Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby empyrien » Wed Jan 11, 2012 10:54 pm

After reading through the Specialisations in Set 2 it seemed that the Bard specialisation was quite underpowered compared to the others on offer. Looking through some forum posts it seemed that I was not alone in this opinion. To be fair to Green Ronin, getting a bard right is hard -- they have been perceived to be underpowered in other roleplaying games as well (e.g. D'n'D).

I've had some thoughts about how to change this, but first I'd like to outline the motivation for why the bard is worse off in the Dragon Age RPG.

Warning: These arguments are quite lengthy, and contain some maths. If you want the TL;DR version, skip ahead to the section entitled House Rules: Fixing Song of Valor for the good stuff.
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Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It) (Part 2)

Postby empyrien » Wed Jan 11, 2012 10:56 pm

The Problem with Bards

The main issue is that all of the bard's abilities (songs) require the expenditure of a Minor action each round to maintain. This is a much higher cost than the abilities of other specialisations. To understand this let's outline what giving up a Minor action means.

First, we'll look a melee bards, who will be making extensive use of the rogue's Backstab ability.
  • Backstabbing requires either a Move or a Bluff action (in the same round) before making an attack. Hence, for melee bards maintaining a song means that you cannot Backstab, so you are sacrificing +2 to hit and +1d6 damage per round (with a Short Sword and a Strength of 2 this equates to a >30% reduction in damage output).
  • If you need to change targets that you cannot reach with a Charge (1/2 Speed in yards) you must use up your Major action to change position, losing a full attack.

So melee bards are looking at a reduction in damage output of at least 30% by losing a Minor action each turn. Now let's look at the more complicated case of ranged bards. The complications arise because a ranged bard's damage output is affected differently based on the weapon they use and talents they have.

First we consider the case where the character has at most Archery Style (Novice). In this case, losing a Minor action each round means:
  • A Bow user can only attack every second round as they need a Minor action to reload, suffering a 50% reduction in damage output.
  • A Crossbow user can only attack every second round anyway. However, they can no longer use the Aim action each round, and so have lost a +1 or +2 to hit. Hence, if they can remain stationary their damage output is reduced by an amount that varies based on the target's Defense, but it could range from a fraction of a percent up to 25% (see later on).

Now we consider the case where the character has Archery Style (Journeyman) or better. Losing a Minor action each round means:
  • A Bow user can attack every round as they can reload as a Free action. However, they can no longer use the Aim action each round, and so have lost a +2 to hit. Hence, if they can remain stationary their damage output is reduced by an amount that varies based on the target's Defense, but it could range from a fraction of a percent up to 25% (see later on).
  • A Crossbow user who needs a Minor action to reload can now only attack every second round, suffering a 50% reduction in damage output.

So depending on weapons and talents, a ranged bard's damage output is reduced by as much as 50%. In all cases, a ranged bard who needs to change position loses a full attack.

So we see that taking a bard RAW, there really is an "optimised" build that you must take in order to minimise the penalty imposed by your bardic abilities. Specifically, an "optimal" bard must be a Bow user with Archery Style (Journeyman) at least. Note: Crossbow users without Archery Style (Journeyman) are not optimal, as with Lethality rogues can add both their Perception and their Cunning to ranged damage, meaning you want to be able to attack every round if possible.

If you consider that even being a bard in the first place requires 3+ scores in two primary abilities and Music (Novice), then choosing the bard specialisation already has a higher entry cost when compared to most other specialisations (except for Duelist). On top of that we need to spend an additional 2 talents to be viable, Archery (Novice + Journeyman).
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Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It) (Part 3)

Postby empyrien » Wed Jan 11, 2012 10:57 pm

What Do I Get For Sacrificing So Much?

So we have covered what a bard loses by giving up a Minor action each round to maintain use of their bardic abilities. The next question is, what do they gain (and is it worth the cost)? I will cover the abilities in reverse order, from Master to Novice.

Master: At master level the Song of Captivation will (in all probability) make 1 enemy lose both their Major and Minor action each round as long the bard maintains their song. I judge this to be fair, as judicious bards can choose a key enemy (e.g. a mage) and effectively take them out of the fight.

Assessment: Song of Captivation is both balanced and useful. Green Ronin got this one spot on.

Journeyman: The Song of Friendship grants a +1 to specific Communication tests. As stated in the descriptive text, this is clearly meant to be a roleplaying, rather than a combat ability so the loss of a Minor action each round isn't really a factor.

Assessment: Very situational. As a non-combat ability balance isn't an issue here. However, to be honest, I think this ability is a bit weak, more of a "filler." I could easily imagine (as a GM) granting a +1 circumstance bonus to a specific choice of Communication tests, if a character with the Music (Novice) talent succeeded in an appropriate Communication (Performance) test to "set the mood."

Novice: The Song of Valor grants +1 to attack rolls to allies within 12 yards.

