Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer - Bard Guide

By: DonJarlaxle
2/22/2008
Version 2.03
Game Version 1.10

====================

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

I. Introduction
II. Selecting Your Race
III. Stats: Born to Rock
IV. Skills: More Than Strumming Your Lute
V. Serenading Yourself and Your Party (and Busting Your Enemies' Eardrums)
VI. Feats: How to Make Yourself Someone to Sing About
VII. Singing's All Good, But Can You Spell?
VIII. Music Career Just Not Working Out?
IX. Single-class Bards
	A. Celestial Thunder
	B. Drow Blade
X. Multiclass Builds
	A. Battle Caster
XI. Contact Info
XII. Version History
XIII. Permissions and Copyright

====================

I. Introduction

"You spoony bard!" -- Tellah to Edward in Final Fantasy IV

Don't you just love the 1990s? You know, when 2nd Edition AD&D changed the Bard
from pure Celtic-inspired badassness to a sad excuse for a Thief with the magic
capabilities of a gimped Mage. Or when Japanese RPGs like the Final Fantasy game
mentioned above mercilessly lampooned the class' 2nd Ed.-inspired reputation as
a useless dandy by giving the Bard character the unique ability to run from 
battle so that his allies could win the day.

Come to think of it, the 1990s weren't that great. Well, in some ways, anyway.

Okay, back on track. This Bard ain't so spoony. Neverwinter Nights 2 gives him
a bevy of songs that he doesn't have in pen-and-paper D&D, immensely boosting
his usefulness and overall power. Add to this the improvements he got in his
skill point totals between 3.0 and 3.5, and you've got a worthy character class.

With this FAQ, hopefully you'll really be able to make him scream.

Some notes, though. This FAQ assumes that you've already read the manual and
have at least a base understanding of the way character creation and levelling
works. It also assumes that you at least have a base knowledge of how the skills
work, how the feats work, and the benefits of each character race. If you don't
have such basic knowledge, read the manual, read another FAQ (such as a
beginner's guide or walkthrough), or just play the game some and learn that way.

====================

II. Selecting Your Race

Bards need a little bit of everything, seeing as how they are still in the mold
of that "jack of all trades, master of none." Charisma is the stat that is
universally important, which means you want to shun any race with a CHA penalty.
So don't even think about playing a Shield Dwarf, Duergar, Half-Orc, Tiefling,
or Deep Gnome.

Don't play a Half-Elf, either. Those are just useless. Now that we have the bad
Bard races out of the way, here are the races that make good Bards.

Best Bard Races:

- Human: No stat bonuses, but no penalties, either. The best thing a Human Bard
has going is the ability to multiclass without penalty. Besides that, the
extra skill point per level (4 extra at 1st level) is great for the Bard, who
always has a use for more skill points. The 1st-level bonus feat is pretty much
gravy.

- Aasimar: +2 to CHA allows him to get his CHA to 16 (ideal CHA for any Bard) at
the beginning on a 1-for-1 point buy. Those free +2 to WIS are ideal to put into
other ability scores that need it more, such as STR or DEX. Level adjustment of
+1 isn't that big a deal. If you're going pure Bard, particularly STR-based,
Aasimar is possibly the best choice because of these factors. Multiclassers
beware, however: the Aasimar's favored class is Paladin, so, barring prestige
classes, a multiclassed Aasimar will eat an XP penalty.

- Drow: Would be the best pure Bard race hands down if not for that +2 level
adjustment. As it is, he's got some competition, but he is still easily a
top-tier Bard race thanks to that +2 to DEX, INT and CHA, three very important
Bard stats, as well as that lovely natural spell resistance. The Drow's favored
class is Wizard, though, so multiclassing a Drow Bard will have some nasty
limitations.

***EPIC NOTE*** A DEX-based TWF-ing Drow Bard qualifes for Perfect TWF more
easily (read: with less takes of Great Dexterity) than all other races.

Other Good Bard Races:

- Moon Elf: DEX bonus helps with Armor Class, which is always nice for a Bard,
plus the free weapon proficiencies in certain martial weapons are handy.
Favored class is Wizard.

- Rock Gnome: Bard is his favored class, and sure enough, he makes a very solid
pick, particularly for a DEX-based Bard. CON bonus is always good, and +1 to
attack from Small Stature either makes up for his STR penalty or adds to a DEX-
based Bard's prowess. The Gnome's affinity for the Illusion magic school is good
for Bards, since some of their better spells are Illusion spells. The fact that
Bard is the Gnome's favored class makes multiclassing easy, too.

- Strongheart Halfling: Extra feat like the Human (though not the bonus skill
points). Favored class is Rogue.

====================

III. Stats: Born to Rock

Bards do need a little of everything, as mentioned before. They need STR to
carry stuff and do melee damage, DEX for defense, since they won't wear heavy
armor, INT for skill points, CON for hit points and Concentration, and CHA for
spells. Bards are what is called a MAD (multi-ability dependent) class because
they need good scores in several stats to excel, just like Paladins, Rangers and
Monks all do.

Still, when all is said and done, Bards fall into two types: STR-based and
DEX-based. In other words, how they will hit things. For when it comes to
combat, Bards, despite their many talents, are physical combatants, first and
foremost. They are not full casters and should not be built as such. They are
spellswords, using their spells and songs to augment their combat abilities and
debuff or inflict status ailments on their enemies, rather than for direct
offense.

So, with all that said, here is a rundown of each stat, and what they mean for
Bards:

Strength: Should be a positive modifier in any case. As mentioned before,
Bards are either going to be STR-based or DEX-based (with Weapon Finesse and
archery) in terms of how they will hit people in combat. So if you're going
STR-based, you'll want to start with at least a 14 STR (higher if you can), and
then boost this as much as you can with levels. A DEX-based Bard can get away
with a 10, but no lower.

