When it comes to bards in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, they tend to get a rap for being the face of the party or the characters trying to get into everyone’s pants, but Charisma isn’t just about Persuasion, Deception and Performance. It’s about Intimidation, too. And Intimidation is all about instilling fear, whether through threats or presence. Lots of things are intimidating. Monsters and horrors are just a couple. Being that it’s the time for Halloween, I really wanted to try something weird, inspired by the All Bard D&D Party Composition: How to Play video from over on the YouTube channel.
Horror is a genre, too
Party of bards? Cool! Party of Halloween-themed bards? Spooktacular!
Puns aside, I never understood why scary bards are so rare to see. Horror is a whole genre in movies and TV. It just seems to follow in my mind there should be scary bards.
And that was when it hit me: while most people think of magic in 5E D&D as superpowers, that’s only one interpretation. Another would be that magic is spooky, mysterious, and thrilling; all things associated with Halloween.
Versatility: The best thing about bards
Bards are like the Charisma ability they use for casting their spells. People tend to think of them in a very specific context, but they’re just as capable in other roles, and it’s all about what you make them into. This is assisted by the encouragement in 5E D&D to flavor magic to match your unique spellcaster.
Bards are all about versatility, and simple tweaks can change their entire role in a party because, much as their feature at 2nd-level, they really are Jacks of All Trades. Their d8 hit die, their proficiency proliferation, their full spellcaster status: it all adds up to a character that can be literally whatever you make it, and that’s pretty brilliant.
So, then I got to thinking some more about this party of bards. Often in my own group, we either have a massive number of players, or only three. Suppose you roughly threw out the notion of party roles while still embracing diverse elements of what bards are good at?
That showed me you can have a party of bards who each fill multiple roles within the group dynamic and combat tactics, which plays to the bard’s greatest strength: their versatility. Rather than building a party of bards to fit into single roles, by playing even more to the bard’s strength of diversity in abilities, the entire party can fill multiple roles as needed. This gets interesting really quickly!
By making it so each bard fills multiple roles, they can adjust to what’s needed in the moment. Then, it’s all a simple matter of choices and strategy.
Horror trope inspired bards
How does this tie into the scary bard theme? Simple: it’s Halloween, and I wanted to make a party of scary bards. Originally I was thinking along the lines of the Addams Family, but then I started toying with D&D Beyond, and well… things sort of spiraled into something else.
Thus, the dragonborn theme came into play. I saw one dragonborn picture I liked, then another, and by the third, I figured we’d made it this far with a pseudo-monstrous race. After all, monsters are part of Halloween, and if I ran into a dragonborn at night, I’d probably think it was a monster. What the heck! Why not go all the way?
So instead of an Addams Family of bards, everything mutated into Dungeons & Dragonborn with horror movie-themed bards. I guess, in a way, that’s in the spirit of horror movies and such; having a midway plot twist that re-contextualizes everything.
Below, I’ve linked three bards I made on D&D Beyond, plus the video that showcases my process for devising them.
What do you think?
Are these bards more trick or treat for you? Are you doing a special Halloween-themed adventure? Let us know in the comments!