Assessment: Broken, badly. This ability is the most problematic for several reasons.
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Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It) (Part 4)

Postby empyrien » Wed Jan 11, 2012 10:59 pm

Song of Valor Is Broken

The problem with Song of Valor is that the cost of maintaining the Song far outweighs the benefits (unlike Song of Captivation). To see this unfortunately we need to do some maths.

How Much is +1 Worth?

The issue is the variable worth of a +1 to attack in a 3d6 system. To understand this we need to look at some
probabilities. Here's a table of the probability to hit as a function of attack bonus vs various values of a target's Defense.

Probability of a Successful Attack
Code: Select all
                                        Attack  Roll
        |     +0       +1       +2       +3       +4       +5       +6       +7       +8
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   10   | 62.50%   74.07%   83.80%   90.74%   95.37%   98.15%   99.54%   100.0%   100.0%
D  11   | 50.00%   62.50%   74.07%   83.80%   90.74%   95.37%   98.15%   99.54%   100.0%
e  12   | 37.50%   50.00%   62.50%   74.07%   83.80%   90.74%   95.37%   98.15%   99.54%
f  13   | 25.93%   37.50%   50.00%   62.50%   74.07%   83.80%   90.74%   95.37%   98.15%
e  14   | 16.20%   25.93%   37.50%   50.00%   62.50%   74.07%   83.80%   90.74%   95.37%
n  15   |  9.26%   16.20%   25.93%   37.50%   50.00%   62.50%   74.07%   83.80%   90.74%
s  16   |  4.63%    9.26%   16.20%   25.93%   37.50%   50.00%   62.50%   74.07%   83.80%
e  17   |  1.85%    4.63%    9.26%   16.20%   25.93%   37.50%   50.00%   62.50%   74.07%
   18   |  0.46%    1.85%    4.63%    9.26%   16.20%   25.93%   37.50%   50.00%   62.50%


By level 6, a character has had 3 primary ability advancements (levels 2,4,6) and hence a typical character will have a score of 4 or 5 in the attribute their attacks are based on, along with the appropriate focus. This yields a typical Attack Roll of +6 or +7, possibly better with other modifiers. Flicking through the Adversaries in the Set 2 Game Master's Guide, we see Defense scores between 10 and 15, with 11 or 12 being the most common.

Targeting a Defense of 12, the typical PC will be hitting at least 95% of the time. A +1 gives at most a 3% increased chance of hitting in this case. Targeting a Defense of 15 drops the base hit rate to better than 74%, with a +1 giving approximately a 10% increased hit rate.

Assuming a best case scenario for Song of Valor, let's work up some numbers based on a Defense of 15. A melee bard cannot backstab, so they are losing +2 to hit and +1d6 damage in exchange for a +1 to hit (i.e. a net -1 to hit). Overall this drops the typical bard's damage output by (at least) 37%. Each other party member has their damage increased by (at best) 10%. If we assume that the bard's damage output is roughly the same as the average of each party member's damage output, we need at least 4 *other* PCs just to break even (i.e a total party size of 5 PCs just to break even).

With ranged bards suffering a varying penalties to their damage output, it becomes more complicated to assess. In the worst cases it is worse than the melee bard, requiring a total party size of 6 just to break even. In the best case, the bow-based bard (who has spent two talents in Archery Style) effectively exchanges an Aim action (again losing +2 to hit) to give +1 to hit to everyone *within 12 yards*. This can result in a small net benefit to the group if there are at least 3 party members (in a party of 4, total damage output will increase by approximately 5%).

There are some other issues to consider that also diminish the value of the Song of Valor.
  • For ranged bards, the limited range is problematic, as any melee characters will quickly move out of range of the Song, forcing the bard to give up an attack in order to move.
  • Note that mages who are casting spells gain no benefit from the Song of Valor - it only affects attack rolls (i.e. Arcance Lance).
  • Note that through Charging, Aiming or Backstabbing many PCs will be looking at +8 or better on their Attack rolls. This diminishes the value of +1 to Attack rolls.

So we've had a look at a "best-case" scenario for the Song of Valor, and seen that in many typical cases the party's damage output will in fact be worse off if the bard uses this ability.

Clearly, the Novice ability in its current form is broken. After all, abilities should provide a net benefit, not a hindrance to the group.
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Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It) (Part 5)

Postby empyrien » Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:01 pm

House Rules: Fixing Song Of Valor

Hopefully I've convinced you that the Song of Valor is not just underpowered, but severely broken. The question is: how to fix it? I'll present a couple of options, a "minimal" fix and a "thematic" fix (my preferred option).

Optional House Rule - The Minimal Fix

To fix Song of Valor we simply say that initiating the Song is a Major action, but that Song of Valor can be maintained as a Free Action. With this change, we must also add a rule that says only one Song can be maintained at a time (this prevents those sharp eyed PCs from trying to maintain two songs at once). If you start a different Song, the effects of the previous Song end immediately.

