Lighthouse for the Blind
“Some people think a club can solve any problem. Unless
you’re a half-giant, there are more sophisticated ways of
settling a disagreement.”
―Cabal, half‐elven bard
From the shadowy corners of Athas’ most
disreputable places hails the bard. Like their counterparts
in other fantasy worlds, Athasian bards are the
unquestioned masters of oral tradition and forgotten lore,
but rather than sharing their lore with whoever will listen,
Athasian bards guard their secrets as jealously as the
sorcerer‐kings harbor their water and iron. Athasian
bards may sell information to the highest bidder; they
peddle their services and the fruits of their knowledge,
but trade secrets are what give bards an edge on the
uninitiated. Bards would rather die than reveal these
Meeting a bard can be an uneasy encounter, since one
never knows how the bard has chosen to devote his
multiple talents. Some bards master the art of making
poisons, and survive by selling these poisons and their
antidotes for those who have coin to pay. Some bards
master the art of entertainment, using their performances
to amuse nobles and templars and gain wealth. Some
become assassins, mixing their knowledge of poison and
stealth to become hired hands. Bards’ unique position in
the Athasian society means they often overhear
between high‐ranking templars or nobles,
or they may have treated an injured person that prefers to
remain anonymous. Respectable folk despise them; the
powerful fear them; but in the Athasian cities, everyone
eventually comes to need their services.
Making a Bard
Bards receive numerous abilities they can use to
survive. Many become masters of poisons, selling their
illegal substances to anyone. Alone of the classes, bards
hold the secrets of alchemy, creating fiery concoctions and
mysterious mixes. Bards are master smugglers, selling
spell components and other illegal items in the Bard’s
Quarters of the city‐states. All bards, however, have some
degree of entertainment skill. The songs of most bards can
dazzle a crowd, or incite them to riot. Bards tend to learn
to play a variety of instruments, or recite poetry or old
legends by campfire. They can be acrobats, performing
dazzling displays of physical prowess. They are often
called upon as sources of information.
Abilities: Charisma is the most important ability for a
bard, because many of their abilities and skills are affected
by it. A high Dexterity improves the bard’s defensive
ability. Intelligence is also important because it bolster the
numbers of skills he has access.
Races: All humanoid races of Athas can become bards.
The social stigma in certain regions may be higher than
others, however. For example, the loremasters of the
halflings of the Jagged Cliffs are highly regarded because
of the ancient secrets and histories they preserve. But in
the city‐states, where the Bard’s Quarters are notorious,
being a bard is not usually a good thing. Elven tribes often
have a bard, who keeps the history of the tribe alive, its
conquests and defeats. Humans are often bards, becoming
performers of great talent, or assassins of deadly skill and
precision. Half‐elves, because of their lonely existence,
often take to being bards. The prejudice they face at every
stage in life can move some to become great poets or
singers. Muls and half‐giants make poor bards; their
talents are usually better served elsewhere than the stage
or the shadows of alleys. As well, thri‐kreen are rarely
seen as bards, relying instead upon their racial memory.
Alignment: Most bards are chaotic, and operate alone,
brokering information, arranging deals, smuggling illegal
wares such as poisons, drugs, spell components and other
things. Neutral bards are the ones most likely to operate
in fellowships with adventurers, or entertain in troupes
with other bards. The rare lawful bards can easily secure
positions as councilors or agents for templars, and noble
and merchant houses. Good bards are often entertainers
or lorekeepers, putting their talents to benevolent use,
sometimes diagnosing poisonings and selling the proper
antidotes. Evil bards are often masters of poisons and
alchemy, selling their wares to anyone with the ceramic to
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: You are proficient in
all simple weapons, and the following additional
weapons: bard’s friend, crossbow (any), garrote, greater
blowgun, whip and widow’s knife. You are proficient in
light armor, but not shields.
Bardic Music: This is exactly like the bard class
feature ability of the same name.
Bardic Knowledge: This is exactly like the bard class
feature ability of the same name.
Smuggler: You receive a +1 insight bonus to Bluff and
Sleight of Hand checks for every two bard levels.
Poison Use: Bards are trained in the use of poisons,
and as of 2nd level, never risk accidentally poisoning
themselves when applying poison to a blade.
Streetsmart: When you reach 2nd level, you get a +2
competence bonus to Gather Information and Intimidate
Quickdraw: Bards learn to strike quickly and without
warning. At 3rd level, you gain Quickdraw as a bonus
Trade Secrets: At every 4th level you learn a trade
secret chosen from the list below.
Alchemy Dealer: Pay one‐half of the market price for
raw materials needed to craft alchemical items.
Accurate: When you attack an armored opponent, your
accuracy allows you to ignore 1 point of natural armor
bonus to AC or 1 point of armor bonus to AC. This trade
secret may be chosen more than once, and its effects stack.
