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The Bard

This document provides suggestions and insights into how to translate the ideas of the Bard class from the source material into Pathfinder Fate Accelerated.

"Bards capably confuse and confound their foes while inspiring their allies to ever-greater daring. While accomplished with both weapons and magic, the true strength of bards lies outside melee, where they can support their companions and undermine their foes without fear of interruptions to their performances."

Archetype Considerations

Due to the diversity of the bardic concept, choice of Archetypes for a given individual bard is also diverse.

Generally speaking, when defining a character in Pathfinder Fate Accelerated that you envision falling into the "bard" category, you might start out by asking yourself:

Am I trying to adhere to the conception of a bard put forth in a specific version of the source material, or am I doing my own thing?

If the answer is "doing my own thing", you should also ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is my character more of a musician or a loremaster?
  2. Is my character more of a front-line combatant or a team supporter?
  3. Is my character a spellcaster, and if so what kind?

Celtic Hero And Master Of Lore

A player trying to make a more 1e AD&D style bard would start off with Combative and Roguish, and perhaps Primal +1.

Then, over the course of three to five major milestones, crank up Primal to at least +3 to gain druidic spell casting.

Musically Talented Gish

A player trying to make a more 2e AD&D style bard would start off with Combative +1, Roguish +1, Arcane +2, or Roguish +2, Arcane +2, and a Stunt to augment the use of Roguish for physical conflicts.

As major milestones pass, spread Archetype bonuses around evenly.

Magical Minstrel Cheerleader

A player trying to make a 3e D&D style bard would start off with Arcane +3, Focused +1, and several Stunts to cover bardic performance and bardic knowledge.

The Jack-of-all-Trades

Another approach is to take Focused +4 and a Stunt called Jack-of-all-Trades, which allows a character to be able to do just about anything at the cost of burning Fate points.

Jack-of-all-Trades (-3): Because I am a jack of all trades who has studied an array of different crafts, during a scene I may spend a fate point as a free action to allow myself to use Focused as if it were any one other Archetype for the remainder of the scene. I may activate this ability multiple times per scene to use more than one Archetype, spending an additional fate point each time.

However, the number of Stunt slots the Stunt requires and the constant use of fate points imposes both a steep opportunity cost as well as a lack of sustainability.

The trick to making this sort of a character work is having a good Trouble that can reliably be compelled, such as Dangerously Curious, or Can't Mind My Own Business, or Danger Magnet.

Adriel is an adaptable adventurer mentored by a crusty crew of heroes in many things, including the art of the blade, magic, druidic lore, and the way of the dodgy path.

Competent and capable, she seeks a grand destiny promised to her by an aged druid.

Doing My Own Thing

A player striking off on their own is free to mix and match their Archetypes to suit their concept.

One option is to go the dilettante route of Combative +1, Roguish +1, Focused +1, and either Arcane +1 or Primal +1.

This offers a wide base of basic ability, and is easy to build on as major milestones accrue.

Nomis is a rebelious son of a barbarian champion, and a bit of a dilettante. A lover rather than a fighter, quick to make friends instead of enemies, glib of tongue and verse.

Nomis would rather carouse than conflict, but unfortunately he seems to be marked by destiny to live an interesting life, blown upon the winds of fortune into high adventure and derring do.

Orlo is an arrogant scion of a nearly extinct line claiming Azlanti heritage. Born with a rare mystical gift to see divinitory signs, and bearing a powerful magical sword that has been in his family for generations, he is well along on a personal journey to find a wife of unsullied lineage.

As he gains in experience Orlo might further develop his latent magical abilities and improve his warrior skills.

Approach Considerations

Very few bards are Forceful as they typically prefer finesse and subtlety. However, a more aggressive or take charge bard might buck the general trend.

Sample Iconics

Nomis, Orlo, Adriel

Starting Archetype Sets

Gish

Combative +1, Roguish +1, Arcane +2

Dilettante

Combative +1, Roguish +1, Focused +1, ??? +1

Jack-of-all-Trades

Focused +4

First edition AD&D

Back in the days of first edition AD&D, bards were basically what we would now think of as a "prestige class" for dual classed fighter / bards with unreasonably high (and randomly rolled!) characteristics across the board.

Further, when they finally got spell casting abilities their spells were druidic.

Celtic concepts of the bard as loremaster and mentor to heroes was the strongest fictional influence.

If you ever actually encountered a bard, they were most likely a higher leveled and very competent individual who was not to be underestimated or trifled with. Often they were agent provocateurs, or spies, or in positions of power as honored advisors to rulers.

