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Mon, Jul. 1st, 2013, 07:09 pm
Back to the Keep

So, we gathered yesterday for an inaugural Hackmaster session; we're likely to be monthly, what with the pressures of being grown-ups and all (sitters, work schedules, etc). I was hoping to make a mage or fighter/mage, but the best stats (under a house rule) I rolled had a 10 Intelligence... could've fiddled around, but went with a dwarf fighter/thief, bolstering a very lackluster Wisdom and Looks so I kept my 16 strength, 15 Con, and even managed a 12 Charisma despite my (modified) 6 Looks. Overall, he's got great stats, but I wound up spending a number of points on rerolls for his quirk/flaw... I didn't want to play Compulsive Liar, Colorblind, Missing Ear, or... one other that I forget. I stuck with a Superstition about birds being unlucky.

The party is:
Elwyn - Elven thief with some OCD
Ava Cado - Human priestess of the Bear
Grimwulf - Fhokki javelin who wants to be a paladin
Flint Goldheart - a dwarf fighter/thief with a rather pronounced dislike of birds.. much more a fighter who knows about traps (and backstabbing) than a sneaky fighter. Was very nearly named "Flintheart Glumgold", but the thought of laughing every time I said his name talked me out of it. This is srz bznz.

So, it's late winter in Vew, and a group of travelers is stuck in a blizzard. Flint has lived in the area for years, mostly as a caravan or claim guard, but also happy to chip in with general labor and the like when necessary. Since he's had a lean season, he's leaning on the friendship of Marotti, the innkeeper for the last five years, doing odd jobs in exchange for food and a place by the fire. Just before the storm hit, Ava and Elwyn came in (separately); Ava looking into some reports of ravaged nature, and Elwyn searching for the place her brother died, years ago. Also staying is a minor lord, a very old friend of Marotti, who is very ill.

One evening, the lordling won't get up for his dinner; Ava, a priestess, is called in to examine him, and finds that he's some sort of malignancy in his belly, but she lacks the ability to cure it. She does her best to make him comfortable, and is charged with delivering a letter to someone the next morning... and then the lordling slips into a coma. She faithfully delivers the letter, then returns to keep watch on him... partially because this ensures Marotti will let her stay, rent free, for a while longer. (We is po')

A few weeks pass. There's not much we can do during this time... the road to Frandor's is washed out and snowed in, no one is going anywhere that needs a guard, and it's not a good time for exploring, so we spend time around the inn, with me trying to convince Marotti to let me expand his root cellar this winter. He keeps putting me off, but we play a lot of cards and dice and not much happens. Soon, however, just in front of another blizzard, the Red Priest arrives. He's a follower of the Eternal Lantern, and has a "bodyguard" in young Grimwulf. The Red Priest (who has a name, but I have forgotten it) goes to visit the lordling, an old friend of his, though Marotti requests that they disarm before visiting his sick friend.

Then, no , ninjas attack. Five priests in brown robes and studded leather come into the inn and begin to attack the Red Priest, also trying to sap the curious Elwyn (who was attacted to the Red Priest's fancy golden holy symbol). I, being the industrious individual I am, go up and backstab one of the Brown priests, then bash his head in with my axe. The immediate threat to her ended, Elwyn retreats to clean her sword. Ava defends the unconscious lordling, Grimwulf gets ToPed, and I wade into melee, protecting Grimwulf and making another kill myself. The Red Priest takes down two, but the final brown priest... the one with the long sword, who seems to be the leader... runs. I miss hitting him as he runs, but tag him with a throwing axe on the way out.... but he gets away.

The Red Priest clears us from the room, insisting that he will sit vigil over his friend. He blocks the door with an armoire, releases Grimwulf from his service, and begins a three day pray-a-thon, complete with spare voices in the room and the occasional muffled explosion. We let him pray, though I get a little paranoid and start making a club, and figuring out how to put silver pieces as studs to make it a viable anti-undead weapon. The blizzard rages outside, but, on the third day, it stops. Silence comes from the room where the Red Priest kept his vigil. Grimwulf, concerned for his former master, forces open the door, to find the corpse of the lordling looking weeks dead, the Red Priest still kneeling... and, in another room, Moratti lies with his throat cut.

Cue a flurry of investigation, where we find out that Moratti killed the previous owner and buried him in the root cellar, was, himself, the murderer of the lordling, using some exotic plant-based poison that our Bear-priestess couldn't identify, and had summoned the brown priests. We learn that Elwyn's brother was at some place named Salt Haven, which also seems to be the source of trouble that the druid was interested in. I want more insight into Moratti (I was his friend for five years), and Grimwulf is at somewhat loose ends, but the potential to confront undead seems to cheer him.

