The Ranger and the Bard (Revised)

Copyright R. Dan Henry © 2009

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"If you scoff at those skill advantages, the Bard is really not for you."

Both the Ranger and the Bard are often considered "weak" character Professions in need of revision. I will first consider how much truth there is in this idea and look at a set of possible changes to the Ranger and a more extensive set of changes to the Bard's Base lists, essentially rewriting three of them in a way that addresses legitimate complaints about Bardic power and also seeks to make the lists more strongly themed to the Bard's nature.

Are They Really That Bad?

First, let us consider what skills these two Professions are particularly good at: Where does each excel beyond other Professions? To answer this question, I consulted the Standard Skill Category Development Point Cost Table T-2.8 (Rolemaster Standard Rules, p. 64). Crafts and the Technical/Trade group have the same costs for all, so we shall set them aside. Beyond that, the Ranger has the best costs for Athletic • Endurance skills and is in a three way tie for best Awareness • Senses costs. He does have the second best weapon progression among Semis and probably has an undeserved reputation for combat weakness due to the easy comparisons to the Paladin, who has the best weapon progression among Semis and has combat-oriented magic as well. Compare Bards, who have the best costs for the Artistic • Active, Artistic • Passive, Communications (four way tie), Influence (tie), Lore • General, Lore • Magical (three way tie), Lore • Obscure, and Lore • Technical (tie) skill groups. Bards are masters of interpersonal relations and are absolute tops as artists and as masters of lore. If you scoff at those skill advantages, the Bard is really not for you. The Bard is not a dungeon crawling champion and should not be.

The Ranger has a good set of spell lists. Other than adding some electrical resistance to the Inner Walls list, I would not touch them. However, the Ranger has worse problems getting started than even the typical Semi. The Ranger archetype has a wide range of skills he is expected to be good at and this is not something you can do right away or even in a few levels.

The Bard has almost the opposite problem. He has a strong set of costs for key skills, but his spells are rather lacking. The first list to give the Bard a deserved reputation for weak spells is Controlling Songs. Controlling Songs has the weaknesses of Mentalism: the spells only affect creatures subject to mind spells and only affect a single target. Yet it lacks Mentalism's compensating strengths. Because of the need to perform, these spells are neither stealthy nor hands-free. This list also does not fit the legends of phenomenally gifted musicians whose songs were as powerful as spells. The Sound Projection list tries to handle the problem by being almost all about boosting Controlling Songs. Yet it feels wrong. Enchanting songs should not need another spell list to seem valuable. I would rather go the other way and make the spells more thematic to begin with and allow Sound Projection to be modified to work with an improved Controlling Ways. The other list that contributes to the idea of the weak Bard is Item Lore. It has few abilities because it has far too many Item Analysis spells. Even worse, in this, its central theme, it is clearly inferior to an Open list in the same Realm. Complete identification of an item requires a 50th level Item Lore spell, but only a 19th level Delving spell. Even for the Bard, that is an investment of 300 DPs in Item Lore versus 212 DPs in Delving.

Options for the Ranger

The Ranger starts out weak and because of the many skills needed to build a "proper" Ranger, it can take even longer than most Semis to become a strong character. They are not wildly out of balance, but the lack of a clear specialty makes starting one seem unpromising. A small boost would not be a bad idea. I present four alternatives to give the Ranger a step up. Which option one wants to use depends on how you envision the Ranger. A GM may choose one option for all Rangers in his world or he may assign different ones to different groups of Rangers or he may allow a Ranger to select from two or more of the options, although I have made no attempt to assure that they are of equal worth.

1. The "Patrolling Ranger" Option

At home in a given environment (alpine forest, tropical rainforest, desert, etc.), the Ranger is able to use his familiarity with this terrain to gain the best advantage possible on that ground. He thus receives a +10 bonus to all Moving Maneuvers, attack rolls, and static maneuvers using the Awareness skill group or Outdoor skill group whenever he is in his preferred environment.

