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Let's talk about modding bards


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I'd like to get some thoughts and opinions on modding bards. It's long since time that, instead of just getting a few different kits with interesting songs, the whole bard song mechanism was overhauled.


The first thing I want to do is add IWD-style bard song switching, to anyone. Instead of a rigid set of songs granted at certain levels, this will be more organic. Some songs can be learned as feats, in the Might & Guile feat system. Others will be learned from musical scores/manuscripts found as loot in the game world. The extent to which you expand your repertoire will be, to some extent, up to you.


Second is the deeper question: what is a bard song? What should it look like? How should it work? The starting principle here is that the vanilla modal action is unsatisfactory. The idea that you can sing, or do something else, but not both, will be scrapped. The EE engine allows bards to be hacked in some nice ways. Let's explore a few options.


1) Lingering song.


This is the most basic version. And I'm going to reject it immediately, because I think it turns bard song into something permanent. If it lingers for three rounds that just means you need to click the button once every 18 seconds to make it effectively permanent. What's the point of that? Why not just make it actually permanent? Speaking of which:


2) Turn bard songs into permanent auras.


I think I have figured out how to make the bard song button cast a spell normally, even though it's a modal button. Then, through various contortions, I think I can make the bard song button turn on a permanent aura, and then turn the aura off when you press the song button again. In other words, I can make the modal button act like a normal button, and then make the normalized button in turn act like a modal button.


Why do all that? Well, now we have a modal button that is not canceled by other actions. And we can apply any conditions we want to the aura. Maybe a simple 'Luck' tune like the basic bard song can be played with no restrictions at all - cast spells, enter melee, whatever. But a 'Counterspell' or 'Interference' aura that inhibits enemy spellcasting, would also prevent the bard from casting spells while it is active. Maybe something requiring really intense concentration - say, an AoE Chaotic Commands aura - would prevent you from attacking enemies, and even cut your movement rate in half.


As you can see, this opens up a LOT of flexibility in how bard songs can be balanced, and it still uses the basic on/off song mechanism.


3) Make song magic just like other magic.


If auras don't use the bard song mechanism, but instead your basic repeating .eff, then why tie them to the song button? If the modal button can be made to cast normal spells, why make it simulate a modal song?


How about instead, give bards basic on/off auras in the innate abilities bar, and use the bard song button for special spells. I envision something like this:


Once per day, you can set your song ability, just like memorizing spells. Then you can use that ability once per round, or once every 5 rounds, or whatever. Different spells could have different restrictions. This way you can supplement your memorized arcane spells with special song-based magic that can be used more or less semi-at-will.


And this would still allow for long-term aura style bonuses as well, controlled from the innates bar (or, possibly, the spellcasting button) instead of the bard song button. And those auras could still have whatever restrictions you want, as above. And *both* kinds of music could also be learned/acquired as you progress through the game.


SO: I'm going to do something about bard song... but what? I need to decide on the *system* of how they will work, then I can jump into implementation. So what would be cool? What would be fun? What do you think?

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I agree with the reasoning for #1 - not making bard songs lingering for a certain amount of time. Repetitive UI actions are annoying.


I prefer #2. Bard songs as applied auras that have benefits but also costs (up to and including movement penalties and restricting other action ... maybe even rooting the bard in place during the song, in some cases ... though obviously not in all cases), and you can switch to any song that you know at any time without preparation.


I don't like the idea of a pick-a-song-per-day preparation system at all. We have enough of that with mages, and both tedious from a gameplay perspective and contrary to the notion of "songs" as something spontaneous and innate, relying on the supernatural skill of the bard to transform what from anyone else would be an ordinary melody into something with extraordinary effects. A bard knows the songs at all times, and the only "resource" consumed by singing is the bard's voice ... and perhaps fatigue.


Following that thought, it might be interesting to have a bard become fatigued after singing continuously for more than a certain number of rounds, depending on the "difficulty" of the song, and also depending on the bard's constitution (more hardy bards can sing longer), and also give bards an innate fatigue regeneration (if the bard doesn't sing for X rounds, they become less fatigued). Fatigue isn't really a major penalty ("Character has lower luck, making it easier to be hit by enemies and harder to hit them. Effect worsen for every 4 hours been awake for too long.") but it does add some nice "flavor." If complete fatigue regeneration feels too generous, you could just have them lose fatigue until the first threshold level (equivalent to the first 4 hour mark for normal fatigue accumulation).


If you do implement the fatigue gain/loss mechanic, I suggest having fatigue accumulate from singing only during combat rounds, and diminish slowly when out of combat (even if still singing), despite the lack of "realism", as a convenience for the player to avoid the need to manually toggle song on and off for every battle if you don't plan to change songs.


