From the shadowy corners of Tharaas’ most disreputable places hails the bard. Like their counterparts in other fantasy worlds, Tharaan bards are the unquestioned masters of oral tradition and forgotten lore, but rather than sharing their lore with whoever will listen, Tharaan bards guard their secrets as jealously as the merchant guilds harbor their water and iron. Tharaan bards may sell information to the highest bidder; they peddle their services and the fruits of their knowledge, but trade secrets are what give bards an edge on the uninitiated. Bards would rather die than reveal these secrets. Meeting a bard can be an uneasy encounter, since one never knows how the bard has chosen to devote his multiple talents. Some bards master the art of making poisons, and survive by selling these poisons and their antidotes for those who have coin to pay. Some bards master the art of entertainment, using their performances to amuse nobles and gain wealth. Some become assassins, mixing their knowledge of poison and stealth to become hired hands. Some are even rumored to dabble in arcane magic, using their considerable talent at gathering information to reconstruct lost spells. Bards’ unique position in Tharaan society means they often overhear conversations between high-ranking guild masters or nobles, or they may have treated an injured person that prefers to remain anonymous. Respectable folk despise them; the powerful fear them; but in the Tharaan cities, everyone eventually comes to need their services.
As in the Players Handbook, except where noted below.
- Adventures: Bards may adventure for a variety of reasons. Some may travel the Tablelands as a part of performing troupes, visiting the villages and city-states to show off their entertaining abilities. Some bards travel to seek out a target, having been hired as assassins. Bards have been known to join adventurers in search of ancient lore, or simply to procure wealth. Many bards, however, prefer to make their careers in the city-states. There, they become either tools of the nobility, selling the services to the highest bidder, or they become merchants, dealing in illegal substances. The notorious Bard’s Quarters of the city-states have a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous; only those with the proper skills can survive there.
- Characteristics: Not simple performers, bards receive numerous abilities they can use to survive. Many become masters of poisons, selling their illegal substances to anyone. Alone of the classes, bards hold the secrets of alchemy, creating fiery concoctions and mysterious mixes. Bards are master smugglers, selling spell components and other illegal items in the Bard’s Quarters of the city-states. All bards, however, have some degree of entertainment skill. The songs of most bards can dazzle a crowd, or incite them to riot. Bards tend to learn to play a variety of instruments, or recite poetry or old legends by campfire. They can be acrobats, performing dazzling displays of physical prowess. They are often called upon as sources of information.
- Alignment: Most bards are chaotic, and operate alone, brokering information, arranging deals, smuggling illegal wares such as poisons, drugs, spell components and other things. Neutral bards are the ones most likely to operate in fellowships with adventurers, or entertain in troupes with other bards. The rare lawful bards can easily secure positions as councilors or agents for noble houses and merchant guilds. Good bards are often entertainers or lorekeepers, putting their talents to benevolent use, sometimes diagnosing poisonings and selling the proper antidotes. Evil bards are often pasters of poisons and alchemhy, selling their wares to anyone with the ceramic to pay.
- Religion: No central bardic organization exists, and more often than not bards have no particular penchant for religion. Some may worship the elements, fearing the power of the elemental forces.
- Background: Bards come from all walks of life. Some are poor freemen who discovered a talent for singing or playing an instrument, and used that talent to eke out a living. Some were trained by nobles or merchant houses, becoming instruments of the politics of the nobility and merchant dynasties. Some bards are the storytellers of their village, keepers of their culture, the ancestral knowledge of their people.
- Races: All humanoid races of Tharaa can become bards. The social stigma in certain regions may be higher than others, however. In the city-states, where the Bard’s Quarters are notorious, being a bard is not usually a good thing. Elven tribes often have a bard, who keeps the history of the tribe alive, its conquests and defeats. Humans are often bards, becoming performers of great talent, or assassins of deadly skill and precision. Muls make poor bards; their talents are usually better served elsewhere than the stage or the shadows of alleys.
- Other Classes: Bards face life as it comes, and usually hold no special grudge or awe for any one class. They usually approach other’s profession on the basis of how it can help them at the moment. Shaman and druids are respected for their devotion to a divine force, but usually not held in awe. Fighters, gladiators and rangers can be useful as sword-arms but are otherwise useless to the bard. Bards do not view wizards with the same aversion as others might view them, since bards can learn arcane magic from them and sell them their components.
As in the Players Handbook, except where noted below.
- Swim (Str) is a cross-class skill for bards.
- Craft Alchemy (Int), Craft Poisionmaking (Int), Concentration (Con), Forgery (Int), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Search (Int), Use Psionic Device (Cha), and Use Rope (Dex) are additional class skill
- Weapon and Armor Proficiency: A bard is proficient in all simple weapons, and the following additional weapons: blowgun, firearm, garrote, and whip. A bard is proficient in light armor, but not shields
- Poison Use: Bards are trained in the use of poisons, and as of 2nd level, never risk accidentally poisoning themselves when applying poison to a blade.
- Brew Potion: Bards are skilled in the alchemical arts, learning to craft potions. Bards of 4th level gain the Brew Potion Feat.
- Streetsmart: When a bard reaches 5nd level, he gains a +2 competence bonus to Gather Information and Intimidate checks. The bard gains an additional +2 bonus at 11th level.
- Mental Resistance: Bards carry many dark secrets they would prefer remain secret. This, combined with a large amount of knowledge based on half-truths and false rumors makes a bard’s mind unreliable to those who would seek to mentally affect it. At 15th level a bard receives a +4 morale bonus to saves made against telepathic powers and enchantment/charm spells.
- Mind Blank: At 18th level the bard’s mind becomes completely sealed against involuntary intrusion as per the spell mindblank. This spell-like ability is always considered active.