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In the game I am running, there are several characters who are bards with the Windsinger feat (Stormwrack p94). The players and I have been debating what qualifies as a wind instrument for purposes of using them to activate this feat, as this feat specifies:

You can use song or a wind instrument to compel the winds to obey you.

This is a somewhat high-tech black-powder age-of-sail campaign, and there are more instruments available than are specified in the Players Handbook p79.

In particular, we were debating squeezeboxes such as the accordion or concertina, and bagpipes. All of these instruments rely upon air pressure to function, and are aerophones, but the squeezeboxes are played by using muscular effort to provide air pressure rather than blowing into the instrument and the squeezeboxes have keys or holes.

What instruments available circa 1800s real-world Earth would be considered suitable for purposes of activating the Windsinger feat, and why?

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2 Answers 2

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On page 48 of the Stormwrack rulebook in the section about bardic music it reads:

wind instruments, pipes, accordions, bagpipes, and similar instruments do not function underwater.

There are two ways to understand this:

  1. wind instruments and pipes and accordions and bagpipes, and similar instruments do not function underwater

or

  1. wind instruments, like pipes, accordions, bagpipes, and similar instruments do not function underwater.

Since pipes definitely belong to wind instruments, version 1 would not make sense. That's why I think pipes, accordions, bagpipes are given as examples for the category "wind instruments".

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    \$\begingroup\$ Neither would pipe organs, but they're specifically keyboard instruments, so I don't think that it follows that all those instruments are wind instruments. \$\endgroup\$
    – Monty Wild
    Dec 7, 2023 at 11:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MontyWild The Britannica entry I linked specifically includes pipe organs as an example of a wind instrument, so I don’t think the “wind instrument” and “keyboard instrument” categories are necessarily mutually exclusive. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 7, 2023 at 14:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Anyway, +1 for an actual sourced statement within Stormwrack, I was quite certain such a thing didn’t exist. It’s got a bit of ambiguity (as you’ve shown) and a bit of the usual “is the definition used in this specific rule applicable to some other specific rule?” but it’s far more useful than I thought the book was. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 7, 2023 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the author meant the second meaning, he would use a colon instead of a comma: "Wind instruments: pipes, accordions, bagpipes, and similar instruments do not function underwater.". \$\endgroup\$
    – Trang Oul
    Dec 7, 2023 at 14:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TrangOul Pfffft, no. Wizards of the Coast’s authors were never remotely that careful with their punctuation. Expecting the text to be written that carefully will only result in deceiving yourself. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 7, 2023 at 15:25
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There is just not much to go by

The game doesn’t define “wind instrument,” it’s just up to the table/DM. As Peregrin’s great answer details, Stormwrack does use “wind instrument” elsewhere, in a way that might be a definition, so you could go with that. However, it’s not “the official” rule because that definition—if it is one—is part of a specific rule that may or may not apply to Windsinger, a completely separate specific rule. (In other words, it’s not a given that the authors are using “wind instrument” as a consistent term with a strict definition in the first place.)

The real-world definition of “wind instrument” isn’t any better, without much in the way of hard-and-fast definitions,¹ and even if there was, it’s exceedingly unlikely that the author knew it and intended it.

At the end of the day, there just isn't an official answer. Choose whatever is best for your campaign. The feat is not very strong, and the requirement is about flavor, not balance (singing is already the “best” instrument, mechanically, since it doesn’t require any hands). That would have me inclined to allow it with whatever, but ultimately the decision rests with your table/DM.

  1. Wikipedia says it has to be played by breathing into it; Britannica says it can be anything where vibrating air makes the sound, and explicitly discuss examples that don’t involve breath, including the pipe organ mentioned in Peregrin’s answer. For what it’s worth, the Wikipedia article has a “multiple issues” quality warning, though, and the Britannica article reads as better researched from my skimming.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Not very strong?! It can mean the difference between advantage and disadvantage in ship to ship combat! Still +1 from me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Monty Wild
    Dec 7, 2023 at 6:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MontyWild Far, far more powerful wind control is available, and ship-to-ship combat is almost never used. In a near-exclusively naval game played extensively at very-low levels, I could see taking it, but it’s not exactly a must-have even in that scenario. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 7, 2023 at 7:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ More powerful, yes, but not longer duration. The limit of Wind Singer is the ability of the bard to continue to perform. Other spells before Control Weather becomes available have a pathetic duration. \$\endgroup\$
    – Monty Wild
    Dec 7, 2023 at 7:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MontyWild I’ll confess that I am not familiar with the durations of all the various wind-control spells and other features out there, so you may be right about that. It’s never come up for me; we always do “ship” combat as boarding actions played using the normal combat rules and whatever environmental/circumstantial effects are appropriate. No one at my table has ever really cared to worry about ship maneuvering or whatever. Then again, we don’t have cannons. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Dec 7, 2023 at 7:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a shame about the feat's prerequisite. DMG demographics make level 2 and higher bards pretty rare. Still, I can imagine the feat (ahem) turning the tide if the DM rules that the bards are each the source of the effect—rather than the feat being the source of the effect—therefore letting those effects stack. So 4 Brd2s taking a standard action to turn a moderate wind into a hurricane facing any direction? That's a plot. ("Why were they hiding a ship in the barn?") \$\endgroup\$ Dec 7, 2023 at 7:27

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