Comprehensive Bard Guide

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Comprehensive Bard Guide
Bard Weapons.jpg
Type Elemental/Mental Semi
Spell Circles Minor Elemental, Bard Base
Prime Requisites Influence, Aura
Mana Statistics Influence, Aura
Physical Skills
Skill Cost Ranks
Two Weapon Combat 3/2 2
Armor Use 5/0 2
Shield Use 5/0 2
Combat Maneuvers 8/4 2
Edged Weapons 3/1 2
Blunt Weapons 4/1 2
Two-Handed Weapons 7/2 2
Ranged Weapons 4/2 2
Thrown Weapons 3/1 2
Polearm Weapons 6/1 2
Brawling 3/1 2
Ambush 4/4 1
Multi Opponent Combat 7/3 1
Physical Fitness 4/0 2
Dodging 6/6 2
Magical Skills
Skill Cost Ranks
Arcane Symbols 0/4 2
Magic Item Use 0/4 2
Spell Aiming 3/10 1
Harness Power 0/5 2
Elemental Mana Control 0/6 1
Mental Mana Control 0/6 1
Spirit Mana Control 0/12 1
Spell Research 0/17 2
Elemental Lore 0/8 1
Spiritual Lore 0/20 1
Sorcerous Lore 0/18 1
Mental Lore 0/8 1
General Skills
Skill Cost Ranks
Survival 2/2 2
Disarming Traps 2/3 2
Picking Locks 2/1 2
Stalking and Hiding 3/2 2
Perception 0/3 2
Climbing 3/0 2
Swimming 3/0 2
First Aid 2/1 2
Trading 0/2 2
Pickpocketing 2/1 2

Contents

About the Guide

This guide is brought to you by members of the GS community from discussions via various forums, Discord chats and direct player input on gswiki. It is ALWAYS open for contributions from the community.
Last Upate: 2/9/2018

Race and Stat Considerations

Racial Bonus To Starting Statistics (Sortable Table)
Race Strength Constitution Dexterity Agility Discipline Aura Logic Intuition Wisdom Influence Total
Aelotoi -5 0 5 10 5 0 5 5 0 -5 +20
Burghal gnome -15 10 10 10 -5 5 10 5 0 -5 +25
Dark elf 0 -5 10 5 -10 10 0 5 5 -5 +15
Dwarf 10 15 0 -5 10 -10 5 0 0 -10 +15
Elf 0 0 5 15 -15 5 0 0 0 10 +20
Erithian -5 10 0 0 5 0 5 0 0 10 +25
Forest gnome -10 10 5 10 5 0 5 0 5 -5 +25
Giantman 15 10 -5 -5 0 -5 -5 0 0 5 +10
Half elf 0 0 5 10 -5 0 0 0 0 5 +15
Half krolvin 10 10 0 5 0 0 -10 0 -5 -5 +5
Halfling -15 10 15 10 -5 -5 5 10 0 -5 +20
Human 5 0 0 0 0 0 5 5 0 0 +15
Sylvankind 0 0 10 5 -5 5 0 0 0 0 +15

AgiDex

Roundtime is quite simple. Strength and encumbrance can be a factor but that can be managed by carefully managing inventory. The most important factor is AgiDex, or the sum of the bonuses of a character's Dexterity and Agility. This combined total helps reduce the Roundtime of a physical attack by a specified amount:

Agility +
Dexterity
Roundtime
reduction

8 - 22 1
23 - 37 2
38 - 52 3
53 - 67 4
68 - 82 5
83 - 96 6
98 - 112 7
113+ 8
Roundtime reductions above 5 are not
achievable without enhancive items.

Pairing that table with the stat table above we can break it down to see each races theoretical maximum AgiDex, before enhancives:

5 RT Reduction 4 RT Reduction 3 RT Reduction
Halfling Aelotoi Erithian
Burghal gnome Dark elf Human
Elf Forest gnome Dwarf
Half-elf Giantman
Sylvankind
Half-Krolvin

This is important because weapons have a minimum RT, and a base RT. By taking the base RT and subtracting the bard's AgiDex we can find that bard's unencumbered swing RT.
This is especially interesting to bards who use polearms because of their high base roundtimes:

Weapon Type Weapon Name Base RT Min RT
THW Claid 8 5
Polearm Lance 9 5
Polearm Awl-Pike 9 5

A Human, Dwarf, or Giantman cannot use a lance with minimum RT unless they use enhancives. Those in the middle columns can grow into a lance but their stats will not likely be placed for growth, so they will eventually want to invest in a fixstat. Halflings, Burghal Gnomes, and Elves are able to reach the highest AgiDex totals and will have a far easier time swinging a lance in at the minimum roundtime.

