Some thoughts about the Blade and Skald classes for BGEE 1 and 2. Some spoilers for item locations and such.Some abbreviations:
BG1: Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition 1
BG2: Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition 2
SoD: Siege of Dragonspear
ToB: Throne of Bhaal
AC: Armor Class
THAC0: To Hit Armor Class 0. This just means your accuracy with attacks.
Saves: Saving throws. Your defense against magical effects.
Note: AC, THAC0 and saves go down as they improve. The lower the better!
Note 2: For the sake of simplicity, I will describe a beneficial bonus as ‘+X’. For example, a +1 longsword has +1 damage and -1 THAC0, but I will just describe that as +1 damage and +1 THAC0 to make things easier to understand.
APR: Attacks Per Round
HLA: High lvl Ability - Special perks available in the very late game. Bards get their first at lvl 24.
TWF: Two-weapon fighting / two-weapon style / dual wielding
Kits: Variants on a base class. The Blade and Skald are Bard kits.
CC: Crowd Control
1 round: 6 seconds.
1 turn: 10 rounds.
1 hour: 2 turns.
Martial: Refers to warrior classes. These are Fighter, Ranger, Paladin and their kits.
Priests: Cleric and Druid.
Rogues: Thief and Bard.
Casters: The wizard classes, Mage and Sorcerer.
Cha: CharismaWhy a Bard?
Apart from being a fun class with great flavor, the Bard is very fitting for the player character given their background. Your character grows up around books, being tutored by Gorion in the arcane arts and your childhood friend is a good hearted thief. This makes the Bard a natural fit for the player character.
There is also a rule of thumb for the BG games; nothing with arcane spells can be bad. Bards have arcane spells, so Bards aren’t bad.Why not standard Bard?
Both the Blade and Skald are strictly speaking just better than the base kit for the Bard class at what it does. Only Jester is a reasonable alternative and it plays significantly differently due to its Jester Song.Bard Song and Skald Song - A Crude Summation
The Bard Song provices Luck, which increases THAC0, saves and minimum physical damage done (increasing average), while reducing magical damage taken, and comes bundled with immunity to fear from lvl 1.
The Skald Song provides bonuses to weapon damage, THAC0 and AC. Later it gives immunity to fear (lvl 15) and finally stun and confusion as well (lvl 20).
The TL;DR is that the Bard Song is slightly better when fighting against magic users until lvl 15, while the Skald Song is better when fighting against martial characters. The Enhanced Bard Song (HLA) is better than both.The Base Stats:
Bards have the following features:May not wear armor heavier than chain mail (Spells cannot be cast while wearing armor)
May not equip shields larger than bucklers
May only become Proficient (one slot) in any weapon class
May only become Proficient (one slot) in any fighting style
Thieving abilities: Pick Pockets
Increased Lore score
May cast wizard spells starting at 2nd lvl
May use Bard Song ability. While active, the Bard Song has the following effects: Restore morale to its average value, remove fear, protection from fear.
Alignment restricted to any neutral
Hit Die: d6 (max +2 bonus from Con)The BladeIn-game description:
The Blades are the expert fighters and adventurers whose bardic acting abilities make them appear more intimidating and fearsome. This Bard's fighting style is flashy and entertaining, but is also lethally dangerous.
May place 3 slots in Two-Weapon Style
May use the Offensive Spin and Defensive Spin abilities once per day. Gains one use each at lvl 1 and an additional use each every 4 lvls thereafter.
Only has one half the normal Lore value
Only has one half the normal Pick Pockets skill
Bard Song does not become better with lvlsSpin to Win:
Increases APR by 1
Doubles movement speed
+2 THAC0 and damage
Maximized damage dice for attacks
Duration: 6 rounds / 36 seconds
Can be used in armor
Note: Does not stack with Haste or Improved Haste in the EE.Defensive Spin:
Increases AC by 1 for each Blade lvl to a maximum of 10
Roots character (character stuck in place)
Duration: 4 rounds / 24 seconds
Can be used in armor
These abilities are powerful, but of the two, the Offensive Spin is going to be the most important for the Blade overall. Increasing AC at the cost of being able to move with Defensive Spin can often end the life of an overconfident Blade, leaving them vulnerable to AoE spells and abilities or unable to respond to teammates being in trouble. It is best used against enemy warriors when you can control their movement. Blocking doorways and similar is the best overall option.
