Whelp, why bother making this difficult or trying to hide it?"

      I know that the bard gets Ritual Caster, so what utility stuff went entirely to the wizard?

      I'm also curious why you say limited choices, when the 4E bard gets to choose something new at every level, as opposed to largely getting what the game designers believe you should get. To me that sounds like limited choices.

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    7. I can understand the points people have made here, and id like to add couple of my own. 3e Bards tend to work as a supplement in large parties, where their inspires scale with the amount of party members. I would neverplay a bard in small group, nor recommend anyone else.5th edition i think they made bards supportiveish, but i think they also wanted him to fit in smaller gaming groups more, so thattheplayer wouldnt feel useless and want to switch characters. Bards in 4e i do not know much about, but when i pulled one 4e game, a powerplayer was willing to play one, so i guess that counts as something. I guess they are capable of independent stuff as well.

      Also the pokemon reference that the almost first anon adressed to is about the fact that in pokemon games, a pokemon learns tops of 4 sifferent moves from a certain set of moves depending on thepokemon itself. Maybe he was referencing that just like in pokegames, 4e falls into the same trap of picking only the best option, making distinction only between classes, not characters. This may be a bugging point for some people.

      Anyway, take this comment with what you want. I am not here to argue, defend anyone or take sides, i am just making things clearer for everyone. This is my first and last post here.

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    8. P.S. distinction between characters of same class i meant with "difference between class not character"

      P.P.S. sorry formy bad english, i am on smartphone and englsih is not my native.

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    9. @Anon: 4E bards can vary depending on how you wanna go about it. They can be supporting, do their own thing, or just mess with enemies. Since 4E doesn't lock anything in, you can also shift your focus about throughout the course of play, but you never hamstring your character.

      There's also no pokemon-anything in 4E. You can learn way more than four abilities (which might be a problem of some), and even if you religiously adhere to the Charop forums there is rarely one "best power" for a given level, and even if there is there are normally a number of other perfectly valid alternatives.

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  8. You know, the "Bardic colleges" aren't actual literal colleges. They are descriptions of two potential paths that the bard can take in furthering their abilities. The College of Lore, for example, demonstrates a Bard whose focus is in acquiring knowledge and harnessing their skills. The College of Valor, meanwhile, demonstrates a Bard that seeks the glory of battle.

    In short: if you start wearing heavy armor, wielding big-ass swords, and training with a fighter THEN YOU ARE BY DEFINITION A BARD OF VALOR. That is, actually, why the Bard of Valor gets a second attack at Level 6: because their training with a fighter led to them becoming good enough at fighting that they can get in a second attack.

    Which is highlighted by the Bard of Lore being able to specialize in more skills while also learning more non-Bard spells than Bards of Valor. (The Lore Bard gets "Magical Secrets" at level 6, in place of the Valor Bard's second attack.)

    Which ties to "Bardic Inspiration" because Bards of Valor can allow allies to do more damage to enemies. 1d6 is the damage of a short sword; you've effectively had the fighter make a critical hit. At 5th level, this is a one-handed long sword. Inversely, a Bard of Lore can distract an enemy, using the 1dX from their inspiration to decrease the value of an enemy's attack roll.

    As to these counting as "bonus actions" and such, note that D&D is consistent in talking being considered a "free action". And even if singing takes more time than normal talking, you could easily sing while attacking or moving. I mean, when I get into street fights I'm frequently singing whatever song I'm listening to while I beat the other person to a bloody pulp for trying to steal from me.

    Not to say that the Bard couldn't be a little more "unique"...but most of these complaints demonstrate little to no actual gameplay/use of the 5e bard.

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    1. @Raven:

      According to the PH, colleges are loose associations. Even so, it makes no sense as a bard might never encounter another bard. It also does not address the needless locking in of later class features.

      "In short: if you start wearing heavy armor, wielding big-ass swords, and training with a fighter THEN YOU ARE BY DEFINITION A BARD OF VALOR. That is, actually, why the Bard of Valor gets a second attack at Level 6: because their training with a fighter led to them becoming good enough at fighting that they can get in a second attack."

      Incorrect. I can slap on heavy armor, carry a big-ass sword, and STILL choose College of Lore at 3rd-level.