We've got a good dynamic going. The elf and I have a snarky relationship, with me having made several cracks about her impatience ("What, are you afraid you're gonna grow old waiting for it?"), and her tending to make fun of my smell and beard. Not outright violent... I recognize her as generally "good people", even if we don't get along. With two humans, we tend to be a bit more aloof, but we're settling into a relationship with them, as well.

Mon, Mar. 4th, 2013, 02:42 am
Rifts: Houstown pt 4

NPCs and gear

Read more...Collapse )

Mon, Mar. 4th, 2013, 02:42 am
Rifts: Houstown pt 3

And more....

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Mon, Mar. 4th, 2013, 02:40 am
Rifts: Houstown pt 2

The full thing is too long for LJ

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Mon, Mar. 4th, 2013, 02:39 am
Rifts: Houstown

So, about five or six years ago, I wrote up a bit about the city of Houstown in Rifts. Since I live here, I figured I'd give a whirl at fleshing out the very bare-bones description in Rifts: Lone Star. Now, in doing the research, I realized that the Coalition had a major base (like, "military population bigger than Houstown total population") not far away... at Beaumont. I live on the west side of Houston and Beaumont is only about a hundred miles away. You can shoot Rifts-tech missiles from downtown Beaumont and hit my house.

But, as is often the case with Palladium, I did my best with what I had, and turned out Rifts: Houstown, a short (only 17,000 words) description of the city, its post-apocalyptic history, and some of the major players.

Houstown beneath the cutCollapse )

Tue, Jan. 8th, 2013, 10:31 am
Bilbo Connection

Why are there so many
Songs about mountains
And the treasures that lay inside?
Adventure comes calling
But seldom for hobbits
Stoors, or harfoots, or fallohides
"Stay in the Shire, and seek not
Adventure"
But some heed the call, we will see

Someday we'll find it
The Bilbo Connection
The dwarves, the wizard, and me

Who said every road
Goes ever and ever
On past your very door?
Few hobbits think of that
And see not the mountains
Or Rivendell under the stars
But sights so amazing
Await our trailblazing
If only we go out and see

Someday we'll find it
The Bilbo Connection
The dwarves, the wizard, and me

I'm lost under it's spell
Adventure, it seems like magic

Have you been half asleep
And have you heard orcses?
I've heard them deep in the cave
Are these the goblins that stole
All our weapons
Glamdring, they know your name
Lost in the darkness, guessing at
riddles; a present, now, just for me

Someday we'll find it
The Bilbo Connection
The dwarves, the wizard, and me

Sun, Sep. 23rd, 2012, 11:07 pm
Savage Worlds Mass Effect

Spent some time tonight writing up the Savage Worlds Mass Effect rules I've been thinking of. These are designed to take place between Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2, and are pretty preliminary. They're also designed to be pretty plug-n-play with SW, focusing more on mechanical representation than making sure that prices are accurate and all.

Please, feel free to feedback.

Races:
Human: Humans start with the Lucky edge and one other of choice, but also have the Flaw: Outsider. While a growing power in the galaxy, the human rise to power has created a number of enemies.

Salarian:Salarians slight build results in them having the Small hindrance. However, their quick minds mean they begin with a d6 in Smarts, and the Quick Edge.

Turian: Turians begin the game with one free edge.

Asari: All Asari begin with a single novice Biotic Power of choice, 5 Power Points, and a d4 in the Biotics skill. If they choose they Arcane Background: Biotics, they gain these in addition to the powers provided by the background. Asari also have a +1 to Charisma and Mind Reading as a bonus power. Mind Reading is a separate skill from Biotics, and begins at a d4. Asari have strong personalities, however, and have a minor personality hindrance, usually tied to their stage in life (Maidens tend to be Curious; Matrons tend to be Cautious).

Krogan: Krogan are perpetual Outsiders, but all have the Healing Power, which functions only for themselves, and operates off their Vigor attribute. They begin with a d6 in Vigor, but their Smarts requires two points per dot to increase. All are considered to have the Brawny Edge.

Quarian: Quarians begin play with a d6 in the Repair skill, but also have the Outsider flaws and a -4 against poison and disease. However, the also begin with an environmental suit, which provides +2 Armor, +2 against negative environmental conditions, and negates their penalty against poison and disease unless breached. Armor designed for Quarians takes this suit into account.

