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Wemic Bard

Ability Requirements: as bard, except Int 14 is also required

Prime Requisites: as bard

Races Allowed: Wemic only

Wemic bards fill several vital roles in Wemic society. They remember and recite clan history, laws, and contracts; they teach the young; they train new bards. They are not only teachers and historians but also messengers, judges, and diplomats.

Wemic bards who are wanderers or adventurers fill a different role. Some are inspired by an overwhelming sense of curiosity and restlessness. Others seek out the music and history of other lands. Some are sent as spies, ambassadors, or explorers by the chiefs of the Wemic nation.

Requirements

All Wemic bards are bound by the same ability score and alignment requirements of standard second-edition bards, except that a 14 intelligence is required. Bardic neutrality is especially important because Wemic bards, as neutral visitors, are often called upon in Wemic society to settle disputes between individuals and between prides.

Weapons Allowed

Unlike standard bards, Wemic bards are limited to traditional Wemic weapons: any club, sword, dagger, knife, or javelin. At higher levels, spears and light lances may also be learned. And because Wemic bards must travel light, no armor or barding is allowed at all -- these bards must remain unencumbered. A traditional Wemic shield (a medium shield) is allowed, however.

Spells Allowed

In general, Wemic bards have access only to these schools of magic:

  • Summoning but not Conjuration (beings that hear the sound of the bard's music are compelled to obey, but the music cannot conjure creatures or things through other dimensions.)
  • Enchantment/Charm (Spells from this school use music to alter the motivation of living things -- in Wemic terms, both creatures and objects.)
  • Auditory Illusions (This school uses magic to enhance, alter, and create sound, a natural extension of bardic lore.)
  • Divination (The bard, through music, can communicate and divine.)

These spells reflect Wemic Philosphy: All things are alive, including animals, plants, dirt, stars, rivers, swords, tents, etc. All things have motivation. Thus, all things can be convinced or compelled to alter their motivation. Generally, Priest magic observes and convinces; bard magic compels through the power of music -- it does not create or transmute matter (no Wall of Stone or Poly Self) or harness powerful energies (no Magic Missile).

In addition to spells allowed by these guidelines, Wemic bards can learn a few other specifically appropriate spells: the mage spell Shout (called Roar by Wemics) and a few priest spells such as Command and Speak with Animals. A few spells suggested by the guidelines are not allowed, such as Ray of Enfeeblement. Here is a complete list of Wemic Bard spells.

Wemic bard spells also place heavy emphasis on sound, speech, and music -- all spells with verbal components are sung; all with somatic but not material components require rhythmic clapping or finger snapping or foot tapping; all with material components require playing an instrument (in addition to standard components), but the instrument is not consumed in casting.

Note that whenever a Wemic bard spell affects a "person," the spell effect extends to Wemics. The GM decides whether other spell casters treat Wemics as "persons."

Also note that, unlike standard bards, Wemic bards are not "dabblers" who acquire their spells by chance. Although their choice of spells is limited, Wemic bards are as deliberate and serious as mages in their study. Their slower spell acquisition rate reflects the other (equally important) responsibilities and duties they assume as well. Second level bards generally acquire their four initial spells from a Wemic bard master or mentor. These spells may be chosen by the game master (in his role as the Mentor) or selected by the player character. Thereafter, Wemic bards generally acquire spells from other Wemic bards or from their own research. A Wemic bard in isolation from other Wemic bards may suffer the great disadvantage of very limited spell selection (see below).

Spell Books

Mages in standard DnD (where literacy is assumed) need spell books to help them rememorize spells -- spell books serve as memnomic aids. In non-literate societies, spell-memorization aids for "witch-doctors" become a kind of proto-spellbook. For Wemics:

  • Wemics are appearance conscious. This reflects their feline nature -- cats are always grooming and always try look neat.
  • Wemics have developed elaborate systems of bead and mane braiding, at first for decoration, but later for status and rank.
  • Wemic bards took this beading idea one further -- they use strings of beads -- no longer in their manes, but on strings and cords -- as aids to help rememorize spells.
  • So although there is no written form of Wemic language, Wemic bards use bead-string systems to "write" down spells. These Spell Beads are the Wemic's spell books, and they look much like complex Native American wampum.