      "Which is highlighted by the Bard of Lore being able to specialize in more skills while also learning more non-Bard spells than Bards of Valor. (The Lore Bard gets "Magical Secrets" at level 6, in place of the Valor Bard's second attack.)"

      I have no idea why you're bringing this up.

      "Which ties to "Bardic Inspiration" because Bards of Valor can allow allies to do more damage to enemies. 1d6 is the damage of a short sword; you've effectively had the fighter make a critical hit. At 5th level, this is a one-handed long sword. Inversely, a Bard of Lore can distract an enemy, using the 1dX from their inspiration to decrease the value of an enemy's attack roll."

      I'm also not sure why you're bringing this up. My criticism of Inspiration is as follows:

      It can only affect one person, no matter who hears it.
      You can only use it x times per day.
      At 5th-level you can use it as many times as you want, so long as you sit down long enough/not inspire people too often (regardless of who hears you).

      "As to these counting as "bonus actions" and such, note that D&D is consistent in talking being considered a "free action". And even if singing takes more time than normal talking, you could easily sing while attacking or moving."

      Riiight, I forgot about all the people that sing while fighting. Seriously, I can't think of a single example where someone sings while fighting.

      "I mean, when I get into street fights I'm frequently singing whatever song I'm listening to while I beat the other person to a bloody pulp for trying to steal from me."

      I don't believe any of this. I don't believe that you get into street fights with any regularity, sing while fighting, and/or beat someone to a bloody pulp while doing so.

      "Not to say that the Bard couldn't be a little more "unique"...but most of these complaints demonstrate little to no actual gameplay/use of the 5e bard."

      Nothing you've said here addresses anything I mentioned in the blog post. You've explained why a Valor bard would get physical stuff, and why a Lore bard would get more spells. I NEVER expressed confusion or criticized that those are things.

      My complaints stem from a needless lack of flexibility/organic character growth, and game narrative/fiction due to an equally needless adherence to antiquated grognard traditions.

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  9. So, almost a year later, with the bard being one of the most loved classes in PHB, and the 5th edition thriving to the point it just eclipsed the entire 4e in posts of interest online, worldwide, how big a failure do you feel for writing this article?

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    1. People liking stupid shit doesn't make it suddenly good, or do you consider the Twilight series to be exemplary writing?

      A better question: how big of a pussy to you feel like for posting this comment anonymously?

      Delete
    2. And while we're fielding questions, here's a few more:

      How much of a dumbass do you feel like for re-purchasing a game that came out in 2000, and again in 2008?

      How many more times would you re-purchase said game?

      That last one's more for WotC than me: it would be good for them to know how long they can ride this train, before having to actually do that whole game design bit.

      Delete
  10. I like 4th edition... (im not the same anonymous as earlier, I'm a different guy.)

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    1. @Anon: I also like it, but unlike so many 5E fans I can at least recognize that it has problems (which I'm going to address once I start on my own d20 game).

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  11. holy gods, do you really need all of your creative potential to be offloaded and pre-made in the text? you are one arrogant and pessimist puddle of human.


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    1. And you're a cowardly anon posting insults to a blog post that's nearly a year old.

      Going to point out that you didn't address anything I said.

      Delete
    2. Claudio VallejosJuly 16, 2015 at 1:33 PM

      A little defensive aren't we David? I'll try to be polite to have a proper conversation.

      Let me tell you why I'm loving 5e (bards included): Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition is what 4th edition should have been. Streamlined rules without dumping "pointless traditions" which I happen to like. Rebalancing classes without watering down the class system. And most importantly, not overtly trying to pander to new players by bashing old rulesets.

      I know 4e had good points, but dumping so many "pointless traditions" made me question WHY I shouldn't stick to 3.5e and get more mileage out of my good old books. Novelty requires a portion of familiarity, or else it's not good novelty, it's just shock. And that's where I think 5e got things right: it retained just enough flavor to not alienate me, and brought enough good stuff to make the jump worthwhile. Judging by 4e quick demise, PF's success and 5e good initial buzz, I think I am one among many.

      Which leads us to your bard critique: while you seem to pick mostly on the bard, your critique seems to be at 5e class design as a whole. Every class arbitrarily doles out class features at set levels, and every class has a sub-class system. I say this is a reasonable compromise: to maintain some form of class balance without laying down a power system, classes choices need to be more constrained. I think this is more than reasonable, since I have so many other ways to customize my character (backgrounds, feats, free multiclassing, etc...).

