View Full Version : How do you make a decent bard?

2011-03-24, 11:11 AM
I'm running a game and will be getting an inexperienced player hopefully starting soon. She's expressed an interest in playing an elven bard/rogue - I'm happy with this as it will fit in nicely with the storyline I have currently. But I have yet to see a bard that was a halfway decent character.

She'll be starting at level 2 or 3 and will be roughly maintaining equal levels in bard and rogue as she advances. What would people recommend she starts at? and what should she aim to do as progressing? Virtually any books are available, though I might knock a few out depending on cheesiness.

Rest of party are:
human warmage
halforc barbarian
human cleric
kolbold ninja

any advice/suggestions?

2011-03-24, 12:31 PM
In my honest opinion, a bard/rogue build is a little less than optimal.

Because both classes have a lot of crossover, you have you ask yourself what exactly you're looking to gain from using both classes. Rogues get sneak attack progression along with the various Rogue talents, Bards get various music buffs and spell progression. To be effective at higher levels, you generally have to push towards one direction and not both: Towards that end, the Rogue abilities are better suited to dipping: You can always use stuff like trap sense, evasion and sneak attack, while low level bardic music buffs and magic don't really factor as you go up in level.

SO- If you wanted to go this route, my suggestion would be only go a few levels of Rogue- 3 Maximum. That will allow you to get the highest level bard spells, losing only Inspire confidence and inspire courage, while gaining you (if you go to 3 levels of Rogue) 2d5 sneak attack, trap finding, trap sense +1, evasion and some skill points.

2011-03-24, 12:44 PM
Dragonfire Inspiration + Leadership.

Well, Leadership or lots of warponies and Handle Animal.

Warponies, attack!

2011-03-24, 12:57 PM
The question is: what kind of Bard she wants do be? Buffer, debuffer, caster, warrior, diplomancer? Even if she wants to be a Jack of All Trades, there are better ways to do it. Rogue 10/Bard 10 is a poor option.

All in all, you must also consider the power level of your group. You do play with a Ninja and a Warmage. :smallbiggrin:

2011-03-24, 01:04 PM
If she's looking at playing a bard, I'd recommend having her ask herself what she wants to do with it, exactly, and then read The Bard Handbook (http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.php?topic=8284.0).

2011-03-24, 01:36 PM
You could do a Bard/Rogue Arcane Trickster or Unseen Seer...

2011-03-24, 02:21 PM
She'll be starting at level 2 or 3 and will be roughly maintaining equal levels in bard and rogue as she advances.

This is a pretty terrible idea and will just about ensure you continue not to see a useful Bard. At the least, she needs to be looking toward classes like Arcane Trickster and Unseen Seer that can help to blend the two.

You have two party members who primarily hit stuff and one more who is generally capable of hitting things, at least if your Cleric hasn't bought into the 'stand in back and heal' idea. So some basic Inspire Courage optimization would be helpful; get a wand of Inspirational Boost, put it in a Wand Chamber, and show her the Song of the Heart feat from the Eberron Campaign Setting. That'll put her Inspire Courage at +3, which at least guarantees a basic level of combat usefulness with a minimum of resources used. After that.. well, Bard/Rogue even split is still terrible, but you can be assured she'll never be entirely useless, even if all she practically does in a fight is make the Barbarian kill things harder.

2011-03-24, 03:32 PM
Looking at the party comp I'm going to make a guess that your players are not high optimization since you have both a ninja and a warmage. Neither are bad classes, just not something you usually see in high op games. That means that "power" is less of an issue, because frankly bard/rogue is a mechanically mediocre combo. Not saying she shouldn't play it, or that it's bad, just that it is mechanically weak, not a big deal.

There has been some advice posted already that is solid. If you're open to homebrew I have a suggestion.

Songs of Silence
Prerequisites: Bardic Music, 1d6 Sneak Attack.
Effect Your rogue and bard levels stack for the purposes of determining Sneak Attack dice, Inspire Courage bonus and Bardic Music uses per day.

Some people will probably point out that letting the feat add music per day is powerful, but on a class combo that is already mechanically questionable I don't think it would be a problem. Doubly so since it's being given to a new player who is not likely to be making any attempts to break the system. There are already similar feats for bard/warblade, Rogue/Swashbuckler, Ranger/Scout and I'm sure there are more I'm not thinking of at the moment.

A useful resource


Mostly I post that because it cites the Eberron bard alt feature. It lets you trade types of music (say, inspire competence) for a bardic music related feat such as song of the heart. This can give you some leeway to pick things like that up and still have feats for the other things you want to do.

