Bard, Variant (3.5e Class)

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Please, the blade is just for show. The lute is my real weapon! by Hiomaste


A bard is the quintessential entertainer, blessed with musical skills that are the envy of all others. With these skills come powerful arcane magic and an almost complete mastery of sound.

Making a Bard[edit]

Abilities: Charisma is the most important ability score for a bard. It affects his bardic music, Perform check, Armor Class and the DC's of his abilities. Only being proficient with light armor, the bard requires a good Dexterity score to make him harder to hit during battle. Due to their affinity for high skill points, Intelligence is somewhat valuable.

Races: Any.

Alignment: Any nonlawful.

Starting Gold: 2d4×10 gp (50 gp).

Starting Age: Moderate.

Table: The Bard

Hit Die: d6

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Saving Throws Special Spells per Day
Fort Ref Will 0 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
1st +0 +0 +2 +2 Bardic Music (+1), Bardic Knowledge, Countersong, Riff (shatter) 2
2nd +1 +0 +3 +3 Opening Act 3 0
3rd +2 +1 +3 +3 Evasion 3 1
4th +3 +1 +4 +4 Break the Silence, Riff (sound burst) 3 2 0
5th +3 +1 +4 +4 Center of Attention (+2) 3 3 1
6th +4 +2 +5 +5 Bardic Music (+2), Allegro, Skilled Performer (+5), Song of Fire 3 3 2
7th +5 +2 +5 +5 Improved Evasion 3 3 2 0
8th +6/+1 +2 +6 +6 Riff (shout) 3 3 3 1
9th +6/+1 +3 +6 +6 Center of Attention (+4), Limelight 3 3 3 2
10th +7/+2 +3 +7 +7 The Sound of Music 3 3 3 2 0
11th +8/+3 +3 +7 +7 Bardic Music (+3) 3 3 3 3 1
12th +9/+4 +4 +8 +8 Center of Attention (+6), Skilled Performer (+10) 3 3 3 3 2
13th +9/+4 +4 +8 +8 Riff (greater shout) 3 3 3 3 2 0
14th +10/+5 +4 +9 +9 Stage Theatrics 4 3 3 3 3 1
15th +11/+6/+1 +5 +9 +9 Center of Attention (+8) 4 4 3 3 3 2
16th +12/+7/+2 +5 +10 +10 Bardic Music (+4) 4 4 4 3 3 2 0
17th +12/+7/+2 +5 +10 +10 Staccato 4 4 4 4 3 3 1
18th +13/+8/+3 +6 +11 +11 Center of Attention (+10), Skilled Performer (+15) 4 4 4 4 4 3 2
19th +14/+9/+4 +6 +11 +11 Riff (wail of the banshee) 4 4 4 4 4 4 3
20th +15/+10/+5 +6 +12 +12 The Show Must Go On 4 4 4 4 4 4 4

Class Skills (8 + Int modifier per level, ×4 at 1st level)
Appraise (Int), Balance (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Decipher Script (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Disguise (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Gather Information (Cha), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Knowledge (all skills, taken individually) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Spellcraft (Int),Search (Int), Spot (Wis), Swim (Str), Tumble (Dex), Use Magic Device (Cha).

Class Features[edit]

All of the following are class features of the bard.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: A bard is proficient with all simple weapons, plus the longsword, rapier, sap, short sword, shortbow, and whip. Bards are proficient with light armor and shields (except tower shields). A bard can cast bard spells while wearing light armor without incurring the normal arcane spell failure chance. However, like any other arcane spellcaster, a bard wearing medium or heavy armor or using a shield incurs a chance of arcane spell failure if the spell in question has a somatic component (most do). A multiclass bard still incurs the normal arcane spell failure chance for arcane spells received from other classes.

Spells: A bard casts arcane spells, which are drawn from the bard spell list. She can cast any spell she knows without preparing it ahead of time. Every bard spell has a verbal component (singing, reciting, or music). To learn or cast a spell, a bard must have a Charisma score equal to at least 10 + the spell. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a bard’s spell is 10 + the spell level + the bard’s Charisma modifier.