2. The "Healing Ranger" Option

The archetypical Ranger was known for his healing skills and the Ranger as a secondary healer can help the party survive, so this option is unlikely to get any moans from other players, no matter how self-centered. The following skills become Everyman for the Ranger when this option is used: Poison Perception, Herb Lore, Poison Lore, First Aid, Using Prepared Herbs, Diagnostics, Second Aid, Midwifery, and Preparing Herbs.

3. The "Nature is One" Option

The Ranger's player chooses two skills in the Outdoor category that break down into subskills. These each become a single unified skill for the Ranger. If he chooses Riding, for example, he can switch from riding his horse to riding a newly captured camel and continue to use his Riding skill normally.

4. The "I Want A Kickass Ranger Like My D&D One" Option

Give the Ranger a +15 bonus when using any form of bow weapon. Also make Two-Weapon Combat an Occupational skill.

The Bard's Base and Treble Lists

I provide rewrites of the Controlling Songs, Item Lore, and Sound Projection lists. I have seen a few complaints about Entertaining Ways, but the Bard is first and foremost a minstrel and performance-enhancing magic is perfectly in theme for this Profession. However, most of the spells on Entertaining Ways can be made instantaneous without the list becoming overly strong.

The new Controlling Songs is designed to represent them as songs of such musical power that they influence the hearers. As such, they become radius effect spells, but require the Bard to check against his skill with the performance art he is using. The new Sound Projection list is necessary to replace spells that made sense with the old Controlling Songs with a new set of spells, mostly for use with the new Controlling Songs list. The new Item Lore list is designed to be superior to the old one and also to better represent the Bard as a master of exotic lore.

These have not been tested in play and, in fact, I just created them. If readers try these alternative Bard Base lists, I would like to have the benefit of their experiences so that I can improve them (or bask in the praise of how well they worked, if that is the case).

Controlling Songs (Revised)

Controlling Songs (Revised)
Level Spell Area of Effect1 Duration1 Range Type
1 Calming Song 20'R varies self Fm
2 Dancing Song 20'R varies self Fm
3 Stunning Song 20'R varies self Fm
4 Luring Song 40'R varies self Fm
5 Lullaby 20'R varies self Fm
6 Charming Song 20'R varies self Fm
7 Fear's Song 20'R varies self Fm
8 Seduction's Song 20'R varies self Fm
9 Battle Hymn 20'R varies self Fm
10 Greater Calming Song 50'R varies self Fm
11 Dancing Song True 50'R varies self Fm
12 Panic's Song 20'R varies self Fm
13 Stunning Song True 50'R varies self Fm
14 Luring Song True 100'R varies self Fm
15 Fight Song 20'R varies self Fm
16 Lullaby True 50'R varies self Fm
17 Charming Song True 50'R varies self Fm
18 Terror's Song 50'R varies self Fm
19 Battle Hymn True 50'R varies self Fm
20 Song of Command 20'R varies self Fm
25 Panic's Song True 50'R varies self Fm
30 Calming Song True 10'/lvl R varies self Fm
50 Fight Song True 50'R varies self Fm

Note 1: Area of Effect and Duration are treated unusually. See the Special Notes following the individual spell descriptions.

1. Calming Song: Targets are calmed and cannot take aggressive (offensive) action during the performance. This spell also soothes pain and can offset up to -10 in penalties due to injury.

2. Dancing Song: As Calming Song, except targets must dance (to the best of their ability). This takes 50% activity and the dancers cannot choose to leave the area of effect unless a second RR is made. All Dancing maneuvers by the targets have a +25 bonus.

3. Stunning Song: As Calming Song, except targets are stunned.

4. Luring Song: As Calming Song, except targets are only non-aggressive with respect to the caster and targets will be drawn to the caster. They will approach the caster as close as possible without touching the caster or having to fight for position, and they will follow the caster if he is moving.

5. Lullaby: As Calming Song, except targets fall into a light sleep. Targets get another RR if someone attempts to wake them while this spell is still active. When the duration is up, the targets can be awakened normally.

