Magic is one of the cornerstones of our favorite TTRPGs. But with only 5 or 6 differences in mechanical design between these magical classes, and the large overlap of spells and feats that any spell caster can use; begs the question: what is the difference between a Wizard and a Bard? Or a Druid and Warlock? Attitude is the answer! The following prompts are meant to get players and GMs thinking about characteristics that you can apply to your magical warriors!
What is a Bard?
A bard is an artist. Anybody can be an artist. Art is not just work, it is a passionate fervor for creation. Bards would do anything for their craft, as long as it is novel and inventive. A bard is aware that an artist is almost nothing without an audience; Therefore they always seek new ways to inspire the masses.
Bards are specialists when it comes to their magic; It is the tool that they use to enhance their performances and projects. Bards do not receive their magic by a powerful entity; Nor do they have the time or interest to spend decades honing magic proper. Magic is but a tool they use to achieve greater and greater artistic heights and accolades.
A Bard’s Strength
A Bard is relentlessly passionate. Bards are dreamers and they can find inspiration almost anywhere. They always seek it, and in the process of the search, they share it with their audience and friends. Bards use their talents to embolden their allies, motivate the neutral, and enervate their foes.
They are charismatic and charming because they need to be. It could be a talent they have taken years to develop or perhaps it is because they maintain an attractive appearance. Whatever the reason, people want to listen to bards. They attract attention wherever they go.
They perform and practice their talents and inspire others to find the best within themselves while simultaneously expose the fears and insecurities of the hypocritical and cruel. A bard is a specialist.
They don’t seek to master magic; rather they seek to master art. Magic is the pallet, or clay or instrument they use to construct their masterpiece. In order to be the most effective performer or artist possible they hone and master specific spells to cast on command and without much thought. Through hard work and hustle, they can create magic as spontaneously as any innate caster.
A Bard’s Weakness
The creative process is invigorating and intoxicating. Therefore a bard spends most of their time chasing after that next idea. This may cause them to lose sight of the present and distort the past in order to achieve their desired future. This is almost akin to addiction and obsession.
Art is first conceived in the mind; However, making vision become reality is easier said than done. It can be terribly frustrating for a bard when their vision struggles to be born against the forces of entropy and reality. This frustration can lead to desperation, a mental prison that they rage against.
Bards can be driven to make drastic or unhealthy choices in desperate attempts to rid themselves of their mental block. Feelings of despair can cause bards to lash out at those close to them and make them feel isolated and unappreciated.
A Bard’s Folly
Whether the bard admits it or not, they are dependent on an audience. Once they find it, the bard must compromise a portion of their identity to appease their fans. This means that they may double down and focus on a narrow field within the artistic spectrum. The sculptor neglects their painting, the comedian ignores the dramatic roles. This is true with their magic as well.
They become experts at the their repertoire of spells, and can not afford to branch out lest they risk ruin. Art is work, and to the be best you need to perfect and practice your talent. This can cause highly innovative and passionate people to feel unfulfilled and frustrated. To be a bard is to swing between extremes feelings, ideas, and passions while at the mercy of ruthless critics and cold hard reality.
A Bard’s Fear
The success of a bard is measured by two competing forces: celebrity vs intimacy. On one side you have fame, fortune, and acclaim; And on the other you have personal authenticity, ingenuity and growth.
Bards are pulled apart by these two forces. As they gain unprecedented success they fear they could lose the edge that brought to them these new heights. If they attempt to regain that hunger and push for something new, then they wrestle with the fear that they may lose they status that they worked so hard to earn.
Bards are dreamers and idealists. This can cause them to become frustrated with reality. Bards are difficult to satisfy. They fear they must compromise their vision and they fear that they can’t succeed unless they make sacrifices. It is the struggle of the bard to create on their own terms and not have to answer to any audience or authority.
A Bard’s Fight
The bard is an agent of creativity, ingenuity, progress, preservation, and inspiration in a universe that is destined to entropy. Time is undefeated and everything fades, but this does not prevent the bard from passionately fighting back to create art, music, and story.
Bards are the most godlike of the casters, though they do not seek their omnipotence, or their love, or their knowledge. Few are wise enough to understand that through the very act of creation itself, they imitate them. This might explain the worst tendencies a bard may have: their vanity, narcissism, and selfishness. But it also is an example of their best qualities: passion, love and creativity.
Conclusion: A Bard’s Dream
A Bard is an artist that struggles to find inspiration in a world filled with harsh realities. They are dreamers that seek to create beauty that they can share with others but also claim as their own. Bards are determined to succeed and on their own terms. They appreciate an audience, but the work they do is deeply personal.
The love they have for the creative process is unrivaled by other mortals. They are constantly practicing their skills and honing their talents to near perfection. Bards revel in the use of their gifts: charisma and passion. Weal to those that are inspired by bards and woe to their foes for they can cut them down with sword, spell, and word.
Are you playing a Bard? Do you have that magical folk streak in TTRPGs? I’m always looking for new ideas so please share them with me in the comments below!
About the Author
Jared Emanuel is a hobby enthusiast that loves high fantasy, science fiction, and everything in between.