by Thott

Bards: the forgotten class.  When Target Group Buff was on test, I asked a developer if it would work on bards.  The response?  "Bards?  Hmm, I hadn't thought about bards."  Bards have more group buffs than any other class and you DIDN'T THINK ABOUT BARDS?!?

This attitude is prevelant throughout the entire company.  "Bards were a mistake."  "The next game we make won't include anything like bards."  "Bard code is a mess."  "I've never understood bards."

Well, I hate to break it to you...but bards are here to stay in Everquest.  If bards are hard and cause problems, why, it seems to me, they should be the first thing considered in any design change, instead of "What?  We broke bards again?!?"

Long before the melee retune, I heard rumors that it was happening.  Long before the caster retune, I heard rumors it was happening.  I have heard nothing about a bard retune happening.  My only conclusion is that the bard retune is not happening at all.

Bards don't ask for much.  When other classes ask for the moon, bards just want their sink fixed.  Below is a simple list of things that have changed in the game, that forgot bards.  Or things that are just plain broken. 

We're not looking for incredible power, or to be better than anyone else.  Where most classes are in a four bedroom house, with a few living in a mansion, we just want the four bedroom house.  The hut we currently live in is drafty.  And that sink, it's driving me crazy.

Recent Changes

Flowing Thought

Since Luclin shipped, FT has increased from 1, possibly 2, to 15.  FT 0->15 is an enormous leap in power for casters and hybrids...yet FT doesn't work on bards.  FT is a straight up, across the board, large jump in power for all casting classes...except bards.

Has mob power increased along with FT?  Nope.  Many times bards/enc have joined groups, adding mana needed for the group to kill without downtime.  Now that mana is available to all.  Bard/enc mana is no longer necessary to avoid downtime.

Bards lost relative power due to FT itself, and lost power due to secondary effects from FT.  What changed with bards?  Nothing, bards were forgotten.

Focus Items

Focus items work on all robed casters, priests, and hybrids...but not bards.  Why?  Some focus item effects make no sense on bards, but others do.  Even if all focus items worked on bards, the end result would be bards gaining less power than all other affected classes, yet still, bards can't use focus items.

Once again, bards were forgotten.


Are there items for bards that give complete heal?  How about backstab?  Defensive discipline?  How about items that give these abilities at 97% strength?  Yet there are now items that give 97% of max bard speed.  Did bards get anything in compensation?  Nope.

Horses are, overall, a good thing.  The world is bigger, and it takes longer to get anywhere.  Horses help this.  But guess what: the world is bigger for bards as well.  Bards should be much faster than horses.  And bards would be, except for the Movement Cap, which limits maximum bard speed to that of a twinked level 46 bard.

Bards have been aware of this problem from the beginning, and the community expectation was that the movement cap would, at some point, when programmers had time and someone remembered the bard class existed, be increased to the new maximum value.  Just as it was originally set to the maximum value.

Those hopes were destroyed in the last patch.  Much fiddling was done with bard caps...yet the movement cap is untouched.  A programmer took time out to change the bard cap code and test the results...yet still didn't make the change.  Before we thought there wasn't enough programmer time.  Now it's clear that there is no desire to do it at all.  Top bard speed will forever be 3% faster than non-bards.

Bards are a patient lot.  Bards rarely complain, except in response to the monthly "broken bard patch" programmer jokes.  Yet time after time, bards are left out, as other classes are changed.

Bard Power Curve

Many have read what I've written on the nature of the bard power curve.  The bard power curve is flat.  When all other classes double in power over a level range, bards do not.  This gap increases, level after level, resulting in a power problem at level 60.

When presented with a concept that doesn't make sense, it's human nature to invent reasons to explain it.  This is a good process for the human race.  Thanks to this process I'm not eating rocks and twigs for breakfast while sitting in a cave.  But in this case, the process leads people to come up with reasons like:

  • Bards don't use mana
  • Bards can cast while moving
  • Bards have cool instruments
  • etc.

    Things that clearly are true about bards, and set them apart from other classes...but don't really explain away the problem.  Bards have these same attributes at level 20.  Whatever cost there is to pay for these attributes has already been paid.  If bard effects are 50% as strong as other effects at level 20, and other effects double in power, then bard effects should double in power too.  After this doubling bard effects will again be at 50%.