Please please please note that when I am saying it is a mechanically weak combo, that's just a statement in regards to mechanical synergy. I've played more than my fair share of mechanically weak characters because the idea was cool and worked for me. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, and it isn't a reason to avoid a character.

Otherworld Odd
2011-03-24, 06:22 PM
I don't know if you use pathfinder sources at all or not (basically an updated 3.5. Everything is completely backwards compatible) but in the Advanced Players Guide there's an variant class for bards called Sandman Bard which is basically a blending of rogue and bard done for you. It's actually rather good and it would get rid of the awkward multiclassing.

2011-03-24, 07:41 PM
She'll be starting at level 2 or 3 and will be roughly maintaining equal levels in bard and rogue as she advances. What would people recommend she starts at?
If she really insists on doing it, then her first level should be rogue. The first level is front-loaded with all those skill points. You only get that big chunk of points at level 1; never again. So don't squander them on the bard. Save the bard for level 2.

Having said that, the bard class really does suck unless you're willing to stick with it and take time to learn how to optimize it well. As a DM, you'll need to be willing to give the bard some treasure such as a Badge of Valor. Since she'll be splitting her focus 50% rogue, 50% bard, the odds are good that you will continue to not see a good bard.

Bards get just barely decent spells as they level up. If you level up the bard more slowly, when they do get spells, they will be insufficient for the level of the group.

Having said that, if you must, here is what I suggest. Not more than 3 levels of rogue -- that gets you enough skill points to get synergies and other good stuff for the rogue skills, as well as 2d6 sneak attack & evasion. Also, focus on ranged attacks, not melee. You're creating a weak character, so keep it out of the fray. Spend feats on Rapid Shot & Precise Shot.

Because you'll be shortchanging the bard's spellcasting, consider the feats for Extra Music & Lyric Spell. That will allow the bard to regain some spells each day, on the fly, as needed.

Also, when creating the bard initially, avoid giving the bard one good magic item and nothing else (unless it's a Badge of Valor). Instead, since the bard is going to be hurting for spells, give the bard a plethora of low-charge wands & scrolls. This will have to be carefully done with foresight, as the bard will need to rely on this selection of scrolls for probably a few levels, to fill in the gaps. The spells should probably be utility spells that don't need to be cast in battle. Here are some suggestions.

Identify (note: more expensive than normal scrolls, as there is an expensive material component)
Alter Self
Disguise Self
Detect Thoughts
Animal Messenger
Comprehend Languages (cleric also has this)

2011-03-24, 08:34 PM
If you just want a bard with sneak attack, I'm going to second others' suggestions of an Unseen Seer build. Something like

Rogue 1/Bard 4/Unseen Seer 10/Arcane Trickster 5

Is a nice blending of the classes. Add in Sublime Chord if you need better spellcasting.

2011-03-24, 10:31 PM
Focus on social skills, bardic music, and interesting spells. Bards are fantastic, but they are easy to be mediocre with. For one, the ability to melee has to be built for from a few sources. Making inspire courage optimal also requires a variety of sources. Usually inexperienced players have little knowledge of how to use their variety of skills to the best of its ability, which is a bardic strength. And the bard has strong spells which are not always as straightforward as usual casters.

Find why she wants to be a bard. Considering she wants to be a bard/rogue, imagine skill monkey or simply roguish character? In either case, doing this is not optimal.

2011-03-24, 11:16 PM
I don't know if you use pathfinder sources at all or not (basically an updated 3.5. Everything is completely backwards compatible)

I don't know if I'd say that is strictly true: Rules wise the classes more or less work out, but Pathfinder tends to be more powerful than 3.5. Case in point, the Pathfinder Sorcerer, who is the 3.5 Sorcerer with additional class features.

2011-03-25, 10:55 AM
Thank you for this. think i might recommend her to play a specialised bard and direct her (and me) to the bard handbook.

cheers playgrounders!

Darth Stabber
2011-03-25, 11:12 AM
Bard and Rogue seem like they synergize well thematically, but as everyone else has stated it doesn't work mechanically. A level or two of fighter is great if you know what feats you NEED. Sublime Chord is great if you want moar spells. Rogue really only works for arcane trickster types, and wizard, sorc or beguiler would be better for that PRC than bard. Straight bard or bard/fighter would be my recommendation for low levels. If you use paladin of freedom (CG pally) you can get really good at saves with a 2 lvl dip. Unless the player really know what their doing, dips are dangerous. If the player insists on this folly, make sure they keep UMD high, and drop lots of spell completion items, otherwise this character is going to be a bit of a dud.