Multi-taskers: Bard Tactics in DDO
Jacks of all trades--masters of none.
At the risk of boring you with a cliche, it's true: bards can
dabble in almost anything, but another class will be better than them
in any one task. Bards can fight, but rangers, fighters, and barbarians
can do it better.
Bards cast spells, but sorcerers and wizards do it
better. Bards can heal, but clerics do it better. Bards can fight style="font-style: italic;">and cast spells style="font-style: italic;">and heal all at once. Nobody else
can do that. On top of that, the benefits gained from bardic music
makes a bard a valuable member to any party. If you're comfortable with
the limitations described above and enjoy helping others succeed in
their roles, bard may be the class for you.
Basics of Fulfilling Your
Bard builds and roles can be
categorized into four types: melee, caster, healer, and balanced. Let's
take a closer look at bard builds:
style="font-style: italic;">Melee: This bard is built for
combat, meaning Strength is a prominent Ability score. He uses his
bardic music to boost himself and his companions and then dives into
Caster: This bard
concentrates on being able to cast spells from the safety of the rear.
Charisma and a lot of it are the order of the day for a caster bard.
Also, because bards do not have very many spells that do direct damage,
caster bards tend to be into buffs (spells that benefit the party),
debuffs (spells that hinder enemies), and crowd control (spells that
immobilize enemies). My bard falls into this category, and you can view
the full build href="http://ddo.tentonhammer.com/index.php?module=ContentExpress&func=display&ceid=112">|HERE|.
Healer: Healer bards
choose the Cure spells available at each level and can serve as the
only healer in a group or as backup healer in a group with a cleric. In
return for the heavier armor given up by not choosing cleric, a healer
bard gets bardic music to buff her party without the use of spell
points. A common arrangement is for a healer bard to cast cure spells
on the cleric in her party to help the cleric avoid aggro (the
attention of enemies).
Balanced: I'd argue that
balanced bards are most common. They focus just enough on fighting to
be competent at landing blows, they work the bare minimum needed to be
effective casters, and they select cure spells just in case someone
needs to be healed. The danger of this build is the need to spend
Ability points in more places.
Bards hinder their ability to cast
spells when they don medium or heavy armor. They also get fewer hit
points per level than barbarians, clerics, fighters, paladins, and
rangers. These two traits relegate the bard to a jab and dodge fighting
style. Once the "meatier" party members have engaged, the bard can pick
away at enemies from the side or from behind. A bard who tries to stand
toe-to-toe with the monsters of Xen'drik will not last long.
Knowing When and Whom to Heal
If you join a party, figure out your healing responsibilities as soon
as possible. Are you the only one with Cure spells? Congratulations!
You're the healer. If the party has a cleric, you should work out a
plan with that player. You'll usually arrive at one of two
arrangements. The cleric heals everyone else in the party while you
heal the cleric. The other likely plan is for the cleric to heal the
melee classes while you heal the casters. The bottom line is to get
your plan together so that no one is wasting precious spell points in
the heat of combat.
Use Magic Device (UMD)
A good way to expand your repertoire of spells is to pump some
Skill points into UMD. Wands count as magical devices, and a high UMD
score will allow you to consistently suceed in your role to use a wand
for a spell you don't even have! Wands are also a convenient way to
continue casting a spell you do know
even after you've run out of spell points. style="font-weight: bold;">
Feats a la Carte
Your build determines what is
important to your bard.
Melee bards may want feats to improve damage or attack success, such as
Weapon Focus or
Weapon Finesse. Other popular Feats will include Toughness, bow-related
Feats, and Improved Critical. Bards looking to improve armor class to
avoid hits could pick Dodge, Mobility, and Spring Attack.
Caster bards will want Mental Toughness and Improved Mental Toughness,
and they may choose Spell Focus: Enchantment to make spells more
effective. Other likely Feats are Combat Casting, Extend Spell,
Heighten Spell, and Mobile Spellcasting.
Healer bards may find the extra point of healing that comes with
Empower Healing Spell to be worthwhile. Other solid choices are Mental
Toughness, Combat Casting, and Mobile Spellcasting.
Balanced bards will pick feats that augment their average traits into a
more workable level. A balanced bard with at least Strength 12 can hit
consistently and make up for a mediocre base attack bonus by picking
the Weapon Focus Feat and using bardic music. That same bard can cast a
few more spells per rest period by selecting Mental Toughness. Combat
Casting or Skill Focus: Concentration can ensure that critical cure
spell does not get interrupted. Remaining Feats can go toward improving
anything else the player finds lacking in the balanced build.
Skill Points Wisely
Bards get a nice number of skill
points to help them create a base in all areas. Several are truly
critical: Diplomacy, Use Magic Device, Concentration, and Perform.
First, Diplomacy can save a bard's life by redirecting an enemy's
Second is Use Magic Device, a skill that will allow you to use wands to
cast spells not normally in your repertoire. Caster bards will love
this skill if they can find the right wands.
Concentration is also a good idea. The higher the
Concentration, the less likely your spells will fail if under attack.
Ranks in Perform unlock more bardic music powers as a bard levels.
Regardless of bard build, skill points spent here are a sound
The usefulness of stealthy skills (Hide and Move Silently) or a combat
skill like Tumble depend on build and playstyle.
In the end, bards should find
themselves popular for any group, but I want to add a caveat. If your
build does not match the expectations of your party, you could be
harassed. A group in need of a healer will be annoyed to find out your
melee bard doesn't know cure spells or that your balanced bard does not
have enough spell points to cast cures as a main healer in a party. A
party heavy on magic users could be disappointed that you focus on
heals and buffs.
Regardless of my caveat, bards will
be prized for their ability to adapt and change roles as party members
come and go. Just remember the basics: use bardic music to help
companions, engage in melee after the hearty members, and use your
spells judiciously--hypnotizing the only monster in the room may be a
waste of spell points as Gugdah the barbarian charges in to spell the
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