The Bard Equipment Pack
Bards, the catch-all character class. I’ve poked fun at the bard in some of my previous articles, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love the class. I caught heat from a great many people for knocking the bard in my previous article. It was an attempt at humor that didn’t go over well.
I played a bard back in AD&D and it was my favorite character by far. They were not a core class in the AD&D 1e game. You could become a bard starting at 10th level, and then only if you had some crazy good stats and jumped through a ton of hoops. You had to start as a fighter, multi-class into thief (rogue in 5e) at 5th level, then switch to druid at some point before 9th level. I played a bard based on the revised class found in Dragon Magazine #56. You were able to do a little bit of everything, just as you are now. This makes the bard’s starting pack hard to nail down.
The bard can start with either the Entertainer’s Pack or Diplomat’s Pack. They are described as follows:
Diplomat's Pack (39 gp). Includes a chest, 2 cases for maps and scrolls, a set of fine clothes, a bottle of ink, an ink pen, a lamp, 2 flasks of oil, 5 sheets of paper, a vial of perfume, sealing wax, and soap.
Entertainer’s Pack (40 gp). Includes a backpack, a bedroll, 2 costumes, 5 candles, 5 days of rations, a waterskin, and a disguise kit.
Entertainer’s pack makes a lot of sense here, while the diplomat’s pack is useful only if you are playing the bard in a very specific way. This doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be taken, but the items found in this pack are useful if you are playing a bard that is less singing and storyteller bard, and more of a negotiation bard.
These are two of the three most expensive packs available. The disguise kit runs up the price of the entertainer’s pack and the perfume does the same for the diplomat’s pack. The clothes also increase the price for both, as they are nicer clothes and as we all know, quality costs. The fine clothes found in the diplomat’s pack costs 15 gp., so you’ll want to take really good care of them.
Speaking of the diplomat’s pack, it’s not a backpack but a chest. This seems like a very awkward container to carry around. I’m sure you can fashion it with straps to hang from your back, but it doesn’t seem like it would be very comfortable. That said, a chest makes sense, as the items that you carry around shouldn’t be stuffed into a backpack, but in a storage unit that will protect your fine clothes and your fragile bottle of ink. But I keep coming back to the fact that dragging around a chest will prove to be difficult unless you have a mule to carry it around for you. Eight (8) gold pieces isn’t a ton of money, but at first level, it’s hard to justify spending that kind of money on a mule to carry around a chest with your pretty clothes in it.
So what should the bard start within their pack? Given how versatile the bard is, I found it to be a challenge to come up with the right equipment. A lot of it depends on how you envision playing your bard, so some of the equipment may not work for you. I tried to include a broad enough variety of equipment to cover all aspects of the bard. The links below also include all previously created equipment packs.
For those that don’t care about the thought process behind it:
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Satchel (1 gp) - I covered the satchel in the Barbarian pack article, but will quickly review it again. There is no listing that I have found on any equipment table for a satchel, which is odd considering how many of the illustrations have characters wearing one. I took the cost of the backpack and halved it, which seemed appropriate. The bard satchel has an adjustable strap that allows it to be worn over either shoulder which provides quick access to the items inside.
The main reason I went satchel over a backpack is that a bard has their musical instrument that needs to be carried somehow. While you can choose any instrument your heart desires, I’m working under the assumption that the instrument will be slung across the bard’s back. This prevents you from having a backpack, so the satchel is the next obvious choice. If you decide to go harmonica as your instrument, feel free to take a backpack.
Disguise/Makeup Kit (25 gp) - I’m not a huge fan of the bard carrying around clothes in his pack. I don’t see the bard needing to change into his fine clothes while out adventuring, although Strahd would probably appreciate it when you have dinner with him. The need for fine clothes and costumes strikes me more as items the bard would need when in a city. With this in mind, these items could be kept in the room you have rented at the local inn. This eliminates the need to carry them around in your pack though it doesn’t mean you won’t have to buy them at some point, just not as part of your starting inventory.
This revised kit includes not only the equipment to change your appearance but to provide that touch up you may need for certain social situations. If our bard needs to ‘dress up’ while out on the road, some properly applied makeup can make all the difference in the world. Easily carried in a satchel, this kit can function as a way to change one’s appearance or beautify oneself without having to worry about how to get the wrinkles out of your dress clothes.
Notebook (2 gp) - I have always felt that the bard should have a book for their puns, song lyrics, and insults. The wizard gets a spellbook, so why not have the bard get a songbook? I looked through the editions and couldn’t find a notebook to base the price on. I decided that 2 gp would cover the cost of 10 pieces of parchment (cut in half) and the binding.
Ink & Quill (10 gp) - Can’t write in the notebook without ink.
Instrument Kit (1 sp) - A bard is only as good as his instrument so it should be taken care of properly. The Bard may rock out with such intensity that a string breaks or a stick snaps, in which case they always have a spare. Supplies will vary based on the bard’s instrument of choice. Below are supplies for the more popular instruments.
Hip Flask (2 sp) - No self-respecting bard would be caught without a small flask of wine. While a waterskin will do, I envision most bards would prefer something a little ‘fancier’ to drink from. A small flask will fit nicely into the satchel or on one’s belt.
Journeybread (5 gp each, 2 total in pack - 4th edition PHB) - I will be using this as a replacement for rations for all of the classes. If you wish to use rations you are welcome to do so, just think about how many a player could carry if they only have a satchel. Journeybread is described as such: This magic bread fills the stomach and provides all necessary nutrients with only a few small bites, so you can carry food for a long journey without weighing yourself down. I know people may have a problem giving a “magic” item right off the bat, and once again, if you do, just give them rations. Instead of calling it a magic item, I’d consider it an item that would be created through the use of specialized cooking skills. A nice cooking system can be found here.
Bedroll (1 gp) - Every adventurer needs something to sleep in when galavanting through the forest (except the barbarian).
Torches (1 cp each, 2 total in pack) - Ten torches is way too many. Two torches can easily hang from a belt.
The cost for the bard’s pack is 43 gp. While it becomes the most expensive pack available, you do get a slight discount for buying it as a package. As I stated above, the bard is probably the hardest class to come up with a well-rounded starting pack. They are so diverse that one could put almost anything in the bard pack and you could have an opportunity to use it. As always, please feel free to leave comments below.
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