Wemic bards' exceptional memory helps account for this loss of traditional spell books. The sets of complex stringed Spell Beads they use serve as memnomic aids. Even first level bards know how to construct these Spell Beads, although they cannot cast spells until second level. Wemic bards must acquire the high quality beeds and strings needed to physically construct their Spell Bead "books" -- 10 spell levels of beads weigh one pound.

Because they are non-literate, Wemic bards do not use the Read Magic spell. They can read Spell Bead "books" -- both their own and others' -- freely.

Spell Acquisition and Research

Wemic bards add spells to their spell books by learning them from other Wemic bards and from researching ("composing") new spells or original versions of existing spells.

Wemic bards can study with other Wemic bards and learn spells from each other with a successful Intelligence-based chance to learn spells roll.

Wemic bards can compose spells if they have both the Artistic Ability (Music) and Spellcraft non-weapon proficiencies. This is handled by the rules given in the DMG, except that 1) there is no expenditure of money and no need for research facilities such as a library, and 2) after making a successful research roll, successful Artistic Ability and Spellcraft rolls must be made as well. There is just one chance to succeed at each roll -- if either fails, the bard's research fails and no research at all can be attempted until a new level is gained. Thereafter, the bard can try again, with that spell or a new one.

As a prerequisite to such research, Wemic bards must be able to cast spells that are two levels higher than the spell to be researched -- so a Wemic bard can create a new first level spell when the ability to cast third level spells is gained at seventh level. If a non-Wemic (traditional) mage is available who knows the spell to be researched, the non-Wemic mage can act as a research assistant. In this case, the Wemic must be able to cast spells that are only one level higher than the spell to be researched -- so a Wemic bard who has help can create a new (to the Wemic) first level spell when the ability to cast second level spells is gained at fourth level. Of course, such help is moot when the helper is another Wemic bard -- the "helper" can teach the spell with a successful Intelligence roll -- no research is needed.

This can be a significant problem for a Wemic bard who happens to be far from other Wemic bards. If there is no opportunity to learn from another Wemic Bard, a 1st level Wemic alone in humanoid lands cannot gain spell casting at 2nd level -- the bard does not know any spells! At 4th level, IF a humanoid mage can be found to spend a couple weeks in study, the bard can learn an allowed 1st level spell (one of the 11 or so available) through research. This doesn't require gold (unless the helper mage charges a fee, which is probable!), but if the bard fails either the Artistic Ability roll or the Spellcraft roll, then the attempt fails and cannot be tried again until next level. Even if it succeeds, the bard still can't research a 2nd level spell (which he is entitled to cast) until gaining the ability to research them at 7th level! Naturally, a 2nd to 7th level Wemic bard will be very eager to locate another Wemic Bard, probably by going home. Character access to teacher/mentor bards is an important way for a GM to guide plot and control game balance

Restrictions

Because Wemics do not read or write, no written items may be used by Wemic bards. They may not read magic scrolls, nor do they ever gain the Read Languages skill.

Because their form is ill-suited to it, Wemic bards may not Climb Walls.

Because Wemics play a serious role and are not thieves, Wemic bards may not Pick Pockets.

Because these bards must travel lightly, a Wemic bard must remain unencumbered (as per the Players Handbook, Chapter Six). Excess possessions must be discarded, sold, or given away.

Because their society has no mages or long-term tradition of magic items, Wemic bards do not gain the Legend Lore skill of Identifying Magic Items. Within limits set by the game master, they certainly have detailed knowledge of the legends and lore of the history and culture of their people, as do all bards.

Because Wemics are always on the move, a Wemic bard may not establish a permanent keep or residence. No soldier followers are attracted. At higher levels, a Wemic bard will often be accompanied by a student bard, but the standard henchman rules are used to represent this. Note, however, that student henchman bards are generally "paid" in protection, food, and instruction, with rewards and recognition as appropriate -- no salary per se is needed.

Non-Weapon Proficiencies

Of course, all bards, Wemic and non-Wemic, have the following free non-weapon proficiencies: Local History, Musical Instrument, and Singing. They do not Read or Write any languages, and generally scorn literacy as a sign of weakness.

Wemic bards must also take two of the following non-weapon proficiencies, each costing one slot:

Hunting or Heraldry: Exactly like the PH, but the bard gains a +1 to success rolls every 3 levels (round all fractions down). More civilized (herder) Wemics take Heraldry (specializing in reading Wemic clan signs); less civilized (hunter) Wemics take Hunting.

