Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Bardic Performing Artist

The performing arts, theatre and dance, are frequently referenced as being 'bardic' but bear the least resemblance to how the bard's abilities traditionally work.

Theatre would include professional actors doing plays (Moliere, Shakespeare (although his plays aren't translated out of English until the 19th c.), etc.) as well as improvisational acts like Italy's Commedia dell'arte tradition.

Dance is complicated.  In 17th c. Europe, we have 'folk' dance traditions, with group and partner styles and we have 'court' dance traditions (minuette, rondo, waltz a little later on, etc.), but ballet is rising to prominence at this time and is one of the hallmarks of the French artistic scene.  Going outside of Europe, each of the tribes of Africa had indigenous dance traditions as part of their religion, just to start.  The dance effects I list attempt to create some sort of singular whole that can accommodate for a variety of foundations for a bardic dancer.

The performance is cathartic.  The audience leaves satisfied and happy.  All resistances are slightly improved for 24 hours.
The dance summons spirits of hearth, home, and healing, who bless the dancers and audience.
The spectacle presents a great injustice that incenses the audience, who riot from the performance to right the wrong.
The composition embodies the heights of human grace.  In memory of this, the audience's Dexterity increases by 1 for 1 week.
The play satirizes a prominent local institution, formenting dissatisfaction with it.  Or the inverse.
The dance invites a non-corporeal entity into the body of the (lead) dancer.
The work presents characters struggling with and overcoming personal trials.  Increases number of lvl 0 hirelings available by 20% for 1 week.
The piece is narrative, representing a local myth or legend.  The resultant patriotism increases morale by 2 for a week.
The performance uses semiotic ghosting to create a secondary narrative, inviting underworld types and others who play double games to contact the performers.
The piece is an abstraction of a local myth or legend.  Trying to link movement to action forces the audience to think more broadly, increasing Wisdom by 1 for 1 week.
The work subtly rewrites recent history.  The local populace will remember the play's version, not the 'real' one.
The movements reinforce the ley currents of the area, bringing good weather and banishing bad.
The play is both deeply intellectual and crudely funny.  It dominates all conversation in the area for the next six months, bringing (temporary) fame to the performers.
The work is transcendent, bringing attention to every subtle move the dancers make.  The attention to detail increases experience earned by 10% for 1 week.
At the heart of the play lies an old incantation that, when recited to a full audience, enacts a high level wizard spell.
Hidden within the dance are the foundations of martial arts.  The region will see a 10% increase in the number of unarmed fighters over the next 10 years.
The play emphasizes a specific character trait.  Repeated works emphasizing the same trait will impart it upon the community.
The dance uses an ancient, potent movement vocabulary, allowing it to expel malevolent forces: all suffering from poison, disease, or compulsion effects receive an additional saving throw.
The text is an adaption of a preexisting bardic literary work and may duplicate its effects in full.
The coordination of the dancers is remarkable.  For the next week, characters acting in tandem receive a +2 bonus.


  1. How do you decide which types of art can create a certain effect? I'm not just talking Acting vs. Dance, but also performance art versus, say, music. Some of them have overlap and some don't.

  2. Yes. There are two specific table entries that reference other bardic artworks - one from Drawing and the other is here, with Acting. Drawing is an emulative art form - it recreates some reality and can, in my mind, encompass the core of another form of expression. The Acting relationship harkens back to the long and complicated history between literature and the theatre.

    As for assigning specific effects - I'll talk about this a little more in my wrap-up post, which will come after I finish Sculpture, but the process is to first look for examples of the art form creating a seemingly supernatural effect (you can see Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, Shakespeare's plays, and Medea referenced implicitly in the above list). The second is to use my own personal experience as to what kinds of change each art form could enact in the world. Most of the overlap is incidental - there are a couple of effects that I want to be more accessible and try to work into each set of tables (bonus experience, increasing morale, etc.) as I see those as universally useful magical effects for a bard to have in their repertoire.

    Now, I do attempt to have the types of effects differ depending not upon the medium but upon the medium's type (Contemplative versus Experiential) - the Contemplative art forms have more enduring powers that can subtly change an entire location, whereas the Experiential powers are mostly short-term effects that boost those who are sharing in it.

    Lastly, I'm not happy to say this, but some of the entries are there to pad the table sizes. While I acknowledge the arbitrariness of the d10 or d20 table, I have difficulty letting myself publish a d9 or d18 table.

    This is the beginning of a lengthier project - I'll return to these tables for a round 2 and hope to double each list's length so that once a bard has used an effect, it can be removed from the table and replaced with a randomly rolled one not currently on it so that each artwork draws from a different array of effects. But that's for later.