6. Charming Song: As Calming Song, except that the targets regard the caster as a good friend.

7. Fear's Song: As Calming Song, except the targets fear the caster and try to flee him. Normally this equates to moving at maximum pace away from the caster. If retreat is impossible, the targets get another RR. A second failure indicates the target will quiver in fear, unable to take any action but defending himself if attacked.

8. Seduction's Song: As Calming Song, except the targets become emotionally open and regard the caster favorably. This adds +10 to any Seduction maneuver made to affect a target of this spell and adds +10 to any Influence skill group maneuver or +30 to any Seduction maneuver made by the caster to affect a target of this spell.

9. Battle Hymn: As Calming Song, except the targets make all morale checks and fear RRs with a +20 bonus. They also receive this bonus to Frenzy and Stunned Maneuvering attempts.

10. Greater Calming Song: As Calming Song, except for area of effect, and it can offset up to -20 in injury-related penalties.

11. Dancing Song True: As Dancing Song, except for area of effect.

12. Panic's Song: As Calm Song, except targets panic (rout) and flee, dropping or throwing away most of their equipment to speed their departure. This results in moving at maximum pace without thought toward the direction moved (so long as it is away from the caster).

13. Stunning Song True: As Stunning Song, except for area of effect.

14. Luring Song True: As Luring Song, except for area of effect.

15. Fight Song: As Calming Song, except targets will attack nearest individual other than the caster. If two or more individuals are equidistant, the target will attack the one he would normally be most inclined to fight. If a target injures (inflicts a critical on) a loved one, a close friend, or a longtime comrade in arms, he may make a new RR.

16. Lullaby True: As Lullaby, except for area of effect.

17. Charming Song True: As Charming Song, except for area of effect.

18. Terror's Song: As Fear's Song, except for area of effect and if retreat is not possible, targets do not get another RR.

19. Battle Hymn True: As Battle Hymn, except for area of effect.

20. Song of Command: As Calming Song, except targets will obey the caster's commands, unless the action commanded is totally alien to the target's nature (e.g., no suicidal or self-mutilating commands unless the target is already self-destructive). If a target cannot understand the command, it will simply take no action.

25. Panic's Song True: [RR Mod: -10] As Panic's Song, except for area of effect and RR modifier.

30. Calming Song True: [RR Mod: -10] As Calming Song, except for area of effect, RR modifier, and a maximum of -30 in offset penalties.

50. Fight Song True: [RR Mod: -10] As Fight Song, except for area of effect and RR modifier.

Special Notes

1) Normally Controlling Songs affect all targets in the radius of effect except for the caster. If the caster is using Song Mastery (see revised Sound Projection spell list), he may elect to include himself as a target of the Controlling Songs spell.

2) All of the spells on this list require that the Bard provide some form of entertainment for the target, referred to in the spell descriptions here and on the Sound Projection spell list as the "performance." This could take the form of singing, tale telling, juggling, etc.

3) The area of effect listed is the base area of effect, used for a normal success on the maneuver roll for the performance. The duration is also determined by the maneuver roll for the performance, the basis for which is usually the number of ranks that the caster has in the skill used for the performance. If the caster uses two skills for a performance (he sings while playing the lute or dances while telling stories), the skill with the most ranks is used. The maneuver roll for the performance is made after the Controlling Song spell has been successfully cast.

4) After the duration given by the result of the initial performance maneuver roll is over, the caster may make a "continuation roll" each round in order to maintain the concentration needed to perform. Each additional continuation roll after the first one has a cumulative -5 modifier. These rolls never change the parameters set up for the spell effects by the initial performance roll. They succeed on a total over 100 and fail on a total of 100 or less. They are simply to maintain the performance as-is for one more round per continuation roll.

5. The maneuver roll for the performance uses the following table. The format of the numerical results is: radius multiplier (apply to listed area of effect), duration (duration may be extended with continuation rolls as stated above; "ranks" means the number of skill ranks the caster has in the performance skill), the modifier to any continuation rolls made, and the modifier to RRs (on top of normal BAR result and any modifier from other sources). That is: radius, duration, continuation mod, RR mod.

