Is there any explanation or discussion regarding the change in the Bard class from its AD&D1ed orignal implementation


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.

Best Answer

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 1978), 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.