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

DoctorDogGirl

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Opinions So Far: I think the CBHB has done an excellent job of making Bards COLORFUL if nothing else and I appreciate that. One of the problems with the Complete Fighter's Handbook was it was pretty stale for options. I think my least favorite one of that book was Myrmdion, which literally was, "Okay, your character is a mercenary. That's it."

It's one of the things that people love about Prestige Kits, that you basically scour the books to see if there's something their characters might choose to follow. Kits don't get that option since they're all, theoretically, starter classes but they certainly have the benefit of inspiring you to want to do a new character.

I think the presentation is slightly off to be honest with Blades being a character which, if you'd focused less on the showy bladework and more on the idea of being a Bardic assassin, you could have done a lot more. If I was writing the character, for example, I would have given the ability to possibly beguile opponents with my bladework so their AC was lowered. Combine that with some spells like True Strike and minor wizard spells and you could have a very deadly killer.

Gallants, Riddlemasters, and Loremasters are all extremely entertaining. The Jester needed a bit more explanation to go past its roots. Maybe call it, "Mad Jester" since it's hard to imagine Jerry Seinfield being quite the lunatic this guy apparently is. Though, oddly, now I want to play a Jester Xaocist.

Gypsy-Dancer is very-very stereotypical but I'm sorry to say I'd probably still use it in a Ravenloft campaign given the role of the Vistani is so permanently ingrained in the setting. The Meistersinger could be an extremely useful character with their animal charm abilities but, sadly, their very connection to animals means that you can't run the Pied Piper of Hamlin without drowning a bunch of your buddies.

As mentioned, Charlatans are best used as an NPC class in my opinion because there's plenty of room for making truly despicable beings. However, I've used characters who "lie their way of problems" many times and it occurs to me that this might be the best way to handle it. "No, Griffith didn't sleep with the King's daughter--it was STEPHEN!"

Thespian, True Bard, and Skald mostly take the lowest rung on this particular ladder because they're boring.
 

DoctorDogGirl

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Anywho, time to move on.

Although the list of kits given in this handbook is large, it isn't all-inclusive. There are many other bard kits that DMs and players can come up with.

Before designing a new kit, first examine the existing kits to see if one of them can be modified to fill your needs. If not, make a photocopy of the Bard Kit Record Sheet located in the back of this handbook. Fill it out with the description of your new kit. The
information that should be listed under each section is described in detail at the beginning of this chapter. Refer to it for assistance.

After you have created a new kit, present it to your Dungeon Master for approval. Often, he will wish to adjust certain aspects of the new kit for balance. Once the kit is complete and ready for use, the Dungeon Master still might adjust it in the future, based on how well it works in play.

Here is a helpful list of additional bard kits that you may wish to create on your own.

· Historical Bard--Druid historian
· Dervish--Arabian Dancer/Healer
· Muse--Singing Healer
· Scop--Anglo-Saxon Minstrel
· Entrancer--Spell Dancer
· Troubadour--Thief/Illusionist
· Poet--Courtier/Romeo
· Rustic--Folk Singer
· Rhythmist--Instrumental Dancer
· Savage--Medicine Man
· Sleuth—Spy
· Legionnaire--Cavalier
I'm not sure about some of these. The Legionaire, for example, doesn't strike me as particularly Bardic at all. Also, the difference between a Scop and a Rustic and a Historical Bard seems to be all different words for saying, "Bard exactly as it is in the Player's Handbook." The Dervish, however, seems like an excellent class I'm sorry we've missed and I really regret we didn't get the Sleuth.

Then there's a section about switching Kits I'm not particularly enthused by, which boils down to, "It can be done but it doesn't do much good."

We then get to a list of the various races which can have what Kits. There's a rather nasty statement, "If the Kit system isn't used, demihumans can't be Bards."

Table 13: DEMI-BARDS

Race Maximum
Kit Level

Dwarves*
Chanter 15
Herald 6
Skald 12
Dwarvish James Bond is crying in a corner, he really is. In a weird way, I think it's kind of sad Dwarvish arts don't have Thesbians, though. Also, and this is going to sound callous, we needed acrobat dwarves--NOT for the reason you think but because Dwarves are great sprinters over short distances.

Elves
Gypsy 9
Herald 6
Loremaster 12
Meistersinger 15
Minstrel 15
Again, I find it hilarious that the Elves toughest bastards according to level limits are the Minstrel and Doctor Doolittle--it must make battles on Evermeet interesting.

"Oh shit, it's the Bards!"

Yeah, you better run!

The Meistersinger is coming!

AND WHY THE HELL CAN ELVES BE GYPSIES!?

Gnomes**
Charlatan 6
Herald 6
Professor 15
Jester 15
Jongleur 9
Riddlemaster 8
This is a perfect illustration of the fact that the developers had no idea what to do with gnomes because I don't see much thematic consistency here.