Dexterity is also important as the AS stat for the Archer Bard.

Strength

Strength bonus adds directly to melee AS. Any melee bard is going to want a decent Strength stat. Polearm bards will want to pair that with a decent AgiDex possibility. The table below compares the Strength stats of those races capable of using a lance at minimum RT:

5 RT Reduction STR Mod 4 RT Reduction STR Mod
Halfling -15 Aelotoi -5
Burghal gnome -15 Dark elf 0
Elf 0 Forest gnome -10
Half-elf 0
Sylvankind 0
Half-krolvin 10

As we can see from the table an elf is likely to be the most balanced polearm user between their high AgiDex and lack of a strength penalty. Half-Krolvin, with their +10 strength bonus and reasonable AgiDex value can also be a good choice. Any race will make a viable polearm bard but those wanting to maximize their efficiency should look to those two, as well as the sylvan, half-elf, or dark elf.

Multi-song Penalty

The Discipline and Logic stat bonuses are factors in the multi-song penalty. There is no reason to pick a race specifically based on these stats but they can be a factor.

Combined DIS and LOG Bonus:
+15: Dwarf
+10: Aelotoi, Erithian, Forest gnome
+5 Burghal gnome, Human
0: Halfling
-5: Sylvan, Half-elf, Giantman
-10: Dark elf, Half-krolvin
-15: Elf

Pure Build CS Considerations

Aura is the Bard CS Stat:
+10 dark elf
+5 Burghal gnome, Elf
0 Aelotoi, Erithian, Forest gnome, Half elf, Half-krolvin, Human
-5 Giantman & Halfling
-10 Dwarf

Other Racial Factors

Bear in mind that there are many other mechanical factors to consider when selecting a race. Not to mention all the role playing decisions. The weaker races, such as halflings and gnomes, tend to have much better maneuver defense than bigger, stronger races. As a trade off they also tend to have terrible encumbrance, while bigger races are able to carry quite a bit more. Elven races have bonuses to resisting disease and a small one to poison, but are slightly weaker against warding spells. Dwarves are less resistant to disease but also resistant to poison and have a bonus to warding off elemental magic. Halflings are slightly more resistant to poison, disease, and elemental magic than dwarves. Half-krolvin have natural heavy crit padding against cold attacks and suffer less from cold weather effects.

The races of Elanthia all have their pros and cons. They are well balanced and any one could make an excellent bard. Take into account the full picture, including mechanics and their cultural backgrounds, before you decide on a race for yours. Then you can likely pick an Elf because bards want to be pretty!

Skills

Physical Skills

  • Armor Use Reduces RT associated with heavier armor, Combat maneuver penalties, and spell hindrance from wearing armor
  • Shield Use Generates DS when using a shield.
  • Weapon Use Raises AS with a particular Weapon.
  • Two Weapon Combat Allows the use of two one-handed weapons.
  • Combat Maneuvers +.5 Melee AS per rank and access to combat maneuvers.
  • Multi-Opponent Combat Reduces penalties from force-on-force and allows for mstrike.
  • Ambush Assists in aiming physical attacks.
  • Physical Fitness Core training, HP growth, Maneuver defense
  • Dodge Generates evasion DS.

Magical Skills

  • Arcane Symbols Allows the use of and improves durations from scrolls.
  • Magic Item Use Allows the use of and improves the durations from magic items.
  • Harness Power 3 mana per training up to your level, 1 per after that.
  • Spell Aiming Weapon training for bolts, which bards do not use.
  • Mana Control Allows the sharing of mana and improves your own mana regen. Bards, as hybrids, have easy access to both mental and elemental mana controls.
  • Spell Research Learn spells and spellsongs and make those you already know better.
  • Lores Incremental improvements to specific spells related to that lore.

