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One of my players messaged me about a new character they were creating, and they proposed the concept of a mute bard. Long story short, they wanted to RP a cursed character, and I was really intrigued by the idea.

However, I know about the mechanical impacts of a bard that can't speak, verbal spellcasting, as addressed in Can you cast verbal components if you have no tongue?

For reference, these are the traditional requirements for Verbal components:

(PHB, p. 203): Most spells require the chanting of mystic words. The words themselves aren’t the source of the spell’s power; rather, the particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the threads of magic in motion. Thus, a character who is gagged or in an area of silence, such as one created by the silence spell, can’t cast a spell with a verbal component.

Emphasis mine

The idea we came up with was that the character had figured out how to fulfill the verbal component of spells using their bardic instrument (their viola). Checking the restrictions mentioned above, this still produces sound, so it will still be affected by a silence spell.

The main impact I can notice from this is that they will no longer be able to complete purely verbal spells while bound or separated from their instrument. In a way, it's kind of like having an arcane focus?

The only benefit that could arrise from this that I could think of is that the player could freely cast in a place where breathing was difficult (underwater, poison cloud, etc)

So, my questions are...

What other unique scenarios could this character encounter with this change?

Will this give the PC an unfair advantage/disadvantage?

Is there a better way to have a mute Bard with minimal mechanical impact?

The player has also mentioned a desire to build their weapon into their instrument so they don't have to un/re-equip their weapon and instrument during combat, but I'll leave that for another question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting situation. I think though, you have some questions there that are a bit too broad, and even asking multiple questions can make the whole question too broad. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Nov 27 '18 at 5:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ The description of verbal components you provided seems to be from 3.5e (which I assume is why you say "traditional"). Either way, 3.5e has no impact whatsoever on 5e, so I suggest you rely on the 5e definition (PHB, p. 203): Most spells require the chanting of mystic words. The words themselves aren’t the source of the spell’s power; rather, the particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the threads of magic in motion. Thus, a character who is gagged or in an area of silence, such as one created by the silence spell, can’t cast a spell with a verbal component \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Nov 27 '18 at 7:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Most notably, 5e states nothing about any malus due to being deafened. If this question is meant to be about 3.5e, I highly recommend you edit the tags accordingly, otherwise you probably won't get the answers you desire. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Nov 27 '18 at 7:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Playtested in earlier edition, see here under the question you linked. Can't be sure about 5e. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Nov 27 '18 at 10:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ " character had figured out how to fulfill the verbal component of spells using their bardic instrument" - has she also lost ability to fulfill them with her voice? \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Nov 27 '18 at 10:35
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Single point of failure

The big issue I see with using an instrument for verbal components is that it effectively replaces both the material and verbal components with one item. and as the hands that hold it can also do the somatic components this puts all parts of the spell in one place.

This situation is actually made worse by also allowing him to make it his weapon because now he gets a bonus in the item economy. Instead of having to work towards getting better weapons and a better focus possibly having to attune to both he now gets both in one package.

Alternative: horn

The second issue can somewhat be mitigated by using a one-handed instrument like a horn (Viking, not French), as this still requires him to use his mouth and have a hand free for a weapon.

Alternative: Whistling

My personal favorite would actually be to allow him to still effectively use his mouth for the verbal components but instead of words him whistling. If he uses it to cast mage hand or something he can do his best Yondu impression.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I assume "Jondu" should be "Yondu"? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 27 '18 at 10:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I really like these alternatives and I'll be sure to suggest them. But just in case, and accepting the weapon combination is too much, is the cost of having a two handed item worth the benefit of eschewing components? \$\endgroup\$ – Yessoan Nov 27 '18 at 12:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ That is up to the dm and how much your game focusses on these in general. I would not sweat that part to much if you do not focus on components and such. Remember as a DM you can change any rule you want. \$\endgroup\$ – Dinomaster Jan 2 at 15:14

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