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[Where I read] The Complete Bard's Handbook and The Complete Thief's Handbook

DoctorDogGirl

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#1
I was debating doing a "Where I read" on one of the old brown leather books but couldn't figure out which of these two to do. In the end, I determined that neither really had as much fodder for exploitation as The Complete Book of Elves so--instead, I'm doing both.

Tah-dah!

Okay, we'll start with TCBH because--honestly, from what I remember, it's more interesting.

The first thing to address is, from my perspective, the Complete Handbooks are designed to make you want to play the characters described. A great handbook will expand on the initial write-up in The Players Handbook but not particularly violate theme.

The Complete Book of Elves was a huge success in this regard because, while racist against all non-elves and ridiculously broken, it made you want to play elves. I'd always felt the Complete Book of Dwarves failed by comparison since it didn't contain nearly as much epic or awesome.

The Complete Paladin's Handbook was actually a book so bad, it influenced canon. Elaine Cunningham was given the book to describe Paladins for her Thornhold book and more or less resulted in Lawful Stupid being canonized. Of course, Miss Cunningham had terrible experiences with religious fundamentalism so having lines like, "what if a paladin is forced between his religious tithes and feeding his starving family?"

*pause*

TITHES DO NOT WORK THAT WAY.

Thank you.

I actually should be doing the Complete Paladin's Handbook next but, frankly, I'd love to see someone else suffer through it for the first than revisiting the HORROR--the HORROR of it all. Say what you will about TCBH and TCTH but they're actually fun.

Let us begin.
 
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DoctorDogGirl

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We start with a little history of Bards.

Introduction

In every area and every region throughout the world, traveling musicians wandered throughout the land. They moved from town to town, making a living by plying their trade as artists of sound and motion. In the AD&D® game, adventurers who do this are called bards.

Historically, bards were the poet-musicians of the Celtic peoples living in the British Isles (the Irish, Welsh, and Scots). Bards composed music, sang songs, and entertained their masters. Usually they worked for noblemen and spent their time honoring these noblemen and their families in song and music. Bards often accompanied their songs on the crwth, a type of lyre. Since their music wasn't written down, most of it has vanished.

During the early Middle Ages, bards had considerable political power and influence in the royal houses. However, in 1284 A.D., Edward I conquered Wales; the resulting turmoil reduced the importance of bards. Noblemen had more pressing concerns, and bards were left to fend for themselves. A few lingered on, into the 17th and 18th centuries in Ireland and Scotland as folk singers and musicians, but they eventually vanished along
with their music.

During the 19th century, a determined effort was made to revive the bardic tradition. Folk music gatherings took place in and near Wales. These neo-bardic activities caught on among the public, and today the annual Eisteddfod folk festival is a popular and growing event in this region of the world.

Thus, bards have shown a cunning knack to survive through the ages. In one form or another, bards have been around for nearly 1,000 years. Besides the Eisteddfod festival, the bard has been immortalized in the genre of fantasy. Now you have a chance to continue the bardic tradition. This book covers not only the traditional bard, but expands the class with new and unique character kits.

All of these kits involve some form of live entertainment, as all bards are entertainers at heart. Nearly half of these kits entertain through music in one form or another: poetry, song, instruments, etc. But some present such diverse new kits as the Blade, who entertains through creative weapon displays, knife throwing, and sword swallowing. Read on and enjoy.
At the end of the day, Bards are entertainers who just happen to be tagging along with more traditional forms of heroes. When you think about it, it's a profoundly weird sort of class as you'd think that would be the last profession which would actively go out to do some adventuring.

Worse, the Bard has always been considered the "Crap of All Trades and the Master of None" which is a stereotype which lead to Knights of the Dinner Table making the Minstrel Class ridiculously broken and created the original Spoony Bard when D&D was adapted to become the Final Fantasy series. Elan the Bard is treated as a running joke throughout the Order of the Stick.

Aside from the books weird digression into Celtic revivalism, I appreciated the history lesson. It's sort of off, however, since the TCBH spends very little time with the "Celtic Bard" and (as the Blade is mentioned) more or less decides to take a free reign with the concept and use Bards as a platform for all manner of ludicrous kits. They have a theme in this game and it's not "historians and preservers of Celtic lore."