General Overview of Bard Songs

Buffing Songs:

Sonic Equipment

Attack Songs

Miscellaneous Songs

Situational Room-Effect Songs

High Level Spellsongs

How do they work?

Songs have an initial cost to activate and a shorter duration than standard spells. When their duration ends they can renew, at a cost in mana. Like other spells, duration is increased via gaining a more spell ranks. In additon, Mental Lore, Telepathy training, Logic, and Influence factor in. The upkeep cost is dependent on the songs being sung, and are then influenced by a multi-song penalty.

Multi-Song Penalty

The multi-song penalty is still being researched but the basic gist is that there is a default additional 12 mana cost for every song that you keep up after the first three. This is reduced by bard song ranks, Discipline, and Logic. This is a very steep cost. It can cause some preferential gaming of the system. For example: The initial cast of 1003 only costs 3 mana. So, 5 seconds before the renew cycle you can drop 1003, do your renewal manually, and then recast 1003 back up: You just saved up to 10 mana.

The multi-song penalty becomes a non-issue over time. The known part of the equation is that each bard rank provides -.5 renewal cost on the multi-song penalty. However, the upkeep costs for songs also increases as bard ranks increase:
1006 grows at +.125 upkeep
1010 grows at +.1 upkeep
1019 grows at +.1 upkeep

If you keep those three songs up, you are essentially losing out on .325 upkeep gains against the multi-song penalty. This means each rank is only decreasing mana costs by .175 mana total.

Lores:

As hybrid list, bard spells take advantage of both mental and elemental lores. While there are five mental lores and four elemental, bards only really need to worry about three total: Telepathy and Manipulation on the mental side and Air on the elemental side. The minor elemental spell list does have interactions with all the elemental lores but it is rarely, if ever, a good idea to train lores specifically for the minor elemental circle.

Mental Lore, Telepathy

Mental Lore, Telepathy primarily benefits physical Bards, but is also great for low level bards.
For Physical builds, Telepathy training offers additional AS from 1007, and additional duration on 1035. For Pure builds, it furthers the TD pushdown of 1015 but Manipulation typically offers a greater benefit. For all builds, each rank gives a flat +2 second increase to song durations, hence why it can be important for low level bards.

Mental Lore, Manipulation

Mental Lore, Manipulation affects 1002, 1004, and 1030. 1030 is the biggest influence. Manipulation allows you to improve the power of the spell as if you were playing an instrument. At 60 ranks you cause damage as though playing a mastered two-handed instrument without one; 15 additional ranks are required to do the same against a single target.

Elemental Lore, Air

Air Lore is great for 1035 and Sonic gear.

Sonic Equipment

1009 and 1012 has a base of 2x, growth of 1/2 bonus per rank
1014 has a base of 3x, growth of 1/2 bonus per rank
All have a max of 7x

Sonic Shield

A Sonic Shield is the best shield you can use in Elanthia. For one thing it is nearly weightless. In addition, the Air Lore benefit for Sonic Shield is AMAZING! At 20/50/100 ranks of air lore, the shield is effectively -1/-2/-3 sizes for purposes of penalties. This means at 100 air ranks, a tower shield reduces evade chances and DS as if it were a small shield. To maximize DS you will always want to sing the smallest shield you can to maintain your evasion. At 20 ranks of air lore that would be a medium shield, at 50 ranks a large, and at 100 ranks a tower shield.

Sonic Weapons

Sonic weapons are one of the best reasons to be a physical bard. Much like sonic shields they are almost weightless. Plus, all sonic weapons have strong air flares. With air lore, you can even get a chance for a second flare. This increases at 3% per seed 3 summation. This uses continuous, rather than discrete growth, so each rank adds a fraction of that 3% instead of gaining 3% in chunks at specific breakpoints.

That said there are many variables involved in the choice between a sonic weapon or a physical one. The first thing to account for is your bard ranks and air lore ranks versus your next best physical weapon alternative. Not using a sonic weapon will save you mana on your renewal cycle, which can be channeled towards 1035 or more 1030 for damage. One important thing to remember is that Sonic Weapons cannot be disarmed. If you're fighting something with Disarming CMANs you can just use a sonic weapon to avoid it completely.

