Character Build: The Travelling Bard

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This character started out as an experiment for a character in an actual story, but the playstyle really inspired me to contribute it to the community.

 

The Traveling Bard

"Dragons have returned to Skyrim. Only the Dragonborn can destroy Alduin and prevent the end of the world. So why would the gods bestow such a gift upon one who can lift neither sword nor spell against his enemies?"

The Bard grinned knowingly. "It's true, I am unable to swing a sword in my defense. Yet there are others who would gladly follow me in pursuit of glory. The pluck of my strings will inspire them more than a battle cry. My Voice is a more powerful weapon than any blade. All I care for is a wondrous story. In the end, does it matter by whose hand the wyrm is slain?"

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Race: Any, though humans make up the majority of bards. Imperials and Nords can turn the tides of a great battle with their Racial Powers. Personally, I went with Breton to provide coverage from enemy mages.

Stone: Thief or Mage Stone, then anything you desire. Atronach can make Bretons invulnerable against dragon breath, or Lord can boost your survivability slightly.

Major Skills: Speech, Illusion, Alchemy

Minor Skills: Sneak, Restoration, Enchanting

Shouts: Animal Allegiance, Become Ethereal, Disarm, Dismay, Kyne's Peace, Marked for Death, Throw Voice, Battle Fury

Powers/Abilities: Bardic Knowledge, Companion's Insight, Eternal Spirit, Seeker of Sorcery,

Weapons: A leveled dagger.

Armour: The bard wears clothing or clothing-like armour.

 

The Build

This character is slightly modeled after the stereotypical bard, providing support to the party via their instrument, boosting their morale and healing small wounds, as well as demoralizing their enemies.

Since the Bard has no offensive skills besides a dagger, you are dependent entirely upon your follower to do your dirty work for you. You are a traveling bard, following adventurers on their journeys, looking for inspiration to create the next great story, poem, or song. You may be the Dragonborn, but you aren't the hero type; you write ABOUT heroes. Bards are masters of Speech and Sneak; you can learn so much in the courts of nobility, where tongues flow freely when only a lowly Bard is present.

In battle, use illusions and appropriate shouts with vigor. As far as I'm concerned, this bard is not actually wielding spells, but is playing and singing to mimic spell effects. Open with a poisoned backstab, then fall back behind your adventurer, buff them as much as you can, and heal them when necessary. If the tides turn against you, shift your tune and scare off a few enemies, or calm the beasts of the wild. If you're feeling daring, jump in with your dagger and kite an enemy or two, to give your hero time to recover ground.

It's easy to do just about any kind of RP with this build, especially when it comes to your heroes. Since technically they are the hero, you might decide to do quests based on their personality or skill set. Let J'Zargo become the new Archmage of Winterhold. Help Serana destroy the remnants of her abusive family. Help Lydia become the new Harbinger of the Companions. Beyond that, what kind of Bard are you? Are you content to observe things as they happen, calming people if tensions get high, or do you goad enemies into such a rage that they kill each other? The possibilities are endless.

And, if you have a PC, there are numerous mods that can enhance your experience even further. To name a few: "Playable Flute, Lute and Drum" "Ebony Lute" "The Bard's Quest" "The Poetic Edda" "Amazing Follower Tweaks"

The Followers

Since your followers will be the hero of the story, you'll be spending a lot of time with them. Here are some of the best followers I used, and in what situations. Also remember, with the Dragonborn expansion, followers now level with you, though many still have level caps. The specifics of how you imagine your hero to act is up to you, but do your best to match their personality to their playstyle. Uthgerd the Unbroken probably isn't going to be sneaking around, and Eola isn't going to charge into a group of bandits.

Sven (Max 20) is a fellow bard in Riverwood. Help him woo Camila and you can help him warn the Jarl of the impending dragon attack, and eventually become Thane of Whiterun. He only has minor perks in Archery, 1Hand, and 2Hand, and his low level cap makes him less than useful after the first few quests.

Uthgerd the Unbroken (Max 30) is a drunkard in The Bannered Mare in Whiterun. Her personal backstory makes her a perfect candidate for become the new Harbinger of the Companions. She's a perfect warrior build, with perks in 1Hand, Archery, Heavy Armor, and Block. (Unofficial Skyrim Patch will change 1Hand to 2Hand)

J'Zargo (No Max) is an apprentice at the College of Winterhold. One of two Khajiit followers in the game, J'Zargo is very ambitious. His decent spread of spells and natural inclination to greatness makes it easy to help him become the new Arch-Mage of the College. Alternatively, he makes a great Blades recruit, due to his strong Destruction skill and infinite level cap.

Eola (Max 30) is a twisted cannibal follower of Namira. This Breton Nightblade will follow you after you finish the quest "A Taste For Death," and her personality and skillset - Destruction, Sneak, Alteration, and 1Hand - make her perfect to become the new Listener of the Dark Brotherhood. 

Jenassa (Max 40) is a hireling found in The Hunted Huntsman in Whiterun. One of the few followers that dual-wield, Jenassa makes for a great adventurer, but her personality suggests she may do well as a new Guild Master/Nightingale in the Thieves' Guild. Archery, Light Armor, Block, and 1Hand are her major skills.

