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I've just started a DnD 3.5 campaign that will probably run through the summer, taking us from level three (where we start) to around level eight or nine. It's a small party (four players) and two of us are playing bards. Looking for some way to still fill all the party roles, I noticed something interesting.

A bard requires at least ten charisma plus one point for every spell level he intends to cast, but since we aren't likely to get to level ten (where we would start casting fourth level spells) a thirteen charisma will suffice. The bard is often supposed to be the party face, but a decent intelligence along with the bard's large skill pool will allow us to just sink extra points into diplomacy and bluff, and having +3 from a sixteen charisma doesn't seem like it's that important next to the +8 I have from skills and synergies. The other bard managed to get +16 thanks to synergies and feats! The bardic music abilities are biased off of bard level and ranks in perform, so charisma won't do anything for those. (At least as I understand it, if you have 1 rank in perform, and a +2 due to charisma, you still don't have the 3 'ranks' in perform needed for Fascinate.)

There seems to be some kind of pervasive idea that bards need maxed charisma to be effective, but as long as we have enough to cast our spells, it doesn't seem like it does anything at all else for us. Is there something that I've missed that's going to come up later on and bite me in the hindquarters for having only a 13 charisma as a bard?

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You won't pull down near enough honeys at the local tavern. –  mxyzplk Oct 13 '12 at 14:19
@mxyzplk And yet, the fighter always has enough women... Dumb jocks. –  IgneusJotunn Oct 14 '12 at 0:58

3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

You are probably forgetting the spell DC formula

Spell DC=10+Spell level+Casting ability modifier

Meaning that even though you will be able to cast your spells with low Charisma, they will be far more easily resisted (successfully saved) by your opponents. Of course there are spells which don't require a save (like all of those that are beneficial to your party members like Cure Light Wounds) so maybe low Charisma could be a choice if you don't really want to focus on enchantments and targeting foes with your spells.

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For comparison, a +1 modifier in dexterity gives me a bonus to hit in combat. (assuming weapon finesse.) At level three, I have two 1st level spells per day, and the thing is, none of them are exactly offensive powerhouses like a wizard's spells. Even treating them as main damage sources though, in a four round combat (the shortest I think I've ever been in was five) that bonus to the DC and the bonus to my attack roll are probably about even. If that +1 is to strength, then it helps with damage and the attack roll. There are a few feats that give a blanket bonus to DCs even. –  IgneusJotunn Jun 11 '12 at 4:09
1) you have few feats, 2) These feats usually apply to a single school each 3) +1 DC is generally more important/expensive/rewarding than +1 to an attack roll. The reason for the latter is because a single spell is not only more powerful than a single attack (even CC or utility spells most of the time) and also, you get multiple attacks in a full attack action in later levels while when the enemy saves against your spell you have not only wasted a spell, but also your turn(almost). –  Eldebryn Jun 11 '12 at 8:59

Also, don't forget the bonus spells per day. Even just bumping it to 14 will give you an extra 2nd level spell.

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It might not seem, but the difference between having 14 or 16 charisma is great even for diplomacy or bluff checks. Since diplomacy uses fixed DCs, as long as you have a way to get to the DC-minus-one modifier (you can't roll a 0 on the d20) you're set. But every feat you spend here can't be spent to gain something else. It heavily depends on the feats you can choose. I'm DMing a 3.0 campaign using core only material and the barbarian has enough feats to buy Iron Will just because it was the best choice. So by decreasing charisma by one point using a feat to pump the skill up you could lose the capability to use arcane strike, or knowledge devotion, or snowflake wardance (that, by the way, adds charisma to your to hit bonus).

When it's about bluff it's a versus check. You want all the feats and the high charisma. Intelligence won't help you raise your values over the maximum ranks for your level.

You can always play a charisma-poor bard if you want to use a few, buffing spells or songs, just like I play a charisma-less warlock that focuses on dealing damage, but that's not the equivalent of saying any bard does not need charisma.

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