    Instead, bard effects don't double.  Here are two power curve graphs, comparing the two easiest functions: doing damage and healing.

    Note that in both cases, the bard curve is on par with other classes at low levels...and falls further and further behind as levels increase.

    What these graphs don't include is the song boost from bard epic.  If you've ever wondered why adding 80% boost to bard songs through a single item didn't turn out to be overpowered, the above graphs show why.

    This graph shows the needed song boost for a bard to keep up with power gained by a naked wizard.  The graph sets level 20 as the baseline, so at level 20, bards and wizards are assumed to be equal in power, and balanced.  If past that point, wizards double in power and bards were to stay the same, then the graph would show a 100% boost is needed.

    What does this show? It shows that bards need a 120% boost at level 60 to keep up with a naked wizard.  From the sustained damage/sec graph above, it's clear that the wizard damage curve is similar to the druid damage curve, which is similar to the damage curve for all other classes except for bards.

    The main point here is clear: bards were not overpowered before these changes.  Quite the opposite.

    Alternate Advancement

    Bards improved through AA, just like other classes.  A bard with epic and Instrument Mastery 3 has a total instrument boost of 140% - high enough to be above wizards on the above graph.  However, at the same time, wizards gained 15% damage through critical nukes and +3 mana/tick, which places them again, above bards. 

    Bards get crits, which would help...except that crits only work on direct damage, not damage over time.  Essentially all bard damage is of the damage over time variety.  More so than any other class, this flaw impacts bards.  Crits should affect dots, but they don't, because it's somehow hard to code.  I'm normally a big supporter of SOE programming skill, but come on, hard to code?  Why wasn't this thought up sooner?  Would melee crits have been added to the game if it was hard to code for monks, and all melees but monks would get it?  I think not.

    Thank you for forgetting bards.  Can we have another?

    Melee Rebalance

    Bards, and all melees, were changed during the melee rebalance.  Bard melee has the same power curve problems as bard songs, and the two don't interact in such a way to create a better curve, i.e. X+X is not as good as X^2.  So bard melee was fixed, along with other hybrid melee, with bards set to 65% of warrior damage.

    However, while 65% was the goal, and 65% was, in effect, promised, bards do not do 65% of warrior damage.  All parses show bard damage at 55-60%.  This is again, something that should be fixed, yet hasn't been.

    I sent in parses showing this problem, oh, 8 months ago.  Well before the caster rebalance.  Since I typically group with a rogue, most of the parses were relative to rogue damage.  They could easily have been interpreted as saying rogue damage is too high, not that bard damage was too low.  After these parses, which were acknowledged by the team, data came out showing that monk damage was too high relative to rogue damage.  So what happened?  Rogue damage was upgraded.  Yes that's right, when I showed that bards were doing too little damage relative to rogues, rogues were upgraded.

    Is there a word that describes "actively ignored"?  Why yes, yes there is: bard.

    Slows, Cure Poison and Cure Disease

    Bards have cancel magic, cure poison and cure disease.  However, bard cure disease and cure poison is broken, and has been for a long time (years? decades? I can't keep track).  It worked, badly, for a short period of time, but somehow, that technology was broken or lost.  I'm sure if someone asked the developer that made the change that broke this, his response would be "bards?  Oh, I hadn't thought of bards."

    This is a new issue because slows are now disease based, not magic based.  Bards have thus lost the ability to remove slows, when before, we had it.  In fact due to the way slows overwrite hastes, it was easy before for bards to remove slows, as easy as it is now for casters.

    Once again, it didn't occur to anyone to gauge the effect of this change on bards.  Other hybrids had remove disease added to their lineup when the slow change was made (rangers and SK's), but bards (surprise!) were forgotten.

    Immunity Flags and the Christmas Light effect

    Ahh, immunities.  What mob is complete without at least one immunity?  Immunities (slow/snare/stun/mes) are common in Luclin.  Naturally bards can't slow a slow immune mob, or snare a snare immune mob...but bards have special problems.

    The way these effects are coded, a mob that is immune to slow isn't just unslowable, it fully resists any spell that contains a slow effect.  Like christmas lights, if one goes out, they all go out - if a mob is immune to one effect out of many, all the effects bounce.