      Another critique of your regard the flavor of the bard class, with its silly bardic inspiration and unsubtle magic. To this I answer you that fluff is mutable. I don't mind having an RPG system come pre-flavored with generic fantasy stock because I realize this bland flavor is there for the benefit of new players. Since I am introducing new players to D&D, it's good to have the book come pre-stocked with generic tropes that they can use to participate in the game without too much hassle.

      For instance, I have little problem reinterpreting bardic inspiration: it can be a form of pagan blessing (think of it as a minor wiccan prayer), akin to the cleric's divine blessing but whose origin is some supernatural being (let's say, a very powerful Fae). Or it could be a personification of the "rule of cool": bards can bend reality and make a success out of a failure out of sheer coolness, anime-style. These reinterpretations don't need to be written in the book, and in fact it's BETTER that they're not in the book. I prefer the book to have well oiled mechanics over which I can cultivate my own fluff.

      Also, there's nothing stopping you redesigning the bard class for a game you're GMing. Balancing the class will take work, but house rules are one of the beauties of pencil and paper RPG. For instance, when I GM, I intend to make paladins and rangers "prestige classes" (I think it's absurd to have level 1 paladins and rangers running around). And I intend to reinstate full Vancian casting to the wizards, because no true wizard would ever shirk from over analyzing it's spell selection.

      To conclude, I am happy with 5e, and I am very happy that 5e bards are mechanically very strong. I can understand how you wish 5e could come with more organic mechanics, a more coherent magical system and less tacky fluff, but I'm honestly more worried about having a solid core, and so far it's delivering. I am sure there are other systems which you might like better (Ars Magica comes to mind, though I never seriously played it), or better yet, go ahead and create a d20 game. D&D is meant to be a "mainstream" system (or at least as mainstream as a pencil and paper RPG can be), so it needs compromises which can be a bother to more experienced roleplayers.

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    3. @Claudio:

      "A little defensive aren't we David? I'll try to be polite to have a proper conversation."

      Not really. Someone decided to anonymously hurl insults (on a very old post, I might add), and I swung back. Just calling it like it is. If someone actually wants to actually address what I'm talking about, fine.

      "Let me tell you why I'm loving 5e (bards included): Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition is what 4th edition should have been. Streamlined rules without dumping "pointless traditions" which I happen to like. Rebalancing classes without watering down the class system. And most importantly, not overtly trying to pander to new players by bashing old rulesets."

      So, you're loving it because it's 3rd Edition.

      4th Edition didn't "water" down the class system. If anything, it made it much clearer what a given class was designed for. This is a good thing unlike, say, 3rd Edition, where fighters couldn't actually protect their allies from harm.

      Interesting how you claim that WotC was trying to "pander" to new players, when everything about 5E is pandering to old players, and it's not even trying to be innovative. I think 4E is much better than 5E. It has its flaws, but unlike most 5E fans I've talked to at least I can admit that my preferred edition has flaws.

      "I know 4e had good points, but dumping so many "pointless traditions" made me question WHY I shouldn't stick to 3.5e and get more mileage out of my good old books. Novelty requires a portion of familiarity, or else it's not good novelty, it's just shock. And that's where I think 5e got things right: it retained just enough flavor to not alienate me, and brought enough good stuff to make the jump worthwhile. Judging by 4e quick demise, PF's success and 5e good initial buzz, I think I am one among many."

      A better question is WHY you want, or possibly NEED, those pointless traditions at all. What about them makes them better than another rule that retains the flavor (or "feels", as Mearls puts it), but makes more sense, allows more choices, etc?

      4E retained the flavor AND felt familiar: at no point am I not aware that I'm playing D&D.

      My question is why aren't you still just sticking with 3rd Edition (or an even older edition)? That's what Paizo did. They plastered a bunch of Wayne Reynolds art all over their stuff to make it look cool, but it's still the same old, tired 3rd Edition.

      Aaand you wrap things up with an appeal to popularity. Great! Lots of women like Twilight, it MUST be good!

