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The Bard: A Revitalised Class for the D&D Game

by Geoff Gander and Marco Dalmonte

Not too long ago I was leafing through Dragon magazine #177, and I happened upon a brief section in one of the Known World Grimoire articles, where the bard class was first presented for use in D&D campaigns. Always eager to expand on the game, I read about this optional character class, seeing how it compared with bards from other game systems.

Although the idea was good, I found that, in many ways, the bard class was more like a kit for thieves. True, bards in AD&D are a sub-class of the rogues, but they also have a wide range of abilities that set them apart from assassins and thieves. Looking at the class in more detail, I decided that more was needed on the musical and fighting aspects of the bard class. What was needed were new rules for weapons and armour, and a comprehensive list of bardic "spells", in the form of songs, which could be played with different effects. These are sometimes known as "spell-songs". The rules below can be used in addition to those provided in Dragon magazine #177, to provide a more detailed bard class.

Bard Songs:

From the earliest days of prehistory, there have been people whose calling it has been to sing the songs of others' deeds, to contribute to the lore of a people. In many cultures, the bard is the individual who serves this purpose. He or she would often travel the land, learning of great events by witnessing them, or by hearing of them from other travellers. In many ways, bards were the only source of news the average person had, and they were often the means by which cultural lore was passed down through the generations. In the D&D system, bards would fill this role as well, and this is applicable to Mystara.

This section lists a number of bard songs, and their effects. The means by which these songs can be obtained would be quite similar to those of spells. Songs may be written on scrolls, and may be read whenever desired, but without losing the information on the scroll. As a bard advances in level, his or her repertoire of songs - those which have been committed to memory, and the complexity of the songs that may be sung - will increase. If the bard chooses to memorise a song, then the scroll from which it is read will crumble to dust, and the song will be permanently etched into his or her memory. Each song may be sung only once per day. When singing a song, the bard may choose whether or not to call forth the magical potential of the song itself. In this way, he or she may simply sing the songs for entertainment purposes, with no strange side-effects on the patrons!

The following chart summarises the bard's advancement in terms of songs:

Spell-Songs by Level
Bard Level 1 2 3 4
1 0 0 0 0
2 1 0 0 0
3 2 0 0 0
4 2 1 0 0
5 2 2 0 0
6 3 2 1 0
7 3 2 2 1
8 4 3 2 2
9 4 4 3 2
10 4 4 4 3

As shown by this chart, a bard's prowess in singing songs increases greatly as he or she advances in level. It should be noted that advancement occurs only until 10th level, after which no further improvements are possible, except in the areas of improving thief skills, hit points, and the like.

DMs should also note that the songs mentioned on this chart are only those that have magical effects - bards may have as many mundane songs as they wish. The numbers themselves indicate how many songs of each specific level a bard may sing per day, and still be able to use their magical effects. Any magical song may be sung any number of times after its magic has been triggered, but it will possess no power until the next day. Until then, it is a mundane song, but still beautiful, nonetheless. I suggest allowing an increase on the money earned from such songs from the cp denomination given in the Dragon magazine article to the sp denomination. This reflects the unique perfection and beauty of these songs, which would enchant an audience if sung properly.


In order for a magical bard song to have any effect, a bard must have a musical instrument in his or her possession. This can be of any sort appropriate to the bard's native culture, but it must be enchanted. A simple enchant item cast by a magic user would be sufficient, or a wish. Once an instrument has been enchanted, it may be used to play magical songs. In any case, a bard's instrument is so valuable that he or she would be loath to part with it. As a DM, you may decide to allow a starting bard PC to have his or her own magical instrument, much as magic users have their own spell books at the start. If not, it would be easy to add one to any reasonably-sized treasure hoard.

