Arcane Art Discussion Part 1 – Observations on the trigger 

When you weave a performance into a basic spell, choose an ally and an effect:

Heal 1d8 damage

+1d4 forward to damage

Their mind is shaken clear of one enchantment

The next time someone successfully assists the target with aid, they get +2 instead of +1

Then roll+Cha. ✴On a 10+, the ally gets the selected effect. ✴On a 7-9, your spell still works, but you draw unwanted attention or your magic reverberates to other targets affecting them as well, GM’s choice.

If we look carefully at the trigger then a few things become clear. 

1. The performance does not have to be music. A performance can be a lot of different things. Of course the choice of an instrument in the gear section wants to lead you into this direction but there is no reason to be bound to that. You could easily use this move by dancing (think maybe 1001 nights dance of the 7 veils or whirling dervishes) or painting (drawing little things in ink that come to live and effect the world). You could do for longer time perfomances like knitting but you would kind of limit yourself in the utility of the move. Keep those things in mind if you pick up the Ritual Move. Weaving fates is a common trope in multiple mythologies.

2. The performances don’t all have to be the same thing. If you define the effects you can choose as specific songs or actions you enrich the game play and have more interesting choices. For example my Elf Bard uses elven song magic. When gives out extra damage he binds his voice to the allies weapon, giving it extra sound force when it hits. That he can do pretty fast. Healing someone takes a longer time since he has to sing the whole song of healing. Its not really possible for him to do that during combat. Clearing an enchantement can be done either quite fast (when the effect is limited or weak) or takes quite a long time if the magic is strong (think Cinderella sleep). By doing this you have a clear trigger and clear action that the effect is related to. So don’t only describe your bard starting to play her lute but say what kind of song it is and how the magic is created from it. This leads me to

3.  You turn your performance into a spell. It is a magical effect. You don’t only inspire people by your actions, you are creating MAGIC. When you have a bard in the game then Music 8or other performances) literally ARE magic. So as a GM ask questions about this. Is this true for everyone in the Dungeon World or a specific bardic ability. Where did the bard learn her craft? Is she the only one that can create magical effects like this? 

As a player it also allows you to create extra visual effects or magical undertones to your character. In one game Christopher Weeks played a Bard that used throatsinging to vibrate reality and change some part of it. It was not really healing but changing the events so that the spear didn’t hit as deep. 

This might answer the question of why the bard starts playing her lute while everyone else gets ready for combat. Its not only silly froliking around. Its magic with a tangible effect. This is baked into the bard class. 

Am i wrong in these observations? What are your feelings on the trigger conditions? Anything i missed? 

7 thoughts on “#BardWeek”

  1. Tim Franzke  Don’t feel judgmental. You aren’t “telling” so much as explaining how you see the move/class function.  Arcane Art is probably one the most debated abilities and Bards in general tend to strike a nerve with people. Most either love the D&D2E+/Everquest minstrel type Bard, or hate it.  Little middle ground.

    For me personally, I’ve never been a fan of the minstrel bard. I know it has its place in some classic fantasy, but its usual implementation isn’t to my taste. Its too disjointed as a jack-of-all-trades. I’d personally rather see a dedicated arcane fighter and dedicated arcane rogue archetypes rather than trying to mash them into one class and use “performance” as the creative “glue” that holds it together. That’s just my personal taste though.  To me, classic minstrel bards should basically be masters of lore and enchantment – basically the best FACE class. Apt at gaining food and lodging, charming people, parley, etc.  I’m fine with a bard that plays music in a setting where its appropriate, like a tavern per say, and using it to charm the crowd. Not so keen on the party being swarmed by orcs and the bard whipping out his lute while everyone else is fighting for their life. I’d rather see the bard turn more roguish in a situation like that and have moves that allow him to fight like a rogue but doing so in a manner that aids their allies (not being a pure damage dealer).

    However, it all basically boils down to the Fiction used with the class and the approach used to grant the moves I guess. Personally, I think Arcane Art is an OK ability that just needs to be reskinned to meet different needs and flavores. If I don’t like minstrel bards, I just need to reskin the class. Maybe call it a Warlord and call the move Minor Battle Magic if I want magic or Basic Field Leadership if I want no magic overtone.  If I don’t like healing in the move, I take it out and replace it or reduce it with a First Aid concept. It all comes down to personal taste.

    The joy of DW is when it comes down to it, there really is no Right Way / Wrong Way. There is only the way that works for the people playing it.

  2. A bard I am playing in a pbp has no instrument. She hums/sings her Arcane Art. So far she has broken enchantments a bunch (we are rescuing some dwarves who were taken over by derro), healed a little, aided once, and is now trying to stop a fight between two dwarf NPCs and two PCs who don’t seem to understand that we’re all friends 🙂

    At this point, she’s shrieking. I’m not sure what the DM will have me roll for this, or if it is even really Bardic Magic, per se… but we’ll see. It is certainly fun.

Comments are closed.