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    4. "Which leads us to your bard critique: while you seem to pick mostly on the bard, your critique seems to be at 5e class design as a whole. Every class arbitrarily doles out class features at set levels, and every class has a sub-class system. I say this is a reasonable compromise: to maintain some form of class balance without laying down a power system, classes choices need to be more constrained. I think this is more than reasonable, since I have so many other ways to customize my character (backgrounds, feats, free multiclassing, etc...)."

      Yes, every class in 5E is unnecessarily constrained. You aren't explaining why it must be this way in order to retain "class balance", or how it's even reasonable. The only "reason" I can see for its existence is that in older editions classes got things when the designers said so. This doesn't make it necessary, or even good.

      If anything, it comes across as lazy and, well, pandering.

      Classes in Numenera and Dungeon World both allow you to choose one thing each level, and I haven't heard anyone complain about a lack of balance, so...dunno why WotC couldn't figure it out.

      My argument is this: a more reasonable method would be to have you start as a class, and then pick the stuff you want when you level up. Something simple, yet still allowing flexibility. Soemthing that allows fighers to, say, choose if they want to deal more damage, be more resistant, have various maneuvers, etc. Not pick one thing and get locked in at the start. Why is this inferior to what 5E does?

      "Another critique of your regard the flavor of the bard class, with its silly bardic inspiration and unsubtle magic. To this I answer you that fluff is mutable. I don't mind having an RPG system come pre-flavored with generic fantasy stock because I realize this bland flavor is there for the benefit of new players. Since I am introducing new players to D&D, it's good to have the book come pre-stocked with generic tropes that they can use to participate in the game without too much hassle. "

      Your counter is basically, "it's fine because you can change it". That doesn't make it fine. You're basically saying that even an adventure with a boring story is fine, because a DM can just change the story or whatever and make it good. This doesn't excuse the quality.

      It would make more sense for a RPG to have actually interesting flavor, because you can always change it to something boring.

      You're also not addressing my criticism of Bardic Inspiration. Let me break it down for you:

      * You can use it as a bonus action. A round is 6 seconds long: in between running 30 feet and attacking someone, where are you finding the time to deliver some stirring words/play a solo on your lute?
      * Why can you only use it x times per day?

      It's not "generic" fantasy stock. It's "generic D&D stock". How is generic D&D-stock good for new players? Why would it be worse/more difficult to introduce players if the game had...I dunno, interesting stock?

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    5. "For instance, I have little problem reinterpreting bardic inspiration: it can be a form of pagan blessing (think of it as a minor wiccan prayer), akin to the cleric's divine blessing but whose origin is some supernatural being (let's say, a very powerful Fae). Or it could be a personification of the "rule of cool": bards can bend reality and make a success out of a failure out of sheer coolness, anime-style. These reinterpretations don't need to be written in the book, and in fact it's BETTER that they're not in the book. I prefer the book to have well oiled mechanics over which I can cultivate my own fluff."

      So...you can now bless people in a fraction of a second x times per day. Do you realize that this doesn't make it somehow make any more sense than it already didn't?

      The mechanics aren't "well-oiled", they're just...old. This is why I didn't buy into 5E: if I want to play 3E, I can. If I want to play 2E, I can. I don't need to rebuy a different set of books that has bards that can for no discernible reason inspire people x times per day.

      "Also, there's nothing stopping you redesigning the bard class for a game you're GMing. Balancing the class will take work, but house rules are one of the beauties of pencil and paper RPG. For instance, when I GM, I intend to make paladins and rangers "prestige classes" (I think it's absurd to have level 1 paladins and rangers running around). And I intend to reinstate full Vancian casting to the wizards, because no true wizard would ever shirk from over analyzing it's spell selection."

      I write roleplaying game content for a substantial portion of my income, so I'm no stranger to designing and redesigning. While I could fix 5E, I can almost as easily make my own RPG, which is what I'm doing. This way I don't have to tell people I'm running a 5E game, just with a bunch of houserules: I can just show them a D&D-like game that we can play as-is.

      Great, you can make paladins and rangers prestige classes for whatever reason, and give full Vancian casting to wizards (dunno if you mean Vancian-Vancian, or 2E or 3E pseudo-Vancian, but knock yourself out). As with redesigning/reskinning/reflavoring Bardic Inspiration, this isn't a unique feature of 5E. It doesn't make it good. It doesn't counter my arguments of how the bard is boring and nonsense. Frankly, by not addressing what I'm said in the actual article, you're kind of proving my point: the bard doesn't make sense.