Drell: Drell have a +4 to resist heat. They also have an Eidictic Memory, allowing them to recall any information they have been exposed to; this results in a +2 to all knowledge skill checks, including common knowledge. However, their memory can be triggered involuntarily, requiring a Spirit roll less they fall into a fugue state and 4 point penalty to all trait rolls while in the grip of memory. With success, there is only a 2 point penalty. With a raise, there is no penalty.

Hanar: Hanar are fully aquatic, and thus cannot drown, move at full speed while swimming, and have a d6 in swimming at character creation. They likewise possess four additional limbs, allowing them to take multiple actions. They also secrete poisons from their limbs, allowing them to paralyze in hand to hand combat. They move by means of levitation packs powered by mass effect fields, giving them the equivalent of Flight (albeit at a slower base pace of 5). However, they also possess significant disadvantages. As jellyfish, they lack physical strength, so their Strength can never advance beyond 1d6, and requires two points to raise at character creation, or two advances during gameplay. Their Vigor and agility likewise require two points per step, but do not have caps. Their stilted speech and strong religious beliefs also marks them as Outsiders.

Elcor: Elcor move very slowly, having a base pace of 3 and only a d4 running die. Likewise, they are unusually Cautious, compared to most other species. Their speech patterns cause them to be regarded as Outsiders, and their slow reactions require that they spend 2 points per upgrade to Agility, with a cap of d6. However, they have great strength, beginning with a d8 and able to increase it to d12+2 through normal advancement. They are also quite large, gaining +1 to Size, and tough, gaining +2 to Armor and the Brawny Edge. They also have a base d6 in Vigor.

Batarian: Batarians have a rough reputation, resulting in Outsider status, but they also begin with a d6 in Intimidation. They have also earned the racial enmity of Humans, bringing their penalty to Charisma regarding humans to a -4. Unsurprisingly, they have exceptional vision, getting a +2 to Notice when vision is involved, and the equivalent of low-light vision.

Firearms
Most guns still have the old-style, ME1 integral heat sinks. This gives them tremendous longevity, but also means they will shut down if over-fired, going into emergency cooling.
Each shot fired adds 1 to a weapon’s heat load; at the end of each round, subtract 1 from the current heat load. Should a weapon reach its full heat load (indicated by the number of shots), it will shut down for three full rounds as sheds heat; after those three rounds, it will have reset to 0 heat. Shutdown is very common with combat shotguns and sniper rifles.
Newer-style weapons are becoming more available, especially in the military markets. These weapons shed their heat sinks upon reaching maximum capacity, allowing them to be reloaded (a non-roll action) and fired much more quickly. They are, however, limited by the number of heat sinks carried; without a heat sink, the weapon will not fire. Over-riding this will cause extensive damage to the weapon.

Omni-tools
Omni-tools are, at the very low end, the world’s best smart phone. With extranet access when near enough to a node, the extent of what can be considered “common knowledge” is pretty vast. Civilian models include the ability to function as a flashlight, scanning system, do basic repairs, dispense medi-gel (when provided a source), basic programming, hacking, video and audio recording and communication, breaking items into “omni-gel” (a semi-liquid amalgamation of plastics, light alloys, and ceramics), and, of course, video games, movies, and music.
Military and top-end commercial omni-tools are more robust, especially in the minifacturing capabilities. With finer control and fewer safeguards, these omni-tools allow the use of various “tech powers”, making use of hard light, onboard VI, and available materials (including an on-board supply of omni-gel).
Anyone with the Tech skill may use their omni-tool for basic tasks, including the Healing power (if they have a supply of medi-gel). Those with the Tech Arcane Background may use an omni-tool for any of their powers. A standard, civilian, omni-tool will usually have 5 Power Points, which recharge at a rate of 1 per minute. More advanced omni-tools will have 10, 20, or even 30 power points, while some will have greater recharge rates, or be optimized for use with certain powers.

Powers:
There are two Arcane Backgrounds: Tech and Biotics. Each has unique features compared to the usual SW mechanics.

Arcane Background: Tech.
Arcane Skill: Tech (Smarts)
Starting Power Points: None. Dependent upon device.
Starting Powers: 1, plus devices.
A Tech character has learned to make use of the varied capabilities of omni-tools. In addition to learning the basics of Tech skills and the omni-tool, most pick up a specialty... a power that they can coax out of almost any omni-tool, using its on-board power.
As mentioned above, those with the Tech background do not have their own Power Points. They must, instead, rely on the power points in the devices they use. Some devices will have power points dedicated to certain devices, such as armor with dedicated shields (the Armor power). Devices with dedicated powers can be used by any with the Tech skill. Those with the Arcane Background, however, can use those points to also fuel their own powers, subverting the design for their own purposes.
Available powers for the Tech Arcane Background are: Armor, Barrier, Blind, Bolt, Dispel (Tech), Greater Healing, Healing, Invisibility, Mind Reading (Tech), Puppet (Tech), Smite, Speak Language, Stun, Succor, Summon Ally (drones). Those powers with a (Tech) notation will only function against other tech powers; you can turn off a Tech-based Armor power or barrier with Dispel, you can crack a computer or robot’s memory with Mind Reading, or control a device with Puppet, but you cannot use these on people, animals, or directly on biotic powers (though Dispel may be targeted at a biotic amp). Many offensive powers will have suitable trappings; acid, cold, eletricity, heat, light and sound are all possible. A power with different effects is a different power; one can learn Fire Bolt and Acid Bolt as separate powers.

Arcane background: Biotic
Arcane Skill: Biotics (Spirit)
Starting Power Points: 10
Starting Powers: 3
Biotics are born with small nodules of element zero within their bodies, allowing them to generate mass effect fields with an effort of will. For most species (all save the asari), this would usually result in only minor effects, as the electrical fields generated by the neural system are insufficient and not coordinated enough to generate more powerful fields. To this end, biotics are fitted with implants. These cybernetic devices amplify and direct the mass effect fields more precisely, allowing far greater effects. Most human biotics are fitted with L3 or later models; the old L2s have greater potential, but tended to have negative side effects. Most aliens have a system similar to the L3 in place.
Biotics can supplement their power with “bio-amps”, external devices which attach to a port on the brainstem. These devices provide additional power points to a biotic, and recharge far faster than natural reserves. One’s natural reserves (10 Power Points) recharge at a rate of 1 per hour; most amps will recharge at 1 point per minute. While any combination of natural and amped power points may be used, they continue to recharge at their separate rate. Amps cost approximately 50 credits per power point capacity, though local market conditions may make them more or less expensive, and those above 10 Power Points are frequently far more expensive military models.
Available powers to a biotic background are: Armor, Barrier, Blast, Bolt, Burst, Damage Field, Deflection, Entangle, Fly, Havoc, Pummel, Stun, Telekinesis, Wall Walker. Biotic powers seldom have effects such as those listed on page 106 & 107.

Thu, Mar. 29th, 2012, 12:43 pm
Great Deal on HMB

I haven't talked much here about my love of Hackmaster... I have some game summaries I can post... but Kenzer has a great deal to get you involved in Hackmaster that I wanted to share:

http://www.kenzerco.com/product_info.php?products_id=808

5 copies of Hackmaster Basic for $25. With Shipping and Handling, you're looking at less than $40 for five copies of a complete game (including magic items, monsters, and with access to free scenarios).

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2012, 11:48 pm
Why Bards are Awesome

So, believe it or not, my favorite class in 3.5/PF is a bard. I am not playing a bard in our current PF game, but that is because I'm trying to be different for once (so I am playing a half-giant Psychic Warrior named "Griselda"; she's pretty much Xena with a giant hammer).

However, I've made frequent arguments on message boards on why bards are awesome. Since I always lose them, I'm going to link several things (so I can find them again), and copy the text here (because I love them so much)

***
Bards are awesome out of the box. In terms of skills and spells, they are the ultimate team player. Their abilities are designed around making sure that everyone else can do things better. And they don't need much in the way of feats to pull it off, either.

Inspire Courage. It makes everyone hit more often, and hit harder. It adds that extra pep to a critical, that extra half-inch that turns a miss into a hit, and that little touch that keeps everyone stalwart in battle. No party should be without it. A bard Inspiring courage makes everyone with a 3/4 BAB fight like they almost have a 1/1 BAB... without the need for DMM cheese, which only helps one person.

Inspire Competence. Every need something done right the first time? That's Inspire Competence.

Countersong. May not come up often, but how many times has your bard saved the party from harpies or shriekers? Every time you've had a bard and encountered harpies or shriekers.

Fascinate. Way under-utilized. Any time you need a distraction to get into position, a bard is BUILT for distraction. Plus, it leads to suggestion, which is also awesome.

Bardic Knowledge. Ever run into a problem that no one has a knowledge skill applicable? The bard does. He's been putting ranks into it simply by virtue of being a bard. A bard of 8th level or higher with a +2 intelligence has a chance of knowing the most obscure of information... and he doesn't need the +2 intelligence if he put 5 ranks (just 5 ranks!) in History. If he has both, he can start learning these things at 6th level.

