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Bards - what's so essential about them?

I've searched around the forums to find the answer to this question but can't find a direct one so made this thread.

I originally played a Bard in the vanilla IWD from 2000, the only time I've taken a bard from start to finish in a AD&D computer game. A handy character as could cast spells, use every weapon & identify for free, but tbh I didn't see him as anything particularly special as such. Plus I never really liked the fact he couldn't fight while singing... I tend to like all my party members contributing directly in battle somehow.

Yes I am aware about the vanilla Bard's amazing songs (particularly the War Chant of Sith - was this in the original? I can't remember...) but I don't see them as a deal breaker to make him an essential member of the team. I've always seen him as a poor man's fighter/mage with less spells, worse fighting skills & pick pocket added in for measure.

On top in a number of threads people have mentioned a Bard being essential to an IWD party regardless of kit (for instance a Blade), as long as there is a Bard of some sort. I don't quite understand that as while the vanilla bard gets all the IWD-specific songs, the kits miss out. I'm guessing that those that say ANY bard is required/highly recommended in IWD EE are misguided, or maybe I'm missing something?


  • BillyYankBillyYank Member Posts: 2,769
    I wouldn't say any class is essential, that's the beauty of the IE games.

    However, the bard is certainly helpful. I'm currently running through both IWDEE and BG1EE with a bard in the party, and I'm having a lot of fun with them.

    For me, the big attraction is that instant, mostly undispellable, everlasting buff. The trouble is, you'd have to do some serious number crunching to see how much they contribute. How much damage per round on average would a thief with short bow contribute? How much damage per round on average does a +1 to hit and +1 damage for the other five party members contribute? I'm not about to dust off my old statistics textbooks to quantify that, but my impression is that fights end faster when I remember to have my bard sing instead of shoot arrows.

    In IWD, they get songs that can buff thief skills and remove some debuffs. I'm looking forward to trying those out.

  • semiticgodsemiticgod Member, Moderator Posts: 14,084
    Tymora's Melody grants +3 to all saves. I had a pair of bards in one of my previous runs and with Tymora's Melody, I knew the party would never get disabled. Ever. I only failed saves when that song wasn't active.

    Siren's Yearning stuns critters on a failed save. I remember using it in Dragon's Eye and reducing the number of enemy attackers from 8 to 2. A 75% reduction in the enemy's power, at will, is difficult to match. Even with less luck, it's a big difference.

    War Chant of the Sith adds 2 AC, 10% physical damage resistance, and heals 2 HP per round. That does a lot to mitigate incoming physical damage, the primary threat in IWD.

    The reason bard songs don't look that important is because the effects are passive bonuses with the exception of the Siren's Yearning. Multiply their effects by your other party members and it's easier to see why songs are a big deal.

    The level 1 song adds +1 to all saves, THAC0, and damage for five party members. Put another way, it's equal to +5 to saves, THAC0, and damage for ONE person.

    Tymora's Melody? +15 to saving throws and +5 to luck.

    War Chant of the Sith? 10 HP healed per round.

  • KilivitzKilivitz Member Posts: 1,459
    Due to a few dialogue options exclusive to bards, having one around can give a party a small XP boost during the prologue. Not that it matters much on the long run, of course.

    Bards are essentially utility characters. Their ability to identify most items is very convenient, their songs provide very useful buffs and being naturally charismatic/intelligent, they're ideal as a party's "face" - the one who talks to most NPCs and shopkeepers.

    They're meant to round out a party that's already got all bases covered (one or two warriors, a priest, a thief and a wizard). You can easily do that with 5 characters, so the bard's a natural choice for filling the last slot.

    You could, however, use that 6th slot to have another warrior or priest or wizard and still have a group that's more deadly/efficient overall. In the end it's down to preference, so I wouldn't say bards are essential by any means, even though they're my personal favorite class.

    The beauty of IWD (and BG) is that you can beat the game with all sorts of different party setups. The only things I would actively advise against are not having any warriors and/or having more than one thief. These setups involve a few unorthodox strategies that are better suited for the most experienced players in order not to make the game exceedingly frustrating.

  • dr_mudsdr_muds Member Posts: 69
    Hmm thanks for the input guys. Particularly the stuff about the unique dialogue and experience a bard can get (as well as other characters). I already knew about the bard songs as a reason for the bard love but didn't know how effective they were.

    Part of my question was why people think ANY kind of bard is recommended in IWD... while I understood why the vanilla bard was favoured, I was scratching my head as to why anyone would think even a Blade or Skald would be specifically recommended in IWDEE... essentially bards would ideally be unkitted.

    When I mentioned bards as essential, I was paraphrasing a different thread in which myself and another were discussing ideal parties for IWD and he was suggesting he was going to play a Blade as you HAD to have a bard in the team... which went against what I thought were the advantages of bards in IWDEE. Otherwise I know bards have come highly recommended.

    Its been such a long time since I played the original game but does anyone remember whether enhanced birdsongs were in the original or have they just been introduced? I played a bard in the original game, wasn't overly impressed but am wondering if I missed a trick in utilising him correctly.

  • semiticgodsemiticgod Member, Moderator Posts: 14,084
    Skalds are useful because their song is more combat-oriented than most of the IWD songs. Better damage, THAC0, and AC, but not much else. Blade is more of a Fighter/Mage kind of class because of its spin abilities; its song is seldom worth singing.

    In vanilla IWD, before EE, there were no kits. This means the only songs in the game were the unkitted bard songs. I understand that before Heart of Winter, you didn't even have that--it was just one bard song, ever.

  • SharGuidesMyHandSharGuidesMyHand Member Posts: 2,471
    Skatan said:

    I would like to see a link to a thread where someone say's they are essential, cause I've never seen one.

  • semiticgodsemiticgod Member, Moderator Posts: 14,084
    Didn't say essential; just said it was a good idea.

  • OlvynChuruOlvynChuru Member Posts: 2,429
    Bards level up quicker than mages so they can do more damage with spells that depend on caster level, such as Flame Arrow, Mordenkainen's Force Missiles, and Cone of Cold.

  • SkatanSkatan Member, Moderator Posts: 4,955

    Skatan said:

    I would like to see a link to a thread where someone say's they are essential, cause I've never seen one.
    Good find @sharguidesmyhand. There are a couple of posts there who emphasizes the bard's place in an IWD party to be near essential. I only briefly read the first page or two though (13 pages, ouch!).

  • lolienlolien Member, Moderator, Translator (NDA) Posts: 3,083
    I can't recite the concrete discussions, but i think that those, who recommend at least one bard in IWD, did that for the unique story elements, not (just) for their efficiency in fight.

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