Bard magic: songs of not quite sorcery

This came out of a discussion with one of my players about what bard spellcasting should actually feel like. It’s not about incantations, and conjuring up luminous arcane energies. And equally, it gets quite flat if it becomes ‘I sing my invisibility song’. The following examples all happen to be second level spells, as the conversation started around which ones he should choose.

Argo fingers swipe across the strings of his lute, and as a low, powerful sound emanates, he cups his hands in front of his mouth, his voice completing the chord, then rising sharply in pitch and volume. As it hits its crescendo he thrusts his hands forward, and a deafening explosion detonates at the far side of the hall. (Shatter)

The bard furrows his brow in concentration, his mouth slightly open as a deep, steady note begins in his throat. He places his hand on the unconscious gnome’s shoulder, and wills the magic to reverberate down his arm and into his prone companion. The vibrations pulse through his stricken body, obliterating the darkness in his veins. The fever abruptly ceases, and the gnome’s eyes flicker open. (Lesser Restoration)

Argo steps forward, his eyes meeting those of the guard captain. Into the quiet night air he sings one, two then three strange, mellifluous words from a long forgotten language. As he does so, he plucks the lute, precisely, discordantly. The captain feels the disharmony in his very bones and tries to reach for his sword – but he is too late. His muscles are frozen. (Hold person)

Watching the faces of the crowd, Argo begins the ballad softly. Disinterest quickly becomes intrigue, and he feels the emotions of his audience shift. Focusing on the grey-garbed merchant in the corner, he lets himself go deeper. There is no intrigue here, no pleasure, just… anxiety. And those surface thoughts come like whispers: ‘Where is she? Why is she late? There’ll be hell to pay if she isn’t dealt with by midnight’ – he glances at his blade as these thoughts play through his mind. And with that, the assassin is revealed. (Detect Thoughts)


One thought on “Bard magic: songs of not quite sorcery

  1. “… When asking the question of a Bard’s magic, you have to understand the fundamentals.
    A bard does not conjure up great feats of illusion from ancient tomes.
    Nor does he plunder the netherworlds for pacts with great daemons and shower the earth with brimstone and fire. These are the domains of the great wizards and warlocks. Their abilities are limited only by their imagination. I know not how such immense power could be controlled.
    A Bard’s strength comes from the music and the inner prose of a creatures soul. To wield a Bard’s power is to attune to the very core of a man’s being. To understand his story so clearly that you could control his thoughts and his fears.
    I have known a troubadour so great in his craft that he could sing the very life into the recently deceased. Don’t underestimate the power of the song my boy, for it could raise the dead.

    And remember, it is always, absolutely a matter of style.”
    – Loric of Nightstone


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