Second edition AD&D

This edition normalized bards as a standard class, and presented them as a thief / wizard hybrid with some special sing-songy abilities, bardic lore, and a broad selection of weapon proficiencies.

Bards still required high stats to play, but not quite as badly as in 1e, and as a base class offering a sort of cherry picked assortment of the best features of three other classes it wasn't a bad way to go.

Further, thanks to the special quirkiness of this edition's asymmetrical experience points per level chart and the fact that bards used the fastest advancing track in the game (rogues), min maxing the bard's spellcasting to choose spells that got better based upon the caster's level allowed bards to be even more effective spell casters than an equivalently experienced wizard in certain situations.

And to top it off, some of the "kits" offered for bards were also pretty advantageous. It was a good time to be a bard.

When you met a bard, you were likely dealing with an effective "gish" character with a dangerously broad array of abilities who should not be underestimated.

Third edition D&D

In this edition bards were presented as more of a magical minstrel know-it-all, emphasizing the bardic performance and lore elements of the concept.

Casting like sorcerers with a custom spell list of mixed quality (but perhaps in a nod to the 1e druidic bard, offering healing spells to an arcane caster), generally oriented towards buffing and team-support effects, and not really viable as backup martial characters past the lower levels due to base attack and hitpoint shortfalls.

Further, due to the changes in the skill system which allowed characters of all classes to be skilled in various things, aside from the wildcard of their special "bardic lore" ability, the skill element of the bard concept was also devalued.

And changes (for the better!) to multiclassing took away the special niche bards enjoyed in 2e as a hybrid collection of useful class features; jokes were famously made (such as Nale vs Elan in Order of the Stick) about playing a fighter / sorcerer / rogue instead of a bard.

Pathfinder revised the bard a bit, but the basic issues remained.

When you met a bard, you were likely dealing with an underpowered support character with weird quirks, and often portrayed (rightly or wrongly) as a buffoon or a fop.

Diverging From Source Material

Perhaps more than any other class concept, the source materials' conception of the bard has changed quite a bit over the years, with each new edition of the rules presenting a significantly different take.

The underlying elements of the bard concept have generally included a martially competent, skilled, secondary spell caster.

Additional themes are a high degree of knowledge (or "lore") in a variety of subjects, and a mystically powerful voice as evinced by entrancing music or oratory abilities.

The good news is, in Pathfinder Fate Accelerated you are free to express your character concept however you like, baring GM veto.

Don't feel obligated to don a straightjacket of slavish devotion to source material; you are free to be creative, assign your pluses, and define your character's Aspects and Stunts in a way that realizes your "bard" concept.

Bards are stereotypically Clever and often flamboyantly Flashy.

Some bards are notably Quick, and a few who practice skulduggery or espionage are Sneaky and Careful.

Stunts

The following Stunts are offered as samples that might be relevant for some bards.

However, bard characters are so diverse any given bard might find any given Stunt of use. A variety of Stunts are available for browsing.

And, of course, the best Stunts are those that are tailor made to fit your concept...so don't hesitate to come up with your own or work with your GM to define something that is "just right" for your character. See the Stunt options document for ideas on how to do this.

Socially Intelligent Entertainers

Many bards are educated (or can fake it), observant, keen of wit, understanding of the nuances of interpersonal communication, know how to work a crowd, and how to blend in. Some bards are well connected, others excel at making fast friends whereever they might find themselves, and still others have a knack for finding wealthy patrons.

Alertness: Because I am unusually alert and perceptive I gain +2 while Focused to notice things.

Aristocrat: Because I am the heir to an aristocratic line with history entangled with a nation state, ruling dynasty, or region I am afforded respect, deference, and access to those in power far exceeding anything justified by my own merit. The benefit of this is tied to the political influence and power of whatever land or people my lineage is attached to and in some situations can even be a compellable hindrance; GM's discretion applies.

Can't We Find A Way To 'Work This Out' Non-violently?: Because I am able to appeal to the baser instincts of most people and appear extremely 'likeable', I'm good at avoiding unwanted conflict and changing the nature of interaction from physical conflict to a mental and social contest. I gain +2 whenever I attempt to avoid or end a conflict via non-violence.

Charming And Coy: Because I am adept at manipulating social situations to my benefit, I gain +1 when I am Roguish and engage in a social challenge, contest, or conflict.

Deceitful: Because I am so deceitful, I get +2 when I am Cleverly Roguish and create advantage or overcome challenges where my smooth patter applies.