Combat. Bards get proficiency with the whip, which is awesome. Why? Because you can trip people from the 2nd line. Whips are cheap... if you fail to trip the person, drop it and pull another one. Tripping also ignores damage resistance, and lets the rogue sneak attack people. Want to know what bards do best? They make other people better. How can a bard do that? Flank + Aid Another + Inspire Courage. +5 to hit at 1st level. If the bard goes with Combat Expertise (which, given the usefulness of tripping, isn't a bad idea), he can go heavy on the defense through CE, still pull off the AC 10 hit for Aid Another, and make sure that the fighter hits all the time. That +5 to hit? It turns the fighter's 2nd attack into something equal to his 1st attack. If he was going to hit once, he likely hits twice. If he was going to hit twice, he likely hits a 3rd time. And he's wearing Mithril Breastplate that he made and enchanted himself while doing it, because he's that awesome. After all, a Mithril breastplate can be made with a mere 5 ranks in Craft: Armorer... and a bard can poop 5 skill points and still have more to spread around that level.

Spells. Bard spells are fantastic. They may not get them as fast as wizards or sorcerers, but they're still wicked useful to an intelligent player. Of course, many spells they have are shared with other classes, but the most valuable resource in 3.x is actions... anything your bard is doing, someone else doesn't have to be.

1st level spells? You know that Grease that everyone loves to talk about? Bards get that. They get Sleep, the earliest save or die spell. They get Cure Light Wounds... and while people pooh-pooh combat healing, the ability to stop someone from dying is seldom disliked. Oh, and remember when your fighter ran away from combat, because he got feared? The bard can stop that. And make someone laugh until you kill them.
2nd level spells? Sound Burst, a great area-affect save-or-suck. Glitterdust. One of my favorites is heroism... enough to give anyone a boost, and one of the longer-lasting buffs available at 10/min/level. Slap your fighter on the back and send him in to win one for the Gipper... with a bard on his side, he will.
3rd level spells? Earliest access to Charm Monster... same character level as wizards, but an earlier spell level. Geasa. Haste. Glibness, which is what lets you pull off anything you need to... you can't match the bonus granted by Glibness until 27th level... and it lasts for more than an hour when you first get it. At 12th level, it lasts for 2 hours... a bard who wanted to could keep it going for 6 hours without dipping into his bonus spells. At 18th level, you can have a +30 to bluff checks for 12 hours a day... Sure, you don't have any 3rd level spell slots (except for bonus slots), but with a +51 to bluff... enough that you can display a false alignment, or fairly easily implant suggestions in your target. And you can pull suggestions off at 7th level (when your bluff modifier under Glibness is 40+Charisma mod).
4th level. Bards get Freedom of Movement. Wizards don't. With Shadow Conjuration, a bard can cast any wizard conjuring spell of 3rd level or less. A bard can put Dominate Person into a wand... a wizard can't. A bard can put Legend Lore into a wand... a wizard can't. Break enchantment they can put in a wand... wizards and clerics can't. And they have dimension door, too. Oh, and Mass Suggestion. Combine that with Glibness to make everyone believe everything. As Lincoln said, "You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but a bard can fool everyone until his spell slots run out."
5th level. Need an Evocation spell? How about Shadow Evocation? Not quite as real, but just as effective if you don't give them a chance to think about it. Mass cure light wounds... useful for trashing undead or for bringing everyone up from the brink at the same time (and why not cast it while under a under a Greater Invisibility)? Oh, and if a bard's 5th level mass transit spell messes up, you're lost. If a wizard's 5th level mass transit spell messes up, you're stuck in a mountain. Song of Discord, which makes your enemies fight each other? Bard-exclusive.

Please note, everything before this notice is core-only; nothing other than www.d20srd.com as a source No supplements. Nothing 3rd party. The most exotic I got was mentioning some things out of the Epic-Level Handbook. Those who insist bards aren't awesome are not playing a team game... they're trying to win D&D by making the most powerful character possible. Bards make sure the team wins... not by smashing everything in their path. Not by using broken spell combinations. Not even using a single splatbook. They make the team win by simply making sure that EVERYONE is better.

Bards are awesome. They are the sum total of everything every party needs.

Some bardy suggestions:

The Summoner. While Druids are usually thought of as summoners, a Bard who invests in Spell Focus: Conjuration and Augment Summoning can sling the monsters with the best of them. And, given that the bard has Speak Language as a class skill, he can likely talk to any of them (everything with the celestial and fiendish templates has an intelligence of 3, and can therefore understand at least 1 language). Summon them, use bardsong to buff them further. If you have Melodic Casting, summon more while buffing the first set, and your second set will also be buffed. Drown your opponents in Celestial Badgers.

