Not so long ago, Beamdog decided that bard songs would no longer stack if they were of the same type.
This change can be seen here at page 32, on the bottom left : https://s3.amazonaws.com/beamdog.com/release_notes/ReleaseNotes080616.pdf
Now, I think I understand the intent. Some players were using simulacrum and mislead to create like four bard clones and make them sing at the same time which gave crazy benefits because they all stacked. It does feel like broken mechanics BUT I fear the subsequent "fix" wasn't thought out enough.
I apologize in advance because this is going to be a long reasoning. Please read me out before voting.
So I said that change was not adequate and here's why :
The purpose of the Bard is to do a little bit of everything and serve as a support character. Although Blades are played very differently and can be gamebreaking frontliners, other bard kits are usually best at the rear of the party helping out others by way of casting their spells or singing their famous bard songs.
I'm saying non-Blade Bards are support characters because they don't master anything, their limited spell pool - quality and number-wise - makes the use of another mage next to them a necessity if you want to rely effectively on arcane spells. Also, their poor Thaco and limited APR makes them wanting frontliners and they'll be best used dealing some damage opportunely in conjunction with the main tank/damage-dealer. In other words, they're characters that will back someone else's job without being the most suited to handle it entirely.
Therefore, I'm not saying that you can't solo with a Bard or that Bards are weak, just that their core-identity is to help out others who are better than them in each of their respective abilities.
That's true expect for the Bard Song which was a unique feature that used to be the only reason someone seeking powergaming would pick up a non-Blade Bard.
Why is that, you ask ?
Because there's another character that is an excellent jack-of-all-trades : the Mage/Thief.
Actually, almost everything the Bard does, the M/T does it too and way better. Now, that statement is true except for the Blade who has some unique abilities that the M/T doesn't have - mainly Offensive and Defensive Spins + dual wield pips - which is why I rule out the Blade from my analysis.
That said, let's compare M/T and non-Blade Bards for a moment so I can make my point :
1 - Bards can cast mage spells.. that's great !
Yeah, sure, but the M/T also casts arcane spells. Actually, he has more spells and he can cast spells above level 6.
Although those specific arcane spells that scale almost indefinitely with the caster's level will be more effective on a very-high level bard since he doesn't divide his experience between Mage and Thief classes, it's really not enough to compensate for those level 7 and above spells lost plus the inferior number of spells Bards have.
This is even more true when the M/T's HLA start widening the gap.
=> So the M/T wins for arcane power.
2 - The Bard can pickpocket and much later set traps.. I like that !
Sure they do, but the M/T can not only pickpocket but also detect traps, disarm traps, hide in shadows, detect illusions, backstab et cetera from the word go depending on your thief's point allocation.
=> So the M/T wins utility-wise.
3 - Bards HLA's - we'll get back to their Bard song HLA later, so forget about it for now - are great !
Perhaps, but the Bards HLA's are based on the Thief's HLA. Use Any Item, which is something lots of people like with Bards is also available for the M/T. Worse, the M/T gets not only the Bard's HLA but also the Mage's HLA which are a blast.
True, there are some specific HLA that are only the Bards', but none are significant.
=> So the M/T wins HLA-wise.
4 - Bards can wield all weapons and put on a chain mail armor !
For weapons : This is irrelevant. The M/T can use from the start daggers, longswords and shortbows which are excellent weapons. Later on, the M/T gets UAI so there's no significant difference between Bards and M/T.
For armors : This is irrelevant. Sure, the M/T will only wear studded leather armor but it doesn't make any difference since non-Blade bards and M/T are meant to be in the back most of the time, although the M/T will probably backstab and get out a little more often.
Also, the AC difference between studded leather armor and chain mail armor isn't big and it becomes insignificant as soon as we remember that most of their defense will come from their arcane spells.
Finally, putting on an armor will disable the Bard's spells. However, the M/T will still be able to use his thief skills while wearing studded leather armor.
=> So let's call it a draw.
I could go on like this for hours, but it's hardly necessary. You get the idea and what we just saw is representative of the ratio of power.
The M/T does what the non-Blade bards do.. only better.
Non-Blade bards are inferior to the M/T in every aspect that is relevant.
So what was the defining and consequential feature Bards had that the M/T didn't ?
You guessed it... bard songs !
Now, bard songs are not THAT powerful.
It's a nice bonus that varies depending on bard kits but nothing too impressive in any case.
However, once you have the idea of multiplying bard songs with clones you stumble upon something REALLY awesome that the M/T doesn't have. FINALLY something to make the non-Blade bard a powerful and competitive class. THIS made the non-Blade bards interesting for powergamers.
Unfortunately, the second Beamdog decided to "fix" that "exploit" - or whatever we want to call it - without offering something in return, it might have killed all reasons for people to pick non-Blade Bards over M/T.
As it is right now and imho, the M/T is superior in every aspect that matters. If you want to play a powerful character that is a jack-of-all trades, there's no reason today to pick a non-Blade Bard.
I believe it's a shame because it renders several kits completely obsolete. That "fix" simply destroyed several classes - or kits, if we want to be accurate - and I don't think it was worth it.
While the original idea - preventing people from cheesing - was arguably noble, the implementation was terrible.
Here are a few ideas to fight cheesiness without making non-blade Bards obsolete :
1 - Limit the number of clones that can sing at the same time but allow people to stack. Personally, I think three stacked bard songs are enough to make a real difference - and thus encourage people to take Bards instead of M/T - without being TOO gamebreaking.
Some will say that it's still crazy strong, but I will ask those people to remember that the Bards have been mocked and ridiculed by F/M lovers for years.
There's nothing wrong with giving the Bards a super powerful ability since F/M are arguably MUCH MORE cheesy and godly in themselves than any stacked bard song. If you really want to balance classes, why pick on the class that was already looked down upon ? Nerf the F/M, that would be bold !
2 - Allow stacking only for a limited period of time. So limit the time effect and not the number of songs that can be stacked.
3 - Decrease progressively the benefits given by the Bard song as it stacks on another song. For example, if we imagine the first bard song gives -3 AC to the group, the second one should only give -2 AC and the third only -1 AC.
4 - Allow stacking to the cost of some HP per round. That means that the Bard could make clones and make them sing at the same time but for each clone singing this would drain some of his life force each round. Arguably, prevent the REAL bard from singing himself because it's not really fitted that he would be able to sing while getting hurt.
All in all, this would make the cloning strategy a stressful and costly one, you could be able to maintain it only as long as you can constantly heal the Bard. This would make the potion creation HLA more useful and will most likely occupy a cleric just to heal the bard constantly. We go from an arguably cheesy and free strategy to a powerful but challenging and dangerous one.
These are just random ideas I consider better than, well, remove that defining and core feature without giving anything in return.
I think I'm done here..
You're welcome to disagree with me and to offer other suggestions for compensating the lost ability to stack.