~ If I Can’t Dance, Then I Don’t Want Any Part of Your Revolution ~
(song by Sophie Ellis-Baxtor)
This article is brought to you in part by a meme on twitter….
So my answer was ‘Bard’ [because I will never shut up] of course! And now I am here, talking to you about bards because I love them so much.
D&D is a years held pastime that kickstarted me into getting involved in all sorts of fun TTRPGs in general, expanding past it. For this article, I will be starting my explorations of bard concepts from a D&D standpoint and then branch out to concepts that would be befitting of different systems or are just open enough concepts to adapt to anything. At the end, I’ll feature a couple of my friends’ bard concepts too to join our party.
My first (and only thus far) bard was played in a D&D 5th edition game that ran from 2017-2018. The story followed a band of space pirates taking part of a grand adventure and leading revolutions with their unpredictable and often good deeds. They traveled planet to planet.
Nova Pyxis was a lionfolk bard, a cowardly lion if you will, from a strange planet where he lived with his 13 “siblings” of a troupe. This troupe is all adopted and led by the pantherfolk* named Argus who teaches new bards how to play a multitude of instruments. The siblings were varied different anthro-animal like characters that I designed alongside their home, the ‘Electric Chapel.’ The ‘Chapel’ is roughly restored from the ruins of an old elven church.
(*he is actually a werepanther using a potion to stay at a 50/50 neutralized form.)
Now don’t ask me to remember everyones names and specific instruments I once knew back in 2018. That’s a lot of bards. Shout out to my DM R who handled it superbly when we got to the backstory / visiting home arc for each player character. To top it off, Nova fell in love with a tigerfolk bard who visited his planet named Sunstar. They’re long lost lovers now, a little different than the usual “horny bard” played by a lot of people. Which is fun in it’s own regard too. I played a hopeless romantic that sang of his lost love when in private (but overheard by some of the other players’ characters.)
Getting the experience of parodying my favorite Oingo Boingo and other songs into versions befitting for our campaign is a good memory I like keeping. Playing and singing these songs made me fall in love with bards in general. I highly recommend getting that involved with a character, and becoming them. It makes for a great game. It is thrilling to get to perform in front of your friends and a small, comforting D&D session is a perfect place to try out your own literal performance skill.
Character design is a heavy passion of mine. Now, bards are something I love a lot for some pretty good reasons I’ll list now before we start diving into the concepts. Taking from my tweet threads where I info dumped about bards, here are my favorite reasons why I love bards:
- They are an excuse to shove your art, music, lyric, word, or something else creative into your TTRPG experience.
- That same creativity can summon great magic and do astounding things in any setting.
- You make the mundane magical.
- More social solutions to problems are available.
- If not very social, can solve things with your craft/performance.
- Can be a healer and a fighter depending on spells taken. Utility!
- Are the essence of the romantic hero in my own personal opinion. I think that can really fall under any class if you really make it work. Bards serve as my own favorite to play as a hero archetype or follower of heroes. Playing an evil one would be fun though too, I’d love to try that out at some point.
You can make them anything. Bards are the most free-form class there is, and I’ll show you with some cool concepts here today for your next potential character!
The Painter Bard –
I plan to play this one for the next chance I get when it feels right to play them. They ideally would be a peacock anthro that uses their numerous tail feathers as “paintbrushes.” They like to decorate anything and everything. This bard especially likes doing street art or sculpting things out of nothing. They are on a quest to find the fabled “Mana Paintbrush” and want to become the best artist by wielding what could create life itself from their own creativity.
The Chef Bard –
This bard is an example of a way you can branch out away from visual or musical art. Culinary art is just as much of an art as anything else. This concept was played by an old friend from the same campaign I played Nova Pyxis in. It was fun having a party with two different types of bards that stood out as two entirely different characters. He had dishes he could cook before going off adventuring for the day that could give him buffs in battle. They’d be glorious things he could come up with, like rocksalt lobster, stew, etc. He also would be able to experiment for buff food options by trying new ingredients found along the journey. Weapons at his side included a large frying pan, and this bard was much more of a tank when in action.
The Metal Bard –
A voice hurling, or guitar shredding, or both kind of bard would be good for a modern magic setting but I fully believe one could make it work in an old world style setting too. I imagine them to have a love for gothic attire and have a penchant for sticking their long tongue out when they scream-sing. Maybe a Dragonborn/folk, Kobold, Yuan-ti/Snake person, or a Chameleon anthro type character could make it look cool. Or just a regular human with an abnormally long tongue. Either way, they’d have good options for stunning people either on stage or in combat with their voice. And I love power metal so one of those high-pitch reaching singers is just superb to think about as a character to play. Oh and the guitar has to be an axe. Them’s the rules.
The Techno Bard –
This one would be fitting for a super future, cyberpunk or Shadowrun type game. Where you run your character with big speakers, huge headphones and their performances could shake the sound barrier. I’d also imagine them being one to put “new beats” on an enemy’s computer, loaded with a virus or trojan attached to it to ruin their tech once it starts playing on the system. They might also be Daft Punk inspired too with a cool visor or helmet that obscures their face.
The Kobold Bard –
This concept was a personal request from my girlfriend so here we go. I imagine the Kobold bard to be someone that yips and yaps like a cat singing on a fence, but much louder. Anywhere they go and sing their songs, other kobolds are sure to follow. Animals tend to follow this bard in a line anywhere they yip and sing. I think an ocarina or flute would fit them, taking inspiration from the Breman Mask in ‘The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask’ (2000.) The Kobold bard is proudly singing the song of their people. Lastly, a nice touch would be that they carry either maracas or a tambourine with their tail.
The Firedancer Bard –
This is one I am taking from one of the concepts I used for a troupe “sibling” of Nova’s. This firey bard would be a juggler, eater, and dancer with flame. They live and breathe the energy of the fire of life. They sing while dancing, doing chants typically. Firedancing is a highly dangerous skill, they would accentuate this by also throwing flaming knives at their enemies. The bard can also use confusing illusion magic that makes use of fire as a component. The fire could change colour, distract some, and entertain most. I’d imagine they’d have bells tied around their ankles and wrists that glitter in the firelight. Oh, and firebreathing could be a big aspect of their attacks too. You could do firebreathing with almost any character with just a box of matches and a small bottle of flammable fluid to spit out during combat.
The Poet Bard —
I imagined this bard would be very quiet, and never speak without rhyming. They keep to themselves writing in a little black book with a ribbon in it, furiously, all the time as they express themselves to themselves in response to anything external happening to them. When the time is right, and only then — they are a non-verbal autistic most of the time — they speak their rhymes and weave their worries away with the power of spoken word. They whisper spells into the ears of people to cast them, and they commonly help people sleep who take shelter in the community centers of the big magical city they live in. Everyone appreciates a good calm poem or story. And, this character could work for a rather shy player who might not know bards can be introverted too.
That’s all I’ve got in me today, folks. Next I will feature some great concepts by some of my friends, these are their wonderful bards that I love very dearly~
Bards bards bards. They’re fun, versatile, easily interpreted to make any wild concept work, and bring life to every party they are in. Did you have a favorite from today’s creations?
Keep it creative folks! I’ll see you next time I get hyperfocused on bards again. It’s sure to happen so look forward to part two, and if you end up using any of these concepts, please let me know! I’d love to see your beautiful bards.