Halflings*
Herald 6
Jester 8
Jongleur 12
Riddlemaster 9
Whistler 15
I've mentioned Riddlemastery should be one of their groups but I also think Meistersinger should have been one of the classes allowed to them. The whole idea of Halfling James Bond is funny, too, but I'm not sure what that really means to be. A lot of these, really, seem to be ones repeated from the Gnomes.

* Counter Spell: Dwarves and halflings are extremely nonmagical. These two demibards are not allowed to cast spells. They also fail to receive the 10th-level bard ability to use any written magical item.

However, as demi-bards, these two races possess the curiosity of all bards. This leads them to study the workings of magic (i.e., dwarf and halfling demi-bards must take the spellcraft proficiency). Although this doesn't result in the acquisition of magical powers, it enables them to gain special resistances to spells they understand.

If a halfling or dwarf is able to find a spell and learn it (i.e., succeed with their "chance to learn spells" roll), they become highly resistant to the effects of that spell. Of course, these two races can learn to resist only spells of the same level as bards are typically able to cast. Thus, a 2nd-level dwarf or halfling demi-bard can learn how to resist the effects of all 1st-level spells that he has learned (as per Table 6: Spell Progression). Of course, the demi-bard is still limited to the number of spells he can learn to counter. This limit is set by his "Maximum # of Spells per level" (an aspect of Intelligence).

When a dwarf or halfling demi-bard is subjected to a learned spell's effects, he can roll his "chance to learn spells" in an attempt to thwart the spell's effects. This roll is in addition to all other saving throws normally allowed. This does not cancel the spell; it simply prevents it from having any effect upon the dwarf or halfling demi-bard.
Wow, that's convoluted. Also, I wasn't aware Halflings were unmagical. It's been awhile but you'd think I'd remember that.

** Illusions: Gnomes have a hard time understanding and casting the more practical and substantial spells. They prefer spells that create illusions, flashy colors, and other wondrous effects. Because of this, gnome demi-bards do not gain the full range of spells normally allowed to bards. Instead, they must select and use spells as if they were illusionists. However, they still use Table 6: Spell Progression, to determine the number of spells they cast at a given level.
I never will get why Gnomes are the Illusionist class.
 
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Five Eyes

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I think the presentation is slightly off to be honest with Blades being a character which, if you'd focused less on the showy bladework and more on the idea of being a Bardic assassin, you could have done a lot more. If I was writing the character, for example, I would have given the ability to possibly beguile opponents with my bladework so their AC was lowered. Combine that with some spells like True Strike and minor wizard spells and you could have a very deadly killer.
I'm fond of the Blade as being "the guy who looks like a really dangerous fighter." There is an "intimidating weapon display" proficiency in Arabian Adventures that is superior to Offensive Spin, and if they had that and the Thespian's "stage-fighting" bonus (which, given that Blades are explicitly stage-fighters, really ought to have been theirs!) the kit would be golden, in my estimation.

Gypsy-Dancer is very-very stereotypical but I'm sorry to say I'd probably still use it in a Ravenloft campaign given the role of the Vistani is so permanently ingrained in the setting.
And sure enough the Domains of Darkness hardcover has Gypsy as a core class (in fact, it proposes that native paladins and bards are rare in Ravenloft, replaced with Avengers and Gypsies respectively. A gypsy character is explicitly not a fullblooded Vistani, and in fact the Vistani are prejudiced against them.)
 
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Leonaru

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Where the crap do those level caps come from? Seriously, screw THAC0, I want to see the formula for the calculation of those.
 

Crowqueen

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It isn't really all that hard, TBH.

It still makes more sense to go with high or low is good and stick with it, though.
It's not hard because the rest of the maths is simple. I got burnt out on Pathfinder and am taking a bit of break for it (though I do intend to run Dragonlance 3.5 in it later on, once we've finished the 2e mini-campaign and then polished off Rise of the Runelords as a player) because of the scads of different bonuses to keep track of. There was one session where my boyfriend decided he'd had enough after he rolled one dice all evening and otherwise sat there watching people struggle through a combat. My take on it is any system has its good points and bad points, and the amount of combat can be adjusted to taste; my gaming groups are formed around a nucleus of wargamers, so my friends actually like combat-intensive games, so that's generally what I've gone along with quite contentedly (up until the last few months of the PF campaign where I was chafing a bit). 2e could do with a bit of fixing, but one of its strengths was that the woods was far more visible for the trees than in the subsequent systems.
 

Crowqueen

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I do have to give some credit to Kurt Busiek during his Avengers run, when he tried to make Scarlet Witch's Roma background more meaningful than just "ethnic flavoring." Pretty much everyone since has basically ignored it, of course, but points for trying.
Done sensitively it's much like any other background. There are stories to be told about the tensions between communities that can be done without resorting to stereotype. The answer is not to expunge any minority from one's books; the answer is to think about the origins of the stereotypes and the reasons they came into being, and try in a fantasy setting to develop something similar but different (ie no lazy cliches because you want a bit of romance or spice) or in a period piece to get under the skin of such a character and explore their POV rather more accurately.

