D&D 5e: Bardic Performance Feats

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I like bards in 5e. It’s probably the most functional version of the class in any edition. But… it’s a Sorcerer/Warlord with musical gloss. The actual mechanical support for doing what bards are expected to do (put on a rousing performance to inspire the rest of the party throughout the course of the battle) is super thin. Depending on your Charisma, you get to hand out 5 or fewer bardic inspiration dice per rest, each of which only technically requires a bonus action’s worth of time performing to create. That bard is the best bard in the land: she played maybe 10 seconds of music this morning, keeping our spirits high.

And as far as I know, no edition has ever made it make sense to use an actual instrument for your performance rather than singing/oratory (or maybe dance). D&D can get really nitpicky about what you’ve got in your hands when you’re trying to sort out whether you can switch weapons, use items, and make somatic gestures… but you’re going to pull out a set of bagpipes on the fly to generate a buff and still theoretically have your sword in hand?

Also, in my experience, any cleric with bless is much more in the traditional bard role than the party bard. A d4 on all your attacks and saves vs. a bigger die maybe once per fight? Yes please.

So the below is an attempt at adding that back in. Ideally, it would be more as class features rather than feats, but, as noted, the class is pretty powerful, just not flavorful, so it’s probably safer to add abilities as feats than just to tack it on or try to replace something load-bearing.

Bardic Weapons

These are admittedly silly, but if Monster Hunter and Power Rangers can get away with it…

Bardic weapons are musical instruments that are reinforced and partially converted into weapons. Bards that are proficient with the instrument are also considered proficient with the weaponized version. Non-bards are proficient if they’re proficient with both the weapon and the instrument. Bardic weapons can be used to perform music and attack without additional actions to switch between modes. The weapon version has the damage and properties of the standard weapon type.

  • Bagpipes-Blowgun (35 gp)
  • Drum-Mace (8 gp)
  • Dulcimer-Warhammer (33 gp)
  • Flute-Dagger (3 gp)
  • Lute-Battleaxe (40 gp)
  • Lyre-Light Crossbow (43 gp)
  • Horn-Light Hammer (4 gp)
  • Pan Flute-Handaxe (15 gp)
  • Shawm-Club (2 gp)
  • Viol-Longsword (38 gp)

Bardic Performance Feats

  • A bardic performance requires a bonus action to begin, and expends a bardic inspiration die.
  • It can affect a number of targets equal to the size of the die (e.g., 6 at d6, 8 at d8, etc.), and affects the closest valid targets to the bard first.
  • Maintaining a performance does not prevent the bard from concentrating on a spell, but is in danger of being disrupted similarly: whenever you would be forced to make a Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration on a spell, make a Charisma (Perform) check (or a tool check with the instrument you are using) against the same difficulty to continue performing.
  • As with concentration, you may only have one type of bardic performance active at a time. You can cast (and concentrate on) bardic spells, attack with bardic weapons, and assign bardic inspiration dice normally while performing.
  • Subjects must be able to hear you (or see you, if your performance is dance) to experience the effects of the performance.

Fascinate

Prerequisite: Bardic Inspiration class ability

Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.

You can use your bardic performance to fascinate targets. You can choose to exclude allies from this effect. Targets must make a Wisdom saving throw against your Spell Save DC, and have advantage on this saving throw if the performance was begun while the target was already engaged in combat. Those that fail are charmed and restrained. The restrained effect ends if the target or any of the target’s allies are the target of hostile actions.

If your bardic inspiration die is d10 or greater, fascinated creatures have disadvantage on saving throws against your enchantment spells.

Targets may re-attempt the save to end the fascination between songs (assume three minutes).

Inspire Competence

Prerequisite: Bardic Inspiration class ability

Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.

You can use your bardic performance to inspire your targets to greater competence. This performance affects allies. All subjects of the effect gain the benefits of guidanceĀ (this does not require your concentration, but does not stack with additional castings of guidance). This benefit refreshes at the beginning of each of your turns. You may maintain this performance indefinitely, but the DM may choose to apply fatigue for truly extended performances of an hour or more.

If your bardic inspiration die is d10 or greater, your targets also gain advantage with ability checks that are affected by the guidance.

Inspire Courage

Prerequisite: Bardic Inspiration class ability

Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.

You can use your bardic performance to inspire your targets with courage in battle. This performance affects allies. All subjects of the effect gain the benefits of bless (this does not require your concentration, but does not stack with additional castings of bless). If you maintain this performance for longer than three minutes (effectively, one song), you take a level of fatigue (and an additional level of fatigue for each additional three minutes) from the intense nature of the performance.

If your bardic inspiration die is d10 or greater, you may choose to have the performance count as heroism instead of bless.

Pathfinder/D&D: Tradeskill Reputations

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(Originally Posted May 2009)

One of the changes to 3.5 that carried into the new Pathfinder RPG is the simplified tradeskill mechanic. If a character is trying to make a living at a trade, the GM is encouraged to give out half the check result in gold pieces. Unfortunately, this simple-to-remember system has a few problems:

  • The scale of this income is linear, while the scale of a character’s adventuring income is exponential. A character that specializes in a tradeskill will make an average of 10 gp a week at first level, and an average of 20 gp a week at 20th level. The extra 10 gp is probably not enough to justify sinking a skill rank into the skill for 20 levels.
  • Perform is on an entirely different, much harder to remember chart.
  • Crafting is actually on an exponential scale if you can convince your GM to let you craft specific items for sale rather than taking the ad hoc award.

