Friday, January 20, 2017

Bardic College: College of Dirges [Second Draft]

Chances are, when I think something is perfect straight-off, it's way more deeply flawed than I thought.

The original Dirgesinger bard worked great as a proof of concept, but the nitty-gritty needed a lot of polish. While I was proud of how simple and short I made the whole thing, almost every ability needed some level of modification and suffered at least a small bit of bloat because of it.

Ah well, at least it's probably balanced. Probably.


  • "College of the Dirgesinger" is now "College of Dirges," to keep more in-line with naming convention
  • Macabre Melodies now offers a choice of two cantrips, adding thaumaturgy as a possible cantrip you can learn. 
  • Sorrowsong has been reworked, and now costs an action to use. It can deal psychic damage that scales with your Bardic Inspiration, and applies Incapacitated on a failed save. It's balanced to feel like an empowered vicious mockery that consumes a BI die to use. 
  • Death's Defiance has been tweaked, only allowing for one successful usage per short or long rest. 
  • Sorrowsong got changed quite a bit, which introduces a strong chance of it being buggy. It seems like it works, to me, but v0.1 also seemed perfectly fine. 
  • Pre-release bug checks are a great thing, I should do them more often. 


  1. I've been looking forward to this since you mentioned you were toying with a 'College of Bones' type of thing last year. I attempted to tweak a similarly themed archetype a few months back for an NPC and ended up with some parallels in mechanics which was interesting to see (though mine were a bit more ham-fisted), I think it's still up in GITP somewhere.

    One difference I came to was with the level 6 ability - rather than a choice of spells it granted Animate Dead and Create Undead (when an appropriate level was reached) and some benefits to it's use in line with a Necromancer Wizard Archetype. The plan was to tweak them later to be more Bardic in nature rather than a carbon copy of another archetype's feature (most likely making them tougher but less deadly than the Wizards, representing the Bard's passion and care for those it raises).

    I'd be curious to know if you considered something like that.

    As for the other abilities:

    Sorrowsong: While probably balanced in both forms (possibly weaker in 0.2), the Die itself plays a more prominent role now which I think is a huge improvement even if it is a bit wordier.

    Grim Requiem: While balanced I think it could benefit from focusing the archetype a bit more in 'a' direction. My choice obviously would be towards raising the dead though there could be other routes to take.

    Death's Defiance: Great ability, potent and flavourful. Though I do wonder about having two abilities centered around spending inspiration dice as two separate features, if it's just another way to spend your inspiration I wonder if perhaps it could be part of the third level ability in a modified or more limited form (opening up the level 14 ability for a 1/long rest ability in the same vein as the new UA Bard archetypes).

    In any case - I love this archetype as it stands. Great work!

    1. >Animate Dead and bard theming

      I actually kicked around what to do with Animate Dead a great deal while making this class option. Originally I was going to follow the path you described, and have Animate Dead be core to the Dirges bard, with an ability to "inspire" the undead you raise by giving them tHP through music.

      While that would be cool and thematic and all that, there were two major issues:

      1) Necromantic spell access. The bard has a fairly limited scope of necromancy spells, and needs some allowance to fill in the rather large blanks. Even now, I'm expecting the Dirges bard to commit to using their Magical Secrets bard features to grabbing up more necromancy spells like Create Undead, even though they obviously do not have to.

      2) Thematic conflict. The fluff for the original 3.5 dirgesinger was all about laying the dead to rest, and its abilities had very appropriate theming along those lines (playing sorrowful songs of mourning, et al). Then, at the PrC's 5th and final level, it gave you the ability to animate a single specific corpse, contrary to the rest of the PrC's fluff. It felt odd to me to go from "The dead are sacrosanct" to "well okay I guess we can raise a super-zombie just this once," and I believe the intent was that a bard who didn't want to go full-necromancy simply wouldn't take the final level of the PrC. I tried to capture that choice in this option, without making it feel as if the option would be "missing out" the way intentionally not taking the last level of a PrC would feel.

      >Sorrowsong & Death's Defiance

      The Lore bard also has two features that use the BI die, in a similar fashion to this. My goal was to make one ability spammable, the other situational, so that you'd be motivated to keep at least one BI die in reserve to stave off death if someone drops.

  2. Yeah, i think this version is more balanced and fair. The abilities make a great parallel with the Lore bard, but still keeping it unique. I can already imagine a Doom/Black Metal or a Throat-Singer bard character. Keep making this "Ravenloft-like" archetypes, they are aces. The Oath of the Midnight Hour is my favorite Paladin Archetypes to date.

    1. Honestly, I'd love to make just a straight-up metal bard. Having a greataxe that is also a guitar would be mandatory.

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