No, Bards are the SHOWOFF class.

Anywho, the book briefly digresses into why you should buy the other Handbooks.

The Other Complete Books

The Complete Bard's Handbook is the seventh book of the PHBR series. If you find
this book useful in your gaming, you may want to look into the other PHBRs.

Table 1: THE COMPLETE PHBR LINE
Designator Topic Stock #


PHBR1 Fighter's 2110
PHBR2 Thief's 2111
PHBR3 Priest's 2113
PHBR4 Wizard's 2115
PHBR5 Psionics 2117
PHBR6 Dwarves 2124

All of these books contain much information that can enhance your bard. Some of the
more useful information is listed below.

The Complete Fighter's Handbook: The "Character Creation" section provides anin-depth look into the armorer proficiency. Those bard kits able to wear non-standard armor will find this topic particularly interesting. Weapon quality and its effects on combat are also discussed. The "Role-Playing" section provides a list of warrior personalities, some of which could be adopted by bard characters. Since some bards are adept with numerous weapons, the section on combat rules applies to certain bards (particularly the expanded weapon proficiency rules, which allow a character to learn multiple weapons while expending only a few proficiency slots). Fighting styles, martial arts, and other odd combat rules are also presented here. Even jousting tournaments are covered (ideal for the Gallant kit). Within the "Equipment" section
This is more or less an advertising ploy as the book goes on to say why you'd want to buy these other books. It's not a bad ploy since I got plenty of useful information for all of my various characters from these books. Still, TSR was sort of a strange beast as it had to produce vast numbers of books to survive since it was always trading on future sales to continue.

I'm glad it did because it gave me virtually my entire adolescence but it was a doomed marketing strategy from the beginning.

Chapter 1: Character Creation

Now it is time to begin creating your own bard player character. Before you decide
whether he is flippant and cavalier or stately and pondering, whether he is skilled at
playing the lyre and reciting lyrics or spinning tales of long-lost heroes, first you must
generate and record his fundamental character statistics
This section, of course, goes without question. The interesting thing we'll find out that the Bard kits here go much more beyond, "generic bard." I.e. the Minstrel who tells stories and/or plays the harp. Here, however, we're only getting hints of the staggering variety in the book.

One odd thing, though, is the Bard seems based on being the sidekick in its party role. You never really see them as the heads of parties.

I wonder if that was deliberate or unintentional.

Ability Requirements:
Dexterity 12
Intelligence 13
Charisma 15
Prime Requisites*: Dexterity, Charisma
Races Allowed: Human, Half-elf
Alignments Allowed: Any Neutral
(LN, NG, N, NE, CN)
*Bards with a 16 or better in both Dexterity and Charisma gain a 10% bonus to their
awarded experience points.
As we know, of course, the Elves have the Elvish Minstrel which is BETTER than being a Bard--also, Dwarves have chanters. Why? Because they're not allowed to be Bards otherwise.

Ah, Second Edition.

We then get a discussion of the various Bard abilities in thievery, magic, and so on. Because, really, more than historical role--that's what the Bard is, the guy who does everything poorly but can still do everything. It's weird, though, because Bard is the PERFECT class for characters in most fiction.

They can fight, do skull-duggery, and if there's magic they can cast spells. Vlad Taltos, Arilyn Moonblade, Elric, and arguably even Gandalf. It makes me wonder if anyone ever did a comparison between the tactical benefits of the Bard versus Nale's Fighter/Sorcerer/Thief.

Since all bards are dabblers and not devotees of the magical arts, their understanding of written magic is imperfect. There is a 15% chance that they use the work incorrectly. The consequences of incorrect use is up to the DM, but they are almost certain to be unpleasant. (It is common for a bard's allies to flee in panic when he begins to read such items.)

Bards are most renowned for their communication and entertainment talents. To enhance these skills, they pick up a number of thief skills. Of course, when times are lean, many bards ply these abilities in less-than-honorable manners. All four of these skills are treated as the equivalent thief skills. Skill bases are listed
below.
I remember, when I was a 2nd Edition player, I had my bard take a level in wizard just because he didn't want "I am **** at reading magic" enshrined in his character forever.