Note that this does not change in any way Song of Captivation -- maintaining that needs to be a Minor action for game balance.

Optional House Rule - The Thematic Fix

This is a fix combined with a rework to make the bard's abilities more closely resemble those of the Dragon Age: Origins bard. The revised "thematic" bard is as follows:

Bard Specialization
Class: Rogue
Requirements: You must have Communication and Dexterity 3 or higher, and Music (novice).

You can learn songs that can uplift and captivate. Starting a song is a Major action. Maintaining a song requires either a Minor or Free action each round, as specified in the Song description. Only one Song can be maintained at a time. If you start a different Song, the effects of the previous Song end immediately.

While maintaining a Song, each time you take damage you must make a Communication (Performance) test with a TN equal to 10 + the amount of damage you took (after adjusting for Armor Rating). If you succeed, you are able to maintain the song as per usual. If you fail, you lose the Song and its effects end immediately.

After losing a Song you may start that Song again on your next turn by spending a Major action as usual.

Novice: You can sing a Song of Valor. Allies within 12 yards of you gain a +1 bonus on attack rolls as long as the song is maintained. This song may be maintained as a Free action.

Journeyman: Your Song of Valor improves, affecting allies within 18 yards. Additionally, as long as the Song is maintained, affected allies get +1 SP whenever they generate Stunt Points.

Master: You can sing a Song of Captivation. Once per round while singing the song, you can attempt to captivate one opponent within 16 yards. This is an opposed test of your Communication (Performance) vs. the
target's Willpower (Self-Discipline). If you win, the target can take no actions on his next turn. This song may be
maintained as a Minor action.

Notes on the Thematic Fix

  • Yes, I dropped Song of Friendship. As I mentioned above, I think the benefits of Song of Friendship could easily be emulated by allowing a +1 circumstance bonus to be generated by those with the Music (Novice) talent. You can keep it in if you like.
  • I based the ability balance on similar abilities elsewhere in the Dragon Age RPG (for example, the Champion's Rally mode). If you feel that Song of Valor having two effects is too strong, you can simply make the Journeyman ability a separate Song, e.g. Song of Courage. Personally speaking, given that the value of +1 to hit diminishes very rapidly as the PCs level and get access to masterwork weapons, etc, I think it's okay. Adding +1 SP is still useful at high levels, and also affects mage spells, making the Song of Valor more mage-friendly.
  • An additional option would be to have the bard make a Communication (Performance) roll in order to start a Song of Valor (as part of the Major action). The TN could be fixed at 14 or 15, or it could be variable such as 10 + the number of affected allies. This means that there is chance the bard could fail to start the Song, but also means they have a chance at generating Stunt Points.
  • A quick example on how damage can interrupt a bard song. Suppose Leliana the bard has a Communication of 5 and the Performance focus. She is maintaining a Song of Valor as Free action, when she is struck by a Hurlock for 12 damage (a palpable hit). She is wearing Heavy Leather armor (AR 4) which reduces the damage taken to 8. She now needs to make Communication (Performance) test with a TN of 10+8 = 18 or lose the song. Her ability + focus gives +7 to the roll, so she needs an 11 or better on the dice to maintain the song.
Last edited by empyrien on Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It) (Part 6)

Postby empyrien » Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:04 pm

Summary

Having the Song of Valor use a Minor action to maintain basically makes only 1 bard build viable - a Bow bard with Archery Style (Journeyman). Having to spend two additional talents just to avoid having one of your abilities disadvantage the party seems wrong.

Hopefully you agree that the published version of Song of Valor is broken. I have suggested a minimal and a thematic alternative as fixes to this issue. If you like my ideas, feel free to say so! Even better, please test them out in your own game and post feedback here. If you see any problems with what I have written, constructive criticism is also welcome. I would love to have some feedback from other GMs and other players as to whether or not I have got the balance right.

For the moment these are just house rules. I love the Dragon Age setting, and overall I think the Dragon Age RPG is fantastic (otherwise I wouldn't have spent all this time on these rules). As I have stated I think that Song of Valor is not just under-powered but in fact broken, and hence deserves an official fix. The vast majority of the DA RPG system is simple, balanced and works well, which is why it's a shame that there is this one "blotch" on what is quite an important and thematic specialisation in the Dragon Age universe (Leliana is such a great character!).

With enough community support I hope that we can convince Green Ronin to introduce an "official" fix for the bard in time for Set 3.

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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby DracoDruid » Thu Jan 12, 2012 12:25 am

Dude!
Are you monologizing here? :P

While I haven't read all of it, I can see that the minor action thing is kind of stupid.

Also, the song of friendship is stupid (would be a great Music-Talent ability).

I would also change the "SoV" into something more general as "Song of Cooperation" (bad name), giving a group of allies up to your COM-score a +1 bonus (or maybe even more) on any one maintained cooperative activity.
This might be combat (giving bonus to attack rolls), crafting/building, roawing a boat and such things.
(But not things that everyone is doing for himself, like climbing a cliff or jumping over a ridge)

Oh, idea!

