So in the past I have ran 3.5 DnD while one of the characters was a bard that was in a band with other bard NPC's and occasionally, they hosted concerts in Inns.

The way I did it back then was a series of Perform(instrument) checks, for Intro, Bridge 1, Bridge 2, Chorus, Bridge 1, Bridge 2, Chorus, Outro. Then I got the average of those rolls and if they met a mental DC I had set at the beginning, the concert was a success.

I never had to present too many of them as skill challenges, so we only had it twice, so I never got around to developing a better system.

I was thinking maybe each part (Chorus, Intro, etc.) would have a different value for a "meter" called "Hype" and if they failed different checks they'd get different penalties for the duration of the song.

What is the best way to incorporate something like this do you think?

(I know the way I ask this makes the question seem chatty and like a discussion, but I am actually asking for something specific, I think)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Seems specific enough to me ... \$\endgroup\$
    – C. Ross
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 17:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just in case you were considering it, I have brought a guitar to game and tried to roleplay my bardic performances. Never found a way to do it without completely hijacking the game. \$\endgroup\$
    – valadil
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 19:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @valadil I have no musical talent of any kind :D \$\endgroup\$
    – OddCore
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 20:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OddCore, me neither, but that doesn't stop me from trying ;-) \$\endgroup\$
    – valadil
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 20:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wonder if this question can be actually answered at all. How would you describe what is going on in a music video, or the music an orchestra can perform? Some things are probably just too abstract to be described with words - or most human languages lack the required words to do so - and I think performing is among these. But see my answer below... \$\endgroup\$
    – user2862
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 22:08

3 Answers 3


Since a musical performance is a combination of skill, improvisation, and appeal to a crowd, dont just roll some perform checks, let your players roleplay their songs. Give them bonuses for good descriptions like "i fingertap the hell out of the solo on our latest song: blood and ice" or "i powerstance and headbang on the tune of The Astral Saga".

Circumstancial bonuses could also apply from a previously good roll, roleplayed as reactions from the crowd. Maybe some one knows the song and sings allong, inspiring others to sing with him the chorus, or people start to dance, inn wenches show their mammary glands (yes i have a rock'n'roll or metal concert in mind).

Also, static bonuses/penalties may apply, especially if they open a concert with The Ogre Slayer, while playing for a bunch of ogres (captain obvious strikes again).


To be honest, I wouldn't abstract this with skills. Roll perform 8 times over seems more tedious than interesting.

I had an idea for my last game but never got to try it. If the bard ever got into a musical duel, we were going to play Encore as a minigame. The bard would be able to use his musical skills to get hints from the GM. The other PCs could give him hints as well, but they'd have to use bluff or some other skill to pass him hints without getting caught.


I would not try to handle this with separate perform checks, but rather with a simple skill challenge (yeah, I know it's a 4e mechanism, but it can be used here quite well I think :P ) or skill ladder.

Let the bard make one check of each:

  • Diplomacy (general controlling of the audience)
  • Bluff (surprising the audience with an unexpected twist or song or acrobatic/visual element)
  • Intimidate (same as diplomacy; how do you think does someone feel who visits a Rammstein concert for the first time?)
  • Balance or Climb or Jump or Tumble (for some acrobatics or dancing during the performance, like this epic violinist)
  • Sense Motive (getting the right feel for the audience and reading its mood)
  • Spellcraft (let him cast an appropriate spell, either illusion or enhancement, to support his performance by either manipulating the audience directly or add some pyrotechnics to his performance; this check gains a +1 bonus per level of the expended spell; the normal effects of the spell are completely ignored in this case)

Each successful check adds a +2 circumstance bonus to the final one Perform check.

This gives the bard (and the player) lots of different things to do and to describe with lots of possible outcomes that all affect the general performance without going too much into detail.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The Pathfinder Kingmaker campaign does something similar to this during a "Boasting Contest". You make an Intimidate Check to make your initial boast, a Diplomacy check for the middle part of the story, and end on a big ole Bluff check. Each of those give a multiplier to your final Perform (Oratory) (or whatever other perform skill) check, and the one with the highest check at the end wins. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 22:57

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