It also would be interesting if a party member or enemy being Silenced (or deaf?) would prevent bard song from affecting them. Depending on the song, of course.

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I don't think you can "cure" fatigue; has EE changed that? I wouldn't give bards fatigue for singing simply because fighting should fatigue you more; but it doesn't.

On topic - myself, I'd rework bards from scratch. Vanilla Skald gains best combat song and +1 bonus to combat. Pointless, with zero sinergy. What's the point in having bonus combat skills if you're singing? Make him sing *while* he's fighting. Jester should definitely be visible while singing. I don't know if it's possible (probably yes with EEs); his song could affect low-int creatures more (5-14 INT); and have less effect on really smart ones, while no effect on INT<5; Undead and similar.

Vanilla bard can be a "jack of all trades"; with several songs at his disposal. Buffs, debuffs, whatever.

And yes, being deaf should prevent bard song from working.

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I don't think you can "cure" fatigue; has EE changed that?

Doesn't SR implement a temporary fatigue after Haste? I thought that is possible. One of my psionic powers gives +8 fatigue on delayed/permanent after 24 seconds and then gives -8 fatigue on delayed/permanent after 36 seconds, and I seem to recall it works in my testing. In any event IWD(EE) has a spell that eliminates fatigue, so even if you can't manipulate it, it's definitely possible to cure it.


Still, I don't love the idea of fatigue for bards.


But AFAIK everything else kreso wrote is possible. One of the benefits of turning bards songs into more conventional repeating .effs is that you can fight and sing at the same time. Another benefit is that the ability can be given to non-bards. So for example, I might turn Skalds into a fighter kit that has bard songs and can sing+fight simultaneously.


INT limits affecting Jester song is definitely doable as of EE v1.4, thanks to opcode 326. And if the song is a repeating .eff, you could simply have 101 immunity to the invisibility opcode as one of its effects.


CLONE_EFFECT would probably make it pretty easy to patch all deafness and silence effects to also protect against all bard songs.

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Example: Skalds could have d8 hit dice, warrior thac0, bard songs and maybe use of wands and scrolls, but no memorized spellcasting, and limited to specialization... it looks sort of like a bardic paladin. This would work well for the Gallant kit as well - in 2E a Gallant was a poseur who acted like a knight, but spent more time writing poetry and chasing farmers' daughters than honing combat skills.


Going back a bit further:


I prefer #2. Bard songs as applied auras that have benefits but also costs ...


I don't like the idea of a pick-a-song-per-day preparation system at all. We have enough of that with mages, and both tedious from a gameplay perspective and contrary to the notion of "songs" as something spontaneous and innate,

The only thing is that it would be nice for bards to be able to do more instantaneous stuff like Sound Burst. An option that I have floated elsewhere, as an alternative to #3, would be that you could set the bardic spell as often as you like instead of once per day. But every time you cast it, you have to re-set the spell... like tuning your instrument. This would be an ability with a full round casting time, just to prevent abject spamming if the bardic spells in the middle of combat.


I guess I can add instantaneous sound-based magic to the spellbooks automatically, and let you cast them that way, reserving the song button for auras.


Incidentally, someone suggested elsewhere to use the "bard song bar" or "bard song submenu" to choose a song, but unfortunately there is no such thing, and even if I hack the button, you can't use opcode 214 with it in a way that preserves the idea of learning/finding new songs.


So the plan is, to have the "switch song" abilities reside under the spells button, appearing after your wizard spells. I figure that's best since a) it won't clutter your innate abilities bar; 2) unlike abilities that use 171/172, which move around when they renew themselves, these will always be in the same place; and 3) you will probably switch auras somewhat rarely, relative to using other spells or abilities, so it's okay for these to be slightly buried a few clicks deep.

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With the "tuning" mechanic, I'm now warming up to the idea of having some abilities that you can prepare, as long as it can be done at any time. It's really the "decide before resting, or before setting out, what ability you will be able to use for the day" mechanic I dislike.

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Ha ha ha, and yet you may have convinced me to move away from that idea. Arcane memorized casting + unlimited bardic casting (after being primed/tuned) + beneficial auras that stay in effect while casting... that's a ton of magic. Maybe too much.

Instead how about this as an archetype:
- Arcane memorized casting up to level 6 spells.
- Arcane spells limited to the schools of Enchantment, Illusion, Abjuration, and Divination.
- Select bardic spells added to your spellbook for memorized casting.
- Starts with one bard song that operates continuously, providing constant bonuses to all allies within 20 feet.
- May learn ~5-10 more bard songs with different effects, and switch between them at will. They all provide constant effects, but some require greater concentration and will limit the bard's spellcasting and/or physical attacks and/or movement.
- If playing with feats, bards may learn feats such as combat bonuses and techniques, extra spell slots, new bard songs, potion crafting, etc.