Sonic Armor

Sonic armor is great, especially when you first receive the spell. You get to choose the ASG when you cast it. This means that as you train up your armor use you can continuously improve the ASG of your armor without having to buy new sets. On top of that sonic armor is 25% of the standard weight for armor of the ASG you choose. That provides quite a nice bonus for encumbrance. Also, sonic armor has built in resistance to heat, cold, and electric attacks that grows with your training in the bard circle and air lore. It also has a small vulnerability to impact attacks but that one does not change. Sonic Armor is the only sonic equipment that starts at 3x, which means it will max out at 40 Spellsongs, where shield and weapon take 50 spellsongs. The growing availability of padding for physical armor does make sonic armor the most replaceable of the sonic gears.


Spell Research Training

This spell progression applies to all bard builds.

The recommended spell progression path is: Bard Spellsongs to 1020
Minor Elemental Spells to 430
Bard Spellsongs up to equal to your level<bard>

There are multiple reasons for this:

  • Unlocking Sonic Armor (1014) is incredibly powerful because it allows you to keep yourself in the highest ASG you are trained for until you are fully trained for your chosen armor.
  • 1030 and 1035 are extremely mana intensive. If you unlock then at level 30 and 35 respectively, you will not have the max mana pool to support utilizing them.
  • The AS bonus from additional bard songs for Kai's Triumph Song (1007) maxes out at 17 Bard Ranks.
  • The 20th rank of Bard gives +2 DS total due to rounding on 1010 and 1014. This makes it worth picking up the 20th rank after song of Mirrors, even if you do not care about Traveler's Song
  • The first 20 bard songs are objectively better than the first 20 Minor Elemental spells and should be prioritized first.

Proof for this Conclusion:
Using an Excel Spreadsheet that analyzes AS, DS, and CS for Minor Elemental/Bard Ranks.
Assuming 1012 or 411 is used, whichever has the superior AS bonus
Assuming 1014 is used.

Measurement Times when Bard 35 First is highest Times When MnE 30 is Highest Times when Bard20 -> MnE 30 -> Bard35 is Highest
AS 31 47 38
DS 27 22 43
CS 30 31 36
Total: 88 100 117


Note: Ties were counted for both winners.

Note: Emphasizing Minor Elemental before 1035 is also 100% dependent on being a SOLO player. If you have a pocket wizard, mana battery, and all other sorts of helpers available, the gap diminishes to a point of pure subjectivity. Multi-account builds can be VERY different than solo builds to maximize performance of a group. This guide is really only dealing with solo builds.

It is worth noting that everything evens out at after you have the 65 spell ranks regardless.

Training

This is broken down into Core Training, and Discrete Training.

  • Core training includes skills you train in a certain amount each level for that build.
  • Discrete Training includes skills that you want to hit a breakpoint on.

Common Core Training

Core training for ANY bard:

Total: (10/30)

Common Discrete Training

The Polearm Bard

A lot of support for polearm bards actually lies within racial selection. Polearms are some of the highest Damage Factor weapons in Elanthia, at the cost of higher RTs. This makes their AgiDex requirement for minimizing RTs a major factor. Since they are also fairly heavy weapons, the weightlessness of sonic weapons is a major boon. Given the potency of Song of Tonis, polearm bards are eventually swinging the highest DF weapons available in the minimum amount of time possible. This, coupled with the impressive flares on sonic weapons, makes them exceptionally deadly hunters.

Polearm Bard Core Training

Total: (36/35)

Polearm Bard Discrete Training

Polearm Bard Discrete Training Prioritization

Start with the 25 ranks of Mental Lore, Telepathy. Telepathy will increase spellsong duration by 2 seconds per rank. At low levels, this increased spellsong duration is the greatest benefit you can get from your spare training points. In addition you have the AS bonus Telepathy gives for 1007.

As bards can only single in Mental Lores, you will likely find yourself with extra points beyond this. These other points should be used for Armor Use up to 60 ranks. The impacts of armor make maximizing your armor early on the best thing you can do for your survivability. 60 ranks in Armor will train off as much as you can for RT, Maneuver, and Bard Hinderance for Augmented Chain (ASG15).

These goals will take most bards into their 40s level wise. After this, powering in spell research until you unlock both 1020 and 430 will be the most efficient use of TPs.

After that, training branches subjectively depending on your weapon, hunting grounds, and personal preferences.