Singing and Playing:

For spell-songs of levels 1-2, the bard only needs to play the instrument of his or her choice for one round prior to casting the spell itself. Spell-songs of levels 3-4 require the bard to both sing and play an instrument for that one round, requiring success on both skill checks. Those songs that are more combat-oriented (these are marked with an asterisk on the chart below) often require the bard to sing and/or play an instrument during the actual spell duration, which is limited only by the bard's Constitution. If for any reason the song itself is interrupted, that attempt is ruined and cannot be tried again until the next day. It should also be mentioned that a bard many not employ the effects of more than one spell-song at a time - both will cancel each other out.


A bard must take the following skills when he or she is created: Singing, Music, and Storytelling. This information is taken from the piece on bards in Dragon #177, written by Bruce Heard.

A Side Note on Weapons and Armour:

Looking at how bards are portrayed in conventional literature, and how they appear in the Dragon article, it is clear that some other alterations might be possible. With this in mind, I think that bards should be allowed to wear heavier armour. As you will see later on in this supplement, it is clear that bards are slightly more combat-oriented than thieves. It is not a bard's job to skulk about in the shadows and gain information or treasure - though he or she may wish to rely on those talents as needed. A bard's primary purpose is to inspire his or her fellows to greater heights and bolder deeds, assisting them where possible. Combat skills are a definite necessity here, as some bard songs must be sung in the heat of battle!

I suggest, then, that bards be allowed to wear all armour types up to and including chain mail, with the option of using a shield of medium size or smaller (though this will make it impossible for the bard to play his or her instrument). They would be forbidden to use two-handed weapons (these interfere too much with the bard's style and way of life, which revolves around freedom of movement).

It should also be remembered that a bard's thief abilities can be affected whenever a bard employing these skills is wearing armour heavier than leather. Since a bard may only wear armour up to and including chain mail, this applies only to the use of scale and chain mail. The table below presents the various penalties to be applied by the DM against a bard's thief skills whenever he or she employs them while wearing these forms of armour.

Thief Skill Penalty
Armour Type Hide in Shadows Move Silently Hear Noise Climb Surfaces
Scale Mail -5% -15% -5% -15%
Chain Mail -10% -20%* -10% -20%

*this should perhaps be halved if the bard is wearing elven chain mail.

Hit Points:

Owing to their more combat-oriented nature, bards should now roll 1d6 to determine their hit points, as opposed to 1d4 in the Dragon article. This serves to further distance them from thieves, and, in my view, it only makes sense, given that they can wear heavier armour, and have abilities that often require them to be in the heat of battle.

The Charm Ability:

In the original article, the bard was described as having the ability to charm others, as per the magic user spell. I will summarise the details of this ability in this section. I must credit Bruce Heard for this work, as it was he who first wrote on bards in that article in Dragon #177, and it is his work that I am summarising here.

Starting at 3rd level, the bard gains the ability to charm once per day, as per the magic user spell charm person. He or she can affect a number of hit dice equal to one-third his or her own level, rounded down. The bard must sing, recite poetry, or play an instrument for three rounds, and then make a skill check in the weakest of his or her mandatory skills. If the skill check fails the victim saves vs. Spells at +3. The charm ability can also be used to negate another bard's charm attempt.

At 9th level, the bard's charm ability extends to intelligent monsters (but not undead), as per the charm monster magic user spell.

At 15th level, the bard's charm ability is extended again to plants, as per the magic user spell charm plant. In all cases, a successful save vs. Spells will negate the charm effect.


Having discussed the basic rules for magical bard songs, it is now necessary to present a list of spell-songs for use in any D&D campaign. Please note that this list is by no means an exhaustive one. The names given are the titles of the songs. As with spells, each song is described according to its duration, its range, and a brief description.

