Archales' bard guide

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Preface

"Music and martial arts share much in common, both wrestle with complex rhythms and elusive melodies." ~ (Nameless Bard)

This discourse is humbly submitted to my fellow practitioners, with an ear towards helping bards, both fresh from the guild, and those pushing the limits of our art. I can only hope that by aiming for goals so high I will not stray too far from my intended target. In those sections where I touch upon guild secrets I will encrypt them with a simple guild cipher that should make it easily understandable to the duly initiated. A~s~R.

Introduction

While I cannot quite claim to have tried every possible medley of weapons and tactics as a bard, I have made a game attempt at trying as many as possible over the years. I hope to cover as many different combat styles and techniques as I can accurately remember after decades of wanderlust and bar fights. Thankfully, the basic rules of engagement for combat as a bard remain rather constant despite your weapon of choice. The first is patience, chance favors the well prepared, so it is never a bad decision to take a moment to evaluate both yourself and your foe. Try to know as much about your foe as possible, is it a warrior, does it use a bow, is it magically inclined? These important considerations are best decided before descending into the heat of battle. As a bard, you will be most vulnerable at the beginning of a fight, generally speaking, your odds of survival increase the longer the battle goes on due to your array of disabling spells and maneuvers.

The second rule has many names, timing, rhythm, awareness, etc., it speaks to understanding the weapons and armor of combatants, as well as the more pedestrian observations about distance and terrain. The use of songs such as holding (1001), depression (1015), noise (1017) and Tonis (1035), to control the pace of the battle and setup your physical attacks is key to success in the field.

The third rule is misdirection, all good gleemen love a little sleight of hand, and the battle field is not so different from the stage, the foe the audience and you the consummate performer. If the foe is a warrior, use your songs and magic to draw them off guard, or incapacitate them. If the foe is a mage or cleric, use your weapon and maneuvers to close ground and kill them swiftly. If the foe can use both, use your best attack be it blade or song to kill or maim them immediately.

The fourth rule is balance or harmony between mind and body, magic and arms, abstract as it might sound at first this rule has a rather pragmatic basis. Even the loudest singers will find times when their voice fails them, the strongest lancer may be too wounded to use any weapon but his voice, every bard learns to strike a balance between mana and stamina through the use of tactics and experience.

Instruments

I’ll begin with the very basic necessity of diligently practicing and maintaining one’s instrument. While there are as many different kinds of bards, as there are facets on a gem it is my humble opinion that any worth their salt should learn to play at least one instrument. Beyond being a wonderful way to pass the time on long trips, a bard’s instrument can help them focus their own musical gifts in rather profound ways.

I will discuss the benefits of playing in more detail when I discuss songs later on, but it is wise to start practicing early and often when you are just starting out, so that playing and caring for the instrument becomes part of a routine. Playing ‘well’ takes practice, becoming ‘adept’ requires practice, talent, and training from the bard guild, there are four musical skill levels novice, apprentice, journeyman, and adept. Bards are able to tune instruments of a given class once their skill in playing it reaches an apprentice level, which makes practicing go faster and easier on the ears. *NOTE* Training from novice to adept in a particular instrument class, can take anywhere from several weeks for the very diligent, to several months for the easily distractible.

There are five different classes, woodwinds, horns, necked-stringed, stringed, and percussion but there is only one question when choosing an instrument, will it be one or two handed? Only percussion class is one-handed, they are not as expressive and yield half the benefits of a two handed instrument, however they are far safer to use in the field as they allow for a shield to be wielded. All other instruments require both hands, but are doubly effective at amplifying songs such as holding(1001), traveller’s song (1020), and sonic disruption (1030). My advice is to first become adept with a two handed class, then learn a percussion instrument to use in battle once you have your full repertoire of attack songs and enough mana to use them. Yes, I left out bagpipes on purpose because I think they are an abomination to the ears, and should not be inflicted on others. Don't like it write yer own guide.

Armor & Weapons

Enough flowery talk and theory for the time being, let us explore the basics of armor and weapons, I’ll start with armor since it’s pretty straight forward you wear it, and boo boos hurt less. Bards have the flexibility to wear several different types of armor, but for most only three will ever be needed. To start off, double leathers (AsG8) are great, low spell hindrance and you can still move around pretty good without much armor training (8ranks). Eventually, most bards want more protection and choose brigandine (AsG12), it takes a blow much better and won’t keep you from casting (35ranks). Most experienced bards stop at augmented chainmail (AsG15) it covers everything but the head and neck (50ranks for maneuver 90ranks for spell hindrance). *Warning* Notice the huge spike in spell hindrance if you attempt to wear armor accessories such as helmets, aventails, or gorgets. Heavier armor could be trained for but you would find your magical abilities severely hampered in heavy armor.