  • Bards using sonic gear will find building up Elemental Lore, Air beneficial.
  • Those hunting in Rivers Rest, Solhaven, or Icemule may want to pick up Climbing/Swimming a bit earlier
  • Multi-Opponent combat is fun but it tends to be more of a nice-to-have rather than a major training requirement.


The Sword and Board Bard

Using a one-handed weapon and shield provides a much higher DS than a two-handed weapon or polearm. Additionally, there are the benefits already discussed to using a Sonic Shield. Even if bards do not have access shield maneuvers, they are one of the classes that gets some of the greatest benefit from shields. A tower shield with the evasion reduction of a small shield is extremely powerful defensively.
A single, small one-handed weapon gives you the ability to make ample use of air flares for some amazing damage.

Sword and Board Bard Core Training

Total: (32/46) Yes this will be tight.

Sword and Board Bard Discrete Training

Sword and Board Discrete Training Priorities

Most of the training is similar between the polearm and sword/board builds. This build has the same overall prioritization in the Discrete training, 25 Telepathy, 60 armor, spells to 1020 and 430. The 1x Air Lore is part of the Core Training for sword/board due to the relative strength of sonic shield, and the reliance on air flares from a sonic weapon for kill speed. Therefore, it will take longer to get the telepathy ranks than it does for the polearm build.


The Archer Bard

Archery is one of the most powerful attack forms in Elanthia. Archers can easily combine master fletched, e-bladed arrows with a 5x bow to make a fairly cheap 10x weapon. Archery Bards do lose out on a few bard-specific tools, specifically sonic weapon and shield, but that can be a fair trade off for the power of archery.

Archery Bard Core Training

Total: (26/47)

Archery Bard Discrete Training

Archery Bard Discrete Training Priorities

Archer bards spend a lot of MTPs each level. From the 2x Perception, increased weapon training costs, and the higher MTP requirement of Ambush as compared to Combat Maneuvers, archer bards will be strapped for mental points. The ranks of Telepathy lore and, eventually, air lore are going to be farther out than other physical builds. Archer bards do not utilize the double flaring potential of sonic weaponry. Nor will they get to ignore disarm, due to their lack of a sonic weapon. Air Lore is ONLY going to be beneficial for 1035 roundtime reduction and possibly sonic armor. Since aiming shots also adds 1 RT, archer bards really need to get to 75 ranks of Air Lore for the maximum 1035 RT reduction. Unfortunately, since this build is already VERY MTP intensive, it will not be easy to balance all of the necessary skill training without sacrificing stat placement or slowing overall power growth.

As the AS bonus from Kai's Song of Triumph caps out at 17 ranks in Bard Circle, the only way to improve AS growth at a competitive rate will be a heavy investment in Minor Elemental. This means trading .5 Dodge and .5 DS per spell rank from increasing the Bard Circle for .5 DS, .5 TD, and .5 AS from the Minor Elemental Circle.
Troubadour's Rally is important at higher levels, in terms of keeping songs up, so bard ranks should be taken at least that far. With 1x spell research that will get the archer bard to 62 ranks in Minor Elemental. On the bright side, that leaves some room for growth post cap.

The Two Weapon Bard

What could be better than a sonic weapon that can flare twice in a hit? Swinging a sonic weapon and another flaring weapon at the same time. Two-Weapon Combat Bards can be a whirling dervish of flaring death.

TWC is a very expensive build and this path opens up fewer additional training options. It will also take much longer to reach all of the training goals. The payoff can certainly be worth it though.

TWC Bard Core Training

Total: (36/44)

TWC Bard Discrete Training

TWC Bard Discrete Training Priorities

The discrete training of the TWC bard is similar to that of the other melee builds. Priority should be given to 25 ranks of Telepathy lore and 60 ranks of Armor Use. Then spells should be taken up to 1020 and 430. Unfortunately, while air lore is almost as important to the TWC bard as it is to the Sword/Bard bard, there is simply no room for it in the core build. After spells, air lore should be a priority unless the bard desperately needs some climbing and/or swimming.

The Pure Bard

Melting faces with music is the realm of the Pure Bard. Imagine playing the intro to Dragonforce: Through the Fire and Flames in a room of 50 Ithzir and then BAM, all of their heads explode! That is the Pure Bard. This build also has the fringe benefit of longer purification sessions, and more silvers from gems. This is a result of the heavy investment into Manipulation Lore.

