Saturday, October 8, 2011

My First Real Character

My first real character was . . . wait for it . . . a bard.  Now if you're someone who hates the class, relax, my poor dude never got there.  That's right, I was playing the 1e bard which is more an aspiration than a class.

You may wonder what I mean by my first "real" character.  I just mean we played tons as kids that I don't even remember.  We played crazy Monty Haul campaigns.  I had a 27th level ranger at one time.  But as we matured and got closer to high school we took things more seriously and this bard character of mine would serve me all through those years-- the bulk of my play.

Why a bard?  Well, it was a mysterious option in the back of the players handbook.  Keep in mind we rolled up hundreds of characters of all races.  We had evil parties made up of Anti-paladins, and half-orc clerics.  I had thieves of every kind of demi-human.  But the bard, the bard you had to work for.

For those of you that don't recall, here is how the bard worked:
Bards begin play as fighters, and they must remain exclusively fighters until they have achieved at least the 5th level of experience. Anytime thereafter, and in any event prior to attaining the 8th level, they must change their class to that of thieves. Again, sometime between 5th and 9th level of ability, bards must leave off thieving and begin clerical studies as druids; but at this time they are actually bards and under druidical tutelage.
So, what did I do after reading his?  I thought, "Hey, if I want to be a powerful bard, then I should get to 7th level fighter before switching." And so I played seven long levels of D&D, all through high school . . . as a fighter.

Then the moment of triumph came, my DM said I needed to find a guild and join.  I somehow did and became a lowly 1st level thief.  ?!?!  It made no sense.  Why would I, a powerful warrior, decide to become less effective in fighting, suddenly limit myself in the kinds of weapons I would use, and decide, "Hmm, I'm a great warrior, but I really would like to learn some petty thieving skills."

I'm sure someone might come up with a character it would work for, but as an archetypal class it was an abysmal failure in practice.  It was one of the many small lessons I've had in my several decades with D&D about how what is "logical" or "makes sense" (a bard would be a combination of fighter/thief abilities) often has little to do with how the game plays at the table.

And bards?  Well, I have no desire to play one.  I suppose you could say my fighter was a bard in some ways.  He carved our adventures on his oaken staff, the keeper of our tale.  He had a rare and beautiful harp he would play around the camp fire.  But mostly he just cleaved the skulls of monsters with his bastard sword.

Bard was never really an archetype for me.  I'm not sure where it came from (in D&D).  Most discussion around bards seems to be just an attempt at justifying something that has been around for a long time in the game.  But, hey, some people don't grok clerics, and as a boy raised on stories of biblical miracles and Knights Templar, they was never a problem for me.  So maybe someone feels similarly about the bard.  I think I found how I'd like to handle bards in my own campaign, though. Check out the bard as hireling.


  1. Thac0 isn't a class ability, nor are saving throws. When you dual class over to thief, you join a thieves guild--now if in the course of an adventure you find yourself donning some plate armor and charging some ogre with a lance from horseback, you don't get to assign xp to the thief class.

    You keep your thac0 and saves though.

  2. Thanks. And my bad, I was thinking more of wearing crappy armor and using weapons that do less damage, but, yeah the "to hit" wouldn't go down, or why get the levels in fighter in the first place, unless to just raise HD.

    It's been a long time, and I only got to 2nd level thief before our campaign faded away, but I think what was most jarring was having to change tactics. I had to sneakily scout ahead instead of taking a flank etc.

  3. I think there is a disconnect when we think of a game with "rules"--like having to switch to the thief class, and a simulation, where your PC decides to join a thieves guild and of course won't be wearing plate armor and swinging a claymore while adventuring.