Are you ready to ROCK?

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!

About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.


  1. I like the 4E bard a lot. I look forward to actually playing one. 🙂

    Tony Law´s last post: Official info on the 4E Bard has been posted. Here’s my review.

  2. Makes me wish I was a subscriber…almost.

    I know, however, one of my players would be overjoyed to see this as he loved playing bards and eagerly awaits the PHB2

  3. Dave: How do you think my last 3.5 bard stacked up to things? I certainly thought he was extremely effective at a variety of things, and I really enjoyed playing him.

  4. I still contend that while 3.5 Bard was better than 3.0 and could be fun, he really couldn’t hold his own against other classes (and that’s even after I enacted some Bard-friendly house rules)

  5. Your bard was good, but what could you have done with another class? It also helped that that group was 6+ people most of the time.

    joshx0rfz´s last post: Review: The Witcher – Enhanced Edition

  6. “but what could you have done with another class?”

    Not sure I understand the question?

    From what I remember of the game, it may have actually been that I just rolled pretty well whenever I was in combat. I did particularly enjoy the spell list and trying to make effective use of many of the less orthodox spells.

    I didn’t get killed by a trap, so goal #1 was accomplished!


  1. […] 4e Bard has a lot of healing power, as Dave mentioned in his write-up.  The class feature Song of Rest allows party members who listen to the bard’s music during […]