First Level Second Level Third Level Fourth Level
The Eternal Wanderer Blissful Slumber The Epic* Breathstealer*
Faerie Lights Flight Be True View From Afar Magic's End
Still Night* Guardian Angels* The Way is Guided Mind Render*
The Seeker of Magic The Hero's Chant The Way is Clear Song of Freedom

First Level Spell-Songs:

The Eternal Wanderer:
Range: 0 (bard + recipients only)
Area of Effect: Bard and anyone within 10' (+2'/level of bard)
Duration: 4 hours +1 hour/level of bard
Description: When sung, this song allows the bard and anyone within his or her immediate vicinity to enjoy effects similar to that of the longstride spell mentioned in the Shadow Elf Gazetteer. While the spell is in effect, the recipients' movement rates are tripled, and they do not tire. In this way, many miles may be covered in a matter of hours, with no ill effects on the travellers. After singing this song, the travellers must spend an equivalent number of hours resting as were spent travelling.

Faerie Lights:
Range: 10' + 10'/level of bard,
Area of Effect: 30' radius
Duration: 6 turns
Description: This song creates a series of shimmering lights that dance around any target, organic or not. They provide the same amount of light as a conventional light spell, providing enough light to illuminate an area with a radius of 30'. The lights themselves dance and flicker, seeming to have lives of their own. Apart from dazzling any creatures with animal intelligence or lower (save vs. paralysis or be stunned for 1d6 rounds), this song has no other effects.

Still Night:
Range: 0 (bard only)
Area of Effect: 10'
Duration: 6 turns
Description: This song has the effect of creating a sphere of silence 20' wide, centring on the bard - not unlike the cleric spell silence 15' radius. This sphere moves with the bard while the spell effect lasts, and no sounds whatsoever may escape from within it, although those within the sphere may hear every sound on the outside. Any spells being cast are nullified if the caster finds him or herself within this sphere.

The Seeker of Magic:
Range: 0 (bard only)
Area of Effect: An area 20' x 20' x 20'
Duration: 6 turns
Description: When sung, thus song reveals the magical nature of all magical items within the area of effect. All magical items, including those worn, will have a soft blue halo about them for the duration of the spell. There is a 3% chance per level that the bard can identify correctly the exact nature of the magical object(s) examined - though he or she will not be able to find out the number of charges (if any).

Second Level Spell-Songs:

Blissful Slumber:
Range: 0 (bard + recipients only)
Area of Effect: Bard and anyone within 10'
Duration: 0 (instant effect)
Description: When this song is sung, all within its area of effect will instantly feel as though they have just had a full night's sleep. Any penalties for fatigue are eliminated, and parties otherwise needing to sleep for the night will be able to do without rest. The effects of this spell-song may not be utilised for more than three days in a row, nor may this song be sung more than four times a week. Otherwise, the bard and his or her companions will suffer penalties for fatigue as per the normal rules - the body can go without sleep only for a short while.

Flight Be True:
Range: 20' + 10'/level of bard
Area of Effect: One arrow, quarrel, or sling stone.
Duration: Special
Description: This spell-song allows the bard to temporarily enchant one missile weapon attack per round of battle. As long as the bard is singing and playing his or her instrument, and is succeeding in all required checks, he or she may select one missile attack for enchantment. That attack gains an extra +4 to hit, as well as the ability to injure creatures that would normally be immune to non-silvered or non-magical attacks. The bard may sing this song for an equivalent number of rounds as his or her Constitution score, after which time he or she will pass out for 1d4 hours. If the spell- song is stopped before then, no ill effects result.

Guardian Angels:
Range: 0 (bard + recipients only)
Area of Effect: Bard and anyone within 15' (+5'/level of bard)
Duration: 10 rounds
Description: Once sung, this spell-song provides the bard and other recipients with a bonus of -2 to their armour classes for the duration of the spell-song's effect. This bonus is applied against all attacks by opponents. This spell-song also provides the recipients, for its duration, an immunity to all effects from other bardic spell-songs.