Serana (Max 50) is a female vampire from the Dawnguard questline. She has an obvious personal vendetta against her father, and it only makes sense you would help her end his reign of tyranny over Castle Volkihar and Skyrim.

Celann (No Max) is a good alternative hero for those who side with the Dawnguard, if you don't like or trust Serana. Heavy Armor, 1Hand, Archery, and Block make him a decent tank, and his infinite level makes him helpful throughout the game. Conquer and decimate the vampire scourge.

Frea (No Max) is another obvious choice as a follower through the Dragonborn questline. She dual-wields and is an offensive powerhouse, and her alteration spells make her even more durable. Help her free Solstheim and her people from the threat of Miraak.

Level 25 Perk Spread

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Level 50 Perk Spread

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Stat Placement: 2 Magicka - 1 Health - 0 Stamina

Speech is a Roleplay skill, but the cornerstone of the Bard character. Their silver tongue can get them out of all kinds of sticky situations, even if Skyrim doesn't have too many Speech checks. And more money never hurts; having an expensive home next to the Bards' College after writing your epic tale should be your goal.

Illusion is the skill you will be using the most, emulating the effects of your instrument. Frenzy or calm your enemies, and buff your own teammates. Remember that the effects of the beneficial spells stack up! It's up to you to decide whether you could mask your presence with your instrument (via Muffle and Invisibility) but DON'T get quiet casting; a silent instrument can't do a thing.

Restoration is a super minor skill also emulating instrument effects. You should pretty much only be using Healing and Healing Hands, but Turning Undead can be a lifesaver, especially at earlier levels when you delve into ruins.

Enchanting is used to enchant your hero's armour and weapons more than it is for your own. Just remember that Fortify Skills and Schools do not affect your followers.

Alchemy is used to craft poisons and potions (big shock), but don't forget to share with your hero. Paralysing poisons and Fortify Illusion potions are some of the more useful ones.

Sneak is barely used at all, but can be useful in barrows and other dungeons to help sneak up on sleeping or unaware enemies and give your hero a bit of an edge with a well-applied poison and backstab.

 

Abilities

Inspire: Your inspiring song drives your adventurer to greater feats of heroism. (Bardic Knowledge + Battle Fury + Call to Arms + Rally)

Unnerve: Your dissonant music sets your enemies off-balance. (Marked for Death + Rout or Hysteria)

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Replies

  • I'm glad to see this classic back. On a side note I think some of the images didn't make it through. Easiest way around that would be to save the images from the vault and upload from your computer onto the forge. 

    • Are the Perk Spreads at least visible?

       

      • Looks like its all there on my end. Maybe my phone was just acting up. 

  • Hey Orange,

    You seem to have quite an alright build here. you don't get to see a Bard build in Vanilla very often imo. The RP is fairly good as well (letting J'zargo become the Archmage, Serana defeating what's left of her family and whether or not to turn 'evil' so to speak). Got a few things that you could fix up and improve on as well - purely optional as always.

    -The Spreads are rather hard to read for me, the white clashes a fair bit with the background - perhaps a stroke or outline would fix it? Or you can swing by the Art Group and request for some Spreads, I'm sure someone would be happy to help you out.
    -A few of your images seem to be dead - as Curse pointed out - perhaps try fixing them like he mentioned? (On PC here)
    -Resizing and removing some of the images may be an option (such as the first two)?

    Check out the below link - should help with any others I've missed
    https://theskyforge.ning.com/groups/tes-character-building

    Two last things - don't forget to rename your Build to 'Character Build: The Travelling Bard' (without quotations) and don't forget your 'Like' rank (which in this case would be Rank:Novice)

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  • That's a really good Vanilla build ! I think you really captured the Bard class fantasy right there.

    Just one work of advice, if i may : I would probably work a bit on visual clarity, maybe with a bit more space between section, and bigger text for important parts. Other than that, the build in itself is excellent as it is, kudos !

  • I still think this is among the best vanilla bard builds ever made. The writing alone does a phenomenal job of selling the build and good support type character builds are so hard to find. 

  • If you're interested, there is a wonderful little mod that can give you a more flavorful experience for a bard.  You can graba lute at the college, add some leather and sling it over your back as you travel.  With it you can play at all the inns, and make a bit of coin, while finding lots of different bardic tomes of different music to play.  It doesn't add much else, so I think it's a bit enhanced vanilla, but for flavor, it's a wonderful mod.

    There's also a D&D mod, where you can choose "bard", and your speech/one hand/healing skills would improve faster.  Depending on what kind of bard you want to be, I love using both, as I'm a big DnD fan.

    Both these mods can be found in the mod section on PC (Steam)
    You don't need to use Nexus or add anything extra, although if you already
    use that method, I wouldn't be surprised if they were in there too.

     


  • This is actually a surprisingly refreshing build. 

    No direct damage, only support. What's more, it actually uses the voice, as how a bard should be in vanilla. 

    Nothing wrong is letting the character acknowledge its arcane abilities,  as d&d based bards do know a few basic spells.

    To that end, perking positive illusion buffs till adepy and then buffing it using the accompanying perks and alchemy should be good.

     

    In fact, even restoration can be taken out, just supply your followers potions and keep them topped up, if you wanna make only a buffer character 

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