There are lots of weapons, but there are three basic categories unarmed, melee, and ranged. Melee weapons have basically two categories one handed and two handed although a small handful of weapons are able to be gripped in order to wield them one or two handed. The benefits of using a one handed weapon are that it allows you to use a shield and generally attack faster than you would using a two handed weapon. The drawback to light weapons is that they generally do not do as much damage as the heavier two handed weapons, you can compensate for that by either aiming your shots or attacking in flurries using multi-strike. Two handed weapons are generally heavier and slower than one handed weapons and preclude the use of a shield, however they are better at parrying incoming attacks and do more damage when they strike. Use your songs to create an opening in your foe’s defenses before striking to mitigate the increased risk of being exposed during longer attack round times.

I’ll cover unarmed combat quickly since all you need are hands and feet. The basic skill for this style is brawling, it relies on quick punches and kicks in combination to subdue a foe, there are four basic attacks with this style, jabs, punches, grapples, and kicks. Jabs are used to set up better positioning on your foe, punches are good follow ups and do more damage than jabs, grapples are take downs used to temporarily immobilize your foe, and kicks are the slowest but also the most damaging. The gloves and boots designed for unarmed combat will allow you to make use of flares and defensive enchantments on your gear making you harder to hit. Although there are brawling weapons, they will make it slightly harder to land your jabs, grapples, and punches, but will provide an extra chance for a flare with each attack.

Ranged weapons include hurling and archery, they lend themselves to sniping, which is not a particular strong suit for bards, however we can compensate for that using vibration chant (1002) to shatter weapons and shields, lullabye (1005) it is very easy to hit a sleeping target, and using song of Tonis (1035) to fire as fast as possible even while aiming. Both styles require excellent perception, the distinction is that hurling requires training in combat maneuvers to be most effective and it does not for archery. Ranged weapons are generally very fast and very deadly if you can aim them correctly. There is an increased chance of losing ammunition or hurled weapons using ranged attacks so be sure not to break the bank on arrows, or hurling weapons as they will have to be replaced over time.

Songs

Songs are unique to the bard profession and are unlike any other magic in Elanthia, they can affect both the bard’s own defense and attack abilities, and lower a foe’s physical and magical defenses, they can affect an entire area or be narrowly focused on a single target. Best of all they can be renewed consciously by the bard at lower mana costs and with no fear of armor hindrance, but if you forget many of them renew automatically. There is a risk of…umm side effects from many songs including injury, dismemberment, and even death in some cases, learning a song is in no way the same as having mastered the use of said song. Songs can be incanted to auto target or you can specify using sing first, second, third foe, etc. There are limits to how many songs a bard can sing simultaneously, any time you sing more than three songs you are subject to a multi-song penalty, which is based on the number of songs you are actively singing, songs known, your discipline, and logical aptitude (statistics).

Song of holding (1001) is the first song we learn, it may seem underwhelming at first, but reducing the defenses of a foe by ten percent becomes rather significant when fighting a dangerous foe. The song can be focused at a single target or can be sung unfocused to affect multiple attackers, the number of foes affected is increased by one for every seven songs known beyond 1001. Additionally playing an instrument while singing this song will increase the reduction in defense by roughly 5 points if using a one handed instrument, or 15 points if using a two handed instrument.

Vibration chant (1002) makes a weapon or shield vibrate hard enough to slip from a foe’s grasp, above a certain warding threshold the song will shatter any non-magical weapon or shield, even when it does not shatter the target will incur round time while it struggles to regain its grip. The warding threshold for shattering weapons is lowered with training in manipulation lore.

Fortitude song (1003) is the first of our auto renewing songs that you will learn and it provides a flat bonus of ten to your defensive strength. Although it only costs three mana to sing it up and one mana to renew it does contribute to multi-song penalties and many bards find it is actually more efficient to start the song and then stop it immediately and manually renew it after your other songs to avoid it being counted in the melody.

