26 November 2011
Skeleton Punching Bards
Today, we're going to talk about the role of bards in Skeleton Puncher, mostly because one of my friends rather enjoys "songing" at people, and it's kind of an interesting role. Wandering minstrels, singers, and street performers are a pretty dynamic and cool part of any setting, because they really did exist and they were kind of weird guys. They were like homeless rock stars, until they got to be part of a king's court. Then they lived a life of luxurious, dandified foppery.
Bards are one of the better character concepts because it's not innately tied to combat or conflict. Bards exist to play music, to be vaguely vagabond-y, and to beg for money. That's it. Having a bard around with you is probably a massive hindrance in a fight since he's more concerned with his mandolin's safety than fighting, and because they're generally the kind of hedonists that consider armed conflict brutish and bad for one's health. If they do carry a weapon, it's likely to be some sort of dagger or other light poking thing, because they're not generally good with weapons.
This is only really a problem in games where combat is a major part, if not the actual focus, of the game. Since they're not naturally combative, they often have to have some sort of minor magical powers, or maybe a basic proficiency with weapons, and that doesn't really fit with the bardic image. After all, the definition of a bard is a performer, often wandering. If they're good with swords, they can do that on their own time. Magic? Not an inherent part of the class any more than it would be for a soldier, or a thief. It has no real business being part of the bard's class.
So what do bards do, then? Well, bards are fantastically good with people, generally speaking. Being able to work a crowd means that bards quickly must learn what makes people work, what people like, and the prevailing trends. They have a lot of friends and enemies. It also means that they're generally in touch with the current gossip, and might be one of the first people in the party to know what's going on and why.
Bards also generally have a bit of a connection with the underworld, if they're so inclined. Spending a lot of time on the streets, performing and wandering and getting into trouble means that they see a good number of thieves, pickpockets, beggars, the homeless, and other street folks around. Since they see these people regularly, they're often on friendly terms with each other. After all, they're practically co-workers.
Let me give an example of a bardic character I've had rolling around in my head, then I'm done here. I'll give him in Skeleton Puncher styled stats, because that's part of the reason I'm writing this at all. (Not that there are tiny dragony kobolds in Skeleton Puncher, but that's totally irrelevant.)
Minstrel III (Dragon-song), Swift I (Runs on all Fours), Endurance II (Scaled Skin) , Tenacious I (Annoyingly Persistent), Sorcery I (Kobold Cantrips)
Weapon: Hunting Bow
Tch'kliss is a locally-renowned bard, despite living in a human town. Kobolds cannot speak human tongues and most humans cannot speak kobold tongues- but the people of Grave Hill have long since been on friendly terms with the little dragon-men.
He is a sprightly, cheerful little chap who has mastered the art of pose and gesture when telling stories to those who cannot speak his language, or entertaining with a sort of mewling harmonic growl. His specialty, however, is in his Dragon Song. Sounding a bit like Mongolian throat-singing mixed with a dragon's roar, Tch'kliss is one of the very few masters of the art although you wouldn't know it by talking to him. He's very down-to-earth, and mostly enjoys his singing for the sake of singing.