the absolute FIRST thing you have to do, regardless if you are looking forward to a bardic life or not, is decide why you are playing a bard.. how long will you be playing this character, what do you want to get out of it. are you a multi-TR burning thru each life as fast as possible and you’ll see 20th long enough to walk from the trainer to the lifeshaper and all you need is a bard life? i would joke and say this blog isn’t for you, cuz i love me some bards… but i will say this… for you, the important things are the milestones… and the fact that the only class that comes before bard when figuring which class icon is showing and what past life you get, is barbarian. you could do a 10/10 split, and unless the other class is barb, the bard will take precedence. Bards get haste and displacement at 7th, DD and FoM at 10th, GH at 13, and otto’s irresistible at 16. also of note, with the addition of “Heal” to the bardic spell list via “Maestro of Life and Death”, there is now no UMD check whatsoever for any bard 16th or higher scrolling “Heal”. take these facts into consideration as you make your plans.
if you want to actually experience the bard class, you then have to ask again… what do you want to get out of it? previously you typically had to chose between being a good caster (keeping in mind that bards are NOT damage casters, even if pure) and being a good combatant. Caster focused meant pure bard and max charisma, combative usually (but not always) splashed and went high strength while comparatively dumping charisma. PDK has eased that choice a bit with the ability to use charisma to hit and damage with certain weapons, but not everyone wants to play a horc with a weird-lookin human face. another newer consideration with the enhancement pass is throwing in a level of cleric or FvS for divine might, and i must admit, that one is tasty. adding your charisma bonus to your strength almost feels like it’s MADE for a bard… if you can remember to click that button every minute, and aren’t like me who gets easily dis… oh look! something shiny! *pounce*
what was i talking about again?
oh right. bards.
it’s kind of hard to describe how best to build a bard, when there’s so many different tacks to take, so i’ll leave more detailed description for either direct questions, or future articles.
PLAYING a bard…
first: don’t let the naysayers get you down. bards, while in need of some love, are still awesome.
second: fascinate is your “oh s***” button. learn it, love it. PRACTICE with it… so you learn how long it takes to sing it. it is not instant… it takes several seconds to sing it, and starting too late can be the difference between pulling victory from the jaws of defeat and a complete wipe. most PUGs don’t understand fascinate at all, so it’s unlikely to get much use except as the “oh s***, save the day” button if you PUG alot… but in a static or semi static group, or solo… fascinate is a beautiful thing. *
third: play to your strengths. technically this applies to any class, but some people seem to forget that when they think about bards as they have a preconceived notion of what a bard is and is not. decide how you want to play, build for it, gear for it, play it… own it.
* about fascinate: fascinate is potentially the strongest trash-stopper in the game. it is trivial how easy it is to get a sky-high DC even on a “dumped” charisma bard. the DC is based on performance ranks not levels like most DC based skills, abilities, and spells. in theory a single level of bard is enough for EE capable fascination DCs if one remembers to keep perform maxed.
fascinate vs enthrall: enthrall is a very nice ability in the spellsinger tree. it has the same DC as your fascinate, and works basically the same, however, it has two added benefits… 1. it has a (small) chance to NOT break when you hit the mob. this benefit is mostly negligible, but it’s nice when a stray greataxe hit doesn’t instantly break the other mob you weren’t *quite* ready to deal with, and 2. enthralled enemies suffer a -2 penalty to attack rolls and Will saves for 24 seconds plus 6 seconds per bard level, even after being disrupted from their reverie. it may not mean as much as it used to, but it’s still the equivalent of adding +2 to everyone’s AC AND their CC DCs… yes plz!
NOTE TO NON BARDS REGARDING FASCINATE: if you are running with a bard, and you get into an ‘over your head’ situation, and the bard suddenly starts singing… IGNORE your inclination to “hit everything and kill it all as fast as possible!”.. if you have a way to quickly draw agro (preferably without hitting things, but a quick cleave before the song is done playing can work too) try to use it to draw mobs off the bard so they don’t die before the song completes. if a mob is standing around with music notes over its head… DON’T HIT IT unless you are ready to fight it… it’s parked. take a breather. lol. when breaking fascinate… resist the urge to jump into the middle of the pack and cleave! this is a good way to 1. get yourself killed, as there might be a good reason the bard fascinated in the first place, 2. piss off the bard, you just wasted his/her song and time, and 3. get the bard killed, as everything agros the bard.