The bard makes his way in life by his charm, talent, and wit. A good bard should be glib of tongue, light of heart, and fleet of foot (when all else fails). In precise historical terms, the title “bard” applies only to certain groups of Celtic poets who sang the history of their tribes in long, recitative poems. These bards, found mainly in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, filled many important roles in their society. They were storehouses of tribal history, reporters of news, messengers, and even ambassadors to other tribes. However, in the AD&D game, the bard is a more generalized character. Indeed, every culture has its storyteller or poet, whether he is called bard, skald, fili, jongleur, or something else.

Base Class Statistics:

  • Ability Requirements: Dex 12, Int 13, Cha 15
  • Alignments: Any Neutral (LN, NG, TN, NE, CN)
  • Experience Chart: Rogue
  • Hit Dice: d6
    • Maximum Hit Dice: 10d6
    • Additional Hit Points: +2 per level beyond 10th
  • Attack: Rogue
  • Saves:
    • Paralyzation/Poison/Death: as Rogue
    • Rods/Staves/Wands: as Rogue
    • Petrification/Polymorph: as Rogue
    • Breath Weapon: as Rogue
    • Spell: as Rogue
  • Proficiencies:
    • Weapons, Initial: 2
    • Weapons, Advancement: +1 per 4 levels
    • Non-Weapon, Initial: 3
    • Weapons, Advancement: +1 per 4 levels
    • Bonus Proficiencies: Singing, Musical Instrument (any one), Literacy, Local History
  • Allowed Weapons: Any
  • Allowed Armor: Chainmail or lighter, no shields

Class Features:

All bards are proficient singers, chanters, or vocalists and can play a musical instrument of the player’s choice (preferably one that is portable). Additional instruments can be learned by spending proficiency slots, the bard can learn two instruments for every proficiency slot spent.

In his travels, a bard also manages to learn a few wizard spells. Like a wizard, a bard’s Intelligence determines the number of spells he can know and the chance to know any given spell. These he keeps in his spell book, abiding by all the restrictions on memorization and spell use that bind a wizard. The Table below lists the number of spells a bard can cast at each level.

Since bards are dabblers rather than full-time wizards, their spells tend to be gained by serendipity and happenstance. In no case can a bard choose to specialize in a school of magic. Beginning bards are unable to cast spells, but begin with a spellbook containing a single Path of the player’s choice. The bard can add new spells to his spell book as he finds them, but he does not automatically gain additional spells or paths as he advances in level. All spells beyond those he starts with must be found during the course of adventuring. The bard’s casting level is equal to his current level.

Bard Spells
Level 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
2 1
3 2
4 2 1
5 3 1
6 3 2
7 3 2 1
8 3 3 1
9 3 3 2
10 3 3 2 1
11 3 3 3 1
12 3 3 3 2
13 3 3 3 2 1
14 3 3 3 3 1
15 3 3 3 3 2
16 4 3 3 3 2 1
17 4 4 3 3 3 1
18 4 4 4 3 3 2
19 4 4 4 4 3 2
20 4 4 4 4 4 3

Combat and spells, however, are not the main strength of the bard. His expertise is in dealing and communicating with others. To this end, the bard has a number of special powers. The base percentage for each power is listed on the Table below. This base percentage must be adjusted for the race, kits, and Dexterity of the bard as given in the Thief description. After all adjustments are made, the player must distribute (however he chooses) 20 additional percentage points to the various special abilities. Thereafter, each time the character advances a level, he receives an additional 15 points to distribute. Bard abilities are subject to modifiers for situation and armor as per the thief.

Skill Base Score
Climb Walls 50%
Detect Noise 20%
Pick Pockets 10%
Read Languages 5%

Climb Walls enables the bard to climb near sheer surfaces without the aid of tools, just like the Thief.

Detect Noise improves the bard’s chances of hearing and interpreting sounds. He may be able to overhear parts of a conversation on the other side of a door or pick up the sound of something stalking the party. To use the ability, the bard must stand unhelmeted and concentrate for one round (one minute). During this time, all other party members must remain silent. The DM secretly makes the check and informs the player of the result.

Pick Pockets enables the bard not only to filch small purses, wallets, keys, and the like, but also to perform small feats of sleight-of-hand (useful for entertaining a crowd). Complete details on pickpocketing (and your character’s chances of getting caught) can be found in the Thief description.

Read Languages is an important ability, since words are the meat and drink of bards. They have some ability to read documents written in languages they do not know, relying on words and phrases they have picked up in their studies and travels. The Read Languages column gives the base percentage chance to puzzle out a foreign tongue. It also represents the degree of comprehension the bard has if he is successful. The DM can rule that a language is too rare or unfamiliar, especially if it has never been previously encountered by the bard, effectively foiling his attempts to translate it. At the other extreme, the bard need not make the dice roll for any language he is proficient in. Success is assumed to be automatic in such cases.

Influence Reactions: When performing for an audience, the bard can attempt to alter the mood of his listeners. Such an audience must not be attacking or preparing for an immediate attack. The bard must be singing, chanting, spinning a tale, reciting a powerful oratory, or playing a tune on an instrument with which he is proficient. The intended effect of the performance is determined by the bard’s player; he may want to make the audience friendlier or more hostile, for instance. After a length of time (1d10 rounds is suggested), all NPCs able to hear the performance (regardless of whether or not they are paying attention) must roll a saving throw vs. paralyzation. For small groups, roll individual saving throws. For large groups, the DM may split the audience into groups of ten or so and roll a separate saving throw for each group. There is a -1 penalty to the saving throw for every three levels of experience of the bard. Those failing the roll have their reactions adjusted one level (from friendly to indifferent, for example) in the desired direction (see NPC Reactions). Those whose saving throws succeed have their reactions adjusted one level in the direction opposite from that intended by the bard.