Purification song (1004) is a utility spell that allows a bard to use vibrations to remove imperfections from a gem, each successful attempt increases the value of the gem by roughly ten percent. Pay close attention how a gem responds when you attempt to purify it repeatedly, it will begin by glowing, then humming, then improving somewhat, after that point it will begin to crack and groan from the strain and becomes much more likely to shatter from the vibrations, possibly taking a large chunk of your hand along with it. Training in mental lore – manipulation will reduce the risk of shattering a gem. Occasionally a gem will twist and turn in response to your song and all of its imperfections will be removed, these are commonly called orb gems, and can be used to imbed or bless magical spells into the gem. If you train in trading this can be a very lucrative skill set to develop, high quality bard purified orbs are in high demand among clerics for use as chrism gems.

Lullabye (1005) is a staple of almost all bard’s repertoires it does not require a warding roll and will put most living creatures into a deep sleep, or at least make them drowsy enough to be slowed (adds round time to most actions the target attempts). This spell does not work as well on undead although it will slow them it will not put them to sleep.

Song of luck (1006) is the first of our group songs while the song is running it has a chance to activate any time you or a group member attempts or defends against a combat maneuver the song provides in effect a second attempt and the better of the two attempts is applied. Luck will not always favor the bard sometimes you have a choice of a bad attempt and a terrible attempt, the more songs you know the more likely it is that the luck will be good. The song works for maneuver and attempting to disarm traps for certain but I also suspect it may help with other tasks such as picking pockets and foraging, I just can’t prove it.

Kai’s Triumph song (1007) is a real crowd pleaser and one of the reasons bards are always a welcome addition to any hunting party. It provides a base bonus of ten (+10) to attack strength to you and anyone joined to your group. This bonus increases by one (+1) for every song known above 1007, up to a bonus of twenty (+20) attack strength at twenty songs known. This song only affects melee, ranged, and magical bolt attacks, it will not raise you or your group’s casting strength. You can increase the bonus to attack strength even further by training in mental lore telepathy your attack will increase by one (+1)at each of the following ranks 3, 7, 12, 18, 25, 33, 42, 52, 63, 75, 88, 102 Along with improving attack strength, once you learn nineteen songs you and your group will experience increased health recovery. This song will also help you and your group recover from the shear fear effects caused by undead however it will not help with warding it off in the first place.

Stunning shout (1008) is a useful attack song for physical bards that focus on air lore for extra flares and extra speed from sonic weapon (1012) and song of Tonis(1035), that will disable a foe for three rounds of combat. The initial strike isn’t usually lethal but does do damage based on how strongly you ward the target, every three ranks of air lore increases the damage for the initial strike by one (+1). Here’s the formula: 10 base damage + trunc((endroll - 100) × .250)) + (EL: Air ranks ÷ 3). The secondary critical is based on comparing your level versus your target’s and how well you warded the target, it will usually stun or knock them down. The tertiary critical will either stun or disorient the target, an effect very similar to being drunk. This spell is handy for keeping multiple foes from attacking while you finish off another.

Song of Valor (1010) is a song every bard should use and provides a bonus of ten (+10) to your defensive strength, an additional plus one (+1) to defensive strength is granted for every two bard songs known beyond 1010. This spell also helps to ward against fear based attacks. Song of Peace (1011) creates a minor sanctuary that follows the bard wherever they go preventing hostile actions and most creatures will avoid entering the area. This spell works best in an empty room, and each foe near your level will increase the chances of failure. Some kinds of demons summoned by a sorcerer are able to disrupt or even break a minor sanctuary. Training in the songs and telepathy lore can help you prevent a demon from interfering or breaking a sanctuary.

Sonic shield song (1009) creates a shield of air with a base enchantment of ten (+10) the enchant increases by one (+1) for every two songs known, so by the time a bard learns the song it will be equivalent to three enchantments (+15), this increase can go as high as seven enchants (+35), with fifty (50) songs known. Training in air lore reduces the dodge hindrance by one shield size at twenty (20), fifty (50), and one hundred (100) ranks. The default sonic shield is a medium, but many other shield sizes can be specified by the bard after preparing the song.

