Thursday, April 8, 2010

On Barbarians and Bards

This post continues the look at the hybrid character classes I used in my last campaign, featuring the barbarian and bard. What follows is open game content.

The Barbarian Sub-Class
The barbarian is a sub-class of fighting-man. Where fighting-men rely on training and skill to win the day, the barbarian uses ferocity and instinct. Most barbarians are members of uncivilized tribes of humans, demi-humans or humanoids. “Civilized” barbarians can represent men and women with hair-trigger tempers and a zest for violence.

  • Prime Attributes: Strength & Constitution, 13+ (+5% experience)
  • Hit Dice: 1d12/level (Gains 5 hp/level after 10th.)
  • Armor/Shield Permitted: Leather, padded, ring and shields.
  • Weapons Permitted: Any.

Attacks from the flank receive no bonus to hit a barbarian. Bonuses for attacks against a barbarian’s back are halved.

Barbarians mistrust the doings of magic-users and illusionists. When presented with displays of such magic they must succeed at a saving throw or be stunned with fear for 1 round.

At third level, the barbarian can go berserk in combat, gaining a +2 bonus to hit and damage, but suffering a -2 penalty to her armor class. The barbarian’s berserk fury lasts for a number of rounds equal to 1 + the barbarian’s level. While in her rage, the barbarian focuses on her foes until they are dead. If her rage continues after her foes are gone, she will attack her nearest ally unless she makes a successful saving throw. This ability can be used whenever the barbarian engages in combat.

At fifth level, a barbarian can continue to fight after losing all of her hit points if she is in a berserk fury. When the berserk fury ends, the barbarian succumbs to death.

LevelExperienceHit DiceAttackSaveTitle
9320,0009+89Barbarian Prince
10600,00010+98Barbarian Prince
11800,000+5 hp
+107Barbarian Prince
121,000,000+10 hp
+116Barbarian Prince

S&W Format
Hit Dice: 1d6+3 per level, +3 hit points per level after level 9
Armor Permitted: Leather, ring and shields

LevelExperienceHit DiceAttackSaveTitle
9320,0009+67Barbarian Prince
10440,000+3 hp
+76Barbarian Prince
11560,000+6 hp
+75Barbarian Prince
12680,000+9 hp
+84Barbarian Prince

The Bard Sub-Class
The bard is a sub-class of fighting-man, a warrior-poet whose music works magic. Bards are usually charismatic rogues, stealing hearts as readily as they cross steel. They are walking repositories of legends and stories. Their music is capable of stiffening the resolve of comrades, lulling guards into a daze, or charming lads and lasses.

  • Prime Attributes: Intelligence & Charisma, 13+ (+5% experience)
  • Hit Dice: 1d10/level (Gains 4 hp/level after 10th.)
  • Armor/Shield Permitted: Leather, padded, ring, shield.
  • Weapons Permitted: Bows, club, dagger, dart, hand axe, mace, war hammer, javelin, long sword, short sword, sling, spear, and staff.

Bards can decipher and interpret legends and secret writings by making an saving throw modified by their intelligence bonus/penalty. This includes unfamiliar languages, codes and incomplete messages. Bards can also use this ability to decipher and then cast spells from arcane scrolls, though the intelligence saving throw to do so is made at a penalty equal to the level of the spell being cast.

By playing music, singing or reciting heroic verse, bards can inspire listeners to surpass their normal level of performance, granting allies a +1 bonus to all saving throws for a number of rounds equal to the bard’s level. A bard can do this a number of times per day equal to their level. The bonus imparted increases with the bard’s level, to +2 at sixth level and +3 at twelfth level.

With a successful saving throw, a bard acquires or remembers some information pertaining to local notables, a legendary item, a noteworthy place or any other relevant bit of information. Acquiring the information may involve speaking to the locals or doing research in a library. It can also lead to a partial or complete understanding of a local or secret language, including the thieves’ cant, the secret language of druids or the trail signs of rangers. This ability cannot reveal the exact powers of a magic item, but may give a hint to its history, general function or activation. The Referee may make the saving throw harder based on the obscurity of the knowledge.

At fourth level, a bard gains the ability to place a single creature into a trance with a performance. The bard can use this ability three times per day, and can maintain the effect for a number of rounds equal to the character’s level.

When attempting to fascinate, the target makes a saving throw to resist. If the saving throw fails, the creature sits quietly and listens to the bard for the duration of the effect. While fascinated, the creature is considered prone and suffers a -4 penalty to saving throws and armor class. If the creature’s saving throw succeeds, the bard cannot attempt to fascinate that creature again for 24 hours. Any obvious threat to the fascinated creature, such as the casting of a spell, drawing a sword, or aiming of a weapon, automatically breaks the effect.

At fifth level, the bard may attempt to charm (as the spell charm person) a fascinated creature. At eighth level, the bard may attempt to implant a suggestion (as the spell) in a fascinated creature. At twelfth level, a bard may attempt to instill antipathy/sympathy (as the spell) on a fascinated creature. In each case, the creature receives an additional saving throw to resist the additional effect.

The number of creatures the bard can fascinate at once is equal to two less than the level of the bard. Thus, a fourth level bard can fascinate two creatures, a sixth level bard can fascinate 4 creatures and a twelfth level bard can fascinate 10 creatures.

At ninth level, a bard can inspire heroism in one other creature. For every two levels the bard attains beyond ninth level, the bard can inspire heroism in one additional creature. To inspire heroism, the bard must use song, poetry or some sort of oration. A creature inspired gains a +2 bonus to attacks and saving throws and +2 hit points per level for one minute.

LevelExperienceHit DiceAttackSaveTitle
11625,000+4 hp
12800,000+8 hp

S&W Format
Hit Dice: 1d6+2 per level, +3 hit points per level after level 9

LevelExperienceHit DiceAttackSaveTitle
10320,000+3 hp
11440,000+6 hp
12560,000+9 hp


  1. I've been looking for a Bard class that is non-magical yet can charm with music. This is perfect. And the fact that you have offered a barbarian class too just makes it nicer. Thanks!

    1. It's been six years since I wrote this post - glad it's still useful!


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