Friendly Diplomacy: Because I am charmingly friendly to almost everyone and am good at making friends and calming situations down, I gain +2 whenever I attempt to avoid or end a conflict via non-violence, keep the peace, or improve the 'mood of the room'.

Morale Boosting Performance: Because I am a naturally gifted performer, I gain +2 when I am Flashily Focused and create subtle advantages affecting morale or mental states, or help others overcome challeges by motivating them, when I am able to make music. I can also make long journeys less boring when stealth is not required, and make some spare coin performing at taverns and such.

Seductive Domination: Because I have the ability to take control of the minds of others by seducing them, while I am Sneakily Focused I can employ a vaneer of seduction or other predatory social wiles against a living target in my zone that I am in close contact with. Each exchange I continue my seduction I may make mental attacks against the target. Consequences inflicted by this ability pertain to my gaining increasing control over the target's mind. If the target concedes to me, the target must do as I command in general but retains enough control to avoid doing anything fundamentally against their nature (i.e. they may resist one of my commands if they have a relevant Aspect). If the target is taken out with this ability I assume full control of the target's behavior until they are able to recover from the Consequences. This is a mind-affecting ability.

This stunt requires Focused +3 or better to use.

Sense Deceit: Because I am so skilled at sensing people's true motives, I gain +2 when I am Cleverly Roguish and attempt to discern if I am being deceived or tricked.

Graced Existence

Many bards seem to enjoy a graced existence, more fortunate than they have any right to be, favored by fate, destined for greater things, or blessed with dumb luck.

Better Lucky Than Good: Because I am unusually lucky, whenever I make a 4dF resolution roll and the result is 0 0 0 0 (all blanks) I treat the outcome as if I had rolled + + + + (all pluses).

Charmed Existence: Because I lead a charmed existence, whenever I roll - - - - (all minuses) on 4dF I treat it as if I rolled 0 0 0 0 (all blanks).

Close Call: Because I excel at getting out of really bad situations, I can spend a fate point to concede after I already rolled to defend (normally a concession must be made instead of rolling to defend).

Fated Fortune: Because I thrive under pressure, when I spend a fate point to invoke one of my Aspects I gain a +3 bonus instead of a +2 bonus.

Favored By Fortune: Because I am unusually lucky, I add +1 shift to my total whenever I make a 4dF resolution roll and there are no minuses (-) in the result.

Nothing Succeeds Like Success (-3): Because nothing succeeds like success, when I succeed with style and gain a boost I may upgrade that boost to a situational Aspect on myself called On A Roll! with two (2) invokes on it. If the Aspect is already active, I instead add two (2) more free invokes to it. The Aspect is removed at the end of the scene.

Slip Away (-2): Because I am excellent at getting away with it and slipping away unseen, if there is a momentary distraction or opportunity I may spend a Fate point to immediately exit the scene by means appropriate to the narrative such as slippling away into a crowd, or through a hidden door to a secret escape hatch I happened to know about, or by using a magic item I happened to have, etc. I cannot be pursued in the current scene.

Sublime Expertise (-2): Because I am extremely skilled and rarely blunder, whenever I make a 4dF roll I treat any result of less than 0 as -1.

Thrive Under Pressure: Because I thrive under pressure, when I spend a fate point to invoke one of my Aspects to gain a +2 bonus on an action before I roll, if I succeed with style I get the fate point back immediately instead of gaining a boost.

Universal Linguist: Because I have a special ability with languages, I can fluently speak and understand any spoken language I encounter.

Wheeler Dealer: Because I excel at talking my way into and out of situations and making deals, I gain +2 while Cleverly Roguish in social situations.

No Stranger To The Blade

Though most bards tend to prefer non-violent resolutions, many bards are nonetheless adept with some manner of weapon, or can otherwise account for themselves when steel is drawn.

Duelist: Because I am skilled at the art of using weapons such as thinblades, foils, rapiers, epees, sabres, and stilettos (i.e, 'dueling' weapons), I am a surprisingly effective combatant when armed appropriately. Though my fighting style remains agile and even acrobatic at times, when armed with an appropriate weapon I can use Focused in place of Combatives in armed physical conflicts.

Forbidding Presence: Because I present a very intimidating and stern visage while emanating a frightenting aura, I gain +1 when being Flashy and attempting to frighten or demoralize.

Impressive Reflexes: Because I have excellent reflexes, I gain +1 while Quickly attacking.

Riposte: Because even my defense is dangerous, whenever I am Flashily Focused and defend with style against a physical melee attack while wielding a dueling weapon I may use the boost to inflict a single point of stress on my attacker, immediately, as a free action.

