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[CLASSES] The Mesopotamian Bard

May 30, 2010
Standard of Ur detail

A Mesopotamian Bard

In ERIDU, most bards subsume the roles of lamentation priests (Sumerian gala, Akkadian kalum), temple singers and musicians, court minstrels, heralds and those who recite the great Epics of gods and heroes – the so-called nar.  They are masters of a wide variety of compositions: ‘lyre-song’ hymns of praise; ‘harp-songs’ of lamentation; and the ‘lamentations of the metal drum’. Entertainments in the ale-house are better served by the irtu, “breast-songs”, ditties of love and romance. They benefit from some scribal training, allowing access to archives, epics, and even magical tablets. Bards are thus at home at any lugal’s court with its intrigues, at festivals and rites solemn or orgiastic in the temple, and at revelry in the ale-house; as singers of royal and godly praise they are crucial to legitimising the rule of kings, but are simultaneously disruptive, ambiguous figures, mercurial heralds singing the songs of the Anunnaki.

Bards must be proficient in at least one instrument: tigi, great lyre; zami, lesser lyre; the balag harp, the adab drum or metal shem drum; the sabitum, a horizontal harp of Elam (Sabum); flute or double-flute. Their songs have the power to bind, banish and beguile; and as they are most often temple-trained, they are considered a sub-class of clerics. Bards must also speak Sumerian and Emesal (the “fine tongue”, sometimes called the “womens’ language”, a special dialect of some temple hymns), as well as Akkadian (Common).

Minimum Ability Scores: Strength 12, Intelligence 12, Wisdom 15, Charisma 15

Silver Lyre of Ur

Race: Human only

Hit Dice: d6 (max 12)

Alignment: Any

Armour/Shield: Any

Weapons: Any

Weapon Proficiencies: 3, +1 every 4 levels

Non-Proficiency Penalty: -4

Attack/Saves: As cleric

Magic Items: As clerics and fighters

Class Abilities

Just before or during melee, a bard may chose to chant either a hymn of praise or a diatribe.  Both require two rounds of uninterrupted recitation. The hymn raises the moral of associated creatures by 10%, and gives a +1 bonus to hit.  The diatribe requires a morale check at –10% by the bards’ enemies at the close of the second round, and delivers a –1 penalty to their to hit rolls.  Both effects last a turn.

The song-based attacks of some monsters are negated by a bard’s playing.

The bard’s music has a chance (given on the table below) of casting a charm person or monster spell with a range of 40 feet (yards outdoors); the bard must play uninterrupted for at least one round, and if the chance to charm roll is successful the recipient is entitled to a saving throw vs. magic. A failure indicates the hearer is charmed; the effect will persist after the bard ceases play, with further saving throws possible, determined by the charmee’s intelligence as detailed under the charm person spell.

At third level, the bard’s playing and singing also has a chance of exorcising, or driving away demons, unclean spirits and the undead (or “charming” in the case of evil bards, controlling undead as does an evil cleric). This is equivalent to a cleric’s turn undead ability; bards do so as a cleric two levels below their bard level (e.g., a fourth level bard turns as a second level cleric).

Also beginning at third level, bards gain the ability to cast clerical spells (see table below).  They benefit from Wisdom bonuses to number of spells available per day as do clerics.  Spell casting requires the bard’s instrument as well as a holy symbol as material components.

Legend Lore and Item Knowledge allows a chance of identifying items, places or persons, as given on the table below.  The chances shown are for normally obscure items; the DM may adjust these up or downwards according to the particular character of the item or person in question.

At 1st level bards have a 20% chance of reading any language encountered, a chance which increases by 5% per level until 80% is reached at 13th level. They are also able to speak and understand additional languages as given in the chart below.

Bards’ scribal training also allows them to employ magic-user scroll-tablets at 10th level as do thieves, that is, with a 25% percent chance of misunderstanding and chances for mis-casting.

Bards Table 1.

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