Monday, September 12, 2016

Carry Your Lute My Wayward Bard

First off let me start by saying I'm a huge fan of bards, I always have been and always will be, they are my go to class when I have nothing else to play. But lately I've been a little peeved by some obvious holes around the spell casting focus of a D&D 5e bard and how it relates to actually playing a bard in combat.

The Bard by Exarrdian - used under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Let us start by adding, if you came here thinking that every bard just plays an instrument and you live in a one bard size fits all world, this isn't the post for you. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, in short a Bard is an entertainer, a caster who inspires his or her party though gifts of song, dance, prose, or music.

Sadly this leads most to believe that a bard is simply the background musical track, there to remind the party, though the gift of song, that at any given moment, your nostrils could be raped.

Sadly even the 5e Player's Handbook tries to remind of us this in the bard summary:

An inspiring magician whose power echoes the music of creation

Bah I say, not every bard wants to stroll about the countryside singing tales of broken elbows or the many raping of nostrils that have occurred. Where would realms be without the poets, the dancers, and the jesters of the realms?!

Even the PHB seems to agree:

In the worlds of D&D, words and music are not just vibrations of air, but vocalizations with power all their own. The bard is a master of song, speech, and the magic they contain. Bards say that the multiverse was spoken into existence, that the words of the gods gave it shape, and that echoes of these primordial Words of Creation still resound throughout the cosmos.

So we all exist because of the power of word, as a bard on an epic quest I strive to find that powerful word or phrase that brought the multiverse to existence so I can be the most powerful bard in all of the realms... but my plans for universe domination are for another post.

So you'd think with all my gushing over bards, that I'd have nothing to complain about, but alas, there is one fatal flaw in the 5th Edition's implementation of bards, and it all begins on p. 53:

Your magic comes from the heart and soul you pour into the performance of your music or oration.

underlined for emphasis there
So, ok spoken word is the power of my magic, or music, sure, if that's your thing strum away, but heck even a cappella bard could rip it up without a musical instrument right? Wrong.

Spellcasting Focus

You can use a musical instrument (found in chapter 5) as a spellcasting focus for your bard spells."
... Say What? but I don't want to be that bard. I want be this bard:
Jester by Georges Sequin - used under CC BY-SA 3.0
...well maybe not exactly this bard, because this bard kicks off some of my latent clown fears, but you get the idea, a Jester of the realms, one who makes light of the king, temple, and goblin alike!

So I fear we are stuck right? Well lets get to the bottom of this, first off we know, we we should all know, that the only 5e spells that require a "focus" are ones with a Material component, Verbal and Somatic spells are pretty straight forward, speak the words or do some jazz hands and your spell is cast. To read up on why we need a spell casting focus we jump all the way back to the back of PHB p. 203

A character can use a component pouch or a spellcasting focus (found in chapter 5) in place of the components specified for a spell.

Woohoo! Good News right?! I mean even though this:

A spellcaster must have a hand free to access these components, but it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform somatic components.

Still, at least it's better than holding a Lute you never play (and you get the bonus of being able to still Jazz Hands holding the bag), would I prefer a better solution like say my little friend here, hell yes, but until we get a solution that allows a bard to have a spell casting focus and a weapon I'm stuck here holding the pouch, literally.

Gene Simmons' Axe Bass

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