“Where would legends come from, if not for the bards?”
The bard character class is one of the hardest base classes from the Player’s Handbook to fit into the world of Dragonlance. Not only do you have the Wizards of High Sorcery to contend with, but also bards cast healing spells in 3rd edition. At first glance, the bard appears to be a poor fit for the Dragonlance game.
Yet does the bard have to be excluded from the Dragonlance setting?
This article compiles three previous articles I had written about bards in the Dragonlance setting, and updates the material to fit with developments with the bard since. The first article was called Bard of the Song, and showed a way to utilize the Player’s Handbook bard in the Dragonlance setting with some creative flavor text. This was actually a proposal I had made for the Dragonlance Adventures Third Edition (DLA3e) project. Though it is a bit dated, it is included in its entirety for nostalgia’s sake.
Shortly afterwards, I wrote an article called Bards of Branchala, which showed a way to utilize Monte Cook’s alternate bard, which now appears in the Complete Book of Eldritch Might.
Lastly, I wrote an article called Bards of Krynn: Options for Bardic Magic, which showed how to use a bard with all four types of magic in Krynn. Suddenly, the bard had many aspects: the Bard of High Sorcery, the Sonomancer, the Devoted Bard, and the Bard of the Heart. There was also a section on tips for non-spellcasting bards, as well as other magical variants.
Since the time of that writing, there have been many new innovations regarding bard characters. Unearthed Arcana has given us several variants on the bard, and War of the Lance has given us the Master class (specifically the Master Performer and Master Sage) and the Chorister prestige class. Likewise, Holy Orders of the Stars has the Goodfellow of Branchala.
This guide brings all of those elements together, giving several options for bard characters in Krynn. I hope you enjoy them and find them useful in your games.
Player’s Handbook Bard
The bard from the Player’s Handbook can also be looked at as a sorcerer-bard, or sonomancer. Like the sorcerer, the sonomancer taps into the power of Wild Sorcery.
This phenomenon came to the attention of Palin Majere, prior to the destruction of the Academy of Sorcery, who was considering a new course of study called Sonomancy – the magic of sound.
This option is an excellent one for those who wish to maintain historical accuracy in regards to when Wild Sorcery is accessible. This version of the bard is only available during the Age of Mortals.
The downfall of this option is that one cannot play the sorcerer-bard in any time other than the early Age of Dreams and during the Age of Mortals, when Wild Sorcery is available. DM’s may wish to overlook this in order for one to be able to play a sorcerer-bard.
The sorcerer-bard also has to contend with the Wizards of High Sorcery. After their reformation following the War of Souls, the Wizards of High Sorcery will look upon bards in a similar manner as they do sorcerers, though they are not as concerned with a bard’s magic. It is only at higher levels that the Wizards of High Sorcery take notice.
Perhaps the greatest hurdle with using the Player’s Handbook bard in Dragonlance is that it is limited to the Age of Mortals. For those that want to play in eras prior to that, there isn’t much in the way of options. The classes below help to address this issue.
Chorister (War of the Lance)
The Chorister taps into the power of spiritual music. They make a great option for eras prior to the Age of Mortals, as they allow a cleric to tap into the bard spell list. Being a divine spellcaster, the Chorister doesn’t have to contend with the Wizards of High Sorcery.
The Chorister is able to follow any deity, though they typically follow Branchala, Sirrion, and Hiddukel. Another option could be invoked with the Dungeon Master’s permission. A mystic could theoretically take this class. For the Dungeon Master who doesn’t want to use the Player’s Handbook bard, this might serve as an enticing option.
Goodfellow of Branchala (Holy Orders of the Stars)
The Goodfellow of Branchala, like the Chorister, is a good example of a divine bard in Krynn. Unlike the Chorister, though, the Goodfellow only follows Branchala. He uses spells from the bard spell list, though he does not have the capability that a bard has. Focusing on acrobatics, this bard option can be a lot of fun.
Master (War of the Lance)
Perhaps the most accurate variation of playing a bard in Krynn is the option of a non-spellcasting bard. This is supported in prior products, such as the Tales of the Lance boxed set. The benefits are obvious. There’s no organization that the bard may have to contend with, and it helps to keep world flavor.
The Master fits this role perfectly. The Master has one added benefit in that it can specialize in a focus. A Master Performer can focus on acting, art, music, and the like. Or, a Master might become a Master Sage, focusing on knowledge skills. Once a Master reaches 7th level, he is proficient in both areas. Likewise, he could take on a different route, becoming a Master Craftsman or Master Professional. Though these paths don’t fit the bard as well, they are workable.
