The Bard -
the Most Powerful Character in Role Play!

"There is magic in the air!"

Yes, there just might be. Many of us use the word magic. Our use of the term may vary based on context, companions, or charge. A place could have a magical effect on you. Something unexpected happens – it is magic! You get the idea. The world of magic has a specific, and even special, place in the world or fantasy role-playing. What is the world of magic? The answer to this question is not straight-forward. The world of magic – or magic – is the manipulation of the physical realm by unseen forces. Or it is the illusion of the same. Although the implications of that statement can open a pandora’s box of other topics, I will limit this discussion to the value of magic within the role-play environment. In this article, I will delve lightly into the world of magic. I do not attempt to explain it. I only discuss it in terms of fantasy role-playing. Today, I will explore the Bard character archetype, music, and storytelling magic.

Another Character Class

“Our Reality is stranger than you think”

In a previous article, I talked about the brutish, chaotic strength that originates from the Barbarian’s unique ability to use rage as a force of destruction. Today, I take a subtle look at a character class that can fight and use magic with equal proficiency. Before going further, I will state that the use of magic in role-playing is just that – part of the role-playing experience. I am not suggesting that a player needs to be a magician to play the game. Nor am I suggesting that a player needs to be a magician to participate in the narrative or #stem educational experience. With that said, I want to clearly define magic and its existence in the role-play fantasy genre. Specifically, in the Dungeons and Dragons environment, magic refers to the use of spells and magic systems.

Our Reality is stranger than you think. Words are magic. Music is magic. And magic is power. In both the fantasy world and our religious text, we learn that the world was spoken into existence. Can you imagine the power! In the fantasy world, this is magic. In our modern world, this is often called myth (and for some, faith). The power of the spoken word can be found across religious texts. My examples will come from the Christian Bible.

Image by bioni from Pixabay
  1. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Proverbs 18:21
  2. “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Phil 4:8
  3. “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matt 21:22
  4. “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
  5. “Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. ” Mark 11:23
  6. But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matt 4:4

This is power! I will explore this power in the hands of one archetype – the Bard.

Image by bioni from Pixabay

The Bard: Introduction

“…the bard specializes in the use of specific weapons and magic systems.”

A Bard can use weapons (both melee and ranged) and use magic with equal efficiency. This is different from the classic Fighter and Magic User (now Wizard or Illusionist) characters, which specialize in one or the other domain, but not both. This is not saying that the Bard can be “all powerful.” If we were to create an “all powerful” character class, then the ecosystems within the role-playing environment would be off balance. So, to ensure fairness in the game, the bard specializes in the use of specific weapons and magic systems.

The Bard: Origins

“…the Bard evolved.”

According to Wikipedia (though not always credible, I use this source today to provide a basis for understanding), the Norse ‘Skald’ was a poet of great prominence between the 5th and 15th centuries. Additionally, according to Wikipedia, the Celtic ‘Fili’ was a member of an elite class of poets who lived in Ireland and Scotland before the time of the Renaissance (circa. 16h century). From these constructs, the Bard evolved. Examples of Bards in early history include:

  1. Pied Piper (think Hamelin)
  2. Homer (presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey)
  3. Will Scarlet (think Robin Hood)
  4. Alan-a-Dale (think Robin Hood)

The Bard: A Storyteller

“The academic”

The Bard lives to tell stories, most of the time from personal experience. For this reason, the Bard will travel, explore, and engage in academic study often and at great lengths.

The Bard: A Musician

“The power to manipulate”

Bards have the unique ability to harness the power of the spoken (or sung) word – that same power that created the world – to manipulate the material world around them. Specifically, it is the power to influence another person in how they feel, what they think, and what they do.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay
Image by Genty from Pixabay

A Side Note:

“Dopamine Improves…”

Upon further study, modern scientists have examined the power of music. Music releases dopamine into the body. Dopamine has a positive affect on mental and physical functioning. Briefly, I give you the following points. Dopamine improves:

  1. Learning
  2. Memory
  3. Mood
  4. Attention
  5. Sleep
  6. Movement

So, the use of the spoken and sung word gives the Bard strong advantages when in the presence of others. Is this magic, or science? If you have ever watched a movie, then you understand what I mean. Music has a profound impact on how the movie affects your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

The Bard: A Trickster

“The Bard archetype is a complex and complicated personification of many things.”

In confrontations, the power of the Bard is in manipulating their circumstances. Why fight when you can create the feeling of fear or helplessness in your enemy? Why engage in conflict when you can calm your enemy down? Why negotiate when you have the power to input suggestions and thoughts into someone else’s brain?

Looking at character archetypes, I have now discussed two options for narrative writing, specifically within the fantasy role-play genre. The Bard, much more than the Barbarian, offers the writer greater freedom in developing character background, character development, and place within the story. The Bard character has significant influence in politics, religion, and other social circles. Or, the Bard can be a wanderer and explorer, always in search of new tales and adventures.

Image by pendleburyannette from Pixabay
Image by pendleburyannette from Pixabay

The Bard archetype is a complex and complicated personification of many things. For this reason, the Bard is a difficult character to play unless you have a specific backstory for the character and utterly understand the historical significance of this archetype.

We explore character archetypes as a way of understanding the world we live in, as well as how narrative writing has been a pathway for exploring human history. English literature and History classes no longer must be this boring, monotonous experience when we can abstract these characters from the textbook.

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