      "To conclude, I am happy with 5e, and I am very happy that 5e bards are mechanically very strong. I can understand how you wish 5e could come with more organic mechanics, a more coherent magical system and less tacky fluff, but I'm honestly more worried about having a solid core, and so far it's delivering. I am sure there are other systems which you might like better (Ars Magica comes to mind, though I never seriously played it), or better yet, go ahead and create a d20 game. D&D is meant to be a "mainstream" system (or at least as mainstream as a pencil and paper RPG can be), so it needs compromises which can be a bother to more experienced roleplayers."

      A "mainstream" game can still make sense AND have a solid core. They aren't mutually exclusive goals. I'm honestly surprised that so many people are praising 5E merely for retreading the past.

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  12. Well...that was a trip to read.
    So much hate for 4E. I get being uncomfortable with it. It was different and people were expecting the same old game with slight changes and minor improvements. Instead they got a game that was by and large rebuilt from the ground up. My own gaming group at the time it came out were among those that tried it (barely) then ran away to play other games. Later I would buy the whole product line in used games sections and I decided I really liked a lot the designers had brought to the system. Sure, combats lasted longer, but they were a lot more fun than the combats in previous editions, especially for non-casters. The mechanics were easy to use in actual play. Though the combats were long, they ran so much smoother than Mathfinder combats.
    I would have loved 5e to carry a lot more of 4e into it, instead of retreating to older editions, but I think it is definitely better than 3/3.5 or Pathfinder. I'd still rather play 4 personally.

    I actually came to read your take on the bard, rather than the edition wars stuff. I think you are pretty hard on the concept of the bard, and I can get that. A lot of people hate the general concept. Personally I view the music as a way of accessing magic, and for me it is just as conceptually sound as finger waving and tossing pinches of sulfur into the air. Any way you think about it, magic would probably be something incredibly difficult to do in the middle of combat...But for most games, combat magic is sort of a thing. So, compromises and all that. i don't find the fictional justification terribly hard, and could bore you with several thoughts on bard magic, but I will save us both and avoid that.
    I see you have your own version of the Bard out, I'm going to guess you made them less castery? I saw a short preview of it, and it looked like you took out the Bard's healing and inspiration stuff and instead made them into Lullaby/Sleep types? Suppose I should go buy it and find out!

    ReplyDelete
  13. @John: Are you talking about the blog post or comments?

    Out of all the D&D and D&D-like games (including clones), 4E is also my favorite, though I wish it wasn't so complicated. I can figure everything out, no problem, but many in my gaming group forget about various bonuses, or don't really think about what powers/feats can do.

    I agree that combat is at its best in 4E, but wish it would go by faster. Reducing hit points and defenses is a good way to do this: when I first ran A Sundered World, I reduced each monster to needing 1-5 "hits" to kill (based on side, role, type, and whether they were minion, standard, elite, or solo).

    "I actually came to read your take on the bard, rather than the edition wars stuff. I think you are pretty hard on the concept of the bard, and I can get that. A lot of people hate the general concept."

    I don't hate the general concept, but the stagnant, nonsense interpretation over the past decades. It's like no one at WotC actually talked about how/why the bard does things, and instead just kept repeating what was in the previous edition.

    "Personally I view the music as a way of accessing magic, and for me it is just as conceptually sound as finger waving and tossing pinches of sulfur into the air. Any way you think about it, magic would probably be something incredibly difficult to do in the middle of combat...But for most games, combat magic is sort of a thing. So, compromises and all that. i don't find the fictional justification terribly hard, and could bore you with several thoughts on bard magic, but I will save us both and avoid that."

    I also think that their music is a way of accessing magic, but I don't think that all magic would be hard to use in combat (or even stressful situations). Like, in The Dresden Files, he just kind of releases uncontrolled energy. In The Name of the Wind, it takes more time to do certain things, but that could be fixed by taking 2+ rounds to work something out. That's more how I see bard magic working: it takes time, certainly more than 3ish seconds.

    "I see you have your own version of the Bard out, I'm going to guess you made them less castery? I saw a short preview of it, and it looked like you took out the Bard's healing and inspiration stuff and instead made them into Lullaby/Sleep types? Suppose I should go buy it and find out!"