Possible bard songs:
- Morale boost for allies
- Luck + saves bonus for allies
- Damage bonus for allies
- Combat penalties for enemies
- Save penalties for enemies
- Slow undead
- Summon a (rodent?) every round
- Interfere with (all) spellcasting
- Confuse enemies
- Mind shield for allies
- Mirror images for allies
- ... lots of other possibilities. Feel free to suggest some.

This is a conservative change, but probably a fun one. Situationally loosening the restriction on singing + fighting/casting, plus letting the player 'collect' songs to use in different circumstances, plus being able to boost the bard's combat or casting or other capabilities, would make them way more viable as fun and useful party members.

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Crowd control is always a welcome ability. It would be entertaining to have a taunt song that makes the nearest enemy (only) focus attacks on the bard as long as no other party member is closer, while also slowing down that enemy and causing the bard to randomwalk... so you could initiate a sort of automated run-away/chase scene just by moving your bard close to an enemy, but you'd have to watch out for them wandering randomly too close to other party members, or to other enemies.


I realize it might be a bit controversial, but how about if we remove the ability for bards to cast arcane magic at all? Since we can give them more than one song, let's just balance them entirely around that mechanic. It makes them more unique from the other casters. We can still allow them to cast spells from scrolls.

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Funny, that was my original idea. Call it option zero:
- Abolish the bard class, convert bards into thief kits.
- There would be six 'genres' of music; each one would have one always-on aura and 4-5 spells (either instant effect or with 30 second duration).
- Music can be used at will, but has a long (full-round) casting time. Casting a song spell will cancel any aura in effect; after the spell takes effect you can cast another one, or initiate an aura.
- The 'trueclass' bard kit will start with 2-3 genres; kits will start with one. They can learn more as feats. (This was intended as part of the rogues' feat system.)
- EE 1.4+ lets you control access to thief skills, so each bard kit will get a few thief skills to use (blade = stealth + open locks, jester = pick pockets + detect illusion, etc.)
- 'Bard' kits can use wands and cast spells from scrolls.

Option 2 that I described above is the conservative approach; this would be the radical approach.


I really like the radical, thief-kit-based approach. But it also has drawbacks beyond a simple comparison of which seems fun. It would destroy compatibility with any mods that affect bards, and it would necessitate serious alterations to Haer-Dalis and Garrick and Eldoth, and Keto, etc., etc. It would probably involve 2-3 times more work... and unfortunately, that may be the deciding factor. :(

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More ideas. Let's assume I'm going with option 2, bard songs are on/off at-will auras, with more flexibility regarding singing + fighting + casting.


Here's another idea: some songs could be proper AoE auras, buffing allies or penalizing enemies. But other songs could be personal in nature, buffing the bard himself. It would be a permanent, at-will buff... but the trade-off would be, you give up the party-wide buffs.


So there could be AoE songs:

- Morale boost for allies (trueclass start)

- Luck + save bonus for allies (trueclass start)

- Damage bonus for allies (skald start)

- Combat penalties for enemies (blade start)

- Luck + save penalties for enemies (jester start)

- Bless allies

- Vocalize for allies

- Summon a rodent every round (cannot cast)

- Interfere with *all* spellcasting (cannot cast)

- Confuse enemies (cannot cast or attack)

- Slow/Hold undead (cannot attack)

- Negative Plane Protection (cannot attack)

- Mind Shield for allies (cannot cast or attack, 1/2 move)

- Mirror Images for allies (cannot attack)

- Entangle...?? (cannot cast)


And there could be personal buffs:

- Blur (blade start)

- Mind Blank (cannot cast)

- Cloak of Fear...??

- Detect illusions within 3 feet...??

- Secret Word on hit...??

- Globe of Invulnerability...??

- Haste-ish effect (warrior APR if you forego other buffs)...??


That's what I can think of at the moment. Thematically, I'm not sure how personal buffs fit with the idea of stemming from music. But if the only options are AoE auras, it kind of limits things. Maybe the lore could be something like, the bard's supernatural musical abilities makes him attuned to the harmonics of the Weave and allows him to channel magical effects through his body. Or somesuch.


Balance-wise, some of these would of course only be available to be learned or found at higher levels.

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Let me answer a few of the questions you got here:

Second is the deeper question: what is a bard song? What should it look like? How should it work?
~bards song, making it linger~ What's the point of that? Why not just make it actually permanent?

