If I recall correctly, the Bard in AD&D1ed was a true dual (triple) class character who had to progress as a pure fighter, then a pure thief, and then finally could begin to progress as a bard. In later editions, the class is a "standard" class which is self-contained. Is there a source for why this change was considered, and then eventually implemented? Official sources are preferred, but I'm curious about any extant discussion.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan The bard became a standalone class in AD&D, 2nd Edition (1989) (q.v. here). \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 9 at 15:57
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Well then, OK, my bad, I didn’t realize that. That would make the choices in 2000 much more straightforward. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 9 at 16:01

3 Answers 3


The bard was changed in AD&D 2e because it was rarely played, and because Zeb Cook didn't like the class.

The bard originally appeared in The Strategic Review #6 (Feb 1976), in an article by Doug Schwegman. It was described as a combination of multiple classes, having abilities of a fighter, thief and magic user.

Gary Gygax and Tim Kask modified this for the AD&D Players Handbook, introducing the unique requirements to actually change class to fighter, thief, and bard in that order. In 2005, Gygax recalled that he considered the historic Celtic bard to be a subtype of druid, based on his research. In this 2011 post, Kask describes the unusual class progression as representing the years of training historically necessary to become a bard.

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the AD&D 1e bard was unpopular, or at least rarely played. It was relegated to an appendix, it was cumbersome to progress through the class, it was described as something many DMs would disallow, and it required high ability score prerequisites, including three 15s. In Curmudgeon in the Cellar #293, Tim Kask quotes a DM who says nobody played a bard in his group for 44 years, and admits it is challenging to play. In 2008, Frank Mentzer called the class prerequisites offputting. In 2007, even Gary Gygax admitted that it took too long to become a bard.

In Dragon #103 (Nov 1985), prior to his leaving TSR, Gary Gygax described his plans for a second edition of AD&D. Among various changes, he intended to make the bard into a standard class which could be played from level 1.

In Dragon #118 (Feb 1987), Zeb Cook, who took over the 2nd edition revision after Gygax's departure from TSR, also described plans to get rid of the old bard, either removing it or redesigning it. His criticisms included too many confusing special rules, unbalanced power, and being too strongly tied to a Celtic setting (the monk, for what it's worth, was also slated for removal for the same reason).

In Dragon #121 (May 1987), Cook intoduces the concept of making all classes one subtype of the Big Four archetypes, which would make the bard the same type as the thief. Cook admits he hates the bard, but several readers' letters convinced him not to ditch the class entirely.

In Dragon #124 (Aug 1987), p.58, Michael Dobson describes that TSR had been planning to discontinue the bard in AD&D 2nd edition, but kept it in because of letters from fans. The issue included a questionnaire to get more formal feedback. The questionnaire specifically asked whether the bard should be kept, deleted, or revised.

In Dragon #130 (Feb 1988), p.50, Jon Pickens describes that it had been understood at TSR that bards were unpopular, and it was planned to cut the class due to a lack of time to properly revise it. However, based on answers to the Dragon #124 questionnaire, it was decided to keep the bard and re-write the class.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I will add, additionally, that it required dual-classing and the dual-classing rules were horrible. I knew no players who would even consider it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mary
    Commented May 10 at 1:22
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I fully expected to downvote the question, but this answer is a model for how such questions can and should be answered. Bravo. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented May 10 at 2:31
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Agree with @Novak here, this is a fantastic answer. The "Curmodegeon in the Cellar" bit alone is impressive, locating that tidbit in over 300 hour-long shows of Tim Kask musings is quite something. Plus the overall, thorough reveiw of all the other instances where the subject was discussed in Dragon over the years, and the quotes from Gygax on forums. Just wondeful. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 10 at 6:39
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin It's not quite as hard as it seems: it's possible to search a YouTube channel and then Ctrl-F the transcript. The Gygax ENWorld thread and Dragonsfoot forum Q&As are likewise searchable, as are the TSR era Dragon magazines thanks to the Dragon Magazine Archive CD-ROM. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 11 at 0:02
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Aug 1978 should presumably be Aug 1987? \$\endgroup\$
    – prosfilaes
    Commented May 11 at 15:01

@HeyICanChan Already made an excellent citation where the class appeared in 2nd edition, but they aren't quite correct.