    Does this cause problems?  Not to non-bards, and we've already established that only non-bards are considered for any design change.  Bard songs are almost universally multi-effect.  There are no bard songs that include snare that don't also include slow.  Thus a mob immune to slow is also immune to bard snare.  Other snares work fine, only bard snares are affected.

    Despite bringing this up many times, both before and after Luclin, the problem still exists.

    This affects mes spells as well.  Bard mes and mob movement (pushback) song lines are combined into one.  Thus the best way for a bard to move a mob is to use a mes.  However, mobs immune to mes are now immune to the pushback.  This wasn't originally true.  In the original code, mes would land, but do nothing.  When the mes immunity message was added, it was aimed at enchanters, not bards, and enchanters don't have any multi-effect mes spells, so there was nothing to worry about.  But bards do.

    In this case, bards were both forgotten and ignored, both at the same time.


    Bards are a pulling class.  Most bards that still play do so because they enjoy pulling.  Over time the bard pulling ability has deteriorated, to be replaced by monk (?) pulling ability.  All classes that are designed with pull (calm) spells also have crowd control ability, be it root, mes, charm, etc. Pulling is no different from any other form of crowd control.  Monks don't fit in this category, nor do SK's, because neither monks nor SK's are a crowd control/pulling class.

    As a bard, pulling one mob is no different from pulling three mobs and mesing two.  Pulling one is simply more effecient.  As best I can tell, designers that didn't understand this concept, that pulling and crowd control are one in the same, allowed FD to take over as the pulling method of choice.  Or rather, gave in to player demands that this unintended ability be left intact, despite the affect it has on the game.

    So what has changed recently?  There are now more FD-required areas than ever before.  The cost for failing to pull is now greater than ever before.  And mobs the bard expects to be fighting are now too high level to mes or charm, where they never were before.

    And now what do we see in Luclin?  My favorite: lull-immune mobs.  All I can say is whoever designed this flag clearly does not play Everquest.  If lull is a problem, FD is 10x the problem.  I am aware of the general feeling within the dev team that lull should never have been put in the game.  This opinion came about during beta, when lull was used to break apart otherwise impossible encounters (monks: sound familiar?).  At the time, lull was unresistable.  Now, lull is easily resisted, rarely works on high blue or better mobs, and is far overshadowed by FD - which IS unresistable, and is all that was bad about the original lull, and more.

    So now, if there weren't enough areas where FD was absolutely required, and lull was useless...there are now areas where mobs are flat-out immune.  Wonderful.  It's always nice to see people get kicked when they're down.

    What else changed?  Monks originally had no long range attack, but bards did.  This was a core disability for monks, the same as magicians not having crowd control capabilities.  But designers made mistakes.  200+ range throwing items were added to the game, not realizing how this would affect monks (side note: prior to the current team, monks were often forgotten, just like bards - the difference is, every time monks were forgotten, they were inadvertantly made more powerful).  Because 200+ range throwing items existed, which had to be crafted, there is now a 250 range item for monks that not only destroys their primary, designed in, pulling weakness but makes them better at dispelling than any other class, even enchanters.

    Luclin is also the expansion of trap mobs.  A monk can FD if a trap is set off, and after a minute or so, the trap mobs will despawn.  A bard can only die, or bring the mobs to the group and potentially kill everyone.

    For those wondering who lives in the mansion I mentioned above, go see who's living at 1 Monk Lane, Monk City, MK.

    The role of puller has, in most cases, been stripped from the bard, and given to the monk.  It's for that role that I personally took the class.

    Old Problems


    Boosting instrument bonus through epic and AA's is fine for the weapon wielding bard, but the instrument using bard is all but dead.

    Instruments have improved a grand total of 8% since before Kunark.  Instruments should be twice as effective as singing, but instead, the best instrument, for a bard with IM3, is only 33% more effective - a far cry from 100%. 

    Epic effect

    There is only one item with innate singing boost: the bard epic.  While other classes get improved post-epic weapons, bards are limited to one weapon alone.  No other single item is as important to a class as the bard epic is to bards.  All bard weapons should have similar effects, for all level ranges, following the bard bonus graph above.  And just like other classes, there should be bard bonus items better than epic, for bards that have progressed past that level of content.

    Desperate Dirge

    Desperate Dirge doesn't improve with greater modifiers, unlike other songs.  Thus, these days, the 5 minute recast Bombastic Bellows (up to 799 damage with max modifiers) is better than the once-per-day Desperate Dirge (495 damage).

    Blinking Buffs

    The buffs blinking when they're about to fade feature was added during beta.  It immediately began driving bards insane, so a fix was put in.  Instead of making code that said if(bard song) don't blink, instead the code says if(bard) don't blink.  No effect blinks on a bard, regardless of who cast it.

    Bards frequently have over 10 buffs.  When one goes away, it's hard to tell which one it was.  It's an even bigger problem when the buff that's going away is invisibility, because while there is a warning when invis goes away early, there is none when it reaches max duration.  Non-songs should blink on bards when they're about to go away, or at minimum, any song with max duration greater than a bard song should blink before it goes away.

    Bard Invis Range

    Bard group invis range is tiny.  Six people crammed in a closet tiny.  The only way to keep within range is to stand so close that it's impossible to tell whose armor you're wearing.

    It's short because there is just one song, and sometimes, you want to be invis, but not hit the group (and more importantly, the magician in the group, that will lose her pet).

    The solutions to this are obvious.

    Instruments and Slow/Haste songs

    Ages ago, when GZ still worked at Verant, someone sent in a question asking about McVaxius` Berserker Crescendo, wondering why the haste effect didn't increase when an instrument was equipped.  GZ responded that the haste does increase with an instrument, that he had tested it himself, and left it at that.

    But haste doesn't increase with an instrument - anymore.  It did in beta, and that's when GZ tested it.  Yet even so, more songs were added in Kunark which are based on instrument haste/slow, which, like McVaxius` Berserker Crescendo, don't work. 

    More history is available on this bug in Haste Stacking

    Gem animation based on framerate

    Bard gems fade in and out when starting/stopping a song.  This animation is not based on real time, it's based on framerate.  A bard that's getting 1 fps (Luclin anyone?) is in bad shape.

    Bard/Enc mes overwriting

    Bard (short duration) mes overwrites enchanter (long duration) mes.  Bug!  It should be the other way around.

    Instrument animations when not holding an instrument

    If a bard has any boost to song power, through AA's, or epic, and sings an instrument song, the bard does the instrument animation.  Often poking whatever weapons he is holding through his head.  It looks quite painful.

    I first used the epic with modifier on test server, during a Test of Tactics.  A developer contacted me and had me test a few things.  One of the things tested was, does it do an animation when singing an instrument assisted song?  And sure enough, it did.  The developer told me it would be fixed before the effect was patched in.  That was over 1.5 years ago.  I'm still waiting for the patch!

    Snare breaking randomly

    Bard snares where changed a year or two ago to match all other snare effects, meaning they no longer would break randomly, but would last the full duration.  Even with this change, bard snare effects are the least reliable of them all, because the snare has to be reapplied every 12 seconds.  Random snare breaks happen when a mob resists the snare effect that's active, for bards, this is always true: if the mob resists the reapplication of the song, it will break snare.

    The level 54 snare, Selo's Assonant Strane, was missed when this change was done.  It still breaks randomly, giving it a double penalty where other classes have none at all.  I was told it would be fixed, but since then, the person that said that has moved on to another department/job.  I can only assume this was lost in the shuffle.


    Bard charm should be refreshable, like any other bard song.  Originally bard charm was, however, a change was made in beta to prevent players from casting harmful spells on charmed mobs, to counter the (obvious) exploit of charming a mob then killing it while it can be controlled.  Charm is a harmful spell.  Thus charm by default will bounce off a charmed mob.

    Charm should be refreshable on a charmed mob, not just by bards, but by enchanters too.  More information on charm a Bard Charm.

    Wrapping up

    Take a look at the things on the list.  Not a single one of them is a wish list item.  Every one of them is a change to the game, where bards were left out, or a straight up bug.  A similar list for most classes would be empty.

    Bards have been ignored or forgotten, time and time again, from the very beginning.  Each time this happens, the effects accrue, creating an ever greater gap between bards and non-bards.  A simple fix now won't solve the problem.  Bards need all the lost attention from the begining of time, scraped up, pulled together, and applied all at once.  Not to make the class better than other classes (which nobody sane wants - overpowered classes are just begging for future backlash), but just to make bards balanced with other classes.  Playing a balanced class is a reasonable request, and a reasonable expectation.