The Bard’s Arcane Art ability.

The Bard’s Arcane Art ability.

The Bard’s Arcane Art ability.

There are two bands of thought in our group as to how/when this can be used.

One group says it is meant to be very liberal — the bard can “perform” during combat, etc. It just has to fit the fiction, so no silent performances on the lyre, etc. It could be during a combat etc.

The more conservative group believes it must be during a more formal performance — at the pub, by the campfire, etc.

Where do y’all stand?

Michael Jacobson 

11 thoughts on “The Bard’s Arcane Art ability.”

  1. Want to put in my two cents here. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Bard character in D&D and I’ve been heavily hacking the DW one to make it feel a bit more useful in my setting. I’m going to post a couple of the customizations I’ve made below, but I definitely feel that the Bard should be able to perform during combat (the Bard in my game spends most combats up in a tree) but that the “performance” aspect differs based on the effect being produced. Sometimes the Bard has to narratively play throughout the effect. As others have said, the fiction leads.

    Arcane Art

    While you weave a performance into a magical spell, choose your target(s) and an effect from the list, roll+Cha. ✴On a 10+, the target(s) gets the selected effect. ✴On a 7-9, your spell still works, but you draw unwanted attention or your magic has an unexpected effects, GM’s choice:

    • You automatically get a 7-9 hit on Aid or Interfere for all targets who can hear you.

    • Their mind is shaken clear of one enchantment.

    The Savage Beast

    Add this as an effect to Arcane Art:

    • You manipulate someone else’s thoughts or feelings (calm or raise).

    Puppet Strings

    Add this as an effect to Arcane Art:

    • You can manipulate a target’s limbs.


    Add this as an effect to Arcane Art:

    • You produce a powerful blast of sound. Target(s) struck may take up to 1d10 damage. <- The bard uses this to create defensive barriers to keep enemies at bay, but he has to play continuously to keep it up.

  2. I appreciate “fit the fiction,” comments as being in the spirit of the game, but I would appreciate letting me know what you do at your table regarding the Bard’s arcane art. If that varies due to the fiction, some examples?

  3. Ask your table, not us. The game doesn’t specify these things. The Bard should be the final arbiter of his class, or else you take away his agency.

  4. During development, I pushed for the Arcane Art wording (instead of the original Arcane Music) so that it would be intentionally broad. For example, in one game I played a story teller and so telling a timely bit of story about their ancestors was enough performance to convey an inspirational effect. If I had been a puppeteer, perhaps describing how I swung the puppet and it almost looked like it was charging up my companion’s sword would be performance enough provide a distraction and let them do additional damage. If I were a runemaster, describing how I was using a brush to draw the ancient symbol on a friend’s stomach might be performance enough to heal them.

  5. We’ve had discussions in the past about Bards as political ramble rousers, orators, soap boxers, and pamphleteers where the Arcane Art is a rousing speech or polemic. Think of speeches in trenches or bunkers during war to see it on the battlefield, or before a crowd to see it as performance.

    I like the broader language. It allows the bard to not be pigeon holed into the stereotypical fantasy entertainer/storyteller.

  6. My last DW game had a Bard as a motivational speaker. He seriously printed out a bunch of motivational one liners and would shout them when people were in trouble.

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