The Bard first appears in issue #6 of the Strategic Review, published in February of 1976. Strategic Review was the magazine that would be later be rebranded as Dragon Magazine, and published by TSR for many years. The author of the article is listed as Doug Schwegman, which is an interesting hint about why the class might have been changed for the 1st edition Players Handbook.

In this form, the Bard was a normal class without any multi-class requirements. It has some of the iconic traits seen later, such as spell casting, charm, and thief skills.

The next appearance is in the 1st edition Players Handbook, published in 1978 and credited to Gary Gygax. It is very interesting in that it is the only class that appears in the Appendix, and the introduction mentions that its inclusion 'is not often allowed by dungeon masters'. This is where the class changes into a triple-classed character.

It is also interesting to note that earlier in the 1st edition PHB, rules are introduced for both 'characters with two classes' and 'multi-classed characters'. These are distinctly different sets of rules, with multi-classed characters being only for non-humans that advance in two classes simultaneously (ex: an elvish fighter/magic-user), and the character with two classes being designed for humans that decide to change classes after a few levels. These rules essentially govern the PHB bard class advancement. I wasn't present in 1977 when the PHB was being written, but it sure looks like the rules for a character with two classes were written exclusively for the PHB bard class.

So, this is where we get to the 2nd edition bard. The PHB version was clunky, weird, and slow to play and level, and you only really became a bard after about eight levels. I wouldn't say that it became a single class character, as much as it reverted to being a single class character. It was certainly changed back to a 'normal' class to remove the unneeded complexity.

Now, the sixty-four-dollar question...is why was it changed from the 1976 version in the first place.?

There have been a number of books that documented the early history of Dungeons and Dragons, and they have commented on Gary Gygax's apparent appropriation of work that others had contributed to the game. Did he steal material that others worked on, or did he take all the rough and messy ideas generated and put in the hard work to turn them into a single cohesive game and idea? It probably depends on your PoV in this debate about the authorship of D&D. Personally, I find that the world is rarely black and white, and the truth is often in the middle.

You could say that Gary re-wrote this class so he could claim credit for it and ensure his status as the sole figure head steering the D&D brand. You could also say that he might have been tinkering with trying to make a class that could fight, steal, cast spells, and charm people a little more balanced. Who knows the truth here? There are probably only a few people that were on the inside of TSR at the time that could accurately comment on this.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Special call out for @Jack who just did a great job editing my typo ridden mess of a post. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Roger Hill
    Commented May 9 at 20:53
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You're welcome! \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented May 10 at 12:15

I've seen both Dragon #6 bards and AD&D 1e bards played to high levels.

The problem with the Dragon #6 bard is simply that the experience requirements are too low, and they rapidly become much higher level than the rest of the party.

The AD&D1e bard seems to be an attempt to fix this, by putting definite limits on their fighter and thief capabilities and capping the maximum level. The problems with it if a player persists long enough are:

  • They have excessive numbers of hit points.
  • They are ill-balanced as compared to a party of single-classed characters with similar experience totals: they aren't good enough at any single thing, although they are very versatile.

One high-level AD&D1e bard is a reasonable substitute for a 10th level party: they have about as many hit points, similar fighting and thieving capabilities, and spell casting that's more or less adequate. They can be very entertaining in one-on-one play, or as an escort for a lone hero, but those aren't very good modes of play for a group.

I've seen and played some fairly successful homebrew bard classes for OD&D and AD&D1e that were designed with recognition of these problems. The simplest way is to take the Dragon #6 bard and increase the experience requirements so that they're paying approximately what those levels of ability in fighting, magic and thieving would cost a multi-classed character. Of course, this approach collapses completely when you use D&D3e or later style experience progression.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Huh, I was going to correct you about the HP (the general "'characters with two classes" rules don't let you stack hit dice when attaining any level you'd already reached in a prior class), but wow, bards were explicitly an exception. They could gain 5-8 fighter (d10) HD, switch to thief and bring total HD as high as 9 (as d6s), then become a bard and gain up to 10 more (d6) HD. It would take 383,003 XP to max out HD, and with a 16 Con, that would reach 8d10+11d6+38 HP, avg 120.5. If they'd just continued as a Fighter, they'd be at 9d10+18, avg 67.5. That's nuts in the lower HP 1E/2E era! \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 9 at 22:50
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowRanger: Been there, done that, survived the critical hit from a dragon that did d100 bite damage. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 9 at 23:36

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .