Entering the realm of bard-dom…

halfling bard

I’ve played a lot of characters in D&D or its variants. Fighters, rangers, wizards, druids, sorcerers, rogues (or thieves), clerics, even a witch now.

But there are two classes I have rather deliberately and pointedly avoided for decades. Yes, decades.

One is the paladin. The other is the bard. I avoid them for entirely different reasons. I avoid the paladin because I find the role playing constraints and GM or other player expectations to be too severe. I’m not much of a “black and white” morality kind of guy, and paladins are all about that. But I haven’t played a bard because… well…

Bards suck.

I mean even in the Order of the Stick online webcomic (online webcomic, that’s redundant isn’t it? Oh well…) the bard is the comedy relief of the party. Even the fundamental concept of the bard strikes nothing but laughter into the heart of most gamers. “Look out, he’s going to … SING!”

But I’ve decided to take the plunge and will be playing a bard in an upcoming campaign, assuming we can find a time when everyone can play. Yes, a bard. A halfling bard at that. So I’ve decided not only to play a class that is woefully unsuited for combat, I’ve picked the least combat suitable race too.

“Sparky” is his name. I haven’t yet created a miniature for him, but I will. Hopefully it will turn out better than my crappy miniature for Gil the Wonder Gnome. It almost has to, really.

So, why a bard? Well, mostly because the party we have already has all the other standard roles all filled, and I just wanted to finally take the chance to play a class I’ve avoided forever.

I am doing what I can to make him a competent member of the team, but mostly his focus is going to be on performing, diplomacy, bluffing and sneaking around in the dark. In combat he’s mostly going to hide behind the big beefy dudes and fling a sling stone out from time to time. Having picked the “detective” archetype, my bard won’t even have the ability to buff the party with the bard’s signature ability, the “sing a song to buff the party” ability called “inspire courage.” That’s sort of deliberate, and I certainly won’t miss the taunts of “fight fight fight the ugly ogre” from the rest of the team. But without that ability Sparky will have to make up for his limitations in other ways.

To make this work I’m going to have to be quite clever and resourceful. I’m looking forward to it.

End of (another) era

It seems odd that I have now seen two separate years-long campaigns end within a week of each other. One was the 4e campaign in my last post, but last Friday we completed a multi-module story arc that ended with a battle vs a red dragon and his minions.

The battle was over quickly, lasting roughly two and a half rounds. And that was in spite of our party barbarian being killed outright in the first combat round before he even got a chance to move.

In spite of losing the barbarian, we were still able to take down the dragon in two rounds and polish off the remaining two minions with only half the remaining party needing to act in the third round.

The encounter illustrated to me something that I’ve been concerned about for some time. And that is the variance in party effectiveness or power. I have long felt that my druid is too powerful in comparison with most other party members. I feel sort of guilty about it. Guilty enough that I have commented on it too much and it has probably annoyed some of the party members. Especially since I tend to downplay my druid’s abilities in most fights so that she does not hog all the spotlight, making it appear that she is not really overpowered at all.

But in major fights I tend to take the gloves off and let her swing away. In this final fight she was responsible for roughly 75% of all damage done, took one of the three enemies down without help while also doing 115 points of damage to the 140 hit point dragon.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to play Yleris, the elf/dryad hybrid druid again. But I do know that from now on, if I do get a chance to play her again, I will not hold back and will let her full strength be utilized in all fights. No more using her animal companion as a mount instead of sending it into battle. No more will she avoid using spells in favor of her bow. From now on she will concentrate her skills and feats on more traditional druid abilities such as augmented summoning (+4 to str and con for all summoned animals).

Before the final climactic battle our party had roamed around the dragon’s underground dungeon seeking its lair for two game-days. In all that time she had cast a single spell, using her bow in combat instead of casting spells. That was to allow the party sorcerer to be the party spell-slinger.

