My All-Bard Dungeons & Dragons Session Went Up In Glorious Flames

Image source: Wizards of the Coast

Yesterday one of the regular members of my Dungeons & Dragons group had to cancel, so the rest of us decided to roll some new characters for a one-off campaign. Shortly before our gathering, one of them texted to ask if it was alright if we all played as bards. "We'll be like a travelling pop punk band!" they said.

As longtime emo trash, I was excited at the prospect. It was an incredibly stupid idea, and it was a ton of fun.

Playing as a party made entirely out of one class of character is a very silly idea, and playing as just bards is the silliest variant of that. Bards are support characters. They can do damage, but usually you'd want to pair them with character classes that are more combat focused, like a warrior or a mage. As we rolled our three characters - a half-elf named John on the guitar, a human called "The Artist Formerly Known As Jessica" on the bagpipes, and me as a dragonborn named X on the drums - our Dungeon Master eyed us with some suspicion.

"So, no one has any intelligence on this team?" he said. Of course not.

The point he was trying to make was that we didn't have any characters who knew anything about magic. We were armed with rapiers and crossbows, but for the most part we only had two attacks that could really do damage: Thunderwave and Vicious Mockery. Thunderwave creates a percussive wave that knocks characters and items back 3.05m.

I always imagined that X was doing an extremely righteous drum solo whenever I used it. Vicious Mockery is when your character insults someone so badly that literal psychic pain causes them damage. This is definitely hilarious but not always useful.

The first enemy we faced was in fact a half orc who was immune to magic, and that encounter was the first of many times my character almost died.

Our gimmicky one shot really only had a few elements, but since we were a band it meant we also had gigs. At the start of the game we ran into a wizard who had been magically enchanted into a goose, and he told us to go steal back his wand from another wizard to make him a human again. We played a gig at the tavern in the town we went to look for it in.

The barkeep wasn't incredibly jazzed about the idea of taking care of our angry goose while we investigated this wizard mess, but we were able to convince him that he was part of our act. That evening, after we dropped by the mayor's house to charm some information out of him and played an unforgettable show, except for the goose.

Our weird, bagpipe-oriented three piece pop punk group completely slayed, except for the goose with a tambourine bleating on stage.

Image source: Wizards of the Coast

Playing unusually or improvising our way through scenarios was a refreshing change from our normal, more serious campaigns, especially because we knew that there was no chance we were going to complete our campaign as intended. We were able to make it into the wizard's house to steal the wand without incident, for instance, but once we started a combat encounter I knew almost right away it was all going to go to shit.

I had been keeping watch while Jessica and John went inside to steal the wand, but that also meant that when the two of them started fighting, I was the only person outside to deal with the three ape guards with swords. I think I spent about as much time unconscious as I did conscious. The tension and desperate nature of this battle meant that when I had a chance to grab the wand and try to turn our goose friend back into a human, I took it.

As you may recall, none of our characters had high intelligence, which was the stat needed to use the wand. Instead of turning the goose human, I turned him into a Gibbering Mouther, which is a 6.10m tall mass of limbs, flesh and mouths. Once you turn something into a Gibbering Mouther, they're stuck that way, so suffice it to say I really fucked this one up.

After being knocked unconscious two more times, we managed to kill the Gibbering Mouther, solving the problem I had created and completing the quest. Sure, we did not successfully return the goose to human form, but he wasn't a goose anymore, and that's kind of the same thing.

I asked our DM to put on "Anthem Part Two" by Blink 182 as we rode off into the sunset. I don't know if we're going to revisit our travelling pop punk band for another one-off, but we did all decide that they got some sick material for songs out of this little adventure. Playing D&D in this dumb and weird way was fun, and it yielded the kind of story that I'll be telling to my tabletop RPG-playing friends for years to come.


Comments

    "you'd want to pair them with character classes that are more combat focused, like a warrior or a mage."

    I believe you mean Fighter and Wizard.

    The only ethical purpose for an all Bard party is to reenact your favorite "This is Spinal Tap" moments.

    Our DM takes it very poorly if anyone in our group even considers playing a bard. I had to get around it by playing a magus (kensai) and kitting her out with a wicked guitar that is magically amplified. I put some points into profession (musician) to round her out.