Sonic weapon song (1012) creates a base enchant of (+10) the enchant increases by plus one (+1) for every two songs known, against the living there is a chance for a second sonic flare on every strike that lands. When used against the undead the weapon will have its’ base enchant and will not flare. Air lore training increases the chances of a second flare by 3% at the following ranks 3,7,12,18,25,33,42,52,63,75,88,102

Song of Unraveling (1013) is the most precise way to dispel, it can be focused to remove a specific spell from a target, using sing {target}(spell #). Sung unfocused it dispels 1 active spell from a target, you can manually renew it to continue removing spells, if no magic is active on the target, it will begin to drain mana This song imposes a warding pushdown on the target, reducing the target’s warding attempt by -1 for every two songs known, focusing on a particular spell, will nullify the warding pushdown. Used on a weapon or shield the song will remove blessing, or elemental blade spells. It works on magic items, wands can be used to recover mana quickly in the field. Be sure to use this song before magically impairing (1001,1005,1015) a target, the most recently applied spells are removed first, which would strip away your spells before removing any of the target’s own magic. Spirit and higher level spells will be harder and require more mana to unravel.

Sonic Armor (1014) creates a base armor of three enchants (+15) the enchant increases by (+1) for every two songs known up to seven enchants (+35). Nearly weightless and it can be used to create anything from robes to platemail. Sonic armor has a slight vulnerability to impact damage like falling or getting hit by rocks, but resistant to elemental damage, the resistance increases with more songs and training in air lore. Song of

Depression(1015) gives anyone outside your group a warding penalty of twenty(-20) TD, this penalty does not affect the initial cast, the spell also slows the target making all their actions take longer.This song is very useful for setting up warding spells to be more effective for your group. Telepathy lore increases the warding penality by -1 TD at ranks: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10, 14, 17, 21, 26, 31, 36, 42, 49, 55, 63, 70, 78, 87, 96 (total -20 TD and adds +1 to RT at ranks: 10, 25, 45, 70, 100 (total +5 RT).

Song of Rage(1016) attempts to enrage a target, forcing them into a more offensive stance, giving round time the target will only attack you when under the song’s effect. The song can be manually renewed to stack the offensive push down and add to the target’s round time. Used after depressing(1015) a target, the round time imposed increases. Most bards will agree this song is too mana intensive to use on anything except casting foes that are too hard to hit with their guard up.

Song of Noise(1017) disrupts the flow of mana, and prevents the use of magic in the area, the effect is so powerful that it can even prevent your own songs from renewing. The song’s effects will follow the bard as they move, but takes a few seconds to catch up, allowing a brief window for the bard to renew or cast. The song’s effect has limits repeated attempts to cast by multiple foes may eventually break through, knowing more songs will allow you to stop more spells before the song fails.

Song of Power(1018) creates a mobile mana focus that will follow the bard as they move, increasing mana recovery for everyone grouped to the bard. This song is very unstable and losing control will severely injure or even kill the bard and others nearby. To mitigate the risks be sure to stop and start the song manually, the longer you sing the more unstable it will become. Using the song in an existing mana focus or while another bard is singing 1018 will cause a nearly instant catastrophic failure, you will lose control, and the mana will likely catch fire around you, the resulting explosion can kill you and others. Do not fall asleep after a hunt with this song running, it kills more bards every year than any hunting ground.

Song of Mirrors(1019) creates mirror images of the bard making it harder for foes to hit them, the song grants the equivalent of twenty(20) dodge ranks, this increases by one(+1) for every two songs known. I can't say enough about how fantastic this song is, was, continues to be, but it doesn't need much explaining. Even if you do not outright dodge an attack those magical dodge ranks will still make you harder to hit by raising your defensive strength. An from a style point of few, I always get a kick out of having mirror images obscuring my true form, maybe i'm just creepy like that...

Singing Sword Song (1025) creates a free floating weapon the bard can control with their mind, stuns and wounds to your head or nerves, will impair it’s attack strength and being calmed or asleep it will stop all attacks. The spell does not flare and is rather slow, polearms or heavy crossbows work the best. It is able to hit hidden targets, but will not begin attacks unless the bard is visible The melee attack strength formula is: 1+ [weapon bonus + (combat maneuver ranks/2) + ((songs known -25)/2) + (manipulation lore ranks/2) + (inf + aura bonus)/2] For ranged attack strength the formula is: 1+[weapon bonus+(perception ranks – 40)/2 + (ambush ranks – 40)/2 + (songs known -25)/2 + (manipulation lore ranks/2) + (influence + aura bonus/2)] Tell weapon to attack {target}, to start attacks. Tell weapon to return, will make the weapon reappear in your room, very useful if you move around a lot while hunting. Tell weapon to cease will cause the weapon to immediately stop attacking. These formulas are based on math I did on a napkin while drinking at the tavern.

Sonic Disruption(1030) attempts to ward anything in the area not in your group, playing an instrument while using this song increase the damage. Manipulation lore increases the damage factor by +6 damage for every 10 ranks, at 15 ranks the bard can focus the song at a single target, for half the mana cost. With 30 ranks the bard can sing the open version as if accompanied by a one handed instrument, at 60 ranks your song becomes equivalent to using a two handed instrument, at 75 ranks you’ll be able to focus on a single target as if accompanied by a two handed instrument. It is safer to use a one handed instrument since you can use a shield while playing. I suppose with brawling training you might be safe enough playing a two handed instrument in the field. This song is extremely dangerous to other players use discretion when singing the open version as anyone passing through is likely to be maimed or killed.

Song of Tonis(1035) speeds up you and your group, imparting a bonus of twenty (20) dodge ranks and lowering your round time by -1. Training in air lore lowers round time by -1 at 30, and 75 ranks, (-3RT total.) Air lore will also increase the group’s dodge bonus by +1 at ranks 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10, 14 17, 21, 26, 31, 36, 42, 49, 55, 63, 70, 78, 87, 96. Telepathy lore will increase the duration of the song, the bonus is +1 second per rank for the first 20 ranks of telepathy lore. Every 2 ranks of telepathy lore thereafter will increase the song's duration +1 second. The total maximum duration addition for 100 ranks is 60 seconds. In case I hadn’t mentioned it before, it is important to remember that every two ranks of telepathy lore lengthens the duration of all your songs by two (2) seconds, longer song durations means fewer renewals in the field.

Troubadours Rally(1040) will attempt to stand the bard and their group to their feet with no round time and remove calm, stuns, binds, webs, or immobility afflicting the bard or their group. Invoked by shouting 1040, this spell will not attempt to aid the group if the bard remains incapacitated. In other words you have to save yourself, to save the others. Not all the effects may break on the first try, if it does stand you up, it will provide a bonus to breaking webs, binds, or immobility for you and the group. Stun, immobility, and web effects for the Bard are removed at a base rate of 60% -2% per second remaining in the effect's duration, +2% per mental mana control rank. The minimum rate is 40% Removes calm and sleep from group members with guaranteed success. Stuns, immobility, and webs are removed at a base rate of 90%, -3% per second remaining in the effect's duration, +3% at telepathy lore ranks 1, 3, 6, 10 15, 21, 28, 36, 45, 55, 66, 78, 91. The minimum rate is 10%.

A word of caution about sonic equipment particularly sonic shields and armor, should you become stunned or injured and are unable to renew your songs all of your sonic gear will immediately dissipate leaving you without your defenses. For this reason I strongly encourage bards to use metal armor, in many hunting grounds, particularly against creatures who pose a danger of falling or hurling rocks, such as gargoyles, pyrothags, stone giants, illoke, or krynch. Sonic equipment can also be dispelled.

Secrets of the Bard Guild revealed

Spoiler Alert in game secrets discussed below

Traveler’s song(1020) will magically teleport the bard an their group to the nearest bar or tavern, it will work anywhere you can use a gold ring. The song has a chance of failure and a long list of side effects, even when it works. Milder side effects include severe disorientation, and extreme thirst, which is one reason I carry a flask of strong drink at all times. On a failure, the bard may lose all their mana, suffer massive head and neck wounds, and or be teleported to a dangerous area. Playing an instrument will help your chances of success, as will anchoring yourself to a specific inn. Once anchored, a bard will always return to that inn on a successful attempt. To anchor, travel to the inn, you can only anchor where you land using 1020. Then create a song as long as you can manage in one breath, using details about the inn, the bar, the ale, etc.When you have your song written, prepare 1020, then sing your song, if it works a circle of mana will enfold you and sink into the ground.

In addition to our own spell circle, bards can sing in a wide variety of tones and have the unique ability to loresing to weapons, armor, and items allowing us to discern their properties. To create a loresong hold an item in your right hand, and use loresing (message) you can separate the verses using a semicolon. The first verse of a loresong must contain the item name, the second half asks the question. Say you have a drake dagger;

loresing drake dagger so simple and plain;let your true value now be explained

would tell you how much silver the dagger is worth. There are keywords that will provide certain information about items, they are value/weight, purpose, realm/skill, ability, and in some cases quality, while these keywords help successfully identify information about an item they are by no means required. However your songs do need to at least come close to rhyming, contain the item name, a question, and involve two or more verses. The general order of loresong keywords to use varies based on the type of item, the key words are weight, purpose, realm, magic, skill, ability, and quality.

The first verse for all items is to begin by asking for its weight or worth, this will provide you with an exact item weight and an approximate value in silvers which may or may not accurately reflect prices on the open market.

On the second verse asking an item for its purpose will let you identify if it is magical, a weapon, or just plain jewelry. Asking for the quality of an instrument or lockpick will give you the relative quality of the pick and determine if the instrument is in tune.

On the third verse, use the keyword magic or realm will let you identify any enhancive properties, and the magical sphere of any spell inside the item, as well as the number of charges. If the item is a weapon using the keyword skill will give an exact enchant.

Four verses is usually enough glean everything about an item, asking for its ability will give you a precise spell name, and will identify the exact bonuses imparted by any enhancive properties present in the item, as well as any possible restrictions to the item’s use. Starting out you will need to invent new verses each time, after a bit of practice you’ll be able to reuse older rhymes to accommodate new items.

Advanced Loresongs

One technique not covered in the section on loresongs, was the concatenation technique, with this approach the item name always has to be contained in the second verse and as you progress you simply add an additional line to the existing verses, building it into a four or six line song. Concatenation is a technique far more favorable to the experienced rather than the bard fresh off the turnip farm. The technique was developed by a bardess named Morgatha Cywenth.

You will occasionally come across an unusual item with a very detailed loresong, the story it tells will obscure the resonance of the more mundane features like worth, magic, and enchant, some of these items may even prove harmful to the bard. In these rare instances you might be able to get additional information by bringing the item to the crystal at the abandoned inn in Wehnimer's Landing.

Loresongs can be sung at a target or object in the same room as the bard.

loresing :tone ::target and then the message.

Loresongs can be used to identify an owner of a weapon that has been lost, however this feature is rather time sensitive so best to try with a few hours of the item going missing. It can also be used to determine what size lock a box has, similar to the way calipers work for locksmiths, use the key word lock when attempting this technique. One final use is to loresing for the quality of lockpicks and instruments, be sure to use the key word quality when attempting this technique. Lastly, remember everyone is a critic! If you are feeling lazy loresing some place private, or sing in bardish.

Training & Combat Advice

With regard to how to approach song progression, I suggest learning elemental defense I (401), then focus on bard spells up to song of peace (1011), this will give you twenty (+20) defensive strength and a way to make an area safe. For those who don’t plan to use sonic equipment right away this is a good point to go back to minor elemental spells, disarm enhancement(404) helps with aiming, elemental wave (410) is good for crowd control, and elemental blade (411) will let you put flares on your ammunition. For those who do plan to use sonics, focus on the bard list through traveler’s song (1020), this will give you a way to teleport out of wilderness. Then train in elementals until you learn elemental targeting (425) the casting and attack strength bonuses are invaluable, especially once you learn the bard songs up to troubadour’s rally (1040). To summarize: 401, 1001 - 1011, 402-411 for archers, 1012 -1020, 402/411 - 425, 1025 – 1040, 430.

For a brawler I suggest double training(2x) in brawling and one and half training (1.5x)for dodge, combat maneuvers, physical fitness, single train (1x) in spells, harness power, and lores. Brawling bards combine sonic flares and the extra speed from song of Tonis (1035), focus on air lore for extra speed and improving your chances for a double flare on your sonic weapon. This build does not expressly require a shield but I’d strongly recommend it as sonic shields cause less hindrance to dodging and you’ll need the extra defense. Try learning the feint, sweep, cheapshots, and dirt- kick combat maneuvers. Feint allows you to give the target round time and force them into a more offensive stance, and at 5 ranks it can be used bare handed. Similarly many of the cheapshot maneuvers can be used without a weapon, they can be used to prevent casting, force stance, and give round time as well, but work best on plate armor or foes with more than two legs.