Like other spellcasters, a bard can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. Her base daily spell allotment is given on Table: The Bard. In addition, she receives bonus spells per day if he has a high Charisma score. When Table: Bard Spells Known indicates that the bard gets 0 spells per day of a given spell level, she gains only the bonus spells she would be entitled to based on her Charisma score for that spell level.

The bard’s selection of spells is extremely limited. A bard begins play knowing four 0-level spells of your choice. At most new bard levels, she gains one or more new spells, as indicated on Table: Bard Spells Known. (Unlike spells per day, the number of spells a bard knows is not affected by her Charisma score; the numbers on Table: Bard Spells Known are fixed.)

Upon reaching 5th level, and at every third bard level after that (8th, 11th, and so on), a bard can choose to learn a new spell in place of one he already knows. In effect, the bard “loses” the old spell in exchange for the new one. The new spell’s level must be the same as that of the spell being exchanged, and it must be at least two levels lower than the highest-level bard spell the bard can cast. A bard may swap only a single spell at any given level, and must choose whether or not to swap the spell at the same time that she gains new spells known for the level.

As noted above, a bard need not prepare her spells in advance. She can cast any spell he knows at any time, assuming she has not yet used up her allotment of spells per day for the spell’s level.

Table: Bard Spells Known
Level Spells Known
0 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
1st 4
2nd 5 21
3rd 6 3
4th 6 3 21
5th 6 4 3
6th 6 4 3
7th 6 4 4 21
8th 6 4 4 3
9th 6 4 4 3
10th 6 4 4 4 21
11th 6 4 4 4 3
12th 6 4 4 4 3
13th 6 4 4 4 4 21
14th 6 4 4 4 4 3
15th 6 4 4 4 4 3
16th 6 5 4 4 4 4 21
17th 6 5 5 4 4 4 3
18th 6 5 5 5 4 4 3
19th 6 5 5 5 5 4 4
20th 6 5 5 5 5 5 4
  1. Provided the bard has a high enough Charisma score to have a bonus spell of this level.

Bardic Knowledge: A bard may make a special bardic knowledge check with a bonus equal to her bard level + her Intelligence modifier to see whether she knows some relevant information about local notable people, legendary items, or noteworthy places. (If the bard has 5 or more ranks in Knowledge (history), she gains a +2 bonus on this check.)

A successful bardic knowledge check will not reveal the powers of a magic item but may give a hint as to its general function. A bard may not take 10 or take 20 on this check; this sort of knowledge is essentially random.

DC Type of Knowledge
10 Common, known by at least a substantial minority; common legends of the local population.
20 Uncommon but available, known by only a few people.
25 Obscure, known by few, hard to come by.
30 Extremely obscure, known by very few, possibly forgotten by most who once knew it, possibly known only by those who don't understand the significance of the knowledge.

Bardic Music: A bard can create a powerful musical tune that has supernatural effects on either the bard herself or those around her. When she plays, all allies within a distance of 20 feet plus 5 feet per bard level (including the bard herself) gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls and saving throws. This bonus increases by +1 every 5 bard levels thereafter. Starting a song requires a Standard Action. In addition, the bard gains additional abilities when using her bard music as described below. The bard can use her bardic music ability for a number of times per day equal to her bard level plus her Charisma modifier. The effects from the bardic music ability, once activated, lasts an equal number of rounds equal to the bard's charisma modifier. Activation of the bardic music is a standard action, and the bard must make a DC 10 Perform check in order to begin playing. While playing, the bard must concentrate to the point where she cannot manipulate other objects in her hands (other than her instrument, if any).

Countersong (Su): A bard can counteract the effects of spells that depend on sound (but not a spell that merely has a verbal component). When she is using her bardic music ability, the bard may make a Perform check to affect every creature she chooses within the range of her bardic music. The target may choose to replace their Will save with the bard’s Perform check, and if the check surpasses the DC the effect is negated or reduced normally. If a creature within range of the countersong is already under the effect of a noninstantaneous sonic or language-dependent magical attack, it gains another saving throw against the effect each round it hears the countersong, but it must use the bard’s Perform check result for the save. Countersong has no effect against effects

Riff (Su): As a standard action, the bard can unleash a blast of magically enhanced sound waves. This ability functions as the spell indicated on Table: The Bard (or any of the lower spells at higher levels). This ability is usable at will, but only while the bard is performing using her bardic music ability. The caster level is determined by the bard’s level. The DC’s for all of these abilities (regardless of the DC indicated in the spell description) are equal to 10 plus ½ the bard’s Hit Dice + her Charisma modifier.