    It was all pretty cool up until she got cursed with a 50% chance of spending any given round doing nothing but playing the guitar... Things quickly became very annoying, not least because I fully role-played the guitar playing with air guitar solos from various songs.

      My last bard had so much knowledge and bardic knowledge that I actually started saying them in rhyme/as haikus. Then I whiffed a knowledge roll on an owlbear, someone set it on fire and we got hugged.

    Bards are such a great double edged sword, our party came to a close after an altercation resulted in our otterfolk cleric dead and our goblin bard wearing the skin of our gnome bard. Then proceeded to critically fail his will save, coming to the conclusion that he had become said gnome and then rolling a twenty to pass himself off as the gnome.

    So now everyone believes he is a gnome... and our party is down two characters.

      Otterfolk! That sounds cute.

        It is just a reason for my mates to make jokes like "that is otterly-adorable"; might also be part of the reason the goblin killed him.

    Playing game X, in the style of Y, resulted in Z! Lols!~ you had to be there

      Clearly you're not a DnD fan, half the fun is telling tales of what's happened in sessions.

        Nobody likes hearing other peoples gaming stories though.

          Gotta disagree with you there, there are threads dedicated to the topic of what happened in people's games over on [imageboard]. Some great stories in there.

            I will concede, online, when seeking them out, and able to escape them is a different thing.

            Being cornered by some mouth breather telling you tales about their Demon Gnome with the magic staff....

              Well the article is called "My All-Bard Dungeons & Dragons Session", seems pretty easy to avoid if you don't like hearing about DnD

    See, my experience of "Bard Dungeon", as it has become known in my group, was very, VERY different. The party rocked out hard and ended up with the ultimate prize - a sick album cover.
    For reference, this run happened in 3.5 ed., not 5th ed. so shenanigans were bound to happen.

    I was GM of this little tale, and had organized a one-shot. My group shows up piecemeal, so with each person that comes I ask what they were thinking of playing. First person says (after showing a character sheet for the FATE system, which threw me for a second) they said they had rolled up a bard. Cool, we've got some flex here, I remember thinking. Then the next guy shows up. He produces a Monsters and Other Childish Things sheet, then tells me that he, too, was playing bard. Then two more come, and they had bards too. When the last person arrived, I just flat out asked her "Did you bring a bard?" She had.

    Now, to be fair, each of them were differentiated - one was a half-elven Arcane Archer, another was a Kitsune Loremaster, a third was a grippli (frog-man) and rode in on a mammoth named Mascoth, the fourth was a dragon disciple and I can't remember what the fifth was. But the glue keeping all these together? A feat called Discordant Voice (link: http://www.d20pfsrd.com/feats/general-feats/discordant-voice/). The result? This group was dealing roughly twice as much damage as normal because ALL OF THEM DEALT AN EXTRA 4d6 SONIC DAMAGE PER ATTACK. The archer closed to that 30 ft range and peppered the enemy with spell empowered arrows, the dragon disciple flipped out, the Mascoth trampled everything into a fine powder and the grippli used nets to keep things still while the others wailed on it. They had planned this out, and by the Gods, did it work.

    They completely trashed the place, kidnapped a luch (a lich corrupted by the power of drink), walked through pretty much every challenge the castle had for them (incuding a mated pair of fey templated silver dragons) and when the Big Bad teleported away, what did they do? The fourth turned into a dragon and followed it to it's secret cloud lair, where it was promptly smote by dragon fire and the band captured the image of them rocking out on a cloud, dragon in mid ground, ethereal castle fading away into glittering smoke in the distance.

    The lesson I learned that day was this: a party of fifth wheels works just as well as the four regular wheels. In fact, if you're clever, it runs better, because those wheels are fresh. Bard Dungeons are now also in our roster of one-shot ideas, and I have the band manager - also a bard, whose speciality is that I have a T-Rex.

      I have to wonder why they rocked up with FATE and other system character sheets though haha

    I've been in that adventure before..... except when we attempted to use the wand, we failed and blew up the wizard....

Join the discussion!