Survival or Ettiquette: Exactly like the PH, but the bard gains a +1 to success rolls every 3 levels (round all fractions down). Note that Ettiquette here is more aptly thought of as Diplomacy and Tact. More civilized Wemics take Ettiquette; less civilized Wemics take Survival (in native terrain).

These required non-weapon proficiencies take up two of a bard's three initial slots. Other non-weapon proficiencies gained from Intelligence language slots or from advancing in level are treated normally. Note that the following optional non-weapon proficiencies are also common among Wemic bards: Animal Lore, Artistic Ability, Direction Sense, Dream Reading (Treat exactly as Astrology, but requires a night's sleep), Endurance, Languages (Modern), Spellcraft, and Tracking.

Skill Revisions

1) As noted above, Wemic bards may not Climb Walls. Instead, they gain the skill of Running (at the same base percent chance, with no modification for race or armor). When travelling unencumbered for long distances, a Wemic bard can run twice as far in one day as usual if a successful running roll is made. Moreover, for short distances, a Wemic bard can always move at double speed (24) on the first round of running. On the second and following rounds, a Wemic bard can run at double speed if a successful running roll is made. Wemic bards suffer no combat penalties while running and do not require rest afterwards.
[NOTE: If the Optional Rules in the Players Handbook for Jogging and Running are used, then the Wemic bard can jog at double speed for a number of rounds equal to twice the Constitution score; thereafter, a running roll must be made each round to keep jogging. The bard can increase speed to triple, quadruple, and quintuple speed if successful rolls are made each round at -10%, -20%, and -30%, respectively.

2) As noted above, Wemic bards may not Read Languages. Instead, they gain the skill of Reading Emotion and Motivation (at the same base percent chance, with no modification for race). After at least a turn of conversation or observation, a successful roll with this skill lets a Wemic bard gain a sense of a character's motivation, feelings, and credibility. Wemic bards gain a +25% bonus in reading the emotions of other Wemics. The GM makes these rolls secretly, and there may be a chance (at the GM's option, usually on a roll of 96-00) of reading emotions and motivation incorrectly.

3) As noted above, Wemic bards may not Pick Pockets. Instead, they gain the skill of Moving Silently (at the same base percent chance, with no modification for race).

4) Wemic bards Detect Noise with a +10% racial bonus.

5) The bard's high place in Wemic society gives the bard a great deal of self-assurance and leadership ability. Due to this, Wemic bards can rally and inspire friends and allies after two rounds of poetics and song, not three rounds (as required for standard bards).

6) As noted, Wemic bards do not gain the ability to identify magic items. Instead, they gain the skill of Memorization, with a roll for success of 5% per level. A successful roll with this skill lets a Wemic bard recite words quoted after one hearing (no declaration of intent to memorize is needed). At the GM's option, the skill may also allow a roll to remember other kinds of information: how to find one's way back through a maze, whether a newly met person was the killer glimpsed last week, and where exactly it was that we buried the Dragon's gold! The GM makes these rolls secretly, but there is no chance of remembering false info, just as the magic item identification skill never reveals false information. If a Wemic bard spends extra time studying the material to be memorized, the chance of success rises by 5% for each hour of uninterrupted study.

Wemic Bards as Player Characters

Remember that Wemic bards are normally limited to 10th level. Those with a Dexterity and Charisma of 14 or 15 can rise to 11th level; those with both ability scores in the 16 to 17 range can rise to 12th; and those with 18s in both can rise to 13th. Wemic bards may not be part of a multi-classed option.

Everything Else

In ALL other respects, such as experience points, weapon proficiencies, hit dice, etc, Wemic bards are treated exactly like standard Second Edition bards.

Thoughts on Game Balance

A couple people told me that my original bard was too powerful -- the current version has been modified to make it more balanced. Here are some of my notes on Game Balance and Wemic Bards.

Thanks

Many thanks to Steve for the detailed feedback and suggestions that contributed to this version of the Wemic bard. I am very grateful to Samy Merchi for invaluable comments on game balance, especially regarding Memorization and Running. And thanks to Neutronium Dragon for the suggestion of beadwork patterns used as spell books.

copyright 2001 by Cayzle (all rights reserved)


Home | This page last modified: March 28, 2001 | Wemic D&D Central