Spend any time here and you will know I am very fond of music. So it should also come as no shock that one of my favorite classes is the Bard. I loved the old 1st Edition Bard. It's wonky class structure and having to be a fighter then a thief (or was it the other way around). Then finally top it all of with druid magic.
The Bard was the class I was also looking most forward to in 2nd Edition. It also was one of the biggest disappointments of 2nd edition for me. The class seemed to have lost some of it's charm, sure it was still fun to play but not the same. I doubt that I was alone in that feeling, the Bard seems to be the one class that keeps coming up in various OSR games in one form or another.
So many in fact that I am not going to try to tackle them all. But here is a glimpse of what I know has been done. Let's start with +Richard LeBlanc who has had a lot to say on Bards recently.
Richard LeBlanc, over at Save vs. Dragon
and to be featured in the Character Class Codex.
Richard LeBlanc has given this class a lot of thought and energy. His Version I has more thief skills, his version II has more magic. I think in the end I prefer his version II Bard. I tend to like a magical flair in my Bards.
This bard switches between lead, rhythm and bass guitar.
Adventurer Conqueror King System
A Basic-era sort of Bard. This is a "campaign class" or something beyond the "Basic 4". This particular bard takes advantage of ACKs skill system, but lacks any spell power. It's a good class, but I would see it a more of a wandering Loremaster.
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
Quick note. I love the spiral bound AS&SH books. Makes it very to have the book open and lay it flat.
The Bard of Hyperborea is a subclass of the Thief and has a number of interesting things going for it. For example like LeBlanc's Version II, it can cast both Druid and Illusionist spells. A really nice touch. It has the countersong of 3.x's Bard. Like most bards it also has a folklore ability. What might be the neatest addition to the bard is it's ability to Mesmerize. So there is you Pied Piper and Erich Zahn right there. The bard of ACKS plays a well crafted lute. The Hyperborean bard plays a flute carved from the legbone of his former master. He didn't kill his master, but he was there when he died.
Barrel Rider Games
James over at BRG has given us a number of Bard-like classes.
The Bard - This Bard is a full 20 level class. Like the Bards in other games they have the ability to perform with musical instruments and they have some thief abilities as well. These bards though do not have magical spell abilities. This bard plays acoustic guitar.
The War Chanter - What the Bard is to humans and the Greensinger is to Elves the War Chanter is to Dwarves. In addition to being fighters the war chanter also has some powers "Songs" that they can use to aid others. If you are playing a Basic-era game and have more than one player that wants to play a dwarf, have one choose this. It is a pretty interesting class and one that would make good use out a larger group of characters. This one obviously plays the drums.
The Greensinger - The Greensinger is something akin to an elvish Bard/Druid. Greensingers get some special abilities and can cast spells like that of a cleric/druid. The idea is a rather cool one and frankly I wanted more. This is the lead singer of the group.
The Complete B/X Adventurer
This Bard is of the "loremaster" type with some magical effects to his music. This bard is interesting since it also allows for the bard to learn more languages as part of his leveling up. I rather like that. This bard plays second hand string instrument that he bought with the first few coppers he ever saved. He can now afford better instruments, but there is too much love in that old one for him to ever let it go.
A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore
Again, this might be the closest we will ever know of an official Gygaxian 2nd Ed Bard. Having reread a lot of material on the Bard from Dragon magazine back issues I am confident that this is very much like what we would have gotten. These bards use their own spell lists and have their skills in addition to Verbal Patter. They also have a Lore ability. So this one covers all the bases pretty well.
This bard plays a complicated 12 string guitar; hard to master but beautiful to listen to.
Fantastic Heroes & Witchery
This is a Loremaster type of bard with plenty of skills and the ability to play a counter song to disrupt magic. With their legend-lore, gather information, persuasion and stealth skills this bard also makes for an excellent spy. This bard can also inspire allie and bolster troops. No spells, but the ability to read scrolls is nice. This bard plays a violin, viola, or a lyre. Actually this bard plays them all.
Spellcraft & Swordplay: Monstrous Mayhem
While for the Spellcraft & Swordplay game this Bard will work with any rules that also has a thief class. The bard is an "elite path" of the thief. Something like a subclass. This bard has singing/performing ability that has some magic associated with it. Thief skills and lore.
This bard plays the bass.
In any case whatever bard you choose for your games they need to be cool. They are the face of the party. The sly silver tongued devil that gets the party the best room in the inn, the best food and finds out where the real adventures are.
Conceivably you could run a party with nothing but bards. Load up on heal potions, some scrolls and send them on their way. Hopefully they don't end up looking like this:
And just because I have a lame excuse to post a Lindsey Stirling video.