However, that was a futile effort.

Table 7: BASE THIEF ABILITIES

Pick Detect Climb Read
Pockets Noise Walls Languages


10% 20% 50% 5%

The player also gets 20 points to distribute among the four skills at 1st level and 15 additional points every time the bard advances in level. If these points are distributed so as to gradually equalize the skills, the bard might advance each level as indicated on
The five percent "Read Languages" thing tickles me to this day because the Bard has a polygot reading comprehension ability--he's just **** at it. Which, oddly enough, makes Indiana Jones a perfect Bard character too.

"....I think it means we need to kill the Paladin."
"IT DOES NOT SAY THAT!"

Sadly, I think Take 10 probably eliminated the need for such a power.

Finally, we get some pre-generated Bard ability scores for people who are literally too lazy to roll their own dice.

I applaud that, I do.
 
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DoctorDogGirl

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We proceed to move onto Kits from this point, what we all came here for. The book briefly describes what a Kit is and what it does. I.e. it's more or less a sub-specialization of whatever you do that can theoretically function like an entirely new class but ISN'T a new class--mostly. Really, Kits were poorly defined but made the game awesome.

To knock this one out of the park, the Complete Bard's Handbook needs to knock it out of the park. So, what do they start us with?

The Bard as defined by the Player's Handbook.

Seriously.

True Bard

Specialty: Jack-of-all-trades.
Qualifications: Standard ability scores (Dexterity of 12, Intelligence of 13, and
Charisma of 15).
Introduction: This is a typical bard right out of the Player's Handbook. No
introductions are needed.
Description: Bards are described in the Player's Handbook. They are the epitome of
the jack-of-all-trades, able to wield all weapons, don most types of armor, cast a good
number of wizard spells, and employ four of the eight thief skills. Bards are very
versatile, but they are masters of no craft.
As with all bards, True Bards are entertainers. They can sing, play instruments, create
and recite poetry, and spin tall tales. In fact, a bard's skill at these art forms is such that he
can inspire and rally allies and even negate the effects of hostile songs and sounds.
We all have a basic idea of what a True Bard is all about. They can influence people's reactions with song, they can counterspell with their music, and they have all the abilities we've listed above. One peculiar ability that I'm sorry to see doesn't show up much is "Legend Lore."

Table 12: LEGEND LORE RESULTS
3d6 Roll Information Gained
3 How many charges/uses left
4 Whether item is intelligent
5 Whether items is cursed/evil
6 Value on the open market
7 Name
8 Famous past owners
9 Age of item
10 What race created it
11 Where it was made
12 Who crafted it
13 Alignment of owners
14 Who can use it
15 General effects
16 How to activate it
17 Item type (as per DMG )
18 Let player read DMG entry
Bards are scholars of VAST KNOWLEDGE regarding magical items--and especially how they can be sold at pawn shops.

"Let's see, Indy, what can you tell me about this cup?"

"Hmmm, it's got one use per day, is unintelligent, will kill anyone who tries to take it out of the place, is not evil, and can be sold to the Nazis for 50,000 gold ingots. I don't know what it does, however."

"It's the Holy Grail, dumbass!"

*whap*

Afterward, we get to the MEAT of the book. THE NEW KITS!
 

Crowqueen

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#4
Subscribed :).

A hilariously bad book can make for an entertaining Let's Read, however, viz Dorchadas' Complete Book of Elves and the status it acquired in the external world, with the Kickstarter video and everything. But I can understand a reluctance to touch So Bad It's Horrible rather than So Bad It's Epic and Iconic At The Same Time And Provokes An In-Thread Apology From The Writer.

The four core class books are good but a little uninspired. The later publications - Bard's, Paladin's, Ranger's - were a little more inspired (Druid's as well but I believe it either came out after I stopped playing or no-one ever bothered with druids in my group so we didn't need to use it; certainly, it was the only one I never owned) and imaginative.