Why not let the effect depend on the action used to maintain?
Free action: +1 in small area
Minor action: +1 in large area
Major action +2 in large area
This is like how much breath is the bard using to carry his voice (and can't use for other activity).
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby empyrien » Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:32 am

DracoDruid wrote:Dude!
Are you monologizing here? :P


Yeah, its ridiculously long-winded, I know! I just wanted to make sure all the arguments were in there, just in case it gets read by a Moderator/Developer.

DracoDruid wrote:Why not let the effect depend on the action used to maintain?
Free action: +1 in small area
Minor action: +1 in large area
Major action +2 in large area
This is like how much breath is the bard using to carry his voice (and can't use for other activity).


It's a good idea. My only concern is that if the bard's "buffing" powers get too strong then everyone wants them to buff rather than do anything themselves. For players with a bard character it's good to do some heroic things yourself rather than simply boosting everyone else.
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby Raphaquina » Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:16 am

As someone said in another bard thread, I'd like to see a bard take on spy rather on musician. Even if it differs from the cRPG one, the lore says the bards use music as a way to spy on others (specifically in Orlais).
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby empyrien » Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:46 am

Raphaquina wrote:As someone said in another bard thread, I'd like to see a bard take on spy rather on musician. Even if it differs from the cRPG one, the lore says the bards use music as a way to spy on others (specifically in Orlais).


Outside of combat, I think most things can be handled by ability tests, stunts and GM interpretation. I'm not sure what kind of abilities that a spy-bard would have. Rogues can already stealth and things like that. Presumably you mean some kind of Influence ability that can alter an NPCs mood or actions?
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby shonuff » Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:08 am

I made a stab at it here:

viewtopic.php?f=33&t=10294

But in a nutshell:

The issue I have with your fixes is that while they fix the bard's suckiness (because they do suck), they will end up playing like the other rogue specializations. As someone pointed out in my thread, bards are more of a non-combat specialization, and I like that difference and want to maintain it.

What I did was tied Music to the bard song's power. One thing that you left out (or you might have with your in depth analysis) is that bards are also gimped because they have to burn a focus and a talent on mechanically useless skills.

I changed Song of Valor from +1 attack to +1 attach/defense/damage per level of mastery in music, but I kept the maintainance cost. Basically, if bards are going to give up their backstab, I wanted it to be worth it.

I did the same for Song of Friendship: +1/level of the music talent.

Finally, I found Song of Captivation to be very problematic. It's the best ability they have, but it makes zero thematic sense. Why can they essentially paralyze an opponent in the midst of combat? Bards in other games can do that because those bards are more magic based.... DA bards are not. Bards can do it in the CRPG because the developers needed to give bards mechanical abilities, but that doesn't make it canon to the world (for instance, head writer David Gaider commented that lyrium veins in the Fade didn't exist, they were merely a way to give PCs health in DA:O).

What I am doing at the moment is saying that Master bards can either be loremasters or super-performers. Lore-based bards would get a +2 to all lore rolls at GM's discretion. These would depend on what the GM would feel would be represented in old folk tales and legends. EG, the bard would most likely not get a Poison Lore bonus to identify the symptons of Adder's Kiss poison, but would get a bonus to identify the antidote of Rare Story Poison used on the Arl of Foreshadowing 500 years ago. Performance-based bards would get a +2 to entertaining rolls... probably performance, acrobatics, and maybe legerdemain.
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby Raphaquina » Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:16 am

empyrien wrote:
Raphaquina wrote:As someone said in another bard thread, I'd like to see a bard take on spy rather on musician. Even if it differs from the cRPG one, the lore says the bards use music as a way to spy on others (specifically in Orlais).


Outside of combat, I think most things can be handled by ability tests, stunts and GM interpretation. I'm not sure what kind of abilities that a spy-bard would have. Rogues can already stealth and things like that. Presumably you mean some kind of Influence ability that can alter an NPCs mood or actions?


Hmm, I guess you're right. I don't know either what kind of abilities that spy-bard should have... :( . I see the bard as the communicative-rogue archetype in the DA Lore, and without supernatural tricks. Dunno how an "Influence ability" could be made without touching on already made stuff like Contacts, sunts, tests and roleplay.

The best thing I can think right now is to throw off the Bard specialization and if any player want to be one, he can pick up the right Talents and focuses. I guess the developers thought something like that on DA2 specializations, because there were only the Assassin, Duelist and Shadow. And the Shadow is much cooler than the Bard.

The problem, IMO, is that the Bard and the Ranger can be made with the right Talents and Focuses, without any needs to actually be a specialization on it's own. At least the way they made it, it's less attractive than the others. :green:
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby empyrien » Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:54 am

Hey shonuff,

Thanks for taking the time to write such a considered response.

