From the earliest days of pre-history, there have been people whose calling it has been to sing the songs of others’ deeds, keep record of the accomplishments of a culture and to contribute to the lore of a people. Different cultures have different names for these individuals: Minstrel, harpist, storyteller, skald. In the Islands, they are known as bards. Rare is the camp or village where a bard is unwelcome. The arrival of a bard is a treat for most and a few songs at the tavern (or around the campfire) will often earn him supper and a bunk. Among the more barbarian tribes, their bards sing and play to inspire the warriors in battle. A surprising number of these entertainers can be found away from the safety of towns and settlements. Many are simply traveling from one place to the next in pursuit of their trade; others are looking for a new tale to tell. Often bards will travel with adventurers in the hopes of composing a saga about great deeds and mighty battles. Sometimes the bard finds himself more than just an observer of events! In many ways, bards are the only source of news the average person has and they are often the means by which cultural lore and the king’s laws are passed down through the generations.

In the Known World, bards are entertainers but they also possess a unique talent: spell-songs. Bards must be able to at least sing (in a clear voice) or play their instrument in order to cast spells. Certain words and sound patterns have power in them and, if used properly, produce magical effects.

In a typical adventuring party, a bard is a competent fighter and an adequate scout. They can wield most weapons and wear light and medium armor and their prowess is bolstered by their spell-songs. Additionally, bards can be good information gatherers through their skills and charisma thus helping the rest of the party acquire important clues over the course of their adventures. Their interest in and knowledge of ancient sagas, myths and stories also allows them to uncover the truths and legends of almost any creature, person, place or thing.

Class Details

Prime Requisites: Bards have two prime requisites: Dexterity and Charisma. If a Bard has a score of 13-15 in both abilities, he gains a 5% bonus to experience points. If both are 16 or more, the experience bonus is 10%.
Other Requirements: A Bard must have both a Dexterity and Charisma of 9 or better when first played.
Hit Dice: 1d6 per level up to 9th level. Starting at 10th level, +1 hit point per level, and Constitution adjustments no longer apply.
Maximum Level: 36
Armor: Up to chain mail; shield permitted if less than large-sized. Penalties for wearing armor heavier than leather (listed below).
Weapons: A bard may use any missile weapon plus any one-handed melee weapon.
Saving Throws: Bards have the same saving throws as Thieves of the same level.
THAC0: Bards have the same THAC0 as Thieves of the same level.

Special Abilities

Thief Abilities

Any bard can use the following abilities as a thief of the same level:

  • Climb Walls
  • Pick Pockets
  • Hear Noise
  • Hide in Shadows
  • Move Silently

These skills are subject to the same penalties for wearing heavier armor that a thief receives.

Legend Lore

Bards are capable of telling what certain objects are, what they do, their properties, purposes, etc. This skill represents the bard’s knack for obtaining and retaining knowledge of locales and legends as they relate to magical items and their creation.

When trying to determine the properties of a weapon, a successful Legend Lore check reveals all of the properties of the weapon (its intelligence and ego if any and its ‘pluses’ etc.) and for correctly doing this a Bard receives additional experience points (generally 100 pts. for every point of intelligence and ego as well as pluses to hit). Note that a Bard does not have to draw or use the weapon to tell its intelligence, alignment, etc., since his knowledge of the weapon comes from legends and his experience in recognizing various types of weapons and armor, both magical and non-magical, as well as his excellent knowledge of magical runes. When a Bard attempts to describe the purposes of an artifact or misc. magic item his chances of success are at least halved, especially when it comes to items that the Bard himself cannot use.

The Legend Lore skill may also be used to determine if the bard knows any local stories. This may only be used in areas which, in the DM’s discretion, are familiar to the bard. If in an unfamiliar area, the bard must use the gather information skill.


Starting at 3rd level, the bard gains the ability to enthrall once per day, as per the magic user spell charm person. He or she can affect a number of hit dice equal to one-third his or her own level, rounded down. The bard must sing, recite poetry, or play an instrument for three rounds, and then make a skill check in the weakest of his or her mandatory skills. If the skill check fails the victim saves vs. Spells at +3. The charm ability can also be used to negate another bard’s charm attempt.

At 9th level, the bard’s charm ability extends to intelligent monsters (but not undead), as per the charm monster magic user spell.

At 15th level, the bard’s charm ability is extended again to plants, as per the magic user spell charm plant. In all cases, a successful save vs. Spells will negate the charm effect.

Spell Songs

Most bards know numerous songs and stories to enthrall their audiences. However, some songs are special and have magical effects on their listeners. These are spellsongs. Bard spellsongs are different than either wizard spells or cleric prayer spells. Bards cannot cast either. For spell-songs of levels 1-2, the bard only needs to play the instrument of his or her choice for one round prior to casting the spell itself. Spell-songs of levels 3-5 require the bard to both sing and play an instrument for that one round, requiring success on both skill checks. Those songs that are more combat-oriented often require the bard to sing and/or play an instrument during the actual spell duration, which is limited only by the bard’s Constitution. If for any reason the song itself is interrupted, that attempt is ruined and cannot be tried again until the next day. It should also be mentioned that a bard many not employ the effects of more than one spell-song at a time – both will cancel each other out.

The means by which these songs can be obtained is quite similar to those of spells. Songs may be written on scrolls, and may be read whenever desired, but without losing the information on the scroll. As a bard advances in level, his or her repertoire of songs – those which have been committed to memory, and the complexity of the songs that may be sung – will increase. If the bard chooses to memorize a song, then the scroll from which it is read will crumble to dust, and the song will be permanently etched into his or her memory. Each song may be sung only once per day. When singing a song, the bard may choose whether or not to call forth the magical potential of the song itself. In this way, he or she may simply sing the songs for entertainment purposes, with no strange side effects on the patrons!

In addition to their spellsongs, bards may have as many mundane songs as they wish. The numbers listed in the spells/level chart indicate how many songs of each specific level a bard may sing per day and still be able to use their magical effects. Any magical song may be sung any number of times after its magic has been triggered, but it will possess no power until the next day. Until then, it is a mundane song, but still beautiful, nonetheless. Bards can create new spellsongs and the process is similar to the creation of a new spell by a wizard.

General Skills

Bard characters must take these skills: singing, music (instrument) and storytelling. The automatically receive the new skill: gather information (CHA). Gather information allows a character to use his or her savoir-faire and connections to gain another person’s trust, and thereby gather information about a particular topic. The player must specify before making the skill check what sort of information is sought, and the DM assigns modifiers according to the specificity of the information required, and its obscurity. Penalties may also be assigned if the PC is trying to gather information from someone whose culture or native language differs from their own.

Higher Experience Levels

Upon reaching 9th level or Name level, as it is sometimes called a bard has the option of building a stronghold, or of becoming a traveling bard, as per the guidelines below.

Land-Owning Bards

Name level bards may construct a conservatory (which can be in any form, such as a building in a town, a tower, or anything that strikes the bards fancy – but the bard must finance the construction), which will attract 1d8 first level bards, who wish to commence training or add to their repertoires. They will be loyal, but will not sacrifice themselves for the PC, who will have to replace them if they leave or are killed. At a conservatory a Name-level bard may teach novices, research new spell-songs, store the lore of heroes, or learn of unsung epic deeds from traveling bards (see below). For many smaller towns, conservatories are a source of information on great historical events and people, as well as legends.

Land-owning bards are also required, by the unspoken code of their trade, to provide shelter to any traveling bard who requests it, as well as allow such visitors to avail themselves of any historical lore that is available. In most cases this is beneficial to both bards – the traveler gets a temporary place to stay, and the host obtains news of the outside world and can provide his or her students with another teacher for a while.

Traveling Bards

If a Name level bard chooses to become a traveling bard, they may never decide to construct a conservatory afterwards. Traveling bards have a chance (once per month, at the DM’s discretion) of learning of epic deeds for which no song has been written. This is in the form of rumors or chance encounters, and this provides opportunities for them to meet great heroes and travel with them for a while, earning some experience along the way while composing an appropriate tribute. This sort of information is of a greater depth or obscurity than could otherwise be obtained with the Gather Information skill. Traveling bards may also take refuge in any conservatory they find, and use the resources therein to further their own studies, but they must repay the hospitality by offering to assist in the teaching of any students that might be there.


NEPA Known World csp_gtp2