Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Bard - One Man's Take

I guess there are tons of different Bard classes out there between the ever-growing amount of editions and home-brewed classes. Here's my attempt to introduce a new game play mechanic to 17th century fantasy gaming.


Bards begin spellcasting by selecting a Motif. This is the base effect that will be further modified as the Bard performs. For example:

Coraggio: A piece that affects courage to those who hear it.


The performance can be in either minor or major key. The major key is an uplifting, positive tone whereas the minor key is a dark and melancholic tone. In game terms, the base Motif will have a positive or negative effect. For example:

Coraggio (Major): bonus to morale
Coraggio (Minor): malus to morale


Each performance can have one of three accompaniments, which essentially affects the magnitude of its effects (oh, there's a grammar lesson for you). One example might be:

A capella: +/- 1 to morale
Cantata: Reroll a morale check
Concerto: Force a morale check

Each motif then is six potential spells; Bards gain motifs per level as a spellcaster gains spells. Maybe a Bard learns one Motif per level. He can always module that Motif in either key. Then, he can sing its weakest effect, play an instrument with the vocals for a greater affect, or play in a troupe of bards for a stupendous effect.

Accompaniments are probably gained as a function of level, so a first level Bard can only perform a capella, a third level bard can perform a cantata to accompany (his own or other?) vocals, and a fifth level bard can lead 2 other Bards (at least one of which is at 3rd level) by playing a concerto. The level up mechanic would most likely increase the range or amount of HD affected.

There's plenty of ground here to come up with tons of motifs. The idea needs some fleshing out, but building on this foundation could be a fun exercise.

I think it is a neat mechanic, what do you think?

[Forgive me for massacring the terminology, I'm obviously not in the music world]

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Divinity And Magic

I've mused on metaphysical questions for the early modern period before, but I still haven't stumbled upon something that I like, fits a pseudo-historical interpretation, and is still recognizable with typical D&D tropes. Let's take some inspiration from the Trinity.

There are a ton of denominations and religions throughout the 17th century world and I don't want them ALL to be Clerics or Druids and I probably don't want religion to dictate class when it comes to divine spellcasters. While it would definitely be neat to have a separate class or at least spell list for Catholics, Lutherans, Muslims, Animists, Ancestor Worshipers, Pagans, etc, I think the granularity would mostly be lost in meta-gaming, both in terms of players who WANT certain spells and players who WANT a certain religion making the decision mostly moot. So let's compromise and utilize the Trinity.

God the Father is the omnipotent, uncaring creator of the universe. He created existence with a set of natural laws and is completely above the care of any individual person or world. Followers of God the Father worship "nature" and natural law, either in a tangible sense or as a personification of the Almighty. Spells for these followers are rarely personal and instead invoke upon the power inherent in the laws of creation and existence.

Christ is a personal God incarnate in every living being. Christ is a God who was both divine and mortal and experienced life and death in a finite sense. Followers of Christ retain a personal connection with Him, whom offers personal salvation. Spells for these followers operate on the intrapersonal and interpersonal level to offer either salvation or damnation.

The Holy Spirit is a power manifest in mortal beings who strive for righteousness. He represents power manifest in the self, derived from following the will of the Spirit. The ultimate expression of the Holy Spirit is the attainment of personal divinity, where one becomes part of the gestalt Holy Spirit. Spells for those who worship him are focused on achieving righteous power.

You can probably see where the lines are drawn now. Druids, Rangers, and similar classes/faiths worship God the Father, in one name or another, and use the Druid spell list. Catholics, Christians, and monotheistic faiths follow Christ and use the Cleric spell list. The Holy Spirit is for pagan and polytheistic followers and will need a spell list. One could break all the divine spells into three thematic lists and assign them, adding spells from source books to have a robust selection for everyone.

Either way, this interpretation allows for multiple religions that are all "right" without implying that there is some all-present celestial holy war playing out in heaven and on earth, which is how the Planes have been presented in canon D&D lore. Each individual religion can have its own flavor and doctrines but it derives all power from the same Godhead.

Another thought crosses my mind. What about magic-users? Could they be shoe-horned into that third slot? One could play a Priest of a Pagan religion, or just an atheistic or agnostic magic-user with the same spell list.

Or perhaps magic-users should stay separate.Whereas followers of God the Father pray for spells implicit in natural law, magic-users seek to cast spells that harness, manipulate, and/or contradict natural law.

Fertile ground indeed and I like what has been sown better than previous ideas...