Dexterity: Should be at least a 14 in any case, even for a STR-based Bard.
You'll never be in heavy armor, so you want at least a decent DEX score (again,
14 at least) to help armor class. Obviously, a DEX-based Bard is going to raise
this as high as possible.

Constitution: You don't want a negative modifier at all, and you want a positive
modifier of some sort if you can spare it at all. That said, a 12 in CON is
typically adequate. The benefits of a CON higher than that are slightly
overrated and not worth giving up stat points in other key areas. Although if
you find yourself able to take this to the highest score you can in a 1-for-1
point buy (14 for most races), with everything else satisfied, go right ahead.

Intelligence: You NEVER want a negative modifier in this stat. NEVER. And that
goes double for Bards, who have a fantastic skill list and want as many skill
points as possible to spend on it. Bards do get 6 skill points per level in
D&D 3.5 (and in NWN2), so a 10 INT isn't quite as crippling as it was in NWN1,
but still, you want a positive modifier in INT if you can get it. INT of 12 is
getting warmer, 14 is even better, and if you can get a 16 without much pain,
great for you. Bards will always have a use for more skill points.

Wisdom: I don't like taking a negative modifier in this stat because I don't
like lowering my Will save. But if you have to, this is the stat to take the
negative modifier in. A Will penalty isn't quite as crippling to Bards as it
is to some other classes because Bards get a high Will save progression. Still,
only take a negative modifier if you have to. A WIS of 10 is preferable.

Charisma: Assuming you're going pure Bard or close to pure, CHA should be 16.
No more, and no less. Bards get up to 6th-level spells, and a CHA of 16 will
allow access to the Bard's entire spell list. CHA doesn't necessarily have to be
16 when you start, but it should be sometime before you're Lv. 16. You're not
a full caster, so don't raise CHA any higher than 16 at the expense of your
physical stats.

Here are some sample starting stat lines. Obviously, you can adjust these to
taste and necessity, but these typically follow the principles I outlined above:

Human (STR-based): STR 14, DEX 14, CON 12, INT 14, WIS 10, CHA 15

Aasimar (STR-based): STR 16, DEX 14, CON 12, INT 14, WIS 10, CHA 16
Aasimar (DEX-based): STR 10, DEX 16, CON 12, INT 16, WIS 10, CHA 16

Drow (STR-based): STR 15, DEX 14, CON 12, INT 16, WIS 10, CHA 16
Drow (DEX-based): STR 10, DEX 18, CON 12, INT 16, WIS 10, CHA 16

====================

IV. Skills: More Than Strumming Your Lute

Bards get 6 skill points per level in D&D 3.5 and in NWN2, which is two more
than what he had in NWN1. Those two extra skill points are huge for him. Only
the Rogue has more, and only the Ranger has as many. Moreover, the Bard's skill
list is almost as extensive as the Rogue's. In many cases, it seems like even
the Bard's upgraded skill points total in 3.5, even with a 14 INT, isn't
enough.

Absolutely Essential Skills:

- Perform: If you don't take this, pick another class to play. I'm dead serious.
The whole point of the Bard is to take advantage of his inspirations and songs,
and all of those are governed by his Perform score.

- Concentration: Bards have spells that are round/level duration buffs, debuffs
and disruptors, and some useful spells that are instantaneous effect. Which
means that they will have to cast in the middle of combat. Concentration helps
those castings from fizzling out when taking damage.

- Use Magic Device: You are one of only three classes (Rogue and Warlock being
the others) that can take this as a class skill. And you should take this,
indeed, allowing you to use a whole bunch of items that would otherwise be
closed to you, such as mage's robes, certain forbidden weapons, wands, rods,
scrolls, etc.

Very Useful Skills:

- Spellcraft: Would be even better if counterspelling were in this game. As it
is, gives a good boost to saves vs. spells and allows you to discern what the
enemy is casting at you.

- Tumble: Allows you to avoid Attacks of Opportunity when moving, which can be
a lifesaver. Also gives a modest AC boost (+2 at 20 ranks).

- Diplomacy and/or Bluff: Bards are one of the best role-playing classes in
the game because of their compulsory high CHA, which enhances handy conversation
skills like Diplomacy and Bluff.

Other Good Skills:

- Listen: Helps detect stealthed enemies. Synergizes well with the 1st-level
Amplify spell.

- Lore: Bards already get Bardic Knowledge, which is like getting a free point
in Lore every Bard level. Taking ranks in Lore on top of that makes the Bard a
true loremaster. Kiss the Identify spell and shop identifies goodbye forever.

- Sleight of Hand: Some shopkeepers in the original campaign have some nice
items you can pick off.

- Hide and Move Silently: One skill without the other is useless, which is why
they are mentioned together. Stealth is actually more of a nicety rather than
a necessity for a Bard, especially in comparison to some of his other skills.
It's also not as vital for a Bard as it is for a Ranger, Rogue or Monk, all of
which tend to be better at the whole scouting thing. Still, you can make a
decent stealth Bard if you wish. The fact that Hide and Move Silently are class
skills for a Bard also helps when qualifying for prestige classes.

Iffy Skill to Note:

- Taunt: It is used in many conversations in the original campaign, and quite
frankly, that is Taunt's saving grace. Its battle application is not nearly as
useful as in NWN1, since the range is terrible, repeated uses do not stack, the
penalties are crap compared to the myriad other debuffs Bards get, and it draws
Attacks of Opportunity. Were it not for its double life as a conversation skill,
it would be absolutely worthless.

====================

V. Serenading Yourself and Your Party (and Busting Your Enemies' Eardrums)

Bards, by definition, are all about performance. And bardic music, more than
anything else, is the heart of the class's power and utility. Songs and
inspirations can swing the battle entirely off balance in favor of the Bard
and his party.

Bardic performance abilities are the main area where the Bard differs very 
strongly from his pen-and-paper form, and it's all for the better. Much, much,
MUCH better.