Pure Bard Core Training

Total: (25/22)

Pure Bard Discrete Training

Shield versus Runestaff

There have been quite a few discussions about the use of a shield versus a runestaff for a Pure Bard. A Runestaff is certainly viable and has some benefits, but DS will be much better with a shield. It will also require additional magical ranks per level to gather viable runestaff DS. The best training point investment for runestaff defense would be obtained through Magic Item Use and Arcane Symbols. However, the Pure Bard already trains heavily in mental skills, so they will run an MTP deficit. One rank of AS, and 1 rank of MIU is will cost 0/8 or 16/0 once TPs are converted. It is cheaper to get 2 ranks in shield use by 1 PTP and it will provide more DS. Additionally, many pure bards feel that the high crit-kill rate of 1030 renders runestaff flares less effective. There are pros and cons to either choice.


When to Pure

Opinions about this are markedly split.

Once a bard has the TPs to have 1030, 430, and 60 ranks in Armor, while also being up to level in the core training and lores, they are probably alright to convert over to a Pure Bard. If stats are placed for mid tier growth (that is, starting to max out around 50-60 range), this is possible as early as level 40, though it may be safer to wait until roughly level 60. Be warned that mana pool will still be quite low at this point. Find out which creatures have mana but few worn spells: Mental Mana Control can help extend hunts by utilizing Song of Unraveling (1013) against them while in the field, and carrying blue or crystal wands will let them be drained as batteries.

If the Bard is still training in a weapon style--to possibly include Shield Use--just for the ability to sit in Guarded while casting, then yes, training points will be tight. (For example, only 52 Songs known at 46th level; though less-than-doubled in weapon.) Whereas if those points are sunk into magical skills towards runestaff defense, to include forgoing CM ranks, that changes dramatically. (Same Bard, retrained, with no weapon or shield or CM, to 41 Songs and 30 Minor Elemental [enough to self-cast both Targeting and Barrier].) Another key is, once the Bard has all of those magical skills, to then go ahead and use them: pick up cheap imbeds, and save scrolls found in treasure or on a pawn table. Routinely head out hunting wearing everything from every profession, because the ranks of Item Use and Symbols will give good benefits for a good duration.

Pure CS Calculation

Up to level, Bard Circle grant +1 CS per rank
+1 to +20 over level Bard Circle grants +.75 CS per rank
From +21 to +60 over level, Bard Circle grants +.5 CS per rank

425 adds +.5 CS Per rank up to 75 ranks.
Up to 2/3 level, and before 75 ranks, Minor Elemental grants .83 CS (.33 CS + .5 from 425)
From 2/3 up to level, Minor Elemental grants .6 CS (.1 CS + .5 from 425)


Simply Put

  • If Bard Ranks < Level Then train Bard
  • If Bard Ranks = Level & Minor Elemental < 2/3 level Then train Minor Elemental
  • If Bard Ranks =< Level + 20 & Minor Elemental = 2/3 Level, Then Train Bard
  • If Bard Ranks => Level +20 & Minor Elemental < 75, then train Minor Elemental
  • If Minor Elemental = 75, Then Train Bard.


Bard CMAN Selection

For Melee Bards There are a few offensive CMANs that are perfect for the different builds:

  • Polearm Bards have access to Charge
  • Sword and Board make great use of Shield Bash
  • TWC builds benefit from Hamstring

After capping the best offensive CMAN, there are a lot of points left to put towards defensive skills:

  • Bandits use Cheapshot, Tackle, Hamstring, Feint, Subdual Strike, Sweep

Of course, Defensive CMANs include:

  • Combat Focus (+2 TD)
  • Combat Movement (+2 DS)
  • Cunning Defense (+3 Combat Maneuver Defense)
  • Disarm Weapon can be good if you are using a physical weapon.
  • Bards who enjoy group hunting could potentially use Side-by-side.

For Ranged Bards

  • Multi-Fire is a terrible maneuver that no archer should ever take. Mfire attacks cannot be aimed and there is no roundtime advantage to using it.
  • Ranged Bards WILL need to train in Disarm as they are not using a sonic weapon to be immune. An archer generates a great deal of DS from their bow and losing it can be deadly.
  • Beyond that refer to the defensive CMAN options above.