Opening Act: Anyone who’s anyone in show business got to where they are by jumping on opportunities when they presented themselves. The bard understands this, and thus gains Improved Initiative as a bonus feat at 2nd level.

Evasion (Ex): At 3rd level or higher, a bard can avoid even magical or unnatural attacks with great agility. If she makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, the bard instead takes no damage. This ability only works if the bard is wearing light armor or less and carrying less than a medium load. A helpless bard does not gain the benefit of evasion. If the bard already has evasion as a result of some other class feature, then she gains improved evasion (see below) instead.

Break the Silence (Su): At 4th level, the bard is immune to the effects of the silence spell. She can continue to use her bardic music and riff abilities or spells normally inside the area of any silence spell. Other magic-suppressing effects may still apply.

Center of Attention (Su): When the bard is under the effects of the bardic music ability, the bard’s features become more alluring, and people seem supernaturally drawn to her. At 5th level, the bard gains a +2 bonus to Charisma when using her bardic music ability. This bonus increases by +2 every four levels afterwards.

Song of Fire (Ex): A bard of 6th level or higher with 9 or more ranks in a Perform skill can emit a strong blast of fire from his mouth (DC 10) that deals 2d10 (+2 to water or snow based creatures) forward 10 ft. The bard, however, takes 5 damage (2 if fire based creature, 7 if water based creature) each time this feat is used.

Limelight (Su): The music of a performing bard is very distracting to those around her, disrupting their concentration and thereby reducing the accuracy of their attacks. At 9th level, the bard gains a deflection bonus to her Armor Class equal to her altered Charisma modifier while using her bardic music ability.

Skilled Performer: The rattling nerves and jitteriness is long gone, replaced by a calm serenity that allows the bard to play her best music. She gains 5 bonus skill points to her Perform check at 6th level; this value increases to 10 at 12th level and 15 at 18th level. In addition, at 12th level the bard no longer has to make Perform checks to continue using her bardic music ability. While the bard can still not voluntarily put any more ranks in Perform than she normally would, this bonus skill points are added retroactively, allowing the bard’s Perform check to surpass the normal maximum for her level.

Allegro (Su): At 6th level, the use of the bard’s riff ability is now a move-equivalent action.

Improved Evasion (Ex): This ability functions like evasion (see above) but the bard only takes half damage even if she fails her Reflex save. A helpless bard does not gain the benefit of improved evasion.

The Sound of Music (Su): While she is playing, the bard becomes so absorbed in his performance that her mind cannot be bothered by anything else. While playing, a bard of 12th level or higher is immune to all mind-affecting effects while using her bardic music ability.

Stage Theatrics (Su): When using her bardic music ability, a bard of 14th level or higher gains the benefits of a freedom of movement spell.

Staccato (Su): At 16th level, the use of the bard’s riff ability is now a swift action. The bard is still limited to one swift action per turn; if he chooses to use another riff in the same turn, this riff is still a move-equivalent action.

The Show Must Go On (Su): Once the bard reaches 20th level, all abilities that can only be active while she is using her bardic music are now permanent and cannot be dispelled or suppressed. She can also now use her riff ability at any time.


A bard is a wandering minstrel whose heart never truly leaves the open road. If a bard ever becomes lawful, she may not continue advancing as a bard until she once again becomes non-lawful. She retains all previously gained bard levels and abilities, however.

Epic Bard[edit]

Table: The Epic Bard

Hit Die: d6

Level Special
21st Bardic Music (+5)
23rd Bonus Feat
25th Center of Attention (+12)
26th Bonus Feat
27th Bardic Music (+6)
29th Bonus Feat
30th Center of Attention (+14)

6 + Int modifier skill points per level.