The Bard's handbook did give a friend, prone to making badass optimised characters called Bob, licence to run an elven Minstrel, brother to the party's mage, in our world-spanning Spelljammer campaign. (They did have reasonably sensible fantasy names.) In tribute to him when we finally moved on from that campaign, I wrote them into the fics I was composing in my own world (using Spelljammer as a justification and that I was playing two elven priests on the run from their home-world after being involved in a failed coup in a country where the elven aristocracy ruled human peasants. They returned to rule with their friends as courtiers, only to have the Tarrasque stomp on their city).

Oh, and they reprinted The Minstrel Boy in the back of the book, which at the time I was listening to a lot since my mother bought a tape (!) of Irish songs written by Percy French and another songsmith who I forget (one of them also wrote The Mountains of Mourne). I liked 2e's blending together of RW and made-up lore.
 
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DoctorDogGirl

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Blade

Specialty: Assassin/Spy/Weapon Master.
Oooo, buzzwords destined to intrigue the adolescent fanboy.

Qualifications: Blades must have a Dexterity of 13 or more, an Intelligence of at
least 13, and a Charisma of 15 or more.
I'm already envisioning Zevran!

Introduction: So you want to know about Blades, eh? Well, keep out of the way and I can show you about myself and those like me. My name's Dark and I'm a Blade. I take my name from the black garb that I wear at all times. I'm actually not exceptional in this, as all Blades dress in dark clothing. But the name has stuck, and I like it.
I recall not being able to put my sinking feeling about this passage into words as an adolescent, but as an adult I figured out why. Despite the Blade Kit's image being quite imposing--our hero using fancy swordwork against his foes, the opening paragraph here describes Blades as enormous poseurs. If this were V:TM, he'd have a katana and a trenchcoat.

I currently work for a small carnival that travels around the mid-Flanaess, entertaining the local crowds and thrilling the women. My tricks are similar to those of most Blades. I perform sword dances, swallow sabers, put on weapon displays, and perform feats of knife throwing. Most crowds are especially enthralled when I strap Tatanna, a young-looking elf maiden, to a wooden plank, blindfold myself, step back 12 paces, then encircle her body in a wall of knives.
Yeah, Blades are knife-throwers and sword-swallowers. We need to get that entertainment element in there somewhere.

Entertaining fools is only my surface career. On the last day of a performance, a half dozen of my fellow performers and I stage the real entertainment-at least from my point of view. We slip into the upper class section of town and relieve some pompous wealthy dupe of his family fortune.
Also, the thieving element.

Although these "side shows" are very profitable, they still don't give me the old thrill that I used to get. Thus, I've turned to a more daring hobby-assassination. I'm not a "Blade for hire," and I absolutely hate those mindless, ruthless killers. What I do is feel out a town to discover who's oppressing the populace the most. Once I've found the biggest bully in town, I slip into his residence, spy on him, and plan his untimely demise. Then I perform my greatest solo act. I slip into the fellow's bedroom, poison him, cast sound bubble, wake him, and then share in his last few moments of life.
Okay, and our poseur-wannabe is a psychopath too. Yes, glad he looks down on those vile killers-for-hire. This is much better.

Description: Blades are master artisans with bladed weapons. Everyone has seen a Blade in action at fairs and carnivals. They are the knife throwers who pop balloons while blindfolded and swallow slender sabers such as those used by lawless pirates on the high seas.

Blades also perform amazing displays of weapon skill and control as they flash various weapons all about their bodies with deadly precision. Oriental Blades are perhaps the most skilled at this particular art form. Using weapons such as the three-piece rod, nunchaku, or the katana, Oriental Blades put on amazing displays of rapid weapon movement, including offensive and defensive spins, katas, and ritual dances. Occidental Blades are also impressive, as they rapidly spin short swords, quarterstaves, or sickles about them.

Besides rapid displays of weapon skill, Blades also perform slow, elegant dances, involving incredibly precise movement and timing. These dances include thrusts, lunges, leaps, graceful arcs, etc.

If there is a showy way to wield, throw, or perform with a weapon, a Blade knows how to do it better than anyone.
I love, again, how the Blades being enormous poseurs is ENSHRINED INTO THE RULES. No, they actually don't know anything about actual fighting but damned if they're not good at PRETENDING they do. They can put on katas with the best of em, man.