Agile: You receive a +1 dodge bonus to AC. This trade
secret may be chosen more than once, and its effects stack.
Coolheaded: You may take 10 on Bluff and Diplomacy
Improvised Materials: You can craft poisons from raw
materials at hand instead of relying on specific
ingredients. Doing so increases the Craft (poisonmaking)
check DC by 5 but otherwise has no effect on the poisonʹs
Poison Dealer: Pay one‐half of the market price for raw
materials needed to craft poisons.
Poisonbane: You receive a +4 insight bonus to Craft
(alchemy) checks when creating antitoxin and poison
Poison Resistance: You receive a +4 bonus to saving
throws against poisons.
Scorpion’s Touch: Add +1 to the save DC of all poisons
applied by you. This trade secret may be chosen more
than once, and its effects stack.
Skilled: Add one‐half your bard level (rounded down)
as a competence bonus to one of the following skills:
Appraise, Bluff, Craft, Diplomacy, Heal, Perform,
Profession, Sense Motive or Sleight of Hand. This trade
secret may be chosen more than once, each time it applies
to a different skill.
Smokestick Application: You can combine inhaled
poisons with smokesticks. All creatures within the area
the smokestick covers (10‐ft. cube) are affected by the
poison you applied to the smokestick.
Versatile: Select any two non‐class skills. These are now
considered class skills for you.
Mental Resistance (Ex): Bards carry many dark
secrets they would prefer remain secret. This, combined
with a large amount of knowledge based on half‐truths
and false rumors makes your mind unreliable to those
who would seek to mentally affect it. At 5th level you
receive a +2 morale bonus to saves made against
telepathic powers and enchantment/charm spells.
Improved Poison Use (Ex): At 6th level, you can
apply poison to a weapon as a free action without
provoking attacks of opportunity.
Quick Thinking: Bards often find themselves in a
tight spot where they have to act quickly, whether it is to
escape a templar patrol or strike first when in
confrontation with a foe. At 6th level, you get a +2 bonus
on initiative checks. This bonus increases by 2 at 11th and
Chance: Bards live on the edge in many ways. At 7th
level you may reroll one single d20 roll once per day, but
have to keep the latter result―for better or for worse. At
14th level you may use this ability two times per day.
Speed Reactions: Beginning at 9th level, when you
use the attack action or full attack action in melee, you
may subtract a number from all melee attack rolls and
add the same number to your initiative. This number may
not exceed your base attack bonus. You may not make
ranged attacks this round. The initiative increase takes
effect on the next round. The new initiative is your
initiative for the remainder of the combat, unless you
were to use speed reactions again, which would increase
your initiative further.
Slippery Mind: This is exactly like the rogue special
ability of the same name.
Defensive Roll: At 15th level you learn how to avoid
a potentially lethal blow. You gain the ability to reduce
damage from a knockout blow. This is exactly like the
rogue special ability of the same name.
Awareness (Ex): At 17th level, you are never caught
flat‐footed and always act in the surprise round.
Mind Blank (Ex): At 18th level your mind becomes
completely sealed against involuntary intrusion as per the
mindblank spell. This spell‐like ability is always considered
Table 2–1: The Athasian Bard Hit Die: d6
Level Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Special
1st 1 1 2 3 4 4 5 6/7/7/8/9/10/+5 +12 +12 +12 Trade secret
Class Skills (6 + Int modifier per level, x4 at 1st level): Appraise, Balance, Bluff, Climb, Craft, Decipher Script, Diplomacy,
Disguise, Escape Artist, Forgery, Gather Information, Heal, Hide, Intimidate, Jump, Knowledge (all skills individually), Listen,
Move Silently, Perform, Profession, Ride, Search, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Speak Language, Tumble, Use Magic Device,
Use Psionic Device, Use Rope.
Playing a Bard
You are a master of oral tradition and lore, and a true
artist, but you share your talents only with those who can
afford to pay you.
You are an artist. You are the center of attention
(whenever you want to), the person everyone wants to
talk to, the “face” of the party. Even if you aren’t the most
attractive or charismatic member of your group, your
unequaled skill at performance arts creates an irresistible
appeal born of justified confidence. You are more than
just light entertainment, though. Your target rarely
survives the encounter if you don’t want him to.
You might adventure because you desire
entertainment. Someone with your smarts gets bored
easily. Alternatively, you may have been blacklisted on
your current location because of a “business transaction”
gone wrong. You have to keep moving, and adventuring
offers you a regular change of scenery. In any case, a life
of adventure allows you to see new things, meet
interesting people, and get some silvers in the process.
No central bardic organization exists, and more often
than not bards have no particular penchant for religion.