Spells: The bard’s caster level is equal to his or her class level. The bard’s number of spells per day does not increase after 20th level. The bard does not learn additional spells unless he or she selects the Spell Knowledge feat.

Bardic Music: The bard continues to gain rounds for her bardic music at every level past 20th. She and those around her also gains additional bonuses to attack rolls and saving throws as a result of her bardic music.

Bardic Knowledge: Add the bard’s class level + Intelligence modifier to all bardic knowledge checks, as normal.

Center of Attention (Su): The epic bard’s Charisma bonus increases by +2 every five levels higher than 20th. Bonus Feats: The epic bard gains a bonus feat (selected from the list of epic bard bonus feats) every three levels after 20th.

Epic Bard Bonus Feat List: Augmented Alchemy, Epic Leadership, Epic Reputation, Epic Skill Focus, Improved Combat Casting, Improved Metamagic, Improved Spell Capacity, Master Staff, Master Wand, Permanent Emanation, Polyglot, Spell Knowledge, Spell Stowaway, Spell Opportunity, Tenacious Magic.

Human Bard Starting Package[edit]

Weapons: Longsword.

Skill Selection: Pick a number of skills equal to 4 + Int modifier.

Skill Ranks Ability Armor
Concentration 4 Con
Diplomacy 4 Cha
Gather Information 4 Cha
Knowledge (history) 4 Int
Perform 4 Cha
Spellcraft 4 Int

Feat: Combat Expertise.

Bonus Feats: Skill Focus (Perform).

Gear: Studded Leather, Standard Adventurer's Kit, Traveler's Outfit.

Gold: 20 gp.

Campaign Information[edit]

Playing a Bard[edit]

Religion: As entertainers, bards love fun, and this is reflected in every aspect of their lives. Bards tend to venerate chaotic deities who expect little in the way of rituals from their worshipers. Lawful religions who maintain strict regulations rarely attract a bard to their ranks.

Other Classes: A bard is often met with mixed reactions. To those who share her unlawful views, she is energetic fun, and excitable. To those who do not, the bard is difficult to control, a free spirit to the end.

Combat: With her bardic music ability and arcane spells, the bard excels at supporting her allies. But when push comes to shove, she is capable of dealing heavy damage with her riff ability. Her music also serves to improve her defenses; when she is not playing, she can be a particularly squishy target when unable to take advantage of her elusiveness.

Advancement: Not all bards are the same; numerous bard prestige class exist to offer different abilities and make every bard unique.

Bards in the World[edit]

Music...reality...sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.
—Bizarre (of D12)

Bards are the face of the party. With their naturally high Charisma and impressive skill set, they are excellent negotiatiors and arbiters.

Daily Life: The bard is, first and foremost, an entertainer. As such, she seeks an audience far more aggressively than any treasure. If she gets paid for her performance, well, that's just a bonus.

Notables: None.

Organizations: Seperate organizations of bards exist, each following their own interpretation of the responsibilities or their power. Even if a particular bard does not belong to one of these, most bards worth their salt are renowned as skilled musicians or performers, and as such may have a number of fans in regions that they frequent.

NPC Reactions: Most bards who are skilled enough to earn money by playing are welcomed as attractions, making it easy for them to find work should they require coin. Most people take to them quite easily; the bard's Charisma score usually makes them very likable.

Bard Lore[edit]

Characters with ranks in Knowledge (arcana) can research bards to learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including information from lower DCs.

Knowledge (Arcana)
DC Result
5 Bards are expert musicians and arcane spellcasters.
10 Bards are essentially dabblers, able to fill a variety of roles with lots of seemingly random skills, good attack power, and magic.
15 The bard is able to supernaturally empower the sound that she generates from her instrument to either aid her allies or crush her foes.
20 Information on specific bards, their origins and whereabouts.

Bards in the Game[edit]

Bards are often traveling minstrels that perform from the streets to the seedy bars.

Adaptation: As bard.

Sample Encounter: <-DM placement for NPCs of this class.->.

EL : <-Encounter scenario and character info on sample NPC including stat block. The CR of the NPC is typically the same as the EL for the encounter.->.

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