I have indeed read through your bard changes and they are both excellent suggestions and a viable alternative to addressing the broken nature of Song of Valor. Thematically they produce a different bard to my fixes. Using your suggestions, the bard becomes an inspirer of epic deeds in others. Mechanically, they basically spend talents to become an uber-buffer.

Different players will have different flavours of bard's they want to play, and I would certainly encourage other player's and GMs to take a look at your bard variants to see if they match with the flavour of bard that they want to play.

I was mainly drawing inspiration from the computer game for designing my fixes, as I wanted to create a bard that was closer to the Dragon Age: Origins bard. That's partly a personal preference and partly because DA:O is the only "canon" I have come across for Dragon Age bards. As I mentioned in a previous post, I think many player's with bard characters have more fun if they get to do heroic things themselves. Hence, I tried not to over-emphasise the bard's buffing capacity, keeping them roughly inline with the Champion.

shonuff wrote:One thing that you left out (or you might have with your in depth analysis) is that bards are also gimped because they have to burn a focus and a talent on mechanically useless skills.


This was one of the reasons I introduced the possibility of interrupting a bard song with damage -- it gave some more usefulness to the Performance focus. Also, removing Song of Friendship from the bardic abilities and allowing characters with the Music (Novice) talent to provide a +1 circumstance bonus if they passed an ability test was a way of softening the cost of having to purchase the mechanically useless Music talent.

shonuff wrote:I found Song of Captivation to be very problematic. It's the best ability they have, but it makes zero thematic sense.


I agree with you that Song of Captivation is hard to make sense of in terms of reality (particularly in the middle of combat). As I said, I was mainly sticking to the computer game abilities. Given that Templars can develop abilities that border on magical, and we can also have Spirit Warriors from DA:Awakenings, perhaps we can suppose that Bards are favored by a benevolent Fade spirit that grants their songs a supernatural quality. :D

In all honesty, I have no idea, maybe we can ask David Gaider to explain it.
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby DracoDruid » Thu Jan 12, 2012 8:11 am

Raphaquina wrote:As someone said in another bard thread, I'd like to see a bard take on spy rather on musician. Even if it differs from the cRPG one, the lore says the bards use music as a way to spy on others (specifically in Orlais).


Didn't even think about that.

So: YES, PLEASE!!!

Those song-thingies are a good thing for the TOTALLY USELESS Music Talent.

Make the Bard the inconspicuous Spy/Agent (based on Communication (not on Music)) that he should be.
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby shonuff » Thu Jan 12, 2012 10:31 am

DracoDruid wrote:Make the Bard the inconspicuous Spy/Agent (based on Communication (not on Music)) that he should be.


The problem is that bards are still minstrels, not the most inconspicuous type. I don't know, the problem with the lore is that it is messily presented. Also, a lot of the spying abilities are presented in the focuses and talents... stealth, legerdemain, etc.

empyrien wrote:This was one of the reasons I introduced the possibility of interrupting a bard song with damage -- it gave some more usefulness to the Performance focus. Also, removing Song of Friendship from the bardic abilities and allowing characters with the Music (Novice) talent to provide a +1 circumstance bonus if they passed an ability test was a way of softening the cost of having to purchase the mechanically useless Music talent.


There's the real rub. Most bard abilities suck, and music sucks, too. Even your expanded Song of Valor only increases attack, but I see damage as what really needs to be increased. I also have a hard time seeing bards make backstabs if they are singing. Yeah in the RAW, it's a surprise attack, I just find it difficult for a singer to make a surprise attack while singing. I don't mind if PCs have to make a choice between abilities, I just want the choice to be meaningful.

empyrien wrote:I agree with you that Song of Captivation is hard to make sense of in terms of reality (particularly in the middle of combat). As I said, I was mainly sticking to the computer game abilities. Given that Templars can develop abilities that border on magical, and we can also have Spirit Warriors from DA:Awakenings, perhaps we can suppose that Bards are favored by a benevolent Fade spirit that grants their songs a supernatural quality. :D

In all honesty, I have no idea, maybe we can ask David Gaider to explain it.


It's as good an explanation as any... but then shouldn't there be a Magic requirement, too? :)
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby Pytorb » Thu Jan 12, 2012 12:51 pm

Personally I think it would be best to leave the cRPG and RAW behind and focus more on out of combat abilities for the Bard to improve thier musical, persuasive and spying abilities. The performing of songs or something similar has always seemed to me to be extremely inappropriate in an adventuring setting. Yes you can have a bard supporting an army in battle when there enough people around them to keep them from combat (most of thee time). But to have a bard in an adventuring party of 4-6 just seems to me to be asking for a dead bard...

shonuff wrote:Also, a lot of the spying abilities are presented in the focuses and talents... stealth, legerdemain, etc.


This is no reason not to add to them with Bard-specific abilities ;-) Yes that would mean leving them without abilities they can use in combat. Combat is though just one aspect of any RPG and this gives a character a real opportunity to shine at something else.
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby Loswaith » Thu Jan 12, 2012 5:17 pm

When compared to other specialisations the bard doesnt realy lag behind too much (if at all). However if only taken from a combat stand point it lacks, though unlike a cRPG, tabletop RPGs arent just about combat, so it gains elsewhere.