Some may worship the elements, fearing the power of the
elemental forces, and most bards tend to relate to the Air
ever‐changing nature, but bards that worship sorcererkings
are rare. A lifestyle of breaking the rules of the citystates
does not lend one to worship the lawgivers.
Bards face life as it comes, and usually hold no special
grudge or awe for any one class. They usually approach
other’s profession on the basis of how it can help them at
the moment. Clerics and druids are respected for their
devotion to a divine force, but usually not held in awe.
Fighters, gladiators and rangers can be useful as sword–
arms but are otherwise useless to the bard. Bards do not
view wizards with the same aversion as others might
view them, since bards sell them their components.
A bard rarely seeks to initiate combat―instead he
skulks about, looking for an opportunity to strike swiftly,
using his poisons to their greatest advantage. Your work
best with teammates, maneuvering to get flanks and help
bring down opponents with your various poisons. Use
your bardic music to bolster your allies and distract your
opponents while the real heavy hitters in your group mop
You have a flexibility in building your talents
unrivaled by any other class. You can either emphasize on
ability or nurse a broad range of abilities. In most cases,
feats that consistently improve your talents are more
useful than feats that function in only certain situations.
As you advance in the class, continue to max out your
ranks in Bluff and Perform, and invest skill points in
Gather Information and Sleight of Hand. Many feats in
the Athasian Emporium supplement make the most of your
poison abilities. Improved Feint is an excellent choice
with your expertise in Bluff, and Greasing the Wheels
(page 72) if perfect for getting around templar inspections.
If you play up the assassin aspect of this class, consider
magic (or psionic) items that help you cloak your true
intentions, such as an amulet of proof against detection and
location or a veil of lies (page 260).
When multiclassing or taking a level in a prestige
class, find combinations that further broaden your
abilities or that increase your flexibility. The poisonmaster
prestige class (page 101), the dune trader (page 90), and
the assassin (DMG 180) deserve special mention. They are
a great combination with the bard class.
Bards on Athas
“She was a rare beauty: charming, graceful, talented. It’s
too bad she killed my boss.”
―Talos, mul bodyguard
Athasian bards use songs and tales as their tools of
trade. A bard is a person of wit and camaraderie. Despite
having few other talents to offer, the bard is a welcome
source of entertainment and information across Athas.
However, bards are noted to be extremely untrustworthy
and even ruthless―they often sell their skills as assassins
and poison alchemists to the highest bidder.
In the cities, bards often become tools of the nobility.
They’re commonly hired by one noble house and sent to
another as a gift. The bards are sent not only to entertain,
but usually to perform some other subtle task as well
(such as robbery, espionage, or even assassination).
Nobles consider it rude to turn down the gift of a bard
or bard company. However, when presented with a troop
of bards from one’s worst enemy, it’s sometimes better to
be rude and turn them away, for the consequences of their
visit could be downright deadly. To get around this, the
noble who hired them sometimes disguises their
approach by having another noble send them. A very
complicated collage of intrigue and deceit is often woven
wherever bards are involved.
The way a bard behaves depends on his individual
sense of morality. Some think nothing of adopting false
identities, smuggling forbidden goods, or even
coldblooded assassination. Other bards find themselves
driven to use their skills to entertain and help people.
Bards can become great leaders. With their quick wits
and great charisma, bards would be natural leaders were
it not for their inconstancy. If a bard manages to earn the
trust of companions, they value his leadership. Lacking
that trust, a bard rarely leads for long.
Bards often gain notoriety for their deeds, although
most prefer to remain behind false identities. The human
bard only known as Wheelock has become a legend when
it comes to creating poisons. Fyrian Wynder is a Tyrian
half‐elven bard notorious for his combination of bardic
abilities and the Way, since his acting skills enable him to
adopt several identities, while his psionic abilities provide
a means of gaining access to secured areas and going
unnoticed once he gets there.
Bards don’t organize together, but they often linger
around the same places, which end up getting known as
the Bard’s Quarter in most city‐states. A bard joining an
organization probably has a specific goal (or target) in
mind and rakes a position that best allows him to attain it.
A long‐term commitment to such a group rarely appeals
to a bard.
Common folk ten to have a hard time differentiating
bards from rogues. Bards further confuse the issue by
regularly adopting false identities and hiding their varied
abilities. Thus, the reaction a bard gets from those he
meets depends on what he is pretending to be at a time.
Individuals who know about the bard class and the
reputation that comes with it have an initial attitude one
step more hostile than normal. Templars in particular
look poorly upon bards, since they know of the various
illegal activities they usually perform.
Characters with ranks in Knowledge (local) can
research bards to learn more about them. When a
character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the
following, including the information from lower DCs.
DC 15: Bards are jacks of all trades, masters of
performance and deception, and information smugglers.
DC 20: Bards are masters of poisons and lore, and they
have many of the skills of rogues.