No more. Gloves are off now. From this point on instead of her falling back to the party, the party is just going to have to keep up. 🙂

End of an era…

Sigh.. our excellent 4e campaign has come to an epic close. The final conclusion was very well done and for a while it seemed that evil would prevail. But the party managed to barely survive and defeat the god-slaying BBEG (or in this case ‘Big Bad Evil Chick’ or ‘BBEC’). As a sort of unusual “reward” the remnant powers of the gods that had been slain became available for acquisition and my legendary damage-dealing ranger, ‘Kataar’, has now ascended partially into the pantheon of deities as the new Demigod of Hunters and Assassins.

I’d like to thank Rae Vhen the GM for his incredible work as the GM. I learned a lot from him and I am sure my own campaigns will be better for having played in his. I’d also like to thank my playing partners for three years of fun and camaraderie. By the end of the campaign I believe Kataar was the oldest “surviving” character in the party.

Kataar was my first and only serious 4e character I’ve played. I did enjoy playing him, not just because of his crazy damage potential, but also because of his street-savvy and his clever utilization of magical toys and trinkets. He always was able to pull something out of his bag of tricks, and even in the final cataclysmic battle his “wonderful toys” gave us a critical respite from a crushing aura which was seriously hampering our combat effectiveness.

I do think Kataar was a surprisingly multi-dimensional one-dimensional character. Although he had the charisma of a garden slug, he excelled in sneaking around, climbing on or over things, finding stuff, opening things (although at the end of his career we had a more talented thief in the party…) and breaking stuff. He was particularly good at breaking stuff.

Although I have mixed emotions about ending such an epic campaign, I am actually happy to retire Kataar and move on. In the end Kataar may well be the single character I have invested the most time and effort into in my entire career of gaming. I can’t honestly say he is my favorite character (I tend to prefer complex, troubled spell casters over straightforward martial characters) I can say he’s been a blast to play.

Thanks again Rae! Excellent work.

Heh, as I was setting tags for this post I realized I now have to move Kataar from “active” to “inactive” in my categories… sigh.

Role play vs roll play

One of the comparisons I’ve made between D&D 4th edition and Pathfinder for a while is that Pathfinder tends to be more conducive to role playing and 4e tends to be more conducive to roll playing.

What is the difference?

Role playing = The focus is on the story and the interaction between PCs and NPCs in order to advance the story in some way. This behavior is ideally done through verbal exchanges and does not involve rolling any dice. This can occur in combat or out of combat but is generally more associated with out of combat since combat tends to drive behavior towards…

Roll playing = The focus is on the game mechanics and applying specific rules to the resolution of a challenge or obstacle. This can occur in combat or out of combat but is generally more associated with combat. “Roll playing” obviously derives from the ubiquitous game mechanic of resolving something through rolling various dice.

One reason 4e has a reputation of being more “roll” than “role” play is because of the richness of the tactical options available in 4e when compared to Pathfinder. Just the sheer availability of combat goodness tends to encourage play to migrate towards combat.

So, all of that is to lead up to discussing our 4e game session last week, which was almost entirely a session of role playing. We had just leveled up to 21st level, which meant we were moving from paragon to epic level. That, of course, meant we had just completed a major story arc and had to set up a new story arc, travel a long way, do some shopping, talk to some powerful NPCs, etc.

And I enjoyed the heck out of it.

It is possible that others at the table may not have enjoyed it as much as I did. I hope not, but I suspect that to be the case.

Still, I was quite happy to see that role playing is really not much different in 4e than in PF when the opportunity presents itself. I suspect our next session is going to be quite combat heavy though…

Glass cannons…

My character in the campaign I’ve taken to calling the “Kirinth” campaign is a ranger named “Kataar Tarrson”. This campaign is in the fourth edition rules of Dungeons and Dragons. Fourth edition essentially breaks down the party duties into specific “roles” and different classes can perform different roles. The roles are:
– Striker: goal is to do damage to the enemy.
– Controller: goal is to manipulate the action on the battlefield to gain an advantage.
– Leader: goal is to provide support, enhancement or healing to the party
– Defender: goal is to absorb damage and pull attention away from other party members.
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