I suppose, however, this means Bruce Lee had some Bard levels.

*pause*

Wait, he was an actor, of course he did.

*face palm*

Notably, the Gallant Kit has the same poseur quality but he/she cops to it and says, "Yeah and it gets me an enormous amount of [insert sexual reference of the gender of your choice]."

Role: Blades have great reputations as the most deadly weapon masters in the land. This is generally far from the truth. Any warrior is more skilled than most Blades at successfully attacking opponents.
God, even the book's author think Blades are pathetic.

Blades don't understand offensive and defensive weapon maneuvers, nor do they know the locations of vital body parts. Blades can be effective in many combat situations, however, as they use flash and flare to enhance their attacks.
I wonder if it was deliberate the book is going out of its way to mock the kind of characters who actually would want to be a badass grim swordsmen.

Imagine what an orc would think if it was trapped in a cavern with only two exits and a man blocking each. One man (a warrior) wears plate mail and is calmly holding a long sword; the other (a Blade) is dressed in solid black studded leather armor and is grasping a halberd. Both men advance upon the hapless orc, but the Blade begins rotating his halberd in an ever-quickening offensive spin, demonstrating masterful control of his weapon. Which opponent will the orc choose?
Yes, in-real-life Blades are responsible for Hollywood martial arts. Presumably, Ray Park is a Blade. "Your abilities won't help the party DEFEAT their enemies but will make you look badass as the heavy lifting is done by the real soldiers."

For every Blade who leads an adventurous life, there is another who serves in the role of assassin. Blades make perfect killers, as they know how to climb walls, cast wizard spells, and use any weapon they choose. Furthermore, Blades can use their performing personae to gather information and even get themselves invited to perform within the homes of their victims.
Daud is probably a Bard with his low-level magic, Thief skills, and murder-hobo tendencies. I'm refusing to believe he's a Blade, though.

The actual mechanical benefits aren't bad, mostly consisting of "effecting people with your dazzling swordplay" and being ambidextrous two-weapon users.

Special Hindrances: Unlike many other bards, Blades do not gain the 10th-level ability to use all forms of written magical items. Blades study weapons, not scrolls, maps, and books.
To throw salt in the wound, Blades are stupid too.

Notes: Although Blades do not receive a single bonus to damage or attack rolls, and they fight as rogues, they are still some of the flashiest combatants you'll ever meet or play.
Translation: Blades are not COOL, WHY DO YOU WANT TO PLAY ONE EXCEPT IRONICALLY!?
 
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DoctorDogGirl

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Glad to have you here, Crowqueen.

A hilariously bad book can make for an entertaining Let's Read, however, viz Dorchadas' Complete Book of Elves and the status it acquired in the external world, with the Kickstarter video and everything. But I can understand a reluctance to touch So Bad It's Horrible rather than So Bad It's Epic and Iconic At The Same Time And Provokes An In-Thread Apology From The Writer.
The funny thing about the Complete Book of Elves was I actually liked it. The author didn't have to apologize because, while it was broken and racist, the elves came off as more three-dimensional to me. They had amazingly awesome qualities and these qualities made them enormous pricks. They weren't "elven bakers down the street" but this immortal race of super-duper beings with incredible accomplishments, all of which made them assholes.

I loved it as a portrayal.

The four core class books are good but a little uninspired. The later publications - Bard's, Paladin's, Ranger's - were a little more inspired (Druid's as well but I believe it either came out after I stopped playing or no-one ever bothered with druids in my group so we didn't need to use it; certainly, it was the only one I never owned) and imaginative.
I think my biggest dissapointments were with the books that all made variations on a theme. The Paladin's Handbook was the most dissapointing book for me because they were all variations on a bog-standard European knight. Paladins since time-memorial have been modded with Chaotic Good, Primitive Tribesmen, Samurai, and God knows how many other variants. Hell, even Atheist Paladins or Anti-Divine ones.

Druids and Rangers did good jobs w/ variants on themes but were closer to Paladins in the fact they didn't think much outside the box.