Controlling Songs Static Maneuver Table
-26 down Spectacular Failure0,ranks,0,-50
You become so wrapped up in your own performance that it is absolutely fascinating... to you. Unless you make a successful RR with the -50 applying, you fall under the influence of your own spell. Nobody else experiences any magical effect. In any case, you spend a number of rounds equal to your ranks in the performance skill lost in your own performance before you can do something else. This fascination ends if something stops you from performing.
-25 — -06 Absolute Failure 0,0,0,0
Inspiration fails. After two fruitless rounds, you realize the Muses have abandoned you. You cannot cast any of the Bard Base list spells for an additional ten rounds.
-05 — 75 Failure 0,0,0,0
Hitting an initial sour note, you immediately realize that this false start will prove fruitless. The spell must be cast again to make another attempt. This failure used 50% activity for the round.
UM 66 Unusual Event
Success or failure depends on the modified roll, but you have inadvertently tapped into the full power of your art. You cast (in addition to any of the expected effects) a random spell up to the level of the Controlling Song cast. The spell is cast at your level and if target selection is required, you will know the range, area of effect, and type (Elemental, Force, etc.) of the spell, but not the exact spell or what list it is from.
76 — 90 Partial Success 0.5xR, 1 round, -10, +10
Your weak performance does not offer much hope of achieving what you desired, but you may try extending your mediocre performance if you really want.
UM 100 Unusual Success 3xR, 2x(ranks), 0, -20
You are touched by the Muses. In addition to the fantastic results listed above, you only require 20% activity to maintain your performance.
91 — 110 Near Success 0.5xR, 0.5x(ranks), 0, +5
Not bad. Not good, either. Too many drinking bouts and pointless fights with goblins and not enough rehearsal. You can almost hear your old teacher nagging you about your poor practice habits.
111 — 175 Success 1xR, ranks, 0, 0
This is the way it was meant to be done. Your many hours of practice pay off as you work your way through your performance as if it was as natural as breathing.
176 up Absolute Success 2xR, ranks, +10, -10
You are in the groove. You have a +10 (non-cumulative) bonus to all future rolls on this chart, until you suffer a Spectacular Failure or an Absolute Failure.

Item Lore (Revised)

Item Lore (Revised)
Level Spell Area of Effect Duration Range Type
1 Instrumental Analysis 1 object touch I
2 Assessing Eye 1 object 10' I
3 Detect Power 1 object 1 rnd/lvl(C) touch I
4 Emblem Recognition 1 emblem touch I
5 Rune Literacy III caster 1 rnd/lvl self U
6 Origins 1 object touch I
7 Attuning III caster 1 rnd/lvl(C) self U
8 Power's Tale 1 object touch I
9 Item's Tale 1 object touch I
10 The Crafter's Tale 1 object touch I
11 Detect Curse 1 object touch I
12 Rune Literacy VII caster 1 rnd/lvl self U
13 Find Significance 1 object touch I
14 Attuning VII caster 1 rnd/lvl(C) self U
15 Item Analysis 1 object touch I
16 The Reaper's Tale 1 object touch I
17 Item's Epic 1 object touch I
18 Rune Literacy X caster 1 rnd/lvl self U
19 Distance Learning* caster 1 rnd/lvl self U
20 Attuning X caster 1 rnd/lvl(C) self U
25 Item's Saga 1 object touch I
30 Rune Literacy XV caster 1 rnd/lvl self U
50 Attuning XV caster 1 rnd/lvl(C) self U

1. Instrument Analysis: Caster can assess the value of a musical instrument to within 10% of its actual value. This spell allows the caster to calculate different values for the different cultures he is familiar with based on the general value of the instrument, the raw materials used to make it, and the quality of craftsmanship and sound. Additional value (e.g., from being made by a famous maker) is not revealed. The caster also gains a general knowledge of the instrument's origins (the culture of origin and the instrument's age within 10% of its actual age). Finally, he understands how the instrument is to be played, although actually playing competently requires the development of skill with the instrument through practice.