Curse Song, which must be taken as a feat, is the ultimate debuff, inflicting
huge penalties to combat abilities (and even free cheap damage) to all enemies
in the area. Now, combine that with complementary abilities that can do things
like boost the Bard's and his allies' combat abilities by as much as Curse 
Song reduces those of his enemies, and the seesaw of combat balance swings
topsy-turvy.

Bardic performance abilities are split into two categories: Songs and
Inspirations. Songs have a limited duration (Curse Song is under this category),
often 10 rounds (can be lengthened with Lingering Song), and a limited number of
uses per day. Inspirations, on the other hand, are always active, and they
affect the entire party as long as they're close to the Bard (as well as the
bard himself). However, a Bard can only have one Inspiration on at a time, so
sometimes it comes down to a choice in a situation.

The manual does not explain the songs and inspirations in great detail, so I
will go into detail on each one of those, as well as comment on them:

Inspirations:

- Inspire Courage: Earned at 1st level. Gives bonuses to both physical attack
and damage. +1 bonuses to start, +2 at Bard 8, +3 at Bard 14, +4 at Bard 20,
and +5 at Bard 26. This is the Inspiration you will use most often in combat.
It allows you and your allies to kill much faster and easier. Obviously huge,
especially when coupled with a Curse Song.

- Inspire Competence: Earned at 2nd level. Gives bonuses to your and your
allies' skills. +2 to start, +4 at Bard 11, +6 at Bard 19, and +8 at Bard 27.
You'll use this a lot in non-combat situations. Conversations, assisting the
party Rogue with trap disabling and unlocking, assisting with crafting, etc.

- Inspire Defense: Earned at 5th level. Gives dodge AC bonus to you and your
allies. +2 to start, +3 at Bard 10, +4 at Bard 15, +5 at Bard 20, +6 at Bard 25,
and +7 at Bard 30. You won't use this quite as much as Inspire Courage. I can
see situations where it might be useful, but more often than not in this game,
even in the more dangerous battles, the best defense is a good offense, so
Inspire Courage is overall the better choice.

- Inspire Regeneration: Earned at 7th level. Regenerates your and your allies'
hit points by a given amount of points per round. +1 to start, +2 at Bard 12,
+3 at Bard 17, +4 at bard 22, and +5 at Bard 27. This is THE Inspiration to use
between fights and takes a HUGE burden off of your party's Cleric.

- Inspire Toughness: Earned at 8th level. Increases your and your allies' saving
throws. +1 to start, +2 at Bard 13, +3 at Bard 18, +4 at Bard 23, and +5 at Bard
28. This one's not that useful. Stick with Inspire Courage.

- Inspire Slowing: Earned at 11th level. All enemies that come within 20 feet of
the Bard must make a Will save against a DC of 13 + half Bard level + the Bard's
CHA modifier. If they fail, their movement is slowed by 15%. At Bard 16, that
movement penalty goes to 30%. This effect does not reduce enemy number of
attacks or give attack penalties. This one is useless.

- Inspire Jarring: Earned at 14th level. All enemies within 20 feet of the Bard
are inflicted with a -4 to Concentration and -2 to Will saves. This one can
actually be pretty useful. The -2 to Will saves gives the Bard's enchantment
spells a markedly higher rate of success (especially coupled with Curse Song),
and the -4 to Concentration is very handy in fights against magic users.

Songs:

- Curse Song: Must be taken as a feat. The ultimate debuff in NWN1, and it's as
good as ever in NWN2. It's great from the start and only improves with Bard
level and Perform score. At Lv. 16 and with a Perform score of 25 (with skill
bonuses and all, not just ranks), you inflict upon your enemies penalties of
-3 to attack, -3 to damage, -3 to saves and -5 to their Armor Class, and for
good measure, a free 20 points of sonic damage to all enemies. Ouch.

- Countersong: Earned at 1st level with 3 Perform ranks. Gives spell
resistance to you or an ally for 10 rounds of 10 + your Bard level. Obviously
pretty useful against magic users.

- Fascinate: Earned at 1st level with 3 Perform ranks. All hostiles within
90 feet of the Bard must make a Will Save against a DC of 11 + half Bard level
+ the Bard's CHA modifier. If they fail, they are dazed for 10 rounds. If they
are attacked or within 10 feet of an enemy that is attacked, they snap out of
their daze. This song has a cooldown period of 10 rounds before you can use
it again. This could be useful to freeze enemies before casting an enchantment
spell (ex. Sleep, Fear) that more assuredly disables enemies. The DC is pretty
good (especially after a cast of Curse Song), so in fights against larger mobs,
you might want to throw this out.

- Haven Song: Earned at 3rd level with 6 Perform ranks. This is essentially
a Sanctuary spell with potentially far better of a DC than a Cleric can get.
Enemies that want to attack the Bard must make a Will save against a DC of 11 + 
half Bard level + CHA modifier to do so. This effect lasts 10 rounds. Any 
hostile action cancels the Haven Song effect. The first Bard song you'll really
love. It's great for buffing in the middle of combat, but even better when you 
consider that SINGING IS NOT A HOSTILE ACTION. That includes Curse Song! And 
Fascinate! Which means you can walk into the middle of a mob with Haven Song 
activated, sing your curses, Fascinate the mob with a nice penalty to Will saves
already in effect (add Inspire Jarring for extra success), then come out of your
Haven by dropping your enchantment spell of choice.

- Cloud Mind: Earned at 6th level with 9 Perform ranks. This is a more
powerful, single-target version of Fascinate. The Will save DC the enemy must
make is 14 + half Bard level + CHA modifier. Plus any enemies attacked near
the dazed enemy does not snap the enemy out of the daze. The effect lasts 10
rounds, and the song has a cooldown period of 5 rounds before you can use it
again. I don't get much use out of this one, personally.

- Ironskin Chant: Earned at 9th level with 12 Perform ranks. Gives you and 
allies DR of 5/- (that's 5 points against all physical attacks) for 4 rounds.
Not too useful, unless by chance you don't have a Wizard or Druid that can cast
the more powerful and long-lasting Stoneskin on the entire party.

- Song of Freedom: Earned at 12th level with 15 Perform ranks. This breaks
all enchantments and curses on you and your allies with a check of a d20 + your
Bard level versus a DC of 11 + caster level of the curse or enchantment spell.
Obviously useful when your party is cursed or under an enchantment spell.

- Song of Heroism: Earned at 15th level with 18 Perform ranks. This grants
a single target (you or an ally) a +4 to AC, a +4 to all saves, and +4 temporary
hit points per level for 5 rounds. This song has a cooldown of 20 rounds between
uses. Obviously huge. With Inspire Courage in effect, this covers defense for
one character, preferably the member of the party that is charging in headlong
into danger. This is the first of two songs that REALLY justifies the
importance of the Lingering Song feat, so it will last 10 rounds.

- Legionnaire's March: Earned at 18th level with 21 Perform ranks. This
affects you and all allies within 60 feet. It grants all affected a +4 damage
bonus in physical combat, and in addition sets everybody's base attack bonus
equal to the highest member in the party. The effect lasts 10 rounds, and there
is a cooldown period of 5 minutes game time (300 seconds, or 50 rounds) between
uses. This is pretty obviously a badass ability of epic proportions. With a
full BAB character in the party (such as a Fighter, Barbarian, Paladin or
Ranger), this song gets even better, making you fight as well as your ally. But
this song has an enormous cooldown period between uses, so use it wisely.
Lingering Song is an absolute must here, so to make this song last 15 rounds.

Epic Singing (these are all epic feats):

- Chorus of Heroism: Not really a separate song, but actually a seriously
badass upgrade to Song of Heroism, making it affect the entire party all at
once. Available as soon as you hit Epic levels. A note for multiclassers: You
can still take the feat in Epic levels as long as you have 15 Bard levels
(and Song of Heroism, of course).

- Song of Requiem: Must have 21 Bard levels and 24 Perform ranks. It lasts
5 rounds (10 with Lingering Song) and inflicts all enemies within 20 feet
with sonic damage once per every round it is in effect. There is no save
against it, and the only way to reduce or eliminate the damage is reduction
or immunity against sonic damage. The total damage inflicted per round is
equal to twice your Perform skill, and this damage is spread between all
your surrounding enemies (minimum damage caused is Perform skill divided by
3). For example, if your Perform skill is 30, your song can do 60 points of
damage to one enemy per round. If you're surrounded by four enemies, it'll
do 15 points to each surrounding enemy (60/4). If you're surrounded by six
or more, it'll do the minimum 10 points to all surrounding enemies. Great
reward for staying a pure Bard for 21 levels, turning you into walking
death.

- Hymn of Requiem: An upgrade to Song of Requiem that requires 30 Perform
ranks (so you'll be a 27th-level character when you qualify). Multiclassers
take note that your Bard levels can be as low as 21 to get this, though. 
Anyway, this upgrade makes your Song of Requiem heal your party by as many
points as it damages your enemies every round. Just as the damage was among
your enemies, the total healing (Perform x2) is divided equally among you and
your party members, and the minimum healing per character is Perform/3. Now
your Bard is a healing siphon.

====================

VI. Feats: How to Make Yourself Someone to Sing About

Your feat selection will vary depending on whether you're going STR-based or
DEX-based. You might also want to focus entirely on combat, or focus more on
your music's power and duration. Or you might want to take a metamagic feat to
enhance the duration of your buffing spells.

Five feats are just plain essential for every Bard no matter what his focus is,
though, which are:

- Luck of Heroes: Can only take at 1st level. This is THE defensive feat to
take. Period. If you're going to take ANY defense-boosting feat at all,
make it this one. And really, you should take it.

- Curse Song: Just in case you forgot about it already. I just had to mention
it again because it really is that damn good.

- Blind-Fight: A lifesaver of a feat against Rogues and enemies that can cast
Invisibility. Absolutely necessary to maximize offensive and defensive potential
of any melee combatant, which all Bards are, in the end.

- Lingering Song: Makes songs last 5 rounds longer. This is a gamebreaking bonus
with some of the Bard's more potent songs that have a large cooldown period
afterwards, namely Song of Heroism and Legionnaire's March. You can go for a
while without this feat, but once you hit Lv. 15 and get Song of Heroism, this
feat becomes a must.

- Toughness: Gained in status thanks to the lovely Epic Resilience (described
below), and this feat is a prerequisite for it. You can delay taking this
feat until Epic levels if you need to.

In Epic levels, Bards get a few more feats that are universally essential:

- Chorus of Heroism: Just a *small* reminder that, yes, you'd better take this.

- Song of Requiem: Described in the Songs section above. Just take it.

- Hymn of Requiem: Described in the Songs section above. Just take it.

- Epic Toughness: Toughness required for it. +30 HP is nice, but it unlocks
the real prize of ...

- Epic Resilience: Never worry about that damn natural 1 on a saving throw ever
again. More important for Bards than most since many of your songs and spells
boost saves.

- Great Strength/Dexterity: Great for when you have nothing else left to take.
If you're a DEX-based dual-wielder, you may have to take a few Great Dexterity
feats if you're going for Perfect Two-Weapon Fighting.

These Epic feats aren't quite as essential, but are still nice:

- Epic Prowess: +1 permanent bonus to attack rolls. Why not?

***MANUAL ERROR NOTE*** The manual tells a few lies, and it apparently lies
about Bards qualifying for the Epic Spells Mass Fowl and Epic Gate. Even with
the prescribed Spellcraft ranks, those spells (which are taken as feats) are
MIA.

For Those Looking to Be Better Musicians:

- Skill Focus (Perform): +3 to Perform score. One thing to note: the maximum
Curse Song penalties require 16 Bard levels AND a Perform score of 25.
If you have Perform ranks maxed out for Lv. 16 (19 ranks), plus a CHA of 16
(max spellcasting and +3 modifier), and this feat, you get the Perform score
of 25 naturally, with no other enhancements needed. This is worthy to consider
in a multiclass build, particularly. Not that a jacked-up Perform score isn't
valuable otherwise (Curse Song sonic damage can still increase past the
16-25 penalties cap, plus there's Song/Hymn of Requiem that only gets better
with Perform score).