The Bard's handbook did give a friend, prone to making badass optimised characters called Bob, licence to run an elven Minstrel, brother to the party's mage, in our world-spanning Spelljammer campaign. (They did have reasonably sensible fantasy names.) In tribute to him when we finally moved on from that campaign, I wrote them into the fics I was composing in my own world (using Spelljammer as a justification and that I was playing two elven priests on the run from their home-world after being involved in a failed coup in a country where the elven aristocracy ruled human peasants. They returned to rule with their friends as courtiers, only to have the Tarrasque stomp on their city).
Awesome sounding campaign!

Oh, and they reprinted The Minstrel Boy in the back of the book, which at the time I was listening to a lot since my mother bought a tape (!) of Irish songs written by Percy French and another songsmith who I forget (one of them also wrote The Mountains of Mourne). I liked 2e's blending together of RW and made-up lore.
This book had a lot of awesome.
 
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Five Eyes

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I love Complete Bard's! It is easily the most 2e-iest of the core books (Arabian Adventures outshines it for being the 2e-iest book in total, however.)

The Blade is a perfect example of this, whereas the only problem with the Gallant is that if they are an available character option, no-one would want to play anything else. This is not a problem because an all-Gallant party would be amazing.
 

DoctorDogGirl

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The same campaign had a CG Paladin of Horus, btw :).
As well it should have!

I love Complete Bard's! It is easily the most 2e-iest of the core books (Arabian Adventures outshines it for being the 2e-iest book in total, however.)

The Blade is a perfect example of this, whereas the only problem with the Gallant is that if they are an available character option, no-one would want to play anything else. This is not a problem because an all-Gallant party would be amazing.
I never read Arabian Adventures and am now intrigued.

I love Gallants, simply because it's appeal is so basic. "I use my Bard ability to get laid--a lot."

Ah, to be 14 again and invest in at least 3 points of seduction to my vampire characters...BECAUSE. Oh and my Ventrue has the flaw of only feeding on enormously hot women!

(I wonder how common that was)
 

DoctorDogGirl

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Up next - Charlatans, or as I call them, The Dirty Rotten Scoundrels class.

It's also the Snake-Oil-Salesman class if you have Herbalism. I may be biased but I had a number of Charlatans in my campaign who sold fake healing potions and Potions of Cure Disease. Really-really terrible people. The kind Archer should kill on a rampage.

Specialty: Trickster/Con Artist.
Indeed, I played a Charlatan once and he proved to be the most despicable character I've ever created. I think he became a Dark Lord of Ravenloft--and I wasn't TRYING to play him as evil.

Qualifications: Standard ability scores. Charlatans live off the fat of the land, bending all the rules and hopping through loopholes in the law. It is completely against the personality of the Charlatan to be lawful. Charlatans are limited to NG, N, NE, or CN alignments. Gnomes may become Charlatans and advance up to 6th level.
I'd love to hear someone justify NG with this class, really.

My real name is Tiel, but most of the fools who fall into my traps call me Tori. I know exactly how to get what I want from others. Especially those who are overconfident, weak, or emotional.
Wow, two for two with the sociopaths.

People often believe what they want to believe, and I take advantage of this. I know how to swindle these simple-minded fools and make them feel good about it. I have many disguises with which to cloak my activities. My favorite is that of a cleric of Tyr. Of course, none of my ruses has ever been uncovered, and it's a good thing. There's a saying: "There are two types of Charlatans-those who are good and those who
are dead."
This either provides a reason for all the corrupt clergymen in various fantasy settings or the gods are being lazy too. In a world like the Realms, I'd think bilking the faithful would actually be rather dangerous. Presumably, the Seekers of Dragonlance were mostly made of this class.

I usually don't stay in one place for very long; it's not safe. By the time the poor fool I've tricked has figured out what happened, I'm long gone.
I appreciate the fact they're upfront with her scumminess.

Once, I agreed to watch over the castle of a good "friend," the rapacious Sir John of Canters, while he went off on a quest. I sold the castle and made off with all the loot before he returned. For now, I am performing sleight-of-hand tricks for mere pocket coins until I meet another "friend." Perhaps tomorrow I will be a powerful mage or a war hero.
Like Garrett, if you sold a whole castle I have to wonder where you blew the money. I like to think it was with Ser Ponzi of Scheme.