Unearthed Arcana Bards
Bardic Sage (Bard of High Sorcery)
Bardic Sages are a rare breed of bard that is more studious than other bards, researching not only the magic of High Sorcery, but also its lore. The few bards who advance beyond 2nd-level spellcasting ability and take the Test of High Sorcery obtain the title of Bard of High Sorcery. These bards are fully dedicated to magic and magic lore, inspiring their fellow wizards with tales of mages of old (Magius, Fistandantilus, and Raistlin being the most common).
The path of High Sorcery is one of the utmost dedication, and is often not suitable to the lifestyle of your average bard. Most bards who gain their power through High Sorcery are dabblers, never advancing past 2nd-level spells. Some take on the lifestyle of a renegade, always on the run from the renegade hunters of the Wizards of High Sorcery.
As with the Player’s Handbook bard, Bardic Sages cannot cast spells from the Conjuration (Healing) subschool in the Dragonlance setting.
Bardic sages approach magic slightly differently than other practitioners of High Sorcery. Rather than carrying spellbooks, they carry songbooks, filled with spells written in the language of magical music. This differentiation is accepted by the Wizards of High Sorcery, though they look upon the bardic sage as an oddity.
Bards that gain their power through divine magic are much easier to place within the world of Krynn, although there are limits on the eras of play. Divine bards either tap into the divine song of a god or their own inner power of the heart in order to cast spells. Their songs are spiritual, touching the hearts of all those who hear them. The Divine Bard can follow one of two paths: the Bard of the Heart, ot the Devoted Bard.
Bard of the Heart
“A bard’s magic comes from the heart.”
—Players Handbook (version 3.0), p. 26.
If a bard’s magic comes from his heart, then surely that magic comes from the Power of the Heart. The mystic-bard reaches inward to discover his inner feelings, shaping those feelings into notes, chords, and songs. These mystic-bards face the same challenges that sorcerer-bards do in regards to eras that they can be played in. However, they do not have to face the Orders of High Sorcery, as they utilize divine magic instead of arcane.
While mystic-bards claim that music comes from the heart, cleric-bards claim that music comes from the gods. If one knows the song of a god, one can use the power of that song. Those who follow this path are known as Devoted Bards.
Good bards gain their power from Branchala, through the Song of Life. It is said the hearts of mortals beat to the Song of Life. This song inspires people to create, and to do good works.
Neutral bards gain their power from Gilean, through the Song of Knowledge. The Song of Knowledge contains the vast knowledge of the cosmos. Those who master this song are considered to be seers.
Neutral bards can also revere Sirrion, whose song is the Song of Passion. These bards embrace life, and have a very artistic nature.
Evil bards gain their power from Hiddukel, through the Song of Lies. These bards, known as Betrayers, spread lies throughout the lands, telling false tales and spreading dissent.
Though Devoted Bards can follow the Divine Bard rules in Unearthed Arcana, those that walk this path typically take Chorister or Goodfellow of Branchala prestige class.
The savage bard should work as presented in Unearthed Arcana. The key would be to find an area on Krynn where they would fit in. The savage bard is a good option for Plainsmen, Ice Barbarians, and Kagonesti (amongst others).
The prestige bard is a great option in that it allows one to take the basics of the bard, and apply it to any era. You do not have to worry about whether you are drawing your power from High Sorcery or Wild Sorcery, as it could be either.
Branchala, the Bard King
Branchala is the primary deity worshipped by bards. He represents inspiration, music, poetry, and performance. Known also as the Songmaster, it is said that the hearts of mortals beat in time with the Song of Life of Branchala.
Though Branchala typically favors choristers and goodfellows as his followers, he also has a warm spot in his heart for the bards of the Age of Mortals who draw their power from Wild Sorcery. Master performers also follow Branchala. The Bards of Branchala (see below) are also specialist followers, who tap into the power of the Song of Life itself.
Gilean, the Sage
Gilean is a favored god amongst bards who specialize in knowledge. Gilean favors the master sage, though he accepts among his followers those who search for knowledge in any form. The Players of Gilean are among Gileans bard followers.
Hiddukel, the Prince of Lies
As the Prince of Lies, Hiddukel makes it his job to spread disinformation wherever he can. Bards who serve Hiddukel are charged with spreading lies wherever possible. Sometimes, bards of Hiddukel will cause worse damage by telling the truth. For example, they might tell the true tale of a hero of legend whose flaws were lost to history. This double-speak of truth and lies makes Hiddukel’s bards truly dangerous.
Sirrion, the Flowing Flame
As the god of creativity and passion, Sirrion is a natural deity for bards. Sirrion’s bards are always full of passion, and their creativity can be seen in their works of art and song. Sirrion’s bards are charged with spreading the “creative fire” to the hearts of mortals so that they may embrace their own creativity.
Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari, the Gods of Magic
Though the gods of magic aren’t standard gods for bards, they do count among their ranks bardic sages (see above). Bardic sages draw their power from High Sorcery, and tell tales of wizards of old. They are often seen with adventuring parties who are trying to restore an ancient item of magic.
Bards of Branchala (Monte Cook’s Alternate Bard)
The following is an article I wrote on adapting Monte Cook’s variant bard to Dragonlance.
The Bards of Branchala are identical to Monte Cook’s alternate bard, with a couple of minor changes. First, the magic of a Bard of Branchala is divine in nature, and not arcane. This change was instigated in order for the Bards of Branchala to not be under the watchful eye of the Wizards of High Sorcery. Secondly, a Bard of Branchala’s alignment must be NG or CG. Bards cannot be lawful, and (in this case) they gain their power directly from Branchala.
While this article describes how Monte Cook’s alternate bard can be used as champions of Branchala, the alternate bard can also be used for characters that do not follow Branchala (even neutral and evil characters). Alternately, the Player’s Handbook bard can be used as well.
Bards of Branchala gain their power from spellsongs, which come from the Song of Life, the music of all living souls. Some say that the hearts of all mortals beat in time with the Song of Life.
While the Song of Life resides in all mortals, this divine power is only accessible to those who can hear the melodies and harmonies within the Song of Life, and who can feel its rhythm. These rare individuals are known as the Bards of Branchala.
Bards of Branchala come from all walks of life. Some study at the Bardic College in Ergoth, some study under a master, and some learn the ways of Branchala on their own. Wherever Bards of Branchala come from, they all follow the beat of the Song of Life.
Bard of the Note
A Bard of Branchala begins play as a Bard of the Note. Bards of the Note are able to cast spellnotes. These bards are considered to be apprentices, and generally study under a Bard of the Chord or a Bard of the Song. To be chosen as an apprentice of a Bard of the Song is considered to be of the highest honor.
Bard of the Chord
When a bard progresses to the point where he can cast spellchords, he gains rank as a Bard of Branchala and becomes a Bard of the Chord. Bards of the Chord are able to go beyond the normal boundaries for singing. While most performers can only sustain one note at a time, a Bard of the Chord can sing multiple notes simultaneously. This ability can be used both in mundane performances as well as in spellsong casting.
Bard of the Song
When a bard progresses to the point where he can cast spellmelodies, he gains rank as a Bard of Branchala and becomes a Bard of the Song. Bards of the Song are said to have the greatest understanding of the Song of Life, and are respected throughout the land.
Options for Bardic Magic
Though bards can be viewed in terms of arcane and divine, their magic may be much more.
There are some magic-users in the Age of Mortals who theorize that the magic of bards is hybrid magic. Hybrid magic seeks to blend Wild Sorcery and Mysticism into one type of magic, much like two sides to a single coin.
According to hybrid magic-users, bardic magic is both the magic of creation and of the heart. A song is part of the creation process, yet the power that comes from the song comes from within.
The Player’s Handbook bard would do well with this option in that it would no longer have to drop the Conjuration (Healing) subschool spells. By limiting this option to the Age of Mortals, the DM doesn’t have to worry about a bard learning of healing magic prior to when Goldmoon does.
Another option for bardic magic would be to add a new type of magic to Krynn – Song Magic. Song Magic would enable the bard to cast spells without being under the scrutiny of the Wizards of High Sorcery, and it would allow a bard to escape the commitments of devoting oneself to a deity. However, Song Magic would make for a fifth type of magic in Krynn as well, which would be too many.
The power of Song Magic generally comes from the gods, although it may also come from mysticism through the harmony of life within the world of Krynn.
Bard Colleges and Academies
Bards are typically fairly independent, learning from an individual master. However, there are bardic colleges (such as the one in Northern Ergoth) and academies that bards can learn from.
Song of Life: Tavern and Academy of Bards
The Song of Life tavern in Palanthas stands on the spot that the Temple of Branchala once stood in the Age of Might. Reputedly, the temple had a magnificent domed building with ivy covering the walls and stained glass doors. It was, sadly, torn down by a man who wanted to make one of the largest taverns in all of Palanthas.
When the Old Temple District saw renewal after the War of the Lance, the church of Branchala bought the land and kept the tavern, feeling it was quite fitting for Branchala. The tavern was renamed the Song of Life, a title often associated with Branchala. During the early Age of Mortals, the bard suffered hard times under the oppressive thumb of the Knights of Neraka. With their departure, business at the Song of Life is booming.