Rally Allies: To use this ability, the bard must know the nature of the upcoming combat. A bard can’t rally allies if there is no obvious opponent. Rallying allies is done is much the same manner as influencing reactions. The bard sings heroic songs or weaves inspiring tales about how his comrades will overcome their foes and win the day. Such heroic recitals always take at least three rounds, and the audience must be in close proximity to the bard for the effects to occur (within a 10-foot radius per level of the bard). When complete, all the affected allies automatically receive one of the following three benefits (as decided by the bard’s player): +1 to attack rolls, +1 to saving throws, or +2 to morale. The chosen effect lasts one round per level of the bard. The effects can be renewed by the bard, even during the same encounter, but combatants have to return to within the bard’s radius and listen to his tales for another three rounds. It is impossible to rally allies who are actively battling opponents.

Note that the benefit applies only to the specific encounter that the bard sings about. It does not apply to a ranger who hears the tale, rides off on his horse to warn the rear guard, and is then ambushed by wandering bandits.

Counter Song: Another powerful use of story, song, or tale when voiced by a bard is that of counter song. This is the intricate art of canceling the effects of hostile sound, whether it be songs, chants, wails, or even commands and suggestions from magical spells. In order to sing the proper counter song or chant the proper counter poem, a bard must concentrate intensely. He may perform no additional actions other than a slow (half speed) walk. If he is struck by an attack or fails a saving throw, his attempt is ruined. The exertion is such that only one counter song may be attempted per encounter or battle.

Success of the counter song is realized only if the bard rolls a successful saving throw vs. spell. If this is successful, the hostile sounds have no effects within 30 feet of the bard. If the saving throw fails, the bard’s attempt is fruitless and the hostile sounds have their standard effects (applicable saving throws and other defenses still apply).

Counter singing does not prevent hostile spellcasters from reading scrolls, using magical item command words, or casting spells (even spells with verbal components). Counter singing does prevent all other hostile sounds from functioning, including spell effects that require the caster to speak (e.g., command, quest, suggestion, tongues, etc.).

Legend Lore: One of the most useful abilities of the bard is his knowledge of famous magical items and uncanny knack for figuring out how they function. To perform legend lore, the bard must scrutinize the item closely. This does not necessarily require actually handling the item, but it must be fully visible to the bard.

Scrutiny takes 1d10 rounds, after which a percentile roll is made. The bard has a 5% chance per level of knowing something about the item. The exact information revealed is up to the DM. The bard draws upon history, rumors, and clues based on the item’s construction to gain this information. Typical information revealed includes the item’s history, maker, name, and other less technical aspects. Information such as the number of pluses, exact command words, etc., are rarely learned. This type of specific information is left for spells, such as identify, commune, limited wish, and so on.

The following table may be used as a fast optional method to determine what is known about an item that was successfully examined by a bard. To use this table, the bard must first succeed with the legend lore percentile roll. If this roll succeeds, the player should roll on the following table once per level of the bard. Results that come up more than once are not rerolled; the bard simply knows a lot about this aspect of the item. After rolling, give the DM some time to come up with a suitable background and history. Few items are detailed with this type of information. After all, bards tend to be more curious about the legends and lore that lie behind an item’s powers than most others.

3d6 Roll Information Gained
3 How many charges/uses left
4 Whether item is intelligent
5 Whether items is cursed/evil
6 Value on the open market
7 Item’s Name
8 Famous past owners
9 Age of item
10 What race created it
11 Where it was made
12 Who crafted it
13 Alignment of owners
14 Who can use it
15 General effects
16 How to activate it
17 Item type (as per DMG )
18 Let player read DMG entry

Being something of a warrior, a bard can build a stronghold and attract followers upon reaching 9th level. The bard attracts 10d6 0th-level soldiers into his service. They arrive over a period of time, but they are not automatically replaced if lost in battle. Of course, a bard can build a stronghold any time, but no followers arrive until he reaches 9th level.

Upon reaching 10th level, a bard can attempt to use magical devices of written nature-scrolls, books, etc. However, his understanding of magic is imperfect (although better than that of a thief), so there is a 15% chance that any written item he uses is read incorrectly. When this happens, the magical power works the opposite of what is intended, generally to the detriment of the bard or his friends. The DM will tell you what happens to your character, based on the situation and particular magical item. The result may be unpleasant, deadly, or embarrassing.


Dwarves and halflings are highly nonmagical. These two demi-bards are not allowed to cast spells. They also fail to receive the 10th-level bard ability to use any written magical item.

However, as demi-bards, these two races possess the curiosity of all bards. This leads them to study the workings of magic—granting them Spellcraft as an additional bonus non-weapon proficiency. Although this doesn’t result in the acquisition of magical powers, it enables them to gain special resistances to spells they understand.

If a halfling or dwarf is able to find a spell and learn it (i.e., succeed with their “chance to learn spells” roll), they become highly resistant to the effects of that spell. Of course, these two races can learn to resist only spells of the same level as bards are typically able to cast. Thus, a 2nd-level dwarf or halfling demi-bard can learn how to resist the effects of all 1st-level spells that he has learned. Of course, the demi-bard is still limited to the number of spells he can learn to counter. This limit is set by his “Maximum Number of Spells per level” based on his Reason score.

When a dwarf or halfling demi-bard is subjected to a learned spell’s effects, he can roll his “chance to learn spells” in an attempt to thwart the spell’s effects. This roll is in addition to all other saving throws normally allowed. This does not cancel the spell; it simply prevents it from having any effect upon the dwarf or halfling demi-bard.


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