The Hero's Chant:
Range: 0 (bard + recipients only)
Area of Effect: Bard and anyone within 10' (+2'/level of bard)
Duration: Special
Description: This spell-song works in much the same way as a bless spell does - it confers a bonus of +1 on all attack and damage rolls against opponents, a +1 to saving throws, and a +1 bonus to morale. Unlike other combat-oriented spell-songs, this one must be sung continuously in order for its effects to be used. The bard may sing this song for a length of time in rounds equivalent to his or her Constitution, after which he or she will fall unconscious for 1d4 turns. If he or she stops singing before this point, there are no ill effects.

Third Level Spell-Songs:

The Epic:
Range: 10' (+5'/level of bard)
Area of Effect: An area 20' x 20' x 20'
Duration: 12 rounds
Description: This spell-song allows the bard to create, from his or her imagination, any battle scene. The scene will be realistic, and all those seeing it must save vs. Spells in order to see its true nature, otherwise they will be awed by what they see - being stunned for 1d4 rounds. Most often, the scene is of a epic battle, or of a great hero defeating his foes. The images can be placed by bard anywhere within range, such that the party can appear to be bolstered by several powerful-looking warrior or wizards. In any case, all images have an armour class of 9, and it touched will disappear. As with phastasmal force, those "killed" by an illusion will fall unconscious, but only for 1d6 rounds.

Requiem Melody:
Range: 120'
Area of Effect: 1 creature
Duration: Special
Description: This spell-song is always directed against one specific creature that must be within the range of the song. When the bard begins to sing this requiem, the target is overcome with grief and sorrow (-1 to attacks and damage, no save) and must make a saving throw vs. Spells in order to avoid the other effects of the song. If the saving throw is successful, the penalty lasts only as long as the bard continues to play the song, which is a maximum of 1 round per Constitution point. If the saving throw fails, the victim starts crying and despairing and cannot do anything else but stab him- or herself with whichever weapon is handy (or bare handed if there is none available). The self-inflicted damage is real and weapon masteries do not count in calculating the damage. This fit of madness can last for a maximum number of rounds equal the bard's Constitution (see rules above). The song works only against an intelligent (i.e.: those with an Intelligence of 3 or higher) creatures. Whether or not the bard stops singing before a number of rounds equal to his or her Constitution has passed, he or she must make a Wisdom check to hold off the Psychic energies that were summoned with the spell-song. If the check succeeds, the bard is stunned for 1d4 rounds; if it fails, the bard passes out for 1 round per round spent singing.

Song of Binding:
Range: 30' (+ 10'/level of bard)
Area of Effect: Up to four people within range
Duration: 1 round/level of bard
Description: This spell-song is similar to the magic user spell hold person. The bard can paralyse up to four people of Medium size (up to 7' tall), two people of Large size (7+' to 12' tall), or one creature of Huge size (12+' to 25' tall); it has no effect on creatures larger than 25' in height (Gargantuan size). The victims must be inside the range of the song and must listen to the song for at least one round in order to be affected. Each victim can avoid the effects of the song by making a successful saving throw vs. Paralysis. The paralysis lasts for one round per level of the bard and can be dispelled in the normal ways (such as the spell free person), or by the reverse of this song (see below).

View From Afar:
Range: 0 (bard only)
Area of Effect: 0 (bard only)
Duration: 3 turns
Description: The effects of this spell-song are much like that of a crystal ball. Upon singing the song, the bard can see any location up to five miles away. He or she only needs to know the name of the place, and a brief description, in order to see it. His or her point of view of this location can rotate up 360 degrees at will, but cannot move. The bard may look at different locations within the duration by naming different places and descriptions, and so may obtain a form of "movement" in this way, though far less accurate than that of a wizard eye spell. This spell-song cannot allow the bard to see through solid objects, or any place shielded by magical wards or enchantments. Also, while the spell-song is in effect, the bard is in a trance-like state; there is no awareness of surroundings or events. Should the bard be injured in any way, his or her concentration is broken, and the spell-song is ruined.