    It's for Dungeon World, but it captures both the bard concept AND makes sense "in-game/character/narrative/etc".

    Their music is subtle and requires buildup (like, well, music): you can heal, but not in combat. When you rest, everyone regains more hp. Their music can captivate people, but again it doesn't work in combat (though in play, a player used it when goblins were approaching to make them befriend her before swords were drawn).

    They'll also good with lore, telling stories, and fighting, and this part evokes what I wish 5E would have done: when you level up, you get to choose how your bard improves. You don't get better and gain new ways to use your magic when I the designer says so. You don't lock in your bard style early on. No, if you wanna get better at fighting, do that. If you want to heal your party even more when you rest, do that.

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  14. Let's just be honest : this is the FIFTH version of a board-game that looks like the SECOND version of any board-game that any kid could come up with after playing any computer game involving classes, levels, combat, and a story. When you make people PAY to select a class "that can be any other class too at the same time", PAY to fight with a FLUTE, PAY to have to say "we need to rest right here in the cave like all the other times because I have already healed you today", PAY to play a MONK, PAY to make your weasel "fight instead of you this round"........ well I could continue for hours. Let's just say that you guys, are stuck with the brand of a game that is disastrously lacking any sense of evolution whatsoever, right from the start. You're just stuck with it, or at least you must be thinking so.

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    Replies
    1. @Martin: Thing is, I don't even think the game needs to evolve much to be good. WotC just had to look at all the nonsense and tweak/remove it. I'm much closer to being done with A Sundered World than I figured I'd be by now, but once it's done I'll be working on my own D&D-hack.

      It'll be interesting to see what traditionalists and 4E fans alike think about it.

      Delete
  15. Come for the title: stay to read the comment section.

    D&D discussions always turn into shitstorms.

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    Replies
    1. @Anon: Blindly loyal and ravenous fanboys can be pretty funny.

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  16. Replies
    1. Says the whiny bitch that can't refute what I'm saying. :-P

      Delete
    2. Alright lets take a step back for a minute and consider that the root of this argument is ultimately the clunky nature of the Magic/Spellcasting and the Bardic Inspiration system in D&D 5e. Now, I have played a ton of different gaming systems in many different settings. And all of that has taught me one valuable thing - Narrative and Optimization often have to trade off for one another.

      Now, for sake of argument, lets say that Spellcasting worked in a more narrative way. Now ultimately that would mean the nature of magic would be dependent on your world setting, but for simplicity sake I am going to just say that you are tapping into the innate energy of the universe. Obviously we have to put some kind of restraint on it, otherwise the Risk of Melee combat or ranged weaponry would be rather underpowered in comparison and would make any non-caster essentially pointless. Since most campaigns tend to take place in a setting where magic users aren't all that uncommon but really powerful ones are, it would hardly make sense for spellcasting to exert no effort at all.

      Now the only ways I think of mechanically implementing this would be some variant of these methods:

      -There is a cost/resource associated with the spell (Mana pool, spell points, etc.)


      -There is a roll necessary for most if not all spells to be cast at all (Akin to a DC but to actually even cast the spell; "[PC] tries to cast [Spell], and must get a roll of [Number] or higher")

      -Or the system they used. Limiting spell quantity over a given amount of time.

      The reason they don't do the first system is obvious - they like keeping class resources simple. There would be a lot of bookkeeping with this and it would likely lead to a lot of potential for cheating (which admittedly already happens enough with HP). This is not a system that helps the DM, plain an simple.

      The second one falls into a different problem - they either are too easy or too hard. When you are a spellcaster, you are generally a glass cannon within the group. This means that you want your abilities to work when you want to use them. But in a dice-roll-based system, as anyone who has ever had to roll for any DC ever can tell you, the dice are not your friend (or not always, at least). So setting the thresholds too high and making it nearly impossible to cast essentially gimps the class. Conversely, setting it too low would make any spellcaster a big 'FU' to the DM's set upped encounters, since they would defintially outclass any melee. or physical. This too also falls into the bookkeeping problem, where you would have to determining the spell cast threshold always.

      I think I made my point, and I still didn't identify all the potential pitfalls of these systems, yet I have seem similar for a ton of differing Gaming system.They all fall short somewhere.

      Anyway... just adding my two cents.

      Delete

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