Metamagic Feat of Note:

- Extend Spell: The only metamagic feat worth taking for a Bard. It's a worthy
consideration, though. Extended War Cries and Greater Heroisms are as good a
use of 5th- and 6th-level spell uses as anything else.

Essential for STR-based *MULTICLASSED* Bards:

- Battle Caster: If you get Medium Armor Proficiency from taking a Fighter or
Barbarian level, this feat is a no-brainer to take. Casting in Mithral Full
Plate with impunity is pretty damn sexy no matter how you look at it. I
wouldn't spend on Medium Armor Proficiency (and by extension, Battle Caster) as
a pure Bard, though. You have precious few feats, and those are really better
spent elsewhere. Pure Bards should just be content with the still-pretty-nice
Mithral Breastplate.

Noteworthy STR-based combat feats:

- Power Attack: Your source of cheap extra damage, especially if you wield a
single non-finessable weapon in two hands, in which case your damage bonus
doubles. And with the legion AB boosts Bards get, you can afford the -3 to AB.
Required to qualify for Blackguard, if you're going for that.

- Cleave and Great Cleave: Not as essential as some will have you believe, but
far from as worthless as others will have you believe. It's in the middle.
Also, some misunderstand how Great Cleave works. It does not necessarily require
you to kill every enemy in one hit to get any use out of it. It simply removes
the once-per-round limitation of Cleave. Say, you are a Lv. 20 Bard with 3
attacks per round. On your first hit, you kill an enemy, so you Great Cleave an
adjacent foe. You do not kill that foe with the Great Cleave, but you kill him
with the second attack in your normal routine, which follows. You get to Great
Cleave again. If you didn't have Great Cleave, you would not get another Cleave
Attack after you killed that second enemy. As is evident, the hits can add up
over time and make some battles against rather dangerous enemies easier.

***MOTB CAMPAIGN NOTE*** If the expansion campaign is your primary concern,
I'll go ahead and tell you that Cleave (unless you're going for Blackguard)
and Great Cleave are not worth it. The significance of these feats diminishes
severely when even the "scrubs" can survive flurries of hits doing 35-40 points
of damage each.

Absolutely essential for a DEX-based Bard:

- Weapon Finesse: Goes without saying. You have to hit in melee, and this is
how you're going to do it when boosting DEX.

Noteworthy DEX-based combat feats:

- Two-Weapon Fighting (and Improved/Greater/Perfect versions): Two-weapon
fighting is a pretty good choice for Bards because of the numerous damage
bonuses they get from their songs and spells, all of which get added in full
with each hit. With more hits per round, that's just more hits that the Bard's
damage bonuses will take effect. Beware that Perfect TWF requires a DEX of 25.
A Drow will get PTWF with a couple small sacrifices, but other races will
struggle.

Other noteworthy combat feats:

- Weapon Focus: Not truly essential, but every bit of attack bonus helps.

- Improved Critical: Too bad Bards can't cast Keen Edge. So that makes this feat
worth a look. If you're travelling with a Wizard who can cast Keen Edge, you can
skip this feat in favor of something else.

Iffy (for STR-based characters):

- Knockdown and Improved Knockdown: These feats were once hideously broken.
Now, with the expansion, they're barely even worth considering anymore. I
suppose that's a good thing, though. The expansion versions of these feats
require an attack roll, and moreover, have a cooldown timer of 12 seconds
(2 rounds) between uses.

Avoid These Feats (They really do suck):

- Extra Music: You get enough uses of songs as you level up. Four extra really
doesn't make a difference in the long run.

- Armor Skin: Luck of Heroes is better and is available at 1st level, rather
than Epic.

====================

VII. Singing's All Good, But Can You Spell?

Bards cast spells spontaneously like a Sorceror does. Which means that a Bard's
repertoire of spells is limited to the spells he chooses to know with each
level, but it also means that he can cast a given spell in a level as often
as he has castings for that level. The Bard's knowledge of spells is very
limited per spell level, so he must choose wisely.

One thing people might not know about is the ability to switch out spells. NWN2
follows the D&D 3.5 rules regarding this. At Bard levels 5, 8, 11, 14, 17 and
20, the Bard may switch out one (and ONLY one) spell that he knows and replace
it with another spell from that spell level. The spell switched out must be 2
levels lower than the maximum spell level the Bard can cast.

One general guideline: I wouldn't select the animal buffs as a Bard. At all.
In 3.5, and consequently NWN2, those do not stack on top of the enhancement
gear you will no doubt be decked in over the course of your adventures.
Failing that, you'll have a Wizard, Druid or Cleric that can cast those spells
as needed without being "committed" to them.

Most of a Bard's useful spells are either defenses, offensive buffs, debuffs,
or status effects and enchantments. The debuffs and enchantments are especially
effective after you've popped out a Curse Song and Inspire Jarring to drop
their Will saves like a rock.

Bards actually got treated pretty well in the expansion, spells-wise, getting
some nice extra options especially in their higher levels, where they were
lacking before the expansion came out.

Here are the noteworthy spells by level:

1st level:

- Sleep: The ultimate spell at low levels, while your enemies are below 5 HD.
Cause mobs of enemies to fall asleep, then coup de grace them. Bada bing. At
Lv. 8, you switch this spell out, since by then it's long since useless.

- Amplify: Adds +20 to Listen skill, which pretty much defeats all attempts at
stealth, especially since you already have Listen as a class skill.

- Remove Fear: Just what it says. Keeps your party from running around
uncontrollably.

- Joyful Noise: Immunity to silence is good for a spellcaster.

- Grease: Good low-level battlefield control spell.