Societies

Elanthia currently has 3 Societies to choose from; The Council of Light (CoL), Voln, and Guardians of Sunfist (GoS). Each offers unique bonuses and role play opportunities.

CoL

COL is the society for people who love big numbers. The society offers very little outside of the core AS/DS benefits, but those additional benefits are pretty nice mechanically.
Sign of Staunching stops all bleeding for 1 mana.
Sign of Healing is full Health for 2 spirit.
Sign of Wracking is full mana for 5 spirit.
Sign of Darkness is a teleport back to town for 6 spirit.
The other signs offer an overall gain of 35 AS, 35 DS, 20 Ranged/Spell DS, and 15 TD.

Keeping some of these signs up costs spirit. Fortunately, CoL sign duration is 10 seconds per level. At cap that is a duration of 16 minutes, 40 seconds. Even a dark elf could stagger signs enough to regen the 3 spirit required for the AS/DS/TD signs, and still remain barely static. Although, a dark elf cannot reasonably do that before level 90, they could always just leave off one of the 3 spirit using signs. Of course, a Dark Elf could not make the same use out of Sign of Wracking, due to the slow spirit regen.

Overall CoL offers decent abilities and low upkeep costs, but spirit can be burdensome for some races.

GoS

Sunfist is an attractive option, depending on your playstyle. It provies less overall AS/DS than CoL, at only +30 max but more TD at +20. The Sigil of Major Bane also offers heavy crit weighting to all AS/DS attacks against Hated Enemites. This includes bolts and fire can be VERY effective against a warcamp full of trolls. On the defensive side, they receive -5 DS relative to CoL, but they also get Heavy Crit padding with Sigil of Major Protection.

Sigil of Power converts 50 stamina to 25 mana, and often bard CMAN points are better used in defensive skills, leaving stamina free.
Sigil of Escape provides protection against Stun/web/binds/etc, once per day. This is definitely going to save your life at times and is a nice alternative to 1040.
Sigil of Mending provides a +10 boost to health recovery and allows you to eat any herb in 3 seconds.
Sigil of Concentration provides a +10 boost to mana recovery per pulse.
The other major attraction of GoS is the ability to Warcamp. These self contained hunting grounds generate Grimswarm creatures of a specific race; Troll, Orc, or Giant. They can be one of many professions and have the abilities to match. Camps can be more dangerous than regular hunting grounds but they are also a place you can fry very quickly.

The downside to Sunfist is that the duration and costs of their sigils are static. You are going to be spending a large amount of mana/stamina to keep sigils up throughout a hunt and it takes some effort to keep them running. For the base AS/DS boosts, you are only looking at 10 mana/10 Stamina every 5 minutes. If you want the Sigil of Major Bane and Sigil of Major Protection for the additional +10 AS/DS and heavy weighting/padding it will cost an additional 20 mana and 25 stamina per minute. Compare that to the 6 mana and 3 spirit CoL members pay for 15 minutes of all of their AS/DS/TD signs. The sigils are a much higher mana cost but at the same time, they do not cost spirit.

Voln

Voln was recently redone. It now offers +26 AS to all critters, +39 against undead, +26 DS, and +13 TD.

Symbol of blessing is useless for all but Archer Bards because sonic weapons are permablessed. The ability to UAC without needing a bless can be helpful to the new subset of brawling bards. The Symbol of mana is attractive at 50 mana every 5 minutes. It is not as powerful at the top end as others but there is no downside to usage.

Symbol of dreams is nice, health/mana/spirit/stats recovery. Good to use post-death along with Symbol of Recall, which restores your spells after you die.

Additionally, Voln has a societal teleportation system where the back of their society has pocket portals to everywhere. One of which is the Rift. It is a godsend for Rift hunters.

Voln's symbols work off favor, which you accumulate through hunting undead. This is a non-issue if you are hunting undead regularly. With sonic weapons melee bards can fight undead, and pures can just spellcast. Undead are typically pretty easy targets to hunt relative to other critters at like levels, so a lot of time is typically spent hunting them.


Useful Links

  • Loresinging: One of the premier services a bard can provide. This is an in depth explanation of it.
  • Purification Song (1004): Another important skill for a bard wanting to make some extra silver. If anyone has a good purification guide I would like to add it here.