Offensive Spin is better than the normal Haste spell and can be used in armor that normally disables spellcasting. This is a significant factor, because it allows the Blade to put on armor and go do things on the frontlines early in the game, before they come into their own as casters. It is, however, much better put to use with ranged weapons early on. A longbow will deal 10 damage per hit with a +3 THAC0 modifier and 3 APR for 6 rounds.
The Spins go on their own resources and are great for the Blade to use when they need a little more power or defense, but either don’t have anything else to use in the party or don’t want to.Misleading Drawbacks:
The kits’ description mentions that the Blade has reduced abilities when it comes to Lore, Pickpocket and their Bard Song. The first two are accurate, as the Blade operates with 50% of the progression of a normal Bard on these points, but the Blade’s song is just as good as the regular Bard’s at lvl 1-14.
Normally the Bard Song operates like so:Immunity to Fear
Restores Morale (sort of dispels fear)
At lvl 15, Luck increases to +2
At lvl 20, Luck increases to +3
The Blade Song works like this:Immunity to Fear
Restores Morale (sort of dispels fear)
This means that the regular Bard isn’t going to give his party a better buff than the Blade before we have gone all the way into the second game. So the Blade is just as useful as party support in the early game, before they accumulate the equipment and lvls needed to get into their own as spellswords, which they typically have in spades by the time they reach lvl 15.
When we reach lvl 24, the Blade can also pick the Enhanced Bard Song, making them just as good as passive buffers as every other Bard.Lore and Pickpocket:
The Blade gets +5 Lore for each lvl as opposed to +10. This makes the Blade the character with the second higher lore score, after other Bards. In practical terms, it means you’re worse at identifying stuff in BG1, but won’t notice much in BG2. There is, as far as I’ve been able to find, no items requiring more than 100 Lore to identify and most need much, much less. The gold you accumulate in BG1 does not carry over to BG2 or even the Siege of Dragonspear, so spending a bit extra to identify stuff early isn’t a big deal.
The Blade maxes out at 57 Pickpocket (before modifiers) at lvl 16, while the baseline Bard and Jesters reach 115 and Skalds reach 28. This makes the Blade dependent on Potions of Master Thievery to effectively pickpocket, though it should be said that this skill has limited benefits without Potions of Master Thievery overall. With a stock of potions, it can break the game’s economy.
The best overall item to lift from someone’s pocket is the Ring of Regeneration in BG2, from the merchant behind the counter in the Adventurer’s Mart, which can be done right out of the initial dungeon. You probably have both a trap-finding thief/mage and a pure thief in your party in the first dungeon, letting you build your pure thief towards pickpocket to get this item. There is also a Potions of Master Thievery in the initial dungeon, letting a Blade pickpocket the item themselves.The Skald
Skalds are Nordic bards who are also warriors of great strength, skill, and virtue; their songs are inspiring sagas of battle and valor, and the Skalds devote their lives to those pursuits.
Advantages:+1 bonus to THAC0 and +1 to damage rolls with all weapons
The Skald's song is different from the typical Bard's and varies with lvl:
1st lvl: Grants allies a +2 bonus to THAC0, +2 bonus to damage rolls, and a +2 bonus to AC
15th lvl: Grants allies a +4 bonus to THAC0, +4 bonus to damage rolls, +4 bonus to AC and immunity to fear
20th lvl: Grants allies a +4 bonus to THAC0, +4 bonus to damage rolls, +4 bonus to AC, immunity to fear, stun, and confusion
Only has one quarter the normal Pick Pockets score, and one-fourth of the dex modifier to the score. At lv16 skalds will reach up to 28 in pickpocketing, and with 25 dex, they’ll have the combined score of 40.Sing to Win:
The key to success as a Skald is often to utilize the unique benefits of the Skald Song, which plays very well with parties that are heavily reliant on weapon damage, or so the conventional wisdom goes. And this is certainly true, especially early on.
Keep in mind that the Skald Song does not give immunity to fear before lvl 15, meaning that you need to prepare a spell to deal with that.The Worst Thief:
Skalds get the lowest Pickpocket score of all the Bards and their ability to be thieves is borderline useless. Never attempt to pick anything from anyone’s pockets without several Potions of Master Thievery.