The Combat Aide. Take buff spells. Aid Another. Trip people. Since you can't use a shield and cast, put a whip in your off-hand, and a rapier in your main hand. With Combat Expertise, Improved Trip, and Weapon Finesse you can make sure that no humanoid keeps its feet, and all your allies hit them again and again.

The Knowledge-maven. Put points into every knowledge skill. You may not be able to use an Archivist's Dark Knowledge, but you can tell everyone the weaknesses of the the monster, the common places for secret doors in dwarven ruins of this time period, the tenets of the religion of the guys you're fighting, and how to make your way back to the surface without getting lost. Learn every language. Put points into Decipher Script and start writing things in code.
***
You obviously missed the memo: Bards are awesome. Beguilers have scabies.
***
Those who are jealous of a bard's awesome quotient frequently dismiss them as "signing". Bards need not sing.

Bards can dance... and with Tumble and Improved Unarmed Strike, they are practicing Capoeria.

Bards can use the drums... and light maces + percussion skill + two-weapon fighting is a nasty-fun combination.

Bards can orate. Don't believe that's effective? Listen to the St. Crispin's Day speech (especially with a Ghost-sound provided orchestra rising the background) and don't get stirred.

Bards can do comedy. A bard who tells puns, inspiring his allies to hit people harder.

Bards can chant, and that's a freaky one. A bunch of dwarves, lead by their bard, each chanting in unison. "I wanna be a dwarven fighter/smashing orcs and other blighters."

Bards can use stringed instruments. Bards with high enough ranks in Fiddle automatically have a golden fiddle.1

More importantly, though, bards tell stories. Bards tell the stories of our adventures, they tell stories about their unending fidelity, and they tell stories about your fighters hygeine that have to be smelled to believe. What do beguilers do? It's right in the name: they lie. Beguilers lie like dogs, and cannot be trusted. They use the fact that Wizards, bereft of any remaining awesome (having spent it ALL on bards), were forced to give beguilers mechanical crutches to get around the fact that they lie and they smell funny. And carry diseases.

It is well known that bards are all fantastically endowed paragons of their gender, while beguilers are lying, disease-ridden deviates... and not even the fun kind of deviates. The kind of deviates that even make Blackguards go "That dude has something seriously wrong with him." And I'm not talking pansy blackguards. I'm talking the kind of blackguards who were paladins until they tasted their first baby and said "Yum. I think I'll eat more of these."

So play a bard. Because bards are awesome. And beguilers cheat at cards. ALL THE TIME.



1Golden fiddle not included. Offer void in certain Crystal Spheres. Consult your local overdeity for details.
***
Truthfully, I've seldom had a problem with making a bard useful, even sticking with just core. They're seldom powerhouses, but I've seldom had a problem with them being "useful". IME, being a bard is not about saying "I killed everything" or even "I charmed our way out of the problem" but, instead "I provided the little extra that pushed us to the top." My bard frequently has the highest damage total in the game... because every hit with Bardic Music adds 1 or more to my total, and if they only hit because I gave them a +1, I claim it all.

A few, core-only, tricks:

1) You don't need a lot of charisma compared to other casters. It's nice, but in a point-buy system, you can skimp on it; a 15 initially, going up from there with improvements, is adequate. For Charisma skills, the skill points quickly outstrip the bonus, even at an 18, so having a point or two lower doesn't hurt that much... and having more points elsewhere is great.
My newest bard, in Pathfinder, has a 15 Cha, an 8 Wisdom, a 12 Int, and 16s in Strength, Dex, and Con... though, without his racial adjustments, he'd have 14s in Dex and Con. If I were going a knowledge-type bard, I'd pump intelligence at the expense of Charisma, but this is more of a fighty bard. Avoid having any big penalties... a bard can survive a -1 on a stat, but a -2 on any stat is bound to mess them up in their trick of "Anything you can do, I can do kinda... I can do everything kinda, can you?"

2) With a lower charisma, choose your spells wisely. Choose spells that don't have a save, but still help your party. For a fighty bard, Summon Monster means something to flank with you. Cure Light Wounds is great at low levels, when HPs are a bit more precious. Grease is useful even with your lower save numbers, because they have to make the save again and again. Remove Fear is a buff that keeps your low will save fighters from fleeing when you need them most. None of these are uber-powerful, especially with your saves, but they provide that little bit extra from low-level spells. For 2nd level, look at Heroism, Mirror Image, the ever-popular Glitterdust, Invisibility, and Summon Swarm... things without saves (Glitterdust avoids blinding by saving, but will outline invisible creatures no matter what), that help incrementally. Wizards rule the save-or-suck field... you make sure that everyone gets the job done.

