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Bardic Spells

by Carl Quaif

The following is a selection of spells and "spellsongs" for a possible magic-using Bard class. Please note that I put this together before reading Geoff & Marco's fantastic OD&D Bard class article; I can't begin to equal that work, but I'm presenting my (very) simple reworking of Bruce's version here for completeness' sake.

Bards and Minstrels:

The Robrenn Bard class, as detailed in Dragon Magazine #177, was a welcome addition to the range of classes for OD&D; nevertheless, the thing I missed most in this version was the ability to cast spells - the progressively-stronger Charm ability just wasn't enough. However, the very next issue of Dragon provided us with a solution; the Eusdrian Elves' capability to adopt specific other classes, while (in most cases) retaining their innate magical powers.

Extrapolating (as others have) from this basis, I ruled in my campaign that Elves could become Bards whilst still possessing their Magic-User spells. Working on the Forester example, I also decided that Humans (and Half-Elves) could follow the same route. This version of the Bard class, IMC, is even rarer than the Bruce Heard version - the Bardic College, based in Eusdria, numbers less than twenty members at present - and requires half again the experience points of a normal Elf to advance a level. I set the limit for advancement in magic at 10th Level (as per Elves and Foresters), although Bards can ultimately advance to 20th level (the Highest level Bard IMC, an Elf known as Master Horolo, is only 15th level at present).

The following are spells researched, or adapted, by Bards IMC. Some are traditional "cast" spells, with some musical content; others, like Moonlight Shadow and The Sound of Silence, are Spellsongs, which are cast by singing and playing a musical instrument. These are "memorised" like normal spells, although they can be played (without magical effect) as normal songs as often as desired once the Spellsong has been "discharged". A Bard may learn any Magic-User spell of the requisite level (at the DM's discretion).

NB: if you dislike the thought of Bards using magic, these spells may instead be utilised by Minstrels, ordinary Elves (or perhaps Human Magic-Users) with musical talents. Ymarien, the Callarii Elf who created the Signature spell "Ymarien's Choir", is a Minstrel (although I may make her a Bard, following the above formula). Likewise, if you prefer to adopt Marco Dalmonte and Geoff Gander's truly excellent Bard class for OD&D, feel free to use the spells outlined below as you desire, altering them to fit the concept as necessary.

Moonlight Shadow
Level: 1
Range: 50'
Duration: 1d4 Turns
Effect: deepens surrounding shadows
This Spellsong may only be cast on a moonlit night, or in daytime in an area with considerable shadow. The Bard calls to the shadows, causing them to deepen and thicken imperceptibly over a period of 1d6 rounds. The Spellsong affects an area of roughly 30' diameter. Once complete, the shadowy area grants the Bard (or a Thief or Rake) +25% to his Hide in Shadows roll, or provides a flat 25% chance for non-Thief classes to Hide in Shadows.

The area of effect for this spell increases by 5' diameter, and the Hide roll by 5%, for every three levels of the Bard, to a maximum of 60' diameter and 55% chance at 19th level. The range, duration, and casting time are unchanged.

The Sound of Silence
Level: 2
Range: 60'
Duration: see below
Effect: Neutralises sound within 20' diameter area
This Spellsong, a variation on the Clerical Silence 15' Radius spell, causes an area of absolute silence to come into being. The Bard may select an area, or a person, to centre the spell on; if the latter, the zone of silence moves with them. Spellcasting is impossible within the area of effect. The zone persists only as long as the Bard plays; the spell is cancelled if the Bard stops, the person moves beyond the maximum range for the spell, or the target moves to encompass the Bard in the silent area. Consequently, A Bard using this Spellsong will remain safely at the rear of the party, letting his companions fight.

Needles and Pins
Level: 2
Range: 80'
Duration: 1 round
Effect: a spray of magical needles
This spell, the Bardic version of Magic Missile, requires a handful of pine needles, wooden splinters, or wood/bone/metal sewing needles as the focus. The Bard trills a short musical phrase (no instrument is required), causing the affected items to glow and rise into the air; thereafter, they may be mentally commanded to fire towards and strike any foes within range. The Needles and Pins hit automatically, causing 1d2 damage each; the spell enchants 1d6 missiles for every two levels of the caster, assuming enough needles are available.

Those material components which are actually enchanted are destroyed in the casting, whether or not they are used.

Light Flight
Level: 3
Range: 10'
Duration: 3 Turns
Effect: creates a globe of light
This Spellsong creates a free-floating globe of light measuring 6" across, which gives off radiance equivalent to a Light spell, within 10' of the caster. This globe will automatically follow the caster (like a Floating Disk). The Bard may cause the light to move around at his will by playing his instrument, to a maximum distance of 80' away. When the music stops, the globe will slowly drift back into its original position.

This spell is useful underground to allow the party to see further than normal, and also to trick possible ambushers into thinking the party is closer than it is.

Into the Gap
Level: 5
Range: 50'
Duration: see below
Effect: opens pit beneath living target
This spell requires a drum, of any size or type, as the focus. The spell is cast to the sound of the fast-beating drum (played either by the bard, or some other member of her party). At the final word, the drum is struck very hard, and a pit, 8' long/8' wide/20' deep, magically appears beneath the chosen target(s). The target must roll under Dexterity or fall into the pit, taking 1d6 damage in the fall. The walls of the pit are so sheer and slick that even a Thief is unable to climb out so, unless able to escape by magical means, the target is stuck until freed by others.

So long as a single living being is still within the pit, it will remain open indefinitely; the moment all living creatures have left its confines by whatever means, the pit vanishes. "Living", in this context, includes animate, artificial creatures such as Living Statues and Golems, or Undead, such as Zombies, Vampires etc.

The spell will not work if the ground beneath the target is not solid (i.e. the second floor of a tower, the deck of a boat, or a patch of land above a mine). The drum is not consumed in the casting, and may be used indefinitely.

Shadow on the Wall
Level: 5
Range: 20'
Duration: 1 Turn
Effect: summons Shadows
This spell requires bright light, which must cause the Bard (and others) to cast a shadow - a Light Flight spell will do. Cast like a normal Mage spell, this dweomer requires only a discordant tone - a twanged guitar, for instance, or a sour note on a flute - to activate it. This "activation" may occur at any time up to 1 Turn after the spell is cast.

The spell summons up to three Shadows (see the Rules Cyclopaedia for stats) to fight for the caster - one each from any humanoid shadow. If there are less than three humanoids within range, the spell summons the maximum number it can. The Shadows fight fearlessly for the Bard until destroyed, or until the spell expires. The Bard does not have to concentrate to maintain the spell, and may move and fight as normal.