2nd level:

- Mirror Image: Great defensive spell that is useful throughout your entire
career.

- Heroism: A nice, cheap +2 to attack, saves and skills. Just one of the many
boosts in melee the Bard gets.

- Hold Person: Good enchantment against humanoids to make them die really
easily.

- Curse of Impending Blades: New for MotB, this is a great spell. It inflicts
a -2 penalty to an enemy's armor class, there is no saving throw against it,
and it can only be removed with a Remove Curse spell. Rangers and Wizards can
cast it as well, though, so if you have one of those in the party, you can 
hold off on selecting it.

- Cloud of Bewilderment: Creates a cloud that stuns and blinds for 1d6 
rounds. Beautiful, if you can lay it down in a situation where it won't affect
your party.

3rd level:

- Displacement: 50% concealment? Which means 50% miss chance? Yes, please.

- Confusion: Possibly makes the enemy do the dirty work for you by killing 
each other. Or they may just stand there. In any case, this is a great
staple enchantment, and you get access to it at about the time Sleep stops 
being useful.

- Haste: Pretty much THE buff for 3rd level in terms of offense. However, if
you're traveling with a Wizard, you might be able to get away with delaying
or ignoring this spell. Still worth considering, though.

- Mass Curse of Impending Blades: Same effects as its 2nd-level brother,
except it affects multiple enemies. Great spell, but consider who you're
traveling with before committing to it early, as Rangers and Wizards can also
cast it.

- Slow: Better than Inspire Slowing, at least, as it removes one attack
per round from the enemy and inflicts an attack penalty.

4th level:

- War Cry: Not only do you get yet another nice buff to your melee ability
in the form of +2 to hit and damage, but you can make everyone uncontrollably
scared of you in the process. It's a wonderful combo buff/enchantment,
centered around you.

- Greater Invisibility: Turn invisible, then have some 50% concealment goodness
after you've hit something. Woohoo!

- Shout: A core Player's Handbook spell that just now made it into MotB (hah).
Does 5d6 sonic damage, but more importantly, it causes 2d6 rounds worth of
deafness if the enemies fail their Fortitude saves. Deafness causes 20% spell
failure, which is fairly significant against spellcasters. Great against
the arcane spellcasters, especially, since their Fortitude saves tend to suck.

- Hold Monster: To freeze what Hold Person won't freeze. Enables coup de grace.

- Freedom of Movement: Pretty much everyone that can cast spells can cast this.
But it's still better than any of the 4th-level spells remaining after you
selected the above.

5th level:

- Greater Heroism: Extra hit points and +4 to hit, saves and skills. Great
buff.

- Mind Fog: Drops enemies' Will saves by -10 as long as they're in the fog and
for 2d6 rounds after. Interestingly, tests the Will save to negate the effect.
It's still a wonderful spell to lay out after a Curse Song or Inspire Jarring.
Follow through with your enchantment of choice (War Cry, Confusion, etc.)

- Ethereal Visage: The 20/magic DR is actually overrated, as everyone and
his mother will have enchanted weapons by the time you get this. However,
ironically enough, the immunity to 2nd level spells and below is underrated,
as almost all the spellcasters' 2nd-level arsenals have some debuffs and
enchantments that stay effective even on up into the middle and high levels
(hell, even Rangers have the no-save-allowed Curse of Impending Blades in
their 2nd-level repertoires).

- Song of Discord: Confusion with a range of effect centered around the Bard.
Also, since it's a 5th-level spell, it also has a +2 advantage on its DC
compared to plain ol' Confusion (a 3rd-level spell). Not super-high priority 
if you already have Confusion, but hey, it's better than the other 5th-level 
spells left.

- Greater Dispel Magic: Good against anything that can buff with magic.

6th level:

- Dirge: -2 penalties to STR and DEX per round for anyone who enters the
centered area of effect around the Bard, unless they make Fortitude saves. The
effects of this spell become a more real threat to melee enemies after a
Curse Song.

- Greater Shout: Like its little brother, it's a Core spell that was only
introduced with MotB. Go figure. Anyway, it sure helps to fatten up the Bard's
previously lacking 6th-level list. The deafness effect lasts 4d6 rounds and it
does 10d6 sonic damage. It also stuns for one round, which regular Shout does
not do, so this spell is good against melee and spellcasting threats alike.
Fortitude negates stunning and deafness. Again, best used after a Curse Song.

- Energy Immunity: Almost too good. Worth taking even with a Cleric or Wizard
in the party, who can use their own 6th level spell slots for their other 
spells, instead.

- Superior Resistance: New for MotB. A flat +6 to all saves for one target, 
either an ally or yourself. This one actually is worth a pick.

====================

VIII. Music Career Just Not Working Out?

There is only one reason for cherry-picking a few levels of Bard: to get the
Red Dragon Disciple prestige class for those cheesy Red Dragon Disciple
builds. Since RDD is a whole 'nother animal altogether, this guide won't go
into those. We're interested in Bard-dominant builds, here.

Other than those RDD abberations, the Bard class is meant to be taken pure or
close to pure. Note that in Epic levels, feat selection is accelerated to every
two levels (21, 23, 25, 27, 29). *In addition* to that acceleration, pure Bards
get a bonus feat at class levels 23, 26 and 29. And unlike in NWN1, these pure
class bonus feats are *NOT* restricted to a list. They work just like the
general feats do.

Multiclassing a Bard should be limited to a few levels in any given class, for
example, to get Martial Weapons Proficiency for Eldritch Knight or Medium
Armor Proficiency for Battle Caster.

Another common goal for a multiclass is to get 6 attacks per round by Lv. 30,
which a pure Bard doesn't get. This requires a larger sacrifice, however. To 
get the BAB of 26 that is necessary for 6 attacks, you need at least 14 levels
total of full BAB classes in your build, so the most Bard levels you'd be able
to get for that to work would be 16.  16 Bard levels gives you the maximum 
Curse Song penalties. No Legionnaire's March, though. Boo.