Fourth Level Spell-Songs:

Range: 20' + 10'/level of bard
Area of Effect: Anyone within an area measuring 30'x30'x30'
Duration: Special
Description: When sung by the bard, anyone within the area of effect must save vs. Spells at -2, for each round in which the spell-song is in effect, or begin to suffocate. As long as the bard sings, the victims must make a save every round, losing three points of Constitution temporarily if they fail, losing nothing if they make it. In either case they are able to move normally, though those failing their save must make a Constitution check (at the reduced score if they failed a saving throw) in order to do so while they are within the area of effect. Every time the victim fails the saving throw, another three points of Constitution is lost. Victims within the area of effect who have failed their saving throw also have their movement rates halved as long as they are suffocating. In addition to this, suffocating victims cannot cast spells, speak, or make any attacks, and death will result if their Constitution score reaches zero. The bard may sing this song for as many rounds as he or she has Constitution points. Should the bard sing until his or her Constitution reaches zero, he or she will pass out for 2d6 rounds. It should be noted that everyone within the area of effect (including a bard's friends!) will be affected by this spell-song. Lost points of Constitution are regained at 1d3 points per full day of rest.

Magic's End:
Range: 60'
Area of Effect: A cube 20'x20'x20' in size
Duration: Permanent
Description: When sung by the bard, this spell-song will instantly dispel all spells and spell effects within range. Unlike the mage spell dispel magic, there is always a chance that the target(s) of this spell- song may resist its effect. The base chance is 20% for all spells and spell effects of a level equal to or lower than that of the bard singing this song. This chance increases by 5% for every level that a spellcaster is higher than that of the bard. For example, a 7th level bard wishes to dispel a cloudkill spell cast by a 12th level mage. The spell has a 45% chance of resisting the spell-song's dispelling effect. The same rules apply for dispelling spell-like effects - except that the DM must estimate the level of the mage who crafted the item in order to determine its resistance factor. While this spell may seem weak, it is essential to remember that the bard is not a full spellcaster by profession; rather, it is one of many crafts known. As such, all spell effects from spell- songs are bound to be weaker than their wizardly counterparts.

Mind Render:
Range: 50'
Area of Effect: Anyone within a 30'x30'x30' area
Duration: Special
Description: This spell-song, when sung, induces in every sentient being within the area of effect an insane fear of all that is around them, unless they make a saving throw vs. Spells at a -2 penalty each round they are in the area of effect. Those who make this save each round, or who leave the area, are unaffected. Those who fail any save while in the area instantly become delusional - fearing that everyone around them is out to get them. There is a 50% chance each round thereafter that they will launch into a frenzied assault on the nearest person, regardless of whether they are friend or foe. All such attacks are made at an additional +1 to hit and damage, on top of regular Strength bonuses. This effect will occur even if the victim who failed his or her saving throw leaves the area of effect, and will last for a number of hours equal to the level of the bard. This effect may be removed by a normal remove curse spell, a wish, or any other magical means of removing enchantments. The bard may play this spell-song for a number of rounds equal to his or her Constitution score. If he or she does not stop playing before then, the bard may continue playing, but must make a save vs. Spells each round, or fall under the same effects as the intended victims. It should be noted that this spell-song is indiscriminate, affecting everyone within the area of effect - even a bard's friends.

Song of Freedom:
Range: 30' (+ 10'/level of bard)
Area of Effect: Up to four people within range
Duration: 1 round/level of bard
Description: This spell is the opposite of the third level spell-song called Song of Binding. It has the same range of the Song of Binding, and can be used to permanently negate all paralysing effects in the area. As long as the duration lasts, all paralysed creatures in range are allowed a new saving throw vs. Paralysis each round to free themselves of any paralysing effect that is holding them.

Fitting it all Together:

Having put together a system of magic based on songs, and revising slightly the rules for weapons and armour for bards, it is now possible to present a concise summary of the class, such as those presented in the Rules Cyclopaedia. So, below you will find the new bard class, with the above modifications made to it.