The tavern doubles as an academy for bards. Typically, bards are taught various methods of performance, primarily singing, though often juggling and tumbling as well. By day, the bards who work at the tavern would practice their skill. By night, they would perform.
With the end of the War of Souls and the departure of the Knights of Neraka, the Song of Life has seen resurgence among its patrons. The church of Branchala continues to run the tavern, and has expanded. During the early Age of Mortals, a new type of bard appeared, wielding the power of wild sorcery. With such great variety of bards, the Song of Life has had to remodel.
Under the supervision of Astin Locastus (NG male civilized human cleric 5/chorister 3), the remodeling of the Song of Life is complete. The new appearance hearkens back to the days of the ancient temple. The tavern now has ivy along the walls, stained glass doors and windows, and a large dome on top. Not only does the traditional tavern still stand, there’s now a small number rooms for students. Students will work as bartenders, waiters, and performers in return for room and board, though they can keep any tips.
Bard of the Song (Early Conceptual Design for Dragonlance Bards)
For the sake of completeness, I’m including my original write-up for bards in Krynn. Note that this article is outdated some, but there are some ideas that DM’s might wish to mine.
In the river of time, there were those who emerged who had power over the Song. The Song gave them access to magics, both arcane and divine, and gave them power through music.
The Song is a harmony made of the soprano of Branchala, the tenor of Zivilyn, and the bass of Hiddukel. The Song called to those who heard the harmony, those known as Bards. The Bards gathered and formed a Bardic College, where they learned how to access the power of the Song.
The Wizards of High Sorcery discovered these individuals, who wielded arcane magic outside of their order. The Holy Order of the Stars also discovered these individuals, who wielded healing magic like a cleric.
Both groups sent representatives to investigate the Bardic College. The clerics were merely curious; the Wizards of High Sorcery were trying to determine the power level of the bards.
The groups argued for days, as their patron deities also argued. The Gods of Magic were outraged that arcane magic was granted without their consent. The gods of good argued that the bards deserved to exist; the gods of evil laughed at the chaos that ensued; the gods of neutrality sought balance. The bardic deities argued that their while their Song had different parts, it represented all of Krynn.
It was Gilean who called for order. Gilean proposed that those who followed the Song should continue to exist. They would be advised by the Wizards of High Sorcery and the Holy Order of the Stars.
And so, the Bard of the Song came about, representing all of Krynn.
The Bard of the Song is an attempt to keep the standard 3rd Edition bard in Dragonlance, without having to alter it from the rules.
The Song is the Song of the Gods. It is a gift from the bardic gods that allows for bards to have access to magic. Most of the bard’s spells are arcane, although they have an assortment of healing spells also. The Song also grants a bard his bardic abilities.
Bards and Wizards of High Sorcery
Part of the compromise on bards is that one representative from each of the orders of the Wizards of High Sorcery be present at the Bardic College to guide young students, and to test them during the Bardic Challenge to ensure that they can use their magic responsibly.
Bards and the Holy Order of the Stars
A clerical representative from all the bardic deities is present on the grounds of the Bardic College as well, to help guide bards in their paths throughout life. As bardic power originally comes from the gods, it is only natural that bards would have questions.
The Bardic College
The Bardic College is headed up by a headmaster. Various courses are taught about the Song and how it relates to arcane and divine magic. Part of the curriculum stipulates that bards must go into the world and study its various aspects, learning all they can about it.
The Bardic Challenge
Each bard must complete a Bardic Challenge when they are able to cast 2nd-level spells. The Challenge consists of three parts.
The first part is the Arcane Challenge. This Challenge ensures that bards can use their magic responsibly. While not as harsh as the Test of High Sorcery, it measures a bard’s ability to control his magical power.
The second part is the Divine Challenge. This Challenge ensures that bards can properly use their healing arts, and have a basic knowledge of the gods and how the gods interact with the world.
The third part is the Bardic Challenge. This Challenge ensures that bards are competent in all of their bardic skills, and that they understand the Song. Those who fail the Challenge must study further, and take the test at a later date. Those who pass are deemed to be a Bard of the Song, and are free to go into the world. There, they spread music, tell tales, and function as support where needed.
Fitting the bard class into the Dragonlance campaign is not an easy task. Every solution has a series of perks and flaws, and no single one of them is an absolute answer. Those who wish to play bards in their Dragonlance games should consult with their Dungeon Master, consider the options, and figure out which one works best for them.
- Player’s Handbook
- Complete Book of Eldritch Might
- Dragonlance Campaign Setting
- Holy Orders of the Stars
- Unearthed Arcana
- War of the Lance
what about a 5e update?
Bard sage of Gilean or
the divine bard of Branchala?
Sounds like a splendid idea, Milo! Stay tuned, and we will see what we can whip up.