You shouldn't dip below 15 Bard levels in any build (when you get the Song of
Heroism). The rest of your songs and inspirations are still quite powerful at
that level.

Good multiclass choices include:

- Fighter: 1 level of Fighter gets you Medium Armor Proficiency for free,
Martial Weapons Proficiency for free, and a bonus feat of your choosing,
which essentially makes up for the Battle Caster feat you will no doubt
select. It will also help you qualify for Eldritch Knight. A one-level cherry
pick of this class is very good for an "almost" pure STR-based Human Bard.

- Barbarian: Another 1-level dip class for a Bard that wants Medium Armor
Proficiency, Battle Caster, Martial Weapon Proficiency, and possible Eldritch
Knight progression. Instead of a bonus feat, gets faster movement and Rage, 
and a couple more hit points. Some prefer this over a Fighter level.

- Eldritch Knight: The chief class you'll use if you're going for 26 BAB and
6 attacks/round, as it boosts both your BAB and your spellcasting. One 
Fighter, Barbarian, Blackguard or Divine Champion level will qualify you for
this. If you're trying for the 26 BAB Bard builds, you should typically go
for at least the full Lv. 20 Bard spellcasting (for that, your Bard and
Eldritch Knight levels must add up to 21). Beyond Bard + EK = 21, you
won't get any new spells, but you will increase your caster level, which 
determines how hard you are to dispel, durations of spells, and your ability
to penetrate Spell Resistance.

- Blackguard: Must be evil, obviously. "Black-Bards" with 3 levels of this
class are infamous. Where to start? How about Aura of Despair? An automatic
-2 penalty to all enemies' saving throws within 10 feet that happens to stack
with Curse Song. Yeah, that's pretty nasty. Dark Blessing at this class' 2nd
level adds your CHA modifier to your saves. Those abilities alone are enough
to consider a 3-level dip in this class. But wait, it gets even better.
Blackguards gain Medium Armor Proficiency and Martial Weapon Proficiency
for free, which means you get easy access to Battle Caster and Eldritch
Knight to make up for the two entry feats for this class. And since
Blackguard is a prestige class, which does not invoke a multiclass XP
penalty, this works in favor of Aasimar and Drow. It's also a full BAB class,
so if 6 attacks/round is your goal, this helps you toward it.

I could go into detail about delaying the 3rd level of Blackguard for a level
where you get a feat to take Divine Might, and later Epic Divine Might
(STR 21, CHA 21), but that particular path is best for certain RDD builds,
not builds where Bard is the dominant class.

- Divine Champion: Another potential Eldritch Knight qualifier, as you do
get free Martial Weapons Proficiency, and it's a full BAB class. However,
you do not get Medium Armor Proficiency, so Battle Caster isn't an option.
It is a prestige class, so Aasimar and Drow can take this without a
multiclass XP penalty, and only at the cost of taking a Weapon Focus feat,
which isn't bad. Four levels in this class can be pretty good, as you get
free bonuses to saves as well as a couple of bonus feats to be used for
Blind Fight or Improved Critical. Don't go beyond four levels, though, at
least not until Epic levels, where Epic Toughness and Epic Prowess get added
to the bonus feat list.

====================

IX. Single-class Bards

A. Celestial Thunder

Aasimar is probably the best overall for this type of pure Bard, a
STR-based build.

Race: Aasimar

Starting Stats:

STR 16
DEX 14
CON 12
INT 14
WIS 10
CHA 16

Skills: Perform, Concentration, Use Magic Device, Spellcraft, Tumble,
Diplomacy (and/or Bluff), Listen, Lore

Background: Ladies' Man/Flirt

Level progression (all Bard):

1) Luck of Heroes
2) Sleep (1st), Grease (1st)
3) Curse Song, Remove Fear (1st)
4) STR +1 (17), Mirror Image (2nd), Heroism (2nd)
5) Joyful Noise (1st), Hold Person (2nd)
6) Blind-Fight
7) Curse of Impending Blades (2nd), Displacement (3rd), Confusion (3rd)
8) STR +1 (18), Amplify (1st, replacing Sleep), Haste (3rd)
9) Skill Focus (Perform)
10) Mass Curse of Impending Blades (3rd), War Cry (4th)*, 
Greater Invisibility (4th)*

* Note that NWN2 lets you select the spells at these levels, but if your 
Charisma isn't high enough, you can't cast the spell until the level
after you selected it. For example, at Lv. 10 you're allowed to select 
War Cry (4th-level). But unless you have a CHA of 18 (+4 modifier, 
corresponding to the score where you get 4th-level bonus spells), you 
can't cast it until you're Lv. 11.

11) Shout (4th)
12) Improved Critical (Longsword), STR +1 (19)
13) Hold Monster (4th), Greater Heroism (5th)*, Mind Fog (5th)*
14) Ethereal Visage (5th)
15) Lingering Song
16) STR +1 (20), (Whatever 1st-level spell), Song of Discord (5th),
Dirge (6th)*, Greater Shout (6th)*
17) Cloud of Bewilderment (2nd), Energy Immunity (6th)
18) Extend Spell, Slow (3rd)
19) Freedom of Movement (4th), Superior Resistance (6th)
20) STR +1 (21), Greater Dispel Magic (5th)
21) Song of Requiem
22) 
23) Chorus of Heroism, Toughness (bonus)
24) STR +1 (22)
25) Epic Toughness
26) Epic Resilience (bonus)
27) Hymn of Requiem
28) STR +1 (23)
29) Great Strength (24), Epic Prowess (bonus)
30) 

Final stats (no gear/buffs):

STR 24
DEX 14
CON 12
INT 14
WIS 10
CHA 16

--------------------

B. Drow Blade

Sadly, you've got to make sacrifices, and in this build, that sacrifice
is Luck of Heroes.