I thrive in cities and towns where victims are plentiful and easy to manipulate. Lately, I have been considering the possibility of posing as a thief. Why? So I can accompany a party of adventures in a quest and collect my "share" of the treasure.
Except....you're a Bard! WHY WOULD YOU NEED TO!?

Charlatans have rather interesting abilities, overall, which seemingly would clash with any party.

Charm: Charlatans are aware of their unique charm and flair. They have learned to use this gift to sway the reactions of others. However, such charm must be carefully tailored to a specific audience. Charlatans can affect only a small group of people, no larger in number than their current level.
This ability came up a lot when I was rules-lawyering my Bard(s). It also lead to the question of, "if you have Charm Person--why do you need to swindle someone with words?" Much like why a Thief should exist if a wizard can have a Knock spell.

Of course my Mage thieves (small T) were awesome.

Masquerade: The ability of masquerading requires much study, time, and effort on the part of the Charlatan. This enables a Charlatan to appear to have a specific skill. This is not a disguise, as the proficiency of that name. Rather, it is the ability to appear proficient at the chosen skill. The character picks up the language ('buzz words'), professional mannerisms, and general techniques to help him in his endeavor. Unlike the True Bard, the Charlatan only appears to be a jack-of-all trades. He does not study skills to use them, but for the sake of conning others into believing he has them.The use of this ability is resolved by the DM in much the same manner as an illusion spell. If the performance is not overly suspicious and the characters watching have no reason to disbelieve the bard's ability, then the attempt appears genuine. Otherwise, a saving throw vs. paralyzation is rolled with a -1 penalty per three levels of the Charlatan. Those who succeed realize that the Charlatan is a fraud.
Now known as the Disguise and Bluff skill!

Detect Fakery: Because Charlatans are so skilled at faking their personalities, lying, and concealing their feelings and reactions, they can see right through false personae and verbal trickery when others attempt them. As the old saying goes, "You can't con a con man." Any time a Charlatan player requests it, he can try to determine if someone is lying, operating under false pretenses (including a masquerade), or swindling him. A Charisma check is rolled. Success means the Charlatan realizes the deception.
Which actually has useful role-playing and adventure applications. Now known as Sense Motive.

Swindling: Major cons, such as duping a king into believing that you are a highly respected sage, drawing him into your inner confidence, and then relieving him of the crown jewels, should be done only through role-playing. However, Charlatans hone such skills by constantly performing minor swindles and tricks. These are far too numerous and insignificant to role-play every time. Swindling covers this aspect of a Charlatan's skill repertoire.
The book proceeds to end on giving an example of the real-life "switching around money" con I forget the precise name of but more or less exists to get people confused about exact change.

Notably -- the most famous example of a Charlatan Bard was in the following Dungeon Magazine.

Issue #49 Volume IX, Number 1 (September/October 1994)

CASTLE OF THE BLIND SUN
AD&D adventure, 3-5 characters of levels 10-15
Written by: Paul and Shari Culotta and Todd Baughman
Artwork by: Valerie Valusek
Town/Forest/Hills/Castle, temperate
22 pages

Description: An evil charlatan named Octavia seduces the blind bard Gangwolf, murders him, and takes credit for writing his beautiful songs.
Octavia impersonates a Healer, sells a bunch of bogus healing potions, and then finds a legendary adventurer named Gangwulf. Gangwulf is blind and really-really bitter about it. This, despite the fact he had RIDICULOUSLY high-level fellow adventurer friends who built him a magical blind-friendly castle. It had a Flesh Golem like Lurch, perfectly placed stones for him to listen to, and perfect accoustics--all despite the fact that you'd think someone could call a cleric to cast "Cure Blindness."

Well Octavia murders the Blind Man, steals his music compositions to pass off as her own, summons a bunch of harpies, brings a Siren to the castle to produce more music she can steal (or steal her voice like Ursula from the Little Mermaid), and keeps a powerful mercenary as a sex slave/bodyguard with Charm Monster. I loved Octavia because she was quite possibly the first genuinely THREATENING bard we ever faced.
 
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