Well the original idea of the bard song is to boost the party's ability to hit opponents and have better AC by sacrificing the one attack the bard has for that benefit.*
It works wonders in the original game... and the looks don't actually matter that much. Now, of course if you want to utilize the bards singing to have more variety, then of course you are welcome make what ever modifications for the theatrical delivery of it, so restricting movement speed, and others can be seen as a good balancer if done correctly.
The point in making the bard song a modal state is to use the in_game mechanic. You might not be able to see it, but the mechanic I am talking about is the one that the Aura Cleansing opcode(#188) counter acts, aka you can only have one activated spell casted per round of combat. (*Well that, and the fact that you can't cast spells as additional sacrifice).
The lingering song is usually against this convention, and making it permanent aura is (usually) even worse. I have nothing against having multiple possible spells and so forth, but you don't want to mess with the basic mechanism that the modal state provides/restricts the character under, aka only 1 spell per round. This is why people say that the bards song nor the clerics turn undead might not act as fast as they like it to... cause they already casted a spell before it during the same rounds.
Heh, you could also use the opcode 150 to make a bard song that force detects traps. So you probably will be wanting to make the chance of it to be casted pretty small at level 1 and then up it in further levels.

And then answer me this:

- EE 1.4+ lets you control access to thief skills, so each bard kit will get a few thief skills to use (blade = stealth + open locks, jester = pick pockets + detect illusion, etc.)

Yeah and ?
The point of this question is, as the Graphical User Interface doesn't allow you to pick and place the GUI elements in the standard game(at least pre-EE, or EE v1.3), were the bard have 125 in traps and lock picking, they can still do nothing with them as the game doesn't allow the player to disable traps or pick locks with a bard, as only a thief can do that, as far as I am aware of at v1.4 ... haven't tested this in EE v2.5.what ever the current version is todays, as I don't have access to it everywhere. But I tested this very much in the non-EE game over the years. Yes, it could have changed, but you'll have to go and confirm this fact personally. The original point of the change was to allow the kits to multiply the point value for the given points placed to the skills, and separate the skill points from the usability flag. Yeah, there's mods that change the GUI, but I haven't really dwelled deep on them. And it's not only the GUI either. As a bard has the pick pocket ability, which is used to disable the traps and unlock doors ... but bards just can't do that even if the trap is seen by another party member, like a monk who can't either disable it.

PS: So what ever you do, make sure the bard doesn't get the mage HLA as a spell/ability that uses the opcode 188.
I assume that to fix the bards/monks etc disarm traps/unlock doors etc not being available, one would need a source code access and the will to fix the issue. And the issues rising from that. Such as fighters not having a spellbook assigned, and the fact that rangers and clerics use the same spell table .... ETC ETC ETC. That have been done away with IWD2's engine, but that came with not allowing party members to join or leave the group. Which is kinda a big issue. :devlook:

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Imp, I meant the EE engine lets you limit access to thief skills for thief kits. So you could make a thuggish thief that has d8 hit dice but has no access to stealth, or something. For bards, the way to give them thief skills is to simply move a given kit into the thief class. (See below.)


In other news, I have a working proof-of-concept mod that makes the Bard Song button work like a modal ability, but instead of triggering bard song effects, it triggers permanent auras that can persist while you fight and/or cast spells. They can affect either the bard's allies, or the bard's enemies, or the bard himself, or really any combination of these. And they can be adapted for use by anyone, so we can have 'bardic' kits in other classes. We could make cleric kits that have bard songs in addition to divine casting! We could have rogue kits that get thief skills instead of arcane casting (*cough*Blade) ;)


The only issue is that you don't have the red-framed button for visual feedback when a song is active. The button will always look the same; instead, your visual feedback will be a portrait icon. Not perfect, but I think it's the best that can be done.

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Imp, I meant the EE engine lets you limit access to thief skills for thief kits. So you could make a thuggish thief that has d8 hit dice but has no access to stealth, or something. For bards, the way to give them thief skills is to simply move a given kit into the thief class. (See below.)

Erhm, if you install your mod, then your "Bard kit" is not actually a bard kit... and it's simply idiocy to name them as such. Yeah, you can make a "blade" -like thief kit, but it's a thief kit, not a bard kit, and thus should never be named as Blade. They won't even have a legit arcane casting, unless it's a dual classed kit, and those are not just single class kits, nor should ever be referred as such.. So it's insanity to call them such such("Bard kits").


Should you learn to respect the Bards as they are, then you should talk about bards as bards... not some mutated other things. Or Blades as thief kits, they are BARD kits... you can have the Gallant as a thief kit that has aura effect and so forth without confusing it to real Bard kits. Or advertising it as such as it's NOT. And balance them as thief kits, or what ever you want.

The only bard kit that has a legit base to do with a Thief kits is the Switch-Bard, and it's because it can be both.


So the this topic is about simulated Bards kits, well at least from the third sentence on forth("Second is the deeper question:...")... not actual ones, from all I have seen so far. Which is announce to me very much, thank you. With topic title and all.

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