3) Skill points are your friend. Use Magic Device is a fun skill to have, and lets you fill almost any role necessary with a relatively easy check... a 14 or better at 1st level (assuming a +2 attribute and a +4 from skill... by 5th level, it's a 10 or better). Once you get some money in, live off wands... high-level gear is great, but with wands, you can spam the heck out of lower-level spells. Don't neglect knowledge skills... a little bit of knowledge, combined with Bardic Knowledge, will let you get away with a lot.
Branch out in your skills, as well. Bards should be the member in the party that everyone looks at and says "Ok, how the heck do we do this", and answer "I put skill points in Use Rope just for this purpose!" Spend the points to be trained in almost everything, just so you can use them when the time arises.
This is the opposite of what almost everyone else will tell you. "Find you thing and specialize in it." Do that. But also generalize. Throw a point or two into everything. Take feats that let you do this cheaply. Take "Open Minded", which gives you a few skill points to throw into things. If you don't say "Dammit, I need a few more skill points" every time you level up, you're not playing a bard.... you're playing a set of skills that happens to coincide with bards.
Oh, and be a synergy whore. The way synergy is set up, putting 5 ranks into some skills is like getting a free feat (one of the skill-improving ones, but still... it's a free feat). And even if you never spend another point on those skills, you're skill reaping the benefit of those bonuses.
And languages! Throw point after point into languages. Why? Because DMs, being tricksy creatures, like to throw in puzzles like "Speak 'friend' and enter", written in Infernal... and if ANYONE in the party should know what word in Infernal corresponds to "friend", it should be the bard. (Incidentally, the word is Krz'dn'chk, which means "Being who is too powerful for you to beat, but thinks you might be useful at some later point, and so is not going to destroy you now unless you tick him off." Place emphasis on the silent [AND INVISIBLE!] z, and you'll have it right; otherwise, you refer to yourself as a cheese blintz.)
Oh, and just so you know, your performance should be something that doesn't require an instrument... singing or chanting are popular. Yes, there are great magical musical instruments, and you may want to consider getting some skill in instruments, but in your "building phase", sticking with one, no-instrument-required Performance skill helps you quite a bit, as you can fight and music at the same time.

4) Feats and fighting. I've already stated my love for a variety of feats which give you additional skill points or skill options. Also look into some useful fighty feats. My Pathfinder Bard is taking advantage of Pathfinder's version of Arcane Strike (swift action to add +1 damage/5 levels and overcome Magic DR for 1 rnd); you might want to look into Power Attack (using your longsword in two hands), or the Improved Trip line of feats (making use of your Whip proficiency).
Since you don't have longbows, you might want to throw in Rapid Reload for a crossbow, but that's a bit much... too pricey, since you want more skill points, and better ways to use them. Point Blank shot is great if you start getting ranged touch attack wands, and Precise shot makes everyone happy.
You don't have as good of bonuses as the fighter-types. Run with it. While you're singing, flank and Aid Another. You just added +5 to hit (at first level), letting the fighter power attack more effectively. Trip people, so the rogue can sneak attack them. Cast Light on their codpiece, so the wizard (who didn't bother to memorize light, and can't see in the dark because he's a human for that extra feat) can target them more effectively. If you don't want to touch them, cast light on an arrow and shoot it at their shield.
Being a bard in combat is NOT about winning the fight single-handedly. It's about doing all the miscellaneous actions that makes sure that your party wins.

5) Stealing the spotlight. Ok, so far I've put the bard forth as kind of like a non-DMM cleric-y type... all helping others to do the things they do best, but better. Where does being a bard mean you get to shine? There are a few places where a bard is the hero of the day.

a) Social situations. These are almost self-evident, but bards have the skills to pull off the social stuff. You have the skill points to dump into these things, especially after you've abused synergy like it's a 3rd world nation. If your bard can pull off his music, you can even make your allies semi-competent in these things, via Inspire Competence.

b) Background and other information. Need to know which king is buried here? The bard knows, or can find out. Need to know the secret weakness of the Troll of Crag Keep? The bard has heard a rumor. Need to know what the heck that thing flying at you is? The bard's got a theory. This is not just Bardic Knowledge, but all your other knowledge skills combined. Be aggressive in using knowledge skills. Don't wait for the DM to say "Roll Knowledge: Arcana", especially if you've been skimping on your Knowledge: Arcana. Say "Since this thing has been sealed up for thousands of years, does Knowledge: History give me anything? What about Knowledge: Religion, since there was that big seal of Kord on the door? And Bardic Knowledge?" Do this with EVERY skill that might be appropriate, every time one might be appropriate.

c) When you get back to town. Remember, you are the one who tells everyone the tales of adventure. You figure prominently in every tale. Your name is the one that comes up the most in the songs. When people from far away hear about your party, they say "Aren't you 'Bard and Company'", not "Aren't you that adventuring group who contains a number of important people?" When you write the songs, THEY ARE YOUR LACKEYS.
Also, of course, the bard is the one who knows what everything is, how much it is worth, and how to get the best rewards.