2. Assessing Eye: The caster may use Appraisal or any of the Evaluate (Item) skills in the Technical/Trade • Vocational skill category with either a +50 bonus with regard to the value in a culture with which the caster is familiar or, without a bonus, to judge the value in an unfamiliar culture.

3. Detect Power: Detects power in an item, but not the realm or how much. A different item can be examined each round by concentrating.

4. Emblem Recognition: The caster can examine any visual symbol of an individual or group, be it a company logo, shield design, tattoo, flag, or other device. The caster learns the name of the individual or group so represented, a rough idea of the nature and (usual) location of that which is represented (e.g., "a knight of Glakony" or "a criminal gang in the southern islands"), and the purpose of the emblem (e.g., "to mark his works", "to identify church grounds, property, or servants", or "battlefield identification").

5. Rune Literacy III: Any Read Runes roll made by the caster has a +15 bonus.

6. Origins: The caster learns the area of origin of the item, the race of the being who made it, and when it was made (within 100 years). If the creator gave the item a name, that is also revealed.

7. Attuning III: Any Attunement roll made by the caster has a +15 bonus.

8. Power's Tale: The caster learns the primary power of a magical item. This knowledge comes in the form a short narrative illustrating this power or an explanatory bit of verse.

9. Item's Tale: The caster learns a narrative account of the most significant event in the item's past. The event cannot have occurred more than one hour per level of the caster in the past.

10. The Crafter's Tale: The caster learns who made the item and when. He also learns of any craftsmanship bonus the item possesses. He learns for whom the item was made, if it was crafted for a specific person or group, and he learns for what purpose the item was made.

11. Detect Curse: The caster learns if there is a curse on the item.

12. Rune Literacy VII: As Rune Literacy III, but bonus is +35.

13. Find Significance: The caster learns the cultural and historical significance of one item. He also learns its personal significance, if any, to its current owner. This knowledge comes in the form of an illustrative narrative.

14. Attuning VII: As Attuning III, but bonus is +35.

15. Item Analysis: The caster gains complete information on the item's magical abilities.

16. The Reaper's Tale: The caster receives a narrative account of how someone died. Since this is not a vision, the caster has only a description of the killer (and perhaps the name, if it is revealed in dialog), but vision-centric defenses against retro-surveillance will not stymie this spell. When this spell is cast, the caster must be touching an object that had significance in the death (i.e., the murder weapon, the body, etc.) The narrative will be "from the point of view" of the object in question, so casting on multiple objects may provide a more complete account of events.

17. Item's Epic: As Item's Tale, except without a time limit.

18. Rune Literacy X: As Rune Literacy II, but bonus is +50.

19. Distance Learning: The next touch-ranged spell on this list cast by the caster of this spell will have its range improved to 20'.

20. Attuning X: As Attuning III, but bonus is +50.

25. Item's Saga: As Item's Tale, except caster learns the whole history of the item. This does not include every detail, but does include all significant events.

30. Rune Literacy XV: As Rune Literacy III, but bonus is +75.

50. Attuning XV: As Attuning III, but bonus is +75.

Sound Projection (Revised)

Sound Projection (Revised)
Level Spell Area of Effect Duration Range Type
1 Long Whisper I 1 point C 100' E
2 Sounding II caster C self E
3 Sweet Music III* 1 spell varies self U
4 Distant Drums V* 1 spell varies self U
5 Long Whisper III 1 point C 300' E
6 Sounding V caster C self E
7 Distant Drums X* 1 spell varies self U
8 Echoes* 1 spell varies self U
9 Long Whisper V 1 point C 500' E
10 Song Mastery* 1 spell varies self U
11 Sweet Music VI* 1 spell varies self U
12 Distant Drums XX* 1 spell varies self U
13 Long Whisper X 1 point C 1000' E
14 Sounding True caster C self E
15 Distant Drums XXX* 1 spell varies self U
16 Rebounding Echoes* 1 spell varies self U
17 Long Whisper True 1 point C 100'/lvl E
18 Sweet Music X* 1 spell varies self U
19 Distant Drums L* 1 spell varies self U
20 Marching Tune* 1 spell varies self U
25 Distant Drums True* 1 spell varies self U
30 Universal Language* 1 spell varies self U
50 Repeat Performance* 1 spell varies self U