If you look at the novice for most specialisations they get the equivlent of a +1 bonus. The bard on average is actually getting about +4 bonus as a typical group will be about 4 characters (including the bard) each gaining a +1 bonus. While most of the others are only giving a net bonus of +1 to themselves (or a singular target), the champion being the exception but they have to be able to charge (a major action and conditional) to get it.

While sure the journeyman for the bard is a bit weaker than others (though again it gives bonuses to all allies) it is more than made up for by the master ability. Incapacatations are huge as any thread discussing horror or paralyse can show you (though in this case it uses a bards minor action each round).

Also what the bard looses you are overstating a bard to be able to use backstab has to win an opposed roll and be in a position to move about the field, its highly conditional. So at best in most cases it will only be of use half to two-thirds of the time, due to resistances (perception being useful for everyone) or situational occurances allowing it. While Bard songs are useful in about every combat.

All in all the 'bard' is an odd one given the lore of what they are, spies. To me it came across more as that was the cover Lilliana/Orlesians typically used, and given in DA:O you are trained by Lilliana it makes full sence to be trained in their ways. Though for a combat heavy computer games, its the way it was tailored to give some mechanical advantage that wasnt basically a watered down assassin, as a generic Spy would end up being.

Though I guess when dealing with someone elses IP your hands are a little tied to an extent in what of your own inkling you can add to the game.
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby empyrien » Thu Jan 12, 2012 5:45 pm

shonuff wrote:Even your expanded Song of Valor only increases attack, but I see damage as what really needs to be increased.


I do add +1 Stunt Point generation at the Journeyman level. This increases damage output somewhat. If we consider 2 SP = Mighty Blow = +1d6, then +2 SP increases damage by 3.5 on average. Stunt points are generated 4/9 or 44% of the time, so +1 SP gives each PC a damage increase of approximately 0.77 damage per round.

I had considered making the Journeyman ability add +2 SP but I think that might be a bit too much given that I have made maintaining the Song of Valor a free action.
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby empyrien » Thu Jan 12, 2012 6:15 pm

Loswaith wrote:When compared to other specialisations the bard doesnt realy lag behind too much (if at all). However if only taken from a combat stand point it lacks, though unlike a cRPG, tabletop RPGs arent just about combat, so it gains elsewhere.


I don't think the benefits of Song of Friendship balances out the broken nature of Song of Valor. I totally agree that PnP RPGS aren't just about combat, but most of the mechanics are combat related (as they should be). Outside of combat roleplaying is much more freeform and not governed by rules. Ability tests, degrees of success, stunts and GM interpretation should be enough for the majority of out of combat situations.

The main problem I see with bards is that a specialisation should add to a class. Remember a bard is a rogue first and foremost. Why should they have to choose between giving up their signature ability (backstab) to use a bardic ability that grants them so little. If Song of Valor were more powerful (e.g. shonuff's suggestions) then giving up a minor action each round would be worth it. As it is, it actually can be a penalty to the group's combat effectiveness, as I have argued using my mathematical analysis.

Loswaith wrote:If you look at the novice for most specialisations they get the equivlent of a +1 bonus. The bard on average is actually getting about +4 bonus as a typical group will be about 4 characters (including the bard) each gaining a +1 bonus. While most of the others are only giving a net bonus of +1 to themselves (or a singular target), the champion being the exception but they have to be able to charge (a major action and conditional) to get it.


Actually, your +4 number is wrong. By using Song of Valor the bard is giving up aiming or backstabbing, which means they lose +2 to hit. So actually in a party of 4 its only a net benefit of +2.

If we look at the Assassin novice ability, then in a party of 4 that focus fires against an important target, Mark of Death gives +4 damage. But the Assassin doesn't have to cripple their signature abilities to grant it.

Loswaith wrote:While sure the journeyman for the bard is a bit weaker than others (though again it gives bonuses to all allies) it is more than made up for by the master ability. Incapacatations are huge as any thread discussing horror or paralyse can show you (though in this case it uses a bards minor action each round).


I totally agree that Song of Captivation is potent. It's Song of Valor that I have an issue with. If I thought it was just a bit underpowered than it wouldn't be a big deal. But the maths show that it is broken.

Loswaith wrote:Also what the bard looses you are overstating a bard to be able to use backstab has to win an opposed roll and be in a position to move about the field, its highly conditional. So at best in most cases it will only be of use half to two-thirds of the time, due to resistances (perception being useful for everyone) or situational occurances allowing it. While Bard songs are useful in about every combat.


By level 6, a rogue can backstab either by moving or by bluffing, so they can attempt a backstab every round. With a focus, the rogue is looking at +6 or better on their roll whereas most adversaries in the Set 2 GM's Guide have a +2 to their Perception or Willpower rolls. On average the enemy would need to beat a 16 or 17 to avoid being backstabbed, which is roughly 15% of the time. So higher level rogues will successfully backstab the vast majority of the time. Even allowing for a 15% failure rate on backstab, the bard is still way behind compared to other specialisations.

Also, at higher levels +1 to hit gives very minimal benefits unless you are facing a very high Defense opponent.
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby DracoDruid » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:55 am

I don't know why this thought never really occured to me but:

Singing during a COMBAT?!

Seriously. Who has time to listen to music while fighting for his life!?

Sure you could say: No, no. It's subliminal you don't need to really listen. Yeah okay, but when the music is so confidenting (is that a word?), why does your enemy doesn't benefit from? He can surely hear it too.

Oh man. The more I think about it, the more stupid it gets.

Seriously, get rid of this whole Benefitial Music B*llsh*t.

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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby shonuff » Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:13 am

Pytorb wrote:This is no reason not to add to them with Bard-specific abilities ;-) Yes that would mean leving them without abilities they can use in combat. Combat is though just one aspect of any RPG and this gives a character a real opportunity to shine at something else.


The problem with DA P&P is that combat is where the focus of the rules is. Crafting/trade skills wasn't introduced until set 2, and is bare bones; in the equipment list, there are more weapons than gear; almost every spell is combat-based; etc.

Don't get me wrong, I greatly enjoy RP-ing and non-combat adventures, I just think that most PCs should have a rough combat usefulness.

empyrien wrote:I do add +1 Stunt Point generation at the Journeyman level. This increases damage output somewhat. If we consider 2 SP = Mighty Blow = +1d6, then +2 SP increases damage by 3.5 on average. Stunt points are generated 4/9 or 44% of the time, so +1 SP gives each PC a damage increase of approximately 0.77 damage per round.


Nevermind me... I need to learn to read or something. As soon as I read this, I remembered thinking that's how you were increasing damage. My bad.

Loswaith wrote:If you look at the novice for most specialisations they get the equivlent of a +1 bonus. The bard on average is actually getting about +4 bonus as a typical group will be about 4 characters (including the bard) each gaining a +1 bonus. While most of the others are only giving a net bonus of +1 to themselves (or a singular target), the champion being the exception but they have to be able to charge (a major action and conditional) to get it.


But most players/GMs have not complained about missing, they've complained about damage and damage reduction.

Loswaith wrote:While sure the journeyman for the bard is a bit weaker than others (though again it gives bonuses to all allies) it is more than made up for by the master ability. Incapacatations are huge as any thread discussing horror or paralyse can show you (though in this case it uses a bards minor action each round).


So at level 10, the bard gets a decent combat ability, and even then its a double edged sword. It only eliminates one target's actions for one turn. With only two actions in a turn, a bard can either move or attack while maintaining a song, so it would be very easy for opponents to neutralize a bard by allowing them to sing the Song of Captivation and keeping out of range (especially if it's a melee bard).

Also, I still maintain (unless you're using empyrien's suggestion) that bards make no sense having an incapacitation ability as they have no magical ability.

Loswaith wrote:Also what the bard looses you are overstating a bard to be able to use backstab has to win an opposed roll and be in a position to move about the field, its highly conditional. So at best in most cases it will only be of use half to two-thirds of the time, due to resistances (perception being useful for everyone) or situational occurances allowing it. While Bard songs are useful in about every combat.


Only the 10th level one. Furthermore, bards are already weakened by having to burn a focus and a talent on relatively useless choices. Music is definitely poo in the RAW, musical lore is meh. Performance is decent, but that would also depend on your GM. Bards also get to be one of the few lucky specializations that has its pre-reqs from two of the primary abilities.

And even if backstab fires only 2/3 of the time, I don't see anyone using Song of Valor over it. So until 10th level, they're basically a specializationless rogue with crappy skill selection.

empyrien wrote:The main problem I see with bards is that a specialisation should add to a class. Remember a bard is a rogue first and foremost. Why should they have to choose between giving up their signature ability (backstab) to use a bardic ability that grants them so little. If Song of Valor were more powerful (e.g. shonuff's suggestions) then giving up a minor action each round would be worth it. As it is, it actually can be a penalty to the group's combat effectiveness, as I have argued using my mathematical analysis.


It doesn't have to add, imo. Lethality, for example, doesn't allow for a backstab... it's contradictory. So, bards using a signature ability and not backstabbing is fine, but there should be a choice. "Do I backstab or song of valor" is not a choice.

And song of captivation is too easy to nullify for it to be truly useful, imo. Melee bards would have to give up whole turns to possibly keep one mob incapicatated.

DracoDruid wrote:I don't know why this thought never really occured to me but:Singing during a COMBAT?!Seriously. Who has time to listen to music while fighting for his life!?