The kit fails at most of the above and is no better for putting them up on the romantic pedestal rather than the way even some of my friends talk casually about the travellers around here :(.
 

Crowqueen

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All of that post on demi-bards is why (a) I have no time for class or level restrictions based on race, and (b) I want to try a dwarf wizard once it's rules-legal again (we're playing classic 2e and TBH I don't want to rain on my DM's parade by begging for it before then).
 

CaliberX

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Loving this thread; I adored the brown backed "Complete X Handbook" series and still have the majority of it up in a place of honor on my bookshelf. Sadly, most of these were published when I was still a pretty powergame focused adolescent, and my memories are pretty heavily loaded with skims of the books to see which of the new kits were going to be the great hotness. I definitely enjoy this more thorough reading through of things; makes me want to play 2e again someday, even if that would require a new group.
 

DoctorDogGirl

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Five Eyes said:
I'm fond of the Blade as being "the guy who looks like a really dangerous fighter." There is an "intimidating weapon display" proficiency in Arabian Adventures that is superior to Offensive Spin, and if they had that and the Thespian's "stage-fighting" bonus (which, given that Blades are explicitly stage-fighters, really ought to have been theirs!) the kit would be golden, in my estimation.
Yes, I remember that and I think that was actually good for getting enemies to run away. I'm not a big fan of Dungeons and Dragons as the game where you have to kill every single opponent you face, so I always welcomed that ability.

Five Eyes said:
And sure enough the Domains of Darkness hardcover has Gypsy as a core class (in fact, it proposes that native paladins and bards are rare in Ravenloft, replaced with Avengers and Gypsies respectively. A gypsy character is explicitly not a fullblooded Vistani, and in fact the Vistani are prejudiced against them.)
Which makes absolutely no sense as full-blooded Vistani are the only group of Romani in the setting and they don't crossbreed with others enough that they can be anything but Half-Vistani. They're kind of like elves like that--and even then, you'd need a Vistani parent to raise you. Oh well, there's not much else which can be said on the subject.

Where the crap do those level caps come from? Seriously, screw THAC0, I want to see the formula for the calculation of those.
I suspect it's, there's a place at their backsides, and they pull them out from there.

It's not hard because the rest of the maths is simple. I got burnt out on Pathfinder and am taking a bit of break for it (though I do intend to run Dragonlance 3.5 in it later on, once we've finished the 2e mini-campaign and then polished off Rise of the Runelords as a player) because of the scads of different bonuses to keep track of. There was one session where my boyfriend decided he'd had enough after he rolled one dice all evening and otherwise sat there watching people struggle through a combat. My take on it is any system has its good points and bad points, and the amount of combat can be adjusted to taste; my gaming groups are formed around a nucleus of wargamers, so my friends actually like combat-intensive games, so that's generally what I've gone along with quite contentedly (up until the last few months of the PF campaign where I was chafing a bit). 2e could do with a bit of fixing, but one of its strengths was that the woods was far more visible for the trees than in the subsequent systems.


Done sensitively it's much like any other background. There are stories to be told about the tensions between communities that can be done without resorting to stereotype. The answer is not to expunge any minority from one's books; the answer is to think about the origins of the stereotypes and the reasons they came into being, and try in a fantasy setting to develop something similar but different (ie no lazy cliches because you want a bit of romance or spice) or in a period piece to get under the skin of such a character and explore their POV rather more accurately.

The kit fails at most of the above and is no better for putting them up on the romantic pedestal rather than the way even some of my friends talk casually about the travellers around here :(.
I agree 100%.

All of that post on demi-bards is why (a) I have no time for class or level restrictions based on race, and (b) I want to try a dwarf wizard once it's rules-legal again (we're playing classic 2e and TBH I don't want to rain on my DM's parade by begging for it before then).
I confess, I actually became very fond of Dwarf wizards due to Knights of the Dinner Table.

Vikings were horrifying: they didn't get their reputation for being misunderstood.
This is true, though as a fan of the historical culture, seeing the Theme Park version occasionally sticks in my craw. Oh well, it's to be expected.

A great many things can be read dirty if you know how. :D
:-D

Loving this thread; I adored the brown backed "Complete X Handbook" series and still have the majority of it up in a place of honor on my bookshelf. Sadly, most of these were published when I was still a pretty powergame focused adolescent, and my memories are pretty heavily loaded with skims of the books to see which of the new kits were going to be the great hotness. I definitely enjoy this more thorough reading through of things; makes me want to play 2e again someday, even if that would require a new group.
I think this brown leather books are some of the best written of 2E. Even more so, the 3rd Edition versions were just so....BLAND by comparison.
 
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