Race: Drow

Starting Stats:

STR 10
DEX 18
CON 12
INT 16
WIS 10
CHA 16

Skills: Perform, Concentration, Use Magic Device, Spellcraft, Tumble,
Diplomacy (and/or Bluff), Listen, Lore

Background: Ladies' Man/Flirt

Level progression (all Bard):

1) Weapon Finesse
2) Sleep (1st), Grease (1st)
3) Curse Song, Remove Fear (1st)
4) DEX +1 (19), Mirror Image (2nd), Heroism (2nd)
5) Joyful Noise (1st), Hold Person (2nd)
6) Blind-Fight
7) Curse of Impending Blades (2nd), Displacement (3rd), Confusion (3rd)
8) DEX +1 (20), Amplify (1st, replacing Sleep), Haste (3rd)
9) Two-Weapon Fighting
10) Mass Curse of Impending Blades (3rd), War Cry (4th)*, 
Greater Invisibility (4th)*
11) Shout (4th)
12) Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, DEX +1 (21)
13) Hold Monster (4th), Greater Heroism (5th)*, Mind Fog (5th)*
14) Ethereal Visage (5th)
15) Lingering Song
16) DEX +1 (22), (Whatever 1st-level spell), Song of Discord (5th),
Dirge (6th)*, Greater Shout (6th)*
17) Cloud of Bewilderment (2nd), Energy Immunity (6th)
18) Greater Two-Weapon Fighting, Slow (3rd)
19) Freedom of Movement (4th), Superior Resistance (6th)
20) DEX +1 (23), Greater Dispel Magic (5th)
21) Song of Requiem
22) 
23) Chorus of Heroism, Toughness (bonus)
24) DEX +1 (24)
25) Epic Toughness
26) Epic Resilience (bonus)
27) Hymn of Requiem
28) DEX +1 (25)
29) Perfect Two-Weapon Fighting, Great Dexterity (26) (bonus)
30) 

Final stats:

STR 10
DEX 26
CON 12
INT 16
WIS 10
CHA 16

====================

X. Multiclass Builds

A. Battle Caster (Bard 29/Fighter 1)

This almost-pure Bard adds a Fighter level, which allows easy access to
Battle Caster. Must be Human to avoid a multiclass XP penalty. A variant
of this is to take a Barbarian level instead, which results in one less
feat (nix Extend Spell or Improved Critical in that case).

Race: Human

Starting Stats:

STR 14
DEX 14
CON 12
INT 14
WIS 10
CHA 15

Skills: Perform, Concentration, Use Magic Device, Spellcraft, Tumble,
Diplomacy (and/or Bluff), Listen, Lore

Background: Ladies' Man/Flirt

Level progression:

1) Bard 1 - Luck of Heroes, Curse Song
2) Ftr 1 - Blind-Fight
3) Bard 2 - Battle Caster, Sleep (1st), Grease (1st)
4) Bard 3 - CHA +1 (16), Remove Fear (1st)
5) Bard 4 - Mirror Image (2nd), Heroism (2nd)
6) Bard 5 - Skill Focus (Perform), Joyful Noise (1st), Hold Person (2nd)
7) Bard 6
8) Bard 7 - STR +1 (15), Curse of Impending Blades (2nd), Displacement (3rd),
Confusion (3rd)
9) Bard 8 - Lingering Song, Amplify (1st, replacing Sleep), Haste (3rd)
10) Bard 9
11) Bard 10 - Mass Curse of Impending Blades (3rd), War Cry (4th)*, 
Greater Invisibility (4th)*
12) Bard 11 - Improved Critical (weapon of choice), STR +1 (16), Shout (4th)
13) Bard 12
14) Bard 13 - Hold Monster (4th), Greater Heroism (5th)*, Mind Fog (5th)*
15) Bard 14 - Extend Spell, Ethereal Visage (5th)
16) Bard 15 - STR +1 (17)
17) Bard 16 - (Whatever 1st-level spell), Song of Discord (5th),
Dirge (6th)*, Greater Shout (6th)*
18) Bard 17 - Toughness, Cloud of Bewilderment (2nd), Energy Immunity (6th)
19) Bard 18 - Slow (3rd)
20) Bard 19 - STR +1 (18), Freedom of Movement (4th), 
Superior Resistance (6th)
21) Bard 20 - Chorus of Heroism, Greater Dispel Magic (5th)
22) Bard 21
23) Bard 22 - Song of Requiem
24) Bard 23 - STR +1 (19), Epic Toughness (bonus)
25) Bard 24 - Epic Resilience
26) Bard 25
27) Bard 26 - Hymn of Requiem (bonus), Epic Prowess
28) Bard 27 - STR +1 (20)
29) Bard 28 - Great Strength (21)
30) Bard 29 - Great Strength (22) (bonus)

Final stats (no gear/buffs):

STR 22
DEX 14
CON 12
INT 14
WIS 10
CHA 16

XI. Contact Info

E-mail: elbrigadier@comcast.net. Suggestions, rebuttals, etc. to this FAQ should
be titled, "ATTN: NWN2 Bard FAQ."

====================

XII. Version History

Version 2.03 - Expanded the multiclassing and builds sections.

Version 2.02 - Rewrote some stuff, added some sample Bard builds.

Version 2.01 - Updated description of Knockdown and Improved Knockdown.

Version 2.00 - Bumping up a full number for all MotB-compatible editions.
	     - Added a few notes here and there.

Version 1.00 (MotB) - First full MotB-compatible edition.

Version 1.03 - Moved Version History to the end. Why? Because I don't think
	       too many people care to read it.
	     - Updated for game patch 1.04.

Version 1.02 - Added notes about Knockdown and Improved Knockdown.

Version 1.01 - Minor edits to multiclassing section.
	     - Slight changes in philosophy in the feats section.

Version 1.00 - First edition of the Bard Guide.

====================

XIII. Permissions and Copyright

This FAQ will be hosted on the following sites:

GameFAQs

Permission to reproduce this FAQ must be granted by me, and will be granted on
a case-for-case basis.

(c) Drew Garcia, 2007, 2008