1. Long Whisper I: Caster can whisper and the whisper can be heard at any point he chooses within the range.

2. Sounding II: Both the caster's voice and the sound of any musical instrument(s) he is playing are amplified two times. This allows for speaking to or performing for larger crowds.

3. Sweet Music III: The caster has a +15 bonus to performance maneuver rolls when casting a spell on the Controlling Songs spell list. The spell from that list must be cast within 1 minute after completing this spell. This bonus applies both to the initial roll and to any continuation rolls.

4. Distant Drums V: The center of the radius of a spell on the Controlling Songs spell list may be placed at a distance of up to 50' from the caster. The spell on that list must be cast within one minute after completing this spell. Silent performance techniques (e.g., juggling) cannot be used with Distant Drums.

5. Long Whisper III: As Long Whisper I, except range is 300'.

6. Sounding V: As Sounding II, except amplification is five times.

7. Distant Drums X: As Distant Drums V, but maximum distance is 100'.

8. Echoes: A spell on the Controlling Songs list will continue to stay in effect after the caster is done performing. The spell on that list must be cast within one minute after completing this spell. This extended effect is as long as the initial performance (including extension by making continuation rolls). For example, if the caster plays a Stunning Song for four rounds, then runs away, the victims will suffer a total of eight rounds of stun.

9. Long Whisper V: As Long Whisper I, except range is 500'.

10. Song Mastery: A spell on the Controlling Songs spell list can affect only those individuals the caster chooses. He may either select them individually or by choosing one or more categories of being to affect (e.g. "rats", "children"). The spell on that list must be cast within one minute after completing this spell. This spell allows the caster to make himself one of the targets of his own Controlling Song.

11. Sweet Music VI: As Sweet Music III, but bonus is +30.

12. Distant Drums XX: As Distant Drums V, but maximum distance is 200'.

13. Long Whisper X: As Long Whisper I, except range is 1000'.

14. Sounding True: As Sounding II, except sound carries out to a chosen distance up to one mile radius without diminution of sound.

15. Distant Drums XXX: As Distant Drums V, but maximum distance is 300'.

16. Rebounding Echoes: As Echoes, but the extended effect lasts twice as long as the performance.

17. Long Whisper True: As Long Whisper I, except range is 100' per level of the caster.

18. Sweet Music X: As Sweet Music III, but bonus is +50.

19. Distant Drums L: As Distant Drums V, but maximum distance is 500'.

20. Marching Tune: A spell on the Controlling Songs spell list will not interfere with the caster's normal movement. The spell on that list must be cast within one minute after completing this spell. The caster may continue his performance while doing full movement at a walking or jogging pace.

25. Distant Drums True: As Distant Drums V, but maximum distance is one mile, and the caster must be able to see the place where he wants to center his Controlling Song.

30. Universal Language: A spell on the Controlling Songs spell list will influence even beings normally immune to mental spells, be they mindless undead, strange demons, or animated stone. The spell on that list must be cast within one minute after completing this spell.

50. Repeat Performance: A spell on the Controlling Songs spell list can be made to repeat itself at a later time in the same place. The spell on that list must be cast within one minute after completing this spell. The repetition can be triggered any time in the next 48 hours after completion of the initial performance. The caster can choose one of the following triggers: a) a set time, b) specified movement/action, c) specified sound, d) specified species, or e) specified realm of magic actively cast. For options b through e, they trigger the Repeat Performance if they occur/exist in the area affected by the Controlling Song. For those options, the response to the trigger may occur instantly or there may be a set delay in order, e.g., to let more orcs enter the area of effect before the spell goes off.