Debuffing Bard

Debuffing Bard

Debuffing Bard

 Something I like in videogames and some fantasy tropes is the “Anti Bard”. Be it a Jester, a Dirge Singer or Doomsayer. They use the magic of music not to help but to bring despair and decay. 

How do you do that mechanically? Simply saying someone does less damage or takes more damage doesn’t seem that interesting. Inducing specific fictional results might brake the fiction at some moments. 

How would you do that? 

Another idea is to use the normal Arcane Arts result an flavor that the advantage you create is because your enemy is weakened somehow.

(Quick point about why “does less damage” makes no sense. If I put -1d6 damage on an enemy and they never deal damage to something this was wasted. To be a fan of the character I am as a GM am incentivised to have the target deal damage to someone so that we can see that they deal less damage now – creating a zero sum result. It is not very interesting too) 

(Quick point about why “takes extra damage” is bad: That is the same as giving extra damage to an ally) 

18 thoughts on “Debuffing Bard”

  1. Tim Franzke  Other possible effects: Trips, falls, confusion (already covered by the Ranger’s “Called Shot”, I believe), flight, turn traitor, uncontrollable flatulence?

  2. Looking beyond arcane art, perhaps replace the charming and open move with something more akin to AW’s Brainer’s deep brain scan. I’m sure you’re familiar with it, but those that aren’t: deep brain scan lets you connect with someone’s mind and dredge up bad memories and ask very vulnerable, personal questions. Here’s the list of questions:

    • what was your character’s lowest moment?

    • for what does your character crave forgiveness, and of whom?

    • what are your character’s secret pains?

    • in what ways are your character’s mind and soul vulnerable?

    I would looove to see this move in a fantasy game. This is the clearest “fictional debuffing” I can think of, since the move introduces flaws into NPCs and gives them to the players to flex.

  3. The one that I think is most iconic is fear. Bards should be able to inspire terror in their enemies– a terror that their allies can take advantage of, or which can simply force them to lose some of their moves.

    Perhaps something that allows the bard to identify a monster/enemy move, and another something to allow the bard to negate that move?

  4. I’d be interested in seeing if this works out for you. DW strikes me as great in part because it is awesome player characters struggling against awesome odds.  Regularly degrading either of those components to mediocre instead of stepping up the brinksmanship seems counterproductive.

    But I may be wrong.

  5. Maybe you could have a mechanic that negates failures on moves acting against a monster.  Similar to how Druid shapeshifting “pays” one move to obtain some number of auto successes with restricted scope, the bard song could pay one move to obtain some number of auto successes against a certain target.

  6. Aniket Schneider Now that… That is interesting! What if you reworked the entire Bard class to work like the Druid? Instead of different biomes, you have schools of performance, based perhaps on different emotions or imagery. The shapeshift equivalent would be a bardic performance: you give the name of your piece, and the GM gives you a few moves you can spend your hold for.

  7. Quick half-formed thoughts:

    Bards debuf via music that makes enemies: morose, hysterical, afraid/doubtful, confused, distracted. Purely fictional effects, I’m thinking.

    Hold-and-spend? While you continue playing, spend 1 hold to fill foe(s) with emotion? Or choose 1 (7-9) or 2 (10+): lasts for a while after you stop//doesn’t affect your allies//affects even the strong-willed or those steeled for it.

  8. Don’t forget making enemies ANGRY. I’ve lost count of how many stories I’ve seen where a bard-like character used music to mock someone. In a number of cases, you even have it as a sort of righteous mocking.

    The bard gets up to perform and rather than playing along with the tyrant’s whims, they end up singing a ballad that shows just how twisted the tyrant is, and suddenly tyrant becomes incensed.

    Maybe someone meant to suggest this in what they wrote but I didn’t see it stated strongly enough.

    Give the character hold to spend. During the course of the conflict, they can spend that hold to turn their target’s moves against them, somehow. Like the incensed person sends soldiers after the bard and friends. The bard spends a hold and suddenly the natural terrain of the dining hall becomes haphazard because of spilled alcohol or something and soldiers trip each other up and turn into a mass of piled bodies as they all trip and fall.

    Maybe it turns out that the soldiers are not entirely on the tyrant’s side, and they become less inclined to give their all. Any damage they inflict during the encounter becomes worst of 2 rolls, or something else.

  9. Facepalm of Realization

    Wait, you can actually already do a decent debuff bard without hacking anything, by properly framing the Defend move.

    You defend your allies against enemy action by playing a distracting/harmful song. All of Defend’s effects are about interfering with enemy action anyway, so it translates pretty danged easily to a hostile bardic performance.

  10. So to follow that train of thought, maybe all you’d need is to add an advanced move to the Bard that reads something like:

    “When you verbally harass an enemy in order to draw its attention away from your allies, you may roll +CHA to Defend.”

    Or, the player could just make Constitution one of their stronger stats, I suppose.

  11. That would be a pretty slick advance, yeah!

    …On the other hand, having a high CON makes Metal Hurlant more attractive, and I can’t help but think that move kinda fits a more hostile interference type Bard anyway.

    But CON and CHA could both work!

  12. Ooh, I’d forgotten about Metal Hurlant. It might be cool to have the advanced move for +CHA for flexible character builds, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to focus on different stats for different purposes. I also really want to play a CON Bard now.

Comments are closed.