Bardic Music states two conflicting things. I want to know what you guys think should be the ruling, because I'm seriously trying to convince my DM that this should work.

  1. Bardic Music can use ANY Performance skill.
  2. Bardic Music must be HEARD.

If you must be heard, you can't use any skill, as some are Dance. My roommate wants to make a Bard/Chaos Monk with Capoeira as his fighting/dance style. I think he should be able to Inspire Courage while fighting, since he's still performing.

The rules both say that any perform skill works, and that it must be heard... This is one of the few times which you could conceivably use a non-musical performance to inspire. Other ones like Act, just don't work during battle! This one does. I know it's still reliant on a ruling by the DM who is leaning on the side of "no" but is there any errata that clarifies this contradiction in wording directly?

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ It's not a solution to your problem, but you might benefit from looking at how Pathfinder treated bardic performance: It had special rules for visual (rather than auditory) performances that A) replaced some of the bardic music effects that made less sense in a non-auditory medium, such as countersong, and B) replaced the "must be heard" requirement with a "must be seen" one. Visual performances still required the same kinds of actions to initiate and maintain as auditory ones, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 7:33

3 Answers 3


Within 3.5e D&D you cannot use an inaudible performance for Bardic Music. Bardic Music specifically states (from the d20 SRD):

While these abilities fall under the category of bardic music and the descriptions discuss singing or playing instruments, they can all be activated by reciting poetry, chanting, singing lyrical songs, singing melodies, whistling, playing an instrument, or playing an instrument in combination with some spoken performance.

Note that only audible forms of performance are listed.

While there is no particular rules-based reasoning for this, I would assume the logic-based reason is something along the lines of: you can't counter a sonic or language-based effect with a mime (Countersong), and it would be otherwise quite difficult for your allies to focus on you enough in a combat situation to gain a benefit from a purely physical performance (Inspire Courage/Competence/Greatness/Heroics).

If your GM is willing, you could instead use all or some of the rules from Pathfinder's Bardic Performance which covers uses of purely physical Perform skills.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, I will have to talk it over with him. If he insists on playing it RAW I can suggest the below solution of using Warblade. The DM has no issue with the Tome of Battle. \$\endgroup\$
    – Snowpaw
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 10:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Snowpaw, your friend might be interested in the Subsonics feat (Complete Adventurer, p. 112), which lets a bard "produce music or poetics so subtly that opponents do not notice it, yet your allies still gain all the usual benefits." Since it mentions "music and poetics," it requires ranks in Perform (oratory) or Perform (percussion) as written. However, it suggests that a feat is a fair trade for near-silent "music", so it might be the basis for a house rule. Unfortunately, the feat requires 10 ranks in Perform (any), so it isn't available until Level 7. Song of the White Raven is better. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thaliak
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 23:42

Yes, but it's Dumb.

Bardic music specifies by RAW that the music must be audible. Attach bells to your dancer, and by RAW, you are doing it. * cha cha *

That's easily dealt with.

More problematic is that Bardic Music'ing is a standard action, and while it does linger for 5 rounds after you do it, that's lame.

There is no reason why your chaos monk/bard should not be able to inspire courage as a free action so long as his other actions are spent moving and hitting things with capoeira. That's so fine I have no words. Houserule that right this instant.

But, if it must be RAW and only RAW:

Check out Song of the White Raven from Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords. With a 1 level Warblade dip (which gives all kinds of goodies to a melee combatant), you can take this feat that allows you to start a Bardic Music as a Swift Action.

Then, check out Lingering Song, the feat, that makes Inspire Courage last ten rounds after you start it.

So at the start of combat you start a dance routine, and for the next ten rounds the party gets the effects of your Inspire Courage. Re-start the music as necesssary, and take Extra Music as necessary to keep that Courage flowing.

Note: You can do this with the Martial Maneuver, Martial Stance, and Song of the White Raven feats instead of a Warblade dip + 1 feat, but that's 3 feats, our of the 7 general feats you get your entire adventuring career. Seems like a bit of a waste just to do your one basic thing.

But that's overpowered! Inspire courage is super duper!

Inspire Courage is +1 to hit and damage. That is the same as a 0 level spell. If this guy is mixing monk and bard, even with the Ascetic Mage feat (which he should take), that bonus is unlikely to ever get to the +2 to hit and damage stage.

Compare this to a Barbarian's Rage, that gives +2 to hit and +3 to damage from level 1. Compare this to Elation, a 2nd level spell that gives +2 str and +2 dex as a morale bonus. Compare this to Enlarge Person, Glitterdust, or Fist of Stone, much less Bite of the Werebear or Greater Blink.

Given the fact that this is a t3/t5 multiclass, there is no reason - absolutely no reason - to ever think that Inspire Courage + punching people is overpowered. It is not. It is, if anything, underpowered. Compared even to a straight Fighter or Barbarian, neither of which is seen as very high tier except at extremely low levels.

Check out: Snowflake Wardance, and if your pal is lagging behind in terms of being able to do stuff, check out this thread.

Multiclassing Penalty - This is one of the least-used rules in the game, because penalizing multiclassing (free multiclassing is the absolute greatest strength of the 3.5e system) is dumb and leads to boring characters.


  • \$\begingroup\$ > "Inspire Courage is +1 to hit and damage. That is the same as a 0 level spell" Inspire courage affects the whole party and scales. It is significantly more powerful than any cantrip. \$\endgroup\$
    – JoshuaD
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 19:47

Bardic music itself states no restrictions on the Perform skill you use. So you can definitely use dance, but what the Perform rules do say is that only those who can hear the performance actually get the benefit, so no one would actually get bonuses if you used Bardic music with a truly inaudible performance. I have seen characters who wanted to use Perform (dance) get around this by wearing a costume that has bells on it, or by claiming their dance was specifically a step dance (so their dance did make sound). These have always seemed reasonable to me; ask your DM.

Also, strictly speaking, you don't even have to use the Perform skill that you have the required ranks in to use it. So you could, in theory, qualify for the Perform ranks requirements with dance, and then sing to give the bonuses. Ask your DM if he’ll allow that, though. But keep in mind that bardic music involves no Perform check—it doesn’t actually care how good you are, just how much training you’ve had (one of the most memorable characters I've played with was a Cha 6 half-orc bard with 3 ranks in Perform (sing) but a flaw that gave him −4 to Perform—you got bonuses because you desperately wanted to finish what you were doing and get him to stop singing).


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