Last year, in December, Bill Slavicsek decided to give a holiday present in the form of the entire 4e Elf class in his Ampersand column, one of our first big glimpses directly into 4e. This year, the holidays have come slightly early, but he gives us an unexpected present (one not listed in the editorial calendar): the entire Bard class. To see it, however, you need to be a D&D Insider subscriber.
It turns out that I am (as of last Friday), so here’s some tidbits about the new Bard:
- They are Arcane Leaders (no big surprise there), and they’re better at short rest healing (which all leaders SHOULD be.)
- They’re a jack-of-all trades in several ways, including having a benefit like the feat of the same name, having a huge class skill list, and best of all, can take as many multiclass feats as they want.
- They get their own rituals (which we don’t have yet) which they can cast a limited number of times per day without spending resources.
- They have a number of utility effects for skill-boosting, in the areas traditionally mastered by Bards.
- The two at-wills featured are unusual but very much fitting with leaders.
- Their powers are mainly ranged, focusing on the more arcane end with some musical flavor. Some familiar spell names make their way back in to the Bard’s list, which I’m always fond of.
- They use wands as their implement (conductor-mage, anyone?) but can also use “Songblades” and magic musical instruments. Clearly they missed the mark by not offering axes.
Overall summation is that I like their class abilities quite a lot. The Bard finally comes into its own, buoyed by the leader role. I’m not super-excited about the selection of powers they showcased (with a few exceptions), but that will probably change when I see the final list. I’m looking forward to playing a Bard again for the first time really since 2e: I played them in 3.0 and 3.5 but always ended up dissappointed. (That’s where “Bards Suck!” comes from, after all.) I actually think the 4e Bard has the potential to outstrip the Cleric in healing ability, and is far more appealing to me in play than a Cleric.
A brief comparison to the Advanced Player’s Guide version and the Forgotten Heroes version: Play the APG version (Troubador) if you want more of the swashbuckling type (especially since the WotC one doesn’t use Dex), play the FH version if you want the total Music Mage concept featuring songs as class abilities (and a fairly complex set of abilities), and the WotC version best portrays the “Versitile Inspirer” type.
There you have it, your Bardic options for 4e. Speaking of which, I was amused to find an article Bartoneus wrote last year talking about the missing Bard, which speculated on the four roles and the eight classes in the core book (all correctly.) Always interesting to look back on our speculation and information gathering to see how close we were to the final product!