Ok, I'm tired of telling you why bards are awesome. Just remember the key rules: Be aggressively helpful in your play. Be usefully self-aggrandizing. Brag humbly about the awesome that you let everyone else do, simply because they associate with you and YOU MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.
Everything you do should serve to make other people better, and make the entire party better... but if you're sitting the in back casting spells, instead of suggesting what skills would be best here, telling everyone about this monster and who designed this dungeon and why that's useful, and figuring out how to duct-tape the thief to a catapult so he doesn't fly TOO far when you shoot him over the gorge, then play a sorcerer or a namby-pamby wizard. Bards are people who DO things. They make things happen. They don't sit around and wait for the opportunity to cast a world-shattering spell... they make an opportunity to cast a low-level spell that's just as effective.

Bards are made of pure, concentrated awesome. The only time they run out is when they stop doing things and coming up with suggestions on how they can best solve any problem that comes up.
***
While they don't get spell power or anything off of it, I'd disagree that they have no in-class use for Int.

1) Bardic Knowledge. Depending on your DM, this is a GREAT ability.
2) Skills. A large number of their skills rely on Int... like the knowledge skills line.
3) Language. Bards with high Intelligences speak more languages and I've had at least one DM say "Normally I'd make you justify why your character speaks X, but, what the heck, he's a bard."
4) Skill points as ends in and of themselves. Bards having tons of different skills, at low levels, is not necessarily a bad thing. While they have a few they should specialize in, having a couple "wherever" points every level makes for a versatile bard.
***
remember the other side of UMD: the "randomly throw switches" effect of magic item use. The "I stole this wand from the bad guys, let's try using it on them." The "Sure, I'm not a virgin elven female cleric... but I can put myself in a mindset that will fool this ancient magic."

Tue, Feb. 7th, 2012, 02:47 pm
HM Gurl

I steadfastly refuse to apologize to Aqua for this one. Not gonna make me do it.


I'm a HM gurl in the Garweeze Wurld
Shapes of plastic, Dice Fantastic!
You can rush a lair, or fight some bugbears
Imagination, the game is your creation

Come on Draper, it's a caper

I'm a HM gurl in the Garweeze Wurld
Shapes of plastic, Dice Fantastic!
You can rush a lair, or fight some bugbears
Imagination, the game is your creation

I'm a third level thief, I can't get no relief
Traps and locks, orcs and rocs, I'm a dodgin'
You're my gawd, dice that roll, watch me shimmy and shake
Help me here, heal me there, Thanky-thanky

You can crouch… you can pray…
You can hope I get the door

I'm a HM gurl in the Garweeze Wurld
Shapes of plastic, Dice Fantastic!
You can rush a lair, or fight some bugbears
Imagination, the game is your creation

Come on Draper, it's a caper, Ha Ha Ha, Yeah
Come on Draper, it's a caper, Oooh oh! Oooh oh!
Come on Draper, it's a caper, Ha Ha Ha, Yeah
Come on Draper, it's a caper, Oooh oh! Oooh oh!

Ain't no lock, ain't no trap, I do whatever I please
I can take all the loot, 'less you beg on your knees
Or you tank, then I'll thank you for saving my bank
Spells that heal, make 'em squeal, make me happy

You can crouch… you can pray…
You can hope I get the door
You can crouch… you can pray…
You can hope I get the door

Come on Draper, it's a caper, Ha Ha Ha, Yeah
Come on Draper, it's a caper, Oooh oh! Oooh oh!
Come on Draper, it's a caper, Ha Ha Ha, Yeah
Come on Draper, it's a caper, Oooh oh! Oooh oh!

I'm a HM gurl in the Garweeze Wurld
Shapes of plastic, Dice Fantastic!
You can rush a lair, or fight some bugbears
Imagination, the game is your creation

I'm a HM gurl in the Garweeze Wurld
Shapes of plastic, Dice Fantastic!
You can rush a lair, or fight some bugbears
Imagination, the game is your creation

Come on Draper, it's a caper, Ha Ha Ha, Yeah
Come on Draper, it's a caper, Oooh oh! Oooh oh!
Come on Draper, it's a caper, Ha Ha Ha, Yeah
Come on Draper, it's a caper, Oooh oh! Oooh oh!

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