Prime Requisite: Dexterity and Charisma.
Other Requirements: Dexterity and Charisma scores of 9 or higher.
Experience Bonus: 5% for Dexterity and Charisma 13-15; 10% for Dexterity and Charisma 16-18.
Hit Dice: 1d6 per level up to 9th level. Starting at 10th level, +1 hit point per level, and Constitution adjustments no longer apply.
Maximum Level: 36, bards have the same experience progression table as thieves.
Armour: Up to chain mail; shield permitted if less than large-sized.
Weapons: Any one-handed.
Special Abilities: Bard songs, charm ability, some Thief abilities (see below).
Saving Throws: As Thief of same level.
THAC0: As Thief of same level.
Thief Abilities: Any bard can use the following abilities as a thief of the same level- Climb Walls, Hear Noise, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, subject to penalties for wearing heavier armour.
Weapon Mastery: Begin with two weapon choices; additional choices as per other non-fighter classes. An extra choice per 200,000 XP gained after level 36.

Higher Experience Levels:

Land-Owning Bards

Name-level bards may construct a conservatory (which can be in any form, such as a building in a town, a tower, or anything that strikes the bard's fancy - but the bard must finance the construction), which will attract 1d8 first level bards, who wish to add to their repertoire. They will be loyal, but will not sacrifice themselves for the PC, who will have to replace them if they leave or are killed. At a conservatory a Name-level bard may teach novices, research new spell-songs, store the lore of heroes, or learn of unsung epic deeds from travelling bards (see below). For many smaller towns, conservatories are a source of information on great historical events and people, as well as legends.

Land owning bards are also required, by the unspoken code of their trade, to provide shelter to any travelling bard who needs it, as well as allow such visitors to avail themselves of any historical lore that is available. In most cases this is beneficial to both bards - the traveller gets a place to stay for a while, and the host gains news from the outside world and can provide his or her students with another teacher for a while.

Travelling Bards

If a Name-level bard chooses to become a travelling bard, they may never decide to construct a conservatory afterwards. Travelling bards have a chance (once per month) of learning of epic deeds for which no song has been written. This is in the form of rumours or chance encounters, and this provides opportunities for them to meet great heroes and travel with them for a while, earning some experience along the way while composing an appropriate tribute. Travelling bards may also take refuge in any conservatory they find, and use the resources therein to further their own studies, but they must repay the hospitality by offering to assist in the teaching any students that might be there.

Demihuman Bards

As with certain other classes, demihumans (elves, dwarves, halflings, and the like) may become bards. The notes below discuss the rules associated with each race in terms of their advancement and saving throws. Special thanks to Marco Dalmonte for assisting me with this section.


Dwarven bards advance and save as dwarves equal to their level. A dwarven bard cannot also be a cleric. Upon reaching 10th level, the dwarf may choose either to continue advancing as a dwarf (and thereby he or she will gain the dwarven fighter options and abilities, but will not progress further as a bard), or as a bard (and thereby will continue to improve his or her bardic abilities, but will not gain the fighting abilities normally available to dwarves at higher levels).


Elven bards advance as normal elves until 10th level, after which they may, as per standard rules, advance as an elf mage (and increase their magical powers, but not their bardic or fighting abilities), an elf lord (improving their fighting skills while their bardic and magical powers do not advance), or as an elf bard (bardic abilities continue to improve, but fighting and magical abilities do not).


Halfling bards advance as thieves, and will gain the racial immunities normally available to them at higher levels, when their experience point total is the amount required for obtaining them. They will not gain the special fighter abilities normally available to halflings.

Lupins and Rakastas

These two races can also be bards, in fact, there are several good kits to use with these races if you use the AD&DTM rules system. If you are using the D&DTM rules, then both of these races use the experience tables given for their race, as well as saving throws, until 10th level. After this point, the player may choose to advance as a bard, using the normal experience table for that race, but forgoing any further racial benefits in exchange for further progression in spell-song use. The other alternative is to continue using the racial experience table, while foregoing any further advances in spell-song use, and charm abilities.