This last point is the most troublesome. Once a character can regularly hit a DC 20, it’s far more profitable for a Crafter to make masterwork items than to use the ad hoc award. For example, a blacksmith that regularly rolls 20s can make a masterwork weapon in around 7 weeks. This weapon is worth over 300 gp with about 200 gp of that being profit. Meanwhile, if he’d been using the ad hoc award, he’d have made around 70 gp. If he can sell his masterwork item for at least 60% of its price, it’s far more profitable to craft individual items. In theory, there’s a chance of failure that means that invested materials cost more, but a canny player can figure out the risk-reward ratio and make far more money.

Professionals don’t have this option. Taking a Profession is far less useful than a Craft under the default system.

The easiest way to fix this would be to institute a system of raises: when just trying to earn money, the base DC is 10; failing earns nothing. For every extra 10 points the player adds to the DC before rolling, the income is doubled (e.g., a roll of 26 would earn 13 gp with no raises, 26 gp with one raise to 20, and no gp with two raises to 30).

But we can do something with that to add color to the setting.

Tradeskill Reputations

If this optional rule is in effect, tradeskill users develop a reputation in their home cities based on the quality of their work. This represents how widely known their work is for quality and what kind of prices their creations can command in the market or with patrons. For this system, all three tradeskills earn money in downtime in the same manner.

When attempting to make money from a tradeskill, the character’s check result is compared to a DC equal to his or her current reputation. If it equals or exceeds the check result, the character’s reputation increases by one. If it does not equal the result, or the character does not craft for a given period, the reputation might go down. As a character’s reputation in a skill increases, he or she becomes known for it and earns more income for practicing the craft. This income is commensurate with crafting items for sale at higher DCs.

Reputation Levels:

  • 0-9 (Unknown): The character is barely known in the city for his or her work. He or she only earns half the standard result (Check result x 1/4 gp per week). The character’s reputation is reduced by 1 for every week in which he or she does not engage in the tradeskill or does not meet the reputation DC with his or her crafting.
  • 10-19 (Known): The character has developed a reputation for quality, and can command normal prices for his or her work. He or she earns the standard result (Check result x 1/2 gp per week). The character’s reputation is reduced by 1 for every month in which he or she does not engage in the tradeskill, or every week he or she does not meet the reputation DC with his or her crafting.
  • 20-29 (Respected): The character’s reputation is shining within the city, and his or her goods or services are highly requested. He or she earns double the standard result (Check result x 1 gp per week). The character’s reputation is reduced by 1 for every year in which he or she does not engage in the tradeskill, or every week he or she does not meet the reputation DC with his or her crafting.
  • 30-39 (Master): The character is known throughout the city as the preeminant master of the skill. He or she earns three times the standard result (Check result x 1.5 gp per week). The character’s reputation is reduced by 1 for every decade in which he or she does not engage in the tradeskill, or every week he or she does not meet the reputation DC with his or her crafting.
  • 40-49 (Grandmaster): The character’s name is spread far and wide as the first choice for those that can afford it. He or she earns four times the standard result (Check result x 2 gp per week). The character’s reputation is reduced by 1 for every century in which he or she does not engage in the tradeskill, or every week he or she does not meet the reputation DC with his or her crafting.
  • 50+ (Legend): The character’s fame at the skill will be written into the history of the world. He or she earns five times the standard result (Check result x 2.5 gp per week). The character’s reputation will never fade.

These reputations mean slightly different things based on the character’s tradeskill:

Craft: As a crafter’s reputation improves, his or her maker’s mark becomes more commonly known and more and more individuals come for masterwork crafting. Even the crafter’s simpler wares command higher prices as they are known for quality or as objects of art. Eventually, all the character’s time is spent creating works for the richest individuals in the city, at commensurately high prices.

Profession: As a professional’s reputation improves, he or she becomes known as a worker that is more effective than a team of similar workers. Employers or patrons go out of their way to hire or patronize the character, and the character easily performs at a quality far beyond what would be expected from a normal member of the profession, ensuring future work. Eventually, the character works directly for the richest individuals in the city or has them as patrons for his or her service.

Perform: As a performer’s reputation improves, he or she becomes famous for the quality of his or her art. Whenever the character announces a show, the audience becomes more and more packed. Eventually, the character regularly sells out huge venues or plays directly for the richest individuals in the city.

Reputation is somewhat transitive: nearby cities may or may not have heard of the character. Depending on how much commerce of goods and information occurs between two cities, reduce the reputation of the character by 5-10 for each “step” between a home city and a new city until the character is once again starting from 0. For example, a crafter with a reputation of 25 might only have a reputation of 15 in the next big city and a reputation of 5 in the next city beyond that. If a character sets up shop on a more permanent basis in a new city, the reputation begins improving again from this level.

Characters may improve faster than one level of reputation per week with exceptional check results or relevant roleplaying, at the GM’s discretion. A character that can regularly create master quality results may not have to wait the better part of a year to grow back into his or her reputation.

Other skills might be tracked for reputation in a similar manner to determine how well known the character is for the use of that skill. Even if the skill does not offer income during downtime, it may affect roleplaying scenarios. For example, a character known as a master Diplomat may come to the attention of the local nobility for purposes of negotiations, while a master of a knowledge may be considered the preeminent scholar of that field.