The bardic lore skill always left me baffled. I never had clear the terms of such skill. A bard can roll a bard lore throw to know some abstruse information. The fact is that the throw is bound to a specific need or question, and it can very well be that the bard knows nothing about one topic, and a lot of a very related topic, as beautifully depicted in The Gamers 2.

What is the real meaning of the bardic lore skill, in game terms ?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for asking this question. It never occurred to me, and I'm glad I saw one of the answers. \$\endgroup\$ – migo Mar 17 '11 at 22:25

Original celtic bards were actually historians. All of celtic tradition was oral, so someone had to remeber it and pass it on. The poetry and music were only added to make it easier to remember. We can imagine the D&D Bard as a kind of wandering historian-in-training. He already knows some of the songs/stories, but has a long way to go - as he gains experience, he learns more and more of them. But he isn't performing what we would call a scientific reaserch - he is wandering the land, collecting pieces of lore and legend.

So, for example, he may know that a vampire can be killed by putting a stake through his heart, beacause he knows "The Song of Barabarus, the Mighty Vampire Slayer", but he doesn't need to know that the same vampire is weak to light, since it isn't mentioned in this song. He would need to know "The Legend of Saint Carnus and the Dark Beast" - which, while technically covering the same topic, is about a completly different person from completly different land, and thus not a part of "a pack". For someone which aproperiate scholary knowledge, this two facts are tied together as a part of vampire lore. For bards, those are separate things, tied to specific places, clans and stories.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I find the Wikipedia on Griots (African Bards, in simplest terms possible) sheds some interesting light on this kind of interpretation of Bards. \$\endgroup\$ – LeguRi Aug 29 '10 at 15:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is so cool! It totally explains Volo, and it's much more helpful to handle a bard in the context of a historian (and archaeologist!) than as someone who sings. \$\endgroup\$ – migo Mar 17 '11 at 22:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Except Volo isn't a bard...he's a 9th level mage. \$\endgroup\$ – ZanathKariashi Jun 21 '12 at 22:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Dindsenchas is a more likely inspiration, though there are parallels in many cultures. \$\endgroup\$ – Arkhaic Oct 25 '14 at 23:07

When my player rolls and succeeds I start my answer as follows: "Actually you have heard an old gypsy prayer song back in Manigmar about the mountain gods and it seems to you now, in light of the info you just gained, that they might refer to a coven of wizards hiding up there somewhere. There is a circle of ancient stone faces in ..."

So basically the bard just recalls a random song with a bit of info on a topic that he knows nothing about in terms of scholarly knowledge.


Bardic lore is a real life skill. Heck, a lot of people possess it. It's just having information about something that given your background, learning, or skill set you generally wouldn't be expected to know. Just being well read and having general knowledge of a host of different skills, professions, situations, histories is basically all Bardic lore is. They've read a bunch of books, or talked with a bunch of people, or heard songs from long standing oral traditions talking about places, people or items from bygone ages and by checking for it, they might remember hearing at least a little bit about it, though full knowledge of something pretty rare.


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