Yeah, I just say that the bard is giving running encouragement/snarky witticisms. Not perfect, but I sleep ok at night. :)
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby empyrien » Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:46 am

shonuff wrote:It doesn't have to add, imo. Lethality, for example, doesn't allow for a backstab... it's contradictory. So, bards using a signature ability and not backstabbing is fine, but there should be a choice. "Do I backstab or song of valor" is not a choice.


This is basically what I was trying to say (obviously not clearly enough). Having to choose between abilities is fine (good even), as long the choice is balanced i.e. both choices are worthwhile. Song of Valor as written actually can penalise the group's damage output if there are not enough party members, hence it is not worthwhile (as you have observed).
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby MacGrein » Fri Jan 13, 2012 6:00 am

What about this:

1st
Bardic Music: with a full-round action, you can play a song which gives modifier +1 to all allies on Medium Range (I don't remember) during 1d6 rounds. The music can affect one of the followings: Attack, Defense, Speed or Damage.

2nd
You modifier can be -1 to enemies on range. Your music can also affect Comunication or Willpower.

3rd
Your music modifier becomes equal to your Comunication*.

*: Or half you Comunication.
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby shonuff » Fri Jan 13, 2012 7:40 am

empyrien wrote:This is basically what I was trying to say (obviously not clearly enough).


Meh. I was half writing in support and half writing because in a text-based forum I personally like things spelled out to almost redundancy because there's no other real context. :)

MacGrein wrote:What about this:

1st
Bardic Music: with a full-round action, you can play a song which gives modifier +1 to all allies on Medium Range (I don't remember) during 1d6 rounds. The music can affect one of the followings: Attack, Defense, Speed or Damage.

2nd
You modifier can be -1 to enemies on range. Your music can also affect Comunication or Willpower.

3rd
Your music modifier becomes equal to your Comunication*.

*: Or half you Comunication.


IMO, it should be tied somehow to the Music talent because otherwise it's pointless. The bonus to attack IMO is a gimme because at level 6+, as pointed out above, other abilities and PC stats will make it trivial. I like damage because as I've said before, most players and GMs have an issue with damage reduction, and I've seen many comments about later fights bogging down due to the DR and the high HP.

A personal issue I have with your fix is that it's one ability. I prefer a toolbelt as opposed to an increasing power, but that might be just me.
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Re: Why The Bard Is Broken (And How To Fix It)

Postby Loswaith » Fri Jan 13, 2012 7:18 pm

shonuff wrote:... "Do I backstab or song of valor" is not a choice. ...

Actually it is a choice, its the very definition of choice as there are options to select. It's just you dont see any value in one of the options.

It is in fact as much a choice as someone taking Bard over Assassin or Dualist has expecting it to be as good in combat. Given Bard isnt a combat specialisation, why should it be as good in combat as the combat specialisations?

DracoDruid wrote:...
I don't know why this thought never really occured to me but:
Singing during a COMBAT?! ...

True its an odd one but just as odd is it that a rogue can flitter about combat and suddenly others are less aware of them being there. In a group of PCs there realy isn't allot of people to keep track of, and any one experienced in battle realy isnt going to fall for those kinds of ploys.

I do agree though the focus on a bard having effects during combat is an unfortunate lingering over from the computer game.

empyrien wrote:...
The main problem I see with bards is that a specialisation should add to a class. Remember a bard is a rogue first and foremost. Why should they have to choose between giving up their signature ability (backstab) to use a bardic ability that grants them so little. If Song of Valor were more powerful (e.g. shonuff's suggestions) then giving up a minor action each round would be worth it. As it is, it actually can be a penalty to the group's combat effectiveness, as I have argued using my mathematical analysis. ...


Bard does add to the class, it gives more options to the Rogue and flavours them towards being a musician rather than the lightly armoured fighter (though they can still function in that role). They dont ever have to give up backstab they just have the options to use other things instead.
Kind of like saying because a mage that takes Heroic Aura they are giving up Arcane Shield, they arent but have a choice to use either, sure they cant use both at once, just like a rogue cant use backstab and Song of valor at the same time.

The song is effectivly giving all enemies -1 defence, much the same effect as the Champion novice ability of warcry that is effectivly giving the group +1 defence, and the requirements are that the champion has to charge. Yet no complaints are on the Champion specialisation being underpowered.

Ultimatly though at the end of the day if you are worried about a groups combat effectivness why have a bard in the group over a dualist/assassin. They get even more combat effectivness over the bard or normal rogue so by not having one the combat effectivness of the group is reduced as well.
You likely have a bard because a player wants to play that kind of character and making that choice means they will be less effective in combat than other specialisations. While having the same effectivness as any other Rogue but with other options to use as well. It's about the whole picture not just one aspect.

At the end of the day its about making a character not a numbers machine.

All in all the bard is about giving other options rather than enhancing whats currently there like the assassin and dualist are. It's the equivlent of the Arcane Warrior, it gives more options to the character by moving away from its class based role.
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