For a one handed weapon and shield user I recommend double training in the weapon of choice, and choosing either single training (1x) dodge and shield use, or double training (2x) shield use and either half training(.5x) dodge or dropping dodge training all together and using a tower shield, single train(1x) in spells, combat maneuvers, physical fitness, harness power, and lores. For bards who train heavily in shield use I suggest learning the shield bash, feint, cheapshot, sweep, and dirtkick combat maneuvers and focusing on air lore to maximize your potential for double flares and to reduce the dodge penalty from your shield. Shield bash for those who double train in shield and or sweep for those who study it less, will provide a knock down maneuver, which is a necessity for those creatures that like to topple over, or when you run low on mana before a song renewal.

For a two weapon wielding bard I recommend double training (2x) in two weapon combat and either edged or blunt weapons, single training in dodge, combat maneuvers, physical fitness, spells, harness power, and lore, with as much multi-opponent combat as you can manage to squeeze in. I suggest learning the hamstring, feint, sweep, and dirt kick combat maneuvers. Most two weapon combat bard are whirling dervishes that combine small fast sonic weapons, multi-strike, and song of Tonis (1035) to maximize the chances of flares. Focus on air lore is recommended, but telepathy lore can be just as useful for slowing down your foes and raising your attack strength bonus from Kai’s Triumph (1007). Hamstring works very well with two weapons, it gives round time, and a nasty leg injury which will hamper the target’s ability to dodge your follow up attacks. Feint will also be useful for creating an opening to make the most of your double striking abilities.

For lancers, I recommend double training (2x) polearms, and single training (1x) dodge, spells, combat maneuvers, physical fitness, harness power, and lores. Polearm training is more expensive than one handed weapons, making it harder to train in tertiary skills such as skinning, climbing, or first aid. Lances hit hard, but are unwieldy, if you can’t swing them fast enough, try using a hammer of kai, or naginata. For bards training in polearms while expensive, is easier than learning two handed weapons and provides access to the charge maneuver which is the most lethal knock down maneuver. Try learning the feint, charge, combat mastery, and dirtkick maneuvers. Polearms also work well with singing weapon (1025), I suggest using the halberd base. This build can focus on manipulation lore, flares are not as important on large weapons, and it will improve your purification song(1004), make your singing weapon’s (1025) attack stronger, and improve the damage from 1002 and 1030.

For archery double train (2x) ranged and perception, and single train (1x) dodge, spells, physical fitness harness power, and lore. Bard archers shoot from the open which precludes training in ambush, but it raises your attack strength after forty ranks, and provides a bonus to cheapshot maneuvers. Combat maneuvers do not help your ranged attack strength, but can provide defense against maneuvers and allows you to learn some passive combat maneuvers to help with defense, such as combat focus and cunning defense. Archery works well with singing weapon(1025) try using the heavy crossbow or longbow base. For hurlers double train (2x) hurling, perception, and one and a half train (1.5x) combat maneuvers, and single train (1x) dodge, spells, physical fitness, harness power, and lore. This is a physical heavy build and might require you to sacrifice dodge training in order to use a shield more effectively. Both builds should make use of vibration chant to remove a target’s shield.

For pure bards I recommend trying something else until you become a great lord then converting your skills over to a more magical build. Training is generally as close to 2x spells as you can manage while still being double trained in shield use, and single trained in lore, harness power. Many magic centered bards learn brawling to help with defend while playing an instrument, this becomes a moot point after you attain seventy five ranks of manipulation lore which will make your sonic disruption (1030) as damaging as possible even when focused and not require an instrument at all. These bards are very good at purifying gems and using vibration chant, I recommend learning 24 ranks of mental mana control in order to utilize song of unraveling to conserve your mana reserves in the field. Blue and crystal wands generally return the most mana when using song of unraveling (1013) it can also be used effectively against foes that have mana reserves but do not generally wear spells.

Racial considerations

Well you can’t really help what race you are, and in the interest of full disclosure I have met bards from almost every race and culture during my years. Having said that, the most talented bards are usually very good with people and are highly influential, this lends itself to erithians and elves, perhaps most notably Lorenthrans. However, you will also find many successful half-elves and giantmen among the guild due to our superior combat ability. Keep in mind I am speaking in generalities and there are outliers, perhaps the most powerful bard I ever met was a gnome.

Conclusion

Please remember this has all been my opinion and take my advice with a grain of salt. I hope that my commentary has helped and I thank you for indulging me until the end. Now go do something dangerous and ill advised! Archales sur-Rocine

See Also