Tumbler: Because I am excellent at acrobatically flipping around and tumbling, if I am in a conflict and do nothing in an exchange except move, I may move an additional zone and I am unobstructed by minor obstacles that I can tumble around or flip over. If I am in a contest involving me running away from something or avoiding capture, I gain +1 to overcome while I am Quick.

Magically Adept

Some bards are more than merely mundane, having one or more mystical abilities that mark them out above the common man.

Arcane Senses: Because I have developed my arcane senses to impressive heights, I may use Arcane instead of Focused to notice or perceive things and I can sense things that require mystical awareness to detect.

This stunt requires Arcane +1 or better to use.

Heed Me!: Because I have a magical knack that allows me to augment my spoken voice with enchanting magics I may use Arcane for social interactions if I can talk and my target can hear me. I am resisted by Arcane when I do so. This is a form of mind-affecting magic.

This stunt requires Arcane +1 or better to use.

Mage Armor Knack: Because I have a minor magical knack, I can create advantage while Carefully Arcane vs an Average (+1) difficulty to apply the Aspect Mage Armor to myself. While this Aspect is active I gain +2 when defending against physical or damaging magical attacks. This Aspect may also be invoked to offer additional protection when defending from physical or magical harm. This Aspect can be overcome and removed as a Superb (+5) difficulty by those with Arcane +3 or higher.

This stunt requires Arcane +1 or better to use.

Secret Signs: Because I have an unusual mystical talent I sometimes see signs, portents, and sigils that provide me with information about the present or near future that I could not possibly know otherwise. I gain +2 while I am Focused and create advantage when I attempt to discover or notice some detail, fact, Aspect, or truth about the scene, or a person or group in it, even if it would not normally be possible for me to know or detect this information with merely mundane senses.

Willful Invisibility: Because I can turn invisibile at will, if I do not attack or create advantage in an exchange I may place the situational Aspect 'Invisible' on myself as a free action that takes no time before or after my normal action. If I attack or create advantage while invisible, this Aspect is immediately removed and I become visibile for at least one (1) exchange before I am able to use this ability to become invisible again. My innate invisibility can be temporarily neutralized by those with unusual senses or magic or special items creating an applicable advantage; the difficulty to do so is Superb (+5). It can also be overcome and thus removed by some abilities that explicitly counter invisibility or dispel magic; the difficulty to do so is Fantastic (+6).

Spellcasting

Bard spellcasters might be interested in Arcanist, Primordial, or Deific Stunts.

As explained in the simple magic guidelines, Pathfinder Fate Accelerated allows characters with Arcane, Divine, or Primal of +3 and higher to cast spells.

Some sample spell write-ups are available.

If you plan on playing a spellcasting bard, you should familiarize yourself with the simple magic guidelines at a minimum, and you might want to glance over various available magic options to see if anything catches your interest.

Free Casting vs Prepared Casting

Pathfinder Fate Accelerated allows free casting by default, but some players might prefer their bard to be a Prepared Caster; see the magic options guidelines for more information.

Spellcasting Stunts

You should consult the Sorcerer, Wizard, Witch, Druid, or Cleric class translation documents for ideas and a wide selection of relevant arcanist feats. However, the following feats are simple and possibly appealing to a mystical dabbler such as a bard.

Hedge Arcanist: Because I practice a more ancient form of Arcane magic that remains connected to the natural world, while Arcane I can cast spells that replicate effects that are usually the province of Primal. Further, I may also add my Primal capability modifier as a bonus to my roll when I do so.

This stunt requires Primal +1 or better to use.

Herbal Lore: Because I know the secrets of many plants, when I am Carefully Arcane I may create a potion, poultice, or poison using magics that are normally the domain of Primal, and I may add my Primal capability modifier (if any) as a bonus. Additionally, I can identify mundane poisons, provide simple remedies for headaches and minor mundane illnesses, embellish prepared food, and other such things when my herbal lore is relevant.

Scroll Scrivener: Because I have mastered the art of scribing scrolls, I can be Cleverly Arcane and prepare 'spell completion' items as scrolls or similar items for specific spell effects that I can cast. I can later cast the inscribed spell (using the simple magic system guidelines) from the item, gaining a bonus in the process. Other characters with Arcane +1 or better can also use my scrolls. I can also stockpile unused scrolls, as well as use scrolls inscribed by others. Unless explicitly denied means and opportunity, I can prepare a number of new scrolls ready for use equal to my Arcane capability each day.